The Lock (Dark Path #3)

Final Cover The Lock

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The dark path continues for Erika and Max as secrets unfold and threaten to destroy all they hold dear…

Erika Walsh’s every dream has come true. She’s received both critical and public acclaim for her best-selling erotic romance, and has chosen the magnetic millionaire and BDSM club owner Maxwell Crawford as the keeper of her heart. Although, her former crush Chris Milton still refuses to accept her decision. As she plans her wedding to Max, she’s confronted with his past and the many secrets he’s kept under lock and key –for good reason.

When Max’s older brother, Daniel, a big Hollywood producer falls ill, Erika and Max rush to Los Angeles to help him recover. Max is shocked to find Daniel has become the victim of a blackmailer who seeks revenge against the brothers. Max must confront the loathsome Abraham Rovner, a former classmate from high school, who has never forgiven him for breaking off their relationship.

Abraham brings out Max’s lurking deviant nature, which sends him to a dark place in his mind. Erika must find the strength to help her lover purge his demons, even though it may come at a major cost for them both.

 

Excerpt:

“What if I say no?” She captured his finger in her mouth and bit down hard. He cursed and fisted the front of her dress, making her rise before him.

“You’re not allowed to say no.” He stroked the center of her throat.

“But you can use your safeword.”

She sucked on his finger to soothe the pain she’d inflicted, letting it drop out of her mouth. He traced her lips with his damp finger, waiting for her answer. Impatience flared in his eyes.

“Do you give me your punishment at The Gate and make me an example, or do we stay here and keep it private?” She dropped her hand over his still clutching her dress. His grip was like iron, rock hard and immovable.

“It’s for my pleasure alone and no one else’s. Let me share this with you and all is forgiven.”

His use of the word ‘share’ put her more at ease. She didn’t know why she held off so long. Many engaged in anal sex with a loving partner. But for some reason that position felt too invasive and incredibly naughty. It was the final frontier in this sexual odyssey with Max. Time to take the jump. With Max the consequences would be well worth it.

“Take me then, Master.” She dipped her head in submission.

A loud inhale from Max came from above her head. He wrapped an arm around her and hugged her as he escorted her to the bedroom they shared. With each step and brush of fabric, the flesh of her buttocks prickled with the reminder of his handprint. Her inner thighs were already coated with her prerelease, her inner core expanding in anticipation for what was to come.

When they entered the bedroom, he shut the door. He ran his hands down her arms and then finally claimed her mouth in a kiss. With only their lips touching, their tongues joined together, curling and lapping around one another. She tasted the succulence Max radiated, always thirsty for him and what he gave her.

He broke off the kiss first, his chest heaving. Circling her, he viewed her for his pleasure, a proud display of his ownership.

“Take off everything,” he ordered then turned on the stereo.

Pink Floyd filled the room. He loved playing the progressive rock band when they made love, specifically when he experimented with different toys and positions that would take her to the heights of pleasure she had yet to explore. She would lose count of the amount of times she came, always ending up a sweaty quivering mess on the verge of blacking out from the explosive sensations he pushed her to accept. Now she would accept another forbidden taboo.

She left her dress, bra, and underwear on the floor and waited for his next instruction. He lit a few candles on the dresser and on the end table, casting a tranquil glow in the room. The drapes were half open, the lights of the buildings near them joining in. He then got undressed, taking his time, unlike her. He stripped in front of her, purposely displaying his provocative assets hiding under his suit, making her more hot and bothered.

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Burning For You (Lovestruck #2)

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(reprint from 2011. Newly edited and revised)

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Patrick Medcaff is a thirty-something blue collar worker trying to make ends meet in Manhattan. He dreams of owning a condo, and in order to do that he has to work a part-time job along with his full time job as a handyman at the ritzy St. Jennings hotel. Patrick will be the newest addition to the New York City College janitorial staff where he is introduced to the shark looking handsome Dean of the Economics department, Christian Jennings.

When Christian and Patrick meet, sparks fly between the two. Patrick thinks nothing can come out of their attraction because Christian is a college graduate who comes from an affluent family made of money, while he barely has two pennies to rub together. Christian, on the other hand, can’t get Patrick off his mind, and will prove that although they are opposites in every way, their desires for one another can’t be ignored.

