Welcome to the book blitz for REWIRED, a stand-alone young cyber thriller, by S.R. Johannes. See below for information on the book, buy links, an exclusive excerpt, and details on her giveaway. You can purchase the ebook for just $3.99 or read for free with Kindle Unlimited.
REWIRED by S.R. Johannes
About the Book – Read for Free with Kindle Unlimited.
Title: REWIRED Author: S.R. Johannes Publisher: Coleman & Stott Release Date: August 27, 2017 Genre: Young Adult Cyber Thriller Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU
Synopsis YA cyber thriller, ReWIRED, by Shelli Johannes-Wells (writing as S.R. Johannes), which offers a fresh and exciting new take on the genre, and could be described as Ally Carter’s HEIST SOCIETY meets THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO for teens.
Sixteen-year-old Ada Lovelace is never more alive and sure of herself than when she’s hacking into a “secure” network as her alter ego, the Dark Angel. In the real world, Ada is broken, reeling from her best friend Simone’s recent suicide. But online, the reclusive daughter of Senator Lovelace (champion of the new Online Privacy Bill) is a daring white hat hacker and the only female member of the Orwellians, an elite group responsible for a string of high-profile hacks against major corporations, with a mission to protect the little guy. Ada is swiftly proving she’s a force to be reckoned with, when a fellow Orwellian betrays her to the FBI. To protect her father’s career, Ada is sent to ReBoot, a technology rehab facility for teens…the same rehab Simone attended right before killing herself.
It’s bad enough that the ReBoot facility is creepy in an Overlook-Hotel-meets-Winchester-Mansion way, but when Ada realizes Simone’s suicide is just one in an increasingly suspicious string of “accidental” deaths and “suicides” occurring just after kids leave ReBoot, Ada knows she can’t leave without figuring out what really happened to her best friend. The massive cyber conspiracy she uncovers will threaten everything she cares about–her dad’s career, her new relationship with a wry, handsome, reformed hacker who gets under her skin, and most of all–the version of herself Ada likes best–the Dark Angel.
With a deliciously twisty plot, the topical bite of Cory Doctorow’s LITTLE BROTHER, ReWIRED delves into technology addiction, internet privacy, and corporate/government collection of data, as it vividly illuminates the universally human questions about ethics, privacy, and self-definition that both underpin these socio-political issues and dovetail with classic coming-of-age themes. Ultimately, ReWIRED is about the daily choices we all make about who we want to be, how much of ourselves we choose to share with others, and the terrifying risks and exhilarating rewards of being ourselves, online and off..
Excerpt #3 The lab smells like burned toast.
Fisher races back in the room. “Ada, I think this place is on fire. We gotta go.” When I finish uploading the files, he grabs my hand and yanks me out of the room.
We race down the hall and push through a door that leads us to an empty stale room with nothing but a mahogany fireplace in one corner. The small space is already filling with thick, black smoke, and the heat is unbearable. When I glance back, the steel door starts to turn red from the intense temperatures.
This must be what hell feels like.
Fisher tugs on my sleeve. “This place is going to torch quickly. It’s a freakin’ tinderbox.”
And he’s right, the place is already blazing with fire. My eyes burn as I cover my mouth with my shirt, coughing. “Which way?”
“There.” He points in the opposite direction.
As we weave through the labyrinth of suffocating rooms and tiny hallways, neither of us speaks. The air is heavy with soot, burning my throat. Thick gray spirals of smoke crawl out of the cracks in the walls, curling finger-like tendrils around my throat.
I try to control my smoke intake. “Now what?” I choke out.
“Breathe shallow, stay low, and keep moving.” He hands me his handkerchief. “Keep this over your mouth.”
We wind through the twisting hall until we reach a stairway. Flames nip at our heels like a pack of seething dogs. The searing air singes the tiny hairs on my face. I panic and gulp in dirty air, igniting a fit of hacking. The fire alarm remains silent, so I’m guessing help is out of the question. It’s possible that no one at ReBoot is aware of the danger stewing behind the main house.
I holler into the rag, muffling the rising panic in my voice. “We’re trapped!”
Fisher dashes around, frantically opening and slamming cupboards, searching for a hidden escape route. In this place, you never know. The fire prowls across the floor, roaring at anything in its path. The flames chase us, rolling in from all sides.
Fisher steps on a trapdoor in the floor. “Here!” He dusts off the opening with his shoes and jerks the round latch. The wood planks squeak open, revealing a kitchen on the floor below us. He drops through the hole and lands in a kneeling position on the rusted stove.
A beam in the ceiling splits and comes crashing down behind me. I scream and lower myself through the opening, hanging by my hands.
“Drop!” Fisher screams.
I release my grip and hit the counter.
This time, he breaks my fall by grabbing my waist, but pain sears through my sore leg. I crumple to the floor. Without missing a beat, Fisher scoops me up and races toward an exit, half carrying me.
Somewhere in the maze, a door slams. Clunky footsteps cross the floor moving closer and closer.
“Someone’s chasing us,” I hiss under my breath.
Author S.R. Johannes
About the Author S.R. Johannes is the award-winning author of the Amazon bestselling Nature of Grace thriller series (Untraceable, Uncontrollable, and Unstoppable). She is a winner of the IndieReader Discovery Award in YA, an IPPY a Silver Medalist for YA Fiction, a Finalist in The Kindle Book Review’s Best Young Adult Fiction, and a Finalist in US Book News Best YA Book.
Since leaving Corporate America, she has followed her passion for writing and conservation by working with The Dolphin Project, the Atlanta Zoo, other animal rescue organizations, and by weaving conservation themes into her books.
Currently, she lives in Atlanta, GA with her English-accented husband and the huge imaginations of their prince and princess, which she hopes- someday- will change the world.
Crimson Romance and author Paris Wynters are unveiling the cover to HEARTS UNLEASHED, a stand-alone adult contemporary romance, releasing September 25, 2017. See below for the cover, information on the book, pre-order links, and details on her giveaway.
Synopsis After an IED ends his military career, Major John Rathborne struggles to re-adjust to civilian life. Haunted by the death of his brother-in-arms, John’s determined to find his canine partner, Koda, now retired and re-homed. The last place he expects to find her is on a ranch in Absarokee, Montana, where he lands a foreman job and a chance at a new start.
Unfortunately, ranch manager Katie Locke just wants the new guy gone. She can’t shake the trauma from the night she was attacked, and God knows she doesn’t need some stranger invading her safe haven. She can’t ignore John’s brooding presence, and even her dog shares an uncanny bond with him. But when her father suffers a heart attack, Katie has no option but to put her differences with John aside to save the future of Three Keys Ranch.
As they slowly find a common bond and their attraction heats up, both realize they must heal from their past wounds if they want to explore a relationship. But John hasn’t told Katie about certain parts of his past—including that he and Koda had been partners in Afghanistan. Then he learns someone is out to destroy the ranch, and Katie is in their crosshairs. Has John opened his heart too late?
Excerpt Aware of the crackling in the air the moment he stepped through the entrance, she snapped her spine straight and emitted a tiny gasp. This was not the dead weight she’d imagined. He moved slowly. Purposefully. As if he calculated every footstep. His eyes remained obscured by the shadowy light of the barn, making them impossible to read even as he stood right in front of her. She swallowed, her suddenly dry tongue sticking to the roof of her mouth. Whoever this man was, he was anything but innocuous.
Dad shook hands with the stranger, and then stepped back and turned to her. “This is John Rathborne. John, I’d like you to meet my daughter, Katie.”
“Pleased to meet you, Miss Locke.” His voice was rough but warm, setting off a wave of heat within her belly. He sized her up, his dark gaze lingering curiously on her face.
She lifted her jaw and adjusted her sunglasses, making sure they continued to hide her left eye. The man was broad-shouldered and tall. Hisclose-cropped hair was speckled with gray, but he had the body of a man in his prime. Her cheeks heated, and she tucked a strand of hair behind her ear.
“Katie’s been working on the ranch her whole life,” Dad continued. “Even during college and nursing school. She even got the head nurse to adjust rounds so she could help during the cattle drive. But things didn’t—work out. Now she’s back here full time.”
“I’m sure I’ll be able to learn a lot from her,” John said. A faint beeping sound cut him off before he could say more.
Dad craned his neck toward the house.“What’s that?”
Her eyes widened. “Oh, my gosh. The banana bread! It’s burning!”
“Oh, I should’ve known.” Dad simpered. “Happens every time. I’ll take care of it. Why don’t you two take a moment to get to know each other?” He looked at her and quirked his left brow, warning her to be nice. “I’ll be right back.”
She shoved her hands into her jacket pockets and looked around the barn—at anything except the man in front of her. But her eyes fell back to his muscled arms. An electrical zing coursed through her body. Her teeth sank into the plump skin of her bottom lip, attempting to fight off the faint tingling sensation occurring between her legs.
“Katie, is it?” He extended his hand. “It’s nice to meet you.”
She reluctantly accepted it. His skin was rough and calloused, yet at the same time his grip was gentle. She fought the urge to relax into the touch. He looked down at her with a polite smile that didn’t reach his eyes—blue eyes, looking out from a face creased with concern.
Her breath caught, and every muscle in her body tightened. She’d seen this man before.
Author Paris Wynters
About the Author I’m a hopeless romantic and a lover of all things coffee, canine, and exercise. When I’m not writing, I’m at the hockey rink cheering on my son, playing HALO on Xbox, or breaking a sweat in the gym. live in New York with my family and my two lovable and psychotic working dogs. I also run numerous 5k races in the New York area that raise funds to support the military/veteran community.
Welcome to the book blitz for BREAKAWAY, the fifth book in the new adult contemporary sports romance series, Pilots Hockey, by Sophia Henry. See below for information on the book, buy links, an exclusive excerpt, and details on her giveaway.
Synopsis In a standalone hockey romance that tugs at readers’ heartstrings, a broken ex-pro learns to live and love again—all thanks to the complicated, wonderful nurse who gives him a second chance.
Brianna Collins needs to break away from her overbearing family. Her parents expect her to “fix” her brother after a series of concussions derailed his hockey career. Unfortunately, no doctor will give him clearance to play, and she’s finished with being the person they rely on to perform a miracle that will never happen. For Bree, a six-month nursing assignment at a hospital in Charlotte, North Carolina, is the perfect escape.
Luke Daniels, former forward for the NHL’s Charlotte Aviators, has spent close to a year rehabbing a career-threatening injury—and distracting himself however he can. Worlds collide when Luke realizes that the girl from his latest one-night-stand happens to be the new nurse at the hospital where he volunteers in the pediatric unit. What’s more, Bree’s the only person who makes him excited about life again.
Despite her initial reservations, Luke can’t help pursuing sweet, beautiful Bree. Then he realizes it was her brother whose career he ended with an accidental hit, and he falls back on the thing that’s always helped suppress his demons: alcohol. But if Luke doesn’t kick his old habits, he just may lose the one thing he loves more than hockey.
Praise for Sophia Henry
“Sophia Henry’s hockey novels are fun and flirty, warm and sweet, with relatable heroines and swoon-worthy hockey heroes. They’ll bring a smile to your face and warmth to your heart.”—USA Today bestselling author Kelly Jamieson
Excerpt #3 Bree
I haven’t been able to get Luke Daniels out of my head. Though I’ve tapped on the simple “Had a great time with you” text he sent me a few hours after I left his condo on multiple occasions, I decided not to respond. He served a purpose—a hot, no-strings-attached purpose. I can’t even remember the last time I had a one-night stand. Probably in college.
A quick fling was exactly what I needed. There’s absolutely no reason to get too involved while on assignment in a city I could never see myself settling down in. Sure, Charlotte is cute, but it’s not home. Hell, it’s barely even a city, I think and chuckle to myself.
“What are you laughing at?” Summer, the nurse who’s training me, asks. She’s nine months pregnant and about to go on maternity leave. “Do you need me to repeat that?”
Shit. The last thing I needed was this poor pregnant lady to think I’m not going to be able to take over for her when she’s gone. Daydreaming of sex with hockey players has already taken up too many hours of my life. Time to get back to business.
“Sorry, Summer. I totally heard you. Something funny just crossed my mind.”
“Your head has been in the clouds all day.” She starts to smile, but she suddenly grimaces.
“You okay?” I ask.
Tonya, another nurse in our unit, runs into the room. I make a mental note of her seemingly supersonic hearing. “That kid about to drop?” she asks.
“Just a small contraction. Nothing crazy. Get back to work,” Summer says, dismissing our concern.
Tonya turns halfway toward the door, then spins around and squints at me.
“Why does Tinkerbell have that dazed look in her eyes like she got some?” she asks.
I’d earned the nickname on my second day. While I’d like to believe it came from my positive attitude and constant smile, I’m sure it had more to do with the glitter specks that kept falling onto my shoulder from the cheap earrings I’d worn that day.
Summer’s head swivels toward me. Her eyes are wide when she asks, “Did you?”
Instead of answering, I gently push her out of the way with my shoulder and take hold of the keyboard and mouse. “This is where I input the notes. I press F3 to get there, right?”
“Yep. And to save—oh shit!” Summer whispers.
Liquid splashes onto the hem of my purple scrubs and then my shoes. Summer is known for carrying a thirty-two-ounce water bottle with her at all times, so my first thought was she must’ve spilled it. But we’re standing at the computer in a patient’s room, and I know she left her water at the nurse’s station.
When I look at her all I see are her dark roots spidering into caramel highlights on the top of her head. She’s bent over, inspecting the spill. Because she’s technically not on duty, Summer’s wearing a maxiskirt instead of the standard scrubs. That’s when I realize it’s not regular old water—or even urine.
It’s amniotic fluid.
Summer’s water just broke all over the floor—and our feet.
“It’s time!” I cry out with glee, ignoring the liquid on my pants.
Everyone in our department has been waiting for Summer to go into labor. We even have a pool going on in the break room. She’s already a week past her due date, and she’s only been coming in to the hospital to train me.
Suddenly, someone touches my elbow and a brusque voice says, “Is everything okay?”
I lift my eyes to the tall man hovering over me. Luke Daniels. What the hell is Luke doing here? In Jack Dellinger’s hospital room?
“Summer’s in labor,” I manage to squeak, remembering that my coworker is about to have a baby.
My heart jackrabbits in my chest, revved by surprise that the ridiculously attractive hockey player I had a one-night stand with is standing in front of me. My gaze is immediately drawn to those full lips that have kissed every inch of my skin first and the thick, dark hair I loved to grab onto next. Though his eyes are especially dreamy, it’s his rough, scratchy voice that makes me want to drag him into a utility closet for some seven-minutes-in-heaven action.
Luke’s eyes widen and his Adam’s apple bobs as he swallows. He looks completely bewildered as he turns his attention to Summer. I know he wants to help, but he seems to be frozen. Can’t blame him.
“Hot damn!” Tonya yells, running into the room bumping Luke to the side with a clean hip check to move him out of the way. “Today was my day. Pay up, ladies!”
Summer laughs and shakes her head. “Before you collect your winnings, can you please grab my phone so I can call Dan?”
I raise my hand quickly. “I’m on it.”
Before I can take a step, Luke grabs my elbow again. His touch causes a shiver to move up my spine. He leans in, his lips almost brushing my ear as he says, “Shouldn’t we be rushing her somewhere?”
“She’s okay,” I assure him with a smile. “One of us will get her to labor and delivery.”
Luke watches with concern as Summer waddles out of the room. “How are you so calm? I feel like I’m going to puke.”
I put my hand on his shoulder, which brings his attention back to me. “She’s completely fine. I promise. Couldn’t have happened around more knowledgeable people. Well, except actual labor nurses,” I quip. It’s a lame healthcare professional joke, but Luke smiles as well.
Author Sophia Henry
About the Author Award-Winning Author, Sophia Henry, is a proud Detroit native who fell in love with reading, writing and hockey all before she became a teenager. She did not, however, fall in love with snow. So after graduating with an English degree from Central Michigan University, she moved to the warmth of North Carolina for the remainder of her winters.
She spends her days writing books featuring hot, hockey-playing heroes. When she’s not writing, she’s chasing her two high-energy sons, watching her beloved Detroit Red Wings, and rocking out at concerts.
Sophia’s writes heartfelt and flirty fiction for readers who love the Mature Young Adult and New Adult genres. Check out her emotional and engaging Pilots Hockey series from Random House Flirt.
Welcome to the book blitz for SO NEAR THE HORIZON, a new adult contemporary bestseller in Germany, now available in English, by Jessica Koch. See below for information on the book, buy links, an exclusive excerpt, and details on her giveaway. You can currently purchase the ebook for just $0.99 or read for free with Kindle Unlimited.
SO NEAR THE HORIZON by Jessica Koch
About the Book – Read for Free with Kindle Unlimited.
Title: SO NEAR THE HORIZON Author: Jessica Koch Publisher: FeuerWerke Verlag Release Date: September 6, 2017 Genre: New Adult Contemporary Romance Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU
Synopsis From the moment she crosses paths with Danny, Jessica is fascinated. The dashing, confident twenty-year-old has everything she dreams of—looks, success, independence, money—and his kind, infinitely cheerful nature is spellbinding.
Yet Jessica sees something else lingering underneath Danny’s perfect facade. Bit by bit, she manages to pick it apart, unveiling harrowing truths about a deeply traumatic childhood that has left more than just emotional scars. Now, far away from his home and family, he is fighting to build a normal life for himself—even though he may be destined for a future as dark as his past.
