Friday, June 30, 2017

blog tour Home Field by Laurie Winter

Home Field banner


This is my stop during the blog tour for Home Field by Laurie Winter. This blog tour is organized by Lola's Blog Tours. The blog tour runs from 30 June till 13 July. See the tour schedule here.



Home FieldHome Field (Warriors of the Heart #1)

By Laurie Winter

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Age category: Adult

Release Date: 30 June, 2017



Blurb:

One year after her husband is killed in action, Julie Ellis is back in her hometown and focused on raising her young son. Then Reagan Harrison bursts into her life—a cocky, charming linebacker who leaves her off balance.



As a successful, professional athlete, Reagan believes he has it all. But after meeting Julie, he finds every excuse in the book to spend time with her. Despite his best efforts not to fall too hard, Reagan envisions a future with Julie, along with the little boy he’s come to love as his own.



While Reagan’s protective love begins to mend Julie’s spirit, she can’t suppress her continued deep devotion to her late husband’s memory. And when a letter arrives from beyond the grave, Reagan resolves to provide her with the answers she desperately needs to heal. Now Julie must choose either to keep her heart closed off or remove the lock and fight for a future with Reagan. Can a second chance at true love be just as sweet?




You can find Home Field on Goodreads



You can buy Home Field here:

- Amazon

- Barnes & Noble

- Kobo

- Google Play

- Wild Rose Press

Home Field Excerpt 2:

“Thanks for understanding me.” Julie softly kissed his cheek. The rough stubble tickled her lips. “Even when I don’t understand myself.” She went to sit in her chair to finish her cup of coffee.
At that moment, she noticed the kitchen. What an unbelievable mess! Who’d actually cooked breakfast…a class of rowdy five-year-olds? She gave Reagan a sideways glance, to see him moving a last piece of waffle around his plate, collecting any remaining egg and syrup. “Did you use every bowl I own?”
He was the messiest cook she’d ever seen. A huge pile of dirty dishes sat on the counter, covered in dried waffle batter and egg. Bits of syrup-laden crumbs dotted the kitchen floor, like a sticky breadcrumb trail.
His smile held no hint of guilt, and he shrugged. “Nobody’s perfect.”

No, not perfect—but he was pretty darn close.



Laurie WinterAbout the Author:

Laurie Winter is a true warrior of the heart. Inspired by her dreams, she creates authentic characters who overcome the odds and find true love. She keeps her life balanced with regular yoga practice and running. When not pounding the pavement or the keyboard, she's enjoying time with her family, who are scattered between Wisconsin and Michigan. Laurie has three kids and one fantastic husband, all who inspire her to chase her dreams.



You can find and contact Laurie Winter here:

- Website

- Facebook

- Twitter

- Goodreads

- Pinterest

- Instagram

Interview with LAurie Winter
Q1. What is your favorite part of Home Field and why?
A1. How to pick just one? Let’s see…my favorite part of the story to write was the dream scene in Cottonwood field between Julie and John. I remember sitting at my computer, crying as I wrote. I think what connected the most for me in this scene was the culmination of Julie’s emotional journey. Finally, she was able to say goodbye to her late husband, even if their time together was only in her dream. That moment is a major turning point for her, and therefore, the story.

Q2. If you could spend time with a character in Home Field whom would it be? And what would you be doing that day?
A2. I definitely would pick Reagan Harrison. He’s handsome, strong, and utterly romantic. I’d love for him to take me out on the same date as Julie was treated to—a romantic dinner by candlelight and a night of dancing at a hot club. If you want to know more about their first date, you’ll have to read Home Field.

Q3. If you could be the author of any book ever written, which book would you choose?
A3. Outlander. Reading it, I felt transported with Claire to 18th century Scotland. Diana Gabaldon did a wonderful job creating a world that seemed so real and authentic. And Jamie Fraser *sigh*, he is my favorite fictional hero.

Q4. Are your characters based off real people or did they come entirely from your imagination?
A4. The idea of Home Field started with a dream featuring Clay Matthews, the Green Bay Packers star linebacker. I based Reagan Harrison loosely off of Clay. I love the idea of a defensive football player as a romance hero. In Home Field, Reagan becomes a strong defender of Julie’s heart.

Q5. What made you become a writer?
A5. I have always loved to read, all different genres, but romance was always my favorite. When I came up with the idea for Home Field, I couldn’t get the story out of my mind. So, long story short, I decided to try my hand at writing a full-length novel. I loved the process so much I wrote four more books for the Warriors of the Heart series. Book 2, True Horizon, is scheduled for publication in late 2017.




Giveaway

There is a tour wide giveaway for the blog tour of Home Field. One winner will win a reader's gift basket (US Only). It includes:

* An Alice in Wonderland inspired teacup and saucer set

* Paperback of ON THE CORNER OF KING STREET by Mary Ellen Taylor

* Paperback of UNDER AN ADIRONDACK SKY by Karen Rock

* a $10 Amazon gift card

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Dirty by R.L. Kenderson blitz


Dirty
R.L. Kenderson
Publication date: July 1st 2017
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance

He’s a player. She’s too smart to let him in her pants. Until a night of drunken sex has her kicking herself and vowing she’ll never let it happen again. Or will she?

After returning home due to her father’s illness, Elise Phillips reunites with her college friends, including Luke Long. Luke was a player back then, and Elise had always prided herself on not being another notch on his bedpost.

Luke is still gorgeous though, and he knows it. And he checks all her boxes—intelligent and sexy with muscles and a hard body.

Following a night of beer and shots, her resistance runs out, and he finally does check her box. And Elise knows that it can never happen again.

Luke had always thought of Elise as the pretty girl that was friends with his roommate’s girlfriend, but now she’s all grown up. When their night of passion rocks Luke’s world he realizes he must have her again.

The two enter a friends-with-benefits relationship with the agreement that they’re just going to have fun. The only thing is, with mutual friends involved, they have to hide their indiscretion.

But what harm can come from a dirty little secret?

Dirty is the first contemporary romance from paranormal romance author R.L. Kenderson. If you like laughing out loud, sexy book boyfriends, playful couples, and dirty, dirty sex, then you’ll love this fun contemporary romance.

Get your copy of Dirty and start falling in love today!

Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble / iBooks / Kobo

EXCERPT:

Elise sat in her office on Monday morning, going over her schedule. As a speech therapist, she saw all different kinds of patients—from young children to adults, from those who had had traumatic brain injuries to those who had had strokes. But one of the nice things was that she saw her patients routinely. She really got to know them and could find out the best way to help because everyone was different, and what might work with one patient might not work with the next.

She was just finishing up some notes and had about fifteen minutes before her first patient arrived when her phone buzzed.

Unknown number: How was the rest of your weekend?

Elise frowned.

Elise: Who is this?

Unknown number: Sex God, giver of orgasms.

Elise rolled her eyes, laughed, and added the number to her Contacts.

Elise: Charlie Hunnam, you know who I am?

Luke: Ha-ha. You know this is Luke.

Elise: Oh, I do, huh?

Luke: Who else made you come multiple times this weekend?

She considered pretending like he wasn’t the only one she’d slept with just to tease him but went a different route instead.

Elise: Maybe I was faking it.

Luke: Bwahahahaha!

Elise frowned again.

Elise: What’s so funny about that?

Luke: Baby, there is *no way* you were faking it.

Elise: Maybe I’m that good of an actress.

Luke: Nobody’s that good. You might have pretended with other guys, but I know you didn’t with me. You can moan and throw your head back like a good actress would, but there is no faking the way your face flushed as you climaxed or the way you scrunched up your nose right before you came or how you were so wet that it coated your thighs. And there is definitely no faking the way your pussy milked my fucking cock like it was holding on for dear life. Nobody is that good.

Elise looked around her empty office, as if someone might see his text message. It was absurd because there was no one in the room, much less someone looking over her shoulder. Even though she was alone, her face flushed from his words, and she was squirming in her chair because, now, she was thoroughly aroused. At work, of all places.

Elise: I’m not sleeping with you again.

Luke: Ha-ha-ha. I don’t recall asking you.

Well, damn.

She’d just been put in her place. Just because he’d turned her on didn’t mean that he had meant to do it on purpose. And it didn’t mean he wanted to do anything about it.

Elise: You’re right. How did you get my number, btw?

Luke: I asked Sean. I told him I needed to get ahold of you because you left something behind on Friday.

He added a bikini emoji, which she took to stand for the underwear she’d lost at his house. Her face got warm again, but she ignored the missing panties situation.

If he didn’t want to sleep with her again, why had he texted her?

Elise: What did you need then?

Luke: Nothing.

Luke: I just wanted to see how you were doing after Friday night/Saturday morning?

Aw, that was kind of sweet of him.

Elise: I’m fine.

Luke: You don’t hate me?

Elise: No. I was just as much responsible as you were. I don’t blame you.

Elise: Plus, I went to church on Sunday and cleansed my soul.

Luke: Ha-ha. Good to know.

“Elise?”

She looked up to see her coworker Lora standing in her doorway. She quickly set her phone facedown on her desk. Lora wasn’t her boss—she was another speech therapist—but Elise was still new, and she didn’t want anyone to think she was slacking off when she should be working.

“Yes?”

“Your eight a.m. is here,” Lora said with a smile.

“Okay, thank you.”

Lora turned and walked away, and Elise picked up her phone. Luke had texted her while she wasn’t looking.

Luke: I’ll be sure to dirty it again.

She forgot what they’d been talking about. And, while she should be telling him she had to go, she was too curious not to ask. Thankfully, she still had seven minutes before it was actually eight o’clock.

Elise: Dirty what?

Luke: Your soul.

Luke: Oh, I have to run. Duty calls.

Wait! Elise thought.

Elise: Wait. I thought you didn’t want to sleep with me again?

Luke: When did I ever say that?

Luke: Now, I really gotta go, babe. We’ll finish this later.

Elise waited, but there were no more texts. Yes, he said he had to go, but that was before he left her with such an opened ended question. How could he leave her hanging like that?

She shouldn’t care because when she’d said she wasn’t sleeping with him again, she’d meant it. Yet she wanted him to text her again.

She sent a quick reply, threw her phone in her purse, and grabbed her first patient’s folder before heading for the waiting room. She loved her career and usually lost herself in her work.

But, today, she couldn’t help wondering if she wasn’t in just a fair bit of trouble where Luke was concerned.

—-

Luke finished up his last report before signing off the computer. It had been a long day at work. He was tired, and he couldn’t wait to go home. He knew he wasn’t original in his pain, but he hated Mondays. Sundays were worse, but thankfully, he hadn’t worked the day before.

He packed up his things and got ready to leave for the rest of the afternoon. He shut his locker door and headed for the parking lot. As he walked, he pulled out his phone.

After texting back and forth that morning with Elise, he’d been so busy that he didn’t have time to check it all day. Not even at lunch, which had consisted of standing in the break room, shoveling as much food into his mouth as he could in less than ten minutes.

He was beat and hungry, but as soon as he pulled out his phone and saw what Elise had texted him after he had to go this morning, it made him smile.

Elise: Just like a man to start something and not finish it.

He hadn’t meant to start anything this a.m. when he sent her the first message. In fact, he hadn’t even meant to flirt. It’d just happened. When he was young, his mother repeatedly told him that he was a natural-born flirt, and he often thought she was onto something there. Besides, flirting was just flirting. It didn’t mean anything was going to go beyond that.

Luke: Ouch. My poor manly pride is ruined.

He didn’t think she’d reply right away, but she must be near her phone because, a minute later, his phone beeped.

Elise: “Ladies, if a man says he will fix it, he will. There’s no need to remind him every six months about it.”

If the meme fits…

He threw his head back and laughed.

Luke: Now, I’m offended for the whole male population.

Elise: Hey, there are a ton of those out there, so it must be true.

Luke got in his SUV but had to reply before he drove off.

Luke: You might think we’re lazy, but we’re actually smart. It’s called strategy, baby. If we pretend not to be able to do something, we know you women will get frustrated and do it for us.

Elise: I knew it! My college boyfriend was the worst when it came to doing the laundry. He even shrank my favorite sweater. I finally told him to stop and let me do it. I always suspected it was a ploy.

Luke remembered the guy Elise had dated in college. What a tool.

Luke: What a dick.

Elise: What can you do? Men suck.

Luke: We don’t suck; we lick. You’re the one who sucks.

