Kisses at Midnight


By Jen McLaughlin

By Samantha Towle

Foreword by James Patterson

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3 exciting romances presented by James Patterson, now in one book!

The McCullagh Inn In Maine by Jen McLaughlin: Chelsea O’Kane escapes to Maine with a gun and fresh bruises. She’s ready to begin anew-until she runs into her old flame, Jeremy Holland. As he helps to fix her inn, her heart heals and they rediscover what they once loved about each other. But as the two play house, it starts to seem too good to last. . . .

Sacking the Quarterback by Samantha Towle: Quarterback Grayson Knight has a squeaky-clean reputation in the football world. So when he’s arrested for drug possession, lawyer Melissa St. James knows that something doesn’t add up. It’s clear he’s hiding something, though he denies it. But there’s one thing he can’t deny — he wants Melissa.

Seducing Shakespeare by Tabitha Ross: A brand-new romance, published for the very first time! William Shakespeare has fallen in love — with the beautiful Marietta DiSonna. Her fiery heart has inspired his sonnets and her steady gaze, his plays. But what Shakespeare doesn’t know is that all the men and women are merely players in a grand production, and even Marietta is acting a role. Unless Shakespeare can seduce her in return…

Original romances presented by James Patterson

Novels you can devour in a few hours

Impossible to stop reading



When I first had the idea for BookShots, I knew that I wanted to include romantic stories. The whole point of BookShots is to give people lightning-fast reads that completely capture them for a couple of hours in their day—so publishing romance felt right.

I have a lot of respect for romance authors. I took a stab at the genre when I wrote Suzanne’s Diary for Nicholas. While I was happy with the result, I learned that the process of writing a romance novel required hard work and dedication.

That’s why I wanted to pair up with the best romance authors for BookShots. I work with writers who know how to draw emotions out of their characters, all while catapulting their plots forward at breakneck speeds.

All three of the BookShots in this omnibus—by Jen McLaughlin, Samantha Towle, and Tabitha Ross—have those same fast plots and heartwarming characters. In The McCullagh Inn in Maine, you’ll read about two people who fall back in love as they repair an old home. Next, you’ll encounter another set of characters who try to deny their attraction in Sacking the Quarterback. Finally, in a brand-new BookShot called Seducing Shakespeare, one woman will sacrifice everything for her heart. You’ve got a book of three romantic BookShots in your hands. I dare you to try to read just one.

James Patterson

Chapter 1

The sickly sweet scent of dying roses drifted over me as I backed down the driveway, moving too quickly to check for traffic first. My heart raced faster than the engine of the stolen Volvo XC90 as I stepped on the gas. All good plans allow for improvisation, right?

My fingernails were digging into the wheel. I forced myself to relax. There was no room for weakness, for panic, in my life. Not anymore. Whatever lay ahead was guaranteed to be better than what I was leaving behind, and it certainly couldn’t be worse than what I’d already survived.

I took a deep breath and held it as I ran a red light, feeling more alive, more like myself, than I had in years. A horn blasted, and I gripped the wheel hard. It was a miracle I didn’t break my swollen knuckles off at the joints. I was temporarily blinded by the oncoming headlights and I instinctively stepped on the gas, tensing as a truck headed directly for my door. The lights veered left and the pickup skidded off the road and into someone’s yard. Not my fault, not my problem.

I never wanted it to turn out this way. Sure, I saw the writing on the wall, kept a bag packed, and made contingency plans, but I was supposed to just disappear. Vanish into the night, be an unsolved mystery. Instead, I was going to have to spend the next couple of days fleeing for my life, hoping no one put two and two together. If I could just make it to the inn…

I screeched onto the ramp for I-95 with the scent of burning rubber filling the car, but I didn’t slow, not hesitating as I headed toward safety. North. I wouldn’t stop until I reached the one place where I knew I could escape. The same place I fled from years ago, with dreams of being something—someone—else. I was older now, and wiser, and I’d learned people never change. My current circumstances proved that point. All you could do was play the cards you were dealt.

No one would think to look for me in the sleepy Maine town I’d once called home, the one I’d erased from my record.

I’d sworn never to go back.

Sirens wailed at a distance, and I eased up on the gas pedal, forcing myself to obey speed limits. The last thing I needed was to get pulled over right now.

