Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Author Q&A with Tami Lund

With: Tami Lund

Giveaway Alert!

Q: Congratulations on the recent release of the first two books in the Tough Love series. And the third book releases next week, right?

A: Thank you! And yes, you are correct. Since I wrote these books a few years ago and they were all three ready to go live, I decided on a rapid release, because I believe once you start reading them, you won’t want to stop, and I didn’t want to make readers wait for months in between releases.

Q: That’s fantastic. So tell me, what makes these books so “unputdownable”?

A: The characters, mostly, but also the pace, as well as the settings. It’s funny, in my mind, these books are all connected, yet they actually occur in three different states. Naked Truth is based in New Orleans, with our hero, Jack Boudreaux, working out of the Nola FBI field office. Undercover Heat occurs in the Detroit area, and both the hero and heroine are FBI agents based there. Then, Delicious Deception actually covers three states: our hero, Connor, who is a chef, starts out at a casino in north Louisiana, and then goes on the run and ends up in a small town in northeast Texas. As the book progresses, he gets tangled up with Jack from Naked Truth, who, at one point, takes him to Detroit.

Q: Tell us about the characters.

A: Well, Jack Boudreaux from Naked Truth is an FBI agent living in New Orleans. He’s a playboy, perfectly content with short-term hookups, not really interested in falling in love. At his partner’s wedding, he meets a beautiful, shy nurse, Kennedy St. George, who decides a one-night stand with Jack is exactly what she needs to get over feeling sorry for herself as a result of her divorce, which happened several years ago. They end up sneaking away from the wedding reception for a steamy moment in the limo, and then they part as friends, figuring it’ll never happen again.

Except, of course, they can’t stop thinking about each other, because not only did they connect physically, but emotionally as well (not that either one will admit that). In the meantime, Jack goes undercover as a male stripper, which leaves him feeling rather randy each night, so he keeps showing up on Kennedy’s doorstep…and she keeps letting him in cuz she’s enjoying this fling too.

As Jack’s case unfolds around them (and eventually, Kennedy gets caught in the middle), we get to enjoy it as these two characters grow and come to realize that falling in love isn’t such a bad thing after all. It’s really quite sweet, despite the very scary murders that keep occurring!

UndercoverHeat is, admittedly, my favorite of the three books, and that’s all because of Quinn Daniels, the hero. He’s so broken at the beginning, yet even from the first page, there are glimpses of the strong, confident man he has the capacity to become. You see, his father was a career criminal who beat and ultimately killed Quinn’s mom, and Quinn feels responsible, believing he should have done more to save her. So you can imagine he has some huge hang-ups about relationships.   

Then there’s Kyra Sanders, our heroine, who had the idealistic, perfect life until a year ago when her seemingly loving fiancĂ© cheated on her—with the perp Kyra had been tracking in her latest case. Now, she and Quinn have been assigned to go undercover as husband and wife to solve that particular case, and she hates the fact that she’s attracted to him, because she refuses to mix business and pleasure again.

Yeah, these two have a lot of internal conflict to overcome before they can find their happily ever after!

The last book in the series is Delicious Deception, and it’s a little different than the first two in that the hero and heroine aren’t FBI agents. Connor Rikeland is a chef with dreams of grandeur, and Emily Kate Boudreaux is—yep—Jack’s younger sister, who runs a restaurant but dreams of being an artist. Connor sees something he wasn’t supposed to, and goes on the run from the bad guys and the FBI both. Of course, the FBI agent on the case is Emily Kate’s brother, Jack, which only complicates this fast-paced storyline.

Connor doesn’t have any issues with falling in love, but he does have issue with putting down roots in a small town in north Texas, which is where Emily Kate lives. He’s spent his entire adult life striving to be a world-famous chef, and that dream is in direct conflict with his feelings for Emily Kate—not to mention, he’s actually been lying to her from the first moment they met.

Emily Kate, for her part, has always felt suffocated by her family, who, while well-meaning and loving, have never allowed her to live on her own terms. She runs the family restaurant because they expect her to, and she rarely dates because her imposing FBI agent brother scares off every potential suitor. Oh yeah, this thing she has going on with Connor is not going to go over well with Jack! Especially not after he figures out that Connor is connected to his most recent case.

