Duty. Honor. Country.
Love. Romance. Passion.
For way too long, I’ve been silently and hopelessly in love with a guy who doesn’t see me as anything but a casual friend. I stood by and watched as he found a woman to love–and as she dumped him the day of their wedding. I haven’t given him even a hint about my true feelings.
Until the day he asked me to be his pretend girlfriend. Now that he needs me, I finally have the chance I’ve been longing for–to show him how perfect we can be together.
My life was perfect. I was about to graduate from West Point and marry the most beautiful girl in the world all in the same day, then launch my career as a brand-new second lieutenant. When my fiancee dumped me, I thought I’d lost everything. I didn’t know how to go on.
Until the day I panicked and asked my friend to be my fake girlfriend. She saved my ass, and now I find myself looking for reasons to keep her close . . . because it turns out I don’t want to let her go.
Enjoy a sneak peek here!
“Ah, young love. Nothing like it.” My attention jerked away from thoughts about my friendship with Paige as Coach Casey approached us. “Glad to see you could make it, Henderson.” He shook my hand and then turned to Paige. “And you must be his lovely bride.”
Shit. I’d hoped to clear up the misunderstanding about my marital status before Coach had a chance to double down on it, but apparently, that ship had sailed. And the expression on Paige’s face let me know that I needed to act fast.
“Coach, I was going to tell you today in your office before you got that phone call—there must have been a miscommunication somewhere. I’m not married. Paige isn’t my wife.”
His forehead wrinkled as he frowned. “Really? Huh. I could’ve sworn I’d heard that . . . well, you’re right. I must’ve misunderstood. My wife will tell you that it’s not the first time that’s happened. She swears that my foot lives permanently in my mouth.” He shrugged. “All the same, I’m happy to meet you—Paige, is it? I’m John Casey, the new coach. We’re all very excited that your fellow here is going to be working with us this year.”
Paige’s eyes slid to me, and I was pretty sure I glimpsed the contemplation of murder in her gaze. But before I could do more than open my mouth to try to clear up Coach’s error, he’d swung around to call over someone else.
“Anthony, there you are.” He slapped the man on his back, drawing him into our conversation. “Henderson, Paige, this is Anthony Trellini, my assistant coach. Anthony, meet Wyatt Henderson. You remember, he was quarterback for the team the past three seasons, and now he’s been nice enough to come back and work with our offensive line for the next year. And this is his girlfriend, Paige. Or is it fiancée?”
“Uhhhh . . .” It was all I could manage. This was a train wreck, and it was going from bad to worse.
“Casey, you’re putting pressure on the man. Look at him, like a deer in headlights.” The assistant coach laughed heartily. “You should know better than to ask a guy a question like that when his girl is standing right here.” He offered his hand to Paige. “Don’t mind us, Paige. We’re just dumb jocks. Or at least that’s been our excuse for the past twenty years or so.”
Coach joined his laughter. “Anthony and I have worked together for most of those twenty, so we’re used to each other. Give us time, and we’ll grow on you. I promise.” He craned his neck, scanning the room. “Let me introduce you to my girl. She’ll tell you I’m a lost cause. Oh, Patty, there you are. Come here, sweetheart.”
The woman who glided over to join us was lovely. She reminded me a bit of my mother, only slightly younger. As she joined our small circle, Coach draped one arm around her shoulders and kissed her cheek. “Angel, this is Wyatt Henderson and his girlfriend, Paige.” He paused. “Sorry, Paige. I didn’t get your last name.”
Next to me, Paige was stiff, the color in her cheeks telling me that even if she wasn’t displaying it to anyone else, she was quietly furious.
Still, her voice was cool and pleasant as she answered Coach. “It’s Mulaney, sir, but actually—”
“Ah, Paige Mulaney. That’s a strong Irish name.” He beamed and hooked a thumb at his chest. “Same here. My grandparents came over from the Emerald Isle when they were kids.” He patted her shoulder. “And just FYI—I can see you’ve been well-trained on Army protocol, which I guess is a good thing if you’ve hitched your wagon to Henderson, but around my office, I’m not a sir. Like I told your sweetheart, I’m John or Coach.”
Paige’s smile was slightly less strained. It was impossible to be angry with Coach, I thought—he was so amiable and friendly. But I was going to have to figure out a way to correct his error about Paige and me before it spread any further.
That proved to be a lot easier thought than done, though, because Coach Casey was relentless. He never stopped introducing us to others from his staff, and each time, he upped the ante a little bit more, alternating between referring to Paige as my better half, my long-time girlfriend or even as my fiancée.
