Valentine's Day Extravaganza: Day 3 - Valentine's Day Gone Wrong Pt. 2

Thursday, February 11, 2021



Hello, everyone!

Welcome to Day 3 of the Valentine's Day Extravaganza!

I hope you are all still enjoying the fun Valentine's day festivities on the blog this week. Thank you so much to all of you who have been reading, sharing, and commenting on the posts! I'm so thrilled that this is something that's bringing joy to some of you. We could all do with some extra happiness and you all know how much I love to celebrate romance.

If you missed the first two posts - Galentine's Day and Valentine's Day Gone Wrong Part 1 - be sure to check them out for all the incredible content. Today, I'm featuring part 2 of the Valentine's Day Gone Wrong contributions. Once again, the authors who signed up delivered with some excellent and creative contributions that I think all of you will enjoy.

Thanks a million to the authors featured today for taking the time to participate!

Enjoy, friends!


Ali Hazelwood

THE LOVE HYPOTHESIS

by Ali Hazelwood
Publisher: Berkley Romance
Publication Date: September 14th 2021
Amazon - The Book Depository - IndieBound


© Ali Hazelwood, 2021

The Valentine Hypothesis

Or: A highly scientific study on why Valentine’s Day is a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

By Olive Smith, not-quite-yet-but-hopefully-very-soon-to-be Ph.D. 


Introduction

This morning I woke up (several times; I have a snoozing problem) and blindly dragged my crumpled, unshowered self into the kitchen, more yawn than woman. My beloved roommate, Malcolm, gave me a pitiful look. He poured me a cup of coffee (two-thirds cream; seven sugars; sprinkle of cinnamon), watched me shotgun it, and then asked: “Any plans for the day?”

“I have forty Intro to Chem quizzes to grade. Then I gotta figure out why my lab mice have been pooping some blue stuff, and then—”

“I meant, any plans for Valentine’s day?”

“Oh.” I’d forgotten about that. Blissful ignorance.

I am having a threesome with two grads from immunology after lunch,” he offered.

“Oh. Sounds, er, lovely.”

“Want in?”

I blinked and watched him spread red jam on a piece of toast. “Wouldn’t my presence make it an orgy?”

“A foursome,” he corrected me in the same patient tone he uses to explain to freshmen the oxidation of acetyl-CoA “An orgy is five or more people. And you’d have to be really tacky to have one on V-day.”

“I see.” I actually did not see, but it’s probably one of those social rules one must simply internalize, like no denim-on-denim, or never sell GameStop stocks. “Well. Thanks for the offer. But I, er… no.”

“Threesome it is, then. But don’t you have some other plan for tonight? Something fun that doesn’t involve lab mice shit?”

“Why would I?”

He shrugged. “It’s Valentine’s day. You’re like, legally bound to have fun.”

“Hang on. Haven’t we, as a society, agreed that Valentine’s day is the worst holiday in the universe?”

“That’s Columbus Day. And anyway”—he set a plate in front of me—“you should at least try to do something. Something love-themed, you know.”

“Like what?”

“I don’t know. Whatever you feel like—book a boudoir photoshoot. Watch Love Actually at 2x speed. Check out the zoo live cam and cheer for the juvenile sea otters while they mate. The sky’s the limit, Ol.”

I looked down at the breakfast he’d made for me—a disturbingly heart-shaped PB&J.

And that, reader, was the moment I decided to embark in this very important, paradigm-shifting, groundbreaking study that will finally shed light on the worst… okay, on the second worst holiday of the year. 

My hypothesis: Valentine’s Day (henceforth referred to as ValDay) universally sucks. And I shall prove it in the name of science and of the juvenile sea otters—who, frankly, deserve their sexual privacy.

Methods

I utilized rapid acquisition technology procedures and synergized online search capabilities to query electronically stored and indexed factual information assets.

In other words: I googled.

Results

My highly scientific study (which was most certainly not conducted while I should have been grading) revealed that ValDay is, in fact, The Worst™. The reasons?

Frankly questionable origins: apparently, ValDay derives from an ancient Roman festivity in which men would sacrifice a goat and then whip their ladies with their entrails. Now, I want to be sex positive, and I really hate kink shaming, but I think we should all draw the line at murdering our pets as foreplay. 

ValDay is killing the environment: Global flower production? Carbon emissions. Fancy gift packaging? Carbon emissions. Cheesy cards being mailed all over the world? Carbon emissions. Gold mining for jewelry? Carbon emissions. Single people sighing deeply because they’re subjected to their coupled friends PDA-ing? Carbon emissions (probably?). ValDay is the coal of holidays. Think Green: Boycott ValDay.

Low-quality candy: Okay, I have no proof of this. Still, I’m 87% sure that ValDay candy is shoddily made and doesn’t taste as good as rest-of-the-year candy. It’s like focusing on shaping the chocolate like a heart or a flower or a penis or whatever distracts MaĂ®tres Chocolatiers from making it taste good—

Pause: Anh, my BFF, just dropped off a box of Godiva for me. Humph. It’s a really nice gesture, but I won’t open it. In protest.

Update: Okay, maybe I’ll eat one.

Re-update: Shit. These are good.

Re-re-update: Disregard this paragraph, please.


Let’s talk about ValDay porn: Did you know that some fancy statisticians combed through a bunch of datasets and discovered that on ValDay women are more likely to look at porn, mostly of the “passionate,” “sensual,” and “romantic,” variety. Men, on the other hand, record a spiking interest in “babysitter porn.” I’m not quite sure what point I’m trying to make with this, but it felt like information that needed to be shared. 

Vinegar Valentines: Omg, I just found out that in the Victorian era you could write insulting cards to discourage stalker-suitors who won’t get a hint. Let’s bring those back, please.

30% of people who celebrate ValDay buy gifts for their pets: This is actually really cute. I feel like we’re making it up to the goats that were slaughtered. To the juvenile sea otters, too.

It was Henry VIII who instituted ValDay: Okay—seriously? Are we going to let Mr. “My Anaconda Don’t Want None Unless You Birth Sons Hun” tell us what’s romantic? 

 St. Valentine is the patron saint of beekeepers: Listen, Bees make honey and cross-pollinate food crops and are incredibly cute. Leave them out of this.

Teachers are the number one recipient of Valentines: God, they deserve it so much. Raise đź‘Ź Teachers đź‘Ź Salaries!

Conclusions

Okay, I must admit that  halfway through my Google search I lost track of what I was doing. But the conclusion to my very scientific study is that— 

Wait. Why is Doctor Adam Carlsen glaring at me from across the seminar room? Do I have chocolate on my face?

Update: I checked with my selfie camera. I did have chocolate on my face. Oops.

Anyway, the moral of this story is: ValDay sucks. Except for the candy. And for the teacher’s love. And the bees rep. And the juvenile sea otters, who are probably getting laid. And—

Whatever. Please disregard this entire study. I gotta go check on my mice’s droppings.

XOXO 

Olive Smith, not-quite-yet-but-cross-your-fingers-hopefully-very-soon-to-be Ph.D.



Find Ali:
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Chelle de Notte

AN ESPECIALLY HOT SUMMER

by Chelle de Notte
Publisher: Evernight Publishing
Publication Date: October 5th 2019
Amazon

Winter Heat

Charlie and Justin’s Valentine’s Day Story

© Chelle de Notte, 2021

Charlie looked over the prix fixe menu with a critical eye. These options—oysters, filet mignon, chocolate lava cake—were more cliched than anything that would have been on the Valentine’s Day menu at Helga’s. Their mouth fairly watered at the memory of the cacio e pepe and beef Wellington Lena had had them taste for the sake of the wine pairings, and nothing here was inspiring them as much. The sooner their restaurant’s plumbing was overhauled and they could go back to work, the better.

At the same time, they couldn’t object to the silver lining of being free on Valentine’s Day on a year that they had someone to celebrate with. They and Justin had woken up together, spent the afternoon laughing and holding hands through a movie, and a romantic dinner was next on the docket.

A waitress in a baby pink sweater and matching wings approached the table. “Can I start you off with something to drink?”

“Just a sparkling water for me, please.” There wasn’t a mocktail option to speak of on this menu.

“Same for me,” Justin said from the other side of a towering floral centerpiece.

She headed to the bar, and they sat back to look at Justin. Or tried to—the mountain of roses and other red flowers kept them from seeing their love’s face. “Mind if I move this?”

“I wish you would. I hate not being able to see you.”

They carefully placed the centerpiece on the floor and sat back in contentment, only to jerk forward in horror. The dim light couldn’t hide Justin’s ashen face and pained expression. “You okay?”

“Yeah, why?” He reached across the table to take their hand.

