Category Archives: interracial dating

A sneak peek of “Overdose: A British Bad Boy Romance”

Today’s the day! Can’t wait for you all to dig into this book, but for now, please enjoy a sneak peek of the first two chapters. When you’re done, I’d love for you to share, like, and comment! Release day is Sunday, October 9th, so Make sure you’re on my email list to get the notification as soon as it’s live!

And don’t forget, I still have a giveaway going for anyone interested in helping with my Release Day Countdown Event. For the chance to win a $50 Amazon gift card, a signed paperback copy of OVERDOSE, plus a bunch of swag, just CLICK HERE to sign up and then you can come back to read 🙂

Also, if you like to party and LOVE winning prizes, come hang out with me and some of your favorite authors of bad boy romance at my Facebook party, Bad Boys Do It Better, taking place Thursday, October 6th. JOIN NOW!

XOXO–Raven

❤ Blurb ❤

**Special Notice: This romance is of the darker variety, contains adult themes, and sexually explicit content. The hero is flawed and dirty. Consider yourself warned**

Insomniac. Narcissist. Sex addict.

…the only description sex therapist, Vanessa Ferris, was given of her newest patient, a fellow psychologist, Dr. Zander Hale.

From the moment he entered her office, she knew he’d be trouble—possibly the good kind. What she wasn’t prepared for was how he’d blindside her; how he would challenge everything she thought she knew about her profession, about herself.

There are certain lines a doctor is warned never to cross with their patients, but she didn’t listen.

Now, they’re both addicted.

One hit was all it took.

***AUTHOR NOTE: “OVERDOSE” is a full-length standalone, bursting at the seams with sexual heat, thanks to one smoking hot bad-boy and his feisty, no nonsense therapist. Expect a dark tale of erotic romance with no cliffhanger. This story is not for the faint of heart and is definitely intended for readers 18 and older.
(130,000+ words)***

❤ Chapter One ❤

“Your messages, Dr. Ferris.”

Vanessa flashed her secretary, Greta, the best smile she could muster this early in the morning and accepted the stack of pink memos. After uttering a quick, “Thank you,” she continued on toward her office at the end of the dimly lit hallway—a hallway with walls made of Tuscan fieldstone. The blend of ash and coal tones were too dark in her opinion, but there hadn’t been much consideration for her preferences when the décor was chosen. This practice was technically half hers, but these dark walls served as yet another reminder of how little that mattered.

She had no voice in this partnership.

Never had.

During the half hour before her first appointment, she intended to return a few calls and finish the still-warm cup of coffee in her hand. Passing by Simon’s door, the sound of his and a patient’s muffled voices could be heard inside. It was likely this early session had been Vanessa’s saving grace; the only reason Simon wasn’t waiting at her desk already this morning. That was his latest ploy and she hated it. Since he wasn’t getting much conversation from her outside the office, he resorted to cornering her inside the building where he knew she’d be civil.

Now that the divorce proceedings had begun, all she offered her soon-to-be ex was one word answers and even those were few and far between. It was bad enough they were still linked as business partners by their joint practice. In her eyes, that was enough; he didn’t deserve her time off the clock, too.

Not after all he’d done.

Thumbing through the messages again as she settled into her seat, Vanessa zeroed in on one from a former colleague, Dr. James Keiser—or, Jim, as she was accustomed to calling him. Generally speaking, he only called when an interesting case presented itself, one he thought she’d be better equipped to handle. Tapping a pen on the edge of her desk, she contemplated.

Who would it be this time?

His referrals were always so colorful; clients who presented a welcomed challenge.

“Jim? Hey, it’s Vanessa. Looks like you called after I left the office yesterday?”

When he hesitated, she sat back in her seat and prepared herself, swallowing down a sip of coffee while she held the phone.

“As a matter of fact, I did,” came a gruff voice on the other end of the line. “I know you’re busy, as am I, so I’ll cut right to the chase. How’s your patient roster looking these days? I think I may have someone who could benefit from seeing you.”

Vanessa shrugged to herself and calculated. “Full enough, but there’s always room for more,” she answered. Now wasn’t the time to turn down new patients; not with her plans to branch off from Simon in the near future. “Who do you have for me?”

“Male. Thirty-five years old. Insomniac, possible narcissistic personality disorder—”

“That’s all very interesting, but how about you get to the good part,” she cut in, smirking at Jim’s tendency to tiptoe around his point. “Why’re you sending him my way?” she asked pointedly. “Nothing you’ve mentioned thus far warrants sex therapy.”

“Well, in addition to what I’ve already mentioned, the patient also suffers from hypersexual disorder—your area of expertise, not mine,” he finally added.

A sex addict; nothing Vanessa hadn’t dealt with before. She nodded to herself thinking this case would likely be routine. “Okay. That sounds simple enough. Can you tell me more?”

Jim hesitated again and Vanessa’s brow lifted as intrigue set in. “Actually… I’d like for you to delve into this one on your own. And the sooner you can avail yourself, the better.”

Resting both elbows on her desk, she frowned. Why the rush?

“By any chance, do you have an opening today?” Jim’s persistence definitely piqued her interest.

She checked her schedule. “I can fit him in at one.”

“Perfect. I’ll send him over.”

When the call ended, Vanessa sat back and drafted a mental list of reasons her former colleague could’ve been so eager to get this patient in to see her. Glancing at the clock, she dismissed the thoughts and opened the drawer that held her pen and notepad. Her first appointment would begin soon.

Within ten minutes, Greta buzzed the intercom. “Your nine o’clock is here.”

“Thanks. Send her in, please.”

Perched in her chocolate-colored, leather armchair, Vanessa stared at the blank sheet of paper and waited for Jasmine Emerson to enter. The three short knocks at the door carried an air of familiarity now after seven months of weekly sessions.

“Come in.”

Jasmine stepped inside and took a seat. Pushing pale, blonde hair behind her shoulders, she gave a tight smile. Vanessa returned the gesture and assessed her patient’s posture and overall mood before speaking.

“Good morning, Jasmine.”

A distracted, “Morning, Dr. Ferris,” was returned. The heavy, southern drawl she spoke with slowed the pace of her words in a way Vanessa found charming. It wasn’t a common accent to hear in Denver, which made it even more pleasant.

Vanessa glanced down at her notes from the previous session. “So… how’d your little homework experiment turn out? Were you successful?”

Jasmine sighed, her expression speaking volumes. “No, not exactly. I mean, Drew and I tried what you said, but he was a little uncomfortable with the idea of me… you know… touching myself. According to him, masturbation isn’t natural for a woman.”

Vanessa had heard both men and women express this same notion—that self-gratification for a man is perfectly acceptable, but for a woman? Completely ‘unladylike’. If there was any truth to that theory, she was about as unladylike as they came, especially lately.

Clearing her throat, she pushed her personal issues to the back of her mind and focused on Jasmine.

“It’s not uncommon for men to have these views. Did you try talking to Drew about why he feels this way?”

Jasmine nodded, blinking blue eyes. “A little, but he wouldn’t really give me a straight answer. I guess the idea of it just freaked him out.” She sighed and slumped against the back of the couch.

“What’s on your mind?” Vanessa asked, seeing clear signs of frustration on her patient’s face and in her body language.

“Honestly? Sex. Sex is on my mind,” Jasmine admitted, laughing a little, but then her smile faded, giving way to the sadness Vanessa had grown accustomed to seeing her bear.

“I’m at my wits end,” she went on. “It’s been eighteen long months since my husband’s been a… a real husband to me and I’m losing hope that it’ll ever change. I suppose this would all be at least tolerable if the man believed in… you know… oral stimulation,” she added in a hushed tone, “but even that’s off the table. I shared with you that our families were deeply religious, but his upbringing was clearly stricter than mine. The man still believes anything other than plain, vanilla missionary is a sin.” There was a vacant look behind Jasmine’s eyes when she paused. “Lately… I’ve even considered filing for divorce.”

Hearing the word ‘divorce’ made Vanessa shudder. As someone currently going through that hell, she wouldn’t wish it on anyone.

“It’s common for soldiers with PTSD to suffer from prolonged impotence, Jasmine. No, not all of them manifest symptoms in the same way, but what your husband’s experiencing is actually quite normal.”

“Maybe. But what I’m going through isn’t normal. I find myself watching other men like a predator, Dr. Ferris. The pizza guy. My son’s high school friends—the legal ones,” she clarified. “The mailman.”

Vanessa cleared her throat again, but didn’t comment.

“Dr. Ferris, I’m not the type of woman to run around on her man, but this is my reality. It’s so… unnatural,” Jasmine added, not bothering to hide her frustration.

“Hold on to that feeling. Now tell me what ‘unnatural’ means? What exactly are you experiencing, feeling, when you say that?”

Jasmine toiled over Vanessa’s question for a moment. “I feel… vulnerable, like cheating is a very real possibility. And after twenty years of marriage, this is new to me. Drew and I went from four, five times a week to nothing. It’s hard to just turn off those feelings.”

“How did you deal with the sexual depravation while Drew was deployed? Is it possible to draw on those methods again?”

Jasmine sighed. “When he was away, I waited. The longest he was ever gone was six months, so I dealt with it. But we’re not talking six months; we’re at eighteen and counting.”

These sessions would’ve been so much more productive if Drew would give in and come to therapy with his wife. That would give Vanessa a chance to analyze his deep rooted sexual reservations and maybe offer some help. But for now, all she had to go on were Jasmine’s observations and assumptions.

