Friday, August 26, 2016

~Book Blitz~ Descendant Prophecies Box Set by Mary Ting


Title: Descendant Prophecies Box Set
Author: Mary Ting
Genre: NA Mythology
Hosted by: Lady Amber’s PR

Blurb:
"A fast paced adventure full of mystery, action, magic and romance! Readers won't be able to put this book down!" InD'tale Magazine

"A story that is Electrifying with love. Get ready to be shocked!" Janie, Crossangels

"From Gods takes mythology to a whole new level of imagination with its incredible plot and amazing characters. It's full of hotness that you never want to end!" Michele, Insane About Books

"From Gods by the AMAZING AUTHOR Mary Ting is OMGods good!! If you even LIKE Greek Mythology, set aside some time because you will DEVOUR Mary Ting's Demi Gods and Vultures!!!" Mindy, Books Complete Me

"This book is "electric" as it blends paranormal romance, mythology (which I love), action and suspense together for an amazing read. Mary Ting, you've done it again! This book exceeded my expectations and I was literally blown away as if I were struck by lightning!" Vanessa, Fairiechick's Fantasy Book Reader



Mary Ting resides in Southern California with her husband and two children. She enjoys oil painting and making jewelry. Writing her first novel, Crossroads Saga, happened by chance. It was a way to grieve the death of her beloved grandmother, and inspired by a dream she once had as a young girl. When she started reading new adult novels, she fell in love with the genre. It was the reason she had to write one-Something Great. Why the pen name, M Clarke? She tours with Magic Johnson Foundation to promote literacy and her children’s chapter book-No Bullies Allowed.

Author Links:

Buy Link:
Amazon: http://amzn.to/2bAoSMm


From Titans Excerpt:
Nick sprang from behind and pounded on the invisible wall. “You crazy bitch! Let my brother go.”
Hades held him back. “You’ll have to excuse him. He’s been going a bit crazy looking for his brother. I’m sure you understand.”
Eris glared and hissed, showing her perfect white teeth. “Don’t be a fool, Nick, or you’ll never see your brother. But he’s not really your brother. Isn’t he just a half-brother? Anyway, I can’t wait to call you brother-in-law. We’ll become one happy family.” She showed off her white teeth but didn’t smile.
Nick covered his ears. “Over my dead body.”
“Now, now. Behave, little one,” she scolded, waving her finger. “Or I just might give you what you wish for. Death is permanent, you know…at least for your kind.”
Nick growled, and light shot from his fingertips. Everett held him back. When Zeus gestured with his hand, Nick stilled.
Zeus focused on Eris again. “Where’s Cronus? Tell him to show himself.” His calm tone sounded confident, but I knew he feared his father.
“Cronus isn’t here.”
“Liar!” Zeus sent the lightning from his staff. It flashed into the invisible wall and burst in brightness, blinding us, but it didn’t penetrate the wall.
Eris laughed, like Zeus had told the funniest joke. “I’m the goddess of my domain. You can’t hurt me here. I call the shots, Zeus. Funny how the roles are reversed. I kind of like that. But don’t worry. You’ll see him soon enough—or not. When I say so. So, would you like to come to my party, or are we going to argue all day?” Eris brushed the side of her hair, smirking. “It’s funny how Zeus is begging to come to my party. It was the other way around before.”
“I’m not begging,” Zeus growled, his eyes crackling with electricity. His rage shook the ground. “You’re forcing me to come. Get this over with before I do something I won’t regret. And to clarify: It wasn’t my wedding. I didn’t send out the invitations, but if I had, I wouldn’t have invited you anyway.”
Eris threw a daggered glare at Zeus and waved her hand. As the invisible wall started to disintegrate, a new world materialized.







~Cover Reveal & Pre Order Blitz~ In All My Life by Ciara Knight


Title: In All My Life
Author: Ciara Knight
Genre: Sweet Contemporary Romance
Cover Designer: Robin Ludwig Design Inc.

Blurb:
Shamed and dismissed from the Atlanta Sheriff’s Department, Larson Rader abandons big city law enforcement for a small town campus police job. He only hopes it’s far enough to escape the publicity of putting a man his own sister falsely accused in the hospital.

Helen Simpson returns to Riverbend for a new start with her young daughter running a battered women’s shelter. Small town life gives them a peace they never had, until a dangerous man from her past, untouchable by police, threatens to kidnap her daughter. A payment he feels is due to him for the humiliation she brought upon his family for fleeing the cartel and her husband.

