Stylo Fantome has a new book coming called The Bad Ones. This book is INSANE! The only thought I had when I finished was, "WHAT THE FUCK DID I JUST READ!" Hahahahaha! Stylo once again blew me away with her FIERCE writing, absolutely intoxicating, unique and just incredible plot lines! This is a MUST read for 'dark' book lovers. Today, we are hosting an exclusive excerpt. Check it out and stop by the 4 other blogs who have a "peek" into The Bad Ones as well! 

Title: The Bad Ones
Series or Standalone: Standalone
Author: Stylo Fantome
Release Date: April 12, 2016

Love isn't always bright and shiny.
Sometimes, it's dirty and wrong, buried six feet deep in a secret place where only wild things dare to go. Hidden behind a big black curtain that covers things no one should ever see.
Sometimes it happens between two people who should never be allowed to come together. One who is a match, and the other who just happens to be gasoline.
One strike is all it takes to burn the whole world down, and that's exactly what they plan on doing.
Even if it kills them.
Warning: this book contains graphic sex, extremely brutal violence, bad language, and people repeatedly and knowingly breaking the law.

Police blotter information:



9-1-1 call reporting fire. Fire trucks dispatched to 1203 Covington Lane.


First on scene 1203 Covington Lane – reports potential five-alarm fire in progression. Two more fire units dispatched.


Five-alarm confirmed. Closure of Covington Lane. Blockades put up.


9-1-1 call from motorist on route 52, reports smoke coming from Fuller Train Station. Police units dispatched.


1203 Covington Lane residents, 58 year old Jebediah Masters and 22 year old Constantine Masters, unaccounted for.


Fuller Train Station fire confirmed. Fire truck reassigned and dispatched to location.


Police unit reports findings of blood on train platform and tracks.


1203 Covington Lane residents unable to be reached by telephone.


Fuller Train Station fire contained. Structural integrity being investigated. 1203 Covington Lane fire uncontainable – fire department allowing a controlled burn down.

Crazy woman living in an undisclosed location in Alaska (where the need for a creative mind is a necessity!), I have been writing since ..., forever? Yeah, that sounds about right. I have been told that I remind people of Lucille Ball - I also see shades of Jennifer Saunders, and Denis Leary. So basically, I laugh a lot, I'm clumsy a lot, and I say the F-word A LOT.
I like dogs more than I like most people, and I don't trust anyone who doesn't drink. No, I do not live in an igloo, and no, the sun does not set for six months out of the year, there's your Alaska lesson for the day. I have mermaid hair - both a curse and a blessing - and most of the time I talk so fast, even I can't understand me.

Yeah. I think that about sums me up.



Title: Dare Me
Series: Standalone
Author: Rebecca Shea
Release Date: March 28, 2016!!

Five coworkers.
Four drinks.
Three glances.
Two fleeting smiles.
One dare.
A dare that will change my life.
That’s all it takes to send me plummeting into the arms of the mysterious Holt Hamilton. Behind his crystal blue eyes is a secret, one that screams danger but calls to me anyway.
My name is Saige Phillips.
I never walk away from a dare.
 Rebecca Shea’s Dare Me was not what I was expecting at ALL. For some insane reason when I originally read the blurb I was thinking dark, illicit, scandalous, dirty... I even thought there might be cheating? I don’t know where I got that idea because when I finished reading the book, I actually went back to read the blurb and I was like, “Huh! I read way more into that than I should have.” ***cue laughing*** 

So yeah… this was not that kind of read at all. 

It was FANTASTIC . It was sweet and steamy and intense! It most definitely had heart wrenching moments, angst, but it was also fun, and the romance between Holt and Saige was downright decadent. Dreamy. My first thought upon finishing was, “Can I rewind the day and read this again.” I LOVED it. From the heart pounding prologue to the incredible Epilogue, I was stolen by these characters. 

Holt was demanding and controlling, yet maintained this perfect air of vulnerability that made my thighs quiver and turned my heart into a puddle of mush. He was an incredible person. He wanted so much good for Saige. I loved the purity in his intentions. He wasn't an asshole. He wasn't over the top. He was, simply put, perfection. From the moment I read his first scene, I wanted him on EVERY PAGE. I longed for him. I was hooked, easily owned by that dirty talking, sexy, sweet, alpha. 

So #HowHotIsHolt? 

Here's a little example of his hotness....

“Do you see that “Do you see that conference room table?” he breathes into my ear. I nod and look at the smooth wood table behind him. “You’re going to find out what it’s like to be fucked on that table.” I swallow hard and inhale sharply. “And my desk,” he says, turning me gently by my chin to look at his large executive desk. “You’re going to be bent over the edge of that desk with your perfect ass in the air, trying to not scream my name.” His blue eyes darken as he speaks. 
“Holt,” my voice hitches, and I have to hold on to his biceps to keep my unstable legs from giving out. 
“Wait, I’m not done yet.” He presses a gentle kiss to my lips before he turns and looks out his office wall of windows. “And then I want you naked . . . against that wall of glass, overlooking all of Chicago while I’m inside of you. I want your perfect tits pressed against that cold glass while I fuck you.” <<----- Mmm hmmm... yep. There is a lot of super sexy talk in this book! 

But there is also sweetness. There is indescribable sweetness. Again his feelings for Saige were so beautiful. And the chemistry between them was exhilarating. I just kept swooning and swooning and swooning as I read. I loved the way he loved this woman. 

"I look at this beautiful woman.... and I feel weak. Anything she asks of me, I’d do it. Anything she wants, it’s hers. Never have I been so powerless in all my life." <<---See? Gah. LOVED!!!!

