Showing posts with label Jennifer Youngblood. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Jennifer Youngblood. Show all posts

Thursday, December 13, 2018

E-book #SALE: Yours By Christmas by Jennifer Youngblood

  


 

Yours by Christmas by Jennifer Youngblood 

A recovering alcoholic turned firefighter, a mysterious woman with a secret, and the Christmas miracle that just might save them both. Beckett Bradshaw knows what it’s like to be on top of the world and then to come crashing down to the lowest form of human existence, living on the streets. It has taken a huge amount of hard work and self control to get where he is today. He’s content with his job as a firefighter and so incredibly grateful for the miraculous recovery of his young daughter. When a mysterious old lady shows up at the fire station and makes a prophecy that Beckett will find love by Christmas, he doesn’t believe it. Beckett doesn’t dare pray for the desires of his heart for fear that he’s used up all of his miracles. Then, Beckett meets the beautiful and vivacious Ava Lawrence and starts to hope that maybe he really can find love. Beckett is hesitant to tell Ava about his checkered past for fear that she won’t want him. However, Ava has a few secrets of her own that could destroy everything Beckett has built. Will a Christmas miracle be enough to bind two lonely hearts together or will the scars of the past prevent Beckett and Ava from finding the lasting love they most desire?

    

Excerpt:  