She scribbled a few notes on her notepad and then met Jasmine’s gaze again.

“Do you truly believe you’d be happier being separated from your husband?”  Vanessa asked, making sure she conveyed no judgment in her tone.

Jasmine shifted in her seat, becoming even more visibly flustered. “Yes and no.”

“Why yes?”

Jasmine shrugged her shoulders. “That part should be obvious.” Vanessa didn’t say anything, so her patient elaborated. “Because if I was… if I wasn’t married anymore, I could have sex with other men without feeling guilty.” She lowered her head when shame washed over her for having admitted such a thing.

“And why ‘no’?” Vanessa asked.

“Because I love my husband, Dr. Ferris. Despite what you may think, if I could, I wouldn’t be with anyone else for the rest of my life.”

Vanessa could hear the emotion heavy in her patient’s voice. “I’m not judging you, Jasmine.”

“Maybe not out loud, but you have to be thinking what a terrible person I am. Hell… I’d judge me, too, if it wasn’t my situation. I’m a married woman contemplating leaving her husband—the loyal war hero—just to get my itch scratched.” Jasmine seemed to get lost inside her head for a moment. “I don’t want to leave him, I… I just don’t know what else to do.”

Vanessa’s thoughts drifted to her own situation as she listened to Jasmine voice her frustrations. She had her own hurt to bear, hurt that ran deep. Making the decision to leave Simon wasn’t an easy one, but it felt like the only option. Their trust, their bond, had been severed. No amount of time or effort could mend that. When she came out of her thoughts, she tuned in to Jasmine’s voice again.

“I just want sex. Like… a lot of it. Now. Does that make me a bad person?”

“No,” Vanessa replied. “It makes you human.”

Jasmine sighed and sank deeper into the couch. Vanessa made a few more notes and then asked what goal Jasmine wanted to set for her next session.

She blew out a breath and gave her answer some thought, posing it as a question when she finally spoke. “I could try masturbating for Drew again? See if I can get him to loosen up a bit?”

“Are you comfortable with that?” Vanessa asked.

“I mean… I am. It’s Drew who can’t handle it. Maybe if we talk about it first, I can figure out what his issue is with it.” As she stood, she sighed heavily like before. “At this point, I almost don’t even care what he thinks. He’s lucky I haven’t resorted to dry-humping random household objects just to get off.”

Vanessa held in a laugh and lowered her gaze to her paper.

“Same time next week?” Jasmine asked.

“Your slot should be open. Just double-check with Greta on your way out.”

Jasmine nodded politely and then shut the door behind her.

Alone at last.

Each session was draining in its own way. Some patients were needier than others—looking for Vanessa to iron out all of their problems in one half-hour or hour-long session. Others left her feeling ineffective, which kept her on a constant search for new ways to approach their cases. Each one was like its own individual marathon. Some patients just wanted a hand to hold when they crossed the finish line; others wanted to sit on the sidelines and watch Vanessa run the distance all on her own. She soon came to realize that being a psychologist was tiring, thankless work.

The sound of a knock on the door startled her. “Come in.”

She watched as Simon peered around the door before entering and instantly regretted not asking who it was the second she laid eyes on him. That smug face of his made her sick to her stomach. He gave a half smile behind a gold-toned beard, one that had become equal parts gray over the last decade.

“Can I help you?” she asked in a clipped tone, hating that he continued to push like this.

Didn’t she deserve space?

Didn’t he owe her that after everything?

She was almost positive Simon had no clue just how deep this newfound hatred for him ran.

He took in the sight of her sitting in her chair, his soon-to-be ex-wife, rocking the hell out of a navy blue power-suit. When he failed to respond to her previous question, Vanessa stared, observing him right back as he ogled her.

Ignorant to Vanessa’s mounting intolerance, Simon’s gaze came to rest on her thighs—smooth, tight, the shade of a rich, expensive blend of coffee with just a small drop of cream. A memory flashed in his head, a vision of those same legs spread across his desk just after office hours in the Psych Building.

Their story began more than a decade ago, back when he was a prominent Psychology professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder and Vanessa was nothing more to him than an eager student who couldn’t outrun his charm. He was nearly twenty-years her senior, but the age difference was rarely felt. He had no trouble keeping up with her insatiable sexual appetite then or now.

Damn… he missed those days, when he was still allowed to touch her. After only one night with him, he had her thoroughly hooked, and she had him wrapped around her dainty finger.

But now… all he had to go on was the memory of what was.

From the start of their relationship, sex had been a major part of the connection. In fact, they hadn’t even gone on an actual date until Vanessa graduated with her Master’s degree. Meaning, for an entire year, commencing with the first day he saw her sitting in the front row of his lecture hall, the relationship was strictly sexual. Sure there was conversation afterward, but it wasn’t so much the intellectual or emotional bond that made them fall in love; it was the physical.

His eyes continued to wander as nostalgia reminded him of all he’d had and lost. He always loved her legs, especially when she had on a sleek pair of high heels like she did now. However, all he was allowed to do these days was look. Touching her was out of the question.

Six months had passed since Vanessa found pale-pink lipstick on the collar of a shirt he’d worn. It didn’t matter that he’d take all the cheating back if he could. To Vanessa, all that mattered was that her husband of nine years had been unfaithful… and he couldn’t blame her for that.

Feeling the cold hands of guilt inching their way up his back, Simon cleared his throat and stepped closer, running a hand through his blond and gray-streaked hair.

Vanessa continued to stare, repeating the phrase, “Can I help you?”

Simon initially thought to have a seat on the couch, but he knew he wasn’t welcome. That feeling should’ve been enough to keep him away altogether, but he couldn’t. He couldn’t fathom the idea of just letting his wife go. In his mind, regardless of how many offenses he committed, she would always belong to him.

“Did you uh… did you get my boy off to school all right this morning?” he asked, trying like hell to sound confident. It wasn’t like he didn’t have the right to inquire about their son, but damn if she didn’t make him feel like he didn’t. That icy glare of hers…

Blinking dark lashes Simon’s way, Vanessa sighed. “Don’t I always?”

Simon nodded and gave a tight smile, knowing his face had become red when it heated. Yes, he really did want to hear about his son, but that wasn’t the only reason he’d come to Vanessa’s office. He hated that, soon, the paperwork would all be final and he’d lose her for good. It was hard enough not getting to go home to her every night, but the idea of her no longer being his, the idea of her moving on one day… it was almost too much to handle. He loved her. She had to know that despite his actions; had to feel that.

In a fit of pure desperation, he spoke without giving much thought to what he might say. All he knew was that he had to say something. Time was running out. According to his lawyer, in a matter of weeks, maybe only two, everything would be finalized and he will have officially lost one of the two most important people in his life.

If only he’d been able to show her that. If only he’d been a better husband, a better man.

The words, “Let me take you to dinner this weekend,” kind of fell at Vanessa’s feet when they tumbled from Simon’s mouth. The statement came out forced and clumsy, but he didn’t care. For her, he’d be awkward and vulnerable, two things he’d never been, but he’d do whatever it took to win his wife back.

“We can call a babysitter for Ryan… or, or even take him with us if that’s what you want. I don’t care,” he went on. “Just… please.”  He paused to evaluate Vanessa’s blank expression.

When she puffed a short sigh and slid her glasses off, his gaze was trained on her dark-brown eyes. “Simon… I don’t know how much clearer I can make this.”

“Dammit, Nessa! Don’t shut me out!” He hadn’t meant to get upset, but he knew she was getting ready to reject this offer just like she had all the ones before it.

Weren’t they worth some sort of fight?

He felt like she’d been so dismissive about this whole thing. Granted, what he’d done was wrong, but… he was never given a chance to explain himself; was never given a chance to seek the help he knew he needed to resolve his… issues.

Issues he kept to himself.

Issues he knew could potentially push Vanessa even further away.

She’d cut him off with no real dialogue. Surely, someone with her expertise should’ve understood there was more to the story, he thought. His infidelity was just the tip of the iceberg.

That night was still so clear in his head. The second he walked through the door there wasn’t a question in his mind… she knew. At the time, he had no idea how she figured it out, but she knew. He could tell by the brokenness in her eyes. As soon as he stepped foot inside their bedroom, Vanessa came at him full-force, throwing her fists until he was able to restrain her. Through a blur of profanity and tears, she laid it all out on the table—what she found, how it made her feel, and what she wanted to happen next… she wanted him gone.

That was the end of it.

Simon had never been given the opportunity to tell her his side and that made him feel like he’d explode.

Vanessa stared after his outburst, trying to remember the last time Simon had raised his voice at her. She couldn’t recall, but knew it’d been years. She couldn’t understand why he’d even think she would accept such an invitation. Had she given him the idea that there was room to reconcile? No, she was sure she hadn’t. Yet and still, he was bold enough to ask.

“I think you should leave my office,” she said calmly, feeling the familiar sting of tears in the corners of her eyes. She could not and would not do this here, not in their place of business. Hell! She didn’t want to do it anywhere. There was nothing to talk about, nothing left of their relationship to salvage.

Simon read her mind, or read her face, rather.

The sound of Greta’s voice over the intercom broke the silence.  “Your next appointment’s in, Dr. Ferris. Should I send her in?”

A chill passed between Vanessa and Simon as they stared at one another, frustrated for two very different reasons.

“Sure,” Vanessa replied flatly.

