Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Book Tour ~ The Blake-Lewin Family Cookbook of Traditional Jewish Recipes by Mark M. Bello

 



L'Dor V'Dor—From Generation to Generation II


Cookbook

Date Published: 02-27-2022

Publisher: 8Grand Publications


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Hi folks, Mark M. Bello, author of the Zachary Blake Legal Thriller Series here. Family, ethnic identity, holidays, and food are vital components of the Jewish experience. The delightful family recipes contained in this book have been handed down, l'dor v'dor—from generation to generation by precious family members from both sides of my family, some still with us, others of blessed memory. Somehow, despite tremendous adversity and tragedy, the Jews and Jewish family traditions have survived. Mitch pacha is important to me—I am who I am because of the influence and contributions of my family. My Jewish identity is also why I am so passionate about social justice—as you may have noticed, most Jewish holidays celebrate events in history when those in power tried to kill or harm the Jews. They failed, hence, holiday celebrations. Hopefully, these recipes will now endure, a lasting tribute to cherished family members and memories. I hope you enjoy this book, the delightful family stories woven between the delightful recipes, and the recipes themselves. If you happen to be Jewish, you will, no doubt, recognize many of these dishes. Perhaps your own family has created a special version of one or many. If you are not Jewish, hopefully the stories and recipes will, in some small way, help provide an better understanding of or connection to the Jewish experience. Either way, thanks for indulging my family memories as transmitted through my fictional character, Zachary Blake, Detroit's King of Justice. L'Chaim—To Life! Let's Eat!


 

About the Author


Mark M. Bello is an attorney and award-winning author of realistic fiction and political-legal thrillers.

Retired from handling high profile legal cases, Mark now gives the public a front-row seat watching victims fight for justice in our civil and criminal justice systems. Mark's award-winning Zachary Blake Legal Thrillers mirror our times and the events that shape our country.

In addition to being an author and veteran attorney, Mark is a member of numerous trial lawyer associations and a feature writer for the Legal Examiner and other popular blog sites. He has written articles for numerous publications and made guest appearances on radio and talk shows and multiple podcasts.

In his spare time, Mark enjoys traveling and spending time with his family. He and his wife Tobye, have four children and eight grandchildren. This is his first cookbook!


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Book Blitz ~ Perfectly Placed - Hopeful Heart Series: Book Two by Liana George

 

 

Hopeful Heart Series, Book Two

 

Contemporary Christian Women's Fiction

Release Date: July 5, 2022

Publisher: Scrivenings Press


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Six weeks after leaving China, Nicki Mayfield returns to complete two critical tasks: restore order at New Hope Orphanage and re-connect with Lei Ming, the little girl who stole her heart. However, a stonewalling supervisor, missing documents, and personal tragedy ensure Nicki faces challenges at every turn. Is she the best person to bring order – and longevity – to the place these children call home?

Then, with the help of an unexpected ally, Nicki makes a life-altering decision. One that has the potential to upend her well-planned life and the lives of those around her. Will she lose it all, or has she found a way to save what matters most?


Other Books in the Hopeful Heart Series


Perfectly Arranged

Hopeful Heart Series, Book One


Short on clients and money, professional organizer Nicki Mayfield is hanging up her label maker. That is until the eccentric socialite Katherine O’Connor offers Nicki one last job.

Working together, the pair discovers an unusual business card among Ms. O’Connor’s family belongings that leads them on a journey to China. There the women embark on an adventure of faith and self-discovery as they uncover secrets, truths, and ultimately, God’s perfectly arranged plans.


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About the Author

Liana George is a sought-after speaker, blogger, and author. Before pursuing a career in writing, she was a professional organizer and the former owner of By George Organizing Solutions in Houston. Her debut novel, Perfectly Arranged, Book One in The Hopeful Heart Series, was released in October 2021 from Scrivenings Press. When she’s not putting things in order or scribbling away, you can find her reading, traveling, or watching tennis.

 

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Cover Reveal ~ Shy Girls Can't Date Billionaires - Shy Girls Sweet Romances by Milly Rose

 

Shy Girls Can’t Date Billionaires
Milly Rose
Publication date: September 5th 2022
Genres: Comedy, Romance, Young Adult

I was born shy. And near him, I fall apart. No wonder he can’t stand the sight of me.

