Showing posts with label suspense. Show all posts
Showing posts with label suspense. Show all posts

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Dirty Little Lies: Men of Summer

Dirty Little Lies
a Men of Summer novel
by Lora Leigh
an Erotic Romantic Suspense

From #1 bestselling author Lora Leigh comes Dirty Little Lies, a scintillating novel of the Men of Summer—and the scorching hot women who set their hearts on fire…

Zack Richards knows he’s asking for trouble. Trying to protect a member of the notorious Maddox family could get a man killed—even a battle-scarred, muscle-ripped alpha like Zack. But the woman who has captured his wildest fantasies is nothing like the rest of her power-hungry clan. She’s innocent, beautiful, and has quickly become the one shining light in his dark, desperate world. The only woman worth fighting for…and dying for…

Her name is Grace Maddox—and everybody knows that she is a marked woman. Targeted for her family’s sins and hunted like a wild animal, Grace has no choice but to accept Zack’s protection. In his arms, she finally feels safe. In his eyes, she sees an insatiable desire that mirrors her own. But the truth is dangerous—and could end up tearing them apart. Will surrendering to Zack end up being the biggest mistake of Grace’s life?

Review by pearls
The Men of Summer series follows the action of homegrown militia group and its agency counterpart as they fight terrorist and criminals on American soil.  If you've been following the series, you've already met the incredibly hot and Alpha men.  If not, Lora Leigh quickly brings you up to speed.  There is a traitor amongst them, and Grace is caught in the crosshairs.  There has always been sexual tension between Grace and Zack, but they have been fighting it for so long they don't how to not fight it.  But when her safety depends upon living under his protection, the tight quarters force them past their barriers.  As always, Lora Leigh delivers on the steamy nights.  The suspense and mystery drive the plot, and shows how these two were fated from the beginning to wind up together.  Another great novel!

About the Author
Lora Leigh lives in the rolling hills of Kentucky, often found absorbing the ambience of this peaceful setting. She dreams in bright, vivid images of the characters intent on taking over her writing life, and fights a constant battle to put them on the hard drive of her computer before they can disappear as fast as they appeared.

Lora's family, and her writing life co-exist, if not in harmony, in relative peace with each other. Surrounded by a menagerie of pets, friends, and a teenage son who keeps her quick wit engaged, Lora's life is filled with joys, aided by her fans whose hearts remind her daily why she writes.

Friday, August 19, 2016

The Sapphire Heist


✮✮✮ THE SAPPHIRE HEIST is here! The highly anticipated conclusion of New York Times bestselling author Lauren Blakely’s new contemporary romance Jewel Novel Series, this enemies-to-lovers series is filled with sex, wit, glamour, and high stakes, with a rugged, ex-military, dirty-talking alpha hero! Don’t miss this explosive and passionate series and check out all the stops on the tour! ✮✮✮

Review by pearls

Still on the search for missing diamonds, Jake and Steph discover another party is interested.  With only three days left in the Caymans, the two work to uncover clues.  The beauty and tranquility of the Caymans is vividly captured, from swimming with the stingrays, to sex on the balcony over the surf.  Learning to trust one another and get past the broken trusts of their pasts leads to a closeness in a short time frame. A sexy mystery.


THE SAPPHIRE AFFAIR & THE SAPPHIRE HEIST are being released by Montlake, which is an Amazon publishing company, and will only be available for sale at Amazon. You can download a free Kindle reading app for any smartphone or tablet here:

**THE SAPPHIRE AFFAIR & THE SAPPHIRE HEIST are available for free on Kindle Unlimited!**

    The Sapphire Heist - cover


Keep your lover close and your enemy closer…

After giving in to a fiery night of passion, island adventurer Steph Anderson and bounty hunter Jake Harlowe are back to square one. With millions in stolen jewels at stake, it’s hard for Steph not to question her new partner’s true motives—no matter how sexy he might be. Jake is hungry for more of Steph, but he can sense her growing mistrust, which only fuels his own doubts. Worse, there’s undeniable evidence that someone else is now after the jewels—and that they are both in real danger.

Fighting against their magnetic attraction is a distraction these two can’t afford. In order to survive, they’ll have to pull off one more heist—and trust each other with something even more precious than jewels: their hearts.


Amazon US Amazon UK Amazon Paperback Amazon AU Amazon CA

Audiobook (narrated by Sebastian York)

