Monday, 31 July 2017
Title: Pieces of Me
Author: Shiloh Walker
Release Date: July 30th 2017
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Obsession can be deadly…
Nobody knows that better than Shadow Harper. It seemed like a dream come true when a rich, suave older man noticed her during her second year of college. Stefan Stockman seemed to love her obsessively. He came into her life and swept her off her feet, seduced her, married her…and then slowly, eventually, that dream come true became a living nightmare.
Now, three years after she finally escaped him, she’s trying to put her life back together. Haunted by memories, struggling with post-traumatic stress, she spends most of her time locked away in her home on Pawley’s Island, a small town on the South Carolina coast. Her rare moments of joy come from her trips to the nearby beach.
She compulsively checks the locks on her doors, makes sure she has her cell phones—five of them—and if she misses something on her schedule, it throws her into a panic.
When she accidentally leaves a sketchbook on the beach, an anxiety attack seems imminent. Her art has become her salvation, her sanity, and losing even one sketch is like losing a piece of her soul. When she returns to hunt for the sketchbook, already fearing it’s gone for good, she’s surprised to find it still sitting there, saved by a sexy fellow beach lover—the mysterious Dillian Jenkins.
He’s brash, bold, brutally handsome…and gentle. He’s the exact opposite of the man who’d tormented her for years, and Shadow finds herself slowly, almost reluctantly, falling for him. Even obsessing over him.
When her ex-husband once again intrudes on the happiness she’s finally discovering, Shadow turns to Dillian. But will she find shelter there…or another betrayal?
Amazon US: http://amzn.to/2tzWkI3
Amazon AU: http://amzn.to/2tamW30
Amazon UK: http://amzn.to/2u3OWs2
There was another reason I loved coming to the beach.
Another reason I liked sitting there.
I don’t know his name. He’s at the beach almost as often as I am and if he’s ever noticed me staring at him, he hasn’t given any sign. So I let myself stare and I let myself watch. I let myself wish.
Sometimes, just looking at him makes me hurt inside. It’s a pins-and-needles sort of feeling, as if something in me is trying to come back to life—slow, painful life.
I watch him and I think about what it would be like if I had the courage to go up to him and say hi.
If I had the courage.
But he was the kind of man who was forever out of my reach.
It was safer that way, too. He was larger than life, full of heat and energy and a raw kind of masculine beauty that made the body go almost numb.
He was too intense. Too big. Too there. And he had a way about him that made me think he could be cruel. He had a wolf tattooed across his back and since I didn’t know his name, I called him Lobo.
Big, dark and built, he looked like he belonged to the beach. Or maybe the beach belonged to him. His hair was so short, it looked like he buzzed it off with a razor every day when he rolled out of bed. Thoughts of him and bed made my heart jump around inside my chest and needs I’d forgotten I even had stirred inside me.
There was a tattoo over his left pectoral—a vivid starburst—although I’d never been close enough to see the details too clearly. On his back was that wolf. A massive, snarling wolf. It started low on his spine, stretched up across the elegant, ridged muscles and finished with the wolf’s muzzle around his left shoulder.
Maybe Lobo seemed an odd name for him, but he stalked the beach like a predator and I needed to have some name for him since I couldn’t just think him every time I saw him, thought of him. Dreamed of him.
And I did dream about Lobo.
The dreams about him were the only respite I had from my nightmares. Hot and sweaty dreams, the kind I’d never thought I’d have again. Torrid, dirty dreams that had me moaning and clenching my thighs together, longing to touch…and be touched.
Dreams that had me waking feeling empty, filled with longing.
Wishing I was anybody but who I was.
Wishing I had the courage to reach out and take what I wanted, what I needed.
And I so desperately needed.
My skin prickled and I looked up as his gaze casually brushed over me. Our gazes collided and my breath caught in my throat before I looked back down, staring at the sketch in front of me.
It was Lobo again.
He was naked…again.
Shiloh Walker has been writing since she was a kid... she fell in love with vampires with the book Bunnicula and has worked her way up to the more...ah... serious vampire stories. She loves reading and writing anything paranormal, anything fantasy, but most all anything romantic. Once upon a time, she worked as a nurse, but now she writes full time and lives with her family in the Midwest. She also writes under the pen name J.C. Daniels.
