Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Blog Tour: Devil's Daughter by Lisa Kleypas

Hey y'all! I'm celebrating the recent publication of Devil's Daughter, Lisa Kleypas's latest novel in the Ravenels series. See more below!

About the Book:

Devil's Daughter: The Ravenels meet The Wallflowers by [Kleypas, Lisa]

Devil's Daughter by Lisa Kleypas
Book Five of the Ravenels series
Publisher: Avon Books
Publication Date: February 19, 2019

Official Summary:

Although beautiful young widow Phoebe, Lady Clare, has never met West Ravenel, she knows one thing for certain: he’s a mean, rotten bully. Back in boarding school, he made her late husband’s life a misery, and she’ll never forgive him for it. But when Phoebe attends a family wedding, she encounters a dashing and impossibly charming stranger who sends a fire-and-ice jolt of attraction through her. And then he introduces himself...as none other than West Ravenel.

West is a man with a tarnished past. No apologies, no excuses. However, from the moment he meets Phoebe, West is consumed by irresistible desire...not to mention the bitter awareness that a woman like her is far out of his reach. What West doesn’t bargain on is that Phoebe is no straitlaced aristocratic lady. She’s the daughter of a strong-willed wallflower who long ago eloped with Sebastian, Lord St. Vincent—the most devilishly wicked rake in England.

Before long, Phoebe sets out to seduce the man who has awakened her fiery nature and shown her unimaginable pleasure. Will their overwhelming passion be enough to overcome the obstacles of the past?

Only the devil’s daughter knows…

About the Author:

New York Times bestselling author LISA KLEYPAS graduated from Wellesley College with a political science degree. She is a RITA® Award-winning author of both historical romance and contemporary women's fiction. Her novels are published in twenty-eight different languages and are bestsellers all over the world. She lives in Washington State with her husband Gregory and their two children.

The Excerpt:

“If you have any misguided thoughts about taking me into your bed, you would find it a vastly mediocre experience. I’d be on you like a crazed rabbit, and half a minute later the whole thing would be over. I used to be a proficient lover, but now I’m a burnt-out libertine whose only remaining pleasure is breakfast food. Speaking of which—”

Phoebe reached for him, brought herself up hard against him, and interrupted him with her mouth. West flinched as if scalded and held very still in the manner of a man trying to withstand torture. Undeterred, she wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him as passionately as she could, touching her tongue to his stiff lips. The feel and taste of him was exhilarating. Suddenly he responded with a primitive grunt and his mouth clamped on hers, wringing sensation from her with demanding pressure. Forcing her lips apart, he searched her with his tongue the way she remembered, and it felt so good, she thought she might faint. A whimper rose from her throat, and he licked and bit gently at the sound and sealed their mouths together in a deep, insatiable kiss that involved his lips, breath, hands, body, soul.

Whatever it might be like to go to bed with this man . . . it would be anything but mediocre.

Captionless Image

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Reread Campaign and Giveaway: The Triumphant by Lesley Livingston

Happy Thursday, book fam! Unfortunately I dropped the ball with this post - it's late, but I figured, better late than never. My father passed away unexpectedly on February 16th, and I've not been able to think about my blog since then. So I'm creating this post on February 25th and backdating it. The giveaway is still active!

Check out The Triumphant!

The Triumphant (Valiant, #3)

The Triumphant by Lesley Livingston
Book Three of The Defiant series
Publisher: Razorbill
Publication Date: February 12, 2019

Summary (from Goodreads):

The final book in the Valiant series takes Fallon and her warrior sisters on an epic journey from the corrupt Roman Republic to the wonder of the ancient world: Alexandria, Egypt.

“You are from a world, Fallon, that values honor over everything else. Rome is not that world.”

In the wake of their victorious fight to win back the Ludus Achillea, Fallon and her gladiatrix sisters have become the toast of the Republic. Only for Fallon, glory turns to ashes when she learns that Cai has been stripped of his Decurion rank and declared infamia, cast down to serve as one of Caesar’s gladiators. All because he chose his love for her over the life of his treacherous father during the ludus uprising.

