Promo: New Romantic Suspense--SIGNATURE OF A QUEEN (excerpt PG)

Hooray! My newest Time-Travel Regency, A DELICATE CONDITION, is now available.


Author: Susanne Marie Knight

Genre: Romantic Suspense

Available electronically at
Price: $3.99
Soon to be available in print at

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After a fall down a flight of stairs, Ali struggles to remember who she is and why someone wants her dead.

Ali wakes up with a raging case of amnesia. Her New Hampshire hospital records state she’s Alabaster Kinedulay, age twenty-four, married to a professor who has a son the same age as Ali. She remembers none of that. The only thing she knows for certain is that she’s in danger. Her intuition tells her to run away. And so she does, ending up on the Pacific side of the country. Everyone she meets seems very helpful, but are they really? When she learns she’s a mega rich Regale heiress, more attempts are made on her life. Her heart is in danger, too, from hunky psychiatrist Mack McClanahan. But is he telling the truth? Who can she trust?

Security specialist Mack McClanahan is hired to protect a wealthy client, Alabaster Regale Kinedulay--without her knowledge. Trouble is, she has amnesia and doesn’t remember who she is, that she’s rich, or why she has no recollection of her past. Pretending to be a psychiatrist, he tries to help her while also insuring her safety. It’s a tough job, with a gaggle of suspicious characters hanging around--the inattentive husband, the devious relation and his henchman, the same-age stepson, even the patronizing attorney who hired Mack in the first place. Or is the perpetrator someone else? As he struggles to protect Ali, he breaks the number one rule in his job: never fall in love with the client.

Scene Set-Up:
Suffering from amnesia and distrust of strangers, Ali, goes to pick up her new friend, Matilda Winthrop, at the psychiatrist’s office.

Ringing the doorbell, Ali lifted her face to soak up the warm California sun. She was a million miles away when the door opened.
“Good morning. You must be Ali, Mrs. Winthrop’s new friend.”
Blinded by the sun, Ali blinked her attention to the man with the sexy voice. No prim and proper psychiatrist stood over the threshold, but a tall, well put-together specimen of the male persuasion.
She gulped down surprise. He was dreamy in a Hollywood actor kind of way. Mid-thirties, black-framed eyeglasses, dark brown hair brushed back with a heavy lock falling down on his forehead.
He smiled and extended his large hand.
Surprisingly, the thought of shaking his hand was intimidating. Instead, she gave him the plate of muffins. “Um, yes. That’s me. And these huckleberry muffins are for you, Doctor Daw--”
“Thank you. They smell delicious. Actually, I’m Mack, Mack McClanahan.”
“Oh, I thought--”
“Family emergency,” he said quickly. “I’m subbing for Doctor Dawson.” He gestured for her to come inside. “Mrs. Winthrop’s freshening up.”
Once Ali stepped into the foyer, he raised his voice to carry down the open area to the left. “Mrs. Winthrop, we’ll be out on the terrace.”
A mumbled “okay” came from one of the closed doors down the lobby.
Ali walked with him through the Great Room. From what she could see, the setup of the doctor’s villa was the same as Matilda’s except for the lobby area off the foyer. That must’ve been his office space. He had the same fireplace, compact kitchen, and roomy terrace. Beyond the kitchen was the bedroom or bedrooms. She couldn’t tell how many. Matilda had two.
Now outside, she took in the unobstructed view of the ocean. Wow.
“This is fantastic! So serene.” The sound of waves crashing against the shore seemed to relax every muscle in her body. “No wonder you, I mean Doctor Dawson, works out of his home.”
“It is nice, isn’t it?” He set the plate of muffins on the round table, and then pulled out a cushioned chair. “Please, have a seat. How about something to drink? A brew--” He glanced at his wristwatch. “Er, brewed coffee? Iced tea?”
She pressed her lips together to keep from smiling. She’d stake money he’d been about to suggest a beer. “No thanks, I’m fine.”
“Yes.” He sat across from her. His dark grey eyes almost glowed as he looked at her and his lips curved up slightly as if in appreciation. “Yes, you are.”
Hmmn. Ali sat up straighter. His practiced gallantry was off. Alarm bells rang. She felt like a lamb in the presence of a wolf. Incredibly exposed.
Matilda, hurry up! 
He leaned in closer to her. She could smell his earthy masculine fragrance. “Mrs. Winthrop tells me you’re from the East Coast. From New Hampshire, isn’t it? Are you just visiting or are you planning to move to California?” He glanced at her left hand. “Single?”
She gulped down distress. Sudden perspiration popped up on her forehead. All her senses seemed heightened around him. She had to be on her guard.
Thrusting her hands under the table, she inhaled a ragged breath. “Goodness, so many questions. I do hope you’re not drumming up business, intending to send me a bill for psychoanalysis. I’m on vacation, Doctor McClanahan. Nothing more than that. And as for my marital status, well, it’s none of your business.” There. Fingers crossed that would deflect his interest.
His chuckle was deep and genuine. Appealing dimples showed briefly on his clean-shaven cheeks. “Touché, Ms...?”
She flared her nostrils. “Ali.”
“Ali, then.” His dimples flashed again. “I promise there will be no bill waiting for you after our talk. And please, call me Mack.”
As she had no intention of ever using his first name, she just shrugged.