Despite all adversity and against all reason, a deep and intimate love develops between Danny and Jessica. But soon they find themselves confronting the harsh realities of a superficial world, battling against prejudice and exclusion at every turn… and, worst of all, racing against time…
Excerpt #1 “Danny… Why do you belong there too?” I tried to meet his eyes, but he shut them, avoiding my gaze. His fingernails dug into the skin on his bare arms, and he pursed his lips grimly.
Slowly, I scooted toward him. “Talk to me, Danny, please,” I said, trying to pry one of his arms loose. But the more I tugged, the more rigidly he kept them crossed against his body as he shrank away from me as far as he could inside the cramped car. For a moment, I was afraid he would simply get out and walk away.
Too close, a voice whispered inside me. You’re much too close to him!
I let go of his arm so I could slide back into my seat, and he relaxed almost instantly. He took several deep, slow breaths before opening his eyes and blinking at me through his long lashes.=“You know why,” he whispered. “And someday I’ll tell you myself. I promise. Be patient with me.”
Author Jessica Koch
About the Author Jessica Koch (born in Ludwigsburg, Germany) began writing short stories when she was still in high school, but never submitted her work to publishers. In late 1999, shortly after beginning her studies to become an architectural drafter, she met Danny, a German-American dual national. Her experiences with him eventually formed the basis for So Near the Horizon, though it was nearly thirteen years before she felt ready to bring the manuscript to the public.
The author describes a life lived somewhere between hope and fear, between optimism and despair. She reflects on events from her own past with raw honesty, confronting more than one difficult subject along the way.
Jessica Koch lives near the city of Heilbronn with her husband, their son, and two dogs. The second and third books in the trilogy, So Near the Abyss and So Near the Ocean, are already best-sellers in Germany as well.
Welcome to the book blitz for A GROOM FOR MAMA a sweet stand-alone adult romantic comedy, by award-winning author Catherine Castle. See below for information on the book, a link to add it to your Goodreads TBR, buy links, and an exclusive excerpt.
A GROOM FOR MAMA by Catherine Castle
About the Book – Read for Free with Kindle Unlimited!
Title: A GROOM FOR MAMA Author: Catherine Castle Publisher: Soul Mate Publishing Release Date: September 6, 2017 Genre: Sweet Adult Romantic Comedy Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU
Synopsis One date for every medical test—that’s the deal. Allison, however, gets more than she bargains for. She gets A Groom for Mama.
Beverly Walters is dying, and before she goes she has one wish—to find a groom for her daughter. To get the deed done, Mama enlists the dating service of Jack Somerset, Allison’s former boyfriend.
The last thing corporate-climbing Allison wants is a husband. Furious with Mama’s meddling, and a bit more interested in Jack than she wants to admit, Allison agrees to the scheme as long as Mama promises to search for a cure for her terminal illness.
A cross-country trip from Nevada to Ohio ensues, with a string of disastrous dates along the way, as the trio hunts for treatment and A Groom for Mama.
Excerpt #2 Bounding down the stairwell as the bell rang, Allison shouted, “I’m coming! I’m coming. Keep your pants on!” She threw the deadbolt off and jerked open the door.
Jack Somerset stood in front of her, his chin perched on top of a stack of Chinese take-out cartons. Shoving down her tingling gut reaction, she commanded her heart to stop jumping like an overexcited puppy.
Except for a few more laugh wrinkles around his eyes, Jack hadn’t changed a bit since college. His brown hair still dipped over his forehead in a shaggy mane. A lopsided smile spread across his face when he saw her. He winked at her, his green eyes twinkling.
“Well, if it isn’t the bride-to-be. Nice to see you again, Allison.” He jiggled the cartons balanced in his arms. “I brought Chinese. I remember it was your favorite. Moo shu pork, right?” He pushed past her and headed toward the kitchen, apparently as well acquainted with her childhood home as she.
Grabbing her head between her hands, she squeezed her temples.
Chinese. Of all the things he could have brought, he brought Chinese.
She’d broken it off with him in a Chinese restaurant . . . over moo shu pork. Very loudly and very violently. The pork and the pot of hot tea had landed in Jack’s lap when he tried to keep her from leaving the table. Did his choice of entrees mean Jack hadn’t forgotten the incident? She hadn’t, and she’d been unable to eat that particular Chinese dish since.
Author Catherine Castle
About the Author Award-winning author Catherine Castle has been writing all her life. A former freelance writer, she has over 600 articles and photographs to her credit (under her real name) in the Christian and secular market. Now she writes sweet and inspirational romance. Her debut inspirational romantic suspense, The Nun and the Narc, published in 2013 from Soul Mate Publishing, has garnered multiple contests finals and wins, including:
2014 Beverly Hills Book Award Winner for Inspirational Romance 2014 RONE WINNER for Inspirational romance 2014 EPIC finalist for Action/adventure romance 2014 Carolyn Readers Choice Award finalist
Her newest book, a sweet romantic comedy entitled A Groom for Mama, releases September 2017 from Soul Mate Publishing
Speaking credits: Writing and poetry workshops for elementary and middle school students, local writers groups, participated in the Writer’s Digest World’s largest Writing Workshop, Midwest Writers Conference 2015
Jack’s House Publishing and author Sorcha Mowbray are unveiling an excerpt from HIS HAND-ME-DOWN COUNTESS, the first book in the adult historical romance series, Lustful Lords, releasing September 20, 2017. See below for information on the book, pre-order links, and the exclusive excerpt.
Synopsis His brother’s untimely death leaves him with an Earldom and a fiancée. Too bad he wants neither of them…
Theodora Lawton has no need of a husband. As an independent woman, she wants to own property, make investments and be the master of her destiny. Unfortunately, her father signed her life away in a marriage contract to the future Earl of Stonemere. But then the cad upped and died, leaving her fate in the hands of his brother, one of the renowned Lustful Lords.
Achilles Denton, the Earl of Stonemere, is far more prepared to be a soldier than a peer. Deeply scarred by his last tour of duty, he knows he will never be a proper, upstanding pillar of the empire. Balanced on the edge of madness, he finds respite by keeping a tight rein on his life, both in and out of the bedroom. His brother’s death has left him with responsibilities he never wanted and isn’t prepared to handle in the respectable manner expected of a peer.
Further complicating his new life is an unwanted fiancée who comes with his equally unwanted title. Saddled with a hand-me-down countess, he soon discovers the woman is a force unto herself. As he grapples with the burden of his new responsibilities, he discovers someone wants him dead. The question is, can he stay alive long enough to figure out who’s trying to kill him while he tries to tame his headstrong wife?
Excerpt London, May 1860
Stone heard the butler intone his name and title loudly enough for all of London to hear, let alone the population of the Devonses’ ballroom. Had anyone suggested three years ago he would bear the family title, Earl of Stonemere, never mind be contemplating his future nuptials, he would certainly have laughed. True, he never actually laughed anymore, but he certainly would have found such a claim incredulous.
It was no longer an amusing matter.
Having survived the receiving line, he eased through the crowded ballroom. Every few feet, he stopped to speak with one acquaintance or another. Not so long ago, these same people would have been running for the hills and hiding their daughters. But fate, a fickle mistress to say the least, had other plans.
Moving with a quickness born of desperation, he barely acknowledged the next three men as the heat from the crowd paired with the stench of perfumes and body odor to choke him. After his service in India, crowded entertainments such as a ball had grown difficult to endure. The press of bodies and the loud murmur of conversation punctuated by the occasional shrill laugh smothered him, too similar to the roar of battle and the cries of the dying.
Moving past a swarm of silk skirts, he spotted a dark, hidden alcove, an oasis from the overwhelming onslaught, both real and imagined. If he could shut it down quickly enough, he wouldn’t embarrass himself. If he failed, all of London would learn just how broken he was.
He was an earl. Not a soldier. Never again a soldier.
Once the cool darkness enveloped him, he opened his mouth and drew a breath. His pounding pulse eased as the vise around his chest released and his damp skin dried. After another quarter hour spent tucked away, he believed he could manage the crowd long enough to find his betrothed.
As any good officer would, he had a strategy. Find her, claim his dances, and then await each one either on the balcony or on the dance floor, if required. Even the cardrooms at these soirees bordered on disabling.
He reached for the drapes to his hideaway, but hesitated as two women tittered in the immediate vicinity.
“Why, Gladys, I heard his name announced earlier. I’m certain Matilda invited Stonemere despite all the gossip.”
“I simply cannot imagine what she was thinking,” the one called Gladys said.
“Can’t you? Having one of the Lustful Lords in attendance at your ball? I daresay everyone who is anyone will wish to be able to say they were here. It’s all so deliciously scandalous and yet possible now the unmitigated rake is off the market.” Gladys’s friend sighed with a bit more drama than anyone in their right mind or otherwise would deem necessary.
“Well, one should hope that man can contain himself what with all these poor young virgins parading around. It would serve Matilda right if he debauched each and every one of them while here under her auspices.”
“Oh, do be sensible, Gladys. He could perhaps ruin four or five in one night, but all of them?”
Past ready to find his fiancée and escape his hidey-hole, he stepped out next to the ladies in question, turned to them, and bowed over each of their hands. The shock on their faces far outweighed any notion of good manners on his part. “Why, ladies, you both give me far more credit than I deserve. Even in my heyday of debauchery, I could only service three ladies in a single evening.”
As the two ladies sputtered, he departed their corner. The temptation to turn and wink at the gossipers won out, which caused another round of tittering and sputtering from behind him. Of course, he was well aware of what proper Society called himself and his friends. But the Marquess of Flintshire, Earl of Brougham, Baron Lincolnshire, and Viscount Wolfington—as well as himself—held little regard for polite society. Each of them had learned the hard way that they had no place amongst their peers.
About the Author Sorcha Mowbray is a mild mannered office worker by day…okay, so she is actually a mouthy, opinionated, take charge kind of gal who bosses everyone around; but she definitely works in an office. At night she writes romance so hot she sets the sheets on fire! Just ask her slightly singed husband.
She is a longtime lover of historical romance, having grown up reading Johanna Lindsey and Judith McNaught. Then she discovered Thea Devine and Susan Johnson. Holy cow! Heroes and heroines could do THAT? From there, things devolved into trying her hand at writing a little smexy. Needless to say, she liked it and she hopes you do too!
Today is release day for THE PERFECT GENTLEMAN, a stand-alone adult contemporary romance, by Delaney Foster. See below for information on the book, buy links, an exclusive excerpt, and details on her giveaway.
THE PERFECT GENTLEMAN by Delaney Foster
About the Book Title: THE PERFECT GENTLEMAN Author: Delaney Foster Release Date: September 5, 2017 Genre: Adult Contemporary Romance Links:Goodreads | Amazon
Synopsis For Nathan Alexander it’s not an option. It’s a way of life.
As an attorney he defends the defenseless. But when the suit comes off and the gloves go on, his passion is teaching others how to defend themselves.
His life was purposefully methodical. Completely under control. Just the way he likes it.
Until Emma McClain walks in his gym. Battered. Broken. And utterly breathtaking.
After his last relationship, Alex swore he’d never give another woman the power to hurt him. But with her unforgettable smile and killer legs, Emma has him fighting for control.
Little does he know she is fighting for her life.
Will he be able to save her before it’s too late? Or will an unexpected revelation cost them both the ultimate price?
Excerpt “Love isn’t always beautiful. Sometimes it’s messy. Sometimes it’s complicated. Sometimes it’s senseless and even a little fucking crazy. You’ll wake up some mornings and you’ll want to quit. But you won’t. You can’t. Because even when it feels like you’re wandering through the forest, you still manage to find yourself. Alive. Redeemed. And you can’t go back to the way you were. No, babygirl, this is the new you. And you are the woman I love.”
“You were worth it,” she whispers against my skin.
“What’s that, love?”
Author Delaney Foster
About the Author Delaney Foster is a Louisiana native, not far from New Orleans, where eating, drinking, and dancing are pretty much a requirement for citizenship. She loves all things romance, a good glass of wine, and Saturdays at the baseball park. She definitely believes leggings are pants and is a bit of a book whore. It all started with Jane Austen and her Darcy and has evolved to the likes of Ella Frank, Mia Sheridan, and Colleen Hoover. Just to name a few. In her love stories you will find sexy, alpha males and the strong women who love them.
Welcome to the book blitz for IN THE MOMENT, a stand-alone adult contemporary romance, by Jennifer Wilck. See below for information on the book, buy links, an exclusive excerpt, and details on her giveaway.
Synopsis Cassie Edwards, a former foster child, purchases an 1870s Victorian mansion, the one home from her childhood where she felt like part of a family. She’s spending her summer lovingly restoring it, with dreams of one day raising a family of her own here. Rayne Tucket, a photojournalist, is haunted by the death of his best friend in Afghanistan, a death he thinks is his fault. He survives day to day. Forever is not in his vocabulary. Swearing off photography, he answers an ad for a handyman—mindless, no emotion involved. As the two of them renovate her house, can Cassie show Rayne that love is strong enough to heal all wounds?
Excerpt #3 “Cassie?” He let go of her hand.
His voice startled her. She turned to him. If she hadn’t witnessed his reaction to the storm, she’d never know it now. Well, maybe she would. There were fine lines between his brows and shadows beneath his eyes. But otherwise, he looked no different than usual. They sat next to each other, legs touching.
He took her face between his hands. They were rough and calloused against her skin. He ran his fingers over her cheeks and pushed her hair behind her ears. She stared into his eyes. In the dark of the porch, she couldn’t see their color, only their glimmer as he traced her jawline. The heat from his body warmed her; the pressure of his fingers anchored her to this spot, with him, right now. They were close enough for his breath to feather on her cheek. Each inhalation and exhalation sent shivers down her spine. For the first time, she remembered she wore a threadbare T-shirt beneath her cotton robe.
His thumbs brushed her lips, and she opened her mouth. His nose bumped hers. He bent to kiss her. Their lips touched. She sighed as he dragged them back and forth across her mouth.
Author Jennifer Wilck
About the Author When I was a little girl and couldn’t fall asleep, my mother would tell me to make up a story. Pretty soon, my head was filled with these stories and the characters that populated them. Each character had a specific personality, a list of likes and dislikes, and sometimes, even a specific accent or dialect. Even as an adult, I think about the characters and stories at night before I fall asleep, or in the car on my way to or from one of my daughters’ numerous activities (hey, anything that will drown out their music is a good thing).
One day, I started writing them down (it was either that or checking into the local mental hospital—the computer was way less scary) and now I’m a published author. My first book, A Heart of Little Faith, was just declared a Finalist in the Fiction: Romance category of the 2016 Best Book Awards.
In the real world, I’m the mother of two amazing daughters and wife of one of the smartest men I know. I enjoy spending time with my family and friends, reading, traveling and watching TV. In between chauffeuring my daughters to after-school activities that require an Excel spreadsheet to be kept straight, I run youth group activities, train the dog we recently adopted from a local shelter, and cook dinners that fit the needs of four very different appetites. I also write freelance articles for magazines, newspapers, and edit newsletters.
When all of that gets overwhelming, I retreat to my computer, where I write stories that let me escape from reality. In my made-up world, the heroines are always smart, sassy and independent. The heroes are handsome and strong with just a touch of vulnerability. If I don’t like a character, I can delete him or her; if something doesn’t work, I can rewrite it. It’s very satisfying to be in control of at least one part of my life. My inspiration comes from watching the people around me and fantasizing about how I’d do things differently.
Welcome to the book blitz for THE DARK MERMAID, the first book in the young adult paranormal/fantasy series, Cursed Waters, by Christina L. Barr. See below for information on the book, buy links, an exclusive excerpt, and details on her giveaway.
THE DARK MERMAID (Cursed Water) by Christina L. Barr
Synopsis “True love is not a myth. It’s mystic. It’s a force in the universe that draws two people together, resulting in incredible power, for either good or complete chaos.”
On the day Luna proves that she is powerful enough to be her father’s heir, she is banished for saving the life of an enchanting human boy. Her father, the king, gives her two options: kill Ian and regain her honor by the time she comes of age, or be destroyed.
Luna finds shelter in forbidden waters and comes under the protection of her father’s greatest enemy, the Sea Witch. As her ward, Luna becomes a fearsome warrior, but struggles with the fear of turning her powerful magic dark.
With only days remaining before her seventeenth birthday, Luna finds Ian sailing the seas in search of answers. Luna is determined to escape her father’s wrath, and the Sea Witch’s plot of revenge, but dark forces won’t allow her to live a human life without making an impossible sacrifice.
I was born with a serious defect. On the surface world, they call it “kindness”. My father first noticed it when I was a child. When we turn thirteen, we swim out of our territory with nothing but a small blade. I watched my king’s eyes dig into mine as violently as the knife that bleed my arm numb. He always told me that he had a lot of faith in me. It’s funny how faith only felt like heavy expectations on my tiny shoulders. And when I could feel the vibrations in the water from an oncoming threat, he made sure to leave me in the darkness, surrounded in a cloud of my blood.
I heard tales from my sisters of their glorious fights against the monsters of the deep. They only had to face one and return home with the corpse. They spoke of their fear boiling and bursting out of their hearts like a geyser rushing out uncontrollably, but they had a thirst for battle that was born as soon they saw their vicious opponents in the water. The victory shifted their terror into a satisfying thrill, but I was not as fierce as my sisters, and I was surrounded by three fish, three times my size.
