Thursday, August 16, 2018

Stepping out of the Comfort Zone

Congratulations to "Laney4", the winner in Teri Anne's giveaway. Please contact JUST CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE to claim your prize. Thank you to all who participated!

I’m a crafty person. I like to make stuff. I make jewelry, sweaters, quilts, messes…lots of messes.

A few years ago, a friend of mine, who was training to compete in a women’s fitness/figure event, asked me to make her posing suit. I was like, “Huh?”

She said, “You sew. You can do this,” and she showed me some pictures. We’re talking swimsuits made of fabric no one would ever wear in water, covered in enough rhinestones to drown a whale. I was like, “I make quilts. From crisp, smooth, cotton. This is…this is fancy.”

I had no idea how to make a velvet bikini, but somehow I agreed to try. I spent weeks stitching and re-stitching a few square inches of stretchy silver fabric, and a gallon of glue trying to get those stones to stick. God bless her, she wore the thing on a stage in front of people, and then asked me to make her next one. And another after that. And then she gave my number to some other women, who called me, and paid me real, actual money to make their suits.

It turned into a somewhat lucrative side-gig, and I met a lot of really interesting people along the way.

Fast forward a couple of years, and I decided to take an online class about plotting a romance novel. I had no idea what I was doing, but I liked to read romance, so I thought, “I’ll check it out, see if I can write enough words to make a whole story, and go back to quilting.”
Someone I met in the class suggested we critique each other’s work. Wait. Send my writing to someone else? Well, she was a complete stranger, so I figured I could just get rid of the internet if it got weird. I took another class. And another. One of the workshops I participated in invited us to send in our not-exactly-finished projects.

I thought, “This is dumb. I’ve got important quilting to do. I should be making blankets for homeless cats.” But I took a deep breath and hit send, and tried really hard to forget I’d done that. A few weeks later, I got a call from an editor who liked my voice and wanted to buy my manuscript! Several years later, I’m releasing my sixth romance, and I have quite a few others on deck!

My point is, I stepped out of my comfort zones, tried some things I didn’t think I would be good at, and was rewarded beyond my wildest dreams (okay, not my wildest dreams. In that one, I win a RITA and a Nobel Prize for literature in the same year).

In Accidentally in Love with the Pilot, the hero, Ben, is an introvert. He spends a few weeks in the middle of the most discomforting family in the world, and then has to get REALLY uncomfortable to convince the heroine to step out of HER comfort zone for him (wow, that was a lot of “comfort” in one sentence!).

What have you surprised yourself by doing? Leave me a comment, and we’ll draw a name for a prize from my secret stash of Awesome Stuff!


Fighter pilot Ben Rutledge loves his solitude. Which means spending a month of leave in overcrowded, over-glitzy Las Vegas isn’t up his alley, especially after his friend ditches him. His first inclination is to bow out, and quickly. Instead, he finds himself sharing drinks—and a whole lot more—with a sexy woman celebrating her birthday. After all, it’s just one night, and he can go back to his quiet life tomorrow.
Megan Shuttlekrump doesn’t have time for a boyfriend, much less a husband. But a night of celebratory drinks with a handsome stranger ends with a ring on her finger—and no memory of how it got there. Her new “husband” is over the top hot, but he’ll be out of her life once his leave is over. As long as they can find out which of the thousand or so chapels in Vegas married them…

Giveaway ends 11:59pm EST Aug. 16th. Due to GDPR regulations you no longer need to submit your email address in the comments. If you have been selected as a winner your name will be posted at the top of the post. You may then contact to claim your prize. Your email address will be shared with the author/publicist providing the giveaway. 

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Sliding Home

With: Kathy Lyons

Congratulations to "Cassandra D.", the winner in Kathy's giveaway. Please contact JUST CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE to claim your prize.

Thanks for having me here today! I’m excited to give you an excerpt from Sliding Home by Kathy Lyons. In it, the heroine is working her way through rejection therapy training. She’s creating situations where she gets rejected so that she can become used to the feeling and realize she isn’t going to die just because someone said, no. I heard about it from a TED talk about a guy who did this, and it made a huge difference in his life. So sweet Ellie has asked her celebrity crush out on a date. She knows he’ll say, no, because she requires it to be “old fashioned” which means no kisses, no sex, nothing that couldn’t appear on a 50s sitcom. And since Jake is a man-ho, he’s not going to accept…or so she thinks.

