One accident. Four lives. Forever changed.
It was only a single moment, but it destroyed us all.
Changing Course After a tragic accident robs him of a future with his wife, Brett Sharp must let go of the past and learn to love again. But what happens when the woman he used to love refuses to accept the woman he can’t live without?
Stolen Course After the loss of his fiancée, Caleb Jones is angry and numb. His only goal is to make the woman who killed her pay. But what happens when everything he knows to be true explodes around him? Who will be left to pick up the pieces, and who will need to be saved from the wreckage?
Among The Echoes After being stripped of her identity, Dr. Erica Hill had long since stopped living. The day she meets celebrity boxer, Slate Andrews, her life drastically changes for the better…and the worse. She’s on the run, determined not to take him down with her, but absolutely unable to let him go.
Broken Course After the fated accident that killed her best friend, Sarah Erickson is left consumed by guilt and self loathing. But
can a second broken soul be enough to fill the voids of her own? Or will such scarred pasts prove too much for love alone to overcome?
Brett: “Sarah, don’t do this. Damn it! Stay with me.” I reach over and gently brush the blood-soaked hair off her forehead.
Even in this horrific moment, I’m in absolute awe of how beautiful she looks. Bleeding and broken, unmoving in my arms, she is still the most mesmerizing woman I have ever laid eyes on. Deep down, I know this is just the husk of my wife. My Sarah would never have done this to herself. More importantly, she would have never done this to me. Maybe it takes this level of madness, but I finally realize that I have lost her completely.
Whether she lives or dies, Sarah is gone. This is not the woman who made me laugh more in seven years than the rest of my life combined. She definitely isn’t the woman I spent years planning a future with, a future that now no longer exists. I feel a heavy weight in my chest at my silent confession, but oddly enough, I also feel a weight lifted off my shoulders. I have watched this woman disintegrate in front of my eyes for almost seven months. Every day, losing her a little more. The light in her eyes fading, while piece by piece and bit by bit, she lost grip of reality. Mentally, emotionally, and now physically, she’s left me.
My Sarah died seven months ago on her way home from dinner, and I will never see her walk back into my life. Suddenly, I can’t breathe. I’m terrified—and not only because Sarah might finally succeed in taking her own life. I’m paralyzed by the realization that my life is spiraling down in a free fall headed straight for misery, and the only thing I can think to do is anchor myself to this dying woman. I love Sarah with all my heart, but I am not clinging to the woman in my arms. Rather, I’m clinging to the life I thought we were going to have together. I have to accept that she isn’t there anymore. Her heart might still be beating, but the bloody, confused, emotionally lost woman I am holding now is only the shell of my first and only love.
“Where the fuck is that ambulance?!” I yell as loud as my cracking voice will allow. Stroking the little bit of her unmarred skin I’m able to reach, I whisper in her ear, “Hang on, baby.” Then I repeat the one sentence I have said almost daily since the tragic event that stole her from me. Maybe I say it for her, maybe just for me, but I know that it’s the biggest lie I have ever uttered. “Just hang on, baby. It’s all going to be okay.”
Born and raised in Savannah, Georgia, Aly Martinez is a stay-at-home mom to four crazy kids under the age of five, including a set of twins. Currently living in South Carolina, she passes what little free time she has reading anything and everything she can get her hands on, preferably with a glass of wine at her side.
After some encouragement from her friends, Aly decided to add “Author” to her ever-growing list of job titles. Five books later, she shows no signs of slowing. So grab a glass of Chardonnay, or a bottle if you’re hanging out with Aly, and join her aboard the crazy train she calls life.
Maggie thought she was married to an earl . . . but it seems that her late and unlamented husband lied to her from the day they met. Now—penniless and stranded in London—she has thrown herself on the mercy of the real Lord Warwick. What’s a counterfeit countess to do?
Edward, the Earl of Warwick, desires only to get rid of the beautiful woman who arrived at his house with no less than fourteen trunks, a younger sister, a maid, and a very large cat. Her preposterous explanation is of no importance—but her late husband held the clue to the identity of England’s greatest traitor, a clue the Foreign Service must get at any cost. Edward will have to guard her night and day—but he cannot guard his heart.
