Eight years ago, she broke his heart.
Eight years ago, he vowed never to let her hurt him again.
Now, they have to work together to keep their town safe.

At the age of sixteen, Val Garcia made the worst mistake of her life. She trusted the wrong guy, and hurt the guy she loved. She can never atone for that one mistake, but she’s trying.

As a cop, Spencer Murdock is trained in the art of evasion, but that isn’t helping him avoid the pariah in his life...his first love, Val. It doesn’t help that as the town baker, his friends and coworkers are always moaning over her cupcakes. Yeah, it sounds dirty to him when they do it, too.

Now, he has to work with her daily, see her daily, listen to her soft voice and see her smooth skin...daily. And daily he’s seeing her more as the girl he fell in love with, not the girl who destroyed him.

There’s no way they can have a second chance. That trust is broken. But every day there are glimpses that make them both ask...what if?

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There are links to all my books and the universal links on my website...

Chapter Two
I walked into the Aspenridge Police Department to the normal Monday morning trash talk being thrown around, with one notable exception. “I’m telling you, man. Val Garcia’s muffins make me hard.”
Every part of my body—including my heart—stilled as that caveman part of my brain, which was still attached to her even after all these years, roared in outrage. Mine! But instead of letting loose with the scream, I shoved that primal part of me down and glared across the room at the rookie beat cop who’d been talking.
Nathan Peters. His back was to me, so he didn’t see me coming as I stomped across the room, but his buddies did. And from their reaction, my face must have shown some of that inner caveman, because both of their eyes widened and they scurried away. But I clamped down on top of Peters’ shoulder so he couldn’t escape.
He flinched under my grip as I turned him to me. “Peters, don’t you have a school zone to go patrol?”
“D-detective,” he stuttered. “Yes, sir. Sorry, sir. I just wanted to get a muffin before they were all gone.”
I scowled at him.
“Tonja from dispatch dropped these by.” He twisted out of my grip and offered up the distinctive pastry box from Em-Dash. Val’s muffins . . . from Val’s bakery.
Suddenly it all made sense, but I still didn’t like the tone of voice Nathan Peters had been using to refer to Val.
“Are they any good?” I growled at him.
“Oh, yeah.” His eyes practically rolled back into his head. “They’re some sort of pumpkin, walnut, and white-chocolate mixture that melts in my mouth. A woman who can make something like that . . .” He groaned like she was sucking his cock.
I growled again, and his eyes widened as if he’d forgotten who he’d been talking to.
“Detective,” Chief Klune called from across the room. “Stop harassing the rookies and get in here.”
With one last threatening scowl at Officer Peters, I turned and strode to the chief’s office.
As soon as I entered, he barked out, “Shut the door behind you.”
I complied and then turned to meet the frown my boss aimed at me. “What the hell was that out there with Peters?” He waved a hand to the bullpen.
“Nothing to worry about, sir.”
He examined me for a moment, and I could almost see his inner debate about pushing the matter further. In the end, he must have decided not to, because he simply shook his head and nodded at the chair in front of his desk. “Sit.”
He clicked a few keys on his computer and then met my gaze. “The independent investigation into your conduct with the Naked Brews case has been concluded.”
My stomach clenched. The Naked Brews case had been my first big investigation with the department. I’d been naively excited about the case when it began. Aspenridge was a small town in Colorado. We weren’t exactly in the middle of a hotbed of crime. Petty shoplifting, mischievous teenagers on vacation, along with an occasional DUI hit and run into a tree from one of the tourists were the norm.
So, when it looked like the Naked Brews incidences were a pattern of something more sinister . . . hell, yeah, I’d been excited. I wanted to prove my worth and my investigative abilities. Well, I’d failed big time. Not only had my failure endangered lives and property, but I hadn’t seen the evidence right in front of me . . . that my little brother, Warner, was behind the majority of the crimes.
Since that day four months ago, which ended with Warner in the hospital and eventually on his way to prison, I’d spent too many sleepless nights wondering exactly where I’d gone wrong. I hadn’t felt like I was missing the obvious at the time, but had I let my family ties blind me?  That question would always haunt me.
