|Product dimensions:||5.51(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.50(d)|
Read an Excerpt
Sex, Secrets & Happily Ever Afters
A Twisted Sisters Club Novel
By Deb Julienne
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2015 Deb Julienne
All rights reserved.
Angeline Talbot stood in the quaint old Lake Tahoe chapel. Though surrounded by happy people, she felt more alone than ever. "Happy freaking New Year to me."
For the sake of her friends, she set her pity party aside and plastered a smile on her face. Just because a happily ever after wasn't in Angel's future didn't mean she should begrudge Sabrina hers. She wanted to be happy for Sabrina and Trent.
With a smile, the minister closed his sermon book and pressed it to his rotund belly. "I now pronounce you husband and wife. You may kiss your bride."
Angel wiped away a tear that had trickled down her cheek.
"Here." Travis, the groom's twin brother, held out a handkerchief monogrammed with T.J.W.
"Thanks." Angel accepted the finely pressed linen and dabbed her eyes.
Sabrina made a perfect and lovely bride alongside her dashing husband, Trent. Theirs had been a whirlwind courtship to be sure.
The groom cupped his bride's face, lovingly gazed into her eyes, and whispered, "I love you." Trent pressed his lips to Sabrina's with such passion and tenderness.
Fireworks flashed through the stained glass windows as midnight welcomed the New Year. The timing couldn't have been more perfect.
She doubted she'd witness a more touching, genuine moment ever again. If only — no. Those days were gone.
The small audience clapped. It was immediate family and a few friends, a dozen people at most.
"That was so beautiful." She sniffled, her eyes prickling with tears.
"I agree. It's nice to see he finally found someone that makes him happy." Travis put his fingers to his lips and let out a whistle that pierced the air and echoed off the slate walls.
Angel covered her ears.
Looking as if he'd just stepped off a GQ cover, Travis wore a midnight blue, pinstriped suit with a white shirt and baby blue tie. The pretentious snob Sabrina had described would never whistle like that. The Travis Wellington Sabrina had told her about wasn't someone she'd ever be interested in, though this man certainly piqued her curiosity.
Men were out of bounds. She'd sworn off them permanently. So what if the guy was double-fudge-cupcake-delectable? Good lord, he was positively yummy.
She was in the middle of wiping another tear from her face when Travis lifted and twirled her around. She'd almost poked herself in the eye. What a jerk.
"Happy New Year." He kissed her and released her just as quickly then resumed clapping, but his gaze never left hers. His voice was magnetic. Even deeper than Trent's. Talk about sexy.
"Happy New Year." She didn't know if she should look away, sit down, or kiss him back. Too late. She couldn't do a damn thing but gawk. Angel sucked in a deep, shaky breath. Her finger trembled as she touched her lips to tamp out the flames. She willed her body to behave. Instead her heartbeat sped up, heat flushed over her face, and tingles ran through her, headed straight at her girly parts.
Damn it. So much for holding back.
He whirled her around again, but this time he didn't let go. "Come on. Let's go congratulate the happy couple."
Between the woodsy pine scent of the forest outside and the spicy cologne he wore, she felt like a lust zombie incapable of resisting his magic lips.
The guy was a passion tsunami about to wash her completely away. His hot fudge brown eyes, wavy brown hair, naturally sun-soaked, reminded her of a Malibu surfer. The rest of him was equally delicious. He was easily six feet tall to her five foot eight in four-inch heels.
She spun out of his arms. A cold emptiness filled her as she joined the other well-wishers surrounding the happy couple. She stepped toward the bride and groom. "Congratulations, you two. I wish you a lifetime of love and happiness." She hugged Sabrina tight. "I'm so happy for you."
"If it weren't for you, Angel, I don't think we'd be here now." Sabrina blotted her misty eyes.
Angel kissed Trent's cheek. "You take care of her and be good to her. No more shenanigans — or else."
Trent went pale and fear showed in his eyes, but his sly expression hinted at a devilish streak. "I'm afraid to ask what 'or else' means."
"Or I'll send my friends to have a little talk with you."
His hands flew up. "Oh, hell no. Okay, now you've got my attention. Anything but that."
Sabrina chuckled. "I can't believe you're afraid of Mitzi and Vera. Shame on you."
Angel laughed in spite of herself. "I can't imagine why."
Travis's deep voice came from her right. "What's wrong, Trent?" Angel jumped.
