The Naked Truth by Vi Keeland ~ SNEAK PEEK

It was just a typical Monday.

Until the big boss asked me to make the pitch for a prospective new client.

After two years on shaky ground at work because of my screw up, an opportunity to impress the senior partners was just what I needed.  

Or so I thought…

Until I walked into the conference room and collided with the man I was supposed to pitch.

My coffee spilled, my files tumbled to the ground, and I almost lost my balance.

And that was the good part of my day.

Because the gorgeous man crouched down and looking at me like he wanted to eat me alive, was none other than my ex, Gray Westbrook.

A man who I’d only just begun to move on from.

A man who my heart despised—yet my body obviously still had other ideas about.

A man who was as charismatic and confident as he was sexy.

Somehow, I managed to make it through my presentation ignoring his intense stare.  

Although it was impossible to ignore all the dirty things he whispered into my ear right after I was done.

But there was no way I was giving him another chance, especially now that he was a client…was there?

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“May I get you something to drink while you wait for the rest of your party?” the waiter asked.

I would normally wait to see what the client did and follow his lead on alcohol. But tonight was not the norm.

I rubbed at my stiff neck. “I’ll take a vodka cranberry, please.”

I hoped it would help calm my nerves and release some of the tension in my jaw before I gave myself a full-blown headache. Taking out my phone, I started to scroll through emails to distract myself while waiting for my drink and dinner companion.

My head whipped up at the sound of Gray’s voice behind me. “Sorry I’m late.”

My heart unexpectedly fluttered, and I fought against the feeling of excitement. “Are you really? Because I get the sense you don’t have any manners after the way you interrupted me a million times today.”

He completely ignored my attitude as he took the seat across from me. “Traffic is a bitch getting downtown at this time. Next time we’ll have dinner at my place.”

“There won’t be a next time.”

Gray’s mouth curved into a smug smile as he snagged my gaze. “Sure there will. There’ll be plenty of next times. And eventually you’ll stop pretending you don’t enjoy my company.”

I hated that my body reacted to him. Right from the very start, we’d had a crazy chemistry between us that was difficult to dull.

I sighed. “What are you doing, Gray? Why did you come to my firm?”

He lifted the cloth napkin in front of him and laid it across his lap. “Isn’t that obvious? I need new legal representation.”

“At my firm? And you’d prefer that representation come from an associate instead of my boss’s boss—the head of our securities division? Or even from Pittman, who would gladly hold your hand and provide you whatever legal advice you need from his fifty-plus years of experience?”

“Loyalty is important to me. I want someone I can trust with my business.”

“And you’ve decided that’s me? An associate with five years experience who just got off probation with the Bar Association for violating attorney-client privilege?”

The waiter arrived with my drink. “Here you go, ma’am.” He turned to Gray. “May I get you something to drink? Or would you like to wait until the last of your party joins you this evening?”

“It’s just the two of us. I’ll have a Macallan, neat, please.”

“Coming right up.” The waiter walked around to the other side of the table and started to remove the third place setting.

I put my hand out, stopping him. “We actually do have another party coming, so you can leave that.”

“Very well.” He nodded.

Gray waited until the waiter was out of earshot. “I didn’t invite anyone else to dinner.”

I sipped my drink and offered a saccharine-sweet fake smile. “I did. Figured an important client like you should have more than one attorney to answer his questions.”

Just as I set down my glass, I saw the other man I was waiting for enter the restaurant. He scanned the room, looking for me, so I held up my hand and waved.

“Perfect timing. There’s Oliver now.”

Gray glanced at the man heading toward us and back to me. Instead of being pissed off, the jerk was amused. “That’s cute. You invited a chaperone because you don’t trust yourself with me.”

Vi Keeland is a #1 New York Times and Wall Street Journal Bestselling author. With more than a million books sold, her titles have appeared in over fifty Bestseller lists and are currently translated in fourteen languages. She lives in New York with her husband and their three children where she is living out her own happily ever after with the boy she met at age six.

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Timid by Devney Perry ~ COVER REVEAL

Willa Doon has always been shy. Her quiet demeanor was something she’s always embraced. That is, until Jackson Page moves to town. The one man she desperately wants to take notice struggles to remember her name.

Year after year, Willa stands by, watching as the bartender slash playboy drowns his demons in beer and sex. Then one night, he shows up at her door, suddenly aware that the girl he’s seen around Lark Cove is now a beautiful woman.

Except what he doesn’t remember is that this visit isn’t his first. They spent a night together once before. A night he’s forgotten, thanks to a bottle of tequila.

A night that crushed a timid girl’s heart, and set a broken man on the path to heal them both.

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TITLE: Timid
AUTHOR: Devney Perry
SERIES: Lark Cove
GENRE: Contemporary Romance
RELEASE DATE: September 4, 2018

Thea Landry has always known her place in modern-day society. It’s somewhere just above the trash can her mother dumped her in as a newborn but below the class where much comes easy. With her tattered shoes and bargain-bin clothes, her life has never been full of glamour.

So when a rich and charismatic man takes interest, she doesn’t fool herself into thinking their encounter is anything more than a one-night stand. Months later, she’s kicking herself for not getting his phone number. Or his last name. She’s given up hope of seeing him ever again.

Until one day, years later, Logan Kendrick waltzes into her life once more and turns everything she’s built upside down. This time around, she won’t make the same mistake. She’s going to fight to keep him in her life—not for herself.

But for their daughter.

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Devney lives in Montana with her husband and two children. After working in the technology industry for nearly a decade, she abandoned conference calls and project schedules to enjoy a slower pace at home with her kids. She loves reading and, after consuming hundreds of books, decided to share her own stories.

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Broken Love Story by Natasha Madison ~ Sarah A’s Review

Samantha

I had the perfect life; a husband who loved me, and two kids who were my world.

Until someone else answered his phone and my perfect life shattered.

When he died, I was left with answers he couldn’t give me and a box full of lies.

He left me broken.

Blake

I fell in love when I was fifteen, knowing she was the one.

For five years, she was my everything—my every breath, every heartbeat, every thought.

She made me promise to move on, promise to find love again, but I broke those promises because I can’t move on.

 

Two broken souls brought together by tragedy and heartbreak.

Can a broken love story be fixed?

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Broken Love Story may be my favorite novel in this series.  I had been anticipated Samantha and Blake’s story since the epilogue of Perfect Love Story.  This book was beautiful, Samantha and Blake both had so much to overcome, so many broken parts to find a way to piece together.  Theirs was a healing journey, and I loved that they were given the time they deserved to recover before they explored what they could have together.

Unlike most other reviewers, I found Samantha heartbreaking in the first two novels of this series.  For as bad as things were for Hailey, they were a thousand times worse for Sam.  I was so happy to find out we were getting her story and it was with someone as wonderful as Blake.  Sam continually impressed me with her refusal to let all the things crashing down crush her under their weight.  She let herself take a beat to feel the pain, then collected her bearings and showed her girls that she was stronger and better than anything thrown at her.

