Sunday, September 17, 2017

"Unraveled" by Lauren Dane

(Whiskey Sharp Book 1)
by Lauren Dane

Unraveled (Whiskey Sharp Book 1) by Lauren Dane

Unraveled is the first book in the new Whiskey Sharp series by New York Times bestselling author Lauren Dane. Whiskey Sharp is a contemporary romance series set in a barbershop (of the same name) in Seattle's Pioneer Square.
Lauren joins us today to share an exclusive excerpt from the book, which will be released on 30 January 2018 but is currently available for pre-order. Also available for pre-order: Jagged and Torn.

Jagged by Lauren DaneTorn by Lauren Dane

The sharpest ache comes from wanting what you think you can't have ...
Maybe Dolan has lived independent, free-spirited and unattached since leaving home at sixteen. Whiskey Sharp, Seattle's sexy vintage-styled barbershop and whiskey bar, gave her a job - and a reason to put down roots. Cutting hair by day, losing herself drumming in a punk rock band by night, she's got it good.
But a longtime crush that turns into a hot, edgy night with brooding and bearded Alexsei Petrov makes it a hell of a lot better.
Maybe's blunt attitude and carnal smile hooked Alexsei from the start. Protecting people is part of his nature and Maybe is meant to be his ... even if she doesn't know it. Yet. He can't help himself from wanting to protect and care for her.
But Maybe's fiery independent spirit means pushing back when Alexsei goes too far. Still, he's not afraid to do a little pushing of his own to get what he wants - her in his life, and his bed, for good. Maybe's more intoxicating than all the liquor on his shelf ... and he's not afraid to ride the blade's edge to bind her to him.

