Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Passionate Protectors 99 Cents! #MFRWHooks


On Pre-order today for only 99 cents! Don’t wait! Get your copy today!
When danger abounds, passionate protectors rush to the frontline to shield and defend. Homicide detectives, US marshals, and secret agents chase the guilty, thwart attacks, and endanger themselves with a zeal to protect. When love ignites and emotions run hot, these men and women put it all on the line. From New York to Chicago, Bangkok to a remote lake in Minnesota, nonstop adventure and steam sizzle when romance and suspense combust.

Patricia Rosemoor – Obsession – A driven female cop teams up with an irresistible ex-con to bring a killer to justice. Can they stop the sexual predator before he strikes again? NY Times and USA Today Bestselling Author

Rachelle Ayala – Triggered by Love – After her firefighter fiancé is shot, all Avery Cockburn has between her shattered heart and death is the cocky – and very determined – detective, Jason Burnett. USA Today Bestselling Author

Susanne Matthews – Sworn to Protect – A secret is locked in Nancy’s mind. Can Neil protect his estranged wife from someone determined to silence her forever? Award-winning Bestselling Author

Taylor Lee – The Bangkok Affair – Going undercover in a high-end Bangkok brothel brings a feisty redhead face to face with a villain as charming as he is evil. Fortunately, her bad-ass lover doesn’t take a back seat to anyone. Sparks fly both inside and outside of the bedroom! USA Today Bestselling Author

Stacy Eaton – Second Shield –Together they will uncover the evil from within and try to deny the passions that rage between them. USA Today Bestselling Author

Excerpt from...
Small Town Girl
The soft rap on Annika’s door surprised her. Only one person would show up this late without calling first. It was inconvenient, but she didn’t think it was a good idea to give him her cell number. Even so, her heart fluttered at the thought of seeing him again.

When she opened the door, he towered over her in snug-fitting jeans and a black T-shirt that outlined his muscular silhouette. His handsome grin and locks of thick black hair falling across his forehead enhanced his bad-boy look, making it difficult for her to stop staring at him.

“Hi,” Alex said and held up her red flashlight. “I needed to return this anyway so I thought I’d stop by and ask if you wanted to walk with me down to the lake again. We need to talk about this issue with your poems being turned into lyrics for our songs.”

Don’t fall for that line, she thought desperately. Don’t let yourself get sucked into a pattern of seeing him that you’ll truly regret later.

He probably wanted to apologize for eavesdropping on her conversation with Erik. Or maybe he planned to tell her it was too late to give her credit for the songs. Regardless of his reasons, it was a bad idea to go with him because it would only encourage him to keep coming by to see her.

Annika glanced down at her ankle-length nightgown, looking for a convenient excuse to refuse him. “I’m not dressed to go out.”

He leaned against the door frame, his confident expression signaling he was undeterred by her excuse. “No problem. I’ll wait outside while you change.”

She folded her bare arms and frowned. “I don’t think so, Alex. I’m tired—”

“Aw, c’mon.” he said in a soft, cajoling tone. “You can’t stay cooped up in this oven of an apartment every night. The fresh air will do you good.”

“Yeah…no…I don’t—”

His eyes crinkled as he tugged on her long braid draped over her shoulder. “Don’t forget to put on mosquito spray.” He placed his hand on the doorknob. “I’ll be downstairs, waiting for you.”
He shut the door in her face.

“Oh!” She grumbled to herself as she stomped into her bedroom to change. “Five minutes. He’d better talk fast because that’s all he’s getting from me. And if he’s got his sights on anything else…” In a hurry, Annika jerked off her nightgown and slipped on a peach knit tee. “I’ve got plans for this summer and it doesn’t include being taken for a ride by a smooth-talkin’ rock star.” She froze. “Does that sound crazy or what?” She grabbed a pair of stretch jeans and shimmied into them. “It’s incredible how crazy can quickly become normal.”