Simon moved toward the door, feeling his back and shoulders tense after the fruitless exchange with his wife. She’d always been stubborn, but once upon a time he loved that about her. However, it was different when that stubbornness was aimed at him, serving the express purpose of keeping him out of her life.

Now, more than ever, he felt that their end was inevitable.

❤ Chapter Two ❤

“Your one o’clock, Dr. Ferris.”

Vanessa sighed heavily, second-guessing her decision to do this favor for her former colleague.

“Thanks, Greta. Send him in.”

While she waited, she tugged the hem of her skirt down over her crossed legs.

The door opened silently, minus the usual courtesy knock she expected. Watching from her seat, she observed her newest patient as he stepped into her office and surveyed the room, tucking a black, motorcycle helmet beneath his arm.

The first thought that came to her mind was how terribly attractive he was, like the kind of attractive that could easily make a woman do things she wouldn’t otherwise; the kind of attractive that bred trouble. This thought reminded her of the reason Jim had sent him her way—sex addiction. If she had to guess, his good looks made finding women to satisfy his urges pretty damn easy.

The distance between them disappeared as the beautiful stranger stepped closer.  Thick, dark hair on the crown of his head was neatly styled while the sides were shaven low. Vanessa stood and held in a breath as she continued to stare into eyes a peculiar shade of golden-brown. They sized her up slowly. The flecked orbs of his pupils seemed to burn brighter when he met her gaze and a dim smile touched his lips—damp as if he’d just moistened them with his tongue before crossing the threshold.

The fragrance he wore was subtle enough that it didn’t precede him. Instead, the scent came as sort of an afterthought once the two stood face to face. There was a perfect measure of sweetness and spice that made Vanessa breathe more deeply than what felt natural; drawing it in, savoring it, savoring him. She caught herself on the brink of getting carried away and drove the temporary fog from her thoughts.

In usual fashion, she greeted the gentleman with a smile just like she did all her other patients.

“Hello, I’m Dr. Vanessa Ferris,” she said, extending a hand.

“Zander Hale. Pleasure meeting you,” he said, taking Vanessa’s hand in his. Her eyes flickered at the sound of a heavy, British accent.

That was unexpected.

Motioning for Zander to have a seat on the burgundy couch across from her, Vanessa sank down into her own chair again, cross-legged just like before he entered. She skimmed the few details Dr. Keiser had shared—insomniac, possible narcissistic personality disorder, sex addiction. Gazing up, she found Zander already watching with inquisitive eyes as he eased his arms from the dark, leather riding jacket that clung to his frame.

Vanessa took a breath and did her best not to stare.

“I’d like to get to know you. Can you tell me a few things about yourself, Mr. Hale?”

“Zander,” he corrected. “And where exactly would you like me to start? Your request is a bit broad.” He stared at Vanessa expectantly, waiting for a more specific question.

She looked down at her mostly blank notepad and away from Zander’s intensity. “Well… your accent tells me you’re not from the States. Are you from England?”

“Yes. Beckenham, South London, to be more specific.”

When her patient fell silent again, Vanessa nodded. “Okay. What about family?  Wife? Children? Parents or siblings close by?”

Zander perched an elbow on the arm of the couch and cocked his head. “My mother is right where I left her. I have a brother. Younger. He moved here with me a decade ago. And no wife. No kids.”

“It’s interesting that you brought your brother here with you. Did he follow you for a reason?”

“I don’t see how that’s relevant,” Zander shot back, expressionless.

Vanessa took a shallow breath. No stranger to difficult patients, she was unmoved by Zander’s callousness.

“Well, today’s session is about me getting to know you.”

“That hardly seems fair,” he said with a smirk. “Sounds rather one-sided, wouldn’t you say? I’m just supposed to let you inside my head; let you poke around a bit, and then what? You feed me your ‘expert’ diagnosis after leeching off my bank account for a few years?” he asked.

“Is that your perception of therapy?” Vanessa asked calmly.

“Absolutely.”

“Why’s that?” She jotted down a note while waiting.

“Because that’s precisely the reason I chose the profession myself.”

Her pen stopped and she looked up into Zander’s intense gaze. “You’re a psychologist,” she reiterated.

He answered with a slow smile. “Does that scare you?”

“Why would that scare me? Your profession has very little to do with your treatment.”

He laughed cynically. “It has everything to do with it, actually.” He leaned forward and rested both elbows on his knees, closing the distance between himself and Vanessa just a bit. He liked to see a woman’s eyes dilate when he entered into that invisible bubble of personal space; the one that sets off all types of physiological alarms within the body when breached.

“Aren’t you the least bit interested in knowing what sort of sick, maniacal bastard has written textbooks on psychosis, neurosis, and erotomania, but can’t cure his own damn issues?” He laughed again. “I mean… aren’t you a little curious about what’s going on inside this head of mine?”

Vanessa remained still and void of expression after Zander’s outburst.

He held her cold gaze and couldn’t resist the urge to smile again as he realized something; his new doctor wasn’t easily rattled.

He liked that.

“I tell you what. Let’s cut to the chase. Let’s leave family out of it and just… dig right in, shall we?” he said, tapping a finger to his temple.

Vanessa nodded. “All right, you talk. I’ll listen.” If she was going to handle this case, she had to keep the upper hand.

Zander’s smile faded as he leaned his back against the couch, letting his eyes drag up the length of Vanessa’s brown legs. She cleared her throat, but didn’t look away from him.

“What’d the doc tell you I was in for?” Zander finally asked.

“The description I got was vague, so let’s just assume I know nothing.”

“Fair enough. To simplify things, I like sex. Need… sex,” he clarified.

Vanessa leaned her head to the side. “That doesn’t sound like anything out of the ordinary. Everyone’s sex drive is different. What makes yours qualify as a problem?”

The corners of Zander’s mouth lifted. He detected undertones of a challenge in Vanessa’s response.

“How often would you say you think about sex in a day?” she asked more pointedly.

“Always.”

She smiled, glancing down at the term ‘narcissistic personality disorder’ written on the sheet of paper. “I’m sure that’s an exaggeration.”

Zander remained stone-faced, prepared to prove his point. “Since entering your office, roughly…” he paused to look down at his watch, “…oh, six minutes ago, I’ve already imagined you sucking my cock from beneath your desk, fantasized about bending you over that table,” he said, pointing toward the mahogany antique to his right without breaking eye contact. “And, pardon my candor, but I’m currently fighting the urge to drop to my knees for a taste of you as we speak.”

While Vanessa sat still as a statue, Zander invaded that delicate boundary of space again before repeating the one word that summed it all up:

Always.”

She tried to steady her breathing while making another note. Zander turned to gaze out the window and Vanessa took a moment to watch him while his attention was elsewhere. His demeanor had shifted tremendously since he walked in. When the topic transitioned to sex, he became increasingly aggressive. Even now, his leg was shaking.

“How long have you suffered from—”

“Decades,” he answered, cutting her off. “Since I was fourteen, fifteen maybe.”

“You had your first sexual experience at fourteen?”

“Is that strange?”

Vanessa ignored the question, assuming it was rhetorical anyway. “What made you decide to seek help now?”

Zander let his eyes shift from the window, to Vanessa’s face again. “In short? These… urges, if you will, are a bit difficult to control. And judging by the myriad of credentials framed on that back wall,” he added, pointing, “I’m sure you can imagine how a condition such as this would eventually become an issue.”

Vanessa eased her glasses up from the tip of her nose and back into their rightful position. “How so?”

The question visibly annoyed her patient, but she confidently maintained eye contact while waiting for further explanation.

A sharp breath puffed from Zander’s lips. “Professionally. Romantically. Socially. What else would you like me to say?”

Vanessa again noted his hostility. He was seething in his seat while she stared on, indifferent to his unprovoked outburst.

“Sex brings about a plethora of reactions—physical, emotional, psychological—what is it that sex makes you feel?”

The silence that filled the air was unforeseen. She expected Zander to have a response readily available. As a psychologist himself, she assumed this was something he’d thought of before.

“Physically, it’s about the heat.”

Not what she expected to hear. “Tell me more.”

Zander shrugged and stared at the ceiling while he explained. “Body heat—that simple, and yet very significant, indicator that you’re not alone.”

“Does being alone—”

“Scare me?” he cut in. “No, but I don’t think any of us would choose it over the alternative.”

Inwardly, Vanessa agreed with Zander’s logic. “Okay… is that all for the physical?”

His eyes flickered a little before he gave way to a smile. “Really? You’re going make me say it?”

The corner of Vanessa’s mouth turned up, too. “We’re both adults, professionals. I’m only trying to gain an understanding of where this addiction stems from.”

Still smirking, Zander nodded and gave her the answer she sought. “Suit yourself. Physically? I love that first plunge—that initial burst of wet heat enveloping my cock.” He smiled bigger just thinking about it. “Drives me absolutely mad.”

Vanessa took a deep breath and squeezed her thighs together. She’d gone too long without sex—with someone other than herself, anyway—to listen to such explicit details without it affecting her. Although she figured Zander was none-the-wiser, she felt embarrassed by her body’s very human reaction to his words all the same.

Her cheeks blazed hot. When the corner of his mouth turned up into a smile, she held her breath.

“Do you think the feeling is equally as intense for women as it is for men? Sex, I mean?” he asked out the blue. “I’ve always wondered that.”

Vanessa shifted in her seat. “I can’t answer that.”

