A Discovery of Secrets and Fate by Sawyer Bennett // ARC Review

March 03, 2021

A Discovery of Secrets and Fate is book two of the Chronicles of the Stone Veil series and is best enjoyed if read in series order.

A Discovery of Secrets and Fate by Sawyer Bennett

Chronicles of the Stone Veil #2
Release - March 2, 2021
Genre - Urban Fantasy
Dual POV - Finley (1st)/Carrick(3rd and rare)
Heat Level - none
Format/Source - eARC provided by the author
Length - 250 pages
Publisher - Big Dog Books, LLC

In its place is an existence even the wildest imagination could never fathom. Strange creatures walk among us, plotting our demise, and I’ve come to find that the fate of our world rests squarely on my shoulders. We’re all in danger and I’m trying to figure out how to make it through each day.

The key to my survival is a man I can’t figure out. As dangerous as the darkest fae, I have no choice but to work with him to stop the prophecy that’s foretold to be the ruination of mankind.

Carrick Byrne continues to be my only source of information, but he doles it out as he sees fit. He intrigues and scares me in equal measure, yet I can’t help but be attracted to him. And the more I discover about him, the more it becomes clear he feels the same.

As we travel to Faere in search of answers, we find that every piece of information leads to more questions, that every question leads to a new piece of the puzzle, and that, most importantly, no one can be trusted.

The more secrets we uncover, one thing is certain— if we have any chance of saving the world, we have to do it together.

Amazon Kindle * iBooks * B & N * Kobo * Google * Amazon Paperback

After the way The Revelation of Light and Dark ended, I was pretty desperate to find out what would be next for Carrick and Finley. Would there be a huge confrontation with the new big bad dark fae in town? Would Finley find out just what her role is in the prophecy? And just what in the heck was Carrick?

While many of my questions were answered and while I got answers to questions I didn't even ask, I'm left at the end of A Discovery of Secrets and Fate with a confused look on my face. Knowing what Carrick is (and yes, I was totally right!), knowing what his reward is, has only made my journey going forward with this series that much harder. So will there or will there not be a romance in the future? Because this author has me practically begging for something to happen. If this is a slow burn kinda thing, it has to be the slowest freaking burn in the history of all burns.

I'm still not Finley's biggest fan. Again, I had to constantly remind myself that she was in her late 20s because she was a bit too childish and immature for words. However, her nonsense worked in some situations so I'll admit that she's growing on me.

Obviously I liked what I got out of this part of the story. I do believe I've been spending way too much time in Finley's head and there was a bit too much itemization of the minutiae of her daily life, but I am most definitely looking forward to what happens in book three. The Evolution of Fae and Gods is next and I'm looking forward to more Carrick, more Zaid, more everyone, but especially what the heck happens after the fiery cliffhanger I'm still a bit hungover from.

Check out my review of book 1, The Revelation of Light and Dark:

Leaning into me, Carrick warns, "Do not get aggressive with any form of fae or daemon. You stepped into Echo without any regard for your own safety. Had she wanted to, she could have hit you in the chest with enough force to rupture your aorta. You completely underestimated her, and you could have been seriously hurt."

"But... but... I had you, Titus, and Maddox there," I stutter a lame excuse.

"And you saw that neither one of us were able to stop her from doing that to you," he snaps, then lifts a finger and taps me on the head with it. "You need to think, Finley, or you're going to get yourself hurt or killed."

I wrench my arm away from him, now angry at being treated like a child. "I do think, I'm clever and yes, I may have underestimated her, but I went up against an incubus and won, I was smart enough to get out of an enclosed space in my bedroom, and lure him to my backyard so I could use my whip to —"

"You got lucky," he snarls. "Humans are no match for fae or daemons in strength. Don't ever forget it and always be wary, even if one appears to be on your side."

"Like Zaid?"

"Zaid isn't on your side," he replies, pointing out. "He's on my side."

New York Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal Bestselling author Sawyer Bennett uses real life experience to create relatable stories that appeal to a wide array of readers. From contemporary romance, fantasy romance, and both women’s and general fiction, Sawyer writes something for just about everyone.

A former trial lawyer from North Carolina, when she is not bringing fiction to life, Sawyer is a chauffeur, stylist, chef, maid, and personal assistant to her very adorable daughter, as well as full-time servant to her wonderfully naughty dogs.

