Welcome to the book blitz for THE VIXEN’S LEAD, the first book in the new adult paranormal romance series, Kit Davenport, by Tate James. See below for information on the book, buy links, an exclusive teaser, and details on her giveaway.
THE VIXEN’S LEAD (Kit Davenport #1) by Tate James
About the Book – Read for Free with Kindle Unlimited Title: THE VIXEN’S LEAD () by Series: Kit Davenport #1 Author: Tate James Publisher: Big Dog Books, LLC Release Date: September 19, 2017
Genre: New Adult Paranormal Romance
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU
Synopsis I want vengeance so badly that I can almost taste it. It’s all I’ve ever wanted. So, I did what any privileged, adopted boarding school girl would do. I slapped on a secret identity and became an internationally renowned thief, known as The Fox. Nobody knows me. Nobody can catch me.
Or so I thought…
It turns out; I have what they want. Special abilities. And trust me, these abilities are coveted–and dangerous. Now, I don’t know who to trust or where to go. Peril lurks on every corner as I try to uncover my past and origin. Teaming up with unlikely allies may be my only chance at survival or my biggest mistake. Only time will tell.
I’m Kit Davenport and this is only the beginning.
Author Tate James
About the Author Tate James was born and raised in the Land of the Long White Cloud (New Zealand) but now lives in Australia with her husband, baby and furbaby.
She is a lover of books, red wine, cats and coffee and is not a morning person. She is a bit too sarcastic and swears too much for polite society and definitely tells too many dirty jokes.
Welcome to the book blitz for THE DOWNFALL OF CATIE BLOOM, the third book in the adult romantic comedy series, Bloom Sisters, by award-winning author, Brooke Stanton. See below for information on the book, buy links for all three books in the series, an exclusive excerpt, and details on her giveaway.
THE DOWNFALL OF CATIE BLOOM (Bloom Sisters #3) by Brooke Stanton
Synopsis Catie’s little white lies have finally caught up to her…
The award-winning Catie Bloom is back! And she’s still got it all—a husband, a successful career, and she’s America’s #1 Domestic Goddess. Except, it’s a big fat lie. She can’t cook, she’s a slob, and her husband left her years ago. But she’s trying to leave the lies behind and become an honest woman. Too bad someone already knows her secrets…
Catie’s life comes crumbling down when she’s outed on national TV by a person she trusted. And in that instant, she loses everything—her job, her sister, and the man she loves, Sam Harding. So much for “the one.” When Catie needs Sam the most, he disappears…with his ex. Then two miracles happen: a new man steps into the picture, eager to help Catie, and a New York socialite hires her to do the one thing she’s truly talented at: interior design. The great news: the multimillion-dollar loft Catie’s designing will be featured in all the top design magazines. The bad news: Catie has to keep her involvement a secret.
As she tries to find a way back into the design world without revealing her secret project, Sam returns. And with him comes a twist she never saw coming.
Will Catie find her happily ever after, or will her past lies ruin her future forever?.
Excerpt In the back corner of the bar, there’s a woman tucked away from the revelry. Something about her makes me stop. At first, it looks like she’s laughing, but she wipes her eyes and I see she’s crying. Then she lifts her head, and I feel like one of the skis above the bar has kicked me in the gut. I suck in air, but I can’t seem to get any down. The room is spinning, and for a moment, I feel like I might pass out.
How can she be here? I step closer but keep hidden behind a group of older men, devouring pizza and beer, their faces chapped from the slopes.
It’s definitely her. Liv.
Why is she here and not in Manhattan with her husband? Is she on assignment? But she doesn’t write for the sports section. She’s a metro reporter and only writes about local news. There’s nothing local about this comp.
The air escapes my lungs in a rush when I spot Sam standing above the table where Liv sits. He’s been here a day, but he already has a touch of Raccoon face—white half-moons down his cheeks under his eyes, the bottom of his face pinkish from the sun and wind.
He slides into the booth next to Liv and puts his arm around her and pulls her in tight, comforting her. He kisses her head, and the love on his face is unmistakable. So is the pain. The pain of seeing her in pain.
His eyes glance up and widen in surprise when he sees me. I step back, bumping into a young man, his beer spilling down the inside of my sweater, the liquid cold against my skin.
I hurry out of the bar and rush back toward the lodge, but as I turn the corner, I hear Sam’s voice calling my name. A few moments later, his hand grabs hold of my arm, turning me around as his bright-blue eyes capture mine, as they always do, making my rapid breathing stop short.
“You’re early. You’re supposed to be coming in tonight,” Sam says. His voice sounds surprised but not upset. “Where’s your luggage?”
“At the hotel.” I step back, and he drops my arm. “What is she doing here?”
“Oh, she…” Sam rubs his hand over his face, considering something. “It’s…I don’t think she’d want me to say. She needs to escape her life for a while. She got some bad news.”
“Well that’s not your problem.” The words sound harsh, especially after I saw how upset she was. But what the hell is she doing seeking comfort from Sam? In Tahoe?! She has her own damn family. “You shouldn’t have to comfort her.”
“Catie, show a little compassion. Look, if I told you what was going on, you’d understand, but I promised her I wouldn’t say anything.”
“Compassion?!” I spit out, shocked at his words. “My whole life was flipped on its head and beaten to a pulp. My career is over, and I’m hanging on by a string here. I don’t have many people I can count on right now, but you should be one of them.”
“If I told you what’s going on, you’d understand.”
“Then tell me.”
His forehead crinkles, and worry sits on his face, showing his internal struggle. I can’t believe this. I can’t believe he’s standing there acting as if she has any right to him and his loyalty. He was going to propose, and she cheated on him. With his friend.
Unless…seeing her the other night sparked all the old feelings in him. It wouldn’t be the first time it’s happened. Doesn’t everyone have the-one-that-got-away somewhere in their past? Well, maybe not everyone, but lots of people do. And maybe Liv is the one. Not just the one that got away, but the one.
Author Brooke Stanton
About the Author After her own misadventures in New York City, LA, and London, Brooke Stanton now lives in sunny South Florida. She’s an award-winning author who has contributed to Natural Awakenings Magazine, wrote a column for Examiner.com, and is the author of The Bloom Sisters series.
Welcome to the book blitz for WRONG, the first book in the new adult contemporary romance series, Wrong, by New York Times bestselling author, Jana Aston. See below for information on the book, buy links for the entire series, an exclusive excerpt, and details on her giveaway.