To sign up for Shiloh’s newsletter - http://www.shilohwalker.com/website/newsletter-author-shiloh-walker/
Series: Bratva Jewels #1
Author: J A Low
Publisher: Hachette Australia
Publisher: Hachette Australia
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Release Date: July 30, 2017
An unconventional love is tested to its limits in this completely immersive dark ménage suspense, for fans of JL Perry and Pepper Winters.
Mateo is used to being in the spotlight, he craves it in everything he does . . . except when it comes to his love life - that is firmly in the closet.
Tomas shuns the spotlight, the one he was born into, he wants nothing to do with it or his high-flying family who now reject him for his choices in love.
But Tomas’ and Mateo’s carefully constructed lives are turned inside out when they discover a beautiful, battered woman on their doorstep. The woman with the sapphire eyes has no memory of who she is or how she got there. She doesn't know about the Bratva Jewels – the Russian mafia’s most desired escorts – or how her story intersects with theirs. Can Tomas and Mateo help her remember before the men who are after her find her first?
The first standalone book in the BRATVA JEWELS series from the author of the DIRTY TEXAS books, JA Low.
JA Low lives in Canberra, Australia. When she's not writing steamy scenes, she's tending to her husband and two sons, and dreaming up the next epic romance. Jess is the author of the Dirty Texas series and the Bratva Jewels series.
From Rachel Lyn Adams comes her debut novel Falling For the Unexpected.
Book 1 of her Life Unexpected Series is NOW LIVE !!!
#NewRelease #BookSmackedPromo #FallingForTheUnexpected #BlogTour
Cover Art: Kellie Dennis at Book Cover by Design
Photographer & Model: Nathan Hainline
He tries to ignore his.
When their scars are reopened, will they be able to help each other heal, or will it be what keeps them apart?
For as long as I could remember, I’ve always wanted a family. When I finally get what I want, it’s nothing like I’d expected it to be. It never occurred to me that making one bad decision for all the right reasons could end so wrong. Now, I’m unsure about the future for myself and my daughter. But I can’t take it anymore. I’ve hit the breaking point. Knowing I want out, I turn to a friend for help. He’s completely off limits, so I never expected feelings to get involved.
The past is always there, waiting to remind you of your pain when you’re most vulnerable. I’ve learned to keep people at bay so I won’t get hurt again. But when I see Simone struggling to do everything she can for her daughter, I can’t look away. It makes me want to be someone she can lean on, someone she can trust with her thoughts and feelings, but our shared history is complicated. When it becomes clear that she needs my help, I can’t say no. I was only supposed to guide her through the process—the most difficult time in her life. But now, I can’t stop thinking about her.
Falling For The Unexpected is book 1 in the Life Unexpected Series. Each book in the series can be read as a standalone. Falling For The Unexpected contains mature content and is for readers 18 and older.
What Others are saying about Falling For the Unexpected
“I read this book in one sitting, I was so drawn into this story! I cannot believe this is a debut novel!” Emma from Ever Growing Book Obsession
“This books takes you on a journey that fills your heart with hope, reminds you that it's never to late, and opens your eyes to the possibilities of a happily ever. READ IT.” ~Meagan from Flirtatiously Fictitious Reads
About halfway through my shift, I saw the hostess seating a couple in my section. I couldn’t see them clearly, but I watched with envy as the man guided the woman through the restaurant with his hand on her lower back. At their table, he pulled the chair out for his date to sit down. It was a simple gesture, one I had never been on the receiving end of. Brad had never taken me out on a proper date. In the beginning, I was blinded by his charisma and good looks so I accepted whatever time he was willing to spend with me. Once I was pregnant, he knew he didn’t have to put forth any effort. But how nice would it be to feel cherished and like I was worth the effort?
After giving the couple another minute to get settled, I approached the table to take their drink order. The man’s back was to me as I walked over to them, but I could see how absolutely gorgeous his date was. Sure, we lived in Southern California, where it almost seemed like a prerequisite to be beautiful. This woman, though, was definitely a ‘ten’ on the hotness scale. Her blonde hair cascaded past her slender shoulders in large curls and her makeup was perfectly applied, highlighting her bright blue eyes. As I took the last step toward their table I saw her flash her date a seductive smile.
“Welcome to the Ocean View. My name’s…” I started but was interrupted by the man I had yet to fully see.
“Simone?” the man next to me questioned.
Recognizing the voice, I looked over, and was immediately met by a familiar pair of green eyes. Kyle O’Neill was here, sitting in my section with a model-perfect date.
