Piatkus Entice News

Win copies of Bayou Born and Blue Shift!

This month, we’re giving two lucky people the chance to read these INCREDIBLE books – Blue Shift by Jane O’Reilly and Bayou Born by Hailey Edwards.

Blue Shift

2187: Earth is cold, dead and divided. 

The rich hide away while the rest will do anything to survive. Humanity have only one hope: crossing hostile alien territory to reach a habitable planet. It’s lucky that for some, fighting their way through space is just a way of life . . .

Bayou Born

Her beginning may be our end . . . 

Deep in the humid Mississippi bayou, a half-wild child is dragged from the murky waters. She has no memories, no family and is covered in mysterious markings. Adopted by the policeman who rescued her, Luce Boudreau follows him onto the force, determined to prove herself in the eyes of those who are still suspicious.

However, there’s more of a battle ahead than Luce could possibly imagine. She may be an orphan without a past, but no one – including Luce herself – could ever be prepared for the truth of her dark, powerful destiny . .

Sound intriguing? We thought so!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Good luck, and don’t forget to read the T&Cs here



Win one of THREE signed copies of The Hating Game! – CLOSED

This month, there’s one very special book we wanted to tell you about in particular: Sally Thorne’s The Hating Game is one of the best romcoms we have ever read – and it’s not just us that thinks so . . .

Charmingself-deprecatingquick-witted and funny.’ The New York Times

‘A smart and funny modern romance.’ Good Housekeeping

‘The next Sophie Kinsella.’ Bustle

Lucy Hutton and Joshua Templeman hate each other. Not dislike. Not begrudgingly tolerate. Hate. Lucy can’t understand Joshua’s joyless, uptight, meticulous approach to his job. Joshua is clearly baffled by Lucy’s overly bright clothes, quirkiness, and Pollyanna attitude.

Now up for the same promotion, their battle of wills has come to a head and Lucy refuses to back down when their latest game could cost her her dream job…But the tension between Lucy and Joshua has also reached its boiling point, and Lucy is discovering that maybe she doesn’t hate Joshua. And maybe, he doesn’t hate her either. Or maybe this is just another game. 

This is one of those romances you’ll return to again and again – and this month we’re offering three readers a chance to win a SIGNED copy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To enter, simply fill in the form below and don’t forget to read the T&Cs!




Win The Bourbon Kings and The Angels’ Share

Enter now to win copies of Sunday Times bestseller J. R. Ward’s The Bourbon Kings and The Angels’ Share!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An enthralling new series set amid the shifting dynamics of a Southern family defined by wealth and privilege – and compromised by secrets, deceit, and scandal . . .

For generations, the Bradford family has worn the mantle of kings of the bourbon capital of the world. Their sustained wealth has afforded them prestige and privilege – as well as a hard-won division of class on their sprawling estate, Easterly. Upstairs, a dynasty that by all appearances plays by the rules of good fortune and good taste. Downstairs, the staff who work tirelessly to maintain the impeccable Bradford facade. And never the twain shall meet . . .

Downton Abbey meets Dynasty in this richly imagined, captivating family saga’ USA Today 

To enter, simply fill in the form below and don’t forget to read the T&Cs here. Good luck!


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Win a copy of Summer’s Lease! – CLOSED

To celebrate the publication of Carrie Elks’s Summer’s Lease, we’re giving three lucky people the chance to win a paperback copy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A free summer holiday in a beautiful villa in Lake Como. The catch? Sharing a house with her worst enemy . . . 

Cesca Shakespeare has hit rock bottom. After one prize-winning play that ended in disaster, writer’s block turned up, moved in and got a Netflix subscription. Six years later, she’s just lost her crappy job and is about to lose her flat. Worse still, her sisters have no idea how far she’s fallen. So when her fairy Godfather offers her a free summer holiday in a beautiful Italian villa, she grudgingly agrees to try writing a new play. That’s before she finds out the house belongs to her arch-nemesis, Sam Carlton.

Having just hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons – again – Hollywood heart-throb Sam Carlton needs a place to hide out. Where better than his family’s gorgeous empty villa on Lake Como? Except when he arrives, it isn’t as empty as he’d hoped.

One thing’s for sure – this is going to be a red-hot, scorching summer . . .

To enter, simply fill in the form below and don’t forget to read the T&Cs here. Good luck!




Win a Sarah Maclean book bundle! – CLOSED

To celebrate the publication of Sarah Maclean’s The Day of the Duchess, we’re giving one lucky person the chance to win all three of Sarah’s Scandal & Scoundrel books, including The Rogue Not Taken and A Scot in the Dark!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The one woman he will never forget . . .

