Sapphire Flames by Ilona Andrews

sapphire flames bannerSapphire Flames

A Hidden Legacy Novel, Book 4

by Ilona Andrews 

Genre: Urban Fantasy, Paranormal Romance 

s- about the bookFrom #1 New York Times bestselling author Ilona Andrew comes an enthralling new trilogy set in the Hidden Legacy world, where magic means power, and family bloodlines are the new currency of society…

In a world where magic is the key to power and wealth, Catalina Baylor is a Prime, the highest rank of magic user, and the Head of her House. Catalina has always been afraid to use her unique powers, but when her friend’s mother and sister are murdered, Catalina risks her reputation and safety to unravel the mystery.

But behind the scenes, powerful forces are at work, and one of them is Alessandro Sagredo, the Italian Prime who was once Catalina’s teenage crush. Dangerous and unpredictable, Alessandro’s true motives are unclear, but he’s drawn to Catalina like a moth to a flame.

To help her friend, Catalina must test the limits of her extraordinary powers, but doing so may cost her both her House–and her heart.

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s- about the authorIlona Andrews author photo_266x400“Ilona Andrews” is the pseudonym for a husband-and-wife writing team. Ilona is a native-born Russian and Gordon is a former communications sergeant in the U.S. Army. Contrary to popular belief, Gordon was never an intelligence officer with a license to kill, and Ilona was never the mysterious Russian spy who seduced him. They met in college, in English Composition 101, where Ilona got a better grade. (Gordon is still sore about that.)

Gordon and Ilona currently reside in Texas with their two children and many dogs and cats.

They have co-authored several NYT and USAT bestselling series. They are currently working on urban fantasy of Kate Daniels, the paranormal romance of Hidden Legacy, and their independently published series, Innkeeper Chronicles.

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Website: https://ilona-andrews.com
Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/ilona.andrews 

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ilona_andrews 

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s- excerptSapphireFlames_FinFlt_Art_cmyk_372x600Chapter One

I was swimming through the warm water of the Gulf when someone knocked on the sky. The bright little fishes following me scattered, the crystal-clear water vanished, and I landed on the sand.

The sky above me shuddered. Boom, boom, boom.

The dream tore like wet tissue, and for a disorienting moment, I didn’t know where I was. Slowly the familiar contours of my bedroom came into focus through the gloom. The alarm clock on my nightstand glowed with bright red. 2:07 a.m.

Someone was pounding on my door.

“Catalina!” my sister yelled. “Get up!”

Panic pierced me. I jumped out the bed, sprinted across the bedroom, and flung the door open. “Did the plane go down?”

“What? No!”

I sagged against the door frame in relief. Our older sister, Nevada; her husband; and her mother-in-law were flying to Spain for a funeral. Over the ocean. It caused me no end of anxiety.

“The plane is fine,” Arabella told me.

“Then what is it?”

Arabella’s face was flushed, and her blond hair stuck out from her head in weird directions. She wore an old, stained Sailor Moon T-shirt, and her basketball shorts were on backward.

“Augustine is downstairs.”

“Augustine who? Augustine Montgomery?”

“Yes!”

I snapped out of my relief back to full alert. “Why?” Why in the world would the Head of House Montgomery be downstairs, in the middle of the night?

“He wants to see you. He says it’s an emergency. Hurry up before Mom shoots him.”

She turned around and ran down the stairs leading from my loft suite to the rest of the warehouse we used as our home and place of business.

Augustine was absolutely the last person I expected at two o’clock in the morning. Something terrible had happened.

I looked at myself. I wore an oversized grey T-shirt that came to my knees and said, “I ♥ Sleep.” No time to change. I took the stairs barefoot and followed my sister into a wide hallway. The light in the media room was on, casting a warm electric glow and illuminating the way just enough to see.

The hallway led to a door on the left where a small section of the warehouse was designated as the Baylor Agency’s office. The entire family congregated in front of the door, all except Mom.

Grandma Frida, thin, tan, with a halo of platinum curls, looked worried. Bern, my oldest cousin, resembled a bear awakened halfway through his hibernation—big, muscular, his dark blond hair disheveled, holding a tablet that looked too small for his hands. Next to him, Leon, his younger half brother, and complete opposite leaned on the wall, totally awake. Lean and dark-haired, Leon was a ball of wiry energy. And he still wore the jeans and T-shirt I had seen him in last night. Either he fell asleep in his clothes, or he felt the need to be fully dressed at two o’clock in the morning for some nefarious reason. Leon didn’t have any other kind of reasons.

Ahead of me, Arabella darted up the stairs and into her bedroom and emerged with a huge Texas A&M sweatshirt. She threw it at me. “Boobs.”

Bern woke up enough to roll his eyes.

“Thanks.” I pulled the sweatshirt on, hiding the fact that I wasn’t wearing a bra. “How did Augustine get here?”

At night, access to the warehouse was blocked by concrete barriers. Only one road remained open, guarded by a checkpoint staffed with our security people, who were supposed to prevent exactly this sort of thing from happening. Augustine was ruthless. He could have killed us all in our sleep.

“Did our guards let him in? Did anyone call and say he was coming?”

“Funny thing,” Leon said. “We have this lovely footage.”

Bern turned the tablet toward me. A view from the surveillance camera inside the security booth showed two guards, a Hispanic female in her forties and a white man in his mid-twenties with dark hair. Lopez and Walton. A silver Bentley Bentayga pulled up to the booth. The passenger window of the car rolled down, revealing me.

“Hello, Ms. Baylor,” Walton said.

The fake Catalina nodded.

“Check the log, check the log . . .” Leon sang out.

The log of arrivals and departures lay right there, on the counter. It would show that I was already home.

The guard reached over, his hand passed above the log to the switch attached to the barrier mechanism.

“Epic fail!” Leon announced.

Walton flipped the switch and a heavy metal clang announced the spiked barrier retracting. The window rolled back up and the armored vehicle slid forward and out of view.