And Saige... she is such a sweetheart. The girl is struggling with something really traumatizing from her past. It's shaped her as a person. She's back in Chicago, perusing her dream. She's working for Holt's company--Jackson-Hamilton--and loving it. 

loved her friendships with her coworkers. 
loved the dynamic of the boss/employee relationship she had going on with Holt. 
loved her with her roommate. 
loved her mom and her uncle. 
I just loved her. 
And I sobbed for her several times. The feels in this book were real. They were intense. They were tangible. 

Overall, I was thoroughly impressed with Dare Me. I was so happy I got swept up in the pages. It felt good. It felt easy. I had just come off another book that blew me out of the water and I was worried I would have a hard time getting into something new. But that was NOT the case! Rebecca's sharp writing, her personable and strong characters, her addicting romance, her intense plot line, all drew me in and kept me utterly invested. I felt incredible when it ended. I felt fulfilled in every single way! And that is the BEST feeling to have when finishing a novel.

Angie's Rating:

A quick train ride later and I’m pushing through the revolving doors to Jackson-Hamilton Aviation.
“Morning, Larry!” I wave and hustle past the security desk where Larry sits.
“Mornin’, sweetheart,” he yells back, never once taking his eyes off the newspaper he’s reading.
My heels click loudly on the granite floor of the open-air atrium as I hustle over to the elevator bank. I frantically press the call button for the elevator and glance at my watch. I’m already five minutes late. I hate being late. Punctual is my middle name. If I’m not five minutes early, I’m late. That’s how I roll.
Groaning, I tap the toe of my shoe impatiently. When an elevator finally arrives, I scurry in just as a voice from behind me hollers out, “Hold that elevator, please.” I grumble but hold the doors as Holt Hamilton glides in, a cell phone pressed to his ear. With a curt nod, he steps aside and the elevator doors close while my heart pounds wildly in my chest.
Holt Hamilton. The sexiest man I’ve ever seen and the Vice President of Jackson-Hamilton Aviation—basically my boss. Standing at least six-foot-three, he could be Henry Cavill’s twin brother. With striking blue eyes and dark hair that’s styled back off of his face, he’s the perfect combination of businessman meets runway model. His cut jawline is accentuated by one very perfect dimple on his left cheek.
His athletic frame is highlighted by his custom-tailored suit that hugs each and every curve of his shoulders, arms, and waist, showing every muscle the man owns as he leans against the side of the elevator. Today he’s wearing a charcoal suit with a blue shirt and striped tie. The blue shirt makes his blue eyes stand out against his tan skin. I catch myself staring and quickly turn to face the doors of the elevator.
“Morning, Ms. Phillips,” he says with a tight smile. He shoves his cell phone into the pocket of his suit jacket.
Again, my heart is racing. “Mr. Hamilton.” I nod and keep my eyes on the digital display showing the floor numbers. Fifty-seven, fifty-eight, I silently count as we continue to rise. Only thirty more. I take a deep breath, trying to calm myself.
“How are you settling in?” he asks, his voice deep and commanding. I half-turn to speak to him and catch his smirk, but he quickly composes himself and adjusts his tie.
“It’s going well. I submitted the final orders for both planes that were overdue. Mr. Jackson emphasized those were priority.” I raise my chin confidently, but my heart continues to race with nervousness.
“You closed both orders?” he asks, surprised. “As in, you got both clients to agree to every last detail?” He looks skeptical. These particular clients were a nightmare. I knew when I accepted the job that I’d have demanding clients, but those two were the cream of the crop.
“I did.” Another confident nod.
"Huh," he mumbles, giving his head a little shake. “So how’d you do it? Rachel had been working for months with those clients, and they wouldn’t agree to anything she recommended. She tossed their client portfolios on my desk the day she resigned and swore we’d never close the deal on those planes.”
I try to contain my smirk. “I get to know my clients, Mr. Hamilton. I make an effort to really understand their likes and dislikes—their personal preferences. What excites them. What motivates them. Not just shove today’s best-selling aeronautical features down their throats. I work with them and, in the end, they trust me and my recommendations—we’re a team.”
“It's that easy?” He cocks an eyebrow in amusement.
I cock an eyebrow in return. “It's that easy. Payments are finalized and in the Jackson-Hamilton account, Mr. Hamilton. Planes are scheduled to be delivered to both clients in the next ninety days.” I rub my sweaty palms down the sides of my pencil skirt.
He stares at me silently, just chewing on the inside of his cheek when the elevator finally slows to a stop. The doors open and Holt reaches out and places his arm against the open door so as to not let them close on us, but in doing so, places himself shoulder to shoulder with me. Too close. So close I can smell his body wash and his minty breath.
I quickly step out of the elevator and into the lobby of Jackson-Hamilton Aviation and begin to walk down the hall toward my cubicle, the opposite direction of Holt Hamilton.
“Nice work, Phillips,” he says from behind me.

Rebecca Shea is the USA Today Bestselling author of the Unbreakable series (Unbreakable, Undone, and Unforgiven) and the Bound and Broken series (Broken by Lies and Bound by Lies). She lives in Phoenix, Arizona with her family. From the time Rebecca could read she has had a passion for books. Rebecca spends her days working and her nights writing, bringing stories to life. Born and raised in Minnesota, Rebecca moved to Arizona in 1999 to escape the bitter winters. When not working or writing, she can be found on the sidelines of her sons’ football games, or watching her daughter at ballet class. Rebecca is fueled by insane amounts of coffee, margaritas, Laffy Taffy (except the banana ones), and happily ever afters.

a Rafflecopter giveaway



Title: Beguiling
Series: Tempting #2 (Standalone)
Author: Alex Lucian
Release Date: March 22, 2016

