Poor Daisy Punished

Hey, it’s Maria Monroe here! For Wip it Up Wednesday, I’m sharing a snippet from my latest release from Stormy Night Publications: Reformed by the Millionaire. In this section, our hero’s brother Steven saved Daisy’s life when she almost stepped out into traffic because she wasn’t paying attention. Now Victor’s going to punish her for putting her life in danger…


Victor stood and walked around his desk, standing in front of it and glaring at Daisy. “I have enough to worry about here at work without having to be concerned my assistant doesn’t know how to cross the street safely!” His voice was a low rumble. Quiet but angry.

“I told you, it’s not a big deal!” Daisy felt like stamping her foot, but she knew that would only make her look like a child.

“Shut the door, Daisy.”

“But I…”


“Yes, Sir.” She knew, without him saying it, what was going to happen to her. Right here in the office.

“Bro, I’ll see you later.” Steven headed to the door.

“You can stay if you’d like.” Victor looked at his brother. “I need to teach Daisy a lesson, and the humiliation of having a witness might make more of an impact. What do you think about that, Daisy?” He turned to her now, eyes blazing.

“No! Please! I don’t want Steven to watch.” Being spanked with her panties down was embarrassing enough without someone else in the room. She couldn’t imagine another person sitting there, watching her be punished, like it was some sort of entertainment.

“Close the door,” repeated Victor.

As Daisy trudged to the door to close it, Victor continued. “Steven and I have had many experiences spanking naughty girls together. I don’t want Steven to touch you or spank you. But I think having him present for your punishment, since you already involved him with your carelessness, is fair. Don’t you, Daisy?”

“Yes, Sir.” Her heart began to thump.

“Yes, what? What do you think is fair?” Victor demanded.

“I think it’s fair for Steven to watch me be, um, punished.” She could barely get the words out.

“Ask him to stay.”

No! But she turned to him, her cheeks blazing, and said, “Steven, would you please stay and watch me be spanked?”

Steven raised an eyebrow at her and grinned. “My pleasure. Thanks for the invitation.” With that he winked, increasing Daisy’s embarrassment. He headed to the liquor cabinet in the corner and poured himself a drink while Victor rummaged around in his desk, finally producing a wooden ruler.

“I always wondered why I was given a ruler. Who uses these in my line of work? But now? I’m glad it’s here.” He smacked it gently against his palm.

“No, Sir, please…” began Daisy.

“Oh, don’t worry.” Victor approached her, holding the ruler in one hand while he gently touched her cheek with the other. His eyes were dark green and intense as he stared at her, one corner of his mouth turned up in a half-grin. “I’ll get your bottom warmed up with my hand before I use the ruler on you.”

She wanted to roll her eyes at him and say, sarcastically, thanks. But she knew that would only make things worse.

“Well, it’s already late. Let’s get started. I’d like you bend over the table where you do your work, please, Daisy, facing my brother.”

“Yes, Sir.” She did as she was told, glancing at Steven, who sat holding his drink on the couch and staring at her, his lips parted into a smile. Her upper body was against the wood surface, and Victor nudged her feet farther apart.

“Let’s get your legs spread nice and wide,” he said. “I’m going to start your warmup over your skirt. Are you ready?”


“Good.” He placed his wide-open palm on her ass and held it there for a moment before beginning.




Sexy Sample from Reformed by the Millionaire

Reformed by the Millionaire is Maria’s latest release from Stormy Night Publications. It’s a sexy spanking romance with a happy ending (and lots of steamy sex and spankings)!

Here’s the blurb, and read on for a sexy sample!

After her plan to drop out of college and travel the country falls apart, nineteen-year-old Daisy Underwood finds herself sleeping on the porch of an upscale home to get out of the rain.

Victor Bennett is surprised to find a cold, hungry young woman on his doorstep, but he doesn’t hesitate to invite the wet, shivering girl inside and offer her a hot meal and a place to stay for the night. When he meets the cleaned up and properly rested Daisy the next morning, he is enthralled by both her innocent beauty and her obvious need to be properly taken in hand.

Daisy is delighted by Victor’s generosity, and when he offers her a room in his home and a job as his assistant she happily accepts. She soon discovers, however, that her handsome new boss will not tolerate laziness or disobedience, and it isn’t long before her careless disregard for his instructions earns her a trip over his knee for a sound spanking on her bare bottom.

Victor quickly proves that he will not hesitate to punish Daisy as thoroughly as necessary to teach her to do as she is told, even if that means her bottom ends up sore both inside and out. Though she is often left blushing crimson by his strict correction, Victor’s dominance arouses Daisy intensely, and when he claims her at last his masterful lovemaking is better than she ever dreamed. But can she truly dare to hope that she could be more than just a charity case to him?

Sample from Reformed by the Millionaire :

The driver was waiting outside the luxury sedan, and he hurried around to open the door for Daisy and Victor. Immediately after telling the driver where to take them, Victor pressed the button to raise the separator between the front seat and the rest of the vehicle.

“It’s completely soundproof,” he said nonchalantly.

But something about the statement, the need to point that out, caused Daisy’s heart to beat faster. Such a simple fact shouldn’t have that much impact, but her pussy throbbed at the multitude of things Victor could possibly be thinking.

She didn’t have to wait long to find out.

“Daisy, it’s time to talk about the college courses.” His voice was low.

“I’m sorry, Victor. I’m grateful to you for the generous offer of paying for classes. And I definitely plan to sign up. I just got distracted…”

“No excuses, Daisy.” His voice was gentle but firm. “It’s the one maxim I live by, the one thing that keeps me going and, I believe, is the hallmark of my success so far. No excuses. Not for anything. Ever. Just get it done.”

“You’re right.” The words made sense. If you gave yourself an out all the time, how could you expect to achieve great things? “I like that.”

“Good. But I’m afraid you’re not going to like what happens next.” Gently he put his hand to Daisy’s cheek, turning her face so they were looking into each other’s eyes.

“What… what happens next?”

“I’m going to punish you for not doing what you were told, Daisy.”

“Oh.” She breathed out, then swallowed hard. “Um, what kind of punishment are you going to, you know, give me?”

He brought his face closer to hers, as though he was going to kiss her. But before their lips met, he whispered, “I’m going to spank you, Daisy. Right here in the car. You’re going to get over my lap, and I’m going to spank you until your bottom is red and you’re crying. Do you understand?”

Daisy could hear her heart pounding in her ears, and no amount of clenching would stop the surge of wetness between her legs. Yet fear, too, intermingled with the desire, leaving her weak and trembling.

“Yes. I understand.” Her voice was small.

“Good. Let’s get started.”

Was this really happening? She looked beseechingly at Victor, as though willing him to tell her he was only joking. That surely a grown man wouldn’t spank a grown woman in the backseat of a car on the way to dinner.

But his eyes were deep and dark, and he wasn’t smiling when he said, “Face down over my lap, Daisy. Now.”

