Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Blog tour: Last First Kiss by Lia Riley

Last First Kiss
Brightwater Series Book #1
By: Lia Riley
Releasing June 23rd, 2015
Avon Romance

New to Avon author Lia Riley makes a splash with her first sexy, hilarious book in the sizzling Brightwater series!

A kiss is just the beginning…

Pinterest Perfect. Or so Annie Carson’s life appears on her popular blog. Reality is... messier. Especially when it lands her back in one-cow town, Brightwater, California, and back in the path of the gorgeous six-foot-four reason she left. Sawyer Kane may fill out those wranglers, but she won’t be distracted from her task. Annie just needs the summer to spruce up and sell her family’s farm so she and her young son can start a new life in the big city. Simple, easy, perfect.

Sawyer has always regretted letting the first girl he loved slip away. He won’t make the same mistake twice, but can he convince beautiful, wary Annie to trust her heart again when she’s been given every reason not to? And as a single kiss turns to so much more, can Annie give up her idea of perfect for a forever that’s blissfully real.

Lia Riley writes offbeat New Adult and Contemporary Adult romance. After studying at the University of Montana-Missoula, she scoured the world armed only with a backpack, overconfidence and a terrible sense of direction. She counts shooting vodka with a Ukranian mechanic in Antarctica, sipping yerba mate with gauchos in Chile and swilling XXXX with stationhands in Outback Australia among her accomplishments.

A British literature fanatic at heart, Lia considers Mr. Darcy and Edward Rochester as her fictional boyfriends. Her very patient husband doesn't mind. Much. When not torturing heroes (because c'mon, who doesn't love a good tortured hero?), Lia herds unruly chickens, camps, beach combs, daydreams about future books, wades through a mile-high TBR pile and schemes yet another trip. Right now, Icelandic hot springs and Scottish castles sound mighty fine.

Hello! Welcome to Roberta’s Dreamworld and thank you for your time. First of all, tell us something about yourself, both as a writer and as a person.

Thanks for having me on your lovely blog, Roberta!

How/when did you realize you wanted to become a writer?

Well, my first taste at writing came w/ a Sunday School poem I wrote during first grade that hung in a place of honor near the coffee machine in the church basement. But it wasn’t until much later, after the birth of my second child, that I started slowly but surely poking around on the keyboard. After nine months, I had a book that will never see the light of day, but got the confidence that I could finish a draft, and that’s how it’s been ever since….word-by-word, page-by-page--and it’s the best job in the world!

Let’s speak about “Last First Kiss”. We’ve read the synopsis but can you tell us a little more about what the book is about?

I can't wait to introduce you to my sexy-as-sin Kane brothers: Sawyer, Archer and Wilder. What will Last First Kiss deliver? A hunky sheriff, a 150-year-old family feud, honeycomb foreplay, blanket fort sex, cliff jumping, a (slightly nutty) chicken-killing grandma and a second chance at first love.

How did you come up with the idea and how did you create the characters?

I grew up in a small town, a place that’s a little stuck in time, where the Main Street hasn’t changed much since I was a kid. One day, I wondered, what would happen if my hometown had a movie shot there, and then it got famous, and then everyone fell in love with the place and people started moving there, buying vacation homes and setting up shop? How could that change the dynamic of the place? What tension would be created?

I also attended college at the University of Montana--Missoula and there are quite a few small towns in the state that have become vacation hotspots, with East and West coast millionaires buying up prime real estate and driving up property prices.

So that was my nugget for creating Brightwater, an Old West town being dragged somewhat unwillingly into the New West.

My characters are a product of this environment. The Kanes have been around since the first wagon train rolled into the valley. The family matriarch, Grandma Kana, intends her three grandsons to marry sensible local women. Of course, they all fall for someone who is anything but :)

If you should describe your books in three words, what would you pick?

Humorous, sexy and a little quirky.

Do you have any favorite authors and did they influence your choice of the genre?

I love to read, especially within the romance genre. Some of my favorites include: Lisa Kleypas, Jill Shalvis, Victoria Dahl, and L.M Montgomery (I’m a huge Anne of Green Gables fangirl).

