Review: Sheltering Lawson (Hope Parish Series) by Zoe Dawson

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Lawson Edwards has been running for so long, she can’t remember what it’s like to have a normal life. Destitute, living in her car, this former stripper hits Suttontowne and lands a job as a waitress at Outlaws. It’s only temporary until she gets enough cash to run again. Staying in one place too long wasn’t safe. But when Ethan Fairchild finds her after she faints from hunger, she just can’t shake him. He’s solid and strong, caring and protective. But Lawson cannot and will not involve him in her problems. There can be no happily ever after for her in his arms.

Ethan Fairchild ran off after a nasty fight with his preacher father who wanted Ethan to follow in his footsteps. It wasn’t what he wanted and the expectations for Ethan’s future were too much. Ethan joined the Marines and after his discharge returned back to his father and Suttontowne. Now he’s busy partnering with Chase Sutton on his Bait and Tackle business and still bartending for Outlaws. When he finds Lawson on the ground outside of Outlaw’s, he helps her and his sixth sense tells him that she’s in trouble. It isn’t until he learns of her current desperate circumstances that he realizes what kind of trouble. He wants to help her, but his heart has different plans when it tumbles for her. Will she trust him and make a stand—with him or flee and break his heart?

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Source: ARC from author and purchase

My Rating: 5/5

Lawson Edwards has been on the run for the better part of a year.  In that year, she’s done things she never imagined having to do, she’s lived in a way she never knew was possible, and she’s never stopped looking over her shoulder.  As fate would have it, her days of running have come to end right outside the one place in the world she will be able to find all the help she could ever ask for. 

Lawson comes from a wealthy southern family with ties to nearly every level of society.  She’s known wealth and the best money can buy, but in the last year, that’s all been cruelly ripped from her.  Make no mistake, Lawson doesn’t have to have the money, she can get by without it, but she would like to stop running, stop constantly looking over her shoulder in fear, and find a place where she can settle down.  The demons Lawson left behind when she ran are leviathans and facing them is sure to cost her life.   With few options and even less money, Lawson decides Suttontowne is as good a place as any to rest for a bit and replenish her funds. 

As luck would have it, Lawson is just outside of Outlaws and Brax is need of a good waitress.  Lawson needs job and is willing to work to earn her keep.  Within just a few days, Lawson feels right at home and with each new person she meets, she finds Suttontowne feels more like home.  A dangerous feeling for a woman who can’t be found.  Even more troubling is Ethan Fairchild, the sexy bartender who seems to want nothing more from Lawson than to help her.  Ethan is startlingly handsome, has a heart of gold, and may be more dangerous to Lawson’s safety and security than the leviathans from her past.  It’s always risky to become entangled with a man, particularly one who can so easily steal a woman’s heart.

Ethan Fairchild has spent his life in service to others.  Ethan wants his life to matter, he wants to help others, but he isn’t sure his father’s plan for him to become a preacher is the way. For many years, Ethan has put off telling his father the truth of his feelings, but Lawson’s presence and her influence make the procrastination far more difficult.  Being close to Lawson, helping her, and even loving her means being honest about every aspect of his life and facing his father with his truth.  Ethan vows to do just that once he knows Lawson is safe and nothing can hurt her.  As their relationship deepens and Lawson begins to open up to Ethan, he is sure he can help her if she will only allow it.  Getting through to her is a prickly business as Lawson is just about the most stubborn human Ethan has ever met and he’s friends with the Outlaw triplets 🙂

As things come to a head, both Ethan and Lawson know, without doubt they want their respective futures to include one another, but in order for that to happen they must face their issues.  Before Lawson can even board the plane, her past comes roaring into town in the form of her husband and father-in-law.  They come wielding nothing short of ill intent and a tire iron and if Lawson doesn’t keep her wits about her, she’s not going to get her happily ever after. 

The Bottom Line: For the time being, Sheltering Lawson is to be the final book in the long-running Hope Parish series and it is above and beyond a fitting end.  On top of being a really, really good read, Sheltering Lawson also features damn-near every character from the series.  Oh, their appearance isn’t gratuitous, but a part of a well-planned and wonderfully written plot that brings the entire series full circle.  I have loved this series from the very beginning and even this many books in, the plots are still interesting and fresh, the characters still full-bodied and real, and the consistency is just incredible.  This is a series that will absolutely hold up over time and be well worth revisiting!

