Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Luck of the Draw Sample Cathy Perkins - @BonnieEdwards

I’m sharing samples from the books in the “good fortune changes lives” box set Luck of the Draw – 13 Lucky Romance and Suspense novellas. This set contains brand new eclectic stories revolving around taking chances and winning!

Luck of the Draw is an Amazon exclusive that contains all new stories and was released May 11.



Today I offer Chapter 1 from Cathy Perkins' s mystery novella, Double Down. Enjoy the read!
















Chapter 1

Two, six, four, three, seven. Madeline Larsson spun the cards across the green felt of the casino's blackjack table. Even the cards were mocking her.
Twenty six thousand, four hundred thirty seven dollars. She held her hands steady as she flipped a second card to each player. Her mind still reeled like a drunken fan watching Sunday sports in the Tom Tom's bar. The university's finance officer had been matter of fact when he dropped the bombshell—the total cost for full-time student status. Her despair must have leaked through her smile. He'd added she "might" qualify for financial aid
Rolling through the hand on autopilot, she peeked under her lashes at the players arrayed before her, scanning their body language and expressions. Three men, one woman. She suppressed a sigh. They were having a ho-hum night, which probably meant "no tip for Maddie."
Stay positive.
For a Thursday night, four at her table was a good showing.
Good was a relative term, of course. The Tri-Cities of Washington state--Richland, Kennewick and Pasco--weren't exactly Las Vegas and the Tom-Tom Casino definitely wasn't the Bellagio. Still, it was a nice looking place. Rows of slot machines bordered the card portion of the casino. Leather upholstered stools snugged up to the semi-circular tables. Overhead, nets of small white lights blanketed the ceiling, mimicking a star-studded sky. Shiny and new looking, the twinkling lights effectively hid the ductwork and industrial part of the place.
She checked bets for a new hand and slipped cards from the shoe, dealing two cards to each person.
Staying positive was tough when even her part-time student tuition bill hung over her head. Too many of her high school friends were drowning in student debt. She’d vowed not to fall into that trap. Instead, she'd taken extra shifts this month, but her parents both worked too. Even they had limits on how often they could take care of Caden. Trusting a sitter with her son for the late hours at the casino wasn't an option.
She wouldn't be twenty-something and pretty forever, so missing a semester of school wasn't an option either. A degree would open doors, offer a more secure job and a future for her son. She brightened her smile and hoped one of the players had a good enough--there was that relative term again--evening that they remembered to tip her.
The guy at the end had a terrible hand, a two and a three. All evening he'd mostly made only the minimum bet, with random long shots that were split about fifty/fifty on paying off. With a quick glance at his cards, he immediately surrendered, retrieving a portion of his ante.
She quickly worked past the next two players. One bust. One sticking at nineteen. As she turned to the last man, she noticed Frank Phalen lurking beyond her table. She didn't know the security chief well. Deeply tanned with dark hair brushing his collar, Frank wore jeans, a fringe-trimmed shirt, and a cowboy hat with an intricate turquoise band. Nothing scary, but everything about him shouted "intense."
She'd been vaguely aware of his presence since her shift began Tension tightened her shoulders but she focused on the player in front of her. He'd been making wild crazy bets since he sat down. This hand was no exception. With a pair of tens, instead of sticking with a conservative, probably winning hand, he'd split and doubled down, apparently hoping for face cards for the draw.
Frank shifted, distracting her. She'd heard the stories about him obsessing over women. One had taken out a restraining order against him. Another rumor had him involved with a woman who'd been murdered last month. A shudder shimmied up her spine. Go away.
She didn't need another overbearing man complicating her life. Asher already had that covered--in spades.
Two cards slid across the table to the crazy player. An eight to give him eighteen for one bet and a six for sixteen on the other.
His fingers hovered above the cards.
Don't do it.
Drawing against a soft sixteen was a sucker move.
He tapped the six. “Hit me.”
She pulled another card for him. Six of clubs. Busted at twenty-two.
With two gamblers still in play, she glanced at her own cards. Players sitting at nineteen meant she--as the casino--needed at least a nineteen to tie. No one "won" on the tie, but the casino didn't lose any money paying on the bet either. Her hole card was a jack with a four showing. A fourteen required her to take another card. A six joined the four. Suppressing a smile, she flipped the downward facing card. "Twenty," she announced and cleared the table.
The crazy guy slammed back against his seat. Red splotches lit his neck.
Maddie hoped a new hand would move him past the loss. "Place your--"
Frank moved in beside the angry man. Maddie bit off the rest of her words. Another security pair stepped up to the guy seated on the end. The words were soft but Maddie caught them. "Do not make a scene. Gather your belongings. Card counting is not allowed and you know it."
She tightened her jaw before her mouth could sag open. That was why Frank had been hovering. He hadn't been watching her. He'd been watching the players, cheaters in the casino's eyes.
Wow, card counters. She should've picked up on the betting pattern. After dealing for countless hours, she instinctively knew what cards were still in the shoe. She gave herself a mental shake. Quit worrying about school and how to pay for it. Get your head in the game.
The red-faced man opened his mouth, a protest sputtering out in a spray of spit. The guy at the end shrank, as if he could sink into the floor and disappear. In unison, the security team clamped hands on the men’s' upper arms.
Action stopped at the surrounding tables. The gamblers watched, open mouthed, while the dealers tried to reclaim their attention.