Soon these two are embarking on a secret love affair. But when an ex-boyfriend of Patrick’s comes back to claim him, Christian will do whatever he can to keep Patrick as his own.

 

Excerpt…

“Let me be blunt here. What the hell is going on, Jennings? Is this the wine talking, or are you just horny and need some random guy to get you off?”

Christian frowned and removed his hand. “I take offense at that. I’m not trolling some bathhouse looking to get my rocks off. You can’t deny there’s something going on between us. I felt it when we met in my office.”

“I think it’s the wine talking. I’m not available for what you want. I don’t have…. Listen, I just ended a bad relationship and I’m not ready for another. Okay?”

Christian gave him a pointed stare and raised an eyebrow. “Really? I think it’s an excuse. You can’t tell me you don’t feel our attraction for each other.”

Patrick was at a loss for words. He was ready to explode, and his heart was racing. And it didn’t help that Christian kept looking at him like he wanted to lick him from head and toe. When Christian moved forward and inserted his knee near his crotch, Patrick couldn’t take it any longer. He needed to leave before he reached across the table and started kissing the life out of this man who made him feel way off center.

“I need to go to the bathroom.” He slid out of the booth. Christian held out his hand, but he moved away before Christian could stop him. As he made his way to the bathroom, he spotted the exit door through which Tonya had made her escape.

He pushed the door open and strode out to a dark alley. Seeing no one, he ducked behind an out-of-order phone booth and leaned against the brick wall. He closed his eyes, took some deep breaths, and cupped his crotch. The slight cool autumn air ruffled his hair. He couldn’t believe he was actually considering it, but maybe if he took a few minutes to he make himself come, he’d be more in control around Christian.

He opened his eyes when he heard the back door open and the muffled sounds of music. The door closed with a bang, and footsteps shuffled over the pavement.

“Patrick?”

There was no use in keeping quiet. Christian would find him soon enough. “Over here.”

“Are you feeling well?” Christian stood in front of him.

He sighed. “How did you know I was out here?”

“I watched you leave. Are you feeling okay?” Christian gave his shoulder a light squeeze.

He swallowed as Christian’s thumb brushed over his collar bone. “I’m not feeling too hot.”

Christian’s licked his bottom lip. “I think I know what can make you feel better.

“What I need is—”

Christian pressed his mouth against Patrick’s and slid his tongue inside. Patrick gasped and spread his fingers across the lean chest. Christian responded by pressing him into the side of the old, rusted phone booth. His knee went between Patrick’s legs and bumped against his groin.

Oh my God. He’s kissing me!

Christian swiped the inside of his mouth with his tongue. “Kiss me back, damn it,” he ordered and bit down on Patrick’s bottom lip.

“We shouldn’t be doing this,” Patrick whispered as Christian rubbed up against him.

“Just…a few…minutes. Okay?” Christian said between eager kisses.

Ah, why not? He inhaled, wrapped his arms around the older man, and stuck out his tongue to play with Christian’s.

Posted in Burning For You, KT Grant, KT Grant Books

50 Shades of Pink

“I knew that I couldn’t lie beside her, without wanting to touch her. I couldn’t have felt her breath come upon my mouth, without wanting to kiss her. And I couldn’t have kissed her, without wanting to save her.” ― Sarah Waters

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Lesbian Romantic Thriller

Available from Riverdale Avenue Books for $6.99. Click here to purchase

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Blurb: Living in Manhattan and working at Virago, one of the most successful women’s magazines in the nation is a dream come true for Lindsay Pinke. After five years of being overworked and underpaid in the research department, she’s finally noticed by Colette Duarte, the provocative executive editor of the magazine. She offers Lindsay the coveted role as her personal assistant, but first she must prove she’s worthy of the position. Lindsay must interview Victoria Nox, the elusive and extremely private CEO of Nox Media Holdings. If Lindsay succeeds, Colette promises her great things for her publishing career. If Lindsay fails, her chance as a respected writer will be cut short.

