Title: A Veil of Vines
Author: Tillie Cole
Genre: Young Adult
Release Date: 28th November, 2016
To most people, princes, princesses, counts and dukes are found only in the pages of the most famous of fairytales. Crowns, priceless jewels and gilded thrones belong only in childhood dreams.
But for some, these frivolous fancies are truth.
For some, they are real life.
On Manhattan’s Upper East Side, people have always treated me as someone special. All because of my ancestral name and legacy. All because of a connection I share to our home country’s most important family of all.
I am Caresa Acardi, the Duchessa di Parma. A blue blood of Italy. I was born to marry well. And now the marriage date is set.
I am to marry into House Savona. The family that would have been the royals had Italy not abolished the monarchy in 1946. But to the aristocrats of my home, the abolition means nothing at all.
The Savonas still hold power where it counts most.
In our tight-knit world of money, status and masked balls, they are everything and more.
And I am soon to become one of them.
I am soon to become Prince Zeno Savona’s wife…
… or at least I was, until I met Achille.
And then everything changed.
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Kindle Friends Forever
Four ★ Review by Sharon Thérèse
Ms Cole never ceases to amaze me with her talented and versatile writing. Her latest offering takes on the semblance of a fairytale conjuring up sublimely picturesque images. Not only did the beautifully described scenery take my breath away, but having had the pleasure of savouring Italy’s wine and its delicacies was like revisiting the regions of Umbria and Tuscany once again. I consider myself to be quite a knowledgeable wine drinker, so therefore you can imagine my surprise while reading the author’s detailed account of the traditional wine-making process which I might add, is extremely well told.
That being said, House of Savona where the protagonists’ make-believe story of aristocratic grandeur is narrated in modern day is just perhaps, not so inconsequential as we think. One has to live up to their titles and personal choices regarding future spouses are few and far between. Accepting her destiny, Caresa Acardi leaves her loved ones behind and starts her new life. For someone who’s used to having everything, I was delighted to see that there’s much more to her than what I’d had originally thought at the beginning of the story. Her love for the countryside and her outgoing personality bowled me over. She’s honest, curious and well aware that her place in such a tight-knit society is not up for discussion. Ah, but what meets the eye and what one wants to see is completely different. Rules of the heart are indisputably unquestionable!
“There is no need for false modesties, Caresa. I’m very much of the opinion that we should always say exactly what we think. In private, of course. We both have reputations to protect.”
My first impression of Prince Zeno wasn’t at all positive. I found his finicky ways and attitude comparable with that of a spoilt child. Since he’d been given free rein to do virtually what he wanted, I found his persona a tad shallow. Even the art of manly etiquette which I assumed he’d be an expert in, had its failures. Now to be married to the Duchessa di Parma, is he going to be able to change his philandering ways? Despite disliking this impeccably dressed heir to the family’s name, my opinion of him changed a hundred percent when the cat was let out of the bag. I thought his standoffishness appropriate considering he was out of his depth in certain aspects and I couldn’t fault the author’s development of his persona. But regardless of my feelings for him, the part he played was crucial and added that touch of uneasiness.
“Were you jealous?”
“Not a little bit.”
Ooh my, deary me. . . Achille Marchesi! Now we’re talking about a quintessential character who, if it were ever possible, I would love to meet. He is simply beautiful. A heart of gold and a love for everything that nature has to offer, he’s also the best ever expert in his forte. Tillie, you have hit his qualities on the nail to such an extent that I can honestly say you made me cry like a babe in some touching scenes. I do so appreciate how you’ve gone to extremes with his personality traits and even before summing up this review, I have to say BRAVO for giving me such utter pleasure whilst reading his story! Tenderness abounds, comprehension takes first place and Achille is just simply perfect in all his simplicity. He quickly became my Achilles’ heel! There was never one moment when I had to struggle to understand exactly how he felt. While trying to overcome his personal obstacles, I lived his pain and his vulnerability. In all his correctness and his worth, strong emotions were brought out in him, Caresa and myself included when I thought how on earth he was going to come out of the whole situation unscathed.
“It was never my intention to make you unhappy, Caresa,”
“I know.” “But it was never your power to make me happy either. That honor belonged to someone else. It was written in the stars, way before you were born.”