“Because you look awful.” Charlie reveled in his touch for a moment before speaking again. “Come on, we said no secrets.”

“It’s not a secret, just something that never came up.” He took a deep breath before continuing. “You know I used to be a ballet dancer before I got hurt and started college. But I don’t think I told you the accident was during a Valentine’s Day performance of Romeo and Juliet.”

Their eyes widened. “You didn’t, and why didn’t you say anything when it got closer to the holiday?”

“I didn’t think it would be an issue. You were supposed to be working on Valentine’s Day, and I was more than happy to take you out for a belated celebration. And then when that pipe burst and you got the night off…you were so excited, and…”

His words came haltingly, and every one of them broke Charlie’s heart. “And let’s get going.”

“No. I had a good time earlier, and I’m not going to ruin your Valentine’s Day.”

“But I’m not going to have a good one if I’m putting you through hell.” They put some money on the table, and the two walked out of the restaurant, ducking around the bouquet of heart-shaped balloons at the door. Charlie didn’t regret leaving the over-the-top scene behind, but hoped that wasn’t it for the night. They’d been so happy to have Valentine’s Day itself with Justin and wanted to see him happy, too.

*

Justin breathed easier the second he was back on the sidewalk. The whole time in that restaurant, he’d felt like the walls were closing in on him, and his chest constricted a little more with every breath he took. It was just as well the dinner plans were off, because he doubted he could have eaten a bite there.

“Feeling better?” Charlie’s voice cut into his reverie. 

He turned to face them. “Feeling like an idiot, and sorry about tonight.”

“Don’t be. I’d never have put you through that if I’d known.” They were being a good sport about it, but couldn’t hide the sadness in their eyes.

Justin had already lost his ballet career because of this stupid holiday, and didn’t want to lose the best person he’d ever been with, too. He chose his words carefully. “I wanted—want—to be with you today, same as I do every day. But that whole atmosphere was just…too much.”

“Can’t argue with that.” They took his hand. “So let’s find something more low-key.”

The two walked a few blocks in silence until a shop’s window caught his eye. “What is this?”

Charlie paused in front of the display of high-end vibrators and glass dildos. “Something that’s always been closed when I pass on the way to and from work, but looks open now.”

“Want to go in?” At their nod, he stepped up to hold the door open for them.

Charlie and Justin had barely entered the store when a woman with a tight dress, carefully styled hair, and red lipstick approached, a tray of champagne flutes in her hand. “Hi! Are you here for the workshop?”

“Workshop?”

“We’re having a talk on mindful sexuality followed by a guided meditation to help participants connect to their bodies and desire for a more present sexual experience and stronger orgasms, both by yourself and with a partner. There’s a cover charge of $50 a pop, but you can use it as a credit for anything you buy tonight.”

She set the tray down and glanced at a tablet. “We’ve got room for two more if you’re interested.”

Charlie looked up, the sparkle returning to their eye. “I’m game, but what do you think?”

He considered carefully. There was no doubt that the event was inspired by Valentine’s Day, and yet there wasn’t a Cupid in sight in the store. “I think it’d be fun to do this, pick out something to try when we get home…and we can always order a pizza if we get hungry later.”

“I like that plan.” They handed the saleswoman a credit card, and Justin accepted a glass of champagne in anticipation of making a much happier Valentine’s Day memory with Charlie by his side.

*

Read Charlie and Justin’s romance in AN ESPECIALLY HOT SUMMER.

The events of this story take place at the same time as VALENTINE’S DAY DEFERRED.



Find Chelle:
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Denise Williams

HOW TO FAIL AT FLIRTING

by Denise Williams
Publisher: Berkley Publishing
Publication Date: December 1st 2020
Amazon - The Book Depository - Indiebound

HOW TO FAIL AT VALENTINE’S DAY

© Denise Williams, 2021

I ran my hand down the delicate fabric, the red material like water under my fingers. “I love this dress.”

Jake called from the bedroom where he was changing. “Wear it!”

I laughed. “Yeah, right?”

He strode in wearing a Duke t-shirt and old sweatpants I could have sworn I threw out before we moved. “Just because we’re snowed in on Valentine’s Day doesn’t mean you can’t wear the dress.”

I pondered his suggestion. Jake told me to prepare for a night on the town filled with surprises and I’d justified dressing up. We didn’t plan on our closing date moving and the blizzard of the decade. “I did drop an obscene amount of money on it.”

“How obscene?” His lips brushed my shoulder. “We have a mortgage now.”

I glanced around the closet where a few of my suitcases sat with a bunch of moving boxes. We’d gotten the keys three days ago. Our house. “Let’s just plan to keep our water bill on the low side this month.”

His arms came around my waist and his laugh puffed against my neck. “Flushing optional. Got it.”

“You’re gross. I regret this cohabitation already.”

“You’re stuck with me for at least thirty years.” Jake’s chest was warm and solid at my back. “And I have a few surprises planned.”

“In our empty house during a blizzard?”

He kissed my cheek and stepped away. “Meet me downstairs.”

 

Outside, the wind howled and my feet padded against the hardwood floors. “Where are you?” My voice echoed through the house and I smiled, about to ask again when the lights shut off and something crashed in the living room.

I jumped at the jarring crash into darkness. “Jake?” I felt my way through the house, running into more than a few walls and doors.

“In here,” he called out, voice choked. His phone on the ground cast the living room in a blue light and revealed where he’d fallen, two boxes tipped sideways next to him. “I wasn’t quite done yet and tripped when the lights went out. Did something to my knee.”

I winced on his behalf. “Stop trying to surprise me and sit still.” I stole his phone to make him an ice pack in the kitchen. I grinned when I walked into the room. He’d laid out a feast, or as close as we could get to a feast from what we had on hand, so I gathered the pop-tarts and the bottle of champagne left by the realtor and made my way back toward Jake.

“Thanks,” he said, setting the makeshift ice pack on his knee and settling into the cocoon of blankets between boxes. Despite my warning to sit still, I was pretty sure the blankets hadn’t been arranged like that when I went into the kitchen.

I examined the box. “Did I tell you Cherry was my favorite?”

“I’d love to take credit, but it was all they had at the gas station.” He pulled me to his side, and I rested my head on his shoulder. “Sorry, this kind of fell apart. I was going to microwave those pizza rolls you love and put on Star Wars on the laptop, but it needs to be plugged in.”

“You were going to watch it with me?”

“I was going to play on my phone when you weren’t looking and wait until you got so worked up over Han Solo you dragged me to the bedroom.”

I nudged his side with my elbow. “Not sure your knee could take me dragging you to our bedroom, especially since there’s no bed yet.”

I handed him the mini bottle of champagne and rested my head on his shoulder. “We don’t need a bed.”

“Or hot food.”

“Or electricity.”

“Or fully functioning joints.” He popped the cork and sipped from the bottle before handing it to me. “Happy Valentine’s Day.”

I handed him a Pop-Tart. “Still the best one of my life.”


Find Denise:

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Fiona West

COULD BE SOMETHING GOOD

by Fiona West
Publisher: Self-Published
Publication Date: May 29th 2020
Amazon - The Book Depository - IndieBound


Rising to the Occasion: A Timber Falls short story

 ©  Fiona West, 2021

“Are we doing the Valentine’s thing?” Winnie asked, digging for a chunk of cookie dough out of their shared bowl. They were eating ice cream in bed again. It just felt like a natural go-to after mind-blowing sex, and there had been a lot of that lately. He expected their post-marriage life to be sweet, but there had been a new sense of completeness, a settling that didn’t feel boring at all, like a deep sigh during a hug. 

He took his own spoonful as he considered her question. Normally, he never ate in bed unless it was sex-related, but this kind of...was? It injected closeness into post-sex moments in a way he hadn’t figured out yet, and his scowling brother Kyle wasn’t around anymore to protest that it was gross to eat from the same bowl. 

“The Valentine’s thing?” he’d parroted. “Why wouldn’t we?” 

Winnie kept her eyes on the bowl, her silence lingering as she licked a drip off her spoon. “I’ve just never had a good one. I don’t know if I’m the Valentine’s type.” 

“What?” He stretched out the word meaningfully. “You just haven’t tried it with someone you love. You haven’t given V-Day a fair chance, Fred.” 

“And you have?” she asked, one eyebrow arched.

“No!” he cried, slapping a hand on his sheet-covered thigh, nearly jostling the bowl from his own grasp. “Which is why I need you on board to try it. Like, for real try it. Let’s go all out.” 

“I’d like to take this opportunity to remind you that Carla’s baby is due February 14th…which is a Monday.”

“But babies never come on time,” he joked, and she gave a quiet, mocking laugh. “Who else have you got lined up?” 

