BLUE COLLAR DADDY – first chapter free!

Blue Collar Daddy, a short sexy story by Alexis Alvarez, will go live on Sept. 18th inside the anthology set Daddy’s Demands.  You can read the first chapter and a sexy excerpt here…and be sure to pre-order, because this is an amazing price for so much sexy delicious daddy domination.

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Chapter One:

“Dammit, no!” I bang the steering wheel, as if that’s going to help. Even though I press down on the gas pedal, simultaneously turning the key, the car is mute. “Shit.”

I sit in the silence, punctuated only by the ticks and pings of the cooling engine, and the call of a mockingbird from one of the overgrown maple trees along the roadside. I glance around, but Route 7 is empty as far as I can see, and the only company I have this afternoon are the bees in the wildflowers along the gravelly grass strip that adjoins the blacktop.

I grab my phone and remember it’s not charged. I toss it back on the passenger seat, where it lands next to my laptop case. Too bad I didn’t make it to my rental house before the car crapped out. The town of Mecklenburg is small, but my new place, on the outskirts, is still at least a few miles away.

I get out of the car and prop up the hood, because this is supposed to be the universal sign for ‘help,’ but I wonder how long I’ll have to wait, and whether I should walk back to town—that’s definitely closer than the rental. While I’m debating this, headlights pull around the bend, and a shiny red truck approaches and slows.

I clench my keys between my fingers just in case, and flex my knees. I don’t expect trouble, but you never know. But when I catch a glimpse of his face, all of my fight instinct drains right out, because damn—this man is gorgeous. I’m not saying bad guys can’t be hot, but this man is phenomenal in a way that transcends regular cute-guy-ness, and I also get a vibe of safety from him. Maybe that makes no sense, but it’s how I feel.

He’s got dark brown hair and brown eyes that flash in the light. Defined cheekbones, a strong chin, sexy full lips. A short, close-shaven beard, hardly more than a few days’ growth—the perfect length, in my opinion. And the muscles on that arm, the built arm resting on the window? I might or might not be drooling.

“You need a hand?” His voice is deep and strong.

“My car died.” I clear my throat. “Probably the battery. Can you jump me?” Then I flush, my cheeks hot.

“Yeah, I can do that.” His voice is lower now, and he smirks. “Good to see your hood’s already popped for me. Makes it easier.”

“Uh-huh.” I swallow. Jesus, is he some kind of male fitness model? Those arms.

“But first I’ll have to check you out.”

“Ah, okay?”

“Make sure it’s not something else.” He opens his door and swings out, and my next thought is something like, Holy fucking hell. His thighs are powerful through his worn, faded jeans, and his lean hips, narrow waist, and broad shoulders are taking my libido places it hasn’t been in a long time.

“Oh, I see.” I relax my key hand.

“You don’t need to worry.” He glances at my fist. “I’m entirely honorable.” The grin that spreads across his face makes my pulse quicken.

“Good to know. Then I won’t need to attack you with my super-cougar-tiger ninja moves.” I wave my hand back and forth and his eyes dart to my hand, then up my body. I’m glad I wore my sexy scoop top and my best jeans today. The ones that make my ass look edible, according to my bestie back in Chicago.

He laughs. “I think your moves need some practice. I’m a black belt, though, so I can hook you up.” The mockingbird sings from the closest tree, and it mixes with the classic rock pouring from his open door.

Yes. Hook me up. I hope that the lust isn’t showing in my eyes, because that would be embarrassing. This guy is so freaking hot, he probably gets hit on everywhere he goes, from college girls and grandmas.

“May I?” He holds out his hand.

Because I’m holding the keys in my right hand, I transfer them to my left and take it. “I’m Kiera.”

“Zach.” He squeezes my fingers but our grip is awkward. It’s like he wasn’t expecting my hand, and then I realize he wasn’t. He was asking for my keys.

“Oh, you wanted these.” I hold up the keys with my other hand and they jangle, my guitar keychain clinking against the silver bells. “Found them.”

“Your hand is just fine, Kiera.” He doesn’t put any inflection on the words, but I feel a spark anyway, and I’m disappointed when he lets go to take the keys. “Not that I don’t trust you that the battery’s dead, but let me just take a look.”

“I might be a car expert, you know.” I cross my arms as he opens my door and moves the seat back to make room for his strong, tall frame. When he swings into the seat, I try not to let my jaw drop at the way his muscles move.

“You might.” He inserts the key and turns it, nods when nothing happens.

“I mean,” I continue, as he gets out and does something under the hood, following him and admiring his ass as he bends over, “maybe I’m one of those hidden boss show people. You know, the ones who pretend to be ordinary, and go undercover to see how their employees are doing on the job.”

He taps something and I hear a metallic ting. His voice is muffled as he replies, “So you’re my boss, is that what you’re implying?” He stands up and raises one eyebrow. “Last I checked, I owned my own business.”

“Me, too.”

“And last time I checked…” his voice goes lower, and his eyes seem to burn, “I’m the boss.”

“Are you.” His eyes are mesmerizing.

“That’s right,” he murmurs, stepping closer.

“At work?” I give him a teasing grin.

“Everywhere.”

I can feel the warmth from his body and I’m dying to lean in further.

“Is that so?” I’m coming on strong and I can’t resist. I want you to be my boss. Toss me down in the back seat of your car and tell me what to do. Are my eyes telling him what I want? What I like?

“Mmm hmmm.” He doesn’t back away, and he looks right into my eyes.

“I like the way that sounds.” My face gets hot and I’m glad. Let him see.

“I’m gonna hook you up, Kiera.” He steps in one more inch.

I suck in a breath. “You are?”

He smiles. “Got jumper cables in the back.” He points over his shoulder, but doesn’t break eye contact. “Just what you asked for, remember?” His voice, a touch lower now, is husky, and I swear there’s a glint of pure predator in his tone.

“Yes.” I clear my throat and touch my cheek.

He gives me a small smile, then steps away to get his gear, telling me to get in the driver’s seat.

“Turn the key and press the gas when I say,” he calls out, and I hear his engine rev. “Now.”

Nothing happens, and I know I can’t be doing it wrong—this isn’t rocket science. We try again, then he ambles over, shaking his head. “Sorry, Kiera. Not just the battery. My guess is alternator, especially because the car just flat out died on you, but we’ll need to have it towed. Get it checked out.”

My stomach sinks. “Oh, no. Fuck.” I sigh. “Is there an Uber service in this town?”

He laughs. “Nope. You’re kidding, right?” But when he sees my face, he stops. “I’ll drive you back to the shop. I’ll call Herb from the garage and have him come pick up the car.”

When I hesitate, he quirks a brow. “Herb’s safe. You can trust him. And it’s my garage.”

“You own a garage in town?”

The garage in town,” he corrects with a smile. “Small town. Just one of everything.”

“I can just leave the car here?” I gesture. “Until… Herb arrives?”

“Promise you nobody will touch it. Even with the keys right in the ignition.” He smiles.

“That’s good to know.” What’s he saying with those dark eyes?

“So get on in.” He points to the passenger seat.

“You’re not a crazy serial killer?” I feel the need to do a cursory safety check, even though my instincts tell me he’s just fine.

He laughs again. “Nope. If you wanna wait for Herbie, he can drive you back. But yeah, I’m safe.” He takes out his driver’s license and holds it out. “Go on. Take a picture and text it to your friends if you want.”

“I can’t. My phone’s dead.” But I still take the license and glance down, then point to my phone, lying on the passenger seat.

He leans over to see. “iPhone? Here. You can borrow my charger.” He gestures to his front seat, where a cord trails from the cigarette lighter charger. I hesitate, then figure, why the hell not? I plug my phone into the jack and snap a quick pic of his license.

“Thank you. My bestie will…” think you’re as fucking hot as I do, “get it soon.” He’s thirty-four, just like me. Six foot two. Two hundred five pounds. All of it lean muscles, as far as I can see. Zach Bradford is one fine man; that much is sure.

Then I do a double take. “Wait. Zach Bradford? I used to know a Zach Bradford in high school back in Chicago. St. Bernard’s. But you…” I hand over the license, tilting my head to examine him.

“Same guy. I’m Zach Bradford from St. Bernard’s.” He puts the license into his wallet, then steps back and puts his hands in his pockets. Does he look a little shy?

“No.” I stare. “I would have recognized… you.” I tilt my head. “Zach?”

I try to reconcile the memory of a thin boy who hung out with a different crowd than I did, with this man-God standing in front of me. He was one of the nice kids, but we didn’t interact much. What I remember about him was his intense gaze, and as I look as Zach now, I see that hasn’t changed.

“You have changed.” And though his stare is the same, my words are true. His body, his face—those are new. All man.

“Then you must be Kiera Collins?” He frowns. “You’re different, too.” He assesses me, and smiles. “I thought you looked familiar, but I didn’t put it together until just now. What are you doing here in Mecklenburg? Is… your family with you? Husband, or…?” He raises a brow, looks at my left hand, then back to my face.

“New job. And no, no family with me. I’m not married.” I flush. “My mom’s still in Chicago. How about you?”

“I’m single. Got divorced a few years ago and moved out here for a change of pace. No kids.” He crosses his arms and a frisson of excitement thrills through me. We’re asking each other something with our eyes, and answering at the same time. Moving through the steps, such as they are.

“Wow, small world.” But what I’m thinking is more that it’s not small, but magical. How else would this man be standing in front of me right now, looking at me like the only thing he wants to do in this world is burn me up with his gaze? He’s straight out of my fantasies.

“Sometimes.” He frowns, as if he didn’t like my glib reply. He tilts his head. “Other times, so vast that it’s incomprehensible.”

“What times are those?” I step closer. If he wants to cut through the bullshit, so do I. My heart quickens.

“Well.” He pauses. “When a person is lonely, I suppose. When you’re looking for something that you can’t find. And I’m not talking about keys.” He looks at my car, then back at me. “When you’re searching for the thing that makes you whole, and it’s not fucking anywhere.”

“Point taken.” I nod. “I suppose in that case, the world is infinite.” I hesitate. “And it’s then that you need to look in a new place. Or stop looking, and let the thing find you. Give life a chance. Let the tides roll and wash you up on the beach of your future.”

His eyes glitter. “What’s your beach, Kiera? What are you waiting for?”

I laugh. “I stopped waiting. That’s why I’m here, Zach. I got tired of my corporate job, so I found this place, in this town, figuring I needed something different. I’m changing my path. Getting away from it all. Thinking things over and getting some perspective. So here I am.” I can’t look away from his face.

“So you are.” I can hear the wonder in his voice. “Right here.”

He calls Herbie. I get into his truck, the smell of new leather and his cologne wash over me, and he plays music, not too loudly. We talk all the way to town, which isn’t a very long drive.

“So what have you been doing since we were in school together?” He looks over at me, then back to the road.

“College, IT degree, worked at a company in New York. A lot of travel. Then I got burned out. Broke up with my fiancé.” I think about my relationship with my ex—how we were so in tune in the bedroom, especially when it came to kink, but how I was still lonely. All the time. “Like I said before, I decided I needed to reset myself, so that’s why I’m here.” I pause, looking at his strong hands on the steering wheel. “You? You said… you’re divorced? What happened?”

“I married young and fast. She was great, but we just weren’t right for each other, I guess. We tried to get busy with friends and socializing to mask it, but eventually it wore through. Sometimes a person can be almost perfect, but it’s the almost that makes you pretty fucking lonely.”

I nod. “I hear you.”

As we look at each other, I feel something growing between us, fast and strong. It’s attraction, yes, but it’s something more, as well. How do you describe the feeling of meeting someone and knowing that things between you will be so fucking spectacular that it’s like it already happened? That’s something amazing and special. You have to grab that with both goddamn hands. You don’t find the rarest jewel and leave it in the mine.

I lean my head back and look over at him, moving my hair, touching my neck. And he smiles, glancing from me to the road; a small smile plays on his lips, like he knows what I’m thinking. Like he fucking loves it. And the rest of the drive is a million miles and a single flash at the same time.

*****

Daddy’s Demands

THESE DADDIES DON’T ASK FOR OBEDIENCE.
THEY DEMAND IT.

Daddy’s Demands is a collection of decadently dirty daddy dom romances from some of the hottest authors in the genre. This deliciously naughty box set includes twenty-five brand-new, stand-alone novellas featuring steaming hot, irresistibly sexy adventures with the baddest daddies imaginable.

Featured authors: Madison Faye, Renee Rose, Loki Renard, Maggie Ryan, Zoe Blake, Alta Hensley, Lee Savino, J.L. Beck, Jane Henry, Isabella Laase, Kelly Dawson, Sara Fields, Kara Kelley, Measha Stone, Amelia Smarts, Mary Wehr, Maddie Taylor, Meredith O’Reilly, Morganna Williams, Katherine Deane, Alexis Alvarez, Shelly Douglas, Sassa Daniels, Marlee Wray, and Rory Reynolds
Your obedience will be demanded on September 18th.

Excerpt from my story, Blue Collar Daddy:

“I’m gonna sit down,” he tells me. “You’re going to lie across my lap, ass up, and ask your daddy to spank you good and hard. You’re gonna earn your fuck, baby, by accepting your punishment.”

“Yes, Daddy,” I whimper, my voice raw with desire. Fuck, I can’t wait to feel his hand on my ass. I want the sudden shock of pain, and the warmth that turns to pleasure. I want to hear the crack of skin on skin, and both of our breathing, labored, eager.

He sits down and slaps both hands onto his jean-clad thighs, legs a little spread, bulge evident between them. I lick my lips and saunter over. “You sure you don’t want my panties off, Daddy?” I run my hand down, and throw my head back in mock passion that’s not really all that fake. “I’m so wet for you. Wanna see? Taste?”

“Oh, baby girl, I’m going to have my mouth all over that pussy,” he promises, “and you’re going to get twice as wet. But for now, I want you over my legs, ready for your spanking.”

I climb up onto the bed and crawl over his lap, positioning myself so my belly is over his legs. I wiggle, feeling how hard he is. “Like this, Daddy?”

“Just like that, yeah.” He lays a hand across both buttocks and rubs. “Good girl. I like how you listen.”

“See, I can be very good when I try,” I offer, bumping my hips up into his palm. “I’m so, so good right now.”

“That you are,” he says, and chuckles. “Let’s see how well you listen when this ass starts to sting, hmmm?”

I suck in my breath, anticipating the first spank, but he strokes again, down my thighs. “Spread a little,” he orders.

I shift my thighs wide and moan when his fingers find me, stray under the fabric of my panties and delve into my core. “God, that feels good.”

“Jesus, you are wet.” His voice is full of amazement and gritty with need. “Fuck.”

“Please.” I shift my hips, trying to rub my clit against his fingers.

He notices. “Bad girl. You take what you’re given, is that clear? If I want you to wait, you wait.”

And then the spank comes, a hard, beautiful crack right across both cheeks.

I cry out, a mix of pain and delight, and he does it again. “You like that, baby girl? You like a little spanking, is that right?”

“Yes…” I moan. More, fuck, more. Yes.

He spanks again, alternates cheeks, and rubs in between.
“Your skin is so goddamn soft, Kiera. And you turn pink right away. I fucking love it.”

I hiss as he spanks harder. He grabs my hips and holds me in place for a second, both hands, before letting go with one, leaving the other as an anchor. “Don’t get shy on me now, baby girl. We’re just getting started, and I’m going to have you dancing over my lap before your pussy gets any more attention.”

“Ow…” I whisper, and then yelp it out when he lands a flurry of spanks all over the base of my thighs. “Ow!”

He laughs, but pauses to rub. “Stings, does it?” His hands are soothing and within seconds, the fierce burn turns to a sexy tingle

“Yeah…” I breathe. “A lot.” But I make no move to pull away. “It hurts.”

“But I think you need it to hurt,” he whispers, bending down and running his hands over my curves. “You like a little punishment with your pleasure, don’t you, baby girl? You don’t come hard unless you’re given a good work-up first.”

I can only moan in reply, but I push my hips up, wordless, asking with my body for what I need. What I crave.

He obliges, spanking harder now, and more deliberately, over and over until I do start to twist on his lap to get away from the sharp slaps. “Ouch, Daddy, ouch.”

“Oh, there we go,” he murmurs, not letting up for a second. “That’s it. Now that it stings, baby girl. This is when the spanking really starts. The rest was warmup. Play.”

Get the rest of this story and 24 others here!

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thanks for reading!

XOXO from Alexis Alvarez

 

 

Hammered – First 4 chapters free!

FREE in Kindle Unlimited!

