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Celebrating The Tutor at 99c/p with Chapter One

 

Totally Bound Publishing’s fab promo of The Tutor at 99c/p is still on through the 4th of May. SOOO! To tease and titillate you — and because who doesn’t like to read a bit of a novel before they decide to sink their teeth in — today I’m giving you the whole first chapter.

So go ahead! Indulge in sizzling spring romance and a sizzling price. A good read is always a bargain.

 

The Tutor Blurb:

Struggling writer, Kelly Blake has a secret life as a sex tutor. Celebrated sculptor and recluse, Alexander ‘Lex’ Valentine, can’t stand to be touched. When he seeks out Kelly’s advice incognito, the results are too hot to handle. When Kelly terminates their sessions due to what she considers her unprofessional behavior, Lex takes a huge risk, revealing his identity to her at a gala exhibition, his first ever public appearance. When Kelly helps the severely haphephobic Lex escape the grope of reporters and paparazzi, rumors fly that the two are engaged, rumors encouraged by well-meaning friends and colleagues. The press feeding frenzy forces Kelly into hiding at Lex’s mansion where he convinces her to be his private tutor just until the press loses interest, and she can go back home. They discover quickly that touch is not essential for sizzling, pulse-pounding intimacy. But intimacy must survive the secrets uncovered as their sessions become more and more personal.

 

 Buy The Tutor Here: 

eBook:
Totally Bound Publishing
Amazon UK
Amazon US
Amazon AU
Amazon CA
Amazon DE
Barnes & Noble
iBooks UK
iBooks US
Google Books
Kobo

Print:
Totally Bound Publishing
Amazon UK
Amazon US

 

 

The Tutor Chapter One:

“Get out! Get the hell out now! Dillon! Dillon, get this bloody woman out of here!” Lex managed to keep his knees locked and his feet under him until the blasted model, robe slung hurriedly around her, clothes and bag bundled in her arms, was out the door and out of his sight. Then he collapsed in a heap, the floor coming up to meet him with a breath-jarring thud—not that he could breathe anyway, not at the moment at least. The room spun around him like a tilt-a-whirl at an amusement park, and his skin slickened with cold sweat. He knew the fucking drill by now, but it never got any easier and never got any better, not even when he was expecting it, and he sure as hell hadn’t been expecting it this time. As he fought back nausea and vertigo and several other little unpleasantries his doctor had slapped labels on so long ago that he couldn’t recall their names, he heard his PA passing the horrid model, who was now blubbering as though she were the injured party, off to V. Officially, V may have been just the housekeeper, but he and Dillon had long contended she was an alien sent from her distant planet to study Earth and see if there was intelligent life. The Valentine House, they joked, was probably not the ideal place to succeed in her mission. Still, the woman had persevered. They figured it was only because of her alien intellect and a sense of humor that allowed her to handle all the insanity with grace and aplomb.

Which was way more than he could manage at the moment, lying with his cheek plastered against the cool slate tiles of his studio, listening to the rush of footsteps and the woman’s nearly hysterical sobs as V—her name was Vida, but they’d always called her V, calmly led her away to someplace where she could change, have something warm to drink and maybe a bit of whatever Cookie had baked that day. After that, she’d be paid well for her traumatic efforts, politely reminded of the non-disclosure agreement she had signed before she came to model for Lex, and sent on her way. She would not be back.

Another treacherous tilting of the floor and a quick spin of the room had Lex praying to the gods of equilibrium and dignity that he could at least manage to keep his breakfast down. Though dignity was already well gone, he thought. Cautiously, he half opened one eye, and got a quick glimpse of a well-polished pair of loafers before he slammed it shut again and

 

decided there was wisdom in holding his fetal position on the studio floor for just a little bit longer. After all, Dillon had seen him in far worse situations.

“You gonna be all right?” Dillon asked softly.

Lex made some non-committal sound at the back of his throat—about all he could manage at the moment. He heard the brisk clip, clip of Dillon’s loafers across the slate, then the sound of running water and the footfalls of his return, and when Lex could smell the spicy dark scent of his PA’s soap, he risked reaching out for the glass of water he knew the man had set down next to him.

“Anything else?” Dillon asked. “Do you need to throw up?”

“No. I’ll be fine,” he said, easing himself ever so carefully into a sitting position, still holding onto the floor with one hand and keeping one eye shut. He took a cautious sip of water. “She touched me,” he managed after he felt confident the water would stay down.

“I gathered,” Dillon said, settling on the floor next to him.

“She came up behind me while I was finishing the sketch. Honestly, I thought she was gone. She was supposed to be gone. Then she—Jesus, Dillon, the next thing I know, she’s all over me, and she was cold, so fucking cold.” For a second he thought he might change his mind about throwing up after all as, with a hard shudder, he recalled the chill of the woman’s bare flesh against him. “And I couldn’t get away from her. I couldn’t get her to leave me alone, and she was cold, she was just so cold.”

“Fuck, bro! I’m so damn sorry,” Dillon said. “I was just outside in the hallway. It all happened so fast.” The studio door was always kept open and, when Lex worked with a model, someone was always close by. But there had never been an incident before, so protocol had gotten lax.

“I mean what the hell? I swear I didn’t do anything to make her think… I mean, I wouldn’t. You know I wouldn’t.”

“I know that, man. I know that. Besides, she knew the rules. They all know the rules before they work with you.” He stood and looked around the room until he found the blanket Lex kept handy for models to wrap up in between sketches and on breaks, then laid it on the floor next to him and plopped back down. Lex pulled it around him with a shiver. Even in early summer, the studio was fairly cool and models were warned ahead of time that Lex preferred to work in an unheated space. “There’s just something about a vulnerable man that

 

sort of gets the female of the species right here.” Dillon tapped his palm against his chest. “Makes ’em want to get all nurturing and rescue-y, you know?”

“I don’t look vulnerable. Do I look vulnerable to you? And I don’t need nurtured or rescued.”

“Trust me,” Dillon said, “you don’t have to be vulnerable for them to see you that way. And let’s face it, there you stand, the long-suffering artist with that mussed hair and just the right amount of stubble, like maybe you just got out of bed, and they start thinking maybe it should be them you just got out of bed with. Hell, bro, I’d be after you myself if I wasn’t your best friend.” He shrugged. “And if you were a little more versatile in your preferences.”

“Too damn bad I’m not, pal. It would sure make my life a whole lot easier.”

“Oh, I doubt it,” Dillon said with a shake of his head. The smile on his face darkened. “I seriously doubt it.”

Dillon knew about complications in relationships. He knew way more than he ever told, Lex was sure. But at least Dillon could have a relationship.

“Is he all right?” There was a clatter of dishes and silver and V blew into the room with a tray loaded down like it was mealtime. “He didn’t throw up, did he?” The two of them always talked about him as though he were their seriously ill patient who had lost all cognitive skills.

“No, he didn’t throw up.” Lex managed a fair imitation of her voice that earned him a jaundiced look, but nothing else. If he didn’t throw up, V fed him. If he did, she waited an hour then fed him. He grudgingly admitted that Dillon and V together knew exactly what he needed and they didn’t let him intimidate them out of it.

“Well then, he needs something warming to ground him. Cookie’s potato leek soup and a nice cup of chamomile tea is just the ticket,” she said, plopping down on the floor next to the two of them.

To his astonishment, she managed not to spill either soup or tea in the process. Once seated, she efficiently poured tea as though they were at the dining room table rather than plunked down on the studio floor discussing his unexpected close encounter with said floor and what should now be done about it.

 

“I’m not hungry.” But he grudgingly spooned up some soup and swallowed it back just to make her leave him alone. He had to admit it tasted pretty damn good, so he had another bite while they went right on talking about him as though he weren’t there.

“Well, I can certainly understand why the poor woman thought he needed a little cuddling,” V said. “Look at how pale he is. He’s the epitome of the suffering artist.” She eyeballed the soup then him with a gesture that needed no words, so he shoveled in more soup. “But I really thought Ms. Philips was a keeper. I thought she understood the ground rules and would abide by them. Poor dear was ever so upset when I left her with Cookie. I’m sure she’ll never do it again.”