Once I put a little more distance between me and Miami, I’d find a rest stop, change my clothes, and wash up. Dyeing my brown hair could wait until I found some hole-in-the-wall to stop at for the night. I’d go blond. No one would expect me to go for that color. I hated blondes.

They led charmed lives the rest of us could only dream about.

My phone lit up, the screen showing a picture from my former life. I cursed. Keeping my eyes on the road, on that horizon, I fumbled around on the seat until I found the phone. Grabbing it, I chucked it out the window. A glance in the rearview mirror showed it disappearing under the wheels of a semi.

I gave a quick look at the object still remaining on the seat. My fingers flexed on the steering wheel. If I could only get rid of the gun the same way.…

This hadn’t been the plan, but then again, neither was murder.

Chapter 2

It’d taken two days of back-roads driving before I reached North Carolina. Ditching the car, I hopped on a bus for twelve hours. I looked like a preppy sorority sister going home for the weekend, my society persona left behind with the car. Once I hit the Maine border, I hitchhiked to the nearest used car dealer and bought a rusted old Chevy with some of the cash I’d stolen.

My destination was Hudson, Maine, which was only listed on the most thorough maps, a tiny pinprick of ink among shades of green. If you’ve ever heard people tell jokes about towns where the wild animals outnumber the humans, it’s possible they were talking about Hudson.

This late in the season, most of the autumn leaves had dropped, and the nearly bald tires of my junker car crunched over pine cones as I navigated roads I hadn’t seen in years. Finally, I arrived at the only home I’d ever known, the McCullagh Inn. My aunt, who’d owned it, had died six months ago, leaving me the business. I hadn’t been able to go to the funeral, but I knew a heaven-sent opportunity when it arrived, and so I’d made discreet arrangements to keep the lights on and get a cleaning service to come through once a week.

I’d never told anyone down in Miami about the inn or my life before I arrived there, so if I had any luck left in my bones, no one would search for me here. Sure, it might seem like someone could track me down easily enough, but I came from a long line of less-than-law-abiding folks. There were ways to muddy the water.

My father had taught me to prepare for all outcomes. I knew how to fade off the face of the planet so no one ever found you again. I’d done it once before, when I ran away from home. But now I was back.…

And I couldn’t shake the feeling that this was where I was supposed to be all along.

I flipped the TV on, muting it as I dialed my brother on the burner phone I’d bought at a Virginia convenience store. I may have tried to go straight, but Paul had stayed in the family business.

I turned away from the morning news and caught a glimpse of myself in the tarnished, ornate mirror over the fireplace. The pale green walls of the foyer and the wood paneling of the living room weren’t doing a damn thing for my complexion, and I could see the faintest shadow of a bruise beneath the makeup I’d slathered on. As I listened to the phone ring, I looked into my own blue eyes, wondering if I knew the person looking back at me. Then I turned back to the news, watching to see if what had happened in Miami had gone national. My newly blond hair swung in its ponytail. I really should’ve cut it, but, hey, even a girl like me is entitled to some vanities.

“Hello?” My brother’s raspy voice cut through the cheap phone.

I closed my eyes for a second, nostalgia making my throat ache. Or it could’ve been the abuse my vocal cords had recently taken. Nothing had a greater hold on you than family. “Paul?”

“Yeah?” Silence. A lot of silence. And then: “Chelsea? Is that you?”

I licked my lips. “Yes.”

“You’re alive,” he said flatly.

“Yes,” I said again, staring at the old tree outside the front window, next to the driveway.

“I’m going to kill—”

“Paul.” I swallowed again, eyeing the whiskey I’d brought out from the kitchen. It would hurt in the morning, but it might be worth the pain. “I need help, and I need you not to tell anyone I called, or where I am.”

There was no hesitation. “What do you need?”

Relief hit me in the chest. It was true what they said about family. “A new ID. A completely new identity, actually.”

“You’re on the run. Again.” At my silence, he sucked in a breath. I’d learned at a young age that people would say anything to fill a silence. “Did you dye your hair yet?”


“Nice.” He sighed. “What happened, Chels?”

A phantom gunshot filled the empty inn, and for a second, I was back in that moment. I eyed the table by the front door, where I’d shoved the gun in case I needed it again. It would’ve been smarter to ditch it, but it was the best protection I had right now.

When the silence continued to stretch, Paul cleared his throat. “Where are you?”