If you’d like to receive a notification when Sawyer releases a new book, sign up for her newsletter (sawyerbennett.com/signup).

For more information about Sawyer Bennett and her books, visit her website: https://sawyerbennett.com

Truth or Beard by Penny Reid // Review + Excerpt

March 02, 2021

I had an odd thought just then, that I should only ever whisper her name, and that she should always be close enough to hear it.

Truth or Beard by Penny Reid

Standalone - Winston Brothers #1
Release - July 21, 2015
Genre - RomCom
Dual POV - 1st person/Duane Winston & Jessica James
Heat Level - 3 out of 5/pretty plain & vague
Format/Source - Kindle purchase
Length - 392 pages
Publisher - Cipher-Naught

Beards, brothers, and bikers! Oh my!

Identical twins Beau and Duane Winston might share the same devastatingly handsome face, but where Beau is outgoing and sociable, Duane is broody and reserved. This is why Jessica James, recent college graduate and perpetual level-headed good girl, has been in naïve and unhealthy infatuation with Beau Winston for most of her life.

His friendly smiles make her tongue-tied and weak-kneed, and she’s never been able to move beyond her childhood crush. Whereas Duane and Jessica have always been adversaries. She can’t stand him, and she’s pretty sure he can’t stand the sight of her…

But after a case of mistaken identity, Jessica finds herself in a massive confusion kerfuffle. Jessica James has spent her whole life paralyzed by the fantasy of Beau and her assumptions of Duane’s disdain; therefore she’s unprepared for the reality that is Duane’s insatiable interest, as well as his hot hands and hot mouth and hotter looks. Not helping Jessica’s muddled mind and good girl sensibilities, Duane seems to have gotten himself in trouble with the local biker gang, the Iron Order.

Certainly, Beau’s magic spell is broken. Yet when Jessica finds herself drawn to the man who was always her adversary, now more dangerous than ever, how much of her level-head heart is she willing to risk?

Amazon: https://amzn.to/3dYewG7
Nook: https://bit.ly/3bOwyrE
Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/ca/en/ebook/truth-or-beard
iBooks: https://apple.co/3bQlY3m

I can't get enough of the Winstons and after reading this series out of order, I always knew I was going to make my way to the beginning. I'm so glad I did! Loving Duane Winston is easy. He's a broody, charming, honorable, gorgeous mess of a man and I thoroughly enjoyed knowing him. He had loved Jessica James for most of his life and when he finally gets the chance to claim her, he wastes no time.

There's only one problem... Jessica believes that it's his twin, Beau, who has a chance of winning her heart. Duane was the her constant tormentor, the one person she argued with the most, her prank buddy, someone who didn't even like her very much. When she realizes his true feelings (and her own), she's quick to jump in with both feet and it was wonderful to watch.

I loved these two together for the most part. This story was hilarious! Honestly, I wasn't a fan of the beginning or the end, but everything in between was incredible.
I was going to kiss her.

But first I was going to strangle her.

“Duane…” She said my name again in that breathless way, making my neck itch and my throat tight.

Jessica was looking at me expectantly. Her big amber eyes on mine like I was the center of her world. I liked it too much. It was also irritating because I didn’t know what it meant, what she was thinking. She hadn’t said a damn word to me on our walk back from the lake. She hadn’t called me. We hadn’t spoken since Friday.

Five days. Five days without touching or tasting her.

I was going to kiss her while I strangled her.

“Yeah?” I said, the edge of my irritation clear. I wasn’t trying to hide it, there was no need. One way or the other we were coming to an agreement that involved definites, not definitely maybes. Better she knew I wasn’t planning on rolling over unless it involved her beneath me.

Jessica blinked at me, likely because of my tone, and I watched her shake herself a little like I’d startled her.

“Uh, so… the truck.” She cleared her throat, her eyes sliding to the side and away from me.

“What about the truck?”

“You towed it.”

“Yes I did.” I allowed myself a moment to look at her body. She was wearing a pink shirt with buttons down the front, thin fabric with a white, lacy tank top under. It was tucked into a tan skirt that ended at her knees. She was also wearing brown high heeled boots, the kind that don’t make sense.

Boots are for working, for walking through wet mud, for keeping feet from getting shredded by broken glass and falling machine parts. Boots with spiked heels were just as practical as sandals with steel toes.