Q: Anything else you want to add?

A: How about a thank you for having me on the blog? And thank you to readers, for reading, and hopefully enjoying my books. And lastly, yes, I do intend to add to this series. There are a few secondary characters who I think need to find their happy ever afters. It will be fun to see if readers can figure out which ones I’m thinking of!

Excerpt from Naked Truth:

“Do you sort of wish the locals had kept this one?” Jack asked his partner.
“Yes,” Cullen agreed, a scant moment before their boss walked into the office and tossed a manila file folder onto his desk.
He was a hardened man with small, sharp eyes and a thick, salt and pepper mustache. His head was bald and shiny. He’d spent thirty years in the field before finally giving in to pressure from his superiors and accepting a director position, which forced him to spend more time behind a desk but no less time on the job. He was a tough boss, but a good one, and he’d taught Cullen and Jack everything they knew about being solid field agents.
“Too damn bad,” Hank said as he dropped heavily into the creaking, faux leather chair behind the desk. “Like we already suspected, this is connected to that murder down in Houston. And five others in three states. This is an FBI case, whether we want it or not.”
Jack shrugged and leaned against the wall, crossing his ankles and his arms. “We get to learn about a different lifestyle at any rate. Unless you’re familiar with this particular lifestyle, Cullen?” he teased his partner.
“Sorry to disappoint you, but I’ve only ever hung out at strip clubs that feature women. Half-naked men don’t do it for me.”
“How about the women who fawn over those half-naked men?” Hank suggested as he opened the file. “Do they do it for you? Because you two are going undercover to figure this thing out.”
 He and Cullen exchanged uneasy glances. Undercover? At a traveling all male revue?



Book One in the Tough Love Series

He’s a playboy FBI agent, working undercover as a male stripper. She’s a burned divorcee, struggling to make ends meet and embarrassed by how her marriage ended.
They both insist it’s a no-strings-attached affair.
Until she gets caught up in his case.
Now, both their hearts and lives are in danger.

Released: 10/8/2019

Other books in the series:
Undercover Heat – released 10/15/2019
Delicious Deception – releasing 10/22/2019

Author Biography
Tami Lund is an author, a wine drinker, an award winner, and a lover of romance. She writes happily ever afters of both the contemporary and paranormal kind. There’s probably a new release coming soon. You should sign up for her newsletter so you know when: http://www.subscribepage.com/Tami_Lund

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(Tami Lund is giving away ebook copies of the entire Tough Love series to 2 lucky winners!)

Giveaway ends 11:59pm EST October 16th. Due to GDPR regulations you no longer need to submit your email address in the comments. If you have been selected as a winner your name will be posted at the top of the post. You may then contact maureen@justromanticsuspense.com to claim your prize. Your email address will be shared with the author/publicist providing the giveaway. 

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Inspiration comes from many places

Inspiration comes from many places. The landscapes that surround us, the personality traits and quirks of those we interact with, and the varied experiences we have each day get woven into our psyches.  As an artist and a writer, each experience I have works in harmony with the others, below the surface, to add depth and realism to my work. 

For instance, I have spent my entire life collecting new ways to create art.  For two years, I learned to blow glass with master glass blower John Miller.  Before that, I worked with renowned ceramicist Toshiko Takaezu on some of the largest sculptures she ever made.  Pulitzer Prize winning author Steven Millhauser taught my creative writing class.  I’ve been lucky to have such an esteemed array of teachers, authors, and artists in my life.  I have been mindful not to take these experiences for granted.  Rather, I have catalogued them in my mind, where I continue to draw inspiration and lessons from them, even decades after the fact. 

During the fiction class I took with Steven Millhauser, he let us write whatever we wanted, in whatever style we wanted, and he didn’t judge us.  Instead, he asked us questions which were meant to bring our thinking to the next level.  Despite all the poorly written work we submitted, he never made us feel bad about our nascent styles or undeveloped themes.  He understood that we were still children, even as college students, and that to crush an unformed ego is to damage the future.  That is not to say he wasn’t critical, for he was.  He saw through bullshit, he always knew when a student had phoned it in, and when the students were cruel to each other, in his quiet way, Professor Millhauser would redirect the conversation to kinder pastures.  I was lucky to learn from him.  

