Eighty-One Nights by Georgia Cates ~ EXCERPT REVEAL

Beautiful, penniless American girl meets handsome, wealthy Scotsman.

Sounds like the beginning of a fairy-tale romance?

It’s not.

This story begins with a contract.

And an exchange of money.

A lot of money.

An angel perches nervously on one shoulder.

A devil lounges smugly on my other.

And even that dark little bastard is leery of what I’m doing.

Maxwell Hutcheson wants the girlfriend experience.

All of it.

And I’m going to give it to him.

I’m not supposed to enjoy being his whore.

I’m also not supposed to fall in love with him.

But I do. Both.

When our contract expires, I will walk away.

Because I have to.

But he’ll always have a piece of me.

I’ll mask my sorrow with a smile.

I’ll hide my love with indifference

… all while it’s killing me softly.

A fairy-tale romance.

It isn’t mine to have.

And this man I’ve come to love so dearly isn’t my happily ever after.

About Eighty-One Nights:
While the characters from Eighty-One Nights are entirely new, their storyline is a combination of fresh material and carefully selected themes, scenes, and settings from The Beauty Series, The Sin Trilogy, Dear Agony, and Indulge. This is intentional. I chose some of my favorite elements from previous releases and interjected them into Hutch and Lou’s story. Let’s call it a “story fusion” between our old favorites and new material. This work was briefly released under a pen name and was titled The Girlfriend Experience.

***  RELEASES APRIL 9, 2019  ***

Brady watches the server’s arse as she walks away. “Tell me what kind of lass that you’re looking for and maybe I can help you find her.”

“I don’t have any particular physical characteristics in mind. I just want to look at her and… feel something.”

“Feel what? A stauner?” Brady can be such a dobber sometimes.

“I can get a hard-on by myself. I’m talking about a connection. I want to be drawn to her.”

“Answer this for me, Max. Do you want to hold her hand or fuck her?”

“I’d like to do both actually.”

Brady twists in his chair. “There are two kinds of Inamorata women—those who fuck and those who don’t. Look around. Some of the women have a pink rosebud pinned to their left shoulder. It’s a symbol meaning that they are willing to fuck and don’t mind being asked to do so. No pink rosebud, no pussy.”

I hadn’t considered that possibility. I guess that I thought they’d all be willing to have sex for money.

“You might want to keep an eye out for a rosebud while you’re looking for this lass that you want to connect with. Because your cock won’t be making any kind of connection with her if she’s not wearing a rosebud.”

I believe that my choices were just narrowed down significantly; many of these women are missing a rosebud.

“Two Tomatins,” the server says as she places our drinks on the table. “Can I bring you anything else?”

“That’s all for now. Thank you.”

Brady holds up his glass. “Here’s to you finally getting out again. And getting shagged.”

“I’ll drink to that.”

We toss back our whiskies and I look around, searching for that special woman who catches my eye. I quickly realize that I’ll never find what I’m looking for by sitting in the dark corner all night. “Come on, let’s do this.”

Brady and I talk to many women over the next two hours and I become discouraged. This gala is my only chance at finding a woman who will be agreeable to my terms, but no one stands out as a contender.

With each passing minute, tonight’s search is looking more and more like a failure. What a fucking disappointment. I was so sure that I was going to find what I was looking for.

“Now here is the woman that you must meet.” Brady takes her hand, kissing the top.

“You’re looking lovely as always.”

The woman looks at me and smiles. “Always such a charmer.”

“Max, it’s my pleasure to introduce you to Cora, the beauty and brains behind Inamorata.”

Long blond hair. Brown eyes. Flawless teeth and smile. Perfect cosmetics. She looks midforties, but I’d bet that she’s older and does a great job of pulling off the look of a much younger woman.

“This is my best mate, Maxwell Hutcheson.”

She holds out her hand and I choose to go with a simple handshake, leaving off the kiss. “It’s a pleasure.”

“How very nice it is to meet you, Mr. Hutcheson. I hope that you’re finding everything to your liking this evening.”

“I’m enjoying the gala very much. Thank you for extending an invitation for me through Brady.”

“It was my pleasure, but your arm is empty, Mr. Hutcheson. Have you not found an inamorata to suit your taste?”

I should choose my words wisely; I don’t want to insult this woman. “Brady and I have spoken to many beautiful and interesting women tonight. I’ve found it difficult to choose one.”

“I’d like the opportunity to change that. Would you be willing to tell me what you’re interested in? I’m certain that I can assist you in finding the perfect inamorata for your needs.”

I don’t see the point. Not a single woman in this room stands out to me but if she wants to try, then let her. “I’m looking for a three-month arrangement with a woman who is willing to remain completely innominate to everyone within my world except me.”

“Obscurity is my specialty, Mr. Hutcheson. I have someone in mind, but she’s fresh out of training. Is that something that you’d be open to trying?”

“Actually, inexperienced is preferable.” I want a true girlfriend experience with this woman. It would be a turnoff if her actions were robotic, as though she’s simply going through the motions like so many times before.

“I have the perfect inamorata for you. She’s brand new so you’d be her first client. The girl is beautiful, intelligent, interesting—the whole package. How does that sound to you?”

Sounds like a definite contender if she lives up to what Cora promises. “I’d like to meet her.”

Cora gestures to the back of the room. “Right this way.”


Georgia resides in rural Mississippi with her wonderful husband, Jeff, and their two beautiful daughters. She spent fourteen years as a labor and delivery nurse before she decided to pursue her dream of becoming an author and hasn’t looked back yet.

When she’s not writing, she’s thinking about writing. When she’s being domestic, she’s listening to her music and visualizing scenes for her current work in progress. Every story coming from her always has a song to inspire it.

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5,331 Miles by Willow Aster ~ Sarah A’s Review

We spent a lifetime chasing firefly dreams

Jaxson and I devised a life list when we were kids in Holmes Chapel. Just a few things on that list:

*Climb the Eiffel Tower.
*Visit every zoo in the world.
*Eat peanut butter every day.

But all the promises he made dissolved into dust, so when he comes around years later wanting to go live out our list, I want no part of it…or him. The universe seems to agree with me because everything we try is a disaster.

The heart though—it’s a tricky beast; I’m just not sure mine is strong enough to survive Jaxson one more time.

***  AVAILABLE IN KINDLE UNLIMITED  ***
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5,331 Miles didn’t come together until the last minute, and because of that format, it was hard to know if I liked the characters – or could forgive them – until the book was almost complete.  The way Willow Aster contrasted her timelines and made the past and present weave together was interesting, often frustrating, but the only way to tell this story and make me still love both Mirabelle and Jaxson.

