If you fight, will we last?
For the first time in my life, I'm fighting back, and with Ryder by my side, I'm never letting myself be weak again.
Even if it means returning to the one place I swore I'd never go back to again.
For every wound, there is a scar.
Raised on fame and fortune, Liam McGuire is a spoiled man-child. His handsome face blinds the world, but I see through it to what he is inside.
When his tour bus rolls off the road, Liam’s rushed to the hospital where I work. A jagged scar runs the length of his face, ruining his good looks and jeopardizing his career. As his nurse, I’m around him more than I’d like, but the more I get to know him, the more I realize the world wasn’t blind to him.
Liam McGuire feels deeply and loves wildly, throwing himself into everything he does with more passion than I ever dreamed possible. With that intensity aimed at me, the scars slashed across my own heart start to heal. He is fire and I’ve been cold my whole life.
Am I ready to thaw? Or is life better—safer—when I’m cold and numb?
I play for them.
I play for Tyler.
I play for who Michael and I were, and for who we’ve become. The music rips itself out of me and tears fall from my eyes, dropping on my hands, but still I play.
Before long, I sense movement at the doorway. My fingers slow and then stop, cutting off the melody on a harsh note.
“Don’t stop.” Liam sounds groggy. “It’s beautiful.”
“It hurts,” I say, sniffing.
“Ahhh.” There’s more movement and then he’s sitting next to me, his shoulder pressing against mine, his sleep-warmed skin almost too hot for me in my agony. “That’s why it’s beautiful.”
I pull my hand from the keys and put them in my lap. “There’s nothing beautiful about pain.”
“Behind every beautiful thing, there’s some kind of pain.” Liam puts his hands on the keys, lets them wander around a melody. “I think Bob Dylan said that.”
The urge to lean into him, to borrow some strength from his size and his warmth is so strong I almost succumb to it.
Instead, I put my hands on the keys and wind my melody around his.
“What’s wrong, Bailey?” Liam keeps his voice low, almost a whisper.
“It’s just a bad day,” I whisper in return.
His fingers chase the melody towards mine. His skin brushes mine and chills rush through my body. I stop playing and stare up at him.
“Why are you being nice to me?”
“Maybe I’m still mostly asleep.” Liam smiles, the moonlight streaming through the window catching the scar winding down his face.
Without thinking, I run my finger along it. My touch light, just a whisper of contact. “Does it still hurt?”
Liam leans into my hand, pressing my palm against his cheek, and closes his eyes. “Deeply.”
The low rumble of his voice touches the aching part of my soul and I know he’s not talking about the scar. I pull my hand away and study his face as he opens his eyes and stares down at me. The space between us takes on a life of its own, shrinking and contracting with each and every one of our breaths. I lean into him, needing contact. Needing sensation and oblivion and a reason to step outside of myself for a while.
“Today’s the day they died.” I blink several times but don’t look away. “My parents.”
I shake my head and the world spins drunkenly. It hurts to be this exposed, as if my whole body is a raw nerve, our words grinding against it until the pain forces me to cry out.
“I’m sorry,” he says, bringing his hand to my cheek and threading his fingers into my hair.
I lean into him and close my eyes, swimming in grief and guilt, desperate to feel anything but the way I’m feeling right now. I lick my lips. Open my eyes and find him close. So close. He drops his hand from my cheek, his eyes searching my face.
There’s a moment. The two of us knowing what’s about to happen and trying to decide if we should let it, and then Liam kisses me. His hands slide up my arms and clutch my shoulders. His lips are warm and supple against mine. Our breath fills the room, twining with the rustle of fabric as I bring my hands to his back and grip his shirt in my fists.
I breathe him in. His clean skin and the scent of his cologne are so foreign to me. They’re unlike any of the smells that I sometimes imagine still linger around this house, triggering memories with the power to bring me to my knees. Liam is different. Nothing about him reminds me of my past, and there’s salvation there. Safety in his newness. In his total lack of knowledge of me from before. I can be anything with him.
Our kiss deepens, the stubble of his beard scraping the delicate skin on my cheeks. I open to him, lean into him, and his tongue darts out to meet mine.
He pulls back but keeps his hands on my face. “Have you been drinking?”
