Book Blitz & Excerpt: Demon’s Game + Giveaway

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Demon’s Game by Xenia Melzer

General Release Date: 25th January 2022

Word Count: 58,464
Book Length: NOVEL
Pages: 277

Genres:

ANGELS AND DEMONS
COMEDY AND HUMOUR
CONTEMPORARY
EROTIC ROMANCE
GAY
GLBTQI
PARANORMAL

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Book Description

 

For a demon, finding a mate is a difficult, anxiety-inducing process. Or he might just accidentally bite his gaming buddy during a bout of experimental sex and bam—mate found!

During a book club meeting where The Witcher is discussed in its entirety, meaning books, series and games, Barion again meets Jon, the zombie, who lives in Sammy’s basement, and the two bond over their mutual love of the game.

They begin gaming together, doing videos for Jon’s YouTube channel where he tests games that are to be released to the public. During one of the videos, they are asked what their ideal game would look like, and the idea for Demon Wars is born. Working together on the game brings Barion and Jon closer together and their friendship deepens every day, which worries Jon’s Grann, a zombie like himself and the witch queen of New Orleans. She wants Jon to come back home, while Jon realizes he loves spending time with Barion.

After some friendly—and oh so subtle—prodding from friends and family, Barion and Jon decide to explore the potential of their relationship. They have sex, and Barion bites Jon in the heat of the moment, marking him as his mate. They’re both over the moon, even though they now have to visit Grann in New Orleans because the family and the ancestors want to check Barion out.

They quickly realize that something is wrong there, and it turns out Grann has been challenged by a voodoo priest who practices the blackest of magic. Barion will do his best to save the day, Grann—and his relationship.

Publisher’s Note: This book is best read as book two in the Demon Mates series.

Excerpt

“I still think it would be better if you came home, ma cheré. I don’t like you being so far away.” Grann sounded worried through the phone, and Jon felt bad about that—not bad enough to return home to New Orleans, but bad enough to try to placate her.

“I’m happy here, Grann, I swear. Sammy is a fantastic landlord and friend, and I have my book club.”

“I know. I’ve seen it.” There was a pregnant pause that Jon knew better than to disturb. “The pictures I’m getting now are all blurred, though, and the zanset yo are restless. They don’t know what to make of the situation.”

Jon suppressed a sigh. It was the same problem as always—or the same two problems. The first one he could address easily enough, even if his words didn’t have a lot of impact on either Grann or the ancestors. Come to think of it, that was the case with everything he did since he’d moved from New Orleans to Beaconville some five years before. And he was getting distracted.

“I already told you that Dre is super nice and also Sammy’s mate. He would never harm me.”

Wi, wi, I know. I can see the threads of his love for his mate and everybody and everything his mate holds dear. It’s the only thing I can see clearly.”

“I told you… I asked Dre and he’s not doing it on purpose.”

“He doesn’t have to.” Grann’s voice had taken on a dark quality, a tone she usually reserved for everything occult she thought Jon wasn’t ready for or strong enough to hear. “He’s chaos personified. It’s his natural state. I wonder how your witch friends cope with it.”

Jon thought of Maribel and Mavis, the two witches in their book club. “I think Mavis once mentioned it to Dre shortly after he and Sammy had become mates. He said to give the magic some time, and they haven’t complained since.”

“I see.” Grann was mulling this over, shortly side-tracked by the magical possibilities Jon would never understand. Like a heat-seeking missile, though, she returned her attention to the matter at hand. “You really don’t want to come back home? Just yesterday I saw the obituary for a Silvery Sugar Fox. I could wake him for you, and I would, to make you happy.”

Jon rolled his eyes. He knew Grann meant well—the whole family, alive and dead, did—but Jon had finally drawn the line when Grann and the others had started mentioning obituaries like they were the last rave in dating sites. Funnily enough, they hadn’t batted an eye when he’d told them he was gay, after having lived with them for more than ten years, long enough for them to become his new family, one he dearly loved, even if they annoyed the ever-loving hell out of him sometimes. Coming out to them back in 1932 had been terrifying, but he hadn’t been able to keep lying to them and himself any longer.