As far as replies went, he knew it was pretty cheesy and immature, but he couldn’t resist. He’d been thinking about how Elise had sucked all weekend, and he couldn’t get it off his mind.

Elise: Real smooth, Lucas.

Luke: Had to be done.

Luke: Off work now. Have to drive home. Talk later?

Luke sat and stared at his phone, actually worried she’d say no.

Elise: Sure. Later.

Luke threw his phone on the passenger seat and shifted into drive, all the while grinning from ear to ear. He couldn’t wait to see what she would have to say next.



Author Bio:

R.L. Kenderson is two best friends writing under one name. Renae has always loved reading and in third grade wrote her first poem where she learned she might have a knack for this writing thing. Lara remembers sneaking her grandmother’s Harlequin novels when she was probably too young to be reading them, and since then she knew she wanted to write her own.

When they met in college, they bonded over their love of reading and the TV show Charmed. What really spiced up their friendship was when Lara introduced Renae to romance novels. When they discovered their first vampire romance, they knew there would always be a special place in their hearts for paranormal romance. After being unable to find certain storylines and characteristics they wanted to read about in the hundreds of books they consumed, they decided to write their own.

They both live in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area where they’re a sonographer/stay-at-home mom/wife and pharmacist/mother by day and a sexy author by night. You can find them at http://www.rlkenderson.com, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, Twitter, and Goodreads. Or you can email them at rlkenderson@rlkenderson.com. They always love hearing from their readers.

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Reckoning by Jena Leigh blitz


Reckoning
Jena Leigh
(The Variant Series, #4)
Publication date: June 20th 2017
Genres: Paranormal, Science Fiction, Young Adult

Alexandra Parker came home from the past only to find herself in the middle of an underground war—one that could affect the fate of Variants everywhere.

Fighting an all-powerful government agency is tough enough, but when a secret from John Grayson’s past comes back to haunt them all, the group’s united front begins to crumble. And when Alex’s own painful memories threaten to push her past her breaking point, the uprising stands to lose its most powerful weapon.

With their lives and their freedom on the line, can Declan, Nate, and the rest of the Grayson family hold it together long enough to bring down Director Carter and derail Brian’s apocalyptic visions?

As Alex struggles to master her most volatile ability yet, only one thing is certain: the uprising’s cold war with the Agency is about to turn red hot.

Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble / iBooks / Kobo

EXCERPT:

“Would you like to continue?” Brandt asked, his tone mocking. “Or do you need a break?”

Alex wiped distractedly at her brow, straightened her posture, and gave a nod. “I’m ready. Let’s keep going.”

Brandt smiled. “As you wish, little girl.”

He split the fiery orb he held in two before allowing each of them to double in size—and then he lobbed one of them directly at her head.

Standing as they were, only a few yards apart, she barely had time to dive out of the way. The fireball hit the ground just behind her, singeing the earth to a blackened char before fizzling out.

Alex got back to her feet. Again, Brandt split the orb he held in two before sending one spiraling toward her face.

This time she was ready and managed to catch the blazing orb just a few fleeting inches from the tip of her nose. She shrank the ball little by little until she was able to force it to blink out entirely.

Distracted as she was by her efforts, she almost failed to notice the next orb hurtling her way. It took everything she had to react in time to catch that one, too, and dissolve it. This time, she glanced up to discover two fiery masses spiraling in her direction.

Again, Alex was forced to redouble her efforts in order to catch both simultaneously and dissipate them.

And then there were three.

Four.

Five.

Soon Alex’s world consisted only of the flames hurtling toward her and the effort it required to force each orb out of existence.

Within another two minutes, the number of orbs being launched simultaneously in her direction had hit double digits.

Drowning beneath the constant onslaught, Alex grew desperate.

“Brandt, stop!” she gasped out. “Please!

Instead of slowing, the speed and strength of his volleys intensified.

Stop?” he repeated, incredulous. “I thought you were here this morning to learn. To train. Are you really going to give up so easily, little girl?”

Exhaustion turned swiftly to rage. Alex growled as she countered orb after orb, dissolving each one with barely an instant remaining to prepare for the next explosive torrent.

“Stop calling me little girl,” she spat through clenched teeth, struggling to hold back the barrage.

“Then stop acting like one,” he replied. “If you just wait around for people to start taking you seriously, you’re never gonna get anywhere. You want to go toe-to-toe with the boys? You want to stand on an equal playing field? Newsflash, little girl. Such a field doesn’t exist. Not for you.”

She could feel the anger burning through her, hotter even than the fire she wielded.

“Don’t ask to be their equal,” Brandt said. “Demand it. Then ready yourself so that, when the time comes, you leave them all behind. Make certain that there will be no doubt that you’re so much more than they ever dreamed.”

Alex could feel her strength—and her ability to focus—waning. She had seconds at most before her concentration gave out and the hailstorm of orbs made contact.

Summoning the last of her willpower, Alex took hold of every lick of fire in the open field, including the ones Brandt still held. Ripping them away from his control, she stretched out her arms, drew the nearly two dozen orbs toward her, and formed a veritable wall with them… and then she catapulted them all back toward her opponent.

Eyes widening in surprise behind his wire-rimmed glasses, Brandt stumbled backward, unable to stop the attack that was now heading straight for him.



Author Bio:

Jena Leigh is the author of the Variant Series novels REVIVAL, RESISTANCE, REDUX, and RECKONING. She’s currently hard at work on the fifth novel in the series. Born and raised in the lightning capital of North America, she eventually made her home in the Smoky Mountains of Western North Carolina. A shameless geek, she loves coffee, loud music, bad sci-fi movies, Skittles, and shenanigan-filled road trips to faraway concerts.

To find out more about The Variant Series and author Jena Leigh, visit her online at www.jenaleighbooks.com or @jenaleighbooks.

