“Touched” by Mara White #BlogTour


 

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Does your sister let you touch her, Gemini?
-Barely, but, yes, more than anyone else. I remember even in preschool when the teacher would grab her hand, she’d stare at the spot where their skin connected as if it were an affront to her existence. Just stand there and glare like she wanted to hurt someone.
-Junipera suffers from a rare phobia.
-Please, what does June not suffer from?
-When did she start chasing storms?
-In third grade she started obsessing about the rain. Full blown? I’d say after hurricane Katrina she never looked back. And she didn’t just chase them, June became those wild storms.

Junipera and Gemini Jones, Irish twins born during the month of June, survive a childhood of neglect and poverty by looking out for one another. Destined for a group home, the girls are rescued by a rich aunt and uncle who move them from Northern Minnesota to Fairfield, Connecticut. One sister thrives while the other spins out of control. A violent assault leaves Gemini searching for clues, but what she finds might be questions that are better left unanswered.
Praise for Touched


“Fresh, raw, relevant. TOUCHED slips under your skin with lush prose, unforgettable characters, and a story like no other.”
        -Leylah Attar, New York Times best-selling author


“Hauntingly beautiful and downright emotional, White grabs you by the soul in her latest novel, Touched, and leaves an indelible mark.”
-K. Bromberg, New York Times best-selling author

“Mara White has crafted characters so real and complex, they live and bleed. Watching their story unfold was heartbreaking, beautiful, and riveting. Touched is stunning work.”
    -Nikki Sloane, Best-selling author of the Blindfold Club Series

“Touched is a truly beautiful book. It’s raw, real, and possessing of a quiet poetry.”
        -Emma Scott, Best-Selling author of the Full Tilt Duet

“I can confidently say, without a shred of doubt, that this story and these people will stay with me for the rest of my life. I bow down, Mara White. You wrote a category 5 masterpiece.”
-BB Easton, Bestselling Author

“A phenomenal, mesmerizing and unforgettable masterpiece!
This story blew me away! I cannot put into words how beautiful this story was! Absolutely astonishing! A must read!”
    -The Book Queen

“The writing is voracious and hungry and insatiable. Touched is a story that will devour you as you stuff your face with it. I’m not only touched, I’m digested. Just read it.”
    -Suanne Laqueur, Best-Selling author of the Fish Tales Series

Alaric

Alaric was used to being tossed off, so it didn’t surprise him or especially hurt his feelings when his grandfather passed him on to another group home. Three months had been enough for the old coot. Buyer’s remorse. Maybe driving him to school every day put him over the edge. He took the high road and took in the kid, but then soon realized it was a crazy idea. Too much of a responsibility. Besides, he hated people, let alone a grandson. Alaric was needy and Thorn didn’t do needy.
He did miss the room he’d quickly become attached to. He missed choices for breakfast and the hum of the loud refrigerator. He even kind of missed how his grandfather grunted instead of speaking full words, how he’d catch him studying his face like he was trying to decipher a code. Alaric knew he looked like his father, that the fact both pleased and aggravated his grandfather. A second chance the man didn’t ask for and obviously didn’t want.
Alaric realized he was slipping in his game. He shouldn’t have feelings for a bed or a ceiling after only a few weeks of staying in the same place. The trick was, he’d let himself think it was permanent and allowed himself to believe his home wasn’t going anywhere. Turned out he was half right—his home wasn’t going anywhere, but apparently, he was. Alaric reminded himself that nothing was permanent, change was the only guaranteed constant in life.
The other thing he missed were his nightly summer visits with Gem and June. Even though they pretended not to know each other at school, in the few months he’d been there, June and Gem had snuck over almost every night to watch the television in the garage. They shared snacks and laughs, secrets and intimate moments of fun. Although he’d never hung out with girls before, he’d imagined it would be boring, tedious and maybe even petty. How wrong he was, because Gem and June were electric, their curiosity was infectious, their fearlessness—almost troubling. He was, admittedly, a little bit scared of them. Especially June, whom he’d seen eat a bug, let a spider crawl down her turtleneck, poke a dead cat with a stick and turn it over so they could see the maggots, try a sip of beer from a can someone discarded on the curb, ride Freddy Bullet’s dirt bike down the dirt hill at full speed with her legs held out to the sides, hold her head under water in a bucket of freezing water, touch tongues with a teenager from the middle school who dared her to, drive her mother’s car to the other side of the street for alternate side parking. Phew! He would never challenge June to something he wasn’t readily willing to do. Because June would do it and leave him crying in the dust.
***
Junipera and Gemini turned ten and eleven in June. Alaric was ten in August. Midway through the year, Albert Thorn felt guilty about abandoning his grandson and came back to get him. Alaric was most excited about seeing his neighbors, Gem and June. He felt closer to them than he did his only living relative. Their reunion was spectacular. They smiled so hard their cheeks hurt, eyes dancing with the possibility of another summer spread out before them.
Life wasn’t easy, but they lived it fully and sometimes secretly. Fun was a reality they trusted much more than adults or rules or the surreal transformation that was growing up. If something appeared fun, it carried with it a truth that spoke directly to their hearts. A joke. A puddle to be splashed, a doorbell to be rung and ditched, sidewalk chalk to spell out pastel curse words, the pink heart dotting the I on the word shit, slides to slide upside down and two by two or three if they could fit, wrestling matches to reenact the ones they’d seen on TV—June could do full body slams until purple bruises appeared on her hip bones—they’d gossip and whisper stories from warm lips to ears, candy, costumes, screaming, running, laughing until tears or until June wet her pants. The magic of summer and having friends to share it with; they didn’t take it lightly and reveled in its bewitching yet innocent power.
Alaric would make videos that starred June and Gem. They didn’t reenact stories, he just documented their interactions, the two girls giggling and telling inside jokes, yelling at the television to egg on their favorite characters, fighting over seats or sticks or candy—Alaric found everything they did to be fascinating. He liked to zoom in close on both of their faces, record the flashes of expression and subtle eye movements that informed their unique communication. Once he filmed June outside dancing in the rain. He and Gem stayed in the shelter of the garage overhang while Junipera soaked her white nightgown all the way through. She threw her arms to the sides and spun in circles, tipped her head back and opened her mouth. Thunder crashed around them like the crack of a cosmic whip; purple lightning split through the dark sky making them both jump and cower. June was oblivious.
“Junipera, come back in. It’s dangerous and you’ll get sick,” Gem screamed at her sister.
Alaric panned to her face, which was twisted up in concern, then back out to June, who was laughing openly at the sky in some kind of trance-like rapture. Her feet were covered in mud up to her ankles, her nightgown soaked transparent and advertising her blue underwear. Gem could even see her navel. Greenish lightning zapped through the rapacious clouds and moments later, another clash of thunder shattered their ears. Gem and Alaric bumped shoulders as fear moved them involuntarily. The lightning lit her up in intervals like the glitz of a macabre disco. The vibration of the storm rumbled low in their bellies and when the thunder struck it shook the earth beneath them.
“June, I’m serious. Get back in here!” Gem screamed. Alaric filmed her face, concentrating on her brown eyes filled with panic. “What if she gets hit?” Gem asked him, her palms turned upward in defeat.
“Well, then she’d stop dancing for sure and you and I could go save her.”