“She won’t because she won’t get the chance,” Lex said, this time dropping the spoon back onto the tray with a loud clatter. “I can’t run that risk.” Besides, he didn’t want to try to sketch someone who had seen him so vulnerable, who had seen him…not at his best.

Dillon helped himself to one of the homemade Parmesan bread sticks and spoke around a mouthful. “I’ll start looking for someone else. We always get résumés. Most models would kill for an opportunity to work for him.” There they went again, speaking around him.

“Don’t the two of you have things to do?” he said.

“Not till you finish your soup and drink some of that tea too. It’ll help calm you,” V replied.

He was their boss. He could force the issue, but they both knew he wouldn’t, and he knew that whatever it was they had to do would get done and then some.

“I’ll make sure he finishes, V, darling. Why don’t you go get on with the accounts? I know you’re up to your eyes in it at the moment.”

“Well, if you’re sure.” She shoved her way to her feet with a cracking of joints heartily protesting time spent on the hard floor. “Make sure he doesn’t get up until he’s ready. And make sure he drinks that tea,” she called over her shoulder as she headed for the door. At the last second, she turned and gave him one more look-over, just in case they’d missed something, just in case this time was different than all the other times they’d sat with him until he could function again. Something was different, but he wasn’t about to tell V that.

When they were both sure that the housekeeper was gone, Dillon turned his eagle eye on Lex. “Well?”

 

Lex did his best to focus on the last of the soup, but Dillon had been his best friend for years, long before he was his PA, and he didn’t miss much.

“You had a naked model with a very nice, very natural rack rubbing up against your back before you went ballistic on her then hit the floor.”

“You’re seriously asking me if I got a hard-on from this whole experience?”

“Well, not the whole experience, obviously, but didn’t you, you know, feel something before you felt what you usually feel?”

“Not long enough for it to cancel out the old reliable, if that’s what you were hoping,” Lex said, downing the now tepid tea in a single gulp. He fought back a blush. “Besides, these days it wouldn’t matter if I were doing the accounts for V, I’d still be…uncomfortable. It’s ridiculous,” he said. “If I don’t figure out what the fuck my problem is, and soon, I’m going to have repetitive stress syndrome.” He flexed the fingers of his right hand. “Can’t be all that great for my work either.”

Dillon shot a glance back at the door on the outside chance that V might be eavesdropping, which the woman wasn’t above doing. Then he scooted a little closer, careful not to make any physical contact, and spoke between barely parted lips. “I might have an idea.”

“You might?” Lex shooed the man away from the last breadstick with a snap of the napkin against his wrist, then grabbed it and chomped one end.

“Give me a little time to research it and I’ll get back to you,” he said, rubbing his wrist as if Lex had actually wounded him. Then he rose to his feet and left him to eat the last of his breadstick in peace.

He knew how Dillon was when he had an idea. He was never sure whether to be excited or terrified. He forced his way to his feet and turned his attention back to the half-finished sketch of Sally Philips now lying on the floor next to the overturned easel among a scatter of other sketches. He had given the whole thing a shove when she’d trapped him between the easel and her half-naked body. Even as he shivered at the thought of her cold touch, he felt a tightening in
his jeans.

“Fuck,” he whispered under his breath. He wadded the drawing into a ball and tossed it across the room. Truth was, he’d had a hard-on the whole time he was sketching her, but that was often a part of the creative process. He’d read enough to know that creative energy was

 

very closely linked to sexual energy and libido, but under the circumstances, he had very little outlet but a good jerk-off session. Surely Ms. Philips hadn’t noticed his chub. He never wore anything that might give away his secret when he was working with a model. Surely she hadn’t thought that he was interested. He wasn’t. Even if she had been his type, he had given up hopes of anything resembling a relationship or even a quickie with a stranger in an alley a long time ago. He righted the easel and picked up the sketches, organizing them and placing them back in the pad, careful to extract the ones he’d done of Sally Philips. A setback, indeed. They were nearly done. Only a few more sketches and he’d have been ready to begin work on the sculpture for the new women’s and children’s hospital, but he knew he’d never be able to see sketches of her now without breaking into a cold sweat and feeling slightly nauseated, neither of which was conducive to creative efforts.

 

The Tudor 99p/c: Lex and Kelly’s Story at the Best Price Ever!

 

I’m very excited to announce that the lovely folks at Totally Bound Publishing are doing a fab promo and discount for my novel, The Tutor. They’ve been planning and scheming with me for weeks now to bring The Tutor to you at such a great price and to get the word out about a novel that has a very special place in my heart.

For a whole month, beginning today, all eBook versions of The Tutor will be on sale for 99p/c. During that time there’ll be lots of fun promo going on, lots of insights and sneak peeks into the secret lives — not only of Lex and Kelly, but of the people who love them and the novel itself. As the writer, I have all the inside gossip about Lex and Kelly and the team, and Totally Bound have given me the perfect opportunity to share it with you and entice you to enjoy a different kind of romance.

So go ahead! Indulge in sizzling spring romance and a sizzling price. A good read is always a bargain.

 

The Tutor Blurb:

Struggling writer, Kelly Blake has a secret life as a sex tutor. Celebrated sculptor and recluse, Alexander ‘Lex’ Valentine, can’t stand to be touched. When he seeks out Kelly’s advice incognito, the results are too hot to handle. When Kelly terminates their sessions due to what she considers her unprofessional behavior, Lex takes a huge risk, revealing his identity to her at a gala exhibition, his first ever public appearance. When Kelly helps the severely haphephobic Lex escape the grope of reporters and paparazzi, rumors fly that the two are engaged, rumors encouraged by well-meaning friends and colleagues. The press feeding frenzy forces Kelly into hiding at Lex’s mansion where he convinces her to be his private tutor just until the press loses interest, and she can go back home. They discover quickly that touch is not essential for sizzling, pulse-pounding intimacy. But intimacy must survive the secrets uncovered as their sessions become more and more personal.

 

 

The Tutor Excerpt – What Does it Feel Like?

“Look I don’t expect you to deal with what a fucked up mess I am. I realized that what I really want to know is what it
feels like, what you feel like, what any woman feels like when she’s with a man, or even when she touches herself, and I have no one I would feel comfortable asking without wondering the whole time if they thought that by my asking I had given them permission to try and fix me. Does that make any sense?”

 

She had little time to do more than nod before he continued. “Oh I’ve watched enough porn that I get that it feels really good. I’ve read enough erotica to get some picture of how it’s supposed to be, but my take on it’s always one-sided,” he raised his hand and wiggled his fingers as though to demonstrate. “I can’t know anything but my own touch, certainly I can’t feel anything else, so I want you to tell me. I want you to answer my questions. I want you to tell me what I would feel if I touched you, what you would feel if I touched you. As for what I would feel if you touched me, well,” he shrugged and offered her a smile that seemed slightly forced, “for that I’ll just have to use my imagination.”

 

She took a deep breath, as though she were about to dive under water. “Okay, well, I’ll start with my lips because lovers often start there. I would have made sure they were moist for you before you kissed them, but not so wet as to be off-putting, and you would have done the same. And your first kisses would be tentative, if you’re really good, almost like a feather lighting against my mouth softly and repeatedly until I’m breathless for the want of more; and then I would part my lips to give you more surface area so that we could feel each other better.” She chuckled softly as she realized they’d both raised their fingers to their mouths. “And then we would both press harder and rub harder. The more surface area we touched the more we’d want and, I think lips swell, not just from the pressure, but in an effort to create that surface area, and when they can swell no more, when I feel like I want to completely take my lover into my mouth, then I would open to him and there would be a whole new surface area, wet and slick and warm, there would be a whole new motion when our tongues discover each other. I think a kiss reflects what happens in penetrative sex. It’s sort of an intimation, if you will,” her gaze locked on him, and for the first time she noticed just how blue his eyes were, “a promise of things to come.”

