Book Excerpt and Giveaway: Young and Scambitious: Love, Lies, Larceny by Mina V. Esguerra

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YOUNG AND SCAMBITIOUS: LOVE, LIES, LARCENY

 Who is Elizabeth Madrid, exactly? She’s Manila’s latest It Girl—stylish, staple of the club scene, new best friend of famous-for-being-famous Chrysalis Magnolia. She’s also a jewelry clan heiress, a former model, an Ivy Leaguer… except no one actually knew of her until last year. Shouldn’t her new society friends be more suspicious? Especially “BFF” Chrysalis, who reportedly already lost an expensive ring to a friend who turned out to be a thief?

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Book Excerpt

Young and Scambitious

Young and Scambitious: Love, Lies, Larceny by Mina V. Esguerra

She saw him when she wandered over to the general fiction floor, because she usually picked up a mystery or thriller to dip into between the research. He was wearing the strangest shade of rusty red for a shirt, paired with ridiculous cargo shorts that made her notice his strong calves. Her eye sort of moved up from there, over to his profile, up to his head of dark hair, just long enough for the curls to start coming in. She leaned a little closer to the stacks and allowed her gaze to linger a little longer on his eye, the clean curve of his jaw.

And then he turned toward her completely and she quickly turned away.

Yeah, that was stealthy, she thought, and in her mind she gave herself a swift kick.

He made his selection and then left the stacks, passing directly behind her.

Jane sighed. He was probably over six feet tall. She was five-eight herself, couldn’t help noticing height when she looked at guys. But she knew what it was that made her really look. That thing about him.

He looked Asian but not quite, not enough to be clearly labeled from one country or another based on the stereotypes. Which meant, as she knew, that he fell under another one entirely. The half-something, like her. She actually found that fascinating, not surprisingly because of her own history with it.

It wasn’t a crime, to look. She did that all the time, “on the job” or not. Looking was as innocent as ogling a magazine cover boy. Jane admired, and then assessed, and then moved on her merry way.

That night, the merry way happened to be toward a quaint organic/vegan cafe a few blocks from the library. She walked all the way, enjoying the night air and that for once she was appropriately dressed for the tropical weather: nondescript white tee, a lovely print skirt that came down just to her knees, canvas walking shoes.

There was a glass case of vegan desserts and she was about to choose a strawberry cake when a flash of odd rusty red reflected in the glass and she nearly jumped.

He was expecting this reaction and motioned for her to join him at his outdoor table, a small and round one that didn’t match any of the other tables outside. None of the tables or chairs matched. It was that kind of place.

“Why are you following me?” he said, smiling, but not really joking.

His accent was vaguely American, vaguely New England, which revealed certain things about him at least in her mind. If that was his actual accent, because it seemed like he was neutralizing.

Just like she was.

“How would I know that you’d be craving vegan cake after a book?” she teased.

“No one does that,” he answered. “Except you and me, apparently.”

They did this for about an hour. They talked about the library, the books they looked at, the awesome building, the well-intentioned cafe. He was a tourist, which explained the cargo shorts, spending a week in the city before heading back home.

“Home where?” she asked, innocently.

“Graduate school,” he said, not answering the question. He did the same to a bunch of other questions that would have pinned him down to a region, a country, a city, an age. He looked older than her, but not by much. Twenty-eight, twenty-nine, tops.

Jane was, of course, lying through all of it too. Suddenly she was a recent college grad (which she would have been in June last year if she had stayed), enjoying a month of idle travel before settling down to find a job.

“A job where?” he asked.

“In a hotel, or something,” was her non-answer.

So it was actually just like a date, which was a scam of another sort. Jane was suddenly a sweet and smiley person, who said “yes please” when offered coffee. She smoothed down her skirt sweetly, not suggestively, when he asked about her day and complimented her fresh look despite the humidity.

He was a handsome scholarly type just passing through, in this part of the world to “visit a friend,” and “tour campuses,” his knees not at all intentionally brushing against hers under the table.