                  After the excerpt, feel free to leave a comment on whether you think rejection therapy is silly, pop science or if you think it could work for someone. Or if you’d rather, just say how fun you thought the excerpt was! One lucky commenter will win a limited edition Locker Room Diaries mug and a signed copy of Hitting It, the first book in the series.

                  So without further ado, here’s the excerpt for SlidingHome by Kathy Lyons

Sliding Home by Kathy Lyons -- excerpt

“God, just say no already,” Ellie huffed. “Then I can get back to my regular life.”
This was getting curiouser and curiouser. Jake leaned forward on his lawn chair while beside him, the guys on the team perked up with interest. “Are you asking me to say no, or asking me out on a date?”
Now she was even more uptight. “I know I’m not your usual type.”
True that. She was the complete opposite of the bold, fast f**k I usually enjoyed.
“And with my rules,” she continued, “I’m nothing like the kind of girls you usually date.”
The guys snorted at that, and now I was the one feeling indignant. “I’ve gone on normal dates before.” Just not since the AAs.
“I’ll even help you out,” she said. “Pick an answer: A--Connor would kick your ass if you dared get me alone for an intimate dinner.”
I snorted. “Connor could try.”
“How about B then? You’ve got to train or have an early curfew tomorrow.”
“Nah. Just the game, but we should be done by six.”
“Okay then, what about C? You’ve got an appointment with a different lovely lady.”
“Just how many ways have you imagined me rejecting you?”
Her eyes narrowed but her cheeks pinked. I could tell she’d run through this scenario hundreds of times in her head.
“Okay, then there’s D. You’re just not into me.”
That wasn’t true. I’d been into her from the moment she’d walked into the backyard carrying a fruit salad. She’d hugged her mother and kissed her father’s cheek while her freckles fought with her dimples for most adorable feature on her face. There’d been absolutely nothing sexual about her, just an overall sweetness, and I had been hit by a wave a lust that nearly ripped through my jeans.
The thing is, she was exactly my type, which is why I didn’t date girls like her. Sweet, wholesome girls usually started asking about meeting my crappy family by date three, and I just wasn’t going there—with anyone. It was much better to have my fun with someone who didn’t count on a morning after.
The problem was that Ellie clearly expected me to let her down, and I just wasn’t that kind of guy. There was some stupid genetic thing going on in my firefighter family that made us all want to be heroes. We did our best to save the day in the worst way...which meant I had a nearly pathological desire to make good girls happy. I could no more turn Ellie down than I could let her burn to death in a fire. And that’s why I usually avoided good girls. And why I shouldn’t have come to this family barbeque, even though the entire team was here.
“Then we’re down to E. You’ve been struck dumb with shock.”
Not shock. I was just trying to strangle my better nature. But it wouldn’t be silenced and suddenly, I was answering her in the worst possible way.
“Seven,” I rasped.
She looked startled. “What?”
“Seven. As in, I’ll pick you up tomorrow at seven.”


Shy and reserved, good girl Ellie McDonald is determined to break out of her shell–and her relationship rut. First order of business, woman up and finally ask her longtime secret crush, Jake Armstrong on an old-fashioned date. She's not at all his type–which is great. Once Jake turns her down she can finally move on. Except he says yes...
MVP short-stop Jake Armstrong has tried to keep his bad boy nature under wraps. But there's nothing he likes more than tempting sweet Ellie to the dark side. No one need know.
But when the hotel catches fire and their rescue–while nearly naked–is caught on camera, the two have a PR problem. Jake's solution is a fake relationship, just for the season. Only for Ellie, there's nothing fake about it…

Each book in the Locker Room Diaries series is STANDALONE:
* Hitting It
* Sliding Home


                  After the excerpt, feel free to leave a comment on whether you think rejection therapy is silly, pop science or if you think it could work for someone. Or if you’d rather, just say how fun you thought the excerpt was! One lucky commenter will win a limited edition Locker Room Diaries mug and a signed copy of Hitting It, the first book in the series.

