Thursday, November 30, 2017

Hitch Pierce Securities #8 #NewRelease



Hitch is here!  Book eight in the Pierce Securities series.

Amber Banks has her sights set on a fresh start at the Austin Police Department after a disastrous stint in her hometown. All she wants is to be a good cop and get the validation that goes with it. If she can get away from Dex, everything would be so much simpler. But her mama always told her nothing good ever came easy.

Dex Hollerman has just retired from the force and is trying to fit in with the guys he knows so well at Pierce Securities, only now, he’s on their side for a change. With Simon’s weird edicts hanging over his head, and his inability to get the woman who was made for cop porn fantasies out of his head, it’s a struggle.

There’s a mad gunman blowing up exploding targets in downtown Austin putting a hitch in their plans, so can they get past this crazy attraction to work together?

Or will it be their downfall?


Excerpt:  He tiptoed to the carport, ignoring the fact he was in boxers and nothing else. Nobody was looking his way. He could see Mrs. Noble peering out her window, trying to crane her neck sideways.
Dex knew he’d heard someone in his carport—knocking over a trashcan—and it probably had everything to do with the explosion, but there wasn’t anyone there now. With a grunt, he turned to go back inside and put on some pants before going across the street to help over there.
His door was locked.
Looking down at himself, Dex rolled his eyes.
Fan-fucking-tastic.
He had a gun and was out in his underwear at the scene of an explosion, probably similar to the explosions that had been rocking downtown Austin. Yeah. That wasn’t suspicious at all.
Sirens screamed in the distance. Dex didn’t have bushes around his house because that would be the perfect place for burglars and home invaders to hide. Of course, now he needed a place to hide. He looked over at his neighbor’s yard.
Somebody else’s bushes would have to do.
Twenty minutes later, he was still in the Lockhart’s bushes when Mr. Lockhart left for work. He ducked down further, hoping the enormous, red-tipped Photinia shrubs would hide him sufficiently.
When Mr. Lockhart left, another car pulled up—another police car. There were already three, plus the arson investigator’s truck. But this car was special. Dex knew it before she even got out of it. The number stenciled on the side of it meant it was her car.
Amber’s car.
She got out and stood there, looking over the roof of the car. Bracing her hand on her forehead against the sun, she did a slow perusal of the neighborhood. Dex’s thighs were burning from squatting in the bushes for so long, but he managed to shift so he was on his knees and could see her better. But something about his movements had her zeroing in on him.
“Hey!” She started walking over, hand on her piece. “Stand up! Hands in the air!” Her voice was authoritative, with an edge of something. Not fear. Nope. But something darker than authority. It was a turn-on, but Dex wouldn’t let his brain go there, not while she couldn’t see him, and he was nothing short of a threat to her.
He knew he’d been busted, and there wasn’t really any way out of this. Maybe she would show some pity on him and let him get some pants.
Holding his hands up in the air, he stood slowly, his gun dangling from one finger by the trigger guard.
“Oh, for the love of God,” she muttered when he came into view. He could only imagine what he looked like. “Are you even wearing clothes?” Standing in the bushes, she couldn’t see he was not in fact wearing clothes. She gestured for him to throw the gun, and he complied, tossing it at her feet. Lips pressed into a thin line, she holstered her weapon, levelling him with a glare. She was pissed as hell. Pissed as she was, though, Amber stared at his chest, mouth agape, eyes wide. A strange thrill went through him, a definite sense of pride. Dex would not have gotten this reaction from her with his old body.
“My Haines.” Dex tried a grin and managed a small one. Her anger was helping with his discomfort, but only, like, an iota. Surely, he’d laugh at this someday. Right now, all he could think about was the fact he would for sure be the talk of the task force tomorrow morning.
“Alright. Turn around and put your hands on your head.” She reached for the cuffs at her back, and Dex’s cock inappropriately jumped and strained.
“Why are you cuffing me?” Even though he was doing exactly what she said.
“You are at the scene of a crime in very suspicious circumstances. You turned up in my investigation yesterday, and now this. And if nothing else, you are in violation of a code or two, Austin or not.”
“Keep it weird,” he muttered as she cuffed him, none too gently. Still, the erection tented the front of his boxer briefs. “Let me take you to dinner sometime.” It was worth a shot. She had relented and given him her name.
But the scoff she let out told him he was pushing his luck. Still she had him in cuffs, and his mind was going places. Oh, the places …
She led him across the street and when they got to her car, he turned on her. Her eyes widened when she got a look at his bulge.
“I live right there. Someone was in my carport and I was checking it out when the explosion happened. I locked myself out and have been outside ever since.” His explanation did nothing.
“Great. Get in the car.”
“You’re detaining me?”
“I’m securing my crime scene. Get the fuck in the car.”
When she opened the door, he allowed her to tuck his head in as he folded his bulky frame into the vehicle. His erection needed an adjustment, but he didn’t think she would go for it. Instead, he just hoped it would wilt on its own.
But she’d cuffed him.
He shouldn’t be so aroused by that, but he couldn’t help himself.
Cuffs.

