She’s a mystery he can’t resist...
Doctor Ella Watts wants her old life back. Desperately. But the past has returned for its rematch, and going back home—even telling anyone her real name—isn’t an option until she’s confident in her MMA abilities. Personal trainer Lance Black is the man to help her reach her goals. Not only is he toned, muscular, and gorgeous, he’s patient, a great teacher, and willing to treat her like a worthy opponent. Except his size makes her freeze whenever he gets too close. If Ella can’t learn how to overcome her fear of being attacked, she’ll never be able to move on with her life.
Underground fighter Lance Black knows there’s more to the mysterious blonde ninja than a beautiful woman determined to improve her fighting skills. She can best anyone close to her size – man or woman – but insists on working out with him, even though he’s got a good 70 pounds and several inches on her. Despite her reticence, he’s determined to get her to open up so he can help her get over her mental block. And if that means he can get to know her outside the gym, all the better.
As long as she never learns his secrets.
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A Love to the Extreme Novel
By Abby Niles, Liz Pelletier, Robin Haseltine
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2016 Abby Niles
All rights reserved.
Ella Watts fought the urge to snatch her driver's license back from the bulky man sitting behind the desk. Keeping a low profile meant not drawing attention to herself in any way. Ripping the license from his hand would be doing exactly that.
As he made a copy on the scanner, she pasted on a pleasant smile and pretended to look around the sparsely decorated gym office as if there were nothing to worry about. And there wasn't. Except for the small, inconsequential fact that the license she'd given Mac "The Snake" Hannon was as fake as her smile.
"Okay, Kelsey. Everything's ready to go," he said and handed the ID card back to her.
Ella breathed a sigh of relief. It was the first time she'd used it since having it made four days ago. So far, she'd been able to pay for everything — even the tiny furnished bungalow she'd rented from a sweet, elderly lady — with the cash she'd withdrawn from her bank account. A hefty amount of cash. She left only enough to pay her automatically withdrawn bills for a few months.
She wasn't running away from her life. She just needed to hide for a while, and leaving a debit card trail behind her wasn't exactly smart.
Mac tapped the paperwork together, placed it in a neat pile on the edge of his desk, then pushed back his chair. As he rose, he leaned over the desk. His menacing height towering over her made every muscle stiffen.
He offered his hand with a warm, real smile. "Welcome to Coolier Mixed Martial Arts, Kelsey. We're happy to have you as a member."
She silently cursed her automatic reaction. The big guys always did this to her. Even though she had trained around them for years, any sudden movement toward her, no matter how innocent, still freaked her out. That was just one of many reasons she was determined to train with a light-heavyweight. One way to get over a fear was to face it head-on.
Rising, she took his hand and shook it firmly, not breaking eye contact. Never show weakness. Never allow intimidation. Always exude confidence. The mantra helped center her, and the tension eased from her body. "Thank you. Everything's set for tomorrow, then?"
"Yep," he said, sitting back down and folding his fingers together on top of the desk. "You had an impressive list of requirements for your trainer, but I know the perfect person for the job. I'd introduce you, but" — he glanced at his watch and frowned — "he's running a little late today."
Hmm. Not a great quality in a trainer. She needed dependability. She was on borrowed time. "Is he late a lot?"
Mac grimaced. Well, there was her answer.
"And there isn't anyone here who isn't late?"
"With everything you requested, Lance is your best fit. Just hold your judgment until you've trained with him. I promise you won't be disappointed."
She pressed her lips together. "Fine. But if he sucks in the least, I want a new trainer."
Surprise widened the man's eyes. Yeah, that had come out demanding, but she didn't care. Training was essential to her getting back home and on with her life, and she refused to allow a slacker to interfere with it.
"I say that's a fair deal."
Ella nodded. "All right then. I'll see you tomorrow."
She left the office and made her way to the front of the gym, hoping she hadn't made a mistake. She'd done her homework, though, before coming here today. Coolier Mixed Martial Arts had nothing but positive reviews. Owned by Ragin Coolier, the establishment hosted some well-known fighters that even she had heard of. However, a Lance had not been mentioned on the website. He must be a new addition, and he must be damned good if they allowed him to come and go as he pleased.
Either way, she'd give the guy one chance. If he turned out to be a waste of her time, she'd figure something else out. She glanced around. She really hoped it worked out though. This place had everything, including a ring. She needed to focus the most on sparring.
