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For the low price of 99 cents, this historical romance can be yours! My second novel, THE ARCHER’S DAUGHTER is now available to an e-reader near you. Paperbacks will soon follow.

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Blurb:

England, 1381

Cate Archer is a wanted woman. When her father is killed during peace negotiations with the young King Richard, Cate vows she will not rest until she sees her father’s murder avenged and his killer brought to his knees. She never imagined she would fall in love with the man sent to execute her death warrant.

Viscount Owen Grey has only one task—bring in the rebel leaders, dead or alive. His life’s duty is to the King’s Guard, and he has certain expectations to fulfill. Falling for his prisoner isn’t one of them. He understands her cause, but he cannot bring himself to risk his position and honor for an outlaw. Owen must choose between duty and his heart. The Guard is all he’s ever known. Does he stay true to his oath or find himself on the next most wanted list alongside his Cate?

Excerpt:

The guards were near. Cate whipped the bow from her shoulder and plucked an arrow from its sheath, nestling it at its rightful place against the bowstring. A heated energy flowed from deep within her, coursing through her veins to the tips of her fingers, begging her to release the tension on the string. She did not deny it.

The arrow shot through the air, missing its intended destination by a hairsbreadth. Damn. She’d missed.

“Arrow!” A warning was called.

Her presence had been made known. Cate took a swift head count of her remaining arrows. Five. Perfect for taking down a deer, but unfortunate against six armed guards. A brief chill of panic threatened to take root but she pushed it aside, willing herself to be strong. She owed it to her father. She must fight.

From the sounds echoing below, Cate believed the guards to be readying to fight, but from the sound of their confusion, they could not apprise from where she shot. The thick forest canopy was a welcomed friend.

She surveyed the area to her left. Several thick branches from a nearby tree overlapped the one she hid in. If she could get a shot off — and manage to hit someone this time — she could change locations before the men would be able to fire from below. Cate said a quick prayer, asking for the guards to be ill-equipped with weaponry, or shite shots with a bow.

“Courage, Cate.” She turned to face her opponents.

“There! Above!” A guard pointed in her direction, raising his bow to take aim.

Cate redirected her aim to the right, firing at the telling guard. Time for a new plan.

Run.

An arrow hissed through the branches, and Cate lurched back, nearly unseated from her perch. Tree bark scraped her palms as she righted herself.

“Do not harm the boy!” one guard shouted. “Hold!”

“I am no boy!” Cate retaliated without first thinking.

“A lass, then?”

Cate silently chastised herself for her foolishness. “What else would I be, you dolt?”

They thought her a child — a fantastic ruse with the potential of aiding in her escape.

“Tell me then, girl, why have you attempted to end my life?”

The men scattered to various points along the forest floor; some on foot, others on horseback. A plan in formation, but Cate had yet to gain knowledge of it. She took a deep breath. Time to lie, Cate. Your life depends on it.

She let out a laugh, descending from the tree. “End your life? You, sir, were merely in the way of my arrow. I would have brought down that buck if you had not scared it away with your loud traipsing through the trees. Now my family will be forced to go hungry for yet another day. So I thank you… you and your overly loud mates.” She jumped the remaining distance to the ground, the dusted the tree litter from her ill-fitting boy’s hose. She rose to her full height, nearly measuring up to the man standing in front of her.

He didn’t wear the King’s Guard uniform as the others in his party did, but donned loose riding breeches paired with well constructed boots and a matching doublet with the finest detailing she’d ever seen. Deep greens and royal blues intermingled in various swirls and frills amongst the soft, blackened leather. Only the finest threads for the finest of men. He was the one she needed to kill.

And she’d missed.

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For more info on my first release, RETURN TO ME, click here.

The gorgeous cover for RETURN TO ME is being featured on InD’tale magazine!

The prize for the weekly contest winner is a 1/4 page ad in the next issue of InD’tale magazine.  It is also entered for consideration in the Best of 2015 RONE Cover awards!
The winner then competes in the  Creme dé la Creme Cover final’s. The monthly winner receives a full page ad in the magazine!
This is an amazing opportunity to gain readers and I thank you for your continued support and all around awesomeness!