 

“Yes,” he whispered. “I’ve thought of that in my art. I’ve thought of the interchange we make with mouths and cocks and vaginas.” He struggles with the last word

 

“It’s okay to call it a pussy or a cunt or whatever works for you.” She said.

 

He laughed softly. “How the hell would I know?”

 

“Well,” she stretched out on the countertop and rolled onto her side, resting her head on her hand. “you just have to try
them out and see how they fit your mouth.”

 

This time they both laughed. “If they fit my mouth, I wouldn’t have to worry about what words I used, would I?”

 

“Good point,” she said.

 

“Not quite, but getting there fast, thank you.” Again, they both laughed, a strangely relaxed laugh under the bizarre circumstances.

 

“The thing is,” she said, rolling onto her back and staring up at the long rack of copper bottom pans above her head, “words are often as important in sex, and as erotic, as touch. I write in my other life, and I find that while some of my characters get turned on by waxing poetic between the sheets, others get hot by talking dirty.”

 

“How does your cunt feel when some fucker talks dirty to you,” he said, though not without a hearty blush.

 

“That would depend on the fucker and the circumstances and how badly I wanted to ride his cock.”

 

“And if it was a fucker whose cock you really wanted to ride, a fucker who was hard and heavy for you? What words would he use, and what response would he elicit?

 

“It wouldn’t hurt for him to observe out loud what he sees about my body’s state of arousal, and how he admires it.”

 

“You mean like how lovely your breasts are when your nipples are so taut that even your areola are visible through that shirt, which I imagine feels like a caress every time you inhale. You mean like the way your lips are parted and moist. You’ve not completely shut your mouth for the past five minutes, the way you rock your hips, almost but not quite secretly, and grind you bottom against the countertop. Is that what you mean?”

 

“Jesus! We shouldn’t be doing this.” She sat bolt upright on the surface and then froze as though someone had hit the pause button. “Alex?”

 

The man perched on the edge of the counter, just far enough away that she couldn’t easily touch him. He had kicked his
shoes off and his own nipples peaked to bullet points through his white polo shirt. That would have been enough to hold her attention indefinitely had it not been for the heel of his hand stroking the very obvious, very anxious erection through his jeans.

 

It was all right. It was fine, she told herself. She’d had more than a few occasions where her job involved watching and coaching someone while they masturbated. This was just her job. That’s all.

 

“It’s more obvious with me what I feel,” he said, raking her body with a hooded gaze. “And your nipples, well you could just be cold. Please tell me what you feel when you see me like this, when we talk like this.”

 

She moved to the edge of the counter giving him space, then motioned him onto it and she opened her leg. “If I weren’t wearing trousers, if you could see my panties, you’d know that I’m wet.” She nodded to his erection. “You’d know that the thought of what you’re doing, the sight of how your body is responding to mine, is making me wetter.” She cupped her breasts in turn, through the white blouse. “Every part of me feels heavy, Alex. My breasts feel like my bra can no longer contain them. My nipples ache. And my lips,” she touched her mouth, and then, holding his gaze, moved her hand down to rest on the crotch of her trousers. “My lips are swollen, so swollen and slippery and ready to be penetrated.” She nodded first to his mouth and then to his erection. “Do I want the fucker to give it to me hard and deep in my cunt? What do you think?”

 

“Oh God,” he managed. Then he stopped talking altogether. His breath came in tight little grunts and gasps as he
moved against his hand, holding her in his gaze as surely as if he held her in his embrace; and it was in that instant, the instant she slid her hand down the front of her trousers and into her panties an action he mirrored, that she knew neither of them would make it out of here intact. She wanted to run, but she didn’t. She wanted to take off her clothes
and feel his gaze all over her body, but she didn’t. She wanted to demand that he strip for her, that he come just for her eyes, but she didn’t. She couldn’t. She could only cup and grope her breasts until they hurt. She could only stroke herself while she watched him do the same.

 

The space around them crackled with their energy, and their desperate efforts to breathe were the only sounds beyond the stroke of skin against fabric. In a hungry attempt at relief, they both rocked and bucked, mirror images of each other with one hand down the front of their trousers while the other groped and cupped and tweaked and pinched whatever part of their anatomy it came in contact with. Then breathing stopped, time stopped. Everything around them disappeared until they saw nothing but each other, locked in each other’s gaze, more physical than any embrace Kelly had ever felt, and it was enough. Heaven help them, it was enough. He came first by a split second, roaring like a wounded lion, arching back until she feared he’d either break his neck or fall off the counter. But the sight of him so vulnerable in his passion, the fact that even in his release, he kept his eyes on her was all she could handle, and she convulsed against her own hand, convulsed as though she would break apart, never taking her eyes off him, never breaking that connection.

 

Buy The Tutor Here:

eBook:
Totally Bound Publishing
Amazon UK
Amazon US
Amazon AU
Amazon CA
Amazon DE
Barnes & Noble
iBooks UK
iBooks US
Google Books
Kobo

Print:
Totally Bound Publishing
Amazon UK
Amazon US

 

Reviews:

The Romance Review“I was amazed at how well the author fanned the flames without the characters even touching. From well-detailed interactions to the steamy interludes, this is a story that is blazing hot.” 5 out of 5, The Romance Reviews

“Between helping each other, find themselves, exposing secrets and of course, some seriously steamy steamy situations, I fell hard for these characters. It’s really hard not to. Each one has their own secrets and darkness, but they learn from each other and feed off that. As much as this book is steamy and sexual, it’s just as emotionally driven. Yes, I shed a few tears, but they were happy ones.” 4 out of 5, The Jeep Diva

“This was a very different take on an erotic romance. I really enjoyed this story. The banter between Kelly and Lex was fun and interesting. Even without touching this book sizzles. The pacing was pretty fast. I don’t think I put the book down until I finished the story. Yes I loved the HEA ending. I also enjoyed the detailed character development and how the past events were slowly revealed.” 5 out of 5, Alpha Book Club

 

British Bad Boys Teaser: In Training

 

 

I’m very happy to give you a little sneak preview of In Training, my contribution to the British Bad Boys Box Set. I’m elated to take you all back to my favourite place, The English Lake District, to have a sweaty, outdoorsy, fun romp with Lauren Michaels and Wolf Jennings. the British Bad Boys Box Set comes out in May. But you can preorder yours now for only 99c/p.

Enjoy the excerpt.

 

British Bad Boys Box Set Blurb:

Indulge yourself with this boxed set of stories written by bestselling and award-winning British romance authors. No one knows British bad boys better than they do!

Come and spend time with a dirty-talking London tattoo artist, a Scottish bad boy, a British gangster who won’t take no for an answer, and MORE! These men are all hotter than hell and have accents to die for. Whatever your desire, you’ll find it within these pages.

Packed full of brand new standalone, steamy stories with no cliff-hangers. With happily-ever-afters guaranteed, you won’t want to miss out on this limited collection, available for a short time only!

 

In Training Blurb:

Getting fit on reality TV is PR guru, Lauren Michael’s, brainchild for gym equipment and fitness company Physicality, Inc. The brilliant PR stunt involves one brave volunteer who wants to be fit badly enough to submit to the not so tender training techniques of personal trainer, Wolf Jennings, whose successful, but non-conventional, methods would make a drill sergeant look like a fluff ball. But when CEO and owner of Physicality, Inc, Claire Amos, decides her PR ace in the hole needs to walk the talk , Lauren finds herself between a kettle bell and a hard place … er a hard trainer. That’s nightmare enough, but for six weeks, 24/7 the explosive chemistry between the two will be sweated out live on camera for the whole world to see. What could possibly go wrong?

 

A Desperate Plea — In Training Excerpt:

“Think Big Brother does the gym, but one on one,” Del Allen said to the camera, as though the folks at home were not quite bright enough to figure that out for themselves. “But I’m wondering, Misty, is there a back-up plan in case Lauren Michaels can’t cut it. She’s a shining example of the walking unfit that plague Britain right now, putting career above marriage and family, above fitness and health. That path seems to have worked for her just fine judging from her kudos in the world of PR and marketing, but this is a whole different ballgame. I’ve seen how Wolf Jennings operates. If I were a betting man, I’m afraid I wouldn’t be putting money on Michaels.”

