Friday, April 29, 2022

Read an Excerpt from The Courage to Love (The Man in the Arena Book 2) by Taylor Lee

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•Ava refuses to share her painful secret driving a formidable wedge between herself and Luke

•The handsome Native American healer is kind, thoughtful and unassuming. Quite a contrast to the commanding, arrogant Sheriff.

•A gruesome hate crime turns the love triangle upside down


Excerpt:

Ava Patel stumbled down the stairs of the Marin County Sheriff’s office. The red haze in front of her eyes nearly blinded her, made it likely that she would fall before reaching the bottom step. Her breath was coming so hard it hurt to inhale.  Gasping for air, she clung to the post on the landing. Kicking herself for her weakness, and knowing what she’d see at the top of the staircase, she couldn’t help but look back. 

There she was in all her slutty splendor: Amethyst Capra, the tall voluptuous blonde with the bright streak of purple in her hair, standing on the top step sneering down at Ava. A satisfied smirk curved her collagen-enhanced lips.  Her eyes sparkled with a mix of satisfaction and malice. 

Amethyst’s six inch miniskirt that ended scant fractions below her curvaceous butt revealed long dancer legs.  They would have stopped shows anywhere--particularly in the unassuming northern Minnesota town of Chicadia Falls. Her scanty halter barely covered her bodacious breasts that were straining to be free of the stretching material containing them. It was a costume befitting the self-described town tart.

Amethyst’s taunt rang in Ava’s ears, echoing painfully through her shocked brain.

 “You’re late, Darky Doctor. If you want to be first on the Sheriff’s list, you need to arrive earlier.  You obviously don’t know that the Sheriff likes ‘treats’ with his morning coffee.  But then, if you don’t mind being a variation on ‘Sloppy Seconds’….Go right in. He should have recovered from me by now.”

 Gathering what strength she had, Ava staggered toward her car. She knew she looked like one of the inebriates who’d spent the night in the drunk tank and were dragging themselves back to the land of the living.  She clung to the door handle of her ridiculously out of place Prius and willed herself to shut out the sound of Amethyst’s triumphant laughter. Closing the car door, Ava sank into the leather seat and rested her head against the steering wheel, hoping that by pressing her eyes against the rim of the wheel she could obliterate the memory of Amethyst coming out of Luke’s office. It was useless.  The image was imprinted on her brain.  Ava acknowledged with a groan that it would likely be there for life. Fortunately the din in her ears somewhat muffled the sound of her nemesis’ taunting words—if not the impact.

Glancing up, Ava tried to blot out the sight of Amethyst sauntering to her rust-pocked Ford sedan, swinging her long leather shoulder bag jauntily in concert with the audacious sway of her curvy hips. Ava fought to remember why she’d come to Sheriff Luke Lang’s office at eight o’clock on a beautiful summer morning. She forced herself to mentally retrace her halting steps down the long corridor to Luke’s office.  She felt again the excitement that she could never contain at the thought of seeing the commanding man, the man who’d taken over her heart and her mind—not to mention her body. She remembered her trepidation, knowing that she was about to change his life forever.

This morning she’d answered the question that had been haunting her.  Filling her with a contorted mix of excitement and dread.  She’d known the answer for six weeks.  In truth, she admitted that at some intuitive level she’d known the very night it happened.  She was pregnant.  With Luke’s baby.  She shook her head, acknowledging the truth. No one else could be the father.  There was one man and one man only in her life. The problem that Amethyst had painfully underscored was that far from being the only woman in Luke’s life, Ava was one of many. 

Ava wasn’t a fool.  She knew that Luke didn’t love her. No matter how extraordinary that propitious night had been, the aftermath underscored how fruitless it was to think that Luke could ever be a one woman man.  She’d promised herself that she could live with a broken heart as long as she never let him invade her soul.  She’d kept the agonized promise to herself until two nights ago. A pitifully inept novice sailor, she’d foolishly sailed her brand new Hobie Cat into the most ferocious storm Whitefish Lake was capable of. She could have… should have drowned.  But Luke had seen her go overboard and rushed to her rescue.

