by London Miller
Publication Date: June 18, 2018
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Mafia, Organized Crime, Romance
They met under summer showers …
Vera Markovic only wanted a vacation away from New York where everyone knows her as a Russian Mafiya printsessa of the Markovic Bratva. She didn’t expect to find something worth remembering. And definitely not a man like Alfie Shelby.
They fell in love when the leaves changed colors …
As New York City’s notorious fixer, Alfie Shelby always gets what he wants—and when he sets his eyes on Vera, he’ll do anything to keep her … even if she’s not sure she wants to be kept.
And they nearly lost it all when the snow started to fall …
She wants nothing to do with a gangster.
A life of crime is all he knows.
But neither can deny what they have, even when forces beyond their control try to keep them apart.
Trying to do anything to her hair that wasn’t throwing it up into a messy, but stylish bun was out of the question. The humidity already had strands sticking to the back of her neck, and had she actually bothered with curling it, Vera was sure they would have fallen by now.
Not that it mattered much. She was supposed to be here on vacation—a time for her to relax and enjoy herself without care of anything else.
Which was why, despite the allure of a new project calling her name, she had left her villa and walked over to the bar where more than a dozen people already littered the floor and drinks were being passed all around.
After a minute of careful shuffling and quiet apologies, she made it to the bar, waiting until the bartender looked in her direction before she lifted her hand to signal she was ready to order.
A woman wearing a sheer dress that showed more than it covered stumbled off her stool, her date quickly moving after her. Glancing in their direction to make sure they weren’t returning, Vera claimed one of the empty seats.
Nearly to the second she sat, a figure moved from her peripheral and sat across from her, his smile wide and his eyes a little feverish.
Already drunk, if she had to guess.
The worst kind of men in a bar.
“You’ve got a great pair of legs on you,” he said with obvious approval as he blatantly looked down at her legs and lingered there.
Even if she had ignored the fact that she could smell the liquor on him, he wasn’t helping his case by being utterly clueless.
“Ne trat’te svoye vremya—Don’t even waste your time,” she told him in Russian, hoping he would get the hint and just move away, but it was clear her not speaking English didn’t mean a thing to him.
If anything, his smile grew a little wider.
“You,” he said a little louder, stressing the word, as if if he spoke louder, she would understand him better. “have nice—” then he pointed at her legs.
Vera rolled her eyes and turned in her seat, electing to ignore him. Hoping that if she pretended he didn’t exist for long enough, then he would just go away.
The bartender finally reached her, a customary smile curling his lips. “What can I get you?” he asked.
“Sex on the beach,” she answered, not bothering to even look at her unwelcome guest as his brow furrowed at her speaking English.
It was another few minutes of him stumbling over his words and blatantly eyeing her before she finally had her drink in hand and she could at least have this going for her if she would have to suffer through him not having a clue.
Her gaze moved around the bar, over the dancing couples of the floor, people seated at tables and enjoying food, but in her casual observance, that’s when she noticed him.
Even in the sea of people all around, it was impossible not to notice him. He stood out amongst the vacationers wearing khaki shorts and bikinis, already three sheets to the wind. Instead, he was in a pair of dark wash jeans, tailored to his muscular thighs, and a plain white T-shirt that did nothing to hide the muscles beneath it.
His attire might have been casual, but there was nothing about the man that seemed remotely casual at all.
And he was watching her.
She had thought, as she lifted her drink, tucking the straw between her lips, that he would look away once he noticed her attention on him. That he would be embarrassed to be caught staring as most men were, but he didn’t blink, or avert his gaze. A corner of his mouth tugged up into a slight, but arrogant smile.
He wanted her to know she had his attention.
Vera found herself smiling despite herself.
There were usually two type of men that wanted her attention. Businessmen who wanted her to heed to them—for her to be a pet of some sort. Smile when she was spoken to and be glorified arm candy.
Then there were the thrill seekers who thought that because her last name was Markovic that they would earn themselves some sort of prestige.
She doubted very much this man was the second considering he couldn’t possibly know who she was or even where she was from—and she was sure he wasn’t a part of her father’s organization because he was just a little too scruffy—but if he was the first … he would learn all too quickly that she wasn’t any man’s pet.
The man he was seated with, with sandy blond hair that was styled in that way that seemed to be in at the moment, was still speaking to him, but realized all too quickly that he no longer had the man’s attention. A fact that was solidified when he stood and threw back his drink before he left the private area where they were sitting to walk over to her.
She had every opportunity to get up and leave if she wanted to. But as he crossed the floor, people moving out of his way without him having to utter a single word, she remained where she sat, curiosity thrumming through her.
Vera couldn’t remember the last time she felt a thrill quite like this—and before he had even spoken a word to her. But there was just something about him that commanded attention.
The way he seemed to own the room. How broad his shoulders were. The unruly beard that she was now wondering how it would feel.
Lust, she thought a moment later. This was what lust at first sight felt like.