Synopsis I have a history of picking the wrong guy. Gay? Player? Momma’s boy? Check, check and check.
Now I can’t stop fantasizing about one of the customers at the coffee shop I work at between classes. It’s just a harmless crush, right? It’s not like I ever see this guy outside of the coffee shop. It’s not like I’m going to see him while attempting to get birth control at the student clinic. While wearing a paper gown. While sitting on an exam table. Because he’s the doctor. Shoot. Me.
But what if, for once, the man I’ve had the dirtiest, most scandalous fantasies about turned out to be everything but wrong?
Excerpt #2 “Sophie, he’s going to be back for more. Trust me.”
I load a tray of cupcakes and slide them into the bakery case. “I don’t know, Everly. He’s really sophisticated and clearly lives a lifestyle a long ways from Cowbell Lane,” I say, referencing my grandparents’ home in Willow Grove.
“Bitch, please. The guy is pushing forty and you’re a hot co-ed with a brand-new tight, shiny pussy. He’ll be back.”
My eyes widen. “Everly, Jesus!”
“Just saying.” She holds her hands up in mock defense before breaking into a huge grin.
“You don’t really think he’s forty, do you?”
“He just turned thirty-six in August.”
“How do you know that?”
“You Googled him?”
“You didn’t?” Everly looks aghast.
“Uh, no.” Truthfully I thought about it, but I didn’t want to get any more invested in him than I already am.
“Well, look what the pussy dragged in.” Everly is smirking.
“Everly, that’s not the saying. It’s ‘cat.’ ‘Look what the cat dragged in.'”
“Oh, I think I’ve got the saying right. He’s here.”
My stomach explodes in nerves as I glance towards the door. Luke is here. I wondered if he’d stick to his normal Tuesday routine and stop here for coffee. I’ve figured out this Grind Me location is between his Rittenhouse Square condo and the student clinic, but it’s hardly the only route he could take or stop he could make.
My heart is beating so fast as I take him in. Is he going to speak to me or go back to just ordering coffee and leaving like he has the last several weeks?
He’s in a navy suit today, crisp white shirt and a silvery blue tie. And then my heart stops beating so fast. There’s a hand on his arm. I follow that hand to the redhead from Saturday night.
Author Jana Aston
About the Author ana Aston likes cats, big coffee cups and books about billionaires who deflower virgins. She wrote her debut novel while fielding customer service calls about electrical bills, and she’s ever grateful for the fictional gynecologist in Wrong that readers embraced so much she was able to make working in her pajamas a reality. Jana’s novels have appeared on the NYT, USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestseller lists, some multiple times. She likes multiples.
Welcome to the book blitz for RYDER, the first book in the new adult contemporary biker romance series, Lost Breed MC, by bestselling authors, Ali and Weston Parker. See below for information on the book, buy links, an exclusive excerpt, and details on their giveaway.
RYDER (Lost Breed MC #1) by Ali Parker and Weston Parker
About the Book – Read for Free with Kindle Unlimited
Title: RYDER Series: Lost Breed MC #1 Author: Ali Parker and Weston Parker Release Date: September 12, 2017 Genre: New Adult Contemporary Biker Romance Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU
Synopsis A life of darkness only pays while the sun stays hidden.
The shadows of the past follow me no matter where I turn. Mistakes I thought were long dead and gone seem to nip at my heels and tear at my soul.
I’m not a good man. Not worthy of redemption.
As President of the Lost Breed MC, I fight, f*ck and take what’s mine. But everything changed in the blink of an eye, and now I got a kid, my brother’s kid. The teenage bastard is just like me. And he’s gone missing.
My only hope is that the pretty cop down at the station is willing to help a criminal like me out. My focus should be on the kid, but I can’t stop thinking about owning her, marking her, making her mine. She thinks she’s going to be able to resist me forever. She’s wrong.
I’m driven mad with the desire to gain her affection, to be the one that wakes her up in the dead of night to take advantage of her softness and remind her who’s King.
But what cost would the reaper require to give me such bliss? And am I willing to pay it?
You bet your ass I am.
“You’re almost late.” Axel glanced up from his bent over position beside a new car we were working on.
“Almost isn’t late.” I walked past him toward the office. “Move before you fuck the project up. Your part is done. It’s my turn to do the touch ups and such.”
“On both accounts.” I ran my fingers through my hair and winked at Ellie, one of the girls that worked in the shop. She was a better grease monkey than most of the boys. If Axel weren’t hiding a hard-on for the pretty thing, I’d have already laid her out and made her scream my name a few times.
“What shit are you already starting this morning, Moretti?” She glanced up from the pile of paperwork Axel had scattered across his desk.
“Just making sure everyone knows their place.” I reached for the schedule and ran my finger down the long list of jobs we had to get through. “Who’s coming in today for pick up.”
“Nancy Morgan is due in around nine this morning for her Cadi.” She gave me a quirky smile.
“What?” I stood up straight and lifted my eyebrow. “Got something to say?”
“Yeah, but maybe I should moan it, so you’d understand it better.” She laughed and turned her back to me. “You know Axel would be pissed if he knew you were fucking the customers.”
“Would he?” I dropped the schedule back on the desk and walked to the door. “Let Miss Morgan know that she needs to see me to get her keys.” I grabbed her keys off the rack by the door and walked out. She was a rich bitch with a horrible laugh, but she could suck a dick like nobody’s business. I was more than happy to give her a little bit of practice.
“Fuck.” Axel walked around a Mustang we had jacked up four feet into the air.
“What’s up?” I slipped the keys in my pocket and gave my closest friend my attention.
“Ellie keeps leaving her tools all over the fucking place. I almost busted my ass thanks to her wrench being on the ground. The damn thing is covered in motor oil.”
“She’s trying to kill you.” I nodded. “It’s the way women tell you they’re interested nowadays. Used to be a little light flirting, maybe a room key, or a subtle foot in your lap to play with your dick, but things have progressed.”
“Fuck you too.” He rolled his eyes and walked around me. “She’s not interested, and even if she were… you’re not.”
“Okay.” I followed him, wanting to push a little harder just for the fun of it. “Then if you’re not into her, then move outta the way. She’s beautiful. I’d love to spread her taut little thighs and-“
The quickness of his attack threw me off guard. He popped me in the throat two times in quick succession and the pain of it stole my breath. “Shut the fuck up about her, Johnny. Now.”
I lifted my hands as I gasped for air. “Got it. Damn it, man.”