ALL THE LINKS TO BUY HITCH TODAY!!!
Amazon:  http://amzn.to/2yhz3C7
Amazon UK:  http://amzn.to/2zTPwst
iTunes:  http://apple.co/2A3eMgM
Barnes and Noble:  http://bit.ly/2yi7AjH
Kobo:  http://bit.ly/2gSLyZw


Want to stalk me?  You know you do...

Website/newsletter/blog: www.anneconley.com

Anne has written her entire life and has the boxes of angst-filled journals and poetry to prove it. She’s been writing for public consumption for the past several years. Currently, she has four romance series. In Stories of Serendipity, she explores real people living real lives in small town Texas in a contemporary romance setting. In The Four Winds, she chronicles God’s four closest archangels, Uriel, Gabriel, Raphael, and Michael, falling in love and becoming human. In Pierce Securities, she gives us Ryan, Evan, Miriam, Zack, Quinten, and Simon. Her newest series, Book B!tches, is all about a group of women in Mystic, Texas who get into all sorts of shenanigans. She lives in rural East Texas with her husband and children in her own private oasis, where she prides herself in her complete lack of social skills, choosing instead to live with the people inside her head.


OTHER SALES AND EXCELLENT OFFERS FROM ANNE CONLEY!!

Craze, book one in the Pierce Securities series, is FREE

Wire, book two, is only .99!





Thursday, October 19, 2017

So, I haven't been blogging like I've wanted to.  I had such great plans for regular posts and such, but as is always the case, life has gotten in the way.  I haven't even been writing.

Last week alone, I lost my glasses, broke my laptop, and had to deal with a LOT of stuff with my son at school.  The week before that, I'd gotten the dollar amount for my kids' (yes, both of them) teeth--braces, extractions, the works.  PLUS, my daughter is going on a school trip to Washington DC that I truly can't afford, but have bowed to the pressure of the matriarch (i.e. my mother told me to do it.).  In essence, I applied for my first credit card in fifteen years to pay for everything and I'm pissed off as hell about it.

So, writing has totally gone on the back burner.  When I didn't have my laptop, I couldn't even do marketing things, or thoroughly check my numbers like I like to do.

Being out of the loop for so long, it's taking a bit to get back into it.  I DID manage to outline some stuff in a notebook, as well as work on a photo shoot with the amazing photographer and models I've used in the past.  However, today, the first day of the rest of my life, I was sucked into facebook.

So here we go.  I'm about to watch Poldark with my handy dandy notebook in hand to see if I can work on a list to get my shit together.  The kids are out for a three-day weekend that I don't know what to do with them on.  We have the biggest festival of the year in town and I can't afford to take them.

And I was talking about a vacation a couple of weeks ago.  How hilarious that all seems right now.

Monday, October 9, 2017

#SALE!!!

Duuuuudes... I have never put these books on sale like this, and am not likely to do it again for a while.  I'm having a bit of a hard time getting the word out, so here it is.



MASSIVE SALE ON THE BOOK B!TCHES!!!

Power of Love

FREE!!!
Amazon:  http://amzn.to/2xtX5nR
Amazon UK:  https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01G2SIT0Q

Welcome to Mystic, Texas, where the past stays alive in more ways than one.

Vanessa Power, a budding Indie Romance author, believes the town is calling her name, being the new life and fresh start she’s craving. She’s met an amazing group of women who have a regular book club, reading only Indie Authors. Unfortunately, her new house is in worse shape than she thought and holds more mysteries than she’s prepared for. And then there’s the handyman.

Linc Ward holds more mysteries than her house and the town combined, with a past he won’t reveal in a package which is built for nothing short of sin. 

Linc is captivated by his new boss, the only person in town who will give him a job, but only because she doesn’t know he’s an ex-con. Can he keep his past locked away, while at the same time indulging in his fantasies with the pleasantly curvy and deliciously sexy Vanessa? Probably not.

They are both looking for a new start in life. Will they be able to find it together? Or will something sinister keep them apart?




















Master of Love is .99 
Amazon: http://amzn.to/2g5hUmX
Amazon UK:  https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01N3BAX8B




Tiffany Masters is desperate for a fresh start after the loss of her husband. Landing in Mystic, she soon learns the town has as many secrets as she does. The local book club, The Book B!tches, gives her the courage to be herself without worrying about adult things, like bills, parenting, and supper. However, her new boss may be more than she can handle.

Nick takes pride in his business. Being the only bar owner in town has its challenges, the biggest being his new employee. Tiffany’s a fireball—sexy as hell, with a temper to match—and off-limits. She’s got kids; he’s been there, done that, didn’t care to get the t-shirt.

When their heated attraction sparks a spat, the sheriff gives them an ultimatum: settle their shit or go to jail. He’s got a crime to solve—a woman’s dead, Wren’s still missing, and there’s another possible victim.

Mystic may have a serial killer on the loose.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Zack was an asshole. No, really...





So, a lot of you know that Seek is Zack's story.  For those of you not familiar, I've been writing this story since I started the Pierce Securities series.  He was initially book three, and he didn't come, so I moved him back to book four.  I kept bumping him back until he ended up being book seven.  SEVEN!  There weren't even initially seven books planned for this series.

What happened?

My brain happened.