I swam up fast and avoided two of them, but the third nearly took my bloodied arm off with its sharp and jagged teeth. I did manage to stab its eye as it swam past me, which was the only easy meat to get to. The rest of its body was covered in scales as hard as stone.
Taking on all three was impossible, and my little body was pumped full of fear. The adrenaline helped me swim faster, but they were made to chase and kill. They couldn’t hide their nature, and I couldn’t run from mine.
When I had about a thousand feet on them, I turned around and braced myself. I had little hope in my blade, but I gripped it firmly and told myself that I could defeat those monsters, if I truly believed in myself. My father would not accept me if I needed to be rescued. The rumors were that he’d rather have me dead than be a disgrace. I could not fail!
I closed my eyes and swung my blade forward. I put all my strength into that swipe, and I felt my energy leave my body and expand forward like a giant fin. I opened my eyes just in time to see their bodies disintegrate into ash, and glitter from the fading light that I somehow produced.
I was too stunned to move for a great while. I never had such an incredible power on my own, so I looked to the blue and red crystals embedded into the golden blade. It was an ancient weapon forged by my ancestors, but I had no idea that it could do so much damage. My sisters had never mentioned it, and I’m certain they would have boasted about their exploits.
Even though I had rightly fought for my survival and won, I was rattled. I was certain that I could do it again—in extreme circumstances—but I wasn’t changed like my sisters. They were
reborn as warriors, and I still felt like a child. Worst of all, I didn’t have any remains. I would have to find another creature to kill, but I needed to tend to my wounds.
I returned home, struggling not to break down from fear of what my father would do to me. When I entered the walls of our crystal palace, my people were my enemy. They once revered me as a princess, and now they sneered their noses from my repulsive presence. I could feel their eyes whispering tales of my cowardice, and they were not as subtle as they believed. And when I entered my father’s throne room, so I could properly explain, I was met with his trident pinning my arm against the wall.
I couldn’t afford to lose any more blood, and he had severely cut me again. I tried pulling the trident away, but I couldn’t even get it to budge. I took my eyes off my bloodied arm, and by the time I looked up, his coal eyes were peering into mine. “Father—”
“Silence!” His hand clasped tightly around my neck. “Do you think I’ll grant mercy to a failure? You are my blood, and you’ve disgraced me!” It was insane to me at the time, but beyond the intensity of his rage, I remember sensing that my failure wounded him.
I whimpered as he freed me from the trident’s grasp. I was overwhelmed with an unbearable guilt that his disappointment burdened me with. The only reason why it didn’t crush me, was because I saw my demise reflecting in the golden trident he raised to strike me down with. “Do you have any last words?”
“I did kill!”
“Then where is the body?” He glared with a hatred I thought he only reserved for his enemies. I didn’t understand how his disappointment in me could transfer into such violence. When I was smaller, he would often tell me that I was his favorite. What good did his favor do?
I held up the blade that he had given me, and out of my desperation, I was able to make it glow a radiant blue with speckles of golden dust. “I used this blade to kill them, Father. Their bodies were completely blown apart. I swear!”
His eyes moved to the blade. Then, he looked at me in awe. “You do hold the power.” He smiled and cradled my face. “You are my true successor.”
My sisters were gathered around. They were mildly jealous before, but I had a feeling they would rip the flesh from my bones, if it weren’t for my father’s praises and the fear of what he would do if they attacked.
My father was never affectionate toward me, but he’d always gaze upon me with a curious eye. When I trained with my sisters, I thought he was testing me and assessing my potential as a warrior. It was no secret that he wanted a son, but Fate gave him six daughters instead. He made us twice as fierce to make up the difference. I couldn’t have known that he was expecting me to have such great power. “I want to see what you can do.”
“Sire.” One of his warriors came into the throne room and bowed. “There are humans sailing in our waters. What are your orders?”
He looked down at me and smirked. “My daughters and I will handle this ourselves.”
My sisters all cheered. They apparently had enchanting voices, but I had never heard them, nor had I ever opened my mouth up to speak. I suspected that I shared a similar gift, but I didn’t want to use my voice to lead unsuspecting sailors to their deaths.
“Keep the blade,” my father instructed. “I want to see you in action.”
I looked at the dagger in my hands. I heard such terrible things about the humans. Everything they touched, they laid waste to. Father said we had to kill humans to keep their dark nature from destroying us, but I didn’t see how we could be any better than them. I didn’t know if my life served any purpose beyond hunting and defending my home.
“Come, my children.”
He must have been in a good mood, because he let my eldest sister bind my wounds before we followed him into battle. Each stroke of my tail made my heart pound faster. I had never been to the surface before. My sisters told me that humans didn’t have tails. They had legs to stand upon, and they loved to watch them run for their lives as they tried to save their ships from sinking. It was one of their favorite games.
The water illuminated the higher we rose. I saw something large and round far up into the sky, but it glowed and brightened up the world. And when I breached the surface, the light gently rested on my skin as I whipped my hair back.
There were hundreds—thousands—of lights far up into the sky, and the biggest one was radiating a foggy white. I took in air, and it filled my lungs with an odd sensation. I wanted to finally hear my own voice, but for some reason, I was afraid to speak.
“Scout the area,” my father encouraged. My sisters waded just a few feet below the surface and waited for my report.
I gulped and slowly swam to a boat not too far away. I had seen ships before, but they were sunken treasures abandoned by the humans and eroded over time. I don’t know why the mystery of the humans intrigued me so much. I heard they were an evil menace that threated our way of life. I had also heard they were cowardly weaklings that we could easily destroy. I didn’t know how to imagine weaklings with such power. Some of the stories must have been false or highly exaggerated.
But when I finally snuck close enough to see the faces of the terrible creatures, I saw they were just like us.
There was a boy running along the deck with some sort of white animal. His smile was infectious. He was making noises with his mouth that I didn’t quite understand. Spoken words were very different than thought. There were also other sounds coming from some sort of box that an older human male controlled. He sat beside a beautiful woman with golden hair.
The sounds coming from the box were magical, like the melody that the whales would sing to each other, except there were so many different noises to make it complete. It was fast, and his human feet moved along with it. It was incredibly strange, but so intriguing. The boy looked like he could have been from my world, if he weren’t having the time of his life on those legs. I moved my tail along with the sounds, but it wasn’t the same as his clumsy and wonderful feet.
When the boy smiled, the right side of his mouth curved just a little higher than the left, and it made his eyes shrink, just a smidgen. They were as vibrant as the blue lights flickering in the sky. His short but bountiful hair bounced with the rhythm of his body, and even though it was as dark as the deepest of the ocean’s depths, the white glow of the night reflected onto his locks so brilliantly that I wouldn’t have questioned if he held some sort of power over night sky. His skin wasn’t too different than mine, but he had a glow to his skin that made him look as if life itself had kissed him. I know that this sounds silly, but I found myself wishing that I could keep him as a treasure to gaze upon.
He had a pretty face, but his arms were frail and easily breakable, but threats could come from even the tiniest of creatures, so I closed my eyes and listened to his thoughts. I tried to connect his mind to the words he was speaking, and it wasn’t long before I could begin to understand his conversation.
“It’s good to know that those expensive hip-hop lessons haven’t paid off,” the older man teased.
He stumbled from the insult and his bushy brows furrowed against his sparkling eyes. “Aw, I’m not that bad,” the boy said.
“I think he’s wonderful,” the woman encouraged. “But stop dancing around on the boat. You’re gonna make the whole thing tip over.”
“How old do you think I am? Five? I can’t tip over this huge thing.”
“Maybe,” the man said. “We’re in the Bermuda Triangle. All sorts of weird things happen here.”
The boy rolled his eyes. “Those things aren’t true.” “We’re here to explore the mysteries of the Atlantic.” “Really? Because I thought we were sailing to Puerto Rico so Mom can buy shoes.” “And other things,” she laughed. “You’ll love Puerto Rico. It’s gorgeous. You might even meet a little summer girlfriend.” “What makes you think I don’t already have a girlfriend?” he teased with a dashing smile. “You better not!” She got up from the comfort of her husband to tackle her son. He fought her off viciously, but he was laughing as if he enjoyed it. It was odd. I had never seen a family interact in such a way. A family was supposed to be a pack you could hunt with. They were supposed to look out for you while you slept, and you did the same for them when they needed to rest. What the humans were doing was completely different than anything I had ever experienced. They were enjoying each other’s company. They were…Happy? I think that’s the word I’m looking for.
“What are you doing?” My father’s voice rang in my head. He wouldn’t understand what I was seeing. I hardly did, but I yearned for it so badly. Why couldn’t he hold me in his arms like the human father did to his son? The boy didn’t fear his father as I did. He would probably never intentionally hurt him, yet I still ached from the wounds my father inflicted upon me. Any lessons the boy learned, was probably for his personal benefit, and not because of some war that I didn’t understand.
“I’m observing.” “You’ve done enough observing,” he said. “It’s time we attack.” “No!” Out of desperation, my words entered through my mind and out of my mouth. My voice was still weak, but I had finally heard it, and I thought it was beautiful. “Did you hear that?” the boy asked.
He didn’t listen and ran over to the edge of the boat. I quickly dunked back under the water to escape his eyes, but I felt like such a fool. It was forbidden for humans to know of our existence. Anyone that saw us had to die.
I thought I had gone down far enough, but I felt a light shine on me. “Who’s there?”
I heard him speak to me, and I was at a loss of ideas. If only I could have convinced him that I were a human! It was either that, or I had to make him and his parents leave immediately. I slowly breached the surface, so he could see my face.
There was a slight pause as he laid eyes on me for the first time. My sisters told me that they were able to enchant humans with their beauty, before they dragged them into the ocean’s dark waters to drown. Perhaps I was doing that to Ian. I should have grabbed him by the back of the neck to finish him off. That was our way.
“You’re beautiful…” he mumbled very quietly, but in complete awe. I suppose I was right about him being enchanted.
But—for some mysterious reason—I found that I felt the same. My world was incredibly vast. It didn’t matter how far I ventured out in the water; there was always so much more to explore. Suddenly, my world was rapidly shrinking, until it was small enough to fit into a speck of light inside his eyes. “Ian…” My voice wasn’t strong enough. I tried reaching out to him through my mind, but he wasn’t ready to listen. “You have to—”
“How did you get out here? Are you hurt?” I shook my head, hoping that was a sufficient answer. “Mom! Dad!” he called. “No.” My protest was only a whisper. “They can’t see—” “Where did you come from?” his mother asked in a panic. “Give me your hand.” His father got on his stomach to reach me better. He didn’t know
He should have assumed I was dangerous. In my world, we didn’t tolerate any threats. He was probably three times my age, so how could he have lived for so long being that naïve?
I wanted to know why they were being such fools, but I could feel the vibrations in the water from my family fast approaching. “I’m sorry…” I dove back in the water and waited for the worst to be over.
They called out to me, and I knew that if I didn’t come back up, they would dive back in to get me. They must have at least feared sharks. It boggled my mind as to why they would risk their lives for mine.
I heard Ian’s parents scream, and then, there was a splash in the water. I backed away and prepared to strike them—if I needed to—but it was young Ian that bravely came to my rescue. And when he saw that I did not need to be saved, he yelled something in the water and lost his air.
Was he afraid of what I was? Did I disgust him? I wasn’t sure. All I sensed from him was his confusion from the herd of mermaids coming to rip him into pieces. His father dove in the water next. I knew my sisters would attack him. We always tackled the biggest prey first.
I’m not sure why I did what I did, even to this day, but I grabbed Ian by his waist and swam as fast as I could. He reached out to his father, but I couldn’t stop if I were going to save Ian.
He screamed, and I knew he would not have enough breath to survive the journey to safety. I had no choice and pressed my lips against his. His eyes bucked, but he soon relaxed enough to close them, and he allowed me to breathe life into his weak and pitiful body.
Through that moment, his mind was open to me. I could feel his desperation to be reunited with his father and mother. What he felt for them was deeper than anything I had experienced my entire life. His father wanted to protect him because he loved his son, and he loved his son because he was his. There was nothing more to it than that. It was their bond of blood and a covenant they forged together from the first time his father held his newborn son in his arms. I didn’t understand how something so simple could be so definite and infinite. My father only wanted to protect his legacy. If it weren’t for my strange power, I would be dead, and he would have been glad to be rid of his weakling daughter.
I wanted to leave. I wanted to go with Ian and be with his family. If all the humans loved like he did, then that’s what I wanted to experience. If only I were born into their world…if only I had a pair of legs to stand upon—to dance! What a glorious life I would have.
Ian tried to swim back to his father, but my sisters had already gotten a hold of him, and they were using their daggers to slash him apart. I grabbed Ian to keep him from leaving, and we were compelled to watch as his father’s flesh was ripped in pieces.
My eldest sister jumped into the air and clear over the boat, returning with Ian’s frightened mother in her arms. Ian’s struggle to get away from me intensified, but I held him tighter. I was much stronger than him, and there was no escaping their fate.
My father enjoyed watching his daughters kill. It made him proud to know he had raised such ruthless warriors. But he couldn’t rest while his daughters did all the work. He was also a warrior, and he needed to destroy to feel powerful. “Stand aside.”
My sisters quickly separated and waited with glee. My father was king because he could control the most powerful of weapons that my ancestors left for us: a trident. He didn’t use its powers too often. He much preferred to kill with his bare hands. But when he outstretched his hand toward his victim, and summoned the might of the trident, it was a glorious sight to behold.
Ian’s mother began to swim toward her son, and he reached out his hands for her. But they were too far apart to ever touch again, even after she exploded in golden and red streams of light. His father was a bloodied corpse. His mother was eradicated from existence. Only Ian was left, and I had a serious choice to make. I could feel his broken mind. His tears were lost in the immensity of the ocean. He was screaming, so he was surely about to suffocate. It would have been a service to put him out of his misery. He couldn’t take care of himself. His mother and father were his entire world. It was only right to let him die like all the other humans my family had destroyed.
I still don’t understand why I swam away. I even rose to the surface for a jump, so Ian could catch a breath.
“What are you doing?” my father yelled. “Kill him.”
His furious command echoed in my head. When and if I returned home, he was probably going to kill me. My sisters chased me for a good while, but they eventually let up when I started approaching the shore.
I found a rock large enough to place Ian on. Someone was sure to find him. I only hoped that he could salvage what was left of his life and find people that loved him as much as his mother and father did.
“Ian?” The dawn was beginning to break. I didn’t want him to become crispy in the sun, but I couldn’t stay with him. “Ian?” I shook him, but he would not open his eyes.
I pressed my ear against his chest. His heart was still beating. “I think you’ll be alright, Ian.”
I brushed some hair off his face. Ian certainly was a handsome creature. I was desperate for him to open his eyes, and I think it was more than wanting a mental memory of his sea glass gems. I saw that my fingers were trembling as I stroked his cheek, and I realized that if he never opened them again, I would be lost without a world. His heart was pulling tightly onto mine, and I was being ripped into pieces. “Please, be alright.”
I pressed my forehead against his and looked inside Ian’s mind again. He was at peace in his mother’s arms as she hummed a pretty melody. She rocked back and forth while he drifted between consciousness. The sun lit the world in its gold and warm embrace, and the beams of light poured into his eyes every time he was close to finally resting them. I think he was in his home, surrounded by trinkets he had grown attached to, but none of it was as fulfilling as his mother’s touch.
I didn’t understand how he could retreat to a peaceful place after witnessing such horrific death, but I grew envious of him. If I were torn apart in my trial by those monsters, where would I go in my final moments? There wasn’t a hug or a tender kiss from my kin to draw from, and even though I was accustomed to not having affection or admiration, I was suddenly aware of how awful that was.
I was desperate to have what he had lost, and I was aching from the fact that I had taken away the people he loved. It was selfish of me, but I retreated into Ian’s memory to feel the comfort that we both desperately needed. I could hear his mother’s soothing voice just as clear as I heard my father commanding me to slaughter Ian. As I watched her holding her baby boy, I could feel her intentions of protecting him. I could feel the love that he felt, and in a few seconds, her lovely song was on my lips.
He began to open his eyes, and I stayed long enough for a swift peek. I knew that I’d never be able to keep him for myself, but I’d never forget his mystifying eyes.
I couldn’t. I jumped back in the water and swam home to beg for forgiveness. I couldn’t stay with the humans as long as I wasn’t one of them. It was foolish to think differently, even for one second.
I was hoping that my father possessed even one ounce of love and compassion that Ian’s parents had for him. If he did, I had the smallest bit of hope that I would survive. I swam to where I believed my home was, but I didn’t see the crystal walls or my wicked sisters waiting to judge me.
“You won’t find Atlantis,” my father said from behind. “It’s hidden from outsiders.” I was too frightened to face him, but I needed to. “Father—”
As soon as I tried to turn my head, it snapped back from the force of his blow to my face. “You let one of them go.”
“I’m sorry! He was only a boy.”
“He’s a human,” he seethed. “He’s a filthy, disgusting human. Human explorers killed your mother. Did you know that?” He never spoke of my mother. How was I supposed to know?
“No.” I held my cheek and struggled not to sob from the pain. My father was large in stature and very muscular. He didn’t need to hit me that hard to get his message across. I could taste blood in my mouth.
