Book Blitz & Excerpt: Lost in L.A. + Giveaway

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Lost in L.A.

by Amy Craig

Heat Rating: Simmering
Sexometer: 2
Word Count: 91,876
Book Length: SUPER NOVEL
Pages: 353
Genres: CONTEMPORARY, CHICK LIT, EROTIC ROMANCE

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She agreed to a fake relationship to shield her feelings, but their rules don’t address his secrets or the magnitude of what they can build together.

Wylie’s beachside yoga classes feel like the California dream, but when an eviction notice sends her scrambling for a new place to live, she realizes that life on the streets isn’t for the faint of heart.

She strikes a promotion deal with a food truck vendor named Nolan, but an impromptu kiss proves she wants more than a side of fries from the man. He asks her out, but she demurs, knowing she can’t handle a relationship right now. When her SUV gets towed, Nolan helps her recover the vehicle and proves his heart of gold by renting her a room in the plush compound he calls home.

Faced with a bevy of overachieving new roommates, Wylie tries her best to impress the neighborhood elites. When an elderly couple stops by unannounced, she takes her act a step too far and pretends she’s Nolan’s girlfriend. When he asks her to play along to help him close the deal on a commercial kitchen, she agrees to mask her feelings, but their rules don’t address his secrets or the magnitude of what they can build together.

Reader advisory: This book deals with homelessness. There is a scene of attempted mugging, a gunshot injury, references to suicide, an implied abusive relationship and a brief scene of sexual harassment.

Excerpt

Wylie stood in the shadowed hallway of the two-bedroom apartment, her fist clenched as she brainstormed ways to fight an eviction notice.

Dottie, her roommate, was texting her from the security of the bathroom.

Couldn’t she face me? After four months of cohabitation, Wylie knew very little about the woman. She mostly found it funny when the overpaid nanny confiscated candy from her sugar-restricted charges, retreated to the bathroom and savored the contraband where no one could see her. Today, Wylie struggled to find humor in the situation. Breathing through her frustration, she released her fist and sank to the floor. “The wrappers in the trashcan give you away,” she whispered. “We both know what you’re doing in there.”

She looked down the hallway and focused on the living room couch where Dottie’s orange-and-white cat luxuriated on the corduroy fabric, as smug as its owner. White mini-blinds cast stripes of sunlight on the room’s beige carpet, valance drapes and dusty brass fixtures. As a native of Santa Monica, Wylie understood that the furnished apartment on Montana Avenue and Fifth Street relied on its location to attract tenants. The nineteen-hundred dollars a month sublease let her walk to the beach where she taught yoga, but the cat paid nothing for his sunlit pleasure. Maybe I’ll take you with me. I could hold you for ransom until Dottie adds me to the lease.

The cat yawned.

You’re right. You’re not worth the trouble.

Steam seeped beneath the bathroom door, as nebulous as her counterarguments and self-doubts. Ignoring the tacky feel of the semi-gloss paint, she leaned against the bathroom door and pulled her fingers through her long blonde hair. This is what I get for being too trusting and naïve. I should have put my name on the lease. I should have known better than to get myself into this mess. I could find Dottie a boyfriend. A girlfriend. Whatever. Threaten to reveal her undocumented cat. Light her bed on fire. She laughed and released her hair to cover her mouth. Shit, that wasn’t appropriate.

She rapped on the bathroom door. “Dottie! Let’s talk about this situation like grown women. I’m this close to finishing two-hundred hours of professional certification and landing a full-time job with benefits. What am I supposed to do now? Live on the streets?”

Her ostensible roommate remained silent.

“There has to be another alternative.”

The faucet ran as Dottie added hot water to her tub, ignoring their shared utility costs and the environmental impacts of her two-hour bath. “What’s done is done. Cousin’s in and you’re out.”

Wylie exhaled, finding it impossible to reason with a woman who lacked the courage to face her. “This isn’t right. Don’t you have to give me some notice or something? Don’t you even feel bad about what you’re doing?”

“Not really.”

She hung her head. It doesn’t matter if she stays in that bathtub until the floor caves in. Her name’s on the lease and she calls the shots.

“I know I promised you a year—”

Wylie’s hope soared.

“But we all thought my cousin would fail her semester at UC and have to repeat it. Maybe, like, twice. Now that she’s graduated, she’s decided to come to Los Angeles to pursue her acting career.” The plastic snap of a toiletry bottle echoed in the tiled room. “My aunt called and told me this morning. What am I supposed to do?”