Marcus Bevingstoke, Duke of Haven, has lived the last three years in self-imposed solitude, paying the price for a mistake he can never reverse and a love he lost forever. The dukedom does not wait, however, and Haven requires an heir, which means he must find himself a wife by summer’s end. There is only one problem – he already has one.

The one man she will never forgive . . .

After years in exile, Seraphina, Duchess of Haven, returns to London with a single goal – to reclaim the life she left and find happiness, unencumbered by the man who broke her heart. Haven offers her a deal; Sera can have her freedom, just as soon as she finds her replacement… which requires her to spend the summer in close quarters with the husband she does not want, but somehow cannot resist.

A love that neither can deny

The duke has a single summer to woo his wife and convince her that, despite their broken past, he can give her forever, making every day . . . the day of the Duchess!

To enter, simply fill in the form below and don’t forget to read the T&Cs!




Blue Shift by Jane O’Reilly – Excerpt

To celebrate the release of Jane O’Reilly‘s new novel, Blue Shift,  we’ve got a sneaky excerpt for you… If you can’t help but want more (we couldn’t!), the eBook is out on June 1st! Enjoy!

 

24TH JUNE 2187

Vessel: The Finex. Class 2 long- haul freighter

Destination: Earth

Cargo: Platinum ore

Crew: Eleven

Droids: Two 

(…)

Something was wrong.

The phase drive had stopped.

The freighter jerked to a standstill, as if a giant hand had reached out and grabbed it. It shouldn’t have been physically possible for a vessel the size of the Finex to stop like that. But it did. Jinn was flung backwards, falling hard, the base of her spine taking the brunt of the impact. The lights went out as she hit the floor, sinking her into darkness so complete that she wondered fora moment if she’d gone blind. Everything hurt. Everything. All she could do was lie there and think about pain.

Then the emergency lighting switched on. The alarms started screaming, an electronic shriek that threatened to break her skull and made it impossible to hear her own thoughts as she staggered to her feet and turned to look at the control panel. She grabbed the back of the pilot’s chair, hanging on to it as the freighter tilted left. Empty Soylate cups went flying, as did discarded pieces of uniform and a couple of personal comm. units.

Pulling herself round, Jinn pushed her backside into the chair and gripped the edge of the control panel, forcing herself to stay seated. The data screens flashed. She stared at them, trying to make sense of the streaming feed, but none of it meant anything.

They had been cruising along Space Lane Seven. It wasn’t the busiest of routes, but it wasn’t the quietest, either. Now with a dead phase drive, they weren’t so much cruising as floating, and the last thing she wanted was to get in the way of another freighter. They weren’t exactly designed to stop in a hurry.

‘Viewscreen on!’ she yelled.

Everything around her seemed to freeze. She couldn’t breathe.

She wasn’t even sure her heart was still beating. There, floating alongside the Finex, was a ship. Not a freighter, or one of the smaller transporters used by the traffic police, but something else. It was long, fat and bulbous at one end, narrowing to a slender point at the other. It reminded her of the giant squid trapped in the frozen seas back on Earth, with its strange curving shape and the eerie way it was just . . . there.

It drifted closer, sinking lower. A vast glowing orb moved across her line of sight like a curious eye. Jinn jumped in her seat, her heart pounding up into her throat. She swallowed, fingers shaking on the control panel. She pressed her feet hard into the floor and tensed the muscles in her legs. ‘Just a search light,’ she told herself firmly, as the eye moved. ‘Just a light. Not a cannon.’

That didn’t stop her from feeling like a specimen under a scope.

The ship appeared to have been made from multiple vessels, taken apart and then stitched together with rivets and filth. She had never seen anything like it. It wasn’t a government ship, nor did it belong to one of the corporations. That left only one possibility.

Pirates.

Why? Jinn silently screamed, terror stealing her words as the other members of the crew came staggering onto the control deck, all in various states of undress, smelling of chemical sleep and confusion.

‘What in the void is going on?’ asked Zane. He was the longest-serving and therefore the most senior employee on board, something he liked to remind everyone of. Frequently.

‘Pirates,’ Jinn replied, her tongue thick and heavy. ‘It’s pirates.’

‘Are you sure?’

‘See for yourself.’

Someone swore, a short, sharp word.

‘Don’t just sit there!’ Zane yelled at her. ‘Get us out of here!’

Shamed by her own stupidity, Jinn pressed her palms against the small, circular ports that would link her to the on-board system. Within seconds, the tiny Tellurium nanobots that inhabited the flesh of her forearms had formed into long, thin wires and pushed their way out of her hands and into the port.