It was the kind of cold that would freeze a person’s toes and fingers off. In another time and place, Beckett wouldn’t have spent more than thirty minutes outside. Tonight, however, he was grateful for the cold. It sank through the holes of his worn shoes, moving up his legs and torso like morphine, numbing his aching heart. The cold snuffed out the fire raging in his head—the voice that screamed of his failures and how any path to redemption was forever barred. He trudged through the snow, oblivious to the trash littering the sidewalk or the bars covering the windows of the aging buildings. The sights and stench of the streets would’ve horrified him before, when he was donning two-thousand-dollar suits and driving a Lexus to his high-rise office in the center of downtown Salt Lake City. Now, it was as commonplace as breathing. The frigid wind picked up. He pulled his thin coat tighter around him as he tucked his chin into his neck and plodded forward.
Normally, Beckett’s senses were dulled to the point where he hardly remembered the life he lived before. Alcohol was the great cure-all. If he drank enough of it, he could hardly remember his own name. Today, however, was different. Today was Jasmine’s birthday. She was turning seven today. Beckett didn’t want to think about Jasmine with her happy, rosy cheeks and cocoa-colored ringlets. The trusting look in her deep brown eyes. The lilt in her voice when she called him daddy. Jasmine wanted a pink Barbie cake with sparkles. Tears pressed against his eyes as he swallowed. Unbidden scenes from the accident flashed before his eyes, the guilt knotting his gut.
It had been a normal day. Pressures at the office were increasing. Beckett was always behind. Nothing he did was enough to satisfy his bulldog boss. Before darting out of his office to pick up Jasmine from her dance class, he’d taken a few swigs out of the flask he kept hidden beneath a stack of files in his bottom desk drawer. One minute he was driving, the road a blur, Jasmine chattering about a new dance she’d learned. The next minute, everything changed. Beckett felt the blunt force of the crash the same instant he heard the sickening sound of crunching metal. Then came the worst—Jasmine’s terrified screams that gave way to intermittent whimpers. He’d called 911, screaming into the phone. It seemed to take forever before the wail of the sirens pierced the night air.
A few hours later, in a sterile hospital waiting room, a grim-faced doctor would deliver the blow. Jasmine’s ankle had been crushed. It would require multiple surgeries, and there was a chance she’d never walk again. Melinda’s face had crumpled, tears streaming down her cheeks. As Beckett went to hug her, she pushed him away, condemnation burning in her eyes. “This is all your fault!” she spat.
“Please, Melinda.” His voice had cracked with desperation. “I—I’m sorry. I never meant—” He reached for her again.
She got up in his face. “I can smell the alcohol on your breath.” For an instant, Beckett saw something in her eyes—a sliver of the love they’d once shared. Before he could blink, however, her eyes went flatter than dull pennies as she turned her back to him and walked away.
It was then that he’d known, he was dead to her. He loosened his silk tie and threw it into the garbage on his way out of the hospital.
That was six months ago.
He wet his dry lips, the thirst for a drink rising in him like a greedy vulture demanding to be satisfied. He paused and leaned against the side of a building, removing the bottle from inside his coat. Beckett took a long swig, appreciating how the liquid burned down his throat. Another couple of drinks helped ease the pain. The snow was falling harder, large blobs coating everything in white. Cars moved along the streets like cautious snails, trying to avoid contact. The world felt still, like he was in one of those snow globes Jasmine loved. Beckett’s breath pushed out a warm mist against the air as he continued to his destination.
Fifteen minutes later, he went in through the backdoor of a shelter. A middle-aged, portly man with a tapered salt and pepper beard was sitting behind a metal desk, chewing on a pencil as he stared at the screen of his laptop. When he saw Beckett, he waved in recognition as he stood, pulling his pants over his belly. “Hey, Blanket Man. I wondered what time you’d show up here.” He went to a nearby counter and picked up a stack of blankets, depositing them in Beckett’s arms. “It’s a cold one tonight. The temperature’s falling into the single digits.”
“Yes.”
“I’m sure there’ll be plenty of people who can use these blankets. Some ladies from a local church dropped them off today. It’s mighty kind of you to deliver them. After you get done passing these out, there are plenty more.”