I should have been able to see what was going on with Warner. I should have been able to prevent it from happening. Not only as a detective but as his big brother. And because of that, my little brother was a convicted felon. So, yeah, I’d failed big time, and my little brother was paying the price in prison.
“ . . . free and clear.” The chief looked at me with a grim smile on his face, and I realized I’d zoned out from what he’d been telling me.
“I’m sorry. Can you repeat that again?” I asked.
His scowl was back, and he shoved a piece of paper into my hands.
“You can read it yourself, but they found you and the department free and clear of any wrongdoing on the case. You’re being reinstated as a detective.”
Suddenly, I could feel the blood flow back into my limbs again. I had my job back. Relief wasn’t even a big enough word for what I felt in that moment. Four months of sitting at my desk working as a glorified secretary filing all the paperwork for the department had been sucking my soul dry.
“Thank you, sir.”
He nodded, although his lips were in a tight line like he didn’t necessarily agree with the determination of the investigation. “Lucky for you, I had a case come across my desk this morning. He handed me a folder filled about a half-inch thick with reports. My eyebrows lifted. I hadn’t heard of anything that would require this many pages happening in Aspenridge. That little buzz of anticipation curled in my gut.
He nodded at the file. “In the past month, there have been twenty-one thefts reported.”
I flipped open the file and quickly scanned the first couple of reports. I turned a couple more sheets before meeting the chief’s amused gaze. “Are you shitting me? You want me to investigate a rash of garden-gnome thefts?”
“Yes, I do, and I expect quick results. The citizens of Aspenridge are having their property stolen. No matter what that property is or how questionable their taste, your job is to recover it and find out who is doing the crime? Any further questions?” he growled.
I shook my head and clenched my teeth. “No, sir.”
He went back to typing. I had obviously been dismissed to carry out my very important investigation.
Fuck my life. Garden gnomes. This was what I wanted off desk-jockey duty for? Not hardly.
Seven hours later, I glanced down at my list of victims that I still needed to interview about the garden gnome thefts and sighed. One glaring victim name had been mocking me all through this fabulously shitty day. What was one more thing to make it even more sucktastic?
I turned and headed toward Em-Dash.
Ever since the scene that morning in the bullpen, Val had stayed in the back of my mind, lingering, taunting me. Most days I was able to ignore her presence in town. It was easier that way . . . if I pretended she simply wasn’t here. And hopefully, it was late enough that she wouldn’t be at work so I could keep pretending.
Val owned and ran the bakery at the back of the local bookstore, Em-Dash. But running a bakery meant she kept a baker’s hours—early mornings followed by getting off in the early afternoon—which I hoped meant she’d probably left the bookstore hours ago.
But as I approached the store, the lights from within illuminated the occupants against the growing dusk outside. There was no mistaking the long, silky, red hair that haunted my dreams. The lights of the store caught those glossy tresses and made them look like they were lit by candlelight.
Fuck my life. I just couldn’t catch a break.
Once upon a time, I’d tangled my hands in that gorgeous hair as I’d buried myself inside her luscious body. I knew how silky the strands felt . . . almost as silky as the inside of her pussy had felt on my dick. The thought hit me like a punch to the gut.
Fuck. It had been eight years. I should be over this shit. She didn’t want me. She’d never wanted me. I’d been a game to her, a silly teenage game. A geeky kid was blown away by the head cheerleader. Unfortunately, by the time I’d discovered that she already had my heart, and it had gotten trampled in the fallout, too.
I took a deep breath and squared my shoulders in my suit coat, making sure my badge was showing on my waistband and my gun was still safely tucked against my ribs. I pulled open the door to the store. I was a man, and I had a job to do. I was stronger than the shit she’d pulled on me in high school. She might have been my first love, but I’d never again let her see that she had the power to hurt me.
Never again.

