Giveaway · New Release · Review

TOSSING IT by Rachel Robinson

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TOSSING IT, A Navy SEAL and Secret Baby Romance

Author: Rachel Robinson

Release Date: June 29, 2018

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Review by Susan:

Wow, this author has hit it out the park again! This is an amazing, delicious read that hooks you from the first page and kicks you out at the end wondering what you are going to do with your life now it’s all over! It is the second book in the series but it could be read as a standalone, the previous book is fabulous so I suggest that you start at the beginning.

The story follows Leif and Malena, the attraction between them is instant and they embark on a friends with benefits relationship with a few rules to follow. Malena has a difficult life looking after her mother who has dementia but just for once she is going to let someone help her. Leif is enjoying the laid back bronze bay and meeting Malena makes life more exciting, with rules in place what can go wrong?!

I was totally hooked from the first page, i devoured this book and was totally bereft when it ended! I absolutely adore this author and would read anything she writes, I loved both the main characters, I loved that even though there were rules in place you could see them being demolished even before the H/h noticed! There relationship isn’t without problems but that makes it more realistic. I loved the banter between the two, there’s some laugh out loud moments but also some low ones that made me cry. This book has it all, it’s a delicious, romantic story but it also has a few twists and turns that keeps you on the edge of your seat, it also has a wonderful surprise for the H/h. This is another fabulous read from this author, wish I could give it more than 5 stars.

 

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SYNOPSIS:

 

Leif Andersson knows a lot of things. How to hunt terrorists, where to hide from his neurotic, overbearing sisters, when to make a reasonable judgement call, and why he’s never settled down with a woman. When a SEAL base opens in the small, coastal town of Bronze Bay, Florida, Leif knows it’s the perfect situation to shake things up after years of fighting a monotonous, global war. A simple place, to build a simple life turns out to be anything but when he meets and falls in love with her.

 

Dementia stole Malena Winterset’s mother. It also took her father. He abandoned them both a decade ago when the mental illness grew to be more than he could bear. As the primary caretaker for her mother, Malena spends her days planning parties and working at the Bronze Bay General Store. Her nights are spent at home, wishing for something more. When a SEAL base opens, a new, handsome face in town makes his presence known, but his affections come with rules.

1.)   Two forms of birth control

2.)   Never leave stuff at his place

3.)   Be content to never meet his family

4.)   Don’t fall in love with him.

When the unthinkable happens, and three of the rules are shockingly, and accidentally broken, lives are changed forever.

At least Malena never left her toothbrush in his bathroom…

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rachel Robinson grew up in a small, quiet town full of loud talkers. Her words were always only loud on paper. She has been writing stories and creating characters for as long as she can remember. After living on the west coast for many years, she now resides in Virginia with her husband and two children.

 

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New Release · Review

Hard Pressed by Kate Canterbary

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She’s town sweetheart…with a side of sass.
He’s the new sheriff…and he has some disorderly conduct in mind.

Hard Pressed

Title: Hard Pressed
Author: Kate Canterbary
Release Date: June 29, 2018

Blurb

Dear Jackson,
I’m leaving you this note because I know you’re very busy and I don’t want to waste the town sheriff’s time. Lord knows I’ve already wasted enough of it.

Thank you for taking me home last night and…everything else. I made you a basket of wild blueberry muffins for your trouble. That seemed like the appropriate baked good for getting naked in your living room.

I wasn’t myself last night. I didn’t mean to kiss you or fondle your backside or ask all those intimate questions. Thank you for pretending to enjoy it.

It was very noble of you to sleep on the couch while I was starfished on your bed. I couldn’t help but notice it’s quite large. The bed, that is. I swear, I didn’t notice anything else when I let myself out this morning.

As you know, Talbott’s Cove is a ridiculously small town and there’s no chance we can avoid each other. Not that I’d want to avoid you, of course, but I’m not sure I can look at you without thinking of the forty different ways I made a fool of myself.

Instead of avoidance, let’s try to be friends. We’ll forget all about last night…if that’s what you want.

Please burn this note after you read it—

Annette

p.s. I whipped up some cinnamon buns, too. Please enjoy them. I’m not sure why, but I couldn’t get buns out of my mind today.