It had taken them fifteen more years to decide he should start looking for a husband, and they had managed to be relatively subtle about it—casually mentioning deaths of eligible men over breakfast and, in the case of the ancestors, sending him dreams of newly deceased men—until the Internet had taken on steam in the nineties. Subtlety had died like a roach under the heel of a vicious housewife then.

First, they had tried to set him up with the living, presumably to get him into the swing of things, whatever that was supposed to mean. Jon just couldn’t do it. He had gotten used to not being alive, had arranged himself with the prospect of seeing eternity if he so desired. He was also comfortable with his enhanced abilities that didn’t make him cool and smooth like a were-creature or a vampire but were enough to distinguish him from humans, thus making it impossible for him to go out with one of them.

What he couldn’t stand—not to this day—was feeling the warmth of another being while he himself was always cold. It was a brutal reminder how he shouldn’t be there anymore, even though Grann had assured him that Papa Legba always had a plan for whatever he did. If said plan included having Jon living celibate, it had worked. His sex drive had apparently not woken with him. He still could appreciate masculine beauty, and he even knew what he would want in a man, if he would want a man. It was a strange state of being, caught between wanting intimacy and not being able to pursue it, made even worse by his family’s meddling. For some time, he had thought he might be asexual, but while he was still alive, his sex drive had been a prominent part of his life and he didn’t think his sexual orientation had changed with death.

After he had finally gotten it into his family’s thick skulls that a living man wasn’t what he was looking for, not even for the sake of sowing his wild oats, they had swung back to their initial MO and the thing with the obituaries had taken on new momentum.

Jon had dealt with it as best as he could, aka ignoring his family by keeping himself busy with staying on top of every new computer development and diving deep into the world of video games, making himself a part of their evolvement from Pong to Space Invaders to Pac-Man. From there it went on with SimCity, Final Fantasy and Castlevania in the second half of the eighties. By the time real-time strategy games like Dune II or Warcraft: Orcs and Humans started their triumphal march in the nineties, Jon was already a veteran in the scene and a sought-after game tester and advisor for all the huge companies. Strictly speaking, he was several veterans, because being a zombie meant he would be around long enough for people to notice, so he took some precautions until he realized that nobody in the gaming business gave a damn about suspicious longevity, because people simply assumed the person behind the alias, in his case PLM—Papa Legba’s Miracle—changed while the alias stayed on. He’d been PLM ever since, abandoning his other virtual personalities. He was proud to say his name was linked to quite a few legends in the world of gaming, and his fame was paying off nicely. It also helped him to bury the confusing feelings he was having regarding his life under an avalanche of pretend worlds where reality was simply a nuisance.

But no matter how deeply he immersed himself in the world of virtual reality, no matter how much money he gave Grann and the family to prove to them what a successful and fulfilled undead life he was leading, they wouldn’t stop poking their noses into his business, namely his nonexistent love life.

One day, Jon had had enough. He’d hung a map of the US on a wall, taken a dart and thrown it. He’d never heard of Beaconville before, but that had been where he’d be living from then on. After much complaining and endless discussions about how the Midwest was too far away from New Orleans and that the snow would kill him, not to mention what he did to his poor family, leaving them behind, Grann finally caved and gave her blessing. Because she was the undisputed matriarch, nobody dared contradict her, and some of his younger cousins even helped him move his stuff to the only hotel in the small town, ‘M&M’s B&B’. Meeting Mavis and Maribel had been a stroke of luck, the witches immediately knowing what he was. They’d introduced him to Sammy, who was open and friendly without being nosy and who happened to have an empty basement he didn’t know what to do with. It was perfect, and until the incident where he’d forgotten to eat some brain and his body had reminded him loudly how important that was everything had been fine. Luckily for him, Sammy didn’t spook easily and had managed to distract him with some leftover apple pie while he’d made a dash for the butcher to buy Jon a whole pig brain.

After that, he’d gotten another call from Grann, telling him in no uncertain terms that if he didn’t take better care of himself, she would personally drag him back to New Orleans and Mavis and Maribel had explained to him that he needed to get out at least once a month for his ‘mental hygiene’, as they called it. Jon was well versed in understanding subtext, the message being he would be playing with way less than a full deck of cards if he didn’t start forming some bonds outside his virtual realities.