“Why not?”

“Because it would be inappropriate.”

Zander chuckled, nodding as he analyzed Vanessa’s statement. “So… it’s okay for you to ask me intimate questions, but I can’t do the same?”

She nodded. “That’s the nature of the doctor/patient relationship. You know that.  You’re a professional.”

“Precisely my point. My occupation blurs those lines a little, doesn’t it? We’re not simply doctor and patient; we’re equals, two well-seasoned professionals exploring the depths of my sub-conscious… together. I just think this would be far more interesting if you stepped out of the role of bartender and pulled up a stool on this side of the bar for a change. Perhaps there’s even an issue or two rolling around inside that head of yours, just waiting for someone like me to pluck it from the shadows.”

Vanessa felt a strong need to shift the conversation back to Zander. She ignored his reasoning and asked, “Does it make you uncomfortable to share with me?”

He stared in silence.

“You don’t want to continue?” she asked.

“Pardon me if this offends you in some way,” he cut in, ignoring her inquiry, “but I find you… incredibly attractive. Almost to the point of it being a distraction.”

She cleared her throat, but never missed a beat otherwise. “Thank you, but we have to stay on topic. Let’s talk about the emotions you attach to sex.”

Her quick, verbal maneuver made Zander smile. He’d cooperate for now. “Sex makes me feel… centered.”

“Centered?”

“Yes. Specifically, the moment I ejaculate—in a woman, on her… doesn’t much matter where.” He paused to smile again. “Even when I masturbate. Granted, the satisfaction isn’t quite as fulfilling, but it holds me over until I find another willing victim.”

Zander watched Vanessa squirm at the mere mention of him coming. He was pretty sure she thought he hadn’t noticed, but he did. Clearly, she’d never been in the presence of a man like him. Not much went unobserved. For instance, she’d licked her lips approximately four times in the last sixty seconds. Also, she’d crossed and uncrossed her legs every other minute since he entered her office—one of many tell-tale signs of sexual frustration in women. Zander felt a primal instinct kick in, resonating from deep within his chest.

“Victims? That’s how you view the women you sleep with?” Vanessa asked, cutting into his thoughts.

He shrugged.  “No. Just a clever play on words. I’m actually very sure I’ve left each and every one of my customers feeling quite satisfied.”

“Now they’re customers,” she said flatly. “So you consider sex a service?”

Zander laughed and draped his arm casually over the back of the couch, watching as Vanessa pushed her long, dark hair behind her shoulder. It was thick and he imagined it to be very soft to the touch. He envisioned himself raking his fingers through it when he spoke again.

“Do you always take everything so literally? Perhaps I should’ve warned you of my perpetual sarcasm, too, when I introduced myself. Is there a treatment for that?”

When Vanessa didn’t respond, or smile for that matter, Zander shook his head. With a sigh, he answered, “No, Dr. Ferris… sex is not a service.”

She wrote in her notepad instead of speaking. While he stared, it was like a switch flipped within him. All of a sudden, Zander regained the ability to see through the smoky haze of lust that overtakes him at inopportune times such as this. He was like a man possessed, but every now and again, the true Zander Hale was able to break through and redirect his own path.

When Vanessa looked up again, she tried to analyze the expression on Zander’s face.

He’d lost himself in her dark eyes, memorizing their exact shade in contrast to her chestnut-brown skin. Again, he felt conflicted.

While she waited for him to speak, she counted her breaths to keep them steady. The way he stared at her, into her, it was unnerving. She couldn’t let someone like him know her defenses were down; couldn’t let him know she was experiencing the longest sexual drought of her life thanks to the untimely demise of her marriage.

“I’m not entirely sure this arrangement is going to work out,” Zander finally blurted, the abruptness of the statement catching Vanessa by surprise.

She frowned a little. “And why is that?”

His eyes dropped to her breasts, watching as they rose and fell with each intake of air. The charm to her gold necklace rested in her cleavage and he forced himself to look up at her face again. However, this helped very little. Now, there were her full lips to fixate on, still moist from that incessant licking she’d been torturing him with. He turned away. It was all he could do to clear his thoughts.

“Because,” he replied, “I just have a feeling our sessions will be very counterproductive to my treatment. And, contrary to what you’ve observed here today, I do actually want to be cured.”

“Well, for starters,” Vanessa interjected, “I think ‘cured’ is the wrong word. That would imply there’s something wrong with you.”

Zander laughed cynically. “Wouldn’t you say that there is, in fact, something very wrong with me, Dr. Ferris?”

Vanessa shook her head. “No, Zander, I wouldn’t. There’re varying degrees of normal. Some of us are extreme in areas where others aren’t. You just so happen to be extremely sexual. That doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with you.”

She crossed her legs again and his heart raced.

Vanessa noticed him staring and cleared her throat to regain his attention.

“Now, I can’t force you to return next week, but I’ll schedule you anyway. Hopefully, you’ll go home and think about it, see that our session today did at least a little good, and you’ll be back here to see me next week.” She flashed a confident smile and Zander actually felt guilty that she had so much confidence in him.

“As you wish,” he breathed, standing to his feet.

Vanessa stood, too. “It was very nice meeting you.”

Zander nodded, but deep down he knew he should end things here, leave this building, and forget that it, or Dr. Ferris, even existed. However, it was a little late for that. She’d already left a lasting impression.

Vanessa extended her hand to shake his. “I’m sure that, if you give this a chance, you’ll be very happy you did.”

Reluctantly, Zander returned the gesture and held Vanessa’s gaze, feeling her soft, supple skin against his palm.

“I agree,” he replied, thinking to himself, ‘…But will you be happy I did?’

erwtxol0w8ehg(My Muse for Dr. Zander Hale: Actor, Joseph Morgan)

Wanna know what happens next? Make sure you add yourself to my email list before chapter three is delivered the morning of Friday, September 16th 😀 Just click here!

 

❤ The Official Trailer ❤

 COVER REVEAL VERSION_OVERDOSE

Add OVERDOSE on Goodreads today, by simply clicking HERE 😀

MARCO is Live!!

…and did I mention, for a limited-time, it’s only 99-pennies or FREE through Kindle Unlimited?

It’s official; my 11th book just went live this morning and I hope you enjoy getting to know Marco and Brynn through their story!!! MARCO is the first standalone in a new series I’m working on called “The Men of Indecent Exposure” and, I’m gonna be honest, I really had fun with this setting! Can’t wait to bring you the next guy’s story!

Marco and Brynn were such a pleasure to write and I can only hope that’s felt as you read. I’ve mentioned before that this is a bit of a longer read from me (400 + pages), and that’s because of the delicacy with which their plight needed to be handled 🙂 Rushing through it was simply not an option. I won’t say much more about it, but if you’re interested to find out what happened beyond chapter one… you can one-click today! When you’re done, I’d LOVE to hear your thoughts, so don’t forget to head back to Amazon and leave a review ❤

XOXO,

Raven

Check out my Inspiration Board by clicking here

IE, #1_Marco

Cover Reveal: MARCO

Who is Marco Rios?

Most would say guys like him are only good at one thing… breaking hearts.

By day he’s a tattoo artist who took the plunge and started his own business, but by night…

He’ll be whoever you want him to be—a wet dream in the flesh.

Brynn Palmer was content, enjoying her low-key life, one that rarely sprouted surprises. That is, until she crossed paths with the force better known as Marco.

It was only one night, but that one night changed everything.

*To the guys, Indecent Exposure is more than just their place of business; it’s a place where they make women’s fantasies come true… and have a ton of fun doing it. “Marco” is the first standalone in “The Men of Indecent Exposure” series, so kick back and enjoy, but don’t get too comfortable. You never know when you’ll need to have your singles ready!*

IE, #1_Marco.jpg

*Save the date! Release day will be April 25th, 2016*

CLICK HERE to read the beginning of Marco and Brynn’s story!

Photo: Courtesy of DepositPhotos.com

Cover Artist: Raven St. Pierre

Length: 129,000+ words

Categories: Interracial Romance (BW/HM), Curvy Romance

Full-Length | No Cliffhanger | HEA

Connect with me!

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Who is Marco Rios?

I’ve got something new coming next month and I’m super excited about it!

MARCO is the first book in a series of standalones called The Men of Indecent Exposure and I can’t wait for you to meet them all in this installment 🙂 Marco and Brynn’s story is one of the lengthier books I’ve written in a little while (roughly 400 pages), but that’s due to their story being a bit more complicated to craft in light of their circumstances. Not sure what I mean by that? Mmm… check out the first chapter HERE and it’ll make sense lol.

I was supposed to be done with this one back in December and completely missed that deadline. Completely. Part of that was because of a few personal things I had going on (dealing with a death in the family in October among other things). And… honestly? This tale simply wasn’t as easy to weave as I initially thought it would be. I wanted you all to get the full experience with these two; all the important details, wanted you to understand them and their relationship 100%. So, I took my time with it and left nothing out. Hopefully, the extra energy I put into their story will be evident as you read 🙂

What to expect from this one:

  1. Realness. From the situation these two find themselves in from page one, to the emotions they experience while finding their way through it. I did my best to capture all of that.
  2. A story that ends with a happily ever after 🙂
  3. No cliffhanger. Yes, the guys stories will be connected because they’re all friends and work together at Indecent Exposure, but each installment will definitely be a standalone.
  4. A full-length read.

