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Authors: Jen Doyle

Called Up

BOOK: Called Up
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Called Up
By Jen Doyle

There’s one thing Max “Deke” Deacon can always count on besides his old high school teammates: Angelica “Fitz” Hawkins. But no matter how much Deke might secretly fantasize otherwise, a relationship with his best friend’s sister is off limits. Until one unexpectedly smoldering encounter has Deke and Fitz giving in to the feelings they’ve both been fighting for far too long.

Fitz knows for a fact that it is
not
better to have loved and lost. After losing her parents, she’d rather lock up her heart and throw away the key than endure that kind of pain again. If that means giving up any hope of a lasting relationship, then so be it.

But with Deke, Fitz feels dangerously close to falling in love. She can’t risk another broken heart—especially if it means losing one of her best friends for good. Now it’s up to Deke to convince her that the safest place she could ever be is right here with him.

This book is approximately 100,000 words

Dear Reader,

I like August because it’s my birthday month. And I’m a firm believer in celebrating more than once. Since my birthday falls at the end of the month, I start early with lunches with friends, happy hour with my husband, and by gifting myself a few things I love but know that no one will gift me. Books definitely fall into that category of things I gift myself. But the truth is, I give myself books year round and I’m betting a lot of you are my reading soul mates. Books should be the one thing we never deny ourselves. So in honor of my birthday—or just because you love a good book, go ahead and gift yourself one of these new releases. And then maybe gift one to someone in your life!

Bestselling indie author Scott Hildreth joins Carina Press with his sexy, sexy Mafia Made trilogy featuring the dangerous and mysterious Michael Tripp. In book one,
The Gun Runner
, she’s a mafia princess concealing her true identity while trying to win his love. He’s a former US Marine turned gunrunner at war with her father. When the truth is revealed, they’ll both have the fight of their lives on their hands.

Fan favorite author K.A. Mitchell is back with the second part of Ethan and Wyatt’s story. They’ve accepted their love for each other but now comes the hard part—the rest of their lives. Don’t miss
Boyfriend Material
and be sure to pick up book one,
Getting Him Back
.

Also joining us this month is another author coming to us from the world of indie publishing. Kerry Adrienne brought us this previously self-published book, and we said, “Let’s expand the heck out of this, re-edit it and turn it into an awesome series full of shifters, clan politics and sexy times.” We’re happy to say Kerry was definitely on board and the Shifter Wars series was born. In book one,
Waking the Bear
, sexy bear shifter Griff Martin is protector of his clan’s territory—but now a crazy lion is on the prowl and his stubborn Goldilocks, Amy Francis, shows up and won’t listen to his warnings to stay out of the forest and he can’t decide whether to bed her or send her packing. (Of course, we all know what he chooses, don’t we?)

Ex-military pilot Seth Erickson is fighting his own demons, but when he finds Summer Silva, a beautiful, warmth-loving Miami woman stranded in the frozen wilderness, he’ll do everything in his power to keep Summer safe from murder, treason and the ruthless Alaskan winter in Anna del Mar’s newest sexy romantic suspense,
The Stranger
.

Do you love the contemporary romance of Jill Shalvis and Shannon Stacey? Make sure you check out the debut romance from Jen Doyle,
Calling It
, as well as her newest contemporary romance,
Called Up
. There’s one thing Max “Deke” Deacon can always count on besides his old high school teammates: Angelica “Fitz” Hawkins. But no matter how much Deke might secretly fantasize otherwise, a relationship with his best friend’s sister is off-limits. Until one unexpectedly smoldering encounter has Deke and Fitz giving in to the feelings they’ve both been fighting for far too long.

And last, this month in mystery we welcome Emery Harper to Carina Press! In
Person of Interest
, Celeste Eagan, a prep school theater teacher, gets caught up in mystery and mayhem while trying to clear first her ex’s name then her own in not one but two murders.

For those on my side of the globe, if you’re looking for something to read next to the pool or on the beach in this last month of summer, make sure to check out
Didn’t I Warn You
and
Didn’t You Promise
by Amber Bardan. Dark, smoldering, mysterious and totally in love with his woman, Haithem will rock your world!

For those on the other side of the globe, if you’re looking for a book to heat up your cold, drizzly days, make sure to pick up the
Vengeful Love
trilogy by Laura Carter. From the very first page to the heart-stopping conclusion, from London to Rome to Dubai, these sinfully addictive novels will have you ignoring your dishes and calling in sick to life in order to read just one…more…page.

