Long Game (Women of W.A.R.): Exclusive Excerpt 1

Last week, we introduced you to Angelica and Jaxon. This week, we’re delighted to bring you Cressinda and Quin from Catherine Evan’s Long Game. Read on!

Chapter 1

‘Watercress!’ The bellow echoed not just in Cress’s mind but also throughout the cavernous area of Central Railway Station. That rich, deep baritone she knew, and loved, was calling her from the opposite end of the concourse. She was heading for the suburban trains, and he was here.

She should cringe at having her nickname shouted out like that, but bubbles of excitement rode her bloodstream. She stopped and searched through the crowd for Quin Fitzpatrick. Only he and her brothers ever used the stupid childhood nickname, and her brothers had all waved her off when she left Wagga Wagga hours ago.

Finally, she spied him and made a dash towards him. Her heavy kitbag and an overnight bag hampered her legs but when she reached him, she let them go and launched herself at his chest.

She’d do this to any of her brothers. Especially if she hadn’t seen them in ages.

Quin was similarly built to her brothers: tall, big chest and well-muscled shoulders. Nothing about this hug should feel different, yet it did. It always did. She took a few seconds to soak up the scent of Quin—musk, citrus and a hint of good honest sweat—and bask in the strength of his arms around her, his chest against her, and his face brushing her cheek. Then she walloped his shoulder. ‘Put me down this second. You’re making a scene.’

He laughed as he plopped her to the ground. For a moment she wished he’d let her slide slowly down his body, but she brushed away that longing. Quin Fitzpatrick was off limits. He was her fifth brother. She needed to keep him in that place or she’d never be in Sydney, never be able to have a crack at her dream.

‘I’m so glad to see you, Quin. I thought you wouldn’t be able to get away and I didn’t want to bother you with driving into the city to pick me up.’ Cress grabbed for the handles on her bags. ‘I hope I haven’t put you out?’

‘No, Watercress. Nothing like that.’ He took one bag before he slung his arm across her shoulders and gave her a squeeze. ‘I’m stoked you got picked for this side. I couldn’t believe it when Tris rang me.’ They began walking out the way he’d entered.

Cress still had mixed feelings about her brother organising Quin to take her in. Of course they’d organised it before telling her; before she’d even thought about accommodation. She shouldn’t have been surprised, but it left her living with the man everyone thought was like her brother, when she’d loved him her entire life.

Laughing to hide any other emotion, Cress elbowed him lightly in the ribs. ‘I’m awesome, why couldn’t you believe it?’

Quin shook his head, grinning at her with that same grin he’d given her from the moment she could remember him. The one that turned everything inside her into something that jittered and squirmed. ‘You still can’t just say thank you?’

Fighting the jitters, she poked her index finger just above his heart. ‘You still can’t say congratulations?’

His eyelids flickered momentarily and then he took a step back, pulling away from her reach. ‘Cressida Kennedy, congratulations on being selected to play for the Women’s Aussie Rules team, the Sydney Sirens.’

Beaming so big she thought the skin might peel off her face hadn’t yet become old. The same dopey grin appeared again. ‘Thank you, Quin. That means a lot.’

He hugged her again, tight and close, before pulling away. ‘Let’s get your stuff in the car.’ He waved his hand towards the exit.

Getting outside the terminal into the fresh air was, well, not exactly fresh, but better than the over-scented air she’d had for hours. Used to working outdoors, with machines, plants and animals, she wasn’t overly keen on cleaning product scent or air-freshener. The mix of fast food, burning coffee, and over-scented bodies wasn’t a great smell either. Here was traffic, pollution and that smoky, ozone train smell. They weren’t her usual smells either, but were as close to home as she’d be sniffing for a while yet.

‘You’ll get used to it,’ Quin said as he dropped her bag to the ground and popped the boot.

She wasn’t sure she would. ‘I can’t believe I have the opportunity to even try to get used to it. It’s still sinking in. I’d heard they were doing this comp but never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d be asked.’ She tossed in her overnight bag and then swung the backpack off and slid that in, before Quin tossed in her kitbag. Once done, he slammed the boot.

‘Yes, you did.’

Staring at him, she wasn’t sure what he was talking about. ‘Huh?’

‘You may not have told anyone, but you dreamed it, Cress Kennedy. You’ve always had big dreams. Dreams bigger than any girl in Grong Grong. Probably bigger than any person in Grong Grong.’

She laughed. ‘Says you.’ He’d had the same dream and years earlier had left town for the city and the male team of the same club she was playing for. She hadn’t consciously followed in his footsteps; she just loved Aussie Rules as much as he did. And just quietly, was almost as good as him. Not that she’d tell him that. It was another secret she held close.

Abruptly stopping as she moved down the car, her hand rested on the metal as her brain replayed his words. Traffic created an incessant buzz, broken by the wail of a siren in the distance, and the cacophony of voices as people roamed past. Quin’s car bipped and the body shook briefly as the interior light flared and extinguished. It broke her from her thoughts and she hurried to jump in.

