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You Taste So Sweet by Erin M. Leaf

You Taste So Sweet

by Erin M. Leaf

Evernight Publishing

eBook ISBN: 9781771306973

When an exploding meteor infects the world with a zombie virus, Lark knows survival will be tough. Her roommate and best friend insists that her father and his friend will come and save them, but Lark isn’t sure if she wants to put her life into the hands of strangers.

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Deviant Knights by Alexandra O'Hurley

Deviant Knights

Knights of the Temple, Book 1
by Alexandra O’Hurley

Evernight Publishing

eBook ISBN: 978-1-77130-045-2

A mysterious benefactor purchases Kadence’s paintings. When she meets him and his best friend, she sees the face haunting in her dreams.

The men race to protect her from the unknown, unaware of what she is and unsure if she will turn on them. Their trust could be deadly.

Note: Prologue omitted.

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Her Alien Abductor by Alexandra O'Hurley

Her Alien Abductor

The Aegarian Saga, Book 1
by Alexandra O’Hurley

Evernight Publishing

eBook ISBN: 978-1-77130-169-5

Kaya is abducted from everything she knows, forced to learn the ways of an alien race while fending off the advances of her teacher Lord Fatel. She’s drawn to him, yet knows she cannot succumb. Kaya has been handpicked by the General, to be his new bride.

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The Submission
by D.F. Krieger & Sonia Hightower

Evernight Publishing

eBook ISBN: 978-1-77130-039-1

When a fledging writer submits an erotic tale to Daring Desires Publishing, one head strong woman meets another as an author/editor war ensues. There’s no room for a diva in the publishing industry. When you submit a manuscript to Daring Desires, you submit more than a book…you submit yourself.

Chapter One

Katia slammed the cordless phone down on her desk so hard, her coffee mug fell over. Well, thank fucking goodness it didn’t have any coffee in it. One tiny thing to rejoice about, though losing my computer and the crap on it wouldn’t really make a difference. This is bullshit! My agent doesn’t know what the hell she’s doing or talking about. She blinked back tears of frustration as she stared at the half-full white page open on her computer screen. The blinking black cursor mocked her where it sat waiting mid-word. What was the point in typing anymore? As her agent had said, it was drivel, nobody was interested. A Pirate’s Pleasure had bombed in sales. A Pirate’s Passion was half complete, over fifty thousand words already typed, months of work, and her agent had just uttered the most dreaded and feared words.
They reverberated back and forth in her brain like a tennis ball, from the left to the right and back again. Sorry, but Halifax House looked over the synopsis you provided, and they aren’t interested. The numbers came back showing that A Pirate’s Pleasure has not met the required or expected sales. Looks like you are going to owe them back your advance. They aren’t taking a risk on the sequel.
Though her agent hadn’t exactly called it drivel by name, Katia knew that the other lady didn’t care for the three chapters of A Pirate’s Passion that Katia had sent to her, because the agent was refusing to represent the piece rather than try to find a home for it outside of Halifax House. By contract, Katia had to send the sequel or any work containing characters from A Pirate’s Pleasure to the leading publisher that had contracted the original piece, but she was permitted to take it elsewhere should they decline it. The fact that her agent wasn’t willing to try spoke volumes.
The loss of Halifax House meant financial and professional ruin.
And after I bragged to all the fellow waitresses that I had a fifteen thousand dollar advance, a major book deal, and would be leaving them all behind in no time…Oh, thank God I didn’t give notice. To think I was on the verge of doing just that…
Katia closed her eyes and laid her head back against her leather office chair, trying to regain control of her tumultuous emotions. All her hopes and dreams were going down the drain right in front of her. She would be a waitress for the rest of her life. Instead of asking people, “Who would you like me to inscribe the book to?” she would be asking, “Would you like fries with that?”
No! No. After three years of writing, she couldn’t give up now. Katia opened her eyes, straightened her spine, wiped the tears from her cheeks, and glared at the blinking cursor with determination.
“Okay, so people don’t want pirates. People are tired of pirates. They don’t want to spend money on pirates. Let’s find out what people want.” She placed her hand on her mouse and clicked the red X in the upper right corner. The little white box popped up.
Do you want to save changes you made to “A Pirate’s Passion_Katia Lane”?
Katia snorted. “No, I’m afraid not. Nobody is interested. I’m moving on to other things.” She couldn’t help but wince, however, as she clicked on “Don’t Save.” All that work… No, she wouldn’t think of that.
After refilling her coffee mug and staring at the Amazon bestseller lists until her vision grew blurry and she could swear she officially had carpal tunnel from moving her mouse so much over various chat topics in writer’s forums, she came to a few conclusions.
Katia took a generous gulp of coffee and grabbed a nearby notebook, speaking aloud as she jotted notes. “Too many pirate tales. Overdone. We know that now. Goodreads reviews for A Pirate’s Pleasure were fairly good, but apparently I need to work on my sex scenes. They weren’t erotic enough, though it might help if I got laid occasionally. So…” she trailed off and bit the tip of her pen, frowning at her words. “More sex. No pirates. Let’s find something not done to death.”
Another thought popped into her mind. And no more agents. Screw agents. She began scrawling again. “People like sex, originality, and I don’t want an agent. Hmm.”
She moved the mouse again. What was it someone had said in a chat group? Leading erotica publisher? Accepting unsolicited manuscripts? And word was many of their authors became New York Times bestsellers. What was the name again?
Katia chewed her lip and began Googling once more. She pulled up a website. Yes, she was over the age of eighteen, but if a box popped up asking her exact age, she was going to lie, dammit.
The website allowed her entry. Oh my. Her eyes widened at the content before her. Whoa. Men kissing men. Half-naked, writhing bodies. Four different heat ratings. And the world’s bestselling publisher of erotic fiction. Daring Desires Publishing.
Katia squirmed in her chair. Was it growing warm in the room or was it just her? Her gaze skimmed over the guidelines, and she drooled over the cover art. They obviously knew their stuff. She recognized many of the titles from the bestseller lists. She clicked on “categories.”
“Well, if pirates are overdone, male/male fiction is way overdone too. Why don’t you have any female/female?” She voiced her question aloud, half expecting the computer to talk back to her. One never knew with technology nowadays.
Wait a minute… She slammed her notebook down on the desk, and again, her coffee cup tipped over. But Katia paid it no mind. It only had a few drops left at the bottom. Besides, she was too inspired. Sex. Originality. Not done to death. No agent.
She threw her head back and laughed. She’d write a female/female erotica. Coffee forgotten, notebook tossed onto the floor, she opened her Word program and began typing furiously. Screw carpal tunnel. She had a writing career to save.
Weeks later, Katia opened the homepage to Daring Desires Publishing again. She tucked a strand of hair behind her ear as she read their submissions guidelines more thoroughly. “Times New Roman, twelve point, check,” she murmured, reading further down. It was hard to ignore that image of a sultry, naked chick on the left. “Double spaced, minimum word count: twenty thousand, check.” She had a good fifty-five thousand words. “Professionally edited? Isn’t that your job?” She scoffed. She was published with Halifax. Never mind that they didn’t want her latest piece. She didn’t need to hire a professional editor.
She sat back in her chair, satisfied. Much to her pleasure, writing contemporary was way easier than writing historical. No research involved, just contemporary stuff and sex. Lots of sex.
She navigated to her e-mail account and typed up a query. I bet half of their authors don’t even know how to write a proper query. I’m sure they’ll be all over this.
Satisfied with her query—she’d been sure to mention that she was published with Halifax House; after all, her low sales weren’t publicized—she attached her .doc, tapping her fingers impatiently as it loaded into the e-mail.
Finally, after three weeks of writing before and after her waitressing shifts, she was finished and submitting her latest masterpiece, Taming Thalia. She typed her name at the bottom, adding “Bestselling author of A Pirate’s Passion” below it, and hit send.
New York Times, here I come!” She beamed at her computer screen for a full minute before her smile faded. Now, how long will it take them to get back to me?
She sighed and wrinkled her nose. Let the waiting game begin.