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About the author and where to find her:

Zoe Dawson

Zoe Dawson lives in North Carolina right on the Mason/Dixon line. She discovered romance in her teens and has been spinning stories in her head ever since. Her heroes are sexy males with a disregard for danger and whether reluctant, gung-ho, or caught up in the action, show their hearts of gold.  Her imagination runs wild with romances from sensual to scorching including romantic comedy, new adult, romantic suspense, small town and urban fantasy. Look below to explore the many avenues to her writing. She believes that it’s all about the happily ever afters and always will be.

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Hope Parish Series News from Zoe Dawson

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Hi everyone, it’s good to be back here. I’m one of her biggest fans!

I’m piggy-backing on my latest release in the Hope Parish Novels series and Rolopolobookblog’s review—Sheltering Lawson. As many of you may already know, I have twelve books in this series, but six of them are novellas, so I’ve renumbered them to better reflect the stories. Here’s the new breakdown:

Hope Parish Novels

A Perfect Mess, Book #1: My Review

A Perfect Mistake, Book #2: My Review

A Perfect Dilemma, Book #3: My Review

Resisting Samantha, Book #4: My Review

Handling Skylar, Book #5

Sheltering Lawson, Book #6: My Review

Hope Parish Novellas

Finally Again, Book #1: My Review

Beauty Shot, Book #2: My Review

Mark Me, Book #3: My Review

A Perfect Wedding, Book #4: My Review

A Perfect Holiday, Book #5

A Perfect Question, Book #6

All of them are standalone reads, but if you want to be introduced to relevant characters in the latter books and keep the timeline pure, I’ve also listed them here in the order they were written.

A Perfect Mess

A Perfect Mistake

A Perfect Dilemma

Finally Again

Beauty Shot

Mark Me

A Perfect Wedding

A Perfect Holiday

A Perfect Question

Resisting Samantha

Handling Skylar

Sheltering Lawson

Any way you read them, I’m sure you’ll enjoy each word of my emotional, compelling stories. For now, I’m moving my attention to other stories, but I’ve still got some additional characters kicking around inside my head, so the Cajun cousins are an option along with The Outlaws: The Next Generation. Those kids will grow up and have adventures of their own. The possibilities are endless.

All buy links for the entire Hope Parish series can be found HERE

So what’s next, Zoe? I’m so glad you asked! I’m starting a new series: SEAL Team Alpha with four books released this year! That’s four gorgeous, bad ass warriors and their gritty, steamy stories for you all to consume. I will be releasing Ruckus in June, Kid Chaos in July and Cowboy in August. Then, Tank will release in November. And, now for the cover reveal for Ruckus! Yeah, catch your breath and let me know what you think!

About the author and where to find her:

Zoe Dawson

Zoe Dawson lives in North Carolina right on the Mason/Dixon line. She discovered romance in her teens and has been spinning stories in her head ever since. Her heroes are sexy males with a disregard for danger and whether reluctant, gung-ho, or caught up in the action, show their hearts of gold.  Her imagination runs wild with romances from sensual to scorching including romantic comedy, new adult, romantic suspense, small town and urban fantasy. Look below to explore the many avenues to her writing. She believes that it’s all about the happily ever afters and always will be.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Facebook Page | Goodreads | Blog

Exclusive Cover Reveal and Excerpt: Ruckus (Book #1: SEAL Team Alpha Series) by Zoe Dawson

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Cover designer: Robin Ludwig Designs, Inc.

Zoe Dawson is starting a new series: SEAL Team Alpha with four books released this year! That’s four gorgeous, bad ass warriors and their gritty, steamy stories for you all to consume. She will be releasing Ruckus in June, Kid Chaos in July and Cowboy in August. Then, Tank will release in November. And, now for the cover reveal for Ruckus! Yeah, catch your breath and let Zoe know what you think!

synopsis

For U.S. Navy SEAL, Bowie “Ruckus” Cooper, going on a mission into the most dangerous place on earth wasn’t new, neither were the orders to tag and bag a terrorist, but when Bowie finds a captive American reporter, that wasn’t exactly run of the mill. Neither was getting separated from his team, having to go on the run with her and protect her against all odds, while working to keep his hands from around her neck and off her delectable body.