Coming next month: We’re doing it up different. One author, one story, two books, in back-to-back weeks. No excruciating wait to find out what happens next. And like any good trainwreck, you won’t be able to look away from this
Hollywood Hot Mess
.

As always, until next month, my fellow book lovers, here’s wishing you a wonderful month of books you love, remember and recommend.

Happy reading!

~Angela James
Executive Editor, Carina Press

Dedication

To Rachel. Dancing on tables with you is the best.

Chapter One

There w
ere four women dancing on his bar. Max Deacon was a happy man.


Dude
,”
his buddy Jason said, holding up his Bud in a toast.

“Life is good,” Deke answered, holding up his water in response.

Not that he was checking the women out, of course. Ladies One and Two were his sister and her best friend, Lady Number Three was the fiancée of one of Deke’s best friends, and Lady Number Four was one of his own best friends. Off limits, every one.

The front doors swung open.

“Tuck!” Fitz yelled, throwing her arms up in rock concert-style greeting with enough enthusiasm she almost spun herself off the bar.

Tuck, who also happened to be Officer John Tucker of the Inspiration Police, folded his arms across his chest as he looked over at Deke. “Is she drunk?”

The woman wasn’t a big drinker. Really, Fitz wasn’t big on letting herself go in any particular way. Seeing her having a good time dancing and hanging out with friends was very much a “life is good” moment. But Deke preferred his information from the source. “Are you drunk, Fitz?”

Shimmying as she danced, she turned to him. “Just high on life.” She laughed as she was pulled back around by Dorie.

“You ready for the first wave?” Tuck asked as he came over, happily accepting the Coke Deke had waiting for him. “They’ll be naming the King and Queen soon.”

Tonight was the night of the senior prom, an all-hands-on-deck type thing, and for this one night, the bar was open all night, to high school kids only. They could order anything they wanted off the menu, any drink on the list—the list, of course, consisting entirely of mocktails with an alcohol content of zero.

Deke loved prom night. The kids had fun playing at being adults, the parents were happy, and Deke was happy. Yeah, it irritated him that the comments he got from the parents tended to be more along the lines of
Good ole Max, still partying it up old school
, rather than,
Thanks for being an upstanding citizen and keeping the kids sober and off the streets,
but whatever. He had an image he played up, so he couldn’t blame them.

“Hell yes, we are,” he said, nodding his head at the women. “Can’t you tell? Our crack staff is ready to go.”

“We heard that!” Fitz shouted. Since she was head of the Iowa Dream Foundation, which was bankrolling the night, not to mention the woman whose idea the whole thing had been, it wasn’t a surprise she hadn’t let him get away with that.

Then again, she wasn’t in the habit of letting him get away with anything, no matter the circumstances. “Maybe I should turn up the music a little bit louder.”

“Funny,” she said, turning her back to him and thrusting her ass in his direction, in a “kiss my...” sort of way.

“You wish,” he called back.

She thrust her ass back again, which of course meant he had no choice but to smack it with his towel.

“Ouch!” she yelped, rubbing where it stung. “Why do you always have to hit so hard?” Glaring down at him, she said, “I’m not really into the spanking thing.”

That was all kinds of wrong.

He was about to say so when she stripped off her T-shirt and exposed the tank top underneath. A tight one. Tight enough for the thought of an actual spanking situation to flash through his mind.

Damn. Apparently his dick didn’t seem to care that it was Fitz’s ass he’d just smacked. Definitely wrong. It had clearly been far too long since he’d gotten laid.

Wash Fairfield, the last of tonight’s helpers, strode through the bar’s front door and stopped short. “For Christ’s sake. You ladies do realize a hundred horny boys and girls are about to walk through these doors, don’t you?”

The comment only served to prompt Dorie i.e., the fiancée, to strip down to her own tank top and throw her T-shirt at Wash’s head. “Key word being ‘about,’” she said. “We’ve still got ten minutes and we’re making `em count. Right, ladies?” As the women whooped and hollered their agreement, she ran her hands down to her thighs and danced her way into a crouch, jiggling everything she had.

“I can’t look.” Wash averted his eyes as he beelined it to the stool next to Tuck. “Is Nate aware this is happening?”

