Chapter Reveal – FRACTURED SILENCE (Talon Pack) by Carrie Ann Ryan

New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author, Carrie Ann Ryan is revealing the first chapter from FRACTURED SILENCE, the fifth book in her adult paranormal romance series, Talon Pack, releasing April 18, 2017. See below for information the book, pre-order links, and an exclusive sneak peek at the first chapter.

FRACTURED SILENCE (Talon Pack #5) by Carrie Ann Ryan

FRACTURED SILENCE (Talon Pack #5) by Carrie Ann Ryan

About the Book
Title: FRACTURED SILENCE
Series: Talon Pack #5
Author: Carrie Ann Ryan
Publisher: Fated Desires, LLC
Release Date: April 18, 2017
Genre: Adult Paranormal Romance
Links: GoodreadsAmazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AUBarnes & Noble | iBooksKobo | GooglePlay

Synopsis
The Talon Pack continues with a dark secret that could shatter the future of the Packs, or save them all.

Parker Jamenson is the son of three Packs, the sole mediator between every Pack in the United States and Europe, and…he’s dying. He knows he doesn’t have much left in him and is in desperate need of a mate. But with the new and unyielding changes thanks to the Moon Goddess, he might not have as much time as he thinks.

Brandon Brentwood is the Omega of the Talon Pack and the youngest of his family. He’s not only one of the famed triplets; he’s also the most secretive. There’s a good reason for that, however, and when a shocking revelation meshes the past and present in a very unexpected way, he’ll look to not only Parker but also a disgraced human to save them all.

Avery Montag knows she’s the daughter of a traitor and doesn’t have much to give the wolves in the way of atonement. But she’ll do everything she can to pay for her father’s sins and find a way to end the war between the humans and the wolves.

When the three turn to each other in a time of unrest and for vastly different reasons, temptation burns and seduction beckons. Only, the past, present, and future are never as solid as they seem, and the path the trio thought to travel may just vanish before they’re ready.

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FRACTURED SILENCE Teaser 1

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Chapter One
Before

Parker Jamenson woke with a start as someone knocked on the door to the small cabin he’d been staying in for the duration of his visit to this particular European Pack. Using his wolf’s senses, he inhaled deeply, noting that the person on the other side of the door was one of the younger wolves that had shown him around when he’d first gotten there. He hadn’t met most of the Pack, as the people of the den hadn’t been too keen on his presence. He’d only just fallen asleep in the armchair fully clothed, exhausted from the trip.

He’d already spoken to the Alpha about coming together with the Redwoods in times of war, but the damn man hadn’t been too eager to reveal his existence to the world. All Alphas were required to meet with Parker as the Voice of the Wolves because he was goddess-touched, but that didn’t mean they had to listen. Hell, most of them would rather bury their heads in the sand and ignore what was going on around them. And while his own Pack might be older than most in the United States, the European Packs were ancient and set in their ways. No one wanted to deal with the fact that the humans were aware of the shifters’ existence, but Parker knew that soon, no one would have a choice.

He opened the door after a moment and nodded at the young woman on the other side. “Tatiana.”

She smiled coyly at him before licking her lips. He could scent her wolf brushing up against her skin, wanting touch, but Parker wasn’t interested. He just wanted to get this meeting with the elders over with and head back home. Her long, honey-colored hair had been in a braid when he’d first met her, but now it looked as if she’d brushed it out over her shoulders and back so it cascaded over her curves. She’d also put on a long, white, flowing dress instead of the tan one she’d worn when he’d shown up.

And though she looked to be his same age and her power felt even younger, she dressed as if she were some maiden from a bygone era on the hunt for a knight.

Parker would not be that knight— no matter how much those eyes of hers flashed yearning.

“Parker,” she breathed. “I’m to take you to the elder circle for your last meeting before you go.” A pause. “It’s a shame we didn’t have more time to get to know one another while you were here. I understand you leave in the morning, but perhaps the meeting won’t take long, and I can show you more of the grounds. I’m sure your wolf could use some exercise.” She smiled. “And though it’s not a full moon, there’s just enough moonlight for the run to be… thrilling.”

He held back a chuckle that wanted to spill out since that would have been rude. She wasn’t hiding anything she wanted, and while he might have appreciated that on another day, he just wanted to go home. Besides, his wolf wasn’t interested in the woman in front of him, and while that might not matter for a quick night of heat, he didn’t have it in him to ignore his wolf tonight. Maybe I’m getting older, and in need of a mate, he thought. Or maybe he was just tired and missed his family. Either way, Tatiana wasn’t for him.

“I’m afraid I will have to get ready to head out after the elder circle.” He held back a frown at the crestfallen look on her face. They hadn’t said more than a few words before this, and though he was a new wolf to her, he wasn’t the only healthy adult male wolf around.

“I understand,” she said softly. “Follow me, then.” She turned without another word, but he didn’t miss the extra sway to her hips— an invitation if he were to change his mind.

Keeping his thoughts to himself so he wouldn’t inadvertently hurt her again if he were to change his mind— which he wouldn’t— he followed her through the winding, dirt paths of the den toward the oldest part at the edge of the center. It made sense that this was where the elders chose to live— just slightly outside the most used part of the den for privacy but not near the edge in case of an attack. As elders, they were to not only be respected but also protected.

Tatiana left Parker with a nod, and he bent to walk under a low-lying branch so he could make it to the elder’s circle. Encircling the firepit were seven older wolves of various sizes— three women and four men. At his entry, they all looked up as a unit and stared at him.

If he hadn’t seen his own elders do this before, he would have been creeped out. Elder wolves were those who had either lost their mates long ago or had never been mated, so they didn’t have a connection to the new world or the Pack except through their bonds to the Alpha and those in the hierarchy. After living for centuries, some wolves could no longer deal with the drastic changes of society and chose to cloister themselves. Many of the wolves held immense power on their own because of their age and used that strength to protect the Pack in any way they could.

Parker looked back at the elders respectfully. Though each of the wolves had at least two centuries on him, none of them looked a day over thirty-five. Wolf genetics never ceased to amaze him and he’d been born a wolf.

“Parker Jamenson, of the Redwoods,” the woman closest to him said after a moment. “Welcome. I am Aurora. We’re pleased you were able to take the time to meet with us before you head out on your journey home.”

Parker bowed his head in deference. “I will always meet with my elders, Aurora. To ignore those who have lived the past is to ignore what the future may bring.”

She smiled softly at his words and gestured for him to sit down before introducing him to the others. He kept their names in the back of his mind, but he knew that it was Aurora who led here, and she would be the one to speak.

“We’ve asked you to join us because we believe we have something that once belonged to your people. Your line.”

Parker’s eyes widened. “The Redwoods?” How did something of theirs find its way here?

“Not that line.” Aurora’s eyes went gold, her wolf rising to the surface. “The line of the first hunter. You are the son of the son of the son of the line of the first hunter, are you not?”

Parker froze. Not many people knew that his family came from that line. In fact, he’d only recently learned that his ancestor was the first human to be made into a wolf by the moon goddess as a punishment for what the man had done to defenseless prey. She’d forced the man to become the thing he killed for sport, compelled him to share a soul with that of a wolf. From there, new wolves were made, and shifters were born.

His uncle, Logan, had dealt with horrible side effects from that past, but other than his strength, Parker hadn’t really thought about what that meant. Logan had been far too aggressive even at a young age, and it had taken him years to learn how to fully control his wolf. He, like Parker, had also had to learn how to use their strength wisely when they’d been mere pups and still had to deal with some bursts of overextension some days. The family bloodline was diluted over time, and Parker had had more recent issues with it thanks to his birth father. His mother might be of the line of their honorable ancestors and campfire stories, but his birth father had been one of nightmares. He’d never truly met the man as he’d been young when Corbin died, but he knew the stories. Knew that the former Central Alpha had killed countless in his quest for power.

He pushed that thought out of his head, as he knew just letting it in would enrage him.

“I’m of that line, yes,” he answered after a moment. No need to lie as he had a feeling these wolves knew far more than this. “What did you find?” he asked.

Aurora nodded at one of the male wolves after Parker had spoken. The male stood up with shaky hands, a large box wrapped in cloth clasped between them.

Aurora took it gently from him. “This box is made of the woods of our people— Redwood, Aspen, Oak, and so forth. It is said those first Packs, along with the first ever, came together to make it.”

Parker frowned. “What’s in the box?”

“Open it and see.”

Though his wolf had stood at attention as soon as they’d mentioned the box, it wasn’t until Aurora unwrapped it— keeping her hands on the cloth rather than the wood— that his wolf howled.

He frowned. “I’m not going to open something I haven’t looked into with wolves I don’t know. I’m sorry if that’s disrespectful, but that just doesn’t seem like a good idea to me.”

Aurora’s eyes flashed, but he had a feeling it was more out of respect than anger. “It’s good you’re cautious. That will help.”

“Help what?”

“There is a prophecy,” she said after a moment. He blinked.

“A prophecy?” Why did he feel like he’d suddenly jumped into an old Indiana Jones movie?

Aurora’s eyes unfocused as she spoke in a deeper voice.

“A wolf of three Packs can break their will or unite them all.

“Once united, the Packs will reveal…

“If broken, the Packs will fall…”

Parker’s wolf rushed to the surface at her words, and he tried to blink, attempted to reach out and catch the woman as she fell forward after she’d finished speaking. Only he felt as if he were moving slower than usual, his mind not quite where it should be. His hand brushed the top of the box, and it slid to the ground, opening on impact.

He looked down, his head going fuzzy, his mouth dry.

An ancient dagger, or perhaps the tip of a spear, rolled out of the box amidst a dust cloud that slapped at his face.

“The weapon of the first hunter,” Aurora croaked before passing out completely. The others surrounded them, yet he could do nothing but try to keep himself upright.

Parker tried to speak but couldn’t force his mouth to work. Instead, his body broke out in a cold sweat, and he fell face-first to the ground.

The last thing he thought about before passing out was his family.

They weren’t here to help him.

No one was here to help him.

He was all alone.And it was his fault.

Again.

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FRACTURED SILENCE Teaser 2
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Author Carrie Ann Ryan

Author Carrie Ann Ryan

About the Author
Carrie Ann Ryan is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of contemporary and paranormal romance. Her works include the Montgomery Ink, Redwood Pack, Talon Pack, and Gallagher Brothers series, which have sold over 2.0 million books worldwide. She started writing while in graduate school for her advanced degree in chemistry and hasn’t stopped since. Carrie Ann has written over fifty novels and novellas with more in the works. When she’s not writing about bearded tattooed men or alpha wolves that need to find their mates, she’s reading as much as she can and exploring the world of baking and gourmet cooking.

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Where to Find Carrie Ann Ryan
Goodreads | Website | NewsletterFacebook | Twitter
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Excerpt Reveal – BETRAYED BY LIES (Bound and Broken) by Rebecca Shea

BETRAYED BY LIES Cover Reveal

USA Today bestselling author, Rebecca Shea, is unveiling the cover to BETRAYED BY LIES, the third book in her new adult romantic suspense series, Bound & Broken, releasing April 24. 2017. See below for information on the book and series, pre-order links, and an exclusive look at Chapter 1.

BETRAYED BY LIES (Bound & Broken #3) by Rebecca Shea

BETRAYED BY LIES (Bound & Broken #3) by Rebecca Shea

About the Book
Title: BETRAYED BY LIES
Series: Bound & Broken #3
Author: Rebecca Shea
Genre: New Adult Romantic Suspense
Release Date: April 24, 2017
Links: Goodreads | Barnes & NobleiBooks | Kobo | GooglePlay

Synopsis
From the USA Today bestselling author of the Unbreakable series, comes a sexy, heart-wrenching novel…Betrayed by Lies.

As an ATF agent, bringing down the Estrada cartel has been my sole mission. I’m a skilled agent, determined and fearless, but a relentless pursuit and a willingness to risk everything almost killed me.

A year later, when an opportunity in Los Angeles presents itself, I jump at the chance to start over and rebuild the career and life I almost lost.

Kate Stevens was not part of my new plan. I never expected she would be the one to save me from my past. She was exactly what I needed—smart, beautiful and independent. I finally have a future I look forward to.

Only nothing in my life ever goes according to plan. Losing Kate is not an option, but fate seems poised to ruin me, and there isn’t a damn thing I can do about it.

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Chapter 1 – Sam

I wake with a start, sitting straight up in my bed. Cool air fills my lungs when I gasp, pulling a deep breath in. My eyes slowly adjust to the dark room, and I rub the sweat from my forehead before swinging my feet over the edge of the bed and resting my arms on my knees. The dream is always the same, the piercing pain of the bullets hitting my flesh…and the fear of dying, scared and alone.

An exaggerated huff leaves my mouth when I see the alarm clock on the bedside table. It reads four-ten in the morning. That puts three hours and twenty minutes of sleep under my belt. It’s the longest I’ve slept since I arrived in Los Angeles three days ago.

I’m used to surviving on very little sleep, but the nightmares of that night are back and making it more difficult to find rest. I push myself out of bed and throw on a pair of athletic shorts and t-shirt. Grabbing my phone and hotel room key, I head to the gym. With no one else up this early, I play music directly from my phone while watching CNN with subtitles as I get my daily seven-mile run in.

I like running outdoors better, but it’s easier to use the gym and treadmill here at the hotel. My phone pings with incoming texts, but I focus on my run. The burn in my lungs relieves the stress in my shoulders. Sweat coats my skin and drips from my nose as I increase my speed—pushing myself harder. The treadmill roars as I increase the speed yet again, and my heart pounds wildly against my ribcage as my lungs fight for air.

Pain—it’s the only way I know I’m alive.

Pain in my chest. My mind. My body.

The treadmill slows just as my phone pings again, multiple times, alerting me to more incoming text messages—messages that I ignore. I’ve got three days’ worth waiting for a response, and I’m in no hurry to get to them. Transferring to the ATF offices in Los Angeles makes for an easy reason to avoid everyone and everything. Avoidance is what I do best.

I grab a bottle of water and return to my room for a shower before heading into my new office. New office. New job. New city. New state. New life.

A chance to start over. A chance to leave the past where it belongs…in the past. I pull a suit out of the closet and turn on the shower to let the water warm up.

Raking my hands over my face, I do my best to shove the events of last year to the back of my mind, but the life goes out of my eyes when I see the scars scattered across my chest. They’re a constant reminder of the day I lost almost everything…including my life.

Standing in front of the mirror, I run my hand up over my chest and shoulder, my fingertips brushing the smooth surface of the scars spread across the left side of my chest. I ball my hands tightly and release, repeating two more times, a coping mechanism my physical therapist taught me to deal with my anger.

I step into the shower and let the hot water ease my tension. My neck, shoulders, and back instantly begin to relax, and I allow my mind to let go at the same time. “New beginnings,” I mumble to myself as the shower cleanses me of my anger, a baptism of sorts.

I dress and am out the door in less than thirty minutes, easing my car onto the bumper-to-bumper packed L.A. freeway. A commute that would take me less than ten minutes in Phoenix takes me damn near forty-five. I find a covered parking spot just as my phone begins to ring. A number I don’t recognize flashes on the screen, and I decline the call. I don’t have the time nor patience to deal with unknown callers. Gathering my suit coat and phone, I find my way to the main entrance, using the security badge that was sent to me prior to my arrival to allow me entrance into the building.

My phone begins ringing again just as I’m weaving my way through the lobby and headed to the elevators. Same number. This time I press accept and answer. Before I even speak, the female voice on the other end catches me off guard.

“Oh my god, I didn’t expect you to answer.” She pauses. “I was leaving a voice mail and my call dropped so I was just calling back to finish the message.” I hear her sigh. “This is Kate Stevens. Nick Stevens sister. He gave me your number.” Nick Stevens, my new boss. “He mentioned that you might need a place to rent. I have a guesthouse he thought would be perfect for you, and he asked me to call you. I’m sorry if this caught you off guard. He said he was going to speak with you.” She finally stops speaking so I can get a word in.

“Hello, Kate. Nick didn’t mention this to me.”

I hear her sigh loudly. “He’s the most unorganized human being alive,” she mumbles, and I can’t help but chuckle. I’ve met the guy three times, and she’s right from my observation as well. “I’m so sorry to have called you,” she apologizes.

“Don’t be. I’d love to check out the place. I got here Friday, and I’ve been staying in a hotel while I look for something more permanent—”

“Don’t feel obligated,” she cuts me off.

“I don’t,” I answer her honestly. “I’m mainly looking for something not too far from the office and just somewhere to lay my head. Nothing fancy. I won’t be around much because all I ever do is work.”

“Sounds like Nick,” she says with a small laugh. “You’re welcome to check out the house anytime. It’s close to your office, but it’s a little off the beaten path near the foothills. Either call or text me, and we’ll schedule a time for you to stop by, or have Nick show it to you anytime. He knows where I hide the spare key. I’m also not home often so coordinating our schedules might be tough.”

I hear a horn honk in the background as she mutters a string of curse words worthy of an R-rating, and I can’t help but laugh. “That sounds great. Thanks for calling, Kate.”

She ends the call without another word, and I’m left standing in the lobby of my new office, laughing.

The morning is spent being briefed on projects that the team is working on and investigating. I’ll be taking over a case that my predecessor left when he was promoted to a position in Washington D.C., as well as anything new that comes in.

There’s a quick knock on my doorjamb before Nick sticks his head in my office. “You got any lunch plans?”

“Not today,” I toss over my shoulder as I close the folder on my desk.

“Let’s go grab a quick bite. I need to get the hell out of this office.” He loosens the tie around his neck. Nick is about my height and build, probably a few years older than me, California born and raised, and started in the San Diego field office. Worked his way up to Los Angeles and plans to retire here.

I grab my phone and slide it into the pocket of my suit jacket.

“How’s the first day treating you?” he asks as we weave through cubicles lining the rectangular office floor outside our offices.

“Good. Just briefing myself on the Navarro case.”

“We’ve been working on that for years,” he grumbles. “Hoping you can close the deal on that one.” His car beeps as we approach and he unlocks the doors. “Hey,” he buckles himself in and starts the car. “You do great work. I heard how you took down the Estrada cartel.” He slides his sunglasses on his face.

My heart races as I wonder how much he knows—if he’s aware the Estradas are my family. It was well known in the Phoenix office, but I’m not sure how much Los Angeles knows about my ‘family’ history. I nod but don’t say anything.

“You’re the best of the best, which is why you’re going to take down Navarro,” he continues as we take off down the road. “It was easy for me to approve the transfer request.”

“Thanks.” I offer a tight smile and turn to look out the passenger window.

“I’m excited for you to kick ass here in L.A. So why the hell did you want to leave Phoenix anyway? There’s so much shit going on in that office, you must’ve had years of work still.”

I blow a puff of air from my mouth. “My injuries—”

“Shit, I forgot about that. Sorry, continue.” He winces as I continue.

“My injuries fully healed with time and physical therapy, and I wrapped up the cases I was working on.” I look at him out of the corner of my eye to gauge his response. He raps his thumb against the steering wheel and nods his head slowly. “And it just felt like it was a good time to start fresh. Start over with a clean slate.”

He turns his head to look at me. “I cannot tell you how lucky we are to have you here in Los Angeles. I hope you’re fully prepared to kick ass and take names.”

I can’t help but smile, appreciating the vote of confidence.

***

As the day winds down and the office empties, I find myself wrapped up in the case file on my desk, familiarizing myself with all the key players, the locations where the guns are being held, and the evidence that we have to date, along with notes on what we still need to document.

Nick doesn’t knock when he enters my office this time, rather throwing himself into the chair across my desk with an exaggerated sigh.

“What’s the sigh for?” I ask him as I tuck the case file into my bag. I’ll finish combing through the remaining details tonight and make my own notes. I have a system for how I set up my case folders, and I need to rework all of these.

“Just a Monday,” he states, looking around my bare office. “You going to decorate or something? Throw a poster on the wall?” He waves his hand around, gesturing to the stark gray walls.

“Decorate? No. I do have some awards and diplomas I’ll hang once they arrive. They’re being sent from Phoenix.”

He nods, content with that answer.

I clear my throat. “Speaking of decorating, I got a call from Kate.” I raise my eyebrows and sit back in my desk chair. “She said something about having a guesthouse to rent. Were you going to tell me she was going to call?”

“I did. I sent you a text on Saturday.” He relaxes in his chair and props a foot on his opposite knee.  I really need to stop ignoring my messages. He continues, “I stopped by to see her this weekend and forgot she had that guesthouse. Immediately thought of you when I saw it.”

“Thanks. I need to find some time to check it out. Living out of a hotel room is less than ideal.” I reach over and power down my laptop.

“Let’s go now. It’s just down the road a few miles. I know where she keeps the spare key if she’s not there.”

“She also mentioned that,” I laugh.

“Grab your shit and let’s go. You can follow me there.” He jumps up from the chair and quickly pulls his tie off. Nick looks more like an outdoorsman than a senior agent with the ATF. He looks uncomfortable in a suit. I see him more as the park ranger type, running around in cargos and hiking boots.

I follow suit, loosening my tie as I follow him to our cars.

A few miles is more like fifteen, and about half of those miles are in bumper-to-bumper L.A. traffic. Something that I’m not sure I’ll ever adjust to. Once we exit the freeway, we wind through gorgeous neighborhoods all the way back to the base of the foothills. I would never in a million years guess the house we pull up to is a house in a suburb of Los Angeles. It sits on what I assume is about an acre of lush green land with neighbors spread out down a long secluded, tree-lined street. The ranch style house is simple yet modern with an updated exterior, wood shutters, and wrought iron accessories.

“Not a bad drive, eh,” Nick says as we both step out of our cars in the driveway. “I should say for L.A. standards. If your commute is under an hour, you’re pretty much living the life,” he laughs.

It really wasn’t a bad commute. I eyeball the watch on my wrist and the drive was just under thirty minutes. Nick reaches inside a hanging planter that swings from the covered front porch and pulls out a key. He waves me toward the side of the house where a brick sidewalk snakes around to the guesthouse that sits just off the main house. It looks exactly like the main house, just slightly smaller.

“This is it,” he says, sliding the key into the front door. “One bedroom, a small office slash library, kitchen, living room, and one and a half baths.”

We step inside. It’s obviously been remodeled recently. The smell of fresh paint hits me as I walk deeper into the house. Everything is brand new, sleek, and modern. Bright white trim and doors offset light gray walls. A dark wood floor makes the bright white kitchen pop against the stainless steel appliances.

“The only thing that’s missing is a washer and dryer. She said she’d order those once she leased the house. The laundry room is off the back.” He points to a door off the kitchen. “It’s a large pantry and a laundry room.”

I’m impressed with what I’ve seen thus far. I walk through the open living room and down the hall to the bedroom. It’s large and bright with one wall of windows that start near the ceiling and stretch about three quarters of the way down the wall. Long, dark gray curtains hang to each side of the paneled windows that overlooks more of the lush backyard. There’s a single French door that leads to a small brick patio off the master bedroom, and a table and chairs sit out there. In the middle of the table is a fire pit. I instantly imagine myself relaxing around this table with a beer after a long day at the office.

I head back down the hallway where I stop and peek my head in the office. It’s got two glass French doors that lead into the square room. One entire wall has built in bookshelves and a built in desk. It’s the perfect home office.

I scan the living room and kitchen again and make note that my dark furniture will fit perfectly in the space and complements the gray and white theme throughout. This might be the easiest decision I’ve made since deciding to move to Los Angeles.

Nick steps out front while I take one last look around, making mental notes of the space and things I’ll need shipped from Phoenix.

After we step outside and Nick locks the door, I hear him shuffling behind me on the brick walkway. “So what do you think?”

“Perfect. It’s everything I was looking for,” I say as I spin around and am met face-to-face with the bluest eyes I’ve ever seen. I stumble momentarily because, for half a second, those words mean so much more than just the house I was looking at.

“I’m Kate,” she says, her voice strong and secure. She holds her hand out to shake mine. She’s tall with light brown hair that hangs just past her shoulders, and she’s wearing a navy blue dress and heels that put her at almost my six-foot-two. Confident. She’s confident. I can read a woman by the way she carries herself, the tone of her voice, and what she wears.

I take her hand in mine and smile. “Sam. Sam Cortez. I’ll take it.” Again, those words mean so much more than just the house.

Her lips turn into a half smile, and she holds eye contact with me. She licks her lips and tilts her head before glancing over to Nick and then back to me. “Nice to meet you, Sam Cortez. Welcome home.”

And my heart begins to beat again for the first time in eighteen months.

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BROKEN BY LIES (Bound & Broken #1) by Rebecca Shea

BROKEN BY LIES (Bound & Broken #1) by Rebecca Shea

About Book 1
Title: BROKEN BY LIES
Series: Bound & Broken #1
Author: Rebecca Shea
Genre: New Adult Romantic Suspense
Release Date: February 17, 2015
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Barnes & NobleiBooks | Kobo | GooglePlay

Synopsis
I had no idea how much I would love Alex the day he walked into my life.
He changed everything.
The way I breathed.
The way I thought.
The way I loved.
He brought me back to life.
He gave me strength and a safe place to land.

And then he broke me.

Finding Emilia was a chance to do something good for once in my life.
I wanted to change.
She believed I was her savior.
I ached to be.
She found her way into my heart and claimed it as her safe place.
I should be telling her the truth about me…instead I break her with lies.

This book is a New Adult Romance and contains mature subject matter. It is not intended for those under 17 years of age.. .

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BOUND BY LIES (Bound & Broken #2) by Rebecca Shea

BOUND BY LIES (Bound & Broken #2) by Rebecca Shea

About Book 2
Title: BOUND BY LIES
Series: Bound & Broken #2
Author: Rebecca Shea
Genre: New Adult Romantic Suspense
Release Date: June 15, 2015
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Barnes & NobleiBooks | Kobo | GooglePlay

Synopsis
Torn between two men; one was what I needed, the other was what I wanted.

One man was safe and the other was dangerous.

But both men would lay down their lives to save me.

ATF agent Sam Cortez is fighting to bring down the Estrada family empire, which was built on murder and corruption.

Alex Estrada did what was needed to keep me safe…and paid with his life.

Starting over as I try to rebuild my life, it’s clear that the past is never what it seems.

What no one knew was that we were all bound by lies.

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Author Rebecca Shea

Author Rebecca Shea

About the Author
Rebecca Shea is the USA Today Bestselling author of the Unbreakable series (Unbreakable, Undone, and Unforgiven) and the Bound and Broken series (Broken by Lies and Bound by Lies). She lives in Phoenix, Arizona with her family. From the time Rebecca could read she has had a passion for books. Rebecca spends her days working and her nights writing, bringing stories to life. Born and raised in Minnesota, Rebecca moved to Arizona in 1999 to escape the bitter winters. When not working or writing, she can be found on the sidelines of her sons’ football games, or watching her daughter at ballet class.Rebecca is fueled by insane amounts of coffee, margaritas, Laffy Taffy (except the banana ones), and happily ever afters.

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Where to Find Rebecca Shea
Goodreads | Website | FacebookTwitter | Instagram
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Book Blitz – Excerpt + Giveaway – THE PENANCE OF PRIDE (Shadyia Ascendant) by T.S. Adrian

THE PENANCE OF PRIDE Book Blitz

Welcome to the book blitz for THE PENANCE OF PRIDE, the second book in the adult fantasy series, Shadiyia Ascendant, by T.S. Adrian. See below for information the book, buy links, an exclusive excerpt, and details on her giveaway.

THE PENANCE OF PRIDE (Shadyia Ascendant #2) by T.S. Adrian

THE PENANCE OF PRIDE (Shadyia Ascendant #2) by T.S. Adrian

About the Book
Title: THE PENANCE OF PRIDE
Series: Shadiyia Ascendant #2
Author: T.S. Adrian
Release Date: March 31, 2017
Genre: Adult Fantasy
Links: GoodreadsAmazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU

Synopsis
Shadyia’s Adventure Continues!

‘I will never leave you, and I will always come for you.’

Shadyia’s vow to her lover is put to the test when the Innocenti rise and envelope the sisterhood she adores.

As the magician she aided hunts for the path to an ancient city, the new madam of the Silver Rose strives to please the evil that has promised, upon its freedom, to make her a queen.

Meanwhile, the advisor to the Innocenti prepares the final stage of his strategy to crush the faith of the old gods. He needs but a bit of magic to carry out his ultimate plan.

Magicians. Zealots. Madams. Whores. It’s all the same to he who waits within the enchanted box. Soon he will unleash his servants, and every horror of the abyss will once again consume humanity.

 

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Excerpt
IN THE SHADOW of the Black Tower, Shadyia nudged the shoulder of the scruffy, tired woman strolling by her side. When Deresi turned her head, she offered her a spirited wave. Hello, my sweet friend. They both needed a hot bath and a good night’s rest, but that hardly mattered. Deresi was alive. They had each survived the horrors of Mirrikh’s labyrinth with whole skins and sound minds.

Deresi crossed her eyes and stuck out the tip of her tongue.

Shadyia shifted her attention to the damp street. Yes, I know. I should stop gawking at you. She couldn’t help it. Her fingers ached to get lost in the tangles of Deresi’s red curls; her ears yearned for the sounds of Deresi’s passion, and her skin craved the warmth they had not shared often enough. I almost lost you. The death they had faced during the past two days made her crave another night, like the smallest fox in a litter peering at the last quail egg. Words Shadyia had spoken that morning they lay entwined in arms, legs and blankets—the morning Deresi had pledged her love—coursed through Shadyia’s veins and spurred her heart to beat. I will never leave you, and I will always come for you. Shadyia had never made such a promise to anyone before.

She yanked her thoughts from the past and listened in on the men walking a few paces in front of her. Aaron was asking his apprentice what it had been like to hear Verthandi’s voice in his thoughts.

“I didn’t know it was his voice,” Benjamin replied. “I thought it was mine.”