“Tell your mom you already have a roommate? One who’s never been late paying rent?” She considered kicking down the door and upending the bubble bath all over Dottie’s head. “A roommate who changes the litter box for the cat you’re not even supposed to have in the apartment!”

“Leave Snickerdoodle alone.”

Wylie eyed the cat. “I love animals.”

The cat stood, repositioned himself and presented his ass to Wylie.

Wylie stared at the bathroom door. “This is bad karma!”

“Sorry, kid.”

“Your cousin will never make it to her auditions on time.” Her words sped up and she stood, hoping her hard-won native logic could override the aspirations of a wannabe actress. “Your cousin needs to live in one of the San Fernando Valley neighborhoods. The Central and Eastside neighborhoods would be even better if she’s looking for a deal.”

“She’s a trust-fund kid.”

“She might decide this apartment isn’t a good fit. I don’t want you to end up with zero roommates. Maybe she could sleep on the couch for a while.” Water sloshed on the other side of the door and Wylie crossed her fingers, hoping her magnanimous offer cloaked her desperation.

“That’s the thing. My cousin wants the second bedroom. My aunt already wired me six months of rent.”

Of course she did. Wylie bit her lip and decided to play her final card. “I guess I could take the couch.”

The bathwater stilled.

Wylie clung to a moment of hope.

“You’d still have to pay me the same rent.”

The counteroffer hit Wylie like a rogue wave. Her eyes widened and she slapped the door in disbelief. “You can’t charge me the same amount you’re charging for a bedroom.”

“Why not? My name’s on the lease. We’re not friends, Wylie. Take it or leave it.”

She opened her mouth to accept a month on Dottie’s fur-strewn couch.

The other woman pulled the plug on the bathwater. “You know what? Scratch that. I don’t want to put up with three women sharing one tiny bathroom. It’s not like we’re desperate.”

Tears streamed down Wylie’s cheeks as she hung her head and let her hair shield her face. The draining water sucked away the last bit of her hope. Right now, I’m the definition of desperate. She cleared her throat, determined to retain her pride. “How long do I have until your cousin shows up? Like, a week?”

“She’ll be here in the morning.”

Wylie stared at the bathroom door. “Are you serious?”

“Honestly, I thought you’d be gone by now.”

She wiped away her tears. “Funny. I’m still here.”

“You should probably leave tonight and make a clean break.”

Laughter bubbled up in Wylie’s throat, displacing her desperation. “This is not helping me out. This is, like, the definition of not helping me out.”

“I guess you can stay the night. I’ll use your deposit to pay for a cleaning service.”

“You’re funny, Dottie. Fucking hilarious.”

The woman remained silent for a minute. “Sorry, kid.”

Wylie retreated to a bedroom full of mismatched furniture and cursed her stupidity. She shoved her clothes into her duffel bag, folded a set of sheets and crammed them on top of her clothes. People have done more with less.

Dottie emerged from the bathroom wearing a towel and a hair turban straight from the archives of the home shopping channel. She tossed an envelope of cash on the bare mattress. “Here’s your deposit. I hope everything works out.”

Wylie stared at the clumsy script bearing her name, Wylie Winidad. The sight of the familiar envelope brought tears to her eyes and she shook her head, realizing Dottie had never felt the need to deposit her hard-earned cash. “Thanks, I guess.”

The woman nodded and retreated without saying another word.

Wylie picked up the envelope of money and shoved it into her purse while she considered her predicament. Why do bad things happen to good people? I’ve done everything right since my parents left town. How am I going to scrape together the money I need for a deposit on my own place? I need to figure out a way to take care of myself, but there’s no wau I’m calling my parents. Most of the people I know have moved away and like…grown up.

She thought of her mom and dad ensconced in an Oregon complex full of California refugees. ‘They’ll be the hardest years of your life,’ her mother had said, boxing up a lifetime of dishes and serving pieces. ‘You’re only twenty-six years old. Instead of fending for yourself, why don’t you tag along with us?’

‘Because I belong here.’

‘Oh, honey, you’ll always belong with us.’

Wylie blinked away the sting of tears. ‘Thanks, Mom.’

The next day, her parents had driven up the coast in a rental truck full of furniture and left her in Santa Monica with a wardrobe of frayed designer jeans, a jumble of high-priced loungewear and the athletic gear she needed to host her beachside classes.

She’d gotten drunk with Natalia to celebrate her independence. Clinking glasses, they’d toasted having everything they needed. Most of their sporadic interactions involved yoga classes and cocktails, but Wylie knew her best friend would let her crash for a few days if she happened to be in town. Unfortunately, the spunky yoga enthusiast worked as a studio scout and her social media feed showed her scouting battle sites on the Horn of Africa. Who would let me in? Nobody. I have nobody left in this town.

