Spotlight & Excerpt Out of the Clear Blue Sky

Out of the Clear Blue Sky by Kristan Higgins

Genre: Women’s Fiction

Release Date: June 7, 2022

Publisher: Berkley

Kristan Higgins newest book – Out of the Clear Blue Sky – is the perfect beach read! Heartwarming and funny, this book follows Lillie, recently divorced after her husband dumps her for another woman. With a grown child now in college, Lillie isn’t quite sure what to do with her life. Soon she’s bonding with people in her life that she never thought she’d get close to. Maybe this isn’t the end of life for Lillie, but rather the start of a new chapter?


SYNOPSIS

From New York Times bestselling author Kristan Higgins comes a funny and surprising new novel about second chances–and why the lies we tell ourselves are the most dangerous.

Lillie Silva knew life as an empty nester would be hard after her only child left for college, but when her husband abruptly dumps her for another woman just as her son leaves, her world comes crashing down. Besides the fact that this announcement is a complete surprise (to say the least), what shocks Lillie most is that she isn’t…heartbroken. She’s furious.

Lillie has loved her life on Cape Cod, but as a mother, wife and nurse-midwife, she’s used to caring for other people…not taking care of herself. Now, alone for the first time in her life, she finds herself going a little rogue. Is it over the top to crash her ex-husband’s wedding, dressed like the angel of death? Sure! Should she release a skunk into his perfect new home? Probably not! But it beats staying home and moping.

She finds an unexpected ally in her glamorous sister, with whom she’s had a tense relationship all these years. And an unexpected babysitter in of all people Ben Hallowell, the driver in a car accident that nearly killed Lillie 20 years ago. And then there’s Ophelia, her ex-husband’s oddly lost niece, who could really use a friend.

It’s the end of Lillie’s life as she knew it. But sometimes the perfect next chapter surprises you…out of the clear blue sky.


EXCERPT

From OUT OF THE CLEAR BLUE SKY published by arrangement with Berkley, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC. Copyright © 2022 by  Kristan Higgins.

When the waitress came to ask if we wanted dessert, Brad said no. “I’ll have the coconut cake,” I said, because speaking of joy . . . Pepe’s had the best coconut cake on earth. “We’ll split it,” I added, since we always did. One of our marital habits—Brad always pretended he didn’t want dessert, then shared mine. Denial.

“No, no. All for you,” Brad said, and for a second, I could’ve sworn he glanced at my midsection. He himself was lean. I was not.

Brad was nursing a second glass of malbec. That was funny . . . I’d never seen him order red wine, not even with steak. He said it gave him headaches, but here he was, sniffing it like he was a bloodhound, swirling it, savoring it. Before I said something snarky, I decided this was the moment.

“Honey, I have something to tell you,” I said. I took a breath and tried to get into the romantic mood. The candlelight made Brad look even more handsome. His blond hair, still fairly full, that WASPy, almost delicate bone structure. His amazing cerulean eyes. He looked younger, the gift of candlelight. I hoped I looked equally beautiful. “It’s pretty exciting.”

“Really? I have something to tell you, too,” he said. “Also exciting. But go ahead.”

I paused for dramatic effect. “We’re going to Europe! I booked us a trip!”

Brad’s face didn’t change. He didn’t smile. He barely blinked.

“Oh,” he said. “Uh . . . when?”

“October seventeenth. Venice, then a train ride up into the Alps for a few days, and then . . . wait for it . . . Paris! Surprise!”

Brad didn’t say anything.

“Honey?” I asked.

“Yes. Um . . . well.”

Not the reaction I was hoping for. Brad loved traveling. “Aren’t you excited?” I asked. “You don’t seem excited.”

He drained his wine. “Actually, Lillie, I . . . uh . . . I was thinking it’s time we . . . divorced.”

“Here’s your coconut cake,” said the waitress, a pretty girl with dark hair. “Two forks, just in case.”

“Thank you!” I said. “Dig in, honey, before I lay waste to this whole thing.”

“This is hard for me,” he said. “It wasn’t an easy decision, but I’m sure.”

“About what?” God. The cake melted in your mouth. Melted.

“Did you hear me? What I just said?”

“Did you hear me? We’re going to Europe!”

He looked away sharply. “No. We’re not. I want a divorce, Lillie. That’s why I took you here. To discuss our future at this natural split in the path.”

I snorted. “Oh, please. We’re not getting divorced.” God, this cake was so good.

“I’m serious. Please listen and don’t infantilize me, Lillie.”

“Brad. Honey. Is this because Dylan’s graduating? It’s normal to feel blue. But we’re happy. Not like everyone else.” There had been a rash of divorces among our crowd lately, and suddenly my skin felt a little too tight. “We’ve been talking about how fun being empty nesters will be.” Hadn’t we? No, we had. Just not recently.

“I’ve met someone.”

