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Pre-Release Teaser – Heart-Shaped Hack by Tracey Garvis Graves

Heart Shaped Hack Pre-Release

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

Heart-Shaped Hack by Tracey Garvis Graves

Heart-Shaped Hack by Tracey Garvis Graves

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Hello again.”

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

“I walked in the door like everyone else.”

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

He shook his head. “Not really.”

“Then why are you here?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I’m a hacker.”

“Is there a difference?”

“Most definitely.”

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

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

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

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

“It’s wrong,” she said quietly.

“Is it?”

“It’s against the law.”

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

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

He wrinkled his nose, and it was adorable.

Stop! Thief!

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

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

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Heart Shaped Hack Teaser 1

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Read the First Five Chapters

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Author Tracey Garvis-Graves

Author Tracey Garvis-Graves

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

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

Broken Love Banner

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

Prologue

Ava

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

What was normal anyway?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Holy freaking hell.

What did I ever see in this jerk?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Johnny doubled over as he cried out in pain.

“Have a happy life with, Lisa.”

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

My mother.

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

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

Silence.

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

“Yes,” my mother said slowly.

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

“What happened?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Shit!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

His voice sounded like an angel.

Okay, so I don’t really know what an angel would sound like, but if I could imagine it, I’d say this guy had it down. It was soft, yet masculine. Sexy, yet, compassionate.

“I’m glad,” I whispered.

He lifted his eyebrows and tiled his head as his eyes landed on my lips. “Glad you ran into me?”

My cell phone began ringing in my hand as I lifted it up to see it was my mother. Shit! I’d forgotten she was on the line. Giving him an awkward smile, I said, “No! Well, yes. No wait, I’m glad your day has been made … by me running into you.”

Oh dear God, Ava. Stop talking. Lifting my phone, I grinned and said, “It’s my mom.”

“May I at least get your name?”

My teeth sunk down into my lip as I let out a soft chuckle. “Ava.”

Mystery man’s eyes lit up as he gave me a slight nod, followed by the sexiest wink I’d ever seen. He lifted his hand to my chin and forced my eyes to his. If I hadn’t been acutely aware of every single action he made, I’d have missed his thumb move lightly over my bottom lip.

“The pleasure was most definitely mine, Ava.”

The stupid goofy grin on my face was evident as he chuckled, dropped his hand, and began walking off as I stood there in a stupor.

My phone rang again as I hit answer and whispered, “Hello?”

“Ava, are you okay? What happened?”

I shook my head to clear my thoughts as I glanced over my shoulder at my mystery man walking away from me. Getting a grip on myself, I headed toward my car. I was so thankful I had suggested meeting Johnny at the bakery.

“Sorry, Mom. I accidentally ran into someone. Hey, I think I’m going to do what you said. I need a few days of fresh country air. Besides, I can work from anywhere.”

I could practically hear my mother jumping. “Oh yah! When are you coming?”

“Today. I just need to go to my place and pack a bag.”

“Okay, sweetheart. Be careful driving, and we’ll see you in a few hours. Oh, I’ll make your favorite dinner!”

Reaching my car, I turned around again. I wasn’t sure why. Maybe I was hoping my mystery man would be standing there.

“Sounds great, Mom. I’ll let you know when I’m on my way. I love you, Mom.”

“I love you too, Ava. We’ll have you forgetting Johnny in no time.”

Slipping into the drivers seat, I started my car and said, “Johnny who?”

*** Copyright 2015 Broken Love Kelly Elliott***

Be sure to click here to weigh in on the direction the story goes.

 

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Author Kelly Elliott

Author Kelly Elliott

About the Author
Kelly Elliott is married to a wonderful Texas cowboy who has a knack for making her laugh almost daily and supports her crazy ideas and dreams for some unknown reason…he claims it’s because he loves her!

She’s also a mom to an amazing daughter who is constantly asking for something to eat while her fingers move like mad on her cell phone sending out what is sure to be another very important text message.

In her spare time she loves to sit in her small corner overlooking the Texas hill country and write.

One of her favorite things to do is go for hikes around her property with Gus….her chocolate lab and the other man in her life, and Rose, her golden retriever. When Kelly is not outside helping the hubby haul brush, move rocks or whatever fun chore he has in store for her that day, you’ll find her inside reading, writing or watching HGTV.

Where to Find Kelly Elliott
Goodreads | Website | Twitter | Facebook | Amazon
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Cover Reveal – Screwed by Kendall Ryan

Screwed Cover Reveal

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, Kendall Ryan, is unveiling the cover to her new stand-alone romantic comedy, Screwed, releasing on September 15. See below for information on the book, a pre-order link, an exclusive reveal of Chapter 1, plus a couple of teasers.

Screwed by Kendall Ryan

Screwed by Kendall Ryan

About the Book
Title: Screwed
Author: Kendall Ryan
Publisher: Kendall Ryan Books, LLC
Genre: Contemporary Romantic Comedy
Release Date: September 15, 2015
Links: Goodreads | iBooks

Synopsis
I have one rule: Don’t shit where you eat.

Several of the women in the condo complex I own would love some one-on-one playtime, and why wouldn’t they? I’m young, fit, attractive, and loaded. Not to mention I’m packing a sizable bulge below the belt. It’s a combination that drops panties on a regular basis.

Yay, me, right?

But my cock, troublemaker that he is, has been confined to my trousers by my business partner. A concession I agreed to, and one that’s never been hard to enforce until Emery moves in across the hall. She’s smart, young, determined, and sexy as hell. I want a taste. I won’t stop until I’m buried deep inside the succulent new-in-town brunette.

After being warned about my past, she does her best to steer clear, but I’m about to show her that underneath it all, I’m a guy with a heart of gold and a cock of steel.

My name is Hayden Oliver, and this is my story.

SCREWED is standalone romantic comedy by New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today bestselling author Kendall Ryan.

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Screwed Full Cover

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Chapter One

Hayden

Goddamn. This is going to be harder than I thought.

My eyes swing over to admire the most perfect pear-shaped ass I’ve ever had the pleasure of laying eyes on while my business partner Hudson continues lecturing me. I think it’s something important, but there’s nothing more urgent than my body’s reaction to this shapely brunette. Jesus. Those tits are definitely real.

“I mean it. Your cock is cut off this time,” Hudson says roughly, his tone biting.

Tearing my gaze away from the succulent new brunette moving into unit 4B, I face him. “Not literally cut off. I’m sort of attached to him. You realize that, right?”

“Well it’s on lock down then. No more of this bullshit. I had three calls this week alone from hysterical women – our tenants – who you, how do I put this delicately? You fucked and then left before their pussies were even dry.”

I smirk at him, but I can’t deny the accusation. We’re like the real life Melrose Place. Sexy young twenty-somethings all living in close proximity. There’s bound to be a little drama now and again. Together, Hudson and I own thirty buildings in the greater Los Angeles area. And some of our buildings have very fuckable tenants. Up until this point, I’d considered that a nice bonus, and a perk of the job. Hudson has apparently viewed it differently.

“Who’s that?” I ask, tipping my head toward the bombshell who’s responsible for all the blood rushing to my groin. Fuck. I should have a word with her about that, that’s not cool.

Hudson’s eyes swing to the left to see what, or rather, who has captured my attention. And who’s given me this semi-chub, which I hope he hasn’t noticed. We’re close, but we’re not that close.

“No, no, no. Don’t get any ideas. You’re not tagging that.”

She’s not close enough to overhear us, but I shoot him a scowl anyway. “Show some class, man. Tagging is such a juvenile word. I’d take my time, get her hot and ready first, until she was begging for me to fill her tight, little cunt.”

“I’m fucking serious. You’re not to even think about her tight cunt.”

“So you acknowledge she’s got a tight cunt?” I smile, proud of myself.

He wipes sweat from his brow, looking worried. “Hayden, I’m serious this time.” His voice has taken on a somber tone, and for once, I try to be serious and focus.

Watching the way the vein throbs in his neck, my smile fades. We’re standing outside of one of our nicest buildings just outside of downtown, and the mid-afternoon sun is beating down on us. Suddenly I want to get away from him, and away from this entire conversation and into the cool air conditioning inside. Shit has gotten a little too real for me.

“You know me,” I grin at him, trying to lighten the mood. “I just wanted to have some casual fun.” And if that meant sleeping my way through the LA singles scene, so be it. I’m not looking for something deeper. I have a luxury condo in the heart of the Hollywood Hills, drive a new model BMW and possess a nine-inch cock. Translation: Life is good. Or it was, until Hudson decided to get a bug up his ass and lay down the law today.

“Did you hear a word I just said? One of your latest conquests threatened to report our company to the Better Business Bureau for unethical business practices. This isn’t just about you. This affects me too. And I’ll be damned if I watch everything we’ve built go down in flames because you can’t keep your dick in your pants.”

“Point taken.” Hudson is pretty much the best friend, and best business partner you could ask for. He’s smart as hell, dedicated, works like a dog day and night. And not to mention when we began our real estate investment company five years ago, he single-handedly fronted all the start-up capital from his own savings and trust fund. It took me years to pay him back as the profits rolled in, and he never once made me feel lesser, or like I was in debt to him. Not to mention, he’s funny, well-off, and good looking. He’s an excellent wing-man. Plus he knows the best taco joints.

Unable to help myself, my eyes drift over to her again. 4B fills out a pair of yoga pants in ways that I doubt are even legal in most countries. I needed to know what was underneath those curve-hugging black athletic pants. Simple cotton panties, or a naughty g-string? Either way, I wanted to bury my fingers inside the waistband of those pants, peel them down her hips and find out. Perhaps it was because Hudson just made her forbidden fruit, but I wanted a taste. My damn mouth was practically watering.

She looked smart, and put together, despite her casual attire, including a tank top and tennis shoes. With a clipboard in one hand, and her trusty number two pencil in the other, she ticked items off of her list, and instructed the movers who were unloading and carrying boxes up to her new place – which just so happened to be directly underneath mine.

“You’re not going to last three minutes let alone three days.” Hudson grimaces, glancing over again at our newest resident.

“What do you know about her?”

