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.

.

.

 —————————————————————————-

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.”

 —————————————————————————-

SONGS OF INSURRECTION Teaser

 —————————————————————————-

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

 —————————————————————————-

Giveaway
a Rafflecopter giveaway

.

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.

.

.

.

.

 —————————————————————————-

SOUL MATES Teaser 1

 —————————————————————————-

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.”

****

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.”

 —————————————————————————-

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…

.

.

.

.

 —————————————————————————-

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.

.

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

 —————————————————————————-

Giveaway
a Rafflecopter giveaway

.

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

 —————————————————————————-

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.

 —————————————————————————-

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.

.

.

Where to Find Carrie Ann Ryan
Goodreads | Website | NewsletterFacebook | Twitter
.

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.

.

.

.

.
..

——————————————————————-

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.”

——————————————————————-

Trailer

——————————————————————-

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.

.

.

.

.

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

——————————————————————-

Giveaway
a Rafflecopter giveaway
.

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.

—————————————————————

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.

—————————————————————

Trailer

—————————————————————

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

—————————————————————

Giveaway
a Rafflecopter giveaway

.

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.

——————————————————–

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.

——————————————————–

Transparent Teaser 1

——————————————————–

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.

.

——————————————————–

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
.

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.

——————————————————–

Fatal Beauty Teaser

——————————————————–

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.”

——————————————————–

fatal Beauty 2 Weeks

——————————————————–

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
.

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.

——————————————————–

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.”

——————————————————–

Heart Shaped Hack Teaser 1

——————————————————–

Read the First Five Chapters

——————————————————–

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
.

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.

 

——————————————————–

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
.

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.

——————————————————–

Screwed Full Cover

——————————————————–

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.

 

——————————————————–

Screwed Teaser 3

——————————————————–

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
.

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.”

——————————————————–

Finding You Full Cover

——————————————————–

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

——————————————————–

Love Wanted in Texas Series

Love Wanted in Texas Series

——————————————————–

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
.

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.

——————————————————–

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?

——————————————————–
Call Sign Karma Teaser 1
——————————————————–

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.

——————————————————–
Call Sign Karma Teaser 2
——————————————————–
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
.

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.

——————————————————–

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.

——————————————————–

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!

——————————————————–

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
.

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.

——————————————————–

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.”

——————————————————–

Read the First Five Chapters

——————————————————–

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
.

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.

——————————————————–

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.

——————————————————–

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

——————————————————–

Giveaway
a Rafflecopter giveaway
.

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.

——————————————————–

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.

——————————————————–

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

——————————————————–

Giveaway
a Rafflecopter giveaway
.

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

——————————————————–

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.”

——————————————————–

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

——————————————————–

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.

 a Rafflecopter giveaway
.

Chapter Reveal – Binge (Seven Year Itch) by Jennifer Foor

Binge Release Banner

Author Jennifer Foor is releasing the first chapter to Binge, a stand alone novel in her new Seven Year Itch series. Binge will release on April 27.

Binge (Seven Year Itch #1) by Jennifer Foor

Binge (Seven Year Itch #1) by Jennifer Foor

About the Book
Title: Binge
Series: Seven Year Itch #1
Author: Jennifer Foor
Release Date: April 27, 2015
Genre:
Contemporary Romance
Links: Goodreads

Synopsis
Flynn and Aria Roberts have had plenty of ups and downs during their seven year marriage. Everyone warned them not to wed so young – that they’d be missing out on the key years when people grow from young adults to mature individuals.

The only thing holding them together now is their love for each other, and even that is becoming questionable.

To save the marriage, and the family they’ve already started, Flynn and Aria come up with an unconventional solution to help them find what’s missing in their relationship.

The only problem is doing so involves rediscovering themselves completely, even if it requires them to be unfaithful.

Can a marriage survive when vows are broken, or will chance encounters prove they’ve been missing out all-along?

Fulfill your deepest Desires

Give in to Temptation

——————————————————–

Binge Teaser 1

——————————————————–

Chapter 1
Aria

I hated the idea of spending the next hour with a therapist, bearing all of my concerns as if she could somehow relate enough to help me. What I loathed more was knowing that it was the first sunny day in two weeks, and the woman was relentless about closing the blinds during her sessions.  It was as if she wanted her patients to be depressed so that they’d keep coming.

I’d gotten into a habit of nitpicking lately. I suppose it came from being so miserable. They say it loves company, misery that is, not that I was asking for friends to hang out with and compare notes on our failed experiences.

I peered down at my jeans and Chucks, feeling as if I should have cared more about my appearance, especially since this woman clearly went all out. It didn’t matter what the temperature was,  Dr. Ellis was always in a skirt-suit. With her auburn hair full of curls, she sat with crossed legs and my file strewn over her lap. While the friendly doctor flicked her pen, pretending to listen to me, I stared effortlessly at the rapid speed it repelled. I wondered if it made little dots on the paper each time. Then I imagined it falling apart from being handled so roughly. I imagined the tiny spring shooting into her hair and becoming tangled the instant it made contact. Anything was better than admitting where I was and why I was there.

