Thursday, April 30, 2015

Excerpt - Dakota Wedding (Dakota Hearts, Book 6) by Lisa Mondello

Dakota Wedding
Dakota Hearts, Book 6
by Lisa Mondello 

Genre: Contemporary Western  Romance 
Date of Publication: November 30, 2014
ISBN: 978-1-940512-07-5 * ASIN: B00OC90HNU
Number of pages: 212 * Word Count: 74200
Cover Artist: Melyssa Naujoks 

Excerpt, Review & Giveaway - Ride: Part 1 Awakening by A.C. James

by A.C. James


Subtitle: (BBW Paranormal Shape Shifter Romance) (Puca Mates Short Book One)

Series: Puca Mates 



*** This a NOT a full-length book. This novella is part one of a serial romance. *** 

Felicity Forrest has the perfect job as an investigative blogger for Everyday Supernatural. This curvy girl gets sent to the Aran Islands to find out whether a pĂșca shape shifter is responsible for the strange accidents haunting a construction site.  

Niall O’Leary is tall, broody, and totally alpha. His mission is to discover why the veil between the human world and the Realm has lifted. And as the Chieftain’s son he must find a mate or his twin will be promised to a stallion he despises. He has a duty to his family, his clan, and a need for offspring. Otherwise the pĂșca could become nothing more than folklore. 

Passion and frustration ignite when a curvy human female tempts his inner stallion like no other. There’s only one problem... She just got out of a relationship that left her broken hearted. Is she ready for a second chance at love?

Reader Note: This book is for those who are 18+. It contains explicit language, sexual situations, and one helluva cliffhanger. However, if you like curvy shifter romance, a stallion who can’t resist his curvy woman, and a dash of humor, then this is the story for you. Please read these installments in order. Enjoy!


Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Spotlight & Giveaway - Veiled Dominance by Evelise Archer

Veiled Dominance
by Evelise Archer

Genre: M/M BDSM

Shane Wise is a Dom and part owner of a popular BDSM club in Rittenhouse Square, Club Rebellion. A tumultuous past has led him to an almost perfect present, except Shane has a secret. A secret that could destroy his reputation in the world in which he loves to live-BDSM. 

Deacon Archer is also a Dom and part owner of Club Rebellion and he is in love with Shane Wise. Together Shane and Deacon must decide if the love they feel can withstand the scrutiny they fear, if their relationship is revealed. 

Can two dominants truly forge a relationship? Will secret desires open up a new world and allow Shane to be the man he was intended to be or will veiled dominance get in the way? 



“El. Oh my God! You’re here.” She flung herself into El’s arms, knocking him back into Dalton’s lap, and armful of best friend. The table erupted into laughter as Issy clutched El and hugged him like no tomorrow, reigning kisses on his face. 

“I’m glad someone missed me.” El pecked the Latina on the cheek as he hugged her tight. 

“Tell me everything, all the nasty.” She slid into the rounded booth next to Johnson, as he shook hands with his partners. 

“Welcome back, Dalton. Eldridge. From your smiles, I take it the honeymoon was wonderful.” 

“Damn straight,” Dalton replied. 

“You two ready to get back into the swing of things?” Deacon asked, catching glimpses of Shane through his peripheral vision. 

“Yeah, we’ll start tomorrow. Tonight we need to hit the sack and just sleep. I’ve got jet lag,” Dalton grumbled. 

“El, you were supposed to bring him back less cranky. Didn’t you two fuck enough?” Shane jumped in. 

“Ha. Ha. We had a layover and have been sitting on a plane for three hours, sue me if my ass is a little sore. And yes, we had plenty of sex, if you must know.” Dalton smiled demonstrating no ill-will or sting to the conversation. “How about you bring us up to speed while we eat?” 

Deacon laughed as two conversations took place at the table, the four partners and Eldridge and Issy. Deacon brought Dalton up to date with memberships and club info with Shane and Johnson’s help, while Issy discussed their new business venture with El. The conversation, albeit all of them practically speaking at the same time, flowed and was minimally interrupted except for the waiter. 

“We can give you the finer details concerning Manning and Hill, but everything is in order. We gave them a temp pass and we can vote on their admittance next week if you want. And of course, Issy’s great idea about the mixers.” Deacon watched the beam surround Johnson’s face as he praised his friend’s wife. 

“I’m excited about the mixers,” Eldridge chimed in as he sipped his orange juice with a splash of mango and pineapple over crushed ice. His favorite, thanks to Dalton. “Can we do themes?” The serene expression on El’s face as he turned to Dalton, saddened and elated Deacon at the same time, hoping that someday, he could witness the same tranquility on Shane’s face, when he looked at him in public. Someday, hopefully, would be here soon.

“Yeah, I think eventually we should do themes, but for the first one, it will be meet and greet, by invitation only. We’ll also have some vendors here to make the rounds for play items and jewelry.” 

