Sinful Illusions – Chapter One


As far as stupid ideas went, this one definitely took the cake. I crouched next to the stone pillar at the corner of the estate and glanced around one last time before tossing the large stick over the metal fence. I cringed, closing my eyes to narrow slits as I waited for lights to flash, sirens to blast the air, men to come running.

None of those things happened. I cracked open my eyes, and my eyebrows shot toward my hairline. So, maybe tonight was my lucky night. I’d watched the black car pull out of the driveway just over fifteen minutes ago, so I knew he was gone. I was fairly certain the fence surrounding the property had trips of some sort, but maybe he only activated them when he was home. I hoped to God that was the case, considering what I was about to do.

Still, I waited another five minutes. When all remained quiet and tranquil, I rose from my place concealed behind the pillar. The fence encircled the entire five-acre estate, a small fortune in itself. But that didn’t really surprise me. A man like Fox had enough money to buy whatever he wanted—whether it was some material object or someone’s life.

A combination of sadness and anger surged through me at the reminder of my sister’s death. It was a never-ending cycle these days. Cry, rage, cry all over again. The past four months had been exhausting, fueled intermittently by hope and despair. Tomorrow would make one hundred and thirty days since my sister disappeared. No matter how long I lived, I would never forget the sound of my ringing phone piercing the air, the shaky sound of my father’s voice telling me she was gone.

I didn’t know if it was intuition or something else, but I knew the moment I saw Daddy’s name lighting up my screen that something had happened to my sister. Elle had been married for nearly two years, and I hadn’t gotten to see her as often as I would have liked between my schoolwork and her obligations as a senator’s wife. The last time I’d seen her was around Fourth of July, when she and Spencer stopped by my family’s annual party at the lake. They hadn’t stayed long, and I cursed myself for not going out of my way to spend more time with her.

A little over a month later, she’d disappeared. A hiker had discovered her phone first. Thinking nothing of it, he’d pocketed it to turn it in. A few hundred yards later he’d found her. Or, rather, the place she’d died. The authorities found a significant amount of blood and trace evidence at the scene to believe with certainty that she’d been murdered and couldn’t have possibly survived.

Authorities had spent several days scouring the woods, searching for any sign of her. Her purse containing her identity had been found more than a mile from the crime scene, and a knife covered in her DNA was found near the edge of the river just beyond that. They’d searched the riverbank for miles upstream, but her body had never been recovered. I’d held out hope for months that they were wrong; she would come back to us. We would find her. Part of me felt like she was still alive, and I couldn’t possibly let her go until I knew for sure. If she was truly gone, I wanted to find her and put her to rest. I needed the closure—we all did.

Each day that passed without word of her return dug the knife of pain and despair a little deeper. Finally, we could wait no longer. Daddy insisted we move on with our lives—what was left of them. We had finally laid her memory to rest just a couple weeks ago, lowering an empty coffin into the ground two days after Christmas.

I still couldn’t believe she was gone. Or maybe I just refused to accept it. Even though Elle and I had lived apart and were busy with our own lives, she was still my sister, and a part of my heart died with her. Justice needed to be served—and I was going to ensure that happened.

While I’d been staying with my family over the holidays, Elle’s husband, Spencer, stopped by. I’d overhead him speaking with Daddy late one night while I eavesdropped outside his office. Spencer believed a man by the name of Fox was responsible for Elle’s death. For years I’d only heard whispers of the man who lived in the shadows and ran an underground crime organization. Daddy had protected Elle and me from everything growing up, but when Elle was murdered, the rose-colored glasses had been ripped away, revealing the ugly truth of the world around me. Our family had been torn apart, and I’d sworn I would exact revenge on the man who’d done this to us.

