Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Top (Way More Than) 5 Wednesday: Favorite Enemies to Lovers Romances

Top 5 Wednesday is a group of bloggers, booktubers and bookstagrammers posting on a common topic every (you guessed it) Wednesday. You can find the lists by searching #T5W or Top 5 Wednesday. And you can join the group on Goodreads if you want to participate.

This week's topic is:
Hate-to-Love Ships
(a.k.a. the enemies-to-lovers trope)

We here at the Goldilox blog love a good enemies-to-lovers book! So, of course, we had a hard time narrowing a list down to just five books. Spoiler: We weren't able to do it. But we were able to make three lists of fiveish books divided by age category. The following books are the ones that made the cut!

Gretl's Adult List

Wallbanger by Alice Clayton

Promise of Fire by Amanda Bouchet

The Night Huntress Series by Jeaniene Frost

The Hidden Legacy Series by Ilona Andrews

Rose Red's Adult List

My Lady Quicksilver and Of Silk and Steam by Bec McMaster

The Kate Daniels Series by Ilona Andrews

The Captive Prince Trilogy by C.S. Pacat

Angels' Blood by Nalini Singh

Evernight by Kristen Callihan

Our Combined YA List

Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead

Flame in the Mist by Renée Ahdieh

Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller

Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell


Geekerella by Ashley Poston

What are your favorite enemies-to-lovers books?


Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Review: The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee

The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue
Mackenzi Lee
Release: June 27, 2017
Goodreads Amazon
An unforgettable tale of two friends on their Grand Tour of 18th-century Europe who stumble upon a magical artifact that leads them from Paris to Venice in a dangerous manhunt, fighting pirates, highwaymen, and their feelings for each other along the way.

Henry “Monty” Montague was born and bred to be a gentleman, but he was never one to be tamed. The finest boarding schools in England and the constant disapproval of his father haven’t been able to curb any of his roguish passions—not for gambling halls, late nights spent with a bottle of spirits, or waking up in the arms of women or men.

But as Monty embarks on his grand tour of Europe, his quest for a life filled with pleasure and vice is in danger of coming to an end. Not only does his father expect him to take over the family’s estate upon his return, but Monty is also nursing an impossible crush on his best friend and traveling companion, Percy.

Still it isn’t in Monty’s nature to give up. Even with his younger sister, Felicity, in tow, he vows to make this yearlong escapade one last hedonistic hurrah and flirt with Percy from Paris to Rome. But when one of Monty’s reckless decisions turns their trip abroad into a harrowing manhunt that spans across Europe, it calls into question everything he knows, including his relationship with the boy he adores.

Witty, romantic, and intriguing at every turn, The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue is a sumptuous romp that explores the undeniably fine lines between friendship and love.

One of my favorite things in the world is to pick up a book and know immediately from page one that I'm going to love it and that it will soon have a spot on my favorites shelf. The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue was one of those books for me. I loved everything about it: the characters, the mystery, the romance, and the Grand Tour setting! But most of all, I loved the feeling of nostalgia it gave me. I'm not sure I can explain how much I absolutely adored this book without gushing but I'm going to try.

This book is pitched by the author as "the big gay road trip novel set in the 18th century you didn't know you needed!" which set the bar high and it was abso-bloody-lutely amazing! It's a coming of age story that kind of read like historical fanfiction and I mean that in the best way possible! This was the adventure novel of my heart given an actual physical form with words. There's pirates and highway men and tombs and alchemy and streaking at the palace of Versailles. The story started off fast and doesn't let up until the book is over.

As much as I loved the adventure, my favorite thing about this book was, without a doubt, the characters. I quickly fell head over heels for the main trio: Monty, Percy, and Felicity. Monty was seriously everything. He was the perfect combination of insufferable, charming, and oddly vulnerable. I loved him at his most sullen and reckless as much as I did at his most bisexually rakish. Percy is Monty's best friend and the unrequited love of his life. He is absolutely adorable and I love the two of them together. I ship it so hard, guys! So hard! I spent most of the book yelling at them to get it together and kiss already.