It was awkward getting on her hands and knees on the big backseat to arrange her body over Victor’s lap, and it was even more difficult because she was trembling in anticipation and nerves.

“Good.” Victor adjusted his position slightly, then placed one hand on her upper back. With the other hand he smoothed the skirt of her dress down. “It’s a good thing you chose to wear a dress today, isn’t it?” he mused. “Taking down a pair of pants in the car would be even more awkward, wouldn’t it?”

“Taking down?” she gasped.

Victor chuckled. “I’m sure you’ll agree that a spanking on the bare is more effective than one over clothes, no?”

Daisy shut her eyes hard, unable to answer.

“I asked you a question.” Victor’s voice was low but firm.

“Yes,” she managed. “A spanking on the bare will, um, be much more effective.”

“I’m so glad you agree. Of course, you’ll be getting a warmup, first over your skirt, then on top of your underwear, and then I’ll pull down your panties and spank you quite hard and for a long time on your bare bottom. Is that clear?”

Oh, god. “Yes.”

“And I expect you to hold still and not try to cover up or get out of position. Do you think you can do that?”

“Yes.” No! she screamed in her head. But she knew that wasn’t the answer he wanted.

His hand caressed her ass lightly, moving over her skirt, traveling low enough to palm the bottoms of her round globes. Her pussy clenched, desiring his touch. If he lifted her skirt and began to explore, she’d let him. She’d welcome that. But she knew she was getting something else.

“Have you ever been spanked before, Daisy?” His hand continued gently massaging her bottom.

“Um, no. Never.”

“I think you’ll be surprised at how much it hurts. But also at how much you’re able to take.” His voice was warm, almost kind, which was strange in combination with the fact that she was lying, ass up, over his lap. “I’d like to start now. Ask me to begin spanking you.”

What? Not only was he going to spank her, but she had to ask him to? She gulped.

“Victor?” Her voice trembled. “Please, um, spank me.”

She could smell the leather seat under her face as she waited in anticipation for him to start. He gripped her waist with his left hand, and she knew it was going to happen.

The first spanks over her skirt filled her with relief. This wasn’t so bad. It stung, and the fact that she was being spanked at all was embarrassing. Still, she was able to relax slightly as he continued to land smacks on her bottom.

After a few minutes, though, he stopped. “We’re going to go harder now, Daisy. Remember that you deserve this. I’m doing this for a reason.”

“Yes, Sir.” The Sir slipped out naturally, and when it did, she felt Victor shift beneath her slightly, the undeniable hardness of his cock pressing into her as he did.

He began spanking once more, this time hard enough that she cried out a little.

“Ow! That hurts!” she whined.

“Baby, this is just the beginning.” His tone sounded like he was smiling. Like he was enjoying this. “Think about how it’s going to feel when your panties are down and I’m spanking your bare bottom.”

Could she take it? She suddenly wasn’t sure about that. What had seemed like a good idea, something hot and sexy and kinky, was now actually more than a bit scary. Yet, as he stopped spanking long enough to lift her skirt, she felt her pussy get even wetter.

“Lift up a little,” Victor urged. “I want to get your skirt up so it’s out of my way.”

Daisy’s cheeks burned as she raised her butt so Victor could arrange her skirt up high on her back, leaving her completely exposed excerpt for her underwear.

His finger traced the edge of her lacy panties. “Beautiful,” he whispered, his voice like a caress on her almost-bare skin. “Your ass is so perfect, Daisy. And it’s such a lovely shade of pink right now. That pink, in contrast to the black lace, is quite an amazing image. But my aim is to get your bottom bright red. So I’m afraid I’m going to have to spank you much longer and much harder.”

Daisy clenched her fists as he began to spank her once more. Without the skirt as a buffer, it hurt even more, and she began crying out in earnest. Each time his hand landed on her delicate skin it felt like tiny pinpricks of fire, and within a few minutes she was writhing on his lap, staying in place but just barely.

He stopped and began to massage her butt. “How does it feel so far, Daisy?”

“It hurts!” She didn’t want to cry, and she knew she deserved this, but tears stung her eyes.

“Of course it does. That’s the point.” There was humor in his voice, and somehow the fact that he was enjoying this so much added to her humiliation.

“I know,” she murmured.

“If you’d done what I said, you wouldn’t be here, over my lap with your skirt up being spanked like a little girl, would you?”

“No, Sir.”

“Good. Now, Daisy, I want you to ask me to pull your panties down and spank you on your bare bottom.”

“No,” she whined.

“Daisy.” There was warning in his voice.

Daisy took a deep breath. She could do this. Swallowing hard, she spoke. “Victor, Sir, please pull my panties down and spank my bare bottom.”

Thank god he couldn’t see her face, couldn’t see the blazing glow in her cheeks. Though, of course, he could see the blazing glow in her other cheeks.

“Good girl.” His voice was soothing despite the fact that he was about to begin spanking her once more. “Lift up again, please, so I can get these down.” He grasped the fabric of her underwear and, as she rose up slightly, he worked them down her thighs.

Get Reformed by the Millionaire on Amazon now!

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


A Handful Of Fire: First chapters & pre-order links

Greetings! It’s Alexis Alvarez with an excerpt from my brand-new novel, A Handful of Fire.  A taboo relationship…steamy passion…and emotional, poetic prose.  It’s a stand-alone contemporary romance with lots of sexy heat and an HEA.

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Here are the blurb and the first two chapters.


Single father Gabriel Baystock is rich and powerful, educated and handsome – and helpless when it comes to ensuring his son Michael recovers fully from a childhood cancer.  He’ll do anything, even hire award-winning child therapist Shai Bonaventura.

Shai is drawn to brooding, sexy Gabriel, and while she falls in love with the little boy she’s hired to help, she loses her heart to his father. Their powerful chemistry is off the charts hot, and Shai thinks he might be the one to help heal her own demons, even if it means crossing professional boundaries.

But when old secrets from Shai’s past are revealed, it’s not clear if their fragile relationship can survive the harsh reality of the real world…or whether they have the courage to fight for what they really need?

Chapter One – Shai

Even from across the room, I can see that his eyes are the color of emeralds glowing in the dark.  If I thought his lean body was dangerous, if watching his muscles moving under the expensive suit made me catch my breath, the glimpse of his face only increases my attraction. He’s far more attractive in person than even his best pictures on the internet. I find it hard to believe that this is the father of my newest patient—assuming he hires me, of course; Allison explained how he thinks therapy is usually a “complete waste of time.”

He notices my gaze; a beat goes by, our eyes locked, and then he smiles. Does he know who I am yet? I stand straighter in my heels and fluff my red-brown curls with one hand. I know I look good in my blue sheath dress; I’ve been working out. Still, the people around him are a world apart in terms of elegance.


I turn to my boss with a smile, tuning down the images. “Allison. This is amazing.” I gesture, the word amazing no match for the elegance of the charity champagne fundraiser our company, Frazier Pharma, has sponsored.

