Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Spotlight: Excerpt from LUST ACTUALLY by Heather Long

Meet Heather Long, author of LUST ACTUALLY

National bestselling author, Heather Long, likes long walks in the park, science fiction, superheroes, Marines, and men who aren’t douche bags. Her books are filled with heroes and heroines tangled in romance as hot as Texas summertime. From paranormal historical westerns to contemporary military romance, Heather might switch genres, but one thing is true in all of her stories—her characters drive the books. When she’s not wrangling her menagerie of animals, she devotes her time to family and friends she considers family. She believes if you like your heroes so real you could lick the grit off their chest, and your heroines so likable, you’re sure you’ve been friends with women just like them, you’ll enjoy her worlds as much as she does.

Connect with Heather: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

“I am so tired of being the orange crayon,” Norah Silver said, swirling the red wine around in her glass.
Tina Prentiss, her best friend and confidante, sputtered. “The what?”
“The orange crayon,” Norah repeated before taking a drink of the burgundy.
It had a bite to it, a sweet, smoky burn that cascaded down her throat and warmed her belly. Since it was likely the warmest companion she would be taking to bed that night, she planned to indulge. She didn’t have to work for the next three days, and Tina herself was heading out of town on a late flight. Meeting for drinks had been an impulse, the kind they really should indulge in more often.
“Okay, that’s what I thought you said, and I’m not following.”
Like Norah, Tina worked two jobs—one where she managed funds as an accountant by day and another where she wrote music at night. She’d even sold some of her jingles. Her weekend getaway had been funded by a cupcake commercial she’d scored. Thirty seconds for three thousand dollars. Not bad work if a person could get it.
“The one always left in the box…you know when you’re a kid and you do a lot of coloring? You use the blues for the sky and the water, the green for the grass, and white for clouds and yellow for the sun. Red shows up for flowers or shoes or cars….”
“Or fire engines,” Tina added helpfully.
“Yes, fire engines. Right. Brown even gets a cut of the action for people and for tree bark. But orange? Orange sits in the box untouched and unblemished. It’s always the sharpest crayon, but the least used. The paper isn’t crinkled…and if it rolled off the table and onto the floor and beneath a chair to lie forgotten—no one would notice.”
Tina blinked once. “Damn, girl, you need to get the hell out of your head. The orange crayon? That’s some fucked-up shit right there.”
Laughing, Norah shook her head. Tina didn’t get it. She was the red crayon with her dark auburn hair capping her sleek, sun-kissed physique. If people didn’t know she was an accountant and musician, they’d probably mistake her for a supermodel.
And, wow, am I depressing?
Norah caught her reflection in the patterned mirror behind the bar. A scowl seemed to have permanently stamped between her brows. When her frown only deepened the lines, she closed her eyes and concentrated on the deep breathing techniques from yoga class. Her pulse slowed, and some of her agitation leeched away. It had truly been a suck-tastic week at work.
“Sweetheart, you look like hell.”
Trust the golden-skinned goddess to tell her like it was. What else was a best friend for?
“I know, but I look better than you,” Norah replied.