As much as I love those two, the character who stole the show was Felicity, Monty's sister. She's described as being bookish and boring but I found her anything but. She's snarky and intelligent and is totally the Hermione of the trio. She's the reason Monty and Percy didn't die at the side of the road. The whole time I was was reading I kept thinking that I just wanted a whole book about Felicity being herself and having adventures. AND WE'RE GETTING ONE NEXT YEAR! I just really loved her and the dynamic she has with Monty was amazing and so realistic. I loved watching their relationship change throughout the course of the book.

The Gentleman's Guide, at its heart, was a coming of age story. Each of our heroes go through their own journeys as they figure out who they are and who they want to be. The people we meet at the beginning are not the people we see at the end. And that character evolution was one of the best parts about this book. I also loved how the book respectfully addresses some serious issues.  It covers so many things like LGBTQIA+ relationships and sexuality in the 18th century, being biracial in a racist society, mental health, disability, abuse, PTSD, and the privilege and power having money provides. The whole thing was exceedingly well done without the novel losing any of its lightness and humor.

I loved it and tried to read it slowly because I didn't want it to end. I grew up reading a weird mixture of fantasy, adventure, and historical fiction novels and this book was my whole childhood condensed into 528 pages. It brought back all the hours I spent devouring the adventures of characters like Sir Percy Blakeney, the Robinson family, Allan Quartermain, Professor Challenger, Phileas Fogg and Jean Passepartout, the March sisters and a metric ton of Sunfire Romance heroines which is the highest praise I can give a historical fiction adventure novel. 

ARC provided by the publisher via Edelweiss.

  5 / 5 Stars!

Recommended for fans of:
Sorcery and Cecilia, or the Enchanted Chocolate Pot by Patricia C. Wrede
Soulless by Gail Carriger
Mairelon the Magician by Patricia C. Wrede

Monday, June 26, 2017

Review: Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda
Becky Albertalli
Release: April 7, 2015
Goodreads Amazon
Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: if he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be compromised.

With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met.

It took me far too long to read this book but I was the human personification of the heart-eyes emoji by the time I was done. This was absolutely adorable and perfect! I loved that it was diverse and so positive. It's kind of like a YA You've Got Mail but without the whole enemies to lovers subplot. The only problem I had with it was that it ended. I just want more Simon and Blue goodness! And maybe an oreo milkshake.

I wasn't planning to read the whole thing so quickly but once I started I just couldn’t stop. And I can't begin to explain how happy I am that I read this book. It's one of those books that will make an impact on your heart and change your way of thinking. What I loved most about it was that the book was lighthearted while making that impact. Essentially the story is about a teenager that hangs out with his friends, has a crush on someone, and rehearses for the school musical. But it is also a deeply emotional book about a teenage boy and his struggle to remain himself without being stereotyped as the gay guy or having it be his whole identity.

The story follows Simon throughout his year of coming out and finding love – two things he wasn’t really planning on doing anytime soon. Through a post on the school Tumblr page, Simon finds this guy who goes by the pseudonym, Blue, who happens to be gay and not out like him. They start to talk via email without having any idea about the other person’s identity. They start to grow closer and start sharing details of their lives that they haven't shared with anyone else. They’re so adorable and they have such sweet and hilarious conversations that I couldn't help but grin like a madman the whole time I was reading.

Simon was such a lovable guy and so insightful already at his age about what he wanted and how he felt about himself. He was confident and comfortable in his own skin most of the time. Of course, he had low and high points throughout the book but how everything felt real. I can't stress enough about how well-written this book was.

He also had some amazing friends and family surrounding him. Simon's family was everything! I loved their interactions with each other. One of the things I loved about this book was how positive and supportive both Simon and Blue's families were. The Spiers have totally made my list of favorite fictional families. I about died laughing when they were doing the Facebook Scavenger Hunt. I also loved Simon's friend group. It was large and diverse and wasn't the same old cliche we see in some YA books. Each character was well fleshed out and had their own diverse personalities. It was so refreshing not to see the same old nerd vs jock storyline we see all the time. I loved seeing the anime kids, theater geeks, cheerleaders, and soccer players sitting at one table and being friends. It was more reminiscent of how my high school was than any other YA I've read in recent years. Since most of the characters are high school age, there was some drama and a few fights but everything was worked out in the end.