I am so pleased to FINALLY be able to share with you the cover for THE ARCHER’S DAUGHTER – coming soon from EsKape Press! Isn’t it just gorgeous?

Look for it online for pre order in February 2015!

RELEASE DATE OF MARCH 17TH!

Want to get the early scoop on my latest book! Sign up here to be a part of my Street Team and read the book before everyone else!

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Cate Archer is a wanted woman. When her father is killed during peace negotiations with the young King Richard, Cate vows she will not rest until she sees her father’s murder avenged and his killer brought to his knees. She never imagined she would fall in love with the man sent to execute her death warrant.

Viscount Owen Grey has only one task—bring in the rebel leaders, dead or alive. His life’s duty is to the King’s Guard, and he has certain expectations to fulfill. Falling for his prisoner isn’t one of them. He understands her cause, but he cannot bring himself to risk his position and honor for an outlaw. Owen must choose between duty and his heart. The Guard is all he’s ever known. Does he stay true to his oath or find himself on the next most wanted list alongside his Cate?

Need to catch up? My debut novel, RETURN TO ME, is available in ebook and print format. Grab it on Amazon, or check out these other amazing retailers here! Already read it? The best support you can give an author is by leaving a review. I thank you!

Y’all know I’m a sucker for Rebels and Rogues.

So how about TEN of them? And all in one place! I’m thrilled to be a part of this amazing compilation of Historical Romance authors brought to you by EsKape Press. RETURN TO ME is featured, along with many other very talented authors. Get your copy HERE.

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To celebrate this awesome release, Eskape is doing a fun little contest. To play, you need to read my excerpt and yes, there WILL be a test, so pay attention! :) Follow the instructions on the Blog hop and answer the question about the except and you’ll be entered to win a prize from EsKape press! Read my excerpt carefully then go to the EP FB Page and follow the instructions listed under EP BLOG BONANZA GIVEAWAY and answer my question for a chance to win.

Ready? Set? Here we go!

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BLURB:

Archaean bounty hunter Marek Coinnich isn’t particularly fond of Engels. In fact, he prefers them dead. But to save his injured brother, he must enter the manor of an Engel enemy. Marek finds himself enthralled by the slave girl nursing his brother back to health. When his enchantment with her lands them in a compromising position, he refuses to let the young beauty pay for the misunderstanding with her life.

Brynn of Galhaven prefers to keep to the shadows. When she is ruined by an outsider, she barely escapes with her life and finds herself left alone in an unforgiving land. Through her struggles to survive, Brynn discovers a world she never imagined and never forgets the enemy Archaean who stole her heart.

Marek can’t deny his desire for Brynn, but these are wartimes, and she is the enemy. And though love knows no prejudice, the world in which he lives isn’t nearly as forgiving.

Historical Romance with strong Fantasy element.

EXCERPT:

“Do you have time for one more, mistress?” Marek stood just outside the entrance, waiting.
The smooth tone of his voice tickled her insides. She finished rearranging her tools then sauntered in his direction. Placing her hand on her hip, she said, “I suppose I could make time for the champion of the sword. Do you have injuries that need tending?”

“Hmm.” He strolled into the depths of the tent. “Perhaps I could find a few.”

Brynn bit her bottom lip to keep from grinning like a child.

“But then again,” he added, taking a step closer, “I believe that is your task, is it not?”

She waved him closer. “Come, let me take a look.”

Marek closed the gap between them in two long strides. Standing in front of the examination table, he placed his hands behind him on the flat wooden surface and hoisted himself up to a sitting position. He removed his tunic in one fluid motion, discarding it on the table next to him. “You are welcome to look, my love. I believe we’ve had this conversation before.”

Brynn filled a bowl with water and found a few clean rags. Even from a distance, she could feel Marek’s glaze burning into her backside. She found the courage to return to him and did her best to push the impure thoughts bubbling to the surface from her mind. She wet a rag, wrung out the excess, and gingerly pressed it to his chest. A trickle of water etched a path across his ribcage and arched around the sharp edges of his abdomen before being devoured by the hem of his trousers.