Beckett nodded. This was how the conversation always went, with Scotty making small talk and Beckett throwing in a few short answers and nods. Scotty didn’t seem to mind that Beckett didn’t want to talk. He was always pleasant, and he looked Beckett in the eye when he spoke to him. Most people didn’t. The homeless moved through the city like faceless ghosts, scavenging what they could to survive.
“Oh, by the way, I reserved you a spot at the shelter tonight. It’s too cold to be outside.”
“Thank you.” Beckett’s hands ached from the cold. He’d had a pair of gloves once, but they were long gone.
“Tell everyone you see that they need to get indoors.” Scotty’s mouth turned down in a frown as he pulled at his beard. “This is the kind of weather that kills people.”
If only Beckett could be so lucky. Death was preferable to his miserable existence. Several times, he’d looked up at the tops of the buildings, thinking how easy it would be to just jump and end it all. He didn’t know what was keeping him here. Maybe it was cowardice. Even now, he craved life and the bottle. Maybe it was Jasmine. His heart clutched as he pushed the thoughts away. He no longer had a wife or daughter. He was a nobody.
With the blankets in hand, Beckett went out the door. After the warmth of the shelter, the night felt colder. He suppressed a shiver, forcing himself to embrace the cold as his feet worked through the snow. His first stop was a group of four men at a nearby park. They were sitting on the ground, huddled close together, their backs resting against a waist-high concrete wall.
“It’s Blanket Man,” an older man named Beaker exclaimed in a hoarse voice. No one went by their real names on the streets. They used names that fit the person’s personality or features. Beaker had a large, pitted nose. He held up a gnarly hand. “Join the party,” he said glibly. “It’s a little cold, but what can ya do?” He laughed at his own joke.
Slim Jim, sitting next to him, barked out a raspy smoker laugh, his thin shoulders shaking. “Yep, we’re having us a party.” He raised a hopeful eye to Beckett. “Got anything to drink?”
“Or a cigarette?” a young man with greasy hair and glassy eyes asked.
A pang shot through Beckett. The kid was a newcomer. He couldn’t be more than eighteen or nineteen years old. His face was gaunt, his eyes ringed in hollow circles. It seemed such a shame for him to be here, strung out on drugs. Even as the thought ran through his mind, Beckett laughed inwardly. He, of all people, had no room to judge. No one on the streets would ever imagine that he used to be an executive at one of the most prestigious financial advisory firms in Salt Lake. Out here, he was a scruffy drunk who delivered blankets to those who didn’t have the presence of mind to seek shelter when the temperatures plummeted. He didn’t really know why he felt compelled to go out night after night, delivering blankets. Maybe it was a form of atonement for his past sins. All he knew was that he couldn’t seem to rest until the blankets were handed out.
“Nope, sorry. I’m all out of both,” Beckett lied, “but I do come bearing gifts.” No way was he sharing his booze. He’d spent a full day cleaning trash out of a yard to earn the money to buy this bottle. He handed them each a blanket. “It’s supposed to be down in the single digits tonight,” he said, repeating Scotty’s words. “It might be wise to get to a shelter.” The cold seeped into his bones, making him feel sluggish.
Beaker waved a hand. “Nah, too crowded. We’ll be all right.”
The young man started singing a song about them being all right.
“Suit yourselves.” Beckett moved on to the next stop, passing out more blankets. He suspected that a few of the people were so far gone in their minds that they didn’t even realize they were cold. One man was holding an animated conversation with an imaginary person, laughing one second and shouting curses the next. Maybe Beckett would end up that way—not having a clue who he even was. When the blankets were gone he returned to the shelter, intent on making one more round before hunkering down for the night.
“Hey,” Scotty said, “you’re back.”
Beckett gave a curt nod of acknowledgement and went to the counter, picking up an armful of blankets.
Scotty touched his beard. “Uh, Beckett, before you head back out, there’s someone here to see you.”