She counted down the seconds as his long-legged stride ate up the distance between them until he was suddenly there, right beside her, and she could smell the woodsy aroma of the cologne he wore that only added to his appeal.
“Is he bothering you, luv?” he asked, with a cant of his head in the direction of the man who hadn’t known how to take no for an answer.
That accent—rough around the edges, lilting around the L’s. That would have been enough for her to entertain him for more than a few minutes, but that, as well as the rest of him … he had her full attention.
“Why don’t you fuck on off, yeah?” her stranger—her stranger?—said, hardly looking away from her. As though she were the only one worthy of his attention.
“Who the hell do you—” the man started, but hesitated when he got to his feet and realized just who he was up against.
He might have been tall, was even lean a bit, but he had nothing on her stranger. The man had a solid fifty pounds on him, if not more, and there was a hardness to him that said he really didn’t want to pick a fight with him.
Whatever he thought to say, he swallowed it back down and quickly made his exit without looking at either of them.
A smile fought its way onto her face. “I could have taken care of him, you know.”
“Oh, that wasn’t for you, luv,” he said as he took the man’s vacated seat. “That was entirely for me. I wanted your attention and now I have it.”
He’d had her attention long before now, but she didn’t bother telling him that. “And you are?”
He extended his hand in her direction, wrapping his much bigger one around hers, then closing tight. She didn’t think her hand had ever felt more smaller than it did now. “Alfie Shelby.”
How ridiculous that she even liked his name. “Vera Markovic.”
His expression didn’t change when she said her name, merely kept that same casual interest that had been there since he was across the room. That managed to make her relax further. He didn’t know who she was, or where she had come from.
She liked it that way.
“It’s a pleasure, Vera,” he said as he lifted her hand and briefly kissed the back of her knuckles.
It was such a contradiction—the hard man on the exterior compared to the gentleman like qualities he possessed. She couldn’t say she didn’t like it.
“Are you here alone?” he asked a second later.
“Smart girls know not to answer that,” she answered with another sip of her drink, gently extracting her hand. Curious or not, gorgeous or not, she wasn’t a fool. And she knew all too well the kinds of men that were in the world.
If he was offended, Alfie didn’t show it. Instead, his smile grew a touch. “Fair enough.”
His gaze left her for a moment as he signaled for the bartender who, despite already serving one customer, came right over. It made her wonder just who he was.
As he ordered—a rum and coke for himself, another of whatever she was drinking—Vera looked him over. It was second nature to look for tattoos that symbolized a life of crime. She could read any of them as well as any man in her father’s organization.
It had become common practice for her when she realized her father had men trail her on occasion.
But beyond a British flag that was tattooed over his heart, she didn’t see anything that would tie him back to her father, or any family that she knew of.
Another point in his favor.
As the bartender scurried away to fulfill their drink order, Alfie looked at her again. “D’you want to go out with me?”
Her brows shot up in surprise. “You don’t waste any time, do you?”
“Not when I know what I want,” he returned easily.
But she couldn’t say she minded.
“Okay,” she answered before she could talk herself out of it.
“Yes. I’m free tomorrow.”
“Six tomorrow then, luv?”
“I’m in twenty-six.”
He nodded once and moved back to his feet just as the bartender was setting their drinks on the bar between them.
She expected him to walk away, not that he had her affirmation, but he stepped closer to her, making her look up at him, but Alfie merely leaned in close enough to press his lips against her jaw then said, “Sweet dreams, Vera,” before he was grabbing his drink and walking back to his booth.
Vera wasn’t often intrigued by men enough to agree to a date within five minutes of learning their name, but Alfie … she was almost sure he would be impossible to say no to.
ABOUT LONDON MILLER:
With a degree in Creative Writing, London Miller has turned pen to paper, creating riveting fictional worlds where the bad guys are sometimes the good guys. Her debut novel, In the Beginning, is the first in the Volkov Bratva Series.
She currently resides in Atlanta, Georgia with her husband and two puppies, where she drinks far too much Sprite, and spends her nights writing.
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by Jessica Jayne
Publication Date: July 23, 2018
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Standalone
Gracelyn Riley married a firefighter and knew that came with risks. But she never imagined herself widowed in her early thirties with two children to care for on her own. Even though her marriage to Chad Riley had its difficulties, dealing with the last year without him has not been easy. Her brother-in-law, Matt, has been the rock that has kept her from collapsing or imploding.
As a fireman, Matt Riley had been at the scene when his brother, Chad, was killed. For the last year, Matt has suffered from survivor’s guilt and drank himself into oblivion. His sister-in-law, Gracelyn, supported him, lending him a shoulder to cry on. Her friendship has pulled him through time and time again until he finally sobered.
With the year anniversary of Chad’s death upon them, Gracelyn and Matt turn to each for support and comfort. What they didn’t expect was to realize that their feelings for each other go beyond the solid friendship they share. Can they overcome the guilt and the scrutiny of their family and friends to find love together?
