#5DaysOfNicolaRendell!! #JustLikeThat #OneClickIt #FreeKindleUnlimited

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“I bet I can untangle you.”

At an airport baggage claim, Penny Darling looks up from her knotted mess of ear buds to find the sexiest hunk of man she’s ever seen. He’s got a military haircut, a scar through his eyebrow, and he’s rocking a pastel pink dress shirt like only a real man can. But Penny is on a man-free diet so she leaves the airport without succumbing to his delicious double-entendres…or his dreamy dimples.

PI Russ Macklin can’t take his eyes off Penny. As she sashays out of the airport with hips swaying and curls bouncing, he suspects they may share more than just sweltering chemistry. That suitcase she’s rolling along behind her? It looks a lot like his.

Because it is.

When he tracks her down, he holds her bag hostage in exchange for a date. Their night begins with margaritas and ends in urgent care, and Russ proves that Cosmo’s theory about a very particular type of orgasm was oh-so-wrong.

In Penny, Russ finds a small-town sweetheart with a very naughty side. For the first time ever, he’s thinking about picket fences. Penny finds in Russ a loving, caring man who understands the power of massaging showerheads.

But Russ is only in Port Flamingo for a week. They agree it’ll be a fling and nothing more. Because really, they can’t fall ass-over-teakettle in love just like that…

Can they?

Jesus,”I groan into her ear. “You always this wet?”

“For you, I think so.”

I hoist her up onto the countertop, making a nearby teakettle clatter and slosh. She loops her arms around my neck, and I kiss her again, pressing her head up against the cabinets. I add another finger, feeling just how fucking tight she really is. I compress her clit and she rolls her pelvis into my palm. That tiny movement, the shifting of her pussy, her body saying yes, it sets off something inside me, as powerful as a fucking starting pistol, and I smack the cabinet behind her head, making dishware rattle and ding.

Her hands make their way down to my belt. I pull back from the kiss and watch her, her delicate hands working the leather, unthreading the end from the loops. With my thumb I press into the edge of her clit, which makes her freeze, buckle clasped in her hand. Her eyes flutter shut, and she goes slack in my arms.

I take over and pull my belt off. “So, listen,”I say, keeping my tone serious and dark. “I want you to tell me exactly what you want. You get that?”

“This is what I want,”she gasps, feeling me through my shorts. “Oh my God, you’re huge.”

“Think you can handle me?”

“If you teach me.”

Shit, how sexy is that? I tip her chin up toward my face. “Yeah, I’ll teach you. But I want you to be fucking explicit.”

“About what…”She trails off as I lick a line up her throat.

“About what you like and how you like it. I don’t know how long I’m going to be here, and I don’t want to fuck around.”I drag my tongue along the clamshell edge of her ear. “Be dirty, be rude. Tell me what you want and don’t hold back.”

Her neck arches, and her pussy clamps down around my fingers. So I give her a third. She pauses with her hands inside my waistband, her fingers inches from my cock.

“What do you want? Tell me, right now.”

She stares hard at me, like she’s trying to call my bluff. Like she thinks it doesn’t matter what she wants, not really. But how fucking wrong she is. What she wants, that’s everything.

Still though, she doesn’t answer. She gets to work on the buttons of my shirt, her small fingers undoing one after another until she’s got her hands on my bare chest.

Time to be even clearer with her, so I pin her head back and get right up in her face. “I can fuck you all night, Penny. I can fuck you until you beg for mercy. Or I can go slow and be sweet.”I pull off her shorts, working them down her legs, and drop them on the kitchen floor.

She runs her fingertips down my abs. “Can’t we do everything?”

Goddamn it, yes. “Everything and more.”

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Nicola Rendell writes dirty romantic comedy. She likes a stiff drink and a well-frosted cake. She loves to cook, sew, and play the piano. She realizes that her hobbies might make her sound like an old lady and she’s totally okay with that. She grew up in Taos, New Mexico; after receiving a handful of degrees from a handful of places, she now works as a professor in New England. An Amazon bestseller, her work has been featured in USA Today’s Happy Ever After and the Huffington Post. She is represented by Emily Sylvan Kim at the Prospect Agency.

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#ReleaseBlitz!! #99CentSale!! Redemption – Mon Of Honor #2 By Michelle Horst



Title: Redemption

Author: Michelle Horst

Series: Men Of Honor #2, 

Genre: Romantic Suspense

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She barged her way into my life and demanded that I be her friend. That was the best day of my life. The day Quinn took one look at my sorry ass, and decided I needed her.


She was right. I can’t live a day without her smile. She’s my heart and soul. I’ve become her shadow, always threatening any guy that dares to even look at her.


I’ve fallen for my best friend.  I wish I’d told her sooner how much I love her.


I was only five minutes late. That’s all it took for him to take her.

He ripped the sun right out of my life.


In the darkest of nights, even your shadow leaves you. Those are the only words she’s spoken to me since that night. They haunt me, a constant echo in the emptiness left behind.  

Because of him, she now fears me. But I’ll be patient with her.

I’ll get my sunshine back once I’ve dealt with him.

He’s had a taste of her and just like me, he’s addicted.