“Our entire team worked hard to make it happen. Thank you for being part of the effort. Having my therapy team manager here is critical for our fund-raising.” Allison Emercy is perfection in a crimson gown and blond up-do, looking younger than her fifty-two years. With her at the helm, our charity auctions bring in an unprecedented amount of money. This time our pharmaceutical company is raising money for childhood cancer research. It makes the company look good, that’s a given, but it’s something we all believe in.

“It means a lot to me.” Instinctively I touch my silver locket. It’s fancy enough that it matches any outfit, even formal wear, not that I’d care. It’s a reminder of Mani, and I’ll never take it off.

I shoot another look over at him, but he’s not looking anymore; he’s busy with a cluster of elegant people, doctors and rich patrons.

Allison looks over, too. “There’s Gabriel. When he’s free I’ll introduce you. You’re ready, yes?” She raises an eyebrow.

For a second I feel like my heart hangs at the top of a roller-coaster, ready to head down, then it bangs into action, staccato. “Yes.” But lusting over a patient’s, well, a potential patient’s father, is not professional.

I keep looking. He’s in his early thirties, like I am—but he’s separated from me by a chasm of wealth and privilege. He’s got a sylph on his arm, a few handsome men around him, and several women hover, coming and going like delicate butterflies around a blazing sun.

I know these things from my internet search mixed with information from Allison: He’s a single father, widowed. One of the richest bachelors in Chicago. A difficult ten-year-old son with emotional issues and a genius I.Q. And, although this shouldn’t matter to the job at hand, I can’t help but notice that he’s breathtakingly handsome.

I remember what Allison told me at our last meeting: “Gabriel Baystock could be one of our biggest donors. He already gave to the cancer research fund, but he’s unsure about the therapy program. He doesn’t think therapy works. His son is recovering from pleuropulmonary blastoma that spread—a good prognosis, but the child is having emotional difficulties. Their surgeon recommended therapy, so Gabriel said he’d try our program, and if it helps Michael, he’ll donate to help it expand. He asked for the best child therapist—that’s you.”

When Allison asked if I could work an extra patient into my schedule and still lead the therapy team, I said, “Yes, of course.” Because she wasn’t really asking.

And how could I say no? I love the sparks of challenge and hope that come with each new child. Taking a little person and helping them replace the rotten broken railings on the hanging bridge of their mind, allowing them to cross from anger and pain to a happier place—that fulfills me.

Beneath the pride and excitement, though, came that additional feeling that I get more often these days, the ever-increasing tone of unease. I pour everything I have into this job. But my batteries are wearing out and I don’t know where to recharge them.

I remember how much it meant to me when I had a therapist help me after the incident, all those years ago, and how I promised myself that I’d devote my life to helping other kids out of their own personal hell. So if I’m running on fumes some days, I just have to figure out how to keep going. I brush my index finger down the thin scar on the side of my face, which is usually hidden by my curls, and bite my lip, trying to push back memories. This isn’t the time, or the place. I need to focus.

A passing couple in their sixties stop to greet Allison. He’s tall and lean; so is she; they both walk with the confidence you see, always, in the best surgeons. The man takes her hands and kisses both cheeks. “Dr. Emercy. It is so good to see you.” He’s got a lovely French accent.

Allison steers me forward with one hand on my shoulder. “This is Shai Bonaventura, my Therapy Outreach manager. We started a new initiative at Frazier, a way to connect with the children in our community who need help beyond the lifesaving medicines we work so hard to provide. Shai has received the Chicago’s Best Therapist Award three years in a row now. It’s a peer-driven award and a high honor.”

I smile and shake hands.

Allison adds, “There are many children who can benefit from behavioral therapy while they undergo treatment and recovery for childhood cancer and other illnesses. Shai heads our new department of therapists. For qualifying families, we will provide free therapy sessions for up to a year.  Right now it’s a beta program, and after we prove our success in a limited market, we’re going to expand.” She smiles and the couple smiles back. “Shai, can I leave you with Dr. and Dr. Pelletier, Lucas and Lena, to explain more about our program?”

I take the verbal baton. “Of course.”

After I finish selling our project to the doctors, who promise to donate a sum of money that is double my annual salary, I need a moment alone to recoup. I duck out into the hallway.

There’s art on the walls—I recognize the small rapid brushstrokes of Monet; the bolder, rougher ones of Cezanne. These are originals; I’m sure of it. I regard another picture, one by an artist I don’t recognize. It’s like a photograph, but it’s painted. It’s bleak and beautiful and it tears into me immediately, fierce and sad. It’s raindrops on a window, and a shattered alley outside, the only beauty from the smeared wet colors and the perfect desolation, from the way the water distorts the reality into art.

The one next to it is diametrically opposite in tone. It’s sunlight streaming in beams across a field, waving flowers, and so much space captured in so little space that it’s a miracle. Inside bigger than the outside. A trick of a master. It’s a magic wardrobe, a sidewalk chalk painting you can jump into, a book you want to read forever. I can tell it’s by the same artist because—well, I don’t know the artistic words. But I know it in the way I can tell music by Mozart just by hearing a few bars. Songs by Madonna. A painting by Van Gogh. Prose by Hemingway. Some things are so essentially themselves that you always know them, even if you don’t have the language to explain why.

Nor do I know why someone put these two pictures here, side by side, unless they want to showcase the opposite ends of human emotion. My eye darts from one to the other, unable to choose which one is more powerful. They’re both fascinating; I can’t pick which one I like better. It’s almost like both are necessary; they work together to highlight the beauty of the other.

Allison comes up behind me, touches my shoulder. “Gabriel’s ready to meet you now, Shai. He has some time before the next speech.”

Before I can answer, he enters the hallway and comes right up to us, and my heart jumps to my throat as he reaches out his hand. “Shai? I’m Gabriel Baystock.”

I put out my hand, and when he takes it, an unmistakable spark travels down my fingertips and dissolves into my bloodstream. When it pulses to my heart, I catch my breath. “Hello.” I smile, feel my face flush, and don’t care. “It’s nice to meet you.”

His eyes are mesmerizing, deeper than both of those pictures on the wall, and more beautiful. Also, sadder, I think; he’s guarded. This man is sexy and muscular and he seems completely unrelaxed, even though he’s confident. I wonder why.

“I understand you’re Frazier’s top therapist.” His voice sends reverberations into my skin. He’s still holding my hand, and I’m reluctant to take it back when he releases it. His eyes move up and down my body, and it’s like I can feel his fingers doing it. I suck in a breath. I’ve never been so attracted to someone so fast, felt a gaze so intense. But he’s probably just examining me. I don’t want to imagine desire in his eyes, when it’s merely the want reflecting from my own. Besides, I have to stay professional.

“Our entire team is top-rated,” I say; it’s important to highlight the fact that I’m the tip of a huge iceberg of care, although the praise makes my cheeks tingle.