Winnie gave him a brief shake. “Just her, but…” 

“But nothing,” he said, reaching for his phone to check his calendar. “We’ll aim for Saturday the 12th. I’ve got the night off. Don’t take this away from me, Winnie Durand…” He’d figured out that she really liked it when he used her new name, and her gaze went appropriately soft. 

“Fine,” she muttered, flipping her blonde hair over her shoulder. “We’ll do the Valentine’s thing. But we’re putting a dollar limit on gifts.” He gave her a big, sloppy kiss on the cheek with a grin, triumphant despite her squawk of protest in response. 


A few days later, Daniel rubbed his hands together as he surveyed the scene. White tablecloth borrowed from his mother? Check. Blue china plates from their wedding? Check. Wine? Check. And he’d even sprung for the champagne instead of their usual $5 wine. His classy wife deserved to have her favorites. His wife. It was hard to believe they’d barely been married a month now...it was only a year ago he’d first spotted her (and been blown off by her) by the elevators at Santiam. 

He straightened the card he’d written her, propped against their crystal candlesticks (another wedding gift). On the advice of his brother Philip, he’d decided to forego expensive store-bought sentimentality and go straight for the heart. And for a dude with dyslexia, a handwritten card was a statement that went beyond ‘I’m cheap,’ even though the school debt (and now house debt) had been a factor. She’d probably get that. Maybe she’d make too much of it, though; if he made her cry, even for good reasons, was she going to forsake romance permanently? He momentarily considered pocketing it again, then gave himself a little shake all over, bouncing on his toes. How was he more nervous about this than all their other firsts? 

He straightened the box holding the necklace he’d gotten her off Etsy. He’d blown past that dollar limit right out of the gate, and he was banking on her understanding. Hopefully, she had, too. But probably not. Maybe he should save it for her birthday. Maybe...his phone buzzed in his pocket, and he opened it with his face. 

Wife: Carla just called…

He groaned and cleared his throat to dictate a message back to her. 

Daniel: Don’t say it. 

Wife: Apparently her kid is also anti-V day. 

Daniel: NOOOOOO

Wife: She’s been in labor for a few hours, but she thought it was Braxton-Hicks. I’m sorry, Whippersnapper. 

He sighed. Even if she came home right now, she’d be distracted, checking her phone for updates. He should’ve known that two medical professionals wouldn’t be able to celebrate a holiday on time. 

Wife: Want to try again tomorrow? 

Daniel: I work. 

Wife: 14th? 

Daniel: Work. 

Wife: I’m sorry, sweetheart. I know you were looking forward to this. 

Daniel: But you weren’t, so maybe it’s for the best. 

Wife: Oh, don’t say that.

Daniel: Forget it. We’ve got our whole lives to celebrate Valentine’s Day together, right?

His phone buzzed again, but he’d already put it down. It didn’t matter, he thought, as he blew out the candles. It did not matter, he insisted to himself as he stacked the plates. Nope, not at all. Got our whole lives. We’ll do it later. 

He spent the evening doing menial tasks around the house, not really accomplishing anything. He ate some of the shrimp he’d planned to serve as an appetizer while feeling sorry for himself; he was nothing if not a multitasker. He started the new Wonder Woman movie but turned it off because it just made him miss her more. Superheroes are our thing. She should be here. He went to bed early, alone, and barely registered when an exhausted Winnie crawled in next to him sometime around three in the morning. 

“That was fast,” he yawned. He hadn’t expected to see her until after his next shift.

“Yeah,” Winnie agreed softly. “She’s got two others, so she knew what she was doing and Baby was ready. Healthy. Ten fingers and toes.” 

“Sweet,” Daniel whispered, tumbling back into sleep as he turned over to hold her, nestling his face in her freshly-washed hair, the scent of lavender still hanging around her from the birth. She whispered something back, but he was too far gone to understand. “Love you, too,” he mumbled, and he felt her shake with a laugh. 

Winnie was still asleep when he crept from the bed a few hours later, and he tried not to rouse her as he showered and got ready for work. Not wanting to forget, he propped the card and the necklace against the stack of library books on her nightstand and hazarded a gentle kiss on her head just because he couldn’t say goodbye without one, even just for the day. His shift was surprisingly uneventful, so he was sent down to help deal with the chaos in the ER. He searched the halls for his dark-haired brother until he found him coming out of Exam Room 4.

“What do you need?” Daniel greeted his brother without pretext since that was Kyle’s preference. 

“Can you prescribe a laxative for Room 2? She swallowed her engagement ring when her boyfriend put it in a crème brĂ»lĂ©e, and I just haven’t gotten to her yet. I don’t think there should be any interaction with her current medications, but make sure we got an updated list.” 

“Sure.” 

“Thanks.” Kyle was three steps away when he turned back. “How did your Valentine’s Day surprise go? No sex details.” 

“Jealous?” Daniel grinned, and his brother scowled at him. He already knew he was; Kyle was engaged to Daniel’s best friend, and Daniel was getting complaints from both sides about how the waiting was killing them. “It didn’t happen.” 

Kyle’s expression flattened. “Oh. I’m sorry?” 

“Is that a question?” Daniel smirked, paging through the patient’s chart; the medication list hadn’t been updated in six months. He’d fix that. 

“I don’t know, I assume you’re upset. Are you not upset?” 

Having an autistic brother wasn’t as much of a pain as people sometimes assumed. Since he also had a neurotypical brother, he could say with confidence that all brothers were a pain sometimes. And yes, Kyle could be annoying when he was insisting on things that could be done more than one way successfully, but he was always reliable. Even in his sympathy. 

Daniel closed the chart. “Yes, I am upset.” He wasn’t going to lie to him, even if he’d been lying to himself. 

“Then I’m sorry. Your disappointment is obvious now that I look at you more carefully. Do you need a hug?” 

Daniel forced himself to keep a straight face; only Kyle would offer a hug he probably didn’t want to give over a failed romantic encounter. 

“No, I’m good. Thanks, bro.” 

Kyle gave him a thumbs-up as he backed away toward the waiting room. “You can still have sex with her on the fifteenth,” he called down the hall, and Daniel chuckled as a pair of nurses gave him a side-eye. He felt his face bloom into a blush as they giggled. He knocked at the door to Exam Room 2, thinking about how much Kyle had to learn about romance. He hadn’t wanted to sleep with Winnie...well, he did want to sleep with Winnie because he basically always wanted to sleep with Winnie. The woman was fantastic and smart and gorgeous, after all, even if she claimed all that post-sex ice cream was adding to her waistline. But he’d wanted to make her swoon a little, to remind her that it was okay to keep making memories now that they were married. Let her know that he had no intention of taking her love for granted, now or years from now. 

The day in the ER continued with gusto: a finger sliced open from trying to cut the top off a bottle of champagne, something Kyle called a Casanova fracture which Daniel didn’t need to know any more about, someone who’d accidentally poisoned his wife by filling their house with a flower she was allergic to, and last but not least, hot wax burns galore. Daniel thought as he drove home that he’d rarely been more annoyed at the incompetence of couples everywhere when it came to basic safety measures. As he pulled into the garage, he got a text from his parents, their faces smooshed together, holding up tiny cups together. They’d apparently gone for a Valentine’s Day bike ride to Amity to do some wine tasting. They were totally #relationshipgoals. With a sigh, he went into the house. The only light came from the kitchen, slanted sideways across the hardwood that still needed refinishing (why did they buy a fixer-upper again?), and he poked his head in there, hoping to find her. Instead, he found a note she’d printed for him in Open Dyslexic.

Hi sweetheart--here’s dinner. I went to bed early, because I’ve got an early morning. Hope you had a great day. Love you. --Fred

Daniel lifted the note to peer through the saran wrap to see what food she’d made, but it didn’t really matter. He took the stairs two at a time; it was only nine-thirty. Maybe she’d still be awake. His hopes died as he pushed their bedroom door open gently. The light was out and he could hear her snoring gently. That meant she was already out hard. He sighed. Not even a goodnight snuggle and catch up? This sucked. The frustration that had been building over the last few days crashed over him, and Daniel turned and jogged back down the stairs. It was too late for a bike ride, his usual go-to, so he just stuck the food in the fridge (which smelled...weird.) and went to bed. Winnie sighed in her sleep and rolled over, making his chest her pillow. He gathered her closer and noticed the same scent on her...cinnamon? Strange. Daniel fell asleep almost immediately, where he was on a trip he’d taken once to Cannon Beach when they’d stopped at this amazing bakery; the cinnamon even permeated his dreams. 

When he woke up, he was alone. He felt around for his glasses: 5:10. 