He’ll come for her again and when he does, I’m going to make him suffer.


I’m a Jackson. I’ve learned from the best. He’s a dead man walking and I’m the Grim Reaper.



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Michelle Horst is a Bestselling Romance Author who likes her books hot, dirty, and with a touch of darkness. She loves an alpha hero who is not scared to fight for his woman.  

Want to be up to date with what’s happening in Michelle’s world? Sign up to receive the latest news on her alpha hero releases, sales, and great giveaways → http://eepurl.com/cUXM_P

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#Cover Reveal!! Alpha Mail By Brenda Rothert #ComingSoon October 24, 2017 #PreOrder

Today we are sharing the cover reveal for ALPHA MAIL by Brenda Rothert. This book is a contemporary romance, standalone, title that will be released on October 24th. Check out the pre-order links for Amazon, iBooks, and B&N below to reserve your copy now!

 

Alpha Mail by Brenda Rothert

An adult standalone, contemporary romance

Coming October 24, 2017!

PRE-ORDER IT NOW!

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Book Blurb:

Sienna Mills knows her alpha males.
They brood.
They growl.
They love the word “mine”.
After spending her early twenties in and out of relationships with alphas, Sienna used her knowledge to found Alpha Mail, a booming business that allows women to sign up for emails, letters, and texts from their own brooding, red-blooded man.
Her star is on the rise and Sienna is attracting the interest of investors when a mysterious man starts messaging her about the true nature of an alpha. She’s got it all wrong, he says, and he’s willing to show her how a real man makes women respond.
The more Sienna hears from him, the more aggravated she becomes. Who does this anonymous, supposed alpha think he is, anyway?
And yet…she can’t deny his messages are becoming the best part of her days. Commitment-phobic Sienna finds herself wanting more from her sensei of seduction. But is she willing to trust her heart to an alpha again?

 

———————

AUTHOR INFORMATION:

BRheadshot

Brenda Rothert is an Illinois native who was a print journalist for nine years. She made the jump from fact to fiction in 2013 and never looked back. From new adult to steamy contemporary romance, Brenda creates fresh characters in every story she tells. She’s a lover of Diet Coke, chocolate, lazy weekends and happily ever afters.

AUTHOR LINKS:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | | Wattpad | Amazon

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#NewRelease!! #ChasingElla #SportsRomance #JillianQuinn

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Every Princess needs a Prince Charming…

When a masked girl throws herself at Shawn Finch at a costume party, the hotshot football player assumes she’s just another girl trying to get his attention. Except she’s not just any girl. She’s his Cinderella, the nameless girl in the pale blue dress who got away.

Desperate to find her, Finch searches for his mystery girl with no luck. So, it must be fate when Finch’s grade point average drops and the school assigns him a tutor not knowing they just handed over his Cinderella.

After having a crush on Finch since the first time she spotted him on campus, one kiss was all she’d ever wanted. But Finch has other plans once he discovers the truth about his tutor.