“On another note, no plans for Saturday evening please.” Issy looked from Dalton to Eldridge. “I’ve planned a dinner party in your honor at our house. Just six of us and El, all your favorite foods. Master James and Tony and Josiah and Sandy were also invited, but aren’t able to come.” 

“Wow. Tony and Sandy? A lot has happened since we left,” Dalton stated, intrigued. 

“You know that Tony’s had his eye on Sandy for some time now and he finally made the move. They did my flogging demo and they’re interested in a wax play demo when you do another. I think that Tony may ask Sandy to be his, permanently, sooner than later.” Deacon tilted his head as two men approached their table. 

Elegantly dressed in black slacks and a crisp white shirt, Christopher Manning, along with Parker Hill, strode over, retrieving two water bottles from a passing waiter. The older gentleman, not hard to miss, had a head full of thick gray hair, worn slightly longer than other men his age, and piercing blue eyes. Manning and Parker Hill were a striking couple. 

“I saw the owner’s table full tonight, and I figured I’d come pay my respects. Thank you for the temporary pass, Deacon.” Manning’s deep voice reverberated with authority. “May I introduce my husband, Parker Hill?”


Buy Links:   Amazon      BookStrand      All Romance eBooks      Secret Cravings 


~About the Author~ 

An avid reader and story teller, wife, mother and educator, Evelise is living her dream with her loving husband, dog, and three children who visit often. Fueled by desire for a strong cup of coffee and a passion for literature, Evelise can be found reading her favorite books on her e-reader or in front of her lap top spinning her next erotic M/M tale. 

Author Links: Site      Blog     Facebook     Twitter     Tsu    Google +     Pinterest      Goodreads



Evelise Archer is giving away a $10 Amazon GC and a eBook copy of Veiled Dominance.

 Enter the rafflecopter below for your chance to win. 

Spotlight - Stonehill Downs by Sarah Remy

Stonehill Downs
Author: Sarah Remy
Publisher: Harper Collins/Voyager
Pages: 400
Genre: Fantasy
Format: Paperback/Kindle/Nook

Stonehill Downs follows Mal, a powerful mage who functions as Lord Vocent, the king’s personal forensic scientist and detective.  Magic and murder are his calling.  Never have the two entangled in quite as terrifying a manner as on Stonehill Downs, where Avani, a Goddess-gifted outsider, has discovered a host of gruesome corpses reeking of supernatural malfeasance.  The investigation is haunted by ghosts of Mal’s past, and the two quickly learn that they must cast aside their secrets if they are to succeed in unearthing the pervading evil—before it’s unleashed from the boundaries of the Downs, straight into the heart of the kingdom.

For More Information:

Book Excerpt:


Andrew struggled.

Mal held him down. The old man’s skin burned, and sweat turned his mottled flesh slick, but still he shuddered as if chilled. Where Mal’s long fingers encircled his wrists, bruises blossomed.

Perspiration dampened Mal’s own brow, running in rivulets along his nose and into the corners of his eyes, stinging. He didn’t move to wipe them away. All of his strength was focused on the man convulsing beneath his hands.

“Let him go, Mal.”

“No.” He refused to spare Siobahn a glance. He refused to acknowledge the disapproval he felt vibrating across the room.

“Malachi. You mustn’t keep him back. It’s too painful.”

“For him? Or for you?” He knew the words were unkind. He didn’t care.

The air moved as Siobahn shifted. The candles in the close room flickered, shedding plumes of smoke. Her breath stirred the hair on the back of his head.

Still, he wouldn’t look around.

The dying man twisted on silken bedclothes. His mouth gaped open, showing yellow teeth, and his eyes rolled in his skull.

Mal knew the old man was all but senseless, but he couldn’t help himself; he bent forward and peered into the wizened face.

“Andrew,” he whispered, willing the other man to hear.

“Mal.” Siobahn forced the issue, stepping away from the shadows and into his line of sight.

Her gown rustled. He could hear the soft pad of her slippers along the stone floor. She slid through the haze of incense, and set her palms flat on the edge of the bed, leaning across the mattress until he was forced to meet her gaze.

“Let him go,” she said again. This time she put just a touch of ice into the words.

Mal no longer took orders, not even from the young woman who had once been his wife. But she could still pierce him through with her deep blue eyes, and she knew it.

No matter how often he wished it otherwise, Siobahn never failed to move him. She knew that, also.

So he looked away from Andrew’s gaping mouth, and let her rake him with her gaze. She was angry, he saw, and disappointed. Maybe she was frightened, but she kept her smile sweet.

“You’re holding him back,” she warned. “Don’t make him struggle.”

“He might still be saved,” Mal argued, even though his heart knew better. Already the bitter tang of grief roughened the back of his throat.

Andrew was the last, and Mal didn’t want to be alone.

Siobahn lifted one hand from the mattress, and set it on Mal’s arm. His tendons quivered at her touch. Beneath his own fingers Andrew’s muscles convulsed in response. The ravaged body arched up off the bed, then snapped back onto the bedclothes.