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Kiss Is A Four-Letter Word
Four-Letter Word, Book 2
by Erin M. Leaf

Evernight Publishing

eBook ISBN: 978-1-77130-027-8

For Sherry, the two men who come to her rescue after she crashes her bicycle are gorgeous, fun, and delicious to kiss. Eli and Simon are rich, handsome, and eligible. Kissing them is awesome. Watching them kiss each other is even better. Can Eli and Simon heal her wounded heart?

Chapter One

The first time Sherry Griffin set eyes on Eli and Simon, the mountain had just reared up out of nowhere and bit her on the ass. She’d tried to compensate when her bike slid sideways on the rocky single-track, but her ankle twisted, unclipping her shoe from the pedal. Before she could figure out what the hell to do, she flew end over end above her handlebars. Stupid trail. Her butt hit one of the pointiest rocks and she knew the bruise would be fantastic. The arrowhead-shaped stone wanted blood. She gasped and rubbed her rear. Where the hell was her bike?
“I wouldn’t try to move yet, if I were you,” a deep male voice said.
“You may have broken something,” another one volunteered. This voice was lighter, not quite a baritone, but no less attractive sounding.
Sherry spat out some dust and rolled over, ignoring both the warnings and the twinge in her backside. Her eyes locked onto two of the most gorgeous specimens of male beauty she’d ever seen standing over her.
Well, hello, she thought. Greek gods for the win. “What?” she said aloud, like an idiot. She coughed. Damn mountain. Her eyes watered and she blinked, trying to get the grit out so she could focus. The men had to have seen her humiliating display of bicycling ineptitude. Ugh. When her vision finally cleared, Sherry looked at them again and her mouth fell open. Nope, she hadn’t been hallucinating.
Standing before her were two extremely good-looking guys. One wore cut-off jeans shorts and an old t-shirt hanging loose over an obviously fit torso. A brilliantly colored tattoo peeked from his shirtsleeve. His legs were to die for. Sherry winced at the thought of biking in those shorts, but he didn’t seem to be in any pain. Her eyes dropped to his groin, where she ogled his rather substantial package. What about chafing? Sherry snapped her mouth shut. Stop staring at him, you ninny. While she kicked her brain back into gear he moved his bicycle off the trail so no one else would ride down onto it. She stared at the back of his head helplessly, wondering if his short golden hair would feel as soft as it looked.
Sherry forced her eyes away from him to check out the shorter of the two men. Sensibly, he wore traditional baggy mountain biking shorts. A tight red jersey hugged his delicious pecs and defined shoulders. Sherry’s fingers twitched. She wanted to run her hands all over him. His hair was to die for. Dark brown, shoulder-length, and shiny, it fell over his face in a tousled mess. Yummy. Sherry made herself stop ogling the poor guy and shifted her gaze to the bicycle he’d set down near the trail. It had a full suspension with a good derailleur. Clearly he wasn’t as insane as his friend who rode a fixie. How anyone could tackle a mountain riding a bike with no gears was a mystery to her. Sherry shook her head and glanced at their feet. At least they both owned decent shoes. She struggled to her knees but a hand came down on her shoulder, urging her back down.
“Seriously, don’t move yet. If you’ve broken something chances are you’re in shock and not feeling it yet,” Red-Jersey Guy said. He crouched by her side, the cleats on his shoes grinding into the gravel. She winced, hoping he wouldn’t get a stone stuck in the mechanism.
“I’m pretty sure I’d know if I broke something.” Sherry shifted onto her hip and scooted back, hoping to at least get off the trail. They were fair game for anyone careening down the rocky single-track. She looked around again for her bike and winced. Crap. It was stuck in a tree about ten feet down trail. How the hell did it get stuck up there?
“Here, let us help,” the guy wearing jeans shorts said, hand on her elbow. She rolled her eyes. Why did men think sticking an arm under an elbow was useful? No leverage. Holding her there just unbalanced her.
“Thanks, but I’ve got this.” She brushed off his hand and moved sideways, trying to ignore the rocks digging into her ass. When she had situated herself on the grass she looked down at her legs. Oh. That’s why her shin hurt. Blood coated her left ankle. She swallowed, hoping she didn’t need stitches.
“Yeah, that’s why we wanted to help you. You’re looking a bit pale,” Jean-Shorts Guy explained, dropping down next to her. “Hey Simon, get the gauze and tape, would you?”
“Shit,” Sherry muttered. “I’ve never fallen this bad before.”
He shrugged. “It happens to all of us eventually.”
Sherry nodded, staring at him. The man was beautiful. Desperate to hide her infatuation with his lovely green eyes, she grilled him about his crazy clothing choices. “How the hell can you ride in jeans shorts? On a fixie, no less? Doesn’t it hurt?” She promptly bit her tongue before more words could come out. Words like, don’t your balls get abraded? And, how does your dick like jostling around in your underwear instead of being safely held in place by a good pair of bike shorts?
He chuckled and tossed his helmet onto the grass. She tried not to stare at his hair. It was golden. Seriously, golden. It freaking sparkled in the sunlight. Jesus. Was there no end to his gorgeousness?
“I guess I’m used to it.” He touched her leg, angling her knee so he could see the cut.
Sherry swallowed again, this time from the bolt of lust that surged through her body. So weird. She usually didn’t like when people touched her. His palms were really warm. Sherry fought to keep herself from stroking his stupid, stupid, gorgeous arm. She stuffed her hands under her ass. He saw and raised an eyebrow at her, confusion on his ridiculously handsome face. How can a man so masculine look that adorable?
“Oh, um, the rocks are kind of hard.” Yeah, right. Her fingers twitched. Her eyes strayed to his crotch, hoping to see something else that might be hard, but his friend interrupted before she could make a total fool of herself. Thank God.