"You look as if a snake crawled up your butt." Travis whispered in her ear, "What did I miss?"
Angel willed control over her body and thoughts, commanded her knees to obey, and stepped away from Travis.
Travis moved behind her, so close he bumped against her bottom. Heat radiated from him, making her even more nervous. Beads of sweat rolled down her spine then chilled her to the bone. Needing space to breathe, she stepped away.
The wedding party plunged from the stone chapel out into the frosty night air. They tromped up the snow-laced driveway to the reception at the main house.
Disliking the things he made her feel, she ran ahead to put distance between them. Snowy kisses glanced off her cheeks. A snowflake melted on her nose before she stepped into the main house.
The woman in front of her slipped on the damp tile in the entryway.
Angel reached out and grabbed her. "Are you okay?"
"Thanks to you, I am," the woman replied with a smile and continued walking in.
Angel stepped inside and shook off the excess moisture. Wanting to see Sabrina and Trent make their entrance, she spun, only to have Travis slam into her. Luckily, he grabbed her and kept her from falling.
"Oh, God, I'm sorry. Are you okay?" He held her shoulders. "I didn't see your brake lights on."
She nodded and stared at his shirt. She refused to look up and couldn't make herself turn around. She couldn't risk him seeing the desire surely in her eyes.
"Are you sure you're okay?
"By the way, good catch. Sabrina's mother would have fallen if you hadn't caught her."
Angel looked over her shoulder at the woman.
Sabrina's mother nodded. Her father raised a glass of champagne to her.
"That's why I slammed into you. I was watching what almost happened instead of where I was going."
"I — uh —" She stepped away and wove through the crowd. She snagged a glass of champagne as a waiter passed, drained it, and snatched another before the waiter stepped away. Beyond the elegantly set dining table, an old black-and-white photo hung on the wall. She stepped closer. A man in a WWII uniform stood beside his parents.
Travis stood beside her. "That's our godparents. This is their summer retreat."
"Are they here?" She searched among those present for older version of those faces.
"No, they're spending the holidays in Paris."
"This place is amazing. It's like stepping into the forties." She'd love to spend the day here looking at all the family treasures, mementos of their past.
"I agree. Growing up, Trent and I loved to spend time here. I think it's why Trent wanted to get married at this place."
She moved along, taking in decorations on the wall.
Travis stared at a picture of him and Trent as children playing on the dock.
"Is that near here?" She pointed to the picture.
Travis was slow to respond, his gaze glued to the images. "It's behind the main house. We're right on the lakeshore." As a waiter passed, Travis asked him, "Can I get a glass of water?"
The waiter nodded, and Travis looked back at Angel.
"We haven't been introduced yet, but we sure seem to keep bumping into each other." His eyes twinkled, and he offered her a hand. "I'm Travis."
"Angel." The warmth of his palm seemed to leech into her. She didn't want or need the reactions he elicited from her. She'd managed to ignore these feelings, sensations, and emotions for years. Her carefully constructed barriers were necessary for her well-being. "I've heard all about you."
"Is that good or bad?" He moved to her side and rested a hand on her lower back as he escorted her to a table.
"It depends," she said icily. Current jarred through her like a double espresso injection straight to her heart. She wanted to tell him to back off, but her mouth refused to engage, and no way would she admit how his attention made her feel. She was losing it. Bad.
"On what?" He flashed a smile and twin dimples graced his cheeks. He held a chair out for her and then took the neighboring seat.
"On which situation you're talking about."
"Meaning?" He stiffened.
"I know all about your bait-and-switch routine. How you and Trent traded places, tricking Sabrina, all for the sake of saving your ass and the magazine." Her words came out more judgmental and accusatory than she'd meant them to. She was a mess and he wasn't helping matters.
"I see." He blushed then glanced around, tugging at his collar.
Angel whispered in his ear, "Don't worry. Your secret is safe with me."
"And just exactly how much do you know?" His eyes narrowed, and his tone was calm and restrained.
"All of it." Angel picked up an Hermès scarf from the floor, gently shook it out, and draped it over the back of a chair.
"Oh." He frowned, looked down then away. His gaze drifted from Sabrina to his cousin, Kat.
She recognized guilt when she saw it. She'd fallen into that same self-destructive hole a few years back. It wasn't a fun place to be. "Look, Travis. I have my own skeletons. Ones I'm not proud of. Don't count on me to judge you because I certainly wouldn't want you to judge me."
