Age 18+ — Adults Only
As president of her own distribution company, Julie Dawson has all she ever wanted — money, power, and respect. But her carefully crafted façade conceals a torment of abuse and helplessness. After years remaining emotionally aloof, she is finally independent, but alone. Because she refuses to rely on anyone but herself ever again.
Evan Adams is no stranger to success, or personal demons. The horrific trauma that destroyed his twin sister, and tore his family apart, forced him to craft a new life from the ashes of the old. He’s content enough, focusing ahead and not dwelling on his murky past. But something important is missing. He knows what that thing is but refuses to acknowledge it.
When a chance encounter brings these two strong-willed but damaged people together , what seems like a long, erotic journey through hell could lead them to a match made in heaven.
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~ Excerpt from Mutual Release ~
Monday dawned bright, clear, and cold, even for an October morning. Evan ran his usual route around the west side of his newly adopted town, relishing how strong he felt and looking forward to his workday – the one where he had a tight grip on his own destiny for a change. After a long hot shower, two huge cups of coffee, and an apple, he grabbed his presentation thumb drive and laptop and headed out.
One of the things he’d inherited from his father was a love of classic English cars. He had sold two of the three Jags, kept his favorite and bought an MG Spyder, not giving a shit at how much it cost to keep the damn thing running properly. As he sped in his sports car across Interstate 96 on his way to the far-flung Northern Detroit suburbs to sweet talk, finagle, and wow the big-time distributor, he was on top of his own personal mountain. Nothing would spoil the day. He refused to allow it.
He pulled into a visitor’s parking spot, tucked his Ray-Bans over the visor, and smoothed his hair before jumping out and striding to the glass front doors. “Dawson” was etched in the glass, nothing more or less, as if it were a boutique law firm or ad agency. Nothing out front indicated that it was one of the most successful craft beer and domestic wine distribution companies in the Midwest.
Tucking away a shiver of intimidation, he pushed the door open and saw a small shrine to Michigan craft beer. The front receiving area was full of faux six packs, cases, kegs, and displays representing every brand, including some that were nationally known. A single desk sat near another set of doors. Through its clear glass he could see a bustling group of people, men and women, all dressed in top-notch suits, getting ready to go out on their sales day. The place oozed professionalism, even a bit of snootiness that surprised him.
But he shook it off, walked up to the stunningly attractive blond woman at the front desk. She sat frowning at a large computer screen. He stood for a few seconds, thinking she would acknowledge him. Finally he had to clear his throat to make her look away from whatever had her mesmerized.
“Oh, hello. Sorry about that.” Her smile made her already gorgeous face light up and left him slightly breathless. Looking back, he figured he must have looked like a complete ass as he stood there, unable to form coherent words, his brain awash in sensations he had not allowed himself to experience in a damn long time. She arched one perfect eyebrow. He gulped, knowing he should say something.
“Uh, so, I have an appointment?” He winced at the upturning of his sentence as if he were asking her a question. Clearing his throat, he started over, pasted on his best “Evan Adams, Charmer” smile and held out a hand. “Evan Adams, owner of Big House Brewing in Ann Arbor, here to see Mr. Dawson. I’m a little early.”
She tilted her head, then shook his hand matter-of-factly. But he had to stop himself from stumbling backwards at the thoughts coiling up in his lizard brain at her touch. His mouth dried out and an odd yet familiar roaring sound fired up between his ears. She frowned. “You okay, there, Evan?” Her lips caressed his name, making him repress a shiver.
“Yeah, sorry. So, anyway, I’ll just sit… over here… until Mr. Dawson is ready. You know, since I’m, uh, early.” He winced, marveling at the depth of his dorkiness. She put her elbows on the desk, eyeing him closely. He observed that she seemed a little overdressed for a receptionist but figured this place must have a strict dress code.
“Sit here,” she said, patting the seat nearest her desk. “Keep me company for a while.”
“Um, sure,” he said, flushing red to the tips of his ears, then moving closer to her while trying to look cool, casual, not ready to jump up and escape.
She smiled. “So, tell me about your company. You know, while we wait for Mr. Dawson.”
He relaxed and launched into the tale, thankful to have a reason to talk and not sound like the world’s oldest high school geek trying to flirt with the prom queen. She asked a lot of questions, kept him talking. And after about a half hour, he was laughing with her at his tale of trying to empty a brewing vessel full of wet grains and dumping about ten pounds of the stuff all over himself.
