Masquerade by @LaceDaltyn is a KU Event pick #romance #steamy #ku #giveaway
Author: Lace Daltyn
Genre: Contemporary romance
Drea Fortier, a reclusive philanthropist whose tortured past influences her belief that there can be no happily ever after for her, reaches out to help others in the hope she can transform their pain and give them hope for the future. Drea’s own story, along with that of her assistant, Michael Smith, is slowly revealed throughout the Secrets series.
Book One: Masquerade
Frigid bitch. The words seep into Beth Ritmour's soul, no matter how hard she tries to deny them. A year after her divorce, they still haunt her. So when a mysterious benefactor offers a solution to her problem, Beth takes a vacation from her job as a dental hygienist and follows a cryptic note to Chicago, where she’s soon ensconced as a waitress at Club Masquerade. Although how she’s going to prove she’s not frigid is hard to figure out when the boss makes it very clear that sex, or any precursors to sex, with patrons or employees is strictly taboo. It’s not an easy rule to follow, especially when one deliciously hot bartender keeps very, very close tabs on her.
Beth rung the piece of paper in her hands like it was a rag she needed to dry, wondering for the umpteenth time what she had gotten herself into.
As the train slowed in equal measures with her heart’s increasing speed, she spread the note out on her lap, trying to iron the wrinkles out with her hands, and read again what she had committed to memory.
Take the 08:30 train to Chicago. Tickets await you at the on-call window. It is important that you take only this train. Missing it will end your journey before it starts. Upon arrival, make your way to the address listed on the front of this card. Arrive promptly at 1600 hours.
Further instructions await you there.
Beth twirled an escaped tendril of auburn hair around her finger as she searched the simple missive for clues, and then turned to look out the window. The city was a far sight different from the small community she had come to love. Her apartment looked across the Mississippi River to plains filled with knee-high corn this time of year. Here, concrete towers looked angry and foreboding, and the heat of summer only made them shimmer with sinister intent. It seemed different from when she’d lived here. Was it the city or her that had changed?
The screech of train brakes, along with the pervasive smell of diesel-fueled engines and heated steel rails reminded Beth the train had almost come to a stop. The urge to stay, to let the train carry her through the turn-around and back to her home, cemented her to the seat more effectively than sweaty summer skin on leather. This wasn’t like her. She didn’t take off for parts unknown without a single idea what would happen at the other end. Beth clutched the paper to her chest. It would be easy. Just sit here and let the train take her home. Home was safe.
Frigid bitch. Her ex-husband Steve’s words flash-froze her intent to flee. She wasn’t frigid. She knew she wasn’t. Still, like she’d written on the application that had kicked off this journey, if you hear the words often enough, you start to believe them. She’d thought him wrong for the longest time. Before Steve, there had been a brief moment filled with passion she couldn’t seem to recapture. The flash of bodies, of dark hair trailing after liquid kisses in a frenzied moment felt branded in her mind, yet her body no longer registered even the slightest reaction, only the lingering pain of loss.
Beth stared out the window, trying not to remember. The only way to prove her ex wrong was to get off the train. They were in the station. She could hear the passengers around her shuffling through the process of gathering their belongings.
She wiped her hands on her new body-hugging jeans and reached for her luggage, walking off the train on unsteady legs into the humid July heat of Chicago. At the curb, she flagged a cab, willing her hands to be still.
Something slammed into her like a yellow-checkered-black-masked nightmare. A cab slid into view as Beth’s knees buckled, and she crumpled to the ground. Her elbow hit first, and then somebody cried out. Maybe it was her. Beth couldn’t tell. She was too busy dealing with the pain pulsing from an arm that felt wrenched from its shoulder socket as the hot, pebbled cement outside the train station dug into her shoulder and back.
Beth tried to sit up, but the world kept doing this weird, wavy thing. Maybe she should just lay down for a minu—
“Miss? You okay? Miss?”
The words filtered through her brain like walking out of a fog.
“She’s not answering. Somebody should call 9-1-1.”
“N-no,” Beth said, trying again to sit up. Something or someone held her down. Her vision cleared, and she could see a bearded, middle-aged man waving his hand in front of her face.
“Please. I’m all right. Really.”
With obvious reluctance, the man eased his hand from her shoulder and helped her sit up. It took another moment for her world to right itself enough, so she knew she was okay.
A woman stood next to the man, her finger poised over her cell phone.
“No need to call the paramedics.” Beth moved her neck from side to side and wiggled her fingers and arms, stifling a wince of pain. “See. Everything works.”
The bearded man helped her stand, and she was gratified to feel only a fleeting dizziness.
The woman, dressed in jogging clothes from an interrupted run, flipped her phone shut. “I still think you need to report this.” She looked skeptical but stuffed the phone back in her armband.
“I have an appointment. I-I can’t be late for it,” Beth said. “And no harm’s done.” She brushed gravel off her arms, picked up her suitcase, and looked around for her purse. Her stomach dropped like an anchor, landing somewhere halfway between her ankles and China as she realized it was nowhere around. “Where’s my purse?”
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What makes your featured book a must-read?
Think Fantasy Island with a reclusive philanthropist, who’s dark past means there can be no happy ever after for her, so her mission becomes finding that for others. Masquerade is the first of five stories where a happy ending is a must for Drea Fortier’s clients.
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Runs November 9 – November 17, 2021.
Winner will be drawn on November 18, 2021.
Laurie Ryan writes fantasy, romance, & women’s fiction, lives in the Pacific Northwest, loves animals, nature walks, and scrap-booking.
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