Friday, December 15, 2017

Blog Tour: The Sweetheart Sham by Danielle Ellison




by Danielle Ellison

Publication Date: December 4, 2017
Publisher: Entangled Teen: Crush


In a small town like Culler, South Carolina, you guard your secrets like you guard your cobbler recipe: with your life. Georgia Ann Monroe knows a thing or two about secrets: she’s been guarding the truth that her best friend Will is gay for years now. But what happens when a little white lie to protect him gets her into a fake relationship…and then the boy of her dreams shows up?

Enter Beau Montgomery: Georgie’s first love, hotter than ever, and much too much of a southern gentleman to ever pursue someone else’s girl. There’s no way to come clean to Beau while still protecting Will. But bless their hearts, they live in Culler—where secrets always have a way of revealing themselves.


Disclaimer: This Entangled Teen Crush book contains a hilarious “fakeship,” a scorching-hot impossible relationship, and a heartwarming best-friendship that will make you want to call your best friend right here, right now.

Link to Goodreads:


My review: 4 stars
I am such a sucker for an Entangled Teen Crush with a cute disclaimer! The Sweetheart Sham did not disappoint. I adored the friendship between Georgia Ann and Will and always love a second chance romance. I was glad to see that this was the first book in a series- I'll definitely be checking out more from Danielle Ellison.



Giveaway Details:

The Sweetheart Sham Prize Pack (US):
-Pampering goodies (sweet southern soap and bath bombs)
-a “peanut butter <3s jelly="" mug="" o:p="">
-ice cream erasers
-heart shaped sunglasses
-a copy of “Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit” by Jaye Robin Brown

a Rafflecopter giveaway   


ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Danielle Ellison is a nomad, always on the lookout for an adventure and the next story. In addition to writing, she’s the founder and coordinator of the NoVa TEEN Book Festival. When she’s not busy with books, she’s probably watching her favorite shows, drinking coffee, or fighting her nomadic urges. She is newly settled in Oklahoma (for now) with her cat, Simon, but you can always find her on twitter @DanielleEWrites.


Website • Twitter • Facebook • Instagram • Goodreads



The tour schedule for The Sweetheart Sham can be found here: http://www.chapter-by-chapter.com/tour-schedule-the-sweetheart-sham-by-danielle-ellison/ 



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New Release: Team Player (A Christmas Anthology)

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Eleven authors. Eleven Novellas. This is one thick . . . book.

Christmas just became a whole lot merrier...

TEAM PLAYER, A Christmas Anthology featuring titles by LJ Shen, Kennedy Ryan, Adriana Locke, Mandi Beck, Emma Scott, Charleigh Rose, Ella Fox, Sara Ney, Meghan Quinn, Kate Stewart and Rochelle Paige is LIVE!

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Publication Date: December 14th, 2017 

Genre: Contemporary/Sports Romance

Hot jocks. We love them all.

Sexy baseball players. Intense footballers. Sweaty MMA fighters, and sizzling hockey hotties. Score!

The good news? Eleven bestselling authors have gathered to give you a set of stories focused on the men we love most—sports heroes. We bet you’ll love this thick…book.

The bad news? The men in these novellas don’t actually exist.

*This anthology does not contain calories, just eleven original, never-before-seen stories by the following authors: Adriana Locke, Mandi Beck, Charleigh Rose, Kennedy Ryan, LJ Shen, Meghan Quinn, Rochelle Paige, Ella Fox, Kate Stewart, Emma Scott, and Sara Ney. We aren’t responsible for melted devices.

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Read Today!

(FREE in Kindle Unlimited)
Add to GoodReads: http://bit.ly/2iVSpFW

Meet the authors:

LJ Shen
L.J. Shen is an International #1 best-selling author of Contemporary Romance and New Adult novels. She lives in Northern California with her husband, young son and chubby cat. Before she’d settled down, L.J. (who thinks referring to herself in the third person is really silly, by the way) traveled the world, and collected friends from all across the globe. Friends who’d be happy to report that she is a rubbish companion, always forgets people’s birthdays and never sends Christmas cards. She enjoys the simple things in life, like spending time with her family and friends, reading, HBO, Netflix and internet-stalking Stephen James. She reads between three to five books a week and firmly believes Crocs shoes and mullets should be outlawed.