Sammy had just started his book club, which seemed as good a reason as any to come up for air from his beloved basement. By now, Jon wouldn’t miss the regular meetings with his friends and he even left the basement once a week to chat with Sammy or Milo in the bookstore. When Dre was there, they would read mangas together on one of the couches Sammy had renovated, while they drank hot chocolate or Frappuccino’s.

Jon thought he was making great progress regarding his social life, while Grann thought it was time for him to come back home, which was the other bone they regularly discussed heatedly.

“It’s Silver Fox or Sugar Daddy, Grann. And I want to get to know the man I’m hooking up with, which is difficult when he’s already dead.”

“Now you’re just being stubborn.” Grann chuckled. “Fine… I’ll leave you to your games. Perhaps I’ll wake him for myself. His picture does look good, and I could do with some action, pa kwe?”

“Grann! I don’t need to hear that!”

“It’s only natural, cherie. And just because you refuse to live—”

“I’ve heard enough. Do what you must, but leave me out of it. And don’t tell me about it.”

Now Grann was laughing out loud. “I love you, cherie. Take good care of yourself.”

“I love you, too, Grann—and I will.”

She hung up on him, leaving Jon wondering what she was cooking up in her brain to let him off the hook so quickly. Usually her rantings about him coming home lasted a lot longer. He shrugged, knowing he would find out sooner than he would like and determined to enjoy the time until the boot dropped on his head. He had a book club meeting about The Witcher to attend.

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About the Author

Xenia Melzer

Xenia Melzer was born and raised in a small village in the South of Bavaria. As one of nature’s true chocoholics, she’s always in search of the perfect chocolate experience. So far, she’s had about a dozen truly remarkable ones. Despite having been in close proximity to the mountains all her life, she has never understood why so many people think snow sports are fun. There are neither chocolate nor horses involved and it’s cold by definition, so where’s the sense? She does not like beer either and has never been to the Oktoberfest – no quality chocolate there.

Even though her mind is preoccupied with various stories most of the time, Xenia has managed to get through school and university with surprisingly good grades. Right after school she met her one true love who showed her that reality is capable of producing some truly amazing love stories itself.

While she was having her two children, she started writing down the most persistent stories in her head as a way of relieving mommy-related stress symptoms. As it turned out, the stress-relief has now become a source of the same, albeit a positive one.

When she’s not writing, she translates the stories of other authors into German, enjoys riding and running, spending time with her kids, and dancing with her husband. If you want to contact her, please visit either her website, or write her an email.

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Book Blitz & Excerpt: Sarah’s Secret + Giveaway

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Sarah’s Secret, by Katherine E. Hunt

Book 3 in the Mended Hearts series

Word Count: 12,166
Book Length: SHORT STORY
Pages: 55

Genres:

BONDAGE AND BDSM
COMEDY AND HUMOUR
CONTEMPORARY
EROTIC ROMANCE
MÉNAGE AND MULTIPLE PARTNERS

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Book Description

Sarah has a secret. She’s on the run from some very nasty men. Can she find love—and herself—before her past catches up with her?

Sarah has recently bought a home in Winchester Drive. As is customary for the widows on the street, she has been invited to join The Winchester Widows Sex Club. Beautiful and seductive, she is a popular new addition.

But Sarah has a secret. Her name’s actually Beth, she’s in hiding—with some not-very-nice people on her tail—and she’s not even a widow.

Her estranged husband Marco is an undercover FBI agent, and when he turns up on her doorstep, that can only mean one thing…danger.

Beth is tired of running. She longs to make friends and find love again, which she does when she makes Paul’s acquaintance and finds herself smitten with him. Bonding over romantic TV shows and jigsaw puzzles, they fall deeply for each other.

But the hitman is still out there, and Paul, a law student of a nervous disposition, is not exactly ready for a life on the run.

Beth has to work out what she really wants from the men in her life, move on from her past and allow herself to finally be true to who she is.

Reader advisory: This book contains scenes of violence. It is best read in order as part of the Mended Hearts series.