At one point she brushed her hair back, and his breath caught in his throat at the glimpse of her long neck and the small indent between her collarbones. He had no idea what that was, that soft spot that seemed to pulse with her heartbeat. But he wanted to put his tongue there very, very badly. Allowing his eyes to flicker over her profile, the striking angles of her face, he gulped, looked away.
Getting a grip, he pulled a business card from his portfolio and handed it to her. “I’d love to talk with you more,” he said, trying to ease his voice down from its high-pitched nervous whine to a sexier, more natural tone. “But since I don’t even know your name…” He looked at the nameplate on the desk. It was blank.
She leaned back, propped her high heels on the desk in a strange move that had him instantly on edge and practically panting with horniness.
“Uh, so,” he glanced at his watch, his nerves dancing up and down his spine once more, “if you are interested, maybe we could, you know, go out. Have a beer? Keep chatting?” He closed his eyes, unable to bear his own flop sweat another minute. “Never mind.” He slumped back in his seat. Where the “Master Dom” Evan Adams had hidden he did not know, but damned if the guy was staying there and leaving this ridiculous, stuttering loser in his place.
The silence spun out about a minute longer than was truly polite. He finally looked up at her. She was staring at him over the tops of her shoes, her head tilted to the side as if wondering why the hell he was even cluttering up her space. Finally, the doors to his left opened and a tall, good-looking guy in a suit stood there, surprise clear on his face. “Julie,” he said. “We’ve been looking all over for you. Your nine o’clock appointment isn’t here yet but…”
The woman held up a hand, silencing the man but keeping her eyes pinned on Evan’s. His heart sped up and that familiar, yet nearly forgotten, roaring sound started up in his ears once more.
Julie Dawson. J. Dawson. The person he’d been communicating with through his… or her… secretary.
Holy. Fucking. Shit.
He stood, furious that she’d sat there and let him babble on like a bloody idiot for nearly forty-five minutes. “Well, that was fun,” he said, staring her down, or attempting to. But his skin was both on fire and cold at once. Something about the woman made him have to hang on to his laptop case tight, just to keep from stepping close and kissing those full red lips so hard she would be his in an instant. “Or not. Thanks for your time.”
“No, no, don’t go,” she said, getting to her feet in one fluid, sexy move. She was over six feet tall in her shoes, curvy, womanly, and sending out the sort of signals he had not intercepted in a long time – too long, if the way he was overreacting was any indication. “Really, I want to know why you think my company would be in any way interested in yours.”
He processed her barb, clenched his jaw, and poured out the reasons behind why Dawson would benefit from jumping on his bandwagon now, in the early days, so they could grow the brand in a key market together. She listened, standing behind the stupid receptionist’s desk, her assistant wildly typing notes on his tablet.
Finally, she held up a hand again. “How very… creative.” She walked around to the front of the desk, giving him an eye-popping full view of her. She was like sex on two perfect female legs, the exact body type he craved – full breasts and hips, cinched in but not obnoxiously small waist, long hair, and legs that went on and on… and on. “And, um, Evan?”
He jumped back, hearing his name again.
“Yeah, my eyes are up here. But never mind. I’m used to being ogled, and by way more successful brewery owners than you.” She held his business card between thumb and forefinger, as if it were made of dog shit. “Tell you what, why don’t you let me ponder your… proposal. And assume that your eye-fucking session won’t happen again.”
She turned from him and walked away without a word. Her assistant shrugged and followed her back in, leaving Evan breathless, furious, and never more aware of his neglected libido.
Microbrewery owner, best-selling author, beer blogger and journalist, mom of three teenagers, and soccer fan, Liz lives in the great Midwest, in a major college town. Years of experience in sales and fund raising, plus an eight-year stint as an ex-pat trailing spouse, plus making her way in a world of men (i.e. the beer industry), has prepped her for life as erotic romance author.
When she isn’t sweating inventory and sales figures for the brewery, she can be found writing, editing or sweating promotional efforts for her latest publications.
Her groundbreaking romance subgenre, “Romance for Real Life,” has gained thousands of fans and followers who are interested less in the “HEA” and more in the “WHA” (“What Happens After?”)
Her beer blog a2beerwench.com is nationally recognized for its insider yet outsider views on the craft beer industry. Her books are set in the not-so-common worlds of breweries, on the soccer pitch and in high-powered real estate offices. Don’t ask her for anything “like” a Budweiser or risk painful injury.
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