Connect with LJ Shen
Stay up to date with LJ Shen by signing up for her mailing list:

Kennedy Ryan:
Kennedy Ryan is a Southern girl gone Southern California. A Top 100 Amazon Bestseller, Kennedy writes romance about remarkable women who find a way to thrive even in tough times, the love they find, and the men who cherish them. She is a wife to her lifetime lover and mother to an extraordinary son. She has always leveraged her journalism background to write for charity and non-profit organizations, but enjoys writing to raise Autism awareness most. A contributor for Modern Mom Magazine, Kennedy’s writings have appeared in Chicken Soup for the Soul, USA Today and many others. The founder and executive director of a foundation serving Georgia families living with Autism, Kennedy has appeared on Headline News, Montel Williams, NPR and other outlets as a voice for families living with autism.

Connect with Kennedy

Adriana Locke:
A contemporary romance author running on coffee and sticky kisses from my rowdy four little boys. From Indiana, I’m a true Mid-Westerner. Life, for me, is about family, faith, and food. When I’m not running my kiddos around or having a lunch date of fajitas with my husband (and high school sweetheart), you can find me outside. I love a good sunny day almost as much as I love candy, random quotes, and steamy bad boys in fantastic books. I’m on nearly every social media platform. Please find me on the ones you frequent – I love chatting with readers.

Connect with Adriana

Mandi Beck:
Mandi Beck has been an avid reader all of her life. A deep love for books always had her jotting down little stories on napkins, notebooks, and her hand. As an adult she was further submerged into the book world through book clubs and the epicness of social media. It was then that she graduated to writing her stories on her phone and then finally on a proper computer. A nursing student, mother to two rambunctious and somewhat rotten boys, and stepmom to two great girls away at college, she shares her time with her husband in Chicago where she was born and raised. Mandi is a diehard hockey fan and blames the Blackhawks when her deadlines are not met.

Connect with Mandi

Emma Scott:
I write romances with flawed characters, characters with artistic hearts: builders, poets, and writers of various makes and models. I love to write book lovers; those who have found refuge, companionship, and escape in books, much as we do in real life. I like realism, honesty, authenticity in storytelling. I love to write about enduring love, soul-deep love, in as real a setting as I can make, but with big smooshy HEAs. I believe in diversity, open-mindedness, and inclusion. I like sweetness mixed with steam, love conquering all, and above all, hope. Love always wins.

Connect with Emma

Charleigh Rose:
We are a duo of an international best-selling author and a blogger who teamed up to write the taboo, thought-provoking stories we want our audience to have--without filters. Both Charleigh and Rose are committed to giving you witty, sexy, intelligent novels that will leave you wanting more.

Connect with Charleigh

Ella Fox:
When she’s not writing, Ella indulges the gypsy in her blood and travels the country. Ella loves reading, movies, music, buying make-up, reading Tmz, Twitter and pedicures… not necessarily in that order. She has a wild sense of humor and loves to laugh. Her favorite thing in the world is hanging out with her family and watching comedy movies.

Connect with Ella

Sara Ney:
Sara Ney is the USA Today Bestselling Author of the How to Date a Douchebag series, and is best known for her sexy, laugh-out-loud New Adult romances. Among her favorite vices, she includes: iced latte’s, historical architecture and well-placed sarcasm. She lives colorfully, collects vintage books, art, loves flea markets, and fancies herself British.

Connect with Sara

Meghan Quinn:
A BLONDE AT HEART Born in New York and raised in Southern California, Meghan has grown into a sassy, peanut butter eating, blonde haired swearing, animal hoarding lady. She is known to bust out and dance if “It’s Raining Men” starts beating through the air and heaven forbid you get a margarita in her, protect your legs because they may be humped. Once she started commuting for an hour and twenty minutes every day to work for three years, she began to have conversations play in her head, real life, deep male voices and dainty lady coos kind of conversations. Perturbed and confused, she decided to either see a therapist about the hot and steamy voices running through her head or start writing them down. She decided to go with the cheaper option and started writing… enter her first novel, Caught Looking. Now you can find the spicy, most definitely on the border of lunacy, kind of crazy lady residing in Colorado with the love of her life and her five, furry four legged children, hiking a trail or hiding behind shelves at grocery stores, wondering what kind of lube the nervous stranger will bring home to his wife. Oh and she loves a good boob squeeze!