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Follow Kate Canterbary at Book+Main for exclusive Hard Pressed content!
(Plus, stay up-to-date with The Magnolia Chronicles, a multi-part women’s fiction story, #exclusive to Book+Main)

Buy

*Hard Pressed will be added to Kindle Unlimited July 1, 2018

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Review by Susan:

First of all can we just take a minute to appreciate the cover, those dimples…. sigh. The author totally hit it out the park, I was hooked from the blurb! I absolutely devoured this book in one sitting, I was taken on a roller coaster ride of emotions and I didn’t want to get off it ended. I adore Talbot cove and love visiting it, the author writes so beautifully you feel as if you are there along side the characters. I don’t really have the words to describe Jackson, all I can say is look out ladies there’s a new book boyfriend in town!! Annette was such a sweetheart, but so unsure of herself, I loved how Jackson brings her out of herself. I loved all their interactions together, their banter and also how the chemistry between them nearly melted my kindle! I must also mention Brooke, everyone should have a friend like her, I hope we get her book next. This was an amazing read, I really wish I could give it more than 5 stars.

 

HP 1

Excerpt

Chapter One
Jackson

For five minutes every morning, my life was pure agony.

On most days, I went out of my way to avoid her. I scheduled myself for early patrols or wellness checks on some of my elderly residents. Anything to get out of the station. It was a necessity. I couldn’t see to the public safety of this town with my dick harder than a nightstick.

I knew because I’d tried. The squad was too small for briefings from behind a podium. When it came to positioning a clipboard or the sheriff’s standard-issue campaign hat over my crotch, I could only hold that pose for a few minutes.

Oh, I’d tried to hide it but the only solution was staying away from the station and the sweetheart of Talbott’s Cove, Annette Cortassi. The bookstore she owned on Main Street was no more than fifty yards from my desk and I had a front row seat for her morning rituals.

Annette walked down the street as if surrounded by moonbeams and unicorns, her smile radiant. I didn’t know it for sure, but I’d put money on her being the homecoming queen back in high school and Miss Congeniality, too. I’d also put money on her making it her life’s work to torture and torment me. She was a devil in angel’s clothing, I knew that to be fact.

Since my first days in this sleepy fishing town, it was the spunky brunette shopkeeper who’d stolen my attention. Annette knew how to wear the shit out of a summer dress. That woman’s bare calves were a public safety hazard. And her ankles. Fuck. Since when were ankles sexy? They were bony joints, for Pete’s sake. But all it took was the sight of her walking through the village in strappy sandals to turn me on.

As if the ankles weren’t enough, her round hips swayed like a hypnotist’s pocket watch. I couldn’t avoid the sight of her sun-kissed skin or her waterfall of dark, wavy hair if I tried. More than once, I’d found myself gazing after her, hands clenched, jaw on the floor, and a puddle of drool beside it.

Annette was the brightest star in the Talbott’s Cove sky. Every time I caught sight of her, I was powerless to look away. And that was why I couldn’t look at all.

I was a newcomer here, still working my way into the good graces of the natives. Bedding the town sweetheart wasn’t the way to those good graces, no matter how much she enjoyed it. And she’d enjoy it. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

But that didn’t matter. For the time being, I was sleeping alone. A temporary vow of chastity was the right thing to do. The town deserved my full attention, and my predecessor had made it clear I was to lead by example. No boozing, no gambling, no skirt-chasing. Not unless I wanted a one-way ticket back to Albany.

I wasn’t much of a boozer, gambler, or skirt-chaser, but I heeded the previous sheriff’s warnings nonetheless. Getting this job was a big step up for me. It was an even bigger step away.

In the span of a couple of months, I’d left my job and sold my home in upstate New York and headed for this town on Maine’s rocky coast. It was a bold move, but a necessary one. I wanted to find a different pace of life, and somewhere I could do important work and make some small difference.

I didn’t say it in job interviews or mention it in conversation, but I also wanted to belong somewhere. Maybe, eventually, belong to someone.

I shot the clock on my SUV’s dashboard a bitter glare. I’d already looped the town twice this morning, fielded complaints about a pair of foxes lurking around the Lincolns’ chicken coop, helped the innkeepers fix a section of their back fence that went down last night, and mediated a dispute between fisherman over some missing buoys. So far, a productive morning and yet I still had fifteen minutes before Annette would be tucked inside her shop.

I’d only managed to speak to her a handful of times. It wasn’t nerves that kept me away but a complete inability to look at her without wanting to step into her personal space and smell her hair. I didn’t understand that reaction and a part of me resented Annette for surfacing it. Hair-smelling. What kind of witch was she?

Instead of doing or saying something I’d regret, I kept my distance. This small town didn’t allow for any true distance but I didn’t have to watch her scrawl the quote of the day on the shop’s chalkboard sign or arrange and rearrange potted plants on the sidewalk.