"Let's go." Frank's voice was as steely as any police officer's.
The group shuffled away and Maddie glanced at the remaining players. Fascinated shock splayed across the woman's features. The last guy rose, winked and slid a chip toward her. His behavior flashed across her mind as he moved in the opposite direction from security. Purposeful but discrete. He walked with the same under-the-radar style he'd displayed at the gaming table. Now that she thought about it, he'd been counting cards as well, but using the more obvious, inexperienced guys for cover. She turned to signal security, glanced back, but the guy was already gone.
"Well. That was different." The woman gathered her chips and also slid one forward for Maddie. "I think I'll call it a night."
Maddie smiled her thanks while scanning the casino for possible players. Having the entire table empty wasn't the way to attract people. It screamed both "problem" and "cold table."
The gamblers at surrounding tables turned back to their cards, as if the scene were part of the evening entertainment. The dealers kept their focus on their own tables. She wasn't sure if it was deliberately distancing themselves from a train wreck or making sure their own charges weren't cheating.
An empty table.
Keeping a warm smile pasted on her lips, she let her eyes drift over the crowd, looking for the pit boss. It was almost time for her break. She could use the rotation of dealers as a way to attract a new group of gamblers afterward. Just as she located the pit boss, a man dropped into one of the chairs.
"Daniel." The warmth in her voice was real. The old man came into the casino often and always sat at her table.
He dropped some cash on the table.
Maddie tucked the currency into the drop box and pulled chips from the rack. As Daniel Kaufman place his first bet, she automatically slid two cards across the table and dealt her own.
A two and a ten for Daniel. She had a five showing. Her hole card was probably a face card. Not that she was counting or anything.
Daniel's lucky charm appeared--a World Poker Tour championship chip. A nick marred the bold blue border surrounding the tour's logo. A chip in the chip. Her smile broadened. An image of Daniel clenching the disc in his teeth, testing it like gold, immediately surfaced. One day she'd ask him how he'd damaged it.
He rolled the chip across his knuckles like a coin, then tapped the uppermost card. "Hit me."
A five joined the twelve he had showing. With a laugh, he waved her off. "What do you have?"
She flipped over a queen to pair with her five, and then threw a seven to bust. She slid chips to Daniel and cleared the table. "You okay? What did you do to your eye?" A yellowing bruise marred the left side of his face.
Daniel sighed and looked away. His sigh ended in a deep cough, a rattling, rasping sound that would've made Maddie haul Caden into the pediatrician's office. With Daniel's cough, she would've called it a smoker's cough--they still had too many smokers in the casino--except she knew Daniel didn't smoke.
"It's time for my break. I could use a soda. Come on. Join me." Maddie signaled the pit boss and seconds later another dealer stepped up to the table.
Maddie led the way to the snack bar and within seconds, they were seated at a small table tucked into the far corner of the lounge. "What happened?"
"Why can't that kid be more like his older brother? Or like you? Look at you. Working. Going to school and taking care of your son."
"This isn't about me. If you don't want to talk about it, that's fine."
He stared into his drink and swirled the scotch over the ice cubes.
She sipped her soda and waited, quietly studying the older man. Beyond the black eye, his color looked bad. Now that he was still, without the usual animation lighting his face, she noticed the fatigue and sheen of perspiration. "Is your insomnia kicking in?" teetered at the edge of her tongue.
"My youngest, Owen, hit me up for money again." The words were abrupt. He still wasn't looking at her.
She joined his wince at the word choice.
"I'd had it with him. Had a Come to Jesus session about working and responsibility." Daniel's fingers gingerly poked his face. "He didn't take it well."
"I'm sorry. Is that why you haven't been in this week?" Stress, she decided. It did bad things to your body.
Daniel nodded. "I had some decisions to make. About me. About the kids. The older three are fine. Ryan works hard. He's got a nice job, a nice place for his family. My daughter's able to work part time while her kids are in school. Her husband's got a steady job. Same for Jeremy. So how in the hell did Owen end up such a slacker?"
Maddie shook her head. "Asher was the same way. Always an excuse why something--a job, a class, you name it--wasn't working for him. I made the mistake of pointing out the operative word was 'work.'" Asher had hauled off and hit her too. She should've throw him out then. Part of their divorce decree had been a retraining order that mandated he couldn't see her--or Caden--unless he participated in AA. He'd been pretty consistent until last week when he'd fallen off the wagon. She rubbed the bruise on her forearm. It was still sore from where he'd grabbed her when he showed up drunk last week.
"Yeah. It's like the kid expects me to support his lazy ass instead of getting out there to earn his own." Daniel took a long swallow of his drink then carefully positioned the glass in the center of the napkin. "Look, I wouldn't have said anything except...well...I made the mistake of using you as an example since he's tired of hearing about 'Saint Ryan.' Owen made some...wild accusations."
"About...?"
"You and me. Mostly you. I don't think he'd do anything, but I wanted to warn you."
"He threatened me? My job? My family? My child?" Her voice rose as outrage warred confusion.
"No, no, no." Daniel made patting gestures with his hands. "Nothing like that. He.... He claimed you were 'after' me. That you were after my money."
Heat flooded her cheeks. "I never--"
"I know you didn't--you wouldn't--but in case Owen shows up here looking for me. Says something.” He lifted one shoulder. “Causes a scene. I wanted you to be prepared."
"How do you prepare for something like that?"