I couldn’t even. My ability to even was severely compromised.

Lopez frowned. “When did they get a Bentley?”

The male guard shrugged. “Who knows? Maybe it was a birthday present.”

“Dumbass,” Arabella said.

Augustine Montgomery was an illusion Prime. He could look like anyone, he could sound like anyone, and he could pass both fingerprint and retinal scanners. And he just breezed past our security like it was nothing.

“We’re in trouble,” I said.

“No shit,” Leon said.

“Catalina,” Grandma Frida said, “your mother is in the conference room with that ass and a Desert Eagle. Get in there before she puts a .50 round between his eyes.”

I opened the door, walked into the office hallway, and shut the door behind me. This part of the warehouse with its high-traffic beige carpet, a drop ceiling, and glass walls looked just like any regular workspace. The three offices on my right and the break room with a kitchenette on my left lay shrouded in gloom. Only the conference room, just past the break room, was brightly lit, and the electric light shone through the glass into the hallway.

I took a step and stopped. As of three days ago, when I officially turned twenty-one, I also became the Head of House Baylor. We were a brand-new House, formed only three years ago. Our grace period, a reprieve which shielded us from attacks by other Houses, was about to expire. I had dealt with magical heavy hitters before in the course of our business, but this would be my first interaction with another Prime as the Head of a House. And Augustine was a shark in a four-thousand-dollar suit, a sleek, deadly great white with razor-sharp teeth.

I had to do this right. I couldn’t just barge in there. Emergency or not, I had to act the part.

My stomach fluttered.

Think Prime, Head of the House, Victoria Tremaine’s granddaughter, confident, dangerous, not afraid, woken up in the middle of the night . . . annoyed. Definitely annoyed.

I walked into the conference room with a slightly irritated expression.

Augustine pivoted toward me in his chair. Louis Auchincloss, who wrote novels about polite society and old money, once famously said, “Perfection irritates as well as it attracts, in fiction as in life.” Augustine was deeply irritating.

Being an illusion Prime, Augustine crafted his appearance the way one would paint a masterpiece. His face was beautifully sculpted with defined cheekbones, a square jaw that communicated masculinity without implying brutishness, a straight nose, and a broad forehead. His cheeks were slightly concave, just enough to communicate maturity. A virtuoso barber had turned his blond, nearly platinum hair into a masterpiece. A thin pair of glasses was the only imperfection Augustine allowed himself and it wasn’t enough. There was something ageless and cold about him. He was about as alive as a marble statue.

At the other end of the table, my mother sat watching him like a coiled cobra. Her right hand stayed under the table, most likely touching the Desert Eagle .50, the largest legal caliber for a handgun in the US. It was the closest thing to handheld artillery Mom could conceal under the table. It could send a round through a full refrigerator and kill a person on the other side.

My mother spent almost ten years as a sniper and her magic guaranteed that she didn’t miss. If she killed Augustine, Montgomery International Investigations, the firm Augustine owed, would crush us. If he miraculously survived, he would kill her. As happened often in life, there were no good options. I had to get him out of here.

I made my tone cold and annoyed. “Mr. Montgomery, while you’re always welcome in our home, it’s the middle of the night.”

“I apologize,” he said. “It’s an emergency.” He reached into his pocket, pulled out a phone, and showed it to me.

On the screen, an adolescent boy smiled into the camera. Bright red hair cut short, grey eyes, pale skin, and the smug grin of a teenage boy who has just gotten away with mischief. He looked vaguely familiar, but I couldn’t for the life of me remember where I saw him before.

“This is Ragnar,” Augustine said. “He’s fifteen. He has a dog named Tank. He likes detective books and the Sherlock Holmes show. He plays a Ranger in Hero Tournament. Two days ago, his mother and sister died in a fire.”

“Why are you telling me this?”

“Right now he’s standing on the roof of Memorial Hermann Hospital. He’s thinking of jumping and he’s a Prime, so nobody can get to him. If we don’t hurry, his broken body will be the leading story on the morning news.”

Alarm rolled through me in an electric rush.

“Augustine, you know that’s not what I do. I’ve never pulled someone off a roof before. If I fail, I’ll be responsible for his death . . .”

“But you can do it. It’s within your power.” He looked straight at me. “Your sister asked me for a favor once. I’m now asking you for assistance, one Head of House to another. He has one sister left. Right now, she’s at the hospital praying he doesn’t fall to his death.”

And if I tried and failed, there would be a grief-stricken Prime who could turn all of her agony and rage onto me. This was beyond reckless.

“I don’t know if I can help you. I may make this worse.”

Augustine’s composure cracked, and a human being looked back at me through his eyes. “He’s just a child, Catalina. He already lost so much. He’s in the worst pain of his short life and he has no idea how to contain it. He just wants to stop hurting. Please try.”

I opened my mouth to tell him no and thought of a boy standing on a ledge, all alone in the dark. So desperate and hurt that he was willing to end it in the most painful way possible.

My father had stood on a ledge like that, except his ledge was cancer. We had tried so hard to pull him from it. We fought for every minute. We sold the house and moved here, into the warehouse, to pay for his medical bills. Then we mortgaged our business to Augustine to pay for experimental treatments. My dad had built Baylor Investigative Agency from the ground up. He viewed it as his legacy, a business that would feed and clothe us, and we had used it as collateral to borrow money. It felt like a betrayal, and we hid it from my father, because it would have killed him faster than any cancer. In the end, we only delayed the inevitable by a few months, but it was worth it. I would give anything for one more day with my dad. Anything.

Ragnar was only fifteen years old.

“Yes. I’ll try.”

“Are you sure?” my mother asked.

“Yes.”

“Take Leon with you,” she said.

“No.” If this situation turned ugly, I didn’t want him getting hurt.

“I’ll bring her back safe and sound,” Augustine promised.

My mother gave him her sniper stare. “You do that.”