It’s not every day Edward, the Earl of Warwick wakes up to the dulcet tones of a gaggle of women in his front room. It is most certainly not every day one of those women announces she is the countess of Warwick and she has finally come home to claim what her late husband left her. Since, Edward is fairly certain he is both unmarried and still alive, there must be some mistake.
Maggie has had one hell of a life. Born and raised in America, she never thought she would find herself married to an English earl nor did she ever think that earl would turn out to be a traitor and leave her and her sister, destitute and alone in a foreign land. Not one to be kept down for long, Maggie makes the bold decision to be the countess she legitimately thought she was and that means taking over Edward’s home until she can figure out her next move. What Maggie did not at all count on is how exceedingly handsome and kind the Earl of Warwick is.
From the moment Edward sees Maggie in his entryway, he is taken with her. Not just her appearance but also her intelligence, quick wit and penchant for simply speaking her mind. She is clearly in a fix and though Edward has no idea what to do about her presence in his home, he does know who to ask. With a bit of information from Maggie, Edward learns her traitorous husband is indeed dead and that is information Edward’s employer will certainly want to know. Maggie’s late husband wasn’t just a fraud, he was a spy and with England embroiled in a war with France, it is risky to let Maggie go before Edward can gain every bit of intelligence possible. Maggie agrees to help Edward but only if he will allow her and her sister to stay in his home until she can find an appropriate husband.
Within just a few days’ time, Maggie is introduced to society, the suitor’s line up, and it becomes very clear that someone thinks Maggie knows far more than she does about her late husband’s activities. When her room at Edward’s home is searched and virtually destroyed, a possible informant is killed before she and Edward can question him, and she is attacked, Edward decides it is time to take her into hiding until the mystery can be solved. Danger always seems to breed intense attraction and it doesn’t take long for Maggie to fall into Edward’s bed. Wracked with guilt over his actions, Edward must quickly determine exactly where Maggie fits into his life and what he is willing to sacrifice to be with her long-term.
The Bottom Line: Once again, Cheryl Bolen comes through for me with a solid historical romance. Maggie is by far my favorite character in this read with her strong will, her often runaway mouth (the candy to keep from talking had me laughing out loud!), her quick mind, and overall resilience make her an easy to root for character. Edward is really just an excellent match for Maggie and once he accepts she is meant to be his, he goes all out in efforts to help her. The suspense and level of drama in this read is just right to keep the plot moving along at a brisk pace but it is really the dialogue that carries the story. From start to finish, Maggie and Edward are engaged with one another, with the mystery surrounding her late husband, and all the other characters that factor into their lives. Of those other characters, Maggie’s younger sister is a favorite and I was most pleased to see her story is up next in the Brazen Brides series.
Click HERE to read an excerpt on Cheryl’s website.
Cheryl Bolen is the New York Times and USA Today best-selling author of over 20 romances, both historical and contemporary mystery. Many of her books have placed in contests, including the Daphne du Maurier (romantic suspense) and have been translated into ten languages. She was Notable New Author in 1999. In 2006 she won the Holt Medallion, Best Historical, and in 2012 she won Best Historical in the International Digital Awards and she’s had four other titles place in that competition. Her 2011 Christmas novella was named Best Novella in the Romance Through the Ages.
Raven: Two people. That’s how it usually starts right? I grew up believing one thing, only for one day to completely mess up everything I’ve ever been taught. Was I a good girl? No, not by any means. But, the world I’m about to be thrown into is unlike anything I’ve ever known.
Mace: Multiple people. I live for club life. As the President of the Hell’s Storm MC I protect my brothers at all costs, and they do the same for me. After a rival club killed what was mine, I vowed to live in as many chicks as possible. Never tasting the same one twice. But, all it takes is that one look to completely bring a man, even me, to my knees. Two people. Brought up on different sides of the tracks. Two different paths in life. Both will be tested, taken to the very edge of darkness that threatens to consume them both. Will they be able to withstand the heat of hell? Or will they fight to death and lose themselves? Amazon US | Amazon UK | B & N | iTunes
S.L. Schiefer: So, as some of you may know, my first jump into the Indie World was with a light and fluffy romance. But, I think I’ve finally found my niche, the dark! *insert evil laugh* I love reading anything and everything, will read even when I’m supposed to be working. I’m really not that cool of a person, I love hiding behind my electronic devices. But, if you can grab my attention I will talk your dang ear off. I was born and raised in Ohio, O-H-I-O! I’ve been with my high school sweetheart for 10 years now. I’m surprised one of us hasn’t killed each other by now. lol. I have two beautiful little boys, that can give Satan a run for his money. I would love to hear from any of you.