Helen must learn to lean on someone again or she’ll lose her daughter. But will Larson be able to trust her, or will he abandon her to her fate?



Ciara Knight writes with a ‘Little Edge and a Lot of Heart’ with her contemporary and paranormal romance books. Her most recent #1 Amazon bestselling series, Sweetwater County, has topped the charts and received acclaimed reviews. Her international best-seller, Pendulum scored 4 stars from RT Book Reviews, accolades from InD’Tale Magazine and Night Owl Top Pick. Her young adult paranormal series, Battle for Souls, received 5 stars from Paranormal Romance Guild and Night Owl’s Top Pick, among other praises.

Author Links:

Buy Links:
In All My Wishes: http://amzn.to/29bzAbk
In All My Years: http://amzn.to/294jg9m
In All My Dreams: http://amzn.to/1QvVCPV
In All My Life (Pre Order): http://amzn.to/2bAfV5t







~Cover Reveal~ Inferno by Stacey Rourke


Title: Inferno
Author: Stacey Rourke
Genre: Teen Fantasy
Expected Release Date: Fall 2016
Cover Designer: KC Designs
Hosted by: Lady Amber’s PR

Blurb:
A dark force has risen, with the Garretts powerless to defend themselves. The Gryphon Series Resurrection continues with ... Inferno, a brand new novella releasing this fall!



RONE Award Winner for Best YA Paranormal Work of 2012 for Embrace, a Gryphon Series Novel 
Young Adult and Teen Reader voted Author of the Year 2012
Turning Pages Magazine Winner for Best YA book of 2013 & Best Teen Book of 2013 

Stacey Rourke is the author of the award winning YA Gryphon Series, the chillingly suspenseful Legends Saga, and the romantic comedy Adapted for Film. She lives in Michigan with her husband, two beautiful daughters, and two giant dogs. She loves to travel, has an unhealthy shoe addiction, and considers herself blessed to make a career out of talking to the imaginary people that live in her head. 

Visit her at www.staceyrourke.com
or on Twitter or instagram at Rourkewrites.

Buy Links:
#Free with #KindleUnlimited
Conduit (FREE): http://amzn.to/2acPikz
Descent (Novella): http://amzn.to/2acQ7Kg








Thursday, August 25, 2016

~Book Blast~ Protected by a SEAL by Makenna Jameison



 photo Protected by a SEAL Blast Banner.png


Title:  Protected by a SEAL
Series:  Alpha SEALs Book 6 (stand-alone)
Author:  Makenna Jameison
Published:  August 23rd, 2016
Genre:  Romantic Suspense
Recommended Age:  18+
Tagline:   His need to protect her is nonnegotiable…

 photo Protected by a SEAL.png

Synopsis:
Navy SEAL Brent “Cobra” Rollins never met a woman he didn’t want. He’s gotten more action than his entire SEAL team combined, but the gorgeous brunette he barely even touched is the one he can’t get out of his head.
Ella Thompson is working her way through school, and the cocky, assertive Navy SEAL who stood up for her is also wrong in about a thousand different ways. Player? Check. Older man? Check. Interested in a relationship with her? Not a chance in hell.
When she’s all out of options, Ella returns to her former shift at a cocktail lounge to make ends meet. Her boss is willing to give her the job back—for a price. The only thing scarier than submitting to him is being pawned off as payment to his enemies. The man who can save her is the one she should never want, but he’s the only one who’d also protect her with his life.