Excerpt

At the scent of his skin, I released the hilt of the knife that was under my pillow.

He’d snuck into my bedroom first thing in the morning, stripped off and gotten under the sheets with me. The man had a death wish.

Marco was a passionate man. Our marriage—short though it had been—had been a never-ending festival of love. When he hadn’t been in bed with me, he’d been by my side, never far away. In retrospect, he’d feared the worst. My background and his were such that eventually, something was going to have to give.

Thus I knew his scent, intimately. It triggered a sensation of tranquility, something I didn’t experience very often while alone in my bed. Just for a second, we were home again, before it had all happened—the calm before the storm.

“Beth.”

“Marco.”

His breath hitched as he snuggled in closer to me. “I don’t have much time.”

Can’t we pretend, just for five minutes, that we are simply husband and wife? A little hot and heavy lovemaking before popping to the shops then spending the afternoon in front of the TV or gardening—or anything that doesn’t involve murderous gangs and guns? That everything was as it had been before I’d come here. “It’s seven a.m. No bad guys are going to drag us screaming from my home during the peak morning rush hour, with school buses and people leaving for work.”

“I have twenty minutes tops.”

Pushing my butt up against his rock-hard dick, I shimmied a little. “Twenty minutes should be enough.” The tiny moan that emanated from his lips was all I needed to know that he agreed.

Despite his brutish appearance, Marco was a sensual lover—Italian. There was nothing like that fiery Latin blood to get me hot, even at this time in the morning.

“Your body haunts my dreams. The thought of holding you once again is the only thing that keeps me going in this stupid life.” He explored every inch of my skin with his warm hands, entering and caressing me with his fingers. It took little action on his part to get me wet for him. Just his presence in my bed was enough to make me need him inside me.

He brushed the back of my neck with his lips, his rough, unshaven skin sending a frisson down my spine.

Parting my legs, he entered me, filling me entirely and reminding me of why I’d married this man. I arched against his body with my head tilted back onto his shoulder. He moved his hand to my chest, holding me tenderly as he fucked me from behind—every stroke, every movement more exciting than the last.

“Il mio amore.” The accent was more Long Island than Lake Garda, but he knew what those words did to me.

“More,” I whispered.

He circled my hardened clit with his fingers, clasping my body to his as the rhythm of his thrusts increased. “Mia cara, ti desidero,” he growled.

I gasped as the orgasm rocked me, and Marco still held me to him. Can he feel every beat of my heart, every flicker of my body?

His thrusts were ferocious, animalistic, and he pounded into me as he came, obviously releasing a need that he’d had for so long.

While I had moved on from our marriage, Marco had never let go of the idea that one day we would be together again. He respected the vows that I had long since chosen to ignore. There was only one woman in his life, and he intended to keep it that way.

But I had had enough.

“I’m not going with you.”

“What?” He pulled out of me then rolled onto his back.

“I have a life here, just like everywhere else. You take me somewhere, leave me to pick up the pieces, make new friends, then just when I get comfortable, you swoop back in and make me leave again.”

“They will kill you.”

“They were your problem, not mine.”

He rolled me around to face him. “Beth, we both know that they will find you. I can’t let that happen.”

Marco. Sweet Marco. A teddy bear wrapped in the body of a heavyweight boxer—big, tough and strong, filled with cotton candy.

“I can handle myself. You know that. In fact, I was doing pretty well before you came along. Why are you here? What have you heard?”

“Enough to know that you’re in danger.” He scratched his ear. The man had a tell. He could convince the entire criminal underworld that he was part of their gang, but I knew when he was lying at twenty paces.

“You’re working for them again.” He fidgeted, looking away. “Fucking hell, Marco, why? After everything that happened.”

“They sent someone here to kill you, Beth. I don’t know who. Someone here is not who they seem.”

I’d met an awful lot of people recently. None of them had struck me as the contract-killer type. Then again, when I’d met Marco, he’d turned out to not be everything he’d purported to be, either. I would have noticed a cold-hearted killer, though. Won’t I?