“Allison and Dr. Chandler said they feel you specifically, of the entire team, have the interpersonal skills to be a match for my son. He’s had a difficult time.” His face tightens. “We’ve tried other therapists after his treatment, and they just never work out.”

“Helping children on the journey to wellness is my top priority, ” I say. Then, because this sounds clinically sterile, and because his eyes narrow, I add, “I genuinely like all of my patients.  I bond with them, root for them, and do my best to help them regain self-confidence and joy. I’ve never met a child yet that I haven’t been able to help.” As I speak, I can feel my own confidence behind my words. Fumes or no fumes, this is what I do, and I’m good at it. Damn good.

His eyes drill into mine, and I sense a challenge. “‘Well, we’ll see.” His voice is noncommittal but a little arrogant. “Why don’t you meet my son first, before you start making promises.” He walks down the hallway with a “follow me” gesture.

I shoot Allison a look, tilting my head and raising my eyebrows. He may be rich and powerful, but I’m the expert here, and I know I’m good at my job.

Allison gives me a one-shoulder shrug and a small smile. “Follow up with me later, okay? I’m going to head back to catch up with more donors.” She walks the opposite way, back to the crowd.

I nod and follow Gabriel up a flight of stairs, where we reach a woman standing in the open doorway of a large playroom. She has one hand on the walkie at her waist and stands firm, like a guard. “Gabe! Here to check on Michael and the gang?”

This doesn’t make sense, but when I step closer and peer past her to see about a dozen children, I understand: These must be kids of the guests. Babysitting on the spot. It only makes sense to keep them safe. Of course if I had a child I’d do the exact same thi—I touch my scar.

“Lindsay.” Gabriel nods, his voice short. “I’m going to introduce Michael to the therapist. Shai.” He gestures at me and I smile. But Gabriel’s standing back in the hallway so he can’t be seen by anyone inside the room. He doesn’t seem like he wants to do any introducing.

“Okay, um, but…” Lindsay wrinkles her nose. She adds, “Shai, it’s so nice to meet you! But maybe now isn’t…?” Then she gestures across the room, and I see the child who needs someone. Who needs me.

Chapter Two – Shai

The other children are busy together; there’s a PlayStation VR connected to a large-screen TV, and an intricate train set. This kid is alone, sitting with his back to the room, looking out the window. I can only see his profile. His face is puffy, his head bald. I fight the urge to run up and enfold him in my arms. I want to tell him he’s special, miraculous. I want to fix him. But now isn’t the time.

The child looks over. His eyes are green, like Gabriel’s. I see tears in his eyes before he turns back to the window, his arms crossed over his chest.

Lindsay steps out of the doorway and lowers her voice. “I hate to throw a wrench into things, but? He’s just sitting there all sad, and when the other kids come up to him, he snaps at them or ignores them, and now they’re starting to whisper? It’s killing me. I’m worried that if you guys go in there right now and start doing a therapy thing? They might make fun of him? What if you did it after ice cream?”

Gabriel sighs. “Lindsay. I don’t plan to embarrass him in front of the other kids. Why don’t you have Clare take them to the kitchen, and we’ll talk privately to Michael. He can’t have ice cream right now anyway. It’s not on his diet.”

Another helper moves into action, and soon the kids stream past, giggling, running, dawdling, poking, a ragged line of healthy childhood. I can tell that they’ve forgotten Michael as they move on to the next adventure.

When they’re gone, the silence in the room is noticeable.  Gabriel crosses his arms. “Lindsay. Would you please go introduce Shai?” He nods his head.

It’s a little weird, but I’m not about to say so.  Lindsay walks over and touches his shoulder. “Michael.”

He stiffens and shrugs off her hand, and makes a growly noise without looking at her.

“Michael? I’d like to introduce you to someone.” Her voice is gentle, hesitant. “This is Shai, the therapist. She’s here to meet you and just say hi like we talked about with your dad before, okay?”

Michael looks at my hazy reflection in the black window, and our eyes meet, sort of, as ghosts. “I’m not interested in therapy at this time,” he tells me. “Therapy is for people who can’t handle life on their own.”

I nod. “You’re right. The thing is, though, none of us can handle life on our own. It’s okay to get help when we need it.” I shift my purse on my arm.

He notices my move and tilts his chin. “Let me guess. You probably have a cheap, infantile stuffed animal made for a three-year-old in your purse, right? And you’ll give it to me because it will make you feel so good about yourself, and you’ll never stop to think that it’s just a piece of crap that I’ll add to the ever-growing pile of stuffed animals that people give me that I just want to throw away. I get enough of those from the women who throw themselves at my dad and pretend to be nice to me.”

Behind his back, Lindsay winces and shoots me a pleading look. I wonder if Gabriel is hearing this. He must be. He’s right behind us, in the doorway. For a second I feel stress, then it all goes away when I look back at Michael’s eyes and see the hurt there, the longing.

I crouch down to speak, and he says, “I see what you’re doing. It’s called getting on my level. Now you’re going to talk in a soft voice, like you’re trying to entice a baby deer, and tell me that you want to be my friend. You can just go away.” He crosses his arms and scowls, but I see a challenge in his face.  He hasn’t tilted his body away, and he’s looking up at me, almost eager.

I think about this and say, “What was the ugliest one?” I have to win him over. I think I need to match him wit for wit, like in a game of chess. Clearly he wants to be respected, not condescended to.

This seems to surprise him. “What?”

I make my play. “The stuffed animals. I’m imagining a fake Tigger from one of those claw-machines that make me depressed every time I see them in a dirty restaurant lobby. Something so awful that you just know it cost about two cents to create, and it was made by sad overworked kids in some kind of Chinese labor camp, something that nobody in their right mind would buy. And maybe it had a stupid label on its neck with your name written in frilly, fancy purple pen, but maybe your name is even spelled wrong?”

He stares, I stare. I hold my breath. This is the moment of truth—will he accept me or not?

Time goes on and on, and he’s silent. Finally he grins. “The ugliest one,” he tells me, “was a pink plastic kitten with rainbow splotches all over it, with the name Princess Lorelei on a bow around its neck and eyes as big as, like, the bottom of a Coke can. And I think it had been pre-owned, because it was a little dirty. I wanted to roast it like a marshmallow in the courtyard BBQ, but you just know it’s probably made with lots of lead paints.” He gives me a challenging look. “Did you know that the symbol for lead is Pb? Its atomic number is 82. The word comes from Latin.”

I nod, letting out a mental sigh of relief and gratitude. “I do know that the symbol is Pb, but I admit I would have had no idea of the atomic number. But if you decide to see me, we can start by burning all of the toddler toys in a huge bonfire. I’ll bring gas masks so we don’t choke on the toxic fumes.” I grin and add, “I might not know the elemental properties of lead, but I can help protect you from brain damage.”

This makes him smile bigger, and I think he might want to laugh. But he doesn’t. “That’s funny,” he says, and his face looks happy. He waves his hands a few times, small gestures, like little butterflies.