She dragged the cloth down the length of his torso, methodically washing away the smears of mud and sweat. She stopped mid-swipe when his arms encircled her. His hands settled on the small of her back, pressing her closer. Fingers clenched the thin cloth of her dress, their tips digging into her flesh. Brynn sucked in a breath and held it when his legs spread, encouraging her to fall against him. A small cry escaped her lips

The cloth slipped from her fingers, all but forgotten.

His embrace wandered, caressing her with a brazen desire. Up her back, to her shoulders — his hands carved a path, settling along the roundness of her bottom. He squeezed, drew her to him, and pressed ever closer. His lips found the pulse on her neck and he flicked his tongue over it. His breath, warm and wet, lingered on her cheek.
Her thoughts spiraled into madness.

He tasted her, the salt from her skin clinging to his lips. His mouth explored the slight indentation of her collarbone, and he traced the delicate lines with his lips, murmuring incoherent words in his lyrical lilt. A thumb brushed over her nipple, leaving a tantalizing hardness in its wake. Marek gave the shell of Brynn’s ear a playful nip before finding her lips. He parted them with his tongue, coaxing her, tempting her. Slow, deep kisses, his mouth reclaimed every part of her.
Brynn turned her face up to his, her palms aimlessly wandering in half-felt protest. She trembled beneath him — every deliberate touch set her insides on fire. Feelings she hadn’t realized she was still capable of having only added to the sweet torture. Brynn buried her hands in his hair, urging him to continue his welcomed seduction. “More…” The word escaped on a whisper.

“I had forgotten just how delicious you are.”

*****

RETURN TO ME is available for purchase in ebook and print formats.

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Forsaken

Her past is back to haunt her—and this time, it’s got a gun.

When Gage Lawton finds his brother shot to death on his back porch, every shred of evidence points to one person: Gage’s ex-lover, Riley Beckett. The only gun in town that fires a bullet of that caliber belongs to her.

Certain the shooting is payback for his part in the loss of her parents, he abandons his promise to stay out of her life and confronts her, his rage backed up with a revolver. Yet when she steps through the door, all thoughts of revenge burn to ashes.

A year after Riley unwillingly walked away from Gage, she enters her home to find him sitting in the dark, gun pointed at her head. One look into those achingly familiar blue eyes reminds her how wrong she was to let him go. But now there’s more standing between them than their heated past.

A twist of fate—and a hail of sniper bullets—puts them in the cross hairs of a killer, leaving Riley with just two slim options: trust her greatest betrayer, or face a murderer alone.

Warning: Prepare to get caught in a crossfire of profanity, danger, and desire. Intense violence may trigger the desire to wear body armor…and take it off. Very, very slowly.

  • Title: FORSAKEN
  • Author: Sarah Ballance
  • Genre: romantic suspense
  • Publisher: Samhain Publishing
  • Release Date: September 9, 2014
  • ISBN 13: 978-1-61922-262-5
  • Available format(s): ebook

Find it @ Samhain Publishing | Amazon US | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | iTunes | Google Books | Amazon UK |Amazon CA | Goodreads

Excerpt

Something was wrong. Was the dark playing tricks on her? Riley Beckett froze, arm outstretched, hand poised to toss her keys on the table just inside her front door. But she didn’t let go. Instead of dropping them in their usual spot, she feathered pieces of the makeshift weapon between her knuckles. Heart pounding, she pressed the keys in a silent, white-knuckle grip and prayed her concerns were her imagination, that the paranoia of coming home alone to a dark house was getting the better of her.

One, two steps in. Wood planks echoed underfoot. She fought to breathe air that grew thinner with every tense second.

Three steps.

Then it hit her. The scent. His scent. And with it a flush of memories. The burn of hot grass on her bare skin. Rough hands, a tender touch. Love so sweet she ached for it, her dreams raging, and her body drenched with need.

“Gage?” Her voice broke on the single syllable. Riley’s grip on the keys tightened, her blood raging hot and cold all at once.

A creak sounded from the corner chair. Her eyes refused to adjust in the darkness, but not even the faint light kept the blond streaks in his russet hair from giving him away. Like rays of sunshine, she used to tease, and her words never failed to draw a scowl across his rugged face.

“Riley.”