I seriously loved the romance in this book! Watching Simon and Blue fall in love via email was absolutely adorable! I kept trying to figure out who Blue was the whole time and I was right! From the first line, they interacted I hoped he would be Blue and I was so glad when he actually was because I didn’t want it to be anyone else. I kind of squealed when his identity was revealed and my ship was confirmed!

I came out of this reading experience with a new favorite book, a go-to Pride rec, and a persistent craving for an Oreo milkshake that did not go away until I finally got one. PSA: You'll want to have Oreos or Reese's handy while reading this because Simon's sweet tooth will get you craving all the things. I really can’t recommend this book enough. I've already started buying copies to give to friends so they can read it before the movie (which I am 100% here for!) comes out. I loved this book so much! I can't wait to read the other book Becky Albertalli has written. She has become one of my auto-buy authors after just one book.

  5 / 5 Stars!!!

Recommended for fans of:
How to Repair a Mechanical Heart by J.C. Lillis
Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
History is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera
Release by Patrick Ness
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Friday, June 23, 2017

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Thursday, June 22, 2017

Review: A Hundred Thousand Words by Nyrae Dawn

A Hundred Thousand Words
Nyrae Dawn
Release: October 27, 2015
Goodreads Amazon
Tobias Jackson grew up in Coburn, a town where the gay population equaled exactly one: him. Add that to the fact that his dream guy was his best friend's jerky older brother Levi Baxter, and it made hooking up virtually impossible.

Now home from college for winter break, Toby is a different person. He left Coburn for San Francisco, where he wasn't the lone gay guy and the only black kid in town. And yeah, he took advantage of what the city had to offer.

Apparently Toby isn’t the only one who’s changed. Levi’s not acting like the self-centered guy with all the answers that Toby remembers from growing up. Oh and Levi’s realized he's bisexual, which makes things a lot more interesting…

Heading back to college, Toby doesn’t expect to meet up with Levi again, despite him being in med school not far away. A surprise visit from Levi blows that assumption out of the water. As they spend more time together Toby sees Levi as more than just the fantasy. He’s complicated, unsure…he’s real. But if Toby can’t get out of the past and find the words he keeps locked inside himself, he’ll lose his chance at Levi for good.

Since it is Pride Month, I've been trying to catch up on all the LGBTQ+ books I've hoarded the past few years. One of the ones that was most highly recommended was this book, One Hundred Thousand Words, and it was so good! It was heartwarming, beautiful, and frustratingly real. Plus, it features one of my favorite romance tropes: the falling for the best friend's brother. I've read a ton of books with this trope but this one stands out. I will admit that it's the first time I've read a m/m version of it.

The character development is absolutely flawless in this story. Toby is beautiful and frustrating in his silence. He has experienced so much and is trying to live the best way he knows how. Levi is so charming and vulnerable and is struggling to decide who he is and what's best for him. And together they were just right. They fit. They were sexy and sweet and completely endearing. They made me laugh out loud and smile super hard and blush fiercely sometimes too.

What I loved the most about this book was that the drama in the story had nothing to do with Toby being gay or with Levi being bi. The real focus of book was on life and its many ups and downs. It was about how we're all trying to make our way through it and sometimes we need someone to help us realize the best in ourselves. I loved that Levi could say the words Toby couldn't and that Toby could give Levi back some of the confidence he had lost.

My favorite aspect of the book was realizing that we all need people. We all need acceptance. We all need love. And there's nothing wrong with that need. It doesn't make you weak. It makes you human and I was so proud of Toby for realizing that. I loved his journey and I loved Levi's journey as well. My heart went out to him. I loved both of these characters instantly even though I wanted to shake Toby in a few spots. Plus, the family dynamics in this book were everything!

Read this book people. It was outstanding and captivating. You need it in your life, in your blood, and in your bones to be honest. It's so sweet and romantic and real and raw. I related to it. You will probably relate to it. It's about college, decisions, family, loss, love, and friendship. It's so real that you will feel you're inside the story with these characters. Nyrae Dawn made my night when I read this. It's definitely a new favorite.

  4 / 5 Stars

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Top 5 Wednesday: Favorite Unlikeable Protagonists

Top 5 Wednesday is a group of bloggers, booktubers and bookstagrammers posting on a common topic every (you guessed it) Wednesday. You can find the lists by searching #T5W or Top 5 Wednesday. And you can join the group on Goodreads if you want to participate.