He leans in closer and lowers his voice conspiratorially. “I can tell you’re not in this just to get to my dad,” he says. “We’ve had quite a few women say they wanted to help me out, but they were only trying to get closer to Gabriel. You don’t talk like them.” He narrows his eyes. “Or look like them.”

I’m pretty sure he means it as a compliment, even though it maybe didn’t come out quite that way. “Well, I’m just unique that way,” I say. “It’s kind of my calling card. The hey, I’m not here to snag Michael’s dad look. Very popular these days, you know, in certain circles. I might even start a trend.” Then I add, “Also? I’m an actual certified therapist, I love working with kids, and I’m good at my job.” I smile.

“Because they’re usually models and stuff.” His face is blank. “That’s the kind of women who gravitate to him. His girlfriend, Arielle? She’s a model.” He bites his lip, and the look he gives me now is almost pleading.

I nod. “Got it. My orbital pull is not going to be sufficient to attract your progenitor.” I feel my face get hot. I know Gabriel and Lindsay can hear this.

He laughs now. “You’re smart.” He sounds surprised and pleased.

“Yeah. So are you.” Understatement of the year. “I just might be able to keep up with you if I brush off my calculus book,” I joke.

Michael stops laughing and gives me a shy smile, and I think he’s starting to like me. “If you really need help, I’m on partial differential equations. They’re easy. I think solving them is kind of like cracking a spy code.” Then he turns pink and looks down quickly before meeting my eyes again.

He touches his bald head along a hair-thin scar line and I see him looking at my cheek, at my own scar, which shows now that I’ve leaned forward to talk. I think he wants to ask, but he doesn’t. “Okay,” he announces. “You’re hired.”

I feel a presence behind me as a masculine voice rings out, a displeased voice, “That’s my decision to make, Michael.”

My eyes widen and I feel my cheeks flushing as I leap to my feet. Supermodels. I suck in my stomach and stand tall in my heels and fluff my curls. Maybe I’m no runway model, but I’m damn pretty, and I have nice curves. I have nothing to be ashamed of! Then I’m mad at myself for caring.

Michael rolls his eyes. “Calm down, Gabriel. She’s not murdering me. She didn’t even give me a Beanie Boo.” His voice is sarcastic. “And for that, I am sincerely grateful. I mean, since you parked me here with the Kindergarten Craptastics, I’ve been bored out of my skull. Oh. Too bad the cancer won’t leave my skull along with my sanity, right?”

“Michael.” Gabriel’s voice is tight. “That kind of language is inappropriate. We’ve talked about this—”

Michael turns his back. Gabriel doesn’t say anything, but I can feel the tension coming off him. He runs a hand through his dark hair and curses under his breath. “Fuck.” His green eyes are dark, and the frown makes me forget, for a second, about how handsome he is. When he folds his arms over his chest, I can see his muscles through the dress shirt, though, and I try not to gawk.

“May I talk to you out in the hallway?” I nod my head to the doorway and he scowls, follows me.

“Gabriel. Thank you for letting me meet Michael. I can tell he’s brilliant and creative and mature for his age.” I touch his arm and feel that spark again, and for a split second I think that there’s something in his eyes beyond frustration and irritation, something feral and dark, something just for me.

I pull back. “It seems that he’s feeling a lot of anger and confusion right now, and that it’s getting directed toward you and himself. I can help him. I’d love to work with him.” I feel the absolute need to work with Michael, more than any other child I’ve met.

Michael’s voice pipes up as he steps out to join us. “I like her, Dad.” He tilts his head and smirks. “If you hire her, I bet she could help me figure out how to stop cursing. And how to stop putting beetles in Arielle’s purse. Well, it was just the one time, but it was so rewarding that you just know I’m tempted to step up my game and order some Madagascar hissing cockroaches online. They’re relatively inexpensive, you know. And how to stop—”

Gabriel interrupts. “Michael. This doesn’t concern you. Go back with Lindsay. And why don’t you work on that essay, already, while the other kids are busy. Lindsay can help. It’s the perfect chance right now. Your tutor said this weekend is the last chance to rewrite it before you get a zero.”

Michael’s mouth drops open and so does mine and I speak without thinking. “This entirely concerns him. It couldn’t be more about him if it—if it were a T-rex come alive to eat all of North Carolina.”

Michael laughs. “I love Parasaurolophuses better than T-rexes. Actually, it couldn’t be more about me if it were an airplane full of pretty pink Barbies with glitter glue and,” he hesitates, shooting a sidelong glance at Gabriel, and continues, speeding up his words, “fucking ballet tutus on them that crashes into a pet food factory.”

“That’s enough.” Gabriel’s voice is steel. He points. “I don’t need your cursing or your backtalk.”

“Whatever.” Michael crosses his arms tight across his chest, but there’s something in the gesture that’s sad instead of mad, and tears sparkle in his eyes.

I want to help, but it’s clear that if I argue further with Gabriel, I will make things worse. I shouldn’t even have contradicted him! That’s absolutely forbidden in therapy 101. Never directly contradict the parents like that, so bluntly, even if they’re wrong. You need to have a professional approach at all times. Honest, but gentle. Never lie, but don’t be an asshole. Feeling are delicate.

I look Michael in the eye and say, “I hope we meet again.” I mean it, and I hope he can tell. I add, “You’re a cool boy.”

“I am?” The words come out of him with a force that surprises me. It’s like they’re pulled from him, an animal ripping another one apart. His face teeters on the edge of disaster.

“You’re more than cool. You’re smart and funny and brave. I like you.” I might never see this kid again, and if my words can help him climb one centimeter out of his own personal hell, then I’m going to pour them like water onto a blaze.

“Brave and smart because I fight cancer like a little champ?” His voice is sarcastic but I hear hope, too, a tiny reedy thread of it.

“Brave because you say what you’re thinking, and you’re honest enough to put your feelings out there. And clever because you mentally crashed a plane of Barbies into kibble. If I were a modern artist? I’d paint that and sell it and be the next Andy Warhol. Now that’s good thinking.”

Michael’s face is transformed as he laughs. He makes an airplane noise, then flattens his hand and zooms it down like it’s crashing. He laughs harder than my joke is funny, and I think maybe he’s laughing with relief and joy that someone gets him. And when he laughs, I see his father in his face. Something about Michael’s cheeks and eyes is handsome despite the swelling, and I see the man he’ll be. If he lives to get there.

That thought chills me and I feel like vomiting. It’s the part of my job that freezes off little bits of my soul, turning them black and gangrenous so I have to excise them. I just hope that I can help enough kids before my heart is shaved down to nothing.

“Maybe you can paint it yourself,” I offer. “Or work it into that school essay. Sometimes I think it’s fun to throw people off by doing exactly what they need, but adding in my own little twist. It’s like putting my own needle in the haystack and watching to see who finds it. So what’s your essay supposed to be about?” I look at Gabriel to see if he wants to stop this line of conversation, but he shrugs, gives me a “go ahead” gesture, so I look back at Michael, raise an eyebrow.