God help her, her name on his lips sounded as it always had. Coarse. Dangerous. Forbidden. Even before… The memory surged, hot and vivid, leaving a metallic taste in her mouth. White heat assaulted her from every corner of the room.

The keys fell to the floor with a dull clink.

“An eye for an eye, is it?” His voice sounded unpracticed, as if he hadn’t spoken in a long while.

She couldn’t see his face, but she knew his expression. Flat and humorless. Broken. She remembered the day he stopped smiling. Every part of her wanted to flee, but she stood frozen to the spot.

“What do you mean?” Riley wondered if the words, whispered and weak, had the strength to make it across the room. Hadn’t she always known she’d shatter the next time she saw him? Hadn’t she dreamed of seeing him anyway?

“You have to ask?” Gage laughed, cold and hollow. “Billy’s dead. Hell of a thing to come home to. My brother blown to bits on my back porch.”

“Oh God.” She swayed. The room filled with a distant buzzing. She took one unsteady step to the side and stumbled.

When she found his gaze, it was over the business end of a revolver.

He leveled the gun in her direction. Everything else in her world trembled, but his aim held rock steady. Unyielding.

His eyes burned blue and bright. “What I want to know, sweetheart, is why you did it.”

He worked his finger over the trigger, and a veil of blackness threatened her last discerning thought.

***

He hadn’t even pulled the trigger, yet Riley hit the hardwood in a crumpled heap. That was a first.

Without taking his attention from her, Gage Lawton climbed out of the chair, cursing when he realized his foot was asleep. He tucked the .38 in the waistband of his pants and limped through the pins-and-needles sensation wreaking havoc in his left boot.

Hell of a time to feel ticklish, he thought, staring at Riley’s wild mane of dark waves sprawled over the floorboards. Not the stark contrast he’d seen over a crisp white pillowcase. His mind played flashbacks. Memories of dragging his lips over her heaving, sweat-slicked skin threatened his plans…and his resolve.

The flood of emotions shouldn’t have surprised him. He was as stoic as a block of granite when it came to everything—and everyone—except Riley Beckett. He never could put the feeling into words, but just being around her made him feel free, like standing in the middle of the prairie with the sun, and the breeze, and the vastness…and the promise of something he didn’t dare believe.

And he didn’t. Gage knew good things didn’t happen to him. But she’d captured a piece of his soul with her laughing eyes and damning innocence.

The purest woman he’d ever known and he’d destroyed her.

Twice.

He eyed the glass of whiskey he’d poured to keep himself company while he waited. He hadn’t touched it yet. The amber liquid represented a line Gage couldn’t cross, but he’d given himself too much credit where Riley was concerned. The moment her sky blue eyes found his, she’d broken him all over again.

With a weary sigh, he knelt at her side, irony forcing him to suppress the urge to laugh. How many times had she brought him to his knees? He thought of his kid brother sprawled on his porch and promised himself this would be the last time. Rage and guilt made for strange bedfellows, but he knew one thing: if Riley Beckett had pulled that damned trigger, she had cleared his heart of the latter.

An eye for an eye.

Find it @ Samhain Publishing | Amazon US | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | iTunes | Google Books | Amazon UK |Amazon CA | Goodreads

YOU GUYS!!

It’s release day for my debut novel, RETURN TO ME! It’s on sale RIGHT NOW, for only .99 cents! Yep, you read that right! Full length – like, over 300 pages – novel, for under a buck. I understand if you want to run and grab your copy now while you can, but if you’d like to hang out for a bit, I’ll give you a bit to read below, plus some awesome buy links for all your ereader needs. Don’t worry, it’ll still be there when you’re done reading. *wink*

Prefer to read a good ol’ hands on paperback? The wonderfully smelling paper copy will be available in two weeks. Check in for a release date.

 

Return to Me

Archaean bounty hunter Marek Coinnich isn’t particularly fond of Engels. In fact, he prefers them dead. But to save his injured brother, he must enter the manor of an Engel enemy. Marek finds himself enthralled by the slave girl nursing his brother back to health. When his enchantment with her lands them in a compromising position, he refuses to let the young beauty pay for the misunderstanding with her life.