A chance meeting with Victoria at a high class function puts into motion a series of events that leaves Lindsay blindsided by her strong physical reaction to the magnetic but foreboding woman. When Lindsay unwittingly falls into Victoria’s world of dark temptations and complex entanglements, she leans the shocking truth Victoria hides about Colette that rocks Lindsay to her very core.

Now that Lindsay has become a balm on Victoria’s soul, is she strong enough to help Victoria confront her shameful past, and stop one woman’s sick games once and for all?

 

Excerpt: The first time our heroine, Lindsay meets the mysterious Victoria Nox….

Victoria Nox reminded me of a queen staring down at her subjects. She wore a floor length navy evening dress with a long slit up the right side of her leg. Her hair was piled high on top of her head. Her ears were bare, but she wore a pearl necklace and a matching pearl bracelet on her right wrist. A slight curl to her upper lip matched her severe expression.

I wanted to look away but I couldn’t. Her austere poise came naturally, as if engrained into her. But the depths I sought in her eyes showed a wearisome burden.

I regained my composure and stood tall, the long waves of my hair, brushing the slope of my back, almost like a caress as I displayed myself to her view. She curled her hand around her throat and licked her lips, the chandelier overhead giving them a shine.

I had never had such a visceral reaction to another person before. I backed away, blinking, finally breaking the hold she had over me.

She stared past me and a sour frown marred her face.

I jerked when Colette pressed her face to mine, her breath warm under my ear. “This is the chance you’ve been waiting for. Go for it.” She nudged me toward the stairs and then walked away with Mr. Carlisle down the hall.

I peered back up at the spot where I first had spotted Victoria. She was gone.

***

I didn’t search for Victoria right away. I was still shaken by my reaction to the woman in the provocative dress that had me swoon just by thinking about it. I needed a moment to myself, before I gained the courage to talk to the alluring woman.

I grabbed another drink and went inside the auction room. A small stage had been set up near the front, and rows of chairs filled the middle. Baskets and cards on tables lined the walls. People inspected the baskets overflowing with expensive items, decorated with bows or bright ribbons. Most jotted down a number with many zeroes on the paper in front of the baskets indicating how much they were willing to pay in order to claim the pricey items. Some baskets displayed beautiful jewelry or high-end makeup and perfume. Some showcased pictures of expensive cars. One basket even had a yacht up for grabs.

The basket I liked the most was a month-long stay at a villa in Italy. It had always been my dream to go to Europe. But my lack of savings stopped my dream from coming true.

I checked the last bid and whistled. “The only way I can afford this trip is if I sell my soul or give up my first born,” I mumbled and gulped down the rest of my drink.

“What’s the going rate for your soul and future first born?” A woman with a slightly sardonic tone asked right behind me.

“Way too much.” I shifted to the side to allow the woman to check out the basket.

“Some here are willing to give up their souls for no money at all,” the woman replied with more of a bite in her voice.

I took a deep breath and faced Victoria Nox.

“Um, hi,” I said, and waved.

The way she scanned my face, with what I could only describe as loathing, made my stomach flip, but not in a good way. She was one unhappy woman.

“You don’t belong here.”

I pitched back, not accustomed to such anger. She acted like I had offended her in some way.

“I belong here as much as you do. I was invited.”

“You came with Colette.” She gave me some space, and I swore she shuddered.

“Yes, she’s my boss.” This was what I’d been waiting for, even though the tension coming off this woman made me want to hightail it from the room. “I’m Lindsay Pinke, her new personal assistant, but it hasn’t been made official—”

“They keep getting younger,” she said, as if I wasn’t standing right in front of her.

This wasn’t the kind of interaction I’d expected. Was Victoria having a bad day or was she always this rude? Maybe I had offended her with my selling my soul or my first born comment. What if she donated the prize? That must be it!

“If you donated the trip to Italy, I didn’t mean to be rude. I was joking. I’m sorry if my comment upset you,” I said, hoping my apology would mollify her anger.

“I’m not upset because of that.” Her face was void of any emotion, including her animosity toward me, but her stare turned more penetrating, as if she were trying to look straight inside me for answers.

“Rough day then? You should have a drink. The champagne is delicious.” I shook my half-empty glass.