When I was twenty, and a student in Skidmore’s ceramics department, I would stay late to work with the diminutive and soft-spoken Toshiko, who was a visiting artist there for many years.  During these quiet moments, as we layered thick slabs of clay onto a slowly spinning pot base, she would impart tricks of the trade and stories from her long life as an artist.  I made her laugh one evening when I came to the studio wearing a blonde curly wig and costume jewelry, both of which were meant to set off the floor-length, boa-trimmed chartreuse polyester gown a friend had found at a thrift shop.  After a good laugh, we got down to work and had a very productive evening.  I think Toshiko appreciated the unexpected as much as I did.

With John Miller, I learned to be wild and daring with my work, to take risks, to brave heat and intensity for the thrill of the finished product.  We worked balls-out, all the time, in a frenetic pace I’d never before experienced.  I also learned about disappointment, loss, and regret, and how those things will try to kill us if we let them.  I learned about what it means to love another person like a brother, at moments so intensely you think you might die if you leave each other’s side.  When my friend recently sent me a photo of her son standing next to some of John’s work at a major DC museum, I couldn’t believe how strongly I felt his presence was still a part of me.  The pang of love for John that resonated through me was elemental, and every bit as strong as the day I said goodbye to him, almost seventeen years ago. 

When we love deeply, when we humbly learn from a master, when we open ourselves to the experiences, ideas, and lessons the universe offers, we become infinite vessels for creation.  Writing creative and artistic characters brings all of my experiences onto the page.  I am never afraid of failing because I know my teachers failed sometimes, as humans do.  When John’s giant, multi-layered blown-glass hamburger smashed to the ground into a thousand pieces one night, he walked out the door in silence and returned a half an hour later, calm and ready to start working again.  When one of Toshiko’s biggest pots cracked in the kiln, she decided to work even bigger the next time.  When we bombed in our short stories, Steven Millhauser would gently encourage us to pick up the pieces, salvage what we could, and start again without fear.  Everyone experiences setbacks and failures in creative endeavors, for to create is to take a risk with the unknown.  But I learned from the masters that when we get flattened by our failures, we cease to learn.

It’s not always easy to take this lesson to heart, especially when we get so involved in our work we can’t see daylight anymore.  As artists and writers, we take inspiration from our experiences, but we also invest so much of our selves in our work that to fail is personal, and sometimes physically painful.  Conversely, when we succeed, we know that everything within us has contributed to that success.  When we create something beautiful, we can know, with complete confidence, that we have persevered through the difficulties and we reign triumphant.  I am so thankful to have learned that lesson from the masters I’ve worked with.

My collection of experiences and lessons makes its way into everything I write.  Even though I don’t write about myself, it’s all in there.  Therefore, to read my work is to know me, even just a little bit.  I have deep gratitude for the many experiences I’ve been afforded.  Thank you John Miller, Toshiko Takaezu (somewhere in the afterlife), and Steven Millhauser, along with all the other fantastic mentors and teachers I’ve had throughout the years.  Your contributions to my creative vernacular, to my ability to persevere through failure, and to my effervescent desire to teach others were invaluable gifts.



Blake Anderson has not set foot in his father’s cabin in fifteen years, and now that his dad is dead, Blake must confront the painful past he’s tried to forget while getting the place into saleable shape. When Alex Taylar, a local restoration contractor, shows up in her truck looking like a scruffy little cherub, Blake is blown away. While working together to restore the cabin's original beauty, he finds this feisty, independent woman is exactly what he needs. As their attraction draws them closer, they unearth a tapestry of corruption and crime spanning decades, and Blake learns there’s more to his mother’s death than he knew. Compelled to find the truth, Blake and Alex face danger while they struggle to overcome their pasts and open their hearts.

Monday, October 7, 2019

An Affair (and a Murder) To Remember

Giveaway Alert!

I SEE YOU, my latest romantic suspense, features two of my very favorite characters: Homicide Detective William Vaughan and FBI Special Agent Zoe Spencer. 