Aaron swept a hand through his graying hair and narrowed his gaze at the young man. “But you had no idea how to open the tower. Didn’t it seem odd to you that these thoughts were in your head?”

Benjamin shrugged. “It does now. At the time, I thought I was just guessing, experimenting. Do this, turn that, push, pull—and then the doors opened. I couldn’t believe it.”

Shadyia seized the pommel of her blacksteel sword. She couldn’t believe Benjamin had left Janell outside while he bumbled around inside the Black Tower. Janell may be a fellow sister of the Silver Rose, but for all of Madam Amrita’s training, she was a mewling kitten lost in a rainstorm. Anderholm was no city to walk about alone, even for a veteran with a drawn sword and a stern gaze on every dark alley. Shadyia tamped down her anger. If Benjamin hadn’t opened the doors of the tower and entered, she, Deresi and Aaron would now be facing a slow death from thirst and starvation in Mirrikh’s oubliette, the place the ancient magician had used to forget people who had angered him.

Aaron led them north. They followed the smooth stones of Queen’s Way, the scrape of their footfalls the only sounds in the damp streets. Shadyia glanced around. Too quiet. Today was the second day of Samprina and so the citizens were either fasting in their homes or visiting relatives in the country, but the silence didn’t feel right. Anderholm was a city of noise. The clap of hooves, the roll of wagons, merchants bellowing over one another, armed guards hollering to clear a path for a snobbish lord on horseback, the squeal of orphaned children, the bark of dogs—chaos was the lifeblood of Anderholm. Quiet did not become the trade capitol of the northern realms.

“Here, this way.” Aaron turned them down a long alley between the Ministry of Art and a pottery warehouse. As Shadyia recalled, the alley ended at the Rum Barrel Inn near the Bridge of Swans. Aaron’s Featherquill Manor, packed with the historical books he had written over his many centuries, was a short walk up a winding road past the other mansions in the Artisan Quarter. When they arrived, he had promised to treat them to an evening of relaxing and recovering. Shadyia blew a gust through her lips at the thought. After two days and a night in the dark, twisting halls of labyrinth, pits of spikes hidden under false floors and shadow beasts that drained the life from their victims, she craved a quiet evening in Deresi’s arms more than all the gold in Anderholm. I just hope Janell made it back there without trouble.

Midway through the alley, a single-horse cart, driven by two cloaked men, rolled toward them. Shadyia and the others flattened themselves against the wall. She turned her head as it passed. Some mortified soul lay wrapped in a heavy cloth in the back of the cart. Likely the men were gravediggers on their way to—The corpse! Shadyia recognized its white boots.

“Stop that cart!”

The driver snapped his reins against the horse as Aaron grabbed the air and twisted his fist. The wheels locked and dragged until the cart screeched to a halt. The driver lashed his reins again, but the horse only reared. The men, one thin and the other large, jumped back off the bench, stepped around the wrapped figure and dropped to the street. They threw open their cloaks and pulled out a pair of long knives. Shadyia drew her blacksteel sword as she and Aaron met them halfway. Aaron twisted his hands, palms outward, and the fat one was hurled against the wall by an unseen force. The other stood dumbfounded until Shadyia knocked the knife out of his hand with a downward slash and pressed the tip of her sword under his chin.
“Over there, move,” she said, urging the driver, a man with dark lines tattooed on half his face, to stand next to his fat companion. He lifted his hands in surrender and complied.

The force holding the large man released, but Shadyia moved the tip and pricked the fleshy pouch under his chin. “Drop the knife.”

The knife clattered to the street and the fat man lifted his portly arms.

“Dee, check the cart.”

Deresi snatched the thin man’s knife off the ground and leaped into the cart. Shadyia heard her cut the ropes. She glanced down the alley to make sure no others were coming, but only Benjamin stood there, ringing his hands and looking as if he were not sure what he should do.

Silence from the cart drove Shadyia to risk a glance. Deresi was sitting back on her heels, her shoulders slumped, staring down at the person she had partly exposed beneath the cloth. “Dee, who is it? Is it Janell?”

Deresi’s mouth moved but no sound came out. “I…”

What’s wrong with her? “Dee!”

“I can’t tell!” Deresi briefly covered her lips with trembling fingers. “I think it is.”

Benjamin charged, jolting Shadyia as he passed, and leaped into the cart.

A freezing wave passed over Shadyia. Deresi couldn’t tell? She glanced at Aaron, who had remained at her side, then faced the portly man and jabbed him with the tip. “What did you do to her?”

The fat man’s jaw shuddered and a drop of blood leaked down his pouch. “She asked to join us.”

Shadyia nearly stabbed him again when Benjamin’s wail echoed along the alley. “Mentor, please help!”

Aaron rushed the cart as Shadyia coiled back her sword, daring either man to move. She glanced as Aaron further pulled open the cloth, stained dark red on the inside, to reveal a naked body. Benjamin wailed anew as Aaron placed a hand on her forehead. Deresi scooted back into the corner of the cart and stared at Janell, as motionless as one posing for a sculpture.

Benjamin sobbed. “What have they done to her?”

“She’s alive,” Aaron said.

Movement from the tattooed man caught Shadyia’s attention. His hands came down—back!—and she stabbed deep in his shoulder.

He snarled, reeled and fell against the wall, his hand over the wound. “You bitch.” He checked the blood on his fingers.“Next time it will be your eye.”

A bellow of anguish tore Shadyia from the men. Aaron fell off the cart, hit the cobbled stones hard, and rolled on the ground. Benjamin called his name and jumped down as Deresi stood high on her knees, her face pale.

Benjamin kneeled and grabbed Aaron by the shoulders. “Mentor, what’s wrong, what’s happened?”

Aaron knocked the hands away and rolled on his side, agony twisting his face. He howled and thrashed as if someone had set fire to his clothing. Shadyia glared at the men. Had they done something? No. They stood with gaping mouths and baffled stares.

His hands covering his face, Aaron seemed to bring his torment under control. He sat up and turned eyes of pure rage on Shadyia’s prisoners. “Innocenti. They mutilated her,” he said through seething gasps. “That one and that one. There was a third, but he’s not here. They raped and tortured her for hours.”

He pushed Benjamin back, rolled to his feet, and brought his hands up as if he were lifting the end of a table. The men slammed against the wall and slid up until their feet dangled.

“Vile warlock,” the tattooed one said then spat. “Fate will be your judge.”

Lowering her sword, Shadyia stepped back from Aaron, the wrath on his face choking her breath. Never had she seen him so enraged. A pair of sharp metal rods, twice as long as the men were tall, materialized in the air. With a clang of metal on rock that made her jolt, the spikes plunged into the stone at feet of the men.

They drifted forward and hovered over the sharp ends.

Terror filling his eyes, the tattooed one thrashed against the force that held him. “No, you can’t do that!”

The other pissed himself.

Shadyia reached out her hand. No, Aaron no. Don’t. The men deserved it, but not at the cost of Aaron’s humanity. She touched his shoulder, and a force struck away her hand.

Aaron didn’t even look in her direction. “Her name is Janell. Say it.”

“Janell,” both men said.

“Again.”

“Janell,” they repeated, louder.

Shadyia’s heart hammered as the stance of their feet widened. She couldn’t stop Aaron any more than grasp a boiling cauldron to stay its heat.

“Good,” Aaron said and pushed down his hands. The men dropped.

The spikes pierced their trousers between their legs. The men shrieked louder than Shadyia thought a human throat capable. Blood soaked their leggings as they slowly slid until their boots touched the street. She cringed before the horror. This had to be an illusion. Aaron had said he couldn’t make actual things, not without—

The men shrieked once more as the shirts behind their necks stretched and tore. The spikes reemerged, their tips glistening in blood.

Aaron turned his back on the screaming, flailing men and stepped into the cart. He pulled the cloth over Janell, leaving her face uncovered.

“I don’t know of a physician in Anderholm who could help her. Do you have any at the Silver Rose?”

“Yes, we do,” Shadyia replied, unable to stop her trembling. “And we use jilqu oil.”

He sat in the center of the bench and took the reins of the near panicked horse. Shadyia returned the blacksteel sword to its sheath and leaped in next to a pale-faced Deresi. Benjamin quickly joined her and the cart jerked straight thanks to an unseen force. Aaron tapped the reins.

The cries of the men followed as they rolled along the alley.

Darkness that made Shadyia think of the labyrinth pressed in on all sides as the wagon made its way along the forest road in Kingsleaf. Every bump the wagon’s wheels stuck jarred her like men beating her with their fists. Benjamin lay next to Janell and stroked what remained of her hair. The Innocenti torturers had hacked most of it off, probably with a knife. Tears made lines on his cheeks as he called her name. Janell didn’t respond.

Deresi sat with her back to the corner, hugging her knees. She didn’t speak or look at Janell. She’s as horrified as me, and not just as what had happened to Janell. Shadyia had never seen men impaled. The practice had been outlawed in Anderholm more than a century ago. The stories she heard had always seemed exaggerated. No man could actually survive an injury like that for more than a few seconds. She no longer believed that.

The rising moon gave them enough light to see the road, but just barely. Shadyia sighed. Soon they would arrive at the Silver Rose. Makayla will probably blame me for what happened to Janell. The new madam of the Silver Rose had commanded Shadyia not to leave the palace without her permission, and now she was returning in a wagon with a sister near death, a coin she was supposed to be seducing, his apprentice and Deresi. Fate hates me tonight. Shadyia chastised herself at the thought. If they had been a moment sooner or later, she never would have seen the cart and those vile men would likely now be burying Janell in a shallow grave outside the city. Aaron believed there were no gods, but at times like this, when events were too grave to be mere coincidence, Shadyia found it hard to agree with him.

She reached down and touched Janell’s neck. The pulse was there, but weak. She looked at Aaron, still at the reins. He hadn’t spoken since driving them out of the city and into the forest. Words formed in her mouth, but the will to utter them couldn’t cross her throat. The magic Aaron had used to kill those men wasn’t beautiful and wondrous. It wasn’t butterflies hovering over his hand or a variety of delicious treats to eat and drink. For the first time in her life, she feared a man.

They cleared the forest and approached the Dawn Gate. She unbuckled the baldric holding blacksteel sword and hid it as best she could. If anyone searched the cart they’d likely find it. She didn’t care.

Aaron stopped the cart and jumped off. He walked to the back, gathered up Janell and carried her to the gate. Benjamin raced him there and franticly rang the bell. The minutes that followed passed in a blur of activity. Guardian sisters escorted them in, calling for Mrs. Amber, the palace physician. Sisters cried out as they saw Janell. The word spread and soon a crowd of weeping, angry or shocked women gathered round. Sleepy-eyed Mrs. Amber appeared and ordered them back. She asked Aaron to carry Janell to the nearest bed, a pleasure room off the west wing. Allowing only two assistants to follow, she placed guardians outside the door and told everyone else to wait.

The doors to White Hall flew open and Makayla stormed through with Thoria—as always—close on her heels.

“Who brought her?” The madam’s voice silenced the chamber.

Aaron stepped forward. “I did.”

The fury drained from Makayla’s face. “I see.” She smoothed her black dress. “What happened?”

“Innocenti raped and tortured her,” Aaron replied evenly.

Makayla’s long black hair covered half her face as she tilted her head. “Unfortunate.”

Shadyia’s fists tightened at her side. “Unfortunate? That’s all you have to say?”

“No, Sister Shadyia, that’s not all I have to say. We will tend to Sister Janell’s wounds as best we can. In the morning, I will prepare a letter of complaint against the Innocenti and have it delivered to the magistrate. They will see those who committed these acts are brought to justice.” Makayla turned and walked toward the audience, her heels clicking.

Shadyia allowed her a few steps. Not so fast, bitch. “Maybe they’ll start with you.”

Deresi, the sisters, guardians, Benjamin and Aaron stood as statues as Makayla halted. She rounded on Shadyia. “Watch your tongue, Sister, or I will have it removed.”

Shadyia’s rage coiled like a serpent about to strike. If she had kept the blacksteel sword and not hidden it in the wagon, they’d be cleaning Makayla’s blood off the walls and floor for a week. “Give that command and I will kill you and any who try to carry it out.”

Thoria drew her baton and advanced on Shadyia. Aaron rushed forward and intercepted the blond guardian with his body.

“Madam, please call away your guard.”

“Thoria, step back.”

Her scowl locked on Shadyia, Thoria obeyed.

Makayla put her hands on her hips, her long sleeves hanging down. “Speak your mind, Sister. Why do you say such a thing?”

“If you hadn’t sent Janell to the Kaolins, she wouldn’t have sought refuge with the Innocenti.”

“And if she had carried out my command, none of this would have happened. What sort of fool asks the Innocenti for anything?”

“The sort that cannot see them for what they are,” Shadyia replied. “The sort that thinks they are knights from a fairy tale. The sort that talks about joining them—” She leveled her finger. “—as you knew perfectly well!”

Makayla huffed. “You dare accuse me of deliberately driving Janell to the Innocenti?”

“I do.”

Benjamin spoke up. “She didn’t go to the Innocenti. She came to me last night.”

Makayla pivoted toward him. “And who are you?”

“I am Aaron’s apprentice, Benjamin.”

Her hazel eyes moved from him to Aaron and back. “So how did she end up with the Innocenti?”

Benjamin looked to Aaron, who shook his head once.

“We got separated in the city this morning.” The young man dropped his gaze.

Makayla faced Shadyia. “And do you also blame me for this, Sister?”

“I do not,” Shadyia replied. Damn the boy and his honesty.

“The hour is late and our nerves are raw,” Aaron said. “Madam, please take the finest care of Janell. I will personally cover any expense.”

“Consider it done.”

“Madam,” Benjamin said, getting her attention, “may I stay with Janell?”
Makayla sighed. “That will be up to Mrs. Amber, but we will prepare a room for you in any case.”

“Thank you, Madam.”

Aaron stepped near to Shadyia and lowered his voice. “Why don’t you and Deresi come with me to Featherquill?”

The dying rage in Shadyia still seethed, but she looked to Deresi. Did she want to visit Featherquill? Deresi nodded in agreement.

Aaron turned back to Makayla. “Madam, may I have the pleasure of both Sister Shadyia and Sister Deresi this night?”

Makayla raised an eyebrow. “You wish them both, sir?”

“I have lots to celebrate.”

“These sisters look disheveled and exhausted, sir. May I ask how they came to be in this state?”

Shadyia glanced at Aaron. He mustn’t mention the labyrinth or—

“It’s my fault, Madam,” Aaron said. “We played a game in some ruins beyond the forest. I wanted Sister Shadyia to hide and I would search for her. Sister Deresi was concerned when her friend didn’t return and found us this morning. I invited her to play and…well, things got out of hand. My apologies.”

“None needed, Master Aaron. The coin you’ve offered more than pays for their services. But, do you not wish them bathed, perfumed and properly dressed before they leave with you?”

Aaron glanced at Shadyia and Deresi. “To be honest, Madam, I rather like them in this state and I’m not yet finished with them. By your leave, I will take them as they are.”

Makayla arched an eyebrow. “Your vigor will make you a legend, Aaron of Featherquill.” She grinned. “Very well, but have Sister

Deresi return by noon tomorrow.”

“As you wish.”

An arm around both their hips, Aaron led her and Deresi toward the main doors. The sisters dispersed, mumbling quietly among themselves. Makayla’s heels clicked away.

“Wait,” Deresi said as Shadyia put a hand on the outer doors. “I’ll be right back.”

Aaron watched her run off then turned to Shadyia. “You should better watch your words around your madam.”

Fuck her! If not for Benjamin’s blundering innocence and Aaron’s disarming remarks, there would have been a long-overdue fight here. A part of her still wished for that. “You have no idea how much I hate that woman.”

“I have some idea,” he said, his expression serious.

Maybe he does at that. Aaron had said Verthandi had seduced Makayla. “Do you still feel his influence on her?”

Aaron pressed his lips and nodded. “More than ever.”

She seized his arm and hushed her voice. “Then let’s deal with her, here and now. I’ll go with you.”

That infuriating calm crossed his features. “And what of her guards? And the other sisters? Are you prepared to fight them? And even if we could turn them to your side, what happens when the Redcloaks find out? From what you’ve told me, Makayla is the rightful heir to this palace. If we depose her, we would be criminals in the eyes of the law.”

She scowled. Damn his logic! He was worse than Sybaris.

He leaned close. “We will deal with her eventually, after this business with the ruby is completed. If Verthandi is released—” He glanced around at the walls. “—what does any of this matter?”

Shadyia hissed a sigh. “If you say so.” But if she crosses me just one more time…

Deresi returned carrying a familiar flat, wooden box.

“My dress,” Shadyia said.

“I wanted to see it on you.”

Aaron looked at the elegant box. “You have a dress in there?”

Shadyia took the box, glanced around to make sure they weren’t observed, and opened the lid with her thumbs.

Aaron whistled. “That is mag-nificent.”

Shadyia snapped closed the lid and kissed Deresi on the cheek. “Thanks, hon.”

“Where ever did you get that?” Aaron asked. “It must have cost a fortune.”

Deresi offered her an evil grin. “Go on, tell him.”

Shadyia cringed. “You know the seer in the market? The one posing as a tailor?”

Aaron nodded slowly. Just before the three of them had descended into the labyrinth, Aaron had confided that he too had had some dealings with that mysterious seer. She had prophesized that he must find Æthelmaer’s ruby in Mirrikh’s labyrinth or Verthandi would walk the world again.

Shadyia tapped the box. “She made this for me.” The seer had also told Shadyia that Anderholm would burn in a matter of days. More insanity added to an insane situation.

Aaron brushed his fingers over the flat box. “I have a feeling we have not seen the last of her. Let’s go to the stables. Our horses must be kicking the walls down by now.”

Shadyia recovered the blacksteel sword, still in its baldric, from the wagon. Careful to conceal it with her body from anyone who might be watching from the palace, she hid the fine weapon deep in the stables then roused two of the men from their cottage out back. Paying them a silver each, she asked them to bring out the Ramiero chargers, attach them to a carriage and drive Aaron, Deresi and herself to Featherquill. Xavier didn’t appreciate being employed as a carriage horse, but Shadyia rewarded him with a few carrots and words of praise until he grudgingly accepted the harness.

A swaying lantern flung their shadows along the walls as their closed carriage returned through the Kingsleaf. The rhythm of the wheels, and the peace of leaving the palace far behind, pulled Shadyia into blissful rest.

“May I see it?” Deresi asked.

Aaron unfastened the pouch at his side, brought out the ruby, and placed it in Deresi’s cupped hands.

Light from the lantern passed through the ruby and drew red marks on Deresi’s face. She made the kind of sound women usually reserve for holding a kitten. “It’s so beautiful.”

Shadyia forced open her eyes and considered the ruby. On the surface, it looked like the kind of gem an emperor would wear on his crown, but Aaron had said its true value lay within the magic it held. The ruby, he told them, absorbed the knowledge of all the magicians who had ever owned it like a cloth on spilt wine.

Shadyia leaned over and kissed Deresi’s cheek. “I can’t believe you picked Mirrikh’s pocket. You amaze me.” When Mirrikh had seized both her and Aaron in his magic, Deresi had slid to her knees, grabbed his robe, and begged Mirrikh not to harm them. It must have been in that instant that she had dipped her hand into his large pocket and fished out the ruby.

Deresi turned the tear-shaped ruby over and examined its base. The broad end had a shallow, round indention in it. “What is this for?”

“That is where you insert the end of a sagewood staff.”

Shadyia circled her finger inside the indention. Aaron had said if a staff made from sagewood touched the ruby, it would transform into a Valkyrise, an artifact of the magi lords. With this wondrous staff, a magician could triple his power and be immune to all magical attacks. Moreover, if anyone spent enough time with a Valkyrise, they could eventually learn to use magic like a magician. That last bit had particularly caught Deresi’s attention.

“Do you think we could get the sagewood staff from the Asyerian clerics?”

Aaron shook his head. “I seriously doubt it. Sagewood is as rare as any treasure in the world. We could be thrown into the Ahmeinian dungeons just for inquiring about their staff, let alone asking them to let us have it.”

Shadyia thought on that. “What if we were to tell the Asyerians about Verthandi and the Ashkhan escaping?”

The carriage jolted over a bump, making Aaron hop in his seat “That would get us tossed into an asylum instead of the dungeon.” He huffed a laugh and held out his hand in a silent request for the return of the ruby. “No, I will use this to find out how to travel to Celestrial. The archives there should have all known information about the prison of the Ashkhan.”

Deresi, her gaze locked on the gem, nodded. “Yeah, that might work.”

Shadyia nudged Deresi’s side. She had probably not heard anything Aaron had said. Grinning, he gently pried the ruby from Deresi’s fingers. She made a small sound of protest, but dropped her hands to her lap.

“Tell me something, please,” Deresi said as Aaron returned the ruby to his pouch.

“Yes?”

“What’s it like to use magic?”

The carriage tilted around a bend as Aaron seemed to consider his answer. “When you first feel the ether, it’s like being parched and drinking from an icy waterfall. It flows over you, refreshes you. You can’t imagine anything being more wonderful. But you can only drink so much and that feeling, believe it or not, passes. You want to learn where the water comes from—and you have this insatiable desire to control the water, make it stop or fall faster. That’s the trap.”

Deresi blinked. “What do you mean?”

“A wise man once said, there is none so improvised as he who wants more than he has. Look at this.” Aaron lifted his left hand, palm up, and passed his right over it. A sphere of blazing flames appeared and hovered just above his cupped fingers.

Deresi’s green eyes widened. “Whoa!” Before Shadyia could stop her, she reached for the flame. “Ouch!” She snatched her hand away and put the tips of two fingers in her mouth.

“Are you all right?” Shadyia took Deresi’s hand and inspected it.

Deresi nodded. “It’s fine.”

A wave of heat from the fire above Aaron’s hand brushed Shadyia’s face. Deresi had probably assumed the flames were an illusion. Maybe they were. “A little warning next time, if you please.”

He closed his hand and the flames vanished. “What I just did there was nothing to me. I felt no sense of wonder or accomplishment. If I were a cruel man, I would delight in hurting Deresi, but I’m not, so I can’t even enjoy that.”

Deresi glanced at her fingers. “It felt so real.”

“It wasn’t,” Aaron said, and leaned back on his seat.

He had created something to fool their minds—why? Shadyia cupped her hand over Deresi’s hand. “I still don’t see your point.”
“There was a time that when I made something like that, I felt like a god. I had created fire. Do you understand? Fire I knew wasn’t real, but still I would burn my fingers if I touched it. These days, creating an illusion like that is as easy as breathing. Imagine going from feeling like a god, to feeling nothing. Every magician who has ever used magic wants to feel that initial rush again—” Aaron’s hands became fists. “—craves it.”

Shadyia nodded. “Like breathing the smoke from the black ickrus.”

He stabbed a finger at her. “Exactly. Thankfully, I’ve never tried ickrus, but from what people have told me, it’s marvelous. You feel as if you are flying through the clouds. Over time, however, the fumes no longer give the same sensation, but the memory of that experience drives one to take more and more until it consumes your every thought.”

Deresi shook her head. “All right, but that’s illusion. You said there were magicians who could create things for real.”

Aaron rubbed his forehead. “Oh, that’s even worse.”

Deresi yelped in disbelief. “How could it be worse?”

“Imagine if I snapped my fingers and created a necklace of gold and emeralds. A real one.”

She grinned. “I like that thought.”

He lifted his chin. “Why?”

“Emeralds are beautiful, and you can buy things with them. Castles and servants and nice dresses.”

“Could I buy a thousand castles if I made a thousand emerald necklaces?”

The carriage creaked and swayed as Deresi chewed her lower lip in thought. “I guess not. It wouldn’t be worth anything if there were a thousand of them.”

“Exactly.”

Shadyia drummed her fingers on the leather armrest at her side. Easy for a king with rooms full of treasure to say gold and gems have no meaning, but for the rest of the peasants, wealth was still a splendid thing. “You told me in the castle ruins that no amount of power could thwart fear. Was that true of Mirrikh? Was he afraid?”

Aaron arched an eyebrow. “Do you even need to ask? He had power I could only imagine. He once owned a Valkyrise. When we found him, he wore enchanted artifacts that preserved his life and kept him from all magical harm. Yet…”

Shadyia nodded. “Yet he hid in a labyrinth for centuries.”

“Precisely. I am certain, despite all that he was and all that he owned, Mirrikh felt inadequate, paranoid and—yes—afraid.”
Shadyia shook her head against the thought. Would she be the same? If she had the power Mirrikh possessed, would she only crave more? It was difficult to believe there would come a time when working magic became as dull as doing the washing. Magic opened new worlds, new experiences. To grasp the unknown, to entertain the masses, to conquer the lands of your enemy…

To kill men who delighted in torture.

Shadyia stared at Aaron. Soon they would arrive in Anderholm and his manor in the Artisan Quarter. If she were to ever understand what had happened in the alley, now would be the time. “May I ask you about something difficult?”

Aaron turned grim as if he had expected her to breach this matter. “Go ahead.”

“What happened to you in the alley?” Shadyia asked.

He briefly closed his eyes, took a deep breath, and released it. “I touched Janell’s mind to learn who was responsible for her injuries.”

“You can do that too?” Deresi asked. “Remarkable.”

“No,” Aaron replied curtly. “Foolish. I acted in haste and didn’t put up the proper defenses. I felt a portion of what they did to Janell as if it were done to me. It nearly drove me insane.”

Deresi crossed her fingers over her lips. “You felt what she did?”

He nodded. “Some of it.”

A chill brushed Shadyia’s nape. Some of it. Aaron had writhed on the ground and screamed in agony. As he had recovered, he had said three Innocenti had taken turns on Janell. One of those three men was still out there, but two of them had paid for their acts with pain and humiliation equal, Shadyia hoped, to what they had done to Janell. Or had they? “Those men in the wagon, what you did to them, was that real?”

“It was real to them.”

Deresi visibly shuddered. “I wish I hadn’t seen that. I mean, I know they deserved it, but I can’t get it out of my mind.”

Aaron rubbed his forehead. “For that, I deeply apologize. I acted out of rage with no regard for you or Shadyia. I should have told you to look away.”

“I wouldn’t have, even if you’d asked.” Shadyia had wanted to see those vile men die.

The haunted look in Deresi’s eyes told she did not feel the same. “Will Janell recover?”

Aaron responded with a slight shrug. “I think she’ll survive, but she won’t be Janell any longer. At least, I don’t think so. She may prove us wrong.”

When Aaron opened the cloth covering Janell, her chin and neck had been covered in dry blood, probably form having her tongue cut out. They had pressed branding irons against her breasts until—Fuck! Shadyia quivered. Stop thinking about it! “So those men are still alive?” she asked, her tone hot with anger.

“Oh no.” Aaron shook his head. “In the morning, the city guard will find two dead men in that alley. There will be no evidence of what killed them, but to those Innocenti, they were impaled.”

Shadyia clenched the fingers on her thigh into a fist. “Good.”

Deresi soft hand cupped over Shadyia’s fist. She reached across the cabin and offered her other hand to Aaron. “I know you don’t believe in the gods, but can we pray for Janell?”

He took her hand. “Certainly.”

Deresi closed her eyes. “Hallowed Luun, goddess of strength, guide our fallen sister, Janell, back into the light. Let her know she is loved and we miss her and need her in our lives.”

“May it be so,” Shadyia said, her anger vanishing.

“May it be so,” Aaron repeated.

Shadyia lifted Deresi’s hand and kissed her knuckles. “I’ve never heard you pray before.”

She shrugged. “Can’t hurt.”

Aaron let go of Deresi’s hand. “We should arrive at my home soon. So, tell me ladies, how may I reward you for your magnificent service?”

Shadyia yawned. Enough of rewards and magic. “As I said outside the tower, a bath, a hot meal, and some rest are all I need.”

“There must be more.”

She leaned her head on Deresi’s shoulder and closed her eyes. “At the moment, I cannot see past that.”

“I know what she wants,” Deresi said.

“Tell me,” Aaron asked.

“She wants to dance at the Crystal Ballroom.”

That snapped Shadyia awake. “I do, eh?”

“Yes, and don’t even deny it.” Deresi bopped the end of Shadyia’s nose. “I saw how your eyes lit up when I told you how I snuck in there.”

Aaron arched his eyebrows as if impressed. “You did?”

Deresi bobbed her head. “About five years ago.” She pushed a lock of red hair behind one ear. “I broke in one night with some friends. Just make sure when you take her, there’s plenty of music. She has no imagination.”

Aaron pursed his lips and nodded. “I’ll see what I can do. And what about you, Dee? What would you like, besides a servant to polish your toes?”

Shadyia grinned. To lighten the tension in the labyrinth, Deresi had joked—had it been a joke?—that she had always wanted to be wealthy enough to employ someone to polish her toes. Just that and nothing else. Polish her toes.

“Oh the usual,” Deresi said with a flip of her wrist. “A castle in the clouds, a dozen flying horses and my own queendom.”

Aaron stared at her a moment then blinked. “That may take a bit longer, but I’ll get to work on it.”

Deresi exchanged her smirk for a serious look. “You know what I’d really like?”

“Tell me, please.”

“I’d like to be a magician. I want to do the things you do.” She wiggled her fingers.

Shadyia rolled her eyes. Oh, just great. Aaron would remind her that women were never trained as magicians and such power came with a price few were willing to pay. Deresi would argue and Shadyia would have to mediate. She’d get no rest on the way to Featherquill.

“I can help you there,” Aaron said with sincerity. “It will take some time and lots of hard work, but if you’re willing, so am I.”

Deresi lifted her chin. “I am.”

Shadyia silently admonished herself. Aaron wasn’t the type to have his hands tied by tradition, nor was he a stuffy lord of Anderholm who needed to dominate the women in his life. But Deresi as a magician? For some reason, Shadyia pictured a cat with wings. I only hope she doesn’t fly too close to the sun.

“All right then, but tell me something, both of you. Do you wish to leave the Silver Rose?”

