Whew! Let me just start with that. It is with great pleasure, blood, sweat, and tears that I bring you this crossover edition of the Falling for a Rose and In the Heart of a Valentine holiday edition!
I have gotten so much feedback about the two families and your love for them both and your desire to see them patch things up that I have lost count. However, I knew trying to create a story like this would be a challenge. Let’s face it, both of these family’s are pretty big, and besides that, the rivalry isn’t something that can just easily go away with a ‘let’s get over it’ attitude.
Nah, the history of this feud runs a little thick, so finding a common solution won’t be easy, if at all. Writing this novella kept my emotions running high, and let me tell you why. We’re catching up with the couples you’ve read about in the Falling for a Rose series, and vice versa for In the Heart of a Valentine. Add a common enemy, a brewing love affair, surrounded by a whole bunch of sexiness and wa-la! Here we are.
I’d like to be clear about the brewing love affair. It is not a Rose and Valentine hookup. The Rose’s are all accounted for. If you’ve read Give Me A Reason, book three in the Valentine series then you’ve met Bri St. James and Raphael Valentine. While their story comes in January, you’ll get an inside look at their brewing romance in this holiday edition, and I hope you love it!
Oh, by the way, if you’d like to pre-order, A Game-Changing Chrismas is available now on Amazon.
It was the most intense flight Corinne had endured thus far. After making her rounds to check on each passenger, Corinne returned to the stewardess seat and crossed her legs. The plane had been airborne for an hour, and Xavier was fast asleep. Corinne knew he must’ve been exhausted, but he refused to rest like a normal human being and recharge. She surmised he was a machine, driven by adrenaline and the basic key nutrition that would keep him invigorated. Corinne drove a lackadaisical eye over Xavier. With his head inclined against the seat and his eyes drawn to a close, she drew a blueprint of the schematics of his charming face, leaving no detail excluded. It held a soft edge in his sleep, and his chest pushed and pulled quietly as he breathed. Her eyes rode down the colossal mastery of his muscular arms that were propped on the rests of the chair at the elbows. In his lap, Xavier’s hands gathered, and his fingers linked to rest against his brown leather Saint Laurent belt.
Corinne’s tongue tasted the corners of her mouth as she continued to peruse him, and his toned thighs made the jeans, not the other way around. At his feet, his ankles were crossed, and the Reeboks were so crisp they appeared as if he’d just pulled them from the box. Corinne had never felt so turned on by a man resting peacefully in his slumber, and for a long minute, she contemplated what it must be like to be the leading lady in his life. Could she withstand the lens they would surely be under once word spread that they were dating? Could she compare to the women he’d dated previously, models, actresses, and royalty? Corinne drifted off in such a daze that she didn’t notice when Xavier’s eyes fluttered open, and his lids hovered, just slightly taking in her full beauty. He watched her watching him without Corinne’s awareness. He wondered what was going on in that pretty little head of hers as his gaze journeyed over her face.
The uniform she wore didn’t own her, and although it was professional, her curves would not be hidden. Corinne sat posed with a silky brown leg crossed over the other. The fullness in her thighs traveled to her hips, and they curved like the stroke of a painter’s brush. Xavier’s skin tingled with a sulfuric heat, instantly, like he’d been smacked with it. Her beauty was unparalleled to anyone he’d ever laid eyes on, but what stirred him the most was her unmoving attitude, and he wanted to know her inside and out.
“What’s on your mind, beautiful?”
Corinne’s daze was snagged when his profound voice scurried over her skin. She squirmed in her seat, and her eyes met his thick, penetrating stare.
I woke up to warm soft kisses against my cheek and thin prickly hair tickling my chin. I smiled and moaned softly as the kisses trailed down my neck, chest, then swirled around my breasts. Instantly, my eyes shot open and gradually I glanced down. The sight of Josiah’s sexy, muscular physique and tempting mouth sent a flame burning through me within seconds. I wore only a bikini top and bottoms. It was then that I noticed my surroundings.