I nod. “It’s a bad day.”
Liam’s eyes burn into mine, moving across the planes of my face. He takes a breath like he wants to speak, only to close his mouth and look away. “I’m sorry, Bailey,” he says after a moment. “I don’t want this because you’re drunk and hurting. And I know, deep down, neither do you.”
And then he stands and walks out of the room, leaving me to stare after him, cold in the wake of his fire.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
A former-geek-turned-hottie, Luke is now an image consultant and life coach to the rich and privileged in New York City. His eight-week program is designed to transform ugly ducklings into swans by instilling some much-needed confidence, and hey, a makeover never hurts.
But when Ainsley Carrington signs up as a client, Luke's world is thrown into a tailspin. Ainsley doesn't need an image consultant; her image is already perfect just the way it is. Luke immediately finds himself grappling with his attraction to the introverted beauty as all his old insecurities come bubbling back to the surface.
Thankfully, his new friend Mia is around to help him out. Soon enough, the teacher becomes the student as lines get blurred and professionalism gets thrown out the window.
The thing is, Luke doesn't date his clients. Ever. But fighting his desire is proving more difficult than he ever imagined. Especially since the cocky and arrogant "confidence man" has just completely lost his cool.
***CON MAN is a romantic comedy novel intended for ages 18+ due to some offensive language and graphic sex/sexual situations.***
READ WHEN YOU'RE IN THE MOOD FOR: cocky, fun, dramatic, insightful, relatable.
“So, what do you think?” she asked. “Should we take this conversation back to my hotel room?”
The two of us were seated at a prime patio table at Ocean, a fairly classy restaurant bordering the south end of Central Park. We’d been having a pleasant conversation from our outdoor post, enjoying the mid-summer breeze which was made blessedly cooler from the shade of our umbrella. We’d been planning to indulge in a leisurely meal as we talked, but Charise’s question ensured that this little luncheon was going to be cut rather short.
I eased back in my chair and assessed the fiery-haired bombshell seated across from me. Her invitation was unmistakable, and I found myself letting out with an exasperated breath. “I think there’s been a misunderstanding.”
“Well, maybe I should have been a little clearer,” she purred, sliding a finger to trace along the swell of her ample breast. “I’m hoping you’ll be able to, ah, teach me a thing or two about what a man really wants.”
“That’s not what I do.” I’d encountered this scenario a time or two, and I’d learned it was best to just confront the situation head-on, without mincing words. “Look, Charise, I think you’ve been misinformed about what kind of service I provide. I’m not a sex therapist; I’m an image consultant.”
I’m the founder and CEO of Swan, Inc., New York City’s preeminent makeover service. People who felt stuck in the “ugly duckling” stage of their lives came to me for transformation. My services provided much more than a simple makeover, though. Aside from helping these ladies out with a new hairdo and some clothes, I also offered some intensive remodeling of a client’s self-esteem. Reputedly, these methods helped to unleash a woman’s inner sexpot.
It kinda went with the territory. The sex appeal was simply a happily unexpected side effect of the confidence training I provided.
Charise blinked a few times in my direction, clearly confused. “I was told that you teach women to be absolute maneaters. And after I saw the change in Darla Haagen… I mean, she was positively glowing by the time you got through with her. She said you were a godsend. She said she never experienced a better eight weeks in her entire life. I’m sorry. I guess I just assumed…”
“Sometimes people do. I’m not offended.”
Most of the time, a new client and I will have engaged in a series of emails prior to our first meeting. Even if we haven’t, it was easy enough for them to do their homework on their own; my website clearly lays out what it is that I do. But sometimes, like in the case with Charise, here, people jumped to their own conclusions and thought they were merely hiring a high-priced escort. Hell, even if I was in the sex therapy business, actual sex isn’t a part of the therapy provided.
I gave Charise a smile, trying to put her at ease regarding the mixup. Essentially, the woman had just offered herself up on a silver platter only for me to turn her down. Rather than dwell on her undoubtedly bruised ego, I decided to point her in the right direction. “In fact, if you’re looking for a sex therapist, I can recommend someone for you. I have a friend out in Arizona—his name is Justice Drake and he’s the best at what he does. But he and I don’t work in the same field, understand?”