Beckett frowned, hearing his own name. Not once, in all the times he’d come to this shelter to pick up blankets, had Scotty called him by his real name. Up until now, Beckett hadn’t even realized that Scotty knew his name. Suspicion stirred inside him. “Who is it?” he demanded. It had better not be his former boss! Jack Bisson had come lurking around once, about a month after Beckett had thrown in the towel. He urged Beckett to check himself into a rehab center, saying he’d even pay for the treatment. “Think of your wife and daughter,” Jack had said. “With Jasmine’s ankle in such bad shape, she needs you now more than ever.” Beckett laughed in his face, telling the pompous man in no uncertain terms exactly what he thought of him. Had Jack shown him an ounce of compassion when Beckett was working, instead of riding his case 24/7, Beckett might not have turned to alcohol. Then, he never would’ve been drinking the night he picked Jasmine up from her dance class, and he wouldn’t have had the car accident that shattered her ankle. Beckett balled his fist, squeezing the blankets. He’d refrained from punching Jack Bisson in the face the last time he showed up. This time, Bisson wouldn’t be so lucky. “Where’s Bisson?” he growled.
Scotty frowned. “I’m not sure who that is.” He scooted back his chair and stood, his eyes resting on the blankets in Beckett’s arms. “Maybe you should put those down and follow me.”
Reluctantly, Beckett complied. When they entered the large common room, Beckett scanned the crowd of people, packed like sardines into every available inch of floor space. When he saw them across the room, his breath froze in his throat. He couldn’t do it! His eyes narrowed as he spun around to Scotty. “What is this?”
Scotty held up a hand. “Your wife and daughter have gone to great lengths to find you. The least you can do is hear them out.” He lowered his voice. “I know your history, Beckett. That you’re a good man. You had a career, a wonderful family. That man is still in there. You just have to find him.”
Beckett let out a harsh laugh. “If I were a good man, my daughter wouldn’t be in a wheelchair.” Tears rose in his eyes as he cleared his throat and swallowed. He’d lost count of the number of times he’d dreamed of seeing Jasmine over the past few months. A hot anger coursed through his veins. Melinda had no right to bring Jasmine here. Maybe she wanted Jasmine to see firsthand how far her dad had fallen. Everything in him wanted to turn around and flee as far from here as he could get.
“Daddy!” Jasmine’s face lit up as she waved.
Too late to run. Beckett sighed in resignation as he forced his feet to move forward. When he reached them, he stood there awkwardly, at a loss for words. Melinda’s pinched face said it all—that he was an embarrassment. Melinda had always been concerned about social status and the image they portrayed to the world. He could only imagine what she must think of his ragged clothes, scraggly beard, grimy fingernails, his unwashed stench. He was a walking skeleton, a shadow of his former self.
Jasmine was beaming. She seemed oblivious to the change in him. “I’ve missed you so much.” She held out her hands for him to hug her. Beckett’s feet stayed rooted to the floor. He wanted to hug her, but life on the streets had hardened him to the point where personal contact seemed foreign. Finally, he patted her hand instead. She was soft, untouched by the ugliness of the streets.
“Good to see you, pretty girl.” His eyes settled on the cast, visible beneath her sweat pants. He hated himself in that moment, wished he could disappear into nothing. How dare Melinda bring Jasmine here! He wanted Jasmine to remember him as he was before. Not now, consumed by his vice. He glared at Melinda. “What’re you doing here?” Melinda looked thinner than he remembered, her face drawn and pale. It seemed like it had been another life when he’d loved her.
Melinda lifted her chin, a protective hand going over Jasmine’s shoulder. “I came here because of Jazzie,” she said stiffly. “It was her birthday wish.”
Jasmine gave him a searching look. “Come home with us, Daddy.” Her voice cracked. “Please.”
“For her sake,” Melinda added. “You need help.” Her jaw tightened. “It’s bad enough that Jasmine’s going through all the pain and suffering of her ankle. Must she lose her father too?” The words came out in short, angry bursts. She gave him a hard, resentful look. “You’re being selfish.”
Tears bubbled in Jasmine’s eyes, her lower lip trembling. “Please, Daddy, come home. We miss you.”
Selfish! Loser! Drunk! Beckett’s head felt like it was splitting in two. Oh, how he wished he could relive that dreadful night of the accident, that he could go back and nip the drinking in the bud before it turned into a hideous monster. He thought of the bottle beneath his coat, the need for a drink overwhelming. He hated this—loathed his weakness. Tears pooled in his eyes. Beckett Bradshaw was an illusion. There was nothing left of that man except pain and regret. “I’m sorry,” he uttered as he fled.
The last thing he heard before he darted out the door into the cold was Jazzie’s anguished cry. “Daddy!”