Blooded scented the air; a trickle of the dark liquid stained Andrew’s chin. The old man had bitten through his tongue.

The violence of the struggle touched Mal at last. He flinched away from the bed, releasing frail bones. The moment his fingers left Andrew’s flesh, the old man convulsed again, as though plucked off the mattress by the hands of the gods. Mal heard bones in the tortured spine snap.

“He’s on his way,” Siobahn whispered, relieved.

Mal shuddered. The gods were never gentle with the ones they favored.

He bent over the bed, and took Andrew’s right hand in his own. There was no response. The old man was well and truly gone.

Mal stroked Andrew’s cooling palm with his thumb. Tears still scratched at the back of his throat. He forced them down, waited until he knew his eyes were dry, and then he reached over and wiped the blood from Andrew’s mouth with the edge of his sleeve.

The blood disappeared into the grain of the dark leather he wore. Mal studied the cuff, searching for a stain that didn’t show. Then he straightened his shoulders and set Andrew’s hand back onto the silks.

He turned from the canopied bed and stepped off the sleeping dais. The suite was gloomy, the air too thick. The smoke from the massive candles Andrew had so loved twined with the fumes of eastern incense.

Mal stumbled over the flagstones, intending to wrench open the windows. He wanted to breath in the night air, to clear away the headache lurking behind his eyes.

“Malachi,” Siobahn warned, just as his hand settled on the window latch. “Tradition. Renault would not be pleased …”

She broke off, sensing his silent fury.

She was correct. He almost lifted the latch anyway. If only he could get a taste of fresh air. He needed the breeze across his face to cool his growing rage. And Renault would never know.

He pulled his hand back from the latch and curled his fingers carefully behind his back. Standing alone in the hazy darkness, he could almost feel the chill of the night through the windowpane.

Glass was dearly bought. Only the king’s most beloved were lucky enough to have paned windows. Mal had glass in his own rooms, but not so much.

Andrew had been Renualt’s most beloved.

“And now he’s dead.” Mal forced himself to say it aloud. Briefly, he set his brow against one cool pane.

“You need to tell him,” Siobahn said from somewhere over his left shoulder. “You’ve already waited too long. Renault should have been here earlier. To order the windows covered and—”

This time he stopped her words with a snarl. He heard her teeth click as she bit back the rest of her lecture. He sighed. Again, she was correct. She almost always was.

“I’ll go to him now,” he allowed, turning away from his reflection in the glass.

Siobahn lingered over the bed, poised as though in mid grasp, her fingers still hovering over Andrew’s face. Mal followed the drift of her unnatural blue gaze to the glitter of yellow on the dead man’s thumb.

Now it was his turn to use the power of their connection, to twist her guilt into a weapon. He strode back across the room until he could pin her with his frown. She flinched beneath his stare. Her cheeks pinked soft rose in embarrassment or fear.

“I thought you had forgotten,” she said.

He loomed at her side, towering four full handspans above the crown of her head, and regarded the yellow stone in Andrew’s ring with distaste.

“And you hoped to remove it for me?” His laugh was bitter, his mouth hard.

“You know better.”

She stood in the soft gown she had worn on their wedding day and faced his fury with dignity.

He set his hands on her small shoulders and shook her once, gently, but with passion. Siobahn allowed his touch for a heartbeat. Then she slipped from under his grasp. Mal almost went after her, but something in her half smile stopped him.

He watched as she moved to stand before one of Andrew’s giant candelabras. The flames bowed, drawn by her very breath.

For an instant Mal heard as she did; the king’s heavy footsteps echoed between his ears, pounding with the headache behind his nose.

He swallowed hard, blinked the pain away, and lifted Andrew’s fingers.

The ring slid easily over a bony knuckle. The true gold was warm in Mal’s hand. The yellow jewel burst to life, sending a scattering of starbursts across dead man, bedclothes, and wall.

“The king!” she whispered, starbursts glittering in her hair. She let him hear again. Renault’s footfall almost punched holes in Mal’s tender skull.

He shoved Andrew’s ring into the small pouch he kept on his belt. Then he moved away from the canopy, standing where he could be seen from the massive wooden door Andrew never barred.

He could hear the march of booted feet in truth, now. It sounded as though Renault had gathered his entire guard.

“He knows,” Siobahn murmured from her place among the candles and smoke.


“He slept,” she replied. “He dreamed, as Andrew died. I sent him a vision.”

Mal heard regret in her admission. No doubt she feared he would be angry.

He was too exhausted to fume any longer, weighed by grief. He looked over his shoulder, thinking to reassure, but at that moment the footsteps rolled to a stop in the corridor outside Andrew’s suite. The heavy door slammed open, rattling the antechamber. 

A gust of cool air made the candles gutter and go out. Smoke wreathed the room. Mal’s eyes watered in response.

He blinked. When his vision cleared, Siobahn was gone, snuffed out along with Andrew’s pretty tapers.

Mal rubbed his throbbing brow. Then he set his shoulders, touched the pouch at his belt, and went to greet his king.