He rolls his eyes, but humors me. “Emery Elaine Winters. She’s an attorney. Excellent references. Even better credit score, and she signed a one year lease. And she’s to remain in pristine condition, or so help me God …”

When I glance up at her again, I see Roxy, another of our residents has joined Emery on the sidewalk, and they appear to be making small talk. Shaking hands, exchanging words, and smiling at each other. There’s something I strongly dislike about these two women talking. Roxy is an exotic dancer, and she I have a bit of a rocky past. Which is a huge fucking understatement, but not something I care to dwell on now. Hudson mentions something about fourth quarter taxes, and I tune him out, sure I just heard my name on Roxy’s over-glossed lips.

“Excuse me, I’ve got business to attend to.” I step around him, heading straight toward my new prize. Roxy spots me, and takes off for the parking area.

“Where do you think you’re going?” Hudson calls after me.

“Just being neighborly. Someone’s got to properly welcome Miss Winters.”

“Dammit, Hayden,” I hear him shout.

“I’ve got this, buddy,” I shout back over my shoulder.

I can control myself around her. I have to, according to Hudson. I don’t like being told what to do, especially where my cock was concerned, and hell, it’ll probably only make me want her more, but as I close the distance between Emery and me, I make a plan.

Friends.

I would become friends with the so-hot-I-wanted-to-bend-her-over-and-fuck-her-in-broad-daylight new girl.

This was either the best plan I’d ever had, or would end with me sporting a black eye, courtesy of my best friend.

It’s go time.

 

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Screwed Teaser 3

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Author Kendall Ryan

Author Kendall Ryan

About the Author
Kendall Ryan is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of contemporary romance novels, including Hard to Love, Unravel Me, Resisting Her and When I Break.

She’s a sassy, yet polite Midwestern girl with a deep love of books, and a slight addiction to lipgloss.

She lives in Minneapolis with her adorable husband and two baby sons, and enjoys hiking, being active, and reading.

Where to Find Kendall Ryan
Goodreads | Website | NewsletterTwitter | Facebook | PinterestAmazon
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Chapter Reveal – Finding You (Love Wanted in Texas) by Kelly Elliott

Finding You Chapter Reveal

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, Kelly Elliott, is unveiling the cover and first chapter to Finding You, the fourth book in her new adult contemporary romance series, Love Wanted in Texas. Finding You releases on September 8, but you can pre-order now. See below for details on the book, pre-order link, and the first chapter.

Finding You (Love Wanted in Texas #4) by Kelly Elliott

Finding You (Love Wanted in Texas #4) by Kelly Elliott

About the Book
Title: Finding You
Series: Love Wanted in Texas #4
Author: Kelly Elliott
Release Date: September 8, 2015
Genre: New Adult Contemporary Romance
Links: Goodreads | AmazoniBooks

Synopsis
If Grace Johnson knew one thing at all, it was that all men were dirtbags.

All men … except Noah Bennet.

“I was lost in his eyes. Lost in his tears. My goal was to pull him out of the darkness … even if it dragged me in as well.”

If Noah Bennet knew one thing at all, it was he needed Grace Johnson.

Needed her … desperately.

“My pain was pulling me under … she was my only saving grace.”

Grace is willing to put everything on the line to help bring back the man she is hopelessly in love with. Even if it costs her the future she’s been longing for. “If finding you means losing a part of me … I’ll do it.”

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Finding You Full Cover

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Excerpt
*Subject to change before publishing* Unedited version*

Chapter One ~ Grace

I sat in the library as I rolled my neck around and let out a sigh. My mind had been pre occupied and I couldn’t afford to not be focused. I’d fallen behind in my classes when Lauren got sick.

Glancing back down at my book, I tried to read the words on the pages but my mind quickly drifted off to a memory of Noah and me.

***

Sitting back, I let the sun warm my face as Noah rowed the canoe.

“So are you going to just sit there while I do all the work, Grace?” Noah asked in a teasing voice.

“Yep,” I said with a smile.

Keeping my eyes closed, I could tell he had turned directions. Trying not to smile, I asked, “Are you getting tired, Noah? Was last night to much for you?”

Noah chuckled. It was the first night I’d stayed over at his apartment he shared with one other guy who also attended A&M. I wasn’t sure why I was keeping how close Noah and I were getting away from everyone. Maybe it was my way of keeping this relationship distant from my real world. That or I didn’t feel like answering Alex, Lauren, and Libby’s constant questions.

Whatever my reasons were, I pushed it from my mind.

“Baby, you could never be to much.”

Opening my eyes, I tilted my head and gave Noah a sexy smile. As hard as I tried to keep from falling in love with him, I fell deeper every moment we spent together.

“Is that a challenge?” I asked as I leaned forward, making sure to squeeze my arms together so my breasts showed just the right amount of cleavage since I only had a tank top over my swimsuit.

Lifting his eyebrows, Noah glanced over to the shore. When I looked over my shoulder, there was a small path. Noah paddled us over and jumped out. Reaching his hand out for mine, I placed it softly in his. The rush I got just from his touch about caused me to let out a moan. Stepping up onto the shore, I watched as Noah pulled the canoe up and grabbed my hand.

Leading me down the path, he pushed me against a tree and smiled at me.

“That is indeed a challenge. Let’s see if you can keep up with me now, Grace.”

My heart dropped to my stomach as I fought back those three words.

Lifting me up, Noah pushed his hard dick into me as I gasped. Desire pulled in my lower stomach and I was ready for anything Noah was going to give me.

Except for the three little words he was clearly not afraid to say.

“I love you, Grace.”

My mouth parted open slightly as I whispered back, “I love you too, Noah.”

***

My phone buzzed on the table, pulling me from my memory.  Glancing down, I saw it was Alex.

Alex: Hey. I’m finished with classes today. Want to go grab some food?

Me: Where’s your hubby?

Alex: Sleeping. We both have been trying to get caught up on classes.

Letting out a laugh, I nodded my head at my phone.

Me: I love Lauren, but she screwed this semester up!

Alex: Right? So food or not? I’m starving and my baby wants food.

Me: I’ll meet you at Fuego’s.

Alex: Yes! I was hoping you’d say that. See you there in a few.

Smiling, I stood and gathered up my books. Turning to head out of the library, I came face to face with Doug Richards.

“Hey, Grace.”

My eyes traveled over his body as I suppressed the moan I wanted to let out. Damn he was fine as hell and it had been to long since I’d had sex. My mind had been filled with memories of Noah and I was horny as hell.

Noah.

Pushing all thoughts of Noah away, I smiled as I quickly gave my lower lip a seductive bite and purred, “Hey, Doug.”

Doug’s eyes lit up. I’d always been friendly with Doug, but this was the first time I’d ever put a little bit of something more into my normal Oh hey Doug how’s it going.

Seeing Noah at the hospital with his new wife only proved to me that I needed to move on. I couldn’t shake the way Noah had looked at me though. I swear I saw the same look in his eye as I saw the first night he made love to me. Actually, the first time he ever looked at me I saw the passion.

“Plans for tonight?” Doug asked as he ran his fingers lightly up and down my arm. My body shook with the idea of being with someone. I needed a good hard fuck to pull me out of this funk. What would one mindless one-night stand do?

It would at least ease the throb between my legs. I’d gone through to many vibrators. I was ready for the real thing.

Licking my lips, I winked. “I believe you’re picking me up around eight? Taking me to dinner and then a little bit of … dessert afterwards.”

The smile that spread across Doug’s face caused me to smile. “I like that plan.”

My eyes roomed his body as they landed on his lips. Hopefully he was a good kisser. He had big shoes to fill.

Reaching into my purse, I took out a pen and grabbed Doug’s arm as I wrote down my address. “See ya at eight handsome.”

The second I turned to walk away I wanted to spin around and tell him to forget it. That I forgot I had plans with a friend. Worry my lip, I continued to walk toward the exit door.

No, Grace. It’s time to move on. What I needed was one evening of pure fun and Doug was the one who was going to provide it. Noah was married and I needed to stop feeling sorry for myself. What we had shared was amazing and I let it spoke me. I pushed away the only man I’d ever truly loved.

It was time to move on.

Tonight I was getting laid.

***

“What do you mean you have a date?” Alex asked with a stunned look on her face.

I took a bit of my taco and shrugged my shoulders. “You know, Alex. That thing you do when you’re single and haven’t had normal sex in I don’t know how long. Even my vibrator wants me out of the house.”

Alex giggled as she quickly looked around. “You’re terrible, Grace Hope Johnson.”

Shrugging my shoulders, I said, “Hey, you’re getting dick every night. I wonder if I should get a Brazilian wax?”

Laughing, Alex shook her head. “That was random as hell.”

“I just got to thinking, I think I want my hoo-ha to smooth for tonight.”

Alex started choking on her taco. “What? Grace, you can’t do that today and then have sex tonight?”

Pulling my head back in a shocked expression, I asked, “Why not?”

“Have you ever had anything waxed on your body before?”

Tilting my head, I thought about it. “Nope, I can’t say that I have.”

Leaning in toward the table, Alex motioned for me to come closer. “Grace, it hurts like hell to get waxed for the first time. I don’t think you want your hoo-ha to be tortured before you dive back into the whole sex thing again. I mean I get the whole, I just want mindless sex thing, but do you really want to mistreat her like that all in one day?”

About to state my case, I heard someone clear her throat. Alex and I both turned to see a mom staring at us with her daughter sitting there with her mouth dropped to the table. Smiling, I said, “I’m not going to have mindless sex tonight … well actually I am but I always use protection and… ouch!” I called out as I felt a stabbing pain in my shin from where Alex kicked me. Turning back to her, I yelled, “What the hell, Alex?”

Alex eyes were widened as she shook her head. “Grace, stop talking.”

The mother stood and motioned for her daughter to follow as Alex sat back and moaned, “Great, some mother I’m going to be.”

Letting out a laugh, I shook my head and said, “You’re going to be a kick ass mother. Just like Ellie. Hey, so we never really got to talk about how your parents and Will’s parents reacted to the big baby news.”

Alex, shrugged her shoulders. “I think they were all in shock. My father biggest worry was school. I’m so glad we’re all graduating this December.”