Annika slipped on her tennis shoes, doused herself with mosquito spray and grabbed her flashlight. She opened the front door, stepping into the hot, sultry night air. She found him in his usual place, relaxing against her car. “Let’s go.”

Alex slapped his cap on his head and made a grand sweep of his hand. “Ladies first.”

She passed by him and led the way, anxious to get going. He caught up to her quickly. “Whoa, slow down,” he said gripping his wide palm on her narrow shoulder blade. “We’re taking a walk, not training for a marathon.”

Annika slowed down but was silent, fiddling with her flashlight as they walked down the alley, avoiding the narrow greenspace between the buildings where bar patrons were smoking.
Alex stilled her hand. “Is something wrong?”

She gave him a sideways glance. “Why do you say that?”

He slid his hand around her arm and stopped as he slowly turned her toward him. “You seem distant. Are you upset with me because I overheard you and Erik arguing?”

She pulled her arm away. “No, and we weren’t arguing. We were just…discussing the situation.”
“I didn’t set out to intrude on your conversation,” he said sincerely. “I just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Actually, I think it was more like being in the wrong place at the right time. If I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have found out that you should have been given credit for writing our songs. You should have also received fair compensation.”

She shook her head. “I’m not in it for the money.”

Alex sighed, sounding frustrated. “That’s noble, Annika, but you should have been paid. Each of your songs made millions. If the press got wind of this issue, it would be disastrous.”

“Oh, no! That can’t happen!” She stared up at him, panicking. “Look, I—I don’t want to cause any trouble for Erik. He means too much to me. I’d rather let him get all of the credit than cause a scandal. Besides, the songs were rarely recorded word for word from my poems. He changed a lot of things to adapt them and make them better. It was more like a collaboration.”

Alex moved close, resting one hand on the back of her head, the other gripping her chin as their gazes held. “You’re amazing. Erik is lucky to have you as a sister,” he said gently. “It’s a mess, to be sure. I’m not happy with your brother at the moment, but don’t worry about it, honey. If you’re willing to work with us on this, we’ll figure something out.”

The deep, throaty timbre of his voice when he called her honey caused her heart to jump. She swallowed hard as she looked away.

When they resumed walking, she knew she should pull away and head back to her apartment, but she couldn’t. Despite her best intentions, she found herself drawn to him.

They reached the shore and walked along the aluminum dock. At the end, Alex sat down, causing the dock to rock gently in the water. He looked back and patted the spot next to him. “Let’s sit here for a while.” He gazed up at the cloudy sky. “It would be fun to jump in and take a refreshing swim to cool off in this heat, but the moon isn’t shining tonight and I’m afraid it wouldn’t be wise when we can’t see each other very well in the water,” he said as he pulled his tennis shoes off and rolled up his pant legs. “This will have to do.”

Annika toed off her tennis shoes and sat down then pulled off her socks and rolled up her pant legs. She plunged her feet into the cool, refreshing water of Lake Tremolo. “Oh, that feels so good.”
He smiled but didn’t share what he was thinking.

She braced her palms on the edge of the dock and leaned forward, slowly moving her feet back and forth in the water. “Do you mind if I ask you a personal question?”

“That depends,” he replied warily as he turned his head toward her.

His answer puzzled her. “On what?”

“On how deep you want to go.”

She laughed nervously, realizing he was referring to his life on the road. “Okay—it’s not that kind of personal. It’s just something I find curious.”

“All right,” he said, sounding cautious. “What do you want to know?”

Annika touched his forearm with her finger. “You don’t have any tattoos. Any. The rest of the guys have distinctive ones.”

Alex grinned broadly. “Oh, you mean like—the names of former girlfriends?” He followed up with a droll laugh. “Boy, Jonas really regrets that particular moment of weakness. She’s been gone for a long time.”

Annika groaned impatiently. “Are you stalling?”

“It’s a long story.”

She poked him in the forearm. “Then give me the short answer.”

He went silent.

“Alex, I’m waiting,” Annika said in a sing-song voice.