About the Author: 

In 1994 Sarah Remy earned a BA in English Literature and Creative Writing from Pomona College in California. Since then she’s been employed as a receptionist at a high-powered brokerage firm, managed a boutique bookstore, read television scripts for a small production company, and, more recently, worked playground duty at the local elementary school. 

When she’s not taking the service industry by storm, she’s writing fantasy and science fiction. Sarah likes her fantasy worlds gritty, her characters diverse and fallible, and she doesn’t believe every protagonist deserves a happy ending. 

Before joining the Harper Voyager family, she published with EDGE, Reuts, and Madison Place Press. 

Sarah lives in Washington State with plenty of animals and people, both. In her limited spare time she rides horses, rehabs her old home, and supervises a chaotic household. She can talk to you endlessly about Sherlock Holmes, World of Warcraft, and backyard chicken husbandry, and she’s been a member of one of Robin Hobb’s longest-running online fan clubs since 2002. 

Her latest is the fantasy novel, Stonehill Downs.

For More Information:

Spotlight - Wild Heat by Lucy Monroe

Wild Heat
by Lucy Monroe
Sometimes old flames are the hottest of all . . . 

In the quaint little town of Cailkirn, Alaska, it’s impossible to keep a secret, especially one as juicy as the unexpected return of Kitty Grant. Tack MacKinnon remembers her wild red curls and even wilder spirit—and still feels the sting from when she shattered his heart in college. But there’s a pain in Kitty’s gorgeous eyes that guts him to the core and Tack is determined to do whatever it takes to see the woman he still loves smile again—even if it means taking on her demons as his own. 

After fleeing an abusive ex-husband, Kitty decides that the best way to heal her broken heart is to come back home. But she gets a whole new shock when she sees how undeniably sexy Tack has become. More handsome, more muscular, more charming—more everything—he’s impossible to resist. Before she knows it, they’re reigniting sparks that could set the whole state of Alaska on fire. Yet trust doesn’t come easy to Kitty anymore, and as things heat up between her and Tack, she can’t help but wonder if one of them is going to get burned . . .

Excerpt(unedited version): 


“We’re all going to die this way.” 

Caitlin Grant’s head snapped up at the high pitched tones of the small boy in the seat beside her. 

He looked up at her with an earnest brown gaze that dared her to disagree. 

“Shh…sweetheart,” his mother comforted from his other side, her tone more worried than confident. Still, she rubbed his short nappy hair in a tender gesture. “It’s going to be fine, Joey. You heard the captain. It’s just turbulence.” 

“The plane is shaking, mom. This can’t be good.” Joey sounded so adult and so childish at the same time. 

Caitlin felt her lips curving into her first smile in months. “We’re coming into Anchorage.” Their early morning flight was right on time. “It’s usually choppy on these flights.” 

“You’ve been on a shaky plane before?” the boy demanded. 

Caitlin nodded, one bright red curl slipping from its clip to brush her cheek. “Many times.” 

Fighting the near irresistible urge to get up and go to the bathroom so she could smooth her hair uniformly back into the clip, despite the captain’s instructions to remain seated, Caitlin tucked the errant strands behind her ear. 

“This is really bad.” Joey’s tone indicated disbelief for her calm assurances. 

Doubt in her judgment was something Caitlin was very familiar with. Whether it was the way she chose to wear her hair, or the orchestra she hired to play at their annual outdoor fete, her ex-husband had frequently expressed concerns about Caitlin’s questionable choices, opinions and taste. 

She’d learned not to defend herself because arguing always made it worse. 

Tempted to fall back into old patterns and withdraw, Caitlin couldn’t ignore the small boy’s worry however. And she could not forget the final bit of advice from her therapist at their last appointment. 

Leaving your husband isn’t going to change what you need it to if you continue to live as if he’s still looking over your shoulder. 

Taking a deep breath, Caitlin forced further reassurance from a tight throat. “I’ve been on planes that shook worse than a baby’s rattle and with a lot more noise.”                                                                       

How ridiculous for it to be so difficult for her to add support to her own assertions. 

“Really?” Joey asked hopefully. 

Caitlin managed another smile. “Really.” 

“And you didn’t die?” 

She actually had to suppress the urge to grin at that. Schooling her expression into lines of seriousness, she said, “No.” 

His mother wasn’t as adept at hiding her reaction, doing a poor job of hiding her snigger with a cough. 

Joey didn’t seem to notice. “Cool.” 

A burst of raucous laughter from the rows behind them surprised Caitlin enough to draw her gaze. Was that Rock Jepsom’s younger brother? 

The last Caitlin had heard, Carey had taken off for Hollywood with his inheritance and no intention to return. Just like Caitlin, except her inheritance had barely covered the cost of university. 

Carey had had a couple million to support his dreams. He sure didn’t look like he was coming back broken like she was. In fact, he was surrounded by a group who were clearly in the industry. 

Caitlin had spent eight years living the life in LA, nine if she counted her engagement. She recognized actors and production people as easily as she did a knockoff Chanel bag. 