Blake was the perfect counterpoint to Samantha.  He was equally broken but hadn’t quite let himself learn to feel again, whereas Samantha knew she needed to work through all that pain to come out the other side.  He was such a pillar of strength for her in her weakest moments and in doing that he allowed himself the vulnerability he needed to open his heart again.  It was quite lovely to see him begin to shed the shroud he’d wrapped himself in when his first love died.

Broken Love Story was more of a slow burn than the first two books in this series.   The pacing was perfect though, any faster and it would have felt forced.  They both needed the time they put in getting to know one another and begin to overcome all the trauma they’d faced.  I’m a huge sucker for getting to witness a character’s healing arc, and this book delivered big time in that aspect.  Sam and Blake picked up both their own and each other’s pieces and fit them together to form a connection that was far deeper and stronger than anything they’d experienced before.

I do have some wishes for Broken Love Story.  There were a few places where the dialogue was just bizarre, I think Ms. Madison was going for sweeping statements of love, but they were so out of character they came off stilted and disjointed.  I also had a few moments in the flashbacks where the writing felt forced and awkward like there was a split between making them an aside to the reader and just the character reliving the memories.

Broken Love Story is the third book in Natasha Madison’s Love series.  These books are interconnected standalones and do not need to be read in order.  They share a timeline, and the scenes involving characters from more than one book appear in each book, for the most part.  Broken Love Story is written in dual first-person perspective, narrated by Samantha and Blake.

Perfect Love Story – Available Now
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When her nose isn’t buried in a book, or her fingers flying across a keyboard writing, she’s in the kitchen creating gourmet meals. You can find her, in four-inch heels no less, in the car chauffeuring kids, or possibly with her husband scheduling his business trips. It’s a good thing her characters do what she says because even her Labrador doesn’t listen to her…

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NEW RELEASE!! Siren Beloved by Lexi Blake ~ Sarah A’s Review

Aidan O’Malley walked away from his fiancée, Lexi, and their best friend, Lucas, after a night of passion left him shaken to his core. Years later, Aidan returns home from Iraq haunted by all he has lost. The enemy broke his body, destroying his dreams of a career in music. Worse still, he lost Lexi and Lucas. That damage he’d done all by himself. While he can’t restore what combat took from him, he’s determined to reclaim the two loves of his life.

Lucas Cameron is a changed man. After connecting with his brother, he found the discipline to get his life on track. His legal career is flourishing, but his love life is a train wreck. The woman he loves is spiraling out of control. After Aidan abandoned them, Lucas and Lexi clung together but no matter how hard he tries, Lucas can’t find a way to heal the wounds that Lexi carries.

Lexi Moore feels like a jigsaw puzzle with too many missing pieces. Losing Aidan was hard, but the true reason for her shattered spirit is a secret she only shares with her beloved Lucas. She knows she is drowning and the time has come to heal, but the holes in her heart hold her back from moving on. Shedding the burden she carries is her only hope for a happy future, but she fears she will never have the strength to reveal her secret.

When Aidan walks back into their lives, Lucas and Lexi know everything is about to change. But as they fight to reconcile their past and reclaim what they lost, a vicious predator stalks Lexi. In order to stop the killer, all three must confront the secrets they’ve carried…before they’re buried by them.

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Lexi Blake delivers, again.  I can not get enough of her writing, and Siren Beloved completely lived up to my lofty expectations for her stories.  I remember wanting to explore more of what was going on with Lexi, Lucas, and even Aidan after reading Siren Enslaved.  There was obviously something that had broken in Lexi between Small Town Siren and the epilogue of Siren Enslaved.

Lexi was frustrating; she seemed even to be frustrated with herself.  She couldn’t help but continually act out because she was trying so hard to deny her feelings about everything and everyone.  Her secret was fairly evident from the beginning, so it made her actions – or lack thereof – easier to forgive.  She learned and grew so much throughout the book; it was rewarding to see her finally find the love and healing she desperately needed to deal with her buried feelings.

Aidan broke my heart, for so many reasons, foremost was all he’d lost because of societal perceptions and expectations.  He was an excellent portrayal of legions of people who refuse to accept themselves as they are because of what other people might say.  Add that to what had happened to him, and all he’d overcome, while he was separated from the loves of his life and my heart ached for him to finally find the love and acceptance he deserved.

Lucas, for all his drama in the previous books in this series, was the picture of stability and integrity in Siren Beloved.  He’d already grown so much between his first appearance in the series and this book; it was good to see him be the rock Lexi and Aidan needed.  He was a mere shadow of the outlandish, insecure, party boy he’d been, and experiencing him as he was now was terrific.

I am always impressed by the way Lexi Blake weaves intense suspense elements into her love stories and uses that tension to accentuate the connections between her characters.  Though the plot of Siren Beloved was a little predictable, I still found myself completely swept up in the action and how the endgame was going to play out.

Siren Beloved is the fourth book in Lexi Blake’s Texas Sirens series.  With the exception of the first two books in the series, Small Town Siren and Siren in the City – which must be read in order, all of these books focus on different relationships and can be read as standalones.  Though, the reading experience is enhanced by reading them all in order, as the characters appear throughout the series.  Siren Beloved is written in third-person limited perspective, following Lexi, Aidan, Lucas, with a few scenes in a fourth voice.

Lexi Blake is my go-to ménage, BDSM, romantic suspense writer.  I haven’t been disappointed with anything she writes and consider her books my guilty pleasure.  She writes her characters in a way that makes me feel an intense connection with them, and I always end up completely immersed in her plots.  I can’t wait for whatever is coming next, I can’t get enough.

Lexi realized she was in serious trouble the minute the words left Lucas’s mouth. Hell, she’d realized she was in trouble the minute she opened her mouth. What was she thinking? She knew damn well how to behave in a dungeon, but something about this Master made her want to push him. Damn it. She’d been this way all of her life. She had to push. She thought about taking a step back, but before she could make her feet move, Master A had her in a fireman’s hold.

“Hey!” She shouted as her world upended. She turned her head up to throw a desperate look Lucas’s way.

Lucas stood there, a stony cold look on his face. In that moment, he was all Dom, and she’d never seen him look hotter. There was a confidence about him she had rarely seen when he was around her. Lucas was utterly in command at work, but his surety faltered when she walked into the room. Even when he performed a scene with her, she knew he worried about her comfort. He didn’t look worried now. He looked ready.

Her heart started to pound as Master A turned, and she lost sight of Lucas.

“I need a chair, Lucas.” The words came out of the Master’s mouth like a judge delivering a sentence.

“Yes, Sir.” Lucas’s words were silky smooth. There was not a hint of hesitation now. She could hear him moving to do Master A’s bidding.

“What do you think you’re doing?” she asked, though she was a bit less hostile now. She’d fucked up. She was glad Julian wasn’t around to witness it, though Leo would probably tell him. Tears pricked her eyes. Damn, she was proving to Leo she couldn’t handle the lifestyle. “Look, Sir, I’m sorry. It was wrong of me to be rude to you, but I was merely pointing out that Lucas and I had a plan for tonight.”