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A CHATEAU FOR SALE BY CARRIE PARKER

A CHATEAU FOR SALE
BY CARRIE PARKER
Genre: Romantic thriller
Release Date:  13th January 2017
Publisher: Acorn Independent Press
Kate is living an idyllic life in the Kent countryside until she falls in love with her new neighbour, Nick.  She still loves her husband, Alastair, and she doesn't want to choose.  Inevitably, she has to, but escaping with Nick to his château in southern France proves to be the worst decision of her life.
The betrayal of her beloved husband, Alastair, leaves Kate racked with guilt, but things are only going to get worse. She never imagined how fiercely loyal Alastair’s best friend, Richard, would prove to be . . . nor the devastating consequences of his loyalty.
Instead of the new start that she’d hoped for, Kate’s life at the château descends into a nightmare, taking her to the brink of despair . . . and when you’re desperate you’ll do anything.
What starts as a romance soon takes a much darker turn as the dramatic and unpredictable plot unfolds, twisting and turning, always with the château at its centre.
The novel captures the essence of rural France, from the descriptions of the countryside and villages to the insights into the lives of the locals and in-comers alike.
An ideal holiday read, A Château for Sale is also a cautionary tale for anyone dreaming of starting a new life in the sun!
BUY LINKS
Amazon

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The Rye Bookshop, Rye, East Sussex, UK

ABOUT CARRIE PARKER
Born in Yorkshire, Carrie Parker graduated from Royal Holloway College, University of London, with a degree in chemistry and no idea of a career.  An extended road trip across Europe and as far east as Iran convinced her that the career had to involve travelling the world.  Eventually, after gaining a PhD in biochemistry and some time spent working as an editorial assistant on a science journal, she took a job in New Zealand.  Returning to the UK a few years later, via south-east Asia, she began her career in overseas development which lasted for over 20 years and took her all over the world.  On the first of many working trips to India she met her husband and in the late 1990s they moved to south west France where they lived for several years, working as consultants.  Returning to the UK, they split their time between East Sussex and Crete.  
Writing has always been an important part of Carrie's work and, whilst in Crete, she started to write fiction.  In 2015, now settled on the beach in East Sussex, she decided to write full time.  The result is 'A Château for Sale', published in early 2017.  Her second novel, set in New Zealand and Crete, is expected to be published early in 2018.
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cover reveal for Fated Hope by Sariah Skye

Today is the cover reveal for Fated Hope by Sariah Skye. This cover reveal is organized by Lola's Blog Tours. The cover is designed by Deranged Doctor Design.



Fated HopeFated Hope (The Fated Saga #3)

by Sariah Skye

Genre: Fantasy

Age category: Adult

Release Date: August 6, 2017



Blurb:

Leorah James grew up in Anarach—a kingdom of dragon-shifters—friendless, and considered useless, with no magic. All because of age-old ideas, and fear towards what they didn’t understand.



Now, she’s back in Anarach, in a position she never thought possible: a queen, bonded to the gorgeous Maxxus, with extraordinary magic; ruling over the kingdom that once shunned her very existence. Now, Leorah and Maxxus have to bring the kingdoms together to try and strengthen everyone against the mysterious foe up against them.



The very thing that set her apart from her kingdom could be the very thing to save them all, if only they quell their fear and let her.



Some might consider Leorah a hero, given everything she’s been through and everything that stands before her. But, is she heroic enough to give everyone hope?




Earlier books in this series:

Fated Souls (Fated Saga #1) Fated Magic (Fated Saga #2)




About the Author:

Sariah Skye physically resides in southern Minnesota with her husband, two kids and a dog, but mentally her head is in the clouds dreaming of anything that doesn't require "adulting".

When not writing she's probably geeking out watching Star Trek or Doctor Who, playing World of Warcraft, reading and/or staying up way too late. She'd love it if you dropped her a line at Facebook or Twitter but be prepared...she's a nictofiliac so be patient for a response while her eyes adjust to the light of day and beware of sarcasm. It helps to throw her chocolate or glitter first before engaging. Wine is also acceptable...but not to throw. Hand it over gently.



You can find and contact Sariah Skye here:

- Facebook

- Twitter

- Instagram

- Goodreads

- Amazon

- Newsletter



Giveaway

There is a cover reveal wide giveaway for the cover reveal of Fated Hope. These are the prizes you can win:

- e-copies of Fated Souls and Fated Magic by Sariah Skye (International)

- a $10 Amazon Gift card



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The Fix Blitz



Contemporary Romance
Date Published: May 30, 2017

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The lake town of Maisonville was better known as Renaissance Lake and most who moved there were looking to begin again.

Sydney Bell was no exception. Recovering from a divorce she needed to pick up the pieces of her life and start over.

Unfortunately, in her new town the handsome Ryan Gentry next door and Sydney are already butting heads.

When the real reason she moved to the lake is revealed, she’s reminded that a small town can heal your soul, sparring with an arrogant neighbor can build self-esteem, and true friendship has the ability to make you a better person.


EXCERPT

RYAN GENTRY SLOWLY DROVE the winding road   around Maison-Lafitte Lake, taking in the cypress trees and live oaks that shaded the drive. These trees, with their knobby roots, called knees, and the ones with large winding branches, gave the area character and helped set the small water town apart from other vacation destinations nearby.

The small town of Maisonville had virtually gone unnoticed until the late sixties when a group of young professionals from the city started buying property and settling their wives and children there for the summer months. Some remodeled old homes, but many tore down existing structures and built houses to fit their needs.

It was then that Maisonville had its largest population, and covenants were quickly established to keep the town from growing any larger.  Currently, there were four hundred permanent residents, many who spent their childhood vacations at the lake and then later brought their children for the summer months. The town was enjoying a sort of renaissance.

A large group of retirees lived there year round, and they were a social group, getting together as often as possible, which gave a boost to the downtown shops and restaurant. Most the retirees used the nickname Renaissance Lake for the area because living there felt like a new beginning. Things had never looked better as they refurbished their homes and spent endless hours perfecting their lawns and flower beds.

It was turning into a retirement haven, but that quaint and peaceful town also lured young adults looking for the same type of paradise, which was why Ryan Gentry called it home. Unlike other towns in the area and the large city on the other side of the lake, Maisonville only opened itself up by hosting a few distinct festivals and by allowing rentals exclusively during the months of June and July.

Maisonville was a beloved area, and outsiders were always curious to get a peek inside the extraordinary town.

It was rare for homes to be sold because they were passed down to family members or relatives of friends. Therefore, property was usually at a premium with newer homes and condominiums on the east side of town and older homes in need of restoration on the west side, split in half by a perfect little downtown. Running north and south was the large lake and the famous bridge that ran twenty miles over water into the bright lights of the city.