“You’d better never breathe a word of this to another soul. If you do, I’ll deny it.”

She leaned back on her hands and splashed water on him by vigorously kicking her feet. “I’m still waiting…”

“Hey!” He raised one hand to shield himself from the splash. “I have a problem with needles.”

“Like what kind of problem?” Surprised, she sat up. “Do you faint or get sick?”

He pressed his fingers against her lips. “I think that’s enough questions for one day.”

Laughing, Annika pulled her feet out of the water and scooted backwards to let them air dry so she could put her shoes on again, but she moved so quickly she lost her balance and fell backwards, smacking her head and shoulders on the aluminum planks. Her clumsiness made her laugh.

“Careful,” Alex warned as he slid his arms around her to pull her back to a sitting position. “Are you all right?”

Well… she thought, I was…

He was so close she could feel the rise and fall of his chest. The woody, aromatic fragrance of his bold cologne mixed with the heat of his body like a heady mist. His arms held her in a gentle, but protective manner. “I’m—I’m fine,” she murmured. Sitting with him like this was way too close for comfort. She knew she should pull away, but she couldn’t move. His nearness was intoxicating.
She looked up, and though it was too dark to look into his eyes, she knew by the tilt of his head his lips were a breath away. Slowly, as if giving her time to refuse, he moved closer and placed his lips on hers. His kiss was tender at first, but when she didn’t resist, his mouth crushed hers as his arms tightened around her. In the heat of the moment, her resistance dissipated. She slid her arms around his neck and kissed him back, melting into him as her heart pounded in sync with his.

As he ended the kiss, she leaned her forehead against his, stunned, with her hands splayed on his chest. She could barely breathe. She closed her eyes, desperate to calm her thundering heart.
“If you don’t want to continue this,” he whispered in her ear, “just say so and I’ll stop.”

Don’t…what? Her thoughts were a jumbled mess as her mind raced to make sense of what was happening. She stared up at his shadowed face. “Why did you kiss me?”

“I hadn’t planned to do that, but I couldn’t stand it any longer,” he said huskily. “I had to find out what I was missing.”

His reply sounded so much like a cliché, it jerked her back to her senses. How many other women had he used that line on? Realizing what an idiot she’d been to let herself be taken in by him, her hands gripped his shirt. “Don’t play me for a fool, Alex. I may have been born and raised in a town the size of a postage stamp, but I’m not naive. I’m the lucky girl you’ve chosen to be your entertainment while you’re in town, aren’t I?”

“That’s not true,” he replied, sounding hurt. “I’d never treat you that way.”

“Then be honest with me. Why did you kiss me? I’m not glamorous or high-maintenance like the women you usually chase. I read the tabloids. If anything, I’m the total opposite.”

“Don’t sell yourself short, sweetheart,” he said softly. “Beauty is more than fake body parts and Botox. The best makeup artist in the world can’t fix a shallow, self-absorbed personality.” He brushed her cheek with his thumb. “You have no idea how desirable you are.” He chuckled. “Especially in that long nightgown.”

She snorted. “It was pink with black cats printed all over it.”

“Really?” he replied. “I didn’t notice.”

“C’mon, Alex, a guy like you doesn’t fall for a woman like me.”

“What makes you so sure of that?”

This can’t be real, she thought. It’s too good to be true.

She closed her eyes to keep them from misting. “We don’t have anything in common. You’re rich and talented and wildly successful. I’m merely a small-town girl,” she said, her voice wavering, “with nothing to show for her life but unfulfilled dreams.”

“Annika,” he whispered breathlessly, “that’s not true. You’re so much more. I can’t explain why but ever since the day I walked into the café and saw you I haven’t been able to get you off my mind. Everything about you is so natural and genuine. You have no idea how rare that is in my world.”

“You have no idea how boring and tedious my world is,” she shot back. “Carly Strand feels the same way, but we have plans. We’re finally going to do something about it.”

He took his arms away and shifted his body, settling next to her. “Are you going into business together?”