She opened the glass front door and stepped out into the cool October air. As she made her way down the sidewalk to her car, a pained grunt came from her left. She froze, listening intently for the sound to repeat. Not a second later another grunt sounded. She glanced toward the edge of the building then inched toward the alley.
As she reached the corner, she poked her head around and her stomach twisted hard. About fifteen feet away, three average-built guys surrounded a beefy blond man. One of the guys lunged at him, but the blond weaved out of the way, only to have another guy wrap his arms around the blond's torso so his arms were pinned to his sides. The smaller man was no match for the blond. He easily broke out of the hold, then spun around and punched the guy. He doubled over, holding his face.
"Fuck. I think he broke my nose."
One of the others took advantage of the blond man's distraction and landed a right jab on his chin. His head whipped to the side and he stumbled backward into a dumpster. With him in a weak position, both men attacked and sent fists into his gut, side, and head. Pained groans filled the air as he sank to his knees on the asphalt.
Jesus, they were going to kill him.
She slipped her cell from her pocket and dialed 911 with shaky fingers.
"9-1-1. What's your emergency?"
"There are three guys jumping another guy in the alley between Handover Street and McDowell," she whispered. "Get here fast. Please." She ended the call.
Panicked, she studied her surroundings. She couldn't just stand here and let those three thugs continue to beat up on that man until the cops arrived. They might kill him. She'd never be able to forgive herself if that were to happen.
But she wasn't stupid either. There were three of them. One of her. She had to think of her own safety, too. Surprising them would be her best plan of action.
A car was parked about five feet away. The men were all standing near the front end of the car. She assessed each man's position. One stepped back, breathing heavily, and wiped his arm across his forehead. The other was still occupied with the blond and was taking extreme pleasure in kicking him in the stomach. The guy with the broken nose was on his feet, but still preoccupied trying to stop the blood flow.
She focused on the one who was panting.
Swallowing back her fear, she crouch-ran to the bumper of the parked car then crept between the vehicle and the wall of the building until she reached the front. Keeping low, she waited for the breathless man to step closer. The moment he did, she sprang onto his back and slid her arm underneath his chin, then locked the submission hold into place with her other arm. The man froze and then started spinning around, trying to dislodge her from his back. Prepared for the reaction, she wrapped her legs around his waist and brought the choke hold in tighter. The man collapsed to his knees.
She glared at the guy who'd frozen mid-punch to stare at her with stunned eyes.
"Back off," she said with a deadly calm that surprised even her.
She wasn't sure if it was shock at someone interfering, or the fact that it was a woman who'd brought down their friend, but one guy stepped back from the blond, while the other with the bloodied nose lowered his hand from his face.
"Get the hell out of here." Perhaps telling them to leave wasn't the best idea, but she didn't like the odds. She needed to keep the upper hand before their shock wore off.
The two men hesitated, so she tightened her grip on their buddy's throat. A strangling gargle wheezed out. He slapped her forearm.
"Tell them to leave," she ordered.
Purple-faced, the guy squeaked out a "go," and his cronies followed his order.
As soon as they ran off, she pressed her lips to the man's ear. "That wasn't a fair fight, was it? People like you make me sick."
She lowered her feet to the ground, and squeezed hard once more before releasing the man with a shove to the ground. His palms slapped the asphalt. He lifted his head and glared at her.
Straightening to her whole five-foot four-inches, she glared back, wishing more than anything this had been the way that night had ended so long ago, with her towering over him, daring him with just an intense look to make another move.
The man pushed up, muttering, "Fucking bitch."
Meh. She'd been called worse. "Go join your friends."
As he straightened, his tall frame overwhelmed her small one. Towered over her. Fear immediately closed her throat, made her palms sweat.
Never show weakness. Never allow intimidation. Always exude confidence. She silently chanted the mantra for the second time that day, gathering the strength she needed to stand her ground.
Swallowing, she kept her gaze locked on him, watching for any sign he'd charge her, uncertain what the outcome would be if he did. That was the scariest part of it all — the not knowing. The worry that even with all the years of training, if she was attacked by a man again, she'd freeze, and the past would repeat itself.
The guy continued to stare at her, then a slow grin spread across his face. "I like you. Just a little feisty kitty-cat, aren't you?"
The condescending comment eased her fear, allowing anger to seep in. Another thing she hated about assholes like this. She'd just taken this man to his knees and he smiled like she was some kitten doing a cute trick. Dick.