“Eli, your first-aid kit looks like a dog threw up on it. Luckily I’m not as much of a loser as you are.” Red-Jersey Guy squatted down near them with a clean square of gauze and a roll of tape. When Sherry got a good look at him close-up, she had to swallow hard. Again. His dark blue eyes were amazing. If not for the beard stubble and the masculine line of his jaw, he’d be almost pretty. Sherry couldn’t tear her eyes away. He was movie-star lovely. She hadn’t been this dumbstruck by a guy since—
Sherry blinked, thinking. Well, since ever. Guys this good-looking, close-up and with no camera tricks, were actually real?
“Hey, you still with us?” Red-Jersey Guy asked, moving closer. His hair brushed her arm and she sighed. It was soft. She bet it smelled divine but diving into it with her nose was probably a bad idea. He’d think she was crazy. He looked like a guy who washed with something yummy like cinnamon or vanilla shampoo. Or maybe even lavender. That would be awesome.
He cocked his head at her and Sherry realized he’d asked her a question. She nodded foolishly and pulled herself together. This was embarrassing. She was bold. She was strong. At least most of the time I am. What happened in high school does not count, she told herself.
“Hey, you guys have names?” Sherry smiled, knowing full well what would happen when they saw her dimples. They usually turned men into gibbering idiots around her. Sherry tried to smile as often as possible, of course. Life was just easier that way.
“Oh, um,” Red-Jersey Guy trailed off. He’d been about to dab at the blood on her leg when she spoke. Jeans-Shorts Guy didn’t even try to speak. He just stared.
Ha! Gotcha. Sherry reached up and took off her helmet. Her French braid was making her scalp itch. She worked her fingers through it until her hair was loose. That’s better. The curls spilled down around her shoulders to her waist. She smirked at the looks on their faces. Men could never resist the hair. She almost snapped her fingers under their noses, but managed to restrain herself.
“I’m Sherry. Sherry Griffin. It’s nice to meet you. I didn’t expect anyone to come to my rescue.” She held out a hand. She didn’t aim it toward either one of them, figuring they’d work out between themselves who would shake first. She waited, making sure her boobs were displayed properly in her pink jersey. Jeans-Shorts Guy’s eyes dropped to her chest. Red-Jersey Guy stared at her lips. He recovered first and grasped her hand.
“Hi. I’m Simon River. Nice to meet you.” He grinned. Sherry shook his hand, enjoying the way his palm felt against hers. She had to mentally slap herself upside the head so she wouldn’t sigh in his face like a ninny. He was really beautiful, even more so when he smiled.
“I’m Eli Moest,” Jeans-Shorts Guy interrupted, physically pulling Simon’s arm out of her grasp. Sherry bit her lip, holding back a grin as she shook hands with him too. His were more calloused than Simon’s, but still warm. Gentle.
“Nice to meet you,” Sherry said.
“So, what happened?” Simon asked.
“Rocks. Lots and lots of rocks.” Sherry gestured around them. They sat on the grassy side of a steep trail. It was mostly an open rock field, with only a few trees and bushes dotting the landscape, probably because the trail ran along a power line. Woods surrounded it on both sides, but the trail itself was clear. “I’ve ridden down this single-track a lot, but today was the first time it tried to kill me.”
Simon smiled and dabbed at her leg with gauze. “This doesn’t look too bad, thankfully. You’re sure you didn’t break anything?”
Sherry shook her head then winced as the cotton stuck to her cut. “I think it’s worse than it looks.”
“We should make sure,” Eli said, running his hands up and down her shins.
Sherry stared at him. He was totally copping a feel.
Simon rolled his eyes. “Oh please, stop groping her legs, Eli.”
Eli snatched his hands away. His cheekbones glowed faintly pink.
Simon looked at her. “Do you have any clean water?”
She nodded and pointed to her bicycle. “It’s in the tree.”
Eli and Simon looked down the trail. Her bike hung from the lower branches of a maple, the only tree with any substantial height on this particular trail.
“What the hell?” Eli muttered.
Sherry laughed. “Yeah. That was pretty much my reaction, too.”
“How did it get up there?” Simon asked, a frown creasing his forehead.
“Well, I was riding down like usual. Suddenly the trail grew teeth and bit my wheel. I went endo. The bike went airborne. That’s pretty much all I know.” Sherry pursed her lips. “At least I didn’t hit my head. That would’ve sucked.”
Eli stood up, shading his eyes from the sun. “I think it’ll take both of us to get it down from there.” With his back to her, Sherry couldn’t help but stare at his ass. It was high and firm and the muscles in the back of his thighs flexed as she watched him. His shoulders were equally impressive. His tattoo peeked out of his left shirtsleeve. Damn, he’s fine. Sherry tried to talk herself out of swooning as he started down the trail.
“Eli’s going to need a hand.” Simon handed Sherry the gauze and stood up. “Hang onto this. We’ll get your bike down for you.” He smiled warmly at her and her heart fluttered. The man was dangerously pretty.
“Yeah, okay,” she said faintly. Jesus. The two of them were enough to make a girl do stupid things––and she was past that, right? Nope. A really dangerous thought popped into her head. Her brother Zeke had two lovers, Eric and Carrie, so why couldn’t she? They’d been together five years now, and Sherry wanted that. She wasn’t ashamed to admit she was greedy. She wanted two guys in her bed, just like Carrie. She eyed the men slipping and sliding down the rocks of the trail. Hmmm.
“I don’t think this is going to be as difficult as I thought,” Simon called up to her. He braced himself against the trunk of the tree while Eli went around the other side.