“You know, this trip is going to be perfect,” I said. “Change of scenery, new places, new food, different languages all around us. You can practice your French! Our son is going to college in Montana, and we’ve both been melancholy. I’ve looked at so many pictures of Venice, I already feel better.”

Wait . . . what was that he’d just said? It wasn’t about Europe. I felt a flush starting in my chest, creeping up my neck.

I took a sip of water. Glanced around the restaurant. 

“Lillie?” Brad said.

“We’re going to Europe,” I said again, more loudly this time. “We deserve it.”

“Are you even listening to me?” he said.

“Are you listening to me?” I snapped. “We’re not getting a divorce! Are you crazy?” Heads were starting to turn. I lowered my voice. “Look. I don’t think . . . you didn’t mean what you said, honey. I know it’s a strange time, and it’s natural to do some soul-searching, but we’re in this together. It’s going to be great! We’ve been talking about all the things we want to do.” I smiled. Yeah. Keep smiling, Lillie. “And we will do them.” That last line came out as a command.

He didn’t look at me. “I haven’t been happy in some time, and . . . well, as I just said, I’m in love.”

There was a buzzing sound in my ears. “No you aren’t.”

“Lately, I just feel dead inside.”

“No you haven’t. This is idiotic.”

“I’m sorry if this hurts you,” he said, “but I’m sure.” 

Suddenly, my plate was in my hands, and I was squishing the coconut cake on his head. “How dare you, Brad Fairchild! How dare you!”

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Spotlight & Excerpt of Say Goodbye

Say Goodbye by Karen Rose

Genre: Romantic Suspense

Series: Book #3 in the Sacramento Series (part of the Romantic Suspense Series)

Release Date: August 3, 2021

Publisher: Berkley

In this thrilling romantic thriller, FBI agent Tom Hunter must work with his best friend, ex-Army combat medic Liza to bring down the dangerous Eden cult. For years the cult has been wreaking havoc and now the Founding Elders are splintering. Tom is finally getting his chance with Liza, and he will go to all costs to keep her safe.


SYNOPSIS

Eden faces a final reckoning when the cult’s past victims hunt them down in this explosive, high-stakes thriller in the Sacramento series from New York Times bestselling author Karen Rose.

For decades, Eden has remained hidden in the remote wilds of the Pacific Northwest, “Pastor” keeping his cult’s followers in thrall for his personal profit and sexual pleasures. But the Founding Elders are splintering, and Pastor’s surrogate son DJ is scheming to make it all his own.

When two of Eden’s newest members send out a cry for help, it reaches FBI Special Agent Tom Hunter, whose friend and fellow FBI Special Agent Gideon Reynolds and his sister, Mercy, are themselves escapees of the Eden cult, targeted by the Founding Elders who want them silenced forever. The three have vowed to find the cult and bring it down, and now, they finally have a solid lead.

Neutralizing Eden’s threat will save captive members and ensure Tom’s new friends can live without fear. But when his best friend, ex-Army combat medic Liza Barkley, joins the case, it puts her life—and their blossoming love—in danger. With everything they hold dear in the balance, Tom and Liza, together with Gideon and Mercy, must end Eden once and for all.


EXCERPT

EDEN, CALIFORNIA

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 19, 10:30 P.M.

ayley Gibbs winced as her belly scraped against the doorjamb lead‑ ing into the clinic. Dammit. She’d underestimated her current—

and increasing—size yet again. Damn pregnancy.

She gave her stomach a soothing pat. Not you, she silently told her unborn child. Her daughter. I’m not mad at you, Jellybean. Never you. She was mad, however, at her mother. She was beyond furious with the woman. And scared of her at the same time. The fury was nothing new. The fear . . . well, that was new. At least this kind of fear. It had always been the fear of not having enough to eat, or of where they’d live the next week, or what her mother would do if she learned that Hayley was having sex with her high school boyfriend Cameron, or

that her little brother Graham was shoplifting electronics.

Then she’d found out what her mother would do if she found out. Move us here. To this hellhole in the middle of fucking nowhere. From which Hayley was going to escape or die trying.

She just needed to get into the clinic’s office.

Drawing a breath, she eased her way through the clinic door and

quietly closed it behind her. She stood statue‑still, listening for the sound of anyone else. But it was silent.

Thank you, she mouthed, not sure whom she was thanking. Prob‑ ably not God, or not her mother’s God, at least. The God Hayley wanted to thank would help her keep her baby safe. The God she wanted to thank definitely wouldn’t approve of these . . . monsters.

Eden was full of monsters and her mother had dragged Hayley and her brother here, kicking and screaming.

Hayley rubbed her fingertips over the thick chain welded around her neck.

Welded. Around. My. Neck.

It wasn’t jewelry, despite the locket that dangled from it. It was a collar. It was ownership.