But treachery in Rome runs far deeper than Fallon ever suspected. While she is fighting for Cai’s freedom, the unthinkable happens and the Republic begins to tear itself apart at the seams. In the chaos that follows, the Achillea gladiatrices lose any protection they might have had once and for all. They’re not the only ones. 

When Fallon discovers that Cleopatra is in grave danger, she and her sister Sorcha rally their war band in an attempt to spirit the Queen of Aegypt out of Rome, embarking on a remarkable journey that will take them to Alexandria—the wonder of the ancient world—and beyond. Far beyond. Along the way, Fallon will have to decide where her heart truly lies, as well as what—and who—she is willing to sacrifice to get there.

Check out the series:

The Valiant (The Valiant, #1)  
(Click on the covers to go to Goodreads!)

About the Author:

Lesley Livingston is the author of Once Every Never, winner of the inaugural Copper Cylinder Award and shortlisted for the CLA Young Adult Book Award and the BC Stellar Book Award. She is also the author of the Wondrous Strange and Starling trilogies. She lives in Toronto.

Lesley's Top Five Moments of The Triumphant:

My top five moments while writing The Triumphant... in chronological order! 

First? Getting the gig! I knew I wanted Fallon’s story to be a trilogy and when my fabulous editrix Jessica at Razorbill agreed, I was thrilled. 

Second, sitting down in front of my trusty laptop, opening up a new document and typing the title page. That moment, truthfully, is always a mix of elation, anticipation... and sheer bloody-minded terror. Fun!

Third, writing the ultimate fate of a certain character that I’d known about since well before I’d even started writing the series. 

Fourth: choreography! Or, figuring out that one particular perfect moment in a fight sequence (and that one particular perfect moment in a kissing sequence...)

Fifth... getting to take Fallon and her friends and family (and foes!) all the way to the end of this journey. And knowing that they would have a fantastic loyal war band of readers coming with us along the way!

The Giveaway:

Thanks to Penguin Teen, I've got a paperback copy of The Valiant and The Defiant for one lucky winner! This will be open to USA only. Ends on 02/28, 11:59 PM EST. Good luck!

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Stacking the Shelves (#321)

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews, in which bloggers share the books and swag they've received in the past week!

So, what did I get in the week of Sunday, February 10th to Saturday, February 16th?

In the mail:

Bloodwitch (The Witchlands, #3)  Call It What You Want

YAY, my preorder arrived! And an ARC of Brigid Kemmerer's next book with Bloomsbury. Thank you, Bloomsbury!

That's all I've got for this week! I posted two new giveaways. You can win a hardcover of Bloodwitch (I ended up with several hardcovers!), or a Sightwitch poster. I also posted my New Release Giveaway for February!

(Enter on Instagram!)

Friday, February 15, 2019

February 2019 New Release Giveaway!

Welcome to the February New Release Giveaway Hop! The February New Release Giveaway hop is hosted by It Starts At Midnight and FLYLēF

This month, I'm giving a February '19 book of your choice! Here are some examples:

(You are not limited to these below!)

The Giveaway:

Win a February book of your choice! Winner has 48 hours to respond to my email. The usual Giveaways rules apply.


Thursday, February 14, 2019

Reread Campaign and Giveaway: The Defiant by Lesley Livingston

Happy Thursday, fellow book lovers! It's another reread campaign day, this time for The Defiant! Plus, I've got a giveaway for you!

Check out The Defiant!

The Defiant by Lesley Livingston
Book Two of The Valiant series
Publisher: Razorbill
Publication Date: January 23, 2018

Summary (from Goodreads):

Gladiator Fallon and her warrior sisters must face off against a rival gladiator academy in this lush sequel to the highly anticipated historical fantasy The Valiant.

They call her "Victrix" now. Victory.

But winning the highest honor ever bestowed upon a gladiatrix in Rome has earned Fallon more deadly enemies outside the arena than she ever faced within it. And it is those dearest to Fallon who will pay the price for her success. 

Now, Fallon and her warrior sisters are thrust into a vicious conflict with a rival gladiator academy, one that will threaten not only Fallon's heart - and her love for Roman soldier Cai - but the very heart of the Roman Empire.