“Sorry.” He ran his fingers through his hair and let out a long sigh. “I can’t stop thinking about her. I tried to take a girl out last night and I barely got the rubber on before I called out Ellie’s name.”
I rubbed at my throat and tried hard not to return pop him in the mouth for hitting me. I’d deserved that shit, but I was the upper dog in the fight, and would easily win should it come to something like that.
“Stop fucking around and tell her.” I popped him in the gut. “And don’t hit me again. I’ll fuck you up.”
“You wanna go, old man?”
“Old man?” I reached for him as someone cleared their throat behind us.
“I heard you had my keys, Johnny.” Her voice was sweet like sugar.
“That I do.” I winked at Axel and spun on my heel. “Damn, Miss Morgan. And I thought your car looked good all dressed up and pimped out.”
She smiled and bit at her lip as she eye-fucked me. Oh yeah. She was going on her knees.
Author Ali Parker
About the Author Ali Parker is a full-time contemporary and new adult romance writer with more than a hundred and twenty books behind her. She loves coffee, watching a great movie and hanging out with her hubs. By hanging out, she means making out. Hanging out is for those little creepy elves at Christmas. No tight green stockings for her.
She’s an entrepreneur at heart and loves coming up with more ideas than any one person should be allowed to access. She lives in Texas with her hubs and three kiddos and looks forward to traveling the world in a few years. Writing under eleven pen names keeps her busy and allows her to explore all genres and types of writing.
About the Author I’m a former firefighter/EMS guy who’s picked up the proverbial pen and started writing bad boy romance stories. I co-write with my sister, Ali Parker, as we travel the United States for the next two years.
You’re going to find Billionaires, Bad Boys, Mafia and loads of sexiness. Something for everyone, hopefully. I’d love to connect with you. Check out the links below and come find me.
Join Weston’s Insiders
Like Bad Boys with strong language and a naughty imagination they’re not afraid to act out anytime, anywhere, all the time? You’ve found your peeps. http://eepurl.com/cpGam5
Love audiobooks? Us too! Six incredible authors have come together to celebrate audiobooks with an Ode to Audio week – and there’s a chance to win every day! There’s so many prizes – a chance to win one of the six audiobooks, plus a one-month membership from Audiobooks.com, and a three-month Audible.com subscription! Find out more about the six audiobooks and enter to win below!
LIVEWIRE by Cristin Harber
About the Audiobook
Title: LIVE WIRE Series: Titan Series #10 Author: Cristin Harber Narrator: Jeffrey Kafer Publisher: Mill Creek Press Release Date: October 5, 2016 Genre: Adult Romantic Suspense Links: Goodreads | Audible
Synopsis Titan Group is expanding. New recruits mean Jared Westin has potential new hires to scrutinize. What he didn’t expect was his very pregnant wife Sugar to finagle her way onto the surveillance team as the prospects were assessed.
Her involvement in the simple observation goes dangerously wrong. She and best friend Lexi Black stumble into a problem with Russian mobsters. Sugar is forced to draw on her old ATF tricks, but weeks from her due date, she has no choice but to team up with Bishop O’Kane, a potential-new recruit and Parker Black, Lexi’s hacker husband, who must go undercover.
This is special ops novella is packed with high-stakes crime and intrigue, a baby story for Boss Man, and two steamy romances for two of Titan’s favorite couples.
Author Cristin Harber
About the Author Cristin Harber is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling romance author. She writes sexy, steamy romantic suspense and military romance. Readers voted her onto Amazon’s Top Picks for Debut Romance Authors in 2013, and her debut Titan series was both a #1 romantic suspense and #1 military romance bestseller.
About the Audiobook
Title: HOT PURSUIT Series: Hostile Operations Team #1 Author: Lynn Raye Narrator: Aiden Snow Publisher: H.O.T. Publishing, LLC Release Date: March 4, 2016 Genre: Adult Romantic Suspense Links: Goodreads | Audible
Synopsis He was the last man in the world she wanted to see. But he might be the only one who could save her.
Ten years ago, Matt Girard did something he shouldn’t have. When sweet Evangeline Baker offered him her virginity, he took it. Then he left town and he’s never looked back.
Until now. His future as a black ops soldier with the Hostile Operations Team is in jeopardy, and he’s come home for a few days before going back to face the consequences of a mission gone wrong.
Matt still makes Evie’s heart pound, but she wants nothing to do with him. She’s had enough of men who lie and promise things they don’t deliver. But when her sister goes missing and her ex-boyfriend turns up dead, she’s in need of Matt’s special military skills.
With time running out, Matt will put everything on the line to protect Evie and find her sister. Even if it means sacrificing all he’s worked for with HOT. Sometimes, the reward is worth the price. Especially when it’s the one woman he can’t forget.
Author Lynn Raye Harris
About the Author Lynn Raye Harris is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the HOSTILE OPERATIONS TEAM SERIES of military romances as well as 20 books for Harlequin Presents. A former finalist for the Romance Writers of America’s Golden Heart Award and the National Readers Choice Award, Lynn lives in Alabama with her handsome former-military husband, two crazy cats, and one spoiled American Saddlebred horse. Lynn’s books have been called “exceptional and emotional,” “intense,” and “sizzling.” Lynn’s books have sold over 3 million copies worldwide.
About the Audiobook
Title: GONE TO DUST Series: Gravediggers #2 Author: Liliana Hart Narrators: Jonathan Todd Ross and Devra Woodward Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio Release Date: June 20, 2017 Genre: Adult Romantic Suspense Links: Goodreads | Audible
Synopsis The Gravediggers aren’t exactly what they seem. They’re the most elite of the world’s fighting forces – and all they have in common is that they’ve been betrayed by the countries they’ve died for. Because they are dead. To their countries, their militaries, and their families.
Sometimes the dead do rise….
Miller Darling is one of the most popular romance novelists of her time. Not bad for a woman who doesn’t believe in romance. She’s as logical as they come, and she doesn’t believe in happily ever afters. What she does believe in is family, so when her brother disappears, she doesn’t think twice about packing her bag and her laptop and heading out to find him.
Elias Cole lived and breathed the life of a Navy SEAL. Now he’s “dead” and his hero’s honor tarnished. The only thing keeping him sane are the men who are like him – The Gravediggers – and the woman who makes his head spin. He’s never met anyone like Miller Darling. Her smart mouth and quick wit keep him on his toes, and damned if he doesn’t find that appealing.
