Nina can’t let herself fall in love with the man she’s going to marry. Both of them have experienced the sting and sham of love and have no intentions of falling victim to it twice. Love is expensive—hate is free. Three years. A million dollars. A solution to both of their problems. They planned it all, from the story of their first meeting to the date of their divorce. Nothing could go wrong. But what they didn’t consider was chemistry, and Nina and Max have no shortage of it. After too many near-kisses, Nina convinces herself that hating Max is better than loving him, and the more she gets to know this soon-to-be-husband of hers, the more she discovers just how very much she truly, madly, and deeply . . . hates him. This isn’t a love story. This is the other kind.
He hadn’t stopped smiling at me, and it wasn’t the friendly kind of smile. It was the kind that made it seem like he was in on some secret I wasn’t privy to. The kind of smile that made me feel like I was being trifled with and made the punch line of a hundred jokes I had yet to hear. I wanted to wipe the cocky smile off his face, but that would have required touching him and even I wasn’t gutsy enough for that. A woman did not touch a guy like him unless she wanted him to be her undoing. Nope. You didn’t play with fire. You didn’t touch it. You didn’t even come close. Fire. That was all I saw when I looked at him. I was playing with it by agreeing to this kind of arrangement with him. Even the way he lounged in the chair was smug. Like it was his throne and he was just waiting for minions to come bow before him. “You’re younger than I thought you’d be.” He broke the silence first. Though it was faint, I could just make out an accent. It was European, but I couldn’t nail down the country. To look at the bastard, you’d think he was Scandinavian—blond hair, blue eyes, commanding frame—but his accent was too sharp to hail from the land of Vikings. I was tempted to glare at the tipped smile aimed at me, but I didn’t want to lead him to the impression I cared. I gave him my version of the same smile, abandoning my “no expectations” policy for the prospect of pissing him off. “You’re older than I thought you’d be.” His smile shifted into the realm of a smirk, like he knew I was lying. So yeah, maybe I was lying about thinking he was older, but I wouldn’t give him the satisfaction of confirming his silent accusation. He was older than me, but not by much. He might have been closing in on thirty, but he wasn’t past it. He leaned forward in the chair. When his gaze circled my face to my fiery red hair, his brow elevated. Yes, I am the stereotype. Be warned. “Prettier too.” I stiffened. He was fucking with me now. I’d already agreed to marry him. How much more did he think he could screw me over? I gave him a cursory glance and kept the unaffected look on my face. “Uglier.” He cocked a brow like he knew better. “And the personality of ten women rolled into one.” “Intimidated?” His head shook once. “Intrigued.” “Irritated?” His eyes investigated me again. It felt intrusive, definitely not cursory. “Impressed.” “As impressed by me as the woman in heat who was just mauling you over by the bar?” “You mean the woman who gave me this?” He pulled something out of the inside pocket of his suit jacket and set it on the small table between us. It was a hotel card key. With a lipstick kiss pressed into it. “Classy place, this five-star hotel.” I glanced back at the woman at the bar. She was still there, watching him as though he was the height of the male species. “Did you tell her the reason you were here?” His attention stayed on me. “Yes, I told her I was here to meet the woman I was going to marry.” My stomach wrung. This was the man I was going to marry. Holy shit. “And she didn’t ask for her room key back?” I asked. “She didn’t give it to me until right after I mentioned that.” His stare was intense. Too intense. I felt like every secret—every piece of who I was—was strewn out on that table for him to see. “Women love a man who isn’t afraid of commitment. It’s like an aphrodisiac.” “You know what else women like?” I didn’t pause for an answer because I guessed he didn’t have a clue. “A man who’s humble.” He fought a smile and leaned back in his chair when a server approached with a couple of drinks on a tray. “No, they like to think they do, but they don’t.” His head shook authoritatively. “They like the cocky bastard who goes after what he wants and doesn’t take no for an answer.” Because the server was shielding some of me from his view, I allowed myself to shift. I was getting fired up, and if he kept saying the same kinds of things with the same kinds of looks on his face, that drink was going to wind up in his face. That was when I noticed what the server had set in front of me. A tumbler with something amber in color. The same thing she was setting in front of him. Although from the curve of her smile, she was offering to give him a blow job on the side, compliments of the house. “What is this?” I asked. Him. Her. Whoever wanted to answer. “Scotch,” he answered, ignoring the server lingering between us. My nose curled at the drink. “Expensive scotch.” “I don’t care if it came from the fountain of youth. I won’t drink it.” His forehead creased with what appeared to be irritation, but I couldn’t be sure. Maybe it was confusion, like he couldn’t decide what to make of me. “You would have me believe you wouldn’t take a sip of that if you knew it would give you eternal life?” When I shook my head, his head tipped. “Why?” “Because I value my free will far more than long life.” I pushed the drink away until it clinked against his. “I’d rather live one day free than an eternity in a cage.” He was quiet for a moment. The server stayed between us, staring at him, waiting. “Then why are you here?” he asked me finally. I leaned forward and hoped my stare was as powerful as his. “Because free will is expensive.”
