Monday, 20 October 2014

#KnappCoverReveal

Today we have the first glimpse at the cover art of HarperImpulse author, Jill Knapp's next book, "We've Always Got New York", coming out November 20th! This novel is book #2 in the "What Happens To Men..?" series, which is now available in paperback in Great Britain. The first book has gotten rave reviews, and has divided its readers into two groups. Are you on Team Michael? Or are you on Team Hayden?


You can get a copy of book #1 here -

 "We've Always Got New York" picks up after Amalia Hastings returns to Manhattan from her trip to Brazil to find that life has in fact gone on without her. Fresh off the plane, she is left feeling anxious and unresolved, left alone to pick up the pieces, and deal with the repercussions of choosing her own path over Michael. Amalia finds herself without an apartment, without a job, and starting to wonder if she's even without a best friend!

Jill can be reached on Twitter at @JL_Knapp and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Jill-Knapp/1488935691330000?ref=hl

Now here's a sneak peak at the first chapter of "We've Always Got New York"!!

Chapter 1- Amalia

I could tell by the look on her face that she was expecting something from me. She was expecting something to be different. For me to be, in some way, changed.
I’m Amalia Hastings, and on August 20th at 9:17 pm, I was home. 
Home. The word seemed funny to me because I didn’t have a home to go back to. I moved out of my apartment right before leaving for Brazil and after my friend-with-benefits, Michael, showed up at my apartment, asking me to stay. I hadn’t thought it through properly; I just knew I didn’t want to live in that apartment anymore. Before my trip to Brazil I packed up what little stuff I owned and put it in storage for when I returned, assuming I would deal with it then. Well, “then” has become “now”. So for tonight I was staying with my best friend Cassandra. Who was currently waving at me.
I knew what she wanted. She wanted stories. Juicy ones that involved hot hookups on the sand. She wanted to see pictures. Pictures of the places I went, the food I ate, and the hot guys I met. She wanted me to run up to her in a sun dress, hair braided and skin tanned, and explain, no, to pontificate, to her how life-changing my trip was. She wanted me to playfully link her arm around mine and gush about how amazing it all was. How I was changed forever. That I had a new appreciation for life, food, and music. She wanted me to tell her that I would never be the same.
But this isn’t the movies and I’m not Julia Roberts.
The florescent lights above me flickered, making the airport look dark and ominous. I looked down at my hand as I pulled my rolling suitcase across the sticky, tiled floor. Not even my hand had acquired a tan. Three months in the Brazilian sun and my skin remained as pale as ever.
Cassandra was looking right at me with wide, unblinking eyes. I walked a little slower.
For some reason I couldn’t pinpoint, coming off the plane felt like a surreal experience to me. Although I was relieved to have landed, and I wouldn’t have wanted to stay in Brazil any longer, I still wasn’t utterly happy with being back. I wondered if it merely had to do with the fact that I had no apartment to go back to and was feeling pretty untethered from not having a proper home.
There’s an old saying. I’m not really sure where it’s from or who said it first. Kind of the proverb equivalent of The House of the Rising Sun. It proffers, “Wherever you go, there you are”, and up until about one month ago I had no idea what it meant. But now it means everything. It rings in my ears like a scolding mother, repeating itself over and over again until I submit.
I finally stood face to face with Cassandra, who was grinning like a fool at this point. She was dressed down for the night, wearing a purple racer-back tank top that showed off her summer glow, jeans, and gold flip-flops. Her blonde hair was pulled into a loose, messy bun and her make-up was minimal, apart from the extra-shiny, coral lip-gloss she was wearing. She reeked of summer.
“Hey,” I offered, looking down at my sneakers. I wished I had more energy for her, but after ten hours on a plane it was all I could muster up.
Cassandra cocked her head to the side and smiled. Her hair swung back and forth and she popped her hip out like a model in training. She looked as fierce as ever, even dressed-down in comfortable summer clothes.
“That’s all I get? Get over here!” she said, pulling me in for a hug.
I hugged her back for a moment and then pulled away, overcome with exhaustion and jet-lag. I smiled at Cassandra. She smelled like a salty coconut and I realized she had probably come straight from Fire Island, a beach not too far from Long Island and just outside of the city. That explained the dressed-down attire, but not the lip-gloss. Unless, of course, we were going straight back there from JFK airport.
I looked back at the gate. Most people I knew hated airports, but I liked them. They offered a chance to escape. Get on a plane and in six hours from now you could be across the country. You could be in a different town, in a different house, with a different group of people. I think we all took that for granted.
 I could go back to Brazil right now. Or I could go somewhere else. I’ve never been to Cincinnati; I wonder what it’s like there. Or maybe Savannah. I could definitely live in Savannah! I took a step backwards, away from Cassie. Back toward the inside of the airport. She just smiled.
“Very funny, Amalia!” she said through perfectly white teeth. “Don’t sneak away from me now. I’m so glad you’re back, I really missed you.”
Cassie threw her arm over me and smushed our faces together. She whipped out her iPhone and flipped the camera application around so the front lens could be used and snapped a picture of the two of us. Before I knew it, she uploaded the picture to Facebook with the caption “So excited, Amalia is officially home!”
Without glancing back, she walked a few feet in front of me and remained glued to her phone. The back of her Havaianas smacking onto her heels echoed throughout the now nearly empty hallway. I let out a long sigh that Cassandra didn’t hear and pulled my suitcase toward the exit. Yep, it was official. I was home.