It was also empty, at the moment. The locket. But after the baby came, her locket would be filled with her wedding photo. She was technically married now—and had been since the day they’d arrived in this awful place. Luckily her “husband” didn’t want to “consum‑ mate” their union with another man’s bastard in her belly, so she hadn’t been forced into sex. Yet.

He didn’t want their wedding photo sullied with the evidence of her sin. He’d have the photo taken after the “bastard” was born. Which gave her a little more than six weeks.

Hayley’s gut churned at the thought of being the fourth wife Brother Joshua would have—at the same time. Polygamy abounded in Eden, and Hayley wanted no part of it.

She hadn’t wanted any of it. She just wanted to be with her boy‑ friend and live their lives the way they’d always planned since their first homecoming dance in the ninth grade.

No, this baby wasn’t what she and Cameron had planned, at least not now. They were only seventeen, after all. But Cam’s parents had stepped up and said that they could live with them once the baby came, that they could still go to college.

But her mother hadn’t agreed. The next thing Hayley had known, she and Graham had been forced into the back of some guy’s truck.

And now I’m here.

Here in Eden. Here in the clinic, closed at the moment. If she got caught . . . She shuddered at the very thought. But she had to try. She was more afraid to stay in Eden than she was of any punishment. And Pastor—the creepy leader of this creepy cult in the mountains—he terrified her. The people here obeyed him like robots.

She rubbed her stomach as it lurched again. Come on now. Don’t worry, Jellybean. I’ll get us out of here before you arrive. I promise.

So now she had to. She’d just promised her daughter.

Her daughter. She was going to have a daughter. She and Cameron had seen the baby on the ultrasound back at the ob‑gyn’s office in San Francisco, had heard her heartbeat. Cam had cried, his hand clutching hers as they’d stared at the small screen.

I love you, Cam, she whispered inside her own mind. I love you both. They hadn’t chosen a name yet, so they called her Jellybean for now. Her daughter didn’t even have a name, but Hayley would have given up everything to protect her. Which meant getting them out of this place, with its clinic that would have been considered medieval

even in Little House on the Prairie days.

She looked around the dark room, shrouded in shadow. There was no ultrasound here. No oxygen if the baby needed it. No painkillers. At all. Just a bed with stirrups and straps.

Hayley didn’t want to know what the straps were used for.

She did know that women died in childbirth here. She’d heard the whispers.

It would be God’s punishment for her sin, one woman had said.

She’s a whore, another had added.

And then one old crone had whispered words that had chilled her to the bone: Sister Rebecca will take the baby and raise it as her own.

Even if she lives? the first woman had asked.

Even if the whore lives, the crone had confirmed. God wouldn’t want any baby to be raised by that Jezebel.

Hayley cradled her stomach with both arms. No fucking way in hell. Even if Sister Rebecca had been a good person, which she was not. She was Brother Joshua’s “first” wife—the highest‑ranking of all the sister‑wives. Brother Joshua had a total of four wives and Hayley was at the bottom of the list, which meant she had to obey the other wives as well as her “husband.”

Hayley wanted to spit the word out of her mouth. He is not my husband.

He was a horrible person, snide and cruel. Unfortunately, Sister Rebecca was also a horrible person as well as being barren. That was the word the other women had used. Barren.

It was like living in a costume drama from the 1800s.

Sister Rebecca had three children, all taken from other women in the compound. Two of the women had apparently died in childbirth. The third had been birthed by an unwed mother. Like me. No one had mentioned what had happened to the unwed mother and Hayley won‑ dered who she was.

Nobody’s taking my daughter from me. Nobody. They’ll have to kill me first.

Spotlight & Excerpt of Crazy About a Cowboy

Crazy About a Cowboy by Dylann Crush

Genre: Contemporary Romance/Cowboy Romance

Series: Tying the Knot in Texas #3

Release Date: May 25, 2021

Publisher: Berkley

Opposites attract in this small town charming romance. Crazy About a Cowboy is sure to be a swoony romance!


SYNOPSIS

Local cowboy Jasper Taylor has to decide if it’s more important to help his hometown of Ido, Texas win a contest or for him to win the heart of the woman he loves.

The little town of Ido, Texas, is up against some big competition. With the state tourism department on a search for the most romantic town in Texas, Ido is pulling out all the stops to win the title. Leading the effort is the newly appointed hospitality host Jasper Taylor. If he can secure the honor for Ido, he’ll be able to hang onto his family’s land.

But when the reigning Miss Lovin’ Texas and celebrity judge, Delilah Stone, rolls into town, she isn’t exactly welcomed with open arms. Delilah’s ready to put her beauty queen days behind her, and the only thing standing in her way is spending the next thirty days in Ido. It should be an easy gig, but someone in town is tired of all of the recent publicity. Somehow everything that ought to go right is suddenly going wrong.

Now it’s up to Jasper to convince Delilah to give Ido another chance by showing her just how romantic the small town can be…without losing his own heart in the process.