That’s it for now! I’ll have more to share in the coming weeks–teasers, maybe another excerpt in addition to the first chapter I shared yesterday, and a cover reveal coming up next Friday, March 25th! Can’t wait for that 😀

A few dates to keep in mind:

  • Release Day: April 25th, 2016 (or sooner… y’all know how I do lol)
  • First THREE chapters released to email subscribers: Saturday, March 26th, 2016. If you haven’t signed up, there’s still time. Just click this link and plug in your info 🙂
  • Cover Reveal: Friday, March 25th, 2016

 

XOXO,

Raven ❤

DELIVERED is Live!

Today, I hit a milestone… wait for it… I RELEASED MY 10th BOOK!

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000039_00014]

*Cover art by Najla Qamber of Najla Qamber Designs*

DELIVERED is a standalone within my Free Falling series, featuring secondary characters from the saga. It is completely unnecessary to have read the previous 4 installments to read this one. Head on over to Amazon to check it out!!!

❤ Blurb ❤

There were three simple rules:
Be available.
Be discreet.
Don’t fall in love.
They followed them all… except one.

Kai carries the weight of the world on his shoulders, always putting the needs of others before his own. Angel is almost thirty and finds herself starting over in more ways than one. Both sought an outlet, a no-strings-attached arrangement to escape reality, but what happens when that fantasy becomes the realest thing they’ve ever felt?

*This is a contemporary, interracial romance, featuring an Asian hero and African-American heroine. This is a full-length story with no cliffhanger whatsoever*

Grab your copy today!!!

Special Update

Delivered” will be here a little sooner than expected 🙂 I’ve decided to release the book January 11th, which is a week ahead of schedule. Feedback from the advanced copies I issued has been really positive, so I’m comfortable sharing it early. I hope you all enjoy it as much as the ARC recipients have!!!

Now on to the fun stuff 😀

Whenever I release a new book I like to do a “Behind the Scenes” post to share a few facts with you all and also give you insight into the characters. Angel and Kai were so much fun to write, but there were definitely some challenges, so here goes!

  1. Character ages: Kai is 34 and Angel is 29.
  2. Setting: The story takes place in New York City, which is where Sam and AJ’s story left off.
  3. While we’re on the subject of Sam and AJ, yes, they will definitely be present in this book. Quite a few people have asked and I love that these two characters have stuck with you all the way they have! With Sam and Angel being so close, and with Angel now working in AJ’s office, there will definitely be some crossover. There is still no need to have read the other books in the series to follow this one. It’s a true standalone.
  4. Kai’s nationality: Japanese and Thai. He speaks both just as fluently as he speaks English.
  5. I originally started this story in early 2015 and wasn’t excited about the direction it was going in at all, so I scrapped it and started over this summer. I’ve learned not to be “married” to a draft of ANYTHING because sometimes you have to jump ship if it doesn’t feel right. It hurts less if you don’t let yourself get too attached. In the end, I was MUCH happier with the story and am glad I was able to let go of the original 😀 (Random fact: I did the same thing with Free Falling books 2 and 3 and can’t imagine what the series would’ve turned into if I hadn’t lol. Moral of the story? Trust your gut.)
  6. What’s next from me? “Marco”, which will be released April 4th, so mark your calendar! Find out more about his and Brynn’s story on their inspiration board. There’s a special sneak peek of this book at the end of “Delivered” as well as something special from my good friend, Michelle Hardin 🙂 You can add “Marco” on goodreads today and check out the blurb while you’re there 😀 !

Anything else you want to know about “Delivered” or the other books in “The Free Falling Series“? Ask and I’ll answer 🙂 Take care and be on the lookout for Angel & Kai Monday, January 11th!!

If you missed the trailer or haven’t seen my inspirations for Angel & Kai, check them out below!

❤ BLURB ❤

There were three simple rules:

Be available.

Be discreet.

Don’t fall in love.

They followed them all… except one.

Kai carries the weight of the world on his shoulders, always putting the needs of others before his own. Angel is almost thirty and finds herself starting over in more ways than one. Both sought an outlet, a no-strings-attached arrangement to escape reality, but what happens when that fantasy becomes the realest thing they’ve ever felt?

*** DELIVERED is a standalone romance within the Free Falling Series and features secondary characters from the saga. This book can be read out of sequence of the series***

“Delivered” Cover/Trailer Reveal!!!

DELIVERED: Angel & Kai

Coming January 18th, 2016!!!

❤ Blurb ❤

There were three simple rules:

Be available.

Be discreet.

Don’t fall in love.

They followed them all… except one.

Kai carries the weight of the world on his shoulders, always putting the needs of others before his own. Angel is almost thirty and finds herself starting over in more ways than one. Both sought an outlet, a no-strings-attached arrangement to escape reality, but what happens when that fantasy becomes the realest thing they’ve ever felt?

*** DELIVERED is a standalone romance within the Free Falling Series and features secondary characters from the saga. This book can be read out of sequence of the series***

Character Inspirations

If you missed the preview of the entire first chapter, click here!!!

The Cover!!!

***cover art provided by Najla Qamber of Najla Qamber Designs***

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000039_00014]

 *The Trailer*

❤ Special thanks to all the friends/bloggers who helped me share the cover and trailer for DELIVERED today! Check them out and give their blogs a follow! ❤

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Chapter One_Delivered: Angel & Kai

Just a few things before you check out the first chapter of the book down below 🙂

With the release of “Delivered” just around the corner, I’ve decided to share the first chapter with you this morning! I’ll be releasing this chapter *and* the second through my email newsletter, so if you’re interested in reading more after this, just subscribe here to receive Chapter 2 this coming Monday, November 24th!

❤ For those who haven’t heard yet, DLIVERED: Angel and Kai (Free Falling, #4) is a standalone within my AMBW romance series, featuring secondary characters from the saga. Book one, Gravity, is still *FREE*, so go grab a copy today! ❤

Oh! And don’t forget, the cover/trailer reveal will be December 1st, so make sure you come back to check it out 🙂

Blurb

There were three simple rules:

Be available.

Be discreet.

Don’t fall in love.

They followed them all… except one.

Kai carries the weight of the world on his shoulders, always putting the needs of others before his own. Angel is almost thirty and finds herself starting over in more ways than one. Both sought an outlet, a no-strings-attached arrangement to escape reality, but what happens when that fantasy becomes the realest thing they’ve ever felt?

*** DELIVERED is a standalone romance within the Free Falling Series and features secondary characters from the saga. This book can be read out of sequence of the series***

Chapter One

Kai

An unfamiliar number flashed across my phone and I sent the caller straight to voicemail… again. Although, there was no name to confirm, I was positive it was the blind date I stood up—the third in the last two months. Maybe now my friends’ wives, girlfriends, and whoever else, would stop trying to pair me up with any and all single women they knew.

The tall buildings and busy streets synonymous with New York City, along with the haze of colorful lights, became almost hypnotic. Swiveling the drink in my hand, I caught a glimpse of my reflection in the living room window. I stood there, still clad in the white dress shirt and gray slacks I’d worn to work. I had to ask myself if this—skipping dates, working way too many hours, closing myself off—was some form of self-sabotage. Instead of meeting up with a woman who’d been described to me as “everything I could ever possibly want,” I stayed at the office until ten o’ clock tonight, working on things that could’ve honestly waited until tomorrow.

Part of what kept me after hours—or at least the excuse I let myself use—was the arrival of my new assistant in the morning. I was sure she wouldn’t be able to handle some of the harder tasks I would have otherwise handed over, so I did them myself to keep from falling behind.

With my former assistant, Carla, suddenly confined to the house, I had to scramble for a replacement. Her doctor wanted her out for the remainder of her pregnancy, followed by a three-month stint of maternity leave afterward. I admittedly had very little confidence in the newcomer. For one, everything worked out just a little too conveniently. There was a very real possibility that this woman, Angel, being a relative of my boss’ wife, might not even be qualified. How could I be sure she didn’t just get this job because she had connections?

She and I actually had a chance to meet a couple weeks ago, purely by coincidence. I stopped off to grab paperwork from my boss’ place before heading out of town on business. Little did I know, the beautiful woman who momentarily stole my focus, the one who had my palms sweating like an adolescent boy, was actually her—Angel.

There was a family gathering at the house and she happened to answer when I showed up. Had I known then the role she’d play, I wouldn’t have stared as long as I did… as intensely as I did. My eyes were all over her right up until we were introduced and I realized who she was. The last thing I wanted was for her to get the wrong idea about me or our arrangement. It didn’t matter how attractive I found her to be, didn’t matter what wayward thoughts entered my head; our relationship would never be anything but professional. Hopefully the first impression I left hadn’t skewed that.

I sipped the strong liquor in my glass again and tried to accept tomorrow’s changes. There was no time in my schedule to hold someone’s hand until they learned the ropes. Nor would I apologize for liking things done a certain way or expecting them to be done right the first time. My hours in the office, already being limited, meant efficiency was not a luxury; it was a requirement.

In the middle of my thoughts, a stray image of Angel echoed inside my head and I pushed it aside, focusing my attention on the day to come. It’d be her first and, most likely, I’d just give her busy work to keep her out of my hair. The things I called on Carla for were difficult and more often than not, she knew what I needed before I even asked. That type of intuitiveness was priceless and I was sure I wouldn’t find that anywhere else.

With how complicated my job and my personal life could get, I needed someone in place who moved when I moved, knew how to read me without me having to say a word. Carla had worked for me for almost seven years, even followed me over from my previous company. So, to say that I was dreading the upcoming transition was a huge understatement.