Global Link:  mybook.to/hammered

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Chapter One

Talia

“No problem getting through that fence.” I turn to my friend and partner in crime, Lem, and give her a bright smile. “Now we need to find the elusive Danton Carter.”

Across the construction site, a few men in hard hats turn to stare. When they don’t look away immediately, my heart rate accelerates.

Lem rolls her eyes and touches her skirt. “Not loving the dust, Talia.”

“I don’t want to get kicked out before we talk to their boss.” I scan the area. “Do you see him anywhere?” I push my hair out of my face. “It’s so humid.”

My eyes catch on a man by a stack of 2x4s. He’s tall and built, and has the beginnings of a scruffy beard on his chiseled face. Super hot. He meets my eyes and I look away quickly.

“Too bad we’re not looking for that guy.” Lem nods her head in his direction. “Right?”

“If it doesn’t have a beer gut, several rows of jowls, and a cowboy hat with a feather, it isn’t Danton Carter. Once you see his pic on the website, you can’t unsee it.”

“Hot guy is staring.” Lem steps closer to me.

“Act like we belong. Walk that way.” I point to a silver trailer. “Maybe Carter’s in there, eating pork rinds.”

Lem snorts.

“Actually, he’s not eating pork rinds. He’s devouring the small, delicate bodies of the Moorish Crane. The very ones we’re trying to save. The ones he’s killing with this expansion into the woods.” My voice rises.

The handsome man puts down his hammer, unwraps a flannel shirt from his waist, and wipes his face with it.

Jesus, this guy is ripped! In his mid-thirties, I’d guess, his tanned skin is muscled like a fitness model, with a six-pack, strong biceps and triceps, narrow hips, and broad shoulders. His blue jeans ride low on his hips, and those boots… I do have a thing for guys in boots and worn jeans.

He tosses his shirt onto the pile of wood and strides toward me and my bestie, adjusting his hard hat.

“Talia. Incoming.”

“I can see that,” I hiss back, adjusting my skirt, wishing my heels weren’t so high. If I had sneakers on, I’d already be banging on that trailer.

“Ladies.” His voice is low and rich, but not welcoming. “This is a construction site. Private property. I need you to leave.”

I stick out my hand. “Hi. I’m Talia Carlsson and this is my colleague, Lem Hayes. We’re both volunteers from the—”

He doesn’t take my hand. “I don’t care where you’re from; you need to exit the premises. You’re not authorized, and you don’t have hard hats and boots. Let’s go.”

He gestures to the fence and gate. “I assumed the Employees Only sign might keep random people out. And the lock.” He narrows his eyes.

I cough. “It was left open.”

The man smiles, but it seems sort of predatory. “I suppose if I watched the security footage, I’d see exactly how you got in.”

“Maybe there’s no need to do that.” Lem pulls at my sleeve. “We can leave right now.”

“Not until we speak to Danton Carter.” I cross my arms.

The man stills. “What do you want with Danton Carter?”

“We’re from Earth First Environmentals.” I reach into my case and pull out a card. “My contact info.”

He takes the card and slides it into his front pocket without reading it, an easy move that makes my stomach flip, as I look at his lean hips. “Let me guess.” His voice is flat. “You’re with the group that keeps pestering us.”

“If you give us a chance to talk to him, I would appreciate it.” I make eye contact to show my sincerity. His eyes are a gorgeous cerulean blue. Holy mother of everything, who has eyes like that? And those lashes?

“Ladies, we need to walk.” His hand hovers just above my shoulder. “If you are injured on this site, it’s my ass.”

I try not to think about how much I’d like his ass, and how nice it looks in those jeans. I feel the warmth from his hand, and even though he doesn’t touch me, a little shiver of arousal sparks in my core.

“We’re not going near the work zone. We just wanted to find Danton.” I look back. “Or someone who knows where he is. Can you tell me where to find him?”

“The dangers are not limited to being hit in the head with an I-beam. You could trip over your own feet, fall and break your neck, and then sue.” He blows out a breath.

“Does that happen super often?” Lem’s voice is innocent.

“When people wear shoes like that, you better damn well believe it,” he says, a note of disgust in his tone, pointing at my heels.

“Ooh, no, these shoes are very comfortable,” I disagree, glancing down. “I walk quite well in them.”

Then I trip over an air molecule and fall right into the man.

Strong chest. Abs of steel. Arms that encircle me with strength. And his scent – not sweaty, like you’d assume, but sort of clean. Like soap, faint aftershave. Then a hint of deodorant and musk.

It’s over fast, then I’m back on my feet, breathing a little hard.

“Exactly,” he says, condescension dripping from his voice, “what I was talking about.” He rolls his eyes at me and Lem, but mostly at me. “Are you alright?” It’s like those last words were pulled from him.

“Yes.” I take a breath. “I only did that”—I sniff—“to make you feel good about yourself, like you get things right sometimes. It was intentional.” I stick up my chin and cross my arms. “You’re welcome.” I uncross my arms and adjust my hair, and his eyes follow the movement.

He scowls at me, hands on his hips, and slowly a smile works its way to his lips. “Is that so.”

“It’s exactly so.” My mouth twitches. “Because now that you’re softened up, you’re going to take us to see Danton Carter. Who’s one elusive… guy.” Sonofabitch, is what I wanted to say, but probably it’s not the best idea to insult a man’s boss in front of him.

“If he’s elusive to you, Ms.”—he pulls the card from his pocket and glances at it—“Carlsson, it’s for a reason. Have you considered that?”

“What’s your name again?”

He quirks a brow. “Again? Don’t recall I told it to you, yet.”

“You didn’t. That was my way of asking.”

“Kind of a roundabout way, don’t you think?”

“So what is it?”

He smiles at me. “You can call me Dane. Dane… Troy.”

“And this”—he gestures at the fence through which we recently came—“is called the exit. And this”—he raises his hand in a little Miss America wave—“is goodbye.”

“But wait.”

“Nice chatting, ladies.” He fixes us with a steely stare, and I gulp, stepping back through the opening with Lem. He clicks the lock shut and crosses his arms over that impressive chest. “You two have a fantastic day.”

When we don’t make a move to walk away, he raises one brow. “I’d sure hate to have to call security, which I will do in half a heartbeat if I see either of you two around here again in those.” He waves a hand at my heels, then turns to go.

“So I can come back if I wear my combat boots?” I call, and he snorts, turns back as if he can’t resist one more look.

“Please,” I implore. “It’s important. We have a miniscule window of opportunity here, and we only need a few minutes of his time. I’ve tried all the more traditional means—”

“You mean legitimate—”

“He’s not responding to emails, phone calls, texts, tweets.”

“If he’s not responding, it means the answer to whatever you want is probably already a no. Thank him for saving you some time,” he says drily. “Bye.”

Lem and I stand shoulder to shoulder, watching as he strides back to his pile of boards. He picks up the shirt and puts it on without glancing in our direction, then heads over to the group of men nearby.

“Is he a foreman?” Lem rummages in her purse and grabs her keys.

“He’s a dick.” I scowl.

“I’m sorry.” Lem turns to me. “That did not go well.”

“Understatement. Did we look stupid?”

“Well, women and feminists everywhere are crying, so I’d have to go with a resounding yes.” Lem shakes her head.

I groan in frustration as we get into her Prius. “I just thought if we could see him, face to face. Once. But we can’t even get past his guard dog.”

“It’s not over,” she consoles me. “They’re not scheduled to break into the breeding grounds for a few weeks, right? So you have time to track him down. Make your case.”

“Yeah.” I stare at the plastic banner that sways in the desultory breeze. Danton Carter Construction Corp. It’s held up on either side by two rough pieces of wood, one of which has pink spray paint. I see more pink marks along the ground, a dashed line, probably tracing the path of a future gas line or electric wire. “They’ve already built this much. Why would they change it now just because we asked?”

Lem nods. “And since everything they’re doing is legal, they don’t need to.”

“Maybe Mark is right. I’m wasting my time on this crane project.”

“Well, the thing about your time is that only you get to decide. Although…” she trails off and glances at me.

“What?”

“I mean, there are other breeding grounds for the cranes. And we do have other issues to handle. I hate to say bigger ones, but…” she pauses again. “I mean, you know I agree that Mark’s a douche ninety percent of the time. But he may be right, just this once.”

“Please. Ninety-five, Lem. Get it right.”

We both laugh, and she slows down to drive over a series of muddy bumps and a well of murky water in between.

“This is really far out. Weird place for corporate offices, don’t you think?” Lem looks out at the wild tangle of bushes that leads into the woods.

“That’s the thing. The zoning paperwork is so vague it could be anything.” I pull up the stack of printouts from my laptop case near my feet. “We’re assuming corporate offices. But maybe it’s a personal retreat for the big man himself. Funded with company money.”

“The legal team tried to untangle it and said it’s legit, though. Right?”

“Yup. And Mark said he needs them to work the sea lion issue in Carlsbad.” I sigh. “Wish I’d gone to law school sometimes.”

“Buy a box of Cracker Jack.” Lem snorts. “I hear they have some degrees in there.”

I smile, but then frown as we pass a meadow. “I bet he plans to develop all of this into urban blight. I can’t believe they sold him the land. Assholes, all of them. Our current city council sucks.”

“Don’t disagree there.”

When we make it to the main road, gravel pings the underside of the car as Lem pulls out. “Where to now?”

“Back to the volunteer office.” I scowl. “We have to figure out our next steps.”

 

Chapter Two

Dane

“You getting lucky with a threesome tonight?” My lead construction guy, Hector, swigs from a gallon bottle of water. He’s been distant lately, and I’m glad he’s joking with me today.

I laugh. “Yeah.”

“Not those two, of course. I’m talking about the viejas who work in the front office.”

“Your mom and your sister, cabrón.”

He snorts. We watch the two women pull away in some fucking little white Prius.

“Seriously, man, who were they?” He puts down the jug and wipes his mouth. His hand jerks and twitches and he turns away from me, as if he doesn’t want me to see.

I shrug. “No one important.”

“The one with the long brown hair, she had fucking nice legs.” He’s still facing away from me, massaging one hand with the other.

“You don’t say.” I raise my eyebrows.

“Why you gotta keep secrets, jefe?” He faces me again and rolls his eyes.

“They were just asking questions. Tourists.” I shrug.

“Okay, sure, sure.” He laughs but makes a strange expression.

I hesitate. “Everything’s good with you, right?”

“Fuck, yeah.” He says emphatically. “Better than okay. You going to fill in again?” He nods at the beams. “We’re one man short this morning.”

“For an hour at least. That good?”

“Yeah.” His expression of satisfaction lets me know that working alongside the crew is the right call for now as they get to know and trust me.

Hector’s an excellent manager. The men listen to him, and he has an uncanny ability to match talent to task. Since I promoted him, we’re at least ten percent more efficient. Meaning we get tasks done ten point four percent faster on average than when my uncle was running the show.

My gut twists, thinking of the mess Danton left me. This is not the time to have do-gooder environmentalist hippie dippie chicks prancing around. Those kinds of people piss me off, even if they’re not encroaching on my site. And there’s definitely no time for romance in my world these days—I can barely make time to sleep, let alone try to date.

I’m not into threesomes. But if I had time… They were both pretty, but I’d choose the one Hector mentioned, the one I tangled with—and keep her all to myself. Talia.

I smirk, thinking of how she tripped, and sassed me, all super rude, when she didn’t get her way. Her gorgeous brown eyes and the way they widened when she looked at me. Her lush lips. Curvy shape.

Fuck, if we hooked up, and if by some stray chance of the gods she was into what I like, I’d bend her over the hood of that little crappy white car and spank her ass good and hard for teasing me until she begged me to—

“Dane?”

“Yeah.” I swallow and focus on my cousin, who’s picking his way across the site in a three-piece suit and tie. Because he knows I’m anal about it, he’s also wearing his hard hat and boots. “What’s up?”

“I need to review the financials with you.” Art sniffles and touches his nose. “Oh God, the pollen. I’m literally going to die.”

I refrain from saying, “Go ahead.”

“This minute?” I raise my brows and glance back, but Hector has the crew already going. “I asked for email, not hand-delivery.”

“I’d appreciate it.” He crosses his arms and gives me the pouty look I remember from when we were kids. Used to be he’d follow it up by tattling. “I do have a busy schedule.”

“God forbid you’re late to a meeting,” I agree, narrowing my eyes.

He frowns. “Let’s go to your trailer,” he says, wrinkling his mouth. “I could use the AC.” He lifts the hard hat and smooths his hair, which has about an entire container of gel mixed in.

“You bet.” I raise a hand and make eye contact with Hector, and he nods. “Talk as we walk. Give me the overview.”

Art sneezes. “So we’re behind schedule on the Chicago and Baltimore projects since we had to do your renovations. My father didn’t think it necessary at the time, and I still don’t—” His voice is stiff.

“I explained that to the board.” I keep my voice even. “The buildings were started with lower grade wiring. We needed to upgrade.”

Art sniffles again. “It was to code when the project was initiated, and we were grandfathered in. Okay? So you going in there and overriding it didn’t make the board very happy. I’ll just say that. Very expensive.”

“The board,” I snap, opening the door to the trailer and gesturing to him to enter first, “can kiss my ass. They’d be crying another story if we were buried in multiple lawsuits or news stories, I promise you that. We need to have impeccable safety as part of our image.”

Art nods. “My father ran this company for over forty years and made it a powerhouse. The decisions you’re making are slowing us down and adding expense.” He raises his eyebrows, which are as sculpted as that woman’s. Talia’s. Of course, on her, it was fucking hot. “And I’m here to ensure we stay strong.” For a second I think I see some emotion in his eyes, but he looks away.

“Spell it out for me.” I cross my arms.

“The bottom line?” He scratches his cheek. “This project needs to get done on time and on budget and open up just as planned, or we are going to be in a world of hurt.”

“Meaning what, Art?”

“Meaning that if we’re all out of a job, nobody will give a flying fuck what kind of wiring we use, Dane.” He narrows his eyes. “You know how important it is that we get the next bid here in Mapleton. And if we fuck this one up at all, that one’s going to our competitors.”

I put up my hands. “The work’s gotta get done the right way. That’s a hard boundary condition. And if things weren’t that way in the past…” I let my voice trail off.

“I hope you’re not insinuating that my father was anything other than exemplary in his attention to detail.” Art frowns.

“It’s not an insinuation.” Let him make of that what he will.

We stare each other down for a second, then he averts his eyes. “I’ll email you the updated financials, like you asked. But I came here in person to let you know the severity of the situation.” His voice cracks and for a second his eyes look watery.

“You okay?” I raise an eyebrow.

“It’s my allergies, Dane. No, I’m not fucking okay. I need to get my Claritin. And I need to get going.”

“Consider me fully apprised.” I nod to the door. “Careful out there, Art. It’s only getting hotter. Don’t melt.”

He mutters something under his breath, then says, “I’ll need daily updates on the progress for the board.” He makes it sound like a request and a threat at the same time.

“You know me. Love updates,” I grunt.

He doesn’t reply, but raises a hand, and walks back toward the gate, his slacks making swishing noises.

“Put your hat back on,” I call. “Safety first.”

He says something I can’t catch, but sticks the hard hat back on his head as he walks to the gate, only whipping it off when he reaches his car. Tosses it in the back seat. He honks the horn on his sleek BMW twice as he takes off, raising dust.

“Motherfucker.” I groan and head back out to the crew. As I approach, I call out to Hector. “Where do you need me, man?”

I see respect in the way some of the men eye me, and I stand tall. Working with them seems to be helping with motivation and morale, things we need now more than ever here at Danton Carter Construction.

I’ve never been one to back down from a challenge—and right now, this is the biggest one I’ve ever taken on. It will take all of my focus and skills, but I’m confident I can turn this project around and get us back in the black. That is, if I stay on task and don’t allow anything to get us off schedule: Not protestors, not pretty women, nothing.

It shouldn’t be a problem.

Talia

“It shouldn’t be a problem.” I force a smile at Mark, and rub my temples, trying to stave away the headache that whispers from behind my eyeballs.

“Because, Taaalia.” He drags out my name, and I’m mesmerized by the way his thin lips move. “When I get a call from the head of security at a well-known construction site, complaining that my minions were harassing the crew, and snuck on-site illegally and not even in the correct safety gear, do you know how that makes me feel?”

“I don’t, Mark. Why don’t you tell me how that makes you feel?” I keep my voice pleasant. Dear sweet Jesus, though, I’m thinking. Just kill me now. Right now. Why do I even do this?

“I’ll tell you what I feel.” He points at me, and the ends of his fingernails, bitten to the quick, repulse me. “I feel that it makes us look a little unhinged. A little too much like PETA for my liking. We are a small and growing environmental group and we are a completely legitimate one.”