Taking a bite of my taco, I nodded my head. “Yeah, I’m glad too.” After swallowing the taco, I worried my bottom lip. I had been trying to figure out how to ask Alex if she had changed her mind about our plans.

Alex reached across the table and took my hand in her hand. “The baby doesn’t change anything, Grace. I want to still follow our dream of opening up Wild Flower. We’ve been dreaming of opening a flower nursery for years. Nothing is going to change that.”

I instantly felt my body relax. Our whole focus throughout school had been to open a nursery between Fredericksburg and Mason. The news of Alex having a baby had scared the piss out of me. Smiling, I said, “I’m not going to lie, I thought I might be doing this on my own and I was scared as hell.”

Letting out a chuckle, Alex shook her head. “No way. Will and I have already talked about it. I fully intend on pursuing our dream, Grace.” Shrugging her shoulders, she said, “Besides, we will own the place! I can bring the baby. She learn to dig in the dirt probably before she learns to walk.”

Sitting up straighter, I let out a gasp. “Oh my gosh! We can build a little baby nursery besides your office. I mean, I’m sure y’all will have more kids in the future. I bet my dad or your dad could easily add that into the design. Move that storage space somewhere else.”

Alex’s eyes lit up as she nodded her head. “Grace, that’s a great idea! This will be perfect for both of us.”

Narrowing my eyes, I let out a confused chuckle. “How is a baby room perfect for me?”

Giving me a sly smile, Alex said, “For when you have kids.”

Nearly choking on my tea, I held up my hands. “Whoa! Whoa! Holy hell woman! Don’t even speak such words. This girl has no plans for kids in the near future. Fuck, I’m not even having sex and the last time I checked … you can’t get knocked up from a vibrator.”

Alex looked around as she put her finger up to her lips. “Why do you have to talk so loud?”

“Why do you have to say such things? My God! There is already something in the water with you and Libby both getting pregnant. I’m sure Lauren is probably going to be announcing something in the next few months. Well …  no thank you. I’m not having kids any time soon.”

Alex’s eyes looked sad. “Grace, do you not want kids?”

My heart instantly hurt as I plastered on a fake smile. “Someday I’m sure I’ll want kids. Right now it is the furthest thing from my mind. All I want right now, Alex, is to move on and have a good time.”

“Grace, I talked to Noah the day Lauren got out of the hospital. He desperately needs to talk to you.”

Swallowing hard, I fought to hold back my tears. “W-what did he say?”

Shaking her head, Alex said, “He asked how Lauren was and then for your number. I gave it to him. He said he needed to talk to you.”

Feeling my entire body start shaking, I quickly stood up. “Why would you give him my phone number, Alex? He’s married for Christ’s sake! Besides, it’s been over two weeks since Lauren left the hospital. He must not be that desperate to talk to me. Damn it, Alex. Why did you give him my number?”

Alex motioned for me to sit down. “Grace, just give me one second to explain.”

Grabbing my food and drink, I glared at Alex. “I have to go, I have to head home and grab a book a forgot and head to class.”

“Grace! Let me finish talking!” Alex called out.

Racing to the door, I pushed it open and quickly dragged in the fresh air. Glancing at my watch, I sighed. I was going to be late for class now. Quickly making my way to my car, my phone buzzed. Pulling it out of my purse, I saw it was Alex.

Alex: I didn’t mean to upset you. It’s just he seemed desperate. You really need to talk to him, Grace.

Rolling my eyes, I threw my purse and phone onto the passenger seat and headed back to the house I shared with Alex and Will. Now that Luke, Libby, Lauren, and Colt had moved out it seemed cold and empty all the time. Even when they did live there, I spent more time at Noah’s place than I did at home. Well, at least I did until I freaked out and pushed him away.

Wiping my tears away, I concentrated on thinking about nothing but my date tonight with Doug. I’ll deal with Alex later. Right now I needed to push Noah Bennet far from my memory. I needed to move on and this date tonight was long over due.

Copyright Kelly Elliott 2015

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Love Wanted in Texas Series

Love Wanted in Texas Series

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Author Kelly Elliott

Author Kelly Elliott

About the Author
Kelly Elliott is married to a wonderful Texas cowboy who has a knack for making her laugh almost daily and supports her crazy ideas and dreams for some unknown reason…he claims it’s because he loves her!

She’s also a mom to an amazing daughter who is constantly asking for something to eat while her fingers move like mad on her cell phone sending out what is sure to be another very important text message.

In her spare time she loves to sit in her small corner overlooking the Texas hill country and write.

One of her favorite things to do is go for hikes around her property with Gus….her chocolate lab and the other man in her life, and Rose, her golden retriever. When Kelly is not outside helping the hubby haul brush, move rocks or whatever fun chore he has in store for her that day, you’ll find her inside reading, writing or watching HGTV.

Where to Find Kelly Elliott
Goodreads | Website | Twitter | Facebook | Amazon
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Chapter Reveal – Call Sign Karma by Jamie Rae

Call Sign Karma Chapter Reveal

Author Jamie Rae, is revealing Chapter one of her new adult contemporary military romance, Call Sign Karma. See below for information on the book, buy links, a couple of teasers, and Chapter 1.

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Call Sign Karma by Jamie Rae

Call Sign Karma by Jamie Rae

About the Book
Title: Call Sign Karma
Author: Jamie Rae
Release Date: January 5, 2015
Genre: New Adult Military Romance
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | Kobo

Synopsis
Love in the no-fly zone…

Distraught over the loss of her brother in a fighter jet accident, Tinklee Pinkerton decides to follow in his footsteps and prove the tragedy wasn’t his fault.

But when she’s chosen as the first woman to fly the Air Force’s F-35, her plan for a life that revolves around work is thrown off course by a handsome, mysterious stranger…

Thanks to Locke’s seductive British accent, sweet nature, and one too many beers, Tink is soon inspired to throw caution to the wind and herself into his arms.

She thinks maybe love can heal after all—until she discovers Locke is her superior officer. Tink has no problem risking her life in the air, but with everything on the line, is she brave enough to risk her heart on the ground?

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Call Sign Karma Teaser 1
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Excerpt

Chapter 1

There was zero chance of survival—for either of us.

The thought caused my insides to twist as I stood, paralyzed staring at the blazing inferno. I watched in shocked horror from the window of the control tower as the jetfueled flames fed on his body, still strapped inside of the cockpit.

Tonight the distant flames were from a bonfire that danced happily in celebration of a holiday, but their flames were close enough to ignite the memories. Memories that still fueled my nightmares. A familiar chill skated down my spine.

I slammed down the beer bottle on the table next to me and looked away from the flames. Sweet honey lager splashed out and onto the cover of my tablet that sat on the edge of the table.

The tablet called to me. I couldn’t help but reach for it, my shaking hand nearly knocked over the beer bottles that surrounded it. My index finger hovered over the screen. The damn arrow glowed as if challenging me to touch it.

Go ahead Tink, watch me one more time.

I swallowed the boulder-sized lump in the back of my throat as I accepted the dare. My finger tapped the start button and instantly dropped me in the middle of the nightmare that had consumed and wrecked my life.

“Altitude. Altitude. Pull up. Pull up.” The unemotional, mechanical female voice of the jet’s warning system rang out.

Her words rattled in my head like a pinball looking for its escape. I studied the altimeter screaming toward two thousand feet.

“Pull up,” her empty voice commanded. Each time she repeated those words, my stomach lurched. That voice, that command, still haunted me.

I squeezed my eyes closed unable to stop from reliving that day in the tower and how her robotic tone had sent everyone into a panic. I stood frozen, unable to do a damn thing as the jet continued its nosedive.

My own weight crushed me as if I were being pushed down by the forces of a hard turn in the cockpit. I gasped for oxygen, my lungs rebelling as the image of the jet pitched down. I began counting between breaths to keep from passing out the way they had taught us in pilot training.

Three.

The sound of calm breaths from video filled the air. The ground rushed closer as the jet blitzed toward fifteen hundred feet.

“Pull up,” the voice repeated. “Pull up.”

Two.

I leaned forward and my lips parted as if I were going to retch, but nothing spilled out. I forced each breath to prevent me from blacking out like Colin. His calm, sleeplike breaths seeped from the tablet’s speakers, haunting me in its wavelike rhythm. I held the tablet tight in my hands. The breaths were the last sound that I’d ever hear from him.

“Pull up! Pull up!”

A giant green arrow flashed across the video. It acted as a forewarning of the jet’s impending impact. My entire body shuddered as adrenaline thrust through my veins.

I wanted to choke the aloofness from her tone. To the jet’s warning system it was just another jet. To me, it was my world coming to an end. She may as well have tacked the word ‘idiot’ onto her feeble attempt of a warning.

The military Humvees scrambled on the screen like cockroaches escaping the light. I was paralyzed. I couldn’t do anything to prevent it from happening then. Why did I still hope I could stop it now?

“Pull up!”

I closed my eyes.

It was too late.

“Pull up!”

One.

I opened my eyes. The ground rush on the display was exactly how they described it in pilot training; the world blossomed as earth ripped through to meet you in the cockpit.

Her vacant voice instructing him to pull up was the last thing to ring out right before my life shattered. Everything exploded into a bright blinding haze on the screen with a blaring detonation. The blood cooled in my veins. I flipped the tablet cover and traced my still trembling finger along the lines of the worn material. I had stolen the video from my father’s files the night after the funeral. I had watched it a thousand times, each time reliving the horrors of that day.

But tonight, once was enough.

Tonight, I had to figure out how the hell I was going to climb into the cockpit and fly the jet that killed my brother.

* * * *

The annual Fourth of July fireworks filled the sky right on cue. Red sparks showered down as the blue lights twirled across the backdrop of an onyx sky. It used to be our favorite family tradition.

A wave of guilt washed over me then pooled deep in the pit of my belly. How was it fair that I was standing here watching the fireworks, while Colin was buried six feet deep?

The reflection of the flashing lights off the ocean blinded me. High pitched screams and loud blasts shook the windows behind me as I leaned on the banister of my deck, watching the show, alone. The silver ones that whistled were Colin’s favorite.

My heart pounded at the thought of my tenderhearted brother. I squeezed my eyes tightly together to try to force out tears, but nothing fell. Not a single drop. I had cried so much that I had become numb to the pain.