Connect with Meghan

Kate Stewart:
Kate Stewart lives in Charleston, S.C. with her husband, Nick, and her naughty beagle, Sadie. A native of Dallas, Kate moved to Charleston three weeks after her first visit, dropping her career of 8 years, and declaring it her creative muse. Kate pens messy, sexy, angst-filled contemporary romance as well as romantic comedy and erotic suspense because it's what she loves as a reader. A lover of all things '80s and '90s, especially John Hughes films and rap, she dabbles a little in photography, can knit a simple stitch scarf for necessity only and does a horrible job of playing the ukulele. Aside from running a mile without collapsing, traveling is the only other must on her bucket list. On occasion, she does very well at vodka.
Connect with Kate

Rochelle Paige:
Rochelle Paige is the Amazon bestselling author of nineteen books. She absolutely adores reading and her friends growing up used to tease her when she trailed after them, trying to read and walk at the same time. She loves stories with alpha males, sassy heroines, hot sex and happily ever afters. She is a bit of a genre hopper in both her reading and her writing. So far she's written books in several romance sub-genres including new adult, contemporary, paranormal and romantic suspense. She is the mother of two wonderful sons who inspired her to chase her dream of being an author. She wants them to learn from her that you can live your dream as long as you are willing to work for it.

Connect with Rochelle



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Cover Reveal: Hidden Seams by Alessandra Torre

Hidden Seams
By Alessandra Torre
Genre: Erotic Romance
Cover Designer: Perfect Pear Creations
Coming in Early 2018
 
Synopsis
 
A billion-dollar fashion empire, and it’s about to be mine…
I've worked a decade for this. I've sold my soul and my reputation. I've lived a lie, smiled for the cameras, and hated myself, all for this inheritance.
And then … she pops up. A mysterious heir with a rap sheet, combat boots, and a mouth that I want to pin shut with my—
It doesn’t matter. I’ve played this game for a decade. I can continue the charade a little longer, keep my hands to myself and her body out of my mind. I can keep my secret until the ink dries and everything is mine.
Or not.
 
Preorder on iBooks: http://apple.co/2AmCNPm
Add to Goodreads: https://goo.gl/pp3Z3Y
 
About Alessandra Torre:
Alessandra Torre is an award-winning New York Times bestselling author of fourteen novels. Her books focus on romance and suspense. Torre has been featured in such publications as Elle and Elle UK, as well as guest blogged for the Huffington Post and RT Book Reviews. She is also the Bedroom Blogger for Cosmopolitan.com.
 
Connect with Alessandra:
 
Facebook Reader Group: http://bit.ly/2s4U9NI
 

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Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Waiting On Wednesday 12/13: Three Blind Dates by Meghan Quinn

I cannot wait for this release! Check out this teaser for THREE BLIND DATES by Meghan Quinn!


Add it to your TBR--> http://bit.ly/2zY0Zuf

"Good Morning Malibu, it’s another beautiful day on the west coast! I'm Noely Clark, your host: and I'm in the market for love…”

When the publicity team of the new local restaurant, Going in Blind, began their search for a hot, local celebrity to promote the wildly popular eatery, they couldn’t have found a better person than me.

Outgoing? Check.
Single? Check.
Open to finding love? Check.

I signed up immediately.

A hopeless romantic with an exceedingly demanding schedule, I've found it impossible to find the man of my dreams—so Going in Blind seems too good to be true! That’s until they start setting me up on dates—three very different, very attractive, very distinct blind dates—and only one thing is for certain . . .

I’m in big trouble.

Good Morning Malibu,
I'm Noely Clark, and I have a choice to make.
The question is who will I choose; the suit, the rebel, or the jock.




About the Author:

Author, wife, adoptive mother, and peanut butter lover. Will dance for laughs, won’t eat anything spicy because you asked, but will squeeze boobs in replace of a hug. Grew up in Southern California (Temecula, anyone? Anyone?) lived in New York (the armpit of NY, not the city) and now resides in Colorado with my wife, son, two dogs, three cats, and my multiple book boyfriends. Loves love, anything romantic, and will die if I ever meet Tom Hanks. Yay, books!



Find me on Goodreads:

Visit my website: http://authormeghanquinn.com/


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Monday, December 11, 2017

Cover Reveal: Enticing Daphne by Jessica Prince

Title: Enticing Daphne
Author: Jessica Prince
Genre: Sassy Romantic Comedy
Release Date: January 10, 2018



It’s easy to stop believing in happily ever afters when the man you thought you’d spend the rest of your life with abandons you right before your wedding day. After that disastrous event I decided that commitment was for suckers. I was young, successful, and in the prime of my life.
I didn’t need a man to make me happy.
Then an unexpected blast from the past came waltzing into my studio and decided I was a challenge he was more than willing to accept. The only problem is that he doesn’t remember he’s met me before.
He’s the ultimate playboy, determined to stop at nothing until he entices the hell out of me. But if Caleb McMannus thinks he can lure me in with his sinful looks and silver tongue,
then he’s…probably right.