"Thanks." He gave her an apologetic shrug, a barrier of his own.
"Y-you're welcome." She fingered the pristine white Irish table linen.
"If you ever want to talk skeletons, I'm a pretty good listener."
Her brain screamed, Run, Angel, run. "That's nice. Maybe another day. Today is about Sabrina and Trent."
"Fair enough." He nodded.
She yearned to be drawn back into his arms and have him kiss her again, harder this time. Imagining his lips on hers sent shivers down her spine and turned her insides to liquid.
"Would you like to go warm up by the fire?" Travis asked.
"No, thank you. I'm fine — just a chill." Bullshit. She was on fire. She unbuttoned her white thigh-length double-breasted wool jacket and fingered the black netting peeking from the hem. Why this guy? Why now? Almost love at first sight like Sabrina and — "No."
"What's the matter?" He frowned.
"Nothing." She looked around, feeling more uncomfortable by the moment.
Travis pointed to the small crowd surrounding the bride and groom. "The taller couple on the left is my folks. The older couple on their right is my grandparents. The couple next to them with the young man is Sabrina's folks and her brother. The distinguished gentleman is Uncle Jack. And of course Kat and Jill.
Angel recognized both Jill and Kat. Kat had been in the shop a number of times and for many things. She was a knockout tonight in her beaded gown with the back exposed. Her exquisite figure swayed with the perfection of a Parisian runway model working the catwalk. Jill was no duff either. Kat just stood out more.
"How do you and Sabrina know each other?"
"She comes into my shop," she said before she could stop herself.
"Your shop?" He cocked his head to one side.
She didn't want to answer, not him anyway, but she also didn't want to be rude. "I sell women's intimate apparel."
"Wow, really? Hmm." He smirked.
And there it was, the expression that always followed when men found out about her business.
She tried to dismiss the hint of censure in that one hmm. "Hmm what?"
"Just hmm." He bounced on his heels.
She let it drop, but boy did his sexy smile have some serious power over her heart rate.
"How long have you known each other?"
"Not long. I've been helping her with a few of her articles." She played with the netting on her coat and tried to be vague.
He raised his brows and tucked his chin. "Oh, you've only known Sabrina a short time and you're here at her wedding?"
She chuckled. "Long story."
"Does it have anything to do with intimate apparel?"
"You're such a guy." She stood, shrugged one arm out of her coat.
"Let me help you." Travis removed her coat and draped it over the back of her chair.
The man had manners. She'd give him that. She smoothed the gown she'd made specifically for the wedding then took her seat.
A waiter came by with a tray of champagne.
She replaced her glass and sipped. She needed to slow down as she was already feeling the effects, especially because she didn't usually consume much alcohol.
Another waiter delivered dinner, served on exquisite Royal Doulton. Rosemary and thyme scents permeated the air. The prime rib with Yorkshire pudding and asparagus with hollandaise sauce looked amazing.
Her hands shook as she cut a piece of meat. If she didn't get food in her system soon, she'd be in trouble. The meat melted in her mouth, just the right mixture of sweet and savory, and oh-so-tender. It was the best meal she'd had in ages. She also suspected her dinner companion had a bit to do with her enjoyment, as well, but she'd keep that to herself. Everything about him had her wanting to reconsider her apathy toward men.
Travis poured champagne into her glass then mineral water in his.
"Thank you." Aware of his recent stay at a clinic for drinking, she admired his ability to stay strong at a time of celebration.
Travis held the au jus dish for her. "Do you know any of the others here?"
She ladled a spoonful over her meat. "No, just Sabrina. Well, and now you."
"How about after dinner, I introduce you?" He licked his lips. "You'll want to meet Kat, Jill and the rest of the family."
"I've heard plenty about her friends." Regardless of how hard she tried to push him away, he didn't catch on. In fact, he seemed to be trying even harder, and darn it, it was starting to work. He became more attractive by the moment.
"Sabrina, Kat, and Jill have been best friends since college. They're quite a trio." He laughed in a way that implied their history was full of humorous memories.
"Care to share?" She was a tad jealous of how close the girls were. It had been ages since she'd had that kind of unconditional acceptance in her life.
"I'll give you a scenario. Sabrina cares so much about people she can't pass a person in need without trying to help and will feed a person rather than give them money. Whereas Kat would walk past and suggest they get a job, none too gently either. And Jill, she'd find them a job." Travis laughed and shook his head.