EXCERPT

Jasper ran his palms over his denim-clad thighs. Delilah Stone had been in town for less than five minutes and he’d already screwed up. How the hell would he explain to his dad that he’d managed to ruin Ido’s run for the title before the judge even made it up the steps of city hall?

“What in the world happened?” Lacey entered her office, her cheeks flushed.

He jumped to his feet. “I don’t know. I was cleaning the pigeon shit off the sidewalk and all of a sudden there she was.”

“You didn’t hear her? See her heading your way?”

Jasper shook his head. “I came around the corner and before I knew what was happening she was soaked through.”

“Don’t worry, you’ll fix this.” Lacey crossed her arms over her chest, her mouth set in a determined line.

“Me?” His stomach dipped. “How do you expect me to do that?”

“I need a hospitality host, and you owe me.”

“Wait a sec. I said I was sorry and I meant it. But I don’t think—”

The office door creaked open. Delilah Stone entered. She’d changed into dry clothes, but her hair still hung in damp curls, framing her heart-shaped face. He’d expected the beauty queen to be, well, beautiful. But beautiful was too dull a word to do justice to the gorgeous woman who’d just entered the mayor’s office.

Lacey rounded the desk and moved toward the door. “Ms. Stone, welcome.”

Jasper rose to his full height and drew in a breath. Then he forced what he hoped looked like a reassuring grin and turned it on Miss Lovin’ Texas herself.

She might have been drenched from head to toe a few minutes ago, but she handled herself with the composure of a queen. Her spine ramrod straight, her face scrubbed free of any trace of makeup, she entered the office like she owned the place.

“We’re thrilled to be hosting you as part of the Most Romantic Small Town in Texas competition.” Lacey glanced toward him and he braced himself for the inevitable introduction. “I’d like you to meet Jasper Taylor, our hospitality host. He’ll be your main point of contact while you’re here in town.”

Jasper shot a look to Lacey, who lifted one shoulder in a slight shrug. Great. He didn’t want to undermine the mayor, even if she’d made an incorrect assumption that he’d changed his mind about taking on the role. He’d let it go for now. But once Ms. Stone left the office, he’d have to set Lacey straight.

“It’s nice to meet you, Ms. Stone. I’m sorry about getting you all wet. Although I’ve gotta say, you look just as pretty soaked right through as you did when you won your title.” He had to give major props to the beauty queen, she didn’t flinch as she slid her hand against his.

Delilah glanced over to Lacey. What the heck was wrong with him? Based on how he was handling his interaction with Delilah, she’d probably never believe he actually held a degree in business and had aced his professional communications courses. For some reason his tongue seemed to get all hog-tied when facing the woman with the smoky green eyes who held the fate of Ido in her soft, delicate hands.

She slipped her fingers out of his grip and followed Lacey toward the desk. “It’s my pleasure, Mr. Taylor.”

“Oh, you can call me Jasper.”

“It’s my pleasure then, Jasper.” The tight smile she gave him held more than a hint of frustration, making him think she’d rather slap him than have to rely on him for anything during her time in Ido. She probably thought Lacey was crazy for putting her trust in him. At least they were on the same page with regard to that.

Spotlight & Excerpt of Heart on a Leash

Heart on a Leash by Alanna Martin

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Series: Hearts of Alaska #1

Release Date: April 27, 2021

Publisher: Berkley

Feuding Alaskan families, a forbidden romance and cute huskies – Heart on a Leash sounds like the perfect romance!


SYNOPSIS

A pack of rescue huskies inspires love and romance in a coastal Alaskan town fractured by feuding families–but can young pups really teach frozen hearts new tricks?

Taylor Lipin has made it her life’s mission to leave her hometown and its ridiculous, century-old feud with the Porters behind. But when her sister needs help running the family inn, Taylor agrees to return to Helen, Alaska on a temporary, definitely not longer than two weeks, basis. Or so she thinks, until she’s quite literally swept off her feet and into enemy territory by three happy huskies and their drool-worthy owner, Dr. Josh Krane.

Though Josh didn’t grow up in Helen with the rest of his Porter cousins, he’s heard the stories: Porters rescue huskies. The Lipins are cat people. Keep to your pack. But Taylor is too tempting to give up–plus, his dogs love her.

As Taylor and Josh grow closer, tensions in the town escalate and the need for secrecy starts taking a toll. Soon they’ll need to decide whether their newfound love is just a summer fling or if they’ve found their forever home.


EXCERPT

Ever since she was little, Taylor had been determined that-in her six-year-old self’s words-she was going to be a “business lady.” Little Taylor had devoted countless hours to making her Barbie dolls into perfect “business ladies,” which had mainly meant they wore stylish clothes, worked in tall buildings, and bossed people around. Her understanding had expanded as she grew older, but her desire to leave home and work someplace with tall buildings and stylish clothes had not. Taylor had taken off to Southern California for college and never turned back.