What else do you enjoy doing, when you’re not writing?

I am addicted to story telling so if not writing, I’m often found with my nose in a book or watch a movie or show with my husband. I also love hanging out on the beach (hard not too seeing as I live in beautiful Coastal California).

As a writer do you get support from your family and friends?

Yes! 100%. I have two (with one on the way) children. My husband supports me on the weekend so I can draft time and my mom has often flown in from the midwest to lend a hand during busy periods. I couldn’t get anything done if it wasn’t for my strong support base.

What are your dreams and plans for your future as a writer?

Writing full-time is a dream come true and an absolute privilege. My hope for the future is to continue to grow my wonderful readership with stories that make them laugh, sigh, swoon, and tug their heart strings.

Would you like to say something to the readers to encourage them to read your books?

There are so many books out there and so little time. It’s hard to take a chance on a new author but if you like relatable heroines, heartfelt but humourous plots, and heroes who make your heart beat a little faster, all laced with a hefty dose of quirk then you might want to take a chance on me!

Thank you for having me on the blog, I had a blast answering your questions!

I love small town romance and second chances, so I was immediately intrigued by the blurb. I was pulled into the story from the first scene and I have to say I loved Annie. She's a funny character and I enjoyed the author's style and how she helps the reader create a connection with the heroine thanks to her funny and a little klutzy behavior in the first chapter.
Throughout the books there were moment that made me smile to myself and others that made me laugh out loud (so make sure you're reading this book in the quiet of your home and not in a crowded train, if you don't want people to look at you in a funny way).

Sawyer is the quintessential old-fashioned hero with roots and principles that I love. I'm not a fan of alpha heroes and when I come across and old-fashioned Prince Charming, I'm always inevitable attracted. What I particularly liked about him were his interactions with Atticus, Annie's 5-year-old. The handsome sheriff and the little boy bonding times were some of the sweetest parts in the book.

The book held me captive for most of the first part. However, at some point something changed and I was a little sorry because I was really enjoying the book. What sort of turned me off a little was the way Annie started acting at some point. Throughout the first part of the book she's determined not to fall for Sawyer's charm and she's determined to leave the small town and move to San Francisco. Then, all of a sudden, she has sex with Sawyer and everything is sorted in the blink of an eye. 

From there on, all the book is about is Annie and Sawyer having sex whenever they can, but neither talks about how they're feeling or about the giant elephant in the room: the reason why she was mad at him in the first place. At the start of the book Annie was extremely mad at Sawyer for the way he allowed the town to make fun of her when they dated in high school, and this was one of the reasons why she left the town as soon as she could and never came back.

Personally, I didn't find it believable that she's held the grudge for ten years and then they have sex and everything is okay. Even though the reader gets to read what happened that night, Sawyer never got to explain it to Annie but in a heartbeat she's forgiven and forgotten everything.

In a way, when I reached the happy ending I'd been hoping for from the beginning, I felt as if there were still unresolved issues, especially since everything seemed to be a little rushed toward the end.
Besides, I could have done without the descriptive sex scenes which, in my opinion, weren't vital to the story itself and annoyed me a little because their relationship at that point only seemed to be about sex and didn't make me feel the connection, the feelings that were supposed to be strong and lead toward their HEA and a forever kind of love. 

Apart from this personal preference of mine, if you don't mind sexy, descriptive scenes, you should really give this book a chance because it is a nice story of second chances and it's got a few funny parts in it that will make it an enjoyable weekend read.

