NEW RELEASE: Bound - Reflection

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The one thing I was never allowed to have growing up has come for me.
Love. 
My brother is dead. My mother might as well be dead. My father? Dead as well, but he’s the reason nobody knows my big brother died twenty-five years ago.
They think I died. They think I’m him.
For most of my life, I have posed as my brother. I’ve shed everything that naturally came to me and embraced the life of a man. It’s the only way, I was told. To keep and save everything my family has built over generations.
The only price? My identity. My sanity.

Then
 she came along.
An intern named Natalie. 
A man like Eric isn’t supposed to fall in love with his interns. It’s bad enough his ex-fiancée is his personal assistant. But an intern? An unknown quantity who doesn’t know the truth?
A woman like Erica would definitely fall in love with Natalie, a woman who will either set me free… or destroy me.
Do I follow my heart and embrace this vivacious, brilliant woman who claims to want to know every dark part of me while risking everything I’ve ever known? Or do I follow my head and continue to live the lie I was thrust into as a child?

If I’m telling you this, we already know which path I chose.

DRABBLE: Seven Years Ago

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Seven Years Ago

James & Gwen

            James Merange dragged himself to the closest bar that was half-empty and still looked like it had a decent selection of bourbon. Never thought of myself as a bourbon man, but today is totally a bourbon day. Five hours. That’s how long his meeting with his father’s business associates had taken. Now that James was out of business school, he was expected to start carrying his weight in his family. That’s what happened when he was born the only son to the traditional Meranges, let alone was the only child.

            James was not a traditional kind of guy, however. But what else was he supposed to do with his life when he had no driving need to do something great? Guy in my frat wanted to be an artist… so he became a pretty good artist. Fuck you, Feldman. Why couldn’t James have some talent? He had all this money to throw at it!

            The bar was sophisticated, but none of the “top shelf” products on display screamed they were worth their weight in gold. Good. That meant James could spare himself more networking and hobnobbing with the kind of knobs his father preferred. When he left the meeting twenty minutes ago, Albert was still going on about taking his business associates to a lounge. No, no, no. The only time James went to lounges was if his friends were going along. It was the only way to assure a half-decent time.

            At least there wasn’t a damn soul in the room, aside from the female bartender standing on the other side of the circular bar, cleaning glasses and facing the beer bottles on the shelf. James was so relieved to have an empty bar to himself that he courted serious fantasies of drinking his glass of bourbon and scrolling mindlessly on his iPhone. He had just downloaded a new game that promised hours of mindless entertainment. Candy Crush. Yes, that was its name.

            Yes, give me the booze, give me the NO BLASTED MUSIC ON SPEAKERS and give me bright colors and cartoon characters. It worked in Japan. About time America got with the program.

            He had barely sat down when the female bartender rounded the corner and approached him with a smile.

            The most gorgeous smile he had ever seen.

            James knew he had been working too hard and too long when he swore he saw an angel descend from heaven and grace him with her presence. Booze. Give me the booze now. With any luck, James would soon be too drunk to give a shit that his brain, heart, and cock were telling him to marry the woman before him.

            Years later, he would struggle to put into words what attracted him first about Gwenyth Mitchell, the only woman to knock him off his feet and step on him before he could get back up again. James had encountered his fair share of gorgeous women over the years. His undergrad years were nothing but a steady stream of pussy, most of those girls never standing a chance at dating him. Marriage? Yeah, right.

            Yet why did he feel like he looked into the eyes of his future wife that night?

            “What can I get you?” She spread her arms before him, fingers gripping her side of the mahogany-topped bar. “You look like you could use something strong. Long day at work?”

            She asked the usual questions any good bartender looking for a tip relied on. But there was a tone to her voice that made her spunkier, more genuine than the common bartender fishing for tips. Had she felt it too? This instant connection that would end with her agreeing to go out with James? If he built up the guts to do it…

            “Got any bourbon?” Amazing. His voice hadn’t squeaked like he was a pubescent idiot.

            “Bourbon? Oh, we got tons.” She tossed errant strands of blond hair behind her ears. That loose bun wasn’t going to get her far that night. Or was that the plan? Part of her flirtatious game? James was already losing this game, and he wasn’t used to losing.

            To anyone but the perfect opportunity, anyway.

            “What brand’s your poison?”