Reason. She could reason with him, surely. It worked on all the men in her life. Of course, usually she was looking at them instead of trying to plead her case to a group of back muscles. The muscles were unbelievably tight, but his skin—oh, his skin had been decimated in his lower back. It was a mess of white, puckered flesh, and she could see both neat, surgical lines, and jagged edges. She reached out to touch the mass of scars, but she was jerked back over his shoulder and set on her feet before she could make it. She wobbled on her heels, but Master A’s big hands held her shoulders.

“I don’t think you understand how this is going to go, sub. I am the Master, and you are the one being punished. I won’t put up with a spoiled princess telling me how her punishment will go. It will go the way I say it will go. First, you will pay for the insult to me, and then we’ll proceed to the sawhorse.”

“I don’t like the sawhorse.” The words came out breathy and small, because she was beginning to understand that this was serious.

Master A didn’t look like he was planning on giving in. And she hated being called a spoiled princess, but a part of her worried that he was right. The last few years, she’d allowed herself to become spoiled and dependent. She’d fled from everything that hurt her. She’d hidden. She’d let her stepfathers and Lucas coddle and provide for her so she didn’t have to face the truth.

Master A didn’t flinch. “I don’t care. Lucas has done the best he can, but the truth is he wasn’t trained to be a Dom. He might enjoy it from time to time, but he prefers bottoming. You require a firm hand. If you don’t want it, then you’re free to leave. No one is holding you against your will. This is all about consensual play, so you have to make the choice. Do you want the session to continue?”

She hated this part. This was the part that she’d never understood. She had to make the choice, and she couldn’t put it off on anyone else. She wanted for him to simply do it. Then she could blame him later, but that wasn’t what The Club was about. She’d been coming here for over a year, and she finally had to decide to make the choice—stay and put herself in the hands of a stranger, or go and never know what it was like. And then there was the fact that Master A was right. Lucas needed something she couldn’t give him.

She cast her eyes down submissively. How bad could it be? “Yes, Sir.”

“Then strip.”.

Re-released in a second edition with a prologue and three new chapters.

Two cowboys looking for love…

Jack Barnes and Sam Fleetwood met in foster care. Over the years, they’ve become best friends and partners. They share a business as cattle ranchers and a house. There’s only one thing missing: a woman to share. The men are sure they’ve found that woman when Abigail Moore arrives in their small town, Willow Fork, TX.

A woman trying to find her place in the world…

Abby left her hometown twenty years before under a cloud of scandal. She’s raised a daughter, forged a new life for herself, and is ready for the next phase when she meets the handsome cowboys.

One small town that’s ready to explode…

They’re a dream come true—Jack is the sexy Dom, and Sam the playful lover. It’s everything she’s ever fantasized about. There’s only one problem. She’s still not welcome in Willow Fork, and someone is willing to kill to keep her away.

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Re-released in a second edition with new scenes.

Jack and Sam married Abby. It was supposed to be for forever, but lately Abby wonders where her alpha male has gone. Jack has retreated and life has become decidedly vanilla. It isn’t the true marriage she and Sam wanted. Sam and Abby know the time has come to fight for what they need.

A call from his mentor forces Jack to revisit the club where he discovered his sexuality. Jack’s half-brother is in the city and interested in a little blackmail. Can Jack handle two defiant subs and a brother in need of some tough love?

Sometimes all it takes to find the way home is a little love and a lot of mischief.

Come back to the beginning and revisit some of your favorite old characters or find new ones to love. Siren in the City has been revised and new scenes added. And if you look closely, you’ll find not only the beginnings of the Sophie Oak world, but also the seeds of how McKay-Taggart began…

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Re-released in a second edition with new scenes.

Julian Lodge has everything a man could want. He’s rich, successful and owns the most exclusive club in Dallas. But something is missing.

Finn Taylor has worked his way up in the world from humble beginnings in Willow Fork, Texas. The only thing he still loves in his hometown is Danielle Bay. He never told her he was actually bisexual, and he never confessed his love for her. Now she’s getting married, and Finn is sure he’s lost his chance with the only person he’ll ever love.

Julian’s vacation to the Barnes-Fleetwood ranch brings them all together. After Dani jumps into Julian’s car while fleeing her wedding, Julian knows he has to have her. But nothing is easy in Willow Fork. A danger from Julian’s past threatens them all. Julian will have to convince both Dani and Finn that being his will be the best decision they ever made.

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NY Times and USA Today bestselling author Lexi Blake lives in North Texas with her husband, three kids, and the laziest rescue dog int eh world. She began writing at a young age, concentrating on plays and journalism. It wasn’t until she started writing romance and urban fantasy that she found the stories of her heart. She likes to find humor in the strangest places and believes in happy endings no matter how odd the couple, threesome, or foursome may seem.

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GIVEAWAY & NOW LIVE!! Heartless by Willow Winters ~ SARAH A’s REVIEW

At first, his words were harsh and his touch cold.
I knew he was a dangerous man and he could destroy me if only he wanted to.

That’s not what he wanted though.
It’s so easy to get lost in the touch of a man who’s powerful and unattainable.
A man who wants for nothing … except me.
Soft touches and stolen glances made my blood heat and my heart beat in a way I never knew it could.

Yes, it’s easy to fall into a haze of lust and desire.
But there’s a reason his reputation is one of a heartless man.
And I should have known better.

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WHAT!? I.. GAH! I don’t know what I’m going to do with myself until Breathless comes out. That was quite the twist at the end of Heartless, and I was left with my heart in my throat. I have no idea what anything means or who is on what side or who I want to come out on top. I was so wrapped up in the intensity of this story; I didn’t even realize I was closing in on the end until there were no pages left to turn.

I’m gonna be really honest here; I’m still really unsure how I feel about Aria and Carter. I feel guilty for loving them together since their started relationship is completely out of a hostage situation. This series is so reminiscent of CJ Roberts’ Dark Duet, and my heart is just as torn about both couples. I love every second they’re together, to the point I almost forget the circumstances Aria is living under, then when Aria is alone my heart breaks for her, and all I want is for her to be able to flee. I’m so torn, so confused, so desperate for an easy answer but I don’t think there will ever be one. I am in knots over this book and I don’t anticipate them loosening for a long time.

Between the power exchange between Aria and Carter, the war, her feelings and anticipation of what is going to happen to her family, and the feelings they’re both starting to develop, the tension was sky-high in this novel. Every single interaction between all of the characters felt charged, ready to explode. There were so many things they all wanted needed to say, but couldn’t; it felt as if there was an entire second story being told in the undercurrent of body language and glances. It was intense and fascinating how Ms. Winters was able to convey that feeling so clearly without making it awkward and obvious.

Heartless was exceptional, from the moment it picked up right where Merciless had ended until it left me reeling with that shocking ending, there wasn’t a moment’s rest for the reader. Everything about the book was so heightened because the situation is so extreme, and Ms. Winters did an excellent job of keeping the anticipation ramped up to a fever point throughout the entirety of the book. It’s going to be a while before I’m going to be able to fully come to terms with everything that has happened to Aria and Carter and decide exactly how I feel about their twisted story.

