The Silicon Beach Trilogy by Jill Blake
THE SILICON BEACH TRILOGY
Promo Tour for Books 1 & 2
Genre: Contemporary Romance
BEYOND THE IVORY TOWER
Mature content, 18+. Heat level: 4 (out of 5)
If there’s one thing math professor Anna Lazarev believes in, it’s the value of higher education. So when her younger sister announces she’s dropping out of college, Anna places the blame squarely on the man who inspired her sister’s rebellion.
Venture capitalist Ethan Talbot claims the US academic system is broken. His solution? Pay top students to “opt out” and pursue their entrepreneurial dreams without wasting time and money on a university degree.
In a passionate battle for the hearts and minds of a new generation, Anna will do whatever it takes to prove Ethan wrong. But when his demands take a more personal turn, will she sacrifice her principles to come out on top?
“You did what?” Becca shrieked, after hearing an abbreviated version of yesterday’s debacle.
“Just a little louder, Bec. I don’t think the citizens of Kansas heard you.”
“Wow. Ethan Talbot. I can’t believe I had to drag it out of you.”
Anna switched to speaker phone and lifted her suitcase atop the bed. “It’s not like I planned it,” she said, gathering discarded items of clothing and tucking them into a laundry bag. “It just happened.”
“Period cramps just happen. Weight gain just happens. Ending a three-year-old dry spell with Ethan Talbot doesn’t just happen.”
“I didn’t exactly end the dry spell.” She shoved the shoes into a different bag. “He dropped me back at the hotel and left. End of story.”
“Well, don’t keep me in suspense. When are you seeing him again?”
“I’m not.” She debated dumping the unused box of condoms. It wasn’t as if she’d need them any time soon.
Then again….She glanced at the expiration date. Two years. A lot could happen in two years.
“Why not?” Becca prodded.
“Because I’m heading home.” What the hell. She tossed the condoms in her suitcase. “Besides, we have nothing in common. And he refused to release Klara from the Fellowship.”
“Anna, sweetie, sorry for pointing out the obvious, but most people view the Talbot Fellowship as something prestigious.”
“It’s not a degree, Bec. It’s not even a certificate.”
“Maybe not, but it’ll still look good on Klara’s CV.”
Anna ducked into the bathroom for her toiletry bag.
Becca’s voice followed her. “You know Klara will do what she wants, regardless of what you say. Which means you’ve got two choices: prolong the battle and risk alienating her completely, or accept what she’s doing and move on.”
Anna returned to the bedroom. “What’s option C?”
“It wouldn’t kill you to be a little more flexible. Klara’s the only family you have. Shame to lose her over something that’s going to be over in two years.”
Anna sighed. “Bec, the problem is, we’re not just talking two years. We’re talking her entire future.”
“Does the word hyperbole mean anything to you?”
Anna ignored her attempt at humor. “If Klara doesn’t finish her education, she’ll end up regretting it. Maybe not now, but someday.” She glanced around to see if there was anything left to pack.
“She can always go back to school,” Becca said. “There are plenty of returning students of all ages.”
“And look on the bright side. Now that Klara’s moved out, you have the whole place to yourself. You can finally have a social life.”
“Is that supposed to cheer me up?” Anna said, zipping the suitcase.
“It’s all in the attitude. Now tell me more about Ethan Talbot.”
“Nothing more to tell.”
“Come on, you have to do better than that.”
“Seriously, Bec. I’m lucky if the guy doesn’t turn around and walk the other way the moment he sees me.”
“I’m sure you’re exaggerating.”
“Okay, so what did you do?”
“I threw myself at him.”
Anna winced and lowered the cell phone volume. “I may have had a little too much to drink.” She waited for Becca’s laughter to taper off. “It’s not that funny.”
“Sorry. I’m just trying to picture it. I don’t think I’ve ever seen you drunk.”
“Yeah, well don’t hold your breath.” Anna lifted the suitcase off the bed. “I have to go check out.”
Anna sighed. “It’s a long drive, Bec. I’ll talk to you when I get home.”
Two hours later, her phone buzzed. She ignored it. Another hour passed before she pulled into a rest stop to use the facilities and check messages.
She read Ethan’s text while standing in line for coffee.
How are you feeling?
Oh, boy. Mortified would just about cover it. Hung over would work too. And determined to put the entire unfortunate interlude with Ethan behind her.
She dropped the phone back in her bag and stepped up to the counter.
Two and a half hours later, as she unlocked the front door of her Santa Monica apartment, another text came through:
Clearly, the man wasn’t going to let it go until she responded.
She dumped her belongings in the living room and typed:
All good. Back in LA.
His response was immediate:
Didn’t get chance to say goodbye.
She sank down on the couch.
Sorry, she wrote. Goodbye.
And that should have been the end of it. Except for some reason, Ethan seemed determined to go off script.
When are you back in SF?
Was he asking because he wanted to see her again, or because he wanted advance notice so he could avoid running into her? She wouldn’t blame him if it was the latter. She’d never made such a fool of herself before. The only thing that would have been worse was if he’d taken her up on her offer, and then she’d vomited all over him. Or passed out in the middle of things. Or woken up naked and alone and not remembering a damn thing about how she got that way.