All the words were meaningless to her. Jane had learned not to trust them anyway, so instead she kept track of the passing of time. His coffee cup drained down to a tiny puddle. Her slice of cake went from a thick wedge to a tiny rectangle that she continued to poke without actually consuming. The occupants of the four surrounding tables began to change.

They talked about music, books, movies, and current events. She made up band names and authors on the spot when he asked for recommendations, playing off the slightly bohemian vibe of her skirt and giving him what he possibly expected. He looked interested, not guessing she was playing him, or maybe just too polite to say so.

“…boring, the pace was all wrong. I normally like my thrillers with more cliffhangers,” he was saying.

“Ugh, cliffhangers,” she said, figuring that the college student would think that. “Cliffhangers are manipulative.”

“Who does it manipulate?”

“Me. The general public. People who can’t help but turn the page even when they don’t care about the characters anymore.”

“I like it when a book knows my weakness,” he said. “I happen to like turning a page against my will.”

Were they talking about books? Jane pretended she didn’t just think that.

She also paid attention to how his body moved. And when she did, she had a hard time believing that he was in grad school, studying and touring. When did he have time to work on those shoulders? Did typing and reading produce those forearms? And why, unlike other grad school students she’d had the privilege of sitting at a table with for a night of lying, did he ask so much about her? And not go on and on about his fascinating field of study? Why did his hair look like it had product, on a random day?

Briefly she wondered if it was a trap, if Margaux was somehow testing her. But she seriously doubted that Margaux had access to this guy, all smooth and scholarly sounding, and would still hunt Jane down for “looking rich.”

Don’t be crazy, Jane told herself. It was a big city, a tourist hub. People came and went by the thousands.

“Walk me to my hotel,” she said.

“It’s the gentlemanly thing to do,” he said.

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AUTHOR BIO

Mina V. Esguerra writes contemporary romance, young adult, and new adult novellas. Her young adult/fantasy trilogy Interim Goddess of Love is a college love story featuring gods from Philippine mythology. Her contemporary romance novella Fairy Tale Fail won the 2012 Filipino Readers’ Choice award for Chick Lit. Through her blog Publishing in Pajamas (minavesguerra.com), she documents her experiments in e-publishing.

When not writing romance, she is president of communications firm Bronze Age Media, development communication consultant, indie publisher, professional editor, wife, and mother. She created the workshop series “Author at Once” and #romanceclass for writers and publishers.

AUTHOR LINKS

minavesguerra.com
twitter.com/minavesguerra
facebook.com/minavesguerra
http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3014313.Mina_V_Esguerra

 

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Throwback Thursday: To the Greatest Sister in the World

 I feel like most of our lives, all we ever did was say hello and goodbye.
Amidst all the partings and grieving, we do not say the words but I feel the love.
Belated happy birthday, Ate. For once, I’d like to say it.
I love you.

***

with my husband, Mark; Ate Mae; and my nephew Jonrae

with my husband, Mark; my sister Ate Mae; and my nephew Jonrae

Though my elder sister and I grew up together, there were many times when we had to part.

The first time was when she graduated from high school. I was nine at the time. She left our small island in Laoang, Northern Samar for Manila so she could go to college. Our uncle—our deceased mother’s younger brother—was supposed to take her in. My sister, however, knew our uncle had already helped us enough, so she went with our father instead. But our father didn’t send her to college.

A year later, our maternal grandparents who raised us, died. They went 22 days apart. She didn’t learn about it at once so when she finally went home, it was already for our grandmother’s funeral. She refused to go back to our father after that, preferring to stay with me so she could take care of me. This time around, I really felt we were orphans. Though I never voiced it out, I was glad and at the same time, relieved she was there with me.

The second time she had to go away, it was because our aunt—our mother’s younger sister—sent her to one of our relatives to become a yaya to our distant baby cousin. That would be over a year later after our grandparents’ death. I was 11.

She came back for me a month after I turned 13. I couldn’t bear living with our aunt and uncle anymore, I wanted out. It was then when I stopped schooling for a year. In desperation, my sister wrote to our father who was then in Alabat Island in Quezon province, and asked him to take us in. And he did.