“He’ll tell others of our existence. More humans will come. They’ll kill us, and we’ll kill them. They won’t be satisfied until blood fills our waters, and I won’t be satisfied until their cities are ruins at the bottom of the ocean. There will be no peace.” My father was masking his excitement, but I could see the intention in his mind. He wanted the end of humanity, and it didn’t matter how many of us had to die in the process.
I had to stop it. “No one will believe him, Father.” “Where is the dagger?” I clenched my fingers on instinct, and my eyes bucked. I knew I had it when the attack started. I didn’t remember dropping it in the water, but I hadn’t held it for a while. “I must have dropped it on the rock where I left him. I’m sorry. I’ll bring it back here and—”
“You’re not welcome back unless that boy is dead.” He yanked my hair and pulled me close to his face, so I could see his dark eyes. “I want that dagger to slit his throat and his heart in your hand. Do you understand?”
My family was harsh, but they were all I had. He couldn’t expect me to live on my own in the ocean. There was no crueler place in nature. Practically everything ate each other to survive. Safe territory was hard to come by, and it was only safe until something came along to kill you for it. Sharks and giant octopuses were the least of my worries. There were other creatures like me who were much more dangerous and even stronger. “Father, please—”
“You are no daughter of mine.” He threw me away in repugnance. “I am incapable of breeding weakness. You will never be one of us until you destroy that boy.”
I was literally shaking, even though I consciously tried to steady myself. It was disgraceful to be fearful of anything, but being alone in an endless world of predators was a death sentence. I wasn’t sure if I had anything to live for, but I knew that I wanted to live long enough to find a reason. “There has to be another way, Father. Please!”
“You would forsake your honor and your people over the life of a human boy?” Rage flashed in his eyes, and his trident pulsed with power like the jolt from an eel. The spark frayed my tail, and I whimpered. Every bit of pride he held for me deteriorated like a meal inside of a beast’s belly. “Has he infected you with his weakness?”
“No, but…” The image of Ian’s eyes opening as I sang to him completely overtook my mind. I tried to suppress it, because I didn’t want my father to experience the intensity of my memory, but it poured out of me. Ian was groggy and terrified. His world had been crushed. The love that I felt in his heart should have been replaced with a need for righteous vengeance. He inhaled from the shock of seeing my face, but the hate never flooded in. Instead, an exhale of relief and awe followed, as if being with me needed no explanation. We were together, as we were meant to be.
I know that I left as soon as I could clearly see his eyes, but I remembered seeing my reflection inside of them. I think I saw a different mermaid than I had ever seen before. Perhaps we were always the same, and I was only beginning to wake up to the truth that she knew her entire life.
I was living in a nightmare, and I wanted to be free.
I had offended my father too greatly to be allowed to live. He thought too little of me to be disappointed. Eradicating me was a matter of propriety. He gripped his trident, and its power rippled toward me. I raised my hands instinctively. The little hairs on my arms began to singe, but before I could burst into dust, I felt my skin beginning to harden. I had closed my eyes, but it felt so odd that I looked to see my skin darkening. I had heard that my father turned an enemy to stone once. I was certain he was doing the same to me, but he actually seemed startled once he noticed that I was changing.
I might have been mistaken. The light from the trident skewed my vision, and your mind plays tricks when you’re certainly about to die. I might not have been sure about what I saw, but my father did clearly see something that made him withdraw his attack.
“Your sisters are weak. You’re strong enough to be my heir. I have no respect for you, but I do value you’re potential.” Even admitting that terrible compliment was difficult for him. “You have until your seventeenth birthday.”
“To do what?” “To regain your honor and kill that boy.” My hands returned to their normal color and softness, but I was aching internally. “What if I can’t find the same boy? Can it be another?” “No. It must be him.” His commandment rung through me like the crunch of a skull being crushed between his fingers. “It’s either him, or I kill you both.” And once again, he left me. I had no friends, no family, no resources, and no weapons. I
could hear the sounds of whales singing in the distance, but I could feel other vibrations in the water. There was danger surrounding me for miles, and I wouldn’t have the protection of my family or my father’s subordinates.
I felt like I didn’t have a choice. I returned to where I had left Ian, but he was already gone. I probably could have deceived my father, if I found the blade, but it was missing as well. I swam around the shore, but he was nowhere to be found. I couldn’t blame Ian if he never returned to the water, but if I couldn’t find him, I would never be able to return home, the humans would bring war to us, and we would bring hell to them.
“I’ll find you,” I said to Ian, wherever he was. “I don’t care what I have to do, but I swear that I will.”
And that’s how my story began. I showed mercy to a human boy that should have died with his parents. His life meant nothing compared to the safety of our worlds. I had no choice but to search the ends of the earth until I found him. But finding him wouldn’t prove to be the most difficult matter. The man I swore to kill, also became the man that I loved.
Regardless, he still had to die.
Author Christina L. Barr
About the Author As the daughter of sci-fi enthusiasts and a pastor, Christina L. Barr has been taught to believe that anything is possible. She’s been a serious composer as far back as twelve-years-old, and has had the opportunity to sing her songs around the world.
In 2007, she graduated from Holly High School number nine in her class and attended College for Creative Studies. She started a pop culture website called The Gorgeous Geeks with her two older sisters, and was even featured on Times Magazine.
Her addiction to writing emerged when she was eighteen and started her first novel. To date, she has nine novels published, fourteen completed, and her goal is to finish thirty books by her thirtieth birthday.
She is currently a Creative Director and spends her days making graphics and videos.
Welcome to the excerpt reveal for COLD MALICE, the eighth book in the adult romantic suspense series, Cold Justice, by New York Times bestselling author, Toni Anderson. See below for information on the book, buy links, and an exclusive excerpt.
Synopsis When an international ring of sex traffickers kidnaps an eight-year-old girl in Boston, FBI Agent Lucas Randall heads undercover. But his rescue operation goes disastrously wrong and Lucas barely escapes with his life. Now the ruthless traffickers are hunting him down, along with everyone else who threatens their operation.
Computer expert Ashley Chen joined the FBI to fight against evil in the world—evil she experienced firsthand. She has mad skills, and deadly secrets, and once she starts working with Lucas, she also has big trouble, because after years of pushing people away, she’s falling for the guy. The feeling is more than mutual, but as Ashley intensifies her online pursuit of the trafficking ring, her traumatic past collides with her present and suddenly Lucas can’t tell which side she’s on. And as the case escalates into a high-stakes game of cat and mouse, it turns out Ashley isn’t the only one with something to hide.
If neither can trust the other with their secrets, how can they trust each other with their hearts?
Excerpt “You want me to provide an alibi?” The glow drained from her cheeks.
Tension sizzled through the air as Mac watched her body language to see if it matched her words. “You know I have to ask.”
She crossed her arms, every line of her body defensive and resentful. “I don’t remember exactly where I was on Monday morning.” Her eyes moved up and right.
Shit. She was lying. People lied to cops and FBI agents all the time. The question was, what did she have to hide?
“But this morning, when the DJ was shot”— She’d already put together what the cops were officially refusing to admit—“ I was in a coffee shop and then on the Metro.”
“Got people who can verify that?”
She gave him the name of a coffee shop near Tenleytown and the metro stop where she’d got off the train.
“Don’t tell them why you’re asking,” she said. “Please.”
She cradled her forehead in her hand and looked like she suddenly felt ill. Because, really, what were they going to think when the FBI started asking questions about her movements? He made himself push on. She wasn’t his friend or his date. He had a job to do.
“Any idea who might be committing these murders?”
“I told you. I’m not in touch with anyone from that life anymore.” “What about your brother?”
“Eddie?” An ugly laugh escaped. “I don’t have anything to do with that wacko.”
Eddie Hines was still incarcerated in the Idaho State Correctional Center. They’d pulled a bullet matched to his gun out of a SWAT officer’s vertebrae. The policeman had been lucky to not be paralyzed. To prove that point the officer turned up in a borrowed wheelchair and a “here but for the grace of God” sign every time Eddie came up for parole.
“I meant your other brother.”
She reached out to hold on to the back of the couch. “He doesn’t know about any of this.”
Mac frowned. “You mean the murders?”
“No,” she bit out sharply. “Any of it. Not the Pioneers. Not Kodiak Compound. Not who our family really is. Nothing.” Her fists clenched and unclenched. “And I want it to stay that way.”
What the hell? “Where does he think he comes from?”
“I told him we were the children of Trudy’s second-cousin on her mom’s side. I told him our parents died up in Oregon and Trudy took us in.”
“You lied to him about his parents?” Holy shit.
She put her hand on her hip. “Don’t use that judgmental tone with me, Assistant Special Agent in Charge Steve McKenzie.”
“Sorry, Tess.” He strode toward her until they were only a foot apart. “I didn’t realize you had the monopoly on changing your identity.”
She flinched and blinked rapidly as if fighting tears. “If anyone should understand why I wanted to leave that ugliness behind it should be you. You need to leave. Now.”
When he didn’t move she went to the front door and opened it, waiting for him to take the hint. Damn. He’d blown it. When he stood in front of her again he opened his mouth to speak.
She beat him to it. “Don’t leave town, right?” Bitterness was rife in the lines around her mouth. In the bite of her tone.
“I was going to say that if anyone from Kodiak gets in touch—”
“But if they do—”
“They won’t!” She appeared on the verge of crying, but fighting it.
He’d seen all sorts of tears during his time on the job. It was always the ones that didn’t fall that affected him most.
He pulled a business card out of his pocket, took her hand and folded her fingers over it. The skin on skin contact made something unexpected spread through his body. Despite her anger she felt it too— he could tell by the way her pupils widened and her lips parted on a gasp. She tried to pull away but he didn’t let go and he didn’t back down.
Instead he pulled her toward him into a stiff embrace. His breath brushed her hair as he kissed the top of her head— like she was still that little girl he’d known all those years ago.
“I’m not the bad guy here, Tess,” he murmured against her hair.
She kept her head bowed, and eyes closed, hand pressed like a fiery brand against his heart.
“Neither am I, but no one seems to care.”
She pulled away, and he let her go. Then he walked away just like he had nearly twenty years ago.
He sat in his car, staring at the house, knowing she was inside watching him right back.
The unexpected attraction had caught him off guard. He’d forgotten what it felt like to actually want someone. But he couldn’t afford to start something with the daughter of one of the most notorious white supremacist leaders in history. That would not look great on his résumé.
That stupid hug had knocked him off balance and made him sit here like a damn stalker. He’d hoped to neutralize some of the antagonism his turning up out of the blue had created and keep her onside should he need her help in the future. But now the fresh scent of her shampoo invaded his nostrils, and the feel of her soft skin tantalized his senses. The sight of her in that damp robe— knowing that she was naked underneath— had distracted the hell out of him. And damned if that embrace hadn’t felt like coming home.
Chances were she wasn’t involved in the current murders. It didn’t seem likely that an accountant, raised by a woman of color, would turn around and start killing people based on her daddy’s evil doctrine. But who knew? He’d seen crazier things in his career. Tomorrow he’d check out her alibi and cross her off his to-do list.
More’s the pity.
And so what if his mind turned dirty. It wasn’t going to lead anywhere. She was off limits. And he was in control of his wants and needs.
Author Toni Anderson
About the Authors New York Times and USA Today international bestselling author, Toni Anderson, writes dark, gritty Romantic Suspense novels that have hit #1 in Barnes & Noble’s Nook store, the Top 10 in Amazon and Kobo stores, and the Top 50 in iBooks. Her novels have won many awards. A former Marine Biologist from Britain, she inexplicably ended up in the geographical center of North America, about as far from the ocean as it is possible to get. She now lives in the Canadian prairies with her Irish husband and two children and spends most of her time complaining about the weather.
Toni has no explanation for her oft-times dark imagination, and only hopes the romance makes up for it. She’s addicted to reading, dogs, tea, and chocolate.
Today is release day for CAN’T HARDLY BREATHE, the fourth book in the adult contemporary romance series, The Original Heartbreakers, by New York Times bestselling author, Gena Showalter. See below for information on the book, buy links, an exclusive excerpt, and details on her giveaway.
CAN’T HARDLY BREATHE (Original Heartbreakers #4) by Gena Showalter
Synopsis New York Times bestselling author Gena Showalter returns with an irresistible Original Heartbreakers story about a woman who’s never felt desired and the man who wants her more than air to breathe…
Bullied in high school, Dorothea Mathis’s past is full of memories she’d rather forget. But there’s one she can’t seem to shake—her longstanding crush on former Army Ranger Daniel Porter. Now that the sexy bad boy has started using her inn as his personal playground, she should kick him out…but his every heated glance makes her want to join him instead.
Daniel returned to Strawberry Valley, Oklahoma to care for his ailing father and burn off a little steam with no strings attached. Though he craves the curvy Dorothea night and day, he’s as marred by his past as she is by hers. The more he desires her, the more he fears losing her.
But every sizzling encounter leaves him desperate for more, and soon Daniel must make a choice: take a chance on love or walk away forever.
“Emotional, heart-tugging, kept me turning the pages!” —Carly Phillips, New York Times Bestselling Author
Excerpt Dorothea Mathis studied the last room on her cleanup schedule and groaned. The bed had been wrecked, the comforter and pillows tossed haphazardly on the floor. A pair of panties hung from a bedpost. The TV remote had been busted, the pieces scattered across the nightstand. Wet towels created a path to the bathroom door, and the trash can…
Oh, gag me! The trash can contained used condoms.
The place needed to be decontaminated by people wearing hazmat suits.
Am I up to date on my vaccinations?
With a sigh, Dorothea anchored earbuds in place, keyed up her iPod and donned a pair of latex gloves. One—germs. Gross! Two—she was protective of the green nail polish she’d applied only that morning.
She selected color based on mood. Green = irritated.
Somehow she’d known today would suck balls.
Her mom must have checked in Mr. and Ms. Pigsty last night after Dorothea had gone to bed. Since she had a 4:00 a.m. wake-up call, she tended to hit the sack by 9:00 p.m. Granny hours, her sister, Holly, liked to tell her.
Dorothea picked up the dirty towels, removed the panties from the post, emptied the trash, changed the sheets on the bed, straightened the pillows and covers, and tossed the remote remains, planning to bill the Pigstys for a new one.
Time was limited this morning. She’d promised to drive her mother into the city in— Crap! Less than an hour. She rushed through dusting and began vacuuming. As the machine swallowed dirt and debris, she tried not to envy her mother. Carol would soon be enjoying her fourth “singles retreat” of the year. Her fourth, but certainly not her last. She stayed at the Michaelson, a five-star hotel owned by the richest guy in Strawberry Valley, Dane Michaelson. Dane was married to a local girl Dorothea had gone to school with, and he allowed Carol to stay free of charge. No doubt about it, she took full advantage, attending speed-dating sessions, mixers and a plethora of themed parties.
Her busy love life was just one of the many reasons she’d given the Strawberry Inn to Dorothea.
The wheels on her cart suddenly squeaked, the sound louder than her music. Yanking out the earbuds, she spun.
Surprise expelled the air from her lungs, leaving her gasping. This so wasn’t happening right now.
It couldn’t be happening.
Nightmares didn’t really come to life. Nor did pornos. Not that she watched those…very often. But dang it, this had to be one or the other.
The sexiest man on the planet had just stridden into the room. He was shirtless, sweat glistening on his eight pack—and his name was Daniel Porter.
The Daniel. The childhood crush she’d never forgotten. The first boy to break her already fragile heart.
She gulped. What was he doing here?
Wait. Like she really needed to ponder this one. Welcome back, Mr. Pigsty.
Her hands trembled as she yanked the vacuum cord from the electrical socket, the room descending into silence as the engine died.
I think you’re perfect just the way you are.
She smoothed her trembling hands down her “uniform,” a pair of blue scrubs that could take a licking and keep on ticking. “Uh, hi. Hello.” Oh, wow. Could she be any lamer? Definitely in a nightmare, not a porno. “Welcome back.”
He pulled the earbuds from his ears and gifted her with a small smile that failed to hide the lines of strain around his mouth. “Sorry about the mess. I planned to clean up before I checked out.” His gaze darted throughout the room, and he cringed. “I also plan to pay for the remote.”
What kind of sexual acrobatics had placed the poor remote in harm’s path, anyway?
Oh, my stars. A warm flush poured over Dorothea, threatening to overheat her. She almost fanned her cheeks for relief, barely stopped herself.
Look away! She tried, she really did, but Daniel was just so freaking beautiful. He was even taller now, and stronger, with a rough, tough face. His cheekbones were sharp, and his nose boasted a small notch in the center. Been broken a time or two? Dark stubble dusted his angular jaw, though the shadows couldn’t disguise the fine tracery of scars on his left cheek.
He was a modern-day warrior—literally. After high school, he’d joined the army, defending the country he loved.
This wasn’t the first time Dorothea had seen him since his return to town a few months ago, but her body reacted as if she’d never seen any man, heating and tingling in all the naughtiest places.
Act naturally. He’s just a customer.
A customer who’d wrecked a room during his most recent stay, but whatever. He was waiting for her to respond to his offer.
Let’s do this. “Yes, thank you. Payment would be appreciated.” She wound the vacuum cord around her arm, her motions clipped. “As for the room, I just need to tidy the bathroom, and I’ll be done.”
With his back to her, he stuffed his toiletries into an overnight bag. “I’ll get out of your way, then.”
During his senior year of high school, he hadn’t just slept with Madison Clark; he’d slept with a string of beautiful, popular girls, as if banging-and-bailing had finally been dubbed a national sport.