Tuesday, December 11, 2018

99 Cent E-book Sale and Giveaway: Christmas Romance Series

 

Her TV Bachelor Fake Fiancé by Kimberly Krey 

Cambria gave this year’s TV Bachelor the face-slap seen & heard across America. Can she offer him redemption too? Canyon Byer, pharmaceutical rep turned famous model, is the new eligible bachelor on Find My Fiancé. Weeks into filming the reality TV show, Canyon earns the title of America’s Shallow Bachelor, as he seems to eliminate women with substance. As the finale draws near, he needs a shot at redemption, but in order to get it, America’s favorite bachelorette—the same woman Canyon wishes he hadn’t wronged—will have to give him a second chance. While Cambria Wilson sits among family and friends during finale night, mixed feelings fight for a place in her heart. Sure, she and Canyon shared a very memorable kiss and she’d even been falling for him until she realized what a jerk he was, but that doesn’t explain the strange sadness that looms as she waits to see which of the finalists he’ll propose to. In an unexpected twist during the final episode, Cambria learns that Canyon’s not going to propose to either of the bachelorettes left on the show. In fact, he’s about to appear on the doorstep of a woman he hopes to win back—all on live TV. The bachelorette will be asked to join Canyon on a two-week winter wonderland getaway. Cambria would bet her Soap and Body Shop that she’s the last woman he’d choose; that is, until the chime of her doorbell proves her wrong.
     

