Friday, July 7, 2017

ADONIS IN ATHENS by Kat Mizera ❧ Excerpt ☙

Adonis_BANNER_excerpt

Get hot this summer with Adonis in Athens by Kat Mizera!
Keep reading for an EXCERPT!

Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: July 18th

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Paige Carter's fling with the dark-haired, green-eyed Greek was short, but it rocked her world. Her only regret was not finding out whether she'd ever see him again before he returned to Greece.

Apollo Lakkas earned his degree and was thrilled to return to Greece to begin work with his family's shipping business. His only regret is the way he left the sweet blonde he met in Vegas—who may or may not be his wife.

When an unexpected proposal throws Paige into a panic, she packs a bag for Athens and does the one thing she knows she must do before she can face any kind of future...reconcile her past.

The moment their eyes meet once again, Paige and Apollo feel the same spark that ignited them down the aisle. Will they be able to plan a future together or is their love destined to be nothing but a bittersweet memory?

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EXCERPT:

It was hotter than she imagined the hinges of the gates of hell would be. Paige Carter stepped out of her apartment and immediately felt the makeup she’d so carefully applied begin to melt off her face. With a sigh of frustration, she hurried to the stairs and walked down, looking at her watch. She was running late, as usual, and her boyfriend would undoubtedly be annoyed. She didn’t mean to fall behind, but somehow it always happened where Tom was concerned. She often wondered if, subconsciously, she did it on purpose. Nothing else made sense, because she was always punctual for work and other appointments. There was something about him, though, that brought out the procrastination and disorganization she usually kept at bay.

Tom Malone was the kind of guy all her friends were looking for. Not only was he handsome, smart, and funny, he also made an excellent living as an accountant and owned a beautiful home in a gated subdivision. He drove a Mercedes, bought her nice gifts and was generally a good guy. As far as she knew, he’d never cheated, never done drugs and barely drank other than the occasional beer. He’d given her a key to his house, a drawer in his dresser and had asked her to move in repeatedly. He didn’t have a single flaw, she thought irritably as she got into the sauna that was masquerading as her car. Maybe that was the problem.

Turning up the air conditioning and willing the cold air to start coming out sooner rather than later, she rolled down a window and pulled out of the parking lot. She had no idea why Tom had been so adamant she meet him at their favorite restaurant at 6:00 on a Friday night. It was June and work had slowed down a little for her, so all she really wanted to do was put on shorts and a T-shirt and either lounge by the pool with a good book or watch a couple of movies; this time of year, if she wasn’t by the pool, she wanted to be inside, away from the Las Vegas heat.

She turned on the radio and mindlessly hummed along, wondering what Tom was up to. In the 18 months they’d been dating, he’d often surprised her with unplanned weekends away, tickets to shows, and random day trips. It wasn’t her birthday or any kind of anniversary, so tonight could be anything from a romantic dinner for two to a formal ceremony where the mayor granted her keys to the city.

She almost snorted at the thought, chuckling at her own sarcasm. Tom was such a good guy, she hated being so out of sync with him. Quiet and unassuming, he was always there for her, supportive and as interested in her needs as a guy could be. Maybe too much so, she thought with a grimace. If Tom did have a fault, it was that he seemed to read her mind. If she so much as looked at a purse online, it would appear on her doorstep a day later. If she’d forgotten to schedule an appointment for a haircut, and her hairdresser was booked, he’d make a few calls and an opening would miraculously appear. Sometimes, she wanted to figure out how to afford the purse or get the appointment herself—and he refused to let her. He thought his job was to take care of her, but she just wanted someone who would be there to lend moral support.

Reaching out to push the auto-tune buttons on the radio to find something she knew, she stopped on an adult contemporary station and sang along to the end of Billy Joel’s “Just the Way You Are.” The romantic lyrics made her a little melancholy and she was about to change the station yet again when the next song froze her hand in place. The first few bars of Bruno Mars’ “Marry You” inexplicably brought tears to her eyes, and for the first time in ages she thought of him. Apollo. She could still picture his mesmerizing green eyes, chiseled features and body reminiscent of a Greek god. Literally. Tall, Greek and even-hotter-than-Vegas-in-summer good-looking, she did her best not to think about him. Or the spring break he’d come to Vegas. Or the nights they’d spent dancing and kissing as if nothing else in the world existed, running from casino to nightclub to the gondola ride at the Venetian. Or how he’d brought her body alive in ways that made her shudder just thinking about them. No, thinking about Apollo was a bad, bad idea. Especially when she had a night planned with Tom. She hit the button to change the station.