Happy Reading!

Susanne Marie Knight
Read outside the box: award-winning Romance Writing With A Twist! 

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New Release: ANGEL MINE, high octane SFF romance by Vijaya Schartz

ANGEL MINE - Azura Chronicles Book 1
by Vijaya Schartz
Sci-fi Fantasy Romance
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What in the frozen hells of Laxxar prompted Fianna to pursue her quarry to this forbidden blue planet? Well, she needs the credits... badly. But as if crashing in the jungle wasn't bad enough, none of her high-tech weapons work. She'll have to go native, after the most wanted felon in five galaxies. It's not just her job. It's personal.

Acielon has never seen an outworlder like this fascinating female, strangely beautiful, and fierce, like the feline predator loping at her side. He always dreamed of exploring the universe, despite the legends... and the interdiction. Is it truly a hellish place of violence, lies and suffering? If it spawned this intriguing creature, it must also be a place of wonders, adventure and excitement...

Fianna's instincts tell her someone is watching. Sheba, her telepathic feline partner, doesn't seem worried... yet, something on Azura isn't quite right.

Chapter One

“By the frozen hells of Laxxar!” Strapped in her command chair, Fianna Grosvenor tapped the symbols on the control console.
Emergency sirens blared throughout the hull of her small ship. Red rectangles flashed on the navigation screen.
“Warning! Approaching dangerous forbidden planet,” Rapscallion, the onboard computer, droned in a disembodied male voice.
“Are these the right coordinates? Where is my quarry?”
“The quarry ship does not show on my scanners,” Rapscallion announced in a chirpy voice.
“Triblets!” Fianna immediately regretted the cuss word. “Where is he?”
“Sheba not like swearing,” the voice of her feline companion intruded in her mind.
“Sorry, Sheba.”
The large puma ensconced in the clear gel safety globe at Fianna’s side, blew her frustration through dilated nostrils. The feline covered her round ears with wide tan paws. “Sheba not like noise.”
Answering the puma’s telepathic complaint, Fianna swiped her screen, silencing the alarms.
“Sorry, girl. I forget your ears are so sensitive.” An asset in the hunt for dangerous felons.
Fianna glanced up, through the clear titanium pane of the forward bridge. Floating in black space, blinking space beacons linked by red laser lines like a grid, delimited the forbidden zone. Too loose a grid to prevent small ships from slipping through. Not an interdiction but a stern warning. Beyond the grid loomed an oddly luminous turquoise planet.
“Computer, zoom on the planet.”
“Aye, aye, Captain.” Rapscallion activated the central screen.
Three moons, one larger than the other two, orbited in a cluster, but no visible satellites or space stations.
“Preliminary scans suggest a low-tech planet, Captain.”
“Then why the warning beacons?” Fianna stared at the screen, fascinated by the planet’s bright turquoise color. “Is the planet toxic? Analyze the color spectrum.”
“Aye, aye, Captain.” Rapscallion buzzed as it searched. “Color spectrum reveals an M-class planet, many known minerals, rare crystals, breathable atmosphere, water, vegetation, and animal life.”
“So, it’s livable.” Triblets. The low life she was hunting could have taken a chance despite the warning beacons. “Is the planet hostile to human life in any way?”
“Negative.” The computer sounded bored.
“Then why is that planet forbidden?”
“Searching.” Electronic chimes punctuated the search. “Azura is quarantined by the Galactic Trade Alliance. Level-three warning in effect. Do not approach under any circumstances. Those who ignore the warning are never seen again.”
Triple Triblets! Fianna drummed her fingers on the command console, where a small statuette stood. A Guardian Angel of the universe, chest bare, wings spread, said to protect space travelers. “Rapscallion, scan the planet for Tarkan’s ship.”