This magical story is low on angst, easy to foretell and a fitting read for young adults. A twist which I had my suspicions about, gave me all those heartfelt sensations I needed and hopefully you’ll be left taken aback like I was but at the same time, satisfied. Told in past tense from the two main protagonists points of view, I really would have loved more from one of the characters who, at the end of the day, made everything possible. Their final decision was in my book, something to be proud of. Putting it lightly, I was chuffed. Ms Cole brought her characters’ virtues, values and faults out in multicolour. The music accompanying this story couldn’t have been better chosen in an Italian love story which hinders on a Shakespearean tragedy in more ways than one. Where were some of my favourite composers? HERE! Maybe a playlist would be asking too much but nevertheless, once you’ve read this story and taken into consideration how important every song sung by Boccelli is or how every Vivaldi Four Seasons concerto is expressed, all you have to do is make up you minds. Once again Ms Cole, BRAVO!
I opened the window beside me and stared at the illuminated entrance. I swallowed hard and placed my empty glass on the bar. Metal groaned, breaking through the twilight, as the massive black wrought-iron gates began to open. The limo slowly pulled onto the property’s lane, and I drank in the thick forest that shielded the estate. I inhaled the freshness of the lush green trees. The unpolluted sky was thick with stars—not a single cloud in sight.
A few minutes later, the thick woods cleared, and I gasped. Acres and acres of gold and green vineyards covered the landscape. The scents of plump grapes and damp soil permeated the warm air. I closed my eyes. It reminded me of being a child. It brought me back to the days before I was taken to New York. I could still feel the heat of the Emilia-Romagna sun on my face, the deep smell of olives, grapes and flowers drifting in the breeze as I ran around our Parma estate.
I smiled a nostalgic smile and allowed my eyes to drift open again. I rested my arms on the window and leaned my chin on them as the limo drove on. There were several small villas peppered over the landscape, their lights twinkling in the distance. They must have been the winemakers’ residences. It was not only the Bella Collina merlot that was made on this land; other reds were too—particularly the Chianti from the region’s finest Sangiovese grapes. The Bella Collina olive oil was also up there with the best. But nothing compared to the famed merlot.
The limo turned right, and my breath caught in my throat. I lifted my head and stared disbelievingly at the property ahead. Bella Collina was a veritable Palace of Versailles tucked away in the Umbrian wilderness.
“Mio Dio,” I whispered as I took in the imposing stone structure, the sweeping steps and the vast number of windows set in the building’s walls. Large pillars of red-veined marble flanked the entrance. Cypress trees framed the estate as if it were the shining star of a fine Renaissance painting. Sculptures of famed Savona monarchs of old stood proudly on the manicured lawns, and strategically placed lighting illuminated the sheer perfection of every piece of topiary.
As a child, I had been to the Palazzo Savona in Florence. It was widely regarded to be one of the finest estates in all of Italy, if not western Europe. But this . . . this . . . there were no words. It was perfectly placed, as if it had always been there. As if it had grown naturally from the Umbrian earth just as sure as the vines and woods that kept this architectural treasure hidden from view.
Tillie Cole hails from a small town in the North-East of England. She grew up on a farm with her English mother, Scottish father and older sister and a multitude of rescue animals. As soon as she could, Tillie left her rural roots for the bright lights of the big city.
After graduating from Newcastle University with a BA Hons in Religious Studies, Tillie followed her Professional Rugby player husband around the world for a decade, becoming a teacher in between and thoroughly enjoyed teaching High School students Social Studies before putting pen to paper, and finishing her first novel.
Tillie has now settled in Austin, Texas, where she is finally able to sit down and write, throwing herself into fantasy worlds and the fabulous minds of her characters.
Tillie is both an independent and traditionally published author, and writes many genres including: Contemporary Romance, Dark Romance, Young Adult and New Adult novels.
When she is not writing, Tillie enjoys nothing more than curling up on her couch watching movies, drinking far too much coffee, while convincing herself that she really doesn’t need that extra square of chocolate.
Title: An Exaltation of Larks
Author: Suanne Laqueur
Release Date: 22nd November, 2016
Publisher: Cathedral Rock Press
September 11, 1973: Eleven-year-old Alejandro Penda watches from his apartment window as Santiago, Chile falls to a military coup, destroying his family and his childhood. Arriving alone in America, he’s taken in by the Larks: a prominent family in the town of Guelisten. Though burdened by unresolved grief for his disappeared parents, he becomes fiercely loyal to the Larks, eventually marrying one of their daughters, Valerie.
September 11, 2001: Javier Landes watches from his apartment window as New York City falls to terrorism. As one of Manhattan’s top-paid male escorts, this professional lover has never lacked for company and is loyal only to himself. But in the wake of 9/11, Jav is named guardian for an orphaned nephew in Guelisten and must open his carefully-guarded heart to pain he’s long suppressed.
