A Thousand Steps

A Thousand Steps
A Thousand Steps by T. Jefferson Parker

Monday, March 30, 2015

Until You're Mine by Samantha Hayes- A Book Review

You're alone. You're vulnerable. And you have something that someone else wants. At any cost.

Claudia Morgan-Brown finally has it all. Pregnant with a much-wanted first baby of her own, she has a happily established family of two small step-sons and a loving husband with a great career. But she is also committed to her full-time job as a social worker, and her husband travels often. So when Claudia hires Zoe to help her around the house in anticipation of the baby’s arrival, it seems like the answer to her prayers. But despite Zoe's glowing recommendations and instant rapport with the children, there's something about her that Claudia cannot trust.

Moreover, there has been a series of violent attacks on pregnant women in the area, and Claudia becomes acutely aware of her vulnerability. With her husband out of town for work and her family far away, who will be there to protect her? And why does she feel unsettled about Zoe? Realizing appearances can be deceiving even in her seemingly perfect world, Claudia digs deeper into Zoe’s blurry past and begins to wonder – how far would someone go to have a child of her own?

Riveting from its very first pages, Until You’re Mine is a multilayered masterwork of twisted, psychological suspense. Readers of Before I Go to Sleep and Turn of Mind will be enthralled by this multilayered novel, featuring a twisted plot that ends in a breathtaking and shocking finale.

My Review:

Until You're Mine: A NovelUntil You're Mine: A Novel by Samantha Hayes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Until You're Mine by Samantha Hayes is a 2014 Broadway Books publication. I was provided a copy of this by the publisher and Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

I am a huge fan of psychological thrillers because of the unusual twist and turns and and how tense the atmosphere is. This one had me on edge even more than usual due to the emotional subject matter.
Someone is trying to steal babies...before they are actually born- removing them from the womb of the mother, often taking the life of both. So, when the reader meets a young woman with twin step-sons and a baby girl on the way, who is advertising for a nanny.. well, you see where this is going.

For some reason I was just as drawn in by the secondary story involving the investigators on the case- a married couple- Lorraine and Adam. While at work the two never let on they are married, but the reader knows that something is not right in the relationship. It's not rocket science, but the rift between them has repercussions when their teenage daughter begins to act out.

It is very difficult to write reviews on a book that is so loaded with spoiler landmines. No one situation, no one relationship, is as it originally appeared to be. I will confess that as reader of many thrillers I had begun to piece a few things together but some of the inner thoughts of the characters kept me guessing and doubting my conclusions.
The author did a great job of planting well placed red herrings and leading us to conclude one thing while something altogether different was going on. Even if you do think you have some things figured out, there are some big reveals you will probably never see coming. The plot is very carefully and cleverly woven and for the most part it works. A few too many characters which combined with some truly puzzling conversations at times got a little too complicated making it hard for me to remain focused. I had to go back and re-read passages to be sure I had the characters names and positions correct.
In the end the conclusion is as chilling as I thought it would be.

It appears this book is the first novel in a planned series featuring Lorraine. I enjoyed this one enough to give the second book a try. Overall 4 stars

 Twitter:  @samhayes


Friday, March 27, 2015

Untaken by J.E. Anckorn Book Blog Tour

Publisher: Curiosity Quills Press

Date of Re-Release : March 23, 2015

Cover Artist: Amy Chitulescu

Find Online: Amazon US | Amazon UK | Goodreads


It turns out that a real alien invasion is nothing like the Sci-fi shows 14-year-old Gracie loves. Not when it’s your own family who are swallowed whole by those big silver ships. Not if it could be you next.

In her search for her family, Gracie meets Brandon, a high school dropout who would never have been caught dead hanging out with a dork like Gracie before the world ended. Gracie isn’t too crazy about Brandon either, but he has one thing she doesn’t: A plan.

Brandon’s uncle has a cabin up in Maine, and If Gracie and Brandon can survive long enough to get there they can hide out until the Space Men pack up their ships and leave.

Until the army guys come to rescue them, says Brandon. Brandon is big into army guys. Gracie has to admit that Brandon’s Awesome Plan probably would have worked out great if wasn’t for Jake.

They found 5-year-old Jake, laying half-dead under the remains of someone’s ranch house. He’s a good kid, even if he won’t-or can’t- talk. But Jake has a secret, and when Gracie finds out what it is, the fragile new life they’ve started to forge looks set to break apart.