Shadyia was aware that Deresi was looking at her even before she turned her head so she could meet her curious green eyes. Leave the Silver Rose? It had been more than her home for six years; it was her identity. The money was easy and she loved the work, the games of seduction. She was the finest of the sisters, a gold belt, envied and respected. Why should I leave?

Even as that question coursed through her mind, she knew the answer. She had dared to enter a labyrinth of death, fought deadly shadows and had even driven her sword through Mirrikh’s ghostly face so that her companions could escape. But it wasn’t just the adventures and terrors under the Black Tower. Aaron had told her of ancient civilizations and faraway lands.

There was so much to the world she had yet to see, so much she had yet to experience. Janell needed to be avenged, Makayla needed to be dealt with—probably with the help of Sybaris—and the sisters needed to be protected from the Innocenti, but when that was done, the time had come to seek new horizons and new challenges.

“Yes,” she said.

Deresi touched her knee. “Are you sure, hon?”

Shadyia nodded. “I can’t go back to whoring, not anymore. I think, maybe, finding Janell closed that door forever. I want to make a difference in this world. It’s what my foster father would have desired for me.”

Somewhere, beyond the veil where the spirits traveled, she imagined her foster father smiling. Maybe he didn’t ride celestial horses across the eternal plains of Eriensym, but Aaron said the spirits of good men continued on past a mortal death. She hoped so.

“What about the sisterhood?” Deresi asked.

“I’ll find a way to keep them safe from the Innocenti. I don’t know how just yet, but when that’s done, so am I.”

Deresi discreetly squeezed Shadyia’s thigh. “I’ll follow you anywhere.”

Shadyia kissed Deresi’s neck, just below the ear. If Aaron hadn’t been sitting there, it would have been her lips that got kissed, and more.

“You’re both welcome to stay at Featherquill as long as you wish,” Aaron said. “My home is your home.”

“Thank you, Aaron,” Shadyia said.

Deresi added her gratitude with a sweet smile.

“Listen, when we get there, you won’t see much of me until tomorrow. I’m going to be in a special room I’ve constructed under the house.” He patted the bulge in his pouch. “I want to study this as much as I can. I’ll show you how to contact me if you need to, it’s easy. Just a bell you need to ring. But please, make sure it’s important before you do.”

“I understand,” Shadyia said. “You need to save the world.”

“And you need to save your sisterhood.”

“And then we will take a long, lovely holiday,” Deresi added.

A long holiday. Shadyia hummed at the thought. That we will do.

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About the Author
The Shadyia Ascendant Book Series is the kind of fantasy book I wanted to read, but could never find. Sexy, powerful, positive. The heroes are beaten, but are never broken. Although this is a medieval setting (more or less 15th century Renaissance), the characters don’t scratch at fleas and trug through the book ass-deap in mud and blood and disease. I’m sure all that is accurate, but I never wanted to read about it.

I wanted magic that is rare, women that are bold and beautiful, mysterious magicians with a hidden agenda, and gods that move mortals about like pieces on a chessboard. That’s the book I wanted.  was inspired by the fantasy writer David Gemmell in terms of pace. When you read one of his books, you get your money’s worth. He won’t spend eleven chapters with this characters arguing in a castle. The term “I could never put it down” fits a Gemmell book perfectly, and it’s what I have striven to accomplish in the Shadyia Ascendant series. Get ready for a sexy adventure you won’t soon forget!

A graduate in history, specializing in Central-European history, I’m an avid computer gamer, reader enthusiast, and teacher of English as a foreign language. I’m American and currently reside in Poland.

Where to Find T.S. Adrian
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Twitter

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Book Blitz – Excerpt + Giveaway – SONGS OF INSURRECTION (Daughter of the Dragon Throne) by J.C. Kang

SONGS OF INSURRECTION Book Blitz

Welcome to the book blitz for SONGS OF INSURRECTION, the first book in the adult fantasy series, Daughter of the Dragon Throne, by J.C. Kang. See below for information on the book, buy links, an exclusive excerpt, and details on her giveaway.Also, for a limited time, you can pick up all three books in the series for just $0.99 each.

SONGS OF INSURRECTION (Daughter of the Dragon Throne #1) by J.C. Kang

SONGS OF INSURRECTION (Daughter of the Dragon Throne #1) by J.C. Kang

About the Book
Title:
SONGS OF INSURRECTION
Series: Daughter of the Dragon Throne #1
Author: J.C. Kang
Publisher: Three Moons Press
Release Date: March 2, 2016
Genre: Adult Fantasy
Links: Goodreads | Amazon

Synopsis
Princess Kaiya’s voice could charm a dragon.

Had she lived when the power of music could still summon typhoons and rout armies, perhaps Cathay’s imperial court would see her as more than a singing fool. With alliances to build and ambitious lords to placate, they care more about her marriage prospects than her voice.

Only the handsome Prince Hardeep, a foreign martial mystic, recognizes her potential. Convinced Kaiya will rediscover the legendary but perilous art of invoking magic through music, he suggests her voice, not her marriage, might better serve the realm.

When members of the emperor’s elite spy clan– Kaiya’s childhood friend Tian and his half-elf sidekick (or maybe he’s her sidekick?)– discover mere discontent boiling over into full-scale rebellion, Kaiya must choose. Obediently wedding the depraved ringleader means giving up her music. Confronting him with the growing power of her voice could kill her.

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Excerpt #1
CHAPTER 1
Not-So-Chance Meetings

If marriage were a woman’s grave, as the proverb claimed, sixteen-year-old Princess Kaiya suspected the emperor was arranging her funeral. Entourage in tow, she shuffled through the castle halls toward the garden where General Lu waited. Given his notorious dislike of the arts, the self-proclaimed Guardian Dragon of Hua had undoubtedly envisioned a different kind of audition when he requested to hear her sing.

After all, she was dressed like a potential bride.

She buried a snort. The Guardian Dragon—such a pretentious nickname. The only real dragon, Avarax, who lorded over some faraway land, might make for a more appealing audience. A quick trip down his gullet would spare her a slow death in a marriage with neither love nor music.

And it wouldn’t matter what she wore.

The gaudy dress compensated for her numerous physical imperfections, but stifled the only thing that made her special. How was she supposed to sing with the inner robe and gold sash squeezing her chest, in a futile attempt to misrepresent her woefully underdeveloped curves? The tight fold of the skirts concealed her lanky legs, but forced a deliberate pace. At least the short stride delayed the inevitable, while preventing her unsightly feet from tripping on the hanging sleeves of the vermilion outer gown.

At her side, Crown Princess Xiulan glided across the chirping floorboards. Kaiya suppressed a sigh. If only she could move with the nonchalant grace of her sister-in-law, or even the six handmaidens trailing them. She dug her nails into clammy palms. Through this choreographed farce, appearances had to be maintained, lest she embarrass her father, the Tianzi.

Chin up, back straight. A racing heart threatened to ruin her already meager semblance of imperial grace. Eyes forward. Servants knelt on either side of the looming double doors, ready to slide them open. She forced a smile, with her best approximation of feminine charm. If only she’d lived before Dragon Songs had faded into legend, she could’ve sent the realm’s victorious hero fleeing with the song he supposedly wanted to hear.

An aging palace official stepped into her line of sight.

Singular focus on the doors broken, she blinked. Her fluttering pulse lurched to a stop as she blew out a breath.

His blue robes ruffled as he tottered forward with averted eyes and a bobbing head. He creaked down into a bow. “Emergency, Dian-xia,” he said, using the formal address for her rank. “The Tianzi commands you to greet a foreign delegation in the Hall of Bountiful Harvests.”

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SONGS OF INSURRECTION Teaser

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About the Author
JC Kang’s unhealthy obsession with Fantasy and Sci-Fi began at an early age when his brother introduced him to The Chronicles of Narnia, The Hobbit, Star Trek and Star Wars. As an adult, he combines his geek roots with his professional experiences as a Chinese Medicine doctor, martial arts instructor and technical writer to pen epic fantasy stories..

Where to Find J.C. Kang
Goodreads | Website | FacebookTwitter

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Chapter Reveal + Giveaway – SOUL MATES (Drag.Me.To.Hell) by Nadine Nightingale

SOUL MATES Chapter Reveal

Author Nadine Nightingale is unveiling the first chapter to SOUL MATES, the second book in her adult paranormal romance series, Drag.Me.To.Hell, releasing March 10, 2017. See below for information on the book and series, pre-order links, and an exclusive look at Chapter 1.

SOULMATES (Drag.Me.To.Hell #2) by Nadine Nightingale

SOULMATES (Drag.Me.To.Hell #2) by Nadine Nightingale

About the Book
Title: SOUL MATES
Series: Drag.Me.To.Hell #2
Author: Nadine Nightingale
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Release Date: March 10, 2017
Genre:
 Adult Paranormal Romance
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UKiBooks | Kobo

Synopsis
Alex is a righteous witch hunter. I’m a stab-worthy witch. We loved each other once. Now, we can’t stand to be near each other. It’s my fault. We are natural born enemies, after all. I had to help him save his brother from a psychotic voodoo priest, though. What can I say? I like Little Remington as much as I pretend to dislike Alex. Besides, he promised to never bother me again after that.

He kept his end of the bargain. I left my dubious life behind and started over. All is well. Until—

The truth about a deal with hell is revealed. I have to choose between the ultimate sacrifice or losing jerk-face forever. One will live, one will die. Who, solely depends on my selfishness.

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SOUL MATES Teaser 1

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Chapter 1
Jerking my eyes open, I’m blinded by the bright sunlight creeping through my chiffon curtains. “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door,” Alex’s favorite Guns N’ Roses song, blares through the speakers of my digital radio alarm clock. Awesome. As if jerk-face haunting me in my dreams isn’t bad enough. The universe seems to give a shit about the deal I’d made with my ex-lover. Or why else would it torture me with those fucking nightmares?

You’re such a slut!” Chelsea, aka the Nun, aka roommate from church-hell, yells from the living room. The walls of our three-bedroom apartment at Green House are too fucking thin.

“Oh yeah? And what are you, Jesus with boobs?” Bonnie, my best and only friend, barks.

Pressing a pillow over my head, I try to block their voices out. This isn’t how I pictured my new life at NYU, and it sure as hell isn’t what I had in mind when I’d given up my old, carefree life as a witch. I’m so over their senseless fights. They’ve been living together for a while now. They still can’t ignore each other. Granted, it’s hard to turn a blind eye to the Nun. If she isn’t demonstrating against abortion, or writing a blog post about Evil Women Who Scream Rape When They Practically Asked For It Because They Wore A Too- Short Skirt, she’s determined to make Bonnie’s life a living hell.

“That’s blasphemy, Bonnie!”

“Sue me.” The fighting continues.

That’s it! I’m going to kill ’em. With a headache from hell and still half asleep, I stumble to my door and yank it open. They’re standing in the common room, which consists of an open kitchen and a small living room. “Shut up! Both of you!”

Bonnie’s eyes almost pop out. “Did you hear what she just said?” She sounds offended.

“The whole freakin’ floor heard you guys,” I snap.

They shoot daggers at me. I don’t care. Running a hand through my disheveled hair, I walk to the fresh brewed coffee and pour some into a dirty cup. Why can’t these girls wash up?

Chelsea glares at me with an I’m-so-much-better- than-you expression, rolls her eyes, and heads to her room. The girl knows what’s good for her. Have to give her that much.

“I want her out!”

Jesus! “And I want you to stop yelling, Bonnie. I’m not deaf.”

She lowers her voice. “I’m serious. I can’t live with her.”

You don’t say? I take a drink of the black gold and pull myself onto the kitchen counter. “We’ve already tried to get rid of her, remember? But like it or not, all residence halls are full.”

Bonnie puts a hand on her hip. It’s paradoxical. Usually, I’m the one with temper issues. Lately, I couldn’t care less about bitch fights. “Did you have a good night?” I ask, trying to take her mind off the Nun. Bonnie’s pained expression fades, and she flashes me a bright smile. “I had a date with Cappuccino Guy. He was…” She pauses. “Wow. Just wow. I can totally set you up with one of his buddies. Just say the word.”

I knit my brows. “Nah. If I need a date doctor, I’ll call Hitch.” Downing the rest of the coffee, I get on my feet. “I need a shower.”

Bonnie throws her cute curls over her shoulder. Her shiny cognac eyes fill with concern. “Did you have another nightmare?”

I lean my hip against the counter and close my eyes. The vicious dream pushes through my subconscious. The images are so fucking vivid, it’s as if I’m still trapped in it.

****

The wind rattled the leaves of the massive trees as plants wove around my ankles like poisonous snakes. I looked up. The sky closed in on me. Black wings beat the chilly air. Ravens owned the firmament. Hundreds of them blocked the faint light from the crescent moon.

Quickening my pace, I reached an old, savaged cemetery. My pulse jackknifed in my neck as I stared at an inverted cross leaning against the king-sized iron gates. I moved closer and read the inscription carved into the black wood: Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch’intrate. My Italian was rusty, but I knew Dante by heart. “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.” With a jarring sound, the gates opened.

Don’t do this.

Too late. It felt as if a magnetic pull lured me into the cemetery. I passed through the gates of hell.

Ravens perched on crooked gravestones, throwing spooky shadows on the burned grass. The tang of sulfur engulfed me, stinging my nostrils.

This was insane. Turn the fuck around and walk away.

Every cell in my body wanted to listen to the voice in my head. I couldn’t. The place had me under its spell.

“Amanda!”

Bonnie? I turned, trying to locate her.

“Amanda.”

Hysteria tinged my voice. “Bonnie, where the fuck are you?” Desperate, I faced one of the ravens. “Where is she?”

The bird’s charcoal eyes pierced me. Then it spread its wings and flew toward a shabby mausoleum. A single black candle burned on the steps. There it was again, the magnetic pull. In a trance-like state, I stumbled toward the old tomb and the door swung open.

“In here.” Bonnie’s honey-colored skin was wrapped in a white toga. She looked like a Greek goddess, but her beautiful cognac eyes were white and empty.

I blinked. “What the hell is going on?”

A crooked smile on her lips, she yanked the door open farther. “Come and see for yourself.”

“What the—” Peeking over her shoulder, words stuck in my throat. My heart stopped. “Alex?” He laid on a mortuary table.

Was he—

No! I tried to push past my best friend, but inhuman and terrifying laughter pulsated through the eerie night.

“He’s gone, Amanda,” a dark voice whispered.

An ocean of black feathers covered the ground.

Ravens croaked in agony as a shadowy figure in a dark cloak crushed them with its boots.

Dread infected my system and I had trouble breathing. I wanted to run, but the black feathers turned into rattling snakes. The creatures hissed, and I knew they’d attack if I made a wrong move. “W-who the hell are you?”

The demon laughed. “Ah, love. ‘What is in a name?’” The snakes crawled left and right, opening a path for the cloaked creature. “‘That which we call a rose by any other word would smell as sweet,’” the black shadow said, advancing toward me.

I should have been shocked by the fact a demon quoted Shakespeare, but my gaze drifted back to Alex. “What did you do to him?”

The shadow figure stopped inches in front of me and ran its blazing hand over my cheeks. “All in good time, love.” Then Bonnie slammed the mausoleum door shut, trapping Alex’s lifeless body inside.

****

“Amanda?” Bonnie’s voice draws me back to the present. “Did you have another nightmare?”

I run an index finger over the dark circles beneath my eyes and nod. “They’re getting worse.”

“Worse how?”

I trace the scar Walter’s bullet left on my chest, not sure how to describe the uncanny feeling. “They’re way too real. I’ve slept eight hours, yet I feel like I was up all night, running a triathlon.”

Bonnie grabs the coffee pot and pours me another cup. “Did you call Alex?”

Did Cappuccino Guy screw her brains out? Alex, aka jerk-face, is the last person I’d give a buzz. Twenty- one months ago, hunter-heroic barged into my life and made me believe we had a chance at happiness. For the first time, I indulged in the fantasy love wasn’t just an illusion. When the witch hunter learned I was his favorite kind of prey, things turned ugly fast. He threatened to kill me, and if it wasn’t for his brother Jesse, he would have gone through with his threat. Then, three months ago, he walked back in my life with a proposal I couldn’t pass up. His brother had gone missing, and if I helped him, he would never bother me again. We found Jesse and saved a bunch of kids abducted by a bokor and his pedophile asshole friend, Walter. Alex honored his promise and didn’t contact me again.

“Why would I call him? Jesse is safe, I paid my dues, and he hasn’t bothered me again. Everything is perfect.”

Bonnie arches a brow. “You don’t look so perfect, Amanda.”

“Really?” I grin, or at least I try. “I thought I totally rocked this American Apparel underwear.”

“Amanda.” She folds her hands over my shoulders. “We both know he isn’t just any guy. He’s the f—”

Anger rises through me like toxic smoke. “Don’t you dare,” I warn her. “You promised you’d never bring this up.”

She plays with a strand of her rebellious curls. “I’m sorry. It’s just… I’m worried. Ever since you went on that stupid road trip, you don’t date, don’t screw.” She draws a deep breath. “Fuck. You don’t even live.”

I’m so not up for this conversation. I put the cup in the sink and stalk to our tiny bathroom next to my room. “Don’t wait on me,” I hiss, slamming the door shut.
“You’re such a bitch,” she barks. I couldn’t agree more.

****

Working the dayshift at Lindy’s Diner, I refill the sticky sugar bowls. It’s been three months since I said goodbye to my past. Two months without reading cards. One month of respectable work as a waitress, and two fucking weeks of nightmares. Goddammit, I feel like a freaking member of AA.

“Amanda!” Lindy calls from the kitchen.

Hands shaking, head thumping, I put the sugar down and turn around. “Yeah?”

Deep lines on her forehead, she raises a brow at me. “New customer. Table two.”

God, I miss my old life. I straighten my apron and grab a menu. Approaching table two with a half-hearted smile, I put the menu down. “Welcome to Lindy’s Diner.” I point to my tag. “My name is Amanda. What can I get ya?” The sentence is branded into my brain. You wanted this, I remind myself. Yeah, but back then I hadn’t known a normal life was equivalent with becoming suicidal.

“What would you suggest?” my new customer asks. He’s about twenty-five, wears a fancy black suit and expensive leather shoes. Not exactly a typical Lindy’s Diner customer.

I pull the pen out of my ponytail and reach for my notepad. “Pancakes are nice. Apple pie is great. Everything else pretty much sucks.” Joe, our Italian chef, is freakin’ amazing, but Lindy likes to keep her costs low. Even Joe can’t turn shit into gold.

The dude leans back, and his lips curve up at the corners. “Pancakes and pie it is, then.”

I jot down his order and walk to the kitchen. After handing the paper to Joe, I nibble on cookies until my phone vibrates in the back pocket of my jeans. Peeking through the kitchen door, I check if Lindy is nearby before pulling it out.

Bonnie’s name flickers across the screen. I hadn’t expected to hear from her after our little argument that morning, but the girl doesn’t just love me at my best. She also accepts me at my worst. And in the last couple of weeks, I’ve been nothing but at my worst.

Still mad? she texted.

Maybe, I sent back, not ready to let her off the hook so easily.

Suck it up. Double-date tonight nine. Dress up, he’s hot!

Has she lost her mind? I look like one of the zombie strippers. Hot on the outside, rotten and dead within. No!

Yes!

Bonnie had made up her mind, and the girl is like a pit bull when she wants something. I’m bound to lose a WhatsApp argument with her, so I decide to talk her out of it later. We’ll see.

See you in Penrose’s class?

Yes. I hit the send button and put the phone away before Lindy catches me texting.

I return to the counter and see the guy with the fancy leather shoes holding up his cup. “Table two,” Lindy snaps.

“I’m not blind.”

“Then move your lazy ass. The coffee ain’t serving itself.”

Grabbing the pot, I stalk toward him. “Anything else?” I ask, filling his cup. I don’t mean to sound like a bitch, but I just can’t help it.

He studies me with big, arctic-blue eyes. There’s something about them that gives me the creeps. I just can’t put my finger on what it is. I try to read his aura, but the colors are blurred. I haven’t had a clear reading since the damn nightmares started. I’ve tried, God knows I have, but it’s like I’m constantly glaring at a fucking rainbow. What good is it to be a witch if you can’t use your gifts?

“I’m Legend, by the way.”

Sure, and I’m Jada Pinkett Smith.

“Would you, maybe, care to join me?” He sounds casual, not pushy.

“Sorry. Can’t,” I grumble.

He holds my gaze. Chills ripple through me. Oh no. Not here. Not now.

****

The way too familiar scent of rusty iron and death hung in the air as Legend stood in the living room of the comfy family home. He’d been told by the first responding officers the scene was barbaric, but the word couldn’t adequately describe what he saw. Vicious crimson stains covered the walls, part of a liver lay on a white leather sofa, and a bloody hand print decorated the large flat-screen TV.

Legend drew a deep breath and focused on the disfigured corpse. The weird symbol carved into his head bugged Legend a lot. Four people slaughtered, and all wearing the same mark.

“Sir,” a young officer said to him. “The coroner is here.”

“Give me a sec,” he ordered, scanning the crime scene. No sign of forced entry, no murder weapon, and he’d bet his ass there’d be no DNA or fingerprints.

The young officer glared at the corpse. His face slightly green, he looked sick to his stomach. “What animal would do something like that?”

Animal was the keyword. The rib cage of the poor bastard was torn into pieces, most of his organs removed, the body had been twisted in an unnatural way, and the victim’s face unrecognizable. “I don’t know,” Legend said. “But whatever killed him won’t stop.”

“Whatever? You mean whoever, right?”

Legend pulled a pack of cigarettes out of his jacket and went to the door. “No. I meant whatever.”

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My knees are like jelly as the sickening vision fades. The symbol carved into the man’s head had been a sigil. In other words, a demon’s calling card. Every demon has its own. But this one, I had seen before. It had been carved into the chest of Mister Sinister, the guy who’d attacked me in an alley. The dude Alex thought I’d iced.

“Are you all right?” Legend sounds genuinely concerned.

My hands tremble. “Just a little dizzy.”

He loosens the collar of his shirt. A weird tattoo crawls over his neck. Looks like some sort of symbol. “Sure you don’t want to join me, Amanda?”

Before I can answer, Lindy shouts, “Amanda!”

For once, I’m glad my boss is a freaking tyrant. “Sorry. Gotta go.”

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KARMA (Drag.Me.To.Hell #1) by Nadine Nightingale

KARMA (Drag.Me.To.Hell #1) by Nadine Nightingale

About Book 1
Title: KARMA
Series: Drag.Me.To.Hell #1
Author: Nadine Nightingale
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Release Date: May 4, 2016
Genre:
 Adult Paranormal Romance
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon AU | Barnes & NobleiBooks | Kobo

Synopsis
People call me all sorts of names—bad girl, black sheep, and my all-time favorite…Satan’s bride. I could blame the fact I’m a witch for my behavior, but the truth is I’m infuriating, arrogant, and stab-worthy.

Alex Remington is a hunter and everything I’m not—righteous, honest, caring. We used to have a thing, but that was before he learned I’m a witch and tried to kill me.

Eighteen months later, he’s back in my life and we have a deal; I’ll help him save his brother and he’ll disappear from my life for good. But karma can be a real bitch…

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Author Nadine Nightingale

Author Nadine Nightingale

About the Author
Nadine aka Dini is a traveler at heart. She considers the world her home and practically lives out of her suitcases. When she’s not glaring at a blank page or abusing her poor keyboard, she spends her time reading, watching movies (preferably horror), pretends to work out, and hangs out with friends and family. Poor girl also suffers from a serious Marvel superhero addiction. So, if you run into her at night, wearing black, know she’s secretly dreaming of being the infamous Black Widow.

Her love for writing started in the sixth grade where she annoyed her classmates with a short story featuring Sailor Moon characters, a cemetery, and creepy ghosts. Yes, she’s always been addicted to the dark side. Nadine writes paranormal romance. Her debut novel “Karma” the first book in her paranormal romance series Drag.Me.To.Hell. is published by the Wild Rose Press and will be out in May 2016. She has a serious girl crush on her protagonist Amanda Bishop.

Nadine has a BA in Comparative Religions and studied Creative Writing at the University of Oxford.

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Where to Find Nadine Nightingale
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest

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Giveaway
a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Chapter Reveal – Ink Exposed (Montgomery Ink) by Carrie Ann Ryan

New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author, Carrie Ann Ryan is revealing a chapter to her upcoming Ink Exposed, the sixth book in the adult contemporary romance series, Montgomery Ink, releasing November 29, 2016. See below for information the book, pre-order links, and the exclusive chapter reveal.

Ink Exposed (Montgomery Ink #6) by Carrie Ann Ryan

Ink Exposed (Montgomery Ink #6) by Carrie Ann Ryan

About the Book
Title: Ink Exposed
Series: Montgomery Ink #6
Author: Carrie Ann Ryan
Genre: Adult Contemporary Romance
Release Date: November 29, 2016
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo | GooglePlay

Synopsis
The Montgomery Ink series continues with the brother that deserves a second chance, and the woman who has always loved him.

Alex Montgomery lost his first love and then proceeded to leave himself in the bottle. Only he and his ex-wife truly know why he fell so hard and so fast down a path he never thought he’d take. Now he’s clean, out of rehab, and learning how to be a Montgomery once again—a task that isn’t quite as easy as some of his family assumes.

Tabby Collins is an honorary Montgomery and the organizational mastermind behind Montgomery Inc., the family’s construction company. She loves her planners, friends, and a certain dark-haired man who’s never given her a second glance.

Alex is slowly re-immersing himself back into the world, but the demons he faced before aren’t out of the picture, and he’ll have to learn to rely on others to make it out whole. When Alex discovers that Tabby’s life is in danger, he not only finds a way to help her but also learns the true woman behind the soft smiles he’s always seen. Their romance won’t be an easy one, but nothing this passionate and heart-pounding ever is.

Watch the INK EXPOSED trailer: https://youtu.be/KxFF-OArb5g

Find out who your Montgomery Ink hero is: https://www.buzzfeed.com/tarawrawr/who-is-your-montgomery-ink-hero-1ll89

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Excerpt
Alex Montgomery didn’t need a drink.But he fucking craved one.This feeling wasn’t new, of course. The craving was always there. It burned in his gut, spiraled up his spine, and parched his throat. It clawed at him, seduced him, rammed into him like it couldn’t help itself. It was like an angry linebacker, screaming in one ear while a seductive temptress whispered sexy innuendos in the other, both of them telling him to just take one drink.

It would only be one drink, they taunted. Just one.Only it never ended at one drink.Because Alex was an alcoholic. He hadn’t had a drink soothe his parched throat, or tried to drown his demons in over a year. He still couldn’t quite believe it sometimes, and yet, other times it felt as if it had been so much longer. Sixteen months sober, but an addict nonetheless. No matter how many days passed and how many drinks he didn’t imbibe, he’d always be an alcoholic. That was something he’d learned to face over the past few months, but sometimes knowing it didn’t make trying to live a normal life any easier.

“You’re here early,” Marie Montgomery said as she made her way to his side. He’d been standing outside even in the cold Denver air, but his mother had found him anyway. He loved the scent of mountains and comfort that seemed to permeate his childhood home, and just looking at the woman who’d raised him made him feel that much closer to what he’d lost…and that much farther away from where he’d started.

His mother had aged well, he thought. To the point he wasn’t sure she’d aged at all. If her genes were what the family could go by when they got older, then most of his siblings were going to look just fine as they entered their fifties and sixties. Alex had probably pickled his liver during his depression so he figured it probably wouldn’t be quite the same for him. He’d more than likely end up harder-edged than his already edgy siblings. But that had been his choice at one point, and then out of his hands after he’d fallen too hard. Now, he’d face the consequences of his decisions. And it was about time he faced the aftermath according to his sponsor and therapist.

His mother wrapped her arms around his waist and held on tightly. He ignored the way his stomach tightened, and hugged her back, the action almost rusty. It hadn’t been easy these past few months to remember how affectionate his family had once been with him. He’d pushed them all away over time, and he was just now learning how to come back—if there were a way to come back. When he closed his eyes and inhaled the scent that had once calmed him, he prayed that one day he’d find himself tranquil again.

He used to drink to forget, and then, because he didn’t know anything else, he’d kept drinking. But now, he needed to remember, damn it.

He kissed the top of his mother’s head since she was so much smaller than he was and took a step back. She was a few inches shorter than all of her sons and even a couple of inches shorter than her three daughters. How Marie Montgomery had been able to raise eight kids as well as all of their friends who’d come to their home day after day was beyond him.

“I’m glad you’re here, though.” She patted his chest and looked up at him with worried eyes. She always held that worry now; and he knew it was his fault that it was there.

“I wouldn’t be anywhere else,” he said honestly. His mother’s eyes softened, and he figured he’d said the right thing. “I know the family dinner starts in a couple hours, but I wanted to come early and see if I could help.” Though their family was considered huge in this day and age, the immediate family members all lived within thirty minutes of each other in the Denver suburbs. Some of them had moved away for a year or two for school or life, but they’d all come back to Denver in the end. Once he’d gotten out of rehab, he’d considered moving away and starting over, but he’d just be hurting those who had loved him through all his crap. They’d stayed with him, pushed him toward the decision he’d had to make for himself, and now, he was glad he’d stayed in the city.

At least, that’s how he felt in that moment. With the way his mind kept going in a thousand different directions, he could change his mind again soon.

Since his parents were ecstatic that all of their babies were so close, they held family dinners twice a month. Sometimes, they made it happen more often; sometimes, they could only get everybody together once, but all of Alex’s siblings tried to make it when they could. Add in the fact that the rest of his family had been having children at an alarming rate recently, and their family dinners were always loud, full, and exhausting.

Once again, he ignored the tightening in his stomach.I can do this, he told himself again.He’d been normal once. He could try to at least play at being normal again.