We lived again together for a few months but our father and stepmother sent her away to care for an old woman that was the mother of her godfather—our father’s friend. For two years we’d write each other, until I left our father’s home and asked her to live with me. This would be my senior year in high school.

We parted again after a year, when I went to college. We won’t live together again until after six years, when she got pregnant with my nephew. The guy left her to fend for herself and their child. I told her I would take care of them but then she probably didn’t want to be a burden to me, so she went to live with our aunt in Alabat, Quezon—our father’s younger sister—instead.

It frustrated me a lot, how it seemed to me like she didn’t want to live with me. I’ve been coercing her and our brother since I was 13—that we live together. The idea that we will be a ‘complete’ family even if we didn’t have parents was appealing to me. Apparently to them, it was not. It was after all, economically difficult if not impossible, for a 13, 17, and a 21 year-old to live together. And so, they would just listen to me rumble on and on and make plans of things that I wanted for the three of us. As if they were just indulging me.

I know deep down my brother and sister were doing just that. Even as I was saying those things, I knew, the things we lost are now lost forever. We could never get them back. Just how the time and love we lost will never be again ours.

But that is another matter for another day.

My sister won’t come back from Alabat until after four years though I did visit them a few times. By then, I had already given up asking her to live with me.

When our father died, I had the opportunity to talk to our aunt alone during his wake. She told me amusing anecdotes about my sister. Apparently, while my sister was under her care, they opened a sari-sari store. It was my sister who repacked their goods for sale. Our aunt related how Ate seemed to count every piece of garlic, every piece of peanut diligently, consistently to the point that it was amusing and at the same time, exasperating.

She felt that way because, you see, it was not as if she would ask my sister why a pack of peanuts have more quantity in them than the rest. But indeed, that is her through and through. Every pack must be evenly numbered, down to the last grain, no matter what that is.

Our aunt commented how the millionaires of this world could use an advice or two from my sister on how to save and earn more revenue from just about everything. True, that.

We were both amused, we were both laughing. I laughed with our aunt for what it was because that is my sister all right

My pitiful sister.

She, who would do anything to ensure we had something for breakfast and dinner everyday when I was in fourth year high school even if it’s just bread.

And so she would count every piece of peanuts if it meant we would have an extra peso for extra bread at night. With her, every cent counts, because it meant I would be able to buy one notebook at a time for the next school year. She had been doing the same thing for years.

To ensure I did have notebooks, my sister would make handmade Christmas cards practically every day of the year when I was in grade school. Come December, many students in our sleepy town in Laoang would buy them so they would have a card to exchange with their classmates during Christmas parties. Some of them ordered in advance and bought a few dozen just for 0.50c apiece. The demand was so high we won’t be able to accommodate every order.

Why she bothered buying me notebooks knowing I didn’t write in them was a mystery to me. Then again, maybe deep down she knew it made me happy, having brand new school stuff every year.

For each day she was with me meant that I won’t have to wash my clothes, clean the house, or cook. Being with her meant that my notebooks would have notes in it because she’d write those for me, do my assignments and draw my drawings for me, even cut my hair for me.

With her beside me meant that I won’t have to roast the peanuts or make the yema I sell to my classmates myself because she would do those for me, too.

My sister allowed me to do everything I wanted to do. She won’t scold me even if she knew I didn’t study every night, preferring to read novels instead. In spite of this, she would still do all these things for me.

She was that sister who would get up with me at five in the morning everyday during my senior year in high school to make sandwiches so we could sell them at my high school canteen.

My stingy sister who, even if we had barely enough money to spare for anything but food and rent, bought me snacks including chocolates for my admission test in UP. This, because she didn’t want me to go hungry in the middle of my exam.

She was not a risk-taker, she was a shy person, but my sister would do anything knowing it was for me. She was weak but she would take on anything and be my strength knowing she was doing it for me: do odd jobs for me, go hungry with me, suffer in silence with me, be brave for me. But most of all, she would let me do anything I like because she believed in me. Even if whatever it is that I want to do seemed hopeless and impossible at the moment.

Ate, I want to tell you that even after everything, especially after everything, that I have not forgotten my promises to you when we were younger. I will make them happen, even if it’s the last thing I do.