“This is just another ploy.” I got up from the bed and turned away from him. I didn’t need to look to know that he was checking out my body, probably memorizing every dimple and curve. “We made a choice, Marco. You said you would honor my decision to stop running. You were the one who wanted to give us up. You were the one who left.”

“Beth, I can’t live without you. I thought I could move on, but it’s impossible.”

“Then stay.”

“You know that I can’t do that. It kills me, but I have to bring these guys down.”

“You can’t live without me, but you can’t stay. If it’s so difficult for you to make up your mind, Marco, then you know where the door is.” I left the room. My heart broke a little bit more every time he did this. I’d conceded too many times, agreed to let go of another life and another name—sometimes even a chance at love.

This time it was different. This time I was finally settling in somewhere, making friends. I wasn’t giving up any of this because of another of Marco’s stupid whims.

Fight for me, Marco. Show me I mean more to you than the life you lead, the job you have to do. I went into the bathroom, shut the door and clicked the lock—then I waited for him. Kick the door down. Show me how much you love me. Tell me you’re staying.

I held my hand up to the door, lowered my forehead onto the cold white wood and waited for signs of life. It juddered as he slumped against the other side. Sinking to the floor, I sat in silence…waiting.

I unclicked the lock. There, now it’s even easier for you to come charging in on your white horse. Nothing.

He wasn’t even going to say goodbye. We’d said it a million times before, but this time was definitive. After a while, I could no longer hear him on the other side.

His heart would always beat for me, but for now, it would beat elsewhere.

I lifted my hand instinctively to my mouth as I started to cry, as if to silence myself. I traced my lips. Not even a kiss. My husband had come to me for the very last time, and he hadn’t even kissed me goodbye.

I lifted a loose tile and removed a large box. Marco might be gone, but I had another fight to contend with. The battle was over, but the war was not won, not by a long shot.

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About the Author

Katherine E Hunt

Katherine E Hunt ran off with a Frenchman twenty years ago. She now lives on a French mountain with three children and two dogs. When she isn’t writing contemporary romance she can be found huddled up in front of a roaring fire, with a glass of Chardonnay in one hand and a book in the other.

You can find out more about Katherine on her website.

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Book Blitz & Excerpt: The Art of Getting Off + Giveaway

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The Art of Getting Off, by Alexandra Alan

Word Count: 15,425
Book Length: NOVELLA
Pages: 62

GENRES:

COMEDY AND HUMOUR
CONTEMPORARY
EROTIC ROMANCE

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Book Description

 

A blizzard, a crush and a gallon of innuendo heat up a cabin…

Sign up for skiing lessons, they said. It’ll be fun, they said. Ha!

It’s taken one month for Kalie Bowen to realize she hates bruising both her ass and her ego on top of a frigid mountain. It’s taken her less than a month to develop a colossal crush on her skiing instructor, Dex McCann.

He’s not only handsome, but also patient and supportive, whether she’s face-planting into the snow in front of him or having to be talked off a ski lift. He’s even rearranged his schedule so he can accommodate her request for a lesson on Christmas. Katie can’t help but wonder what he looks like without his goggles…and his clothes.

When a blizzard rolls across the mountains and forces Kalie and Dex to seek shelter in his cabin, the sparks between them fly faster than the ones in his wood stove. Kalie finds that Dex is very happy to teach her the art of getting off—even when there’s no ski lift involved.

Excerpt

“You can do this.”

“N-no.”

“Come on, Kalie.”

“I can’t.”

“You have to.”

“There’s no way. No way.”

“Just relax. Take a deep breath. Let go.”

“But—”

“I’m right here. I’ll catch you.”

Kalie Bowen tightened her grip on the brightly painted pole on the side of the padded chair. Even through her thick mittens, she could feel the coldness of the metal.

This was how she was going to die. And it would be horrible and embarrassing, because even though she’d never heard about anyone dying after getting stuck on a ski lift when they were dangling in the air barely higher than the outstretched fingertips of their super-attractive ski instructor, this was how it was going to happen anyway.

There was a good view, at least. Snow-capped peaks jutted into a crystal-blue sky, bushy pine trees sagged under the weight of fresh powder, and skiers carved perfect ‘S’ curves into the slope.

Oh, and on top of everything else, today was Christmas.