What were they all doing heading into Anchorage? A lot of movies purported to be set in Alaska, but few actually were. 

It was a joke among residents how often the media got it seriously wrong in their attempts to portray America’s largest state. 

She wouldn’t have expected Carey to be the one to take up that cause though. Not even a little bit. 

But then she’d never expected to move back to Cailkirn either. 

Tack MacKinnon finished nailing down the new stair riser on the back porch steps of the Knit & Pearl Bed and Breakfast. 

It was a rare morning off for him during tourist season. Even though it was early May, he still had plenty to do getting his business ready for the busier months to come. Whether he was out blueprinting a new tour, navigating old ones and looking for changes in the land over the past year, or taking out some of the early season clients, Tack’s long hours had already started. 

He’d planned a trip into Kenai for this morning, but when the eldest Grant sister had phoned to ask for his help, he hadn’t even considered saying no. 

He might be a MacKinnon, but everyone pitched in to help the Grant sisters. The last of that particular founding family still living in Cailkirn, they were as close to town royalty as anyone was ever going to get. 

While Alma Winter was no longer technically a Grant, she was still considered one of “The Grant Sisters” just as her sister-in-law, Moya Grant, was. Both elderly women had lost their husbands before Tack had even been born. The final sister, Elspeth Grant had never married. 

And was one of the most vigilant matchmakers in all of Alaska. 

“Oh, thank you, Tack. You’re such a good boy.” Miss Elspeth smiled at him from the wide porch. “You’ll stay for some tea, won’t you?” 

“Of course, Miss Elspeth.” It was getting late to make the trip into Kenai and be back in time for his afternoon tour anyway. “A man would have to be a fool to turn down your shortbread cookies.” 

Miss Elspeth went pink with pleasure. “Maggie Grant brought the recipe from the Old Country and it hasn’t changed in nearly two centuries. Our dear grandmother passed it down to me even though Alma is the oldest.” 

“My da won’t admit it, but they’re even better than my gran’s shortbread.” Tack grinned up at the elderly spinster. “I’d appreciate it if you didn’t mention that to Gran MacKinnon though.” 

Miss Elspeth laughed, the sound soft and youthful despite being closer to seventy than sixty. “Your secret is safe with me. I’ve got a secret of my own you know.” 

“From who?” 

“Everyone. I haven’t even told Moya,” she finished in a conspiratorial whisper. 



That surprised him. The two elderly ladies had been best friends before they became sisters via marriage and were extremely close. Usually, what one knew, so did the other — and both delighted in knowing something Miz Alma did not. 

The childlike delight in Miss Elspeth’s faded blue eyes made him smile. “Are you going to tell me?” 

“You know, I think I just might.” She nodded, her straight red hair fluttering in the breeze. “Yes. You deserve it; you take such good care of us.” 

Tack knew better than to push the older woman, but he was curious. Any secret Miss Elspeth considered worth keeping would be interesting, to say the least. 

Some might the think the Grant sisters were a few crayons shy of a full box. What with all three of them still dying their hair red, claiming to be a good twenty years younger than they were and wearing fancy hats to church every Sunday. 

Then there was the way they Miz Moya talked to the ghost of her deceased husband, in company. All three of the sister were convinced their home-turned-bed-and-breakfast was haunted by the first Maggie Grant. 

Still, Tack liked them. 

No one in the town loved Cailkirn more or was more dedicated to the town’s thriving. 

None of them wanted it to turn into another Anchorage, or even Fairbanks, but Cailkirn was less than a decade shy of its two hundredth birthday. He and the Grant sisters shared the need to know it would celebrate that centennial and many more. 

Miss Elspeth had fussed Tack’s muscular six and a half foot frame into a sturdy wooden chair at her kitchen table and put the kettle on before she returned to her secret. “Someone’s coming home and I bet you’ll never guess who.” 

Tack didn’t want to steal Miss Elspeth’s thunder. So, he didn’t tell her that he’d heard rumors of Rock Jepsom’s younger brother coming. Carey and a bunch of his friends had booked into the Northern Lights Lodge. With twenty guest rooms, it was the only thing resembling a hotel in, or around Cailkirn. 

The vast majority of Cailkirn’s tourist income came from the more than half a million guests from the cruise ships that docked daily in their ports May thru September. Day only visitors, they had no need for local lodgings. 

In a bid for town harmony, Tack did his best to share the MacKinnon Bros. Tours clients between the lodge run by the Sutherlands and the Grant sisters’ B&B. Thankfully the different types of accommodations appealed to different types of his “Enjoy the Real Alaska Experience” clients. 

“Who’s coming for a visit, Miss Elspeth?” 

“Oh, she’s not coming for a visit. She’s coming home to stay. I always knew she would, no matter what Alma said. Sean would have too, if he and Gina hadn’t been in that terrible accident.” 

The mention of Miz Moya’s dead son and daughter-in-law sent a frisson of foreboding through Tack. “She?” he asked in sepulcher tones. 