Sherry nodded and waved at them, her mind spinning. Would they go for a ménage? She bit her lip, considering. Neither of them pinged her gaydar. Not that that meant much. To her knowledge, neither her brother nor Eric had ever considered the other as a lover until Carrie entered the picture. She looked down the trail, absently holding the gauze to her leg. No way. They’d never go for it. Those were two of the straightest guys she’d ever met. She sighed. Pity.
Well, at least they were nice enough to give me a hand. Sherry watched them tug at her bike. A couple curses and one crazy jump later they’d managed to shift it until the handlebars lifted free of the branch. Simon grabbed the top tube of the frame and lifted it down. Eli took it from him as they began the slippery climb up the hill. The trail wasn’t really meant for feet, and Simon nearly fell when a rock turned under his shoe. Sherry bit her lip. It’s much easier to ride down this mess on a bike.
“You okay?” she called.
“I’m fine,” Simon panted, scrabbling the last few feet and plopping down beside her. The strong length of his thigh pressed into hers. She didn’t mind, which was odd. As much as she liked to look at handsome men, Sherry didn’t particularly enjoy it when they made advances. Her personal space was sacrosanct. For some reason, these two didn’t bother her. Weird.
Eli leaned her bicycle down near theirs on the opposite side the track then joined them. “I’ve got your water.”
“Thanks.” Sherry took the bottle from him and rinsed her leg. Thankfully the cut had already stopped bleeding. She dabbed at it then held a clean square of gauze in place while Simon taped it. When she was sure the makeshift bandage wasn’t going anywhere, she tipped her head up to thank him and caught him staring at her.
“Thank you for stopping. I owe you one,” Sherry said. She eyed him speculatively. At the very least she was going to kiss one or both of them before they left. To hell with being careful. And damn her nervousness with strange men. Opportunities like this didn’t come around often.
“It was no problem. We’re just glad you weren’t badly hurt,” Eli said. He’d grabbed his water bottle too and Sherry watched as he took a long swallow. The stubble on his face gleamed as a trickle of moisture ran down his jaw.
“Hey,” she said quietly when he was done. Her heart was pounding away in her chest but she ignored it. “Eli.”
Eli looked at her. Sherry reached up and touched a finger to the wet trail on his face, running it along his cheek. She suppressed a giggle at the surprise that flashed over his expression. He’s about to be even more shocked, she thought, sliding her hand around the back of his head. She tugged gently. His mouth opened. Sherry smiled and tugged a little harder. He leaned in, still adorably confused. Sherry shifted her weight and leaned up to press her lips to his. From the corner of her eye she could see Simon watching them, dumbfounded. She leaned back slightly.
“Don’t worry, Simon. You’re next,” she murmured against Eli’s mouth. Into the shocked silence that greeted her statement she dove in again, this time tilting her head until her lips fit perfectly against his. He smelled like cinnamon. Sherry kissed him, lips closed––once, twice, then she touched the tip of her tongue to his mouth and slipped inside when he gasped. Mmmmm. Definitely cinnamon, Sherry thought, licking his tongue. It danced against hers for a moment when suddenly he took control, knotting his hands in her hair. He tilted her head further and devoured her, licking, nipping, and finally sucking on her bottom lip. When he came up for air, Sherry knew he was just as aroused as she was. A quick glance down at his groin confirmed it. She wondered if he regretted the jeans shorts now.
She tugged her hair from his hands. Simon’s thigh still pressed against her leg. She didn’t have to do more than tilt her body sideways to sling an arm around his neck. She pulled and Simon leaned in willingly. His blue eyes were almost swallowed up by the black of his pupils. Sherry knew he’d been watching her and Eli kiss. She knew he liked it. When he dipped his head, she let her mouth fall open. He kissed her hungrily, swooping inside where Eli had been just a moment earlier. His lips were warm and sweet. They must have been eating cinnamon candy or something, she thought, then his tongue stole stroked hers and she stopped thinking altogether.
Eli held her steady as Simon licked at her teeth and nibbled her upper lip. Eli sat so close his cock nudged against her hip. She gasped as her hand dropped down, making Eli groan. His dick was thick and really, really hard beneath her fingers. Before she could figure out what to do, Simon kissed her again, trailing his lips down her jaw to nibble under her earlobe. She moved her hand away from Eli and ended up accidentally shoving it into Simon’s lap. Holy cow, he’s huge too. When he pulled away, Sherry trembled, completely overwhelmed. Her palms tingled. Why the hell did ever she think she could flirt and kiss them and still feel like she was in control?
“What the hell was that?” Eli asked.
Sherry mentally slapped herself. Get a grip! She cleared her throat, hoping she sounded nonchalant. “Just a thanks. For stopping and helping with my bike.” She twisted her fingers in her shirt, wondering if they could tell how shaky she felt. She’d never been kissed like that before. She looked at the two men, trying to gauge their feelings. Eli quirked an eyebrow at her. Simon just looked at her, his blue eyes intense and knowing.
Crap. They totally know how inexperienced I really am. She’d teased them and suddenly stumbled onto the perfect moment she’d yearned for, the thing she’d most wanted ever since that weasel screwed with her in high school. This is what she’d been waiting for. Somehow she knew these men were different. Every other guy she’d dated had left her cold. Every other kiss she’d experienced had been boring. Pointless.
Lately it gotten so bad that Sherry had begun to test guys by how well they kissed. Kisses never lied. She knew when a man was going to be a loser and when they weren’t as soon as they locked lips with her. Eli and Simon were definitely not losers. Sherry felt panicky. How could this be happening to her now? She wasn’t ready!