The next knock rattled the front door’s hinges; whoever was out there meant business. Annie sneezed before drawing a shaky breath. Drinking wasn’t a personal forte, but chamomile tea didn’t do much to blunt the first-night-back-in-my-one-cow-hometown blues, even with extra honey.
Maybe if she took her time, whoever was out there would go away.
She closed her laptop’s lid, stood, and walked to the sink, setting the tumbler under the leaky tap. Water drip, drip, dripped into the brown dregs. Dad’s radio above the fridge, tuned to a Fresno classical station, piped in Mozart’s requiem on the scratchy speakers, hopefully due to coincidence rather than cosmic foreshadowing.
More knocking.
This could very well be an innocent mistake. Someone had confused directions, taken a wrong turn, driven up a quarter-mile driveway to an out-of-the-way farmhouse . . . to where she sat wearing a Kiss Me, I’m Scottish apron with a sleeping five-year-old upstairs.
She hadn’t missed Gregor in months. Her ex-husband might be a metrosexual philosophy professor, but at least he stood higher than five feet in socks. Why, oh, why had she enrolled in yoga instead of kickboxing last summer in Portland? No way would a sun salutation cut the mustard against a crazy-eyed bunny boiler. An alarmed buzz replaced the hollow feeling in her chest. Brightwater was a sleepy, safe backwater. Had it grown more dangerous since she tore out of here on her eighteenth birthday? Meth labs? Cattle thieves? Area 51 wasn’t too far away, so throw in possible alien abduction?
Well, she was alone now and would have to deal with whatever came.
As a rule, killers and extraterrestrials didn’t announce themselves at the front door. Still, this was no time to start taking chances. She grabbed her father’s single-malt by the neck and padded into the living room. The change from bright kitchen to gloom skewed her vision as blood shunted to her legs. Shadows clung to the beamed ceiling and brick fireplace. If the rocking chair in the corner moved, she’d pee her pants. That old gooseneck rocker starred in more than a few of her childhood nightmares—ever since her sister had mentioned that Great-Grandma Carson had died in it.
“Hello?” she called, her voice calm—but, darn, an octave too high. “Who’s there?”
The door didn’t have a peephole. This was the Eastern Sierras, a place where shopkeepers left signs taped to their unlocked front doors saying “Went to the bank, back in five minutes.”
Think! Think! What’s the game plan?
Retreat—not a choice. But more whisky was definitely a viable option. She opened the bottle, and the gulp seared her throat. At least the burn helped dissipate the cold fear knotting her stomach. She pressed her lips together while screwing the cap back on. Here goes nothing. Brandishing the bottle like a club, she flung open the door.
A light breeze blew across her face, cool despite the fact it was early July. Five Diamonds Farm sat at four thousand feet in elevation. She glanced around the porch. Empty. Unable to stand the suspense, she stepped forward, her bare toes grazing warm ceramic. A baking dish sat on the mat. Annie knit her brow and crouched—a neighborly casserole delivery? At this hour? Fat chance, but one could hope. She removed the lid, and an invisible fist squeezed her sternum.
If hope was a thing with feathers, all she had was chicken potpie.
A toothpick anchored a Post-it note to the crust.
Caught your hen in my tomatoes.
Chicken #2 will be nuggets.
Welcome home.


Monday, June 29, 2015

Blog tour: Once Upon A Cowboy by Maggie McGinnis

Once Upon a Cowboy
Whisper Creek # 3
By: Maggie McGinnis  
Releasing June 30, 2015

In this sexy Whisper Creek romance for readers of Kristan Higgins, Susan Mallery, and Molly O’Keefe, a red-hot cowboy uses some Montana magic to give a reclusive beauty her happily ever after.

Yoga instructor Jessalyn Alcott radiates peace, calm, and serenity—on the outside. Inside, she still feels like the broken, desperate girl from the trailer park. She’s got dark secrets she can’t share, which is why she never lets her relationships go beyond the third date. But when she travels to the Whisper Creek dude ranch for a friend’s wedding, Jess is enchanted by a cowboy whose deep blue eyes, dimpled smile, and rock-hard body make it tough to remember why she keeps running scared.

Cole Driscoll has struggled to find his place on a family ranch where he’s always played second fiddle. His future might be uncertain, but he’s sure of one thing: He wants Jess by his side. Easier said than done. When it comes to getting close, she’s full of excuses, and he longs to fix the hurt he sees in her eyes. Now that she’s at Whisper Creek, there’s nothing he wants more than to break down the walls around her heart and heal her pain with the power of love.

Maggie McGinnis, USA Today Bestselling Author of Accidental Cowgirl and Driving Without a License, which was a finalist for Romance Writers of America’s Golden Heart Award is a former high school English teacher, an accomplished musician, and a certified black belt, who lives in New England with her family. 