He glanced at the blond, who was now standing straight, fury and strength radiating off him. Even in black jogging pants and a white logo T-shirt, the man screamed badass. The inked sleeve of black and gray ink, with slashes of color running down his left arm only increased that quality.
Ella's breath caught at the magnificent display of authority. Her reaction startled her. This guy was huge, dominant, and all kinds of pissed off — things that usually sent her anxiety through the roof. Not on him. With him, it was a breathtaking view.
The dick backed away and pointed a finger at the blond Hercules. "This isn't over, Black."
Wait. They knew each other? Dread curdled her gut. Hell no. This couldn't be happening. She started backing away.
"Fuck you," the stranger said.
"You're the one who's going to be fucked if you don't watch yourself."
Sirens sounded in the distance, and she froze.
And she'd called the cops to top it off. She closed her eyes. Great. Two days in Kansas, and she'd stepped into some kind of messed up Soprano shit. The dick let out a surprised chuckle and shook his head. "Seriously? The cops?" He pinned the blond with his eyes. "Fix it."
Then he ran off.
"You called the cops?" The guy shoved his fingers through his hair and groaned. "Fuck."
Well, that was a fine how-do-you-do to someone who'd put herself at risk to help. It wasn't her fault he had himself mixed up with the wrong people. "You're welcome ... ass. All I saw was a dude getting ganged up on by three men. Fuck me for wanting to help."
"I had it covered. How about minding your own business next time? That was between them and me."
Mind your own business. Maybe it was advice she should adhere to; she had before. Would have been one of those people on hidden camera who, with that exact mindset, walked past people fighting, to later have John Quinones from What Would You Do? shove a microphone in her face asking her why she hadn't helped.
Now that she'd been on the receiving end of those fists, had prayed for intervention, she couldn't live with herself if she simply minded her own business.
The cops screeched to a halt then hurried out of the car, hands ready on their guns.
The blond immediately put up his hands in surrender — as if he'd done it before. Great, again. "There's been a misunderstanding, officers. Some guys and I were horsing around back here. She thought I was being attacked."
One of the officers studied her. "Is this true, ma'am?"
Ella might have wanted to help, but if this guy was involved with something bad, she was going to get the target off her back as quickly as possible.
"It was my bad. I completely misinterpreted the situation. I yelled for them to stop and they immediately did. I forgot I'd called you guys until I heard the sirens. I apologize for the inconvenience."
Their gazes went between her and the blond before nodding. "All right. You guys have a nice day."
As soon as they left, she started to make her way back to the sidewalk.
"Hey!" the blond man called from behind her. "What's your name?"
Yeah. Like she had the word "idiot" stamped on her forehead. He was so not getting her name. To make that point clear, she spun around but continued walking backward, flipping him two middle fingers and an eat-shit scowl.
The grin that spread his lips caused her heart to stutter for a second. Angry, the man had been amazing, but smiling? He was potent.
Stunned at her reaction, she did an about face and quickened her steps until she was back out on the sidewalk.
Her confusing response to that man made her only more certain she didn't want to know his name, didn't want to know a damn thing about him or him to know anything about her. Whatever this guy's deal was, it definitely wasn't innocent. Last thing she needed was to get caught up in more trouble. She had enough of that already.
* * *
What a fucking day.
Lance pulled the wrecker into the driveway of his home. The beams from his headlights swept across the sage-sided farmhouse. As he cut the engine, he leaned his forehead against the wheel, trying to gather the energy to open the door and go inside. Man, he was dog-assed tired.
He'd been going since five this morning, and it was creeping up on three a.m. now. A twenty-two hour day. Thankfully, most of his days weren't this long. He pushed open the door and stepped onto the gravel. Stretching, he groaned at the wonderful feeling of his muscles releasing. He'd been on three calls tonight: two broken down vehicles needing to be towed to a nearby mechanic, and one car that needed to be jimmied. Each had been an hour drive from the other.
Wearily, he trudged up the stairs to the wraparound porch, opened the screen, and unlocked the front door. As he entered the house, he tossed his keys in a bowl on the wood table beside the door, then stomped up the stairs, yanking his shirt over his head along the way.
What he wanted was a nice, long shower and then eight hours of good, solid sleep. Though he knew that was asking too much. He couldn't remember the last time he'd slept longer than a four-hour stretch. Between taking the job at Coolier, and his wrecker service which he worked twenty-four seven, three hundred sixty-five days a year, he didn't have time for sleep. Or much else. Including his daughter.