For a good portion of 5,331 Miles, I found Mirabelle (Mira, Bells) frustrating as all get out.  I didn’t understand why she was so angry with Jaxson or why, when he was doing everything he could to prove his love and devotion to her, she refused to forgive him.  When I finally knew all of the things he’d done to her, all the things she’d been through, it was hard to see how she could put it all in the past.  I was exceedingly happy she took the time she needed to heal and find herself before she made any rash decisions about her future.  I don’t think she – or the readers – had any idea how much pain she’d been carrying around until she had space and safety to sift through all that emotional baggage.

I loved Jaxson from the off, then, little by little, he got more and more infuriating to me.  He’d been an awful friend for a long time while Bells desperately needed unconditional love and support, and it was hard to reconcile that self-absorbed teenager with the kind and loving man we knew him to be in the present.  As much as I appreciated how hard he tried to prove he’d changed from that awful boy, I felt like Jaxson was attempting to erase the past rather than make amends for it and it was a little frustrating.  I wish he would have done more to show her he knew how wrong he was in those actions from their past.

5,331 Miles was a much deeper story than I had anticipated.  Even into the final chapters of the book, it didn’t occur to me all of the trauma Mirabelle had encountered in her short life.  When it was all laid out, my heart broke for her.  Jaxson had done wonders to prove his love to her, but she had to work on herself before she could even think about loving another person.  Though 5,331 Miles was chock-full of romantic gestures, the most beautiful part of the story was when Mira took the time to let herself heal.  This was a beautiful book, and I am quite happy to have read and experienced Mirabelle and Jaxson’s tumultuous love story.

It was there all the time,
A love so pure, and so alive,
Went to hell and still survived
5,331 Miles

I grab a sweater before the song has finished playing and rush out of my flat, Winston’s ears flapping as he runs next to me. I open the door to my building and Jaxson is there in the parking lot, leaning against a car.

He doesn’t smile when he sees me. He looks like a tragic figure, devastatingly handsome and stoic; he puts his hands in his pockets and watches me get closer and closer.

When I’ve almost reached him, the car next to him starts and I gasp. It’s my dad. He smirks and gives me a brisk wave before backing up, not waiting around to see what happens.

I stop when my feet bump into Jaxson’s. He reaches out and wipes a tear from my cheek.

“Jaxson.” It comes out as a sob, and I lean my head onto his chest.

His arms circle around me, making me instantly feel better. Home. One of his hands moves to my hair and he gives it a soft tug, forcing me to look up at him.

“I don’t care where we are. I just want to be where you are,” he says. “Do you believe me yet? And does it matter?”

Tears fall down both of my cheeks and his thumbs catch them. “It matters,” I tell him. “It means everything.”

“You say the word and I will move heaven and earth to be with you. Nothing will come between us.”

And this time, for maybe the first time since my tenth birthday, I believe him.

“I’m done running,” I say.

His mouth crashes into mine, claiming what I’ve held back from him for so long.  

“Come inside,” I whisper against his lips.

Willow Aster is the author of True Love Story, In the Fields, Maybe Maby, Fade to Red, and the upcoming release, Whore. Willow loves nothing more than writing the day away—anywhere will do. Her husband and two children graciously put up with her endless daydreaming and make fun of her for reading while cooking.

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NEW RELEASE!! The Last Letter by Rebecca Yarros ~ Sarah A’s Review

The right words can save your life.

For fans of Nicholas Sparks and Jodi Picoult… A soldier falls in love with his battle buddy’s sister through their letters and returns home from Afghanistan with a secret that could destroy their fragile relationship.

Beckett,

If you’re reading this, well, you know the “last-letter” drill. You made it. I didn’t. Get off the guilt train, because I know if there were any chance you could have saved me, you would have.

I need one thing from you: Get out of the army and get to Telluride.

My little sister Ella’s raising the twins alone. She’s too independent and won’t accept help easily, but she has lost our grandmother, our parents, and now me. It’s too much for anyone to endure. It’s not fair.

And here’s the kicker: there’s something else you don’t know that’s tearing her family apart. She’s going to need help.

So if I’m gone, that means I can’t be there for Ella. I can’t help them through this. But you can. So I’m begging you, as my best friend, go take care of my sister, my family.

Please don’t make her go through it alone.

Ryan

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The Last Letter is the best book I’ve read in ages.  It was beautifully written, heartbreaking, and healing all in one exceptional package.  The ride Rebecca Yarros took us all on in this book was everything I could have hoped for, and I will hold a special place in my heart for this story and these characters.

The Last Letter starts on a fairly bittersweet note and keeps that melancholy tone throughout the novel.  Even in the happiest moments of the book had been colored by all the things Ella and Beckett had experienced in the past.  Neither of them had idyllic childhoods; they’d both lost more than most people could even imagine and, while they did have vastly different experiences after those losses, they’d both been deeply hurt and molded by it.  Ella and Beckett both needed someone who understood the pain they carried around, and it was apparent from their first letters to one another they’d found that in each other.

There was nothing easy about reading The Last Letter.  At every turn my heart was shredded, then patched up, only to be destroyed again.  There were moments in the book when my chest physically ached because of the emotions brought out by Ms. Yarros’ sublime prose.  This book encapsulated all of the things I love about romance, the selflessness, the love, the heartache, and the healing.  Ella and Beckett’s relationship wasn’t easy, but it was beautiful.  It was consuming and passionate, and just everything I could have hoped for.  There was never any doubt in my mind, even in the most tenuous parts of their relationship, that they were soulmates.

Rebecca Yarros completely blew me away with The Last Letter.  I am new to her writing, and I don’t know how I haven’t picked up her work before.  If this book is indicative of her other work, she is precisely the kind of author I love.  Her writing was gorgeous, her plotting was en pointe, her characters were sympathetic and well-developed, and her storytelling was amazing.  I was so thoroughly impressed with her work; I can’t wait to read through her backlist and continue to devour everything new she releases.

“Ella.” It was a plea to speak, to not speak. Hell, I didn’t know anymore.

“You don’t see me like that. I totally get it.” She reached for the TV remote.

“How exactly do I see you? Please, enlighten me.” I leaned forward, stealing the remote. She’d opened this box and had better well dish it.

She huffed in annoyance. “You see me as a mom. As Colt and Maisie’s mom. And of course you do, because that’s what I am. A mom with two kids.”

“Well, yeah,” I said. Her motherhood—that selfless devotion she had to her kids—was one of her most attractive attributes.

She rolled her eyes with a little sigh, and the metaphorical light bulb went off in my head.

“You don’t think I want you.”