PRE-ORDER ENTICING DAPHNE
FREE ON KINDLE UNLIMITED

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU




Born and raised around Houston Texas, Jessica spent most of her life complaining about the heat, humidity, and all around pain in the ass weather. It was only as an adult that she quickly realized the cost of living in Houston made up for not being able to breathe when she stepped outside. That’s why God created central air, after all.
Jessica is the mother of a perfect little boy–she refuses to accept that he inherited her attitude and sarcastic nature no matter what her husband says.
In addition to being a wife and mom, she’s also a wino, a coffee addict, and an avid lover of all types of books–romances still being her all time favs. Her husband likes to claim that reading is her obsession but she just says it’s a passion…there’s a difference. Not that she’d expect a boy to understand.
Jessica has been writing since she was a little girl, but thankfully grew out of drawing her own pictures for her stories before ever publishing her first book. Because an artist she is not.
Sign up for Jessica’s Newsletter

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New Release Review: Man Hands by Sarina Bowen and Tanya Eby

by Sarina Bowen and Tanya Eby
Genre: Rom/Com
Release Day: December 11, 2017





He puts the "screw" in screwball comedy...


BRYNN
At thirty-four, I’m reeling from a divorce. I don’t want to party or try to move on. I just want to stay home and post a new recipe on my blog: Brynn’s Dips and Balls.
But my friends aren’t having it. Get out there again, they say. It will be fun, they say. I’m still taking a hard pass. 
Free designer cocktails, they say. And that’s a game-changer. 
Too bad my ex shows up with his new arm candy. That’s when I lose my mind. But when my besties dare me to leap on the first single man I see, they don't expect me to actually go through with it.

TOM
All I need right now is some peace and quiet while my home renovation TV show is on hiatus. But when a curvy woman in a red wrap dress charges me like she’s a gymnast about to mount my high bar, all I can do is brace myself and catch her. What follows is the hottest experience of my adult life. 
I want a repeat, but my flying Cinderella disappears immediately afterward. She doesn’t leave a glass slipper, either—just a pair of panties with chocolate bunnies printed on them. 
But I will find her.

My face literally hurts from smiling. About That Story

It's FUNNY!! I mean, really funny. My whole body shook, trying to suppress my laughter made me snort and I accidentally doinked myself on the head with my kindle. Stacy is Sassy

My review: 5 Stars!
Love love love! This one is laugh out loud funny- be careful where are you while reading it! Sarina Bowen has long been a one-click author for me, and I love that she co-wrote this book with Tanya Eby, who has narrated several of her audiobooks. Their writing is perfection and both characters are extremely likable and fun. Can't wait for the second book in this series!

LINKS




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Saturday, December 9, 2017

Review: Moonlight over Manhattan (From Manhattan With Love Series Book 6) by Sarah Morgan

From Manhattan With Love Series Book 6
by Sarah Morgan

Sarah Morgan is back with more love and laughter in her acclaimed series, From Manhattan With Love, which Publishers Weekly calls a “sweep-you-off-your-feet romantic experience.” 

Determined to conquer a lifetime of shyness, Harriet Knight challenges herself to do one thing a day in December that scares her, including celebrating Christmas without her family. But when dog walker Harriet meets her newest client, exuberant spaniel Madi, she adds an extra challenge to her list—dealing with Madi’s temporary dog sitter, gruff doctor Ethan Black, and their very unexpected chemistry.

Ethan thought he was used to chaos, until he met Madi—how can one tiny dog cause such mayhem? To Ethan, the solution is simple—he will pay Harriet to share his New York apartment and provide twenty-four-hour care. But there’s nothing simple about how Harriet makes him feel.

Ethan’s kisses make Harriet shine brighter than the stars over moonlit Manhattan. But when his dog-sitting duties are over and Harriet returns to her own home, will she dare to take the biggest challenge of all—letting Ethan know he has her heart for life, not just for Christmas?

My review: 3.5 stars
I previously read and reviewed another book in the From Manhattan With Love series, which makes this the second book in the series for me. Moonlight over Manhattan was a sugary sweet time-passer. It was quite like the Hallmark and Lifetime movies that so many enjoy this time of year. Nothing too exciting, nothing too groundbreaking, just a nice, pleasant romance.