Miss Elspeth could not mean who he thought she did. Granddaughter to Miz Moya, Kitty…Caitlin please…Barston was married to a mover and shaker in the City of Lights. She hadn’t stepped foot in Alaska since dropping out of college to marry Cain Barston eight years ago. 

No way was she coming home to Cailkirn. Unlike Tack, her former best friend and the fool who’d loved her too much and too long, the petite redhead hated Alaska. She especially despised life in the small town that her parents had fought so hard to leave behind. 

“Yes, my niece.” Miss Elspeth put her hands together as if in prayer. “Kitty’s coming home.” 

Tack took a big gulp of tea and then choked as he tried not to spit it out in shock at its scalding heat. 

Miss Elspeth was up patting his back before he realized she’d crossed the kitchen. “Are you all right Tack? You work too hard. You need to take a day off.” 

He didn’t mention that today, or at least that morning was supposed to be exactly that. Doing so would be churlish and there was something truly wrong about being grumpy with a Grant sister. Even after she announced the woman that had broken Tack’s heart and abandoned their friendship for the acceptance of people like Cain Barston was coming home. 

Moving home. 

“What about Barston?” 

“She divorced him.” There was something in Miss Elspeth’s tone. 

Grief. Anger. Satisfaction. 

It was all there. 

“I didn’t realize they were having problems.” 

“Well, it’s not as if you listen to talk about her. You practically run from the room when Kitty is mentioned.” 

“I do not.” Though probably? He did. 

She’d been the love of his life and she’d never seen him as more than a disposable friend. 

“Well, that is neither here nor there. Kitty always said everything was fine, but we could see there were difficulties. She lost her spark, our Kitty. She also lost so much weight she looked like a skeleton.” Miss Elspeth had maintained the trim figure of her Miss Alaska days, but she’d never been rail thin like so many of the women he’d met in Los Angeles. 

“That’s not all that abnormal for LA, Miss Elspeth.” He didn’t like the thought that Kitty’s blue eyes had lost their shine though. 

Her summer sky gaze, so different from his dark one, had been the first thing his six year old self had noticed about the new girl in school. Pale with tiny freckles, she’d been so different than a boy who took his coloring from his Inuit mother. He’d been mesmerized by that difference and she’d never lost her fascination for him. 

Which was why he’d never allowed himself to stick around when people were talking about her. The only way to sever his Kitty addiction had been to cut off all ties to her, just like she’d cut off all ties to him. 

“If you’d seen her, you wouldn’t say that. When she called from the hospital, she weighed ninety-three pounds.” 

Pain pierced Tack’s heart, though he’d never acknowledge it. “That can’t be right.” 

Sure Kitty had lost some weight once they moved to California to attend USC, but she’d been healthy the last time Tack saw her. Curves in all the right places, she might have been a little thin for his taste. She’d still turned him on like no other woman ever had. Kitty hadn’t been bone-protruding skinny by any stretch. 

Miss Elspeth sat down with her own cup of tea, her expression somber. “Our Kitty almost died and we weren’t there. Moya went though, after our girl called. She stayed with Kitty for six weeks. You remember?” 

“Yes.” It had been the previous winter. 

Despite her lifelong and very vocal lack of desire to ever visit the Lower 48, Miz Moya had said she was going south for the sunshine. Tack had thought it odd, but chalked it up to the elderly woman missing her only grandchild. 

“Kitty said that’s why she’d had so many broken bones over the last couple of years. They’d gotten brittle she said.” Miss Elspeth frowned. “Grant bones don’t go brittle. We’re hardy stock. My grandfather lived to be ninety and Gran another twelve years after that. Neither had a single bone break in all those years.” 

“Kitty broke something?” Tack asked in disbelief. 

She’d gotten into more scrapes as a kid, always taking risks. He could remember the tumble she’d taken when they’d been hiking on Resurrection Pass when they were twelve. It had about stopped his heart, but she hadn’t so much as gotten a hairline fracture. 

“More than one something. She didn’t break her wrist, crack two of her ribs or her clavicle bone bumping into walls, no matter how brittle her bones.” 

Bile rose in Tack’s throat. “Cain Barston beat her?” 

Elspeth’s lips thinned in a sad line. “Kitty never said so, but that man destroyed our girl.” 

“She’s coming home now, though.” Tack just didn’t understand why, if it had been that bad, Kitty hadn’t come back a long time ago. 

Or at the very least last spring when a pretty subdued Miz Moya had returned to Cailkirn. She’d stayed in California another full year by his reckoning. 

Was her dislike for their small town life so strong she’d rather live with a monster than come back to it? 

Miss Elspeth reached out and patted Tack’s hand, her smile belied by the tears sparkling in her faded blue eyes. “You’re right. She is moving home. And it’s going to be all right.“ 

Tack rose from the table and gave the older woman a gentle but firm hug. “Of course it will.” 

Tack had more doubts on that front than he’d had since bringing his broken heart home to Cailkirn seven years ago, but he wouldn’t voice them. 