Zoe Spencer is a member of an FBI criminal profiling team dedicated to finding the most violent and prolific killers. Zoe, a talented artist and agent, specializes in forensic reconstruction. She skillfully merges her interview skills with pencil and paper to create stunning likenesses. And when only bones remain, she molds clay over bone to recreate the faces of the lost.

Zoe’s work generates a high case-closure rate, which draws the attention of the law enforcement community. Her lectures at the FBI headquarters at Quantico are often standing room only. Among those interested in her work is Homicide Detective William Vaughan.  

Detective Vaughan, divorced and raising a college bound teenager, is a man of few words and when he does comment, his observations are always thoughtful and insightful. He not only hears what is said and but sees what is communicated via body language.
The more time Vaughan spends with Zoe, the greater his desire to breach her cool demeanor. He draws upon all his powers of observation, practiced detective skills and his somewhat rusty charm to win her. Though they begin an affair, she still remains elusive.
When a charred skull is found in Vaughan’s jurisdiction of Alexandria, Virginia, he turns to Zoe. Zoe recreates a stunning clay bust that leads to the identification of a girl who has been missing for fifteen years.

As Vaughan and Zoe dig deeper, the cold case heats up when several more women, similar to their victim, are discovered brutally murdered. This killer, who has avoided capture for so many years, is still hunting women. It becomes a race against time to catch a madman who shifts his sights to his next victim: Zoe Spencer.

I hope you enjoy I SEE YOU and this magnetic couple who I’ve pitted against one of my most chilling villains so far.  


FBI special agent Zoe Spencer uses skeletal remains to recreate the faces of murder victims through sculpture. Though highly scientific, the process is also sensitive and intimate; she becomes attached to the individuals she identifies, desperate to find justice for each.

As Zoe examines old remains, she sees a teenage girl looking back at her—the victim in a cold case from over a decade ago. Zoe wants nothing more than to tell this young woman’s story and to bring her killer to justice.

Zoe’s case leads her to the victim’s hometown and to homicide detective William Vaughan, Zoe’s on-again, off-again lover. As the two become more involved in the case, they quickly realize that it isn’t as cold as they first believed: someone’s still out there hunting women. And with more women gone missing, time’s running out. Can they work together and stop this madman before he kills again?

I See You Excerpt

The instant Vaughan woke, he knew she was gone. He should not have been surprised. She never stayed long, but he’d thought last night would be different. 

He swung his legs over the side of the bed and instantly spotted the note on the mirror. It was written on the back of the fast-food receipt in fluid and graceful handwriting. 

Called a car. Didn’t want to wake you. 

Spencer. He knew how to make that woman’s body tighten with desire and how to make her moan in a way that told him she was fully attuned to his body. But beyond that, she was still a complete stranger. 

He flicked the edge of the note, surprised he had not awoken. Since he had become a cop and father, he had turned into a light sleeper. Both incarnations, like a doctor on call, were summoned at all times of the day and night. His ability to shake off sleep in seconds and then think clearly was well honed. But yesterday had been long, even for him. 

He laid the note on his dresser as he glanced at the pillow that still held the impression of her head. It was not like him to be sentimental, but he was sorry he likely would not see her for a while. 

He showered, and fifteen minutes later he was dressed, his badge and sidearm on his belt. As the coffee brewed, he scrambled five eggs before he realized Nate was gone. He toasted a bagel and ate alone at the kitchen table. 

He filled a travel mug with more coffee and was on the road by six o’clock. Moonlight mingled with the lights looming over I-395 as he looped around the beltway and headed north toward his exit. The traffic was already building, and soon it would slow to a snail’s pace. 

With luck, the first wave of files from the Prince case would be in his office. He had been warned that there were a dozen file boxes, but he did not care. He also had the autopsy of the Jane Doe stabbed to death in the motel room to attend. It was going to be another long day. 

Fifteen minutes later, he had parked and was in the break room, refilling his coffee. When he flipped on the lights of his office, there were six file boxes stacked in front of his desk. A green sticky note read More to come

It was too early to call the medical examiner about his Jane Doe from the motel room, so he set his cup down and flipped through the first set of files. 

