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The Executive Decision Box Set: A Bargain of a Book Binge!

Exec Box setI’m very excited to announce that if you like romance with a twist of suspense and a whole lot of sizzle, then you’ll want to grab up your copy of The Executive Decision Box Set now!

The Executive Decisions Box Set includes the first three novels of the trilogy. That’s three full-length novels to heat up your UK summer at 99 pence, or to make you US summer sizzle at $1.54

 

A binge reading extravaganza! Enjoy! 

 

The Executive Decision Box Set is a binge reading must for those who like an intense, fast-paced story with hot romance between characters who are more than up for the task.

An Executive Decision – Book One in The Executive Decision Series

AED new coverOverworked CEO Ellison Thorne has no time for sex, let alone romance. The only answer, at least where his retiring business partner Beverly is concerned, is a no-strings sex clause in her replacement’s contract, designed to make Ellis’ busy life easier – and hotter. But she’s joking, right?

When Dee Henning takes over Beverly’s job, sparks fly between her and Ellis, but work takes priority in driven Dee’s life too. Can one night of passion in a Paris hotel room prove Beverly’s Sex Clause is their secret to success in the boardroom and the bedroom, and what will happen if that private clause becomes public knowledge?

 

Identity Crisis – Book Two in The Executive Decision Series

This romantic suspense novel is recommended to hopeless romantics who know love triumphs over all.

IC new coverTess Delaney is the hottest property in romantic fiction, but the reclusive Tess has a secret – she’s really the alter ego of Garrett Thorne, bad boy brother of business tycoon Ellison Thorne. When Tess is nominated for the Golden Kiss Award, Garrett recruits PR specialist, Kendra Davis, to keep his secret and be Tess for the awards despite their mutual animosity.

Hatred turns to scorching passion, but when Tess is stalked by a rabid fan, an identity crisis is eclipsed by a battle for survival. It seems Tess, the woman who doesn’t exist, just might understand Kendra and Garrett’s hearts better than they do.

 

The Exhibition – Book Three in The Executive Decision Series

TE new coverSuccessful NYC gallery owner, Stacie Emerson, is ex-fiancée to one Thorne brother and ex-wife to the other. Though the three have made peace, Ellison Thorne’s friend, wildlife photographer, Harris Walker, still doesn’t like her. When Stacie convinces Harris to exhibit his work for the opening of her new gallery she never intended to include him in her other more hazardous plans. But when those plans draw the attention of dangerous business tycoon, Terrance Jamison, Harris comes to her aid. In the shadow of a threat only Stacie understands, can she dare let Harris into her life and make room for love?

 

Excerpt from The Exhibition:

Outside someone shouted, ‘Hastings, check the crappers.’

Before Harris knew what hit him, Stacie pulled him into the cubicle at the other end of the row and locked the door behind him talking in a fast whisper. ‘Sorry about this. Not very professional, I know, but I promised to do my best to keep us out of jail, and I’m thinking groping in the ladies’ room’s not what this raid’s all about.’ The words were barely out of her mouth before she launched herself at him lips first. Damn it; he wanted to be mad at her. They were about to go to jail, for fuck sake! But instead of giving her a piece of his mind, he kissed her right back, hard, and felt her yield and open, and his tongue was in heaven sparing with hers, tasting, testing, thrusting. He found himself hoping that the inevitable arrest would wait until after he got his fill of Stacie Emerson, and that could take a while. She felt way better than she had even in his fantasies, and when his badly-behaving hands moved down to cup her magnificent bottom and pull her closer, she returned the favour and gave his ass a good grope. As though that gave him permission to explore, he slid anxious fingers inside her trousers wriggling down past a miniscule thong to cup an impossibly soft, impossibly firm buttock that gave a muscular clench in his hand, forcing her hips forward until she couldn’t possibly miss the press of his appreciative hard-on straining his jeans to get closer to her.

In the hall the noise got louder and the door burst open.

She had just managed a good firm stroke to the front of his trousers that had his full attention and then some, when a heavy-handed knock on the door caused her to yelp, and he nearly fell back onto the commode.

‘All right, you two, tuck it in, and come on out.’

Available from:

eBook:
Amazon UK
Amazon US
Amazon AU
Amazon CA

 

The Executive Decision Trilogy Now Available in a Box Set!

Exec Box setI’m very excited to announce that the entire Executive Decision Trilogy is now available in a box set! An Executive Decision, Identity Crisis & The Exhibition are all three now available in one intense, sizzling, yummy package from Amazon. If you liked Interviewing Wade, you’ll love The Executive Decision Box Set. Go ahead, indulge yourself with the rest of the story, and what a story it is! Here’s your chance to meet the rest of the Pneuma Inc inner circle and indulge in the sometimes funny, sometimes hair-raising, always steamy adventures of Dee & Ellis, Kendra & Garrett, Stacie & Harris as they battle their way to success, happiness and, of course love. The Executive Decision Box Set is a binge reading must for those who like an intense, fast-paced story with hot romance between characters who are more than up for the task.

 

 

 

Here’s what you get:

 

An Executive Decision – Book One in The Executive Decision Series

 

Overworked CEO Ellison Thorne has no time for sex, let alone romance. The only answer, at least where his retiring AED new coverbusiness partner Beverly is concerned, is a no-strings sex clause in her replacement’s contract, designed to make Ellis’
busy life easier – and hotter. But she’s joking, right?

When Dee Henning takes over Beverly’s job, sparks fly between her and Ellis, but work takes priority in driven Dee’s life too. Can one night of passion in a Paris hotel room prove Beverly’s Sex Clause is their secret to success in the boardroom and the bedroom, and what will happen if that private clause becomes public knowledge?