“Win?” he called. No answer. He got up and shuffled his way toward the bathroom: it was dark and quiet, and he felt the fixtures were mocking him for losing his own wife. Whatever she had to do this morning, there’s no way she’d already be gone this morning. Winnie thought 8 AM was “early.” A clatter of metal downstairs had him wondering if he needed the baseball bat he kept under their bed, but he crept down the stairs anyway in his bare feet and boxers. The kitchen light wasn’t on, but he heard some muttering coming from the room that had his shoulders relaxing. His wife was hunched over, trying to read the directions on a package of thick-cut bacon by the dim light of the range hood, wearing the short, black silk robe she’d gotten from the lingerie shower she’d insisted she didn’t want, blonde hair spilling over her shoulders.

“What are you doing?”

At the sound of his voice, Winnie jumped about a foot. With a hand pressed to her chest, she whirled. “You scared the crap out of me, what are you doing down here?” When her hand fell away, he saw she was wearing the necklace he’d given her, and his heart warmed. 

“Just trying to figure out where my wife went…” His brain was a little fuzzy still. It was always like that right after he’d woken up. He pushed his hair back out of his face, trying to put together the pieces of what he was seeing. 

“Well, go back upstairs,” she said, pushing him toward the doorway, but Daniel dug in his heels.

“What’s that smell? Why are you cooking bacon at five o’clock in the morning?” He sniffed the air again. “Why does everything smell like cinnamon?” 

With a sigh, Winnie whipped a tea towel off a glass pie pan he hadn’t noticed on the counter. “They’re still rising. I think. I don’t know, I’m not good at this.” 

Daniel wandered over to the pan: they were cinnamon rolls, only instead of rolling them in a circle, she’d rolled each end in toward the middle to make a heart. She’d even used pink sugar for the inside, peeking out the top. That must have been what he’d smelled last night. A carton of eggs and a can of white frosting sat next to it, waiting, and she had the makings of a fruit salad littering the counter.

“Winnie,” he said, a huge grin taking over his face, “are you trying to be romantic?”

She sniffed in that way he used to think was uppity as she re-covered her baking. “There’s nothing that says we have to celebrate holidays at night. You were sad. I couldn’t have that, so I made us a little Valentine’s Brunch.” He knew better now; it was just her ‘feelings’ sniffle. Winnie didn’t love sentimentality. But apparently, she did love him. 

“So what I’m hearing is,” he said, pulling her into his arms, “that if I pout hard enough, I can get whatever I want.”

Winnie rolled her eyes, but the twitch at the corners of her mouth told him she was holding back a smile. “That’s not what I said.” 

He let out a big sigh, full of fake emotion. “I’m really feeling down, Win. I need romance. I need you to do partner-y surprise things for me.” 

She pushed gently at his chest. “You’re ridiculous.” 

“No,” he said, making his tone serious again. “I’m just in love with you. But I understand if it looks the same sometimes.” Daniel kissed her, just a whisper against her lips. The oven was already on and the kitchen was warm...Winnie’s cheeks were flushed. “How long until food?” 

She reached up to put her arms around his neck. “Well, I’d planned it for 7:00, accounting for time to let the cinnamon rolls rise and cool enough to frost. Even I’ve seen enough baking shows to know you can’t frost things when they’re hot…” She rubbed up against him meaningfully, the black silk of her robe igniting the nerves of his bare belly. “But in the meantime, I was planning to come back upstairs and wake you up.” 

“Wake me up how?” A breathless fool. That’s how he sounded, and he didn’t mind at all. 

Not breaking her gaze away from his, Winnie reached down with one hand and gave the tie around her waist a firm tug, letting the two sides of the robe fall apart. “We can’t break our reverse date tradition now, can we?” 

“No,” he confirmed, pushing the smooth fabric from her shoulders. “Of course not.” Then he lowered his voice to a whisper. “Thank you for indulging my romantic side.” 

“You’re worth it, whippersnapper,” she whispered back. “I love you so much, every day of the year.” 

The manufacturers of that can of cream cheese frosting probably did not envision it being used quite the way that Daniel and Winnie put it to use, but her baking was tasty regardless, and he salvaged the rest of the champagne for mimosas. 

They’d make it work, this holiday and every other, difficult work schedules be damned. He had the best Valentine in the world.

Find Fiona:
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India Holton

THE WISTERIA SOCIETY OF LADY SCOUNDRELS

by India Holton
Publisher: Berkley Romance
Publication Date: June 15th 2021
Amazon - The Book Depository - Indiebound

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Karla Kratovil

THIEF OF MY HEART

by Karla Kratovil
Publisher: Wild Rose Press
Publication Date: October 26th 2020
Amazon - The Book Depository - IndieBound

© Karla Kratovil, 2021

Wedding Day Jitters

February 14, 1800

London

Imposter. Ruined. Thief.

Old doubts taunted her, one after another, as Emma stared at the pale yellow wedding dress hung on a headless dress form. She reached out to trace the green satin ribbon at the waist. Yesterday at the final fitting, the frothy concoction with beautiful beaded overlay and embroidered flowers cascading down the skirts had made her feel like a princess. But today it only filled her with a sense of dread. 

Could she walk down the aisle at St. George’s church under the piercing stares of the quality? Emma straightened her shoulders; she could do this. Andrew would be waiting at the end of the aisle. But those doubts warred with her resolve. She wasn’t worthy of him; jewel thieves did not marry dukes. She bit down on her lower lip. If only she could have his strong arms wrapped around her and the press of his lips to reassure her everything would be fine. 

She crossed the bedroom to her bureau, opened the bottom drawer, and popped out the false bottom. Removing the clothes she hadn’t worn in months, Emma made quick work of changing into her men’s pants and shirt. She shrugged into the baggy tweed jacket and expertly tucked her long braid into a worn cap. Hurrying back to the window, she raised the sash but only got one leg over the sill before her sister’s voice rang out.

“Hold it! Just where do you think you’re going?” 

Emma squeezed her eyes shut for a moment before turning her head to face Lucy, who stood hands on her hips, in the doorway of the bedroom. Worse yet, Vivian and Caroline stood behind her. Emma carefully pulled her leg back inside. She turned and pulled off her cap. “Sorry.” 

Her friends bustled into the room. “Are you running out on my brother on his wedding day?” Caroline demanded. 

Emma shook her head. “No! I was running to your brother. I needed to see him.” 

“Why were you going out the window? And why are you dressed like that.” 

Emma glanced at her sister. What should she say? Caroline did not know about her past. 

Lucy sighed. “This is how she always goes to see him. She sneaks out her window and into his. The clothes are so she can move through the streets incognito.”

Lucy! Emma put her hands up to cover her face. Not exactly the lie she hoped for. Although, sneaking into her fiancĂ©’s bedroom was the least scandalous thing she used to do when she left this bedroom dressed like a man. She dared a peek to gauge Caroline’s reaction.

Caroline’s lips pursed. “Hmmm. I wondered why Andrew was sleeping so well these days. It’s very sneaky of you two.” She walked over to the window and peered out at the large oak whose sturdy branches grew parallel to the house. 

Vivian came forward and pulled Emma over to sit with her on the edge of the bed. “Why do you need to see Andrew?” 

Lucy and Caroline both came to surround her. Her friends’ expressions held no censure, just concern. Remember, it’s all right to ask for help. “I just don’t know if I can do this.” 

“What? Marry the duke?” Lucy asked. “Of course you can. You and Gilchrest are so in love. You couldn’t have found a better man than him.”

“No, no. I want to marry Andrew, so desperately. But I don’t know if I can go through with today.” She waved a hand at the gown. “The church. All those eyes staring at me. Judging me.” Emma glanced around at her friends. “Maybe they are right. Maybe I don’t deserve him.”

“Nonsense. You make that man happy,” Vivian declared. “It doesn’t matter what you’ve done in the past; who you are now is the woman he wants to spend his life with. Society will always have opinions. You can’t let that keep you from your wedding day.” 

Lucy stared at Emma with wide solemn eyes. “Would you like to reschedule the wedding? Perhaps get married at Stoneleigh later this spring?” Ever practical, her sister understood her best.

“Absolutely not!” Caroline sliced a hand through the air. “Valentine’s Day is the most romantic day of the year to get married. It will bring you good luck. It has to be today.”

Caroline and Vivian locked eyes, and silent conversation flowed between them. Then Vivian nodded. “You get the bishop; I’ll go get the menfolk.” She turned to Lucy. “You are in charge of her.”

Emma stood. “What’s going on? What are you planning?” 

Caroline reached out to cup her cheek. “No St. George’s, no crowds, just family. It will be the perfect day, I promise. All you have to do is get dressed in that beautiful gown and leave all the details to us.” 