It was true that sometimes she wondered if she was still chasing an ephemeral ideal, because working in marketing had not lived up to her childhood expectations. And it was also true that sometimes, more frequently in recent years, she’d started wondering if she should have left childhood ideals in childhood and chosen a field that didn’t make her feel like her soul was being crushed on a daily basis.

But it was just as true that returning home and working at the inn remained on her list of Things to Consider Only before Selling Off Internal Organs. But even then, it might depend on which organ. No one needed two kidneys.

Lydia was still speaking, and Taylor caught the end of her last sentence. “. . . to help shut down the gossip too.”

“What gossip?”

“The usual. Mostly people speculating about affairs and garbage like that. All instigated by the Porters, I’m sure.”

Taylor snorted. Possibly living so long in L.A. had changed her perception about such things. “Can anyone back home actually have an affair without everyone else knowing about it?”

“Dan Fidel, the high school principal, carried on with a third-grade teacher for two years before his wife found out. So yes. But that’s not the point. The Porters are spreading lies, and rumor is Wallace is considering running against Dad for mayor. They’ve been looking for ways to cut us down since the article. We can’t afford to let them see us struggle. This is about family, however fractured we currently are.”

With her free hand, Taylor poked at the foam on her coffee. Sure, it was only eight in the morning, but she might need something stronger to drink if this was turning into a Lipin-Porter battle on top of a regular family disaster. Unfortunately, she could easily believe the Porters would try to take advantage of her family’s situation. After the Bay Song’s write-up, they’d started a whisper campaign that the hotel had only gotten such a glowing recommendation because her family had bribed the writer. Or, depending on which Porter was talking, because Lydia had slept with the guy.

It was easy for Taylor to roll her eyes from the California coast, but back home, the nastiness was something her family had to deal with on a daily basis. It was also another reason Taylor had been eager to leave.

The coffee shop’s door opened, and this time Stacy entered, along with a whiff of exhaust from the delivery truck idling outside. Her friend waved and began worming her way through the crowd.

“We can talk more about this later,” Taylor said. “I need to go.”

“Fine. Will you think about what I said? Please.”

“Promise.” It was an easy one to make. Taylor doubted she could do anything else.

Spotlight & Excerpt of The Kindred Spirits Supper Club

The Kindred Spirits Supper Club by Amy E. Reichert

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Release Date: April 20, 2021

Publisher: Berkley

The Kindred Spirits Supper Club is set in quirky Wisconsin Dells and has all of the elements of a warm and witty book – filled with supper clubs, random acts of kindness and a supernatural twist! Read on for an excerpt.


SYNOPSIS

Jobless and forced home to Wisconsin, journalist Sabrina Monroe can tolerate reunions with frenemies and kisses from old boyfriends, but not the literal ghosts that greet her in this heartwarming tale of the power of love and connection from acclaimed author Amy E. Reichert.

For Sabrina Monroe, moving back home to the Wisconsin Dells–the self-described Waterpark Capital of the World–means returning to the Monroe family curse: the women in her family can see spirits who come to them for help with unfinished business. But Sabrina’s always redirected the needy spirits to her mom, who’s much better suited for the job. The one exception has always been Molly, a bubbly rom-com loving ghost, who stuck by Sabrina’s side all through her lonely childhood.

Her personal life starts looking up when Ray, the new local restaurateur, invites Sabrina to his supper club, where he flirts with her over his famous Brandy Old-Fashioneds. He’s charming and handsome, but Sabrina tells herself she doesn’t have time for romance–she needs to focus on finding a job. Except the longer she’s in the Dells, the harder it is to resist her feelings for Ray. It doesn’t hurt that he shows his affection through good old-fashioned home-cooked suppers. And who can resist a guy obsessed with perfecting a Fried Cheese Curds recipe? 

When the Dells starts to feel like home for the first time, Sabrina begins to realize that she can make a difference and help others wherever she is. 


EXCERPT

Two days, twenty-three hours, and thirty-two minutes. Almost three full days since Sabrina Monroe had last spoken to someone who wasn’t a relative. Her record was seven days, four hours, and fifty-five minutes, but still, almost three days was impressive. In her ideal world, she could continue the trend indefinitely, a sweet happily ever after of telecommuting and food delivery.

She sat in the center of a large indoor waterpark, the WWW (Wild World of Waterparks)—or Three Dub, as people had started calling it—the latest addition to the Waterpark Capital of the World. The fake boulders hadn’t yet acquired the usual dust and stuck gum, the colors still popped on the water slides, and the painted murals were not yet dimmed by years of exposure to eye-burning levels of chlorine. With her feet propped on a white plastic chair, identical to the one she sat in, Sabrina stopped scrolling through the news app on her phone when a stack of towels toppled off a neighboring table into a puddle. She scooped them up, draping the wet towels over chairbacks and setting the still-dry towels at the center of the table, then returned to her lounging position before anyone noticed. Her nieces and nephew, Arabella, Lilly, and Oscar, frolicked in the kiddie area, a three-tiered structure of rope bridges, water cannons, and small slides for the little ones not quite ready to brave the twisty four-story flumes. An enormous bucket dropped one thousand gallons of water every fifteen minutes with a clang, a roar, and a rush of wind that blew over a lazy river circling the entire room, where tubes bobbed like Froot Loops and tweens raced around floating adults, who scowled at their rambunctiousness.