Hate: to dislike intensely or passionately; feel extreme aversion for or extreme hostility toward.
Scarlet Jennings, the preacher’s daughter who lived across the street, was a royal, uptight pain in my ass. When she looked at me, she saw a college quarterback asshole with rocks for brains, but she didn’t have a single word for what was happening between us.
When we were forced to ride together every single day that summer, there was definitely some dislike going on. Extreme hostility was a given, considering that we were spending so much time together in close quarters.
One night of bed-breaking, body-shattering, lose-your-voice-from-screaming passion had surprised us both, but it was only just the beginning…
 I consider myself a fairly passionate reader. When I read something I genuinely adore I cannot help but feel it deep in my bones. I get this euphoric high; a rush I can't really put into words. It's what I search for. It's what keeps me reading. I'm looking for that book that I consider a golden ticket. A book where there is not a single thing I would change, not a line I would alter, not a character trait I would tweak. A book so blissful in it's entirety that I can get completely lost in the story. One that leaves me bereft with a feeling of 'I don't know what to do with myself.' I call it the ULTIMATE pleasure read. And THAT was THIS --- Beguiling was my ULTIMATE pleasure read. A novel so wholly perfect, so utterly charming and sexy and incredible, I entered another world entirely and got swept away in its flawless splendor.

I have to say, Alex Lucian has become MY FAV author. I have a group of authors I love and would drop ANYTHING to read. It's a small handful, but it's a group that I trust implicitly. They have NEVER failed me as a reader! And Alex Lucian has just been added to that group, this author now resides among my top faves and I will read EVERY book that is EVER put out.


I am OBSESSED with the stories, the words, the ... everything. OBSESSED. This is two reads in a row that haven't just been good or great, they've have BLOWN me out of the freaking water. THEY HAVE MADE ME WANT TO DANCE ON CLOUD NINE! 

I didn't just love Beguiling, it went beyond that.

I want you to know I don't review every book I read. Even if I love a book, that doesn't mean I'm going to write a review. It might be a great read, but I'm a passionate reader, and if I feel I have nothing to say, I say nothing. And this is theSECOND time this author has INSPIRED me TO SCREAM, TO YELL, TO RAVE, to move into "CRAZY BOOK GIRL" status.


I swear, I want to inhale EVERY WORD this author writes. I want to climb into these stories. They are MAGICAL. TheULTIMATE escapism.

Beguiling was a completely different read than Tempting. Where Tempting was forbidden and illicit and addicting,Beguiling was equally addicting, but more so charming and sexy. It fluttered with a lighter, airy quality. While Scarlet and Leo did have this hate/love relationship, it had many laugh out loud moments. The pages were filled with flirty, combustible banter that was sexy and heated and just fun. I felt my myself move with the plot seamlessly. The progression of emotions and depth between the characters was so fluid, so believable, and so visceral. Right away, I felt the feels as if they were my own. I connected with pure emotional ease. As each chapter moved forward and Scarlet and Leo fell, I fell with them. I tumbled head first. I'm telling you, I could literally feel my body buzz as I was reading. 

It was tangible. Delightful. 

Leo was a breath of fresh air. Easy to love. God, I adored him. I knew he was a sweetheart in Tempting, but I don't think I realize just how incredible he was. He had me melting like a Popsicle on a hot summer day. I was a puddle of nothing at that mans feet. He's arrogant, but utterly lovable. You feel him. You get him. And just want to devour him.

Scarlet is fiery! She has a bit of a biting personality at times, but she's just as lovable as Leo. She's a good girl, a hard worker, puts everything into her study's, and is a sensitive soul. And... what she may lack in sexual and social experience, she makes up for in her self confidence. WHOA, baby. This chick can give as well as she can take. She's a firecracker.

Together, they are ELECTRIC! Between the chemistry, the utter ease and yumminess of the plot, the flirty and funny banter, and the angst that is sprinkled in, it was justMAGNETIC. I could go on and on and on and on, but I won't. I'm sure you're sick of me already. Just do yourself a favor, go read this author. Seriously! GO AND READ. You're getting great writing that is really top top top notch. Characters that are just downright fabulous. And plot lines that are enthralling.

It's PHENOMENAL. Truly. I would recommended this again and again and again. 


A COUPLE OF MY FAV LINES (Honestly, almost the whole book is highlighted in my Kindle. It is THAT GREAT!! 

1. "You know what, church girl?" She flicked her brown eyes over to me, color still high in her face and mouth pinched shut. "I’d tell you to suck my dick right now, but I don’t think you’d know what to do with it. <<---- Hahahaha. Damn! LOVE 

2. "She was waiting for me, waiting like one of those plants. You know. The plant that eats men. A Venus Fly Trap. Those things ate men, right?
That was Scarlet. She’d already taken off her pants. And when our eyes met and held, she gripped the bottom of her light gray shirt and peeled it up over her head, leaving her in a white bra and matching white underwear. Tiny, tiny underwear.
My brain short-circuited. Straight-up crashed." <<---Hehehehehehehehe! I laughed so hard. God he's fucking adorable. 

3. I stayed right in front of the door, just like she asked, except when she approached me, I didn’t move.
"Leo, quit screwing around.” The words would have made me get out of the way, but her voice wasn’t annoyed in the slightest. Her eyes were bright, and the way she said them, all breathy and low, kept me exactly where I was.
"Who, me? I’m not.” When she got close enough, I smoothed my hands around her hips, the soft material of her black leggings thin enough that I could feel the heat from her skin. “You’re always playing, Leo.”
I turned, so her back was up against the door now, and I pressed against her with my hips, letting her feel how very serious I was. She dropped her head back against the wood with a soft moan, and I kissed the spot of skin underneath her ear. “No playing, Scarlet. I promise.” <<---- The chemistry, the utter sexiness that these two have. Just the connection and dialogue. It was just so damn incredible. Tangible. I could feel it all over me.

Angie's Rating:

Alex Lucian is an author living on the eastern coast of the United States who appreciates being anonymous, for personal and professional reasons. Tempting is Alex's first novel

ALSO, You can grab TEMPTING ON SALE for 0.99! 
This is the first book in the series featuring a lusciously seductive student and her professor. 
It was a 5 star read for me! 