Augustine’s silver Bentley sped south on Gessner Road. It was after 2:00 a.m. and even the Houston roads lay empty. The chauffer squeezed every drop of speed out of the heavy armored car. Normally, the trip to Memorial Hermann would’ve taken at least fifteen minutes. We would make it in less than half of that.

Augustine rode in the front passenger seat, presenting me with a view of his blond head. I really wanted to reach over and smack it. If someone told me this morning that I would end up in the backseat of Augustine’s car in the middle of the night wearing a sweatshirt over my sleep T-shirt and a pair of sneakers without socks, I would’ve asked them what they were smoking and told them to seek professional help.

I missed my weapons. It made me feel naked.

Augustine was right though. Nevada did owe him a favor.

My father was born into House Tremaine, a small House consisting only of him and my grandmother Victoria. A truthseeker like Nevada, Victoria could wrench information from a person’s mind against their will. My father had no magic and Victoria was a terrible mother, so when he turned eighteen, he had escaped and started a new life under an assumed name. In her search for him, my grandmother had rampaged through the Houses all across the continent. Just mentioning her name made powerful Primes back off.

Three years ago, before we became a House, Victoria came looking for us. Augustine knew Nevada’s identity. He could’ve shared it with my grandmother and benefited from it, but instead, he had allowed Nevada to mess with his mind, so Victoria left empty-handed. I hated debts of any kind. It would be good to get this one over with.

It didn’t change the fact that I had no idea what I was doing.

“How do you know the family?” I asked.

“Ragnar’s sister contacted MII in regard to her mother’s and sister’s deaths. She doesn’t think the fire was an accident.”

“Was it?”

“I’m not at liberty to discuss the details.”

Right. “Did you take the case?”

“She knows our rates.”

“You turned her down. Augustine! She came to you and you turned her down, and now her brother is going to kill himself.”

He looked in the rearview mirror, his expression iced over. “If I’m going to put my people in danger, I have to properly compensate them. I’m not running a charity, Catalina. You of all people should know how much can be at stake when one looks into a Prime’s death.”

Oh, I knew. When a team of hired killers stormed your home, sending tornados of fire and summoning monsters into the slaughter, it tended to leave a lasting impression.

I glanced out the windshield and saw the futuristic crown on top of the Memorial Hermann Tower, outlined with glowing red, white, and blue triangles shining against the ink-black sky from the height of thirty-three floors. Almost there.

“Did you at least tell his sister what to expect if I have to use my magic?”

“I told her the boy would have to be sedated.”

The car pulled into the parking lot. A Hispanic man, his face frantic, ran to the car and swung my door open. A blast of January air hit me. Winter in Houston tended to be mild, but a cold front had come through and the temperature had dropped to below thirty. My bare knees shook.

“Did he jump?” Augustine barked.

“No, sir.”

“Come on.” Augustine jumped out of the car.

I scrambled out of the vehicle. Wind tore at me with icy teeth.

Augustine and I hurried at a near run to the doorway. The glass doors slid open, letting us pass, and the warm air of the hallway bathed me. A group of people waited by the bank of elevators, some in scrubs, others in professional clothes, and all wearing the same panicked expression. They saw us and scurried out of the way, leaving behind a young woman with red hair. She turned. Recognition punched me.

“Runa? Runa Etterson?”

Her tear-stained eyes widened in recognition. “Catalina?”

Three years ago, at Nevada’s wedding, an enemy of House Rogan poisoned the wedding cake. The only reason any of us were alive now, Augustine included, was because Runa purged the toxins before the cake was served. She was a Prime Venenata, a poison mage. She could kill everyone in this room in seconds. And the boy on the roof was her brother. Oh my God.

Augustine strode past me into the open elevator. “Catalina, there is no time.”

I had come this far. Poison mage or no, Ragnar was still a fifteen-year-old boy on the edge of a skyscraper’s roof. If I didn’t try to save him, I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night.

I hurried into the elevator. The doors slid shut. The last thing I saw was Runa looking at me like I was the answer to all her problems.

The elevator hummed, carrying us upward, brightly lit and perfectly normal. I caught my reflection in the mirrored wall. I looked like I had just rolled out of bed. There was a touch of surreal in it all: me in my sweatshirt, standing next to impossibly perfect Augustine in an elevator of mirrors and electric lights and soft music. Maybe I was dreaming.

Runa’s mother and sister were dead. And Augustine must have quoted her an impossible price. I had planned to simply walk away if I managed to get the boy to safety, but this changed everything.

“You didn’t tell me he was Prime Venenata.”

“I told you he wouldn’t let anybody on the roof.”

Dread washed over me. “Did he kill anyone?”

Augustine sighed. “He’s a gentle child. He made them sick enough to turn back, but he didn’t inflict permanent damage.”

“What did he do?”

“Don’t worry. You’ll smell it.”

The numbers in the elevator’s digital display crawled up.

“When the doors open, turn left,” Augustine said. “Go to the door marked exit, and up one flight of stairs. There will be a metal door that will give you access to the roof.”

“That’s a terrible plan,” I told him.

“Ragnar will hesitate to hurt you. If he does, I’ll be there, and I’ll help.”

“If he sees you . . .”

“He won’t see me.”

The elevator doors swung open with a soft chime. I made a left and followed the hallway to the exit door and up the stairs. My hands shook.

The air stank like acid and vomit. A trail of chunky stains marked the steps. I didn’t want to look too closely at it.

The ice-cold metal door handle burned my fingertips. I pushed it and stepped onto the roof. The dark sky unfolded above me, impossibly huge and black, with the crown glowing against it. The frigid wind pierced my body, going straight through me all the way to the bone.

Ragnar stood on the very edge of the roof, a thin figure in faded jeans and a hoodie, balancing on a concrete ledge. He seemed so very small against the night, like an ant on a skyscraper.

He turned and looked at me, his face lit by the neon glow of the crown. I saw certainty and relief in his eyes. He wasn’t relieved to see me. He was relieved because he’d made up his mind and decided to jump. I had no time.