Her Crazy Rich Fake Fiancé by Jennifer Youngblood 

Haven Lockwood’s Christmas takes a nosedive when she discovers that her mother and identical twin sister, Brynn, ditched her, leaving her to spend Christmas alone in their New York City apartment. To make matters worse, Brynn’s boyfriend Wyatt shows up, ready to take Brynn on a road trip to Atlanta to meet his family. Haven is fully prepared to tell Wyatt the hard news—that her flighty twin sister jetted off to Ireland with a movie star, leaving him high and dry—however, when she finds herself staring into his mesmerizing blue eyes, all explanations fly out the window. Not only is Wyatt devastatingly handsome, but also charming and witty with an adorable Southern accent that rolls like a ballad off his tongue. Haven knows that when Wyatt looks at her with adoring eyes it’s only because he has mistaken her for her glamorous clothing designer sister. She wants to tell Wyatt the truth, but she can’t stand the thought of spending Christmas alone. As one thing leads to another and Haven and Wyatt share a near-kiss, Haven makes a split-second decision to accompany Wyatt to Atlanta—as Brynn! When the sizzling attraction deepens to something real, Haven faces an internal dilemma—should she come clean now, before Christmas, or wait until afterwards? Will the truth destroy Haven’s chance for happiness … or will it be the very thing that brings two searching hearts together?

      

Her Hollywood Fake Fiancé by Taylor Hart 

A famous movie star and the drama teacher who calls him a hack! Will they get their Christmas Miracle? Grant Kent, movie star extraordinaire, doesn't like the fact he has to have a fake 'media' relationship with his co-star to keep his movie producer's happy. And he really doesn't like the fact his brothers' give him grief about it. So when he's asked to help out at an acting camp for inner city kids, he jumps at the chance to do something real. Too bad the woman in charge tells him outright she thinks he's a hack. The talented Jewel Olympia only wants to help inner city kids by giving them an opportunity to learn acting skills. When she's notified the week before Christmas that the P.I. she's hired to track down her birth mother has a solid lead on her whereabouts, she decides it's time to finally meet the woman that abandoned her in a hospital emergency room twenty-five years ago. Too bad an amazing looking movie star keeps bugging her to go on a date--bug off, she's unavailable. But when her parents show up on her doorstep asking where she's going, she tries to distract them with Grant's star power to avoid hurting their feelings. When he blurts out he's her fiance, everything gets derailed and she finds herself on a jet to Jackson--this is not her life! When a simple trip turns into a media frenzy, they're left with a choice--trust in Christmas angels or lose everything.
 
    


Farm girl sass takes on America’s Most Eligible Bachelor in this fun fake fiance romance. Callum Hawk has it all—fame, money, and a family that loves him. He doesn’t have time for romance but that’s all right, his head of marketing does a great job scheduling dates with models and actresses for the necessary social events. When he almost hits Alexia Hall with his motorcycle, he’s intrigued by the feisty blonde and offers to hire her to be his fake fiancé for his brother’s wedding. When she not only turns him down but tells him to never come near her again, he has no clue what went wrong. Lexi Hall almost kills her billionaire boss--ripping his Brioni suit, and scarring his motorcycle. Her errant tongue offends him and she storms away from the job opportunity of a lifetime. Hours later, she finds out her mom has finally been matched to a kidney donor, if Lexi can help pay for the surgery and medications. Her options are to swallow her pride and beg Callum Hawk to take her back as his fake fiancé or jeopardize her mother’s health and let her entire family down. 
 
   
   

Christmas Cash Giveaway Details $50 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash Ends 12/16/18 Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Amazon.com Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by Rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner may be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, BookBub, Instagram, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. This giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader & Clean Wholesome Romance and is sponsored by the participating authors. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.      





Thursday, October 11, 2018

E-book #SALE 99 cents for The Diehard Warrior by Jennifer Youngblood


Grab your copy of The Diehard Warrior by Jennifer Youngblood for just 99 cents today!