Still not looking at me, she asked, “So, you want to buy it?” Her voice was different, higher pitched.

“That’s what I just said.” Again, my irritation was clear.

Her eyes cut to mine, throwing me splinters of frustration. “Well there’s no need to be rude, Duane.”

“I’m sorry, was I being rude?” I couldn’t help myself, I took a full step forward, forcing her to lift her chin to keep eye contact. “Should I have called?”

“Yes.” She ground out, “You can’t just tow other peoples’ cars without asking.”

“Excuse me, princess. But Mike McClure called me and asked me if I minded moving the truck here. I figured he was calling on your behalf.”

“No he wasn’t calling on my behalf. If I wanted to call you, I would have just called you.”

I felt those words in my stomach, just under my ribs, a quick slice. I’m sure I winced because her expression changed, but before she could explain away her meaning, I cut her off.

“Fine, I get you, loud and clear.”


I lifted my hands to keep her from talking. She was so lovely, even her voice was pretty. But suddenly I couldn’t wait for her to leave and put me out of this misery of being with her when she wasn’t interested in being mine.

“We want to buy the truck and I’m willing to offer you a fair amount.”

“Would you just hold on a sec-” Jessica took my hand between hers, her grip surprisingly strong, her skin against mine sending a shock up my arm. I ignored it and ground my teeth.

“You can use the money for a new car, something smaller that gets better mileage.”

Paying no heed, Jessica took a half step forward catching me unawares. One second she was glaring at me, the next she was lifting to her tip toes and brushing her lips against mine.

And that was it, I was done for.

Penny Reid is the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today Best Selling Author of the Winston Brothers, Knitting in the City, Rugby, and Hypothesis series. She used to spend her days writing federal grant proposals as a biomedical researcher, but now she just writes books. She’s also a full time mom to three diminutive adults, wife, daughter, knitter, crocheter, sewer, general crafter, and thought ninja.

For more about Penny Reid and her books, check out her website: http://pennyreid.ninja/

Dead Man's Ink Boxset by Callie Hart // Review + Excerpt

March 01, 2021

Dead Man's Ink Boxset by Callie Hart

Set includes Rebel, Rogue and Ransom
Release - Originally January 9, 2017
Genre - Contemporary Romance
Dual POV - 1st person
Heat Level - 4 out of 5/nothing really until book 2
Format/Source - copy provided by the author
Length - 630 pages
Publisher - Indie


Sometimes, you don't mean to become another person. Sometimes the choice is made for you, and pretending is the only thing that keeps you going. When Alexis Romera is taken and her kidnappers find her fake ID in her purse, she must become Sophia in order to keep her family safe. Revealing her real identity to the man she's sold to would be easy enough, but can she trust him? Hell bent on revenging the murder of his uncle, Rebel doesn't seem all that interested in playing things safe.

In fact, nothing about the secretive, dark and brooding MC president seems safe at all.


What do you do when the man who raised you is murdered, and the only witness is kidnapped girl who's being sold as a sex slave? You buy her, of course. As president to the most powerful motorcycle club in America, Rebel isn't lacking in power. There are strings the man can pull, and entire criminal organisations and corporate businesses alike would fall to their knees. However, along with such power comes intense interest. The DEA have their eye fixed solely on the MC...and they're just waiting for Rebel to trip up.

Getting Sophia to testify is the only way to bring the Los Oscuros cartel down. The beautiful, dark haired, dark eyed woman is belligerent and uncooperative and unlikely to bend to his will, but Rebel has a few tricks up his sleeve to make her compliant--he'll charm her until she's bending over backwards to please him.

Of course, falling for her might cause a few hiccups along the way...

* The Dead Man's Ink series contains strong ties with the Blood & Roses series, but you do not have to have read those works in order to read this one. The Dead Man's Ink series is contemporary romance story with occasional dark themes that some people might find confronting. *

Amazon CA: https://www.amazon.ca/gp/product/B01N32JEW2
Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01N32JEW2
Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Dead-Mans-Boxset-Callie-Hart-ebook/dp/B01N32JEW2
Amazon AU: https://www.amazon.com.au/Dead-Mans-Boxset-Callie-Hart-ebook/dp/B01N32JEW2

3.5 ★s

Callie Hart sure knows how to make an anti-hero utterly delicious! At first, I wasn't sure what I would get from Rebel. He was a military vet, son of a politician, and he was president of the Widow Maker's MC. This character was full of such intriguing contradictions. Honorable and protective. Lethal, cold and cunning. I honestly couldn't get enough of this man and now that I'm at the end of Ransom, I'm only hoping to see more of him.