 

Identity Crisis – Book Two in The Executive Decision Series

 

This romantic suspense novel is recommended to hopeless romantics who know love triumphs over all.

IC new coverTess Delaney is the hottest property in romantic fiction, but the reclusive Tess has a secret – she’s really the alter ego of Garrett Thorne, bad boy brother of business tycoon Ellison Thorne. When Tess is nominated for the Golden Kiss Award, Garrett recruits PR specialist, Kendra Davis, to keep his secret and be Tess for the awards despite their mutual animosity.

Hatred turns to scorching passion, but when Tess is stalked by a rabid fan, an identity crisis is eclipsed by a battle for survival. It seems Tess, the woman who doesn’t exist, just might understand Kendra and Garrett’s hearts better than they do.

 

The Exhibition – Book Three in The Executive Decision Series

 

TE new coverSuccessful NYC gallery owner, Stacie Emerson, is ex-fiancée to one Thorne brother and ex-wife to the other. Though the three have made peace, Ellison Thorne’s friend, wildlife photographer, Harris Walker, still doesn’t like her. When Stacie convinces Harris to exhibit his work for the opening of her new gallery she never intended to include him in her other more hazardous plans. But when those plans draw the attention of dangerous business tycoon, Terrance Jamison, Harris comes to her aid. In the shadow of a threat only Stacie understands, can she dare let Harris into her life and make room for love?

 

Buy The Executive Decision Box Set Here:

Amazon US

Amazon UK

 

Excerpt from The Exhibition:

 

Outside someone shouted, ‘Hastings, check the crappers.’

Before Harris knew what hit him, Stacie pulled him into the cubicle at the other end of the row and locked the door behind him talking in a fast whisper. ‘Sorry about this. Not very professional, I know, but I promised to do my best to keep us out of jail, and I’m thinking groping in the ladies’ room’s not what this raid’s all about.’ The words were barely out of her mouth before she launched herself at him lips first. Damn it; he wanted to be mad at her. They were about to go to jail, for fuck sake! But instead of giving her a piece of his mind, he kissed her right back, hard, and felt her yield and open, and his tongue was in heaven sparing with hers, tasting, testing, thrusting. He found himself hoping that the inevitable arrest would wait until after he got his fill of Stacie Emerson, and that could take a while. She felt way better than she had even in his fantasies, and when his badly-behaving hands moved down to cup her magnificent bottom and pull her closer, she returned the favour and gave his ass a good grope. As though that gave him permission to explore, he slid anxious fingers inside her trousers wriggling down past a miniscule thong to cup an impossibly soft, impossibly firm buttock that gave a muscular clench in his hand, forcing her hips forward until she couldn’t possibly miss the press of his appreciative hard-on straining his jeans to get closer to her.
In the hall the noise got louder and the door burst open.

She had just managed a good firm stroke to the front of his trousers that had his full attention and then some, when a heavy-handed knock on the door caused her to yelp, and he nearly fell back onto the commode.
‘All right, you two, tuck it in, and come on out.’

 

 

‘Grace has this amazing knack of creating sexual tension not just through a few pages, but the whole damn book… ending in incredible sex.’ – Midnight Boudoir

 

I Make an Executive Decision to Interview Wade! Chapter 1

Aaaaand! One final Executive Decision on my part to round out the lot! Since Interviewing Wade is hot off the press, and you’ve now gotten a look at Wade’s friend’s and Wade’s world though the first chapters of An Executive Decision, Identity Crisis and The Exhibition, and it’s now time to give you a peek at the opening chapter of Interviewing Wade and give you an introduction to Carla Flannery and Wade Crittenden.

 

Happy Reading!

 

Interviewing Wade_edited-1Interviewing Wade

An Executive Decision follow up novel (Click Here for Book One | Book Two | Book Three)

The Executive Decisions Trilogy may be over, but the story continues. Intrepid reporter, Carla Flannery, wants to interview Wade Crittenden, the secretive creative genius behind Pneuma Inc. But when, against all odds, Wade actually agrees to the interview, Carla suspects ulterior motives.

Carla has made a lot of enemies in her work and when Wade discovers she’s being stalked, he agrees to the interview to keep her close and safe. As the situation turns deadly, lives and hearts are on the line, and the interview reveals far more about both than either ever expected.

 

Chapter 1

Carla Flannery took a large gulp of what that was supposed to be coffee, but she suspected was actually lubricant for heavy machinery. She made a heroic effort to swallow, and then shuddered at the after-bite. The cut on her face stung, but it had stopped bleeding, so she ignored it as she went over her notes on the rescue of Devon Melbourne and the arrest of his kidnappers – well some of his kidnappers, anyway. The police suspected that Rigby Eberhardt was only the flunky but, for whatever reason, he was taking the fall. She had a good rapport with most of the cops at the station, so she would eventually find out. They didn’t trust many reporters, but they trusted her, probably because of her father and her inadvertent association with Wade Crittenden. It actually wasn’t much of an association. For the most part, Wade ignored her. At the best of times he tolerated her – probably because she was Martin Flannery’s daughter. Well, being a good reporter was all about contacts, networking and being able to namedrop when necessary, so if Wade’s name got her into certain inner sanctums, she wasn’t above dropping it.

