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Excerpt: The Athlete and The Aristocrat

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Sometimes love takes balls.

Newly retired championship footballer Simon Wood is taking on his next challenge. His plan for a charity to provide funding for underprivileged children to pursue football as a career has passed its first hurdle: he has backers and an executive consultant. Now it’s time to get the ball rolling.

Lucien Morel, heir to the multibillion-euro Morel Corporation, is shocked—and thrilled—to learn his father has volunteered him as consultant to a fledgling football charity. Better yet, the brains behind it all is heartthrob Simon Wood, his teenage idol and crush.

Although Simon and Lucien get off on the wrong foot, it’s not long before they’re getting along like a house on fire—sparks included. But with the charity under public scrutiny, can their romance thrive?

Excerpt:

NOT FIDGETING was hard.

That’s stupid, he told himself. He was Simon Wood, for fuck’s sake, a championship professional athlete. He’d been in more high-pressure situations than most people would care to even imagine—on the pitch, in the locker room, in the media spotlight. He was used to being nervous, and not since he was nineteen had he felt the urge to fidget.

This was more important than anything else he’d done, however, although he’d never say so to the millions of football fans around the world, many of whom either idolized or loathed him. But it was. As much as he’d always loved playing football, his career as an athlete was never going to be forever, and while it brought entertainment and pleasure to many, ultimately that had been fleeting. This, though… this could last a long time and benefit a lot of young people.

So Si made a concerted effort not to tap his fingers on the chair arms as he sat in the executive reception of the Morel Corporation in Paris. It was a fantastic coup to have even gotten this appointment with Édouard Morel—most applications for charitable funds went through the Morel Foundation’s director—but once Si had retired and made the decision that this was what he wanted to do next, he’d called in just about every favor he’d ever been owed and leaned on a few contacts he’d made in his playing years just to get this meeting. The Morel Corporation had been his top pick when he’d been compiling a list of possible backers because Édouard Morel was known for following through on promises to charities and for generosity. He needed the older man’s full backing, including his contacts and influence, not just to be one of many charities on the Foundation’s list.

“Monsieur Wood?” Si looked up as the extremely elegant executive receptionist came toward him, her professional smile just that tiny bit more than it should be. He was used to that, of course, from both women and men, and any other time he may have considered signaling that he was open to her offer, but not today. Not here. He would do nothing to bollocks up this meeting.

He kept his smile as neutral as possible as he stood. “Yes?”

“If you come this way, Monsieur Morel will see you now.” Her manner slipped back to purely professional. His message had obviously been received.

Taking a deep breath and trying not to be obvious about it, Si followed her down a hallway. At the end was a set of double doors, and with each step closer, his heart pounded a tiny bit louder in his ears. Relax, Si. You can do this.

They reached the doors, and the woman—she’d told him her name earlier, but he couldn’t for the life of him remember it—knocked once before opening one and poking her head in. A moment later she opened both doors wide and stepped back, motioning for him to enter.

“Thank you,” he said, his throat suddenly dry, and walked past her. He heard the doors close behind him, but his focus was on the man rising from a fancy chair behind the big desk across the room. “Monsieur Morel, I’m so pleased to meet you,” Si said as he crossed the space between them, hand outstretched. “I’m Simon Wood.” He knew the man spoke English, which was a great relief since his French was not good and mainly limited to the sort of slurs that could be used against opponents during a football match.

“I recognize you,” Édouard Morel replied, smiling broadly. “I am not so great a sports fan as my son, but even I could not fail to know who you are.” He shook Si’s hand and gestured for him to sit, while Si wondered if the comment about not being a great sports fan meant he was screwed.

Only one way to find out.

“I must confess, I am very curious about this new venture you wanted to speak about. I am not in the habit of funding new businesses, but several people insisted I must see you.”

Oh, bloody hell. It sounded like Morel was setting up for a refusal already, and Si had only introduced himself!

“It’s not exactly a new business,” Si said, forcing the words through his suddenly too-tight throat. Morel raised an eyebrow, his expression skeptical… and just like that, Si was in his zone. The nerves fell away, the worry disappeared, and he was hyperfocused, completely intent on the end goal.

He knew he was speaking, knew he’d taken out the business plan and was making his presentation, but he wasn’t sure exactly what he said. He felt confident, though, sure of every word and action, could judge Morel’s reactions and change tack as required.