We're not just a motorcycle club. We're criminals. And we're really fucking good at not getting caught.

In Rebel, Alexis was a witness to something she shouldn't have seen. She was then kidnapped, violated, and sold. Lucky for her, the man who bought her didn't want a sex slave. Rebel was only interested in justice and Alexis played a vital role.

I can't afford to be thinking of a girl when there are important plans to be made. Vengeance to be plotted. Information to be gathered.

I didn't even like the girl, but I loved what she pulled out of Rebel. I enjoyed their banter, their acrimonious interactions, their eventual understanding of each other. I didn't like that she continued to lie and I hoped that would all change in the next book.

Sadly it didn't. In Rogue, Alexis finally capitulated and despite the constant danger of a cartel boss wanting to own her and kill Rebel and his club, she was determined to help him. I still didn't like her, but I admired her grit. I had to keep reminding myself that she was incredibly young. I wish I felt for her what I ended up feeling for her big sister, Sloane, but that didn't happen. It doesn't even matter because I learned so much more about Rebel and fell even harder for him!

And then in Ransom my feelings started to change. Don't be crazy, I didn't fall in love with Alexis, but I did start to like her. I still didn't get why she was still lying or hiding and it didn't make sense why she wouldn't call her family to share her status, but who even cares? The point is... I didn't hate the girl anymore.

I can see into him, and I feel like I recognize him. Like he's the piece of me that's been missing all this time and I never even knew it.

However, it was Rebel who continued to steal the show. The author created such a wonder with this man! Please, someone tell me that I'll be seeing him again 🤞🏼🤞🏼🤞🏼

My favorite quote:
"There was an English guy in Afghanistan. He was a member of the Royal Marines but the British government loaned him to us as an informant. He'd been taken prisoner by a group of rebels after his unit's transport hit an IED and killed everyone but him. For nearly two years the rebels kept him hostage in a cave system, giving him just enough food and water so that he could survive. They would torture him every day. They wanted to know everything he knew. They would pull his fingers and his toenails out one by one. They would pull his teeth out too, whenever he wouldn't give them information they wanted. This guy. Andrew, he held out for months. He took the pain and the torment, and he let them take his fingernails and his teeth, until the people who were holding him captive realized they weren't going to get anything out of him.
"Now, that was a really bad position to be in for Andrew. The only reason they were keeping him alive was because he was worth something. If he wasn't valuable to them alive in any way, he sure as hell would be valuable to them dead. See they don't just kill people in the shadows. They want the world to see. They gather their friends. They gather the world's media. They make us watch on television as they force their prisoners to tell lies about their countries, and then they make us watch as they cut off their heads and burn their bodies in cages.
"Andrew nearly died that way. They sat him down in front of a camera and they told him what they wanted him to say, otherwise they were going to have their friends in England track down his wife and two small kids, and they were gonna have them murdered in their beds. You always think you won't cave, that nothing they can do or say to you will make you give in and repeat the hatred they want to spread, but when they threaten your loved ones..." Jamie looks pained. He flinches a little, small creases forming between his eyebrows. "So Andrew sat down and said what they wanted him to say, and they filmed it. The bastards restrained him while they tried to slit his throat from behind, so the camera could see. They almost finished the job. Andrew had a scar that ran from his left ear to his Adam's apple, but that's where it stopped. Miraculously one of our unit's launched an assault on the caves. We had no idea they were holding anyone captive there. We'd had intel that they were using the location as a munitions cache and we wanted to take it out.
"So they stormed the place and Andrew only got his throat half cut. He came and worked with Cade and me for a long time. He told us in graphic detail about the shit those guys did to him. The kinds of torture they were capable of. And he told us that it paled in comparison to the atrocities he saw committed by the cartels in Mexico. He cried like a baby when he told us about that. He'd gone in as part of a task force to rescue a British government official who had been taken right off the street in Juarez. They'd found this guy and his wife in an open grave under a bridge in the middle of the city. The bodies had been mutilated beyond recognition. When the marines attempted to recover the bodies, they'd realized that both the official and his wife were still alive. they were fucked up and bleeding, missing skin, missing fingers, both of them missing their tongues and their eyes. Their ears. Her breasts had been cut off. His dick. They were just raw pieces of meat, and they'd tossed their bodies into a hole while they were still bleeding.
"The cartels did that to them. Not even a hardened marine who'd been held captive in the desert and almost died at the hands of some of the most immoral men on this planet could talk about the shit he saw in Mexico without his hands shaking. And these are the people we're dealing with right now, Sophia. This is the type of madness we're involving ourselves in. Cade and I were deployed. A lot of the other Widow Makers are ex military, too. We've all had training. We've all been in combat situations. We've been to the dark places of this world and we've already puked our guts up. We've already seen enough to make it difficult to sleep at night."
He stops talking for a second. Gives me a second to digest. I already know what he's going to say next, and the gravity of his words really hit home. I grip hold of the counter, leaning into it, tired and terrified as Jamie continues.
"And you want to go racing after these guys half cocked, Sophia. What about your upbringing in Seattle as a preacher's daughter, living with everything you could possibly need, never having to make hard decisions or real sacrifices, qualifies you to face off with these guys when grown ass marienes cry like babies at the mere thought of it?"