Nicole Williams is the New York Times and USATODAY bestselling author of contemporary and young adult romance, including the Crash and Lost & Found series. Her books have been published by HarperTeen and Simon & Schuster in both domestic and foreign markets, while she continues to self-publish additional titles. She is working on a new YA series with Crown Books (a division of Random House) as well. She loves romance, from the sweet to the steamy, and writes stories about characters in search of their happily even after. She grew up surrounded by books and plans on writing until the day she dies, even if it’s just for her own personal enjoyment. She still buys paperbacks because she’s all nostalgic like that, but her kindle never goes neglected for too long. When not writing, she spends her time with her husband and daughter, and whatever time’s left over she’s forced to fit too many hobbies into too little time.
Nicole is represented by Jane Dystel, of Dystel and Goderich Literary Agency.
Markus Reeves is sucking. Big-time. Toiling away on a minor-league hockey team hundreds of miles away from home, he's watching his dreams of an NHL career fade away. Add in the lingering guilt he has over the dramatic demise of his relationship with college girlfriend, Mekena, and he's a mess on and off the ice.
But the family of his heart, the Sinclairs, won't let Markus suffer any longer. When he arrives himself back in Nashville for a trial run on the Assassins, it feels like his life may be making a turn for the better. If only he could get Mekena to forgive him...
Mekena Preston has been hurting since fleeing Nashville following the horror of Markus's betrayal with her sister. Now a professional photographer, Mekena finds herself in the same place at the same time with Markus to celebrate Lucy and Benji Paxton's wedding. Neither of them has been able to move on—and they're starting to wonder if they really want to.
They're headed for a face-off at the altar unless they can confront their past and unearth the truth about what really happened on that fateful night.
“You are, by far, the most patient man I know.” Baylor grimaced as she took Dawson from Markus’s outstretched hands. He smiled as Dawson looked at him innocently. He knew the little guy didn’t mean to puke all over him and he wasn’t upset, but he was trying to figure out a way to get to the house and shower before he had to talk to Mekena. He highly doubted that baby puke would be an aphrodisiac. Maybe it would be? Huh. He wasn’t going to try, though. As Baylor cuddled Dawson against her, Markus waved her off. “It’s no big deal. He’s a baby.” She smiled shyly. “Yes, but Ashlyn pooped on you too.” He grinned as he shrugged, trying not to laugh. It was a tough rehearsal for Dawson, Ashlyn, and Markus. Puke and poop were big-time stars during the hour of watching the Sinclairs and Grace Justice try to put together a wedding. He wasn’t sure what was funnier, Jace glaring as Jordie walked with Avery, or Ashlyn farting and then realizing she had just shit all over him. It was a toss-up, but then Dawson decided to puke down the front of his shirt, and he figured he was now a substitute for a baby rag. “I volunteered.” “Still, we’re really sorry,” Avery said, holding Ashlyn close as she rocked her back and forth. “I understand if you don’t want to watch her ever again.” “Nonsense,” he said, laughing as he tucked his hands into his pockets and looked around. He spotted Mekena at the front of the altar, taking pictures of random things. He wasn’t sure if she was done, but maybe he could slip away. “How much longer until y’all are done?” “We’re done, but Lucy and Benji have some pre-wedding pictures they’re having done with Angie.” “So Mekena isn’t done?” Avery smiled. “Nope, she’s got a bit.” “Can you pass a message for me?” “Sure.” “Let her know that I went back to the cabin to shower and clean up?” “Yeah, of course. I’ll tell Jace to tell her since I’m taking Ashlyn to bed.” “Cool, thanks,” he said, kissing her cheek and then Baylor’s, before rubbing Dawson’s head. “I’ll see you guys in the morning.” Before he could get far, though, Baylor smiled. “Thanks again.” “Anytime. I mean that.” Avery smiled. “Thanks.” “Also, good luck,” Baylor added. Flashing them both a big grin, he nodded. “I need it.” Heading out the back, he made it back to the cabin quickly. When he entered, though, Mr. Right was sitting on the windowsill howling. “Whoa, man. What’s up?” Meoooooowwwwwwww, he wailed, with his mouth wide open as his hair stood on end. “Bro, I don’t know what to say. I don’t speak your language. Are you singing? Do you want me to sing too? Meoooowwwwww,” he said, and Mr. Right looked back at him, almost with a glare. “We should add some beat to that and make a remix,” Markus joked as the cat wailed. Deciding that was a good idea, he pulled out his phone and started to beatbox as the cat wailed, recording it on his SnapChat. The cat must have realized what he was doing because he looked back, scowling, and Markus hid his phone. He didn’t want to admit it, but Mr. Right kind of freaked him out.