And those reactions weren’t always positive. “I do not spend charitable funds on games,” had very nearly pulled Si out of his focused state.

Finally he sat back in his chair, awareness widening again as Morel flipped once more through the business plan for the program. He’d made his pitch. Now to see if it had worked.

Morel looked up, and Si’s gut clenched. “You have secured 25 percent of the funding required for startup and the first year?”

Si nodded. “Yes. There are various grant organizations across Europe that have indicated they would be happy to support the program. I can’t officially apply for them until we’re up and running, of course, but I’ve been assured the funds will be allocated when I do. That will account for 5 percent. The other twenty is coming from me.”

Morel seemed impressed by that. “Really? Twenty percent?”

“I was very good at my job, monsieur, and not as foolish with money as some might assume footballers are. I strongly believe that this program can do a lot of good, and I’d be an idiot not to put my money where my mouth is before looking for funding.” Was that too aggressive? Maybe he should have just shut up.

“Very well.” Morel put the business plan down and sat back in his superfancy chair. “I will not lie—I have never been inclined to support sports charities. I believe money is better used on basic necessities and education.” Si’s stomach sank. “However, you have made a very good point that sometimes young people have different priorities and that life cannot just be about necessities. Pleasure is important too. So here is what I propose. You have 25 percent of funding already secured. The Morel Corporation—not the Foundation—will fund an additional 60 percent of what you need for the first five years of the program, with an option to review then.”

Si wanted to leap up and scream in victory. Sixty percent was more—heaps more—than what he’d hoped for from Morel, and a five-year commitment? Outstanding! Instead, he smiled broadly. “That’s very generous of you, sir. Thank you. You won’t regret this.”

Morel held up a hand. “I am not finished. You have an MBA and an excellent understanding of football and the needs of young players, but I believe no actual experience with running a business or charitable endeavor?”

Where’s he going with this? “That’s correct, sir, and why the plan”—he nodded to the bound document on the desk—“allows for the hire of an experienced business manager.”

“But surely those funds can be put to better use? Let me instead propose this. My son, Lucien, will consult on the setup of the program, train you to run it, and oversee operations for the first five years. His time and expertise will be an additional part of the Morel Corporation’s contribution.”

There was a roaring sound in Si’s ears. Morel was giving him an executive consultant? Si couldn’t claim to be current on who all the movers and shakers of the business world were, but Lucien Morel appeared in the business news almost as often as his father. Having his knowledge and expertise attached to the program would be…. Si couldn’t even think of a word to describe how good.

Belatedly, he realized Morel was still speaking.

“… and so I will personally provide the final 15 percent of funding that you require.”

Si blinked. “I…. Sorry, could you repeat that?” He knew it was less than professional, but he needed to hear the words again.

Morel smiled. “I said, I am aware that it may prove difficult to obtain funding from other organizations with a Morel representative overseeing operations, so I will personally provide the additional funds. No insult to you, but with the size of the contribution the Morel Corporation is making, I would feel more comfortable to have Lucien involved, and if that requires an additional contribution from me….” He shrugged, a very Gallic gesture, and Si nodded. Christ, was it Christmas? His birthday? Every good day he’d ever experienced rolled into one? There could be no other explanation for the level of good fortune he was in receipt of today.

He stood when Morel did. “I will have Lucien’s assistant contact you to arrange an appointment, but here is his information. His name is Paul.” Si took the offered business card, feeling rather numb, shook the man’s hand, and left the office. He walked down the hall, nodded to the receptionist, rode the lift down thirty floors, and left the building. It wasn’t until he was out on the busy Paris street, faced with several hours before he needed to be at the airport for his flight home, that it hit him.

He’d done it.

Twenty years of wondering, of wishing, of thinking maybe one day. The scrupulous efforts to put money aside during his early playing days, when teammates his age were blowing thousands—sometimes millions—on posh houses and cars, holidays abroad, and designer gear. The years of scraping out time to study for his degrees in addition to his grueling training, match, and publicity schedules.

It was all paying off. He’d had the business plan, and now he had the funding too.

And an executive consultant of the like he could never have dreamed of hiring.

Si laughed out loud as he walked down the street, everything seeming bolder, brighter, happier.

He loved Paris.