So, if you've read the Pierce series, you know Zack is visually impaired.  I have a cousin who is also visually impaired, and so I bought him a twelve pack of beer, invited him over, and interviewed him.

My cousin is a funny guy, so I warned him I would be basing some characteristics off him for Zack as well.  You know.  This is a writer thing, giving characters flaws, humor, quirks, stuff like that.  It makes for interesting stories yes?

Well, Zack's story was crap.  I wrote it.  I sent it to some critique partners, and they ripped it to shreds.  Like.  to.  shreds.  It was awful.

In my own form, I put it away and worked on something else.  I wrote some more Pierce Securities, I wrote another series, and meanwhile, my cousin is telling the WORLD I'm writing "his book", like it's a biography or something.  *sigh*

I told him to quit doing that.  I had to tell my husband to quit referring to it that way, as "his" book, all of it.  It got to where I couldn't even think about Zack or Seek or this fracking book in any way, shape, or form.  I had my brother calling with advice and he doesn't even read my books.

It just got to where everybody knew I was writing it, and everyone had something to say about it, and NOTHING worked with what I had going on inside my head.  From my critique partners, to my family, to random strangers emailing for this book in particular, EVERYONE wanted a piece of it.

And I have no idea what happened.  It was like I just woke up one morning with the solution, and I fixed it.  Seek happened.  I was so nervous when I sent it out again, because I was afraid the feedback would cripple me again, and I'd be stuck again and have to start all over.

But no.  For some reason, this time it all worked the way it was supposed to.

And Seek finally came along.

Yay.  And now I never want to see Zack again.  So I sent him off to Pamona Gulch, and he won't make another appearance until the epilogue of Echo.  Because he's just such an asshole.

If you haven't read his story yet, and you're interested, you can find it here:  http://www.anneconley.com/pierce-securities

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

My Two Cents Tuesday-FWIW

Every release I have, someone will message me, send me an email, or otherwise ask the question, "How do I do what you do?"

It's a loaded question.  First of all, I'm not exactly sure what they think I do.  Do people think I just dabble in this writing gig and manage to make a bazillion dollars?  Do they think I have a one-size-fits-all answer?

But the biggest question in my head is this, "Do they think I have worked my ass off for years, to just give them all the answers without them having to do some work too?"

See, I don't mind this question.  At all.  My problem is, when I answer it, the asker is usually expecting me to do all the work for them.  Which I honestly don't want to do.

So here's what I'm saying to anyone who wants to ask me this question...

Do your homework.  Figure out what your purpose is for writing, and RESEARCH how to do what you want to do.  If it's just to write and be the best writer you can be, there are tons of blogs and facebook groups to join/follow.  Kristin Lamb is amazing for one, but a quick google search can give you tons more.  If it's publishing, check out some of Mark Dawson's groups, or Marie Force's group, or a multitude of other blogs and facebook groups.  Again.  A google search will help with this.  If your goal in writing is something cathartic, write.  Just write.  You don't have to let the world see it.   But again, research what you want to do first.

If your goal is to make money at your writing, I'll tell you this.  I'm not the person to ask.  Granted, I make money.  Not a ton, but I pay my bills, and I am not complaining.  But I have worked really hard, doing research, watching other authors, making notes, making mistakes, learning from them.  Please don't ask me how I make so much money.  I'm not a bazillionaire.  My house and cars are paid for, so my bills are minimal.  That question is insulting to me on several levels, and I won't answer it.  Sorry.

In a nutshell, don't be lazy.  Presumably, you've written a story.  That in itself is an accomplishment.  Don't marginalize yourself by being too lazy to do the rest of it on your own.  If you have specific questions about strategy, ask them.  Most authors, including myself, don't mind answering those.  But don't expect us to just tell you step-by-step how to do everything.

Write your story
Study your craft
Revise your story
Study your market
Build up your reader base and interact with them
Have a team to help you publish your book.  You owe these readers more than just a rough draft.
Invest as much time (if not more) in figuring out how to market and promote your book as you did writing it.  Nobody owes you this.  If you want your book to sell, you have to work for it.  A lot.

This is just my two cents.

Friday, September 8, 2017

#NewRelease #PierceSecurities Seek is HERE!!!

SEEK IS HERE!!!  I cannot tell you how long I've been working on Zack's story.  For the most part, he's become my problem child, and I wanted to do his story justice in so many ways.  And people have been expecting a lot from him, so I didn't want to disappoint.  Who's ready to find out about Zack and Bonnie?  Second chance romance?  Yes please!!!




Zack’s always been the funny guy, but with the deterioration of his sight and the loss of his father, the laughter has begun to dry up. Having recently discovered he has a brother due to his father’s infidelity, he’s questioning everything he thought he knew. To top it all off, the epic brush-off from Bonnie Pierce a few months back has Zack feeling less than a man. 

Bonnie thought she’d feel better about herself after giving Zack a taste of his own medicine, but all it did was stoke an old flame, bringing up feelings she probably shouldn’t explore. When she ends up embroiled in his current case, they both realize their pasts are about to set their worlds afire. 


The guest house behind Simon’s home has become her gilded cage, and Bonnie resents her brothers’ overprotectiveness even though they mean well. When Zack stumbles upon her horrific secret, she has no choice but to turn to the man she’s always loved.