Jen Cousineau: Romance Author. ItWorks distributor. Mother. Wife. Adventurist wannabe. Fitness enthusiast. Coffee and chapstick addict.
All she can remember is hunger…for him. A year ago, Alexandria Stevens strode through the doors of Wicked Ways and into the arms of a man—a monster, really—who stole everything from her. Her memory. Her life. Now she’s a creature of darkness with only hazy images in her mind of that night and a confusing jumble of emotions. A fierce hate…and an even fiercer desire for Markus Santini. Markus has walked through this world for more than a hundred years, knowing exactly who and what he was, until Alexandria undid it all. Undid him. When a former vampire colleague threatens one of the Enclave’s own, Markus is needed—but only as the dark, powerful creature he once was. And in order to become that, he must find redemption…in the arms of a woman who despises him with every breath she can no longer take.
BAH!! It took me three books to get here but I finally made it to Markus and Alex’s story and damn it all if it wasn’t totally worth the wait!
Markus Santini has been hanging around since the first book and from read-to-read he has gone through cycles of evil, something similar to goodness, evil genius, depravity, and warped kindness. He’s been a member of the Enclave, a partner to the sick and twisted Marguerite, and a prisoner of the Enclave. He is also absolutely certain, to his core that Alexandra, the woman he kidnapped and turned against her will, is his mate. If he has any hope of claiming Alex for his own, Markus has a lot of work to do and that work begins with getting out of a silver lined cage.
Over and over again, Alex’s trust has been tested, pushed to the limit, and violated but through it all, she has survived. Not only has Alex survived she has become stronger and though she wouldn’t have chosen a vampire’s life, it’s what she has and she is bound and determined to make the best of it. Alex is beyond tired of being a victim and if she is going to claim her life and become even stronger she is going to have to start with getting some answers. Most in the Enclave think Alex is keeping her distance from Markus because of what he did to her but in truth, she keeps her distance so she can keep her intense attraction to him under control.
There is no denying the sexual chemistry between Alex and Markus but that is about the extent of their relationship. Markus has no desire for Alex to know all of his dirty little secrets and Alex has no desire to be used and/or victimized yet again. However, when Markus begins to take real steps toward healing and making amends with his fellow Enclave members, Alex takes notice. Trusting Markus is a difficult task but every once in a while, Alex sees a glimmer of goodness in Markus and she slowly begins to let her guard down. Markus knows there is a threat to Alex and the Enclave still out in the world in the form of Enrique and it is his intention to protect Alex (and the Enclave if he’s being honest with himself!) from that threat no matter what it may cost him. Enrique is a determined little rat with no scruple or morals; he is desperate to once again have power and getting to Alex and the Enclave is the answer to all his problems.
As the days and weeks go by, Alex and Markus come ever closer to one another but each holds just a bit back from the other. It isn’t until their lives are well and truly threatened that each realizes how tenuous even an immortals life can be. Enrique is one scary dude and when he is able to put all his plans into motion, the entire Enclave is threatened and many among the group some out with more than a few scrapes and bruises. The action and the drama of these intense moments reveals not only Markus’s true character but his affection for Alex. For Alex, these moments allow her to truly become a part of the Enclave and fight for those she now calls family. For what may be the first time in her life, Alex belongs somewhere and she intends to keep Markus with her.
The Bottom Line: Markus is the character you really love to hate and the author has done such a fine job over the course of the series of keeping him that gray area. For me, Markus is very much HBO’s Dexter – I know I’m not supposed to love the serial killer, yet I do. In what I am assuming is the final book of the series, Markus finally gets a chance to right all the wrongs he has done in his life. He wants to be good and if it weren’t for Alex and a very patient Kenric, the chance to be good, his moment of redemption may have never come. I love his struggle in this read and how hard the author really made Markus’s road. If it were easy, everyone would be doing it, right? My only complaint about this read is how very much everyone babies Alex. She has endured and survived more than most and is a strong woman yet it takes huge moments and actions for anyone (other than Markus) to recognize Alex’s strength and ability to care for herself. Becoming Markus’s mate is huge for Alex and like him, she needed to struggle to get to her HEA. The push and pull between the two is pretty fantastic and I found myself really becoming quite attached to these two characters. Though I would certainly like to see the Enclave series continue, the ending to this read seems pretty fixed and final. If the series is done, I can honestly say I am pleased with the outcome and don’t feel like it could have ended any better than it did.
