Never a Bride

I am so happy to be here to chat with you about the latest release in the At the Shore series, NEVER A BRIDE.  I had so much fun writing this story about Emma, a wedding planner who doesn’t believe in happily-ever-after, and Carlo, her best friend and kind-of-business partner.

I have to confess that from the moment that Carlo stepped onto the page I fell in love with him.  I knew he was the perfect match for Emma. Carlo is patient, kind, hard-working, and totally sexy.

Carlo is Emma’s best friend and the caterer she depends on to help her plan perfect weddings and events for others.  Emma loves spending time with Carlo and with his large and loving Portuguese family.  You might be wondering why this hero’s name is Carlo and not Carlos and the reason is that his mom had a thing for Italian names when she decided to name Carlo and his two younger brothers, Paolo and Tomas. Speaking of younger brothers, I can’t wait to write a spin-off to the series featuring younger bad boy Paolo and Army Ranger Tomas. You’ll get to meet them as well in NEVER A BRIDE!

Emma is a tough nut about romance, but like I said before, Carlo is patient and kind. I loved Carlo’s determination, but I also loved how he came to understand Emma’s fears and proved to her that he is the kind of man who will be by her side no matter what.

I hope you will come to love Carlo as much as I did (and as much as Emma did)!

 

Prologue

The bouquet shot toward her head like a spaceship launched at the moon.

Emma Grant had no time to deflect the missile. She tangled her fingers into the luscious petals of the peonies, roses, and hydrangea, rousing fragrant floral scents as the bouquet grazed her face. When she was in wedding planner mode, she would have taken the time to appreciate the freshness of the blooms, but tonight she was also a bridesmaid and best friend and totally unhappy about her current predicament.

Flowers fisted in her hand, Emma whirled to face her other best friend and maid of honor, Connie Reyes, who with a subtle hip check, had knocked Emma straight into the path of the flying tussie mussie. “I thought you were my friend!”

“Totally,” Connie said with a broad smile and waltzed off to the side of the dance floor to where Carlo Gonzalez, her caterer extraordinaire and longtime man crush, stood with some of his wait staff.

Her friends thought Carlo was the man to give Emma her happily-ever-after, except it wasn’t possible that someone like Carlo could love someone like her. She was broken inside and had been for some time while Carlo was everything good in this world. A loving son and a supportive brother. A go-to-guy for her and so many others. But a lover? Even though her insides ignited at the thought of making love with the incredibly handsome Carlo, Emma knew it could only lead to misery on way too many levels.

He was her business partner of sorts and she valued how well they worked together. They had even talked about forming an event planning business more than once so Emma could have her own company and Carlo could expand his. Not to mention that he was her best friend and she couldn’t imagine not having him in her life, but she was certain that was what would happen if they tried to go from friends to lovers and it didn’t work out.

But Emma’s fears weren’t keeping Connie from trying to drag Carlo into the center of the dance floor for the next part of the wedding ritual. He protested at first and as all eyes settled on him as he balked, embarrassment engulfed her. His hesitation confirmed to Emma that changing the nature of their relationship was not necessarily something he wanted to do either.

Others soon joined in to offer Connie assistance and Carlo finally relented, although clearly reluctant. The handsome caterer stood with the other single men, and as the groom prepared his garter toss, Emma closed her eyes and mumbled a prayer beneath her breath.

“Dear Lord, please be good to me,” she said and half-opened her eyes to watch.

Apparently God wasn’t listening since the garter flew across the air, and like a horseshoe tossed at a ring, the circle of baby blue satin ribbon and beige lace landed on Carlo’s index finger, earning hoots and shouts from all gathered at the perfect catch.

Emma groaned and popped her eyes wide open as Carlo stood there, dangling the garter for all to see. A stain of color marred his cheeks as he peeked at her with a chagrined smile.

The heat of a blush erupted all across her face and up to her ears. She half glanced at Connie who had returned to stand by her and Emma said, “I will kill you for this. When you least suspect it, it will happen.”

Connie couldn’t stifle her chuckle, and when the groom’s brother and best man Jonathan Pierce strolled to her friend’s side, Connie high-fived Jonathan for his assistance with the plot. Connie murmured something to him that Emma couldn’t quite hear as the band launched into a sexy riff to continue the wedding tradition. Carlo sauntered over, garter dangling from his finger as someone placed a chair for her to sit on in the middle of the makeshift dance floor.