Her lips twitched and a smile almost appeared. “Are you really this clueless?”

Now that stung. I had a feeling speaking with her would be uncomfortable, but I wasn’t expecting such unpleasantness. I must have really rubbed her the wrong way. If she was going to continue insulting me, I wasn’t going to take it, no matter how much I wanted the assistant job.

“Why do you think I’m clueless? You don’t know anything about me.”

Her eyes lit up but there wasn’t any warmth in them. “Colette always has a new girl do her dirty work for her. How old are you, baby?”

I set the glass down before I threw the rest of my drink in her face. ‘Baby’ wasn’t used as a term of endearment here. But I wouldn’t lose my temper or walk away defeated by this condescending woman who acted as if the entire world should bow down to her.

“I’m only seven years younger than you, so calling me an infant is ridiculous, don’t you think, Miss Nox?” I folded my arms behind my back but I lost the grip on my purse and it fell to the floor. Everything inside tumbled out.

Shoot. I bent down to retrieve my things, wishing the ground would swallow me up. At least I didn’t carry anything embarrassing like tampons, but a small scrap paper I had jotted some notes on landed on top of Victoria’s feet. She snatched the paper and scanned it with a critical eye.

I rose to my feet, waiting for her to mock me over what I had written. Instead, humor flashed across her face.

“You wrote down various ways to introduce yourself to me?” she asked, perplexed.

Shrugging, I held out my hand for the paper. “You’re my first high profile interview. I wanted to be prepared.”

She didn’t give back the paper. She folded it into a neat square and slipped it inside her small bag. She then revealed a glossy square. “Take it.”

I took the card. It was a business card with her title and phone number and address to her office.

“Why did you give me your card?” I asked, utterly confused.

“I’m curious why Colette chose you this time.”

“This time?” I shook my head, not understanding at all.

Victoria stepped forward. I shifted back against the wall, feeling slightly claustrophobic as she invaded my space, almost towering over me. If I lowered my face, my nose would touch the top of her breasts. From my current view, she used those to her advantage.

“She throws her writers at me all the time. They think they’ll catch their big break if they interview me for her stupid magazine.”

Her bitter sounding snicker gave me goose bumps, but not in a good way. Still, I remained frozen, watching her chest rise with each breath she took.

“You’re not like the others. You’re too unsophisticated and untouched by the real world. So, I’m going to throw you a bone. Meet me at my office on Monday morning at nine. If you’re more than a minute late, our talk will be over even before it can begin.”

“When you mean ‘talk,’ you mean an official interview, right?” I asked, breathless and a little overheated.

“We’ll see how it goes.”

She stepped back, allowing me to catch my breath. I wasn’t one for confrontation, and this one tested my limits and then some. But I’d made headway with this haughty woman, who stared at me with a combination of puzzlement and animosity.

She lowered her gaze to my feet. A small, but mocking smile appeared. “Next time choose a softer color for your nails. The color doesn’t suit you, Miss Pinky. It’s too garish for your skin tone.”

“It’s Pink with a silent ‘e’,” I said, flexing my toes.

She didn’t respond. She twisted on her heel without a goodbye and left the room.

Before I collapsed from the tension in my lower back and knees, I used the wall for support, overcome with dizziness. I hurried through the crowd of people to find the bathroom before I had an accident. Then I’d clap myself on the back for my victory.

A victory that left me completely flustered.

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The New Year’s Fantasy

New Years Fantasy cover

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(Contemporary Romance featuring a forty-four year old hairy chested firefighter hero and a thirty-one year old school teacher heroine whose one night stand on New Year’s Eve becomes much more…)

(Connected to The Christmas Fantasy)

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Synopsis: Seven years ago, the once overweight Jessica Mulligan made a pact with her best friend that ended up changing her life for the better. Now sixty pounds lighter, Jessica’s self-confidence has soared, but her longtime firefighter crush still won’t notice her.