Guerino Lombardi’s world just went to shit. Vampire and second in command of the Warriors of the Enclave, he’s put everything on the line to save his best friend from what has to be the worst blow a man can take. Kenric, his friend and master of the Enclave, has a daughter, something believed impossible in the vampire world, and word has it she wants her father and his Enclave dead. Guerin is determined to protect Kenric, keeping the secret from him until he knows for sure if this daughter really exists and if she wants revenge.
Eve Devonshire is a woman hiding in plain sight. Not completely human, but not quite a vampire, she’s accepted by neither race but is more powerful than either one. Her life has consisted of half-truths and disguises, never belonging or living in one place for any length of time. But now some have heard rumors of her existence and want nothing more than to trap her and dissect her like a lab rat.
To stay alive, Eve can’t trust anyone, including the alpha vampire with midnight eyes and a thirst for pain and submission. With her enemies nipping at her heels, Eve has Guerin cornered, and both are determined to get the answers they’re looking for or die trying…if they can fight their desires long enough.
**CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR BOOK #2, UNDYING EMBRACE**
Woot! Welcome to round three of the Enclave series and one seriously hot couple! At the end of book two, Undying Embrace, Markus dropped one hell of a bombshell that only Guerino Lombardi was privy too. According to the crazy bastard, Kenric and Marguerite accomplished the impossible, they had a child together. In an effort to understand the madness, Guerino shares the information with Aaran and though both are loathe to keep secrets from Kenric they know they must have proof before blowing up their Master and friend’s world.
With a mind to helping his friend, Guerino takes off for Europe in search of a woman by the name of Eve, a woman who isn’t supposed to exist. Though Guerino knows he is acting on the word of a madman, he finds himself in Nuremberg face to face with the single most stunning woman he has ever encountered. Trouble is, Eve has spent the last 300 years masking her identity and trusts no one, so chaining this new man in a dungeon and beating him in order to get answers really isn’t an issue for her. Trouble is, the man likes the beating and no matter how much pain she offers up, he isn’t talking.
For the better part of 300 years, Eve has been a legend in the vampire world. The offspring of two vampires shouldn’t exist yet she does and her abilities – to day walk, in particular – are coveted and most would do anything to get their hands on her. Of particular note is Seth, a powerful vampire whose lust for Eve’s secret is no secret and once he figures out precisely who she is, he comes in hard and fast which compromises Eve’s dungeon location. Though she isn’t completely sure of Guerino’s interest in her, she knows he isn’t working for Seth and so, she takes him when she flees. As we all know, dangerous situations tend to heighten sexual chemistry and that sure as hell happens with Eve and Guerino. She is wicked powerful and has a penchant for light Domination which makes her the perfect match for Guerino who has an interest in strong women and is willing to submit to them in the bedroom alone.
As I have come to expect, nothing easy for the Enclave and getting Eve to safety is going to be a nightmare of epic proportions. Seth has an even more powerful partner and once Guerino discovers her identity, he knows the showdown is going to get ugly. Facing his past when all he wants to do is protect and possess Eve will test Guerino and push him to the point of breaking. Added to the mix is the totally uncomfortable meeting between Eve and Kenric (aka daddy dearest) and where, exactly Eve fits into Kenric’s and the Enclaves world.