Check out the series:

The Valiant (The Valiant, #1)  The Triumphant (Valiant, #3)

About the Author:

Lesley Livingston  is the author of Once Every Never, winner of the inaugural Copper Cylinder Award and shortlisted for the CLA Young Adult Book Award and the BC Stellar Book Award. She is also the author of the Wondrous Strange and Starling trilogies. She lives in Toronto.

My Top Five Moments of The Defiant:

(I'm going to cheat a little... instead of moments, I'm going to list five things I loved about this book!)

5. Female friendships. This is a huge part of the series in general. Feminism is so important, in a bold yet subtle way. Fallon and her gal pals are so fierce!

4. Gladiator battles. I'll admit, some of them got pretty gore-y. Just a heads-up!

3. Secondary characters' romance. Elka and Quint! Love love love.

2. Political intrigue. Betrayals abound! I personally love it when books delve deep into politics, so this was pretty cool, especially given the time period.

1. Caius and Fallon. I SHIP THEM SO HARD! The romance in The Valiant was lovely, and the romance in The Defiant is too. (Also, hurray for no love triangle - not that there was one hinted, but it's always nice when none appears at all.) Read a swoon from The Defiant HERE!

The Giveaway:

Thanks to Penguin Teen, I've got a paperback copy of The Valiant and The Defiant for one lucky winner! This will be open to USA only. Ends on 02/28, 11:59 PM EST. Good luck!

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Waiting on Wednesday (#320): Serpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week, I'm featuring:

Serpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin
Book One of the Serpent & Dove series
Publisher: HarperTeen
Publication Date: September 3, 2019

Summary (from Goodreads):

For her sixteenth birthday, Louise le Blanc’s mother gave her three things: a sacrificial altar, a ritual knife, and a wicked scar.

Lou’s death would have ended the ancient war between the Church and witches, but Lou refuses to become a martyr. Forsaking her coven, she escapes to the gloomy city of Cesarine and hides her magic as a thief in the criminal underworld. But life in Cesarine has its own dangers. Huntsmen roam the city revered as holy men. Witches burn without trial. And the Archbishop, the Church’s austere patriarch, revels in violence.

As a huntsman, Reid Diggory lives by one verse: thou shalt not suffer a witch to live. 

He's devoted his entire life to eradicating the occult and making his surrogate father, the Archbishop, proud. Finally given the chance to capture a witch of his own, Reid is devastated when a foul-mouthed thief thwarts him—and doubly devastated when she too disappears. Hell-bent on bringing her to justice, Reid vows she won't escape again. But when Lou tricks him into public scandal trying to avoid capture, the two are forced into an impossible situation—marriage.

Marriage to a huntsman could provide real protection from the witches—if Lou can convince Reid she isn’t one herself. The secret proves difficult to keep as Lou begins practicing magic in secret within the heart of the Church, determined to prepare for her mother’s inevitable return. As time passes, however, Lou discovers yet another danger lurking: her own growing feelings for her husband. But Reid is still dangerous. He’s just as likely to tie her to the stake as defend her if he learns her true identity. With enemies closing in—and more than her own life at stake—Lou must decide who she can trust before it's too late…and she's not the only one with a secret.

This sounds fantastic! And with a gorgeous cover, no less! I'm excited. =)

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Top Ten Tuesday (38)

Happy Tuesday! Today I've decided to participate in Top Ten Tuesday, formerly hosted by Jamie at The Broke and the Bookish, now hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl.

Today's topic is:

Favorite Couples In Books

Brigan & Fire -- these two will always be my favorite

Jin & Amani -- I love their chemistry!

Rene and Sophia -- one of my favorite hate-to-love romances ever!

Aelyx & Cara -- another great hate-to-love romance!

Fiske & Aelyn -- SUCH a great hate-to-love romance.

Xanthus & Attia -- a beautiful slow-burn romance.

Khalid & Shahrzad -- hate-to-love, slow-burn, combustible romance at its finest.