I glanced through the bars of the heavy-duty wrought iron fence and glared at the mansion, mentally cursing the man who owned it. A puff of air escaped my lips, curling in front of my face in the frigid evening air. A shiver worked its way down my spine, but I closed my eyes, drawing on my strength and tuning out the cold that penetrated my bones. It was a perfect night. Not too bright, and the snow that we’d gotten around Christmas had melted off several days ago and the cold front that had moved through yesterday had left the ground frozen solid—no chance of footprints.

Spring semester had just started a week ago, and I was back in the apartment I shared with my roommate, Rose. She was headed to the club to relax and unwind with a few of our friends. Though they’d invited me along, I’d declined. My mission tonight was revenge.

The note I’d left for Rose said that I was staying with my parents tonight. If tomorrow rolled around and I was still gone, I knew she’d reach out to my parents, who would then contact the authorities. Not that I would allow that to happen. I would be in and out before anyone was the wiser—just as soon as I found what I was looking for. Unfortunately, I wouldn’t know exactly what I was looking for until I saw it.

What was his weakness? I needed to find whatever it was that would hurt him the worst and exploit it. So far, though, I hadn’t been able to dig up much on the mysterious man everyone called Fox—due, no doubt, to his cunning and ruthless nature. His business was never mentioned directly, though he moved in the upper echelons of society. The information on Fox was infuriatingly scarce, but I’d never been a quitter, and I wasn’t going to start now.

My plan was to get into the house, find any information that would help me formulate a strategy, then get back out. What I really needed to do was find his office, his private domain. I assumed that he, like all men, would keep any pertinent documents safely tucked away on computers or—better yet—filing cabinets. Unfortunately, that meant I would have to search the whole damn house to find the right room before I could even start. But that was fine with me. Gauging from his recent activity, Fox wouldn’t be back for hours yet.

I’d spent the previous three nights parked one street over, watching the house, studying his routine. Each evening, Fox had stepped out the front doors of the mansion, then climbed into the back of the black Mercedes. Though I’d continued to watch the premises, he still hadn’t returned by the time I left around one. Tonight would be the same. The car had pulled out of the garage just over twenty minutes ago now, so I was safe for several hours, at least.

During my time watching the house, I’d seen only the same two men: the driver who never returned without Fox, and the second man who remained at the house, occasionally stepping outside for a smoke. I wasn’t naïve enough to believe those were the only guards he had, but I was confident that I could elude the others once I was inside.

From the position of the thin crescent moon high above me, I judged it to be about ten o’clock. That meant I would have about three hours to get what I needed and get out. I’d be home right around the same time as Rose. No harm done. Now, I just needed to get inside. I didn’t know how to pick locks—not well, anyway. I’d researched it but had quickly given up. With a house like this, Fox surely had higher end security, including more advanced locking mechanisms that couldn’t be easily breached. I could break a window, but I really didn’t want to leave any evidence of my brief foray into his home. My plan was to create some kind of diversion the next time the guard stepped outside for his break. I would slip inside undetected so I wouldn’t have to worry about the alarm system or missing my window of opportunity.

Tonight, I’d left my car behind and instead taken the bus to Oakmont Street. From there, I’d walked the rest of the way. Though I hadn’t encountered anyone on my previous trips, I couldn’t risk anyone discovering my empty car while I was gone and calling it in. Once I’d gotten into the house and retrieved what I needed, I would walk to the gas station a mile down the road and contact an Uber to pick me up. Worst case, I could hike over to the L and ride the subway home. In the middle of the night, it wasn’t safe or smart, so I sincerely hoped a driver would be available. I’d have made arrangements earlier, but I wasn’t sure how long I would be. I needed to get moving.

Looking around the darkened grounds again, I took a deep breath. Grasping the top rail, I braced my feet against the smooth iron and scaled the fence. Cautiously avoiding the spindles at the top, I hoisted myself up. The spiky point of one caught the back of my thigh as I swung it over, and I grimaced as my leggings ripped and the sharp metal cut into my skin. Shoving the pain away, I balanced my weight and swung my other leg over, then dropped to the ground on the other side.