Tina burst out laughing, and when Norah opened her eyes, she was able to grin, and they clinked their glasses together.
“You should come with me this weekend. We’ll get you a standby ticket, and we can spend three days lounging on the beach.”
“I wish.” Did she ever. “But I have a date with my cat and my apartment and the outside world turned off.”
No cell phones, no appointments, no needy customers, and, God help her, no needy family.
“I’m only here because we haven’t been able to get together the last three weeks,” Norah added. Scheduling conflicts had been such a bitch.
Wrapping an arm around her, Tina gave her a squeeze. “I’m glad you could come. I’m worried about you. Ever since you started pulling double duty with the radio station and the phone bank. You are up at all hours, you never sleep, and you’re stretched thin going back and forth between the studio and your place. You can’t spend all those hours locked up in your apartment.”
True. Her job kept her rooted at home. “I’m doing what we have to do. College education doesn’t pay for itself, contrary to what all the ads say.”
“So come with me, get away. We don’t get three-day weekends that often, and the room’s all paid for. We can sit on the beach, drink foamy frozen things with umbrellas in them, and turn our brains off.”
Tempting, but….
“I kind of just want to be alone in my head for a few days. No one ‘needing’ me. You made these plans as a getaway for you. I’m not stepping on that.”
“Oh, my God, it’s not stepping on it when I invite you.” Still, Tina relented. “Girl, I worry about you.”
“Don’t. I have a plan, and it’s a bitch and a half right now, but six months from now? A year? I’m going to have those loans paid off, and then I can focus on pursuing my dream without the constant dread of the bear trap waiting to snap me in half.”
Melodramatic, maybe, but paying off her debts severed her ties to the past, to her mistakes, and set her up to look to the future. 3
“You’re already doing the local entertainment spots and movie reviews Friday morning drive time, and you’ve got the Midnight Love Line going. Why not try to turn that into more now? Make your dream your work.”
She did. She’d even pre-recorded the Friday and Saturday night shows so they could run her spots with the guest DJ. Radio might not be where it was for some people, but Norah had dreams.
“There’s a difference between a dream and talent, hon.”
“You’ve got talent.”
Fast to the defense and to pump up Norah’s ego, Tina was a damn good friend. But Norah had organizational skills and a strong sense of what needed to be done. She even knew what she wanted to do, but she didn’t stand out from the crowd. Not yet. Nothing about her was remarkable. She didn’t offer more than anyone else did.
“I love you, too.” Distraction being the key to winning any argument, she made a show of checking her phone. “And you need to get through TSA so you can board.”
It worked. Tina jerked and glanced at the thin gold band on her wrist. The woman still wore a watch.
“Oh crap, I don’t want to leave you alone in a bar.”
“I’m a big girl. So take your trip. I’m going to drink my wine and just sit here and let my brain relax. Then, if I need to, I’ll grab a cab home and get my car Monday night when I have to be back here to pick you up anyway.”
Her best friend pursed her lips. The woman could be stubborn. Fortunately, Norah was even more so. She met the challenge in Tina’s eyes with cool confidence. Frankly, she knew how to fake it until she could make it.
With a sigh, Tina gave her a hug. “Love you lots.”
“Love you more. Have fun.”
“You too.” Tina grabbed her carry-on bag and purse, then stopped for another hug. “Are you sure I can’t convince you?”
“Positive. Go.” Pasting on a wide smile, Norah gave her a push. “Go have fun. Let me sit here and drown myself in my wine. You’re totally harshing my buzz.”
With a laugh and a shake of her head, Tina took off. Norah watched her go, and she kept her smile in place until her friend vanished. Cheeks aching, she released the expression and turned back to her wine. Alone, at last. She lifted the wine and toasted the empty seat next to her and took a long swallow. The heat glided through her system, and some of the tension knotting her spine eased.
Three days of absolute solitude began as soon as she left the DFW airport bar. Still, she didn’t need to rush through her drink. After all, didn’t not being on a schedule mean not being on a….
“Excuse me, gorgeous. Is this seat taken?”
The liquid velvet inquiry rolled over her like a warm, spring rain, and Norah twisted to lock gazes with a pair of dark, soulful brown eyes. Her brain sizzled, and 4
slowly, almost too slowly, she took in the rest of him. Six foot tall, dressed in a tan shirt with a dark brown tie and similarly dark brown slacks that seemed to be the exact same shade as his eyes. Black hair—or maybe it was a chocolate brown like his eyes and suit…who could tell under the lights?—had been cut with almost jagged, yet sensible style. Edgy and professional. How the hell is that possible? Sex appeal all bound up in a businessman’s button-down appeal.