 About the Author

An award-winning author of best-selling financial mysteries, Cathy Perkins writes twisting dark suspense and light amateur sleuth stories.  When not writing, she battles with the beavers over the pond height or heads out on another travel adventure. She lives in Washington with her husband, children, several dogs and the resident deer herd.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Luck of the Draw - Sample from Susan Ann Wall @BonnieEdwards


I’m sharing samples from the books in the “good fortune changes lives” box set Luck of the Draw – 13 Lucky Romance and Suspense novellas. This set contains brand new eclectic stories revolving around taking chances and winning!

Luck of the Draw is an Amazon exclusive that contains all new stories and was released May 11. 







Today I offer this scene from Susan Ann Wall’s INSERT WIFE HERE. Enjoy the read!





Cyn would have laughed had she not choked on her drink. Sean Beckett needed a date?
Next he’d be claiming to join a monastery.
“Why is that so funny?” he demanded.
Ignoring the desire to lean forward and get closer to the sexy man who flirted too easily, Cyn reminded herself not to encourage the playboy who had been asking her out for months and who was starting to wear her down. She’d been turning a blind eye to his propositions since moving to Lilac Ridge last summer. The longer she put him off the more she wanted him, but the charming and sexy barkeep came with a warning label Cyn couldn’t turn a blind eye to.
She cleared her throat, but couldn’t hide the amusement. “I thought you had a girlfriend. Sam, right? Aren’t you going out with her?”
“I don’t have a girlfriend. If I did, I wouldn’t be asking you.” The rumble in his voice held no amusement, but the underlying annoyance caught her interest. Sean dated everyone. Okay, maybe dated wasn’t the right word, but who was Cyn to judge. She’d gone on dating binges a couple times in her life. It beat spending every night alone.
“Okay, well, why ask me?”
“Why not ask you?”
“You’ve been asking me out for months and I always say no. Are you counting on me saying no now?”
Sean shook his head and leaned closer. His cologne wafted to where Cyn tried to keep her distance, wrapping its talons around her and drawing her to the source.
“I’m banking on you saying yes.”
Interesting choice of words. Cyn replayed her conversation with Tristin in her head. Not once did she elaborate on how she intended to win money in Vegas, so Sean couldn’t know she had a gift for blackjack.
“How much of my conversation with Tristin did you overhear?” Gramps had taught her not to squander her talent, but to protect it. She’d made the decision long ago not to share her gift with anyone. Tristin was the only exception to that rule.
“I heard enough,” he said.
Enough to jump to conclusions that Cyn had to squash now. “I’m not gambling for you.”
His pinched brow implored clarification, but Cyn owed him nothing. Sean was an acquaintance, someone she flirted with on occasion. She didn’t even classify him as a friend, so she sucked in a deep breath and held it in an effort to stand her ground. When his brow relaxed and smile returned, those dimples inspired her impulsive side to awaken from the sleepy haze she’d managed to keep it in. She licked her lips, and started to lean forward, stopping herself only when a glass shattered on the wood floor behind the bar.
Sean didn’t flinch, his gaze now locked on her lips. The heat there made her not want to care about any consequences associated with his offer. Before her control waned again, Sean rescued her by lifting his gaze to her eyes. “That’s not why I asked you.”
“Then why did you?” she whispered, her gaze once again darting to his mouth. Correcting that immediately, the little spark in his eyes told her he’d caught her looking. “If you think I’d have sex with you in exchange for a trip to Vegas—”