Ava knew at the time that raw adrenalin was the primary cause of the sexually torrid aftermath of her near drowning.  It was adrenalin that stoked Luke’s fear and then his anger at what she’d done. No doubt the combustible combination of adrenalin and testosterone catapulted his passionate reaction to the dangerous event… and to her. He’d threatened to spank her, punish her for her foolish escapade. Even now she was stunned, remembering her response to Luke’s scandalous warning.  She’d actually taunted him.  Dared him to make good on his threat. That he did in ways she never could have imagined, Ava was sure, would fuel her erotic dreams for years to come.  At least she’d been sure of that until today.

Seeing the positive result on the test stick this morning, she knew that she had no recourse but to tell Luke that not only had he saved her on that passionate night, but he’d also saved their baby.  Wrenching herself back to the present, Ava shuddered at the irony. In the space of two days, with his willing accomplice Amethyst, Luke had saved her… and then, once again, destroyed her.

Fleeing Amethyst, she’d nearly run into Sgt. Charlie Masterson, Luke’s right hand man, and a friend of hers. Charlie caught hold of her and asked why she was leaving without seeing the Sheriff.  When she could only shake her head unable to answer, he asked if he could give Luke a message from her.  Ava had responded the best that she could. 

She’d said, “No, Charlie.  It’s… nothing.  Nothing that concerns Sheriff Lang.”

Even as she spoke she wondered if God would strike her down dead for telling a lie, a childhood threat that had kept Ava from uttering a lie until she was thirteen years old.  But now the lie and the potential strike from on high were pitifully insipid.  The truth that she would live with was far worse.  Even now it was excruciatingly painful to admit that her predicament ultimately wouldn’t involve Sheriff Lang. Leave it to Amethyst to bring Ava’s pipedream smashing to smithereens.  Ava forced herself to ignore the memory of Luke’s lips on hers, his passionate whispers in her ear, telling her how beautiful she was, how much he craved her body, how much he longed to be with her.  Unfortunately, the only words that she’d never heard him say, were “I love you.”

 

 

Friday, April 22, 2022

Read an Excerpt from Jorden by Taylor Lee - FREEBIE!

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JORDEN, Book 3 in USA Today best-selling author Taylor Lee’s provocative new series, The Justice Brothers. JORDEN, the oldest Justice Brother, is unquestionably the most distinguished. But underneath that sophisticated persona is a sexy, challenging lover.

· An Assistant US Attorney fights the legal battle of his life. This time Jorden’s on the defense and his children are at stake.

· An accomplished psychologist and coach revered by all, Mac discovers she can’t outrun her past. She can only hope her righteous lover will forgive her.

· An evil woman isn’t about to let her children and former husband go without a fight. And this woman fights dirty!

· A family drama that calls for the best and the worst of the two passionate lovers. Unfortunately, Jorden and McKenna discover that Justice—like Love-- isn’t always fair or easy.

WARNING: Romance so HOT it singes the pages. HOT, tough, explicit. Not for the faint at heart. Definitely bring a fan!


Excerpt:


Driving to the Shipwreck, Jorden relived his conversation with Jude. At his brother’s insistence, Jorden had added a little detail to his cursory responses. Thankfully, Jude was savvy enough not to press. But then, why would he? When it came down to it, Francine was Francine. For anyone who knew her, that was enough said.

Remembering his strained conversation with her the previous night, Jorden admitted that he hadn’t thought about much else in the last twenty-four hours. Chloe’s game had been a welcome three-hour respite. For the first time since his ex-wife had waltzed into the judicial center and appeared unannounced at his office door, the basketball game had given him an opportunity to think of something besides her.

It was disconcerting to acknowledge that Francine had always had that effect on him. From the first time he had met the five-foot-nine willowy beauty, he’d been consumed by her. It had taken him ten years of hell living with her and five years recovering from that hell to finally get her out of his system. Or so he had thought until last night.

In fairness, they say you never truly get over your first love. Particularly if you marry her and are constantly reminded of her by your two daughters who share some of her physical traits. Like their mother, both Chloe and Emma had Francine’s startling blue eyes. Fortunately, they had his dark, almost-black hair. He would have been challenged if they were blond like their mother. The girls were tall for their age, but he could claim credit for that. All the Justices were tall. But they were all men. Francine distinctly was not.

As Chloe approached her sixteenth birthday, the developing curves on her adolescent body telegraphed the possibility of Chloe inheriting more than eye color from her voluptuous mother. Jorden wasn’t surprised to see that at only thirty-four years old, it was clear Francine had already begun augmenting her stunning body with the help of skilled plastic surgeons.

As if that were a surprise. Dissatisfaction was the driving force in Francine’s life. It always had been. Dissatisfaction with her gorgeous body, her lovely face, the big house they lived in, being a mother, not going out every night of the week, her extensive wardrobe that always needed updating, the drugs she took and the alcohol she drank, etc., etc. But the most dissatisfying element in her previous life had been him—her husband who, Jorden thanked God, was now her former husband.

Pulling his Bimmer into the Shipwreck parking lot, Jorden wondered if he was making a mistake. He knew that Jude wouldn’t press him about Francine any further than he already had. And Skylar had to be the most intuitive person he knew—as well as the kindest. The problem was that Jude had said Chloe’s coach was joining them. Watching the redheaded livewire at the game, which had seemed at that time like an interesting option, was now problematic.

As he entered the Shipwreck, he conceded that given the fact that Francine had grabbed center stage in his mind, the idea of making small talk with a stranger was less than appealing. He was about to make his excuses to Jude and head home to another quiet night on his lakeside deck with a bottle of Maker’s Mark when a luscious laugh caught his attention. Turning toward the melodic sound, he saw his brother lounging at a table with two gorgeous women. One of whom had red hair, and, he now knew, an amazing laugh.

 Jude spotted him across the pub and bounded toward him. “Don’t even think it, bro, much less say it.”

Jorden shot him a sheepish grin. “Say what, Dr. Phil? That your antisocial brother looked like he was going to bail and forego the opportunity to chat it up with his intrusive brother and a woman he’s never met? I don’t have to tell you, dude, that if Skylar wasn’t sitting at that table with a hopeful look on her face, I would have turned tail and ran before I got to the door.”

Jude laughed. “And missed a night of booze, bad food, and me on your ass? C’mon, counselor. Where’s your sense of adventure?”

Striding to the table where the two women were waiting, Jude hollered to the waiter standing attentively to the side, “Denny, my man, bring us another glass and be ready with an additional bottle of that first-rate Scotch Ms. Hughes has turned us all on to. My aloof brother has deigned to join us pub-crawlers for the night instead of drinking alone the way he always does. You never know how much those solo drinkers can put away.”

“Sure thing, Detective Justice,” the gangly waiter with Deadhead tats decorating the back of his neck and both forearms said with a grin. Nodding to Jorden, he added, “Good evening, Mr. Justice. Would you like a menu, or do you want what these folks ordered?”

“No thanks, Denny. I think I’ll add to my outrageous brother’s portrayal of me as a raging alcoholic and stick to the Scotch. In addition to being a private lush, I’m also a wuss. It would take me a week to digest Ms. Hughes’ chosen finger-food, a double-bacon burger with extra cheese. Although, I will tempt Jude’s derision and Skylar’s chagrin and have a side of your deep-fried vegetables to go along with my bottle of Scotch.”

“Right on, man. I mean, Mr. Assistant US Attorney. If you change your mind about the burger and french fries, just let me know.”

Intercepting what was sure to be an over-the-top introduction to the woman sitting next to Skylar, Jorden strode past his brazen brother and bussed Skylar on the cheek.

He turned to the redheaded woman he’d been admiring earlier in the school’s gym and extended his hand. “Good evening, Ms. Durant. In addition to being this outrageous guy’s older and definitely stuffier brother, I’m the father of one of the most beautiful almost-sixteen-year-olds inhabiting the earth and an equally wonderful ten-going-on-forty-year-old daughter.”

Ms. Durant’s voice was as melodic as the tempting laugh he’d heard earlier. The sound of which, he admitted, had been powerful enough to draw him into the pub instead of escaping to his empty house.

 “Good evening, Mr. Justice. And may I say that your description of your brother and daughters are on target.” The confident woman shook his hand firmly and grinned at Jude. “Detective Justice tops the outrageousness Richter scale, and you have a lovely and talented daughter.” She turned to Skylar with a smile. “As for this one-hundred-and-ten-pound pixie that could eat all of us under the table, let me just say that I am green with envy. If I ate half of what Skylar does, you would have to roll me out of this pub strapped to a gurney.”

Jorden joined in the laughter and sank into the chair between the two women across from his brother. Ignoring Jude’s “I told you so” expression, Jorden responded to the woman to his left, deciding that for the moment he’d try to ignore her enticing fragrance.

“We’re in agreement on all counts with one clarification. It’s bad enough when two of my brothers, Jude and Jared, are routinely referred to as outrageous, while Jake and I are known as the uptight ones. So please, hold the ‘Misters’ and any other titles and call me Jorden.”

As he spoke he allowed himself to see that in addition to her thick, red hair streaked with gold and tied in a casual ponytail, the gorgeous woman had stunning dark brown eyes shadowed by dark brows and lush lashes. Her pale, smooth skin was heated by a soft rosy glow that spoke to her healthy lifestyle. She also had one of those full pouty mouths that demanded to be kissed, slowly and well. Startled by his untoward reaction to her, Jorden forced himself to concentrate on her response to his request that she call him by his first name.

Meeting his focused gaze, she responded pleasantly, “I’m pleased to do so, Mr—I mean, Jorden. If you’ll call me ‘Mac’ like everyone else does.”

At his questioning expression, she explained, “My irrepressible Irish father dealt with his disappointment that I was born without what he considered necessary equipment by naming me McKenna and shortening it to Mac. In a sop to my outraged mother, he agreed to change my middle name from Liam to Leanne as long as I would always be called Mac Durant.”

Jorden frowned. “Wait a minute. Don’t tell me that Lucky Liam Durant is your father?”

Mac laughed again and said after an expressive sigh, “One and the same. And yes, my love of basketball was bred into me before I was born. Thank goodness my father overruled my five-foot-two mother by contributing the lion’s share of my height genes. Which gave me a fighting chance to become a decent basketball player. Not in the NBA, as he was—”

Jude interrupted. “Don’t sell yourself short, Mac, no pun intended. Playing in the 2008 Olympic games in Beijing should have been enough for any overbearing father, even an Irish NBA superstar.”

Jorden shook his head in agreement. “Wow, I’m impressed. Your father must have been ecstatic.”

“Yes, he was. And he was gracious enough to give my mother credit for helping me keep basketball in perspective by insisting that I pay as much attention to getting my PhD as I did to playing ball. My mom insisted that my brain was as important as my body. Although, I agree with my dad that basketball is one of the most intellectual sports there is.”

Jorden studied her, wondering when he’d seen a more impressive woman, who was beautiful to boot. He tried not to gush, but to speak from his perspective as a parent. “You’re lucky, Mac, that your parents balanced each other out. As a father, I can understand the desire to give your offspring every possible advantage, even if those advantages are more about your own sense of legacy than theirs. One can only hope to be humble enough to acknowledge that your children may choose an equally honorable path, even if it’s not the one you chose for them.”

He glanced at Skylar and nodded, acknowledging her overbearing genius father who had done his best to ruin her life. “For example, when my parents were murdered, my grandfather, the Judge, decreed that none of us four brothers would follow in the legal footprints of my dead father and himself. The Judge wanted to ensure that we would live peaceful lives as far from dangerous pursuits as he could engineer for us. He was determined that we would be educators or inventors or financiers. Anything but lawyers, cops and special agents. Needless to say, that was all the incentive the four of us needed to enter the law enforcement arena after serving as special operatives in the most dangerous infernos we could find.”

At the surprised silence greeting his offhand reference to his parents’ brutal deaths and casual acknowledgement of the dangerous lives he and his brothers had chosen, Jorden was saved by Denny’s arrival. Aided by another lanky server, their attentive waiter unloaded the groaning trays of food, placing all but his vegetables in front of the three heartier eaters.

Jorden sucked in a breath and didn’t bother to glance at his brother. He didn’t have to. He already knew the expression he would see on Jude’s face. That would teach his interfering brother to try to break him out of his self-imposed loner shell by inviting him to share a casual meal.

As usual, Skylar intervened with an astute and gracious response. “You have an advantage over the rest of us, Jorden. It’s easy to criticize our parents’ goals for us, even when we agree with them. It has to be challenging to step back and let your children, whom you deeply love and want to protect, choose their own futures and find their own way to fly.”