I thought of the bruises I was trying to hide, the secrets I carried, and I knew my older brother would see right through me. I had no choice. I needed that ID. It was the only way I’d get my fresh start. “I’m at Aunt May McCullagh’s inn, my inn.”

There was a brief pause.

“The lawyers found you,” he said.

Ignoring the accusation in his tone, I focused on the cloudy skies above the Atlantic Ocean. I’d left all the shades drawn except for one on the bay window overlooking the cliff, where a trail led down to the beach. On either side of the trail was an overgrown garden, filled with lobelia. I’d spent half my life sitting in that window, reading and looking at the storms raging over the ocean while dreaming of a future away from this tiny town. “Yeah, I know. I suck.”

“No argument here,” he grumbled. I could picture him sitting behind the wheel of his car, glowering at nothing in particular. Paul was happiest unhappy. “She left the inn to you, wanting you to fix it up and breathe new life into the place. She never gave up hope that someday, you’d come walking through those doors alive.”

I remained silent again, because, really, what was there to say? The past was done. I couldn’t go back and fix it, even if I wanted to. And those mistakes, those choices I’d made, had turned me into the woman I was. I couldn’t regret that. Now I was here, ready and willing to make a new life for myself. And I’d make this the best damn inn in all of Maine.

Like a phoenix, I’d be reborn once Chelsea O’Kane was dead.

He sighed, dragging the sound out longer than a wave crashing on the shore. “Look. I’ll get you what you’re asking for. Meet me at Joe’s to discuss it.” There was a beat of silence. “It’s the coffee shop on Main Street, in case you forgot.”

How could I forget?

Main Street was the only street in town with any shops. There was a coffee shop, a church, a liquor store, a grocery store, a bar, and a Rite Aid. They were all on one block, with enchanting brick facades and quaint dark-gray clapboard on the old buildings. “When?”

“An hour from now. Don’t be late.”

Exactly an hour later, I walked down Main Street. The second I saw its Victorian architecture, I was comforted by its familiarity. But I tugged my baseball hat down to shadow my face and looked at the cracked sidewalks to avoid the usual small-town curiosity that would inevitably be thrown my way. I was always good at blending in, and I congratulated myself for not losing my touch…until I bounced off a brick wall.

Or, rather, a man.

His muscular arms closed around me, saving me from hitting the ground. The second his skin touched mine, a bolt of desire mixed with the panic that shot through my veins. I jerked back sharply, stumbling backward, and glanced up. The tall man who caught me was handsome, his wavy brown hair swept back off his face, and it was like the ground opened beneath me when I recognized him. Suddenly, that bolt of longing made perfect sense.

Oh, for God’s sake. I couldn’t catch a break. I’d had more than enough drama to fill ten seasons of a soap opera, and all I wanted was to lie low and nurse my injuries, but nooo.

It was Jeremy fricking Holland.

Damn it, he wasn’t supposed to be here.

Chapter 3

Jeremy Holland had been an object of infatuation since childhood—from the time I understood the difference between boys and girls up until college. He’d been a major part of my “wish on a star” phase. We’d been best friends, the kind who were supposed to be secretly in love with each other, so when he got together with the preppy blond cheerleader Mary Walker, I was pissed. When he went and proposed to her like the idiot he was, I skipped town the night before their wedding. I hadn’t planned to return.

And I hadn’t spoken to him since.

I may have googled him from time to time, though. Last I’d heard, he was living in Bangor, dribbling his life away at some desk job.

His gaze met mine, and the casual look in his familiar green eyes brightened to recognition. I quickly turned away—like I should have done the second I realized it was him. My heart raced, and the old undeniable attraction between us jerked back to life like a tangible thing, all because our bodies had bumped against each other on the street.

Damn his muscular arms.

And damn his outdated online profile.

“Sorry,” I mumbled, sidestepping his large frame and tugging the baseball hat even lower so he wouldn’t stop me. I didn’t need this. Not now.

I didn’t want him to focus on me.

He easily stepped the same way as me, blocking my escape effortlessly. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah.” I cleared my throat, forcing my voice to drop a few octaves. Between that and my altered appearance, maybe he wouldn’t recognize me. He’d married Mary, after all. How smart could he be? “I’m fine.”

I walked past him, making sure not to brush against him. The last thing I needed was to feel a pull toward him. I was more panicked than I had been during my entire journey from Miami.