I smiled at him briefly, almost forgetting I was there to take their order. “Hi, Kyle,” I said, trying to go for casual, but my voice caught in my throat and it came out breathy and shaky. His date gave me a quick up and down look, then seemed to dismiss my very existence.
I had seen Kyle a few times over the last couple years. He and my brother-in-law, Trent, spent a lot of time together so I would occasionally run into him, usually at my in-law’s house. He knew I worked here, but this was the first time I’d ever seen him come to this restaurant. I suddenly felt nervous and could feel my face get a little warm.
Every time I saw him, I was in awe of his good looks. Tonight wasn’t any different. He wore a pair of black slacks with a crisp, burgundy button-down shirt. The sleeves were rolled up to his elbows, giving him a somewhat casual look. His hair was gelled and styled perfectly.
“Courtney, this is my friend’s sister-in-law, Simone. Simone, this is Courtney,” Kyle said. “She’s a lawyer, too.”
“Oh, how nice,” I acknowledged, and mentally kicked myself for the lame response. The fact that Kyle took the time to introduce me to his date was a surprise. It also warmed something inside of me. The two of us had never talked about the night we unofficially met but he never seemed to hold a grudge. Everything I knew about him led me to believe he was a really nice guy. It also wasn’t lost on me that he hadn’t introduced Courtney as his girlfriend, but something more platonic, and Kyle’s date hadn’t missed it either. She had given me a haughty look and promptly picked up her menu without saying anything to me.
“How’ve you been?” he asked.
My attention veered back to Kyle. He was smiling warmly up at me and his gaze was direct. Like I wasn’t some no-nothing waitress or the woman who had ruined his sister’s life—but instead, someone who deserved as much attention as his date. He treated me like we were equals when we really weren’t. It was flattering, if not a little disarming. I’m sure he was like that with everyone, especially toward his dates. And I bet he had plenty of dates. He was probably like Trent, who dated a lot but didn’t have a steady woman in his life.
“Good,” I finally answered, realizing I needed to stop thinking about Kyle’s relationship status and focus on my job instead. I turned toward Courtney and smiled politely at her. “It’s nice to meet you,” I offered, but moved on quickly so I could leave. I focused on my duties as their waitress and it helped with my nerves. I gave them my spiel about the specials and took out my pen and notepad. “Can I take your drink order?”
I spent the next bit of my shift glancing at Kyle and Courtney in between serving my other customers. I didn’t know why I was so interested in what was happening at their table, but my focus was glued to the both of them, at their interaction and expressions. Kyle was attractive, but that wasn’t all that had captured my attention. I couldn’t help but notice the small things like the flirty way Courtney placed her hand on Kyle’s arm or the smile he would throw at her in the middle of their conversation. It made me long for something I didn’t have.
A couple hours later, once I was done with my shift, I grabbed the meal I had ordered from the kitchen and headed out the back exit. I was a little less excited now about heading home to see Brad. I knew it was because I was jealous of the date I had spent an hour and a half observing. I had fantasies years ago that I would be with a man who was attentive like the way Kyle had been with Courtney. But I had come to terms with knowing that wasn’t ever going to be my reality.
Rachel lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband, five children, two dogs, two cats, and a gecko. Whenever she has some free time you’ll find her with a book in her hands. She never believed she was the creative type until she sat down one day and started plotting out a story that wouldn’t leave her head. From there the ideas continued to flow. It was then that she found her outlet and she hasn’t stopped since.
Author: L.L. Hunter
Genre: YA paranormal romance/ urban fantasy
Cover Designer: Desiree DeOrto
Hosted by: Lady Amber's PR
Blurb: Emma Raine looks like your average eighteen-year-old.
But she holds a secret deep within her.
She is a magical being, a powerful queen of a faraway mythical land who fled her destiny.
No one will ever know.
And she’ll kill you before you ever will.
By day, Emma is a journalism intern in one of Sydney’s top media companies.
By night, she researches ways of keeping magic hidden, of keeping her world separate from the life she lives now.
But something is stirring in the streets of the trendy Australian city.
There are whispers of magic, and Emma must stop it before it takes hold.
Her search leads her to the mysterious forests of New Zealand, the one place she swore she'd never return… and the man who rules it all.
In the enticing first novel of the spin-off of the Dragon Heart Series, can Emma keep her magic hidden from the one man she thought she’d never see again?
Or will his interest in her illuminate everything?
