Alex: I hate doing business in clubs. Especially one like Duality. I’m here to seal a deal, not indulge in whatever hedonistic illusion they’re selling. Until, through all the skin and sex on display, I see her. Helen Blackwood. The girl who once filled my youthful fantasies, whose name is now synonymous with pain. Her father’s lies destroyed my family, leaving me with nothing to lose. And yet I can’t deny my electric response to her touch . . . or my urge to protect her when I see the bruise on her face.
Helen: Growing up, life prepared me for society galas and powerful men, not minimum-wage jobs or drunk exes with anger issues. But I’m a survivor. So here I am, practically naked, serving drinks at a Miami nightclub. I don’t mind the stares. Apparently, Alex Archer does. After twelve years, we aren’t exactly friends, but money is something we both understand. Something he knows I need. I’ll be his personal assistant, even if it means working with the man I hate . . . and the man I still want.
No cheating. No cliffhangers. And no dress code.
Don’t miss Sidney Halston’s Panic series:
PULL ME CLOSE | MAKE ME STAY | KISS ME BACK | WHAT ABOUT US
And look for all of her hard-hitting MMA romances:
AGAINST THE CAGE | FULL CONTACT | BELOW THE BELT | LAID OUT | FIGHTING DIRTY | STACKED UP
This ebook includes an excerpt from another Loveswept title.
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“Here you go. Whiskey, neat.” I set it on the table without looking at the customer. I’m already halfway turned to go back to the bar when I hear, “Thank you.” The voice is deep and baritone and strangely familiar, but I can’t exactly pinpoint how I know it. Nonetheless, my skin erupts in goosebumps and the hairs on the back of my neck stand on edge.
His arm shoots out and he grabs my wrist to stop me from walking away. “I know you,” he says as I turn around.
When one of the strobe lights shines our way, I see his face. It’s a face I dreamed about throughout my teenage years, most of my twenties, and even now at thirty, every time a man with jet-black hair looks my way I still think about that face. “Alex? Alex Archer?” I say, surprised.
Talk about a blast from the past.
And speaking of broody men . . .
Those green eyes framed by unfairly long lashes stare at me intensely. His hair doesn’t fall down over his eyes anymore. It’s parted neatly to the side, not one strand out of place. He’s still holding my wrist, and I wonder if he can feel how my pulse quickens underneath his touch. My girlish crush, which should have long ago been extinguished, if not by time then by the circumstances of our estrangement, hasn’t left. But he’s looking at me as if he can’t put a name to my face, which is quite a blow to my ego.
Okay, so he does remember me.
How could he not? We grew up together. Until that night twelve years ago when my house was raided and my father was arrested, he was part of my life. He was also my first kiss. My first love (although he didn’t know this). And, he’s still the kiss I compare all other kisses to. It was magical, and the only thing from that evening that I remember fondly.
The night of my eighteenth birthday.
The night of first kisses and broken dreams.
The night I was completely alone as my life was turned upside down. Literally. Feds came in, flipped mattresses and cushions, searched nooks and crannies, and questioned me for four days. I had nothing to say. Because I knew nothing. And before I had a chance to process what was happening, everything was gone: my house, cars, jewelry, bank accounts. Everything.
I shake the thoughts out of my head and focus on the gorgeous man sitting in front of me.
“Oh my God! How are you?” I lean down and give him a big, familiar hug, but it’s awkward because he’s sitting stiffly and not reciprocating the gesture.
But when has Alex Archer not been awkward? All of my friends used to tell me he was strange. Strange like his father. But I never saw it. I only ever saw the rare smile with the one deep dimple that I could always coax from him, and the crooked nose from when he fell off my horse on his thirteenth birthday, and those overly thick thighs from hours of tennis and racquetball.
I stand up and back away, feeling a bit stupid at my one-sided display of affection.
“What are you doing here?” he asks.
I smile and push my hip out, a hand at my waist. What a dumb question. “I work here.”
“Here? At a club? You’re a bartender?” he blurts out, with a look of utter disbelief.
“You always were bright,” I say with a chuckle, but he doesn’t smile back.