My phone vibrated in my back pocket, interrupting the fireworks display. The ringtone of magical chimes followed. I sighed loudly—this was not a call I wanted to take.

Ignoring my mom wouldn’t make her go away. It would only make her more determined. It was like she had a beacon implanted in my brain to know when I was thinking about my Colin’s accident. I pulled my phone from the back pocket of my cutoff jeans and growled.

Pink 1 flashed across the screen.

My thumb hovered over the ‘Off’ button, but I couldn’t bring myself to press it.

She would know that I had dismissed her call. My mother knew everything, except when I didn’t want to talk, or maybe she knew, but that still wouldn’t stop her until she ‘heard my voice’. It had gotten even worse since Colin’s death.

A chime alerted the arrival of a new text message.

I forced myself to look at the screen and read the words—He loved you.

I let out a long drawn out breath. Her words were always the same.

I picked up the bottle of sweet brown lager and gulped it. All of it. I reached for another. I twisted off the lid, and spun the tiny metal cap across the deck. I wanted to feel Colin’s pain and grief for a life he’d never have. But I couldn’t shed any more tears. I was empty. Broken. There was nothing left of me. The only thing that kept me putting one foot in front of the other was the determination to prove that his death was not due to pilot error. I would prove it, or die trying.

The phone buzzed again.

Pink 1.

I swallowed another drink before I surrendered and answered the call. “Hey, Mom.” I said, my voice higher than usual in a failed attempt to mask my misery.

“You okay?” she asked with her usual cautious tone.

“Yeah, I’m great. I’m heading to Krusty’s for dinner,” I lied. “Can I call you tomorrow?”

“I wanted to hear your voice, sweetie, and wish you luck.”

Luck? I needed a helluva lot more than luck. Tomorrow, I started training to fly the jet that cremated my brother.

“Thanks, I’m excited,” I said as another lie slipped off my tongue. It was becoming easier to fib to my mother. They just popped out one after another. I was never dishonest as a child, but now it felt like I never told anyone the truth. “I’m looking forward to getting started.” The words sounded sweet, but I’d need another lager to wash out the bitter taste. So much for being a pillar of honesty.

“Oh, Tinklee, you are such a liar,” my mother said. “I know you’re nervous. Who wouldn’t be? I’ll be there, in spirit, and so will he.” Her voice was warm and tender, as if she were smiling through her tears. She sniffled loudly. She was okay with her tears.

“Okay, I’m losing the connection. I gotta go.”

“I can tell you don’t want to talk so I won’t keep you. I’ll see you soon. And remember sweetie, keep your circle—”

“Stop Mom, I’m twenty-two, enough with the positive affirmations.”

She ignored my plea, “If you keep your circle positive, you’ll attract good Karma.”

I rolled my eyes and held back a sigh out of respect to the woman who spent thirty-six hours in labor for me.

“Besides, age doesn’t matter. I love you, baby girl. You’ll always be my little Tinklee,” she said. Her voice danced when she emphasized ‘little’ and ‘Tinklee.’

I couldn’t help but cringe. She’d screwed me with that one.

A blond-haired, blue-eyed fighter pilot trying to make it in a man’s world couldn’t be taken seriously with the name Tinklee Pinkerton.

Good job, Mom. You rock.

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Call Sign Karma Teaser 2
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Author Jamie Rae

Author Jamie Rae

About the Author
JAMIE RAE is a New Adult and Young Adult author. She writes with one goal in mind–create stories with a positive message that will stay with the reader long after they’ve finished reading.

Jamie is an avid reader and loves discovering stories with a great hook, though she will not eat, sleep, or speak until she reaches the end. The Harry Potter years weren’t pretty!! Convinced that her Hogwarts letter was lost in the mail, she keeps a watchful eye for owls hoping her children will have better luck!

In her other life, Jamie Rae is an orthodontist, and literary agent. She keeps her heart overflowing with love as a mother of three and has perfected the art of nomadic living as a military spouse and Air Force veteran. Jamie has a passion for critters of all shapes and sizes and you can often find her sneaking them into her own home or volunteering for rescues.

Where to Find Jamie Rae
Goodreads Website | Twitter | Facebook
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Chapter Reveal + Sale – Beautiful Little Fool by K.K. Hendin

Beautiful Little Fool Sale

Welcome to the Chapter Release and Sale event for Beautiful Little Fool by K.K. Hendin. Beautiful Little Fool is an adult contemporary romance and the eBook is on sale now for just $0.99. See below for information on the book and a read Chapter 1 now.

Beautiful Little Fool by K.K. Hendin

Beautiful Little Fool by K.K. Hendin

About the Book
Title: Beautiful Little Fool
Author: K.K. Hendin
Release Date: June 22, 2015
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | iTunes | Kobo

Synopsis
Eighty seven billion dollars. One dead New York business mogul. No heirs. No wives. No relatives.

Eighty seven billion dollars. Not hers yet. He doesn’t deserve them. He doesn’t know what to do with them. She does. She always has.

Eighty seven billion dollars. He’s overwhelmed. She’s prepared. That will should have had her name. Not his.

Eighty seven billion dollars. His looks are a bonus. Her looks are her weapon. He’s fighting a losing battle against his heart. He doesn’t know it yet.

Eighty seven billion dollars. She gets everything she wants.

He’s what she wants.

Love has nothing to do with it.

To get to where you’re going, sometimes you need to step on a few people to get there. Good thing her heels are sharp.

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Beautiful Little Fool Chapter Reveal

Chapter 1
Everyone wanted Cedar Reynolds. Everyone wished they were her. There was not a person alive who knew about Cedar and didn’t wish somewhere deep inside, maybe when nobody was looking, that they could one day be even a quarter as cool as Cedar was. To have her confidence, her fearlessness, her style. Goddamn, that girl was so ahead of the game that Anna Wintour would base the season’s trends on Cedar.

She was the perfect combination of open and mysterious, of fun and serious, of silly and sexy. She ruled Manhattan with a smile and while wearing six inch heels.

Cedar Reynolds was everything you wanted. She was a fireball of success. But like fire, if you got too close, you would burn.

Nobody is fireproof.

Not even Cedar Reynolds.

All everyone could talk about was Harold Feingold’s impending death. In hushed whispers, behind closed doors, using code words when out and about. It was how things like that were done. Just walking around and taking bets as to when one of the most powerful men in Manhattan would die was a terrible idea, no matter what way you looked at it. But he was dying, and they were talking.

With the fame that comes from holding nearly a monopoly on hotels in New York and being rumored to have connections to every group of organized crime in the city and a few unorganized groups as well, people are going to talk.

Harold Feingold was the American dream personified. There were three authorized biographies of his life, and he wasn’t even dead yet. If he equally distributed his money to every person living in Manhattan, they would all become millionaires. Not that he ever would, though. Harold Feingold was a believer in hard work for everyone. That old rich man who would spew vitriol about the homeless ruining the landscaping of his city because they were too goddamned lazy to get a fucking job? That would be him. And when you’re worth more than one billion dollars, you can say the sky is green and people are going to listen.

And now he was dying, because that’s what old bitter men eventually do. The poison that powered their lives finally catches up to them, and at the end, they’re nothing but shriveled skin and brittle bones and so many private sighs of relief. People hoped that Feingold would go that way. Old and frail, soiling himself and in general being an embarrassment to society in general would be a rather fitting way for him to go, but there he was. Incredibly ill, but with an iron back and the same fucking grin on his face when he efficiently and effectively destroyed your life.

But he was dying, which was the point, and also the question. Harold Feingold was the richest man in the whole damn state of New York, and he had no descendants. He had three ex-wives, all of whom he paid ungodly amounts of money to look and act like an ex-wife of his would look—rich, beautiful, successful, but just not quite good enough for him. Three ex-wives, and no children or stepchildren. There were rumors about illegitimate children, but nobody knew for sure.

All that money.

All that power.

And nobody had a fucking clue where it was going to go.

That’s how Harold liked it. And that’s how it stayed until the day he died.

And then all hell broke loose.

Cedar’s job as the curator and hostess at the Feingold Gallery of Exceptional Art had her waking up long before she wanted to. Sleeping in until nine was unheard of for her, unless she was somewhere on vacation. Even though the gallery didn’t open until eleven, Cedar was up and out long before then. When you’re New York City’s reigning queen, you never walk around with a hair out of place, with a nail chipped, or God forbid, in last season’s clothing.

But today was different. Cedar had gotten the phone call at six in the morning, hours before she normally woke up. She was at home, as always, even though she had been out the night before with Lawrence, who was still trying to get her to make things more permanent. And even though he was a Foster-Herrington, he wasn’t worth the trouble that would come along with a relationship. Not to mention he wasn’t nearly good enough in bed to make up for having to date him.

Her private line rang as she was headed toward her gym. Her private line, a number that only five people had.

“Cedar?”

It was Mr. Morris. Which could only mean one thing, because Mr. Morris never called. Ever.

“No,” Cedar whispered, her voice still hoarse from waking up.

“I’m sorry.”

“Dammit.”

“He passed away fifteen minutes ago. I called you as soon as I can.”

“Dammit.” Cedar clutched the phone tightly. “How could he?”

“I know.”

But he didn’t know, the idiot. How could he?

“He left instructions for a funeral,” Mr. Morris continued, his voice rough from a lack of sleep. He was Harold Feingold’s lawyer, which was more of a full time job than he had ever imagined it would be. The old bastard was dead, and he was still working around the clock. “He wanted you to arrange it.”

“He mentioned it to me,” Cedar said. “Earlier this week.” Dammit, why did he have to die today? Could the timing possibly be more inconvenient than it was now? Harold never gave a shit about inconveniencing others, but neither did Cedar. It was one of the reasons she liked him—genuinely liked him, and didn’t just tolerate her for where she got because of him.

“Excellent. Are you going to be at work today?”

“Of course.” Cedar headed to the gym. There was no point in throwing her schedule off entirely because someone died.

“I’ll send over the information for the funeral arrangements he wanted you to take care of.”

“Of course.” Cedar programmed the treadmill and started to walk.

“I’m sorry for your loss, Cedar,” he said awkwardly.