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Mara White is a contemporary romance and erotica writer who laces forbidden love stories with hard issues, such as race, gender and inequality. She holds an Ivy League degree but has also worked in more strip clubs than even she can remember. She is not a former Mexican telenovela star contrary to what the tabloids might say, but she is a former ballerina and will always remain one in her heart. She lives in NYC with her husband and two children and yes, when she’s not writing you can find her on the playground.

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5 Days of Nicola Rendell – “Confessed” 18+


 

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Free on Kindle Unlimited
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Lucy Burchett is the heiress to a notoriously disastrous family, and she’s left home for good. But when she runs a big, black pickup off the road, totaling it, she finds herself stuck in the middle of nowhere with the driver. He’s got a body to die for and a hair-trigger temper. Vince Russo looks like a felon, but he’s also pretty funny. He’s on the lam from the cops… and a psychopathic, Russian mob boss who wants to put his balls on a barbeque. Literally.

 

After a night of ill-advised cocktails and bathroom-wrecking sex, Vince just can’t get Lucy off his mind. But he’s got plans to rob her. And Lucy’s life is about to get a little bit criminal too.

 

But can a bad boy and a good girl really escape from their troubles together? Can they trust each other at all?

 

In the steady march of disasters that follow them west, they fight and they laugh. They tease and they’re tender. They’re either oil and water, or chocolate and peanut butter.

 

Except, they can’t run from the real world forever. And there’s a hell of a surprise in store for both of them…

 

 

He runs his hand through his thick black hair. “When I was your age, music was sexy. Seriously fuck-worthy.”He brings his lips right close to my ear. “Not like this shit playing now.”And then he pulls away. He slides his stool back from the bar and gets up. I watch him walk over to the jukebox. Even the way he stands is incredibly aggressive, masculine, and sexy. Can a stance be dripping with testosterone? Apparently.

 

He turns and catches me staring. The jukebox goes silent, and there’s just that one second of anticipation in the air. He hitches up his belt and gives me this predatory stare. I resist the urge to place my forehead on the bar. Mercy.

 

But then it happens.
Bongo drums.
Electric guitar strum.
Synthesizer.
Phil Collins.

 

He walks back towards me and sits down, dead freaking serious, not a glimmer of fun in his eyes. Unfortunately, deep, deep down, I feel a laugh coming up. One of those incredibly painful church-and-funeral laughs. Phil Collins?

 

A little honking laugh does shoot out of my nose. I can’t help it. I’m only human.

 

He looks wounded. “This is classic music, Peaches.”

 

I move my hand to his forearm and grip it. I mean it to be apologetic, but the way he feels under my hand…it gets sexy in a hurry. “I thought you were going to go for something a little more…”I look him up and down, “broody.”

 

He’s dead serious. Phil Collins is obviously not a joke. “This is the sexiest song in the entire fucking world,”he says. Not for one second, not even to blink, does he look away from my eyes. And then he puts his hand to my waist, gripping me tight.

 

He nestles his chin in close to my ear and draws my body closer, between his parted legs. With his tongue just sweeping against my earlobe, he growls, “I can feel it…in the air tonight.”

 

My neck slides back for him. I feel the seam of his T-shirt under my fingers. Oh, Lord.

 

“I’ve waited for this moment…”He runs his finger up my arm. I breathe him in. “…all my life.”

 

Oh Lord.

 

Eye to eye now, he brings his fingers up my neck and knots them in my hair. I feel goose bumps down my spine. He draws my head to his. The feel of his stubble is harsh and gritty against my skin, almost scraping me. The hand on my waist slides me over my bar stool. I let my legs press hard and hot against his.

 

His tongue makes its way up the curve of my neck.

 

Oh. Lord.
Oh.
Lord.
His lips are almost touching mine now. “The hurt won’t show, but the pain, it grows…”

 

As the drums come in, his other hand comes up and takes my cheek in his palm. I feel my body heave slowly towards him, like a surrender. I can’t help myself, and groan, “Oh, Lord.” Out loud.

 

The pressure of his head changes against mine, and he leans in like I’m making him weak. He nudges me with his nose again, like he did on the ground earlier. So close I can almost taste him. But not close enough.

 

I press my cheek to his and whisper, “Kiss me.”

 

I feel the smile more than I see it.

 

Both hands come to my face, and he pulls me in. He decides the depth of the kiss and moves his tongue all the way into my mouth.

 

Oh Lord, oh Lord, oh Lord.

 

Phil Collins hits us with the drums, announcing the obvious: This is a guy who knows what he wants and is going to take it. Who knows what he’s doing and is going to show me what he wants too. He tips my face in his hands, kissing me deeper, sweeping my tongue aside with his. I feel my grip weaken, and one of my legs slides off the stool. He wraps his huge arm around me. But then he pulls my lips from his, and I open my eyes a second later. “Why do I want you so bad, huh? Helen?”He drags his tongue along the edge of my ear.

 

“I don’t know,”I moan. “But I can feel it.”

 

He nods. “In the fucking air tonight.”

 

I inch my hand toward his hard-on.

 

He kisses me again, starting out way more tenderly than he left off. He fits his fingers between my ribs and grips me hard. I am outrageously wet and can feel the slippery wave between my thighs as I move my legs to bring him closer. I feel my wetness outside my panties even, in a cold smear on my thighs.

 

My fingers find their way to the back of his head to the base of his neck. I feel the muscles rippling even there. Solid columns of tension.

 

“I want to hear you scream,”he whispers. Phil Collins starts to fade out.

 

“I want you to make me scream,”I say.

 

“Jesus Christ.”

 

I let my lips just brush his ear. “Should we get out of here?”

 

“Room’s not ready,”he says.

 

His jaw nudges mine aside and then he explores my neck through a kiss. I go limp in his hands, but he keeps me right where I am. How he can be so tender and so vulgar, I don’t even know. He makes me want to do things I’ve never done before. He makes me want to set fire to all the rules of polite society. This guy here? He makes me want to get in trouble. Big trouble. “I’ve never had sex in a bathroom.”

 

He groans again. “Fuck you,”he says. “Get out of my head.”

 

He presses his mouth to my ear. His voice, it’s dark and dangerous. “Meet me there in two minutes. Don’t you dare make me wait.”And then slowly his stool screeches on the floor as he steps back from the bar.