She brushed her fingers along Quin’s thigh, forgetting herself. His muscles contracted at her touch and she whipped her hand away, covering the touch by murmuring, ‘You remember my dreams?’

He didn’t start the car. He looked across and gave her a lazy smirk. ‘Easy task, Watercress. Mine weren’t much different.’ His eye roll made any romantic notions she’d harboured vanish.

Part II

Part III

Part IV

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32510Does she dare pursue all her dreams?

Everyone in Grong Grong knows Cress Kennedy’s childhood dream is to play Aussie Rules Football, so when the Sydney Sirens sign her in the new Women’s Aussie Rules competition, she heads to the big city to pursue her dream. But no one in Grong Grong knows of Cress’s other dreams: the ones that revolve entirely around Quin Fitzpatrick.

Quin Fitzpatrick left Grong Grong as an eighteen-year-old to play Aussie Rules in Sydney, but after eight years the shine has gone from the lifestyle. When his best friend’s little sister follows in his country-to-city footsteps, he promises to look after her. She can stay with him and he’ll protect her as best he can. Besides, Watercress is the little sister he never had.

But Cress is all grown up now and playing Women’s Aussie Rules, and it’s about time that Quin sees her as a woman too…

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Game On (Women of W.A.R.): Exclusive Excerpt 4

Don’t miss a second of the action:

Part I

Part II

Part III

and now, Part IV from Game On by Nicola Marsh!

‘Let’s go.’

We’d barely made it out the front door and onto a busy Chapel Street when she stopped. ‘I don’t even know your name.’

I wanted to tell her but I’d seen too many women react to it, and if she worked in a sports bar she may know my identity by reputation. I didn’t want to see her change. I liked her just the way she was, bold with a hint of susceptibility, embracing the sexual attraction between us but doubting its potency at the same time.

I didn’t want her to treat me any differently, so I settled for ‘Jack’.

‘Angelica,’ she said, with a proud tilt of her head, as if she expected me to make fun of her.

‘Angel …’ I tried the abbreviation on for size. It fit.

When she stared at me in wide-eyed surprise, like no one had ever called her that, I ducked down to nuzzle her neck, inhaling a unique scent reminiscent of roses mixed with jasmine. Refreshing, like her.

‘You don’t mind if I call you that?’

‘I don’t mind.’ The corners of her mouth twitched. ‘Though I have a feeling I’m about to become a fallen angel, with my halo around my ankles.’

I grinned, enjoying her sense of humour. I couldn’t spar with many women like this. It turned me on as much as her hot bod.

‘Good. It’ll be alongside your panties.’

She inhaled sharply, the flare of heat unmistakeable as she gripped my hand tighter. ‘You’re way too charming for your own good.’

‘Hey, you’re here, aren’t you?’ I swung our arms as we started walking, glad I’d chosen tonight to stop by Bobbie’s. I frequented the bar regularly because my clients liked it. Sportsmen flocked to the iconic bar in trendy South Yarra for three things. Live bands. Drink cards. Hot women.

I didn’t go in for the whole bar scene, especially at the end of a long day, but what my clients wanted I provided. It’s what made me the best manager in the country.

Besides, socialising with sports stars often led to referrals for new clients and I had enough elite footballers, basketballers, soccer players and swimmers on my books to keep me solvent forever.

‘Me being here has absolutely nothing to do with your dubious charm.’ She matched my lengthening stride with ease, her quirky smile alerting me to an incoming zinger. ‘I’m here for the free ice-cream.’

‘You’ve got a smart mouth.’ I stared at it, imagining all the naughty things she could do with it. Damn, I couldn’t wait to get her alone.

‘It usually gets me into trouble.’

A brief shadow flickered across her eyes as I inwardly cursed for saying the wrong thing. I wanted tonight to be about fun. Playful sex was the best.

‘Here’s hoping.’ I held up my free hand, fingers crossed, and she laughed as I’d intended.

‘Where do you live?’

‘Right here,’ I said, stopping outside the newest high-rise on the block.

‘Impressive.’ She craned her neck, looking skyward.

‘I try.’ I punched in my security code and the heavy glass door swung inward on a hydraulic hiss. We didn’t speak as we traversed the marble foyer, past a massive floral arrangement, to the private lift that serviced the penthouse only.

I swiped my card and the doors slid open, revealing more speckled Italian marble, shimmering gold and mirrored walls. I hadn’t lived here long, the bulk of my time spent in hotel rooms around the country, holding client’s hands, negotiating deals, cleaning up their messes.

I earned every cent of my exorbitant fees, because if there’s one thing I’d learned in this business it’s that young people who earned a shitload of money often ended up in trouble because of it.

As we stepped into the lift and the doors slid shut, I risked a glance at her. She looked calm, serene almost, but the death grip on my hand said otherwise.

‘You okay?’