When Miller receives a package from the brother who abandoned her asking for help, it’s clear she’s in over her head with the mess he’s gotten himself into. She needs a professional, and Elias is just the man for the job. Only her brother is a former SEAL – the man who left his team to die – and Elias is more interested in vengeance than saving his life.
Author Liliana Hart
About the Author Liliana Hart spent five years teaching music in the public education system. She molded America’s youth, busted kids for smoking pot in the restrooms, and broke up illicit affairs behind the stage on a regular basis. (Liliana’s Addison Holmes Mystery Series, about a small town teacher who gets into a whole lot of trouble, is somewhat autobiographical, but she won’t confess to which parts).
Liliana began reading romance novels with all her new found free time, and when she ran out of things to read, she decided to write her own novels. The result was a 150,000 word thriller—a dazzling adventure—where the heroine was a thirty-year-old virgin assassin (Yes, you read that right). She couldn’t imagine why people weren’t knocking down her door to read it, but she persevered and began writing a second book. She finally got the hang of things, and eventually learned that losing one’s virginity wasn’t all that romantic after all. All of her books involve some kind of suspense (she just can’t help herself), laughter, and a lot of steamy sex.
Since the failure of her first attempt, Liliana’s books have won awards such as: The Daphne Du Maurier, The Suzannah, The Linda Howard Award of Excellence, The Maggie, and many others. Her affiliations include Romance Writers of America and Mystery Writers of America.
Liliana loves to cook, and is addicted to reading, Internet Boggle, kickboxing, and Bones. She lives in a big, rambling house in Texas with a couple of cats to keep her company. She loves to get emails from readers.
About the Audiobook
Title: ENEMY MINE Series: Base Branch #1 Author: Megan Mitcham Narrator: Jeffrey Kafer Publisher: MM Publishing LLC Release Date: August 23, 2016 Genre: Adult Romantic Suspense Links: Goodreads | Audible
Synopsis Born in the blood of Sierra Leone’s Civil War, enslaved, then sold to the US as an orphan, Base Branch operative Sloan Harris is emotionally dead and driven by vengeance. With no soul to give, her body becomes the bargaining chip to infiltrate a warlord’s inner circle. The man called the Devil killed her family and helped destroy a region.
As son of the warlord, Baine Kendrick will happily use Sloan’s body if it expedites his father’s demise. Yet, he is wholly unprepared for the possessive and protective emotions she provokes. Maybe it’s the flashes of memory…two forgotten children drawing in the dirt beneath the boabab tree…but he fears there is more at stake than his life.
In the Devil’s den with Baine by her side, Sloan braves certain death and discovers a spirit for living.
Author Megan Mitcham
About the Author Megan Mitcham is a USA Today bestselling author who pens sizzling suspense novels that whisk you across the globe, wedge your heart in your throat, make your hands sweat and your skin tingle. Check out her special forces heroes in the Base Branch Series. If you like the darker side of suspense, try her Bureau Series.
About the Audiobook
Title: INKED EXPRESSIONS Series: Montgomery Ink #7 Author: Carrie Ann Ryan Narrator: Gregory Salinas Release Date: July 13, 2017 Genre: Adult Contemporary Romance Links: Goodreads | Audible
Synopsis The Montgomery Ink Series from NYT Bestselling Author Carrie Ann Ryan continues with the brother who keeps his secret and the one woman he shouldn’t want.
Everly Law married the love of her life and on the eve of giving birth to their twins, lost him in a tragic accident. Now she’s a single mother working overtime at her bookstore trying to make sure her boys have the life they deserve. Her life is busy enough without her adding dating a Montgomery. As past secrets come to light, she’ll need Storm more than ever—even if she doesn’t realize it.
Storm Montgomery has spent his life atoning for sins that only few know he’s committed. When he lost his best friend, he promised his widow that he’d always be there for her—even when she wanted nothing to do with him. But when a single touch ignites passions they’ve both buried deep inside, he’ll have to remember exactly who is in his arms and that taking chances might be far more dangerous than they bargained for.
Author Carrie Ann Ryan
About the Author Carrie Ann Ryan is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of contemporary and paranormal romance. Her works include the Montgomery Ink, Redwood Pack, Talon Pack, and Gallagher Brothers series, which have sold over 2.0 million books worldwide. She started writing while in graduate school for her advanced degree in chemistry and hasn’t stopped since. Carrie Ann has written over fifty novels and novellas with more in the works. When she’s not writing about bearded tattooed men or alpha wolves that need to find their mates, she’s reading as much as she can and exploring the world of baking and gourmet cooking.
About the Audiobook
Title: A SEAL’S OATH Series: The SEALS of Chance Creek #1 Author: Cora Seton Narrator: Eric G. Dove Release Date: December 28, 2015 Genre: Adult Romantic Suspense Links: Goodreads | Audible
Synopsis Navy SEAL Boone Rudman and his friends want to create a sustainable community that can be replicated anywhere in the world. But they need land, so when Martin Fulsom, leader of the Fulsom Foundation, offers them Westfield, a ranch in Montana, they agree to Fulsom’s condition that they document their progress on a reality television show.
Building the community will be hard enough, but Boone’s got another problem. Fulsom expects families to make up the population of the new town. Now Boone’s got to find a wife fast, before he loses his funding and his dream. So when he arrives at Westfield to find it already occupied by the startlingly beautiful, strangely attired Riley Eaton, he wonders if fate itself has provided him with an answer.
Riley Eaton is done with traffic jams and 24/7 workweeks. She loves Jane Austen’s novels, and she knows she’s not the only woman longing for a simpler, more beautiful life. When she discovers her friends are in the same frame of mind, she throws caution to the wind and invites them to Westfield, the ranch her uncle inherited long ago but has never lived in. Equipped with a key and a standing invitation to stay there whenever she likes, she gathers her friends, drives to Chance Creek, and gives up all things 21st century in order to open a Jane Austen-style bed-and-breakfast. She knows her absentee uncle will be thrilled with a new stream of income, and Westfield is perfect for Regency living, with its wide lawns, extensive gardens, and large ballroom. But when sexy, stubborn Boone shows up with plans to build a hyper-modern sustainable community on the ranch, it’s clear her Regency paradise is over before it even began.
Now Boone has 30 days to marry Riley or lose the ranch to developers, and Riley has three weeks to prepare for the bed-and-breakfast’s first guests or face bankruptcy. Can they overcome their prejudices to help each other? Or will their pride destroy both their futures?