            James asked for something dark and velvety. The bartender turned around to grab it, showing off her toned ass in the black jeans she wore like they were a second skin. James gawked at both cheeks as they flexed in denim. As long as he checked himself before she turned around again…

            “What’s your name?” he asked, before realizing that might have been the wrong thing to say. A woman like this? She was used to being flirted with every day.

            “What’s your name, stranger?” That smile was still the size of her golden aura when she turned around with a blessed bottle of booze. A glass popped onto the counter. “Haven’t seen you around here before.”

            “James,” was all he said. He didn’t want to risk her recognizing his unique last name. Not in those parts.

            “Better than Dylan or Ryder or whatever guys our age are named these days.”

            “It’s a family name.” James snorted to think of his great-grandfather, a man he had never met. “Ryder? Where the hell did you get that?”

            “There were two of them in my bartending school alone. I think they were doing it on purpose.”

            James had his bourbon. He held it up and with a waggle of his eyebrows, offered his cheers to a friendly bartender.

            “You still haven’t told me your name,” he said after taking a sip.

            “Gwen.”

            “Wow.”

            “Wow?”

            James almost blushed. He hadn’t realized he said that out loud. “Haven’t heard that name in a while. Is it so old it’s new again?”

            Gwen leaned against the bar with one hand, the other cocked on her hip. If she poses like that any more, I’m going to pop. Maybe he should have more alcohol and go for the ol’ whisky dick to prevent any embarrassing events in his pants.

            “Go on,” she said. “Guess what it’s short for. I know you want to.”

            “Gwen…yth Paltrow?”

            “Close.” Gwen almost seemed impressed. “She spells it differently. I haven’t met many girls who spell my name the way I do.”

            “Your choice or your parents’?”

            She grinned. “Why can’t I agree with them on something for once?”

            A tap on the bar meant she had other things to take care of. James pulled out his phone, but couldn’t bring himself to open the apps he wanted to play. He’d rather gaze longingly at Gwen, a vivacious woman who moved like she owned this bar. Maybe she did. Hell, James knew nothing about this joint. For all he knew, Gwen was a hospitality whizz who would one day own half the bars in town.

            Almost made him feel like a pig to instantly wonder how she’d be in bed.

            When he woke up that morning, he hadn’t planned on trying to get laid. His brain was swarmed with business, family, and bullshit. That long-ass meeting more than guaranteed that he would go to bed early as soon as he got something to eat and took a shower. Now? He may be willing to make other plans, if the mood called for it.

            Women like Gwen, though? They weren’t easy. Usually. Not that James would want her to be. Couldn’t half the fun be the seduction?

            “How long have you been working here?” he called after her.

            Gwen glanced at him over her shoulder. A mini-fridge door closed. Lemon slices were put away. “Long enough to know that you’re not a regular here, and have no reason to be asking me that other than to flirt.”

            “Am I that transparent?”

            She stood in the circular groove of the bar. “Kind of. But you’re cute, so I’ll let it slide.”

            “Knew it. You ladies already let us cute ones get away with everything.”

            “Just don’t let it go to your head. I don’t want to have to call the bouncer to deal with you.”
            “Who’s the bouncer?”

            Gwen cocked her head, a mischievous grin that only someone like James could appreciate catching his attention once more. “Me.”

            “No way.”

            “Care to find out?”

            “No way.”

            Laughing, Gwen asked him how his drink was and insisted that she had other things to do.

            That’s how it went for the next few weeks, when James came up with any excuse to swing by that bar and see his favorite bartender. He never asked Gwen out, because he was afraid of ruining what they tentatively had: friendly banter and friendlier conversation. The fact she always wore tight pants and tight shirts made the visits extra special. James already appreciated some fodder to take home to his imagination.

            He often wondered if she looked forward to his visits – and if she wanted him as much as he wanted her. 

DRABBLE: Spring Break

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Spring Break

Daphne & Logan

            The airport was a madhouse, as typical for spring break and its surrounding dates. Daphne DeMarco impatiently awaited the arrival of boyfriend Logan, who had detoured from his apartment near Harvard to spend the first weekend of spring break in LA. Something about a friend’s bachelor party?

            Daphne didn’t care where the hell her boyfriend had went. All she cared was that she hadn’t seen him since Christmas, and no amount of dirty phone calls and sexually-charged text messages would save her soul when hormones had never been so out of control.

