Kidnapped and held hostage in the Rockies, a teenage heiress falls for her abductor while her corrupt father and devoted bodyguard fight to get her back. The discovery of true love and dark family secrets turns deadly in this epic coming of age adventure.Kaya Lowen dreams of living like a normal eighteen-year old, but being heiress to a billion-dollar company has put her life in constant danger. Fiercely guarded by her powerful and corrupt father, she develops close bonds with those who protect her, especially Oliver – a bodyguard who has proven his devotion to her time and again. He wins her heart – until a chance encounter with a mysterious stranger has her questioning everything she believes in. Haunted by true love and reeling from a guilty conscience, Kaya’s world unravels when she’s kidnapped.Held captive in a rugged wilderness fraught with raging storms, mystical caves and deadly predators, Kaya’s father scours the forest and her bodyguard fights to get her back. But, the discovery of a dark family secret makes Kaya wonder if staying in the arms of her blue-eyed abductor—a captivating stranger with dark secrets of his own – is a safer place to be. At least, that’s what her heart is telling her, her head is saying run…An epic adventure centered on a smoldering love-triangle, Serenade sings a timeless tale of courage, self-discovery, and life-or-death love that will leave you breathless.
This was it, now or never.I gathered every single ounce of energy I had and steadied my mind to ignore the pain in my foot and the dizziness in my head. Then, with everything I had, I turned and bolted toward the dense forest. The darkness instantly enveloped me. I could see well enough not to run into tree trunks, but branches caught me at every turn. My head felt as if it was spinning like a top, but I forced my legs to keep going. I could hear the men’s voices yelling at each other in an organized manner.I tripped and found myself on all fours. Get up, girl. There’s nothing wrong with you—get up…I made it a few more steps before my head connected with a blue spruce, and then I collapsed in a pathetic heap. My arms were so wobbly I could barely wipe at the gash across my forehead. My body was completely failing me. I prayed to God that the dog would just snap my neck and get it over with quickly…Human footsteps approached. I gulped in some air and tried to push myself up, but the world tipped on its side and I fell with it. Within moments, large hands had my wrists pinned to the ground. I struggled and fought with everything I had left, which wasn’t much.“Stop fighting,” he said.His voice created such confusion inside me. I kicked harder.“Stop… please,” he begged.His body pinned mine to the ground. I could feel tears welling up in my eyes.“Please, Kaya, trust me. I won’t let anyone hurt you, I promise.” He leaned forward and pressed his sleeve to my bleeding forehead, dabbing and inspecting it closely while I had no choice but to gaze up him. How could this beautiful man be a kidnapper? It just didn’t fit.“It’s just a scratch; no stitches required,” he said, voice trailing off as his eyes met mine.We stayed like that for a while: me on the ground, him kneeling over me, and our line of sight only on each other—until an unmistakable sound broke through the tree tops.“They’ll find me,” I said softly, wondering if Oliver was in the helicopter circling over our heads.He positioned his arms under my body, and, in one graceful motion, he picked me up and into his arms. “Just don’t run. Promise me that, please. I’ll keep you safe. You have my word. Okay?”He held me tightly—protectively—waiting eagerly for my reply with turmoil in his blue eyes. My whole body hurt, and admittedly, I couldn’t have walked another inch. The wolves or that beast would have got to me long before Oliver would have. I was at my kidnapper’s mercy, laying helplessly in his arms and falling harder for him by the second.“I promise,” I said.
Author Bio:Heather McKenzie is a Canadian author and Serenade is her first novel. A professional singer/songwriter with five albums to date, she has been telling stories through music for years and pulls from her extraordinary experiences as a musician to fuel her passion for creating Young Adult fiction. A rocker at heart, a mom of three, an aspiring painter, and a lover of animals, she is kept grounded by her husband at their home in Edmonton.
**You are invited to the weddings of your dreams**Twenty award-winning, USA Today and International best-selling authors have come together to bring you over 3,000 pages of love, lust, and lusciously sexy men.From sweet second chance romances to bad boys, BBWs, and brides looking for revenge, this is a perfect read for anyone who enjoys Romance or Women’s Fiction. These pages are packed with cozy romances, thrilling international and holiday adventures, and sweet heart-melting stories. Our authors bring you everything from hot cowboys to rockstar romances, elegant weddings to nuptial disasters, and blushing brides to bold women, all in a delightful celebration of love.You’re in for a wild, passionate ride on a breathtaking voyage to make your heart soar. This box set will leave you craving all things marital and wishing the honeymoon would never end.