We’d been at the party for about thirty minutes before he finally stepped away from us, apologizing as he explained with an accompanying eyeroll that he had to give a little speech. He’d just gotten to the podium and begun a basic thank-you-for-welcoming-us talk when Paige tugged at my arm.
“Wyatt,” she hissed. “What the hell? You need to fix this. Now, before he starts inviting everyone to our wedding.” Her green eyes snapped at me in fury.
“I couldn’t get a word in edgewise,” I responded in a whisper. “You saw that. Every time I tried to correct him, he told someone else.”
“Did you know he thought you were married?” she demanded. “How did this even happen?”
I heaved out a long, frustrated breath. “I had no idea until I saw the invitation he’d given me for tonight and saw it was addressed to both me and the missus.”
“And you didn’t tell him then?”
“I couldn’t. I was about to explain, and then he got a phone call and I had to leave. I didn’t realize that he’d see us together and assume . . .” I ran my hand over my hair. “Coach Morgan and his guys knew I was supposed to get married, but apparently, word didn’t reach them about the wedding being called off. They would have assumed that I’m a married man now, and I guess they passed on that assumption to the new staff.”
“Great. Just dandy.” Paige’s lips pressed together. “Wyatt, fix this. As soon as he’s done speaking, you need to go over there and tell him that there was a mistake, that you and I are not married, engaged or even dating. You have to make the correction before—”
“And finally, this is a surprise I’ve been keeping from some of you. I’m pleased and privileged to announce that Wyatt Henderson, the man who led his team to several bowl games, to an undefeated season last year, and most importantly, to three amazing victories over Navy—” The room filled with cheers and shouts. “Wyatt Henderson will be part of our staff this year, as an assistant offensive line coach. Please help me welcome Wyatt and Paige Mulaney, his lovely girlfriend—soon to be fiancée, I’m sure!”
Everyone turned to us, applauding and smiling. I couldn’t do anything but nod, forcing my expression into what I hoped passed for a genuine grin of appreciation. Next to me, Paige’s fingers were a vice on my arm, her nails digging into my skin. She too was smiling, but I had a sinking feeling about what she was hiding beneath the exterior.
I was dead meat.
The Keeping Score series just got a makeover!
One of my favorite series has just gotten even better!
The books formerly known as the Keeping Score series have been re-titled, re-covered, re-blurbed and re-series’d.
I’ve divided them into two series: the first three books will now be the Keeping Score Trilogy, and the subsequent books will all be called Making the Score Football Romances.
Here’s how it works
What used to be When We Were Us is now—-False Start
What used to be Hanging By A Moment is now—-Three & Out
What used to be Days of You And Me is now—-The Comeback Route
Making the Score Football Romances
What used to be Not Broken Anymore is now—-Down By Contact
What used to be Your Wildest Dreams is now—-Next Man Up
What used to be Sway is now—-Game of Inches
And the new covers–they’re smokin’ H O T! Done by Meg Murrey, these are quintessential football sexiness.
To celebrate this revival, I have two pieces of good news. First, False Start is FREE on all vendors and Down By Contact is only 99 cents. That means this is the perfect time to snatch up all of these books at once. YAY!
And second, in spite of everything I said about this series being over . . . there are going to be two *brand new* releases in this world in early 2021. I’m not announcing titles or who these books will feature (can you guess???), but I promise details will be shared shortly.
Where can you find a three-book read with romance, suspense, AND characters who leave you wanting more–all for less a buck? How about right here?
Check out my friend Lisa Hughey’s new box set–which is 99 cents for a limited! As a very special preview treat, I happen to have an excerpt below . . . keep scrolling, because I promise, you’ll be hooked once you read this tempting tidbit.
This box set includes the first three books in the ALIAS series: Stalked, Hunted, and Vanished.
Stalked: Opposites attract, unfortunately.
Rule follower, Federal US Deputy Marshal Alex Saunders has been assigned to protect a federal judge after the judge receives death threats. This detail is standard until the judge insists on his son’s PR firm provide backup security, which isn’t even in the rule book. But because Alex is already in hot water, he follows orders to keep the judge happy.
Rulebreaker, and former CIA analyst, Kita Kim reluctantly agrees to go undercover, posing as the judge’s aide slash girlfriend, but in return she expects her boss at ALIAS to help her protect an abused woman and her nieces even though technically keeping the children from their father is against the law.
From the very start, Alex and Kita disagree about everything. But their sizzling attraction continues to grow as the threats against the judge escalate and put them all in danger. Can these two opposites find enough common ground outside the bedroom, or will their diverse philosophies result in disaster?