I love when the heroines who think they can do everything the badass, ex military, alpha, killer, etc. can do when they have NONE of the experience or training and someone shows them how wrong they are. I was very grateful to find this passage.
Callie Hart is a USA Today bestselling author of dark romance novels. She is an obsessive romantic who loves throwing a dark twist into her stories. Her characters are imperfect, flawed individuals who dictate when she eats, sleeps and breathes. She loves to travel and often pens her books when she’s on the road, drawing inspiration from her often unique and wild surroundings.

If she’s not writing, you’ll undoubtedly find her with her nose buried deep in a book, or binge-watching shows on the CW.

For more about Callie Hart and her books, check out her website: http://calliehart.com/


February 27, 2021

Happy Weekend! It's been a while since I've scoured through Amazon looking for deals to share. I hope something here makes your reading soul smile :) All books are under $2 (at the time of this post) For more sales & freebies (because they might still be on sale or free), CLICK HERE and Happy Hunting!

Her Sexiest Mistake by Jill Shalvis // Review

February 24, 2021

Her Sexiest Mistake by Jill Shalvis

He wasn't going to be scared off, as she might have been. He wasn't going to do anything but accept her. The realization was like a breath of fresh air.

Her Sexiest Mistake by Jill Shalvis

Her Sexiest Mistake by Jill Shalvis

Release - November 5, 2013
Genre - Contemporary Romance/one night stand
Multiple POV - 3rd person
Heat Level - 3 out of 5 (semi-descriptive and frequent)
Format/Source - ebook purchase
Length - 324 pages
Publisher - Forever Yours

Trusting the heart is the most sensual risk of all

With a fab career, a salary that keeps her in her favorite designers, and her own condo, Mia Appleby has everything she dreamed of as a poor little girl gazing out the window of her mom's trailer. Her old life is completely gone. That is until she has a one-night stand with her handsome new neighbor, Kevin McNight. She ends it before she totally falls for him. But Kevin isn't like other men and won't let Mia off that easy. And neither will her runaway Goth niece, Hope, who inconveniently shows up at her doorstep with hopes for a new life. Now, Mia must keep her new fan club at a safe distance-before they burst her fairytale facade.


I love when an introduction to a new-to-me author gives me a winner of a story!

It all started with a one night stand. Mia doesn't do repeats and Kevin wants more. She gives him the brush off, he likes her fire. She never goes back and yet, she's constantly finding herself darkening his doorstep. She doesn't do feelings, and yet he evokes in her sensations she can't recognize, much less acknowledge. She can't get enough of him, he can't get enough of her, but there are issues, which only made the story more entertaining.

I didn't like Mia, but I don't think I was supposed to. Initially, she was selfish, self-centered, rude, controlling, and had a huge chip on her shoulder. She covered every vulnerability with a falsehood, her attitude projecting a facade that hid the truth. At first it was a bit off-putting, but once I realized that she needed this in order to protect herself, that she had no idea what it was to have true interpersonal relationships, the ice around my heart for this character began to thaw.