“How did my car get here?” I said. “I arranged it,” he replied. He looked straight ahead, seemingly fascinated with the one-car garage on my small cottage-style house before he looked at me. “I would like to make a promise to you, Nya,” he said, his gaze intense, almost unnervingly so. “Promise?” I asked, gaping as I stared at him. I was worried about my life, and he was offering me a promise? “Yeah. A promise. No harm will come to you. I won’t allow it,” he said. The fierceness of his voice, the look in his eyes, made me want to believe him, made me believe him, even though I had no reason to, even though everything told me I shouldn’t. I tried to hold to common sense, ignore that illogical yet tantalizing desire to trust him. “I’m just supposed to accept that?” I said, searching his eyes, unwilling to give in to the easy trust that seemed so out of place. “Whether you accept it or not is unimportant. It’s true,” he said. “Why?” “Why what?” he asked. He’d spoken quickly, but I sensed something in the question, could see that he wanted to avoid answering what we both obviously knew was the topic at hand. “Why are you going out of your way for me?” I asked, deciding to put the question on the table. “I’m not going out of my way for you,” he said. The gruffness of the words, the way he wielded them almost like a weapon should have put me off, but they rang hollow to me. It would be stupid to allow myself to read into them, let myself think they meant something that they didn’t, couldn’t. But somehow I knew no matter what he said, despite his cavalier attitude, he felt something for me. That something might simply be obligation, but I was still buoyed by it. Comforted in some small way. “So why?” I asked. The intensity in his eyes grew, became almost an inferno. “I’m a Murphy. I protect what’s mine.” I was too stunned to respond, but the implication of what he’d said was clear. And, disturbingly, welcome. To belong to Patrick, be his… My body was instantly inflamed. Fortunately, Patrick didn’t linger, but instead got out, rounded the car, lifted me from the passenger seat, and deposited me inside the house. He pressed my key into the palm of my hand and then gave me my purse. He held my gaze for a long moment, but then he left without saying a word. I closed the door, but stood behind it, listening as Patrick drove off, fighting against the near-instant sadness, the emptiness I felt without him.
“This book was EVERYTHING. Melissa wrote such a beautiful story.” - Reader Review
“I enjoyed it and would definitely read a Melissa Toppen book again.” - MJ’s Book Blog and Reviews
“I'm In Heaven On EARTH!!!!!!!” - Reader Review
A social pariah due to her scandalous activities, Lady Sarah Beauchamp yearns for redemption to obtain a husband. The assistance of Society darling Mr. Jonathon Annesley gives her hope of success. However, the more effort he puts into helping her, the more she realizes the only esteem she wishes to earn is that of the handsome Jonathon. However, her reputation would potentially ruin his political aspirations.Offering a gentleman’s promise to help his sister’s friend regain the favor of the ton should be easy for son of a viscount, Jonathon Annesley. After all, he’s well liked and considered a rising star in Parliament. Until he learns Sarah’s ultimate goal is a husband. No man is good enough and could ever appreciate her for all she is. But she is not for him—his focus rests solely on gaining reforms for society’s weakest members. Yet, a promise made cannot be broken…
Author Bio:After viewing her all-time favorite love story, "Anne of Green Gables", at the impressionable age of ten, Frances Fowlkes has been obsessed with affable boy-next door heroes, red-heads, and romance stories with lots of "highfaluting mumbo jumbo" written within their pages. It only seems natural then that she married the boy who used to pull on her curls in her high school English class, had not one, but THREE red-headed boys, and penned multiple love stories with bits of flowery prose.When not writing, Frances loves spending time with her family, fangirling, and planning her next vacation.Frances Fowlkes, originally a northern mid-westerner, now lives in the southeast with her ardent hero of a husband, three playful and rambunctious boys, and one spoiled standard poodle.A self-professed Anglophile and summa cum laude graduate of LeTourneau University, Frances Fowlkes combines her passion for happily-ever-afters with her interests in both American and English histories.