****

Three hours later, Emma stood outside the drawing-room doors with her sister at her side. She gripped her bouquet of orange roses with one hand and squeezed Lucy’s hand with the other. 

“They did an amazing job bringing all the flowers over from the church. The drawing room looks like a garden.” Lucy squeezed back. “Take a deep breath and think of Andrew.” 

Bringing her bouquet to her nose, she inhaled the sweet scent and smiled. Only Andrew would have the audacity to send her roses that signify passion as a wedding day bouquet. 

The doors opened, and she and Lucy walked into the room as the strains of Bach played from the pianoforte. Chairs had been set up to form a short aisle leading to the grand stone fireplace. Her four younger brothers and sisters, Andrew’s mother, Lucy’s fiancĂ©, Caroline, and Vivian, all rose from their chairs with smiles and few happy tears. And at the end of the rose petal-strewn aisle, Andrew stood tall and handsome as ever next to his brother. 

The moment their eyes met, he moved forward, his gaze never leaving hers. Emma laughed out loud at the surprised expressions as Andrew walked up the aisle. 

“I thought I was supposed to walk down to you.”

“I didn’t want to give you an opportunity to run away,” he teased. 

She intertwined her fingers with his. “Not running away, I was running to you. I planned to convince you to elope.” She gestured to the beautifully decorated room. “Are you disappointed it’s not St. George’s?”

“Darling, I would marry you in the vegetable patch if it made you happy.” He kissed her fingers. “I have had the big society wedding. All I want this time…is you.”

Emma exhaled. The last of her doubts and anxiety fled. She threw her arms around his neck and captured his mouth in a kiss. “I love you,” she murmured against his lips. “Happy Valentine’s Day.”

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Lara Kinsey

TROUBLE & STRIFE

by Lara Kinsey
Publisher: Self-Published
Publication Date: July 27th 2020
Amazon


© Lara Kinsey, 2021

Missed Chance: A Trouble & Strife Valentine’s Day Misadventure


Birmingham, England

February 14th, 1932


Sidney

Sid Chance woke with a start. He’d had a lovely dream, a field of sun-warmed violets and a soft hand in his.

His wife tugged him back down to rest. “Love,” Elizabeth muttered. Her hands stroked soothingly over his chest.

She was plump and perfect in his arms. 

Sid snuggled closer. Love. He could stay in this dimly lit room as it darkened further, could sleep straight through the night in her arms. Sid’s postcoital slumber was like a bear bedded down for winter. He wouldn’t even stir for his tea. At that, Sid sat bolt upright. “Valentine’s!”

Elizabeth Chance blinked slowly, auburn lashes dragging over her powdered cheeks.

She bit his shoulder lightly. “You are indeed my Valentine.” Beth placed her hand in his with a cheeky formality. He kissed her ring finger on instinct, the gold band still untarnished. She sighed delightedly.

He’d always be fond of her cozy rented room above the stairs. Tomorrow they’d move to a fine house, right beside Isaiah and Belle, Mags and Greta. His family. The house had seemed so big and empty that he’d worried, he really had. But home was where Beth was. He’d carry her over the threshold with pride.

Sid stirred once more. “We’ll miss our reservation.” This was their first Valentine’s Day married, and Sid couldn’t let that pass unmarked.

He’d actually done it too, he’d planned ahead, and he intended to follow through. They had a table at a swanky establishment, he’d brushed his good suit, and he’d even combed his beard.

Unfortunately, a glance at the bedside clock confirmed what the darkening room had only hinted at. Just my bloody luck. They’d already missed it. 

Sid tugged on a pair of drawers and stalked to the landing to use the telephone. Beth watched him languidly from the bed.

He hated dialing with his big fingers, but he knew this number by heart.

“Chance Grand Hotel,” came the greeting in a voice far too peevish for Sid’s liking. “How may I be of service?”

“Room service,” Sid ground out. He was damned cold outside their cozy bed.

“I’m afraid this is the concierge. We don’t offer room service between six and nine o’clock, but our restaurant is open for your enjoyment.”

“I am ordering room service, and I’m ordering it to Mrs. Kimball’s on Cheapside,” Sid growled into the phone. “Perhaps I didn’t properly introduce myself. This is Sidney Chance, of the Chance Brothers Limited Company. You don’t want to be the man who disappoints me, and you especially don’t want to be the man who disappoints my wife.” He didn’t have to threaten or cajole any further. The Chance name carried a lot of weight.

Some stuttering protests from the other end of the line assured Sidney his order would be carried out. Expediently. Sid replaced the telephone in the cradle with a satisfying thud. He’d never planned on falling for Beth with her posh accent and perfect curls, but in those days Sidney’s plans seldom worked. His days were so different now. Making sweets under Beth’s watchful eye instead of brawling and smashing heads together. And he wouldn’t trade it, not for a second, but enough of his old life clung to him that he could give his wife a proper celebration. An order from a Chance, even one as seldom ordering as Sid, was not to be ignored. Expediently meant they could look forward to the finest the kitchen had to offer.

He hustled back into the bedroom and wrapped his arms around his beloved. “That’s things sorted, then,” he muttered abashedly into her cleavage.

His Beth was a queen among women, and in Birmingham, she got to reign like one. The Chances were powerful. She’d settled into being Mrs. Chance. Though she would soon be better known even than him, the city’s brawler son. Every posh shop stocked Beth’s chocolate bars. His wife was talented and clever in her own right, and Sid was very conscious that a man as lucky as he was had better not fuck it up.

“I’m not mad at you, Sidney.”

“That’s worse.” Even his love didn’t expect him to nail the follow through. This is what came of letting your guard down.

“I mean it. I like going out, but Valentine’s Day is always packed at the swanky spots. I’d rather just be with you.”

He thought of their courtship, of the terrible sandwiches he’d made for her and how her eyes had shone. They were shining now, in the lamplight. She raised her delicate brows at him in challenge.

His shoulders softened. Wouldn’t he rather be here with his laughing nude wife than peevishly declining every offer of champagne? He had nothing left to prove.

“I like it when you get all growly,” Beth confessed: a shy smile stole over her face, and the blush reached down to her nipples. Sid drew her down to him.

From the Chance Grand Hotel on Temple Row to their Cheapside love nest was fifteen minutes at a dead sprint. Sid had every confidence their meal would appear momentarily.

This was their last night in Mrs. Kimball’s rooming house. He meant to make some memories.

As his head hit the pillow, Sid realized there might be more good things coming his way than he knew what to do with.


Elizabeth

Elizabeth resurfaced, breathless. She touched her updo gingerly. Completely mussed, as if she’d had a good tumble. And she had. 

Her stomach growled. She hadn’t provisioned for this eventuality. Elizabeth had sent her things ahead to the new house on Lancaster Street.

 She, who always had spares of everything, had no refreshments to offer her gentleman caller. Not that she still needed to woo Sidney. Her husband had made it abundantly clear that her presence was inducement enough. This stage was unfamiliar, being happily married. She had nothing like an example to follow, but Elizabeth just kept putting one foot in front of the other.

Sidney pulled a velvet box from under the bed and offered it to Elizabeth. “Chocolate to take the edge off, sweetheart?”

“Now where could these be from?” Elizabeth smiled. The signature purple velvet box was one of hers, as if Sidney would ever run around eating someone else’s chocolates. 

“Nicked ’em.” Not that Sidney could properly steal from any of the family businesses. She knew this expense must have been noted in Isaiah’s little accounting book with his habitual razor precision. Sidney’s younger brother ran a tight operation, the Chance Brothers Limited Company that spanned half the city. 

Elizabeth knew about pressure. Her chocolate shop was buzzing with activity, and it was hard to leave her beloved kitchen even for a day. But she couldn’t let that pressure build up within her. She’d delegated. And Sidney, bless him, was doing the same, and happier for it.

Elizabeth loved being a Chance. Not the wealth, not the way rough men tipped their hat to her in the street. It was the security of a family you chose. One that was fiercely loyal to its members. She, whose upbringing hinged on perfection at all costs, had found she could be treated well and she didn’t have to earn it. Simply because she was one of theirs, blood ties or no.

And Sidney? He was one of hers. She’d appointed herself his protector the moment she met him, and she kept the big man’s heart close to hers. 

She’d never been afraid of Sidney Chance, but his rumbling growl was enough to wake her up. He was a darling man as he was. Gentle, powerful, fearsome but never cruel. She thought of his brawny shoulders wrapped around her hips, his lower lip working as he gazed up at her. 

She was relieved not to have to get dressed yet. Sidney had regrown his beard. Just for the winter.  Elizabeth was delighted with the sensation of whiskers on skin, but too sensitive after their lovemaking to contemplate donning panties. She’d have had to go to dinner without. Room service au naturel sounded just right. Elizabeth was a confident nudist, but also a practical one. And her Sidney had arranged things. 