Title: Save Me
Series: Standalone
Author: Heidi McLaughlin
Release Date: April 5, 2016

Tucker McCoy thought the hardest mission of his life was over. After being deployed for six years, all he wanted to do was return home to his wife and daughter. But when he arrives home with roses in his hand, the last thing he expects is to be welcomed by a stranger. Being presumed dead for six years doesn’t help his cause as no one is giving him the answers he needs.
Now his mission is to find out where his family is and he’s willing to do whatever it takes to bring them home, even if that means bringing down the people involved.
Penelope McCoy has a secret and one she’s willing to keep until she can find someone to trust. In order to do that, she and her daughter must hide, change their identities and forget about their previous life.
For six years she’s been running and she soon realizes that time is catching up with her. Now she has to decide whether to run again or face the ghosts of her past head on.

Heidi is a New York Times and USA Today Bestselling author.

Originally from the Pacific Northwest, she now lives in picturesque Vermont, with her husband and two daughters. Also renting space in their home is an over-hyper Beagle/Jack Russell, Buttercup, two Parakeets, Gonzo & Hedwig, and their newest addition of a Highland West/Mini Schnauzer, Jill.

During the day Heidi is behind a desk talking about Land Use. At night, she's writing one of the many stories planned for release or sitting court-side during either daughter's basketball games.



Title: Explicit
Series: Standalone Novel
Author: Roxy Sloane
Genre: Contemporary/Erotic Romance
Release Date: March 23, 2016

"I’ve told you I’ve fantasized about you. So, tell me the truth. Do you fantasize about me?”
Bestselling novelist Jackson Ford is arrogant, exacting, and relentless on the page and off. His irresistible new editor, Ellie Parker is smart, headstrong, and not intimidated by Jackson's attitude - or the way he turns every exchange into a filthy seduction.
There isn't a thing these two can agree on, except their intense attraction. But with Jackson's deadline looming, can they stop fighting long enough for him to deliver the hit she needs?
The relationship between editor and author has never been so intimate or so explicit...
 Juicy, smutty, and full of feels, Explicit was an enthralling read from start to finish. 

I've have always been a fan of Roxy Sloane's books. She knows how to write. She does it well. And her stories are not only nuclear in steaminess, they are down right addicting. I have never come across a novel from this author that I haven't loved. Explicit was no different! I was hooked from the first page and found it almost IMPOSSIBLE to put down. 

Ellie--our female lead--is my kind of girl. I have the BIGGEST girl crush on her. Not only does she love books, but she's smart and logical, not overly dramatic. She's a sensible, sexy woman with a heart of pure gold that I just connected to in every way. When she had a thought, I agreed. When she felt something, I felt it to. She was a kindred spirit in a way, and I just found her to be the most perfect female heroine. 

Jackson Ford is a temperamental, moody, and utterly sexy writer. At first I wasn't sure what to think of him other than he was giving me some serious IVG'S (Involuntary Vaginal Clenches). The man can make you feel weak-kneed and pissed off at the same time. He can take you from frustrated to completely hot and ready in a blink of an eye. He is maddening yet enticing. I wanted to hit him as much as I wanted to snuggle into his arms and let him own me. I both loved and hated the way he was with Ellie at times. I could tell he was battling himself when it came to this woman. This woman who challenged him, who opened his eyes and heart again after being so broken. 

Together Jackson and Ellie make the PERFECT team. They are not only kick butt crafting books together but in the bedroom they are a cataclysmic combination. The heat, chemistry, and emotional connection are palpable right from the start! God, these two gave me chills and then they gave my chills, chills. I seriously don't know how anyone could NOT love this couple. They left me breathless. 

Overall, Explicit was one intoxicating ride. The characters had me falling in love, the plot packed a punch that left me gasping in shock and then in breathy "awwwww". It's a read I highly recommended. Another winner from the über talented Roxy Sloane, a fave author of mine.

Angie's Rating:
Roxy Sloane is a romance junkie with a dirty mind. She lives in Los Angeles with her hot ex-military hubby and her two kids. She loves writing sexy, complex stories about pushing the boundaries and risking it all.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Title: Kissed by Reality
Series: Standalone Novel
Author: Carrie Aarons
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: April 11, 2016

Falling in love is hard. Falling in love on national television is impossible. Right?
Leighton Aldridge did not sign up to meet her soulmate. She signed up for the lights, camera and action. So when the Hollywood-native ends up with the wounded war veteran and a ring on her finger, it's a surprise to everyone. What isn't a surprise is the way she breaks Finn Wyatt's heart, or the massively public breakup that follows. But a year later she's back, ready for another round on the reality TV show that brought them together. She knows he was the real thing, and she's ready to fight for him.
Finn is the new Mr. Right. The country's favorite single guy, and the object of 25 women's affections. But when his ex-fiance steps onto set and back into the limelight, he wishes he never agreed to another season. Leighton shattered his heart for the world to see, and he's not ready to face that reality. Can Leighton convince him, and America, that she's the one? Or will her future with Finn only consist of 15 more minutes of fame?

Author of romance novels such as the Over the Fence series and Red Card, Carrie Aarons writes sexy, swoony and sarcastic characters who won't get out of her head until she puts them down on a page.

Carrie Aarons has wanted to be an author since the first time she opened a book, and can't describe what it feels like to be able to write love stories as an actual career. She loves spinning tales that include dapper men, women with attitude, and the occasional hunky athlete.