 

 
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Nicola Rendell writes dirty romantic comedy. She likes a stiff drink and a well-frosted cake. She loves to cook, sew, and play the piano. She realizes that her hobbies might make her sound like an old lady and she’s totally okay with that. She grew up in Taos, New Mexico; after receiving a handful of degrees from a handful of places, she now works as a professor in New England. An Amazon bestseller, her work has been featured in USA Today’s Happy Ever After and the Huffington Post. She is represented by Emily Sylvan Kim at the Prospect Agency.

 

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“A Saving Grace (Free At Last Book 3)” by Annie Stone #BlogTour


 

A grave injury leaves Hunter in a dangerous state. A place where he can no longer see the light. In anything. But Mackenzie can’t—and won’t—accept that.

So she sends him a reason to live. With that comes unforeseen difficulties.

Once again, Mackenzie sees firsthand how strong Hunter’s love and determination can really be. But is that enough? Will their lives ever be the same again?

When I’m finished packing, I join the other two in the living room. They’re sitting on the couch, arms crossed in front of their chests.
“I don’t want!” Hazel cries.
“But you can’t stay dirty like that,” Carey reasons with her.
“Yes, I can.”
“People need to take baths, Hazeline.”
“Not Hazel.”
“Aren’t you a person, too, Hazel?”
She shakes her head. I lean against the doorframe, amused.
“What are you then?”
“Tid.”
I smile. She’s pretty quick.
“Isn’t a kid a person, too?” Carey insists. Hazel shakes her head. “No? What is it, then?”
“Lion.”
Carey smiles. “A lion?”
“Grrr,” she says, sounding more like Simba’s first attempt at a roar than any real lion.
“Well, little lions have to take baths, too,” Carey tells her.
“How?” She looks genuinely confused.
“Their mommies lick them.”
“Eww!”
“So, what’s it going to be, little lion? Are you going to take a bath, or do you want Mac to lick you?”
She gives him a critical look. “With bubbies.”
“Bubbles it is.”
“Pink bubbies.”
He smiles and stretches his hand toward her. She slips hers in it and shakes it as hard as she can like they’ve just struck a business deal.
Carey looks up and sees me standing there. “Your baby does not want to be licked.”
“That’s totally okay. I don’t really want to lick such a dirty baby.” I pull a face and make scary hissing sounds, sending her running all over the living room. I run after her, yelling that I’m going to eat her. She squeals and sprints into Carey’s arms.
I come after her, and she squeaks as I kiss her shoulder making licking sounds. Carey laughs and saves her from me.
“Come on, let’s get to the bathroom, Hazeline, quick!”
She nods emphatically, and together they sprint out of the living room. I run after them, still making scary sounds they seem to find hilarious. Carey slams the door shut in my face, and I scratch at it, hearing them laugh inside.
“Your mom is crazy,” Carey laughs.
“Yeah,” the little traitor agrees, clapping her hands.

I’m a contemporary romance writer, who likes her men tattooed, her women independent and her coffee strong.

My stories are all about love, but some are of the romantic kind, some of the sad kind and others of the very steamy kind. So if you can stand drama, foul language and sex, you came to the right place.

Love, Annie

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“Fields of Gold Beneath Prairie Skies (Canadian Historical Brides Book 6)” by Suzanne de Montigny #Excerpt


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EXCERPT

Chapter Three

The Ferry

After Lea swallowed the last sip of her soup, she settled herself on the main deck, finding a seat as near to the window as possible. Tucking her suitcase under her legs, she glanced about to see how crowded the ferry was. If there weren’t too many people, she might have the entire row of seats to herself, a safeguard from lonely men looking for company. She relaxed when an old woman made herself comfortable beside her.

As they sailed away, the land behind them diminished, the greens fading to misty pale blues that disappeared into the haze. She watched the faint line grow thinner until water surrounded the vessel, lapping against the hull, only gray sky visible beyond. Lea’s pulse quickened as she remembered her mother’s worries. Could there still be U-boats left that haven’t heard the Armistice has been signed? No! Nap said it’s official—the war’s over, and if he says so, then I believe him. To convince herself of his words, she pulled out the stack of letters from her bag that he’d sent over the past year and filed through them until she found the one she was looking for.

My dearest Lea,


   I’m sorry I haven’t been by to see you for some time. You see, I wasn’t given leave, though we’ve been stationed close to Chatlineau a few times. We’ve been transporting POWs back to Germany from France and Belgium now that the armistice has been signed. You’d think it’d be easy work, but it’s not. It’s quite sad, really. These men are so thin and broken, and I worry, even though they’re the enemy, that they may not survive. My comrades say I shouldn’t concern myself after all the atrocities the Germans have committed, but aren’t all men equal? Weren’t they serving their country the same as we were? Don’t they have mothers and fathers who love them too?

Yesterday, I spoke to a German who told me, in broken French, that he had a wife and a four-year-old daughter waiting for him back home. I wonder if they’ll find him changed, the way his hands tremble and the way he starts at the slightest sound. He’s a haunted man. We weren’t the only ones hurt. It’s a terrible thing war, where decent men are forced to kill each other because of decisions made by political leaders.

One of our boys told me a touching story the other day. He said that one Christmas, the Allies near Vimy Ridge heard the Germans singing ‘Silent Night’. They were so moved, they joined in. Can you imagine? Germans and Allies singing together, each in their own language? Then a magical thing happened. Slowly, they all came out of the trenches, shook hands, showed pictures of their girls. Some even cried together. Others shared what small portions of food they’d received from back home. Then someone pulled out a ball, and they began playing soccer. Can you imagine? Soccer! But it all ended when they heard gunshot in the distance. Their brief Christmas was over. It was business as usual. They shook hands and then lowered themselves back down into the muck of the trenches and resumed shooting. My eyes fill with tears at the thought. What a terrible thing to befriend and kill your enemy on the same day.

But there is one good thing that has come from this war, my beautiful Lea, and that’s you. As I sat in the mud-filled, rat-infested trenches before the armistice, it was you who kept me going. I could survive the cold and damp, the trench foot, and the lack of food just by filling my mind with thoughts of you, your beautiful blue eyes, your dark hair, your charming accent. It gave me something to hope for—a future.

As always, I love you,Nap

Lea let out a sigh. Her little Napoleon! She never grew tired of reading his letters! At first his correspondence had related the latest news, but as they got to know one another—be it live or through mail—he began leaving small hints, choice words that indicated they might have a life together! The day came when Lea received a short note saying he’d drop by that night, that he had something important on his mind to discuss with her.

“I think this is it,” Lea had said to Mathilde in an excited whisper.

“What?” asked Mathilde, folding dried bed sheets, still checking for the telltale signs of lice—a slight blood stain—though many months had passed since the soldiers had spent the night.

“Napoleon is coming—tonight!”

“Tonight?”

“Yes, and I think he may ask me to marry him!”
Her sister’s mouth dropped.

“Marry him! You can’t be serious. You barely know him! He’s only been here a few times to see you.”

“Yes, but we’ve been writing back and forth. I know him well enough. He’s the kindest man I’ve ever met. He’s funny, he’s sweet, and besides, I would like to see these golden fields and blue skies he talks about.”

