Authors: Tamara Morgan
The Rebound Girl
By Tamara Morgan
Plastic surgeon Whitney Vidra knows all about getting over a cheating ex. She followed her boyfriend halfway around the world before she found out about his infidelity. Now she’s focusing on her career and her friends, and using men just for single-serving, no-strings fun. Until she meets charming Matt Fuller.
Newly single Matt is captivated by the vibrant Whitney, in every way the opposite of his cheating ex-wife. When he confesses to Whitney that he hasn’t had sex since his divorce, she volunteers to be his rebound girl. But Matt’s not a no-commitment kind of guy—he’s either all in, or all out.
Whitney is determined to remain attachment-free, but Matt is equally determined to prove to her that what they have is more than just a rebound fling.
The month of May always brings, for me, the promise of new beginnings. I realize that it’s actually nearly the end of spring, but for some reason, I love the idea of May and that it means summer is coming and the fun is really about to begin!
This month, very fitting for my excitement about new beginnings, we have three debut authors with stories releasing. Brighton Walsh joins Carina Press with her charming contemporary romance
, where lifelong friends find deep-seated feelings growing into something more than friendship. Meanwhile, debut author Shawna Reppert has crafted a unique and captivating fantasy romance world in her male/male romance
. Joining these two authors with a debut is S.G. Wong with the first Lola Starke novel,
. Not only is this an unusual mix of mystery, paranormal and noir, but this book also has a striking cover that captured my imagination from the first look.
Although not a debut author, Tamara Morgan joins Carina Press with the first in a new contemporary romance series. In
, an outgoing plastic surgeon gets more than she bargained for when she offers to be the rebound girl for a sexy kindergarten teacher getting over his recent breakup.
Along with new beginnings also come bittersweet goodbyes, and this month we wrap up Jax Garren’s fantastic science-fiction trilogy Tales of the Underlight. This series has kept us all on the edges of our seats with both the sexual tension between Hauk and Jolie and the fight to take out the Order of Ananke. Don’t miss the final installment,
. Also wrapping up a trilogy this month, though on the opposite end of the romance spectrum, is contemporary romance author Kate Davies, offering the final installment of her high-school reunion trilogy, Girls Most Likely to…, with
As well, we have exciting offerings from a variety of veteran Carina Press authors this month. Jeffe Kennedy’s
takes us to a contemporary world of BDSM and a sexy Cajun chef during the sensuality of New Orleans’s Mardis Gras. And last month saw the release of Volume 1 of our Love Letters anthologies. This month, discover four hot stories with a military twist in
Love Letters Volume 2: Duty to Please
Sandy James, Shawna Thomas, Cathy Pegau and Stacy Gail all return to previously established worlds in their respective books. In Sandy James’s
, the Air Amazon is sent to protect computer wizard Zach from a rogue goddess who wants to use him to destroy the world.
, book two of The Triune Stones series from Shawna Thomas, continues the story of Sara, trained from birth for one purpose: to reunite three ancient stones to restore balance to the lands.
by Cathy Pegau follows the harrowing story of a beautiful agent and the woman she has no choice but to trust…until the secrets they’re each keeping threaten to get them both killed. And the plan for a demonic apocalypse is at last uncovered by a maimed member of the Nephilim and a scarred young woman who’s been to hell and back in Stacy Gail’s
, book three of The Earth Angels.
Last but certainly not least, Dee J. Adams brings us the next installment in her high-octane Adrenaline Highs series with romantic suspense
. If you’re new to Dee’s books, you can easily start here, or go back to the beginning with
This month, start a new series, revisit a favorite world or discover a new-to-you author with our May releases. And don’t forget to check out our catalog for backlist from these and other authors in all your preferred genres.
We love to hear from readers, and you can email us your thoughts, comments and questions to
. You can also interact with Carina Press staff and authors on our blog, Twitter stream and Facebook fan page.