Just the thought of her kneeling down to write in one of her gauzy sundresses drew a knot of want low in my belly. She was beautiful and alluring in the most simple, honest ways. Hell, she couldn’t jot down a Dickinson quote without lighting a fire inside me from across the street.

But I couldn’t get Annette messy and dirty. I couldn’t make her scream my name. Not unless I was also ready to wife her up, and I wasn’t sure about that. I couldn’t casually date her with the entire town watching—and they would watch—and chances were good I couldn’t casually fuck her either. She looked altogether too by-the-book for fuck buddies, and there was no room for a tomcat sheriff around here.

That left me killing time by patrolling the town’s back roads and praying the lovely book mistress was on time today. My cock couldn’t take any mix-ups this morning.

HP 2

Bio

Kate Canterbary doesn’t have it all figured out, but this is what she knows for sure: spicy-ass salsa and tequila solve most problems, living on the ocean–Pacific or Atlantic–is the closest place to perfection, and writing smart, smutty stories is a better than any amount of chocolate. She started out reporting for an indie arts and entertainment newspaper back when people still read newspapers, and she has been writing and surreptitiously interviewing people—be careful sitting down next to her on an airplane—ever since.

Kate lives on the water in New England with Mr. Canterbary and the Little Baby Canterbary, and when she isn’t writing sexy architects, she’s scheduling her days around the region’s best food trucks.

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HP 3

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New Release · Review

Sin by M. Malone and Nana Malon

Sin by M. Malone and Nana Malone is NOW LIVE!

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2KOl8VD
iBooks: malonesquared.com/sin1-ibooks
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Review by Candy:

It’s a cliffhanger but man worth the read to start.
Matthias has lost the one thing he loved years ago and is now a different person inside and out but has never forgotten her the one he lost. Matthias became a killer for an organization and now they want him dead so they send in an operative to take him out.
Gemma has a mission and a target to get and to fake their death, but has no information on the target just that it is a he. She herself is an operative of the same organization as Matthias but doesn’t know that the one that used to protect her is her target, yet.
Both thinking the other was dead but now come face to face what will happen now?
Very intriguing for the beginning of a suspenseful romance series. Right now I’m on the edge waiting to see what happens next. Matthias and Gemma are great strong characters. The background was very informative of why the characters are who they are. There’s a strong plot here and there’s three sides and I’m hoping for the good guys to come out of this one in tact. 5 Stars

 

 

I’m a bodyguard. I walk softly and carry a big…stick.

Too bad I have no idea how to use it.

I know what you’re thinking. How the hell do you end up a virgin when you live in a city known for easy access?

But my focus is protecting the women of New York…not fulfilling my every desire.

Then I meet her.

“OMG!!! What a way to start the next Duet!!!” – ARC Reviewer

Amazon → https://amzn.to/2rQK2gp
iBooks → https://apple.co/2rPNUOT
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Google Play → http://bit.ly/2L9saFB

They say love is all around.

Yeah, for everyone but me.

It sounds crazy, I know. Breaking News: badass bodyguard for the nation’s top security firm doesn’t know how to talk to women.

That’s it, folks. I have no game. Luckily my newfound family at Blake Security accepts me exactly as I am.

But there are things in my past, secrets, that I’d do anything to protect them from.

Sinful releases on JUNE 19th!

ADD TO YOUR TBR → http://bit.ly/2Ka5G6Z

Leave it to me to finally learn how to drive stick…with a woman who’s nothing but trouble.

Protecting people is what I do. But with Gemma everything is different. There was a time when she was my everything and I would have given my life to protect her.

Now she’s back and this time I won’t fail her. I’m ready to put it all on the line to keep her safe.

My past finally caught up with me and I had to make a choice. Leave or destroy my family. I’ll do anything to keep them safe…including walk into enemy territory.

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CONNECT WITH THE AUTHORS
NYT & USA Today bestselling author M. Malone lives in the Washington, DC metro area with her husband and their two sons. She holds a master’s degree in Business from a prestigious college that would no doubt be scandalized by how she’s using her expensive education.
Independently published, she has sold more than 1/2 million ebooks in her two series, THE ALEXANDERS and BLUE-COLLAR BILLIONAIRES. Since starting her indie journey in 2011 with the runaway bestselling novella “Teasing Trent,” her work has appeared on the New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists more than a dozen times.
She’s now a full-time writer and spends 99.8% of her time in her pajamas.
Website: http://www.minxmalone.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/minxmalone
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/minxmalone