Charise tipped her head to the side and eyed me curiously. “No. I guess I don’t understand. I thought I was hiring you to teach me how to please a man.”
“Yes, to a point. Essentially what I do is teach you how to please yourself.” Charise’s lip curled, confirming that her mind was spinning all over again. Before she could jump to another conclusion, I added, “I teach confidence. That’s it. When you think about it, that’s the sexiest trait of all, wouldn’t you agree?”
I could see the shift in her posture as my words finally sunk in. “But I already have confidence.”
“Yes, you certainly do. Rightfully so.”
She gave me a flattered smile for that. “So, I guess this isn’t going to be a good fit, is it?”
“I’m sorry, no, it’s not.”
There was an awkward pause between us as the situation sank in, until finally, she let out with a resigned sigh. “Well,” she said agreeably as she rose from her chair. “It looks like my little sex-school adventure is going to turn into a shopping marathon instead.” She gave me a smile and held out her hand. “It was a pleasure to meet you, Luke.”
I came around to her side of the table to give her a hug. “You too, Charise.”
When we pulled away from each other, there was a devilish twinkle in her eye as she purred, “You know, Luke… Just because I’m not hiring you for sex, that doesn’t mean we can’t have a little fun off the clock. Armed with nothing but false information and your photograph, I flew all the way out here from Houston, and I have to say, you’re even more delicious than your picture. I’d hate to think the sexy vacation I was planning is actually going to be a complete letdown. I could use some company over the next couple of months while I’m here.”
I couldn’t contain my smirk as I answered, “That is one tempting offer, Charise. Truly. But I’m going to have to respectfully decline your generous proposition. Something tells me you’re going to have one hell of a vacation without me. Here,” I added, pulling out my wallet and digging around for my friend’s business card. “Maybe after you’ve torn up New York for a few days, you’ll decide to reroute to Sedona. Give Drake a call. He really knows his stuff.”
She took the card from my hand, flicking it around her fingers as she said, “I will. I promise.”
One of my brows raised as I added, “Although you strike me as someone who’s already well-schooled in this area.”
Charise grinned as she gave me a last peck on the cheek before jaunting across the patio and into the park.
My morning appointment was a bust, and my afternoon appointment wasn’t scheduled to be here for another two hours. Since now I had some time to kill, I decided to take a walk to clear my head. I asked Fernando to hold my table, then slipped out of the gated patio and into the courtyard.
There were a few high-end boutiques that bordered this end of the park, so I did a little window shopping. Eyed up a new suit in the display at Brooks Brothers; checked out a new watch in the front case of Tiffany’s. When my stomach started growling, I became aware of my abandoned lunch, and stopped off at a corner pushcart to get a dirty-water dog with the works.
I loved the city. New York was the best place in the world to test a person’s mettle. You could live out your every dream or disappear into a sea of faces. Do whatever you wanted to do; be whoever you wanted to be.
I headed back to Ocean and hit the men’s room to clean up before my next appointment, throwing a couple bucks in the attendant’s tray and giving a quick glance in the mirror as I ran a hand through my hair.
I wasn’t always this good-looking.
Before you can accuse me of being an arrogant, conceited jerk, I’ll tell you that the personal assessment of my handsomeness is mentioned without spectacle or vanity of any kind.
Well, maybe a little pride, but that’s it. And I’m only proud because it took a ton of hard work to get myself looking this way. Countless hours at the gym, consultations with fashion gurus, and a whole helluva lot of mental reprogramming all combined to create the man you see standing before you today.
Fact is, before I was one of the “beautiful people,” I used to view an attractive person with the same sort of indifference as I would an air balloon.
Pretty to look at, but there’s no substance to it.
Strange that I should’ve made my living as an image consultant, right? If I had such disregard for external beauty, then why did I make it my mission to help women achieve the height of theirs?
And no. Before you can ask, I’ll tell you emphatically that I did not start this whole venture as some elaborate scheme to pick up chicks. I’m not looking to hit on them. I’m looking to help them.