She shot me a look that confirmed my guess and blushed the same crimson of her couch. “You know, you’re right. It’s late.” She faked a yawn. “Suuuuuuper late.”

“I want you.” Damn, it felt so good to say the words.

“Yeah, okay.” She gave me a goofy look and a thumbs-up. “Please don’t make me feel any more idiotic than I do right now.”

Yeah, enough of this bullshit.

I pounced in one smooth motion, taking her back to the couch, sliding over her as I gathered her wrists in one hand above her head and settled between her open thighs.

Home.

“Holy shit, you move fast.” There was no fear or rejection in her eyes, just surprise.

“Not in every arena,” I promised.

Her lips parted.

“Ella. I want you.”

“Beckett…you don’t have to.”

Yeah, that soft little sigh she did was going to be my undoing.

I let go of her wrists, letting my fingers trail down her arm until I had one hand weaving my fingers into the hair at the base of her scalp and the other at the curve in her waist.

“Feel this?” Then I slid forward, letting my dick stroke along the seam in her pajama pants hard enough for her to gasp at the contact. I couldn’t remember ever wanting to shred a piece of fabric so much in my life. “I’ve never wanted a woman as much as I want you.”

I moved again, and her eyes slid shut as she let loose the sweetest moan.

My dick throbbed, knowing everything I’d fantasized about for the better part of the last eight months was one decision away.

“Beckett.” Her hands found my biceps, her nails digging in.

“Don’t ever think that I don’t want you, because if things were different, I would have already been inside you. I would know exactly how you feel, and what you sound like, look like, when you come. I’ve thought about it at least a hundred different ways, and believe me, I’ve got a great imagination.”

She rocked her hips against me, and I locked my jaw to keep from giving her exactly what her body was asking for. “Ella, you have to stop.”

“Why?” she asked, her lips dangerously close to mine. “What do you mean if things were different?” Her eyes flew wide. “Is this because I have kids?”

“What? No. Of course not. It’s because you’re Ryan’s little sister.” Before I could do any more damage, I got the hell off her and sat back on my side of the couch.

“Because…I’m Ryan’s little sister,” she repeated, scooting so she sat upright, facing me. “And you think he’d, what? Haunt you?”

Three things: The letter. The cancer. The lie.

I repeated those in my head until I was certain I could look at her and not drag her back under me.

“Beckett?”

“When I was growing up, if I wanted something, I took it. Immediately. I had sex at fourteen with a girl in my foster home of the moment. I opened Christmas presents early if I was lucky enough to get one, and it was usually from my social worker or some charity.”

“I don’t understand.” She wrapped her arms around her knees again.

“I took it immediately because I knew if I didn’t, chances were I wouldn’t get it. It was a now-or-never kind of thing—there weren’t second chances.”

“Okay.”

“I can’t touch you, can’t talk about it, because I’m afraid I’ll act on it.”

“And why does that matter if I want you to?”

“Because I won’t get a second chance. And I’m crap with people, with relationships. I’ve never had one that lasted more than a month. Never loved a woman I’ve slept with. And chances are I’d do something to screw this up, because it’s not just my dick that wants you, Ella.”

That O popped right back onto her face, and I closed my eyes to keep from lunging across the distance and kissing her. Knowing she’d let me—that she wanted it—sent my need from a bullet to a nuclear missile.

“And when I’d screw it up, because it would happen, trust me, it would hurt Colt and Maisie, too. You’d be on your own again, because there’s no chance you’d let me hang around and help you out like Ryan asked.”

“And there it is.”

“There it is. You’re Ryan’s little sister.”

“There were only five years between us. Not so little, you know.” She reached for the remote.

“I’m well aware.”

“So if Ryan were still alive…” She shot one last look at me.

I let everything slip for a millisecond, letting her see it all in my eyes, how badly I wanted her, and not just for her body. “Everything would be different.”

“Everything?”

“Everything but the way I feel about you, which he probably would have killed me for. Where does that leave us?”

“You mean besides me being a dried-up spinster and you being honor-bound to a ghost?”

“Something like that.”

She rolled her head along the back of the couch, muttering something that sounded like a curse word under her breath. Then she sat up straight and powered on the TV with a click of her thumb. “That leaves us choosing a movie on demand. Because I’m not letting you walk out that door right now.”

“You’re not?”

“Nope. You walk out now, you might get all weird about this and not come back. Honor is a fabulous thing, but sometimes pride can be a lot stronger, especially when you convince yourself it’s for the good of the other person.”

Damn, the woman knew me.

“So movie it is,” I agreed. “Just…stay on your side of the couch.”

“I wasn’t the one who crossed the center line,” she teased with a smile that got me hard all over again.

Movie chosen, we sat and watched, both of us stealing sideways glances. There was that saying…the horse out of the barn. Yeah, the horse was out of the barn, and it wasn’t going back in. Not no way. Not no how.

That horse was running amok and screwing with my carefully constructed control.

But I didn’t complain when she moved over. Or when she pressed against my side. Nope. I lifted my arm and savored the feel of her curves, her trust. Still didn’t complain when she lay down in my arms. Hell no, I held on and memorized every second.

Rebecca Yarros is a hopeless romantic and a lover of all things coffee, chocolate, and Paleo. She is the author of the Flight & Glory series, including Full Measures, the award-winning Eyes Turned Skyward, Beyond What is Given, and Hallowed Ground. She loves military heroes, and has been blissfully married to hers for sixteen years.

When she’s not writing, she’s tying hockey skates for her four sons, sneaking in some guitar time, or watching brat-pack movies with her two daughters. She lives in Colorado with the hottest Apache pilot ever, their rambunctious gaggle of kids, an English bulldog who is more stubborn than sweet, and a bunny named General Fluffy Pants who torments the aforementioned bulldog. Having adopted their youngest daughter from the foster system, and Rebecca is passionate about helping others do the same.

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Order by Kindle Alexander ~ COVER REVEAL

Assistant District Attorney Alec Pierce wants a future with the sexy, tough-talking biker who came to his rescue six months ago. But when evidence capable of destroying his future comes to light, Alec sets a plan in motion to keep the man he loves from a district attorney bent on vengeance.

Will Alec’s efforts pay off or will he destroy them both in the process?

As a Disciples of Havoc member, Keyes Dixon rides the line between society’s moral code and that of his brothers. He straddles two worlds… One owns him and the other seduces him with the promise of a future. But when a rush to judgment has him swerving to miss the roadblocks suddenly in his lane, he’ll have to choose between the club that demands his loyalty and the gorgeous assistant district attorney who deserves his commitment.

Can Keyes escape his circumstances to take a chance on a future he wants?