USA Today bestselling author Nana Malone‘s love of all things romance and adventure started with a tattered romantic suspense novel she “borrowed” from her cousin.
It was a sultry summer afternoon in Ghana, and Nana was a precocious thirteen. She’s been in love with kick-butt heroines ever since. With her overactive imagination constantly channeling her inner Buffy, it was only a matter a time before she started creating her own characters.
While she waits for her chance at a job as a ninja assassin, Nana works out her drama, passion and sass with fictional characters every bit as brazen and kick-butt as she thinks she is.
Website: http://www.nanamalone.com/
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/nanamalonewriter
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/nanamalone

New Release

CHAOS AND BLOOM BY A.M. JOHNSON

CHAOS AND BLOOM
BY A.M. JOHNSON
Genre: Poetry

 


✭Blurb✭
lost in the wilderness of her soul
he found himself a home
 
In this collection of poetic encounters, A.M. Johnson opens her journals to readers for the first time. 

 

An exhibition of the human spirit, Chaos and Bloom is an exploration of love and life, and how at times, even when drowning, the heart still beats.

 

Purchase links – https://amzn.to/2Jc4PVM

 

 

New Release

Dusk by Jessica Florence

Dusk, the 3rd book in Jessica Florence’s Hero Society Series is NOW LIVE!!

 

 

Synopsis

Dusk has descended.

A time for heroes to face their fears.

Echo has lived the solitary life of a detective for too long, driven by her past to catch the criminals of Seahill and bring justice to those who’ve been wronged. Given her power to change into any creature she chooses, she’s pretty damn good at her job. But now her beloved city is in chaos. After escaping death at the hands of evil, she finds herself immersed in the world of magic and heroes.

That’s when he saved her.

Asher is an unexpected wrench in her life. He’s annoyingly charming, and despite never wanting to see him again, she needs his help. Alongside the Hero Society, they must find a familiar killer, unmask the true villain that’s been behind everything from the beginning, and try to survive the fear rising in the world.

Mankind wasn’t ready for them.

Will they continue to fight the shadows or succumb to the darkness?

 

 

Grab your copy of Dusk Today!

Amazon US – https://amzn.to/2q20ysT

Amazon Universal – mybook.to/HeroDusk

iBooks – https://apple.co/2GyewZM

Kobo – https://bit.ly/2Ji3Ccs

 

Start the Series Today for .99 Cents!

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Nook – https://bit.ly/2xQ8EKd

 

 

About Jessica Florence

Writer of Alpha Males & Fairy Tales
Author ❤ PotterHead ❤ Movie Geek Extraordinaire.

When she’s not writing her next invigorating story. You can find her running her own business, and spending time with her husband and daughter in southwest Florida.

Follow Jessica Florence

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/JessicaFlorenceAuthor

Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/authorjessicaflorence/?hl=en

Twitter – https://twitter.com/Florence_Jess

Amazon – https://amzn.to/2H8mgD1

Website – https://www.jessicaflorenceauthor.com/

 

New Release

PS. I Hate You by Winter Renshaw

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dear Isaiah,

Eight months ago, you were just a soldier about to be deployed and I was just a waitress, sneaking you free pancakes and hoping you wouldn’t notice that my gaze was lingering a little too long.

But you did notice.

We spent a “week of Saturdays” together before you left, and we said goodbye on day eight, exchanging addresses at the last minute.

I saved every letter you ever sent, your words quickly becoming my religion.

But you went radio silent on me months ago, and then you had the audacity to walk into my diner yesterday and act like you’d never seen me in your life.

To think … I almost loved you and your beautifully complicated soul.

Almost.

Whatever your reason is—I hope it’s a good one.

Maritza the Waitress

PS – I hate you, and this time … I mean it.

 

 

 