He spent the next hour and a half reading through the detectives’ notes. At the time of Marsha’s disappearance, the detectives had exhausted every lead and tip that had come into the station, but in the end came up with nothing.

Author Biography

New York Times and USA Today bestselling novelist Mary Burton is the popular author of thirty-five romance and suspense novels as well as five novellas. She currently lives in Virginia with her husband and three miniature dachshunds. Visit her at www.maryburton.com.

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Sunday, September 29, 2019

Interview with Catherine Bybee

Giveaway Alert!

1) Sasha, from your newest novel Say it Again, is unlike any character that most readers will have encountered. Can you give us a rundown of your heroine?

Sasha is a female James Bond with all the skills that kick ass and the sexy that opens doors. She’s a master of disguises, speaks more languages than anyone should…and has a razor-sharp mind that doesn’t sleep. In all her badassery, (pretty sure I just made up that word) Sasha has a soft spot—a vulnerability that makes her want to protect the innocent. She’s a true to life superhero who walks the fence between right and wrong. She really doesn’t have any issues breaking laws to get what she wants. And that’s what makes her so fun to read, and for me to write.

2) Fans have been following Sasha throughout your First Wives series. Did you always know you wanted to write her story?

No! Not at all. The first four books in the series were going to be it. However, Sasha commanded attention the first moment she walked on the page and I couldn’t get enough of her once I dreamed her up. I was almost finished writing the first book when I decided that Sasha was not going to be a bad guy. Yes, I’m a pantser, and have no real outline before I sit down to write. I think the fact that I didn’t know she was one of the good guys made her all that more believable. I don’t even think she knew she was going to be on the side of right and justice until the end of Fool Me Once.

3) While many of your novels have a mystery or suspense element, you dive head first into action and spy-games in this book. How easy was this transition for you?

It was super easy and tons of fun. In fact… I think I may have a spin off of a spin off rolling in my head with all the fun characters I played with while writing this book. Neil was one of my very first book boyfriends from the Weekday Brides. And having him come back in this book just reminded me how much fun it is to write all the action and intrigue. I hope my fans love it enough for me to continue the theme with new books.

4) When AJ is first introduced he seems pretty average—just a guy looking for answers about his sister’s death. But in reality, there is nothing average about AJ. How would you describe him? 

The best picture in my mine that I can describe with all clarity is Brian O’Connor, Paul Walker (RIP), from Fast and Furious. Innocent until he isn’t.

I would say that AJ is exactly what Sasha needed to open up and accept that she too can be loved. I wanted AJ to come off as average until he wasn’t. Sasha is such a strong character that she needed someone who wasn’t going to try and overpower or overshadow her badassery (love that word). AJ does that. Yet he has some badass moments himself and that is what makes her fall for him even more. He is in no way perfect and neither is she.

5) AJ and Sasha have something in common—they are both characters with lots and lots of secrets. What makes them open up to each other? What else do they have in common? 

Trust through time. That’s the best way for me to describe how they evolved in my head. There is a common respect the moment they “acquire” the other’s phone. A moment where they take notice and begin to respect the other. Honor among thieves as they say. I think the common ground that isn’t apparent until the story evolves is how they want the love of a family. AJ is much more open to it than Sasha, but they both have to fight for it in the end.

6) While you have written books with scenes in foreign countries, this story takes place internationally. Have you visited the same places as your characters? Where do you hope to take readers around the world in the future?

Yes, I have been to all the places I have written about. I was in Berlin a couple of years ago at a book signing and managed to get their by taking the train from London, through Amsterdam etc. So yes, I’m blessed to have visited these places which makes the story that much richer in my opinion. Richter, the school in the story, is from my imagination. I did some fact checking and learned that post Hitler’s Germany, military boarding schools were not welcome in the country. So I made one up and made it as great and awful as I could while still making it believable.

I have placed most of my travels, or experiences from them, in my books. And as I travel the world, I will bring my readers along…eventually.

7) Say it Again wraps up your First Wives series. What have you learned while writing these books? Will these lessons affect your writing in the future? 