And I do not believe I have said the words ever so I’m saying them now.

In the flurry of things, in the middle of the muck that was our life, we didn’t say much, couldn’t say much. We’ve experienced so many things together—some of them way too traumatic and way too painful to write in here—that we do not, could not, discuss our thoughts and feelings.

But I feel your pain.

I feel your love.

Thank you. For everything. For sticking it out. I know I’ll never be able to say that enough.

I’m mighty proud for having you as my sister. Being your sister is an honor. I know there isn’t anyone like you in this world.

I love you.

Book Excerpt and Giveaway: Wedding Night Stand by Mina V. Esguerra

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WEDDING NIGHT STAND

 Andrea Crisostomo is no longer your Ms. Right Now, thank you very much. She’s had enough of guys who like her “free spirit” but then break up with her before things get serious. One guy in particular screwed her over so much that she now hates weddings, but she has to suck it up to attend her sister Julie’s big day.

Damon Esquibel enjoys the slow and steady chase, and it looks like his two-year pursuit of Geraldine is about to pay off. He’s at his friend Anton’s destination wedding only because of her. But then he meets the sister of the bride, who doesn’t seem to want to be there, and it’s enough to question his plans for the evening – and the rest of the weekend.

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Book Excerpt

Wedding Night Stand

Wedding Night Stand by Mina V. Esguerra

As luck would have it, she was also a sucker for guys who rocked a suit. So much that she watched hours and hours of crappy video on the internet of guys in formal wear, to desensitize and prepare her hormones for this day. She watched wedding videos, awards-night speeches, government press conferences. After that parade of unfit men, wearing ill-fitting outfits, sporting yucky facial hair, Andrea thought she would be ready for her sister’s beach wedding where a good percentage of the guests would be reasonably attractive, not related to her, and probably in that item of clothing.

It helped. She got through the ceremony fine, without being attracted to anyone. (Maybe being in a church helped with that.) But then the reception at the beach happened, and he took the seat beside hers.

Perfection! said her head, heart, and hormones. Her hormones especially. This was the longest stretch so far in her twenties that she’d been single, and the little buggers were pleading to be given something to do.

So to speak.

He had eyes that…she just needed to look at them. She had to find an odd angle so it wouldn’t seem like she was checking him out, but their eyes met anyway, and even more awkwardly.

Perfection!

“Excuse me?” he said.

She coughed. “Sorry. I have a throat thing.” And then she looked away, toward the orchid and tulip centerpieces.

Long lashes. Five o’clock shadow. Hair that was a day or two overdue for a haircut. Straight, broad shoulders, leading into what had to be toned arms, the way his suit draped respectfully on him like it was just happy to be there.

Andrea had never seen him before, and had to clear something up, before this got any weirder.

“Groom’s side?” she asked.

“Anton’s officemate,” he answered, a beat late, and like he wasn’t completely there. And then as his backside slid across the chair and made itself comfortable, he said, “My name is Damon.”

Of course it is. “Andrea,” she replied.

His eyes fixed on her and tracked up to the band of small orchids atop her head, and then to her neck exposed by the ponytail that snaked down one shoulder, and further down still to the section of her lower back that peeked out from the criss-cross back straps of her lavender dress. She knew it, felt it all, even as her eyes swept back to the centerpiece.

“You’re a bridesmaid,” she heard him say. His voice had a wonderful rumble to it, already calling up thoughts of being under soft linens. Or against hard surfaces.

Maybe it’s not him. Maybe I just haven’t been properly had. In ages.

When she braved another glance at him, he had turned somewhere else—Table 10, and that distracted look was on his face again.

That was refreshing. Maybe it was safe to look at him after all. Maybe he wouldn’t notice how hungry her hormones were.

“Yes I am. Sister of the bride.” There was a bit of movement over at that table, and someone stood up. Cute, regal-looking, gorgeous in navy blue. His eyes followed her too, almost intently.

Huh. Well.

“And she is?” Andrea said.

He knew what she meant, and the smile that came to his face was an unexpected softening of all those sharp edges. “Geraldine. You don’t know her?”

“Probably a friend of the groom. I don’t know the people on his side.”