“Oh my God,” I said.
Josiah continued to kiss down my body as I took it all in. We were laying in a hammock that hung from the entrance of what appeared to be a cave. A waterfall fell over us, and interestingly enough, we weren’t wet, nor were we cold. I moaned when his lips touched my sex, even threw the lacy material.
“Where are we?”
Josiah paused and peered up at me.
“The blue hole,” his baritone voice rumbled.
Then I remembered last night’s activities. Once I’d agreed to go with him, Josiah had taken me by the hand, and we’d driven for about an hour before coming to Ocho Rios. We stopped at a local nightclub for a few drinks and talked about our time in Jamaica, neither of us wanting to see it come to an end with the two days remaining on our trip.
“We’ll come back, just you and I,” Josiah had promised.
That started it. We left the bar and strolled to the entrance of a creek and found access to a river raft. As we sailed downstream, we kissed. It began moderate but gradually intensified into a passionate dance between our tongues that melted my bones and scorched my skin. I was not the type of woman to hold back. I still wasn’t sure if that’s a good or bad thing. I hadn’t had any complaints, so I took it in stride. However, in that moment, I second-guessed myself. It lasted all of two seconds before I found my way on top of his lap, grinding through our clothes. They disappeared, piece by piece, and the raft rocked as it traveled to somewhere I didn’t give a damn about. My only focus was on Josiah.
It was apparent that we’d ventured off to the blue hole, and the sex I wanted to believe we had was absent from my memory. I wanted to ask him as he laid a trail of kisses back up my thighs, but I was afraid if we had and I’d forgotten, it would ruin his ego.
“Didn’t get enough?” I asked, trying to pick his brain without being obvious.
He paused again and cocked his head, amused.
“Didn’t get any,” his deep voice barked. “We fell off the raft, remember?”
My mind roamed for the memory.
“You probably don’t,” he continued. “We shouldn’t have had anything to drink before our excursion.”
“When we fell overboard, I had to find you and bring you back to the surface. You weren’t breathing.” His eyes darkened. “So, I gave you mouth to mouth resuscitation. You came to, choking up water and laughing.” He pierced a look at me. “I wanted to head back, but you refused, running into the water like you’d lost your mind. That’s how we ended up here.”
I looked over at the waterfall. It hid us from anyone or anything. Watching it from behind was surreal. I then turned to the open cave. Rigid edges hung from the ceiling, and the claylike structure darkened the deeper it went.
“This is nuts,” I said.
“You’re adventurous,” he said. “I like it, albeit a bit out of control at times.”
“Free-spirited,” I defended. “Besides, I remember someone asking me if I was feeling reckless.”
“Mmm, I’ll take that.”
“Sure you will.” I smiled and bit my lip. “So what time is it?”
“I’m not sure,” he mused.
My eyes widened. “What do you mean you’re not sure? Oh my God, we have a wedding to attend. Desiree is going to kill me if I’m late!”
“That’s true,” he said more calmly than I liked.
“How the hell do we get down from here?”
That wicked smile crept along his mouth. “We get wet.”
My body heated at the same time I blubbered, “Wha-what?”
His deep laughed echoed through the open cave, then he tilted his head toward the water below.
“We jump, beloved.”
My eyes rose in surprise. Without warning, Josiah grabbed me, wrapping his arms around my waist, sealing us together.
“On the third kiss, hold your breath,” he said.
He jumped, and I couldn’t believe it. His wet mouth found my face and neck, and by the third kiss, my feet hit the water, and we were underneath the aqua blue lake. His hold remained strong as he swam with me clutching him for dear life to the surface. When we pulled up, I took in a massive breath.
“You’re crazy!” I yelled.
Josiah splashed me with water.
“Yeah, and you love it.”