His hand caught her, long fingers wrapping around her elbow and causing all sorts of unwelcome sensations as he pulled her back around. “What?” she asked. “Waiting for my apology.” “Sure,” she said agreeably. “When hell freezes over.” She lifted her chin, grateful for her four-inch heels so that she could almost, kind of, not quite look him in the eyes. “I’m in charge of this building, Archer, which means I’m in charge of everything that happens in it. I’m also in charge of everyone who works for this building.” He cocked his head, looking amused again. “You want to be the boss of me, Elle?” he asked softly. I am the boss of you.” Now he outright smiled and her breath caught. Damn, stupid, sexy smile. And then there was The Body. Yes, she thought of it in capital letters, it deserved the respect. “If you don’t want to be walking funny tomorrow,” she said, “you’ll stop invading my personal-space bubble.” Complete bravado and they both knew it. She’d only been at this job for a year and it’d come as a surprise to her that he’d been in the building at all. An unfortunate coincidence. Before that it’d been years since they’d had any contact, but she still knew enough to get that no one got the better of him. He was quick, light on his feet, and physically strong. But that wasn’t what made him so dangerous to her. No, it was his sharp intelligence, his quick wit, how he was willing to go as dark as he needed to in order to do what he thought was right. And then there was the biggie—the way he had of making her feel shockingly alive. He did as she asked and stepped back but not before pausing to make sure they both knew who was in control here, and it most definitely wasn’t her. No one did intimidation like Archer, and in his line of work he could be in a coma and still intimidate everyone in the room. He had muscles on top of muscles but didn’t look beefed up like a body builder might. Instead his body seemed lean and seriously badass, with caramel skin that strayed from light to golden to mocha latte depending on what the season was, giving him a look of indeterminable origin. And sexiness. It worked for him, allowing him to fit in to just about any situation. Handy on the job, she imagined. But with her he was careful. Distant. And yet she’d seen the way he sometimes looked at her, and on the rare occasion when he’d touched her, like when he guided her through a door with his hand low on her back, he let himself linger. There was always a shocking and baffling yearning beyond both the glances and the touches. That, or it was all just wishful thinking. Not that it mattered since he still held back with her. The problem was she yearned too. Yearned for him to see her as a woman, strong and capable enough to stand at his side. But after what they’d been through, she knew that would never happen. She turned away, annoyed by how her entire body had gone on high alert as always, every inch of her seeming to hum beneath the surface. She should have just emailed him.
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Ravenswood Manor, Gloucestershire June 1775
For some time now, the parlor maid had been neglecting to sweep into the nook between the bow window and the high-backed sofa in her ladyship’s receiving room. The wide beam of afternoon sun- light was thick with dust motes that settled softly on the floor, dimming the luster of the damasked furniture and coating the hems of the rose velvet draperies.
The maid’s shortcomings suited the boy just fine. In the dusty, narrow crevice, he had built a world he did not wish to have disturbed. An entire battalion of soldiers stood perpetually at the ready, apparently unconcerned at their precarious field position; flanked on two sides by the wall and the sofa’s back, they could only advance or retreat, and as they were English soldiers, retreat was never an option.
On this day, however, they faced a new enemy.
Just yesterday, the boy had begged for a ship that he might expand into a navy, although he knew his father thought him too old for such playthings. Hardly had the request been out of his mouth before Father had erupted, insisting that no son of his would become . . . well, he wasn’t sure quite what his father had said, but it had begun with “arse,” a sure insult and one never to be spoken in front of a lady, which was probably why Mama had very nearly swooned when she heard it.
A heated exchange between his parents had surely followed, but the boy had been spared from it by being sent to his lessons. He ought to be there again now, but he had played truant instead and sneaked back to his favorite hideaway as soon as he could manage it. To thwart his father’s prohibition, he had pinched his mother’s sewing basket from the table as he passed, thinking it would make a fine pi- rate’s ship. Next, he set to work scraping the painted uniforms off three soldiers whose leaden expressions made them the most likely candidates for notorious men of fortune. With a flourish, he drew a wavy line in the dust on the floor to mark out the shore and positioned the ship with its broadside facing his unsuspecting troops.
As the pirate captain knelt to touch off his cannon, the boy heard his mother’s light footsteps, followed by a tread he could not immediately identify.
“So kind of you to drop in, Mrs. Henderson,” Mama said.Mrs. Henderson was the vicar’s wife, a heavyset woman with a prominent nose and hair the color of a mouse’s hide. But she always smelled of gingerbread and was kind to him and the other boys tutored by Mr. Henderson’s curate, Cummings
“Will you take tea?”
“It’s very kind of you, I’m sure, but I can’t stay, my lady. I only called to see if young Ravenswood was unwell. He wasn’t at his Latin lesson today, and Mr. Cummings seemed to think that he wasn’t quite himself yesterday.”