On a personal level, I will say that I’ve leaned to write with a great deal of personal turmoil. There have been times I’ve doubted my process and this final book in the series has told me to never do that again. I would like to always keep the door open for more books because of characters like Sasha. I love writing fast moving romantic suspense and intrigue and can see Claire, Cooper and the whole of Neil’s team as a great setting for future books. Yeah… I’m liking that idea more and more. I hope my readers do, too. 

Say it Again Excerpt

AJ was being stood up.

It was half past noon and Sasha wasn’t there.

The Brandenburg Gate was one of the busiest tourist attractions in Berlin. The square was filled with families and walking tours led by someone holding a colored flag on a stick and talking into a microphone while a line of dazed, zombie-like visitors followed behind. Aside from those in the square learning about the history of the place, there were a dozen police officers and security guards moving around. Considering the American, British, and French embassies were all within a stone’s throw of each other, AJ was surprised there wasn’t a stronger military presence. 

AJ kept scanning the crowd in search of Sex on a Stick in black leather pants and a bad attitude. 


Left without options, AJ dialed his phone number on her phone and waited. It rang twice. 

Behind him, the riff of “Bad to the Bone,” his ringtone, shot through him. He dropped his hand from his ear and saw a blonde standing three feet away, her back to him. 

Slowly she turned. 


Sasha stared back at him, wearing white capri pants and a bright floral top. The blonde wig overdid it but completely camouflaged her in broad daylight. She took a step closer, reached out her hand holding his cell. “Hello, AJ.” 

They switched phones. “How long have you been standing there?” 

“Half an hour, give or take.” 

He looked her up and down. She looked like a typical American housewife, minus the kid in the stroller. “Impressive.” 

“I wanted to make sure you were alone.” 

AJ glanced around at the passing tourists. “Is there a reason behind the cloak-and-dagger?” 

She moved closer, lowered her voice. “You’ve come here to look for your sister’s killer. You think there is some connection to Richter. Went so far as to go there asking questions. You’re stalking the local pub and hitting on, not to mention stealing from, the patrons . . .” Sasha waved her phone in the air before tucking it into her back pocket. 

“I’m calling pot to kettle on that last accusation.” Although all the rest she pointed out was spot-on. 

“I like to go unnoticed. If someone followed me here, they lost me the second I made the city limits and went clothes shopping.” 

“What if someone followed me?” 

“Then I would have seen them watching in the thirty minutes you’ve been standing around looking like a lost child without a parent.” She turned and started walking toward the gate. 

AJ had no choice but to follow. 

“What makes you think anyone is following either of us?” 

She smiled, didn’t answer his question. “I used to help your sister on her agility training,” she told him. 

The mention of his sister brought his attention back to what he should be focused on. “She wasn’t the most athletic woman.” Amelia took after their mother, who didn’t grow more than five feet five inches tall and had a sweet tooth that always kept her rounder than she’d liked. At least that’s what she’d blame when she went on one of her many diets. 

“No. But she held her own most of the time. Everyone at Richter was pushed to do at least that.” 

“Her coworkers said she had recently started taking morning walks before work,” AJ said. 

“Which explains the police report about her being murdered in the park and tossed in the river.” 

AJ stopped walking. “You looked her up.” 

“Only because I knew her.” 

He jumped in front of her, stopped her from moving. “Then you’ll help me.” 

“There is nothing to suggest that Amelia’s death is at all linked to Richter.” 

AJ looked over Sasha’s shoulder and noticed a man eating an ice cream cone and staring at Sasha. The middle-aged guy turned his attention away and took a few steps in the opposite direction. 

“Maybe she . . .” 

AJ felt eyes, turned to his left. 

No one. 

“What is it?” Sasha asked. 

“The guy with the ice cream, over your left shoulder.” 

She grinned, cocked her head to the side. “We did this last night.” 

“Yeah, only I’m not asking you to lay a lip lock on me. Tempting as that might be.” Truth was, he’d thought about that kiss more times than he wanted to admit. “If how you’re dressed is any indication, you’re the expert on all things undercover. You tell me if you feel the weight of someone’s stare.” 

Sasha paused, then looked over her shoulder. “That him?” she asked, thumbing toward the guy with the ice cream. 


She grabbed AJ’s hand and walked directly toward the guy he thought for sure was watching them. 