Since it was already 6:10, Paige pulled up to the valet and all but snatched the ticket from the young man’s hand. Tom never yelled or got angry when she was late, but she could see the disappointment in his eyes and it was worse than when a parent looked at you that way. It made her uncomfortable, having that much power over a grown man, so she did her best to avoid being in that situation. Today had just been a long day at work and when it was this hot, she felt sluggish.

Pasting a smile on her face, she approached the hostess. “Hi. My boyfriend is probably already here and—”

“Miss Carter!” The hostess’s eyes twinkled as she grinned at her. “Oh, yes, he’s here! Your whole family is here! Are you totally excited?”

Paige cocked her head slightly, her brows knitting together. “Um, what?”

“Uhh…” The girl’s face darkened slightly and she turned away, fidgeting with something on her computer. “Oh, um, maybe I was mistaken. What’s your boyfriend’s name again?”

Paige had a funny feeling in the pit of her stomach. “Tom. Tom Malone.”

“Okay, yes. Um, follow me.” She strode into the heart of the restaurant and Paige had no choice but to follow, scanning the tables for Tom.

They walked all the way to the back and the hostess turned with a smile. “You’re here in the back room—have a wonderful evening!” She opened the double doors that led into the big room usually reserved for private parties and Paige stepped forward with trepidation.

“There she is!” Tom was grinning broadly as he approached her, and Paige’s stomach dropped.

“What’s going on?” she whispered under her breath as he brushed his lips across hers.

“Wait and see!” he whispered back impishly.

Paige nearly groaned as she spotted her parents sitting at a table with her sister, Nicky, and her Aunt Sue and Uncle Paul. Her father gave her a thumbs-up while her mother waggled her fingers. She glanced from her parents to Tom and then across the room where she spotted her traitorous best friend, Raegan Warner, who should have warned her that something was going on. Because something was definitely going on.

“Tom!” She squeezed his hand harder than she intended and he turned in surprise, his eyes widening slightly.

“Honey, I know you’re always cranky after a long week at work but trust me, okay? You’re going to like this!” He kissed her cheek and pulled her along with him to a table at the front of the room, where his parents and sister were sitting.

“Why is everyone so dressed up?” she hissed in his ear. “I’m in capris and a T-shirt!”

“You’re gorgeous no matter what you’re wearing!” he whispered.

She wanted to roll her eyes but he was being so sweet and earnest, she mentally chided herself as she gave him a little smile. “Thanks—but you know I hate surprises.”

“This one is worth it!” he grinned, pulling out her chair and waiting for her to sit down.

“Hi, Mrs. Malone, Mr. Malone.” Paige nodded at his parents before turning to his sister, Jean, who hated her. “Hi, Jean.”

“Hi.” Jean raised her eyebrows. “Nice Duran Duran T-shirt.”

“That’s what happens with surprises,” Paige said lightly. “If I’d known, I would’ve dressed for a special occasion.”

“Since it’s not that special of an occasion,” Jean muttered, “I guess you’re dressed fine.”

“Jean!” Tom gave his sister a dirty look but she merely shrugged.

He sighed but after a wink at Paige, turned and let out a low whistle. “Excuse me, everyone! Now that Paige is here, I have an announcement.”

Paige was getting more and more nervous as she looked up at Tom. Her parents’ obvious happiness, Jean’s grumpy attitude and the number of friends in the room made his intentions perfectly clear; he was going to propose again and she had no graceful way to refuse him.

“Mr. Carter.” Tom took a wireless microphone that seemed to appear out of thin air and walked across the room to Paige’s father, Seth. “You know how I feel about Paige.”

Seth smiled. “I think everyone does, son.”

No, no, no, Paige thought, her eyes wide, stomach churning as he spoke.

“So after nearly two wonderful years together, I was hoping to get your blessing to ask for her hand in marriage.”