She wheezed as the reality of her situation set in. The muscles in her airways tightened and stress impeded her breathing. Now is not the time for an asthma attack. She focused on calming her rapid inhalations, but the muscles in her neck and chest tightened as panic set in. The pain of the clenching muscles echoed through her body. Doubling over, she scrambled for the rescue inhaler in her purse and dumped out the contents of the bag. The metallic inhaler caught her eyes. She pumped the cartridge, slumped to the floor and waited for the rush of the short-acting bronchodilator to relieve her systems. What would I do without my medicine?

Twenty minutes later, her breathing slowed and she wondered when the misery of this day would end. Trusting her heart rate to remain stable, she struggled to her feet and hefted her duffel bag, testing her strength against an upset stomach and shaky limbs. I can do this.

Dottie sat on the couch in a pair of pajamas, her turban in place while she watched a cooking show with the cat.

I’m surprised she’s not hiding in her room.

The cooking show went to commercials.

Dottie looked up. “Do you need any help with your stuff?”

Oh, so now you’re helpful? Wylie shook her head, dropped the first duffel bag by the front door and returned to the bedroom to grab the second one. She straightened her spine as she walked between her former roommate and a television chef demonstrating how to make pasta. “Adios, Snickerdoodle. It’s been swell.”

The cat’s eyes remained closed.

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About the Author

Amy Craig

Amy Craig lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana USA with her family and a small menagerie of pets. She writes women’s fiction and contemporary romances with intelligent and empathetic heroines. She can’t always vouch for the men. She has worked as an engineer, project manager, and incompetent waitress. In her spare time, she plays tennis and expands her husband’s honey-do list.

Find Amy at her website, on Amazon and follow her at BookBub.

Giveaway

Enter to win a fabulous gift package and a $5.00 First For Romance Gift Code!

Amy Craig’s Lost in L.A.

AMY CRAIG IS GIVING AWAY THIS FABULOUS PRIZE TO ONE LUCKY WINNER. ENTER HERE FOR YOUR CHANCE TO WIN A LOVELY GIFT PACKAGE AND A $5.00 FIRST FOR ROMANCE GIFT CODE! Notice: This competition ends on 20th January 2021 at 5pm GMT. Competition hosted by Totally Entwined Group.

Book Blitz & Excerpt: The Heavenly Hazelnut Murder + Giveaway

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The Heavenly Hazelnut Murder

by CC Dragon

General Release Date: 5th January 2021

Heat Rating: Simmering
Format: EBOOK
ISBN: 978-1-83943-403-7
Sexometer: 1
Word Count: 54,935
Language: English
Book Length: NOVEL
Pages: 216
Genres: COMEDY AND HUMOUR, CONTEMPORARY, CRIME AND MYSTERY, SWEET ROMANCE

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Book Description

Everyone has secrets…even a pastor.

Life had been back to normal in Sweet Grove, with smoothie sales up and murders down to zero. With Gran’s shop doing well, Belle helps her best friend by tending bar at the Honey Buckle whenever needed. Belle tries her best to like Pastor Luke, who she’s been dating for the last few weeks, but when she finds out he’s been less than genuine, things end badly. Their break-up is epic gossip all around the small town.

When the pastor turns up dead, people rush to suspect her. Apparently, their fight about her spending so much time in a bar was overheard. Belle knows she didn’t do it, but who would kill a pastor? Who else would have a motive? With the handsome but romantically complicated sheriff asking her a lot of questions, Belle decides she needs to get to the bottom of it ASAP.

This had better be the last murder in Sweet Grove, or Belle’s amateur sleuthing might become a habit…

Reader advisory: This book contains references to parental abandonment, off-page murder and brief references to domestic abuse and infidelity.

Excerpt

“Harry!” I shouted across the back of the Honey Buckle bar. “Keg change now, please!”

One of Katie’s brothers gave me a thumbs up and went to the back.

“Busy?” Lurlene teased as she nursed a margarita.

“As a one-legged man in a butt-kicking contest, thanks for your concern,” I replied to my old high school nemesis. She and I had an uneasy truce, or she was being fake-nice. Sometimes it was hard to tell. In the south, people were nice when they were insulting a person to their face.

She smiled and glanced at my hands as I set down fresh coasters. “I could fix up your nails. A nice French tip or something. Clean but to actually show you’re a lady.”

“Thanks, but I do too much baking with Gran. I can’t risk any chips coming off in the dough,” I replied.

“Wear gloves. That’s how real places prep food. Yuck,” Lurlene said.