A fan circled lazily overhead, stirring the gauzy white curtains that hung by the sliding glass doors. He grabbed her hand, pulled her to the open deck. The sun was still high in the sky and his room had a stunning view of the endless blue water. He also had a clear view of how to resolve this turmoil still roil­ing in his chest.
He had to try to talk to her about some of the harder topics. If not, this would be Rosalinda and the Medici job all over again.
“Just look,” he said, gesturing to the vast sea.
She gazed toward the water. “It’s gorgeous.”
“It is. And I’m showing you to make a point.”
“Over the view?” She parked her hands on the railing.
He turned to her and met her eyes. “Yes. I’m showing you this because it’s beautiful. Because you love the water. Because you are an outdoor girl through and through. Because I know these things about you,” he said, taking her hands and clasping them in his. He squeezed. “I know already that the water calms you. I know the sunshine is like some kind of magic to you. And I know you love your mother with a fierceness that can move mountains. You’re like this warrior princess who’d go to battle for her, and even though I’ve never met her, I can pic­ture her. I imagine she is the gentlest, kindest person in the world who wouldn’t hurt a fly, and you fight for her. Not because she’s the kind of woman who won’t fight for herself, but rather because she chooses not to. Am I right?”
Steph drew in a deep breath and nodded. A warm breeze blew by, stirring up the ends of her pretty blonde hair. “Yes. You’re right.” Her voice was soft.
As the waves lapped the shore in the distance, and boaters skipped over the blue waters, he grasped her arms. “But what do you know about me?”
She opened her lips but didn’t speak.
“Steph,” he said, fixing her with a sharp gaze, and then asked again, needing to set her straight, desperate to avoid another on-the-job mis­take. “What do you know about me?”
“That you like ice cream?” She said it like a question, her expres­sion confused.
He nodded, a sliver of a smile appearing briefly. “That’s a good start. What else?”
“That you like to tell jokes?” she asked, squinting as the sun shone brightly overhead.
“Keep going.”
 “That you’re motivated by your family,” she said with more confi­dence now in her tone.
“Good. Keep going.”
“That you do what you do because of them. To take care of your little sister and brother, and your big sister’s kid.”
“I do.”
“And that you hate when bastards get away with anything.”
He tapped his finger to his nose. Bingo. “Know what else?”
A knot of discomfort clogged his throat. He pushed past it, speak­ing plainly, honestly. “I went out with a woman who nearly cost me a job. Who tried to steal the artifact we’d teamed up to find,” he said, the memory blasting through him of how foolish he’d felt when Rosalinda stole it from him. “I trusted her. I thought she cared about me. She only cared about the prize.”
“I don’t even want the prize,” Steph said, raising her chin, meeting his gaze. “I’m not after money. I’m after the truth.”
“But it seemed this morning that you were playing me,” he said, his tone turning rougher. “That when you saw me at the café, you were all sexy snuggly because you thought I’d run. And outside the gallery, you were pretending to get cozy when you put your hands in my shorts, but you were only searching for stones even after I told you there weren’t any.”
“I was,” she said through gritted teeth. Her expression was one of frustration and embarrassment.
“Don’t fuck with my feelings. You know I want you. You know I like you. Just don’t fuck with me,” he said, yanking her close to him.
“I’m not. I won’t. I’m sorry,” she said, her tone full of contrition.
That knot unwound, and he nodded. “So tell me the truth. Do I seem like the type of guy who’d screw you over?”

    The Sapphire Affair - cover

And Don’t Miss the First Book, THE SAPPHIRE AFFAIR, now available!

Order your copy today!


Amazon US Amazon UK Amazon Paperback Amazon AU Amazon CA

Audiobook (narrated by Sebastian York)


About Lauren Blakely:
Author pic - Lauren BlakelySince self-publishing her debut romance novel CAUGHT UP IN US three years ago, Lauren Blakely has sold more than 1 million books. She is known for her sexy contemporary romance style that’s full of heat, heart and humor. A devout fan of cake and canines, Lauren has plotted entire novels while walking her four-legged friends. She lives in California with her family. With ten New York Times bestsellers, her titles have appeared on the New York Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal Bestseller Lists more than fifty times. Her bestselling series include Sinful Nights, Seductive Nights, No Regrets, Caught Up in Love, and Fighting Fire as well as standalone romantic comedies like BIG ROCK and MISTER O, which were both instant New York Times Bestsellers. In the fall she’ll release WELL HUNG, another romantic comedy. To receive an email when Lauren releases a new book, sign up for her  

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Newsletter | THE SAPPHIRE AFFAIR Goodreads |THE SAPPHIRE HEIST Goodreads |Lauren Blakely Goodreads


Thursday, August 11, 2016

Summer Lovin' LGBTQ Showcase #1

Welcome to our annual Summer Lovin' LGBTQ Showcase, where we celebrate literature that believes Love is Love!  Each day we will showcase 5 novels.  Be sure to enter the rafflecopter each day to earn up to 20 chances to win the prizes donated by the authors. 


By: A.M. Arthur
Series: Off Beat (Book 2) *Standalone
Page Count: 300
(Sub)Genre: Contemporary, Rock Star, M/M Gay LGBT, Erotica
Pub Date: September 6, 2016

After a tragic accident, Lincoln West’s dreams of making it big as a guitarist fell apart. Unable to play music, he’s battling a hopeless downward spiral, and takes his friend’s offer to stay at their beach house for the summer. While at an open mike night at local bar Off Beat, he locks eyes with a busboy who doesn’t make Linc feel so broken anymore. 

Emmett Westmore lives for the anonymity of busing tables in his aunt’s quirky bar where no one pities him for the fire that killed everyone he loved. He blames himself for the fire, and he doesn’t want anyone to see him—except for Linc. Emmett’s walls drop when he’s around the gorgeous blue-eyed guitarist, but he has a secret that could destroy his budding relationship with Linc.

About the Author
A.M. Arthur was born and raised in the same kind of small town that she likes to write about, a stone's throw from both beach resorts and generational farmland. She's been creating stories in her head since she was a child and scribbling them down nearly as long, in a losing battle to make the fictional voices stop. She credits an early fascination with male friendships (bromance hadn't been coined yet back then) with her later discovery of and subsequent love affair with m/m romance stories. A.M. Arthur's work is available from Samhain Publishing, Carina Press, Dreamspinner Press, and SMP Swerve.