“Well, Del,” Misty Daniels, his co-presenter offered him a genuinely fake smile. “I wouldn’t be too quick to dismiss Lauren Michaels. Certainly Claire Amos has confidence in her, and I’d be the last person to bet against a horse Amos is backing.”

“Fucking hell. Now I’m a horse. Claire, please reconsider. I wouldn’t bet on me either if I was Allen.”

“Don’t be ridiculous, Lauren. You’re perfect for the job.” Before she could argue, Claire made a loud shushing sound and nodded back to the TV screen built into the plush upholstered wall of the stretch limo transporting them to the Wolf’s Lair, as the place was now being affectionately called.

Lauren glared at the two presenters, who sat in the lounge area of the TV control center. The lounge overlooked the gym, far more intimidating than the presenters, who were now trotting out her less than stellar stats for the world to see, while Lauren racked her sleep-deprived brain for a last minute stay of execution.

It hadn’t been a good night – not that Lauren had expected it to be after tall dark and Northern pulled a runner and left her in a bad way. She would have returned to the pub afterwards and switched from beer to whisky – lots of it, but for the fact that she had to drive back to her hotel, and she didn’t need a hangover when she faced Claire for the walk of shame. Her boss had arrived in Keswick early this morning for the final briefing before she threw Lauren to the wolves, er … just one wolf, actually – Wolf fucking Jennings.

Lauren had been up late checking the applicants who had wanted to be Wolf Jennings’ guinea pig. It hadn’t been difficult to line up several, who promised her they would be packed and ready to take her place at the drop of a hat. That was the easy bit. Figuring out how to convince Claire to give someone else the infamous honour was the real battle. It was down to the wire. This was her last chance to talk Claire down from her hair-brained plan to make Lauren the guinea pig of her own PR campaign. There had to be a way out. That being the case, she’d gone back to her hotel room accompanied by a pint of chocolate fudge brownie ice cream, which she followed up with an order of curry fries from the chippie down the street. In spite of her resolve to make Claire see reason, she couldn’t help feeling like it was her last meal. If she couldn’t make her boss see reason, the next six weeks would low-carb and kale hell.

Claire had the limo pick her up an hour before she was to make her grand appearance at Wolf Jennings’ chamber of horrors. It was another nod to Claire’s sick sense of humour that she wouldn’t allow Lauren to know what trainer would be torturing her until she was on her way to her gym prison.

“Here it is, here it is,” Claire said, giving Lauren a maternal pat on the arm.

On the screen, Misty offered the viewers that smile that said she was about to impart the best gossip. “As you know, Del, Wolf Jenning’s was my personal trainer for over a year, and all I can say is that the man gets results.”

“Sounds like the guy gave her multiples instead of biceps,” Lauren grumped.

Claire replied with a silencing finger to her mauve lips, and Misty continued.

“Here’s a little clip we filmed earlier to introduce you to Wolf Jennings, the man and his methods.

“About this whole thing, Claire, I really don’t think I’m the right person for — ”

Claire silenced her with a loud shush and nodded to the screen. “Just watch, and then we’ll talk.”

She glared at the video through gritty sleep-deprived eyes. In her best cheerleader voice, Misty did the voiceover touting Jenning’s unorthodox, but successful methods, as before and after selfies of some of his clients, all looking svelte and glowing with health, flashed on the screen.

Lauren’s stomach knotted into a tight fist as Misty exclaimed, “while Wolf’s methods might seem harsh, no one can deny that they are effective.”

Then the scene switched to early morning light streaming through Lakeland forest and a dozen people sweating their way through the workout from hell while Misty rattled off Jennings’ qualifications as a trainer, which meant nothing to Lauren. On camera, a middle-aged man grunted through something that made him look like an overgrown frog hopping across the grass, and Lauren wondered how it had all gone so wrong. The PR campaign she had created was genius. It was a simple but elegant plan to showcase Physicality, Inc. for the brilliant company that it was. The campaign was all about transformation, it was all about pushing yourself to be the best you could be, about striving toward new levels of fitness. Oh Lauren could talk the talk, but she certainly didn’t walk the walk. Who had time for all that training and planning and eating clean? Of course now that she worked for Physicality, she intended to do all that stuff. Someday. It sure as hell hadn’t been her plan to have it done to her by a fucking drill sergeant of a personal trainer on reality TV!

The plan had been to choose someone, someone grossly unfit, a volunteer who was willing to do what it took to get a hard, fit body, or at least get started down that path as far as six weeks would allow. And certainly there had been no shortage of volunteers, people believing that the extra level of control would be what it would take to finally get them the healthy fit body of their dreams. Just not her!

The close-up of frogman pulled back to a panorama of a dozen people – men and women, in varying stages of fitness. They were all running and jumping and sweating out jumpy-squatty moves along with the weird frog thingy. Instead of curling up and whimpering on the grass, which Lauren was pretty sure she would have done, they were all shouting breathless encouragement to each other. In the midst of all the grunting and huffing, Wolf Jennings yelled, cajoled and egged them on definitely sounding more like a drill sergeant than a personal trainer. The camera was strategically placed behind Jennings so that it looked out over his clients and, at the same time, made it clear that he was working out right along side his clients. He was jumping sweating and bulging and doing it all … shirtless!

“I can’t work out with him,” Lauren gasped, her heart doing a drumroll in her chest. I can’t … I mean he’s so … and I would be so …”

“Of course you can work out with him, Lauren, exactly because he is so … and you are so …” Claire spoke around a smile that was almost too big her face. Yup! Definitely a sick sense of humour, Lauren thought.

The camera zoomed in for a close-up of Wolf Jennings glorious bulging arms and broad shoulders. “There’s nothing wrong with the way I look.” Lauren spoke over the cheerleader, who was now talking fitness jargon that meant nothing to her.

“Of course there’s nothing wrong with the way you look,” Claire replied smiling up at Jennings’ tight arse well presented in athletic shorts. “Believe me, I would be the last person to ever base anyone’s employment on looks rather than skills, and you’ve got the skills or you wouldn’t have the job. But that’s not the point.” She waved a very well muscled arm at the image of Jennings glorious backside as he effortlessly pumped out some more jumpy- squatty thingies. “You’re the brains and Wolf’s the brawn. With both of you comfortable on camera, you’re Physicality’s dream team. But at a more practical level, hon, I thought you were going to have a heart attack before we made it up three flights of stairs when the elevator was down a few weeks back. I need you. I can’t have you dying on me.”

“I was carrying a heavy computer bag,” Lauren said, unable to hide the blush at being called on her lack of stamina. “Besides, I think I might have just been fighting off a cold,” she lied.

Claire gave her the evil eye. “You work for Physicality now, full time, and this new PR campaign is bloody genius, but it’ll be even more so if the world can see that Physicality’s people are walking the talk.”

Claire’s phone blared out Flight of the Valkyries over Jennings’ barked instructions to his tortured clients. “Speaking of the devil,” she said nodding to Jennings’ arse on the screen as she answered her device. “Wolf, darling! We were just watching your lovely video, Lauren and I.” She winked at Lauren, whose stomach suddenly felt like it was in free fall. “Here, Sweetie, let me put you on speaker so I can introduce you two,” she said just as the Wolf Jennings on screen yelled for his people to clench those gluts until they felt the love.

And suddenly it was like that slow motion scene in a horror film, just before the pretty young innocent is shredded by Freddy Kreuger or pursued by the monster from the feted swamp. Wolf Jennings turned to gaze at the camera from beneath hooded lids that revealed familiar blue eyes. He offered a smile that was damn near erotic. Then he said in a
very northern accent, “If you do your part, I guarantee I’ll get you there.”

As the music came up and the credits rolled, Lauren sat frozen to the spot, just like all those poor women in the films. She didn’t scream, though she felt like it. Instead she managed in a shaky voice, “I can’t work with him.”