 

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New Release

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Friends with benefits never looked so tempting…

Genre: Romantic Comedy
Stand-alone Novella

Samantha Hasting is a woman sick of living in a rut. Her whole life revolves around her work and her best friends. Wanting to meet new people—including a man who makes her heart beat faster—she signs up for online dating.As Sam embarks on her dating adventures, her best friend—and friend with benefits—Levi is her constant, a shoulder to cry on and buddy to laugh with. It’s only after she meets and starts dating Jack that she realizes maybe Levi means more to her than she’d thought. Maybe the man who makes her heart beat faster was right there all along.

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Title: Wild Hearts

Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: March 10, 2018
Cover Designer: Claire Smith
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 Available now! 

 


 
This sexy cowboy is out of his element. He doesn’t want commitment, but Jodie Ellison is a force of nature who can’t be ignored.
 
Jodie Ellison loves wild parties, chaotic fun, and spontaneity in her hometown of Ocean City, Maryland. With her writing career and waitressing job not quite paying the bills, Jodie desperately needs a new roommate and finds herself in a nightmarish situation when her roomie turns out to be a disastrous choice.
 
The wild and unruly Levi Creed is a little bit rebel and a whole lot of sexy. When he moves in next door to Jodie, things get a bit tumultuous thanks to a squawking parrot and a dangerous fire pit. It seems like Levi’s adorable Texan drawl and perfect body can’t possibly win over Jodie… or can they?
An undeniable chemistry simmers between the unlikely pair. The beach babe and the sexy cowboy soon find themselves asking: Can they tame their wild hearts and commit to the blossoming romance between them?
Plus, more importantly, I don’t want this flaunty cowboy to think I’m interested or something. I mean, what kind of man walks around Ocean City with an open plaid shirt? What kind of man puts a fire ring in his front yard to cook dinner?
I’ve been down the hot-bod-guy road before, and it didn’t turn out great. He seems nice enough, it’s true. But he’s got that swagger about him, and I’ve seen that before. Something tells me Levi Creed isn’t an innocent Texan boy. Something in his eyes, in his posture, in his everything screams rebel.
True, the last time I fell for a six-pack abs guy was at beach yoga, and the guy wasn’t quite wearing a cowboy hat. But still. I know his type. A hell of a lot of fun… but a hell of a lot of trouble too.
The fire looks nice and inviting, but I’ve been burned before. I have my writing career to focus on. I don’t need to end up in the burning embers again.
“Never mind,” I say, and Levi stays put for a moment before smiling, tipping his hat at me like I’m some southern belle, then heading back into his apartment. He emerges ten minutes later with what looks to be some steaks. He sets up some kind of rack over the fire, and the smell is heavenly. I bury my nose in my computer, though, determined to get some work done.
When he’s done cooking, he ambles back in his apartment, and I figure I won’t see him again.
Fifteen minutes later, though, he comes out with a plate. “I don’t want to distract you, but I had an extra and thought you might be hungry.”
“Smells good. Thanks,” I say, realizing I am actually quite hungry.
“One word of warning. More than one lady has fallen head over heels for me because of my amazing steak cooking skills. Eat at your own risk.”
My mouth opens to spew some witty response, but I’ve got nothing. He winks at me, hands the plate to me, and once I take it, he spins on his boot and walks away, no further questions or comments.
I stare down at the plate, a fork and knife included. There’s a heavenly smelling steak with a salad. Sebastian climbs up on my lap, pawing at the plate, almost choking himself on the harness in the process.
The man might have odd fashion choices, a southern drawl, and a bit of overconfidence, but ten minutes later when the steak’s been devoured, I decide he can definitely cook a damn steak—and maybe Levi Creed as a neighbor has its benefits.
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Lines in the Sand, Book 1
Inked Hearts
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A high school English teacher, an author, and a fan of anything pink and/or glittery, Lindsay’s the English teacher cliché; she love cats, reading, Shakespeare, and Poe.

She currently lives in her hometown with her husband, Chad (her junior high sweetheart); their cats, Arya, Amelia, Alice, and Bob; and their Mastiff, Henry.
Lindsay’s goal with her writing is to show the power of love and the beauty of life while also instilling a true sense of realism in her work. Some reviewers have noted that her books are not the “typical romance.” With her novels coming from a place of honesty, Lindsay examines the difficult questions, looks at the tough emotions, and paints the pictures that are sometimes difficult to look at. She wants her fiction to resonate with readers as realistic, poetic, and powerful. Lindsay wants women readers to be able to say, “I see myself in that novel.” She wants to speak to the modern woman’s experience while also bringing a twist of something new and exciting. Her aim is for readers to say, “That could happen,” or “I feel like the characters are real.” That’s how she knows she’s done her job.
Lindsay’s hope is that by becoming a published author, she can inspire some of her students and other aspiring writers to pursue their own passions. She wants them to see that any dream can be attained and publishing a novel isn’t out of the realm of possibility.