“We’re taking a road trip at the end of July, heading out west. If we like it there, we may not come back so I’ve been desperately trying to convince my mother to turn my job over to Penny. That way my parents will still be able to operate the café and draw an income from it.” She expelled a frustrated sigh. “My mother is so stubborn. The boss always knows best and always gets the last word! She won’t listen to me.”

His silence indicated he was absorbing her words. After a few moments he said, “Take it from me, wherever you go, you won’t find the kind of happiness you’re looking for. After years of searching, I’ve come to realize that true joy in life derives from the things money can’t buy.”

Annika brushed droplets of lake water off her skin and began rolling down her pant legs. “We’ll never know until we try.”

“Maybe so,” Alex said, “but I hope you don’t find out the hard way like I did.” He placed his hand on the back of her neck and pulled her close. “Don’t go, Annika. Please, don’t leave.”

“Our plans are set. I promised Carly. I’m not letting her down.”

“Then I’ll just have to figure out a way to convince you to stay…” He pulled her into his arms and kissed her so passionately her head began to spin. She didn’t want to kiss him; didn’t want to be caught up in his irresistible charm, but she couldn’t help herself.

Car lights suddenly invaded their privacy.

Annika and Alex turned around at the same time to see who it was
“It’s a cop,” Alex blurted out as he scrambled to his feet and helped Annika get up.

She saw the lights and grabbed her shoes. “It’s Chris Peterson. I’ll talk to him.”

Chris’ spotlight swept across the beach and stopped at the dock, blinding them. “The beach is closed,” he yelled out the car window. “Get off the dock. Now.

“He’s an okay guy. We went to the senior prom together,” Annika said as they hurried toward the squad car. “Chris! It’s me, Annika!” His window slid down as she approached him. “Hi.”

The officer craned his neck to see who she was with. “Annika? What are you doing out here after dark? You know it’s not safe to be in the water at night.”

Annika bent at the waist to meet him at eye level. “We were sitting on the dock, trying to cool off, but we’re going now.”

Chris frowned at Alex, as though he disapproved of who Annika chose to spend her summer nights with toe-dipping in the lake. “Okay, but I don’t want to catch you out here again. Is that clear? I’ve got enough to do without playing lifeguard, too.”

“I understand,” Annika replied hurriedly as she straightened and grabbed Alex’s hand. “Goodnight!”
They sprinted across the beach and headed up Main Street. They were breathless by the time they hooked a right at Lake Street, went a half-block and cut through the alley to Annika’s place.

When they reached the stairway, she grabbed the mosquito spray off the car and halted at the bottom step. No way was she inviting him up to her apartment. Or falling into the trap of letting him kiss her again. “Alex, I don’t think it’s a good idea for us—”

“Wait.” He held up his hand as he cut her off. “Hear me out first.” He leaned against the railing to catch his breath. “Everything I told you tonight was the truth, Annika. From the bottom of my heart. I didn’t plan to purposely take you to the beach where we’d be alone so I could kiss you. It just happened, but I don’t regret it.”

She placed her foot on the next step, ready to sprint up the stairs. “I like you, Alex, but we’re worlds apart. Even if I wasn’t leaving town, it won’t be long before you’ll be ready to move on yourself so let’s leave things as they were before tonight. Let’s remain friends. Nothing more.”

He nodded; his disappointment showing. “What happens at the beach, stays at the beach.”

“Right.” She turned to go upstairs, but looked back. “That includes what I told you about Carly and me, too. I don’t want that getting back to my mother before I’ve had a chance to break it to her myself. Deal?”


“Goodnight then.” She ran up the stairs filled with bittersweet emotions. She’d never forget what it was like to be kissed by Zander Lang, frontman of the band “Wolfmoon,” but like Alex’s stage name, it wasn’t real. It was only part of his act.


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Janet Lane Walters said...

Long excerpt with much info and some mystery

Holly Bargo said...

Looks like our heroine is caught between willful misunderstanding, prior commitment, and fear.