She nodded, but still didn’t speak until the lift doors opened directly into my apartment.

‘Wowza.’She baulked as we took a few steps inside. ‘I’m not really interested in what work you do but whatever it is, it sure pays better than bar wench.’

I laughed as she flung back my earlier smart-arse remark. ‘I guess you can call me a hand-holder of sorts. I negotiate for celebrities, sporting personalities and models, but my official title is talent management.’

She stared at me with open speculation, as if trying to size me up, before stepping closer. She hadn’t lost the death grip on my hand and I hoped like hell she wasn’t about to ditch me before we’d begun.

‘Now that we know each other’s names and occupations, why don’t we get to the ice-cream?’

I breathed a sigh of relief. ‘I thought you’d never ask.’

We’d apologise for stopping there, but we just wanted to make Friday all the sweeter 😉

Part V

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Are they playing to win…or playing for keeps?

Angelica Bryant has a dream. The only child of a soccer legend, she pays her bills by working at her father’s bar while pursuing her goals: a role in sports management and a place in the newly established Women’s Aussie Rules league. Football is her passion, and she won’t let anything get in her way: including an ill-advised one-night-stand with one of Australia’s most successful agents.

Jaxon Flint thrives on success. His workaholic lifestyle keeps his agency and the athletes he represents at the top of their game – and all of his emotions at bay. Until he meets Angie, W.A.R.’s newest star, who undermines his carefully laid plans and gets under his skin. Is he willing to relinquish his careful control both in and out of the bedroom?

When Angie and Jaxon end up working together, it’s game on!

All three Women of W.A.R. titles release 20 February 2018!

Game On (Women of W.A.R.): Exclusive Excerpt Part 3

Things get a little steamy in today’s instalment…

Don’t miss Part 1 and Part 2!

Chapter 2

JAXON

How long since I’d felt this kind of pull with a woman? Months, years, aeons?

I dated. Casually. Women who knew the score. Usually wannabe models or starlets wanting a leg-up in the industry, using me for my credentials. I didn’t mind. Having money, prestige and contacts meant I scored whenever I wanted.

Not that I was a man-whore. I was selective. Choosy, even. But for a guy who’d been bullied at school to the extent girls avoided me, I got my fair share of sex these days. I considered it an occupational perk.

So what was it about this woman that had me eager to take her back to my place and see if we could create sparks beyond the verbal kind?

I liked banter as foreplay. Give me a quick wit and I was a goner, the boner in my pants testament to that ever since we’d started sparring.

But I didn’t pick up women in bars. Wasn’t my style. But the longer she studied me like some complex science experiment she couldn’t figure out, I knew this time I’d make an exception.

There was something about her … an elusive hint of vulnerability beneath her brash exterior that guaranteed she’d be fun in bed.

Decision made, I stood. ‘I’m leaving now. For ice-cream.’ I made those cutesy inverted comma signs with my fingers that I hated. Shit. She had me seriously rattled if I was resorting to trite.

She stared at me and I saw the battle she waged in her eyes; big, brown, expressive eyes with dark caramel flecks that a guy could drown in. Interest. Excitement. Tinged with fear.

‘I don’t have ice-cream with just anyone, especially when I don’t know them.’ She raised an imperious eyebrow and squared her shoulders, drawing my attention to pert breasts encased in black cotton.

Unlike most of the women here she didn’t go for the slinky revealing look, yet she rocked a denim mini and cotton tank better than the haute couture of past dates.

‘The only way to rectify that is get to know me better.’ I held out a hand, daring her to take it. ‘My apartment is just around the corner.’

‘Of course it is,’ she said, rolling her eyes. ‘Though shouldn’t that be ice-cream parlour?’

‘There’s ice-cream there. Strawberry, boysenberry and double choc chip.’ She smiled and my cock thickened further. The simple action of her lush mouth curving upward transformed her face from pretty to spectacular and I couldn’t help but imagine how that beautiful mouth would feel wrapped around me.

‘What are you, a girl?’

I almost said, ‘My sister visits regularly,’ out of habit. But Erin hadn’t visited in two years. Thanks to me. And I had to live with the truth that I’d contributed to my sister’s death every fucking day.

I cleared my throat, hating the way it tightened whenever I thought of Erin, so I blurted the first fib I could think of. ‘My mum stocked the freezer with her favourite flavours.’

It made me sound like a mummy’s boy. I didn’t care. Besides, I couldn’t tell her the truth: that I stocked Mum’s favourite flavours in the hope she would drop by unexpectedly like she used to.

These days, we avoided each other. I hated seeing the devastation in her eyes, she hates seeing the guilt in mine.

An eyebrow quirked. ‘Wow, so we’re really going to eat ice-cream?’

I couldn’t resist. ‘I’m going to eat something.’

Rather than slap me, she chuckled. ‘Bad boy.’

‘I can be good too.’ I gave in to the impulse to touch her and trailed a finger down her bare arm. Goosebumps sprang up over her skin and I glimpsed the telltale hardening of her nipples.