Michael stops laughing. “I’m supposed to write a story about what I’ll be doing in ten years. The teacher told me to redo it because my first try I drew a picture of a graveyard and my name on the stone.” He blinks. “It was just a joke! But she said it was morbid and that my sense of humor is inappropriate. Also, Lindsay is not, shall I say, gifted in the way of expository excellence. Just saying.” He crosses his arms.

I nod. “Okay. What if you wrote about, say, ten possibilities? Make a bunch of them funny ones. Like, you’re a famous artists who draws pictures of planes full of Barbie dolls. Maybe you’re a scientist who brings dinosaurs back to life. But include a few that you’d actually do if you could. If you put them both in, that could be fun. And you could totally sneak your humor in there without getting in trouble.”

“I love that idea. I’m going to do it. I’ll get started right now. This is going to be the best essay ever.” He smirks at Gabriel, trots back into the room and starts rummaging in a Transformers backpack. I sense real excitement in his tone, even though I assume that the predominant part of his exuberance is geared toward accepting any ideas that aren’t his father’s.

I shoot a look at Gabriel, and his expression is unreadable, but his hands—they’re clenched into fists, and the knuckles are white. He looks away and speaks. “You’re hired. On a temporary basis. When we meet next week, it will be to discuss time frame and details. Call me tomorrow morning, please?”

I nod, and he adds, “I have an information dossier prepared with Michael’s medical history and all the pertinent information, as well as a list of expectations I have from… therapy.” His voice is just the slightest bit contemptuous, but I think I hear hope as well.

“Okay. That sounds great.” I give him a genuine smile, and my heart leaps with joy that I get to keep working with Michael. I can’t say why, but this kid is already wound into my heart, melted into me in a way that feels good.  And the thought of meeting with Gabriel somehow makes a different kind of spark in my body, one that is more of a lazy warmth and a tingling spatter of excitement.

The echo of heels has me glancing back down the hallway. A statuesque woman walks toward us with intent, her movements sinuous and loose, on a runway. She’s the sylph from earlier, the one decorating his arm like a Tiffany masterpiece dripping with diamonds. Her arms have that lanky length, and shoulders and elbows, and her hips pop and sway with each step. Her dress is poured onto her, silver honey, a wrapper that begs to be undone, because it hits at the sweet spot of thigh and pulls your eye up and along her curves. Her hair is long and flowing, a golden brown mane, and her face is pure Botticelli.

She goes right up to Gabriel and folds into his arms. Her kiss is personal, and I step back, an interloper. “Gabe, they’re about to do the Community Donors presentation in ten minutes and I really want you to be there to hear me accept my award.” She smiles into his face.

He touches her bare arm. “Of course. I just need to finish up a few things here.” His voice goes from warm to business, and I’m irritated on Michael’s behalf that his father uses such a cool tone to discuss him and his issues.

She looks at me but doesn’t ask for an introduction; instead, she stands next to Gabriel and entwines their fingers. “I booked our usual resort for next weekend,” she murmurs into his ear, and only then does she put her glance on me. “I’m Arielle,” she announces, extending her hand like a favor. Her smile is warm, but I’m not 100% sure that it goes all the way to her eyes. It sort of looks like it does. Maybe it does?

Nope. It does not. She just gave me a tiny smirk as she looked me up and down, and that’s all I need to know about her. “I’m Shai.” I don’t bother with “nice to meet you,” because—honestly—it isn’t.

“Shai is going to work with Michael on a temporary basis,” Gabriel says. “She’s a therapist with Frazier.” He gives me a smile. Arielle’s eyes follow, and her hand tightens on his forearm. Her nails are perfect.

“Oh! How wonderful!” Her voice sounds so genuine. “You’re such a thoughtful father, always getting him the things he needs. Like this massive playdate opportunity, with kids of the donors. I admire that about you.” She smiles up at him and touches his cheek. “I’m so glad we’ll get the chance to have a private getaway. You definitely need to relax after all the hard work you put in at home. Recharge.”

He doesn’t respond to that, but checks his watch. “Lindsay, can you please take Shai to get the info packet? Arielle, let’s head back now. I need to catch Masterson before your award.” He turns to me. “Thank you, Shai. I appreciate your willingness to work with my son.”

He takes my hand again and nods, and even though Arielle is draped along him, a Prada anaconda, my heart hammers a tune out in my chest, a few sudden notes of surprise and desire, at the touch. I keep my expression even as I smile and walk away.

At the top of the staircase I look back at him, and flush—he’s watching me. I duck my head, then straighten up. I give him a small wave with the fingers of my right hand, and smile. Then I do the airplane crashing motion that Michael did.

Arielle is talking into his ear, but he’s still looking at me. Before I turn, I see him tilt his head toward me and give me a quick one-wave motion with his hand. And I think I see the briefest hint of a smile.


I hope you enjoyed the excerpt.  This is my favorite book so far and I’m excited to share it with you.  It’s going to be on Amazon and KU, and the links are here. The pre-order price (which will last through the first few days of sale) is $0.99 in the US and £0.99 in the UK, so grab it now before it goes back to $3.99.

Amazon US

Amazon UK

My gorgeous cover was created by Sarah Hansen from Okay Creations, whose work is so far beyond “okay” that it reaches the realm of fantastic.  I’m in awe!

Thanks and happy reading. XOXO, Alexis








Rough Around the Soul

Maria Monroe’s got a sexy TABOO romance novel coming out on April 18. Continue reading for all the details as well as a sexy sample!








Gritty. Sexy. Taboo.

Melanie Cannon is troubled, desperate, and only eighteen. Taking the fall for a friend, she’s forced into a drug education class, which she expects to be boring as hell. Until Detective Jake Beck walks in as her instructor.

Jake knows it’s a mistake to get involved with a high school senior.

But their passion is undeniable.
Their bond is the kind that lasts forever.
Their connection is more than just lust.

Jake’s willing to risk it all—even when harsh betrayal and ugly secrets threaten everything.


She sits up straight and grins, looking straight into my eyes. “Can I have another beer?”

Gazing right at each other sends a spark straight to my groin. “I shouldn’t have let you drink the first one.”

She darts out an arm and grabs my bottle, swigging, and setting it back down with a now what? look in her eyes. This is definitely not a game I should play. But it’s hard to resist the challenge I see when I look at her, red lips holding back a grin as she stares hard, unblinking.

I take a deep breath, hoping to keep my wits, and shake my head. “Get your stuff. I’m taking you home.”

With a scowl, she gets up and heads to the bathroom. A few seconds later she goes into the living room, still dressed in my sweats, her clothes in hand.

I grab a plastic grocery bag from the cabinet and bring it to her. “You can put your clothes in here. Keep the sweats.”

“I couldn’t.” Her voice is lower than usual. Throaty. She’s up to something as she holds my gaze with those hazel eyes, grinning at me.

“It’s not a problem.”