Giveaway ends 11:59pm EST Aug. 15th. Due to GDPR regulations you no longer need to submit your email address in the comments. If you have been selected as a winner your name will be posted at the top of the post. You may then contact to claim your prize. Your email address will be shared with the author/publicist providing the giveaway. 

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

It's All Geek to Me

Hi, all! Jennifer here.

In my latest release, Catch Him if You Can, my hero—Wade— is a bit of a geek.
Well…okay, he definitely IS a geek. But a hot geek!

Can there be such a thing?

Well, I'm going to say YES, considering I've been doing quite a bit of research on the matter. Wade probably has a few nerd tendencies as well, but just so you know, there is a definite difference between GEEK and NERD. A geek has more social skills than a nerd, and a geek is somebody who is generally very knowledgeable — even to the point of obsession— about a particular topic.

I'm pretty proud of Wade. He's actually my first geek hero I ever wrote. But I didn't have to do too much research in that area. I admit that I'm sort of a geek, too. Pharmacy major in college. Student council and marching band in high school, etc.. In fact, one time, my husband bought a packet of assorted stickers that he was going to use to decorate our tandem bike. (Yes, my husband felt the bike was too sterile and needed some character.) Anyway, as he was going through the pack, he held one up that looked like a leaf and grinned.

"Don't want to put this one on there," he said.

So I looked at the picture and said, "Why? Is it cannabis?"

He said, "No. It's marijuana."

I smiled. "Marijuana is cannabis," I told him proudly.

He glared at me at that point. "You geek," he said. "Who the heck says cannabis?"

HA! Well, geeky me does. That's who. :)

Now, let's take my hero, Wade Roberts, as an example. He's a veterinarian. Smart. Very knowledgeable about animals. He also has a HUGE obsession with the BBC TV show Dr. Who and is a fan of Star Trek. Did I mention he wears glasses and was president of the Chess Club in high school?

Yeah, he's a super geek. So, what makes a man like this hot?

Well, Wade knows how to kiss. (Just ask my heroine, Arden.) Plus, he's funny. I find a sense of humor very sexy. Plus, he wears a leather jacket like second skin and has soft, kind brown eyes. Oh, and people in the town of Cape Harmony say he resembles Chris Pine.  
Need I go on?

I don't know about you, but I kind of like a geeky guy. There is something about a smart, handsome man with glasses and a sense of humor with just a tad of awkwardness thrown in for good measure.

If you're not into geeky heroes, I hope you all get to check out Wade for yourself in Catch Him if You Can so I can change your mind!

Do you like geeky heroes? If not, what's your favorite kind of hero?

Title: Catch Him If You Can
Author: Jennifer Shirk
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: August 13, 2018
Publisher: Entangled Publishing
Series: Accidently Yours
Format: Digital eBook
Digital ISBN: 9781640636156

Veterinarian Wade Roberts is done with love. But try convincing the elderly folk of Cape Harmony who are determined to play matchmaker. Now the young single women in town are bombarding him with baked goods and love notes, and being “taken” is the only way to stop the meddling grannies—which is why he needs a fake fiancĂ©e. Fast.

Arden Pearson loves planning weddings. Other people's weddings, that is. After her own engagement ended in disaster, she prefers to live vicariously through her work. But when she needs to persuade a big client that she’s capable of planning the celebrity wedding of the year, she’s willing to go as far as pretending to be engaged herself to her best friend’s older brother.

Soon their ruse has everyone in town believing they make the perfect couple—including Arden. She’s always been nothing more than a kid sister to Wade, and it might take a village to convince him otherwise...

Available at:  Amazon  |  Barnes and Noble  |  Kobo  |  iTunes  |  Goodreads

About Jennifer Shirk:
Jennifer Shirk is a USA Today bestselling and award-winning author of sweet (and sometimes even funny) romances for Montlake Romance and Entangled Publishing. Her novel, FIANCE BY FATE—a 2015 Readers' Crown Finalist—became an Amazon #1 best seller for Series Romance. And recently, Wrong Brother, Right Match, WON the Sweet Traditional category of the 2017 Golden Quill Contest and became a #1 Amazon bestseller for Holiday Romance.