Crouched low, I took a moment to inspect my leg. I couldn’t see it in the near-dark, but it didn’t appear to be too bad. I pressed against the wound, rubbing away the slight stinging sensation as I climbed to my feet and gazed around. Still nothing. Moving quickly, I ran to the copse of trees on the east side of the yard, taking care to stay low. Blending from shadow to shadow, I crept closer to the house. From my spot concealed behind a thick tree trunk, I eyed the well-manicured landscaping surrounding the house. There were plenty of places to hide within the bushes and topiary trees spaced around the mammoth brick home. To get there, though, I’d have to cut across the open lawn, up the slight knoll at an angle away from the front door.

Glancing up through the mostly bare limbs, I glanced at the sky. Wispy clouds dotted the navy expanse, and I prayed one would cover the moon, temporarily blotting out the light. Turning my attention back to the house, I withdrew further into the trees. A twig snapped quietly beneath my feet, and I froze, the hairs on the back of my neck lifting as a second sound reached my ears.

My breath caught in my chest as I spun around, and my gaze collided with the form of the hulking man standing only a few feet away. I had no idea how he’d crept up on me, but suddenly he was there, his dark pupils standing out against the whites of his eyes. A chill raced over my skin, and my heart slammed against my ribcage, stealing my breath.

Oh, God. It was him.


Featured Author – Ella Grey

It’s another Featured Author Friday! This week is Paranormal Romance author Ella Gray. Her new release is available now. Check it out!


All Aubrey Tull wanted to do was settle down with her mate, Liam Willingham, but he was determined to fight the mating bond. The night he left the pack destroyed a part of her, and she became determined to find out who she was without him.  

University should have been a step in the right direction—but that was before her mating heat kicked in. One night out at a club with her friends brings her the unwanted attention of the Joy brothers. She ends up putting them into the hospital and gets herself behind bars.

Liam thought he was doing the right thing when he left the pack. He wasn’t good enough for Aubrey, and he didn’t expect to live through the illness that racked him. Aubrey was too young, too innocent, for that kind of burden. Now he’s recovered, but then Henri tells him she’s been arrested. Liam’s probably the last person she wants to see, but in the end he’s the only one who can help her.

Unfortunately, the Joy brothers aren’t finished with Aubrey…


Liam moved his arm enough to peek out from underneath it. A man with dark red hair, almost black, stood by the door, and looked around the room in obvious disgust. The effect of being in the presence of his Alpha made his wolf cower. Being in the presence of his best friend overruled the natural urge. He readjusted his arm and closed his eyes. “How dd you find me?”

“You weren’t hiding.” Henri walked across the room, and Liam sensed the movement to take his bottle. A growl rumbled in his chest, but it was for show. If it came to a fight Henri would hand him his ass, and he knew it. “I need a fucking drink. Where do you keep them?”

“Fridge. I buy these things in bulk.” As Henri turned away, Liam risked another look at him. Another reason he couldn’t pursue Aubrey. They’d been best friends close to forever. What idiot went after his best friend’s little sister? Even when she turned eighteen? “Aren’t you on parental duty? How’s the rug-rat?” He caught the grimace which crossed his friend’s face and frowned, sitting up. “What’s wrong? Is everything okay?”

Henri didn’t say anything until he retrieved the bottle and sat down next to him with a huff. He twisted the cap off and took a long swig from it, wiping his lips with the back of his hand. “Alexa is an angel. It’s Brey who’s the problem.”

“Brey? You didn’t have twins and forget to mention it, did you?”

He shook his head. “Brey would be the name Aubrey likes to go by since you ripped her heart out and ground it into dust under your boot.” He took another drink and grimaced. “Damn, this is terrible.”

Guilt twisted in the pit of Liam’s stomach. “Nothing happened with her, Henri, I swear. No lines were crossed.” He dropped his own bottle to the ground with a thud and managed to sit up properly. “What happened?”