Ryan lived and worked on the west side of town.  He owned a small company that specialized in old home rehabilitation, and after repairing a few places for others, he began slowly acquiring homes himself. He was becoming well known in town for single-handedly rebuilding Westside, the name given to the area by locals.

He loved Westside and spent most of his vacations there as a kid with his sister and their Uncle.  They swam and played water sports all summer long, and he’d hoped he would end up living here.

He was especially happy at the moment because he’d finally talked the owner of his favorite property into selling to him. Tracey McHenry had inherited the large white house at the bend of the lake thirty years ago, but he left Louisiana after college to live in Maine and never returned. He swore he couldn’t take the heat, but he wouldn’t budge on the property until Ryan kept at him.

Ryan sent pictures of the pier falling into the water along with the vines that had overtaken the solarium. It was one of the oldest homes in town, and he dreamed of restoring it to its original stature. He couldn’t believe it was finally going to be his.

Well, it would be his when he sold his latest project house so that he could afford the steep asking price. He couldn’t wait to see the look on his sister’s face when he told her.  Reagan had encouraged him to start his own company and had invested a considerable amount to get him started. He was excited to pay her investment off, several months ago, but understood his working capital was strapped until he sold another property. He needed a buyer to fall out of the sky that week so he could buy the house.

He was in the middle of the steepest curve around the lake when he suddenly slammed on his brakes to avoid hitting a car that had stopped on the road. It was late afternoon, and with the tree cover, the old beige colored Subaru wagon was difficult to see. He quickly turned on his flashers and ran back behind his truck to throw down three orange cones and a flashing light.

Damn tourists were going to get someone killed with their site-seeing.

“What the hell are you doing, stopped here in the middle of the road?” he yelled, trying to locate the driver.

“Just looking around,” said a woman standing on the other side of the car.

“A ninety-degree turn is a great spot to stop your car. I almost hit you,” he said sarcastically as he rounded the car to see a pretty redhead wearing a sleeveless blue sundress and sandals. She was peering over the slight drop off at the edge of the road. When she turned around, he could see she had black marks on her forehead and cheek where she must have wiped her dirty hands.

She blinked her brown eyes several times, and he immediately could see she was trying not to cry. He then noticed she had a flat tire and when he looked over the side of the road, he could see her spare tire had somehow rolled down the steep hill several feet.

“Stay here. I’ll be right back,” Ryan said and jumped down the incline to rescue her roll away spare. Without talking to her, he returned and began to change the tire.

“Thank you, but I know how to change a tire,” she said, and he stopped and stared at her. She stepped toward him, and he held up his hand.

“I got it,” he said.

He had it done in ten minutes and then when he lowered the car with the jack, her spare went flat, too. He shook his head and walked back to his truck to get an air compressor. “When you have your oil changed, you should always have them check the spare tire for air.”

“I just bought it, okay?”

“The tire?”

“The car, genius.”

He looked at her and then at the car. He may not be a genius, but they didn’t match. She was wearing sandals that cost a fortune, and there was a purse on the seat of her car that cost more than the car. He knew because Reagan had the same bag and brand of shoes.

He held his hands up and then nodded at her. “You’re good to go now. I wouldn’t drive too far on that spare. It looks pretty old.”

She avoided his eyes but nodded as she headed for the driver’s door. She whispered “Thanks” before she got in and sped off.

City girl.

He hated the city.


***


Sydney Bell hurried into the driveway of the small real estate office. It was just off the downtown area, and she was thankful it was easy to find. She shook her head and wiped the black soot off her face and hands. Of course, she would have a flat tire since she was already running late for the real estate agent.

Houses here didn’t last long, and she knew she might not get another chance for a place here for quite some time. Four months ago there had been a condo on the lake that went up for sale, but there was a bidding war, and she lost out to another buyer.

The house she was seeing today wasn’t on the market officially—yet. She’d been driving around the area and stopped in at a small diner for some coffee and overheard a waitress there talking about it. She didn’t care what it looked like but hoped she could afford it. She desperately needed out of the city and hoped to find a place in Maisonville. She’d sold her late father’s house and then her luxury car, the only thing she got in the divorce, and was ready. 

Now she just needed to talk these people into selling to her.

She smoothed down her dress and plastered a smile on her face as she walked into the office to meet Will Fontenot.

It didn’t take long for her to win Will over. He was a nice older man and a sucker for a pretty face with a sob story. She’d told him that her father had passed away before he was able to retire in Maisonville, but it had always been his dream.

She was going to hell for lying and for using her dead father as a reason to earn sympathy. Then again, she was desperate and if she could have asked her father, she was certain he would have given her permission to do it.

She wiped her eyes lightly with a tissue as Will drove her around the lake and toward Oak Cove. “I know the owner personally. His uncle and I were best friends, and I’m certain he would approve of you,” Will said, making her smile.

The drive on the west side of the lake was mesmerizing. It was curvy like the other side, but the road was closer to the water. A canopy of beautiful trees with moss shaded the area while the rippling water sparkled nearby.

Will appeared just as excited to show Sydney the house as she was to see it.

“You should have seen the place before it was redone. It hadn’t been lived in for over twenty years, and had the same décor that it did when it was built in the early fifties,” Will explained, talking the entire way over to the house.

Sydney was getting nervous as she listened to him talk about how old the property was and how terrible it looked. She wasn’t sure she would be able to afford the place already, but if she had to hire someone to do repairs, she would be in a lot more trouble.

They pulled onto the street, and she noticed a giant tree growing right in the middle of where the road should be, but instead, the road adjusted around it. Then at the end of the street, there was a circle, with two houses side by side. There was plenty of land on either side of the houses for more homes, but there were perfectly spaced trees everywhere.  There was also a fountain on one side, and the grounds were enclosed by a white picket fence. It looked like a private park. She wrung her hands as she realized both of the houses looked very nice and really expensive.

“Are you sure that’s it?” Sydney asked as they pulled into the driveway on the left.

Will looked disappointed. “You don’t like it?”

“It’s beautiful, Mr. Fontenot. I just don’t think I can afford this place,” she said.

“The porches and garage make it look bigger. Come on. You’ll see. Besides, we can make a lower offer. You never know.”