Author Cora Seton
About the Author Cora Seton loves cowboys, country life, gardening, bike-riding, and lazing around with a good book. Mother of four, wife to a computer programmer/eco-farmer, she ditched her California lifestyle eight years ago and moved to a remote logging town in northwestern British Columbia.
Like the characters in her novels, Cora enjoys old-fashioned pursuits and modern technology, spending mornings transforming a neglected one-acre lot into a paradise of orchards, berry bushes and market gardens, and afternoons writing the latest Chance Creek romance novel on her iPad mini.
Visit www.coraseton.com to read about new releases, locate your favorite characters on the Chance Creek map, and learn about contests and other cool events!
Welcome to the book blitz for AFTER THE FALL, the second book in the adult contemporary romance series, Seven Winds, by Katy Ames. See below for information on the book, buy links, an exclusive excerpt, and details on her giveaway. Pick up the ebook for just $0.99, this week only, or read for free with Kindle Unlimited.
AFTER THE FALL (Seven Winds #2) by Katy Ames
About the Book – Read for Free with Kindle Unlimited! Title: AFTER THE FALL Series: Seven Winds #2 Author: Katy Ames Genre: Adult Contemporary Romance Release Date: September 11, 2017 Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU
Synopsis If there was one man in the world Grace Fitzgerald never wanted to see again, it was Mark Donovan.
Sinfully handsome, famously flirtatious, unerringly cocky. Paragon of men. Archetype of entitled a**holes. As a guest at her luxury hotel, Mark was impossible.
As the new owner of her hotel, he’s become a nightmare. The kind that wakes Grace in the middle of the night wishing she could forget how right his lips felt against her own, how tempting his fingers were against her skin.
But for all of the challenges that Mark and Grace face working together, nothing can prepare them for the undeniable attraction that flares every time they battle for control. Or the secrets that linger in the luxury of the Seven Winds Villa.
With no way of escaping each other or their pasts, can they possibly survive life on the island after they fall?
A steamy, standalone romance from Katy Ames, author of After the Island.
Excerpt “Mr. Donovan. This is Grace Fitzgerald from the Seven Winds Resort,” she shouted through the door, digging out her master key. “Is everything alright, sir?” The only answer was a loud thud. “Sir, I understand you’re having an issue.” Though not one that warranted so much noise, she thought. Steeling herself, Grace continued, “Mr. Donovan, I’m coming in.”
Grace swiped her key and pushed open the door, stepping into the luxuriously understated living room of the Seven Winds Villa. Looking around, Grace confirmed that nothing was glaringly wrong, at least not on the main floor.
Taking a second glance, Grace registered that the villa’s sole occupant had left a wide array of debris scattered across most of the available surfaces. More cups and a few plates of discarded food were stacked on the coffee table bracketed by the living room sofas. A laptop was open, its screen black, abandoned on the corner of a side table. As she made her way over to close its lid, Grace’s foot connected with something on the floor. Whatever it was rolled away, only coming to a halt when it encountered a throw pillow left carelessly near one window.
Grace scowled as she retrieved the bottle from the floor. Glenrothes 1970. The five- thousand-dollar bottle of Scotch was completely empty. Perhaps you should make sure he isn’t in the pool. Face down. On that morbid thought, she raced to the terrace beyond the French doors and checked the infinity pool on the patio below. Empty. Thank God.
At the same time, a loud crack split the air beneath her.
“Shit, shit, shit.” Grace dropped the forgotten bottle and ran down to the lower level. Whatever she’d expected to find on the ground floor of the resort’s most expensive villa, this wasn’t it.
There, sprawled on the ground, eyes closed, lips skewed in an off-kilter smile, wearing nothing more than a wrinkled pair of shorts, was Mark Donovan, co-founder and CEO of D&A International. Sinfully handsome, wildly successful, obscenely wealthy, unerringly cocky, undeniably brilliant, famously flirtatious. And, Grace was horrified to realize, unconscious and sporting a wicked cut above one eyebrow.
“Oh, no, no.” Grace rushed towards him and crouched over Mr. Donovan’s motionless form, her hands fluttering just above his face. Get a grip, Grace. Check to see if he’s breathing, check to make sure nothing is blocking his airways. She focused with a deep breath and shifted her brain to autopilot.
Grace’s pulse calmed substantially when she saw Mr. Donovan’s chest rise in a steady, heavy breath. Definitely not dead. Thank the good Lord. Grace tipped her head back in relief. Skimming her fingers across his forehead, she gingerly checked the cut to make sure nothing was lodged in it. The blood had stopped, a dark red trickle disappearing into the ashy-brown eyebrow that arched defiantly even then. Running an assessing glance across his head and body, Grace confirmed that other than the bruise blossoming beneath the cut, Mark appeared to be perfectly fine. Though unconscious.
An incoherent mumble broke free of his lips, followed by a muffled snore. Grace amended that last part. Not unconscious. Asleep.
Slumping back, Grace rearranged herself so she could sit more comfortably on the floor, her eyes fixed on her unwitting patient. Mark was stretched out and motionless, giving Grace an unparalleled view of his starkly beautiful face and meticulously sculpted body. His eyes were closed and Grace’s gaze wandered across the sharp ridges of his cheekbones and refined slope of his nose, both of which drew her attention down toward his wide, generous mouth, his lips parted, soft puffs of air brushing the strong, supple lines on every exhale.
Determined to ignore her sudden impulse to taste those lips, Grace shifted her eyes away. But she only got as far as the tanned skin of his neck, Mark’s pulse kicking with a regular rhythm at the base, just above the wide stretch of his collarbone. Refusing to stare, Grace attempted to focus on something innocuous. Like her cuticles, or the weave the carpet. Or the inviting water of the pool outside. But a particularly deep inhale dragged her back, this time her attention landing on the long planes of his broad chest, light wisps of blond hair dusting the hard curves that came to an abrupt halt against the repetitive ridges of his abdomen.
Grace, you need to stop staring. Seriously. Stop staring!
But Grace’s eyes had a mind of their own. She could hardly blame them. As Mark breathed, the play of the muscles across his stomach and sides was hypotonic, the slopes and dips elegantly formed, exquisitely defined. Grace’s mouth formed an ‘O’ as she tracked his torso to where it tapered into sharp angles before stretching beneath the waistband of his shorts. Of its own volition, Grace’s tongue slipped across her lower lip as she caught the hint of dark ink dancing across the shadow of one hipbone.
