Today Christina Hovland is here to share her blog tour, TAKE IT OFF THE MENU! Check it out and be sure to get your copy today! 

 


Title: TAKE IT OFF THE MENU
Author: Christina Hovland
Genre: Contemporary Romance 

 

About TAKE IT OFF THE MENU
Saying "I Do" has never been such a mess.


Marlee Medford just got dumped. Yes, things have become ho-hum in her longtime relationship, but she was two days away from walking down the aisle with the man she thought was her forever when he called it off. Convincing herself that they'd be able to reignite their spark once the wedding craziness settled? That was easy. Suddenly finding herself without a fiancé? Not so much. Marlee needs to regain control of her life, and a weekend away with her friends is a solid first step.


One of Denver's best up-and-coming chefs, perpetual bachelor Eli Howard, isn't into serious relationships--especially the kind that ends in marriage. As if to prove his point that they aren't worth the trouble, the wedding he was supposed to be catering just fell apart. Feeling oddly protective of the jilted bride--his little sister's best friend--his weekend plans now involve a trip to Sin City with her group of friends. But it looks like he had a bit too much fun in Vegas when he wakes up married...wedding night included.


Marlee's attempts at getting her life back together are failing miserably. Her ex-fiancé is taking the house, her chihuahua is intent on a love affair with Eli's sneakers, and she's now accidentally hitched to the guy who can't even say the word marriage. With their quickie annulment denied, Eli and Marlee just have to hang tight until the divorce goes through. It's just a little divorce amongst friends, what's the worst that could happen?



Excerpt
And then he looked at her like he’d done at the tattoo parlor. Like he wanted to kiss her. And okay, maybe she was off her game, but a guy didn’t get that flicker in his eyes for just anyone.

She was going to do it. Kiss him. Make sure she still had it.

Step five, kiss Eli (and enjoy it).

Before he could say anything, she stood on her tiptoes and lightly pressed her lips to his. Testing. Seeing if that’s what he wanted.

He kissed her back.

Oh boy, did he kiss her back.

His tongue slid along the seam of her lips, his arms wrapped around her, and holy hell, her toes were actually curling. But this wasn’t that kind of kiss. Not for long, anyway. This was the kind of kiss she hadn’t had in years. The kind lit by pure desire and exploration. The kind that meant nothing and everything, because in that moment, it was both.

She melted into his embrace and let him do what he wanted to her. Tonight was all about nothing. And it was about everything. It was about Eli.

Mostly, though…it was about her.

 


About Christina
Christina Hovland lives her own version of a fairy tale—an artisan chocolatier by day and romance writer by night. Born in Colorado, Christina received a degree in journalism from Colorado State University. Before opening her chocolate company, Christina’s career spanned from the television newsroom to managing an award-winning public relations firm. She’s a recovering overachiever and perfectionist with a love of cupcakes and dinner she doesn’t have to cook herself. A 2017 Golden Heart® finalist, she lives in Colorado with her first-boyfriend-turned-husband, four children, and the sweetest dog around.

Connect with Christina

 


Enter Christina’s Giveaway
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Already Gone
by Kristen Proby and K.L. Grayson
Release Date: August 27, 2019


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Already Gone, an all-new standalone contemporary romance by New York Times bestselling author Kristen Proby and USA Today bestselling author K.L. Grayson
Falling in love is easy…
New Hope, South Carolina is my home. It’s where I grew up, got into trouble, and fell in love for the first time. Scarlett Kincaid was more than the girl next door, she was my best friend, until she decided that small town life wasn’t for her. One minute she was here, and the next she was gone.
The girl I used to fish with down at the creek is now the biggest name in country music. She headlines world tours, has won four Grammys, and I haven’t seen her since. Until today when she sped through town in her fancy car. One look at her big brown eyes was all it took to stir up a whole slew of emotions. Emotions I’d long ago buried and sure as hell don’t have time for.
It’s the aftermath that’s hard…
There are two things in my life that matter. My music, and my dad. Twelve years ago, I packed a bag and chased my dream. Leaving New Hope and escaping the gossip mill was the easiest decision I ever made. I never planned to return, but my father needs me, and he always comes first. So, I did what I had to do. I cut my tour short and came home, despite having a sister who hates me, and a community that doesn’t trust me.
And then there’s Tucker Andrews.
When he propped an arm on the roof of my car, pulled down his sunglasses and flashed his police badge, I nearly swallowed my tongue. Gone is the lanky boy who used to throw rocks at me and pull my pigtails. Tucker is now a six-foot package of brawny, sexy man wrapped in more muscle than I have hit singles. Did I mention he’s a cop and a single dad?
My goal was to help Dad, and get back to my life. But what am I supposed to do when the life that used to strangle me suddenly fits like a glove, and makes me dream of things I never thought I’d have? What happens when the boy I walked away from years ago becomes one of the most important people in my life? I don’t have room for a man much less love.
Right?
Because it’s impossible to hold onto someone who’s already gone.