Brynn of Galhaven prefers to keep to the shadows. When she is ruined by an outsider, she barely escapes with her life and finds herself left alone in an unforgiving land. Through her struggles to survive, Brynn discovers a world she never imagined and never forgets the enemy Archaean who stole her heart.

Marek can’t deny his desire for Brynn, but these are wartimes, and she is the enemy. And though love knows no prejudice, the world in which he lives isn’t nearly as forgiving.

*** Historical Romance with strong Fantasy elements.***

Excerpt

It was the scream that caught his attention, the sound of pure terror. A woman’s ultimate terror — he’d heard it many a time throughout his hardened life. For a quick moment, Marek’s eyes shifted in search of the treeline instead of the soldier he battled. The swing of an Engel sword narrowly missed his shoulder and sent him staggering backward on his heels. Marek barely escaped the bone-crushing blow. The soldier advanced on horseback, whereas Marek battled on foot. Regaining his stance, he blocked the Engel’s next blow with only seconds to spare. He couldn’t focus — he worried for her safety. Damn woman. He was going to get himself killed.

Marek was torn between the two battles. Did he attempt to fight the man he engaged, praying Brynn could fend off her attacker until he could reach her, or did he make a run for her, hoping to surpass his own battle? Given another few minutes, Marek would slay his opponent. Another scream sent him reeling. The Engel held a blade high above her.

Damn, she won’t be afforded another few minutes. He was out of time, and no risk was greater than that of her life. Narrowing his eyes, Marek charged his opponent and wrenched him to the ground. The soldier, caught off guard, slid from the saddle, dropping his weapon. With one swift jerk, Marek’s sword slid along the man’s throat, severing it. A wild fray of blood spurted at the sky as the body slumped to the ground. Marek spun on his heels to race across the field.

Losing his footing to the slick mud, he skidded to his knees, realizing he’d never make it to her side in time. The soldier would have the dagger in her chest before he could intercept. Marek fumbled for the protruding handle of the knife still wedged in his boot. Finding it, he pulled the blade from its sheath. With his heart racing and his hand oddly trembling, he whirled the knife into the back of the soldier’s skull.

WHERE TO BUY

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Website | Blog | Facebook | Facebook Fan Page | Twitter

 

“I flat out loved this book…sexy and oh, so hot!” – Karen via GR

“This was a fantastic read from start to finish.” – Kirstin via GR

“Funny, engaging, emotional, snarky, political, sweet and HAWT!!!! I THROUGHLY ENJOYED IT!!!” – Sheryl via GR

THE MARRIAGE AGENDA is just 99 cents for a limited time. Regularly $3.99 from Entangled Indulgence. Choose your buy links below or see them all and read the first TWO chapters for free at Entangled Publishing!

TMA

The Marriage Agenda

There’s a scandal brewing in Washington…

Knox Hamilton wants his father’s recently vacated Senate seat, but the only way his conservative constituents are going to vote for Knox is if he loses his playboy reputation. Which means Knox needs a wife. There’s only one woman with whom he’s willing to share his life, but after the way he broke things off with her, will she give him another chance?

Chloe Lochlan’s job is on the line. If she doesn’t grab a big headline, she’ll be ousted from her gig at the major newspaper where she works as a reporter. Knox’s offer of marriage chills her to the bone. He already crushed her heart once and she has no intention of letting it happen again. But being with him gives her the kind of access to top tier social events rarely granted to media, access that could land her the story of a lifetime. When the truth she uncovers threatens to destroy the man she still loves, will she bury the story…or his career?

Find it @ Entangled Publishing | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | iTunes | Google Play | ARe | Goodreads

  • Title: THE MARRIAGE AGENDA
  • Author: Sarah Ballance
  • Genre: Contemporary Romance
  • Publisher: Entangled Publishing
  • Release Date: August 18, 2014
  • ISBN 13: 9781633750524
  • Available format(s): ebook

Excerpt

Chapter One

Chloe Lochlan swallowed in an attempt to chase away the nervousness bundled in her throat. It was useless. Somewhere in the crowd, a man waited for her. Not just any man, but the man—at least as long as Chloe was inclined to believe her best friend’s forward opinions on the well-worn topic of Chloe’s love life, or lack thereof.