God help her, he was beautiful. Every delicious detail all the more enticing at that precise moment because his eyes weren’t flashing in disdain. And his voice wasn’t dripping with irritation. Mark Donovan, silent and still, was perfect.
Awake and entitled? Not so much.
“Typically, I expect a woman to buy me one drink, at least, before she gets to enjoy such an up-close and personal view.”
Grace squeaked in surprise and tried to scramble back, but Mark anchored one of her wrists in a warm, inflexible grasp.
“You had an accident. I found you on the floor. I was making sure you weren’t injured.”
Confusion, then recollection flashed in the deep indigo of his eyes. Pressing his free hand to the bump on his forehead, he cocked his lips into a crooked grin. “From what I can tell, my injuries are up here. Not”—he nodded in the direction of his crotch—“down there.”
Author Katy Ames
About the Author Katy Ames loves a good story. Whether through blogs, books, or live events, she’s been an avid story teller her entire career.
With a bachelor’s in English Literature, Katy is happiest when curled up on her favorite sofa with a captivating read, whether it’s the Romantic poets or contemporary romance. A good glass of bourbon doesn’t hurt, either.
Katy lives with her husband and son in Washington, D.C. When she’s not writing or reading, she’s very enthusiastic about fancy cheese, late nights & lazy mornings. Only two of which she gets to enjoy on a regular basis.
Katy is a member of both the Romance Writers of America and the Washington Romance Writers.
Sign-up for Katy’s newsletter to receive exclusive content & info about new releases.
Welcome to the book blitz for FALLING FOR YOU, the first book in the adult contemporary romance series, Great Escapes, by Charlotte Blake. See below for information on the book, buy links, an exclusive excerpt, and details on her giveaway. You can currently pick up the eBook for just $0.99 or read for free with Kindle Unlimited.
FALLING FOR YOU (Great Escapes #1) by Charlotte Blake
About the Book – Read for Free with Kindle Unlimited! Title: FALLING FOR YOU Series: Great Escapes #1 Author: Charlotte Blake Genre: Adult Contemporary Holiday Romance Release Date: September 10, 2017 Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU
Synopsis Sometimes love finds you whether you want it to or not …
Grace Clark is a star at her job as an art director at Boston’s biggest advertising firm. But inside she’s still mourning the loss of her sister two years ago. Losing Mia and a failed engagement have been enough to keep her heart on lockdown ever since.
Luke Arnold is tired of relationships that don’t go anywhere. Usually women are all over him, but it’s been years since he’s met someone he could really fall for.
But when he sees Grace from across the room at the Redview Lodge, he can’t keep his eyes off her. They meet in the New Hampshire mountains over Thanksgiving, and they find in one another something that neither of them expected.
18+ NOTE: This STAND-ALONE romance contains very steamy love scenes. All of the books in the Great Escapes series can be read in any order.
Excerpt It seemed everywhere she went, his eyes followed her. Not in a creepy way, but intense. It made her feel nervous. She didn’t know what to think about it. At dinner, it seemed that every time she looked in his direction, his gaze was on her again. Was he even talking to his dinner mates? After a while, she realized, she was looking at him, too.
And he was definitely worth looking at. From a distance she could tell that he was tall and broad, and by the way his t-shirt clung to his body, definitely well built. He had wavy brown hair, not long, but not cut short, either. She liked the way it would fall into his eyes and he would brush it away.
The whole thing was really sort of embarrassing, but also intriguing. She liked it that she could look up from the conversation at dinner and always find him staring. And he didn’t seem weird; she could tell by the large group of boisterous friends surrounding him at the table. He just seemed … curious.
Once the meal was over, she hugged her parents goodnight.
“See you in the morning, hon,” her mom said. “Are we going on the hike, then?”
They had been browsing through a brochure the lodge had given them, both an advertisement and a map.
“Yeah,” Grace said. “I think we should, don’t you?”
“Definitely,” her father said. “We need to get out there and take in these leaves before they all fall away. See you at breakfast.”
“Let’s make it eight. We’re on vacation,” he said, elbowing her.
She walked with them to the elevator, then realized she had left her sweater draped over her dining chair.
“Oh,” she said. “I left something. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
She turned back and found that their waiter was already headed her way, sweater in hand.
She smiled, taking it from him and wrapping it around her shoulders.
She turned around, back toward the elevator.
And there he was. Waiting.
For a moment, she thought about hiding behind the huge display of flowers that sat on one of the entry tables. Could she get away with it? Would it look like she truly was admiring them and not just avoiding him?
Why was she so nervous?
No, she couldn’t stall, not without being totally obvious. She would look like an idiot.
She took a deep breath and headed over to wait for the elevator, just taking the smallest of glances up at his face. For the first time all night he wasn’t looking at her, and just a hint of a smile played along the corner of his mouth.
The elevator opened and he waited for her to enter first. She hit the button for three, and he didn’t say a thing.
We’re on the same floor.
She didn’t dare look at him now, not when he was standing so close. Her heart was thudding in her chest, and it was all she could do to not check to see if his eyes were on her again.
The elevator reached the third floor and opened.
He was waiting for her to exit first, but she found her feet were stuck to the floor of the elevator as if they were glued to it.
“Goodnight,” he said, his voice deep and silky.
She started and ducked her head to leave the elevator, turning right. She could feel the flush starting in her chest and heading up her neck to her cheeks.
Why hadn’t she said something?
She glanced back and he stood in front of the elevator, this time smiling wide as he watched her leave.
Oh, my God.
She didn’t risk another look, just tried to act like she wasn’t trying to rush away from him.
Suddenly, she realized that she didn’t even know her room number. She had been downstairs since she’d arrived, and hadn’t even bothered to come up to check things out.
She reached into the back pocket of her jeans and found the envelope that held the room key.
She glanced up at the numbers, but as she rounded the corner to the left, she realized that she was going the wrong way, that she should have turned left out of the elevator instead of right.
Now what? What if he was still standing there, somehow knowing that she’d gone the wrong way?
She sneaked up to the corner and listened, and there it was, the sound of his room door closing behind him.
She allowed herself to breathe.
Then, expecting him to appear at any moment, she rushed down the hallway until she found her room number, jammed the card into the slot and launching into the room, pulling the door shut behind her. She stood with her back against it, panting as if she’d been running from a predator. Quickly, she turned around and looked through the peep hole on the door.
The hallway was empty.
She sat down right there on the floor, shaking a little.
What the hell is wrong with you?