 “No. I will not pose for some crazy beefcake calendar. Not happening.” Cole put one hand up, palm toward his sister-in-law as he reached into the fridge for a bottled water. He’d just finished leading a trail ride out to the cliffs, and had stopped by the main lodge for a quick drink.
Kyla smiled sweetly. “It’s not a beefcake calendar. It’s a Men-of-Whisper-Creek memento.”
“Cole! You know it would be a great moneymaker. Every woman who stays here at the ranch would take one home with her.”
Cole shivered dramatically. “That doesn’t make me feel better.” He pointed out the window. “Go take pictures of the scenery! Look! Blue skies, rolling grasslands, big snow-capped mountains in the distance. Make that calendar.”
“Come on. We’ll just take a few pictures. You’d have final say over what shots I use.”
“No.” Cole sighed. He loved Kyla like a sister, and her ideas had been bringing in more money than they’d ever made before she came along, but a calendar? That was putting things over the top.
“Kyla, remember when you thought we should get goats?”
“Mm-hmm. I was right, right?”
“You were right. Kids love them.” He put up one finger, then raised a second one. “And remember when you thought we should add a spa package?”
She nodded. “Right about that, too.”
“Yes.” He put up the rest of the fingers on his right hand. “Also right about the wedding gazebo and the Shetlands and the fishing excursions.”
“Sounds like I’m five for five.” She raised an eyebrow in challenge.
“Exactly. So let’s not mess with your perfect record by pimping out the cowboys for a calendar, okay?”
“Not all of the cowboys. Just a select few. Like, twelve.”
He shook his head. “Not happening.”
“Cole, we have the hottest cowboys in Montana. It makes business sense to capitalize on that and you know it.”
Before he could formulate an answer, Ma blew into the huge country kitchen with a laundry basket full of towels.
“What’s all this jawing about in here?”
Cole raised his eyebrows at Kyla, silently daring her to tell Ma she wanted to put together a cowboy calendar. No way would Ma go for it, and they both knew it.
With a flick of her head, Kyla turned to Ma. “I was just telling Cole I think we should do a Whisper Creek calendar.”
Ma pursed her lips, nodding carefully. “Cowboys?”
Ma smiled benignly as she picked up a towel, folding carefully. “I think it’s a great idea. Is he campaigning to be Mr. February?”
Kyla shot a superior look his way, huge grin on her face, and Cole could do nothing but sigh, slap on his Stetson, and head for the door. Great. Outnumbered once again.
“I’ll let you know when we need you for the photo shoot,” Kyla called.
He opened the door. “And I’ll let you know when I’m headed to Alaska.”
As he walked toward the stable, he saw his brother working one of their new ponies on a long lead in the corral. He approached slowly so he wouldn’t startle them, settling his arms on the top rail as he watched.
Decker spotted him out of the corner of his eye. “How are things up in the henhouse?”
“Your wife is planning a beefcake calendar.”
“Oh, really?” Decker’s eyebrows went upward. “And who does she plan to use for the—beefcakes? Is that a word?”
“Who do you think?”
Decker shook his head. “No way. Not happening.”
“That’s what I told her. But don’t think Ma’s going to save us. She just stamped her approval. I think you need to get some control over your woman, Decker.”
Decker smiled. “Right. You go ahead and tell her that.”
“It’d help if she wasn’t so damn right all the time.” Cole sighed. “Now she’s got attitude.”
“She came with that.” He motioned Cole into the corral. “You want to take the pony for a bit? I need to get ready for that open house up at Boulder Creek.”
Decker might play a cowboy while he was working at the family ranch, but he was also an architect, and phase three of his new housing development on Whisper Creek’s western border was set to open this fall.
“Another fun afternoon sitting around a model home with your fancy suit and shoes on? God, I’m envious.”
Cole stepped into the corral and took the rope from Decker, ducking as Decker tried to cuff him in the head.
“Lot of ways to make a living, buddy. Lot of ways.”
Cole nodded. “Yup. I’m just glad my ways don’t involve suits.”
Decker shook his head. “I’d much rather be here this afternoon, believe me.”
“I would.”
“It’s okay, Decker. I’ve got cowboy-duty nailed down. Even have my best Stetson on in case anybody shows up early. We’re covered.”
“Are you being an ass?”
“Nope. But if you start scheduling these open houses for every Sunday afternoon, I might turn into one.”
“Well, once we sell all the lots, we won’t need to do any more open houses, right?”
“Not till you start on phase four, anyway.” Cole tried to keep the bitter edge out of his voice, but he figured Decker heard it anyway.
They’d both been raised right here at Whisper Creek, but after their little sister’s death, Decker’d been kicked off the ranch by their despondent father, who’d needed to blame someone. He’d spent ten long years out in California honing his architect chops while Cole and Ma had struggled to keep the ranch from going under completely, but two years ago when Dad died, Decker had finally come back.
And at first, it had been great. He and Cole had poured buckets of sweat into reviving Whisper Creek. They’d worked together, cussed together, drunk beers at the end of the day together, got to know each other again.
But now? It’d been two years since Decker had driven back up the long driveway and into their lives, but they still hadn’t quite worked out the who-does-what equation yet, and Cole was getting itchy.
While he mucked stalls and led trail rides and fed those damn goats Kyla had insisted on, Decker spent half his time up at the new development, or at town council meetings, or glad- handing the guys who would be voting at the next council meeting.
Leaving Whisper Creek certainly hadn’t been Decker’s choice, but Cole just wished now that he was back, he’d be—back. Back in the stables, back on the trails, back in the corrals for more than a passing lesson or two before heading out in his truck for yet another meeting or business lunch.
Decker was working his ass off, no doubt about it. And the Boulder Creek development had been responsible for Whisper Creek’s bank account finally moving into the black, but there didn’t seem to be any end in sight, and Cole was getting a little tired of feeling like he was carrying the ranch on his shoulders.
Especially since he wasn’t one hundred percent sure he even wanted to play cowboy anymore.
He sighed and headed for the stables with the pony. Yep. To the outside world, Decker was saving the ranch with his money, his valedictorian brain, and his housing project, and Cole was—well, Cole was being asked to pose for the ranch calendar.
And that kind of said it all.