Executive Editor, Carina Press
To my Aunt Kate, who taught me to enjoy books.
Especially the ones with love in them.
“Is this seat taken?”
Whitney Vidra looked up from her phone and stifled a sigh. The man approaching her in the poorly lit bar didn’t have a popped collar or the scent of Axe Body Spray wafting around him, which counted as a few points in his favor, but that didn’t mean she wanted his company.
Yes, she was dressed to the hilt in her favorite red dress. And yes, her hair looked fantastic, if she did say so herself. But it had taken all of five seconds to recognize this place for what it was—a backwater attempt at trend, and a fairly poor one at that, what with the middle-aged DJ encouraging them all to start grooving and the cheap black paint blistering on the walls. Her friend Kendra might be content to swap spit with one of the locals out on the parquet dance floor, but Whitney would rather reserve her saliva for digesting the stale bowl of pretzels on the bar.
“I’m not saving that particular stool for anyone, if that’s what you’re asking,” she said, striving for a politely distant tone.
Taking it for an invitation, the man sat, holding up two fingers to the bartender—either a secret code or a macho attempt to order her a drink without asking first. She hated when guys didn’t ask.
“Your friend’s a really good dancer. You don’t dance?”
Whitney switched off her phone and tucked it carefully in her purse before turning to face her accoster. Now that she was seeing the man head-on, she could tell she was going to have to take it a little easy on him. He wasn’t bad looking—in fact, the hesitant smile and tousled sandy hair signaled nerd chic at its best, and there was a slight depression in his cheek that she thought might transform into a full-blown dimple if he tried. But the guy wore a corduroy jacket with elbow patches and drank something pink with little bits of fruit floating on the top.
He was obviously clueless.
“If you’re asking
I dance, the answer is yes.” Whitney took care not to provide any encouragement. “But I’m choosing not to at this particular moment.”
She cast a glance over the dance floor, nodding when Kendra sent up a cheerful wave. Her best friend and business partner had insisted they go out tonight, an official commemoration of their first night as Pleasant Park residents. But although Kendra felt the permanence of their signatures on their new office building as a good thing, Whitney had never been nearer to breaking out in hives. There was so much finality in a ten-year lease.
“I’m a terrible dancer,” the man offered.
“Imagine that,” Whitney said dryly, taking in his crisp khakis at a glance. In her experience, men who ironed their pants and men with great moves—on the dance floor or off it—were mutually exclusive entities. “Next you’ll be telling me you’re a regular Don Juan.”
“I like to do my part for womankind.” He deflected her sarcasm with some of his own. “Your friend said you might want some company.”
. Things were beginning to make sense. “Let me guess—you’re friends with the guy she’s currently grinding against, aren’t you?”
“He’s my brother,” the man corrected her, “not my friend. Well—I guess he’s my friend too, since we’re obviously out together tonight. But you know what I mean.”
Seriously? Whitney had known coming in that her new life would take a little getting used to. That was kind of the whole point. Take one part upscale Pennsylvania borough, add three parts big-city beauty professionals. She, Kendra and their third partner, John, were practically their own bad joke:
The move had been a long time coming, of course, and she didn’t mean to sound ungrateful. It was just that she’d somehow failed to realize that setting up their medical spa in an upstate outpost meant
in an upstate outpost—complete with an agonizingly slow nightlife and guys like awkwardly conversational elbow patches over there.
She lifted her finger to stop him from going any further. “Save yourself the trouble. I am not now, nor have I ever been, the DUFF. So thank you, random stranger, for your oddly endearing company, but you’re off the hook for the night.”
The man’s brow wrinkled, and something like a frown crossed his face. The dimple potential disappeared with it. “Matt. My name is Matt.”
Despite herself, Whitney softened. “It was lovely meeting you, Matt.” She stopped short of offering him her hand and swiveled on her stool, effectively ending the conversation.