When not exorcising the voices in her head, she toils away in a retail job that tests her patience and gives her lots of story fodder. She can also be found in her kitchen, pretending she's an amateur chef and trying to not poison herself or others with her cuisine experiments.

Contact her at with your cooking tips (or book comments). You can also find her online (, as well as on Twitter (, Tumblr (, and Facebook ( ).

Craving His Love
a Black Hills Wolves novel
by Kayleigh Malcolm
a Paranormal Romance MM

Stone McKie has come back to the Black Hills, the only place he’s ever felt at home. He never expected to find a mate waiting, or that the creative omega would be terrified of him. Josh was raised believing that he wasn’t worth anything other than being a whipping boy for more dominant wolves. The thought of being the mate to a big, burly tattoo artist is too terrifying to contemplate, but he can’t seem to keep his distance. When a threat from Josh’s past catches up to him, he has to turn to the one man who scares him for protection. Can Josh get past his fears and accept the love he desperately craves? Will Stone have to leave the one place he’s ever felt at home, to follow his mate?

Kayleigh Malcolm is giving away an ebook copy of Craving His Love

About the Author
Best selling author Kayleigh Malcom (and her alter ego Corinne Davies) is a firm believer that all love is beautiful and everyone deserves a Happily Ever After....well except for those involved with cancelling Firefly. She's still holding a grudge over that one.

She first put pen to paper in an attempt to write a love story between her and her favourite rock singer of the time. It was filled with all the angst that only a teenager can come up with and, of course, an incredible wardrobe. Years later, during the wee hours of the morning, when her first daughter insisted on waking up, she discovered online RPGs and her love of writing emerged again.After many encouraging words from fellow writers, she decided to try her hand at developing her own stories, learning it takes more than mind blowing sex and a happily ever after to make a great story

By day, she is a full-time wife, mother, and product consultant. At night, she avoids such mundane tasks as housework and laundry by creating her own worlds where fantasy and mythology comes to life. Worlds in which you are just as likely to be living next door to an ancient Deity as finding your soul mate in steam powered flying machine. Sticking with one genre is a talent she hasn't achieved yet and can be found creating worlds as normal as our own or as fantastic as her dreams. Her characters have to face real life challenges, as many of us do, but love always finds a way to conquer all.

A social media junkie, she can be found haunting many different sites and loves to hear from her readers.

The Undercover Rock Star
Bulletproof #1
by Jenna Galicki
a Rock Star Romance MM

A spur-of-the-moment vacation was supposed to jolt Cameron Douglas out of his funk, but it appears he only traded locations. It was a chance meeting with a handsome stranger that changed everything. Brandon stirs Cameron's interest and his heart, but will the mysterious man reveal his true identity before their vacation in paradise is over?

Sometimes life in the spotlight was a heavy weight to bear for Brandon Bullet. He never knew if men were interested in him as a person or just enamored with his rock star status – until he meets Cameron Douglas. It wasn't often that Brandon shared a connection with someone who wasn't aware of his notoriety. He's determined to keep his identity a secret while the two of them get to know each other and before someone blows his cover.

Jenna Galicki is giving away a signed Paperback of The Undercover Rock Star

About the Author
Jenna Galicki writes in multiple genres including m/m/f, m/f, and m/m. She is predominantly known for her Radical Rock Stars Series. The Prince of Punk Rock (Radical Rock Stars Book 1) was a finalist in the 2015 Bisexual Book Awards. Jenna is a strong advocate for LGBT rights and marriage equality. She loves music, Rottweilers, and meeting new people. A native New Yorker, she recently relocated to Southern California with her husband and two dogs. She’s a Rottweiler enthusiast and an avid music buff. When she’s not hunched over a computer, you can find her front row at a rock concert.

  Follow Jenna Galicki, she would love to hear from you!
Facebook friend request:
Twitter: @jennagalicki

 A Heart's Desire
by Kris Michaels
a Detective Romance MM

Agent McKenzie is nobody’s ‘yes’ boy and has the letters of reprimand to prove it.

He smells the stink of political maneuvering in this case and he can see the handwriting on the wall. Hell, the words are three feet high and written in crayon. Someone in his own agency wants a target on Liam Mercier’s back but McKenzie would be damned if he’d put one there. The damaged man currently in his custody needs his protection, not manipulation. That’s why he’d agreed to use a safe house that was off the grid. Throwing away his rarely used FBI procedure book had nothing to do with the protective urges he felt around Liam. Nope, not a damn thing to do with heavy doses of desire, or spikes of lust. He was just doing his job, after all, he has a killer to catch and a victim to keep alive. Protecting his best bet of taking that sick bastard down was his civic duty.

Forced to face the nightmares of his past or lose his pension, Liam Mercier did the only thing he could do. He walked back into his personal hell. The man assigned to protect him is everything Liam wanted and needed—four years ago. Leaving the small island of sanity he’d been existing on could cost him everything. But being hunted by a genius, sadistic killer without the protection of the sexy, intense, agent was a guaranteed death sentence. Fate had dictated Liam’s course four years ago. The only thing he questioned was when his killer going to finish his work.

Warning: This is a M/M detective romance with same sex relationships that contains potential triggers to those sensitive to sexual assault.

Kris Michaels is giving away an ebook.