This week's topic is:
Favorite "Unlikeable" Protagonists


5. Owl (Alex Hiboux) from The Adventures of Owl series by Kristi Charish
Owl is very much an unlikeable protagonist when we're first introduced to her. She's closed off and not willing to risk herself for anything. Also, she's kind of a user and it brings trouble to friends, lovers, and acquaintances alike. But as the series progresses and she comes to accept the supernatural community she finds herself in, you can't help but come to like her. I will say it was a struggle to like her while reading the first book.

4. Kaz Brekker from the Six of Crows duology by Leigh Bardugo
Kaz Brekker is really a terrible person. He's ruthless and twisted and you can't figure out his true motivations. When I started reading Six of Crows, I couldn't figure out why everyone loved him so much. By the end, I had a wary respect for him. By the end of Crooked Kingdom, I loved him. But he really is an unlikeable character.


3. Jane Yellowrock from the Jane Yellowrock series by Faith Hunter
I love Jane Yellowrock, but it's been a few years since I read the beginning of her series. I forgot how much she's grown over the nine books. A friend recently started the series and reminded me that when we first meet Jane she's insecure, judgmental, and kind of a snob. She's hard to like but the world is so interesting that I stuck with her and it was worth it.

2. Adam from the Darkest London series by Kristen Callihan
You would think the King of the GIM would be more... congenial than he is. I wasn't a fan of Adam when he first appeared on the page and my opinion of him was justified when he kidnapped Eliza. I struggled with the first part of his book but he slowly became a character that I found I was liking more and more. He's still is not my favorite because his first impression was a doozy, but I found that it was worth sticking with him to see how much he changed by the end of Soulbound.


1. Alexia Tarabotti from the Parasol Protectorate series by Gail Carriger
We love her, but Alexia isn't the most popular woman in her world. She's opinionated, outspoken, and has unusual friends with unusual hats. And to make matters worse, her touch robs supernaturals of their powers. The fact that hilarity often ensues endears her to readers regardless of what her companions may think.

Who are your favorite unlikeable characters?


Monday, June 19, 2017

Blog Tour: Fuel For Fire by Julie Ann Walker Excerpt and Giveaway

I've been talking about Julie Ann Walker's Black Knights Inc series a lot lately (like in this post about our favorite summer reads.) I was planning to wait until closer to its release to tell you about the latest book, Fuel For Fire, which I loved. But then I found out about this great presale deal and had to share now. Here's an excerpt along with an awesome giveaway and a link to the preorder offer. Watch for my review soon.

30166742Fuel For Fire
(Black Knights Inc #10)
Julie Ann Walker
Release: July 4, 2017
Goodreads Amazon
ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley
A brooding covert operative and a spunky CIA agent discover a burning passion in the next installment of Julie Ann Walker's red-hot BKI series

Dagan Zoelner has made three huge mistakes
The first two left blood on his hands. 
The third left him wondering...what if? What if he had told the woman of his dreams how he felt before his world fell apart?

Spitfire CIA agent Chelsea Duvall has always had a thing for bossy, brooding Dagan. It's just as well that he's never given her a second look, since she carries a combustible secret about his past that threatens to torch their lives...