Wetware connected to hardware, and she was in.

It took her precious seconds to navigate her way through the on-board system, which seemed to be in the middle of a full- scale meltdown. Jinn overrode it and switched to emergency protocol, which would enable her to fly. But the freighter was big, and it was heavy and fully loaded. It wouldn’t move in a hurry.

‘Shit,’ she muttered, when she realised that it wouldn’t move at all.

‘What?’

‘I can’t power up the phase drives.’

And so the scramble for the emergency escape pods began.

Zane moved first. Heavy boots thudded on metal as the crew sprinted to the little transports, located down in the belly of the freighter. Why hadn’t she thought of that? There was a way out of this and she was sat in the pilot’s chair like an idiot as the Finex drifted closer to the pirate ship, close enough for her to see the individual metal plates that formed the hull. From the way the freighter was moving, she knew the pirates had them in a tractor beam. There was a chance that the emergency pods would be able to avoid the pull if they used the freighter as a shield. That chance was a lot bigger if she was piloting one of them. She had to get to one of the pods, and fast.

Pulling in air, Jinn focussed on the tiny nanobots, willing them to disconnect and move back inside her body. The view screen was still active. As she watched, a small docking portal in the side of the pirate ship spiralled open and a spacewalk emerged, unfolding its way through space. They were going to be boarded.

Jinn had spent enough time watching the streaming newsfeeds to know what that meant. She closed her eyes, and with one massive push of concentration, dragged the Tellurium back inside her body and disconnected from the computer. Her hands burned but she ignored it as she sprinted down into the belly of the ship, chasing her way down endless sharply angled staircases.

Her boots clattered on the metal, her palms slipping as she tried to grip on to the safety rails.

She was almost at the hatch that led to the escape pods when she heard the spacewalk connect. Every second was precious now. She had to keep moving, and that seemed to switch off her fear. She felt nothing, thought about nothing, simply moved to the first hatch and pressed her thumb against the lock pad. It didn’t open, the light flashing red to indicate that the pod had already jettisoned. Jinn rushed to the second hatch, repeated the process. They couldn’t all have gone. They couldn’t. A shiver dropped down her spine as she stood staring at the hatch door, the slow flicker of the emergency lighting showing her the world in brief flashes of sickly yellow light.

‘Hull breach detected,’ came the voice over the internal loudspeaker.

‘Immediate evacuation recommended.’

‘Thanks for the advice,’ Jinn muttered. A hull breach meant that the pirates had cut their way in. They would find her in a matter of minutes. Or, worse, they wouldn’t, and she’d still be on board the Finex when they set it adrift, when it was left to float out into space with a rapidly diminishing oxygen supply and malfunctioning on board computer.

‘Shit.’ She tried the lock one last, desperate time. She was aware of something crowding the edges of her consciousness, an instinctive sense that danger was closing in, moving closer with every second wasted. Abandoning the second hatch, Jinn moved to the third and final one. She jammed her thumb against the lock, staring intently at the control panel. The light stayed red, stayed red.

Then it changed to green. The hatch door spiralled open, and

Jinn found herself staring into the belly of the little escape pod.

Three of her crewmates were inside. Their heads jerked round and they stared at her. ‘There’s no room,’ Zane said.

‘They’ve already boarded.’ Jinn moved closer to the hatch, wrapped her hands around the opening and set a foot to the edge, ready to get in with them. ‘If I pilot us out of here, we can use the ship as a shield. Avoid the tractor beam.’

‘This is a three- person pod,’ Rula said. ‘It doesn’t have enough oxygen to support four.’

‘We’re on Space Lane Seven,’ Jinn pointed out. The pirates were close. She could almost taste their sweat in the air. ‘We’ll get picked up long before we run out.’

‘I’m not taking that chance,’ Zane replied. His hand flicked up, and in it Jinn saw a blaster. ‘Get away from the hatch. Or I’ll spill your guts all over the floor, Dome bitch.’

‘Don’t do this,’ Jinn pleaded. Deep down, she had known they disliked her, but this was more than that. She looked at Zane.

‘Let me pilot. It’s our only chance.’

His response was to power up the blaster. ‘Get the fuck away from the hatch. I won’t tell you again.’

The blaster whined. Jinn closed her eyes.

Then two strong hands closed around her upper arms and jerked her away from the hatch opening. ‘What have we here? ‘Said a voice, deep and rough and unfamiliar.