She glanced down at her watch and then at the closed door of the interrogation room. She knew Wade wasn’t inside, but was pretty sure he was watching the questioning of Eberhardt from the two-way mirror. She’d seen him go down the hall with Detective Meyers. They’d been back there forever. She’d sent off a quick story to her editor from the scene of the rescue, as soon as she’d gotten over the shakes. Flannery scoops it again, she thought with a smile. She supposed a high-five from Wade was too much to ask, but he’d glared at her like she’d just killed his cat. Still, Wade, and his cat – if he had one – weren’t the issue. Carla had all ready updated her story after she’d talked to the police, and she wanted to talk to Wade for the next update. She knew the night’s rescue and subsequent arrest wouldn’t have happened without Wade’s help, but it wouldn’t have happened without hers either. It hadn’t been her intention to still be in the vacant apartment building when the police raided. She was a journalist, not a cop, and she didn’t make a habit of hanging out at crime scenes – well unless you counted the illegal landfill over by John Day or the warehouse outside Gresham where stolen cars were being cannibalised for parts. And that horrible stalker who tried to kidnap Kendra Davis well it was hardly Carla’s fault that he decided he wanted her to have an exclusive on his creepy brilliance. Wade had played a major part in saving Kendra Davis’s life too, but so had her quick actions. She would hardly go so far as to think of them as a damn good team. He certainly didn’t think of her at all. Not that she wanted him to, of course. Not that she cared what Wade Crittenden thought of her.

Back to the present situation though, the truth was, the police wouldn’t have raided at all if she hadn’t put two and two together, gone to the building and realised what was going on. They wouldn’t have known where Rigby Eberhardt was holding the heir to the Melbourne empire if Carla hadn’t figured it out and called them in. It wasn’t her fault that she got caught out when Eberhardt and his cohort showed up unexpectedly. Then when it became clear that they were getting ready to move Melbourne somewhere else, namely the bottom of the Willamette River in a weighted-down garbage bag, what else could she do but text Wade and the cops from her hiding place in the closet?

She looked at her watch one more time. What the hell was Wade doing? She wanted to make sure he was all right. He was favouring his arm when he came out of the derelict building with the police and Devon Melbourne. No other civilian but Wade Crittenden would have been allowed access. She’d been severely reprimanded by Detective Meyers for her part in the incident – never mind that it was her part that got Devon Melbourne back alive. All she wanted was just a few quotes from Wade before he told her to fuck off, he was busy. That was the man’s standard answer to everyone. Go away, he was busy. He wasn’t known for his social skills, and he certainly hadn’t been happy to see her tonight.

AED_teaserShe nearly choked on the last of the lube-oil coffee as the door to the interrogation room burst open disgorging Detective Meyers, who was joined almost immediately by a very stern-looking Wade Crittenden. She had to do a double take. Wade wasn’t cloaked his usual baggy hoodie. He had given it to Devon Melbourne, who was wearing only a singlet and a pair of shorts when the kidnappers had taken him during his morning run along the river. She had never seen Wade without the baggy jacket, even in the heat of the summer. But Wow! The man clearly did more than just play with computers. He wore a faded black Portland State t-shirt that was not tight, but was definitely not baggy enough to hide broad well-muscled shoulders and that squared, ramrod upper body that had fit written all over it. His left bicep looked as though it might burst from a strip of gauze bandage wrapped carelessly around it several times. God, what the hell did the man do with himself when he wasn’t being Pneuma Inc’s genius nerd? She knew he bowled, but she’d never heard of anyone getting that ripped from bowling. He wore the shirt tucked into a pair of threadbare low-riding Levis settled over scuffed hiking boots that looked well past their sell-by date. And bed head! Wade Crittenden had bed head. His rich brown hair, sorely in need of a cut, had the just up from a romp between the sheets look prissy men moussed and blow-dried to get. But Wade Crittenden didn’t have a fashion-conscious bone in his body and try though she might, she couldn’t keep from thinking of the man just up out of bed. Preferably her bed. Nope, the look was most definitely not dress for success billionaire, and yet Carla couldn’t take her eyes off him, as he bent to talk to Meyers. The detective was a fireplug of a man, several inches shorter than Wade, who she figured to be about 6’2”. She strained to catch what they were saying, but could hear nothing over the hum of the air conditioning.

And then Wade looked up. Her stomach did a summersault, and her face flushed. Damn pale Flannery skin meant that, beneath the freckles, she glowed like a fire engine when she blushed. And why the fuck was she blushing? There was no need to blush. It was just Wade. But as his gaze came to rest on her she felt like a rabbit caught in the headlights of a Mack Truck. He nodded to Meyers and said something else before the detective turned down the hall, but Wade’s eyes never left Carla’s, and the shift of muscle along the square jaw now sporting the stubble of a very long night told her that he wasn’t happy. Her pulse jumped with a little shiver of fear. She’d never seen the man when he wasn’t totally focused on something that wasn’t her. He never got angry, never got happy, never got anything but slightly annoyed at being interrupted from whatever work of genius had his totally tunnel-visioned attention. That had never upset her, since she wasn’t sure any person was actually worth Wade Crittenden’s full attention when he had other things on his mind – which he always did. He’d never done more than offer her an acknowledging glance, and that grudgingly, as though her presence startled him slightly, but not enough to pay any real attention to.

She wiped hands, suddenly gone sweaty, against her own jeans and rose from the orange plastic chair. For a moment he didn’t move, only stood glaring at her so, like any good journalist, she took the initiative. She offered him her best Flannery smile and moved boldly toward him. ‘There you are. I was hoping we’d get a chance to talk. What happened,’ she said, nodding to his arm.

He looked down at is as though he hadn’t actually realised he was wounded, as though he hadn’t realised he had an arm there at all. Said arm was apparently far less obvious to him that it was to her. ‘It’s nothing. Just a scratch.’

‘Detective Brewster said it’s a knife wound, that Eberhardt tried to stab you.’ Even as she said it, her knees felt strangely weak. Knife wounds were often fatal. People died every day from stabbings.

‘It’s nothing,’ he repeated. ‘Eberhard’s not good with a knife.’ His hard gaze returned to her. His eyes weren’t exactly green, but they weren’t hazel either. They reminded her of moss or lichen or some mix of the two.