When the people you’ve been counting on to put the world back together start hunting you down, alien invaders are the least of your worries.Untaken, by J.E. Anckorn

Genre: young-adult, science-fiction

About The Author:

J. E. Anckorn has been an artist and writer ever since she began to surreptitiously doodle on school supplies instead of learning about practical things, like osmosis and mathematics.

After barely surviving a freak mathematical osmosis disaster, she set out to travel the world, living in New Zealand, Australia and Hong Kong before returning to her native Britain- just in time to marry an American and leave for the U.S.A.She still failed to learn anything about osmosis, but did manage to cultivate an accent that is unintelligible to almost everyone. (It happened through a mysterious net movement of information from the outside environment into her brain. If only there was a word for that!)

This led to her development of a new language, based almost entirely on polite yet uncomprehending nods.In between these adventures, she has worked as a toy designer, copywriter, and freelance illustrator.She lives in Boston, with a small grumpy dog, and a large, slightly less grumpy husband.

Curiosity Quills Press (CQ) is a small hybrid publishing company specializing in genre fiction of the highest quality. With 150+ titles in our catalog already and approximately 6 new books coming out each month, there’s never a dull moment at CQ. We work with major retailers such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Audible to ensure that you, the reader, can find whatever you are looking for at your convenience.
Founded in 2011 by Eugene Teplitsky and Lisa Gus, CQ was initially a resource portal for writing and publishing, created in an effort to help writers, like themselves, survive the publishing industry. After rapid success, CQ morphed into publishing press that over time has solidified its share in the market. Now we spend our days searching for the next great escape!


Find J.E. Anckorn Online:

From Origins Descendant Prophecies # 3- Release Day Blitz

Title: From Origins
Series: Descendant Prophecies
Author: Mary Ting
Cover Artist: Laura Hildago with Bookfabulous Designs


Google Play: http://bit.ly/1GwNCxp

Skylar, Mason, and the other descendants embark a deadly quest to the underworld to confront the evil Hades, who has been plotting to kill off the descendants of all the gods. On this journey, they soon discover that the ancient gods are not dead as once believed but are held captive in a secret location. In order to save the world from destruction at the hands of Hephaestus, the descendants must set out on a crusade to rescue the gods. In the process, Skylar learns more about her bloodline and her powers, but there is also a heavy price to pay. The darkest forces known to man are about to return to reclaim their stolen kingdom.

Seeing nothing but darkness through door one heightened my awareness, and the mist that slowly crept out like thin layer of clouds, spreading and covering our feet, brought another level of fright. The ground started to shake, then a sound like thunder boomed, getting louder…louder…until it sounded more like a stampede.

My imagination got the best of me as I envision buffaloes charging for us. Roaring sounds burst in the air when a dozen of the Cerberuses tried to charge through at once. I would have preferred the buffaloes, but instead, we got Hades’s guard dogs.

Their glowing red eyes were what I saw first, then their vampire like teeth, and last three heads to a body. With serpent’s heads on the tips of their tales and lion like claws, they looked like they could rip us to shreds as they dashed for us as if we were a gourmet meal.

“Cerberus. I should have guessed.” Zara quaked, standing next to Tara. Extending both of their arms up, they were creating a shied. Blazing light engulfed us.

“You should have guessed sooner, but I don’t think it would have mattered.” Nick’s eyes glowed, ready to fight. “Here puppy, puppy. Let’s play.”

International Bestselling Author Mary Ting/M. Clarke resides in Southern California with her husband and two children. She enjoys oil painting and making jewelry. Writing her first novel, Crossroads Saga, happened by chance. It was a way to grieve the death of her beloved grandmother, and inspired by a dream she once had as a young girl. When she started reading new adult novels, she fell in love with the genre. It was the reason she had to write one-Something Great. Why the pen name, M Clarke? She tours with Magic Johnson Foundation to promote literacy and her children's chapter book-No Bullies Allowed.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Treasured by Candace Camp- A Book Review

Love is in the cards for a young Scottish heiress in the first book of a delicious new trilogy of historical romances, Secrets of the Loch, from New York Times bestselling author Candace Camp.

A family legend of hidden treasure mingles with the mist over the shores of Loch Baille . . . But it’s not the cache of gold dating back to Culloden that Jack Kensington claims when he arrives in the Highlands; it’s the house he won in a London card game from a luckless Scotsman.