In the end, Zack struggles to be enough of a man to protect the woman he has finally gotten a second chance with, even though he can’t see her.


Amazon- http://amzn.to/2wHp30M
Amazon UK- http://amzn.to/2wboXQk
iBooks- http://apple.co/2vvZD4P
KOBO- http://bit.ly/2vkmSmd
Barnes and Noble- http://bit.ly/2wCAklp


Excerpt:


“Come on, it’s the best way to do this.” Zack was wheedling, his voice loud and a bit high-pitched in the din of noise.
“NO. I am not pretending to make out with you.”
Turning, she saw Zack and his friend standing outside a club, not ten feet away from her. The Wave. It looked like a nice place with a group of people in front of it. Zack and the other blond stood off to the side, ready to kick each other’s asses.
She approached them, knowing exactly what was about to come out of her mouth, as well as all the consequences, but not caring either way. She and Zack suddenly had unfinished business.
“I’ll do it.”
Zack’s shoulders slumped as his mouth turned down. She couldn’t tell if he was relieved or not. “Bon-Bon, this isn’t the place for you. You need to go home. Seriously. Some shit’s about to go down.”
Taking a step forward, she said, “So fill me in. I want to help.” He was still sporting the erection, and something about that made her giggle.
“Not a laughing matter, Bon-Bon. This isn’t time for games.”
Suddenly angry, she started shouting at him. “I kno that, Zackary Gale Ward!” He cringed at the use of his middle name, but she needed him to know she was serious. “I want to help. I’m here, I’m
willing to make out with you, and I’m not going home. I haven’t been out of my tower in months and I need to do this. You understand?”
“Do you even know what we’re doing?” the friend asked.
“Making out?”
She nearly laughed at his reaction—face purple and fists clenched—before he turned to Zack. “Dude, y’all are perfect for each other.”
She swallowed. Zack had told him about her. A million questions started swirling around in her brain. What did he say? Is he mad? Does he realize how wrong he was? Is he sorry? Does it matter?
“What are we doing?” Bonnie asked.
Zack nodded to his friend. “Go out on the corner and whistle if you see anything.” He turned to Bonnie, his voice a low growl. “A little recon before we go in. I need your eyes.”
She got it. He knew he was being followed. And whoever the guy was, he had something to do with the job, whatever that was.
“I kicked his ass for you,” she said proudly, as Zack was advancing on her like a predator stalking prey. She tried to blow it off, but the way his eyebrows raised at her words gave her a thrill.
“Who?”
“The guy following you. I laid him out in an alley behind the burrito place.”
Then he was upon her, his body pressed against hers until she was flat against the wall. “Tell me you didn’t engage him.”
“No. He engaged me.”
“Christ, Bon-Bon. Quinten will kill me if he realizes you’re in this.” His mouth was hot on her ear, and she squirmed, despite the seriousness of the conversation.
“Me, too.”
Zack gripped her hips and pressed into her with a groan. “What a way to go. Eyes peeled, princess.” 

**



Are you stalking me EVERYWHERE?  


Website/newsletter/blog: www.anneconley.com
Amazon:  http://amzn.to/2wL24C6

Do you love the Pierce Securities?  Would you love to be a part of news, exclusive teasers, and general shenanigans?  Join my reader group on Facebook!  


About Anne:


Anne has written her entire life and has the boxes of angst-filled journals and poetry to prove it. She’s been writing for public consumption for the past several years. Currently, she has four romance series. In Stories of Serendipity, she explores real people living real lives in small town Texas in a contemporary romance setting. In The Four Winds, she chronicles God’s four closest archangels, Uriel, Gabriel, Raphael, and Michael, falling in love and becoming human. In Pierce Securities, she gives us Ryan, Evan, Miriam, Zack, Quinten, and Simon. Her newest series, Book B!tches, is all about a group of women in Mystic, Texas who get into all sorts of shenanigans. She lives in rural East Texas with her husband and children in her own private oasis, where she prides herself in her complete lack of social skills, choosing instead to live with the people inside her head.


Friday, September 1, 2017

Prologue and first chapter of Seek, Pierce Securities #7

Prologue:

Preorder at Amazon or everywhere else

Six months earlier
Bonnie was over her brothers and their high-handed bullshit. Making her way around the crowded circular tables, trying not to bump into anyone with her dress, she stalked out into the hallway, desperate for some fresh air. She felt bad she’d messed up Valerie’s special night; she understood how important this was for her. But Quinten was being a complete donkey’s ass.
To his credit, Simon had gotten better since she’d been back. But he was still being protective about her “safety” and was content to lock her away in his guest house and throw away the key. But Quinten was all up in her business, especially tonight with Zack, and Bonnie was over it.
Smoothing her dress down, mostly to wipe the sweat off her palms, Bonnie breathed deeply, trying to get over her embarrassment. She hadn’t meant to lose it, but she’d wanted to have a conversation with Zack, and Quinten had blocked her at every turn, going so far as to dump an entire tray of deserts on Zack’s lap when he’d leaned forward to speak to her.
It had embarrassed her, and she’d lost it, further humiliating herself. Bonnie knew better than to act like that in a crowd full of people.
She couldn’t go back in there, that was for sure.
Her gaze fell on the floor-to-ceiling windows that lined the hallway outside the ballroom. They overlooked downtown Austin, the capital building lit up beautifully, and Bonnie tried to clear her mind as she watched the bustle below her.
A throat cleared behind her before she got her emotions under control, and she spun around to find Zack standing there, cane in hand, his tux ruined.
“Sorry about all that. We both know how he is.” As if hearing her voice pinpointed her location, Zack took a few steps toward her. Bonnie backed up against the cool glass, suddenly feeling hot.
“Yup. I didn’t follow you out here to talk about your brother, though.”
“Good. Because I don’t want to talk about him, either.” There were a lot of things she wanted to say. But she was a human being, first and foremost, and could imagine Zack was hurting. “As I was saying, I’m really sorry about your dad being sick. I hope he’s at least comfortable.”
Zack’s voice lowered as he moved closer to her. “I didn’t come out here to talk about my dad, either.”
“Oh.” Bonnie swallowed, suddenly nervous about what he could possibly want to talk about. She hoped he didn’t have anything flirty planned because she was still mad about before. Before they’d grown up and started their lives away from each other. But Zack worked with her brothers, and they had been friends at one point in their lives. Of course, she’d just shouted that very thing at Quinten not five minutes ago.
“I’m sorry, Bon-Bon.” Zack looked pained, his eyes clear and blue and slightly glazed. She knew he couldn’t see her but didn’t know exactly what he could see, if anything. “I shouldn’t have done what I did. I hurt you, and I never meant to do that.”
Okay, so he was going to talk about it. She rolled her eyes at him. He couldn’t even say what he’d done. This was truly one of the last things she wanted to talk about. Tonight was quickly turning into one of the worst nights of her life as anger knifed through her, cutting her to ribbons. But Zack had a knack for fucking up her world. Bonnie could feel things shifting. Between her and her brothers, between her and Zack.
A snort escaped her lips, and she tried to laugh it off, even as Zack took one more step closer. Able to smell the chocolate on his tux as it mingled with his spicy, citrusy cologne, she sighed, trying to get the decadent odor out of her nose.
“Don’t. It was years ago. I know we were both young and stupid, but if you thought that wouldn’t hurt me, you’re a bigger idiot than I thought.” Bonnie was well aware her body and her head were at war with each other. Her emotions were just along for the ride.
He flinched, as if slapped, his crystalline eyes squinting briefly. She felt bad for a moment, but only for a moment. Zack had been the one to bring up the past, whereas she was perfectly content to tiptoe around it.
“So what? We’re just going to forget our history? Pretend we weren’t the best thing that ever happened to each other? It’s going to be small talk about your asshole brothers and my sick dad for the rest of our lives?” He took the last step closer, folding and pocketing his cane in one swift move. It was suddenly an inferno in the hallway outside the ballroom. Bonnie pressed her body up against the glass, trying to become one with the coolness, escaping the heat.
“I guess you threw away the best thing that happened to you. I’ve moved on.” She tried to sound haughty, using the tone her mother had perfected, but it fell flat.
She didn’t know what was next for them, if they could ever have a future together. She wasn’t sure she even wanted one. But as he took the step that ate up the space between them, she realized he’d taken her silence as a challenge.
And she couldn’t push him away. She never had been able to.
That had been the problem from the get-go. Bonnie wanted to be near Zack. The way her nipples pebbled as he pressed his chest against hers proved it. He was smearing chocolate all over her dress, and she didn’t even care.
“Have you?” She forgot what she’d said, but he seemed to read her, maybe even better now that he couldn’t see. “Moved on?
Zack’s scent was overwhelming her. His heat invaded her space. Then his hands conquered her, and she hadn’t even realized he was touching her. Her whimper was the only response she could give, and he took it. Whole-heartedly.
Gripping her waist tightly as he bowed his head down to her neck, he spoke into her ear, the whisper against her skin sending goose bumps rippling across her flesh.
“See? Your body still reacts to me. I can hear your breathing changing.”
He was right. She was gasping for air, suddenly not getting any. Her eyes zeroed in on a clump of chocolate on his neck, a few crumbs of cake that were stuck to the pudding lava from inside the desserts Quinten had dumped on him. Without thinking, her tongue snaked out and gave it a swipe.
Zack groaned, a strange mix of triumph and defeat, before his mouth pressed against hers. Her world changed then. As the familiar feel of his lips moving against hers registered in her brain, Bonnie knew she was finished fighting him. At least for now. The past didn’t matter. Her brothers didn’t matter. Nothing mattered except Zack and Bonnie. They were together again, in t