Good thing Dorothea hadn’t pursued him. He would have taken all her firsts and discarded her like garbage.
Instead, Jazz Connors had taken all her firsts and discarded her like garbage.
Anger boiled her blood until bitterness swept in, leaving a glaze of frost. Fire and ice. This wasn’t the first time they’d battled it out, and this wouldn’t be the last. The biggest downside? They ensured the wounds inside her hollowed-out chest never really had a chance to heal.
After graduation, she’d moved to the big bad city, enrolled in the University of Oklahoma’s meteorology program, met Jazz and gotten hitched, just as she’d always dreamed…only to return home several years later with a divorce and no degree.
A washed-up has-been by the age of twenty-four.
Daniel, having served multiple tours of duty, had come back a hero.
His life had meaning, hers didn’t. He and two of his friends had started a security company right here in Strawberry Valley. He took care of his ailing father, and in his free time he dated a plethora of city girls.
Dorothea knew about the girls because he’d stayed at the inn every time a date had ended…successfully.
Her flush returned full force as she considered the other five rooms he’d wrecked since his return…all the pleasure he’d been having…all the pleasure she wished she could experience.
Not with him, of course. With someone she liked and respected. Someone who liked and respected her, too, despite the fact that she was still too round for society’s unhealthy standards, a lot too freckled and trapped in a dead-end job.
Daniel Porter would never qualify.
Dorothea found him attractive, yes, but to her, appearance would never outshine personality.
My man must be my equal. She had a lot of love to give. She’d even grown to like herself…kind of. Maybe. Fine, she was trying to like herself.
Avoiding Daniel’s gaze, she said, “No, you stay. I’ll go.” Words her mother had drilled into her shouted inside her head: the customer comes first. “I’ll finish your room later.” She rolled the vacuum toward her cart.
“You live here, right?” he asked. “You own the inn?”
“I… Yes.” Technically she lived in the attic. The more rooms she had available for guests, the more money she would make. At least in theory.
Money was the number one reason she cleaned the pigsties herself, rather than hiring a maid. She was saving her pennies to turn every plain, ordinary room into a themed paradise. Then Strawberry Valley residents would happily pay to stay just for fun.
Again, in theory.
So far she’d decided on six themes. (1) Four seasons—the weather, not the hotel chain. (2) An enchanted forest. (3) A techno dance club. (4) The underwater world of Atlantis. (5) A royal palace. And (6) an inner sanctum, aka a superhero’s wet dream.
Also up for consideration? A beach hut, an igloo, an insane asylum for her more daring patrons and a desert oasis.
With twenty-three rooms in total, she needed other ideas fast. And more money. A lot more money.
Maybe, when the transformations were completed, the feeling of accomplishment would finally chase away her anger and bitterness. Maybe she would feel alive. Happy.
“If any part of your stay was subpar,” she said, “I will personally—”
“No, everything has been great.” He looked over his shoulder and winked at her. “Just wanted to make sure you weren’t going to get into trouble with the boss.”
Every pulse point in her body leaped with excitement. He’d winked at her. Her!
I think you’re perfect just the way you are.
Red alert! She would not read more into his words than he’d intended. Not this time. He was a flirt, plain and simple. Always had been, apparently always would be.
“Why would I get in trouble?” she asked.
“For not finishing the room.”
Oh. Right. “Well, as long as you plan to come back to the inn, I won’t fire myself. Not because I’m desperate to see you or anything,” she added in a rush. “I’m not.” Dang it! “I mean, I’m always glad to see you here. I mean, I just want your money.” Okay. Enough!
He laughed, his amber eyes twinkling.
Air caught in her throat and sizzled. He had the sexiest laugh on the planet. His entire face softened. He pulsed with new life; fresh and vibrant, he was the epitome of spring.
Then he frowned, as if he couldn’t believe he’d found humor in, well, anything.
Her brow furrowed with confusion. Why the doom and gloom?
“In that case,” he said, his tone flat, “I think I’ll stay another night.”
“Really?” She licked her lips. “What about your girlfriend?”
He stiffened. “She isn’t my—”
“No, don’t tell me. I’m sorry I asked. Your love life isn’t my business.”
“I live in Strawberry Valley. My love life is everyone’s business.”
His wry tone made her chuckle, and he stiffened all over again. Great. What had she done wrong this time?
“I’ll be alone tonight,” he said, looking anywhere but at her. “Apparently I hover over my dad when I’m home, so he’s asked for another night off. But I swear to you, this room will be clean in the morning.”
She snorted. “I’ll believe it when I see it.”
The corners of his mouth twitched. “Doubting Dottie.” A pause, then, “Would you like a cup of coffee before you go?”
“Oh, uh, no, thank you.” While she no longer viewed Daniel through the wounded eyes of high school betrayal— he’d been a nice boy doing a nice thing for a vulnerable girl in desperate need of a white knight—she’d endured too much heartbreak over the years to risk getting to know him better and reigniting her crush.
Look at the way she’d reacted to him already.
He appeared…disappointed? No, of course not. A trick of the light, surely. “Well. See you around, Daniel.”
“Yeah. See you around, Dottie.” He returned his attention to his toiletry bag, dismissing her.
Irritation had her snapping, “My name is Dorothea.”
Before he could respond, she stepped into the hall and closed the door with a soft snick. Hands trembling, she hooked the vacuum to the cart and rolled the cargo to the supply room…where her younger sister Holly was smoking a cigarette.
Author Gena Showalter
About the Author Gena Showalter is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the spellbinding Lords of the Underworld and Angels of the Dark series, two young adult series–Everlife and the White Rabbit Chronicles–and the highly addictive Original Heartbreakers series. In addition to being a National Reader’s Choice and two time RITA nominee, her romance novels have appeared in Cosmopolitan (Red Hot Read) and Seventeen magazine, she’s appeared on Nightline and been mentioned in Orange is the New Black–if you ask her about it, she’ll talk for hours…hours!
Her books have been translated in multiple languages. She’s hard at work on her next novel, a tale featuring an alpha male with a dark side and the strong woman who brings him to his knees. You can learn more about Gena, her menagerie of rescue dogs, and all her upcoming books on her website or Facebook.
Welcome to the book blitz for IVAR’S PRIZE, a stand-alone adult science fiction romance series, by Amy Pennza. See below for information on the book, buy links, an exclusive excerpt, and details on her giveaway.
Synopsis Nadia Green has everything–power, prestige, and a fiancé. That all ends when she’s sentenced to life on the prison planet Tolbos. Within hours of landing, Nadia finds herself captured, stripped, and placed on an auction block, where she’s purchased by Ivar Holok, a brutal warlord with golden eyes and an ability to wield kaptum with a mastery unlike anyone she’s ever seen.
Ivar is instantly attracted to the beautiful slave, but he suspects her presence on Tolbos has sinister implications. The Council wants him dead, and what better way to achieve its goal than by planting an irresistible assassin in his bed? No matter how much he wants to trust her, Ivar has to protect his people–even if it means denying Nadia her freedom. He vows to keep her enslaved and at his mercy until she confesses her involvement in the Council’s schemes, but he didn’t count on the slave enthralling her master.
Excerpt #3 Nadia seethed as her new captor pulled her down the platform steps. What an ass! He could have at least given her his shirt.
She was acutely aware of her nudity as he tugged her through the crowd, which had barely thinned since he’d freed her from the manacles. Men stared openly at her breasts, her legs, and the juncture of her thighs. Something brushed her backside, making her spurt forward—an action she immediately regretted when her breasts bounced, drawing more stares.
The warlord seemed unaware of her discomfort as he pulled her through the sea of bodies, her fingers tight around her biceps. She struggled to match his long strides. She stepped on a rock, the sharp edge like a nail in her foot. She swore under her breath. She’d had enough of being dragged around.
She tugged at his grip. “I can walk just fine on my own.”
He hauled her against his side, and she gasped. He put his mouth next to her ear. “You want to get out of this place alive? Be mindful of our audience.”
She’d avoided meeting the gazes of the men around them, but now she glanced at the hard faces following their progress. The avid, hungry expressions they’d worn during the auction had been replaced by something else…something more sinister. Hundreds of dull, flat stares met hers. She swallowed.
“You see?” the warlord said, his breath ruffling the fine hairs around her temple.
“Good. Now keep your head down and try to act docile.”
Something in his tone made her glance up. He’d sounded almost…amused. She searched his face, but his eyes were hard, his mouth a straight slash. She must have imagined it. She lowered her head and allowed him to continue leading her through the crowd.
He halted them beside the man who’d accompanied him to the platform. The man’s kind, brown-eyed gaze stayed firmly on her face when he said, “I have your boots here.” He lifted them from a bundle on the ground.
Nadia never thought she’d feel weepy over a pair of ugly prison-issue boots, but tears smarted in her eyes. “Thank you,” she said, taking them. She stood awkwardly between the two men, wondering if she should put them on.
“I’m Porter, by the way,” the man said.
She hugged the boots to her chest, grateful to have some covering, no matter how meager. “I’m Nadia.” Her gaze drifted to the warlord, who stared over her head at the men around them. The tattoo on his forearm had retreated to its original position on his bicep. She wondered if she’d hallucinated it moving. She’d hit her head on the pole when Axos slammed her against it. Maybe she’d been delirious.
“My name is Ivar,” he said, still focused on the crowd. “You may use it, unless I tell you otherwise.”
“And if you tell me otherwise? What do I call you then?”
He looked at her. “Master.”
She had to bite the insides of her cheeks to keep from spitting something hateful back at him. She’d been captured, enslaved, stripped, and sold—all in one day. Now she stood naked and humiliated on a strange planet, the property of a man who’d traded a few liters of water for the right to have sex with her.
Porter pulled a shirt from the bundle and held it out. “Ah, here. It’s the best I could do.” He gestured to the ground. “Unfortunately, your other clothes are torn, but they can be mended.”
She dropped the boots so she could pull the shirt over her head. It was missing most of its sleeves, and it had several small holes, but it covered everything. She tugged the hem down her thighs.
“It’s too big,” he said.
Big was good. After today, she was switching her clothes to the full-length variety. “No, it’s fine.”
“Sorry about the sleeves.”
“I like sleeveless.”
“That’s exactly what the guy I just took it from said.”
He’d literally taken the shirt off someone’s back? She pictured a big, pouting man, arms folded over a bare chest after losing his favorite sleeveless shirt. She smiled tentatively. “Thank you.”
His eyes warmed as he smiled back, his teeth white and even.
“Put on the boots so we can go,” Ivar said, cutting through the moment.
Worried he’d take the shirt back if she disobeyed, she bent and did as he ordered. Her socks were missing, but she didn’t dare complain. She had a feeling he wouldn’t respond well to a request for socks.
“Raddoc won’t forget today,” Porter said over her head.
Ivar grunted. “I’m counting on it.”
He reclaimed her wrist and resumed tugging her through the crowd, Porter falling into step beside him. They hadn’t gone far when Axos and his one-eyed sidekick appeared in front of them.
Ivar released her. “Be forewarned, Axos. My patience is wearing thin.”
Although Nadia could have gone several lifetimes without seeing Axos again, she took pleasure in watching him look up to address Ivar. It was also satisfying to see him eye the serrated sword Porter slid casually from its sheath.
“I don’t want no trouble,” Axos said without taking his gaze off the deadly-looking weapon. “But Dario and me agreed to split her eighty-twenty, and I don’t trust him.”
“You shouldn’t,” Porter said, running a thumb down his blade.
Axos swallowed. “I just want what’s coming to me. Fair and square.”
Ivar’s smile held no humor. “I have no doubt you’ll get it…one day.”
The one-eyed man shook his blond dreadlocks over his shoulders and stepped forward. “We found her. If we go back to our master empty-handed, he’ll kill us.”
“That would be a shame.”
Axos growled. “We had a deal. We’re owed.”
Ivar glanced at Porter. Some unspoken exchange passed between them—so subtle Nadia would have missed it if she hadn’t been watching them closely. Porter tugged her gently backward, away from the other men. Ivar turned back to Axos. “Your deal was with Dario. Take it up with him.”
They weren’t particularly threatening words, but Axos and his man paled under their tanned skin and left without another word.
Nadia sent a questioning look to Porter, but his eyes were on Ivar, who rolled his head slowly on his neck before stalking away.
Porter took her wrist. “Let’s go.”
Apparently, no one on Tolbos trusted her to walk unaided. His hold was much gentler than Ivar’s, although she knew instinctively he would be just as difficult to escape if she tried. The friendly look he’d given her when he’d offered her the shirt and boots was gone, replaced with the same expressionless mask his leader wore.
Something about these men had caused both Raddoc and Axos to back down. That meant they were dangerous—the sort of biggest and baddest that made others want to please them. The one-eyed man had even been willing to risk the wrath of his master rather than face off with Ivar.
Master. That had to mean he and Axos were slaves, didn’t it? Yet Axos had called her slave. She trotted to match Porter’s strides. Just how fucked up was this planet’s social structure? Ivar had told her to ask questions later. Well, she was racking up quite the tally. Unfortunately, the only thing she could do at the moment was stumble alongside her taciturn companion.
As they left the crowd and the platform behind, she wondered where they were taking her. They were both convicts; everyone on Tolbos had been sentenced for something. Whatever these men had done, it had been bad enough to land them on a barren mining planet for life. For all she knew, they were rapists or murderers. Maybe both. Tolbos was home to all manner of criminals.
“Including you,” said a little voice in her head. Her boot caught the edge of a rock. She tripped forward.
Porter grabbed her elbow. “You all right?”
“I’m probably walking too fast.” He lifted his head and whistled.
Ahead of them, Ivar stopped and looked over his shoulder.
“Slow it down a little. She can’t keep up.”
Ivar glanced at her. He grunted and kept walking. But he modified his strides.
The slower pace gave her a chance to think. As outraged as she felt about her sentence, she had to accept it. She’d known the penalties for breaking the law. She’d done it anyway. That made her a criminal. According to the Council’s rules, she was exactly where she belonged.
After the fourth Great Conflict had decimated Earth’s population, the Council had worried humanity would never fully recover. Life was simply too precious to waste, so they had created a strict behavior code that abhorred violence of any kind. If the human race was to survive, the Council needed everyone to do their part.
Unless, of course, it decided you were irredeemable.
That’s what the head magistrate had called her when he’d read her sentence. His face, a pale moon in the shadows of his hooded robe, had been emotionless. Except for his eyes. His eyes had found her all the way across the hearing room, and they’d burned with scorn when he said, “Prisoner 757, the Council does not tolerate crime. I deem you unfit for habitation in the common populace and declare you an irredeemable. I sentence you to hard labor on Tolbos for life. No possibility of parole.”
The last part had been a formality. No one ever left Tolbos.
Their boots crunched against the rocks, and the heat of the suns beat down, making sweat trickle between her shoulder blades. Tolbos was locked in close orbit with its twin red dwarf stars, and the hazy suns hung heavy in the sky, creating a claustrophobic atmosphere.
The heat reminded her she’d had nothing to drink or eat since before she’d launched, and her tongue stuck to the roof of her mouth. To distract herself from her discomfort, she studied Ivar’s broad back as he stalked ahead, his long legs easily eating up the terrain.
For such a big man, he moved gracefully. His shoulders were crisscrossed by a harness that held the long broadsword. Her gaze strayed lower. His loose black pants were tucked in the tops of his boots and rode low on his narrow hips. He wore a knife strapped to his thigh, and the hilt of another stuck out of his boot. It flashed in the sun as he leaped over a small boulder, the muscles in his ass flexing.
She stumbled but recovered quickly. She had not just been admiring his ass.
She glanced at Porter. “Yeah. Just clumsy.” She trained her gaze on the horizon—safely away from any part of Ivar’s anatomy.
They continued trudging across the rocky surface. Sweat trickled down her forehead, burning her eyes. Her muscles twitched—a sign of dehydration, she knew. She scowled. Ivar had made his intentions toward her quite clear. She’d be no good to him as a sex slave if she died of thirst.
She peered at the back of his neck, where a dark tattoo—much like the one she’d glimpsed on his arm—peeked above his collar. The thing was, she could have sworn it hadn’t been there when she’d watched him confront Axos. Similar in color and design to the ones Raddoc and his men wore, it didn’t look like any tattoo she’d seen back home. There were no words or symbols—just thick whorls of brown so dark they appeared almost black.
Porter glanced down. “Almost there.”
They crested a small hill dotted with Tolbos trees. Her boots skidded against the rocks, but Porter steadied her. He pointed ahead, to where an empty vehicle sat baking in the heat. Like the others she’d seen, it was a jumble of scrap parts affixed to mismatched wheels. Ivar was shrugging out of his sword harness as she and Porter approached.
Ivar tossed her a canteen across the vehicle’s hood. “Drink.”
She caught it and fumbled the cap open. Water splashed out of the opening as she jerked it to her mouth and drank. She closed her eyes on a groan. The canteen was almost too hot to touch, and the water was warm, but nothing had ever tasted so good.
“Don’t gulp it,” Ivar said. “You’ll get sick.”
She lowered the canteen. He was probably right. The water sloshed in her empty stomach. She leaned across the vehicle and held out the canteen, but he gestured for her to keep it. His gaze dipped to a point below her chin. She glanced down. The oversized shirt gaped open, giving him a full view of her breasts.
She jerked upright and folded her arms over her chest.