Six months into what started as a one-night stand, both men must navigate their developing feelings as they remain bound by differing oaths that threaten to drive them apart. Not only does their future hang in the balance of opposing forces, but an unexpected strike of the gavel could send them on a collision course neither is prepared for.

Will havoc continue to determine their lives or is their love strong enough to bring order?

***  RELEASES MARCH 5, 2019  ***
** LIVE RELEASE ~ SIGN-UP FOR ALERT  **
NEW RELEASE ALERT

TITLE: Order
SERIES: Tattoos & Ties #2
AUTHOR: Kindle Alexander
RELEASE DATE: March 5, 2019
GENRE: M/M
COVER DESIGNER: Reese Dante

They came from two different worlds.

Fuck. Keyes’s eyes closed as the illusion that they’d somehow found their balance began to shatter. The pain in his chest grew, hurting on a level he couldn’t quite absorb, and that said a lot since his parents had really done a number on him as a kid.

He had seen enough about the world to know words like I love you were a conditional misconception, something said by people who didn’t understand what life was about. Keyes was never going to be good enough for Alec’s world, and at some point, Alec would get tired of isolating himself inside this house. Keyes couldn’t even imagine a time they could ever go out in public together. If for some unseen reason that time came, what the fuck would they do?

If the situation wasn’t so damned dire, he’d laugh at the mental image of Alec at a club BBQ. Club whores hanging out with Alec Peirce… What a fucking joke. His bothers would never understand whatever this was between him and the attorney.

Resentment and anger slithered up his spine and coiled around his heart. Fuck, if he wasn’t so much more comfortable with those emotions.

Nothing had changed between them. They were a good time, nothing more. Fuck his heart’s vehement denial. Where his heart and his head completely agreed, there was no way a good guy like Alec would continue to love him if he ever found out the truth of everything Keyes had done in his life. Hell, he’d been on a drug run less than a week ago. Alec wouldn’t understand why he did the things he had.

No matter what happened right now, their end didn’t change. They didn’t fit no matter how much he wished they did. White hot pain lanced through the useless organ in his chest. It hurt so fucking bad to think of Alec leaving him.

“Babe, your heart’s pounding,” Alec murmured, laying a warm hand dead center of his chest. Whatever Alec felt caused him to lift his head and open his eyes wider. “What’s going on? Are you okay?”

This was too much. How could he have let hope, of all things, cloud his reality? Hope and fairytales went hand in hand, both big fucking wastes of mind-space. He wanted to cry, which pissed him off even more. Thank God for the burst of anger, because now the bullshit pain wasn’t the only thing driving him. Keyes bucked his body out from underneath Alec’s and flipped the covers off, sending his phone flying. He literally jumped out of bed, making a beeline for his jeans draped over the bedroom chair. He shoved his feet in the legs of his jeans, forgoing his underwear. He needed out of this house. He couldn’t fucking breathe. He needed to be back in his world, back to what he knew, and never venture out again.

Luckily, Alec had removed his jeans in such a way that his keys, wallet, and belt were still in place. Keyes shoved his dick inside, zipping himself up as the memory of the unspoken need darkening Alec’s eyes when he’d arrived last night sent his rage skyrocketing. He didn’t get the jeans much more than zipped when he dropped down in the chair and started to shove his sockless feet inside his dirty work boots.

“What’s happened, Key?” Alec asked, his tone even but on the controlled edge of panic. Keyes looked up to catch Alec pulling on his athletic shorts which spoke volumes about the gravity of the situation.

Keyes Dixon’s life is challenging enough as a full patch member of the Disciples of Havoc Motorcycle Club but being a gay biker leaves him traveling down one tough road. With an abusive past and his vow to the club cementing his future, he doesn’t believe in love and steers clear of commitment. But a midnight ride leads to a chance meeting with a sexy pretty-boy in a wicked hot sports car that has him going down quicker than a Harley on ice.

Cocky Assistant District Attorney Alec Pierce lives in the shadow of his politically connected family. A life of privilege doesn’t equal a life of love, a fact made obvious at every family gathering. Driven yet lonely, Alec yields to his family’s demands for his career path, hoping for the acceptance he craves. Until he meets a gorgeous biker who tips the scales in the favor of truth…and he can no longer live a lie.

Can two men from completely different worlds…and sides of the law…find common ground, or will all their desires only wreak Havoc?

***  AVAILABLE IN KINDLE UNLIMITED  ***
Amazon

Best Selling Author Kindle Alexander is an innovative writer and a genre-crosser who writes classic fantasy, romance, suspense, and erotica in both the male/male and male/female genres. It’s always a surprise to see what’s coming next!

I live in the suburbs of Dallas where it’s true, the only thing bigger than an overactive imagination, maybe women’s hair!

Usually, I try for funny. Humor is a major part of my life – I love to laugh, and it seems to be the thing I do in most situations – regardless of the situation, but jokes are a tricky deal… I don’t want to offend anyone and jokes tend to offend. So instead I’m going to tell you about Kindle.

I tragically lost my sixteen-year-old daughter to a drunk driver. She had just been at home, it was early in the night and I heard the accident happen. I’ll never forget that moment. The sirens were immediate and something inside me just knew. I left my house, drove straight to the accident on nothing more than instinct. I got to be there when my little girl died – weirdly, I consider that a true gift from above. She didn’t have to be alone.

That time in my life was terrible. It’s everything you think it would be times about a billion. I love that kid. I loved being her mother and I loved watching her grow into this incredibly beautiful person, both inside and out. She was such a gift to me. To have it all ripped away so suddenly broke me.

Her name was Kindle. Honest to goodness – it was her name and she died a few weeks before Amazon released their brand new Kindle e-reader. She had no idea it was coming out and she would have finally gotten her name on something! Try finding a ruler with the name Kindle on it.. It never happened.

Through the course of that crippling event, I was lucky enough to begin to write with a dear friend in the fanfiction world of Facebook. She got me through those dark days with her unwavering support and friendship. There wasn’t a time she wasn’t there for me. Sometimes together and sometimes by myself, we built a world where Kindle lives and stands for peace, love, and harmony. It’s its own kind of support group. I know without question I wouldn’t be here today without her.

Find out more by visiting http://www.kindlealexander.com or email me at kindle@kindlealexander.com

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Pricked by Winter Renshaw ~ CHAPTER REVEAL

He said it would only hurt a little …

On her sixteenth birthday, Sleeping Beauty pricked her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel. On my twenty-second, I pricked mine on the needle of a tattoo machine wielded by a beautifully complicated man who would go on to become my ruin.