After a fire destroys our home, my family is taken in by a billionaire tycoon. His mansion has countless bedrooms, yet my room is next door to his son, Thomas Ashworth III. Yes, he’s as pompous as the name suggests. And, for some reason, he hates my guts.

Even though his arrogance drives me crazy, his chiselled features turn me into a stammering, awkward mess. I hate being stuck with someone I can’t stand. And when he does something unexpectedly kind, it confuses my heart.

When I bump into him in the middle of the night, I’d never guess it lead to us sharing secrets.

He’s impossible to get out of my head. But he wouldn’t consider dating someone like me. Would he?

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Author Bio:

Milly Rose is an animal-loving romance enthusiast with a swoon-inducing book formula. Shy girl + hot guy + first kisses. Her YA sweet romance books will have you falling in love every instalment. Milly Rose is the quintessential shy girl, who you can contact via her mailing list and reply to her monthly email blasts! Milly spends her days vying for her cat’s affection, dreaming up her next book boyfriend, and writing a fun meet-cute under candlelight with a lovely brewed cup of tea.

Join Milly Rose’s Mailing List Here >> [https://bit.ly/3BJHiUW](https://bit.ly/3BJHiUW)

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Monday, July 4, 2022

Book Blitz ~ Buck Up, Buttercup - A Romantic Comedy by Anna Alkire

 

Buck Up, Buttercup
Anna Alkire
Publication date: June 30th 2022
Genres: Comedy, Contemporary, New Adult, Romance

All’s fair in love and war.
With Randi and Buck, it’s hard to tell the two apart…

An uptight, self-contained college girl, Randi Becker just needed one thing: a room. Somewhere she could study, and keep away from the things that most confuse and frighten her: people.

Unfortunately, the “nice quiet place” she reserved turns out to be a room in the campus’ most raucous house. A place seemingly designed to make studying impossible, made even worse by the other girls’ non-stop drama.

But then Buck, a fun-loving cowboy whom all the ladies love, shows up…and everything gets much worse.

Buck seems to have it all: friends, fun, and a never-ending line of admirers. But what he most desires is a break. So when Buck spots Randi, he figures she’s a perfect decoy: he can play up a “crush” on her that will take him off the market; buy him some breathing room. And if he can tease her a bit, and get under the skin of the uptight busybody? Well, that’s just gravy.

But Buck is about to find more than he bargained for. Randi’s strong-willed, opinionated, difficult—and maybe just what he needs. And Buck isn’t alone. Soon Randi wonders as well…if the world she wanted is really the world she needs. If her future is nothing more than a diploma on the wall. And if the most important thing in her world isn’t a grade, but the cowboy who’s planted his boots firmly in her heart.

Fans of Beth O’Leary’s The Flatshare and Sally Thorne’s The Hating Game will delight at this mix of romantic comedy, contemporary romance, and cultures colliding in a campus town with a western flair. Grab your copy today, and fall in love with Buck Up, Buttercup!

Goodreads / Amazon

EXCERPT:

An old pickup, with new shiny green paint, slowed down beside her until it crawled along at her pace. A quick glance sideways revealed black-hat-cowboy-guy grinning down at her.

A jolt of awareness cleared some of the fog from her head. He was more good-looking than she’d remembered, and also incredibly large above her in the truck.

“Good morning, darlin’,” he called down.

“Drive on,” she called out.

“Headed into town? We’ve got room.”

“I’m going to walk.” She wouldn’t get into a car with a single person from that party. She walked forward, not looking at him.

“Hold up, you dropped something,” he said, stopping the truck.

Randi whirled around, scanning the empty ground behind her. Her fingers lost their grip and her bags crashed down, things spilling out onto the gravel road. Her eyes burned.

Buck turned off the truck engine and leaned out the window.

“That’s a lot of gear to haul all the way into town,” he said, cheerfully.

“That was a dirty trick.”

“I just want to talk to you for a minute.”

“Leave me alone please!”

“Listen. Hugh, in the passenger seat, and I are headed in for some breakfast. If you ride with me, this gas guzzler will have a full cab. Darlin’, that’s a load off my conscience.”

Randi’s belly shuddered and her lips quivered. The dam burst. Her hands flew up to cover her eyes and a hiccupped sob exploded out.

“I can’t jump in some stranger’s pickup,” she mumbled through her fingers.