You can’t run from your destiny
L.L. Hunter is the author of over 20 published works, including The Legend of the Archangel Series and The Garden of Eden. She has studied everything from veterinary nursing, forensic science, and dramatic arts, but has always known her true calling was to be an author. She has been writing since her teens - everything from fan fiction, to song lyrics, to plays and musicals. When not working on her next paranormal romance, she can be found at home in Australia, reading somewhere comfortable with one or both of her “fur babies.” Follow her on Facebook, Twitter @llhunterbooks, and her blog - http://llhunter.blogspot.com.au.
Author Links: Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/LL-Hunter/110104129132865 Twitter: https://twitter.com/LLHunterbooksAmazon: http://amzn.to/1So75bF Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6559537.L_L_HunterBlog: http://llhunter.blogspot.com.auAuthorgraph: http://www.authorgraph.com/authors/LLHunterbooksSmashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/llhunter Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/l-l-hunter Newsletter: http://eepurl.com/by8k0r
Buy Links: Burn
Amazon US: http://amzn.to/2v93isp
Amazon UK: http://amzn.eu/5cGRorD
Book 2: Illuminate
Amazon US: http://amzn.to/2uKMIhr
Amazon UK: http://amzn.eu/93kaucD
Book 3: Obliterate (Pre-order)
Author: Karina Espinosa
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Cover Designer: Laura Hildago
Publisher: Black Quill Publishing
Publication Date: Aug. 11th, 2017
Hosted by: Lady Amber’s PR
Blurb: Bodies drained of blood are scattered around New York City. With a serial killer on the loose, Mackenzie Grey is obsessed with solving the murders. She dives into her work at the Supernatural Investigative Unit to forget about the events that dismantled her Pack a year ago. When the killer makes Kenz the target, she falls down the rabbit hole and discovers she has a lot more to do with these murders than she realized.
As her past creeps up behind her, she must swallow her pride and seek aid from old and new friends.
In the epic finale of the Mackenzie Grey: Origins series, she will finally become the wolf she is destined to be…
Karina Espinosa is the Urban Fantasy author of the Sins of the Fallen series and the Mackenzie Grey novels. Infatuated with travel, pop culture, and the need to write everything down, she spends much of her days in front of a computer working on her next book, shopping online, and listening to music. With nomadic tendencies, she is currently resting her head in South Florida until the itch to move strikes again. You can usually catch her on Facebook, Instagram and live-tweeting during episodes of Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, and Orphan Black. Follow her on social media!
OMEGA: (Pre-Order): http://amzn.to/2uO1rGF
Coming August 7th
On the roof of a house outside Truelove, Maine, master carpenter Max Doyle looks down through a skylight and sees the most beautiful woman he’s ever laid eyes on. She’s naked, she’s gorgeous, and everything about her is perfect, down to the ball-busting tattoo of a rose that wraps around her hip. But it isn’t just any woman making his knees buckle. It’s his best friend, Rosie Madden. And as he stands there, mesmerized and precariously close to toppling off the roof, he knows he’ll never, ever be able to look at her the same way again.
Rosie can’t help but notice that Max is suddenly acting very strange—lots of long stares, totally tongue-tied, and not at all like the slightly cocky hunk she’s proud to call her best friend. She can’t figure it out, until later that night when Max rescues her from the world’s worst date, challenges her to a game of pool, and shows her just exactly what she’s got him thinking about. Repeatedly.
But life is complicated. Rosie’s cat, Julia Caesar, wants to eat Max’s dog Cupcake for an afternoon snack. A dream job threatens to pull them apart. And another glance through the skylight changes everything, one more time. Yet try as they might, they can’t go back to being just friends, because falling in love with the one you’ve always adored?
It feels so good.
I wasn’t planning to see her naked—I swear to God, I wasn’t. The day was a scorcher, one of those godforsaken New England summer days that makes a guy wonder how he ever said fuck you to winter. I stood on the roof her house, three stories above the Maine woods, with a far-off view of the ocean. It was pretty, yeah, like the kind of shit real estate companies put on complimentary calendars. But in that heat, it was like standing on top of a goddamned toaster, turned all the way to burnt. I could feel that shit in my socks, straight through my work boots. At my feet was a stack of shake shingles, old school, to replace the ones that were missing. Her house had a few slow leaks, and one over her bathroom that made the ceiling look like a huge Rorschach test. She said it definitely looked like a rose in bloom, I said it definitely looked like Batman. But I told her hidden meanings wouldn’t make shit for difference when the ceiling collapsed into the tub, so there I was. Fucking miserable work, but I was glad to do it. Glad to do anything for her—anything she needed at all.