Just six months and it’ll all be over.

Feeling a swell of tension spread across my shoulders, I took a seat on the piano bench and continued to stare outside, gazing at the view just beyond my apartment. It was late and I should’ve been getting into bed, but my thoughts went back to the blind date I didn’t even think enough of to call and cancel with. This woman, whoever she may be, was probably better off not getting pulled into my life anyway. She couldn’t possibly know this, but by standing her up, I’d just done her a huge favor, given her an easy out. There wasn’t a woman alive who’d willingly shoulder what I brought to the table.

Not a single one.

*****

Angel

My father’s voice was not the first I wanted to hear this morning, but I knew he’d keep calling until I gave in and picked up. However, about five minutes into this call, it was clear he just wanted to give me a hard time about taking this job. In his mind, I should’ve been working with him years ago. After all, he was the one who inspired me to pursue a career in accounting in the first place. The plan was to finish school and then train under him until I was experienced enough to take on clients of my own. Well… that sounded good on paper, but I’d long since finished school and still wasn’t sure if the rest of that plan held the same appeal it once had.

My father was clearly having a hard time accepting that.

“Well, okay, Dad. Love you to pieces, but I can’t do this right now. The cab just dropped me off and I’m on my way in. Gonna have to chat later.”

He sighed into the receiver, letting me know he didn’t appreciate me dismissing him. Brushing shoulders with other pedestrians, I envisioned the scowl I knew had to be set on his mouth. I tried not to laugh.

“Love you,” I repeated to soften him up.

“Mmm hmm. I love you, too,” he finally grumbled. “I’ll be expecting that call from you later on.”

Of course he would. “I know, but aren’t you gonna wish me good luck, though?”

As much as I know he didn’t want to, he appeased me with a flat, “Good luck,” but then his attention went to my mother as she spoke in the background. When his voice came back, it was to say that Mom wanted to get a word in before he hung up.

I couldn’t help the eye roll that came with the realization that she, too, probably wanted to give me a hard time this morning. About what, I wasn’t sure exactly.

“Okay, put her on.” A brief pause on the other end gave me a moment to inhale a sharp breath as the crosswalk signal changed and I stepped off the curb.

“Morning, honey. I know you’re on your way to work, but I wanted to chat with you for a few,” she said, sounding incredibly chipper.

I gazed up at the tall building I stood in front of and nodded as if she could see me. “I’m actually here already, so I won’t be able to talk long.”

“That’s fine. I’m just checking in to see if you got that number from Sam yet.”

My stomach sank at my mother’s words. I should’ve known this was the reason she was so eager to get the phone from my father. Nearly every time we talked lately it was to bug me about getting the number for the therapist my cousin saw years ago when she faced something tragic. I didn’t need the number for Sam’s doctor, but my mother couldn’t seem to accept that answer the twenty-‘leven times she’d mentioned it before now.

“Ma, I’m—”

“Angel Corrine Hawthorne, you are not fine,” she cut in, knowing what I was about to say. “And if you don’t get that number, I promise I’ll make the appointment myself.”

How is it that my mother could still make me feel like a kid and I’m damn near thirty? She meant well; trust me I was aware of this, but I’m a grown woman who’s been handling her own business for quite some time now.

Had things been rough after my break up with Lamar? Yes, absolutely. You don’t spend three years with a man and just bounce back when it ends. To me, I should’ve been allowed to cope in my own way, though. I chose to fill the void my ex left in my life by keeping busy, which was my reason for volunteering at a local youth center a couple times a week. Some women like to talk about their feelings, share their experience with anyone who’ll listen, but that’s not me. It was hard enough living through the breakup once, so rehashing it every time someone asked what happened just didn’t appeal to me. So, for that reason, I didn’t bother with giving people the details. All anyone needed to know was that Lamar wasn’t in the picture anymore.

Period.

Case closed.

“Ma, I love you dearly, but this really isn’t the time.” I bit my tongue to keep from adding, ‘And this really isn’t your business.’

My mother fell silent on the other end of the line and I knew it wouldn’t last long. The cushion of time I left myself to get into the office and get settled before things got too crazy was slowly slipping away.

“You don’t think it’s a little strange that you haven’t talked to anyone about what happened with Lamar? I mean, one day you two are talking marriage, the next he’s gone and you won’t tell anyone why?”

‘No! It’s not strange! This is my life and I’m not about to tell you every detail of it,” I wanted to say, but I didn’t feel like having to apologize for it later. So, instead, I spoke gently to my mother.

“I just don’t want to talk about it. Don’t see the point in talking about it,” I clarified.

I knew what people thought. With how abruptly Lamar was out of my life, the women closest to me—my mother, and my cousin, Sam—assumed it was another woman. Time and time again I assured them that wasn’t the case, but I believe they still held on to that theory in the back of their minds.

Now my day was off to a sucky start. Thanks, Mom.

A polite older gentleman held the heavy, brass-framed door for me as I entered the building, mouthing a silent ‘thank you’ right after.

“I’ll stop pushing,” was my mother’s next statement. Did I believe her? Hell no; it wasn’t in her nature not to push, but I’d take it for now. I was already nervous about today and didn’t need the extra stress.

“I know it’s only because you love me,” I replied. “But I really am okay.”

An unconvinced-sounding “Mmm hmm,” was her response, and shortly after that she let me end the call like I so desperately wanted.

Veering left toward a coffee kiosk just inside the lobby, I did my best to clear my head of both conversations I had with each of my parents—about my decision to take this job and all the talk about Lamar. All that stuff was old news. It was time to try some new things, time to take steps in a new direction.

Standing in line, my stomach churned when I considered grabbing something to go with the cup of tea I planned to order. My eyes drifted toward a cheese danish in the glass display and I felt queasy again. Yeah… eating was definitely not an option, not with these nerves going haywire like they were.

While I waited to be helped, I watched the men and women pass by in their expensive suits, also noticing their equally expensive handbags and briefcases as they entered the building. While I should’ve been at ease because of the familial connection I had here—this branch of the company being run by my cousin-in-law, AJ—I felt uptight about it, actually. Being honest, I’d been second-guessing this decision almost from the beginning. Yeah, the pay was good, but so was the pay at my other job. I’d basically walked away from stability, from certainty, to take this short-term position. I couldn’t help myself, though. For months, I’d been itching for a change, which was why Sam thought of me as soon as she found out about the opening.

So many things that used to fit, things that used to make sense in my life, just stopped feeling right. It was like I woke up one day and just felt like I was in the wrong skin. Now I was anxious all the time, like I should be doing something else with my life, like I should be somewhere else, only there’s nowhere else to go.

One thing I liked about this new position was that it wouldn’t be the same thing day in and day out and I needed a little unpredictability in my life—even if this was the only way I could get it. From what I understood, the hours were kinda odd. Apparently my new boss, Kai, was in and out at crazy times of the day and night, and I had to work around that. I was okay with the schedule, but based on how rigid I heard he was, I hadn’t yet decided if we would mesh well. If not, another good thing about this job was that it’s temporary. I wouldn’t be here for more than six months.

Deciding against even the cup of tea, my eyes glanced over toward the security guards as I passed them on my left. Forcing myself to take another deep breath, I headed for the elevator. Seven floors up, I was supposed to check in with AJ and then I’d be at Kai’s mercy. I sighed at the thought of it. According to what Sam told me, I should expect him to be all business with little room for much else. I even got the impression he was skeptical about anyone other than his recent assistant being able to handle this job. I’m professional. I’m teachable, but accounting is my niche. This was all new to me, so I guess I was a bit skeptical myself.

Apparently, this girl who was in my position before was freakin’ Superwoman or something. So, not only did I have to learn this job at lightning speed, I had some pretty big shoes to fill, too.

No pressure, right?

“Perfect.” Reading the ‘out of service’ sign posted between the two elevators, my shoulders slumped. Six-inch heels and seven flights of stairs just seemed fitting, considering how wonderfully my day had already been going. “You have got to be freakin’ kidding me. Both elevators? Really?”

I’d just raked my nails over my scalp, feeling strands of my hair between my fingers, when the words, “Don’t sweat it. It should be fixed by lunchtime,” pulled me from my thoughts. The voice was very deep, equally smooth.

The statement had been spoken off to my right, so I turned that way, dropping my hand back down to my side. A set of dark, sloping eyes gazed right back at me.

Kai.

A barely-there smile softened his otherwise demure expression.

To break up the long, inappropriate stare I cast his way when I first laid eyes on him, I blinked. Kai stepped closer, wearing the hell out of a single-breasted suit, one that complimented his complexion in French-blue. I didn’t speak, drinking in every detail as we stood there—from the way his low-trimmed stubble accentuated his mouth, to the way his bronzy, sun-kissed skin contrasted the jet-black tone of his hair—freshly cut, might I add. The tailored attire hugged his torso and arms just enough, emphasizing the unmistakable divots and curvature of trained muscle beneath the sleeves. However, despite the slight bulk of his frame, his height made him appear slimmer in stature as my eyes crept up every inch of him.

Kai. I thought his name to myself again, feeling it roll off my tongue, although, I only uttered it inside my head. He struck me as the quiet, broody type—didn’t smile much either time we met, but when he did it was dim, reserved. That intrigued me.