“Tell Runa I’m sorry—”

I hit him with everything I had.

When the Keeper of Records named my magic, he called me siren, which fit me well, because like the sirens of legend, I called people to me and they couldn’t resist. And like ancient sirens, I had wings, beautiful magic wings nobody could see unless I let them. They snapped open behind my back now, as the focused torrent of magic-drenched Ragnar.

He froze. His heels protruded an inch over the ledge. One slip and he would die.

“Ragnar,” I called him, turning his name into a singsong lure.

He licked his lips nervously. “Hi.”

“Hello. I’m Catalina.” Magic stretched from me to him and I wove more and more of it around him with every syllable.

“You’re so pretty,” he said.

“Thank you. It’s cold and dark. Do you think we could go inside?”

He nodded, fascinated.

I held out my hand. “It’s scary up here. Will you hold my hand?”

He moved, stumbled, teetering on the edge, his arms waving . . . My heart jerked, trying to leap out of my chest.

Augustine materialized out of thin air next to Ragnar, grabbed a handful of his hoodie, and yanked him back. Runa’s brother landed on the concrete roof.

Holy crap. My knees almost gave out.

Ragnar righted himself, walked over, took my hand, and offered me a shy smile.

I smiled back. “Let’s go inside.”

We went through the door and down the stairs with Augustine bringing up the rear. I scanned him. Clean. None of my magic had hit him. I had focused all of it in a laser-tight beam on Ragnar. Augustine could turn himself invisible. Nevada would lose her mind when I told her.

We boarded the elevator. Sweat glistened on Augustine’s flawless forehead. He was breathing like he’d run up all thirty-three floors to the roof. Ragnar held my hand very gently as if my fingers were made of glass. It wouldn’t last.

Most magic users had to put some effort into doing magic. I was the opposite. I had to hold mine in. When I was born, a nurse tried to kidnap me. She paid for it with her career. In the years that followed, before I learned to control my power, perfectly normal people did insane things to hold on to me. My elementary teacher attempted to smuggle me out of her classroom and into her car. My classmates tore out chunks of my hair so they could keep a piece of me.

Other kids were encouraged to be cute, to perform for adults. If I smiled, the adults became mesmerized, and if I wanted them to like me, they would love me with obsessive intensity. Their children would cry hysterically when I left the playground.

Right now, Ragnar loved me, madly, beyond all reason. Soon touching me wouldn’t be enough. He would want to hold me, crush me to him, rip out a lock of my hair to smell and taste. He’d want a piece of me to stroke and to bite.

The Keeper might as well have called me Orpheus. Sooner or later those who tasted my magic would want to tear me apart and they would love and worship every precious drop of my blood and shred of my flesh as they killed me. Only my doctor was immune; we didn’t know why. And my family. I didn’t need to magic them. They already loved me.

The elevator stopped. The doors swung open and Runa lunged to hug her brother. Her arms closed around him, breaking Ragnar’s hold on me.

Ragnar screamed as if cut. It was a raw animal sound. His sister let go, stunned, and he dived at me and clamped my hand in his.

A man shouldered his way through the crowd, carrying a small medical case.

“Ragnar,” I called.

He gazed at me with adoration in his eyes. I knew it was temporary, but even so, it made me cringe.

“That gentleman is going to give you a shot. I’m scared of shots. Are you?”

“No.” He shook his head. “No, I’m brave.”

“Will you show me how to be brave, Ragnar?”

He held his arm out, his gaze fixed on me. Runa hugged him. I watched the needle go in. “You’ll feel a little sleepy in a minute. It’s okay to fall asleep.”

“Don’t leave!”

“I won’t leave,” I promised. “I’ll stay here and hold your hand.”

Ragnar’s hold on my hand slipped. He sighed happily, closed his eyes, and sagged in his sister’s arms.

I turned to Augustine. “I need you to transport him back to the warehouse.”

“He needs to be under observation,” Augustine said.

“No, he needs to be back at the warehouse, so I can purge my magic from him. If he wakes up and I’m not here, he may escape and try to find me. And this time, people will die.”

Augustine turned to Runa. “It’s your call.”

I met her gaze. “You know me. You’ve seen what I can do. Please trust me on this.”

“Let’s go,” she said.

The trip home was taking considerably longer. The chauffeur seemed in no hurry, and the Bentley all but crawled up the dark street. Runa’s rented Nissan Rogue had no trouble keeping up. She had insisted on following us with Ragnar in her car.

I sat on the backseat next to Augustine. The adrenaline had worn off, leaving behind a soft fatigue. If I wasn’t in the vehicle of a dangerous Prime, I would have closed my eyes and gone to sleep.

“Well done,” Augustine said.

I didn’t need his approval. “Nevada’s debt to you is paid in full. We’re even.”

“Agreed. Although technically it was a favor to House Etterson.”

“Your dealings with House Etterson are between you and Runa. I’m surprised you cared enough to get involved tonight.”

“I know what it’s like to be responsible for a younger brother.”

Oh. Humanity from Augustine. Unexpected.

Augustine tilted his head. “House Etterson may prove a valuable ally for you, if they survive. They now owe you a favor they can’t refuse. You need allies, Catalina. The reprieve granted to your House is about to expire. People will be coming for you and yours. You’re powerful but inexperienced, and because of your sealed records, you are an unknown. Unfortunately, being an unknown isn’t enough of a deterrent.”

“What are the terms?” I asked.

Augustine raised his eyebrows.

I counted off on my fingers. “You separated me from my family. You’re aware that my older sister and my brother-in-law are out of the country and are unable to advise me at the moment. It’s the middle of the night and I’m tired from expending magic. You’ve complimented me, you’ve mentioned the danger facing my House, and we are driving at barely fifty miles per hour. You have an offer for me. Let’s hear it.”