Behind his back, Lem mouths along on ‘completely legitimate’, and I put a hand to my mouth to stifle my laughter.

I stare at the bulletin board which is littered with pictures of celebrities who are active in social justice campaigns; these are the people Mark is wooing on a constant basis. It’s like a People Magazine married a National Enquirer and the two of them vomited all of their contents into our office. So far Mark hasn’t succeeded in obtaining a single famous spokesperson for any of our campaigns, but that hasn’t dampened his enthusiasm one bit.

“We follow rules. We advocate for the helpless animals who need us, and we do it one hundred percent within the law of the country. Because otherwise we’re no better than the vicious creeps we protest against.”

“Absolutely.” I want to roll my eyes and smirk, but I can’t. How is this my life? At thirty-two, how did it happen that I spent my valuable free after-work time volunteering in a shitty little strip-mall office full of 70s style modular cubicles, getting lectured by a guy who resembles the naked mole rat he purports to love?

Then I glance over at the photos of the Moorish Crane—excellent photos, ones I took, not that I’m bragging—and it comes back to me: This is why. Because I give a shit about these animals, and because Mark—annoying though he is—also cares.

He frowns. “You know I more than appreciate all of the hours you’ve spent taking photos for us.”

“Yes.”

“And the crane calendars you designed. And I’d hate to lose you.”

“Lose me?” I frown.

“As a valued volunteer. But if you persist in rogue activities, I’ll have no choice but…” He pierces me with his gray eyes.

“Mark, please. I hardly think it’s a rogue activity to seek out the owner of a construction company that’s threatening the habitat of a special local species.”

“We need to be squeaky clean, Talia. That’s how we’re going to set ourselves apart. We can’t grow as an organization and get the funding we need from important donors if we’re not spotless.” Mark coughs. “I’m this close to getting Manda Shine on board. She grew up not too far from this town. Do you know how amazing that would be for Earth First Environmentals? It would put us on the map. And I need all my volunteers to embrace that. Keep the right image.”

I want to tell Mark to fuck himself. And that no way is a big, world-famous star like Manda going to support our dinky efforts here. But I swallow my pride.

“Oh, I can embrace that.” I give him a big smile. Lem and I are going to go for a drink, and I will verbally eviscerate this little weasel as if I were paid to do it.

“Good.” He clears his throat and picks up a picture of a crane. “Because this little guy?” He waves the photo at me. “He’s counting on you.” I think I see tears in his eyes.

The horrible thing is that even though I want to mock him—and oh, I will—I understand the emotion, too. I care about animals and their habitats.

But then I see Mark slide his glance over to another picture; the one featuring the cast of The Walking Dead. And it’s not clear to me whether his tears are because he actually cares about the animals, or because he’s so eager to consort with celebrities.

“I mean, protests are one thing.” He clears his throat. “Protest events we plan as a group. Ahead of time. With my appropriate foresight. And attendees.” His eyes stray to the bulletin board again, and he sniffs. “And this whole incident should never have happened. Remember I told you that we’re focusing on sea lions now, Talia?”

I steeple my fingers and try not to look guilty. Of course I remember. “Well, the legal volunteers, yeah. But as far as I understood, we here in town were still going strong on the crane situation because they’re local, and we’re local, and it makes more sense for us to focus on local—”

“We in town are doing what I say, Talia. Because last time I checked, I manage the resources. We don’t want to mix messages and resources. And right now I might need to take a trip to Monterey Bay, which is going to, as luck would have it, have a film festival this coming weekend! And I can’t be distracted wondering if you’re going to get into trouble.” He coughs. “So I need you to stay away from that site.”

“I will not go back onto that property without an invitation or appropriate safety gear,” I promise Mark.

“Thank you.” His voice is stiff. “Have a wonderful weekend, Talia.”

“Oh, you too.” I grab my purse. “Lem?”

She gets her stuff. “I’ll walk out with you. Later, Mark.”

“Hmmm.” He’s got his laptop open and he’s typing furiously. Probably reaching out to the reps for every celebrity he can think of.

As the door closes behind us, I let out my breath. “I don’t know why I tolerate him, Lem. I swear—”

“I know. I know.” She pats my arm. “Let’s go for a drink at Corndog’s. It’s a new place I want to try.”

“That does not sound like a good name.” I give her a dubious look.

“It’s the best, according to Karla. Corndog Cemetery. It’s a new underground bar and it’s super cool.”

“And they’ll let us in?”

“How could they not?” She waves a hand up and down her body. “We are hotness personified. Also, it’s not like a bouncer situation place. Just, you know, hard to find.”

“Like a secret?”

“More like funky and unusual and sort of difficult to locate, but not actually secret.”

“Then count me in.”

“Consider yourself counted.”

“I do consider myself that.”

“Good, because you are.”

 

Chapter Three

Talia

“So we go into this Chinese restaurant,” Lem explains, “and through the kitchen. Then we’ll find a door marked ‘No Enter.’ We enter it, go down some stairs, and if we say ‘Corndogs are cool’ at the next door, we get ten percent off a drink. And we get to enter.”

“That sounds so James Bond. Are you sure?” I glance over at the pink neon sign that flashes ‘Happy Yum Noodle’ although the N is burned out. There’s trash on the sidewalk and the whole area has a desolate, run-down feel, although there’s a fair amount of street traffic and pedestrians. Across the street, a parking lot is full of high-end vehicles, but I have no idea where the patrons might be.

“Not entirely. Think of it as an adventure.”

“Why would the restaurant allow people to walk through their kitchen? Isn’t that against the health code?”

She shrugs. “I don’t know that places around here care too much about things like health and code.” She makes air quotes on the words. “They probably get paid a nice little sum from the bar.”

“Well, as a volunteer who just got her non-paying job threatened by a weasel for doing things against protocol, I personally want to say that I care about things like that.”

“Where’s the spitfire who tweaked that lock this morning?” She giggles. “Guess Mr. Hot Ass did review the security tape.”

“It wasn’t even really locked. And I’d like to tell him exactly what I think of him.” I scowl. “Let’s go.” I get out of her car and slam the door, and stand on the sidewalk, inhaling the scent of crispy beef grease. “Jesus, that smells good.”

“Air crack,” Lem agrees. “Even if we don’t find the bar, they probably make a delicious egg roll.”

“That’s the scam. There’s no bar. They suck you in and once you’re there, you’re all, fuck it. I’m already here. Might as well get seven orders of Lo Mein and some Orange Chicken.”

We open the door and push aside a waterfall of beaded strings. The place is dim, heavy on the red and gold and Buddhas. A few people—all Chinese—are eating in booths. Nobody looks up at us, but I feel out of place.

“So, the kitchen?” I raise my eyebrows.

“Yes,” whispers Lem. She takes my hand. “Give me bravery.”

I squeeze her fingers. “You lead the way. I’m tapped out of sass.”

We make our way over to the kitchen. A woman looks up at us from a booth where she’s folding napkins and raises her eyebrows.

I smile, sure that she’s going to stand up and tell us, “Stop.”

But she just nods and goes back to her task, and as we approach the swinging gray door with the round porthole window, my heart starts to hammer. “This is exciting,” I hiss. “We’re really doing this.”

“Ooh, back up.” Lem grabs me by the arm as the door opens, nearly hitting me. “Busy.”

A waiter comes out with a tray of steaming entrees; gives us a quick glance but doesn’t stop.

I peer through the window. “Are there any doors in there? And look how close we’d have to walk to the grease tanks. I don’t know—”

“Let’s just see. We came this far.” Lem pokes me in the back. “Go in.”

“Me? Why should I go first?” But I tentatively push the door. A wave of heat hits me as I step into the narrow galley. A man looks up from chopping onions and gives us a stare, and a row of headless ducks lie naked and pale on a metal slab. There’s no door marked ‘No Enter.’

“Oh, fuck,” I whisper to Lem. “This feels wrong.”

“Yeah.” She bites her lip. “Um, I just remembered. I’m not sure it’s Happy Yum Noodle. Maybe it’s Panda Empire.”

“Lem! Those aren’t even remotely similar.” I grab her hand.

“Can we help you?” A voice from behind us rings out—someone else has entered the kitchen after us.

At first I assume it’s the manager. Except the voice is familiar—and as I turn, the words “I’m sorry, we’re just leaving” on my lips, I recognize who it is.

It’s the guy from the site. Dane. Except right now he’s no longer in his jeans and bare chest. He’s wearing slacks and a dress shirt that hugs his body in all the right places, and holy fucking hell do my eyes pop.

“These are the same two who snuck into my construction site this morning. Not surprised to find them wandering around another place they don’t belong.”

He turns to the guy beside him, a tall man with dark hair, and says something in Chinese, and the two of them laugh loudly. My face burns as they stand in the doorway.

Dane eyes me. “Talia.” When our eyes meet, a spark flares, and I swear, the air between us gets hotter than it already is inside the kitchen.

“Dane. So lovely to see you.” I smile. “Tattling on me again?” I raise my eyebrows and cross my arms.

“Have you done something bad, again?” His voice, rich and low, rolls over me, and I withhold a shudder at the way he says the word bad. His eyes flash at me and he smirks, as if he’s reading the dirty thoughts in my mind.

“Depends on how you define bad,” I retort. Not my best reply ever, but I’m flustered by his eyes. The biceps filling out those sleeves. His narrow hips.

His smile is dangerous. “Why don’t you tell me how you define it.”

“Well, I don’t define it by trying to save a species of bird and its habitat from getting wiped out by a construction company.”

“Perhaps we can continue this conversation in the dining room.” The other man gestures. “Please, ladies. Dane.” His almond-shaped eyes, dark and alert, scan us both, but he gives Lem a second glance. I think he’s incredibly handsome—tall and lean, his suit fits him perfectly.

“Apologies, Bae.” Dane ducks his head. “I’ll take care of the miscreants for you. These intruders happen to be Talia Carlsson and her sidekick—”

“Lem,” adds my friend, sticking out her hand.

“Bae Xo.” He shakes my hand, then takes Lem’s hand, and I think I see her sparkle. He holds her hand for a long second before releasing it. “You know, the guided tour is only a few dollars extra. There’s no need to sneak around.”

“I’m sorry.” Lem steps in a little closer. “We thought there was a secret bar hidden in here.”

“A bar?” Bae raises his brows. “Really.”

“But I was mistaken.”

“So it would seem.” He smirks.

“But I have to say that I’m entirely fascinated by the onion chopping process. And ah, duck cooking.” Lem points to the kitchen.

“Then by all means. Please. Let me take you around.” He bows and takes her elbow. “Yes?”

Lem seems utterly charmed. “I’d love that.” Her voice is low and breathy, and I roll my eyes.

As the two of them disappear behind the swinging door, I look up at Dane. “So.”

“So.” He smiles. “Do you consider this fate?”

“She has off days. It’s possible.” I shrug, pretending that his broad shoulders aren’t doing things to my libido.

He laughs. “Come on, don’t hold a grudge.”

“You called my boss, Dane, at the environmental group where I volunteer. And complained about me.” I scowl at him.

“You were trespassing.” His smiles fades. “Being unsafe. Tampered with a lock, for which I could actually have called the police. Am I incorrect?”

I sigh. “No. It’s just… complicated.”

He tilts his head. “Want to tell me about it? With a formal apology?” There’s a glint in his eye that makes me weak. “Promise not to come back?”

I weigh my options. “If I do, will you help me get a meeting with Danton Carter?”

He hesitates and a strange look passes over his face. “I can’t make any promises.”

“But you’ll consider it?” My heart leaps, and I don’t know if it’s because I’m getting closer to my goal, or because I get to spend time with this man.

He doesn’t reply.

“How about you’ll answer…” I think wildly. “Three questions about him. Deal?”

Finally, he nods.

“Then yes. I would like to apologize.” I smile.

There’s a pause. He’s looking at me expectantly. “Anytime, then.” He pierces me with his stare.

“Oh, you wanted the apology immediately? I thought we’d chat first, work up to it.”

“Right away.” There’s a note to his voice that sets wild butterflies loose in my body, and turns my veins to fire. He’s so dominant right now, like the fantasy man of my dreams. “If it’s a genuine one, of course.” He raises a brow.

“I’m sorry I bypassed an inexpertly locked gate and came onto the site without appropriate gear.” I smile.

“And?” He crosses his arms.

“And… that’s it. What else did you want me to say?”

A little smirk plays on his lips and suddenly I think about all kinds of wicked, dirty things that have nothing to do with construction sites or Danton Carter. My face grows hot and I touch my cheek.

He laughs. “Just trying to find out if you needed to ‘fess up about anything else.”

I ignore the way my nipples want his fingers. “I think that’s the entire catalogue of today’s sins, thanks.” I narrow my eyes. “But I appreciate the opportunity to soul-cleanse. Not enough of that these days.”

“Indeed.” He grins.

“So now you have to answer my questions about Danton Carter.” I don’t even try to keep the note of triumph out of my voice.

“I suppose I do.” He smiles at me, but doesn’t say more.

“Okay. So first of all, where can I find—”

“How about down in the bar?”

What?” I blink, nonplussed.

“More comfortable. I’ll answer your questions in the bar, all three of them.”

“Which bar?”

“The one you were trying to find. It’s just downstairs.” He smirks at me.

“You are such a dick.” I shouldn’t say it, but it slips out. “The bar was there all along?”

He laughs. “You go through a door in the back, by the alley. Come on, I’ll show you.”

“Why are you even here? I don’t understand why you of all people would be in this restaurant slash embarrassing place slash bar.” I frown.

“My friend owns it and I’m doing some work on the building for him.” He regards me for a minute. “Expansion. You think a construction guy can’t speak Chinese and have friends in the restaurant business?”

I put up my hand. “Just curious.”

He nods. “Fair enough.”

I look for Lem.

He seems to know what I’m doing. “Don’t worry, Bae will bring her down in a minute. She’s safe.”

I think it over; mentally agree. Follow him back through the restaurant, where he waves and says something in Chinese to the woman folding napkins.

When we walk around back, he points to a door. It’s nondescript metal, a little battered. Yet it has a bright red chicken painted onto the door, and a speech bubble. The chicken is saying something I can’t read, as the words are written in Chinese.

“It says, Corndogs are better than chicken. We go in through here.”

“Oh my God. I can’t believe this was here all along.”

“Sorry.”

From his smirk, I can see he’s not sorry at all. “You are not.” I give him a look.

“You’re right. I’m not. I’m enjoying this.” He smiles at me, and when I see the dimple in his cheek, I can’t help a matching grin from spreading across my face. “Come on, then.”

He takes my hand, and I know I shouldn’t allow it, but it feels perfect. I love his strong fingers holding my delicate ones—warm, pressing just with the right amount of pressure. The feel of skin on skin makes me want him.

 

Chapter Four

Talia

The stairs are narrow, and he goes down first, still holding my hand. Nobody is waiting at the bottom to hear us say, “Corndogs are cool.” I roll my eyes, thinking I’m going to have to lecture Lem about her website browsing techniques.

A band is playing, and it’s so loud that you can’t talk. There’s no way I’ll be able to ask any questions or hear his answers.

I’m pissed, and then I forget all about that, because he puts his mouth right up to my ear and says, “What do you want to drink?” His breath on my skin practically makes me swoon.

I have to speak into his ear, too, and it’s the sexiest fucking thing I’ve done in a long time. I rest my hand on his shoulder and he bends down to accommodate me while I reach up on tiptoes. “Pinot Noir if they have it. If not, I’ll take whatever.”

His shirt is crisp under my hand, and I feel his muscles. Smell him—cologne, soap, his skin. I love it.

He puts his mouth back to my ear. “You want the menu, or do you trust me to choose?” His breath fans my hair and sends tingles down my spine. Into my toes, my nipples.

I tilt my head up again to talk into his ear, and he rests one hand lightly on my waist, as if to provide support. His fingers splay out, softly, not doing anything erotic. But the touch alone makes me catch my breath.

“You think you know what I want?” I half-whisper it, but my lips are so close to his face that he can hear me.

A muscle clenches in his jaw. “I think I’m a fast learner. Never had complaints.” His hand tightens ever so slightly.

“Is that so?” This time I leave my hand on his shoulder a second longer. My whole body aches for it and I sigh, like a druggie getting her high, when I feel his lips at my ear again, that tingly tickle of his voice.

“You taste what I give you and tell me what you think, alright?”

Fuck me, but I want to taste him. I want what he’ll give me.

A slow smiles spreads across my face.