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God this is the last place I needed to be. I glanced around the large Hilton Hotel suite admiring the elegance of its interior. Sitting in a luxurious leather Barcelona chair, I pulled my leg up crossing it over my thigh and settled into the comfort of the soft material. Bringing my focus back to Julian, my limb bounced as I waited for him to answer my question.
His dark gray eyes stilled as he followed the spring of my leg, and I hoped I was making him as uncomfortable as he made me. I had many talks with myself on the drive over, once I found out lunch would be in his suite, my belly tossed. Suddenly, I was as warm as an oven. But, I managed not to stare at his smooth-shaven face no matter how bad his enticing mouth beckoned me to.
Straightening a bit in my seat, I reverted to my question. “I’ll take that as a no.”
Finally, his gaze left my legs and came back to my face; but not without riding the swell of my thighs, breasts, and lips first. I made it a point not to squirm at the ripple of chills crawling up my skin.
“No, it’s not a coincidence that I’m in Houston. Mr. Walls has been on my radar for a few years now, wanting to get first dibs on a spread.”
Mr. Walls being my boss, Fredrick Walls the third. “So, what made you finally give in?”
His fingers coiled together and sat in a fist on top of the table as he leaned in. “Let’s just say, I’ve been given a little motivation to help Mr. Walls out.”
I wanted to question him further but didn’t want to push the bounds of the professional space we were working in. He offered no more explanation, so I didn’t press him about his sudden appearance in my city.
“Is there a problem, Ms. Stevens?”
“Not at all,” I adjusted myself in the seat. “It’s just the last time I saw you was at Jaden and Claudia’s engagement dinner in Chicago. It seems,” I hesitated wondering if I should move forward with my thought.
“You’re free to speak, Ms. Stevens. Tell me, what does my appearance here in Houston seem to you?”
Exhaling lightly, I reached over to my briefcase and pulled out a note pad and ink pen.
“I’m good,” I said. “How about you tell me where the idea of shooting a spread in Dubai resonated from.”
His eyes fell to my notepad then back to my face. “Are you sure that’s what you want to know, Ms. Stevens?”
“Julian…” I said. He quirked an eyebrow. “It’s okay if I call you Julian, right?”
“I would prefer it.”
“You don’t have to call me Ms. Stevens. We’ve been on a casual name basis since I saw you sitting next to my mother in her hospital room.”
A wide grin trudged across his lips. “I wasn’t sure if it would be apropos in this particular situation. However, if you’re fine with it, so am I.”
“I’m fine with it,” I quipped. I’m fine with whatever you want, I thought. When Julian pulled his lip in with his teeth, I wondered if it was for the same reason that I did – to hold back the urge to jump his bones right here and now.
“Are you seeing someone, Desiree?”
The question caught me off guard. “I, um, no. You do mean as in am I dating someone?” I couldn’t believe I was stuttering like a buffoon. To make matters worse, my unease amused him as his lips held a shadow of a smile.
“Yes, that’s what I mean.”
“I’m dating, but nothing serious at the moment.”
So I told a small fib. I didn’t want Julian to think I had no takers. The gentle smile left, and his face became expressionless. I wondered where his mind went, then decided to play it safe and get back to business. Any more of his invasive stare and we’d use this room to do what it was meant for. I know I sound like a horny teenager, but I’d never been affected by another human being the way Julian affected me.
It felt dangerous and roguish like I could marry him now and live happily ever after. Some people might call that love at first sight, but I thought it was downright looney. I wouldn’t try and explain the temerarious emotions that assaulted me. I’d just do what I do best. Ignore them. My only concern was if I could withstand a trip to Dubai with him and not give in to those carnal inhibitions. One thing was for sure; I needed a drink.
“So, about my earlier question. What gave you the idea of shooting a spread in Dubai?”
“Dubai is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, and I’ve had the pleasure of meeting the Prime Minister. He’s invited A Few Good Men to model a catalog for their top modeling agency and when the Prime Minister calls, you answer.”