Will turned off his car, and she followed behind him as he went to the front door and opened it. She paused to look at the details of the porch. It was beautiful. Someone had taken their time and hadn’t pinched pennies there. The spindles were painted white while the hand railing had been rubbed in a black stain to match the wide boards on the decking. It was stunning against the white house.

When she stepped inside, there was a small mud room with shelves to the left and a bench underneath. She slipped off her sandals and followed behind Will. Immediately, she noticed the open floor plan. She was standing in the kitchen but could see the dining room, then the living room, and large glass doors that looked out onto a beautiful deck, pier and the lake.

No way could she afford that house.

She exhaled and then bit her lip so she wouldn’t cry. All the time she spent worrying about the house selling too fast before she got there or it being in complete disrepair was a waste.  She should have known that it would be out of her league. Most people wanted to live there. It’s why Drake insisted they spend their summer vacations at Maison-Lafitte Lake: it was expensive and exclusive.

“I’m sorry, Mr. Fontenot. I’ve wasted your time,” she said, walking toward the front door.

He gently held out his hand to stop her. “Don’t you want to see the upstairs or go out on the back porch? It has an amazing view of the lake.” He smiled at her and gently led her to the staircase. “The owner is motivated and wants to sell this quickly.”

Sydney nodded and walked upstairs to see the spare bedroom with bathroom, laundry room and then the master bedroom with an attached bath. There was a smaller version of the downstairs glass doors on one side of the master bedroom, and it led out to a wide second story balcony.

Without speaking, she looked at the closets and checked out the attic, knowing the house was too much for her.

When they walked back downstairs, she followed Will out onto the deck and then pier and looked over to see the large boathouse next door. The house was for families, and she didn’t have one of those anymore. She wiped her eyes with tissue again, and this time the tears were for real. She turned her head so Will wouldn’t see her and was startled when he spoke standing closely behind her.

“Come now, Miss Bell. Let me go inside and make a call.”

She nodded and then watched as Will walked inside already on the phone with someone. He was gone for thirty minutes, and Sydney sat on the end of the pier with her feet hanging over the water. It was a beautiful place. If her boys could be here, they would already be in the lake, swimming and laughing. She wiped her face quickly and swallowed back the emotion. She shouldn’t have tears left, but she did. She had to toughen up and make a go of things. She was on her own. It was time. She had a plan, and she would find a way to make it happen. 

She heard Will clear his throat, and she jumped up to meet him at the glass door. He had a strange look on his face, and she couldn’t tell if he was angry or sad. Something was wrong.

“You okay, Mr. Fontenot?” she asked, nervously.

He slapped a smile on his face and nodded at her. “He’s a hard-headed bastard.”

“The owner?” Sydney asked.

Will kept grinning, but she knew he was mad. “Yes. He’s home but won’t come meet you. He said to send him an offer.”

“Is that bad?”

“He does usually meet the prospective buyers, but don’t let that get to you. We’ll go straight to my office and see how eager he is to sell.”


2



THE DELUGE OF RAIN WAITED until the moving truck was scheduled to arrive and then drowned any hope Sydney had of a smooth move in day. 

She’d paid a little extra for them to arrive that morning; that way she’d be finished by the time Ryan returned home next door. 

He was the jerk who had helped change her tire the first day she came to town and the owner who reluctantly sold her the house. She wasn’t certain how Will talked him into it, but Will said he was a family friend and that must have mattered to Ryan. Of course, he could have simply been motivated by the cash offer. It took the money she had from the sale of her father’s large home and the sale of her Mercedes wagon for her to afford the beautiful cottage. It was more than she should have spent but way less than the place was worth.  

Ryan shook his head during the closing, avoiding looking at her the entire time. Will said he was perpetually grouchy, but she knew he was unhappy about selling to her specifically. She acted sweet and told him how much she loved the house and promised to be a quiet neighbor. However, during the hour-long meeting, Ryan didn’t say more than a few words to her, but he managed to slip the word “genius” into the conversation at least five times.

She couldn’t help it, sometimes words popped out of her mouth before she could stop them. She’d wished she hadn’t been snarky and called Ryan a genius that day on the roadside, especially after he changed her tire, but she couldn’t take it back.

It didn’t matter. He didn’t have to like her. She would prove she could be a good neighbor and ignore him back.

As the moving truck turned onto her twisted street, she realized the truck was much bigger than she remembered.  Most of her belongings had been from her father’s estate and picked up from a large storage building where there was plenty of room to maneuver. There was a lot less room on her new street that had large oak trees that had taken up residence a hundred years before the houses were built. 

Ryan had made sure these incredible trees, along with the one that partially divided their driveways, weren’t disturbed during the remodeling of their houses. Instead, they were showcased in the landscape with up lighting.

As the rain pummeled down, Sydney ran to motion the truck in front of her house, hoping she could keep them from driving on Ryan’s perfect grass. More importantly, she had to protect the tree limbs that dipped down to the ground before twisting back up to the sky.

She was wearing shorts and a t-shirt but thankfully thought to throw on her green rain boots and matching raincoat before she ran out there, waving her arms.  She shook her head as she considered how mad Ryan had acted toward her already, and she’d just gotten here.  She had to protect that tree.

The truck barely made the turn around the tree in the middle of the street and then ran partially into Ryan’s yard before making the sharp left into hers.  Sydney suddenly realized they didn’t see her and she was narrowly missed by the truck as she ran up the stairs onto her porch.

Screeching the brakes as they hit the wooden steps, Sydney braced herself as the entire porch groaned and shook.  The driver then reversed a few feet before throwing the truck into park and sliding out of the driver’s side door to look at her.

The rain slowed down but didn’t stop. Sydney cut her eyes at the driver when she realized his truck not only blocked her driveway but was stretched precariously across the street and Ryan’s drive, too. The driver had completely trapped her in and the rest of the world out.

“Who put those steps there?” The driver laughed and then lowered his eyes at her, daring her to say anything.

Sydney didn’t care how he looked at her.  She wasn’t going to accept his behavior.  “Look at my steps!  Look at my porch!  No one would take that turn at forty miles an hour in clear weather.  What were you thinking?” she yelled.

The scruffy man’s eyes turned to slits.  “Look, lady, I have three deliveries today.  Either you want your furniture, or you don’t. Let’s get on with it, or I’m going to take care of my other customers, and you can get your stuff tomorrow.”