It should have been difficult to take her nieces and nephew to a waterpark without speaking to other people, but she had bought the tickets online, then took refuge among the crowded tables while the kids played. Being alone was always easiest in a crowded, noisy location, and no room was louder or more crowded than an indoor waterpark on a rainy holiday weekend.

Within the confines of this humid, echoing warehouse, Sabrina avoided interacting with people by scrolling through the news on her phone. She didn’t notice the people who stood up with meerkat attentiveness. She didn’t notice the people swiping chairs from other tables. She didn’t notice a nearby angry, tattooed chair-swiping victim returning from the snack bar with a giant fully loaded margarita.

Dumb luck had her looking up from her phone at exactly the wrong moment.

She watched as the Refill-A-Rita catapulted out of the tattooed man’s hand, centrifugal force and a red plastic lid keeping most of the fire-engine-red contents inside until they collided with the bridge of her nose. Tequila-laden pseudo-strawberry slush exploded onto her hair down to her flip-flopped feet, staining her yellow swimsuit a sunset orange and obscuring her vision with kaleidoscoping stars from the surprising pain. Bent over in agony, Sabrina avoided the unexpectedly aerodynamic white plastic chair that followed the margarita as it arced over her head toward the chair swipers.

A man wearing colorful swim trunks emblazoned with red crustaceans fought back a smile as his eyes inspected the substance dripping from her head, confirming Sabrina’s ridiculous appearance. What right did he have to judge her? He had crabs on his pants. As he took a breath to speak, Sabrina broke her no-talking streak.

“Duck,” she said, pointing to his white plastic table as a cup of soda soared over them. Caught in food-fight cross fire, the man crouched under it and out of the fray. Now she could do the same.

Sabrina dropped to the ground and scooted to safety, wiping the worst of the overly sweet slop off her face, the alcohol and red dye stinging her eyes. The warring people around her shouted, more food and plastic water bottles skittered across the wet concrete, and soon tables stuttered as bodies shoved against them. The man huddled under his table an aisle over from her. Around them, the babble of water rushing, children screaming, and parents yelling echoed off the walls and windows, amplifying the noise.

From her location under the table, she could spot her charges scampering in the spraying water, oblivious to the commotion at the nearby tables.

Two beefy men shoved at each other like Greco-Roman wrestlers, hairy bellies bumping against each other. Feet stumbled past her table, knocking her phone into a waiting puddle. She snatched it out of the water as her heart raced. Not her phone. She didn’t have the money to replace it. She dried it off the best she could on a small, still-clean section of her swimsuit.

A pair of delicate feet stopped beside her table, followed by a cheerful face framed by chin-length bouncing blond curls. The woman’s edges blurred into a soft glow as if she stood in front of a lamp. With Ghost Molly, it was barely noticeable. More recently deceased spirits had a blur that made it obvious they were new to the afterlife, helping Sabrina and her mom recognize them.

“Whatcha doing, honey?”

Spotlight & Excerpt of Special Ops Seduction

Special Ops Seduction by Megan Crane

Series: Alaska Force #5

Genre: Romantic Suspense

Release Date: January 12, 2021

Publisher: Berkley

The fifth book in the Alaska Force series, Special Ops Seduction, is sure to be filled with plenty of suspense and a side of my favorite romance trope – fake dating! Read on for an excerpt.


SYNOPSIS

She’s the last woman he ever wanted to see again…

After an official operation turned deadly, Jonas Crow began a new life in Grizzly Harbor with Alaska Force. But when fellow soldier Bethan Wilcox joins the group, she forces him to remember things he actively prefers to forget. That’s unforgivable enough. But now the two of them are forced together on a mission to uncover deadly secrets tied to their complicated past, and with the heat between them at a boil, forgiveness is the least of his worries…

And the only woman he needs.

Bethan Wilcox, one of the first women to make it through Army Ranger school, didn’t join Alaska Force to deal with Jonas’s foul temper. Or her own errant attraction to him. Thrown together in a race against the clock, they have to pretend to be a couple and play nice to throw the enemy off their scent. She knows better than to let their pretend love feel real…especially while time is running out.

Jonas has always been good at saving the world. But it’s Bethan he needs to save this time around—if she doesn’t save him first.