“I’m sorry for yours,” she replied, and almost meant it.

The gallery opened at ten on Tuesdays, and Cedar was there, fifteen minutes before, making sure everything was perfect. Some of the girls didn’t understand why Cedar insisted on having a job—hell, she had more than enough money already, and who wanted to wake up that early? But running the most coveted art gallery in New York was more than just a job for Cedar, it was how she kept her title as the Queen of New York City. The Feingold Gallery was the most exclusive art gallery in the entire city, if not in the entire country. And the only people who okay’d new pieces of art or new artists for the gallery were Harold and Cedar.

Having all that power made up for the early mornings and the sometimes very dreary and pointless days at work.

Traffic was terrible on the way to work, which could only be a bad sign about the rest of the day. Already, text messages were pouring in, sending condolences to Cedar, letting her know how sorry they were and if there was anything at all they could do to help her, she should just let them know. Most of the texts were pure bullshit, and if Cedar actually did need help, she would never dare to ask them. But the thought was nice, even if the thought was just that she should still think they were nice and wonderful people.

Cecil was already waiting for her, holding a tray of coffee in one hand and typing frantically on his phone with the other one. “Oh my God, Cedar, are you okay?” he asked as she stepped out of her car. “I heard the news and then there was crazy traffic this morning.”

“I’m fine,” she said, pulling out the key to the enormous front door of the gallery. “And traffic was terrible.”

“You’ve never been earlier than I have been to work,” he said, following her into the building. “I was freaking out.”

Cedar rolled her eyes as she flipped on the lights. “No reason to freak out. I’m here now.”

“Should we do something today? Because of his death?”

Cedar shrugged. She had enough shit to do for this funeral. She didn’t have time for any whiny things today to mourn Harold’s death. He was dead. The end.

God, if only she knew what was on his will. She would make his damn funeral, she would follow all his fucking instructions, she would pretend to cry at his funeral, and maybe then she’d learn what was in his will. If she had to fuck Mr. Morris to do it, she would.

“We’ll see,” she said. “Maybe we’ll change the decoration or something.”

“Put black fabric on all the mirrors?”

A bit overdramatic, yes, but maybe that’s what they needed.

“Maybe.” Cedar hung up her coat and put her bag down on her desk. “Check to see what kind of fabrics we have. Also, I want an inventoried list of all the artists displaying here now.”

“Do you want their social medias to be checked?”

“Obviously,” she said briskly. “They should constantly be checked, Cecil. You know that.”

“That I do, and they are.” Cecil placed the cup of coffee he bought for her on her desk. “You have an appointment at ten fifteen today. With Morgan Hyvent.”

“Which magazine is she from again?”

“Vogue. It’s for the article they’re writing about you.” Cecil had gotten dressed with extra care today. He always did—he worked in the mecca of art in the most fabulous city in America. And even though the clientele here was nothing but the most powerful, it wasn’t every day that someone from Vogue came. It was too bad it wasn’t Anna herself, but she didn’t go around interviewing folks for her magazine. Even if it was Cedar Reynolds.

“Well, then, we need to have the fabrics up before then.” Cedar checked the time and winced. Goddamn traffic this morning was fucking up her plans for today. Not to mention the fucking funeral she was going to have to plan. Not like she couldn’t do something like that in her sleep—she definitely could. But the issue was that she had to, that it had to be more perfect than anything she’d ever done, because the stakes were higher than they’d ever been.

Whoever would inherit was probably going to be there, she thought.

Which meant that the stakes were a hell of a lot higher than they were before. As if they could possibly be any higher.

Billions of dollars were at stake here. Not just billions, but her reputation. And Cedar was hard pressed to figure out which one she wanted more, the billions or the reputation. She wanted both, obviously. She wasn’t stupid. If she was stupid, she would never have gotten to where she was right now.

“We’ve got three different kinds of black,” Cecil said, spreading them carefully on the desk. “All of them completely cover the mirrors, and this one was the most expensive.” He pointed to one. “I think your dress was made from this material.”

“Which dress?”

“The one you wore to Wanda’s opening.”

“Oh, that one.” The one that made every newspaper and magazine cover her dress and leave Wanda’s actual art as a side note. Didn’t make Wanda happy, but that was what happened when you didn’t take care of yourself. “Use that one, then.”

“On it.” Cecil bustled from the office, leaving Cedar alone in her office. Fucking finally. Cecil was okay—as an assistant he was the best that you could get in the business. He was just too damn cheerful and positive all the time, not to mention naïve. He worshipped the ground Cedar walked on—they all did. Which was great, but his naiveté was a pain in Cedar’s ass.

She walked through her office slowly, adjusting pictures here and there, and starting the coffee and tea. Coffee and tea in her office weren’t just a casual ask if someone wanted a drink, it was a calculated move. And Cedar was going to pull out all the stops when it came to Vogue journalists. Court them, flatter them, leave them in awe and writing an article dripping in praise for her. And if not? Well, that’s what was nice about having all of Manhattan at her beck and call. She could destroy anyone with a phone call, and if she had to destroy this one, she would. It would be far from the first time.

Cedar turned on her computer, rearranged her jewel covered pens, and took out her Filofax. She lit a candle, her signature scent, one that the company made special for her. They sold the Cedar candle, which she had designed, but wasn’t the one she used. Exclusivity was the key to impressing. If you couldn’t have it, and Cedar did, it was just an extra thing for her to use to lord over people.

Phone plugged in, on silent, turned just enough that the reporter would be able to see how often she got a message, but not close enough to be able to read any of it. Everything was calculated. Everything was always calculated. You didn’t end up the most feared woman in New York if you didn’t plan well.

And Cedar planned well.

The sun shone through the windows, forming a halo around Cedar’s hair when she sat in her chair. She was ready for the interview now, and she still had another forty five minutes to go.

She flipped through her Filofax, and found the page of notes she had taken when Harold told her he wanted her to organize his funeral. She had laughed at him then, because Harold was never going to die. He was too mean, too horrible, too powerful, to ever die. People like him never died—they just kept going and going.

Cedar was never going to die. Or age. Girls like her lived forever.

What was in the will? It was driving Cedar crazy, even though she would never, ever admit to it. The day at work had flown by—between the interview, meetings, and her and Cecil calling and calling and calling to arrange the biggest goddamn show of a funeral that New York had ever seen. And through the whole day, all Cedar thought about was the will.

He probably left money to his housekeepers, they had kept their mouths shut through a hell of a lot of the shit that comes along when you have more money than God. And just because he was dead, it didn’t mean he wanted anyone writing any tell-alls about working for him. Harold Feingold on paper was a saint, and nobody who worked for him was going to be the one to change that. Mr. Morris was hired for life, and he was hired to make sure nobody decided that Harold Feingold’s death would be a good reason to talk about what actually happened in the house.

Money to… who else? Cedar had no idea. Maybe some to charities, just so people wouldn’t talk. Some for the gallery, even though it had been earning its costs since Cedar had opened it.

But the bulk of it, she had not a fucking clue.

Cedar stripped in her bedroom, and walked to the connecting bathroom. The bathtub was already full, and she stepped in slowly, sinking into the bubbling foam. A glass of wine was on a tray, along with her vibrator, cucumber slices, and an eye mask. Her housekeeper had left a few minutes before, and Cedar was blessedly alone in her house. She was free for the evening, something she hadn’t planned on. But Harold’s death was more important than the party she was supposed to be going to tonight, and she had to show that.

She was going to soak in the bath until her skin pruned, she was going to drink wine, and she was not going to answer her phone at all. She could say it was because she was so upset about Harold’s death, but really, it wasn’t. He was old, and old people died. It was upsetting, yes, but not as upsetting as she made it out to be.

If she didn’t inherit at least a large share of his estate, she was going to be upset.

Upset was going to be the mildest word to describe how she would feel.

Cedar was twenty six years old, and had been close to Harold since the day she turned eighteen. Eight years of being his protégé and of being the only sort of confidant he had should be more than enough to inherit.

She sank back into the bubbles, but not enough to get her hair wet. She was going to relax for now. She could worry about everything later. She had time.

Sitting at her desk a little later that evening, Cedar did the same thing she did every night—something nobody knew she did, and that she would never even think about telling anyone. She Googled herself. Well, she didn’t actually Google herself as much as she logged into a secret account and checked the Google alerts for that day.

Being Cedar Reynolds was a full time job, and that included making sure that all the PR about her was positive. Some people said no publicity was bad publicity, but Cedar was not one of those people. Yes, bad publicity made people talk about you, but some things didn’t need to be publicized. And luckily, they weren’t.

Morgan had tweeted about their meeting today, which Cedar thought was kind of odd, but she was nothing but singing praises of Cedar and the gallery so it was okay. Talking about how strong Cedar was in the face of such a tragedy. The president had commented on Harold’s death, and was said to be coming to the funeral. Who the hell was saying that, Cedar wasn’t really sure, because she hadn’t heard back from anyone at the White House, and neither had Cecil. He would have let her know right away because that’s what she paid him money to do.

She scrolled through the rest of the Google alerts, finding nothing else interesting. One article about Harold mentioned her in the context of poor orphan Cedar, which made her roll her eyes and take down the name of the person who wrote the article. It was true that Harold had taken her under his wing when her parents were killed, but it wasn’t like she was a poor little orphan.

But she could play one if she had to. With things like that, she always played the victim, and was careful to make sure she did. People liked you more when they believed you had a vulnerable side. Cedar’s was complete and utter bullshit, but nobody had to know that.

She got out of the tub, hair piled on the top of her head, rivulets of water running down her stomach and collecting neatly onto the mat. There was nothing about Cedar that wasn’t neat. Nothing. And if there was, it was ruthlessly dealt with until it was no longer an issue.

Cedar wrapped herself up in her robe, and slid her feet into her slippers, a pair of silk lined heels. Flats were for peasants, and any potential heiress of the Feingold fortune was not a peasant. Her housekeeper was, though, if her outfit today was any indication. And the fact that she was working as a fucking housekeeper, for God’s sake. Cedar thought about possibly instating a uniform to her house staff, and wrote a note to herself, reminding her to talk to Jean-Paul about designing a uniform. She had a reputation to uphold, and having a housekeeper in shitty clothing was not a way to do it.