“I can’t work with her.” The response on the other end of the phone was simultaneous. The familiar voice was honey and heat and frustration. Then he continued, sounding at least as breathless as he had on his video, as he had when he got up close and personal with her in the garden behind the pub. “There been some mistake, Claire. I can’t work with her. We can’t work together.”

 

Coming 4th May – Pre-order now at just 99c/p

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Shameless Selfie: Identity Crisis

 

We’ve all had the experience, when you get well and properly stuck into a good book. When the experience becomes far more than just reading. It becomes an obsession. It becomes an experience. In so many ways it feels like you’re right there with the characters on the pages. Time goes completely away when we spend time with our favourite authors in their latest novels. And who hasn’t wondered about those mysterious people inn the shadows behind the computer screen tap, tapping away at the stories we love. What are they really like? What really inspires them? How can they write such amazing stories. I don’t know about you, but I have fantasies about what my favourite writers must be like, about fan-girling majorly with them one-on-one.

But what happens when you find out your fave author isn’t the person you thought they were, but in fact they’re exactly the person who irritates you most, and they need your help. Identity Crisis is the second of the Executive Decision novels and a case of way more secret identities than can truly be kept secret for very long. Here’s sizzling except, in which Garret and Kendra go for an unexpected swim.

 

Identity Crisis: Book Two of the Executive Decision Trilogy (Click Here for Book One | Book Three)

 

 

 

PR rep extraordinaire, Kendra Davis, is elated when she gets the chance to work for her hero, reclusive, romance novelist, Tess Delaney. Her elation is short-lived when she discovers that Tess is none other than Garrett Thorne, the bad-boy brother of business tycoon and eco-warrior, Ellison Thorne, who is engaged to her best friend, Dee Henning. Kendra blames Garrett for the comedy of errors that nearly destroyed their relationship. Garrett doesn’t like Kendra either, but he’s desperate. His alter-ego, Tess has been nominated for the prestigious Golden Kiss Award. No one knows who Tess really is, and he needs Kendra to play Tess for the awards.

When Tess is stalked by a rabid fan, the two unite to protect her identity. With Kendra, the body and Garrett the soul of Tess Delaney, is there room in this strange ménage for romance? Can a woman who doesn’t exist understand their hearts even better than they do?

 

 

 

An Unexpected Swim — Identity Crisis Excerpt:

 

‘You look poorly slept with’ Ellis said, giving Garrett a hard slap on the back.

‘Can’t say the same about you,’ Garrett said. ‘Either one of you.’ He gave Dee a hug and took the bottle of Sam Adams his brother offered him. He leaned back against the deck railing, glancing out over the golden mid-day glow of the Water Hole, as Harris’s little private lake had been dubbed.

Stacie came to his side. ‘It’s friendlier on this half of the deck,’ she said nodding over to where Harris and Kendra huddled around the grill with Wade Crittenden. Ellis and Dee’s secretaries and their spouses along with several other people Garrett didn’t know, people he figured were friends of Dees milled around down by the water.

‘Give them some time,’ Dee said, following her gaze. ‘They’ll warm to you.’

Garrett’s gaze came to rest on Kendra Davis dressed in a baby-blue bikini top and a pair of shorts that made her legs look like they went on forever before they joined her luscious bottom up under what he could imagine was nice soft cotton. Damn, it would be easier to dislike the woman if she didn’t look so good. Garrett’s jaw still ached in muscle memory when he recalled the hard slap she had given him down in Wade’s office back on the day when no one was really sure what would happen between Ellis and Dee and everyone was waiting and nail-biting to see how the two would deal with the sharks of the press waiting to accuse Ellis of sexual harassment. Falsely accuse, of course, but that never stopped them. Garrett still felt awful about the role he and Stacie had inadvertently played in that nightmare. One more item to add to his guilt list where his relationship with his brother was concerned. Dee and Ellis had forgiven them, and it was clear all was well in paradise, but Dee’s friends didn’t seem nearly so willing to forgive and forget. In spite of being closer to his brother than he’d been in a very long time, he still wished there was a way to make things up to him and Dee.

He watched as Kendra put her arms around Harris from behind and gave him a tight squeeze from where he leaned over the grill, tongs in hand. He’d been told they were just friends, but if that wouldn’t make a man stiff, he didn’t know what would. Garrett had given himself a hard-on several times thinking about Kendra Davis’s enthusiastic slap. How pathetic was he? Of course in his fantasies, what followed the slap was a lot more fun for him than what had actually happened. Still, he would have liked it if she at least loathed him a little less.

‘So what’s up, Bro?’

Garrett turned his attention back to Ellis, but before he could say anything, Stacie spoke up. ‘Tess Delaney’s been nominated for the Golden Kiss Award.’

‘Really? That’s fantastic!’ Dee threw her arms around Garrett and gave him a proper bear hug. Ellis had obviously told her about the lesser Thorne brother’s secret life.

Ellis gave him another hard slap on the back. ‘Congrats, Tess. You must be all aflutter.’

Garrett gave a quick glance around to make sure no one else was close enough to overhear.

‘So,’ Ellis continued. ‘If Tess has been nominated for such a big honor, then why do you look like you’ve had an encounter with a freight train?’

‘They want to out him,’ Stacie said, sipping daintily at her Margarita. ‘Tess, I mean.’

‘Shut up, Stacie,’ Garrett said between gritted teeth.

‘Out you, what do you mean out you?’ Ellis asked, and he took the stance Garrett was too familiar with, the one that said he wanted the straight answer and he would have it one way or another.

 

 
Once he was finished with the whole tale and starting on a bottle of something from one of the local micro-breweries he’d never heard of, he was pretty sure he wasn’t happy with the way everyone else who’d just heard his sad little story seemed to be smirking.

‘Why don’t you ask her?’ Stacie nodded to Kendra, who was now engaged in conversation with Wade Crittenden as though he were the most fascinating man in the whole world.

And in spite of himself Garrett couldn’t keep from offering her an admiring glance.

Ellis laughed. ‘Not sure he could survive a date with her, incognito or not.’

Dee elbowed him in the ribs, but even she couldn’t hold back a snigger.

‘All joking aside,’ Dee said, ‘PR is Kendra’s forte and this is sort of a PR task, specialty, no doubt, but still, Tess Delaney needs someone who knows her work really well and is really comfortable around big crowds, someone who could move with the movers and shakers and blend right in. Surely that’s what Tess Delaney would be able to do.

‘Tess Delaney? What’s this about Tess Delaney?’ No one had noticed Kendra until she stood in their midst. Her blond hair slightly wind-blown, her bright eyes at least a couple of shades bluer than the sky, and Garrett so did not want to be thinking about the way she looked.

‘Nothing.’ Garrett gave them all a warning glare, grabbed Stacie by the hand and practically dragged her away. He knew Ellis and Dee would be the epitome of discretion. Stacie he was never too sure about.

‘Apparently Tess Delaney is looking for some specialty PR help,’ Stacie managed over her shoulder before Garrett could drag her away. Damn it, the woman had a big mouth. He was sure she’d done it on purpose.

As he escorted her briskly off the deck, he overheard Kendra ask Ellis, ‘Do you know Tess Delaney?’ But he couldn’t hear his brother’s response because Wade was suddenly asking him how he liked his new house.

 

‘Ellis, do you know Tess Delaney?’ Kendra asked again. ‘If she needs help with PR I’m her girl.’ She lifted her glass in a toast, way more excited about any lead that would give her a chance to meet Tess Delaney than she cared to admit.

Ellis and Dee shot each other a meaningful glance, and whatever the meaning was, Kendra had every intention of getting it out of her friend the first chance she got.

‘I know her, yes.’ Ellis spoke as though he wasn’t overly willing to let the words out of his mouth. ‘I don’t know the details of what she’s looking for, Garrett didn’t exactly say.’

‘Garrett knows her too?’

He shot Dee another glance, then shifted uncomfortably from foot to foot. ‘Better than I do, really. Maybe you should talk to him.’