His eyes gave away his Asian heritage and I detected a general… I don’t know… sexiness about him. I couldn’t put it to words, but it was there.

He extended his hand. “I’m not sure if you remember me, but I’m Kai. We met a couple—”

“I remember,” I cut in, offering my hand in return. How unfortunate that he, this beautiful, sexy man, was my new boss; the one Sam had warned me would be particularly hard to work for. ‘A stickler for detail and a perfectionist’ were the words she used to describe him.

The corners of his mouth lifted into a smile. Albeit a tight, hesitant one, it was a smile nonetheless.

“Angel, right?” he asked, letting my name drip from his lips. His deep voice entwined with each syllable and I couldn’t remember it ever sounding so good. Who would’ve thought hearing my own damn name would be such a turn-on?

I nodded in response, but didn’t speak.

“It uh…” He paused and ran a hand across his chin before continuing, letting his palm and fingertips graze over the dark, neatly-trimmed stubble there. “It went out late yesterday evening,” he went on, gesturing toward the sign. “Apparently, both elevators are on the same circuit or something, so when one went, the other did, too. Maintenance is usually pretty good about these sorts of things, though.”

Realizing I hadn’t yet broken my gaze, I nodded and offered a weak smile. “Oh, okay… good to know.”

“The stairs are right this way.” I zeroed in on his tanned skin and the expensive, gold watch on his wrist when his hand motioned toward the double doors at the far wall of the lobby. We were obviously headed the same way, to the same floor, so naturally we ended up walking together.

I did my best not to look Kai’s way when he held the door for me and I tried to keep that up even as we ascended the steps, but that didn’t last long because he decided to strike up a conversation.

“Nervous about today?” he asked. I got the feeling he meant for the question to come across lighthearted, easy, but it was anything but. There was a hint of tension in his voice that only added to what I was already feeling.

My eyes went his way and I started to tell him I was fine, but the honest answer slipped out instead. “Very nervous.”

He laughed quietly, which surprised me.

“Don’t be. Hahn speaks highly of you,” he said, referring to my cousin-in-law, AJ. “And despite what you might’ve heard,” Kai went on, “I’m not a bad guy.”

Sam’s description of Kai as a boss definitely contradicted that statement, but I found myself hoping this was true.

“Well… as long as you’re okay with me asking a ton of questions while I’m learning, there shouldn’t be a problem.”

Kai didn’t respond, didn’t say a word after that. Not one, leaving me to wonder if he preferred that I didn’t bother him.

Duly noted…

We went up a few flights of stairs in silence. It was awkward enough that, more than once, I considered stopping off, using the excuse that I needed to make a quick stop in the lady’s room just so I could get away from him. Being the talkative person that I am, it always left me feeling incredibly uncomfortable when people shut down on me. And that’s exactly what Kai had done. The moment I mentioned that I might need to come to him frequently for help, he froze up. His former assistant was awesome—I got it—but did that mean he wouldn’t even give me a chance?

I recalled the vibe I felt from him the first day we met, the vibe that dissipated the moment we found out we’d be working together. Was that what this was about? The reason I detected this chill toward me? Maybe he wanted to make sure I was aware of what our boundaries were? If that was the case, he had nothing to worry about. I mean, yeah, I know I didn’t imagine the mutual attraction between us at first glance, but he wasn’t the only one who shied away from it after we were formally introduced. I had no interest whatsoever in getting involved with a man who was now “technically” my boss.

Kai stepped to the door first when we reached our floor and held it for me.

“Thank you,” I said politely as I passed through. Kai responded with nothing more than a nod.

A narrow hallway led us to a pair of frosted, glass doors that read ‘Arata’ across both in bold letters. The brief exchange with Kai on the way up here did nothing but make me even more apprehensive about this, but it was too late to turn back now. Besides, I refused to throw in the towel on this. This change could only lead to good things. Despite my nerves, I could feel it. So, taking a deep breath, I stepped into the office.

Things were still quiet and I noted that several cubicles were empty as we passed. Kai must’ve noticed the inquisitive look on my face because he explained right after.

“Most of the employees don’t arrive until nine. I just prefer to start my day early when I can. I hope that’s not a problem.”

Staying poised as I followed his steps, I shook my head. “No. This is fine. I’m an early riser anyway,” I replied. “There’s no problem.”

Another nod from the man of few words.

While he led the way, I stared at the back of his head, at the dark, silky strands he styled neatly with a little bit of product. His shoulders moved in synch with his gait and I eyed his trim frame again, immediately chastising myself for doing so.

Kai’s steps slowed and I stopped beside him, clutching my handbag. His light touch to my elbow made goosebumps prickle on my arms despite there being no actual skin-on-skin contact between us; the long sleeve of my blouse prevented it. Still, the gentleness of the gesture was a stark contrast to his otherwise stoic demeanor.

“Hahn’s office is the second door on the left,” he said, referring to my cousin-in-law by his last name again. “Come see me when you’re done,” Kai added, gesturing toward another door, the one that apparently led to his own office.

His words trailed off and his fingers slipped away from the material of my top, but I swore I still felt them lingering for a moment. He’d gone his own way, casually easing one hand into the pocket of his suit pants while the other clutched the handle of a brown, leather briefcase. He was smooth, dapper, sexy, but I wouldn’t dare let any of those things cloud my judgement.

‘Find AJ,’ I said in my head, reminding myself what I was supposed to be doing. I’d been here once after hours with Sam, so even without Kai’s help, I would’ve found my way quickly. Giving a soft knock, I was invited in by a familiar voice, one that erased a bit of the morning’s anxiety.

“Mornin’.” AJ greeted me with a smile. I entered and I barely returned the gesture as I took a seat.

Already, I got the feeling Kai and I would clash. We were very different, possibly too different to work together effectively, but it was early yet. I required an open line of communication with whomever I worked with or for. Kai, on the other hand? Definitely a lone wolf. He made it clear that he wasn’t too keen on me popping in throughout the day to get help—even though I’m hella new here.

“So… you ready to get started?” AJ asked.

A long breath left my mouth and I thought about that.

“Uh… I think so,” I replied, the sound of which made him laugh. He’d known me for nearly a decade—long enough to distinguish a lie from the truth. Before asking anything else, he stood to close the door and then came back to sit after adjusting the jacket of his black suit.

“All right. Now, what’s really up?” he asked. “It’s just us.”

My eyes went to the picture at the corner of his desk when he finished speaking, the one of my cousin, Sam, and their handsome son who was all smiles as usual. It was then that I realized… yeah, I’d essentially be working for Kai, but I was among family here as well.

One eyebrow lifted as he waited for me to answer; however, I decided against sharing my feelings, kept the fact that I was intimidated as hell by this job to myself.

“You know what? Nothing. I’ll be fine,” I said, standing from the comfy seat.

“You sure?” he asked as I moved toward the door.

I nodded, momentarily missing the simplicity of having my old job down to a science. This job was new territory, but I decided to woman-up and stop assuming I’d fail before even getting started.

Even if I was beginning to think that’s exactly what Kai expected… failure.

“Well… good luck,” AJ added. “And if you need anything, don’t hesitate to stop in.”

I gave a nod, keeping his words in mind, and then closed his door behind me. It was time to face Kai again. When I reached his office, I lifted my hand to knock, but hesitated when I heard him speaking low.

“All right. I Love you, too,” he said to the caller on the other end.

I’d looked him over pretty well when I first laid eyes on him at Sam and AJ’s door—who the hell could blame me—and then again today on our way up here, so I knew he wasn’t wearing a wedding band. However, that didn’t eliminate the possibility of there being a girlfriend. This conversation didn’t confirm that he belonged to someone, but that was automatically where my thoughts led me… not that he was a prospect before that.

Once I heard him cradle the phone in its base, I waited another few seconds before knocking. I stepped inside when I was invited to do so. Kai’s eyes were glued to a document in his hands as I moved toward his desk. He finally looked up and I forced myself to pretend he was just an average-looking guy who wasn’t dressed to the nine, who didn’t smell like he soaked in bathwater laced with pheromones sent down directly from the heavens this morning. Nope… I had to try to think of him as just some regular guy. The fact that he intimidated the hell out of me made it a little easier, though.

Touching a finger to my hairline, I fought the urge to fan myself. Damn…who was I kidding? This man definitely wasn’t average.

“Well, I guess we’re ready to get this show on the road,” he started. “I’ll take you to your work area first, so you can put your things down.”

When he finished speaking, I nodded and then followed him back out into the main area of the office as he led the way with a relaxed saunter. We stopped at a small cubicle not too far from his door where I’d be stationed for convenience.

“There’s a cabinet right there that locks if you’d like to keep your purse or other personal belongings there,” he said, gesturing off to the left.

I nodded and accepted the key from his hand, taking advantage of the opportunity to double-check that ring finger. It was like I thought; empty.

I smiled casually and went ahead and locked up my purse. Next, Kai aimed a finger toward the cubicle beside mine. “That’s Reese’s area, Hahn’s assistant,” he said with the slightest bit of irritation in his tone. “She’s out of the office for the day, but she’s a talker. My advice: don’t let her suck you into her conversation. You’ll never get any work done that way. If she’s a problem, let me know. I’ll handle her.”

I got the impression he didn’t think very highly of this Reese, whoever she was. He was definitely all business.

“The copy room is right this way,” he said next, and I followed him again. “Oh, and I’m fine with you having access to your cell while you’re working,” he added, glancing down at his watch when the conversation paused. “You know, so you’re easily accessible if anyone needs to get in touch with you—husband, kids, whoever.”