About the Author
Kris Michaels is the alter ego of a happily married wife and mother who loves to write erotic romance with a twist of military flavor.

A chance meeting and immediate friendship with an established author propelled Kris into a world where her lifelong fantasy of publishing romance novels came true! Her vivid imagination and erotic fantasies evolved into novels that contain suspense, mystery and a huge measure of Alpha yummieness!

Kris believes in meeting life head on…as long as there is an ample supply of coffee, whiskey and wine! She believes love makes this crazy life worthwhile. When she isn’t writing Kris enjoys a busy life with her husband, the cop, and her two wonderful sons.

Daily Rafflecopter for Showcase Giveaways
Stop by Aug. 11-14 to see what new items are added to the basket!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

To see Sean Michael's feature, visit

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Hard Rules: Dirty Money

Hard Rules Cover

Hard Rules
Dirty Money series
by Lisa Renee Jones

About Hard Rules:

Wall Street meets the Sons of Anarchy in Hard Rules, the smoldering, scorching first novel in the explosively sexy new Dirty Money series from New York Times bestselling author Lisa Renee Jones. How bad do you want it? The only man within the Brandon empire with a moral compass, Shane Brandon is ready to take his family's business dealings legitimate. His reckless and ruthless brother, Derek wants to keep Brandon Enterprises cemented in lies, deceit, and corruption. But the harder Shane fights to pull the company back into the light, the darker he has to become. Then he meets Emily Stevens, a woman who not only stirs a voracious sexual need in him, but becomes the only thing anchoring him between good and evil. Emily is consumed by Shane, pushed sexually in ways she never dreamed of, falling deeper into the all-encompassing passion that is this man. She trusts him. He trusts her, but therein lies the danger. Emily has a secret, the very thing that brought her to him in the first place, and that secret that could that destroy them both.

Elegant young man in tuxedo looking down while sitting on a stool, on grey studio background.

Get your copy today:
Amazon CA:
Google Play:

UK Edition (releases same day as US!)
Kindle UK:
Kindle AU:
iBooks UK:
iBooks: AU:
iBooks NZ:  

Other links found here:  

Add it to your GOODREADS SHELF:

Close-up portrait of a passionate young people in love.

"Angst-y, sexy contemporary romance with big emotional and financial stakes set against the backdrop of two dynamic families. Sure to leave readers desperate for the next installment." -Kirkus Reviews  

"High-octane romance set above the glittering lights of Denver is enhanced by the dominance of a powerful man and the cunning sweetness of a woman who isn't cowed or swayed by his wealth...a fascinating mystery and characters with distinct voices." -Publishers Weekly

Review by pearls
Two suspenseful tales intertwined in a world where corporate espionage and drug cartels clash.  The first a tale of a mysterious beauty with a hidden past and a secret phone.  Just trying to survive, trusting no one, she finds herself in the crosshairs of Shane's desires.  The second, the tale of the two brothers fighting for the right to lead the Brandon family empire, with players manipulating from behind the scenes.  From lust to intrigue, this novel brings you powerful players, dangerous liaisons, and some hot, steamy nights on the balcony overlooking the city. 

Hard Rules Teaser 4


This series will have FOUR full-length books in it. The first four will be Emily and Shane's story and there will be a fifth fir a secondary character’s story (more information to come soon). I don't have covers or buy links for books 3 and 4, but I DO have a little information on book 2, DAMAGE CONTROL!!
I am SO excited for this series to come out, because it is so unlike my other series. I am hoping my readers love it just as much as I did when I was writing it! PLEASE be sure to sign up for my TEXT LIST (link below). That will be where/how I communicate when these titles, and others, are available for pre-order, on sale or when I have a big giveaway!  
XOXO, Lisa Renee Jones

Lisa Renee Jones

About Lisa Renee Jones:
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Lisa Renee Jones is the author of the highly acclaimed INSIDE OUT series, which is now in development for a television show to be produced by Suzanne Todd of Team Todd (Alice in Wonderland). Suzanne Todd on the INSIDE OUT series: Lisa has created a beautiful, complicated, and sensual world that is filled with intrigue and suspense. Sara’s character is strong, flawed, complex, and sexy - a modern girl we all can identify with. I’m thrilled to develop a television show that will tell Sara’s whole story - her life, her work, her friends, and her sexuality. In addition to the success of Lisa's INSIDE OUT series, she has published many successful titles. The TALL, DARK AND DEADLY series and THE SECRET LIFE OF AMY BENSEN series, both spent several months on a combination of the New York Times and USA Today bestselling lists. Lisa is presently working on a dark, edgy new series, Dirty Money, for St. Martin's Press. Prior to publishing Lisa owned multi-state staffing agency that was recognized many times by The Austin Business Journal and also praised by the Dallas Women's Magazine. In 1998 Lisa was listed as the #7 growing women owned business in Entrepreneur Magazine. Lisa loves to hear from her readers. You can reach her at and she is active on Twitter and Facebook daily.

Connect with Lisa:
Text List and Newsletter:

Hard Rules Teaser 7  

Enter Lisa’s Giveaway:

Hard Rules Teaser 8

Saturday, July 23, 2016

The Devil's Beauty

by Airicka Phoenix

Dimitri Tasarov has never had a choice in what he was. From infancy, he had been raised with the knowledge that he was a monster, an unlovable creature without a soul, until a single act of kindness threw his entire world into a tailspin.