Jase & Sam -- these two are so cute with such sweet chemistry!

North & Sydelle -- super great hate-to-love, slow-burn romance!

Duval & Ismae -- again, a great hate-to-love, slow-burn romance.

What does this post tell you? That I love hate-to-love, slow-burn romances!

Monday, February 11, 2019

Blog Tour and Giveaway: Romancing His Rival by Jennifer Shirk

Hello, book friends! Happy Monday! (Are Mondays ever happy though?) 

Today, I'm promoting Romancing His Rival by Jennifer Shirk, a new book published by Entangled Publishing! This is new to me, but it looks like the cutest romance novel, and it's perfect for this week. Happy early Valentine's day!

About the Book:

Romancing His Rival by Jennifer Shirk
Book Three of the Accidentally Yours series
Publisher: Entangled Publishing
Publication Date: February 11, 2019

Official Summary:

Hopeless romantic Elena Mason doesn’t often hate people, but she hates her ex-fiancé’s insufferable best man, Lucas Albright III. She just knows Lucas is the one who talked her ex out of getting married—so Lucas is clearly the cause of all her problems. 

And now she’s expected to work with him? Oh, heck no.

Lucas Albright wants nothing more than to make partner at his advertising firm, and he knows he works best alone. But then Elena ends up as his partner on an account that could win him a promotion. He had a great reason to end her engagement, not that she’d ever believe him. Still, he’s willing to try working as a team. 

Unfortunately, his new “partner” wants him dead.

Elena knows she’s going to have to give in and work with her nemesis, though nobody said it had to be easy for him. But what happens when fighting starts feeling a whole lot like falling in love?

Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Entangled | Kobo | iBooks

About the Author:

USA TODAY bestselling author, JENNIFER SHIRK, has a bachelor degree in pharmacy-which has in NO WAY at all helped her with her writing career. But she likes to point it out, since it shows romantic-at-hearts come in all shapes, sizes, and mind-numbing educations. She writes sweet romances (some even funny!) and won third place in the RWA 2006 NYC's Kathryn Hayes Love and Laughter Contest with her first book, The Role of a Lifetime. Recently, her novel Sunny Days for Sam won the 2013 Golden Quill Published Authors Contest for Best Traditional Romance. She's a board member for Straight Ahead Ministries, an organization involved in helping spread the gospel and aiding medical and pharmacy students in Russia. She's also a board member of the Ocean City Library Board of Trustees. She resides in a beach resort in NJ, and when she's not involved in all the above, she's taking care of her most treasured possessions: her husband, daughter, guinea pig (Rocco), puppy (Sox) and four hermit crabs.

The Excerpt:

Chapter One
After dashing through the snow in a three-hour car ride up the mountains with “Feliz Navidad” playing in what seemed like a continuous loop on the radio, Elena Mason was officially done with Christmas.

And it was only December first.

She finally pulled into the condo parking lot, and of course, there were no spots near her unit. The lot was most likely jam-packed with would-be skiers, so she had to park two rows away. Good thing she planned ahead and wore her snow boots.

Her good friend and wedding planner, Arden Roberts, had just organized a wedding for a woman who was on her way to Aruba this week on her honeymoon. In thanks, she had given Arden full access to her condo in the Pennsylvania Pocono Mountains. Arden had meant well, granting Elena the use of the condo because she knew she needed a getaway. Or at least, she’d insisted Elena needed one. Elena wasn’t so sure. Right now, she was ready to just go home.

But then again, she wasn’t the type to look a gift condo in the mouth, so she pulled on her mittens and readied herself for a hike through the snow.

At least Elena had brought her sketch pad to help her relax. Arden had suggested she try ice skating (not likely) or do some skiing (even less likely) or just simply relax to get her mind off her canceled wedding, which would have been December twenty-first (still working on that one).

Seven months and fifteen days ago, her fiancé, Scott, had suddenly called off their wedding. It still tore Elena up to think about it. She and Scott were so good together. She’d been so happy. And why wouldn’t she have been happy? She was finally going to have the kind of perfect marriage her parents had. Scott was handsome, caring, and a financial planner just like her dad had been. He even proposed in the same way her dad had proposed to her mom: on top of the Empire State Building.