Hunted: There’s only one thing worse than seeing your unrequited crush every day at the office…and that’s getting trapped with him in a snowy mountain cabin.
Maria Torres has been through hell and back. A former kidnapping victim, she’s used to being famous for all the wrong reasons and having people handle her with kid gloves. And it seems that the man of her dreams, Dwayne Lameko, is no different.
So when an ALIAS client requests her presence on an op, Maria believes she’s ready to spread her wings and prove all her co-workers wrong…especially Dwayne. But when danger follows them into the wilderness, Maria has no choice but to prove to herself and Dwayne that she’s strong enough to handle anything…even his love.
Maria Torres was first introduced in the Family Stone series, Still the One. She finally gets her happily ever after.
Vanished: He’ll do anything to find his brother’s killer….
His final opportunity…
On an unsanctioned mission, Scottish NCA officer Hamish Ballard tracks his brother’s killer across the ocean…until he hits a dead end at Adams-Larsen Inc and Associates, a supposed PR company. Owner Jillian Larsen knows more than she admits, and he’ll do anything to uncover her secrets, even fake an interest her. He’s got one week to complete his goal. But his attraction is all too real and using her when she was just a name in a report was easy, but now he’s falling hard for his foe.
Her first responsibility…
Jillian Larsen’s purpose in life is helping people who are in jeopardy disappear and she has never betrayed a client. When a Scottish hottie accuses her company of hiding a criminal, she has no intention of revealing her client’s whereabouts or giving in to her inconvenient attraction for the sexy pain in her ass. But what does she do if the woman she relocated turns out to be a criminal? When her business partner vanishes along with their complicit client, can she use Hamish to track them down without risking her heart?
Their only chance…
He needs her resources. She needs his intelligence. Working together is the only logical choice, but it means jeopardizing everything.
Now enjoy this sneak peek from the first book in the box set!
Excerpt from Stalked
Alex Saunders already hated this job.
Federal judge Robert “call me Bobby” Adams was a pain in the ass. He’d agreed to protection and then demanded a backup. A private backup. From everything Alex could ascertain, the judge was throwing his son a bone, tossing cash to the son’s firm, Adams-Larsen Inc. and Associates. The judge insisted on hiring them as secondary security protection. A service that as far as Alex could tell, the firm was ill-equipped to provide.
Adams-Larsen was an image consulting firm. He tried to keep an open mind…although in his opinion if you lived a clean life, you shouldn’t need help cleaning up your image.
So far, he’d seen a chick dressed as a giant mugger assaulting a frail woman that a strong gust of October wind would blow away. He couldn’t say why he thought the mugger was a woman, except that there’d been something in her stance….
She’d been watching him and he’d had a vision of stripping away the mugger outfit to reveal what lay beneath. Her gaze had pierced the armor of his self-control and for a moment, he’d been tempted to stand by the floor-to-ceiling windows and just…watch.
Mentally he gave himself a slap. He was acting just like the guy harassing the judge. Except something hinky was definitely going on with the judge and his stalker. Alex just didn’t know what. Yet.
They stopped by a receptionist’s desk. The judge halted, bent to the Latina woman who guarded the inner sanctum of this business.
“Maria.” The judge’s voice had softened, gentled.
Ho now. What was that all about?
“Hello, Judge Adams.”
“Now, darlin’, I’ve told you to call me Bobby.” He reached out to clasp one of her hands, but after she pulled back subtly, the judge patted her hand. “How are you?”
She shifted uncomfortably in her seat, her smile uneasy. “I’m doing…good.”
“I’m very pleased to hear that.” Judge Adams beetled his brows. “You need anything, you call me.”
“Thank you, sir.”
The weirdest part of the whole exchange was the way the judge acted almost fatherly toward the woman. In the two hours Alex had observed him relating to women, he hadn’t once displayed this kind of behavior. And he’d watched Judge Adams interact with a lot of women.
“Gentlemen.” A smoky contralto interrupted his thoughts. Alex turned toward the sexy voice and stopped.
She was freaking gorgeous.
Slender, stacked, and elegant. She wore a suit with a pencil skirt in a bold patriotic red, glossy lips matched her skirt and demanded attention, and a pair of heels made her legs look fantastic. She had classic Scandinavian coloring, white-blond hair, pale skin, and high cheekbones with unusual dark gray eyes.
The judge straightened. “Jillian, dear.”