Heartless is the second book in W. Winters’ Merciless Saga. These books are not standalones and must be read in order, with each book picking up right where the previous one ended. We were first introduced to the world of Merciless in Little Liar and Possessive, but those books do not need to be read for comprehension of this series. Heartless is written in dual first-person perspective, narrated by Aria and Carter.

Willow Winters continues to impress me with her highly artistic romantic suspense novels. I appreciate the flow of her work and how even the more aggressive, action-packed scenes have a certain grace and fluidity to them most suspense novels don’t. I find myself both desperate to find out how her books will end and not wanting them to be over because her prose is so beautiful I don’t want to leave her words.

A ruthless man with a past to hide doesn’t let a soul close to him.
A coldhearted man at war doesn’t risk anything for anyone.
A depraved man with a beautiful woman at his mercy … he doesn’t fall for her.

She was only a bargaining chip.  Now she’s my property.
own her.
Nothing has thrilled me more than the thought of taking her how I’ve always wanted to.
To break her and make that soft voice of hers whimper with a strangled moan as I ravage her.

I know better than to give in to temptation and let her distract me from everything that’s at stake.

No matter how badly I crave more of her.
No matter how much the sordid thoughts plague me.
No matter if it’s the one thing that I’ve always wanted more than anything else.

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Willow Winters is so happy to be a USA Today, Wall Street Journal and #1 Contemporary Bestselling Romance Author. She likes her action hot and her bad boys hotter. She certainly doesn’t hold back on either one in her writing!

Willow started writing after having her little girl, Evie, December 2015. All during her pregnancy with Evie she continued to read and she only wanted to read romance. She was reading a book a day — sometimes two.

In January 2016 Willow was staying up late with Evie and just thinking of all these stories. They came to her constantly so she finally sat down and just started writing. She always wanted to do it so she figured, why not? Today Willow cannot be happier for making that decision!

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Break by Cassia Leo ~ CHAPTER REVEAL

A humorous and heartbreaking second-chance stand-alone romance from the New York Times bestselling author of the Shattered Hearts Series.

For six years, she was the only one. My best friend. My kitten. My world. Then, I broke us by getting caught in a web of lies.

Hard to believe, after everything we’d been through, I could do what I did to her… in front of 600,000 people.  I doubt she’ll ever believe I did it because I love her.

Three years later, my music career is booming. I have a movie deal in the next comic book reboot. And now the only parent I have left has been given a death sentence. I have to go home, but going home means facing what I did to her.

***   BREAK is available for preorder on all retailers. It will be available for purchase on all retailers for ONE DAY ONLY, July 26, 2018. After July 26th, it will only be available on Amazon. You do not need to have a Kindle Unlimited subscription to purchase BREAK on Amazon.   ***
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Prologue

Charlie

Then

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. I would say a picture is worth a lifetime of words, since a single photograph can change your entire life.

When I was fourteen, a chubby girl in my freshman Spanish class attempted suicide after her former boyfriend posted a naked photo of her on MySpace. It was the scandal of the school year. I publicly expressed my disappointment with the way my fellow classmates were body-shaming her. Privately, though, I judged that girl. I couldn’t help but wonder… Who would be foolish enough to trust a teenage boy with nudes?

 

* * *

 

Just ten more minutes. Don’t pass out yet. Just hold on for ten more minutes.

I repeat the words over and over in my mind, like a mantra. Just ten more minutes and I can go home, drink a gallon of NyQuil, and sleep away this dreadful flu.

The art gallery just off the Sonoma State campus is small, but not quaint. Situated in the middle of 4th Street in Santa Rosa, among an eclectic mix of upscale and fair trade shops, the gallery has a wall of windows facing south. This wouldn’t be a problem if it wasn’t eighty-two degrees outside and the gallery’s air conditioning wasn’t working.

I loosen my black scarf and swallow the saliva pooling in my mouth as the urge to vomit begins to overtake me again. Closing my eyes, I take a few deep breaths as I attempt to quell the sensation.

“I’m sorry. I just need a minute,” I say to my professor as we move onto the next photograph in the exhibit.

If I knew, when I chose to be an art major, that I’d have to do my final exam — a solo show using selected pieces from my photography portfolio to tell a story — in an overheated art gallery, while secretly popping Tylenol every time my professor turns his back on me, I might have seriously reconsidered my dream of being the next Annie Leibovitz. Or I might have chosen a major where I could take my final exam in an air-conditioned lecture hall. At the very least, I’d rethink my brilliant idea to wear a scarf today.

My attempt to look like an artsy-fartsy ballerina — in my lucky black scarf, baby-pink bateau-neck top, black skinny jeans, and pink ballerina flats — and my refusal to request a postponement of the solo show the moment I came down with the flu, will be my downfall. No matter how hot it gets in this gallery, I can’t take off my lucky scarf. Therefore, I predict, if I don’t get high marks on this final, I’m going to drop dead on the high-gloss marble floor.

I trail behind Professor Healy like a baby duckling, answering his questions about lenses, exposures, and filters while trying not to stare at the Florida-shaped birthmark in the center of his bald spot. The show is supposed to tell a story, and the only story that matters in my world is the story of Ben and me. The exhibit begins with images of the beach, where Ben and I first met, then moves through a collection of places we’ve visited together. With Ben’s fame becoming such an issue these past few years, most of the pictures depict secluded landscapes: sparkling lakes, rocky coves, and misty forests.

As I discreetly wipe the sweat trickling down the back of my ear, my phone vibrates in my hand. I quickly slide it into my back pocket as we approach the picture I took of the Sky-house.

The Sky-house is a hollowed out Redwood tree near the forested campsites of the Bodega sand dunes, just steps away from where my boyfriend Ben Hayes and I grew up next door to each other in Bodega Bay, California. The Sky-house was Ben’s hideout before it became ours, and we promised we would never reveal the location to anyone. He approves of my use of the photo for my final, but I’m supposed to destroy the evidence after my solo show. We named our tree the Sky-house because you can look straight up through the hollow trunk and see the sky.

Also, because it was fun to play “house” in there.

I wish Ben was here. He would kiss my forehead and tell me everything was going to be okay. Afterward, he’d take me home and make me some instant ramen — because he couldn’t make chicken soup if his life depended on it. Then, we’d cuddle on the couch to watch Futurama until falling asleep.

Oddly enough, I didn’t get my usual good morning text from Ben today. He must have been up late and decided to sleep in. But he knows today is my show. It’s not like him to forget to wish me well before a big test.

As Professor Healy examines the photograph of our hideout from various angles, my phone begins vibrating in my back pocket — nonstop. One pulse of vibration after another, like a phone call that keeps ringing or when one of my Instagram pics goes viral and my notifications are blowing up. But I haven’t posted any pics on social media in a few days. I’ve been too busy preparing for the show.

Bzzz. Bzzz. Bzzz. Bzzz. Bzzz.

Maybe my voicemail isn’t working. Or maybe the mailbox is full. I’m notoriously guilty of letting unchecked voicemails pile up.

Bzzz. Bzzz. Bzzz. Bzzz. Bzzz.