“Anyway, you could have come right into the house, Alex,” his mother continued. “You didn’t have to come in through the backyard. You could have just come right in through the front door. No need to even knock since you’re one of my babies. Since the chemo and radiation treatments are over, your father wasn’t taking a nap like he used to.”

Alex’s father, Harry, had battled prostate cancer the year before when Alex had been going through his own self-induced downward spiral. Alex hadn’t been in any shape to be the kind of son Harry needed when he’d faced death and won. Thankfully, Alex had four other brothers who were far stronger than he was, and three sisters who kicked ass at anything they did.

“I wanted to walk the long way before I made it inside.” He shrugged, and she gave him a curious look. He sighed and pointed to one of the picnic tables on the large patio his father and his brother Austin had built over a decade ago. Austin was a few years older than Alex and had always been good with his hands. Yet it had been the next two siblings in the line, Wes and Storm, who had joined Harry in his construction company. While Austin had opened his own tattoo shop with their sister, Maya.

“I brought my camera in case you wanted photos or something and figured I’d see if anything caught my eye out here.” He didn’t look in her direction as he said it, suddenly self-conscious. He was a photographer and photojournalist by trade, but he’d lost many of his contacts when he found himself at the bottom of a bottle. He’d spent the past year trying to atone for his sins, making new connections and repairing the ones he’d broken, but he wasn’t quite there yet.

His mother put her hand on his forearm, and he looked down at her again. “I think that would be wonderful. Nothing formal I suppose since we didn’t warn anyone, but I’d love some shots of the family being who they are and just enjoying themselves. You were always talented at capturing that.” Tears filled her eyes, and she blinked them away, though not fast enough for him not to feel like a heel for putting them there. “I look forward to seeing what you come up with. You’re so talented.”

He nodded, swallowing hard. Maybe one day he wouldn’t feel like a stranger in the home he’d grown up in, but today wouldn’t be that day. Hell, he felt like a stranger in his own skin, let alone allowing space for anyone else to see who he was.

He didn’t even know who he was anymore.

“Mrs. Montgomery?”

Alex turned at the sound of the soft voice behind him, his heart suddenly beating just a bit faster, though he didn’t know why.

Tabitha moved toward them, a hesitant smile on her face as she studied him and his mom. She wore her light auburn hair up high in a ponytail, but he was pretty sure at one point she’d been blonde. Though it might have just been a trick of the light. If he were honest with himself, he couldn’t quite remember much of the past couple of years. She was a little above average height and all legs—legs he’d checked out more than once in the past year.

But he’d always pushed those thoughts aside, just as he would now. He was in recovery, damn it, and though he was past the year mark that most people suggested addicts wait to start a relationship, he knew that Tabitha wouldn’t be the woman he started up with once he was ready.

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Author Carrie Ann Ryan

Author Carrie Ann Ryan

About the Author
Carrie Ann Ryan is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of contemporary and paranormal romance. Her works include the Montgomery Ink, Redwood Pack, Talon Pack, and Gallagher Brothers series, which have sold over 2.0 million books worldwide. She started writing while in graduate school for her advanced degree in chemistry and hasn’t stopped since. Carrie Ann has written over fifty novels and novellas with more in the works. When she’s not writing about bearded tattooed men or alpha wolves that need to find their mates, she’s reading as much as she can and exploring the world of baking and gourmet cooking.

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Where to Find Carrie Ann Ryan
Goodreads | Website | NewsletterFacebook | Twitter
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Book Blitz – Excerpt + Giveaway – The Fairest Poison by Lauren Skidmore

The Fairest Poison Book Blitz

Welcome to the book blitz for The Fairest Poison, a young adult fantasy romance retelling by Lauren SkidmoreSee below for information on the book, buy links, an exclusive look at Chapter 1, and details on her giveaway.

The Fairest Poison by Lauren Skidmore

The Fairest Poison by Lauren Skidmore

About the Book
Title: The Fairest Poison
Author: Lauren Skidmore
Publisher: Cedar Fort, Inc.
Release Date: May 10, 2016
Genre:
 Young Adult Fantasy Romance Retelling
Links: Goodreads | AmazonBarnes & NobleBook DepositorySigned copy @ The King’s English

Synopsis
Princess Bianca returns to her court to find it poisoned from the inside out. Faced with mysterious sicknesses, power disputes, and whispers of impending death, Bianca turns to an unlikely ally—a former assassin—to find the antidote that will save her kingdom. But Bianca quickly realizes that she might not even be able to save her own life in this Snow White story.

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Excerpt

Chapter 1

My parents were sick.

That was the first news I received when I returned to the palace after nearly six months away. I was Venesia’s princess, and so its ambassador. I was happy to serve . . . but not if it meant coming home to this.

“What’s wrong?” I asked, shedding my cloak and shaking it out before handing it to a servant. It was still damp with seawater from the journey. It hadn’t exactly been a peaceful trip.

“Are they up to visitors now?”

The two handmaidens that had greeted me exchanged glances. “You should rest from your journey first, princess. It’s late, and the details can wait until the morning.”

I frowned. “No. You cannot welcome me back by saying my return may aid my parents’ recovery and then refuse to tell me what’s wrong.”

“We don’t want to worry you, princess,” the other one said, throwing a nervous glance at her companion. She’d been with the palace longer and knew I would not be easily dissuaded from getting what I wanted.

“It’s too late for that.” I sighed. “Where is my brother?”

“Prince Aiden went to speak to the Guard about the successful capture of that Chameleon. He was eager to see the killer in person.”

I braced myself. Aiden was in for a surprise on that front. “Maybe I will go rest after all,” I said, brushing a dark curl behind my ear and adjusting the purple mask I wore across the upper half of my face. I would miss the freedom of not wearing my full Venesian mask while I was away from court. “But don’t think it’s because you dissuaded me from seeing the king and queen tonight. Surely, if they were seriously ill, they’d have ordered you to take me to them right away. I won’t disturb their sleep.”

“Of course, princess.” They both curtseyed.

“Bianca!”

I cringed. Aiden.

“You’re dismissed,” I said quickly to my handmaidens. I didn’t need spectators for this.

They scurried away—though I’m sure to only just around the corner so they could eavesdrop—and I turned to face my elder brother. He came barreling down the dimly lit corridor, his half-cloak billowing out behind him. He wore the emerald green mask he favored when he was out of the palace so no one would bother him as the prince. The pure white masks of the royal family tend to stand out in a sea of blues and green.

“Where is he?” he demanded. The head guard and a young woman in a green mask were just a few steps behind him. Looks like we were going to have an audience after all.

I was tempted to play dumb but knew that would only make him even more upset. And he had good reason to be upset; I couldn’t deny him that.

“Please hear me out,” I began slowly, my voice even and calm.

“You set him free, didn’t you?” He shook his head in disbelief. “Bianca, he killed Evie’s father.” He gestured to the woman behind him, who shifted her weight from foot to foot uncomfortably, a medium-sized brown dog with a fluffy, curled tail at her heels. “He tried to kill me.”

“I know that, but—”

“There is no excuse here! He killed and was willing to kill again. He stole masks and identities. He betrayed the trust of a kingdom who took him in. He is a criminal who needs to pay for his crimes.”

“He saved my life. I owe him,” I explained simply.

That made Aiden pause, but only for the length of a breath before retorting, “One good act does not make up for all the evil he’s done.”

“But it proves there is good in him.”

“Or he is just trying to save his own skin by having you in his debt.”

“He’s not as terrible as you think he is.”

“But you admit he is terrible.”

“Aiden.” I started to truly feel the late hour now and my shoulders drooped. “He deserves a fair trial at the very least.”

“I can’t give him a trial if he is mysteriously set free in the middle of the night.”

“You’re being dramatic.”

“I think I’m being understandably upset. I went from news of my baby sister returning home with the scum I’ve been hunting for the past three months—to finding out that the scum has vanished and has said sister to thank for it! With everything that’s been going on in court, and now with Mother and Father ill—”

“Do you know what’s wrong with them?” I interrupted, both wanting to know and hoping to change the subject. I’d bristled slightly at being called his “baby sister”—there were only two years between us, after all—but was willing to overlook it in the name of the greater good of the moment. His accusations weren’t untrue; he just didn’t know the Chameleon like I did.

I might have been part of the reason he’d been captured, but we had a history. And that history meant that I owed him his freedom.

It seemed Aiden was as tired of arguing as I was. He answered, “The doctors aren’t

sure. It’s not an illness they’re familiar with. Mother and Father are on bed rest now until a cure can be found. They can barely eat and are very weak, and they both have a pink rash all over their bodies. It happened so suddenly, but no one else in court has the same symptoms, so we don’t know where it came from.”

“How long have they been like this? Why did no one tell me?”

“They only just felt sick enough to admit it and seek a doctor, though Father mentioned to me he’d been feeling poorly for several days.”

I sighed. It was just like them to overlook any health problems until they got too serious to ignore. They didn’t want to appear weak in front of the kingdom, and to appear human was to appear weak. In the king’s eyes, at least.

“I’ll go see them first thing in the morning. We all need our rest.” I gave Aiden a meaningful look. “That means you as well.” I was sure his mask hid dark circles under his eyes, one benefit of our country’s tradition. I knew my brother, and he’d been pushing himself too hard. I’d gotten snippets of the unrest that had crept into our court from his letters while I was away, but it was another matter to see him in person.

From what I understood, the court was reluctant to accept him as their next ruler. He had no respect for tradition, they claimed. For generations, the royal family protected themselves behind pure white masks, fine clothes, and strict rules. Aiden wanted to make changes that gave him more personal freedom as well as control over the country.

“We’ll all of us go to sleep, and discuss things again after breakfast.”

“Fine,” he begrudged as he turned, offering his arm to the woman beside him, who looked as tired as I felt, plus awkward after witnessing a royal argument. Evie, he said her name was. He’d written about her. He had proposed marriage to her, and she’d said no.

I was very curious about her.

“I am glad you’re home, though. I missed you,” he said.

I smiled. “I missed you too.” My gaze shifted to Evie, and I opened my mouth to

greet her properly.

“Let’s save introductions for a less unconventional time,” he interrupted before I could say anything. He reached for her hand, tucking it in the crook of his arm. “I’d rather your official meeting be a more pleasant one. Or at least one where we’re not arguing.”

She rolled her eyes at him but offered me a shy smile.

“If you insist,” I replied with a smile for her and a raised eyebrow for him. Its effect was somewhat lessened thanks to my mask, but he knew my expressions well enough to spot it.

He chuckled and shook his head with affection in his eyes. “Until tomorrow,” he said, and we parted ways.

The halls were dim and quiet, but I could have found my way to my chambers in the dark. I rarely left the palace growing up, and walking through these halls now felt like slipping into a warm bath. I loved the palace.

Servants had already brought my trunk to my parlor. Normally, I would need help dressing for bed, thanks to the complex finery of the clothing that comes with royalty, but since I was still dressed in a simple traveling dress, I didn’t bother ringing for a handmaiden.

I’d missed my rooms. It had been a long time since I’d been alone, and my rooms were the one place I was granted my privacy.

For six months, I’d been acting as ambassador to Nishima, a neighboring country we had strong ties with. That meant that for nearly six months, I’d been constantly surrounded by people—if not by the dignitaries I was there to see, then by my own guards who never left my side. Even on the journey home, when we’d been sidetracked by the hunt for the Chameleon, I’d never been left on my own.

But in my own palace, in my own rooms, I was alone. And I felt safe.

I fell asleep almost as soon as my head touched my pillow.

The next morning, I’d barely dressed before I heard insistent knocks at the doors to my suite. I knew it was Aiden even before my handmaiden opened the door to reveal him.

“I said after breakfast, Aiden. I’m still—”

“They’ve gotten worse,” he interrupted me, his eyes grim. “Mother and Father. And another doctor, a specialist from Nishima, has examined them.”

He opened and closed his mouth several times, searching for the right words.

“Just say it. What is it?”

“Bianca . . . they’ve been poisoned.”

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Trailer

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Author Lauren Skidmore

Author Lauren Skidmore

About the Author
Lauren Skidmore grew up in Kansas, with stints in Ohio and New York, and currently lives in Utah. She attended Brigham Young University where she earned a BA in English Teaching with an emphasis in Teaching English as a Second Language and Japanese. She then spent a year in Japan teaching and travelling. She hasn’t made it to Europe yet, but it’s on the list and has been to 30 states in the U.S. so far. When she’s not exploring new places, you can probably find her on the internet with fifteen windows open and looking at just one more thing before actually getting something done.

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Where to Find Audrey Greathouse
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Twitter

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Giveaway
a Rafflecopter giveaway
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Blog Tour – Excerpt + Giveaway Casquette Girls by Alys Arden

The Casquette Girls Blog Tour

Welcome to the blog tour for The Casquette Girls, the first book in the young adult paranormal/fantasy series, The Casquette Girls, by Alys Arden. See below for information on the book, buy links, an exclusive excerpt, and details on her giveaway.

The Casquette Girls (The Casquette Girls #1) by Alys Arden

The Casquette Girls (The Casquette Girls #1) by Alys Arden

About the Book
Title: The Casquette Girls
Series: The Casquette Girls #1
Author: Alys Arden
Publisher: Skyscape
Genre: Young Adult Paranormal/Fantasy
Release Date: November 17, 2015
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | The Casquette Girls

Synopsis
Seven girls tied by time.
Five powers that bind.
One curse to lock the horror away.
One attic to keep the monsters at bay.

After the storm of the century rips apart New Orleans, sixteen-year-old Adele Le Moyne wants nothing more than her now silent city to return to normal. But with home resembling a war zone, a parish-wide curfew, and mysterious new faces lurking in the abandoned French Quarter, normal needs a new definition.

As the city murder rate soars, Adele finds herself tangled in a web of magic that weaves back to her own ancestors. Caught in a hurricane of myths and monsters, who can she trust when everyone has a secret and keeping them can mean life or death?

Unless . . . you’re immortal.

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Excerpt

CHAPTER 3

Home, Sweet Home

A wall of warm air hit us when we walked into the foyer. My chest tightened thinking about mold. The dampness lingered, wrapping around my skin as if we had entered a gym locker room. Total darkness. Total silence. But after sixteen years of hearing the pendulum swings of the old grandfather clock, an impression of the sound was burned in my mind. The phantom ticks became louder in my head as we crept into the living room. I flicked the light switch just to be certain. Nothing. We both reached for our phones. That feeling of peculiarity versus familiarity crept over me once again.

My father walked ahead of me with his makeshift flashlight thrust forward and his right arm extended over me in a protective stance. There’d been countless reports of people breaking into homes and squatting in the less flooded neighborhoods.

By the glow of our phones, nothing appeared to be out of place— not that either of us could remember exactly how we had left it.

No signs of water or mold. My father exhaled loudly.

“I’m going to get the hurricane box,” I said.

“Adele, wait—”

But I was already halfway through the dormant dining room, the thick, old walls muffling his protest.

Despite the long journey, I felt incredibly alert. My eyes darted back and forth like an animal’s as I surveyed each room. Alone in the dark silence, I suddenly became very aware of the beating of my own heart.

Thump, thump.

Thump, thump.

The deeper I moved into the house, the harder it thumped.

Everything seemed okay . . . but I couldn’t shake the feeling that something was very wrong.

I stood still in the kitchen. Listening. My hair lifted from my shoulders, sending a wave of shivers down my back. A delicate touch brushed my bare neck, causing me to twist around. “Who’s there?”

A slow creak answered.

I spun toward the noise, dropping my phone. I grabbed it from the floor, and when I rose, my head collided with something soft but solid.

“What the—?” My hair yanked backward.

“Don’t touch me!” I yelled, jerking my head.

A sharp hook pierced the skin at the base of my neck. I screamed as the claw ripped all the way up my cheekbone.

Wings flapped frantically in my face, and high-pitched squawks assaulted my ears. Blood smeared from my neck to my face as I tried to keep my ears covered while thrashing wildly in the dark. “Get away!”

“Adele!”

“Dad! Kitchen!” My head jerked backward again as my hair became entangled with the bird’s talons, ripping from my scalp, and my arms got scratched up shielding my face. “Dad!”

Alys Arden

Each touch of feathers to my skin sent a wave of shudders down my spine. I fell to my knees, ripping the last of my tangled hair free from the bird’s claws.

Tears poured down as I caught my breath.

“Adele! Where are you?”

Glassware fell from the counter, smashing onto the tile floor around me.

“Down here!” I called, crouching into a ball next to a cabinet.

“What the hell?” my father yelled over the ruckus, sliding onto the floor. “Are you okay?” He pulled me close.

His phone illuminated a giant black crow frantically opening and closing its wings, breaking everything it came into contact with.

He helped me up, then swiftly grabbed a broom from behind the refrigerator and shooed the trespasser out the kitchen door. I jumped up and slammed the door behind it.

“Are you hurt?” He held his phone up to my face. My arm covered the wound, but still, his eyes bulged, causing me to look down. Red covered most of my right shoulder.

“It looks worse than it is,” I lied, my throat raw from screaming. My face throbbed, but I kept it covered so he’d calm down. “All of this over a bird?” I tried to joke, fighting the tears.

He still had the broom clutched in one hand and his lit phone in the other. I didn’t know if it was the anxiety, the weariness, or just how ridiculous we both must have looked, but I started laughing, and soon he did too.

He put the broom down and wrapped his arms around me. “Home, sweet home.”

“Never a dull moment.” My voice was muffled by his shoulder. I squirmed, trying not to get blood on his shirt. “Wait a second.” I raised my head. “That door was open.”

“What?”

“The kitchen door . . . I never opened it for the crow to fly out.”

22

He held his phone up to the old brass doorknob. Someone had smashed the lock. He tapped the keypad on his phone three times and brought it to his ear.

“Dammit! No service.”

They warned everyone not to come home yet . . .

He gave up on the call, went to the pantry, and lifted out a large cardboard box, putting it on the kitchen counter. I didn’t need any light to know it was appropriately labeled “Hurricane Box” in my six-yearold scribble. On the side, written in a range of green Crayola to metallic silver Sharpie, was a list of every hurricane it had been used in, along with the date. We were pretty diligent about keeping it fully stocked because we weren’t the type who evacuated every time bad weather brewed in the Atlantic.

He pulled out a robust first aid kit.

I nervously removed my sticky fingers from the wound.

“Dammit, Adele!”

“What?”

“I’m taking you to the hospital.”

“Dad, there aren’t any hospitals.”

“Jesus . . .” He hesitated for a second before he managed his manlydad poker face.

“Dad!” The tears began to well again.

“I’m sorry, baby, it’s not that bad.” He lied this time. “It’s just a lot of blood.” He pressed the gauze against my face. “Damn bird.”

When the bleeding subsided, he spun the lid off the bottle of rubbing alcohol. My nose scrunched at the chemical smell. “It’s gonna burn,” he said gently and poured a generous stream of the clear liquid down my face and neck.

My limbs twisted together. I tried not to yelp as the solvent spidered into the wound. He pressed my hand over a fresh piece of gauze.

“Stay here, and I’ll check out the rest of the house.”

“No, I want to see!” I yelled. But really I didn’t want to be left alone.

Alys Arden

“Okay, but stay put for two minutes. Keep applying pressure. I’ll be right back. I promise.”

Something about his exit made me suspicious. I attached the gauze to my skin with some medical tape and dug through the remaining contents of the supply box: a transistor radio, an assortment of nonperishable food items, various kinds of batteries. Voilà. Two flashlights. I flicked them on and off to test the batteries.

When he returned, the beams of light revealed a small black object in his hand. I did a double take. “What is that?” I exclaimed in a loud whisper. “You own a gun? Do you even know how to use that thing?”

“Calm down, sweetheart. It was Grandpa’s, and it’s always been locked up in the safe.” He seemed oddly at ease holding the weapon, as if it was something he used on a daily basis. Who is this guy?

I placed the second flashlight into his free hand and filed behind him down the hall to his bedroom. He waved his light around to check out the state of his things, while I continued to the back. His bedroom was an old double parlor, separated by sliding wooden doors. The rear room, which led to the courtyard, was his studio. I unlatched the hook and slid open the pocket doors a couple feet.

My brain refused to register what I saw in front of me as I hastily moved my flashlight from one thing to the next.

No.

No.

No.

“I’m so sorry, Dad.” I stood frozen, unable to think of anything else to say.

He rushed over, slid the wooden doors completely open, and stepped into the work space.

“Stay here.”

Most of my father’s lifework was in total disarray, strewn about the large, open room. I focused my light on the rear wall and gasped. My flashlight was shining straight into the back courtyard—a humongous

24

Greek Revival–style column from a neighboring house had smashed through our exterior brick wall and created a gaping hole at least ten feet tall and seven feet wide. Wind, rain, and Lord knows what else had poured in. I thought of the crow as I slowly approached the hole and wondered if there were any other creatures lurking in the house.

“Adele, stay back! There might be serious structural damage.”

Backing away, I picked up two unstretched canvases and tried to separate them, but they had fused together upon drying. I put them down to avoid further wrecking my father’s art.

Why couldn’t that column have fallen into any other room in the house? Even my own bedroom would have been better. I wondered if any of his paintings or charcoals had survived. A sinking feeling told me, unlikely. At least his main medium was metal . . . Anxiety rushed through my veins, thinking about my own bedroom.

“Come on, Dad, there isn’t much we can do tonight.” My hand rested on his shoulder as I pulled him away from the acetylene tank he was examining. “We’ll get a better look in the morning.”

We did a quick run-through of the rest of the house and ended up back in the kitchen. To our relief, everything else appeared unscathed.

Including my stuff.

“No squatters or pools of standing water,” said my father.

“Just crows and gaping holes.”

Dodging broken glass on the floor, he tossed me a bottle of water. “Don’t even brush your teeth with water from the sink until the boil-water advisory is lifted.” He jammed a kitchen chair under the broken knob, securing the door. “Can you get through the night without electricity?”

“Definitely.” I nodded with a jet lag–induced yawn then pulled out my phone, hoping a quick text to Brooke would go through.

Adele 8:57 p.m. Made it home. Able to sleep

in the house. Full report tomorrow. xo.

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Trailer

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Author Alyse Arden

Author Alyse Arden

About the Author
Alys Arden was raised by the street performers, tea leaf-readers, and glittering drag queens of the New Orleans, French Quarter. She cut her teeth on the streets of New York and has worked all around the world since.

She either talks too much or not at all. She obsessively documents things. Her hair ranges from eggplant to cotton-candy-colored.

One dreary day in London, while dreaming of running away with the circus, she started writing The Casquette Girls.

Her debut novel garnered over one million reads online before being acquired by Skyscape in a two book deal. Rep’d by ICM.

Where to Find Alys Arden
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Google+ | Pinterest

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Giveaway
a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Prologue Reveal + Sale – Transparent (Luminous Series) by Erin Noelle

Transparent Prologue Reveal

USA Today bestselling author, Erin Noelle, is releasing the Prologue to Transparent, the second book in her new adult contemporary romance series, Luminous. And for a limited time, you can pick up the ebook of Translucent, the first book in the series, for just $0.99. See below for all the details.

Transparent (Luminous #2) by Erin Noelle

Transparent (Luminous #2) by Erin Noelle

About the Book
Title: Transparent
Series: Luminous #2
Author: Erin Noelle
Release Date: October 15, 2015
Genre: New Adult Contemporary Romance
Links: Goodreads | Amazon

Synopsis
Her elusive past didn’t worry me,

Her heartbreaking scars never made me cringe,

And her haunting demons only made me a stronger man.

But the day Blake Martin was stolen from me, 

I was scared to death.

Prepared to do anything necessary to get her back,

Little did I know it just might cost me my life.

My name is Madden Decker, and this is my story.

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Prologue

(“Something I Can Never Have” ~ Nine Inch Nails)

UNKNOWN

The day I turned fourteen, I tortured a man for the first time. Strung him up naked in one of my dad’s warehouses. Gagged him so I didn’t have to listen to him scream like the traitorous cunt he was as I cut off a different body part every ten minutes. Just as I’d watched it be done numerous times over the past couple of years.

First were his hands and feet, each removed with a single swing of the new sword my father had given me that morning at breakfast for my birthday. I remembered how proud he and my uncles were of my clean, precise form, insisting we all toast with a shot of Baikal vodka after each strike. The alcohol boosted my confidence and conviction, and by the fifth time I walked into the seedy back interrogation room, illuminated only by a flickering fluorescent light hanging in the middle of the cracked ceiling, I felt like The Man himself—invincible, immortal, and on top of the mafia world.

Another swift swipe of my gold-plated sword, and the man was no longer a man, anatomically speaking. And when I brought his pretty bride in to see him one last time, I demonstrated all the ways he would never enjoy her again, brutally fucking every hole her body had to offer, all less than a couple feet from him. His eyelids were stapled open, forcing him to watch as she abandoned their vows and trembled with release on top of my teenaged cock while I viciously pounded in and out of her.

Then, as my family members—both blood and sworn by oath—had their way with her in the next room, I brought my blade to the cockless bastard’s throat and whispered the words “Forgive me, Lord, for I have sinned” in my native tongue as I sliced him from ear to ear.

The entire warehouse erupted in cheers and applause as the lowest associates in my father’s brigade rushed in to clean up the bloody mess before our women and my school friends arrived for the actual birthday party.

I may have been born into this powerful family by chance, but I would die in the Brotherhood by choice.

That was over eighteen years ago, and though I’m now third in line to rule one of the most powerful organized crime rings in the world, a lot changes when a boy becomes a man. No longer am I interested in spending time filleting the scum of the earth or fucking tainted whore pussy. No. I don’t waste my time on that shit any more. I’m saving my wrath for the day the man responsible for the murder of my wife and my brother, as well as a handful of others in my family, stands before me to answer for what he’s done.

And with the Lord above and the Demon below as my witnesses, I swear once I get my hands on him, Vincent Ricci is going to wish with every fiber of his being that I was still that fourteen-year-old boy who didn’t know what it was like to have the most precious thing in the world taken from him. A boy who didn’t know the fierce agony and mind-controlling rage that comes along with losing the person you love most.

The boss of the powerful Ricci Family of Chicago may have been able to evade me and my men for the last two years, but finally, I have the one thing he desires most of all. The one thing that will make him vulnerable and careless and irresponsible.

And she is currently bound to my bed.

Staring down at her as she sleeps soundly, knocked out from whatever drugs they gave her, I can’t help but notice the resemblance of her to my Darya.

Porcelain skin. Thick, dark lashes resting peacefully on her high, prominent cheekbones. Rosy lips so full and lush they beg to be kissed. I’m almost scared to see her with her eyes open. Will she have those same blue sapphires that can…

I stand up abruptly from the bedside chair and step toward the window, peering out at the waves as they lap relentlessly along the rocky Pacific Coast, laughing at myself for the absurd thoughts. Now is not the time to think about lashes or lips or eye color. Now is not the time to adulate over my prisoner—this American Princess, as they call her.

She is only the means to an end.

Because now is the time for revenge.

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Transparent Teaser 1

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Translucent (Luminous #1) by Erin Noelle

Translucent (Luminous #1) by Erin Noelle

About Book 1
Title: Translucent
Series: Luminous #1
Author: Erin Noelle
Release Date: June 22, 2014
Genre: New Adult Contemporary Romance
Links: Goodreads | Amazon

Synopsis
Sometimes you reach a point where you just can’t take any more — a breaking point, some call it.

The day I watched my husband murder the woman who was pregnant with his child, my point didn’t just break, it exploded like a full magazine’s worth of hollow points firing through the barrel of a fully-automatic AK-47.

Literally.

I am no longer his American Princess, nor am I his slave.

Now, I’m a murderer in hiding. My name was Bryleigh Carter Oliveira, and that was my story.

Translucent is one woman’s story of breaking free, starting over, and learning to trust again through willful submission.

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Author Erin Noelle

Author Erin Noelle

About the Author
Erin Noelle is a Texas native, where she lives with her husband and two young daughters. While earning her degree in History at the University of Houston, she rediscovered her love for reading that was first instilled by her grandmother when she was a young child.

A lover of happily-ever-afters, both historical and current, Erin is an avid reader of all romance novels. Her titles published include the Book Boyfriend Series, the Dusk ‘Til Dawn Series, Translucent, Conspire — co-authored with SE Hall, Surviving Us, MILF: Wrong Kind of Love and Spark.

Her books have been a part of the USA Today Bestselling list and the Amazon and Barnes & Noble overall Top 100.

Where to find Erin Noelle
Goodreads Website | NewsletterFacebook Twitter | Amazon | Instagram | Tumblr | Tsu | Pinterest
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Chapter Reveal – Fatal Beauty by Nazarea Andrews

Fatal Beauty Chapter Reveal

Author Nazarea Andrews is unveiling the first chapter of Fatal Beauty, an adult thriller releasing October 13, 2015See below for information on the book, a link to add it to your Goodreads TBR, the chapter reveal, and a couple of teasers.

Fatal Beauty by Nazarea Andrews

Fatal Beauty by Nazarea Andrews

About the Book
Title: Fatal Beauty
Author: Nazarea Andrews
Release Date: October 13, 2015
Genre: Adult Thriller
Links: Goodreads

Synopsis
Charlotte was a good girl. Sweet and innocent, a debutante with her Daddy’s credit card and a fiancée who doted on her. She was destined for a perfect picture life in Charleston. Until everything goes wrong.

EJ grew up with everything she could ever want, and bored as hell. Nothing surprises her and nothing ever changes, and she wants out—whatever it takes. Getting involved with Anthony Jacobs is probably the worst idea she’s ever had—and that makes it irresistible.

Until Charlie needs her.

New Orleans. Los Angles. Vegas.

Beautiful girls who know just how to get exactly what they want.

It’s all fun and games, sexy nights and wild parties.

But you can only manipulate your way out of so much, and when their past catches up, not even a pretty fucking smile will get them out of trouble this time.

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Fatal Beauty Teaser

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Chapter Reveal
Las Vegas Police Department, Interrogation Room B.