‘That’s good. I’m glad. I wonder if I could ask you a few questions,’ she ploughed on before he could shove past her and ignore her like he always did. ‘I’ve already talked to the police, but –’

‘What the hell were you doing?’ his voice was so soft, she almost didn’t hear the question.

‘Excuse me.’

‘Why the hell were you there? In the building?’

‘I had a lead from one of Eberhardt’s old school mates, and I … What are you doing? Wade?’

IC_teaserThe man grabbed her forearm in a bruising grip and half marched, half dragged her down the hall and into an empty interrogation room, where he slammed the door behind them and gave her a shove. She stumbled and steadied herself

‘Ouch! What the fuck to you think you’re doing?’ She turned to face him, feeling her cheeks heat up, but her stomach turn to ice at the angry mountain of a man that only a few minutes ago was mild-mannered nerd genius, Wade Crittenden.

‘You could have gotten yourself killed.’ He moved on her, forcing her back until she had to catch herself to keep from falling on top of the small table at the centre of the room.

‘You’re a fine one to talk,’ she said, skirting the table and shoving him with the flat of her hand in the centre of his hard chest. ‘Besides if I hadn’t texted it in, no one would have known Eberhardt was there and Devon Melbourne would be dead by now.’

‘Text it in! I got that. But text it in, Carla!’ He grabbed her by the lapels of her white shirt and gave her a shake that made her teeth rattle. Christ! She had never seen Wade like this before, and she could never remember him calling her by name. She was doubtful that he even knew it. He continued. ‘You don’t have to go into the goddamned building to text us the location.’

‘I wasn’t planning to stay!’ Her words came out high pitched and a lot less indignant that she intended. ‘I didn’t expect Eberhardt to show up while I was investigating.’

‘While you were investigating? While you were investigating!’ With his hands still on her lapels, he walked her backward in an urgent, cockeyed tango until her spine was up against the institution-green of the wall. ‘Christ, Carla, you could have been killed!’ He repeated.

‘I would have left if I could have, goddamn it, and don’t talk to me like I’m some stupid little kid. A man’s alive because of me, because of what I found out. You think I’m gonna stay safely locked up in my little apartment and let a man die because I’m a coward? And you? What about you? You’re not a cop. Eberhardt pulled a knife on you when you should have been back in the Dungeon safely calling the shots over your juiced-up Android.’ This time she gave him an elbow in the solar plexus and the bastard didn’t even budge. ‘I’m doing my job, damn it, Wade. I’m doing my job.’

‘They could have killed you!’ He shook her again. ‘They could have killed you.’ It was only as he brought his hand down to trace the wound along her cheekbone that she realised he was shaking. She barely had time to wonder if he could really be that angry at her before he pushed her again, then pulled her up on her toes, fists still curled in her shirt. And then … and then… he kissed her. Wade Crittenden, the epitome of obliviousness, the man who was always too busy doing important stuff to notice Martin Flannery’s daughter, suddenly had her mouth in a lip-lock that was so vicious and so demanding that if it had been a wrestling move, she would have very happily submitted.

She gave a little yelp that he took full advantage of, his tongue finding its way in to battle hers and to snake over her teeth and her hard pallet. Almost as though her arms had a mind of their own, they went around his neck and curled into fists in the back of his t-shirt. And his hands – well his hands were all over the place. One, fisted in her hair, held her so that there was no taking her mouth away from where he totally controlled it, not that she was very anxious to do so. The other hand slid down low onto her hip and then moved to cup her ass, bringing her up on her toes even further, as though he were trying to drag her up his body, and damned if she wasn’t doing her best to aid his efforts. Then he slid a knee in between hers, for support, she was sure, because her knees had turned to jelly at the first signs of mouth-to-mouth. And he was hot, like sitting too close to a campfire that felt so good you just couldn’t bring yourself to move away from the heat, even though it scorched you. Hard against soft, that was all she could think – that and how good it felt and how surprised she was at the hardness of Wade Crittenden’s body. At some remote control centre in her brain, some bit that had stayed marginally online in the wake of the kiss that would now and forevermore be known as The Kiss, she became aware that some parts of Wade Crittenden were harder than others. There had been major expansion in the general area of his fly, and her efforts to climb him, and his efforts to help her were an attempt to position said hardness for maximum effect.

‘Wade if you’ve got a minute – Oh shit! Sorry!’

TE_teaserIt all happened so fast. Detective Meyers shoved into the interrogation room and was already mid-sentence before he realised there was a very private interrogation going on. Wade jumped back from her as though she had given him an electrical shock, and she bit her tongue to keep from yelping. Whatever Wade said beneath his breath, Carla was certain it wasn’t nice.

‘I’ll be right there, Meyers,’ he said, without taking his eyes off Carla, who just stood there like a lump with her hand against her mouth, breathing like she’d run a marathon. The desperate rise and fall of Wade’s chest helped to keep her eyes above his waist and the fire of anger still in his eyes, kept her from moving until he stepped back and raked her with a gaze that would have scorched metal. ‘Go home, Carla, and don’t try to play dangerous games you don’t understand.’ Then he turned and left her in the interrogation room leaning heavily against the wall, one hand still pressed to her lips, the other clenched in a furious fist at her side. She would have run after him and given him a piece of her mind, but at the moment, she wasn’t entirely sure she could even walk. Come to think of it, she couldn’t imagine walking was too easy for him at the moment either. That at least brought a smirk of satisfaction to her kiss-bruised lips.