“Seized chocolate is usually a bad thing,” she teased. 

Sidney popped a violet cream into her mouth. “Make an exception.”

“I’ll make it a habit. It’s love and chocolate every day with us.” 

"Start as you mean to go on, I say.” He kissed her deeply. No plan gone wrong had ever tasted sweeter. 

THE END

If you want to see how Elizabeth became sweet on Sidney, read Trouble & Strife!


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Mara Wells

A TAIL FOR TWO

by Mara Wells
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Publication Date: September 29th 2020
Amazon - The Book Depository - IndieBound

© Mara Wells

A Valentine for Two: A Tail of a Ruff Valentine

Featuring Carrie, Lance, and Beckham from A Tail for Two

How It Started:

Carrie’s plan for Valentine’s Day:

Lance’s plan for Valentine’s Day:


Photo by Roberto Nickson on Unsplash

Beckham’s plan for Valentine’s (or any) Day:


 How It’s Going:


Photo by eleonora on Unsplash

The Most Likely Culprit: 

 

Oh, Beckham!

How It Ended: Happily Ever After, of course!

Photo by Roberto Nickson on Unsplash

And that’s the tail’s end!

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Meka James

by Meka James
Publisher: Self-Published
Publication Date: May 8th 2020
Amazon - The Book Depository - IndieBound


© Meka James, 2021

The blaring of the fire alarm made me jump and Yoda yowled to the noise. I pulled off my glasses and pushed away from my desk. Lana had banned me from the downstairs as she’d wanted to do a big surprise dinner for our first Valentine’s day. 

Yoda ran in front of me, continuing his competition to see if he could make more noise. Smoke bellowed up the stairs and I waved my hand in front of my face as I headed down to the sound of my beautiful fiancĂ©e cussing and muttering to herself. 

“No, no, no,” she cried out followed by the crash of a pan being dumped into the sink. The kitchen was a disaster which was not the norm for her. She was typically neat, and organized, but stuff was everywhere. I think she’d literally used every pot and pan in the place.   

“Baby, you need some help?” I asked between coughs as the smoke was thicker closer to the source.

She whipped around and looked at me, eyes wide, hair a mess, and flour or something on her face. “I told you to stay upstairs,” she whined.

“I would have if I didn’t worry about our house burning to the ground.” I coughed again then grabbed a piece of mail from the counter and went to fan the alarm to stop the screeching. 

After it was quiet, I strolled to the back door to open it so the place could air out. Yoda took the opportunity to exit the danger zone, choosing instead to sun himself on the patio. When I returned the kitchen, Lana was sitting on the floor with her head on her knees.

I craned my neck to see the black hunk of meat. “Um...what exactly is that supposed to have been?” The situation was comical, but I knew better than to let it show.

She plopped her legs out straight and an adorable pout formed on her lips. “I had this whole idea planned, so I called your sister. I wanted this to be special you know. So that,” she indicated to the dumped pan. “Was supposed to be pernil. And I had attempted the flan de queso and that also didn’t work.”

The distress in her voice kept me from laughing. I knew both of the meals she’d been attempting to make and they weren’t beginner level, especially the dessert. Not to mention, I’d never seen either of them made by a single person. It’d always been a group effort. 

I moved to sit beside her and put my arms around her shoulders. “You didn’t have to stress yourself out for me.” 

“You say that, but then you made that amazing breakfast, got me flowers, and you even gave Yoda a present. I made a mess and we’re still going to be hungry. I wanted our first Valentine’s day to be special.” 

The whine in her tone tugged at my heart. I didn’t care much about Valentine’s Day, but she did, so it mattered to me for that reason alone.

I gently turned her to face me and planted a soft kiss on her pouty lips. “Baby, we’re together. That’s all the special I need.”

A smile finally formed on her lovely face. “That kind of talk might get you laid tonight.”

I barked out a laugh, stood, then held my hands out to help her out. “Pizza or Chinese?”

“Pizza.” she glanced around at the kitchen. “I cooked, you’re on clean up duty.”

I didn’t even bother to argue. “Fine. But I’m definitely getting laid tonight.”

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Meredith Schorr

{{Cover Reveal TK}}

AS SEEN ON TV

by Meredith Schorr
Publisher: Forerver Romance
Publication Date: Expected 2022
Bookbub

© Meredith Schorr, 2021

Before Adina Gellar was even fully awake, she reached for the remote and turned on the television. The fresh faces of Lacey Chabert and Andrew Walker filled the screen, which meant she’d left the channel on either Hallmark or Hallmark Movies and Mysteries. She rubbed her tired eyes and sipped from the water glass on her nightstand. She’d seen this movie before, the number of times too embarrassing to confess. It was My Secret Valentine. Timely, since it was February 14th, aka Valentine’s Day in the real world. Adina might not be able to count on chocolate, flowers, or sex, but she could depend on the Hallmark Channel’s “Countdown to Valentine’s Day” lineup. 

Leaving Andrew and Lacey to jot cute messages to each other on a chalkboard inside a house in wine country, Adina imagined her own perfect Hallmark-inspired Valentine’s Day with Leo, her current casual beau, from the comfort of her queen-sized bed in New York City’s East Village.

It would start with breakfast in bed at Leo’s place, since Adi lived with her single mother. She and her mom were super close, but still…awkward. Of course, in a Hallmark movie, there’d be no sleepovers before marriage. Not that Adina had ever spent the entire night at Leo’s place anyway. Had they even shared the first meal of the day in the six months they’d been “dating”? 

“Forget breakfast,” Adina decided. They’d meet for lunch at a charming cafĂ© and bakery, with friendly owners who magically knew their names, for homemade pie and hot chocolate. Except this scenario was also hard to imagine since Leo had given up sugar as a New Year’s resolution…alcohol didn’t count. Of course it didn’t. She rolled her eyes. She couldn’t recall anyone giving up sweets in a Hallmark movie ever. Issues with food weren’t a thing on the heart of TV! 

Adina imagined the two of them hand in hand, taking a romantic walk around the city at dusk. Even though it was February, they wouldn’t feel the cold and the wind wouldn’t mess up her hair or dry out her skin. Leo would stop at a kiosk to buy her flowers and a new scarf he’d wrap lovingly around her neck. Why couldn’t she picture Leo looking at her lovingly? Had they ever even held hands?  

A honk outside Adina’s bedroom window reminded her that Hallmark movies were usually set in small cozy towns with names like Christmas and Angel Falls, not loud and smelly New York City. And besides if this were a Hallmark movie, Leo would never be cast as the leading man—maybe the workaholic or bland boyfriend the heroine gave up when she ran into her first love while caring for her sick aunt. Not to mention, Leo didn’t ask Adina out for Valentine’s Day because, god forbid, they engaged in any real couple activities. Were there even any twenty-something males in NYC who wanted a relationship? Adina groaned.

With the angry realization that Leo didn’t belong in her fantasy or her real life, Adina flopped back onto the bed, covered her head with her pillow, and went back to sleep. She dreamed about moving to a small town on a story for the publication she’d eventually work for…when she could finally quit hustling her two jobs as a coffee barista and spin instructor. A town where she’d fall in love with the handsome single mayor, veterinarian, or handyman—where every day was Valentine’s Day (or Christmas or New Year’s or a June wedding).

Little did Adina know her dream was about to come true…part of it anyway.   

Keep your eyes open for AS SEEN ON TV, coming Summer, 2022 from Forever.  

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Olivia Dade

SPOILER ALERT

by Olivia Dade
Publisher: Avon
Publication Date: October 6th 2020
Amazon - The Book Depository - IndieBound


SPOILER ALERT Valentine’s Day bonus scene

© Olivia Dade, 2021

“I’m not going to make it,” Marcus told April, hoping his heartfelt regret was obvious in his expression. “Because of all the bad weather, filming is running long, and there’s no way we can finish in time. I’m so sorry.”

Whenever he was on location, away from their home in San Francisco, they made certain to talk nightly, and they always used video. If he couldn’t have her warmth, her soft rose scent and sharp intelligence, beside him in his cold hotel bed, he could at least see her beloved face there, the phone propped up on a pillow so he had his hands free for…various things.

She lifted a shoulder, her coppery ponytail swaying, and offered him a small smile. “We knew it was a possibility. It’s okay. There’ll be other Valentine’s Days together.”

He’d been gone for almost a month now. In general, she coped with their occasional separations better than he did, but whether she was willing to admit it or not, she tended to overwork in his absence.

She looked tired. And despite that smile and her shrug of casual dismissal, sad.

When she hunched in on herself a little, his heart turned over in his chest.