Ava Emerson had always led a reluctantly sheltered existence. Friendship was a luxury that came with questions she couldn’t afford to answer.

They were an unlikely pair. He lived behind his mask and his roses, and she lived behind her secrets, yet they shared a bond that could get them killed if anyone ever found out.

Times were changing. The city was in turmoil. The weak were unprotected and someone needed to make a stand. But Dimitri wasn’t the only one with eyes on the north, or Ava, and they will stop at nothing to claim them both.

Can Dimitri keep Ava safe, or will the devil fall?

GOODREADS LINK: »The Devil's Beauty is an Adult Contemporary Dark Romance
→ Amazon us:
→ Amazon ca:
→ Amazon uk:
→ Amazon de:
→ Amazon fr:
→ Amazon au:
→ Amazon in:
→ iBooks:
→ Barnes & Noble:

Review by pearls
Action, Suspense, Sexual Tension and a Russian Bad Boy--all the elements of a hot novel.  Dimitri may be the Devil, but Ava is his heart and soul.  Separated first by her stepfather, then by the crime syndicate, can they find their HEA?  Does the Devil deserve an HEA?  Ava thinks so, but she has become a pawn. Fast paced action with slow sexually fueled nights.  A great read that keeps you turning the pages to see what will happen to Ava next. 

Airicka Phoenix is a romance junkie with an incurable addiction to chocolate. She is also a prolific author of several novels written for young adult and new adult romance addicts who love bad boys, hot kisses and a gritty plot. Airicka prides herself in producing quality material her readers can fall in love with again and again.

When she's not hard at work bleeding words onto paper, Airicka can be found cuddling with her family, reading, watching TV shows, or just finding excuses not to do chores.

Be the first for giveaways, teasers and upcoming releases by joining Airicka's newsletter on her website


Twitter: (@AirickaPhoenix)

Monday, July 18, 2016

Series Spotlight: Black Ops: Automatik

One Minute to Midnight
Black Ops: Automatik 2
by Nico Rosso
a Military Romance / Suspense novel

AMZ Link    B&N 

Former navy SEAL Ben Jackson knows that sexy "Mary Long" is nothing but a cover; that beneath the stylish clothes and flirty smile is a stone cold super-soldier no one ever gets close to. Until her kiss hits him like one of her sniper rounds. But Morris Flats is no place for a hookup—menace hums through the town, and the more the two operators keep pushing for answers, the more deadly the current seems to run.

For former Special Forces sniper Mary Kuri, flirting with her muscular teammate feels like playing with fire. It's hard to tell where the cover ends and the real feelings begin. What she does know is they can't afford to lose focus. Their mission is to gather evidence, and with the gunrunners watching their every move, a single mistake could prove fatal.

It's two against the world, and Ben and Mary are about to discover that not only do the lives of innocent people hang in the balance, but they're also fighting to save the rare connection they've found with each other.
Review by pearls
I Love this author!  Each book is a stand-alone, but features the same cast of military men and woman.  This storyline tackles the corruption that divides a small town while at the same time showing two individuals that they are stronger together.  The small town plot and the military operation to take it down is well plotted and thought ought.  The growing connection between Mary and Jackson is steamier with every page.  Lots of action with two strong individuals, but when they come together, a town of drug runners doesn't stand a chance.  And neither does their heart.  This book is just as great as the first one in the series, and I can't wait for more. 

