ETWG First Chapter Book Award: Sweet Indulgence by Jill Blake

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Sweet Indulgence by Jill Blake is a Finalist in the Romance category of Published Books for the East Texas Writers Guild First Chapter Book Awards.

Becca Markham spent the last six years trying to please everyone else. Now it’s her turn. She ditches her cheating boyfriend, quits her high-stress job as a software engineer, and decides to transform her life-long love of baking from a part-time hobby into a full-time business.

Leo Kogan spent years scrambling to escape a life of poverty—first in Russia, then in the U.S. Now a successful surgeon, he needs just one thing to complete his American dream: the perfect woman. But making the leap from casual friends to lovers proves harder than he expects.

Despite a sizzling attraction, Becca and Leo don’t see eye to eye—especially when it comes to love and money. She’s looking for sex without strings; he wants a partner for life. She stakes her future on a risky new business; he’s obsessed with financial security.

Can love bring two headstrong people together…or will their differences end up tearing them apart?

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Award-Winning First Chapter

Even from across the room, separated by a boisterous crowd, Leo could pick her out. He’d spent four years studying Becca’s profile, committing her features to memory. Gray-blue eyes framed by laugh lines and a thick fringe of lashes. Fly-away hair that tumbled halfway down her back and sported a half-dozen shades of sun-streaked brown. An athlete’s body, with toned arms and long legs and breasts that were just perfect for his hands.

Not that he’d ever had the chance to test that out.

From the moment they’d met, shortly after Leo moved to L.A. to join the orthopedic faculty practice group, Becca had been with someone else. Someone who just happened to be Leo’s colleague. A man so obviously unworthy of her that Leo kept expecting her to recognize that fact and kick the bastard out.

But love was blind.

614rEEA+X-L._UX250_So Leo remained on the sidelines, watching. Waiting for Becca to come to her senses and see what was right in front of her. The only thing that stopped him from forcing the issue was the knowledge that no one ever thanked the messenger. And besides, Becca was loyal, not stupid. She’d stumble onto the truth eventually. That’s when Leo would sweep in, ready to comfort her.

“And then what?” his friend Anna asked a couple years ago. He should have known better than to confide in her, especially considering that she was also good friends with Becca. “You all live happily ever after?”

“Why not?” He ignored her muttered insult to his intelligence, and tossed back what must have been his fourth or fifth shot of vodka. He’d lost count after a while. Just as he’d lost track of the purpose of their celebration. Instead of focusing on Anna’s latest achievement—a tenure offer from the university’s math department—Leo had somehow let his thoughts wander and his discretion slip. Damn. There was a reason he rarely drank. For someone who stood six foot two and weighed one ninety, his capacity for liquor was nonexistent.

Anna pushed the bottle of Grey Goose out of reach. “Rebound relationships never work.”

“How would you know?” he countered. “Have you ever tried?”

“No,” she said. “But I don’t have to bang my head against a wall to know it’ll hurt.”

The following day, Anna introduced him to another friend of hers, an adjunct professor whom he’d ended up dating for a while. They broke up for the same reason most of his relationships ended: sex and friendship weren’t enough, but they were the only things he was willing to offer. At least to anyone who wasn’t Becca.

Leo sighed and took another sip of iced tea. The heat and noise were starting to get to him. Too many bodies packed into too small a space. Whichever administrator was responsible for booking today’s venue must have underestimated the turnout, probably figuring that few would bother to show up on a holiday weekend.

But 4th of July or not, free food and booze were always a draw. Especially for freshly-minted doctors embarking on their first year of training. And the staff needed little encouragement to party at the department’s expense.

It was only the clinical faculty who had to be prodded to attend. Last week, the orthopedic chair sent out a memo reminding everyone of the annual “welcome to residency” bash. Another email exhorted the doctors to bring their significant others—something that was rarely permitted in this era of cost-cutting and increased government scrutiny.

So, here he was, reporting for duty like a good Komsomoletz. Communism might be dead in some areas of the world, but its tenets of mandatory volunteerism were alive and well in the department of orthopedics.

The patio door behind him slid open, letting in a wave of heat. Leo glanced over his shoulder and stiffened. “Hello, John.”

The man who entered paused in the process of tucking in his shirt. “Oh,” he said, looking up. “Hey.”

The door opened again. A familiar blonde with dark roots and overblown assets squeezed in beside John. Instead of her usual uniform and hospital badge, she wore a tube top mini dress that left little to the imagination.

The woman ran a neon-pink fingernail down John’s arm. “See you later?”

John’s eyes darted toward her. “Sure.” He stepped away and scanned the room. “Later.”

Leo almost felt sorry for her. Why were women such suckers for men who treated them badly? Then again, this particular woman wasn’t exactly blameless. She’d worked for the department long enough to know that John had a live-in girlfriend.

The woman’s smile faltered when she noticed him standing there. “Dr. Kogan. Hi. Sorry, I’ll just…um…excuse me…”

She hurried away.

“I hate it when they get clingy,” John said. “One fuck and they think you owe them.”

Leo clenched his jaw. What did Becca see in this troglodyte?

John straightened his collar. “You’re not going to make an issue of it, are you?”

“Which part?” Leo muttered. “You cheating on Becca? Or you sexually harassing the staff?”

“What are you talking about?” John dragged his gaze back to Leo. “It was all consensual.”

He didn’t deny the cheating. Smug sonofabitch. “One of these days,” Leo said, “you’re going get us all sued.”

John waved that away. “Don’t be such a pussy, Kogan. She was practically begging for it. And if she ever claims otherwise, who do you think the administration’s going to believe? Me, or some bitch who barely finished high school and answers phones for a living?”

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