 photo Protected by a SEAL Teaser 1.jpg






He tucked his phone back into his pocket and glanced around again, realizing the entire place smelled like Ella—fragrant.  Sweet.  Good.  He could tell she was still pissed at him though, judging from the way she watched him with hands on both hips.  Her ire would have to wait—because as soon as she said a name, he was out of here.
Tracking that motherfucker down.
“Tell me what happened.”
She looked startled for a moment but quickly recovered.  “It doesn’t matter,” she said quietly.
“It matters to me.  If someone is hurting you, I want to know about it.  If you’re scared, I want you to tell me.  If you’re frightened of someone, I’ll protect you.  And if you tell me who did this, I’ll be out of your hair this instant, because I’m going to fucking kill them.  Now start at the beginning.”
Ella looked uncomfortable.  “Frank said he’d give me my old job back.”
“Yeah.  Got that part.”
“But he wanted…he said….” Fresh tears rolled down her cheeks, and it took every ounce of Brent’s strength not to go to her.  She needed to get this out.  To tell him what happened.
“I thought I could handle Frank, but I was in way over my head.  He wanted to see me outside of work.  Told me that I had to sleep with him.  I told him no, and he threatened to take my job away.  Some of my student loans fell through for next year, so I was desperate.  I told him I wouldn’t sleep with him, but I guess he thought he could pressure me.  He said he wanted a kiss.”
“And the bruises?”
“He, uh, grabbed me in the hall last night.”
“At work?”  Rage burned through him.
“Yes.  I came out of the bathroom, and he was pissed that I’d dropped an entire tray of drinks.  The guys at the table were total assholes and deserved it.  I was going to quit right then and there.  But Frank followed me into the back hall.  He grabbed my arm and wouldn’t let me go.”  Ella sniffed, her watery gaze meeting his.  “Then he made me go down the hall to his office.”

 photo Protected by a SEAL Teaser 2.jpg


Makenna Jameison is a bestselling romance author. She writes military romance and romantic suspense with hot alpha males, steamy scenes, and happily-ever-afters. Her debut series made it to #1 in Romance Stories on Amazon. Makenna loves reading, writing, the beach, and traveling to new places. She lives in Washington DC with her husband and two daughters.





Giveaway Details:
There is a tour wide giveaway. Prizes include the following:
  • $10 Amazon Gift Card.

Giveaway is International.


a Rafflecopter giveaway




 photo junipergrovenights logo.png



Tuesday, August 23, 2016

~Release Day Blitz~ One More Time by S. Van Horne


Title: One More Time
Author: S. Van Horne
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Cover Designer: SK Designs
Photographer: Travis Meadows
Model: Megan Gearhart

Blurb:
At twenty-five Len Shields had it all, a promising medical career, a loving family, amazing friends, and her brother back from his time in the Navy. Everything was perfect – until the first letter…

At twenty-seven Dante DeLuca was finally finished with his time in the Navy and was starting his new career at Seal Security with his buddies from the service. Everything was finally settling into place for him—until the phone call…

Now the hunt is on to find a stalker that could shatter everything Len and Dante have been building…including the love they have for each other.

When they both finally admit their feelings for each other the worst happens… Will they ever get their one more time?



S. Van Horne was born and raised in the small town of Belton, Missouri, which is a part of the Kansas City metropolitan area. She is from a very large family and is the oldest of six. Growing up she did not have the easiest life. She learned quickly that family means everything, even if it is the type that you get to pick for yourself. She met the love of her life at the early age of 20 and was married just after nine months of meeting him. Shortly after marriage, her husband rejoined the U.S. Navy and they moved from Kansas City and started their journey together. Currently they have two amazing children, a boy and a girl, and are still enjoying the Navy life. They are looking forward to retiring shortly to the great state of Washington to be closer to their God daughters/nieces and their parents.


She spends her days being a Navy wife, homeschool mother, reading books, writing her latest novel, watching her beloved Kansas City Chiefs or Kansas City Royals play, watching movies, hanging out with family and friends and having girls days at least once a month.

Buy Link:
#Free with #KindleUnlimited
Amazon: http://amzn.to/2bx6TrK


“Drink up, bitches. It’s time to get our dance on, and we know Ashley won’t dance without a buzz. So down the shots and those drinks.” Julia holds up her shot in the air and screams, “Here’s to the night and all it brings. And, here’s to the hottie who wants a fling!”
We crack up laughing and down the shot. I wave at the waitress, asking for another shot. I look over at Eagle and see him shaking his head, shoulders shaking with laughter. I’m glad he’s here.
“Okay, so, hooker, what’s going on? I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m all for drool-worthy bodyguards, but I know something’s up,” Ashley states as we wait for our next round.
“Oh, hell no, you can’t start without me you cocking cockstorm jockey suckers!” A male voice sounds behind me. Squealing with excitement, I turn and jump into Andy’s open arms.
Out of the corner of my eye, I see Eagle tense up and start to come our way. I quickly let Andy go, step back, and introduce them to each other. Eagle takes shakes his hand, and then walks back to his spot to continue watching us.
“We wouldn’t dream of it.” I smile brightly at him. “How did you know we’d be here?”
“Chris told me that you were going to hang with the girls tonight. Since, he’s meeting with Neil and won’t be home until late…well, I figured I’d come and hang with you girls. Now, I need a drink!” Andy picks up a shot and raises it in the air, “A toast. We drink to those who love us, we drink to those who don’t. We drink to those who fuck us, and fuck those who don’t!”
We all slam our drinks back and shake our heads. Having Andy here really makes the night even better. He has a way of bringing joy out of a bad situation, and his love for his friends and family is fierce. I’m lucky to be a part of that circle.