When she isn't in what her husband calls a "writing coma," Carrie Aarons is freeing-up her jampacked DVR, trying to become the next HGTV star as she DIYs her very first house, and planning her next travel adventure. She lives on the east coast with her husband whom she loves dearly for supporting her crazy dreams and putting up with her sassy, extroverted ways.

a Rafflecopter giveaway



Title: Heartbreaker
Series: Standalone Novel
Author: Melody Grace
Release Date: March 28, 2016!

The new stand-alone HEA from New York Times bestselling author, Melody Grace!
They say that time heals a broken heart, but you try moving on when your ex is the most famous man on the planet.
Every time I walk down the street, there's a billboard plastered with his gorgeous face: Finn McKay. Now he’s a drop-dead sexy rock star, but when I first knew him, he was just the boy from the wrong side of the tracks - and the first guy I ever loved. He broke my heart into a hundred pieces when he skipped town without saying goodbye – but now he’s back.
And he wants me.
I’m determined not to make the same mistakes twice, but the chemistry with Finn was always way too hot to ignore. He was the guy who had me sneaking out my bedroom window for just one more kiss, and breaking curfew parked by the riverbanks, steaming up his windows in the backseat of his car. The past five years have been good to him, real good, and between his dirty mind and that ‘I know how to make you scream’ smile, he’s breaking through my defenses all over again.
Maybe one last wild fling for old time’s sake is what I need to finally move on. But what happens when Finn wants more than my body?
This time he wants everything.

They say time heals a broken heart, but you just try and get over the love of your life when he’s the most famous man on the planet.
At least, that’s what it feels like when I turn on the car radio. Nothing is playing except his latest hit song.
“Bringing you back for your afternoon on 107 Hits, it’s the track everyone’s talking about, Finn McKay—”
“Next up, Everyday, from the new number one smash—”
“And straight to the top, for music’s own bad boy, Finn—”
I let out scream of frustration, and hit the wheel. My horn blasts, and the elderly woman on the crosswalk startles, dropping her grocery bags. Crap. “Sorry, Mrs. Carter!” I call out the window, ready to jump out and help.
She flips me the bird and keeps walking.
I head to work and hit the preset for the country station, figuring at least I’ll get some respite there. Maybe a good song about heartbreak, or murder -- either will do. But it turns out the universe really is laughing at me right now.
“Did you see the big duet at the Grammys last week? Finn McKay and Carrie Underwood. So by special request, here’s his latest single, Everyday.”
There really is no escape. It was bad enough when he was the hot new artist on the verge. At least then I could ignore the gossip and pretend like his five minutes of fame would be up soon. But two years later, he shows no sign of running out of steam. If anything, he’s bigger than ever: two number one albums, a dozen hit singles, and his music in the background of every TV show and movie I try to see. This spring he’s been inescapable, staring back at me from billboards and on the cover of my favorite trashy magazines. Peak Finn. AKA, a constant reminder of the boy who shattered my heart and left town five years ago, stranding my sixteen-year old self without a word.
AKA, the reason I’ve developed a serious cookie dough habit, had to boycott my radio, and spend my evenings hate-browsing the latest gossip sites looking at photos of Finn with his latest supermodel girlfriend.
But hey, at least I’m not bitter.