“But you don’t know what’ll happen between now and then. You could be a widow with a baby.”

Lea mulled her words over. It was true. She’d known three of the town’s girls who’d been furlough brides only to lose their husbands a few months later on the front.

“You can’t rush into these things,” said Mathilde. “And what if you marry him and then don’t fit into his world. Remember, you’re Belgian. And he’s asking you to move to Canada, an untamed country.”

Lea weighed the consequences of her decision, then replied. “Yes, but I love him.”

“But Lea…” Mathilde dug her hands into her hips and gave her a condescending look.
A timid knock at the front door brought an abrupt end to the conversation.

“It can’t be him already!” whispered Lea. She pinched her cheeks and bit her lips.

Her sister did a quick fold of the sheets and shoved them into the cupboard while Lea smoothed out her dress.

Papa opened the door.

Napoleon stood on the steps in full uniform, his chest pushed out. He reached up, took off his hat and smiled. “Good day, Monsieur Decorte.”

Papa turned and shot Lea an amused hint of smile. “Lea. Are you in the mood for Mr. de Montigny’s company? Or are you too tired today?” Without waiting for an answer, he said, “I think she’s too tired.” He made as if to close the door.

Lea rushed forward before her beau had time to flee from Papa’s wry sense of humour. “Of course I have time for Napoleon. Come in, come in.” She grabbed his arm and dragged him to the sofa where they sat side by side holding hands.

Napoleon looked uncertain.

No wonder! After what Papa just put him through.

They made small talk until dinner was served. When they sat down to eat, he barely touched the fish and potatoes Maman had prepared, wiping his forehead over and over again with his napkin and taking sips of water as though his mouth were dry.

When the dishes were washed and placed in the cupboard, Lea led him to the sofa again while everyone conveniently disappeared except Papa who made an occasional entrance to cast a wary eye on the couple.

“So the war is over now and as soon as we’re done transporting the POWs, I’ll likely be discharged,” Napoleon said after the older man left the room for the second time.

“Oh?” said Lea.

Nap cleared his throat. “Yes, and then I’ll be going home to Canada. I’ll join my father and brothers in Saskatchewan.”

Lea moved closer, hoping for an arm to encircle her. “I’ll miss you.”

“As I will you.” He slid his hand over her shoulder only to remove it again when Maman wandered in and began polishing the silverware.

Lea flashed her an impatient glare, but Maman ignored it and continued rubbing the cutlery until every individual piece shone before leaving.

“Tell me more about Saskatchewan. Have you applied to the government for your homestead yet?” She loved pronouncing the English word. It seemed so worldly.

“No, not yet. I’ll do that when I get home.” Napoleon’s face paled. “But I…I…I was wondering if…”

“Yes?”

Papa sauntered in and began sweeping the floor.

Napoleon let out a frustrated sigh and then changed the subject. “We’ve been lucky with the weather, haven’t we?”

“Yes, indeed,” replied Lea, throwing an angry look at her father.

Papa pushed crumbs into the dustpan and poured it into the trashcan, oblivious.

“It’d be nice to go for a picnic,” suggested Lea.

“Ah, yes, it would. We could pick up a baguette from the boulangerie, then take it to the park.”

“That would be lovely.”
The grandfather clock that stood in the corner of the room chimed. Ten o’clock.

“And we could get some fromage bleu too,” she added. It was getting late. If Maman and Papa didn’t leave them alone, Nap would never propose.

Papa cleared his throat and eyed Lea.

Lea hurled him a desperate glare, the effect obviously not working because he dragged a chair to the grandfather clock and began winding it.

On seeing his actions, Napoleon took in a sharp breath and stood up. “I’m sorry. I didn’t realize it was so late. I should be going.”

Lea’s heart fell. Her lips pressed together in a tight line as she walked Napoleon to the door.