A few more phone calls and emails were sent before she went to bed, satisfied. The funeral wasn’t until the next week, but it was going to be the most amazing funeral that New York had ever seen.

It was raining on the day of Harold’s funeral. Everything was overcast, and just gloomy enough to drop a layer of grey on the city. “Appropriate weather,” said one sober news anchor the morning of the funeral, “to mourn the death of one of the biggest men of New York.”

It was appropriate, and it worked wonders for the mood, but it did nothing good for Cedar’s hair. She had her makeup artist come over early in the morning, and helped her with a face that said “I’m mourning the loss of a person very dear to me, but I look fabulous while doing it”. Her outfit was going to be reported in every major newspaper in the country, because that’s who she was. And so she dressed appropriately. And had memorized the eulogy she was going to give, which was mostly lies. But nobody really cared. The funeral wasn’t actually a place for people to mourn the death of Harold Feingold. The funeral was a place for people to reassure themselves of their importance and their place in society. Not just anyone was invited to Harold Feingold’s funeral, because not everyone was worthy. The journalists had a separate corded area to watch and observe but to never forget for even a second that they were never going to be good enough to actually be invited to anything like this. Cedar had made sure only the reporters she approved of were coming to the funeral, and the rest of the paparazzi were located behind a line of the best security guards money could get.

It wasn’t just a funeral. It was an event.

And even though nobody attending the funeral would ever admit to it, going to Harold Feingold’s funeral was the same as going to a showing at the Gallery. It wasn’t for the reason they said they were going, and even if it was something they normally wouldn’t have ever done, they were more than happy to go. Get dressed in an outfit that people wouldn’t forget, mingle with the right people, and glory in where you were in life.

If you had to buy an extraordinarily expensive piece of art or cry a few tears, well, that was the price of admission for these kinds of things.

The casket was there when Cedar made her way into the church, followed by the insistent flashes of the paparazzi, silently clamoring for the best angle of her. Cedar Reynolds was a commodity, and even the paparazzi knew that. So, she wasn’t an actress or a singer, or anything else like that, and even though she wasn’t a Rockefeller or Astor or Thames, she was Cedar Reynolds, and everything she touched turned to gold. They all knew she wasn’t to be trifled with, and none of them had the guts to even try. They knew what happened to those who did, and none of them wanted to go down that road.

Cedar had made sure to have the photographers positioned to get everyone’s best side and angle, and after she discretely posed for the pictures on the way into the church. Harold wasn’t Christian, but there was something about the Thames-Harrison Church that felt like it was the best place for him to be eulogized.

It was the most exclusive church in the city, and nobody could just come to the church, let alone throw a last minute funeral. But Harold was Harold and Cedar was Cedar, and the church was more than happy to offer the building for the occasion.

Stained glass windows filtered in murky light, lending the whole building a feeling of slight gloom. Candles flickered, and it seemed like the building itself was mourning the loss of Harold Feingold.

Cedar walked slowly up the aisle of the church, toward where Harold’s body was lying in its casket. It was a closed casket funeral, because Harold did not believe in death, or dead people. He was cremated, because he didn’t believe in organ donation, either, but there was a casket, nonetheless. It was something large to bury, because tossing ashes in the wind was crass and hippy, and Harold had been neither of those.

Cecil rushed up to Cedar. “Everything’s under control,” he said quietly. “The Mayor is running a little bit late because of traffic, but he’s supposed to get here soon.”

“He damn well better get here soon,” Cedar snapped. “Fuck traffic, he has a eulogy to deliver, and I will not delay the funeral because he decided not to leave early enough. Doesn’t he have a police escort or something?”

“I’m pretty sure that’s only the president,” Cecil said. “I’ll check.”

“You do that,” Cedar replied, and, remembering where she was, continued down the aisle in search of the preacher.

Cecil sighed and texted the Mayor’s secretary. Not on his private cell, where Cecil would send dirty texts, but on his official Mayoral phone. The things he did for Cedar, seriously. Going through the back door of the church instead of the front, and didn’t even get photographed by anyone. Which was a damn shame, because he had dressed to the nines today. He better get a serious bonus for this shit. He wouldn’t, though, because that wasn’t how Cedar worked. Which sucked, but on the other hand, he was probably one of the best paid personal assistants in the city. Cedar wasn’t necessarily nice to him, but she sure as hell paid enough to make up for it.

His phone buzzed. No police escort. Fuck, Cedar was going to rip off his balls.

Cedar glanced around the rapidly filling church with satisfaction that would never show on her face. The Mayor was going to be here in another three minutes, and everything was running according to schedule. As it should be. The seating plans emailed the night before was a stroke of genius, in her opinion. Everyone was sitting where she, and partially Harold, had decided, and hopefully nobody would think of doing anything stupid, like flirting with the people they were fucking in front of spouses. Any other event it was no problem, and added to the entertainment for the night, but that wouldn’t be tolerated today.

If the net worth of all the people in this church were added together, it would be enough to put a significant dent in the national debt. Significant. The air smelled of money, privilege, and power. This may have been New York, land of the immigrant and city of the diverse, but in this church, it was New York, land of stock options, and city of real estate deals with a side business of who even knew. In this church, diversity meant that the only people in the room whose net worth were under one million dollars were corded off and sitting with pads of paper and a pen, scribbling notes about everyone whose net worth was more than they could imagine making a year.

Good, thought Cedar. Good.

Mr. Morris came up to here. “Cedar.”

She inclined her head. “Morris.”

“The Mayor is here and should be seated in a few moments.”

Cedar checked her watch. Perfect. “Excellent. Vanguard is starting, he’ll make his way to the front now.”

The musicians were in place. The sun was struggling to break through the clouds and was failing miserably. Some of the most powerful people in the United States were sitting in the lush seats, waiting for the service to begin.

This is what money can get you, thought Cedar. This is what real power gets you. And even though death wasn’t a thing she was going to contemplate for herself anytime soon, this is what she was setting her sights on.

Tomorrow, the newspapers would be full of pictures. Magazines were rushing to get out special editions, eulogizing Harold and remembering all he’d accomplished.

Being sweet didn’t get you any of this. Being nice, actually nice? Those people were the ones who were still working as reception somewhere in Queens. Being honest? Actually honest? Those were the people who lost their businesses, whose homes had been bought by Harold and sold for a fortune.

This was what you got when you went after what you wanted.

She looked at Vanguard, and nodded slightly. The head of the New York City Stock Exchange walked to the front of the church, and cleared his throat. There was immediate silence, followed by the sound of the front door being shut.

“We gather here today to celebrate the life and mourn the death of Harold Feingold,” he began, his voice echoing through the church.

Cedar relaxed a little bit, and took out her handkerchief. The world was Cedar’s stage, and this was another scene she would nail.

It was raining when they lowered the casket into the freshly dug plot of ground. Cedar cried softly into her handkerchief, making sure her mascara didn’t run. The gravestone was already in place, since Harold had ordered it when he got his first diagnosis, and the image of the ten men on Harold’s board lowering his body into the open grave, with Cedar standing alone crying a few feet back would be the one splashed on every cover of every newspaper, magazine, and website for the next week.

“Saying Goodbye to a Legend”, read one headline.

“Mourning a New York Giant”, read another.

Cedar was fawned over in every article. Flowers began to pour into the Gallery from all corners of the country, and Cedar’s staff spent all week redistributing them to different hospitals, nursing homes, and homeless shelters.

The reading of the will wasn’t going to be for another two days, and Cedar was going to lose her shit if she didn’t figure out what was in the will sooner than that. Fucking Morris was a waste of time, he wouldn’t reveal anything. Which was why Harold hired him, but that wasn’t any help for Cedar.

Nobody knew. Nobody, although a lot of people thought they did. The media did nothing the week of Harold Feingold’s death but talk about him, Cedar, and speculate exactly who was in the will, and what they would inherit.

“Of course it matters who inherits,” Cedar was quoted as saying. “Harold had an incredible amount of businesses that need the right person to make sure they keep running and keep hundreds of New Yorkers employed.”

Did she care that it wasn’t going to be her that inherited it all? They asked. Rather rudely.

She had smiled, and told them that she had more than enough to do as it was, running the Gallery and bringing only the newest and freshest artists to the New York art scene. She didn’t have time for any sort of real estate business or such. If she did inherit? She’d make it work.

She was Cedar Reynolds, the magazines gushed. She could make anything work.

Twenty four hours before the reading of the will, and Cedar was biting heads off her staff left and right. Cecil sent out a mass text to all the staff members at the Gallery, telling them that the next shipment of flowers were to be sent to St. Mary’s, but only if the flowers were red. Subtext? Stay out of Cedar’s way. It was code red emergency, and nobody wanted to be caught in that.

The last time someone did, they were escorted out by security, and last the staff at the Gallery heard, they were still looking for a job. A year and a half later.

Cedar pressed five on her speed dial and listened to the phone ring until it went to voicemail.

Why the fuck wasn’t Morris picking up his fucking phone? Cedar resisted the urge to throw her phone through the window. Maybe it was an emergency. She’d called him twice already today, and had a perfectly legitimate excuse for both of those phone calls. Just because Harold was dead it didn’t mean that he could just ignore her like that. The fucking nerve.

She fumed, and put her phone very carefully back on her desk. If he wasn’t going to pick up, well then, she would deal with things her way. And tomorrow, she would be at the reading of the goddamn will, or she was going to break into his office and read the damn will herself.

Tentative knock on the door. Cedar gritted her teeth, and then relaxed. Fucking up your teeth because you were upset wasn’t worth it. “Yes?”

“It’s Cecil. Whitney called about her new piece, and wanted to know when she should ship it in.”

“When she should ship it in?” Cedar snapped. “Did you approve of it?”

Cecil looked horrified. “Of course not.”

“I didn’t think you did. I trained you much better than that.” Cedar shook her head and turned to her computer. “She’s going to have to be dealt with, that one. Fine, her last pieces sold well, but she is nowhere near a place where she can assume—assume!—that she could just send something in without me okaying it first.”

Cecil waited quietly. It was never worth it to interrupt Cedar when she was like this.