He hated—hated—causing her pain. And her absence cast a shadow over his daily existence, even on his brightest days, so the delay made him equally wretched. He wanted to go home with a desperation that probably should have embarrassed him.

It didn’t. She was his home, and she was his sun, and he needed her. Simple as that.

“Mel said Grand Folk Railroad is performing that night at a local cafĂ©, God help us all”—why any moneymaking institution would give her coworkers’ enthusiastic yet terrible folk band such an opportunity was a mystery to her, if her dramatically bugged-out eyes were any indication—“and we were both invited to come, so maybe I’ll pack some discreet earplugs and hang out with everyone there.”

The performance would distract her from his absence and surround her with friends on a possibly-lonely night, which was good. But—

“Let’s spend the whole evening together,” he said impulsively. “I’ll plan everything.”

“You want a FaceTime date?” She waggled her brows. “A sexy FaceTime date?”

“I can neither confirm nor deny its sexiness.” Mostly because he had no freaking idea what he was going to do. That said… “Okay, yes, at some point, sexiness will probably be involved. Because you’ll be involved, and you and sexiness are kind of a package deal.”

Her smile had turned bright and genuine, at long last. “I accept your invitation, kind sir, and will now thank you for it appropriately. Or inappropriately, as the case may be.”

She nudged the thin strap of her floaty nightgown over her shoulder and down her arm, and suddenly the ample curve of one breast appeared, gilded by lamplight.

When she lowered the other strap, he choked on his own tongue.

He still had a few days to work out the details of their date, which was good. He wasn’t capable of higher-order thinking right now, and probably wouldn’t be for some time to come.

Now her smile was bright, genuine, and smug. “Shall I put on my glasses?”

Shit, her glasses destroyed him, and she knew it.

 “Please,” he managed to wheeze, as his decision to keep his hands free became very, very convenient. “Fuck, I love you, April.”

“I know,” she said, and proceeded to blow his damn mind.

*******

“Did you order from every takeout place in the entire Bay Area, or only most of them?” April regarded him with faux-severity from his cell phone’s screen, then turned her camera to pan over the many, many boxes scattered over her coffee table and kitchen counter. “I have enough here to feed me for a week. Maybe longer.”

It was…possible he might have gone a tiny bit overboard. But he’d had his reasons.

“I didn’t know what you’d be in the mood for, so I chose all your usual favorites,” he told her. “Plus, some of the restaurants had special Valentine’s Day menus, and I figured you might like to try those too, so…”

She couldn’t maintain the stern façade any longer. Wiggling a little bit, she clapped her hands and beamed at him. “You’re the best husband ever, Marcus Caster-Hyphen-Rupp. This is like my own personal cruise-ship buffet, only with less chance of contracting norovirus!” She paused. “Hopefully.”

“Definitely.” He preened, his chest puffing out a bit. “I only chose restaurants with superior sanitation records.”

“That may be the most romantic thing you’ve ever said to me, sweetie.” She leaned forward, and paper crackled as she opened a bag. “Are those cocroffinuts?”

He grinned, delighted she’d noticed his tribute to their early dates. “No electron is safe tonight.”

She snorted.

His own room service selections arrayed on the table before him, he turned to his laptop. “Go ahead and get our streaming service ready to go on the TV. The time has come, April.”

Her eyes went wide. “You mean…”

He inclined his head. “At long last, we’re going to watch San Andreas. Together.”

“But—” With her forefinger, she pushed her glasses up further onto the bridge of her nose. “You don’t understand, Marcus. There’s a reason I haven’t let us do this before. I won’t—I won’t be able to control myself.”

“I certainly hope not,” he said, injecting plenty of sly innuendo into the words.

She threw her hands in the air. “But it won’t be sexy, it’ll be pedantic! I won’t be able to stop myself from delineating every single geological issue in the entire movie! To the point where you won’t even be able to follow the story, because I’ll be ranting too much!”

“I don’t think the story is that complicated.” He glanced down at the movie’s summary. “Earthquake. Tsunami. The Rock saves his family from certain death while wearing a very tight shirt. Rant away, love.”

She slumped on the couch. “But—”

“Are you saying you won’t enjoy bitching about the faulty geology in the movie?”

They both knew the answer, so she didn’t bother lying to him.

“Of course I’ll enjoy it. You know I love nothing better than complaining about terrible movie science. And San Andreas not only involves geology, but is set in this area, so it might as well have been created in a lab to encourage my particular brand of pedantry.” She slumped on the couch. “But you won’t enjoy watching it, Marcus, because I’ll ruin the experience for you. And it’s your Valentine’s Day too.”

“April.” He waited until she met his gaze again. “April, do you remember explaining the  Loma Prieta earthquake to me at the Cal Academy? On our second date?”

She raised a shoulder, her brow furrowed in confusion. “Mostly? I was kind of distracted at the time. As you may recall, there was a super-hot guy feeling me up in the earthquake simulator.”

Oh, he definitely recalled. The things he’d wanted to do to her in that simulator would have forever scarred the children also visiting the Shake House that day.

“I swear to God, if you’d mentioned oblique-slip ruptures one more time, I would have dragged you to a dark corner of the planetarium and fucked you right then and there, traumatized schoolkids be damned.” He locked eyes with her. “When you get pedantic, you might as well have a hand on my dick, April. It’s the hottest goddamn thing I’ve ever experienced.”

Her mouth, luscious and pink, had dropped open. “Really?”

“How have you not realized this already?” He cocked an eyebrow. “Remember that time you lectured me about shale?”

“I thought…” When she licked her lips, he bit back a groan. “I thought you just liked my dress that night.”

“I did like that dress. But you could have been wearing a sack, April, and I’d still have gone down on you in that restaurant bathroom.”

Her eyes had gone big again. Big and hot. “So if I happened to explain that a 9.6-magnitude quake, like the one in the movie, is virtually impossible, because the San Andreas Fault wouldn’t allow anything higher than an 8.3—”

“I’d get hard.”

“And if I…” Her breathing had quickened. “If I interrupted very impressive CGI sequences of destruction to note how even a small tsunami would be very unlikely, because the San Andreas is both a strike-slip fault and located too far inland, so…”

When her gaze flicked down to his lap, she cut herself off. “Holy shit, Marcus.”

“Start the movie,” he told her, his voice a low rumble. “Then tell me more.”

*******

In the end, it took them all night to get through the first half of the film.

Neither had any complaints.

And when Marcus finally arrived at SFO the following week, the first thing he did was gather his wife into his arms by the baggage claim, dizzy with love and relief, and tell her about one last Valentine’s Day gift.

“I bought a copy of the movie.” He pressed closer and nuzzled against her neck, inhaling roses and comfort and home with every breath. “Just in case.”

Her smile lit her face and his entire world. “How soon can we get out of here?”

“Not soon enough,” he said, and meant it.



Find Olivia:
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Rosanna Leo

AN IRRESISTIBLE FORCE

by Rosanna Leo
Publisher: Totally Bound Publishing
Publication Date: September 29th 2020
Amazon - The Book Depository - IndieBound


Find Rosanna:
Twitter - Instagram - Facebook -Website


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Royaline Sing

{{Cover Art TK}}

BETTING ON A DUKE'S HEART

by Royaline Sing
Publisher: Entangled Publishing
Publication Date: TBD 2021


A glimpse from the happily ever after of Aetius and Dina from 

BETTING ON A DUKE’S HEART

by Royaline Sing

Book coming out in Apr 2021. Cover coming soon!

https://www.royalinesing.com/home/books

~*~

"You came."

Aetius closed the stable doors behind him with a lopsided grin on his face. That grin still put butterflies in her stomach. "I got your note, didn't I?"

"As if the last time I sent you notes, you heeded any." Dina tried to calm the tremors in her belly and ignore the suddenly rushing blood towards her neck.

He didn't help as he kept sauntering closer, closing the window on his way. Shedding his coat on a haystack. Rolling up his sleeves over those tanned forearms.

Oh my. She adjusted her sleeping position on the makeshift hay-bed that she had made with blankets.

"Well, this time princess, you managed not to mention dung-pits in it." He discarded the waistcoat too, leaving his suspenders, well, suspended. His throat now quite open, he perched beside her on the hay-bed.

"Something has to change now that we are husband and wife." She made an offhand gesture, as if she was not affected at all. Other than the insistent clench of her thighs, that is.

He pulled it over and let go of the muslin shirt.

"Especially when the wife has gone to the trouble of finding the loveliest of the Valentine's themed card and pen the note with a flourish." He whispered, lowering his face to hers. “And she is calling you in the same special horse shed where we—”

Her cheeks heated, and she swiftly cut his sentence off by raising her fingers over his mouth. He simply kissed them while chuckling.