“Hey now,” he said, the amused condescension in his voice aking her glare up at him. “You hold on to that pepper spray if it makes you feel better. Land’s sake, girl, we hauled around passed-out-Sarah last night. You’re practically part of the family. And Hugh here has about twenty sisters, so he’s well-trained.”

The door of the truck opened. She took a step back, pulling up the inside collar of her dress to dab at her face.

Buck’s eyes crinkled at her, a lopsided half-grin on his face. It was probably the way he looked at cows right before he lassoed a rope around their necks, or whatever. But he had helped Sarah. And her.

Her shoulders slumped. Defeated, she was beyond resistance. If they murdered her, at least she might be sitting down.

“All right?” he asked.

She exhaled. “All right, I’ll take a ride to the closest bus stop. Thanks.”

Buck picked up her bags and put them in the back of the truck. She hauled her heavy backpack off her aching shoulders and turned to sling it up, but Buck was already gripping the top and lifting it out of her hands.

“Hi,” said a burly man sitting on the passenger side of the bench seat, a gentle smile on his face. Like she was a crazy person. Which she was. With a deep breath, she hoisted herself up into the cab next to him.

“Sorry about Buck,” the big guy said, glaring at the culprit with one eye squinted. “He’s devious about getting what he wants.”

Buck landed on the seat beside her. “Hugh keeps the standards up. Probably why he’s so grumpy all the time.”

Hugh crossed his arms, leaning into the passenger door. His buzzed blond head and muscular frame brought to mind a late-twenties version of Mr. Clean, minus the jewelry.

“I ain’t grumpy. Just tired of your ugly face.”

Buck chuckled. Randi caught herself staring at him. She wouldn’t call his face ugly, not even anything related to unattractive. More like relentlessly cheerful. And way too confident that he could boss everyone around. She sniffed, annoyed with him enough to stop crying.

The truck rolled forward, bumping on the gravel road. They sat on an old-fashioned bucket-style bench, comfortable for two people, and a squeeze for three. The middle seat offered no belt. A death trap. Because that was the logical conclusion to her week from hell. She braced a hand on the dash to keep from bouncing into the bodies next to her.

Not touching either man, holding her body tense and straight, made her neck ache. And still she knocked knees with Hugh and almost leaned on Buck’s shoulder. Buck’s hand on the manual gear shifter was an inch from her thigh, his fingers brushing the edge of her skirt when he shifted. Short of sitting on Hugh’s lap, there was nowhere for her to go to keep from touching him.

She felt shaky, barely keeping herself together. Every time Buck changed position she noticed it, his muscular arms flexing as he drove. It was like sitting next to a tiger: electrifying, an experience you never forgot, and total madness.

“So,” said Buck, flashing a grin at her. “What’s your rush this morning? You just moved in last night.”

Randi dug a tissue out of her bag. “I can’t live in a party house,” she said, dabbing at her running nose.

“A Waffle House?” said Hugh.

“She said party house, Einstein.” Buck glanced at her. “How’d you end up with a room out there?”

“I was teaching in Argentina and found it online. Paid everything…” She paused, choking up, not sure why she was telling them. “They lied to me.” And she dissolved again, covering her face with the tissue.

What was wrong with her? It was beyond humiliating to be crying like a child in front of these strangers. At least she’d never have to see them again.

“Huh,” said Buck, tapping the steering wheel. “Well, I know Trish isn’t happy about the parties.”

“They got an ugly ticket last June,” said Hugh. “She’s on probation.”

Randi sat up straighter, taking in this information. She managed to stop crying, and dabbed her cheeks clean with the tissue.

Buck rubbed the side of his face. “Is that right?”

“I can’t believe you didn’t know that, Buck. Jesus.”

“I just look like I know everything.”

“Yeah, well, one more ticket and they’re facing jail time. And, of course, there were minors everywhere last night. I turned my back and they slurped down my keg.”

Randi pushed up her glasses. No wonder Trish hadn’t been there during the party. It revealed, even more, how shamelessly Trish had lied to her in the emails they’d exchanged about the house.

The farmland was transforming into residential housing when Buck turned onto a major road.

“That bus stop coming up will be fine,” said Randi, her voice annoyingly shaky.

“No way, darlin’,” said Buck. “You cry in my truck, and I buy you a coffee. Then, I drop you off wherever you want.”