“The quicker you get it over with, the easier it will be,” Emma thought, hurried out, and unceremoniously plopped onto the chair. It was like taking off a bandage with a quick rip. It cut the pain much like she wanted to lessen the humiliation of Carlo being forced into this wedding tradition.

The sexy music continued as Carlo kneeled before her and mouthed “Don’t worry.” In deference to the fancy event being held at the Sinclair beachfront mansion, he was dressed in a tuxedo. The black of the tux emphasized the deep brown of his thick wavy hair. The electric white shirt was the perfect foil against olive skin that still bore the remnants of a summer tan. He smiled at her, his teeth toothpaste bright and perfect. The smile was brilliant and transformed the chiseled features of his face. Made his chocolate brown eyes gleam with a mix of amusement and awkwardness.

It was way too easy to picture him as the groom. Her groom, but that was an impossible wish. As his gaze locked with hers, she detected something different for a moment. Something dangerous that she tried to convince herself wasn’t there. There was no way that was there, she told herself.

She silently pleaded with him not to make the situation worse. Ever the gentleman, he heeded her plea and kept it clean as she looked up toward the inky night sky to avoid watching him. His touch was deferential while he slipped the lacy fabric past her shoe and ankle, but even the faintest whisper of his rough palm against her skin had her trembling inside and heat racing across her body. He moved the garter up a little higher to her calf and paused, forcing Emma to look at him to find out the reason for his delay.

Carlo grinned sexily and the fire at her core ignited into a five-alarm blaze. He was just so damn handsome and it was impossible not to imagine doing more with him. He inched the garter past her knee, his palm teasing her smooth skin, but stopped there despite the entreaties of the single men to go ever higher. He wagged his head, shook his finger in a no-way gesture, and tenderly draped Emma’s gown back over her legs.

Emma met his gaze once more, thankful, but this time it was impossible to miss that his look was filled with yearning. With that emotion, she had maybe hoped for and dreaded at the same time. And then Carlo did something totally unexpected and decidedly risky. He wrapped an arm around her waist, urged her to her feet, and slowly drew her close.

Her knees trembled and her heart pounded so loudly, she barely heard the music and cheers from those who’d maybe had a little too much to drink during the festivities. Carlo steadied her, keeping his arm around her waist as he cradled her jaw. Slowly he leaned toward her and tilted her face up with the gentlest pressure.

She could have backed away. Could have stopped him, but truthfully she didn’t want him to stop. She inched up on her tiptoes to meet his lips.

Never a Bride 

At the Shore Book 3 

by Caridad Pinero

Genre: Contemporary Romance 

Emma never dreamed that the happily-ever-after would change her life. . .

But as her two best friends find love, Emma worries about what her future will bring. She has seen all too often what happens once husbands and children arrive. She puts on a brave face because she wants her buddies to be happy, but as a wedding planner, she has seen one too many marriages go south. Not to mention her parents’ bitter divorce which has soured her on the idea of marriage for herself. She can’t imagine ever finding a man who can bring her a forever kind of romance.

He’s been in love with her forever and can’t understand why she can’t see it. . .

Carlo da Costa knows why Emma avoids relationships and yet he can’t help but wonder how someone who puts such love and care into others’ dreams can’t allow herself to believe in the fairy tale. He sees the yearning on her face when she spends time with him and his big boisterous family and knows that deep inside, she wants the same thing. Carlo hopes that one day he can provide her with that because he’s sure Emma holds the key to his heart in her hands. 

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NY Times and USA Today Bestseller Caridad Pineiro is a Jersey Girl who just wants to write, travel, and spend more time with family and friends. Caridad is the author of over 50 novels/novellas and has sold over 1 million books worldwide. Caridad loves romance novels, super heroes, TV and cooking. For more information on Caridad, please visit www.caridad.com or www.rebornvampirenovels.com. You can also find Caridad/Charity at the links below:

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The Revenge Game

by Alice Gaines

Adam Morrow is a self-made millionaire. But one night with her could ruin everything…

I’ve worked my ass off for what I have, and I’m damn proud of it. I started off with nothing and now I’m filthy rich. Let me tell you, there’s nothing like revenge to help you get your ass in gear. And that’s what I’m taking, with every exclusive resort I open—sweet, sweet revenge…on her.