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Download your copy today!
Amazon: US Worldwide 




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Excerpt:
New Hope, South Carolina.
Population 6,129.
I know every soul represented in that number. Not a single one of them drives the shiny red Mercedes that just went speeding by.
Seventy-five in a forty-five.
I flick on my lights and press on the gas, sending my cruiser flying past the city limit sign and the godawful billboard that sits directly behind it; the one declaring New Hope home to country music superstar, Scarlett Kincaid.
It wouldn’t be a big deal if this were actually her home. It’s not. Scarlett may have been born here, but her fancy boots haven’t landed on this soil in over a decade.
All it took was one call from a hotshot music executive to send her packing before the ink was dry on her high school diploma. Scarlett flew from this town fast enough to leave our heads spinning. Before any of us could process what had happened, little Scarlett Kincaid—the same girl who used to build forts with me in my living room while my mama made us mac ‘n’ cheese—had a hit single sitting at number one on the Billboard charts.
She went from homecoming queen and most likely to marry a rich spouse in our senior yearbook, to the queen of country music.
The country loves her. Hell, the whole world loves her.
New Hope…not so much. And it’s high time that fucking sign comes down.
But first, I have to deal with this speed demon in the sexy red car.
I sound the sirens, and the car pulls to the side of the road and waits while I walk to the driver’s side window. It’s still up, the heavy tint preventing me from seeing inside. With a hand on my holster—because you never know what you’re going to walk up on—I knock on the window.
The dark glass lowers.
My first thought: this woman is absolutely gorgeous. Long, dark hair. Pouty lips. And a tiny pink dress. Her eyes are covered by oversized aviators, but I’m sure they’re as pretty as the rest of her.
My second thought: what crazy excuse is she going to come up with to try and get out of this ticket? It never ceases to amaze me the things women are willing to do to keep from getting into trouble. I’ve been offered everything from a blowjob to a pay-off to marriage.
“Do you know why I pulled you over today, ma’am?”
“Tucker?” The woman smiles, then pushes her sunglasses to the top of her head. And that’s when I see the brown eyes I’ve spent more than a decade trying to forget. “Tucker Andrews, is that you?”
I step back and square my shoulders. “You can call me Officer Andrews. Do you know why I pulled you over today, ma’am?”
“Tucker.” The woman laughs and shakes her head. “It’s me, Scarlett.”
At the mention of her name, I’m met with an onslaught of flashbacks. Running hand and hand through the neighborhood with her, laughing and playing, only to have her ignore me the second we got to school. The popular crowd versus the nerds who desperately tried to fit in. She the former, me the latter, and the pain it caused every time she acted as though she didn’t know my name. For years, I pretended it didn’t bother me because I knew that when I got home, Scarlett would meet me at the fence, and the awkwardness from the day would dissipate as though it never happened.
But it did. Day after day after day. I was a glutton for punishment. There was nothing in the world I loved more than Scarlett Kincaid, and it didn’t matter how badly she hurt me, I was always willing to forgive her.
Her smile and laugh might’ve gotten to me in middle school and high school, but I refuse to let it affect me now.
“I know who you are.”
Her smile falters.



About Kristen:
Kristen was born and raised in a small resort town in her beloved Montana. In her mid-twenties, she decided to stretch her wings and move to the Pacific Northwest, where she made her home for more than a dozen years.
During that time, Kristen wrote many romance novels and joined organizations such as RWA and other small writing groups. She spent countless hours in workshops, and more mornings than she can count up before the dawn so she could write before going to work. She submitted many manuscripts to agents and editors alike, but was always told no. In the summer of 2012, the self-publishing scene was new and thriving, and Kristen had one goal: to publish just one book. It was something she longed to cross off of her bucket list.
Not only did she publish one book, she’s since published close to thirty titles, many of which have hit the USA Today, New York Times and Wall Street Journal Bestsellers lists. She continues to self publish, best known for her With Me In Seattle and Boudreaux series, and is also proud to work with William Morrow, a division of HarperCollins, with the Fusion Series.
Kristen and her husband, John, make their home in her hometown of Whitefish, Montana with their two pugs and two cats.