his moment, and she was taking advantage of it to erase the pains and hurts of the past.
Her fingers tangled in his hair, even as the sticky goo of chocolate squished between her fingers. It was warm, adding another sensual texture to everything Zack right now. Her mouth opened for him, and his tongue swooped inside as he gripped her waist tighter, his body against her, his thigh pressing into her sweet spot.
Zack had changed so much. He was bigger, harder, manlier, but the connection between them was the same. It was like adding gasoline to a fire, and as soon as he touched Bonnie, she wanted to explode.
She couldn’t get enough of him. Her mouth wanted to consume him, and together, they were incendiary as their mouths suckled and nipped, tongues entwining together in a dance older than time itself.
And then Zack’s hands began roaming. As one slipped down her hip to her thigh, he inched her skirt up until it bunched in his palm. A hitch in his breath told her he’d discovered her stockings. The rough pad of his calloused index finger traced the edge in a seductive dance. As his finger dipped under the elastic, popping it, the sting against her flesh had her gasping for air.
Bonnie hadn’t noticed his finger moving toward her panties until it was already there. She was too distracted by everything else—the cool glass against her back, his mouth on hers moving down her jaw to behind her ear, his other hand palming her breast through her dress.
But when he tugged her panties out of the way and swiped along her folds, she moaned. Remembering they were in a very public place, Bonnie clamped a hand over her mouth.
And Zack was still working.
He was a man on a mission, wholly focused on her pleasure. When his mouth moved down her collar bone and started working on the tops of her breasts, she felt the goose bumps rupture all the way down her arms. But that was barely noticeable, as his fingers were still working under her panties.
Bonnie bit the back of her wrist as she threw her head back and arched into his touch. His fingers delved into her heat, pumping in and out furiously. Bonnie wasn’t worried about people seeing, as her skirt was so full, but if someone walked by, it would be no secret what was going on underneath it.
She sighed against her hand, forcing air into her lungs as Zack pressed his thumb against her clit, his fingers still thrusting in and out of her. When he rubbed a hard circle over the tiny nub of nerves, her body exploded, shudders wracking through her, even as she bit her wrist hard.
A slight cough nearby had Zack spinning around, blocking Bonnie from whoever had just walked up on them.
“Uh, Simon’s looking for y’all. Do I tell him you guys are coming?” A guy with dark curls on his head and a physique to rival an elite body builder was standing there. “Figuratively speaking, of course,” he added with a smirk. It was one of the guys from Pierce Securities, but Bonnie didn’t know which one. She thought it might be the computer guy since she hadn’t seen him much. Bonnie had heard some murmurs about him—he was rich, smart, and utterly taken with his fiancée.
“Yeah, let me get this chocolate off me and we’ll be in there. Thanks, Evan.”
“No problem, man.” The smirk remained as he deftly spun on his heels and went back into the ballroom, a smattering of applause erupting at something someone had said into the microphone as he walked in. Then the door shut behind him, followed by silence.
Zack spun back around. “Clean up and we’ll go back in together?” His eyes danced around her forehead, her mouth, the air around her face, as he spoke. She wondered what exactly he saw.
“Um, sure. Yeah.”
Now that he was done, it was as if they hadn’t done anything at all. Zack extended his cane and ambled to the restrooms, his fingers trailing on the walls until they got to the braille signs.
Suddenly, all Bonnie’s doubts rushed back to her.
Zack Ward was a manwhore. She’d known it back then, she knew it now, and Bonnie didn’t want to be the latest in a long line of conquests. He’d seemed genuine when they’d spoken before the kissing— like he really wanted her.
But she was older now. And wiser.
She didn’t know exactly what she wanted from Zack. At one time in her life, she’d wanted everything. Bonnie had wanted forever with him, for better or worse.
And then the worse had happened and he’d thrown her away. The pain returned in the form of a weird roiling in her stomach as it sank.
Yeah. She wasn’t going through that again.
Smoothing her dress for the umpteenth time that night, Bonnie held her chin high and strode to the elevator door, strong in her convictions.
Zack Ward had hurt her for the last time.

Chapter one:
Zack’s eyes watered through the pain as the dark shadow advanced on him, skewing his already deteriorating vision. Holding his gloved hands in front of his face, he missed the sucker punch to his ribs.
Fuck.
“Goddammit, Q. What the hell?” Zack’s voice came out harsher than he’d intended because that shit hurt, but he couldn’t show weakness in front of the guys. Not any more than he already did when he bumped into shit, but whatever.
Quinten’s voice was a satisfied rumble. “You wanted to spar, sharpen your skills you said. Get with it. You have to sense me coming if you can’t see me.”
He was right, but that didn’t make it any easier. Still recovering from his dad’s death and all it entailed, Zack’s head wasn’t in the game, and the shadow that was Quinten kept coming at him. He tried to focus on the other man’s breathing, something to alert him to another strike.
They were both breathing loudly. It wasn’t hard to determine when Quinten changed his tactic because his breath hitched slightly. Zack heard his feet as they bounced out of range and came back from a different direction.
When he knew Quinten was within reach, he fluttered his left arm, readying for a punch to Quinten’s nose. When the shadow reacted, Zack shot out his right arm, lightning fast, and hit a torso. A gratifying exhalation of air hit his ears.
His sense of satisfaction was short-lived, though, as Zack immediately lost his own air in a rush. His brain registered the nausea-inducing blunt force to his rib, right where Quinten had just hit him.
Fuck.
That was going to bruise.
The shadow retreated; it was Zack’s turn to advance. He knew he didn’t have a chance against Quinten. He was a scary badass.

“How’s Bonnie been?” Zack knew better than to taunt Quinten about his sister while he was in the ring playing punching bag with the man, but he was hoping to get under the guy’s skin so he could get an edge. “Y’all let her out of her gilded cage yet?”