            C’mon, Logan, as soon as you get off that plane I’m…

            “Here, precious!” No voice had the power to disrupt Daphne’s depraved fantasies like the sound of her father’s voice.

            Because, of course, he had insisted on bringing his “little girl” to the airport to pick up her fiancé. Sometimes, Daphne forgot that she was technically engaged to Logan, a man she only thought of as her serious boyfriend. The whole fiancé thing was a cover to keep them together. Marcello DeMarco would have never approved of Logan unless he were willing to put a ring on it. As for their sex life? Nonexistent. As far as daddy dearest was concerned, his precious little princess was a virgin until her wedding night.

            If he ever found out just how rough sweet little princess liked it…

            Daphne inhaled a deep breath to give her the strength to turn to her father with a smile. “I’m waiting here, Daddy! That way I can see when he gets off the plane!”

            “I don’t want you standing over there without your bodyguard!”

            They yelled these things to one another while a constant flow of visitors passed between them. A large man in a fitted Italian suit attempted to cross the stream to where Daphne waited near the arrivals area. Marcello, who had recently suffered an ankle injury while touring one of his many department stores, preferred to sit in a first class waiting area and let Logan come to them. His grand plan to pick his future son-in-law up and take both him and precious little gumdrop out for lunch – his treat – was one of the sweetest he had ever concocted in the almost two years since Logan and Daphne met.

            Daphne wanted to die. Because how the hell was she going to survive the next few hours with her father chaperoning? She’d be lucky to get away with holding Logan’s hand!

            This isn’t what a woman my age should be dealing with. She was turning twenty-two in less than a month and practically in the prime of her young sexual life. (Although she heard wonderful rumors that she had a second wind in her late 30s to look forward to.) She had the hottest boyfriend in America, and that fine specimen of manhood would soon be deplaning with eyes only for her. Logan had taunted her all weekend with stories of the bachelor party. The hot strippers, the partying, the disbelief that he was getting all these hard-ons but forbidden to share them with anyone but her, the princess locked in her ivory New England tower.

            Daphne knew her man would never, ever cheat on her. (On pain of her daddy’s wrath, of course.) This was all a part of their relationship, one built on being as naughty as possible when nobody was looking. When Logan discovered that dear Daphne really got off on having her heiress-trappings ripped away from her, he sometimes took it to extremes. That including going to raunchy parties without her and reporting on the sordid details.

            All a part of his master plan to get her good and horny, of course. She’d be shocked if his dick didn’t act as a compass the moment he got off the plane. I’m over here, Logan! she screamed into the ether. Come get your girlfriend over here! Away from her dad!

            She was doomed when he eventually walked into the arrivals area, clad in tight pants and a tighter T-shirt. The baseball cap on his head was enough to conceal his identity from most of the commoners going about their stressful days, but Daphne instantly recognized the man searching for her in the crowd.

            “Logan!” she squealed, jumping over someone’s pink suitcase to fling herself into her boyfriend’s arms. He dropped his duffel bag and swept her up into a big bear hug that cracked the kinks out of her back and made her shriek in approval. The fine scent of the man she missed most flooded her senses. A tiny tear was shed.

            Damn, she was a mess.

            “There’s my lady!” Logan dropped her to her feet and gave her a chaste kiss to the forehead. He must have sensed the impending presence of a traditional Italian father hobbling his way over with a bodyguard to help him move. “Mr. DeMarco. Sir.”

            Logan took a large step back from Daphne and extended his hand to Marcello. The warning glare was already in Daddy’s eyes.

            The duffel bag was enough luggage for Logan, so they went straight to Marcello’s vintage Lamborghini idling in the pick-up line. The driver tipped his hat to Logan before insisting he get in the passenger seat. Marcello always rode in the back, and he preferred to have his daughter by his side. Which meant the ill-fated couple were once more torn apart. How was that fair? Daphne hadn’t waited almost three months to see her boyfriend for nothing!

            Logan regaled them with the chaste details of the party, although Daphne suspected he truly dumbed down some of the raunchier aspects for Marcello’s consumption. Once they started talking about Harvard, however, Daphne was lost.

            “My pumpkin is graduating this June,” Marcello said with a pat to Daphne’s hand. “Really quite proud of her. You’ll be at the graduation ceremony, of course?”

            Logan flashed them a smile from the front seat. “Wouldn’t miss it for the world.”