“How would you say your relationship with your husband has been in the past week?”

I rubbed my hands on the thighs of my jeans while proceeding to come up with a lie to make it seem as if we were making progress. “Fine, I guess. We haven’t killed each other.” I found my answer to be amusing, while she kept the same resting-bitch face.

“Since last week, how many times have you had intercourse?” She would ask me this. It was the reason I hated coming to these meetings. Every week she asked the same questions. I guess she assumed that one time I’d provide her with a different answer. This wasn’t going to be the epic appointment where I made progress, not after the week I’d had. Besides, who would want to know that I had frequent sex in bed alone, while imagining being tied up by a stranger, or blindfolded and seduced by someone who only set out to please me. Flynn was always there in my dreams, watching and envying what I wouldn’t let him have. It was like I was punishing him in my mind, while getting off to my little bullet vibrator in the bed we should be sharing together.

Flynn and I were supposed to be working on things. Instead, we were still in the same place as when we started this – headed for divorce.

“That would be a big fat zero.”

“I see,” she said while jotting down something. “Have either of you put forth an effort?”

I leaned forward, putting my elbows on my knees while rubbing my hands together. I suppose I should have held my posture like a proper lady, but my give-a-damn had been busted for years. “It’s kind of hard to try something when being in the same room together makes me want to strangle him, hypothetically of course. It’s also impossible when your husband sleeps on the couch, and trust me, you’d be the first to know if I was getting it from someone else, because I wouldn’t need to keep up this charade.”

“Charade? I would hardly call these sessions that. I’m here to get to the bottom of your problems and help you overcome them. You came to me for help. I know at times it seems worthless, but in order to change you’ll have to put forth an effort, which I’m not seeing from either of you. I’d hate for you to waste your time if this isn’t what you want, Aria.”

I hated the way this woman looked at me. She wasn’t fooling me with her professionalism. I knew she found Flynn attractive. She probably went home at night and turned on her vibrator to get off on pretending to fuck my husband, and apparently she wasn’t the only one. The older we got, the better looking he became. I wondered if she was waiting for me to admit we were through so she could make her move.

I grinded my teeth together to keep from spatting out something I’d regret later. Had we not promised each other that we’d try, I didn’t know where I’d be. With a daughter, it wasn’t feasible to go out and prey on single men for attention. Sure, I missed being touched. I longed to feel desired again, but I didn’t see it happening, so I kept my deepest thoughts buried where not even this doctor would be able to pry them out of me. If she only knew what I fantasized about when I was all alone she’d think I was a crazy voyeur nymphomaniac who didn’t deserve to be in a loving commitment to just one person. In my defense it wasn’t like I’d always dreamed of being with multiple partners, but when I had little experience aside from my husband, my curiosity got the best of me. Maybe if I didn’t feel like my body was scarred from stretch marks, I would be open to exploring different things with Flynn. I just felt ugly – ALL. THE. TIME. It was as if he was becoming more attractive while I was constantly aging. Why would he ever want to try to be turned on by me after seeing my vagina doubled in size during labor? I think he referred to it as the Cumberland Gap. And yes, that is exactly how he described it. “I want to feel beautiful about myself. I want to be appreciated. I want to know without a doubt that Flynn is making love to me and not imagining someone else. I want HIM to be the person who can fulfill my needs, leaving me feeling completely and utterly satisfied.” The last part wasn’t supposed to come out, but now I was becoming overemotional, letting my fears and frustrations dictate what flew out of my mouth.

“I think you’re not giving Flynn enough credit. It’s obvious your husband desires you. He’s said as much during our sessions. Perhaps your self-esteem struggles are keeping you from seeing that.”

Of course she’d blame me. If she only knew what it was like to see Flynn looking at other women, or to talk until I was blue in the face with no response from him. If she could prepare all of his meals only to have him refuse to come to the table to eat because he was watching something on television. If she could be on the end of the phone call when he was out with his friends instead of being at home with his daughter. Flynn was terrible with priorities. He came first in his mind, and we were just leftovers, hoping to have a millisecond of his precious time. They say marriage is a two-way commitment. What is it called when only one person gives one-hundred percent of their time and energy? That was my marriage. I gave, and he took. That was the gist of it. Flynn could construe his stories to this doctor as many times as he wanted, but the truth would never change.

The moment he left her office he went back to being a douche, a part time father, and a shitty excuse for a husband. “I agree that my body issues prevent me from feeling sexy enough to want to be intimate, but that’s not our only problem. Just because I’m not willing to seduce my husband, doesn’t mean I’m ready to throw in the towel.”

“Intimacy is an important factor in any marriage. I’m afraid if you’re unwilling to be physical with each other there’s nothing more I can do for you. It may sound absurd to someone in your situation, but you have to be willing to at least try to be with your husband. Part of being a marriage counselor is to help you get through this. I’ve met with both of you together, and now separately. While your husband shows empathy for your marriage, I get the sense that you no longer feel the same.”