Damon leaned closer, his voice dropping to a whisper. It wasn’t necessary, really; there was music, and the white noise of two hundred people finding their seats. But it gave her the excuse to tilt slightly toward him and expose more of her neck.

She is someone I’ve been trying to ask out. For a while now,” he admitted.

A small, light stab at her heart. That the rest of her ignored, because she was close enough to see his straight teeth and observe him lightly chew on the inside of his lip.

“She’s straight?” Andrea asked.

A smile, again. “Yes.”

“So what’s wrong with you?”

“What?”

“Why won’t she bite? What’s wrong with you?”

He laughed a little. “She just doesn’t know me that well.”

Oh come on. She had eyes. And blood, and a working reproductive system. The way just being within arm’s length of Damon had woken up her ovaries, this Geraldine had to have a reason for not wanting a piece of that.

Those eyes shot toward Geraldine’s direction, before coming back to Andrea.

“I don’t know,” he said. “Maybe it’s something you can enlighten me about. Female perspective and all.”

Damon didn’t know it, but he just wandered into her turf. She was the queen of the female perspective.

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AUTHOR BIO

Mina V. Esguerra writes contemporary romance, young adult, and new adult novellas. Her young adult/fantasy trilogy Interim Goddess of Love is a college love story featuring gods from Philippine mythology. Her contemporary romance novella Fairy Tale Fail won the 2012 Filipino Readers’ Choice award for Chick Lit. Through her blog Publishing in Pajamas (minavesguerra.com), she documents her experiments in e-publishing.

When not writing romance, she is president of communications firm Bronze Age Media, development communication consultant, indie publisher, professional editor, wife, and mother. She created the workshop series “Author at Once” and #romanceclass for writers and publishers.

AUTHOR LINKS

minavesguerra.com
twitter.com/minavesguerra
facebook.com/minavesguerra
http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3014313.Mina_V_Esguerra

 

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Join the giveaway by clicking the link below:

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Book Excerpt and Giveaway: Intoxicated by V. M. Blanc

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Intoxicated by V. M. Blanc

Deke, Sam and their new relationship will take you on a journey of friendship, love and complications.

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Book Excerpt

Intoxicated by V.M. Blanc

Intoxicated by V.M. Blanc

Parties like this could either be fun or frustrating. This one fell under the latter. Women who target men like me for fame and money were plenty in these kinds of situation. That was why I didn’t want to celebrate my birthday with a bunch of people I hardly knew.

I turned around to tell off the woman, to show her I wanted some peace and quiet alone with my friend Nate here. The words stuck in my mouth when I saw it was Sam.

“Hi.” She had this eat shitting grin on her face like she just pulled a prank on me.

“Shit, baby. You’re here!” I embraced her tightly, smelling her sweetness. Her scent flooded my brain, making me want to devour her right here, right now. My skin broke out in goose bumps when she wrapped her arms around my neck, tiptoeing to at least make up the difference between my six foot three height and her five seven. She took shaky breaths as she moved closer, leaving little room between us. I groaned when she licked her lips, desire surging through me.

“Told yah you’re going to be in the mood,” Nate said, interrupting me from the dirty thoughts I had of my girlfriend. He had on this cocky grin, looking so proud and satisfied. Sudden realization hit me. He might have had something to do with Sam being here, and I was about to ask him when he turned to the woman beside him with such speed that surprised me and engaged her in conversation.

“Well, that’s so obvious,” I said to no one in particular.

“What’s obvious, babe?” Sam asked, her hands rubbing my back and making me lose my train of thought.

“Uhmm, Nate’s ignoring me … that’s what.”

“Perhaps he’s just giving us some privacy.”

“Maybe,” I answered, pulling her closer. “I know he’s hiding something from me.”

“Why do you say that?”

“I just know.”

She didn’t seem to be aware I didn’t want to talk about Nate anymore. My eyes zoomed in on her mouth, fantasizing on how soft they were.

“I’m not –” she started, but I crushed my mouth against hers. Taking in her taste, savoring her sweetness. It had been three weeks since I last saw her, and it had been difficult without her.