            Daphne’s chest swelled with happiness. She had hoped he would say that.

            The day was fine enough to have lunch outside at Marcello’s favorite Italian bistro downtown. The bodyguard cleared a corner of the terrace and ensured that the DeMarco party had privacy. 

Couldn’t do much about the tabloid reporters at the far end of the street taking pictures, but there was nothing to hide here. Just a young couple having lunch with dad during spring break.

            Of course, Marcello never let things simply be.

            “Have you told Logan the big news?” he asked his daughter a second after they ordered their lunches. “About who you’ll be working for after you graduate?”

            Daphne blushed. “I don’t think I’ve brought it up, no.”

            Logan leaned back in his seat, his sunglasses still on and his charm revved up to impress not only Marcello, but Daphne as well. “I mean, if you’re not working for that Alison woman, then who are you working for?”

            “Her name is Kathryn,” Daphne retorted. “Alison is her last name.”

            “Riiight. I forget people have two names sometimes.” He said that with a huge smile, because his last name Dean put him in that same category.

            “Anyway,” Daphne cleared her throat, “she said I could help her out full time like I did last summer. Only this time it will be a permanent position.”

            “You getting paid?” Logan asked.

            “Well… at first I’m doing a paid internship. It’s the trial period for one year. She’s never had an official intern before, so it’s going to be interesting.
            “I’m still not sure what she does,” Marcello interrupted, “but I’m proud of my sweet bean.”

            “That’s pretty awesome, Daph.” Logan put his elbows on the table, something Daphne would never get away with in front of her parents. “You’re already doing better than me. I don’t have any plans post-graduation yet.”

            “You’ve got some time to figure that out,” Marcello quickly reminded him. “You’re not graduating from business school until this Christmas.”

            The table fell silent. Part of the deal was that Logan would go to business school under the assumption it would help bring him into the DeMarco fold. Marcello had more or less promised Daphne’s fiancé that he would be adopted as a DeMarco as soon as the marriage was finalized, which meant he could possibly one day take over the department store chain.

            “That reminds me,” Marcello said with renewed decorum. “Have you two decided the best time to have the wedding after your graduations?”

            Logan almost fell out of his chair; Daphne choked on her water.

            “I’ll take that as a no.”

            “Let’s continue this conversation after I have the chance to use the restroom.” Logan stood up and pushed his chair in. “Be right back.”

            Bastard. Leaving me here with my dad. Daphne watched that tight ass saunter away from the table. How dare he tease me like this.

            Bastard!

            Her phone buzzed in her purse. While Marcello blathered on about business details Daphne would never understand, she checked her texts.

            “Meet me around the corner. You’ll know where.”

            That had come from Logan. A kissing emoji was at the end.

            “Be right back, Daddy. It’s Kathryn calling me about something important for work.”

            “You too, huh?” Marcello motioned for the bodyguard to come over and entertain him for a few minutes. Daphne took it as her sign to find Logan as quickly as possible.

            She discovered him near the single-stall restrooms. As soon as he saw her, he looked over his shoulder to make sure the coast was clear.

            No.

            No way.

            He was not seriously suggesting…

            Oh, of course he was!


            Daphne didn’t hesitate. She jumped into the restroom with her boyfriend and latched the door. Her arms couldn’t get around his shoulders quickly enough. 

DRABBLE: High Fidelity

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High Fidelity

Stella & Julian

            Julian pulled himself out of his Excel files the moment he heard assistant Vern’s voice on the intercom.

            “Mr. Marcus,” Vern said, “Ms. Moore is here to see you. I believe you had an appointment today.”

            “Send her in. Thank you.” Julian lifted his finger from the intercom and grabbed a stack of files from the corner of his desk. The door to his office opened as soon as he X’d out of his documents on his monitor. The last thing he needed was a private investigator peering at sensitive information about his corporation.

            Vern showed the guest into his boss’s office. Along with the blonde in a leather jacket and distressed jeans came the foul, unmistakable scent of…

            Julian narrowed his eyes. That was not pot he detected.

            Stella Moore, the investigator he hired last summer to conduct a long, ongoing investigation into who was skimming money from employees’ paychecks every pay period, walked as if it were a normal day, but her bloodshot eyes and slightly unkempt hair made Julian wonder if he had made a terrible mistake hiring the former FBI agent who had come so highly recommended from one of his business associates. I do not need to funnel money into half-baked enterprises. That was one of his mantras when he set up business in Portland, home of half-baked everything.