If she only knew that he was full of shit when he met with her. Of course he’d lead her to believe he was this great guy who was suffering because his wife wouldn’t screw him. It only made me want to choke him more.

I played with my hands. This was our eighth session. Once a month we met with her separately. I was supposed to be making an effort, but it’s impossible when you don’t feel good enough about yourself. “It’s not that I don’t love Flynn. I do – that’s the only thing I’m sure of right now. We just can’t find a common ground. It’s hopeless. He doesn’t make me feel wanted, even when he’s trying to get laid. Why should I give in when I know it’s all an act. I want to feel needed. I want to see his eyes light up when I walk in the room. It’s the little things that are missing in our relationship. It’s like he’s gotten comfortable and forgotten that I also have desires. We’re not in this together anymore. I feel alone even when he’s near.”

She started aggressively writing something down on a separate pad of paper then ripped it, and reached across the wooden coffee table to hand it to me.

I looked down at it. “What’s this?” I half expected it to be the number of a furniture company where Flynn could purchase a new comfortable couch for his lazy ass to sleep better on. It was obvious she enjoyed his private sessions more than mine. All I did was complain about Flynn. It wasn’t getting me anywhere. My sessions were a joke. Flynn’s last two private appointments he’d come out acting all happy, as if he’d gotten head or possibly more. Ever since then, I’d been reluctant to even continue my sessions. At this point I couldn’t figure out what were misconceptions in my head, or actual reality. I was so messed up and didn’t know where to turn. Behind closed doors my husband was someone who never tried, yet when he spoke to other people everything was honky-dory. It made me resent him all the more.

Dr. Ellis’ reply wasn’t what I’d expected. It actually made me question if she’d been listening to me at all. “That is the address of a bed and breakfast near the beach. It’s run by a young couple. This time of year is pretty slow. If any part of you wants to save your marriage, I suggest you spend some one-on-one time together, out of your normal routine. You don’t have to go there, but go somewhere. Spend time communicating. The two of you need to get know one another again. You need to remember why you fell in love, and how to figure out how get it back. I can’t make the decision for you, or tell you what you should be feeling. I can only suggest a solution I think you’d both benefit from.”

“I’ve known him for years. In fact, I know him better than anyone,” I corrected her. I didn’t need a life lesson on Flynn. I also didn’t need to take a trip with him to get to know him better. What I needed was to go away alone and get my head on straight. What I wanted was to be desired by someone who didn’t ignore me on a daily basis.

She shook her head with a smirk across her face. It made me feel as if she were questioning my statement. The jealous side of me wanted to slap it right off. Then I had to rationalize about how I could be assuming things that weren’t even happening.

“That’s not what I’m referring to. Couples change. You can grow together, or in your case, because you were so young, apart. The only way to fix things is to start over, as if it were your first date.”

“What if I don’t want to date my husband?” I began to count how many times, while during a heated argument, I’d told Flynn if I had to do it all over again I’d never look in his direction.

“Just give my advice some thought. We’ll meet again next week, if you’re still interested in making this work. I have hopes that some quality time together could start repairing what’s been lost. You both need to relearn how to communicate with one another again. I know it seems tedious, but I can promise it’s not. You can never know too much about the person you’re married to. An open line of communication could do wonders for your self esteem issues as well.”

So what if I had problems with feeling beautiful. Didn’t every woman stand in the check-out line at the grocery and wish she could look like the model on the magazines? I was envious they could keep their figures after having children.

It wasn’t until I reached my car that I took in what Dr. Ellis suggested, and then I wondered if I was even willing to give it a go. If I had a choice, would I do it all over again? This question was something I thought I’d known the answer to, yet the idea of giving up on Flynn was painful. As much as I couldn’t stand how he was, a part of me assumed that without him I’d have nothing. Then there was the lingering fact that I still loved the man, even with all his flaws.

My drive home brought everything back into perspective. I started imagining our failures. Yes, we’d made a beautiful little girl, but was it worth it to stay together for her? I knew some couples did, though I couldn’t fathom it myself. I was at a point where I hated Flynn. My love for him still existed, but I despised the person he’d become; the one that popped open a beer after work every night leaving his dirty boots on and track mud all over the floor I’d just vacuumed. The same man who didn’t care about his actions or how they affected other people.  The person who stopped caring about me and everything else that mattered, because he was too consumed in himself to notice.

Everyone told us we were fools. They said no two people should marry as young as we were; that it was doomed to fail, because we were kids ourselves. In so many ways I wished we would have listened. Had I known then what an up road battle into a clusterfuck of a life it would turn out to be, perhaps we could have saved a lot of people grief, and probably money.

It’s amazing how as little girls we dream of finding our Prince Charming and to live happily ever after.

It doesn’t take a genius to see the disappointment in my parent’s eyes when I call them upset, or even in some cases show up at their door with bags full of my things, swearing I’m done playing Flynn’s head games.