“How can you be working here?” He looks around, completely stunned at the idea. It’s not like I’m working at a skeevy dive bar, for God’s sake. This is a very high-end Miami Beach establishment. I make decent money.
“I’m not sure I understand the question.” Now I’m getting riled up and feeling defensive.
“You’re a Blackwood.” That takes me aback. No one has said that—Blackwood—with that meaning for a very, very long time. Here, in this city, particularly on the beach, where everyone is either a tourist or a socialite with too much new money to blow, no one gives a shit whether I’m a Blackwood or a Rockefeller.
“And you’re an Archer,” I say, matter-of-factly, but he still seems completely perplexed.
This is the guy I’ve compared every man in my entire life to. I’ve put him on this pedestal of perfection, with his amazing mind and handsome face. But as he sits there and judges me, I see the pedestal begin to crumble. Or maybe I’ve just grown wiser. Whatever the case may be, Mr. Perfect is looking more and more like Mr. Judgmental Asshole right now. And the more I think about it . . .
I’ve been trying to just survive for so long, I’ve never given myself a chance to think about what I went through. I’ve thought long and hard about my father and all he’s had to endure, but never stopped to think about myself. The worst thing about those first lonely months twelve years ago was how everyone turned their backs on me.
My friends’ parents blamed me for their sudden loss of money and I was shunned. All I heard at the time were whispers about Ponzi schemes and fraud, and embezzlement and things I knew nothing about. I was barely out of high school, focused on designer handbags, cute boys (well, one in particular), and deciding on a college. I felt terrible about their bad fortune, but it wasn’t my father’s fault. My dad explained how they had made bad investments and were trying to pin their bad luck on him.
The only thing I understood was that the allegations were about crimes that my father didn’t commit.
Unfortunately, he had to plead guilty because he couldn’t pay the legal fees to defend himself if the case went to trial, but had the Archers or any of our close family friends helped him, lent us just enough to pay the attorneys, he wouldn’t be sitting in prison right now and I wouldn’t be busting my ass serving drinks to judgmental dickheads like Alexander Archer.
Three months after the final piece of furniture was auctioned off and my house sold, I left for Florida, just as my dad asked. But it wasn’t because he asked; it was because I had nothing left in Seattle. Not one friend, not one dollar.
I was all alone and everywhere I went, I was looked at like a leper.
So why am I acting like a sixteen-year-old with a crush? The Archers were the closest friends we had, and they completely abandoned us. No. Not us. They abandoned me. Not once did I get a phone call, a little help . . . anything. For all they knew, I was dead somewhere.
With this parting thought, my attitude changes instantly.
I remember having to turn down Stanford University because I couldn’t afford it. Well, the truth is, they didn’t want me either. Not after the shitstorm that surrounded my father and our family name.
I think about the first time I met Gina—she worked with me at a fast-food chain, and she took me to a place where I could crash for free until I had enough for a real place to live. It turned out to be a free campsite somewhere in the middle of the Everglades. I was scared and penniless, but I also realized that there were people worse off than I was. People like Gina who were real survivors. Gina had been on her own since she was fourteen and had never had even a taste of comfort. Yet she always wore a smile on her face and showed me how to become a survivor too. Eventually, I was able to scrounge up enough for an old beat-up car, which became my home for a while. All because I was ostracized and this man sitting in front of me didn’t lift one finger to help. He couldn’t spare a little of his millions to help me.
So yeah . . . screw him.
“God, will I ever learn?” I mutter to myself.
I pull my hand away, turn, and go back to the bar, trying to figure out what the hell just happened while tamping down the emotions I’ve had bottled up inside for over a decade.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This was such a good book that really captured my attention and that I feel in love with as the story progressed. I highly recommend that you check it out yourself.