Fuck, I wanted to wrap my lips around them so bad. To suck them into my mouth, twirl my tongue over them, have her arch and thrust them into my mouth. Were they pink or brown? Large areola or small? Were her tits the perfect handful?

She must’ve glimpsed the lust in my eyes because she eased away. ‘This is way out of my comfort zone,’ she blurted, colour flushing her cheeks. ‘But I’m renowned for my bluntness so here goes. I like you. I like the fact you’ve been straightforward with what you want. I don’t like the fact I haven’t had sex in almost a year.’

She blew out a long breath. ‘And I’m very tempted to rectify that alarming statistic with you.’

My cock surged to fully erect. Suit jackets were good for something after all. How could this gorgeous, intriguing woman not have had sex in almost a year? A travesty, one I intended on remedying if she let me. She’d be so responsive, going off like a firecracker with the slightest ministrations, and I couldn’t wait to get my mouth on her.

‘Then what are we waiting for?’ I held out my hand, willing her to take it.

She hesitated, staring at it for an eternity, before she finally moved, sliding off the stool to stand in front of me. Wow, she was tall, at least five-nine, her height a welcome surprise. I always felt like I’d break the petite ones, considering I’d hit six-two at nineteen.

‘I won’t bite.’ I flexed my fingers, inviting her to take hold. ‘Not unless you ask politely, that is.’

When her tongue darted out to moisten her bottom lip, I almost lost it, the yearning to grab her hand and make a run for it incredibly strong.

‘This is so not me,’ she murmured, so softly I barely heard, before she finally, finally, placed her hand in mine. ‘But maybe for one night it can be.’

I squeezed her hand and she squeezed back, strong and sure, at odds with her wary expression. ‘For what it’s worth, I’m not some sleaze who picks up women in bars for one-night stands.’

She gave a slight nod. ‘I’m a pretty good judge of character and I wouldn’t be doing this if I thought you were.’

I wanted to say she shouldn’t be so trusting. That you couldn’t tell a good guy from a bad on first meeting. But it wasn’t my place to lecture her and I knew she’d bolt if I did. Did that make me a selfish prick? Hell yeah, but with her soft hand in mine, my little head overruled my big one.

‘Let’s go.’

Can’t wait to see what happens next? Go straight to PART IV

And don’t miss the steamy conclusion in PART V

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Are they playing to win…or playing for keeps?

Angelica Bryant has a dream. The only child of a soccer legend, she pays her bills by working at her father’s bar while pursuing her goals: a role in sports management and a place in the newly established Women’s Aussie Rules league. Football is her passion, and she won’t let anything get in her way: including an ill-advised one-night-stand with one of Australia’s most successful agents.

Jaxon Flint thrives on success. His workaholic lifestyle keeps his agency and the athletes he represents at the top of their game – and all of his emotions at bay. Until he meets Angie, W.A.R.’s newest star, who undermines his carefully laid plans and gets under his skin. Is he willing to relinquish his careful control both in and out of the bedroom?

When Angie and Jaxon end up working together, it’s game on!

All three Women of W.A.R. titles release 20 February 2018!

 

Game On (Women of W.A.R.): Exclusive Excerpt Part 2

For the next few weeks, we will be previewing titles from our brand new Women of W.A.R. series, available Feb 20. This week, we are featuring Game On, the flirty workplace romance from internationally best-selling author Nicola Marsh.

Part One is available here.

He laughed, a rich, deep sound that rumbled all the way through me, arrowing straight between those damn ovaries. ‘From the way you handled those dickheads, I may have just fallen in love a little.’

‘Be still my beating heart,’ I deadpanned, enjoying our dry banter all too much.

How long since I’d done this? Swapped witty one-liners with a pro? Try never. The guys I’d dated occasionally in uni had been fellow sports-freaks who viewed sex the same way I did: as a form of exercise. No muss, no fuss fun.

I’d hooked up with exactly three guys, one a year, during my studies. None of them had made me sit up and take notice like this guy.

‘Just so you know, I don’t do love, so I paid you a massive compliment.’ He raised his beer in a silent cheer.

‘Just so you know, I don’t talk to strangers, so the fact I’m sitting here listening to your BS is a massive compliment.’ I clinked my beer bottle against his, unable to stop a burgeoning smile.

Because staring into those mesmerising dark eyes filled with humour made me want to laugh out loud for the hell of it.

‘In that case, I’ll drink to that.’ He took a slug from his beer, the smooth convulsive action of his throat making my fingers itch to reach out and touch. ‘At the risk of reverting to trite jerk status, what do you do when you’re not emasculating misguided men?’

‘I work at a bar not unlike this one.’

I must’ve inadvertently screwed up my nose because he laughed again. ‘And not loving it, obviously.’

I shrugged, not willing to divulge my reasons for sticking around at my father’s bar when he obviously didn’t give a crap one way or the other. ‘It’s a stopgap until I get where I want to be.’