I suppose they’re used to the fighting since we’ve been doing it from day one. At seventeen I thought I was lucky. He wasn’t only handsome, but smart, and brave as well. Flynn Roberts was the good boy with the bad reputation. He was able to have any girl he wanted back then, and probably still could to this day. For all I know he could have been screwing around on me this whole time. Maybe that’s why we’ve never been able to really communicate. Maybe he hides behind a wall of secrets.

It’s easy to sit back and point fingers at someone else, rather than admit I’m the one at fault. I can’t help it. When that alarm goes off in the morning I cringe, not because he’s going to try and touch me, God forbid that happen, but rather that I know I’m going to have a repeat of the day before it.

He’ll expect me to help him out the door. If he’s sick I’ll have to call into his job, and nurse him back to health, because let’s face it, he’s a freaking child when he doesn’t feel good. Give him a runny nose and he can’t get out of bed. How pathetic is that? Is it all men, or just the one I’m married to?

I’ve asked my therapist- she claims that I’m nitpicking. To be honest I don’t even know if I care anymore. I look forward to the moment he leaves, and try to avoid him when he steps back in the door.

You’re probably wondering why we married, or how we got this way. I asked the same question each time he turns to walk away from me. I question what I saw in him back then. Apparently love is blind. I married a man who’s only ever put himself first. If he doesn’t get his way I’m a bitch, or a terrible wife. For seven years I’ve listened to this, and for those seven years, I’ve let it happen.

I can’t even count the amount of times I’ve cried myself to sleep at night, praying, pleading for God to help me. I asked why I couldn’t be a better person. Why couldn’t he love me more?

I honestly let him brainwash me into thinking I was the whole problem in our marriage. I felt as if I wasn’t what he wanted in a woman, and eventually a mother.

We had our first child when I turned nineteen. At the time he’d gone off to college, leaving me behind to live with his parents. He’d come home on weekends to his knocked up wife, which I honestly believed he’d hid from most all of his classmates.

At first his parents were in charge of our relationship. Since he’d gotten a scholarship, they weren’t going to allow him to give it up for me or a new baby. Yes, I’m dead serious. This really happened. My mom and dad wanted me to have an abortion, but I refused. They begged me to reconsider being with Flynn. They told me it would never work.

I ran away, well just to his parent’s home. When they found out about the pregnancy they questioned our relationship, and then pretty much forced us to marry. God forbid they have an illegitimate grandchild.

From the get-go, their animosity toward me was pretty well-known. Nothing I did was good enough for Flynn’s mother. She’d pick at the littlest of things, making sure to put me down until I felt incapable. She caused so many fights between us, especially when Flynn wasn’t home. I couldn’t even begin to count how many nights I called him at school, bawling my eyes and begging for some sort of resolution.

During my pregnancy I focused on our future, promising my unborn child a good life. It was evident how important it was to provide our child with a stable home. In order to do that, I needed to respect how a college education could give us that opportunity.

I’d like to say I tried my best to be patient and understanding, but as the months passed I saw Flynn less and less. He started staying on campus, attending parties, and doing other activities that didn’t involve me.

Not only was I jealous, but over-emotional as well. Combine the two of those together and I was a mess.

I’d call his phone until he either picked up or turned it off. He’d call me every name in the book, and I’d return the same language right back. Then, when I felt as if nothing could repair the damage, he’d show up. The makeup sex was always the best, and for a while I was content.

One night, on a Friday he wasn’t due to come home, I awoke from a terrible nightmare. It upset me so much that I knew I wouldn’t calm down unless I spoke to him to be sure he was okay.

When a female voice answered the phone, I felt like my whole future had ended. Being sick wasn’t even the half of it. In the background I could hear him talking, calling her baby, and asking who she was talking to. At the time I didn’t know he’d been drinking, though I also didn’t give him a chance to explain.

In a pair of pajamas, with a huge belly, I took his mother’s keys to her vehicle and drove to the college, determined to look him in the eyes and let him know we were over.

To this day I still don’t know what happened in that dorm room. After someone let me inside, I climbed the stairs and knocked on the door until he opened it. Sitting in a chair off to the side was a blonde female. She was in a bra and a pair of jeans. At first she looked at me like I was in the wrong place, but when Flynn acknowledged me she quickly exited the room.

That was the night that could have changed our future. Maybe I was wrong to give him an ultimatum. Perhaps I didn’t have a right to control his life, but I did it anyway. I made Flynn choose me over going to the university, because I knew I’d never trust him if he stayed. At the time I didn’t see it as being selfish. Now, seven years later, I feel as if it was the biggest mistake of my life. I almost wish he would have found the love of his life at that school, because it was quite clear it wasn’t me.

While sitting in front of our small ranch style home, I peered down at the address of the bed and breakfast the therapist had given me. Did I want to even bring it up to Flynn? Could the two of us be alone for a whole weekend without wanting to strangle one another? Did I want to know what it felt like to have him touch me without cringing? Was there any kind of sexual chemistry even left between us? Could Flynn ever learn how to please a woman first instead of being so damn selfish?