Fearless and bold photojournalist, Dana Sorenson never backed down from a fight or a sweet deal of a scoop when she gets a chance to document the most dangerous man on the planet. That’s what she thought until she meets Bowie and big, bad, and tough take on a whole new meaning. Gratitude for saving her ass gets lost in his demanding orders and fighting for her life takes a back seat to falling for this alpha male who’ll risk everything to see her safe.

Excerpt from Ruckus (Book #1: SEAL Team Alpha Series):

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When he came out of the ramshackle shower, she was sitting cross-legged on the bed. It was as if she hadn’t moved since they came into the small room. With nothing but a towel around his waist, hiding his rigid dick, a hard on so aching and painful he needed her, wanted her, the adrenaline in his system riding him hard, he towel dried his hair with a thin, but clean towel, his vision obscured for a moment. With humor in his voice, he said, “That shower isn’t big enough for a mouse.” When he dropped the towel, he saw her face and rushed across the room, “Babe, what is it?

She was crying and through this whole ordeal he hadn’t seen her shed a tear, but now they were tracking down her face, a woman’s most potent and deadly secret weapons. He swallowed hard. He knew how to insert into enemy territory right under the enemy’s nose, blow shit up, and kill a man with his bare hands. But this…this was delicate and he wasn’t a delicate man. He was a hard-ass, but Dana had gotten under his armor, and he couldn’t figure out how to get her out.

When she didn’t say anything, he didn’t know what to do. He panicked, wrapped his arms around her and drew her hard against him, rocking her gently. “Tell me how to make it right?”

She pressed her hot face against his damp skin, her tears mingling with the moisture already there. He cupped the back of her head and said, “C’mon babe, I’m flying blind here.”

“I had no idea,” she whispered. “No idea,” she repeated, then gasped on a shuddering sigh.

“About what?” He leaned back so he could see her beautiful face. Framing it, he said gently. “You’re safe with me.”

She shook her head. “Maybe physically…no, maybe not even then. But, I had no idea until just now.”

He stiffened. “What the fuck do you mean? I wouldn’t hurt you. I say I’m going to throttle you, but that’s just mean, SEAL man talk when you get me so mad I want to chew nails.”

“You’re so clueless. I feel safe with you, but it feels dangerous at the same time.”

“Dangerous? Because I’m a SEAL.” He frowned. He was struggling here. He was used to conversing with men who said what the hell they meant, not some riddling woman who was making a freaking crossword puzzle out of a simple conversation.

“Oh, God. Protect me from dense men. I really need to spell it out?”

He tried to be patient, but Ruckus wasn’t patient. Action was really his middle name. “Babe…so help me, spill before I go insane.”

“You’re the kind of guy that runs toward the bullets and not away from them.”

For a minute, he just didn’t get it. What was she talking about? Of course he ran toward conflict. He was a fucking SEAL. It took him a moment to tamp down his confusion. “Ah, do I need to give you my resume? It’s what I do. It’s my job and out there is my office.”

With a slight smile and an intense look, she ran her thumb over his bottom lip and his groin got so much tighter, his body was almost on overload. “But when you have a bad day at the office, you have a really bad day,” she murmured.

He laughed and dragged her against him. “That’s true. But it comes with the territory just as your smart, sassy mouth comes with your territory.”

Her eyes narrowed. Was it crazy to love her like this, giving back just as good as he gave. “Don’t start. I’m trying to have a moment here,” she growled.

“What kind of moment and could you make it fast? You smell and need a shower.”

She rolled her eyes and wiped at her tears. “You are such a gentleman.”

“That’s me…GQ material,” he smirked.

“You cocky jerk. You drive me insane.”

“I could say the same thing about you…um…except you don’t have a cock, but you do have balls.”

She smiled a long-suffering smile, shoved him hard and got off the bed, heading toward the shower. Before she went through the door, she turned to him. “I’m going to say this to you whether you like it or not, and I’m having a momentary lapse in judgment where you’re concerned.”

He reclined, his body surging every moment. He grinned at the way she was taking him in. “Lapse in judgment? Oh, because I’m half naked?”

“Oh, for the love of God,” she ground out, then her face cleared when she realized he was pulling her chain. She shook her head in pure exasperation. “I can’t deny you’re very distracting, but no, Bowie, it doesn’t have to do with your body, but her heart.”

It was his turn to give her a long-suffering smile. For them, this was foreplay. His voice got a little gruffer. “Lay it on me, then, babe.”