“Oh, that!” Mama laughed, a shade too brightly. “He was petulant because his father forbade him a new toy.” Her words made him bristle. “Boys will be boys, Mrs. Henderson. But I’ll see to it he does not miss another lesson.”
A long pause. “And you, my lady—are you quite well?” It seemed Mrs. Henderson was not content to let sleeping dogs lie.
“I? Why, yes, of course,” replied Mama.
The boy heard the click of the door latch, and before he could wonder who had dared to close a door that Father never allowed any- one to close but him, he heard Mrs. Henderson say, “My lady, I know it’s not my place. But that’s an ugly-looking bruise.”
When Mama had come in last evening to say goodnight, he had seen the bruise at her hairline near her temple, only partially hidden by her lace-edged cap. He could picture her slender hand rising now to shield her face from the other woman’s sight. “It’s nothing. I—I tripped and—”
“No need to make excuse, my lady. But perhaps a poultice—?” “Oh, no, no.” She brushed the suggestion aside. She did not like anything that drew attention to her supposed clumsiness, he knew. Neither did his father.
He heard Mrs. Henderson’s footsteps cross the carpet quickly and when she spoke again, her voice was low.
“I know we mightn’t have much time to speak freely, my lady. Isn’t there anything a body can do to help you? Perhaps if Mr. Henderson spoke with his lordship?”
“Oh, God, no. Please, Mrs. Henderson. Say nothing more.”
“I will speak, my lady. I can’t do otherwise. It’s abroad in the village what’s become of your parlor maid.” His mother gave a hiccup of surprise. “You dared to speak on her behalf, I suppose.”
Someone stumbled to the sofa and sank down upon it—Mama, by the sound of it; the bulk of Mrs. Henderson soon followed. Their voices were quieter still, but now, only inches from his ear, he could not help but hear them. “I thought perhaps I could persuade him to let her stay on—in the village, of course, not here—at least until the child is born . . .”
“But he wants no evidence of his crime hereabouts?”The sofa creaked as one of the women shifted. “What would you have me say, Mrs. Henderson? I cannot speak ill of my husband.”
“No, of course not.” Mrs. Henderson managed to sound at once wry and sympathetic. “Isn’t there somewhere you could go?”
“How could I leave my son?”
“Do you fear for his safety, then?”
Mama laughed again, but the sound was suddenly strange to him. “I fear for his life, Mrs. Henderson.” The boy crouched lower in his hiding spot, careful not to disturb the orderly ranks and files of soldiers at his feet.
“Dear God in Heaven! Do you mean—?”
“I mean that if left to his own devices, my husband will raise his son in his image. So now, while I can, I intervene. His mother’s influence may be the only stay against a violent nature.”
A violent nature? Did Mama believe he was fated to turn out like Father? People seemed to delight in telling him how he took after the man. In looks, certainly—he was big for his age, and dark where his mother was fair. Mr. Cummings insisted that must be where his quickness came from, too. Neither Latin nor algebra required much effort. But what if—the boy glanced down at the soldier still clutched in his hand—what if that is not all I have inherited?
“When he’s sent to school, however,” Mama continued, “I will leave. A visit to my sister’s—an extended holiday, we shall say.” He had never heard his mother use that tone of voice. It was something more than angry, more than stubborn.
“Oh, my lady.” Mrs. Henderson clucked her tongue. “But in the meantime . . . ?”
Mama rose to her feet and crossed to the door, opening it wide. The sudden gust of air through the room swirled the dust on the floor at his feet. A sneeze threatened, tickling deep in his nostrils, but he pinched the bridge of his nose to keep it at bay. “It was kind of you to call, Mrs. Henderson.”
The sofa protested once more as the vicar’s wife stood, and he heard her shuffle into a curtsy. “I am at your service, your ladyship.” They left, and the boy was alone again in the dusty silence. He rubbed his thumb back and forth over the figure he held, as if it were some sort of talisman. When the other boys had teased little Molly Keating about her freckles, Mr. Cummings had told him it was a gentle- man’s duty to protect a lady.
How he wished he were a pirate captain! What wouldn’t he do then to keep his mother safe? He would whisk her away across the seven seas, take her somewhere his father could not harm her again.
Alas, he had no ship, no cannon, not even a cutlass. He shoved angrily, impotently at the sewing basket, which plowed into the soldiers lining the shore, breaking their ranks. She could leave when he did, she had said. But he would not be going away to school for more than two years. Terrible things might happen in that time. If only it were in his power to leave now.