Those hands turned her around, and Jinn found herself looking up, up, and into the face of a man she didn’t know. Thick eyebrows framed hard green eyes separated by a nose that was slightly out of kilter. If the dark hair hadn’t already told her he was an Underworld, that nose would have. All his features were like that, slightly too big, not quite in line, like he’d been put together in a hurry. It was hard to guess his age. His skin said early twenties.

His eyes said something else entirely. She saw no obvious signs of prosthetics, but his size screamed genetic modification.

And her body screamed out in fear.

‘Take her!’ Zane yelled from somewhere behind her. ‘She’s Dome- raised. You’ll get decent credits for her!’

The pirate kept his gaze fixed on Jinn. ‘I’ve already got more credits than I can spend.’ He lifted a hand, wrapped a lock of her hair around his finger, the white contrasting sharply with his skin. ‘Now what is a Dome brat doing on a Galactinex freighter?’

‘I’m the pilot,’ Jinn managed.

‘I see.’ He poked the retinal implant at her temple. Then he grabbed her hand and examined the implant that banded her wrist, the lights glowing amber to indicate that it was functioning.

She knew if he increased the pressure, her bones would give.

She could sense that in him, that impossible strength. It was why she didn’t try to fight him off.

There were others with him, too. They were in the shadows, and Jinn could barely make them out, but they were there, menacing backdrop to the scene. She ignored them. They didn’t matter. This one did. She’d imagined pirates to be half starved and dirty and desperate, but this man wasn’t desperate at all. His clothes were expensive, he didn’t smell, and he didn’t seem in any particular hurry to get on with the business of stealing everything on board the ship.

‘Please . . .’ she whispered.

‘Please . . . what?’ he asked.

‘Please don’t hurt me.’

‘Now why would I do that?’

‘Because . . .’ she began, but the sentence remained unfinished, as the sound of the hatch door closing behind her cut through her words.

The pirate released his grip, and Jinn almost fell. It was only through sheer force of will that she stayed anything close to upright, and when she regained her balance she realised that he was no longer in front of her.

He stood at the hatch, and the hatch was open. One big hand wrapped around the edge of the opening, and one big black boot rested casually on the base. She saw him lift that hand, saw him beckon her crewmates out of the pod. Heard the whine of the blaster and the call of pirate scum a second before it was fired.

Instinctively, she held her breath, her entire body shaking. It better have been a clean shot, because she didn’t even want to imagine what this man would do if it hadn’t.

A half-breath later, she found out. It all happened so fast that she barely had time to comprehend it. All she could think later was that maybe her mind had replaced reality with the memory that she would recall time and time again, of the pirate moving at a speed no human possessed. Of her crewmates flying out of the escape pod, their bodies shooting across the narrow deck before they hit the wall and dropped to the floor. She could taste shock in the back of her throat, the slimy bitterness of it, coated with a thick overlay of fear. Were they dead? Her mind told her to move closer, but her body refused to obey. All she could do was stand there, an open target, and wait her turn.

The pirate climbed out of the pod, the blaster in his hand.

There was blood on his shirt and plenty of it, a bloom of red against the white, but he didn’t move like a man in pain. He strode straight past her towards the rear of the bay where the rest of his crew waited. Jinn could see movement in the shadows, then more as they stepped forward. Lean bodies, gleaming, hungry eyes. All of them were dark- haired, with the expected prosthetics.

She saw miners, farmers, engineers, though these were undoubtedly Bugs, people who had skipped out of their colony jobs before they’d paid off the cost of their modifications.

‘Strip it down,’ the pirate said to them. ‘Take the ore and the droids, and whatever else you can find.’

‘Aye, captain,’ one of them said. Silver streaked the sides of his dark hair, and his left hand had been replaced by a prosthetic, the kind that spun and flicked out an assortment of intricate tools. A biomechanical engineer, which meant he was intelligent and highly skilled, not some low- rent thug. He wasn’t what she’d expected. None of this was what she’d expected.

The engineer gestured to the others, and they got to work.

Some of them moved further into the ship, some of them detached laser- cutters from their belts and began to strip out the walls of the bay. Like a group of starving scavengers, they picked it clean, but they did it carefully. Nothing was trashed, nothing was broken. Obviously they weren’t just going to take the ore from the hold, they were going to take everything. By the time they’d finished there might not even be a ship for them to leave her on.

The opportunity was there, again, and this time Jinn took it.

But she stumbled as she made her way towards the now- empty escape pod, her feet sliding in the blood that patterned the steel plate beneath her feet. If she hadn’t, she might not have heard the voice that came from behind her.

‘Help me.’ It was little more than a whisper, that desperate plea. ‘Please.’