"Are you making fun of me?"

"I loved the card.” He grazed her knuckles with his lips, causing a shiver allover her skin. “The delicate white orchids on the lavender paper were extraordinary. The jasmine scent was a pleasant touch. No one has ever sent me anything like it."

"They had better not." She muttered.

He laughed and sank his head over her shoulder. And kept laughing. And kept kissing her neck.

Ah. She didn't have it in her to resist that delicious nuzzling. It was hard to be mad anyway when your entire body tingled. So she snaked her hand over his nape and insisted he keep doing what he did.

"I also wanted to present your Valentine's day gift." He blew warm kisses over her ear as he spoke.

"Hmm," she murmured. "What?"

"How about a motion picture? The first of the show in England after their success in Paris?"

That distracted her. Only slightly. "Really? When?"

"A friend has acquired confirmed tickets for us in The Empire Theatre at Leicester Square for whenever it happens. Sometime soon in February only." He looked into her eyes. "That makes you happy?"

"A novel experience?" She pulled him closer, not caring anymore if the blankets slipped and her skin met cool air. "I love it. Thank you."

The blankets did slip and his attention was caught, too. As it should. She was bare under them just for him. Her breath hitched, but she didn't move. His eyes turned deep black. Desire sparked the mere inches between them.

"In that case, I would claim my Valentine’s gift. And to all that is holy, I won't stop today as I did in this shed months before."

"You were stupid then." Her erratic breaths shook her voice. "Now you have me."

"And you have me. Who will never let you go. Happy Valentine's, Dina."

And finally his warm lips met hers. Happy Valentine's indeed, she thought, just before she gave in to the sweet bliss of his love.


Find Royaline:
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Ruby Barrett

HOT COPY

by Ruby Barrett
Publisher: Carina Press
Publication Date: April 13th 2021
Amazon


A Hot Copy Valentine’s Day Gone Wrong (Then Right Again)

© Ruby Barrett, 2021

“Emily,” I whisper-hiss into the phone. “I need your help.”

“Corrine? Friend? Boss of my eye? You know it’s eight o’clock on Saturday morning, right?”

I slump to the floor against the door. “I’m sorry. I know. I’m a terrible friend and boss. I need your help.”

Wesley rolled toward me this morning, his hair a mess of curls, pillow lines etched into the side of his face and lost beneath the beard he’s growing in. Squinting at me without his glasses. 

And then he said those three little words.

“It’s Valentine’s Day,” I say quietly. 

She hums her agreement. “Let me guess? You forgot.”

“Don’t say I told you so.” Though she’d have every right. She put it in my calendar. And it’s not like I haven’t been working on Valentine’s themed campaigns for three clients since the beginning of January. 

He jumped out of bed this morning, pulled on heart covered underwear and socks and showered me with kisses. “He’s making me pancakes.”

Our first Valentine’s Day as a couple, a non-secret, non-coworking couple, and I forgot. There’s got to be a way to salvage this. I crawl to the bathroom counter and rummage through the drawers. I come up with a tampon and old lipstick. “Maybe I can make a handmade gift?”

“Or you could just tell him the truth. Wesley is a smart guy. He knows you. He might not be as upset as you think.”

I shuffle into the kitchen a few minutes later. “Wesley.” He bobs his head, singing off key to Zayn. The house smells like pancakes. There are flowers, red roses of course, in a vase. When did he even get those? “Wesley,” I say again. 

He turns to me, spatula in hand. “I know you usually prefer yogurt in the morning but I thought we could have pancakes too.”

“I forgot it was Valentine’s Day,” I blurt. Better to get it over with. Rip off the band aid and what not. I’m not worried he’ll yell. It’s just the thought of hurting him. My throat gets tight. It’s never occurred to me to care that much about Valentine’s Day. Not when so much of my job is devoted to selling it to other people. It takes the romance out of it. But knowing that Wesley cares. I suddenly care very much. “And you clearly did not. And I’m sorry. I’m just so sorry, Wesley.”

“Whoa.” He flicks the stovetop off and crosses the kitchen. “Whoa whoa whoa.” He rubs his thumbs under my eyes. 

“I want the chance to make it up to you, Wesley.” I wrap my hands around his biceps, goosebumps rising on his bare skin. 

“Corrine. I didn’t think you’d remember.”

Somehow that’s not the boon he thinks it is. I cry harder. 

He kisses my forehead. “I like wearing PepĂ© Le Pew socks and making heart shaped pancakes and candlelit dinner.” He winks. “That’s coming up, by the way. But you don’t like doing those things. And that’s okay. I don’t expect you to show your love for me the same way I show my love for you.”

It’s like a fist suddenly loosens on my heart. Loving Wesley hasn’t always been easy. We’ve kept secrets, we’ve hurt each other. But this is exactly why it’s worth it when it was hard. Being loved by Wesley means being loved exactly as I am, for who I am. I take his face in both my hands and kiss him. His beard is still new enough to be a bit of shock when our mouths meet. But then it’s us, just us. He’s warm against my mouth. He is something good and tender and I treat him that way with my mouth until my heart is pounding against my breast, my fingertips tingling where I touch him. Kissing him is like closing my eyes with my face to the sun. There’s brilliance at the edge of my lashes. 

“I love you.” I breathe the words into his skin. 

Wesley’s glasses are skewed when he pulls away and his cheeks are flushed. “I love you, too.” Then he grins. “Here’s what we’re going to do today.” Wesley makes me breakfast, pancakes and my favorite yogurt. He even has my favorite Starbuck’s order delivered. Then the real gift comes. He sits me at my desk in my office. “How does…” He pretends to check his watch. “Six hours sound?”

“Six hours? Of work? On Valentine’s Day?”

“Yeah. You love your job. Six guilt-free hours. You don’t have to worry about what I’m doing or that you’re not paying attention to me. I’m a big boy. I can handle it.” And then he’s gone. 

He’s right. I love my job. I love being responsible for another company’s success, the creativity, and yes, even the stress. But after only an hour, I stand up. I follow the sound of the shower that came on a few minutes ago, stripping off my clothes. This may not be the kind of Valentine’s Day I should have planned. It won’t even be the one that Wesley planned. 

“What are you doing?” he asks as I open the shower door and slide in behind him, wrapping my arms around him. “You love work.”

I kiss his back. “I do love work. But I love you more.”

Find Ruby:
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Ruby Lang

HOUSE RULES

by Ruby Lang
Publisher: Carina Press
Publication Date: February 10th 2020
Amazon


Housekeeping: A House Rules short

© Ruby Lang, 2021


Simon had been at the vet’s that evening because his cat was licking herself too much and peeing far too often.

It’s a urinary tract infection, he texted Lana.

And a romantic and sexy valentine’s to you, she wrote back.

Dammit. He’d forgotten about Valentine’s. Or rather, he’d remembered, bought all the ingredients for a meal that even he couldn’t mess up and gotten so distracted with Muffin and her litterbox trips that he’d rushed off to the vet and now wouldn’t have time to cook anything before Lana got home. Lana wouldn’t even care that much. All those years working in restaurants made her wary of holidays. He was the one who insisted on doing something special.

Plan B it was, he thought grimly as Muffin mewed piteously from her carrier.

Then she peed in it.

Make that Plan C.

Are you home? he texted.

Yep.

From his parked car, he ordered the best take out their town offered, which happened to be the local Chinese place. A double order of dumplings, cold sesame noodles, cucumber in chili sauce, stir fried green beans, and a kung pao chicken. He tipped generously—it was Valentine’s Day, after all. Maybe he’d be able to intercept the order at the door if he rushed home.

He drove back, parked in the garage, hauled the carrier out of the car—at least he’d thought to put down a few old towels down in case Muffin Muffin-ed—and took the side entrance to the bathroom and shut himself in to clean up his very, very angry cat. And himself.

It took a while.

He slipped into the back to load up the washing machine, so intent on being stealthy that it wasn’t until he returned that he noticed that the kitchen table was loaded with food. The takeout containers were lined up neatly on one side. There were white candles, plates, bowls, chopsticks, and forks and knives. A bottle of white chilled in an ice bucket. And under covers on the other side were the things Simon had planned to make: the spaghetti carbonara, the simple salad. 

Lana had cooked for him. 

For them.

All the worry and tension from his day seemed to melt at the sight of their generous, ridiculously overloaded table. But he’d feel even better if he could see her.

A few steps to the living room, and he found Lana asleep on the couch, a clean Muffin curled up beside her.

He watched her, his heart so full that if he moved he thought it would spill over right onto the rug in a big warm, gooey, sticky rush.

He didn’t move for a long time. They’d both cleaned up enough messes today.


Find Ruby:

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Prizes: 
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