Book Blitz & Excerpt: The Billionaire and the Escort + Giveaway

The Billionaire and the Escort

The Billionaire and the Escort, by Evelyn Mahony

General Release Date: 3rd Aug 2021

Word Count: 81,084
Book Length: SUPER NOVEL
Pages: 283

Genres:

BILLIONAIRE
CELEBRITIES
CONTEMPORARY
EROTIC ROMANCE
FAKE RELATIONSHIPS
GAY
GLBTQI

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Book Description

 

In the world of high-end escorts, getting personal is never part of the arrangement.

When Josh Roberts became a male escort, there was no room for emotions. They went against the job description. He had a full appointment book and enough clients to pay the bills. There was definitely no time to get attached to an older, extremely successful, incredibly gorgeous man who paid for his services.

But Josh can’t turn down the money that has started rolling in, along with the gifts and the opportunity to live in the lap of luxury as the man flies him around the world to play pretend as his boyfriend. How on earth is he supposed to say no? Especially once he starts falling for his client.

James Barnwell is the successful CEO of Winter Luxury Resorts who stumbled upon Josh Roberts in a dark, high-end bar in midtown Manhattan. The young man was cocky, young, beautiful and offered James exactly what he was looking for—the chance to be with a man who knew the ropes and offered no opportunity to get attached. James had a lucrative business to run and meetings all over the world to attend. Having someone by his side would just weigh him down—or so he thinks, until he finds himself caring deeply for the man he pays for companionship, and it completely changes his world.

Two men are trying to play make believe—until they realize their sham might be closer to reality than they thought.

Excerpt

The bar wasn’t too busy for a Friday night. Soulful jazz filled the air of the midtown Manhattan hot spot that attracted wealthy businessmen and young, single, gold-digging women. Not many people came here unless they were looking to settle a big business deal or celebrate one—or, of course, if they were looking for one of those drunk, happy, successful men to take them home.

Which was why Josh Roberts was here tonight. He didn’t necessarily belong there. He wasn’t on Wall Street, wasn’t a millionaire, wasn’t a CEO or even someone who worked for a CEO. No, he was a college graduate with an art degree…and a booming business as an escort.

He hadn’t always been an escort. It was a fairly new profession he’d taken up by accident. It was a strange story to tell someone he didn’t know, and honestly, the industry was so hush hush that not many asked. But he didn’t mind getting paid for taking people out and sleeping with them. It had been odd at first, but it paid the bills—and beyond—and he was good at it now. He had a pretty full calendar, already booked a month out with regulars who took very good care of him financially. At twenty-four years old, he was well on his way to paying off his school loans and saving for the art gallery he hoped to open one day. And he was able to help pay his mother’s mortgage on the Brooklyn townhouse he’d grown up in. That alone made it worth it.

His mother didn’t know what he did—of course she didn’t. She couldn’t. He wouldn’t allow her to refuse his money. He didn’t live at home anymore, but she was his only family. He couldn’t risk losing or disappointing her. She was beyond supportive and would give him the benefit of any doubt…unless she knew he was being paid for sex. She wouldn’t be able to understand that. And honestly…sometimes he wasn’t sure he did. But it was satisfying his bank account, keeping food on the table, a roof over his head and more—so he kept it up. His art couldn’t pay him the way this could.

As he leaned against the end of the long mahogany bar, he surveyed the men in attendance, sipping his Old Fashioned. He wasn’t too much of a drinker and he needed to keep his wits about him when he was working—especially in a place like this. Class meant everything.

There weren’t many options this particular evening. Josh had a way of seeking out the ones who might be susceptible to his services. He worked with a lot of referrals, but tonight he’d been open and available, so he’d decided to head out and offer his services to someone in need of a good time. So far, that hadn’t been playing out too well for him. Most of the men were older, wearing rings or a little too drunk for Josh’s liking.

His gaze settled on a handsome guy in the middle of the bar who was sitting with a pretty blonde woman to his right. When Josh had first watched them, the man had been engaged as the woman had approached. He’d offered her a smile and invited her to join him.

That had been about an hour ago, however, and now the man looked somewhat tortured. He’d downed three Scotches in that time frame and was asking the bartender for another. A man in a suit stood a few feet behind him, but Josh suspected he was security of some sort, as that man had an earpiece and hadn’t had a drink all night. It made Josh curious as he watched, wondering who the guy was and why he’d need security in a bar like this. And if the man standing behind him was security, how come he wasn’t saving him from the ditz currently droning on and on about some nail polish line?

Josh finished his drink and was about to pay his tab and try his luck elsewhere when the blonde excused herself. He couldn’t hear if she would be gone for a minute or for the night, but he watched the guy’s shoulders sag slightly in what looked like relief as soon as she was a few feet away. Josh had a moment to make up his mind. Give it a shot or head out…?

The man was beautiful, about six feet tall with thick, dark hair that matched his beard. Even in the dim light, Josh could tell his temples were graying. It was a good look on the guy…fitting. Josh could see laugh lines around his eyes, no ring, a royal blue suit with a white shirt underneath and no tie. He was well dressed but not stuffy.

Josh glanced down at his own chocolate-brown three-piece suit. Being so young, he had to overcompensate to fit in. But for the man across the bar, the unbuttoned collar of his white shirt and the playful mid-range blue of his suit gave off the opposite feel, and it worked well for him. Is he into men? Josh couldn’t tell from where he stood. But he was visibly bored of his female companion, so Josh took a chance and headed his way.

“That looked brutal,” he remarked as he stood a barstool’s distance away from the man. The guy peered up at Josh with a raised eyebrow, taking Josh by surprise.