Saturday, 4 October 2014


Eve Devon’s new book, The Love List, is out now! Here’s a little teaser to get you in the mood.

                                                
Falling in love is just not on Nora King’s To Do List…

Neither is accidentally super-gluing her shoe to her hand right before the biggest presentation of her life!

With all the hard work she’d put into securing the family business after her father’s death, Nora has no choice but to accept help from a knight in shining armour.

Disaster relief worker Ethan Love is still haunted by his last deployment, and desperate for distraction. He’s in town to ask Nora for a major favour, and swooping in to save her presentation is a sure way to get her on side.

As Ethan sticks around and helps Nora through her grief, her barriers tumble down…but will she dare to swap her To Do lists for a How to Fall in Love list?
Release Date: October 2, 2014

Available Formats: ebook now. PBK from 18th December 2014

Buy Links: AMAZON  / BARNES & NOBLE / GOOGLE BOOKS / iTUNES / KOBO  / eBooks by SAINSBURY’s  

Excerpt:

          ‘I should probably not have ridden us so fast,’ she said her breath finally coming out in a rush.
          His eyes blazed white heat while his smile was gentle and did something to joggle that twisted mess of emotion inside of her. ‘Speed-freak.’
          ‘You say that as if it’s a bad thing.’
          ‘On the contrary. Fast can be good.’
          ‘Exactly.’ Nora nodded, unable to deny that she wanted to escape this any longer. Making his kiss happen in a rush of heat was what she would focus on to calm the swirling vortex of anticipation. ‘There’s nothing wrong with speed if it means you bypass the waiting,’ she said, staring at his lips and willing him to lower his head.
          Ethan chuckled and her gaze whipped up to meet his eyes. Damn it, there she was admitting stuff again. If he didn’t shut her up with his lips, soon she’d be admitting to him how the sheer size of him when he was up this close and personal with her made her feel all… protected and… needy.
          ‘But if all you ever do is rush to the end— don’t you sometimes feel like you’re missing out?’
          ‘Missing out?’ she frowned.
          ‘Hmm.’ Ethan lowered his head to nuzzle her hair away from her ear and whisper, ‘Because sometimes slow can be good. Better even.’
          Nora’s eyes rolled back in her head at the combination of his words and the feel of his breath in her ear making her last-ditch cautious, ‘Ethan, what are we doing?’ come out on a distinct sigh.
          ‘Oh, I think you know what we’re doing.’ His thumbs brushed the underside of her jaw as he tilted her head up. ‘You do know, don’t you, Nora?’
          ‘Maybe.’
          ‘And maybe you like. Maybe you want.’
          ‘Maybe,’ she managed to get out. Her hands came out to latch onto the hard wall of his chest. Definitely. She licked her lips. ‘But—’ What happened after? Her fingers clenched against his sweater. She needed to know. So she could prepare.
          ‘No buts. Like I said; if I see something I want, I make sure I get it.’
          ‘And it has to be slow like this,’ she rushed out, her hand snaking under the heavy knit to get even closer. Closer to all that hot muscle.
          Her breath blew out and landed against his throat making him shudder against her, but still he insisted, ‘I kind of think it does. I want time to discover the secrets of your mouth.’ His lips hovered a millimetre above hers, intoxicating her, confusing her, mesmerising her. ‘You going to give up those secrets for me, Nora?’ he whispered.