Connect with Kristen:
Pinterest: @handbagjunkie 


About K.L. Grayson
K.L. Grayson resides in a small town outside of St. Louis, MO. She is entertained
daily by her extraordinary husband, who will forever inspire every good quality she
writes in a man. Her entire life rests in the palms of six dirty little hands, and when the
day is over and those pint-sized cherubs have been washed and tucked into bed, you can find her typing away furiously on her computer. She has a love for alpha-males,
brownies, reading, tattoos, sunglasses, and happy endings…and not particularly in that
order.


Connect with K.L. Grayson


KMN-BANNER-LIVE

 

What do you do when you’re the reigning kissing booth champion but the only person you want to kiss is your best friend’s brother?

Kiss Me Not, an all-new hilarious brother's best friend romance from New York Times bestselling author Emma Hart is available now! 

 

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Let me make this clear right here, right now: I, Halley Dawson, do not care that Preston Wright is kissing other women.

Not a lick. Not at all. Nuh-uh-freakin’-uh.

I do care that he’s doing it six feet away from me behind a gaudy velvet curtain—making him my competition in this year’s kissing contest.

Why do I care, you ask? Because I’ve had an unfortunate crush on the insufferable idiot since I was sixteen years old, but I also know it’s never going to happen.

He’s the Creek Falls bachelor to die for, and I’m the Creek Falls racoon lady who puts peanut butter sandwiches out for them every night.

I’m not going to let him break my four-year-long reign—no matter how many times he breaks the rules and slides the curtain across to do the one thing he’s not allowed to:

Kiss me. 


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Download your copy today!





Excerpt
“I never answered your question.”

“What question?” I darted my eyes to the side.

“Just now. You asked me if I wanted to kiss you.”

I did, didn’t I? Right. “Oh,” was all I said.

Slowly, he moved his hand to my chin and gently lifted it. Still, I didn’t look at him, keeping my eyes firmly trained on the front of the tent, even though I was facing him.

“Halley.”

“Yeah?”

“I want to kiss you.”

My eyes darted to his.

“I thought that’d do it.” His lips twitched, and he lowered his head until I had to fight the urge to close my eyes in anticipation of the kiss that was coming.

I swallowed, my lips parting.

Preston moved closer.

And he kissed my cheek.

I jerked out of whatever trance I’d just been in. “What the hell?”

He jumped off the stage, grinning. “I guess we’ll have to wait until tomorrow to break the stalemate, won’t we?”

“Oh, hell no!” I jumped off, stalking him to his side of the stage. “You just stood there in front of me and told me you want to kiss me, then kiss my cheek? The hell was that?”

His eyebrows shot up, amusement flashing in his eyes. “If I didn’t know better, I’d think you wanted to kiss me, too.”

“Irrelevant,” I shot back. “But you’re a special kind of asshole to tell a girl you wanna kiss her and then not do it.” I turned around, then stopped. “You know what? When I beat you tomorrow, you can kiss my ass.”

“You’re way too mad about this.”

“I’m not mad!” My voice raised a few octaves. “I couldn’t care if you want to kiss me or not. I most certainly don’t want to kiss you.”

“Why are you shouting at me?”

“I’m not—” I was shouting at him. “Whatever,” I said in a normal voice. “Make sure you take that money to the bank. Tell Tish I sent you.”

I left him on his side of the curtain and went to get my purse. He could get fucked. After all that where I think I was so damn nervous I broke a sweat, he didn’t even kiss me.

I wasn’t lying with what I said.

He could kiss my ass.

I’d even wear my good panties and bend over for him.



About Emma Hart
EmmaHart
Emma Hart is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of over thirty novels and has been translated into several different languages.

She is a mother, wife, lover of wine, Pink Goddess, and valiant rescuer of wild baby hedgehogs.

Emma prides herself on her realistic, snarky smut, with comebacks that would make a PMS-ing teenage girl proud.

Yes, really. She's that sarcastic.