He squeezed her shoulders, and cast a glance toward Papa, before saying, “I’ll be back as soon as I can. Maybe in a couple of weeks.” He kissed her cheek, then retreated into the night.

~~~~~~~~~~

Book Trailer

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Fields of Gold coverTitle: Fields of Gold Beneath Prairie Skies

Author: Suzanne de Montigny

Genre: Historical Romance

French-Canadian soldier, Napoleon, proposes to Lea during WWI, promising golden fields of wheat as far as the eye can see. After the Armistice, he sends money for her passage, and she journeys far from her family and the conveniences of a modern country to join him on a homestead in Saskatchewan. There, she works hard to build their dream of a prospering farm, clearing fields alongside her husband through several pregnancies and even after suffering a terrible loss. When the stock market crashes in ’29, the prairies are stricken by a long and abysmal drought. Thrown into poverty, she struggles to survive in a world where work is scarce, death is abundant, and hope dwindles. Will she and her family survive the Great Depression?

 

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Author Bio

Suzanne de Montigy

Suzanne de Montigny loved writing stories as a child, creating her first novella at the age of twelve. She has kept it on her shelf between her textbooks and novels all her life. As an adult, she pursued a career in music education, teaching school for twenty years. It was there she discovered she had a knack for storytelling. When her father passed away in 2006, she developed an overpowering urge to begin writing again. She has received awards for her “Shadow of the Unicorn” series and her young teen novel, A Town Bewitched.

She lives in Burnaby, B.C. with the four loves of her life, her husband, her two boys, and Buddy the bichon frisé.

 

Links

www.suzannedemontigny.com

https://www.facebook.com/unicorngirl52

https://twitter.com/sfierymountain

http://suzannesthoughtsfortheday.blogspot.ca

https://www.amazon.com/Suzanne-deMontigny/e/B00B522CGW/

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6765086.Suzanne_de_Montigny

 

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“Still (Grip Series Book 2)” by Kennedy Ryan #ReleaseBlitz


 
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Still is a masterpiece of love, lust and human feeling. Poetic and sexy beyond compare, Still will have you turning everything you know upside down and laughing, crying and panting through Grip and Bristol’s journey. Five ‘bruising’ stars!”

Sierra Simone, USA Today Bestselling author

STILL, the sexy, emotional final installment of the GRIP series, is LIVE!

Enter the $50 Gift Card Release Giveaway!

http://bit.ly/StillLIVEGive

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I’ll be there.

Through thick and thin.

Ride or die.

You can count on me.

The promises people make. The vows we take.

Assumptions of the heart.

Emotion tells us how we feel, but life…life has a way of plunging us in boiling water, burning away our illusions, testing our faith, trying our convictions.

Love floating is a butterfly, but love tested is an anchor.

For Grip and Bristol,

Love started at the top of the world

On a Ferris wheel under the stars

But when that love is tested, will they fly or fall?

Read STILL Today!

Special Release Sale: $2.99

(Free in Kindle Unlimited)

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Join the GRIP Discussion Group:

(Not until you’re done!)

https://www.facebook.com/groups/1891983067712410/

Join the STILL Recovery Room:

(Not until you’re done!)

https://www.facebook.com/groups/1144399569026115/

Order Signed GRIP Series Paperbacks:

http://kennedyryanwrites.com/signed-paperbacks/

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About Kennedy:

Kennedy Ryan is a Southern girl gone Southern California. A Top 100 Amazon Bestseller, Kennedy writes romance about remarkable women who find a way to thrive even in tough times, the love they find, and the men who cherish them.

She is a wife to her lifetime lover and mother to an extraordinary son. She has always leveraged her journalism background to write for charity and non-profit organizations, but enjoys writing to raise Autism awareness most. A contributor for Modern Mom Magazine, Kennedy’s writings have appeared in Chicken Soup for the Soul, USA Today and many others. The founder and executive director of a foundation serving Georgia families living with Autism, Kennedy has appeared on Headline News, Montel Williams, NPR and other outlets as a voice for families living with autism.

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Author/Blogger Halloween Hop


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Want to increase followers/traffic on your Facebook page?

Authors and bloggers are bringing a spooky good time to Facebook for Halloween! JOIN US!

The Facebook Halloween Hopfest runs from Friday, October 27, 2017 through Tuesday, October 31, 2017.

Register today by:

– Adding the direct link to your Facebook AUTHOR page (NO groups, please!)

– Adding the type of giveaway you’re sponsoring.

– Adding the type of prizes in your giveaway.

REGISTRATION CLOSES FRIDAY, OCTOBER 20, 2017!

On Monday, October 23rd (or sooner) you will be sent the complete list of participating authors/bloggers. When you create your Facebook post, YOU MUST INCLUDE THE NAME AND PAGE URL OF THE NEXT PERSON ON THE LIST (after you) for this to work. If the hop is broken and readers cannot advance to the next page, they will give up. Take advantage of Facebook’s option to pre-schedule your post. With respect to time zones, your post should go active at 12 midnight EST Friday, October 27th!

– Add the giveaway of your choice to your posts such as signed books, ebooks, gift cards and swag.

– Add the requirements of the giveaway (like, follow on a social network, subscribe to a newsletter, etc.), plus info about you, your books or featured book, etc).

– Post winner(s) name(s) by Sunday, November 5th.

Sign up today!

Grab a button image for your Facebook page!

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Tackle Your TBR Read-a-thon #Giveaway

The Tackle Your TBR Read-a-thon ended yesterday, September 24th. How did you do? I started out with six books in the challenge and threw in another one… and I finished – 7 of 7! YAAY! One review is written and I’m working on the other six – whew! 😀

Have you written your reviews? Remember to enter review links for TWO books you read during the readathon in my #TackleTBR Rafflecopter below for a chance to win $10 in Paypal cash (OR a $10 Amazon Gift Card) and a digital copy of In the Best Interest of the Child! Giveaway is open until Saturday night (September 30th)! The randomly drawn winner will be posted here Sunday, October 1st! 😀


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~ The Challenge ~

Part of the enjoyment of reading a book is sharing thoughts and opinions about the story through a book review. My challenge to readers is to:

Post the Amazon or Goodreads permalinks from TWO book reviews.

Books MUST be read during the Read-a-thon – September 11-24.

A randomly drawn winner will receive $10 in Paypal cash and a digital copy of In the Best Interest of the Child.

Rafflecopter is open internationally!

Review links can be entered into the Rafflecopter below.

Winner announced October 1st!

Good luck and Happy Reading!

 

~ R A F F L E C O P T E R ~

E N T E R

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“Touched” by Mara White #ReleaseBlitz


 

 

 

 

 

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Does your sister let you touch her, Gemini?
-Barely, but, yes, more than anyone else. I remember even in preschool when the teacher would grab her hand, she’d stare at the spot where their skin connected as if it were an affront to her existence. Just stand there and glare like she wanted to hurt someone.
-Junipera suffers from a rare phobia.
-Please, what does June not suffer from?
-When did she start chasing storms?
-In third grade she started obsessing about the rain. Full blown? I’d say after hurricane Katrina she never looked back. And she didn’t just chase them, June became those wild storms.

Junipera and Gemini Jones, Irish twins born during the month of June, survive a childhood of neglect and poverty by looking out for one another. Destined for a group home, the girls are rescued by a rich aunt and uncle who move them from Northern Minnesota to Fairfield, Connecticut. One sister thrives while the other spins out of control. A violent assault leaves Gemini searching for clues, but what she finds might be questions that are better left unanswered.