The Bottom Line: Wowsa did I like this book! Eve is some kind of bad ass with her ability to take out vampires with her mind, walk in the sun, and dominate an Alpha male like Guerino Lombardi. Eve has such a hard time trusting others because of her abilities and the lies her mother told her making Guerino, a man who also has a hard time trusting a good match for her. The two, though they go through a ton of crap, are an excellent match for one another both in the bedroom and out of it. The evolution of their relationship is quick and crazy but it fits in perfectly with the pacing and content of the plot. I very much like that there is action mixed in with the drama but there isn’t so much that it drags on. I feel like I’m getting deeper into this series with each read and I still don’t know what’s happened with Alex and Markus . . . on to book four 🙂
Arran MacLain is a vampire on a suicide mission, driven to kill his former partner who betrayed him and the Enclave they served. But two things stand in his way: Gabrielle, the human female who holds his heart, and the past that won’t let him go. If only death was enough to cleanse his soul. Gabrielle Steven’s sister is missing. Her hunt for clues brings her face to face with the one vampire she can’t forget. Their missions combine and thrust them into the heart of evil. Will their passion be enough to overcome the pain from their past, or will their dark desires destroy them both?
The Enclave doesn’t take kindly to traitors and Markus is definitely a traitor. After abandoning and betraying the Enclave to be with Marguerite, Markus has spent more than a year in hiding but his former partner, Aaran MacLain is still looking and for the first time in a long time, he has a lead. Aaran is ready to do his duty and once Markus and Marguerite are dead, he can (hopefully) return to the Enclave and his life. The only thing standing in his way is Gabrielle Stevens. Just what in hell is she doing in town?
Gabrielle Stevens has a few loves in her life, Aaran MacLain and her sister, Alex. Aaran has been gone for a year, and now, Alex is missing too. As one of the Enclave’s most trusted human helpers (read: tech goddess!) Gabrielle knows when things are hinky and Alex’s disappearance is definitely hinky. Finding her sister will take all of her skills plus some but she refuses to involve to the Enclave. Thank goodness Aaran MacLain left the Enclave J While trolling Wicked Ways, a dangerous Goth club frequented by vampires, Alex runs into the one man she thought she would never see again, Aaran MacLain and he is so not happy to see her. Just what in hell is Aaran doing in town?
From the moment they reconnect, Aaran and Gabrielle have an intense sexual attraction to one another. Gabrielle is more than ready to give herself to Aaran but he is hesitant – in his head, not in his heart and body. When Gabrielle finally unloads the whole story on Aaran, he agrees to help her on the condition she stay out of harm’s way. Yeah, like that’s going to happen. Gabrielle is more than willing to do anything necessary to get her sister back and once she makes that clear to Aaran, he has no choice but to allow her in and protect her. Let’s hope he can get his body under control because every moment he is in contact with Gabrielle is one moment closer to losing all control and making her his for eternity. Aaran absolutely enjoys the thought of making Gabrielle his but his past is dark and ugly and he is certain once Gabrielle knows the full extent of his dirty deeds, she will want nothing to do with him.
Within just a few nights, Aaran and Gabrielle figure out their missions are overlapping and Gabrielle’s worst nightmare comes true, Markus has her sister and she has been turned. Better than anyone, Aaran knows what Markus and Marguerite are capable of so taking them out has never been more important. With the clues he and Gabrielle have managed to gather, they know where to find the evil duo and are ready to go in guns blazing. Thankfully, Gabrielle has more than one suitor in the Enclave and before she and Aaran can launch their suicide mission, the rest of the crew shows up. Marguerite is bat-shit crazy and Markus is almost completely under her control so when the Enclave shows up it is quite literally a battle to the death. The Enclave intends to take no prisoners but Markus is devious and has a strong sense of self-preservation. To save his own skin, Markus has taken over Gabrielle’s sister’s mind and made her his puppet. In short, if he dies, so does she. Gabrielle isn’t willing to sacrifice her sister and Aaran certainly isn’t willing to sacrifice Gabrielle.
The Bottom Line: There was a spectacularly long time between my reading of this book and the first in the series, Undying Destiny. It was quite easy to fall back into the Enclave series and I immediately knew each of the characters and their drama. Aaran is such a strong character but he lets his past weigh him down and keep him from a truly happy future with both the Enclave and Gabrielle. Gabrielle is one stubborn and highly intelligent woman who, before her time with the Enclave suffered a horrible attack at the hands of a DEAD. She, better than most know what an out of control vampire can do and so, she does her best to save her sister without endangering anyone else. Gabrielle’s stubbornness is matched only by Aaran’s and when the chips are down, the two come together in order to save the other. Though I enjoyed Aaran and Gabrielle’s story, there is a lot of ground covered in this read and I think that kept me from enjoying the overall read as much as I enjoyed Aaran and Gabrielle’s story. With that being said, I’m not going to let one minor issue keep me from the rest of the series. I must know what becomes of Alex and Markus 🙂
Leah Godfrey has almost everything she could ask for—
She’s got an interior design business with an A-list clientele, a weekly spot on a national morning TV show, and a great daughter—but she doesn’t have a date for her twentieth high school reunion. It wouldn’t be a big deal, but her ex-husband was her high school sweetheart, and now he’s married to the slut Leah caught him with in bed. She won’t let the biggest failure of her life overshadow her success.