The epiphany that had smacked Gracelyn on the forehead last night while sipping her wine and listening to Coldplay was what had brought her to the station this morning. Matt couldn’t just ignore her. They’d been through too much and had known each other for too long. He didn’t get to play decision-maker on this because how they handled the situation affected her, too. They were adults. It was about damn time they acted like grownups.
She inhaled a deep breath of crisp autumn air as she approached the entrance to the station house. Even though she’d convinced herself that this needed to be done, it didn’t make coming here any easier.
She heard the laughter of the guys from inside, and she smiled. This firehouse had its fill of shenanigans. The team had struggled greatly with the loss of Chad, so it was nice to hear the joviality behind the door. She used to stop in regularly during Chad’s shifts, but since his death, she’d only swung by a couple of times to drop things off. The building held many memories, too many. Facing them and the guys who had been like brothers to her husband had seemed like too much. Until now.
She knocked on the door, then twisted the handle and stuck her head around the corner. The smell of sausage, eggs, onions, and peppers assaulted her. Someone was cooking a hearty breakfast for the crew.
Four men stood in the kitchen. All eyes turned in her direction.
Matt leaned against the far countertop, holding a cup of coffee, his smile fading at the sight of her. He pursed his lips and tensed his jaw when his gaze met hers. Her skin tingled from his penetrating stare.
“Gracelyn,” Drew Anderson said with a smile. His voice broke the silence she’d dropped on the group.
Drew stood at the gas stove, flipping what appeared to be sausage patties. He’d been with the department for over ten years and had been one of Chad’s closest buddies. They’d played softball together and cards on some nights. As diehard Cleveland Browns fans, they’d commiserated every football season. He’d been a big part of Gracelyn’s and Matt’s support system after Chad’s death. For several months afterwards, he and his wife, Stacey, cooked meals and stopped by the house to visit, despite how hard Chad’s passing had been on Drew, as well.
“Come on in.” Drew waved her in with the spatula.
She stepped through the door and into the lounge area in front of the kitchen. On one side, a long, wooden table stretched with chairs haphazardly pushed in under it. Paper plates, napkins, and silverware sat in piles atop the table, waiting for the breakfast sizzling in the pans.
“Hey, Drew. Tim.” She nodded her head in Tim O’Leary’s direction before closing the door behind her.
“What brings you here on a Monday morning?” Tim asked. The toaster popped, and Tim plucked out two pieces of toast and set them on a plate.
“I need to see Matt.” She’d chosen her words carefully. If she’d said “wanted” instead of “needed” she feared Matt would find a way around it. Despite their current situation, he would never deny her what she needed.
“Lucky bastard,” the unfamiliar blond guy said. He must have been one of the new recruits or candidates, as they were often called. He was young, probably in his mid-twenties, with shaggy blond hair, blue eyes, and the hard body of someone who worked out daily. He’d fit in quite well with the crew at the Mason Ridge Fire Department.
“That’s his sister-in-law, you asshat.” Tim slapped the guy on the head. “Gracelyn, this is our new candidate, Kevin Thompson. He’s training with us. Maybe he’ll even get to stay if we can housebreak him and teach him some manners.”
Drew chuckled. Matt’s tense face even cracked with a smile at Tim’s comment. When an emergency broke, these men were serious and organized. However, during their downtime, horseplay and hazing ran rampant. Giving the candidates a hard time was a favorite pastime of the veterans. Appeared to be Kevin’s turn at the roasting spit.
“Hi, Kevin.” She walked over to him and held out her hand. “Nice to meet you.”
“The pleasure is all mine.” He grasped her outstretched hand and brought it to his lips, pressing a slight kiss to her fingers. “All mine.” He winked at her. His gaze roamed over her slowly while he kept her hand in his. A flush washed over her at being so intimately perused in front of the men that had considered her husband their brother. “It’s good to know you’re single.”
“Let her go,” Matt barked, setting his cup down hard on the counter. All eyes turned to him. He flexed his hands at his sides. A flush crept from his neck to his cheeks. He glared at the back of Kevin’s head before meeting Gracelyn’s gaze. Something flashed behind his eyes. Jealousy? Whatever it was, she’d never seen the emotion on his face in the past.
Kevin dropped Gracelyn’s hand. Then Tim popped him on the side of the head again. Everyone but Matt puffed out a laugh.
ABOUT JESSICA JAYNE:
Jessica is a born and raised small town Ohio girl, who moved to the Sunshine State after graduating from college. She graduated from college with a bachelor’s degree in English. What college major could possibly be better than one that makes you read novels and write about them! Now she is thrilled to be able to share all the stories floating around in her head!
Jessica loves to travel and travel often! She’s a huge sports fan, especially college football and the Ohio State Buckeyes! She’s a wine-making (and wine-tasting) aficionado. She loves all music. And nothing is better than sunset at the beach!
In the journey of life, she also married a wonderful man and had three beautiful (and sometimes crazy) children. Life is always an adventure.
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