Sean stood, annoyance making an encore appearance. “Do you want a free trip to Vegas or not?”
Cyn’s spine stiffened into an upright posture. She took another long drink and dug deep for the honest and forward woman she strived to be. For whatever reason, that side of her liked to go on vacation whenever Sean was around. “I’m not sleeping with you.”
“That’s not what this is about,” he insisted.
Opting to accept that as a blatant lie rather than take it as a blow to her ego — because if the rumors were true, Sean slept with everyone — Cyn smiled. The truth was, she needed money, desperately, and Sean had opened a door “When is the wedding?”
Saturday.”
Saturday. “As in a week from today?” she asked.
“Yep.”
“So, we’d fly out on Friday?”
Wednesday. My sister has a lot of festivities planned starting Thursday.”
Wednesday? Sean, I can’t fly to Vegas on Wednesday. I have to work.” Cyn had vacation accrued, but she doubted her boss would appreciate such short notice.
“Take it or leave it, Love,” he shrugged. “From what I heard, you need money and Vegas is your best bet to get it. I’m offering you a free trip in exchange for being my date to the wedding and all the other required activities Brianna has planned. It’s a win-win.”
Maybe so, but this was too impulsive. Cyn had worked too hard to tame that nature. She couldn’t just toss aside her new-found strength. “I appreciate the offer, but I can’t accept.”
“You can, you just don’t want to.”
She wanted to, and that’s why she couldn’t. Vegas, with the man she’d been fantasizing about since the moment she rolled into town, the man whose reputation had Cyn locking down her desires? Bad idea. The worst.
“Fine, I don’t want to.” She took a final sip of the drink, ready to gather her bag and hit the road, away from temptation.
“Now you’re just lying.”
She looked toward the restrooms, willing Tristin to appear so they could leave. Nowhere in sight, Cyn turned back to Sean. “I know you see me as a challenge because I won’t go out with you, but I’m not ever going to, so you should just give up this childish game.”
That earned her an eye-roll and she gave one right back.
“You’re not a challenge, Cynthia.”
“Don’t call me that.”
He smirked, as if he’d just scored a point for calling her by the name she disliked. “No strings, no sex, I promise. Brianna is the third sister to get married. That makes me fair game for all my sisters and my mother to play matchmaker. Bringing a date will save me from that and I will owe you. Free kinky drinks for a month.”
Cyn only ordered the kinky drinks to elicit Sean’s sexy grin, her way of flirting while still keeping her distance. Otherwise, she was more of a rum and Coke kind of woman.
“Free drinks for the rest of the year,” she countered. Yes, he played the sympathy card and she was falling for it hook, line, and sinker, but she really did love Vegas, her home. She missed it. More than that, she needed money. Blackjack was her best bet at buying the lake-front cottage. She’d regret turning down Sean’s offer.
When he groaned, she stood to leave.
“Okay, free drinks just for you for the rest of the year.”
“And no sex,” she added, just to be one hundred percent clear.
He held up his hands in surrender. “No sex, I promise.”
Cyn held out her hand. “All right, Mr. Beckett, you’ve got yourself a date to your sister’s wedding.”
Sean took her offered hand, but instead of shaking it, he turned it and brought it to his lips where he planted a kiss that was anything but chaste.
No clenching of her thighs could stop the thrill racing across her skin until it reached her very core. Her spine shuddered and Sean noticed, his smile a warning that she couldn’t trust him to keep the no sex promise.
Maybe she couldn’t trust herself.