So this was Jillian Larsen. The judge’s son’s business partner. For some reason her name sounded familiar. The judge smiled and clasped Jillian Larsen around the shoulders, embracing her in a hug that went on just a little too long.
Her smile was absolutely, politely professional as she eased away. “Nice to see you again, Judge.”
“Marsh is on assignment right now.” She was lying through her perfectly straight, unnaturally white teeth. “He sent his regrets.”
“Not a problem.” The judge dismissed the statement, either not knowing or not caring that she’d lied. “I had planned to request a favor from you in any event.”
“Why don’t you both come into my office.” Jillian Larsen led them toward a set of tall mahogany doors. “And you can tell me all about it.”
Her stride hitched for a barely perceptible moment, then she led them away from the giant desk situated in front of a wall of bookshelves and toward a more casual sitting area with wing chairs and a small sofa. She strode easily and confidently, leaving the men in her wake, while the judge stared at her butt for just a little too long.
She was young enough be to his daughter. But that didn’t seem to matter to the man. He was an equal opportunity dawg. With the very bizarre exception of the receptionist.
Jillian Larsen sat in a wing chair, leaving another chair and a settee for Alex and the judge.
Quickly Judge Adams introduced Alex, only by name, not mentioning the reason he was accompanied, then skimmed over the details of his problem.
Jillian Larsen didn’t say a word as the judge glossed over the specifics of receiving very detailed emails, expertly encoded letters no less, with explicit death threats. No cut-and-paste pictures out of magazines for this guy. The US Marshals’ computer guys were still trying to de-code the high-tech encryption. And they still hadn’t determined where the emails originated from.
Jillian listened intently, her mouth pursed and her unusual gray eyes flat.
The judge wound up, “So you see my dear, I’m hoping that we can hire you to be an additional…pair of eyes until this nonsense stops.”
Without even glancing at Alex, she demurred. “You’re asking us to engage out of our area of expertise, Judge. You are not our typical agency client.” She pulled out a smartphone and started thumbing through her contacts. “I can recommend several good security—”
“Jillian. Cut the horseshit.” The judge’s affable, good-old-boy demeanor had been replaced by the guy who’d managed to survive the Congressional vetting process unscathed and made difficult decisions to send traitors and high-level criminals to federal prison for life. “I need you to make this happen.”
Alex was pretty sure there was a threat in Judge Adams’s words but damned if he could figure out that underlying warning.
“You’re in a precarious position as it is after the debacle last month with the FBI.”
Maybe that was why her name sounded familiar. Memories finally clicked. A prominent Russian businessman with shady connections had been killed in a shootout right here at Adams-Larsen. The story in the press was that the Russian had a love interest in DC and had entered the country illegally. Something had gone awry and he’d taken a hostage. Congress was set to hold private hearings on the situation, wanting to know how the man got into the country and why he ended up dead. Alex had thought there was a whole hell of a lot of logistical things left out of that story.
“It would be embarrassing if you ended up with more negative press. Not great for a…PR agency.”
Mentally Alex perked up. Forget the prior veiled warning, the judge had just very clearly and overtly bullied Jillian Larsen, his son’s business partner. Although Alex still had no idea what the judge was talking about.
Jillian blinked, never once losing her composure. “With Bliss and Rissa mostly on the West Coast these days, I’m shorthanded right now.”
Denial in her gaze was swift but her comeback was smooth and unhurried. “I’m sorry but I’m needed here at the moment. Perhaps Dwayne.”
“Need a woman.” The judge was shaking his head. “She can pose as my personal aide.”
Finally the reason they were here clicked in Alex’s brain. The judge didn’t want an additional bodyguard, he wanted a playmate. Or he wanted a bodyguard who looked like a playmate.
“Ms. Larsen, perhaps it would ease your mind to know that the US Marshals will be running point on Judge Adams’s case and he will be under their protection.”
“That would be you?” she asked coolly.
Alex nodded. “Yes, ma’am.”
Her eyes went flat again, almost as if his being a deputy marshal worked against him. Alex could practically see her brain synapses firing as she considered then rejected options. But she didn’t shut the judge down. Did that mean she didn’t trust the US Marshals? The United States Marshals office was the best personal protection security in the world. Certainly head and shoulders above some Beltway spin doctors who were so bad at PR they were going to be part of a congressional hearing.
This detail was a freaking train wreck.
But on his last job, after loudly protesting the authenticity and suitability of the US Marshal’s witness he’d been charged with protecting, Alex had received an official reprimand from HR. It didn’t matter that his instincts had been right on target. The fucking idiot had violated the terms of WitSec within a week of being relocated, and in another week he’d been dead.