Coincidence? She thought not.

Scott was the perfect man. Actually, everything had been perfect. Right down to her dress, reception, and home they were going to buy together. Until the best man—Lucas Albright III—and his big fat opinionated mouth had to go and ruin her life. The cad. If she never saw him again in her lifetime, it’d be way too soon.

Lucas had planted some kind of crazy notion in Scott’s head that she wouldn’t make a good “executive wife.” He trusted Lucas more than anyone, which was why Lucas had Scott all of a sudden questioning their compatibility and then eventually their engagement. So what if she didn’t have a college degree or couldn’t talk finance?

The wind stung her cheeks as she lugged her belongings across the parking lot and up to the icy doorstep. Snow was still falling pretty hard, which made the trek all the more precarious with her hands full. Once she reached the door, she set down her bags and pulled the house keys from her pocket, double-checking the address written on the keychain.

This was the place all right.

Hmm…not bad. But based on the “Happy Easter” wreath adorning the door, she assumed the condo hadn’t been used in quite a while. She prayed the heater worked. Not quite the vacation getaway she or her friends envisioned, but a lot of her money was still tied up in down payments she’d placed for her wedding, so she didn’t have a lot of options as far as vacations went this year. Unfortunately, she still held onto hope that Scott would realize how much he couldn’t live without her, which was why she hadn’t been fighting too hard yet to get her money back.

She took a deep breath then nudged the door open, bracing herself for what she’d find inside. Whew. At least it didn’t smell funky. Tossing her belongings into the foyer, she then shook the snow from her boots before walking into the living room and having a look around. And for the first time in almost eight months, Elena actually wanted to smile.

The place was charming. A large comfy-looking sectional with lots of furry throw pillows filled the sitting area. A wall of windows offered a lovely view of the snow-covered ski slopes and—bonus!—there were two built-in bookshelves overflowing with books. Elena quickly noted a few written by Nora Roberts on the shelf and decided that maybe this little getaway was turning out much better than she’d anticipated.

Before she could check out the other rooms, her cell phone rang and she raced to the foyer to answer it. Maybe Scott has finally changed his mind!
No such luck. But she still smiled when she saw Arden’s picture pop up on the screen.

“Oh, I’m so glad you answered,” Arden rushed out. “Kinsley and I have been worried sick about you traveling in this weather. We heard there’s a winter storm warning in effect.”

Elena unwound the scarf from around her neck as she spoke. “Aw, you two are so sweet. I’m perfectly fine, but it sure is nice to be worried about nowadays.”

Sad, but true. At this point in her life, she’d never felt so alone. With both her parents gone, being an only child, no fiancé, and now the holidays rolling in, getting through the month that should have been her honeymoon was going to be a complete bear. Thank goodness she had her friends.

“Hush, girl. We’re always concerned about you. And not just because of what Scott did. You’re a wonderful, beautiful person who will find love again. You just need to be patient.”

Mm-hmm. Says the woman who recently married her high school crush.

Elena shook her head, even though she knew her newly married and completely over-the-moon-in-love friend was trying to be supportive and upbeat. “I don’t want to find love again. I already found love. And quite frankly, I just want it back.”

Oops. She’d said it out loud.

Yes, poor, pathetic Elena was still in love with and wanted the man back who, without warning, had broken her heart along with their engagement. But it was the truth. She desperately wanted Scott back. She wanted that part of her life back. She hadn’t been truly happy since.

Arden let out a sigh. “Honey, it’s been a while. I don’t think you and Scott—”

“Anyway, I don’t really want to talk about it right now,” she said, carrying the grocery bag of food she’d brought with her into the kitchen. It was depressing to hear the pitying tone in her friend’s voice. But the truth was, Arden didn’t understand. None of her friends did. They hadn’t grown up in a household of love like hers with such wonderful and nurturing parents.

Was it wrong to want that kind of life for herself?

She hadn’t realized how happy her life had been—until they’d been in a terrible parasailing accident while they were on vacation. She was left utterly alone at the young age of twenty-two, and her life had begun to head in a downward spiral of depression and emptiness.