She has secrets that need to stay hidden. He’s digging into her life and her heart. Now they have to work together to organize the Aspenridge masquerade ball. It’s going to be a disaster.

When Kaliope Winters opened Em-Dash, the local bookstore, she did it because of a pure love of books...and the need to stay under the radar. But the vlog hottie stealing her wifi keeps making her blow her cool, which isn’t good because she doesn’t need to draw his attention. He’s too gorgeous, too charming, and way too nosy.

When Tennyson Helms started his YouTube channel, he planned it to be temporary, not his forever career. Now Ten is trying to prove he’s got the chops to make it as an investigative journalist and thinks Kali will be his next big story. She’s acting way too suspicious. Unfortunately, he can’t decide if he wants to investigate her or kiss her.

Enemies-to-lovers takes a whole new meaning when the masks are dropped...

The Bookstore Love duology...
1.                Crazy Love
2.                Tasty Love

Amazon author page.

There are links to all my books and the universal links on my website...

Chapter One
I settled into the deep-red velvet club chair with a relieved sigh. Quiet . . . finally. The tension in my shoulders released. I’d been carrying that since I’d stormed out of my house.
Closing my eyes, I inhaled the distinctive scent of books, paper, and words. This right here was a perfect moment. If only she would walk through. I eyed the closed door to her office.
She hated me, but since discovering her, I’d realized I had a masochistic side.
I liked pissing her off.
When her eyes began to flash, my blood started to flow to all the right places.
I should be thanking my clueless roommate, who had driven me here, instead of cursing him.
If I had to go hide out someplace in Aspenridge, there were a lot worse places than this tiny corner in Em-Dash, the local bookstore. Here in this corner, under the giltwood sign identifying this part of the store as Platform 9¾, I’d found my escape, my secret place to work, my place to create, my place to fantasize about the sexy owner who’d otherwise never give me the time of day. Although she liked to give me a hard time.
She never failed to let me know how much I annoyed her, but if annoying her was what it took to get her to lay those beautiful eyes on me, then I was just the guy for the job. I could be obnoxious with the best of them. It was my secret superpower that had kept me labeled as the class clown instead of the nerdy dweeb who got beat up and stuffed into a locker. And for the last few years, I’d managed to make that pay off because it had brought me my YouTube following.
So, yeah. I was basically dipping the tips of her pigtails in ink to get the girl to notice me, but if it worked . . . I shrugged. I could be okay with looking the role of the fool.
Luckily for me, the store was almost always deserted, although that didn’t bode well for the long-term security of my newly claimed workspace.
How did this store stay open and stocked? They always had the newest titles on the shelves but few, if any, customers. If I didn’t know better, I’d say the owner had to be channeling some of the Harry-Potter witchcraft that she was so obsessed with to produce a profit. But since that wasn’t the way the real world worked, there had to be something else at play.
The entire store was decorated with the HP theme . . . lots of black-stained wood, gilt letters, and the distinctive touches that signified the various houses from the popular series. It should have seemed childish, but instead, it came across as elegant and even kind of cozy.
It was the perfect place for me to escape and write. I opened up my iPad to a new doc and began typing.
Ten with Tennyson – Episode 87
Top Ten Reasons to Live Alone
(Intro sequence)
Beginning: Hello, my minions. Today we’re going to talk about something almost every person out there has to deal with at some point in time. Roommates. The scourge of adulting everywhere. If you are one of those who has never had to deal with this life-blow, consider yourself a lucky bastard—and note (side-eye the camera)—I hate you even while I wish I was you.

Unfortunately, roommates are a fact of most of our lives. But you don’t have to live in this hell-on-Earth forever. Today I’m here to share with you why it’s so important that you rectify this heinous situation as quickly as humanly possible. In other words, find yourself a sugar-daddy/momma, or make sure you’re setting yourself up in a job that makes more than minimum wage.

Reason Number One.
If you don’t come up with another circumstance, you could be condemning yourself to twenty years to life living with a roommate, although this one will call you his bitch. Roommates tempt a person to murder, and that’s never a good solution. Prison means a roommate for life. (Shudder)

Reason Number Two.
Every guy out there likes porn. Admit it guys, you may tell your girl or guy otherwise, but we all know it’s the truth. But it’s just plain creepy when it’s live-action inside your house. Getting horny from your roommate's girl’s orgasmic noises is guaranteed to make breakfast awkward. Trust me on this. (Grimace with distaste)