She was going to die on Christmas Day, falling eight feet from the ski lift meant to take children up the bunny slope.

When she’d signed up for private ski lessons a month ago, she’d filled out the questionnaire with her address and insurance information and signed on the line that said she wouldn’t sue the crap out of the resort if she broke anything. She’d skipped over the section for listing any pertinent information her instructor should know. In hindsight, it would have been a good idea to write ‘not super okay with heights,’ but of course, when she’d been filling out the paperwork, it hadn’t seemed important.

The first few times she’d gotten off the lift had been shaky, but acceptable.

“There’s an art to it,” her instructor, Dex, had said. It was all about relaxing. Easy for him to say.

A gust of wind, which on the ground would have been refreshing, rocked the chair. Kalie’s stomach settled into her ski boots, and her mittened grip tightened on the chair’s pole.

“You can do this,” Dex said again.

Kalie whimpered.

It would be much better if Dex weren’t super attractive. Sure. That could make a difference. His body was achingly tall and breathtakingly wide. Golden-blond hair tumbled effortlessly out from underneath his helmet and brushed against his lips, and he looked as if he’d been transplanted from a surfboard onto a snow-covered mountain. His mirrored goggles perched on a strong, wide nose that always seemed a few sunny hours away from getting burned. Then there was his voice.

Dear God, his voice.

Whatever he said in that deep, rumbling baritone made her tingle all over, whether it was ‘Try it again, but slower this time,’ or ‘Stick out your butt a little more,’ or ‘Snow.’

Yeah, so she had an enormous crush on her ski instructor.

It was stupid, honestly, because she’d only known him a month and only been to six lessons, and—the stupidest part of it all—she still hadn’t even seen his eyes. How was it possible to have a crush on someone without knowing that pivotal detail? She managed to, in any case.

And because she had said enormous crush on said super-attractive ski instructor, her mind drifted right as she was supposed to stand up and get off the ski lift, so instead of thinking about getting off the ski lift, she was thinking about getting off with him.

A small crowd formed around the lift tower, murmuring and pointing at her. She’d already been on the receiving end of enough double-takes for being the only adult on the kids’ slope. A bit of irritation joined the panic.

And she wasn’t even high enough to warrant a ladder.

As soon as he noticed she hadn’t disembarked, Dex had shouted something to the attendant and the lift had jerked to a sudden, gut-wrenching halt. He’d talked Kalie through undoing the bindings on her skis, and once those had fallen to the snow, he’d speared them onto the slope a safe distance away, then gone about trying to convince her to fall.

Large, gloved fingers closed around the toe of her boot.

“Just let go,” Dex said now.

The ground lurched below her, and Kalie let out another whimper.

“What’s stopping you?”

So much.

If she fell, she might break a leg. She might land on the compacted snow with enough force to snap her femur or crack a tibia or rip her ACL in half, then she would be stuck on a couch with crutches and powerful medication. Trapped inside, only able to stare regretfully out of the window.

“It’s far,” was what she finally managed to say.

Dex twisted his mouth in a suppressed smile. A dimple creased one cheek. Kalie focused on the dimple, because it seemed to lurch less than the ground.

It wasn’t just the fall that scared her. Falling in front of this man scared her, because she couldn’t bear to look like an idiot in front of him.

Of all excuses, it wasn’t the most logical. He undoubtedly already thought she was an idiot ever since the second lesson when she’d been unbalanced and nearly out-of-control and he’d shouted, “Pizza! Pizza!” and Kalie had shouted back, “Maybe later!” unaware he’d actually been telling her to angle her skis into a wedge so she could slow herself down.

Dex wiggled her boot gently. “You work on engines, right? That must be a lot harder than this.”

Fuck, and he even remembered what she’d told him about her job, although he’d left out a key detail—Kalie designed engines from behind the organized safety of a computer. There were too many moving parts inside an engine, and too many opportunities for pinched fingers, ripped-off arms, and grease stains that soaked into her skin like tattoos. Maybe she could blame her childhood for this, because when someone’s bitch of a grandmother told them that their dirty hands were the real reason behind their lack of friends, those words tended to set up residence in their brain and never want to leave.