Happy Release Day to The Diehard Warrior


https://amzn.to/2ydq2Ym  

The Diehard Warrior by Jennifer Youngblood 

A love gone wrong, a chance for redemption, and the web of deceit that could destroy everything. When feisty and headstrong Addie Spencer, the manager of an upscale resort in Colorado, finds herself in danger, she must put aside old grudges and rely on ex-Navy SEAL Maddox Easton—the guy she dumped—to keep her safe. Addie doesn’t want to think about the armies of butterflies Maddox unleashes in her stomach or his sharp wit and Southern charm. She certainly doesn’t want to think about his ripped muscles or penetrating blue eyes. She broke up with him for a good reason—a reason that is still staring her in the face. Despite her attempt to keep Maddox at bay, sparks rekindle as Addie and Maddox race to find the answer to a puzzling mystery before Addie becomes the next victim.  



Praise for The Diehard Warrior: This is an amazing and breathtaking love story with plenty of twists and turns and characters you fall in love with from the very beginning til the end definitely must read.  




Thursday, May 24, 2018

E-book Sale & Giveaway: 99 Cents for The Hometown Groom by Jennifer Youngblood

 

The Hometown Groom (Texas Titan Romances) by Jennifer Youngblood 

A hunky quarterback, a debutante, and the merger that might forever keep them apart … Emerson Stein has no intention of marrying billionaire Finley Landers just so her daddy’s merger will go through, no matter how much of a hissy fit her mama throws. When she skips out of a high-profile barbecue to barrel race at a rodeo, she never expects to meet Riker Dylan, the new starting quarterback for the Titans. With his startling blue eyes, easy smile, and boyish charm, Riker turns Emerson’s head and sends her pulse racing to the stars. Too bad she chews him out and punches him in the gut. Growing up just outside Dallas, Riker Dylan never imagined he’d get the chance to play football for the Titans. An unexpected encounter with a copper-haired beauty puts him on an uncharted path. Why does he get the feeling there’s more to her than meets the eye? When the stakes get impossibly high, will Emerson have the courage to choose her own path to be with the man she loves, or will the family pressure prove to be too great? 



     




Author Jennifer Youngblood 


Jennifer grew up in rural Alabama and loved living in a town where “everybody knows everybody.” Her love for writing began as a young teenager when she wrote stories for her high school English teacher to critique. While Jennifer enjoys writing in many genres, she has settled comfortably into the world of clean contemporary romance and is loving every minute of it! Jennifer has B.A. in English and Social Sciences from Brigham Young University where she served as Miss BYU Hawaii in 1989. Before becoming an author, she worked as the owner and editor of a monthly newspaper named The Senior Times. In addition to her love for writing, Jennifer enjoys working in the home design industry. She and her husband owned an interior design gallery where she specialized in custom window treatments and floral arrangements. As far as Jennifer is concerned, there are few of the world's problems that can't be solved with a warm brownie and vanilla bean ice cream. She loves romantic movies, roller blading, clogging, and jogging. She now lives in the Rocky Mountains with her family and spends her time writing and doing all of the wonderful things that make up the life of a busy wife and mother. 


 

Giveaway Details $25 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash Giveaway Ends 6/8/18 Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Amazon.com Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader and sponsored by the author. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.  





Monday, January 29, 2018

1 Day SALE, Excerpt & Giveaway: The Ghost Groom by Jennifer Youngblood

 



The Ghost Groom by Jennifer Youngblood  

A tough football player, a devoted sister, and the most difficult choice of all … After a long, painful search that involved legions of duds, Ariana Sanchez, fitness guru and gym owner, finally meets the perfect guy when she least expects it. Not only can Rennen tear up the dance floor, but he has these adorable blonde curls and compelling green eyes, specked with gold. When Ariana’s around him she feels oh, so alive! And the best part is that he’s a perfect gentleman and easy to talk to. Their first encounter leaves Ariana floating on air, thinking there’s hope for her love life after all … until she learns that Rennen is the celebrated rookie who’s taking her brother’s position as starting running back for the Titans. Too bad she’s totally loyal to her brother and has to hate him now! Rennen Bradley, the Ghost, has worked long and hard to get the opportunity to shine as the starting running back. Sure, he feels bad that Ace Sanchez was injured and that he’s taking his place on the team, but that’s how the game rolls. Rennen never expects to fall for Ariana, and it throws him for a loop when he realizes she’s Ace’s sister. But Rennen’s not going to let a simple complication like that come between him and the woman of his dreams. He understands Ariana’s reservations—heck, even admires her loyalty to her brother. But Rennen’s used to waging uphill battles. Abandoned as a child, Rennen learned a long time ago that you have to fight tooth and nail for anything you want in this life. And he wants Ariana, heart, body, and soul! Caught between loyalty and love, will Ariana choose her family or her heart?