~Blog Tour & Giveaway~ The Mistape Manifesto by SW Hammond


 photo The-Mixtape-Manifesto-Banner.png


Title: The Mixtape Manifesto: A Pop Culture Confessional
Author:   SW Hammond
Published:  August 23rd, 2016
Publisher:   Surf Star Media
Genre:   Non-fiction / essay / relationships
Recommended Age:  16+

 photo The-Mixtape-Manifesto-225x300.png
Synopsis:
A compilation of articles spanning more than a decade woven together to create the misguided anti-love story of a young man learning about relationships and the opposite sex through music, movies, and television.

From music industry professional, SW Hammond, comes The Mixtape Manifesto: A Pop Culture Confessional, a collection of provocative short stories on his life as a Lost Boy in search of Winnie Cooper.

Raised on rock n’ roll, Hammond blends an unparalleled view of pop culture and philosophy that follows him from his early twenties through his early thirties. The Mixtape Manifesto is filled with rich photography that captures Hammond’s days as a tour manager on Warped Tour and working for Sony Music Entertainment, as well as bringing to life the music, movies, and television that has plagued his rational sense of love and relationships. From childhood viewings of Full House leading to his lifelong hatred of John Stamos, his introduction to the Riot Grrrl movement and Kathleen Hanna, and to a questionable infatuation with The OC’s Summer Roberts—each story blends a reflective Kevin Arnold-like inner monolog with Wild Turkey.

The Mixtape Manifesto is the byproduct of one too many romantic comedies. Inspiration, enlightenment, and delusion fuel Hammond’s quest as he searches for a bit of meaning to life and someone to share it with.


Amazon | GoodReads | SW Hammond Store | Apple iBooksKobo




The Blunder Years

Whatever happened to predictability? The milkman, the paperboy, evening TV? Casual drives over the Golden Gate Bridge and neon windbreakers to protect us from that brisk Bay Area sea breeze? Back when times were simpler and the world had three fathers—and by no means am I referring to the Holy Trinity. I’m talking Danny, Jesse, and Joey. All were miserable failures with personality dysfunctions, but somehow were able to pull themselves together to raise America’s favorite girls. What this country’s fascination is with “three men and a baby” is beyond me.

Aside from the horrible acting and Afterschool Special “the moral of the story is” writing style, Full House was mashed potatoes and gravy to my generation. When the theme song kicked on, you felt good because “everywhere you look there’s a heart and a hand to hold on to.” I always acted as if I was bored while I watched the show, though; even at an early age, I was aware that it wasn’t socially acceptable for a dude to like chick flicks. And that’s what Full House was—a weekly soap opera for young girls.

I watched habitually, though, especially once Rebecca became a regular. I’m not afraid to say it: Lori Loughlin was hot. She still is. In 1989, I didn’t even really know what hot was, but whatever Rebecca was, I liked it. And so began my lifelong hatred for John Stamos. The guy makes me sick. He’s too fucking cool. His gelled-up hair, scruffy metro shave (before the world even knew what metro was), black Italian boots, a rock n’ roll attitude but with a sensitive and understanding side… What a prick. Moreover, he was briefly married to a supermodel. Still, Romjin aside, the only Rebecca that really mattered to me was the one on Full House.

I remember sizing up Stamos on every episode. I’d sit there and scowl at the TV as I’d watch his performance. The majority of my Full House viewing was around the age of 10, so looking back, that must have been quite the sight. Back then, I didn’t know what it was, and I couldn’t clearly put my feelings into words, but I certainly knew that Uncle Jesse was a pretentious asshole. The Elvis impersonations are eventually what did me in. One too many “Teddy Bears” made Rebecca’s love for Jesse unforgivable and I eventually had to move on. I learned early on that chasing after women who were attracted to Jesses was fruitless. I’d never be that guy.