Now Kevin, he was great book boyfriend material. He was patient and kind, sweet and sexy, compassionate and understanding, and for all that he had going for him (such an amazing personality!), of course he was confident, self-assured and charming! Kevin was the greatest part of this story for me and I only wish that he were a bit more assertive when it came to Mia. She walked all over him for the most part and each time he would tell himself 'not again'... Yeah, you guessed it. It would happen again. I wanted him to either stick to his guns by showing her that she couldn't always have her way or give her a bit of a brush off. Tell her no and see how she likes it.

In the end, I really enjoyed this story. I loved the dynamic relationship that developed between Mia, Kevin and Hope. I loved the vulnerability of the characters and the situations they allowed themselves to be in. I loved how this author created a character I could love and hate with the same breath (I'm looking at you, Mia). If this story is what I can come to expect from this author, I'll definitely be reading more :)

With all sorts of wicked thoughts swimming in his gaze, he’d smiled, and she’d involuntarily put a hand to her heart as her pulse leapt.

In turn, his smile had widened and she’d melted on the spot. Clearly, he was a bit of a rebel, a bad boy, which meant he was a man after her own heart, and therein lay the problem.

She didn’t like a man after her heart. She didn’t like anyone to get that close, to get beneath her carefully polished façade. But truth be told, if anyone could have, it would have been one sexy, sharp, smart-mouthed Kevin McKnight.

Oh, she knew his name. First and last. And if she was being honest, she’d never forgotten it.

But this morning, only an hour after she’d left his bed, his bike was gone.

Just as well. After the things she’d said to him, he wouldn’t be smiling at her again, wicked or otherwise. Stinky feet. Snoring.


She’d been really frazzled to lose it so completely if that was the best she could come up with. She really wished he’d just kicked her out at two in the morning when he’d finished with her. And anyway, why hadn’t he been happy she wanted to get away? Weren’t men supposed to like that sort of woman, one who didn’t cling and carry on about relationships?

What was wrong with him?

With a sigh, she drove the freeway with the precision of an air force bomber pilot. The skill was required in LA, especially at nine in the morning in rush-hour traffic. She thought about work and crossed her fingers for the day ahead, as she’d been working her ass off to get the new Anderson account, a hot new national beverage corporation, and she wanted it so bad she could taste it. She’d designed the campaign from start to finish, with the help of a great creative team, of course, and could already see the media and public scooping up everything she dished out.

As the air was already getting warm, she turned on the AC. She listened to traffic and news as she transitioned to the 5 south, and when she got downtown she pulled onto Sixth and into her building’s parking structure.

By the time she entered the thirty-five-story glass-and-steel building that housed the advertising firm where she worked, she was ready. And when she stepped out onto the top floor, she smiled.

Oh, yeah, she had it all: a fabulous career, an office overlooking all of downtown, a beautiful house in the hills—absolutely everything she’d ever dreamed of as “Apple,” sitting in a single-wide and looking out at the neighbors fighting on their porch while her mother and Sugar made plans to devour some man or another.

No one in her life from that time would recognize the woman she’d so carefully become. Sophisticated, elegant. Cool, calm ice.

Just as she’d always wanted.

Gen, the receptionist, waved at her. All around, the office buzzed. Phones rang; people moved, talked, wheeled, and dealed. Mia knew there’d been rumors of layoffs, that the powers-that-be wanted to downsize, but she loved the place this big and crazy and hoped it stayed that way. She strode toward her department. Assistant Tess Reis sat at her cubicle in front of the three offices of ad executives she worked for, her fingers pounding her keyboard, either for the slimeball Ted or the more even-keeled but insanely competitive Margot—Mia’s equals.

Unlike Mia, Tess wasn’t average height. Tess wasn’t average anything. She was a tall, willowy, creamy-skinned twenty-seven-year-old who resembled one hell of an expensive collectable porcelain doll. She could have been a model, should have been a model, except for one thing.

She didn’t like to be the center of attention.

What she did like was organization, a fact that Mia was thankful for every single day of her life since Tess had come into it.

At every turn Tess mothered, bossed, and stuck her nose where it didn’t belong. “Listen,” she said before Mia could even open her mouth. “It’s a good news, bad news sort of day.”

As they were good friends as well as coworkers, Mia trusted Tess as much as she trusted anyone. “Good first.”

At that moment Margot walked up to the desk, sleek and professional in her smart black Chanel suit and blond chignon. Never one to pull punches, she eyeballed Mia while handing Tess a stack of files.