As Quinten growled low in his throat, Zack second-guessed himself. Quinten won fights like this all the time, but Zack had been under the illusion this was a friendly spar. He’d been sorely mistaken. Quinten had been distant with him the last few years, something he’d chalked up to Bonnie, and taunting him like this was a dumbass move. He’d just given him the excuse he needed to kick Zack’s ass.

Quinten had never been out-and out-aggressive with Zack. It was like his friend finally had the chance to express his anger for the way Zack had treated his sister.

Zack had thought all that was water under the bridge, chalked up to immaturity, but when he’d tried to have a conversation with Bonnie at the masquerade thing several months ago, Quinten had turned back into the twenty-year-old who didn’t think Zack was good enough for his baby sister.

And he’d been acting like that ever since. Zack wondered if Bonnie had said something about what happened between them to her brother but didn’t think it likely. He couldn’t dwell on that now, not while he was in the ring with the guy.
When he felt himself in the other man’s space, he launched himself, desperately grappling with Quinten like the blind man he was. He used his feet to kick the backs of his knees, bringing him to the ground with an oof.
But he should have known better. Quinten was in his element on the ground.
Before he knew what had happened, Zack was on his stomach, his right forearm ready to snap between Quinten’s legs which were somehow contorted around Zack’s body. Of course, Zack had no idea how he’d managed to get himself in this position.
“Stay the fuck away from my sister,” Quinten murmured as if he weren’t even out of breath, while Zack was panting and practically foaming with pain.
And all the other guys were there, watching. That was more humiliating than the fact his so-called best friend was kicking the shit out of him.
In the back of his mind, another version of Zack dwelled. A bigger, buffer version of Zack. His constant companion—or alter ego—had a bushy beard and was two hundred and eighty-five pounds of oily, tanned muscle. Zack fondly referred to his mental companion as Dude.
Right now, Dude was pissed. He raged around the recesses of Zack’s brain, cigar hanging out of the corner of his mouth, sweaty muscles popping from a ripped tank top, as he clutched a fully loaded and cocked .50 caliber air craft mount machine gun in his arms, ready to blow Quinten to smithereens.
“Chill, Dude,” Zack whispered under his breath right before tapping out. Dude looked at him, as best he could, with his own designer sunglasses—the kind worn for style and not necessity. He gritted his jaw but complied, the gun disappearing before he sat on a bench and pantomimed zipping his mouth shut.
Gasping for breath, Zack cussed through the pain with each inhale. A snuffling, wet nose eased his hand, and he pet Shania, his service dog. He’d had her less than six months, but she was the sweetest animal he’d ever known. Initially trained to treat PTSD, she read his moods better than Dude.
“Thanks, bro. I’ll remember that next time you ask me for a favor.” Zack’s voice heaved, and he tried not to puke. The pain focused itself in his gut, roiling around and sloshing, ready to come up his throat at any moment. Swallowing the thick saliva in his mouth, he tamped it down.
“I’m not doing you any favors coddling you.” Yep, Quinten was pissed at him. That made Zack feel worse than the other guys witnessing his humiliation.
Shadow Quinten jumped off the mat, and Zack could only remember what his friend must look like, all six foot seven of him, towering around with his broody façade. At one point, they’d been best friends—brothers almost—but it had been so long ago, Zack only had the memories. Somewhere along the line, Quinten had abandoned the friendship, leaving him grasping at something tenuous.
But grasping he was.
He sat up with a moan, desperate to retain a shred of dignity, even though he was pretty sure Q had broken one of his ribs. Shania licked his ear, and he returned the comforting gesture by burying his hands in her fur to hide the shaking. No. Not broken. If it were broken, he wouldn’t be able to move. Zack focused on that one simple fact and managed to breathe through the pain.
“You alright, man?” Ryan was cool. Zack didn’t know him as well as Quinten and Simon, but he liked the guy a lot. He was level-headed most of the time and knew his shit when it came to survival. Zack knew he’d be the one to stand next to him with a sawed-off shotgun during a zombie apocalypse.
Grunting something that was supposed to be an affirmation, but came off more like a wheeze, Shania whimpered and licked him again. Zack mumbled a cooing noise in her ear to reassure her.
“Quinten, I need Zack later tonight,” Simon admonished his brother. “Don’t kill him.”
Pierce Securities was his life, and Zack wasn’t ready to give up on it yet. Simon, at least, tolerated him. Although Evan and Ryan seemed cool enough, Q used to be his best friend. The guy who swapped locker room talk with him, shared beers, snuck cigarettes, and even helped him through the rough times when he’d started down the path of blindness.
But when Zack made sure Bonnie would leave him when she went off to college, Quinten had left, too. Zack hadn’t meant for that to happen, but it had. And it had been a long, uphill battle getting his buddy back. With this job, Zack had thought things would be easier, but apparently not. His old brother from another mother clearly hated his guts.
“Here are some pain killers.” Andrew, the newest guy on the team, entered his peripheral vision. The jury was still out on whether or not this guy was cool, but Zack listened to some pills shake out of a bottle and reached for them, his willingness to trust in the man overtaking his senses. He looked closely at the pills, seeing three little blue dots on his palm before popping them. “Aleve. Supposed to be an anti-inflammatory.”