He raises an eyebrow. “I don’t think you’ll be disappointed, Talia.” He runs a hand over my arm and steps away, pointing to the bar. When he leaves my side I feel surprisingly alone, and shudder, touching my neck. My ear. Where his lips just were.

I stand by the tall table and press my thighs together, already feeling a driving need in my core. What is it about this man that has me so worked up?

People are dancing in front of the band, in a small square that barely accommodates a few couples, but they’re not bothered by the tight quarters. Others stand together, swaying to the beat, and at the handful of small tables, people sit locked together in embraces, or talking like Dane and I did: intimate, right into each other’s ears.

Dane comes back with a glass of wine and something on the rocks. He hands me the wine and holds up his own glass; a toast. I clink, and as the band plays something wild and exotic, I taste the pinot, letting the flavor burst onto my tongue. He’s watching intently, eyes on my lips, and it feels like he’s tasting it, too. I want him to taste it from my lips.

He bends down. “First question. Fire.”

I lick my lips. It’s hard to bring up the face of florid Danton Carter in my mind, and even more difficult to focus on what I need to ask.

The band launches into a ballad, and it’s slightly less noisy. I put my mouth to his cheek next to his ear. “Where can I find Danton Carter, the CEO? I found his bio on the website, but I can’t locate the man.”

He looks up at the ceiling and sighs, then puts his mouth to my cheek, finding the same spot I touched on his face. It’s erotic, and it makes it difficult to listen when he says, “He’s out of the country.”

Fuck. I swallow. “Where?”

He shakes his head, then presses his lips to my ear. “He didn’t send out a memo to the staff about that.”

“When is he coming back?”

He shrugs, but follows it up with a low murmur into my ear. “He hasn’t said a thing about his return to the crew.”

“Well, he must have a second in command, right? Who’s that person, and can I talk to them instead?”

Instead of answering, he gives me a slow, lazy smile. “That was three, Talia.”

“Dane.” I pull back in irritation. “Those weren’t even useful. That’s not fair.”

“Is it my fault if you can’t come up with the right queries?” He raises a brow. “Maybe you need to enroll in a continuing ed class, Journalism 101. I held up my end of the bargain.”

“You did not.”

“I’m sorry, are we both using the same numerical system?” He gives me a smug little chuckle. “You know, the one invented by the Arabs and then imported to the Western world in the—”

“Oh my God. You are so frustrating right now.” I scowl.

“Oh, I am?” He gives me a look. “How about you try this on: A woman comes sneaking into the construction site where I’m leading a crew, almost hurts herself, harasses me—“

“I was not harassing—”

“Then tries pumping me for information about somebody who clearly doesn’t want to talk to her—”

“I’m sorry, I don’t understand why he’s such a recluse. Why, is something wrong with him? Is he, like, in jail?” I narrow my eyes. “In rehab? Look, all I want is half an hour just to talk to him face to face and tell him about our environmental concerns.” I think of that red, florid face. “Is he getting an angio or something?”

At the look of steely disapproval on Dane’s face, I sense that I’ve gone too far. The disappointment that hits me has as much to do with the man himself as with my inability to access Danton Carter.

I sigh. “Are we done here then?”

“We’re done with that conversation.” His voice is flat.

“Will you at least give him my card? Put it on his desk and give him the chance to call me?” I’m desperate.

He seems to consider this. “I’ll put it on his desk.” He nods. “Now can we move on?”

I shrug, pissed I didn’t get more information.

He adds, “I just don’t have a lot to tell you. Sorry.” He grins, tilts his head.

“Well, I suppose if I’ve drained you.” I smile. I suppose a foreman wouldn’t have information on the CEO, necessarily. Shame. I thought this was going to be a good lead.

“Oh, now who’s talking dirty?” He trails a finger down my arm. “I wouldn’t mind if you did.”

“Oh, you’re going to have to earn that.” I give him a mock ferocious stare, but my whole body is alight with energy.

Across the room, Lem and Bae appear, and she’s glowing like a thousand marquee lights. When she sees me, she waves. Instead of coming over, she and Bae head to the dance floor, where he encircles her in his arms, looking down into her face.

“See, told you she’d make it.”

“I wasn’t worried, or I wouldn’t have left her.”

“Good friend.” He lifts his glass, and when I don’t lift mine, he leans in and clinks my goblet. “Truce. Yes?”

I bite my lip. The music changes again, back to the previously loud rhythm, a driving beat. Like sex. I toss caution aside. “Yes.”

“Good.” The smile that comes across his face, satisfied and teasing, makes my heart pound. “Answer me honestly. If we met somewhere else, and I asked you out on a date, would you have said yes?”

“Possibly.”

He laughs. “Then how about we consider this a date? Even if it started off a little rough?”

I tilt my head, a noncommittal gesture. “I don’t know if I’m ready for a date.” Then I put my lips back to his ear, feeling reckless. “But you can try to convince me, if you’d like.”

He smiles. “I do like. And I don’t think you’ll need much convincing.”

“Pretty sure of yourself.” I raise an eyebrow. “Cocky.”

“If you like, yes.”

“You are a bold, bad man.”

“I can be that and more. So why don’t you set the pace.” He puts down his drink. “You’ll tell me if we make it to a second date. Or anything.” He grins. “I’ll just sit back and be charming.”

“Oh, you will?” But I’m already charmed. I’ve already half-lost my heart, for reasons I can’t explain.

He taps my drink. “How do you like it? Are you… satisfied?”

The environment, one of wild abandon, makes me shed my inhibitions. I press my lips right to his earlobe, and put both hands on his chest, liking the way his body tenses under my touch. Leans in closer. “Not even close. But the wine is delicious. Thank you.”

He wraps one hand around my neck and bends down, laughs into the other side of my neck, into my skin. I can feel the vibrations of his chuckle in my nerve endings. In my fingertips. In my clit. “Tell me what will do it, then.”

“You think you could handle it?” For some reason we’re face to face now, and I’m speaking into his lips. So close. Just a millimeter apart.

“Why don’t you try me? I think you’d be surprised.” He smirks, and the confidence in his face, his stance, make me weak.

“I do like surprises.” I run my hand down his arm, and our fingers intertwine. He strokes my palm with his thumb.

“Tell me what kind of surprises you like best.” He nips my neck softly.

I moan and close my eyes, leaning into his strong chest. He dips his head down and bites my earlobe. “You like your surprises soft or rough, Talia?”

“Both. It depends.”

He puts one arm around me and holds me against his chest, runs his index finger over my upper lip, then my lower one. “I’m good at either.”

“Do tell.” My voice is low now, and our heads are so close that nothing can interfere; not the band, not the lights, not the other people. It’s just us and this beautiful, fucking delicious tension.

“Oh, I don’t think so.” His murmur is so soft I have to really lean in to hear it. “You’re setting the pace, remember? You need to be the one to tell me something. Either a stop, or a yes, more.”

“Oh, I do?” I just want any excuse to have my face near his. My lips by his skin, his mouth by mine. His body brushing mine, sending exquisite sparks of energy into me with each stray touch, each deliberate caress.

“Mmm hmm.”

“Tough decision.” I lean my head back and listen to the music, feeling it pulse in my chest, in my abdomen.

“You seem like a woman who knows what she wants.”

I smile. “I do know what I want.” And I press my lips to his for a second, pull back to say, “And I want this,” before kissing him again.

His hands go to my face, one on either side, and he kisses me back, his lips tasting of scotch. He uses his tongue to explore my mouth, teasing mine, and I press into him as closely as I can until my hips are against his thighs. His body is hard, flat, muscular—everywhere I touch, where I run my hands, is a pleasure.

He bites my lip, then bends down and kisses my neck, sucks the skin, and I moan in arousal.

When I lean forward for another kiss, he pulls away, and takes both of my hands in his. He looks at me for a long second, his eyes full of passion.

“Not here,” he says, a little smile on his face.

When I don’t reply, he leans in to whisper into my ear, “Unless you want to put on a show, and there are more appropriate places for that.”

I shake my head. “No show.”

His mouth twitches. “Would you like to leave?” He loosens his grip on my hands and steps back. Giving me space to think, maybe, but I don’t want it. “I’ll take you to my place.”

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Dirty Excerpt from Perfect Match by Alexis Alvarez + Prizes! (Amazon GC & signed paperback)

 

Can you handle the heat?  The authors of Hot and Sinful Nights know you can…so we have this blog hop set up to share our steamiest excerpts from our books in the box set.  Follow along the path of the hop to visit all of the authors and enter their individual contests. They’re all listed here at this site:  Hot and Sinful Nights Red Bar Contest.

I have a brand new novel coming Sept 26th! It’s called Perfect Match, and it’s exclusive to the box set Hot and Sinful Nights.  I have a super sexy excerpt below…AND the first two chapters of Perfect Match for you to enjoy.  In honor of the new release, I’m giving away two prizes here on my blog:

1)A signed copy of my book A Handful of Fire

2) 5$ Amazon GC

To enter for  my prizes, just read my post & find the rafflecopter at the end of my excerpt.  To find the rest of the authors & the Kindle Fire entry, visit the Hot & Sinful Nights page. 

 

From Perfect Match by Alexis Alvarez

“Good choice.” Dylan’s voice rolled over her. “Keep going. Take off your dress.”

“What if I don’t do it?” Fia met his eyes.

He unbuttoned one sleeve and began to deliberately roll up the fabric, little by little. “You want to find out?”

She shot him a challenging gaze. “What if I said I did want to find out?”

“Come here,” he challenged her. He backed up and sat down on an expensive leather couch, black and sleek. While he kept eye contact, he rolled up the other sleeve, exposing his strong, corded forearms. “And I’ll show you.”

“But you’re still dressed.” She ran her fingers under the cloth, touching her own nipples, feeling them harden with her touch.

His eyes burned into her. “Yes, I am. That’s another rule. You have to be naked first. Get started.” His voice was firm, but his smile let her know he was still Dylan, the sexy man who made her smile, even though he was being all dominant. And fuck, she wanted to play this game with him.

“I hope you don’t mind that I’m not wearing panties,” she said innocently, and slid the fabric down to her waist.

“Fuck,” he swore. “You were naked under there all this time?”

“Completely,” she murmured. “So naked. No bra, no panties, just my bare skin.”

“Take off the dress and walk over here,” he told her, pointing between his spread legs.

She wiggled her hips to slide the dress down, then stepped out of it, leaving it on the floor, a pool of blue. His eyes were locked on her body, and she swayed her walk as she came closer, delighting in his tortured expression. “You like?”

“I fucking love it. You’re gorgeous.”

She came to stand where he’d indicated.

“Put your hands behind your back and lace your fingers, if you can. And spread your thighs a little.”

She flushed. “Dylan!”

He ran a palm down her thigh, then up to cup her ass cheek. “What was the rule I told you about? If I’m in charge, then you do what I say.”

“But you’re going to make me get in poses for you?”

“Absolutely.” He smiled broadly. “And you’re going to do it, too, because it will turn both of us on.”

She bit her lip then slowly put her arms behind her back, noticing how it made her breasts stick out. Then, while he was silent, she stepped her legs apart to widen the gap between her thighs. “Like this?”

“Wider, please.”

He sat back and put one arm on the back of the couch, as if relaxing in a club.

Her face burned, but she did it, embarrassed at how wet this was making her.

“Good. Stay like that, Fia.” He leaned his head back.

“For how long?” Her face was hot and her pulse was fast in her neck. She was dying for him to touch her.

“Until I say otherwise,” he told her simply. “And another rule is that you don’t question my commands, you just obey them. Is that clear?”

She nodded. This was so kinky, and it was turning her on more than she could imagine.

“Is that a yes, you understand?”

She sucked in a breath. “Yes, I understand.”

“Yes, you will obey me tonight?” His gaze was direct.

She felt her face burn. “Yes, I will obey you tonight.”

“Good girl,” he said approvingly, and she bit her lip, wanting to argue and tell him she wasn’t a girl, she wasn’t his good girl. Except her pussy had other ideas. Her pussy really, really liked the idea of being his good girl.

***

Perfect Match is a 75K word story with no cliffhangers and an HEA. It’s a brand-new, exclusive story from Alexis Alvarez, and it’s only available inside the box set Hot and Sinful Nights.

Amazon – http://amzn.to/2s1HzwY
iBooks – http://apple.co/2tUIRvc
B&N – http://bit.ly/2sWVk3X
Kobo – http://bit.ly/2t0UdAY
Google Play – http://bit.ly/2tzwK78

 

Here’s my giveaway! See that little arrow in the middle of the box — a left arrow, some circles, and a right arrow? Click the arrow to see both prizes available for this giveaway, because there are two: A signed book and a 5$ Amazon GC. Thanks and best of luck! XOXO
a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

She’s the matchmaker…he’s her sexy client. What could go wrong?

L.A.-based matchmaker Fia Martin has a tough competition: Find the perfect woman for arrogant, handsome TV-host Dylan Chambers, before her rival, Connie Birnbaum, can do it––on national television. If Dylan declares her the winner, Fia’s business will skyrocket.

Dylan is picky. He’s smug. He reminds Fia that he’s only doing this competition at all because he lost a bet to his TV co-host, and he doesn’t believe in true love. He’s polite on dates picked out by Connie, but the ones Fia sets up? Those seem to end in complete disaster. And every time she tells him to behave, he flirts with her shamelessly.

A stolen kiss turns to a night of unbelievable passion, but Fia knows that Dylan’s not interested in anything more than a fling. How could it mean anything when he’s still going on dates for the TV challenge like nothing happened?

When Dylan chooses Connie’s company for his final dream date in Hawaii, to a woman who looks perfect on paper, Fia figures she can pretty much kiss the trophy goodbye. The problem is, she won’t just be losing the competition. She’s about to lose her heart, too…to the one guy who’s completely unavailable.

 

 

 

Perfect Match: Chapter One

The man sitting alone at the bar was handsome as hell. Every time he shifted, Fia noticed how powerful his thighs looked beneath the expensive suit pants. His broad shoulders held confidence, and his profile, when she caught glimpses–God.

Grace poked her friend. “He’s cute, right? I totally agree.”

Fia rolled her brilliant green eyes and smoothed her silky brown hair. “Calling him cute is like calling Einstein kind of smart, Gracie. Or like saying that John Glenn dabbled in space.”

Grace tilted her head and her red hair shone in the low light. “Oh my God. He’s Dylan Chambers, the new co-host from Morning Brew, right?” She glanced at Fia. “You should know this.”

Fia leaned forward to look. Mingling patrons blocked her way, and she blew out a breath. “I don’t know. Maybe.” Her heart hammered faster. “I think you’re right.” Recognition set in, delayed, but unquestionable. This handsome man was indeed the sexy, panty-melting new co-host of the very show on which she was going to make her debut appearance.

 “Go say hello. Tell him you’re coming on the show next month to talk about your awesome matchmaking service that’s going to be the number one new business in L.A. I’m sure he’s heard.”

“One would hope he’s aware of what’s discussed on the show. But who knows. It’s still a while away. Maybe he just gets a little printout five minutes before they go on TV. Besides, I’m on the segment with Chelsea, anyway. The show is her baby, and she does all the big interviews.”

“Right, but he’s always out there too, as eye-candy.” Grace sipped her wine.

 Fia craned her neck, but a chattering group of millennials, screeching with laughter, totally blocked her view. “I’m worried that Chelsea is going to be bitchy when I go on her show. Sometimes she can be so mean to her guests, and the audience loves it, but, oh, God. Why did I sign up for this, again?” She clutched her stomach in a gesture of mock terror, but the anxiety was real enough to make her uncomfortable.

Grace frowned. “Free publicity. She is doing the whole process, right?”

Fia nodded and raised her glass. “It is pretty cool. She’ll follow us through the entire match with a bachelor, from the start, where we interview him, to the final dates. It will be a little complicated to find someone–and dates for him—who don’t mind being on TV, but just think about all the clients we can pull in.”

“Complicated? I think you mean easy. Half the people here in L.A. would chop off their pinky finger to get on TV. You offer them a free chance and a date with a sexy partner? Sold.”

“It’s just that I want the match we feature to be perfect, so people think my business is amazing.” Fia swirled the wine in her glass, enjoying the way the lights sparkled off the crystal.

 “Come on, Fia. So far, you’ve had a great success rate with matches, and you’re getting new clients every day. And you have such positive feedback online. And the weddings you’ve attended! There’s no way it will go wrong.”

Fia wrinkled her nose. “I’m going to be up there with Connie. She’s been the resident millionaire matchmaker in this city for over a decade, and she’s my inspiration. I want to look good, even when compared to her. She’s comfortable being on TV, too. She’s done whole reality TV shows based on her matchmaking business, so she’s accustomed to having all of the process filmed.”

