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This heart-wrenching friends-to-lovers romance took me on an emotional roller-coaster ride. Sexy as all get out, while maintaining a sweetness only a truly romantic tale can deliver, Summer and Ian’s journey to find each other made me laugh, cry, and sigh as I cheered on their eventual HEA.

5 bells & whistles

Own the Stage

 

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TO WIN HER HEART

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EXCERPT:

“Is it all worth it?”

Immediately defensive, though she wasn’t sure why, she played dumb. “What do you mean?”

“The schedule. The headaches. The insomnia.”

She tensed as he ticked off the negative points she couldn’t argue. After days of nothing but pillow talk and laughter, the harsh reminder of reality stung. Pasting a teasing smile on her lips, she fluttered her lashes and attempted to head off the unpleasant direction the conversation had taken. “We’ve cured the insomnia, remember?”

He didn’t smile as she’d hoped. “What about the headaches?”

“Those, too.” With the way he seemed to spot whenever a migraine came on, he had to have noticed she’d been headache free since they’d been in the woods. Only time would tell if they would return once she was back onstage, but the tone of his questions made her nervous. “Where’s this going, Max?”

He shifted to his side so she came to rest on her back, her head cradled on his forearm. None of the easy laughter of the last few days shown in his somber eyes. “I’m curious. That first night at my condo, you spoke about your mother’s death and of owing your father for helping you attain her dream of seeing you on stage, but you said nothing about the dream being yours.”

Nerves skidded into unease and her stomach plummeted. With less than twelve hours left before they had to leave, she could think of a thousand things she’d rather do than discuss her career or her meltdown last week. Obviously, Max was of a different opinion.

“What kind of question is that?” Try as she might, some of her tension leaked out, making her answer curt. “I’ve worked damned hard to make it to where I am.”

He leaned over her, his gaze steady as it held hers. “I’m not questioning your talent or your drive. You have more of both than anyone I’ve ever met. You shine when you stand before an audience, Jess. I’ve never seen anyone own the stage the way you do, but I’ve also seen the fear in your eyes before each performance.”

She shrugged a shoulder as if the gut-wrenching terror gripping her each time she stepped on the stage was no big deal. “Lots of performers suffer from stage fright. That doesn’t mean I don’t want to be there.” The claim sounded defensive even to her.

He nodded, as if he agreed, but didn’t back down from his line of questioning. “And afterward? The headaches and insomnia? Where do those come from? Because there hasn’t been a stage in sight for five days and suddenly they’re gone.”

Damn it. Did he think she hadn’t noticed? Didn’t wish there was a viable solution to make the stress and unhappiness go away? Angry tears of desperation threatened, and she avoided his gaze by rolling her head to the side. The best defense was a good offense. Several deep breaths helped her gain control and she went on attack. “Why all the questions? Is this another of your attempts to prepare me for when you’re gone?”

The question had been a red herring, designed to knock him off track, but the flash of guilt in his eyes told her she’d hit the bull’s eye.

He sighed. “In a way, I guess it is, but you came to me for help. That’s what I’m trying to do.”

“How? By pissing me off?” She attempted to roll away from him. He threw a thigh over both of hers and held her where she was.

“By asking the questions you should be asking yourself.” He swept his thumb over her cheek in a gentle caress. “You claim you’re losing yourself. How can you find your way to where you want to be without looking at where you’ve been?”

Her attempt at diversion had only added hurt to an already uncomfortable conversation. Maybe sarcasm was the answer. “Geez, who are you, Dr. Phil?”

He didn’t bite. Saying nothing, he continued to hold her pinned beneath him.

Damn it, why couldn’t he just drop it? What was the point? Every dream came with sacrifices and hardships. The important ones anyway. Her mother hadn’t survived to see hers realized. That made her dream more important than most.

Jessi slid her eyelids shut against his intent gaze. “I have to sing, Max. If I couldn’t, my soul would shrivel up and die.” She opened her eyes. “Are you suggesting I give it up?”

His gaze softened, and he shook his head. “Not at all. If singing is what you need, then do it. All I’m suggesting is you take a good hard look at your life and consider your options. Figure out what’s holding you back from being happy. Find out what it is you want and then make it happen.”

The earnest concern in his eyes warmed her heart. She lifted her hand to cup his bristled cheek. “Haven’t I made it perfectly clear what I want?”