“Everything we do is homemade to the highest standards. Gran is a clean freak and you know it. But gloves are a good idea,” I admitted. “We use them at the shop, of course, but a lot is made at home.”

Katie sighed. “This is cute, you two actually talking nice for a minute, and we’re all happy you started cosmetology school, Lurlene, but Belle has customers. She’s here to work. Get yourself a life.”

Lurlene glared at Katie. That wasn’t normal for Katie at all. She got firm when needed with people who overindulged, but she’d never snap at paying customers. Maybe I was just off today?

“Sorry, it’s hard to be nice to customers and be efficient. We were cackling like hens. Where’s Martha?” I asked Katie. I had a degree in hospitality but the small town south had its own rules about being nice. I missed the city for the anonymity and the money. Still, Gran had had a few spells and needed someone around. My parents had run off after I was born, and my grandfather was dead, so it was down to me. I’d never minded being an only child before and I loved Gran to bits, but it’d be nice to have someone to share the pressure with—to run options with. But no, there was just me.

Martha, another friend from high school, was working tonight too. Katie pointed to the tables of thirsty patrons and I caught a glimpse of Martha in the crowd. “She’s got the tables now. You’ve got new guys at the bar. Keep ’em coming.”

I turned and smiled at the new guys. “What’s your poison?”

“Four beers,” one ordered.

I popped open four bottles of beer.

“We wanted tap,” he said, like I was an idiot.

I grinned. “People in hell want ice water. Keg is dead. I’m waiting for a change. You want it now? Then you get the bottle. Next round will be tap.”

They grumbled, but I kept a smile plastered on my face. More complaining and they might get around half off, but I wasn’t giving it away because we were busy.

Martha walked up with a tray of empties. “Sorry, my ex called twice. Like he can’t watch his own kids for one night.”

Harry carried out a keg. “Make way, ladies. I’m here to rescue the bar.”

“How helpful.” Martha blushed.

“You could’ve checked the kegs before opening and been a real knight in shining armor,” I scolded.

“Have you met my sister? We’re going to waste the last five glasses in one keg because it’s close to change? That’s not how you make money,” Harry warned.

Katie poked me in the arm. “He’s right. Let him work, and you hit the blender. Girls’ night in the corner and they want another round of margaritas.”

“On it. Strawberry again?” I enjoyed the blended drinks. It felt like making smoothies at my own shop.

“Yep, then we’ll be out of strawberries, but they won’t care. If they want another round, switch them out to lime.” Katie waved it off and her many bangles jingled.

She looked like she should be running a bar. Always dressed like a cowgirl, Katie wore a tight T-shirt that promoted her establishment. Big jewelry and a big smile were part of her ensemble. Her family was a mishmash of a train wreck, like mine, so we’d been besties forever.

While Katie filled Martha’s orders for the tables, I blended up a bunch of frozen cocktails. Harry set up the keg and drew himself one.

I shot him a look. “Saw that. Not when you’re working.”

“Gotta test my work for quality.” He grinned. “It’s mostly foam, it’s for the customers. They’ll get a good pull.”

“Working okay?” I teased.

He nodded.

“Great. I think we’re stocked now up here, so take those dirty glasses with you to the back. Run a load of glasses, then we might need you bouncing. People seem to want a keg attached to their mouths.”

“You’re as bossy as my sister,” he said.

“I’m happy to run the dishwasher if you want to tend bar. Bouncing, that’s not me. I’m a tiny blonde. They’d just laugh at me.” I checked my image in the mirror behind the bar. My ponytail was still high and tight. Makeup was fine. I wore a Honey Buckle T-shirt, jeans and gym shoes with good support. What? No one saw my feet behind the bar. When I went out, I could rock heels like any good southern girl, but the right shoes for the right job…

“Fine. I don’t like dealing with people. I got a new job anyway. Day job,” Harry said.

“Congrats. But your sister needs you now and that’s what family is for.” I nudged the tray of empty glasses at him to clear.

He did and disappeared in the back.

I loaded the margaritas up on a fresh tray as Martha picked up another one ready for her tables. “He’s so nice,” Martha said.

“Harry? Yeah, a prince. He’ll want a hug for running the dishwasher. Need me to take these?” I asked.

“I’ll do it. You spill,” Katie cut in.

It was true. I’m not the best with a tray. When I tried to waitress once, I failed miserably and ended up working in coffee shops. “I slung coffee at Starbucks for years, but those cups generally had lids. Why does coffee always have a lid and alcohol so rarely does? Seems like people drinking booze would spill more,” I pondered.