“Scanning.” The computer paused. “I detect a recent ion trail dwindling toward the surface, but the planet is shielded. Deep scans cannot penetrate to detect specific objects or people.”
“Shields? But there is no sign of technology.” What kind of planet was that? “Show me the history records for Azura.”
“Minimal records available. They seem to have been expunged.” Images of lush jungles scrolled on one of the side screens lining the command center, but no people.
“Anyone lives there?”
Rapscallion chimed. “The inhabitants are labeled hostile, dangerous, unpredictable, with powerful, lethal natural defenses but no known technology. They refused to deal with the GTA in the past and forbade the construction of spaceports.”
“That explains the isolation sanctions.” The Galactic Trade Alliance did not tolerate rejection well. “What else?”
“The native’s ideologies of truth telling and reckless honesty would have catastrophic consequences for the preferred way or life of the Galactic Trade Alliance. Costly wars and attempts to destroy the planet in the past have failed. Now it’s off-limits... in quarantine... indefinitely.”
“Wow! Are you telling me that natives with no technology kicked the Alliance’s butt?” Fianna whistled, eliciting an ear-rise from Sheba.
The large cat shuddered in her clear gel globe. “Sheba not like whistling.” 
The feline’s coat shimmered then turned from tan to silver gray. Unlike the proverbial leopard, this puma could change her spots... thanks to genetic engineering.
Fianna ignored the feline’s complaint. “No wonder Azura is the perfect place for that bastard to hide.”
Her quarry must have landed there. Fianna wouldn’t abandon the chase because of a silly interdiction based on opposing ideologies. Tarkan had already killed and maimed too many innocents... including her brother. He must pay for his crimes, and this time she’d make sure he remained locked up in a high-security prison.
On the viewer scanning the planet, something caught the sunlight and flashed it back into space. It flashed again.
“What was that? A signal, or a reflection? If there are shiny, reflective surfaces, there must be some kind of technology. But if there is no technology, then it can only be Tarkan’s ship. He escaped in a silver luxury yacht.”
“A logical assumption, Captain,” Rapscallion chimed.
Fianna checked the coordinates on the console. “Computer, plot a trajectory to land in the same spot as that flash of reflected light.”
“But, Captain, the beacons warn against approaching the planet! Those who ignored the warning never returned.”
“Oh, shut up, you arrogant agglomerate of integrated circuits.” Fianna would have to fine tune Rapscallion’s obedience routines. “It’s not the first time we break the rules. You are not my conscience. Just land your butt where my quarry landed.”
“Aye, aye, Captain.” Flagrant sarcasm dripped from the synthetic voice.
Fianna hated computers with an attitude.
As the ship neared the laser grid blocking passage, the proximity beacon warnings increased in frequency and intensity. More alarms blared.
Fianna muted them. “Ignore the beacons and stay true.”
“Aye, aye, Captain. I know the drill.” That judgmental attitude again.
Fianna would also have to reduce Rapscallion’s sarcastic abilities.
The small ship glided through the loose grid into the forbidden zone. The surrounding beacons quieted and returned to sleep mode. Apparently their scanners only looked outward to warn. They did not interfere. And her quarry must have known that.
As the ship approached the planet, Fianna detected a shimmering rainbow shell, unlike anything she’d ever seen before. “Shields? What’s their power source?”
“Unknown,” Rapscallion droned in its monotone voice. “It could be dangerous to get any closer. I... feel... dizzy...”
“Dizzy?” As if a computer could feel anything.
The ship’s emergency lights flashed red and blue on the bulkheads all around the command bridge.