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Cover Reveal: Man Card by Sarina Bowen and Tanya Eby


Man Card
by Sarina Bowen and Tanya Eby
Release Date: January 15, 2018



His motto is: Nothing ventured, nothing banged.
 
Ash
I still don't know how it happened. One minute I was arguing with my arrogant competitor--our usual trash-talk over who deserves the larger commission. But somehow I went from throwing down to kneeling down... 
It can never happen again. I don't even like Braht. He's too slick. He's a manipulating mansplaining party boy in preppy clothes.
So why can't I get him out of my head? 
 
Braht
There are two things I know without question. One: Ash and I are destined for each other. Two: never trust a man with a unibrow.
Ash is my missing my piece. She's the sweet cream to my gourmet espresso. And nothing gets me going faster than her contempt for me. They don't call her the Ashkicker for nothing. 
Eventually I'll win her over...if my past doesn't ruin everything first.

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Friday, December 8, 2017

Blog Tour: The Heartbreak Cure by Amanda Ashley






Publication Date: December 4, 2017
Publisher: Entangled Teen: Crush


How to get over a heartbreak:

Step one: Eat your body weight in brownies.

Step two: Throw yourself into your dreams of becoming a famous writer.

Step three: Beg your (hottie) ex-neighbor to act as your fake boyfriend.

Step four: Skip step three unless you’re ready for some serious fallout.

After being dumped and humiliated over the summer, Cat Turner does what any sane girl would do. She asks bad boy Alex Locke to be her fake boyfriend and show the world (and her editor at the school newspaper) that she’s fine. Problem is, the more time she spends with Alex, the more she risks getting her heart broken. For real this time.

Disclaimer: This Entangled Teen Crush book contains a swoony bad boy who will melt your heart, brownies, and witty banter. One, two, or all three might prove addictive…

Link to Goodreads:


My review: 4 stars
Friends-to-lovers is always one of my favorite tropes, and The Heartbreak Cure combines it with a fun fauxmance for a really sweet enjoyable YA story. I loved Alex- poor guy, his childhood is really tragic and I wanted to reach in the book and give him a big hug. Cat is a great character- someone I'd want to be friends with. I enjoyed the side characters too, in particular Cat's mom and Alex's boss Joe and his grandmother Birdie. Lots of witty dialog and swoony moments- a great read!

Purchase Links:

Giveaway Information: 

·        $20 Amazon Gift Card

a Rafflecopter giveaway   



Amanda Ashby was born in Australia but now lives in New Zealand where she writes romance, young adult and middle grade books. She also works in a library, owns far too many vintage tablecloths and likes to delight her family by constantly rearranging the furniture. She has a degree in English and Journalism from the University of Queensland and is married with two children. Her debut book was nominated for a Romantic Times Reviewers Choice award, and her first young adult book was listed by the New York Public Library╩╝s Stuff for the Teen Age.  Because she’s mysterious she also writes middle grade books under the name, Catherine Holt and hopes that all this writing won’t interfere with her Netflix schedule.





The tour schedule for The Heartbreak Cure can be found here: http://www.chapter-by-chapter.com/tour-schedule-the-heartbreak-cure-by-amanda-ashby/  



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Excerpt Reveal: Bad For You by J. Daniels

     
 "If you're a fan of Kristen Ashley, then you will love this book." -Aestas Book Blog on Four Letter Word
 
BAD FOR YOU
A Dirty Deeds Novel
BY J.Daniels
Release Day: January 23, 2018


He didn't want to be bad. He just didn't have a choice...
Shayla Perkins isn't the kind of girl who makes the same mistake twice, especially when it comes to Sean "Stitch" Molina. So when he gives her the world's biggest rejection, that's it--she's done. Until the sexy, silent, unavailable Sean makes Shay a very personal offer. Of course, it still doesn't mean he's interested in her. Or does it?

Sean has done things in life. Bad things. And he's paid the price. All he wants now is to make up for his past by doing good in the present. And no one deserves more good than Shay. Beautiful on the inside and out, Shay is the kind of woman who should be cared for and protected--especially from a man like Sean. He's tried to keep his feelings for her in check, but a single, reckless impulse pulls them closer than ever before.

Soon the two are sharing their biggest dreams and satisfying their deepest desires. But what will happen if the only way to truly give each other what they want most...is to let each other go?