‘Where’s that?’

The truth hovered on the tip of my tongue but most guys didn’t understand a woman wanting to make it big in Aussie Rules; why would this one be any different? ‘Anywhere but here.’ I placed my bottle on the bar and gestured around. ‘Seen one mirror-lined, liquor-stocked, den of inequity filled with memorabilia from washed-up sports stars, seen them all.’

‘Sounds like you really love your job. Cheers to that.’ He took another slug of his beer as I bit back a grin.

I liked sarcasm. Go figure.

‘Let me guess. You’re one of those annoyingly chipper people who live for work.’

He held up his left hand. No ring. Not that it meant anything to some guys. ‘Guilty as charged.’

‘Workaholics are good.’ I cast him a sly sideways glance. ‘They end up alcoholics who keep me in a job.’

‘I thought you were only playing bar wench as a stopgap?’

‘And I thought you were just leaving?’ As much as I was enjoying our banter, I should go. I had an early start on the training track tomorrow and another double shift starting at midday.

‘Is that an invitation?’ He eyeballed me, bold and challenging. Damned if I didn’t like it. ‘Would you like to leave with me?’

No innuendo. No sly jibes. A blatant invitation that tempted me more than it should.

If I had a bucket list, sex with a stranger wouldn’t be on it. That was before. Before him.

‘Just so we’re clear, we’re not leaving here to have ice-cream, right?’

‘There can be ice, and cream, involved.’ He leaned closer, a waft of something crisp and expensive washing over me, befuddling me more than his words. ‘If you’re lucky.’

I didn’t pick up men in bars.

I didn’t do one-night stands.

But the longer I stared into his dark, hypnotic eyes, the more I knew without a doubt I was in danger of doing both.

What happens next?? 

Part I

Part III

Part IV

Part V

PRE-ORDER NOW

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Are they playing to win…or playing for keeps?

Angelica Bryant has a dream. The only child of a soccer legend, she pays her bills by working at her father’s bar while pursuing her goals: a role in sports management and a place in the newly established Women’s Aussie Rules league. Football is her passion, and she won’t let anything get in her way: including an ill-advised one-night-stand with one of Australia’s most successful agents.

Jaxon Flint thrives on success. His workaholic lifestyle keeps his agency and the athletes he represents at the top of their game – and all of his emotions at bay. Until he meets Angie, W.A.R.’s newest star, who undermines his carefully laid plans and gets under his skin. Is he willing to relinquish his careful control both in and out of the bedroom?

When Angie and Jaxon end up working together, it’s game on!

All three Women of W.A.R. titles release 20 February 2018!

 

Exclusive Excerpt: Bittersweet

32702

A vineyard, a family in pain, and the healing magic of cupcakes…

The two old timber doors of the cellar, which sat under the high point of the curved overpass, were painted with the same green paint Dad had chosen when he first bought this place. Though it was flaking with age.

Amy narrowed her eyes at Tom, then peered back at the doors. ‘Is that a cellar in there?’

Yep.’

Does it go underground?’

He nodded. ‘Best way to achieve the perfect temperatures, which is essential to storing wine for long periods. How good a cellar is, determines the quality of a winery.’

Tom unlocked the big metal padlocks, pushed the heavy doors open, and they went inside. The familiar scent of earth and must, a little like mushrooms, hit him.

The cellar was darker than black. He felt along the cold wall for the switch and turned the lights on. They flickered to life, dimly illuminating the giant space, which possessed more qualities of a cave than a room, though the floor and the walls were made of stone.

Amy followed closely by Tom’s side as he led her through the short maze of rooms connected by archways, passing rows of barrels and a tasting room.

Deep into the cellar, where the air grew still and cool, their surroundings dim, was an enormous room lined with big wire racks filled with bottle after bottle of wine, all sitting on their side. Black cellar mould coated the layers of bottles and walls. A wet-rock smell was thick in the air.

Amy narrowed her eyes at Tom, grinning sceptically. ‘What the …?’

Tom laughed. ‘That’s most peoples’ first reaction.’ He went to a rather thick mound of fungus and smelled it. Best scent in the world, like a bag of mushrooms. ‘Touch it,’ he said.

Amy pressed her finger to the spongy substance.

This cellar has its own climate. Eleven degrees in the summer or winter. The bottles of wine let out vapours and this mould forms keeping the air clean. We are so proud of it.’

Amy giggled. ‘I never could have believed this would be a source of pride.’

Tom chuckled. ‘I know. But it’s so very important. And it changes depending on the time of year. Sometimes it’s white like a cotton ball. If you’ve got a cellar with this,’ he said touching the black mould again, ‘you’ve got perfect conditions for storing wine.’

He went to a stack of bottles and pulled out a dusty one from on top, turning it upright and rubbing the muck from the label. A long slender mushroom grew out from the cork. ‘This was from the very first year at the vineyard. The year Mitch was born.’