“Chelsea?” he asked, his voice dipping sexily. “Is that you?”

I stiffened, a few choice curse words flitting through my brain. But I bit them back, because nothing indicated guilt more than freaking out—and my father had trained me better than that. “Who?” I asked without turning around.

“Chelsea. Chelsea O’Kane.”

I shook my head, balling my fists at my sides, ignoring the way his voice made me feel. All shivery, broken, and empty. “Never heard of her, but I hope she’s pretty if you’ve got us confused.”

As I attempted to saunter away, forcing myself to unclench my fists and keep my body language relaxed, he called out, “No matter how hard your daddy tried to teach you, you always were a lousy liar, Chels. Drop the act, and turn around.”

I took a deep breath and considered my options. If I kept walking, Jeremy would come after me, and the ensuing argument would draw more attention than I wanted. If I faced him, I risked getting sucked back into his “help your fellow man” world, and right now, I could only help one person—myself.

Luckily for me, I saw Paul’s truck turn the corner of Main and Birch. “Whoever you thought I was, trust me, that girl is long gone.”

There was an intake of breath from behind me and I paused, for the briefest of moments, at the sound. I wanted so badly to turn around, to run into his arms and tell him everything that was bothering me, like I’d done when we were kids, but then my self-preservation instincts kicked in. I crossed the street, not bothering to look both ways—in this town, I’d hear a car well before it ever reached me.

Paul’s truck pulled up to the curb of the coffee shop, and I yanked the door open at the same time as he opened his, one foot out the door. He glanced at me in surprise. “I thought we were—”

“Change of plans,” I growled. “Drive. Fast.”

He frowned, closing his door without hesitation. “Is that—?”

“Yep,” I gritted out. “And he recognized me.”

“Shit,” Paul said, jerking the truck into drive. “He won’t let it go at one conversation.”

“I know.” I scanned our surroundings through the passenger window, sucking in a breath. “Son of a bitch.”

Damn it, why did I have such lousy taste in men? The recognition in Jeremy’s eyes scared me more than Richard’s fists ever had. If I wasn’t careful, Jeremy would ruin everything.…

And then I’d be the one facing down the barrel of a gun.

Chapter 4

Paul turned down the road that led to the inn, a ramshackle gem framed by old forest. His grip on the wheel was unyielding. He stared out the windshield, flexing his jaw, ignoring me. More than likely he was about to spout the perfect reprimand for this situation—one he’d probably been rehearsing since I’d left. “You look like shit.”

“Thanks,” I said dryly.

“Where did the bruises come from?”

Of course he saw them. “A problem that no longer exists.”

He pressed his mouth into a tight line. “What did Jeremy say?”

“He asked if I was Chelsea O’Kane. I told him I wasn’t.”

“That was stupid,” Paul snapped. “Now he’ll be focused on you and why you lied. You need to shake him off.”

I dropped my head back on the seat. Damn it, he was right. And I didn’t need that kind of attention right now—especially not from him. “I’ll find him. Tell him I want nothing to do with him and ask him to leave me alone. He will.”

Paul snorted. “Yeah. Sure he will.”

“He will,” I said, knowing it was true. Jeremy had picked Mary, after all.

There were new wrinkles around Paul’s eyes, signs of a life filled with laughter and worry earned while I’d been away, which made me feel a little emptier inside. Otherwise, he had the same brown hair and blue eyes that were, as always, tinged with something between a touch of mischief and anger at the world.

“What the hell did you get yourself into this time?” he asked.

I shook my head, staring out the window at the trees blurring together as we sped by, my mind still on Jeremy and the threat he posed. I hoped he dropped the idea of reconnecting and disappeared out of my life again. “You don’t need to know the details.”

“The hell I don’t,” he growled. “You’re blond, Chels. Blond. Obviously, shit got real.”

Wincing, I touched my hair self-consciously. I looked ridiculous in this color and we both knew it. “The less you know, the better. Just trust me on this.”

“But—” He sighed. “Whatever.”

I swallowed and glanced in the rearview to make sure we didn’t have a tail.

“You have to admit it’s pretty shitty that you disappeared from my life, only to show up when you need me to get you a new ID, so you can…what? Run again?” he snapped.

“I don’t just need a new ID,” I said softly. “I need Chelsea O’Kane to be legally pronounced dead. And after that, I’m not going anywhere.”