The vibrating continues for what feels like at least five minutes straight, but is probably only a couple minutes. I finally pull the phone out of my pocket and apologize to Healy for the interruption. Glancing at the screen as I reach for the power button, I see a long list of Instagram mention notifications on my lock screen, and my heart drops along with my jaw.

 

2 min ago: @charleywinters have you seen this, girl?

2 min ago: lmao. @charleywinters just got dumped in front of 600K people. #sorrycharley

2 min ago: @charleywinters More like millions of people! This is gonna be news.

1 min ago: @charleywinters Don’t pay attention to these assholes. You didn’t deserve this. #sorrycharley

1 min ago: so fucked up. can’t believe @officialbenhayes would do something like this to @charleywinters #sorrycharley

1 min ago: @charleywinters don’t pretend you haven’t seen this post. @officialbenhayes is too good for you. #byefelicia #sorrycharley #actuallynotsorry

1 min ago: haha! so true! Why doesn’t @charleywinters get that bump on her nose fixed? #sorrycharley

 

“Charlotte, are you listening?”

I suddenly understood why Ben didn’t text me this morning. I can literally feel my blood pressure dropping. My entire body feels cold and light as a feather, like I barely exist.

The room begins to spin as I look up from my phone screen. “What?” I murmur as Healy’s red, bulbous nose comes in and out of focus.

I unlock the phone as my professor’s voice murmurs in the background of my consciousness. Tapping the Instagram app, then a recent notification, I’m taken to a picture of Ben riding a motorcycle on the beach at sunset. Sitting on the back seat, with her head thrown back in gleeful laughter, is a blonde I recognize right away. A blonde the entire world could probably recognize.

The caption on the photo reads:

@officialbenhayes to new beginnings. #instalove #newlove

MAY 11

I blink as Professor Healy steps around me so he’s facing me straight on.

“I asked, ‘How long is the exposure on this picture?’” he glances at the label beneath the frame then turns back to me. “The one titled ‘Sky-house.’ You’ve achieved a stunning depth of field with this lens. How long is the exposure? Based on the softness, I’m guessing it’s at least a thirty-minute exposure, since it doesn’t appear to be motion-blurred or out of focus or over-exposed.”

I open my mouth to speak, but only word comes out. “Exposed.”

“Charlotte, your face is blood-red. Are you all right?” he says, grabbing my elbows.

I shake my head, still unable to speak as my phone continues to vibrate in my hand.

“Oh, dear. Let’s sit you down. This is not the first time I’ve seen this happen,” he says, placing a hand on the middle of my back to guide me toward a gold velvet tufted bench about ten feet away.

“Do you need some water?” the gallery curator, a middle-aged woman with dark hair as glossy as the marble floor, asks.

I shake my head again as I sit on the bench. “No,” I whisper, reaching up to pull off my lucky scarf.

“Are you sure? Do you mind if I feel your forehead?” the woman asks gently.

I nod this time, closing my eyes and flinching slightly at the sensation of her cold hand on my face.

“Oh, my God. You’re burning up. I’m calling an ambulance,” she says, setting off to find a phone.

“Wait,” I call out, holding up my still-vibrating iPhone. “I have a phone… Here. Take it. I don’t want it.”

As she walks toward me, I can’t help but think about that chubby girl in my Spanish class. We are kin now. Today will be known as the day a single photograph changed my life.

The curator is a couple feet away from me when I lose my grip, dropping the phone on the floor as I pass out.

 

 Chapter One

Charlie

Now

 

Social media is a blessing and a curse. It can be used to galvanize support for important issues, like shedding light on social injustice. It’s the best resource we have for sharing inspiring art and funny memes. On the other hand, social media has also become a means to pass judgment on people before they can defend themselves. The court of public opinion delivers its justice swiftly and without remorse.

I killed all my social media accounts about two and a half years ago. I’d rather be a nobody than a cog in that kind of machine. My friends, however, have started to question my commitment to this philosophy.

The yellow glow from the streetlight pours in through the glass storefront, illuminating Michelle’s cinnamon skin as she hits the switch on the wall to dim the lights inside The Dunk seafood restaurant. Her silky black hair is pulled up tightly in one of those high ponytails that always make me wonder if she’s secretly walking around all day with a massive headache.

Michelle works as the general manager at The Dunk, because her dad doesn’t trust anyone else to run their family business. After locking the entry doors, she slides her jangling gaggle of keys into the front pocket of her black waist-apron and begins wiping down the tabletops.

I stand up from the table nearest the register, to stretch my arms and legs. Every Tuesday through Sunday, from eight p.m. to eleven p.m., I sit at this table to keep my best friend company while she closes up the restaurant. Sometimes, I help her clean so we can get out of there faster. Mostly, I use the time to edit photos on my laptop while chatting with Michelle.

“Is there any chili left?” I ask, closing the lid on my MacBook.

Michelle makes a mean chicken and white bean chili. Her mom, Monica, started making it for me when we were kids, when she realized I couldn’t eat their original chili recipe because it contained pork sausage. It was one of the rare times my mother’s Jewish heritage resulted in the creation of a culinary masterpiece.

Michelle grabs a clean towel off the shelf under the counter and heads toward the dining area. “Julio! Pack me a quart of chili, please!” she shouts toward the kitchen.

“Okay, Mitch!” the cook shouts back.

“Want to hit the beach tomorrow?” I ask as I slide my laptop into the snug foam compartment of my waterproof travel case.

Michelle sprays lemon-scented cleaner on the table next to mine and nods. “Fuck yeah. I need a beach day,” she replies, then sinks down into the seat across from me. “Which one?”

“Portuguese?” I reply, closing my laptop case and taking a seat again.

Michelle slides her phone out of the pocket of her blue skinny jeans, her top lip curling in disapproval. “Portuguese Beach is so crowded in the end of June.”

“Not on Monday mornings. We can get there early to get a good spot, then book it when it starts getting too crowded in the afternoon.”

She shrugs. “That’s probably better. It’s not like I need a tan.”

Every time Michelle references her skin color, it makes me sad. It reminds me of the one time she let down her guard and admitted to me how she hated the way people treated her differently in the summer, when her cinnamon-brown skin became a rich coffee-brown. We all have things we hate about ourselves, physical features that feel more like betrayals than assets. For me, it’s the bump in my nose I inherited from my Jewish mother. For Michelle, it’s her skin color. For our other BFF, Allie Kim, it’s her slanted eyes. Maybe that common thread of self-hatred is why we’ve been best friends since elementary school.

I pull my phone out of my pocket and text Michelle a single, lonely poop emoji.

She looks up from her phone screen. “If you need to release the chili demon, just go. You know you don’t have to ask to use the restroom.”

I smile as I let out a fart. “Not necessary when I can let it out right here. I just wanted you to look up from your phone.”

She rolls her eyes as she understands this reference. “You have to dump him. Stat. That guy gives me the creeps.”