3.5 stars Helen is a survivor. She was forced to grow up when she was 18 and her father was sent to prison. But she got her life back on track. It took hard work but she did it. Lately, life seems to be biting her in the butt. Her drunken, abusive ex-husband has decided to throw her out of the house after he assaulted her. Then she runs into Alex, her first love and old friend, at the club. Alex makes her an offer that she can’t refuse. The more time she spends in his company, the more she starts to care for him. But she is wary. Alex and his family left her high and dry when she needed them the most. Can she trust Alex? Will Helen be able to see the truth of what her father did? Or will it drive an even bigger wedge between her and Alex? The one thing I loved about this series is that the author made her characters suffer from real life issues. Take Helen for instance. She was homeless for a while when she was a teenager. Later on in her adulthood, she was the victim of domestic violence. Or Alex. He had some pretty bad anger issues. It was how she handled those issues that made me want to read more of the book (and the series). I wasn’t sure if I liked Alex and Helen as a couple. I felt that she was going from one bad situation to another. He harbored so much anger towards her that I found it hard to believe that it disappeared overnight. Plus, he acted like a jerk to her at her work. In front of her boss and co-workers. Even they were like “Ummm, you sure about this Helen?” He treated her horribly all the way to almost the end of the book. I didn’t feel the sexual attraction between Alex and Helen at first. I was too involved in with the drama. I did catch glimpses of it. It didn’t smack you in the face but it was there. I couldn’t decide if I liked it or not. I did like the sex scenes. They packed enough heat to make me fan myself. They were super steamy. Loved them!!! The end of What About Us was bittersweet. I liked what Alex did for Helen. But it was what Helen did for Alex that made the end of the book. The author did a great job at wrapping up all the plotlines. I do wonder if there is going to be a book 5. **I chose to leave this review after reading an advance reader copy**
Sidney Halston sure does know how to write a story. Helen and Alex had history that ended with them both only knowing part of each other’s story. Helen blamed Alex for not standing by her in her time of need and Alex blamed Helen for his father’s death. When chance throws them together at the same club the feelings they had for each other come out. Alex becomes protective and alpha male, Helen tried to remain self-reliant and proud. Sparks fly, tempers flare, and feelings are hurt. I am new to the Panic series but picked up What About Us and didn’t miss a beat. The characters were wonderful, the storyline was amazing, and it all came together perfectly. I loved the second-chance romance, the reliving of the past, and the learning of their future. This is a book that I recommend picking up. I am excited to read the rest of the series and find out the story behind some of the other characters.
I have loved this series from the beginning and What About Us has moved up to my favorite of the series. Al l the animosity between Alex and Helen was so thick you could feel coming through the pages of the book. But you could also feel the love they had for one another. This was such an emotional book from start to finish, I really didn't think I was going to be ok after reading it. After they reconnect the hell they go through it unimaginable, but will they be able to make it through to the other side. This one is a MUST read!!!
the panic series continues, with what about us, but this time with characters slightly further afield from the original brothers who run the nightclub. this is helen's story. working as a dancer is not her life goal, but helen has been down in her luck since her father was arrested for crimes she believes he did not commit. when she runs into alex archer, she's not too happy after the initial burst of joy when she sees him. alex blames the blackwood family for his father's death. the blackwoods stole millions from his, and finding helen working at a nightclub is the last thing he expects when he arrives in miami. after some initial resistance, alex and helen begin working together. trying to deny a chemistry that flares between them every time they find themselves alone. the biggest problem they have is that both helen and alex are clinging to some misconceptions of what happened to the other person when they first lost contact. there's a lot of blame going around, but once they stop blaming each other and accept that they were both young and had their worlds torn asunder in very traumatic ways and that what they feel for each other is strong enough to overcome that, then they make it through. but it takes them a while to get there, and it's occasionally frustrating. **what about us will publish on november 20, 2018. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/random house publishing group in exchange for my honest review.