Jinn glanced back. It was Zane. She risked a glance at the pirates on the other side of the bay. They were rapidly dismantling the cooling system, stripping out the pipes and wiring that allowed the vessel to stay at a temperature that the human body could tolerate. Without it, the freighter would rapidly start to overheat. Blood would warm, enzymes would denature, and the biological systems that kept the body functioning would stop.

Anyone left on board would, quite literally, start to cook.

‘Bloody supernova.’ Jinn turned, started towards Zane. She couldn’t leave him to die like that. She barely made it two paces before the pirate captain was in front of her.

He stared down at her with those odd green eyes. ‘Don’t be foolish,’ he said. Then he turned, strode over to her crewmate, and planted one big boot firmly on Zane’s chest. ‘They made their choice. I offered them work on my ship. They didn’t want it.’

Zane struggled against the weight of that boot, but it was futile.

Jinn flexed her fingers and wished desperately for a weapon. Blaster, a knife, and a personal comm. unit she could fling at the pirate’s head. Anything.

‘Now make your choice,’ the pirate said. He gestured to the pod. ‘Leave.’ He gestured to the rest of the bay. ‘Or stay and die with the rest of your crew. It’s up to you.’

‘Why?’ she asked, unable to help herself, knowing the choice she had to make, yet wanting to delay it. Not wanting to face that inevitable moment when she would leave her crew behind, leave them to die. ‘Why let me go?’

‘You’re Dome- raised. No- one cares what happens to a few Underworld workers. But you . . . I don’t need that sort of trouble.’

From the other side of the bay, a shout pushed through the hot, sticky air. ‘We’re done here, captain. Two- minute countdown.’

‘Get back to the Mutant,’ the pirate replied. He barely raised his voice, yet it had the power to carry across the space. Thence looked at her, straight at her. ‘You heard,’ he said. ‘Get in the pod.’

But she couldn’t. She couldn’t willingly leave the others here to die. Not while there was still a chance. ‘Let me take them with me.’

‘Why?’

‘Because . . . .’ she began, but the words were cut off when she saw Zane push himself up on one elbow. In one unsteady hand, he held a pocket grenade. If he threw it, it would kill all of them.

‘No!’ she screamed.

But the pirate had already seen. He broke Zane’s arm with swift kick, which sent the grenade flying up. The pirate caught it, balancing it on the palm of his hand for a moment, then deftly deactivated it and slid it into his pocket. Zane lay sprawled on the floor, his arm bent at a peculiar angle, his eyes dull. A thin trickle of blood ran out of the corner of his mouth as his throat worked for air.

Jinn turned, flung she towards the escape pod. Feet slipping, hands struggling for grip, she made her way inside, scrambled into a seat. As the restraints automatically wrapped themselves around her torso, she punched the bright red touchpad that would trigger the emergency launch. The hatch spiralled shut and then she was blasted out into space. The pod spun as it rushed away from the freighter, turning her world upside down, and doing the same to her stomach. By the time the boosters kicked in, slowing the pod to a speed that didn’t make her want to puke, the Finex was little more than a fragment in the distance.

There was no sign of the pirate ship, only the skeleton of her ship floating alongside Space Lane Seven. She watched it in agony; the only sound that of her own laboured breathing. She watched as it drifted, watched as it burned, watched until there was nothing left.

Then she lowered her hands to the ports on the control deck and plugged in. ‘Sir,’ she said, when her superior appeared on their screen. ‘I need help.’

Win a Julia Quinn bundle! – CLOSED

We’re giving one lucky person the chance to win a Julia Quinn bundle, featuring Because of Miss Bridgerton and the brand new The Girl with the Make-Believe Husband!

 

 

 

 

 

 

While you were sleeping . . .

With her brother Thomas injured on the battlefront in the Colonies, orphaned Cecilia Harcourt has two unbearable choices: move in with a maiden aunt or marry a scheming cousin. Instead, she chooses option three and travels across the Atlantic, determined to nurse her brother back to health. But after a week of searching, she finds not her brother but his best friend, the handsome officer Edward Rokesby. He’s unconscious and in desperate need of her care, and Cecilia vows that she will save this soldier’s life, even if staying by his side means telling one little lie . . .

I told everyone I was your wife

When Edward comes to, he’s more than a little confused. The blow to his head knocked out six months of his memory, but surely he would recall getting married. He knows who Cecilia Harcourt is – even if he does not recall her face – and with everyone calling her his wife, he decides it must be true, even though he’d always assumed he’d marry his neighbor back in England.

If only it were true . . .

Cecilia risks her entire future by giving herself – completely – to the man she loves. But when the truth comes out, Edward may have a few surprises of his own for the new Mrs Rokesby.