Detective Blackmon: State your name for the record.
Charlotte Brooks: (clears throat) Charlie Brooks.
Detective Blackmon: Your legal name, ma’am.
Brooks: Charlotte Suzanne Brooks.
Detective Blackmon: Have you been advised of your rights, ma’am?
Brooks: (soft laugh) you advised me of them. So yes.
Detective Blackmon:  Do you want to tell us how you came to know Ms Ella Jane Munro?
Brooks: Where is she?
Detective Blackmon: Ma’am, I need you to calm down and give your statement.
Brooks: Where the fuck is EJ?
Detective Blackmon: At night fifty pm the LVPD were called to a hotel room secured with a credit card in your name. Upon searching it, we found drugs, weapons and almost two hundred in cash. Do you want to say anything about that?
Brooks: I wasn’t in that room, and neither were my belongings. You verified that. My wallet was stolen. And I want EJ.
Brooks: Why the hell are you looking at me like that?
Detective Blackmon: Ma’am…
Brooks: (screaming) where the hell is EJ?

Chapter 1

If she could look at it, with the hindsight of everything that had happened, she would say that it all began six months before Wallace Bryce Talbert went missing. The day Ella Jane Munro sold Llewellyn Koonts a hit of blow in the locker room of her father’s country club.

Of course, if she had the luxury of hindsight, she might have changed everything by simply going to lunch at the Greenhouse instead of tennis at the club.

Then again. Charlotte had never had much use for hindsight and even less for regrets.

 

* * *

Charlie Brooks was an institution at the Buringtree Country Club. She had grown up in the halls, played tennis early and well, swam in the summer and pranced around the greens in tiny shorts, her blonde hair bobbing in her signature braid.

She was a perfect debutant. Sweet as sugar when it suited her, and an utter bitch when it didn’t. The staff at the club lived in fear of her temper. HR had to step in when she was in high school and they couldn’t keep a staff–Charlie either terrorized them into quitting or demanded they were fired over minor infractions.

And because she was Travis Brooks only daughter, she usually got her way.

Ella Jane Munro was different from Charlie. Just as bitchy, just as demanding. Filthy fucking rich. But Charlie revealed in who and what she was born to. She never wanted anything but to be the queen bee at her private school, at the club, and Vanderbilt. Everything she did was carefully calculated for how it would reflect on her and how people viewed her.

It’s why she and Ella Jane had never gotten along, despite being in the same circles.

From the outside, they would have made the perfect frenemies. Self-destructive, the kind of too close back-stabbing that would fuel the wet dreams of high school boys with visions of love hate sexcapdes.

Ella Jane and Charlie didn’t cooperate. Ella was bored to death with country club life and everything expected of a deb. And she might be an it girl, in her blasé way, but she never aspired to steal Charlie’s crown.

They existed for most of their life, in a kind of live and let live détente.

No one could explain why that changed. It was whispered about, of course. Two of Charleston’s favorite daughters, suddenly inseparable? Everyone had a theory. No one knew the truth, though.

No one would have ever believed the truth.

* * *

The door to her office opened and closed again, in the kind of way that was an announcement. She swallowed a smirk and layered another coat of pale pink on her nails.

Most girls would pay for a manicure, but she had always found the ritual of her nail care to be soothing.

The cash slapped down on her desk and she blinked at it slowly before letting her gaze slide lazily up to the woman across from her.

Sharp green eyes, long jet black hair with a single streak of magenta in bangs cut across her forehead. A pair of designer skinny jeans and a loose, sheer black tank top scattered with polka dot skull and cross bones, lace edged cami under it showing off her amazing tits.

Only Ella Jane could stalk into her office in designer jeans and a Walmart clearance top and look perfect instead of ridiculous.

“Your half.” She says.

Charlie finishes her last finger, admiring it briefly before screwing the lid on her nail polish and giving the other woman her attention.

“When are you meeting with Jacobs?”

“Tomorrow. Don’t be impatient, greedy girl.”

She bites down on the acidic response that wants to rise, and arches an eyebrow silently. EJ stares at her for a long moment, before she huffs a sigh and drops into the high back leather chair across from her.

“You can’t do anything until Monday anyway. Isn’t your engagement thing tonight.”

It’s posed as a question, but she knows damn well when it is. Charlie goes still and her gaze clouds for a heartbeat.

“Do you want me to come?” EJ asks, quietly.

The offer startles a laugh from Charlie and she grins, a dry, mocking thing. “And how the hell would I explain that? No. Stay on your side of the club, and I’ll stay on mine. I’ll be fine.”

There’ a tense moment, as they stare at each other, and Charlie wonders just how much EJ suspects.

They weren’t supposed to become friends—it was a business arrangement. One that benefited them both and made EJ’s supplier happy. But it had evolved.

It made her nervous, and nothing made her nervous. She didn’t like it.

“Don’t be a bitch, Charlie,” EJ says coldly.

“Then don’t fucking hover.” Charlie snaps.

Anger flares in EJ’s eyes, for a moment, and then it vanished, and she stands. “Fine. Have fun with your boy.”

Her tone is mocking and knowing and it stings a little as she watches EJ leave.

For a moment, it occurs to her that she should apologize. She dismisses it just as quickly and grabs the stack of cash, standing and moving to the wall where her safe is.

It’s crammed with cash and a small black revolver. As she adds the new stack to the others, she touches the gun.

It’s soothing, and her unease and nerves settle at the touch of the cool metal.

It’ a standard black Glock. Most of her girlfriends carry a tiny pink pistols they can tuck into their Coach bags with equally ridiculous sized dogs. But Travis Brooks always said that if she wanted to be man enough to carry a gun, she’d damn well carry a man’s gun.

“Charlotte? We have a meeting with the partners.”

She snaps the safe shut, keying the lock and spins to smile at her fiancée.

Wallace Bryce Talbert the Third. Tre to his friends and enemies alike. A golden boy in her father’s law firm, and the man she had promised to spend her entire life with.

He’s grinning at her, holding a hand out and she swallows her nerves and fear as she places her hand in his and follows him out of the office.

* * *

EJ pads out of her bedroom, her naked body wrapped in moonlight. A bottle of spumante sits discarded in a silver wine chiller, and she grabs it as she moves to her purse and pull out a pack of cigarettes. She smokes almost pensively, staring out the window. Behind her, she can hear him moving and she keeps her gaze trained on the window as smoke curls around her, dissipating slowly.

“You should come back to bed,” he says, and she can hear the tease in his tone. She barely manages to keep from rolling her eyes as she wraps her lips around the cigarette again, pulling one last time before dropping it into a forgotten champagne flute.

“You should go. I’ve got an early morning tomorrow.”

Surprise and anger chase across his face, and she waits to see if he’ll follow through.

Clayton Poole was the heir of an ancient oil tycoon, and would be much more interesting if he would lose his temper every once in a while.

He was a fun fuck, always took care to get her off, and he opened doors even she couldn’t walk though. But he was boring as fuck when they weren’t naked.

“I’ll call you tomorrow,” he says, lamely, and she flick a look at him as she pours a glass of spumante.

“Don’t. I’ll call you soon.” She gives him a smile and kisses his cheek before returning to her bedroom.

She lets out a sigh when the door shuts behind him, and settles on her bed. It smells of sex still, but she’s too drunk and lazy just now to strip the sheets.

Besides, she likes the smell of sex, even if Clayton isn’t her favorite fuck buddy.

There is a joint in her bedside table and she fishes it out and lights it, pulling on it deeply as she thumbs through her social media.

The entire newsfeed is abuzz with the engagement party of the year, and she grits her teeth. She should have been there. Clayton had been invited—Charlie will be pissed he didn’t show, a thought that strings a smirk across her lips—and she could have crashed it. Nothing to be done once she was there.

Once upon a time, it would have been amusing just to get a rise from Charlie.

When the fuck had that changed? When she realized that Charlie was just as unhappy in their fucking perfect life as she was?

Or was it when Charlie blackmailed EJ into sharing her distribution, earning her respect as more than another empty headed social climber.

She huffs, and takes another pull on the joint. The smell of weed fill the bedroom, covering the scent of sex. Her muscles are loose and relaxed against the bed and she let’s her phone drop beside her, drifting on her high, drunk and post-orgasmic relaxation combining to pull her down into sleep.

The room is pitch black, her body hot and sweating against the rough duvet when she wakes. Her mouth is dry and for a disorienting moment, she wonders where the hell she is, and what happened.

Her phone buzzes against her thigh again, and she fumbles for it.

“Charlie?” she croaks, and swallows. Reaches for the spumante on the bedside table.

“I need you.”

The whisper from the other end of the line chills her, and she shudders, rubbing away the goosebumps that trace along her arms.

That’s it—those three words and nothing more.

Sleep is forgotten completely as she sits up and nods. “I’ll be right there.”

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fatal Beauty 2 Weeks

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Author Nazarea Andrews

Author Nazarea Andrews

About the Author
Nazarea Andrews (N to almost everyone) is an avid reader and tends to write the stories she wants to read. Which means she writes everything from zombies and dystopia to contemporary love stories.

When not writing, she can most often be found driving her kids to practice and burning dinner while she reads, or binging watching TV shows on Netflix. N loves chocolate, wine, and coffee almost as much as she loves books, but not quite as much as she loves her kids.

She lives in south Georgia with her husband, daughters, spoiled cat and overgrown dog. She is the author of World Without End series, Neverland Found, Edge of the Falls, and The University of Branton Series. Stop by her twitter (@NazareaAndrews) and tell her what fantastic book she should read next.

Where to Find Nazarea Andrews
Goodreads Website | Blog | Twitter | Facebook | Street Team | Newsletter | Pinterest
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Pre-Release Teaser – Heart-Shaped Hack by Tracey Garvis Graves

Heart Shaped Hack Pre-Release

We’re still a week away from the release of Heart-Shaped Hack, a contemporary romance from New York TimesWall Street Journal, and USA Today bestselling author, Tracey Garvis Graves, but she’s offering up a sneak-peek for us today along with a teaser, and a link to read the first five chapters. See below for details.

Heart-Shaped Hack by Tracey Garvis Graves

Heart-Shaped Hack by Tracey Garvis Graves

About the Book
Title: Heart-Shaped Hack
Author: Tracey Garvis Graves
Publisher: Love Potion Books
Release Date: August 25, 2015
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | First Five Chapters

Synopsis
When Kate Watts abandoned her law career to open a food pantry in Northeast Minneapolis, she never dreamed it would be this difficult. Facing the heartbreaking prospect of turning hungry people away, she is grateful for the anonymous donations that begin appearing at the end of each month.

Determined to identify and thank her secret benefactor, she launches a plan and catches Ian —a charismatic hacker with a Robin Hood complex—in the act.

Ian intrigues Kate in a way no man ever has. But after learning he’s snooped around on her personal computer, she demands retribution. Impressed with her tolerance and captivated by her spirit, he complies and begins to slowly charm his way past her defenses.

Time spent with Ian is never boring, and Kate soon finds herself falling for the mysterious hacker.

But Ian has enemies and they’re growing restless. In the hacking world, exploiting a target’s weakness is paramount, and no price is too high to stop an attack. And when Kate learns exactly how much Ian has paid, she’ll discover just how strong her love is for the man who has hacked his way into her heart.

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Excerpt
Kate was taking a break and having coffee and a muffin at Wilde Roast Café when Ian slid into the booth and sat across from her. He was wearing a lightweight cream-colored sweater with a tan-and-green-patterned shirt underneath, and he smelled good.

“Hello again.”

Confused, Kate looked around. “Where did you come from?”

“I walked in the door like everyone else.”

“Do you live nearby?” Kate lived in the St. Anthony Main neighborhood of Northeast Minneapolis. The food pantry was conveniently located on SE Main Street, which was a short three-block walk from her apartment. The quiet brick-paved street was lined with restaurants, shops, and a movie theater and included a stunning view of the Mississippi River and St. Anthony Falls. There were also bars that featured live music and plenty of green space in nearby parks.

He shook his head. “Not really.”

“Then why are you here?”

“I felt like talking to you again. You’re seated, so you probably won’t try to strangle me this time.”

“How did you know where to find me?” She was tucked away in a back booth instead of one of the tables near the windows that looked out over SE Main, so it wasn’t like he’d walked by and spotted her.

He held a steaming cup of coffee and blew on it to cool it. “I tracked your credit card activity. According to Capital One, you bought a cup of coffee and a muffin here twelve minutes ago.”

“You tracked my credit card?” Her voice sounded rather loud and shrieky.

He held a finger in front of his mouth. “Shh, Katie Long Legs. That information is for your ears only. How’s your coffee? Would you like a refill?”

Kate did not appreciate being shushed, but she lowered her voice. “Are you some kind of cyberthief?” she whispered. And since when were criminals so well-dressed and impeccably groomed?

“I did not steal your credit card number. I simply accessed your account to see where and when you’d used it last. Then I came here.”

“If you wanted to talk to me again, why didn’t you just go to the food pantry?”

He looked at her like it was obvious. “Because you’re not there. You’re here at this café.”

“If you’re not a cyberthief, then what are you?”

“I’m a hacker.”

“Is there a difference?”

“Most definitely.”

“When you said you steal from the rich to give to the poor, I thought you were kidding. Is that how you get the money?”

“I don’t steal it. I appropriate it from people who shouldn’t have it in the first place. Then I give it to those who are more deserving.”

Kate twisted her napkin. “I can’t keep the money. I’ve already spent the first two donations, but if you come back to the food pantry with me, I can return the most recent one. It’s still locked in the safe because I wasn’t planning on going shopping until tomorrow.”

“No, Katie. I don’t want it back. It’s for you. It’s for the babies.”

“It’s wrong,” she said quietly.

“Is it?”

“It’s against the law.”

“Trust me when I say the people I took it from don’t want the law involved any more than I do.”

“What are you saying? That you’re a thief who steals from other thieves?”

He wrinkled his nose, and it was adorable.

Stop! Thief!

“It sounds so distasteful when you say it like that. I prefer master appropriator of ill-gotten funds. You can call me master for short.”

“I have lots of things I’d like to call you. Master is not one of them.”

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Heart Shaped Hack Teaser 1

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Read the First Five Chapters

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Author Tracey Garvis-Graves

Author Tracey Garvis-Graves

About the Author
Tracey Garvis Graves is a New York TimesWall Street Journal, and USA Today bestselling author. Her debut novel, On the Island, spent 9 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list, has been translated into twenty-seven languages, and is in development with MGM and Temple Hill Productions for a feature film. She is also the author of Uncharted, Covet, Every Time I Think of You, and Cherish.

Where to Find Tracey Garvis Graves
Goodreads | Website | Facebook Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest
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Special Announcement – Broken Love by Kelly Elliott

Broken Love Banner

New York Times bestselling author, Kelly Elliott is unveiling a new concept in writing her next book — letting her readers help! When Kelly started to write Broken Love she decided what better way to write this fan-requested book than to let those readers help write it!! Every 3-4 weeks Kelly will write a few chapters and at the end there will be a few questions and the readers can vote which direction this novella will go. You can start now. Below is the Prologue along with a link to weigh in.

Prologue

Ava

Nothing about my relationship with Johnny was normal. We met and fell in love immediately. He asked me to marry him on our two-month anniversary and I said yes. My mother cried, and my father lectured me for three hours straight. He kept repeating, “This isn’t normal, Ava.”

What was normal anyway?

According to my father, knowing someone at least six months before agreeing to marry him or her was normal. I, of course, disagreed and let my whirlwind relationship with Johnny totally blind me of what I couldn’t see before my very eyes.

As I stood in front of four different cakes, I couldn’t help but glance around the bakery. Johnny and I were having a small wedding, held at his parent’s country club in Austin. His mother had insisted we not elope, which was exactly what we had both wanted to do.

Turning my attention to Johnny, I watched as he talked to the young redhead who had been helping us.

“So, have you narrowed it down?” she asked as she smiled brightly at Johnny and barely acknowledged I was there.

With a shrug of his shoulder, Johnny turned to me and said, “Ava, could I possibly talk to you outside for a moment?”

I gave Johnny a slight smile as I nodded my head. “Of course.”

Johnny placed his hand on my lower back and guided me out of the bakery. I frowned as I thought how his hand on my lower back should cause my stomach to dip. At least that is how it is for the girls in the romance books I read. The touch of his hand on my body should ignite my body in flames.

Ha! I’d never experienced those feelings before in my entire life. There was a reason it was called fiction.

As we stepped out of the bakery, I flashed him a smile as I decided maybe what we needed was some afternoon delight. Placing my hand on his chest, I licked my lips and purred, “I know something else I’d rather be tasting.”

Johnny looked away as he stared down the street with an empty look in his eyes. “Ava, I need to talk to you.”

My smile faded as I instantly gnawed on my lower lip. His voice was serious and I had a terrible feeling he was about to say something that was going to prove my father right.

“Okay, right now or after we pick out a cake?”

Johnny looked into my eyes and shook his head. “I need to be honest with you, Ava.”

My heart sank as I held my breath involuntarily before finding the air to speak again. “Honesty is always nice.”

As he closed his eyes I fought to hold back the tears I knew were about to fall.

“There’s someone else. I didn’t mean for it to happen, but it did. She’s amazing and she makes me feel alive.”

Anger quickly raced through my body as I took a step back. “Is that so? Kind of like how I made you feel alive? Or does she make you feel alive in some other kind of way?”

Shaking his head, Johnny let out a sigh. “I’ve known Lisa almost my whole life. We ran into each other about a month ago and well, things just sparked between us.”

I placed my hand over my stomach and let out a moan. “Oh. My. God. You’ve been cheating on me?”

“No! Well, I mean it wasn’t like I did it on purpose. We fell in love, Ava and I can’t deny how I feel about her. I’ve only slept with her twice.”

My mouth dropped open as I stared at him with a blank expression. “Are you kidding me right now? Are you really that big of a dick that you would actually tell me you’ve only slept with her twice? Is that some how supposed to make me feel better you dickhead?”

Johnny glanced around as he took me by the arm and started walking toward his Audi. I hated that car. I hated him. I hated that my father had been right.

“I would have thought you would have been happy that I told you this before we got married.”

Holy freaking hell.

What did I ever see in this jerk?

Letting out a chuckle, I nodded. “No, you’re right. Better you told me before I went off and married you and God forbid had a child with you.”

“Ava, you have to admit this was all rushed. We got caught up in the whole romance side of things and lost focus on reality.”

“Reality? You think I’ve lost focus on reality? You know what’s real, Johnny?”

He lifted his hand and gently placed it on the side of my face. His thumb moved ever so slow as his eyes softened. “The pain you’re feeling right now, Ava. I know this hurts, but baby you’re going to find someone else.”

He did not. No. He. Did. Not.

“You got one part of that right. Pain. But it’s not the pain I’m feeling, it’s the pain you’re about to feel you asshole.”

I lifted my knee and hit him right in the balls. I hadn’t seen a guy go down on one knee since I accidentally hit Walker in the balls with a golf club.

Johnny doubled over as he cried out in pain.

“Have a happy life with, Lisa.”

Turning on my heels, I walked away quickly. Not sure whether I should cry or scream, I pulled out my phone and dialed the one person I knew would understand.

My mother.

“Hey baby girl. How did the cake tasting go? Did you pick out a cake?”

Pressing my lips together, I tried to figure out how to deliver the blow. “No. But I did kick Johnny in the balls out on the sidewalk in front of the bakery.”

Silence.

“You remember that time I hit Walker with the golf club.”

“Yes,” my mother said slowly.

“Picture that. He went down on one knee pretty damn fast.”

“What happened?”

Rolling my eyes, I wiped the tears away. “He met someone else. Someone who made him feel alive. He had sex with her mom. The bastard cheated on me. I hate him.”

“Oh sweetheart. I’m so sorry this has happened to you. Baby, why don’t you head on home and spend a few days with us, I know your father would love to have you home.”

Laughing, I shook my head and said, “Oh I’m sure he would. The second he sees me he’s going to say I told you so.”

“He would not, Ava Moore. You’re father loves you and cares about you.”

Closing my eyes tightly, I whispered, “I know.”

Before I had a chance to open my eyes, I slammed into someone. My eyes flew open as my phone flew out of my hands and I let out a curse word.

“Shit!”

I had been stopped dead in my tracks. Dropping down, I reached for my phone and for the papers I’d just caused this man to drop. As I lifted my eyes, I sucked in a breath of air.

Beautiful hazel eyes stared into my blue. “I-I’m so sorry,” I said as I handed him a few pieces of paper.

The smile that spread across his face caused the earth to shake. Okay, not really, but it felt like it. I almost fell back onto my ass as I tried to contain the crazy feeling that zipped through my body when his hand brushed lightly across mine.

“I wasn’t looking where I was going,” I said as he helped me into a standing position.

The beautiful mystery man pinned me with his stare. My eyes roamed his perfect face. He was slightly tan, but I couldn’t tell if that was from the sun or his genes. His dark hair had that perfect messy look to it as he ran his hand through it and laughed.

“You don’t say? It’s not every day I run into a beautiful lady. I believe my day has officially been made.”

His voice sounded like an angel.

Okay, so I don’t really know what an angel would sound like, but if I could imagine it, I’d say this guy had it down. It was soft, yet masculine. Sexy, yet, compassionate.

“I’m glad,” I whispered.

He lifted his eyebrows and tiled his head as his eyes landed on my lips. “Glad you ran into me?”

My cell phone began ringing in my hand as I lifted it up to see it was my mother. Shit! I’d forgotten she was on the line. Giving him an awkward smile, I said, “No! Well, yes. No wait, I’m glad your day has been made … by me running into you.”

Oh dear God, Ava. Stop talking. Lifting my phone, I grinned and said, “It’s my mom.”

“May I at least get your name?”

My teeth sunk down into my lip as I let out a soft chuckle. “Ava.”

Mystery man’s eyes lit up as he gave me a slight nod, followed by the sexiest wink I’d ever seen. He lifted his hand to my chin and forced my eyes to his. If I hadn’t been acutely aware of every single action he made, I’d have missed his thumb move lightly over my bottom lip.

“The pleasure was most definitely mine, Ava.”

The stupid goofy grin on my face was evident as he chuckled, dropped his hand, and began walking off as I stood there in a stupor.

My phone rang again as I hit answer and whispered, “Hello?”

“Ava, are you okay? What happened?”

I shook my head to clear my thoughts as I glanced over my shoulder at my mystery man walking away from me. Getting a grip on myself, I headed toward my car. I was so thankful I had suggested meeting Johnny at the bakery.

“Sorry, Mom. I accidentally ran into someone. Hey, I think I’m going to do what you said. I need a few days of fresh country air. Besides, I can work from anywhere.”

I could practically hear my mother jumping. “Oh yah! When are you coming?”

“Today. I just need to go to my place and pack a bag.”

“Okay, sweetheart. Be careful driving, and we’ll see you in a few hours. Oh, I’ll make your favorite dinner!”

Reaching my car, I turned around again. I wasn’t sure why. Maybe I was hoping my mystery man would be standing there.

“Sounds great, Mom. I’ll let you know when I’m on my way. I love you, Mom.”

“I love you too, Ava. We’ll have you forgetting Johnny in no time.”

Slipping into the drivers seat, I started my car and said, “Johnny who?”

*** Copyright 2015 Broken Love Kelly Elliott***

Be sure to click here to weigh in on the direction the story goes.

 

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Author Kelly Elliott

Author Kelly Elliott

About the Author
Kelly Elliott is married to a wonderful Texas cowboy who has a knack for making her laugh almost daily and supports her crazy ideas and dreams for some unknown reason…he claims it’s because he loves her!

She’s also a mom to an amazing daughter who is constantly asking for something to eat while her fingers move like mad on her cell phone sending out what is sure to be another very important text message.

In her spare time she loves to sit in her small corner overlooking the Texas hill country and write.

One of her favorite things to do is go for hikes around her property with Gus….her chocolate lab and the other man in her life, and Rose, her golden retriever. When Kelly is not outside helping the hubby haul brush, move rocks or whatever fun chore he has in store for her that day, you’ll find her inside reading, writing or watching HGTV.

Where to Find Kelly Elliott
Goodreads | Website | Twitter | Facebook | Amazon
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Cover Reveal – Screwed by Kendall Ryan

Screwed Cover Reveal

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, Kendall Ryan, is unveiling the cover to her new stand-alone romantic comedy, Screwed, releasing on September 15. See below for information on the book, a pre-order link, an exclusive reveal of Chapter 1, plus a couple of teasers.

Screwed by Kendall Ryan

Screwed by Kendall Ryan

About the Book
Title: Screwed
Author: Kendall Ryan
Publisher: Kendall Ryan Books, LLC
Genre: Contemporary Romantic Comedy
Release Date: September 15, 2015
Links: Goodreads | iBooks

Synopsis
I have one rule: Don’t shit where you eat.

Several of the women in the condo complex I own would love some one-on-one playtime, and why wouldn’t they? I’m young, fit, attractive, and loaded. Not to mention I’m packing a sizable bulge below the belt. It’s a combination that drops panties on a regular basis.

Yay, me, right?

But my cock, troublemaker that he is, has been confined to my trousers by my business partner. A concession I agreed to, and one that’s never been hard to enforce until Emery moves in across the hall. She’s smart, young, determined, and sexy as hell. I want a taste. I won’t stop until I’m buried deep inside the succulent new-in-town brunette.

After being warned about my past, she does her best to steer clear, but I’m about to show her that underneath it all, I’m a guy with a heart of gold and a cock of steel.

My name is Hayden Oliver, and this is my story.

SCREWED is standalone romantic comedy by New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today bestselling author Kendall Ryan.

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Screwed Full Cover

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Chapter One

Hayden

Goddamn. This is going to be harder than I thought.

My eyes swing over to admire the most perfect pear-shaped ass I’ve ever had the pleasure of laying eyes on while my business partner Hudson continues lecturing me. I think it’s something important, but there’s nothing more urgent than my body’s reaction to this shapely brunette. Jesus. Those tits are definitely real.

“I mean it. Your cock is cut off this time,” Hudson says roughly, his tone biting.

Tearing my gaze away from the succulent new brunette moving into unit 4B, I face him. “Not literally cut off. I’m sort of attached to him. You realize that, right?”

“Well it’s on lock down then. No more of this bullshit. I had three calls this week alone from hysterical women – our tenants – who you, how do I put this delicately? You fucked and then left before their pussies were even dry.”

I smirk at him, but I can’t deny the accusation. We’re like the real life Melrose Place. Sexy young twenty-somethings all living in close proximity. There’s bound to be a little drama now and again. Together, Hudson and I own thirty buildings in the greater Los Angeles area. And some of our buildings have very fuckable tenants. Up until this point, I’d considered that a nice bonus, and a perk of the job. Hudson has apparently viewed it differently.

“Who’s that?” I ask, tipping my head toward the bombshell who’s responsible for all the blood rushing to my groin. Fuck. I should have a word with her about that, that’s not cool.

Hudson’s eyes swing to the left to see what, or rather, who has captured my attention. And who’s given me this semi-chub, which I hope he hasn’t noticed. We’re close, but we’re not that close.

“No, no, no. Don’t get any ideas. You’re not tagging that.”

She’s not close enough to overhear us, but I shoot him a scowl anyway. “Show some class, man. Tagging is such a juvenile word. I’d take my time, get her hot and ready first, until she was begging for me to fill her tight, little cunt.”

“I’m fucking serious. You’re not to even think about her tight cunt.”

“So you acknowledge she’s got a tight cunt?” I smile, proud of myself.

He wipes sweat from his brow, looking worried. “Hayden, I’m serious this time.” His voice has taken on a somber tone, and for once, I try to be serious and focus.

Watching the way the vein throbs in his neck, my smile fades. We’re standing outside of one of our nicest buildings just outside of downtown, and the mid-afternoon sun is beating down on us. Suddenly I want to get away from him, and away from this entire conversation and into the cool air conditioning inside. Shit has gotten a little too real for me.

“You know me,” I grin at him, trying to lighten the mood. “I just wanted to have some casual fun.” And if that meant sleeping my way through the LA singles scene, so be it. I’m not looking for something deeper. I have a luxury condo in the heart of the Hollywood Hills, drive a new model BMW and possess a nine-inch cock. Translation: Life is good. Or it was, until Hudson decided to get a bug up his ass and lay down the law today.

“Did you hear a word I just said? One of your latest conquests threatened to report our company to the Better Business Bureau for unethical business practices. This isn’t just about you. This affects me too. And I’ll be damned if I watch everything we’ve built go down in flames because you can’t keep your dick in your pants.”

“Point taken.” Hudson is pretty much the best friend, and best business partner you could ask for. He’s smart as hell, dedicated, works like a dog day and night. And not to mention when we began our real estate investment company five years ago, he single-handedly fronted all the start-up capital from his own savings and trust fund. It took me years to pay him back as the profits rolled in, and he never once made me feel lesser, or like I was in debt to him. Not to mention, he’s funny, well-off, and good looking. He’s an excellent wing-man. Plus he knows the best taco joints.

Unable to help myself, my eyes drift over to her again. 4B fills out a pair of yoga pants in ways that I doubt are even legal in most countries. I needed to know what was underneath those curve-hugging black athletic pants. Simple cotton panties, or a naughty g-string? Either way, I wanted to bury my fingers inside the waistband of those pants, peel them down her hips and find out. Perhaps it was because Hudson just made her forbidden fruit, but I wanted a taste. My damn mouth was practically watering.

She looked smart, and put together, despite her casual attire, including a tank top and tennis shoes. With a clipboard in one hand, and her trusty number two pencil in the other, she ticked items off of her list, and instructed the movers who were unloading and carrying boxes up to her new place – which just so happened to be directly underneath mine.

“You’re not going to last three minutes let alone three days.” Hudson grimaces, glancing over again at our newest resident.

“What do you know about her?”