He studied the pirate’s painted face. Father was fond of saying that every Bristol merchant was a pirate at heart. And they had ships, the boy knew. He had seen them once when Mama had taken him to the harbor on an outing. If there were pirates so near as Bristol, he could run away and join them. He supposed Mama would worry about what had become of him. Mothers did worry, he knew. But she would forgive him if she were able to leave this place.
Away from his mother’s gentle guidance, he risked becoming more like his father. But what choice did he have? His shoulders rounded under the weight of his decision, the boy began to pack up his soldiers. Perhaps his father had been right all along, for he suddenly felt far too old for such playthings. At the least, he would try very hard to be grown-up enough not to long for the day when he could come home.
Javier Hernandez’s dick was bored. The rest of him was bored, too. But the dick part had him worried.He slouched back on the padded bench in the VIP booth. Yvette and her friend—couldn’t remember her name—danced near the edge of the balcony. They were conspicuous enough that someone among the writhing mass of bodies in the club below would snap a picture with their phone. Before sunrise, they’d be plastered on a gossip blog as a romantic item.
He hadn’t been to a club in almost a year, and right now, he wasn’t sure why he’d ever enjoyed this kind of thing. Since his little sister called him out at a family gathering, his father had kept him on lock down.
The only reason he was off-leash tonight was a business dinner with an out-of-towner who wanted to see the Miami nightlife. His father was quick to nominate him for that job. But not before pushing him out the door with a few words on how to land the client’s cash into their family’s hedge fund.
The potential client was currently passed out in a black car on the way to the airport. His father might not like how he got things done, but the guy was happy, and Javi didn’t doubt that they’d have his business.
He didn’t know why he was still hanging around. For the past year, he’d had his shit together—working out, showing up to work on time, and staying away from women who would garner any publicity for the family. He’d thought that being back in a familiar environment would be a relief. Instead, it felt like pants that didn’t fit—his old life was tight in the crotch, and not in a good way.Both models shot him suggestive glances, and Yvette beckoned him with one finger and a flutter of her eyelashes. A year ago—fuck, six months ago—he’d have been with them, taking a selfie, and posting it on social media. Thinking that people would be jealous of him—Javier Hernandez, asshole who cavorts with models.
Losing the regard of his family had cured him of the idea that he was living some sort of charmed life. He’d used that image to bolster his wounded ego after his wife left him. He didn’t need that Band-Aid now that the wound had closed up. If he wanted to fuck, he fucked. But he didn’t make a big production of it. He didn’t make a point to be photographed with models, strippers, or club girls. He’d even closed down his Instagram account. There wasn’t any point. All of those women had made him feel precisely nothing.
Javi drained his vodka soda and reached for the half-full bottle. He’d made some bad life choices if the sight of two underwear models grinding on each other inspired the need for a drink instead of a boner.There might be some sort of temporary disturbance in the Force, or maybe he was permanently out of the game. Living like a careless fuckboy hadn’t made him feel alive, it had deadened everything inside him that his marriage hadn’t killed.
The last year of living like a monk with benefits hadn’t been all bad. Gradually, he’d started repairing his relationships and noticing the people around him again.
Maybe he just needed more alcohol to get in the spirit of things. He sent a text to the manager, telling him to send up a bottle of Dom for the girls along with more vodka for the other people they’d invited to join them.He flinched when Yvette sauntered over and straddled his hips. Her black dress crept up until he could see that she wasn’t wearing panties. They were concealed by the table, so she wasn’t about to flash anyone. But people would see them and make assumptions.
He used to like this club because of the private alcoves where he could indulge in any sort of vice he desired. That way he never had to kick anyone out of his condo in the light of day.
Yvette rolled her sinewy body against him and her friend sat next to him, her fingers grazed the front of his pants on their way to making this whole scene too X-rated for the birthday party at the next VIP table.
He moved Yvette off his lap. She didn’t miss a beat and kissed her friend. Javi ran his fingers through his hair in an attempt to look slightly less debauched.
He should have gone home when the potential client left. But he hated being alone.
Coming out with Yvette and company hadn’t fixed that. Even in a crowded club with two women making it clear that they expected to fuck him, he felt empty inside. He finished another drink and considered pouring another one. He bought the bottle, why not drink it dry and bang two models? That’s what he’d always done before.
Javi shook his head and poured a shot. The bottle empty, he tapped his fingers on the table, willing his order to show up faster.