Maritza

“Welcome to Brentwood Pancake and Coffee. I’m Maritza and I’ll be your server,” I greet my millionth customer of the morning with the same old spiel. This one, a raven-haired, honey-eyed Adonis, waited over seventy minutes for a table by a window, though I suppose in LA time that’s the blink of an eye.
He doesn’t so much as acknowledge me.
“Just you today?” I ask, eyeing the empty chair across from him. The breakfast rush is about to end, and lucky for him, I only have one other table right now.
He doesn’t answer, but maybe he doesn’t hear me?
“Coffee?” I ask another obvious question. I mean, the diner is called Brentwood Pancake and Coffee for crying out loud. Everyone comes here for the coffee and plate-sized pancakes, and it’s considered a Class-D felony to order anything else.
Placing his mug right side up on his saucer, he pushes it toward me and I begin to pour. Waving his hand, he stops me when the cup is three-quarters of the way full. A second later, he adds two creams and one half of a sugar packet, but the way he moves is methodical, rigid. With intention.
“Ma’am, this really can’t be that interesting,” he says under his breath, his spoon clinking against the sides of the porcelain mug after he stirs.
“Excuse me?”
“You’re standing here watching me,” he says. Giving the spoon two final taps against the rim of the mug, he then rests it on the saucer before settling his intense amber gaze in my direction. “Isn’t there another table that needs you?”
His eyes are warm like honey but his stare is cold, piercing. Unrelenting.
“You’re right. There is.” I clear my throat and snap out of it. If I was lingering, it wasn’t my intention, but this I’m-sexy-and-I-know-it asshole didn’t need to call me out on it. Sue me for being a little distracted. “I’ll be back to check on you in a minute, okay?”
With that, I leave him alone with his menu and his coffee and his foul mood and his brooding gaze … and his broad shoulders … and his full lips … and I get back to work, stopping at table four to see if Mr. and Mrs. Carnavale need refills on their house blend decafs.
By the time I top them off, I draw in a cleansing breath and head back to Mr. Tall, Dark, and Douche-y, forcing a smile on my face.
“We ready to order?” I ask, pulling my pen from behind my ear and my notepad from my Kelly-green apron.
He folds his menu, offering it to me despite the fact that my hands are full, but I manage to slip it under my arm without dropping anything.
“Two pancakes,” he says. “Eggs. Scrambled. Rye toast. Butter. Not margarine.”
“I’m so sorry.” I point to a sign above the cash register that clearly reads ONE PANCAKE PER PATRON – NO EXCEPTIONS.
He squints, his expression calcifying when he reads it.
“So that’s one pancake, scrambled eggs, and buttered rye toast then,” I recite his order.
“What kind of bullshit rule is that?” He checks his watch, like he has somewhere to be.
Or like he doesn’t have the time for a rule that I entirely agree is pure bullshit.
“These pancakes are huge. I promise one will be more than enough.” I try to deescalate the situation before it gets out of hand because it’s never pretty when management has to get involved. The owners of the diner are strict as hell on this policy and their day shift manager is even more so. She’ll happily inform any and all disgruntled customers there’s a reason the “pancake” in Brentwood Pancake and Coffee is singular and not plural.
I’ve seen many a diner walk out of here and never return over this stupid policy and our Yelp review average is in the dumps, but somehow it never seems to be bad for business. The line is perpetually out the door and down the block every weekend morning without fail, and sometimes even on weekdays. These pancakes are admittedly as delicious and more than own up to their reputation, but that stupid rule is nothing more than clever marketing designed to inflate demand.
“And what if I’m still hungry?” he asks. “Can I order a second?”
Wincing, I shake my head.
“You’ve got to be fucking kidding me.” He sits up a little, jaw clenching. “It’s a goddamned pancake for fuck’s sake.”
“Not just any pancake,” I say with a practiced smile. “It’s a Brentwood pancake.”
“Are you trying to be cute with me, ma’am?” he asks, directing his attention at me, though he isn’t flirting. His nostrils flare a little and I can’t help but let my mind wander the tiniest bit about how sexy he looks when he’s angry—despite the fact that I would never so much as entertain the idea of getting down and dirty with an asshole like this.
He’s hot AF but I don’t do jerks. Plain and simple.
I’d have to be drunk. Like, really drunk. And I’d have to be desperate. And even then … I don’t know. He’s got some kind of chip on his shoulder, and no amount of sexiness would be able to distract me from that.
“Let me put your order in, okay?” I ask with a smile so forced my cheeks hurt. They say good moods are contagious, but I’m starting to think this guy might be immune.
“As long as it’s the full order, ma’am,” he says, lips pressing flat as he exhales. I don’t know why he keeps calling me “ma’am” when I’m clearly younger than he is. Hell, I couldn’t legally drink until three years ago.
I am not a “ma’am.”
“The cook won’t make two,” I say with an apologetic tone before biting my bottom lip. If I play it coy and helpless maybe he’ll back down a little? It works. Sometimes.