When her best friend suggests she hire a date, Leah thinks the idea is scandalous. But for one weekend, she wants to forget her mistakes and pretend she has everything her ex took away from her.
Jagger Holiday makes women’s fantasies come true—
But working as a male escort leaves him feeling empty. He turns to photography to fill the void. When Jagger gets a call from a lonely single mom who needs the same thing he does, he wants more. He wants her.
Leah and Jagger have no problem convincing everyone at the reunion they’re together. She should’ve known better than to think there’d be no strings attached.
After all, he’s a professional.
The doors closed behind us. Jagger backed me up against the wall, and there was nowhere I could look but his eyes. One knee was between my legs, and his hands burned the skin on my stomach underneath my sweater. “You look amazing,” he whispered.
I hadn’t planned anything special for tonight. New underwear, that was all. Maybe I should’ve paid more attention to Kari when she told me about the schedule. I’d worn a sweater, scarf, jeans, and knee-high boots. “So do you,” I murmured back. Jagger was one step ahead of me in black dress pants and a deep blue button down shirt. It perfectly complemented his olive skin and dark hair. The more I thought of Jagger in terms of art, the more beautiful he became.
Jagger cupped my bra as his lips once again found mine. We could barely complete a sentence since he’d come to my room without our mouths crashing against each other. Going to this party was a terrible idea. After a drink or two I’d be begging him to take me on the bar. His fingers drew slow circles, dipping inside my bra, brushing back and forth against my nipples. They pebbled at his touch. I tangled my hands in his long hair, pulling him closer to me as I moaned against his mouth.
I hadn’t even noticed we weren’t moving until the alarm went off. We jumped away from each other. “What did you do?” I asked. “Didn’t you just hit the lobby button?”
“I hit stop.” Jagger had his hands up like he was about to get arrested.
“You can’t do that here.” I slammed my hand repeatedly against the lobby button to make the alarm stop screaming. The elevator started moving. “The fire department is probably already on their way. This is a small town. They’ll be talking about this until the next reunion.”
My stomach tied itself in knots complicated enough to flummox a boy scout as we walked through the lobby. The older woman at the front desk glared at us. “See?” I bumped against Jagger, who smiled and winked at the clerk. She turned bright red as she looked back to the computer. “We were seconds away from thanking the firemen for their commitment to service.”
Every head in the bar turned as we walked in. I made a beeline for the bartender, pulling Jagger along with me. He ordered our drinks. “You didn’t ask me what I wanted.”
“Don’t you want sangria?” He surprised me even more by pulling out his wallet. “You practically purred when you drank it in Washington. I’m not sure what you liked more, me or the sangria. But I know I liked the way it tasted on your lips.”
“How did you even know they had it? Some places throw bar garnish and Sprite into cheap wine and try to pass it off as the nectar of the Gods.” I leaned back against the bar, hooking my boot into the barstool, trying to play this cool. If Jagger had any idea he could knock me over with a feather right now he might stop trying so hard. I wanted to see what else he had in him. “They can’t fool me with that crap.”
“I checked before you got here.” Jagger tapped his glass against mine before taking a long sip of whatever he got.
I knew all along they had it. I’d been here more times than I could count. “And if they didn’t?”
“We’d find someplace that did.” Those hazel eyes smoldered. So many emotions I couldn’t read yet marched through them.
I put the glass down on the bar and turned back to him. It took everything I had to keep my hands to myself. “And if that wasn’t what I was craving?”
Jagger leaned closer to me and I could feel every eye on the room on us. “I will make sure you’re satisfied.”
We took stools at the bar. It was still pretty early. A cover band I’d been going to see since my twenties was setting up in the corner, and only a handful of my classmates had shown up so far. I wondered if we’d see many locals. Getting a babysitter two nights in a row was such a bitch.