Author's Playlist

Excerpt from Chapter One

Mary Kuri reached past the loaded .38 Special in her purse, found her lip gloss and touched up her color after having left too much of it behind on the rim of a glass of red wine. She preferred to drink whiskey. She also preferred a .40 automatic as a pistol backup. But she was on an operation and had to look more like a real estate developer than a former black ops soldier.
“How’s that Pinot?” The other customers’ drinks sat dry while the hotel bartender paid her too much attention.
“Nice.” It wasn’t, but it was the best the Sycamore Inn could offer. “Perfect end to a travel day.”
“Where from?” He put his hands on the bar and flexed a little. The guy, in his late twenties, filled out a dress shirt fine. Blond hair, clean features.
“Dallas now, but the boss has me scouting so much, I’m like a vagabond.” She sipped the acidic wine and checked the mirror behind the bartender for who might be listening. Two men sat down the bar, paying more attention to the basketball game on the high TV than her. A man and a woman slouched at a table, both looking at their phones and weary from business travel. Slow weeknight at the Sycamore Inn.
The bartender’s nametag hung awkwardly from his chest pocket, purporting him to be Will. “You drove up here from Dallas?” He asked it as if recording it to memory and ready to repeat it to the next interested local.
“Anything under ten hours is a dream.” Which wasn’t part of the act. She’d spent forty-eight hours or more awake during many ops in the Middle East. “I’m just glad to have a little wine and a roof over my head.” She glanced about the small bar off the hotel lobby. One security camera looked down from a corner, but it had a blind spot all the way on the opposite side of the room. “The Sycamore Inn is looking mighty fine.”
Will topped off her wine with a conspiratorial wink. “The best we got in Morris Flats.” A troubling thought brought his brow down. “You’re not here to develop another hotel, are you?”
The remote town at the southern tip of Illinois seemed like it could barely support the one four-story hotel.
“Not to worry. We do multi-use spaces. Businesses on the bottom, apartments on the top. That kind of thing.” The manufactured shop talk prompted her to fish her phone from her purse and check over the notifications. Her gut tightened as she glanced over Ben’s account of the gas station activity. They’d barely started their op, and her new partner had already sparked against the local cops. Not that she blamed him. She blew out a breath and justified her frustration. “Really, Helen?” Her fake boss sending a fake afterhours email. Will started to drift away, but she caught his attention while still looking at her phone. “I just got here, and she’s asking about prospects.”
“That’s the problem with the phone.” He patted his back pocket. “They can always get you.”
“Well—” she placed her phone facedown on the bar, “—I’m not going to run around an unknown town after dark. You should see the places they send me.” She’d been to Iraq, Afghanistan, Chechnya and other locations her service records would deny. “How’s Miller Flats? I’ll find stuff out here, right?”
Will dialed up the charm with a small smile. Hometown hero. He might get lucky with a guest passing through. “Yeah, you will.”
Not with her, though. This intel-gathering trip didn’t warrant any extra special investigative techniques. And Will was a lightweight. The kid probably hadn’t lived beyond the radius of the local pizza joint delivery. Mary had survived a career in Special Forces and now worked for Automatik. It would take a man with a lot of gravity to move her. Which meant no man these days. Not even a fling with a stranger.
“Looked like a lot of land past the train yard.” She took another sip of wine.
Will dismissed the idea with a shake of his head. “Stay away from the east side. There are busted-up warehouses and stuff on the west side, past the high school. That would be good for town.”
He’d flinched when he said “east.” A small twitch of the neck and shoulder, as if defending himself against a taller attacker. The bad territory was to the east, and for her job, she always headed toward the bad territory.
“Thanks for the tip.” She toasted Will with her wine. “Maybe I can make Helen happy for once.” After a meager sip, she resumed reading Ben’s account on her phone. From the way he described it, it wasn’t just a matter of bored cops and reckless teens. The police were using force to maintain control. The sense of trouble continued to tense her stomach. A town on edge and a brand-new partner.
Will watched her read over her phone for a bit, then finally left to attend to the other patrons at the bar.
Past the bartender and the men talking sports, beyond the door to the bar, a new presence stalked into the lobby. An African-American man. Confident, strong and balanced. Trained for combat.
He was trouble for everyone there except her. Ben Jackson was her Automatik teammate. The former navy SEAL was a solid operator, and she trusted him in a fight.
But maybe he was trouble for her. That easy sway of his shoulders as he removed his coat. Thick muscles in a polo shirt. An even gait and a comfortable smile. And a keen awareness that didn’t miss a detail around him. He wheeled his bag into the bar, and an unusual thrill climbed up her spine. She understood him and his past. The way he’d talked to her when the Automatik teammates were hanging out made her think he might understand her history, which had left her exposed and vulnerable. Sensations she wasn’t familiar with. But they intrigued her. Like playing with fire, feeling alive at the border of pain.
“Check-in can wait,” he said to no one. “I’ve been on the road too damn long to pass up the bar.”
He eased onto one of the stools between her and the men. She’d been polite to him before, but had never revealed more of herself than he needed to know, soldier to soldier. For the first time, she took a long look at him. As if he was a stranger in a bar. Would she have been able to tell he was an elite operator? Fit, yes, and athletic. Sharp eyes. A sexy butt in jeans.
Will came over to him, and Ben held up his fingers, measuring different amounts. “Bourbon. Soda. No ice.”
“Got it.” The bartender headed off to make the drink.
Ben also used the mirror behind the bar to scope the area. He appeared relaxed, elbows on the bar, but she knew he was as poised as she was. His report of the police encounter had been detailed, yet she’d still felt, and understood, his frustration coming through the curt words. In the bar, he managed to keep the reverberations from the conflict with the cops suppressed without even a line of strain at the corners of his eyes. They’d completed quite a few ops as part of the team, but she was a sniper and he was a close quarters man, so she’d only observed him from a distance.
Will returned with his drink, and Ben opened a tab. The bartender was much less interested in chatting Ben up than he had Mary and moved back to the men at the other end of the bar. Ben sat still for a moment, looking into his drink with an unreadable expression and a new, surprising depth to his quiet.
They’d never been assigned to a recon detail together. The unprecedented arousal spun up through her again. She tried to shock it out of her system with some of the bad wine. Automatik operations weren’t the place for liaisons. And Ben wasn’t the guy for them. Not if any of the rumors of his exploits were true.
They’d operated on the same team for quite a while, but their current cover stories hadn’t met.
He changed that with a crooked smile. “Cheers.” He lifted his drink from the bar.
“Cheers.” She tipped her glass toward his, and they both drank while watching each other in the mirror.
He had such a casual way of gazing at her. Appreciating but not leering. It could’ve been disarming, but she never let someone take her weapon away.
“See that?” He set his drink down and scrutinized the basketball game. “Number seventy-three. See that bracelet?”
She, Will and the two men at the bar paid closer attention to the TV.
“Yeah?” Will challenged him.
“It doesn’t do anything. It’s got the wrong magnets.” Ben leaned from his stool and rummaged in an outside pocket on his luggage. “These work.” He held up two sporty-looking bracelets made of rubber and fabric cords.
Will came over and took the black one offered to him. The men at the bar waved off Ben’s other bracelet, so he held it out to her. And fell into a sales pitch. “Reduces joint pain. Better range of motion. Less fatigue means more focus.”
She let him down easy. “No, thanks.”
Will already had his on and flexed his arm to test the effects. “Not feeling anything.”
“Keep it.” Ben curled a strong bicep, showing off his physique and his own bracelet. “You’ll thank me in a few days.”