“Then it’s for my guest,” he points to the empty seat across from him. His opposite hand is balled into a fist, and I can’t help but notice his watch is programmed in military time, “who happens to be showing up later.”
“We don’t serve guests until they’re physically here,” I say. Yet another one of the restaurant’s strict policies. Too many patrons have tried to use that loophole over the years, so they had to close it. But they didn’t just close it—they battened the hatches with hurricane-proof glass by way of a giant security monitor in the kitchen. They even make the cooks check the screen before preparing orders, just to make sure no one’s breaking the rules.
The man drags his hand through his dark hair, which I’m realizing now is a “regulation cut.”
Military.
I bet he’s military.
Has to be. The hair. The watch. The constant swearing juxtaposed with the overuse of the word “ma’am.” He reminds me of my cousin Eli who spent ten years in the U.S. army, and if he’s anything else like Eli, he’s not going to let up about this.
Exhaling, I place my palm gently on his shoulder despite the fact that we’re not supposed to put hands on the guests for any reason, but this guy is tense and his muscled shoulders are just begging for a gentle touch.
“Just … bear with me, okay?” I ask. “I’ll see what I can do.”
The man serves our country. He fights for our freedom. Despite the fact that he’s unquestionably a giant asshole, he at least deserves a second pancake.
I’m going to have to get creative.
Heading back to the kitchen, I put his order in and check on the Carnavales one more time. On my way to the galley to refill my coffee pot, I pass a table full of screaming children, one of which has just shoved his giant pancake on the floor, much to his gasping mother’s dismay.
Bending, I retrieve the sticky circle from the floor and place it back on his plate.
“Would you like the kitchen to fix another?” I ask. They’re lucky. This is the only time they’ll make an exception, and I’ll have to present the dirty pancake as proof.
The child screams and I can barely hear what the mother is trying to say. Glancing around the table, I spot five little minions under the age of eight, all of them dressed in Burberry, Gucci, and Dior. The inflated-lipped mother sports a shimmering, oversized rock on her left ring finger and the father has his nose buried in his phone.
But I’m not one to judge.
LA is lacking child-friendly restaurants of the quality variety, and it’s not like Mr. Chow or The Ivy would welcome their noisy litter with open arms. I don’t even think they have high chairs there.
“I don’t want a pancake!” The oldest of the tanned, flaxen-haired gremlins screams in his mother’s face, turning her flawless complexion a shade of crimson that almost matches her pristine Birkin bag.
“Just … just take it away,” she says, flustered, her palm sprawling her glassy, Botoxed forehead.
Nodding, I take the ‘cake back to the kitchen, only I stop when I reach the galley, grabbing a stack of cloth napkins and hiding the plate beneath it. As soon as my military patron finishes his first pancake, I’ll run this back to the kitchen and claim he accidentally dropped it on the floor.
“Order up!” one of the line guys calls from the window, and I head over to see my military man’s breakfast is hot and ready—though I may have accidentally moved it to the front of the ticket line when no one was looking because I don’t have the energy to deal with him freaking out if his breakfast is taking too long.
Grabbing his plate, I rush it out to him, delivering it with a smile and a sweet, “Can I get you anything else right now?”
His gaze drops to his food and then lifts to me.
“I know,” I say, palm up. “Just … trust me. I’ll take care of you.”
I wink, partially disgusted with myself. He has no idea how difficult it is for me to be accommodating to him when he’s treating me like this. I’d love nothing more than to pour a steaming hot pitcher of coffee into his lap, but out of respect and appreciation—and only respect and appreciation—for his service, I won’t resort to such a thing.
Plus, I work for tips. I kind of have to be accommodating. And lord knows I need this job. I may be living in my grandmother’s gorgeous guesthouse, but believe me, she charges rent.
Free rides aren’t a thing in the Claiborne family.
He peers down his straight nose, stabbing the tines of his polished fork into a chunk of fluffy scrambled egg.
He doesn’t say thank you—not surprising—and I tell him I’ll be back to check on him in a little while before making my way to the galley where another server, Rachael, is also seeking respite.
“That table with the screaming kids,” I ask, “that yours?”
She blows her blonde bangs off her forehead and rolls her eyes. “Yup.”
“Better you than me,” I tease. Rachael’s got three of her own at home. She’s good with kids and she always seems to know the right thing to say to distract them or thwart a total meltdown.
“I’ll trade you,” she says. “The family for the dimples at table four.”
“He has dimples?” I peek my head out, staring toward my military man.
“Oh, God, yes,” she says. “Deep ones. Killer smile, too. Thought maybe he was some model or actor or something, but he said he was an army corporal.”