Nicole Westmore was my first love. The poor little rich girl stole my heart with her sweet smile, hot body, and irresistible innocence. The summer I worked for her father was the best time of my life…until he drove me away. Even then, I thought Nicole would wait for me. She didn’t.

And so, I decided to get even, opening rival hotels, slowly driving them out of business. The old man is gone now, but Nicole is still running the company that’s about to collapse. All my hard work will soon pay off.

And then I catch sight of her at a wedding, and all those feelings come rushing back–for both of us. Still, she doesn’t know what I’ve done—yet—and she seems more than willing. What will one night in her bed hurt?

The sex is hotter than ever, and I can’t help wondering if I’ve made a mistake. Until I get up the next morning…and realize I’ve been kidnapped!

Adam sat at the table in their cottage on the cove and watched Nicole prepare dinner. It was exactly the sort of scene he’d fantasized about when he’d been young and in love. And for once in a very long time, he faced an inner struggle.

Did he still hate her? No. Did he still hate her father? Sure, but what was the point? The man was dead, and Adam was having sex with his daughter again. That in itself would have the bastard spinning in his grave.

Did he still want to sink Westmore Hotels? Getting rid of the competition was a good business move, revenge or not.

But the most important issue involved his own emotions. If he was having honeymoon sex, would he be able to walk away when he’d had enough? Hell, would he ever have enough of this woman? Sometime soon, he’d have to return to the office. And she’d have to go back to work. They’d leave here, and then what? Could he do without her, or was he already in too deep?

He’d tried just about everything one body could do with sex, and it had all been fantastic for him and for all his partners. But none of it compared with being with this woman, even in the most ordinary of ways. Emotion—feelings—had to account for the difference. You had honeymoon sex with someone you loved. Grant hadn’t said that, but he’d implied it. Was he falling in love with Nicole all over again? Good God in heaven.

She glanced over her shoulder at him. “You look pensive.”

“I was only wondering if you’ve become domesticated,” he lied.

She laughed. “Not likely. I love to cook, but I’m happy to have someone else clean up.”

“Spoiled little rich girl.”

“There are some good things about being spoiled and rich.” She picked up a colander full of greens and a bowl and approached the table.

“Here,” she said as she put both in front of him. “How good are you at tearing up lettuce for a salad?”

“I promise you, I can tear up anything you want.”

She laughed again. She seemed to do it easily, quite in contrast with the tense woman who’d confronted him at Grant’s sister’s wedding. They were getting along now…more or less. As long as she didn’t find out about Vivian.

She went back to work near the sink, shelling shrimp for a Cajun dish. An array of spices and fresh herbs stood all around her cutting board. This promised to be quite a feast.

He had to end the honeymoon before he lost control of his emotions completely. They were competitors, and he might still end up taking over Westmore Hotels. If he did, she’d hate him, and they’d end up back at square one. No. He had to get back to New York and get some distance from her so he could clear his head and figure out where to go from here.

But first, he had a little treat in store for her, if she liked that kind of thing. He’d made a detour to the resort gift shop and had liberated a few silk scarves. Long ones. Long enough to tie wrists and ankles to the posts at the corners of their bed.

She was wearing shorts that snuggled against her butt in a particularly tempting way. They weren’t super tight, allowing movement, but they still showed off her curves. He’d cupped her buttocks with his palms as he drove himself into her, so the mere act of staring at her aroused him. She might not go for the silk, but he’d definitely have sex with her. One last indulgence before he got her to agree the time had come to return to the real world.

“Why don’t you take a break and come over here?” he said.

She turned and cocked her head, staring at the lettuce she’d put in front of him. “You haven’t touched that.”

“I don’t feel like cooking right now.”

“But dinner…”

“It can wait for a while,” he said.

She put down her knife, turned, and rested her backside against the counter. “What on earth could you possibly have in mind?”

He gave her a grin—that came more easily now, too—and he turned in his chair and patted his knee. “Why don’t you come over here and find out?”

She sauntered toward him. “You’re a sex fiend, you know?”

“I’ve been called worse.”

She sat on his knee and draped her arms around his shoulders. Being this close to her, he could get lost in the emerald gleam of her eyes. They definitely held a wicked twinkle.

“I had a really nasty thought as I watched you on the elliptical today,” he said.

“You were watching me?”

“You know I can’t take my eyes off you,” he said.