Why was he looking at her? She wasn’t so much to see, was she? She had nice, long brown hair, which she wore up in a bun most of the time. Her figure was reasonably attractive, she supposed, and her face was sort of pretty. But Mia had always been the beauty in the family. Mia had gotten her mother’s looks, while Grace had inherited her face from her father’s side of the family. Pretty, but not beautiful.
So why was she so surprised?
It had been the intensity of his gaze that had thrown her. And when she had stood next to him in the elevator, she realized just how big he was. Her heart gave another thud at the memory. Nice arms. Nice smell. And tall.
She shook her head, trying to throw the memory of his scent off of her. She took a deep breath, got up, and walked farther into the room.
The space was beautiful, with vaulted ceilings that mirrored the ones in the dining room. The room was on the top floor, and just visible through the sliding glass door she could see the lake rippling in the moonlight.
On her way into the room she had passed a mini-bar stocked with candy and a couple of those two-serving bottles of wine. She cracked the red one and poured herself a glass into one of the bathroom cups. Walking up to the window again, she started to calm down. She opened the door and almost went outside when she realized it. What if he was standing on his deck, too? Did he have one? One whole side of the building faced the lake, the other side, the trees. She hadn’t seen which room he went into; his could be right next door to her for all she knew.
She settled for leaving the door open and pulling up the desk chair to sit inside and enjoy the view from there.
But she couldn’t handle any more tonight. As the room gradually became colder, she slowly drained her glass, then closed the door and dug around through her suitcase. She was exhausted. It was only nine, but it was just late enough for her to not feel too embarrassed with herself for going to bed.
She changed, slid into the silky sheets, and clicked off the light. She lay in the dark, her mind distracted, able to think of only one thing.
Why shouldn’t he have been looking at her, anyway? She’d had plenty of date offers since Brett, but just as she was starting to get over the heartache she had felt about his lies, Mia had her accident. Since then, her dating life had been easy; she had simply said no to every request. All of them. She couldn’t risk getting into another relationship now, not after all that had happened. Because whoever it was with would eventually leave her, just as Brett had.
Just as Mia had.
She rolled over, her head swimming slightly from all the wine. But just as she was dozing off, the image of the man’s eyes appeared before her.
No. Definitely not a good idea.
Author Charlotte Blake
About the Author I am happy to call the San Francisco Bay Area home, where I lives with my husband, two kids, one dog and three cats. I started writing at an early age, but have only been writing novels for the past five years. I love the idea of love conquering all, and that is what drove me to begin the Great Escapes series, where the reader follows couples meeting up in exotic locations around the world. In this series, each book is a stand-alone, and each can be read in any order.
But readers, be forewarned, there is a healthy amount of steam in these books!
Thank you for stopping by, and I hope you enjoy Great Escapes!
Welcome to the book blitz for THREE HEART ECHO, an adult paranormal suspense, by USA Today bestselling author, Keary Taylor. See below for information on the book, buy links, an exclusive excerpt,and details on her giveaway.
THREE HEART ECHO by Keary Taylor
About the Book – Read for Free With Kindle Unlimited
Title: THREE HEART ECHO
Author: Keary Taylor Release Date: September 12, 2017 Genre: Adult Paranormal Suspense
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU
Synopsis The demented thing is that this evolved from the most sickly sweet, heart-wrenching love story you’ve ever heard. I went to Sully because I just couldn’t get over Jack’s murder. I couldn’t deal.
Iona came to me for the same reason most did: because there was no closure. A love cut too short. She begged me to open the gate between the living and the dead.
We should have left it shut.
This. This is not a love story. This is a possession story. A story of lies. A story of two faces. This is a story of death and violent echoes from the other side.
And there will be no happy endings.
Excerpt #2 My eyes rise up to Iona, and at first I don’t realize what she’s doing. She twirls a letter opener between her two hands. Her eyes study it. Never looking away.
A drop of red falls to the wooden floor. Followed by another.
She’s pricked every one of her fingertips with the opener. Blood drips from every one of them.
“Iona!” I bark, darting forward to grab it from her hands before she can prick her thumb again. “What…what are you doing?”
I kneel at her side, and looking up into her eyes, I see they’re distant. Hazy. Just like when she was up on the rooftop last night.
“Iona?” I say, gripping her arms and giving her a little shake.
She blinks. Once. Twice. And I see her vision come back into focus.
“Your hands,” I say, grabbing one of them, holding them up for her to see. Blood drips in tiny trails.
Her face fills with confusion, slight horror.
“Did you even realize you were doing it?” I ask, my voice breathy.
She holds up her other hand, looking at the blood. They begin to tremble.
“Yes,” she says. “No. I… I wasn’t even thinking. I just… My hands just started doing it and…and I didn’t care.”
I grip her shoulders, giving her a tiny shake, dragging her eyes to mine. “We have to fix this, Iona. This isn’t just obsession, anymore. This isn’t just mindless love and a loss of appetite. This is dangerous. This is your life on the line now.”
Author Keary Taylor
About the Author KearyTaylor is the USA TODAY bestselling author of over twenty novels. She grew up along the foothills of the Rocky Mountains where she started creating imaginary worlds and daring characters who always fell in love. She now splits her time between a tiny island in the Pacific Northwest and Utah, with her husband and their two children. She continues to have an overactive imagination that frequently keeps her up at night.
Welcome to the book blitz for DELAYED DEPARTURE, the second book in the new adult contemporary romance series, Passports & Promises, by Abigail Drake. See below for information on the book, buy links, an exclusive excerpt, and details on her giveaway.
DELAYED DEPARTURE ( Passports & Promises #2) by Abigail Drake
About the Book – Read for Free with Kindle Unlimited.
Title: DELAYED DEPARTURE () by Series: Passports & Promises #2 Author: Abigail Drake Release Date: August 16, 2017 Genre: New Adult Contemporary Romance Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU
Synopsis When Bethany Beaumont finds a book about life in the sultan’s harem, she discovers it’s actually a guide to the lost art of seduction. Just what she needs as she departs on a study abroad trip to exotic Istanbul. She’s struggling to get over her ex, and the book of dirty little secrets might be just the thing to help…if only she could find someone to practice on.
Half-Turkish and full of Australian swagger, teaching assistant Adam Kent seems to fit the bill. They decide to become lovers for the duration of the trip, and then part ways. Forever.
But not every lesson can be found in a book, and sometimes falling in love changes everything. When Bethany is forced to confront her past, and the promises she made to someone else, will it really be as easy as she thought to let Adam go?