Katie chuckled. “They spill it, they want more, so they’ll just buy more. Better for business not to have lids. Coffee people would just demand a free refill.”

“You really did find the perfect business to run,” I teased my best friend.

“Thanks. Gotta go introduce the band. Gus is sitting with them sometime tonight…hope that’s okay,” Katie said.

“Sure. I’ve been dating Luke for a few weeks. Gus is old news,” I said. Gus was the local sheriff who’d been flirting with me since he moved into town. Unfortunately, his past was more complicated than he’d let on. Everyone had a past, but if a man doesn’t ’fess up and the other woman still has the ring, it’s just too much drama for me. Even if the man was tall, handsome, musical and seemed good at heart.

Katie arched an eyebrow but headed off. As the band played, without Gus as of yet, the crowd calmed down to nurse their beverages instead of downing them like they were dying of thirst.

Martha and Katie made it to the bar and we restocked a bit before enjoying the music.

“What happened with Gus?” Martha asked.

“Nothing, I told you…we were solving a murder together. We also happened to run into his ex-fiancée at a dive bar. She gave him the ring back. Very weird. But I’m not looking for that sort of drama or a guy that fresh off of a super-serious relationship,” I said.

“You and Pastor Luke are a couple now? Rebound maybe, but it’ll never work,” Lurlene snarked.

“Oh, goodie, are we back to the mean girls thing?” I teased.

Lurlene shook her head. “I’m being nice here. See, people always think I’m being mean when I’m trying to be constructively kind and give them a heads-up on the rest of the world. How people really think. You’re too sweet and Katie is too polite to tell you, but the pastor isn’t going to get serious about someone with your history. Your past—it’s not your fault but it’s not a secret.”

“That’s a pretty crappy pastor,” Martha remarked then waved back at a table signaling her. “I’m going to make a round.”

“Thanks, Martha. Lurlene, quit it,” Katie warned.

“No, go on. A pastor is going to judge me for my parents running off after I was born and leaving me with Gran? They were young and clearly not ready to be parents. That’s not my fault. I was raised right by my grandparents,” I defended myself.

“That is all true. You even try extra hard to be a Goody Two-shoes, and he’s not going to judge you for their behavior…he’s going to judge you for yours. Running off to the big city alone,” she pointed out.

“Otherwise known as going to college,” I replied.

“Not all colleges are big-city ones. Plus you’re working in a bar. You’re simply not pastor’s wife material,” she said.

“We’re just dating! I’m not looking for a husband! Hey, has anyone seen Big Ed? I know I don’t work every night, but he was a regular and he’s been gone awhile.”

“He’s a long-haul trucker. He’ll be gone a week or so at a time. Then he’s home for a week or just a weekend. Give it a week or so and he’ll turn up—he always does.” Katie waved it off.

“Nice trying to dodge the topic. You’d be better off with a guy like Gus.” Lurlene winked.

Just then, Gus sat at the bar. “Are my ears burning?’

“Katie mentioned you’d be sitting in with the band. Guess you’re late,” I replied.

“Sitting in doesn’t mean their whole set. What’s this I hear about your grandmother letting the musicians park on her land?” he asked.

I lifted a shoulder. “She’s nice to people. They needed a place to park and I guess the trailer lots around town were full. That or the guys made too much noise.”

“Very charitable of her. Any trouble, you call me.” Luke appeared through the crowd like he’d been lurking and listening.

I did my best to mask my surprise. He sat on the other side of Lurlene and another guy sat next him. There was enough of a resemblance between them that I knew he had to be a cousin or some relation.

“Hey, what can I get you two?” I asked.

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About the Author

CC Dragon

A loyal Chicago girl who loves deep dish pizza, the Cubs, and The Lake, her close fam moved to TN so she ends up visiting the South more than she ever planned! CC Dragon is fascinated by the magical and paranormal as well as the quirks of the south. She loves creating characters who solve mysteries. A coffee and chocolate addict who loves fast cars, she’s still looking for a hero who likes to cook and clean…so she can write more!

Check out CC Dragon’s website and follow her on Instagram.

Giveaway

Enter to win a fabulous Goody Bag and a FREE CC Dragon mystery book!

CC Dragon’s The Heavenly Hazelnut Murder Giveaway

CC DRAGON IS GIVING AWAY THIS FABULOUS PRIZE TO ONE LUCKY WINNER. ENTER HERE FOR YOUR CHANCE TO WIN A LOVELY GOODIE BAG AND GRAB YOUR FREE CC DRAGON MYSTERY BOOK! Notice: This competition ends on 13th January 2021 at 5pm GMT. Competition hosted by Totally Entwined Group.