Praise for Touched


“Fresh, raw, relevant. TOUCHED slips under your skin with lush prose, unforgettable characters, and a story like no other.”
        -Leylah Attar, New York Times best-selling author


“Hauntingly beautiful and downright emotional, White grabs you by the soul in her latest novel, Touched, and leaves an indelible mark.”
-K. Bromberg, New York Times best-selling author

“Mara White has crafted characters so real and complex, they live and bleed. Watching their story unfold was heartbreaking, beautiful, and riveting. Touched is stunning work.”
    -Nikki Sloane, Best-selling author of the Blindfold Club Series

“Touched is a truly beautiful book. It’s raw, real, and possessing of a quiet poetry.”
        -Emma Scott, Best-Selling author of the Full Tilt Duet

“I can confidently say, without a shred of doubt, that this story and these people will stay with me for the rest of my life. I bow down, Mara White. You wrote a category 5 masterpiece.”
-BB Easton, Bestselling Author

“A phenomenal, mesmerizing and unforgettable masterpiece!
This story blew me away! I cannot put into words how beautiful this story was! Absolutely astonishing! A must read!”
    -The Book Queen

“The writing is voracious and hungry and insatiable. Touched is a story that will devour you as you stuff your face with it. I’m not only touched, I’m digested. Just read it.”
    -Suanne Laqueur, Best-Selling author of the Fish Tales Series

 

 

Kettling, Minnesota
1985


If she lined her spine up perfectly with the porch railing, she could balance. One leg on the porch, the toe of her sneaker just touching, the other dangling maybe two feet above the scraggly grass and the house’s foundation. Her view when she rested her head all the way back was half of the porch roof overhang and half of a deceptively sunny blue sky that wasn’t as warm as it pretended. Still, she wore shorts and a t-shirt with a stretched-out neckline. Some other kid’s faded camp shirt, found at the Goodwill, advertising a canoe ride Gem never in her life got to go on.
Fuck them. Who cared? She didn’t want their stupid camp anyway.
It was summer and Gem wasn’t going anywhere except to the front porch, the creek, the gas station for candy and maybe to the lake to swim if she were lucky. Her sister June wouldn’t be going either. But June had Maggie and Maggie’s mom Charlene who was generous and responsible; she’d pick June up and bring her over to their house for the day, feed her, and sometimes even give her clothes.
Smack!
Gem struck a mosquito on her exposed thigh. Her legs were bruised. Scabs decorated her knees like a relief map, little brown islands on a white sea of skin.
Both girls had birthdays this month. Gem would be turning ten and her little sister June, nine. They were Irish twins, born twelve months apart. They left their father when they were just babies, or maybe their father left them. The story changed every time their mother told it.
Charlene beeped the horn of her rusted Buick as she turned onto 5th Street. All the windows in the car were wide open and neither Maggie nor June wore seatbelts. Charlene blasted the radio and sang along to “Eye of the Tiger,” while smoke from her cigarette swirled through the car. Both girls slid across the long backseat as she took the corner. They were too wrapped up in their Pretty Ponies to notice. Charlene beeped again once she was in front of the house and Gem sat up on the railing. The world swung at a dangerous angle so she locked her thighs around the railing and pushed one sneakered toe between the rungs as she waited for the dizziness to subside.
“Hey pretty girl!” Charlene sang to Gem. She waved from the car but didn’t get out or turn down the radio. Gem watched her light another long skinny cigarette as soon as she extinguished the smoking one in the ashtray. Charlene smelled like cigarette smoke, Charlie perfume and Aqua Net hairspray. Charlene’s hair was naturally big and she teased it even higher.
“Hey Charlene, hey Maggie.” Gem waved back at them as June knocked open the car door with her hip and stuck one bare foot out onto the curb.
“Shoes are in her backpack,” Charlene said to Gem. Maggie was up on her knees, half of her whole body leaning out of the car window as she said goodbye to June. “I can take her all day on Saturday. You can come too if you want. You don’t have to play with the girls, just watch TV if you want?” Charlene said. Gem would love to jump at the chance. Have someone to talk to, watch her and June, feed them—it all sounded too good to be true. She always had a nagging feeling in the back of her mind that Charlene must want something from them if she was so nice.
“I’ve got stuff to do,” Gem lied. “But thanks. June can go if she wants to.” Every time she spoke to Charlene she felt like an amateur, a fraud. She was used to pretending to be nice, to be happy, two things she felt very rarely. Instinctively she knew that those were qualities adults desired from her and her sister, so she put them on like ill-fitting clothes in their presence and shrugged them off as soon as they were out of earshot. Charlene never questioned why it was always Gem taking care of June and the one to give permission. She didn’t ask questions about their mother; she’d heard it all in town. The woman was a deadbeat—too wrapped up in herself to take care of her own.
“Have fun?” Gem asked June as she marched up the steps. June stepped gingerly on the third one because it was rotten in the middle and a heavy foot on the suspect step could easily crash through it. Her dirty pink bag with the long strings was thrown over her shoulder. A stripe of sunburn swept across her nose and cheeks. Her lips were chapped and her hair was tangled.
“Did Charlene feed you lunch?” Gem asked. June was a quiet kid, not much of a talker. She nodded instead. Gem wanted to ask her what she’d eaten but she was afraid of making herself hungry. June liked kid food. Mac ‘n’ cheese, Spaghetti-Os, grilled cheese on Wonder bread, crinkle cut potato chips, even hot dogs. Luckily, those were the kinds of things Charlene usually fed her. Gem, on the other hand, had a taste for real food. She rarely got it.
Gem slid down to the floor, where June sat and emptied out her bag. She had treasures from Maggie’s house. Some marbles, a few Pretty Ponies, their hair braided and twisted in a tangle of elastic bands. There was a Jolly Rancher that looked like it had been sucked on once and then slipped back into the wrapper.
“Mom home?” June asked her.
“Nope,” Gem answered. Their mother Anne was out most of the time. She worked a lot, she got lost, she met men and forgot she had kids at home, or at least that’s what Gem and June deduced from her behavior. They sat on the porch brushing through the pony’s hair, stretching their legs out to the railing, both of their backs up against the house.
“Want to jump rope?” June asked. She pulled a wound-up jump rope out of her backpack. The girls stood and stretched their arms and backs, sauntered down the steps to the sidewalk. The apartment building across the street was filled with “lowlifes” as they’d heard their mother call them. Young people, poor people, who got drunk and rowdy more often than not. They were coming out now, sitting on the steps or the folding chairs on the lawn. A boom box attached to an orange extension cord ran back in through the front door like a snake’s tongue.
June jumped to the beat of the music instead of the rhymes they usually chanted. Her blond hair bounced all over her face; she needed a bath. Gem could see that the bottoms of her feet were covered in dirt and it was thick under her nails. She probably hadn’t brushed her teeth last night either, fallen asleep sucking on a Jolly Rancher in the middle of her tongue. Gem was too tired to care. She counted to fourteen and June stumbled.

 

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Mara White is a contemporary romance and erotica writer who laces forbidden love stories with hard issues, such as race, gender and inequality. She holds an Ivy League degree but has also worked in more strip clubs than even she can remember. She is not a former Mexican telenovela star contrary to what the tabloids might say, but she is a former ballerina and will always remain one in her heart. She lives in NYC with her husband and two children and yes, when she’s not writing you can find her on the playground.

 

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5 Days of Nicola Rendell – “Professed” 18+


 

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Free!!!!!