Of course, if she’d learned to dodge Lila Powell’s bright ideas, Chloe would be on her sofa with a spoon and a pint of Ben & Jerry’s. Instead, she stood with her feet uncomfortably crammed into heels no sane woman should wear, four inches taller and uselessly scanning the clientele at Off the Record, an upscale hotel bar that doubled as Washington, DC’s premier place to see and be seen.

Blind date. If only she could have said no, she would have avoided the whole awkward situation, but Lila knew Chloe too well. A blind date gave Chloe absolutely nothing to reject—it was impossible to find flaw with someone she’d yet to meet. But truthfully, her serial incompatibility with just about every man she’d ever encountered had less to do with failings of the opposite sex than with her admittedly one-track drive to be a kick-ass investigative reporter. Chloe had always harbored an ambitious streak, but a year ago, a devastating breakup narrowed her focus to a laser-like precision. Her job wouldn’t break her heart.

But Lila wouldn’t hear of excuses. A night with a carton of ice cream was no comparison to a man, as far as she was concerned, but Chloe had stocked her freezer anyway. She’d endure the date, all the while thinking of the threesome with Ben and Jerry waiting for her at home. A couple of hours wouldn’t kill her, right?

Maybe not, but she was beginning to think they might come close. As she stood alone in the bar, second thoughts closed in. No one had approached claiming to be her date. Had he taken one look at her and left? Patience—and nerve—waning, Chloe scoured the room, hoping for a sign she should leave. And she found one. A big one.

Watching her intently from a corner table was her ex-everything. And in spite of a strict never-again policy for all things Knox Hamilton, her body melted in traitorous anticipation. His trademark bedroom-tousled hair, the same luscious brown hue as those smoldering eyes, did little to kill the energy coursing through her at the speed of orgasm. Her knees weakened, further threatening her unsteady perch on the stilts a salesclerk had tried to pass off as a wardrobe staple.

Chloe stared at Knox, an uneasy feeling crawling through her chest.

All her synapses fired “flee,” but her GPS was off. Her attempt at escape landed her at the corner of his table, where she nearly collided with a waiter setting something in front of Knox that was suspiciously akin to Chloe’s favorite drink, a strawberry daiquiri. Though the drink beverage seemed to confirm her suspicions, she eyed the glass with a touch of misplaced jealousy. It wouldn’t surprise her if he had a date. Well-known and filthy rich, up-and-coming politico Knox Hamilton had everything, including his pick of eligible women.

“Chloe.” He drawled her name, adding a seductive syllable or two. “You look amazing.”

Her mouth watered at the sound of his voice. “Hi.” Her voice squeaked with a less-than-dexterous reply.

He grinned. “It’s been too long. Have a seat.”

She eyed the daiquiri. “Actually, I have a date. As do you, it seems.”

His gaze met hers over the deep amber mouth of his beer bottle. “I ordered that drink for you.” The words simmered with the husky promise of the bedroom, slipping from his lips with an odd amount of reckless, deliberate ease.

Entranced, she caught herself staring at his mouth.

He leaned back in his chair, giving her a good, long look at the way his torso shaped his neatly buttoned and pressed shirt. “Will you join me?”

He had no right to look so good. She swallowed, getting a full taste of memories she’d sooner forget. “My date—”

“—is one unlucky bastard tonight. That is, of course, if you’ll sit.”

If she was smart, she’d give Knox a view of her amazing legs and phenomenal ass as she teetered out of the bar on those damned stripper heels. But curiosity would make a dead cat out of her yet. She pushed back the logic screaming at her not to risk involvement—a year ago, he’d made it clear the two of them had no future, and she had no interest in being a serial plaything to a confirmed bachelor—and assessed the offered chair. It appeared benign enough, and a reprieve from those shoes would be heaven. Sitting across the table from him didn’t have to mean anything, and a free daiquiri made for good incentive as far as she was concerned.