Alex, Valerie and Jav meet first in their twenties, with a sudden attraction each finds strange and compelling. When they meet again in their forties, they discover not only is their bond still strong, but their life experiences are strangely similar. All have been shaped by separate 9/11’s, and their unfinished business from the past will change everything they know about love, loyalty and friendship.
“Life has rules. You cannot come in the middle of the night and take what we agreed isn’t yours.”
Across three decades and two continents, Suanne Laqueur’s fifth novel explores the unpredictability of sexual attraction, how family ties are forged, torn and mended, and how love’s downfall can turn to exaltation.
Kindle Friends Forever
Six ★ Review by Sharon Thérèse
I was dying to put pen to paper even before I’d finished reading this book and that just goes to show you how much I loved it. So many thoughts were spinning in my mind, so many feelings out of control, I can’t begin to tell you the effect it had on me or how the Lark’s story cries out to be read. Despite the length and timespan, every page turned and every word read was an ‘exaltation’. It doesn’t make for heavy reading, either; on the contrary. . . it is a brilliant piece of literature. The author’s polished prose is as such that I had to stop reading many passages, sit back and reflect on them before carrying on. And although her storyline is beyond original, what captured my attention was the detailed account of her characters’ qualities, fears and achievements.
An Exaltation of Larks hit me hard from the word go and kept me on tenterhooks throughout. I felt a strong family oneness about them as they stick together through thick and thin. Life’s obstacles strengthen them, but also show their weaknesses. They live passionately and love completely in a tale of sufferance and exuberance. Unravelling over the course of several generations, I quickly became emotionally invested in the relationship between three beautiful people.
“Second chances are given or made.”
Alejandro’s ability to cope with the aftermath of a childhood experience is when he is accepted with open arms into the safe haven of a loving family. But deep down, his grief keeps rearing up its ugly head. He needs help and has it, but at times in all his desperation, it’s not enough. Javier’s story is no less tragic and just as heart-breaking. The hand of fate plays an unfair game of betrayal. Wrongfully judged at an age when boys aren’t yet men, the price he pays is shockingly harsh. Pushed to breaking point, if he’s going to survive, he’ll have to find ways to build up his inner-strength. And this folk, is just the beginning!
“Being with you feels like home.”
“I shouldn’t have to be your home.”
I truly believe destiny’s road is marked out for each and every one of us. In an unexaggerated tone, this is exactly what happens when these two men’s lives uncannily coincide. Their traits are disturbingly similar on some levels; on others, divergent. Without taking into consideration their backgrounds which will influence them later on in life, a friendship blossoms into something special. It was what they needed, treasured and respected. Warming my heart, they made me smile, laugh out loud, cry and brought out such raw emotions in me that I honestly say I was mentally visualising their ups and downs. I didn’t think it were ever possible for an author to paint a picture of their protagonists’ personalities so vividly, but Ms Laqueur did it to perfection!
“Many people like being alone, but nobody likes being lonely. I became lonely. . .”
Valerie! Goodness me, apart from leaving me totally speechless; in contrast, her unforgettable character had me praising her in this read’s entirety. She is the backbone of this story, holds tightly on the family reins and keeps the banter flowing in such a natural manner that I couldn’t help but adore her. Did I agree with her. . . hmm, her honesty is to be tested but all said and done, the best of us make mistakes, and I think hers was more than justified as her only wish was to maintain the status quo. Her open-mindedness and selfless protectiveness is refreshing. The love she has for her kinsfolk, undeniably strong. In fact, if anyone’s going to be able to calm troubled waters regardless of being between a rock and a hard place, it is she.
“You don’t have to be strong anymore.”
How Alex, Jav and Val’s story panned out surprised me. I have to confess that I wanted it to take a path which was not to be. However, after much contemplation, the place they found on a soul-stirring level was to my mind of thinking, indisputably correct when there was so much at stake. The secondary character development is fan-freakin’-tastic! I really connected to Valerie’s quirky sister, Trelawney and the two teenagers, Deane and Ari. . . lovely guys whose growing up struggles were really well-described. Here, Valerie and Alex and Jav’s empathy was crucial. Although house rules weren’t negotiable, their handling of certain issues were always carefully dealt with.
“These are the rules, kid. And they suck sometimes but they keep you safe and they keep the world in order.”
What sold me too was the tense dialogue in angst-ridden scenes that were actually, outnumbered by touching ones. Also, passages and sentences in italic caused a lump in my throat and had me grabbing for whatever happened to be at hand to dry my eyes. I have to mention to those of you who speak Spanish to try and ignore the few translation errors I came across. The verb conjugations of ‘ser / estar — ‘to be’, is one example. Nevertheless, these slip-ups shouldn’t hinder your reading enjoyment. It didn’t mine.
Well, what can I say to the author that I haven’t said already? Your words are splendiferous, your book, magnificent. One that shall never be forgotten, one to be savoured again and again and meriting at the very least, five stars. Bravo Ms Laqueur!
An Exaltation of Larks in on sale from 10/30 – 11/4 for ONLY 99 pennies!
Suanne Laqueur graduated from Alfred University with a double major in dance and theater. She taught at the Carol Bierman School of Ballet Arts in Croton-on-Hudson for ten years. An avid reader, cook and gardener, she started her blog EatsReadsThinks in 2010. Her debut novel, The Man I Love, won a gold medal in the 2015 Readers’ Favorite Book Awards and a gold medal for Best Debut Author from Feathered Quill Book Awards.
With her Fish Tales series, Laqueur has gone from choreographing dancers to choreographing words. Her goal is to create a new kind of emotionally-intelligent romance that appeals to the experience of all readers, crossing gender, age and genre.
Suanne lives in Westchester County, New York with her husband and two children.
Suanne’s Stalk Links:
An Exaltation of Larks: Teasers
Title: Bad Romeo Christmas: A Starcrossed Anthology
Author: Leisa Raven
Series: Starcrossed #4
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: 21st November, 2016
Cover designer: Regina Wamba, Mae I Designs
From the internationally best selling author of BAD ROMEO, BROKEN JULIET, and WICKED HEART comes an anthology of sweet and sexy novellas featuring beloved Starcrossed characters such as Ethan and Cassie, Liam and Elissa, and Josh and Angel; as well as the gang from The Grove.
Have Yourself A Sexy Little Christmas: An Ethan and Cassie Novella
Ethan and Cassie’s first Christmas with the Holt family should be nothing but jolly. Sure, Cassie’s a mess trying to impress her future in-laws with the perfect casserole, but when an unexpected blast from Ethan’s past shows up beneath the tree, the season gets a whole lot more serious—and sexy.
The Naughty List: A Liam and Elissa Novella
After being apart for months, Liam and Elissa are making up for lost time on a secluded island, where they think they’re free to explore each other’s bodies in peace. But when it turns out their Christmas sanctuary isn’t as deserted as it first seemed, their Christmas dreams turn into a nightmare.
Happy, Horny New Year: A Josh and Angel Novella
When the gang from the Grove gets together at a lavish New Year’s Eve party, it’s like no time has passed. Except Elissa and Josh are dating Hollywood royalty, Jack and Zoe have been hooking up in secret, Connor’s new girlfriend wants to murder Cassie, and Erika’s mystery man has everyone talking. Before midnight, shocking revelations are made, industry tongues are wagging, and the poor mistletoe is ready to pass out from overuse.
No matter how you’re spending the holidays, BAD ROMEO CHRISTMAS is sure to heat up your festive season this winter.
Kindle Friends Forever ★ ★ ★ ★
Reviewed by Rachel & Sharon Thérèse
There’s no doubt whatsoever that Ms Rayven listens to her readers’ wishes out loud. Who’s read the Starcrossed series knows her characters’ ins and outs, ups and downs and failures and triumphs. So how could we possibly ask for from her more at this time of year! Or even a better, the perfect Xmas pressie to get us in that festive spirit in the way of a party! Keeping these two readers engrossed in a book which has a structural writing such as is Bad Romeo Christmas was to say, an experience never to be forgotten. Three novellas recap on the lives of each and every one of her protagonists in one book nudging our memories which actually, didn’t need to be since Leisa’s leading guys are engraved in our literacy souls. We’d learnt to fall head over heels for them in Bad Romeo and Broken Juliet. And even though Wicked Heart is a standalone, we were also given a glimpse into their goings on. In fact, we didn’t award it six stars ‘cause it’s against the rules! Here, the author has cracked her characters’ nut. And at the same time, she’s even made us sigh with relief and had us in fits of laughter.
Have Yourself a Sexy Little Christmas.
Ethan Holt and Cassie Taylor are back in full Xmas force. Where? In the kitchen of all places! Very much in love, Ethan doesn’t want to rock Cassie’s culinary boat but believe us when we say who’s going to have the last laugh is the women he can’t possibly compete with… or can he? Is he so starcrossed that he can’t see how this temptress winds him around her little finger? Who would have ever thought that she had it in her! Questions only the man of the day can answer after finding out what he’s let himself in for with absolutely no compunction. The innuendos are so worthy of reading that we were on tenterhooks waiting for make up scenes which weren’t really that at all. Yep, these two lovers need few excuses to warm up the bed sheets! We have to mention that Ethan and his sister, Elissa’s parents are what most family’s dreams are made of. And as it happens, we’ve decided to adopt the whole Holt family! Oops, but a spanner is thrown into the works when an ex rears her ugly head adding to much wanted angst. Leisa, well done here! Furthermore, but not so important, is our disgust for this woman’s low play for the man she’s had her eye on.
“Cassie, if clearing the air with Vanessa bothers you even a little, I won’t do it. Just say the word. Nothing is as important to me as you.”
The Naughty List
Who’s on it? Liam Quinn and Elissa Holt, of course! Such wicked hearts gave us palpating heart thrills in just the right places! Get ready for some hilariously embarrassing scenes which’ll have you bursting out in laughter and curling up with indignation for the two of them. But seriously… there’s much, much more to their story than just buying sexy underwear to make the love of Elissa’s life a happy man. In fact, the author went into great detail to explain that money and fame aren’t everything. Yep folks, there’s a moral to their story regardless of their sexapades explicitly written in some very daringly, mmm… how do we say… sexations! Steaminess is a light adjective to use for some of the hottest scenarios in the book.
“Liss, if you want me to put my mouth on a certain part of your body, all you have to do is ask.”
Happy, Horny New Year
Josh and Angel’s story was wholly anticipated, perfectly construed and just what we needed. Josh is a sexy geek underlined and highlighted. His persona is described by the author in such a way that one can’t help but to connect to him on unimaginable levels. Sensitive, gorgeous and Elissa’s bestie and right-hand man in the theatrical world, everyone respects him. Everyone jumps when he opens his mouth. His love for the theatre has no boundaries, but his insecurities seem to get the better of him. He goes about making sure his woman will be impressed by making a change. After being apart for so long and only messaging her; (by the way, great texting), she has no idea what he’s done or how far his personal doubts reach. But what we can say is fireworks take off exactly when they should after a little confusion. Their self-worth, feelings and confidence are perfectly illustrated by the author’s canny-writing-hand just at the right moment in their story.
“You’re trying to make my head explode with jealousy, aren’t you?
“Is it working?”
Jack and Zoe
Theirs is an extra special plus that we never expected and slipped into the pages exactly where it should have been. Both of us soon realised whom was having problems with whom. But fancifully speaking, someone not so close to them waves a magic wand and urges them to take a serious look at their feelings and guess what, cupid’s arrow works in wondrous ways! Who cupid is you’ll only find out by reading the book!
“I more than like her asshole, so I did get a say.”
“Well, that’s different. Zoe, do you more-than-like Jack, too?”
A special word for Erika
The woman who appears to make or break actors’ careers, do and undo at a whim, has a heart of gold. She was one of our fave characters regardless of her slightly unethical stance which you will see, is a smokescreen like we could never have imagined. She is <b>THE GROVE</b> She melds her actors, cajoles and encourages them to the point that they become her protégés extraordinaire. Erika made this story possible. She is, without a doubt, our heroine. Does she find her HEA, and if so, who nudges her in the right direction? Reading is believing.
“I’ve missed you so damn much. It’s fantastic to see you bunch of drama queens again.”
To enjoy this anthology to the fullest, we’d highly recommend reading the series. Saying that and mentioned above, <b>Wicked Heart</b> is a standalone that’ll melt your heart as it did ours. Now, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty. We really thought it was difficult to beat this series. Selfishly speaking, there were moments when we wanted more but every story has to have an ending and we can’t possibly argue with that. Hotness abounds between all the characters and the continuous banter is beyond perfect. Yep, us KFF gals are suckers for it! Told in first person from various points of view is not an easy feat but Ms Rayven pulled it off to a tee! One of us has to mention that the timeline in this story was a tad confusing until she got her bearings. Bravo Leisa! And a very Happy Christmas.
It’s Live! Purchase now on:
The Starcrossed Series Reading Order
Purchase now on:
Bad Romeo: Amazon ~ UK | US | CAN | AUS
Broken Juliet (Standalone) : Amazon ~ UK | US | CAN | AUS
Wicked Heart: Amazon ~ UK | US | CAN | AUS
Meet the Author
Writing has always been a passion for Leisa, and even though she originally intended to be an actress, it wasn’t long into her time at drama school that she began writing plays.
Those plays were bad. Very bad. Well, her friends thought they were good, but that’s because they were always cast in them and any opportunity to be on stage was met with an obnoxious amount of enthusiasm.
Since then, she’s honed her craft, and several of her plays have been produced and toured throughout Australia.
These days, playwriting has given way to fiction writing, and Leisa’s debut novel, BAD ROMEO, is available in a worldwide release through Macmillan Publishing in December 2014.
Leisa lives in Australia with her husband, two little boys, three cats, and a kangaroo named Howard.
(Howard may or may not be her imaginary marsupial friend. Everyone should have one.)
Why not say hi to Leisa! She’d love to hear from you.
Title: Egomaniac: A Tight Spaces Novel
Author: Vi Keeland
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: 16th January, 2016
Cover designer: Sommer Stein, Perfect Pear
Model: Clément Becq
A new standalone novel from #1 New York Times
bestselling author, Vi Keeland coming in one week!
The night I met Drew Jagger, he’d just broken into my new Park Avenue office.
I dialed 9-1-1 before proceeding to attack him with my fancy new Krav Maga skills.
He quickly restrained me, then chuckled, finding my attempted assault amusing.
Of course, my intruder had to be arrogant.
Only, turned out, he wasn’t an intruder at all.
Drew was the rightful occupant of my new office. He’d been on vacation while his posh space was renovated.
Which was how a scammer got away with leasing me office space that wasn’t really available for rent.
I was swindled out of ten grand.
The next day, after hours at the police station, Drew took pity on me and made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. In exchange for answering his phones while his secretary was out, he’d let me stay until I found a new place.
I probably should have acted grateful and kept my mouth shut when I overheard the advice he was spewing to his clients. But I couldn’t help giving him a piece of my mind.
I never expected my body to react every time we argued. Especially when that was all we seemed to be able to do.
The two of us were complete opposites. Drew was a bitter, angry, gorgeous-as-all-hell, destroyer of relationships. And my job was to help people save their marriages.
The only thing the two of us had in common was the space we were sharing.
And an attraction that was getting harder to deny by the day.
Sometimes what you’re looking for
comes when you’re not looking at all.
I hate New Year’s Eve.
Two hours in traffic to make it not even the nine miles home from LaGuardia. It was after ten o’clock at night. Why weren’t all these people at a party by now? Whatever tension two weeks in Hawaii had relieved was already back to coiling tighter and tighter inside me as the town car inched its way uptown.
I tried not to think about all the work I was coming back to—the endless string of other people’s problems to compound my own:
Get me full custody of the kids.
She can’t have the house in Vail.
All she wants is my money.
She hasn’t given me a blowjob in three years. Listen, asshole, you’re fifty, bald, pompous, and shaped like an egg. She’s twenty-three, hot, and has tits so young they almost reach up to her chin. You want to fix this marriage? Come home with ten Gs in fresh, crisp bills, and tell her to get on her knees. You’ll get your blowjob. She’ll get her spending money. Let’s not pretend it was ever more than it really was. That doesn’t work for you? Unlike your soon-to-be ex-wife, I’ll take a check. Make that out to Drew M. Jagger, Attorney at Law.
I rubbed the back of my neck, feeling slightly claustrophobic in the back of the Uber, and looked out the window. An old lady with a walker passed us.
“I’ll get out here,” I barked at the driver.
“But you have luggage?”
I was already exiting the back of the car. “Pop the trunk. It’s not like we’re moving anyway.”
Traffic was at a dead stop, and it was only two blocks to my building. Tossing a hundred-dollar tip at the driver, I grabbed my suitcase from the trunk and took in a deep breath of Manhattan.
I loved this city as much as I hated it.
575 Park Avenue was a restored pre-war on the southeast corner of Sixty-Third Street—it was an address that gave people preconceived notions about you. Someone with my last name had occupied the building since before the place was converted into overpriced co-ops. Which is why my office was allowed to remain on the ground floor when other commercial tenants were tossed out years ago. I also lived on the top floor.
“Welcome back, Mr. Jagger.” The uniformed doorman greeted me as he swung open the lobby door.
“Thanks, Ed. I miss anything while I was gone?”
“Nah. Same old, same old. Peeked in on your construction the other day, though. Looking good.”
“They use the service entrance down Sixty-Third like they were supposed to?”
Ed nodded. “Sure did. Barely heard them the last few days.”
I dropped my luggage inside my apartment, then headed back downstairs in the elevator to check things out. For the last two weeks, while I was screwing off in Honolulu, my office space had been getting a total renovation. Cracks in the high, plastered ceilings were to be patched and painted, and new floors installed to replace the old, worn parquet.
Thick plastic remained taped over all of the interior doorways when I walked in. The little furniture I hadn’t put in storage was also still covered with tarps. Shit. They aren’t done yet. The contractor had assured me there would only be finish work left by the time I returned. I was right to be skeptical.
Flicking on the lights, I was happy to find the lobby completely done, though. Finally, a New Year’s Eve with no horrible surprises for a change.
I took a quick look around, pleased with what I found, and was just about to leave when I noticed a light streaming from under the door of a small file room at the end of the hallway.
Thinking nothing of it, I headed to turn it off.
Now, I’m six foot two and a half, two hundred and five pounds, and maybe it was just my frame of mind, my not expecting to see anyone, but when I opened the door to the file room, finding her there scared the living crap out of me.
I took a step back through the door.
She got up, stood on the chair, and began yelling at me, waving her cell phone in the air.
“I’ll call the police!” Her fingers shook as she dialed nine, then one, and hovered over the last one. “Get out now, and I won’t call!”
I could have lunged for her, and the phone would have been out of her hand before she realized she hadn’t dialed the final digit. But she looked terrified, so I retreated another step and put my hands up in surrender.
“I’m not going to hurt you.” I used my best soothing, calm voice. “You don’t need to call the police. This is my office.”
“Do I look stupid to you? You just broke into my office.”
“Your office? I think you took a wrong turn at the corner of Crazy and Nutjob.”
She wobbled atop the chair, holding both arms out to regain her balance, and then…her skirt fell to her feet.
“Get out!” She crouched down and grabbed her skirt, tugging it up to her waist as she turned her back to me.
“Do you take medication, ma’am?”
“Medication? Ma’am? Are you joking?”
“You know what?” I motioned to the phone she was still holding. “Why don’t you push that last one and get the police over here. They can drive you back to whatever loony bin you escaped from.”
Her eyes widened.
For a crazy person—now that I was really looking—she was pretty damn cute. Fiery red hair piled on top of her head seemed to match her firecracker personality. Although from the looks of her blazing blue eyes, I was glad I’d held off on telling her that.
She pushed one and proceeded to report the crime of entering one’s own office. “I’d like to report a robbery.”
“Robbery?” I arched an eyebrow and looked around. A lone folding chair and crappy metal folding table were the only furniture in the entire space. “What exactly am I stealing? Your winning personality?”
She amended her complaint to the police. “A breaking and entering. I’d like to report a breaking and entering at 575 Park Avenue.” She paused and listened. “No, I don’t think he’s armed. But he’s big. Really big. At least six feet. Maybe bigger.”
I smirked. “And strong. Don’t forget to tell them I’m strong, too. Want me to flex for you? And maybe you should tell them I have green eyes. Wouldn’t want the police to confuse me with all the other really big thieves hanging out in my office.”
After she hung up, she stayed standing on the chair, still glaring at me.
“Was there also a mouse?” I asked.
“Considering you jumped up on that chair.” I chuckled.
“You find this funny?”
“Oddly, I do. And I have no fucking idea why. It should annoy the crap out of me that I come home from a two-week vacation and find a squatter in my office.”
“Squatter? I’m no squatter. This is my office. I moved in a week ago.”
She bobbled again while standing on her chair.
“Why don’t you get down? You’re going to fall off that thing and get hurt.”
“How do I know you’re not going to hurt me when I get down?”
I shook my head and contained my laugh. “Sweetheart, look at the size of me. Look at the size of you. Standing on that chair isn’t doing jack shit to keep you safe. If I wanted to hurt you, you’d be out cold on the floor already.”
“I take Krav Maga classes twice a week.”
“Twice a week? Really? Thanks for the warning.”
“You don’t have to ridicule me. Maybe I could hurt you. For an intruder, you’re really kind of rude, you know.”
After a full minute stare-off, she climbed off the chair.
“See? You’re as safe on the ground as you were up there.”
“What do you want from here?”
“You didn’t call the police, did you? You almost had me there for a second.”
“I didn’t. But I can.”
“Now why would you go and do that? So they can arrest you for breaking and entering?”
She pointed down at her makeshift desk. For the first time, I noticed papers all over the place. “I told you. This is my office. I’m working late tonight because the construction crew was so loud today that I couldn’t get done what I needed to. Why would anyone break and enter to work at ten-thirty at night on New Year’s Eve?”
Construction crew? My construction crew? Something was going on here. “You were here with the construction crew today?”
I scratched my chin, half believing her. “What’s the foreman’s name?”
Shit. She was telling the truth. Well, at least some of it had to be the truth. “You said you moved in a week ago?”
“And you rented the space from whom, exactly?”
Both my brows shot up this time. “John Cougar? Did he drop the Mellencamp, by chance?”
“How should I know?”
This wasn’t sounding good. “And you paid this John Cougar?”
“Of course. That’s how renting an office suite works. Two months’ security, first and last month’s rent.”
I shut my eyes and shook my head. “Shit.”
“You got conned. How much did all of that cost you? Two months’ security, first and last month? Four months in total?”
“Ten thousand dollars.”
“Please tell me you didn’t pay cash.”
Something finally clicked, and the color drained from her pretty face. “He said his bank was closed in the evening, and he couldn’t give me the keys until my check cleared. If I gave him cash, I could move in right away.”
“You paid John Cougar forty thousand dollars in cash?”
“I paid him ten thousand in cash.”
“I thought you said you paid four months.”
“I did. It was twenty-five hundred a month.”
That did it. Of all the crazy shit I’d heard so far, thinking she could get space on Park Avenue for twenty-five hundred a month took the cake. I broke out in a fit of laughter.
“What’s so funny?”
“You’re not from New York, are you?”
“No. I just moved here from Oklahoma. What does that have to do with anything?”
I took a step closer. “I hate to break the news to you, Oklahoma, but you got ripped off. This is my office. I’ve been here for three years. My father the thirty before that. I was on vacation the last two weeks and had the office remodeled while I was gone. Someone named after a singer scammed you into giving him cash to rent an office he had no right to rent. Doorman’s name is Ed. Walk through the main building entrance, and he’ll verify everything I just said.”
“That can’t be.”
“What do you do that you need office space?”
“I’m a psychologist.”
I held out my hand. “I’m an attorney. Let me see your contract.”
Her face fell. “He hasn’t brought it by yet. He said the landlord was in Brazil on vacation, and I could move in, and he would come back on the first to collect the rent and bring me the contract to sign.”
“You’ve been scammed.”
“But I paid him ten thousand dollars!”
“Which is another thing that should have tipped you off. You couldn’t rent a closet on Park Avenue for twenty-five hundred a month. Didn’t you find it strange that you were getting a place like this for next to nothing?”
“I thought I was getting a deal.”
I shook my head. “You got a deal alright. A raw deal.”
She covered her mouth. “I think I’m going to be sick.”
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Vi Keeland is a native New Yorker with three children that occupy most of her free time, which she complains about often, but wouldn’t change for the world. She is an attorney and a New York Times, Wall Street Journal, & USA Today Best Selling author. Over the last three years, eleven of her titles have appeared on the USA Today Bestseller lists and four on the New York Times Bestseller lists.
In 2013, she released her first romance novel and never looked back. To date, she has thirteen novels released, with PLAYBOY PILOT also releasing in 2016. Her novels have appeared on #1 on Amazon and are currently being translated into German, Polish, Portuguese, Korean, Hebrew, French and Italian.
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Other books from Vi
Amazon: US | UK
KFF’s 5 ★ Review ➜ HERE
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Amazon: US | UK
KFF’s 5 ★ Review ➜ HERE
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Life on Stage series (2 standalone books)
Amazon: US | UK
KFF’s 5 ★ Review ➜ HERE
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Amazon: US | UK
KFF’S 5 ★ Review ➜ HERE
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MMA Fighter series (3 standalone books)
Worth the Fight (MMA Fighter Series, Book One)
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Worth The Chance (MMA Fighter Series, Book Two)
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Worth Forgiving (MMA Fighter Series, Book Three)
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The Cole Series (2 book serial)
Belong to You (Cole Series, Book One)
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Made for You (Cole Series, Book Two)
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Left Behind (A Young Adult Novel)
Amazon: US | UK
KFF’S 5 ★ Review ➜ HERE
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First Thing I See
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Books by Vi Keeland & Penelope Ward
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