What she doesn’t count on is catching the eye of his boss, the much older and handsome Captain Douglass Finley, who thinks she’s perfect in so many ways…

Three years ago, Doug Finley’s life took a turn for the worse when his wife admitted to an affair with their next door neighbor. Other than the possibility of a promotion to Deputy Fire Commissioner, the only thing he looks forward to is weekends with his eleven-year-old daughter. With his forty-fifth birthday around the corner, his love life is in the toilet. The ritzy New Year’s Eve bash he has been roped into feels like torture, until he spies a vision of beauty eating chocolate covered strawberries like she’s making love to them…and all he can think about is making love to her.

When Jessica admits she never had an orgasm, he’s determined to give her the ultimate New Year’s fantasy she’ll never forget.

But can he convince her they belong together for longer than one night?

Excerpt (the first time Doug and Jessica meet)…

The bartender set down a fresh scotch in front of him. Shoving aside all thoughts of love, he lifted the glass. A flash of light from someone’s camera went off next to him, blinding him for a moment. He blinked and turned away, this time facing the windows. A few feet away, a woman sat alone at a table, eating strawberries—or rather, she made love to them with her mouth.

He lowered his glass, afraid he would choke on his drink. This woman, a good ten years younger than him, with long, rich copper hair framing her scantily clad chest, kept her eyes closed as she devoured a strawberry covered in white chocolate. Her tongue swept along her bottom lip, swiping away the remains of any juice and chocolate she left behind. When a bit of chocolate landed on her chest, right above the globe of her breast, she gasped, dabbing at her skin with a napkin.

Blood rushed to his cock, and his balls swelled. He licked his lips, imagining how soft her flesh must be and how incredible she would taste, both sweet and salty at the same time. He shifted to relieve the pressure in his dick. He should stop staring before his arousal became noticeable, but he couldn’t. This stunning vision was a feast for the eyes.

The beauty peered around her as she finished her erotic daubing, a sheen of red highlighting her cheeks. She then swirled another strawberry through a puddle of white on her plate, bringing it to her mouth and biting down, her lips puckering as she did.

His breath hitched, and his pulse lambasted his eardrums. The end of the beauty’s hair tickled her nipple. The bead of flesh covered by the sequined fabric stiffened before his eyes. He’d never seen a woman turned on by eating fruit!

I’m a dirty old man. Catching the object of his inspection staring right back at him, he shifted his gaze away. She flicked her hair over her shoulders, giving him a wider view of her cleavage that would make any man drool. An amused light came into her eyes as she studied him, zeroing in on his crotch.

She can’t be looking at…. No way. He chuckled, letting her get her fill. It was only right since he’d been the voyeur first.

She twirled a strawberry around in the air. She then popped it in her mouth and winked. He laughed.

Thankful she wasn’t insulted by his peeping, he grabbed his glass and approached the table, hoping she wouldn’t tell him to get lost. He concentrated on her lips, plump and lush, as if she’d just been given a lusty kiss. He cleared his throat. “You like strawberries.”

Her forehead knitted in confusion.

What the fuck is wrong with me? Of course she likes strawberries! He grimaced at his lame statement, wishing he had a rewind button. He waited for her to roll her eyes or even get up and leave.

With an impish smile, she pushed the plate toward him. “I do love them. Want a taste?”

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This Time Now

This Time Now cover

Lesbian New Adult Novella. Only .99 cents:

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Twenty-three year old, Amanda Barkley works as a kindergarten teacher and part time server at Sisco’s, the most popular bar in town where most of the bands who perform there go on to become some of the biggest names in music.

One day a blast from Amanda’s past arrives back in town. Her former next door neighbor, Billie Layne, one of the biggest rock stars of the decade has returned home. The one person she wants to see most of all is Amanda who she hasn’t talked to since she left six years ago after a big fight between them. When Billie was offered a recording contract, but had to move to California to accept, she wanted Amanda to come with her. Amanda was more than willing to follow Billie anywhere, but then her mother almost died in a car accident and is paralyzed, never to walk again. Amanda refused to leave her mother’s side. Billie left without a backward glance.

Now that Billie is back, she wants to renew their friendship in the hopes they can become lovers again. Billie will do whatever she can to get Amanda back, even though Amanda fights knowing Billie could break her heart and leave her again for the promise of even bigger stardom.