“No, really—”

“Hey,” he said, “I put up with all the tears. So now we’re going to go to this coffee drive-through and get sugary drinks to make ourselves feel better. Otherwise, Hugh over there might start his period.”

“You’re such a jackass,” Hugh said, shaking his head.


Author Bio:

Anna Alkire has been a long-term college student, a business owner, and a world traveler. Now “settled”—with a sigh and a cup of decaf—Anna lives in Washington state, where she splits her time between a husband who thinks the North Pole would be a great place to live, chasing her hurricane of a son, learning new handicrafts, and creating worlds full of the kind of romance and fun she most wants to read. Find more about her (and grab a freebie or two) at her website, annaalkire.com.

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Book Blitz ~ Revel In You - Determined by Scarlett Se Leva

 

Revel In You
Scarlett Se Leva
(Determined, #3)
Publication date: June 30th 2022
Genres: Contemporary, New Adult, Romance

Simone Goodman.
The only girl I’ve loved.
Until she ripped my heart out.

It’s been five years since I’ve laid eyes on her.
Five years since she was mine.

I told myself never again.
But truth be told I still yearn to indulge in her.
To get lost in her touch.

I plan to own the one thing she’s denied me.
Her heart.

Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble / iBooks / Kobo

EXCERPT:

I see Craig and Tinea across the room, sitting close to each other, whispering and giggling with flirty smiles in their eyes. I admire their love, but at times I can’t stand being around them. Always touching, petting, and kissing each other.

Like what the fuck.

You’re just jealous.

I’m anything but; I get to bang the girl on the cover of this month’s American Vogue.

Upon my approach, Craig leans over and kisses Tinea.

“You two are corny as hell,” I greet them, then place a kiss on Tinea’s cheeks before sitting.

“Don’t be kissing my wife.”

“She isn’t your wife yet,” I point out. “She could come to her senses and run away.” I laugh.

“Wishful thinking, Mulligan.” Craig laughs. “When you put it down like I do, you never worry about your woman leaving.” He winks at Tinea.

Is that a dig? Simone didn’t leave because I couldn’t fuck her brains out. She left because she’s a conceited bitch. She thinks only of herself. Only Simone has feelings, no one else. Men don’t feel. We do fucking feel, but we can’t show it the way women do cause were expected to be strong.

Fucked up world standards.

“You’re hilarious.”

The waiter comes over and takes my drink order.

“Let’s add mozzarella sticks, potato focaccia rolls, and bruschetta with spring vegetables,” Tinea orders.

“Are you ready to order your main course?” The waiter asks.

“We’re still looking,” Craig answers.

“Okay, let me get your appetizers in. I’ll be back with your drink,” the waiter says to the table before walking away.

“Have you started planning the wedding yet?” I ask Tinea as she sips on her drink through strawberry-red lips.

She nods and puts her glass down. “That’s why we asked you here.”

“What you want us to be a throuple?” I smirk.

“Do you not enjoy the air you breathe?” Craig sneers.

“So touchy.” I laugh.

Tinea snickers, looking sideways as she brings her drink back to her lips.

“The reason we wanted to meet up is, I would love for you to be my best man,” Craig says.

“Of course, I’m honored you asked.” Craig and I bump fists then I stand to give him a man hug, patting him on the back. I sit back in the chair. “You’re sure you don’t want to ask one of your brothers?” Craig has three brothers he’s very close with. I don’t want them to be upset that one of them weren’t chosen.

“No, dude, you’re my best friend. Besides if I choose one brother the other is going to be mad. It’s better this way.”

“I have to get Lisa to help me plan your bachelor’s party,” I say, a smile dance on my lips.

“If he’s going to have strippers I need to know, then I’ll make sure I have strippers at mine.”

“Ryan, I don’t want any strippers.” Craig’s brows snap together.

“What?” I give him a puzzled look.

“Why not?” Tinea rolls her eyes.

“Woman!” Craig growls.

Tinea snickers behind her hand. I always thought Tinea would run all over Craig, but he’s tamed the lioness.

We begin talking about the issues Craig is having at the investment firm he works at. He’s one of their top producers and is eyeing a promotion to become a fund manager.

“If I get this position I’ll be making the big bucks.” Craig beams.