Ella

Most days, my house feels like a prison.
Today is one of them. Ever since my father’s sudden death over two years ago, my stepmother and her annoying daughters have done everything in their power to make my life a living hell.
Locked away, like a family heirloom stored inside an old trunk, I see how much hatred these women breed. My father would roll over in his grave if he knew how I live, all because Clarissa is even more selfish and spoiled than her daughters. With only a few more months until the end of the school year, this is my life until I can make my escape.
Anastasia flings open my bedroom door and waltzes inside with a sour look on her face. She scans the floor and what’s left of my belongings, before her eyes eventually land on me. I don’t miss her scowl as she appraises my floral comforter, the one thing I have left from my mother.
“Get your lazy ass out of bed, Ella.” She says my name with such disdain that her words slice through me, cutting deep. “Mother says you have chores to do.”
“That’s no different than any other day,” I spit back. “Who else would clean up after you?”
She snickers, throwing her hands onto her wide hips. “At least you’re good for something other than taking up space. We can’t have you lounging around here all day doing nothing. You have to earn your keep.”
I get up from the bed, irritated and still half asleep. “This is my house, Anastasia. Not yours.”
She points a long, bony finger at me and digs it into my arm. Her French tip hurts as she presses it into my skin. “Now, that is where you are wrong. This is my mother’s house now, which makes it mine. If it were up to me, you would be out on your ass, but Mom likes having a maid.”
I let out an exaggerated sigh. How much more of this can I take? I can’t afford to live on my own. Clarissa pays my tuition at Strickland University, the one luxury I have left, and I wouldn’t dare do a thing to jeopardize getting far away from this torture.
Unlike my stepsisters, who drive Mercedes’s, I ride three buses to get to school. It takes me hours to get there, but at least I get to leave this hellhole a few times a week in hopes of making something of myself. I’m counting down the days until I graduate. As of today, I have one hundred days left.
Natasha strolls into my room with a bucket in hand and a mop in the other, dressed in vintage Chanel, of course.
My mother had worn plenty of it before these cows had ransacked this house and took every piece of clothing and jewelry she had of value. The only thing spared from my stepmother’s fire sale was a gold heart charm necklace my father had given me on my thirteenth birthday. One side of the heart had belonged to him and the other to me.
I’ve kept it hidden under a loose floorboard under my bed. It’s the one place none of them would ever bother to look. They’re too lazy to get on their hands and knees. Instead, they make me do all the work. Every morning, I wake to one of them screaming from the bottom of the stairs, Get down here and make us breakfast, Ella or Clean the dishes, Ella or Get the stain out of my Prada bag, Ella.
They always have some request, leaving me little time to study, which is why I spend my afternoons tutoring students in the library. I get extra financial aid for helping out, but I mostly do it to give myself a reprieve from my jailers.
“Get to work, Ella,” Natasha says, shoving the bucket and mop into my chest. “If you want that dress for the party tonight, you have to earn it.”
It takes every ounce of strength I have to hide my smile. Just thinking about the masquerade party at the Delta Sigma Phi fraternity house sets fire to my skin. Shawn Finch will be there. He’s gorgeous, the starting tight end for the Strickland Senators, and has big, strong arms that I want to touch every time I see him in the library.
He’s always failing at least one class because he’s too busy hooking up with girls and partying. From what I’d heard, he just manages to pass with the help of our tutoring staff. I would have killed to be his tutor last semester. Instead, I was stuck with some jerk from the hockey team. I even offered to trade Mandy, but she was too busy batting her eyelashes at Finch to consider my offer to switch. She practically had their wedding planned out in her head, and he didn’t even pay attention to her.
Guys like Finch are untouchable. You have to be part of the sport’s elite on campus to get anywhere near them. That’s why I jumped at the chance to go to this party tonight. I’m friends with Tori Reynolds, girlfriend of Sebastian Prince and the captain of the football team. He’s a big deal at our school. Tori invited me before I left class yesterday. She’s normal, like me, and nothing like most of the elitist snobs at Strick U. I guess we bonded over our mutual dislike for snooty people, and now, we’re acquaintances—maybe even friends.
Because of Anastasia and Natasha are always sticking their nose into my business, I have no friends other than Tori, no prospect of a boyfriend, and absolutely no life. I’m the house bitch, the girl who scrubs the floor, washes clothes, and cooks meals. This is my life for a little while longer. At least I get to go to the party tonight.
“Don’t look so excited,” Natasha yells, as I walk past her to deal with my chores. “Just remember we will be at the party, too.”
“I haven’t forgotten,” I say, keeping my eyes focused on the long hallway in front of me with one goal in mind.
“And don’t you dare think of speaking to us. You don’t know us, and we don’t know you. Got it? You will never be one of us, no matter how hard you try,” Anastasia says in a harsh tone.
I stop at the top of the staircase and spin around to face them. “I don’t want to be like you or your friends. I just want to go to the party.”
Natasha clicks her tongue. “Figures you would make friends with someone like Tori. She’s another one who is way out of her league.”
“You’re just jealous because you want Bash and can’t have him.”
Anastasia snorts. “I’ll have you know we’ve already had him.”
Staring at Anastasia and then Natasha, I’m confused until I realize what she means and want to vomit.
“Being a whore isn’t exactly something to brag about, Sis,” I say, laughing to myself, as I turn around to go downstairs.
“You will pay for that! Just wait and see, Ella.”
I have no doubt my loving stepsisters and their equally bitchy sorority sisters will make this night harder for me. At least I get to wear a mask and pretend I am someone else for the night. If it were any other frat party, I probably would skip it. I get enough weird stares pointed in my direction because of the hand-me-downs I have to wear to school, let alone the looks I would get if I were to attend a party in the same clothes.
Tonight, I get to wear one of my mother’s dresses, as long as I finish my chores and homework. That was the deal I had made with Clarissa. Both of which were a given. I already have a perfect grade point average and cater to their every need.
One night. That’s all I want. One night to feel normal again. Maybe I’ll even get the kiss I think about when I see Shawn Finch on campus. Maybe, just maybe, I will get my wish.

Jillian Quinn is the international bestselling romance author of the Face-Off Series, the upcoming Men of Honor Series, as well as other sexy, sporty standalone romances.

Jillian loves sports, bad boys, dirty talkers, strong females, and books with plenty of heat—all of which you will find in her books. As a lover of all things bookish, she has a serious book hoarding problem and runs a blog in her free time. When she’s not reading, writing, or blogging, she’s obsessively fangirling over hockey players and can be found wherever she can catch the next hockey game.

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#5DaysOfNicolaRendell #HailMary #FreeKindleUnlimited #OneClickIt

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At a boxing gym in Chicago, Mary Monahan accidentally knocks out the most handsome man she’s ever met. After she wakes him up with a few slaps and some smelling salts, the very first thing he does is ask her out for ribs and beer. His name is Jimmy. He looks like a Gillette model. And he’s just too hunky to resist.

Jimmy “The Falcon” Falconi is mystified that Mary has absolutely no idea who he is. Mystified and refreshed. He is, after all, not your everyday NFL quarterback. He shops at Costco, has a soft spot for Pinterest, and is in the midst of an epic losing streak.

Jimmy falls for Mary fast and hard, the way he does everything—balls out and like it’s fourth and long. And he realizes he’s finally met his match. That stamina he’s so proud of? Doesn’t stand a chance against her Kegels.