Augustine cleared his throat. “Good. Skipping extended explanations and hand-holding makes things easier.”

I waited.

“I offer a strategic alliance between House Montgomery and House Baylor. Occasionally, cases which are uniquely suited to the talents of your family cross my desk. I’d like you to handle them. In return, I offer generous financial compensation, access to MII’s resources within the scope of those particular investigations, and the benefits of an association with my House.”

He was offering protection and guaranteed income. More, he offered contacts and data. The MII maintained an extensive network of informants and observers. Very little took place in Houston without Augustine knowing about it. He hoarded sensitive information, holding on to it until someone paid or threatened him. Access to that database was truly priceless.

Augustine was also a master at determining precisely what people needed most. It didn’t take a genius to recognize that our most urgent need was security.

I had to make a decision.

“House Baylor is flattered by your generosity. However, at this time, we must regretfully decline.”

Augustine chewed on it for half a minute.

“Why?”

“You have made a similar offer to Nevada three times. I’m aware that she declined, and I share her reasons for it.”

“Indulge me,” Augustine said.

“Very well. The real value of this partnership for us wouldn’t be in money.” Although we could certainly use it. “It would be in the connections and the elevated profile that comes from working with a Prime clientele. A way for us to enter Prime society and forge relationships and alliances that would anchor our House.”

And of course, the database and access to the MII surveillance agents, who were legendary. We both understood that, so there was no need to mention it.

I kept going. “I want to underscore that I fully understand the value of your offer. However, currently, there is a massive power imbalance between House Montgomery and House Baylor. I have seen how MII operates. If we agree to your proposal, you’ll expect us to abide by your contract, which may require us to compromise our ethics. We’re a family business. All we have is our name and our reputation. We follow only three rules. First, we try not to do anything illegal. Second, once bought, we stay loyal to the client. And third, at the end of the day, we have to be able to look our reflection in the eye. Those are the principles my father laid out for us, they are the rules my older sister followed, and I will follow them as well. If we have an alliance with House Montgomery, we’ll enter this alliance as equals, not as vassals or subcontractors, and we will adhere to our own norms of behavior.”

The silence stretched out between us.

Augustine opened his mouth. “We’re not equals.”

“Exactly. House Montgomery is a behemoth and we’re small and new. As you have said, we may or may not survive. But we must stand on our own. We worked very hard to move out of House Rogan’s shadow and I won’t trade that independence for an easy paycheck.”

Augustine’s face was impassive. “Thank you for your honesty.”

“There may be a time I’ll come to ask for your help,” I told him. “If I do that, I’ll be sure to bring information of equal or greater value.”

The Bentley turned onto our street.

“Then I’ll leave you with this piece of advice,” Augustine said. “It’s free. Do not become involved in the Etterson case. I know exactly what you’re up against, and the price I quoted her was a gift. Sometimes when you search the night, you’ll find monsters in the dark. You’re not ready.”

“I’ll keep it in mind,” I told him.

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Saturday Spotlight – Hulk by MLJ Quigg

HULK bannerTitle: Hulk

Series: Thorny Devils MC

Author: MLJ Quigg

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Release: August 16, 2019

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/40574978-hulk

HulkBlurb:

“As soon as I saw you, it was like a light shining down from the heavens. As I got to know you, I realized that light went soul-deep, and I fell for you so hard.”

Hulk

After an accident and my girlfriend leaving, I didn’t think I’d find anyone to share my life with. Sure, I had my brother and the club, and I never thought I wanted anything more. That was until Claire walked into my life. She had a harrowing story behind her, and it forced my protective instincts forward, and they raged at full force. I simply had to get past the walls she’d built so tightly around her.

Claire

Some say amnesia is a new start, which is true. But what happens when you wake up one day and everything’s a blank. Let me tell you, it’s not fun but more like downright scary. 

That was my life now. Sure, I’d made a family and new memories with Monique and the triplets, but when Monique reunited with Derrick, he came with a whole new family. Hulk was the Sergeant at Arms for the club and the man who would steal my heart. Unbeknownst to me, the man who had hurt me previously was closing in, and he wanted to finish what he’d started. 

Will Hulk be able to save Claire from a madman, or will he be too late to have his angel with him forever? 

Buy Links (Kindle Unlimited):

Amazon US: bit.ly/MLJHulkUS

Amazon AU: bit.ly/MLJHulkAU

Amazon UK: bit.ly/MLJHulkUK

Amazon CA: bit.ly/MLJHulkCA 

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In the Series:

Thor (Thorny Devils MC #1)

Amazon US: http://bit.ly/MLJThorUS

Amazon AU: http://bit.ly/MLJThorAU

Amazon UK: http://bit.ly/MLJThorUK

Amazon CA: http://bit.ly/MLJThorCA

Author bio: 

Australian author MLJ Quigg – lives in NSW, Australia, with her husband, three adult children, and six cats—yes, you heard that right, six. 

Growing up in a huge family of eight kids was always noisy and didn’t give her enough alone time to unwind.

Books have always given her an outlet from the craziness that is her life. Nothing is better than curling up with a good story to take her mind off her surroundings. 

As a new author, she hopes you enjoy her stories and helps you get out of your world and into hers for a few hours.

Author links us: 

Goodreads: bit.ly/GoodreadsMLJQuigg

Amazon: bit.ly/MLJQuiggAmazon

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/authormljquigg/

Saturday Spotlight – The Bachelors of Shell Cove by Siera London

BACHELORS OF SHELL COVE_cover reveal bannerSeries: The Bachelors of Shell Cove

Author: Siera London

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Cover Designer: Wicked Smart Designs

Series Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/series/200760-bachelor-of-shell-cove

Series Buy Links:

Amazon US: https://amzn.to/2MN6S3P

Amazon CA: https://amzn.to/2YSj35N

Amazon UK: https://amzn.to/2KNlKgb

Amazon AU: https://amzn.to/2MOIPSg

Chasing Ava Blurb:

chasing-ava-2She guards her heart. He refuses to hide. Will the truth tear them apart or help them last forever?