Back at the Oak Harbor Realty office, I deliver a takeout box to co-worker and new best friend, Delilah, then sink into a chair at her desk.
Delilah takes one look in the lunch bag and makes a face. “Screw salad, I’ve got cupcakes!” She opens the box with a ‘ta-dah!’
“Fancy,” I whistle, looking back and forth between the virtuous container of lettuce, and the box of double-chocolate frosting. Who am I kidding? Cupcakes always win. I reach for one and sink my teeth into pure sugar rush heaven. “What’s the occasion?”
“I finally closed escrow for Shana Norton on that new townhouse in the harbor.”
I high five her. “Does this mean she’s going to tell Mr. Norton she’s leaving him yet?”
“Not sure,” Delilah grins. “I’m guessing the moving trucks will be a big clue.”
I laugh. “Want me to do the paperwork?”
“Would you?” Dee bats her eyelashes at me. “Pretty please.”
“Just add it to the pile.” I sigh dramatically, but I don’t mind really. I haven’t closed a deal myself in months, and sooner or later our boss is going to figure out that real estate and I just aren’t a good match. Delilah knows exactly what I’m thinking, because she gives me a look.
“You need to be out there, getting clients for yourself. You could make a great commission if you hustled a little harder.”
“Me and hustle don’t get along.” I focus on my cupcake. “We had a falling out years ago. It’s not speaking to me.”
 “Liar. You hustled plenty at the animal shelter holiday fundraiser. You talked half the town into emptying their wallets.”
“That’s different!” I protest. “It’s a good cause. Who can say no to puppies?”
“Me,” Delilah curls her lip. “I never got the appeal. They’re all drooling and needy, and piss everywhere. They’re like a frat-boy on a Friday night.”
“Cruella,” I laugh.
She grabs a file from her desk. “Hustle or not, you’ve got an appointment this afternoon. Some mystery client looking for a rental. I told Marcie you’d take it.”
“But I’m not dressed for clients!” I look down at my laundry-day skirt – missing a button – and the shirt that, yup, now has a smear of chocolate frosting over my right boob. I start dabbing, but the stain only spreads. “Look what I’ve done now. You take them.”
“Nope. And I’m saying this as your friend, and not because I booked an early nail appointment,” Delilah grins. “Go on.” She shoves the file at me. “It’ll be good for you. Work the whole small-town girl charm. They’ll be eating out of your hand.”
“I’ll be eating what now?”
A familiar male voice comes from the doorway behind me. Blood rushes to my head. I freeze, my heart pounding.
It can’t be.
It can’t be.
It can.
Delilah lets out a shriek, and bounces out of her chair. “Holy shit, Finn! What are you doing here?”
I hear a warm chuckle as she launches himself at him. “Hey Dee.”
I can’t bring myself to turn around. My mind is racing to try and make sense of this. Finn McKay, here. Now.
Why? And why today of all days, when I’ve got a button missing from my shirt and frosting smeared all over my chin? Sure, I’ve pictured the time I would finally run into him again, but in those fantasies I was always looking fantastic, in some great, sexy outfit, out with friends, or – even better – a hot guy on my arm. Never mind the fact I haven’t been on a decent date in months. This was my fantasy, dammit. But it turns out real life is anything but a dream.
Bracing myself, I slowly swivel around. Maybe he isn’t hot anymore, I send up a silent prayer. Maybe those magazine shoots are photo-shopped, and in real life he’s skinny with a bad case of adult acne. Maybe—
I’m screwed.
He’s even more gorgeous in the flesh. All six feet of tanned, muscular flesh.
The Finn I knew was handsome, sure, but this is something else. His lithe build has filled out, body taut against a white tee that looks anything but plain, with dark jeans that hug his ass just so. His hair is longer now, pulled back in a low bun with gold glimmering through, and he’s got tattoos I’ve never seen curling down his muscular arms.
But it’s his eyes that still stop me in my tracks, blue and stormy as the December ocean. They meet mine across the room in a silent greeting.
I try to remember to breathe. Finn may have left a boy of nineteen, but he’s come back all man.
“What brings you back to town?” Delilah is still hanging off him, babbling at full-speed. “Wait, don’t tell me, you decided to bring your whole touring band for a special live show?” She looks around, on alert for a whole crew of hot, tattooed musicians, but Finn just chuckles.
“I’m not enough for you, sweetheart?”
“No man is,” she smirks. “God, look at you! How long’s it been now?”
Five years, I answer silently. Four years, eleven months, and sixteen days, but who’s counting?
“A good long while,” Finn answers easily, with that faint twang of Southern drawl soaking his words in sweet bourbon. He hugs her and stands back. “You’re looking good, Dee. How are things?”
“Oh, you know, the usual.” Delilah shrugs. “Breaking hearts, taking names.”
“I don’t doubt it.” Finn flashes her a grin, the kind of charming smile that let him get away with every reckless bad boy stunt, and left a string of damp panties and broken hearts through the halls of our high school.
Including mine.
That old familiar grin triggers something inside me. My brain unfreezes. I quickly choke down my mouthful of cupcake and try to discreetly wipe my face. Pull it together, I tell myself, but when Finn finally strolls over to my desk, nothing can prepare me for the rush of emotion.
“Eva.” He smiles. “It’s good to see you.”
Just saying his name again hurts my heart. I’ve spent years trying not to think of him, trying not to let his face creep back into my mind. It should have been easy to forget him; nobody knows what we shared, and there was nothing left to tie him to this town. But love doesn’t obey logic sometimes, and I’m ashamed to admit just how long it took me to get over him, how many restless nights I wasted to the memory of his kisses, the damp slide of his body against mine.
“What are you doing here?” My question comes out harsh, but luckily, Delilah is still in full flow.
“Yeah, aren’t you too much of a big shot for our little town?” she teases. “How come you’re gracing us with your presence after all these years?”
Finn gives an easy shrug. “I figured it would be a good place to get some R and R. I’ve been touring for two years straight. I need a break. Someplace to lay my head,” he adds, and Delilah snaps her fingers.
“You’re Eva’s new mystery client!”
“Wait, what?” My chest clenches.
“I just gave you the file. Lucky girl.” Delilah grins, and turns back to Finn. “Anyway, it was great seeing you. We’ll have to get a drink while you’re in town.”
“If you can fit me in your busy schedule,” he laughs.
This isn’t just a fly-in visit? “How long are you staying?” I ask, trying to keep my voice steady. “Just a week or two?”
“No. I’ll need somewhere for a month, at least.” Finn is watching me, and I swear, he smiles when I stop breathing. “I’ve got the rest of the day free to look at places with you.”
Finn. This afternoon. Alone.
“I’m kind of busy,” I protest weakly, my head spinning. I’m not prepared for this, not even close, but Finn looks pointedly around at the empty office. Oak Harbor isn’t exactly a fast-paced destination, especially before the summer season starts. Aside from Delilah and me, there’s only our boss Marcie around – and she’s napping at her desk in the back.
“Sure looks it,” he smirks.
My panic grows. “I have paperwork!”
Finn doesn’t even reply to that, he just gives me an amused look. “I’ll be in the car. You know, if you want to clean up.” He leans over and snags my half-eaten cupcake from the desk and takes a bite. “Mmm,” he sounds a low growl of satisfaction, slowly licking frosting from his thumb. My pulse kicks, just watching his mouth. “You always did have a sweet tooth.”
While I’m reeling, he gives me a wink and strolls back outside.