But what they don’t know is she’s also his new physical therapist, recently hired by the Bears to work on his rotator cuff…and groin injury. If she can’t help him, he’ll be traded faster than they can say “offensive penetration.”

In spite of the thousands of internet memes featuring Jimmy’s face with captions like: “HEY GIRL, WANT TO TOUCH MY BALLS?” Mary finds herself falling for him and his unrelenting desire to make her his.

Until a toddler shows up at Jimmy’s door.

And throws their lives into total chaos.

Holy shit.”Jimmy reaches out and unpinches his fingers over Frankie’s face. “That looks like an ewok.”He leans in, putting his enormous elbows on the table so that everything on it sloshes and slides like we’re at sea. I clamp my hand to my side of the table and try to right the vessel with my shoe. Victory. Not even a drop of beer lost.

“Frankie Knuckles is his name.”

“Jesus,”he says with a snort, looking at the picture. “What a bruiser.”

Not exactly. He’s 13 pounds, allergic to wheat, afraid of aluminum foil, and carries a half-stuffed drool-crusted panda bear around with him everywhere he goes.

“Do you like dogs?”I ask, as casually as I can muster.

In my head, I swear to God, I hear the theme song from Jeopardy. This is a moment of truth. I’m not sure I’ll ever see this guy again, but I’d like to. I’m not sure I’ll ever know his lips on mine, but I want to. But this question, the dog question, this could be a deal-breaker. I find non-dog lovers to be very, very suspicious. I once heard Ted Bundy disliked dogs, and I thought, Of course he did. But this guy, Jimmy, he’s so perfect that we’ve got to be headed for a catastrophe. This might be it. Just my luck he’s going to say, I’m allergic, or I have twenty-nine cats, or I’m really into snakes.

Please, no.

“I fucking love dogs.”

And the crowd goes wild!

“Me too,”I say, smiling. It’s an understatement, but I don’t want to get pegged as crazy dog lady quite yet. With a non-greasy finger, I type in my passcode. “He’s a Brussels Griffon. And everybody says he looks like an ewok, but I’ve never actually seen Star Wars, so I can’t weigh in on that.

”He scratches his head and glances at the bar. “Never?”

“Never.”

He clears his throat. “I mean, I don’t want to be rude, but do you live under some kind of rock? Are you a hermit? Because I could totally be into that, but you know, full disclosure…”

Oh Lord. I could be into that. I swallow hard. Wait. What was the rest of that sentence? Right. Star Wars. “I just never saw it growing up, and now it’s sort of a thing. I’m not morally opposed to Darth Vader or anything. Just…never got around to it.”

Jimmy shrugs his massive sexy shoulders. He’s in a navy-blue thermal Henley and a gray Bears hoodie zipped halfway up. I’m pretty sure I can smell Bounce fabric softener tangled up with the Ivory soap smell. It’s hard to tell through the hickory smoke. It’ll require further up-close investigation. I’m definitely on board with that.

“Fair enough,”he says. “I guess it’s possible to not have seen Star Wars. Maybe? Did you grow up in Amish country?”

My giggle comes right from the depths of my stomach. “I grew up mostly in Vermont. My aunt was an apiarist.”

I feel like a jerk immediately. He probably thinks I’m quizzing him on his vocabulary…“

Holy shit. Bees?”

And the crowd goes wild again! “

So many bees. We didn’t have cable, but I can talk your ear off about honey.”He slides his lower jaw off to one side and looks me up and down. “Honey, huh?”

I snatch up my beer and take a gulp. He grins. “It’s okay. I see your lack of Star Wars and I’ll raise you. I’ve never seen The Princess Bride.”

“Well, that’s ridiculous. Even we had that one on VHS. Auntie Cheryl said it was a feminist film. She feels like Buttercup was inspired by Gertrude Stein.”

He snickers into his beer. Did he just laugh at a second-wave feminist reference? I might love him already.

AP  new -about the author.jpg

Nicola Rendell writes dirty romantic comedy. She likes a stiff drink and a well-frosted cake. She loves to cook, sew, and play the piano. She realizes that her hobbies might make her sound like an old lady and she’s totally okay with that. She grew up in Taos, New Mexico; after receiving a handful of degrees from a handful of places, she now works as a professor in New England. An Amazon bestseller, her work has been featured in USA Today’s Happy Ever After and the Huffington Post. She is represented by Emily Sylvan Kim at the Prospect Agency.

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#5DaysOfNicolaRendell #Professed #Free

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#Free!!!!!

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At a secret masked ball at Yale, Naomi Costa is literally swept off her stiletto-blistered feet by a man with a killer jawline, a perfect body, and an even-better kiss. They bust out of an emergency exit and have axis-shaking sex. He pours whiskey in her belly button and after they run out of condoms, they have to get creative. That kind of sex.

The next day, she learns that he is none other than Dr. Benjamin Beck, a brand new member of the Yale faculty and the hottest thing to happen to academia since… well, ever. She has to take his damned junior seminar to graduate, but it gets worse. He’s also her College Master: her boss, her advisor, her everything. And he’s just moved in, right downstairs.