Madden Ransom was everything I was never allowed to be: unfeeling, opinionated, rebellious … free.

He was also everything I was never allowed to be with.

And while Sleeping Beauty fell into a peaceful slumber as she awaited true love’s kiss, I fell into something else entirely—my heart in the hands of a man who’d never given nor received anything remotely like love.

It turns out when Madden told me it would only hurt a little … he didn’t mean the tattoo.

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Brighton

“I can’t help but notice you don’t have any tattoos.” At least none that I can see beyond his white tank top and ripped jeans. I scan the smooth, tanned arms and the arch of his muscled shoulders as he concentrates on my bare flesh. “Why is that? If you don’t mind my asking?”

“I’m going to need you to stop shaking.” The raven-haired man with bronze skin ignores my questions and quiets the buzz of his tattoo machine. He forces a hard breath through his nostrils like he doesn’t have time for this, resting his forearms on the tops of his thighs as he studies me. “You want this to be crooked?”

“It’s a little chilly in here.” And I might be the tiniest bit anxious. If I could stop myself from shaking, believe me, I’d have done it by now.

A cool draft of air from the AC kisses the bare skin of my exposed abdomen, and a rush of goose bumps spray across my flesh.

His full lips press together as he studies the custom drawing he sketched and stenciled on me a little while ago, and I can’t help but wonder if he always looks this serious. I figured the owner of a tattoo parlor would be more on the laidback side, but Madden Ransom hasn’t so much as smiled since I got here, and every time our eyes meet—little bursts at a time here and there—there’s a kind of heaviness in his stare that I’ve never seen on anyone else before.

“A lot of people come in here saying they don’t have a thing about needles, and then as soon I get started—”

“—I don’t have a thing about needles.” I clear my throat, my fingertips tucked under the hem of my shirt, which is lifted just enough to cover the lowermost part of my bra. “I’m pre-med actually.”

I offer a nervous chuckle and, in this moment, I detest how much I sound like my mother, casually and nonchalantly working humble brags into conversations. Only despite the way it might seem, I’m not bragging, I’m simply trying to prove a point.

“Good for you.” He doesn’t look up, doesn’t seem to care in the slightest. His needle returns to my skin, the buzz filling my ear, and my body tenses. “The pain okay?” His voice is monotone, disingenuous. I suppose if a person does this job long enough, their sympathy eventually wears off. “You need a break?”

Madden stops.

“No … keep going.” Dragging in a hard breath, I let it linger in my chest as I brace myself against the hard bed beneath me.
He readjusts his black latex gloves before switching the machine on again. And that’s what it’s called—a machine. According to the research I did before coming here, tattooists hate when you call it a “gun.” I wanted to make sure I knew the vernacular before I wandered in here like a lost child off the street (or an overprotected, naive, Park Terrace princess who’s rarely allowed to venture outside her castle).

“So, why don’t you have any tattoos?” Once more I ask the question that’s been bothering me since I walked through the doors of Madd Inkk a half hour ago. A ribbed tank top made of bleached cotton hugs his sinewy torso, and I couldn’t help but notice when he took me back to his station that there wasn’t so much as a hint of ink on his perfect skin.

The man at the next station over gives a puff of a laugh, his full chest rising as he shakes his head.

“Madd’s got commitment issues for days,” he says, turning his crystalline blue focus back to his client and filling in a geometric pattern with ink the color of midnight.

The sturdy-shouldered man in his chair doesn’t so much as flinch as the needle pricks his skin. He just keeps scrolling his thumb along his phone like it doesn’t feel like a thousand tiny kittens are scratching his flesh.

“Can’t commit to a woman, a car, or a tat,” the artist adds.

“Fuck off, Pierce.” Madden returns a gloved hand to my ribcage and starts the machine once more. A moment later, the needle peppers tiny specks of ink into my skin. Every so often, he wipes the area clean and starts again. “About half done.”

He said it would only hurt a little, and that it wouldn’t take long, but the past eight minutes have all but dripped by, like morphine into saline, tiny drop by tiny drop.

“Seriously though, why don’t you have any?” I ask.

I’m not letting this go because it’s a valid question given his profession as both an artist and the sole proprietor of this shop.
Plus, I’m curious.

And I need a distraction to get me through the rest of this. The front of the shop is covered in wall to wall “flash.” Drawings and renderings. Hundreds if not thousands of them. Back here the walls are less interesting. There are certificates. State licenses. A few framed photos. And a privacy curtain.

I don’t expect some lengthy, personal response. I’ve spent maybe a half hour with this man and he’s said all of fifty words to me. A simple answer would suffice.

The needle drags against my ribcage and his mouth flattens into a hard line. “Guess I haven’t found the right one yet.”

I don’t buy it. And I’m pretty sure he’s giving me an answer just to shut me up, but it’s not like I can call him a liar. I don’t even know him.

“It’s ink, bro. Not a woman.” The artist at the next chair—Pierce—says without so much as glancing in our direction.

“No fucking shit, bro,” Madden snaps back at him, and I can’t tell if he’s joking or not. His expression hasn’t changed since the moment I first laid eyes on him.

I lift my gaze to a hand-written sign across the room, hanging behind the cash register.
NO TRIBALS
NO CHINESE SYMBOLS
NO INFINITY SYMBOLS
NO TRAMP STAMPS

The distractingly pretty, lavender-haired girl working the front snaps her gum as she hunches over the glass counter, her face colored with boredom as she thumbs through her phone. The shop isn’t as busy as I thought it would be, but then again, it’s the middle of the day on a Wednesday. It’s not exactly peak hours around here.

“I think you’re going to like this.” He wipes a damp rag across my stinging flesh, his inky brown eyes resting on his work. Madden sniffs, though it isn’t quite a laugh. “Shit. You better. It’s forever.”

He looked at me sideways when I told him I wanted him to choose the design. I didn’t come prepared. I didn’t bring screenshots or Pinterest pins or any other kind of inspiration. To be perfectly honest, this isn’t about the tattoo so much as it is about getting the tattoo.

“I trust you,” I told him as his dark brows knitted together, and then I added, “I just want it somewhere hidden.”
A moment later, I was handed a clipboard and a small stack of forms to complete, trying my hardest to steady my breathing as he prepped his station.

When he brought me back, Madden suggested the side of my ribcage, in an area easily hidden by bras and bikini tops, and he didn’t once ask me why I’d take the time to have this done if I wasn’t going to show it to anyone. His one and only caveat was that I never ask him what it means.

Ever.

He was adamant.

“Not even on your deathbed,” he said. One of his colleagues overheard him and called him a “heartless bastard,” offering a laugh that was more amusement than anything else, and for a split moment, I felt like the butt of some inside joke.