To enter the giveaway, simply fill in your details below and press enter. The giveaway closes at midnight on 30th June and is open to UK residents only. Don’t forget to read the full T&Cs here as well.




 

Win a copy of The Chosen! – CLOSED

To celebrate the publication of The Chosen by New York Times bestselling author J.R. Ward, we’re giving away 3 copies of the brand new hardback in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series!

A scorching forbidden love threatens to tear a rift through the Black Dagger Brotherhood. Nothing is certain or safe.

Xcor, leader of the Band of Bastards, convicted of treason against the Blind King, is facing a brutal interrogation and torturous death at the hands of the Black Dagger Brotherhood. Yet after a life marked by cruelty and evil deeds, he accepts his soldier’s fate, his sole regret the loss of a sacred female who was never his: the Chosen Layla.

Layla alone knows the truth that will save Xcor’s life. But revealing his sacrifice and his hidden heritage will expose them both and destroy everything Layla holds dear – even her role of mother to her precious young. Torn between love and loyalty, she must summon the courage to stand up against the only family she has for the only man she will ever love. Yet even if Xcor is somehow granted a reprieve, he and Layla would have to confront a graver challenge: bridging the chasm that divides their worlds without paving the way for a future of even greater war, desolation and death.

As a dangerous old enemy returns to Caldwell, and the identity of a new deity is revealed, nothing is certain or safe in the world of the Black Dagger Brotherhood, not even true love . . . or destinies that have long seemed set in stone.

To enter the giveaway, simply fill in your details below and press enter. The giveaway closes at midnight on 31st May and is open to UK residents only. Don’t forget to read the full T&Cs here as well.



 

Playing with Fire, Renee Graziano Excerpt

To celebrate the release of Renee Graziano‘s sexy thriller Playing with Fire, we’ve got a sneaky excerpt for you… If you can’t help but want more (we couldn’t!), the ebook is out on Thursday! Enjoy!

It wasn’t like the dress was really over the top.

Might just be the body in it.

Nick Fattelli took a sip from his snifter and negligently set it aside, watching, but he wasn’t the only one. He was pretty sure every man in the room had turned to look.

The woman who had just come into the room was not even classically beautiful. Long dark hair, yes, he approved of that, and the sultry unusual eyes to set it off. Her skin was flawless, but her features were not perfect. That was fine—he wasn’t looking for perfect. A tilt to the eyes, just a hint, and a shade of a Roman nose, but still she was very striking. The dress didn’t hurt either, cut low enough to showcase her firm breasts and tight enough to accentuate what he thought was a world-class ass.

He approved 100 percent.

“Reign.”

He turned and glanced at the man who had apparently caught him staring. “What?”

“That’s her first name. Reign.” Joey Carre took a small round cracker topped with pink shrimp and herb-flecked cheese from a tray and somehow managed to pop it into his mouth and still make the movement look sophisticated. He chewed and swallowed before he commented, “Saw you looking. Long stare, about two seconds over the ordinary. Don’t worry, you aren’t the first.”

Of that, he had no doubt now that he’d seen her. “Okay, guilty as charged.… The story?”

Carre knew everyone. Maybe it was his connection with the fashion icons in a city where how a person was dressed told you more about them than a background check. Carre was slightly overweight, but the cut of his jacket fooled the eye, and his fair hair was thinning just enough to accent a high forehead and austere features. His eyes were a very pale blue and, rumor had it, missed nothing.

“She’s connected.”

Nick believed that. Their circles were fairly tight, this party an example. He glanced around the penthouse, saw the sleek furnishings and the tall shining windows that gave way to a terrace overlooking New York City. The skyline was brilliant through the wall of windows, and the floor was polished marble. Ten million bucks, easy, for this place.… The invitations were not passed out on street corners. “To?”

“Practically everyone, but not what you are thinking right now.” Joey shook his head and took a sip of champagne. “She’s a pretty face, but it doesn’t stop there.”

So … intelligent, gorgeous in her own way, and willing to walk into a party like this one wearing a flamboyant green dress with all that ebony hair spilling down her back.… Good presentation. Every other woman had on the classic little black number. She stood out.

He admired her style. “Fashion?” He acted like it was a guess. He knew where her studio was and had even done a background check on her assistant.

“And good taste. They don’t always go hand in hand.” Carre looked affable, but Nick actually rarely thought that was his true persona. Carre added succinctly, “She’s good. Just starting really to break in.”

“Married?” He asked it politely enough, though he already knew the answer. Several offers in her past, but the one “yes” hadn’t worked out.