He rolls his eyes, but humors me. “Emery Elaine Winters. She’s an attorney. Excellent references. Even better credit score, and she signed a one year lease. And she’s to remain in pristine condition, or so help me God …”

When I glance up at her again, I see Roxy, another of our residents has joined Emery on the sidewalk, and they appear to be making small talk. Shaking hands, exchanging words, and smiling at each other. There’s something I strongly dislike about these two women talking. Roxy is an exotic dancer, and she I have a bit of a rocky past. Which is a huge fucking understatement, but not something I care to dwell on now. Hudson mentions something about fourth quarter taxes, and I tune him out, sure I just heard my name on Roxy’s over-glossed lips.

“Excuse me, I’ve got business to attend to.” I step around him, heading straight toward my new prize. Roxy spots me, and takes off for the parking area.

“Where do you think you’re going?” Hudson calls after me.

“Just being neighborly. Someone’s got to properly welcome Miss Winters.”

“Dammit, Hayden,” I hear him shout.

“I’ve got this, buddy,” I shout back over my shoulder.

I can control myself around her. I have to, according to Hudson. I don’t like being told what to do, especially where my cock was concerned, and hell, it’ll probably only make me want her more, but as I close the distance between Emery and me, I make a plan.

Friends.

I would become friends with the so-hot-I-wanted-to-bend-her-over-and-fuck-her-in-broad-daylight new girl.

This was either the best plan I’d ever had, or would end with me sporting a black eye, courtesy of my best friend.

It’s go time.

 

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Screwed Teaser 3

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Author Kendall Ryan

Author Kendall Ryan

About the Author
Kendall Ryan is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of contemporary romance novels, including Hard to Love, Unravel Me, Resisting Her and When I Break.

She’s a sassy, yet polite Midwestern girl with a deep love of books, and a slight addiction to lipgloss.

She lives in Minneapolis with her adorable husband and two baby sons, and enjoys hiking, being active, and reading.

Where to Find Kendall Ryan
Goodreads | Website | NewsletterTwitter | Facebook | PinterestAmazon
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Chapter Reveal – Finding You (Love Wanted in Texas) by Kelly Elliott

Finding You Chapter Reveal

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, Kelly Elliott, is unveiling the cover and first chapter to Finding You, the fourth book in her new adult contemporary romance series, Love Wanted in Texas. Finding You releases on September 8, but you can pre-order now. See below for details on the book, pre-order link, and the first chapter.

Finding You (Love Wanted in Texas #4) by Kelly Elliott

Finding You (Love Wanted in Texas #4) by Kelly Elliott

About the Book
Title: Finding You
Series: Love Wanted in Texas #4
Author: Kelly Elliott
Release Date: September 8, 2015
Genre: New Adult Contemporary Romance
Links: Goodreads | AmazoniBooks

Synopsis
If Grace Johnson knew one thing at all, it was that all men were dirtbags.

All men … except Noah Bennet.

“I was lost in his eyes. Lost in his tears. My goal was to pull him out of the darkness … even if it dragged me in as well.”

If Noah Bennet knew one thing at all, it was he needed Grace Johnson.

Needed her … desperately.

“My pain was pulling me under … she was my only saving grace.”

Grace is willing to put everything on the line to help bring back the man she is hopelessly in love with. Even if it costs her the future she’s been longing for. “If finding you means losing a part of me … I’ll do it.”

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Finding You Full Cover

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Excerpt
*Subject to change before publishing* Unedited version*

Chapter One ~ Grace

I sat in the library as I rolled my neck around and let out a sigh. My mind had been pre occupied and I couldn’t afford to not be focused. I’d fallen behind in my classes when Lauren got sick.

Glancing back down at my book, I tried to read the words on the pages but my mind quickly drifted off to a memory of Noah and me.

***

Sitting back, I let the sun warm my face as Noah rowed the canoe.

“So are you going to just sit there while I do all the work, Grace?” Noah asked in a teasing voice.

“Yep,” I said with a smile.

Keeping my eyes closed, I could tell he had turned directions. Trying not to smile, I asked, “Are you getting tired, Noah? Was last night to much for you?”

Noah chuckled. It was the first night I’d stayed over at his apartment he shared with one other guy who also attended A&M. I wasn’t sure why I was keeping how close Noah and I were getting away from everyone. Maybe it was my way of keeping this relationship distant from my real world. That or I didn’t feel like answering Alex, Lauren, and Libby’s constant questions.

Whatever my reasons were, I pushed it from my mind.

“Baby, you could never be to much.”

Opening my eyes, I tilted my head and gave Noah a sexy smile. As hard as I tried to keep from falling in love with him, I fell deeper every moment we spent together.

“Is that a challenge?” I asked as I leaned forward, making sure to squeeze my arms together so my breasts showed just the right amount of cleavage since I only had a tank top over my swimsuit.

Lifting his eyebrows, Noah glanced over to the shore. When I looked over my shoulder, there was a small path. Noah paddled us over and jumped out. Reaching his hand out for mine, I placed it softly in his. The rush I got just from his touch about caused me to let out a moan. Stepping up onto the shore, I watched as Noah pulled the canoe up and grabbed my hand.

Leading me down the path, he pushed me against a tree and smiled at me.

“That is indeed a challenge. Let’s see if you can keep up with me now, Grace.”

My heart dropped to my stomach as I fought back those three words.

Lifting me up, Noah pushed his hard dick into me as I gasped. Desire pulled in my lower stomach and I was ready for anything Noah was going to give me.

Except for the three little words he was clearly not afraid to say.

“I love you, Grace.”

My mouth parted open slightly as I whispered back, “I love you too, Noah.”

***

My phone buzzed on the table, pulling me from my memory.  Glancing down, I saw it was Alex.

Alex: Hey. I’m finished with classes today. Want to go grab some food?

Me: Where’s your hubby?

Alex: Sleeping. We both have been trying to get caught up on classes.

Letting out a laugh, I nodded my head at my phone.

Me: I love Lauren, but she screwed this semester up!

Alex: Right? So food or not? I’m starving and my baby wants food.

Me: I’ll meet you at Fuego’s.

Alex: Yes! I was hoping you’d say that. See you there in a few.

Smiling, I stood and gathered up my books. Turning to head out of the library, I came face to face with Doug Richards.

“Hey, Grace.”

My eyes traveled over his body as I suppressed the moan I wanted to let out. Damn he was fine as hell and it had been to long since I’d had sex. My mind had been filled with memories of Noah and I was horny as hell.

Noah.

Pushing all thoughts of Noah away, I smiled as I quickly gave my lower lip a seductive bite and purred, “Hey, Doug.”

Doug’s eyes lit up. I’d always been friendly with Doug, but this was the first time I’d ever put a little bit of something more into my normal Oh hey Doug how’s it going.

Seeing Noah at the hospital with his new wife only proved to me that I needed to move on. I couldn’t shake the way Noah had looked at me though. I swear I saw the same look in his eye as I saw the first night he made love to me. Actually, the first time he ever looked at me I saw the passion.

“Plans for tonight?” Doug asked as he ran his fingers lightly up and down my arm. My body shook with the idea of being with someone. I needed a good hard fuck to pull me out of this funk. What would one mindless one-night stand do?

It would at least ease the throb between my legs. I’d gone through to many vibrators. I was ready for the real thing.

Licking my lips, I winked. “I believe you’re picking me up around eight? Taking me to dinner and then a little bit of … dessert afterwards.”

The smile that spread across Doug’s face caused me to smile. “I like that plan.”

My eyes roomed his body as they landed on his lips. Hopefully he was a good kisser. He had big shoes to fill.

Reaching into my purse, I took out a pen and grabbed Doug’s arm as I wrote down my address. “See ya at eight handsome.”

The second I turned to walk away I wanted to spin around and tell him to forget it. That I forgot I had plans with a friend. Worry my lip, I continued to walk toward the exit door.

No, Grace. It’s time to move on. What I needed was one evening of pure fun and Doug was the one who was going to provide it. Noah was married and I needed to stop feeling sorry for myself. What we had shared was amazing and I let it spoke me. I pushed away the only man I’d ever truly loved.

It was time to move on.

Tonight I was getting laid.

***

“What do you mean you have a date?” Alex asked with a stunned look on her face.

I took a bit of my taco and shrugged my shoulders. “You know, Alex. That thing you do when you’re single and haven’t had normal sex in I don’t know how long. Even my vibrator wants me out of the house.”

Alex giggled as she quickly looked around. “You’re terrible, Grace Hope Johnson.”

Shrugging my shoulders, I said, “Hey, you’re getting dick every night. I wonder if I should get a Brazilian wax?”

Laughing, Alex shook her head. “That was random as hell.”

“I just got to thinking, I think I want my hoo-ha to smooth for tonight.”

Alex started choking on her taco. “What? Grace, you can’t do that today and then have sex tonight?”

Pulling my head back in a shocked expression, I asked, “Why not?”

“Have you ever had anything waxed on your body before?”

Tilting my head, I thought about it. “Nope, I can’t say that I have.”

Leaning in toward the table, Alex motioned for me to come closer. “Grace, it hurts like hell to get waxed for the first time. I don’t think you want your hoo-ha to be tortured before you dive back into the whole sex thing again. I mean I get the whole, I just want mindless sex thing, but do you really want to mistreat her like that all in one day?”

About to state my case, I heard someone clear her throat. Alex and I both turned to see a mom staring at us with her daughter sitting there with her mouth dropped to the table. Smiling, I said, “I’m not going to have mindless sex tonight … well actually I am but I always use protection and… ouch!” I called out as I felt a stabbing pain in my shin from where Alex kicked me. Turning back to her, I yelled, “What the hell, Alex?”

Alex eyes were widened as she shook her head. “Grace, stop talking.”

The mother stood and motioned for her daughter to follow as Alex sat back and moaned, “Great, some mother I’m going to be.”

Letting out a laugh, I shook my head and said, “You’re going to be a kick ass mother. Just like Ellie. Hey, so we never really got to talk about how your parents and Will’s parents reacted to the big baby news.”

Alex, shrugged her shoulders. “I think they were all in shock. My father biggest worry was school. I’m so glad we’re all graduating this December.”

Taking a bite of my taco, I nodded my head. “Yeah, I’m glad too.” After swallowing the taco, I worried my bottom lip. I had been trying to figure out how to ask Alex if she had changed her mind about our plans.

Alex reached across the table and took my hand in her hand. “The baby doesn’t change anything, Grace. I want to still follow our dream of opening up Wild Flower. We’ve been dreaming of opening a flower nursery for years. Nothing is going to change that.”

I instantly felt my body relax. Our whole focus throughout school had been to open a nursery between Fredericksburg and Mason. The news of Alex having a baby had scared the piss out of me. Smiling, I said, “I’m not going to lie, I thought I might be doing this on my own and I was scared as hell.”

Letting out a chuckle, Alex shook her head. “No way. Will and I have already talked about it. I fully intend on pursuing our dream, Grace.” Shrugging her shoulders, she said, “Besides, we will own the place! I can bring the baby. She learn to dig in the dirt probably before she learns to walk.”

Sitting up straighter, I let out a gasp. “Oh my gosh! We can build a little baby nursery besides your office. I mean, I’m sure y’all will have more kids in the future. I bet my dad or your dad could easily add that into the design. Move that storage space somewhere else.”

Alex’s eyes lit up as she nodded her head. “Grace, that’s a great idea! This will be perfect for both of us.”

Narrowing my eyes, I let out a confused chuckle. “How is a baby room perfect for me?”

Giving me a sly smile, Alex said, “For when you have kids.”

Nearly choking on my tea, I held up my hands. “Whoa! Whoa! Holy hell woman! Don’t even speak such words. This girl has no plans for kids in the near future. Fuck, I’m not even having sex and the last time I checked … you can’t get knocked up from a vibrator.”

Alex looked around as she put her finger up to her lips. “Why do you have to talk so loud?”

“Why do you have to say such things? My God! There is already something in the water with you and Libby both getting pregnant. I’m sure Lauren is probably going to be announcing something in the next few months. Well …  no thank you. I’m not having kids any time soon.”

Alex’s eyes looked sad. “Grace, do you not want kids?”

My heart instantly hurt as I plastered on a fake smile. “Someday I’m sure I’ll want kids. Right now it is the furthest thing from my mind. All I want right now, Alex, is to move on and have a good time.”

“Grace, I talked to Noah the day Lauren got out of the hospital. He desperately needs to talk to you.”

Swallowing hard, I fought to hold back my tears. “W-what did he say?”

Shaking her head, Alex said, “He asked how Lauren was and then for your number. I gave it to him. He said he needed to talk to you.”

Feeling my entire body start shaking, I quickly stood up. “Why would you give him my phone number, Alex? He’s married for Christ’s sake! Besides, it’s been over two weeks since Lauren left the hospital. He must not be that desperate to talk to me. Damn it, Alex. Why did you give him my number?”

Alex motioned for me to sit down. “Grace, just give me one second to explain.”

Grabbing my food and drink, I glared at Alex. “I have to go, I have to head home and grab a book a forgot and head to class.”

“Grace! Let me finish talking!” Alex called out.

Racing to the door, I pushed it open and quickly dragged in the fresh air. Glancing at my watch, I sighed. I was going to be late for class now. Quickly making my way to my car, my phone buzzed. Pulling it out of my purse, I saw it was Alex.

Alex: I didn’t mean to upset you. It’s just he seemed desperate. You really need to talk to him, Grace.

Rolling my eyes, I threw my purse and phone onto the passenger seat and headed back to the house I shared with Alex and Will. Now that Luke, Libby, Lauren, and Colt had moved out it seemed cold and empty all the time. Even when they did live there, I spent more time at Noah’s place than I did at home. Well, at least I did until I freaked out and pushed him away.

Wiping my tears away, I concentrated on thinking about nothing but my date tonight with Doug. I’ll deal with Alex later. Right now I needed to push Noah Bennet far from my memory. I needed to move on and this date tonight was long over due.

Copyright Kelly Elliott 2015

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Love Wanted in Texas Series

Love Wanted in Texas Series

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Author Kelly Elliott

Author Kelly Elliott

About the Author
Kelly Elliott is married to a wonderful Texas cowboy who has a knack for making her laugh almost daily and supports her crazy ideas and dreams for some unknown reason…he claims it’s because he loves her!

She’s also a mom to an amazing daughter who is constantly asking for something to eat while her fingers move like mad on her cell phone sending out what is sure to be another very important text message.

In her spare time she loves to sit in her small corner overlooking the Texas hill country and write.

One of her favorite things to do is go for hikes around her property with Gus….her chocolate lab and the other man in her life, and Rose, her golden retriever. When Kelly is not outside helping the hubby haul brush, move rocks or whatever fun chore he has in store for her that day, you’ll find her inside reading, writing or watching HGTV.

Where to Find Kelly Elliott
Goodreads | Website | Twitter | Facebook | Amazon
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Chapter Reveal – Call Sign Karma by Jamie Rae

Call Sign Karma Chapter Reveal

Author Jamie Rae, is revealing Chapter one of her new adult contemporary military romance, Call Sign Karma. See below for information on the book, buy links, a couple of teasers, and Chapter 1.

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Call Sign Karma by Jamie Rae

Call Sign Karma by Jamie Rae

About the Book
Title: Call Sign Karma
Author: Jamie Rae
Release Date: January 5, 2015
Genre: New Adult Military Romance
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | Kobo

Synopsis
Love in the no-fly zone…

Distraught over the loss of her brother in a fighter jet accident, Tinklee Pinkerton decides to follow in his footsteps and prove the tragedy wasn’t his fault.

But when she’s chosen as the first woman to fly the Air Force’s F-35, her plan for a life that revolves around work is thrown off course by a handsome, mysterious stranger…

Thanks to Locke’s seductive British accent, sweet nature, and one too many beers, Tink is soon inspired to throw caution to the wind and herself into his arms.

She thinks maybe love can heal after all—until she discovers Locke is her superior officer. Tink has no problem risking her life in the air, but with everything on the line, is she brave enough to risk her heart on the ground?

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Call Sign Karma Teaser 1
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Excerpt

Chapter 1

There was zero chance of survival—for either of us.

The thought caused my insides to twist as I stood, paralyzed staring at the blazing inferno. I watched in shocked horror from the window of the control tower as the jetfueled flames fed on his body, still strapped inside of the cockpit.

Tonight the distant flames were from a bonfire that danced happily in celebration of a holiday, but their flames were close enough to ignite the memories. Memories that still fueled my nightmares. A familiar chill skated down my spine.

I slammed down the beer bottle on the table next to me and looked away from the flames. Sweet honey lager splashed out and onto the cover of my tablet that sat on the edge of the table.

The tablet called to me. I couldn’t help but reach for it, my shaking hand nearly knocked over the beer bottles that surrounded it. My index finger hovered over the screen. The damn arrow glowed as if challenging me to touch it.

Go ahead Tink, watch me one more time.

I swallowed the boulder-sized lump in the back of my throat as I accepted the dare. My finger tapped the start button and instantly dropped me in the middle of the nightmare that had consumed and wrecked my life.

“Altitude. Altitude. Pull up. Pull up.” The unemotional, mechanical female voice of the jet’s warning system rang out.

Her words rattled in my head like a pinball looking for its escape. I studied the altimeter screaming toward two thousand feet.

“Pull up,” her empty voice commanded. Each time she repeated those words, my stomach lurched. That voice, that command, still haunted me.

I squeezed my eyes closed unable to stop from reliving that day in the tower and how her robotic tone had sent everyone into a panic. I stood frozen, unable to do a damn thing as the jet continued its nosedive.

My own weight crushed me as if I were being pushed down by the forces of a hard turn in the cockpit. I gasped for oxygen, my lungs rebelling as the image of the jet pitched down. I began counting between breaths to keep from passing out the way they had taught us in pilot training.

Three.

The sound of calm breaths from video filled the air. The ground rushed closer as the jet blitzed toward fifteen hundred feet.

“Pull up,” the voice repeated. “Pull up.”

Two.

I leaned forward and my lips parted as if I were going to retch, but nothing spilled out. I forced each breath to prevent me from blacking out like Colin. His calm, sleeplike breaths seeped from the tablet’s speakers, haunting me in its wavelike rhythm. I held the tablet tight in my hands. The breaths were the last sound that I’d ever hear from him.

“Pull up! Pull up!”

A giant green arrow flashed across the video. It acted as a forewarning of the jet’s impending impact. My entire body shuddered as adrenaline thrust through my veins.

I wanted to choke the aloofness from her tone. To the jet’s warning system it was just another jet. To me, it was my world coming to an end. She may as well have tacked the word ‘idiot’ onto her feeble attempt of a warning.

The military Humvees scrambled on the screen like cockroaches escaping the light. I was paralyzed. I couldn’t do anything to prevent it from happening then. Why did I still hope I could stop it now?

“Pull up!”

I closed my eyes.

It was too late.

“Pull up!”

One.

I opened my eyes. The ground rush on the display was exactly how they described it in pilot training; the world blossomed as earth ripped through to meet you in the cockpit.

Her vacant voice instructing him to pull up was the last thing to ring out right before my life shattered. Everything exploded into a bright blinding haze on the screen with a blaring detonation. The blood cooled in my veins. I flipped the tablet cover and traced my still trembling finger along the lines of the worn material. I had stolen the video from my father’s files the night after the funeral. I had watched it a thousand times, each time reliving the horrors of that day.

But tonight, once was enough.

Tonight, I had to figure out how the hell I was going to climb into the cockpit and fly the jet that killed my brother.

* * * *

The annual Fourth of July fireworks filled the sky right on cue. Red sparks showered down as the blue lights twirled across the backdrop of an onyx sky. It used to be our favorite family tradition.

A wave of guilt washed over me then pooled deep in the pit of my belly. How was it fair that I was standing here watching the fireworks, while Colin was buried six feet deep?

The reflection of the flashing lights off the ocean blinded me. High pitched screams and loud blasts shook the windows behind me as I leaned on the banister of my deck, watching the show, alone. The silver ones that whistled were Colin’s favorite.

My heart pounded at the thought of my tenderhearted brother. I squeezed my eyes tightly together to try to force out tears, but nothing fell. Not a single drop. I had cried so much that I had become numb to the pain.

My phone vibrated in my back pocket, interrupting the fireworks display. The ringtone of magical chimes followed. I sighed loudly—this was not a call I wanted to take.

Ignoring my mom wouldn’t make her go away. It would only make her more determined. It was like she had a beacon implanted in my brain to know when I was thinking about my Colin’s accident. I pulled my phone from the back pocket of my cutoff jeans and growled.

Pink 1 flashed across the screen.

My thumb hovered over the ‘Off’ button, but I couldn’t bring myself to press it.

She would know that I had dismissed her call. My mother knew everything, except when I didn’t want to talk, or maybe she knew, but that still wouldn’t stop her until she ‘heard my voice’. It had gotten even worse since Colin’s death.

A chime alerted the arrival of a new text message.

I forced myself to look at the screen and read the words—He loved you.

I let out a long drawn out breath. Her words were always the same.

I picked up the bottle of sweet brown lager and gulped it. All of it. I reached for another. I twisted off the lid, and spun the tiny metal cap across the deck. I wanted to feel Colin’s pain and grief for a life he’d never have. But I couldn’t shed any more tears. I was empty. Broken. There was nothing left of me. The only thing that kept me putting one foot in front of the other was the determination to prove that his death was not due to pilot error. I would prove it, or die trying.

The phone buzzed again.

Pink 1.

I swallowed another drink before I surrendered and answered the call. “Hey, Mom.” I said, my voice higher than usual in a failed attempt to mask my misery.

“You okay?” she asked with her usual cautious tone.

“Yeah, I’m great. I’m heading to Krusty’s for dinner,” I lied. “Can I call you tomorrow?”

“I wanted to hear your voice, sweetie, and wish you luck.”

Luck? I needed a helluva lot more than luck. Tomorrow, I started training to fly the jet that cremated my brother.

“Thanks, I’m excited,” I said as another lie slipped off my tongue. It was becoming easier to fib to my mother. They just popped out one after another. I was never dishonest as a child, but now it felt like I never told anyone the truth. “I’m looking forward to getting started.” The words sounded sweet, but I’d need another lager to wash out the bitter taste. So much for being a pillar of honesty.

“Oh, Tinklee, you are such a liar,” my mother said. “I know you’re nervous. Who wouldn’t be? I’ll be there, in spirit, and so will he.” Her voice was warm and tender, as if she were smiling through her tears. She sniffled loudly. She was okay with her tears.

“Okay, I’m losing the connection. I gotta go.”

“I can tell you don’t want to talk so I won’t keep you. I’ll see you soon. And remember sweetie, keep your circle—”

“Stop Mom, I’m twenty-two, enough with the positive affirmations.”

She ignored my plea, “If you keep your circle positive, you’ll attract good Karma.”

I rolled my eyes and held back a sigh out of respect to the woman who spent thirty-six hours in labor for me.

“Besides, age doesn’t matter. I love you, baby girl. You’ll always be my little Tinklee,” she said. Her voice danced when she emphasized ‘little’ and ‘Tinklee.’

I couldn’t help but cringe. She’d screwed me with that one.

A blond-haired, blue-eyed fighter pilot trying to make it in a man’s world couldn’t be taken seriously with the name Tinklee Pinkerton.

Good job, Mom. You rock.

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Call Sign Karma Teaser 2
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Author Jamie Rae

Author Jamie Rae

About the Author
JAMIE RAE is a New Adult and Young Adult author. She writes with one goal in mind–create stories with a positive message that will stay with the reader long after they’ve finished reading.

Jamie is an avid reader and loves discovering stories with a great hook, though she will not eat, sleep, or speak until she reaches the end. The Harry Potter years weren’t pretty!! Convinced that her Hogwarts letter was lost in the mail, she keeps a watchful eye for owls hoping her children will have better luck!

In her other life, Jamie Rae is an orthodontist, and literary agent. She keeps her heart overflowing with love as a mother of three and has perfected the art of nomadic living as a military spouse and Air Force veteran. Jamie has a passion for critters of all shapes and sizes and you can often find her sneaking them into her own home or volunteering for rescues.

Where to Find Jamie Rae
Goodreads Website | Twitter | Facebook
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Chapter Reveal + Sale – Beautiful Little Fool by K.K. Hendin

Beautiful Little Fool Sale

Welcome to the Chapter Release and Sale event for Beautiful Little Fool by K.K. Hendin. Beautiful Little Fool is an adult contemporary romance and the eBook is on sale now for just $0.99. See below for information on the book and a read Chapter 1 now.

Beautiful Little Fool by K.K. Hendin

Beautiful Little Fool by K.K. Hendin

About the Book
Title: Beautiful Little Fool
Author: K.K. Hendin
Release Date: June 22, 2015
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | iTunes | Kobo

Synopsis
Eighty seven billion dollars. One dead New York business mogul. No heirs. No wives. No relatives.

Eighty seven billion dollars. Not hers yet. He doesn’t deserve them. He doesn’t know what to do with them. She does. She always has.

Eighty seven billion dollars. He’s overwhelmed. She’s prepared. That will should have had her name. Not his.

Eighty seven billion dollars. His looks are a bonus. Her looks are her weapon. He’s fighting a losing battle against his heart. He doesn’t know it yet.

Eighty seven billion dollars. She gets everything she wants.

He’s what she wants.

Love has nothing to do with it.

To get to where you’re going, sometimes you need to step on a few people to get there. Good thing her heels are sharp.

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Beautiful Little Fool Chapter Reveal

Chapter 1
Everyone wanted Cedar Reynolds. Everyone wished they were her. There was not a person alive who knew about Cedar and didn’t wish somewhere deep inside, maybe when nobody was looking, that they could one day be even a quarter as cool as Cedar was. To have her confidence, her fearlessness, her style. Goddamn, that girl was so ahead of the game that Anna Wintour would base the season’s trends on Cedar.

She was the perfect combination of open and mysterious, of fun and serious, of silly and sexy. She ruled Manhattan with a smile and while wearing six inch heels.

Cedar Reynolds was everything you wanted. She was a fireball of success. But like fire, if you got too close, you would burn.

Nobody is fireproof.

Not even Cedar Reynolds.

All everyone could talk about was Harold Feingold’s impending death. In hushed whispers, behind closed doors, using code words when out and about. It was how things like that were done. Just walking around and taking bets as to when one of the most powerful men in Manhattan would die was a terrible idea, no matter what way you looked at it. But he was dying, and they were talking.

With the fame that comes from holding nearly a monopoly on hotels in New York and being rumored to have connections to every group of organized crime in the city and a few unorganized groups as well, people are going to talk.

Harold Feingold was the American dream personified. There were three authorized biographies of his life, and he wasn’t even dead yet. If he equally distributed his money to every person living in Manhattan, they would all become millionaires. Not that he ever would, though. Harold Feingold was a believer in hard work for everyone. That old rich man who would spew vitriol about the homeless ruining the landscaping of his city because they were too goddamned lazy to get a fucking job? That would be him. And when you’re worth more than one billion dollars, you can say the sky is green and people are going to listen.

And now he was dying, because that’s what old bitter men eventually do. The poison that powered their lives finally catches up to them, and at the end, they’re nothing but shriveled skin and brittle bones and so many private sighs of relief. People hoped that Feingold would go that way. Old and frail, soiling himself and in general being an embarrassment to society in general would be a rather fitting way for him to go, but there he was. Incredibly ill, but with an iron back and the same fucking grin on his face when he efficiently and effectively destroyed your life.

But he was dying, which was the point, and also the question. Harold Feingold was the richest man in the whole damn state of New York, and he had no descendants. He had three ex-wives, all of whom he paid ungodly amounts of money to look and act like an ex-wife of his would look—rich, beautiful, successful, but just not quite good enough for him. Three ex-wives, and no children or stepchildren. There were rumors about illegitimate children, but nobody knew for sure.

All that money.

All that power.

And nobody had a fucking clue where it was going to go.

That’s how Harold liked it. And that’s how it stayed until the day he died.

And then all hell broke loose.

Cedar’s job as the curator and hostess at the Feingold Gallery of Exceptional Art had her waking up long before she wanted to. Sleeping in until nine was unheard of for her, unless she was somewhere on vacation. Even though the gallery didn’t open until eleven, Cedar was up and out long before then. When you’re New York City’s reigning queen, you never walk around with a hair out of place, with a nail chipped, or God forbid, in last season’s clothing.

But today was different. Cedar had gotten the phone call at six in the morning, hours before she normally woke up. She was at home, as always, even though she had been out the night before with Lawrence, who was still trying to get her to make things more permanent. And even though he was a Foster-Herrington, he wasn’t worth the trouble that would come along with a relationship. Not to mention he wasn’t nearly good enough in bed to make up for having to date him.

Her private line rang as she was headed toward her gym. Her private line, a number that only five people had.

“Cedar?”

It was Mr. Morris. Which could only mean one thing, because Mr. Morris never called. Ever.

“No,” Cedar whispered, her voice still hoarse from waking up.

“I’m sorry.”

“Dammit.”

“He passed away fifteen minutes ago. I called you as soon as I can.”

“Dammit.” Cedar clutched the phone tightly. “How could he?”

“I know.”

But he didn’t know, the idiot. How could he?

“He left instructions for a funeral,” Mr. Morris continued, his voice rough from a lack of sleep. He was Harold Feingold’s lawyer, which was more of a full time job than he had ever imagined it would be. The old bastard was dead, and he was still working around the clock. “He wanted you to arrange it.”

“He mentioned it to me,” Cedar said. “Earlier this week.” Dammit, why did he have to die today? Could the timing possibly be more inconvenient than it was now? Harold never gave a shit about inconveniencing others, but neither did Cedar. It was one of the reasons she liked him—genuinely liked him, and didn’t just tolerate her for where she got because of him.

“Excellent. Are you going to be at work today?”

“Of course.” Cedar headed to the gym. There was no point in throwing her schedule off entirely because someone died.

“I’ll send over the information for the funeral arrangements he wanted you to take care of.”

“Of course.” Cedar programmed the treadmill and started to walk.

“I’m sorry for your loss, Cedar,” he said awkwardly.