In the forest on every side around the cottage, the cicadas screeched. It sounded like a needle squeaking off a record player. I knelt down by the stack of shingles, using my utility knife to score a line through one to fit a nearby gap. I snapped it with my hands and tossed the scrap end off the edge of the roof. A trickle of sweat ran down my forehead, and I wiped my face with my forearm. One droplet got away, sparkling in the sun. It caught my eye, and I watched it fall, as it landed on the skylight window with a splat.
And that was when it happened. Boom.
There she was, right under me. She couldn’t have been more than six feet away, but she felt even closer. I had a direct line of sight down into her gorgeous, soft cleavage, bright and pure in the sunshine. Maybe it was the heat, or maybe it was the surprise of seeing her, but at first I didn’t really process that it was Rosie at all. My dude brain said, I want that woman.
Then my regular brain said, Don’t be an asshole, man. It’s Rosie. Have some respect.
Respect I definitely had, but of course I’d thought about seeing her naked before. She was so fucking beautiful that any man would have thought about it. Sometimes, like right then looking down into her dress, I couldn’t fucking help it. Sometimes we’d be out doing something ordinary, like eating dinner, or I’d be changing her oil, or she’d be teaching me to do shit I should have learned at some point in the last 34 years, like iron a dress shirt without screwing up the collar, and I’d catch myself watching her cleavage rise and fall as she breathed, or thinking how nice her legs were, and I’d think, Holy hell.
Now she was directly underneath the skylight. The angle of the sun cast my shadow down the roofline, away from the skylight, so I didn’t give myself away. Like that, I watched her. I gave in to my dude brain and just took her in. Her light brown hair glinted, and a beam of light caught the curve of her shoulder.
That was when the goddamned striptease started, beginning with the left strap of her sundress.
Her movements were graceful, sexy, sassy—the sway of her hips, the shake of her shoulders. I realized I might be in real fucking trouble, because I loved that sexy sass. It wasn’t normal Rosie-cute. It was naughty, like nothing I’d ever seen her do before. I liked it so much, I couldn’t look away. She shimmied out of her sundress, and it fell to the floor in a pool at her feet. No big deal, I tried to tell myself. I’d seen her in her bikini a thousand times. This was no different from that.
Except it was, because then she reached around to undo her bra. Before I could tell myself Don’t look, dude. It’s Rosie, don’t look, it was too fucking late. The straps slid down off her shoulders, and for one perfect second got caught on her nipples, swinging in the air before falling to the floor.
I pressed my clenched fist to my mouth and groaned into my hand. All my blood was leaving my head. The roofline was getting wobbly.
It wasn’t like I didn’t know her curves; we’d spent whole summers on the beach—I knew her shape and her softness, I knew her lines and her freckles. Every curve of Rosie Madden was sacred in my book. Fucking douchebags on the beach giving her eyes had to answer to me and my eyes, right behind her. She did that to me—I was one punch away from defending her honor, always. But this? This was different. Seeing your best friend in a bikini at a clam bake is one thing. Protecting your best friend from assholes with wandering eyes is part of the guy-girl best friend creed. But seeing your best friend, absolutely naked in her bedroom, without knowing she can see you? That was a different deal.
Part of me knew I should keep my eyes off of her. She thought she was in private, I had no business spying. Anyway, I didn’t want to be that guy. I hated that guy. But the other part of me, fuck. The other part of me was nothing but want.
Then she bent at the hips, and time slowed down, like some kind of stop-motion Jackie Chan kung fu sequence. All the cicadas went silent, at least in my head they did. The wind stopped blowing through the trees. It was just her, and her perfection, in the sunshine underneath me. I felt like I was on one of those glass-bottomed boats, looking at a world I never knew existed.
She tossed her bra aside, and it landed on her neatly made bed. She shimmied out of her panties, shaking her ass as she did. I growled into my fist, and that’s when I went down into a crouch.
Because as she shimmied I saw it in a V above her ass. My kryptonite. A skimpy thong.
All these years, all these decades, I’d had her pegged for cute cotton panties—pastel polka dots, thin stripes, shit that was sweet and sensible. But I was so fucking wrong. Black. Strappy. Tiny. Not sensible at all. Now it was in a rolled-up ball at her ankles. Using her toes, she plucked her panties from the floor, and caught them on one finger.