I hated even considering how bad it could turn out, but I was tired of living like this. I knew there was so much neither of us had ever experienced. We were naïve and curious, so much that we couldn’t find a happy medium. Was it so wrong to want to experience hot, unadulterated sex with someone who could appreciate me the way I was? I hated the idea of being with someone else. I didn’t want my family to break up, but this wasn’t healthy.

Before exiting my vehicle, I crumpled the small note and shoved it in my pocket. My marriage was over, and the sooner I came to grips with it the faster I could plan the divorce.

——————————————————–

Author Jennifer Foor

Author Jennifer Foor

About the Author
Jennifer Foor is an award winning Contemporary Romance Author.

She’s best known for the Mitchell Family Series, which includes ten books.

She is married with two children and spends most of her time behind a keyboard, writing stories that come from her heart.

Where to Find Jennifer Foor
Goodreads | Website | NewsletterFacebook | Twitter | Amazon | Tsu

.

.

Chapter 1 Teaser – The Murder Complex by Lindsay Cummings

Greenwillow Books/HarperCollins and author Lindsay Cummings are releasing the first chapter to The Murder Complex, the first book in The Murder Complex series. From now until April 20, you can pick up the eBook of The Murder Complex for just $1.99. See below for all the details.

The Murder Complex (The Murder Complex #1) by Lindsay Cummings

The Murder Complex (The Murder Complex #1) by Lindsay Cummings

About the Book
Title: The Murder Complex
Series: The Murder Complex #1
Author: Lindsay Cummings
Publisher: Greenwillow Books/HarperCollins
Release Date: June 10, 2014
Genre: Young Adult Dystopian Thriller
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo

Synopsis
An action-packed, blood-soaked, futuristic debut thriller set in a world where the murder rate is higher than the birthrate. For fans of Moira Young’s Dust Lands series, La Femme Nikita, and the movie Hanna.

Meadow Woodson, a fifteen-year-old girl who has been trained by her father to fight, to kill, and to survive in any situation, lives with her family on a houseboat in Florida.

The state is controlled by The Murder Complex, an organization that tracks the population with precision. The plot starts to thicken when Meadow meets Zephyr James, who is—although he doesn’t know it—one of the MC’s programmed assassins.

Is their meeting a coincidence? Destiny? Or part of a terrifying strategy? And will Zephyr keep Meadow from discovering the haunting truth about her family?

Action-packed, blood-soaked, and chilling, this is a dark and compelling debut novel by Lindsay Cummings.

——————————————————–

Excerpt
Chapter 1

Meadow

It is the key to survival, the key to life. My father’s old dagger.

“Peri!” I call out over the waves to my little sister. An old can bobs up and down in the water, mesmerizing me for a moment. Beyond the Shallows, the sea is packed with boats. Some of them are still afloat, with their masts stretching like arms to the sky. Others are half-submerged, shipwrecked and covered with moss.

Among the boats are other things. Old tires, half of a rusted car, plastic. A body lies facedown in the waves, her hair spread out like seaweed.

Behind me, in the city, the Night Siren wails. It starts low, then whoops higher and back down again. Everyone on the beach hurries into the shadows, knowing all too well what happens when the sun goes down.

It isn’t safe anymore. I call out to Peri again. “It’s time to go!”

She holds up a tiny hand and gives me the signal: two grubby little fingers held high above her head.

Two minutes. It is always two more minutes with her.

The sun is sinking, a massive orange ball melting into the sea. It sets fire to the sky, and everything is dancing in colors. Reds, oranges, yellows. It reminds me of blood, it reminds me of my mother.

Peri comes running up to me, kicking a spray of sand behind her. “I found a periwinkle!” she squeaks, sounding like a startled seagull. “Like me!”

“Yeah? Let’s see it.” I cast a glance over my shoulder, at the few people who still litter the beach, before kneeling down to her level. Peri’s big gray eyes, the color of sea foam, widen as she places the tiny shell in my outstretched palm. It’s twisty and fat, with a sharp point at the top. A mollusk sticks out. Though it has barely enough meat for anyone to eat, I’m still tempted to shove it into my pocket. But somehow the Initiative would find out. As sure as the tide comes and goes, the Initiative will always discover our secrets.

“It’s a good one,” I say, smiling down at her. “But we can’t keep it.”

The thick black numbers tattooed onto her forehead crease in frustration. 72050. Peri’s Catalogue Number, just one number different from mine. Our barcodes show the Initiative where we are, who we are, every moment of our lives. As Peri grows, it will grow, and it will never fade or wrinkle because of the healing nanites we all have in our blood.

“Tell you what.” I point the tip of my dagger toward the shell. “We’ll mark it. That way, next time you find it, you’ll remember.” I etch a small heart into the side of the shell. It’s crooked, and hardly legible. I drop the mollusk on the sand, let the waves take it away. Peri smiles triumphantly. She’s a miniature version of me. Silver hair that hangs in loose curls to her waist. Like our mother’s.