Sheba, in her clear, gel-padded globe, covered her eyes with her paws. “Sheba not like blink.”
As if the feline had powers, all lights went out and the dull vibration of the engines ceased. Blackness enveloped Fianna. No LEDs, no emergency lights, no forward viewer. She felt strangely light. No gravity either. She blinked to activate her internal night vision. The outlines of bulkheads and consoles emerged in muted colors. The angel statuette floated in front of her, demagnetized from the console. Fianna grabbed it and stuffed it in her cargo pants’ pocket.
“Computer, what’s happening?” Fianna tapped the dark controls.
Rapscallion remained dreadfully silent.
The ship wobbled, then some gravity resumed, but speed increased. Triblets! “We are being sucked by the planet’s gravity. Computer, please tell me you can fix that.”
Silence. Was it disabled by an EMP? A solar flare? Her ship was shielded against electromagnetic pulses.
“Triblets! Our shields are dead!” Heart in her throat, Fianna frantically attempted to restart the manual controls. Emergency batteries, no go. “Computer, if you don’t wake up, we are going to explode on that rainbow shell!”
The large cat huffed. “Sheba not like yelling.”
“Sheba, brace for impact!”
Fianna saw her life flash before her eyes... not really, but she always wanted to know how that would feel. For now, she wanted to catch the lowly bastard she’d come to collect. If this was part of the planetary defenses, how had his shiny yacht reached the surface? She cringed as she braced for impact with the planetary shield. Guardian Angels of the universe, please protect us.
The ship kept falling... and accelerating toward the lush blue-green planet below. “We dropped through the shield with no damage!”
“Good, yes?” Sheba’s eyes rounded in question.
“Yes.” Triblets! Unlocking her safety harness, Fianna fumbled with the backup landing controls. No stabilizers, no thrusters.
She struggled to think. “We are headed straight for the surface in free fall.”
“Not good?” The feline shuddered and her fur turned black. “Sheba not like falling.”
A collision shock, a loud bang, then the roar of air against the hull indicated they’d entered the atmosphere. They only had a few minutes.
Fianna wiped sweaty palms on her synthetic leather pants. Did the temperature on deck increase? Without shields, they’d burn into the atmosphere, or crash and explode on the surface. Unless...
The emergency landing thrusters could function without sophisticated electronics, but they would need a spark to ignite.
“Sheba die?”
Sheba! “No, baby girl, thanks for reminding me.”
“Sheba not baby. Sheba big.”
Fianna’s implanted vision software and telepathic link still worked. Her body must have shielded its power source from whatever disrupted the ship's electronics. She could use it to spark the thrusters... if she survived the hard linkup.
She slid off her seat, stumbled down through a floor hatch, and down ladders, to the underbelly thrusters. She’d never used them before. The sudden, intense heat made sweat drip from her brow. Would the ship explode? She scratched the small port at the base of her neck and pulled out a thin wire, then she touched the end of the wire to a port in the dark console.
May the Guardian Angels of the universe protect cat and human.
The wire sparked. Fianna shook and jumped off with the shock. The console lit up and the emergency landing thrusters roared to life. The sudden deceleration pinned Fianna to the floor, then she bounced off the engine room bulkheads. The entire ship rocked like a flimsy, disjointed toy. Saved? Or was it too late?
Triblets! The hard impact sent Fianna flying. Metal twisted and groaned. Bulkhead popped open. Vegetation and dirt filled the engine room. Muffled explosions popped in the distance and pain pierced Fianna’s body. Flames erupted around her. She choked on the smoke filling the space.
Fianna didn’t want to die. Too much depended on her mission’s success. Her mind went blank.