Until six months later, when she’d met Scott. A time in her life when she needed him most, so because of that, she’d always think of him as her savior.
Scott Coban had come to town for a coworker’s anniversary party. And he just so happened to be staying the weekend at the Harbor Light where she worked. Before that moment, love at first sight was just something she’d read about in her romance books. But it was real. She had experienced it firsthand.
Scott had charmed her and asked for her number right away. That night he’d ended up leaving the party early and immediately called her to meet him for a drink which she’d readily accepted. And the rest was history.

Until she became history.

No thanks to Scott’s friend and would-be best man, Lucas Albright.

“I’m sorry,” Arden said, breaking into Elena’s morose thoughts. “I just don’t want you getting your hopes up for no real tangible reason, that’s all.”

“I’m not getting my hopes up.” My hopes are already up.

“I mean, sure, I guess it’s possible you two could get back together. But, honey, the reason we wanted you to take this vacation was to get your mind off Scott. You know, like a Scottcation.”

Elena pulled out a bottle of red wine, then another for good measure, and nodded. If that failed, she had plenty of chocolate and tequila as a backup. “I will try my best.”

“Great! And while you’re at it, try not to think of that Lucas Albright either.”
The wine almost slipped from Elena’s hand. “Now why on earth did you have to go and mention his name?”

“Oops, sorry. It’s just that…well, I didn’t want to mention this before, but the condo you’re staying in kind of belongs to his sister, Michelle.”

Elena sat on the nearest chair, fearing her legs would give way. Of all the places she could have gone, it would have to be tied to a man she wanted nothing to do with ever again in her life. “You were smart not to mention that to me before. I would have never come.”

“Before you go torching the place in a fit of vengeance,” Arden lectured, “please just try to remember that his sister happens to be a very good client of mine and a sweet person.”

She snorted. “Yeah, too bad she’s related to the Spawn of Voldemort,” she grumbled back.

“Honestly, Elena, I’ve met Lucas, too, at her wedding, and I have to say, I can’t imagine him being the kind of person to break up anyone’s engagement.”

“Well, he did. Scott told me so himself. And whose side are you on anyway?”
“Yours! Always yours. I’m just playing devil’s advocate.”

“Are you finished playing?”

“I suppose so.”

“Good,” she said, ripping open the bag of marshmallows she’d brought and popping one in her mouth. “Because let me tell you something about Lucas Albright III. I don’t know what kind of snow job he laid on you, but I know for a fact that he is a cold, insensitive man and a liar—not to mention a terrible friend. And you can rest assured that nothing and no one could ever possibly change my opinion about him.”

Lucas’s life motto could easily be summed up like this: when a person gets stressed, that person gets to skiing. Which was how he found himself traveling late at night in the middle of a snowstorm to his sister’s condo up in the mountains.

Although the weather wasn’t doing anything to calm his nerves, it did manage to make him forget he was past due on his marketing deadline at work. The advertising campaign he’d been assigned was supposed to have been completed before Halloween. Two extensions later and they were still way behind on the Christmas ad season. His only saving grace was that a bulk of the marketing could be done online and would be rolled out rather quickly once he had the design and slogan down.

The problem was he had nothing yet. Nada. Zilch. And if he didn’t come up with an idea fast, he’d also have no job.

Lucas turned up the heater in his SUV and breathed in slowly. He could do this. He had to do this. Relax and focus. Once he got to the condo, he’d start a fire, grab a beer, and get to work. His sister’s place had always been like a balm to him. Even after his divorce, he found a lot of comfort in the brisk mountain air and its remoteness. A man could do a lot of life thinking and prioritizing up there.

And now, he hoped, a lot of creating.

He pulled into the parking lot and noted that most of ski buffs already had the same idea as him, knowing there were going to be great conditions with all the new snow predicted to fall. It was accumulating quickly, and it looked as if the snow plows couldn’t keep up, since the snow already reached his shins as he made his way across the street.