“Yeah, I’ll let you know.” Will kept tensing a fist and shaking his head.
“You in a rec league?” Ben continued the soft pitch to the bartender. For a former SEAL with a quick trigger finger, and he was slick with the line. “I’d love to get more of the regular guys and not super athletes involved to hear what they think.”
Will absentmindedly turned the bracelet. “There’s a police and firefighter gym.” That small flinch returned. Trouble to the east. Trouble with the police. Did Ben see the tell? “Everyone else plays at the park across from the high school.”
“Good to know, buddy. Thanks.” Ben was able to keep his temper down when talking about the cops. He placed the second bracelet down between him and Mary and returned to his drink. “And don’t worry, I won’t tell them you sent me.” Yes, Ben had picked up on Will’s body language. Ben had some chops for espionage work, and that just added to his intrigue.
She skimmed her fingers along the bar and picked up the bracelet. Ben deliberately didn’t turn to watch, though she knew he could see from his peripheral vision.
“Does this really work?” She rolled the cord between her fingers. “Really?”
He leaned an elbow on the bar and turned his back on the men and Will. All his attention warmed her like a comforting blanket. “There’s one good way to find out.” He blinked slow and licked his lips. “Try it.”
She put the bracelet back on the bar.
He laughed and nodded. Was it all an act, or was it this easy to sway back and forth in a flirtation?
“Road warrior?” He took the bracelet and pocketed it.
“Does it show?” She checked her phone to give her something to do.
“You’re tempered like steel.” He didn’t sound like he was flirting. “All those miles, they make us hard.” He was telling the truth.
“Hard up?” She flashed her own smile.
He laughed louder and toasted her. “Just spinning a little conversation.” He took a sip, collected a stripe of condensation from the glass and rubbed it on the back of his neck. His blunt fingers scratched behind his ear and in the tight curls of his hair in a hypnotic little dance. He knew she was watching.
“Sorry.” She angled more toward him. “I’m just a little worn-out from the road.”
“I hear you.” He glanced away from the bar. “I’m going to get a table so I can stretch out and not be bothered by the terrible free throw shooting on the TV. Join me?”
He picked up his drink. She hesitated.
Will came over, warily eyeing Ben. “Everyone good here?” His concern extended to her. Even in a hotel, strangers weren’t that welcome. Especially someone as active as Ben. This town didn’t trust. They had a secret.
Which was why Automatik had sent her and Ben.
She reassured Will, “It’s all good, thanks.”
Ben eased away from the bar. She collected her wine, phone and purse and joined him. They took the table farthest from everyone else. The security camera would still see them, but they both knew better than give any visual clues as to who they really were.
The vinyl-covered chair squeaked under Ben as he sat and stretched his legs out under the table. He sighed long and took another drink. She took the seat to his side so she could watch the front door and still see Ben. Her hands rested at the base of her glass.
No one was close enough to hear them and she still kept her voice low as if the flirting continued. “Is this how you get your bed warmers?” Most of what she’d heard of Ben’s reputation with women had come from his SEAL teammate, Harper’s, razzing.
“Don’t think of them like that.” He shook his head. “They’re women.” He thought for a moment. “We both get got, then we both get gone.”
“Romantic.” She faked a smile.
“Satisfying,” he corrected her. His volume rose, more public. “So I’m going to guess…corporate sales. Big-time stuff. Millions. Billions of dollars.”
“Close.” She leaned toward his glittering rich brown eyes. “How’d you get that?” He smelled of spiced soap, bourbon and a hint of gasoline. Flammable.
“You’ve been on the road for hours, dedicated, but not disassembled. Hair’s in place. No wrinkles on your blouse.” He studied her face. “Lips are perfect.”
His attention made her very aware of her mouth. She’d fired thousands of rounds in combat training. Her unit had drilled in anti-interrogation techniques with Korean Special Forces soldiers. She resisted the urge to lick her lips and gave Ben no indication of the rush of excitement the flirting charged through her. But she was impelled to test it. Usually if someone came on this strong, she shut him down. But with Ben there was the foundation of trust. She knew he wouldn’t take it too far because they had to stay on task and couldn’t let any personal strife affect the mission. It allowed her to tease herself with the very real excitement that came with the fake flirtation.
She kept her hands on the table. His were close. Scarred knuckles. Purposeful fingers.
“We know you’re pitching those magic bracelets.” If all these lies were true, would she reach out and touch his hand now? “But you didn’t say anything about being passed over for a promotion.”
He blinked, surprised. “I’m sitting with a damn psychic.”
“Your watch.” She lifted a finger to point at it. “You bought it in anticipation of the promotion, but instead you’re back out on the road.”
“Bull’s-eye.” He shook his head and chuckled. “If I’d gotten that promotion, I could’ve hired you.”
She lifted her glass in a small toast. “You can’t afford me.”
“Whoever you’re working for isn’t paying you enough.” He toasted her back and they both drank.
A couple of salespeople on the road, in a hotel and no responsibilities until the next day. If she hadn’t joined the Army. Or if she’d left after six years and gone into a day job rather than covert special forces. If she was just a woman flirting with a man. How far would the night go?
Ben took another slug of his drink and dropped his voice. “This is a whole hell of a lot better than the detail in the Mexican desert.”
“Good bourbon?”
“The bourbon is trash.” His gaze took in her face again. “I’m talking about the company.”
Was he still flirting with her saleswoman front, or was this warm attention for the combat sniper and undercover operator?
She maintained a cool exterior. “Good to know I’m a step up from a scorpion.”
He gave her a slow, deliberate wink. “And more deadly.”
“Damn right.” She couldn’t resist a carnivorous smile. “With me, you don’t even feel the sting.”
His honest laugh came from deep. The table became more intimate as he slid his hand closer to hers and dropped his voice. “You see my video?”
She shook her head. “I read the report.”
His finger drew a spiral on the tabletop. “We’re in the right spot.”
She nodded. “Something ain’t right under the asphalt.”
“Locals are hunched under a secret.” He glanced at the business travelers at the other table. “Instinct makes the strangers bunker until they can get out.”
“East side.” Their hands were only inches apart. “Train yard.” Hands that had fought to survive across the world. Being this close made her body hum with restraint. Touching him would just be part of the act. Hands like hers, like his, couldn’t feel pleasure anymore. Couldn’t give pleasure anymore.
“It’s a start.” He didn’t test the distance and leaned away. With a more public voice, he flirted brazenly, “I haven’t checked in yet. Otherwise I’d give you my room number.”
She took a last pull off her thin wine and smiled over the rim of the glass. “I’m sure I’ll see you at the free breakfast.”
He finished his drink and indicated to Will that he wanted another. His gaze moved up and down her as she stood. “I’ll save you a bagel.”
Was it for the benefit of their covers so the others in the bar could see? Or did she want to feel the heat rise as she put her hands on the arm of his chair and brought her mouth near his ear? “Don’t burn it,” she whispered.
He licked his lips and turned toward her. Close enough to kiss. The light in his eye promised a lot of pleasure. But it wouldn’t be real. She leaned away and left the bar without looking back. The mirror revealed that he watched her with growing intensity. Part of the act again? Will and the other patrons also tracked her departure, but with the more common male gazes that tried to consume her.
She passed through the lobby and waited for the elevator. The brass doors reflected any activity behind her. The space was safe for the moment. This assignment was going to be difficult. She and Ben had to pry at the seams of a very defensive environment in order to trace the gunrunning. That kind of armor was familiar. She used it to survive. Not just her body, but her mind, her soul and her heart. But something in the manufactured flirting with Ben had felt too real. He knew a truth of her few others did. She understood how to protect herself from bullets, but what was she supposed to do when her most hidden self stirred in his warm gaze?