Mia lifted a brow.

“Bee-yotch,” Margot said.

Adrenaline suddenly pumped through Mia. “I got the Anderson account?”

“I’m assuming so, by the huge delivery that came for you this morning.” Margot shook her head. “Damn it. I’ll congratulate you when I can say it without spitting.”

She was so excited she couldn’t hear. “Delivery?”

“A big-ass plant, which I’m sure you’ll kill pronto like all the others.” Turning on her heels, she walked away.

Huh. The world kept spinning on its axis. Behind them a trio of assistants, all twenty-something and young and silly, were tittering over a computer screen. Fifties jazz came out of the sound system, fitting right in with the art deco theme of the office. The office had the scent of hip success and coffee, Mia’s favorite combination.

She felt like yelling Woo hoo! but that seemed rather high school, so she settled for a shit-eating grin instead.

Tess bent down out of sight and came back up with a huge, lush green plant in a beautifully hand-painted clay pot. “Well, now you know the good news. Do you think I should keep the plant out here? You know, to protect it?”

Yeah, yeah, so she’d killed every single plant she’d ever had, not to mention every goldfish…

She’d gotten the Anderson account. Everyone in the free advertising world wanted the Anderson account. She’d fought long and hard—and she’d won.

All around her the carefully controlled chaos continued, and though she’d have liked to burst into song and do the happy dance, she just continued to grin. “This is definitely good,” she said in grand understatement.

Tess laughed and set down the plant to hug Mia.

“Does everyone know?” Mia asked.

Tess’s grin widened as she pulled back. “Oh, yeah.” She shifted close. “It’s said that Dick actually smiled at the news that it landed in-house.”

Dick Sterling was Mia’s boss. “So give me the bad news,” Mia told her. “Not that anything can be bad today.”

Tess’s smile faded. “You’re not going to like it.”

“Never start out with that sentence.”

“Ted is waiting for you in your office.”

Mia’s eye twitched. “What does he want?”

“There’s no telling.”

“Why don’t you tell him that at the moment I’m out of my mind, but he can feel free to leave a message.”

Tess smiled tightly. “He says he has a beef with you, but we both know he really has a beef for you.”

Mia wrinkled her nose. “Don’t, I just ate breakfast.”

“You don’t eat breakfast.”

“Yeah. Damn.” She inhaled deeply and concentrated on the Anderson account. “All right. I can handle him.”

“Like you handled—what’s that guy’s name on twenty-five?”

“Phil.” Mia had gone out with tall and hunky Phil one night after they’d met at a mutual friend’s birthday party. But he’d been a piss-poor kisser, not a promising sign. “I told you, that didn’t work out.”

Tess sighed. An eternal optimist always looking for “the one,” she worried that Mia had commitment issues.

“Speaking of things working out. Did your sweet little old lady neighbor enjoy the cookies I baked yesterday?”

“Uh huh.” Mia reached for her stack of phone messages.

Tess nabbed them first, holding them out of reach.

Mia, knowing what was coming, sighed. “What?”

“Talk to me.”

“Yes, thank you, the cookies worked wonders. Look, I just got the news of the year. Trying to remain excited here.”

“Do you think I can’t tell when you’re lying through your teeth?”

“I am excited.”

“The cookies, Mia.”

“Fine. The cookies were a huge hit,” Mia said with great exaggeration, waggling her fingers for the messages.

“By—let me guess now—a man.”

“Does it matter that they weren’t for the exact neighbor you thought?”

“No, except I would have charged you double if I’d known you were going to use them as a seducing technique.”

“What? Why?”

“Why? Because I made them thinking you were being kind to old ladies. Because I made them so you’d remember to give me a raise next month when I’m due for review. But, damn it, all that’s really going on here is you’re getting laid and I am not.”

“I’m always kind to old ladies, and you know I’m going to recommend you for a raise. It’s well deserved. Except, of course, when you hassle me. And FYI, to get laid, you have to stop waiting for your prince and date.”

“Fine change of subject.” Tess let out a long breath. “Just lay low on any destroying of hearts at the moment, okay? Especially with this impending Ted disaster.”

“It won’t be a disaster.”

“Says Hurricane Heartbreaker Mia Appleby.”