Fuck me loud, Paige groaned inwardly. She cut her eyes to Raegan, who was slowly realizing that the shock on Paige’s face was not laced with excitement.

“Well, of course you have my blessing,” Seth replied. “But I’m not the one who has to marry you. Ultimately, it’s Paige’s decision.”

The guests began to twitter and chuckle, whispers filling the room as Tom walked back towards Paige, pulling a small black box out of his pocket.

I’m going to kill him, she thought, too horrified to move and wondering how the hell she was going to get out of this.

“Paige, would you come down here please?” he asked.

Paige gulped, a roaring in her ears telling her she might start hyperventilating any moment now. She was screwed. There was no way to walk out of here without making a fool of herself, embarrassing Tom, or some combination of the two.

“Honey?” Tom spoke again, his smile faltering slightly.

“Oh, for fuck’s sake,” Jean muttered. “Just say no and spare us all the headache of watching the two of you make the worst decision of your lives!”

Fuck, fuck, fuck. Paige stood on wobbly knees, struggling to breathe, breaking out in a cold sweat. “T-tom?” Her voice was barely a whisper but her eyes were pleading with him to stop this insanity. He had to know she was going to say no. Why else would he have done it so publicly? This was more than a disaster; this was a nightmare and apparently she wasn’t going to wake up before the bad part.

“Sweetheart, I—” He took her icy cold hand in his and pulled her towards him.

“Tom, no!” she whispered frantically. “Please—not here.”

His smile fell a little further. “Paige…”

“Put the microphone down,” she implored, blinking away tears that were threatening to fall. “I have to talk to you—alone!”

He frowned. “Honey…”

“If you truly love me, you’ll do this for me.” She was whispering, desperation in her voice and written all over her face.

Tom took a deep breath and let it out slowly, before picking up the microphone and smiling broadly again. “My girl seems to want this part to be private. Can you give us a couple minutes?” He put down the mike amidst boos, cheers and catcalls, and pulled Paige from the room. They walked around the corner and down the hallway where the bathrooms were. Finally, he leaned against the wall and met her gaze. “Why do I get the feeling it’s not that you don’t want me to propose in there, it’s that you don’t want me to propose at all?”

She swallowed. “It’s not that black and white,” she whispered, searching her mind for something she could tell him to make him understand. To make him think about her needs. Hell, to make him stop trying to move so fast.

Raegan told her she was crazy. She worked as a waitress at a casino on the Strip and seemed to meet the very worst possible guys, so Paige thought her opinion of Tom was a bit skewed. Raegan was right about one thing, though: Tom was one of a kind. He wanted to be in a committed relationship and was willing to put in the work to make that happen. He’d already proposed once and she’d had to gently point out that they were both still young, needing time to get to know each other and grow up a little too. He’d been disappointed, but seemed to take her words to heart. He’d bought the house not long after that and seemed intent on showing her how much of a grown-up he was. She just wished he would slow down. Growing up, to her, didn’t mean giving up all semblance of youth; it meant living and exploring to find out who you were and what you really wanted in life. Tom was on the fast track to leaving behind every bit of childhood and focusing on retirement.

If she could get him to slow down, to stop rushing all the milestones, it would be easier to love him. She didn’t want a mortgage, babies and a dog at 24. She wanted to travel, go to concerts, and get beyond an entry-level position at her job. Tom said he understood, but actions spoke louder than words and his actions said the opposite. He wanted a spouse and a white picket fence sooner rather than later. Paige wanted that too, but later rather than sooner. Was it so wrong to want to enjoy life as an adult without a lot of responsibility for a little while longer?

“Then what is it, exactly?” he asked, his normally easygoing smile turning into a scowl. “I moved too fast the first time, but dammit, Paige. It’s been almost two years!”

“Eighteen months,” she contradicted, warring with herself about whether to just let him go and get this over with or to try to explain so that he would be patient a little longer.

“Paige, what’s going to change at 24 months or 36 months or, hell, 100 months?!”

She bit her lower lip and tried to articulate her reservations. “It’s just…I don’t…” She couldn’t seem to do anything but sigh.

“Do you love me, Paige?” he asked tightly, his brown eyes boring into hers intently.

“I do,” she whispered. “But we’re at really different places in life right now.”