“I’m sorry for yours,” she replied, and almost meant it.

The gallery opened at ten on Tuesdays, and Cedar was there, fifteen minutes before, making sure everything was perfect. Some of the girls didn’t understand why Cedar insisted on having a job—hell, she had more than enough money already, and who wanted to wake up that early? But running the most coveted art gallery in New York was more than just a job for Cedar, it was how she kept her title as the Queen of New York City. The Feingold Gallery was the most exclusive art gallery in the entire city, if not in the entire country. And the only people who okay’d new pieces of art or new artists for the gallery were Harold and Cedar.

Having all that power made up for the early mornings and the sometimes very dreary and pointless days at work.

Traffic was terrible on the way to work, which could only be a bad sign about the rest of the day. Already, text messages were pouring in, sending condolences to Cedar, letting her know how sorry they were and if there was anything at all they could do to help her, she should just let them know. Most of the texts were pure bullshit, and if Cedar actually did need help, she would never dare to ask them. But the thought was nice, even if the thought was just that she should still think they were nice and wonderful people.

Cecil was already waiting for her, holding a tray of coffee in one hand and typing frantically on his phone with the other one. “Oh my God, Cedar, are you okay?” he asked as she stepped out of her car. “I heard the news and then there was crazy traffic this morning.”

“I’m fine,” she said, pulling out the key to the enormous front door of the gallery. “And traffic was terrible.”

“You’ve never been earlier than I have been to work,” he said, following her into the building. “I was freaking out.”

Cedar rolled her eyes as she flipped on the lights. “No reason to freak out. I’m here now.”

“Should we do something today? Because of his death?”

Cedar shrugged. She had enough shit to do for this funeral. She didn’t have time for any whiny things today to mourn Harold’s death. He was dead. The end.

God, if only she knew what was on his will. She would make his damn funeral, she would follow all his fucking instructions, she would pretend to cry at his funeral, and maybe then she’d learn what was in his will. If she had to fuck Mr. Morris to do it, she would.

“We’ll see,” she said. “Maybe we’ll change the decoration or something.”

“Put black fabric on all the mirrors?”

A bit overdramatic, yes, but maybe that’s what they needed.

“Maybe.” Cedar hung up her coat and put her bag down on her desk. “Check to see what kind of fabrics we have. Also, I want an inventoried list of all the artists displaying here now.”

“Do you want their social medias to be checked?”

“Obviously,” she said briskly. “They should constantly be checked, Cecil. You know that.”

“That I do, and they are.” Cecil placed the cup of coffee he bought for her on her desk. “You have an appointment at ten fifteen today. With Morgan Hyvent.”

“Which magazine is she from again?”

“Vogue. It’s for the article they’re writing about you.” Cecil had gotten dressed with extra care today. He always did—he worked in the mecca of art in the most fabulous city in America. And even though the clientele here was nothing but the most powerful, it wasn’t every day that someone from Vogue came. It was too bad it wasn’t Anna herself, but she didn’t go around interviewing folks for her magazine. Even if it was Cedar Reynolds.

“Well, then, we need to have the fabrics up before then.” Cedar checked the time and winced. Goddamn traffic this morning was fucking up her plans for today. Not to mention the fucking funeral she was going to have to plan. Not like she couldn’t do something like that in her sleep—she definitely could. But the issue was that she had to, that it had to be more perfect than anything she’d ever done, because the stakes were higher than they’d ever been.

Whoever would inherit was probably going to be there, she thought.

Which meant that the stakes were a hell of a lot higher than they were before. As if they could possibly be any higher.

Billions of dollars were at stake here. Not just billions, but her reputation. And Cedar was hard pressed to figure out which one she wanted more, the billions or the reputation. She wanted both, obviously. She wasn’t stupid. If she was stupid, she would never have gotten to where she was right now.

“We’ve got three different kinds of black,” Cecil said, spreading them carefully on the desk. “All of them completely cover the mirrors, and this one was the most expensive.” He pointed to one. “I think your dress was made from this material.”

“Which dress?”

“The one you wore to Wanda’s opening.”

“Oh, that one.” The one that made every newspaper and magazine cover her dress and leave Wanda’s actual art as a side note. Didn’t make Wanda happy, but that was what happened when you didn’t take care of yourself. “Use that one, then.”

“On it.” Cecil bustled from the office, leaving Cedar alone in her office. Fucking finally. Cecil was okay—as an assistant he was the best that you could get in the business. He was just too damn cheerful and positive all the time, not to mention naïve. He worshipped the ground Cedar walked on—they all did. Which was great, but his naiveté was a pain in Cedar’s ass.

She walked through her office slowly, adjusting pictures here and there, and starting the coffee and tea. Coffee and tea in her office weren’t just a casual ask if someone wanted a drink, it was a calculated move. And Cedar was going to pull out all the stops when it came to Vogue journalists. Court them, flatter them, leave them in awe and writing an article dripping in praise for her. And if not? Well, that’s what was nice about having all of Manhattan at her beck and call. She could destroy anyone with a phone call, and if she had to destroy this one, she would. It would be far from the first time.

Cedar turned on her computer, rearranged her jewel covered pens, and took out her Filofax. She lit a candle, her signature scent, one that the company made special for her. They sold the Cedar candle, which she had designed, but wasn’t the one she used. Exclusivity was the key to impressing. If you couldn’t have it, and Cedar did, it was just an extra thing for her to use to lord over people.

Phone plugged in, on silent, turned just enough that the reporter would be able to see how often she got a message, but not close enough to be able to read any of it. Everything was calculated. Everything was always calculated. You didn’t end up the most feared woman in New York if you didn’t plan well.

And Cedar planned well.

The sun shone through the windows, forming a halo around Cedar’s hair when she sat in her chair. She was ready for the interview now, and she still had another forty five minutes to go.

She flipped through her Filofax, and found the page of notes she had taken when Harold told her he wanted her to organize his funeral. She had laughed at him then, because Harold was never going to die. He was too mean, too horrible, too powerful, to ever die. People like him never died—they just kept going and going.

Cedar was never going to die. Or age. Girls like her lived forever.

What was in the will? It was driving Cedar crazy, even though she would never, ever admit to it. The day at work had flown by—between the interview, meetings, and her and Cecil calling and calling and calling to arrange the biggest goddamn show of a funeral that New York had ever seen. And through the whole day, all Cedar thought about was the will.

He probably left money to his housekeepers, they had kept their mouths shut through a hell of a lot of the shit that comes along when you have more money than God. And just because he was dead, it didn’t mean he wanted anyone writing any tell-alls about working for him. Harold Feingold on paper was a saint, and nobody who worked for him was going to be the one to change that. Mr. Morris was hired for life, and he was hired to make sure nobody decided that Harold Feingold’s death would be a good reason to talk about what actually happened in the house.

Money to… who else? Cedar had no idea. Maybe some to charities, just so people wouldn’t talk. Some for the gallery, even though it had been earning its costs since Cedar had opened it.

But the bulk of it, she had not a fucking clue.

Cedar stripped in her bedroom, and walked to the connecting bathroom. The bathtub was already full, and she stepped in slowly, sinking into the bubbling foam. A glass of wine was on a tray, along with her vibrator, cucumber slices, and an eye mask. Her housekeeper had left a few minutes before, and Cedar was blessedly alone in her house. She was free for the evening, something she hadn’t planned on. But Harold’s death was more important than the party she was supposed to be going to tonight, and she had to show that.

She was going to soak in the bath until her skin pruned, she was going to drink wine, and she was not going to answer her phone at all. She could say it was because she was so upset about Harold’s death, but really, it wasn’t. He was old, and old people died. It was upsetting, yes, but not as upsetting as she made it out to be.

If she didn’t inherit at least a large share of his estate, she was going to be upset.

Upset was going to be the mildest word to describe how she would feel.

Cedar was twenty six years old, and had been close to Harold since the day she turned eighteen. Eight years of being his protégé and of being the only sort of confidant he had should be more than enough to inherit.

She sank back into the bubbles, but not enough to get her hair wet. She was going to relax for now. She could worry about everything later. She had time.

Sitting at her desk a little later that evening, Cedar did the same thing she did every night—something nobody knew she did, and that she would never even think about telling anyone. She Googled herself. Well, she didn’t actually Google herself as much as she logged into a secret account and checked the Google alerts for that day.

Being Cedar Reynolds was a full time job, and that included making sure that all the PR about her was positive. Some people said no publicity was bad publicity, but Cedar was not one of those people. Yes, bad publicity made people talk about you, but some things didn’t need to be publicized. And luckily, they weren’t.

Morgan had tweeted about their meeting today, which Cedar thought was kind of odd, but she was nothing but singing praises of Cedar and the gallery so it was okay. Talking about how strong Cedar was in the face of such a tragedy. The president had commented on Harold’s death, and was said to be coming to the funeral. Who the hell was saying that, Cedar wasn’t really sure, because she hadn’t heard back from anyone at the White House, and neither had Cecil. He would have let her know right away because that’s what she paid him money to do.

She scrolled through the rest of the Google alerts, finding nothing else interesting. One article about Harold mentioned her in the context of poor orphan Cedar, which made her roll her eyes and take down the name of the person who wrote the article. It was true that Harold had taken her under his wing when her parents were killed, but it wasn’t like she was a poor little orphan.

But she could play one if she had to. With things like that, she always played the victim, and was careful to make sure she did. People liked you more when they believed you had a vulnerable side. Cedar’s was complete and utter bullshit, but nobody had to know that.

She got out of the tub, hair piled on the top of her head, rivulets of water running down her stomach and collecting neatly onto the mat. There was nothing about Cedar that wasn’t neat. Nothing. And if there was, it was ruthlessly dealt with until it was no longer an issue.

Cedar wrapped herself up in her robe, and slid her feet into her slippers, a pair of silk lined heels. Flats were for peasants, and any potential heiress of the Feingold fortune was not a peasant. Her housekeeper was, though, if her outfit today was any indication. And the fact that she was working as a fucking housekeeper, for God’s sake. Cedar thought about possibly instating a uniform to her house staff, and wrote a note to herself, reminding her to talk to Jean-Paul about designing a uniform. She had a reputation to uphold, and having a housekeeper in shitty clothing was not a way to do it.

A few more phone calls and emails were sent before she went to bed, satisfied. The funeral wasn’t until the next week, but it was going to be the most amazing funeral that New York had ever seen.

It was raining on the day of Harold’s funeral. Everything was overcast, and just gloomy enough to drop a layer of grey on the city. “Appropriate weather,” said one sober news anchor the morning of the funeral, “to mourn the death of one of the biggest men of New York.”

It was appropriate, and it worked wonders for the mood, but it did nothing good for Cedar’s hair. She had her makeup artist come over early in the morning, and helped her with a face that said “I’m mourning the loss of a person very dear to me, but I look fabulous while doing it”. Her outfit was going to be reported in every major newspaper in the country, because that’s who she was. And so she dressed appropriately. And had memorized the eulogy she was going to give, which was mostly lies. But nobody really cared. The funeral wasn’t actually a place for people to mourn the death of Harold Feingold. The funeral was a place for people to reassure themselves of their importance and their place in society. Not just anyone was invited to Harold Feingold’s funeral, because not everyone was worthy. The journalists had a separate corded area to watch and observe but to never forget for even a second that they were never going to be good enough to actually be invited to anything like this. Cedar had made sure only the reporters she approved of were coming to the funeral, and the rest of the paparazzi were located behind a line of the best security guards money could get.

It wasn’t just a funeral. It was an event.

And even though nobody attending the funeral would ever admit to it, going to Harold Feingold’s funeral was the same as going to a showing at the Gallery. It wasn’t for the reason they said they were going, and even if it was something they normally wouldn’t have ever done, they were more than happy to go. Get dressed in an outfit that people wouldn’t forget, mingle with the right people, and glory in where you were in life.

If you had to buy an extraordinarily expensive piece of art or cry a few tears, well, that was the price of admission for these kinds of things.

The casket was there when Cedar made her way into the church, followed by the insistent flashes of the paparazzi, silently clamoring for the best angle of her. Cedar Reynolds was a commodity, and even the paparazzi knew that. So, she wasn’t an actress or a singer, or anything else like that, and even though she wasn’t a Rockefeller or Astor or Thames, she was Cedar Reynolds, and everything she touched turned to gold. They all knew she wasn’t to be trifled with, and none of them had the guts to even try. They knew what happened to those who did, and none of them wanted to go down that road.

Cedar had made sure to have the photographers positioned to get everyone’s best side and angle, and after she discretely posed for the pictures on the way into the church. Harold wasn’t Christian, but there was something about the Thames-Harrison Church that felt like it was the best place for him to be eulogized.

It was the most exclusive church in the city, and nobody could just come to the church, let alone throw a last minute funeral. But Harold was Harold and Cedar was Cedar, and the church was more than happy to offer the building for the occasion.

Stained glass windows filtered in murky light, lending the whole building a feeling of slight gloom. Candles flickered, and it seemed like the building itself was mourning the loss of Harold Feingold.

Cedar walked slowly up the aisle of the church, toward where Harold’s body was lying in its casket. It was a closed casket funeral, because Harold did not believe in death, or dead people. He was cremated, because he didn’t believe in organ donation, either, but there was a casket, nonetheless. It was something large to bury, because tossing ashes in the wind was crass and hippy, and Harold had been neither of those.

Cecil rushed up to Cedar. “Everything’s under control,” he said quietly. “The Mayor is running a little bit late because of traffic, but he’s supposed to get here soon.”

“He damn well better get here soon,” Cedar snapped. “Fuck traffic, he has a eulogy to deliver, and I will not delay the funeral because he decided not to leave early enough. Doesn’t he have a police escort or something?”

“I’m pretty sure that’s only the president,” Cecil said. “I’ll check.”

“You do that,” Cedar replied, and, remembering where she was, continued down the aisle in search of the preacher.

Cecil sighed and texted the Mayor’s secretary. Not on his private cell, where Cecil would send dirty texts, but on his official Mayoral phone. The things he did for Cedar, seriously. Going through the back door of the church instead of the front, and didn’t even get photographed by anyone. Which was a damn shame, because he had dressed to the nines today. He better get a serious bonus for this shit. He wouldn’t, though, because that wasn’t how Cedar worked. Which sucked, but on the other hand, he was probably one of the best paid personal assistants in the city. Cedar wasn’t necessarily nice to him, but she sure as hell paid enough to make up for it.

His phone buzzed. No police escort. Fuck, Cedar was going to rip off his balls.

Cedar glanced around the rapidly filling church with satisfaction that would never show on her face. The Mayor was going to be here in another three minutes, and everything was running according to schedule. As it should be. The seating plans emailed the night before was a stroke of genius, in her opinion. Everyone was sitting where she, and partially Harold, had decided, and hopefully nobody would think of doing anything stupid, like flirting with the people they were fucking in front of spouses. Any other event it was no problem, and added to the entertainment for the night, but that wouldn’t be tolerated today.

If the net worth of all the people in this church were added together, it would be enough to put a significant dent in the national debt. Significant. The air smelled of money, privilege, and power. This may have been New York, land of the immigrant and city of the diverse, but in this church, it was New York, land of stock options, and city of real estate deals with a side business of who even knew. In this church, diversity meant that the only people in the room whose net worth were under one million dollars were corded off and sitting with pads of paper and a pen, scribbling notes about everyone whose net worth was more than they could imagine making a year.

Good, thought Cedar. Good.

Mr. Morris came up to here. “Cedar.”

She inclined her head. “Morris.”

“The Mayor is here and should be seated in a few moments.”

Cedar checked her watch. Perfect. “Excellent. Vanguard is starting, he’ll make his way to the front now.”

The musicians were in place. The sun was struggling to break through the clouds and was failing miserably. Some of the most powerful people in the United States were sitting in the lush seats, waiting for the service to begin.

This is what money can get you, thought Cedar. This is what real power gets you. And even though death wasn’t a thing she was going to contemplate for herself anytime soon, this is what she was setting her sights on.

Tomorrow, the newspapers would be full of pictures. Magazines were rushing to get out special editions, eulogizing Harold and remembering all he’d accomplished.

Being sweet didn’t get you any of this. Being nice, actually nice? Those people were the ones who were still working as reception somewhere in Queens. Being honest? Actually honest? Those were the people who lost their businesses, whose homes had been bought by Harold and sold for a fortune.

This was what you got when you went after what you wanted.

She looked at Vanguard, and nodded slightly. The head of the New York City Stock Exchange walked to the front of the church, and cleared his throat. There was immediate silence, followed by the sound of the front door being shut.

“We gather here today to celebrate the life and mourn the death of Harold Feingold,” he began, his voice echoing through the church.

Cedar relaxed a little bit, and took out her handkerchief. The world was Cedar’s stage, and this was another scene she would nail.

It was raining when they lowered the casket into the freshly dug plot of ground. Cedar cried softly into her handkerchief, making sure her mascara didn’t run. The gravestone was already in place, since Harold had ordered it when he got his first diagnosis, and the image of the ten men on Harold’s board lowering his body into the open grave, with Cedar standing alone crying a few feet back would be the one splashed on every cover of every newspaper, magazine, and website for the next week.

“Saying Goodbye to a Legend”, read one headline.

“Mourning a New York Giant”, read another.

Cedar was fawned over in every article. Flowers began to pour into the Gallery from all corners of the country, and Cedar’s staff spent all week redistributing them to different hospitals, nursing homes, and homeless shelters.

The reading of the will wasn’t going to be for another two days, and Cedar was going to lose her shit if she didn’t figure out what was in the will sooner than that. Fucking Morris was a waste of time, he wouldn’t reveal anything. Which was why Harold hired him, but that wasn’t any help for Cedar.

Nobody knew. Nobody, although a lot of people thought they did. The media did nothing the week of Harold Feingold’s death but talk about him, Cedar, and speculate exactly who was in the will, and what they would inherit.

“Of course it matters who inherits,” Cedar was quoted as saying. “Harold had an incredible amount of businesses that need the right person to make sure they keep running and keep hundreds of New Yorkers employed.”

Did she care that it wasn’t going to be her that inherited it all? They asked. Rather rudely.

She had smiled, and told them that she had more than enough to do as it was, running the Gallery and bringing only the newest and freshest artists to the New York art scene. She didn’t have time for any sort of real estate business or such. If she did inherit? She’d make it work.

She was Cedar Reynolds, the magazines gushed. She could make anything work.

Twenty four hours before the reading of the will, and Cedar was biting heads off her staff left and right. Cecil sent out a mass text to all the staff members at the Gallery, telling them that the next shipment of flowers were to be sent to St. Mary’s, but only if the flowers were red. Subtext? Stay out of Cedar’s way. It was code red emergency, and nobody wanted to be caught in that.

The last time someone did, they were escorted out by security, and last the staff at the Gallery heard, they were still looking for a job. A year and a half later.

Cedar pressed five on her speed dial and listened to the phone ring until it went to voicemail.

Why the fuck wasn’t Morris picking up his fucking phone? Cedar resisted the urge to throw her phone through the window. Maybe it was an emergency. She’d called him twice already today, and had a perfectly legitimate excuse for both of those phone calls. Just because Harold was dead it didn’t mean that he could just ignore her like that. The fucking nerve.

She fumed, and put her phone very carefully back on her desk. If he wasn’t going to pick up, well then, she would deal with things her way. And tomorrow, she would be at the reading of the goddamn will, or she was going to break into his office and read the damn will herself.

Tentative knock on the door. Cedar gritted her teeth, and then relaxed. Fucking up your teeth because you were upset wasn’t worth it. “Yes?”

“It’s Cecil. Whitney called about her new piece, and wanted to know when she should ship it in.”

“When she should ship it in?” Cedar snapped. “Did you approve of it?”

Cecil looked horrified. “Of course not.”

“I didn’t think you did. I trained you much better than that.” Cedar shook her head and turned to her computer. “She’s going to have to be dealt with, that one. Fine, her last pieces sold well, but she is nowhere near a place where she can assume—assume!—that she could just send something in without me okaying it first.”

Cecil waited quietly. It was never worth it to interrupt Cedar when she was like this.

“Email her and tell her that she needs to follow protocol that she agreed to when she signed the contract, and send us pictures along with a detailed description. And that if she tried to be presumptuous like that, it would take us a bit longer to consider her new piece of work.”

“Of course, Cedar.”

“Good.”

“Would you like a cup of coffee?” Cecil asked, hesitant.

“No, but I would like a bottle of green juice.”

“Your usual?”

“Yes. And schedule an appointment for a massage for me at five, please.”

“Miguel?”

“Of course.”

“No problem.”

“There shouldn’t be a problem,” Cedar muttered as Cecil scurried away. This fucking will was driving her crazy. Why couldn’t he have just said something before he decided to up and die? How could she plan if she didn’t know what was going to happen?

She reached up and gently massaged her temples. By tomorrow evening, this would all be behind her.

Now, if she could just get through the next couple of fucking hours without killing someone. She was wearing silk. There was no way she’d be able to get blood off of this outfit.

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K.K.’s Beautiful Little Fool Street Team
You can join KK’s “Beautiful Little Street Team” now and immediately read chapter 1 from the book. Plus, there are contests and giveaways each week! Join, chat with us, and get an inside look at Beautiful Little Fool!

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About the Author
KK Hendin’s real life ambition is to become a pink fluffy unicorn who dances with rainbows. But the schooling for that is all sorts of complicated, so until that gets sorted out, she’ll just write. Preferably things with angst and love. And things that require chocolate. She’s the author of the NA contemporaries HEART BREATHS and ONLY THE GOOD DIE YOUNG.

THIS MUCH SPACE is the second book in her new series, TWELVE BEATS IN A BAR.

KK spends way too much time on Twitter (where she can be found as @kkhendin), and rambles on occasion over at www.kkhendinwrites.blogspot.com.

Where to Find K.K. Hendin
Goodreads | Website | NewsletterFacebook | Twitter
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Cover Reveal + Chapter 1 – Heart-Shaped Hack by Tracey Garvis Graves

Heart-Shaped Hack Re-Cover

New York TimesWall Street Journal, and USA Today bestselling author, Tracey Garvis Graves, is unveiling the cover to Heart-Shaped Hack, a contemporary romance releasing August 25, 2015. See below for information on the book, pre-order links, and a sneek-peek at Chapter 1.

Heart-Shaped Hack by Tracey Garvis Graves

Heart-Shaped Hack by Tracey Garvis Graves

About the Book
Title: Heart-Shaped Hack
Author: Tracey Garvis Graves
Publisher: Love Potion Books
Release Date: August 25, 2015
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks

Synopsis
When Kate Watts abandoned her law career to open a food pantry in Northeast Minneapolis, she never dreamed it would be this difficult. Facing the heartbreaking prospect of turning hungry people away, she is grateful for the anonymous donations that begin appearing at the end of each month.

Determined to identify and thank her secret benefactor, she launches a plan and catches Ian —a charismatic hacker with a Robin Hood complex—in the act.

Ian intrigues Kate in a way no man ever has. But after learning he’s snooped around on her personal computer, she demands retribution. Impressed with her tolerance and captivated by her spirit, he complies and begins to slowly charm his way past her defenses.

Time spent with Ian is never boring, and Kate soon finds herself falling for the mysterious hacker.

But Ian has enemies and they’re growing restless. In the hacking world, exploiting a target’s weakness is paramount, and no price is too high to stop an attack. And when Kate learns exactly how much Ian has paid, she’ll discover just how strong her love is for the man who has hacked his way into her heart.

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EXCERPT

© 2015 Tracey Garvis Graves
Heart-Shaped Hack

CHAPTER ONE

“The babies are going to starve,” Helena said.

“Don’t be so dramatic,” Kate replied. “No one is going to starve, least of all the babies.” But her pinched expression and the way she was jabbing at the keyboard as she refreshed the donations page on their website said otherwise. For the first time in the sixteen months since Kate had left her position as a corporate attorney to open the food pantry, she faced the heartbreaking prospect of turning hungry people away. She couldn’t stand the thought of letting down her regulars, especially the young mother of three who relied on the pantry to feed them.

The problem was that Kate’s nonprofit organization was not the only one in Minneapolis that needed help. Tomorrow was the first of September, and everyone was trying to stockpile whatever resources they could before they headed into the colder months.

“Let’s see,” Helena said. “We could rob a bank. We could pawn our valuables. You could sell your body on a street corner.”

Despite their dire circumstances, Kate cracked a smile. Helena had walked through the front door of the food pantry shortly after Kate opened and said, “I’m sixty-five, and they’re forcing me to retire from my job at the insurance company. My husband retired two years ago, and now he’s home all day. That’s too much togetherness for us. I have to find something to do outside the house, and you wouldn’t have to pay me much.” Kate hired her on the spot and had never regretted it.

She swiveled her chair toward Helena. “Why am I always the one who has to sell her body? Why can’t you sell yours?”

“Who do you think is going to bring in more money? A gray-haired grandmother of seven, or a willowy twenty-nine-year-old beauty? It’s a no-brainer.”

It was hard to argue with logic like that.

Kate had been so determined not to let down their clients that she’d resorted to begging her ex-boyfriend Stuart—who worked as the executive producer on an hour-long talk show on the local ABC station—to let her appeal to the public during the afternoon broadcast.

“Do you know how hard it is for me to be around you, Kate?” Stuart said when he received her call. “Do you ever think of that?”

“Of course I do. But this is really important to me.”

“I used to be really important to you.”

Kate remained silent. They’d been through this before.

He sighed in defeat. “Come in tomorrow. I’ll squeeze you in after the cooking segment.”

“Thanks, Stuart.”

The skirt had been Helena’s idea. “We need to do whatever we can to grab viewers’ attention.”

“You mean I need to do whatever I can.”

“Of course I mean you. You have great legs.”

On the day of the broadcast when Helena arrived at the food pantry, Kate said, “I don’t remember this skirt being quite so short. I’m actually a little worried about the type of viewer I might attract with it.” She tugged on the hem, pulled out her desk chair, sat down, and crossed her legs. “Can you see anything?”

“You’ll be fine unless you decide to recross your legs in the middle of the segment like Sharon Stone did in that one movie.”

“I can assure you I will not be doing that. The skirt is as far as I’m willing to go. I draw the line at flashing people, not even for the babies.”

Kate had paired the black-and-white houndstooth skirt with a black short-sleeve top and her favorite black heels. When she arrived at the TV studio, she ducked into the bathroom to check her teeth for wandering lipstick. Before she left the food pantry she’d applied a raspberry lip stain that Helena claimed looked stunning on her. That morning she’d curled her long dark hair and then brushed through the curls with her fingers so they draped across her shoulders and down her back in loose waves. She’d used plenty of mascara to play up her brown eyes. The extra primping made her feel a little like she was standing on a street corner, but she banished those thoughts. At this point, they needed all the help they could get.

After Stuart snaked the mic up the back of her top, his hands lingering on her skin in a way that made Kate feel sad, he positioned her on a stool and told her to wait for his signal. She kept her legs tightly crossed, and when the light on the camera turned red, he pointed at her and she began to speak.

“Good afternoon. My name is Kate Watts, and I’m the executive director of the Main Street Food Pantry. As we head into the winter months, our needs—and those of all local food pantries—will be greater than ever.”  Kate stared into the camera, imagining she was speaking directly to anyone who might have the means to help them.

“No child should ever have to go hungry, and many of our local residents depend on the food pantry to feed their families. I’m here today to personally appeal to you should you have the ability to help us in any way. The families we assist, and especially the children, depend on your generosity more than you could ever imagine. Thank you.” She ended the short segment with the food pantry’s telephone number and street address, and when Stuart gave her the all clear, she reached under her shirt for the microphone and handed it back to him.

“Thanks, Stuart,” she said, giving him a quick hug. “I really appreciate this.”

“Sure,” he said, looking over her shoulder as if there was something very interesting across the room. “Take care, Kate.”

That was yesterday, and so far only a few additional donations had trickled in. She and Helena spent the rest of the afternoon making calls to local churches and schools to set up additional food drives while continuing to monitor the donations page. Finally, at a little before three, Kate went into the back room to recount their inventory. It was the end of the month and they were down to their last cases of infant formula and baby food. Almost all of the canned vegetables had been depleted, and they were completely out of peanut butter and soup. If it was this bad now, Kate didn’t want to think about what might happen when budgets were stretched even thinner by holiday spending. Dejected, she was sitting on the floor, clipboard in hand, when Helena burst into the back room.

“I ran after him,” she said, gasping for breath. “But he was too fast. Boy am I out of shape.”

“Who did you run after?”

Helena tossed a brown paper bag to Kate and leaned over, resting her hands on her knees as she took in giant gulps of air.

“The man who dropped off the money. Seriously, I may need supplemental oxygen over here.”

Money?

Kate looked into the bag and blinked several times. “Did you lock the front door?”

“Yes.”

She turned the bag upside down and watched in disbelief as hundred-dollar bills rained down on the concrete floor. She counted it quickly. “There’s a thousand dollars here.”

Their website listed four levels for donations with amounts ranging from ten to one hundred dollars. There were higher amounts for corporations, but this was the largest donation they’d ever received from one person, and it was more than enough to replenish their shelves. Kate was already picturing herself pushing a giant cart through Costco. “Did he leave his name?”

“No. He walked up to my desk and said, “Give this to Katie. He must have seen you on TV yesterday.”

“Young? Old?” Rich?

“Young. Early thirties, maybe? Tall. Blondish-brown hair. He was in a real hurry to leave. I chased him out the door, but he jumped into the driver’s seat of an old blue car.”

“An old car? Are you sure?”

“I think it was old. It didn’t look like any car I’ve ever seen. It had stripes on the hood. And then he burned rubber.”

“Why would someone who drives an old car drop off a bag full of money?”

“I have no idea. But whatever the reason, he just saved us.”