“Was I fakin’ it poorly?” The attractive man—even more attractive up close than he had been from across the bar—winced with a half-smile. Josh glanced up at the woman over his head, watching her gait slow as she returned from the direction of the restroom and saw Josh standing in her place.

“Well, she’s coming back, if that helps you feel any better about your acting skills.” His new companion cursed under his breath and took a long swig from the rocks’ glass.

“Maybe she’ll think we’re talkin’ business and find someone else to talk to?” He looked up at Josh, questioning, and he raked his gaze subtly over Josh’s suit. He wasn’t sizing Josh up. He was actually looking him over. Josh felt a little proud as he pretended not to notice. “Need a drink?”

“Sure.” Josh took the invitation coolly to avoid seeming eager and settled into the seat the woman had occupied before him. Her expression was clearly one of annoyance, but he watched her turn to find another rich man to fawn over. Phew. “Old Fashioned. Rocks. Thanks.”

The man nodded and quickly grabbed the bartender’s attention. Drink ordered, he turned back to Josh, seemingly still curious. “Nice suit.”

“Thank you.” Josh couldn’t stop the flush that heated his cheeks. Compliments always did him in, especially when the man was looking at him with those haunting steel eyes in a way that Josh hardly ever noticed his own clients looking at him.

“I appreciate you saving me,” he began, settling his gaze on Josh’s face. Josh held his look with the smallest of smiles. “Not many men would do that. They’d probably just enjoy watching me be miserable.” He huffed a laugh, and raised one side of his lips in a true half smile. “It’s not that she was a terrible gal or anything. She just…isn’t my type.” The way he said it gave Josh everything he needed to know to push on with his own agenda.

“I couldn’t bear to watch you sit through another monologue about wearing blue nail polish in the fall.” Josh mimicked her slightly, and he was pleased when the attractive man chuckled. He sipped his beverage, thoughtful. “Don’t like small blondes?” Josh then asked, licking his lips and savoring the taste of his new drink. He said it a little teasingly but was surprised when the guy just looked toward him and eyed him up and down slowly.

“I think I prefer them…bigger.” He didn’t sound so sure as he responded, and Josh had to wonder what that meant. Josh was, of course, blond, but he couldn’t be referring to him… Could he?

“You think?” Josh pressed, tilting his head as he regarded the man.

“Well, they’re usually her size, but I’m thinking of trying something new these days…”

Oh. Well, that was an interesting development. Josh hadn’t expected this to go so well.

The guy toyed with his rocks’ glass, spinning it in his fingers before turning completely to look at Josh, his body now sideways. Josh leaned against the bar, facing the man the same way. “Josh Roberts.” He extended his hand with a slight smile, roaming his eyes around the man’s gorgeous face.

The guy took Josh’s hand in a firm shake with zero hesitation. “James Barnwell… A pleasure to meet you, Josh.” He gave Josh a half smile of his own, and Josh couldn’t get past how beautiful the man was—one of his more handsome endeavors, for sure.

“So you’re looking to try something new?” Josh decided not to beat around the bush now. He’d go right in for the kill. James nodded with a lick to his sinful bottom lip. Josh wouldn’t mind kissing it. He definitely wouldn’t mind.

“I’ve uh… I don’t have any experience, but it’s been on my mind for a while.” James seemed slightly nervous now, but Josh wanted to reassure him there was no need. He gave Josh a look that was almost adorably unsure. Josh couldn’t help his own confident grin.

“Well, as it happens, I’m very well versed in such activities.” He nibbled on his bottom lip, tilting his chin down and looking up at Barnwell through his lashes. He wanted this sale, wanted to show this man a good time—especially now, knowing he’d never been with another man before. It became a challenge that spoke to Josh’s competitive soul.

James’ eyes widened a fraction and he seemed to consider the statement. Then he laughed, throwing Josh off a little. “You must think I’m some fuckin’… I’ve gotta be at least ten years older than you, and I’ve never experimented like that. I mean I have…with my—you know—but I’ve never actually been with a man. You’ve gotta be getting a kick out of this.”

Josh didn’t know which part he should be getting a kick out of—the fact he’d never been with a man, the age difference or the fact that James was insinuating that he’d played with himself. Josh was eating it all up, if he were to be honest. He’d never taken a man’s virginity, but he was up for the adventure and knew he was a safe bet as the man’s first. He knew just how to do it right and gentle, make it worth James’ time. “Well, if you think I’m judging you, you’re wrong. I’m in the wrong business to judge anyone.” Josh kept his voice low so he didn’t make a spectacle of their conversation. “It doesn’t matter how old you are or what you’ve done or not done. If you want an experience, you wanna try a taste, I can give you one. I’m happy to do it.”

Josh wasn’t one to play games. He was straightforward and as honest as they came. He pulled one of his sleek matte cards from his pocket and slipped it across the bar to James, who picked it up and looked it over, a look of surprise and a flush covering his high cheekbones as he seemed to read the word printed under Josh’s name on the card—Escort.

James cleared his throat, biting his bottom lip as he set the card back down. Josh noticed that he kept it close and he took that as a good sign. “And here I thought you were just picking me up.” James laughed a little and Josh liked the sound.

“In a way I was. You’re a handsome man. I couldn’t tell from afar whether you’d be interested in men or not, but I took my chance anyway.” Josh offered him a gentle grin.

“Do I look like I need to pay someone for sex?” James cocked his head to the side and regarded Josh through squinted, guarded eyes. He might have even been slightly offended. Josh held his ground, undeterred.

“You look like you wanna sleep with a man—but you haven’t yet and don’t know how. I’m sure you have women dying to sit on your cock. But that’s not what I’m here for.”