            “Morning, Mr. Marcus.” Her voice was peppy, but her actions languid as she pulled out a chair in front of his desk and sank into its depths. One leg crossed over the other, fingers flipping through a folder full of print-outs and handwritten notes. “You’re looking very… corporate, today. Did you change up your tie? Always nice to do new things.”

            He ignored that. While on one hand he appreciated a freelancer who wasn’t afraid of him, on the other, he wouldn’t reward it. “You say you’ve figured out who is responsible for the theft in my company?”

            “Mmhmm.” Stella slapped a paper on the desk. Julian snatched it before the cosmos had the chance to take it away again. “I’m like… ninety-nine percent sure, and that’s up from ninety percent earlier this month. Having access to his business email put the nail in his coff… uh… coughing. Coffin.” She cleared her throat. Her eyes were still bloodshot, and she still smelled faintly of marijuana. “My assistant had a blast reading the emails he was sending his mistress. Through his business account. Can you believe it?”

            “I can.” Especially when Julian beheld the employee in question. Dean McCoy had been on thin ice ever since tech support reported constant issues with his machines and only his machines. Initially, Julian suspected that Mr. McCoy had anger management issues he took out on his company-supplied machines, but now realized that the problems were more… internal. According to Stella’s report, Dean was skimming ten cents off every employee’s paycheck. This had totaled to a little over $9000 over the past year. Chump change compared to the billions Bradley & Marcus pocketed at tax time. Probably just low enough that Mr. McCoy hoped nobody would ever notice.

            Julian had. About six months after this bullshit would have begun, he noticed that there were discrepancies in the company’s bottom line, and he couldn’t tell from where. But that’s why he was the brain behind Bradley & Marcus. His partner, Preston Bradley, wouldn’t have recognized a million dollars missing from his own paycheck. Julian stared at spreadsheets and numbers all the live long day. He noticed, even if he thought he was going crazy at first.

            “You’re absolutely sure it’s him?” Julian held up the company profile of Dean McCoy.

            “I have a whole stack of proof I’ve collected over the months in there.” Stella sank deeper into her chair. She almost looked like she was about to fall asleep. I don’t believe for two seconds that she was up all night working on my case. Oh, Stella looked like she had been up all night, but not for work. Julian was quite aware of her type. “Didn’t leave anything unturned or upside down. That is your guy.” She shrugged. “Whatever you do with the info is up to you. I’m just the messenger.”

            Julian flipped through her stack of thorough proof, accumulated over the months he had kept her on retainer to do this job. I have spent more money than McCoy has stolen from me. Didn’t matter. The point was to catch him before he could keep getting away with more money. In a perfect world, Julian would take this to the police and have justice served on a cold platter. He’d have to start with settling for a firing. Publicly, if possible.

            “Thank you, Ms. Moore.” He ignored the yawn on her face. “I know that you have worked quite hard on my case.”

            “It was the very first one I got when I opened up shop, so I should be thanking you. Uh… I think.” Her eyes glazed over. “You know what? I think you were my first client. I’ve just had a lot in between picking this one up and finishing it. But when I had to sift through copies of all your payroll documents every month… eh, takes a while. Soooo much math.”

            Does she know she’s not helping her case here? She was lucky she was so good at her business that Julian didn’t doubt the evidence in front of him. It helped that it lent itself to confirmation bias. There were only three people it could have possible been, and McCoy was one of them. Julian just needed the proof. He could’ve fired McCoy at any time, but he wanted him prosecuted on top of it. He also didn’t want to fire two innocent people who did fine enough work for Bradley & Marcus. Hiring new personnel was always a gamut he’d rather avoid.

            “Thank you,” he said again, flipping the folders shut. “I will take a closer look at this later and make my personal decisions then. As of now, I believe our arrangement is finished, and I can pay you what you’re owed.”

            “Yeah, about that…” Stella scratched the back of her head. “I still gotta figure that out, so I’ll bill you.”

            The corner of Julian’s mouth twitched. “Is that so?” How unprofessional. Why wasn’t he surprised?

            “I was gonna do it last night, buuuuut…”

            The office door opened. In stepped Preston Bradley, who had a terrible habit of not knocking whenever Julian was in meetings. He took one look at Stella and winked at Julian for being a horny, sly devil who was obviously cheating on his girlfriend, but Preston wouldn’t tell!