I tried to seek solace in DJ, but she just didn’t have what made me tick. Kimmy was way too easy, so I figured I’d give Steph a shot and maybe try someone my own age. I appreciated her wit and subtle vulnerability, but the fact she shared a roof with Stamos was a deal breaker. I finally had to part ways with the San Francisco family and I found myself becoming best friends with Kevin Arnold. His lifestyle was much easier to swallow than three misfit dads living in the gay capitol of the world. He rode his bike, played football with Paul, thought way too deeply about the world around him, and had a crush on Winnie Cooper—the single greatest young female character up to that point in television history.

Kevin and I got along great, primarily due to our strikingly similar inner monologue. Yes, that’s what it sounds like in my head all day. Winnie was off-limits, however. I admired her from afar, but the show taught me trust and loyalty, one of the lessons that always seemed laughable coming from Jesse’s mouth. Winnie was everything a 12-year-old boy could ask for. She had her own set of wheels, enjoyed milk shakes, and was never afraid to make the first move. In the grand scheme of things, that doesn’t sound too bad to someone in their mid-twenties.

Kevin was my boy though, even through their on-again off-again late adolescence. We shared a comradely, an understanding of sorts. Kevin always ultimately did the right thing, learning life lessons along the way. I took notes and mentally never had an affair with his girl. That’s how it all went down until the final episode.

That night, I turned on my TV, half-depressed. I was anxious to see the big finale, but I felt like my childhood was ending just as Kevin’s was. The suspense ate me alive as I slurped from my juice box. The show ended by flashing forward to present day. Winnie got off a plane from studying art in Paris only to be greeted by Kevin, his wife, and new son. Those fuckers. I dropped my fruit-flavored beverage and let it seep deep into my favorite childhood blanket.

From that moment on, it’s been nothing but Guns n’ Roses, cheap strippers, Wild Turkey, and an immense Winnie Cooper void I’ve never been able to fill. Rebeccas are a dime a dozen, just like the Jesses they date. But not Winnie Cooper. Only a Winnie can make you… melt.


 photo SW-Hammond-225x300.png
SW Hammond, short for Sean William, is the author of The Mixtape Manifesto: A Pop Culture Confessional and The Final Book fictional series. He is also a freelance writer contributing to countless music zines, athletic, lifestyle, and technical magazines and websites across the world.

SW’s writing style, particularly within his commentary, is often compared to Chuck Klosterman-esq with countless references to pop culture, especially music. His brazen and honest approach creates camaraderie with the reader, then tests the boundaries with sensitive subject matter. Philosophy, ethics, and nobility square off against a materialistic society driven by instant gratification, with Hammond treading water directly in the middle.

His fictional writing makes a conscious effort to blend perception, rumor, and fact leaving the reader to question reality. His stories often taking place in historical settings or playing on modern headlines, Hammond uses common themes to drive home critical points about the human condition. Though often grand, epic, and futurist, the backbone of his novels hinge on honor and virtue, or lack thereof.

Hammond has a very unique background as a music and sports industry professional. He has worked for Major League Baseball as a Marketing Coordinator, was an Assistant of Arizona Operations in the Kansas City Royals farm system, and a Stadium Manager of the Los Angeles Angels Spring Training facility. He is also credited as a Marketing Representative for Sony Music Entertainment, a Senior Tour Manager for the Vans Warped Tour, and an intern at WAR Records / United Interests Management.

SW was born just outside of Denver, CO and hasn’t stopped moving since. Aside from Colorado, growing up Hammond also lived in Maine, California, Utah, and Hawaii. As an adult he returned to Colorado and Utah, also adding Arizona and Nevada to the list. He currently resides in Las Vegas. Hammond has never been married and has no children.





Giveaway Details:

There is a tour wide giveaway. Prizes include the following:
  • A $25 Amazon gift card & ecopy of Mixtape Manifesto
  • 5 ecopies of Mixtape Manifesto
Giveaway is International.