Connect with Emma

Stay up to date with Emma by joining her mailing list: http://bit.ly/2NtAbca


 


BEST OF ME 
by LK Farlow 
Release Date: September 5, 2019 
Genre: Contemporary Romance
 

   
 
Blurb
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been the dark to my sister’s light—the awkward loner to her social butterfly. Growing up, she had it all: our parent’s unyielding approval, perfect grades, a permanent spot at the popular table, and the attention of the hottest guy ever—Duke Kincaid.
After eighteen years of living in her shadow, I couldn’t wait to escape—to finally be my own person. Yet here I am, I’m back in my hometown, once again in Valorie’s shadow. Only now, it’s eternal.

I had life all planned out: join the force, marry Valorie Parsons, and start a family of our own. I have the job, but the girl and all my dreams died before my very eyes.
Finally ready to move on, I agree to a blind date. Imagine my shock when I arrive and find, Valorie’s twin sister, waiting across the table from me. Mallory should be a reminder of all that I’ve lost, but instead she feels like my redemption . . . like maybe life’s giving me a second chance.
But, how can I be enough for her when I’ve already given her sister the best of me?




   
Excerpt
I fly through the rest of my routine, wanting to finish before Duke wakes. Except, when I step out of the bathroom wrapped in only my towel, there’s six-feet-plus of man muscle leaned back against the sliding glass door, coffee in hand, looking at me like he wants nothing more than to show me just how much more enjoyable showers for two are.
“Hi.” I greet him shyly, acutely aware of the fact that I’m completely naked beneath this rectangle of terrycloth.
His eyes eat me up. “Damn, Cricket. You’re so beautiful.”
I avert my gaze; I’ve been called a lot of things in my life, but beautiful has never been one of them.
Duke places his still-steaming coffee down on the little hammered bronze side table I have and steps toward me, a predatory look in his mossy green eyes. He advances, completely uncaring that I’m still slightly damp from my shower, until we stand flush. He spears his fingers into my tangled, wet hair, forcing me to look up at him. “I need you to listen to me, okay?”
“Okay.”
“You are so damn beautiful. Inside and out. You’re stunning, Mallory. You’re one of those few people whose insides are just as pretty as their outsides. You’re so fucking smart. You have this drive and passion that radiates out of you. You have so much heart that your kindness overflows. Your laugh is so infectious that everyone in hearing distance can’t help but smile. Your body—mmm—don’t even get me started. Your eyes are like smelted gold, precious and shining. And your lips, Cricket, they’re the most inviting, kissable lips I’ve ever seen. I daydream about claiming them far more often than I’d like to admit.”
My heart beats so furiously in my chest I swear it knocks against my ribcage. The way he’s looking at me, his face sincere and honest, tells me he meant every word. I push up on to my tiptoes and wrap my arms around his neck. “Then do it,” I whisper just before he seals his lips to mine.
Duke kisses me completely and totally senseless until his phone chirps in his pocket. He breaks away with great reluctance. “That’s my alarm.” He speaks the words against my lips before claiming them once more. His kiss is bruising, full of want and need and longing. His phone goes off again and he groans, stepping back from me. “Let me see you again tonight?”



About LK Farlow 
LK Farlow (A.K.A Kate) is a small town girl with a love for words. She's been writing stories for as long she can remember. A Southern girl through and through, Kate resides in beautiful, sunny LA--that's Lower Alabama, y'all--with her amazing husband and three rambunctious children. When she's not writing, you can find her snuggled up on the couch watching car shows while she crochets or with her nose in a book.


Connect with LK Farlow 

Subscribe to LK Farlow’s Newsletter: http://bit.ly/lkfinsider





He’s the quiet brooding guy who’s owned my heart since I was sixteen but has refused to claim it.

I’m the naïve woman who believes that someday our time will come.

I just didn’t realize that someday would include waking up in Vegas with a raging hangover and a ring on my finger.

If we believed in fate, maybe one of us would’ve trusted that something more powerful than ourselves interceded because our love is one of tangled vines. As twisted and frayed as they’ve become over the years, they’ve never broken.

An annulment seemed like the easy way out. We should’ve known it wouldn’t be fate that intervened, but our Italian Mamas. They can deliver Oscar-worthy performances when heaping on the guilt.

We thought it’d be easyHe’s the quiet brooding guy who’s owned my heart since I was sixteen but has refused to claim it.

I’m the naïve woman who believes that someday our time will come.