As he stepped onto the landing of the second floor, he stopped at the first bedroom. At the sight of the darkened room, his chest tightened. Flicking on the light, he stared at the empty twin bed with its dark pink bedspread covered in light pink pigs.
Goddamn it. He missed her. Missed her laughter. Missed hearing her bounce around the house. Hell, he even missed yelling at her when she wasn't listening.
How quickly things changed. Wasn't that the story of his life?
Just a few months ago, his schedule hadn't mattered as much. Gayle, his quirky neighbor, had worked mostly from home unless she was on a storm chase. She loved Skylar and would keep her anytime Lance needed her to, even if he received a late night call for service. Skylar had been with him overnight a lot more back then.
Unfortunately, chase season was over, and Gayle had started working at the local news station as the chief meteorologist. She was hardly home now, and if she was, she was spending some much needed time with Mac, her fiancé.
That meant Skylar rarely stayed over any more, and he had to settle for daddy/daughter dates. He fucking hated it.
He flipped the switch and backed into the hallway. The creak of the wood floors beneath him echoed loudly throughout the empty house. The silence, the emptiness of the place was starting to get to him. When he'd bought this house in foreclosure a few years ago, it'd been run into the ground. It'd needed so much work and he'd painstakingly done all the renovations himself, one project at a time. He'd wanted to give Skylar a home with him, too. Not just the one she had with her mom and stepdad.
Excerpted from Healing Love by Abby Niles, Liz Pelletier, Robin Haseltine. Copyright © 2016 Abby Niles. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
The one thing I love most about this series is that although they are MMA books, that isn't the central focus of the story. So often it is all about the fighting and very little about the characters and what's driving them. Abby Niles seamlessly blends both aspects into a story that is thrilling yet steamy all at the same time. Healing love was quite a pleasure to read. I think that both Lance and Ella (aka Kelsey) were well developed characters, and the plot was definitely engaging. I felt like I really got to know the characters well in the book, which is always appealing, so I was definitely invested in how their relationship was going to work out in the end. I admired both characters for their strength and convictions. They both had a lot to learn as far as leaning on someone to help, but I think in the end they were able to heal enough to come together in a believable way. I've really enjoyed reading this series, and I look forward to reading more from it in the future. I'm giving it two thumbs-up, so definitely give it a read.
I really enjoyed this book! Wonder Woman to the rescue... ;) Both Ella/Kelsey and Lance are fantastic characters who very nearly let their own pride ruin their lives. Brought together when Lance is assigned to be Ella's MMA trainer, their mutual respect (her for his excellent training abilities, him for her skill and determination) quickly turns to something more...even though neither of them is really in a place at the moment to indulge in "more". They've both got their own fights to get through--literal and figurative--and a past they can't escape. Throw in a pig-loving, adorable little girl; two scary-as-heck local gangsters; and an illegal underground fighting ring; and you've got one heck of a story! Healing Love is the fourth book in the series, but it would work fine as a standalone. Though if you enjoy this one, you'll love the first three too, so... Don't say I didn't warn you! Rating: 4 stars / A- I received a complimentary copy in exchange for an honest review.
The fourth book in Abby Niles’s Love to the Extreme series, Healing Love is also an enjoyable stand-alone read. That being said, I found that there were still several occasions at the beginning where the emotional responses of the characters, while necessary for the progression of the storyline, were too mercurial to establish plausible believability. (The same could be said for their inability to immediately recognize someone that they had close encounters with only a day or two beforehand.) Even so, it is obvious that Niles has done her research and has ultimately provided her readers with another great read. Her characters are well-developed and the struggles presented are real. Kudos!
This might be the fourth book in the series but it one that will certainly encourage you to pick up the others if you haven’t already. Paying the price for some seriously messed up mistakes, Lance is in trouble but what he does about it is one of the strongest plus points of the book. I don’t want to spoil it for you, so I’m not giving any details away but let’s just say that he has a lot to learn not only about his situation but about himself. Ella meets Lance whilst she is at the gym trying to hone her skills. Her past has her on the run, whether or not that is a clever move remains to be seen but it is the only option she has at the minute but will it remain her only option? I like the relationship between Lance and Ella even though I thought they had a lot of issues that they needed to work through. I liked that Lance gave her confidence, empowered her and by loving her helped her to see that she was strong enough to stop trying to outrun her past. They were able to help heal each other, they were the balm that soothed each other’s insecurities and the author gave them the perfect scenario with which to cultivate their relationship. This was a grower, it slowly built as the story progressed and because of that it was more realistic, it gave the couple a sense of realism and their issues the opportunity to be resolved and their love to develop.