The “him” Michelle is referring to is Tyler Bradford, the son of Mayor Tom Bradford, whom I had started dating four months ago. Tyler has an annoying habit of texting me emojis to get me to look up from my phone when we’re hanging out. Michelle and Allie do not like Tyler. To be fair, I don’t know if I even like him. But in my opinion, being alone during the summer is worse than being alone during the holidays. If I do dump Tyler, it will be in September or October.

“He’s not that bad,” I say, opening up my bank account app to check my balance for the tenth time today, a new and disgusting habit I acquired recently.

Michelle looks up from her phone again and cocks an eyebrow. “The guy nicknamed you his ‘little oyster.’ He’s a creep.”

The smile on my face vanishes when I see my account balance. “Ugh. I need some new clients ASAP.”

Michelle’s face softens. “Are you in trouble? Like, are you not going to be able to pay your phone bill, or something?”

“It’s not that bad… yet. But I definitely need to figure out a way to bring in more clients or it’s R.I.P. Winters’ Weddings.”

She turns her attention back to her phone, types something, then turns the screen toward me. “Maybe if you put your photos on Instagram, like this girl, you’d get more business.”

I stare at the Instagram profile for a girl named Elizabeth Messina, who Michelle follows on Instagram. “Yeah, and maybe if I hadn’t failed my final exam, I’d have a degree I could use to get a job.”

“You didn’t fail your final. You refused to retake it,” she replied as casually as if she were commenting on the weather.

“Really? This again?” I reply, my voice climbing an octave. “You’re saying I was supposed to fight my way past the sweaty paparazzos so I could give a solo show of pictures depicting the places where my boyfriend and I had sex? The boyfriend who dumped me on Instagram?”

Her eyebrows shot up as she looked up from the screen. “I’m just saying that maybe you could have chosen some different pictures and hired a bodyguard to get you past the paparazzi. If you really wanted the degree, that stuff shouldn’t have stopped you.”

I shook my head. “You know what happened the last time I tried to create another Instagram account.”

I narrowed my eyes at her, telepathically willing her to remember the time I created a new profile for Winters’ Weddings. A client named “Isla” messaged me on Instagram and booked me to do her engagement shoot at a nearby vineyard in Sonoma. She even paid the fifty-percent deposit. When I got to the vineyard, I parked my car and entered the barn, where we planned to meet. “Isla” and her friends were there with their cell phone cameras at the ready to record my reaction to a cardboard cutout of Ben down on one knee proposing to Becca Kingsley, the pop singer he dumped me for. I vomited on the straw-covered floor and ran to my car.

I shook my head when Michelle didn’t acknowledge this catastrophe. “Forget it. I’m not arguing about this again.”

“You’re the one who brought up your cash flow problems. I was just offering social media as a solution. A little self-promotion can’t hurt, you know? And yet you still shoot me down, as usual. Anyway, we both know that’s not what this is about.”

“What are you talking about?”

She purses her lips. “I’m talking about that gigantic chip on your shoulder. It’s been there since Hunter’s graduation last month.”

My eyes widen. “Are you kidding me right now? Are you accusing me of being jealous of my little brother?”

“There’s a difference between bitterness and strength. You’ve gotten more bitter with every year that passes since you and Ben broke up. If you’re not careful, you’re going to push away the people who helped you get through that shit-storm. Which is sad, because we’re the ones who actually love you.”

I lower my gaze and take a deep breath to tame the angry lion inside me. I also try not to think about Ben, but the tattoo on my wrist makes that impossible. Michelle is pretty strongly implying that what Ben did to me indicates he’s obviously not one of the people who actually loves me. But after three years, I still look at the tattoo on the inside of my left wrist and wonder if that’s true. Could Ben have been pretending to love me for all those years?

I lay my hand over my wrist to cover the words “I love us” written in Ben’s handwriting. He has a matching tattoo on the inside of his left wrist in my handwriting, if he hasn’t attempted to get it covered up. During the four years that Ben and I were officially together, and the few years before where we hid our relationship from our families, we only got into one huge fight that almost tore us apart. Almost.

I remember vividly how I told Ben I loved him, but I didn’t think I was secure enough to be with someone famous. He told me I had nothing to feel insecure about. “I don’t like myself without you. Actually, sometimes I think you’re the only thing I like about myself. I love you, Charley, and I’m not ashamed to say I love you more when you’re mine. I love us.” After that, “I love us” became our slogan. I cringe inside as I remember how we joked about trademarking the phrase.

“Let’s change the subject,” Michelle says, probably reading the signs in the painful expression on my face, the signs my mind has wandered into the dark corner where I hide my memories of Ben. “If you don’t want to do social media — which I totally understand — then, maybe all you need to do is figure out what’s worked in the past, you know, to generate business.”

I lean my head back and sigh. “I feel like this is the hundredth time we’ve had this conversation. I don’t know why you put up with me.”

“Because I love you,” she replied casually. “Okay, I remember when you were booking wedding shoots more than six months in advance because you were so busy. When was that? Two years ago? Maybe you were doing something back then that you might not be doing now.”

I shook my head. “That was pretty much right after the breakup, when I first started the business. When people were still googling ‘Charley Winters ugly cry’ a thousand times a day. Bookings have steadily decreased since then.”

Michelle winces at my reminder of the time a paparazzo published a video of me ugly-crying while talking to my mom in our backyard shortly after the breakup. The video went viral and, at its peak, the phrase “Charley Winters ugly cry” was Googled more than 800,000 times in one day. The video is still on every celebrity gossip channel on YouTube. I don’t have the emotional fortitude or the money to hire a lawyer to force Google to take it down.

Michelle stands up and rounds the table so she can wrap her arms around my shoulders. “The only good thing I can say about Benjamin Hayes is that he’s smart enough not to show his face around here anymore. I hope he gets antibiotic-resistant chlamydia and his dick falls off.”

I laugh a little too hard and another tiny toot comes out. “I don’t think that’s how chlamydia works.”

“I’m still holding out hope. And you really need to stop eating so much damn chili,” she says, giving my shoulders one more squeeze before she sets off toward the back of the restaurant. As she rounds the counter, she glances back at me and flashes me a beaming smile, which quickly disappears as her eyes become fixated on something outside.

I glance over my shoulder toward the storefront and a flicker of intense pain fires through every nerve in my body when I see Ben standing on the other side of the glass.

New York Times bestselling author Cassia Leo loves her coffee, chocolate, and margaritas with salt. When she’s not writing, she spends way too much time re-watching Game of Thrones and Sex and the City. When she’s not binge-watching, she’s usually enjoying the Oregon rain with a hot cup of coffee and a book.

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NEW RELEASE!! Saving Beck by Courtney Cole

Reminiscent of the beloved novels by Mary Kubica and Jodi Picoult comes a chilling portrayal of a son’s addiction and its harrowing effects on both him and his mother from New York Times bestselling author Courtney Cole. SAVING BECK releases July 17, 2018. Check out the teaser below, and pre-order your copy of SAVING BECK today!

There comes a time when offering your life for your child’s doesn’t work, when you realize that it’ll never be enough. 

The cold needle in his warm vein was a welcome comfort to my son at first. But then it became the monster that kept us apart. 