Stunned to learn that her wastrel brother wagered their family estate, Isobel Rose must find a way to save her home and the people she loves . . . even if it means accepting a loveless marriage. Or perhaps not so loveless? Isobel unlocks the secrets of desire in the arms of the mysterious and handsome Englishman, but a series of “accidents” makes her fear that she will soon be a widow instead of a wife.

As their hunt for lost riches turns into the search for a killer, Isobel fights her attraction to the man who stole her birthright . . . but can Jack convince Isobel that he can provide a home for her heart, and a love to treasure?  

My Review:

Treasured (Secrets Of The Loch, #1)Treasured by Candace Camp
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Treasured by Candace Camp is a 2014 Gallery/Pocket Books publication. I was provided a copy of this book by the publisher and XOXperts in exchange for an honest review.

I have read books by Candace Camp for years and she is an author I trust to write a historical romance the way they should be written. This book was true to the time period in language, customs, the laws and moral codes of the era.

When Jack Kensington wins Baillannam in a game of whist, he travels from England to Scotland to have a look at the property, although he doesn't intend to keep it. He is shocked to find the place occupied by the previous owner's sister and elderly aunt.

Isobel is heartbroken that her careless brother has lost thier home and she will have to find a place to live and house her Aunt Elizabeth, who is suffering from dementia.

With little recourse, other than imposing on relatives who were in no shape to house two other people or were just too overwhelming for Aunt Elizabeth, Isobel is running out of options, until a friend suggested she consider marriage. A union between Jack and Isobel had many benefits, so Jack agrees to Isobel's proposal.

The history of Kinclannoch is provided to Jack by Isobel and includes the legend of a buried treasure, one that Aunt Elizabeth's father, Malcolm, had allegedly procured back in the 1700's, but then he disappeared and the treasure was never found. Now that Jack has arrived the mystery deepens when evidence is found regarding Malcolm, and Elizabeth's stubborn belief that she saw her father on the night he vanished. This new information is coupled with some rather odd “accidents” Jack is the victim of, leading Isobel to believe someone is trying to murder her husband.

I adored Jack and Isobel individually and as a couple. Jack was not the rogue he believed himself to be, and was often very hard on himself. He did attempt to pass himself off as a true gentleman and told little fantastical lies here and there, but he did have more of a moral code than he thought. I never felt a arrogant vibe from him, nor was he cruel in anyway, when by legal rights he could have been a real arse. Isobel complained at times that he was too shallow, or too quiet, which he was, but they both sold him short as he proves he has real mettle and is truly a good guy.

Isobel was a strong woman willing to make necessary sacrifices for her home, family and those who counted on her, is loyal to a fault, and was a character that earned my respect. She is a great example of how authors can write a strong, independent female character whose strength speaks for itself. The author did not have to beat the reader over the head to get that point across. Isobel had very few options, but she was smart, managed the entire estate, and was admired, loved and respected greatly by her staff. She was very impressive and I grew to like her a lot.

I love a mystery mixed in with my romance and this book has a cold case to solve as well as a “present day” series of alleged “accidents” that are in fact attempted murder. Lots of people had a motive for wanting Jack out of the way... including Isobel.

Overall the primary focus for the first half of the book was on the relationship development between Jack and Isobel, but when Isobel's brother finally shows his face again, and brings company with him, the story shifts a bit and the mystery begins to take center stage.

I enjoyed the story very much, even if was a bit understated. It did go through some rather dry areas where there wasn't a lot going on or the conflict wasn't all that angsty or was resolved without a lot of heavy melodrama. But, I found that refreshing, actually. We are reading about adults who had to deal with serious problems and didn't have time to wallow around in self pity or indulge in the screaming me-mes.

The side story involving Jack's mother and Aunt Elizabeth's developing friendship was also a nice touch and spoke to the power of friendship.

It was also such a relief to read a historical romance that wasn't peppered with F bombs and other language that didn't belong in a historical romance, and didn't break a thousand other rules in regards the historical accuracy, but still made the book easy for the modern reader to relate to. Because of that, this one gets a higher rating. 4.5 rounded to 5.

Candace Camp is the New York Times bestselling author of over sixty books.

Her first novel, *Bonds of Love*, was published by Jove Publishing in 1978, under the pseudonym Lisa Gregory. Two pseudonyms (Kristin James and Sharon Stephens)and many books later, Candace writes under her own name Candace Camp and still loves creating stories.