About the Author


Big dreamer and certifiable overachiever Susan Ann Wall embraces life at full speed and volume. She’s a beer and tea snob, can be bribed with dark chocolate, and the #1 thing on her bucket list is to be the center of a Bon Jovi flash mob.

Susan is a USA Today bestselling, multi-genre author of racy, rule-breaking romance and women’s fiction. Her bragging rights include the Fighting Back for Love series, Puget Sound ~ Alive With Love series, Superstitious Brides Romance series, Sunset Valley Women’s Fiction series, and Devon Taggart Suspense series. She also likes to boast about her three maniacal children, two amazing rescue dogs, and a happily ever after that started while serving in the U.S. Army and has spanned over two decades (which is crazy since she’s not a day over 29).

In her next life, Susan plans to be a 5 foot 10, size 8 rock star married to a chiropractor and will not be terrified of large bridges, spiders, or quiet people (shiver).



Friday, May 26, 2017

Harlequin Line Closings Painful

Like a lot of us authors, I'm still on email groups with other authors at other house and other lines. I am a member of the Montlake authors loop, the Love Inspired Historical authors group, the Zebra authors group, and of course, the Precious Gems authors who started this Gems in the Attic blog.

Last week there was a disturbing announcement sent from Harlequin to the Love Inspired Historical authors, as well as authors who write for Harlequin Super Romance, Harlequin Western, Kimini, and Nocturn. Those lines will be closing in 2018. So many authors on the Love Inspired Historical loop were devastated. Their careers--many of them very successful--were being destroyed. 
My Love Inspired Historical

We former Precious Gems authors can understand that angst because we went through something similar when Kensington ceased to publish our beloved Precious Gems books. Many of us, though, could publish the same kind of book elsewhere. Another advantage we had over these unfortunate Harlequin authors is that we got back our rights. Now that all of Harlequin's books are available digitally, they can't be out of print, so Harlequin's pretty stingy about giving back rights. Another whammy to these reeling Harlequin authors is that some of them have been writing solely for this line for many years. (At least Precious Gems was short lived.) It's a lot harder for them to transition into typical romance publishing.

I've heard the inspirational market is shrinking. If that's the case, some of these authors may want to write straight romances. I believe there will always be a market for sweet romances.

After 23 years as a member of RWA, one thing I've learned about publishing is that it's always changing. Most of us have been affected by changes. I once had a six-year drought, but I now believe it's the best thing that's ever happened to me. I kept on writing, and when indie publishing came along I was able to launch my indie career with those books, along with five backlist titles. I've been blessed to make six figures each year for the past six years. I never made anything like that when I was writing for New York publishing lines. 
A rejected book that won
Best Historical in the
International Digital Awards


Changes can be painful. But, as I said on the Love Inspired Historical loop, when one door closes, another opens. Sometimes it just takes a while.--By Cheryl Bolen, whose next release is Miss Hastings' Excellent London Adventure

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Soul Mates @lcrandallwriter

Soul Mates

by 
Glenys O'Connell, Lynn Crandall, Rachel James, 
Kathleen Shaputis, Clarissa Ross, and Bea Moon

Releases May 29
$1.99



Cursed wedding gowns, haunted houses, and mischievous ghosts wreak havoc as romance brews in this value-priced digital bundle.

The Bride’s Curse: Three brides in a row return a gorgeous vintage wedding dress to Kelly Andrews’s Wedding Bliss store, claiming it’s cursed. Kelly thinks it’s nonsense, but these returns are bad for business, so she’d better get to the bottom of the problem. Researching the gown, she meets Brett Atwell, the handsome nephew of the dress’s original owner, and a mischievous spirit sends the two of them on a goose chase for a groom who went missing decades ago. Will love get its due at long last?

Always and Forever Love: Lacy Aegar is comfortable living with her husband’s ghost as they raise their son and run her PI business. That is, until Jackson Carter, the son of powerful and influential business tycoon, starts siphoning her business. But he has an ulterior motive along with his sexy smile, and soon Lacy will have to come to grips not only with her business plans but her feelings about love as well.

The Kindred: When it comes to being psychic, Janice Kelly is the best of the best. But she didn’t foresee falling in love with Adrian while fleeing the anger of thwarted ghosts in a haunted house.

His Lass Wears Tartan: Independent Rogue Bruce enjoys running a Scottish bed-and-breakfast with the ghosts that walk the halls. Then Bruce MacKenzie, the local heartthrob, suddenly begins hanging around while roguish Jonathan Olson arrives at the castle to teach a writing seminar. With two men after the heart she’d thought safely locked away, Rogue is torn. But when things start to take a sinister turn, only true love can save the day.