The old-fashioned red, white and blue barber poll lazily spun inside a glass case just outside the front door to Whiskey Sharp. Jaunty, she thought. A good sign. Classic and simple.
The bell over the door jingled as she opened and stepped inside, greeted by the scent of sandalwood and mint. Scissors snipped and clippers hummed and it felt very much like a place she’d like to stop and stay awhile.
A broad-shouldered gent with a vest and a crisp white button-down shirt came over. “Welcome to Whiskey Sharp. You in for a cut?”
“I’m actually looking for Alexsei Petrov.”
Broad Shoulders gave her a slow head-to-toe look. “He’s just finishing up. He’s booked today, so if you want him to do your cut, we can get you in tomorrow.”
“I don’t need a cut, thanks. I just need a few minutes of his time. Irena Orlova sent me.”
Broad Shoulders relaxed at the mention of Mrs. Orlova’s name. “Okay. Just hang out here for a bit. I’ll let him know you’re here.”
Maybe thanked him and moved to the small waiting area near the windows, taking in the space as she tried not to be nervous.
Whiskey Sharp was all wood and brass. An old-school barbershop area was off to the right with individual chairs and stations. Guys with tattoos and suspenders worked on men from their early twenties into their fifties.
The floor was hardwood. Oak, by the looks of it, well-worn to a shine near the doorways and points that got a lot of traffic.
And in the back, opposite the barbershop space, there was a long bar with stools fronting it. She’d heard the place had just started serving alcohol in the evenings for several hours. Small, tables and a few group-seating areas dotted the area in deep, forest green velvet and cognac tanned leather.
Old school. And yet very clean and elegant. The kind of place you could hang out in and relax a little.
Somehow, seeing it like that, with all the beauty in the deliberate choices made in decorating and the feel of the workers in the place, her nervousness seemed to ebb.
She could do this. She knew her way around a haircut and shave. She just had to convince Mrs. Orlova’s nephew of the same.
Alexsei took her in, silhouetted by the pale afternoon light shafting across the generous lines of her face. A silver hoop rode against the juicy curve of her bottom lip.
Red lipstick, short blonde hair and green eyes behind a pair of dark-rimmed glasses. Black trousers with a white button-down shirt, a lot like what he wore most days. But she smelled better, he’d wager. The piercing provided an edge, but at the same time it softened her, emphasized the shape of her mouth.
Brought his breath a little short as he watched her, noting the strength in her presence, a confidence that seemed to shine from her.
He paused, continuing to look. It wasn’t that she was beautiful—though she was certainly arresting in her own way. Alexsei couldn’t quite put his finger on it, but he was absolutely sure he’d never seen anything quite like her before. This creature who’d come to him using his aunt’s name.
He had no idea what she wanted, but he had no problem spending the time with her to investigate.
“I’m Alexsei. You wanted to see me?” He attempted to keep a cool distance, but something about her pulled him closer.
She held a hand out. “I’m Maybe. I hear you’re looking for a barber and I’d like to solve your problem.”
He started to reply but she just kept talking.
“See, I know you’re probably thinking, hey, who is this woman? I haven’t even advertised for that opening. And you’d be right because you don’t know me. But I know Mrs. Orlova and while she was busily shoving extra loaves of bread into my order, she told me to present myself to you and for you to hire me. You’ve met her, so you know how she is. Frankly, I’m really afraid of her but she’s the main supplier of my carbs so I tend to just follow her orders.”
Alexsei was fairly certain she said all that without taking a breath.
“Right?” she asked, as if he’d exclaimed it aloud instead of in his head. “I do talk a lot. But I’m good with hair. And beards. And I need a job.”
“Which one are you asking about?” She cocked her head, nearly eye-to-eye with him. Tall. Close up, that energy she seemed to radiate from her enveloped him too.
True, she did seem the type to develop a good clientele if she had the talent for it. Some people liked that sort of personality when they came in.
She pushed at the hoop in her lip with the tip of her tongue—an unconscious nervous movement—and he realized he liked it way more than he should have. Especially if he was going to give her a job.
“All of them. While you’re at it, what kind of name is Maybe?”
She laughed. “Maybe is a nickname but one I’ve used instead of my given name since I was four.”
There had to be a story for that.
“As for why I talk so much. Well, I’m sorry to tell you it’s not a nervous habit or anything like that so it won’t go away once I get used to you. This is pretty much how I roll all the time. My sister likes to tell people I talk a lot because I have a lot to say. I think that’s the same as when a teacher tells you your kid is spirited instead of wild. I was a spirited kid, as you probably have a really hard time believing.”
Alexsei realized she was teasing him and he began to like her, despite his general inclination to find most people annoying.
But this…Maybe, well she held him, fascinated at whatever she might do or say next.
She grinned at him. “What else did I need to answer? Uh? Oh yeah, I’m good with hair and beards because that’s what I’ve been trained in and because I’m awesome, but you can keep that under your hat. I’m also good at punk rock. But I don’t think the latter is necessary for the former. Except in attitude. In attitude, punk rock is always necessary, don’t you agree?”
This was, again, one of her rhetorical questions. She didn’t even pause for two breaths before she continued, “I’m licensed in the state and I have references and all that. And I need a job because that’s how people pay their bills usually.”
His place tended to be mellow. This creature was not mellow. What would bringing her in do to the overall feel of the place? Sure, some clients would like that, but would some dislike it?
“What happened to your last job?” He assumed she talked them to death.
She took a deep breath and he saw a flash of vulnerability in her gaze before she straightened her shoulders. “I moved here. From another place, Spokane, I mean.”
Alexsei needed to shoot this down. There was something cagey about her. But if Irena had sent her, she would have already been judged trustworthy. His aunt would never allow anyone this close to his life if there’d been any doubt.
It also probably meant her reasons for moving to Seattle were to help someone else. His aunt loved a hard-luck case.
“You can call my boss. Obviously.” She pulled him back from his thoughts.
“I just don’t know if we really need to hire anyone.”
She rolled her eyes. “Of course you don’t need anyone. You need me.” She lost her teasing edge. “Here’s the deal. I need the job. I really need the benefits. Because you know, they’re awesome. Like me, remember?”
“How do you know these details?” He crossed his arms over his chest but she wasn’t intimidated in the slightest.
“Your accent comes out when you get imperious. Did you know that?”
He managed to suppress one of the annoyed sounds he’d learned from his mother as he’d grown up.
“Mrs. Orlova told me about the benefits cooperative you and several other businesses share and are available to the folks who work out of Whiskey Sharp. She also said she’d let you know I was coming.”
“We don’t really have an opening. I was just spitballing, as you say. She overheard me.” Which was nicer than saying his aunt had been eavesdropping.
“You don’t have a single female barber here. That’s lame.” She arched a brow at him. Again, he opened and closed his mouth, caught between curiosity and surprise.
“I can ask around to see if anyone I know is looking for someone.” There. He’d help her for his aunt without hiring her.
“Is it a purposeful thing?”
She cocked her head—she did that a lot—as she gestured at the shop. “No women here. Is that on purpose and design? To say hey dudes, this is a space just for us? And whatever, as cliché as an idea as that might be, I get it. I was just under the impression you wanted a shop with excellent barbers.”
Just at his back, he heard one of his barbers snicker.
“Look, I need a job. You need me here,” she repeated.
She frowned but her bottom lip still looked really good. “So is this your thing? Your answers all being why or what?”
Alexsei only barely refrained from glancing around for an avenue of escape. He hadn’t failed to notice that no one had appeared to save him, the cowards.
“Why do you want to work here? At my shop?”
“It’s near my sister’s apprenticeship. Why don’t you let me show you what I can do? I’ll give a cut and a shave. Check my work yourself.”
It was the tone of her voice when she’d brought up the detail about her sister that had done it. Maybe was a curious creature, but the steel in her voice told him she put her family obligations first and he respected that. Coupled with the way his aunt had sent her his way, he figured maybe an audition of sorts might be all right.
If she did a good job he could toss her some work. Perhaps.
“Come back tomorrow morning at ten. You can show me what you’ve got then.” He scowled at her but she flashed him a grin, heading toward the door.
“Thank you!” She dashed out without another word.

Praise for the Book
"Lauren Dane is an author of contemporary romance and Unraveled does not disappoint. If you enjoy quick, uncomplicated reads this author is for you! She writes great romance and has another winning series with Whiskey Sharp. Dolan and Alexsei are two spicey characters that you will want to keep reading more about." ~ Kat
"I adore Lauren Dane's stories and am so glad I had a chance to read Whiskey Sharp! It is just fabulous! Great characters full of layers and back stories. Beautiful love story that leaves you breathless. And a set-up for what I pray will be book 2 that leaves you more than a little desperate!" ~ Tina Christopher
"I liked it. It held my attention from start to finish. I will read the next in the series." ~ C bond
"This book also shines in its depiction of the workplace setting for the romance, I loved the way the barber shop was described, the slow burn of their connection at work, and the moment when they decide to really go for each other. I also loved how much of the romance happened at work, the ways we saw their connection grow in that setting." ~ Xan West
"Lauren Dane's contemporaries have become an insta-read for me. While her heroes and heroines may work in 'edgy' fields, their dedication to family and friends is perfect for readers who love the close-knit feeling of small town settings. It has everything I want: well-done supporting characters as well as a steamy romance." ~ Jessica

About the Author
Lauren Dane
The story goes like this - While on pregnancy bed rest, Lauren Dane had plenty of down time so her husband took her comments about "giving that writing thing a serious go" to heart and brought home a secondhand laptop. She wrote her first book on it before it gave up the ghost. Even better, she sold that book and never looked back.
Today Lauren is a New York Times bestselling author of over fifty novels and novellas across several genres.