Her voice trailed off as she tried to sneak another casual glance down the bar. The man downed his drink, then looked right at Fia.

For a second she met his gaze, and felt something spark between them. Then she looked away, embarrassed, when a gorgeous blonde approached him with a delighted greeting, and he smiled, stood, and kissed her cheek. Fia tried not to compare her ripped jeans and soft T-shirt to the blonde woman’s gorgeous skirt and jacket. Or that pretty updo with her messy halo of hair.

She set her glass down, running her fingers up and down the stem. “Besides, rumor has it that he’s an arrogant asshole.”

“Who told you that?” Grace leaned in. “Anyone I know?”

“Well, you know, the people on some of the fan chat boards.” At Grace’s soft snort, Fia flushed. “What?” Her voice rose. “I only checked to read what people say about Chelsea and him, both. I mean, it only makes sense if I’m going on TV. Research.”

“Of course. So he’s a dick, you say?” Grace laughed.

“He’s supposedly intolerant of crap and calls things like he sees them. Doesn’t mind insulting people, and Chelsea loves it because it’s good for ratings. Most people love him, but working with him can be…difficult.” She looked back over at him, just to see. The blonde was nestled up against a different man, and Dylan was talking to them both while the bartender handed over new drinks. For some reason, Fia breathed out in relief and pleasure. Although that was ridiculous.

When Dylan got up and strode towards her and Grace, she sucked in a breath. “Grace?” Fia poked her friend.

 “Hello.” His voice was deep and more resonant than on TV. “Enjoying your evening? I’m Dylan.” His greeting was for both of them, but his eyes were on Fia.

Grace stuck out her hand. “Yes!” she chirped, smile broad. “I’m Grace, and this is Fia. I recognized you right away because I always watch Morning Brew. I’m so glad you joined the show! It’s actually fortuitous that you’re here, because Fia’s going to be on your show in just a few weeks.”

 “Nice to meet you.” Fia held out her hand and felt a flash of desire as he took it in his strong warm one.

 “I recognized you from an update in our staff meeting. Remind me why you’re coming on the show?” He tilted his glass, and the ice clinked against the side.

His eyes were undressing her, Fia felt, or maybe it was only that she wished they were, but his gaze made her warm. Those dark liquid eyes and the planes of his face were hitting all the right buttons.

“I’m discussing my matchmaking business, Perfect Profiles.”

“Oh…yes. The…matchmaking thing,” he responded, and his voice was a cross between sarcastic and condescending. “You hook up sexy women with ultra-rich bachelors. How’s that working out, Fia?”

Fia narrowed her eyes. “It’s working out just fine, Dylan.” What the fuck?

“Okay. Great.” This time, there was no mistaking his smirk.

“I’m sorry. Are you not a fan of matchmaking businesses?” She kept her voice professional.

“You could say that.”

“Then why did you invite me onto your show?”

“It’s Chelsea’s show, and she invited you and Connie Birnbaum. I voted no, but I was outnumbered.”

“Oh, I see.” She took a deep breath. “And you came over here to tell me that, as a way to help me feel welcome and at ease, I assume? Thank you. Thank you so much for your consideration.” She raised her drink. “Cheers to thoughtfulness, Grace.”

“Oh! Yes, cheers.” Grace, uncertainty on her face, clinked glasses with Fia. Then she leaned in and hissed, “Don’t make him mad.”

Fia scowled and spoke through gritted teeth, “I will make him mad if I want to, Grace, because he started it.”

He smiled. “I don’t have to like your business model to respect you as a person. It’s clear that you’re smart and ambitious, or you wouldn’t have grown your business in such a short time, to the point where it’s featured on the country’s top morning show. But if you can’t handle criticism, I doubt your business will last very long. Or are your matches as sugar-coated as your words?”

Even though his words were sarcastic, there was a glint in his eye that was more appreciative than deprecating, and the way he looked at her made her feel warm and tingly.

Several thoughts rushed through Fia’s head: This man holding her up against the wall and driving into her, his lips plundering hers, sugar on her lips, his mouth nectar to hers. She shook her head, irritated. “My business has helped many couples find everlasting love.”

“Oh, I’m sure.” His voice was smooth. “Can I buy you ladies a drink while you tell me more about it?” He glanced at her glass. “More wine?”

Fia bit her lip. “No, thanks. Dylan, Perfect Profiles is a serious business, and I try to foster genuine, lasting relationships. Some people have a hard time meeting their soulmate because they’re constantly being pre-judged for their wealth or their looks. My goal is to find people who can search beyond the surface to the real person, and find the one who speaks to their heart.”

“Seems like you’re running a high-class escort business.” He smirked.

Fia was pissed. “I’ve been the mastermind behind over a dozen successful marriages, and my business is only two years old. I spend hours with each client, having them fill out psychological profiles, personality quizzes, IQ tests, and interviews. Then all of my data is entered into the program that I myself created, and I use statistics to find the best possible matches. And it works.”

Dylan scoffed. “Most marriages break up a few years in, especially when built on a weak foundation. Are you sure your hastily organized unions will survive the test of time?” Although he’d just been laughing, his eyes were dark, bleak.

Fia couldn’t help but wonder if he were talking from personal experience, but he had no right to judge her life’s work this way. Her voice rose as she spoke. “I guess I’m not surprised you’re alone then, Dylan, with that kind of an attitude. I have to admit that even I might have trouble finding you a match, and I consider myself an expert, with the city’s top single women at my disposal. It’s been a pleasure. I so look forward to seeing you on the show. Gracie, should we get going?” She stood up and turned away from him.

But Dylan was talking over her, his voice harsh. “How do you know I’m alone?”

Fia whirled back around. “Oh, I supposed I just assumed it, Dylan. Just like you assumed all kinds of things about my business.” She knew her words were too sharp for the situation; it would have been better to respond with some kind of clever cutting joke or to have ignored him. But she’d never responded well to contempt and condescension, and she wasn’t going to start now.

“Wait. Fia? I’m sorry.” His voice was urgent, and he stepped forward, putting a hand on her shoulder.

Fia shrugged it off, even though she felt a spark of attraction from his warm touch.

“Listen, I really am sorry,” he said in a low voice. “It’s been a long day, and I’m sorry I insulted you. Can I buy you a drink and we’ll talk for a few minutes? We’ll start over.” He looked at Grace. “Both of you, of course.”

Grace shot a look between the two of them, then said in a chipper voice, “I’ve got to get going to that thing, about the thing. So call me later, and I’ll see you tomorrow!” She waved briefly and waltzed off on her high heels, leaving Fia there glowering at Dylan.

“Can we sit down?” He gestured at the table, and when she nodded and sat, he took Grace’s vacated seat. “Look, I came on strong. That’s what I do. And it’s true that I don’t think much of matchmaking companies, especially here in L.A. But I respect that you work hard at what you do and that it matters to you.”

“Well, I mean, I could say that I don’t think much of television personalities,” she shot back. “Caricatures who show nothing of themselves and reflect back to the seething masses a reflection of their own greed and stupidity.” She shrugged. “But I didn’t do that, did I?” She sipped her wine. “Because I respect that you respect what you do.”

He laughed. “Ouch. Wow. Okay.” He raised an eyebrow.

He looked at her, and despite their words, despite the irritation, desire for him burned fast and sharp. His lips looked both soft and powerful at once. She wanted to trace his jaw, run her hand through his hair. He leaned in. “Should we really start over?”

Somehow, even though they’d exchanged hard words, the look in his eyes told Fia that it was going to be okay, and that he had a humor to him, in him, that made him pliable, light. He wasn’t really pissed at her at all. She’d only stirred his curiosity, roused something sleeping in him, and this made the flame of attraction burn even brighter.

“I don’t know.” Fia crossed her legs and adjusted her t-shirt, and his eyes followed as the fabric tightened temporarily over the swell of her breasts. She felt her pulse quicken. “Would that maybe be like a person backing their car up into a wall, over and over again? Does it make sense?”

He laughed. “Maybe. And then once the car is completely wrecked, we can get out and walk.”

She smiled, despite wanting to stay stern. When he smiled and those dimples came out, holy Jesus, devastation. “So, Dylan, what do you do in your spare time, besides insulting future guests on your show?”

He smiled and his white, even teeth gleamed. Laser much, she wanted to say, but it was appealing.

He shrugged. “I just took this job and my schedule is hectic, so I don’t have much of a routine yet. Ratings are up seven percent since I joined. Viewers seem to rave about my ideas…and my abs.” He took a sip of his drink and smiled again, but this one didn’t seem to reach his eyes.

“Well, once you and your stomach are settled in. What are we talking, like surfing at the beach? Spraying graffiti in the inner city? Coaching little league? Give it a guess, at least.”

“Can I spray-paint my old little league coach? That guy was pure evil.”

Fia laughed. “Oh, sure. That’s totally legit. How can a little league coach be evil, though? Aren’t they someone’s dad?”

“Oh, they are. This one fathered the meanest, ugliest bully you’ve ever seen, and he let his kid pick on everyone else incessantly.”

“You should probably invite him onto your show,” Fia suggested, “and then find him in the bar the night before and tell him how much he sucks. You’ll drain the soul right out of him.”

He grimaced. “If I say I’m sorry again, will you believe me?”

“I’m not sure.” She smiled, but narrowed her eyes. “And I don’t actually feel you were very sincere before.”

“Ah.” But he didn’t go on. He leaned back in his chair and regarded her, a small smile on his mouth. “How about your hobbies? In addition to attacking defenseless television morning show hosts in bars and rendering them speechless, what do you do in your spare time?”

“Well, I don’t go around spray-painting people,” she retorted. “If you’re really interested, you can read my personal page on my blog. It has everything about me listed there.”

“Oh, everything?” His eyes gleamed and he leaned in. “Such as?”

“Such as why do you care?” She leaned in too, although it didn’t make sense, and the air between them seemed charged with electricity. Just a few more inches. A few more inches and those delicious lips would be right upon hers. She could smell his cologne and the whiskey on his breath. She was close enough to see the small wrinkles at the corners of his eyes, and the barest stubble beginning to appear on his jawline.

“It would be remiss of me not to research a guest on the show.”

“So it would.” If she could feel the heat of his words, could he feel hers, too? His eyes were magnetic. His hands were on the table, one tapping, the other wrapped around his glass, the ice melting into the amber liquid, light refracting from it. Her hand was close to his. If either of them reached out, just a short distance, they could touch. “But if you save everything to the last minute, how can you do a thorough job in just one night?” Her voice was low and sultry.

“I can do a very thorough job in just one night, Fia.” His voice was low and direct, and his smile, dirty and wicked, made her melt. She sucked in a breath. “I can get more done in a night…” he paused and lowered his voice, “than most people can get done in weeks. I’m that good.”

She widened her eyes. So suggestive, and so, so cocky. “I’d like to see you try.”

He laughed. “Do you? I’d love to show you, then.” His voice, so sexy, made her catch her breath.

She flushed. “That’s not what…You know? I really do need to get going. I have a lot of things to prepare for some meetings tomorrow.” She stood up and reached for her purse.

He stood too. “Well, I look forward to seeing you on the show. Very much.” He gave her his hand, and the sparks that flew up her arm made her tingle.

“I’m sure you do.” She smiled at him.

* * *

As soon as she got home, she called Grace. “So we insulted each other and then we sort of started getting along. He flirted a lot, but I think he does that to everyone. He’s hot, but he really hated on my service. I’m worried he’s going to try to trash me on TV or something.”

Grace was thoughtful. “He’s too professional to do something like that, no matter what he feels personally. Besides, Chelsea has been bringing him in when they run the ‘Who Does It Better’ segment. Aren’t you going on for the ‘Local Business Blast’ segment?”

“Oh, yes. Good point. Now I feel better.”

Grace added, “Everyone loves ‘Who Does It Better,’ though. Last week he visited two trendy sushi joints and talked about which one he preferred. It’s a huge hit with viewers. They love his sarcastic wit and the way he sort of mocks things even when he’s complimenting them. And both sushi places got extra business, even the one that wasn’t his favorite. Even being on the show is great for a business.”

          Fia felt relieved. “Well, there’s no way he can test out two dating services, so I think I’m safe. I’m not going to think about him anymore.”

But that night as she prepared her notes, she couldn’t help but feel a small flash of excitement at the idea of meeting the arrogant but sexy Dylan Chambers face to face…again. And her dreams were full of other, less verbal encounters with Dylan, and these were the kind of steamy dreams that had her awakening with a breathless longing that had no words.

 

Perfect Match: Chapter Two

“Tell me again why they call it a green room?” complained Grace, looking around the long, narrow waiting room lined with shallow couches and an ice-bucket full of bottled waters. “It’s the kind of beige that belongs on tired old bedpans.”

Fia tried to laugh. A few weeks had passed since she’d met Dylan in the bar, and today—finally—she would see him again, face to face, while Chelsea interviewed her and Connie on the live Monday morning taping of Morning Brew.

She tried to calm her racing heart by taking deep breaths. She also tried not to stare at the other featured matchmaker, Connie Birnbaum, who was pouring words into a cell phone and had been doing so for the past fifteen minutes. Fia noted that Connie, in her early sixties, had killer legs and bombshell curves, which were accentuated by her trendy suit.

“I want to say hi to her ahead of time,” Fia murmured to Grace. “But she’s so…busy. And I’m so…about to pass out.”

“You know I’ll be in here if need me,” Grace reassured her. “I mean, you need anything? Just scream, GRACIE! BRING ME MY—whatever it is—and I’m on it. Promise.”

This time Fia laughed for real. “Oh, Grace. That would so not endear me to any potential clients out there in viewer-land.”

Grace patted her hand. “No matter what happens, this is getting your name out there.”

Fia bit her lip, all of Dylan’s criticisms coming back to her. “But what if he’s right? What if I am only temporarily hooking up rich men with pretty girls? What if all the marriages do start to fail?”

Grace raised her voice. “Fia! Stop it! You’ve been to the weddings. You’ve seen how in love those couples are. It’s more than what he said and you know it. You just have stage fright. Stand up and walk around. It will help burn off your nervous energy.”

Fia stood and marched in place. “Not helping, Grace.”

Connie looked over and finally stowed her phone. She strode up. “Fia Martin? I’m Connie.” She touched her white-blonde hair, arranged into a complicated bun atop her head, and extended her hand.

Fia shook, still marching. “Nice to meet you. I’m a huge fan. You were the inspiration for me to start my own business.”

Connie acted as if marching adoration were a normal part of her day, which maybe it was, thought Fia. It was hard to tell about other people sometimes. “I’m not interested in getting into a brutal battle out there,” Connie announced. Her diamond necklace flashed in the light as she turned to smile at both Fia and Grace. “Right?”

 Fia bit her lip, slightly confused. They were going on ‘Local Business Blast,’ where Chelsea featured local businesses. And although there would be inevitable comparisons and web comments on who liked which business better, it really wasn’t ever touted as a combative thing. Maybe Connie just wanted to clarify that she wasn’t going to be a bitch?

Fia nodded and stopped marching. “I’d just rather focus on what we do well. I’m sure we each have specific strengths, right? I’d like to play it off like we can complement each other. Different firms for different clients.”

 “This doesn’t mean I won’t try to sell myself hard,” Connie warned Fia. “And get the competitive edge. But I don’t play dirty. My clients want to see that I’m professional and courteous to everyone.”

Fia cleared her throat. Connie must be used to working with really cutthroat people! “I know you’ve been doing this for years and you’re good at it—very good. And I’m good too. I have confidence that my techniques really help people find lasting love. I like knowing that we can be competitive but still supportive.”

The set assistant beckoned. “On set, please.”

Now Fia was seated in a plush red chair, crossing her legs and tugging her skirt down, smelling the minty breath of the man who was wiring her up with a microphone, and looking into a sea of bright lights as she heard, “Five, four…” and then Chelsea’s luxurious, smooth voice:

“Hello and welcome back to Morning Brew and our live studio audience! We have two matchmaking companies here today on our ‘Local Business Blast’ segment. First there’s Connie Birnbaum from Matched by the Millions. She’s been the resident love mistress in town for almost two decades and was featured in five seasons of a reality TV show based on her business! Connie’s secret is her gut—she says that when a match is right, she feels it in her stomach. And she has years of successful matches to prove her right.

“And here we have newcomer matchmaker Fia Martin, from Perfect Profiles. She’s only been in business for two years but already boasts a remarkable track record at helping couples find love. Fia’s claim to fame is her proprietary computer program, which ranks a person’s potential matches by percentage from one to one hundred. She says that when she finds a person who ranks eighty percent or higher for a client, it usually results in a lasting love match.

