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Another busy week is over with and for the first Saturday in as long as I can remember, I'm still in my pajamas as I write this. It's kind of an incredible feeling…the weekend stretching out with not much to do except a couple of errands spread out over the next few days.
Thursday night was zoo night for us and eleven of us including my mom, sister, her husband, and her two boys, headed for Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. If you ever get the chance to visit, I highly suggest it…just be aware that that first hill is a killer, but the views more than make up for it!
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Cover reveal was earlier this week and release day is rapidly approaching! So how about a sneak peek?
The baby’s belly laugh carries across the reception room and tugs at my ovaries. Or maybe it’s the brawny man inspiring the sound. When my boss, Mia, insisted I tag along to her best friend Michaela’s wedding after filming wrapped, I should have declined. I should have gone home.
But I didn’t want to give up the chance to ogle Michaela’s older brother Sawyer—even if it’s from a distance. Because as much as I love to admire him, he knows too much about me. About my past.
Deep blue eyes meet mine, and warmth floods my cheeks. I’ve been caught staring. I glance away from Sawyer and his nephew quickly, focusing instead on the couples swaying on the dance floor—Michaela and her new husband, West, are there, and so are Mia and her husband, Garrett.
Seven years ago, I dreamed of being part of one of those kinds of couples. Happy, in love. I’d be famous, with a handful of chart-topping albums, and my husband would be supportive and kind. But reality crushed that dream and stomped on it for good measure.
Stop wishing for something that will never happen.
Standing, I grab my small purse and turn my back on the vision, then make my way quickly to the restroom. Two years ago, after I ran away from Brad, I made the decision. I can’t let anyone get close enough to ask questions.
Because there would be questions. Ones I had no desire to answer.
At least now, when I look in the mirror, I see a little of myself in the nondescript brown hair and the baggier clothes. I’m…content with being Mia’s assistant. She’s my friend. And when I’m not at her house or on location with her, I’m at home in my cheerful apartment. I don’t venture out except for errands and the occasional trip to a coffee shop she and I found.
My life is predictable. I’ve curated it that way. Except when Sawyer is close.
“No,” I tell my reflection. “There are no feelings there. There can’t be.”
Taking a deep breath, I wash my hands and stand a little straighter. I’ll find Mia and let her know I’m headed back to my room.
Only the first person I see when I open the bathroom door is the one person I was hoping to avoid.
Sawyer King.
Looking sexier than he should in the remnants of his tuxedo—dress pants, white shirt with the top button undone, and a loose bowtie.
“W-what are you doing here?” I swallow to steel the tremor in my voice.
“Looking for you.”
“Oh,” I breathe out, caught off guard. Immediately, fear settles in my stomach.
I don’t want to talk about my history. Especially here. And there’s no other reason he’d want to talk to me.
“Why?” I croak out.
“Mia asked me to come find you and let you know she and Garrett were heading back to their room.”
I barely hold back a groan. Of course my matchmaking boss would ask the hunky single guy to deliver her message. She could have texted me since my phone is in my bag. But her tactics no longer surprise me. She tried to set me up with Garrett before she realized she was in love with him.
I. Am. Not. Interested. In. Dating.
It may be time to remind her of that. Even if she doesn’t understand why.
“Thank you. For letting me know.”
I turn and head for the exit, shuffling as quickly as I can in heels.
“You’re going to need a ride back to your hotel.”
I freeze and spin around. He knows where I’m staying? “H-how—”
“I know where everyone is staying. Curse of the job.” He shrugs like that explains it all.
I guess it should, given that he owns a security company.
“Can I give you a lift?” he asks.
My choices are to walk back to the hotel in the dark, grab an Uber or Lyft, driven by a stranger, of course—are there even ride share options available here?—or confine myself in a small space with the only man I’ve found attractive in years.
Dammit. Is there really a choice?
“Um, okay.”
“Are you ready?” His question is a murmur as he steps closer.
Why does the low timbre of his voice affect me the way it does?
“Y-yeah. Yes.”
He reaches out to guide me toward the exit, and I shift out of the way. His hand drops, and he puts some additional distance between us.
“My car is this way.”
The leather and vanilla scent that clings to him is even stronger in the small space of his rental as he pulls out of the parking lot. The hum of the road is the only sound. No small talk, and no radio.
I brace myself for his questions, dreading the moment he brings up my past.
Only he doesn’t.
He drives the car like he does everything else—confidently. With his left hand, he grips the steering wheel easily, while his right arm is propped on the console between us. He doesn’t take his eyes off the road, and he doesn’t try to fill the silence, like he’s content to ride in absolute quiet. I envy that quiet confidence. That assuredness of who he is and the space he inhabits.
Meanwhile, I’m constantly fixated on where I am and who I’m with. Like right now. I’ve got my attention trained on what’s ahead, but when the fingers on his right hand stretch forward, I can feel them. And he’s not even touching me. This desire to be closer buffets me like waves crashing on the shore.
The hotel isn’t far from the venue, but for my sanity, the ride can’t be over soon enough.
“Thank you,” I tell him as we pull into the hotel’s lot, my fingers already gripping the door handle.
“Can I walk you to your room?”
A small part of me knows I should decline, but the bigger part wins before I can harness my response.
Why did you do that?
Though I hate to admit it, his presence calms all the anxiety that normally filters through my blood. I’m attracted to him, but there’s something more. Something I’m afraid to think about too much but loathe to distance myself from the way I normally would.
Without giving me time to rescind my response, he rounds the car, each of his strides precise and purposeful, and opens my door.