He needed to fuck. And soon. When he was inside someone else, he could stop thinking about her and how badly he’d messed up. For a few minutes, sometimes a few hours, he could forget what a shit he was. His head was crowded with regrets and voices from the past that he needed to stay silent.
But he just wasn’t interested in any of his present options.He considered Yvette and her friend—he remembered now, Lauren— for a long second before fully abandoning the idea of leaving with them. He didn’t need to wake up the next morning with a dry mouth and two people who didn’t care about him. His hiatus from fuckery was about to become permanent.Right then, he decided to settle up the bill and leave.
“Yvette, querida.” Her face snapped toward him immediately at the Spanish endearment as Lauren nibbled on her ear. “I’m going to get out of here.” When Yvette reached for her purse, he stopped her with a hand.
“Stay here and have fun. I ordered you some treats. Enjoy.”
“Is something wrong?” She moved Lauren’s face away from her neck, and the other woman smiled a lazy, sexy grin. God, what was wrong with him? Fucking those two would make any sane, straight man happy. “Do you want just me?”
Yvette moved to stand, and Lauren’s beautiful face twisted into a grimace. His stomach growled, and he thought of his way out. “No, I’m not feeling well.” He patted his belly. Maybe he’d stop for some food on the way home. He winked at the two women and they both smiled at him. “I’ll call you.”
He wouldn’t be calling either of them, but the lie would get him out of there faster.
The two women started kissing again; he hadn’t spoiled their fun. Almost any other man on the planet would be falling all over himself to join them, but he’d been there and it didn’t do anything for him anymore. Stuck in his emo thought loop, he didn’t register that the waitress approaching wasn’t just any waitress until she was right in front of him. It was her. Maya Pascual. Maybe he hadn’t wanted a threesome with two models because he’d somehow sensed her, smelled her on the air, and she’d sucked his desire for anyone else out of the room without him even knowing it. He didn’t know how to process her being here, working here. The last he’d heard, she was back in New York, painting. But it was her in front of him like a mirage.
She stopped in her tracks as if she couldn’t quite believe it was him either. One side of her mouth curled up in a smile, the kind she used to dole out when she was about to say something sarcastic and wildly inappropriate. Then, she looked over at Yvette and Lauren. Her gorgeous face twisted into a mask of disgust. She looked as though she’d smelled something bad, but that didn’t keep her from walking closer to him.He opened his mouth to explain what she would certainly pillory him for before she took a bottle of Ciroc on her tray, thumbed off the cork, and started pouring it on him in long stripes until the bottle was empty.The cold liquid against his face was a shock, but it wasn’t enough to make him back up or move out of the way. Not when he was close enough to smell her again. He wondered if it was the same. He could reach out and touch her if he wanted to, and he actively fought the urge to bury his face in the skin at her neck.
“I should light you on fire, cabrón.” The glint of rage in Maya’s eyes backed up the suggestion that she turn him into a human candle. Jesus, she was hot when she was angry. Feeling her against him burned. His head was all messed up, but his dick reacted like it always had when Maya was around. It knew where it wanted to be. More than anything.* * * *Maya had always been impulsive. She tried to behave, toe the line, follow the rules, but then some idiot always did something to piss her off. But even her mother and her priest would forgive her for her reaction this time. Not only did she have to wait on this bastard, but she had to find him about to engage in a threesome with women she thought she recognized from the Victoria’s Secret catalogue. Fuck him.
She’d known it was a bad idea to take this job and make a temporary move to Miami. But her brother had convinced her that she needed to get out of Brooklyn in order for her career to move forward—that a smaller market, filled with Latin people with money, was a better launching pad than New York’s crowded art scene.Now that she was less than an arm’s length from Javi, she realized moving here was a terrible idea. Now that she could feel his body, she realized how disastrous moving here was.
She’d fantasized about what she’d do if she saw Javi again. In her nightmares, she ran into him with a hugely pregnant Karrie. That smug grin from that stupid puta had haunted her dreams for eight years. This was worse. Because not only had he rejected her, he wasn’t the man she’d always thought he was. So, she’d been wrong—not him.
By now, the models were standing and gawking at her. The tall brunette looked like she was about to light into her when Javi raised his hand. The other girl’s mouth shut, just like that. That motherfucker always got his way. Even with supermodels.
But not with her. Not anymore. When she’d seen his wedding announcement in the New York Times, she’d cut off all contact. Unfriend. Unfollow. Delete contact. She’d deleted his account from her life.