 

The Exhibition, Another First Chapter, Another Executive Decisions Novel

Interviewing Wade_edited-1Knowing that everyone is enjoying a long weekend, and for some people that will involve relaxing in the sunshine (provided you’re lucky enough to get some) with a good read, I thought I’d continue on with the spirit of the Interviewing Wade Blog Tour and Giveaway by giving you something to read. It was the first three Executive Decisions novels that led fans to demand Wade’s story. And while Wade is a secondary character in each of those novels, his role is vital and vibrant. So I’ve decided to celebrate the release of Interviewing Wade by sharing the first chapter of each of the first three Executive Decisions novels with you. To date I’ve shared the first chapter of An Executive Decision and Identity Crisis and today I’m sharing the prologue and chapter 1 of The Exhibition

 

Happy Reading!

And be sure to check out all the Interviewing Wade Blog Tour and Giveaway sites and sign up for the Amazon Gift Card by following this link!

  

The ExhibitionThe Exhibition

Book Three of the Executive Decision Trilogy (Click Here for Book One, Book Two, Interviewing Wade)

Successful NYC gallery owner, Stacie Emerson, is ex-fiancée to one Thorne brother and ex-wife to the other. Though the three have made peace, Ellison Thorne’s friend, wildlife photographer, Harris Walker, still doesn’t like her. When Stacie convinces Harris to exhibit his work for the opening of her new gallery she never intended to include him in her other more hazardous plans. But when those plans draw the attention of dangerous business tycoon, Terrance Jamison, Harris comes to her aid. In the shadow of a threat only Stacie understands, can she dare let Harris into her life and make room for love?

 

The Exhibition:

Prologue

What she was about to ask was a terrible thing to ask of a friend. Stacie Emerson had ridden MAX in from Gresham, which had taken forever, but the long ride on public transport gave her time to think about it, to back out and turn the whole event into just two friends meeting for coffee. And then what? Where else could she turn? The two met in Pioneer Square just before the deluge began.

Kendra Davis gave her a fierce hug, and they hurried the few blocks to the coffee shop that looked up onto Raymond Kaskey’s colossal sculpture, Portlandia, which graced the third story of the Portland Building. Just as the downpour got serious, they shoved their way into the cafe and settled into a table near the window with a good view of the sculpture. It had always been one of Stacie’s favourite things about Portland. She never got tired of it, no matter how many times she looked up at Portlandia with her hair caught up in the artist’s imagined breeze, with her strong Amazon body leaning down from on high, trident in one hand while the other arm reached out to the world below. Stacie never got over the urge to lift her arms up to the sculpture in hopes of being drawn into her magnanimous, muscular embrace.

When both women had given Portlandia the homage she so richly deserved, they turned their attention to each other. ‘How’s Garrett?’ Stacie asked.

‘He’s recovering nicely, thanks. He’s a horrible patient though. I practically have to tie him to the bed to get him to rest.’

AED_teaserStacie offered her a wicked smile. ‘Somehow I can’t picture him really minding that too much, you tying him to the bed, I mean.’ Was she mistaken, or did Kendra actually blush? ‘And what about you? How are you doing? I mean recovering from what you’ve been through can’t be an easy task.’ Stacie shivered at the thought of the stalker and what might have happened if Kendra hadn’t been made of sterner stuff than just about anyone she’d ever met.

Kendra looked down at her hands folded around her cup and the smile she offered, though genuine, clearly took some effort. ‘I’m alright. The dreams are coming less and less often, and I’m seeing a psychologist. We both are. I won’t lie; sometimes it’s rough, but we have each other and…’ This time her face broke into a broad, easy smile. ‘God, I can’t get used to saying that … we have each other. It sounds do presumptuous, and yet I love it.’

‘It sounds just perfect,’ Stacie said, giving her arm a squeeze. ‘And you two deserve to be very, very happy together.’

Kendra reached up and patted her hand. ‘You should stop by for dinner some night. I don’t cook, but I’ve discovered Garrett makes a mean bolognaise.’

Stacie offered her a knowing smile. ‘He certainly does. Who do you think taught him how to make it?’ She waved a dismissive hand. ‘But honestly, to see the two of you so happy, I’d come for peanut butter sandwiches.’

‘That I think I could almost manage,’ Kendra said. Then the smile slipped from her face, and she held Stacie in a gaze that was all business. ‘Now that you know how Garrett and I are, I imagine it’s K. Ryde you really need to talk to, or you would have met me at Garrett’s or invited me for a look-see at the progress you’re making at the gallery.’

Kendra was dressed in a white t-shirt, faded jeans and a pair of black ankle boots. Her hair, once again golden-blond, was pulled back in a ponytail and she wore no make-up. No one would have ever imagined her to be the best in her field. In fact only a small handful of people knew anything about the mysterious P.R. guru, K. Ryde, and if they did, they’d certainly never met the legend in person. K. Ryde had worked for Stacie all this time, and it had only been during the horrible incident with the stalker, when K. Ryde was working for Garrett, that she’d actually discovered Ryde’s true identity.

‘When I hired the Ryde Agency,’ Stacie began, ‘it was a long term project, and then, well, then it was all so nebulous. I mean I had no idea who K. Ryde really was, and it didn’t matter. But now,’ she scooted closer to the table and leaned over it. ‘Now it does.’

Kendra laid down the spoon that she’d just used to scoop a mound of cinnamon-dusted foam from her cappuccino into her mouth. ‘Then you’re ready for the next phase.’

Stacie nodded, feeling the tremor of nerves in her belly as she thought about what the next phase would mean. To both of them. ‘And I need to know if I’ve been handed over to the agency or if you’re still in charge. I assume you were in charge.’

Kendra offered her a half-smile. ‘I was always in charge, and your … request intrigued me a lot so I took a personal interest. You’re one of the few clients I kept after I sold the agency, one of the few that I could continue working for on my own without anyone being the wiser for it. And I only did that because it interested me so much.’

‘Even after everything with Dee and Ellis?’ Stacie said. ‘I mean I know you blamed me, and rightfully so.’