Author Bio:

I’m Eve Devon and I write sexy heroes, sassy heroines and happy ever afters…

I kind of secretly believe it’s not too late for me to train as a professional dancer, MMA expert, or get asked to be Angelina Jolie’s body-double. I know. This is why writing fiction is for me!

Growing up in locations like Botswana and Venezuela gave me quite the taste for adventure and my love for romances began when my mother shoved one into my hands in a desperate attempt to keep me quiet during TV coverage of the Wimbledon tennis finals! When I wasn’t consuming books by the bucketload, I could be found pretending to be a damsel in distress or running around solving mysteries and writing down my adventures. As a teenager, I wrote countless episodes of TV detective dramas so the hero and heroine would end up together every week. As an adult, I worked in a library to conveniently continue consuming books by the bucketload, until realising I was destined to write contemporary romance and romantic suspense myself. I live in leafy Surrey in the UK, a book-devouring, slightly melodramatic, romance-writing sassy heroine with my very own sexy hero husband!

I hope you enjoyed the teaser from The Love List and you can find out more about me, or drop by for a chat—which I always LOVE, here:

WEBSITE           TWITTER            FACEBOOK                 GOODREADS

Eve xx


Friday, 5 September 2014

Things are heating up this summer. Just Let it BURN...

I’m thrilled to have Emily Wood on my blog today. She's sharing a little about her new (and fabulous, I can attest to that) release, Let It Burn! I loved it and let me tell you, it certainly raised the temperature on my summer!

Now, over to Emily…

Hello everybody! Thank you for stopping by to read about my new release Let It Burn


Blurb

Sometimes one person can make you question everything you thought you wanted.

Lydia James is a struggling scriptwriter with big dreams. She's determined to conquer the movie world, and equally determined to stay out of the limelight while she does it. So what happens when she meets Ryan Sharpe, a British actor and Hollywood's next big thing? He could hold the keys to her future, but with him, flying under the radar doesn't seem to be an option.

Ryan has learned his lesson when it comes to women. In his experience, relationships mean heartache and pain. But when he meets Lydia, everything changes. She's a breath of fresh air, and everything he didn't even know he was looking for. There's just one problem—she doesn't want to be a part of his life. Will a weekend in Saint-Tropez give Ryan the opportunity he needs to win Lydia's heart, or will their desires turn to ashes?

Content Warning: explicit sex

Excerpt
"So what is it about the party that you're so desperate to avoid, Lydia James?"
She sucked a breath in and blew it out slowly. She didn't miss Ryan's eyes flickering to her breasts as her chest heaved. They lingered there for a moment.
"Honestly, I'm totally out of my depth." She paused, wondering how much he would actually want to know and how much would just be a rant. She decided to go for it anyway. "I'm a writer. Or at least, I want to be. I have a story…a script. I also have an agent who brought me here to make connections. That's what he said anyway, but…he's been hinting that he expects to get something out of this, if you get what I mean."
"Ah."
"Yeah. Obviously, I would never do that. But how the hell do I get out of this? Do you have any idea how hard it is to get an agent?" She remembered who she was talking to. "Of course you do." And then she looked at him again—he probably had exclusive rights to Hollywood based on his jaw-dropping good looks. Even mere mortals like directors and producers bowed down to gods. "So my problem is how do I get out of this without him blackening my name forever?"
Ryan's face had been a picture of amusement since the moment he'd turned on the light. But suddenly something far more dangerous danced in his eyes, although he was obviously struggling to hide it. A thrill shocked her whole body before finally settling in her lower abdomen.
"The damage has been done," Ryan said. His voice was slow and tight. "You can kiss your agent goodbye. Not literally though. I'm afraid the industry is rife with people like that, and if he doesn't take you seriously now, then no offense, but no amount of sexual favors are going to change his mind."
The blush that had colored her cheeks earlier was nothing compared to the heat that filled them under Ryan's angry gaze. Her skin was suddenly so hot that it made her eyes water. She felt dirty and ashamed, and she hadn't even done anything. Jesus, she wouldn't have even dreamed of doing anything with that man out there.
"I already knew that," she snapped. "I came in here to get away. But how do I… Whatever I do now I'll offend him."
The anger in Ryan's face melted away enough for mischief to creep in. He stood up, walking over to her in a slow, deliberate way that had her heartbeat doing the exact opposite. She pressed her back against the door as he approached. He was even more captivating up close. A tiny corner of her consciousness worried about what he intended to do while the rest of her screamed approval at all of the naughty things racing through her mind.
But of course, she wasn't in a fairy tale, and heartbreakingly handsome actors didn't kiss lowly dreamers like herself. He stopped short, his perfectly sculpted lips moving to breathe in her ear rather than meet her own. Lydia let her eyes flicker closed, his intoxicating, spicy scent threatening to turn her into a puddle at his feet.
"If the only man who could make your career is about to drop you, then there's only really one thing to do."
"What's that?" Lydia managed to croak, painfully aware of how close she was to touching heaven.
"Make sure everybody else knows your name."