And then I wondered if he was gaslighting me. I know what people see when they look at me.

Privileged.
Naive.
Innocent.
Gullible.
Easily had.

“Still doing all right?” he asks, not glancing up.

I nod even if he isn’t looking at me right now. “Yes.”

The muscles of his forearm flex as his left palm splays across my skin. A moment later, our fingers brush when he pushes the fallen hem of my top out of the way.

In the strangest way, this feels like a dream.

The icy-cold air on my bare flesh …
The sterile scent of alcohol wipes and powdered gloves …
The vibrating sting of the needle against my skin …
The heavy metal playing on speakers in the back …
The shaved heads, “sleeved” arms, Harleys parked out front, and the girls in half-shirts and mini-skirts all work together to form an ambiance foreign to any I’ve ever known …

I try not to stare too much, but this must be what Alice felt like when she first arrived in Wonderland.

“There.” Madden shuts off the machine when he’s finished, and then he cleans the tattoo one more time before dabbing on a finger-sized scoop of ointment.

“Can I see it first?” I ask when he reaches for a bandage.

He stops, turning to face me, his shoulders slumping like I’m asking the world of him. “Right. Go ahead.”

Sitting up, I contort myself until I can almost see the beginning of a black and blue outline against warm pink skin.

“Here.” Madden shoves a handheld mirror toward me.

It’s a butterfly. Small. Not much bigger than a silver dollar. Brilliant blue with black veining.

“You done now? We good?”

I place the mirror aside and let him patch me up. Tattoos are flesh wounds, I know that. And I’ve already read up on the aftercare. I say nothing as he hands me a set of instructions printed on yellow paper.

Madden cleans up his station before yanking off his gloves and tossing them in the trash. “Missy will check you out up front.”

“Oh.” I’m not sure why I expected him to walk me up. He’s not a hairstylist or aesthetician. People don’t come here because of the service.

Sliding off the client bed, I tug my shirt into place and locate my bag. My skin throbs from beneath the bandage, but it’s tolerable and not as bad as I expected.

“Thank you,” I say, turning to him before I make my way to the front. My gaze falls to his right hand for some reason—as if my subconscious was expecting a freaking handshake—and he definitely notices.

Awkward.

I can’t get out of there fast enough, and as I trot to the front in my pink Chanel flats, I’m not sure if all eyes are actually on me or if I’m imagining it. I’m sure to them, I’m an alien—a strange sight. I even heard one of them say, “They don’t make ‘em like that in Olwine,” when I first arrived.

If they only knew how much I’d rather be like them than like … me.

I envy their freedom more than they could ever know.

As soon as I pay—$150 cash plus a twenty-five percent tip—I step lightly toward the door and eye my little white Volvo parked on the corner, but the closer I get, the more I realize something looks … off.

“Oh, my God.” I clap my hand over my mouth when I see it—the boot. “No. No, no, no.”

A sign a few feet back says: NO PARKING 4-6 PM MONDAY THROUGH FRIDAY, and I check the time on my phone.

4:07 PM.

“Seriously?” I talk under my breath, a habit my mother detests. But if she knew I drove to Olwine today to get a tattoo, she’d detest that even more.

I grab the ticket off the window and dial the number on back, which goes to voicemail after a few rings.

Great.

Taking a seat on the curb, I hold the ticket in one hand and my phone in the other and try, try again.
And again.
And again.

I just need the jerk who did this to take it off so I can get home before my mother marches down to the police station and tries to file a Missing Persons’ report—which she’s done before when I was forty minutes late coming home from the library once.

True story.

“You, uh, need help?”

Following the sound of a man’s voice, I twist around and shield my eyes from the afternoon sun.

Madden.

Rising, I tug my shirt into place and exhale. “Seven minutes past and they put a boot on my car.”

“Probably just did it to be a dick.” He almost smiles. Almost. It’s more of a smirk.

“Really?”

“Probably thought you were some yuppie, suburban soccer mom with that Volvo.”

I wish I could tell him that I didn’t choose that car, that I didn’t even want it, but my parents insisted because they wanted the safest, most reliable car they could find for their “precious cargo.”

Digging into his pocket, he retrieves his phone and thumbs through his contacts. A moment later, he lifts it to his ear and paces a few steps away. The sound of traffic and revving motorcycles drowns out his words, but when he returns, he slides his phone away and rests his hands on his hips, studying me.

“He’s on his way,” Madden says.

“Who’s on their way?”

“Dusty. Works for the city. You’re lucky he owes me a huge fucking favor.” His gaze grazes over my shoulder before returning. “You can wait inside if you want.”

“Thank you,” I say, taking careful measures not to look at his hand this time. “I really appreciate this. This has never happened before. I don’t know what I’d have done if—”

Madden gives a nod before strutting off while I’m still mid-sentence, almost like a silent way of telling me to shut it.

No one’s ever done that to me—walked away while I was speaking to them.

I watch him stride down the block, stopping next to a black muscle car with two white racing stripes—I think my brother had a model of something like that many years ago—and when he climbs inside, I catch him glancing at me for a single fleeting second.

Fumbling with my keys, I get into my own car and crank the air. It was kind of him—at least I think he was being kind—to offer for me to hang out and wait in his shop, but I think I’m going to ride out the storm in my own little UFO, counting down the minutes until I’m en route to my home planet of Park Terrace.

I kill some time on my phone and pretend not to notice when Madden drives by, his engine rumbling with the kind of contradictory unruffled intensity that almost matches his personality perfectly.

Twenty-six minutes later, a white-and-yellow City of Olwine truck pulls up behind me and a little gold light on its roof begins to flash. A minute later, a man in a gray uniform steps out, grabbing an oversized wrench of some kind from the back and waddling toward me.
I roll my window down. “Thanks for coming. I tried calling the number on the ticket, but I couldn’t reach anyone.”

Dusty, as the name on his shirt reads, doesn’t look up from what he’s doing, crouched next to the front tire on my side.

“You’re lucky you’re friends with Ransom,” he says when he stands, his face red and his breaths shallow. The wrench hangs in one hand, the boot in the other.

Free at last.

“Ransom?” I ask before remembering that it’s Madden’s last name.

“Madden,” he says. “I was on break. You’re lucky I answered for the bastard.”

An elaborate “piece” runs down his left arm, intricate and filled with bold greens and reds and purples, and barely hidden by the cuffed, long-sleeved button down the city forces him to wear even in June.

“Oh. Right. He was just helping me out. We’re not actually friends.”

Dusty snorts, his squinting eyes scanning the length of my car. “Yeah. Of course you’re not.”