“That again?” he demanded. “Jesus, you want to wait until we’re 30? Forty? I mean, how old will be old enough?!”

“It’s not about age!” she protested. “It’s about lifestyle… You have the big house and the car and the job. You want the wife and babies to go with it, and I’m not ready.”

“What do you want to do?” he asked in frustration, calming down now that she’d admitted she loved him.

“I want to focus on my career and get to a point where I feel successful, instead of one step above entry-level. I want to travel. I want to go on adventures… You’re only 26, Tom. Why don’t you want to go on adventures?”

He looked startled, his eyes narrowing a little. “I, um, well, like what?”

“Swimming with sharks in the South Pacific or zip-lining across Costa Rica or excavating shit in the desert in Egypt—I don’t know! Don’t you dream about anything other than accounting?”

He met her gaze sadly, stuffing his hands—and the box with the ring—in his pockets. “You,” he said softly. “I dream about you.”

Embarrassment and guilt tore through her, making her want to cry. He didn’t deserve a woman like her—he deserved better. He wasn’t the kind of guy who dreamed about adventure; his dreams were about reality. Life, love, marriage, children and retirement; that summed up Tom Malone and it was the opposite of everything Paige wanted. There was just no way to explain that without hurting his feelings.

“There’s something I have to tell you,” she finally said, taking a step away from him and looking anywhere but his face. “I, um, I’m kind of…already married.”

“Huh?” Tom looked too confused to even be angry.

“I mean, I think I am.”

“What?! You think you’re married? How can you not know?”

“It was a crazy fling during spring break, three years ago.” She looked down. “He was leaving to go back to school the next morning and we couldn’t find any papers or anything so we…assumed we hadn’t actually done it, like legally, and…forgot about it.”

“Forgot about it? Are you kidding me?” He was staring at her as though a unicorn horn had just poked through her forehead.

“It was spring break…drinking, partying, carrying on—a too-much-fun overload—and then he was running to catch his flight and eventually going back to Greece… We weren’t sure what we’d done. So he left me his information and said to call him. I never did.”

Tom was still staring at her. “Let me get this straight. Three years ago you had a wild week with some guy from Greece, whom you may or may not have married, but instead of finding out, you went your separate ways and decided to just ignore it?!”

Hearing it spoken out loud like that, it really sounded dumb, but all she could do was nod.

“Is that your idea of an adventure?”

Her eyes shot up and met his, hurt, guilt and a twinge of anger running through her. “That’s not fair,” she said hotly. “Name one college student who didn’t do something dumb!”

He arched his brows. “I can name at least one.”

She scowled. “I’m sorry! I can’t help who I am! It’s not like I’ve changed…I’ve always been this way and you asked me out anyway. I’ve never lied about who I was and I’ve tried to compromise, to do some things your way while still doing other things my own way. You just don’t seem to want to do any compromising on your end, and now—”

“No compromising?!” He glared at her. “Everything I’ve done has been a compromise! If it were up to me, we’d already be married and living together! Instead I keep waiting and putting my life on hold so you can grow up!”

“How have you put your life on hold?” She frowned at him, suddenly tired of this, tired of everything. “Your career is on track, you bought the big McMansion in the suburbs, you have a fancy car and the monthly golf date at the country club. How is delaying putting a ring on my finger holding you back?”

“Single guys don’t get the corner offices or the partner offers—they’re too busy partying to snag the better clients.”

“So you need a wife to further your career?” She was getting pissed now, folding her arms across her chest. “All that stuff about dreaming about me was just bullshit!”

“No! Honey, wait.” He ran a hand through his thin brown hair and sighed. He reached out and gently put his hands around hers, pulling her closer to him. “Listen, that came out all wrong. I’m sorry.”

“Tom, I don’t know if I can do this anymore,” she admitted. “I love you, but we’re in really different places in our lives. Sometimes it feels like you don’t know me at all.”

“What do you mean?”

“If you wanted me to say yes tonight, this wasn’t the way to do it. You know I don’t like surprises and gathering all these people stressed me out—even if things were perfect between us, I might’ve said no because it’s just so overwhelming for me.”

“I’m sorry.”

“And I know you love this stuff. In the end, I don’t ever want to be the reason you don’t do something. I don’t want to hold you back.”