She’d successfully avoided news about Javi Hernandez and his whole family for almost five years. All that effort, only to run into him about to break the marriage vows he’d rejected her for.
Cutting him off had been for her own good as much as his. She’d never been a part of adultery, and she wasn’t about to start now. Oh, fuck. She’d have to tell Karrie that her husband was cheating on her with models. Even though Maya had hated Karrie on sight, she didn’t want to be the one to wreak that kind of devastation, not with how she’d grown up.
Of course, Karrie would probably assume that Maya was fucking her husband. God help her, Maya had wanted Javi from the second he walked into the Philadelphia bar she’d worked at. He had never been just good to look at. Everything about him had enthralled her. One night, she’d stared at him roll whisky around in a glass, committing the way his fingers rested against the vessel so deep in her memory that she could still call it up while she masturbated. Her face heated thinking about the fact that no one—no one—had supplanted Javi in her fantasies. Thinking about his dark laugh and long, lean body was guaranteed to get her off every single time. And she’d never touched him. They’d never kissed. Because he was with Karrie.Still, he’d mind-fucked her so thoroughly that she’d been ruined for anyone else.
For Christ’s sake, no one had a right to look that good soaking wet and reeking of top-shelf vodka and supermodel pussy. She registered his longer hair, the close-trimmed beard, and the gym-honed body wrapped up in a bespoke suit. No tie; the hint of chest hair reminded her of how she used to fantasize about touching him like she meant it.
He looked down at his ruined blazer and back up at her with a hooded, panty-searing gaze. The same way he’d been looking at another girl—two women—getting it on for his benefit a few moments ago.
He’d rejected her in the past. And now he was humiliating Karrie by cheating on her in public. Maya hated how much she cared about that, but it was who she was. She never wanted to see a woman humiliated the same way her mom had been for decades.
She shook her head. “Cágate en tu madre, Javi.” Every single swear word and vulgar phrase she knew in Spanish rushed to the surface as she looked at him. Anger at him. Anger at herself and the rush of memories that made her nipples peak and rub harshly against the silk halter top she wore. Javi licked his lips and looked her up and down. She wished she had something else to throw. She thought about whacking him with her tray, but she’d probably already lost the gig; she didn’t need to get a bill for property damage. Or to be arrested for assault and battery.
The spark of amusement the thought of beating him senseless woke up in her told her that it might be worth it. Maybe it would wash away the anger and the irrational rush of jealousy she felt at seeing him again. She didn’t just hate Karrie. She hated the models. And she hated herself because, in the years since they’d been apart, she wasn’t sure she wouldn’t go back and do things differently.
She was so pissed that she would go back and be the other woman for Javi. Only for him. And even though it would have gone against everything she believed in.
Then he wiped his face with his left hand. No ring. No tan line where a ring should be. Maybe they hadn’t gone through with the wedding. Maybe they were divorced. The possibility that he wasn’t married, represented by his bare finger, tantalized her. And she’d just doused him with vodka and said some pretty intense shit about his mother. But maybe he didn’t wear a ring to make it easier to cheat on his wife, and she was totally righteous in ruining that suit.
“What the fuck, Maya?” His words echoed through her brain. Seriously, what the fuck? Why did she react to him like she had something to avenge? She’d had years to get over the hurt, and he hadn’t done anything wrong. He might have hurt her, but he’d been honest—marrying Karrie instead of giving things a shot with her was what he wanted. He hadn’t chosen her. He didn’t want her.
And going off of him without all the information made her trashy and impulsive. Fine to crush beers with and have a laugh, but not wifey material. She was a hot head, and truly a bitch when she put her mind to it. Maya was not the kind of woman who married into one of Miami’s royal families. She was the kind that got kicked to the curb for a debutante. Or the kind of broke a debutante’s nose in a fistfight.
And would she have wanted Javi to choose her knowing that it would probably have ended with him cheating on her, like it had for Karrie? Would she ever have been able to let him go? Or would she have sat waiting at home while Javi did God knows what, with God knows who all over Miami? She sneered at that pathetic mental picture.
Javi had saved her years ago by rejecting her love. If he’d accepted it, she would be nothing right now. A shell. Just like her mother. Thinking about her mother’s unhappiness ached.
Silently, she said her last goodbye to Javi. She let her expression soften and she drank him in, more handsome than ever, even though he was a royal dick and probably a cheater. He stood there, as if he was waiting for her to say something else. Like this was a cheery fucking reunion.