Heroin lied, and my son believed. It took him to a world where the last year didn’t happen, to a place where his father was still alive. What Beck didn’t understand was that it couldn’t bring his father back from the dead. It couldn’t take away his pain, not permanently. 

You think it can’t happen to you, that your kids, your family, will never be in this situation. 
I thought that too. But you’re wrong. 

Step into our world, and see for yourself. 
Watch my golden boy become a slave to this raging epidemic. Watch me try and save him. 

Drug addiction comes with a price. 
Trust me, you’re not equipped to pay it. 

Don’t miss this heart wrenching, evocative, yet hopeful novel—it will leave you forever changed.

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“Isn’t that Taps?” I asked finally, and my eyes were wet. I didn’t look up from Angel’s lap.

“My mom used to sing it to me when I couldn’t sleep. It was the only lullaby she knew,” Angels said, defensively.

“I’m not attacking your mother,” I told her.

“I know.”

“Why did your mother send you away?” I asked, because Angel’s song was so sad, and her voice was so broken. “She must’ve loved you.”

She shrugged and held me tight, her fingers afraid to let go of me.

“She said I was better off going back to foster care. That should she couldn’t afford to live on her own, and her boyfriend hated me. She said she wanted me to have a shot at life, and she couldn’t give to that to me.”

“I’m sorry.” I patted her back with my free hand. It was a mindless motion and it didn’t help, but I tried.“How long were you in foster care?”

“A while,” she answered. “The state thought I was better taken care of there. I lost my virginity to a foster father. I don’t have a sweet story like yours and Elin’s.”

Her voice was bitter now and she was so hurt and she was so used.

I wanted to pick her up and shield her from the world.

I told her that.

She laughed, a hard sound. “Too late, King,” she said.

“It’s never too late,” I argued.

She was thoughtful now.

“So why did you leave your home?” she asked. “If it’s never too late. Maybe you should go back?”

“It’s complicated,” I answered. “I can’t go back.”

“But why? Your mom is a good mom, right?”

I paused. “Yeah. She is. But she’s got her own shit going on. There’s a lot to deal with, you know. When someone dies.”

“Yeah, I bet,” she answered. “But she probably misses you.”

I shrugged. “It’s hard to say.”

The silence swallowed us up, and we wallowed in it, stretching our legs and swimming in it.

“I was thinking that when this is done,” and she gestured toward my crown royal bag that held our stash, “that we should give it up.”

That hit me in the face and I stared at her.

“Give it up?”

The idea was ludicrous, because without H, I’d feel everything. I wouldn’t be able to escape and there was nothing I wanted less than to do that. But Angel was nodding and she was serious.

“I think we should,” she said finally. “Look what it did to my mother. She gave up her own kid. You left a good life behind. For what? For this?” she swept her arm around gesturing to the rickety walls of the warehouse. “We’ve got to make good on ourselves, King.”

I eyed her.

“What’s your real name?” I asked, trying to change the subject. She scowled.

“Don’t do that. This is serious.”

“So is your name,” I answered.

“My name is Angel now,” she answered. “And I want us to get clean. We’ll have to do it together so we can help each other. We’ll get each other through it, King.”

I stared at her hard, and she was so solemn, so determined.

“You can’t be serious,” I said and I was shaky just thinking about it.

“I am,” she nodded. “You don’t know it because you haven’t seen it, but when I’m sober, I can do anything, King. We could get a little house, and be roommates. Winston can have his own little bed. You can go to college and I’ll get a GED, and we’ll have a life, King. A real life.”

I thought on that for a second.

A real life.

I studied the track marks in my arm, and I knew what I’d have to give up.

“I don’t know if I can,” I said truthfully. “I don’t know if I’m strong enough.”

“Of course you are,” Angel said firmly. “You just don’t know that right now. But I do, King.”

“My name isn’t really King,” I told her. She smiled and in this moment, she was pretty, even with her jagged extra-short hair.

“I know,” she answered. “I’m not stupid. But you’re my King, and I like it that way.”

“Do you want to know my real name?” I gave her the choice, but she squeezed my hand.

“No. That was then, and this is now. You’re King and I’m Angel.”

She fell asleep, so I was left awake alone.

I held her tight because she was all I had, and her breathing was soft and quick. It was still chilly enough in here to see her breaths in the air, but I kept her warm with my body.

She’s Angel and I’m King.

I thought about that.

Then I thought about a time when I was still Beck.

I was another person, with the world on a string and all the promises it had to offer sat on my lap.

Potential was a shiny thing and I’d been full of it then, so much so that I couldn’t see past the bright promises.

But with those promises came curses. If I hadn’t gone to Notre Dame that day, if we hadn’t stayed so long, then it wouldn’t have been so late when we drove home. Elin wouldn’t have called to check on me, and I wouldn’t have answered. My dad wouldn’t be dead.

My life would still be shiny and bright.

I would still be at home and my mom would be making me banana pancakes on Saturdays.

I was sure she’s still making them now for Dev and Annabelle. Thoughts of them hurt my heart and I missed them. I hadn’t allowed that for weeks and weeks, but it was true.

I missed them.

Looking down at Angel’s face, I wondered what they’d think of her.

But I already knew.

They’d take one look and know she’s an addict too, and I’d be just another disappointment. One of many.

No matter how much I missed my life, that was then. This was now.

Angel stirred and moaned a little and I soothed her quietly, my hand on her shoulder.

“Shhh,” I said into her ear. “It’s going to be all right.”

“King, promise me we’ll quit,” she said, half asleep. “Promise me.”

I didn’t want to. I wanted to. I didn’t want to.

“Okay,” I finally said. “Okay.”

She smiled and her lips were curved and pink in the night. She was happy now, I realized with a start.

“Sing to me,” she said. “Make me feel safe.”

I sang her mother’s lullaby and she closed her eyes to sleep.

Courtney Cole is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling novelist who would eat mythology for breakfast if she could.

She has a degree in Business, but has since discovered that corporate America is not nearly as fun to live in as fictional worlds.

Courtney was born and raised in rural Kansas, but has since migrated south. She now lives in Florida and writes beneath palm trees.

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Until We Are Gone by Gia Riley ~ EXCERPT REVEAL

Until We Are Gone, an all-new Standalone Emotional Romance by Gia Riley is coming July 30th!!

I wanted a family with Cash.

We had dreams –building a house, kids, a dog, and, yes, even the white picket fence.

Or so I’m told.

I don’t remember anything about my husband. Not the wedding or the vows we shared.

The past ten years were erased and with time, they’re supposed to come back.

But this isn’t your typical case of amnesia

What if I’m not supposed to remember?

What if I was meant to forget?

Maybe I don’t want my old life back.

Because if the accident hadn’t happened, I wouldn’t have uncovered the truth.

Losing my memory wasn’t tragic.

Losing my memory was fate.

The man grabs my hand and laces his fingers with mine, careful not to jostle the IV. Nothing about his hand is familiar, and I’m left wondering if it’s okay to be touching at all.

“Who are you?” I ask him, wondering why he still hasn’t told me his name. If he’s someone who saved me, then I want to know. I need to know. “Are you the pilot?”