He’d transferred to Idaho State after the summer Kitty got engaged to Cain Barston and graduated with a degree in Outdoor Education two years later. He’d come home to an offer from his father and Granddad MacKinnon to help finance Tack’s dream of starting a wilderness guide business back in Cailkirn. 

Their only proviso had been he take Egan his brother into the business as well, once he’d gotten training. Tack had agreed without reservation. Even thought he was four years younger, next to Kitty Grant, Egan had been Tack’s best friend. 

Kitty had dropped out of USC her junior year in favor of her MRS and moved on to bigger and brighter things. 

Or so he’d thought. 

Tack could not believe the vibrant girl who had sparked every one of his fantasies since his first sexual thought had stayed with a man who abused her. That she’d let herself get so dangerously underweight. 

He didn’t know what had gone on in that marriage, but it didn’t sound like Kitty’s plans to get away from their small town had worked out the way she’d expected them to. 

Troubled, Tack left Miss Elspeth in her immaculately clean kitchen after promising to return to the B&B for dinner with the sisters that evening. 

It was their customary way of showing gratitude. Since Miz Moya was one of the best cooks on the Kenai and Miss Elspeth was equal in her baking, most Cailkirn residents considered such an invitation a pretty nice thank you. 

Keyed up by the idea of returning to Cailkirn for the first time in almost a decade, Caitlin walked behind Joey and his mother toward baggage claim. 

When they arrived a huge man stepped forward stopping the mother and son’s progress. Like a lot of Alaskan men, particular those who lived outside of the major cities, he had facial hair. However, he had it neatly trimmed close to his face. Even so, it was longer than the close cropped beard and mustache Tack MacKinnon wore, which looked like a perpetual five o’clock shadow, but was a lot less bristly. The only beard Caitlin had ever found appealing. 

And why she’d already started thinking about Tack, Caitlin didn’t know. She’d callously jettisoned the man from her life, betraying years of friendship. She doubted Tack would have the time of day for her anymore, much less be interested in renewing their acquaintance. 

There would be no healing of that particular self-inflicted wound in her heart. Considering how stomped on and shredded that organ had been over the past years, Kitty was surprised at the level of regret that thought elicited in her.

She’d pretty much decided her heart was beyond fixing. And the last thing she needed was the vulnerability of any kind of relationship, even friendship. 

Pushing aside her own disturbed thoughts, Caitlin couldn’t help noticing the way Joey and his mother reacted to the man who was so clearly there to meet them. Joey was staring up at the man in rapt fascination, but his mother appeared as nauseated as she had on the plane, her gaze shadowed by trepidation. 

“Is this my new daddy?” Joey asked with the keen interest and innocence of a small boy. 

The man having the looks of a modern day Cossack, the mother with the accent and delicate pale features of a Southern belle and the little boy with short nappy hair and skin the color of coffee with just a dash of cream, the small family embodied the diversity so much a part of her home state. 

The man stared down at the boy for several seconds of tense silence. Then he addressed the woman. “Savannah Marie?” 


“You didn’t say you had a child.” 

“You didn’t ask.” 

He turned abruptly and started walking. 

Savannah’s shoulder’s slumped, the defeat in her posture too familiar for Caitlin to ignore it. 

Not that she’d let her sense of despondency show like this woman, but Caitlin had felt it too long and too deeply not to recognize it in another human being. 

She reached out to touch Savannah’s shoulder and offer help, though heaven knew Caitlin wasn’t anyone’s idea of a hero. 

However before her hand connected the man turned back with a brusque, “Aren’t you coming? You’ll need to point out your bags for me. We’ve got to get on the road. The drive to Cailkirn from here isn’t short.” 

The Southern woman’s sigh of relief and whispered, “Thank God,” got to Caitlin in a way that nothing else had in a long time. 

Before she could talk herself out of it, she let her hand fall on Savannah’s shoulder, causing the other woman to stop and turn to face Caitlin. “Pardon?” 

“You’re going to Cailkirn?” Caitlin forced herself to ask. 

The other woman’s grey gaze reflected the mix of emotions Caitlin had heard in her voice a moment ago as well as confusion. “I think so?” 

Caitlin nodded. “Come on then. Let’s get our bags. We’re going to the same place and I’m going to ask your…friend,” she settled on, uncertain what the relationship was at this point. “Into giving me a ride.” 

“Oh, I don’t know…” 

“Don’t worry. I won’t take up a lot of room.” Caitlin winked, proud of herself for making the comment without feeling the shame that usually accompanied any reference to her body. 


“He won’t mind. It’s an Alaskan thing. Neighbors help neighbors. Especially in the small towns, but nowhere more than in Cailkirn.” 

They reached the luggage carousel and the bearded man. 

“Caitlin Grant.” She put her hand out to him. “I’m headed to the Knit and Pearl B&B. I would really appreciate a ride if you’ve got room.” 

“Nikolai Vasov.” He shook Caitlin’s hand. “I know the Grant sisters.” 