"The perfect mix of funny, hot and heartwarming. I enjoyed it immensely!" --Mia Sheridan, New York Times bestselling author, on Four Letter Word

PRE-ORDER NOW

AMAZON US | AMAZON UK | AMAZON AU | B&N | KOBO | KOBO UK | iBOOKS

   

Chapter One

Shayla

I wanted to tell her no. I wanted to lie to Gladys or Dorothy, whatever this sweet old lady’s name was seated in my section, and say we were fresh out of ranch dressing, and the little cup of it that came with her large garden salad was the last drop. If I didn’t and obliged her request, it would mean walking back over to the kitchen window I avoided like the plague and speaking to him—Sean “Stitch” Molina. The keeper of the dressings. The cook at Whitecaps Restaurant. He hoarded the ranch back there, and the only way to get more of it was with words.
And we didn’t do words anymore. Not as of eight months ago.
So, instead of doing my job as a waitress, I contemplated the dishonest route, which could very well get me fired.
Was I willing to roll those dice? Maybe. It might be worth a shot. My boss, Nate, could overlook my wrongdoing. He was understanding enough.
We’re fresh out of ranch, I could tell the lady. And all other dressings, for that matter. I am so sorry. Could I maybe get you another refill? Or something else not located in the kitchen?
I thought on this plan—it could work. Maybe she would believe me. Or maybe she would rethink her request and decide she no longer needed more dressing.
Help a fellow woman out here, Millie. Christ.
“I just need a little bit more,” the lady requested with a gentle smile. “Would you be a dear? I won’t trouble you for anything else, I promise.”
“Of course,” I replied, the response compulsively leaving my tongue. I couldn’t fight it. I couldn’t lie. I’d feel terrible.
Besides, this was my job. If someone requested more ranch dressing, I got them more ranch dressing, even if it meant speaking to the man I was completely and pathetically infatuated with, no matter how badly it hurt me to do so.
I gave the lady a smile in return before moving away.
My steps were slow as I weaved between tables and headed toward the kitchen. I tried to keep my head down, to focus on the tile floor disappearing beneath my feet, but I couldn’t.
I had to look.
Who was I kidding? I wanted to look.
As I approached, Tori was leaning close to the window that separated Sean’s domain from everyone else’s. She slid two plates of food off the ledge, commenting, “Looks good. Thanks, Stitch,” before walking off to deliver her orders, winking at me as she passed.
Sean only went by Stitch when he was here, I was assuming. I wouldn’t know for sure since I’d never spent any time with him outside of work. It was a nickname Tori and I had given him when he’d cut himself a bunch of times during his first week on the job, and he didn’t seem to mind being called that.
Back then, he didn’t seem to mind a lot of things, like listening to me talk and talk about anything and everything, putting my problems on him in between waiting tables, my stresses, my fears, needing a person to vent to and him being the only person I wanted to vent to because of the way he listened and looked at me.
No one had ever seemed so interested in what I had to say before.
Like what I was saying meant everything to them. Like it was a privilege just to listen.
And no one had ever looked at me the way Sean did—glances that only ever lasted a few seconds at a time, but those few seconds of eye contact—holy crap. I thought my skin was going to combust it would tingle and heat up so quickly. The man had a stare unlike any stare. Equal parts intense and intimidating. But his eyes, sweet mother of God, his eyes were unreal, this rich, golden copper color. And when they were on you, you didn’t just see that beauty—you felt it.
It was a two-punch combo that turned me into a puddle. No man had ever affected me that way before.
And that effect wasn’t going away. I was still feeling it.
Even now with us not speaking to each other, or rather, with me not speaking and him not listening, I still couldn’t get Sean out of my head. I missed what we used to have, yes, but it was more than that. It was so much more.