“And if I wanna sit on your cock, is that what you’re here for?” Hearing the word fall from James’ lips made Josh want to squirm a little. He definitely wanted that. It was always a bonus when he was physically attracted to his clients and that they had chemistry. It was often not the case.

“You can sit on anything you want, Mr. Barnwell. That is, in fact, what I’m here for.”

James grew silent at that, dropping his gaze to his glass. Apprehension bloomed in Josh’s chest, but he sipped his drink and watched the man mentally battle over whatever waged inside his mind. He took the moment to let his eyes roam the broad shoulders, the peek of chest hair, the gray on his temples. This man had to look exquisite naked, judging by the way that suit jacket pulled in all the right places.

James lifted his gaze back to Josh’s, and Josh could feel the heat and question that lingered in those blue-grays. “I’m not familiar with…your business. What’s it you want? How much do you get paid? Do you do weekends in exchange for money, gifts?”

Josh couldn’t help but chuckle…amused. “I mean, I don’t have an ad saying ‘sugar daddy wanted’ on my back, but if you’re offering…” Confusion then amusement dawned on James’ features. “Money is how I’m usually paid. I can be booked for any length of time. I can be a date to an event, a party or a companion on a trip. It’s really whatever the client wants. Whatever they want.” He stressed the word because he catered to any and all whims. He had a few hard limits but had experienced a lot. And at this point, he’d say yes to anything with James out of pure curiosity.

“Whatever they want? Give me an example, please.” He spoke quietly as he asked, as if unsure if he should. Josh was an open book. He never gave names, but he’d absolutely give examples.

“Sure. Most women want to be dominated in some way, but most men want to dominate me. I’ve gone to Hawaii on a business trip with a woman who only needed me to pretend I was her fiancé. I’ve been collared and expected to crawl on my knees like a dog. I had a woman who would pay me for one weekend a month of as much sex as she could handle. I have another woman who just wants me to sit in my briefs and rub her feet. I’ve had a few men who prefer roleplay, and I’m decent at it.” He shrugged lightly. “The ‘usual’ is I show up to the client’s place and we have sex, I fulfill whatever their fantasy or need is and I’m out of the door afterward. But like I said, it’s the dealer’s choice. Whatever the client feels like, needs or wants from me, I give. I haven’t had a single complaint.” Josh felt more than confident in his track record and his services. Sure, when he’d started, he’d had some catching up to do, had to learn his ways around certain kinks and scenes, but now he had zero issues. He felt at ease behind closed doors.

James was intrigued, if nothing else. It was written all over his suddenly expressive face. “So…kinks? Toys? Trips? Everything is on the table?”

Josh nodded. “I draw the line at violence, degrading play and extreme, potentially harmful things. Marks are fine, spanking is fine, but you can’t hit me—and I won’t hit you. You can call me names, but you can’t shove my face in a carpet or make me lick your shoes. Luckily, no one I’ve been with has tried to punch me or worse.” Josh smiled ruefully. James looked a little disturbed by that.

“Well, at least you’re taking care of yourself,” he replied with a concern that surprised Josh.

“I get tested monthly. I’m careful. It’s my job to deliver a safe and fun experience.” He wanted to make sure James knew all the details and his intentions. This business relationship had to be based on trust.

“What do you cost? Is it by the service or…?”

Josh pulled out his phone, opening the app he used to take payment. He set it down on the bar for James to see. He had no secrets. “I don’t do it by the service. I do by the hour. You can have whatever you want in the time frame you pay me for—and there’s fifty percent off your first experience, no matter the length. If a person comes back, which I can usually guarantee they will, it’s full price after that.”

James whistled low at what he saw on the screen. “You certainly are looking for that sugar daddy, aren’t ya, pal?”

Josh blushed at the term but laughed too. “I think it’s a fair trade. Good money for great sex.” He shrugged. James eyed him.

“You think you’re that good, huh?”

Josh simply smiled, nodding once. “Yes, sir. I’m that good.”

James glanced back at the security guard a few feet away then to the bartender. Josh, for a brief moment, wondered if he was about to be physically removed from James Barnwell’s presence. Then James was laying down crisp cash from his wallet on the bar and standing.

Josh followed his every move, his hopes deflating. He’d really enjoyed their banter. It had been a long time since he’d been shot down—and by someone like Mr. Barnwell…

“I’ve got a car out front. We’ll go back to my place. That’s how it works, right? My call? My place?” Josh stood before James could finish his questions.

“Absolutely, sir. Your call. Everything is your call.”

“Good. We’ll go back to my place, I’ll pour us a drink then I want you to take over. Understood?”

Josh was surprised by the expectation, but it was nothing he couldn’t handle. In fact, he looked forward to blowing this man’s mind…and hopefully more. “Yes, sir.”

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Choose Your Store
First For Romance

About the Author

Evelyn Mahony

Evelyn has been writing since middle school, constantly getting lost in creating a whole other world (usually loosely based on a fandom of some kind) and falling in love with those characters. An avid reader, she never leaves home without a well-worn book and a notepad for thoughts. She writes almost entirely on her phone, because it’s small and easy to pull out at a moment’s notice, when the idea for a scene hits. As the wife of a busy husband and as the mother of a young daughter, two big dogs, and a horse, there’s not always designated writing time. Writing is her passion and whenever she finds a window of free time, that’s what she’s doing!

Check out Evelyn’s website and follow her on Instagram.

Giveaway

Enter to win a fabulous gift package and get a First For Romance Gift Card!