Eli smiled and leaned in again. “It was really no problem.” His voice was low. Growly. Sherry’s pussy clenched tight. Holy fuck, what bottle of crazy had she opened here? Eli touched her lips with his mouth, and God help her, Sherry was going to let him kiss her again, when a shout from the top of the hill startled her into pulling away.
“Sherry! Is everything okay?”
Shit! It was her brother Zeke. She winced, then slapped a smile on her face and waved. “Yeah! I’m fine, Zeke.” Simon and Eli edged away from her. She didn’t have to look to see that their interest had probably deflated faster than a punctured bicycle tire. Her brother rode halfway down the trail and slid to a stop, hopping off his bike and ditching it on the side. Sherry watched his eyes go from Eli to Simon to her bloody leg.
“Oh shit, you’re bleeding. Are you all right?” He crouched down and touched her leg lightly. Sherry rolled her eyes. She wasn’t made of glass, for God’s sake.
“I’m fine, Zeke. Where’s Eric?” The sound of gravel answered her question as Eric careened down the track toward them. “Yeah, never mind.” She smiled at Eric. He eyed Simon and Eli suspiciously. For their part, neither Simon nor Eli showed any sign of intimidation. On the contrary, Eli sat up straighter while Simon pasted on a welcoming smile. Odd that I can already tell which of his smiles are fake and which aren’t, Sherry thought.
“Eric, Zeke, this is Simon and Eli. I fell off my bike and they stopped to see if I was okay. They were nice enough to extract my bike from the tree, too.” Sherry bit her lip to keep from laughing as her brother scowled at Eli. She glanced at Simon and frowned. He was glowering at her brother and Eric. Even though he was slightly smaller and more finely boned than Eli, she had the feeling he was the more dangerous of the two men. She scrambled to finish the introductions.
“Simon, Eli, this is my brother Zeke and his partner Eric.” No sooner were the words out of her mouth than both Eli and Simon relaxed. Hmm. She thought it might have something to do with the way Eric touched Zeke’s shoulder. It was obvious the two men were involved. Of course, Sherry noted that her brother’s frown had deepened. Not surprising. He was usually cranky and over-protective around her boyfriends. Or in this case, the two big strangers sitting extra close to her. She pinched her brother’s leg, trying not to laugh when he jumped and sent her a glare.
Be nice, she thought at him. Sibling radar worked. He gave her a look, but sighed and sat down, sliding a hand up her leg to inspect her wound more closely. The faker. Sherry knew he wasn’t concerned about her cut. He just wanted to knock Eli’s hand away from her calf.
“Zeke, seriously, I’m fine,” she said, her voice warning him off. He ignored her and held out a hand to Eli. Hmpf. Of course he’d pick Eli first. Her brother was rather perceptive. Butter up the more obvious predator before handling the other one.
“Hi. Thanks for giving my little sister a hand,” Zeke said.
Eli nodded and shook Zeke’s hand, then Eric’s. Zeke turned to Simon next. “Thanks.”
Simon nodded shortly and shook hands as well. “We were happy to help.” He stood up and brushed the dust off his shorts then grabbed his and Eli’s helmets. “Anyway, we’ve got to get moving. We have a dinner thing we can’t miss.” He sent Eli a look, then tossed his helmet over. For a moment Sherry thought Eli was going to throw it back at Simon’s head, but then he shrugged and stood up as well, strapping the plastic onto his skull.
“Yeah, we promised my mom we’d be home for dinner. We don’t visit her often enough, she says.”
Simon grinned suddenly. “You don’t. You’re a terrible son.”
Eli rolled his eyes. “Oh please. Like you visit your dad a lot?”
“He lives in the middle of Pennsylvania. It’s a three, three and a half hour drive,” Simon protested good-naturedly.
“Yeah, yeah, whatever.” Eli had his bike back on the trail. “Excuses, man. Nothing but excuses.”
“I’m going to tell your mother you were picking on me,” Zeke said, clipping his right shoe onto his pedal. Sherry watched, slightly irritated and a lot disappointed. Stupid Zeke and Eric. She was sure she could have gotten another kiss if her brother and his lover hadn’t caught up with her. I might even have managed to get hold of their phone numbers. She licked her lips, wondering if maybe she’d hallucinated those kisses. It didn’t seem real. Were they really as earth-shattering as she thought? She touched her mouth absently.
“Sherry, it was nice meeting you. I’m glad you weren’t seriously injured,” Simon said, turning to her and holding her gaze for a moment. She allowed herself one last sigh as his blue eyes flashed over her body.
“Yeah, me too.” Eli smiled at her and Sherry shifted her eyes to him. Such a handsome man, she thought, looking him up and down. Oh well. She briefly wondered what it would be like to have the two of them naked on her bed at the same time then let the daydream drift away. Not everyone fell in love. She knew that better than anyone. Just because they were good kissers didn’t mean they would be any different than the other losers she’d dated. Not everyone got to be happy.
“Bye,” she said, lifting a hand. They waved and a few seconds later were halfway down the side of the mountain. Sherry swallowed, disappointed. Get a grip, she told herself for the thousandth time.
“Those guys didn’t try anything funny, did they?” Eric asked her, sitting down where Eli had just been.
She gave him her death glare.
“Okay. Okay…just making sure.” Eric held a palm up as if to ward off her temper.
“They were perfect gentlemen,” Sherry said. More’s the pity. She wished she’d managed to steal a few more kisses.
“You know we worry about you,” Zeke said, quietly.
Sherry glared at him too but he just smiled. He was immune to her stare, probably because she stole it from him when they were kids.
“I fell. They stopped to make sure I was okay then rescued my bike. You showed up. End of story,” she said in a clipped voice.
Zeke eyed her intently but wisely didn’t pursue it. Sherry sighed and stood up. It was time to get off this stupid mountain.