A man I barely knew, who seldom spoke, and who had never showed interest in me in that way had somehow taken hold of my heart and twisted it all up. I didn’t understand how it had happened, I just knew it happened.
Pathetic, right?
I reached the counter silently, which was a miracle considering how loud my heart sounded in my ears. Keeping my breathing quiet, I looked through that window and peered into the kitchen.
Sean had his back to me as he flipped burgers and stirred something in a pot. I allowed my eyes to travel the length of him, something I hardly ever let myself do anymore. We shared quick glances now, that was it.
Sean was well over six feet tall—way taller than me. His back was broad. His hair was long, a beautiful caramel color, and almost always pulled back; his arms were covered in tattoos and roped in muscle; and he had a thick, short beard that hid what I just knew was a strong jaw.
Sean was beautiful. And he was intimidating. Not just how he looked, but how he acted too.
He smoked. He drove a motorcycle. He never smiled. He rarely said a word. Everything about Sean said leave me alone, but eight months ago I couldn’t.
And eight months ago, I didn’t think he wanted me to.
I thought that was why he looked at me the way he did and listened so well. I wasn’t even nervous when I finally asked him out after hearing about a local party. I was excited.
I wanted Sean. I wanted to kiss him and touch him and God, hear his voice more. I had gotten so little of it. I wanted to do everything with him. And I thought we would. I thought we’d go to that party together as friends and leave as something more.
But Sean wasn’t interested in the more I’d been after. He wasn’t interested in me at all.
Now, that was perfectly clear.
Sensing me, or maybe he was finished minding the burgers and whatever he was stirring in the pot—I didn’t know for sure, since I was still letting my eyes wander—Sean spun around and stepped forward, snapping my gaze off his body in a panic. Our eyes met.
Mine widened.
His narrowed angrily, like I’d pissed him off and he hated me for it, and further hated me for catching him pissed off about it.
I didn’t understand that look, but no way was I asking about it. I was doing what I came over here to do, and then, hopefully, staying far away from this window the rest of the day.
Maybe I could convince Tori to put in my orders.
“My lady needs more ranch,” I informed Sean, swallowing thickly when my voice came out sounding stressed and distorted. “Could I get a little more for her?”
Sean’s gaze lowered to my mouth like he was waiting for more words, which didn’t make sense to me, until I considered the one word I left off he was most likely waiting for.
“Please?” I added.
His eyes lifted to mine and stayed narrowed. His nostrils flared. His jaw set.
I almost apologized for being polite and for not lying to that woman about our condiment supply. Things were so awkward now, I couldn’t stand it. I missed how easy this used to be.
Memories flooded my mind in an onslaught as I stood there waiting, and my back stiffened. I pictured Sean watching me with care and concern. I remembered the smiles behind his beard I used to catch, and the way his eyes would follow me through the restaurant and brighten when I would wave. We were friends. I wanted to scream at him for ruining that. I wanted to scream at myself for still caring. What was wrong with me? He had completely shut me out. We were nothing now. We were this.
But with a quick hand, Sean snatched a dressing cup off the shelf and ladled some ranch into it before I spoke another word. He sat the cup on the ledge, removing his hand before our fingers touched, and briskly turned back to the grill without giving me another glance.
“Thank you,” I mumbled at his back, turning before I lingered another second.
He shut me out. I needed to do the same to him.
I delivered the cup of ranch to the sweet old lady, picked up a check for a table who didn’t wait for change, and took care of their tab at the register. Then because I didn’t have any other tables needing anything from me at the moment, I moved to a vacant booth far away from that window and busied myself filling ketchup bottles.
The next time anyone needed extra dressing, I’d send Tori.