Evelyn Mahony The Billionaire and the Escort Giveaway

EVELYN MAHONY IS GIVING AWAY THIS FABULOUS PRIZE TO ONE LUCKY WINNER. ENTER HERE FOR YOUR CHANCE TO WIN A LOVELY GIFT PACKAGE AND GET A FIRST FOR ROMANCE GIFT CARD! Notice: This competition ends on 17th August 2021 at 5pm GMT. Competition hosted by Totally Entwined Group.

Book Blitz & Excerpt: Midsummer Man + Giveaway

Midsummer Man Banner

Midsummer Man, by Zelah Robers

General Release Date: 15th June 2021

Word Count: 53,250
Book Length: NOVEL
Pages: 207

Genres:

ACTION AND ADVENTURE
BILLIONAIRE
CONTEMPORARY
EROTIC ROMANCE
MYSTERY

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Book Description

 

Hostages of fate…rescued by love.

Holly Mason’s past has left her with many things—a powerful need for independence and self-reliance, enduring memories of pain and fear…and an intense dislike of alpha males.

Billionaire Sir Mac Sinclair has been wounded by the betrayal of his fiancée and overpowered by his own ultra-protective alpha-male instincts after his sister is kidnapped. He has no time for romance.

But when Mac meets Holly at the beautiful Midsummer Ball, fate intervenes. The irresistible, timeless magic of midsummer seduces them into stealing one stunning, secret night of passion together.

But one night is not enough… When danger threatens, Mac and Holly are forced back together. Can they confront the traumas of the past and learn to trust each other to overcome the dangers of the present?

Reader advisory: This book contains a scene of public sex, stalking and cult references, and references to child abuse, kidnapping and sexual assault.

Excerpt

Renwick Castle stood high on the hill above the Wyvern Valley, its tranquil beauty bestowing an elegant timelessness upon the idyllic landscape of rolling cornfields and quaint villages below. Gilded flags fluttered from crenelated battlements in the golden afternoon sun and the vibrant ruby, emerald and sapphire stained-glass windows glowed like jewels, refracting dancing rainbows onto ancient stone floors. In the courtyard of the ancient keep, the blush-pink petals of apple blossom trees, caressed from their branches by the breeze, danced on the warm summer air like confetti.

In the grand ballroom of the castle, now an extremely elegant five-star hotel, two women, Holly Mason and Melissa Turner, were working in parallel, placing perfumed rose-pink charity auction lists and donation envelopes on tables already festooned with glittering silverware and sparkling candelabras entwined with ivy and white roses.

Tonight was a night they had been working towards for months. It was the night upon which all their hopes as the trustees of the charity ‘Help the Homeless’, rested—the night when most of the funds the charity needed for the coming year would be raised. Tonight was the night of the Help the Homeless Midsummer Ball.

Holly set down yet another envelope, then glanced up as her friend Melissa cleared her throat. “So,” Melissa asked, “did you try the rose-petal bath-pourri, then?”

Holly looked at her friend curiously. Melissa had given her the lovely bath set for her birthday, with strict and rather mysterious instructions that she should use it the night before the ball. “I did,” she confirmed, “as instructed. It was absolutely fabulous. The rose petals were floating on the water and the scent was out of this world. But I still don’t understand why I had to use it last night, exactly.”

Melissa looked smug. “I knew you’d do it. I bet Simon a jasmine-scented back massage that you would.”

Holly choked back a laugh. Her recently married friend was still in the honeymoon phase of her relationship with her beloved Simon. “Why jasmine, specifically?”

“Holly! Don’t you know that jasmine is supposed to stimulate your libido?”

“Ah- no. Can’t say that I did. But really… Your libido needs stimulating?”

Melissa gave her a sheepish look. “Well, no. In all honesty, if it got any more stimulated, I’d probably die. But what a way to go!”

Holly rolled her eyes. Her friend was incorrigible. “Well, naturally I’m delighted to have earned you a jasmine-scented back rub, but you still haven’t told me why I had to use my bubble bath last night.”

They moved to another table and began distributing auction lists. “Ah, yes…that. Well, this castle has been here nearly a thousand years. And for every single one of them, it has celebrated the magic of midsummer, the longest day of the year and the time when the veil between this world and the next is at its thinnest.”

“Uh-huh.”

Melissa threw out a dramatic arm. “Powerful forces are abroad on midsummer’s night. And in this castle, they are amplified—soaked into the very fabric of this building.”

“Is that right?”

“Oh, believe me. It is.”

“So, what do these powerful forces want with me, pray tell?”

Melissa looked at her triumphantly. “Well, you sprinkled rose-petals last night, didn’t you?”

“Yes—”

“Well, the legend says that if you sprinkle rose petals on Midsummer’s Eve, you’ll meet the man of your dreams the next night. And that means, you’ll meet him tonight!”

Holly put down her envelopes and looked at her friend in frank disbelief. “Really? The man of my dreams? It’s going to bring to life Jamie from Outlander, is it?”

Melissa rolled her eyes. “There are good men in the real world, too, you know.”

Holly shook her head, amused. In her considered opinion, the only good men were fictional ones. “Melissa, you know I love you,” she began, wryly, “but I don’t want a man. I like my life the way it is.”

Damn right she did. She’d worked hard to get to where she was today, and now she was reaping the rewards of her labours. Her life was safe, settled and interesting, exactly the way she liked it. The last thing she wanted was some wretched man messing it all up.

Melissa looked at her sympathetically. “Holly, I know you had that awful stalker a couple of years ago. But you can’t judge all men by one obsessive fan.”

“Of course not.”

“And I know Taylor wasn’t the best boyfriend you could have wished for. You were just unlucky he turned out to be such an absolute—”

Holly raised a hasty hand. “I know. They’re not all like him. Some of them are worse!”

“Oh, Holly, come on. That’s not fair! Look at Simon.”