    


Excerpt 

This was getting ridiculous. Justin was more handsy than an octopus. “Stop touching me,” Ariana warned. He laughed. “Come on, babe. Don’t be so stiff. You know you like it.” “No, I don’t like it,” she countered. “No one likes being pawed.” Revulsion churned in her gut as his eyes went to her chest. An incredulous laugh bubbled in her throat. Was he really ogling her chest, right here in front of her? What a jerk! As soon as she got home, she was going to contact Heart to Heart and put in a complaint. They really should be more diligent in making sure people were truthful in their profiles. Justin was nothing like he’d pretended to be, and it was obvious he was only after one thing … and it wasn’t a long-term relationship. She tensed, clenching her fists. “Hey, buddy. My face is up here.” He snorted out a chortle. “Yeah, but you’ve got something else going on down there. For a little girl, you’ve got a nice rack.” She froze amidst the dancing couples surrounding them. “What did you just say to me?” He laughed. “You heard me. Lighten up.” He grabbed her waist with an iron grip. “I thought Latin girls were supposed to be loose.” Her hand balled into a fist, and she thought about how it would feel to knock him across the floor. “I’m going to give you a half a second to let go of me.” He grunted in amusement. “Make me.” Heat splintered up her neck, making her feel like her head would split in two. Then cool precision took over as she calculated Justin’s height and weight. The bigger they are … the harder they fall. From the corner of her eye, she saw the blonde guy from earlier approach. “Is everything okay here?” he asked, his body taut, like he was ready to pounce. “Buzz off,” Justin grumbled. Letting loose a string of curse words. “Strike three,” Ariana muttered. She shot her arm straight up in a swift motion where it connected with Justin’s neck, right under his jaw line. Then she brought her arm back down, using her weight to knock him off his feet where he landed on his back with a heavy thud. Murmurs rippled through the couples surrounding them as they backed away. Justin gurgled, clutching his neck, a dazed look in his eyes. Ariana’s hands flew to her hips. “Just because I’m Latin does not make me easy!” Claps broke out around her. “That’s right,” a few of the women agreed. “Dirt bag,” one woman muttered, shooting Justin a death glare. As Justin stumbled to his feet, Ariana planted herself in a battle stance, ready to do more damage if necessary. Her adrenaline was going, and she’d make short work of him, putting her training to good use. But luckily for Justin, he ducked his head and scuttled away. “That has got to be the most awesome thing I’ve ever seen.” She turned to the blonde guy who was looking at her in astonishment, admiration shining in his eyes. “Thanks. I appreciate you trying to help.” He shoved his hands in his pockets, rocking forward on the balls of his feet. “Yeah, I was trying to rescue you from that creep … not that you needed my help.” Ariana’s blood was pumping so ferociously that she felt dizzy. He gave her a concerned look. “Are you okay?” A wan smile tipped her lips as she ran a hand through her hair. “Yeah, I guess that date didn’t go as planned.” He chuckled. “Life rarely does.” He held her gaze, and she felt the same buzz she’d experienced earlier. Everything around them slowed, and it was just the two of them. His voice was deeper than she imagined, with a husky edge. Her eyes traced the definition of the muscles underneath his form-fitting t-shirt. Heat fanned her face when she saw the flicker of amusement that turned his hazel-green eyes a honey-gold. He’d caught her checking him out. She jerked her eyes to his face, making a mental note to keep her focus there. He had a fine layer of scruff, emphasizing the lean line of his jaw. She swallowed, feeling she was staring at the real-life version of Thor and Captain America, all rolled into one. Captain Thor. Or Goldie Locks because of his thick tangles of beautiful curls. People around them resumed dancing, but the two of them just stood there. Ariana knew she should start dancing … or do something to break the tension, but she couldn’t get her body to cooperate. He cleared his throat, a grin washing over his face. “Um, maybe we should get off the dance floor.” “Oh, yeah.” She propelled her feet into action. Her mind whirled, going through all that had just happened. She could hardly believe he’d been the one to offer help. When they got to the side, he motioned to an empty table. “Would you like to sit down?” Her voice sounded unnaturally high and screechy in her ears. “Sure.” He pulled out a chair for her and helped her get seated. Wow. Captain Thor was a gentleman to the nth degree. A startling contrast to Justin. As they sat there, staring across the table at each other, Ariana scrambled for something halfway intelligent to say. “Thanks again. You’re a great dancer,” she blurted. Sheesh. She was making an idiot out of herself. Normally she was calm and cool around men, always knowing the right thing to say. But it seemed her mouth had disconnected from her brain. His lips curved into a radiant smile, causing the edges of his eyes to crease. “Thanks. You’re pretty good yourself.” The compliment caught her off guard, sending warm ripples cascading through her. He’d been watching her too. It was good to know the attraction went both ways. He leaned forward. “Was that guy your boyfriend?” She wrinkled her nose. “Heck no!” She laughed. “We’d never met in person before tonight. We were matched on a dating app.” His eyebrows shot up in surprise. “Really?” She felt foolish and a little desperate for resorting to a dating app. Her explanation gushed out. “It’s an app where people in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area can connect. You know, people with similar interests.” She shrugged. “It seemed like a good idea … in theory.” She scowled, darkness gathering inside her. “Of course, I should’ve known better than to go out with a football coach. Note to self … don’t date anymore coaches or football players. Their egos are the size of a whale, their brains the size of a pea, from one too many hits on the field.” He laughed. “That’s a bit of a blanket statement.” Her face fell. “Don’t tell me, you’re a football player.” Of course he was. That would be just her luck. An easy grin stole over his lips. “Well, if I were, I certainly wouldn’t admit it now.” She pursed her lips together, assessing him. He didn’t seem bothered by her scrutiny. He just sat there, patiently enduring it. “No, you’re not a football player,” she finally said. “I don’t know what you are, but you’re far too intelligent to play football.” He cocked his head. “So, all football players are stupid? Is that what you’re saying?” “Nope. Not all of them. Just about ninety percent.” “So only ten percent are intelligent.” He grinned. “See, I can do math.” The teasing tone of his voice caused her to smile. “That’s good to know.” He tsked his tongue. “What turned you against football players?” “Aside from Justin?” She lifted an eyebrow, waiting for him to respond. “Yep, aside from him. I mean, he was a douche bag, but the bite in your voice tells me there’s more.” When her brother Ace first started playing pro ball, Ariana went out with a few players on the team. After about the sixth disaster, she swore off football players altogether. “Experience,” she finally said. Interest lit his eyes. “Care to elaborate?” “Not really,” she said loudly, then felt like she was yelling when the music suddenly stopped. They turned their attention to the guy on stage holding the microphone. “Folks, we’ve got a fun evening lined up, it’s karaoke night!” He pumped a fist in the air as the crowd cheered. Ariana’s heart dropped. Oh, no! The emcee looked down at the sheet of paper in his hand. “To start, we have a duet by Ariana and Justin.” Captain Thor looked at her. “Is everything okay?” “Not really.” She groaned. “I’m Ariana.” 



   Alternate Ending - After reading The Ghost Groom be sure to download and read the FREE alternate ending written by Cami Checketts & Taylor Hart. 


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