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Most Eligible Bachelor
Men of Distinction, Book 1
by Empi Baryeh

Evernight Publishing

eBook ISBN: 978-1-927368-49-7

After her fiancé’s betrayal three years ago, magazine columnist Chantelle Sah is more than willing to put in a hard day’s work this Valentine’s Day; even if it means going on a date with gorgeous playboy tycoon, Lord McKenzie, and opening herself to an onslaught of all things love.

Chapter One

All is fair in love and war.
Sitting at her desk in the spacious office she shared with twelve others, Chantelle Sah typed out those words, the perfect title to her piece for the April edition of Odopa magazine. The cursor blinked on the laptop screen as if in celebration of another job well done. She was well within her submission deadline.
A good thing, since she still had the feature story for April on her plate—an interview with construction tycoon and notorious playboy, Lord McKenzie. She snickered at the oddity of the name. What kind of parents named their kid Lord?
Not that it was any of her business. Her job was to do the interview and write her piece. God knew she couldn’t afford to have her feature swiped from under her feet. Again.
After two years of building a solid reputation with her column, she’d pestered her editor for a chance to do a feature. He’d given her that opportunity a few months ago, and she’d blown it. Somehow her story had leaked out to their number one competitor, Celeb magazine, leaving her scrambling for a back-up. For the first time ever, Celeb had sold more copies than Odopa. And it had been her fault.
“Hey.” The voice of her colleague, Dufie Swaniker, reeled her back from her momentary drift. “Busy?”
Chantelle sat back with a sigh. “I’m about to call his Lordship.”
Dufie clutched her chest in a dramatic fashion. “Oh, I can just feel your pain.”
“I swear. Randy’s doing this just to punish me for the Celeb incident.”
“Aw, come on. He’s doing you a favor. Do you know how many writers would kill for an interview with Ghana’s most eligible bachelor?”
A snort of laughter slipped past Chantelle’s lips. “Most eligible bachelor, my ass.”
She winced. Maybe that was harsh. After all, she hadn’t even met the guy. It wasn’t exactly his fault he looked like God’s best work of creation, or that women didn’t let him forget it, even if he wanted to. She humphed. As if.
“He’s probably as shallow as he is good-looking.” Add that to his ego-boosting name, and she had one pain-in-the-ass interview on her hands.
“You really have it in for this guy, don’t you?” Dufie chuckled. “Listen, a group of us single girls are going out for a drink tonight. Do you want to go?”
Chantelle became quiet. Her gaze flickered over the cupid spin-danglers hanging from the ceiling and the floral bouquets and greeting cards adorning the rich mahogany workspaces. All around them, the office hummed with Valentine’s Day buzz and animated banter about romantic dates later in the evening. They were all reminders that she’d been happy once, hopelessly in love. How had it all gone wrong?
She shoved those thoughts aside, focusing her attention on her friend. “No, I think I’ll just go home and have a quiet evening.”
Dufie folded her arms, perching herself at the edge of the desk. “Chantelle, he’s been gone four years.”
Chantelle didn’t answer, and the ensuing silence hung between them for a beat.
“I’m sorry for bringing it up. I know what you went through losing Martin so tragically, and then to find out—” She stopped, as if realizing she’d gone off on a tangent.
“It’s all right, Dufie. You can say it.” The part that had cut her the deepest. “He was with another woman.”
She released a jagged breath, stunned to discover those words hadn’t been as hard to utter as she’d expected. The pain and anger still simmered somewhere inside, but, for the first time, she didn’t feel their weight crashing down on her. Maybe time did heal all wounds; or perhaps, she’d finally perfected her ability to numb her heart.
“Martin was a jerk for breaking your heart, but you can’t hole up at home every Valentine’s Day because of what happened.”
“That’s not what I’m doing. I’m really tired, and it’s only Wednesday. I need to unwind.”
Liar. The truth was she didn’t want to go out tonight, didn’t want to hear love songs or see happy couples. It would only fill her heart with longing for the warm embrace of a lover, the intimacy a woman shared with a man, that heated you’re-the-only-one-for-me look. Going out on Valentine’s Day would expose her to an overdose of things she couldn’t allow herself to have, because she didn’t know if she’d ever be ready to risk her heart again.
She gave herself a mental shake, bringing her mind back to the present in time to catch Dufie’s response.
“Well, you have three whole hours ‘til close of day to reconsider. Let me know if you do.”
Chantelle nodded, even though she didn’t intend to change her mind. “I will. Thanks.”
With a shrug, Dufie stood and sashayed off to her own desk.
Alone again, Chantelle decided to make the call to Lord McKenzie. But not here, she thought, watching two other colleagues gushing about an e-card one had received. Aside from wanting privacy for her call, she definitely needed to escape before she got any more unsolicited invitations to go out tonight.
Grabbing a pencil and paper, she headed out and found one of their small meeting rooms.
Just as she sat at the round table, the door opened, and her editor peered in.
“Ah, there you are,” he said, entering and shutting the door. “How are we doing with the Mckenzie story?”
Chantelle frowned. Randy usually didn’t hound his writers, especially when there was more than enough time till the submission deadline.
“I’m about to call him. That’s why I slipped in here.” She noted the somewhat anxious look on Randy’s face. “Is everything all right?”
“I just heard Celeb is also after McKenzie.”
Chantelle felt the words like a kick in the belly, and a band of tension wound tight around her chest.
Celeb had started a teaser campaign for their tenth anniversary celebrations, but no details had yet been released. It seemed they were keeping a tight lid on it; which could only imply one thing – they didn’t have a go from McKenzie, or they would have started advance publicity for the issue.
Meaning her interview had just become number one priority.
“The good news is we want him for April.” Despite her attempt at putting a positive spin on things, tension continued to coil around her insides. Celeb was known for their guerrilla tactics; if they knew about her piece, they’d move theirs up in a heartbeat.
“Get to him before Celeb does,” Randy said, and then he was gone.
She swallowed, taking in a deep breath to calm her nerves. That was a threat if she ever heard one. With her annual appraisal coming up in a few months, she couldn’t afford to lose this story. Especially not to Celeb. That would be just too embarrassing, not to mention how it would affect her prospects of a promotion in the future. She could only hope Lord McKenzie wouldn’t make her jump through hoops before granting her the interview.
She retrieved the sticky note Randy had given her earlier and unfolded it to reveal a cell phone number. She punched the number into her phone and hit send. While it rang, she idly wondered about Lord McKenzie’s middle name, and what on earth his girlfriend called him. Correction, girlfriends.
“Hello.” Lord’s voice boomed through the line, deep and husky, and an answering zing shot through her stomach.
She sat up. Okay, count that under weird.
“Hi.” She grimaced, and then amended her greeting. “Hello. Lord McKenzie?”
“The one and only, sweetie.”
She frowned. Sweetie? Oh, she was going to hate this guy after the phone call, never mind the interview.
“Hi, Lord, uh, Mr. McKenzie, my name is Chantelle Sah. I’m—”
“Hi, Chantelle. What can I do you for?”
His voice possessed a rich timbre, which coupled with his choice of words, evoked images of two bodies intertwined in passionate encounters. An unexpected thrill galloped up her spine.
Whoa, what the hell was that? Chantelle forced a smile, taking a second to compose herself. Clearly, her self-imposed celibacy could use some reinforcement.
“You could grant me an interview.” Good girl. Keep your mind on business.