With each book from this series I’ve thought, “That was my favorite.” But truly, What About Us is definitely one to beat the others and the reasons are Helen and Alex. They are both so unique and completely developed that I felt like I had known them my whole life. Helen is sassy and quirky but man can she tell you like it is. She doesn’t take any bull from Alex and let me tell you, he tosses a lot of it her way. With a tough outer shell, inside she’s really all marshmallowy soft despite the past years that have made her walk through fire. I loved her complete dedication to remaining the woman her trials had made her even when Alex is able to give her back the life she once had. She wasn’t going to take the easy way out by relying on him financially. That’s kind of my catnip. Alex doesn’t like loud groups of people and he struggles to communicate his feelings...all the time. When he does speak he pretty much tells it like it is and in the process projects a real a holery vibe to the one he’s talking to, mainly Helen. But man, when he finally finds it within himself to open up he doesn’t go second rate. I loved watching him react to Helen and then fall in love with her. She was all he needed and sometimes his needs meant taking care of her in ways she didn’t want to accept. I loved every moment of it. This is a fast paced enemies to lovers romance that knocked my socks off with its heat and intensity between these characters. They argued, they sexed it up and they developed a relationship with so much feeling it permeated every page, every word. Despite being part of a series, this can definitely be read as a standalone and it gives a wonderful epilogue that was absolute perfection. I hated to see this couple’s story come to an official close. I highly recommend this to any and everyone! I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book provided by NetGalley and Loveswept. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
I have loved every book in this series and What About Us is no exception! Helen and Alex were childhood friends until tragedy tore them apart and sent them on completely different paths. Alex grew up to be a successful businessman while Helen was just getting by on minimum wage. When Alex shows up at Duality and sees Helen there, it's like the past becomes irrelevant and he can't leave her there. But their issues are bigger than one finding success and the other struggling to make ends meet. There were quite a few times in this book that I thought that the problems between Alex and Helen were so big they were insurmountable. The fighting, the hate, the distrust, the resentment were so palpable I could feel it through every word. This book had me glued to the screen all day hoping that these two would be able to find their way back to each other. This series is one of my favorites. I am keeping my fingers crossed for Iggy to get his HEA too so I can learn about all of that man's mysteries!! *This is my voluntary review of an advanced reader copy*
I really thought I'd like this one, but it was not very good. The character development was lacking and after a while, I really didn't care about her wanted to know more of him. But it just never took off for me. I have read this author before and will read her again this one just fizzled out.
5-blueberry-pie covered stars! Review by Angelique Late Night Reviewer Up All Night w/ Books Blog There is nothing subtle or apologetic about Alex and Helen's story. Sidney Halston manages to capture everything from love to hate and everything in between in the 4th installment of the Panic series, What About us. The night of my eighteenth birthday. The night of first kisses and broken dreams. The night i was completely alone as my life turned upside down. Parting ways at a young age, during what was supposed to be a magical and happy day, things were never quite the same for either Helen or Alex. We meet strong-willed Helen who survived when the world was unkind and lonely and we learn how she got to where she is today. Alex, living with resentment about how things turned out for him, stumbles upon a familiar face in the last place he thought he would. Their lives are significantly different and things are never quite what they appear. As the two work around the proverbial elephant in the room, they find themselves following a path that neither ever thought was possible. It's both sad and happy and it sometimes takes just a nudge to push you where you need to be.
I loved the first two books in this series and really liked Sidney. I was looking forward to this book and felt oddly disappointed reading it. It took a total curve from the other previous books. Alex was not a likable character at all, then again he wasn't supposed to be. But after an entire book of his nonsense he wore me out. I have to idea why in the world Helen would even deal with him, another point of issue I had. Sure I get they had history, I also get that Alex hated her, her family and blamed her for everything that his family went through. It didn't matter what she's gone through or was going through, having to put up with Alex and his crap. He was like a mean dog and Helen was the bone. The positive was Alex was consistently a jerk and unlikable. Right to the very end. In my lowly humble opinion he didn't redeem himself. He was still the same selfish self centered jerk he was throughout the book. Not my favorite in the Panic series. Here's hoping the next book is better! 3.5 stars arc from NetGalley and publisher for an honest review
Growing up Alex and Helen were the best of friends, their families often spending time together at social gatherings, and once they hit their teens the friendship started to turn to more. Then tragedy strikes Helen's family, and it drives a wedge between the once close families, leaving Alex and Helen on opposite sides and Alex full of anger and Helen completely alone. Now twelve years later fate has decided to intervene and reunite them, Helen is working at Duality and Alex happens to spot her there while attending a business meeting. She is thrilled to see him again, but the happy notion isn't returned, he is cold and closed off and seems to want nothing to do with her, which hurts far more than she'd care to admit. Alex still carries a lot of hate for Helen's family, and seeing her again brings it all to the surface, and threatens to disturb the life he has created for himself. But seeing her again has also brought up unresolved feelings and he can't help but want to save her from the shabby life she is currently living, she deserves far more than that, but he isn't so sure he is the man to give it to her... or is he? What About Us is a second chance love story that reunites two childhood sweethearts who were drove apart by their families shady dealings. It has been twelve years of mulling over the wrongs of the past for these two, which means that there is a ton of angst and drama to be sorted out between the pages of this one. From the moment I started it I could feel the tension surrounding these two, but I also could also feel the love too, which made this one lots of fun to devour, it was a slow burning tale that kept me teetering on the edge of my seat with anticipation. It was a delightful addition to the series, and one I think readers will really enjoy! Highly recommend! I requested an advanced copy of this title from NetGalley, and I am voluntarily leaving my honest opinion.