“That’s nice.” She pressed her lips against his, just long enough to give him a taste of her. “Really nice.”

With her butt on his thigh, her legs sat near his crotch. Her kisses and the scent of her perfume had already warmed his libido, and his sex thickened and hardened in anticipation of having her yet again. If she’d been a drug, he would have been addicted long before now. This was exactly why he needed some distance. But not quite yet.

“So, anyway…my wicked thought,” he said.

She moved her mouth to his ear and blew into it. “Do tell.”

He shuddered as a bolt of lightning slashed through him. Holy crap, she could turn him on. “A little exotic play, maybe. But only if it excites you.”

She straightened. “Exotic? How?”

“Trust. I’m going to prove to you that I trust you completely.” For now, they’d leave aside the question of whether she could trust him.

She leaned back and looked at him out of the corners of her eyes. “You’re not going to fall backward and trust me to catch you, are you?”

“Nothing quite that innocent,” he said. “I’m going to let you tie me up.”

She hooted. “You’re kidding, right?”

“Only if you want to. It’s your call.”

She stared into his eyes. “You’re serious.”

“There’s a bag from the hotel gift shop in the bedroom. It has enough silk scarves to tie me pretty securely to the bed.”

“I did see that bag.” She bit her lip. “Silk scarves, huh?”

“You wouldn’t hurt me, of course,” he said.

“But I could tie you up, and…”

“Do whatever you want to me.” The more he thought about this plan, the hotter he got. Imagine, her crawling all over him. Getting naked but not allowing him to touch her. He couldn’t do anything for his own pleasure unless she allowed it. If she toyed with him for a good, long while and then finally allowed him to climax, the orgasm would tear him apart. What a way to go.

“Would that really turn you on?” she asked.

“It already has. Touch me if you want proof.”

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Alice Gaines lives in the San Francisco Bay Area in a fixer-upper house she never fixed up. Aside from writing and reading hot, hot romance, she loves cooking, knitting and crocheting, and her church. She has a pet corn snake named Casper and she’s insanely passionate about the funky soul band, Tower of Power.

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Finders by Amy Romine

Finders

Finders Ghost Hunting #1

by Amy Romine

Genre: Paranormal Romance Thriller 

When an expert Demonologist meets a Reality Show Producer on the Ghost Hunting Show Finders, sparks of true love fly so brightly even the Devil takes notice.

Demonologist, Luke Melloy has seen the face of pure evil. He’s fought it and sent it back to hell. It’s what he does. To Claire Westin, ghosts and demons are just great television and good for ratings. When faced with the truth Luke has seen, her reality is turned upside down as the two are swept into dire straits moments after they meet. Desire sparks between the unlikely pair, throwing their hearts into chaos with a love neither expected nor wanted.

When the Demon targets an unsuspecting Claire with his wrath, Luke finds his focus split between his oath to God and the awakening of his heart. Together, can they face the ancient evil and defeat it or lose everything?

Luke and Claire watched Grant, and the doctor attempt to engage Kelsey. The teenage girl sat still, her gaze fixed on Claire.

“Claire, come here,” Luke said motioning for Claire to join him on the other side of the room. “Slowly.”

Claire complied. Luke watched the girls’ eyes track Claire’s movement like a hunter tracking its prey.

“Luke,” Claire gasped, and Luke focused.

Claire’s usually clear eyes were fogged. He took her hand and discovered she was cold to the touch, as cold as when he’d pulled her out of the well.

“Just focus on me,” Luke said, squeezing her hand and knocking on the window between the rooms. A tingling sensation pulsed through Luke’s body. Consciously pushing the energy to Claire, he drank in the experience while taking deep breaths. Claire’s eyes cleared, and her hand warmed. “Better?”

She nodded. At the same moment, the door opened. Grant entered the small room, his eyes immediately focusing on their joined hands. “Is everything okay?”

“Yeah, I just got a little light-headed,” Claire said, releasing Luke’s hand.

Luke shot a look at Grant. “How did it go in there?”

“She opened her eyes, and we thought we were getting somewhere, but then we lost it. Not sure what happened.”

“We might know,” Luke said.

Claire shot him a deadly look.

Luke explained what happened in the observation room.

“Seriously?”

“Yeah.”

“There’s only one way to know for sure,” Grant said, looking at Claire.

“What?” Claire asked.

“We need to test the theory,” Luke replied.

“How?”