“We can’t be talking about the same guy. He hasn’t so much as half-smiled at me and he’s already told you what he does for a living?”
“Huh.” Rachael lifts a thin red brow, like she’s wondering if we’re talking about two different people. “He asked me how I was doing earlier and smiled. Thought he was real friendly.”
“That one. Right there. Dark hair? Golden eyes? Muscles bulging out of his gray t-shirt?” I do a quick point before retracting my finger.
She takes another look. “Yeah. That’s him. You don’t forget a face like that. Or biceps like that …”
“Weird.” I fold my arms, staring his way and wondering if maybe he has a thing against girls like me. Though I’m pretty ordinary compared to most girls out here. Average height. Average weight. Brown hair. Brown eyes.
Maybe I remind him of an ex?
I’m mid-thought when out of nowhere he turns around, our eyes catching like he knew I was watching. Reaching for a hand towel in front of me, I glance down and try to act busy by wiping up a melted ice cube on the galley counter.
“Busted.” Rachael elbows me before heading out to check on the Designer family. I swat her on the arm as she passes, and then I give myself a second to regain my composure. As soon as the warmth has left my cheeks, I head out to check on him, relieved to find his pancake demolished, not a single, spongey scrap left behind. In fact, his entire meal is finished … coffee and all.
Reaching for his plate, he stops me, his hand covering mine, and then our eyes lock.
“Why were you staring at me over there?” he asks. The way he looks at me is equal parts invasive and intriguing, like he’s studying me, forming a hard and fast opinion, but also like he’s checking me out which makes zero sense because his annoyance with me practically oozes out of his perfect, tawny physique.
“I’m sorry?” I play dumb.
“I saw you. Answer the question.”
Oh, god. He’s not going to let this go. Something tells me I should’ve taken Rachael up on her offer to trade tables. This one’s been nothing but trouble since the moment I poured his coffee.
My mouth falls and I’m not sure what to say. Half of me knows I should probably utter some kind of nonsense most likely to appease him so he doesn’t complain to my manager, but the other half of me is tired of being nice to a man who has the decency to ask another waitress how her day is going and can’t even bring himself to treat his own server like a human being.
“You were talking about me with that other waitress,” he says. His hand still covers mine, preventing me from exiting this conversation.
Exhaling, I say, “She wanted to trade tables.”
His dark brow arches and he studies my face.
“And then she said you had dimples,” I expand. “She said you smiled at her earlier … I was just thinking about why you’d be so polite to her and not me.”
He releases me and I stand up straight, tugging my apron into place before smoothing my hands down the front.
“She handed me a newspaper while I waited. She didn’t have to do that,” he says, lips pressing flat. “Give me something to smile about and I’ll smile at you.”
The audacity of this man.
The heat in my ears and the clench in my jaw tells me I should walk away now if I want to preserve my esteemed position as morning server here at Brentwood Pancake and Coffee, but it’s guys like him …
I try to say something, but all the thoughts in my head are temporarily nonsensical and flavored with a hint of rage. A second later, I manage a simple yet gritted, “Would you like me to grab your check, sir?”
“No,” he says without pause. “I’m not finished with my breakfast yet.”
We both glance at his empty plates.
“More eggs?” I ask.
“No.”
I can’t believe I’m about to do this for him, but at this point, the sooner I get him out of here, the better. I mean, at this point I’m doing it for myself, let’s be real.
“One moment.” I take his empty dishes to the kitchen before sneaking into the galley and grabbing that kid’s dirty pancake. My pulse whooshes in my ears and my body is lit, but I forge ahead, returning to the pick-up window and telling one of the cooks that my customer at table twelve dropped his ‘cake on the floor.
He glances at the plate, then to the security monitor, then back to me before taking it out of my hands and exchanging it for a fresh one. It’s a verifiable assembly line back there, just a bunch of guys in hairnets and aprons standing around a twenty-foot griddle, spatulas in each hand.
“Thanks, Brad,” I say. Making my way back to my guy, I stop to check on the Carnavales, only their table is already being bussed and Rachael tells me she took care of their check because they were in a hurry.
Shit.
“Here you are.” I place the plate in front of my guy.
He glances up at me, honeyed eyes squinting for a moment. I wink, praying he doesn’t ask questions.
“Let me know if you need anything else, okay?” I ask, wishing I could add, “just don’t ask for another pancake because I’ll be damned if I risk my job for an ingrate like you ever again.”
“Coffee, ma’am. I’d like another cup of coffee.” He reaches for his glass syrup carafe, pouring sticky sweet, imported-from-Vermont goodness all over his steaming pancake, and I try not to watch as he forms an “x” and then a circle.