“Did I win something?”
“Well, you were voted most eligible bachelor by Odopa magazine.”
He gave a soft melodious laugh. “I hate that.”
Chantelle frowned, taken aback. “You – pardon?”
“Do you know how much trouble you put me in by naming me most eligible bachelor?”
If by ‘trouble’ he meant more girls than he could bed, then yes, she knew. Well, she could only guess. “Maybe you can clarify things in the interview.”
Silence followed as if he was contemplating her offer. “Tell me, Chantelle Sah, are you single?”
“Yes, but I don’t—” Why on earth had she said yes? An embarrassing warmth crept over her cheeks. Thank goodness this conversation wasn’t face-to-face. A flustered image wouldn’t make a good first impression. She should have rehearsed this call. Now she’d given him an upper hand, no matter how remote.
“Great. Why don’t you escort me to Afrodite tonight?”
She frowned. “The nightclub?”
He chuckled. “Yes, the nightclub. I’m having a Valentine’s party there.”
“Well…”
The last thing she wanted was a date. Particularly tonight. However, if he was willing to grant her an audience, what choice did she have? She couldn’t let the opportunity slip through her fingers.
“Do you want the interview?” His matter-of-fact tone made it clear she occupied the beggar’s seat in this discussion.
“Of course, I do.”
“Excellent.” She could hear a smile in his voice. “Bring a recorder, and you can have your interview after the party. I hope you like to dance.”
“No, I don’t dance.”
“Don’t worry. I’ll teach you.”
Chantelle bit back a curse. She’d lost complete control of this conversation. Mechanically, she found herself agreeing to meet him at the party, anxious to secure her interview before Celeb beat her to it. Randy wouldn’t forgive her for that.
“Oh, by the way, if you’re available and looking, wear red. Otherwise, the dress code is white.”
With those parting words, he ended the call.
Chantelle couldn’t believe she’d allowed him to dominate the conversation. Now she’d talked herself into the Valentine’s Day pit of hell. She couldn’t decide who was to blame more: Dufie, for upsetting her by digging up the past, or Randy, for rattling her with his threat. Usually she had enough resolve to sidestep emotional traps like those, but today was Valentine’s Day, and emotionally, she was at her weakest.
****
Lord McKenzie was good at reading people, detecting subtle signals others might miss. He could even pick up sounds over a phone line, like the slight catching of Chantelle’s breath when he had
answered the call. It was all he’d needed to know his plan would work. Now all he had to do was play his cards right, and he could kill two birds with one stone.
As he placed the Blackberry on his desk, his gaze caught the latest copy of Odopa magazine, which lay next to the metallic letter-tray where he’d placed it two weeks before. He still hadn’t had time to read it.
Picking it up, he paused on ‘Contents’ long enough to find the page number for Chantelle’s piece before flipping over to it. Her photo caught his interest, as it always did. Thick shoulder-length hair framing a heart-shaped face and a smile that could steal a person’s breath away. She looked straight into the camera with confidence shining through mischievous hazel eyes. It was the kind of look that made you want to hear what she had to say. Whether on paper or in that sultry voice he’d have the pleasure of hearing again tonight.
He’d always wanted to meet her since he had first read an article of hers a couple of years back. He had every copy of Odopa for two years running because of her. So when Randy Brobbey, the editor, his old school-mate, approached him about an exclusive, he’d readily agreed.
Plus, Chantelle was the only reporter he trusted to write a piece that would begin to rectify the general perception of him the tabloids had perpetuated. A perception which, to be fair, he hadn’t done a thing to dissuade. Frankly, he’d thought it funny, bordering on ridiculous, the first time he’d earned the label of playboy tycoon.
Granted, he didn’t go out on more than a few dates with any woman, and he’d never left any of them under the illusion of their liaison being anything but temporary.
However, he didn’t play women. As far as he was concerned, something had to be fundamentally wrong with a man who pursued multiple women simultaneously. He was good to his women, and their break-ups were amicable.
At least that’s what he’d thought until one of his exes – he wasn’t even sure he could call her that, considering they’d only been together two weeks – had done an exposé for Celeb magazine, based mostly on twisted truths and partly on falsehoods. Initially, he’d been pissed. He had even considered taking his lawyer’s advice to seek legal action, but he couldn’t possibly sue every single paper for any untruths they printed about him. He’d simply decided not to dignify any of them with a response.
He’d also refused to let those stories dictate his actions, so he’d maintained his social calendar, fully expecting it to blow over.
Instead, the story had dominoed out of control with more women coming forward with their own stories, and the labeling had continued: heartbreaker, lady killer, lover and leaver, Lothario McKenzie.
It wasn’t his first experience of being called names, though. In secondary school, Lord had been a lanky boy, and being the younger brother of the most popular guy in school had just made him more visible. As the butt of jokes for anything from his name to his physique, many of which were instigated by his own brother, he’d had to develop a thick skin.
So the labels didn’t bother him, but when the public perception of him threatened his company’s chances at winning what would be their biggest project ever, he had to do something.
Enter Chantelle.
He should have been thinking about their upcoming meeting in a purely professional sense.
He wasn’t.
Staring, once again, at her picture, it was her voice he thought about. It sounded exactly the way he’d imagined, a little breathy and way too sexy for her own good. From the tone of her articles, he knew she was a strong-minded, passionate woman with a healthy dose wit. Most men would be intimidated by that combination, but he wasn’t most men.
And he wanted her.
He checked the time. His next engagement was in fifteen minutes. Good.
He’d barely settled to read the article when his phone rang.
Reluctantly, he set down the magazine. At this rate he’d never get to it, and for some reason he wanted to read it before meeting Chantelle tonight.
He hit the answer button without checking the caller ID, intending to get rid of whoever it was quickly. “Hello.”
“Hey, lover boy. Guess who’s returning to town in time for the Golden Stool Awards.”
Lord grimaced. Deconte. Another perception he needed to fix.
“You.”
Her claim-to-fame girlish laughter carried over surprisingly clearly for an international call. “Turns out we’re wrapping up earlier than planned, so I can make it. Are we still on?”
“I’m a man of my word, Deconte.”
“Yes, you are.” A brief silence followed before she added, “You realize, though, that’ll take us to ten weeks, right?”
“About that—”
She didn’t let him complete the sentence. “You want to end it.”
One thing he loved about Deconte; like him, she didn’t mince words. “This has gone on long enough, don’t you think?”
A short silence followed his question.
“Deconte?”
“You’re right.” She tried to sound upbeat, but he caught the reluctance in her voice.
“It was never supposed to go on for this long.”
“I know, but I was kind of hoping to not rake up any negative publicity before the release of my upcoming movie, and being in a stable relationship helps.” She hesitated. “If I’m correct, you need it, too.”
She was right. If McKenzie Contractors hoped to win the pitch they were participating in, he couldn’t afford a scandal either; especially since the only thing the papers seemed interested in was his love life. Much to his father’s dismay. His jaw clenched as he remembered the many conversations he’d had with his father on the issue.
“Just another two weeks ‘til my movie comes out?”
He released a breath, weighing the options.
“Wait,” Deconte said. “Have you met someone?”
Lord’s gaze darted to Chantelle’s headshot, and he smiled. “About to.”