“I should really return them now.” She grasps the bottom hem of the sweatshirt and lifts it up, slowly. Slow enough, in fact, for me to stop her, but I’m frozen.

I can’t take my eyes off the silky expanse of stomach she reveals, slim and tight. I suck in a breath when I see she’s not wearing a bra. In one final movement she pulls the shirt up and over her head, tossing it at me.

“Think fast,” she says.

I barely catch it, and still I’m too stunned to move as she stands before me in only my baggy sweatpants. I’ve seen her naked before, but it’s as exciting now as the first time to see her topless, her perfect round breasts tipped with hard, pink nipples. I close my eyes briefly, imagining my tongue on them. Remembering my tongue on them.

“Melanie.” There’s warning in my voice, but desire too. I can’t hide it. I clutch the sweatshirt as I watch, transfixed, while Melanie’s hands move to the waistband of the pants.

Her hair is almost dry now, and it falls across her chest, partially obscuring her tits. How I want to push it aside, stroke her neck, take her nipple between my fingers.

I need to stop her. Stop this. But I’m unable to move as she slowly—achingly slowly—pushes the sweatpants down. And, fuck me, she’s not wearing panties. Her eyes meet mine, unblinking, as she pushes them all the way to floor and steps out of them.

She bends and picks them up, then makes her way to where I stand, hard as fuck, watching her.

“Here.” She holds them out to me.

“You need to get dressed,” I murmur.

But her breasts are pressed up against my chest, and through my jeans I swear I can feel the warmth from between her legs. So when she whispers, “Just one kiss,” I cave and drop the clothes I’m holding.

I want to devour her. I want to taste every single inch of her. She’s so beautiful and clean and ready. Her lips are smoother than I remember, her tongue more demanding, and when I clutch her naked ass, drawing her closer to me, I know I’m fucking lost.

Rough Around the Soul will be available on Amazon on April 18!

Add it to your TBR list on Goodreads



New! Menage Spanking Romance from Maria Monroe

Maria Monroe has a hot new spanking romance published by Stormy Night Publications! Check out the sexy cover and blurb right here:

keptOver the years since a series of catastrophic natural disasters left most of the planet in ruins, those who survived have returned to a much more primitive way of life. In this harsh world, men fight to protect what remains of humanity while women care for their homes, obey their husbands, and bear children to rebuild civilization.

After twenty-year-old Lara loses her mother and brother in an attack by a hostile tribe, she disguises herself as a solder and goes off to fight in the hopes of avenging her family, but when her deception is discovered she finds herself in deep trouble. To avoid banishment, she must spend three months as the prisoner of the village leaders, Commander Rex and Commander Tye, during which time she will be required to submit to them in any way they demand.

Her captors plan to make sure that Lana is taught a lesson she will never forget, and soon she is blushing with shame as her bottom is thoroughly punished, both inside and out. The humiliating chastisement is only the beginning, however, and when the two handsome, dominant warriors show her all the ways in which a man can enjoy a woman she is left begging for more. But when she learns of a dire threat to the village, can she convince Rex and Tye to heed her warnings or will she be forced to take matters into her own hands?

Publisher’s Note: Kept by the Commanders includes spankings, sexual scenes including threesomes, and elements of BDSM. If such material offends you, please don’t buy this book.

Buy Kept by the Commanders now!


The Gunslinger’s Woman by Kelly Dawson *New Release!*

Greetings! It’s Alexis Alvarez here, and my friend Kelly Dawson is visiting with some excerpts from her smokin’ hot new spanky romance, The Gunslinger’s Woman.  Please keep reading for a sexy excerpt or two…


A hardened gunslinger, a sassy woman. Is his quick draw enough to keep her safe?

Amazon Buy Link: https://goo.gl/ercXLQ


The last thing nineteen-year-old Jeannie Cooper wants is to be a prim and proper lady, so when her older brothers try to send her off to finishing school she runs away from the family ranch to keep them from putting her on the train to Boston. She plans to hide out on the prairie and return in a few days, but things go horribly wrong when she stumbles upon the infamous Mullins gang.

Danny Coulter is a hardened gunslinger with more than enough enemies already, but when he sees a beautiful young woman held captive by outlaws his conscience forces him into action. Rescuing Jeannie turns out to be only the beginning of his troubles, however. Her sass and defiance quickly test the limits of his patience as he endeavors to get her home safely, and before long he is left with little choice but to take her over his knee for a sound spanking.

Though Danny’s firm-handed discipline leaves her bottom sore and her cheeks blushing, Jeannie is nonetheless excited when her brothers offer him a job at the ranch. Soon he is courting her in earnest, and after a local busybody witnesses him giving Jeannie the first bare-bottom spanking of her life, Danny proposes marriage to avoid a scandal. But with the Mullins gang out for revenge, will his quick draw be enough to protect his woman?

Publisher’s Note: The Gunslinger’s Woman includes sexual scenes and spankings. If such material offends you, please don’t buy this book.

Excerpt 1:

She reached for his gun, to remove it from the holster, so she could wipe it clean, then she froze as she remembered exactly what Danny was. He was a gunfighter. A killer. Entirely the wrong type of man to be lusting after. Danny didn’t wear a gun just for protection, as she and her brothers sometimes did; his guns were a part of him. They defined him. Without his guns, Danny Coulter, the fastest gun in the west, would be nothing.

            “Leave it.” His command was hoarse, there was pain in his voice, but there was no denying the dominant manner in which it was said. “You bandage me up, I’ll clean my gun. Nobody touches my guns.”

            “It won’t take long to clean it.”

            “I said leave it.” His fingers took hold of her chin then, and he tilted her face up to look at him. “You know what will happen if you disobey me.” His threat rumbled in her ear, sending waves of electricity through her. Yes, she knew exactly what would happen. Her buttocks clenched again, involuntarily, at the thought, and she held her breath. The air was too thick to breathe again. She could feel her face flushing as the waves of electricity surging through her reached that aching juncture between her thighs.

            “You’re hurt,” she pointed out.

            He smiled in spite of the pain, his eyes crinkling up at the corners as he looked down at her. “Not too hurt to spank a naughty girl who disobeys.” As if to prove his point, he drew back his hand and smacked her bottom, reigniting the burn       Her eyes widened in shock as she reached back to rub out the sting. Hurt or not, his hard hand was still strong. She felt a spasm right in her very core at his touch. His dominance turned her insides to mush.

            The hand that had smacked her returned to her chin and he tilted her face sideways slightly so he could whisper huskily in her ear. “So leave my guns alone.”

            “Yes sir,” she breathed.

Excerpt 2:

She gasped as Danny’s huge, hard hand connected with her bottom, the force of the swat reverberating through her. His hand landed again and she gritted her teeth against the pain, determined not to cry out, lest the townsfolk hear her.

            “You need to be taught a lesson in manners, and in controlling your temper,” Danny scolded, punctuating his words with another fiery swat.