“Thanks, man.” Zack swallowed them with ease, his mouth having pooled with saliva from the pain. Andrew chuckled in response, but Zack ignored it. The guy had a fucked-up sense of humor, always trying to get a rise out of Deena Rae for no apparent reason. Her boyfriend, Slade, was about to kick the guy’s ass, and since Slade was his new brother, Zack decided he would happily sit on the sidelines and cheer him on. But right now, he smiled at the guy who had just given him pain meds.
Simon’s voice broke through the red haze of pain, “I need you and Ryan to meet an informant tonight. I’ve got everyone else on assignment, and this one’s pretty important. It looks like you and Evan are right about those girls. It appears the recent kidnappings are a human trafficking/prostitution ring.” Zack’s spirits rose. Simon had to have some faith in his abilities if he were trusting him to meet someone. “It’s Macy’s boyfriend, a kid named Jeff. Says she texted him her whereabouts. But the kid said he was nervous. Didn’t want to talk on the phone.”
Macy was a kidnapping victim her parents had hired the firm to find. Prior to retiring, Hollerman had been investigating cases with missing girls, and there were too many similarities to be ignored. So they’d been working a possible trafficking angle, hoping it would pan out. This was the lead they’d been praying for. The police certainly seemed to be out of them.
Simon had been giving him some responsibilities around the office, but Zack couldn’t help feeling they were all tests of some sort. Like this. He was clearly not the best person for this job, which was probably why Ryan was going along, too. Not that he didn’t want to—he wanted it like he wanted beer and women—but it didn’t make sense.
But having a job like this wasn’t like his other jobs. Other jobs had been in the office. Evan had modified his own sight-impaired computer technology to help him. Zack had even been doing a little computer searching alongside Evan in his tiny, cramped office. But this? This was insanity.
He was totally in.
The clanking of weights and grunts of the guys working out filled Zack’s head. He nodded his affirmation, glad for his sunglasses shielding the watering of his eyes. Pain or gratitude. Didn’t matter.
“When does Hollerman start?” Quinten spoke, ignoring the painfully obvious fact they were counting on a visually impaired man to do a job that probably required eyes. “He just retired from the force, right?”
“He’s a good guy,” Zack offered. Before his blindness, he’d been a cop. Not that he’d gotten far in the force before having to quit, but he’d worked with Detective Hollerman a couple of times.
“Monday. I figured we’re not making his job any easier, he might as well join us,” Simon added with a hiss as he lifted something. He preferred the hand weights to the few machines in the pieced together gym they’d made from used equipment.
A soft chuckle came from Evan, off to Zack’s left over by the pull-up bar. The guy loved his pull-ups and managed to work out nearly every muscle group that way. But his upper body strength was phenomenal.
Jordan spoke up from across the room, “Does the guy have a first name? Or is it just Hollerman?”
Zack grinned to himself. “It’s Poindexter. I dare you to call him that. He goes by Dex, but his real name is an earned privilege.” He had been an eye witness to Hollerman’s temper when people razzed him about his name. Poor schmuck. Zack thought Dex had been formally introduced to everyone at Valerie’s masquerade benefit thing, but a couple of them had apparently missed it.
Deena Rae was the latest new hire, after Andrew, and she was awesome. She didn’t take shit from anyone and was excellent at her job. Right now, after being badly burned, she was supposed to be on medical leave but was home doing computer searches on supposed bad guys. In fact, she was probably doing the job Zack usually did to alleviate stress from Evan, leaving him to do the more complicated things, like find information they had no right to find.
Evan piped up, “If you hire all these people, won’t we need more space?” Zack heard the thud as he dropped to the ground.
“I’ve been thinking about that. The office next door is vacant. It wouldn’t take much to knock out a wall between them as long as it’s not load bearing. But it can be done.”
“Won’t the building owner have something to say about that?” Ryan asked.
“Quinten and I own the building. It’s part of Pierce Enterprises.”
Zack had known that. Growing up with the Pierce kids meant their money was shoved in his face by their parents on a near daily basis. Not that Zack was poor, but hardly anybody in Austin could compete with the Pierce legacy. Their parents had been so disappointed when Simon had gone into the police force, so Quinten had bowed to the pressure to get a law degree. His parents wanted him to go into politics, but as soon as they’d died, the degree had sat in the caverns of Quinten’s brain, nearly useless.
The Pierce boys seemed to almost resent their wealth, never rubbing it in anyone’s faces, acting and dressing like normal people, with the exception of Simon’s penchant for expensive suits. Quinten and Simon could buy them all, besides Evan, ten times over. The sudden silence in the gym attested to the fact most of the guys there had forgotten that fact.
Zack sighed and clambered to his feet, Shania at his side as he found and clutched her harness. “So where am I meeting this kid?” The pain piercing his side was a little better, but not much.
“You ever been to South by Southwest?” Simon asked with a little humor in his voice.
Fuck no. Any Austin native knew to get the hell out of dodge when the largest music festival of the free world descended upon their city. Freeways were jammed, roads were closed, and nothing was normal as millions of people visited the already overpopulated capital.
And Simon was sending him.