The Ultimate Alexa Padgett Bundle (3 series in 1) Over 50% off!
*All books are in e-book format*
Purchase the e-book
Receive a download link via email from Bookfunnel, the #1 book download app!
Send the books to your preferred e-reader and start reading!
Click Here to Read Series Information
The Oblivion series:
The boy I fell for was my superstar. Now, he's a rock legend.
Their love was like a song, full of body and the right notes…
Falling in love is incredibly seductive… but playing to sold-out crowds is irresistible.
While crowds might clamor for just one touch, one look…
He only wants hers.
An Austin After Dark series:
Military vet Camden is focused on his career, his tech guru twin Carter buries his heartache in hookups, and single father Rye can’t deny his attraction to the Grace brothers' sassy sister, Kate. An Austin After Dark Book series is filled with secrets, heartache, forgiveness, second chances, explosive chemistry, fear, family, and love.
Seattle Sound series:
A sweeping set of novels filled with magnetic, bad-boy rockers who rule the Pacific Northwest's indie music scene--and the fierce loves that soothe their hurts...
Click here to read an excerpt
Deep in the Heart:
The shop’s outdated brass doorbell tinkled, and I froze, hands hovering over the small black keys of my laptop. Like most of the rest of the shop, the bell was a holdover from the mid-century remodeling done when Austin was just a small town with country music roots. Before South by Southwest—and most of the hot live-music venues—lined Sixth Street, located a mere block from the store.
I strained for another sound. My body tensed further in my seat, unwilling to move, much like a rabbit who’d scented a coyote.
That stupid little bell. Its sweet, tinkling chime remained an unusual occurrence, and one of the reasons I’d agreed to work with my Pop-pop. Interacting for hours on end with people exhausted me still. Even years after I’d been the unwitting—and unhappy—star witness in one of the most significant trials in the country’s history.
Good news: bad people went to jail. I survived. Now, I even flourished. I sighed, still slightly annoyed I’d run back to Austin, a town I’d left, never planning to return.
Footsteps echoed through the front room, tapping a leisurely pace across the hardwood floors. Unfrozen muscles eased. My heart rate sped up as I rose and rounded my desk, cursing Pop-pop’s dental appointment. I was even worse at customer service than I was at idle chitchat. But as the sole employee—correction, co-owner—in the building, my responsibility was to the customer. Didn’t mean I had to like it.
I grabbed one of Pop-pop’s faded red flannel squares and gripped it in my palm. A throwback to the Depression, he said, though why I wasn’t quite sure. Pop-pop was born at the start of World War II, so it wasn’t like the man lived through those days. Yet, even now, the man wouldn’t toss anything—and I mean one little wrapper—if he thought he could reuse it.
I stumbled to a stop and squeezed the cloth, trying hard not to hyperventilate. Of all the days… Of all the people… Dammit, this was why I’d attended college in Seattle. That, and to prove to my family I was strong enough to be on my own.
“Ben,” I said, my voice small. My shoulders folded in.
The look Ben gave me now caused shudders to roll up my spine. He swiveled around to face me, his whiskey-brown eyes widening then narrowing as a smirk drifted over those perfect, sculpted lips.
“Hey, there, little girl,” he said. I hated his drawl near as much as the fact he’d called me “little girl” since high school. “Heard tell you were in some music magazine.”
“Not the first time,” I shot back. The thing about Ben was never to show fear. Never back down. He craved the rush of overpowering me emotionally, physically.
He leaned in. “So I was told. But, see, none of the old crowd knew you were back.”
My heart thumped in a painful, erratic rhythm against my ribs. That was intentional. I didn’t want to hang around Ben or Robbie or any of the other shallow people I’d surrounded myself with all those years before.
I gripped the piece of flannel even tighter in my fist as I threw my shoulders back, giving him my haughtiest stare-down. Not easy to do when he had a good six inches on me.
“Well, here I am. Now, will you please leave?” I asked.
His eyes darkened, and his expression collapsed into an angry sneer. There’s the Ben I remembered.
“Don’t think I will just yet, Princess. I want to see more, and I’m the customer, so you need to help me find what I’m looking for.”
He missed my glare because he glanced around, his lip curling as he eyed the small shop. Of course, Ben, being the preppy baseball player he was—wanted to believe he still was if the gossip I’d heard was true—wouldn’t recognize the quality or value of the instruments surrounding him, either in monetary value or prestige. Just walking into this shop was a privilege many musicians longed for but couldn’t afford.
Ben, like Robbie and the rest of the people I used to hang out with who I used to consider relevant, knew nothing of this world. He lived baseball. Had all through high school and college, too. Both boys’ dedication to the sport meant I spent little time with Robbie, my boyfriend during our senior year.
Robbie’s hard work earned him the starting position at second base at the University of Texas while Ben typically rode the bench. I’d heard through a convoluted grapevine that Ben was cut from his minor league team this year, which explained his sudden interest in me.
He’d always needed someone else to beat up on to feel good.
Why had I ever hung out with this guy?
Because he was best friends with my boyfriend—the only boy I could see, would ever love—all that lame shit so common in seventeen-year-old girls who hadn’t lived enough to know better. Know anything, really.
The years I’d put into this shop, my reputation, mattered. I was proud to work here, proud that people wanted one of my guitars. Proud to be written up in some of the top industry magazines and of the shelf of awards I accrued.
“I can’t believe I once screwed someone who works in a guitar shop,” Ben said, pulling me out of my daydream where I kicked him in the crotch. “I thought, with your parents and your looks, you’d accomplish something with your life, Jenna. These are nice, for instruments. I should get one.”
Ben peered around, then raised his eyebrows and gestured at it. “Why isn’t there a price tag?”
I swallowed back the snort. “Because it’s a custom-made guitar that took six months to build.”
“Are you saying I can’t afford it?” he said. Yeah. That, and, more importantly, my grandfather would never sell one to him.
“Most of these are spoken for,” I said, refusing to be drawn into a verbal sparring match. Those exhausted me almost as much as being friendly to Ben.
The bell tinkled again.
Twice in less than ten minutes. This barrage of people was not okay.
I needed to hire someone to handle all this.
I blinked away the dizziness. I needed to eat. I needed my pills. I needed to get into my workshop and away from Ben and the ugly memories he evoked.
“Look, we don’t have anything in common anymore,” I said. “As you just pointed out. I make guitars, and you want to play pro ball.” Best to pretend I didn’t know he’d been removed from the roster, thanks to his bad attitude and escalating violence toward his teammates. That would just make him meaner. And harder to get rid of.
“We’re like…corn and toads,” I finished. That didn’t make much sense. Half of what I said didn’t make sense, especially when I was stressed.
I finally caught a glimpse of the new customer. Tall. Taller than Ben, and broader, too. His dark hair was short on the sides but tousled on top. His slightly ratty T-shirt hugged him tighter than a jealous lover. Most of the time, tight tees meant men with big egos. Not my thing.
He turned toward me, and I sucked in a breath, squeezing that piece of flannel as if it alone would keep me upright. Holy shit on sugar toast, this man was pretty.
No. That was the wrong word. This man’s eyes, much warmer and a lighter brown than Ben’s, caught mine and held. I’d already cataloged the rest of his face: a couple days of scruff shadowed his firm chin and square jaw, full lips—not as full as Ben’s bee-stung ones, slashing dark brows, and warm tanned skin. The bridge of his nose thickened in the same way my older brother Jude’s had after he’d broken it in a football accident ten years ago.
“Hey. I’m talking to you.” Ben grabbed my wrist.
“I’m done listening.” I twisted my arm, trying to wriggle from his hold. Ben’s fingers tightened to the point of numbing my fingers. He leaned into my personal space and used my captured hand to pull me forward until my chest was practically laying on the wood counter.
Nope, nope, nope.
I gripped the bat—I called him Gerald because…well, no good reason. I just thought my bat needed a name. I’d leaned my bat buddy against the cabinets earlier, and now I hefted the substantial weight as I brought it up, the end shoving hard against Ben’s chest.
“I said I’m done.”
He squeezed my wrist tighter and leaned into the bat. “We’re finished when I say—”
Sweet baby Jesus in a peach tree. I regripped the bat, planning to take a swing.
“What’s going on here?” the newcomer asked. His voice, all gravelly and rich, washed over me. “You all right there, miss?”
I yanked my arm, twisting, as I shoved the bat harder into Ben’s chest. Ben let go of me, and I stumbled back. My piece of flannel dropped to the counter.
“You need to leave,” I said.
Ben scowled at my look, so I turned my attention to the second man. My gaze locked on my new customer, trying to place him. He was older than me by a few years—late twenties, early thirties, I’d bet—and his jeans were worn in that sexy, I-work-hard way no type of washing could replicate. Now that he faced me, I saw his T-shirt said ARMY. An excellent look for him, especially when paired with—swoon!—scuffed motorcycle boots.
Who was he? I should know him; I knew I should.
His gaze never wavered from mine but, somehow, I knew he was keeping tabs on the rest of the store at the same time. He stepped forward again, getting between Ben and me.
His gait hitched as if he had a stiff leg. While uneven, he had the tread of a predator. Too young for the arthritis Pop-pop fought off each morning. I shivered with delicious anticipation for his voice.
“Y’all good here?” the man said.
I flinched at the bite in his tone. I hadn’t done anything wrong. Wait, now the stranger glared at Ben.
“Hey, there. What can I help you with?” I said.
“He bothering you?”
I plastered on a smile, deciding to stick to honey instead of the vinegar I wanted to spew all over Ben. “He was, but it’s all sorted now. Everything’s fine. Do you have an appointment?”
“Yep. I’m here to meet with the younger Olsen ‘bout a new guitar.”
“Looking at her,” I said, shooting for the upbeat personality most people expected me to wear.
The guy’s brows drew together tight, and he shook his head. “Huh. Didn’t expect a woman. Got the sense from your…grandfather?” I nodded, and he continued, “That I’d be meeting someone older—and nowhere near as pretty.” He smiled.
“I’m Jenna.” I stuck out my hand, and the man clasped it in his larger one. His palm was rough, almost abrasive. Not that mine were the soft white wonders they’d been while I was at Northern University. No, my hands now were used to cut, shape, and smooth wood, work I found soothing.
He turned my hand and studied the redness on my wrist from Ben’s harsh treatment.
“You do this to the gal here?” he asked in a low rumble that sounded like trouble.
Shocker of shocks, I liked this man’s hand touching mine. Like, a lot. Strange, especially after my rejection of Ben. Ben’s gaze bored into the side of my head, and my cheeks flushed at both men’s continued scrutiny.
“I asked you a question,” he said to Ben. His voice was deep, near as rough as his palm. I liked that, too. Mainly because he sounded nothing like Ben.
“I don’t owe you nothing,” Ben said, sullen but also wary like he, too, was trying to place this man.
“My body guard’s outside,” he said, tilting his head back a little. “Should I get him?”
“You are the country music star, Camden Grace.” Ben smiled like a bright penny. “What are you doing here?”
That’s where I’d seen him—practically everywhere since I’d returned to the city. Camden Grace was Austin’s hometown darling. Born on a ranch just west of Lake Travis, Camden Grace had crooned his way to the top of the country charts by his mid-twenties. His first album had to be…oh…five years ago. Since then, he’d strummed out a dozen multi-platinum singles and two more full-length albums, and, in the last couple of weeks, some bad press.
“Need a new guitar,” Camden rumbled. “J. Olsen’s are the best.”
My fingers tingled as my hand slipped from Camden’s. I clenched my fist, trying to ignore my attraction. To Camden Grace. Pile up the pepperoni and dive right in; I was always attracted to the worst of the male species.
“I love your music, sir.” Ben’s voice took on the excitement of a small, yappy puppy.
“Can’t say I like your treatment of Miss Olsen here much,” Cam grunted. “Why don’t you skedaddle before you get yourself in a heap of trouble?”
Ben’s scowl returned. Uh oh. I knew that look. Ben didn’t take well to being ordered around. He’d always been the Bantam rooster in our circle, needing to preen and peck away at others to keep himself at the top of the hen house. I’d have to watch out for Ben’s retaliation, which would be swift…and cause me more emotional distress. My hand gripped the bat tighter.
“I didn’t see you on the schedule,” I said in a rush, trying to diffuse the situation before Ben could escalate it and cost us business. “But I’m glad to walk you through your options, Mr. Grace.”
He leaned his hip against the counter and crossed his arms over his broad chest. Standing there, he dwarfed Ben. But it wasn’t just the size difference. There was a watchfulness in Camden’s eyes, an awareness of danger that Ben, with his soft, privileged life, would never have.
“Right.” I turned back to Ben. “I’ll need to ask you to leave so I can work with my client.”
Ben’s scowl deepened, his hands clenching into fists.
Cam dipped his head to acknowledge a large man now peering through the glass. Sunglasses covered his eyes, but his crossed arms meant no-nonsense. His brown hair was buzzed short, and his arms showed off well-defined biceps.
The man opened the door and strode in like he owned the place. “You all right?” he asked Cam. He sounded like a bear—even deeper and growlier than Cam and without that melodic quality.
“This man doesn’t want to leave the premises even though the lady’s asked so nicely.”
I dropped my gaze and bit the inside of my lip to keep from smiling. Polite might be as far as I’d take my request. Nice shouldn’t signify—in part because Ben never deserved kindness. Not from me, anyway.
Ben’s expression darkened as he looked between us. “I’m going. I’ll be back.”
“I hope not,” I said. “In fact, I’d prefer not to see you again.”
Ben leaned back into my personal space and said, “We have unfinished business.”
I turned back to Cam, ignoring Ben. “So, what are you looking for, Mr…um, Cam?”
My shoulders unbunched when Ben strode from the shop, the door slamming loud enough to make me jump. Cam’s bodyguard wandered forward, placing himself near the glass door, probably so Ben knew he was being watched.
“Not your favorite person?” he asked.
Man, that rough voice sent shivers up and down my spine. Tingles upon tingles danced across my skin. I looked away to cover my reaction.
“Let’s focus on your guitar.”
“It’s not my business,” Cam said. He ran his index finger over the redness around my wrist. “And I get you don’t want me to pursue him being here further, but he hurt you.”
My gaze slammed back to his, eyebrows arched in shock.
“Fear rolled off you when I stepped in here. You don’t like him.”
I shrugged, unwilling to comment on my nonexistent relationship to a stranger—more, a rich and famous customer. “I don’t.”
“You need anything else, Cam?” the bodyguard asked.
Cam raised his eyebrows at me. When I didn’t answer, he said, “I think we’re okay now, Chuck. Just…keep an eye out, will ya?”
“I’ll hang out here.”
“I’ll get you a chair,” I said as I turned toward the back. I still gripped my bat. I set it down in the corner, trying to be unobtrusive.
“No need, ma’am.”
My steps stuttered at the address—I was twenty-four! I couldn’t be a ma’am yet. Whatever. More significant issues to focus on, Jenna. Like staying calm. Icing my throbbing wrist.
“You sure?” I asked.
Chuck nodded. He turned toward the door and crossed his arms. While he looked relaxed, his eyes continued to rove the parking lot. With his big body, short hair, and all-seeing eyes, I’d bet he was former military.
I ran my hands down my thighs and closed my eyes, taking a moment to realign my world—and my place in it.
“Want to come on back, Mr. Grace?”
“Told you, it’s Cam. And sure. My leg’s not interested in standing today.”
“Oh! I’m so sorry! I saw you limping…”
“Shrapnel. From a bomb in the sandbox.” At my look of askance, he said, “Iraq.”
Golly gee green jelly beans. He played guitar and he was a wounded war vet? I’d missed plenty of details about Camden Grace—probably because I’d never been that into country music even when I lived here during high school.
“You were in the army?”
He raised a brow. “Army Ranger at your service, ma’am.” His scowl darkened. “Medically retired, though, thanks to my bum leg.” For the first time, he appeared uncertain. Lost, even. “Been a long time now.”
I motioned him to the back and he moved slower this time, concentrating on each step from his right leg.
“Bad, then? The shrapnel?” I said, gesturing to his leg.
“Took out a chunk of muscle. Never going to win any beauty contests.”
I held out a chair and he settled in, wincing. I wasn’t so sure—he was beautiful. But he was also a customer, and Ben’s physical attack created a severe case of freaking out…which, come to think of it, I hadn’t done any of since we started talking. Huh.
I pulled another piece of flannel from my back pocket and twisted it. I needed to take my pills.
I blinked, then flushed. “I’m sorry. I didn’t hear you.”
“That’s the second time you’ve gotten that look in your eye. What did that flannel ever do to you?”
I laughed, but it was a flat, hollow sound.
“You going to tell me if I need to beat up that kid who was in here before? What I saw—he harassed you.”
This time, I smiled with actual warmth. “No, but thank you. Ben and I have a history.”
“Got that. What I don’t get is why you didn’t kick him in the balls like you wanted to.”
“It’s not his balls I want to drop kick to Saturn,” I said, mostly to myself. “That leaves too much of him here.”
“Ah. There’s a bit of humor. Sass suits you.”
“Right.” I cleared my throat and settled into my desk, pulling out a paper and pad. “So. A new guitar?”
Cam scratched his cheek, the whiskers making a raspy sound. “Yeah. I busted the last one.”
“Well, if you bring it in, we can repair it.”
The ruddy stain of embarrassment crept up his neck and crested his cheeks. “Not this one. I—ah—smashed it.”
I jerked back, my mouth falling slack. Pop-pop’s guitars were expensive, even for a wealthy country singer. Dropping ten grand—or more—to bust a guitar, especially one as beautiful as my grandfather’s, was a shame.
“Things got a little carried away on the bus, and I took out my temper on the guitar.”
He pronounced it the Texan way: gi-tar. I liked that, too. Oddly. I wasn’t much for an accent of any kind, preferring the men I dated to be as vanilla as possible. Not that I’d dated much—at all—since I’d lived in Seattle. Being a star witness in a trial was hard on anonymity. Being the woman who slept with the drug dealer... I hadn’t known Charles dealt drugs at the time, but that didn’t make me look any better in the media.
My hand shook and I blinked multiple times, trying to keep my mind here in the present.
Pre-pills was not the time to think about love, romance, and the lack of sex in my life.
I dug around in my purse and pulled out my pill case. I dumped the two capsules in my hand before dropping them onto my tongue. Then I opened my yogurt smoothie and drank most of it down along with the pills.
Cam watched me, questions building in his eyes. I ignored them as I placed my pill box back in my bag and then shut it in my desk drawer.
“That bothers you. Me busting the instrument.”
“Yes,” I said.
He rubbed his hand over his lip and swung his left leg forward and back, like a pendulum. I kept my gaze fixed there, unable to meet his eyes.
“I’m not violent. Usually.”
I picked up my pencil and tapped it on my pad in front of me. “This new instrument. Got any idea what you’re interested in?”
“First I need to address your concerns.” He waited until I looked him in the eye. “I found out my father died.”
“I’m sorry,” I whispered.
“I handled the news poorly. He and I…” Cam sighed, dropped his gaze and rubbed the back of his neck. “As you said, my father and I had a history. Not all good. If it makes you feel any better, I regret my reaction. I regret busting my guitar, and I regret having to call your grandfather to tell him what I did.”
“Buried my father two weeks ago. Held my mother through the funeral.”
What to say? No words came.
Cam sighed. “All right. Down to business. Something flashy. It’s going to be my new stage guitar.” A smile tugged at the corner of his lips. “I’ve been asked to perform at Fort Bliss. For the Fourth of July concert they’re putting together.”
I’d read an article about Camden Grace headlining the Soldier Celebration tour. All the proceeds from the event went to war veterans and their families. I approved of that cause. But one of the reporters sniped earlier this week that the performance was supposed to help rebuild Cam’s deteriorating reputation. “That’s in just a few weeks.”
His eyebrow shot up and there was the entitled jerk the world loved to hate. “That a problem?”
I sat up straighter, met his eyes. “Yes,” I said. “I’m booked.”
He leaned in a little closer as he smiled, flashing those damn adorable dimples as his eyes lit up. Confidence. Best aphrodisiac ever.
Of course, he knew he was hella sexy. The man graced magazine covers, billboards.
“Your grandfather spoke highly of your skill, your work ethic. Said if anyone could make me a guitar that sings sweeter than Faith Hill, it was you.”
“It’s not a question of if I can make you a custom guitar,” I began.
“Actually, it is.”
He leaned in a little closer. I smelled caramel as his warm breath slid over my skin.
“Unfortunately, creating a quality instrument is a process,” I managed to say without growling. I’d just dealt with Ben. No way I was letting another man push me around. “My name is attached to your instrument. I only allow the highest quality to leave this building.”
Cam settled back on his stool and eyed my hands. “I understand a need for perfection.” His gaze rose to mine and the heat in his eyes slammed back through me. “Me, I’m all about it. In fact, that drives my team crazy.” He settled his elbows on his thighs and leaned forward again, using that sexy-as-sin face to his advantage. “This is about what your pop-pop said you could do for me. And the fact I’m looking for a perfect-for-me instrument that I plan to boast about at my concert and for the rest of my career. So, question is, can you help me out so I can help you out?”
After checkout, you'll receive an email from Bookfunnel with the download link to your new books! Please check your spam folder and all other email correspondences if you do not get that email--as long as you typed in your email address correctly, Bookfunnel will send you that email with your books.
Now that you have the email, you can download the books to any e-reader you prefer: Kindle or other e-reader, a tablet, or a phone.