The second novel in the emotionally compelling trilogy, Degrees of Separation—three lost souls determined to find balance again…
December has vanished. Rejected by her troubled husband, Austin, and pushed, at his insistence, into the arms of his best friend, Cord, she’s uncertain what the future holds. She loves her husband, regardless of his addiction, but she also loves his best friend. At odds with everything she believed to be her traditional reality, she flees the only home she’s ever known.
Heartbroken, Cord does the right thing and confronts his reluctant betrayal of Austin after losing the woman they both love. He takes charge, dragging Austin back from the edge of oblivion, only to find himself plunged deeper into a life of heartache.
On a path to redemption, Austin must not only confront personal truths, but consider the sacrifices necessary to save his marriage and his friendship with Cord.
An unexpected reunion and exposed secrets will either derail or establish their future as one.
WARNING: This book contains subject matter suitable for mature reading audiences. Some content may be offensive to sensitive readers. Degrees of Separation is a MMF ménage trilogy with many emotionally graphic encounters and challenging situations that break the rules of traditional romance.
The second she was gone the asshole in the room spoke up.
“You’re wasting your time fighting it.”
His fork clattered to his plate. “What the fuck is wrong with you? Stop shoving me at your wife!”
Austin stared past Cord, his face filling with concern.
Shit. Ember stood in the doorway, eyes wide, frozen in place, clutching a white frosted cake heaped with strawberries.
Goddamn Austin and his stupid ideas. “Ember—”
“I…I forgot the knife.” She quickly placed the dishes on the table, her steps faltering, and fled to the kitchen.
“Great,” Cord snapped, bunching up his napkin and tossing it on the table. “Enjoy your fucking cake. I’m out of here.”
Austin opened his big mouth, but Cord was done talking to him. Reasoning with Austin was like trying to discuss physics with a chimp. “Shut it, Austin.”
He detoured to the kitchen, unable to take his rage out on her.
“Ember, I didn’t mean—”
“It’s okay.” Her fingers twisted into a dishcloth and then she dashed away a tear.
Fuck. Tears. Not tears! His concern shifted into panic. “It’s not okay. I don’t know what Austin told you—”
“I know what he’s up to. I told him not to do this.”
She fucking knew her husband was messing with him? It didn’t make any sense. “Why is he doing this?”
Now she shrugged. “He’s Austin. Once he gets something in his head…”
Cord rubbed his palm over his face and squeezed. “What does he expect to gain from this? He’s just making an uncomfortable situation worse.”
“He’s trying to fix it. He doesn’t understand, because he wasn’t there. He thinks if we put everything out in the open the guilt will go away. He thinks it’s best to deal with it.”
“Deal with it how?” He wasn’t a fucking puppet Austin could place in whatever position he wanted.
“I don’t know. I barely understand what I’m feeling right now. I can’t pretend to understand what he’s going through. Or you, for that matter.”
All thoughts of her husband vanished as he focused on the ‘f’ word, for his sins.
“What are you feeling?”
Her face tightened and her hand pressed into her chest, her eyes betraying her show of bravado. “Here. It hurts. I don’t know how to make it stop, Cord.”
“Hurts how?” He took a slow step closer, keeping his voice low.
Eyes pleading, she looked up at him, her mouth tight with worry. “When I’m near you, my heart beats so fast I’m afraid it’ll explode. But I know I can’t… I can’t express what’s inside of me. Then this unbearable ache takes hold. It just…hurts.”
Lydia Michaels is the award winning author of 30 romance novels. Her novels from the darkly compelling Surrender Trilogy were iBooks Bestsellers and her work has been featured in USA Today. In 2015 she was the winner of The Best of Bucks Award and she has been nominated as Best Author in the Happenings Magazine two years running [2015 & 2016]. She is a four time nominee for the prestigious RONE Award. Her books are intellectual, emotional, haunting, always centered around love.
Allyson lives in cottage country, Manitoba, Canada with her husband of many years and numerous pets. She has written for many years and after reading an erotic romance, quite by mistake, decided to try her hand at penning one. A bestselling Amazon author, she has now published three series and several stand alones in contemporary, sci fi, fantasy and suspense genres. Allyson will write until whatever is inside is satisfied, untilthe heroes man up and the heroines get what they deserves. Love isn’t always sweet, and Allyson favours the darker side of romance.