She resides in a beach resort in NJ, so when she's not writing or working on her tan, she's taking care of her most treasured possessions: her husband, daughter and puppy (Sox).

Check out her website for News and Links:

And don't forget to join her mailing list for a chance to win monthly giveaways and free ARCs:

Connect with Jennifer:  Website  |  Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Goodreads  |  Amazon  |  BookBub

Monday, August 13, 2018

Cowboys Need Not Apply

The summer I turned eleven I learned the meaning of the word unrequited, and boy did it hurt. Back in those days, my parents owned a small mountain inn in North Carolina, and there was a sixteen-year-old waitress that summer named Becky who showed me that a childhood crush may be cute and charming to some, but terribly painful to the one doing the crushing. After all, they don’t call it a crush for nothing. Despite the fact my affections were not reciprocated, I think that early heartbreak was the catalyst that sparked my desire to write romantic movies and books. Maybe I just wanted to be able to control the ending.

     Perhaps, my painful puppy love for Becky the waitress is why I now identify with stories of unlikely romance. In my opinion, some of the greatest love stories of all time involve relationships that look darn near unworkable on the surface. There’s poor Jack and wealthy Rose in Titanic, aimless Lloyd and driven Diane in Say Anything and, of course, steely businessman Edward and fun-loving prostitute Vivian in Pretty Woman. I love love stories, but I especially love stories where the ones doing the loving come from opposite worlds, where the obstacles to their happy endings seem nearly insurmountable.

     My new novel Cowboys Need Not Apply continues this proud romantic tradition. Jessica Carmichael and Matt Walker seem (at first) to go together like anchovies and ice cream. Gross. I know. No dating site algorithm on the planet would pair a wealthy Juilliard-trained ballerina from Manhattan’s upper eastside and an orphaned wild and untamed bronc rider from the Montana backcountry. As a matter of fact, it takes a twist of fate to bring Jessica and Matt together. But, then again, when it comes to true love, maybe fate knows best.

     When untimely knee injuries threaten to derail both of their legendary careers, ballerina Jessica and cowboy Matt end up paired as physical therapy partners in a famous New York physiotherapy clinic. They do not share a Tony and Maria across-a-crowded-room-love-at-first- sight moment. Far from it. Jessica wants to get away from the loud, cocky and bad-joke-telling cowboy as fast as humanly possible. But, when the trainers tell her she can’t switch partners, she determines that – if she can’t get away from this rodeo yahoo – she’s going to beat him. Their daily training turns into a competition where every exercise becomes a bet, a chance for each to show the other who does it best: the ballerina or the cowboy.  


No, prima donna ballerina Jessica Carmichael isn’t interested in the rough-and-tumble rodeo cowboy she met in physical therapy. In fact, she’s actively uninterested in his cocky smile, and his go-with-the-flow attitude, and how his silly little bets make her work harder than ever to fix her knee. She’d like nothing more than to strangle him, if she wasn’t so busy thinking about kissing him.
Matt Walker's best hope of getting back in the saddle is charming Jessica into teaching him ballet. He needs to get back on the bronc…even if he has to get there in tights. Only the uptight ballerina lives in a completely different world, one he wouldn't touch with a ten-foot mechanical bull. But maybe the one thing she needs more than control is to lose control for once—with him.


Jessica immediately recognized the song echoing down
the clinic hallway. It was a well-worn cautionary tale about
mammas and babies and cowboys. Not her musical cup of

It grew louder and shriller, and Jessica could tell that
the unwelcome singer was getting closer and closer. She
was torn between curiosity and a strong desire to close her
door before it was too late. She wondered if maybe someone
was having an episode, perhaps the off-key singer was on
something or was simply having a breakdown. Then—she
saw him. He trolled by her open door in a wheelchair. He
was wearing his center-issued teal hospital gown, juxtaposed
with a cowboy hat and bolo tie. He seemed a weird
contradiction, and, as he passed her door, he glanced over
and caught Jessica’s eye. She gave him her most discouraging
glower, but, despite her best efforts, the singing came to an
abrupt halt and she heard the bone chilling words, “Whoa
now. Back it up.”