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Title: A Whole New Life
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: February 24, 2018
Cover Designer: Soxsational Cover Art
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 Available now! 
All other links: books2read.com/whole
A handsome deputy who’s not looking to settle down.
A mysterious woman who’s on the run.
When Deputy Henri Gunther realizes there’s so much more to waitress Jenna Trippleton, his simple small-town life explodes right open. With her safety and freedom at stake, Jenna must decide whether she can put her trust in the one man who’s promised to protect her.

 

 

“You have a great day as well. And watch out for those ghosts up at the bed-and-breakfast.” He winked at her.
“What ghosts?” she asked, confused.
“Didn’t anyone tell you? The Bakker place is supposed to be haunted. Stories have been circulating about that for over a hundred years.” Henri smiled at her.
“You don’t really believe such things, do you?” Jenna scoffed. She’d lived through real hell; ghost stories weren’t going to scare her.
Deputy Hotty kept smiling and handed her his card. “My cell number is on there. You never know when you might want a deputy to come save you from the big bad ghosts. Of course, you can feel free to call me for anything else you might need as well.”
Oh my God, he really is flirting with me, Jenna thought to herself. Outwardly she tried to remain cool as she took his card. “Thank you, Deputy, but I stopped believing in ghosts a long time ago.”
“Why is that?” he asked.
“The living people around me turned out to be scarier,” Jenna answered before thinking. Damn her too-honest mouth sometimes, it always had gotten her into trouble.
Henri’s eyes seemed to focus a little more after her response. “I’m sorry. Still, keep my card and give me a call sometime. I’m good at all sorts of things, not just protecting people from ghosts.” With one final smile and wink, he walked out to join his fellow officers.
Anna came up behind her as she still held his card in her hand. “Looks like you have a new admirer. Mind you, he might be the biggest flirt in the town, but I don’t know if I’ve seen Henri Gunther go full out like that for attention since he was in high school, and even then he didn’t have to work hard. Girls practically threw themselves at him then—well, until Stacey landed him.”
“And now? No Stacey or women throwing themselves at him?” Jenna couldn’t help but ask. She was going to remain single—she didn’t need the hassle of a relationship, let alone one with a cop and apparently the town lothario—but she still couldn’t help wanting to know. Something about that man got to her. Maybe it was the sadness behind the flirting baby blues, the hint of depths unknown she could see in his eyes.
“Seems like he may have a little interest being returned? Well, I’ll give you a brief run-through on Henri Gunther. Gorgeous, as anyone with eyes can see, and so can he. Back in high school, he was a big shot football player who dated the head cheerleader. Then in the last game, he broke his leg and ended any hope of a college career. Stacey had been banking on him leaving town and taking her with him. When he decided to stay and try out for the police force, well, she took off with one of his friends from the team who was headed to Iowa State. Broke poor Henri’s heart,” Anna explained.
 
 Available now! 
Sheri Velarde lives in New Mexico with her husband and their two dogs.
Being an avid reader since an early age, Sheri wanted to be a writer for as long as she can remember. She has been writing all her life, but only recently started to pursue her dream of writing for a living. Sheri specializes in all things paranormal and that go bump in the night. Her heart truly lies in exploring unknown worlds or adding the supernatural to our world. If it goes bump in the night or has magical connotations, Sheri writes about it. She writes everything from sweet romances to horror stories sure to scare you.
In her spare time Sheri is an artist, jewelry designer, independent comic writer/artist and freelance non-fiction writer. Hiking in the mountains, going to live concerts, art openings, museums, watching movies, playing games, and hosting intimate dinner parties.
Sheri is constantly putting out new material with various publishers, so it is best to keep up with her on her website www.authorsherivelarde.weebly.com.
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Cover Reveal!

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Aren’t they pretty? Trials and Tribulations of Online Dating is in the blue one, but I can’t wait to read them all!

Seventeen friends-to-lovers stories in two volumes, coming mid-September.