            Jeannie hissed at the fire that tore through her backside, unable to believe that someone who had been half dead just two days ago was smacking her so thoroughly now. She straightened and stood up as he removed his hand from between her shoulder blades, relieved that it was over so soon.

            “No, stay there, this isn’t finished. Take down your pants – you’re going to get this spanking on the bare.”

            “No!” Jeannie gasped, horrified. “You can’t!”

            “I’m too sore to spank you hard enough to have much of an impact,” Danny said. “So it’s either your bare behind, or I use my belt. What’s it to be?”

            What a choice. Jeannie groaned. “It’s having an impact, believe me!” she cried. “It’s hurting a lot!”

            Danny looked at her sternly, his dark gaze smouldering as he fixed his eyes on hers, sending electricity rippling down her spine. His stern stare sent heat to her very core. “What’s it to be?” he asked softly, dangerously. “Will you take down your pants or am I taking off my belt?”

            The sting Danny’s hand was inflicting through her pants was bad enough, no way did she want to feel it on her bare skin. But his belt? She shuddered at the thought of the leather slapping against her bottom. Even through her heavy canvas pants, she knew it would hurt. The sting in her bottom contradicted his claim that he couldn’t spank her very hard at the moment due to his injury – the thought of his belt against her tender bottom truly scared her.

            “I’ll pull my pants down,” she mumbled, her face flushing red with embarrassment. She looked at the ground, hoping Danny wouldn’t see the shame flooding through her.

            “Go on then,” he urged her.

            Her fingers were shaking as she fumbled with the buttons on her pants, undoing them slowly then pushing them down to her knees. She tugged her short lace drawers down too – the only concession she made to femininity. She shivered as the cool air rippled across her bare skin, kissing her with a chilly breeze. She kept her back to Danny, trying to keep her most intimate places hidden from his view. She was mortified. But despite her shame, she could feel a slickness between her legs that wasn’t there before, and a tingling ache that left her wanting.

            “Put your hands back on the wagon and bend over, just as you were before.”

            She shook her head. I can’t do this. Panic rose up within her. Maybe she couldn’t escape from her punishment, but neither could she participate in it. If Danny wanted her bent over, he’d have to put her in that position.

            Danny’s hand went to his waist. “Do I need to take off my belt?” He looked at her sternly, one eyebrow raised, his dark eyes flashing with impatience.

            Inhaling sharply, she shook her head furiously and forced herself to obey. She placed first one hand on the side of the wagon and then the other, fighting to calm her racing heart.

            “Good, now bend over.”

            Danny’s voice was smooth, a low rumble that sent sparks through her. His hand on the back of her neck, pushing her down, gave her the strength she needed to position herself as he demanded, and she took comfort in the presence of his restraining hand.

            The first smack of his hard, rough hand against her bare skin took her breath away. It stung so much more without the protection of her pants. Never had she been spanked on her bare bottom before, and the indignity of it was almost as intolerable as the pain. A second slap followed quickly after the first, and the third one made her cry out.

            “Unless you want the townsfolk to witness your spanking, I suggest you keep quiet,” Danny admonished quietly. “You earned this spanking, now you can stand there and take it.”

Author Bio:

Kelly Dawson loves anything to do with horses, rodeos and cowboys, and loves to get lost in a good book – preferably one containing spanking!

A life-long closet-spanko, Kelly started writing spanking stories on every spare scrap of paper in the house as a child. So when she discovered the internet and spanking romance along with it, she was most excited. But it took her a good decade of devouring these stories before she got up the courage to submit her own. And now, here she is, 7 books later, with a plethora of ideas still to write!

She lives literally at the bottom of the world in the South Island of New Zealand, with her husband, four kids, a dog and a cat.

Author Links:

My blog: http://www.kellydawsonauthor.blogspot.co.nz/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100008980697756

Google+: https://www.google.com/+KellyDawsonauthor

Twitter: https://twitter.com/KELLYDAWSONauth

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/kellydawsonau/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/13257528.Kelly_Dawson

Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.com/author/kellydawson

Newsletter sign-up: http://eepurl.com/bRukkv

 Thanks for 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


  • 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

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.


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.


#becausebeards #preorder #movember

We’re so excited about our sexy heroes.


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



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


siggie bar jen web 2









WIP It Up with Casey’s Choice **New Release**


Greetings, everyone!  It’s Alexis Alvarez for this week’s WIP It Up Blog hop, here to tell you about Casey’s Choice, my brand new release. It’s a full length romance with kink and an HEA.  I’m proud of this book. I think it’s one of my best ones yet, and I enjoyed working in themes of art, self-knowledge, and choice.  I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.  Thanks.

caseyschoice-cover-800-sizeBlurb:When trendy young artist Casey Reilly sneaks into Chicago’s most exclusive BDSM club under a fake name, she soon finds herself lying naked over the lap of handsome billionaire Jax Hunter as he gives her the first spanking of her life. Hunter’s dominance excites Casey more than anything ever has before, but after discovering her deception he has difficulty forgiving her, even after she accepts a thorough, humiliating punishment.

Hunter’s cold response to the truth about her identity leaves Casey dejected, but Max Abbott–one of the most respected doms at the club–quickly sets about mending her broken heart. Max mixes firm-handed discipline with gentle reassurance in way that she finds deeply comforting, and his masterful lovemaking brings her pleasure beyond her wildest dreams, but when Hunter tries to win her back will Casey be ready to make the most important choice of her life?

Publisher’s Note: Casey’s Choice includes spankings and sexual scenes. If such material offends you, please don’t buy this book.

Buy Links:

Amazon US:   

Amazon UK:

divider 1Excerpt 1:

“Good.” He smiled.  “Walk over to the dresser and open the second drawer.  Take out the black wooden hairbrush. Bring it here.”

She gasped. “A – what? You’re going to use that on me?”

“Yes, I am. And you’re going to like it.” He touched her chin. “Don’t argue, Sofia.”

“But I-”

“It will hurt, but I won’t harm you. In here, with me, your obedience is required.  Hesitation and arguments will result in longer discipline. That’s the point – the way I’ll train you to my desires.”

“What if I don’t want to be trained.” But a surge of moisture between her legs told her otherwise.

“Then you wouldn’t be here, would you?” His voice held a smile. “Fetch the brown leather crop in addition to the hairbrush. You’ll get a taste of that for arguing with me and forgetting to say Sir.”

Excerpt 2:

“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.”

Excerpt 3:

But the thing with almost perfect was that it started to wear away at you like soft sand-paper, without your slightest notice, and then one day you woke up to find a gaping wound in your soul.  She couldn’t bear to settle now and deal with that gash later, and need to start all over. Better to feel the pain now, leaving herself open and ready for the person that made the almost disappear and turn into always.

divider 1


Thanks, and  happy reading!   XOXO, Alexis

divider 1

This is a blog hop, and there are many talented authors participating.  Find their links below to read more sexy excerpts!

siggie bar jen web 2

















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.



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.



“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:



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

Thanks, and happy reading! XOXO, Alexis