Unfortunately, the sad fact is this: I’ve been where these women are now. I know from firsthand experience what it’s like to be ignored or downright snubbed for not looking like those people you see on your television screens. Society as a whole has always been impressed with such superficial qualities in a person. Looking good is the easiest way to catch a guy’s eye, and if a woman is coming to me to help her land a man, she’s going to have to understand that men appreciate external beauty above all else.
At least they think they do.
That’s why the second part of my service is even more important than the first. Yes, I’ll whip your body into shape. Yes, I’ll hook you up with hair and makeup professionals. But while all that is happening, I’ll be working on your internal assets. Pointing out your positive attributes, trying to teach you how to use them to your advantage. Building your confidence in little baby steps until you’re ready to do it on your own.
Ms. Torrest was a child of the eighties, but has since traded in her Rubik's cube for a laptop and her Catholic school uniform for a comfy pair of yoga pants. She's a pop-culture junkie, a movie aficionado, and an enthusiast of talking about herself in the third person. A lifelong Jersey girl, she currently resides there with her husband and two sons.
She also really digs it when she hears from readers, and is known to use words like "dig" in a non-sarcastic way. You can find out more about her books at her website: https://www.ttorrest.com/
She also LOVES to get friend requests on Goodreads and Facebook, and personal messages from readers via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
He presses all of my buttons, both intimately and emotionally. I'm torn between the need to resist him and the desire to give into his demands. If I let him have his way, though, I'll lose everything.
I bend to climb into my car. Holden is on me in an instant, pulling me back and closing my car door. I'm so startled that I allow him to back me up against my car, to pin me there. Tears are gathering beneath the surface. I refuse to look at him, refuse to let him see that he's breaking me down.
“I can make you submit.” He reaches up a hand, and I flinch away, squeezing my eyes shut to keep the tears from spilling. The backs of his fingers whisper across my cheek. Then he cups my chin, tilting my face up.
“I hate you.” My voice is weak and pathetic.
“A lot of people hate me. But I still get what I want from them.”
Is that what is going to happen? The thought fills me with despair. He's already whittled me down so much.
My mind is going a million miles per hour. I'm trapped, suffocating, about to panic. I'm two seconds short of freaking out when I feel something that totally turns logic on its head.
Lips. His lips on mine. Kissing me. So hard.
I open my eyes and a muffled sound comes out, perhaps an objection. I can't really tell.
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Italian winemaker, Antonio Giovanni is tall, dark, and handsome with an accent sexy enough to leave a trail of women’s panties in his wake.
Master Sommelier, Hope Tidwell travels the globe seeking out the finest wines. She refuses to let relationships get in the way of her career and abides by a strict set of rules:
Lucky for her, those rules work just fine for Antonio.
Until they don’t.
When Hope’s sister asks her to do the one thing she’s sworn never to do, she can’t say no.
She never intended to travel down this road.
When unanticipated and devastating events throw the trajectory of her life so far off course, she can’t even recognize her world anymore. Suddenly, the rules no longer apply.
Will Hope be able to do the one thing that terrifies her the most?
*Please note Holding onto Hope was previously released as The Italian
“Can’t.” Hope bobbled on one foot, slipping the other into her leather crisscross Louboutin black pump. A smile tipped the curve of her mouth, catching Antonio’s reflection in the full-length mirror. He lay naked, sprawled out across the bed looking rumpled and warm, watching with wide-eyed interest as she bent to fasten the tiny buckle at her ankle.
“Rimani Qui?” Antonio repeated the request in Italian, the pull of his accent intoxicating and powerful. His light-grey eyes, full of playful offerings, gleamed in the early morning sunshine pushing through the window.
An involuntary laugh escaped her parted lips, attempting to conceal the hint of regret riddling her voice. “I’ve already extended my trip. My boss might think I’m taking a vacation on her dime if I stay any longer.”
It took every ounce of composure to keep her wits about her. Out of all the lovers Hope encountered during her travels, Antonio was always the hardest to leave.
Antonio Giovanni was the epitome of all men that women dreamed of. Tall, dark, and handsome with an accent sexy enough to leave a trail of women swooning in his wake. The man wore charisma like a fine silk suit…flawless and molded to perfection in all the right places, leaving just enough concealed to make you wonder what lay hidden beneath the faultless exterior.