Vijaya Schartz
  High Octane sci-fi fantasy romance with a kick
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New Time-Travel Regency--A DELICATE CONDITION (excerpt PG)

Hooray! My newest Time-Travel Regency, A DELICATE CONDITION, is now available.


Author: Susanne Marie Knight

Genre: Time-Travel Regency

Available electronically at and
Price: $3.99
Available in print at
Print: $10.99

Buy link:

Dessa’s wish to be part of a family takes a strange turn when she suddenly finds herself back in time in the home of her ancestor, the Marquess of Hampton.

LONGING FOR A FAMILY: Odessa (Dessa) Franklin is all alone in the world. She’s suddenly contacted by her long lost great aunt, Verna, who supposedly died nearly eighty years ago. But Verna has a hidden agenda and Dessa has a curiosity that rivals a cat’s. Using Verna’s mysterious magnetic stones, she soon finds herself in a house full of relatives... back in the nineteenth century!

TOO MUCH FAMILY: Michael De Lyndley, the Marquess of Hampton and a gentleman astronomer, prefers studying the stars than having family members roam about his manor house. His house is in mourning however and overflowing with family. Just when he thinks his relations will leave him in peace, a new one appears... unexpectedly, wearing the most peculiar apparel. The woman purports to be his late brother’s widow and claims to be with child; at least the letter that precedes her states this information. Fighting his attraction to his new sister-in-law, Michael struggles to learn the truth about the lovely and enigmatic Odessa.

Scene Set-Up:
Dessa’s newly discovered great aunt tells a fantastic tale of being able to hop through time using magnetic stones. Unfortunately Dessa doesn’t follow instructions and travels back in time instead of forward... into the drawing room of her ancestor, the Marquess of Hampton.

Oh my gosh! Dessa fell back against the couch cushions as if suddenly deflating. For several minutes she sat, staring at nothing as she tried to piece together her bizarre situation. Great Aunt Verna’s stones had worked, yes,--but in a counter-clockwise way. Instead of traveling to the future, she’d twirled herself back into the past. Back into the nineteenth century. Back into 1817.

Wow. How could she take in the enormity of being in Regency England? Seeing a part of history up close and personal? Having the chance to hobnob with the Duke of Wellington, the Prince Regent, and even Jane Austen?

Wait a minute. Dessa frowned. Her favorite author had died in 1817, but what month? And what month was it here?

No matter. She had more important things to think about. Most specifically, what in heaven’s name was she going to do? Should she use the stones again, only this time in a clockwise movement? But how could she be certain of returning to her own time period?

What a crazy mess. If only she hadn’t been so impetuous back in Great Aunt Verna’s room.

Dessa’s focus slowing returning, she found herself looking at the ornate white fireplace and the family portrait painting above it. A moment of envy struck her. Oh, to be a part of a family again. Then she did a double take. That painting was familiar. It had to have been the same one that she’d noticed in Great Aunt Verna’s room.

She walked over to study it. Six adults and two children in an outdoor setting gazed down on her. It was this family, the De Lyndleys. Some smiled, some looked indifferent, but one adult, the youngest man, had a repugnant sneer. Most likely he was the now-deceased Odell. He resembled her reluctant host, the Marquess, only not as handsome. The Marquess in the painting and the Marquess in person were, most definitely, hunks of the highest order--no matter what the century. Deep honey gold hair, wavy against an intellectually high forehead, beckoned to women to glide their fingers through the curvy locks. His eyebrows heavy, his eyes brilliantly blue and ringed by a darker navy border...

Oh dear. Her heart beat faster at the thought of him. When she’d opened her eyes and found him so close, intently looking at her, she’d almost turned to mush.