It was true. Her friend really had found one of those mythical creatures—a good man. Mild-mannered, gentle and fathoms deep in love with his adorable wife, Simon was a gentleman of the first order. But a man like that would never want a woman as hard as she was, with a background like hers. “Okay, okay. I know. Granted, your Simon is lovely, and I’m sure there are other wonderful men out there—but not for me. I’m not in the market for any midsummer magic.”

For a moment, a wispy cloud drifted over the sun and the room shadowed. Holly set down another auction list with careful precision. “Anyway, I’m too busy. I’m up to my neck in work.”

“Work won’t keep you warm at night. You won’t get to the end of your life and wish you’d done more work.”

Holly looked drily at her friend. “I won’t get to the end of my life and wish I’d done more men, either.”

“Oh, honestly, Holly—”

At that moment, Melissa’s phone beeped, signalling a text message. Melissa glanced at the screen and a delighted smile spread over her face.

“It’s Sadika. You’ll never guess who she’s just sold a last-minute ticket to?”

“Who?”

“Sir Mac Sinclair!”

Holly raised her eyebrows. Sir Mac Sinclair was known to practically anyone with a pulse in the UK, even her, and she was no follower of the lives of the rich and famous. As the billionaire owner of one of the most prestigious building companies in the country, he was lauded for successfully and sympathetically restoring some of Britain’s most valuable and beloved historic buildings. As a qualified architect, he had also created some new structures which, with their fluid, sensuous silhouettes and environmentally friendly designs, were now considered modern classics. But he was also infamous for his obsessive need for privacy. He rarely appeared in public and declined all television interviews, which made it all the more surprising that he was coming to such a high-profile event.

Not only that, but tickets for the ball had sold out months ago, and he must have paid through the nose to get hold of one at the last minute. Sadika, who was responsible for selling tickets and organising the seating plan, must be tearing her hair out trying to slot him in at one of the tables.

Holly scowled. Although she was pleased that the charity had received more money, she hated the fact that the rich could have it all their own way, could casually buy into an event at the last minute without a by-your-leave.

“Well, great. That should get us some more publicity. Hopefully, he’ll spend a fortune and we’ll all be happy.”

“True.” Melissa’s voice filled with excitement. “But more than that, this guy is hot. I mean, seriously hot. Oh, he’d be perfect for you!”

“Oh, right. Because I’m so hot myself.”

“You are!” Melissa clapped her hands together, her eyes speculative. “You’d make the most amazing couple—”

“Oh, don’t do me any favours. The last thing I need is some arrogant megalomaniac billionaire who loves nothing more than his own reflection!”

Melissa’s face softened. “Give in, Holly. It’s fate. You’ve sprinkled the rose petals, so you might as well accept it. True love’s a comin’ for you.”

Holly shook her head. “No. No way. You know what the difference between true love and herpes is, right?”

“No…”

“Herpes lasts forever.”

Buy Links

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First For Romance

About the Author

Zelah Roberts

Zelah Roberts grew up in a beautiful leafy market town in North East England. She spent a happy childhood exploring the surrounding woods and moorlands, and visiting ancient priories, abbeys, and roman ruins with her history-buff parents. These inspired her imagination, and many notebooks were filled with action-packed tales of adventure and romance.

An avid reader with eclectic tastes, her teenage years were spent navigating the magical worlds of Narnia and Middle Earth by way of Earthsea. As she grew older, her tastes expanded to take in thrillers and romance, and a degree in English introduced her to the great classics of literature.

After many jobs ranging from traffic warden to project manager, Zelah now divides her time between writing and teaching English and creative writing. When she is not lost in daydreams about her new book, she also loves spending time with her family, travelling and visiting the theatre and cinema.

Giveaway

Enter to win a fabulous gift package and get a FREE eBook from the author!

Zelah Roberts Midsummer Man Giveaway

ZELAH ROBERTS IS GIVING AWAY THIS FABULOUS PRIZE TO ONE LUCKY WINNER. ENTER HERE FOR YOUR CHANCE TO WIN A LOVELY GIFT PACKAGE AND GET A FIRST FOR ROMANCE GIFT CARD! Notice: This competition ends on 29th June 2021 at 5pm GMT. Competition hosted by Totally Entwined Group.

Book Blitz & Excerpt: Snowbound with the Billionaire + Giveaway

Snowbound with the Billionaire Banner

Snowbound with the Billionaire
by Aurora Russell

Word Count: 59,719
Book Length: NOVEL
Pages: 222
Heat Rating: Sizzling
Sexometer: 2

Genres:

ACTION AND ADVENTURE
BILLIONAIRE
CONTEMPORARY
ENEMIES TO LOVERS
EROTIC ROMANCE
MYSTERY
THRILLERS AND SUSPENSE

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Book Description

A blizzard traps her in a remote cabin with a man she can’t stand. But what if she doesn’t want to leave when the snow clears?

Marina Lopez might have sworn off love for herself, but that doesn’t stop her from being overjoyed that her best friend Annelise has found true happiness with her new man. Determined to help the couple celebrate in style, Marina drives up early to help organize their engagement party at a lodge in rural Vermont owned by the Gaspards, the future bridegroom’s wealthy, powerful family. Unfortunately, the weather reports were wrong and she gets snowed in with just about the last person she ever wanted to face again.

Pierre Gaspard, the head of his family, company and financial empire, is used to controlling everything and everyone around him and seldom has a regret. However, he does with regard to the harsh lesson he’d decided to teach Marina months earlier, and he’s not thrilled to have her as an unwilling guest at his family’s cabin, which became his sanctuary as he recovered from injuries sustained during an attempt on his life.