He knew pretty much everything about her; they just hadn’t met yet.

“Married? Absolutely not.” Carre looked noncommittal. “Not in the market either.”

Good both ways. So was Nick.

He shot his cuffs. “Introduce me.”

“You don’t want to play with this one.”

Nick’s smile was ironic. “I think I get to make that decision on my own, don’t you agree? Since you know her, let me rephrase. Please introduce me.”

Carre shrugged and shook his head, those pale blue eyes appraising. “Fine. But I’m telling you, she’s not looking. Robert Philliponi has been trying for months. She barely gives him the time of day.”

“I admire her taste already.”

He didn’t care for the man. Philliponi’s name had been linked to several hits, and he was under surveillance. Nick kept his distance as much as possible out of a finely honed sense of self-preservation. No harm in being at the same party like this one, because there were a lot of influential people, from socialites to politicians, but he would never want to hang one-on-one. Bad idea. He didn’t need the association.

Nick followed Carre through the crowd, stopping now and then to greet someone, the room humming with music and dozens of conversations, before they finally reached the corner where his quarry stood talking to an elderly man and another woman. The woman was far too young to be the older man’s wife but had her hand possessively on his well-tailored sleeve. Nick didn’t recognize either one of them.

“Rupert Hanover,” Carre murmured. “You might want to meet him. Owns several trucking companies, which isn’t the most glamorous way to make over fifty million dollars a year, but obviously the blonde is willing to overlook it.”

“Wife?”

“Not yet but give her time. Did you know she used to be married to a state senator?”

“I didn’t know she existed,” Nick said truthfully. And he still didn’t, really, his gaze fastened on the dark-haired woman in the green dress. She turned when she caught sight of them approaching, and she smiled, presumably for Carre, since she didn’t know Nick.

Yet.

Gorgeous green eyes framed by long lashes flashed a glance at him, and then took a long second look.

He looked right back.

“Hurry up and introduce me,” he said under his breath, the evening taking on an intriguing promise.

*   *   *

Even though she’d worn the fuck-me dress, Reign really wasn’t in the mood for a party.

Yes, the glitter of the skyline was gorgeous, the food was no doubt delicious—though she wasn’t all that hungry after her frustrating day—the expensive clothing of the crowd both flamboyant and outrageous, or else extremely tailored, depending on the individual, and usually she liked the sophisticated hum of a gathering like this.… But not tonight.

Therefore, she had very little patience for the over-effusive—yet unmistakably hostile, she was getting the vibe loud and clear—woman stuck to Mr. Hanover. Reign wanted to just say out loud, Don’t worry about it, sweetheart, he’s all yours, but that would be a little blunt even for her, and she’d learned a long time ago that speaking her mind wasn’t always the best idea.

So when she saw Joey Carre approaching, she was infinitely grateful. It wasn’t like they actually worked together, but they crossed paths often in their business and he was pretty much someone she might consider a friend. “Pretty much” meant that she trusted not that many people, and she didn’t trust him exactly, either, but whether it was naive or not—she didn’t distrust him.

Crazy, but then life was pretty crazy most of the time.

The tall man with him was not familiar, and she would have remembered him if she’d seen him before.

For sure.

Nice face. Angular but still handsome enough. Good body, if a girl liked them long and lean and athletic looking. Dark hair, and to her surprise, blue eyes—hardly a pale Scandinavian blue, but a dramatic Mediterranean blue that set off his Italian coloring.

She did her best to not stare.

Great suit. It was her job, after all, so she always had an eye for style. Hand-tailored to his broad shoulders and perfectly fitted. She wouldn’t have picked that tie, but she learned something new every single day; it worked, actually. A midnight hue to match the unusual color of his eyes, the pattern almost so low-key she didn’t notice, but when he approached, she saw it was a shadowy block down the length of the expensive silk. The play of dark color against his white shirt was stylish and made a statement quite different from the vibrancy of her dress.

An opinion of him immediately started to form. She normally liked to be noticed; he didn’t want to be noticed at all.

That was interesting.

It could be that he was pretty noticeable in the first place. Not just his height and those nice wide shoulders, but he had some pretty delicious hair going on—dark and wavy, cut expertly someplace expensive—his jaw slightly square but not too much, his arched brows over those cobalt eyes, and his slightly diffident air didn’t reflect what she thought was a dangerous edge underneath.

She knew dangerous men. Her whole life they’d been there. Godfathers, uncles, cousins … her sixth sense was geared toward feeling the difference between people who made the rules and those that broke them. It didn’t mean they were bad guys.… It wasn’t that cut and dried. It was more how it was all handled. There were rules, and there were rules. Not everyone viewed them the same way, and for that matter, not everyone had the same rules in the first place.