Considering all the worst case scenarios that hadn’t happened, she supposed she should be grateful. But that didn’t mean she wanted to see Ethan again. Ignoring the little voice in her head that said liar, liar, she texted back:
Busy with work. Have to stay in LA.
Then she shut off her phone and headed for the bedroom. She squelched any residual guilt by reminding herself that they had nothing in common. If he tried texting or calling her again, she’d simply ignore him. The same way he’d ignored her emails and phone calls when she’d first attempted to contact him.
Of course he hadn’t known her then. He probably got a ton of spam and solicitations, and her messages might have gotten lost in the shuffle—assuming they ever reached him at all. Now that they’d met, the dynamics had changed.
But that was beside the point. She didn’t belong in his world, and he had no place in hers. Best to cut her losses before anyone got hurt. And by anyone, she meant herself. Because she really couldn’t imagine a man like Ethan Talbot getting too hung up on a woman whose IQ far exceeded her bra size.
She toed off her sensible flats, stripped off her clothes, and climbed into the shower. Time to get back to real life.
Mature content, 18+. Heat level: 4 (out of 5)
Becca Markham spent the last six years trying to please everyone but herself. So when she ditches her cheating boyfriend and quits her high-stress job as a software engineer, she decides it’s time to pursue her own dreams. At the top of her list? Transforming 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 disagree on important things—like 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?
Where are you?
A minute passed. Then two. Maybe there’d been an accident. But if so, wouldn’t someone have raised the alarm over John not showing up for work?
The sense of unease that had been dogging her all day increased. She swiped across several screens until she found the GPS app she’d installed the last time John had misplaced his phone. Before she could enter the passcode, an inner door opened and a medical assistant in drab olive scrubs popped her head out.
“Becca? I thought that was you. What are you doing here?”
It took Becca several seconds to put a name to the face. “Alma,” she said. “Hi.”
“Is that for us?” The woman’s eyes dropped to the bag dangling from Becca’s wrist.
“What?” Becca glanced down. The second box of meringues. The ones she’d forgotten to drop off at the post-anesthesia care unit because she’d been in such a rush to get to the clinic. “Yes.” She pocketed the phone and offered Alma the bag. “Here.”
A deep voice interrupted. “Alma…? I need an Aircast in room two.”
“Duty calls,” Alma whispered. “Go on back. You know where the kitchen is.”
She disappeared down the hall, leaving Becca to follow more slowly. She dropped the bag off in the tiny kitchen and was on her way out when an exam room door flew open and a tall figure dressed in scrubs and white coat stepped into her path.
“Whoa!” He caught her arm just in time to keep her from falling. “Becca! You okay?”
She ignored the tingling sensation in her arm. And the lightheadedness? Probably just sleep deprivation. And anxiety. Yeah, that had to be it.
His head dipped slightly, dark blond brows furrowed. Green eyes scanned her face. She breathed in his scent—something tangy, like citrus, mixed with hospital soap. “Becca?”
“Yes,” she said. “I’m fine, Leo. You can let go.”
It felt like forever before he nodded and released her. She shivered, rubbing her arm where his fingers had touched.
“What are you doing here?” he said.
She was really beginning to hate that question. “Looking for John.”
Leo’s gaze sharpened. “He’s not at the hospital?”
“No.” She bit her lip. “Do you have any idea where he might be?”
Leo hesitated. “No.”
“Would you tell me if you did?”
He shifted and cleared his throat. “Maybe.”
The exam room door opened. “You’re all set,” Alma said, ushering out a patient on crutches.
Leo and Becca moved out of the way.
“I’m sorry,” he said, dropping his voice. “I need to get back. Maybe you should call Anna…?”
Why would he suggest that?
The sick feeling at the pit of her stomach spread up and out. She took a deep breath and watched Leo’s broad back as he strode down the hall, knocked on an exam room door, and disappeared inside.
Her cell phone vibrated. She fished it out and had to read John’s message twice, because the words kept blurring.
Working hard. About to start another case. What’s up?
Somehow, she got home and made it through the rest of the day.
It was nearly midnight by the time she heard John’s key in the door. She wasn’t surprised. He’d texted her again, advising her of an emergency fasciotomy he had to do on a patient with compartment syndrome.
That was when she checked the GPS app. It confirmed what she already knew: John wasn’t at work. He was nowhere near work. The signal mapped to a luxury resort some thirty miles northeast of the hospital. She looked the place up online. Quiet, discreet, set amid twenty-three acres of lush gardens, it billed itself as the perfect escape from the city, starting at three hundred dollars a night.
And to think, just this morning, she’d been worried about work preempting their weekend plans!
The front door opened. John flicked on the lights and froze. “Rebecca. Why were you sitting here in the dark?”
She blinked, as if coming awake from a dream. “Hello, John,” she said. “How was work?”
Jill Blake loves chocolate, leisurely walks where she doesn’t break a sweat, and books with a guaranteed happy ending. A native of Philadelphia, Jill now lives in southern California with her husband and three children. During the day, she works as a physician in a busy medical practice. At night, she pens steamy romances.