With his eyes hotly following her every move, she eased into the chair and waited for the dull ache of his rejection to return. But joining Knox at a table made for two didn’t fill her with quite the degree of heartbreak she’d expected. Of course, their split hadn’t been due to anything unholy—he hadn’t philandered, pillaged, or otherwise found himself aligned with the wrong end of a horse. To the contrary, he’d been a perfect everything, right until the moment he’d left her. Things had gotten too serious between them, he’d said, and he wasn’t interested in being tied down.

Chloe hadn’t exactly been aisle-bound herself, but the dismissal had come as a blow nonetheless. When he’d spoken those words, she had managed to stay on her feet until the door to her apartment had closed behind him. Only afterward had she fallen apart. Once her eyes were no longer swollen to slivers, she’d put all of her efforts into finding a reason to hate him—wife, girlfriend, a dog he didn’t walk—but to no avail. Knox Hamilton was a great guy…he just didn’t want her.

The best relationship of her life—one with the only man she’d ever loved—had been merely a means for him to scratch an itch.

Chloe admitted to no one she’d yet to get over Knox. Still, her refusal to dip a stiletto in the dating pool ever since was evidence enough for Lila, who had heard the whole sordid tale over an all-night binge of hiccup-laden sobs. As far as finest moments went, that evening didn’t make the list. Chloe had given up trying to figure out what had gone wrong. A year later, the most painful piece of the whole puzzle was the failure of her judgment. A reporter with horrible instincts…no wonder she’d thrown herself into her work, trying to prove otherwise.

Acutely aware of Knox’s gaze on her, Chloe toyed with the straw poking from her drink.

“Your date. Is it serious?” He sounded outwardly detached, but Chloe sensed a little more under the surface—almost as if he wanted to play it casual but couldn’t quite keep his voice there.

She probably was reading too much into it—wanting it too hard. Playing his game, she said, “I don’t know yet.” She hoped the edge she’d managed in her voice would morph itself into a wall—one that would protect her from where this would likely go. “These days I’m more interested in furthering my career.”

He smiled, a bit too secretively for Chloe’s taste and scoured his jaw with his palm. “Seems we have that in common, then.”

Of course they did. Chloe squirmed. Her admission, however vague, hadn’t bothered her—she was rather proud of being a woman who didn’t wither without a man in her bed—but something told her his eyes saw too much. They searched her, appraising. Beneath fabric suddenly far too thin, her nipples peaked as if magnetically drawn to him. And why shouldn’t they be? The things that man could do with his tongue were lethal. If Chloe wasn’t so determined to hold on to a shred of her self-respect, she’d probably reach for him, too.

She settled for her daiquiri, and what was supposed to be a ladylike sip morphed into a gulp of liquid courage. The resultant brain freeze made her skull throb but did nothing to settle her libido.

Neither did Knox’s lopsided grin. “How long have you known this date you don’t want?”

“It’s a blind date. We’ve…never met.” It would have been a humiliating admission if she hadn’t been so proud of her ambition and in no hurry to resurrect her disaster of a love life. Knox could think what he wanted.

“How will you know who he is?”

She twirled her straw. “He’s supposed to approach me. My friend Lila texted him a photo. She wanted to surprise me.”

“And if he sees you with me, do you suppose he’ll give up and leave?”

She laughed. “Is that your ego talking?”

“Maybe it’s just the way I’m looking at you.”

She took another sip of her drink, measuring her words. “How do you know how you’re looking at me?”

He leaned close. “I want you, Chloe.”

She froze, her hand clamped on the daiquiri glass. “For what?”

He laughed, stirring the air between them. Somehow, the entire bar and everyone in it seemed to disappear, leaving just her, Knox, and a really bad idea. One on which he elaborated. “I want to apologize. Explain. Grovel for forgiveness. Come upstairs? We’ll talk about it in private.”

“Forget it, Knox. You can grovel right here.” In public.Where it’s safe. He’d left her so she wouldn’t distract him from his political aspirations, and there he was, trying to get personal. Playing her… But to what end? Was this some kind of joke? She glanced around. Oddly enough, despite the fact that he and his family ranked right up there with the Kennedys, he wasn’t drawing attention. At least not outwardly, though the more closely she looked, the more she noticed a growing number of sideways glances from other patrons. Fortunately the Off the Record clientele wasn’t easily impressed. Politicians were a dime a dozen inside the beltway, and rubbernecking wasn’t generally a sport of the elite. It was more of a pastime for the uncouth, a grand specimen of which seemed headed in their direction.