They can’t stay away from each other. They’re either fusion or fission or both. They’re making out in libraries, hiding notes between stones, and sneaking off to nautically themed AirBnbs. Hear that sound? It’s the academic code of ethics going up in flames.

If they’re found out, he’ll lose his job and his reputation. She’ll lose her scholarship and be forced to return to the life of lobster fishing that she thought she’d escaped.

And they will be found out, yes they will.

So what the hell are they going to do?

The next thing that happens is a familiar smell. At first, I can’t place it. It’s chemical and yet sweet…

Marker. He’s got a marker. My whole body gives a sudden, excited shake. I think he’s going to write on me. Somewhere, something, his handwriting in ink on my skin.

God, yes, yes, yes. Is that a thing? Writing on skin? Because that’s so hot.

He’s hovering over me. I can feel the mattress depressing on either side of my body, under his knees. “What are you going to write?”

There’s an airy breath. I know he must be smiling. He smiles so much. I love that about him.

“What I want to write is mine on every inch of your skin,”he says. I feel a touch on my arm, and at first I think it’s the marker, but it’s warm and soft. His fingertip. He trails it up my forearm, lingering on the shallow depression above my elbow. “Mine, mine, mine,”he says. “All over you. A thousand times.”

I can see it in my head. Mine everywhere. Big and little. Sloppy and neat. “Please. I’d love that,”I whisper.

“I want to get a jar of ink,”he says. Now his palm is flat on my stomach. “And put my prints all over here.”When he says here, which he says slowly, he slides his fingertips down my abdomen.

All I can do is nod. I have no way to tell him how much I want that.

The mattress squeaks a little as he lowers himself down on me. His weight is heavenly on my legs. The feel of his chinos pressing into my bare skin. The agony of knowing his beautiful cock is right there, not six inches from pressing into me. It drives me right out of my mind.

“But there’s really one word that needs writing first. Before all the rest.”

The words line up in my head like flashcards. Trying to guess. But then I just let it go. Let him do it. Let him take control.

The tip of the marker is cold on my skin. It begins on my right side with a downward stroke.

I, is what I think at first, but then there’s a curve at the top. And a kick-out. R.

Another downwards stroke. I again? Nope. Three right-to-left lines. E.

Oh God, I think I know. Diagonal stroke, and a second. He makes the crossbar just over my belly button with agonizing slowness. A.

I know the word. But I just want to savor every last drop of this. Downward stroke, half circle. D.

Small check mark on my left abdomen, small downward stroke. Y. Already I’m nodding.

“Are you?”he asks.

And I tell him a long stream of Yesses straight through the squiggle and point of a ?

READY?

My hands are in tight fists, my nails pressing into my palms. Whatever he’s going to do to me, if it hurts or teases or pulls or pinches, I want him to do it. All of it. “Ready,”I whisper back.

The next thing I hear is a snapping. Rattling of markers. Another uncapping. Now he’s closer to me. I feel his forearm over the soft skin of mine. This is harder to make out, it’s on my wrist and small. “What does it say?”

He doesn’t answer at first. The little marks continue on my wrist. I hold very still, trying to get a sense of what it could be. “Ben,”I whisper, “Tell me.”

“It’ll drive you crazy not knowing, I’ll bet,”he says when he’s done. I hear him cap the marker shut.

God, yes it will. “You don’t want me distracted.”

His laugh is quiet and smug. I love it. “It says Property of Master Beck.”

AP  new -about the author.jpg

Nicola Rendell writes dirty romantic comedy. She likes a stiff drink and a well-frosted cake. She loves to cook, sew, and play the piano. She realizes that her hobbies might make her sound like an old lady and she’s totally okay with that. She grew up in Taos, New Mexico; after receiving a handful of degrees from a handful of places, she now works as a professor in New England. An Amazon bestseller, her work has been featured in USA Today’s Happy Ever After and the Huffington Post. She is represented by Emily Sylvan Kim at the Prospect Agency.

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#ChapterReveal!! Chasing Ella – Love Ever After Series By Jillian Quinn

Every Princess needs a Prince Charming…

When a masked girl throws herself at Shawn Finch at a costume party, the hotshot football player assumes she’s just another girl trying to get his attention. Except she’s not just any girl. She’s his Cinderella, the nameless girl in the pale blue dress who got away.

Desperate to find her, Finch searches for his mystery girl with no luck. So, it must be fate when Finch’s grade point average drops and the school assigns him a tutor not knowing they just handed over his Cinderella.

After having a crush on Finch since the first time she spotted him on campus, one kiss was all she’d ever wanted. But Finch has other plans once he discovers the truth about his tutor.