She opened her mouth and my tongue quickly sought hers for a duel. My arms were wrapped tightly around her while my hands were on her ass, gripping and groping.

“I missed you,” I rasped, still a little dizzy from the kiss.

“I know.”

Her mouth tasted divine, driving me crazy. Kissing her ignited all my senses, making me feel on fire. My heart thundered like a million beats per second as I tried to control the lust inside me. My erection strained against my jeans, seeking for some kind of release from the denim prison.

“I missed you too, Deke.” She palmed my cheek with one hand, smiling as she stared at me. It was so easy to lose myself when I was with her – she was intoxicating, and everything about her made my insides go haywire – but I needed to regain some control. Now.

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Book Excerpt and Giveaway: Just for the Record by Six Delos Reyes

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Just for the Record by Six Delos Reyes

Just for the record, the heat can get to even the most calculated of minds.

Let it be stated that Rhys loves Ryan forever and ever. But certain needs are not being met, leaving her frustrated and asking for too much than the conservative and almost-rock star, Ryan, is willing to give. Uncooperative (or cooperative, depending on your point of view) weather provides her an opportunity to ask not what she can do for her friends, but what a friend can do for her.

Isaiah likes to say that the best thing about Rhys is that he can stand in her breathing space and feel nothing. Something of a breather when dancing with Lia short circuits his entire operating system. But all his beliefs are challenged when Rhys chances upon him in a steamy practice room in the middle of a heat wave.

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Book Excerpt

Just For the Record

Just for the Record by Six Delos Reyes

This time Isaiah didn’t bother hiding his smirk. Running a record with her in the music lab was innocent enough, but With You was hardly an innocent song. He was tempted to say something like ‘Just because you always know where Lia is, doesn’t mean I always know where Rhys is’ but he stowed that retort for a rainy day. “I thought you’re all gonna meet at the shop today.”

“We are. Just thought you know where she is now.”

“Maybe.” But before Juno could react even the slightest bit violently to that, Isaiah amended that last statement with “Maybe you should call her.”

“I already did. She said she’ll be at the shop.” Juno waved and turned back towards the music labs. “See you later,” he said, almost as an afterthought.

Isaiah waited until Juno was in and out of Julian’s studio, and down the stairs before returning inside the practice room. “You owe me,” he said, closing the door behind him. “So make yourself useful.”

Rhys rolled her eyes as she let Isaiah drag her into the middle of the room. It wasn’t like she had a choice now, and it wasn’t as if she had to be anywhere. “Nice hair,” she commented. “How many tries did you take to get that color?”

“Thanks. And this was an accident. Wasn’t supposed to turn out this way,” Isaiah answered, plugging his earphones into his ears again. He didn’t have an exact shade in mind so he randomly picked something that would stand out. In retrospect, maybe it wasn’t random at all.

“What? Took me eleven sessions to get mine right. This is unfair.”

“Life is unfair,” he said. “Now shut up and stand there.” Isaiah played the song and counted in his head.
Rhys tugged the left earbud from his ear and placed it in her own. A grin spread on her face as soon as she heard the familiar riff. “Is this for the big Saturday?” A pause. “Did you actually ask her? What did she say?”

“You’re supposed to be a wall or a pole. Neither of which talk.” He positioned her flush against him, mechanically moving her limbs around him like a mannequin. Rhys would have passed as one too, what with the way she stood still as he moved sensuously around her. But there was nothing sensual about the scenario at all.

She rolled her eyes. It was not the first time Isaiah utilized her as a dancing pole, though more often than not he simply referred to her as a wall. His movements, to another person’s eyes, would border on highly suggestive, but Rhys blamed Julian for the lyrics they tacked on to her music. “Yeah, let’s pretend that’s gonna happen.”
“Let’s just say there’s no sexy lady in next Saturday’s perf,” he answered tersely. He wrapped her arms around his neck and lifted her off her feet and moved her left to right.