3.75 stars-- HEALING LOVE is the fourth installment in Abby Niles’s contemporary, adult LOVE TO THE EXTREME romance series focusing on the men and women of the MMA. This is underground MMA fighter Lance Black, and Dr. Ella (Kelsey) Watts’s story line. HEALING LOVE can be read as a stand alone without any difficulty. Told from dual third person perspectives (Ella and Lance) HEALING LOVE focuses on secrets, revenge, and taking back control. Ella is on the run and is hoping to remain hidden in plain sight. She is a strong woman who is hoping for some training time to improve her skills in the event that her past come looking for revenge. Enter Lance Black, a personal trainer and underground MMA fighter who takes on our heroine in the fight of their lives. What ensues is a building relationship between two people based upon a series of lies, omissions, and dark and dangerous pasts. Lance is a man caught between right and wrong; Ella is a woman caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. The relationship between Lance and Ella begins accidentally when Ella steps in to save a man she knows nothing about. Three against one found Lance in trouble but rescued by a woman-a total stranger-did nothing to improve his attitude about everything that had gone wrong. Lance found himself spiraling out of control, and now Ella had been caught in the whirlwind of destruction. The $ex scenes are erotic, intimate and hot. HEALING LOVE is a story about impulsive actions; impassioned need; and startling awareness about heartbreak and need. Our hero is a man whose past sins have caught up with his present; our heroine is a woman trying to survive one day at a time. The premise is encouraging but oft-times tragic; the characters are dynamic but it would have been nice to learn a little more detail about our leading hero; the romance is a struggle to a happily ever after-no one comes away unscathed or unharmed.
Putting your past behind you to embrace the love of your future is a Healing Love. Ella/Kelsey and Lance both had some healing to do from there past lives to be able to have a healthy future. Abby Niles gave me an anchor in the world that Ella felt she had to leave before she could live the life she wanted to live. **This ARC was provided via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.** More @ http://mileythebookjunkie.blogspot.com/2016/02/blog-tour-healing-heat-4-by-abbey-niles.html
Excellent book with lots of suspense, a great paced romance, and characters that will have you swooning. Lance Black is a MMA fighter/trainer that has more on his plate than he can currently handle. Yet the woman he is currently training is a mystery he's determined to unravel. Ella Watts (known as Kelsey in this new town) can't believe the man who terrorized her and turned her life upside down is due to be released from prison soon. She plans on being ready for him though, that's why the training she is doing with Lance Black is so important. Keeping her attraction for Lance might be her biggest fight though. These two both have issues from their past haunting them. Together they just might be able to beat them both. Definitely a book I recommend.
3.5 - "You're one badass b****." Stars! Book four in the Love to the Extreme series gives us Lance Black’s story. He featured quite heavily in the previous book so I was interested to see where Abby would take this slightly elusive characters journey. Add in a woman with more than a few secrets of her own, and it was a pretty agreeable read. I think it shows clear reading enjoyment when you manage to start a book and finish it on the same day. Abby has a way of dealing with somewhat heavy subjects in a light and un-angsty way. Ella/Kelsey is looking to beef up her training with the potential reappearance of her less than loving ex, and Lance is tasked with training her. "You do your thing. I’ll do mine." What becomes obvious pretty much from the beginning of the book, is that Lance is in some serious trouble himself in relation to the local criminal scene, of which his involvement then pulls Ella in as well. As I said I read this book in an afternoon/evening, it was easy to get into and not a struggle to stay engaged in this couples story. It felt a lot shorter than the previous books though, which I am not really complaining about as if my memory serves me correctly, at points all of them felt a little drawn out. The end to this one was a little 'cut & dried' for me, with all potential threats just seeming to step back and go on their merry ways, in the way of easy resolution. But I liked Ella and although super stubborn Lance was easy to empathize with as well. Together they were unbreakable. It was great to read that Abby has at least another three books to come from this series, the Coolier Mixed Martial Arts Gym and its staff and members are certainly somewhere I am happy to keep visiting. ARC generously provided via Netgalley, and it was a pleasure to provide the above honest review.