Striding away, I grab a fresh carafe of coffee and return to top him off, stopping at three-quarters of the way full. A second later, he glances up at me, his full lips pulling up at the sides, revealing the most perfect pair of dimples I’ve ever seen … as if the past twenty minutes have all been some kind of joke and he was only busting my chops by being the world’s biggest douche lord.
But just like that, it disappears.
His pearly, dimpled smirk is gone before I get the chance to fully appreciate how kind of a soul he appears to be when he’s not all tense and surly.
“Glad I finally gave you a reason to smile.” I’m teasing. Sort of. And I gently rub his shoulder, which is still tight as hell. “Anything else I can get you?”
“Yes, ma’am. I’ll take my check.”
Thank. God.
I can’t get it fast enough. Within a minute, I’ve punched my staff ID into the system, printed his ticket, shoved it into a check presenter, and rushed it to his table. His debit card rests on the edge when I arrive, as if I’d taken too long and he grew tired of holding it in his hand.
He’s just as anxious to leave as I am to get him out of here. Guess that marks the one and only thing that puts us on the same page.
“I’ll be right back with this,” I tell him. His card—plain navy plastic with the VISA logo in the lower corner and NAVY ARMY CREDIT UNION along the top—bears the name “Isaiah Torres.”
When I return, I hand him a neon purple gel pen from my pocket and gather his empty dishes.
“Thank you for the …” he points at the sticky plate in my hand as he signs his check. “For that.”
“Of course,” I say, avoiding eye contact because the sooner I can pretend he’s already gone, the better. “Enjoy the rest of your day.”
Asshole.
Glancing up, I spot our hostess, Maddie, flagging me down and mouthing that I have three new tables. Great. Thanks to this charmer, I’ve disappointed the Carnavales, risked my job, and kept several tables waiting all within the span of a half hour.
Isaiah signs his check, closes the leather binder, and slides out of his booth. When he stands, he towers over me, peering down his nose and holding my gaze captive for what feels like a single, endless second.
For a moment, I’m so blinded by his chiseled jaw and full lips, that my heart misses a couple of beats and I almost forget our little exchange.
“Ma’am, if you’ll kindly excuse me,” he says as I realize I’m blocking his path.
I step aside, and as he passes, his arm brushes against mine and the scent of fresh soap and spicy aftershave fills my lungs. Shoving the check presenter in my apron, I tend to my new tables before rushing back to start filling drinks.
Glancing toward the exit, I catch him stopping in the doorway before slowly turning to steal one last look at me for reasons I’ll never know, and it isn’t until an hour later that I finally get a chance to check his ticket. Maybe I’d been dreading it, maybe I’d purposely placed it in the back of my mind, knowing full well he was going to leave me some lousy, slap-in-the-face tip after everything I’d done for him. Or worse: nothing at all.
But I stand corrected.
“Maritza, what is it?” Rachael asks, stopping short in front of me, hands full of strategically stacked dirty dishes.
I shake my head. “That guy … he left me a hundred-dollar tip.”
Her nose wrinkles. “What? Let me see. Maybe it’s a typo?”
I show her the tab and the very clearly one and two zeroes on the tip line. The total confirms that the tip was no typo.
“I don’t understand. He was such an ass,” I say under my breath. “This is like, what, five hundred percent?”
“Maybe he grew a conscience at the last minute?” Her lips jut forward.
I roll my eyes. “Whatever it was, I just hope he never comes here again. And if he does, you get him. There isn’t enough tip money in the world that would make me want to serve that arrogant prick again. I don’t care how hot he is.”
“Gladly.” Her mouth pulls wide. “I have this thing for generous pricks with dashing good looks.”
“I know,” I say. “I met your last two exes.”
Rachael sticks her tongue out before prancing off, and I steal one last look at Isaiah’s tip. It’s not like he’s the first person ever to bestow me with such plentiful gratuity—this is a city where cash basically grows on trees—it’s just that it doesn’t make sense and I’ll probably never get a chance to ask him why.
Exhaling, I get back to work.
I’ve worked way too damn hard to un-complicate my life lately, and I’m not about to waste another thought on some complicated man I’m never going to see ever again.

 

 

Wall Street Journal and #1 Amazon bestselling author Winter Renshaw is a bona fide daydream believer. She lives somewhere in the middle of the USA and can rarely be seen without her trusty Mead notebook and ultra portable laptop. When she’s not writing, she’s living the American dream with her husband, three kids, and the laziest puggle this side of the Mississippi.

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About The Author

I’m Scottish-Dutch, I live in West Malaysia, and I like to keep busy. I’m dividing my time between several jobs I love because that’s what makes me happy.
I’m a newspaper columnist, a magazine feature writer, and a counselling psychologist. Novel writing is a hobby – or rather, a passion. I write sweet romance as Ellen but I also have a dark side as AJ Adams.  Come and say hello to me on Facebook, no friend request needed.
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