Rhys caught her bottom lip in between her teeth before she said something stupid. Isaiah could be volatile when talking about Lia, and she nibbled thoughtfully as she composed a proper response. Meanwhile, Isaiah didn’t stop moving around her and working around the tangle of earphone wire between them, dancing to what she now assumed would have been the choreography to Sexy Lady— an unfortunate title from the studio boys— had Lia said yes. “I cannot believe you just referred to Lia as ‘Sexy Lady’.”

The smirk on his face, one that was half an amused smile, meant she said the right thing. Isaiah slid behind her, running his hands down her ribs and anchoring them on her waist. He dropped his head on her shoulder and closed his eyes. His hair was a shade lighter than hers, but their hair blended together in their reflection. Sweat from his forehead slid down her shoulder blade and his breathing was hot against her neck. Rhys wondered if they had ever been this close before with Isaiah bare-chested next to her. That last detail slipped her mind at first, but she couldn’t dismiss it now. Heat from his body magnified the already sweat-slicked warm spots on her back, and every time he breathed in she felt his hard chest touch her back.

“Wait,” she said, eyes blurring from the heat in the studio. “So, if she said no, then this isn’t really necessary. Or are you going to go find someone else?”

He twisted her around in his arms so they faced each other, knotting her inside the white wire. Her hands landed on his chest, fingertips grazing his skin. “I don’t think I can find someone this late so I redid most of it this morning just in case.”

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Book Excerpt and Giveaway: Boyfriend-Stealing Bitch by Halina Cabrera

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PASSION BUNDLE

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Boyfriend-Stealing Bitch by Halina Cabrera

Jess Rodriguez always gets what she wants. That’s why no one in her office has difficulty believing she tried to steal the gorgeous Martin de Guzman from his perfect girlfriend, Eliza. Now, the label “boyfriend-stealing bitch” has been slapped on her. Plus, Martin has to leave for the U.S. and Jess is left all alone to pick up the pieces.

Two years later, Martin shows up in the most unlikely of places: at Jess’s weekend getaway with her boyfriend, Joey. Will it be his turn to steal her away on a hot summer night? Is she finally going to claim the title she was so unfairly given back then?

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Book Excerpt

Boyfriend-Stealing Bitch by Halina Cabrera

Boyfriend-Stealing Bitch by Halina Cabrera

The week goes by really fast. And the next thing I know, we’re having a despedida party for Martin at a bar in Makati. Everyone’s there, and group pictures are being taken left and right. Martin, however, looks distant. He smiles and acts normally, but I know something’s wrong because he has that look on his face. Drinks in hand, I lead him away from the fray toward a balcony cocktail table far from the bar.

“Are you okay?” I ask him.

“I feel like shit. Eliza’s not talking to me.” I should have known.

“Maybe you should go patch up things with her.”

“I don’t know. Maybe I should,” he says, but he stays where he is. He’s quiet and, I suspect, a little tipsy, if not drunk.

“You could always go home.”

“Yeah.”

“Look, you’re in no condition to drive. Let me just call you a cab.” I start to head back toward the bar, but he puts his hand on my arm.

“Not yet, Jess,” he says. There’s a plea in his voice. His hand is warm on my skin. I’m not a very touchy-feely kind of person. And I’m sure we must have grazed elbows or arms at some point in the past, but this feels funny. Well, at least, the feel of his hand on my arm is making me feel funny. I know I should walk away, but I don’t.

“Just stay with me for a while.” I don’t say anything.

His hand is still on my arm.

“I’m going to miss you,” he says.

“I’ll miss you too.”

“Say it like you mean it.”

I look at his face. What is going on with him? Is it the alcohol talking?

“Look, Martin, I think you’ve had too much to drink—”

His hand has traveled up to my shoulder, and before I know it, he’s gently stroking my cheek and jaw. My heart is hammering in my chest. I know I should pull away, but stupid me, I feel frozen in place. I’m still waiting for something to make sense. Or I’m enjoying the way he’s touching me. I don’t know. Or maybe I’m realizing that he looks even better when his skin is slightly flushed.

“Jessica,” he says. He’s never said my whole name like that, like a half whisper. And then he’s kissing me. Slowly, at first, then hungrily. I can smell the vodka on his breath mixing with the scent of his cologne. I don’t know how it happened, but his arms are around me, and I’m leaning into his body. What am I doing? is the last thing on my mind before we hear a gasp behind us.