“By putting the stimulus back in the equation. First in the observation room, and then in the room with Kelsey,” Grant said.

“You’re not serious?” Claire replied, turning away from the men.

“Claire, if Kelsey is attracted to you for some reason, we have to investigate and see where it leads,” Grant replied.

Claire ran her hands through her hair. She stood silent for a moment before turning and meeting Luke’s eyes. She seemed to be searching for something. An acknowledgment or reassurance? He couldn’t give anything to her and looked away.

“Claire, there’s something you need to know,” Grant said.

Luke’s stomach dropped. Listening to Grant explain to Claire what had happened at the hospital when they found her in Kelsey’s room made him physically ill. He kept his focus elsewhere, not wanting to watch Claire’s reaction to the news. The incident was his fault. He should be able to protect her.

“Fine,” Claire said. “Yeah, okay, let’s see what happens.”

Luke turned, seeing the determination in her eyes.

Grant returned to Kelsey’s room and quietly informed the doctor Luke would be entering the room next, then stepped into the hallway and motioned to Luke. The two men switched places.

Luke stepped in, noting how cold the room felt compared to the hallway. “Hello, Kelsey, my name is Luke Melloy. I want to speak with you about Crestwater Church.” The girl lay motionless. “Kelsey, can you hear me? We’re here to help you, but you have to tell us what happened. We went to Crestwater. I gotta tell you, Kelsey, the church is a pretty creepy place. I would understand if you’re hesitant about sharing your experiences.” Luke took her hand. “Kelsey, you’re safe here in the hospital. Surrounded by people who are here to help you through this trauma.”

The door opened. Grant walked into the room, followed by Claire. Luke shook his head.

The doctor audibly sighed, “I want to thank you for trying. Your help is sincerely appreciated.”

“It is our pleasure,” Luke replied, watching Claire and Grant approach the bed.

Kelsey lay quietly, the shadows of her face dark and haunting despite the harsh hospital lights. Luke watched her closely while alternating his focus on Claire.

Nothing.

Silence.

Luke looked to Grant and then Claire. Claire exhaled a deep breath, the warmth of her breath mixing with a sudden iciness in the air. He switched his focus to Kelsey, whose eyes opened. The skin of her expression tightened against the bones of her face. Her eyes stared out with a menacing black glare. The room filled with the stench of death and sulfur.

“Kelsey?” Luke said. A guttural, yelping laugh of malevolent spite and rage emanated from the thin girl’s physical form. “Who are we speaking with, if not Kelsey?”

“He who is not him or her. He who will make the dripping climax of blood at your feet,” the Demon within Kelsey replied, licking its lips while looking at Claire.

An unearthly scream filled the room. Claire. Her face ashen and eyes wide in terror, she stumbled back. Grant moved to catch her, and Luke re-focused.

“God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, I appeal to your holy name, humbly begging your kindness, that you may graciously grant me help against this unclean spirit now tormenting this creature of yours, through Christ our Lord.”

“Save her, Luke. Save her as you did Daniel!” the Demon cried. The room shook, the lights flickering.

“I armor myself today with the power of the Most Holy Trinity, in the oneness of God, Creator of the universe. I armor myself today with the baptism of Christ, His crucifixion and resurrection, His ascension and glorious second coming.”

“There is no hope for her light! It is already marked with the seed of Belial!”

“I armor myself today with God’s guidance to direct me, God’s might to sustain me, God’s wisdom to instruct me, God’s word to give me speech, God’s shield to protect me, God’s army to defend me, against the snares of demons, against the lure of vices, against all who plot me harm.”

“Centum quinquaginta animas sedem formabis radicibus!” the Demon spat out with a low growl.

As quickly as the episode began, it ended. Luke checked the room. Claire stood shielded within Grant’s protective arms, while the doctor huddled in the corner of the room.

Shit.

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About the Author

Amy Romine has always wanted to be one of the good guys. From playing Charlie’s Angels in the backyard of her Macungie, PA home as a child to the pages of her unending projects, Amy has always dreamed of adventure and romance. Her need to make the characters truly deserve their happiness takes us on many a twisted journey. From serial killers to demons, Amy holds nothing back in the name of true enduring love.

A mother of three, Amy has spent the past sixteen years working in Operations for Ricoh America’s Corporation. She is an avid movie fan and enjoys books, television, theater, her dog Pip and all things romance.

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