“I see.” My cell phone rang, and we both pulled out our phones to check the screen. I silenced it then placed it back in my briefcase.
“Is that one of your dates?” Julian asked abruptly.
Again, he took me by surprise with his query. “Why do you want to know?”
“The same reason I want to know why you moved to Houston and what’s keeping you here.” I raised a questionable brow. “You intrigue me, Desiree. Do you know why that is?”
I honestly had no idea. I was just about as interesting as a singing frog. The doorbell rang, saving me momentarily. Julian rose to his feet and strolled to the door. I couldn’t help myself from undressing him with my eyes, and I wondered if he did the same to me. Julian allowed what I assumed was room service to enter with silver trays adorned with food.
“Desiree, this is Lawrence, my personal chef. He’s endured long days and nights of me shuffling him around from city to city, and I wouldn’t give him up for the world.”
“Oh sir, you’re too kind. I don’t mind being shuffled at all. Seeing the world while cooking your favorite dishes, who could have a problem with that, eh?”
I smiled and shook my head in agreement. “I’m with you there. What do you have for us, Lawrence? If you don’t mind me asking.”
“Oh no, no, not at all.” Lawrence removed one of the silver tray tops and steam fled from the dish.
“Mmmm, that smells delightful.”
Lawrence smiled brightly. “It’s shrimp fettuccini and crab cake with a side of fresh Caesar salad. Would you mind if I made you a plate?”
“I would feel exiled if you didn’t. I didn’t realize how hungry I was until you mentioned it.”
Julian and Lawrence chuckled. He fixed our plates, poured glasses of wine, then saw himself out.
“I don’t know if I should be drinking in the middle of the day,” I said. I was being modest. I favored white wine, probably more than I should have.
“You’re more than welcome to have something else. Water, lemonade, sweet tea?”
“No it’s fine, I’m beginning to feel bossy.”
“It would be my pleasure to serve you, Desiree.”
A spark of heat crawled up the middle of my back and spread over my shoulders. If the hungry gaze in his eyes was an indication that Julian wanted me and not the food, I wasn’t sure how long being able to hold out would work. Then I had a thought. Why was I holding out? I hadn’t had sex in years; since that last mistake, I dated. But deep inside, I knew what it was. I didn’t want to seem easy with him. For whatever reason, I wanted to make a good impression on Julian. I was still trying to figure out why I cared.
“I’ll take sweet tea,” I said.
He made his way to the connecting kitchen giving me an extensive look at his broad back. I picked up my wine glass and took a sip anyway, but quickly put it down when the sweet alcohol raced down my throat causing more heat to stream inside me. Wrong move, I thought pushing the glass to the side. The last thing I needed was heat.
When Julian returned, he noticed the purple lip stain on the glass and smirked but did not comment.
“You know what, on second thought…” I lifted the glass and took a bigger sip then chased my lips. “Tell me, Julian, why’d you want to know if I’m dating anyone?”
He sat down getting comfortable at the table in front of me.
“Because Desiree,” he said. “I have plans for you.”
Hey, hey I hope this blog post finds you well! I know I should update my posts more often but you have no idea the plethora of projects I’m working on. More than I can share right now. So forgive me if I lack in updating you guys more frequently. It is definitely on my to do list. However, I do send out regular emails once a week. If you would like to subscribe to my vicarious romance newsletter click on the cover below and claim your special teaser for being apart of my reading family! This sample can’t be found anywhere else past, present, or future so feed your need to read! I’ll be back soon with more goodies for you so be on the look out for my next post!
It was a mouthwatering kiss that changed everything…
One thing that held constant in Shelby Donovan’s life was her career. As a world renowned artist, Shelby’s paintings traveled the globe, landing in museums and homes across the nation. But what she couldn’t seem to get under control was her love life. Why? She asked herself that question time and time again. Her mother thought it was because of her best friend, Sebastian Cartwright. They’ve known each other for years. Sebastian and Shelby shared everything; embarrassing moments, secrets, dating tips, affection, and even an explosive kiss during one tipsy night on Shelby’s birthday.