And it tastes good?’

His grin was smug. ‘Unbelievable flavour profile. But this wine was intended to be aged. A dream my dad had over thirty years ago.’

This is all so incredible.’ She gestured to the rows of bottles. ‘Magical almost.’

Magical was the perfect description. When he was a child, he always volunteered to come here with Dad, and they’d spend hours turning each bottle a quarter of a turn. He’d never known why he’d loved it so much, but Amy was right.

He peered around at all the years of hard work. ‘Dad was so proud of this cellar. I am too. This is Dad’s legacy. This is where it all began. And it’s his gift to my brothers and me …’ he trailed off and stared at his feet as an unexpected lump of emotion formed in his throat.

What?’ she asked.

He shook his head, but sadness was brimming in his eyes. He could not believe how emotional this was making him. But the sentimentality in this place was overflowing, especially after a day like today.

What is it?’ she persisted.

Why would I ever want to distance myself from this legacy?’

Amy shook her head, almost imperceptibly.

What an idiot I’ve been. I was given the biggest gift, a gift people would kill for, and I’m throwing it away. God, how egotistical … selfish …’

Emotions brewed in his heart—for the decisions he’d made, for the time he wasted, and for being so damn complacent—painful as it worked through him and exposed him for the fool he’d been.

Just because he hadn’t birthed this dream, instead inherited it, didn’t make it any less special. It didn’t mean he couldn’t make this dream his own.

Bittersweet is coming in January 2018. Pre-order your copy now!

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Friday Five: Catherine Evans

Evans_CatherineAuthor: Catherine Evans
First published with Escape: 2016
Favourite romance trope: Friends to Lovers
Ideal hero (in three words): Honest, fun, generous
Ideal heroine (in three words): Independent, down-to-earth, loyal
Latest book: The Healing Season, and in February, Long Game

What began your romance writing career? Why do you write romance?

I wanted to write, but I had no idea what I wanted to write about, other than Australia. I read romance, but not only romances, as I read anything with writing on a page. I was writing stories, a member of the NSW Writers Centre, and entering contests in writing associations and not winning. I entered a Romance Writers of Australia contest and they gave feedback…using terminology I didn’t even understand! I became a member, learned all I could about writing, writing romance, and the romance genre. I was hooked.

How do you write? What is your process like?

My process is a mess, but it’s my mess! I get an ideaoften just a scene with two peopleand I start to write. Then I start thinking about what happened, and why, and who are these people. Things get tossed around in my head, or on paper, and I see where it goes. Then I stop at some point when I’ve messed it up. I go back to the start and try to work out what’s wrong. This continues until I get to the end of the story—sometimes I need help from writing friends or editors to un-mess myself!

What was the best writing advice you ever received?

When you finish, put it in a drawer for a while. I see so much more when I’ve got some distance from my story. I can edit it with some perspective. Flaws and holes jump out at me, making them easier to fix.

Where is your favourite place to write? 

I write mostly in my ‘office’, but I also like to go outside if I’m stuck to get some fresh air and nature inspiration, so the back yard or the beach are my go-to places. I usually write straight to my desktop, but if I’m stuck, I’ll scribble in a notebook and I’ve been known to send emails to myself from my mobile device, especially if I’m in bed and half asleep when an idea hits me!


Besides writing, what is something else that you’re really good at? 

Swimming. I love it and always have. A swimming teacher told Mum when I was kid, “She may not be fast, but she’d swim all day.” Stick me in water and I’m happy. I began scuba diving at age 20. Diving and snorkelling are magical. It’s a completely different world below the surface and I’m so comfortable in that world. I find it the most relaxing activity…until I have to waddle back up the beach!

 


32510 (1)Does she dare pursue all her dreams?

Everyone in Grong Grong knows Cress Kennedy’s childhood dream is to play Aussie Rules Football, so when the Sydney Sirens sign her in the new Women’s Aussie Rules competition, she heads to the big city to pursue her dream. But no one in Grong Grong knows of Cress’s other dreams: the ones that revolve entirely around Quin Fitzpatrick.

Quin Fitzpatrick left Grong Grong as an eighteen-year-old to play Aussie Rules in Sydney, but after eight years the shine has gone from the lifestyle. When his best friend’s little sister follows in his country-to-city footsteps, he promises to look after her. She can stay with him and he’ll protect her as best he can. Besides, Watercress is the little sister he never had.

But Cress is all grown up now and playing Women’s Aussie Rules, and it’s about time that Quin sees her as a woman too…

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Exclusive Excerpt 2: My Lady Governess

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One knight, one runaway heiress, one rollicking romance:  A breath of fresh air in Regency romance!

Miss Frome.” He smothered his incredulity. “Are you telling me you’re a fallen woman?”

She cringed. “Yes, my lord.”

 Rubbish.”

 I beg your pardon?” She shot blue daggers at him, even as he straightened up to look down on her in more ways than one.