I just didn’t realize that someday would include waking up in Vegas with a raging hangover and a ring on my finger.

If we believed in fate, maybe one of us would’ve trusted that something more powerful than ourselves interceded because our love is one of tangled vines. As twisted and frayed as they’ve become over the years, they’ve never broken.

An annulment seemed like the easy way out. We should’ve known it wouldn’t be fate that intervened, but our Italian Mamas. They can deliver Oscar-worthy performances when heaping on the guilt.

We thought it’d be easy to pretend to be a happily married couple in front of our families for three months and then say we gave it our best shot and go our separate ways.

But nothing is easy when it comes to Dominic Mancini and me. Nothing. to pretend to be a happily married couple in front of our families for three months and then say we gave it our best shot and go our separate ways.

But nothing is easy when it comes to Dominic Mancini and me. Nothing.

My Review

http://www.readersretreats.com/2019/08/wild-steamy-hook-up-white-collar.html





Buy Here:
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Piper Rayne, or Piper and Rayne, whichever you prefer because we’re not one author, we’re two. Yep, you get two USA Today Bestselling authors for the price of one. Our goal is to bring you romance stories that have "Heartwarming Humor With a Side of Sizzle" (okay...you caught us, that's our tagline). A little about us... We both have kindle’s full of one-clickable books. We're both married to husbands who drive us to drink. We're both chauffeurs to our kids. Most of all, we love hot heroes and quirky heroines that make us laugh, and we hope you do, too.





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This is one of those times where the characters annoyed me almost as much as I loved them. Val and Dom were both so scared to put themselves out there and be hurt that they both kept hurting themselves and each other.

And while I understood it and their relationship was extremely complicated, I really wanted to smack them both in the head and tell them to use their big people words and sort it all out.

But Dom is a Mancini and with that comes all the meddling family to sort him out and make sure he does everything he should ……. Thank god or I might have had to throw my kindle.

The chemistry was hot, the family was awesome. I really need a Lulu of my own. And I can't wait to see what is up with Blanca.






Title: Catching Him
Series: How to Catch an Alpha #1
Author: Aurora Rose Reynolds
Publisher: Montlake Romance
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: August 27, 2019



Blurb

Leah Emerson isn’t looking for a man—she’s looking for the right man. But her mother’s idea of a great catch leaves her cold, and she’s pretty sure her cocky, arrogant, and way too good-looking new neighbor isn’t the one either. If only her wayward cat would stop jumping through his window, she could get on with her life.

Tyler Duncan moved into town for a new job, not to fall in love. But he always goes after the things he wants in life with steadfast determination…and he wants Leah Emerson. He wants her smiles, he wants her touch, and he definitely wants her in bed.

Unfortunately, someone else wants Leah—in the worst way. Now Tyler’s on a mission to protect the woman he’s falling in love with while proving he’s worth falling for, and Leah must decide whether Tyler is a catch worth catching…







My Review
http://www.readersretreats.com/2019/08/catching-him-how-to-catch-alpha-1-by.html?zx=8f6bfb45f2c70e14

 Purchase Links

AMAZON US / UK / CA / AU

Free in Kindle Unlimited


ALSO AVAILABLE







Author Bio


Aurora Rose Reynolds is a New York Times, USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestselling author whose wildly popular series include Until, Until Him, Until Her, Underground Kings and Shooting Stars.

Her writing career started in an attempt to get the outrageously alpha men who resided in her head to leave her alone and has blossomed into an opportunity to share her stories with readers all over the world.


Author Links

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“Lincoln and Wren had me flipping through the pages frantically, begging for more. Their chemistry was explosive, their love story both hilarious and tender.”- L.J. Shen, USA Today bestselling author

 

Handle With Care, an all-new romantic comedy from New York Times bestselling author Helena Hunting is available now!

 

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HE WANTS TO LOSE CONTROL.

Between his parents’ messed up marriage and his narcissistic younger brother, Lincoln Moorehead has spent the majority of his life avoiding his family. After the death of his father, Lincoln finds himself in the middle of the drama. To top it all off, he’s been named CEO of Moorehead Media, much to his brother’s chagrin. But Lincoln’s bad attitude softens when he meets the no-nonsense, gorgeous woman who has been given the task of transforming him from the gruff, wilderness guy to a suave businessman


SHE’S TRYING TO HOLD IT TOGETHER.