He thought he’d made a good point. After all, what could she do?  He had her stuff, and she needed help to unload it.  She was alone, and he could make things easier or harder for her. He gave her his most arrogant grin and watched her walk to the truck door and climb partially inside the cab before she jumped back out. She then walked past him, and he watched her curiously as she strutted up the steps to the porch and into her house, slamming the door.

The other man in the truck stuck his head out.  “Chuck?  Um, she took the keys.”

“She what?”  Chuck asked.

“Keys to the truck.  She took ‘em.”

Chuck made a sound like an animal snarling.  “Why the hell didn’t ya stop her, Alan?”

“Why didn’t you stop her?” Alan mumbled, as he sat back down to keep dry and slammed the door shut.

Sydney returned holding her cell phone.  “Are you going to call Mr. O’Malley or am I?” she asked, ignoring the growling sounds he made and his red face. 

She clearly had no regard for her own safety.  Chuck marched right up to her and glared into her eyes.  “Now why the hell would I call my dad?”

Sydney was on her tiptoes trying to appear bigger as she argued with the driver. 

“You know why, and --.” 

They were interrupted by a loud pickup truck horn blaring on the other side of the moving truck. 

“No,” Sydney muttered. It was Ryan.  What was he doing home?

The driver turned to look as Ryan walked around the front of the truck and toward Sydney’s porch.  Ryan gave a short wave to Alan and then slowly walked over to the steps where Sydney and Chuck looked like they were about to brawl.

“Ms. Bell,” he said, and nodded his head her way.  “What have you done this time?”

“I haven’t done anything, and this is none of your business,” she said defensively.

The driver grinned. “We were having a little chat, and she took the keys out of my truck.”

Ryan looked at the bowed porch and crooked steps and nodded his head.  The driver added, “I may have bumped her steps when I made the turn, but it was raining like hell.”

Ryan looked closely at the steps and then walked up on the porch.  “No reason to cry over spilled milk.  I can patch that up in no time.” Ryan smiled at the driver.  “Need some help with that furniture?”

“No.  I, uh, wait, Ryan.  I need to call his boss.”  Sydney stammered as Ryan stepped in to take over.

“No need to call Mr. O.  Right, men?”  Ryan asked the movers as they opened up the back of the truck and got ready to hand down furniture. 

“But--.”  Sydney wanted to disagree, but the look Ryan gave her made her stop.

“You direct traffic, and we’ll haul things inside,” Ryan said and nodded his head until Sydney gave up and nodded back.

It didn’t take long for them to unload her furniture and boxes.  Then Ryan thanked them and walked them out of the house to their truck.  Sydney’s anger had calmed down through the rain, sweat, and tears of moving her belongings into the house. It was clear she no longer had a family and certainly no kids by looking at her things. She sat down on the couch, thinking about her boys.

Before she could get misty eyed over them, Ryan walked back in the front door without knocking.

Sydney stood up and looked at him. “Thank you,” she said, but as she barely got the words out of her mouth, Ryan was in her space.

“What the hell were you thinking?” he scolded her.

She wanted to yell back at him, but she was exhausted and more than a little shocked at his behavior. She avoided his eyes as she whispered, “What?”

“I drive up and, of course, there is a moving truck blocking the entire street and my driveway.  You’re standing there in your little girl rain boots and coat, about to start World War III with two ex-cons! Are you looking for trouble?”

Before she could answer, he threw his hands up in the air.

“Or maybe you just don’t understand the concept of peace and quiet.  You certainly don’t know how to keep the peace.  Don’t tell me you don’t know that O’Malley’s movers are ex-cons recently let out on parole, including Mr. O’Malley’s oldest son, Chuck.  Hell, some of the guys he hires just have day passes from jail to work and then return at night.”  Ryan eyed her.  “Surely you knew that was the reason they were so much cheaper than everyone else.  Besides, did you get a good look at that Alan guy?  I’m pretty sure he was on America’s Most Wanted a few years back.”

Sydney held back the tears that threatened to spill down her cheeks.  She’d spent most of her money buying the house and was simply grateful to have found an inexpensive moving company.  There was no question about O’Malley’s because they were her only option.

She refused to admit she didn’t know about the workers being ex-cons. She was having a hard enough time keeping her wits and not looking foolish around Ryan. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d slept more than a few hours.  The lack of sleep coupled with the stress of moving, how much she missed her boys and now for the umpteenth time, the disapproving words of her only neighbor, she found herself without words. That didn’t happen often.

Ryan stopped and stared at her, probably disappointed that she wouldn’t fight with him.  He seemed like a man who liked to argue.  He then turned, grabbed his rain jacket and stalked out her back door. 

She watched as he stormed across her back deck and jumped across to his side and then into his house.  As soon as he was out of sight, she slumped back down to the couch where she let her tears take over.  She sobbed over missing her children. No matter what Drake had said in court, they were her kids.  She cried over the end of her marriage and the idea of being alone.  She then cried over her new lake house and how she could ever afford to live here by herself.  Then she finally cried because she was just so flipping tired. 

Ryan slammed the door as he stomped into his house. What the hell was he thinking? He wanted to buy that great property around the bend, but he could have waited a few more weeks to get his list price and a different buyer. How did he allow Uncle Trey’s best friend, Will, talk him into selling at such a deeply discounted price? He shouldn’t have listened when Will told him she was alone and needed help as a single woman who was recently divorced. It was business and not personal.

Ryan had rules, and when he stuck to them things were fine.  In fact, the only time he ever had a problem was when he skirted around these rules.  Now, instead of a nice quiet retired couple that might invite him over for a beer every now and again, he was stuck with her.

He slammed his hand down on the counter.  He didn’t have anything against Sydney for being a woman. His sister was his closest friend. He loved women. He enjoyed the way they smelled, their soft skin, sweet voices and especially how they felt in his bed, but he couldn’t handle the complicated ones. His life was simple, peaceful and quiet. He fixed houses, not people.    

Ryan walked to his fridge and grabbed a cold beer.  It was ten in the morning. He paused, looking at the clock and then put the beer back into the refrigerator. He went into his garage and picked up the drill and charger that he’d forgotten that morning and then went back to work.