#ChapterOne

Ella

Most days, my house feels like a prison.
Today is one of them. Ever since my father’s sudden death over two years ago, my stepmother and her annoying daughters have done everything in their power to make my life a living hell.
Locked away, like a family heirloom stored inside an old trunk, I see how much hatred these women breed. My father would roll over in his grave if he knew how I live, all because Clarissa is even more selfish and spoiled than her daughters. With only a few more months until the end of the school year, this is my life until I can make my escape.
Anastasia flings open my bedroom door and waltzes inside with a sour look on her face. She scans the floor and what’s left of my belongings, before her eyes eventually land on me. I don’t miss her scowl as she appraises my floral comforter, the one thing I have left from my mother.
“Get your lazy ass out of bed, Ella.” She says my name with such disdain that her words slice through me, cutting deep. “Mother says you have chores to do.”
“That’s no different than any other day,” I spit back. “Who else would clean up after you?”
She snickers, throwing her hands onto her wide hips. “At least you’re good for something other than taking up space. We can’t have you lounging around here all day doing nothing. You have to earn your keep.”
I get up from the bed, irritated and still half asleep. “This is my house, Anastasia. Not yours.”
She points a long, bony finger at me and digs it into my arm. Her French tip hurts as she presses it into my skin. “Now, that is where you are wrong. This is my mother’s house now, which makes it mine. If it were up to me, you would be out on your ass, but Mom likes having a maid.”
I let out an exaggerated sigh. How much more of this can I take? I can’t afford to live on my own. Clarissa pays my tuition at Strickland University, the one luxury I have left, and I wouldn’t dare do a thing to jeopardize getting far away from this torture.
Unlike my stepsisters, who drive Mercedes’s, I ride three buses to get to school. It takes me hours to get there, but at least I get to leave this hellhole a few times a week in hopes of making something of myself. I’m counting down the days until I graduate. As of today, I have one hundred days left.
Natasha strolls into my room with a bucket in hand and a mop in the other, dressed in vintage Chanel, of course.
My mother had worn plenty of it before these cows had ransacked this house and took every piece of clothing and jewelry she had of value. The only thing spared from my stepmother’s fire sale was a gold heart charm necklace my father had given me on my thirteenth birthday. One side of the heart had belonged to him and the other to me.
I’ve kept it hidden under a loose floorboard under my bed. It’s the one place none of them would ever bother to look. They’re too lazy to get on their hands and knees. Instead, they make me do all the work. Every morning, I wake to one of them screaming from the bottom of the stairs, Get down here and make us breakfast, Ella or Clean the dishes, Ella or Get the stain out of my Prada bag, Ella.
They always have some request, leaving me little time to study, which is why I spend my afternoons tutoring students in the library. I get extra financial aid for helping out, but I mostly do it to give myself a reprieve from my jailers.
“Get to work, Ella,” Natasha says, shoving the bucket and mop into my chest. “If you want that dress for the party tonight, you have to earn it.”
It takes every ounce of strength I have to hide my smile. Just thinking about the masquerade party at the Delta Sigma Phi fraternity house sets fire to my skin. Shawn Finch will be there. He’s gorgeous, the starting tight end for the Strickland Senators, and has big, strong arms that I want to touch every time I see him in the library.
He’s always failing at least one class because he’s too busy hooking up with girls and partying. From what I’d heard, he just manages to pass with the help of our tutoring staff. I would have killed to be his tutor last semester. Instead, I was stuck with some jerk from the hockey team. I even offered to trade Mandy, but she was too busy batting her eyelashes at Finch to consider my offer to switch. She practically had their wedding planned out in her head, and he didn’t even pay attention to her.
Guys like Finch are untouchable. You have to be part of the sport’s elite on campus to get anywhere near them. That’s why I jumped at the chance to go to this party tonight. I’m friends with Tori Reynolds, girlfriend of Sebastian Prince and the captain of the football team. He’s a big deal at our school. Tori invited me before I left class yesterday. She’s normal, like me, and nothing like most of the elitist snobs at Strick U. I guess we bonded over our mutual dislike for snooty people, and now, we’re acquaintances—maybe even friends.
Because of Anastasia and Natasha are always sticking their nose into my business, I have no friends other than Tori, no prospect of a boyfriend, and absolutely no life. I’m the house bitch, the girl who scrubs the floor, washes clothes, and cooks meals. This is my life for a little while longer. At least I get to go to the party tonight.
“Don’t look so excited,” Natasha yells, as I walk past her to deal with my chores. “Just remember we will be at the party, too.”
“I haven’t forgotten,” I say, keeping my eyes focused on the long hallway in front of me with one goal in mind.
“And don’t you dare think of speaking to us. You don’t know us, and we don’t know you. Got it? You will never be one of us, no matter how hard you try,” Anastasia says in a harsh tone.
I stop at the top of the staircase and spin around to face them. “I don’t want to be like you or your friends. I just want to go to the party.”
Natasha clicks her tongue. “Figures you would make friends with someone like Tori. She’s another one who is way out of her league.”
“You’re just jealous because you want Bash and can’t have him.”
Anastasia snorts. “I’ll have you know we’ve already had him.”
Staring at Anastasia and then Natasha, I’m confused until I realize what she means and want to vomit.
“Being a whore isn’t exactly something to brag about, Sis,” I say, laughing to myself, as I turn around to go downstairs.