“She’s in jail. I’m tempted to leave her there for a bit to learn her lesson, but it would be a bad idea.”

The feeling of being buzzed faded quickly. “What happened?” 

“A Sheriff Taylor called me; said she was at a club when a man tried to make a move on her. Unwanted.”

“Since when does Brey go to clubs? Why is she the one who’s in jail?” “Because she put the man who touched her and his brother into the hospital.” Henri sounded proud before he looked a little embarrassed.

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Music or No Music?

Given a choice between music or silence, I’ll choose music every single time.

I’m a terrible singer, but you can expect me to jam along with whatever I’m listening to while I’m writing, reading, doing the dishes, or pretty much anything else. I’m not even that picky when it comes to music; I’ll listen to anything.

I was a gymnast for years, so I grew up listening to a lot of jazz/instrumental when I would select music for my floor routine. Sometimes it’s just nice to sit back and feel the music (and yes, I know it sounds strange…) without being distracted by lyrics.

If you catch me in the car with my kids, I usually have the radio tuned to a country station. If I’m alone, it’s almost always hard rock/metal. Love some Five Finger Death Punch. For those of you that read Escape, you may have already guessed that. And on that note – my hubby surprised me with tickets to their concert in Columbus at the end of November as a late birthday gift! Stay tuned…. I’ll let you know how they are in person!


Epilogue or No?

Ever flip to the back of a book to see how many pages you have left before the story inevitable comes to an end?

Yeah. Me, too.

Sometimes I’m just not ready for a book to end, whether I’m writing or reading. Good characters are like that. They draw you in, make you fall in love with them, and it’s hell to let go. Every once in a while, I need the closure, and a little extra scene at the end is just the way to do that.

Just like with my Frozen in Time Trilogy (coming this Winter!), I wasn’t ready to let go. Jack and Mia got to me, and I felt like they just needed a little bonus scene at the end. I hope you guys will love them just as much as I do. Stayed tuned for some teasers coming soon! xoxo

Prologue or No?

Typically, I just jump right into my stories. The Devil You Know was a little different, though. I knew right from the onset that I was going to have to set the scene since something that had happened 10 years prior affects Victoria’s life forever.

I’m not typically a fan of stories that jump around from past to present, either. It makes it a little difficult to follow and hard to get into. As far as a prologue, though, I think it’s okay to give a little background. Sometimes it helps to draw readers in and explain why the main character is now they way they are. Much like with Victoria–She experienced something traumatic and was forever changed.

Will I use more prologues in the future? Who knows? You’ll just have to read on to see. 🙂

Author Feature – Beth D. Carter

Beth D. Carter is bringing us another AMAZING romantic suspense from Evernight Publishing!

Untraceable is the second book in the World of Danger series. These men will risk everything to keep the women they love out of harm’s way.  Book One: Invincible (out now) Book Two: Untraceable (new release) Book Three: Ruthless (out 2020).


Mae Sawyer has a huge crush on her boss, JD Harlan, but he doesn’t even know she exists. She blends into the background of her data entry job, living for glimpses of him walking through the office. Then one night, everything changes. While working late, she’s caught up in a plot to kidnap him…and gets taken as well.

They wake up in an underground bunker. No electricity. No way to be traced. Alone, they have to rely on each other to stay strong until their captor decides their fate. Danger lurks outside the bunker, waiting for a moment of vengeance.

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Author Info:

I like writing about the very ordinary girl thrust into extraordinary circumstances, so my heroines will probably never be lawyers, doctors or corporate highrollers.  I try to write characters who aren’t cookie cutters and push myself to write complicated situations that I have no idea how to resolve, forcing me to think outside the box.  I love writing characters who are real, complex and full of flaws, heroes and heroines who find redemption through love. I love to hear from readers so I’ve made it really easy to find me on the web:

Amazon author page:

Author Feature – Megan Slayer

Hey, lovelies! Happy Saturday 🙂

Things have been crazy busy, so I’m trying to get back to the swing of things over here starting with… ta-da! Author features! Today, the beautiful Megan Slayer is sharing her new release Scoring in Cedarwood. For those of you that are into M/M romance, definitely check it out! Here’s a little teaser below.