EXCERPT

Bethan had been highly trained in a variety of scenarios. She’d signed up for the army right out of high school, mostly to appall her high-ranking air force general father. But then, spite enlistment or not, she’d loved basic training. She’d loved it when she got into psyops, too, and for a time, she’d greatly enjoyed her work as an interpreter, translator, and interrogator, connected to highly classified missions all over the world. It was after one of those missions—the one where she’d met Jonas, though neither one of them ever spoke of it—that she’d decided she wanted to be able to do more. To do something, on a grand scale.

That had led her to becoming one of the very few women to ever make it through Army Ranger School.

But the army hadn’t given her what she wanted, and now she was here. Using all her years of army training to stay calm in the face of provocation. Whether it was a building that shouldn’t have blown up or Jonas freaking Crow.

“Proceed,” Jonas ordered her.

“I have you covered,” Griffin said, cold and precise.

Bethan’s gut was working overtime, but courage wasn’t the absence of fear. It was using it as fuel. She eased out of her protected position, squinting past the billowing smoke from what they’d had down as a meaningless outbuilding in this creepy, abandoned place. She could feel eyes on her, no doubt friend and foe alike, and wished she were in full combat gear—but that wasn’t how they were playing this.

She quickly considered her options. The inhabited ruined building was directly across the square from where she was. The original plan had been for her to take the long way, skulking around the back of what was left of the row of houses where she’d been squatting. Then find a way in through a window that was almost certainly alarmed, if not actively guarded.

Bethan hadn’t seen any guards yet. And it was always possible that someone was blowing stuff up on the outskirts of this crumbling ruin of a mining town for reasons that had nothing to do with why she was here. Anything was possible.

But the more likely scenario was that there were guards, and those guards knew Alaska Force was here. And that they’d expressed themselves with a little C-4 as a welcoming gift, so there was no point sneaking around anymore.

Bethan stood. Then she sauntered around the corner of the ruined house like she was out for a stroll somewhere civilized. She headed across the arid dirt square, in the kind of broad desert daylight that made her lungs hurt, to go knock on what passed for the front door opposite.

“I like it,” Rory said with a quiet laugh from his position around the far flank of the building she was approaching. “A frontal assault always confuses them.”

“Shock and awe, baby,” August agreed.

Jonas, naturally, was completely silent.

Bethan knocked. The sound echoed strangely out here, with the Andes towering in the distance and that profound, if deceptive, emptiness all around. She knew how American she was, because she wanted to see a tumbleweed roll by, or a creaking saloon door, or the beginning twangs of a Wild West theme. But there was nothing.

Bethan knocked again. Louder.

She could feel all the targets up and down her back as she stood there. As if the eyes on her were punching into the light everyday tactical gear she wore, and worse, directly into the back of her deliberately uncovered head.

Look how friendly and approachable I am, her clothes were meant to proclaim across the desert, to all the various bad guys lurking around. No need to shoot.

Every single alarm inside her body was screaming bloody murder and she wanted nothing more than to duck, cover, and hide. Instead, she stood tall. Because she knew the fact she wasn’t visibly cowed was as much of a statement as a blast of C-4. A bigger one, maybe.

“I know you’re in there,” Bethan said through the makeshift door, leaning against the gutted wall beside it as if she felt nothing but casual, here in the middle of a creepy, abandoned desert village in a place even the few hardy locals avoided. “The trouble is, everyone knows you’re in there. And sooner or later, they’re going to come. All of them. And they won’t knock at the door, as I think you know. They’ll come right in—if they haven’t already.”

Languages had always come easily to her. This one, a specific dialect of a language very few of her own countrymen knew existed, much less could speak, had always been one of her favorites. Tongue gymnastics, she’d said, laughing with a friend, way back at Monterey’s Defense Language Institute, where she’d first started learning the kinds of languages that made her invaluable in the field.

She waited as the pitiless sun beat down on her. She had that same sort of split focus she often did in situations like this. There was a part of her that was all here, right now. She was aware of everything, from the faint sounds of life from the other falling-down structures around the square, to the wind from the far-off mountains, to that skin-crawling sensation of being in the crosshairs of too many targets. And on the other hand, she found herself thinking of her home of a year and a half now. In faraway Alaska, where a March afternoon like this one would almost certainly be gray. And wet. It might even be snowing.

For a girl who’d spent a significant part of her life in sunny Santa Barbara while her father ordered people around on Vandenberg Air Force Base, the idea that she could long for a place like Alaska should have been funny.

Some days it was.

Today it felt like a much-needed moment of centering. Reminding herself that she had a job to do here and a home to go back to, which let her focus in more sharply.

“All I want to do is ask you a question,” she said to the door. Conversationally. “What will the rest of them do, I wonder?”

Another eternity passed while the sun blazed down on her, lighting her up and giving every sniper in the village ample opportunity to take her out.

But no one did.

Far in the distance, she heard what sounded like a foot dragging. Faintly.