Explosive and irresistible chemistry draws them together, but as strange accidents accelerate, they begin to fear that they might not be so alone in the snowy Vermont woods after all. When Pierre sends Marina away over a misunderstanding, he unknowingly puts her squarely into the path of the menace that continues to stalk his family. He rushes to her aid, but even if he makes it in time to protect her, he isn’t certain he’ll ever be able to convince her to forgive him—or that he doesn’t want to take the place of her lost love, but instead to build something new together.

Reader advisory: This book contains a scene of attempted murder and violence.

Excerpt

“Don’t worry, Rina! You’re going to love Rémy’s family. His brothers and sister totally can’t wait to meet you! Also, you look amazing in that dress.” Annelise turned her head halfway to look behind them and Marina wondered what had caught her best friend’s attention in the quiet valet area of the sparkling-clean parking garage.

“In fact,” Annelise continued in a lower voice, “the back looks pretty freaking fantastic. Are you wearing those butt-boosting underwear things? Or have you been hitting the gym harder than usual?” A spark of mischief lit her eyes before she went on. “I don’t mean to be crass…” Annelise waggled her eyebrows.

“Oh, I know I’ve got really nice ass!” Marina had to stifle an undignified snort-laugh as she finished one of their favorite sayings, trying to keep her voice down. “Annelise! Such language so close to the hallowed halls of the Mount Valder Club! I would expect that kind of comment from me, but from you?” Marina mock-chided, but Annelise’s light comment had cut the tension and her anxiety in half.

Annelise flushed pink. “Rémy says it isn’t as stuffy as its reputation would suggest.” She waved her hand dismissively, making the subtle mauve polish that Marina had painted onto her nails a couple of days earlier during a rare girls’ night flash in the soft lighting. “And anyway, it’s not like anyone is going to dare complain about us. Pierre fast-tracked membership for the whole family as soon as they decided to open a Gaspard Industries branch here in Boston, and we have the entire ballroom reserved just for our soiree tonight. All that must have cost, like, a squillion dollars.”

They fell into step together, linking arms by unspoken mutual consent as they headed toward the elevators.

Marina arched one eyebrow. “Look at you, huh? Engaged to a member of one of Canada’s most preeminent families—oh, and wealthiest and best-looking, too—for a little over a month and suddenly even the Mount Valder is small potatoes,” she teased, and Annelise’s cheeks flushed a deeper shade of rose.

“Well, we have been going to a lot of parties—all kinds of parties. The lifestyle Rémy has—really, that they all have—to maintain is kind of crazy. And the events are all so fancy and exclusive and luxurious… I’m getting”—she paused thoughtfully as they stepped into the elevator—“not jaded, but definitely a little less impressed by everything than I used to be.”

Marina showed surprise. “Really? That’s saying something, Anna, for someone who literally plans fancy events for a living.”

Annelise shrugged a little sheepishly, the movement making her shimmery golden dress sparkle all around her. “It’s crazy, right? But I can see why Rémy avoided a lot of this for so long. I don’t know how Pierre does it. He’s in the spotlight the most of all of them, since he’s the CEO and everything.” Annelise leaned closer and Marina smelled the warm vanilla scent her best friend had always favored. “Honestly, I think all of Rémy’s siblings would prefer to be at home most nights, but there are such expectations… They don’t always have a choice.”

Annelise had hinted before at the fact that everything might not be as picture-perfect and easy as it seemed for Rémy’s fabulously wealthy and powerful family. Case in point, just a few months earlier, the Gaspard siblings had had a crazy ex-friend—also the ex-fiancé of Rémy’s sister—who’d ended up trying, repeatedly, to murder them. He was still awaiting trial.

“That does make sense,” Marina agreed, nodding slowly. She thought of how she and Annelise had been struggling over the past months to make time to get together even once every couple of weeks. Marina totally understood that Anna had been caught up in not only the intensity of a new romance but also in being introduced as a member of ‘the Gaspard family’. Marina wasn’t offended—of course I’m not—but she missed Annelise. Plus, not meeting her best friend for lunch or drinks as often anymore had made her own small studio apartment seem so much emptier.

That was part of what had made Annelise’s invitation to tonight’s party so important—so much so that Marina had gotten a little uncharacteristically nervous. It was a small, exclusive event only for close friends and contacts of the Gaspards and also an unofficial celebration of Rémy’s oldest brother, Pierre’s, expected reentry into society. Marina wasn’t sure what had been going on, and Annelise had been maddeningly vague, but Pierre had been letting everyone else shoulder the lion’s share of the family obligations for months while he mysteriously wasn’t around. Personally, her guess was that he had been hanging out on the family yacht off the coast of St. Tropez with a revolving door of supermodels. Whatever the reason, he was finally deigning to come back at tonight’s event.

At that thought, Marina’s previous anxiety started to ramp up again, but she took a deep breath and straightened her spine. I am smart, fun, beautiful and Annelise’s best friend, she reminded herself. This is for Anna, and if they don’t like me or think I’m good enough, it won’t be because I haven’t given it my damnedest. As though feeling her tension, Annelise squeezed her hand reassuringly as they walked toward the brightly lit ballroom with unmistakable party sounds coming from it, and Marina raised her chin with a confidence that she wasn’t sure she totally felt. It was showtime.

Two hours later, Marina was shocked to find that she was actually having fun. Clothilde, Annelise’s future sister-in-law, was kind, down-to-earth and had a wickedly sharp wit that made her feel like an instant friend, in spite of the fact that she looked like she should be on the cover of a high-fashion magazine. Actually, Marina seemed to recall that Clothilde had been on the cover of several women’s magazines in the past. Luc, who was Rémy’s younger brother, had flown in from Paris just for the event and he was absolutely charming, but in a genuine way. He was handsome, funny and his light flirtation had made her giggle and blush.