Jessica sighed. She knew what was coming: unwelcome
conversation. A moment later, Matt backed his wheelchair
into her doorway and spun to face her. He gave her his most
winsome grin. “Hey there, little lady. What you in for?”

She carefully calculated her response, debating whether
she might be better served to just close her door, then she
saw that he’d edged into the doorway as if he figured she
might be considering such an option.

“Hey there, little lady?” Jessica said. “I didn’t realize
this was Dodge City. I thought we were still in Manhattan.”

Matt chuckled. “So, what’s dinged up? Or are you just
here for the food?”

“That’s it,” Jessica said. He wouldn’t be half bad, she
thought, if only he were mute.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Flaws and All

Congratulations to "Jcp", the winner in Maggie's giveaway. Please contact JUST CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE to claim your prize!

Sometimes, I write women readers fall in love with on first sight. Other heroines, they can never quite warm to. I get that. And, believe it or not, I’m okay with it.

Because who we are shapes our humanity. There are a multitude of factors that play into our chances for success. Genetic traits passed on at birth, family ties, friendships and support networks. Then we add in education, environment, romantic and sexual identity, career choices…It goes on and on.

Every one of these factors force us to confront and adjust who we are and what is important to us.

Yet, we like to try to fit our fictional heroines into tiny little molds. We call them archetypes, because that sounds cooler and more writery, but basically, they are character sketches. We want them to be relatable. As a writer, I want the words I write to mean something to someone. Even the silly jokes.

Because I never know who is reading.

That person may really need a laugh that day. Or, perhaps, a reader sees something of herself in a character someone else might see as tragically flawed. This is why it’s important to me to write women who don’t always fit the mold. Maybe they didn’t spend their childhood playing with baby dolls and dreaming of their wedding day. Maybe, like me, they did, but that family life didn’t unfold the way they originally envisioned.

Doesn’t make it better or worse, just makes us different.

Our life stories can be plotted using two simple markers—decision or indecision. Of course, as a writer, I tend to write action more than inaction. No one wants to read a story where life simply happens to a person, right? But we all know inaction can have as potent a result as action.

Personally, I’d rather see my heroine make the wrong choice than no choice at all.
As romance readers, we forgive an awful lot in our heroes. I know I do. But when will we start extending the same level of understanding to our heroines?

I am a work in progress—as a person, as a writer, and as a reader. I love characters who refuse to stop evolving. When I started writing the Play Dates series, I wanted to women who happened to be hitting some of those critical moments of decision/indecision of life.
I'll tell you a secret, most of us don’t have it all figured out. So, when do we start accepting ourselves as flawed, but still pretty damn awesome? At what point do we start cutting women—real and fictional—a break?

Check out the latest in my Play Dates series featuring hot single dads and the women who love them: A RING FOR ROSIE

Here’s a taste:
The icy January wind sliced through the worsted wool of her coat. Once again, vanity had led her down the primrose path. But her down-filled puffy jacket looked silly on top of a pencil skirt, and the lining on her trusty trench coat was no match for a Windy City winter. Clutching the lapels together, she gulped icy air and nearly choked on the frigid lungful.
As soon as she caught her breath again, she smiled. “Hey.”
“God, Rosie, you are the best.” A whoosh of vapor trailed after him as his long strides ate the ice-crusted pavement between them. He came straight at her, his arms extended, and she braced herself for the hug. Not because his embrace wasn’t welcome, but because it would never be what she dreamed being held by James could be. Lord help her, she stepped right into the hug anyway.
But before she could tip her face up and away, his lips touched down. Not on her cheek or her forehead, temple, or any of the other seemingly innocuous places a kiss could land. No, he kissed her mouth. Square on the mouth. Not at the corner or slightly off on the chin. This kiss wasn’t one of those head-turning mishaps she may or may not have attempted to orchestrate over the years. No, James Harper was kissing her freely and willingly.
On. The. Mouth.
An honest to goodness kiss, if a brief one.
Her euphoria turned to mortification when she noticed the saucer-like circumference of his bright blue eyes as he straightened. The kiss might not have been an accident, but judging by the shock on his face, he hadn’t actually planned to. But he did.