Talking to Garrett Thorne was not something that Kendra really wanted to do, and for someone who was so good at giving nothing away at the negotiating table, Ellis certainly was not good at keeping his discomfort to himself when it came to talking about romance writers. ‘What is Tess Delaney an ex-lover or something?’ She asked.

Ellis nearly choked on his beer. Dee pounded him on the back and Kendra could tell she was trying hard not to laugh. He shook his head. ‘No, nothing like that. Honestly, she’s much closer to Garrett than she is me. Why don’t you talk to him?’

            She looked over the deck railing to where Garrett was now chatting with Wade. He was the last person she wanted to talk to, but it would be really something to spend time working with Tess Delaney. And the truth was, she was bored with being a lady of leisure. Though she was set for money for a long time to come, even had the funds set aside to buy a house whenever she got round to actually looking for one, a bit of interesting work, a chance to pick the brain of the woman who created such tantalizing tales would be the perfect distraction. She waited until Garrett was alone, down on the dock. He’d stepped aside to answer his cell phone. She’d just catch him when he hung up and ask him a few basic questions, then leave him to his ruminations and that would be that. It couldn’t take too long.

 

‘Now’s not a good time, Don,’ Garrett hissed into the phone. ‘I’m at my brother’s engagement party.’

‘Tell Ellis congratulations for me,’ his publicist said. ‘This’ll only take a minute then you can get right back to the party.’

Garrett gave a gargantuan shrug. ‘What do you want?’

‘I just wanted to let you know that I’ve put it out among some of my close friends and more respected colleagues that Tess Delaney is looking for a PA.’

‘You did what?’

‘Well, I didn’t know what else to call it. I thought I could maybe screen the candidates for you. I also know some folks who have connections with the actors guilds and they may be able to send some possible candidates as well, I mean we have to get on this, Garrett, that is if you’re absolutely sure you won’t just go to the award banquet as yourself.’

‘I already told you, no. Let me do the screening. If this woman is going as my date, I need to at least like her and trust that she knows enough about my work to pull it off.’ Though in all honesty he was finding it very difficult to imagine how he’d ever find someone who would understand Tess Delaney on a level that could convince people she was the woman that lived inside Garrett Thorne’s mind. But then, he wasn’t the one she’d have to convince, was she? She’d just have to convince Tess Delaney’s fans, and writers were often quite different than their loyal fans imagined them to be.

‘I insist.’ He interrupted Don’s list of reasons as to why he should choose the future Tess Delaney rather than Garrett.

There was a moment of silence and for a second Garrett thought they’d lost the connection. ‘Alright then,’ Don spoke at last. ‘I’ll send you the resumes of the candidates. But remember what I told you. She’d better good, or you’re outed. It’s not my call. That’s just the way it is.’

Garrett hung up without saying good-bye. ‘Asshole,’ he growled, as he stuffed the BlackBerry back in his pocket.

‘So tell me about Tess Delaney.’

Garrett jumped. He hadn’t even seen Kendra until she was right on him.

‘Jesus,’ he said. ‘Do you always sneak up on people like that? Were you listening to my conversation?’ The minute he said it he realized his mistake and the phantom burn from her hand to his left cheek flared with a vengeance.

She thrust her hands on her hips and glared at him. ‘I wasn’t sneaking, and why the hell would I be listening to your conversation?’

He thought she was going to turn around and leave, but instead she took a step closer. ‘Ellis just told me that you know Tess Delaney. Is that true?’

‘Why?’ He stepped back dangerously close to the edge of the dock.

‘Well Stacie said she needed some kind of PR help and PR’s my specialty.’

‘She doesn’t need your kind of PR help,’ he said.

‘What the hell’s that supposed to mean? And how would you know anything about PR needs. I’m damn good at what I do, and if anybody could solve her PR problem, I could.’

‘Oh I doubt that,’ he said. Another big mistake.

She took another step closer, folding her arms across her chest, and if looks could kill, he’d have been well dead and buried. ‘Why don’t you let her be the judge of that,’ she said.

‘Trust me on this, you’re not right for the job,’ he said. ‘I know Tess Delaney, and she’s looking for someone way more cooperative than you are.’ Jesus, why the hell couldn’t he keep his mouth shut?

The smile she offered him had no humor in it at all. In fact the curl at the edge of her luscious lips was down-right dangerous. ‘Oh I’m very cooperative with my clients. I promise you Tess Delaney will be very happy my work, and you know why that is, Thorne? It’s because I keep my nose out of other people’s business and do my job, something you wouldn’t know anything about, would you?’

He felt her words like a slap, and yet, even as he was regretting it, he still couldn’t keep his fucking mouth shut. ‘So what are you going to do for Tess Delaney, Huh? Slap her around? Throw your drink at her?’

The words were barely out of his mouth before she gave him a hard shove. He waved his arms wildly, teetering on the edge of the dock, then just before he went over, he grabbed her around the waist, and they both went off the end hitting the mirror bright water of the lake with a huge splash while Ellis and Dee and all the rest of the guests looked on.

 

 

 

 

Available from:

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Print:

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Reviews:

 

risquereviews“Outstanding! Marshall weaves together a wonderful and brilliant story. With so many twists and turns, the author keeps you on your toes from the beginning right up to the very end. What I also loved is that even if you did not read the first book in the series you are not completely lost in this book. Overall, this was a fabulous book! I can’t wait for the next book!” 5 out of 5, Risque Reviews

 

 

“…I enjoyed this book very much, with its fascinating mix of love, hate, passion, violence, mystery and action. The outcome was a page-turner that I whizzed through even faster than its predecessor. Definitely recommended for hot romance fans… I’m now eagerly awaiting book three.” Erotica For All

“A great romance novel with a good out lined concept to keep you turning the pages of this book. Highly recommended to all lovers of Woman’s fiction, Romance with heart thumping passion and a good dash of suspense.” 5 out of 5, Lynelle Clark

“I have absolutely fallen in love with Kendra and Garrett. The tensions in the book perfectly transitions from hate to sexual and finally fear. The emotional highs and lows keep the reader intrigued, and the mystery keeps them hooked. I have been unable to put the book down until the momentous revelation at the end. Just when you think you have it all figured out, Ms. Marshall changes all the rules.” 5 out of 5, Coffee Time Romance

“This book pulled me in and had me on the edge of my seat with all the mystery, suspense, and hot, hot, loving. It was refreshing to read about a very romantic bad boy with a protective streak. I can’t wait for the next book in the series.” 4.5 out of 5, The Jeep Diva

“All in all, I found Identity Crisis to be one incredible read and cannot wait now to finish off with the third book in The Executive Decision Trilogy, The Exhibition. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes a bit of diverse, hot, steamy reading that will have you clutching the bed sheets for all the right reasons.” 5 out of 5, Blood, Lust and Erotica

 

Shameless Selfie: Identity Crisis

 

 

 

We writers are never quite what we appear to be, and we don’t have to be because we can hide behind our computers
and create the world any way we like it. That means, however sometimes our readers expect us to be one thing when we’re really something else. Most writers of erotica and erotic romance get asked on a regular basis whether or not we do the things we right about. But poor Garrett Thorne, is really nothing like his readers think he is. They all think he is a woman — celebrated romance novelist, Tess Delaney. Just how far will Garrett go to keep Tess’s identity a secret? Enjoy the first chapter of Identity Crisis, book 2 of the Executive Decisions Series.

 

 

 

Blurb Identity Crisis:

Book Two of the Executive Decision Trilogy (Click Here for Book One | Book Three)

PR rep extraordinaire, Kendra Davis, is elated when she gets the chance to work for her hero, reclusive, romance novelist, Tess Delaney. Her elation is short-lived when she discovers that Tess is none other than Garrett Thorne, the bad-boy brother of business tycoon and eco-warrior, Ellison Thorne, who is engaged to her best friend, Dee Henning. Kendra blames Garrett for the comedy of errors that nearly destroyed their relationship. Garrett doesn’t like Kendra either, but he’s desperate. His alter-ego, Tess has been nominated for the prestigious Golden Kiss Award. No one knows who Tess really is, and he needs Kendra to play Tess for the awards.