Blinking furiously now, he braced himself for more waterworks, but it was her show and he’d go along. God, she shredded him like no bullet, mortar, IED or rocket could ever top. Her voice, soft and serious, she murmured, “You’re brave, Bowie Cooper. I’ve never witnessed raw courage before. Oh, yeah, definitely the silent kind when my mom was dying from cancer, but not straight out, take-no-prisoners, full-metal jacket, freaking pull-out-all-the-stops bravery. I’m blown away, you idiot. I care for you. I care what happens to you.”

“Does that mean I can get some?” he said deadpan. Touchy, feely wasn’t in his vocab. She whipped off her shirt and threw it at him with an exasperated, huffing laugh. “You are such a bastard.”

He caught it, the material still warm from her body. “That’s a yes,” he smirked and slipped off the bed, stalking toward her. “Because, babe, adrenaline gives me a fucking hard on like you wouldn’t believe. Like making love all night kind of erection.”

She wrapped her arms around his neck, their combined regard for each other as tangible as the air around them. “You just said the shower isn’t big enough for even a mouse.”

Her touch made his body even more rigid if that was possible. “Did I say that? Fuck, it’s not even big enough for my damn dick.” She threw her head back and laughed and the sound of it only jacked him up even more. Adrenaline and Dana equaled the biggest, baddest, I’ve-got-to-be-inside-her-for-hours erection. Molding his hands over her trim butt, he thrust his hips against hers, the pleasure almost making him savage. The laughter caught in her throat and changed to a soft moan when she felt that bad boy between her legs. “Oh, that’s a definite yes,” he said, his voice low and fierce. “I’m a SEAL, I’ll improvise.”

Thank you for having me Leisha!

About the author and where to find her:

Zoe Dawson

Zoe Dawson lives in North Carolina right on the Mason/Dixon line. She discovered romance in her teens and has been spinning stories in her head ever since. Her heroes are sexy males with a disregard for danger and whether reluctant, gung-ho, or caught up in the action, show their hearts of gold.  Her imagination runs wild with romances from sensual to scorching including romantic comedy, new adult, romantic suspense, small town and urban fantasy. Look below to explore the many avenues to her writing. She believes that it’s all about the happily ever afters and always will be.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Facebook Page | Goodreads | Blog

Spotlight: Hunter (Book #: Black Angels MC Series) by A.E. Fisher

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Mallory: I spent years running from my past. Then, when my past comes knocking in the form of dark, delicious sin, I find myself caught up in a man I shouldn’t. My son’s uncle. A dangerous biker. Not to mention, an overbearing Alpha male.

Hunter is everything I need to escape from, yet I find myself wanting to stay. I know I shouldn’t let myself or my son care for him, but I can’t help wondering if maybe he’s the one who can finally save me from my past.

Hunter: The plan was simple. Find my nephew, bring him home, and raise him in the Black Angels like my brother would have wanted. But things never go as planned, like my nephew’s mother. My brother’s one-night stand.

Mallory is spicy and sweet; one second she is mouthing off to me, and the next, she is moaning my name. The longer I’m with her, the harder she is to ignore. But she is hiding something while desperate to escape me, though I have her in my grasp. I will find out what she is hiding, and when I do, she will have nowhere left to run.

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About the author and where to find her:

Writing books had been a big part of my life for many years; whether it was writing in secret notebooks during class, writing amateur novels or posting stories online, I surrounded myself with it.  Of course, it has its up and downs, but I’ve never once thought that writing wasn’t for me.  Because of that, I can share the worlds I discover in my head with the outside world, and although that might sound crazy to some, it’s fine by me. So long as I can do what I love, I’m happy.  And every person who’s happy as a result of my writing is a bonus for which, I’m forever grateful for.


Excerpt and Sweepstakes: There’s Something About Nik by Sara Hantz

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Nik Gustafsson has a secret: He’s not really Nik Gustafsson.  He’s not a spy. He’s not crazy.  He’s just the son and heir to one of the most important families in Europe—one where duty always comes first. And his posh, too-public life is suffocating him. So when he gets the chance to attend boarding school in America, pretending to be an average exchange student is too big of a temptation to pass up.  Then he literally runs into Amber on campus. And she hates him at first sight.  It’s kind of exhilarating to be hated for who he is, not for his family name or his wealth. Maybe if he turns up the charm and turns down the aloof mask he habitually wears, he can win her over. Even though a bad past experience has made her swear off dating this year.  But the more he gets to know her, the more uncomfortable he is keeping things from her.  Because Nik Gustafsson has a secret. And it’s a big one.