“You will pay for that! Just wait and see, Ella.”
I have no doubt my loving stepsisters and their equally bitchy sorority sisters will make this night harder for me. At least I get to wear a mask and pretend I am someone else for the night. If it were any other frat party, I probably would skip it. I get enough weird stares pointed in my direction because of the hand-me-downs I have to wear to school, let alone the looks I would get if I were to attend a party in the same clothes.
Tonight, I get to wear one of my mother’s dresses, as long as I finish my chores and homework. That was the deal I had made with Clarissa. Both of which were a given. I already have a perfect grade point average and cater to their every need.
One night. That’s all I want. One night to feel normal again. Maybe I’ll even get the kiss I think about when I see Shawn Finch on campus. Maybe, just maybe, I will get my wish.
* * *
As promised, Clarissa hands over one of my mother’s gowns. It’s floor length, made of white satin with a light pink chiffon overlay, and hugs my curves perfectly. I remember my mother wearing this dress to parties when I was younger. For as long as I can remember, I wanted to be just like her. She reminded me of a princess the way she would spin around in her dresses and dance in the living room with my father.
My mother was so full of life until she’d gotten sick. Like me, she had long, blonde hair that curls at the ends and denim eyes. It wasn’t long after my mother’s passing that Dad met Clarissa. She was everything he needed her to be—until she wasn’t. I swear he died from a broken heart. Either that or my Bitch Mother poisoned him.
Staring in the mirror, I smile and think of my parents. I can almost see them here, standing at my sides, as they see me off. If my mother were here, she would have done my hair and makeup. Instead, I had to watch a few YouTube videos to learn how to create a smoky effect that makes my eyes pop, even with the mask on my face. With my hair already curled naturally, it didn’t take much to give my hair some extra volume.
For once, I feel pretty and worthy of a man like Shawn Finch. I only have to get him to notice me. This dress should do the trick. Or so I hope.
I take my time in these heels, careful not to fall down the stairs face first, keeping my fingers crossed that I will see Finch at the party. My jaw hurts from smiling so much, but one evil stare from Clarissa is enough to wipe it from my face.
Anastasia and Natasha stand at her sides decked out in black couture gowns they either stole from my mother or used my inheritance to buy.
“You have a curfew,” Clarissa says, folding her arms across her chest, giving me her best bitch face. “I want you in this house by midnight and not a second later. Do you understand?”
I hold my tongue and nod.
“Answer me, child,” she says, with anger in her voice.
She has hated me since the day she set foot inside this house. I was an inconvenience to her, another person in the way of my father’s money. He owned an investment firm before Clarissa sold his shares to some of the board members. Now, I have nothing. No parents. No money. And no way out of here.
“I will be home before curfew. I promise.”
She flashes a closed mouth smile and walks away without another word. Natasha steps toward me, followed by Anastasia, each of them now at my sides, making me uncomfortable.
Natasha tugs at the spaghetti strap on my right shoulder, while Anastasia clutches the other. Before I can stop them, I hear the sound of the fabric tear. The straps fall forward and hang loose, almost bringing tears to my eyes that I force back.
“What is wrong with you?” I shout so loud my voice echoes off the vaulted ceiling in the living room.
“Oops!” Natasha covers her mouth with her hand, her brown eyes wide in mock surprise.
“Our mistake,” Anastasia says, this time pulling at the pink overlay. One side rips and then the other, as Natasha helps her ruin my dress.
I’m defenseless against them. If I act out, my stepmother will punish me. She will lock me in my room and throw away the key, same as she does during winter and summer breaks from school. That’s why I have excelled so much in my studies. I spend countless hours a day with no TV, cell phone, or the Internet. Books are my only source of entertainment. So, I read a lot and take extra classes when I can afford to layer on the heavier course load.
As much as I want to cry, I have to stay strong and deal with whatever comes next.
“You think you’re so fucking smart, don’t you, Ella?” Natasha flicks her dark hair over her shoulder and grins like the Cheshire cat. “You think you can call us names and get away with it. Well, you are not getting anywhere near that party if we have anything to do with it. We don’t need you embarrassing us in front of our friends.”
Anastasia steps on the hem of my dress, holding me in place. I turn to walk away from them, but my plan backfires, the bottom of the dress tearing apart from Anastasia’s stiletto.
Staring down at the dress, I cover my mouth to stifle my sobs. But no tears follow. I never let them see me cry. I never have, and I never will. They don’t deserve my tears. It would only give them more power over me. Unlike their mother, mine was sweet and kind to everyone. She raised me to show people the same kindness, which is why I normally remain quiet around my stepsisters.
Lately, they have made it harder to control my anger toward them. Graduation is so close. Only one hundred more days before I can start living again.
“Looks like you can’t go to the party,” Natasha says, twirling a dark curl around her index finger with a satisfied smile.
“You can’t stop me from going,” I shoot back.
“Oh, we can and we will, Little Orphan Ella.” Natasha eyes me up and down, giving me her usual look of disapproval. “We have the Delta Sig guys wrapped around our fingers. They will do just about anything Kappa girls tell them. And, if that means keeping the help out of a party, then you can bet your ass they will listen.”
“You’re such a bitch, Natasha.” I pivot my body between them. “You, too, Anastasia. I have never done a thing to either of you to deserve this.”
My stepmother would slap me across the face if I ever spoke to her the way I do the girls.