“Jessi.” He wrapped his fingers around her wrist and tugged her hand away from his face before letting go.

“Max.” She held his gaze until he dropped his chin to his chest and sighed.

The marked pain on his face slashed at her like knives. After the emotional jarring he’d just given her, evidence the past two days hadn’t made a bit of difference in his plans really did piss her off.

Sliding his arm from beneath her head, he flopped onto his back to stare at the ceiling.

She rolled her head and stared at his profile. “At least I’m honest about what I want.”

“Are you? When you’re afraid to even look at a reality that’s making you ill?”

Her slow, indrawn breath didn’t fully deflect the hurt. She rose on her elbow and leaned over him. “What about you, hopping from woman to woman while getting your family fix through my family’s gatherings.”

His eyes sliced to her, full of heat at her cruel words.

Too hurt and angry to care, she pressed on before he could reply. “What kind of existence is that? Don’t you want more than a borrowed family? Don’t you want one you can call your own?”

He bared his teeth in a smile that didn’t come close to reaching his eyes. “I’ll stick with borrowed. I’ve had some experience with real family.” He pushed up to sit on the edge of the bed. The muscles of his back bunched as he leaned forward. “In my experience, they’re not worth the effort.”

Sarcasm aside, the underlying anger in his words cooled hers. She curled her fingers around his arm before he could stand. “I’m sorry, Max. I shouldn’t have said that.”

Her fingers slid away as he bent to pick up his briefs and stood.

“Your family’s friendship means a lot to me. I’ve never hidden that fact, but they aren’t a stand in for a family of my own.” He stepped into his briefs, tugged them up his legs, and over his hips. “Not everyone is cut out for picket fences and kids, Squirt. In fact, in most cases, the world is better off when bad blood isn’t passed on.” He headed for the door. “Get some sleep. We have an early flight in the morning.”

She stared at his back as he disappeared down the stairs. Bad blood? What the hell?

Players series available in all formats @ Lyrical Shine button

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ef0ac98f27db5ceae725d39a469c56f4

Death is preferable to what awaits in her forgotten past…

Coffee is the only thing standing between Grace Debry and a straight-jacket since she gave up swearing in honor of her foster mom. A rash of break-ins make her wonder if caffeine is enough. Especially when the notes left behind make it personal. Her brand-spanking new life is more nightmare than dream-come-true.

All Matthew Duncan has wanted since hiring Grace is to have her in his passenger seat, his arms, and his bed. As they grow closer, the feisty brunette proves to be a handful—one Matt is happy to hold. He’s determined to give her the happily ever after she stopped believing in years ago. Unfortunately for Grace, it will take more than Matt’s considerable resolve to keep her safe.

Three’s a crowd—not that he cares. Every move she makes, every breath she takes … he’s watching. Waiting to reclaim what he lost.

Angel Nicholas pens another wildly passionate romantic suspense with Dying for Love.

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Excerpt:

Her phone rang before she made her escape. She cocked a hip on the desk and answered.

“Grace?” a soft female voice enquired. “Grace Debry?”

“This is she.”

“The same Grace Debry who used to live with the Wells in Indiana?”

Straightening, Grace frowned. “Who is this?”

“You probably don’t remember me, dear. This is Mrs. Growsky from next door. You used to come over and help with my flower beds.”

“Of course I remember! How are you? Is everything okay? How did you find me? Oh, Mr. Wells has my information. How are you?”

She had fond memories of Mrs. Growsky. Hot summer days and warm fragrant dirt between her fingers. She had relaxed and shared thoughts she never would have dared otherwise. Mrs. Growsky had been a wonderful confidante and encouraging mentor during her high-school years. “Oh, I’m fine. How are you?”

“Great. My job here is great, I love my place and I have wonderful neighbors.” She had wanted to keep in touch, but knew better. When Laura died, she’d severed ties.

Mrs. Growsky calling out of the blue tightened her stomach.

“I’m sure you’re wondering why I’m calling. To tell you the truth, I debated long and hard about this. I’ve had your new phone number and address for ages, you know. I knew you were uncomfortable with me asking to stay in contact, but I wanted to know you were doing okay after you left.”
Grace furiously blinked back tears. Of course, Matt chose that moment to walk through her door. One look at her face and he shut the door behind him, frowning. He reached for the phone. Unable to speak over the emotion clogging her throat, she shook her head. He sat on the edge of a chair. All this time, Laura’s neighbor had watched over her.

Mrs. Growsky sighed. “Some strange things have been going on. Since they seem to involve you, I had to warn you.”

Warm fuzzies banished to Neverland, Grace’s nerves tightened again. “Warn me?”

“Yes, dear. I’m sorry to alarm you, but… Well…”

“Please. Just tell me.”

“Darrell Wells was murdered last week.”

“What?” Her gaze flew to Matt. He was by her side in an instant. He tried to take the phone from her, but she jerked free and very carefully lowered herself into her chair.

“Well, he was actually murdered about a week earlier, but no one discovered the poor man until that nice sheriff came along.” She hmm’d softly. “Where did he say he was from?”

“Why would anyone want to hurt Mr. Wells? He kept to himself to such an extent he was practically a hermit. Without Laura around, he probably became exactly that. What happened?”

“I don’t know, dear. Several people have been asking about you, though.”

She dropped her head to the desk, vaguely aware of Matt rubbing her back and murmuring…something. Oh, he still wanted the phone.

“What?” Her brain felt fuzzy.

“A man came by two weeks ago. Last I saw, he was headed to the Wells’ house.”

“Looking for me?” she repeated faintly.

“Yes. Then, a little over a week later, that nice sheriff stopped by. He asked about you too. He showed me a picture of your mother. My goodness, you’re her spitting image. I knew right away he was talking about you.”

Goosebumps chased one another across her skin. “He had a picture of my mother?”

She’d never seen a picture of her mother. The foster-system workers had explained there’d been nothing with her when she was brought to them. Yet some stranger had a photo. Of her mother. She couldn’t seem to wrap her mind around that.

“She was beautiful. What a shame she died so young. You really are her mirror image, dear. I could have been looking at a photo of you. Of course, I knew it wasn’t you because the photo was old and worn. The clothing styles weren’t right either. And her hair, my goodness. No, I can’t imagine you doing that to your beautiful hair. All those glorious curls, and your mother chopped them so short.” She tsked. “A crime, that’s what it is. You’re still wearing yours long, aren’t you?”

“Yes.”

Mrs. Growsky had always rambled. Not that she was going to complain when she was rambling about a mother Grace had never laid eyes on. At least, not that she could recall. Obviously, she’d seen her as an infant. Now she was rambling. In her thoughts. Which seemed worse, somehow. She shook off some of the numbness.

“Do the police have any leads on Mr. Wells’ murder?”

“I couldn’t say. They wouldn’t talk about that with me. They interviewed me about the man who’d been by a few weeks ago. I cooperated, I assure you. Told them everything I could remember about him and what we talked about.”

“I’m sure you were very helpful. Would you mind telling me?”

“Of course, dear. I rather thought you’d like to know, seeing as how he asked about you. I even wrote down all the details. Let’s see. Where did I put it?” Paper rustled. “He was a tall man, taller than my Lawrence was, making him over six feet, I would guess. Shaggy dark-blonde hair, which I know for a fact he colors. He was in his fifties. No man his age would still have blonde hair.” Her little sniff of disapproval brought an unwitting smile. “Blue eyes and a strong nose. Had an athletic build too. One of those men who played some sport when he was younger and kept active as he aged. My Lawrence was like that, you know.”

Grace was peripherally aware of Matt staring at her. She wrapped the phone cord around her finger. “I do remember you telling me that. What else do you remember? What did he want to know?”

“Well, I can tell you, I didn’t like him. Despite his movie-star good looks, something was off, if you know what I mean. I’d say he has a mean streak. So I played dumb. Said I remembered seeing a black-haired, green-eyed little girl staying with my neighbors for a while, but you hadn’t been around in a long time. He wanted to know where you are now. Far as I knew, you hadn’t stayed in touch after you left. Told him about Laura dying too and how Darrell hadn’t been involved with you children. I assured him Darrell wouldn’t know anything about any of you, but he insisted on talking to him anyway.” She sighed. “I do wish I’d done something. I knew nothing good could come of it. I feel so bad about Darrell dying all alone like that.”

“It is not your fault. I doubt you could have done anything for Mr. Wells, but you’ve been very helpful to me. And the police too, I’m sure. Thank you so much for calling. I’m sorry I didn’t stay in touch with you. I just… I didn’t…” She bit the tender underside of her thumb. Nobody cared about her issues.