How about you? What’s your fatal flaw? Tell me your kryptonite in the comments below, and I’ll give away one digital copy of the first book in this series: PLAY DATES
Once burned, this father of twins is twice shy until he realizes the right woman is the charm . . .

James Harper is a great dad, but a lousy judge of women—as evidenced by his twin boys’ flighty mother, who walked out when the babies were just six weeks old. He’s got fatherhood down, but dating is another story—especially when the twins’ mom shows up any time she needs something. His office manager, Rosie Herrera, is the one woman he can count on, actually talk to, flirt with, and . . . come to think of it, has he been overlooking the perfect woman all this time?

Rosie’s been in love with James since her first day on the job, but she’s certain he only sees her as a reliable employee—until one heated kiss changes everything. And then James’s ex shows up, and walks right into his life again. Determined to move on, Rosie tries to forget everything she feels about James—by doing her best to fall for someone else. But James isn’t about to make the same mistake twice. To woo Rosie this time, he needs to prove they’re made for  each other . . . forever.

About Maggie: 
By day, Maggie Wells is buried in spreadsheets. At night, she pens tales of people tangling up the sheets. The product of a charming rogue and a shameless flirt, you only have to scratch the surface of this mild-mannered married lady to find a naughty streak a mile wide. Maggie has a passion for college football, processed cheese foods, and happy endings. Not necessarily in that order.  

More Maggie: 

Giveaway ends 11:59pm EST Aug. 11th. Due to GDPR regulations you no longer need to submit your email address in the comments. If you have been selected as a winner your name will be posted at the top of the post. You may then contact to claim your prize. Your email address will be shared with the author/publicist providing the giveaway. 

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

To Have And To Harley

Giveaway Alert!

You may now kiss the biker
Bethany Jernigan owes her bestie. Big time. So when wedding planning overburdens the bride-to-be, Bethany steps in to handle the nitty-gritty. But the guy in charge isn’t anything like she imagined. He's gruff, tattooed, and 100% male. His staff is even rougher around the edges, and it's not long before she feels as if she's stepped into some kind of crazy alternate reality.

Are those…bikers? Arguing about wedding favors?

Trey Harding never wanted this to get so out of hand. One little lie somehow snowballed into a world of dresses and flowers and food and holy-hell-he's-in-over-his-head. But it’s not like he can confess he’s not the wedding planner he’s pretending to be—especially now that he's falling for the maid of honor! His charade is becoming a farce, and as engines rev and ribbons fly, Trey’s running out of time to figure out how to tell the truth without losing his new family, his crew…or the woman of his dreams.


Bethany followed him out into the night. This far out in the country, the stars twinkled brightly. Crickets chirped, the low thump of music from inside muffled by the closing door.

Gravel crunched under Bethany’s shoes as she followed Trey a short distance from the building, around the corner to a concrete pad that held a good dozen-plus motorcycles.

“What can I do for you?”

Bethany shivered.

It wasn’t the night air. It was the way he stood, feet braced apart, shoulders square, arms loose and ready, body big and strong and near enough for her to sink into.

If she wanted. Which she didn’t. Really, she didn’t.

She cleared her throat. Focus, Beth.

“That was…an interesting event.” She chose her words carefully. Though she’d clearly won, she didn’t want to make him feel bad. Weird, that. She didn’t want to make a liar feel bad for lying? What was wrong with her?

“Thank you,” he said shortly, his stare direct. She fought the urge to squirm. She hadn’t done anything wrong. A little rude, maybe, but not wrong.

“Now will you agree that you can’t handle Sarah’s wedding?”


His short answer took her aback, and she blinked. “I’m sorry?”

“I said no.”

Her temper rose, blood heating as her pulse quickened. “That’s my best friend you’re talking about. You think you can get away with something like this for her? A wedding at a bar with shrimp and orange bagels and peanut-butter pickle boats?”