“I didn’t mean it like that.”

“Right.” He begins to walk away.

Climbing out of the car, I yell for him to wait. “Do I need to pay the ticket?”

He hoists the wrench in the back of his truck, the metal hitting metal with a hard clunk, and then he waves his hand.

“So is that a ‘no’?” I ask, just to be sure.

Dusty gives me a thumb’s up before squeezing back into his truck.

I swear, it’s like I don’t even speak the language here.

The tattoo hidden beneath layers of bandages begins to throb just enough to grab my attention, and I return to my idling five-star-safety-rated princess carriage. Pressing the “home” button on my GPS, I head back to Park Terrace, back to Charles and Temple Karrington’s castle-like manse complete with iron gates, a staff of seven, and a million security cameras.

You can make a prison beautiful but at the end of the day, that doesn’t make it any less of a prison.

But I’m making plans to break out.

And this tattoo? It’s only the beginning.

Wall Street Journal and #1 Amazon bestselling author Winter Renshaw is a bona fide daydream believer. She lives somewhere in the middle of the USA and can rarely be seen without her trusty Mead notebook and ultra portable laptop. When she’s not writing, she’s living the American dream with her husband, three kids, and the laziest puggle this side of the Mississippi.

And if you’d like to be the first to know when a new book is coming out, please sign up for her private mailing list here —> http://eepurl.com/bfQU2j

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The Last Letter by Rebecca Yarros ~ EXCERPT REVEAL

The right words can save your life.

For fans of Nicholas Sparks and Jodi Picoult… A soldier falls in love with his battle buddy’s sister through their letters and returns home from Afghanistan with a secret that could destroy their fragile relationship. Don’t miss THE LAST LETTER by Rebecca Yarros, pre-order your copy today!

Beckett,

If you’re reading this, well, you know the “last-letter” drill. You made it. I didn’t. Get off the guilt train, because I know if there were any chance you could have saved me, you would have.

I need one thing from you: Get out of the army and get to Telluride.

My little sister Ella’s raising the twins alone. She’s too independent and won’t accept help easily, but she has lost our grandmother, our parents, and now me. It’s too much for anyone to endure. It’s not fair.

And here’s the kicker: there’s something else you don’t know that’s tearing her family apart. She’s going to need help.

So if I’m gone, that means I can’t be there for Ella. I can’t help them through this. But you can. So I’m begging you, as my best friend, go take care of my sister, my family.

Please don’t make her go through it alone.

Ryan

***  PREORDER NOW ~ RELEASES FEBRUARY 26  ***
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“I’m not going anywhere. You need anything, and it’s yours. You need help? You’ve got it.”

She let loose a mocking laugh as she descended the steps.

“I don’t want or need you here, Mr.…” She opened the door to her SUV and pulled out a paper. “Mr. Gentry.”

“Beckett,” I answered, desperate to hear her say it. My real name.

“Okay, Mr. Gentry. Enjoy your vacation and then head home, because like I said, I’m not in need of a babysitter or anyone’s charity. I’ve been taking care of myself since Ryan ran off and joined the army after our parents died.”

I wanted to grab her, to hold her against my chest and block anything that wanted to harm her. My hands ached to sweep down the line of her back, to take away any of her suffering that she’d let me. I’d known this would be hard, but seeing her wasn’t anything I could have prepared myself for.

“It doesn’t matter if you want me, because I’m not here on your wishes. I’m here on Mac’s. This is all he asked of me, so unless you’re going to kick me off your property, I’m going to keep the promise I made.”

Her eyes narrowed. “Okay. Anything I need?”

“Anything.”

“When Ryan died—”

No. Anything but this.

“—he was on an op, right?”

Could she see the blood drain from my face? Because I sure as hell felt it. I heard the rotors. Saw the blood. Reached for his hand as it limply fell off the stretcher.

“Yes. It’s classified.”

Her hand gripped the open doorframe.

“So I’ve heard. I need…” She sighed, looking everywhere but at me for a second before straightening her shoulders and meeting my eyes. “I need to know what happened to Chaos. Was he there? When Ryan died? You were in the same unit, right?” Her throat moved as she swallowed, and her eyes took on a desperate plea.

Damn it. She deserved to know everything. That I wasn’t the man I wanted to be, that she needed. That I was the piece of shit who made it back with a beating heart while her brother came home draped in a flag. I needed her to know that I’d chosen to stop answering her letters because I knew that the only thing I could bring her in this life would be more pain.

I needed her to know that it was only Ryan’s letter that got me here, and the knowledge that it was the least I could do for my best friend. That I never meant to hurt her, never had the intention of smashing into her life like the wrecking ball I was—not when she lived under such breakable glass.

“Well? Was he?”

But what I needed didn’t matter.

I’ve never been able to give second chances when it comes to hurting the people I love. Letter number six.

If I told her those things, she’d shut me out, and I would fail Mac for a second time. I could tell myself that it was her choice, but really, it would be mine. I was the guy people looked for an excuse to get rid of, and truth was a gift-wrapped reason to kick me to the curb. There were two distinct paths ahead of me: the first, where I told her who I was and what had happened, and she promptly walked out of my life, and the second…where I did everything I could to help her, no matter what the cost.

Path number two it is.

“He was there,” I answered honestly.

Her lower lip trembled, and she bit onto it, like any sign of weakness had to be quashed. “And? What happened?”

“That’s classified.” I was a bastard, but an honest one.

“Classified. You’re all the same, you know that? Loyal as anything to one another and nothing left for anyone else. Just tell me if he’s dead. I deserve to know.”

“Knowing what happened to Mac…to Chaos…none of that would do you any good. It would hurt a hell of a lot more than it already does. Trust me.”

She scoffed, shaking her head as she rubbed the bridge of her nose. When she looked back up, the fake smile was in place, and those blue eyes had gone glacial.

“Welcome to Telluride, Mr. Gentry. I hope you enjoy your stay.”

She climbed into the SUV and slammed the door, throwing the vehicle into reverse to get out of the drive.

I watched until she disappeared into the thick forest of trees.

Havoc brushed against my leg. I looked down at her, and she stared back up at me, no doubt knowing that I was an imbecile for what I’d just let happen.

“Yeah, that didn’t go so well.” I looked up at the cloudless Colorado sky. “We did a number on her, Mac. So if you’ve got any pointers on how to win over your sister, I’m all ears.”

I opened the tailgate of my truck and started to unload my stuff.

It might be temporary, but I was here for as long as Ella would let me stay. Because somewhere between letter number one and letter number twenty-four, I’d fallen in love with her. Fallen for her words, her strength, her insight and kindness, her grace under impossible circumstances, her love for her children, and her determination to stand on her own. I could list a thousand reasons that woman owned whatever heart I had.