Thank you, Maggie McGinnis for another amazing story! If you love cowboys and have dreamt at least once in your life of moving to Montana (or is it only me?), you will definitely love this book. 

I was introduced to Maggie McGinnis’ writing thanks to “A cowboy’s Christmas promise” (read my review here), which was book two in this series. Even though I hadn’t read book one, I loved the story and when I saw book three was touring, I immediately signed up for it!

I really love this author’s style, because she creates beautiful stories with well-rounded, relatable characters, settings and dialogues that make you feel as if you’re actually there, watching the whole story unroll in front of your very eyes. 

Plus, she gets a bonus star because she doesn’t have to use graphic sex scenes to keep the reader entertained. There isn’t a single sex scene in this book, but I really couldn’t put it down! Too often I’ve come across books that dragged on and on because all the characters ever did was roll in the hay (I’m in a country mood after reading this book), and it felt as if the author had used all the long, descriptive scenes just to make the book longer because the plot wasn’t that interesting after all. 

In this book, there isn’t a single scene, or even a single paragraph that feel out of place or a way to fill in the empty spaces. Scene after scene, I was pulled deeper into the story, from the very first chapter; I empathized with the characters, suffered, swooned and laughed with them. I held my breath during the tense moments, and was even a little mad at the author for a decision she’d made – but eventually forgave her when I got my happy ending (even though I’m still a little mad at her for that particular decision… lol).

I loved the characters – all of them. I loved Jesse’s strength and determination, and my heart went out to her during the toughest moments. I absolutely ADORED Cole, and not only because he’s a cowboy. After reading the previous book, I didn’t think I’d ever like anyone more than I liked Daniel (the hero in the previous book, who’s back as a secondary character here – YAY!). Apparently, that was only because I hadn’t met Cole yet – well, technically I had in the previous book, but only as a secondary character, so it didn’t really count. What I loved about Cole was his loyalty toward his family, his big heart and his funny side too.

I enjoyed being back at Whisper Creek again, and I hope there’ll be more of these beautiful stories from Maggie McGinnis. I definitely have to go and read book one now!