 

Excerpt…

The back patio stank of stale cigarettes. This was where the majority of the smokers snuck off to. I really didn’t mind the smell. I was used to it. Currently, this area was empty, and I could understand why. It was like a sauna out there. But the abundance of clouds in the sky promised rain tomorrow. By then, the week-long heat wave should be over.

I sat down in one of the plastic chairs and tucked my hair back into a clip, trying to calm my nerves and not think of Billie, who probably searched for me. I laughed and rolled my eyes. Why would she want to talk to me after all this time? Too many years had gone by without any form of communication between us.

Wiping my damp face with the back of my hand, I bit back a curse. I hated this heat, and I hated sweating. This weather did a number on my dirty-blonde hair, too, making it frizzy and unmanageable. But at least it had some naturally lighter shades mixed in that make it look professionally highlighted. I had that going for me, unlike my stubby legs and cankles. I took a swig of water, silently grumbling about my ugly, fatty, aching ankles. Some of the water missed my mouth, dripped down my chin, and dampened my top.

“Great,” I sighed. I usually spilled something on my shirt or jeans at some point during the evening. At least it wasn’t beer or rum. And I’d been puked on before. Too many times to count.

The door opened and sounds of loud voices and music broke through the quiet. When the door slammed shut, I glanced up and exhaled a shaky breath.

Billie.

She took a nip from her beer bottle, her eyes on me the entire time. I sat back and drank from mine. We didn’t speak.

I finished first and slouched in my seat. Billie emptied her beer, threw the bottle in the garbage can, and leaned against the wall next to the door. If I wanted to leave, I’d have to walk past her, since there was no other exit from the fenced patio. I didn’t get up. If I did, my knees would lock, and my legs would wobble.

“I’ve always liked your hair up.” She hooked her thumbs into her belt. Her fingers tapped once, twice, and then stilled. Her maroon-polished nails were short, and she wore silver rings on both thumbs. Her other fingers were bare.

I spread my palms across my jeans and examined my bare fingers with their ragged cuticles and lack of nail polish or rings. I was in dire need of a manicure. At least I’d had a pedicure a week ago. Funny, my toenail color was almost identical to Billie’s. We used to do each other’s nails and share the same shade of polish.

“Thanks, I guess?” I studied her face. More than half a decade later, Billie didn’t look much older. Not that she’d had any plastic surgery or Botox because she was still young—and she hated doctors or needles. But as I examined her, I noticed strain lines around her mouth and a dullness in her eyes. Either my brain was fried from the heat or it was the shock of seeing Billie. She looked drained or lost. But why?

“That’s all you’re going to say?” She scraped the toe of her boot on the pavement.

“The first thing you say to me after all this time is a comment about my hair. What’s up with that?” I rubbed my palms over my knees.

She charted my movement with her eyes and moved away from the wall. “Where are my manners? How have you been, Mandy?”

I stood as she took a step toward me. I refused to sit down or I would then be boxed in, and I couldn’t—wouldn’t allow it. She would touch me then I would break apart.

“Don’t call me that,” I spat, and moved behind the chair.

“Why do you have a problem with me calling you Mandy? It’s your name,” she said, grinning wide. She sat in one of the chairs across from me.

I hugged my arms to my chest, to keep from wrapping my arms around her. I walked in front of her. She sat back and crossed her legs with a sleepy-eyed stare.

She’s proud of herself. I snorted and peeked at the door. I could make a run—

“I’ll stop you before you even open the door, Mandy.”

I cleared my throat, which sounded more like a growl. “If you want me to stay, stop calling me that stupid nickname. I go by Amanda now.”

“You’ll always be Mandy to me,” she whispered, and the corner of her mouth tilted up.

“I wonder what your fans would say if they found out you’re a closet Barry Manilow fan.” I shot back, ignoring the yearning in her voice. I had to be hearing things. Again, I would blame the heat.

She twirled one of her thumb rings. “You know, I only like one Manilow song. Maybe Copacabana, but when I’m drinking and there’s karaoke.”