Gold eyes snapped up to hers. She stiffened, expecting to see anger there, but was surprised when she detected a glimmer of something that looked suspiciously like amusement. It softened his jaw. Her gaze drifted to his mouth. His lips were full and expressive—a sharp contrast to the hard, unforgiving planes of his face. He turned to Porter, leaving her to wonder whether she’d imagined the fleeting emotion.
“Anything?” he asked Porter.
Porter shook his head. “No sign of them. Still,” he said, casting a slow, watchful look around the terrain, “I’ll feel better when we put some distance between us and this place.”
Ivar nodded. “If we leave now, we’ll be home by nightfall.”
* * * *
For the second time in less than twenty-four hours, Nadia raced across Tolbos’s rocky surface toward an unknown destination. At least they’d left her hands and feet untied. She wiped grit from her eyes. Never taking that ability for granted again.
She rubbed her wrists, where angry red welts marred her skin. The manacles had tightened every time she’d moved, almost as if they’d adjusted in response to her struggles. She’d never heard of kaptum behaving that way.
She gazed at the hilt of the broadsword that stuck up between the two men seated in front. Ivar had planted it point-first into the vehicle’s floor, where it had promptly melted into the metal. The blade now shimmered a dull red in the fading sunlight.
By her reckoning, they’d been traveling for nearly three hours. Her stomach rumbled continuously, and her back ached from the constant jolting of the vehicle over the rocks.
Neither man had so much as glanced back at her since they’d started their journey. They obviously weren’t worried about her trying to escape while their backs were turned—not that she’d had an opportunity to try it. The terrain had changed, the hills growing taller until they resembled small mountains. Still, Ivar maintained the same breakneck pace, driving up and down the slopes at a speed that made Nadia cling to her seat.
A jump from the rapidly moving vehicle would almost definitely leave her with serious injuries, assuming she survived it. Even if she did, there was little chance she’d make it through the night without food or shelter. With its thin atmosphere, Tolbos lost heat rapidly after sunset, and temperatures plunged low enough to cause hypothermia. Her options boiled down to jumping from the vehicle and possibly freezing to death or staying put and living out her days as a warlord’s personal sex toy.
She sighed and studied the backs of the men’s heads. Her options sucked. As if voicing its agreement, her stomach growled loudly.
Porter twisted in his seat and grinned at her. “Hungry?”
“I haven’t eaten since I landed.”
“Don’t worry. We’re almost there. Just over this ridge.”
Her breath caught when they reached the top. The “ridge” was actually the lip of a giant crater that stretched so wide she couldn’t see the other side. But that wasn’t even the most impressive part. In the center rose a mountain so tall it blotted out the descending suns, which created a hazy reddish-brown halo around the peak.
“Impressive, isn’t it?” Porter asked, as Nadia threw up a hand to shield her eyes.
For someone who had spent the majority of her twenty-five years aboard a starship, it certainly was. There might have been taller mountains on Earth and other planets, but Nadia had never seen one in person. She gripped the back of Porter’s seat as Ivar took the vehicle down the crater’s steep slope. The mountain loomed over them, casting a black shadow that swallowed the vehicle and raised goose bumps on her exposed skin.
They hurtled down the side of the crater, and her stomach dropped as they headed straight toward the mountain. It was even more massive from this angle. Nadia stared up at it. Did they expect her to climb that thing? As they neared the base, two structures appeared. She squinted, struggling to make them out in the suns’ dying light.
The vehicle sped closer, bringing them into view. They were guard towers, she realized, spotting a handful of men on platforms at the top. Tall and white, the two identical towers stood like giant, lonely sentinels at the foot of the mountain. She wondered how many Tolbos trees it had taken to build them. She’d been taught they were scarce, but her teachers at the Academy had got it wrong. The stunted trees were everywhere. Fascinating. She’d love to get her hands on one. Maybe run a few experiments.
She tightened her grip on the seat. Remember where you are, idiot. Her heart sank. She’d just been sold at a slave auction. No one on Tolbos cared about science or experiments.
The men in the towers saluted as the vehicle passed between them. For a moment, it looked like Ivar would drive the vehicle smack into the side of the mountain, but the road dipped and curved at the last second, revealing an opening big enough for the vehicle. At last, he slowed down, and they entered a yawning tunnel. It was dark, but a blaze of light beckoned. After a few soft curves, they emerged from another wide opening and into the light.
Nadia gaped at the world that opened before her. They drove through an enormous cavern ringed with a network of caves that soared as high as the eye could see. There had to be hundreds of them. She craned her head to search for a ceiling. Each level of caves was set back from a wide path that climbed up and around smooth walls. Lights flickered in most of the openings, and she caught glimpses of people and furnishings. The inside of the mountain was practically hollow—an intricate honeycomb of caves dug from solid rock. She was counting the levels when Ivar stopped the vehicle.
The sound of the engine shutting off brought her crashing back to reality. They’d stopped in the middle of the cavern’s smooth stone floor, near half a dozen empty vehicles. Twisting around, she realized no daylight reached the inside of the mountain. The entire cavern was illuminated by dozens of torches set in hooks on the walls.
She was in the belly of the beast now—literally. Her heart beat hard against her ribs as Porter and Ivar climbed out of the vehicle and gathered their weapons. Despite the water she’d sipped during the long drive, her throat felt suddenly dry.
Porter stretched and ran his fingers through his wavy brown hair, grimacing when they came away coated with dust. “I’m in serious need of a bath, not to mention food. You headed to the dining hall?”
Ivar shook his head. “Nadia and I will eat upstairs. We need some time to get acquainted.” The way he said her name put the emphasis on the second syllable, so it came out sounding more like Na-dee-ya.
Still seated, she took deep breaths in an effort to slow her heart rate. Get acquainted was an interesting euphemism for nonconsensual sex. Just her luck. She’d landed a warlord with manners. Great.
“Right,” Porter said, tossing her a quick smile. “It’s been a pleasure, Nadia. I’m sure I’ll see you around.” He swept her a courtly bow, adjusted his sword, and strode off.
She felt abandoned as she watched him go. He wasn’t exactly a friend, but he’d been kind to her. A small sound snapped her attention back to Ivar, who watched her with his odd-colored eyes.
“If you’ll follow me, I’ll get you something to eat.” It was couched politely enough, but they both knew it wasn’t a request.
She got out of the vehicle on stiff legs and stood before him, her gaze darting to the kaptum sword in his brown hand and traveling almost against her will up the muscular arm, across his shoulder, to his face.
He wasn’t classically handsome. His face was far too cruel and hard for that. But she had to admit he was pleasing to look at. Golden skin stretched taut over deep cheekbones and a square jaw. His blade of a nose had a scar across the bridge. He had another scar on his forehead, where his black hair formed a prominent widow’s peak. It was buzzed so close to his head she could see his scalp, which sported several more scars. Either he was especially clumsy or someone had tried to kill him multiple times. Considering how she felt about him after less than a day in his presence, her bet was on the latter.
“Like what you see?” his deep voice rumbled.
Her cheeks heated at being caught staring. “Does it matter?” she dared to ask.
In reply, his gaze dropped to her legs, then traveled upward with an agonizing slowness that made her breath hitch. By the time his gaze settled on her face, she was certain her cheeks could have started a fire. She could hardly complain about his scrutiny, considering she’d just subjected him to the same.
He flipped the broadsword up so the flat of the blade rested on his shoulder and his wrist draped over the hilt. “Come,” he said and then turned and walked away.
She opened her mouth to tell him that, slave or no, she had no intention of sleeping with him, but he kept walking, the sword bouncing in sync with his stride. Clearly, he expected her to follow him like an obedient dog.
She spun in a slow circle. The cavern’s smooth floor was shiny, almost polished, and it showed no tracks from the vehicle’s tires. There were openings at various points along the walls. She could walk right out. Goodbye, asshole! She looked back the way Ivar had gone just in time to see him disappear through an arched doorway carved into the stone.
She stared after him, wondering what sort of game he was playing. Although she could hear the faint sounds of movement and voices drifting from the caves along the walls, the cavern floor was deserted. As far as she could see, there was no one to stop her from leaving. He probably assumed she was too terrified to make a run for it. His arrogance galled her, even if it was closer to the truth than she cared to admit.
She smoothed her sweaty palms down the tattered shirt. The chill she’d felt in the mountain’s shadow had been a strong reminder of how dangerous night was on Tolbos—especially for someone with no food or supplies. She glanced around at the various openings and muttered, “Pick a door, any door.” Even if she managed to make it out of the mountain, she’d still have to get past the guards on the towers. And what then? A quick, miserable death in subzero temperatures? Another run-in with Axos or Raddoc?
With a last, lingering look at the nearest opening, she headed toward the doorway Ivar had entered. Before she stepped through it, she stopped to stare at the torches blazing on either side. They glowed with an odd blue-tinged light unlike anything she’d seen before. The flames also behaved strangely, undulating so slowly they seemed to move as though underwater. She watched, mesmerized, as one twisted in midair and dipped toward her. Heat bloomed against her chest as a long tendril of flame crept closer. Nadia extended her hand.
“I wouldn’t,” a deep voice said from the shadow of the archway.
She jumped and let out a muffled yelp. The flame shivered in the air and retreated to the top of the torch. She glared at Ivar. “You scared me!”
He leaned against the doorway. “Don’t touch the flames. They’re infused with kaptum.”
“Are they?” She glanced at them. “I thought kaptum exploded when heated.”
“Not trace amounts.”
“You put it in the fire? Why?”
“Everything on Tolbos contains kaptum. The soil. The air.” His eyes gleamed in the torchlight, which now leaned in his direction. “It’s all around you.”
The light played over his face. Not for the first time, she felt small and fragile standing next to him. At nearly six feet, she was tall for a woman, but he dwarfed her. “You can’t force me to sleep with you,” she said in a low voice.
One black eyebrow lifted. “I bought you. The word ‘force’ doesn’t apply to slaves.”
She gritted her teeth. “I’m not your slave. A person can’t own another person. The Council—”
“As you might have noticed, the Earth-Space Intergalactic Council does not maintain a presence here. This is a prison planet, and you’re a prisoner, which means you’re no longer entitled to the Council’s protection. As it happens, however, I have no interest in forcing anyone to sleep with me.”
“But you—” She glared at him. She’d almost said ‘bought.’
His smile was slow and wicked. Oh, yes. He knew exactly what she’d been about to say. He gestured toward the cavern. “You decided to follow me rather than escape—a wise decision, I might add—and you’ll decide to share my bed. Force won’t be necessary.”
“Don’t count on it.”
To her consternation, he winked at her before turning and walking through the arch once more. “As you say, Na-dee-ya,” he said over his shoulder. “Come.”
The command set her teeth on edge. She was getting awfully tired of being ordered about like an animal. She followed him down a narrow corridor lit with torches set high in the walls. His broad shoulders almost touched either side. The memory of being flung over the one-eyed giant’s back sent a phantom ache through her middle.
At least Ivar hadn’t done that. Compared to Axos and his men, he’d been downright courteous.
His words from the auction came back to her. “You want to get out of this place alive?” He’d gripped her arm as he’d pulled her through the crowd, but he hadn’t hurt her. Unlike Axos, he hadn’t tied or threatened to maim her. Most people were more honest in their actions than their words. Ahead of her, the bluish light of the kaptum torches glinted in the broadsword he still carried.
He’d said he wouldn’t force her to sleep with him. So far, he’d given her no reason to doubt him.
With the threat of rape off the table, she was free to indulge her curiosity about his home. Although crude by Earth or starship standards, the network of caves was an amazing feat of engineering. The walls bore chisel marks here and there, and she marveled at how long it must have taken the prisoners on Tolbos to dig this place out of the mountain.
The corridor ended in a spiral staircase carved into the cavern wall. Ivar grabbed a torch and, holding it aloft, began to climb. Nadia followed, wondering just how high it went. Her stomach was rumbling again, and her temples throbbed. She propelled her body up stair after stair.
Every fifteen steps or so, they passed a landing that led down another corridor. Her side pinched. Another landing. Maybe this time he’d stop and say, “We’re here!”
Nope. He kept climbing.
She stared blearily at the bobbing light from Ivar’s torch. Did he intend to summit the stupid mountain?
Just as she was about to sink onto the step in front of her and beg him to leave her for dead, the stairs leveled out into a broad passageway. Ivar tucked the torch into an empty holder and watched her drag herself up the last few steps.
“You get used to the stairs,” he said.
She sagged against the wall, her shaking legs threatening to collapse under her.
Without warning, he scooped her into his arms. She squawked and struggled to tug her shirt back down her thighs. The hard arm under her legs skirted dangerously close to her bare backside.
“Stop wiggling.” He hefted her higher up on his chest. The movement further dislodged her shirt, making it puddle around her stomach. Her entire lower half was bared to his gaze. Before she could protest, he carried her through another doorway and set her down in a large room dominated by the biggest bed she’d ever seen.
In the middle of it, a beautiful blonde sat on her knees brushing another woman’s hair. Nadia gasped. So that was what he kept in his mountain hideaway? A harem?
The woman with the brush stopped mid-stroke and nudged the other, who glanced over her shoulder. They regarded Nadia with identical curious expressions.
Apparently unfazed by the scene, Ivar moved around her and crossed to a big desk made of Tolbos wood. He lay his sword on the surface and settled himself behind it. “Eleni, Annika, this is Nadia. Nadia, meet Eleni and Annika.”
The women smiled. They could have been sisters with their long, wavy hair and clear blue eyes. Although they weren’t dressed provocatively, their clothes couldn’t hide the fact that they both possessed lovely figures.
Nadia looked at Ivar. “You have a harem?”
“You…have a harem.”
Author Amy Pennza
About the Author Amy Pennza is an author of romantic fiction that’s not afraid to turn up the heat. A lawyer-turned-copywriter, she’s much happier behind a keyboard than she was in the courtroom. A mom of four, including a set of twins, she always has a granola bar and a package of baby wipes handy. After years in Tornado Alley, she now makes her home in the Great Lakes region with her husband, kids, and one very persnickety cat.
Welcome to the book blitz for H.A.L.F. ORIGINS, the third book in the young adult science fiction romance series, H.A.L.F., by Natalie Wright. See below for information on the book, buy links for all three books in the series, an exclusive excerpt, and details on her giveaway.
H.A.L.F. ORIGINS (H.A.L.F. Series #3) by Natalie Wright
Synopsis Alien predators attack Europe. A deadly virus spawns an epidemic. And a clandestine organization conspires to profit from chaos and forge a New World Order.
In this heart-pounding finale of the H.A.L.F. series, Tex, Erika and the rest are in a race against time. In books one and two they fought for their lives. Now they battle to save us all.
Tex and Erika are again fugitives and running for their lives. But when Tex falls gravely ill, a Navajo healer is his only hope for survival. Tex emerges changed in mind and body but with vital information: how to stop the predatory M’Uktah from destroying those he has come to love.
Erika Holt seeks a respite from the threats to her life but hasn’t given up. As she and Tex launch a mission to shut down the galactic highway used by the invaders, she grows closer to her troubled human-alien hybrid companion. But what about her on-again, off-again boyfriend Jack?
Jack Wilson, along with his new friend Anna Sturgis, is determined to put an end to the Makers’ schemes for world domination. Complicating matters, the valuable medicine to counter the alien virus has been stolen.
As both alien and human forces line up against them, the destiny of all mankind is hand the hands of these young warriors. And time is running out.
“The latest satisfying addition to the H.A.L.F. series has something for everyone: exciting action scenes; great love stories; fascinating new aliens; and relatable characters fighting to save the world and find their places in it.” ~Alyssa H., Red Adept.
Raindrops pelted the windshield of the rust-bucket truck Erika had borrowed from Ian’s dad. Nearly an hour had passed since she’d seen the lights of the last police car recede in her rearview mirror, but her fingers still shook as she turned on the windshield wipers. They were little help. The spittle of rain turned the dusty windshield into a muddy mess, and the sun-rotted rubber of the wipers streaked the glass.
The jacked-up truck tackled the harsh terrain of the desert like a pro. The police cars were no match for barrel cacti and creosote bushes as large as small cars. The local Ajo police that had tried to stop them likely didn’t know that they were chasing a human-alien hybrid that had escaped, again, from a secret underground lab controlled by the clandestine organization known as The Makers. The Makers had surely spun the lies necessary to convince local law enforcement that Tex was a dangerous fugitive. Ironic. The lie had become the truth. Erika and Tex were, in fact, fugitives on the run and again fighting for their lives. It was like déjà vu all over again.
Erika’s bottom was bruised from bouncing on the seat. Her wrists ached from gripping the wheel. After nearly an hour of rough riding, they hit a two-lane road going east. Erika was heading to New Mexico, where her Aunt Dana, her father’s sister, lived. Without complications, they would get to Aunt Dana’s in about eight hours. If she’ll have us.
Tex had been quiet but awake as Erika navigated the bumpy ground. Once they reached the smooth pavement, he tucked his knees to his chest, hugged his arms around his legs, and became a silent egg-shaped blob on the seat next to her. Erika had seen him withdraw into himself before, but he was even more quiet and still than usual.
Erika wished he’d have stayed awake longer. She wanted to pry answers out of him. She had questions about his time with the Conexus, when he had been linked directly to their hive-mind collective. Ever since Dr. Randall had unhooked Tex from the Conexus, he was acting distant and short-tempered. Erika wondered what had really happened to him during his time with the Conexus. And what did he mean when he spoke of struggles for humans to come and the knowledge he got from the Conexus? She hoped he would answer these questions and more when they got to Aunt Dana’s.