My name is Toni Aleo and I’m a total dork. I am a wife, mother of two and a bulldog, and also a hopeless romantic. I am the biggest Shea Weber fan ever, and can be found during hockey season with my nose pressed against the Bridgestone Arena’s glass, watching my Nashville Predators play! When my nose isn’t pressed against the glass, I enjoy going to my husband and son’s hockey games, my daughter’s dance competition, hanging with my best friends, taking pictures, scrapbooking, and reading the latest romance novel. I have a slight Disney and Harry Potter obsession, I love things that sparkle, I love the color pink, I might have been a Disney Princess in a past life… probably Belle. … and did I mention I love hockey?
USA TODAY bestselling author Alexa Riley's first full-length novel shows just what happens when a strong, possessive man finds the woman of his dreams. I'll never forget the way she looked, so confident and sure of herself. I watched her from a distance. She wasn't ready for me yet. I didn't approach her and I didn't disturb her, but I never once took my eyes off her. Mallory Sullivan is ready to start her new life. After graduating at the top of her class, she's landed one of the most coveted internships in the United States. Hard work and determination have gotten her to this moment of living the life she only dreamed of while growing up in foster care. From the start, I knew that she would be my greatest achievement, so the day I let her go, I set down a path for her. A path to me. She never expected Oz to be the greatest culmination of those dreams. But sometimes fate determines who you fall in love with. Who makes you lose control. Who owns your soul. And then you realize it wasn't fate at all… I've wanted to care for and protect her since the first moment I saw her. I've constructed everything in our lives so that at the perfect moment, I could have her, could give her the life she deserves. The time has come.
PREFACE Miles I’ve watched her since the beginning. It’s funny, but I don’t really remember much before her. It’s as if I could split my life into two halves. Before her and after. I remember my life with my parents, and I remember getting into college, but it’s all gray before her. Until the day I saw her, there was no color. But once my eyes landed on her for the first time, it was like when Dorothy landed in Oz and she opened the door. The world went Technicolor, and she was my very own Glinda the Good Witch. I was twenty-two years old the first time I saw her. She was seventeen and competing in a state-level high school math competition. Yale University asked me to represent them as a student judge, and I nearly declined. The state of Connecticut is small but houses one of the greatest Ivy League colleges in the country. One that makes becoming a standout almost impossible. I was among the top one percent in my class as a senior at Yale, with a major in statistics. The only reason I’d accepted the invitation was to play a part. Many expected me to follow in the footsteps of my father, and I wanted them to believe that, but my end goal was a little different than anyone knew. I was on the path of revenge, but playing a part would help me on that path. Rubbing shoulders with the same men my father did, even if it left a bitter taste in my mouth. Agreeing to judge the competition was life-changing. The bitter taste in my mouth altered that day. A sweetness took over. I wanted it. Needed it. I’ll never forget the way she looked, so confident and sure of herself. I watched her from a distance, like you would a lioness in the wild. I didn’t approach her and I didn’t disturb her, but I never once took my eyes off her. I found out later she was being sponsored by her high school so that she could attend the competition. She had no family and was being raised in a group foster home, so her school funded the trip. She was smart, and they wanted to see her succeed, which she did. I saw so much in her as she competed. She knew all the answers and was absolutely sure each time. She trusted her instincts, and they didn’t let her down. There was so much potential in her just waiting to be unleashed. I wanted to sit down and have her tell me everything, anything, as long as she talked to me. She swept the competition and won first place in her division. I was strangely proud of her. When she walked out of the hotel ballroom after the competition was over, I let her go. It was the hardest thing I’d ever had to do. But I knew that if I went after her too soon, or too fast, she would run. Not only was she too young for me, but something about her told me she was the kind of woman who came along once in ten thousand lifetimes. This wasn’t to be rushed. It was to be savored. I may hate my father, but I’ve learned from his mistakes. I’m going to use those mistakes for my own advantage. He’s smart but sloppy at the same time and it’s been showing. But I know if you want something, you work hard for it, plan out all the details to make it yours. From the beginning, I knew that she would be my greatest achievement, so the day I let her go, I set down a path for her. A path to me. No one knows it’s been me behind the curtain, pulling the strings. I’ve constructed everything in our lives so that at the perfect moment, I could have her. The time has come.
Alexa Riley is two sassy friends who got together and wrote some dirty books. They are both married moms of two who love football, donuts, and obsessed book heroes.
They specialize in insta-love, over-the-top, sweet, and cheesy love stories that don’t take all year to read. If you want something SAFE, short, and always with a happily ever after, then Alexa Riley is for you!