Buy Links


About Author

I have always believed that the best stories are the ones that you can't put down, the ones that transport you to a different place and make you believe in the characters. This is exactly why I write… I have always loved the escapism that reading and writing provides, and there is nothing more exciting than imagining your own set of characters, and then letting them practically write the story for you. Writing has always been a dream of mine, and I'm lucky to have the kind of people around me that have always nurtured and encouraged my passion.
I live a cozy little life in Wales, and when I'm not writing I'm taking care of my young family, and studying for a degree in Classical Studies. I love traveling to new places, meeting new people, and experiencing new things…it's all great inspiration for my books!

Author Links

Thursday, 4 September 2014

THE bonkbuster to read this summer!

Guess what? Stable Mates by Zara Stoneley is out today! I’ve got this beauty on my Kindle and can’t wait to get stuck in, but first I nabbed Zara for a little interview – I was dying to know more about her summer bonkbuster!

Q. Thank you for letting me pick your brains, Zara. Can you tell us a little about the lead characters in Stable Mates?

There are lots of characters in this book – it’s different to anything I’ve ever written before. I’ve inserted a list at the start of the book – so here are some of the main ones!

Charlotte ‘Lottie’ Brinkley – disorganised but loveable daughter of Billy. Desperately seeking something, if only she knew what.

Rory Steel – devilishly daring and sexy three day eventer, owner of a small eventing yard in Tippermere.

Philippa ‘Pip’ Keelan – headline hunting journalist. Trim, sophisticated and slightly scary. Recently moved to Tippermere, from London, in search of real life and real men.

Mick O’Neal – expert farrier, Irish charmer, dangerously attractive.

Tom Strachan - sexy ex-underwear model. Divorced, devastated but amazingly dishy. Recently made his ‘escape to the country’ with his goth daughter.

David Simcock - England goalkeeper, resident of the neighbouring Kitterly Heath.

Sam – partner of David. Lover of dogs, diamonds and designer delights.

Eee I’m dying to get stuck in now! Sounds like there’s going to be lots of crossed wires, drama and smexy times.

Q. Why did you choose the village of Tippermere as a setting?

Tippermere is a combination of some of the places I love in Cheshire. I wanted the real feel of the British countryside, but also the contrast with an upmarket ‘waggish’ village. In Cheshire, horse trailers and Landrovers compete for space with Ferrari’s and Jags! (If you want to find out more about Tippermere, I’m running a series of posts on my website – Welcome to Tippermere )

Folks, you should check out Zara’s posts – they’re brilliant! But come right back :o)

Q. What is the juiciest secret in your story?

The identity of the person who really controls the destiny of Folly Lake Manor, and Tippermere!

TEASE! Guess I’ll just have to read it to find out.

Q. The cover is gorgeous! Can you give us a teaser with one of the items, maybe the whip? ;-)

I love this cover, it just sums the book up perfectly! Fun, champagne and horses. I will tell you that champagne isn’t just for drinking, and that the pink bra has a matching thong!

Q. What inspired you to write a bonkbuster?

I’ve always loved reading them, Jilly Cooper, Fiona Walker, Victoria Fox are some of my favourite authors. It just took a nudge from my editor to convince me that I could do it! This book was such fun to write though, I’m addicted now, the follow up is under starters orders!

I do love those authors too and I’m sure I’ll be able to stick you on my fave bonkbuster writers list shortly! Now for the blurb and a little sneak peak of Stable Mates…


Blurb:

Secrets and scandals, love and lust – when the ‘Cheshire Set’ are up against the ‘Footballer’s Wives’ the only common ground is carnal…

Flirting and fun seem the perfect antidote for Lottie's battered heart, and where better to find them than back in tranquil Tippermere, home of sexy eventer Rory Steel, the smiling Irish eyes of hunky farrier Mick O'Neal, and mysterious newcomer, model Tom Strachan?

But when landowner Marcus James drops dead unexpectedly, and the threat of his waggish wife Amanda selling the heart of the village out from under them looms large, things look like they're about to heat up in and out of the saddle.