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At a secret masked ball at Yale, Naomi Costa is literally swept off her stiletto-blistered feet by a man with a killer jawline, a perfect body, and an even-better kiss. They bust out of an emergency exit and have axis-shaking sex. He pours whiskey in her belly button and after they run out of condoms, they have to get creative. That kind of sex.

The next day, she learns that he is none other than Dr. Benjamin Beck, a brand new member of the Yale faculty and the hottest thing to happen to academia since… well, ever. She has to take his damned junior seminar to graduate, but it gets worse. He’s also her College Master: her boss, her advisor, her everything. And he’s just moved in, right downstairs.

They can’t stay away from each other. They’re either fusion or fission or both. They’re making out in libraries, hiding notes between stones, and sneaking off to nautically themed AirBnbs. Hear that sound? It’s the academic code of ethics going up in flames.

If they’re found out, he’ll lose his job and his reputation. She’ll lose her scholarship and be forced to return to the life of lobster fishing that she thought she’d escaped.

And they will be found out, yes they will.

So what the hell are they going to do?


The next thing that happens is a familiar smell. At first, I can’t place it. It’s chemical and yet sweet…

Marker. He’s got a marker. My whole body gives a sudden, excited shake. I think he’s going to write on me. Somewhere, something, his handwriting in ink on my skin.

God, yes, yes, yes. Is that a thing? Writing on skin? Because that’s so hot.

He’s hovering over me. I can feel the mattress depressing on either side of my body, under his knees. “What are you going to write?”

There’s an airy breath. I know he must be smiling. He smiles so much. I love that about him.

“What I want to write is mine on every inch of your skin,”he says. I feel a touch on my arm, and at first I think it’s the marker, but it’s warm and soft. His fingertip. He trails it up my forearm, lingering on the shallow depression above my elbow. “Mine, mine, mine,”he says. “All over you. A thousand times.”

I can see it in my head. Mine everywhere. Big and little. Sloppy and neat. “Please. I’d love that,”I whisper.

“I want to get a jar of ink,”he says. Now his palm is flat on my stomach. “And put my prints all over here.”When he says here, which he says slowly, he slides his fingertips down my abdomen.

All I can do is nod. I have no way to tell him how much I want that.

The mattress squeaks a little as he lowers himself down on me. His weight is heavenly on my legs. The feel of his chinos pressing into my bare skin. The agony of knowing his beautiful cock is right there, not six inches from pressing into me. It drives me right out of my mind.

“But there’s really one word that needs writing first. Before all the rest.”

The words line up in my head like flashcards. Trying to guess. But then I just let it go. Let him do it. Let him take control.

The tip of the marker is cold on my skin. It begins on my right side with a downward stroke.

I, is what I think at first, but then there’s a curve at the top. And a kick-out. R.

Another downwards stroke. I again? Nope. Three right-to-left lines. E.

Oh God, I think I know. Diagonal stroke, and a second. He makes the crossbar just over my belly button with agonizing slowness. A.

I know the word. But I just want to savor every last drop of this. Downward stroke, half circle. D.

Small check mark on my left abdomen, small downward stroke. Y. Already I’m nodding.

“Are you?”he asks.

And I tell him a long stream of Yesses straight through the squiggle and point of a ?

READY?

My hands are in tight fists, my nails pressing into my palms. Whatever he’s going to do to me, if it hurts or teases or pulls or pinches, I want him to do it. All of it. “Ready,”I whisper back.

The next thing I hear is a snapping. Rattling of markers. Another uncapping. Now he’s closer to me. I feel his forearm over the soft skin of mine. This is harder to make out, it’s on my wrist and small. “What does it say?”

He doesn’t answer at first. The little marks continue on my wrist. I hold very still, trying to get a sense of what it could be. “Ben,”I whisper, “Tell me.”

“It’ll drive you crazy not knowing, I’ll bet,”he says when he’s done. I hear him cap the marker shut.

God, yes it will. “You don’t want me distracted.”

His laugh is quiet and smug. I love it. “It says Property of Master Beck.

AP  new -about the author.jpg
Nicola Rendell writes dirty romantic comedy. She likes a stiff drink and a well-frosted cake. She loves to cook, sew, and play the piano. She realizes that her hobbies might make her sound like an old lady and she’s totally okay with that. She grew up in Taos, New Mexico; after receiving a handful of degrees from a handful of places, she now works as a professor in New England. An Amazon bestseller, her work has been featured in USA Today’s Happy Ever After and the Huffington Post. She is represented by Emily Sylvan Kim at the Prospect Agency.

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“Gun Shy (A Psychological Thriller)” by Lili St. Germain #ExcerptReveal


 

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A stand alone psychological thriller.



HAVE YOU SEEN THIS GIRL?

In the middle of a fierce snowstorm in Gun Creek, Nevada, seventeen-year-old Jennifer Thomas disappears without a trace.

The second girl in nine years.

Identical cases. Identical conditions. Only last time, the girl was found. Dead, stuffed in a well beside the creek that feeds the town’s water supply.

The killer was never found.

As the small town mobilizes and searches for newly vanished Jennifer Thomas, one suspect comes to the fore. But did he do it? Or is there something else at play? Something nobody could have anticipated?

For Jennifer’s friend Cassie Carlino, the worst is yet to come. As she pins MISSING posters to store windows and joins the search, she begins to suspect that Jennifer’s disappearance might be much closer to her than she could have ever imagined.


CASSIE

The center of town is teeming with reporters when we arrive. The mood is somber, self-conscious, even. Can an entire town be collectively self-conscious? They’re shy, that’s for sure. We don’t get a whole lot of visitors in Gun Creek. Certainly not ones who stick microphones in your face and blast you with questions while you’re still half-asleep.
Damon parks the patrol car right across the front doors of the police station, his face drawn and tense. It must be a fucking nightmare, being in charge of an entire town like this. Especially when something like this happens.
I can only imagine how bad things are going to get at home if they don’t find this girl soon.
“These people are fucking vultures,” he mutters, and I make a noise signaling my agreement. He gets out, opening my door for me.
I muster up a plastic smile as Damon holds out my purse, the strap dangling on his outstretched finger.
“Thanks,” I say, taking the bag and slinging it over my shoulder. I put my oversized dollar-store sunglasses on my face, the day already too bright for me to bear.
“You okay?” Damon asks.
“Always,” I reply, walking away from him before he can say anything else. I should ask him if he’s okay, but that would mean pretending that I care.
I have something important that I need, something immediate.
I’m an asshole because I know I should care about the fact that a girl I’ve grown up with is missing, but I have more pressing personal matters.
I need to take care of myself, first. I head for the diner, fifty feet away, already late for my shift. I push past reporters, hanging eagerly at the doors they’re forbidden to cross. They have to hover outside in the snow for their pound of flesh, their soundbites, their newsworthy quotes from Jennifer’s distraught friends and family. I see Casey Mulligan, a girl I went to school with, twirling a strand of long blonde hair around her finger as she musters up a couple of fat tears for a news camera, and it strikes me, just like last time, that the people who get the most attention in this world are the ones who least deserve it.
Still, I’m glad it’s not me. Last thing I want is a camera in my face. I slip by, unassisted, unseen, an invisible girl with a hollow spot inside me. I notice the crates of milk that get delivered to Dana’s every morning are still stacked out front and I grab one as I approach, throwing my purse on top and bracing my stomach muscles to carry the thirty-odd pounds worth of liquid weight. One of our regulars holds the door open for me and I smile in thanks, lugging the milk crate through the diner and toward the cold storage out back.
I’m making my way down the main entrance, past rows of tables and customers talking feverishly about Jennifer, my arms full of milk bottles when it happens.