“Tell us!” Surry demanded again, giving her head a hard shake. Her brain banged around inside her skull, making her see stars. Since she was tied with a length of electrical cord to one of the chairs in front of Morrison’s desk, her hands duct-taped behind her back, there was little she could do to defend herself.
Then again, she still had her smart mouth. “Screw you, buddy,” she snarled. Those three words were all she allowed herself before she clenched her teeth and sealed her lips shut.
The violence that clouded Surry’s face and glinted in his hell-black eyes made her want to curl into a protective ball. He leaned down so that his nose was an inch from hers. His hot breath smelled of coffee and buttered croissants, and the thought of him actually eating struck her as weird. She had assumed he sustained himself by devouring the souls of Morrison’s enemies.
“You will bloody well tell us what we want to know, Miss Duvall.” When he spoke all low and menacing in that thick English accent, she got the unsettling feeling that something dark moved in the shadows just out of sight. “Or I will jab this letter opener into your carotid.” He pulled back to wield the weapon he had taken from Morrison’s desktop. The sterling-silver letter opener glinted in the golden glow cast by the overhead chandelier.
Releasing her face, Surry cocked his head. “So, what shall it be? The truth? Or the knife? The choice is yours.” There was an emptiness in his voice when he asked the questions. Like he didn’t really care what the answers would be. Like he was tired or bored or maybe…resigned?
Oh, that doesn’t bode well.
Of course, the truth was out of the question. She would never rat on the Black Knights. No telling what Morrison, a.k.a Spider, with all his power and connections, could do with that information. So that left…the knife.
But there’s still so much I want to do!
She had never learned to make her mother’s she-crab soup. She had never tried her hand at writing fiction like that of Tolkien or Rowling or Martin. She had never married the love of her life and given him two bouncing, chubby-cheeked babies.
A cold finger of terror dragged up her spine, and for a second she considered spilling her guts and saving her hide. But then, from somewhere deep inside, a well of strength erupted, filling her with determination and the will to do what must be done.
Her mind briefly touched on her mother, and a great sadness weighed down her heart. Grace Duvall would be devastated by the death of her only child. But Chelsea took comfort—cold comfort, but comfort all the same—in knowing that her life insurance policy would be enough to pay her mother’s debts. That was something. Something to hold on to.
“Well?” Surry demanded. “What will it be?”
Chelsea licked her lips. Fear was a living thing inside her, crawling through her chest like a centipede on prickly legs. She squashed it and sealed her own fate. “Do your worst, you sorry, low-life sonofagun!”
Surry’s beard-stubbled chin jerked back as if he couldn’t believe the choice she’d made. Then his eyes narrowed, and grim determination transformed his face.
Closing her eyes, Chelsea waited on the inevitable. That centipede was going crazy inside her, making her chest ache and raising the hair on her head. She braced herself for the deathblow as a million regrets, a million joys, a million memories flittered through her brain.
Funny how many of those regrets and joys and memories feature Dagan.
She held her breath, savoring it, knowing it was her last and—
“Drop. The. Knife.”
With a cry, she blinked open her eyes and craned her head around to see three figures dressed from head to toe in black. Each of them wielded a weapon as if it were an extension of himself.
The Black Knights…
Even had Dagan not spoken the three most beautiful words she’d ever heard in that smooth moonshine voice, she would have known the trio anywhere. There was no mistaking those broad shoulders or those defiant, cocksure stances.
Her eyes homed in on Dagan. He was in the middle and slightly forward of the other two. It wasn’t his height or carriage that gave him away. It was his stillness. Ace and Christian seemed to vibrate with barely leashed power. But Dagan was a statue. Not a muscle quivered. Not a tendon or ligament cracked. Chelsea was reminded of a pair of tectonic plates under intense pressure. She knew what came next. The earth would rip open, and hell would spew forth.
Surry must have felt the doom behind Dagan’s stillness, because his voice sounded wheezy when he demanded, “And who the fuck are you?”
“Worry less about who we are,” Dagan snarled, “and more about what we’ll do if you don’t drop the knife.”
Proving he had more balls than brains, Surry spun Chelsea’s chair around and palmed her forehead to wrench her head back. The sharp tip of the letter opener nicked at the skin pulsing over the large vein in her neck. She hadn’t had time to scream, and now she didn’t dare breathe.
“Ring up the police, sir,” Surry said. From the corner of her eye, Chelsea saw Morrison/Spider make a move toward the desk.
“Take one step in the direction of that phone, and you’ll be eating a bullet for breakfast.” There was no mistaking Dagan’s words or his tone. He meant what he said.
Morrison must have come to the same realization. The old man stopped in his tracks.