 Rubbish. If you must lie to me, try not to insult my intelligence so brazenly. I can tell a fallen woman, Miss Frome, and you aren’t it.”

 Clinging to her ridiculous defence, the blonde put up a good fight. “How dare you? I am what I say! How dare you disbelieve me on such a subject? You’re insulting,” she raged on, really panicking now and saying anything in desperation. “I’ve been the worst hussy you’ve ever met!”

Tam eyed the worst hussy he’d ever met, and went from curious about her to all-out determined that he’d find out what the hell lay behind this; under no circumstances was this little blonde idiot being letting out on her own. A fallen woman…dear God.  And this was the girl he was going to marry. She wasn’t what he had ever expected, nor what he would ever have chosen. She wasn’t his type – he liked blondes, but he liked them tall, languid and experienced, not five feet one, energetic and with as much as sense as one of his geese.

She was noisy. She was rude. She was also about to learn that telling fantastical lies to him was a very bad idea.

It only took him two seconds. Before she knew what he was about, he seized her by her shoulders, pulling her out of the chair and up into his hold, where he kissed her fast but expertly, and with impressive power.  Barely given time to gasp, she made one cut-off sound of shock before her knees rather satisfyingly seemed to give way and she surrendered. He let go to watch as she dropped back into the chair gasping; she choked, turned a dozen shades of scarlet, trembled violently, then sat with her hands clenched, speechless and with no idea where to look. Certainly not at Tam, who leaned back against the table again and didn’t have to say a word.

No, he hadn’t thought so. Fallen woman, his backside. 

My Lady Governess is available for pre-order now!

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Footy Fever

by Catherine Evans

I remember my first AFL game. It was not long after the Sydney Swans ‘invaded’ Sydney. I grew up in Sydney in a sports-loving family who believed rugby league was the best game. We watched the AFL Grand Final on TV, but didn’t follow it otherwise. Then in the 1980s, South Melbourne packed up and moved into Sydney to become the Sydney Swans. It caused quite a stir in Sydney.

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We didn’t often attend live games for any sport. There were lots of reasons for this, but cost was what was always mentioned. Now I think back, I have three younger sisters who weren’t as sports mad as I was, and although they would have come for the day out, they wouldn’t have been quite as caught up in whatever sport we watched. That may have been a contributing factor.

I was into new experiences, and I wanted to go to the SCG and see what all the hype was about a live AFL game. I wasn’t old enough to head off on my own, yet no one I knew was interested.

Until Sister M.

Yep, a nun, religious sister.

I didn’t pick her for a sports nut, but she’d come from Victoria and had been an Essendon fan. So when the Swans played Essendon, we decided we’d go. We knew her through church, and my parents often had her visiting, so I knew her quite well, or I thought I did!

She parked in some nearby convent and we walked to the SCG. I didn’t want to be seen as a convert to AFL, so I wore my rugby league gear (the colours of neither team I was to watch). On the way to the ground, there were a lot of men running around in a grassy area. Sister Margaret grabbed my arm, gasped and stopped dead.

Nuns, perving, who knew?

But then this voice yells, “Sister M?” and this guy came flying over. He wrapped her in a hug and deposited her back on the ground. A guy in red and black. A guy who towered over both of us, with shoulders a mile wide full of muscles. A guy whose face I knew (I didn’t know many) because he was the blooming pin-up boy (possibly captain) for the Essendon team.

They chatted, I tried to keep my eyes inside my head.

It turned out that in Melbourne, his family had been very good friends with her, kind of similarly to my family. Except rather than just meeting at church, she’d taught this Essendon star and his brother, who by this stage had also appeared.

The game? Yeah, I can’t tell you much about that. I remember Essendon won. I remember Sister M was horrified that the Sydney crowd didn’t yell enough, or at the right things. I also remember that she, a huge fan, could not answer a simple question for me about the game – why does the time clock count the wrong way? It took me years to get that answered!

Have you been to an AFL game? Do you remember your first?


32510 (1)Does she dare pursue all her dreams?

Everyone in Grong Grong knows Cress Kennedy’s childhood dream is to play Aussie Rules Football, so when the Sydney Sirens sign her in the new Women’s Aussie Rules competition, she heads to the big city to pursue her dream. But no one in Grong Grong knows of Cress’s other dreams: the ones that revolve entirely around Quin Fitzpatrick.

Quin Fitzpatrick left Grong Grong as an eighteen-year-old to play Aussie Rules in Sydney, but after eight years the shine has gone from the lifestyle. When his best friend’s little sister follows in his country-to-city footsteps, he promises to look after her. She can stay with him and he’ll protect her as best he can. Besides, Watercress is the little sister he never had.

But Cress is all grown up now and playing Women’s Aussie Rules, and it’s about time that Quin sees her as a woman too…

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Women to Watch

The Women of W.A.R. series is set in a fictional universe, so our teams and characters – though they feel real – don’t really exist. But Women’s AFL is very much real, and the players and their teams on the field are playing their hearts out and inspiring girls and women all over the country.