Jennifer by Moonlight: Lucy Dorset came to Moorgate as the happy bride of a dedicated young doctor. But she soon discovers that the old stone house is inhabited by a pale and lovely ghost, a victim of a fatal romantic triangle long ago. It’s possible the unhappy spirits of Moorgate are pushing Lucy toward a reenactment of a violent, century-old tragedy—and she alone must rid the house of the menacing presence threatening her marriage.

That Ol’ Team Spirit: Someone’s haunting the Sharks’s stadium and creating some major league mischief. So psychic Peg Noonan and her granddaughter Trish are determined to discover who’s menacing their concessions stand. With the help of Trish’s high school love, sportswriter Rob Hanks, they just might have a ghost of a (second) chance.

Excerpt from Always and Forever Love:

     Walking into the master bath, Lacey stopped short. “Geez! Now, that’s a bathtub,” she exclaimed. Her voice echoed slightly against the marble tile walls and gray slate floor. Jason waited patiently at the doorway while her gaze moved from one opulent element to another. A large white and gold marble whirlpool tub, deep enough to disappear in, was framed on three sides by frosted glass windows and a small garden of palms and feathery ferns. On another wall stood a shower stall sporting a gold rain-head showerhead and etched glass doors.
     “Hi, Uncle Jake.”
     Jason’s greeting jolted Lacey out of her skin. Retreat was impossible. She turned to face the square shoulders, tall frame, and solid jaw of a dark-haired man. “Uncle Jake, I presume?” She wasn’t doing anything wrong, so why did she feel her as though Brad Pitt had just caught her picking her nose?
     “I know who I am. Who are you and what are you doing in my bathroom?” The man’s voice was clipped velvet. His arm circled Jason protectively.
     She stuck out her hand. “I’m Lacey Aegar. And as for what I’m doing here…”
     “I hired her, Uncle Jake. She’s going to find Snickers.”
     She looked from Jason’s cherubic face and up into the glistening brown eyes of his uncle and felt her composure melt into the cold slate beneath her feet. “Umm…I’m a private investigator. And your nephew has asked me to…”
     “I think you’ve seen enough, Ms. Private Investigator or gossip columnist or whoever you are.” The man grabbed Lacey’s elbow and began to usher her briskly out of the room.
     “But Uncle Jake—”
     “If you’ll just hold on a minute I can explain.” Lacey’s face burned at the man’s insinuation.
     With Jason at his heels, the man swept Lacey down the stairs and was heading toward the front door, where she spread out her hands and planted them against the hard wood. "Stop,” she demanded, whirling around to face him head-on. “I’m not leaving until I finish what I came here for, and that’s to help Jason find his dog.”

Buy Links:

Amazon

Simon & Schuster

Barnes & Noble

iTunes

Kobo

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Luck of the Draw Sample - Nikki Lynn Barrett @BonnieEdwards

I’m sharing samples from the books in the “good fortune changes lives” box set Luck of the Draw – 13 Lucky Romance and Suspense novellas. This set contains brand new eclectic stories revolving around taking chances and winning!

Luck of the Draw is an Amazon exclusive that contains all new stories and was released May 11. For a very limited time this set is selling for only 99c.


Today I offer a lovely sample from USA Today Bestselling Author Nikki Lynn Barrett:

            Chapter 1

             “You signed me up for what?”  Lizette Monroe pinned her twin sister Nola with a furious, deadly look
            “I didn't sign you up. I signed me up, and now I've chickened out. Why not switch with me?”
            “Why not-” Lizette sputtered. “For one, I have tons of things I could be doing. Two, we're way too old to be pulling the twin switch. Three, you and your damn sweepstakes! Four-”
            “Okay, okay. You don't need to list everything.” Nola's voice quieted to a low mutter. “It would be good for you. You know, get away from the press over Chip's-”
            “Don't speak that name,” she seethed. Lizette's ex-fiancĂ© was a hot topic lately, especially in the last few months when he threw her life in complete and utter uproar.  A breakup was bad enough. He had to add public humiliation, lies, and slander to the list. Because Lizette and Nola were well known heiresses, of course the break up was in the spotlight. The unwanted attention forced her to keep her head low to figure things out. It came out of nowhere. One day, she'd been contemplating wedding things, wondering when Chip would commit to a date. He wanted it sooner, and didn't like the idea that he had to sign a prenup, forced upon Lizette by her parents' will. It made her question his motives, because if he'd loved her for the person she was and not what she represented, wouldn't he have been okay with it?
            Why did things have to become so complicated?
            That and Chip pulled it off on national TV.  Some stupid reality dating show, Rebound, if she recalled correctly, where they go on and talk about all the things their exes did to hurt them. Then all season, the hosts would help them find a rebound date.
            Can we say train wreck?
            But back to her sister and the crazy twin switch idea. “Nola...”
            “Come on, Lizette! You know I enter all of these things. The last thing I expected was to win. I was going to try, I really was.” Her twin trailed behind her when Lizette strode off to the kitchen, eager for a cup of coffee to process the whole thing. “This is perfect. It gets you out of here for a while, and you can play as me. Enjoy yourself.”
            “Enjoy myself. Right,” Lizette muttered, mulling over the idea. Damn it, she didn't want to admit quite yet that her sister had a decent idea. Getting out of California could be exactly the cure she needed.
            “I am right! You've been avoiding everyone and everything! Get out there and live again. Throw your happiness up in Chip's face! You know it'll only be a matter of time before the Rebound crew comes looking for you to find out your side. They'll ask you to face Chip and what he says, especially when he has his rebound date. You know how that show goes.”
            “I don't, actually. I'm not the one who sits around the house watching stupid reality TV and entering sweepstakes.” At Nola's surprised gaze, Lizette clamped her lips shut.
            Big mistake. Bad, bad, bad move. Nola's eyes watered.
            “I'm sorry, Nola. My mouth got ahead of me.” Nola had become agoraphobic over the past year and a half, and nothing Lizette said or did helped so far. Her sister was so embarrassed by this that she'd begged Lizette to go out in her place if Nola was to appear anywhere. No one aside from the two of them and their late father's right hand man, Travis, knew the truth about Nola.  “If I did this, what would you do for a week?”
            “I have Travis. He comes by and helps,” Nola replied. “I didn't expect to win.”
            Yeah, she said that already.
            “Where's the vacation location?” Lizette treaded carefully. Nola would find any way she could to con her into saying yes, even when Lizette wasn't certain about any of this.
            A twinkle lit up her twin's eyes. “Get this. Paris!”
            “Seriously?” She whistled. Okay, this might be worth considering.
            “We've got our passports already!”
            Reality hit her hard in the gut.“Yeah, but taking your place going somewhere international is not the smartest move.”
            “Well, don't get arrested, killed, or kidnapped. Simple.” Nola chuckled, crossing her arms.
            “Be serious! You know how much trouble we could get into?”
            “A week in Paris. A week away from the media. A-” Oh, she planned to lay it on thick. Damn her!
            “Nola!” Lizette cut her off. Her sister could be so reckless at times.
            “It would be such a shame to let it go to waste,” Nola tsked.  “All they'll do is check your- my passport. We've both got a clean record. Nothing could go wrong. I'll try when something is a little closer to home.”
            Lizette sighed. How did her sister always manage to get into these situations? But damn it, Paris was tempting! And she could post photos all over her social media accounts and make Chip jealous.
            Strike that, no she couldn't. Not as Nola. Okay, so that part was out, but Paris? Turning that trip down would be a mistake.
            How am I seriously even considering this crazy scheme?