“Good man,” Dagan acknowledged. “Now, there’s one thing you both need to understand. We’re leaving here with Chelsea. That can be over your dead bodies or your live ones.” Even though his words were calm and his body as motionless as a mountain, rage burned inside him. It was there in his eyes, glowing red like the fires of Mordor. “So what will it be? The choice is yours.”
It was the same option Surry had given her, spoken in the same words. How long had the three of them been outside listening?
“You have no bloody idea who you’re fucking with,” Morrison snarled, his chest heaving with every furious breath. “I have—”
That’s all he managed. In a flash, the statue, a.k.a. Dagan Zoelner, came to life. He moved faster than the human eye could follow, certainly faster than Chelsea could track with her head angled back in Surry’s grip. One second he was staring at her and Surry, and the next he aimed at Morrison and pulled his trigger.
The gunshot was oddly muffled and Morrison stumbled back, hitting his hip on the edge of the desk. Surry bellowed his outrage and released her head. Free from his brutal grip, she turned to Morrison and understood the strangeness of the weapon’s sound.
It wasn’t a bullet that had exploded from the end of Dagan’s gun. It was a dart. She had just enough time to catch a glimpse of the fuzzy yellow end protruding from the center of Morrison’s chest before Dagan fired again. This time the dart whizzed over her head. Surry made an awful gurgling noise. When she pulled her chin back, she saw the projectile sticking from his neck.
He reached for the dart, stumbling into her chair. His hand hit the back of her head, looking for leverage and forcing her chin into her chest as every vertebra in her neck threatened to crack under the pressure. She couldn’t see what happened next. But she heard it. Heard the boots that pounded against the tiles as the Black Knights raced into the room.
Surry released her head when Christian tackled him. From the corner of her eye, she watched Ace catch Morrison right before the old man toppled face-first onto the floor. And Dagan? Well, Dagan knelt in front of her.
She gasped when his big, warm hands cupped her cheeks, gently lifting her head. Her neck ached, but it wasn’t broken. All her fingers and toes still worked when she gave them an experimental wiggle.
“Chels… Christ. Are you okay?” His stormy eyes searched her face.
She nodded her head. That’s all she could manage because a giant lump was centered in her throat. She had put on a brave face throughout the entire ordeal, but now that it looked like she was saved, all her shock and terror rose to the surface, crumbling her mask of courage.
“Thank God.” He wrapped his arms around her, pulling her close.
It was the first time he had hugged her. The first time she had been in his arms. Oh, how she wanted to hold him tight in return. But with her hands still trapped behind her back, the only thing she could do was turn her face into his warm neck and breathe him in.
She had always loved the way he smelled. A mixture of worn leather, dryer sheets, and shampoo. All clean and healthy and…male.
“I was afraid m-maybe I didn’t press the button long enough to send out the Mayday,” she said in a rush, her lips moving against the rough fabric of his ski mask. “And th-then they found the thumb drive. But they were so quick to stop questioning me and…and…” She had to stop. “Thank you. Thank you for coming for me.”
His wide palm cupped the back of her head, holding her close. Was it trembling? “Always, Chels. Never doubt it.”
Oh great. Now the lump in her throat had grown to the size of a Carolina pine.
She wanted the moment to last forever, to stay just like this, safe in his arms. But all too soon, he pulled back. “What were you thinking, telling them to do their worst? You were baiting them, egging them on. You stupid, stubborn, self-sacrificing fool.”
And just like that, happiness and relief morphed into incredulity that slid quick as a whistle into anger. Seriously? He was going to stand there—er, squat there—and call her names?
He may be hotter than the door handles of hell, but when he gets all Me Tarzan, You Jane, I want to dump his limp body in the River Thames and feed him to the fishes. After she’d killed him with mind-blowing sex and multiple orgasms, natch. And she could probably cop to his last two accusations. She was stubborn, and in that instant she had been willing to sacrifice herself. But the first one?
“S-stupid?” she sputtered. And good news! The lump in her throat vanished. “Screw you, Dagan! In case you’ve forgotten, I pulled off this op w-with…”
She stumbled to a stop because he’d ripped off his mask. And there it was. The Beard.
Looking at him dressed all in black, shoulders as broad as the Lowcountry, she couldn’t help but think he resembled a god. One of the mythical beings she read about in her fantasy novels. Formidable. Powerful. Gorgeous.
And here I am, a mere mortal.
The look he pinned on her was one she recognized. She liked to call it his Clint Eastwood gunfighter squint. He tended to whip it out right before he laid into her for something. She braced herself, mentally running through her standard list of comebacks. But he didn’t give her a tongue-lashing. At least not a verbal one. Instead, he took her face in his hands and sealed his lips to hers.
She was so surprised that her mouth formed a startled O. Dagan took advantage, his tongue surging between her teeth. His lips were firm yet amazingly soft, and his beard abraded the tender flesh of her cheeks.
Holy mother! Dagan Zoelner was…kissing her!
Oh. My!

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