Intricate cravat, form-fitting tailcoat, tight breeches and black boots... she fanned her face. He reminded her of a learned professor--proper, precise, and quite British. Yep, Michael Tomer De Lyndley was quite a dish--a Regency dish of the 1817 variety, two hundred years ago.


Happy Reading!

Susanne Marie Knight
Read outside the box: award-winning Romance Writing With A Twist! 

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(PG excerpt) Revisiting THE EMBEZZLED ENVELOPE

THE EMBEZZLED ENVELOPE--Book Six in the Minx Tobin Murder Mystery Series

Author: Susanne Marie Knight

Genre: Murder Mystery Romance

Price: $1.99 electronically

Buy Link:
Available electronically at:

Visit to see a trailer of THE EMBEZZLED ENVELOPE.

An old embezzlement case takes on a new twist: murder. When Minx tries to clear her good friend’s name, she gets burned... literally.

An old embezzling charge comes back to haunt Minx’s friend, Dallas Porter. Not only that, he’s now the prime suspect in a murder case. If she doesn’t help him, he could get convicted. But if she does help him, the murderer just might retaliate. How can Minx clear her friend... and not get killed?

Homicide Lieutenant Gabe Harris wants to start the New Year off right. His main resolution is to keep his new fiancée out of trouble. But trouble zeroes in on Minx, whether she looks for it or not. Why do murders and Minx seem to go together?

Scene Set-Up:
As Homicide Lieutenant Gabe Harris prepares for work, he is thankful the New Year is starting off right: his new love, Minx Tobin, is now his fiancée.

Gabe rolled out of bed at ten past ten. He usually didn't sleep so late, but then again, he usually didn't hit the sheets at five in the morning.

Getting to his bare feet, he gazed down at the lovely woman in his bed. Minx still slept, now on her right side, her long hair tossed every which way upon the pillow. With her left hand nestled near her chin, a diamond shone through her dark brown strands -- the engagement ring, a promise of a shared future together.

He smiled. Yeah, this was the way to start a New Year...and every year for the rest of their lives.

But time was wasting. He had to get started on the day. Unfortunately a new murder had piggybacked onto an old murder, and if he didn't make progress on both of them, there'd be hell to pay.

After an invigorating hot shower, he toweled dry and got dressed. Minx was just beginning to wake up by the time he stepped out of the master bathroom.

"Mmm," she murmured sensuously as she stirred under the covers. "Don't you look good enough to eat."

"As do you." He finished buttoning up his denim oxford shirt, checked his image in the mirror, and then combed his damp hair.

She propped herself up, resting against the headboard. "Something tells me you're all business this morning. Psychic, aren't I? No time to play, Lieutenant?"

"Morning's almost gone, sweetheart." He walked over to the king bed and sandwiched her hand between his. "I've got to go in. Paperwork to fill out."

Paperwork. There was always paperwork.

"Okay, here's the plan, Minx. We've got a dinner invite at the Atwells -- one o'clock. So, if you'll let me out of here without assaulting me..."

As he kissed her fingertips, he winked. "Then I'll pick you up around twelve thirty. Plenty of time to make it without being late. Besides, Carlotta would have my head if we were."

"Sounds like a plan." Minx batted her lashes at him. "But when can I assault you, Lieutenant?"

"You are an insatiable little minx, aren't you, Ms. Tobin?" He leaned over and gave her a quick kiss, emphasis on the quick. Any longer contact with her lips would cause him to change his mind. "Let's make a date. What about this evening, after we get home?"

She stuck her delectable tongue out at him. "Tease."

"Spoilsport," he countered, in keeping with their usual banter.

Still smiling, he left the bedroom. As soon as he got downstairs, he switched gears, his mind now occupied with his latest murder case.


Hope you enjoy!