“So that’s Eric. He went out to LA to act and he’s had a bunch of bit parts in movies, and it looks like he’s here with…” I squinted to see better, then squealed when he took the hand of someone I didn’t expect. “Michael. Nice. I think he’s still in the Marines. I knew he was stationed at Camp Pendleton, but I didn’t realize they were a couple. It makes total sense, now that I think about it, they’re always together in their Facebook stuff.”
After finding the bottom of my drink, I had no problem openly pointing out the weekend’s players to Jagger. A fresh drink appeared like magic, and I dove right into it. “And that’s Marcy. She was my manager at Design Spot. We used to put wine in our coffee cups to deal with the monotony of that place. Oh, God. You must think I’m a total lush, right?”
“No.” Jagger laughed. “Which one is Karina?”
I had to think about before answering him. “Who’s Karina?”
“Your best friend?” Jagger slid the glass away from me. “The guys at the agency have nothing but good things to say about her.”
“Oh! Kari.” I took it back. “I never think of her like that. Unless I’m giving her a hard time. Her reputation would precede her.” Good for her. “I don’t know. She should be here. She’s technically our host.”
She’d been coy in the last couple weeks, much more concerned with my plans for the reunion than sharing hers. Probably because being here was just as much of a nightmare for her as it was for me, even if our reasons were completely different. She’d definitely bring a date to the battle ground.
The band started, tearing through their nineties set with slightly less fire than they had in the actual nineties, and Jagger started drumming the beat against the bar. “Let’s dance,” he suggested.
“Sounds fantastic.” After the second sangria it easier to join the few other couples on the floor, and I waved to the people I’d pointed out from the bar. So far, we weren’t behind enemy lines. None of those people had shown up yet. I twirled around Jagger, singing the lyrics of the song to him as he put his arms around my waist and pressed my back against his body. We swayed together to the beat, his hair falling into my face as he joined me on the harmonies. I turned into him when the song changed, our hips grinding to the raunchy beat of the song. If this was any indication of what I had to look forward to when we went back upstairs, I had no idea why we were still here.
Jagger’s hands stayed on my hips, directing them, and I hooked my arms around his neck. His forehead rested on mine and I could only look at him. The rest of the room spun on a different axis. I hadn’t had too much to drink, I was drunk off of Jagger.
“Can I have this dance?” Kari managed to wedge herself between the two of us and I grabbed her arms to steady myself from the shock. She swung around, offering a hand to Jagger. “I’m Karina Gomez. Leah’s best friend. And I’m a United States prosecutor, so when I say I know where to hide the bodies…”
“Kari!” I jerked her away from Jagger before she said anything I regretted.
“I’ve heard all about you. Nothing but wonderful things of course.” Jagger ran his fingers under my chin. Kari didn’t release her death grip on my arms. “I’ll meet you over at the bar.”
My new dance partner spun me around. “First of all, he’s insanely gorgeous. I don’t get intimidated by many men, but it’s hard to breathe looking at him.”
“Where have you been?” I asked. I wanted to change the subject before it turned into a lecture.
“Here, for like a half an hour.” Kari rolled her eyes. “You were too busy eye-fucking your escort to notice anyone.”
My head whipped around the room. “Oh God, who else is here?”
“Pretty much everyone, and you are the topic of conversation.”
“Why?” Another quick scan of the room, but I didn’t spot Rich or Shelley.
“Because the two of you look like you’re going to crawl inside of each other. We’re all choking off the pheromones. Would you please go upstairs and fuck his brains out before some of the single ladies in the crowd abduct him?”
Nobody had to tell me twice. “Yes, ma’am.” I headed off the dance floor, but Kari still had my hand.
“Don’t ever call me ma’am.” Kari yanked me back into her. “Leah, please be careful tonight.”
“I will, ma’am.” I laughed when Kari looked like she might puke. “I brought protection.”
She squeezed my hand. “That’s not what I’m talking about, and you know it.”
Kristen Strassel writes books about rock stars and vampires. After all, they tell you to write what you know. She is a passionate music fan who also loves football games and diner food. Kristen works as a makeup artist on film and TV shows when she’s not writing, and loves being behind the scenes. A former resident of Las Vegas, Kristen now lives in the Boston area.