Warning: if after finishing this book, you’ll feel a sudden urge of packing up and moving to Montana (namely to this particular ranch), rest assured you’re not alone. You’ll probably already find me on a rocking chair on the back porch, once you get there. :)

Sale blitz: The Honeymoon Bargain by Melissa McClone

Title: The Honeymoon Prize
Series: The Honeymoon Series #3
Author: Melissa McClone
Release Date: July 1, 2014

He needs a wife… 

Single bodyguard Nick Calhoun has been given an ultimatum by his boss—find a wife or lose his cushy, high-paying job. Clients’ wives are hitting on him and putting Nick, and his boss, in hot water. But monogamy? He’s never been a white picket fence kind of guy, and he’s not about to embrace the happily married lifestyle now. He needs a wife who doesn’t care about his steamy, extra-curricular love life…and he knows just the woman to fit the bill. 

She needs a home… 

Adalaide Sinclair spent years caring for her ill grandmother. Upon Grammy’s death, she’s stunned to find herself evicted from the only home she’s ever known and labeled a thief by her inheritance-hungry family. Addie needs to find a place to live and a job—fast. So when her childhood friend, Nick, proposes a no-sex marriage of convenience, she puts her dreams of true love and happily-ever-after on hold. Finding Prince Charming can wait a little longer, right? 

But will their friendship survive the honeymoon? 

When Nick and Addie unexpectedly win a dream honeymoon, they decide to go their separate ways during the ten-day vacation. Too bad a camera crew is waiting for them at the tropical paradise. Acting like a head-over-heels bride and groom for reality TV wreaks havoc on their no-sex agreement…and blurs the line between fantasy and reality. Will Nick and Addie remain married in name only, or will a romantic honeymoon for show turn them into true newlyweds? 

Melissa McClone has published over thirty novels with Harlequin and Tule Publishing Group. She has also been nominated for Romance Writers of America’s RITA® award. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, three school-aged children, two spoiled Norwegian Elkhounds and cats who think they rule the house.

Also available by Melissa McClone:



Release day blitz: Turning It On by Elizabeth Harmon

turning it on release day

Turning It On by Elizabeth Harmon
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: June 29th, 2015
Hosted by: Book Enthusiast Promotions 

Book editor Hannah Levinson couldn’t be happier. This “Nice Jewish Girl” is ready to marry the man she’s longed after for half her life. When her fiancĂ© suggests they audition for Last Fling, a steamy new reality show for engaged couples, she lets herself be swayed. Maybe she’ll learn a thing or two.

Vlad Shustov’s fall from a once-bright career as a competitive figure skater was swift. Now trapped by a shameful past and an uncertain future, “Vlad the Bad” strips for cash. Joining the cast of Last Fling could earn him a fortune—or at least enough to finally leave stripping. But to win the show’s prize, he must seduce an engaged woman, something he can't even bear the thought of.

Hannah's not like any woman Vlad's met before. Betrayed by the man she thought she loved and relegated to the ugly-duckling role she’d worked so hard to shed, can she trust there’s more to Vlad than meets the eye? With sleazy TV tactics shattering the last shreds of the contestants' confidence, they'll have to believe true happiness is not only possible...it may be looking right at them.

For more Red Hot Russians, don’t miss Pairing Off—available now!

I love stories that give a fresh take on classic themes, and feature characters and locations not often seen in romance. Give me a lovable, if less-than-perfect heroine, a gorgeous hero with a heart of gold, take them a little off the beaten path and I'm a happy girl.

I read a variety of genres-- romance to horror and just about everything in between. I am a member of Romance Writers of America. I have worked as a freelance journalist for a number of local publications and am a contributing writer to Romance Writers Report.

When I'm not writing, I love to ice skate, bike ride, hang out at the beach or on my front porch. I love vintage homes, adventurous cooking, spending time with my family and traveling.