“Si, I think you need some rest and relaxing. Come back to bed, bella.”
Drawing a long breath through her nose, she envisioned a week-long Tuscan rendezvous curled up beside him, under him, on top of him. Hope’s lashes dusted shut at the delicious image. Tempting.
“I really have to go or I’ll be late for my meeting with Tracy. I don’t want to embarrass myself in front of your sister-in-law.”
Taking hold of the extended handle of her suitcase, she started for the door. Antonio rolled to his back. Reaching an arm above his head, he caught her around the hip, halting her rush. A low laugh simmered in her chest at his tenacity.
“You have plenty of time. Tracy said she’d be in her office between nine and ten.” Antonio slipped a strong hand beneath the hem of her indigo wrap dress. His thumb played mindlessly along her bare thigh, coaxing a shiver up her spine. “And it’s only eight thirty. Let me take care of you before you go.”
“I have to be there at nine, otherwise I’ll be cutting it close to make my departure on time, and I can’t miss my flight again.” Her voice diminished, feeling his long, strong fingers curl around the back of her leg, pulling her close, until her knees rested against the silk bedding. The subtle aches in her inner thighs, sweet and electrifying, brought reminders of the night before.
Digging a heel into the mattress, Antonio inched his body further across the king-sized bed until his head dropped over the edge. The stark white sheet purposely arranged low on his hips, exposing the dark, trimmed hair at his groin. Heaven lay just beneath the silky sheets.
A small, wistful sigh of appreciation floated from her lips, taking in his lean body and sculpted abs. He looked nothing short of breathtakingly exquisite.
“Si’. I’d hate to make you miss your flight again.”
He didn’t sound one bit remorseful.
“Liar,” she teased, barely able to hear her own voice over the pulse hammering in her ears. “I think you’re trying to torture me.”
“Si, I could torture you all day. Stay,” he murmured, taking a gentle bite of her outer thigh.
She smiled down at him, running her fingers through his thick, dark hair. If she didn’t leave in the next sixty seconds, she’d be straddling his face in sixty-one. A tousled mass of golden brown curls fell over her shoulder as she hinged at the waist, placing a long kiss goodbye to the edge of his scruffy jaw.
“So beautiful,” he murmured. Pushing the loose tresses from her face, he twisted, brushing his lips to hers. Taking her mouth, he deepened the kiss, their tongues dancing in a smooth, masterful art of seduction. The provocative pressure, demanding yet playful, drew a low groan from her throat.
“Ciao,” she whispered contritely in his ear.
“Email me the next time you’ll be in Italy. Ciao, bella.”
She lives in Las Vegas with her husband, four kids, and two golden retrievers. If she’s not spinning richly emotional stories, you’ll find her on her spin bike.
As the twins vie for her affection, it becomes clear which one makes her smile.
Grace never has a choice for falling in love.
What starts as a way to coax his adopted sister to speak and smile, blossoms into the kind of love that lasts a lifetime.
In this small town it shouldn’t be a crime to fall in love . . .
Isaac Duncan warns his son to stay away from the forbidden fruit. Eisav never listens.
Now an intricate web of lies and secrets stand in the way of Eisav winning back the only woman he has ever loved.
In a place where yesterday’s promises were broken, Eisav must learn what it truly means to love and cherish . . .
But is he too late?
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Not everything goes to plan for the young couple, and it’s not long before Jessica thinks it’s a bad idea to make plans for the future. After all, the last plans she had for her life were cruelly snatched away. Fletcher has to prove to Jessica that he has changed from his wild days as a player off the field. Is love going to be enough to keep them together, or will they allow the past to come between them?
Karen Frances currently lives just outside Glasgow, Scotland, with her husband, five children and two dogs, although she does dream of living somewhere warm and sunny. Her days are spent helping her husband run their busy family business. She spends some of her free time trying to keep fit and prepare healthy meals for her family, when their busy schedules allow them to sit down at meal times together. The rest of her free time she uses to plot and write and occasionally read.
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Boldly going where no mountain man has gone before …
I’m determined to make a fortune on this new frontier.
❤Get ready to fall in love ... you deserve it!❤