Ava Walters is a pediatric nurse who doesn’t do relationships. An abusive past has left her wounded, but determined to pursue her dream of becoming as a Navy Nurse. Ava is in the midst of rebuilding her life when she is targeted by a sexual harasser who wields the power to destroy her dream before it sets sail.

Logan Masters is an ambitious specialty surgeon whose past is riddled with betrayal. His trust in women is conditional- no secrets and no boundaries. When he comes to Ava’s rescue, there is no denying the spark of attraction. Things get complicated when Logan pursues Ava, rather than the arranged relationship that holds the key to his future.

After years of being alone, Ava starts to believe that love is possible under Logan’s skillful touch. But Ava is harboring a secret she doesn’t want exposed. Determined to guard her heart, Ava soon discovers Logan is as focused on winning her heart as she is at shielding it.

When secrets and broken alliances threaten to torpedo both their futures, how will they learn to trust and chart a new course to lasting love?

 

Convincing Lina Blurb:

convincing-lina-2

She’s on a man detoxification plan, but he’s a delicious temptation.

Lina James, psychiatric nurse, and self-proclaimed independent woman isn’t going to allow another man to walk out of her life. Her love is officially off the market. She’s declared a preemptive strike on the male species with a man-fast. There’s just one glitch in Lina’s detox plan–Gideon. Her blood sugar spikes remembering the one kiss they shared.

Gideon Rice is a veteran Marine and respected psychiatrist with more emotional wounds than his patients. He lives his life in camouflage–a wall between his rejection filled past and his new life ensures the two worlds never intersect. Gideon’s life plan is simple–give wounded warriors a place to heal and convince Lina James she’s the only woman for him. 

When Lina’s past brings danger to her doorstep, she’s forced to accept Gideon’s help. His tender touch and determination to keep her safe rocks her foundation, but she’s determined to resist. 

In a high stakes game of cat and mouse, how will they find the courage to risk their hearts in a fight for their lives?

Catching Rebecca Blurb:

catching-rebecca

Two grooms. One Bride. In seven days someone has to say goodbye…forever. 

Trapped by family obligations, Rebecca Lynn Holbrook, the heir to Holbrook Industries, is not the spoiled rich girl everyone thinks she is. She’s a company asset to be sold and traded. In exchange for the cash infusion the company needs, Rebecca Lynn has seven days to complete a negotiated marriage contract. There’s just one hitch in the plan——her lover——sexy ex-Navy officer Darwin Masters.

Darwin Masters is not the man he used to be. He has no use for the constraints of society nor family expectations. When a tragic accident leads him back to Shell Cove, he finds healing and comfort in Rebecca Lynn’s arms. Focused on starting his security firm and building a new life with the woman he loves, Darwin is blindsided by news of Rebecca Lynn’s impending nuptials. 

But nothing is as it appears. When an impulsive decision lands Rebecca Lynn in Darwin’s arms once again, it sets off a chain reaction of dangerous consequences neither of them anticipated.

With Rebecca Lynn in danger, and Darwin’s fledgling company in jeopardy, how will they protect their love and outwit the powerful enemy fast approaching?

Claiming Janna Blurb:claiming-janna (1)

She’s fiercely independent, but he’s determined to claim her as his own. 

Some dreams are too perilous to reach for, even when life offers you a second chance at your heart’s desire. 

Lieutenant Janna Williamson, has spent the last ten years running from her past. The only things she can depend on is herself and her career. Excelling as a Navy Nurse is her priority, and she’ll do anything to protect the acceptance she’s found in service to her country. The only risk to her career ambition is the sense of home she feels in Dawson’s arms. She’s prepared to keep him on the perimeter until one night ties them together irrevocably.  

 Marine Major Dawson Wright’s cocky self-confidence hides a life formed from the ashes of a tragic childhood. After months of a ‘no strings attached’ relationship with Janna, he’s thinking about a forever kind of commitment. But, as fast as he’s toppling the walls that keep them apart, she’s erecting new barriers. When Dawson learns Janna is pregnant with his child, proving to the strong-willed beauty they have the foundation for happily ever after becomes his new mission.  

 

 Falling in love was never a part of Janna’s plan, but she’s learning to trust her Marine. When old enemies and family secrets start to surface, deceit and danger threaten to unravel their fragile bond. In a battle for their lives, how will the two claim the love meant for them before it’s too late?

Second Chance Christmas Blurb:

Second-Chance-Christmas-2Will the magic of Christmas give her the best gift of all the second time around?

ZARI OKORO NEEDS A MAN. A not so friendly wager between sisters has the elementary school teacher scrambling to get a date to Christmas dinner or risk forfeiting her last paycheck of the year. With a canceled eConnection date, a raging tropical storm at her heels, and a police mandate to seek shelter, Zari is running out of options. 

Aron Walters has loved Zari since he laid eyes on her three years ago. When Tropical Storm Sebastian blows her into his pharmacy, he is thankful for the Christmas miracle that brought her to his doorstep. As the clock ticks closer to midnight, how will Aron convince Zari he’s worth the gamble a second time around?

Author Bio:

Siera London is the USA Today Bestselling & Award-winning author of contemporary and paranormal romance, romantic suspense, and crime fiction. She crafts stories of diverse characters navigating the challenges and triumphs to find lasting love. Intelligence, wit, emotion, drama, and romance are between the covers of every Siera London novel. Siera lives in California with her husband, and a color patch tabby named Frie.

Social Media Links:

Want Siera London Book Updates via text message? Text EZSIERA to 474747

Amazon Author page: http://amzn.to/1Oce1Ht

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/siera_london

Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/siera-london

Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/siera_london

Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/authorsieralondon

Newsletter: https://landing.mailerlite.com/webforms/landing/i2s4f9

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/sieralondon

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/sieralondon

https://www.sieralondonauthor.com

Saturday Sale Spotlight – Blue Moon Series by Lucy Score

Series Title: Blue Moon series books #1 – #6

Author: Lucy Score

Genre: Romantic Comedy

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/series/177325-blue-moon

Blurb: 

Small-town, spicy romantic comedies with nosy, matchmaking neighbors.