Jorden gave a short laugh devoid of mirth as he took the bottle of Scotch from the table and without asking, refilled all their glasses. “Thanks, Skylar, for stepping in to cover for my lack of witty repartee.” He nodded to Mac, who was studying him with a thoughtful frown. “Please, eat. Ignore my untoward references to murder and mayhem and enjoy your food.”

At the silence from his companions, he held up his plate and said with a strained grin, “Vegetables, anyone?”

Jude laughed and speared a cornmeal-encrusted piece of broccoli, put it on Skylar’s plate, and grinned at his brother. “Hey, bro, don’t apologize for introducing roughage to the table. I’ve convinced the sprite to occasionally add something green to her diet, like a vegetable.”

Munching on a cheese-laden french fry, Sky shot him a dismissive shrug. “Potatoes aren’t considered vegetables, Detective Justice?”

“No, Ms. Hughes. As you well know, I’m referring to green vegetables. You know, with leaves and stems. And aren’t smothered in grease and four pounds of cheese.”

 When Skylar tilted her chin and gave a saucy smirk, Jude’s lip quirked up in a salacious grin. “Careful there, squirt. Raise that sassy chin of yours another inch and I may have to make good on one of my threats, to sit you on my lap and feed you.”

Skylar blushed when Jude shot her a wicked wink, letting the rest of his threat go unspoken.

From the soft smile quirking Mac’s lips, Jorden saw that the Irish woman appreciated Jude’s intended sexy overtone to his threat. Deciding that the sudden tightness in his trousers confirmed that it had been too long since a woman had piqued his interest, Jorden allowed himself to imagine holding Ms. Durant—make that Mac—on his lap, feeding her tidbits of food. That image, coupled with the surreptitious assessments he’d made of her ass as she’d strode up and down the sidelines of the basketball court almost made him forget his clumsy oration that had brought their lively conversation to a halt.

The moment was cut short by Mac’s attempt to change the conversation. “Speaking of your beautiful daughter, Jorden, Chloe told me about the sixteenth birthday bash you’ve planned for her.”

Jorden demurred with a smile. “I can’t claim the credit or the blame. The bash, as it’s rightly being called, is the brainchild of my doting grandfather. The Judge, who loves entertaining, insists that a party to end all parties is the only way to celebrate his adored great granddaughter’s coming of age. If I had my way, we’d be going to the park to play on the swings and have a princess cake like we did when she was eight.”

Mac laughed. “Well, whomever is planning it, Chloe is giddy with anticipation. Of course, the fact that she and her mother are planning a shopping spree to buy what Chloe described as a ‘killer dress to end all dresses’ has something to do with her excitement.”

Jorden stared at her, then dropped his fork and rose to his feet, knocking his chair to the floor with a loud crash.

Mac reared back in her chair, her eyes widening with surprise. Seeing her consternation, Jorden tried to explain, but his desert-dry mouth was incapable of forming and spitting out words.

Mac stared at him in dismay. “I…I’m sorry. Did I say something wrong, betray a confidence? If so, I apologize. I didn’t—”

Jorden held up his hand, stopping her. He knew he was glaring at her, but the rage flooding him made it impossible for him to soften his expression or speak in a normal tone. Instead, his harsh words and equally hard tone made his anger clear. “Don’t apologize. This has nothing to do with you. You did nothing wrong.”

He sucked in an audible breath and made a clumsy attempt to explain. “The problem is, Chloe and Emma have not seen or talked to their mother for over six years.”

Shooting Mac a grim stare, he didn’t mask his cold anger. “Oh, and I have a restraining order in place preventing their mother from being within fifty yards of the girls without supervision and my express permission.” He closed his eyes for a moment fighting to calm the outrage that was threatening to choke him. Reaching for his wallet, he threw a hundred-dollar bill on the table and nodded to his brother.

Assuming the dispassionate tone he relied on when he addressed the court, Jorden said, “Thank you for a nice evening. I enjoyed…” The words stuck in his throat, unable to get by the baseball-sized lump in his throat. He met Jude’s acknowledging frown and emitted a heavy sigh.

Turning back to Mac, who was pale, her expression strained, he said flatly, “Look, I’m glad you’re in Chloe’s life. She needs a positive female role model.”

He turned and strode to the door without a backward glance at the three silent people staring at him.


 

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