“Okay, time to go.” She grabs my hand and tows me along the sand, humming the tune to an old lullaby under her breath. Soft, so no one but the two of us can hear it. Peri knows the value of silence in the Shallows.

At the far end of the beach, a jetty of large rocks juts out into the ocean. Waves crash on the rocks, and we get soaked, but it doesn’t matter. The heat of the summer clings to me like fog.

Peri goes first, clambering on hands and feet up the jetty and over to the other side. I climb down after her and my breath catches in my throat.

Pirates.

They’ll do anything for extra Creds. The Initiative pays them to guard the shore and take care of minor problems, as well as find and report the citizens who break the four Commandments of the Shallows.

Commandment One: Honor the Initiative.

Commandment Two: Thou shalt not attempt to cross the Perimeter.

Commandment Three: Honor the Silent Hour.

Commandment Four: Thou shalt not harbor useful items from the days Before.

“Pay up,” one of the Pirates says. He stands from his spot by a blazing campfire. They are cooking fish.

We could never afford an entire fish. Whatever we gather is sent to the Rations Department, and mixed and pureed with other nutrient-rich foods for distribution.

“We don’t want any trouble tonight,” I say. I press Peri closer to my side. “We just want to get to our boat.”

The Pirate laughs, and the two men with him join in. They are all covered in tattoos. One of them has an Initiative tattoo—an open, unblinking eye—on his neck, just below his chin. “You want to go to sea, little girl, you gotta pay.”

My hand finds the dagger on my thigh. There are only three of them. If I were alone, I could end this at once. But Peri tugs on my shirt, and I see the fear in her eyes. I cannot risk her safety. Not now, when the Dark Time is so close. And I have nothing to give the Pirates, nothing to buy us passage.

But Peri does.

She wears a pair of too-large tennis shoes, and the laces are still intact. Something like that is precious, and it kills me that I will be the one to take them from her.

“I’ll give you the laces,” I tell the Pirates, pointing at Peri’s feet. “Then you’ll let us go.”

The largest man lets out a whistle. His breath is rotten. “I’m feeling generous tonight, little girl. Next time, you better come prepared. Understood?”

I nod my head. “Next time you might not get away with your life.”

He thinks it’s a joke.

I stoop to untie the laces. Peri frowns, but does not cry.

She’s strong, my little sister.

The Pirates snatch the laces and go back to their fish, laughing. Peri and I pass safely and run down the beach. We yank the palm fronds and seaweed from our boat. It is a tiny dinghy, large enough for only two people. I quickly untie the line, push the boat into the waves, and we leave the shore behind.

“Meadow? Will we eat tonight?” Peri asks me as I row, weaving through the maze of waste and litter. The wind blows her hair back from her face, and I notice how her cheekbones stick out, how her eyes are slightly sunken. She’s losing more weight.

“Yes.” I nod, looking away. The way she’s studying me, as if I am the only thing in the world worth loving, makes my heart fill with guilt. If she only knew what I do to make sure she can eat. To make sure that all of us survive.

Two miles from shore, I stop and stare out at the black sea, feeling my shoulders burn from the effort of rowing. The dinghy bumps up against our houseboat. It is quiet here, a still night, the waves lapping the boat, the same way they always have. When my mother was murdered, I thought the world would end with her. But it goes on.

——————————————————–

The Fear Trials (The Murder Complex #0.5) by Lindsay Cummings

The Fear Trials (The Murder Complex #0.5) by Lindsay Cummings

About Book 0.5
Title: The Fear Trials
Series: The Murder Complex #0.5
Author: Lindsay Cummings
Publisher: Greenwillow Books/HarperCollins
Release Date: May 27, 2014
Genre: Young Adult Dystopian Thriller
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo

Synopsis
Meadow Woodson has been trained to survive.

This is a prequel to The Murder Complex, by Lindsay Cummings, and it is set in a blood-soaked world where the murder rate is higher than the birth rate. For fans of Moira Young’s Dust Lands series, La Femme Nikita, and the movie Hanna.

Meadow Woodson’s father calls it The Fear Trials, and it is a rite of passage in their family. Meadow is up against her brother Koi.

The Fear Trials will both harden her and make her brave.

If Meadow wins, she will get a weapon of her own and the right to leave the Woodsons’ houseboat without her father or mother at her side.

Set in the violent, complex, and mysterious world of The Murder Complex, and introducing Meadow Woodson—a teenage girl trained to survive no matter what the cost—and her family, who are together for the last time on their houseboat in the Florida Everglades.

——————————————————–

The Death Code (The Murder Complex #2) by Lindsay Cummings

The Death Code (The Murder Complex #2) by Lindsay Cummings

About Book 2
Title: The Death Code
Series: The Murder Complex #2
Author: Lindsay Cummings
Publisher: Greenwillow Books/HarperCollins
Release Date: April 21, 2015
Genre: Young Adult Dystopian Thriller
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooksindiBound

Synopsis
With short, fast-paced, alternating point-of-view chapters, The Death Code starts several weeks after The Murder Complex ended.