“Oh, you don’t have to explain, dear. Growing up in foster care is difficult. You don’t expect things to last, especially relationships. I’m always here if you need an ear, though. You remember that.”

“I will. And I promise…” Grace hesitated. Promises weren’t her forte. She avoided them like the plague. Still, Mrs. Growsky deserved that much. She forced the words past the constriction in her throat. “I promise to stay in touch. As a matter of fact, why don’t you give me your address and phone number. I’ve moved a few times and I’m afraid I don’t remember it.”

She flicked a glance at the man hovering protectively when she finally hung up. Approval softened the hard lines of Matt’s face. Why that mattered, she didn’t know. Or didn’t want to know. Same difference.

“Well?”

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Under the Evening Star by Shyla Colt – They must choose between the past that hunts and a love that can heal…

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Title: Love is in the Air 
(Multi-Genre Romance Box Set) 
Authors: AJ Nuest, Sarah Grimm, Kelly Moran, 
Mackenzie Crowne, and Vonnie Davis
Release Date: February 1, 2016 
Multi-Genre Romance Box Set from 5 Award-Winning Authors!

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Gift of the Realm by Mackenzie Crowne

Storm’s Interlude by Vonnie Davis

“Will tug at your heartstrings.” The Romance Review on JEZEBEL’S WISH

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AJ NUEST

 

Multi-published award-winning author and editor, AJ Nuest, resides in Northwest Indiana with her loving husband, two beautiful children and a bevy of spoiled pets. She and the cat are currently vying for dictatorship. The cat is winning. 
www.AJNuest.com
SARAH GRIMM

 

The youngest of four, Sarah Grimm can’t remember a time when she wasn’t writing. In fact, her siblings believe she began writing in utero to pass the time. As a child, Sarah wrote constantly, littering the house with bulging spiral notebooks and ignoring the ribbing of her mother and sister who routinely said ‘romances?’ in a somewhat scornful tone. Sarah is a Readers Favorite Award winner, a Romance Through the Ages award winner for Best Contemporary Romance, and a Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence finalist.
KELLY MORAN
Kelly Moran is a romance author of enchanting ever-afters. No one who knows her bats an eyelash when she talks to herself. She is a Catherine Award-Winner, Readers Choice Finalist, and a Finalist in RWA’s 2014 Award of Excellence. She earned one of the 10 Best Reads by USA TODAY’s HEA. Kelly’s interests include: sappy movies, MLB, NFL, driving others insane, and sleeping when she can. She is a closet caffeine junkie and chocoholic, but don’t tell anyone. She resides in Wisconsin with her husband, three sons, and her black lab. Most of her family lives in the Carolinas, so she spends a lot of time there as well.
MACKENZIE CROWNE
Hi there. My name is Mackenzie Crowne. 
I’m a wife, mother and really young grandmother. Together with my high school sweet heart husband, a neurotic Pomeranian and a blind cat, I call Phoenix home because the southwest feeds my soul. My love of the romance genre has been a lifelong affair, both as a reader and a writer. A bout with breast cancer sharpened my resolve to see my stories shared with others. Today I’m a six-year survivor living the dream. 
Raised on the concept that a stranger is just one conversation away from being a friend, I love meeting new people. My friends call me Mac. I hope you will too.
VONNIE DAVIS
Vonnie Davis is an award-winning, international author who writes contemporary, historical and contemporary paranormal romance, often with a strong spice of suspense and dollops of humor. She likens herself to a croissant: warm, crusty, wrinkled, a tad flaky–and best served with strong coffee.

Vonnie’s heroes are always that delightful blend of alpha male with a chewy chocolate beta center. And her heroines? Her heroines are feisty females, who take life’s adversities and turn them into advantages. The settings for her stories range from the Scottish Highlands to the gulf side of Florida to the hill country of Texas to her favorite city, Paris. Yet the home-base for each plot resides within the reader’s heart, where the hope of everlasting love dwells.

Although she began her writing career with The Wild Rose Press, moving up to HarperImpulse, she currently writes for Random House LoveSwept. 

She is a PAN member of RWA and several RWA groups. Find out more about Vonnie and her books at www.vonniedavis.com

Vonnie Davis for Romance… Adventurous…Humorous…Amorous.
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