Driving back toward his current project house, he calmed down, and then his mind went back to her.  Sydney Bell. So, she was going through a breakup.  Everyone had been there.  It was tough, but you do what you have to do and move on. It had been ten years since he’d dated anyone seriously. His girlfriend had sent him a Dear John letter while he was overseas, and he simply went on with his life. 

He shook his head and smirked.  He’d moved on as often as he could without getting labeled a womanizer. Now in Maisonville, he was considered a confirmed bachelor, and life was good.  Women wanted to reform him, and some just wanted a notch on their own bedpost.

Sydney would get over the whole thing easier if she would simply find someone to come home with her. There were plenty of men who would take one look at her and step up to the challenge.  In fact, Ryan had helped more than a few divorcees in town.  He ran his hands through his hair and tightened his jaw. He had a weakness for redheads, but she was not his type. 

First of all, she was his next door neighbor, and he believed in the rule, don’t screw your neighbor.  No, she was not going to happen.  He was going to have to stop coming to her rescue. She either was helpless or had the worst luck of anyone he’d met, and he’d made the mistake of jumping in three times already.  That was just stupid. He should have made a U-turn and avoided their street until that moving truck was gone, but O’Malley’s movers were from the next town over and had a reputation.  He’d had a fight with Mr. O’Malley’s son, Chuck, some time ago and understood wherever Chuck went, there was trouble.  Then he saw her standing on her tiptoes, arguing with that mouth-breather.  

It was a wonder the bastard hadn’t taken a swing at her or worse.  Ryan couldn’t let that happen even if she had let her mouth overrun her ass.  He had to step in.  He couldn’t just let the freaking animal at her.  Besides, the creep would have just come back later to make her pay for causing him trouble with his old man.   

Not on his watch.

That was his neighborhood, and he wasn’t going to let anything disturb the quiet nirvana he’d created at the lake.  Ryan reached up and squeezed the bridge of his nose as he parked his truck.  He would make sure Sydney Bell understood the rules again. He’d torn that house down to the bones and built it back up to the perfection it was today so that he could have an exquisite neighborhood.  She wasn’t going to ruin that, and he was going to set her straight. 

He wasn’t there to watch over her. Her tears had made him queasy, and he had to bolt before he offered to help her with anything else.  She could learn a thing or two from him about healing herself with alcohol, women or a nice loyal dog. He laughed.  Maybe not women.

Ryan spent the rest of his day working, but he didn’t have the stamina that he’d started with earlier. He couldn’t get his new neighbor off his mind. He was going to have to go out tonight so that he could avoid her. He needed female company to get that woman out of his head.

It was late when he returned home. He dropped his things into the garage before he walked into the kitchen and grabbed a beer. He barely made it before the sunset and hurried to sit outside on his large deck. It was his evening routine. Before dinner, he would sit outside and watch the sun go down over the lake with his feet propped up.  It was his form of meditation, which his therapist had ordered, and it helped his stress slip away. 

Tonight he couldn’t get Sydney off his brain.  He should go back and give her a piece of his mind, but he remembered the look she had given him when he left.  Instead, he paced the deck a few times and then leaned back on the railing, where he realized he could see into her great room. 

There she was on that tiny sofa of hers.  Ryan saw her body shaking as she cried uncontrollably.

He set his beer down and turned to pace the deck again. He was an asshole. He was a straight shooter, and he knew that sometimes it came off rude. 

Not sometimes.

He shouldn’t have yelled at her.  He should have just walked away after those movers left, but that bastard Chuck had said some crap about her before he got into the truck, and it got him worked up.  She needed to be careful.  A woman living alone had to be more aware of the vibe she gave off around men like that. 

Ryan walked back over to look in on her.  She appeared to be sleeping now, must have cried herself to sleep. He wiped his face and finally had a seat on one of his outdoor chairs, propping his feet up.

He had fallen for the lake the first time he came here to visit his uncle. 

Uncle Trey was married for a few years, but eventually divorced and didn’t remarry. He loved to fish, play cards and tell jokes. He was the perfect uncle.  Ryan’s sister would talk their mother into letting them spend most of the summer with Uncle Trey.  It was during those summers that Reagan learned how to play poker and used the skill to pay her way through college and law school.  She was ridiculously smart and sort of his hero.

She lived in the city, but getting together once a month for dinner was the most she could manage with her work schedule.  He wanted her to share the house their uncle had left to them, but she refused and signed the deed over to Ryan.  She then turned around and bought the first house he rehabbed before anyone else had a chance to buy it.

Reagan had told him that was what he was born to do.  She supported his military service but was the only one who saw the damage it had done to his soul. They rarely spoke of it, but when he returned from his final tour of duty overseas, she hired a therapist and sent a car each week to make sure he went.

He did it for her.  At least, in the beginning, that was true, but by the end of three months when he felt like a normal person again, he realized he had done it to heal himself.  He’d been up close to some of the earth’s most despicable criminals that put not only his life in danger but sacrificed their wives and children in order to protect themselves.  His unit had prevented more than a dozen large-scale attacks on the U.S. and three allied countries.  It took eliminating entire families to stop many of these events, and for a long time, he couldn’t process any of it. 

Reagan saved his life with that therapist, and he wasn’t sure she understood that, even today.

He stood up. He couldn’t think of any of that right now. It was dark, and he was starving.  Tonight Miss Lynn’s Diner served meatloaf, and he’d planned to eat out, but now he didn’t want to be around anyone else.  Instead, he went out and picked up a pizza to eat at home alone.  

He was drinking another beer and eating two slices at a time from the box as he sat on his porch when he saw the light turn on next door.

He slid his chair into a dark corner, pretending he hadn’t been watching for her.  Then he settled back to continue eating. 

Sydney was up


About the Author

Lisa Herrington is a Women’s Fiction and YA novelist, blogger and speaker. A former medical sales rep, she currently manages the largest Meet-Up writing group in the New Orleans area, The Bayou Writer’s Club. She was born and raised in Louisiana, attended college at Ole Miss in Oxford, Mississippi and accepts that in New Orleans we never hide our crazy but instead parade it around on the front porch and give it a cocktail. It’s certainly why she has so many stories to tell today. When she’s not writing, and spending time with her husband and three children, she spends time reading, watching old movies or planning something new and exciting with her writer’s group.

Connect with Lisa, find out about new releases, and get free books at lisaherrington.com

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