I see him. Him.
I stop.
My arms stop functioning. I drop everything; the milk crate, my purse, my practiced neutral expression. The purse wafts to the floor, the milk bottles hurtle down with an unceremonious crash, and blue plastic lids burst off and go skittering in every direction.
I sink to my knees, in shock. People are looking at me, but I don’t pay attention to them. I’m too busy fixated on the green-eyed ghost standing in front of me. The splinters in my knees sting like fire-ant bites, and I curl my legs to the side, coming to a sitting position.
“Shit!” Leo says, dropping his backpack to the ground and crouching in front of me. “Cass. Cassie. Are you okay?”
My entire body is alight, little pinpricks along my skin that make me dizzy. The feeling spreads like wildfire, across my chest and through my limbs until I’m overwhelmed and frozen on the spot, sitting on my ass in the middle of the diner, voices and whispers all around.
I watch in fascination as milk spreads in a puddle in front of me, like spilled blood. It rushes at me like a miniature tsunami as a painful buzz begins in my head.
“You’re gonna pass out,” Leo says, his words sounding far away as he reaches out a hand to help me up. “Jesus, Cassie, you’re white as a sheet.”
I hold my hand out, the conviction in my reach laughable, and it’s like that moment of electricity that people talk about. I can feel it build in my fingertips, that arc of some invisible thing that wants to join with his invisible thing, but then a hand wraps around my wrist and yanks my arm away before I can make contact with the boy — no, with the man — I thought was still in prison.
“Did he hurt you?” Damon’s voice in my ear breaks my dream-like state. I open my mouth to say something and decide against it, swallowing air instead. I shake my head.
“How’d you get on the ground?” Damon asks, shaking me a little.
“She fell down,” Leo says, his arm no longer outstretched. He takes a step away from me, and Jesus, it hurts. He looks anguished. “She dropped the milk and she fell down.” I can’t stop looking at him. I can’t bear to look at him.
The milk has reached me. It seeps across my right knee, curled underneath me; the backs of my thighs, my palms. It’s ice cold, and I can feel myself shaking.
Damon is crouched next to me, his hand on my cheek, diverting my attention to him. “Are you all right, Cassie?” he asks, helping me to my feet, his tone gathering more urgency with each question I don’t answer. Amanda is picking up the milk bottles beside us, piling them high in her arms as I continue to stare at Leo. He’s… different. He has tattoos now. He looks exactly the same but entirely reconstructed. He’s eight years older, I realize. A third of his life, gone. A third of mine. It feels like it’s been forever. It feels like it’s been no time at all.
Deputy Chris appears, looking between me and Leo with uncertainty. Why didn’t anyone tell me? How the hell did Leo just materialize from thin air in the Grill?
“Cassie,” Damon snaps, and I know he means business.
I nod. “I’m fine. I’m okay.” I think of where I was going before I saw fucking Leo. Pills. Purge. “I need a minute.”
“I’ll take you home,” Damon says, his hand on the small of my back as he starts to guide me toward the front doors. I panic, pushing him away.
“You have a missing girl to find,” I say quickly. “I’m fine, really. I just need some aspirin.” And a fucking gun, so I can put myself out of my misery.
“I’ll walk you there,” Damon says, ever the hero. If they only knew, I think to myself, as Amanda opens the staff room door and ushers us inside.
“Give us a minute,” Damon says, giving Amanda a concerned look. She nods, closing the door and waiting out in the hallway as Damon closes the blinds and twists the lock on the door.
“Didn’t think he’d have the balls to show his face in public,” Damon says, and that’s when I understand.
I feel the blood drain from my cheeks as I realize. He knew. He knew Leo would be here today. I ask him with my eyes, searching, imploring. His expression tells me everything.
“You could have warned me,” I whisper.
His eyes narrow. “I considered it. Figured it was better you didn’t know in advance.” He pauses. “Didn’t expect you to fall to your knees in front of him.”
“Fuck you,” I seethe.
Damon’s jaw twitches. “I’m sorry,” he offers, almost as if he’s suggesting an apology rather than delivering one.
I reach for the lock, twisting it and cracking the door open. The temporary quiet we’ve had is pierced by the excited noise of a diner who’s just witnessed the tragic reunion of two star-crossed lovers, or maybe they’re all just gossiping about the missing girl.
“Jennifer,” I hiss at Damon. One word. It works. He shakes his head, his blue eyes fucking burning with anger, but he leaves.
Holy shit. As soon as he’s gone, I close the door again. I don’t bother locking it — who’s going to find me in here? Leo’s long gone if he’s got any sense, and as much as I don’t care about anything, the thought of Amanda having to mop up the milk I spilled makes me so fucking guilty I can barely breathe.
Pills. Purge. Yes.
I go into the staff bathroom, a small tiled square off the main staff room, and start to throw up as soon as the door is closed. I don’t even need to stick my finger down my throat — I’m so full of adrenaline from seeing Leo, I just open my mouth and everything comes out. It’s the kind of vomit that gets in your nose and burns behind your eyes and makes you cry with the way it chokes you.
When I’ve emptied my stomach and I stop gagging, I clean myself up, my head feeling like it might split in two. I’m so hot I think I might burst into flames. I take off my cardigan, my fingers clumsy and damp, and use it to wipe my face.
Pills. Yes. I go back out to the staff room, seeking whatever pharmaceutical bliss I can rummage up from my staff locker. I didn’t switch the overhead lights on when I first came in, and the windowless cave is dim, the only illumination coming from the slightly ajar bathroom door and the fluorescent strips that line its ceiling.
The staff room is empty. Except… it’s not.
Leo. He’s here. Somehow, the only person here with me is the one person I shouldn’t be anywhere near.
He looks at me with eyes that have seen violence since I last gazed into them. I know because I recognize the hardness inside his soul; it matches mine.
My face is a blank canvas, but inside I’m screaming.
Not with fear. With longing. And shame. I want the boy who destroyed everything to pick me up and take me into the bathroom and put his hands all over me. I want him to erase every trace of the last decade. Under my shirt, my nipples stiffen, and shame pools in my belly.
I shouldn’t want to be anywhere near this boy after what he did, but I do.
“I’m sorry,” Leo says. His voice. Oh, God. I don’t remember his voice being that fucking beautiful. It’s deep and full and if it were a food, it’d be honey. He’s not a boy anymore. He’s a man now. A stranger.
His face falls as he gestures to my stomach, concerned. “You have blood on your shirt,” he says, pointing from a safe distance. “Did you cut yourself when you fell?” He looks remorseful. Like he thinks the blood on my shirt is his fault.
My heart sinks. I shake my head tightly, tears springing to my eyes.
“Not my blood,” I say, my voice coming out like a squeak. Leo looks confused.
“The dog,” I stammer. “Rox. She — she—”
“I saw her yesterday,” Leo says, his eyes wide as he looks from my eyes to the blood on my shirt. I didn’t even realize it was there. I’d been wearing my sweater until I took it off just now.
“She’s dead,” I say. “I’m sorry.”
Leo takes a step back. Something passes over his face, a darkness, a fleeting suspicion. “How?” he asks.
I don’t know how to answer that. So I don’t. I push past him and start walking to the kitchen, as fast as I can, because I don’t have an answer for him. My shoulder burns from where I grazed his arm on the way out of the staff room. He might have ruined my life, destroyed my family, taken my future in one careless night — but Leo Bentley still makes me burn like hellfire.

Lili writes dark, delicious romance full of love, lust and revenge. Her USA Today Bestselling Gypsy Brothers series focuses on a morally bankrupt biker gang and the young woman who seeks her vengeance upon them. The Cartel series is a trilogy that explores the beginnings of the club, published through HarperCollins.

Lili quit corporate life to focus on writing and so far is loving every minute of it. Her other loves in life include her gorgeous husband and beautiful daughter, excellent coffee, Tarantino movies and spending hours on Instagram.

She loves to read almost as much as she loves to write.
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