Delilah lets out a slow whistle and fans herself with a condo brochure. “Hello, lover.” She leans against the desk like she’s swooning. “The road’s been good to that boy. Real good.”
“I guess.” I grab the file, and pray we’ve got some decent listings. Hopefully, he’ll want the first place I show him, and this nightmare will be over in twenty minutes flat.
“Well, never let it be said I don’t make sacrifices for our friendship,” Delilah adds, dramatic. “I saw the way he was staring. He’s all yours.”
“What? No!” My head snaps up. “You’re wrong.”
“Mmhmm.” Delilah just laughs, and goes to rifle through her purse. “Come on, the man’s waiting. You can borrow my lipstick.”
Part of me wants to walk straight outside looking like this, to show Finn I don’t care at all, but the other part – the one still reeling from that smile – needs a moment to pull myself together. “Thanks,” I tell Delilah, and race to the bathroom. I slam the door, and face myself in the mirror.
Oh boy.
I drag my hair up into a ponytail and quickly slick lipstick on – then blot it all off again. I can feel the storm of emotions whirling in my stomach, and I run the cold water to cool off my sweaty hands.
My reflection isn’t the problem; it’s the illegally hot guy waiting outside. It shouldn’t be a big deal. I used to have game, and flirt with cute strangers in bars all the time, but that was years ago. And besides, Finn isn’t a stranger – he knows me right down to the core.
Why is he back here, after all these years?
I close my eyes. Finn didn’t just leave town that night after graduation. He erased himself completely. No note, no calls, no casual updates online. He vanished so thoroughly, he didn’t even tell his father where he’d gone. I don’t blame him for that, since the two of them were never close. Lord knows Hank McKay wasn’t exactly the warm, fuzzy type. But still, how could he do that to me?
A tap at the door breaks through my thoughts. I startle, splashing water as Delilah’s voice comes. “I know it’s a lady’s right to keep a man waiting, but he’s been cooling his heels out there ten minutes now.”
I pause. Not for the first time, I wish we’d been closer friends back in high-school. Delilah was a year ahead of me, so she never knew what happened with Finn. Nobody did – we kept it secret. I didn’t want the small-town gossip, and sneaking around only made things more fun – and more lonely when he left. I didn’t reconnect with Dee until I moved back here after college, and by then, I didn’t want to drag the past up all over again. Now, I wish she knew the whole story, instead of expecting me to swoon and drool right along with her.
I shut off the faucet and open the door. “How do I look?” I ask, reluctant.
Delilah doesn’t do tact, but I must look pretty pathetic because she gives me a big grin. “Perfect! Irresistible! Now go get him.” She sends me off with a slap on my ass.
As I head back out front, I feel more like a sacrifice getting tossed to the lions. You can do this. You’re not a kid anymore, I tell myself, trying to pump myself up again.  You’re a grown woman with class, and style, and you’ve got moves he’s never seen. 
Not that I’m going to use them. What kind of asshole leaves and never even picks up the phone? I dial back every missed call, even when it’s a timeshare scam in Albuquerque. You’d think he could have returned a message from the girl he swore he’d love forever.
But when I open the door, and step outside, and find Finn by the curb, leaning again a classic grey Mustang – a molten-whiskey look in his blue eyes– I take it all back.
Is it too late to pick the lions?
“So what kind of property are you looking for?” I ask brightly, approaching him. I clutch my file to my chest like it could possibly shield me from that seductive smile and piercing eyes.
Finn doesn’t answer. He just opens the passenger door for me. “You cut your hair,” he remarks as I duck into the car.
“You didn’t,” I say pointedly.
“Touché.” He laughs, closing the door behind me and circling around to the driver’s side. I watch him, déjà vu rushing through me like a wildfire, hot and insistent. I must have sat in the passenger seat of his car a hundred times or more, all those late nights we’d slip away to the creek or out past the shoreline drive. I would have said once that it was my favorite place in the world, sitting right there beside him with my feet up on the dashboard, humming along to whatever old country songs his beat-up AM radio could pull from the wire.
“Nice upgrade, huh?” Finn must be reading my mind as he settles behind the wheel. “That old thing took me as far as Georgia before the engine crapped out on me in the middle of highway seventy-five.”
Georgia. I have to bite my tongue to keep from asking if that’s where he went. Instead, I pull out the first listing. “It’s waterfront, new build. Just take the beach road out past the harbor.”
“Yes ma’am.” Finn doesn’t seem shaken by my cool tone. He cruises through the center of town, one hand on the wheel, the other resting out of the open window. “So, you’re a realtor now? Somehow I didn’t picture you behind a desk selling condos.”
I shrug. “It’s a job. I work the office, mainly. Admin, phones. I was lucky Delilah got me the gig. She’s the real mastermind there.”
“Now that, I can picture. How’s the acting?” he asks, looking over. “I always wondered if I’d see your name up in lights on Broadway one of these days.”
I feel a pang, remembering my life in New York City after high-school – the one he knows nothing about. “I’m not doing it anymore. It was just a hobby,” I answer briskly. “So what are you looking for in a house?” I change the subject. “A dock? Outside space? Room for big parties?”
“I’ll know it when I see it.”
We keep driving. Oak Harbor is a small coastal community near the mouth of the Cape Fear River, with a bustling waterfront, cute clapboard houses, and a few stores and restaurants leading back from the rocky shoreline. It used to be an old fishing town, but these days, tourism is the main draw. People come from all over to fish off the boardwalk, take the ferry out to see the old lighthouse, and visit the wide Atlantic beaches just across the sound.
“This place hasn’t changed at all,” Finn remarks, looking outside as we cruise slowly along the sleepy main street.
“Small town life,” I shrug. “We got a new pizza place that stays open past ten on the weekends.”
“Living life on the edge.” Finn laughs. Our eyes catch. Electricity crackles, straight from his clear blue eyes down the back of my spine, and I feel the rush everywhere: hot and sweet, pulling low between my thighs.
I look away.
 “How are your folks?” he asks, gripping the steering wheel with both hands now.
“Good.” I take a breath, calming myself. “My dad got a promotion to the head office in Savannah, so they’ve moved out there for six months, to see how they like the place.”
“And Lottie? She’s, what, nineteen now? She must be off at college.”
“No,” I answer quietly. “She’s here in town too.” I quickly change the subject away from my little sister. “It’s this turning, just up ahead.”
Finn follows my directions up to the first property: a boxy chrome and glass condo set on the waterfront, with a balcony looking straight out across the bay. He peers up at it over the steering wheel and shakes his head. “Not for me.”
“But you haven’t even seen inside,” I protest. “The view’s amazing.”
“I told you, I’ll know it when I see it.”
Finn looks at me again, and the intensity in his gaze is enough to make me wonder, why he’s back here of all places? He could be off relaxing in the Caribbean, or sunning himself on a private yacht. Why did he come to our little mom and pop shop instead of one of the big, flashy realtors up the coast? Why, even after everything he did, does my heart race, and my blood pump faster? Just one look from him could make all my heartbreak melt away.
He clears his throat, and starts the engine again. “Where to next?”