“Nope.” Deke jerked his chin up at the TV. It was the bottom of the ninth and Nate, Dorie’s fiancé and also currently one of the highest paid players in Major League Baseball, had just tossed his catcher’s mask and was running for a foul ball.

Wash shook his head. “I can’t decide if Nate would appreciate a picture of—” He waved his hand in the general direction of the dancing. “Or if he’d just have my ass for noticing.”

The four men turned their heads simultaneously, just as Dorie raised her hair off her neck and arched her shoulders back in order to catch the air of the ceiling fan.

“Have your ass,” three of them said, looking back at Wash, who just sighed and nodded. “Give me a Sprite. And keep ’em coming.”

“Gladly.” Deke placed the drink in front of Wash.

But with the hordes about to descend, he did need to call an end to the fun. The ladies all groaned when they saw the look he gave them, knowing exactly what it meant.

“One more!” Lola shouted, jumping off the bar with the ease of someone who had been doing it her whole life. Which she had, in fact, since she and Deke had pretty much grown up here. She ran to the jukebox and queued up...

Yep. The dulcet tones of Salt-N-Pepa’s “Shoop” came over the sound system and all four women went wild.

Deke leaned against the counter and smiled. They were having a good time. Jules was going through a messy divorce, and Lola didn’t get much time in the way of girls’ nights. Fitz wasn’t
ever
this relaxed, although there was that time she’d fallen asleep with her head on his shoulder during movie night and totally drooled all over him. But, hey. If the four of them wanted to milk it for one more song, who was he to say...

Oh, hold on a minute, though. He was
totally
the one to say, “That’s not the line, Fitz.” He considered it one of his prime directives in life to correct her whenever she was wrong, especially since it happened so rarely.

“What?” she snapped, hands on her hips, as she stood above him. “Of course that’s the line.”

Pushing off the counter, he said, “It’s ‘lick
him
like a lollipop.’ Not them.”

“It’s lick
them
,” she insisted.

“What exactly do you think she’s licking?” he asked, his gaze coming up to meet hers.

“His.
Balls.
” Fitz not only enunciated clearly, she also held up her hands in such a way as to, well, hold a guy’s balls. Then she stuck her tongue out and licked at the air.

He rolled his eyes. “It’s his dick, Fitz. ‘The bowlegged one’? You do get the reference, right?”

She crouched down in front of him on the bar. “And he can’t be bowlegged because he has huge balls? You know that for a fact?”

Since they were all close friends here, that comment set off a round of guy vs. girl trash talk in which Deke would normally be fully involved. But as Fitz shifted to put her own two cents in with Jason, it occurred to Deke she was now perfectly placed for him to do some licking of his own. If she were any other woman in the world, of course.

Shaking it off, he brought his head up, right as she turned back and—

He took a step back before any part of him came into contact with any part of her. Except now he was at eye level with her chest and couldn’t help but notice how truly excellent it was.

Jesus.

She was one of his best friends. Noticing
anything
about any one of her attributes was wrong in a big way. Her being Nate’s baby sister made it even worse. But since these thoughts would never again see the light of day, that was neither here nor there.

Like her tank top.

He squeezed his eyes shut for a second.

“Deke? Are you okay?” she asked, her head cocking to the side.

Making sure to keep his eyes from roaming anywhere south of her neck, he got himself back into the flow of conversation. “Why?” he asked. “Do you need a demonstration?” No one needed to know that his dick jumped a little at the thought. Before she could respond in any way whatsoever, he went back to wiping the counter down. “Lola, are you hostessing? Time to get our asses in gear.”

Yeah, at the first possible opportunity, he was going to get himself laid.

* * *

What was
that
?

Fitz straightened up, then carefully got herself down from the bar. Time to get to work. The tables had all been set and there were stations for appetizers distributed throughout the room, but it wouldn’t hurt to get the water glasses on the tables. Not the way the waitstaff ordinarily would have done it, but it wasn’t ordinary to be slammed with a hundred hungry teenagers at once.

With Jules and Lola handling appetizers, Fitz and Dorie headed to the waitresses’ station to start in on the water and ice.

“Does Deke seem okay to you?” Fitz asked.

Dorie cocked her head. “What do you mean?”

Well, he seemed fine
now
, joking with the guys as he cut up some limes. Still... “I don’t know. He was just...”

Well, she didn’t want to go into details because then she might have to mention there’d maybe been a moment when he couldn’t take his eyes off her boobs. Yes, he was a breast man; everyone knew that. But they’d gone running together yesterday and she’d been wearing a sports bra without a shirt. He hadn’t even looked twice. He never had.

“He just seemed off.”

Dorie swung her head to look at Deke and then back to Fitz, a big smile on her face.

“No,” Fitz said immediately. It had been the heat of the moment. The highly un-family-friendly song.

“Maybe you shouldn’t have pretended to lick his—”

“I didn’t!” They had conversations like that every day. The guys had stopped censoring themselves around her, oh, probably fifteen years ago. Honestly, she’d been hearing things she’d wished she hadn’t since the night Deke had an unfortunate manscaping incident back in college and Fitz was the only one who could handle the trauma of taking him to the emergency room.

“I was making a point.” Then she smacked Dorie on the shoulder. “And nice way to blame the victim. Geez.”

Dorie laughed. “I was making a point.”

For the most part, the evening went on as usual, the number of kids growing as the night went on and chaperones switching in and out. To her surprise, Fitz was having fun
.
It wasn’t exactly a specialty of hers. Not that she was against having a good time, she just didn’t tend to do it very often. At least not in a dance-like-you-don’t-care-who’s-watching kind of way. Not after spending seventeen years being highly aware that everyone in Inspiration
was
watching her, and making sure to give them absolutely not one reason to raise their eyebrows.

“I can’t believe we danced on the bar,” Lola said a few hours later as she, Jules and Dorie joined Fitz in the back office for a well-earned break.

“Me, neither,” Jules said. “But I’d totally be up for doing it again.” Then she giggled and turned to Dorie. “Oh, my goodness. When you told Deke you’d pull up the official ASCAP lyrics? I almost peed my pants.”

It made Fitz smile. Jules was the kind of woman whose hair would never dare be out of place and who’d had to go out and buy a tank top in order to waitress tonight because the closest she’d had was her silk shells. They weren’t the closest of sisters—half sisters, to be technical—but their relationship had definitely improved over the past couple years and Fitz wanted her to be happy, especially now that she was free of her jerk of a husband.

Sitting back in her chair, Jules added, “I’m just not sure the guys can handle it again any time soon.”

“Honestly?” Lola answered. “I don’t think there’s a lot out there that fazes my baby brother anymore. But the whole ‘Shoop’ thing took the cake.”

Fitz ignored Dorie’s glance as they all leaned forward to clink their glasses together. Deke had
not
been checking her out. She forced a smile.

As the evening came to a close, however, and things began to slow down, she couldn’t quite get it out of her head. Like Lola said, Deke was rarely fazed. He’d been charming women for as long as Fitz had known him, with those eyes of his promising he knew exactly what to do with his freakishly amazing body and cover-model-meets-boy-next-door looks. He was probably also one of the nicest guys on the planet, making him that much more of a catch. That he’d been caught by pretty much every single woman in town between the ages of twenty-two and forty-five, very possibly the only exceptions being Jules, Fitz and Dorie, seemed to matter to no one. It certainly didn’t matter to him.

But whatever. She was getting worked up about nothing. Looking over at him now, there was nothing to indicate anything out of the ordinary. He was making a final round of drinks, shaking his head as he laughed at something one of the boys said.

“You guys make a good team,” Lola said, coming up behind her and, obviously, noticing where Fitz’s attention was directed. “This has been such a great night. It just gets better every year. I’m so glad you convinced us to do it.”

Fitz turned her head to Lola. “It wasn’t my ide—”

“I was there when you came up with it,” Lola reminded. “After that car crash messed up those kids a few years back. You were the one who said there had to be something the foundation could do.”

“But Deke...”

Lola rolled her eyes. “Yep. I remember that, too. You came up with it and he got all these crazy ideas on how to make it happen and then you reined him in and made it something that would actually work.”

Well, yes. That was true. So true in fact, Fitz had decided to add it to the portfolio she was building for the headhunter she was working with. Not that she hated her job by any means. She loved it. Mostly. She’d just been thinking maybe it was time to spread her wings a bit. Be a little more challenged. Head off to pastures unknown. Or, rather, pastures where
she
was unknown, rather than keep on doing the same old thing in a town where, for going on seventeen years now, everyone’s first thought was “half-sister of the Hawkins clan” rather than “Fitz Hawkins.”

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