My mother was a big, big fan of Barry Manilow. I’d never forget the time Billie came over after school to study. We were alone in my house. After we finished our homework, she flipped through my mom’s CD collection and found Barry’s Greatest Hits. For fun, she popped in the CD and sang Copacabana to me. We sang together, and when Mandy played, we started dancing. After the song ended, she kissed me. My first kiss.

I fell in love with her then.

“I’ve never sung your song to anyone else.” She pushed her bangs away from her forehead. Beads of sweat lined her brow.

“You sing your own original songs you’ve written to your adoring fans. No covers for you.” I settled back against one of the tables behind me. I could have sat, but I wanted the advantage in case I felt the need to bolt.

“Some artist will cover one of my songs one day. Maybe The Lady Pearls. They’re pretty good.”

I nodded. “They’re one of the best things to come to out of Hillsboro.”

“And what about me? Would you say I’m the best thing from Hillsboro?”

Billie sounded cocky, but the way she gripped the arms of the chair told me otherwise. She wanted me to agree, to give her my approval for her success. I could nod or say yes, admitting I’d bought all her albums and read any magazine article or interview I could find about her rise to the top. But I hurt, angry at her sudden appearance after being away for so long. She didn’t deserve my praise.

“Why are you back now?” I asked.

“I got tired of the West Coast scene and needed a vacation. Also, Aunt Leah and Uncle Felix wanted me to visit them. The last time we saw one another was two years ago, before I went on my European tour.”

I nibbled on my thumbnail. Billie kept in touch with her aunt and uncle, but not me. It stung. I had a million questions rolling around in my head. “Marc, the bartender, said you were coming to visit in order to check out The Lady Pearls and Alana, the lead singer. I heard they might do a song on your next album or open for you on your next tour?”

“I’m taking a break from touring. As for my next album, it’s all up in the air, although Ivy thinks we should at least record one song with the Pearls before it’s too late.” Billie smiled. “She’s not too happy with me taking a ‘sabbatical,’ as she calls it.” She lifted two fingers in a quotation sign.

The way she said Ivy’s name was enough proof they were close friends, and at least at one time had been something more, which I already knew.

“You and Ivy are still together?” I asked, digging my fingers in the wood behind me. That was one of the many questions floating in my head ever since Billie walked in Sisco’s as if she had never left.

She crossed her arms and stuck her legs out. “We’re only friends and business associates now. What Ivy and I had never came close to what you and I shared.”

“Did you tell her about me?” I asked in a steady voice. My stomach jumped all over the place, and my heart drummed so hard against my chest I could taste it.

“Ivy knows all about you. I had to tell her because of what I have planned.”

Planned? From the discerning look she shot my way, I had a good idea I would be a part of those plans. But how?

I moved away from the table and shoved my hands in the back pockets of my jeans. “What are these plans of yours?”

Billie leaned forward and rested her elbows on her knees. She smiled wide, showing her straight, white teeth. “They involve getting some much needed rest and catching up with you.”

“Catching up with…m-me?”

She rose from the chair and started toward me. “Yeah. I hate we lost touch, and I want us to be friends again.”

“Just friends?” I inched over to the door.

“Not just friends.” She followed me. “I want what we had before I left for Los Angeles. Now that I’m back, we can work on mending—”

“Stop right there! There will be no mending between us.” I halted. Billie gave me a quizzical look. There had been only one other time I’d raised my voice to her, and it hadn’t ended well.

She snorted and lifted her gaze to the sky. She mouthed something I couldn’t catch and then looked back at me. My temper rose over her blasé attitude.

“You can’t waltz back here and think I’d fall over you like one of your fans.” I jabbed my finger at her face. “I have a good life here and I refuse to have it uprooted because you want to get laid.”

She grabbed my finger, and I tried pulling away, but she was too fast and captured my wrist. I tugged and landed back against the door. I seized the doorknob, but Billie dropped her palm against the door and had the audacity to link our fingers together. I tensed, swallowing back a moan. My breath was choppy and my body tight with strain. A deep ache expanded in my belly. Billie’s scent, a combination of her sweat and something clean, like the smell of the ocean or the woods caressed my face. I was tempted to ask her what perfume she used, if any, and a nervous giggle climbed into my mouth.

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