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Guardian Angel
by Becky Moore

Evernight Publishing

eBook ISBN: 978-1-926950-93-8

Sasha Mitchell is struggling to find balance in the wake of her brother’s death and her burgeoning status as an underground manga and video game heroine. She’s unprepared when Doctor David Ellington sneaks under her radar, with his own emotional vulnerability. But could he be the guardian angel she was hoping for?

Chapter One

“Hey, lady! Give me that bag!”
Sasha Mitchell wrapped her fingers tighter around the thin leather straps of her favorite messenger bag. She jerked her head toward the little twerp trying to mug her.
“What did you say?” She sneered and squinted her eyes angrily, using her most menacing tone. Hell, no. This was not happening today! She turned her whole body around to face the kid, balancing her weight on the balls of her feet like a boxer. Sasha took a deep breath and bounced her knees a time or two, mentally trying to bombard him with bad juju. If he knew she was as scared as he was, she’d be a goner.
“Well?” She took a step toward him and he yelped. “I said, what did you say to me?” Sasha spoke as loudly as she could without fully screaming. No need to make the situation worse by turning on the hysterics. Yet.
His eyes went as round as saucers as he shifted his gaze nervously between her face and somewhere past her shoulder, to the dumpster at the back of the empty parking lot. He took a cautious step away from her. With each shift he made backward, Sasha advanced on him. He shook his head no and started to turn, but a loud bang from the dumpster rooted him to the spot. Sasha could see droplets of sweat covering his forehead, and noticed that his small frame was shaking.
“I—I, uh I said, you know, gimme that bag.” He shuddered and swallowed. Sasha could tell he was nervous.
She scoffed. “Seriously? Just go away, kid. I’m in a hurry.” She turned to leave and started walking briskly toward the brick archway of the old Seaboard warehouse, where her video game’s development company was housed. The kid was young and scared, and it was pretty obvious that somebody else was in the parking lot with them. She reached into her pocket to call 911.
“Come on, lady,” the kid whined behind her. His voice was remarkably close. “Just please give me the bag,” he pleaded. Then he muttered under his breath, it’s just a stupid bag. “Please … it’s the only way to make them go away. I don’t wanna hurt you.” He whispered urgently, so only she could hear him.
“I can’t give you this bag, man. My brother gave it to me, and he just died.” Her breath caught when she said it out loud. She kept walking at a brisk but calm pace, and raised the phone to her ear. She was only about ten feet from the bottom step of the Seaboard.
“I don’t know who’s making you do this, but I’m calling the cops. If you don’t want to be arrested, I suggest you beat it. Don’t tell them … just go.”
He shook his head again. “Can’t do that. They’ll kill me, and I don’t wanna die today. I’m gonna get that bag or kill you.” He whipped a small switchblade out from behind his back and waved it in her face.
As the operator picked up on the other end, Sasha could hear the kid shuffling closer. The metal of the knife blade twinkled in the morning sun. She could feel his body heat right behind her, the tension radiating off of him in waves.
“Nine-one-one, what’s your emergency?” said the voice on the phone.
“My name’s Sasha Mitchell, and I’m in the old parking lot behind my office at the corner of Harrington and Davey Streets …somebody’s trying to mug me.”
“Damn, lady,” said the kid. “You shouldn’t-a done that.” He shoved her in the back of the shoulder and grabbed the bag handle closest to him.
“Ma’am, is he with you right now?”
“Yes, he’s grabbing me—” He yanked the handles again, which made Sasha’s heels wobble in the gravel. She cried out and stumbled, reaching out to balance herself. The phone hit the gravel and broke into a handful of pieces.
Real panic set in, forcing the anger out of her. “Let me go you little ass … hole!” He had both bag handles with one hand, and a handful of her shirt with the other. He shook her as hard as he could, which made her teeth rattle and her teetering heels as dangerous as his threats. She was going to break an ankle. Or both of them. The blade cut a hole in the loose fabric near her shoulder, and she sucked in a breath.
“That’s it.”
In one swift motion, using momentum to her best advantage, Sasha shifted her weight and spun. She straightened her left arm, leading with the heel of her palm. The shift threw off the kid’s balance and he stumbled toward her. He turned his face just in time for the bony heel of her hand to connect with his right temple. Howling with pain, he hit the ground hard and landed on his knees. Sasha was already taller than the young boy, especially in her high heels, but standing over him as he lay on the ground, she towered.
Sirens cut into the silence of the morning, growing louder by the second.
Whoever had been behind the dumpster was cursing. Two firemen from nearby Fire Station Four came running into the parking lot, rounding the corner behind a police cruiser and an ambulance.
The kid scrambled on the ground, stabbing at Sasha’s thighs. It was hard to stay out of his way in those stupid heels. She turned to run away, but he grabbed the hem of her skirt and yanked. She tumbled backward and fell into his lap, and he wrapped his arms tightly around her. For a brief second she was paralyzed, but then burst into motion. She spun her arms in a wide arc to break his hold and jammed her elbow into his solar plexus. He grunted and fell back, giving her enough time to roll onto her knees and scramble away from him.
The kid made a grab for her bag again, and she fell sideways onto her right shoulder. “Shit!” she screamed. One of the firemen got to her in time to keep her face from hitting the gravel, and he yanked her out of the kid’s reach.
Sasha fought for a second, but when she realized her rescuer had arrived, she let out a sob and slumped against him. Behind her, the cops were yelling at the kid to drop the knife and stay on the ground. He was making strange sounds, a mixture of grumbling and crying.
“Come on, man,” the kid said, trying to turn and get up. One of the cops drew his gun and pointed it. “Stop! Don’t move, kid … stay where we can see you.”
Sasha turned around to watch the action. An EMT stepped in front of her and pressed his fingers against her cheekbone. A flash of lightning spiked through her head and she yelped. The fireman whose arms were still wrapped around her jumped and chuckled. Sasha elbowed him and smirked when he grunted. “Let me go. I’m fine.” She squirmed, so he let her move out of his embrace, but kept his hand wrapped around her bicep.
“Uh-uh. You need to stay here, Ms. Mitchell,” said the EMT. She’d been focused on the kid, but now shifted her gaze in the EMT’s direction.
Oh my god. Talk about déjà vu … that’s my Angel.
He was watching her, his gaze intense. She looked him over, head to toe, and registered quickie facts: his hair was cut like her brother’s, and his posture was ramrod-straight. At some point in his life, this guy had either been a soldier, or he was the biggest stick-in- the-mud God had ever made. “Have we met before?” she asked, breathless.
Sasha noticed as he blushed and his eyes widened, then averted her own. The fireman snickered and tightened his grip as she let her knees dip. “Shut up, Pete,” muttered the EMT. “No, ma’am.”
Sasha had a moment of panic when she realized she’d spoken aloud, but shrugged it off. “I want to know what he wanted with my bag.” She touched the fireman’s hand, and he let her go.
The kid turned to sneer at her. The cops still had their guns on him, and he was still in a slumped puddle on the ground. “You should’ve just given me the fucking bag, you stupid bitch!”
The EMT ground his teeth together and glared at the kid. Sasha gasped, and the kid lunged at her. The knife flashed in the sun, and she thought, how pretty. But it was headed toward her brother’s bag, and she wasn’t willing to sacrifice it. She spun the bag away from the kid and the knife sliced through her left deltoid. It stung like a bitch.
“Shit!” Sasha dropped the bag and, pushing away from the fireman and sexy EMT, jumped on the kid. She landed with her knees squarely planted on his bony chest. The momentum flattened him to the pavement.
“Get her off me!” he screamed. He fought to wiggle out from under her but she was holding onto the front of his shirt, attached to him like a remora. “Man, I didn’t even take nothin’ from her. Get this crazy bitch off me!”
She sucked in her breath. “Are you kidding? You tried to mug me. I tried to give you the opportunity to just walk away … but nooo, you had to show off for your friend behind the dumpster.” The cops turned back to look at the dumpster, but nobody was there. “You cut me. You ripped my skirt. And you made me scratch my bag.” She pounded both of her fists against his chest and buckled. She folded down tightly, tornado drill-style, and burst into tears.
Everyone stopped moving. Everything was quiet—even the birds had stopped chattering. The kid even stopped squirming. He took a deep breath and turned his head away from Sasha. His tears fell silently onto the gravel underneath his head, pooling beneath his trembling body.

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