“What are you doing?” 

She didn’t answer. “Excuse me?” Her voice rose a full octave, her smile was sickeningly sweet. Any accent he’d detected from her voice was gone . . . or changed. 

The man with the cone turned toward them. “Yes?” 

“Are you American? You look American.” 

“I’m, ah . . . yeah.” The guy looked directly at AJ.

Sasha kept going. “Good. Would you mind taking our picture? I can’t get the gate behind us with a selfie.” 

Again the guy offered AJ unblinking eyes. “Ah, sure.” He reached for the phone Sasha was handing him. 

Next thing AJ realized, he was standing beside Sasha, her arm slipped around his waist, and he was smiling like all of the other tourists surrounding them while the man he thought was spying on them took their picture. 

The stranger holding Sasha’s phone, while trying to balance his ice cream cone, looked completely out of place. 

“Take a second one, just in case.” Sasha giggled. 

The sound of her voice didn’t suit her. The hand on his waist, however, suited him just fine. The feel of her there, the warmth, the softness he knew she would hate if he pointed it out, felt a little too right. 

“Thank you so much.” 

The stranger handed her phone back with a nod. “Have fun.” 

She waved. “We will . . . thanks.” 

And he was gone. 

AJ watched the man slip away as Sasha removed herself from AJ’s side. 

He missed her warmth, instantly. 

“Any self-preserving spy wouldn’t have made contact,” Sasha told him. 

The two of them walked toward the center of the square. “Okay,” AJ started. “Maybe I’m a little paranoid.”

“You’re a lot paranoid.” 

AJ paused in the middle of the plaza and stared at the massive horses that sat atop the gate. The image of his sister at Christmas the previous year surfaced. It was the last time he’d seen her alive. “I know Amelia’s death wasn’t random, Sasha. I feel it with every breath I take.” 

She sighed. “I know you do.” 

He looked at her. “You don’t believe me.” 

“I believe you believe.” 

He lowered his head, studied the salt-and-pepper colored stones beneath his feet. “You’re not going to help.” Damn it . . . he was back to ground zero. 

Another heavy sigh from the woman at his side. “I will help you.” 

AJ snapped his head up. “What?” 

She placed a hand in the air as in warning. “Not because I think you have anything other than grief inside you. The not knowing, or never accepting the facts, can eat you alive.” 

Not ground zero. He wanted to kiss her. Not that she would be receptive to that kind of thing. “Why are you doing this?” There wasn’t anything in it for her. Sasha turned away from him and focused her attention on the Brandenburg Gate. 

“Because I’m not bored.” 


Protector-for-hire Sasha Budanov is accustomed to life as a loner. Always on the move, she’s now reached a crossroad. Looking for answers about her shadowy youth, she’s returned to the strict boarding school in Germany where she was raised. It’s also where she was trained in the stealthy, militarized art of survival. But behind its gleaming gates, Richter is a fortress of secrets, including those buried in Sasha’s mysterious past. To uncover them, she’s clinging to her first rule of defense: stay guarded.

If anyone can challenge Sasha’s rules, it’s devilishly sexy stranger AJ Hofmann. He wants answers, too. And he needs Sasha’s help. The recent deaths of several of Richter’s former students—including AJ’s own sister—have aroused his suspicions. He’s arousing something more in Sasha. Never one to surrender to her emotions, she senses something tempting in AJ. She trusts him. He’s fearless. And he kisses like a demon. Sasha’s found her match.

But treading Richter’s dark halls—and following their hearts—has its risks. As the decades-old secrets of the past are mined, Sasha and AJ are falling deeper in love . . . and into danger.
Author Biography
New York Times, #1 Wall Street Journal, and USA Today bestselling author Catherine Bybee has written thirty books that collectively have sold more than five million copies and been translated into more than eighteen languages. Raised in Washington State, Bybee moved to Southern California in the hope of becoming a movie star. After growing bored with waiting tables, she returned to school and became a registered nurse, spending most of her career in urban emergency rooms. She now writes full-time and has penned the Not Quite Series, the Weekday Brides Series, the Most Likely To Series, and the First Wives Series. For more information, visit www.catherinebybee.com.

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