He braked, the tires squealing softly at the sudden movement, and slowly turned to me. “Dead?”

I nodded once, knowing I was asking for a lot, but it was the only way I stood a chance at coming out of this mess alive. “Can you do that?”

He stepped on the gas, pulling into the inn’s circular gravel driveway without answering, but I didn’t make the mistake of assuming his silence was a good thing. I knew better than that. The second he put the truck into park, he turned to me, scowling. “I understood why you ran. You wanted to get away from this life, from Dad’s legacy. You wanted to be clean. Normal. Legit. Right?”

That had been the plan, yeah. But apparently, I wasn’t the type of girl who got clean. Gripping my knees, I nodded, still not speaking.

Paul needed to say his piece, and I intended to let him.

“So you ran, and you never called or told me where you were. I didn’t even know if you were still alive.”

I stared at the faded gray clapboard and peeling blue shutters on the front of the house. The gardens were choked with weeds, but renovating the inside was my first priority. “I’m sorry. I was living in Miami, working as a lawyer, when things went…” I trailed off and made the kaboom motion with my hands.

“A lawyer, huh?” He stared at me, his gaze filled with pain and accusation. “You can’t get any more legit than a lawyer. Can’t remove yourself from this family any further than that, right, Chels? The only thing worse would’ve been becoming a cop.”

“I’d never—” I stared down at my legs. That’s exactly what I’d been thinking when I chose my major. I’d been so desperate to be a better person. That had been all Jeremy’s fault. Him and his do-good attitude that never faltered. “I mean, right.”

“And now you’re here, asking for a favor.…” The crisp wind, carrying the taste of salt water, buffeted the overhanging branches, casting shadows on his face. Paul continued, “Asking for my help.”

I nodded, grabbing hold of my knees.

While I’d done what needed to be done, I was older now, and I never should have cut ties with my brother, no matter what he did for a living. No matter how similar he was to our father.

Coming home to Maine meant safety, but it also meant a chance to start over, to rebuild my relationship with my brother. I needed him and this inn.

“Tell me, Chels. Was it worth it? Did you find what you were looking for?”

“No. Is that what you want to hear? I thought I could be someone who made a difference in the world, who changed things for the better, but all I did was make things worse. So that’s why I came home to the inn, to you. To start over. Again.”

Paul rubbed his forehead, letting out a sardonic laugh. “How far up shit creek are you? You going to end up in jail like Dad?”

“This isn’t some penny-ante con man scam.” I pressed my lips together and shrugged. “If I get caught? Well, let’s put it this way. You’ll never find the pieces.”

Stiffening, he dropped his hand. “Jesus.”

“Can you do it or not?”

He tapped his fingers on his thigh. “It’s not going to be easy. Declaring someone dead takes a shitload of paperwork.” He let out a long breath, drawing it out. “But I have some connections in Bangor who can pull it off, as well as the name change.”

I collapsed against the headrest. “Thank you.”

“After you’re ‘dead,’ what then? You got a plan?”

“I do what I should have done all along.” I gestured at the inn, eyeing the mildewing posts on the wrap-around porch. “Fix this place up. Open for business. Make Aunt May proud. Stay.”

He cocked a brow. “And when people ask why your last name is different?”

“Divorce.” I twisted my lips. “Or maybe I’m widowed. Whichever draws less curiosity.”

“Divorced, I think,” he said hesitantly. “You’re really staying?”

“Yes. I’m done running. Whatever happens, happens. This is where I make my stand.”

“All right.” He nodded, placed his hands on the wheel, gripping it tightly. “How do you want to die?”

Chapter 5

That night, I


On Sale
Jan 24, 2017
Page Count
320 pages

Jen McLaughlin

About the Author

Jen McLaughlin is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling romance author. She was mentioned in Forbes alongside E. L. James as one of the breakout independent authors to dominate the bestseller lists. She is represented by Louise Fury at The Bent Agency. She loves hearing from her fans and you can visit her on the web at

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Samantha Towle

About the Author

Samantha Towle began her first novel in 2008 while on maternity leave. She completed the manuscript five months later and hasn’t stopped writing since. She is the author of The Mighty Storm, The Bringer, and the Alexandra Jones series. She lives with her husband Craig in East Yorkshire, England, with their son and daughter.

Learn more about this author