Still, so much dancing and socializing had worn her down a little bit, so when Rémy had asked Annelise to dance again for the umpteenth time that evening, leaving Marina alone for a moment, she had seized her chance to sneak away and rest her feet. Not that she was ungrateful—no, it gave her warm fuzzies to think of how attentive Rémy and his family had been to her all evening, obviously determined not to let her feel awkward or nervous for a second—but she was just a little overwhelmed. This was Annelise’s scene, not hers, and her cheeks were starting to hurt from smiling as much as her feet were beginning to ache from spending too long in high heels.

She ducked into the dark hallway behind the ballroom and noticed that the rooms were labeled with the names of prominent Bostonians from the past. They looked like conference rooms, and she nearly sighed with relief. No one was likely to be having a conference at this time of the evening, so she could take a little break in peace to pull herself together again. She opened the first heavy, dark-wood door, which was surprisingly well-oiled and silent. Even with the lights out, she could make out the outlines of several chairs surrounding an enormous table. Definitely a conference room. Perfect.

She pulled the door closed behind her and let out a long sigh, stepping out of her shoes immediately and relishing the feel of the cool hardwood floor underneath her stockinged feet. If she were honest with herself, it wasn’t just the physical strain of the party she’d wanted to escape. It was also the brilliant, effervescent happiness and love that she had felt radiating from Annelise and Rémy. She was overjoyed for her best friend—absolutely, I am—but here in the darkness, alone, she could admit that she was envious, too. The hole that remained in her soul, the slash of pain whenever she remembered the beautiful, wonderful man she’d loved and with whom she’d planned an entire lifetime of happiness, ached and throbbed more than any physical wound ever could. Oh, Jaime.

She could picture his face vividly, although now, after so much time, she hated that he was starting to look more and more like the pictures she had of him and less like the man in her memories. He had been young—so incredibly young. She’d been cheated by a stray bullet, friendly fire during a skirmish, out of knowing what he would look like any older than twenty-one. What would he have looked like if he were as old as the woman she saw in her own reflection these days? Would he even recognize her, dancing in a ballroom with multiple men in tailored suits, sipping champagne and eating foie-gras and caviar canapes from silver platters, offered by tastefully dressed and silent waitstaff? Joking and flirting with Annelise’s future brother-in-law as well as several of the other charming older men who were friends of Rémy’s family?

That was the crux of her tiredness…the reason she’d needed to escape. What the hell was she doing, enjoying herself like this when Jaime was cold and buried in the Virginia ground, still wearing his dress blues? And when she’d sent him away the way she had… But she refused to even start to think about that tonight. She tried not to cry anymore, and most days, she succeeded. But this evening, watching Annelise with her fiancé, wrapped up in his love at every moment, had made Marina feel fragile all over again. As if Jaime’s loss were closer tonight, somehow.

She felt for and made contact with the closest chair, planning to sink down onto it.

“Unless you want to find yourself on my lap—which I’m not opposed to, mind you—you’d better choose another seat, chérie.”

Marina yelped and leapt away, her heart pounding up into her throat. The man’s voice had been deep, raspy and amused, and she might have found it sexy under other circumstances. However, alone in a dark conference room behind doors that had looked extremely thick was not the right circumstance for anything but terror.

“Why didn’t you say anything when I came in?” she finally managed to ask, wincing at the accusation in her tone. She heard a rustle and could almost feel his shrug.

“I hoped that you would leave quickly, and I didn’t want to startle you,” he answered simply.

His answer made sense, but Marina was irrationally annoyed. “What are you doing in here, anyway? Who would leave a party to come sit in the dark?”

His chuckle was dry, and goosebumps raised on her arms. “Who indeed?”

She pursed her lips. “Touché,” she acknowledged.

“I’ll reveal some of my demons if you show me yours.” His tone was mocking as he echoed the childish dare. She couldn’t help the way her pulse quickened, as though he were offering to show her something illicit.

“No thank you.” She winced at how prim her tone was, but the stranger’s amused chuckle rolled through the small room.

“I didn’t think you would, but I hoped…” He trailed off meaningfully.

“I’m going to sit down in, uh, another chair,” she announced, trying to change the subject. “My feet are killing me from so much dancing.”

“Be my guest, chérie. Seat yourself anywhere you desire.” Again, his rough voice made his words sound like innuendo. She sank down onto the chair one over from his. “I can imagine your lovely feet must throb from those beautiful yet completely impractical shoes you wore earlier. I could rub them, if you’d like?”

What? Of course not!” Marina gasped, actually shocked at his audacity. “You can’t just…offer to massage a complete stranger!”

“Good point,” he answered in a reasonable tone. “Tell me a few things about yourself so I can offer again.”

She laughed in spite of herself.

His chair creaked as he leaned forward. She could make out his silhouette now that her eyes had adjusted, and from his frame, he looked to be very tall and muscular. A dark, spicy scent teased her nose, masculine and exotic.

“Here’s an easy question. Why did you leave the party? The Gaspards always throw the best… It’s expected.”

It might have been the shroud of darkness that caused her to pay such close attention to his voice, or maybe she was just attuned to him, but there was a curious tension in his tone.

“Apart from my feet starting to ache? I…had to get away from all the happiness for a bit. My best friend is engaged to one of the Gaspards—Rémy—and they’re blissfully in love.” As soon as the words left her mouth, Marina couldn’t believe she’d actually said them out loud—and to a near-stranger no less.

The man made a sound of understanding. “Ah, of course. And you love him, too?” There was a resigned sadness in his voice.