She was completely naked, not a thread on her. Every thought I’d ever had got sucked out of my brain, like dishwater down the sink drain. What was left was only one true thing, and it wasn’t about her ass, or her skin, or her breasts. It was the one thing I think I’d always known but never let myself feel. Until that moment.
She is the most beautiful woman in the world.
Part of the reason I thought that was, yeah, obviously, she was fucking stunning, every inch of her straight out of a dream. Not just my dream, either. Guys would slow down on Main Street to give her the elevator stare, and I’d quietly crack my knuckles and give them don’t-you-fucking-dare stares. But the other part, the part that wasn’t in my gut but that was in my heart, was that I fucking adored her. Adored her so hard it hurt.
She crouched down to pick up her dress, lifting the delicate straps with her small, sweet fingers. She pivoted, so I had a view of her other side of her body for the first time. There it was.
I groaned again. I wasn’t prepared for this shit; three stories up, that body was dangerous. It was a rose tattoo, snaking around her hip, on the milk-white skin that was always under her bikini bottoms. The part of her I’d never seen. It was serious ink, real art, not some namby-pamby temporary tattoo or some amateur shit she might’ve gotten in an hour at a tattoo parlor on a dare on a cruise to Puerto Rico. It was complicated, detailed, and artful. Multiple visits to some tattoo artist, touching that creamy skin—goddamn.
It took every fucking ounce of strength I had, but I did manage to look away. I felt as disoriented as if I’d been sucker punched. Not cotton—lace. Not cute—hot. Not my friend—my fucking fantasy.
She was so important to me, such an integral part of my world, that I’d never let myself think of her as more than what she was. She was like running water, or electricity, or the sunshine itself. She was one of those things that was perfect exactly as it was, and one of those things only an idiot would want to change. I never looked at her and thought, I wish I could have more of her than I do already. That would be like thinking, I wish I could turn that cold glass of water into a swimming pool. Or, I wish electricity came through the air. Fuck that noise. Perfect things are perfect things, and Rosie Madden was a perfect goddamned thing, from the tips of her toes to the freckles on her nose. And that rose, holy fuck, that rose.
I was strong, but not that strong, and I let my eyes move down again. She’d disappeared from view, mostly, except for the edge of her ass. I watched her rifle through her closet, and a few dresses fluttered onto her bed. On her bedside table, I caught a glimpse of the picture she always kept there, of the two of us together. The memories flew back at me like a runaway train. The first time I’d ever seen her was the day my parents and I moved to Truelove, at the start of middle school. The first time I ever saw her, she was volunteering at the community gardens. She had a smudge of dirt on her cheek, and I thought she’d looked super badass. I’d helped her dig up carrots and had been too fucking tongue-tied to say a goddamned word.
That’s how I felt, all over again times a thousand.
I’d never made a move. She’d cried on my shoulder through a line of guys who were never good enough for her. Jocks and pricks and a brief and seriously unfortunate stint with a guy who was a drummer for a reggae band who I hated so much it made me grind my teeth. But I never said shit about it. She was perfect even when she made mistakes. Tips of her toes. Freckles on her nose.
Never mind that rose. Like Banksy took on a temple.
One more time, I glanced down. Now she was sitting on her bed, and I saw that dark V shadow between her thighs. Oh fuck, oh fuck, oh fuck. I watched her put on a pair of red panties. Equally skimpy, equally not-sensible, equally ball-busting. They were only tragic because they hid the parts of her I’d never seen before.
Christ. All. Mighty.
As the world started to spin, I realized fixing the shingles could wait. I’d been working on old houses long enough to know that if you found yourself on a dangerously sloping roof and felt like you might be less than 100% on the ball, you needed to reconsider your game plan. I needed to get my shit together—that body had me totally fucking derailed. So I made my way down the roof, basically bouldering down backward. I focused on my grip, and my steps, like a climber coming down from Everest without enough oxygen. When I got to the gutter, I worked my way around the corner, standing on the eave, and hooked my leg over my ladder, making sure to put one foot after another and keep a tight grip on every rung.
When I stepped off the ladder, I grabbed a bottle of water that she’d left for me and filled up my palm and then splashed my face. My sweat stung my eyes through the droplets of water, and I rubbed away the tears. I heard the hinges on the screen door creak. “All done?” she asked.