When Tess is stalked by a rabid fan, the two unite to protect her identity. With Kendra, the body and Garrett the soul of Tess Delaney, is there room in this strange ménage for romance? Can a woman who doesn’t exist understand their hearts even better than they do?

 

 

 

Chapter 1 of Identity Crisis:

‘Excuse me.’ The man sidled in next to Kendra at the bar all casual-like. ‘I couldn’t help noticing you sitting here all by yourself, and I was wondering if I could I buy you a drink?’

Kendra lifted her barely touched rum and Diet Pepsi. ‘Thanks but I already have one,’ she said without looking up from her novel. ‘And I’m not alone.’ She nodded down to her Kindle. She was just getting to the good part. All she wanted the man to do was go away and leave her alone.

Honestly, she was so engrossed in her novel that she thought he’d done just that until he cleared his throat loudly and sat down on the stool next to her. ‘So, whacha reading that has you so enthralled?’

‘Tess Delaney’s latest, Learning the Business.’ She kept reading. Surly eventually he’d figure out she didn’t want to be disturbed. There was a time it would have embarrassed her to say that she was reading a romance novel, but now she didn’t think too much about it, not when it was a Tess Delaney novel.

But apparently the man wasn’t very bright. He scooted slightly closer as though he might read over her shoulder. ‘It must be really good. I mean this is the Boiling Point. Most people don’t come here to read.’

She heaved an irritated sigh and closed her Kindle. ‘Yes the book’s very good. Tess Delaney’s best so far. And no most people don’t come here to read.’ She downed her drink in one go and jammed the Kindle into her bag making no efforts to hide her irritation. It barely registered as she slid off the stool and headed out the door passed the mountain-sized bouncer that the man hadn’t been bad looking. He was in a nice suit like he’d just come from some office somewhere, and if it wasn’t for Tess Delaney, Kendra probably could have had him in the park on that nice little secluded bench behind the shrubbery if she’d wanted to. That would have been a nice kinky beginning to the weekend. That was what she’d come to the Boiling Point for, wasn’t it? She figured she’d dance a little, flirt a little and with a little luck get nicely laid. She hadn’t done that in a while. Was she losing her touch?

She cursed under her breath. Whoever this reclusive Tess Delaney was, her novels were ruining Kendra’s sex life with her damn romance and love and not settling for just having a tumble a handshake. What the hell was the matter with her? A fantasy, that’s all it was, just a fantasy. Nobody really got a happy ever after!

But when the man at the Boiling Point so rudely interrupted her, she’d left Lisa and David with the sexual tension sizzling between them, and she was pretty sure they were going to get laid even if she wasn’t. That being the case, she sure as hell didn’t want to miss out on their fun. She felt like a damned voyeur. She headed out across the park at a quick pace. It was a short walk back to Dee’s. She’d order herself some nice Chinese and curl up with Lisa and David for their boardroom romp. God, what was getting into her? Was she just getting old? Harris never let her forget she was the oldest of the Three Musketeers. By two months, she reminded herself. And Harris was joking. It wasn’t that she wasn’t horny. It wasn’t that she didn’t want to start out the weekend with a sweaty romp with some hot guy. It was just that, well she knew it would never feel like it felt when David and Lisa’s anger gave way to lust and they ended up humping each other’s brains out on the floor of his office. Oh it wasn’t that Tess Delaney didn’t write good love scenes, they were fabulous, in fact, hot and steamy and pulse racing. But that was just it, Tess Delaney wrote love scenes, not sex scenes. Lisa would have never had a one-night stand with some guy she just met at a bar, and David would have never gone looking. There was chemistry, real chemistry in a Tess Delaney novel, and though Kendra seriously doubted if such chemistry, such romantic feelings really existed, Tess Delaney had drawn her in and made her wish like hell that they did.

As she often did, she was house sitting for her best friend, Dee Henning, who had been in New York on business. Well she was probably back home now, but she’d be having a very steamy romp of her own with Ellis Darby over at his place. Against all odds, Dee and Ellis were a couple almost straight from a Tess Delaney novel. In fact, if she didn’t know better, Kendra would swear that Tess Delaney had been hiding in the closet or under Ellis’s desk taking notes for this novel. Wow! If this was what it felt like for Dee and Ellis, if this is what they experienced when they were together, then she was damn-well jealous. She’d never admit it of course. And as the Chinese food arrived and she scrounged in the fridge for the Diet Pepsi Dee always kept on hand for her, she found herself wondering if maybe she should stop reading Tess Delaney novels. It was pretty stupid really. It only made her want what she knew she couldn’t have. Dee was Dee. Dee had a way of pushing through, of never giving up, of never settling until she got what she wanted in the relationship department, or any other department. Sadly, Kendra wasn’t like that. She wasn’t an optimist where love was concerned. She never had been, even as a child. She knew better. But since her return from California, she’d found it really difficult to get back into the clubbing scene. That meant that the only sex Kendra was getting these days was sex for one.

Dee’s two red tabbies, McAlister and O’Kelly, heard the rattling of the bag from the Chinese food and came to investigate. Kendra handed over the bag to the felines and settled onto the floor in front of the coffee table to eat her spring rolls and kung pow chicken with cheap wooden chopsticks.

Just as David and Lisa clawed their way to the mother of all simultaneous orgasms, Kendra’s iPhone rang, and she dropped a spring roll into her lap, then grabbed it up with her fingers while David and Lisa quickly dressed, embarrassed by all the feelings that they shouldn’t be having. It was Harris on the phone.

‘Hi Ken. Surprised I caught you.’ She could hear the concern in his voice. ‘Weren’t you going to the Boiling Point? Are you alright?’

‘Fine,’ she said, ‘I’m fine, just having some Chinese before I head over,’ she lied. ‘What’s up?’

‘Just wondering if you can pick up some extra beer for tomorrow, maybe some soft drinks It’s supposed to be hot. Plus, with the guest list being what it is, well, I don’t want to run out of lubricant.’

‘In that case, better get some hard stuff too,’ she said. Harris, Dee and Kendra had been best friends from high school and that bond had grown stronger during university and beyond. After all those years, they were still the Three Musketeers. Tomorrow Harris was throwing a little bar-B-Q out at his lake cabin, sort of an informal engagement party for Dee and Ellis. She’d work up a lot more enthusiasm for that little soirée if Ellis’s jerk of a brother wasn’t going to be there along with that Stacie chick, with whom it sounded like the two Thorne brothers had quite a history. Kendra liked Ellis. She liked him a lot, and she’d never seen Dee so happy. However, Ellis’s brother and Stacie, well they were both trouble. The two of them had bumbled about until they’d nearly destroyed the relationship between Ellis and Dee before it happened. Though that had not been their intention and they had both been very contrite, Kendra didn’t place much stock in good intentions. It didn’t matter, though, Garret was still Ellis’s brother, and apparently he was coming with Stacie as his date, even though she was his ex-wife. A perfectly good bar-B-Q ruined. But she supposed if Dee and Ellis could forgive the two, she would have to at least try.

After she hung up she made a quick note to herself to pick up drinks and returned her attention to Lisa, who was now coming clean with her best friend about sleeping with her boss.

 

Pale morning light filtered through the bedroom window, illuminating the delicate curve of Amanda’s shoulder and the swell of her breasts, which rose and fell in the even breathing of sleep. For a second he wondered if he were dreaming, but then he reached out and ran a finger along her cheekbone and watched the twitch of muscles and heard the soft moan escape her lips. It was no dream and, as memories of the past night flooded back to him, he wanted her all over again.

 

‘Damn it. It’s not right. It just doesn’t feel right.’ For the third time in the last half hour, Garrett Thorne shoved back the chair from his desk and moved to pace in front of the French doors that led onto the balcony. It had not been a stellar day for writing, and there were deadlines looming. He was prolific. Tess Delaney was prolific. He could whip out the novels almost as fast as his publisher wanted a new one, but for some reason, there was just no flow, no chemistry between Jessie and Amanda, and fuck if he cared, to be honest! The last thing he really wanted to write was another billionaire story. But this one was an oil tycoon in Texas, his editor said. A unique approach, his editor said.