His eyebrows raised a fraction, and he touched the seat with his left hand. No rings on his fingers and not even the sign of a line on the gorgeous tan skin. A bit of dark hair sprinkled along his knuckles.
Did similar crisp curls decorate his chest? She’d always been a sucker for a man with hair on his chest. Holy hell on a cracker. He continued to stare at her, and her tongue lodged against the back of her teeth. Another seemingly endless second and then she blinked and her brain seemed to hiccup back onto the tracks.
“I’m sorry, what?”
The corners of his mouth twitched upward, and the flutter in her stomach sent a chill racing over her flesh.
“Tell me the seat’s not taken, gorgeous.”
“Does that line actually work?”
He set a bag down next to the barstool, and his grin widened. Her pulse rabbited at the smile, which transformed him from good-looking to simply stunning. This was a man who was used to getting what he wanted, and, if he wasn’t, well, he should be. She crossed her legs and locked her thighs together.
“Not so much a line as a question,” he said, his voice taking on an almost conspiratorial whisper. “The gorgeous part is true, however, and I am really hoping this seat isn’t taken.”
Then without waiting for her to answer, he sat down, and his leg brushed her bare calf. The pant leg was even softer than it appeared, and this close, his very masculine scent teased her.
Wow, has it been a long time.
“Pump your brakes, sweetcakes. I didn’t invite you to sit down.”
The hint of rejection didn’t seem to faze him.
“True and I can leave and go sit somewhere else, but I’d like to sit here.”
“Okay,” she said, dragging her attention off him to swirl her wine.
He’s a guy in an airport bar. That’s it. While her brain seemed to be registering the information, her hormones weren’t getting the message.
“I’ll bite. Why do you want to sit here?”
“Truth or a line?” The hint of rawness in his reply startled her.
“I don’t know.” Intrigued despite herself, she angled to face him and leaned an arm on the bar. “Which one is better?” 5
Whatever it depended on had to wait because the bartender arrived and John “Hot Guy” Doe ordered a beer. “And whatever the lady wants.”
“The lady is having wine, and she’s fine.” She waved the bartender off. Her judgment was already verging on questionable for continuing this conversation.
“Yes, yes, she is.”
Somehow, that didn’t sound like a line either. Who was this guy?
Better question, who do I want him to be?
After the bartender ran his credit card and set a cold bottle of beer on the counter, he left them alone.
Impatient with having to wait for his response, she circled back to his earlier statement.
“So what does it depend on?”
Not missing a beat, he held his bottle out as though to toast her. “What you want to hear.”
What she wanted to hear? The question paralyzed her for all of ten seconds. Possibilities ran riot through her brain. He could be a serial killer was where her irrational, I-watch-too-much-crime-TV mind went, or a businessman looking for a quickie while away from his wife, the more jaded part of her countered. Then again her more rational side thought maybe he was just a guy in a bar looking for conversation. The smart move would be to get up, grab her purse, and head home to lock herself in her apartment and escape the world.
Yeah, that was the smart move.
She picked up her wine glass and clinked it lightly to his beer bottle. Smart didn’t always mean fun. Impulsive as the idea might be, he ignited something in her, and she was curious. So, if his next words depended on her, then she had only one real option she wanted to pursue.
Charge forward and see what was on the other side of that brick wall.
“I want to hear more.”
Series: Tempting Signs #1
Genre: Contemporary
Page Count: 89 pages
Publisher: Fated Desires Publishing (March 24, 2015)

Ethan Andrews makes his living reading people and tailoring his sales pitch to what they want. He lives his life on the road, traveling from city to city, hotel to hotel, and it all works for him until he meets Norah Silver—the woman he wants to come home to.

Norah Silver has a plan, one that requires focus and dedication. She’s working sixty to eighty hours a week between her two jobs—one for money and the other for her passion. She thrives on giving solid relationship advice that may be based in the stars, but also grounded in reality. The last thing she expected was to find a sizzling love connection of her own.

Sparks fly when these two stubborn Aries launch into an impulsive relationship. Telling themselves lust is actually enough turns out to be a lie, but can these rams bend enough to recognize.

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