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Read the First Five Chapters

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Author Tracey Garvis-Graves

Author Tracey Garvis-Graves

About the Author
Tracey Garvis Graves is a New York TimesWall Street Journal, and USA Today bestselling author. Her debut novel, On the Island, spent 9 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list, has been translated into twenty-seven languages, and is in development with MGM and Temple Hill Productions for a feature film. She is also the author of Uncharted, Covet, Every Time I Think of You, and Cherish.

Where to Find Tracey Garvis Graves
Goodreads | Website | Facebook Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest
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Blog Tour – Excerpt + Giveaway – Ideal High by Valerie Ipson

Ideal High Banner

Welcome to the Ideal High blog tour. Ideal High is a young adult contemporary novel from Valerie Ipson. See below for information about the book, buy links, an exclusive excerpt, and details on her giveaway.

Ideal High by Valerie Ipson

Ideal High by Valerie Ipson

About the Book
Title: Ideal High
Author: Valerie Ipson
Release Date: February 24, 2015
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Smashwords

Synopsis
There’s no way Taryn’s taking Blake’s place as president of the student body. As soon as the memorial for him and six of their friends is over, she’s resigning as VP. Really.

Except people say the fire was no accident.

(She say it’s way too easy to blame someone who’s dead.)

When Taryn reads the writing on the wall, literally, the bathroom wall, she knows what it means. To get to the truth she has to come out from under her paisley comforter.

But, seriously, what stage of grief says Taryn has to be the one to fix what’s wrong at Ideal High? Maybe she’s the one who’s broken.

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Excerpt
Chapter 1

Whose idea is it to broadcast the super-size faces of those who died to the far reaches of the school’s auditorium? Everybody knows they’re gone. Why emphasize the obvious even for the sake of a memorial? And why no rain on this joyless day? Never a good Texas thunderstorm when you need one.

I force a glance at the pull-down screen behind me, but immediately turn to focus on the line where the ceiling meets the wall at the back of the room. I can’t bear to look into the crowd, but I can’t look at the screen either. A giant reminder that I will never see those faces again. Weeks of grief have left me numb, but I should have worn my hair down to give me something to hide behind. Just in case.

Light pours in through the ribbon of windows high along the back wall. It crisscrosses the podium, making me squint at the sheet of paper in front of me.

It doesn’t matter. I know the list by heart.

I blink through the glare and lean in to the microphone, not sure how loud I need to be. “Ashley Bannister.”

My voice echoes across the vast room. Plenty loud.

All eyes rivet on the screen and a kid from Drama Club tugs the rope of the school bell slowly and deliberately for maximum effect. It must have taken practice to get a perfect mournful clang.

The audience’s collective gaze swings to my right. To Chelsea standing at a matching podium, staring at her own list. She’s leaning heavy on her crutches, and on the podium, too. She needs both to keep her vertical, apparently. I’m just glad I don’t have to share the same half of the stage with her. As always, I need my distance. That hasn’t changed.

“Weston James Brown.” Chelsea’s lips tighten into a thin line. I’m amazed she gets the name out. The bell sounds again, even more slowly than the first time, and a chorus of sniffles and muffled sobs grows slightly louder.

I measure my breathing and tap my fingers along the edge of the sheet of paper in front of me. I have to keep my hands busy, distracted. Maybe if I keep moving I won’t think too hard about the next name.

I switch to rubbing my palms up and down the sides of my pants. I just can’t look at Kayla’s parents who sit with my mom and dad in the front row. I pause too long and the principal clears his throat behind me. Very cliché, Mr. Myers. Doesn’t he get that this is beyond difficult?

“Kayla … Marie … Carter.” I speak her name to the back wall then take up tapping on the podium again. But not so loud anyone can hear. So much for avoiding the faces on the screen. All that loops through my brain is Kayla’s wide smile.

Quit worrying, Taryn. Blake’s not getting back with Chelsea, Kayla had said that night after the party. I’ll go find him for you and you’ll see I’m right. Then she walked right back into the old Gin Co. building.

Why was I forced to do this? I’m not the one who should be speaking the names of the dead in front of all these people. The list reads like the school’s Who’s Who, and I have no business pretending I’m one of them.

Except for him. How many more names until his? I’d scanned both versions as soon as they were held out to us, snatching the one with his name among those highlighted. Chelsea has no right to it, to him. Not like I do. At least that’s what I tell myself.

The light flickers from behind me, so I know they’ve moved on to the next abnormous face. A face that should be in the yearbook, not on a screen at a memorial.

A moan rises from the second row, competing with the plaintive tones of the bell. Plaintive? Where’d that come from? Now I’m conjuring up junior year Vocab?

One of Chelsea’s crutches bangs against her podium. I can’t help shooting her a sideways glance. She’s still hunched forward. Definitely struggling and the service is just getting started.

Thankfully, I don’t have to maneuver crutches and the names in front of me. Still, I will it to be over. My knotted stomach begs for it, and the fetal-position imprint on my bed is only growing colder. Who knows how long Principal Myers will feel obligated to address the assembled after our part is done?

Chelsea finally speaks, but the name comes out in a hiccupped sob. The noise of a bump, then a scrape carry through the sound system when she adjusts her crutches again.

“Keisha Lambert.” I blurt it out when it’s my turn, afraid to get stuck on a name again. I shut my eyes and try to erase the image that the crowd views behind me. Her exotic-for-small-town, multi-color-ed cornrows and pierced eyebrow, her excitement at being named cheerleader last May.

Chelsea reads the next name, verbally struggling yet again. It’s understandable. She and Becca Martin were closer than sisters.

My throat tightens when I move in closer to the mic, but I’m determined not to lose it like Chelsea. Fixating on the list, I draw in a breath and the amplification of it hits the back wall. I cover my mouth, but it doesn’t hide my embarrassment. The faces of the crowd blur, and all I can see is Blake’s, creased with alarm as flames leap out of the building behind him.

Don’t turn to look at the screen. Say his name, but don’t look at his face. I hesitate, wanting — needing to. Wishing I could ask him the questions that plague me. They all start with “Why?”

Chelsea’s crutches bump and scrape again, sending javelins of adrenaline into the pit of my stomach. I drop both hands onto the podium in front of me. I suddenly need something to hang onto.

Just say it. Say his name loud and strong. He deserves that. My lips brush the microphone and I taste metal.

“Blake Austin Montgomery.”

His name erupts from my mouth and startles the crowd. The hushed crying and sniffling silences for a moment as if proper tribute to the late student body president mandates it.

Ignoring the looks from the audience, I clench the neatly-typed names on the paper into a fist. Relief surges through me now that my part of the program is over.

But it isn’t over, not really. The memorial is only the beginning of what was supposed to be the perfect senior year.

Blake, the object of my years-long crush, and I were a couple. Sort of.

We’d been elected student body officers — president and vice-president. We spent the entire last month of school sitting in homeroom eating doughnuts on the sly, discussing senior year. True, Blake had done most of the talking and me a lot of nodding, but he intended for us to be a couple, right? I was his date to Junior Prom. That has to mean something.

I head to my seat on the stage, avoiding Chelsea’s eyes as the too-tanned blonde hobbles over to drop into the chair next to me. The principal takes my place at the podium on the left.

“I want to thank these ladies for volunteering for this assignment.” He nods in our general direction, before addressing the audience. “As you know, Taryn Young will step into the position of student body president and Chelsea Manor as head of the cheerleading squad.”

Volunteered? Yeah, right. I stare at my shoes, afraid to look anyone in the eyes. I’m on stage by default. I’m the only one of the newly-elected class officers to survive the fire. But more than that I am a fraud. An abnormous fraud. An enormous abnormal fraud.

I would have never run for vice president if Blake hadn’t talked me into it. The position full-out scared me, but how could I turn him down? Ever since that day in homeroom when he first noticed the doughnut glaze on my shirt sleeves, I couldn’t tell the difference between dream and reality anymore. They were the same. Now I wish I could erase the nightmare, or better yet, rewind it all so the night of the Ideal Gin Co. fire never happened.

I squirm in my seat, trying to get comfortable as Mr. Myers’ words buzz through the sound system. No rewinds. No do-overs. Now I sit with the only other survivor of the fire in front of an auditorium full of people with questions. Why Taryn Young, they must be thinking? Why not my son or daughter, my sister or brother? No, just Taryn and Chelsea. A cruel reminder of those who hadn’t made it out alive.

Things like this don’t happen at my school. Not in a town called Ideal, Texas.

I half-listen as the principal begins his concluding remarks. “The first day of class is one week from today and counselors will be available. Line up outside Ms. McKinney’s door, no appointments needed. Our goal is to get things back to normal as quickly as possible. Let’s not forget,” he stresses, “here at Ideal High School we have a long-standing tradition of unity, pride, and respect. This will carry us through.”

I just want to crawl back into bed where only my pillow hears me scream.

“What about my brother?” A masculine voice coming from the side of the stage jars me. From the shadowed steps, the voice addresses the principal again. “You didn’t call out his name. Isn’t he good enough for your program?”

A figure steps into the stage lights. He wears faded jeans and a gray plaid shirt with sleeves rolled up and shirt tails hanging. The thud of cowboy boots punctuates his step as he edges closer to the podium opposite the principal. He’s about my age, and I can’t help noticing the square confidence of his shoulders, despite the pain that ruts his brow.

“My brother died in the fire, too.”

“Who’s that?” hisses Chelsea. She doubles over like she’s in pain, but maybe she’s just trying to get a better look. The same question seems to vibrate across the auditorium.

I fix my eyes on the intruder. I can’t wrap my brain around his claim. I know everyone who was at Ritter’s Crossing that night where the crumbling old cotton gin had stood for a hundred years before the fire destroyed it.

Mr. Myers takes a step toward the young man. “May I help you after the service? We’re almost finished here.”

“You can help me. You can have one of these pretty girls with their expensive clothes and neon-white teeth stand at the microphone and shout out Tim’s name.” The stranger’s voice breaks, but he continues, “He’s important, too, even though no one knows his name.”

“Son, please,” Mr. Myers begins again. “Let’s discuss this afterwards in my office. I’m sure we can clear up any misunderstanding.”

I sense movement among the faculty members sitting on the stage around me, but I don’t take my eyes off the stranger. Mr. Myers seems unruffled, but my mood moves quickly from confusion to irritation. Who is this guy? Who’s his brother?

“Let me do it. Then I’ll leave y’all alone.” He reaches the podium where Chelsea stood moments before. The mic’s movement grates through the sound system when he pulls it to him, and I slide to the edge of my seat. I have to admit, now he’s really got my attention.

“He was my younger brother. My only brother.” The guy turns away from the mic, momentarily pressing his left thumb and index finger to his eyes. Mr. Myers motions for the others to hold back as the young man continues. “Sure he was new, an easy target for bullies. But he was a student here.”

His words are half-whispers now where before he had been practically shouting. “Can’t you say his name? Can’t you give him even that much?”

The guy takes a deep breath. His next words echo across the room, calm and clear. “Timothy Wade Jenks.”

He turns, steps straight to the bell, and grabs the rope. Yanking it, he sends a single deafening bong reverberating across the room. He pauses, head bowed, then disappears down the same steps from which he came, leaving behind a brief, bewildered silence.

As the auditorium door closes behind him, the room erupts into chaos.

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Author Valerie Ispon

About the Author
Valerie Ipson loves her family…and reading, writing, genealogy, and Hershey Milk Chocolate Almond & Toffee Nuggets. She lives in Mesa, Arizona, and IDEAL HIGH is her debut novel.

Reading has always been a huge love in her life, but she never thought she’d be on the author side of a book. Valerie hopes she can give readers the same experience that she has enjoyed through the years while being curled up with a good book!

Valerie Ipson
Goodreads | Website | Twitter

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Book Blitz + Giveaway – Twisted (Deathwind Trilogy) by Holly Hook

Twisted Book Blitz

Welcome to the book blitz for Twisted, the first book in the young adult paranormal Deathwind Trilogy by Holly Hook. See below for information on the book, buy links, an excerpt, and details on her giveaway.

Twisted (Deathwind Trilogy #1) by Holly Hook

Twisted (Deathwind Trilogy #1) by Holly Hook

About the Book
Title: Twisted
Series: Deathwind Trilogy #1
Author: Holly Hook
Release Date: December 15, 2013
Genre: Young Adult Paranormal
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo

Synopsis
Sixteen-year-old Allie isn’t like other girls. Instead of spending her summer break sitting around on the beach, she takes the epic vacation of a lifetime.

Tornado chasing.

And she’s not disappointed. Just a few miles from the town of Evansburg, Nebraska, Allie meets her dream of seeing a tornado. In person. She can’t wait to tell her friends back home. Never mind that her parents are going to kill her.

But her dream soon turns into a nightmare, and a strange event leaves her shocked. Confused. When she returns home to Wisconsin, something’s…different. Allie now bears a curse so awful, it could destroy everyone and everything she’s ever known.

With her best friend, Tommy, Allie must return to the plains to find a way to reverse it. She enters a world that she had never imagined, where she becomes a pawn in a fight to save the people of Evansburg from her fate…or to destroy them.

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Excerpt

Chapter One

My very first tornado shreds the grass of the plains.

I stand next to the van, mouth dropping open, heart pounding. It’s the moment I’ve been waiting for. I’ve saved the money for years and begged my uncle to book us for the Wild Weather Storm Chasing Tours.

Uncle Cassius gasps next to me, equally in awe. It barely cuts over the wind rushing towards the distant funnel. Waves of grass bow down to the twister, whipped down by the surrounding air flying in to feed it. The perfect white cone stands out against the coal sky, slim and graceful. A skirt of dust spins around its base, signaling its dance through a field a few miles away. The wind snaps against my jeans, pulling at my new Wild Weather Tours T-shirt.

“Beautiful!” Kyle, our storm chaser guide, snaps a photo for his website. He steals a glance at me and smiles. The wind ruffles his ash-blond hair. Wrinkles form around his eyes. He’s all enthusiasm, joy that we’ve found our prey. “Don’t worry. We’re safe. It’s heading to the east. It’ll pass no closer than a couple of miles to our north.”

I want his job someday.

“I’m not scared,” I said, but my shaky voice betrays me. Who am I kidding? Kyle’s an experienced chaser–twenty years–but this is a real tornado. In person. Live. I never realized it would be this intense, this breathtaking. A hollow feeling fills my stomach like I’m plunging down the first hill of a roller coaster. It is scary…but fun.

My parents would murder me and Uncle Cassius both for sneaking away on this trip. If they find out we’re not really in Disney World being bored to death by Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck, well, it’ll be way scarier than this storm.

The tornado curves, almost like it’s leaning to the side for a better look at something. At us? It’s a weird thought, one that makes me laugh. The thunderstorm spins slowly above it, low and menacing. Thunder claps. It’s enough to remind me that the storm in front of me isn’t just beautiful. It’s a predator, entrancing like a cobra and ready to strike.

Good thing there’s no houses or buildings in its way. Only farmland stretches from horizon to horizon.

“Allie. Forget your camera?” Uncle Cassius points to my pocket and smiles. It’s a tense smile. So I’m not the only one with some nerves going.

Camera.

Yes. Duh.

I pull it out of my pocket and fumble with the slim case, fingers hunting for the button. The camera zings to life. Behind it, the tornado looms a bit larger, gaining strength and racing across the ground. More dust kicks up around the perfect white of the twister.

“Now I can really prove to everyone at school how crazy I am.” I give Uncle Cassius a nervous chuckle. The camera trembles in my hands as I catch the tornado in my view, click, and seal it in my memory forever.

I’m having the most insane summer vacation of my entire high school. I can’t wait to share this with Tommy and Bethany. Bethany’s going to beg for all the details. Tommy will tell me that I’m the bravest, most awesome girl he knows.

I’ve got to get me and the tornado in the same picture and send it to them tonight. I dig in my other pocket and hand my phone to Uncle Cassius. “Photo.”

He takes my phone. “Stand back.”

I do. Now the wind blows my hair back like it’s trying to pull me away, but I stand there, moving to the side so Uncle Cassius can get the whole picture. I force myself to look at my phone in his hand. It’s not easy when there’s a twister just a mile or two behind me, ripping up the earth.

“Got it!” Uncle Cassius waves me back.

I join him and glance at the phone for just a second. I’m on the screen, dark hair wild and flying. The tornado looms large behind me like it’s looking over my shoulder. It’s the most awesome picture ever. Tommy’s going to love it.

I lift my camera for another shot, backing up to squeeze the tornado into the viewport. I click another picture and lower the camera again for another look.

My heart jumps.

The tornado looms larger, taller. Kyle holds his hand up to his face, squinting for a better view. Even Uncle Cassius goes quiet, stiffening and taking a step back towards the tour van.

All at once I understand.

The tornado has changed course.

Kyle turns. Real fear widens his features.

“Get in the van,” he shouts.

I turn and grab the door, yanking it open. Uncle Cassius pushes me from behind, making me vault into the van. “Get in, Allie!”

The roar behind me builds, like boulders rushing down a mountain towards me. The wind whips my hair back, trying to pull me back out of the van. It feels like the twister’s right behind me already, coming down for the kill.

I slam the door on it. Uncle Cassius moves out of my view, running around the van to the other door. The funnel’s much bigger behind the window, so close that I can’t see the top of it anymore.

Uncle Cassius jumps in through the opposite door and snaps on his seat belt next to me. Kyle starts the van up, punches the gas, and gets us back on the road to nowhere.

I put my camera on the seat. My hands fumble with the seat belt. The van speeds up and the inertia makes me sink into my seat. Uncle Cassius says something else, but it’s lost on me. The specter of the tornado closes in, whipping across the field towards us. I’ve heard of tornadoes making sudden turns like this but I never realized it could happen this fast.

It rips across the field. My heart beats on a runaway course. My mind locks into overdrive. I feel like that news crew they always have on tornado shows, that one that survived by hiding under that overpass. Will Kyle make us get out and climb under one? They’re actually bad places to hide. That news crew got off lucky. Kyle knows better. He’s been chasing storms longer than I’ve been alive.

Only green and yellow fields spread out ahead. There’s no shelter for miles. The storm radar on Kyle’s laptop is covered in ugly red and orange blotches like Nebraska has sores.

A hole of panic opens up inside me and for the first time, I regret coming on this vacation.

“Can’t you go faster?” Uncle Cassius leans forward in his seat, gaze hard, arms trembling. His glasses are coming down his nose, ready to fall off. His normally neat Yoda T-shirt is sweaty and sticking to him so much I can see his ribs.

Uncle Cassius never loses his cool.

Ever.

Not even when I crawled into the dinosaur display at the museum when I was six and climbed up the back of the Stegosaurus. Not even when I tried to stand on his porch when I was eleven and watch hail the size of tennis balls rain from the sky.

Outside, the tornado grows so close that I can only see the bottom half of the funnel. The van bounces along every speed bump on the highway, every uneven spot. My stomach heaves. I’m going to be sick right here. It’s my stupid fault we’re in this mess.

“I don’t understand.” Kyle punches the gas harder, making the van jump. He turns his head like a guy possessed by a demon, eyes widening. “The tornado should not be moving this way.”

He’s right. It shouldn’t. For the tornado to turn and come right at us, it would have to drag the whole storm with it. But it’s still coming. It makes no sense.

The funnel reaches the road behind us, twisting harder, kicking up earth higher and higher. We’ve gotten out in front of it. I breathe a sigh of relief. Kyle and Uncle Cassius do the same. It’ll cross the road and forget all about us.

Kyle lets off the gas a little and the whine of the engine calms some. “We’re safe now. That was highly unusual. I’ve never seen a tornado turn like that in my career.” There’s a hint of an apology in his voice.

“Well, that was a close one, wasn’t it, Allie?” Uncle Cassius hugs me from the side.

“Yeah,” I say, willing my heart to slow down. At least I can think straight now. Can I even do another two days of this?

Wow, what a dumb idea this was.

But I still can’t resist another look at the storm. I turn as far as my seat belt allows.

My guts fall out of me all over again.

The tornado’s still on the road, bigger than ever. It can’t be.

The twister has turned again. It’s coming right up behind us. Rolling earth eats the entire highway. There’s tornado taking up the whole view of the back window. Dust rips to the sides. The bottom of its funnel spins with fury, big enough to swallow a house whole. Its roar screams against the outside of the vehicle, shaking the seat, pushing the whole van to the side.

It’s no longer beautiful.

“Ohmigod,” I say, sucking in a breath. “Um…Kyle? Um…”

“I know!” he snaps. His knuckles turn white on the steering wheel. The van lurches again but he maintains control.

“Allie, get down!” Uncle Cassius pulls me towards him. The seat belt cuts into my shoulder.

What good is it going to do? If the tornado lifts the car–

I’m going to die.

I begged to go on this trip and now Uncle Cassius is going to die too.

The windows shatter with a deafening boom and the wind screams in my ears. AllieAllieAllieAllie…

I can’t breathe.

We’re floating.

Uncle Cassius shouts something. Kyle yells. If I’m screaming, I can’t tell. The storm’s sucking it right out of me. Windy hands seize my arms, my legs.

They pull.

My safety belt snaps open, whipping against my leg. I scream with the sting. The seat disappears under me and the van door rips open.

I’m flying.

The tornado’s ripping me right out of the van.

The world turns to a white and brown roar. The van’s gone. I have no time to cry out to Uncle Cassius before the world snaps to black and silence swallows me.

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Author Holly Hook

Author Holly Hook

About the Author
Holly Hook is the author of the Destroyers series, which consists of five young adult books about teens who are walking disasters…literally. She is also the author of the Rita Morse series, a young adult fantasy series still in progress, and After These Messages, a short young adult comedy.

Currently she is writing Twisted, a spin-off of the Destroyers series due out in December. When not writing, she enjoys reading books for teens, especially young adult fantasy and paranormal series with a unique twist.

Where to Find Holly Hook
Goodreads | WebsiteFacebook | Twitter

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Blog Tour – Blessed Are Those Who Weep by Kristi Belcamin

Blessed Are Those Who Weep

Welcome to the next stop on the Blessed Are Those Who Weep blog tour. Blessed Are Those Who Weep is the third book in the Gabriella Giovanni Mysteries by Kristi Belcamino. See below for information on the book, buy links, an exclusive excerpt, and details on her giveaway.

Blessed Are Those Who Weep (Gabriella Giovanni #3) by Kristi Belcamin

Blessed Are Those Who Weep (Gabriella Giovanni #3) by Kristi Belcamin

About the Book
Title: Blessed Are Those Who Weep
Series: Gabriella Giovanni Mystery #3
Author: Kristi Belcamino
Publisher: Witness Impulse, an Imprint of HarperCollins
Genre: Mystery/Detective/Women Sleuths
Release Date: April 7, 2015
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Harper Collins

Synopsis
San Francisco Bay Area reporter Gabriella Giovanni stumbles onto a horrific crime scene with only one survivor—a baby girl found crawling between the dead bodies of her family members.

Reeling from the slaughter, Gabriella clings to the infant. When Social Services pries the little girl from her arms, the enormity of the tragedy hits home.

Diving deep into a case that brings her buried past to the forefront, Gabriella is determined to hunt down the killer who left this helpless baby an orphan.

But one by one the clues all lead to a dead end, and Gabriella’s obsession with finding justice pulls her into a dark, tortuous spiral that is set to destroy everything she loves …

Critical Praise for Ms. Belcamino
“Tense, disturbing and smart….Belcamino is a writer to watch.” — Alex Marwood, author of The Wicked Girls

“Truly first- rate.” — Bruce DeSilva

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Excerpt
Chapter 1

At first I think she is a doll. Sitting there so still on the floor in her pink dress, chubby legs sticking out from her diaper, big black eyes unblinking, staring at something I can’t see.  A ribbon hangs loose in her hair. Something that looks like chocolate is smeared around her mouth and one cheek.

The front door is only open wide enough to frame her small body in the dim light. I can’t see the rest of the room.

“Mrs. Martin?” The words echo in the silent apartment. At my voice, the baby turns her head toward me in what seems like slow motion. Even though the apartment door was ajar when I arrived, something stops me from pushing it open more. My hand hangs in the air, frozen. The rhythmic drip of a faucet is eerily loud. And something smells funny. Off. A smell I recognize but cannot place. A smell that increases my unease.

“Are you in there, Mrs. Martin? It’s Gabriella Giovanni from the Bay Herald. We spoke yesterday.”

Silence.

As if my voice has flicked a switch, the child moves and talks, babbling. “Mamamama. Maaamamama.” She picks something up. Something floppy and pale and long. Something with short red fingernails. An arm.

A wave of panic rises in me as I figure out what I smell.

Blood. Urine. Feces. Death.

I nudge the door open. My hand flies to my mouth.

Blood oozes across the floor, seeping in puddles around bodies lying helter-skelter. Seemingly too many bodies to count. But I do. Clinically. Subconsciously. Five dead bodies. Because for sure they are all dead. No one could survive those gaping, slashing wounds.

I don’t turn my head. Only my eyes dart around the room, taking it all in. My legs turn into mush and I grab the doorknob to support myself, worried I’ll collapse onto the floor. The sound of the dripping faucet seems magnified and is suddenly, extraordinarily loud.

The girl chants, “Mamamamama.” She drops the arm and it makes a slapping sound as it hits the scratched wooden floor. I  nudge the door wider with my knee. The arm belongs to a woman in a green dress lying facedown. The child tugs at the woman’s shiny black hair, as if trying to wake her or get her to lift her head. A sticky pool of dried blood ripples out from the woman’s torso.

Directly in front of me, another woman, older with white hair, is spread eagle on her back, her stomach slashed open, insides strewn on the floor beside her. One arm reaches toward the door. Across from her, an elderly man is slumped on the couch, a wide gash across his neck yawns open, revealing pink and red and something white.  What looks to be a teenage boy’s body is propped up against the far wall, as if he were taking a break, resting, but the top of his head is matted with something awful looking. Bloody slash marks stripe the boy’s arms — defensive wounds. The clinical term jumps into my mind. There is also a blond woman slumped in the corner, eyes staring at nothing.

Drip. Drip. Drip. The noise from the faucet sounds distorted. Everything seems to be in slow motion.

I’ve lost track of time. My feet remain planted in the doorway, stuck, frozen. Fear crawls up my neck. How long have I been standing here? A tiny part of me is tempted to get out my notebook and take notes, but I push it aside. Get the baby.

She holds up a bottle and looks at me “Baba?”

The word releases me from the spell, making the drip of the faucet sound normal again. I carefully choose my footing, stepping over the body of the white-haired woman. Her eyes stare up at me as I pass.

Up close, what I thought was chocolate on the baby’s face is dried blood. Her tiny fingers are covered in it. She holds up her bottle to me again. “Baba?”

Good God, how long has she been here? But I know it can’t have been more than a day. I spoke to Mrs. Martin yesterday afternoon. At the time, I’d heard a baby in the background squealing with delight. Maria Martin apologized for the noise, and laughed, saying her ten-month-old was just learning how to use her vocal chords effectively.

Scooping the child up in my arms, I head to the bathroom. The shower curtain is open. Inside the tub is a large open window without a screen. Cold air hits my face from the ocean breeze streaming in.

Wetting a washcloth I find near the sink, I dab at the child’s face. She shakes her curls to get away, but I scrub until finally her cheeks are pink – not black with dried blood. One-by-one I work on her tiny fingers, even though she tries to pull them away, soaping them until the basin is full of pink suds swirling down the drain.

 Once the water turns clear, I dry her face and hands and head back into the kitchen. Balancing the girl on my hip, I tug on the refrigerator door with a trembling hand. Vaguely, I realize I’m leaving my fingerprints all over a murder scene. I smell the milk before rinsing out her bottle and filling it.

Once it is full and the nipple screwed back on, the girl snatches it and gulps, her head tilted back, eyes on me.  At the same time, her other hand reaches up to my hair, tugging on a strand until she has it wrapped and twirled around her chubby fingers.

With her balanced on my hip, I head for the bedroom, crowded with a bed, a crib, and a  dresser. The girl watches me solemnly with big black eyes as I lay her on the bed and change her diaper. She lifts her legs to make my job easier. “It’s okay, baby. It’s okay,” I coo as I gently wipe away all the dried feces stuck to her legs. I strip off her bloody dress and maneuver her into a tiny pair of flowered footie pajamas lying near the crib.

All the while I’m blocking out what is in the living room. I’m pushing back the reporter voice in my head describing the scene. I ignore what else I should be doing. Something important. Once I get the baby changed, the smell reminds me.

The bodies.

But first I need to get out of here. I focus on the front door. With the child in my arms, I step across and around bodies, making my way through the carnage. Finally, after what seems like forever, I’m in the hall.

I close the door to the apartment behind me and slump to the floor. I bury my face in her curls for a moment before reaching into my bag.

My fingers are shaking as I punch in the numbers. 9-1-1.

It is all I can manage. I don’t even hold the phone up to my ear as it rings. A sign above me on the wall shows all the emergency exits in the building. I stare at it, wondering which one the killer took to escape. Beside me, a small box has the UPS logo on it. It is addressed to Maria Martin. The return address is Babies “R” Us.

The girl snuggles into my neck and chest slurping the rest of her bottle with loud sucking noises. She holds a strand of my hair, twisting it in her fingers and pressing her body close to mine. In the distance, from what seems like a place far-removed, I hear a small voice.

“911. . .911? What is your emergency? This is 911. . . State your emergency please.”

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Author Kristi Belcamino

Author Kristi Belcamino

About the Author
Kristi Belcamino is a writer, photographer, and artist.

In her former life as a newspaper crime reporter in California, she flew over Big Sur in an F/A-18 jet with the Blue Angels, raced a Dodge Viper at Laguna Seca, watched autopsies, and interviewed serial killers.

She is now a journalist based in Minneapolis, and the Gabriella Giovanni mysteries are her first books. Find Kristi on Facebook or on Twitter.

Where to Find Kristi Belamino
Goodreads | WebsiteBlog | FacebookTwitter

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Giveaway
Free download of the Blessed are the Dead and Blessed are the Meek. Winners must have access to Bluefire Reader and have an Adobe account to receive free download.

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