Excerpt #1 My mother insisted on purchasing two of the largest suitcases possible, Louis Vuitton rolling cases in an easily recognizable and slightly obnoxious shade of bright pink. She’d spent more on my luggage than some people did on a car, and they were heavy. I’d loaded them up with my precious books and far too many pairs of shoes before I left. The porter stumbled, losing his grip on the first suitcase, and nearly fell.
I rushed to help, but someone else beat me to it, a tall, mountain of a man. I stopped in my tracks and stared. I may have been drooling. He was, for lack of a better word, beautiful.
Broad chest. Long legs. Strong, muscular arms. Golden, glowing skin. Chestnut hair flowing in riotous curls around his face and down to his shoulders. Eyes in a warm shade of brown. The edge of a tattoo peeking out from under the sleeve of his shirt.
Something unexpected curled in my chest. Was it…lust? I hadn’t felt it in so long I almost didn’t recognize it. But I wasn’t the only person staring at the bronzed god in from of me.
“Heavens to Betsy,” said Hilary under her breath. “I’ve never seen anything so pretty this close up.”
He was pretty, and he was also pissed off, most likely at the owner of the two enormous and ridiculously heavy pink suitcases. Me.
Author Abigail Drake
About the Author Abigail Drake has spent her life traveling the world, and collecting stories wherever she visited. She majored in Japanese and International Economics in college and worked in import/export and as an ESL teacher before she committed herself full time to writing. She writes in several romance genres, and her books are quirky, light, fun, and sexy.
Abigail is a trekkie, a book hoarder, the master of the Nespresso machine, a red wine addict, and the mother of three sons (probably the main reason for her red wine addiction). A puppy named Capone is the most recent addition to her family, and she blogs about him as a way of maintaining what little sanity she has left.
She is a member of Pennwriters, RWA, Three Rivers Romance Writers, Mindful Writers, Women’s Fiction Writers, and the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. She teaches writing to children through the Young Writers’ Institute and at local libraries.
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.
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
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 fourth teaser blitz 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 teaser.
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?
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.
Welcome to the book blitz for THE COWBOY’S RUNAWAY BRIDE, the third book in the adult contemporary romance series, The McCall Brothers, by Laurie LeClair. See below for information on the book, buy links, the book’s playlist, and details on her giveaway.
HE COWBOY’S RUNAWAY BRIDE (The McCall Brothers #3) by Laurie LeClair
Synopsis When Dallas society bride Elizabeth Eve Barrington discovers her intended’s financial ulterior motives for marriage, she hightails it out of the church in her wedding gown and hops in the back of a parked and beat-up pickup truck.
Happy to leave the big city, sexy cowboy Connor McCall jumps in his truck, revs up his engine, and then heads home to Honor, Texas with the goal of saving his family’s failing ranch. Hours later and miles down country roads, Connor discovers the stowaway bride, and he’s pretty sure she’s feigning amnesia.
What’s a cowboy to do? Cowboy up, of course. He takes Eve home, determined to solve her mystery. What he discovers is a lot of smoke–and where there’s smoke, there’s fire, with the heat generating between them hot enough to burn. Will Connor be damned if he falls for the beautiful runaway bride or will he be damned if he doesn’t?
Playlist I Met A Girl by William Michael Morgan
You’re The One I Want by Thomas Payne
I Don’t Dance by Lee Brice
Cowboys And Angels by Dustin Lynch
The Fighter by Keith Urban with Carrie Underwood
Ladies Love Country Boys by Trace Adkins
Beautiful Mess by Diamond Rio
Just A Kiss by Lady Antebellum
Who I Am With You by Chris Young
Craving You by Thomas Rhett with Maren Morris
Author Laurie LeClair
About the Author Bestselling author Laurie LeClair writes romantic comedies, contemporary romance, romantic suspense, and women’s fiction. Laurie has a not-so-secret love for characters who make her laugh, cry, and who linger in her mind long after the story ends. Laurie’s habit of daydreaming has gotten her into a few scrapes and launched her to take up her dream of writing. Finally, she can put all those stories in her head to rest as she brings them to life on the page.
Laurie loves to write, read, bake, travel, and discover new adventures. She considers herself a New Texan (New England born and raised and now living in Texas). She lives in Central Texas with her husband, Jim. Laurie loves to hear from her readers.
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 book blitz for AUTUMN’S DANCE, the first book in the new adult contemporary romance series, Season Named, by Sarah Gai. See below for information on the book, buy links, an exclusive teaser, and details on her giveaway.
Synopsis “A story that captures your heart and continues you thinking about it long after you fall asleep.”
Autumn Nash lives a nomadic existence with her harvest-travelling father, except every summer when they return to one place like clockwork…Ligonier, PA. But this season, Autumn meets a young man who changes her world and makes her long for more.
Eric Foster has been sent to stay the summer in Ligonier with his grandfather in hopes of altering his path as his life spirals downward. His direction changes the moment he sees Autumn; he knows his very reason for breathing is solely to be with her.
When Autumn is ripped away from Ligonier, she leaves Eric confused and devastated that their time is over. Both teens struggle through the years gone by without the other. Will Autumn ever see the boy who changed her life again? Will Eric wait for her? Will Autumn ever make it back to Ligonier? And what will happen when buried secrets surface?
Discover a love that takes you back to what it’s all about—the confusing, yet simplistic, beginnings of falling in love and watch it evolve into something that takes your breath away.
‘Autumn’s Dance can be read as a standalone or part of The Season Named Series’
Author Sarah Gai
About the Author So this is me in short. I’m plus size and completely adorable (or so my husbands tells me). A momma of three princes who light my world. I drink way too much coffee, chocolate is a staple. I love to write after midnight and my love for short stories will never fade. With such a limited amount of time to enjoy quiet writing, I have mastered the skills of fitting a lot into a small amount of pages. Humour keeps me smiling and well.. if you’ve read my books you’ll know that I put a lot of myself into the characters. And to answer your questions. My best friends and I forgot the part about growing up and love every minute of it. Aside from writing I also run a publication IndieLove Magazine, promoting Indie Awesomes from a range of fields and professions. Check it out at www.indielovemagazine.com.
In 2017 I will be saying goodbye to Chick lit for a while and heading into Contemporary Romance. I hate to be put in a box! Join my street team at www.sarahgai.com and come have some fun!
Love to all xo.
Wanting to write for all the women out there who want a good short read about strong friendships, romance and body positive, love the skin you’re in kind of fiction. .