“Oh my God, Jess Rodriguez, you are a boyfriend-stealing BITCH!”

And there’s Eliza, tears streaming down her face. I think the whole floor has heard her.

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Book Excerpt and Giveaway: Passion Within the Stone Walls by Kali Ragilles

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PASSION BUNDLE

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Passion Within the Stone Walls by Kali Ragilles

Sometimes, it’s okay to be selfish…

Unless you’re Paige De Guia, whose only concern is to make sure all the bloggers under her charge enjoy themselves during their sponsored trip. Everything goes as planned, until she meets a handsome and mysterious tough guy on the way to the island of Sabtang in Batanes.

And just like that, Paige’s priorities turn upside down

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Book Excerpt

Passion Within the Stone Walls by Kali Ragilles

Passion Within the Stone Walls by Kali Ragilles

Some minutes after Mayette left, a shout rang across the basketball court. “What the fuck, dude? That was an easy rebound!” the guy with the funky hair called out. The other men howled with laughter, but Paige hardly noticed them.

Because Sean was staring straight at her.

“Sean, bro! You still playing or what?” Sean’s other friend, Duke, passed the ball to him. He barely caught it, his attention still on Paige. She held Sean’s gaze, pretending to ignore how the sweat on his bare skin glistened in the afternoon sun, how she would love to run her fingers over those six-packed abs. Paige inhaled deeply, watching as a small smile formed on his lips. Those kissable red lips.

Geez, this guys sex incarnate.

“Yeah,” Sean said, casting one last look at Paige before jogging to catch up.

Paige sat on the concrete fence in silence, watching the guys play. She did her best to seem uninterested, but her eyes followed Sean like a hawk, watching every flex of his sweaty, hard muscles. Sean’s friends and the locals were evenly matched, ending the game with a draw when the sun began to turn their surroundings orange.

“Oh, shit,” Paige muttered as she glanced at her watch. It was already half-past five. They had to leave Chavayan as soon as possible, or risk traveling on dark and narrow cliff-side roads. Panicked, she jumped down the fence and nearly fell on all fours.

“Easy, cowgirl,” a familiar voice drawled beside Paige. Gino leaned over the fence with Leizel, Austin and Queenie beside him. “TJ’s off chasing the sunset, but Eddie and his troopers are probably halfway back to Centro by now.”

“What?”

“You heard right, girl.” Leizel pointed her camera phone at the basketball court and snapped a photo. “We’re staying here!”

“But our things ― ”

Queenie wrinkled her nose. “Still at the Heritage Building. We’ll have to buy basic toiletries for the night. The kids said they have everything we’ll need at the sari-sari store. Speaking of which,” she started. “I’ll buy our stuff before it gets dark. I don’t want to suffocate from your cumulative BO and bad breath tomorrow.”

“But it’s a great bonding experience!” Gino batted his eyelashes comically. “You, me, Leizel, Paige, Austin and TJ… Sharing our bodily essence in one stone cottage!”

“Yuck,” Queenie said, her face full of disgust. “I’ll see you at dinner.” The blogger turned around before Paige could ask more questions.

“What a bitch,” said Gino. “But she has her moments, so I guess I’m not suffocating her with a pillow tonight.”

Paige pretended she didn’t hear Gino. “Can someone please explain to me what’s going on? Where are we staying? And where in the world are we going to have dinner?”

“I told you we had your back, girl.” Leizel grinned. “We’ve got it all taken care of. Kuya Nestor got us a stone cottage, and his mom is preparing us dinner. What a nice old lady.”

“But the fees and all ― ”

“Everything’s okay,” Austin’s hoarse voice chimed in. “Relax, Paige.”

“Wow! Four words in one breath. A record for Austin, so I’d take his advice if I were you,” Gino said, smirking. “Oh, and if you can stop ogling the hot guy for a bit, you might want to check your cellphone. Eddie says he’ll text you.”

Paige blushed. “I wasn’t ogling.”

“Whatever.” Gino said. “Can’t say I blame you. Abs galore!”

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