Excerpt from There’s Something About Nik:

Nik drew in a long breath. He was in uncharted territory and didn’t know how to proceed. He’d never met anyone quite like Amber before—specifically, anyone who showed such disinterest in him. Was this what being normal felt like? To be ignored or dismissed like he wasn’t important? Suddenly, he wasn’t so sure if he liked it. He surreptitiously studied her, while she did everything she could to avoid eye contact. She certainly wasn’t his type, if indeed he had a type. His previous girlfriends had all been tall with blonde hair, which would imply that he did. Then again, in his country, most girls he met looked like that.

Amber was small, at least a head shorter than he was. Her dark brown hair seemed ridiculously short as it framed her face. A pretty face with freckles. And what was it with that camera she hugged close to her, like it was something so precious? He’d hoped that in America he’d finally be away from people constantly trying to get a shot of him. Yet, the first day here, he’d met a girl who seemed obsessed with taking photos. No wonder he’d frozen up around her.

“What are you staring at?” Amber’s question brought him back to the present with a start.

 “Nothing,” he replied abruptly, feeling like a small child being caught doing something wrong.

She reminded him of his old nanny, who’d always said that he shouldn’t stare at people because it made them feel uncomfortable. Most of the time, he didn’t even realize he was doing it.

 “It didn’t seem like nothing to me. You were looking at my hair, weren’t you?” she accused.

“Yes. It’s much shorter than I’m used to seeing.” The words were out of his mouth before he could stop them. He should’ve known better than that. He’d been trained since a child to be circumspect, and here he was, not two days in America, and he was forgetting how to behave.

“Girls don’t have short hair in your country?” Amber challenged, as if daring him to say even more about how she looked.

Which was another thing. All the girls he knew were masters of polite conversation. He had no clue why she was being so unfriendly. He hadn’t been rude to her. Admittedly, he’d been looking at her hair. Well, her hair and also her camera. But surely that wasn’t enough to make her so antagonistic.

Maybe it was a cultural thing. He would check with Josh later whether it was something he’d done by mistake. In the meantime, he couldn’t just stand there in such awkward silence.

“It’s different from girls at home, yes. But it’s very striking,” he added, hoping that would appease her.

She remained silent for a moment, with an expression on her face like he was a bug who had landed on her shoe. “Thank goodness for that,” she finally said, “or I might have had to spend the next several months sitting in my room willing it to grow.”

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About the author and where to find her:

saraSara Hantz has been a prolific reader all her life, but it wasn’t until she was an adult that she got the writing bug. She writes contemporary adult and young adult fiction and her debut book The Second Virginity of Suzy Green made the prestigious list ‘New York Public Library Books for the Teen Age’. Sara lectured for many years before deciding to devote more time to her writing and working in the family hospitality business. She has two grown-up children and when not writing, working, or online with her friends, she spends more time than most people she knows watching TV – in fact if TV watching was an Olympic sport she’d win gold.  She has presented many writing workshops with her partner-in-crime Amanda Ashby.

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SWEEPSTAKES

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Spotlight: Stoking the Flames Box Set

 

Title: Stoking the Flames
Author: Multiple
Release Date: March 28, 2017
Publisher: Amazon Digital Services
Genre: Fantasy
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13 of your favorite NY Times, USA Today and International Bestselling authors have ignited with brand new fiery tales of scorching passion that erupts when a dragon is united with their soul-mate.