But, when Shelby’s current boyfriend asks for her hand in marriage she should be excited, dancing, ready… but she isn’t. In fact, Shelby can’t stop thinking about the kiss she shared with Sebastian. It had to be a fluke, right? A simple, delicious, fiery kiss that pulled at her loins and caused her heartbeat to slam against her ribcage. Honestly, it rocked her world and thoughts of what could be played like piano keys in her head. But their friendship was too important to mix with the uncertainty of a relationship. Even worse, what if Sebastian didn’t feel the same way? It could ruin everything. Should Shelby accept the marriage proposal, or shed her fears and open up to her best friend? Find out in Everything I Always Wanted.
She said yes. The restaurant erupted with applause and congratulatory praises as I sat there stunned. She said yes. Melanie grabbed my hand, her eyes bright. She was sincerely excited for them, but I hadn’t moved, blinked, or said anything. Alan moved from his seat and lifted Shelby, an overjoyed smile on both of their faces. A waiter approached with the bottle of wine I’d requested. He poured everyone at the table a glass and sat it in a bucket on ice.
“Congratulations!” he quipped. I gathered myself, standing to my full height and closing the few buttons on my jacket.
“Ms. Scott, excuse me for a moment.” I beat a hasty retreat, my long strides taking me past the bar to the men’s room. Inside I washed my hands and checked my reflection in the mirror. My mind was reeling from what just happened. She said yes. I smirked, my mood not even close to hearty. I composed myself. Shelby was the ultimate catch. Why wouldn’t he want to marry her? I convinced myself it was for the best. She deserved every moment of happiness in her life. Who was I to feel indifferent about it? I didn’t even congratulate her. Foolish. I was acting like a child, why? That was a question I didn’t need to answer. I had no right to want her. I was her friend; she confided in me about every part of her life.
I was to keep her safe and allow her to bare her soul without thoughts of stealing her heart. It was not my place, I couldn’t, I wouldn’t. I thought back to her twenty-first birthday. Something had taken over me that night. I don’t know if it were the alcoholic beverages that gave me the courage, but I’d stolen a kiss that night, and it was phenomenal. Nothing like I’d ever felt before or since. When she responded with such vigor, I’d convinced myself that we were good, and I wanted more of her, but the drive to her place gave me time to think.
None of my relationships thus far had lasted. Mostly because I couldn’t keep up with the demand of quality time. I was busy, all the time, and no woman wants a man who spends more time at work than with them. More than that, I’d shared countless stories about women I only bedded for my own pleasures. Simply because I saw no interest in pursuing a relationship. Our bond was as tight as a hogtie and I couldn’t very well offer her the love she deserved and then fail to deliver. The thought of breaking her heart was too monumental for me to pursue anything other than friendship with Shelby.
And even though I knew this and continued to tell myself it was for the best, I felt despondent. I had to find a way to rid myself of these emotions and move on. I inhaled and exhaled a deep breath and left the restroom. At the bar, I asked for another bottle of the rich wine the waiter had brought over to the table before my abrupt retreat.
“You wouldn’t happen to have a gift bow to attach to it?” I asked.
“Ah, yes.” The bartender disappeared for a moment and returned just ask quickly. He slid a ribbon onto the bottle and fastened it into a bow clipping the edges. “How’s that?”
“Excellent.” I made the purchase and strode from the bar a determined man. I pulled a smile back on my face as I neared. “Congratulations.” I held the bottle out to Alan and slapped him on the back. He stood and shook my hand.
“Thank you.” His smile was burgeoning.
I stepped to Shelby, taking notice of her downcast expression. I reached down and pulled her out of the seat, capturing her in a sealed embrace. “Congratulations,” I whispered, my lips hovering just slightly over her ear. I could feel a vibration run through her.