Which was why it was so surprising when his finger tapped lightly on her shoulder.
“I’m sorry—I don’t think I did that right. I’m still kind of new at this.” His voice was soft but firm, and he stuck out his hand, holding it steady until she had no choice but to take it. “Hello, there. My name is Matt. I somehow got wrangled into coming out with my brother tonight.”
“And how is that my problem?” The words came out a lot crueler than she intended, but she bit back the urge to apologize. Men these days sometimes had to be pried off a girl’s leg with a crowbar.
“It’s not,” he said pleasantly, not the least bit put off. “You look nice, so I’m offering to buy you a drink. And if you don’t mind my asking, what in the world is a DUFF?”
The bartender chose that moment to drop two shots of amber liquid in front of them, followed shortly by a pair of limes and a salt shaker. Whitney stared at the drinks for a moment before looking up.
“You’re moving on to tequila now? Really? Would you like me to sprawl out here on the bar so we can just skip to body shots?”
He shrugged and reached for the salt shaker. “I’m beginning to think you’re making fun of me.”
“I’m beginning to think you’ve been transplanted here from another universe—one that’s stuck about twenty years ago.” Whitney watched as he licked the salt from his wrist, just inches above the band of his outdated wristwatch, and kicked back his shot. He did it all with a kind of understated grace, as if he knew how ridiculous he appeared and simply didn’t care.
“Do you want yours?”
Whitney shook her head as he drank the next shot straight. He made a face, wincing and flashing his teeth, but the expression was gone in a moment, replaced once again by a strangely kind smile.
“Don’t underestimate finger foods?” he asked, tilting his head at her.
? Whitney blinked. “Um...I guess I like an amuse bouche as much as the next girl.”
“Deranged undernourished fighting fish?”
“I think you’re the deranged one.”
“Am I getting close? How about...” He paused and looked thoughtful. “Dangerously unhealthy French fries?”
Realization forced her to sit up a little straighter, and Whitney studied her partner with renewed interest. He was playing a DUFF guessing game. It was almost as cute as his dimples, which were coming out in full force now. He was like some sort of saintly, attractive man-child, dropped here for her amusement.
“Designated ugly fat friend,” Whitney offered, taking pity on him. “But you were close.”
She nodded toward the dance floor, where Kendra had somehow gotten her leg hooked around the brother’s knees and was doing some strange whipping thing with her head. When Kendra had said she wanted to go out to celebrate their new venture, she’d obviously meant
A hand, warm and soft, found its way on top of hers. “Hey. That’s not true. I think you’re lovely.”
Whitney laughed, only stopping when she brought her pint of Guinness to her lips and took a long pull. “Thanks. I happen to think so too.”
“Then why did you—?”
“Look,” Whitney said, setting down her glass, “you won’t be the first man to assume that because I prefer sitting alone at the bar over grinding to dubstep that I’m somehow faulty. But I am not the consolation prize in a bar mating game.”
Matt frowned. “That sounds awful.”
awful, which is why I don’t play. I don’t care what Kendra told you or promised you or begged you to do. I don’t need you to babysit me. Good night.”
“Do you mind if I sit here anyway?”
Geez, he was persistent. Most guys were only too happy to be handed such an easy out. It wasn’t that she couldn’t pick men up at a bar—it was hardly rocket science—but never, in her thirty-three years of existence, had she ever accepted DUFF droppings. Contrary to what most men thought when they first saw her, the thirty extra pounds she carried mostly in her hips didn’t make her a victim of low self-esteem or discounted standards. She liked that weight right where it sat—and she would have been the first to advocate going under the knife if she felt otherwise.
“I guess I can’t stop you from sitting wherever you want,” she said slowly.
He released an audible sigh of relief. “Thank you. I don’t know why I let Lincoln drag me out tonight—this place isn’t really my style. To be honest, the women here kind of scare me.”
“No kidding? You? With your tequila shots and fancy lime wedges?”