Their eyes had met a thousand times, their smiles always easy and honest. All it takes is that one moment for everything to change. When their eyes are opened, no longer does “just friends” seem good enough.
Fall in love with Unintentional, a collection of friends-to-lovers HEA stories. Happy ever afters really do come true.

Unintentional – International

Unintentional – North America

Samantha Hasting is a woman sick of living in a rut. Her whole life revolves around her work and her best friends. She wants to meet new people, hopefully including a man who makes her heart beat faster, so she signs up for online dating.

As Sam embarks on her dating adventures, her best friend—and friend with benefits—Levi, is her constant, a shoulder to cry on and buddy to laugh with. It’s only after she meets and starts dating Jack that she realizes maybe Levi means more to her than she’d thought. Maybe the man who makes her heart beat faster was right there all along.
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Where’s the love?

loveI was listening to a friend bemoan the lack of romance in her relationship, and it got me thinking. Is there a simple checklist of things you can do to keep the spark alive? The answer is simple: yes.

Five easy, non-expensive ways to show your partner that you still think the sun rises and sets on them. Taking your partner for granted is not unusual when you’ve been together for a while. Occasionally, it doesn’t hurt to throw some extra effort into the mix.

1. Hold their hand. Watching TV, in the car, walking down the street. Pick the right time, reach out, and hold hands.

2. Kiss. Been at work all day? Get home and have a smooch. It can even be a light peck.

3. Call. Pick your time and call your partner just because you want to hear their voice. It might be a thirty-second call, but isn’t it nice to know someone is thinking of you?

4. Surprise! Bring them a small gift. Something they like, maybe a food item like chocolate or ice-cream. It doesn’t have to be expensive, but it does have to be thoughtful. Don’t go for the generic.

5. Say I love you. Sometimes we forget that words are important, too.

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Fairytales vs Romance

B&BFor years and years, when asked what my favorite fairytale is, I’ve always answered ‘Beauty and the Beast’. Why? I didn’t have a clue.

The other day I watched the Disney movie, Enchanted, for the first time. For those of you who haven’t seen it, it’s a fabulous amalgamation of the classic Disney movies, the ultimate fairytale with a modern twist. I loved it right off. The fact that Patrick Dempsey is in it didn’t hurt, of course.

The point is, after seeing the movie, it struck me why B&B has always been my favorite. The hero and heroine actually get to know each other.

Think about it. Cinderella and her prince fall in love during a dance. Snow White and Sleeping Beauty both meet their princes when they wake from comas. Ariel can’t talk with her prince, and so he ends up almost marrying someone else (depending on the version. I dislike the one where he actually does marry someone else and Ariel dies).

But only in Beauty and the Beast do our hero and heroine actually talk to each other before the happy ever after. They talk, they play, eat and read and get to know who they really are, both together and apart (okay, so I’m investing this story with depth that may not actually be there, but you know what I mean). This is a story that appeals to a modern audience. Once upon a time, ending up with a Prince, no matter who he was, may have been enough to ensure happy ever after, but personally I want to know who I’m waking up with the day after the wedding.

So, I put on my B&B dvd to watch the magic again…and noticed exactly how clever the people at Disney are. That wonderful scene, the one where Belle and The Beast are dancing in the ballroom? That scene that always made me sigh and wish that the days of ballrooms and gowns and dancing would return? That ultimately romantic, wonderful moment in time? Well, it’s been replicated, in non-animated human format, at the end of Enchanted. And it’s just as eminently romantic and sigh-worthy.

If you haven’t seen Beauty and the Beast, or Enchanted, I strongly recommend that you run out and buy copies. Don’t bother with renting, it will cost you more in the long run!

So, if I had to choose the fairytale or romance, I want romance. I want the moments that make your chest ache. The happy ever after is something my man and I can work on together.

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Cover for One Night in a Bar!

Wheee! I have the cover for One Night in a Bar, which is coming from Total-E-Bound mid-year.

Karen comes home unexpectedly to find her boyfriend cheating on her with her (male) boss, and another man. Can you really blame her for pulling out the mace when they invite her to join in? Her boss can. She loses her job, and does what we’ve all done before–goes out with a friend to mourn the loss of life as she knew it.

They go to a bar, and she gets a little tipsy…and somehow, she and sexy Daniel end up in the alley behind the bar. Something she’s never done before. Good thing they’ll never see each other again, right?

Wrong…