“Email her and tell her that she needs to follow protocol that she agreed to when she signed the contract, and send us pictures along with a detailed description. And that if she tried to be presumptuous like that, it would take us a bit longer to consider her new piece of work.”

“Of course, Cedar.”

“Good.”

“Would you like a cup of coffee?” Cecil asked, hesitant.

“No, but I would like a bottle of green juice.”

“Your usual?”

“Yes. And schedule an appointment for a massage for me at five, please.”

“Miguel?”

“Of course.”

“No problem.”

“There shouldn’t be a problem,” Cedar muttered as Cecil scurried away. This fucking will was driving her crazy. Why couldn’t he have just said something before he decided to up and die? How could she plan if she didn’t know what was going to happen?

She reached up and gently massaged her temples. By tomorrow evening, this would all be behind her.

Now, if she could just get through the next couple of fucking hours without killing someone. She was wearing silk. There was no way she’d be able to get blood off of this outfit.

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K.K.’s Beautiful Little Fool Street Team
You can join KK’s “Beautiful Little Street Team” now and immediately read chapter 1 from the book. Plus, there are contests and giveaways each week! Join, chat with us, and get an inside look at Beautiful Little Fool!

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About the Author
KK Hendin’s real life ambition is to become a pink fluffy unicorn who dances with rainbows. But the schooling for that is all sorts of complicated, so until that gets sorted out, she’ll just write. Preferably things with angst and love. And things that require chocolate. She’s the author of the NA contemporaries HEART BREATHS and ONLY THE GOOD DIE YOUNG.

THIS MUCH SPACE is the second book in her new series, TWELVE BEATS IN A BAR.

KK spends way too much time on Twitter (where she can be found as @kkhendin), and rambles on occasion over at www.kkhendinwrites.blogspot.com.

Where to Find K.K. Hendin
Goodreads | Website | NewsletterFacebook | Twitter
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Cover Reveal + Chapter 1 – Heart-Shaped Hack by Tracey Garvis Graves

Heart-Shaped Hack Re-Cover

New York TimesWall Street Journal, and USA Today bestselling author, Tracey Garvis Graves, is unveiling the cover to Heart-Shaped Hack, a contemporary romance releasing August 25, 2015. See below for information on the book, pre-order links, and a sneek-peek at Chapter 1.

Heart-Shaped Hack by Tracey Garvis Graves

Heart-Shaped Hack by Tracey Garvis Graves

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

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

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

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

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

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

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EXCERPT

© 2015 Tracey Garvis Graves
Heart-Shaped Hack

CHAPTER ONE

“The babies are going to starve,” Helena said.

“Don’t be so dramatic,” Kate replied. “No one is going to starve, least of all the babies.” But her pinched expression and the way she was jabbing at the keyboard as she refreshed the donations page on their website said otherwise. For the first time in the sixteen months since Kate had left her position as a corporate attorney to open the food pantry, she faced the heartbreaking prospect of turning hungry people away. She couldn’t stand the thought of letting down her regulars, especially the young mother of three who relied on the pantry to feed them.

The problem was that Kate’s nonprofit organization was not the only one in Minneapolis that needed help. Tomorrow was the first of September, and everyone was trying to stockpile whatever resources they could before they headed into the colder months.

“Let’s see,” Helena said. “We could rob a bank. We could pawn our valuables. You could sell your body on a street corner.”

Despite their dire circumstances, Kate cracked a smile. Helena had walked through the front door of the food pantry shortly after Kate opened and said, “I’m sixty-five, and they’re forcing me to retire from my job at the insurance company. My husband retired two years ago, and now he’s home all day. That’s too much togetherness for us. I have to find something to do outside the house, and you wouldn’t have to pay me much.” Kate hired her on the spot and had never regretted it.

She swiveled her chair toward Helena. “Why am I always the one who has to sell her body? Why can’t you sell yours?”

“Who do you think is going to bring in more money? A gray-haired grandmother of seven, or a willowy twenty-nine-year-old beauty? It’s a no-brainer.”

It was hard to argue with logic like that.

Kate had been so determined not to let down their clients that she’d resorted to begging her ex-boyfriend Stuart—who worked as the executive producer on an hour-long talk show on the local ABC station—to let her appeal to the public during the afternoon broadcast.

“Do you know how hard it is for me to be around you, Kate?” Stuart said when he received her call. “Do you ever think of that?”

“Of course I do. But this is really important to me.”

“I used to be really important to you.”

Kate remained silent. They’d been through this before.

He sighed in defeat. “Come in tomorrow. I’ll squeeze you in after the cooking segment.”

“Thanks, Stuart.”

The skirt had been Helena’s idea. “We need to do whatever we can to grab viewers’ attention.”

“You mean I need to do whatever I can.”

“Of course I mean you. You have great legs.”

On the day of the broadcast when Helena arrived at the food pantry, Kate said, “I don’t remember this skirt being quite so short. I’m actually a little worried about the type of viewer I might attract with it.” She tugged on the hem, pulled out her desk chair, sat down, and crossed her legs. “Can you see anything?”

“You’ll be fine unless you decide to recross your legs in the middle of the segment like Sharon Stone did in that one movie.”

“I can assure you I will not be doing that. The skirt is as far as I’m willing to go. I draw the line at flashing people, not even for the babies.”

Kate had paired the black-and-white houndstooth skirt with a black short-sleeve top and her favorite black heels. When she arrived at the TV studio, she ducked into the bathroom to check her teeth for wandering lipstick. Before she left the food pantry she’d applied a raspberry lip stain that Helena claimed looked stunning on her. That morning she’d curled her long dark hair and then brushed through the curls with her fingers so they draped across her shoulders and down her back in loose waves. She’d used plenty of mascara to play up her brown eyes. The extra primping made her feel a little like she was standing on a street corner, but she banished those thoughts. At this point, they needed all the help they could get.

After Stuart snaked the mic up the back of her top, his hands lingering on her skin in a way that made Kate feel sad, he positioned her on a stool and told her to wait for his signal. She kept her legs tightly crossed, and when the light on the camera turned red, he pointed at her and she began to speak.

“Good afternoon. My name is Kate Watts, and I’m the executive director of the Main Street Food Pantry. As we head into the winter months, our needs—and those of all local food pantries—will be greater than ever.”  Kate stared into the camera, imagining she was speaking directly to anyone who might have the means to help them.

“No child should ever have to go hungry, and many of our local residents depend on the food pantry to feed their families. I’m here today to personally appeal to you should you have the ability to help us in any way. The families we assist, and especially the children, depend on your generosity more than you could ever imagine. Thank you.” She ended the short segment with the food pantry’s telephone number and street address, and when Stuart gave her the all clear, she reached under her shirt for the microphone and handed it back to him.

“Thanks, Stuart,” she said, giving him a quick hug. “I really appreciate this.”

“Sure,” he said, looking over her shoulder as if there was something very interesting across the room. “Take care, Kate.”

That was yesterday, and so far only a few additional donations had trickled in. She and Helena spent the rest of the afternoon making calls to local churches and schools to set up additional food drives while continuing to monitor the donations page. Finally, at a little before three, Kate went into the back room to recount their inventory. It was the end of the month and they were down to their last cases of infant formula and baby food. Almost all of the canned vegetables had been depleted, and they were completely out of peanut butter and soup. If it was this bad now, Kate didn’t want to think about what might happen when budgets were stretched even thinner by holiday spending. Dejected, she was sitting on the floor, clipboard in hand, when Helena burst into the back room.

“I ran after him,” she said, gasping for breath. “But he was too fast. Boy am I out of shape.”

“Who did you run after?”

Helena tossed a brown paper bag to Kate and leaned over, resting her hands on her knees as she took in giant gulps of air.

“The man who dropped off the money. Seriously, I may need supplemental oxygen over here.”

Money?

Kate looked into the bag and blinked several times. “Did you lock the front door?”

“Yes.”

She turned the bag upside down and watched in disbelief as hundred-dollar bills rained down on the concrete floor. She counted it quickly. “There’s a thousand dollars here.”

Their website listed four levels for donations with amounts ranging from ten to one hundred dollars. There were higher amounts for corporations, but this was the largest donation they’d ever received from one person, and it was more than enough to replenish their shelves. Kate was already picturing herself pushing a giant cart through Costco. “Did he leave his name?”

“No. He walked up to my desk and said, “Give this to Katie. He must have seen you on TV yesterday.”

“Young? Old?” Rich?

“Young. Early thirties, maybe? Tall. Blondish-brown hair. He was in a real hurry to leave. I chased him out the door, but he jumped into the driver’s seat of an old blue car.”

“An old car? Are you sure?”

“I think it was old. It didn’t look like any car I’ve ever seen. It had stripes on the hood. And then he burned rubber.”

“Why would someone who drives an old car drop off a bag full of money?”

“I have no idea. But whatever the reason, he just saved us.”

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Read the First Five Chapters

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Author Tracey Garvis-Graves

Author Tracey Garvis-Graves

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

Where to Find Tracey Garvis Graves
Goodreads | Website | Facebook Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest
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Blog Tour – Excerpt + Giveaway – Ideal High by Valerie Ipson

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Welcome to the Ideal High blog tour. Ideal High is a young adult contemporary novel from Valerie Ipson. See below for information about the book, buy links, an exclusive excerpt, and details on her giveaway.

Ideal High by Valerie Ipson

Ideal High by Valerie Ipson

About the Book
Title: Ideal High
Author: Valerie Ipson
Release Date: February 24, 2015
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Smashwords

Synopsis
There’s no way Taryn’s taking Blake’s place as president of the student body. As soon as the memorial for him and six of their friends is over, she’s resigning as VP. Really.

Except people say the fire was no accident.

(She say it’s way too easy to blame someone who’s dead.)

When Taryn reads the writing on the wall, literally, the bathroom wall, she knows what it means. To get to the truth she has to come out from under her paisley comforter.

But, seriously, what stage of grief says Taryn has to be the one to fix what’s wrong at Ideal High? Maybe she’s the one who’s broken.