I opened my eyes. They stung like hell, but I didn’t give a fuck. There she was, in a dress I’d seen before. Striped and sweet. But now I knew the secret. There were red panties under there. Red. Cherry red. My eyes fell on that part of her hip that I knew was inked.
I managed somehow to snap out of it. “Sorry. Getting there. Spotted something weird with the skylight.”
Rosie cocked her head. “Were you up there? Above my room?”
Awesome, dude. Smooth. “Just noticed it out of the corner of my eye.”
“I don’t like you being on the roof.” She pursed her lips. “Too steep. Promise you’ll get some ropes up there or something? Promise?” She reached out and put her hand to my arm, her fingers with their short pink nails pressing into my tanned skin. I had a quick but totally unavoidable image of her gripping my forearm in a very different situation. I want that. So fucking...
Oh, for fuck’s sake.
When I didn’t answer—I knew that if I opened my mouth the first words out would be You. Me. Right Now.—she looked up at the roof and squinted into the sun. She peered suspiciously up at me and shifted her nose, kind of like a bunny. Adorable. She wasn’t very tall, so whenever she looked at me she had to lift her chin, which used to be cute. But now looked…like everything I’d ever wanted. “Have you had too much sun?”
I was vaguely aware that she’d said some words, but I wasn’t hearing them because I realized that I couldn’t see her bra straps, so that had to mean she was she was wearing a strapless…
Knock. That. Shit. Off. “I’m good.”
“Mmm.” She nodded and furrowed her delicate eyebrows, which had never looked so pretty as they did at that moment. I didn’t even know eyebrows could be pretty. They’re eyebrows, for fuck’s sake. But suddenly I felt like for the last ten years, I’d been looking at her through a standard definition television, with a shitty cable connection. Now someone had handed me an HDMI cable, and she was in 1080 dots per inch. Christ.
“Lemme make you a sandwich. You’re acting strange.”
Rather than answer her, I dumped the remaining half a bottle of water over my head, like Andre Agassi used to do between break points at the French Open.
“Ham? Or turkey? I’ve got both. Or chicken salad!” She clapped her hands together, compressing her cleavage. “Do you want a pickle?”
She means an actual pickle, you fuckwit. “Surprise me,” I told her, and dragged my eyes off the curve of her cleavage. I grabbed the bottom of my T-shirt and pressed it to my eyes. I had to get out of there. I needed a cold shower, or a call from my tax guy, or an unexpectedly urgent trip to the DMV—anything to stop myself seeing her stark naked every goddamned time I looked at her. Anything to get my mind off that ink.
As I wiped my face, she cleared her throat, and I dropped my shirt. “What?”
She pressed her lips together and rocked back on her sandals. “Nothing!”
I followed her eyes and glanced down at my fly, but the stallion was still in the barn. “Come on,” I said, finding myself smiling right along with her. “What are you looking at?”
“Just…” She swallowed hard. “Looking good there, champ.” She glanced at my stomach, where I’d shown her my bare abs. She made a fist and gave me a mock punch, soft and sweet. “That P90X is working great for you.”
Here we go again with the fitness videos. For everything else she was—beautiful, smart, funny—she was also a fucking ball-buster sometimes. She’d worked up this whole narrative that I spent my nights with Tony Horton on my houseboat, getting cut and doing reps while I drank protein shakes with a straw straight from the blender. It was her only explanation for why I didn’t have a girlfriend. P90X it had to be, she’d said. Or maybe, she’d whispered like a co-conspirator, “Jazzercise.” Now, though, I had a better idea than ever about why I was so picky: not a single woman held a candle to her. I’d been fucking blind to it, but now the mist had burned right off. “I’ve never even seen the opening sequence. Never have. Never will.”
“They’re streaming now!”
Rosie snorted and made a long wheeeeee. “Sure. Surrrrrrre,” she said, stifling her giggle. “One ham-and-turkey, coming right up.” She spun on her sandals and disappeared into the house. Hips swinging. Red panties invisible, but not to me.
Nicola Rendell writes dirty, funny, erotic romance. She likes a stiff drink and a well-frosted cake. She is at an unnamed Ivy and prefers to remain mostly anonymous for professional reasons. She has a PhD in English and an MFA in Creative Writing from schools that shall not be named here. She loves to cook, sew, and play the piano. She realizes that her hobbies might make her sound like an old lady and she’s totally okay with that. She lives with her husband and her dogs. She is from Taos, New Mexico.