Soul Fire by Kelly Abell Sometimes breaking a curse leads to an unforeseen destiny
Desired Revenge by Solease M. Barner A throne lost.. Centuries of debt.. A new threat arises that not only jeopardizes her lost kingdom but also her heart. Sometimes vengeance isn’t vengeance once the heart is involved. Will Carmen have her Desired Revenge?
Devon by Kathi S. Barner
On Wings of Time by Linda Boulanger One man with a dragon’s soul. One woman with the key to unlock his powers. With six hundred years separating them, Fate’s carefully woven web is about to be tested with a kiss and the flip of a coin.
Dragonslayer, Dragon Heart by Isobelle Cate
Heart of a Dragon by L.J. Garland When an unimaginable evil rains down from the sky, fate demands action from the most unlikely place–a terminally ill woman. But even with a fierce warrior at her side, does a single dragon stand a chance at saving the world?
Promised to A Dragon by Darlene Kuncytes When you’re promised in marriage to a dragon shifter like a piece of chattel… what will it be – fight or flight?
The Dragon’s Sacrifice by Andi Lawrencovna
Sadie’s Shadow by Julia Mills:  Long forgotten secrets, ancient curses and a prophecy she’s been running from for over a century. Fate and Destiny battle for Sadie’s soul but only her Shadow knows the truth…
I Dream of Dragons by Tricia Owens:  When a genie in a bottle seduces her inner dragon, a sorceress must decide if the attraction is real or if she is being tricked.
Fire and Ice by Kate Richards The battle for Crossroads rests in the hands of an ice dragon who has yet to shift and isn’t sure she can. Is his fire enough to set her desire ablaze and free the dragon within?
Curse of the Dragon’s Eye by Kali Willows When reality is just an ancient curse in disguise, an Egyptian Pharaoh fights for her soul & her flight of dragons
Scorched Hearts by Victoria Zak One lost heart and another ready for love collide with burning desire. One of them is bound to get SCORCHED.

PREORDER YOURS TODAY! JUST 99¢! AVAILABLE FOR A VERY LIMITED TIME!!!!

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Meet the Author:

Growing up in the sister city to Stirling, Scotland, Scottish flare was abundant throughout Dunedin. From her High School band to the annual Highland Games that took place right across the street from her childhood home, the bagpipes beckoned her toward her calling. It seemed only natural for Victoria Zak to want to write in the Scottish historical romance genre. Add to the fact, she was also a paranormal romance junkie, there was no doubt that her influences would be the driving force behind her stories.

Although, she never sought out a writing career, her desire for the written word grew the more she read. Her love for Scotland, curiosity of history, and passion for romance has inspired her to write her first book, Highland Burn. The Guardians of Scotland series continues this winter with book two, Highland Storm.

Today, Victoria Zak lives in the sunshine state with her husband, two beautiful children, and three furry friends. Living in paradise, being a stay at home, and to be able to share her stories has been a blessing.

Victoria loves to hear from her readers.

——————

Schedule

Monday, February 6
Tuesday, February 7
Wednesday, February 8
Thursday, February 9
Friday, February 10
Monday, February 13
Tuesday, February 14
Wednesday, February 15
Thursday, February 16
Friday, February 17
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Excerpt: Jack of Hearts (Book #1: Aces and Eights Series) by Sandra Owens

 

Jack of Hearts
by Sandra Owens
Series: Aces & Eights, #1
Genre: Contemporary Romantic Suspense
Publisher:  Montlake Romance
Release Date: February 14, 2017

 

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Alex Gentry doesn’t scare easily. Working as an undercover FBI agent in the biker bar he and his brothers co-own, he hangs with deadly criminals in order to gather information. Danger is just part of the family business. But one thing has him terrified: his attraction to Madison Parker.

Madison is the cousin of Ramon Alonzo, son and second in command to a notorious drug lord Alex is trying to bust. Alex has befriended Ramon as part of his cover, and Madison has unknowingly become his informant. Falling for her could risk this case—and both their lives.

All Madison wants is to get her new bookstore business off the ground, and for her creepy cousin Ramon—to whom she’s unfortunately indebted—to leave her alone. If she could only stop fantasizing about his mysterious new friend, Alex…

As the Alonzo cartel investigation heats up, so does their relationship. But will the secrets they’re keeping tear them apart—or get them both killed?

 

Alex tapped a prearranged code on the glass, and the window immediately slid up. After stepping inside, he closed the window, locking it. It was undeniably odd to be sneaking into a woman’s room for reasons other than joining her in her bed.

They’d tried to think of a neutral place to meet, but Ramon had spies all over South Miami. Madison Parker, cousin to Ramon Alonzo, was running scared, and ever since stepping between her and Ramon when the jackass had tried to kiss her, Alex had accidentally fallen into the role of champion. Since that worked to his advantage, he’d encouraged her to contact him if Ramon ever messed with her again.

Why he was keeping her a secret from his brothers was a question he refused to examine too closely. She was a prime source for information on the Alonzo family. There was no one in the world he trusted more than Nate and Court, but he was feeling weirdly possessive where Madison was concerned. A damn red flag there. He didn’t do possessive.