“What? No!” Marina denied instantly. “I mean, he’s great, and wonderful for Annelise, wonderful to her, but…no. I just—” She trailed off, not wanting to tell him about Jaime, not wanting to sound like the totally bitchy, selfish friend she knew she was being.

“You don’t like the Gaspards, then? It is common. They are notorious as well as famous.”

Marina noticed the stranger’s accent more on those words. He was obviously one of the French-Canadian guests, which wasn’t surprising, since they made up the majority of the party.

“I like the Gaspards. Or, at least, I think Rémy is awesome, and even though I just met his brother and sister, Luc and Clothilde, tonight, they seem great too. I’m not sure about the older brother, Pierre. I hear he can be a cold bastard.” She gasped again as she realized she’d been bashing one of the Gaspards to someone who was probably friends with all of them. “I mean, that’s the rumor, but…like I said, I’ve never met him, so I don’t really know,” she finished lamely.

Luckily, her companion didn’t seem offended. “The rumors are correct. Pierre Gaspard can be utterly ruthless when it comes to his siblings and their associates.”

Marina was so relieved that she didn’t pick up on a subtle warning in his tone.

“What matters is that your friend is happy, though, is it not? She must love the lifestyle her fiancé can provide for her.”

“Yes, she does. It’s like a fairy tale, isn’t it? And Annelise is the princess. She always loved pretending we were in a fairy tale when we were kids. I mean, nothing is perfect.” Marina thought of how Annelise had admitted that the lifestyle of being a Gaspard was filled with obligations. “But I’m sure they won’t be so busy handling so many public appearances and duties once Pierre gets back from wherever he’s been. Annelise and Rémy just want a little more time to enjoy each other.” She broke off suddenly, embarrassed again at how much she’d revealed. God, Annelise was going to kill her. She’d been babbling away into the darkness, and she knew part of it was nervousness, but also…the stranger just felt so easy to talk to.

“Ah, yes, the roaming Pierre. Tell me… What do Annelise and Rémy have to say about his whereabouts?” The question was probing. Marina ignored her growing sense of unease, which was buried by her curiosity. Maybe this stranger, who must be close to the Gaspard family, could finally give her more information about where the hell the oldest Gaspard brother had been.

“That’s the weird part. They don’t really have anything to say, but…I think they’re covering for something.”

“Oh yes?” her companion prompted gently.

Marina nodded, even though she knew her mysterious fellow guest would barely be able to see the gesture. “I suppose it could be something like he’s been sick—or maybe he’s an alcoholic or drug addict in rehab,” she speculated, really warming to the topic. “But my best guess is that he’s been living it up on one of their yachts, hooking up with supermodels and too busy partying to take care of his responsibilities.”

There was a long silence that stretched uncomfortably in the darkened room.

“Ms. Lopez,” he began, and Marina felt herself go cold at his use of her name, “I realize that you are new to this world and this level of society, and I am willing to make concessions to your ignorance. However, even you should be aware that as someone closely connected to my future sister-in-law, what you say might very well reflect back on my family.”

Marina felt like she was back in her family’s cozy little home, eight years old again, and being lectured by her nana, who’d just told her that she was disappointed and had expected better of her young granddaughter. She shifted uncomfortably in her seat.

“You should know better,” the stranger continued, “than to speculate on where I have been and what I have been doing. If you can’t control your tongue and prevent it from gossiping, I will be forced to take countermeasures. Do you think you can manage never to gossip about my family again, especially to a stranger who very well could have been a reporter who’d be only too happy to print your comments as truth?”

Marina felt sick as the realization of who the stranger was dawned on her. The flighty, rich playboy she’d been talking about didn’t seem to be very flighty at all, and he was sitting right next to her.

“I apologize for my comments,” she said, feeling the heat of a blush creep up into her cheeks and continuing all the way out to her chest and even her arms. “I don’t normally speculate so much or say things like that to strangers, but… There’s no excuse. I didn’t think of the implications. I will be more careful in the future.”

Pierre rose, even taller and more imposing than she’d realized.

“I hope that you will.” His voice grew colder as he leaned over her chair. “I will do anything…anything at all…to protect my family’s reputation.” Marina thought he was finished, but he continued, surprising her. “Not because it is so precious to me, personally, but because it affects the welfare of thousands of employees who depend on us—on me—and who could be harmed by negative rumors.”

“I understand,” Marina answered, and she realized that she did. While she had focused on how much fun it must be to have so much wealth and power, their company and influence must also be a burden to manage.

“Good.” The word was clipped, and he sounded…disappointed? “Now, will you allow me to escort you to your vehicle?”

Dios, Marina thought. I’m being kicked out politely but firmly. If I don’t leave, is he going to call a bouncer? Does a social club even have bouncers, or does he bring his own? She stiffened her spine and rose with as much pride as she could muster while barefoot in a dark room.

“No, thank you. I can find my own way, Monsieur Gaspard.” She slipped her shoes back on at the door and made an intensely dignified exit.

As the door closed behind her, she thought she heard him whisper, “Too bad.”

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About the Author

Aurora Russell

Aurora is originally from the frozen tundra of the upper-Midwest (ok, not frozen all the time!) but now loves living in New England with her real-life hero/husband, two wonderfully silly sons, and one of the most extraordinary cats she has ever had the pleasure to meet. But she still goes back to the Midwest to visit, just never in January.

She doesn’t remember a time that she didn’t love to read, and has been writing stories since she learned how to hold a pencil. She has always liked the romantic scenes best in every book, story, and movie, so one day she decided to try her hand at writing her own romantic fiction, which changed her life in all the best ways.

You can find out more about Aurora at her website here.

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