WHAT ABOUT US is the fourth instalment in Sidney Halston’s contemporary, adult PANIC erotic, romance series focusing on the men and women who work and own the high-end night club Panic, and its’ subsidiary Club Duality. This is thirty-five year old, billionaire business investor Alex Archer, and thirty-year old, cocktail waitress Helen Blackwood’s story line. WHAT ABOUT US can be read as a stand alone without any difficulty. Any important information from the previous story lines is revealed where necessary. Told from dual first person perspectives (Alex and Helen) WHAT ABOUT US focuses on the second chance relationship between thirty-five year old, billionaire business investor Alex Archer, and thirty-year old, cocktail waitress Helen Blackwood. Twelve years earlier on the day of her eighteenth birthday Helen Blackwood’s life imploded –with her father in jail, and our heroine homeless and alone, our heroine made her way to Florida in the hopes of starting over where no one knew about her past. Fast forward to present day wherein Helen, now a cocktail waitress for a high-end night club comes face to face with her past, a past that blames everything on our story line heroine. Enter billionaire Alex Archer, and the man that Helen has never stopped loving. What ensues is the rebuilding but acrimonious relationship between Helen and Alex, and the potential fall-out as Alex struggles to let go of the past. Helen Blackwood once lived a life of privilege but everything came crashing down the day her father was arrested and charged with fraud. Struggling to survive, Helen would find herself hungry and homeless on more than one occasion. Having never forgotten about the boy who got away, life would come full-circle when said boy, now a man, makes it his mission to destroy everything Helen has struggled to achieve. Alex Archer couldn’t believe that Helen Blackwood had fallen so far. The only friend and girl to give the young socially awkward Alex a second look, Helen’s circumstances had definitely changed, a change Alex didn’t believe no matter how hard he tried. The relationship between Alex and Helen is one of second chances; a rekindling relationship damaged by the ‘sins of the father’, sins Alex struggles to accept and forgive. Alex’s attitude towards Helen is vindictive and cruel as our heroine struggles not only with her attraction to a man who despises her existence, but battles a personal h*ll back home. The $ex scenes are erotic, passionate and intense. The colorful secondary and supporting characters include Helen’s best friend Gina, and her father Edward Blackwood; Alex’s best friend and CFO of Archer Technologies Bradley, and his PA Monique Adler , as well as Alex’s mother Doris Archer. We are re-introduced to nightclub owners Nick (Pull Me Close #1) and Matt Moreno (Make Me Stay #2), as well as a number of security and construction crews. WHAT ABOUT US is a story of family, friendship, betrayal and lies. The premise is emotional, heart breaking and encouraging; the characters are charismatic, but embittered survivors; the romance is a second chance for two people to move on from the past. WHAT ABOUT US is a sexy, energetic and captivating story where the sins of the father destroy everything in its path.
What About Us is the fourth book in the Panic series from this author but it is a complete standalone. In fact I was hoping to catch up with some of the characters from previous books but that didn't happen. This story is about Alex Archer and Helen Blackwood. Teenage loves who everyone thought would go the distance. Unfortunately their world imploded when Helen's father's ponzi scheme cost Alex's family as well as many others almost everything. Twelve years later and Alex has worked hard to get his family back to where they were. Then he sees Helen working in Miami's latest hot night club Duality and everything changes. She's working just trying to get by. He's outraged and ready for revenge. Yet there is a chemistry between them that has sparks flying. You'll want to read this fantastic story of hate, revenge, understanding and ultimately love. I highly recommend it.