Trey’s glare shot toward the bar. “Damn it, Stone, I told you to drop the pickles.”

“You can’t do this to them. To Sarah, to Mama Yelverton. They’re trusting you, and you’re lying to them!”

“I know!” he roared, and the sound was so loud and close that her heart jumped into her throat. “I know they’re trusting me! That’s why I’m trying to do the best job I can. And you’re always in the way and trying to ruin it! Why aren’t you letting me help them?”

“Because I don’t trust you!” She went toe-to-toe with him, shoulders heaving as she stared straight into his glowering eyes. “You’re too—”

“Too what? Too rough? Too mean? Too bad to plan a wedding?”

“Yes! All of that! You don’t know what you’re doing, and you’re going to ruin things for them and take their money and break their hearts, and I won’t let you do it! I love them, and you’re not going to take advantage of them like this!”

Trey stopped, his expression blanking. “You think I’m trying to take advantage of them? For money?”

Bethany’s insides stuttered, uncertainty creeping into her voice. “Well, aren’t you?”

He looked away from her, an unnamed emotion rolling off him in waves.

“No. I’m not. I don’t want anything from them but a relationship. And I hope you understand that you’re doing your best to ruin any chance of that.”

For the first time, the certainty that she’d held about Trey began to crumble. Standing there in front of her, with his strong, broad shoulders silhouetted against the parking lot lights, he looked—human. Angry and hurt and lonely, as if her words had peeled away the outer shell he presented to the world. His gaze swung back to her, and she saw in that moment just how shallow she’d been. How wrong. How prejudice had blinded her, how the exterior of the man in front of her had shielded her eyes from the true heart of him.

“You were lonely. Weren’t you?”

Her whispered question rocked him on his heels as if it were a gunshot.

“Yeah. Yeah I was. I thought I’d been dumped by the woman who’d given birth to me in a gas-station bathroom.”

Her hand covered her mouth, and she just stared. As if a tourniquet had been released, words flew from him.

“I had nobody. The system yanked me back and forth so many times, I had whiplash by the time I was eight. Nobody wanted me. Nobody—”

He gritted his teeth and stared straight out at the horizon, as if by simply looking at it, he could stem the tide of emotions she’d unwittingly released.

But they hung there, unspoken, and Bethany’s heart ached for him.

She’d known love. She’d had the most amazing father for fifteen years. And after that? She’d had the Yelvertons to rescue her from her grandmother. Without them…

Without them, she might know a little more of his pain.

God, how wrong she’d been. Because he looked like a roughneck, she’d judged him as unfit for the Yelvertons. But now…now she could see a glimpse of the little boy he’d been once. Lonely, afraid, abandoned. She longed to comfort him, to heal him, to take away the pain her thoughtlessness had inflicted.

Her father would be ashamed of her.

“I’m sorry,” she said, and without thinking, she stepped forward and wrapped her arms around him. He was warm and hard, his body unmoving, like a living rock. “I’m so, so sorry.”

For a moment he didn’t yield, didn’t budge, didn’t return her embrace. And then his big, broad hands swept up her back, and he relaxed into her embrace, taking the physical comfort she offered.

With each heartbeat, she tried to communicate her true feelings to him. To return the kindness he’d shown her in the kitchen. To apologize for ripping open his decades-old emotional wound. To make amends for the fact she’d stood in his way when all he’d wanted was to get to know his family.

But it wasn’t enough. She needed to do more.

Of its own accord, her hand wandered up and cupped his cheek. As she looked into his eyes, twin mossy pools of pain and sadness, she did the only thing she could think of.

She kissed him.

Im sorry. Ive hurt you, and I know what that feels like, and Im so damn sorry.

The words went unspoken, but she prayed he could feel them in the brush of her mouth against his.

Regina Cole, lover of manly muscled arms, chest hair, and mini-marshmallows, has been reading romance since her early teens. When she’s not frantically pounding away at the keyboard, she can be found fishing with her family, snuggling with her hubby and tiny twin boys, or slinging mud in her magical home pottery studio. She lives outside Raleigh, North Carolina.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sign up for the JCR newsletter!