This man was, hands down, a rule-breaker.

The worst sort of man for her.

But fuck, she liked his smile. It was a really boyish mesmerizing curve of his lips, though cute would never apply to his sophisticated image. Maybe it would be better described as deliberate, and as a rule she was absolutely not susceptible to that. She could seduce, but she couldn’t be seduced.

At least before this moment.

“I’m Nick,” he said in a low, smooth whiskey voice. Just a hint of some place other than New York in there. Italy maybe. It was hard to place.

“Reign. Think royalty and not weather.” She took his fingers and judged the tensile strength there. No attempt to convince her he was a man by crushing hers—thank God—but enough pressure to let her know he was interested. She’d already gathered that, yet it was good to know he could play on the nice side of the team.

Unless he needed to play it rough. She hated herself a little for the flicker of interest. All her life, it had been this delicate balance between the good guys and the bad ones, but that wasn’t so easy, she was discovering.

Some men were mostly bad. She’d met them, shunned them, and ran the other way as fast as she could whenever possible. Some thought they were good—she almost hated those self-righteous bastards even more—but she was in her thirties now, and one truth just kept popping up.

No one was all good, and no one was all bad. That was unfortunate. It would make it so much easier to make wise choices.

Around them the room worked, the people moving, the conversations humming, the music playing—something low, Puccini’s “O Mio Babbino Caro,” she thought—and a waiter passed with a plate of stuffed mushrooms, but they both shook their heads.

“Interesting first name,” he said.

“My parents were a little eccentric as a couple.”

He let go of her hand with a deliberate reluctance. “Can you tell me that story over a drink?”

Joey had already left, maneuvering away from them, taking the future Mrs. Hanover and her prey with him. No one could work a room like Joe. It wasn’t like Reign and the new arrival were alone, but apparently he’d read the signs and decided to give them some space.

She read the signs too.

Mr. Fattelli had asked for an introduction. Reign weighed her response, and the pause was long enough for him to acknowledge it. Good. She wanted him to know she didn’t talk to every guy that hit on her. The gleam of amusement in his eyes settled the deal. She said, “Johnnie Walker Black. Rocks, please.”

“I like the lady’s choice. Be right back.”

She watched him go to the bar, saw him flash that killer smile at the female bartender who definitely returned it, and then he was shouldering his way back through the crowd, drinks in hand. He drank bourbon neat, she noted, two fingers in his glass.

“Thank you.” Their fingers brushed as she accepted the drink, and she caught his gaze for a moment.

“Terrace?” he suggested. “It’s a little difficult to carry on a conversation in here.”

She took a sip and nodded. People were watching them already, but she didn’t care too much as he moved back politely to let her walk in front of him through the open glass doors.

A gentleman. That scored him a point.

They were hardly alone there either, but then again, it was a warm clear night. Still, it was a lot more intimate than the jammed apartment. Mostly there were couples, standing around talking.

“Reign?” he prompted, his eyes inquiring. “Your name? You promised me the story.”

She lifted her shoulders. Why not tell him? “My mother’s idea. I think the basic concept was that every single day I should be reminded that I am in charge of my own life. Not to let anyone tell me what to do and when to do it. Reign Supreme. Supreme. Can you believe that is my given middle name?”

“I admit that’s a new one to me. Do you live up to it?” His hand moved his glass casually to his mouth, and he took a small drink, watching her.

Hell yes, I do.

“I think Joey will confirm I do. Tell me, Mr. Fattelli, what do you do?”

“I’m an investment banker.”

“Just that?”

“Mostly.”

A little oblique. Well, maybe he was into finance, but she knew that wasn’t all he was from the dangerous glitter in his eyes.

If he was too evasive, she’d be smart to walk away. Her career was going well, and though not having an active romance wasn’t perfect in her estimation, it wasn’t bad either. She loved her job and people left her alone. She moved in the inner circles but did not actually have to be part of them.

All of it under control. Well, most of the time. The lure of the Life existed. It was practically all she knew. It stood in front of her at the moment in the guise of a handsome man with those striking eyes.… He represented danger, and she had the golden ticket for that ride.

She knew at that moment she was going to go home with him and give him the fuck of the century.

Bad boys were a weakness of hers, and she had the feeling he was a very bad boy indeed. Before he could answer the question, she said abruptly, “No. Don’t tell me. I don’t want to know after all. Is there any chance you want to give me a ride home?”

Playing with Fire is out on April 27th! Get it here!