Just a few lights were on in the buildings. It was late. Almost eleven o’clock, but he was wired enough from the drive to be able to fit in a few hours of work. He couldn’t spare the time anyway. He had to bring something to his clients by Monday.

Lugging his two bags, he reached the doorstep. He stuck his spare key into the door, but realized rather quickly that it wasn’t necessary. The door was already unlocked.

Weird. And very unlike Michelle. His senses went on alert. Had someone broken in? He carefully turned the knob and nudged the door open, but waited a few beats before taking a step in.

One light in the living room was on, and everything appeared neat and tidy. He quietly placed his bags on the floor and glanced around. No evidence of a robbery or a break-in. But something seemed off. He took a step forward and sniffed the air, smelling something that resembled…burnt marshmallows? Again, weird. His sister was on her honeymoon, and his parents were still in Cape Harmony. That’s when it hit him.


He stumbled back as something spongey yet firm smacked up against his face again. His head shot back and it slammed against the wall. Pain shot through his skull. He raised his arms to protect himself and cracked one eye open, then caught a glimpse of his assailant.

Surprise and relief struck him at once. Thank God. Not exactly a friendly face, but much better than a robber.

“Elena,” he said, holding his palms up in surrender, “it’s me, Lucas Albright.”

Before he could regain his balance, he was hit with another swipe to the face.

“Hey!” He rubbed his jaw. Damn, that hit packed an even stronger punch. What kind of woman knew how to use a pillow as a weapon? “Elena, stop. I said it’s me, Lucas.”

Unsmiling, Elena slowly lowered the pillow. “I heard you.”

“Jeez, then why’d you still hit me?” he asked, moving his jaw and checking for loose teeth. Did she have a crowbar wedged in the stuffing?

She gave a small shrug. “Sorry. My hands must have slipped.”

He narrowed his eyes. Yeah. Right. Obviously, Elena Mason held a small grudge against him. Not that he totally blamed her.

“What are you doing here?” he asked, hiding a grin as he took in her pink pajama bottoms that had pictures of chocolate chip cookies and the words “Tough Cookie” all over them. Otherwise, she would have made an intimidating figure for sure with her long brown hair spilling over her shoulders, cheeks flushed, and brown eyes blazing.

“I was invited.” She walked back into the living room and tossed the pillow onto the couch. “What are you doing here? You gave me a heart attack, sneaking in like you did.”

“I didn’t sneak in. The door was open and I walked in. And—you were invited?”

Elena whipped her hair off her shoulders like a regal debutante and nodded. “That’s right. Invited. And I was specifically told I would be alone. So you better run along now.”

He cracked a half smile as he began unbuttoning his coat. He didn’t remember Elena being this feisty when she was engaged to Scott. But damn, if she didn’t wear her temper extremely well. And damn, if that didn’t make him want to stir it even more.

“I’m not running along anywhere,” he told her matter-of-factly.

“What? But you can’t stay here. Not with me, anyway.”

“I can and I will. With you. This is my sister’s condo, and she lets me use it whenever I choose. And I happen to choose now.”

Her mouth dropped open. “Oh my gosh, after everything you’ve done to me, I can’t believe you have the nerve.”

“Everything I’ve done?”

“Don’t play dumb, Lucas. Scott told me everything you said about me.” Her breath caught and she paused. “You know, just because I don’t have a college degree doesn’t mean I’m not executive wife material. I…I have a lot going for myself.”

Although her words lacked the confidence to be effective, Lucas still didn’t doubt that for one minute, which was why he had never said a single one of those things to Scott about her. Scott had created that reasoning all by himself.

Truthfully, from the several times Lucas had spent in her company while she’d been engaged to his friend, he’d found her to be smart, engaging, trusting, and loyal. Not to mention incredibly pretty. And, if he were being even more honest, incredibly sexy.

Not that Scott or Elena would appreciate hearing that last bit.

He hung up his coat and slipped out of his snow boots. “Look, Elena—”

“Oh, no, don’t get comfortable,” she said, pointing to his socked feet. “You’re not staying.”

