Excerpt: Treasured - Vilma Iris | Lifestyle Blogger

David Hawthorne has a great life. His job as a professor at a prestigious Dallas college is everything he hoped for. Now that his brother is back from the Navy, life seems to be settling down. All he needs to do is finish the book he’s working on and his tenure will be assured. When he gets invited to interview a reclusive expert, he knows he’s gotten lucky. But being the stepson of Sean Taggart comes with its drawbacks, including an overprotective mom who sends a security detail to keep him safe. He doesn’t need a bodyguard, but when Tessa Santiago shows up on his doorstep, the idea of her giving him close cover doesn’t seem so bad.

Tessa has always excelled at most anything she tried, except romance. The whole relationship thing just didn’t work out for her. She’s not looking for love, and she’s certainly not looking for it with an academic who happens to be connected to her boss’s family. The last thing she wants is to escort an overly pampered pretentious man-child around South America to ensure he doesn’t get into trouble. Still, there’s something about David that calls to her. In addition to watching his back, she will have to avoid falling into the trap of soulful eyes and a deep voice that gets her heart racing.

But when the seemingly simple mission turns into a treacherous race for a hidden artifact, David and Tess know this assignment could cost them far more than their jobs. If they can overcome the odds, the lost treasure might not be their most valuable reward.

Every 1001 Dark Nights novella is a standalone story. For new readers, it’s an introduction to an author’s world. And for fans, it’s a bonus book in the author’s series. We hope you’ll enjoy each one as much as we do.

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Excerpt: Treasured
By Lexi Blake

Excerpt: Treasured

From New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Lexi Blake comes a new story in her Masters and Mercenaries series. TREASURED is out tomorrow, but you can read a sneak peek below!

“What can I get for you?” A slender woman in a white collared shirt slid a coaster in front of Tessa.

Maybe she could hang here until dinner. The tables had place cards, and she was sitting at a table with Simon Weston and his wife Chelsea. They wouldn’t be hard to deal with and totally knew what subjects would be weird for her. She just had to hide until she could slip into her seat at dinner. “I’ll take an old-fashioned.”

The bartender nodded.

“Hey, it’s going to be okay.” The man beside her was talking, his voice hushed, but then the place was kind of quiet, so she could hear him. “You know you’re never going to please those girls, right? There’s a reason they’re called mean girls.”

There was a loud sniffle and a feminine voice saying something Tessa couldn’t quite make out.

“I know it hurts, and I’m ready to talk to you anytime you want. I need you to understand that you haven’t done anything wrong. I don’t care what anyone else says. You’re allowed to love who you want to love, date who you want to date. Shame is a weapon, and they’ll use that to try to hurt you. Don’t let them because there’s no shame here. You stand tall and know that your family is behind you all the way. So are your real friends.”

Another big sniffle and the girl slid off her barstool. Tess got a glimpse of auburn hair and a youthful face. She hugged the man and walked away, saying good-bye.

“You’re good with her. Is she your daughter?” She wasn’t sure why she’d asked the question. She hadn’t even gotten a good look at the man beside her. He had a stack of books and a notepad in front of him. And a beer.

Something about the way he’d spoken to the teen had made her heart twist. She remembered asshole high school girls and how they could drag someone down. Her brothers had told her to try harder to fit in. Her dad had told her maybe if she acted more feminine they would all get along.

She loved her father and brothers. It had been a different time, but she admired how this man had handled the situation.

“Only if I had her when I was…oh, god. Nineteen. I could be her dad. No. She’s my sister. And thanks. I try. I’ll be honest, I didn’t spend much time with teenaged girls when I was a teen. I had a brother and chess club. It did not make me an expert at dealing with this kind of thing.” The man beside her had golden brown hair that was slightly shaggy and warm hazel eyes.

He was cute. Not so stunning that she was put off. He was that warm guy who probably had a lot of women friends because he was nice.

“You were nineteen when she was born?” That was a big age gap. For some reason she wanted to keep the conversation going.

“Yep.” His lips curled up, and he was awfully cute when he smiled. “She’s my half sister, though that’s a ridiculous qualification. She’s my sister, and I have an even younger brother. My mom’s second act was pretty spectacular. Hey, Leslie. Can I get another beer?”

The bartender slid the old-fashioned in front of Tess and nodded the man’s way. “Sure thing, David. Is she okay?”

“Carys? She’s dealing with mean-girl crap,” the man named David said. “It sucks, but she’ll get through it. She’s a smart kid, and she’s got a network of friends who don’t go to her high school.”

The bartender popped the top off a longneck and replaced the one David had finished. “I’m glad to hear it. Your burger should be ready soon.”

A burger. That sounded so good. She was probably going to be eating something super fancy like pâté or Cornish game hens with caviar.

“I think you’ll find Leslie makes an excellent old-fashioned,” David said. “It can be a tricky one to get right.”

“Don’t I know it?” She took a sip, and it was excellent. “That is good. I bartended for a couple of years.”

“Me, too. It’s how I got through college.”

“With all those books, I would say you’re still in college.” Those weren’t fiction books. They were older tomes, reminding her of the science books her dad collected. That was when she realized who she was dealing with. Not the man, but the type. There was a reason the guy in front of her felt comfortable. “You’re a professor.”

He grimaced. “I’m not even wearing a tweed jacket. Do I give off ivory-tower vibes or something?”

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