Candace lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband and is the mother of Young Adult author Anastasia Hopcus.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Archie in the Crosshairs by Robert Goldsborough- A Book Review

When Archie Goodwin’s life is threatened, Wolfe must find the gunman or lose his right-hand man

Archie Goodwin is chipper as he strolls home from his weekly poker game, money in his pocket and a smile on his lips. He has just reached Nero Wolfe’s stately brownstone on West Thirty-Fifth Street when a sedan whips around the corner and two gunshots ring out, nearly hitting Goodwin. It is a warning, and the message is clear: The next bullet will not miss.

Rotund investigator Nero Wolfe has made more than his fair share of enemies over the years, and it seems one of them has decided to strike, targeting Wolfe’s indefatigable assistant. Some might run for cover, but Archie Goodwin is not the type. With the help of Wolfe’s brainpower, Goodwin will find the man who wants him dead—unless the killer gets to Goodwin first.

My Review:

Archie in the Crosshairs (The Nero Wolfe Mysteries)Archie in the Crosshairs by Robert Goldsborough
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Archie in the Crosshairs ( Nero Wolfe Novels by Robert Goldsborough) is a 2015 Open Road Media/ Mysterious Press publication. I was provided a copy of this book by the publisher and Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I have been a fan of the Nero Wolfe mysteries for many, many years. So, I was happy to see someone came along and picked the series back up again. I confess that I have only read a few of the books not written by Rex Stout, and generally there are a few changes in the writing even if the author did his best to stay true to the original style. However, for me the few differences were not big enough to really matter, so I found I was just happy to get reacquainted with Nero and of course Archie Goodwin.

So, if you are a fan of the Nero Wolfe series sit back and enjoy this latest installment available in paperback and digital formats.

It would seem Archie's affiliation with the great and eccentric detective, Nero Wolfe, has finally caught up with him. A few shots were fired in his direction prompting Archie and Nero to trip down memory lane to revisit some old cases in which someone may be still be holding a grudge.
In conjunction with this investigation, a wealthy young woman finds herself the victim of a blackmail scheme she would rather not take to the police in fear her fiance might hear of it. Wolfe and Archie are once more in need of a cash infusion and agree to take her case.

I absolutely love Archie and his commentary as cases begin to take shape. The cast of characters we love are back to help Nero and Archie discover who is out to kill Archie. The blackmail scheme is a curious case and of course one must keep in mind the book is set during the mid-forties, a period in which a young woman's reputation could be damaged severely if certain implications were made public, even if she was entirely innocent.

The story unfolds in typical Wolfe fashion with Nero leaving much of the legwork to Archie, since he believes Archie is somewhat of an expert when it comes to women. But, in the end, as is always the case, all the suspects are gathered in Wolfe's home and interrogated one by one until the culprit is outed along with his or her motives.

These mysteries are as much about the characterization of Wolfe and Archie as they are about the cases they work. In this particular case, Wolfe is in a good mood, by his standards, and Archie is in rare form as he deals with being a target for murder. Wolfe's dark moods did not make an appearance here, and his orchids were only mentioned once, but Fritz and the heavy, rich meals were featured prominently. Occasionally, Archie steals the show away from Wolfe, and in this case he was particularly sarcastic and witty in his narrative of events as they unfold.
There is usually a moral to the story and this one was no exception. The dark side of the human condition is explored and brought into the light by the rare talent Wolfe has for reading people and exposing their lies and evil deeds.

This will be a much welcome installment for long time fans and hopefully with the new digital access new fans will climb aboard too. 4 stars

Tiger Lily by Amelie S. Duncan - Tasty Book Blast + Enter for win $10.00 Amazon GC w/ Ebook or Additional Ebook Prize

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Tiger Lily
Tiger Lily # 1 
 Amélie S. Duncan
Released February 10th, 2015

What started as an assignment became more than Lily could have ever hoped for...

Lily Salomé has encountered more challenges than the average twenty-four year old. After a horrendous crash killed her parents, an abusive relationship was all she needed to calcify her broken heart to stone. So when Lily’s boss comes to her with a challenge most girls would balk at, she knows there isn’t much left in this world to be afraid of.