She turned to leave and his hand wrapped around her bicep to stop her. The rough skin of his fingers and palm lit sparks underneath her skin. He stepped close, the scent of vodka laced his breath mixed with some Javi-specific pheromone cocktail. “You’re not going to leave without a word. Not after you fucked up a $10,000 suit and told me to ‘spew shit on my mother.’”
“Javi, I—” She had nothing. Nothing adequate to say that would wash her words away. She was used to the hit-and-run—lovers, apartments, jobs. Never stay in one place too long. Let no one in, and don’t get hurt.Touching Javi, who didn’t actually smell like pussy at all, really hurt. Him touching her let the full nightmare of seeing him again seep into her bones. The sting spread from where his fingers grazed her bare skin and wrapped around all the way into her heart and squeezed until she couldn’t breathe.
“Let me go.” He might not have heard her whisper over the pounding hip hop, but he hesitated. His skin seared to hers, and she still felt that thing that scented the air whenever they were together. She didn’t know how to describe it, but the atmosphere shifted when he touched her. Like the air just before a lightning storm. Being close to him certainly shifted her personal humidity.
Still he responded, his cigar-rough voice in her ear. “That’s what I promised you, didn’t I? I promised to let you go, and I did.”
She nodded, afraid she would choke if she used her words. She hadn’t wanted him to let her go. No matter what she was telling herself now, she’d needed him to say the other thing. To choose her. It had been so long that she didn’t think it could hurt anymore, but it ached. Her skin felt scarred over, stretched thin. He could tear her apart again if she let him.
She wasn’t going to let him.
“Even though that’s what I promised. I don’t want to let you go right now. I shouldn’t have let you go ever.” She gasped. Before she could topple over or—worse—turn around and kiss him, she looked at his bare left hand and said, “Doesn’t look like you keep your promises anymore.”
She pulled her arm away, half hoping he’d stop her from leaving. When he didn’t, she got away from him as fast as she could.
In THE FORGOTTEN CHILD, Brad Friessen wasn’t looking to love again. But what he got was a woman who shook his lonely bitter world upside down, and touched him in a way no other woman could.Emily Nelson, a courageous young mother, ends a loveless, bitter marriage and strikes out on her own. She answers an ad as a cook and live-in caregiver to a three-year-old boy on a local ranch. Ranch owner Brad Friessen hires and moves in Emily and her daughter. But Emily soon discovers something’s seriously wrong with the boy, and the reclusive, difficult man who hired her can’t see the behavior and how delayed his son is. So Emily researches until she stumbles across what she suspects are the soft signs of autism. Now she must tell him, give him hope, and help him come to terms with this neurological disorder—to take the necessary steps to get his child the help he needs.As their lives become intertwined, their attraction is unavoidable—a connection sparks between them. But just as they’re getting close, Brad’s estranged wife, Crystal, returns after abandoning the family two years earlier. Among the shock and confusion is one disturbing question Brad can’t shake: How does Crystal know so much of his personal business, the inner working of the ranch, and Emily’s relationship with his son?Crystal must’ve had a plan, as she somehow gains the upper hand, driving a wedge in the emotional bond forged between Brad, Emily, and the children. The primary focus for care and therapy of three-year-old Trevor is diverted. The lengths to which Crystal will go, the lies, the greed, just to keep what’s hers, are nothing short of cold and calculating. Emily’s forced out of the house. Brad fights to save his boy, to protect what’s his, and struggles over his greatest sacrifice—Emily, and the haunting question: Has he lost her forever?**INCLUDES FREE BONUS NOVELLA ~ A Baby And A Wedding
Author Bio:New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Lorhainne Eckhart recently received the 2016 Readers’ Favorite Award for Suspense and Romance for her two titles Vanished & The Bloodline. With over fifty titles under her belt, her big family romance series are loved by fans worldwide. Books that celebrate love, family, commitment, hope, and making a relationship work. With flawed strong characters, characters you can relate to. Lorhainne writes the kind of books she wants to read.She is an award winning author and frequently a Top 100 bestselling author in multiple genres, such as romance, western, military and mystery/suspense. She has written multiple series, including The Outsider, Walk the Right Road, The Wilde Brothers, Saved, The Friessens, and her two newest additions, Married in Montana, and her high-stakes suspense and sizzling, red-hot romance series, Kate and Walker, Deadly, Dangerous and Desired.