We visit another five houses, but Finn doesn’t even make it inside to look at half of them.
“Fame’s changed you.” I’m only half-kidding as we drive away from a great beach-front mansion I would kill to live in. “I guess you’re jaded by all the fancy hotels and private jets.”
“Sounds like someone’s been reading the tabloids.” Finn grins.
I flush. “I’ve seen a couple of things around. You know, in passing,” I add carefully. “That stuff’s not true is it?”
He gives me a wink. “Every word, sweetheart.”
I know he’s only teasing, but I still can’t help thinking of all the things I’ve read over the years, stories of Finn dating Hollywood actresses and frolicking backstage with sexy models. I block those images and sneak a look at him instead, that familiar profile and easy posture. His free hand taps out a rhythm on the window frame. He always did have restless hands; he used to say it’s why he first picked up a guitar. He would play for me, just idly strumming as we killed time on those hot, late nights, sprawled out in the grass miles outside of town, watching fireflies spiral in the midnight sky.
I suddenly get an idea. “I know the place,” I declare. “Take the highway north, just past the bridge.”
Finn does as I say, and soon, we’re pulling up the winding driveway of an old house backing onto the creek. We came here once, years ago. We wandered the empty, run-down rooms before sitting down by the dock, our feet dunked in the cool water. Now the house sits under shady cypress trees, the paint fresh and the front path newly mown.
“The Thomas mansion?” Finn asks, slowly getting out of the car. I scramble out too. “This place was falling apart the last time I saw it.”
“They finally sold it, a few years back. Some developer took it back to the studs, but they did a really nice job. It still has all the original floors, and that great porch wrapping around the back.”
I lead him up to the front door and step inside. I can already see it on his face, that this is the place, but still, I take him through the warm living areas, furnished with classic, beachy furniture, and out back, to where rhododendron bushes and rolling grass lead all the way down to the wide expanse of slow-winding creek.
Finn breathes in the salty marsh air and looks out over the water, like he’s already home. “I’ll take it.”
“Don’t you want to know how much it is?” I ask.
He shrugs, his big-shot lifestyle peeking through. “I’m sure it’ll be fine. Ask if they’ll lease it for a couple of months.”
 I nod. It’s a big property to be rattling around all alone -- but maybe he won’t be. I realize that for all I know, he could have a gorgeous, sexy girlfriend just waiting back at the hotel. “So, just so I know what to tell the owners…will you be staying here alone?” I ask, trying to be casual. The grin he gives me says I failed, miserably.
“I should have someone out next week.”
My heart sinks.
“To hook up the cable. I can’t be without my TV.”
Finn’s eyes gleam with humor. He’s teasing me, dammit.
“Great!” I refuse to show I’m ruffled. “Then we’re all set.”
I turn on my heel to head back out front, but Finn pauses. “Wait a second. Don’t you want to show me the rest of the property? Upstairs, all the bedrooms?”
Me and Finn, alone in a room with a king-sized bed? I’ve had dreams like that, and I know exactly how things wind up: the both of us tangled up naked, sweaty, and gasping with pleasure. But there are consequences to the most perfect moment of release – and I learned that lesson the hard way. “Sorry,” I reply, my cheeks burning. “I can’t stay. I have to be somewhere. I’m already running late.”
“Sure thing.”
Finn drives us back to the office, still perfectly at ease. But as the miles pass, his nonchalance burns me. Since the moment he walked in he’s been behaving like everything’s fine between us, like it’s no big deal to just show up and act like nothing’s wrong. Or maybe it isn’t, to him. What happened between us may have made an indelible mark on my heart, but what if he barely gave it a second thought on his path to sold-out stadiums and number one hits?
My heart suddenly aches so much I want to cry. I need to get away, but I manage to hold it together until he pulls up outside the old carriage house, and I can climb out of the car on unsteady legs. “I’ll get the contract sent over right away,” I tell him.
“Don’t I get your number?”
I stare blankly.
Finn’s lips curl in a teasing smile. “For questions about the lease.”
“Oh. You can call the office. Delilah will be able to help you out. In fact, you probably won’t see me again. Like I said, I meanly deal with the admin.”
Finn gazes at me thoughtfully for a moment, so long I wonder if I still have frosting on my face. “I like it,” he says finally.
“Like what?”
“Your hair. You always used to hide behind it,” he says, his smile slipping through my defenses all over again. “Now I can see your eyes.”
I can hear my heart pounding in my ears.
Oh no. Not this time.
I turn away and hurry up the steps without looking back, but I feel his gaze on me with every step. This doesn’t mean anything, I tell myself. Finn McKay is back in town, as gorgeous and charming as ever. But I’ve learned my lesson the hard way.
For the sake of my heart, I’m steering clear.

To be continued…

Hi! I’m Melody Grace, author of the bestselling Beachwood Bay series. Some things about me:
1. I’m a small-town girl turned California beach lover.
2. I spent my childhood with my nose in a book before deciding to try and write one myself. I love all kinds of genres – from thrillers to YA and mystery – but romance has always been a passion of mine.
3. I love pistachio ice-cream, vanilla lattes, bad action movies, and Grey’s Anatomy (yes, I’m still watching… I can’t quit!).
4. I have an uncanny sense of direction. I once drove halfway across Canada without GPS or a map!
5. I have two adorable rascal cats named Bucky and Steve, I rescued them as kittens, and yes, I spoil them rotten.
6. I’m allergic to chocolate :(
7. I love sexy, heart-felt reads with strong heroines and swoon-worthy men. Why don’t you check out a couple of my books and meet your new book boyfriends?