  • Scoring in Cedarwood by Megan Slayer
  • Cedarwood Pride, book 3
  • Contemporary LGBTQ Romance
  • M/M, Anal Sex, Masturbation
  • From Pride Publishing

Book three in the Cedarwood Pride series

Tanner Fox wasn’t sure being traded to the Cedarwood Wildcats was the right path for his life, but if Dr. Dane Bloom is part of the package, then he’ll play for keeps.

Tanner “Foxy” Fox knows he can do one thing—play baseball. His days in the outfield are numbered, but he’s a fan favorite. Everyone wants a piece of Foxy—almost everyone. The Anti-Gay Coalition wants nothing of a gay player on the town baseball team, but Tanner isn’t about to back down, especially when he lands sponsorship from the silver-fox doctor in town.

When Dr. Dane Bloom opts to sponsor the baseball team, he knows he’s going to be asked to sponsor a player. Having a younger man living in his home and invading his trust? Why not? Dane’s not wild about opening up, but when he sees Tanner, something in him shatters. He wants to get to know Tanner, beyond the Foxy façade to the man inside. Can he and the player find a way to score in Cedarwood, or will the coalition and self-doubts keep them apart?


©Megan Slayer, 2019, All Rights Reserved

“Are you trying to fix me up? Or get me to sponsor him?” Dane narrowed his eyes. “You’re being rather persuasive.”

“You can’t date him.”

“Ah.” Good to know. He wasn’t looking for a boyfriend and preferred knowing Devlin wasn’t trying to hook him up. Still, he couldn’t shake his irritation with Devlin. Why hadn’t his friend told him about butting into the relationship with Phillip? Why keep his intrusion quiet for so long? He appreciated Devlin caring enough to get him out of a bad situation, but he could’ve said something.

“Well?” Devlin pointed to the tablet screen. “Tanner?”

“What do I have to do?” He couldn’t believe he’d capitulated. Then again, he hadn’t seen much of a reason to say no.

“Feed him, give him a place to stay and be supportive. That’s it. If you want, we have an app that shows you how he’s playing and when he’s in a game.” Devlin grinned. “He’s got his own transportation, so you don’t have to drive him anywhere.”

He should consider this decision longer with careful, thoughtful musing. He wasn’t one for snap decisions. “Sure.” Had he just agreed? So much for considering his options and thinking this through. According to Devlin’s widening grin, he’d not only agreed but must’ve looked pleased, too. Well, shit.

“I’ll give him your address and he’ll report to you tonight.” Devlin shook Dane’s hand. “You won’t regret it.”

“How can I? If this is as painless as you claim, I should be fine.” He stifled a groan. He’d just optioned to have a minor league baseball player live with him. He liked the sport and always wanted to play, but never thought he’d sponsor a member of the team. His fellow doctor at the medical group, McCormack Stevens, loved baseball. He should be the one sponsoring a player. He’d been the one to suggest the practice put their money and name into the team. He probably already had a player living with him, but still.

He shook hands with Devlin. “He’ll be at my house tonight?”

“Yes. I’ll send the information to you both. He’ll learn about you and you’ll know everything about him. Deal?” Devlin asked. “It’s a good pairing. You’ll temper him and he’ll bring you out of yourself.”

“Yeah.” Hadn’t Devlin said something about them not dating? If he was going to be good for Tanner and vice versa, there had to be more than just living together involved and that was off limits. Still, he couldn’t tamp down his giddiness. “I’ll look for the email.” He’d just opted to take in a baseball player. Swell.

Available from these fine etailers:

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Did you know…?

She also writes under the name Wendi Zwaduk!