I shifted uncomfortably as that particular memory reared its head.
Aiden, my roommate, wasn’t that bad. In fact, I really liked him. That was why I still lived with him. There were just times when he got on my nerves, like when he was having loud, awkward sex on our couch when I walked in the front door. It was better to vent my frustrations through making fun of the situation on my show than confronting him and causing a big fight.
Overall, I liked to keep the peace, be the nice guy. Here in her bookstore was the only place where I let my other side out to play, the one who wanted to push her buttons, actually, encourage a fight.
Where was the little diva/vixen?
I glanced around the empty bookstore, and the cover of a book on rock climbing caught my eye. What would it be like to be doing that as a career rather than making my life as a YouTube Vlogger? Hell, I could get one of those GoPro cameras and do vlogs about my adventures on the edge of a rock face. That had to be more exciting than my current job of making up inane top-ten lists.
Maybe if I broke that story on . . .
“Hey, Ten.”
I looked up into Val’s open, smiling expression. The baker at Em-Dash had girl-next-door good looks with red hair; a bronzed Latina, porcelain-smooth complexion; and dark eyes.
Unlike the owner of the store, who haunted my every dream, Val was actually the nice one in the duo. It would be so much easier if I could crush on her. Hell, Val would probably say yes to a date. If I dared to ask Kali, the odds were good that I’d lose some fingers.
But it wasn’t Val’s open smile that caught my attention. No, my attention focused on the delectable aroma coming from the muffin she held on a plate in her hands. Immediately my mouth watered.
“Tell me that’s for me?” I was already reaching for it, not even waiting for her answer.
She laughed. “Yes. I need you to be my guinea pig. I made this new raspberry cheesecake mocha chip muffin for the girls in the book club, but I’m not sure it works. Will you taste test it?”
I had it shoved halfway into my mouth before her words computed. “Book club? Today?” I asked the question around the delicious muffin melting in my mouth. I moaned at the burst of sugary goodness. “Oh, my god, this is so good.”
My heart rate leapt. The one black blight—albeit a gorgeous one—on my utopian existence in this small corner of the bookstore stalked out of the back room, shooting daggers at the innocent baker.
I rose, ready to step in front of Val to protect her from the wrath of Kaliope DeWinters—chaos in every sense of the word and the owner of Em-Dash.
Her mother had named her correctly as the Queen of Chaos. Kali was dark to Val’s light, wrath to Val’s open smiles, a goddess of vengeance circling the edges of the room, ready to smite any unwanted visitor to her store.
God, she was sexy as hell.
She glared at me even while she lectured Val. “If you feed the wildlife, they come back. I’ve warned you about that.”
Yeah, she didn’t like me much. Her silvery eyes flashed when she was in a temper, and I liked getting under her skin, especially when the result made her even more beautiful. I definitely had a masochistic streak.
She presented herself to the whole of Aspenridge as a normal, respectable shop owner, but I’d seen glimpses of others that made my investigative brain stand up and take notice.
Under her cardigan sweaters, I’d seen little peeks of tattoos.
Even her bookstore, decorated in the benign Harry-Potter theme, gave me a sense that there was much more to Kali DeWinters than she wanted the world to know. It was like the Harry-Potter front was there to divert attention from the reality that she was so much more Slytherin than Hufflepuff.
I, for one, wanted to dig, find out all her secrets, find out what she hid under her layers of respectability and clothing. I was pretty positive that she had a serious wild-child underneath. That intrigued me.
“Oh, come on, Kali.” Val shook her head at her business partner. “Ten doesn’t hurt anything. If you keep driving off our customers, especially the good-looking ones . . .” She waved a hand toward me.
My face heated red. Val thought I was good looking? I studied Kali closer. Did she think so, too? But I couldn’t read anything like that from Kali. My stomach sank a little bit. She just continued to look annoyed . . . at me.
“The girls from the book club are going to start hanging out over at Outdoor Highs for their fireman fix,” Val continued.
Outdoor Highs was the clothing store on the other side of the street that catered to backpackers. The unfortunate result of its clientele, who were usually in the mountains without access to a shower, meant that it smelled much more like body odor and feet than the cinnamon and vanilla that wafted throughout Em-Dash. The women in town tended to avoid it.
I stopped their discussion. “Wait a minute. Book club is today? I thought that was on Thursdays.” And it was Monday. I sure as hell didn’t want to be subjected to the embarrassing comments from the book-club horde. Nothing made a guy feel more like he didn’t measure up than to hear a group of women drooling over the number of abs the local firefighters had on them. I tried to stay fit, but . . . damn.
In every other city in America, book club meant getting together to discuss the merits of one author’s style of writing over another or hypothesizing about the symbolism the author meant to include in the text. Those were the kinds of book clubs I always imagined my mom attending with her lady friends.
This was not the case in Aspenridge. No, here, the book club was a reason for the women of the village to gather and ogle the fire station studs as they washed their fire trucks. The meetings were legendary, and almost every guy in town resented—or hell, if we wanted to be really honest, envied—the guys they focused on for that lust. Although I’d heard rumblings from the married set that evenings on book-club days were the highlight of their week.
Information to be filed under facts you never wanted to know about your neighbors.
Val raised a mischievous, gleeful eyebrow. “Hawke found some rust on one of the new trucks, so now the boys have to wash twice a week.” She let out a lusty sigh. “I do love rust.” She cleared her throat and tried to fake an innocent expression. “And books. It’s always about the books.”
I snorted. “Yeah, you can keep lying to yourself all you want, but the fact is this entire town knows what book club is really about.” I was talking to Val, but I focused on Kali, letting the challenge show in my expression.
She narrowed her eyes at me and rested her hands on her hips, which pulled her sweater just enough that I got a tiny glimpse of black ink at her neckline.
My mouth went dry. I wanted to see more so bad I almost ached. I wanted to strip her clothes from her body. My dick began to thicken, and then she opened her mouth.
“Since you know all about it, you can leave.” She nodded her head toward the front of the store. “Don’t let the door hit you on the ass on the way out.” She turned on her heel and marched back to the rear of the store.
She really didn’t like me much. To be honest, she really wasn’t very nice. She’d never win a Miss Congeniality title, but for some reason, that worked for me. God, I was an idiot, but an idiot who would jump at the chance to earn one of her rare smiles, learn what makes her tick, and get into her pants.
She was sexier than sin, and I wanted to sin. With her. And that was why I couldn’t stay away from her bookstore, no matter how much she insulted me.

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