Wren Sterling has been working double time to keep the indiscretions at Moorehead Media at bay, so when she’s presented with a new contract, with new responsibilities and additional incentives, she agrees. Working with the reclusive oldest son of a ridiculously entitled family is worth the hassle if it means she’s that much closer to pursuing her own dreams. What Wren doesn’t expect is to find herself attracted to him, or for it to be mutual. And she certainly doesn’t expect to fall for Lincoln. But when a shocking new Moorehead scandal comes to light, she’s forced to choose between her own family and the broody, cynical CEO.


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My Review
http://www.readersretreats.com/2019/08/handle-with-care-shacking-up-5-by.html

 Download your copy today!




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About the Author
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of PUCKED, Helena Hunting lives on the outskirts of Toronto with her incredibly tolerant family and two moderately intolerant cats. She's writes contemporary romance ranging from new adult angst to romantic sports comedy.


Connect with Helena:
Instagram | Twitter | Facebook | Facebook Fan group | Website

Never miss an update! Subscribe to Helena's mailing list: http://bit.ly/2MlRKq6




I really love Helena Hunting. She always manages the perfect mix of romance and comedy. And even though she seems to have my sense of humour I still find I end up with a few unexpected laugh out loud moments that took me completely by surprise. 

When I read the last book I was expecting more laughs from the book given the sex toy selling main character and the stuck up CEO counterpart and I was a little disappointed by my own expectations. So I really went into this one not expecting anything but a good story and I can say Helena definitely delivered. 

Luckily this book can be read as a standalone since my goldfish memory had forgotten most of the details until I was reminded. And that just made me love it even more. I had all these reminders of previous couples I had loved. And I got a whole mess of Armstrong drama to make me giggle and judge.

Lincoln and Wren were perfect. And I seriously enjoyed every minute of the tease as much as I loved them together. Lincoln had so much going on and he handled it all so well, with the help and guidance of Wren. They were the perfect compliment to each other and I seriously enjoyed the epilogue and can't wait to see where Helena will go with the series next.



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I want you . . . even when I hate you.


I Hate You, an all-new enemies to lovers sports romance from Wall Street Journal bestselling author Ilsa Madden-Mills, is available now! 

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Blaze Townsend: I hate you.

Charisma Rossi: I hate you more.

She’s been expecting this ever since their latest showdown. She had good reason.

Hottest guy she’s ever seen.

Former fling.

Dumped her in front of her friends.

At her own party.

So no, she’s not about to forgive and forget just because he sits next to her in class.

He thinks all he has to do is turn on those baby blues, and she’ll melt right back into his arms. Please.She’d be crazy to let this cocky player affect her again. (Tell that to her body.)

Charisma Rossi.

Nerd girl with a dash of bad.

The one who got under his skin.

The one he cut loose.

Blaze knows she’s the riskiest prospect at Waylon University, but none of the interchangeable girls he hooks up with have ever made him feel the way she did. There’s absolutely no way he can have the girl and the game.

So why can’t he stop trying to win her back?

Can this wide receiver score the girl or will he make the biggest fumble of his life


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  My Review
http://www.readersretreats.com/2019/08/i-hate-you-by-ilsa-madden-mills.html

 Download your copy today
or read FREE in Kindle Unlimited!




Excerpt:
“Need some help?”

I’m on my tiptoes when the question comes, trying to reach a book on the top shelf in the bookstore at the student center.

My heart does a nosedive off a cliff as that familiar gruff voice washes over me, his accent a smooth drawl that’s reminiscent of hot summer nights and slow kisses—kisses we never had…well, except for that one time freshman year.

I ignore him and try to grab the book.

“You’re too short. Let me,” Blaze says, this time closer, his voice soft.

I ease back on my feet and whip around, internally wishing I’d worn something more I hate you and don’t you wish you still had me, but sadly, I’m not in my kickass shoes and itchy dress. Today it’s flat-soled red Converse, black joggers, and a Yankees sweatshirt. I blow at a piece of hair in my face. Shit.

Of course, he looks magnificent in a tight long-sleeved black shirt that clings to his broad chest and tapered jeans molded to those leg muscles. His face is unshaven, the darkness on his jawline adding a broody look.

Curse him and his hotness.

I stare at him a little too long, until I snap out of it.

“I don’t need help,” My voice is strangled as I move to brush past him—forget the textbooks—but he reaches out and takes my elbow.