Binge read the complete Blue Moon series for $0.99 each or free in KindleUnlimited.

No_More_Secrets_600x900 No More Secrets, Book #1:

Opposites attract. Veteran turned bearded, vegetarian farmer meets an independent big-city journalist with an agenda and a secret. Goat attack. Farm life. Family full of attractive, single men. The worst daycare field trip ever.

Buy Links/Goodreads:

No More Secrets: A Small Town Love Story (Blue Moon Book 1)

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07MXNWG8Q

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36266789

 

Fall Into Temptation, Book #2:Fall_Into_Temptation_600x900

Neighbors too close for comfort. Single mom of hilarious kids. Most eligible bachelor landlord/attorney/mayor. Opposites combust. Complicated family. Hot yoga. Makeovers with a five-year-old. Sticky situations with an ex-husband.

Buy Links/Goodreads:

Fall into Temptation: A Small Town Love Story (Blue Moon Book 2)

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07MXJW894

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36266811

 

 

The_Last_Second_Chance_600x900The Last Second Chance, Book #3:

Enemies to lovers. Second chance. Grumpy tomboy with a baking fetish. Ex-lover returns to town and refuses to play fair. Horses. Most epic pet rescue ever. Farm life. Family business. The closet of truth.

Buy Links/Goodreads:

The Last Second Chance: A Small Town Love Story (Blue Moon Book 3)

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07MXNSG1R

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36266818

 

Not Part of the Plan, Book #4:Not_Part_of_the_Plan_600x900

New in town. Mid-life crisis. Friends to lovers. Opposites attract. Friend zoned. Organized, by-the-book heroine who doesn’t like making mistakes. Ladies man photographer looking to find his mojo. Swoon-worthy grand gesture. Marshmallow Munchies.

Buy Links/Goodreads:

Not Part of the Plan: A Small Town Love Story (Blue Moon Book 4)

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B06Y695J64

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34838660

 

 

Holding_On_To_Chaos_600x900Holding on to Chaos, Book #5:

Secret romance novelist. Sexy sheriff. Lust at first sight. Accidental flashings. A funny fire. A whole town of people who lost their damn minds. Say no to perms. First date fails. Family secrets. The best town meeting ever. A marching band standoff.

Buy Links/Goodreads:

Holding on to Chaos: A Small Town Love Story (Blue Moon Book 5)

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B075T645QL

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36228658

 

 

The Fine Art of Faking It, Book #6:The_Fine_Art_of_Faking_It_600x900

Enemies to lovers. Fake relationship. Feuding neighbors. Stink bombing gone wrong. Hippie parents. Old high school drama. Second chance at a first time. Doofy dogs with no loyalty. A rambling bed and breakfast. A fancy organic winery.

Buy Links/Goodreads:

The Fine Art of Faking It: A Small Town Love Story (Blue Moon Book 6)

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07FD4MHTG

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/40690450

 

Series Buy Links (99 cents / Kindle Unlimited):

Amazon US: https://amzn.to/2LMoixO

Amazon CA: https://amzn.to/2Kc69X6

Amazon UK: https://amzn.to/2K2Iz05

Amazon AU: https://amzn.to/2LMHb3P

blue moon ad 1 (1)Lucy Score bio:

Lucy Score is a Wall Street Journal and #1 Amazon bestselling author. Small town contemporary rom-coms are her lady jam and she enjoys delivering the feels with a huge side of happily ever after. 

Her books have been translated into several languages, making readers around the world snort-laugh, swoon, and sob. Lucy lives in Pennsylvania with the devastatingly handsome Mr. Lucy and their horrible cat.

In her spare time, she enjoys sleeping, drinking copious amounts of coffee, and reading all the romance novels in the universe.

Social Media Links:

https://www.facebook.com/lucyscorewrites/

https://www.instagram.com/scorelucy/

https://twitter.com/LucyScore1

https://www.lucyscore.net/

Cover Reveal – The Vow We Made by Loriana Cappello

the vow we made_cover reveal bannerTitle: The Vow We Made

Author: Loriana Cappello

Release: August 14, 2019

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/47135041-the-vow-we-made

2. VOW WE MADE ebook (1)Blurb:

A Story of friendship, family, and above all else, love.

Victoria West was Vivacious, determined and thought her happily ever after was all mapped out. 

When tragedy strikes, claiming the life of her new husband, she receives information that shatters her world. 

Three years later, Victoria finds herself beginning to trust another man for the first time,  but is she prepared to expose her darkest fears and share the biggest secret of her life with him?

Doctor Aiden James is dedicated to his profession and has little time for relationships,  but there’s something about Victoria’s vulnerability and beauty that makes him want a different future. 

One where she becomes his.  

An unfortunate twist of fate leads to Aiden making a discovery about his own past. 

Consumed with guilt, will he choose his professional oath or damn the consequences for Victoria?

Two people destined to be together but both are keeping secrets that could destroy their chance at forever.

PreOrder (Kindle Unlimited):
Amazon US: https://amzn.to/2STdxuj

Amazon CA: https://amzn.to/2SLQnWA

Amazon UK: https://amzn.to/2LMaBPB

Amazon AU: https://amzn.to/314uwN7

Universal: getbook.at/TheVowPreOrder

TEASER - THE THOUGHT OF HER

Author Bio:

Loriana Cappello lives just outside of London, with her ever-supportive husband and four beautiful children. She is a full-time mum by day, but when her evenings become free, she hides away and loses herself in the depths of her imagination. Her passion for reading and writing tall stories started as a little girl. Her love of romance, a little later.