“You’re not.” He looked sad. “But I kind of feel like your heart is somewhere else.”

“That’s not true!” she protested. “I’ve never been unfaithful! Never!”

“That’s not what I meant. I know that’s not who you are…but you’re in a different place in life. You want your freedom for a while, to explore the things you feel are missing, and I’m ready to settle down. Maybe…” He met her eyes almost guiltily. “Maybe we need a break.”

“A break?” She blinked.

“At the very least, you need to find out, one way or another, if you’re married. If you are, you need to do something about it. If you’re not, I still think we need some time to think about the future, about where we want to be in a year, five years…ten.”

“I…okay.” She didn’t know how to argue because he was right. Even though it could be different between them, he obviously wasn’t willing to find middle ground. He wanted things to be the way he wanted them; her needs and wants weren’t his priority, even though he made it appear that they were by spoiling her with gifts she didn’t need and the type of overwhelming attention she didn’t want.

“Let’s take a little time to regroup. You can sort out your…marital status and I can think about the idea of adventures.”

She looked up into his handsome face in surprise. “Really? You’ll think about adventures?”

He shrugged. “For me to love you, I’d think I’d have to.”

“It has to be a choice,” she said softly. “Not a burden.”

“That’s why I have to think about it.”

“That’s fair.” She paused. “Tom, my parents don’t know—”

He smiled faintly. “About your possible marriage? I figured. Don’t worry. I’ll cover for you.”

“You will?” She looked at him curiously. “Why?”

“Because you’re right—I didn’t make tonight about you…it was about me. I wanted the big party, the big surprise, the big engagement. I know you, though, and I knew you wouldn’t like it. I just hoped you wouldn’t be able to say no.”

“I’m sorry,” she said quietly. “But that’s not fair to either of us. I do have to find out, one way or another, whether or not I got married three years ago. And you have to decide if you’re willing to put off the white picket fence dream for another year or two, until I’ve had time to follow some of my dreams too. Once we get married and have kids, everything will change, Tom, and I don’t know that I want to give up that much freedom at 24.”

“Maybe some time apart will make us see that we’re meant to be together,” he said.

“Maybe,” she whispered softly, leaning up to press a chaste kiss on his cheek.

“Go ahead and go,” he said, releasing her hands. “I’ll think of something to tell everyone.”

“Oh. No, that’s not fair. We should tell them together. I can—”

“Tonight was my fault,” he admitted. “I never should have put you on the spot like that, so I’ll make it right.”

“But what will you tell them?”

“That I shouldn’t have planned something like this without talking to you first and that you want a private, romantic engagement, not something this big or ostentatious. When they ask where you are, I’ll say you’re upset with me and that I’m giving you time to cool off. In a few days, we’ll tell people we’re taking a break.”

“And then?” she asked, looking over her shoulder at him.

“I don’t know.” He met her gaze sadly. “I guess we’ll regroup when the time is right.”

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About the Author:

Kat Mizera is a South Florida native. Born in Miami Beach with a healthy dose of wanderlust, she’s called Los Angeles, Long Island, upstate New York, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Atlanta home. She’s never been able to pick which locale is her favorite, but if pressed, she’d probably choose the west coast.

Kat’s a typical PTA mom with a wonderful and supportive husband (Kevin) and two amazing boys (Nick and Max). When she’s not writing, she’s either scrapbooking or indulging in her second love (after writing) – traveling. Greece is one of her favorite places in the world. She loves that Athens is a big city with a small-town feel. The food, beaches and culture keep her going back as often as possible. She hopes to retire there one day so she can spend her days writing books on the beach.

Kat has been a working freelance writer for nearly 30 years. She sold her first article–a review of a rock concert–for $10 in 1985. Since then she’s been an entertainment journalist, waitress, bartender, legal assistant, food critic, magazine editor, substitute teacher, and sports writer. She also spent some time working at A & M Records in Los Angeles.

As you can guess from her series, the Las Vegas Sidewinders, Kat loves hockey. She is also a freelance hockey writer, covering her favorite team, the Florida Panthers, and any other teams that have an interesting story. The rest of the time, she writes novels: sexy, romantic fiction that she hopes makes you as happy as it makes her. There’s something enticing about hockey players and romance…

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