Caitlin gave Nikolai the polite expression that she’d perfected in her years with Cain. “I’m not surprised. Most people in Cailkirn do.” 

Her grandmother and great-aunts had lived in the small town on the Kenai Peninsula their entire lives. With her grandfather and Great-uncle Teddy gone, the three elderly ladies shared the spacious Victorian house that had been built on the original Grant homestead more than a hundred years ago — after the family had amassed sufficient wealth. 

As far as Caitlin knew, her Aunt Elspeth had never lived anywhere else and her grandmother had lived in the Grant home since her marriage to Uncle Ardal forty years ago. Aunt Alma had moved back into the big house after Teddy Winter’s death a few years after the turn of the century. 

It was a couple of years after the oldest Grant sister moved in that the sisters decided to turn the house into a bed and breakfast. Caitlin had been preparing to go away to college and her grandmother and aunts claimed they needed something to keep them busy. 

“You are a relation?” Nikolai asked. 

“Moya is my grandmother.” Caitlin didn’t recognize Nikolai, but he looked a little like the Vasov boy who had been a couple of years ahead of her and Tack in school. “Are you related to Alexi Vasov?” 

“He’s my cousin.” 

She nodded, vaguely remembering talk about Alexi’s uncle. Peder Vasov had left Cailkirn right after high school just like Caitlin’s parents. Somehow, both their children had ended up back in the town settled by Scots and Russians, integrating a small Inuit village along the way to incorporated town status. 

Sudden clarity washed over Nikolai’s expression. “You are Kitty. You grew up in Cailkirn.” 

“Since I was six, yes.” Since the devastating death of both her parents. “Gran Moya and her sisters raised me. Uncle Teddy too.” 

His death had hurt almost as much as that of her parents. 

Every single one of her older caregivers had loved Cailkirn with a passion she’d never been able to match. 

The only thing Caitlin had ever wanted was to get out. Out of Cailkirn. Out of Alaska. Away from the pain of loss she associated with living there. 

She’d made it, only to learn that the world outside was cruel and demoralizing. 

Nikolai had the look of a man who might have figured that out too, even if he’d originally called the Lower 48 home. 

He nodded his head abruptly. “We’ll make room for you.” 

He didn’t ask how much luggage she had. It wasn’t the Cailkirn way. He might not have been born there, but he’d apparently lived there long enough to learn it. 

Caitlin turned to Savannah and her son. “I should introduce myself to you too, I think. I’m Caitlin Grant and you can find me at the Knit & Pearl Bed and Breakfast. You and your son will always be welcome.” 

Though she was probably the last woman who should be trying to offer hope and help to someone else, Caitlin couldn’t seem to stop herself. 

“I’m Joseph, but everybody calls me Joey,” the little dark-haired boy offered while his mother stood in apparent shock. 

Caitlin shook his hand and didn’t tell him she’d heard his name on the plane. “It’s very nice to meet you, Joseph. I’ll call you Joey if you like.” 

“Yes.” He stared at his mom, clearly waiting for her to say something. 

The other woman offered her hand. “My name is Savannah…” she cast a sidelong glance at Nickolai. 

He gazed back, his expression impenetrable. 

Savannah took a deep breath. “Vasov. I’m Savannah Vasov.” 

Caitlin schooled her features not to show her shock. She hadn’t heard of a proxy marriage since she was a teenager, but what else could this be? With Nikolai not knowing about Joey and Savannah showing such uncertainty about the use of her last name. 

In a state where the male population outnumbered females of marriageable age especially, long distance relationships were not uncommon. Marriages brought about through a third party weren’t unheard of either. 

Heck, they happened in the Lower 48 too. The matchmaking entities were an ingrained part of American life now. Entire reality shows were dedicated to the concept of matchmaking and selective pool dating with the endgame being a marriage. 

Proxy marriages were a lot less common though, to the point of being almost unheard of. Oh, they happened, most commonly among active duty military though. 

They were only legal in six states, California being one of them — which explained how Savannah and Nik had managed to marry by proxy. It wasn’t a legal practice for an Alaskan based marriage ceremony. 

Though foreign brides marrying American men by proxy was still an active practice. Caitlin had known more than one beautiful Eastern European or Asian woman back in LA who had married her wealthy, but otherwise unremarkable middle aged husband, by proxy. It had worked out beautifully for some and not so well for others. 

But then Caitlin’s marriage had been its own horror story. She was the last person to judge another woman for the criteria by which she made her choices.

Regardless, the strong suspicion that Savannah had agreed to such an arrangement only told Caitlin how desperate the other woman had to have been.

About The Author:
With more than 7 million copies of her books in print worldwide, award winning and USA Today bestseller Lucy Monroe has published over 60 books and had her stories translated for sale all over the world.  While she writes multiple subgenres of romance, all of her books are sexy, deeply emotional and adhere to the concept that love will conquer all.  A passionate devotee of romance, she adores sharing her love for the genre with her readers.