Inside, the lobby lights are dim, and the sound of a TV comes from the office, but we’re alone as we make our way to the elevator. The silence continues as I press the button for the third floor. The chime sounds, and then the elevators open to the empty floor.
I don’t look at him again until I’m in front of my door and have swiped my key and gripped the handle. All the lights I left on still blaze brightly, and I breathe a sigh of relief. I don’t like the dark.
“Thank you.” I meet his gaze, then quickly drop my focus to the shiny button near his throat.
“You’re welcome.”
“Good night, Sawyer.” I take a step back to retreat to my room.
The way he says my name—like he can’t help himself—pulls my attention back to his face. Only this time, I can’t look away. The deep blue of his irises is magnetic, the color like light filtering through the ocean. And just like the ocean, I could so easily drown in them.
“Evie.” This time my name is a whisper on his lips. He lifts his index finger and drags it along my jaw.
For the first time in years, I don’t pull away from physical contact—I can’t. I want that light touch too much.
“You looked beautiful today,” he murmurs.
Mia begged me to let her pick my dress, so it’s more fitted than usual but still loose around my curves.
“I did?”
“Thank you.”
It’s hard to get my words out. My lips tingle with curiosity, almost silencing them. What would it be like to kiss Sawyer? I’ve kissed guys before. Before Brad. High school boys who had no idea what they were doing. But something tells me Sawyer knows exactly what to do.
We’ve gone silent again, and his finger continues to drag back and forth along my jaw. The sensation is hypnotic, sending that question—what would it be like to kiss a man like Sawyer?—pulsing through my body until all the anxiety is gone. All the walls I’ve kept in place are down.
Just once.
Standing on my tiptoes, I cup the back of his neck and tug him down until our lips meet. He sucks in a surprised breath, but it doesn’t take him long to take masterful control of the kiss. It’s a slow slide of his mouth over mine, small kisses pressed from one side to the other, then he settles them fully into place.
He licks along the seam, requesting entry, and I open for his tongue to tangle with mine. Cupping my face, he brushes his thumb over my cheekbone, as if I’m the most precious thing in his universe.
My fingers flex against his shoulders. I want more than anything to take this further. To be worthy of him. To leave my past behind and stay lost in his kiss.
I allow myself one more heartbeat, then I break the kiss. His eyes flutter open, and the desire in them is nearly crippling. I step back again, shivering at the cool air that rushes between us.
“Evie?” The desire in his eyes turns to confusion, and a frown mars his handsome face.
“Good night, Sawyer.” I retreat fully and close the door quickly.
“Good night.” His voice is clear on the other side of the door.
Lifting my fingers to my swollen lips, I try to memorize the way his mouth felt pressed against mine.
It’s the closest thing to normal I’ll ever allow myself to have.
Because Brad is still out there, and my baggage is heavy. I’d never allow myself to burden someone else with it. I may dream about that shared kiss with Sawyer, but my reality is haunted by a very real boogeyman.
Want more? You can pre-order Evie and Sawyer's story now!
Are you a reviewer, blogger, bookstagrammer, or Booktoker? Interested in getting an Advanced Review Copy of Soldier for the Starling or signing up to help with the cover reveal or release activities? I've teamed with Grey's Promos for this release and sign-ups are now open!
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Want a different way to connect with this release?
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Did you know…
I still have a few of the original covers left on the Heart Beats series and am looking to make some space for the new covers. Want to grab your copies of the previous covers and get them signed at the same time?
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The book boxes I did earlier this Spring seemed to be a big hit. So much so that I'm working on some new ideas for one in the fall…
Are you interested if I do one? What would you like to see in a book box?
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In The Beat of the Moment custom sprayed edges are here! And they are GORGEOUS! These were done with Sabrina and The End Bookish Boutique and I am in love! What do you think?  
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Want your copy? Like last time, these will be on a lottery-based system. I will tell you that I have less copies of these than I do of Written in the Beat. That being said, unlike last time, if you are not selected, you will be able to add yourself to a waitlist/preorder list for the next run.

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Did you know I have a Patreon where I post exclusive content? And that you can get that exclusive content for $5/month?
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💕 11/3-11/5: HEA Reader Event in Indianapolis, IN
Grab your ticket for HEA here!
💕 4/18-4/21: Readers Take Denver in Denver, CO
Grab your ticket for RTD 2024 here!
💕 5/31-6/1: Hot & Steamy in Portland, OR
Grab your ticket for Hot & Steamy in Portland here!
Attending one of these signings? You can complete the preorder form here:

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Please note, sales and freebies are that way at the time the newsletter is sent!
Clicking on each cover will take you to the book's retail page!
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We know we are! And along with being book and swag designers and authors, we at Gilded are also readers! And what we want in a book box is options! Ever had a mug with a pretty bookish design on it and thought, “Hey! I wish this also had my name on it so everyone knew it was mine!” Well now you can! Gilded Love Notes Book box is all about customizing what you want! Not only do readers have options in things like: Sprayed Edges Dust Jackets And the number of swag items But yes you get custom personalized swag! This means that mug… yep it now has your name on it! Check out our Website for all the information on current and upcoming PreOrders and Waitlists! 

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That's it from my corner of the world today!
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