The first book, COUNTDOWN TO ZERO HOUR, received a starred review from Publishers Weekly and a Top Pick from RT Book Reviews.

Countdown to Zero Hour
Black Ops: Automatik 1
by Nico Rosso
a Military Romance / Suspense novel

AMZ link    B&N 

Fans of Maya Banks's KGI series will love this explosive new romantic suspense series from Nico Rosso, featuring black ops agents and the women they'll do anything to protect.


Former Special Forces agent Artem "Art" Diaz is tattooed, muscular and undeniably dangerous. He's also deep undercover, posing as mob muscle for a deadly bratva boss. His mission: gain the Russians' trust. Then lead the strike team that will take them down.

Chef Hayley Baskov knows better than to get involved with someone with such close mafia ties, but the handsome bodyguard who brought her to this sprawling estate full of ruthless mobsters is inexplicably kind. A little flirtation may keep her safe amid the growing menace.

As Art's timetable for action escalates, so do his encounters with Hayley. Stealing what illicit pleasure they can keeps them both sane in the face of evil. But when things get dangerous, Art has to tell her about his assignment, bringing her deeper into the shadowy world of black ops…and putting her life on the line.

Now Art has a new objective: protect Hayley from the men who'd see them both dead.

Review by pearls

I was given this ARC by the author for an honest review.  I am so glad that he contacted me.  I love this series!  The Black Ops: Automatik crew is a group of former military operatives now operating on American soil.  This first book tackles the issue of Russian mafia and Mexican cartels taking over inner cities.  When a Russian chef is hired to cook at a Russian mob boss meeting, the mission just became even more dangerous.  Walking a tightrope, Art has to figure out how to protect her without appearing weak to the other bosses and their henchmen.  But armed with her cooking knives and her routine, Hayley is no shrinking violet.  She can stand up to their maneuvers just fine on her own.  And doesn't that just make Art love her more and more.  As he watches over her, his love and respect for her grows.  That is what I love most--getting to see him fall in love with her, not just her body.  Plenty of violence and explosions to keep you on your toes, and steamy tensions to light your fuse. 

About the Author
Nico Rosso was a writer in search of a genre until his wife, Zoë Archer, brought romance into his life in more ways than one. He’s created sci-fi and post-apocalyptic romance worlds, as well as working with his wife on the steampunk Ether Chronicles series. His paranormal Demon Rock series brought you satyr rock stars and the Muses who fed them. With the romantic suspense Black Ops: Automatik series, he takes you into the deep dark world of secret operations designed to protect the innocent.