With tensions running high, and the champagne flowing as freely as the adrenalin, is it any wonder that love catches more than one of them unawares?

Buy links:
Amazon       Barnes & Noble      Kobo   Foyles  Waterstones
Sainsbury’s      Google Play        iTunes    Blackwells


Author links:
Website      Twitter        Facebook        Google+

Author bio:

Bestselling author Zara Stoneley lives in deepest Cheshire surrounded by horses, dogs, cats and amazing countryside. When she’s not visiting wine bars, artisan markets or admiring the scenery in her sexy high heels or green wellies, she can be found in flip flops on the beach in Barcelona, or more likely sampling the tapas!

Zara writes hot romance and bonkbusters. Her latest novel, ‘Stable Mates’, is a fun romp through the Cheshire countryside and combines some of her greatest loves – horses, dogs, hot men and strong women (and not forgetting champagne and fast cars)!

She writes for Harper Collins and Accent Press.

Sneak peek:
Lottie walked on to Rory’s yard just as a man she’d never seen before stripped his t-shirt over his head and displayed a very attractive six-pack. She counted. It was definitely a six-pack. And she was pretty sure that if she had seen it before she would have remembered. Bodies like that tended to make a lasting impression.
Driving back from Tipping House, she’d had two things on her mind. One, what was her grandmother up to? Because she was definitely up to something as far as Tom and Uncle Dom went. And two, why was Tom here, in Tippermere? Why here exactly? There was something he wasn’t saying, and she had a horrible feeling there was something Elizabeth knew. Or why would she have been so interested?
Both thoughts were swiftly delegated to the back of her mind though as the beautiful naked torso, or was that naked beautiful torso, grabbed every inch of her attention. As he had his top fixed firmly over his head, and so couldn’t see, there didn’t seem to be a problem in taking advantage and staring. So she did. Until she realised he’d thrown the clothing to one side and she was staring open-mouthed at a guy who was staring straight back at her. He wasn’t open-mouthed though, he looked slightly concerned, like she might be a deranged mad woman escaped from the nearest loony bin. She shut her mouth.
‘Sorry.’ And went red. ‘I, er, have you seen Rory, or er Pip?’

‘You must be Lottie.’ Now that was the type of deep, dark, sexy voice she thought only existed in her imagination. She’d always had a thing for a nice accent, and Irish just shot straight to the top of the hit parade. Lottie resisted the fleeting urge to shut her eyes and ask him to keep talking. Then it registered that he knew her name. And she didn’t know his; she really would have remembered if she’d met him before. With or without clothes. Definitely.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Freebie in September!

August was an amazing month - my Summer Flings Series really kicked off with a bang. Thank you so much to everyone who has bought and reviewed each of the stories!

Right now in the UK, the first book in the Summer Flings Series, Trouble in Tinseltown, is FREE for a limited time.

Grab your copy here: Google Play / Amazon UK / Kobo

"The perfect, girly summer read" Reviewed the Book

"Action packed and fun" Shaun the Book Addict

"I was ready to jump in their luggage after enjoying the pool and the party, eager to see what happens at the next destination of their adventure" Jane Hunt


"Recommended for those times you just want to read something quickly, for fun and smiles." Bestselling author, Carmel Harrington

Saturday, 9 August 2014

#WrittenFireside #BlogHop What Happened in Vegas Part 2

Welcome to the 

Written Fireside August Blog Hop

wfbloghop.jpg

Fifteen authors from Harper Impulse,
 a digital first imprint of Harper Collins will be writing 
fifteen stories all starting from one shared starting paragraph 
written by competition winner 
Georgia Beyers

Each author will share a snippet/s from her story according to the schedule below, and then at Christmas time all fifteen complete short stories will be available to download as one awesome and free holiday anthology. 

Come, join us by fire

Enjoy how each author's voice takes the starting sentences and creates a unique tale.

Lori Connelly - Aug 1,2,3  
Erin Lawless - Aug 4,5
Mandy Baggot - Aug 6,7 
Aimee Duffy  - Aug 8,9
Teresa F. Morgan - Aug 10,11
Angela Campbell - Aug 12,13 
Lisa Fox - Aug 14,15 
Lynn Marie Hulsman - Aug 16,17
Linn B. Halton - Aug 18,19 
Carmel Harrington - Aug 20,21 
Charlotte Phillips - Aug 22,23
Romy Sommer - Aug 24,25
Jane Lark - Aug 26,27 
Zara Stoneley - Aug 28,29 
AJ Nuest - Aug 30,31

Time for Part 2 of What Happened in Vegas & another chance to enter the Rafflecopter to win!