"Kat's beautiful, a true blond bombshell." Angel stared at the woman. "I'm jealous of her looks and I'd kill for a body like hers. Flawless skin, and even her hair is perfect. I normally don't care for blue eyes, but hers are gorgeous. Sort of how I imagine the waters of the Caribbean, beautiful aqua liquid pools. She makes Charlize Theron look frumpy."
Travis guffawed. "Kat? You're nuts."
She nudged him then pointed at Jill, who was talking to Sabrina. "I love Jill's hair, a beautiful combination of russet and red. She appears so happy and confident, comfortable in her own skin. Her smile is so genuine."
Travis did a double take then gave her a bewildered look. "She's okay, I guess."
She almost laughed at his reaction. Angel felt so inadequate compared to them.
Travis snickered then motioned with his hand. "Kat's my cousin. I know her beyond her beauty. She's got looks, all right. There's no denying it. But she can be smug and condescending. When I see Kat? I see frosty venom."
"You must be mistaken." Travis had to be exaggerating.
Pointing to Jill, he continued. "Jill can be fun but annoyingly snarky." He looked Angel in the eye and sighed. "And then there's Angel." He covered her hand. "You're not so shallow you can't admit a pretty woman is in the room. You're kind and considerate, and your candor shines. Too bad you can't see you're the most beautiful woman here by far."
"Liar." Angel had surprised herself. "You don't know me, so how can you say that?
"Well, I do know Kat and Jill." An appreciative grin curled his lip. "And, while I really don't know you well, I like what I see. Besides, if it weren't for you, Sabrina's mom might have been hurt. And that scarf you picked up is my mother's favorite. If it had been ruined, she'd never have forgiven herself. Kat's mom gave it to her before she passed away."
Excerpted from Sex, Secrets & Happily Ever Afters by Deb Julienne. Copyright © 2015 Deb Julienne. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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
Not having read book one in this Twisted Sisters Club, I didn’t find that Angel’s story was too difficult to follow because I needed information from the first. However, I do take great issue with the abundance of twists, turns, back and forth and general wishy-washy heroine and her decisions. Not that the story wasn’t well written – it most certainly was, but there was enough drama with Angel’s secrets, I felt as if the author wanted to ‘edge up’ the emotional stakes for readers by making her unable to make a decision and stick to it. It was, quite frankly, annoying as hell and completely ruined my interest in the couple or their connection. Travis, for his part, was even more difficult for me to like. He was so totally IN this relationship, iron-gripping on to someone who couldn’t decide if the sky was bright blue or grey blue and everything had to stop until she decided. There are many who would love this manufactured and unnecessary angst from a supposed adult businesswoman with a successful life. I was ready, more than once, to strangle her. This is a perfect story for readers with more patience for an indecisive and, frankly wimpy, heroine. I received an eArc copy of the title from the publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review. All conclusions are my own responsibility.
Sex, Secrets & Happily Ever After by Deb Julienne is a fun read. This book is well written and a smooth read. Travis and Angel's story is fast paced and full of drama, humor and spice. The characters are well developed and at times hysterically funny. Sex, Secrets & Happily Ever After is part of the Twisted Sisters Club Series but can be read as a standalone. This is a complete book, not a cliff-hanger. I loved this book and look forward to reading more from Deb Julienne in the future.
Can love really save you? It does save Angel Talbot; a woman beaten by life’s disappointment, who finds herself in the unenviable position of not knowing whether she could ever love and trust again. 'Sex, Secrets and Happily Ever Afters' is a sexy, romantic read that brings faith back to Love's fallen. Girl —Angel Talbot —meets boy—Travis Wellington —and through the trials and tribulations of past loves, parents, business, and every-day-life, they bond and open one another's hearts. Deb Julienne puts humor and passion in her writing, in a way that makes the characters come alive and the verse real. I really enjoyed this book. If you’re looking for a lift, this book will do it. It's an easy & entertaining read, one that kept me turning pages.
Read my full Review here : http://jeri-ryan.wix.com/jerisbookattic#!Sex-Secrets-and-Happily-Ever-Afters-by-Deb-Julienne/cu6k/5575fff00cf2e4994fb8f230 For more Reviews check out/like my Blog & FB Page http://jeri-ryan.wix.com/jerisbookattic https://www.facebook.com/JerisBookAttic