“You’re making fun of me again.”
She snickered. She really was.
Her phone vibrated, and she pulled it out to find an email from her mother coming in. Since there seemed every chance that her new friend Matt would try and read over her shoulder if she opened the message inside, she nodded a polite dismissal and made for the door.
The air felt clean as she slipped outside—a nice departure from the dank miasma she was used to back in Philadelphia. One thing she hadn’t been expecting about this place was just how breathable it was. Country air did great things for her complexion.
She scrolled through the screen, hesitating for only a second when she saw the subject line.
... It was just like the woman to be purposefully coy, and Whitney had half a mind to simply ignore her. Unfortunately, if she didn’t respond right away, her mom would email again, then text, then call. The Vidra women were nothing if not persistent.
But as soon as the email opened, Whitney groaned and snapped the phone shut. Not content with simply spelling out his name, her mother had included an oversized jpeg with the header that had been all over the industry publications last month. Dr. Jared Fine Resigns from Charity Post, Returns to PA. Like she cared. Let him take up residence in state for the rest of his life, brandishing his golden scalpel and transforming the lives of the underprivileged. She was on to bigger and better things.
Well, maybe not bigger. The fellowship at Temple University she’d turned down had been pretty big. And not everyone in the medical community shared her belief that the term
applied to her chosen focus on boob jobs and liposuction in place of more sedate medical care. But this was her life, her rules.
“Thanks but no thanks, Mother.” Whitney pressed delete without bothering to read the rest of the email. Her parents had never understood why she was so willing to turn her back on the man she’d loved enough to follow to the ends of the earth, the plastic surgeon god who’d fathered her own career aspirations. But then again, they hadn’t caught him with his pants around his ankles, plowing an anesthesiologist in a third world country.
Make the World Smile, he’d said. We’ll fix cleft palates, change children’s lives for the better, he’d said.
Call her cynical, but that seemed like a poor substitute for fidelity.
Her first instinct was to rush inside and pour her heart out to Kendra, but she hated to interrupt her friend in the middle of what was obviously a conquest for a fitting one-night stand. John was probably meticulously packing the rest of his things in anticipation of the train ride up tomorrow morning, and there was no way in hell she planned on calling her mother.
Which left...what? A man in the bar wearing elbow patches, friendly and clueless?
She put her phone away.
As she suspected, Matt was sitting right where she’d left him. His gaze was concentrated on Kendra and her dance partner—Lincoln, he’d called his brother—but the dim light made it difficult to tell if he was envious, outraged or merely...spectating. She suspected the latter.
“You came back,” he said pleasantly as she took her former seat. Her beer sat, seemingly untouched, but even though Matt didn’t look like the sort of man who carried spare flunitrazepam in his pocket, Whitney had spent too many years as a single woman to play fast and loose with her beverages. She pushed the drink away.
“Was it good news?” he asked.
“Was what good news?”
He nodded at her purse. “The phone?”
“Oh.” She paused for a moment. He’d been paying attention—it seemed the oddly earnest elbow patches were more than just a fashion choice. “It was from my mother.”
“So...that’s a no, then.” He signaled once again for the bartender.
She laughed and relaxed, letting him make his next macho move. Crowbars and legs aside, she did kind of appreciate the reminder that she was worth pursuing.
“I don’t suppose I can buy you that drink now?”
“Sure. But make it a beer, please. Newcastle.”
A smile quirked at the corner of his mouth as he placed the order with the bartender. Whitney was just about to ask him what it meant when a pair of hot, sweaty arms latched around her back. She might have been scared, if not for all the scratchy sequins pressing through the fabric of her dress, the tangy scent of girl sweat and citrus perfume wafting up. She didn’t have to look to know that the arms around her were the dainty, perfect limbs of her best friend, who’d donned an electric pink bobbed wig for the evening, a perfect complement to her party girl aesthetic and molten gold skin tone.