Anna was taking longer than usual to get ready so Charlotte used the time to surf the net and learn some of the games at the casino. Roulette sounded addictive, plus she hated leaving stuff to chance. And there were so many different variations of poker that she could never learn them all in time. Blackjack sounded similar to pontoon but even then she hadn’t played much.
The phone in the room rang and she answered straight away, hoping there wasn’t a problem with their card details or something.
‘Daniel James is at reception for Miss Trammel. May I send him up?’ the receptionist asked.
Charlotte’s hands started to shake so much she almost dropped the phone.
The receptionist tried again. ‘Miss?’
‘No,’ Charlotte blurted. ‘I’ll be there soon.’
She slammed down the phone and hoped her heartbeat slowed soon or she’d sweat off all her make-up. What was he doing in Vegas?
And what was Anna going to do when she found out he was there?
Come to think of it, Anna was taking forever. She walked to her friend’s room and knocked the door. ‘Are you okay?’
‘Don’t come in!’ Anna shouted. ‘I’m waxing bits you don’t want to see. And I’ve made a mess with the home highlighting kit so I need to fix it with darker dye.’
Charlotte grinned. ‘So you’re planning on getting lucky tomorrow?’
‘Obviously!’
But the humour was gone when she remembered who was waiting for her at reception. ‘I’m going to get a drink downstairs while I’m waiting. Text me when you’re ready?’
‘I won’t be long, maybe an hour or so,’ Anna said.
Charlotte guessed she had a good two hours before Anna would come looking for her. But she wouldn’t need that. If Daniel was there to admonish her and drag her home, she’d get security to kick him out.
***
It was so unfair when Daniel wore a dark Armani suit, white crisp shirt open at the collar and his dark hair looked like he’d just rolled out of bed. He knew she couldn’t resist him like that, especially when his stony expression silently challenged her to break through the rough outer shell to get a taste of the sweet man beneath.
But his expression wasn’t stony today. There were circles under his eyes and a four day dusting of hair covering his jaw. He looked a little thinner too, but she could just be imagining that.
‘Charlotte,’ he said.
The emotion in that one word stopped her in her tracks. He didn’t do public displays of anything other than put together.
He drew in a breath, obviously trying to pull himself together but for once it didn’t work. ‘I’ve missed you so much.’
The man in front of her was nothing like the one she’d walked out on days before. That Daniel had told her she was being ridiculous when she said she didn’t want to be with him.
‘How did you know where I was?’ she asked, unsure what else to say.
‘Your parents told me.’
She laughed once without humour. ‘I suppose they told you to bring me back.’
And he’d listen. He never seemed to want to disappoint her father.
‘Yes, but that’s not why I came,’ he said, and his voice was different, with none of his usual arrogance. ‘Will you have a drink with me?’
After she nodded, she headed for the bar wondering if she’d fallen asleep waiting for Anna and Daniel being here was just a dream. After all he was acting out of character, which subconsciously could be playing on her guilt for ending their relationship.
When they found a table at a quiet spot in the hotel bar, he asked what she would like to drink. Charlotte just frowned. He never asked when they were out, always ordering for her.
‘Well?’ he prompted, then cursed under his breath and took the chair across from her. ‘Sorry. I don’t mean to sound impatient.’
‘What are you doing, Daniel?’ She was sick of guessing. The drink could wait.
He reached for her hand but her expression must have deterred him because he pulled away. ‘You’re right. I was controlling, I was demeaning at times and I was the worst boyfriend ever. I’m so sorry I suffocated you.’
‘Was?’ she asked, but then felt a stab of guilt for being bitchy. Especially when his emotions were so clear for once. He looked devastated.
He scrubbed a hand over his face. ‘Yes, was. I’m working on changing all that.’
Call her sceptical, but, ‘It’s only been a week.’
He looked at her then and she could see in his eyes that he was miserable. ‘It feels like months.’
Her heart throbbed. She wanted to comfort him, but didn’t know how. And she wished she could just forget the bad things about the last two years, but how could she be sure it wouldn’t just go back to the way it was before she ended their relationship?
It was time to put his apology to the test. ‘I’m in Las Vegas now instead of last year because you wouldn’t let me.’
‘I was scared what you and Anna would get up to, even though I knew you wouldn’t have betrayed me. And it’s dangerous here, Charlotte.’ He sighed. ‘But you shouldn’t have had to ask for permission, and I shouldn’t have told you not to go.’