“You exist. That’s enough for us,” Anastasia says, rolling her eyes at me.
We have a quick stare down before Anastasia turns on her heel and strolls toward the front door, beckoning Natasha to follow. For pretty girls, they have such foul attitudes that make them far less attractive. How they even manage to get the guys at our school to talk to them amazes me. But I guess money goes a lot farther than I think.
I had money. Well, my father had money. Now, I have nothing. Even so, I will never belong in the inner circles at the prestigious Strickland University. A former rich girl is not enough to become one of them.
The second the door slams behind my stepsisters, shaking the house in its wake, the first tear slides down my cheek. I wipe away a streak of wet mascara from my face. Even with the girls gone, I cannot risk Clarissa seeing me cry. She would point and laugh, all while enjoying every second of my humiliation.
I run out the front door, as fast as my feet will allow, through the garden on the right side of the mansion, the tears falling faster with each step toward the gazebo out back.
Once I reach the wooden structure, I stop to catch my breath and grab hold of the rail, as I step up and onto the platform. My father was good with his hands, despite being such a brainiac. He had built this for my mother for their wedding. I come here whenever I need a break from life. It reminds me that I once had a normal life, full of love and warmth. Not all people are as cruel and hurtful as my stepfamily.
I shake my head when I take in the sight of what Natasha and Anastasia have done. They trashed my dress. Pieces of fabric hang down at different places, the material tattered and frayed. After years of envisioning what it would be like to go to a party dressed as a princess, this is not even close to what I had imagined. There’s no way I can go to the party looking like I found this in a dumpster.
Sitting on the bench, I clutch my stomach from the pain that comes with each scream that escapes my throat. I’m never this emotional. I never let them get to me. But this night was important to me. It was my one shot at talking to the guy I have liked for as long as I can remember. All I want is one kiss from the man of my dreams. That’s enough to satisfy my craving for Shawn Finch. The mask would serve as my shield, my only way to protect my identity.
“What’s all the crying about?” I hear a woman say, scaring the life out of me. “Pretty girls like you shouldn’t be all alone and screaming to the high heavens.”
No one ever comes back here. My body goes into overdrive thinking about all the possibilities until I look over my shoulder and see an older woman. She’s in her sixties or seventies. It’s hard to tell with the dim light that washes over the dark property.
Wiping the water works from my cheeks with the back of my hands, I peek over at her. She steps up and into the gazebo, uninvited.
“Who are you?” I choke out, not the least bit frightened by a woman her age. She seems pleasant enough, even if she’s trespassing on private property.
“Your new next-door neighbor. I moved in last week.” There’s a Southern twang to her soft voice that reminds me of my father. My dad’s side of the family is from the Southern parts of the United States, and she sounds just like them, which puts me even more at ease with her.
“How did you get back here?”
She shrugs, unaffected, and leans her back against the wood. “I walked from my house. I’ve done it every night since I moved in. You have a lot more land on this side of the fence and a lot more to look at.”
“I don’t know about all that,” I say, sucking down the tears. “The garden is pretty barren now that my mother is gone and the landscapers are no longer around to keep up with the maintenance.”
Why would Clarissa hire someone when she has me to trim the rose bushes or mow the lawn? I am the maid, gardener, chef, and butler. If they can dream it, I can do it.
“Someone is keeping up with it,” she says, pointing out the obvious.
“Tending to the yard is one of my chores,” I admit.
She shakes her head in disapproval. Thankfully, she doesn’t go any further. I hate telling strangers about my situation, so I usually avoid conversations altogether. It’s also the reason I have no friends. How could I ever tell anyone about what goes on around here? It’s too humiliating to say aloud.
“What is your name, girl?” Her voice is soft, inviting.
“Ella,” I choke out, “Ella Fitzgerald. What’s yours?”
“Katherine Feighry, but everyone calls me Mrs. F. You never told me why you were out here crying.”
She reaches out to touch my arm, and for some reason, I let her. It’s nice to have someone comfort me. I sure as hell don’t get that at home and can use all the love and affection I can get—even if it’s from a stranger.
“There’s this guy…Well, I was supposed to go to this party, but my stepsisters ripped apart my dress. I was looking forward to going.”
“Then, go,” she says without hesitation. “Nothing is stopping you. Don’t let those girls get in the way of your plans.”
I frown at her words. “Easier said than done. I have nothing to wear, and there’s no way I will get in with what I have on.”
The woman releases her grip on me and stands, holding out her hand to me. “Come, darling, let me fix you up.”
I glance up at her, confused. “I don’t understand.”
“I have a dress for you to wear. You will love it.”
I narrow my eyes at her. “You do?”
She nods. “Yes, and it’s perfect for you.”
I set my hand in hers, nervous about where she’s about to take me. But I am desperate and in need of her random act of kindness. Maybe I will even make it to the masquerade party. Maybe I will get my kiss from Finch.

Jillian Quinn is the international bestselling romance author of the Face-Off Series, the upcoming Men of Honor Series, as well as other sexy, sporty standalone romances.

Jillian loves sports, bad boys, dirty talkers, strong females, and books with plenty of heat—all of which you will find in her books. As a lover of all things bookish, she has a serious book hoarding problem and runs a blog in her free time. When she’s not reading, writing, or blogging, she’s obsessively fangirling over hockey players and can be found wherever she can catch the next hockey game.

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