The target: Jonas Crane, a brooding business mogul who hasn't smiled once since his divorce. Dark, dangerous and mouthwatering, Crane has written a book about life in the fast lane and with the recent publicity, Lily's boss wants the rights. Problem is, Crane won't return a phone call, let alone agree to a meeting. But if a pretty publishing assistant happens to run into him at the Waldorf, with a business card and a smile...what could go wrong?

A lot, it seems. Lily thinks she's going to the Waldorf to meet a rich jerk, or worse, a playboy, but the truth is way more challenging. Jonas Crane is smart, engaging...and devastatingly out of her league.


 I managed to not stare in awe at the murals, and walk confidently inside the softly lit lounge of Sir Harry’s.
The sleek mahogany bar with porcelain snack bowls dotted along the top took up a prominent portion of the room, and thereby was the first thing I noticed upon entry. Searching for a place to stand or sit, I zeroed in on one of the empty Japanned leather bar stools, and briskly made my way to secure the seat before someone else. With luck, I captured the vacant seat and swiveled around. Eyeing the eclectic mix of patrons, I stared over the high-fashioned starlets, middle-aged tailored gentlemen, and nouveau-riche designer clad tourists and wondered where I fit in.
Not sure, but I patted my back on arriving with ten minutes to spare before Jonas Crane was due to arrive. Jonas! It finally dawned on me I didn’t have a plan for approaching him. Knitting my brows, I tilted my head down and tried to focus on making an impromptu plan. What would be a good opener? Hello, yes. Jonas? Can I call you Jonas? I’m Lily Salomé from Arch Limited, and I’m your publishing house stalker, nice to meet you.
Fidgeting and inward gazing didn’t mix. At least not when holding my satin handbag with sweaty palms. Unfortunately, this realization came too late and my bag took flight, sliding across the floor.
Shit. I had barely made it inside the bar and hadn’t even ordered my first drink or eaten a pistachio nut without embarrassing myself. Straightening my shoulders and ignoring the burning of my cheeks, I lifted my chin and eased over in the direction of my bag, doing my best to pretend I was bored and didn’t care, or that I had maybe even purposely tossed it around. Spotting the bag, my insides winced at the polished leather shoes it had bounced against. I hastened my steps, but paused as a pair of large tanned hands with a golden ring on the left ring finger picked it up.
Gazing up further, I met the most luminous eyes I had ever seen. They were a rare combination of blue and turquoise like a tropical sea. He had black wavy hair that hung a little longer on the top and sides. Some lines around his eyes, but boasted of an otherwise flawless face. With a smooth angular jawline, straight nose, and well-defined cheekbones most women would die for, he was divine. Not to mention, full sensual lips were flashing a perfect set of teeth.
My hand trembled a little as I took my handbag from him, and recognition finally set in. He was not only gorgeous, but he was the man I had come here for, Jonas Crane. Serendipitous or cliché, it didn’t matter. My “accidental on purpose” encounter with him had taken place.

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Amélie S. Duncan writes contemporary, erotic romances with a dark edge. Her inspiration comes from many sources including her life experiences and travels. She lives on the West Coast of the United States with her husband.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Hot Flash by Kathy Carmichael Book Tour +Review + Giveaway

hot flash What's the recipe for a happy marriage?

That's what chef Jill Morgan Storm wants to know, and according to responses to the "Marriage Satisfaction Surveys" she and her closest friends cooked up, the answer is to marry a traveling salesman who is rarely home.

And Jill certainly deserves some happiness, after everything she's been going through. Her teen-aged son, who only speaks to her in French, needs college tuition. Her crazy mother is determined to find her a man—and only brings her unsuitable ones. A pesky schoolteacher keeps annoyingly trying to fix her life. Her sous chef job is in jeopardy, and, most aggravating of all, her ex-boyfriend has absconded with her favorite skillet.

What's a single mom to do?

Faced with the answers to her surveys, she sets off to find the traveling salesman who can share her dreams. Along the way, can she find herself and a man who will claim her heart?

Available to buy from...

"Witty dialogue and wickedly funny characterizations make Kathy Carmichael’s Hot Flash a jewel among romantic comedies. Great fun!"
~ Eve Gaddy, Harlequin Superromance author

"Hot Flash is a keeper! It has heart, and I’m going to read it again. And again. Wonderfully well done! 
~ Kay James, Romance Reader at Heart

"I have never laughed or cried so hard as I have with this truly wonderful book!" 
 —Kathy Boswell, managing editor, The Best Reviews

"I highly recommend Hot Flash to anyone who loves to read romance. You will not be disappointed." —Romance Junkies

About the Author
USA Today Bestselling author Kathy Carmichael resides on the west coast of Florida with her Scottish husband, two not-so-wee sons, three cats, a part-time dog, and a huge collection of dust bunnies.