“There were three guards around the perimeter,” Rory said into the comm unit a few beats later. “Neutralized.”

Griffin’s voice came like a knife. “Three seems like a low number.”

Bethan knew their best sniper was up high on one of the buildings around this square, but she didn’t bother looking for him. She knew she wouldn’t be able to find him unless he wanted to be found.

“A little house-to-house turned up some more,” August said quietly. “Bringing the total to an even eight, which is still low for an asset like this.”

“I don’t like this,” Jonas said in that stern, considering way he had.

Bethan was sure he was about to recall her—order her to fall back and find a defensive position—but that was when the door cracked open.

She waited, aware that she looked relaxed when she was anything but. Her weapons were holstered, so she simply stood there with her arms loosely at her sides, looking as unobtrusive as any of them did in their tactical gear. Her cargo pants and a combat-ready shirt weren’t as dramatic as army fatigues, but she doubted very much that the slender woman who stood there in the sliver between the board masquerading as a door and the questionable wall would confuse Bethan for anything but what she was.

For a moment the two women eyed each other. Bethan smiled. The woman did not.

“Hi, Iyara,” Bethan said quietly. Warmly, as if she knew the woman personally instead of from photographs. “Do you want to tell me where your brother is?”

“How do you speak the language of my childhood?” Iyara Sowande asked softly in return. “How do you know a single word?”

“I’m only looking for your brother,” Bethan repeated in the same steady tone. “I don’t mean you any harm.”

“What is harm?” Iyara asked bitterly. “You’re too late for that.”

The door was wrenched open wider then.

And suddenly there were guns in Bethan’s face.


Excerpt from Loverboy by Sarina Bowen

Loverboy by Sarina Bowen

Release Date: December 1, 2020

Series: The Company #2


I’ve had the opportunity to listen to and read an ARC of Loverboy and loved Posy and Gunnar❤️ My full review will be up in a few days!! Enjoy the excerpt below.


EXCERPT FROM LOVERBOY BY SARINA BOWEN

Gunnar waits for my answer, watching me with hungry eyes. I take another sip of tart, fruity goodness and feel a rare looseness in my limbs, as if I’m limber enough to mold myself into the kind of woman who knows how to handle this moment. The possibility of Gunnar and me in bed stretched itself out around us.

He’s waiting for me to say something. Except that I’ve forgotten the question, let alone the answer. He gives me a smile, like he can read my thoughts. And then he lets me off the hook by glancing up at the TV screen to check the score. “Tell me,” he says. “Where did you go just now?”

“Nowhere,” I say quickly, chickening out. I take another deep gulp of my drink. I haven’t had quite enough alcohol to nonchalantly ask Gunnar to come home with me tonight. I want to, though. Really. A lot. He’s just the right kind of playboy to get me out of my rut. It won’t mean anything to him. He won’t have any expectations.

And neither will I, of course. We have nothing in common.

Although lately I find myself appreciating Gunnar for much more than his very fine ass. Who could resist a guy who comes to work on time every day, and makes fabulous coffee for eight hours without complaint? 

The old Gunnar would have teased me mercilessly and hidden the sugar cubes when he went on break. The new Gunnar keeps his head down and saves my overworked butt during every shift.

Sure, he still flirts mercilessly with the customers. But nobody is perfect. And I’m just jealous. I’d rather have those pale eyes trained on me. 

They were, too, only a moment ago. But I blew it already. He was waiting for me to give him the green light, and I chickened out.

That’s a theme with me. 


BLURB

Secrets, desires, and exquisite pie. It’s all in a day’s work at The Company.

Growing up, I was the rough guy from the wrong neighborhood who couldn’t catch a break. Posy was the pampered girl I tried to impress. But I managed to steal only a single kiss before I had to skip town.

Now I’m back, and the tables are turned. Posy runs a struggling pie shop. I’m the VP of a secretive billion dollar security company.

Not that I can tell her.

There’s a murderer on the loose in New York, and he seems to spend a lot of time at Posy’s shop. I can’t let on that I’m here to bring him down before he can harm a hair on her pretty head.

Going undercover as Posy’s new barista wasn’t my idea. I don’t even drink coffee. But now I have to call her “boss,” and do everything the curvy perfectionist asks of me. I’d forgotten how much we infuriate each other, and that she somehow fills me with both irritation and desire in the same breath.

There’s nobody more skilled at stealth ops than me. I can bring this killer down. Right after I take a cold shower. And just as soon as I figure out how to make a skinny peppermint latte with milk poured in the shape of a kitten…


PURCHASE LINKS

🗝️ Amazon https://geni.us/Amazon-LB 

🗝️ Apple https://geni.us/Apple-LB 

🗝️ Kobo https://geni.us/Kobo-Lb 

🗝️ Nook https://geni.us/Nook-LB 

🗝️Audio: https://geni.us/LoverboyAudible