            “What do you want?” Julian slammed his elbows on his desk with an exasperated sigh. “I’m in the middle of an important meeting here.”

            “Ooooh, right.” Preston, who couldn’t be assed to wear a jacket or a tie that day, leaned in the doorway and wagged a finger toward the top of Stella’s blond head. “You’re the private investigator looking up who’s stealing money or something from us.”

            “Or something?” Julian couldn’t believe it. Yes, I can. Preston is useless outside of a boardroom or business dinner. The only reason Julian put up with his partner half the time was because Preston Bradley already had a shitton of money to invest and the charm to make other men take off their pants and dance the samba. “It’s over nine thousand dollars.”

            “Wow. That much?”

            “He literally stole ten cents off every paycheck this past year.”

            “That’s a whole nine thousand dollars?”

            “We have hundreds of employees across the region.” When Preston still wasn’t getting it, Julian added. “We have two-week pay periods. Ten cents per paycheck twice a month.

            “That’s wild. Well!” Preston clapped Stella on the shoulder. She jerked up, bloodshot eyes wide and a giant hiss exploding through her teeth. “Thanks for all the help.”

            “Oh my God.” Stella shoved Preston off her and leaped out of her seat. Her arm was limp beside her, and the expression on her scrunching, reddening visage almost felled Julian, and he was a man who meditated his way through a kick to the groin. “Don’t touch my shoulder, dude!”

            Preston jumped back. The terrible atmosphere gradually dissipated when Stella pulled out a tiny brownie from her pocket and popped it into her mouth.

            “Jesus,” Julian muttered. “I knew you were high.”

            “Fuck yeah I’m high.” Stella munched on her pot brownie while pushing herself through a slew of painful exercises. “You’d be high too right now if your old gunshot wound was flaring up.”

            “I’m so sorry.” Preston took another step back. “I had no idea.”

            “Whatever.” Stella leaned forward.

            “About what you’re owed…”

            She shot Julian an exasperated look. “As soon as I get it figured out, I’ll bill you, Mr. Marcus.” Slowly, she stood, grabbing her folder off the chair. “I’m taking the rest of the day off. Farewell.”

            Stella did not part with a smile as she dragged herself out of the room, arm limp at her side. Preston watched after her while Julian opened his email to tell head of staffing that Mr. McCoy’s employment would soon be terminated. Not only was he glad to have this conundrum cleared up, but knowing Stella would take her stink of pot with her helped him get back to work.

            Preston approached the desk. “Do you know if she’s single?”

            Julian lifted his brows with disdain. “No.”

            “No, you don’t know, or no, she’s not single?”

            “No.”

            “You’re not helping, Julian.”

            “Help me and go grab Dean McCoy from the personnel office. The three of us – including you, yes – are having a nice, long chat about what’s been going on here.”

            “What’s been going on, again?”

            “Go get him, Preston.


            Julian was officially surrounded by incompetent, untrustworthy losers. The fact the only person he could trust in his whole building was a high-as-a-kite former FBI agent told him everything he needed to know about Portland. 

SEE THEIR STORIES HERE

Stella & Jade
Julian & Alyssa

NEW RELEASE: Games We Play

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At Leah’s 30th birthday party, she meets a woman whom she’s convinced is paid to entertain her for the evening. But in the following days, she discovers that Ms. Margaret Sloan, one of the most cutthroat businesswomen in the world, thought Leah was the paid professional she hired while in Portland for the weekend.

Sloan fears a lawsuit. Leah fears her only chance for a whirlwind romance is about to fly off to Thailand or Switzerland. Too bad they’re both keeping dire secrets that could doom whatever feelings they have.

Oh, the devilish games they’re about to play…

NEW RELEASE: Truth or Dare

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Single mom Maria Alvarez has dealt with enough: the violent death of her boyfriend Antonio, living a life of poverty, and listening to the neighborhood gang beat down her door for money she's never had.

Now? Gabriel Santos is back in town.

Gabriel was Antonio's best friend in the gang. He also knows more about Antonio's death than anyone else - including Maria. 

Like how Antonio made Gabriel promise him one thing before the bullets fired. 

If anything happened to him, he was to marry Maria. And now Gabriel's back in town to make good on his promises. 


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