He sucks in a breath, and the tears flow harder down his cheeks. There’s a long, uncomfortable pause, and he barely blinks.

A few seconds later, he clears his throat and says, “Cash. I’m Cash. Your husband.”

I search his face for anything familiar. A dimple. A wrinkle. Maybe a freckle. But nothing about him triggers a single memory. I should feel more than this. I should have love for the man I married. I’m not sure how long ago, but we exchanged vows. Vows I don’t remember. And I’m sure I wore a white dress, probably my dream dress, and I don’t even know if it was made of lace or satin. My first Holy Communion dress was an expensive chiffon, and I hated that itchy material, so I’m sure it couldn’t have been chiffon.

Cash brushes his finger down the side of my face, chasing away a tear. I didn’t realize I was crying.

“I think I want to be alone,” I whisper.

He pauses and then lets go of me.

I wait for him to say something, but he just tucks closed fists into his pockets and stares at the floor.

 Author Gia Riley has been in love with writing romance since high school when she took her very first creative writing class. From the small but mighty state of Delaware, she’s a country girl at heart, traveling back to her roots in Pennsylvania as often as she can.

While New Adult and Contemporary romance have been her passion, she’s dabbled with more erotic plotlines lately, enjoying discovering the sexier side of love with each story she pens. After all, she’s a lover of all things romance – a firm believer that everyone deserves their

happily ever after no matter what it takes to get there.

When she’s not writing, you can find her roaming the aisles of Kirkland’s, up to her elbows in Play-doh, or trying to hunt down spoilers for her favorite reality television show.

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Freed by Carly Phillips ~ Sarah A’s Review

An all-new emotional and romantic standalone from New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Carly Phillips is NOW AVAILABLE!

Fall for the missing Ward sister…

Juliette Collins is privileged and isolated from the world by her over-protective father. She thinks she knows the truth about her history until a file in her father’s safe reveals she has sisters she never knew about. A family she’s never met. Betrayed, she realizes there’s a life waiting for her outside the walls of her daddy’s New York City penthouse and Juliet is determined to live it. Against her father’s wishes, she heads to a small beach community to meet her siblings… and finds herself way out of her depth instead.

In the personal protection business, Braden Clark thinks nothing of taking on a job to watch over a city girl in town for the summer. If her father wants to know his daughter is safe, it’s no problem and an easy way of earning a paycheck. Except Braden doesn’t count on falling for the sheltered Juliette. Watching her experience her firsts, getting an apartment, finding a job, meeting up with her lost sisters, soon Braden’s brand of protection becomes a little too personal. He’s mixing business with pleasure and lying to a woman he’s coming to care deeply about.

Sexual attraction burns bright between them and Braden is by her side as she finds herself, her family, and what it means to love… but what happens when she discovers his secret? That he’s been paid to watch over her all along?

A Standalone Novel

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I’ve quite enjoyed my journey through Rosewood Bay with the Ward sisters, and this jaunt with Juliette was no different.  These books are all on the shorter side and lighter than my typical reads, but I’ve found myself looking forward to reading each of them and can’t wait to delve into some of the secondary characters as the series continues.

After reading Halley and Phoebe’s stories, I was eager to find out more about the mysterious third Ward sister.  Juliette was just as fantastic as her older sisters and had the same magnetism that seemed to draw people to her with little effort.  I appreciated how she never took her fortunate past for granted, even when she realized how deeply manipulative her father had been throughout her life.  She always seemed to appreciate what she had and still give herself the room to be angry about other circumstances of her life.  For someone who had been incredibly sheltered throughout her life, Juliette seemed to be quite well-adjusted when she finally struck out on her own two feet.

Braden’s story was just as devastating as Juliette’s.  His losses may have been different, but they were no less profound.  I did struggle – as did he – with his reluctance in telling Juliette the circumstances surrounding their initial interactions, though I understood why he was hesitant to lose either of the things that were becoming vitally important in his life.  Otherwise, he was a flawless partner to Juliette; he let her spread her wings without inhibition but was there to provide her shelter when she needed a safe place to land.

One of my favorite things about these Rosewood Bay stories is how Ms. Phillips puts her characters in each other’s lives when they are both struggling with something life-changing.  Giving Juliette and Braden each their own journey to acceptance and healing independent of their story together added an opportunity to demonstrate how wonderfully they worked together and supported each other in the hardest moment of their lives.  I particularly loved the subplot with Braden’s dad, it was heartbreaking and lent an interesting dynamic to the book.

My only wish for this book would be a more impactful climax.  Considering everything that happened in such a short time, it seemed lacking to me.  I had hoped for a much more significant fallout and resulting reconciliation.

FREED is the third book in Carly Phillips’ Rosewood Bay series.  These books are interconnected standalones and do not need to be read in order or comprehension.  Each book gives enough information on the other characters to pique an interest in reading their stories without giving enough away to spoil them.  FREED is written in third-person limited perspective, alternatively following Juliette and Braden.

Carly Phillips continues to impress me with her to the point writing.  I easily fall in love with her characters and find ways to connect with their struggles and triumphs.  Though I would have loved a little more closure at the end of this book, I still find her pacing appropriate for the stories she tells.

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Carly Phillips is the NY Times and USA Today Bestselling Author of over 50 sexy contemporary romance novels, including the Indie published, Dare to Love Series. She is happily married to her college sweetheart, the mother of two nearly adult daughters and three crazy dogs. Carly loves social media and is always around to interact with her readers.

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Richer than Sin by Meghan March ~ COVER REVEAL

From New York Times bestselling author Meghan March comes a brand new saga of forbidden love and second chances.

A Riscoff and a Gable can never live happily ever after. Our family feud is the stuff of legends.

Ten years ago, Whitney Gable caught me off guard with her long legs and grab-you-by-the-balls blue eyes.

I didn’t know or care what her name was.

Like any Riscoff worth the family name, I went after what I wanted. We burned like a flash fire until she married another man.

She hates me, and she should.

I objected on her wedding day.

Now she’s home, with those same long legs and man-eater stare, but there’s no ring on her finger.

They say a Riscoff and a Gable can never live happily ever after . . . but I’m not done with Whitney Gable.

I’ll never be done with her.

***  PREORDER NOW ~ RELEASES AUGUST 14 ***
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TITLE: Richer than Sin
AUTHOR: Meghan March
SERIES: Sin series
GENRE: Contemporary Romance
RELEASE DATE: August 14, 2018

Guilty as Sin ~ RELEASE DATE: September 18
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Reveling in Sin ~ RELEASE DATE: October 23
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A New York Times, #1 Wall Street Journal, and USA Today bestselling author of over twenty novels, Meghan March has been known to wear camo face paint and tromp around in woods wearing mud-covered boots, all while sporting a perfect manicure. She’s also impulsive, easily entertained, and absolutely unapologetic about the fact that she loves to read and write smut. Her past lives include slinging auto parts, selling lingerie, making custom jewelry, and practicing corporate law. Writing books about dirty talking alpha males and the strong, sassy women who bring them to their knees is by far the most fabulous job she’s ever had.

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