Yet Dex remembered her job, and it gave her pause.

After her third lesson, he hadn’t had anyone scheduled after her, so they’d sat together on a sun-blasted picnic table right outside the lodge and sipped watery hot chocolate. It had been light conversation—jobs, pets, favorite vacations. She’d found out that, at twenty-eight, he was two years her junior. When he didn’t teach ski lessons, he was a trail-running guide, or a mountain-biking instructor, or he volunteered for the local trail-building crews. Kalie had asked him if he ever left the mountains, and he’d answered, “Only when dragged away. Or when I need groceries.”

He just needed a wild beard—which, judging from the stubble she’d seen a few weeks ago, would be a reddish gold—and he’d fit every mountain man stereotype. Kalie would bet he owned an ax. And looked great in plaid.

The ski chair swayed on the cable when a stronger breeze gave it a nudge, and Kalie let out a squeak as her arms cinched tighter around the pole.

“Okay,” Dex said beneath her. “Tell you what. If you jump down, I’ll buy you a drink after the lesson.” When Kalie frowned at him, he continued, “An alcoholic drink. Not that crappy hot cocoa. Come on.” Arms outstretched, he gestured toward himself with his gloved fingers.

“Are you trying to bribe me?”

“Yes.”

She hated to admit it, but it was working. She’d been wanting to ask him out for a drink since that third lesson, but nerves had always gotten the better of her. It had been a while since her last relationship, and the very concept of boldness made her shake nearly as much as being stuck in a swaying lift chair.

He’d just given her an opening.

She inched forward on the vinyl seat and moved her hands to the thinner metal that formed the armrest.

Do it. Just fucking DO IT.

Kalie took a deep breath to prepare herself for dropping, but when she did, her body shifted just enough that the smooth fabric of her snow pants slipped off the snowmelt-slicked vinyl. She fell with a shrill yelp. Something twinged in her shoulder and she barely managed to keep a tight hold on the armrest. Strong arms wrapped around her thighs to support her, stilling her thrashing legs.

“Let go, Kalie.” He sounded muffled, and when she looked down, she realized why—his goggle-clad face was buried in her crotch.

Surprise short-circuited her thoughts and for a split second, she forgot she was high off the ground and released the chair. Dex took that moment to stumble backward out of reach of the swinging metal seat and loosened his grip so the front of her body slid down the front of his body. With her long underwear, her fleece, and both of their bulky ski jackets, it was a lot less erotic than it should have been. Her boots thudded on the packed snow.

A few people cheered. Someone whistled. Another person clapped, the sound muted by a pair of fuzzy gloves.

Before she could get too used to the feel of his—unfortunately—professional embrace, Dex gripped her shoulders and held her steady at arm’s length.

Her own reflection shone back at her from the iridescent lenses of his goggles—chapped lips, long nose and a few black curls escaping from her hat. The day wasn’t quite breezy enough to blame the wind for her flushed cheeks.

“You okay?” he said.

Kalie nodded, trying not to get distracted by the woodsy smell of him or how right it had felt to have his face in her—

“Put your skis back on.”

“What?”

She was sure he was giving her an unamused look underneath those shining goggles.

“If you fall off a horse, you get back on,” Dex said. “If you get stuck on a chair lift, you ski down the slope then get back on the lift so you can practice getting off of it.”

“Um,” Kalie said, “I’m not sure that’s the best—”

He interrupted her with a wry twist of his lips. One of his eyebrows was probably raised. “Yeah? How long have you been teaching people how to ski?”

As they made their way down the children’s slope, Kalie decided the only bad thing about wearing mittens was that when she flipped someone off, no one could tell.

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About the Author

Alexandra Alan

Alexandra lives in Colorado with her partner and two very strange cats. Her nerdiest experience was when she had a heated discussion about Star Wars during a game of Dungeons & Dragons. Though she’s always on the lookout for more hobbies, some of her favorites are drawing, knitting, archery, rock climbing, brewing mead, and scrimshaw. The most badass she has ever felt was when she took jousting lessons for a year. She has never met a bad pun she hasn’t adored, and loves to read books that make her heart race.

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