Kendra studied her for a moment then nodded slowly. ‘K. Ryde’s business is business, Stacie. My personal feelings didn’t figure into it. K. Ryde never got involved personally … not until Garrett came into the picture, and that was … well that was something I could have never foreseen.’

Love was like that, Stacie thought. She released a shaky breath and wiped sweaty palms on her trousers. ‘I guess I need to know if I’ll be continuing to work with you, now that I’m ready to move forward with … my project, or if I’ll be working with someone I don’t know.’

Again Kendra studied her. ‘Do you want someone to take over?’

Stacie shook her head and stared down into her cup, trying to gather her thoughts. ‘It’s just that, well what happens next … what happens next you probably won’t like, and now that our situation has changed, I’m not sure I like having my friend involved. In fact, what I’m about to ask is a pretty terrible thing to do to a friend, if you want the truth.’

‘Stacie if you want me to hand you over to the agency, all you have to do is ask. But …’

‘But no one else could handle it like you could, if they could handle it at all, right?’

Kendra didn’t answer. She only held Stacie’s gaze.

‘I know that, and yet I also know what it’ll mean.’ Stacie looked out at the sculpture with its outstretched hand as though somehow it would offer her an easy answer for what she knew was ahead of her. But there were no easy answers. There could be none. She knew that. ‘It’s just that I … Well it’s complicated.’

‘Most of what K. Ryde deals with is complicated, Stacie. That’s why K. Ryde deals with it.’

There was a sudden flash of sunshine through the rainclouds bathing the sculpture in bright light and Stacie blinked back the after image, then turned her gaze back to Kendra, who sat for a second with Portlandia’s features super-imposed onto her own. Then Stacie blinked again and it was Kendra who sat across from her offering a sympathetic smile.

She knew how tough Kendra was, how much fire there was in that slender frame. But she also knew what the woman had already been through, and what she was about to ask her seemed cruel. ‘After everything that’s happened … to you, to Garrett, I don’t know …’

‘Stacie, Garrett and I are both struggling to put what happened with Edge behind us and move on. For me, that means finally being able to have my life back. Oh, I’m not moving back to California.’ She nodded up at the sculpture. ‘Portland is my home and I want to stay here – especially the way things are with Garrett and me now. But I have no intention of not working, and frankly, you know me well enough to know how bored I’d be with anything that wasn’t up to K. Ryde’s usual clientele.’

‘What about Garrett?’

Kendra raised a golden eyebrow. ‘What about Garrett? My love life most definitely doesn’t involve breaking client confidentiality. If you want me to finish what we started, Stacie, I will. In fact, I’ve always had every intention to.’

Stacie gripped her hands in her lap to keep them from shaking. ‘You won’t like it.’

‘Tell me, and let me decide,’ Kendra said.

Forty-five minutes and two more lattes and a Diet Pepsi later, Kendra blew out a sharp breath and scrubbed a hand over her face. ‘You’re right. I don’t like it.’

Stacie felt her stomach drop and the fear that all of her efforts, everything she had done so far had been for nothing threatened to overwhelm her. ‘Then I need to find someone else?’

Kendra shook her head slowly. ‘I didn’t say that. I said I didn’t like it. Besides, you wouldn’t find anyone else who’d do this for you, even if they could.’

‘I don’t want to … I never wanted to put you at risk.’

Kendra reached across the table and took Stacie’s hand in a strong grip. ‘Some things are worth the risk, Sweetie. But this is the last time we meet like this. From now on you only see Kendra Davis in person. K. Ryde will be in touch and inform you of what comes next.’ She squeezed her hand hard. ‘I mean it, Stacie. From this moment on, you’ve never met K. Ryde, and you won’t ever meet him again. Are we clear?’

Stacie squared her shoulders and nodded, unable to speak around the claw of nerves in her chest.

Kendra’s face softened to a warm smile and she released Stacie’s hand with a soft pat. ‘Good. Now the sun’s out and I’m dying for a walk along the river so that I can bore you beyond words with the latest about Garrett and me.’

And really, there was nothing in the whole world Stacie needed more at that moment.

 

Chapter 1

Stacie nearly fell off the chair behind her desk as she jerked to wakefulness. It took her a second to realize she was in her office at the gallery. A quick glance at her watch told her she had maybe a half hour before the workmen arrived. She yawned and stretched then shoved to her feet to open the utilitarian mini blinds. They would soon be replaced with lush spring green drapes at windows that would be flanked by plants from the same nursery that had furnished the greenery for Ellis when he’d opened the Pneuma Building.

IC_teaserEven unfinished as it was, she loved the feel of the place and what she was building it into. Stacie already owned a thriving gallery, and she had every intention of making the new West Coast gallery as successful as the one in New York. Two trips to Japan in as many months and the constant yo-yoing back and forth to New York until she could get her manager there trained and up to speed had pretty much guaranteed that she wasn’t getting enough rest. She was jetlagged as hell, so she tried to make the best of it and get some work done when she couldn’t sleep. That was all to be expected. It was a challenging time. It wouldn’t last forever. But the stress of opening the new gallery meant that the nightmare she had lived through in the early days of the New York gallery was bound to bubble up and kick her unconscious in the butt. It had been a bad dream that had woke her in the wee hours this morning. Even the pep talk she had given herself — that this time was different, that this time she was going in with her eyes open, that this time she knew what she was doing — didn’t lull her back to sleep, so here she was.

She glanced around her make-shift office with its folding chair and battered pine desk buried beneath shipping documents for the Japanese part of the exhibition and plans for the completion of the interior of the gallery. In her office, the walls were already painted, the floor was laid. The furniture would be delivered next week, and that included a comfy chair and a sofa for her to doze on when she was jet-lagged. It was coming together, she thought. It was coming together.