It was odd to hear him admit he was wrong about something, but she barrelled on just in case this was some sort of act. ‘I was at a male stripper show last night.’
Instead of anger, it was pain that flitted across his expression. ‘Did you enjoy it?’
She decided if he was being open, so would she. ‘Yes.’
The silence stretched until a waiter came to take their order. She was stumped again when he ordered a scotch, then didn’t blink an eye at her ordering the strongest cocktail the bar had.
‘We’re going to the casino tonight, and then Anna wants to go clubbing with the guys tomorrow.’ His expression made her feel awful, like she was poking a wounded animal with a stick just to see what it would do, so she added, ‘I’m not keen on tomorrow’s plans though.’
He offered her a small smile, like the ones he’d given her when they were alone. ‘I’d love to spend Christmas with you, but I don’t want to impose on your plans.’
The drinks arrived and Daniel promptly downed his, then ordered another. After a sip of her cocktail, she said, ‘I still don’t understand why you’re here.’
‘I want you back. I’ve been so miserable without you I’d do anything you wanted if it meant we could be together,’ he said.
Her lips parted but no words came out.
Then her mobile chimed, giving her something else to focus on. Anna’s emergency gave her the perfect excuse to go away and think this through.
‘I have to go. How long are you staying?’ she asked, hoping he wasn’t jumping straight on a plane back to Edinburgh.
‘I don’t know. I only bought a one way ticket just in case.’
She rose and, ever the gentleman, he rose too.
‘Okay.’ She turned to leave but he turned her back to face him.
‘I don’t care if you slap me right now. I need to do this,’ he said.
Then he pulled her into his arms and kissed her fiercely, like he did when he’d come back from a business trip to show how much he’d missed her. But then they’d been alone. Now they were in an open bar and when she wrapped her arms around his neck and twisted herself closer, he only hugged her tighter.
When she broke the kiss they were both as good as gasping.
‘I will change, Charlotte. I’ll be whoever you need me to be,’ he promised.
She untangled herself and offered him a sad smile. ‘I never needed you to change. I just wished you’d have loosened up a bit and given me space to breathe, let me make my own mistakes. Why do you think I never moved in with you? It was so I could have somewhere to be myself without worrying who I’d offend. Plus, being together doesn’t mean controlling each other. Life’s about give and take.’
He just nodded, and she left, hiding the moisture pooling in her eyes.
***
Anna wasn’t kidding about the emergency. Her hair had gone orangy pink and there was a strip of cloth waxed onto her sensitive area that she couldn’t bring herself to rip off. To distract her friend from the pain, Charlotte had come clean about Daniel in the bar and her friend had been equally perplexed.
They spent the evening in a late night salon until Anna’s hair was a nice shade of chocolate brown, then they squandered their money in a casino. The conversation was focused on Daniel and his possible motivations, but even Anna couldn’t understand his change in attitude, or the public display of passion.
‘Maybe he was acting how he thought he should when you were together,’ Anna said the next morning. ‘I mean, you’ve met his parents. They’re more stuck up than yours.’
Charlotte didn’t feel the need to defend her parents. They were so concerned about how people saw them that they lived their life like military sergeants.
‘His parents are cold,’ Charlotte agreed. ‘And the only emotion they show is a fake smile when we went to visit.’
‘I have an idea!’ Anna said, bouncing up from the sofa. ‘Put his promise to change to the test.’
Charlotte just stared at her, wondering how on earth she’d manage that.
‘Think about where you are! You’re in Vegas, and its Christmas. What do people love doing here and anywhere on this day?’ Anna hinted.
‘Get drunk and lose all their cash?’ she guessed, but wouldn’t put money on her answer.
‘No you idiot. They get married!’
Her eyes popped so wide it was a surprise they didn’t fall out of the sockets. ‘I’m too young for that!’
Anna pffd. ‘It’s only young people who get married here and anyway, I don’t think it’s legal anywhere else in the world so you’d only be man and wife in Vegas.’
She doubted Anna’s take on the law but was coming round to the idea. Not of marriage, but marriage here was the last thing in the world Daniel would ever do. If he agreed to get hitched in some chapel by an Elvis look-a-like on Christmas day, surely that meant he was willing to loosen up a bit.
There was only one way to find out.
‘Okay,’ Charlotte agreed. ‘You make the arrangements and I’ll get in touch with Daniel.’
***
She’d chickened out of actually going to see him so had texted him instead. As she stood at the alter before a thirty year old ordained Elvis impersonator with her best friend at her side and six male stripper witnesses, she was losing hope that Daniel would come.