When Hannah arrived at The Smiling Shark just before midnight, Vlad was waiting on the love seat, his arm resting along the back; a glass of wine was on the table. For a long moment, their gazes locked and Hannah drank in the sight of him.
“Is this what I’m doing to thank you?” she asked.
“Nyet,” he said. “That, I’m still deciding. This is because seeing you only this afternoon with your boys was not enough. Not after how we left things last time.”
“I didn’t like how we left things either. Especially since you might go home after talent night.”
He lifted his hand, inviting her to sit beside him. She settled into the circle of his arm, the brush of his fingertips against her bare shoulder making her skin tingle. Across the room, the bartender smiled.
“Getting eliminated wouldn’t be the worst thing,” Vlad said softly. “Except for leaving you.”
“What about the money?”
“Maybe I’ve changed my mind about how important it is to win.”
Did that mean he had changed his mind about trying to start a new life? Though she was disappointed, it shouldn’t come as a surprise. He hadn’t had a clear picture of what that new life might be, and it was hard to walk away from what one knew. Without an education, it would be hard for him to earn the sort of money he earned from stripping. She wouldn’t demean him by suggesting that he ought to “better” himself. Instead, she smiled and took his hand. “This show has changed my mind about a lot of things, too.”
Her smile felt strained. “Once we’re back in New York, things between us will sort themselves out. Being here has made me see that so much of what I always believed wasn’t necessarily true. I mean, in twenty-four hours, I’ll be tap-dancing on live TV!”
“Feel ready for it?”
“I think so. You saw me rehearse. What do you think?”
“I think you move very well.”
“For a big girl, you mean.”
“Not at all. But you’re still not confident enough to look your audience in the eye.”
“Can you blame me?”
“You have no reason to doubt yourself, and showing confidence matters. In skating, the judges wanted to see we were not afraid to look right at them. It is even more important for me now. Ever seen a stripper afraid to make eye contact?”
“I’ve never seen a stripper at all.”
He blinked in surprise. “Really? Not even a fake cop dropping in on a bachelorette party?”
“My friends aren’t like that. We don’t get enjoyment out of degrading people.”
Vlad raised his brow. “Degrading them?”
She winced. “No, I didn’t mean it like that.”
“Sometimes, it does feel like I’m a piece of meat, and nothing else.” His voice was resigned.
“Vlad, I’m sorry.”
His touch reassured her that he didn’t take her comment personally. “No harm done. Still, the fact you have never seen an exotic dancer troubles me. I think we should remedy that right now.”
It took a moment to grasp his meaning. “You’re going to strip for me, here? Now?”
“If you’re only going to see one, might as well be the best.” He turned to the bartender. “Miguel, you don’t mind, right?”
The bartended laughed. “Oh, no, senor, I don’t mind at all.”
“First we need some music.” Vlad took her hand and led her across the room to the jukebox, where he perused the selections.
She was conscious of his strong hand still clasping hers. “What do you usually strip to? Disco?”
“Depends on the character I’m playing. I just did a routine to Lady Gaga’s ‘Applause,’ where I played a movie star. I’ve done construction workers, cops, the usual. You won’t get the full effect though, because I’m not wearing tear-off pants.”
This sounded intriguing. “There is such a thing? Where do you get them, Stripper Supply?”
He laughed. “It’s just normal pants cut up and held together with fasteners. Can’t be too tight though, or I’ll break out of them too early.”
Hannah shook her head. “The things you learn.”
“This song’s good.” He fed money into the slot and punched a number, then gestured at a nearby chair. “You sit here. And take out some money. I don’t do this for free, you know.”
His teasing wink made her laugh. “I didn’t bring any.”
He grabbed a cocktail napkin and folded it in half. “We’ll pretend.”
She took the napkin and settled back, imagining she was a customer at the club where he danced. As she sipped her wine, he braced his hands on the arms of the chair and whispered in her ear. “A private dance, just for you.”
A rush of heat spread through Hannah’s cheeks and her heart thrummed wildly as she gazed up into his chiseled features and warm, gold-flecked eyes. Deep within, the muscles below her belly tightened and quivered. Her mouth felt dry, despite the wine. This was unquestionably erotic, yet at the same time…safe. An experience enjoyed by millions of women, though never her. Until now. The sexiest man she had ever met was about to perform, and she didn’t have to share this moment with anyone else.

Other books in the series: