Release Day! Never Have I Ever

It's release day for Never Have I Ever, the second book in my Games We Play trilogy.

It's also Mardi Gras! So here's a Mardi Gras themed  (well, sort of) excerpt. Laissez le bon temps rouler!

Mardi Gras…

By Tuesday evening, Kristy was back to barely speaking to Luke. And Luke was back to wanting to kick himself up and down the street a couple of times for having let that happen. He’d meant to upset the status quo—sure. But in the opposite direction. He guessed he could blame the boggart for that. And maybe his cousin for putting stupid ideas in his head.

He hadn’t been scheduled to work the day before, but he’d shown up at the bar anyway, intending to give Kristy a break so she could get some dinner. Kristy was busy when he’d arrived, and Luke was surprised to see that the ladder Cam had been using to hang up the decorations, and which Luke had watched him put away the previous day, had reappeared—right in the middle of the fucking galley.

 “What’s this doing here?” he asked, annoyed at Cam for leaving it there and at Kristy for not moving it out of the way. Unless it was there for some other reason. Had something else gone wrong, some new problem that no one had thought to mention to him? In that case, he was still annoyed with Cam and Kristy—and with the boggart, for causing trouble, and with whoever had taken it into their own hands to solve the problem without involving him.

When Kristy didn’t respond to his query, Luke raised his voice to ask again. “Hey, DiLuca! What’s with the ladder?”

Kristy started. She turned in his direction and frowned. “Oh, I don’t know. D’you want help moving it?”

Luke shook his head. “No, that’s okay. I got it.”

It wasn’t until he’d taken hold of the ladder to close it that Luke noticed the plastic bucket that had been perched on the top shelf and which was already tipping and raining down five gallons of water and ice chips on his head.

What the fucking fuck?

It was all Luke could do to keep from cursing out loud, especially when laughter broke out all along the bar from patrons who’d obviously enjoyed the show he’d just put on. He fought through the shock and the anger and was still trying to put a self-deprecating smile on his face when Kristy scurried over, nearly skidding to a stop at the sight of him.

“Luke…what happened? Are you all right?”

Luke nodded. “Yeah, it’s just this bucket…” He snagged it off the floor, ignoring the impulse to kick the offending object across the room with enough force to put it into orbit. Or at least through the front window. More breakage was the last thing they needed right now.

“Oh, so that’s where it went,” Kristy said in surprise.

Luke stared at her. “What?”

“The bucket. I couldn’t remember where I put it.”

“Wait…you did this? You put a bucket of water on top of a ladder?”

“No, of course not. It was filled with ice.”


“I guess it must’ve melted.”

Luke stared at her. Maybe Gwyn was right. Maybe Kristy was behind at least some of the pranks. “Are you saying you wanted to dump a bucket of ice on my head? Seriously? What are we, twelve?”
If she wanted to play games, he had a good one for her. A little temperature play, a little restraint. He could trap her up against the bar and run a couple of those ice chips over her nipples till she begged for him to warm her back up again with his tongue.

“Luke, of course I didn’t.”

“Clearly, you did.”

She leaned in close. “Have you lost your mind? You’re making a scene.”

“Trust me; this isn’t me making a scene. Me putting you over my knee, on the other hand—that’d be a scene.”

Kristy reared back like he’d struck her. The look in her eyes was more than just surprised—and nowhere close to being interested. She looked stricken, betrayed. Luke could only stare at her in dismay. Obviously he’d said the wrong thing.

“I’m going on my break now,” Kristy announced. She grabbed her things from beneath the bar and fled, leaving Luke, already cold and uncomfortable in his wet clothes, to deal with everything else.

By the time she returned, he was too angry to say anything else to her. He went home to change, and when the time came to head back to the bar to help with the cleanup, he stayed right where he was. 

He reasoned that Monday night was slow, that it wouldn’t hurt her to close by herself for a change, that a little space, at this point, was the best thing for both of them. But the truth was that he was just too frustrated to deal with her sanely.

He told himself that he didn’t want to make things worse, but almost twenty-four hours later, he had to admit that he might have chosen the wrong tactic.

He was still trying to figure out how to get back in her good graces when his cousin Brenda stopped by the bar, accompanied by a red-headed guy who looked vaguely familiar, though he couldn’t place him.

“Hey, Luke,” she said. “How’s it going? It looks like we’ve got a good crowd in here tonight.”

“Yeah, it’s good.” They were busy as fuck, which would have been great, except that it only made Kristy’s rigid, cold, distant politeness all the more annoying. He was too busy, too rushed, and too annoyed to tease her out of her bad mood—in part because he was forced to ask her for everything he couldn’t immediately put his hands on because she refused to anticipate his needs, refused to do anything more than the bare minimum. He hadn’t even realized until now how much she did, what a very good team they made, how effortlessly they worked together, and how they balanced each other out.

If she ever spoke to him again, he’d have to be sure she knew how he felt.

“Okay, well, that’s good,” Brenda said, her voice hesitant.

Luke sighed. “Yeah. It is. Sorry. We’ve just been swamped. Can I get you something?”

“I’ll have a limeade. Thanks.” Brenda turned to her companion. “Max? You want anything?”

“Uh…sure. How about a Guinness?”

“A man after my own heart,” Luke said as he grabbed a pint glass. For some reason, Max’s drink choice was also ringing a bell somewhere in the back of his mind, but he had neither the time nor the inclination to track it down.

“Max is a writer,” Brenda told him, still sounding ill-at-ease—something else he had no time tonight to think too much about. “He’s researching hotels and bars and…and whatever…for a book he’s going to write.”

“Very cool,” Luke replied politely. In reality, he couldn’t care less.

“Yeah, so, if he has any questions about anything, you think maybe you can help him out?”

“Sure thing.” He slid Max’s glass across the bar to him, then went to work on his cousin’s drink. He mixed lime juice and sugar in a glass, then realized there were no lime wedges on his station. He picked up the soda gun and called to Kristy, “Hey, can I get some limes over here?”

“Here you go,” she said as she brought them over.

“Thanks, hon.” He smiled at her, trying to warm her up, and was relieved when a little of the haunted look left her eyes. But even as the first hint of a smile curved her lips, he pressed the trigger and then gasped in shock as seltzer sprayed everywhere, soaking Kristy’s face, her hair, her shirt. “Uhhh…”Shit.

Laughter erupted along the bar. Tears appeared in her beautiful eyes. The need to fix things, to make her smile again, to erase the hurt expression on her face overrode Luke’s common sense. “Wet T-shirt contest anyone?” he joked lamely, wincing as color flared on her face and the tears spilled over. It occurred to him that he’d just made things worse.

Kristy ran from the bar, and Luke would have followed if Brenda hadn’t stepped in his path.

“What the fuck do you think you’re doing?” she whispered fiercely. “I understand you two are supposed to be friends, but why do you always have to be such a dick to that girl?”

“I—” What the fuck? “I am not!”

“Luke, you embarrassed her in front of the whole bar! Did she just quit?”

“Don’t be ridiculous. She probably just went to change into some dry clothes.”

“Well, I hope that’s all it is. I swear, I don’t know why she puts up with you. We’ll be lucky if we don’t get hit with a harassment suit or something.”

“It was an accident,” he insisted. “And stop overreacting. We’re fine. She dumped a bucket of ice water on my head just yesterday. You don’t see me freaking out, do you?”

“She did what?” Brenda’s eyes widened. “Here in the bar? So you thought you’d retaliate? What the fuck, Luke? I don’t know what either of you are thinking. And I don’t understand why you think Gwyn and I should put up with this nonsense either. This is a business. Not a…not a frat house.”

And you’d know about those, wouldn’t you? Luke thought as he glared at his cousin. For once, he managed to rein in his wayward tongue. “It was an accident,” he repeated coldly. “Now, go away. I’m busy.”

Luke walked away from his cousin and concentrated his attention on the far end of the bar for the next few minutes, until Brenda and her friend had left the bar. He loved his cousin, but she took bossiness to a whole new level. And she absolutely was overreacting.

An hour later, however, Kristy still hadn’t returned, and Luke was starting to wonder if Brenda hadn’t been right after all. Could Kristy have quit? She wasn’t answering her phone—that much was certain. Or maybe she just wasn’t taking his calls? When Gwyn appeared a half hour later, looking concerned and asking, “What the hell did you do to Brenda?” Luke was in no mood to make conversation.
“Cover the bar for me,” he said as he all but pushed Gwyn into the galley. “I’ll be right back.”

* * * * *

After having been friend-zoned by Kristy when they were kids, Luke has mostly resigned himself to being "just friends" with her, but working together, night after night, is shredding his self control.
Kristy loves Luke but if anything was clear to her back when they were kids, it was that gawky, awkward, tomboys didn’t stand a chance with the king of the schoolyard. She watched her older brothers set their caps for Luke’s glamorous cousins, and get shot down. So she did what she had to in order to salvage her friendship with Luke. She hid her true feelings and her need for him to take control.

Luke wants Kristy in the worst way--actually, in all the worst ways: tied up, held down, bitten, whipped. But he can either keep her as a friend, or take her to bed and lose her forever. His biggest mistake--so far--was in hiring her to work alongside him in the bar he and his cousins inherited from their grandmother. He knows Kristy needs the money and the job, but Luke’s self-control can’t take the constant contact with the girl he wants to dominate--both in and out of the bedroom. Something has to give--and soon!


Cover Reveal and Excerpt from Never Have I Ever

Never Have I Ever, the second book in the Games We Play trilogy, releases next week!  The lovely purple on the cover is a nod to Mardi Gras, which is the holiday around which it's set...and which, not coincidentally, happens to fall on February 28th this year. Release Day.

Don't you love it when things work out like that?

Here's a sneak peek:

The Saturday before Mardi Gras…
“Hey, DiLuca,” Luke called to Kristy as he helped her close the bar—cleaning tables and stacking chairs. “D’you know what a drunk’s idea of a balanced diet is?”
“Wait, I do. I know this one.” Kristy looked thoughtful as she straightened up from the table she’d been wiping down. “Uh…a drink in each hand? Something like that?”
“Yeah.” Luke frowned. “A beer in each hand, actually. Did I tell you that one already?”
Kristy smirked. “Well, you must have, right? I don’t know anyone else with your encyclopedic knowledge of corny jokes.”
“Oh.” That was a relief. But why was that the case? It shouldn’t have mattered all that much if other people were telling her stupid jokes. It shouldn’t have mattered at all, come to think of it. It wasn’t right that he was so invested in keeping her to himself. But he was just the same.
“So, this memory problem you’re having, is it age-related or due to alcohol consumption?”
“Don’t be a brat,” Luke admonished as the urge to punish her—never far below the surface anyway—rose up to tempt him. He loved her all the more for being bratty, but the whole not being able to do anything about it? That royally sucked. “And cut the crap. You’re only a year younger than I am, and—”
“And I can drink you under the table. Yes, I know.”
Luke shook his head. “You’re really asking for it tonight,” he muttered, wishing she were. Oh, if only she were doing it on purpose. If only she really wanted what she was tempting him to give her. “Keep it up and I’ll go home and leave you to finish closing on your own.”
“Is that supposed to frighten me?”
“Ha-ha.” It was an empty threat, and they both knew it.
One of the main reasons he’d hired her to tend bar was so that they could split the shifts between them and give him a couple of nights off each week. But the sad truth was that, these days at least, he didn’t really have much of a life outside of the bar. So more often than not he’d stop in to check things out even on his days off. He’d tell himself he’d only stay a few minutes, that he’d leave after a drink, maybe two. He never did. Some nights he and Kristy would hit a diner when they were done, sometimes they wouldn’t, but at the very least, he’d always help her close.
It was part of their routine. He’d flirt with her and tell her stupid jokes. She’d laugh at him and call him an idiot. Afterward, he’d go home and fantasize about all the ways he’d like to punish her for being such a brat, all the ways he’d like to have her.
It was pathetic—he knew that. But the upside was that he got to spend time with her nearly every day, to indulge his hopeless passion for the girl, to watch her laugh. He got to take care of her, to make sure no one hit on her inappropriately…or at all, for that matter. Because that’s what friends did. Because that’s what kept them friends, kept her from cutting him out of her life or drifting away.
The downside was his sneaking suspicion that he was keeping them both from moving on with their lives.
“How about this one? Why can’t anyone ever find a place to sit at an Irish family reunion?”
Kristy slid him a sly smile. “I don’t know, Luke. Why?”
“Because the rooms’ll be filled with Dores, Walls, and Curtins.”
“Huh?” The smile disappeared, replaced by an expression of puzzlement. “I don’t get it.”
“Dore, Wall, and Curtin are all Irish family names,” Luke explained.
Kristy shook her head as she turned back to her work. “You people are weird.”
You people? Weird? Luke shot her another stern glance. She didn’t even see it. She was bent over another table, arm extended as she stretched to capture a stray coaster that seemed stubbornly determined to remain just slightly out of reach.
Every time she got a finger on it, it slipped from her grasp and scudded farther away. Luke watched as she wriggled and stretched, going up on her toes in her efforts to reach just a little bit more, which only served to put her ass—already showcased by the snug, stretchy pants she always wore—on tempting display. Something he was sure she was completely unaware of.

She’d better be unaware of it, damn it. Because if he ever found out she was doing it on purpose, teasing him to the point where he thought he’d lose his mind…but no. He knew better. She had no idea the kind of effect she had on him. She never had. Or, if she did, she didn’t want it.

Games We Play, book 2

After having been friend-zoned by Kristy when they were kids, Luke had mostly resigned himself to being "just friends" with her, but working together, night after night, is shredding his self control.

Kristy loves Luke but if anything was clear to her back when they were kids it was that gawky, awkward, tomboys didn't stand a chance with the king of the schoolyard. She watched her older brother set their caps for Luke's glamorous cousins and get shot down. So she did what she had to in order to salvage her friendship with Luke. She hid her true feelings and her need for him to take control.

Luke wants Kristy in the worst way -- actually, in all the worst ways: tied up, held down, beaten, bitten, whipped. But he knows he has no chance of ever having her. They'd been childhood friends and sweethearts, until she friend-zoned him in the fifth grade. He knows he can either keep her as a friend, or take her to bed and lose her forever. His biggest mistake--so far--was in hiring her to work alongside him in the bar he and his cousins inherited from their grandmother. He knows Kristy needs the money and the job, but Luke's self-control can't take the constant contact with the girl he wants to dominate -- both in and out of the bedroom. Something has to give -- and soon!


Excerpt from Truth or Dare--available now!

Truth or Dare is the first book in my new trilogy--Games We Play. The series revolves around three cousins (no, that's not them on the cover, btw! Each cousin has his or her own book. ) who've recently inherited a quirky old hotel/bar/restaurant complex in the fictional town of Atlas Beach, NJ.

Here's a peek:

The last of the dishes had all been put away. The last of the guests had departed. The memorial for Moira Walsh Gallagher was well and truly finished. At the large staff table in the kitchen of the Wild Geese Inn, the small hotel Moira had owned and loved, her three grandchildren shared a last glass of whiskey and a last slice of apple pie. Pumpkin pie might have been a more traditional choice, given that it was now just days after Thanksgiving, but Moira had never cared for pumpkin.
“If we’re really gonna do this,” Brenda Donovan said in her usual bossy tones, “there are a few things we’re gonna have to get straight right from the start.”
Her cousins, Luke Kelly and Gwyneth Carmichael, exchanged a long-suffering look. Brenda was two months older than Luke, five months older than Gwyn, so they’d never really bought into her whole I-know-best-because-I’m-the-oldest superior attitude. You might think after twenty-eight years, Bren would have figured that out, but say what you will about Jersey girls, they’re stubborn as fuck. Once an idea gets stuck in their heads, there’s very little chance of it shaking loose.
“What do you mean if we’re going to do it?” Luke glared at his cousin. “How is that even a question? We’ve talked about running the inn together since we were kids.”
Gwyn nodded in agreement. “Grams could have sold the place numerous times over the years. It’s not like there weren’t offers. She turned them all down.”
“She kept the place going for us,” Luke added. “Until we were ready to take over.”
“And you two think we’re ready now?” Brenda protested. “Seriously?”
Luke scowled. “That’s not what we’re saying. But what other choice is there?”
Brenda shook her head. “I don’t know. Maybe we should look into some of these offers, see if any of them are still on the table. I mean, look around you. There’s no one here. How’re we supposed to stay in business if we don’t have any customers?”
“Of course there’s no one here right now,” Gwyn snapped. “You didn’t expect us to have Gram’s dinner here today and keep the restaurant open to the public at the same time, did you?”
“And the hotel? Did you close that too?”
Gwyn rolled her eyes. “Don’t be dense. It’s winter. No one vacations here in the winter.”
“Exactly,” Luke agreed. “They go to Florida or the Bahamas, places like that. That’s why so many businesses in town are only open for the season—or only open weekends the rest of the year.”
“We do that too, in a way, with the rental units,” Gwyn said. “Most of them are only open in the summer.”
“That’s right.” Luke nodded. “Maybe we should close the hotel in the winter as well? Or only take reservations for the weekend?”
“Oh, sure,” Gwyn glared at him. “Great idea. The staff’ll love that.”
“It won’t help anyway,” Brenda said, sounding gloomier by the minute. “I looked at the numbers, you guys. We can’t afford the upkeep if we’re only open part of the year. We need to figure out a way to bring in more customers somehow, not less.”
“The bar’s still open,” Luke pointed out, adding, “Not tonight, obviously, but in general. And we have customers who come in all year round.”
“But even that’s not pulling in enough,” Brenda told him. “Sure, the bar’s helping to keep us afloat in the off months—for now—but we’re hemorrhaging money. I don’t know how Grams made it work without going bankrupt or taking out a mortgage. But I don’t think even she could have kept it going much longer. She hadn’t drawn a salary in years. Her savings are nearly gone. If this place is going to survive—not to mention pay the three of us—we’re going to have to make some hard choices.”
“We could advertise,” Gwyn suggested. “You know, ‘spend a romantic weekend at one of Atlas Beach’s most historic hotels’ and that kind of thing? Or offer special, prix fixe dinners for some of the winter holidays like, I dunno, Valentine’s Day, for instance?”
“We could hold special events in the bar too,” Luke added. “New Year’s, Mardi Gras, St. Patrick’s Day.”
Gwyn beamed at him. “We could do dinners for all of those too. Also Christmas and maybe Groundhog’s Day and—”
“Groundhog’s Day?”
“Sure. We could make it like the movie, with a dinner dance, or auction, or whatever that was. We could even have a screening in the game room.”
“C’mon, Brenda,” Luke urged. “What do you say? Don’t you want to do this?”
“Of course I do. It’s what I went to school for, isn’t it? But with the economy the way it is and the weather we’ve had the past few years, I don’t know if it’s feasible.”
“Stop with all the defeatist bullshit,” Gwyn said. “We need you, Brenda. I can take on a larger role with running the hotel and everything, and Luke’s got the bar under control.”
“Well, mostly.” Luke shot Gwyn an apologetic look. “It could do with some repairs, new furniture, new equipment, et cetera. And don’t look at me like that, Gwyn. She’s not entirely wrong. There’s a lot that hasn’t been kept up with.”
“Which is why we need Brenda,” Gwyn agreed. “Someone has to deal with the business side of things.”
“It would be a big adjustment,” Brenda pointed out. “I’d have to quit my job and move down here from the city.”
“Oh, please,” Luke said. “You’ve been telling us for years that you miss it here, that you wish you could move back. Well, here’s your chance. And don’t even try and pretend like you wouldn’t get a nice severance package, because I know you would.”
“Think how much money you’d save on overhead,” Gwyn added, “if you were living here rather than in the city. If it doesn’t pan out, you could always go back.”
Brenda sighed. “I guess.” She eyed the others uncertainly. “So you really want to do this, huh?”
“Hell, yes, I want to do this,” Luke assured her. “I’ve always wanted my own bar, even if it is haunted.”
“Don’t be silly,” Gwyn told him. “The bar’s not haunted.”
“Of course it’s not!” Brenda agreed.
“It’s the hotel that’s haunted,” Gwyn continued. “The bar is infest—”
“Stop that,” Brenda interrupted angrily. “That’s what I started to say before. If you really want to do this, there are conditions. We have to stop with all the hocus-pocus.”
“For example?” Gwyn asked.
“Number one,” Brenda said, “the hotel is not haunted. It’s an old building, Gwyn. I know you love it. But you have to admit it’s not in the best of shape. The walls are too thin, the stairs creak, the pipes make noises, the lights flicker, it’s drafty—that’s all normal.
“And maybe you think it sounds romantic, but when you tell our guests that the hotel is haunted—”
“Which it is.”
“—you’re just calling attention to the hotel’s deficiencies.”
“What else?” Luke asked, jumping in before the girls got into it. Too much of his childhood had been spent watching the two of them fight and make up.
“Number two. There is no boggart in the bar.”
“Okay, stop,” he said, starting to get annoyed himself. “Now you’re going too far. You don’t know that for a fact.”
Brenda shook her head. “C’mon, Luke. How’s that even make sense? It’s an Irish bar; what would a mischief-making Scottish spirit even be doing there?”
Luke grinned. “Making mischief. Obviously. Besides, it’s people they attach themselves to, I think. They’re family spirits, like the bean sidhe. Who’s to say there’s no Scotch-Irish somewhere in our family mix? There’s some funny stuff goes on in that bar, Bren. I’ve seen it.”
Brenda nodded. “I’m sure there is. Do you know why people go to a bar in the first place?”
“To have a drink?” Gwyn suggested.
“Exactly. And what happens when people have a few too many drinks?”
“We make money?”
“They get clumsy. They trip over their own feet. Sometimes they fall down. They misplace things—their keys, their wallets, their phones.”
“Their clothes?” Gwyn smiled at her cousin. Brenda ignored her.
“They make stupid jokes and play stupid pranks and generally act—”
“Stupidly?” Luke supplied.
“And that’s all there is to it. There’s no supernatural troublemaker behind it. The only spirits in that bar are the ones that come in bottles.”
Gwyn gasped. “There’s a genie there now too?”
This time Brenda glared at her.
Luke sighed. “Is there a number three?”
“Yes.” Brenda pointed toward the restaurant’s dining room. “You know that odd-colored stone floor tile in the entryway?”
Luke and Gwyn exchanged a smile. “You mean the Blarney Stone?” they asked innocently.
Brenda glared. “No, I don’t mean the Blarney Stone,” she repeated mockingly. “For fuck’s sake, guys. The Blarney Stone is right where it’s always been. In Blarney Castle. It’s part of the friggin’ wall. No one chipped it out and shipped it across the ocean.”
“Okay, fine,” Gwyn said. “I’ll give you that one. I always thought that was crazy. What would the Lia Fiál be doing here?”
“The what now?” Luke asked.
“The Lia Fiál,” Gwyn repeated. “The Stone of Destiny? That’s what they used to call it.”
“Oh. Well, then that actually does make sense, doesn’t it?”
“What does?”
“That business about how if you kiss your true love while standing on the stone you’re destined to be together. Destined—get it?”
“Yes, Luke.” Gwyn rolled her eyes. “We get it. It’s still crazy.”
“Number four,” Brenda continued without waiting for the others. “There is no family curse.”
Luke and Gwyn looked at her in pained surprise. “Well, of course there isn’t,” Luke said. “You mean the ‘nothing will prosper the family Walsh in Atlas Beach until the Wild Geese return and are reunited with their loved ones’ nonsense? Yeah, that’s bullshit.”

Copyright © PG Forte
To read about the other books in the series check out my website: http://www.pgforte.com/GamesWePlay.htm
Gwyn has her hands full these days trying to help save the family business--a quirky hotel on the Jersey Shore. She has no time for romance. But when the two men with whom she once spent a drunken ménage weekend show up with a sexy proposition, how can she resist? Berke and Cam might have broken her heart seven years ago, but Gwyn is older now and wiser. She’s not looking for forever. She just wants a good time. And, after all, it is Valentine’s Day.

For Berke and Cam, the weekend isn’t just about fun, or adding some spice to their marriage; it’s about winning back the woman who got away, and convincing her to give a committed three-way relationship a shot. They each have skills that could help make the hotel a success—and they’re not above bartering to get what they want. but first they have to get past the walls Gwyn’s built to keep them out. But while Cam’s biggest concern is making sure Gwyn doesn’t break Berke’s heart a second time, Berke is worried about what Cam will think if he learns about Berke’s part in screwing things up the last time around.