*****

            “So people actually entered the sweepstakes, huh?   You think twenty winners are going to be satisfied by coming here?” Dirk Ramsey folded his large frame onto the chair across the table from his uncle Max. Dirk had actually helped sponsor the sweepstakes, not because he thought it would pan out, but because his uncle was the only good family member he had left, and the soft-hearted guy he was couldn't say no when Uncle Max's desperation put his health in jeopardy. Instead of taking the offer to help with storm damages, Uncle Max had this insane idea about a sweepstakes to bring in out of towners, showing them the best of the town during an annual event. 
            “Last ditch effort.” His uncle, the mayor of Paris, Tennessee, gritted his teeth. “I need something to put this town on the map.”
            “Discover a singer and keep 'em away from Nashville.” Dirk chuckled, warranting a warning glare from his uncle.
            “You aren't very funny, kid.  We've got the Fish Fry coming up. Why not introduce new people to our town? Sure, they may go visit Nashville's highlights, but they're staying here. In our inn. It's all about the local attractions. The flood didn't help our situation any.” Max eyed him warily. “I thought you were on board with this. If you didn't believe in it...”
            “I think you could have found a different way about it, but you know damn well I'm on board.” Dirk sat up straight. “All right. You tell me what you need, and I'll help. After this though, I'm gonna have to go home.”
            His uncle nodded. “I know. I can't keep ya here forever. I appreciate all the help you've given me the last few months. This time, I promise to take it easy. Your cousin Arthur can't be bothered to help. His mother says he keeps getting into trouble, but he doesn't want to talk to me about it.”
            “You'd better. I don't want to hear in the middle of the night that my only family had a heart attack due to stress. Let's just hope this works.” Dirk shifted positions again.
            “We've got a good lineup this year for singers, too. Some well known, some not. If it fails, we know not to do a sweepstakes. Is Maria waiting for you at home? How come she hasn't come to visit?”
            “Because when she realized I wasn't coming back right away, she left me,” Dirk replied, thinking of the woman he'd almost proposed to. Go figure. When he put his heart out on the line, he got the raw end of the deal. It had taken a long time to decide, and he wondered now if he'd only thought about proposing because he'd been comfortable with her. When it came down to it, Dirk didn't love her the way he thought he should. That was almost a month ago, and he'd been quiet about it. He wasn't about to lie to his uncle, even though Max would feel guilty for keeping Dirk away from home and his life for so long.
            Just as he suspected, his uncle's face fell. “Sorry about that, Dirk.”
            “It's her loss.” Her loss, and his realization that it was better this way. Being comfortable with a woman wasn't enough to last a lifetime.
            “Yes it is, but I know how you felt about her.”
            “Yeah, well...” Dirk shrugged. Time to change the subject. “Which artists have you lined up that are noteworthy?”
            “Try Kyra Sanders for our country act, and rock band Zinger.” Max pumped a fist in the air. “Think they're big enough to draw a crowd?”
            Dirk whistled. “Impressive. Both acts have a huge following, and I love the diversity in music.”
            “See? Your old uncle can still produce a few good moves.” Uncle Max winked, running a hand through his thinning silver hair.
            “Never said you couldn't, old man, but I bet I could still kick your butt in a good old-fashioned game of bowling.”
            “Is that a challenge, boy? Because if that's the case, game on!”
            Dirk laughed. “Tonight? Best of three?”
            “You're on.”
            “Hey, how soon until the sweepstakes winners get here, anyway?”
            “A week.” The look of panic reappeared on Uncle Max's face. As suspected, he wasn't fully ready. Or maybe he was, and just had a case of perfectionism.
            Damn. Not a lot of time. “Is the inn okay after that last storm?” Too many deadly and costly storms rolled through here recently, leaving Paris and surrounding communities on high alert.
            “Just about. I have a small list of things needing to be done before they get here. You win bowling tonight, and I won't ask anymore of you. You lose, and the list is yours. Feeling the pressure?” Uncle Max let out a wicked cackle.
            “I always feel the pressure. You know what would be hilarious? What if someone didn't read the fine print on the sweepstakes and thought they were going to Paris, France?” Dirk laughed at the image flashing in his mind of an angry person discovering how far off the mark they were. He wasn't one to mock people, but if someone didn't read all of the details, that was on them.
            Paris, Tennessee was a far cry from Paris, France. Despite how much  effort and money he'd invested into this whole plan, Dirk wasn't convinced it would turn out as well as Uncle Max hoped it would.



From the Author

No matter where she goes, USA Today Bestselling author Nikki Lynn Barrett hears voices in her head. Instead of calling her crazy and locking her up, her family realizes it's just a product of being an author and allows her to write the stories so that the voices shut up.
But they don't. And probably never will. There's no need to lock her up, Nikki knows she'll never escape the voices, not until each and every last story is written. And for every story she writes, about ten or more ideas pop up.

When she isn't slaving away at her computer writing books that will probably make you cry and keep you in suspense, Nikki plots to take over the world one book at a time. What? It's a sickness. One she can't escape!

Books aren't her only addiction, though. Nikki can be found making up parodies to drive her son crazy, and bantering back and forth with her husband, who somehow manages to steal her away from the fictional world she lives in all the time.

Nikki lives in Arizona with her husband and son, where she can be found using every creativity outlet she can find through music, photography, handcrafted things, and random interests that she may pick up from time to time.

If you want to learn more about the author who makes people cry for a living, check her out at www.nikkilynnbarrett.com


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