The reason he’d lied to his brothers sat crossed-legged on the end of her bed, leaving the only chair in the room for him. The bedside lamp was dimmed, and in the low artificial light her fiery red hair reminded him of the flames of a campfire, changing colors whenever she moved. Her eyes almost appeared black, but in the daylight they were a captivating green. Cat eyes, he’d thought the first time they met.

He’d first laid eyes on Madison Parker three weeks ago at Ramon’s house while playing a game of pool with the man, doing his best to lose a hundred bucks. Not an easy thing when his opponent kept missing the pocket. Alex had already learned that Ramon didn’t like losing, no matter what the game was.

He quietly sighed when Ramon missed again. Alex bent over the table and lined up his cue. He was going to have to put this one in the pocket, or it would become obvious he was missing on purpose. If Alex could manage to lose to Ramon, the man would be happy and might even brag a little about his drug business.

Just as Alex pulled his arm back to take the shot, a woman walked into the room, and he hit the ball so hard that it flew over the rim of the table and hit the wall. Jesus, she was gorgeous. Red hair curling halfway down her back, green eyes, and a splash of freckles across her nose, she took his breath away. A first for him.

He liked women, maybe a little too much if you listened to his brothers, but never had he wanted to lay claim to one at first sight—until now. Who was she? She glanced from him to the dent in the wall then back at him, and full lips that wore nothing more than clear gloss lifted in a grin.

“Nice shot, Ace.”

He straightened, dropped the cue stick, and walked around the table, holding out his hand. “Hi, I’m Alex, and you are?” She put her hand in his, and he had the unsettling thought that he was never going to let it go.

Her gaze fell to their joined hands. “I’m—”

“My cousin,” Ramon said, stepping next to her and putting his arm possessively around her shoulders.

“You don’t look anything alike.” It was a stupid thing to say, but he had the urge to call Ramon a liar. If she was a member of the Alonzo family, she was off-limits, and that was a heartbreaker.

She tugged on her hand, and he reluctantly let go, then she slipped out from under Ramon’s arm. “I’m Madison Parker, and you’re very observant, Alex.”

There was mischief in those cat eyes, but it faded when Ramon wrapped his fingers around her hair and pulled her roughly back to him. She didn’t seem to like her cousin, if they were in fact cousins. Alex wasn’t sure he believed it, but he also hoped she wasn’t Ramon’s girlfriend.

“Ramon’s father and my mom are twins.”

So it was true; they were cousins. He wondered where the red hair and green eyes came from, but he reminded himself that as a family member of the man he was investigating, she was untouchable, no ifs, ands, or buts. Where that gorgeous hair and those beautiful green eyes came from was not his concern.

When she tried to pull her hair out of Ramon’s fist, Ramon’s eyes flashed with annoyance. Alex gritted his teeth and forced himself not to give Ramon a bloody nose.

She slapped at her cousin’s arm. “Ouch. That hurts, Ramon.”

As fast as a striking snake, Ramon backed her up to the wall, pressed his body against hers, and crashed his mouth down on hers. She whimpered as she tried to push him away.

Alex saw red, dark blood red. He grabbed the man’s earlobe and twisted it hard until Ramon let go of her.

“What the hell’s wrong with you?” Ramon said, rubbing his ear after Alex let go.

“She’s your damn cousin, man. The better question is, what’s wrong with you?”

Ramon looked at her and sneered. “Does she look like my cousin? I think my aunt brought the wrong baby home from the hospital.”

“I’m proud to say I got my looks from my dad,” Madison said to Alex. She swiped the back of her hand across her mouth. “The next time you touch me like that, cousin, you’re gonna want to guard your balls, because those are what my knee will aim for.” She walked out of the room with her head held high.

“Damn, she’s hot,” Ramon said, his gaze on her ass as she left.

Alex visualized how Ramon would look without teeth.

 

About the author and where to find her:

A best selling, award-winning author, Sandra Owens lives in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. Her family and friends often question her sanity, but have ceased being surprised by what she might get up to next. She’s jumped out of a plane, flown in an aerobatic plane while the pilot performed thrilling stunts, has flown Air Combat (two fighter planes dogfighting, pretending to shoot at each other with laser guns), and rode a Harley motorcycle for years. She regrets nothing.

Sandra is a member of Romance Writers of America’s Honor Roll and a 2013 Golden Heart® Finalist for her contemporary romance, CRAZY FOR HER. In addition to her contemporary romantic suspense novels, she writes Regency stories.