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Excerpt
Chapter 1

Whose idea is it to broadcast the super-size faces of those who died to the far reaches of the school’s auditorium? Everybody knows they’re gone. Why emphasize the obvious even for the sake of a memorial? And why no rain on this joyless day? Never a good Texas thunderstorm when you need one.

I force a glance at the pull-down screen behind me, but immediately turn to focus on the line where the ceiling meets the wall at the back of the room. I can’t bear to look into the crowd, but I can’t look at the screen either. A giant reminder that I will never see those faces again. Weeks of grief have left me numb, but I should have worn my hair down to give me something to hide behind. Just in case.

Light pours in through the ribbon of windows high along the back wall. It crisscrosses the podium, making me squint at the sheet of paper in front of me.

It doesn’t matter. I know the list by heart.

I blink through the glare and lean in to the microphone, not sure how loud I need to be. “Ashley Bannister.”

My voice echoes across the vast room. Plenty loud.

All eyes rivet on the screen and a kid from Drama Club tugs the rope of the school bell slowly and deliberately for maximum effect. It must have taken practice to get a perfect mournful clang.

The audience’s collective gaze swings to my right. To Chelsea standing at a matching podium, staring at her own list. She’s leaning heavy on her crutches, and on the podium, too. She needs both to keep her vertical, apparently. I’m just glad I don’t have to share the same half of the stage with her. As always, I need my distance. That hasn’t changed.

“Weston James Brown.” Chelsea’s lips tighten into a thin line. I’m amazed she gets the name out. The bell sounds again, even more slowly than the first time, and a chorus of sniffles and muffled sobs grows slightly louder.

I measure my breathing and tap my fingers along the edge of the sheet of paper in front of me. I have to keep my hands busy, distracted. Maybe if I keep moving I won’t think too hard about the next name.

I switch to rubbing my palms up and down the sides of my pants. I just can’t look at Kayla’s parents who sit with my mom and dad in the front row. I pause too long and the principal clears his throat behind me. Very cliché, Mr. Myers. Doesn’t he get that this is beyond difficult?

“Kayla … Marie … Carter.” I speak her name to the back wall then take up tapping on the podium again. But not so loud anyone can hear. So much for avoiding the faces on the screen. All that loops through my brain is Kayla’s wide smile.

Quit worrying, Taryn. Blake’s not getting back with Chelsea, Kayla had said that night after the party. I’ll go find him for you and you’ll see I’m right. Then she walked right back into the old Gin Co. building.

Why was I forced to do this? I’m not the one who should be speaking the names of the dead in front of all these people. The list reads like the school’s Who’s Who, and I have no business pretending I’m one of them.

Except for him. How many more names until his? I’d scanned both versions as soon as they were held out to us, snatching the one with his name among those highlighted. Chelsea has no right to it, to him. Not like I do. At least that’s what I tell myself.

The light flickers from behind me, so I know they’ve moved on to the next abnormous face. A face that should be in the yearbook, not on a screen at a memorial.

A moan rises from the second row, competing with the plaintive tones of the bell. Plaintive? Where’d that come from? Now I’m conjuring up junior year Vocab?

One of Chelsea’s crutches bangs against her podium. I can’t help shooting her a sideways glance. She’s still hunched forward. Definitely struggling and the service is just getting started.

Thankfully, I don’t have to maneuver crutches and the names in front of me. Still, I will it to be over. My knotted stomach begs for it, and the fetal-position imprint on my bed is only growing colder. Who knows how long Principal Myers will feel obligated to address the assembled after our part is done?

Chelsea finally speaks, but the name comes out in a hiccupped sob. The noise of a bump, then a scrape carry through the sound system when she adjusts her crutches again.

“Keisha Lambert.” I blurt it out when it’s my turn, afraid to get stuck on a name again. I shut my eyes and try to erase the image that the crowd views behind me. Her exotic-for-small-town, multi-color-ed cornrows and pierced eyebrow, her excitement at being named cheerleader last May.

Chelsea reads the next name, verbally struggling yet again. It’s understandable. She and Becca Martin were closer than sisters.

My throat tightens when I move in closer to the mic, but I’m determined not to lose it like Chelsea. Fixating on the list, I draw in a breath and the amplification of it hits the back wall. I cover my mouth, but it doesn’t hide my embarrassment. The faces of the crowd blur, and all I can see is Blake’s, creased with alarm as flames leap out of the building behind him.

Don’t turn to look at the screen. Say his name, but don’t look at his face. I hesitate, wanting — needing to. Wishing I could ask him the questions that plague me. They all start with “Why?”

Chelsea’s crutches bump and scrape again, sending javelins of adrenaline into the pit of my stomach. I drop both hands onto the podium in front of me. I suddenly need something to hang onto.

Just say it. Say his name loud and strong. He deserves that. My lips brush the microphone and I taste metal.

“Blake Austin Montgomery.”

His name erupts from my mouth and startles the crowd. The hushed crying and sniffling silences for a moment as if proper tribute to the late student body president mandates it.

Ignoring the looks from the audience, I clench the neatly-typed names on the paper into a fist. Relief surges through me now that my part of the program is over.

But it isn’t over, not really. The memorial is only the beginning of what was supposed to be the perfect senior year.

Blake, the object of my years-long crush, and I were a couple. Sort of.

We’d been elected student body officers — president and vice-president. We spent the entire last month of school sitting in homeroom eating doughnuts on the sly, discussing senior year. True, Blake had done most of the talking and me a lot of nodding, but he intended for us to be a couple, right? I was his date to Junior Prom. That has to mean something.

I head to my seat on the stage, avoiding Chelsea’s eyes as the too-tanned blonde hobbles over to drop into the chair next to me. The principal takes my place at the podium on the left.

“I want to thank these ladies for volunteering for this assignment.” He nods in our general direction, before addressing the audience. “As you know, Taryn Young will step into the position of student body president and Chelsea Manor as head of the cheerleading squad.”

Volunteered? Yeah, right. I stare at my shoes, afraid to look anyone in the eyes. I’m on stage by default. I’m the only one of the newly-elected class officers to survive the fire. But more than that I am a fraud. An abnormous fraud. An enormous abnormal fraud.

I would have never run for vice president if Blake hadn’t talked me into it. The position full-out scared me, but how could I turn him down? Ever since that day in homeroom when he first noticed the doughnut glaze on my shirt sleeves, I couldn’t tell the difference between dream and reality anymore. They were the same. Now I wish I could erase the nightmare, or better yet, rewind it all so the night of the Ideal Gin Co. fire never happened.

I squirm in my seat, trying to get comfortable as Mr. Myers’ words buzz through the sound system. No rewinds. No do-overs. Now I sit with the only other survivor of the fire in front of an auditorium full of people with questions. Why Taryn Young, they must be thinking? Why not my son or daughter, my sister or brother? No, just Taryn and Chelsea. A cruel reminder of those who hadn’t made it out alive.

Things like this don’t happen at my school. Not in a town called Ideal, Texas.

I half-listen as the principal begins his concluding remarks. “The first day of class is one week from today and counselors will be available. Line up outside Ms. McKinney’s door, no appointments needed. Our goal is to get things back to normal as quickly as possible. Let’s not forget,” he stresses, “here at Ideal High School we have a long-standing tradition of unity, pride, and respect. This will carry us through.”

I just want to crawl back into bed where only my pillow hears me scream.

“What about my brother?” A masculine voice coming from the side of the stage jars me. From the shadowed steps, the voice addresses the principal again. “You didn’t call out his name. Isn’t he good enough for your program?”

A figure steps into the stage lights. He wears faded jeans and a gray plaid shirt with sleeves rolled up and shirt tails hanging. The thud of cowboy boots punctuates his step as he edges closer to the podium opposite the principal. He’s about my age, and I can’t help noticing the square confidence of his shoulders, despite the pain that ruts his brow.

“My brother died in the fire, too.”

“Who’s that?” hisses Chelsea. She doubles over like she’s in pain, but maybe she’s just trying to get a better look. The same question seems to vibrate across the auditorium.

I fix my eyes on the intruder. I can’t wrap my brain around his claim. I know everyone who was at Ritter’s Crossing that night where the crumbling old cotton gin had stood for a hundred years before the fire destroyed it.

Mr. Myers takes a step toward the young man. “May I help you after the service? We’re almost finished here.”

“You can help me. You can have one of these pretty girls with their expensive clothes and neon-white teeth stand at the microphone and shout out Tim’s name.” The stranger’s voice breaks, but he continues, “He’s important, too, even though no one knows his name.”

“Son, please,” Mr. Myers begins again. “Let’s discuss this afterwards in my office. I’m sure we can clear up any misunderstanding.”

I sense movement among the faculty members sitting on the stage around me, but I don’t take my eyes off the stranger. Mr. Myers seems unruffled, but my mood moves quickly from confusion to irritation. Who is this guy? Who’s his brother?

“Let me do it. Then I’ll leave y’all alone.” He reaches the podium where Chelsea stood moments before. The mic’s movement grates through the sound system when he pulls it to him, and I slide to the edge of my seat. I have to admit, now he’s really got my attention.

“He was my younger brother. My only brother.” The guy turns away from the mic, momentarily pressing his left thumb and index finger to his eyes. Mr. Myers motions for the others to hold back as the young man continues. “Sure he was new, an easy target for bullies. But he was a student here.”

His words are half-whispers now where before he had been practically shouting. “Can’t you say his name? Can’t you give him even that much?”

The guy takes a deep breath. His next words echo across the room, calm and clear. “Timothy Wade Jenks.”

He turns, steps straight to the bell, and grabs the rope. Yanking it, he sends a single deafening bong reverberating across the room. He pauses, head bowed, then disappears down the same steps from which he came, leaving behind a brief, bewildered silence.

As the auditorium door closes behind him, the room erupts into chaos.

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Author Valerie Ispon

About the Author
Valerie Ipson loves her family…and reading, writing, genealogy, and Hershey Milk Chocolate Almond & Toffee Nuggets. She lives in Mesa, Arizona, and IDEAL HIGH is her debut novel.

Reading has always been a huge love in her life, but she never thought she’d be on the author side of a book. Valerie hopes she can give readers the same experience that she has enjoyed through the years while being curled up with a good book!

Valerie Ipson
Goodreads | Website | Twitter

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Giveaway
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