Susanne Marie Knight
Read outside the box: award-winning Romance Writing With A Twist

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New Release--Five Minutes to Love

FIVE MINUTES TO LOVE--Book 2 of the Serendipity Series

Author: Jennifer Wilck

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Price: $4.99 e-book

Buy Links:

The Wild Rose Press:


Aviva Shulman has had enough of the dating scene. Her father valued his high-powered career over his wife and family. She wants something more, someone who values her. But her roommates are determined to find her the perfect match.

Jacob Black doesn't have time for relationships. A third-year law student, he's focused on studying and getting a high-paying job with a top-notch law firm. But his overbearing mother wants him to find someone and settle down. 

Their paths cross at a speed dating event and sparks fly. But is five minutes long enough to determine a future together?


“You’re up.”
He jumped off the white plastic chair, unaware how lost he’d been in his thoughts. “Sorry.” He checked the scoreboard. “You’re beating me.”
She smiled.
Was it his imagination, or did she stand a little straighter, preen a tiny bit? Definitely not a girly-girl. In her heels, she’d only come up to his chin; now, in the ugly bowling shoes, she barely reached his shoulder. Her eyes twinkled. With her short hair, she resembled a pixie. He was tempted to search for fairy wings.
“Yes. Yes, I am.”

“I’m not sure my manliness can handle this.”

“Oh, I don’t know.” She lowered her gaze from his face, down his body to his feet, and up again. “I think your ‘manliness’ will survive. Flourish, even.”
Jacob’s neck heated. He shifted from one foot to the other at her unexpected perusal. He reached for the bowling ball.
When he turned to her again, she was smiling.
Two could play this game.
“Oh, yes, I’ll flourish.” Standing next to the ball return, he raked his gaze from the top of her short- cropped, pixie haircut, down to her chest, where he lingered for a moment. He continued past her waist and hips, down her legs to the tips of her ugly bowling shoes. When he finally returned to meet her face, it was bright red, almost matching the neon sign pointing to the snack bar behind her head. He leaned toward her, his bowling ball between them.
Her breath brushed his chin, warm and unsteady. A lock of hair fell across her forehead. He pushed it in place with one finger, one finger that drew across her smooth skin and traced her fine-boned skull. She bit her lip. He pulled away, millimeter by millimeter, though he wanted to do more.
“But first, I’ll win.” He winked, walked toward the foul line, adjusted his stance, took a few strides, swung his arm, and let the ball go. It spun down the lane. At the last moment, it veered into the gutter. Jacob’s jaw dropped. He shook his head, turned, and stopped short.
Aviva tapped her fingers on the table. “Interesting strategy you’ve got there.” Her eyes sparkled. Her tone told him she wasn’t being mean.
He’d liked her sense of humor before; he couldn’t decide to not like it when she was teasing him.
He nodded in acknowledgment, turned and swung the ball. It knocked down seven pins.
Aviva grabbed her ball, patted his arm, and aimed at the pins. Strike. She didn’t move. Jacob couldn’t figure out why she stood still, until her shoulders began to shake.
She was laughing. At him.
She turned around. Tears ran down her face. She inhaled. “I’m sorry. I swear I have no idea how it happened.”
“Sure you don’t.” As his grin widened, he bit the insides of his cheeks, folded his arms and did his best to look sad. “What a way to get a guy when he’s down.”
“You’re not down. You just challenged the bowling gods. They don’t like human challengers.”
“Bowling gods?”
“Of course. How else do you think we recreational bowlers manage it?” She stepped toward him. Her green eyes were wide with fake innocence.
“Bowling gods.”
“Exactly. You challenged them.” At this point, they were toe-to-toe. Her floral scent wafted around him. He refocused on her words.
“As you like to say, Aviva, technically, I challenged you.”
“Yes, but with bowling skill, so you actually challenged them too.”

She looked supremely satisfied with her circuitous bowling logic. Jacob had an urge to kiss her. Her lips were full and pink and tantalizingly close. He rested one hand on her waist and clasped the other hand behind her neck. She rose on tiptoe. This close, the brown flecks in her eyes shone. Her pupils widened. He tilted his head, leaned down and softly kissed her lips.

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