“Charisma—”

His fingers are a hot brand on my skin—it’s the first time we’ve touched in three months—and I pull away. A tremble starts in my legs. How dare he?It was one thing to see him in a social setting and pretend I was fine, but when we’re face to face without people watching… “Don’t put your hands on me. I’m not your hookup anymore, football player.”

His face reddens, and he drops his arms. “I didn’t mean—” he stops, not finishing as he studies my face.

I wonder what he sees. You know what he sees, Charisma—someone who wasn’t up to his usual standards.

Everything I didn’t say last night rushes out. “Didn’t mean to what? Dump me in the middle of my own sorority’s party in front of all my friends and half of campus? And you know, that’s totally fine. We both knew I wasn’t enough to keep your attention.”

His jaw clenches and he frowns, his brow furrowing. “I didn’t plan for things to happen that way.”

“How did you want to break up with me? Over candlelight? A text would have worked just fine,” I bite out.

The silence builds between us, and he watches me intently, as if trying to figure me out. He starts at my hair and works his way down to my feet, then comes back to my face. Just when I think I might combust from the intensity of his eyes, he looks away.

“What?” I cock my hip. “You look like you want to say something.”

He taps his hand against his leg. Ice-blue eyes, ones I used to stare into and get butterflies from, glitter down at me. “You just can’t handle that ended things, sweetheart.”

“Not your sweetheart.”

“Never were.”

Shit…shit…my heart feels like an anvil just landed on it, heavy and hard, and I can’t breathe for a second at his words, part of me pissed, the other part devastated. I wanted to be his sweetheart, I did, but he…

You’re not my type.

“Thanks for the reminder,” I say quietly, my anger folding away piece by piece and slipping into that horrible self-pity I despise.

He closes his eyes and scrubs his face with those talented hands, strong and big and capable, skillful with a football.

He steps in front of me, much like he did last night, and I tilt my head back to take him in. At my height of five feet, three inches, it’s hard to glare at a guy who towers over you and not look ridiculous, but I manage—until his eyes flicker with lingering emotion.

I dart my eyes around the store, searching for a way out, but I’m stuck between him and a bookshelf. “You’re blocking my path.” I focus on his legs. No sexiness there—well, except for the tight muscles under that denim.

“This is what I know,” he says in a low voice, ignoring my statement. “You told me we were just messing around. You set all the rules. Isn’t that how you operate? So why does me ending things with you even matter?”

“You never asked for more. You could have.” The revealing words fall around us, tinged with hurt, and I want to pull them back.

The silence between us crackles, yet I’m aware of other people around us. There are a few girls on another aisle, and I glance over as one of them pulls out her phone. No doubt she’s taking a picture of him. Part of me retreats, anxious she’ll get me in that photo—a girl who clearly doesn’t belong. He doesn’t notice. Everyone knows who he is, and they’re probably wondering why he’s talking to me.

“No, I didn’t,” he finally says, the words taut as if pulled from him unwillingly. He taps his leg, his tell that he’s anxious or angry. We weren’t together long, but every moment we spent together, I studied him like a wine connoisseur given a glass of rare cabernet. I know what makes him laugh, usually random things that make no sense. I know that groan he makes deep in this throat when he slides inside me, like he’s home. I know the feel of his hand when he cups my face and stares at me, a hesitant expression on his face—

“You can’t even look at me anymore. I wonder why,” he says, his voice a challenge.

Steeling myself, I face those baby blues. “You know why. I wish we’d never met up last fall. I wish you’d never flirted with me. I wish I’d never fucked you that first time in the library—”

“Same page. Same fucking page, Charisma.” And then he’s walking away, broad shoulders swaying as he stalks down the aisle…

 


About Ilsa Madden-Mills
Ilsa head shot-2Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and USA Today best-selling author Ilsa Madden-Mills is best known for her angsty new adult romances and romantic comedies.

Eight of her eleven novels have placed in the Amazon Top 10 Best-seller List: Dirty English #1; Fake Fiancée and I Dare You #2; I Bet You, Filthy English, and Very Bad Things #6; Boyfriend Bargain #8; The Last Guy, her collaboration with Tia Louise, #4. 

A former high school English teacher, she adores all things Pride and Prejudice, and of course, Mr. Darcy is her ultimate hero.
She's addicted to frothy coffee beverages, cheesy magnets, and any book featuring unicorns and sword-wielding females. Feel free to stalk her online.


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