Killed by the very people he was supposed to be hiding from.
Alex had a bad feeling about this job. But the ding in his personnel file didn’t give a shit, and he could not afford to fuck up this assignment.
The immediate consequence of speaking up on his last case had been a transfer to the Judicial Protection branch of the Marshals, and the protection of one ornery Judge Robert “call me Bobby” Adams.
Right away the judge had put him in an awkward position by requesting the addition of an Adams-Larsen employee. But Alex’s new boss told him to do whatever the judge wanted to keep him happy. Having additional backup outside the assigned Marshals—namely him and his partner, Shep—was highly unusual.
“I may have one person.” She was so reluctant that Alex couldn’t imagine her choice would be acceptable.
“Well, go get her,” the judge ordered.
Jillian Larsen moved elegantly, crossing her legs, and pressed a button on her cell phone, turning it into a two-way comm system. “Maria, can you page Kita for me?”
The judge glanced at his diamond-rimmed, 14-carat gold Rolex. “I’ve got an important pretrial meeting in an hour.”
Alex was an expert at reading people. Jillian Larsen wanted desperately to tell Judge Adams to go to hell, but she pasted a very polite smile on her lips and held back the harsh words.
“Maria, have her come up right away.”
Alex made a mental note to check into the background of the employees of this agency. He hadn’t had a chance to do more than find out they did image consulting since Judge Adams dropped this bomb on him.
“But, Jill.” They could all hear the hesitation in her assistant’s voice. “She’s in the sparring room.”
Kita rushed up the stairs. Was something wrong with Marsh? She couldn’t believe that thought hadn’t occurred to her when the judge walked in.
They needed to see her right away.
She’d removed the padded assailant suit, stripped down to a tight wicking sleeveless top and a pair of skimpy spandex shorts. She’d tugged on a pair of running shoes and splashed water on her face and skimmed over her pony. The temp inside the assailant suit got damn hot and her face felt like she’d sat in the sun at a Nationals game in the dead of summer. She also smelled a little funky and the quick spritz of Dwayne’s Axe didn’t really mask the odor. She’d have preferred a cold shower. But Jillian had said, “Right away.”
Kita burst into the reception area. “Everything okay? Something wrong with Marsh?”
“Not as far as I know,” Maria Torres said softly. She was still finding her confidence. She’d been abducted as a teenager and spent eight years in a solitary prison before she’d managed to escape. Kita couldn’t even imagine the fortitude it had taken for her to not crumble up and wither away. But she hadn’t. And slowly but surely Maria was coming out of her shell and growing into the woman she was meant to be.
Relief washed over Kita.
“When you ask for right away, this is what you get, stinky and sweaty.” Kita grinned.
“Apparently they couldn’t wait for you.” Maria rolled her eyes and Kita loved that little bit of ’tude. “Go on in.”
She strode into Jillian Larsen’s office, then felt as if she’d walked into an alternative dimension.
Three people, elegantly dressed, sipping beverages out of delicate china cups, turned at the same time as if choreographed. They were having a tea party and she’d just crashed it.
“You wanted to see me.” Right away. They sure hadn’t given her time to clean up.
“Kita, thanks for coming so quickly.” Jillian put down her cup, the clatter of china loud in the suddenly silent room.
In her St. John suit and matching pumps, with her perfectly smooth blond hair and expertly applied makeup, Jill was the epitome of polished and poised. Kita was the unkempt homeless girl compared to Jillian’s high society princess.
Both men rose to their feet. If she hadn’t been distracted by the sheer power of the man to her right she might have been amused at their old-fashioned gesture.
Immediately her gaze went to the unknown man. Up close his presence was even more compelling. Blue-black hair, a leanly chiseled, uncompromising face, and the stoic expression in his reserved pale blue eyes captivated her.
Like the magnetic pull of the moon, she couldn’t stop staring at him. She was drawn to him. Power. He’d exuded it merely sitting in the effeminate chair.
His shoulders were broad, and although his button-down cotton shirt was just a little too loose to reveal the muscles beneath, she sensed his strength. And she wondered again who he was and what he wanted with her.
She knew what she wanted with him.
Two big pieces of news!
First, the Keeping Score Box Set is on sale for 99 cents for a limited time. This set includes the first three books of the series (Leo, Quinn and Nate’s story) along with a bonus short only available here.
Second, SWAY, the 6th book in the series, is available now! You can get Gideon and Sarah’s story–and believe me, you don’t want to miss it.
So what are you waiting for?