‘Think kinky Dallas all wrapped up in a black and grey book cover,’ Garrett grumbled out loud. ‘Yep, that’s unique alright.’ He’d been joking when he brought up the idea, just joking. But hell, he didn’t have any other ideas at the moment, and that was very unusual for Tess Delaney.

At the moment he just wasn’t thinking like Tess Delaney, that was the problem. He was thinking like Garrett Thorne, and Garrett Thorne wanted to kick back, have a couple of beers in front of the television and … well actually, Garrett Thorne wanted to get laid. But he’d only been in Portland just long enough to get settled into his new house. He didn’t know anyone here, and the truth was, he wasn’t into one-night-stands, and he certainly wasn’t anxious to put his heart out there again after what happened with him and Amy. She’d sent him a free ticket to watch her dance the lead role in Sleeping Beauty in New York, but of course he wouldn’t go. He just couldn’t ride that roller coaster again. Not for the first time, he found himself thinking that if he really were Tess Delaney, if there was such a person, she would just get on with it.

He sat back down at the desk and took a sip of the neglected glass of cabernet. Out of the stack of waste paper he saved up from read-throughs, he took a piece and began to write on the back with a fountain pen.

 

I’ve never really thought about what Tess might look like, other than to notice how deliciously comfortable she is in her own skin. And that makes her outrageously sexy. Tess doesn’t really think much about romance and love and struggles of the heart. She just gets on with it. Tess is more practical that Garrett is. Tess knows that sometimes you just need to get laid, that sometimes you just want it to be easy for a little while.

He chuckled to himself and drained his glass of wine.

Tess isn’t really my secret, so much as I’m hers. She can cover for me, and she does. She knows I’m the twit who wears his heart on his sleeve, and that I write all about it. Tess covers for me in a way that’s far more elegant and natural that I could ever be.

Sometimes I wish she were real. I suppose this is a testament to how neurotic I am, but sometimes I wish she were my lover, tough and strong and comfortable in herself and able to slap me around a bit when I need it. Jesus, what am I writing here, Tess Delaney, Bad-Ass Dom? No denying that thought gets my attention, even if it makes me a bit uncomfortable.

Still, I suppose Tess’s fans see her as far more straight-laced that that. She’s hardly the kind who would fuck the lesser Thorne brother, is she? Though she might beat me into submission from time to time, she’d definitely go for the hero at the end of the day. And when she catches the public eye, she’s the paragon virtue, the teller of tales of the heart. Ah! Tess Delaney! Where the hell are you when I need you?

Beneath it, he scribbled a heart with an arrow through it, then stood to pace again. He was just ready to sit down and try once more with Amanda and Jessie when his BlackBerry rang.

It was his publicist. ‘Damn it, Garrett, don’t you ever read your emails?’

Garrett plopped down at his desk and pulled up his gmail account. ‘Why should I, Don? I can always count on you to call me in a panic if I need to know something.’

Don cursed, not quite under his breath. He’d been Garrett’s publicist long enough not to be required to be polite, and certainly Garrett wasn’t at times … most of the time, actually. ‘Tess Delaney has just been nominated for the Golden Kiss Award.’ He didn’t wait for Garrett’s reply, but ploughed on, as he usually did, trying to get as much said as quickly as possible before Garrett hung up on him. ‘You do know what that means, don’t you? You do know what a big deal that is, what a coup? And if Tess wins, well, it could very well eclipse anything else she’s done up until now, and I’m sure I don’t have to tell you what it would do for sales.’

‘The Golden Kiss? Tess was nominated for the Golden Kiss?’ Garrett almost managed to let the excitement of such an honor sink in before Don was off and ranting again.

‘This year the awards banquet’s in Portland, well that’s right there for you, isn’t it? And frankly, Garrett, your agent, your editor and I, well we all think it’s the perfect opportunity to out Tess Delaney as a local boy gone romantic. And I think –’

‘No!’ Garrett said, feeling as though the bottom had just dropped out of his stomach. ‘There’ll be no outing Tess.’

‘Calm down, Garrett. Don’t hang up. Just listen to me, and I’m sure you’ll agree that it’s well worth considering. Outing Tess Delaney can’t do anything but help sales and if you win , well it would be –’

‘I said no,’ Garrett repeated, no longer listening to Don’s long litany of reasons. ‘I won’t out her, and you can’t make me.
And that’s final.’

He was just ready to hang up when Don said, ‘well, actually, we can. We can make you. Your publisher is riding your editor who’s riding me, and unless you’re dead or dying, Garrett, they want you at that award ceremony. I suppose you could go in drag, but then to be honest, I think you’d make a very ugly woman, and I don’t think you’d be keen on the chest waxing beforehand either.’

‘Goddamn it, Don, I don’t want Tess outed! I’ve told you before, I write better when no one knows, when everyone thinks I’m just Ellison Thorne’s worthless brother. I don’t mind going. But not as Tess. There has to be another way, or I’m warning you there’ll be trouble. You know I don’t have to write for Romancine.’

‘Well, actually you do. You’re under contract for three more novels.’

Garrett gripped his BlackBerry tighter. ‘I can make it miserable for all of us.’

Don’s huff of a sigh into the phone sounded like an explosion. ‘Jesus, Garrett, can’t you ever just do what you’re asked? This is a big deal, the biggest. It’s a huge honor to even be nominated, and it would be the perfect time to let the real Tess Delaney take her bows … his bows rather. Think how it would boost sales?’

‘Sales are already good, Don.’ Garrett made a desperate reach for his wine glass only to discover it empty and the bottle
was still in the kitchen.

‘Good, yes, but this could be better than even you, even Tess, could imagine. Garrett, we’ve thought this out, really thought this out and there’s no logical way for Tess Delaney to make her first live appearance ever without letting the world know that Tess Delaney is really bad boy, Garrett Thorne. It’s like a PR dream-come-true.’

In the kitchen Garrett refilled his glass spilling a trail of wine across the granite counter top before drinking back half the glass. ‘Come on, Don. What if I can’t write when everyone knows I’m Garrett Thorne? Then what? Did you think about that? I mean it’s no secret what a neurotic mess I am, just ask my brother. Don? I can always get another publicist, you know?’

‘All right! Damn it!’ The curse was loud enough that Garrett held the BlackBerry away from his ear. ‘All right.’ There was a long pause, and Garrett was perfectly happy to wait. Tess Delaney books were top sellers, and the mystery of the woman behind them was discuss in more than a few coffee klatches and girls’ nights out. He did have some weight to throw around where the issue of his outage was concerned, and throw it around, he would!

‘Okay, look. The solution is simple, then,’ Don said. ‘Find someone else to be Tess Delaney, I don’t know, an actress, a friend, someone you can trust. Then you go as her date’

Garrett gulped the rest of the wine and emptied the bottle into his glass. ‘You’re kidding, right?’

‘This is not my kidding voice, Garrett. I’m serious. The way I see it, this is your option. You either come as you are and out Tess Delaney as Garrett Thorne or you come as Garrett Thorne, Tess Delaney’s bad boy date. I mean we could get some serious PR mileage off that, Tess Delaney dating Garrett Thorne.’

‘How am I going to pull this off?’ Garrett said, as much to himself as to Don. He was already going down the list of women who might play Tess Delaney. The obvious choice was Stacie, but everyone already knew who Stacie was and

she had a reputation of her own to keep, as well as the fact that she was his ex-wife

‘Not my problem,’ Don was saying. ‘If this is how you want to play it, that’s totally fine, but you’d better find someone and she’d better be good or your ass is outed. I’m sorry, man. They want to break ground by having their big name romance writer be noted as a man. They figure women will eat it up. That’s what Romantacine wants. The way I see it, you hire yourself a Tess Delaney or you come clean. I don’t care which you do, but you have to do one or the other. Think about it. And read your fucking emails, for Chrissake.’ He hung up, leaving Garrett white-knuckling the BlackBerry to his ear.

 
© 2017 K D Grace
The Romance Reviews

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