Ends August 31st, 2016 at 11:59 PM EDT 



a Rafflecopter giveaway




 photo JGBS Logo.png


Monday, August 22, 2016

~Blog Tour~ Recipe for Lust by Alice Ward

 photo Recipe for Lust Banner.png

Title:  Recipe for Lust
Author:   Alice Ward
Published:  August 19th, 2016
Genre:  Romance
Recommended Age:  18+

 photo Recipe for Lust_1.png
Synopsis: 
When Claire, a young and ambitious cook, decides to audition for Extreme Cuisine, she has no idea just how much her life will change in just nine weeks. Having just gotten out of a long term relationship, she is ready for a new chapter, and maybe even a hot fling or two. Though she’s never been formally trained as a chef, Claire holds her own in the competition which pairs amateurs and professional chefs side by side. Her biggest surprise comes when her celebrity chef crush, Scott Maxim, becomes a fellow competitor. Sparks fly between the two both on and off the screen, and her crush quickly grows for the kitchen bad boy.
As the competition continues, everything seems to be going well for Claire. She holds her own in the competition and gets along with the other chefs, including Shep Thompson, Extreme Cuisine’s host and chef to the stars. As Claire’s relationship with Scott grows, however, her other cast mates begin to get jealous, especially Shep. Shep is quiet and kind, and Claire hardly notices his advances until he takes out his jealousy on Scott in the competition. Tension between the three grows, and the drama it creates angers the other competitors who think Claire is receiving special treatment.
Claire is pulled away from the competition when she gets news that her pregnant friend, Kennedy, has been hospitalized. Claire joins her friends in Boston, but is shocked to learn that Shep has followed her there out of concern that she may not return to the show. The two get even closer over one steamy night.

Claire decides to return to the competition, but with only a few weeks left, secrets and betrayal begin to surface. She realizes that nothing is what it originally seemed. With all revealed, Claire faces her biggest challenge yet: beating the professional chefs at their own game.


Read FREE with Kindle Unlimited!



 photo Recipe for Lust Teaser8.jpg




 photo Alice Ward Logo_1.png
Alice Ward is an Amazon Bestselling author who loves to write hot & steamy contemporary romances.

Reading and Writing romance is her passion and she writes with her true heart.

Living in Miami, the beach is her favorite place to relax with her laptop and write her next spicy romance.

However, when she is not reading or writing romance, she also enjoys being with her beautiful family.


Amazon Author Page | Facebook | Twitter | GoodReads | Website


Sample Chapter:

“Welcome to United Airlines.” A woman with a tight blonde ponytail and a name tag that read ‘Sara’ greeted me at the counter.
She took my ticket and waved to another employee who quickly jumped to her side. “Please escort Miss Walker to her terminal,” she ordered and gave me a warm smile.
The boy — his name was Thomas according to his name tag — was friendly and eager to help me through the security counter. The line was long, and I was worried that I’d spent too much time saying goodbye to Lauren, but he quickly ushered me through to the side where there was no wait.
Wow, I could get used to first class.
We approached the terminal riding a gold cart, which Thomas had commandeered at the security station. He handed me my purse and carry-on and moved quickly to the counter where another blonde with a tight ponytail stood. Her face looked sour, and she seemed unimpressed that I had arrived in such style. “You’re free to board whenever you like,” she said, her tone clipped and efficient.
Thomas, on the other hand, was still eager to please and extremely friendly. “There are refreshments available onboard, or if you like, the first class waiting area is just down that way.” He pointed down the long corridor.
Other passengers who had obviously been waiting for their turn to board looked at me with resentment. I wasn’t prepared to come across so pompous and just wanted to board. “I’ll go ahead and board now. Thank you, Thomas.” I shot the sour blonde a fake smile.
She took my ticket and motioned for me to pass. I held the stub in my hand and walked down the long tube that was supposed to resemble a hallway. I felt my nerves rattle as I took each step. I hated flying, especially alone. What was I doing?
“Right this way, ma’am.” A perky brunette with a bob hairstyle greeted me at the entrance of the plane. I followed her as she guided me to the left, a section I’d never seen before. It was magnificent, better than I ever imagined. The seats were slick black leather and were equipped with massage options and had the ability to stretch out into a bed. I was in my own cubicle-like area, no other passenger to sit next to and listen to stories about their family, or their illness, or God forbid, their cats.
“Can I get you a drink?” the woman asked.
“A mimosa?” I asked, uncertain if that was an option.
She smiled and nodded before disappearing. On her return, a tall glass topped with an orange slice was quickly handed to me. Yes, I could get used to this.
The flight was amazing, even taking off and landing seemed easier in first class. I wasn’t sure if it was the feeling of being packed in like sardines in a flying can that usually stressed me out, but this was easy and made me want to travel more. I was ready to see the world.
The first class passengers were allowed to exit the plane first, giving the coach passengers their first glimpse of the pretentious asses that enjoyed hot towels, fruity drinks, and enough space to stretch out during the flight. I felt bad as I walked past the couple with two small children, both of which were puffy eyed from crying and out of their seats begging to be let off the plane. “I’m hungry!” one screamed, while the other sucked vigorously on his thumb with tears still wet on his face. No, I didn’t feel bad for them, at least not as badly as I felt for the ones around them who endured that endless chaos.
I ducked into the nearest restroom and rinsed my hands under the water. Even in first class, I still felt clammy from being on the metal deathtrap. My face looked refreshed, a slight glow shining on my skin from the excitement, or fear. Either way, it suited me well.
The crowds of people pushed me through the airport towards the luggage claim. The conveyor belt started, and suitcases rolled towards the waiting crowd. The woman who had the two children on my flight smiled as she leaned in and grabbed a torn suitcase that looked like it came from Goodwill. Her two kids were climbing on the belt, trying their best to take a turn on what must have looked like a fun ride. I watched as the dad effortlessly pulled each one down and showed no expression on his face as he repeated the procedure each time they climbed back up.
Finally, my suitcases appeared. I grabbed them and walked towards the front of the airport. A woman with thick rimmed cat eye glasses and short black hair stood holding a sign with my name. I walked towards her. “Hi, I’m Claire Walker.”
She extended her hand and smiled. Her hair style and glasses made her look older from afar, but now up close she couldn’t have been more than twenty-five; no older than me. Her tone was perky and her demeanor bubbly as she shook my hand. “I’m Gretchen, the production assistant for the show. Welcome.”
It took no time for her to take one of my bags and start walking towards the exit. “These are your only bags?” she asked without stopping to hear my answer.
“Yes,” I said as I almost ran to keep up with her.
“I’ll be taking you directly to the hotel. From there, you’ll be checked in where you can settle in your room, freshen up if you wish, and then promptly return to the lobby where you’ll be introduced to the other contestants and be briefed on the show.” Her lips moved as quickly as her feet.
“That sounds great. Anything I should know beforehand?”
She stopped at the sidewalk, let a tall man with gray hair take the bag from her hand, then motioned for him to take the one I’d been lugging around as well. Her glasses pushed down from her eyes to her nose, and she looked me up and down. “Like what, dear?”
I had no response. I didn’t know what. That was basically what I was asking, wasn’t it?
“Anyway, everything you need to know will be clear at the briefing,” she said.
Gretchen climbed into the back seat as the driver held the door open and then looked to me as if I were holding her up. “You coming, dear?”
Dear? I didn’t like that. She was the same age as me, maybe younger. The dear seemed to be condescending.
I climbed into the back of the black Lincoln and looked ahead as the driver pulled away from the airport.
Gretchen shuffled through papers and ignored the fact that I was sitting right next to her, eagerly waiting for information on the show, on the procedures, on anything really. It was obvious she wasn’t into small talk, and she was too busy to worry herself with my concerns, so I slouched down into the leather seat and stared out the window as we drove through the large city.
“We’re here,” she announced.
I opened my eyes, not realizing I’d fallen asleep and hoped I hadn’t snored, or drooled. I wiped my mouth. It was dry, thank God.