The dribble of rain became a hailstorm. Peanut-sized ice balls pinged the metal roof of the truck. Within minutes, the hail turned into a deluge. Erika turned the wipers to full blast, but that only smeared the windshield faster. The Tex blob remained eerily quiet and unperturbed.
Erika’s swollen right eye, a gift from one of the Makers’ guards during their escape from the school, made it difficult to see. Both eyes were heavy with fatigue. She blinked rapidly and shook her head, trying to clear the drowsiness. She switched on the radio, and raucous Tejano music blasted. She wasn’t a fan of the accordion-heavy genre. The ancient truck speakers distorted the sound, making it nothing but noise to her ears, but at least the booming music helped keep her awake.
Erika had never been much of a life planner. Her current situation of living day-to-day did not bother her as much as it might have irritated some people. She was focused on her current task, getting Tex safely to a location where he could heal. She’d help him find a place to stay hidden from the Makers and Sturgis. She wasn’t sure what came after that. Just stay awake. And alive.
Tex didn’t stir or acknowledge the radio. Is he dead? She poked at him with a finger. “Tex? You okay?”
With his head still to his knees, his voice was muffled but cool and even. “I am alive if that is what you mean.”
“You’ve been so quiet. With the escape back there at the school, the dogs, and now the rain… I was just hoping that you’re all right.”
Tex raised his head slightly and turned toward her, his large eyes peeking over his arm. “I have been through worse.”
The understatement of the century. She’d been through worse, too: the days of fever she endured after the Conexus gave her the virus, the long hours of watching Ian wracked with pain when she could do nothing but watch him inch toward death, weeks of hunger and thirst. She had been forced to take the lives of others or lose her own, and she had watched her mom breathe her last breath. They’d all been through hell and back.
Tex’s indifference was still better than silence between them. The tinny horns and the beat of the music stopped abruptly.
The radio announcer broke in, speaking in Spanish. “There has been a massive terrorist attack in Europe. The entire continent is without power. Communication systems are down. Though reports are sketchy, US authorities state that the attacks appear to be focused on London and Paris.”
Erika’s chest tightened. For a moment, she forgot to breathe. “He said that communication systems are down in Europe and there’s been a massive terrorist attack. The terrorists hit London and Paris.”
Tex unwound his arms from around his legs. “I understood what he said.” He sounded condescending, as though everyone could understand Spanish as well as English.
“Oh. I just assumed that—”
“You assume a great many things.”
Erika didn’t know what he meant, but she was more worried about what the heck was going on in Europe than her traveling companion’s surly attitude. The radio announcer spoke of the apparent sophistication and coordination of the attacks. He stated that the terrorists had clearly used an advanced technology that took out the power grid across Europe. Terrorists with advanced technology? Could the Makers be behind this?
Continuing in Spanish, the announcer said, “The US has raised the terrorist alert level to high and has closed all borders, effective immediately. There are reports of disruption to GPS and cellular service in the United States, indicating possible destruction or interference with multiple satellites.”
“Just what we don’t need. First the virus to deal with, now terrorists run amok.”
“It is not a terrorist attack,” Tex said with total conviction.
“You just heard the guy say it’s a terrorist attack. He said the report came from NORAD.”
“Then this NORAD fellow is wrong… or lying.”
During her time at Casa Sturgis, Erika had lost most of her faith in the authorities. Getting locked up in an underground city run by crazy government scientists and black-budget military would do that to you. Even if The Makers were behind AHDNA, that didn’t negate the fact that, somewhere along the line, some important people were very corrupt. Maybe even a lot of people.
Even after all she’d seen, though, she still believed most of the people working for the government weren’t crooked, self-serving traitors who would sell out the lives of millions just for their own little piece of the post-virus pie. People like Dr. Montoya worked for the government. Dr. Montoya had risked her life to help them to keep the antivirus out of the hands of the Makers so it could be synthesized to help the masses rather than the elite few chosen by William Croft and company.
“Why would the military lie about terrorists?” she asked. “And if it’s not terrorists, then who would cause a massive power failure?”
“Something far worse than extremists with a vendetta. Pull over. I will drive now.”
“Have you ever driven before?”
Tex shook his head. “Pull over,” he repeated.
“And what do you mean ‘worse’?”
“Erika, I tire of questions every time I ask something of you. There is a helicopter on its way. You did not think that the Makers would send only a few local law-enforcement vehicles after me, did you? Shall we argue further? Or shall I attempt to lose those that tail us?”
Author Natalie Wright
About the Author Natalie writes adventurous fantasy and science fiction for teens and adults including her award-winning H.A.L.F. series and The Akasha Chronicles. Her first novel, Emily’s House, has been read over 2 Million times on Wattpad!
When not writing, reading or questing in Skyrim, Natalie meets readers and appears on writer panels at comic cons and book festivals throughout the western U.S. She and her mascot baby alien traveled over 10,000 miles in the past year!
Natalie lives in Tucson, Arizona with her husband, teen daughter and two cat overlords.
Welcome to the blog tour for YOU SAY IT FIRST, the first book in the adult contemporary romance series, Happily, Inc., by New York Times bestselling author, Susan Mallery. See below for information on the book, buy links, an exclusive excerpt, and details on her giveaway.
YOU SAY IT FIRST (Happily, Inc. #1) by Susan Mallery
Synopsis The #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Fool’s Gold romances invites you to visit Happily Inc, a wedding destination founded on a fairy tale…
Sculptor Nick Mitchell grew up in a family of artists and learned from his volatile father that passion only leads to pain. As he waits on a new commission, he takes a day job as a humble carpenter at a theme wedding venue. The job has its perks–mainly the venue’s captivating owner, Pallas Saunders. Although he won’t let love consume him, for ecstasy with an expiration date, he’s all in.
Pallas adores Weddings in a Box. But if she can’t turn the floundering business around, she’ll have no choice but to cave to her domineering mother and trade taffeta for trust funds working at the family’s bank. Then when a desperate bride begs Pallas for something completely out of the box, her irresistible new hire inspires her. Nick knows she doesn’t belong behind a desk, and she knows in her heart that he’s right—where she really belongs is in his arms.
Excerpt #3 Nick sanded the sliver of wood so the point was sharper, then used tweezers to carefully put it into place. This time the fit was perfect. The restoration of the panels was painstaking work, but worth it, he thought. Something this beautiful deserved to be made whole again.
“Do you have a second?”
He looked up and saw Pallas in the doorway. Not a surprise—this was her business and from what he could tell, she was in the office every day. However, right now something was very different and every cell in his body noticed.
Instead of her usual work uniform of jeans and T-shirt, she had on a long dress. But not just any dress. It was low-cut, with a tight, black leather corset over a white short-sleeved puffy blouse and full, black-and-white vertical strip skirt that fell to the floor.
She had curves he hadn’t noticed before—the kind of curves that got a man to thinking about touching and tasting. While he’d known that Pallas was female and someone whose company he enjoyed, he hadn’t exactly seen her that way before. That he did now was unsettling. Worse was the possibility that now there was no way to unsee her.
She held out the skirt with both hands. “I have a princess wedding with a black-and-white theme. My friend Violet wants to make these changes to the server costumes.” Her voice sounded doubtful. “We’ve used this basic style forever, but she added the corset and the overlay on the skirt.”
She spun around for him to see the back, then bent over to look at the—well, he didn’t know or care what. Not with her breasts practically spilling out. Was it him or was it hot in here?
“I can’t figure out if it’s sexy or slutty. I thought I could get a man’s opinion.”
He had to clear his throat before he could speak. “It looks good.”
“Really? Do you think it will be a distraction?”
“Probably, but is that bad?”
“As long as the bride isn’t pissed.” She smiled. “I guess we’ll risk it. I’ll tell her we’re a go with the slutty dresses.”
“Sexy, not slutty.”
“I can only hope.”
She released the skirt and crossed her arms under her breasts. The full curves seemed to swell toward him, which made it difficult to think about anything but walking over and pulling her close. What he would do after that wasn’t totally clear. Mostly because there were so many possibilities—there was no way to pick just one.
Author Susan Mallery
About the Author #1 New York Times bestselling author Susan Mallery writes heartwarming and humorous novels about the relationships that define women’s lives—family, friendship, romance. She’s best known for putting nuanced characters into emotionally complex, real-life situations with twists that surprise readers to laughter. Because Susan is passionate about animal welfare, pets play a big role in her books. Beloved by millions of readers worldwide, her books have been translated into 28 languages.
Susan lives in Washington state with her husband, two ragdoll cats, and a small poodle with delusions of grandeur.
Welcome to the blog tour for THE LUCKY HEART, the third book in the adult contemporary romance series, Jamison Valley, by Devney. See below for information on the book, buy links for the series, an exclusive excerpt, and details on her giveaway.
THE LUCKY HEART (Jamison Valley #3) by Devney Perry
Synopsis Life on his ranch could be their future. If they can overcome their past.
Felicity’s life story reads like the script to a bad soap opera. Girl’s high-school boyfriend becomes a drug addict. Girl falls for boyfriend’s best friend. Girl leaves them both behind only to return home years later for murdered ex-boyfriend’s funeral. Now she’s back home in Montana, ready to start fresh. She’s got a long list of amends to make and relationships to rebuild, including one with the man who has owned her heart for sixteen years.
Silas doesn’t need much. He’s got a great horse, close friends and the Lucky Heart ranch, but something has always been missing. He’s not an idiot. He knows the missing piece is Felicity. And now that she’s returned to Prescott, he’s got a second chance to win her heart. This time, the only thing standing in his way is history. Drudging up the past is going to be about as painful as playing tug of war with barbed wire. But if they can heal old wounds, he’ll get the girl he should have had all along..
Excerpt “Uh, thanks.”
“Thanks?” I asked. He said it like I’d just opened the door for him or let him cut in front of me at the bank.
“Yeah, thanks. That was, uh, nice.” Silas was buttoning up his shirt like he couldn’t get out of here fast enough.
Nice? How could he say that? It had been incredible. Phenomenal even. It ranked in my top five best sexual experiences, even beating our hookup after Wes’s funeral two years ago. Top five was not nice. And I knew that he’d enjoyed it. He couldn’t fake that level of satisfaction to save his horse’s life.
I slid out of bed and pulled the sheet around my naked body. Moments ago, I had been enjoying some post-coital relaxation. Now I was getting angry.
The last thing I wanted was for any man, especially this man, to think that I was an easy lay. Is that why he’d come over? Had he been expecting me to put out?
I certainly hadn’t planned on having sex with him tonight, but when I’d opened the door, one thing had led to another and, well, Silas Grant was hard to resist. That chiseled jaw. Those brown eyes the color of warm maple syrup. A body perfectly sculpted from honest work. What had started as an awkward hug had soon turned electric and neither one of us had been able to stop after that first kiss.
“Is that why you came over tonight? For something ‘nice’?”
Please say no.
“No,” he said, buckling his belt. My shoulders sagged for the briefest second until he kept talking. “Maybe. I don’t know. I’m not sure why I came over but it was a mistake.”
“A mistake?” Every muscle in my face tightened.
“Yeah. A mistake.”
“Then it’s a good thing you’re leaving.”
He shook his head. “There she is.”
“What does that mean?”
He sat on the bed and pulled on his brown cowboy boots. “Just surprised it took over an hour for that attitude of yours to finally show.”
My lip curled. “Get. Out.”
He stood from the bed and pulled on his baseball hat, trapping his dark blond hair beneath. Just minutes ago, I’d been running my fingers through those silky strands. Now I wanted to yank some of them out.
“Welcome home, Felicity,” he clipped before walking out the door and slamming it behind him.
I let the sheet fall from my body as I snagged a pillow from the floor. With all the force I could summon, I threw it at the closed door. My breath was coming in angry pants as I stomped to my suitcase and tugged on a sleep shirt and panties.
“That man!” I pulled my long, honey-blond hair into a ponytail.
Silas could ignite my fiery spirit like no one else. In bed, it was amazing. Elsewhere, things could get dicey. We were either perfectly in sync or at each other’s throats.
I picked up the sheet off the floor and shook it out over the bed. Then I did the same with the white down comforter. The clock on the nightstand read 12:09 a.m. I’d been in town less than twelve hours and had already managed to piss someone off.
I had hoped that by moving home I could repair some of the relationships I had broken when I’d left sixteen years ago. That I could get to know my niece and nephew better and strengthen my relationships with my family. That maybe, just maybe, Silas and I could put the past behind us and start over.
“If you wanted to start over, maybe you shouldn’t have had sex with him. Brilliant move as ever, Felicity. Next time, keep your damn clothes on.”
The empty room didn’t have a response.
Felicity’s Journey Home, as I had deemed this new chapter in my life, wasn’t just about relocating back to my small hometown of Prescott, Montana. It was about making amends. It was about setting aside my mask and revealing the real me. For too long, I had hidden behind layers of false confidence and snide comments. I had disguised my vulnerabilities and insecurities with “attitude.” It was time to do better. Be nicer.
It was time to show people that I had changed.
Author Devney Perry
About the Author Devney lives in Montana with her husband and two children. After working in the technology industry for nearly a decade, she abandoned conference calls and project schedules to enjoy a slower pace at home with her kids. She loves reading and, after consuming hundreds of books, decided to share her own stories.
Author Cassandra Page, is revealing the cover to FALSE AWAKENING, the second book in her new adult urban fantasy series, Lucid Dreaming, releasing August, 2017. See below for the cover, information on the book and series, plus a link to add it to your Goodreads TBR.
FALSE AWAKENING (Lucid Dreaming #2) by Cassandra Page
Synopsis Melaina, half-human dream therapist, just wants her life to return to normal. Yes, her Oneiroi father is in prison and, yes, the place she worked burned down, but she has a cute boyfriend and a new house. She beat the bad guy. She’s earned a break. Right?
Unfortunately for Melaina, people are still getting possessed by nightmare spirits; the police are investigating her past; and the bad guy’s brother, the Morpheus himself, is coming to town to demand answers. When a deranged ex-nurse checks himself out of hospital on the same day her cousin runs away from home, Melaina is dragged into a fight not just for her life but for her soul.
Excerpt #2 Leander studied me from the other side of the trolley. I could see the shadows of fatigue under his eyes, which shocked me. Leander never looked tired. Cocky and self-assured? Yes. But tired? No. Not even when Ikelos had bound him with barbed wire. Despite his relaxed manner, increasing the hold of Daniel’s memory over the dream and destroying so many blights was draining him. And he was too proud to admit it.
I clenched my jaw and took a breath. I’d wanted to look for matches and maybe some reams of paper, but we didn’t have time. Another blight was about to hatch. “Alright.” I pulled several packets of nails down and tossed them onto the top of the trolley with a sick feeling. I’d seen enough news stories to know real-world lunatics packed their bombs with shards, to cause additional damage. “Can you get this up there, and then explode it?” I glanced at the nails. “From a d—”
The floor erupted beneath us.
Tentacles, each as thick as one of Leander’s well-muscled thighs, smashed through the floor. The blight hadn’t been as helpless as I’d assumed … and corruption hadn’t been the only thing it had been spreading. My cheek burned as a shard of floor tile sliced it, blood welling. The trolley tipped and I ignored the pain, lunging forward to steady it before its contents spilled into the sticky darkness below. Leander leaned over and gripped the frame, placing one hand on either side, his fingers brushing against mine as I let go. His grim gaze held mine for a moment, and then his wings pumped. Air washed over me as he lifted the overstuffed trolley into the air, towards the central body mass of the blight.
For a second I felt relief as he carried the improvised bomb above the thrashing tentacles. Then one of those tentacles slid around my waist, barbs as long as my palm tearing through the scorched armour of my motorcycle leathers. I gasped and prised at them with bare hands, trying to wiggle free but succeeding only in cutting my palms. Above me, the muscles in Leander’s back worked as he strained to haul the trolley upwards, ignoring the now-free baby blight buzzing around him like an oversized mosquito. He was dragging the bomb up there with brute force. Pain caused my vision to blur, but not before I realised he was going to ignite the trolley’s contents while he was holding it. The damned fool Oneiroi had no idea what would happen.
The tentacle dragged me towards the jagged hole in the floor. I didn’t look down, not wanting to see what awaited me. The wet smacking sound and the putrid smell were bad enough. Sweat beaded on my brow and I set my jaw against the pain, blinking to clear my vision, staring up at Leander.
He drove the end of the trolley into the breeder blight’s wet mass, leaning against the handle to brace it there as he conjured a spark in one hand.
The spark descended towards the makeshift bomb.
I cried out, using the last of my energy to fling a shield, a wall of force, between Leander and the trolley.
Fire and exploding chunks of meat raining down around me. My vision blackened, and I tumbled out of the dream.
Author Cassandra Page
About the Author Cassandra Page is a mother, author, editor and geek. She lives in Canberra, Australia’s bush capital, with her son and two Cairn Terriers. She has a serious coffee addiction and a tattoo of a cat — despite being allergic to cats. She has loved to read since primary school, when the library was her refuge, and loves many genres — although urban fantasy is her favourite. When she’s not reading or writing, she engages in geekery, from Doctor Who to AD&D. Because who said you need to grow up?
Welcome to the blitz for HENGE, the first book in the young adult fantasy romance series, Le Fay, by Realm Lovejoy, now available in Audiobook format. See below for information on the book, buy links, an exclusive excerpt, and details on her giveaway.