The timing of that comment struck me as odd. If I didn’t know better, I might think he was fishing for information about me. That couldn’t have been it, though, so I dismissed the thought and replied, keeping up with the pace of his steps. “Don’t have either of those. Just lil’ old me.”

Kai’s eyes found mine when he glanced back, peering over his shoulder while we walked. Our gazes locked for a second before he turned away, but not before the brief exchange aroused a fluttery feeling in my gut.

“Well… it’s still fine to keep it handy… assuming you can even get a call through,” he went on. “Reception’s terrible inside the building, but if you do need to make a personal call, just keep it to a minimum.”

I didn’t say anything, just walked behind him in silence.

Seconds later, we approached a wooden door and Kai opened it. Plain white walls set the tone for the bleakly decorated area. There was nothing inside but three large copy machines, a fax machine, and two long, rectangular tables lined with staplers, small containers of paperclips, and other odds and ends.

“The copy room,” Kai reiterated

I nodded when he finished speaking.

“That’s pretty much it,” he concluded as we exited the small space. On the way back, he pointed out the break room and the restrooms, and then we were once again within the confines of his office.

Slowly, I crossed the room to the chair in front of his desk, and before taking his own seat, Kai removed his suit jacket, making it impossible to forget those incredibly well-defined arms as I stared at them through the light-blue dress shirt he wore.

“Now, on to the good stuff,” he joked. Or at least I think it was a joke. It was hard to tell because he spoke in the same dry tone he said everything else in. I piped up and focused, though, not wanting to miss the details of my position as he explained them—especially seeing as how he preferred that I didn’t ask for clarity later. “So, as you know, you’re replacing my assistant, Carla. Working for me, she wore quite a few hats, so I hope you don’t get overwhelmed.”

Discretely blowing a breath from my lungs, I nodded, acknowledging that I understood.

“Basically, I need you to be an extension of me—my eyes, ears, hands when I’m busy or away from the office. My plate gets kind of full, so sometimes I’ll pass things along to you that don’t require you to know much of the technical side of my job. A large part of what I do involves project management, so I’ll depend heavily on you for things like keeping an eye on budget, resource expenditure, time management. Will that be a problem?” he asked.

My heart was pounding already, but I didn’t want him to see me stressing. “No, that’s fine,” I lied.

“Good. I always leave myself a bit of wiggle room when I quote prices and timelines, but I still prefer to keep things as concise as possible. I’ve got a reputation for delivering on time and giving my clients more than what they expected. I’d like to keep it that way,” he added, attempting to soften the statement with a hard smile.

“When I don’t need you assisting me on projects,” he went on, “I may throw a presentation your way that needs fine-tuning, a proposal that needs to be finalized, but I’ll give you things like that with the details spelled out pretty thoroughly.”

‘As if that’ll help,’ I thought to myself.

“There will be day-to-day issues I’ll need you to troubleshoot so I can focus on what I have going on and there’s a weekly meeting here on Thursdays; I’ll send you my notes in an email every Wednesday. I’d like for you to organize them by subject and email them back to me, attached in document form.”

My head was spinning and I realized I should’ve brought a notebook in with me.

“Am I going too fast?” Kai asked politely.

I didn’t have the courage to tell him yes, so I lied again. “No. I can follow.”

The corner of his mouth hitched upward and he leaned back in his seat. “You’re overwhelmed,” he said, glancing down at his hands folded in his lap. “I told myself not to lay it all on you in one sitting like this; I just got ahead of myself. We’ll stop there for today and I’ll go over the rest tomorrow,” he offered, but I wouldn’t hear of it. I needed him to believe I could handle this job.

“Oh, no, it’s fine. Continue. Please.” Immediately after speaking the words, I wished like hell that he’d see through the façade and spare me, putting the rest off until tomorrow like he’d said.

Slowly, cautiously, Kai went on. “We’re pretty much done, actually. All we have left to discuss is what’ll be expected of you while I’m out of the country.”

From what I gathered, Kai was overseas every other month, sometimes more if necessary. That part had me nervous because, during those times, I’d be working on my own with very little instruction from him.

“Hahn says you already have a home office set up?” Kai asked.

“Yeah… I do.” My fingers went through my hair when I realized he wasn’t speaking right away, maybe giving me a chance to elaborate. “I um… I do some accounting on the side for my father’s firm. That’s what I majored in,” I added.

“Perfect. With a fax machine?” he asked.

I gave a nod. “Yes, I have that, too.”

He leaned back in his seat and laced his fingers together on the surface of his desk. “Well, when I’m away, I’ll send you odd jobs from time to time and there may be the occasional petty errand I need you to run—like grabbing my dry cleaning, retrieving packages that’ve been delivered to my place, collecting my mail so it doesn’t pile up—things of that nature.”

Those were the easiest of the tasks I’d been charged with. “I can do that,” I answered.

When no words passed between us, Kai smiled and I was pretty sure I was the only one uncomfortable. He was nothing but relaxed now that all my daily tasks had been conveyed.

“Any questions?” he asked, quirking an eyebrow.

Once I got my thoughts together, I shook my head. “Not at the moment, but if anything comes to mind, I’ll…” My sentence trailed off when I remembered how he reacted to me stating in the stairwell that I’d come to him with questions. He didn’t want that, so I amended my statement. “I’ll figure it out.”

A light, easy laugh grabbed my attention, mostly because I had a hard time believing it came from Kai. It had, though. Apparently there was a sense of humor there after all.

“Listen… I didn’t mean to come across as unapproachable this morning, but I think that’s exactly the way I made you feel.”

Not wanting to confirm or deny, I said nothing.

Those piercingly deep, exotic eyes of his flashed my way when he smiled. This time, the harshness and tension wasn’t present behind them. “If you have questions, Angel, ask them. Please. I’m here to help you.”

I nodded, but still had nothing to add.

Kai shifted in his seat, leaning to one side before resting his chin on top of his fist. “This is umm… an adjustment period for me just like I’m sure it is for you. I’ve worked with Carla for years so it’s been a long time since I’ve had to learn to work with someone new.”

I could understand that and it made me feel better that he acknowledged his behavior from earlier.

“I apologize if I made you uncomfortable,” he added.

My heart leapt when his hand shot across his desk. He held it there, waiting for me to take it. “Can we start over?” he asked.

I blinked his way a few times, finding it hard not to stay fixated on that confident smile he stared at me with as if he knew I’d cave. Finally, I accepted his hand and shook it. “Sure.”

“Good. So feel free to pop in whenever you need to,” he added.

Seeing as how I wasn’t sure he really meant any of this, I hoped I still wouldn’t have to come to him about anything. Besides, he was hard to be around. It wasn’t because there was something wrong with him. I mean, yeah, I didn’t quite know how to read his personality, but it was more than that; more than feeling apprehensive in his presence. I was starting to think he wasn’t all bad and that made the good things about him harder to ignore.

He wet his mouth and my eyes were immediately drawn to the motion, observing what I believed to be soft lips.

Whew! Okay… it was definitely time to get my tail out of there.

“Well, thanks for walking me through everything,” I said, quickly standing from my seat.

Kai seemed surprised by my abrupt exit. “Uh… sure. I’ve already emailed you what I need done today, including flight and hotel arrangements that I need you to cancel. I was supposed to fly out to L.A. next week, but Hahn informed me today that it won’t be necessary.”

I nodded, but that was it, so Kai finished his thought, adding, “Your company email address is your first and last name @Arata.”

Without his suit jacket covering him, I had a clear view of his arms flexing with each movement as he folded them over his chest. I inched my way closer to the door. “Perfect. I’ll get on that.”

The next second I was free—free from the lustful hell I had a feeling I’d be in every time I’d be forced to dawn Kai’s office. But nope. Not only was he my boss, but I had my suspicions there might be a girlfriend, too, based on the phone conversation I overheard and I don’t get down like that. However, the sex appeal I thought had dwindled at the discovery that he might have someone in his life had clearly only been playing a cruel game of hide and seek. Now that I’d had a glimpse of a softer side of Kai, it was harder to ignore how drawn I was to him. Just like the first time we met.

That attraction hadn’t gone anywhere. In fact, I had a feeling that the longer I was around him, the worse it would get.

If that was the case, God help me…

*****

To receive chapter two in your email inbox Monday, November 24th, just click here!

XOXO

Raven

New Release, “Matt & Brooklyn”, Now Available!

Whew! It feels like this has been a long time coming, but I’m so glad today is finally here! Release day was technically supposed to be Thursday, August 6th, but I couldn’t wait that long LOL. Anyway, I hope you grab a copy of this contemporary, summer romance and enjoy! When you finish, reviews are always appreciated ❤

M&B Amazon

“Matt & Brooklyn” Official Book Video (Trailer)

❤ Release Date: August 6th, 2015 ❤

Only four more weeks until the release of my ninth novel, “Matt & Brooklyn: A Standalone in the “Again for the First Time” Family Saga”! I’m extremely excited about this one 🙂 😀 🙂 😀 🙂 (Hence my overuse of smiley emoticons!!) If you’d like to be notified of the book’s availability on release day, click here to sigh up for my newsletter. This will ensure that you don’t miss out on the special release price of $2.99 before it’s raised!

❤ In the meantime, enjoy the video! ❤

❤ My Muses ❤

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XOXO

Raven

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