Kathy writes award-winning romantic comedies and humorous mysteries. Her Texas Two-Step romance series is a reader favorite. Kathy's romantic comedy, Hot Flash, was named by the American Library Association's BOOKLIST magazine as one of the Top 10 Romance Fiction titles for 2009.

In addition to her novels, she’s sold short stories and wrote a bi-monthly column on the business of writing for a national writing trade magazine. Kathy is also a contest judge for Writers Digest. She’s a member of the International Thriller Writers, an active member of the Mystery Writers of America, Sisters-in-Crime, Novelists Inc., the Florida chapter of MWA, is the published author liaison of the Tampa Area Romance Authors, and is an active member and past national board member of the Romance Writers of America.

Kathy loves hearing from readers.

Find the author on the following sites...
A special fun survey has been prepared to accompany the book. You can take the survey or read the responses HERE.

Read an excerpt from the book HERE

Follow the Book Tour
I received this book to review through Beck Valley Books Book Tours, all the opinions above are 100% my own.


Hot FlashHot Flash by Kathy Carmichael
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Hot Flash is a 2015 MacGowan Press publication. I was provided a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

I love Romantic Comedies, but in books I sometimes find them over the top and just too silly and so they aren't all that funny in the end. However, this one was just right. I literally laughed out loud in a few places and loved the survey and the answers that implied that absence made the heart grow fonder... yeah, just keep telling yourself that.

So, here is the set up. Jill's ex has decided to transition into a woman, her favorite skillet was stolen, her teenage son, an artist, only speaks in French, she has major problems at work, and one of her son's former teachers is always questioning her parenting skills, implies she needs help in her life and proceeds to try and fix things for her. Her mother is a little eccentric , but means well. Jill is also desperate to obtain enough money to pay for her son's college tuition, and to put the cherry on the cake, she thinks she may be experiencing hot flashes.

The story was a tad “busy” with all the things going on I mentioned in the set up, but also with Jill's parent's anniversary, her pregnant friend Susan, and Jill's dating disasters, plus all the drama at her work place. It was a a situation that could have spiraled out of control fast. However, the author kept things rolling along without leaving me confused or feeling overwhelmed.

I absolutely LOVED Davin!! He was so wonderful and sweet. I'm so glad Jill finally stopped trying to ignore her feelings for him and thankfully someone realized what a great asset she would be as chef and her career plans are certainly looking up. The secondary characters were all well drawn and complimented the story in the way they were meant to.1 Overall this was a delightful and humorous novel and one of the best romantic comedies I've come across in awhile. 4 stars

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Thursday, March 19, 2015

Feeding the Fire by Andrea Laurence Release Week Celebration and AWESOME Giveaway!!


Pepper has no interest in Grant Chamberlain…until she accidentally wins him at a school auction and finds the mega-hot firefighter impossible to ignore. Find out what happens next in the second playful and sexy ebook romance in the Rosewood series!

Living in the small town of Rosewood, Alabama, hairdresser Pepper Anthony has one rule—never date a Chamberlain. She’s always said, “the only thing worse than being ignored by a Chamberlain is being dumped by one.” But Grant Chamberlain, town fireman, isn’t used to rejection, and Pepper has consistently turned him down since high school. She isn’t intimidated by his family; she’s one of the few who refuses to take their crap.

When Grant volunteers at the charity bachelor auction, to his surprise, Pepper buys him. She hadn’t meant to, but Adelia Chamberlain dropped a cold drink in her lap, sending her leaping into the air at precisely the wrong moment. Suddenly she had a massive bill to the town and Grant at her disposal. Since the money has to come from her “restore the house” fund, she decides to use Grant for manual labor instead of romantic dinners. Grant is happy to help, sweaty and shirtless, because one way or another, he’s going to get Pepper to admit she’s attracted to him. All it takes is a small spark, and soon they’ll be fanning the flames.