He sighed. “I know you’re not thrilled to see me right now. I get that. But I only pointed out things to Scott about my own marriage that he already knew. As his best man, I owed him that. If Scott happened to take that information and form his own opinions on what does or doesn’t make a great relationship, well, I can’t be held responsible. Maybe what it comes down to is that you and Scott really weren’t meant for each other.”

She gasped. “How can you say that? Who made you the Be-All-End-All Relationship Guru? Just because your marriage didn’t end well doesn’t mean my and Scott’s marriage would have ended poorly too. He loves me.”

“I don’t doubt that he cares for you or even loved you, but that doesn’t always hold a marriage together. Trust me, I know.”

He sure did know. Once upon a time he’d thought his marriage to Catherine was one for the romance textbooks. Everything he’d thought a good, loving relationship should be. At least on paper. They even had the house in the suburbs of North Jersey with the yard meant for a dog and several children. But after a few years, Catherine missed city living and the entertainment New York could bring and often traveled into the city to shop or meet friends for lunch. He’d learned later that one of her friends had been a male coworker from her old job—and more importantly, that they weren’t just meeting for lunch.

It was his own fault, he knew now. He wasn’t meant for marriage. In fact, when he was born, he should have been slapped with a “does not play well with others” label.

Still, failures hurt, which was why succeeding in his career felt like a balm for his soul. He could “win” at something, at least.

“Save it, Lucas,” Elena spat, folding her arms defiantly. “Don’t even try to pretend you had my best interests at heart when you convinced Scott not to marry me. You’re… You’re… You’re deplorable.”

He banked down his own frustration. He’d hardly convinced anyone to do anything. But he’d admit he was glad of the outcome. She and Scott never really made sense to him. She obviously was hurting, though, and Scott still seemed confused about his feelings. So, better she think Lucas was the villain in this situation. After all, he’d probably never see her again after this weekend anyway.

“I am sorry,” he offered. He truly was. Sort of. Scott was a decent guy, but a little selfish in the relationship department. While Elena deserved… She needed a man like…

Hell, what did he know what kind of man she should be with? But to be honest, he really couldn’t picture her with anyone specific.

She turned away, but not before he’d seen the tears in her eyes. “Just go. If you are sorry, then the best thing you could do for me is leave. Please.”

As soon as he saw the tears, his chest felt as if a gorilla had collapsed on it. But the whispered please she’d tacked on at the end nearly brought him to his knees. The last thing he wanted to do was make her cry. In fact, he’d been trying to save her from heartbreak. How did this get so complicated? “I…I can’t go anywhere.”

Her shoulders stiffened, then she glanced back. “Well, then I’ll leave.”

But before she could storm away, he took hold of her arm. It was a knee-jerk reaction. He wasn’t thinking beyond the fact that he couldn’t let her go out there alone in that weather. But touching her like that had him immediately pulling back and standing stock-still as if his fingers had been seared.

He cleared his throat. “I don’t think you understand. You’re not going anywhere either.”

“What? Why?”

He guided her to the nearest window and raised the shade. “That’s why.”
“Oh my gosh!” She pressed her nose up against the glass and blinked at the thick white flakes swirling from the night sky like a shaken snow globe.
“Yeah, it’s really coming down,” he told her. “I was lucky to make it here when I did. There’s no way you’d go fifty yards before getting stuck in that mess. I heard on the radio there’s a special storm warning in effect from midnight until five in the morning.”

Elena backed away from the window and looked at him in horror. “So, what are you saying?”

“I’m saying what you’re not willing to hear. Like it or not, sweetheart, it seems we’re stuck with each other for the night.”

The Giveaway:

To celebrate the release of Romancing His Rival, Entangled Publishing is giving away for a $25 Amazon gift card! Enter Here →  https://bit.ly/2Sb8Ejb

Open internationally. One winner will be chosen to receive a $25 Amazon gift card. This giveaway is administered by Pure Textuality PR on behalf of Entangled Publishing.  Giveaway ends 2/15/2019 @ 11:59pm EST. Entangled Publishing will send one winning prize, Pure Textuality PR will deliver the other. Limit one entry per reader and mailing address. Duplicates will be deleted.