Just then her BlackBerry buzzed, and she scrabbled to find it beneath the stack of papers, nearly dropping it in the trash can when she finally unburied it and read the reminder to call Harris Walker. Again. She’d already rescheduled the call three times in the past twenty-four hours because she knew the drill. Either she’d get his voice mail and he wouldn’t return her call or he’d tell her he couldn’t talk right now, but he’d get back to her, and then he wouldn’t. But Harris Walker had no idea just how tenacious she was and how badly she wanted his work for the gallery’s opening exhibition. He’d have to personally tell her to fuck of and die before she would even begin to take the hint. And though Harris Walker didn’t much like her, she knew he was way too nice to tell her to fuck off and die.

The sunshine was just beginning to make a golden path onto the newly laid wood floor, and she had it on good authority that Harris would be up. In fact she had it on good authority that he had spent the past night in a hide photographing great horned owls. Owls slept in the daytime so she figured he’d just be finishing up, but not yet have had time to tuck up in his jammies for a nap. She’d invite him to breakfast. Surely he must be starving after spending the night in the woods. Of course, even if he were, he’d still tell her no. Then she’d invite him for coffee and work her way down from there. Maybe they could compromise on a glass of tepid water in her disaster of an office.

She really didn’t need to refresh her memory on Harris Walker’s work. She had studied his photographs in detail long before she knew him in person, back when she had no reason to believe that when they actually met he wouldn’t like her. But as she pulled up the Wilderness Vanguard Website, she told herself it was to give him time to get back to civilization before she became the unpleasant point in his morning. He was the editor of Wilderness Vanguard, and some of his work was in almost every issue. After she’d looked through the latest edition, she pulled up his own website and flipped through the photo galleries. She flipped past the photos of pristine Cascade scenery, past the photos of birds preening and elk rutting, past the photos of sunsets over the Pacific Ocean and sea lions lolling in the sand near Lincoln City. She even flipped past the gripping photo-diary he had done of his trip to the forests of Valderia with Ellis a few months ago. She flipped instead to the images of mining run-off and erosion-ravaged landscapes, to the photos of landfills, oil-slickened waterways and clear-cuts, to the photos of small dying communities that had lost their livelihood when the lumber industry went belly-up. As she studied them for the hundredth time, she wondered how he did it, how he could revel in such beauty as the Northwest was famous for, then immerse himself in landscapes from hell without somehow damaging his soul. She’d like to ask him if he’d ever consent to at least meet her for coffee.

TE_teaser2She really thought that of Dee Henning’s two best friends, Harris would be the easiest to win over. Stacie knew what men saw when they looked at her, and she seldom had to do much more than smile at a man to get his attention. Socially, she wasn’t even close to desperate. She was used to being able to date anyone she wanted whenever she wanted.

And though Harris Walker was definitely the stuff of sex dreams with his broad shoulders and outdoorsy good looks, all she wanted was the man’s photos. It was business, strictly business. At first she thought he simply couldn’t forgive her for her inadvertent role in her and Garrett’s bumbling attempt to get Dee and Ellis together, the attempt that had nearly had the opposite result. But Garrett, he seemed to have forgiven, so she suspected his less than warm feelings toward her had as much to do with her past relationship with Garrett and Ellis as anything. Ex fiancée to one, ex wife to the other. Okay, it wasn’t a shining resume, but she had only been eighteen, for fuck sake, and that horrible mistake had cost her way more than she could have ever imagined.

Anyway, it wasn’t like she was asking Harris to marry her or even to like her. What, could he possibly think she’d try to seduce him? There were at least five other wildlife photographers who were practically begging to be a part of her opening exhibition, but it was Harris she wanted. She flipped back through the pictures of devastation one last time, then grabbed the BlackBerry and pulled up his number.

It rang until it went to voice mail. She rolled her eyes, then put on her sweetest voice and asked him, for the hundredth time, if they could get together to talk about the exhibition. When she hung up, she left a text as well, all the while having visions of the man slapping a restraining order on her. Well, that’s what he’d have to do if he wanted her to give up. She’d beg, bargain and grovel if she had to. She’d try again a little later.

While she made herself coffee in the small kitchenette next to her office, she went down the mental list of questions she’d ask him, just in case today was the day when he actually gave in and returned her call.

Still thinking about the uncooperative Harris Walker, she started a second pot of coffee. The workmen would be here soon and the bakery around the corner would be delivering shortly. She had made special arrangements for a delivery daily as long as the workers were finishing up the gallery. She needed them happy and pleased to do things exactly the way she wanted, and nothing said do it my way quite as nicely as fresh pastries and quality French roast coffee.

That done, she took her own coffee and went back to her desk. She glanced through Harris’s photo galleries again, studying the horrendous detail of some of the scenes of destruction and environmental damage. She took a pen and a small pad of paper and scribbled notes about the ones she hoped to include in her exhibition. While she was at it, she made a note to call the young reporter, Carla Flannery, for more details about the illegal landfill she had uncovered in the John Day area. There was a whole series of photos on Harris’s site from that unfortunate incident.

While jotting down notes, she pulled up Harris’ number and tried again. Still no answer. She left another message and decided to let it go for the day. She could only do so much harassing before she had to give the poor guy a break. She had dinner plans with Dee and Ellis this evening before she took the red-eye to New York, and if he hadn’t gotten back to her by then, she would exercise her option to manipulate and get the two of them to talk to him. He’d probably like her less for it, but since she didn’t know him well enough to know how much less he was still capable of liking her, she supposed she could live with that. The man was just being stubborn. He’d exhibited his work all over the Northwest and beyond. She’d made it clear the proceeds from the exhibition would go to funding the Vigilant Trust, which Wilderness Vanguard and Ellis and his company had been instrumental in starting. The Vigilant Trust was money for reclaiming land that had been damaged and for helping communities that had suffered from job losses. Stacie was proud that her gallery would begin its life supporting such a good cause.