He’s already making bank. He has a medium size portfolio over a hundred million. Craig graduated Summa Cum Laude, and I didn’t hesitate when I made the decision and gave him fifteen percent of my net worth to manage.

The account has grown…

Wait a fucking minute?

It’s as if I suddenly have static in my clothes, and there’s a zap to my brain.

“Who’s going to be the maid of honor?”

“Simone,” Tinea says as she sheepishly looks away.

I’m left speechless. My mind spins as if I just came off a fair ride.

“Are you fucking kidding me?” I bark. I look between Craig and Tinea. Craig is my friend, or so I thought. Why the hell would he think this is a good decision is beyond me. Are they trying to play matchmaker? Simone and I have been down this road twice. I’ve accepted we aren’t meant to be.

That’s not a road I’m willing to travel down again. Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me, this would be the third time and I’m not a fucking jackass.


Author Bio:

Scarlett Se Leva writes unexpected, steamy, suspenseful romance.

When Scar isn’t busy penning her next book, you can find her with her family watching movies, drinking wine, curled up in a corner with a book or running after her three daughters.

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Sunday, July 3, 2022

Book Blitz ~ Bratva Darling - A Dark Mafia Romance by Sabine Barclay

 

Bratva Darling
Sabine Barclay
(The Ivankov Brotherhood, #1)
Published by: Oliver Heber Books
Publication date: June 28th 2022
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Mafia, Romance

I wasn’t prepared for her…
She just got me to pay three times as much as I wanted for a company I’ll buy and destroy.

She knows who I am. The bratva doesn’t scare her.

Intelligent, brave, and unstoppable.

I’ll make her mine.

She doesn’t know it yet, but we’re soulmates.

I’ll take her to her limits. Then give her all her heart desires.

The Bratva Darling is an interconnecting, standalone Dark Mafia Romance with a HEA and no cliffhanger. It contains extra-steamy scenes that will make your toes curl and your granny blush. This is book one in The Ivankov Brotherhood, a six-book series that’ll keep you warm at night.

Goodreads / Amazon

EXCERPT:

Laura

As I sit across from the four Kutsenko brothers, I press my lips together to keep from drooling. No four men should be so strikingly handsome. Not all from the same family, anyway. I fight a valiant battle against letting my gaze drift toward the eldest, Maksim, whose ice-blue eyes bore into me. After years of negotiating billion-dollar investment contracts while facing countless ruthless businessmen, I’ve learned to keep my expression studiously blank. But it’s a true struggle today. Instead, I focus my attention on the squirrelly lawyer sitting across the conference table. While he’s disingenuous with each comment, he’s a good negotiator. But I’m better. How cliché am I?

While I feel Maksim watching me, I focus on Dmitry Yakovitch as he continues to argue the merits of the venture capitalist company I represent, RK Capital Group, merging with Kutsenko Partners. What he means is the merits of Kutsenko Partners acquiring RK Capital Group, then stripping it and making it another money-laundering shell corporation. While most people in New York have little awareness of the Russian mafia, I do. The Kutsenko brothers’ names appear on no titles or deeds anywhere in New York City, but it wasn’t difficult to determine which shell companies likely belong to them. Their assumption that I’m unfamiliar with them is proving beneficial to me as they continue to whisper amongst themselves in Russian. I think they may even believe they’re convincing me that they don’t speak much English.

The senior partners of RK Capital Group know who I’m negotiating with, though they may not know I’m aware of these Russians’ more nefarious operations. They’ve given me the go-ahead to agree to a merger with an eventual acquisition, but only for the right price. A price to the tune of twenty billion dollars. Considering an investment firm like Goldman Sachs is worth nearly one-hundred-and-twenty billion dollars, my clients’ asking price appears reasonable.

“Mr. Yakovitch, I shall stop you now.” I raise my left hand, pen caught between my index and middle fingers. When I have his attention, I lean back in my chair and casually twirl the pen over my index finger and thumb. “Fifty billion is my clients’ asking price. You know that. Your clients know that. RK doesn’t oppose the merger. What they oppose is the insulting offer you’ve made. It’s nearly noon, and I’m hungry, Mr. Yakovitch. I have a delicious ham sandwich waiting for me. I even have three chocolate chip cookies waiting for me. If we aren’t going to make any progress, I shall let you go, so I can move onto my eagerly anticipated lunch.”

I cant my head just enough for me to appear as though my gaze rests solely on the opposing attorney’s face, but I can see each Kutsenko brothers’ reaction. My face battles yet again against showing my emotions as I fight not to smirk. Their muted but surprised expressions confirm what I already know.

“Please tell your clients to make a reasonable counteroffer, or I will conclude this meeting and enjoy my ham sandwich and cookies.”

Dmitry glares at me before turning to Maksim and his three brothers. In rapid Russian, he doesn’t interpret my suggestion. Oh no. There’s no need for that. I can’t catch every word because his voice is too low. But I catch something along the lines of “The bitch refuses to budge. What now? A f*cking ham sandwich. More like a stick up her *ss.”

Maksim swivels his chair to look at his brothers. In Russian, he says, “Fifty billion is ridiculous. She’s not so stupid or naïve not to know that. My guess is they’ll settle for twenty billion. We offer fifteen.”

“That’s barely better than what we already offered,” Aleksei, the second-oldest brother, argues. “She’ll be eating the f*cking sandwich and dipping her cookies in milk before we walk out the door. We need the buildings.”

“We offer twenty, Maks,” Bogdan, the youngest, insists.

As I watch the brothers discuss, their voices barely lowered, I pull my lunch sack from the black leather satchel by my feet and set it beside my laptop. It’s a ridiculously pink floral bag with an embroidered monogram, the L and D overlapping. It’s an empty prop, but they don’t know that. I watch as five sets of eyes narrow. I offer a smile that would appear innocent in any setting other than this meeting. It’s patronizing, and I know it.


Author Bio:

Sabine Barclay, a nom de plume also writing Historical Romance as Celeste Barclay, lives near the Southern California coast with her husband and sons. Growing up in the Midwest, Sabine enjoyed spending as much time in and on the water as she could. Now she lives near the beach. She's an avid swimmer, a hopeful future surfer, and a former rower. Before becoming a full-time author, Sabine was a Social Studies and English teacher. She holds degrees in International Affairs (BA), Secondary Social Science (MAT), and Political Management (MPS). She channels that knowledge into creating engrossing contemporary romances that will make your toes curl and your granny blush.

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Blog Tour ~ Heads on Fire by Elora Nicole Ramirez

 

Head on Fire by Elora Nicole Ramirez is out now! Check out the gorgeous new release and be sure to grab your copy today!

Title: Heads on Fire

Author: Elora Nicole Ramirez

Genre: Contemporary Romance

About Heads on Fire:

Nova Scofield isn’t looking for anything serious. She’s not looking for anything at all, actually. Still recovering after walking away from her narcissistic fiancé weeks before their wedding, she is happily focused on her floral shop, Wild Flora. But then Jax Stratford walks into the shop and Nova suddenly remembers what it’s like to feel the gravitational pull of chemistry. For one night, she allows herself the freedom of letting her desire lead her. The only problem is Jax isn’t a one night stand — he’s a potential business partner. Despite her best judgment, she agrees to a date and finds herself falling head over heels. But Nova’s ex refuses to let go — he keeps showing up and threatening to take over the flower shop she built with her best friend — making it impossible for Nova to move on from their relationship and the control he had over her. To make matters worse, history surfaces and her ex shares something with her, making it seem Jax has kept the truth from her this entire time. Will she give into the heat she feels with Jax? Or will everything she’s worked for turn to ash?

Get Your Copy Today:

Amazon | Paperback

I feel someone’s eyes on me and turn around, not expecting the absolute drop in my chest when I see who the gaze belongs to — it’s Jax. He’s at the booth with fresh coffee from one of our local shops. I smile when I see him studying me so intently he misses the barista handing him his coffee. He jerks his attention back, apologizes, and begins to walk over.

I turn to look at Gabi and she manages to see him walking over right as I turn for help. Her wide eyes look at me and then look at Mae. She leans forward for a moment, whispering. Mae’s face breaks out in recognition and she glances quickly to me and winks.

“Hey.”

I turn too quickly, knocking one of my baskets of leftover lavender off the table.

“Shit. Sorry. Hi.”

He leans over at the same time I do and our hands touch as we reach for the stems, and I freeze realizing the electricity is still there, perhaps even more intense than the night before. We gather everything, attempting to shake the dirt off what we can, and he helps me place them back in the basket. The whole time my heart is hammering a rhythm through my chest so loud I swear everyone around us can hear it.

“I’m so glad I ran into you today.”

I look at him, trying to collect myself. “You are?”

“Yeah. I realized this morning that I didn’t get your number and was afraid I was going to have to randomly drop by Wild Flora with some innocuous excuse just to see you.”

“…Oh.” I reply. I can’t feel anything right now. I rub my hand nervously over my eyebrow and smile awkwardly.

What am I supposed to say here? Do I say anything? Am I standing weird?

I think back to Gabi’s advice to act normal and know that I am assuredly not acting normal right now. He looks at me, a smile playing at his lips.

I clear my throat and try not to focus on them but am clearly struggling.

“So, I don’t know if you told me you were working today, but I feel like I need to offer you some coffee.” He reaches for a cup on the table and hands it over to me.

“Triple shot iced mocha with coconut milk?”

I hear a quiet oh shit behind me. Gabi is freaking out right now and between the pounding of my heart and the quiet giggles behind me, I feel like I’m back in middle school and dealing with uncontrollable hormones.

“How did you — ”

He winks. “I have a really good memory. Gabi got that for you when I came to pick up my sister’s bouquet. Right?”

Gabi nudges me with her shoulder and I turn to see her on my right, her eyes trained on Jax.

“You are correct,” she says, looking him up and down before landing on his face with a smile. “Good job.”

I don’t know what to say so I take a sip of the coffee and then place it on the table next to me. “Thank you,” I say, clearing my throat again. “Gabi brought us coffee this morning but an extra cup is definitely needed.” I move my eyes to his and his gaze darkens with something that feels dangerous. Something like attraction. Almost like he’s remembering. Like me.

He reaches up and drags his thumb across the edge of his lips, studying me.

Again with the lips.

Dammit.

“What are you doing tonight?” he asks. “Are you free?”

“She’s free.”

I blink and remember Gabi is standing next to me and most likely saw the exchange between us. I wonder briefly if she saw actual sparks radiate in the space between or if that was just me.

I take a breath. “I’m free.”

His eyes hover on mine before tracing my face and I look away because I am once again thinking about what it feels like to have his hands trace me instead. Out of the corner of my eye, I see him hand me his phone.

“Put your number in for me? I’ll text for your address. What time? Is 7pm good?”

I reach for his phone, willing my hands to stop shaking. I put in my number with my name and look up at him briefly.

“Yeah. Yeah, 7pm is fine.”

His emerald eyes drill into my own and I am so lost. I can’t look away because his eyes on me makes me want to gasp for air in so many different ways that are not appropriate for a farmers market on a Saturday afternoon.

“Wonderful. Bye, Nova.”

I wave at him, unable to say anything else, and then rake my hands down the side of my jeans, cleaning the remaining dirt and residual lavender off my skin while watching him walk toward the parking lot.

When I am finally able to move and turn to look at Gabi and Mae, both of their eyes are frozen in wide circles. Gabi grabs my arm and whispers, “oh. my. god.”

Mae stands up and walks over to us.

“Miss ma’am….” she begins.

I let out breath and look at them both.

“Was that…was that as hot as I thought it was? Because I am unsure if it’s just my hormones right now or —”

They both shake their heads vehemently.

“No. Babe. No, it was hot,” Gabi says.

Mae agrees. “I, uh…I am feeling things. And I don’t feel things for men. Not ever.”

Gabi looks at her. “Right?! That’s what I told her the first time I saw him at Wild Flora!” She looks at me and puts her index finger up. “This man has to be written by a woman. It’s the only explanation.”

About the Author:

Elora Ramirez has always been a word girl.   It started when she was four, when she taught herself how to read and write as a way to entertain herself while her grandmother kicked and danced in aerobics class. She cut her teeth on books from Dr. Seuss and writing anywhere she could find the space — including her Fischer Price kitchenette, the pages of picture books, and Highlights Magazines.   She's matured a bit since then, now choosing to write in the margins of her books and on the mirrors of her bathroom ideas and thoughts surrounding story and what makes us human. By day she leads a team at a tech company, waking up before the sun rises to get in her love for words before stepping into her role of helping others see the plot line of their own story under development.   Intuition and beauty get her through the day, as well as her chef-husband and their little lion son. Curious Obsession is her fourth novel.  

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