Synopsis Inspired by one of the greatest legends of all time….
Modern-day Camelot. Where knights no longer carry swords. Magic is dangerous. And those who seek control are not to be trusted.
Sixteen-year-old Morgan le Fay is a fire user. An ordinary girl with an extraordinary skill, she has the ability to create and command fire at will. Her dream is to become the Maven – the right hand of the future King Arthur. In the chance of a lifetime, Morgan is selected to join Arthur’s Round, an elite group of young magic users from which the new Maven will be chosen.
Along with the other fire, water, and wind users in Arthur’s Round, Morgan is rigorously trained and tested. The handsome Merlin, a brilliant water user, takes a particular interest in her. Is his friendship to be trusted, or is Merlin simply trying to win the position of Maven for himself? Among the many rivals Morgan faces is the current Maven, Mordred, who seems determined to see her fail.
But Morgan has a secret – years ago, her mother was executed for using fire magic, and Morgan’s desire for justice makes her more than ready to take on the challenge before her. Can she prevail in Camelot’s tests of survival and magic? Only time – and Morgan’s powerful fire – will tell.
Excerpt #1 After the audience stops clapping, the announcer looks down at his list. “Next… sixteen-year-old fire user Morgan le Fay from Tintagel!”
I swallow. I won’t have time to warm up after all. I rush toward the stage, trying to keep my head up though my legs are quivering. The crowd of people from all over the country is a sea of shadows below me. Camera flashes glimmer like stars. Below the stage, the King’s Cabinet members are seated, wearing fancy suits, gesturing with their cigars. Though they are chatting with each other, they eye me intently.
Music plays: aggressive drums and a flute that follow along with a woman’s haunting song. Putting my hands up, I focus on my fingertips turning as hot as coals. As I concentrate, I grow heavy as force accumulates throughout my body. This is my favorite feeling in the world. Hot energy spawns in my heart like the sun and travels through my arms. My veins burn. My body becomes like the earth, sizzling with flowing lava. The energy sails to my hands, down to my fingertips. Fssssttt—fire sputters to life centimeters from my fingernails. Instantly I become as light as a feather, all the weight having been channeled out of me. The crowd oohs and aahs.
I dance and whirl, trailing fire behind me. It arcs high into the air, drawing gasps from the crowd. Sweat trickles down my forehead, but I do my best to look elegant as I create brilliant, roaring ribbons of fire that hug and spin around my body. I have never performed fire in front of anybody before, and I feel like I’m revealing a big secret. Out of the corner of my eye a young man peers at me from backstage, his eyes full of wonder. I glance at him only once through a blur of gold and red sparks.
Letting the fire retreat back into my hands, I bow as the music finishes, making sure to keep my hot, and possibly still-sparking, hands away from my clothes. Setting my outfit ablaze would be an embarrassing finish. The crowd erupts in applause and cheers. I crack a smile and bow again.
As I walk backstage the young man who was staring at me beams with perfect teeth. Suddenly the temperature in my face rises, and it doesn’t help that I just got done working with fire.
Author Realm Lovejoy
About the Author Realm Lovejoy is an American writer and an artist. She grew up in both Washington State and the Japanese Alps of Nagano, Japan. Currently she lives in Seattle and works as an art director in the video game industry.
Welcome to the blog tour for PINCH OF SALT, the first book in the adult contemporary romance series, Three Sister’s Catering, by Bethany Lopez. See below for information on the book, buy links, an exclusive excerpt, and details on her giveaway.
PINCH OF SALT (Three Sister’s Catering #1) by Bethany Lopez
Synopsis For the past year, talented chef Millie has been consumed with running her new catering business with her sisters, Dru and Tasha. It isn’t until Jackson walks through their door that she realizes something may be missing in the recipe of her life.
For the past year, Jackson has been dealing with the fallout of his wife’s abandonment. He’s had to learn how to be a single father to their eight-year-old daughter, and will do anything to fill the void her mother left. It isn’t until he commissions Millie for his daughter’s birthday party that he realizes he’s forgotten that he’s not only a father, but a man.
They both think they’re content in their lives, but sometimes the right amount of spice can turn an okay dish into a magnificent one. A Pinch of Salt may be all that’s needed to bring Millie and Jackson the flavor they’ve been missing.
“Are you ready?” he asked, pushing his glasses up his nose in what I was beginning to realize was a nervous gesture.
“Yes,” I replied, giving him a true smile. It was easier knowing that he was just as nervous as I was. “Let’s go.”
“It’s a beautiful day, shall we walk?” Jackson asked, mockingly holding out his arm in a gallant gesture.
I laughed at his silliness and tucked my arm in his.
“I’d love that.”
As we started on the short walk to the coffee house, I asked, “So, what made you get into high school English?”
“I always knew I wanted to be a teacher, and I’ve always loved literature, so it seemed like a no-brainer,” Jackson replied easily. “I started out with your basic freshman English, but now I teach an advanced class, focusing on the classics, like Shakespeare, Austen, and Alcott, and it’s great because the kids in my class choose to be there, so they actually want to learn what I’m teaching.”
“Wow, that sounds wonderful,” I replied, my heart pitter-pattering at the thought of Jackson laying down to read Jane Austen at night. “And very rewarding.”
“It is,” he agreed. Just then, the wind kicked up and his scent hit me. A bit of spice, with a hint of something I couldn’t name. He smelled wonderful.
I was beginning to wonder what the hell was wrong with this guy. There had to be something. No one was this perfect.
Maybe he picks his nose or bites his toenails…
But as I looked at his profile, my hand warm on his arm, I hoped that I was wrong. I wanted him to be real.
Author Bethany Lopez
About the Author Award-Winning Author Bethany Lopez began self-publishing in June 2011. She’s a lover of all things romance: books, movies, music, and life, and she incorporates that into the books she writes. When she isn’t reading or writing, she loves spending time with her husband and children, traveling whenever possible. Some of her favorite things are: Kristen Ashley Books, coffee in the morning, and In-N-Out burgers.
Welcome to the book blitz for SEXIEST DAD ALIVE, the third book in the adult contemporary romance series, Knight Fashion, by M. Clarke. See below for information on the book, buy links, an exclusive excerpt, and details on her giveaway.
SEXIEST DAD ALIVE (Knight Fashion #3) by M. Clarke
Synopsis Life isn’t a fairytale. Sometimes you have to fight for happily ever after. And sometimes you just have to let go.
It was a simple offer.
I invited Isla to rent a room in my five thousand square foot home. Plenty of rooms and plenty of space. But the second she moved in, I knew I was in trouble. I could handle wanting her when there was distance between us, but once we started to play house, all my pent up desire started knocking down walls.
That was my first mistake of many.
The private investigator I hired to track down my ex found her not far from where I live. I should have locked my past behind me, but something urged me to find her. I’m glad I did. But our union left me with a situation to be reckoned with.
When a new fire is lit and old flames rekindle, one will have to burn out. The decisions I’ll have to make won’t be easy. No matter what I choose, my heart will break.
Excerpt Shelly leaned back, her hair falling around her face while her arms still embraced the pillow. “I could agree to that. You can come over during the weekday after work if you’d like to see Emma. That way she’ll get used to you. You can’t just take her for a weekend. She’ll cry bloody murder for me. And besides, I don’t think you know how to change diapers, or feed her, or give her a bath.”
I hadn’t thought about that. To Emma, I was a total stranger. “Okay. I’ll stop by every day around this time until she’s comfortable enough for me to take her on the weekend. I don’t have a project right now, so the timing is perfect.”
I leaned closer to Emma and caressed her chubby arm. Emma’s eyes fluttered open. When her bluish-green eyes set on me, I stopped breathing. Her eyes were just like mine, so uncanny, like almost looking at a reflection. Though Shelly had told me Emma’s eyes looked like mine, seeing the truth of it took my breath away. Relishing the feeling, I studied her.
I had thought she would burst out with a cry, but instead she smiled and twisted into a crawling position. Gripping the posts, she bounced, making cute baby sounds. When she spotted Shelly, Emma held out her arms and started to whine.
Shelly picked Emma up and kissed her forehead. The love Shelly had for Emma warmed my heart. I smiled, but I kept my heart hardened. Shelly told me her intentions, but I didn’t trust her.
“Here you go.” She deposited Emma in my arms, and since I hadn’t expected it, I almost dropped her. “Emma this is your father, Josh. Josh, your daughter, Emma.”
“Hi, Emma.” I bounced her a little the way I’d seen mothers do, afraid she would whine again. I had no idea what to do next. What the hell was I thinking when I had asked Shelly if I could have Emma for the weekend? I had no idea how to change a diaper, feed her, bathe her, or whatever else an eleven-month-old baby needed. I guessed I needed to hire a nanny as soon as possible.
Emma gave me a blank face. She glanced to her mother and then back to me, uncertain. When I made a goofy face, she smiled and let out a cute noise. One of her tiny, delicate hands touched my face, and the other set of fingers wrapped around my index finger. At that moment she stole my breath and tattooed herself onto my heart. You will always be a part of me. You own my heart and my soul. I will love you, care for you, and protect you with every breath I take. I’m your father, and I promise you I’ll make up for all the time lost. I swear to you on my life, Emma.
Author M. Clarke
About the Author International Bestselling, Award Winning, Author Mary Ting/M. Clarke resides in Southern California with her husband and two children. She enjoys oil painting and making jewelry. Writing her first novel, Crossroads Saga, happened by chance. It was a way to grieve the death of her beloved grandmother, and inspired by a dream she once had as a young girl. When she started reading new adult novels, she fell in love with the genre. It was the reason she had to write one-Something Great. Why the pen name, M Clarke? She tours with Magic Johnson Foundation to promote literacy and her children’s chapter book-No Bullies Allowed.
Welcome to the book blitz for X, a stand-alone new adult contemporary, by Shelby Mena. See below for information on the book, buy links, an exclusive excerpt, the book’s trailer, and details on her giveaway.
Synopsis Inspired by actual events, X. follows the story of Tamra, a young actress, during the days following her feature film debut. The week kicks off with the arrival of her childhood best friends, Maddy and Amelia, who have flown in to help her celebrate the most important milestone of her life. Home friends. L.A. friends. Fun parties. Exclusive clubs. Hot boys. It should all add up to equal the most unforgettable time. But Tamra is haunted by a dark secret. Unbeknownst to her friends, she is being stalked, and pressured by greater forces to keep quiet. Our leading lady has convinced herself that she needs no one’s help battling the anxiety that has only recently developed within her. Everything is only further complicated when Lucas, the boy who has appointed himself protector and guide to Tamra during her time in Los Angeles, threatens to act against her wishes and reveal her truth.
Lucas sat overlooking the hills below, contemplating as he always did, his presence at yet another house party he knew deep down he profoundly detested. He recognized, however, the necessity in keeping up appearances, and cultivating a sense of relevancy within the young Hollywood scene. This was his penance for having taken a hiatus from acting for nearly three years, and just recently deciding to crawl back out from under his rock.
He had arrived at the party with his main crew. The majority of his people had scattered, mingling with all their other sometimes friends and collaborators. Everyone would spend the night flitting around in the sleekly minimal main living room of a Beverly Hills mansion, taking Snapchats, posting Instagrams, letting their millions of followers know how fabulous their lives quickly advancing toward a level of concerning unsettlement. He decided to send a text to the group chat: seemed to be.
Andre, Lucas’ model friend, and one of only two people he could implicitly trust, was sitting next to him on the outside balcony of the home. He was smoking a blunt that had been given to him by some rapper he had hung out with during a studio session the night before.
“What’s on your mind, Luke?”
“Like… why am I even here right now,” Lucas griped, compulsively popping his knuckles.
“I don’t know why you come to this shit, if it really stresses you out so badly,” Andre replied, bringing the weed up to his lips.
“You know why.”
“No, I really don’t. You left the game for three years, and the girls are still obsessed with your pretty-boy ass. Like, you’re fine…Here, take a hit,” he said, passing him the blunt. Lucas did so, thoughtlessly.
“Looks fade,” he quipped.
“Betty White is still hella cute.”
“That’s true,” he agreed, chuckling.
“C’mon Luke, you never bitch about coming out…What’s really wrong?”
He took a deep breath before answering. “Fuck… I think I’m depressed.”
“Of course you are. Everyone in this town is depressed.”
Lucas knew his friend meant not depressed, but unsatisfied. That was the best way to describe the inhabitants of Los Angeles. Unsatisfied people trying to become otherwise, making the most of it during the time in-between.
But this was not Lucas’ problem. He had remembered being at a family dinner one night, attempting to explain to his movie producer parents that he was unhappy, but not being able to come up with a valid enough excuse as to why. He was ten then. It was a decade and a half later, and he was just now beginning to realize that he didn’t know anything about himself or what he actually wanted.
Suddenly, Lucas’ thoughts shifted to the only other important person in his life. Tamra. He had spent nights on the phone with her, trying to work through his never-ending stream of discontent. Tamra did not share his troubles, and was in fact oppositely steadfast in her goals and opinions. It had worked out for her well. Her debut as a film actress was fast-approaching, with the imminent premiere of a film she had spent the year working on, just weeks away.
“Have you seen Tam?” he asked Andre.
“Not for the whole party. I don’t think Sellers is here either, so your guess is as good as mine.”
Lucas sat for several minutes, twiddling a piece of his curly hair in between his fingers. He knew it was unfair to seek out Tamra at a party where she could potentially be having a good time, only to burden her with his problems as he so often did. But Tamra settled him, and he was
Tamra, where ya at?
No reply. “I’ll be back,” Lucas said abruptly, leaving Andre to sit alone with only his high to keep him occupied.
He scanned the expansive room behind him. The party of a hundred or so people wasn’t nearly enough to fill the open space of the house, making it easy for Lucas to search for his friend. He looked left into the kitchen, then walked downstairs to the tv room, which he realized to be mostly empty except for a couple of guys, who were making out on a brown leather couch. Lucas even checked the wine cellar down the hall, but Tamra was nowhere to be found.
The weight of the high from the weed was beginning to sink from the top of his head, through his neck and down into his shoulders. He managed to find his way back to the main floor, where he collapsed in an empty loveseat. Lucas concluded that Tamra had probably left the party with someone else, for which he was too high to be adequately bothered about. He set an alarm on his phone for twenty minutes later, and placed it next to his ear, allowing his lids to close over his eyes, which had become too difficult to keep open.
In what seemed like ten seconds, his phone began beeping obnoxiously. The noise was so sudden that it frightened Lucas awake. Disoriented, he checked his screen to find a text:
Miles: Can we go home now?
A few more messages popped up, and the following conversation ensued:
Miles: Can we go home now ?? haha
Andre: Yeah, this party sucks
Miles: Me and Ezra are in the kitchen when you guys are ready haha
Andre: Luke do you have Tamra?
Lucas: Couldn’t find her. She probably left w someone.
Andre: No, I tracked her on Friends. she’s still here.
Lucas: oh fuckk. I’m not smart enough when im high lol I’ll find her.
Lucas looked around, surprised that he had missed Tamra during his first sweep of the house. Then, his eyes rested upon a wide staircase that he had not previously noticed, leading up to a third floor. With great effort, he pushed himself off the couch, and quickly made his way upstairs. The top story was less open, comprised mostly of a long hallway of doors. He called out Tamra’s name. No answer. Lucas dialed her number, calling her phone, pushing himself into rooms, one by one. He strained to hear ringing, as music from the party downstairs reverberated through his eardrums. He was, however, able to pick up a faint sound at the end of the hall passed a small office.
Lucas rounded the corner and reached the door to a bedroom, that he gently pressed against. It was dark, but he could see the silhouette of a rectangle on the floor in front of the closet. Tamra’s phone. He sighed, figuring that she had dropped it while looking for a restroom in which to fix her makeup. Lucas nearly ignored the bathroom off to the side, but decided it would be best to splash some water on his face and revive himself.
He opened the door and flipped on the light. In the corner, in front of the toilet was a figure in an oversized denim jacket, lying in fetal position.
“Fuck,” Lucas whispered. He sighed, and then walked toward the person, pulling them onto their back. For a moment he was frozen, as he considered the improbable possibility that the high was messing with him. Then he became frantic.
“Tamra, TAMRA,” he whispered anxiously. She had blood dripping from her nose and mouth. Lucas propped her up and held her in his arms as he stroked the side of her neck, checking for her pulse.
He grabbed some water from the sink and sprinkled a bit on Tamra’s face. Her forehead crinkled in strain, but eventually her eyelids trembled open. She was weak, but managed one request as Lucas helped her to her feet.
“Don’t tell anyone,” she pleaded quietly. “Please, don’t tell anyone.”
Author Shelby Mena
About the Author Hi there… third person author bios seem impersonal, so I’m not going to do that. I’m just going to let you know I’m a 21 year old college student who was put on this earth to tell stories. I’m a major fan of music, contemporary art, and realism. I love books, movies and my mom. I don’t think I’m anything special, but I think my stories are, or else I wouldn’t bother writing them down. My heroes include Kathryn Bigelow (the filmmaker) and Brett Easton Ellis. I write stories about millennials, for millennials. I am a feminist. I think the colored and the colorful are what make our world special, and I love that we have an opportunity to experience different cultures and different points of view. I really hope you enjoy my debut novel, and the works to come. Thanks for taking the time to learn more about me, and thanks for reading my stories. I really appreciate it.