Zephyr keeps the secret about Meadow close—that if she dies, The Murder Complex will be destroyed, too.

Meadow, desperate to find her brother, father, and little sister, is determined to fearlessly fight to the end, even if it means sacrificing herself and her friends, new and old.

The Death Code introduces a memorable cast of secondary characters and delivers a vivid and scary thrill ride read.

.

——————————————————–

Author Lindsay Cummings

Author Lindsay Cummings

About the Author

Lindsay Cummings is the 24-year-old author of THE MURDER COMPLEX series from Greenwillow Books/HarperCollins, and the MG trilogy THE BALANCE KEEPERS, from Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins.

Lindsay deals with chronic fatigue, can’t get enough of her two pesky German Shepherds, wolf cub, and two horses. She’s still waiting on her letter from Hogwarts–it was probably just lost in the mail. You can follow Lindsay on twitter @authorlindsayc

Where to find Lindsay Cummings
Goodreads Website | Facebook Twitter 
.

Chapter 1 Reveal – The Consequence of Loving Colton (Consequence Series) by Rachel Van Dyken

The Consequence of Loving Colton Release

#1 New York Times Bestselling Author Rachel Van Dyken’s new adult romance, The Consequence of Loving Colton, doesn’t release until April 21, but you can read Chapter 1 right now, and the Prologue was released yesterday. See below for all the details.

The Consequence of Loving Colton (Consequence #1) by Rachel Van Dyken

The Consequence of Loving Colton (Consequence #1) by Rachel Van Dyken

About the Book
Title: The Consequence of Loving Colton
Series: Consequence #1
Author: Rachel Van Dyken
Release Date: April 21, 2015
Genre: New Adult Romance
Links: Goodreads | Amazon

Synopsis
My name is Milo Caro and I have a confession to make.

I’ve been in love with Colton Mathews since I was five. He should have known that sharing a cookie with a sugar obsessed little monster would do the trick–it sealed his fate. So really, the fact that he’s sporting a black eye, a limp, almost got ran over by a car, and was nearly responsible for another person’s death? Right. HIs fault. Not mine.

I made a pact with myself–this weekend would be different. I’d come home for my brothers wedding, smile, and Colton would naturally melt into my arms, we’d get married have five kids, live in a house by the river, and get a dog named scratch (clearly I’ve thought this through).

What really happened? I punched my brother in the face, Colton kissed me and apologized, I lied about having a boyfriend, oh and everyone wants to meet the mystery man.

They say laughter always comes before insanity–ha, ha. All I wanted was my brother’s best friend…instead I’m sitting in prison.

Let this be a lesson to you all…life rarely happens the way you want it to.

Damn cookie.

——————————————————–

Milo

Four years later

I gripped the steering wheel with both hands. Actually, I would have gripped it with my teeth, toes, and ankles had my brain actually fired fast enough to send the message: Red alert! Red alert!

Instead, mouth dry, I just sat there like an idiot.

I couldn’t think of anything to say to make it better—anything. I couldn’t even give the guy a smile, which really was a shame considering it was my best asset.

“Milo!” Colton tapped the door of my light-blue Mercedes. “You look good.”

I blinked. Well, I thought I blinked, I wasn’t really sure. The car was still running, you’d think I would at least have enough sense to take my foot off the pedal and put it into park, but all I could do was stare. Fantastic. Twenty-one years old and still dealing with sweaty palms because Colton Mathews had said my name.

One thing I was sure of—my mouth was still hanging slightly ajar. Drool would soon follow and then Colton would have just one more reason to make fun of me—Jason’s little sister.

“You all right?” He leaned his muscled forearms against the open window and stuck his head in. Merciful God in heaven, he still smelled the same. His spicy cologne blending with his perfect tan skin would have made any girl pause, or swallow her tongue, or sweat; really, take your pick. “You do realize at some point you need to turn off the car and go inside the house, right, little girl?”

And there it was, I wasn’t any girl. To Colt, I was Jason’s little sister. Nothing more.

It didn’t matter that my boobs cheerfully filled out a C cup or that I’d had my braces off for over seven years. I still wasn’t a woman to him.

God must have taken pity on me, because for some reason, in that instant, when the smell of Acqua Di Gio floated into my car, I snapped out of my insane moment and smiled.

“Fine. Great. Awesome. Perfect. You?” Too many answers, Milo. Too many answers.

Colton chuckled. It was a deep chuckle. The type that makes girls sigh while simultaneously trying to figure out how to get out of their clothes and trap the man into marriage. Seriously. His smile was one that made girls want the condom to break.

Great, now I was thinking about condoms.

Condoms and Colton.

A barking dog interrupted my sexual daydreams. It was Max’s ringtone. “Um, one second.” I put up my finger and shooed Colton away from the window as I pressed “Answer” and let the window close. He smiled, seemingly amused, and leaned against the car.

“How goes the first day of childhood hell, my friend?”

“That depends,” I whispered into the phone, not taking my eyes off Colton as he stood facing the window. He was tall enough that I was basically staring at his lower abs and lower . . . body. Heat flooded my face, informing me without a doubt that crimson decorated my cheeks.