Gretchen was already out of the car and the driver had my suitcases pulled from the trunk as I stood for the first time on Austin’s soil. Well, maybe not soil. It was a beautiful cobblestone drive, but soil sounded so much more poetic and soothed my frazzled nerves.
The bellhop took my bags and rolled them on a gold metal cart inside the hotel. The lobby was impressive with its marble columns and large white plush sofas and dark wood furniture. Gretchen was already at the check-in desk and filling out paperwork for my room. “She needs your identification,” she said quickly and returned to the forms.
I pulled my driver’s license from my wallet and handed it to the woman behind the counter. “Here’s your key, ma’am,” the woman said with a strong southern accent.
Ma’am. I wasn’t sure I liked that any better than dear.
I took the key and felt my stomach ache with anxiety. Gretchen’s bubbly but to-the-point personality quickly pulled me out of my attack and brought me to a place of order.
“Your room is on the fifth floor. There’s a vending machine right outside your door, and you have exactly thirty minutes before you’re to meet back here,” Gretchen ordered as she pointed to the large sectional sofa in the corner of the lobby.
My room was equipped with a large king-sized bed, marble countertops in the bathroom, and a view of the city’s skyline. It was breathtakingly beautiful.
After wasting several minutes scoping the place out, I realized I’d better get myself freshened up and back down to the lobby. I pressed my clothes with my hands and ran a brush through my hair before exiting the hotel room I’d been assigned. A large man with a bald head was bent over at the vending machine outside my door. His pants were falling down to show the crack of his ass, and as he stood to apologize for being in my way, I couldn’t help but wonder if he was one of the contestants.
I smiled graciously and moved towards the elevator where a hand reached out and slapped the side to keep it from closing. “Thank you,” I said without seeing who I was thanking just yet.
“Not a problem,” a voice replied. A familiar voice.
I turned towards the stranger who sounded so familiar, and my heart fluttered in my chest. I knew I must be staring, and there was no doubt that my mouth was hanging open at the sight of one of my favorite chefs.
“I’m Aiden Maxim, nice to meet you,” he said with a charming smile.
I wanted to scream. Jump up and down. Fangirl him for hours on end. “Yes, I know who you are,” I admitted, proud that my voice sounded clear and professional.
He smiled, and his eyes roved down my body. They felt like snakes slithering against my skin as I pressed myself hard against the elevator wall. He had been a regular on my favorite cooking show for a couple years at least, and his bad boy persona was what kept many women tuning in when he was a guest. Now, here he was, in the flesh — tattooed and muscle-bound flesh — introducing himself to me, like I wouldn’t know who he was. Aiden Maxim. Wow!
“But yet, I don’t have any idea who you are,” he said with a crooked smile that did interesting things to my lower belly.
His eyes were still on me, smothering me, caressing me, causing me to become more and more anxious.
“I’m Claire,” I said, my voice becoming shakier the longer I was in his presence.
My palms were sweating as I rubbed them together in front of me. “Are you part of the show?” I asked, figuring he may be a host or a guest chef.
“Yes, one of the contestants,” he said proudly.
“C-contestants?” I stuttered, my shakiness now replaced with pure fear in my voice.
“Yes,” he confirmed.
“I thought this was an amateur cooking competition?” I asked, hoping I had misunderstood him.
“They decided to switch things up and add some professionals, semi-professionals, and amateurs together,” he said. “Better ratings, ya know.”
Yeah, better ratings, my ass. This would be a televised slaughter. And great, I get to be a part of it all!
The elevator door opened, and Aiden motioned for me to exit first. A gentleman was underneath that onslaught of tattoos and wolfish grin. Nice.
Even though it was a few minutes early, people were already gathering near the large sectional sofa that Gretchen had designated as the meeting spot in one of the private conference rooms. Some of the faces were familiar, some not. My stomach flopped as I moved towards the group, wondering if I should just run back to my room and call Lauren and Asher to send me another first class ticket home. I enjoyed that part of the trip. The rest of this production I’d gotten myself into, I wasn’t so sure would be as enjoyable.
Gretchen appeared with a clipboard and wasted no time getting right to it. She went around the room to each contestant and read a short bio. I was relieved when I realized that there were more amateurs than professionals, but some of the names that were read off gave me chills. This was the real deal. No more playing in the kitchen, it was time to get to work.
“We’ll have you each create an intro for the show. Just be yourself and tell us a little about why you’re here, what you do for a living, why you love cooking, why you want to win, whatever comes to mind.”
Panic set in at the thought of being pushed in front of the camera so suddenly. As each person took their turn, I realized they were all as nervous as I was, or at least many of them were.
“Aiden Maxim,” Gretchen called out.
Aiden had been behind me, something I wasn’t aware of until he placed his hand on my hip as he passed by. He winked, smiled in that sexy crooked smile of his and whispered, “Wish me luck, sweetheart.”
Even his swagger was cool. He stepped up to his spot and looked completely at ease in front of the four cameras aimed at his face. He spoke without any sign of pressure or nervousness. I listened, soaking up every last word — how he used to help his grandma in the kitchen, how he’d dedicated his life to feeding the poor, and how he planned on opening his own culinary school for underprivileged children with the winnings from this show.
Adrenaline rushed through my veins as I watched him make love to the camera. “That was perfect,” Gretchen said with a smile. It was obvious as her eyes lingered on his chest that she found him attractive. How could anyone not find Aiden Maxim attractive? He was hot, a bad boy with a big heart, and he could cook.
My name was called, and my fingers went numb. My throat felt tight, and my heart raced. Oh God, I don’t know if I can do this!




 photo JGBS Logo.png