Social Media Links:

https://www.facebook.com/LorianaCappello/

https://twitter.com/LorianaCappello

https://www.instagram.com/lorianacappelloauthor/

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15270906.Loriana_Cappello

https://www.amazon.com/Loriana-Cappello/e/B01J22LGNQ

Saturday Spotlight – King’s Ransom

King's Ransom BannerTitle: King’s Ransom

Series: South Side Sinners MC Series #1

Authors: BT Urruela and CD Bradley

Genre: MC Romance

Release: July 2, 2019

Cover credit: FuriousFotog

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/46211199-king-s-ransom

King's Ransom_ebookBlurb: 

Dimitri King is a killer … and an addict. Born into one of the most ruthless motorcycle clubs that ever ran the streets of St Louis, the only life he has ever known is destroying him from the inside out. A lifetime of trauma, bad decisions, and heinous violence has left him on the brink of complete disaster, but one mission will change everything.

 Annalise Hale, daughter of Senator Ronald Hale, is the prima ballerina of the St. Louis Ballet. The picture-perfect trophy from afar, her life is a delicate facade that hides unspeakable pain.

 All she wanted was to escape.

 She never dreamed of this.

 Blameless in her father’s crimes, she is caught up like an exquisite pawn when the Sinners take her.  Face-to-face with Dimitri King, like two sides of the same broken mirror, they have scars so deep, pain is the only feeling they know.

 A match made in heaven but forged in hell, will they find their wounds fit together to create something beautiful or will the sins of their pasts be too great to overcome?

PreOrder/Buy Links: 

Amazon US: https://amzn.to/2MOskXR

Amazon CA: https://amzn.to/2WOCpnk

Amazon UK: https://amzn.to/2RmeIlh

Amazon AU: https://amzn.to/2F9RHNB

Barnes & Noble: http://bit.ly/2WPC0WH

Kobo: http://bit.ly/320vtXU

iTunes: https://apple.co/2X9Utxk

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CD Bradley Bio:

I’m just a girl who likes to daydream and sometimes I write them down to share. Growing up, the literary world was my safe haven. A wonderful place of fantasy beyond the bounds of reality. As an adult, I put that behind me to practice medicine. My husband and I owned our own practice, had two children, and lived a somewhat normal life. Fate had other plans. In the span of a year, we sold our practice, bought a 96-acre farm in the hills of West Virginia, and adopted 3 of our patients (ages 1,3, and4). It has been an adventure of ups and downs and learning to laugh at ourselves. Yet, somewhere in the midst of kids, chickens, and toothpaste covered dogs, I began to write again. My late night / early morning escape lets me dream beyond all limits. I hope that you will enjoy the journey of the stories as much as I have writing them.

C.D Bradley Social Media Links:

Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/cdbradley5

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/cdbradley22 

BT Urruela Bio

BT Urruela is a combat wounded amputee, purple heart recipient, contemporary author who has written both independent and traditionally published books. He is a RARE under 40 award recipient, Co-founder and Brand Ambassador for VETSports, People Magazine Tribute for Heroes winner, Cover Model, Motivational Speaker, and Philanthropist. He lives in Florida with his two dogs, Kiko and Scout.

BT Urruela Social Media Links: 

Amazon – Amazon.com/author/bturruela

Facebook – http://bit.ly/1RdUEIa

Instagram – http://bit.ly/2HNfSB5

Website – http://bit.ly/1NCxnVX

Goodreads – http://bit.ly/240cV3h

Saturday Spotlight – Chasing Paige by Ellen Devlin

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000447_00006]Title: Chasing Paige

Series: Washington Guardians Hockey #2

Author: Ellen Devlin

Release: June 25, 2019

Genre: Hockey Romance

Cover Designer: Deranged Doctor Design

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/45755318-chasing-paige

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000447_00006]Blurb:

“Love at first sight.” It’s such a cliché. But when I saw her across a crowded room I couldn’t take my eyes off her.

One can say I’m the modest type. I don’t walk up to a girl, introduce myself and expect her to fall at my feet just because I’m an NHL player. If friends didn’t give me a little push me in her direction, I probably never would have approached her. But I’m so glad I did.

The electricity between us blew me away. From our first kiss to the first night we spent together it was clear. Paige was the one.

But something is holding her back, And with the trade deadline looming, she’s using it as an excuse to push me away.

Luckily, I know how to chase dreams; it’s how I made it to the NHL. I like a challenge, and I never quit until I get what I want. 

And what I want is Paige.

Buy links (Kindle Unlimited)

Amazon US: https://amzn.to/31wW9PZ 

Amazon CA: https://amzn.to/2N04V5E

Amazon UK: https://amzn.to/2Xk1g6N

Amazon AU: https://amzn.to/2FdjTPu

Praise:

Red Hatter Book Blog – “Chasing Paige is dipping cotton candy into powdered sugar and topping it off with frosting and sprinkles levels of sweet.”

chasing page tag line 1 (2)

Giveaway: (US and CA only)

 

  • $10.00 Amazon Card
  • A signed copy of Chasing Paige
  • Book of Poetry by Yeats
  • Metal Bookmark

 

Direct Link:

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/81aa78942066

In the Series:

Kissing Micky (Washington Guardians Hockey)

Amazon US: https://amzn.to/2FiyAQv

Amazon CA: https://amzn.to/2YeNKPy

Amazon UK: https://amzn.to/2ulOcxC

Amazon AU: https://amzn.to/2OkNJ87

Author Bio:

Law firm office cog by day.

Writer of steamy romance by night.

Hockey fan all the time.

Ellen lives in the Northern Virginia area with her husband and two sons, along with various furry and scaly creatures.

Life is good.

Social Media Links:

https://twitter.com/ellendev_author

https://www.facebook.com/ellen.devlin.5494

https://www.amazon.com/Ellen-Devlin/e/B07CYCPYRN

https://www.bookbub.com/authors/ellen-devlin

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/17945607.Ellen_Devlin

http://ellendevlin.allauthor.com/