“You disappeared.” I could hear the question in her voice.
“Never fear, I’m back.”
She pulled back from me. “Is everything okay?”
“Of course. I want you and your fiancé to take this bottle of Tony’s finest wine and celebrate the night away.”
She smiled. “Are you coming along?”
I kept my face void of expression. “Why would I tag along, silly goose? This night is about you and him.” I released her and looked to Melanie. “We should get going so these two can enjoy their night.”
“We haven’t had a bite to eat yet,” she said.
“We’ll get something.” I looked to Alan then Shelby. “You guys have a great night.” We took our leave. I made sure to get Melanie something to eat before dropping her back at her vehicle. She was interested in more than just a five-page spread, but I wasn’t.
“Thank you for your generosity tonight, Mr. Cartwright,” Melanie said when we approached her car. “The night is young. Are you sure you’re ready to call it a night?”
I grinned. “I have to get an early start.” I placed a gentle kiss on the back of her hand and opened her driver side door. She crawled in. “Drive safely,” I said, closing the door and retreating to my vehicle.
I wouldn’t be getting much sleep tonight. In my garage, I switched gears, leaving my truck for my bike. I rode through Saint Louis for an hour and a half before returning to my penthouse. I strode through the rooms in darkness, tossing my keys on the counter. My eyes shifted around the cold, lonely place, and I settled on a bottle of scotch. My cell phone buzzed and my screen lit up. I check the Caller ID and found Shelby’s face on the screen. Why was she calling me? I decided not to answer the phone. I wasn’t in the right frame of mind to have a reasonable conversation with her.
I left the phone on the counter and went in search of a shower. I was determined to get over tonight no matter what it took. Maybe I should’ve invited Melanie over. It had been months since I’d been intimate with a woman. Mainly because the one night stands and brisk temptations were not enough to fulfill the desire I had for her. Shelby, Shelby, Shelby, I thought. A grumble moved through me. I opted instead to drink the night away, by myself. Maybe things would be better after I’d had a little sleep. It seemed like a good idea at the time, until I found myself flat on my back staring at the ceiling.
This night was going to be a miserable one.
Stephanie Nicole Norris is an author from Chattanooga Tennessee with a humble beginning. She was raised with six siblings by her mother Jessica Ward. Always being a lover of reading, during Stephanie’s teenage years her joy was running to the book mobile to read stories by R. L. Stine.
After becoming a young adult her love for romance sparked leaving her captivated by hero’s and heroines alike. With a big imagination and a creative heart Stephanie penned her first novel Trouble In Paradise and self published it in 2012. Her debut novel turned into a four book series full of romance, drama, and suspense. To date Stephanie has self published seven books which includes five full novels and two short stories. They can be found on most retailers sites. Stephanie is inspired by the likes of Donna Hill, Gwynne Forester, and more. She currently resides in Chattanooga Tennessee with her husband and one year old son.
2017 will be my breakout year for collaborations. I penned this novel with Celebrated Author Deidra Ds Green. High stakes crime at its finest. Check out what we have in store for you with Prowl. We’re about to feed your need to read for sure!
Brooklyn, Drew, Symone and Leah grew up the best of friends. Their parents co-own and operate Patterson Pharmaceutical Company, a thriving business that has continuously grown over the last ten years. But after the economy took a hard tu…rn, the family business suffered major losses, leaving the family’s income on pins and needles.
To make matters worse, the property the Patterson’s inherited from their late grandparents is up for auction from missed payments the family wasn’t aware they’d missed. With the family’s debt growing and relationships being tested, the four friends decide to take drastic measures to get the funds needed to secure generational survival. Being high end thieves wasn’t something they agreed on overnight. Taking from the less fortunate they couldn’t stomach. But stealing from those who already had plenty might just save the family from ruin.