‘If he ditches you at the alter, I’ll marry you,’ Anna whispered.
Charlotte wrinkled her nose. ‘Have you been drinking?’
‘Drinking is the Christmas tradition in my family. I’m just keeping it going,’ Anna replied.
Her friend’s distraction worked though. Instead of worrying whether Daniel would show in the next five minutes, she was giggling when she imagined her mother’s face as she told her she’d married Anna in Vegas.
A rumble of encouragement from their sexy witnesses also took her mind off the fact she was sweating buckets and her stomach was doing flip flops.
Then the doors at the other end of the aisle opened and she turned to see Daniel there. Time stopped for a second as she took him in. He was wearing a kilt and the way he looked at her, like she was the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen, made her feel like this really was her wedding day.
He walked towards her then, followed by a man with a video camera in his hand.
‘What’s with the camera?’ she asked him.
‘How else are we going to show our parents our wedding?’ he said, taking her hands. Leaning closer, he whispered, ‘I’d marry you anywhere, anytime, Charlotte. You shouldn’t have called my bluff.’
Her heart took off and nerves started to kick in. She turned to the young Elvis, ‘Can you give us a second?’
Before waiting for him to agree she dragged Daniel into a quiet corner of the chapel. ‘Daniel, this isn’t real. We’re not really getting married.’
‘Why?’ he asked.
‘This,’ she gestured around the place, ‘isn’t you. You don’t want to get married here.’
He shook his head. ‘You’ve got me all wrong. I grew up with my father as a role model. I thought that’s just how couples were – all my aunts and uncles, grandparents. They all had cold, distant relationships.’
He took her hands in his. ‘Charlotte, when I’m with you I don’t want to be cold or distant. And when you ended our relationship I realised the other stuff had to go too.’
‘I believe you.’ Her heart was so full with love that everything she was unsure about got smothered. He was actually going to marry her in a chapel and film it to show his parents. She could trust that he would loosen up and give her the freedom of choices she needed. ‘But we still don’t have to do this. It was just a test to see if you meant what you said.’
Daniel laughed. ‘I guessed that much.’
Then he got down on one knee and pulled a little black box from his pocket.
‘What are you doing?’ she asked, darting a glance at Anna who was as gobsmacked as her.
‘Will you marry me, Charlotte? Right here and now, or back home surrounded by family, or on the moon if you want. I don’t care if it means I get to keep you forever.’
He flipped the lid on the case, showing off the pretty rose gold ring with a huge diamond. Her eyes watered as she remembered one day at a jewellers when they were looking for a present for her mum’s birthday, he’d said rose gold looked cheap and she should get a platinum bracelet. This, as well as everything else, just proved he was willing to do things for her instead of trying to impress others by giving her what he thought was better.
‘If you’re serious, if there’s no more controlling or berating me for being me, then yes. I’ll marry you,’ she said, her voice thick with emotion.
‘I love who you really are. I swear it will be different this time.’ He slid the ring onto her finger, then rose. Taking her hands between his palms, he kissed her again only this time it tasted of joy rather than desperation.
Anna interrupted them. ‘So are you two getting hitched or going to get a room?’
‘Both, hopefully,’ Daniel said with a grin.
It was hard getting used to his smiles. In fact it was hard getting used to all this.
‘Wait.’ She still felt like she was forcing him into this.
‘I can’t be without you, Charlotte. I’d like you to teach me how to be the kind of man who deserves you. If we can get married now, that’s more than I could ever hope for.’ He dropped a kiss on her nose.
All of this was more than she could hope for too. She looked down at her ring and had to wonder if she’d been put on the nice list and not the naughty one. After all she’d stood up for herself and that seemed to be the push Daniel had needed so they could really work as a couple.
She looked up at him and could see that she was right. Her man loved her and was now going to show her that love, regardless of how he was raised to believe showing any kind of emotion was a cardinal sin. ‘Would it be cheesy to say, all I want for Christmas is you?’
He pulled her close and grinned. ‘Not when I want exactly the same thing.’
She snuggled close, careful not to get make-up on his black shirt. ‘Then marry me. Right here, right now.’
Daniel took her hand and stared at her with a soft, loving expression, then nodded.


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