“Let’s learn more. Are you—and we all know you’re looking for love out there, viewers, let’s be honest—are you going to do better with a matchmaker who matches you from her physical instincts, or one who matches you from her brainy computer? Let’s get to it!”

The audience applauded wildly, and Fia gulped. She didn’t like being described as merely a “brainy computer”. There was so much more to it than that.

But Chelsea leaned forward, her elbow on her pant-suited knee and rested her chin in her hand as she looked at Connie. “Connie Birnbaum! I’m such a fan,” she gushed. “I had to watch every episode of your show. My favorite was the one where the millionaire made all of his potential dates help pick through trash at his recycling plant! They were all wearing heels, and it was hilarious when they dissed him. But then, despite his attitude, you still found him love. I heard that he’s still married to the girl who told him off, right?”

Connie laughed. “He sure is, Chelsea. I knew it in my gut when I saw those two together that I had to push, and I was right! The sparks turned into a bond of forever love. I always make it a point to talk to the clients about life and goals, but not to get every single detail. I don’t want to lose the forest for the trees. Once I get a snapshot of their character, if you will, I then think about all the potential matches. And when I get that warm feeling in my gut, I know I’ve found the best possible match.”

Chelsea shook her head and smiled. “Well, with hundreds of success stories, your method must surely work! And now let’s turn to Fia Martin. Fia, you’re more of a trees matchmaker, right? You actually try to get every single detail possible for your computer program?”

Fia hoped her voice wouldn’t shake. “That’s right, Chelsea. There are so many nuances and subtle details that make up a personality, and I’ve found that it’s critical to get information from all aspects of a person’s life—life experiences, psychological personality profiles, likes and dislikes, political leanings, even tastes in music and food.”

She paused to breathe before continuing. “But it gets even more complicated before it gets simple. I enter all of the data into my program and use a proprietary algorithm to parse the data and analyze it, compare it to the information of each potential partner. Eventually the program comes up with a number that shows the match potential as a percentage.”

Chelsea wrinkled her nose. “Give me an example. Let’s say, for instance, that I have an inveterate bachelor who needs true love. I sign him up for your service, and he goes through all these insane hours of interviews. What happens next?”

Fia took a deep breath. “Well, I’d run his profile and find his top four matches in the system. Each woman would have a number by her name showing the percentage likelihood that they would hit it off. I like to aim for percentages in the eighties or higher because that usually leads to a good match. But sometimes I’ve sparked lasting connections from people who only rated in the sixties for each other.”

“So if I understand this,” Chelsea probed, “my bachelor would get a list of four names and would then get to date each one?”

Fia replied, “Sometimes the bachelor stops the process early because he’s already found a person he’s crazy about and doesn’t wish to pursue further dates. But yes, he can choose to meet each of the four if he likes. Or he can wait until more women enter the system, and can try again.”

Chelsea turned back to Connie. “And let’s say I sent that same bachelor to your service. You’d get to know him, then use your gut feeling to match him up with a few women? How many are we talking here?”

Connie laughed. “Well, it’s not so mathematical over here, Chelsea! Sometimes there are three women whom I think might match him, sometimes seven, sometimes only one perfect woman. And it’s up to him if he wants to meet them all at once for a mixer, or individually. I really like to work from a warm, friendly standpoint—not from behind an impersonal computer screen.”

Fia felt her face burn, and cut in with, “I absolutely agree with Connie that the process needs to be personal. I also definitely create a space that’s welcoming and makes a person feel that they’re being valued. Because each individual is unique.”

Chelsea leaned in. “Well, I have a surprise proposition for you two! Ladies, both of you have already agreed to have our cameras follow one man through your system while he goes on dates to find true love. But I have a special request! If you’re up for the challenge, I’m going to enroll my co-host Dylan in the matchmaking system at both of your companies! He’ll do ‘Who Does It Better’ for finding love!”

The applause that followed her pronouncement was, in Fia’s opinion, powerful enough to rattle the ground and start an earthquake rumbling toward the coast.

 “Who will find love for Dylan? Will it be Connie and her gut feelings, or Fia and her computer program? Viewers, you’re going to want to stay tuned over the next few weeks as we follow Dylan around on his dates and find out what he thinks about the two top rated matching services in town!

“This is your backstage pass, ladies and gentlemen, to find out what makes these matchmaking services tick, and where you’re going to want to spend your money to find the love of a lifetime!”

To Fia’s shock and horror, Dylan came out and sat down in the red chair next to Chelsea, smiling a taut smile.

 The audience roared their approval and chanted his name. “Dy-lan! Dy-lan!”

Fia mentally scrambled to get her bearings. So, wait—what? Instead of just being featured separately, now they really were going head-to-head in a competition…with Dylan as the man who needed love? Had Connie known about this ahead of time, and that’s why she mentioned twice that she didn’t want it to get too intense?

But Fia didn’t have to time to ruminate because the show was proceeding.

Chelsea laughed and poked her co-host playfully in the arm. “Dylan really didn’t want to do this,” she explained to the audience. “But as you also know, he lost that on-air bet to me last week about whose team would win the championship, and I got to choose his penalty. Plus, I’m his boss, so he had to do what I say.” She smiled smugly.

The audience screamed and roared with applause, loving it. Dylan shifted in his seat, glowering.

Chelsea beamed. “Ladies, if you’re local, you’re in luck! Just join up at one of these two highly-rated agencies for a chance to date Dylan or another wonderful man. If you trigger the gut test, or blast past the ones and zeroes, it may be you having a romantic date!”

The audience shrieked louder if possible, making Fia wonder if eardrums could actually rupture from too much feminine decibelage.

Chelsea grinned at Fia and Connie. “Ladies, please tell me you’re up for the challenge. I mean, no pressure to participate. You can choose any bachelor you want to feature. But backing out would be a sign to everyone that you can’t help my man here find love.” She laughed as if this were a joke they’d already discussed.

Connie was smooth. “Of course I’m in! You know I’m always up for a challenge.”

Fia licked her lips. “More than willing! I’m confident I can find Dylan the perfect woman.” Her mind raced, trying to figure this out: What, how, who?

Chelsea clapped her hands. “Yay, yay, yay! Dylan, what do you think of this?”

He frowned and crossed his arms, and the audience laughed. They seemed to love Dylan-in-a-mood situations.

Dylan looked directly at Fia. “I have my doubts that either of you can find me real love. Besides, I wonder if you’d even have someone at your business, Fia, who’d be willing to date me? Given the issues you seem to have with my personality?”

Fia bit her lip and answered as sweetly as she could. “Oh, Dylan! I’m certain that we have many wonderful women who would match well with your unique personality and characteristics!” she said, then mouthed to him, “like hyenas. Or vipers.”

Dylan laughed. “I can read lips, Fia. Your suggestions are definitely…more than interesting.” He drawled out the word interesting, making it seem like Fia had been whispering something illicit to him.

“Oh, that’s good,” said Fia in a saccharine tone. “That will save me the trouble of having to scream at you when you’re being difficult. But I can handle difficult. I’ve been able to find matches for people who don’t seem to work within the typical bounds of polite society.”

Dylan leaned forward to lock eyes with Fia. “So you’re ready to take me on, then?” His voice was ripe with double meaning, and Fia felt her heartbeat quicken.

“More than ready,” she answered, her voice coming out a tad more seductively than she’d planned, making her blush and clear her throat.

Chelsea cut in, “Wow. It looks like this is going to be way more than interesting, folks! Lip reading and readiness. Whew!” She pretended to fan herself. “Connie, what do you want to say to Dylan?”

Connie looked shrewdly from Dylan to Fia, and stated, “I’ve never met a man whom I can’t match, Dylan. I welcome the challenge to find you the perfect woman. I won’t stop until you’re happy.” She had a small, quizzical smile on her face, and she cocked her head to the side.

“And it gets better! Perfection and happiness. A woman who will stop at nothing! Viewers, you can find all of the information on these two dating services at our website,” Chelsea continued. “Thanks for tuning in today, and keep watching for updates on Dylan’s love connection!”

The camera lights blinked off and Chelsea pulled off her mike. “Whew! That went even better than I expected. Good job, ladies. Dylan. The audience was eating it up. Hang out until my peeps get with you about all the details, ‘kay? We have contracts prepared for you both, and then we’ll do planning. Lots and lots of planning!”

She darted off the set, disappearing behind equipment, and Fia looked around uncertainly until an assistant un-miked her and led her back to the ‘beige’ room to start on the paperwork.

“Oh, Fia, that went well!” Grace exclaimed, hugging her shaky friend. “I watched on the monitor. Luckily Chelsea wasn’t in Super Shark Mode. You were cool and professional. Except, ah, when you talked to Dylan. Then you sort of seemed, how do I say it?”

“Predatory?” cut in Connie with a raised eyebrow.

“Yes, exactly!” exclaimed Grace. “Like you were hunting him. And he was hunting you right back.”

“That’s ridiculous,” scoffed Fia, sinking into a beige couch. “I was trying frantically to think of what to say. That just—came out. But I’m so psyched that she pitched us both to the audience. We’ll both get business from this, I’m sure of it.”

“And so when will you meet with Dylan?” Grace was pure eagerness.

“I don’t know. I still don’t even know for sure if this is going to happen. I mean, she just said it out there for the first time. He doesn’t even want to do it. I bet he doesn’t even follow through.”

“Oh, it’s real. And I never back out on a promise,” said a rough voice behind them, and Fia started as Dylan entered the beige room, followed closely by Chelsea.

“No, when I commit to something, I stick with it,” he continued, pinning Fia with his dark eyes. “I hope you can say the same.”

“Of course I can,” said Fia, sticking up her chin. “So, since both of us are promise-keepers and valiant truth-tellers who never break an oath, then I’ll expect you at seven o’clock tomorrow morning to begin the interview process and the surveys.”

Dylan chuckled. “That’s fine. I guess we’ll be working together… closely.”

“Working together closely to find you a girlfriend,” said Fia firmly, feeling a tinge of dislike at those words.

So he was hot, what did that matter? She worked with hot, handsome guys every day without giving them a second thought, except to find them the perfect match. Why did the thought of hooking this arrogant, condescending jerk up with another girl suddenly have her all twisted up?

Chelsea cleared her throat. “So he’ll meet with you first, Fia, that’s fine, I’m okay with that. My assistant will set up all the details. And Connie, you’ll be later in the week. And we’ll have a camera-man follow him around on the dates. I want footage for the viewers! Dylan, I’m counting on you to help everyone understand what it’s like to enter one of these exclusive dating services. So give it your best shot!” She punched him lightly on the arm.

Dylan grimaced. “I never give anything but, Chels.”

Chelsea rolled her eyes. “Yeah, sure. This is going to be fun.”

“Sure, for you,” said Dylan. “You love torturing me on air.”

“Just because the viewers love to see me torture you on air!” shot back Chelsea.

Fia liked the jokey bickering. It was part of what made their show so fun to watch—that, and the handsomeness that was Dylan, she had to admit.

And what she didn’t want to admit was that she was looking forward to working with Dylan one-on-one. And by “one-on-one,” what her devious mind seemed to want was something far more personal than interviews and questionnaires.

***

Perfect Match is available now for just $0.99 in the box set Hot and Sinful Nights:

Amazon – http://amzn.to/2s1HzwY
iBooks – http://apple.co/2tUIRvc
B&N – http://bit.ly/2sWVk3X
Kobo – http://bit.ly/2t0UdAY
Google Play – http://bit.ly/2tzwK78

 

 

Thank you and happy reading! XOXO – Alexis

 

Because Beards * Cover Reveal *

Greetings authors! Maria, Adrienne and I have a wonderful new book to tell you about: Because Beards, an anthology that will donate all our profits to The Movember Foundation. The Movember Foundation funds prostate cancer research and support as well as other men’s health initiatives.  We all love reading stories about sexy heroes.  Join with us to help support the Movember Foundation, a group that works to keep our real-life men safe, healthy & strong.  XOXO

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  • Title: Because Beards
  • Genre: Anthology, Romance
  • Cover Design: Jessica Hildreth
  • Photographer: Wander Aguiar, Wander Aguiar Photography
  • Cover Model: Jacob Rodney
  • Charity Donations To: The Movember Foundation
  • Release Date: November 1, 2016

Amazon: myBook.to/BecauseBeards
iBooks: http://tinyurl.com/zuse33r
Nook: http://tinyurl.com/jzlwv6s
Kobo: http://tinyurl.com/ztajbhj

Synopsis
Be it a little scruff or a full length beard, there’s nothing more attractive than a man with a well-groomed face. Masculine. Powerful. Sexy. Devoted. Lose yourself in this tantalizing collection of original short stories by your favorite romance authors in support of a great cause. Hipster CEO, bartender, best friend, baseball player—just to name a few—these men all have one thing in common: they’re bearded for your pleasure and deliver one hell of a happy ever after.
All proceeds from this anthology will be donated to The Movember Foundation, an organization that supports charities in the research and treatment of prostate and testicular cancer as well as other men’s health initiatives.

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Written by Alexis Alvarez, Faith Andrews, M. Andrews, Jeannine Colette, Hayley Faiman, Angelita Gill, Ace Gray, Ruthie Henrick, Scott Hildreth, Evie Lauren, Jerica MacMillan, R.C. Martin, Emmanuelle de Maupassant, Leslie McAdam, Maria Monroe, Adrienne Perry, J. Quist, Renee Rose, Kacey Shea, Martha Sweeney, and Tom Sweeney.

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#becausebeards #preorder #movember

We’re so excited about our sexy heroes.

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Stay tuned for longer excerpts…coming soon! Our release date is November 1st.

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It’s only 99 cents, it’s for a good cause, and it’s full of super sexy stories.  Thanks so much for your support. Happy reading! XOXO

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New Release – Casey’s Choice from Alexis Alvarez

Saturday+SpankingsGreetings! It’s Alexis  Alvarez here with a brand new release called Casey’s Choice, which released from Stormy Night Publications today.  It’s a kinky, spanky romance with sex, expensive art,  passion, punishment and love.

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Blurb:

When trendy young artist Casey Reilly sneaks into Chicago’s most exclusive club under a fake name, it isn’t long before two rich, handsome men are vying for her attention. The club’s owner, billionaire Jax Hunter, is the first to make his move, but when he discovers her deception he has difficulty forgiving Casey.

After Hunter’s cold response to the truth about Casey’s identity leaves her dejected, Max Abbott doesn’t waste time in stepping in to pick up the pieces, and he promptly gets to work on mending her broken heart. But when Hunter decides to try to win her back, Casey will have to make the most important choice of her life.

 

Excerpt:

“This,” he announced, “is for last night.  It’s an example of punishment, the kind you might not like as much.  This is for your attitude.  I’m going to spank you, you’re going to take it without complaint, and you’re not going to come. At least, not here. After you go home, I can’t control what you do.”  But then he stepped forward, grabbed her neck, and whispered into her ear, “Yet,” and the mere idea of his control, and the feel of his lips on her skin, made her moan out. “God,  Hunter.”

Buy Links:

Amazon US:   

Amazon UK:

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Please stop by and visit all of the other talented authors in the blog hop.

Thanks, and happy reading! XOXO, Alexis

 

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Cover Reveal ** Boston **

Greetings, readers! It’s Alexis Alvarez with a cover reveal for my upcoming contemporary romance, Boston.  It will release on Amazon on August 16th. 

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Blurb for Boston

Parker Minelli, a fitness trainer and cover model, is every woman’s dream. His Boston accent, chiseled abs and easy-going nature have women flocking to him. But when he meets author Abby, whose brains are bigger than his biceps, he sets out to prove that he’s more than just a pretty face.

Abby is thrilled—and a little breathless—when Parker agrees to work with her on her next book release. However, they soon discover that while opposites may attract, that doesn’t mean that they can overcome their differences. Especially when Parker’s supermodel ex-girlfriend reappears.

Will they be able to see the big picture and accept each other as they are, or will their differences close the book on their chance at love?

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ARC Readers

 It’s filling up fast, but I  still have a few spaces available for ARC readers.  If you have a Kindle, love steamy contemporary romances with sexy heroes and a high heat level…and are willing to leave me an honest review on Amazon on the day the book goes live (August 16th), please contact me to sign up as an ARC reader. My author page is here and you can message me.

Goodreads

Find Boston here on Goodreads!  Add it to your TBR list today so you can share the delicious beauty of the cover.  Thanks!

Awesome People

I love how the cover turned out! I’d like to thank three very important people. Shane “Eyeball” Williams, thanks for modeling for me and letting me take the fantastic photograph of you during your trip to Arizona.  It was great to meet you and take your pictures!  Find Shane here on Facebook.

Shannon Passmore, you have mad skillz at cover design! Thanks for creating this amazing work of art. I’m proud to dress my book up in this gorgeous cover.  Find Shannon at http://www.shanoffformats.com/

Heather Roberts at Social Butterfly PR, thanks for the blurb (you have a great way with words) and all of the publicity and PR assistance.  You rock!  Find Heather at http://www.socialbutterflypr.net/

Thanks! Happy reading.  🙂

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Capturing Kate – new from Alexis Alvarez

Saturday+Spankings

Greetings, everyone!  It’s Alexis Alvarez with a new book for the SatSpanks blog hop! My latest novel has released through Stormy Night Publications and is available on Amazon and other platforms. It’s called Capturing Kate, and it’s a spanky, sexy adventure story about a feisty reporter and the handsome FBI agent who keeps her safe.

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Blurb

Journalist Kate Klein knew reporting on a powerful businessman’s disregard for the safety of the local water supply was a dangerous assignment, but she is nonetheless shocked when she is taken captive, bound, and brought to a remote cabin. Her gruff yet undeniably handsome captor turns out to be a man named Sloan Masters who claims he is an undercover FBI agent investigating the same organization she has been trying to expose. Kate is unsure whether Sloan can be trusted, but he makes it clear that he plans to do whatever is necessary to protect her, whether she likes it or not. If keeping her safe requires taking her over his knee for a stern punishment to ensure her obedience, then so be it.

When Kate keeps some critical information from Sloan, a long, hard spanking on her bare bottom quickly proves that his warning was not a bluff. To her surprise, however, the painful, embarrassing chastisement leaves Kate not only promising to be good but also yearning for Sloan to take her in his arms and claim her thoroughly.

Sloan’s skilled, dominant lovemaking is unlike anything Kate has ever experienced before, and she finds her desire for him growing more intense by the hour, but she cannot help wondering if she is just a means to an end for him. When something goes terribly wrong and the entire investigation is put in jeopardy, can Sloan prove to Kate that she belongs to him no matter what?

Publisher’s Note: Capturing Kate is an erotic romance novel that includes spankings, sexual scenes, elements of BDSM, and more. If such material offends you, please don’t buy this book.

Excerpt

“Who are you, and why am I here?” She snuck a look up at him.

“I’m a FBI agent. I’m part of a team that’s working undercover.” He put down his wipes, and smoothed a piece of gauze over the cut. “My team has been working to infiltrate Mancini’s organization for the past year.” He ripped a long piece of white tape and attached the gauze at top and bottom. “There. That should hold you for a while. I’ll put some healing gel and gauze on your wrists, too, as soon I undo your hands. I’m sorry about the rope burns. And your face.” He winced as he looked at her, and brushed his fingers across her cheek. “Connor told me he slapped your cheek so he could tie you up.”  He hesitated, and his voice was low when he spoke again. “You’re damn lucky that Mancini called on one of our men to take you out.”

 

Buy Links

Amazon US:  https://amzn.com/B01I4N16Y8

Amazon UK:  http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01I4N16Y8

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Are you ready?

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One more teaser….

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Please visit the other authors participating in this blog hop. Their links are below. Thanks!

 

Capturing Kate – New from Alexis Alvarez

Saturday+Spankings

Greetings! It’s Alexis Alvarez, and I have a new book coming from Stormy Night Publications on Friday, July 8th.  Capturing Kate is a thrilling, sexy novel about a feisty woman named Kate, and the FBI agent who needs to keep her safe.  It’s a full-length novel with an HEA and scenes so steamy they’ll melt your Kindle.

Excerpt from Capturing Kate

He smiled, nodded, as if he were right about something. Then he raised one eyebrow.  “If it’s necessary, I’ll tie you back up, like I said. But first, I’ll do something else.”

“What – else?” She whispered the words, suddenly sure he had read her mind and knew exactly what she wanted from him, and the thought made her burn.

“I’ll turn you over my lap and spank you so hard that you won’t sit comfortably all day tomorrow.”  He pierced her with his gaze.

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Kate’s a determined reporter looking into corruption, and her whistle-blower source  is about to hand over the most critical information.  But when she ends up being kidnapped instead, it’s up to undercover FBI agent Sloan to keep her safe until the investigation is over.  Sloan’s chiseled abs and handsome face have her heart skipping beats, and even his non-traditional methods of keeping her in-line with his orders are sexy.  The days they spend hiding in his cabin safe house are exhilarating.  But the danger is very real, and when chaos erupts, they’ll have to work together to save their lives…and their hearts.

The book is full of steamy, explicit sex and elements of consensual BDSM, so it’s only for the 18+ crowd who enjoy reading about these kinds of things.  🙂

Stay tuned for the cover reveal and more excerpts here on my blog and on my Facebook author page. Please follow me for all the latest.  And thanks for reading!

Alexis on Facebook

Please visit the other authors participating in this blog hop.

Saturday+SpankingsThere are many other book snippets to enjoy! Happy reading.

Spring Fling Threesome

Greetings! It’s Alexis Alvarez here, ready to tell you about the Spring Fling writer’s conference in Chicago. My sisters and I attended, and it was our first book conference as romance authors!

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Maria Monroe, Adrienne Perry, and Alexis Alvarez (sisters!)

 

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The organizers did a fantastic job! The conference was outstanding.

I’m excited to report that we drank at least $150 in wine at the bar (hi, cute bartender! Remember us?)  We also attended conferences, pitched to agents, and laughed so loudly and so long in our room that our neighbor came to bang on our door. We though we were in trouble, but she only wanted to join the party.  It was Jade Lee, a best-selling romance author who has published over 50 books.  When we told her what we were giggling about, she still came in to hang out, and we all had a great time talking. She gave us some excellent writing advice on top of it, as well as copies of her books.  She didn’t run away screaming!  This made us want to call our mom immediately and report:  “See? Sometimes when we laugh together like hyenas for hours, GOOD THINGS can come of it!”

jade lee

Jade Lee writes books that are sexy, romantic and fun!

I won a cool Indian-themed basket from Sonali Dev in the silent auction!  We also got to hear her talk during a panel.  Her concept of good romance writing inspiring “heart-gasms” was fun and provocative – loved it.  I’ve interviewed Sonali before for an article on writing and love her insight into editing and using beta readers.  (Read it here:  Getting The Words Right: The Magic of Editing.)

sonali graphic

We got to meet Christina and Lauren, the best-selling duo who write as Christina Lauren, and they were so nice. Like, really, super NICE. The kind of women who you want to turn into BFF’s and talk with on the phone every day because they’re just so interesting and cool, but it’s important not to stalk them too hard because they already have a BFF (each other) and a pretty busy life, what with writing a new best-selling book every few months and also having families.

christina lauren with text for web

Important Event:

Here’s a true story from the conference about how nice they are:  So Robyn Carr gave the big keynote speech, and it was a good one. She told us as writers that we need to work through adversity (she once had an 8-year dry spell), and that we can be the wings, not just the wind under someone else’s wings. She also had a free book on the table for each of us. So Adrienne and I went to thank her afterwards and shake her hand. She was busy chatting with fans, so we waited politely for our turn.  But the crowd around her was so big, and there were so many people waiting to meet her, that we couldn’t get in there. So we waited. And waited some more. We kept missing our opportunity to get in there and started to feel silly, because we were standing there, trying to say “hi” and kept getting cut off by other people. It was like when construction makes two lanes merge into one, but the other drivers are determined not to let you in, so you end up marooned behind the cones, blinking wildly, praying, “Let me in! Someone, let me in!”

Have you been in that situation? You’re feeling meek and small, and try to look like you belong, but every second that goes by, you feel more awkward, and soon you’re frozen into place like a terrified squirrel faced by a vicious alley cat? And there are huge used-car-lot arrows flashing right at you?

alexis is mouse

Soon we realized that we just didn’t have the guts to power through the crowd. So now it was clearly time to sneak back to Maria and confess our lameness (she was in the bathroom, sending us selfies) —

maria selfie

—but out of the blue, who should appear but Lauren, from CLo!  She smiled and said hi, and we said hi and that we were considering trying to to talk to Robyn Carr, but the crowd was too thick, and do you know what Lauren did for us? She interjected herself gracefully and sweetly into the scene, and introduced RC to us. And we got our books autographed.

So my takeaway from that is that Lauren is a Super Hero, and if we knew how to sew (we don’t) and if we had extra fabric with us (we didn’t) we would have made her some kind of cape as a way of saying thanks.  Also, she and Christina gave a very a)funny and b)moving keynote speech about how they became a writing duo, about perseverance and teamwork, about not giving up.  It inspired the three of us to want to write a team book.  We’re already finished with the rev 0. draft!

Oh, also? When Lauren & Christina give classes? They include pictures of themselves eating corn-dogs, and swear sometimes, and make jokes, and ask the audience for real-time feedback. FUNNEST TALKS EVER.  If you  get a chance to hear these two women talk live, TAKE IT. You won’t be sorry.  You need to read their books, if you haven’t already. They’re sexy, funny, smart and addictive.

Second Important Event

The other important part of the conference was Maria’s underpants. She had this Spanx-style garment to make herself look slimmer, and she noted that there was a hole in the crotch of it with little flaps, so you could — apparently — crouch down and open the flaps and pee instead of trying to wriggle out of the entire bodysuit.  I also have  a slimming garment with a similar hole, which I have never used (the hole, not the garment).

spanx

Maria started calling her garment the “Beaver Peeker.”  As in, “Guys, can you toss me the Beaver Peeker? I need to change.”  Or,  “Should I wear the Beaver Peeker tonight to  look skinnier for the dinner?”

We though that savvy women should have more names for this creative cloth, so we started brainstorming.

beaver spanx underwear

We brainstormed these over the course of the 2-day conference, and each new suggestion made us roll on the floor, nearly crying with laughter, howling until our stomachs hurt. It was so, so fun. They don’t all make sense. They don’t have to!

At the final dinner, we came up with some creative ones:

  • Quesadilla Let Me See ‘Ya
  • Taco Unlock-O

We were screaming with laughter about some of these suggestions when Jade knocked on our door. 

Later, on our way to the lobby for Starbucks, the bartender walked by with some people in suits. He nodded his head and smiled to us, and waved.

So to summarize our conference learnings:

  • The RWA chapters of Chicago are full of awesome, fun people. They put on a well-organized, insightful, fantastic, helpful conference. Well done!  Sign up for their next one.
  • Next time you’re shopping for a slimming undergarment, why not spice up the conversation by asking for it by one of the new names above?
  • When you’re waiting in the “pre-pitch” room, it’s a good idea to start a horse-drawing competition with all the other women to help settle the nerves.

horse contest

  • Way to make a new friend:  When someone shushes your seatmate during a class in a very loud and rude way, it’s helpful to write, “Shush, BITCH!” in your notebook and show it to her and giggle. Then you can laugh together later and becomes besties on Facebook.  **Only do this if your seatmate seems to have a good sense of humor.**

shush bitch

  • During the silent auction, it’s helpful to get specific when you’re bidding on a critique session with a best-selling author:  “Fifty dollars and a picture of a sexy shirtless man.”  You may be out-bid by someone with an even better offer (Melonie!), though, who seems to have inside knowledge of what the author likes:  “Sixty dollars and pictures of hot gingers.”  (Damn my inability to appreciate the ging!)

red hot

  • Penny Sansevieri has a GREAT class on getting the most out of Amazon. Take lots of notes.

penny

penny page

Notes from Penny Sansevieri’s Class

  • To make your sisters choke on their meal, send more selfies from the bathroom of you doing a duck-face. (Head and shoulders only!)

maria selfie2

  • Thanks to all the organizers, presenters, editors, agents and authors at the conference. We had a fantastic experience there and would do it again in a heartbeat.

We had a great time. Were you there, too?  Want to share your memories,  or suggest a new name for the Beaver Peeker? We’d love your comments!


Alexis, Maria & Adrienne

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Perfect Sentence

Writing & Editing – Creating the Perfect Sentence

By Alexis Alvarez

I can still see the excitement in my German teacher’s face, how he radiated enthusiasm through his hands. His gestures grew like waves in a storm.  “This is one of the most perfect sentences ever written!” he declared. “And you are lucky to read and understand it in the author’s original voice.”

His gray curls bobbed.  “Als Gregor Samsa eines Morgens aus unruhigen Träumen erwachte, fand er sich in seinem Bett zu einem ungeheueren Ungeziefer verwandelt.”

Light streamed in through the paned Barnard windows and I saw tiny flecks of spit hurtling like diamonds through the dusty air, and this accentuated his immense delight in the way the words moved in his mouth. He had us recite it aloud together, and we agreed on the perfection, the way it slid off the tongue, The German guttural and slick at once.

kafka book with quote

“Memorize it!” he exhorted us, and I did, the words ingrained in my brain after that one reading, my mind mesmerized with the cadence.

My German teacher’s  name was Marvin Shulman.  He was five feet something tall, and his energy for German, his love for words, radiated from his pores.  My mental image attached to his name is this: Seeing him lean forward in emphasis, as if only by approaching us with the words could he hurl them into our souls.

words

He spoke about something I’d felt in small bursts while reading – the joy of finding lines where the words fit together like puzzle pieces, as if they were meant to belong in that order, and the author was the first one who discovered it.

Since then, I’ve been on the lookout for other perfect sentences, and sometimes I write them down in notebooks, so I can enjoy them later like mind candy.

“Like a cat in the dark, your whisker touched something the wrong way and you backed out.”

-Mary Gaitskill, Veronica

“In the water, a dark plume of blood blossomed by her foot; as I looked, a thin red tendril spiraled up and curled over her pale toes, undulating in the water like a thread of crimson smoke.”

-Donna Tartt, The Secret History

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Every Author is a Translator

In her New Yorker article Teach Yourself Italian,” author Jhumpa Lahiri talks about the difficulties of learning a new language as an adult, and trying to become not just proficient, but expert enough to write in the new language, beautifully.   She studies Italian for years in America, but it is only when she moves to Rome that she begins to think in Italian and to reinvent herself as an author who can write in Italian.  In the beginning, it’s a torturous process full of gaps and halts, but the sentences she writes to describe it are so lovely that they shine, notebook worthy.

“I write in a terrible, embarrassing Italian, full of mistakes. Without correcting, without a dictionary, by instinct alone. I grope my way, like a child, like a semiliterate. I am ashamed of writing like this. I don’t understand this mysterious impulse, which emerges out of nowhere. I can’t stop.

It’s as if I were writing with my left hand, my weak hand, the one I’m not supposed to write with. It seems a transgression, a rebellion, an act of stupidity.”

san diego wall

She is determined to master the language to the point where the words work for her, within her, so that she can think in effortless Italian and make beautiful, perfect sentences in this new language that calls to her heart.

She does it: She learns to write so well in Italian that she doesn’t need to think of the words in English and translate in her mind into Italian; she does the more fundamental translation, that of images right into Italian.

Because all writers are translators.  We are learning the language of our own mind and soul, and finding a way to get the thoughts out in a way that other people can understand. Whether we do it in our native tongue or a new one, it’s a steep mountain to climb: how do you take the ephemeral wraiths in your brain and implant them into someone else’s head?

lahiri quote small

It’s a laborious process. Often I feel the way she did, writing in English, my native tongue. We have to translate our thoughts into words, and organize the words into something sensible and lovely; then the other person must read and interpret them.

It reminds me of Escher’s drawing of the hands drawing each other, turning from three dimensional to two dimensional and back: It’s something alive that gets flattened out, smashed into print before it’s resurrected in another body, and only the excellent writers create words that can send thoughts across this journey without being irreparably damaged in the process.

books

There’s no simple secret on how to do this.  But it’s possible to improve any writing through editing. The more we observe our work dispassionately, the harder we strive to improve our sentences, the better we’ll become at our craft.  And with practice, we can write some perfect sentences of our own.

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How To Start

Stop worrying about perfection and write what flows into your brain and out of your fingers.  Give your wordless images words; allow them ugly life, then you can mold them back into the images you see in your brain.  You can’t edit an empty page. There are some writers who don’t revise at all, but it’s rare.  Most authors find editing to be the most painful and most fruitful part of the  process.

collette quote with outline

It’s like assembling a box of old bones into some new animal the world has never seen, not even me. At first there’s a rough scaffolding of a shape, but it’s wrong: I have too many ribs, an ankle attached to a wrist, a sad leg dangling uselessly into space, a spine that diverges into two necks, one of which I must sever.  Over time, with great effort, I reassemble, remove, revise, until the beast stand firm, a shape emerged.  Only then can I start putting on the skin and the color, the delicate eyelashes and the sparkling teeth, the eyes that glance and burn.

When I have the animal, I can show it to other readers and allow them to tell me where it’s still wrong.  These people, my writer’s group and my beta readers, look at my creation and tell me where it’s broken, bleeding, dull, hollow.

hemingway quote

This part is the hardest part of my writing process, because sometimes significant changes are necessary, and they are difficult.  I feel like I’m doing brain surgery on most delicate tissue, trying to improve and refine without killing the host.  It would be easier to pretend the thing is  fine and  publish, but that’s the bigger misstep, because once it’s out there in the world, ready to roar out its presence, those flaws will make me wince every time I see it.

It’s not even that the editing process makes it perfect, it just makes it better.  Each thing I write, each edit I perform, I improve my skills. Malcolm Gladwell proposes in his 2008 book Outliers, and several follow-up articles, that it can take up to ten thousand hours to become an expert in many fields. He points to certain musical virtuosi, computing geniuses, and sports stars who put in significant amounts of time – nearly ten thousand hours each –  before becoming the master of their craft. 

paino with 10k

 

He reminds the reader that a certain amount of natural skill is necessary, and passion is what will keep you interested over the long haul– but for most people, putting in the time is fundamental.  People who skip past the practice right to the perfection are the exception, not the rule.

Don’t shy away from the hours your writing and editing take. Count them all as worthy steps toward your goal, although, of course, writers don’t always have discrete goals, but long, winding paths that last our entire lives.

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Common Writing Rules

How do you know what to cut, what to keep?  My process is this: Rules and readers.  I go through my work several times first, using basic rules of thumb to shorten and streamline, then I ask others to read it and give feedback on things big and small.  My writing group will pick out missing commas and redundant language as well as bigger plot inconsistencies, and my two sisters will give me gut-wrenching feedback about the story as a whole and what needs to change to improve it.

Some common rules that writers follow

  • Show, don’t tell
  • Avoid adverbs when modifying the word “said”
  • Limit adverbs everywhere else
  • Be succinct
  • Alternate long sentences with short
  • Use concrete rather than vague language
  • Avoid passive voice
  • Reduce “ing” verbs. (Ex: Use she looked instead of she was looking.)
  • Don’t repeat words too often
  • Cut the stuff that readers skip
  • Use outside eyes to help edit

There are more.  These can, and should be broken as necessary, but they’re a starting point, a good one.  In the rest of the article I’ll focus on avoiding adverbs, being succinct, “ing” words, and outside eyes for editing.

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Favorite Writing Rules: Avoid Adverbs — “Show, Don’t Tell”

For me, “show, don’t tell” and “use concrete language” are the most important ones; the “avoiding adverbs” –my current favorite — is part of that.

steven king quote 2

When I learned we’re supposed to be sparing with adverbs, I was sad. Obsequiously. Intermittently. Spasmodically.  Unskillfully.  You could  assemble a list of them and it would be a poem.

When I read the why behind it, I understood.  An adverb is often a short-cut that replaces details.  If you force yourself to eliminate certain adverbs, you will need to fill in the gap with a specific description, and this makes your story interesting and vivid.  Sometimes as the author you want and need your reader to fill in gaps, to make up their own mind about your characters, but it’s usually not in places where you’re clarifying something important about a character’s appearance, thoughts or actions.

No, you want to save that for places where they’ll catch hidden meanings or put together some clues you’ve scattered throughout the text.  Let them work for the intellectual, challenging connections. But for the fundamentals of your story? Those should be crystal.

 

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If you overuse them, adverbs hide what’s really happening. Compare the two versions below.

Original

He shouted loudly, gesturing wildly with his hands. His hair blew crazily in the wind, and even though she leaned forward intently she couldn’t understand a single word. Below them, the ocean churned.

Edited

He shouted, gestured, and it looked as though he were trying to shake water from his fingers. She couldn’t understand a thing. The wind tossed his hair over his face like a dancing veil. It seized his words and tumbled them down the rock wall to the sea, where they sucked under and drowned.

Maybe to you, gesturing “wildly” means waving your hands to and fro for emphasis. Maybe it means pointing a finger and shaking it, or slamming one fist into a palm. If I want the reader to see exactly what I see, I need to tell them. If I don’t want them to see exactly what I see – why not?  Is there a reason?

checkov quote w outline

For me, it was a shortcut. I was trying to get the pictures out of my  head and onto paper, and in order to do that before the ideas faded, I used adverbs as placeholders.

When I went back to edit, I replaced them with the more specific images. This made the passage longer, which is opposite of the “being succinct” rule. To make up for it, I went through the manuscript and cut out words elsewhere that added bulk without beauty.

Sometimes adverbs are the perfect fit for your passage, and if that’s so, use them proudly and unapologetically. Authors mix in a deliberate ratio of adverbs for emphasis, perhaps because they love the sound, perhaps because they want to grant the reader poetic license to see their own vision.

Some writers have such intricate prose and vivid descriptions that an adverb here and there is good; it’s a breath between thoughts, it’s the oil that glides the story forward.

Take this example from Robert Hellenga’s The Fall of a Sparrow:

“The guitar had tremendous power and volume, tremendous resonance and sustain, more than Woody had been able to control; but the man skillfully damped the strings, now with his left hand, now with his right, so that the sound that came through was clean and penetrating, free from the resonator rattling Woody’d been aware of when he was playing. He didn’t know what to say.

‘Guitar like this can change your life,’ the clerk said when he’d finished the song. You don’t have to play it; just show it to people, let them look at it.”

guitar closeup small

When a great author mixes in a few adverbs with his or her gorgeous description, it’s almost like a compliment to the reader:  “I trust you to fill in the details. You get me.” The use of ‘skillfully’ here doesn’t hurt the passage. It provides a little bit of “you figure it out on your own” help, and that’s effective, because Hellenga’s words are rich and luxurious, and the additional of a bland helper now and then works.  He doesn’t just convince you that he’s heard this guitar; he convinces you that you have.

Here’s an example from Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi, by Geoff Dyer:

“A dusty pole of sunlight poked in from the outside, illuminating a piece of Sanskrit written on a wall.  The boy pointed at the light, which pointed at the sacred text like the finger of a slow reader moving across the page of a difficult book. I continued moving too and the boy tagged along, keeping fractionally ahead of me, thereby subtly suggesting that he was being employed to guide me.”

His style is unique, his words gorgeous.  The adverbs  keep us moving along so we can see more poles of sunlight and hear the bells ringing.  Unpacking these particular adverbs into longer exposition would spoil the passage.

sun ray on sanskrit2

Some authors use adverbs all over the pages, tons of them, and still write best-sellers.  Donna Tartt’s book The Secret History is a favorite of mine, even though she shot her adverbs at it with a BB gun. She uses Greek mythology and  purple-tinged prose that hangs just on the right side of beautiful, and that makes it possible to forgive her for sentences like these:

“I know what he wants,” Charles said bleakly. “He wants us to come over to his hotel and have dinner.”

“Suddenly, his face changed. To my great surprise he cursed loudly and slammed down the receiver so hard it jangled.”

“Isn’t that interesting,” he said coolly. “I’m really not attracted to you, either.”

I don’t mind because she has glorious lines like these: “When I got to my room it was silver and alien with moonlight, the window still open and the Parmenides open on the desk where I had left it; a half-drunk coffee from the snack bar stood beside it, cold in its Styrofoam cup.”

mittelmark on adverbs

Maybe because Tartt uses so many adverbs from the very start, and because her book is  larger than life, a Greek tragedy come alive, it’s appropriate to have the characters overact their emotions.  Her adverbs are like stage directions for the mind. We imagine what to see as the storyteller narrates.

parmenides ad

Fans of J.K. Rowling may note the abundance of adverbs in her writing, adverbs which in no way hindered her stratospheric success.  People love her plot and her characters so much that they care little about her adverb usage.

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More about Adverbs: Don’t Let Them Mar Your Translation

If you use too many adverbs, you don’t thoroughly describe the images in your mind, and the reader misses the path you worked so hard to create. Yet if you unravel every adverb with a long explanation, you can end up with unwieldy text, top heavy and boring.  Sometimes it’s necessary to rewrite an entire passage when you eliminate adverbs.

Here’s a paragraph I wrote after interviewing a provocative local artist.

This is how I felt when I saw his shop

His art workshop was impeccably organized and obviously styled; more like a gallery than a place of labor, it was instantly obvious that he was abundantly in  need of praise, as much from himself as from others.  The works of art in progress were discomfiting and strange, everything designed to provoke unease. Even the way he organized his books spoke to his need for  grandiosity. 

Arranged as they were in shelves, in such a fashion that a single book could not be extricated without sending the rest tumbling, his organization let any guest know that he was so incredibly smart about art that he’d never need to read such a book again. They were not worth his time.  It reminded me of a person so rich that he had no use for the dollar bills that we peons coveted.  There was nothing humble about his space.

Rewritten

Soup-can-shaped containers waited in silent precision. Four feet tall, wiggly and large enough to hide a crouching human, they rippled at a finger touch. A white, powder-coated body exposed wires from a leg, a thigh, the torso, dripping them onto the shiny steel table across from his desk. This view was equally intimate and disturbing: his signature.  A hundred glossy hard-cover art books, arranged  in an intricate pattern of piles and floating shelving from which a single volume could not be extricated without disrupting dozens, were themselves an exhibit.

I once saw a picture of a wealthy man who lacquered an entire room in gold and hundred dollar bills, and it struck me that Tonnesen had a similar narcissistic arrogance; so convinced was he of his superiority that books on the subject, with nothing left to teach him, were best used as self-congratulatory décor.

 

bill tonnesen art

 The thing with adverbs is to use them with intent — verify that they’re the best option to make your sentence complete.  No published author has a perfect manuscript, so don’t use their mistakes and shortcuts as a justification for your own. Make your writing as strong as you can. In the long run, it will serve you well.

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Be Careful With “ing” Verbs

Renee Rose, USA Today best selling author of romance and erotic fiction, gave me an example of a before/after paragraph from one of her best-selling novels.

Original

“No,” he said and then had to lunge to catch her as she tried to escape. He wrapped both arms around her and held her tightly against his body. “No, Celia. I would never do that. Angelina was talking about you because she’s jealous.”

He could feel the shape of her firm breasts pressing against his chest through her thin robe and the image of their naked glory rose in his mind. His eyes strayed down to her lips again. She was looking at him full in the face, studying him as if to determine whether he spoke the truth.

Edited

“No.” He lunged to catch her as she tried to escape. With both arms wrapped around her, he held her tight against his body. “No, Celia. I would never do that. Angelina was talking about you because she’s jealous.”

Her firm breasts pressed against his chest through her thin robe and the image of their naked glory rose in his mind. His eyes strayed down to her lips again. She looked at him full in the face, as if to determine whether he spoke the truth.

Renee did a few things to clean up the passage.  She eliminated several “ing” words (progressive verbs).  By replacing “She was looking” with “she looked” she made the sentence crisper.

Sometimes the sense of motion or time passing is necessary to the story, or to your character’s voice, and if that’s the case, don’t hesitate to use an “ing.” However, many times authors use it as a habit. Be aware of when you’re using an “ing” instead of an “ed” and make it a deliberate choice. Overuse of “ing” words makes a passage fuzzy – a matted dog that needs a haircut.

Authors use “ing” words because they worry that time will snap by, sharp, and slingshot the action ahead of itself. That’s not the case. Readers know to extend or compress time using context. They don’t need a constant flurry of “ings” to remind them about it.

Too many “ing” words:

She  kept looking out at the sea during her coffee break while she was eating her sandwich.

Revision without “ings” makes it stronger:

During her coffee break, she ate the sandwich without taking her eyes from the sea once.

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Beta Readers Provide Valuable Input

My sisters are my two best beta-readers. They read my entire novel from start to finish.  Because they see the whole manuscript, they can give me overriding feedback about a character’s development and where it falls flat. In addition, they give me detailed critiques of sentences and paragraphs that should be fixed.

Here are some examples that Maria did for my novel in progress, Boston. She highlights the comments that need help, and puts her thoughts in a comment to the right.  I usually take all of my sisters’ suggestions, because they make sense.  (Don’t worry; many adverbs were harmed in the making of this story.)

comm3 from maria

She points out places where the language is clunky or offensive.

comm2 from maria

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Writing Groups Are Golden!

My writer’s group provides feedback on a chapter by chapter basis. During a typical meeting, each person takes a turn reading their segment aloud while the others follow along on hands-outs and take notes. The written-up hands-outs go back to the original author, who can use the comment to make improvements.

I’ve scanned several hand-outs with comments from my group. In each case, I used the feedback to make changes.  Some of the changes may seem small. Added together, these comments work together to make a book streamlined and sleek.

Bren commented on my excessive use of the word “I”.  My book is written in the first person, and it’s imperative to break up the “I-fest” and come up with creative ways to tell the story without inundating the reader.

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Edits from Bren

Angela always gets on me for my excessive use of semicolons. What can I say; I love the dang things.  She  pointed out my over-reliance on the word sex(y). When I edited, I found new words and maybe even got rid of a few semicolons; a sad process, but critical.

angela edit 2

Edits from Angela

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Edits from Angela

 

We point out things that work with a smile or an LOL, and are honest about things that don’t work. Jill gave me a smiley for a  good line, and suggested eliminating an entire paragraph, which I did. She gave me an idea for a better phrase, and I used it.

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Edit from Jill

Adriana asked for more detail on perfume; when I rewrote, I added in the exact scent (Light Blue, by D&G.)  She suggested ways to streamline and I took many of them.

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Edits from Adriana

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Edits from Adriana

Kacey pointed out that I used a lot of run-on sentences, something I want to fix.  Her reminder stayed in my head while I edited, and I was careful to mix it up — some long sentences, some shorter, for variety.

kacey edit 3

Edits from Kacey

Group members are honest when they find a phrase that sounds out of place or awkward.

kacey edit 2

I removed the “whore” reference. It didn’t work.

Make Your Editing Process Your Own

Your editing process might not involve beta readers or friends from a writer’s group, but no matter what you do, it’s critical to revise and improve your work. Sometimes, time itself is a wonderful editor.  Let the manuscript sit for a week or a month, then re-read.  After some distance, you may be able to make changes that would have scared or hurt you the first time through.  The point is to do what it takes to make our work better, to turn it into something that captures readers.

My favorite books are ones where I read something and exclaim, “Yes! She gets it. I feel this way. I am this way.” Or, “This is really what life is like.”  When you find an author who shines a light into your soul and illuminates something, not just in you but across humanity, showing you that a part of you which you considered fundamentally different is actually intrinsic to a greater population, it’s better than any magic trick in the world.   Words are finite, but some authors make them sing.

kafka quote

Franz Kafka, author of The Metamorphosis, supposedly said about writing:

“Don’t bend; don’t water it down; don’t try to make it logical; don’t edit your own soul according to the fashion. Rather, follow your most intense obsessions mercilessly.”

The interesting part is that sometimes our writing comes out muddy and watered down, and it’s only through editing that we get it clear and perfect.  Jhumpa Lahiri used all of Italy, the country, as her editor, while she was in the process of learning Italian.  We, too, can use everything at our disposal here at home:  Writer’s groups, beta readers, and self-reflection. 

Lahiri never stopped; just like Malcolm Gladwell’s “ten thousand hour” experts, she pushed on, day after day.  So do that.

The more we revise and edit, the closer we come to making perfect sentences of our own.

siggie bar jen web 2

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Bibliography / Credits

Kafka, Franz with  Ian Johnston. Die Vervandlung – Metamorphosis (German-English Parallel Text).  London: JiaHu Books, 2014.

Gaitskill, Mary.  Veronica. New York: Vintage Books, 2005.

Tartt, Donna. The Secret History.  New York: The Ballantine Publishing Group, 1992.

Lahiri, Jhumpa. “Teach Yourself Italian.” The New Yorker Magazine. December 7th, 2015 Issue. (With translator Ann Goldstein.)

Gladwell, Malcolm.  “Complexity and the Ten Thousand Hour Rule.” The New Yorker Magazine. August 21st, 2013 issue. 

Gladwell, Malcolm. Outliers. The Story of Success. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2008.

Dyer, Geoff.  Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi. New York, Vintage Books, 2010.

Hellenga, Robert. The Fall of a Sparrow.  New York: Scribner Paperback Fiction, 1999.

Quote by Parmenides:  https://faculty.washington.edu/smcohen/320/parm1.htm

Photography:  All pictures are owned and copyrighted by Alexis Alvarez.

book pile

I have hundreds of ebooks, but I still love my paperback versions!