Sydney McCall left behind an ex-fiancé and a New York advertising job to return home to Deer Park, North Carolina and help her sister, Kat, run the local animal shelter, Friendly Paws. Determined to save the shelter from financial trouble, Sydney and Kat organize a cat café fundraising event at a local coffee shop. Things are looking up until their landlord, Trowbridge Littleton, threatens to shut down the event. When Sydney drops by his art gallery to make peace, she finds Kat--along with Littleton's dead body.
Local homicide detective Will Worthington--who just happens to be Sydney's old high school crush--is highly suspicious of the sisters' involvement. Desperate to clear their names from the suspect list, Sydney pounces on the investigation. With the help of one of the shelter cats, a savvy orange tabby named Toby, Sydney begins poking her nose into other local businesses whose owners may have benefited from Littleton's death--until the killer notices she's pawing a little too closely at the truth.
Will glanced up. “Pretty observant of you, Syd. The ME will determine the cause of death.” He tapped on his notebook with the edge of his pen. “Why don’t you walk me through what happened. How did the two of you come to be in Littleton’s shop so early?”
“We had something we wanted to discuss with Mr. Littleton, and we thought the earlier the better,” I said.
“I see. And just what was the nature of this discussion?”
I shifted my weight to my other foot. “Friendly Paws has teamed with Dayna’s Treats & Sweets for a cat café event to benefit the shelter. For a nominal fee, people can have their coffee and goodies in a room with shelter cats that are available for adoption.”
Will glanced up, and I could see a light of interest in his eyes. “I’ve heard of those cafes. They’re mostly in Europe.”
“There are a few in the States, big cities mostly. This will be the first event of it’s kind in North Carolina. We’re hoping to increase revenue for both the café and the shelter.”
“Let me guess. That idea didn’t sit well with Littleton?”
Kat and I both shook our heads in unison and Kat exclaimed, “I should say not! He was in the shop yesterday, and he made his feelings pretty darn clear. He thought having the cats around would be detrimental to business. Heck, he thinks-thought-the shelter in general was a detriment to the town.”
“A sentiment you two didn’t agree with,” he said slowly.
“I should say not!” Kat returned, her cheeks starting to flame. “Syd and I tried to reason with him yesterday but he dind’t want to hear it.”
“And that’s why you decided to come here this morning?”
I nodded. “Yes. I put together a pretty good argument of pros for the event. I was hoping to appeal to his sense of business acumen.”
“Why did you feel this was necessary? Had he threatened you?”
“Not in so many words,” I said carefully. “But he did say yesterday that he was determined to put a stop to the proceedings, and we hadn’t heard the last from him.”
“Um-hm.” Will murmured, scribbling some more.
“And Leila Addams – do you remember her, Will? She’s a reporter for the Deer Park Herald now,” Kat chimed in. “Leila said that she thought Littleton was inquiring about starting a petition against showing the shelter cats – and the shelter in general.”
Will made another notation in his book. “So when was the last time you saw Littleton?”
“Yesterday around one-thirty.” I cleared my throat. “If that’s all the questions you have, we need to get going.”
He snapped his notebook shut. “You’re free to go for now,” he said, “but I will probably need to talk to you some more later on.”
“That’s fine,” I said. “We’ll be here.”
The corners of Will’s lips twitched slightly. “Good to know.”
Once we were back out on the street, Kat hauled off and punched me in the arm – hard.
“Yow!” I cried. “What was that for?”
“For thinking that you could come here and face Littleton without me, for one,” Kat said. “I knew you had your fingers crossed last night.”
I rubbed at my arm. “Can’t put anything over on you, can I?”
She gave me a shrewd look. “So, how did it feel, seeing Will Worthington again after all these years! I heard he was back in town, but I had no idea he’d become a detective – homicide, no less.” She cut me a sidelong glance. “Funny, isn’t it, how you two came back to Deer Park almost at the same time. Like Karma, or something.”
“Well, I’d rather deal with Will than his partner, Colombo Junior,” I said. “Come on, let’s get my car and get to the shelter. I hope Maggie isn’t too worried.”
We walked through the alleyway and when we were almost at the spot where I’d parked, I suddenly stopped short. “Hey,” Kat cried as she ran full tilt into my back. “What’s wrong?”
I pointed to the empty space beside my car. “There was a white Lincoln there when I came, parked pretty badly. The license plate read TLITTLE. I thought for sure it was Littleton’s car, but if it’s gone…”
“A white Lincoln? That’s his wife Petra’s car,” Kat said. She glanced around, then pointed to the gym. “She must have parked it here instead of the gym parking lot, like she usually does. I wonder why.”
Another disturbing thought occurred to me as I slid behind the wheel. It would have been impossible for Littleton’s wife not to have seen the ambulance and police cars parked in front of her husband’s shop. Why hadn’t she come to see what was wrong?
Unless, of course…she didn’t have to. Because she already knew.
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
While Toni Lotempio does not commit – or solve – murders in real life, she has no trouble doing it on paper. Her lifelong love of mysteries began early on when she was introduced to her first Nancy Drew mystery at age 10 – The Secret in the Old Attic. She (and ROCCO, albeit he’s uncredited) pen the Nick and Nora mystery series from Berkley Prime Crime – the first volume, MEOW IF ITS MURDER, debuted Dec. 2, 2014. Followed by #2, CLAWS FOR ALARM. #3, CRIME AND CATNIP, is out this December. She, Rocco and Maxx make their home in Clifton, New Jersey, just twenty minutes from the Big Apple – New York. Catch up with them at www.tclotempio.com and www.catsbooksmorecats.blogspot.com
What is a young Worthington woman to do when the man of her dreams is not who she thinks he is?
This season, all eyes are on the Earl of Worthington’s spirited, beautiful sister, Lady Louisa Vivers. Many gentlemen are vying for her attention in and around the ton. Yet, Louisa longs for someone who can take her beyond the ballroom—a man who is worldly, adventurous, and passionate. She won’t settle for just any suitor. She wants her true soul mate—and she’ll know him when she sees him.
Is Gideon, the Duke of Rothwell, him? The moment he and Louisa meet, they share a powerful attraction. Rides at sunrise and waltzes at dusk follow. Finally, Gideon can no longer resist the urge to embrace her, and Louisa is sure he will ask for her hand. But Gideon believes he is in no position to marry. The Rothwell estate has gone bankrupt, a scandal simmers in its wake, and he has nothing left to offer. Now, he must decide if he will let pride stand in the way of true love—or if he will risk everything, and let the lady decide for herself…
A pair of showy dark bay horses drew even with him, followed by an extremely fashionable curricle.
“Bentley.” Resisting the urge to smile, Gideon raised his quizzing glass, reviving a long-standing joke between him and his cousin. “When are you going to learn to select decent horseflesh?”
“If you really cared,” Bentley retorted, “you would have been here to help me, and not off in Canada dressing in bearskins or whatever it is you wore over there.”
The carriage came to a stop.
“Harrumph,” Gideon scoffed. “While you are here and obviously have nothing better to do, I would appreciate a ride to Doctors’ Common.” He needed to tell Templeton about this latest development. Not waiting for his cousin to answer, Gideon climbed onto the curricle. “You may also tell me what is so urgent I must drop everything and come to Town immediately. As it is, you’ve left me kicking my heels for two days.”
Bentley started the horses, but immediately turned to face Gideon and dropped his ribbons.
“Watch what you’re doing!” He grabbed the reins from his cousin’s slack fingers.
“Blast. I forgot.”
Bentley reached for the ribbons, but Gideon shook his head. “I think I’ll keep them until you’re finished.”
His cousin heaved a sigh worthy of Drury Lane. “I am in love, and I need help convincing her to marry me.”
Gideon loved his cousin like a brother, but he had no idea how he could assist in matters of the heart. Then again . . . “Happy to do whatever I can. Who is the lucky woman?”
“Didn’t I tell you?” Bentley asked, surprised.
“No,” Gideon replied with all the patience he could muster. “I received a letter from you telling me you needed my help, but you failed to give the reason.”
“You probably don’t know her in any event. She came out just this year.”
He raised a brow, hoping to hurry his cousin along.
“Lady Louisa Vivers.” Bentley said her name as if she was the sum of all his dreams.
Hell and damnation! Could my luck get any worse?
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Bestselling author Ella Quinn’s studies and other jobs have always been on the serious side. Reading historical romances, especially Regencies, were her escape. Eventually her love of historical novels led her to start writing them. She has just finished her first series, The Marriage Game, and her new series, The Worthingtons, began in April 2016.
She is married to her wonderful husband of over thirty years. They have a son and two beautiful granddaughters, and a dog. After living in the South Pacific, Central America, North Africa, England and Europe, she and her husband decided to make their dreams come true and are now living on a sailboat cruising the Caribbean and North America. Europe is next!