So while we hope that you enjoy the stories of Angelica, Cress, and Darcy, we thought that we should also pay homage to those players who inspired them.

daisy pearce

Daisy Pearce

Already a stellar player in VFL Women’s league, Daisy set the AFLW league on fire in the inaugural season, winning the inaugural Melbourne best-and-fairest winner, the AFLW Player’s best captain award, AND captained the inaugural AFL Women’s All-Australian team.


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Moana Hope

Moana is born on Valentine’s Day (which as romance readers, you know we love), but more importantly, she is an incredible goal kicker: the first player to ever kick more than 100 goals in the VFL Women’s, and winner of her AFLW team’s inaugural leading goalkicker award.


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Kirby Bentley

Kirby won’t be playing in 2018 due to an injury, but she hasn’t let that slow her down: she has created the Kirby Bentley Cup to provide young indigenous girls aged between 13-17 the opportunity to put their footie skills on display. Also, just when she couldn’t get cooler, off field, Kirby works in mines as an explosives expert.


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Erin Phillips

Not content with dominating on the basketball court (where she’s an Olympic silver medalist and a player in the US WNBA), Erin also co-captained the Adelaide AFLW team and won the AFLW best and fairest medal and the AFLW Player’s Most Valuable Player award.


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Brianna Davey

Another over-achiever, Brianna played international soccer with the Matildas before becoming co-vice-captain of Carlton and being listed in the 2017 All-Australian team.


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Meg Hutchins

Meg not only plays for Collingwood, but she is involved in the management team as well, in her role as Women’s Football Operations Manager, where her experience benefits the Collingwood board.


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Ally Anderson

Part of the Brisbane Lions team that made it to the Grand Final, Ally is also a coach for the AFL KickStart program and mentors the Queensland under-15 women’s Indigenous side. She’s also training to be a paramedic, and has swapped her boots for a microphone, commenting on the NEAFL for NITV.

Incidentally, if you’re interested in Indigenous players in the AFL/AFLW, there is a great map here  with information about players and their identified language and cultural groups.


hannah mouncey

Hannah Mouncey

Hannah isn’t an AFLW player – yet – but we wanted to include her on our list as she fights to be the first transgender player in the AFLW. Hannah was excluded from the draft, due to concerns that her physical disparity would give her unfair advantage. Mouncey’s testosterone levels fall between those required by the International Olympic Committee, the same guidelines followed by the AFL.

There are so many other inspiring athletes, and you can check them out for yourself here http://www.afl.com.au/womens/player-profiles.

And, for a fictional account of the lives and loves of Women’s Aussie Rules players – on and off the field – remember to check out the Women of W.A.R. series. Pre-order now!

 

Women of WAR 1

All Women of W.A.R. titles are available for pre-order now!

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Anthem for the Fans

by Amy Andrews

There’s quite a famous song DownUnder about Australian Rules Football (AFL). It came out in 1979 and I think most Aussies of a certain age would know it. I was only 10 at the time and we didn’t even get AFL on the tele where we lived, but I know it because my Mum used to sing it around the house. It pretty much became an anthem for the sport. It’s called Up There Cazaly, inspired by Roy Cazaly who played Aussie Rules in the 1920’s.

Listening to this song again whilst writing the Women of W.A.R series, got me thinking about all the songs that have become anthems for football codes over the years.

As far as spine tingling awesomeness goes, nothing surpasses a rugby union crowd singing Swing Lo, Sweet Chariot in full voice.

And I was super, super impressed recently during the rugby league world cup to hear the Fijian players raise their voices in hymn! The Fijian hymn sung with such conviction and passion gave me goosebumps!

And then, somehow, this song from Ricky Martin came to represent soccer a few years back during the world cup in Rio. I’m not sure if Cup Of Life will be a stayer but I can’t hear it without instantly thinking of the sport!

Do you have any songs you’d like to suggest for my list?


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How to mend a broken heart…

Darcy Clarke would do anything to play for the new Women’s Aussie Rules league, even put up with her ex, Tony, who just happens to be the coach of the Brisbane Banshees. Tony stomped out of their apartment – and all over heart – two years ago, but she’s moved on, and she deserves her jersey.

As his best friend’s girl, Darcy has always been out of Levi’s reach, even after Tony dropped her and moved out of the apartment they all shared. Now, two years on and still sharing the same apartment, she should be fair game. But Levi is no closer to getting Darcy to think of him as anything but a roommate and a friend.

But when Darcy injures herself in play, Levi’s qualifications as a sports massage therapist are put to good use. Suddenly, their relationship becomes very hands on, and Darcy sees a whole new side of her old friend. A pity he seems immune to her charms. When Tony makes it clear he wants back into her life, she has a decision to make: between the man she once loved and the man who never left her side.

Women of WAR 1

All Women of W.A.R. titles are available for pre-order now!

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