Wendi Zwaduk – White Hot Second Chance Romance
Megan Slayer – It’s Always Fun to Squirm to our newsletter ~
It’s always better on dirt!

Kitten Fever

If you follow me on social media, most of you probably know that my husband and I bought about ten acres of land out in the country a few months ago. It’s been a heck of a project so far, but more about that later…

So, there’s an existing log cabin on the property which my father in law now lives in…. along with a few stray cats. As you might guess, one of the cats starting growing around the middle. (Someone’s been slutting around, apparently… lol)

We now have 3 furball additions to the family. I spent the evening giving these little guys a flea bath and getting them settled in their new home. Needless to say, my kiddos are having a blast loving on them. Now I just need to find homes for them before we get too attached…

Best Chocolate Chip Cookies EVER!

Looking for the perfect treat for, well, everything? Here’s the perfect recipe for homemade chocolate chip cookies! Make sure to check out the tips and tricks at the end for best results!

¾ cup granulated (white) sugar
¾ cup light brown sugar
½ cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
2 eggs (large, room temp)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
2 ¼ cups flour, sifted
2 cups chocolate chips
(Optional: walnuts, M&Ms, etc.)
In separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
In medium mixing bowl, beat sugars and butter at medium speed until well blended.
Add eggs, one at a time. Beat low/medium until just combined.
While mixing, add vanilla extract.
Gently add dry ingredients, ¼ cup at a time until mixture is fully combined.
Fold chocolate chips, M&Ms, walnuts, etc. into mixture
Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 12 minutes, or until edges are golden brown. (Middles may still look a little gooey.)


Tips and tricks:
Start prepping approximately one hour before baking. Set butter and eggs out to cool. It’s best for these to be close to the same temperature when blended.
I make my dough a couple days prior to baking – this allows the butter to redistribute throughout the mixture. It gives the cookies that perfect sheen rather than the fluffy texture you get when baking immediately after mixing!
If you’re only planning to bake a portion, seal the remaining dough in an airtight container and refrigerate. (Mine usually keeps up to about two weeks.)
DO NOT, I reiterate, DO NOT OVERBAKE. <<<<< This is my pet peeve. If the cookie is completely brown coming out of the oven, you’ve baked them too long. The dough will continue to bake for a few minutes after coming out of the oven – as soon as the edges begin to brown, pull those babies out! The inside will look a little gooey, but that’s okay! Once they cool, they’ll be perfectly soft and chewy! I promise!

For a (slightly) healthier alternative, you can sub applesauce for the eggs. I typically use about one cup applesauce with a tablespoon or so of baking powder. This gives the dough a slightly better consistency than using applesauce alone.

Like anything else, baking takes time and practice. Every oven is different, too, so your time may vary by a minute or two. I have a convection oven, so I use the “fast bake” function at 325 and bake for 11 minutes. If you have a regular oven, try 350 for 10-12 minutes. If one side begins to brown faster than the other, wait until they’re AT LEAST halfway through. Opening the oven changes the temperature and jeopardizes the baking process. I typically turn mine when there’s about 3-4 minutes left on the timer.

Lemon Cheesecake Bars

Hey, y’all! Summertime is finally here and I’ve decided to kick off my favorite season by posting one of my favorite recipes.

If the idea of lemon freaks you out – trust me, it’s amazing. It’s not tart or overly sweet, it just gives the cheesecake this incredible light, fresh taste that’s perfect for summer. (I actually use almost triple what the recipe calls for.) It’s super easy and turns out perfectly every time. (Just follow the directions to a tee and be sure not to overbake it – Jiggly in the middle is good!) If it begins to crack around the edges toward the end of baking, no worries. I promise as it cools, it will settle and the cracks will all but disappear.

Clink on the link below for the cheesecake bars and check out some of the other awesome recipes on Jenn’s site. You’ll see it more than once, because I pull a ton of inspiration from her page!

You can thank me later. :o)