“Why are we whispering?” asked Max, my best friend from college.

“Because we are in the car.”

“You are in the car. I’m at Starbucks.”

“Whatever,” I conceded with a snort, waving my hand in the air flippantly. “And it’s not going well. In fact, I’m pretty sure Colton thinks I have a learning disability.”

“Why would he think that?”

I sighed into the phone and tried to concentrate on anything but the fact that Colton was standing a few inches away from me. So freaking close. “I kind of, sort of . . . blacked out when he was talking to me.”

“So where are you now?”

“We’ve established this. I’m in the car.”

Max sighed. “Then where’s Colton?”

“Outside the car.”

“I’m confused.”

“I’m an idiot.” I groaned and smacked my hand against my forehead. “When the phone rang I closed the window to answer it but now he’s not moving.”

“Well . . .” Max cleared his throat. “I guess there are worse things in life than a hot guy standing outside your window, right?”

“Right.” My voice wavered. “But he’s like facing the door. All of him.”

“All of him?”

“His parts,” I clarified. Swear I felt my entire body go up in flames. Great, so now I was going to hell for looking at his parts. His very nice parts. His yummy, tight, straining—I needed to stop before I gave myself a stroke. “He’s facing the window and leaning against the car and I swear, Max, the whole front of his body is pressed up against . . . my car.”

“Naked?”

“What?” I yelled.

“Well, you said his parts.”

“Not his parts-parts,” I clarified. Shoot me now. Could this conversation get any more awkward? “Never mind, I mean—oh, crap.”

“What? What’s happening?”

I could see Max now, coffee thrust in the air, pacing the Starbucks floor like a crazy person.

“He’s stretching across the car and—” I stopped mid-sentence. “Shit, my brother’s on the other side.”

“Let me get this straight.” Max chuckled. “You have your lifelong crush, who just so happens to be your brother’s best friend, on one side, his parts pressed firmly against your hot little Mercedes, and your brother, who has no idea of this sad infatuation, on the other side, making it possible for you to ogle his best friend’s goodies?”

“Yup.” My breathing picked up as I heard Colton laugh and then his front pressed against my door. “Good Lord, I’m sweating. He’s—”

“Please don’t finish that sentence. It makes me want to puke, and as much as you make fun of me for not having a girlfriend, it’s not because I prefer men, so please . . . spare me the details.”

“Fine.”

“Milo?”

“What?” My eyes were glued to Colton’s hot body as his stomach stretched across an eight-pack straight out of a glossy magazine cover.

“Seduce him.”

“With what?” I whisper-yelled. “I have nothing to offer him!”

“It’s not like I want you to plant a chocolate trail from the ground to your lips, Milo.”

“I know that!” I snapped. “Besides, he’s allergic to chocolate.”

“Please tell me you don’t have his medical history memorized.”

“I don’t,” I lied, suddenly finding great interest in the black leather steering wheel while my shame increased. “Besides, it doesn’t matter. His Facebook profile says he likes blondes. I have dark hair.”

“I’m going to ignore the fact that you stalk him on Facebook and just help you fix the problem. So dye your hair.”

“Yeah, let me just get the hair dye from the backseat, Max!”

“Sheesh, touchy. You, my friend, need to get laid.”

“Tell me about it,” I muttered. “I’m the one stuck in the damn car with nothing but my Kindle[SBK4]  and a prayer.”

“Your life makes me sad.”

“Shut up.”

“Seduce him.”

“Again, with what?”

“Your body.”

“I have no body.” I slumped against the seat in a pout. “Besides, I don’t know the first thing about seduction. And he hates me.”

“He doesn’t hate you.”

“I tried kissing him when I was sixteen and he laughed in my face.”

“To be fair, your skirt was tucked into your underwear.”

“Not the point!” I yelled for real this time. Why the heck had I drunk that entire bottle of wine and confessed all my embarrassing moments to Max? The terrible two outside my car began banging loudly on the windows. Great, I’d probably captured their attention when I raised my voice. And fantastic, the car began to move. I’d officially awakened the beasts.

“I’m in hell.”

“Well . . . ” Max laughed. “Don’t let the flames give you a sunburn. I gotta run, just saw my Starbucks barista . . . I will gain a date if it kills me! Oh, and good luck. You’ll need it.”

“Right.” I clicked end and shut off the car.

Nothing was going as planned—that was for sure.

——————————————————–

Author Rachel Van Dyken

Author Rachel Van Dyken

About the Author

 Rachel Van Dyken is the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today Bestselling author of regency and contemporary romances.

When she’s not writing you can find her drinking coffee at Starbucks and plotting her next book while watching The Bachelor.

She keeps her home in Idaho with her Husband and their snoring Boxer, Sir Winston Churchill. She loves to hear from readers!

You can follow her writing journey at www.rachelvandykenauthor.com

Where to find Rachel Van Dyken
Goodreads Website | NewsletterFacebook Twitter | Amazon
.