Unconcerned, Mia eyed her messages. “I have a creative team meeting, and then a research review for that last campaign we did for Sorvenson Foods. Busy day, as you know all too well. Can I have my messages now?”

But Tess continued to hold the messages hostage. “Was he cute?”


“Whoever gave you that glow.”

Though Mia appreciated men, she did not sleep with them that often. She had her standards, after all, and besides, being a serial one-night-stander was simply too dangerous in this day and age. Last night had been her first…break, as she thought of it, in a while. “He was gorgeous.” Again she reached for the messages.

“Are you going to see him again? Wait a minute, why would I ask such a stupid question?” Tess smacked her head. “Of course you’re not. You don’t repeat.”

“Unlike some people who shall not be named. I’m not looking for a husband.”

“Good, because you’re not going to find him in the sack.”

“I’ll have you know, Kevin was quite amazing in the sack.”

“Kevin.” Tess nodded. “I’m impressed. You got his name.”

Mia tried to snatch her messages, but Tess hugged them tight. “I’m just worried about you. You never attach. It’s not good for you.”

“I’m attached to you. Though I’d be more attached if you gave me my messages.”

“I’m talking about the person you’re going to grow old with. Get gray hair with. Sit on the porch swing and tell stories about the good old days with.”

“I’m never going to get gray hair, thank you very much. And I don’t like swings. Messages?”

“How could you not like swings? Tell me the truth. You’re not human, right? You grew up in a pod and were placed here on earth when you were twenty-two. Fine. Take your damn messages.” She slapped them into Mia’s hand.

Mia looked at her, amused. “Grew up in a pod?”

“Well, that’s just a guess since you won’t talk about yourself before college. It’s all a big mystery.”

Some of her amusement vanished. “Nothing before matters.”

“Mia.” Now Tess gave her one of those patented maternal expressions, full of worry and concern and, damn it, affection. “Of course it matters, it—”

“Stop. Okay? Just stop. You worry far too much. Thanks for the messages.” Mia grabbed the plant.

“Don’t punish the poor plant!”

Mia just shook her head and headed for her office door, passing by the cubicles of the four members of her creative team, Janice, Tami, Steven, and Dillon. They were all at work on various projects, so she waved and moved on. So she didn’t want to talk about her humble beginnings. So what? No reason to feel that twinge of guilt—no reason at all—just because Tess gave everything of herself, no holding back, whatever Mia needed at all times, including cookies.

Damn it, Ted Stokes was in her office, lounging in her chair as a matter of annoying fact, leaning back, feet up as if he owned the place. Luckily, or maybe unluckily, he’d been blessed with a face that women everywhere thought of as California beautiful. He was strong and tan, and when he smiled he flashed baby blue eyes and a dimple, melting hearts and dampening panties everywhere.

But Mia wasn’t fooled by him. Beneath that fun-loving exterior beat a cold, purposeful heart. She set down the plant and gathered her bitchiness around her like a Gucci coat.

He smiled at her, that I’m-an-asshole smile, which really bit into her superiority over getting the Anderson account.

“Ah, a new plant to kill,” he noted.

She smiled through her teeth. She was going to keep the damn plant alive if it was the last thing she did. “I hope you brought coffee to this unexpected party.”

Ted lifted a steaming mug. His own, of course.

“What do you want, Ted?”

“Interesting question.” He smiled again, batting those long lashes over his baby blues.

She did not smile back.

“You’re a tough nut, Mia. I’m trying to flirt with you, in case you didn’t notice. And don’t say you don’t flirt, because—”

“I don’t flirt in the office. With coworkers.”

“We could be more than coworkers. What do you say?”

“How about never? Does never work for you?”

Jill lives with her family in a small town in the Sierras full of quirky characters (Any resemblance to the quirky characters in her books is mostly coincidental). She does most of her writing on her deck surrounded by more animals than humans. Which is quite astonishing considering she’s a city girl who was plucked from the wilds of L.A. to the wilds of the Sierra’s. Most of her books come from a combination of hard work, cookies, and hot guy pics, and not necessarily in that order.

Jill often travels to reader weekends & conventions where she LOVES getting to meet and hang-out with readers. The only problem being she tends to get lost in her hotels. So if you ever see NYTimes Bestselling author Jill Shalvis roaming the halls, someone please return her immediately.

For more about this author and her books, visit her website: https://www.jillshalvis.com/