Into her silent reverie, her BlackBerry buzzed the arrival of a text causing her to jump and drop the notepad onto the floor. Maybe this was it then. Maybe Harris Walker was finally getting back to her. Her mind was already racing as she grabbed for it. She had no doubt she could convince him to allow her to exhibit his work if he’d just listen to her. She was sure he’d be intrigued.

She pulled up the text, and all thoughts of the exhibition, all thoughts of Harris Walker, all thoughts of the workmen she could now hear arriving, went out of her head. Her stomach rebelled, and for a second, she thought she would vomit her coffee. But she forced a deep breath, forced herself to calm and focus. After all, this was not unexpected. She had lived in the shadow of this moment for ten years, and she would never be more ready to face it than she was now. She took another deep breath, squared her shoulders and read:

Welcome to the West Coast, Stacie. It’s such a pleasure to have you close once again. Feels like old times. We must meet for drinks and dinner. I’m dying to catch up on all your news. I do hope the gallery renovations are going without a snag. So many unexpected, and expensive, glitches can happen when you’re on a tight deadline.

Yours always,

TJ

The BlackBerry slipped from her hands and disappeared in the mound of papers on her desk as she shoved back the chair and ran for the stairs.

‘What the fuck?’ She heard one of the workmen exclaim, and she nearly ran into Ted, the foreman who was racing up the stairs toward her. He caught her before she could lose her balance. His expression was hard; his voice tightly controlled. ‘Ms Emerson, you’d better come look at this.’

He kept a protective hand under her elbow as he led her into the main exhibition hall, and it was probably a good thing he did. The red paint was splashed over the newly laid wood floor and onto the freshly painted wall where it dried in thick spatters. Oxygen rushed from her lungs and everything else disappeared as the past forced its way into the void. ‘Zoe!’ Stacie could never remember if she had actually called out her friend’s name or if it were only in her head. She was no longer in the vandalized gallery. She was transported back to Zoe’s flat, back to the gunshot that shattered her world, back to the blood on the walls.

‘Everything was locked up just like we left it last night just like always,’ Ted was saying, but the rest of his words were drowned out by the ringing in her ears and the present fell further away.

When she allowed herself to think about that horrible time, it was always with thoughts of what might have been if she could have gotten Zoe away from him, if they could have gone somewhere, somewhere that he couldn’t find them. Strangely it was his scent that permeated all of her memories of him. Every time she had ever been with him it had surrounded her, practically drowned her; when he held her, when he stroked her hair, when he caressed her. He always smelled like the desert, with everything that was dangerous about it. Everything that was poisonous or desolate or sharp angled and deadly seemed to seep through his pores in a way that was both dark and compelling. How was it that something as simple as the way someone smelled could illicit such desire, such hope, such terror, such rage? How was it that the scent of the man was the first thing she remembered about him and the last thing that haunted her in her dreams?

When she came back to herself she was seated on a folding chair and Ted was offering her a glass of water. This is how it all begins, she reminded herself. And this was not the time to be squeamish. It wasn’t as if she hadn’t expected to hear from Terrance Jamison. That was inevitable. It was just that she hadn’t expected to hear from him quite so soon, and she had at least expected a little grace period before the harassing began.

‘Shall I call the police?’ Ted was saying.

She shook her head. ‘No.’ There was a shuffling and a mumble of surprise among the workers. She drank the water down and stood. ‘I know what this is all about, and I don’t have time to go through a police investigation, which will turn up nothing, not if this gallery’s going to open on schedule. How soon can you fix it?’ she asked Ted. Before he could respond, she added. ‘I don’t care how much it costs. I don’t care what it takes. I need it fixed immediately if not sooner.’

Wade_teaser2The foreman looked around at his crew. ‘Alright, I can call in some extra workers, we can arrange for an extra shift, work into the night if we have to, but are you sure you don’t want the police to check this out. This is vandalism, ma’am, and no doubt –’

She cut him off. ‘I know what it is, and I’m sure. Just do whatever it takes. I’ll be in my office if you need me.’ She turned on shaky legs and walked carefully back to the stairs. Already Ted was barking orders and the place erupted into action. Back in her office she forced herself to read the text through one more time and then again. She forced herself to remember, to remember all of it, all that she knew and all that she couldn’t prove, but she knew with a certainty that was unshakeable. She forced herself to remember every detail, every nuance, every injury suffered, and when it felt like a cold, hard stone in the pit of her stomach, she closed the text without answering it.

 

I Make Another Executive Decision

Interviewing WadeKnowing that everyone is gearing up for a long weekend, and for some people that will involve relaxing in the sunshine with a good read, I thought I’d continue on with the spirit of the Interviewing Wade Blog Tour and Giveaway by giving you something to read. It was the first three Executive Decisions novels that led fans to demand Wade’s story. And while Wade is a secondary character in each of those novels, his role is vital and vibrant. I’ve decided to celebrate the release of Interviewing Wade by sharing the first chapter of each of the first three Executive Decisions novels with you, so to begin with, here is chapter 1 from Identity Crisis.

Happy Reading! And be sure to check out all the  Interviewing Wade Blog Tour and Giveaway sites and sign up for the Amazon Gift Card!

Blurb Identity Crisis:

Book Two of the Executive Decision Trilogy (Click Here for Book One , Book ThreeInterviewing Wade)

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:

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
AED_teaser2the 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.

 

TE_teaser2Pale 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.’

IC_teaser2Don 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?’

‘Alright! Damn it!’ The curse was loud enough that Garrett held the BlackBerry away from his ear. ‘Alright.’ 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.’

Wade_teaser2‘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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