Grant stepped out from behind the curtain to a roar of applause. The minute the lights hit him, Pepper felt her heart skip a beat in her chest like she’d been hit with paddles of a defibrillator. He was wearing a black, slim-fit suit with a black shirt and tie. Even though he was indoors and it was nighttime, he was wearing his trademark Ray-Ban sunglasses. The glasses always seemed to accent the square line of his jaw and the sharp angle of his nose.
His full lips curled into his charming smile, with the slightest hint of a dimple visible on his cheek. It reminded her of him looking at her, just like that, from between her trembling thighs.
Damn him for being so sexy. His confidence made him that much more attractive. And frustrating. And irritating. Her fingers itched to reach for her paddle, but she resisted. She wasn’t going to pay for his time, even when he smiled at her that way.
“The lucky lady with the winning bid will go with Grant to a romantic dinner at Brio’s in Birmingham and if she likes, he’ll take her on an exhilarating ride down a windy country road on the back of his motorcycle.”
Pepper could almost see all the wild fantasies rushing through the heads of every woman in the room. It was a nice thought—hair blowing in the wind, thighs clamped around Grant’s narrow hips, arms wrapped around his waist. Even she could imagine the hard feel of his abs beneath the thin cotton of his T-shirt and the vibration of the engine against her most sensitive parts. There was a rumble of approval as they readied their paddles and sized up their competition.
Good luck to them, Pepper thought.
Like a beach ball bouncing around the room, the bids flew fast and furious. Before long, they’d topped three thousand.
Suddenly Pepper felt awkward. Even though she and Grant weren’t dating, she didn’t exactly want to sit around and watch other women battle for him. Looking around the room, she spied Adelia Chamberlain coming back to her table with a glass of ice water. Maybe another drink would help. Or perhaps it was the right time for a restroom break. She could beat all the other women that would rush the ladies’ room when the auction ended.
Pepper slipped her purse onto her shoulder and picked up her paddle so she could dump it in the bathroom trash can. “I’m going to get some air,” she whispered to Ivy, then started to get up.
The ambush was sudden and unexpected. When they first came in Pepper had noticed the cable that the A/V people had taped to the floor, but the room was much darker now. Adelia didn’t see it and caught the toe of her shoe on it. She didn’t fall, thank goodness, but she did stumble, slinging her full glass of ice water into Pepper’s lap.
With a cry of surprise and alarm, Pepper leapt out of her chair, holding her arms high to avoid the water that practically covered her from neck to knees.
“Four thousand!” Allison Price announced from the stage.
The MC’s words were an even larger shock to Pepper than the water. She turned her head toward Grant and the action onstage. He was looking straight at her with a wide smile of confidence across his face. He winked at her, and Pepper felt her stomach sink into her boot. Allison was pointing in Pepper’s direction, trying to coax a higher bid out of the audience.
Yes, please, she screamed in her head. Make it forty-five hundred. Hell, make it four thousand and one penny. Just outbid her. She was answered with deafening silence. The only one in the room making a sound was Allison up on stage. It seemed that suddenly, all the battling women seemed to give up. Even Grant wasn’t worth that much, it seemed, and she agreed.
“No!” Pepper shouted, but there was no stopping it.
“Going once . . . going twice . . .”
“I didn’t mean to—”
“Sold! To the lady in the blue sweaterdress, paddle twenty-two!”
Pepper looked down at her dark blue sweater, suddenly made even darker by the spreading water mark. Her damned paddle, the one she never wanted to begin with, was still in her hand. She watched as it slipped from her fingers, clattering to the ground in slow motion as the gravity of the situation caught up with her. Four thousand dollars. She’d just bid four thousand dollars. Because of well-aimed ice water.
“Oh, Pepper,” Miss Adelia fussed, dabbing her with an inadequate cocktail napkin and shaking off the well-meaning hands of the folks that were more concerned about the older woman nearly falling. “I am so sorry. I didn’t even see that silly cord,” she said. “Is your dress okay?”
She couldn’t respond. All Pepper could do was close her eyes and try to keep the tears of frustration and aggravation from rushing down her cheeks.
She had just paid four thousand dollars for a date with Grant Chamberlain.
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Author Biography

Andrea Laurence has been a lover of reading and writing stories since she learned to read at a young age. She always dreamed of seeing her work in print and is thrilled to finally be able to share her special blend of sensuality and dry, sarcastic humor with the world. A dedicated West Coast girl transplanted into the Deep South, she's working on her own "happily ever after" with her boyfriend and their collection of animals including a Siberian Husky that sheds like nobody's business.

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