Three Days Later
I am getting one of everything.
Twisting the dial on the radio, I quieted the music I was listening to when the truck ahead of me pulled forward, allowing room for my Civic to squeeze up next to the speaker.
Mouth already salivating, I rolled my window down.
“Welcome to Taco Bell. Can I take your order?”
My stomach growled as I surveyed my choices.
I eyed the fiesta taco salad. The quesarito. The never-ending list of combos and the specialty options. Everything intrigued my taste buds.
I stuck my head out the window and directed my order at the speaker. “Can I have a number six, please? Chicken supreme with a soft taco? And a Mountain Dew.”
“That’ll be six fifty-seven at the second window, please.”
I couldn’t pull forward yet, so I kept my foot on the brake, and just as I was about to roll up my window to keep the cool March air from filling up my car any more, a song I knew and loved began playing low through the speakers.
I had no idea what the name of the song was or who sang it, but I knew every single word. And this was not a song you didn’t crank up and sing along to with your windows down.
Fingers twisting the dial until music poured out of my car, I started moving my hips in time with the beat and smacking the steering wheel, eyes closing and fingers snapping as the lyrics left my mouth.
“Oh oh oh oh oh oh,
You don't have to go, oh oh oh oh oh
You don't have to go, oh oh oh oh oh
You don't have to gooo.”
The drum kicked up. I shook my head and felt pieces of my short, dark hair lash against my cheeks.
The girl giggled through the speaker.
Smiling and not feeling one bit of shy about the audience I was entertaining, I leaned halfway out the window and sang to her as loud as I could, reaching and pointing like she was front row at my concert.
“Ay ay ay ay ay ay
All those tears I cry, ay ay ay ay
All those tears I cry, oh oh ah ay
Baby, please don't goooo.”
She laughed harder this time, whooping and cheering me on.
“How’s that?” I asked. “Think I got a career in singing if all my other options fall through?”
“You bet!” the girl yelled. “That was sick!”
Giggling at myself, I sat back in the seat and turned the volume down halfway, noticing through the windshield the space between the truck in front of me and the car in front of it.
My eyes narrowed. I beeped twice. I was starving, and this was not the time to be messing around. What was this person doing?
The truck jerked forward, gears grinding over the music, loud enough I actually cringed. It was an old, beat-up Chevy, covered in dirt and rusted all along the back, with most of the paint chipped off and the muffler barely hanging on by a thread. The well loved and very well used vehicle was probably on its last leg, as was the worn smiley-face sticker half peeled from the bumper, leaving only one eye and half a mouth showing.
That thing had definitely seen better days.
Staring at all that rust, I had a moment of panic when I imagined the truck dying on its owner and blocking my path. Come hell or high water, I’d get my chalupas. Though I really didn’t feel like stepping out of my car and walking inside where the lunch rush sat. I was wearing sweats covered in bleach stains, a baggy sweatshirt, zero makeup, and not a lick of dry shampoo. No way was I presentable for the public yet.
This was why God invented drive-throughs and curbside service—so women like me could sleep in on their days off and rush out the door when a hankering hit without even bothering to glance at themselves in a mirror.
But when the truck made it up to the window to pay without a hitch or stall, most of that panic left me.
And when the driver pulled away after collecting their order and turned out onto highway, all of that panic left me.
I rubbed my hands together. Come to Momma.
“Hello!” I greeted the young girl with a smile and a wave, feeling like we had one of those lifelong friendship connections since I’d just serenaded her.
Grabbing my bag off the floor in front of the passenger seat, I dug around for my wallet.
“No need for that!” she said, turning my head and pausing my search. “That guy just totally paid for you. God…I love it when that happens. It doesn’t happen enough. It’s such a treat!”
I sat up and looked at her more fully. “What? What guy?”
“The guy in the truck.”
“Really?”
Nobody had ever done that for me before, and I used drive-throughs a lot. Well, shit on my head. My first random act of kindness, and I had rushed the poor thing along.
I suddenly felt bad for beeping.
“Yep,” the girl said, smacking her gloss-covered lips. “He asked me how much your order was and gave me enough to cover you both. And he wasn’t bad looking either.”
I leaned closer to the window, my interest in this mystery man spiking off the charts. “Yeah?”
“Oh, yeah. He had that dark, smoldering look about him. Real sexy.”
Nice.
“Did he say anything? Leave his number on a napkin or something?”
“No.” She shrugged. “Just paid for you and left. He acted in a rush.” The girl turned to pack up my order.
Huh.
If he was interested, he would’ve gone beyond just paying for my food. I would think he would’ve at least waited before speeding out of here—at least pulled over and given me opportunity to thank him.
Maybe he was just doing a good deed?
Letting myself think on that, I smiled and took my drink. “I’d like to pay it forward. How much is the person’s order behind me? I’ll take care of them,” I said while blindly digging my wallet out of my bag.
“Really?” The girl clapped her hands together and squealed. “This is awesome! And they say there’s no good people left in the world.”
I laughed and made a face like I was agreeing with her, though I really didn’t. I knew a lot of good people. Dogwood Beach was full of them.
And I was blessed to have a lot of those people in my tribe, supporting me, giving me friendship and love, and others, not necessarily in my tribe, but around me enough I got to see their good.
Still, I understood this girl’s excitement. It wasn’t every day a complete stranger did something out of sheer generosity. And selfless to boot. Who didn’t stick around to take credit when credit was due? That was practically unheard of.
It’s funny how a simple gesture can affect you. But kindness was powerful that way. It not only had the ability to alter moods, but it was also infectious. People wanted to spread that good around once they got it put on themselves.
Hell, I was doing it. Maybe the person behind me would do it too, and so on. We could all pay it forward.
Smiling, I thought about that mystery man in the beat-up truck, wondering if he knew just how inspiring he was. How good he was. I hoped someone was telling him.

After safely securing my bag of deliciousness in the front seat, I got the total of the order from the car behind me, paid, got my change, cranked up my stereo again, and sped off, leaving my window cracked so I could serenade Highway 355.

         
  

About the Author:

J. Daniels is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Sweet Addiction series, the Alabama Summer series, and the Dirty Deeds series.

She would rather bake than cook, she listens to music entirely too loud, and loves writing stories her children will never read. Her husband and children are her greatest loves, with cupcakes coming in at a close second.

J grew up in Baltimore and resides in Maryland with her family.

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