Eyes like saucers, the guy went straight to Knox. “Mr. Hamilton…it’s an honor. I’m Jeff Lenox.”

Knox stood and extended his hand, which Jeff shook eagerly…and extensively. But where Chloe would have yanked back her appendage and hit the guy with her purse, Knox merely endured for way too long before he finally extricated himself and clapped the guy on the upper arm. Not hard enough.

“I’m afraid you have me at a disadvantage, Mr. Lenox. I don’t believe we’ve met.”

“Actually, we haven’t. I’m here to meet—” He paused and extracted a cell phone from his pocket. He looked from the image to Chloe and back again.

Oh, God no.

“Her! You must be Chloe.” He grinned like the proverbial idiot.

Oh, yes. Lila was a dead woman. Jeff was attractive enough, but the way he swayed at Knox’s feet reminded her a little too much of a Twihard fangirl. Sure, Knox was impressive…but he wasn’t spittleimpressive. Well, maybe a little. But Jeff was supposed to be her date, and he was gawking at the wrong person.

Knox caught her eye. Lifted a brow. She could only smile pleasantly.

“What business are you in?” he asked Jeff.

“I’m a software systems analyst.”

Knox smiled widely, as if Jeff had said something mildly earth-shattering. “This must be my lucky day, Mr. Lenox. How about you come by my office next week? I might have something on which I could use your opinion.”

Chloe blinked. Knox was just making time for all the little people that night. First a lowly reporter, then a computer geek. Next, he’d probably save a puppy from a burning building.

Jeff looked to Chloe, as if he needed her permission to date them both. But he didn’t wait for it. A split second later, he’d turned back to Knox.

Knox poured on a killer grin and still somehow managed to look sheepish. “Before you answer, I’m afraid I have to admit there is a caveat. It turns out I’m going to have to borrow Ms. Lochlan for the evening. I know she hoped to consult with you—”

“No, no. Of course! I understand.”

Chloe narrowed her eyes. Had she just been dumped…for Knox? Damn the legendary Hamilton charm.

“Good, then. I’ll leave your name with my admin.” Knox handed over a business card he’d extracted smoothly from his pocket. “I look forward to meeting with you.”

One more enthusiastic handshake, a nod for Chloe, and Jeff quickly disappeared into the crowd.

Knox turned that killer grin on her. “You’re welcome,” he said.

“He wasn’t so bad.”

“He wasn’t your type. Now, about our trip upstairs.”

“Why did you tell him I wanted to consult with him?”

“I want to talk to you. Give me the chance, and I’ll explain.”

“Do it here.”

He drained his beer and chased it with a long, lingering look at her. “It’s a private conversation.”

“If it’s the same lame excuse you used when you left me, I can guarantee most of the people in this room have either used it or heard it. If it’s all the same to you—”

“It’s not all the same to me,” he said, his words quiet but firm. “Unless you want the recap to make tomorrow’s news.”

Chloe sighed and looked to the ceiling, as if doing so gave her a glimpse into the hotel rooms overhead. Bad, bad idea. But he was right. Everything Knox did made headlines, and the last thing she needed was to have their personal conversation end up on the society page—she’d never be taken seriously as a reporter if her name was mired in tabloid gossip. Besides, he promised an apology and an explanation—something, she expected, more than the old it’s-not-you-it’s-meline. At least it had better be, because if they took this upstairs, they’d be sorely lacking witnesses.

She threw back the rest of her daiquiri. “I guess I owe you one.”

“Damn straight.” He tossed a fifty on the table. The move sealed their unspoken agreement.

She was screwed.

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About Sarah Ballance

Sarah Ballance is a multi-published author of contemporary, historical, and supernatural romance and romantic suspense. She’s been married to her own romantic hero for what he calls a “long, long time” (and no, he’ll never hear the end of saying that). Together they have six children … and clearly too much time on their hands. She currently writes for Entangled and has upcoming releases from both Entangled and Samhain Publishing.

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