But none of them mattered because, even though she was the woman I loved, to her, I was just a stranger. An unwelcome one at that.

Which was more than I deserved.

Rebecca Yarros is a hopeless romantic and a lover of all things coffee and chocolate. She is the author of the award-winning Flight & Glory series and The Renegades. She loves military heroes, and has been blissfully married to her Apache pilot for seventeen years.

When she’s not writing, she’s tying hockey skates for her four sons, sneaking in guitar time, or watching brat-pack movies with her two daughters. She lives in Colorado with her husband, their rambunctious gaggle of kids, and their menagerie of pets. Having adopted their youngest daughter from the foster system, Rebecca is a passionate advocate for children through her non-profit, One October.

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Only a Breath Apart by Katie McGarry ~ Sarah A’s Review

Would you dare to defy destiny? Are our destinies written in stone? Do we become nothing more than the self-fulfilling prophecies of other people’s opinions? Or can we dare to become who we believe we were born to be?

Jesse dreams of working the land that’s been in his family forever. But he’s cursed to lose everything he loves most.

Scarlett is desperate to escape her “charmed” life. But leaving a small town is easier said than done.

Despite their history of heartbreak, when Jesse sees a way they can work together to each get what they want, Scarlett can’t say no. Each midnight meeting between Jesse and Scarlett will push them to confront their secrets and their feelings for each other.

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Freaking phenomenal. As with each book I read by Katie McGarry, Only a Breath Apart was utterly engrossing and wrung me through the emotional wringer. It wasn’t an easy read, it wasn’t particularly fun, it was painful, a little dark, and made me stretch my disbelief, but it was so incredibly rich and intriguing I was beyond consumed by every word, every twist, everything that made up Scarlett and Jesse’s story.

I was 100% not prepared for Scarlett’s story, or Jesse’s if I’m sincere. Her home life was hinted at in the blurb, but I could have never guessed exactly how bad her circumstances would actually be. Jesse’s life was a complete surprise to me. The darkness they’d lived through and were living in could have easily twisted them into awful people, but they both managed to rise beyond their situations and become stronger, better people than those who bore them. They broke my heart, both in the way they took the mantels of guilt and pain that had been thrust upon them and in the way they helped one another begin to shed those burdens and heal from the wounds left behind. Healing was an essential theme in Only a Breath Apart, and I loved that both Scarlett and Jesse found the strength to do what was necessary – even when it seemed impossibly difficult – to become whole again.

I found the secondary characters in Only a Breath Apart to be just as captivating as Scarlett and Jesse. This book wouldn’t have been as rich as it was without them. I loved how Ms. McGarry used them to push Scarlett and Jesse forward, to help them learn about themselves, to show them what life outside the constraints they’d put on it could be. I would love to live in this fascinating world of broken families, supernatural themes, and secrets forever – just to squeeze out each drop of mystery hidden behind the faces we met in Scarlett and Jesse’s story.

Late last year I had the opportunity to read a few books that relied heavily on the tarot, palm readings, and other psychic type themes, and became fascinated with it. Only a Breath Apart took all of those threads of interest I had developed, fanned those flames, and made me want to believe that there is something to the spiritual world beyond the things most people are taught within the walls of a church. I loved how Katie adapted those beliefs and wove the ideas of believing in something bigger – whether psychic abilities, curses, or mainstream religion – into Only a Breath Apart. It made the story feel otherworldly, while still being completely rooted in the often horrific reality of everyday life.

~JESSE~

“So you’re the decision maker now?”

He waits too many beats before speaking or maybe not enough. “I took on this role because, believe it or not, I care. I won’t pretend to understand the pain you’ve gone through, and I won’t pretend to understand your connection to this land. I’ve watched you grow up. I know, for you, this farm is like a Band-Aid on cuts that won’t stop bleeding.”

If that was meant to make me feel better, it didn’t. “You’ll never vote for me. You’re biased.”

“I’m not biased.”

For days I’ve been a stick under pressure, being bent too far. Finally, I snap. “I know you told Gran not to take me in after Mom died and to put me in foster care. You told her I was too broken and couldn’t be fixed. I know because I heard you. Tell me now you’re not biased.”

Guilt flashes over his face, and he tries to hide it as he flips through the folder in his hands. “If it helps, that’s why your grandmother set up the tribunal and chose two other people to help make the decision. Majority vote will win, and she believed you’ll rise to the challenge.”

I’m not sure if I respect him or hate him for not denying what we both know is true regarding the foster care. I’m also not sure how I feel that he doesn’t apologize either.

“She chose people who will give you a fair shake,” he continues. “This isn’t a death sentence. It’s a wakeup call. It’s August, and you have until May to prove you’re responsible. You have time. Take it. Prove me wrong.”

A growing sense of purpose takes root within me, and I do my best to funnel my anger and grief into it. “Who, besides you, is on the tribunal?”

If I tell you then I run the risk of you putting on a show for those people. This is your chance to change for the better. Take advantage of it.” Marshall leaves the paperwork on the antique table, shoves his folder back in his leather bag, and stands. “If it’s any consolation, I want you to succeed, but I want you to truly succeed. I won’t vote for you to keep the land unless you show me you understand what it means to run a farm of this magnitude.”

It’s no consolation. That’s him attempting to ease his guilt for when he votes against me.

“I’m sorry for your loss, Jesse. If you need to talk or if you’d like to stop by for a meal, you’re welcome at my house. And if you get tired of being here alone, you can live with us. We have plenty of room.”

I don’t believe any of that, but I nod because doing so will get him out of my home faster. Marshall stares at me for a few more seconds, as if contemplating saying more, but he doesn’t. Instead he walks out, shutting the door behind him.

His engine purrs to life and rocks crack under his moving tires. Then there’s silence. Maddening silence. I drop into Gran’s recliner, lower my head into my hands and close my eyes. I’ve lost Gran, and now I could lose my land. The only thing left that I love. The only thing in my life that brings me peace. “Why, Gran?”

I strain to listen in the silence, and my gut twists that there’s no response. “I miss you.”

Still no response and my head begins to throb. My cell in my back pocket vibrates. I dig it out, expecting to see a text from one of my friends, but I pop my neck to the right at the sight of Glory’s name. You need to stop by tomorrow night.

Me: No

Glory: I know of your grandmother’s plan

Me: So do I

Glory: But I know who the people are who will be deciding your future.

Me—stone cold frozen.

Glory: Stop by tomorrow at nine. I should be wrapping up my last session then.

Me: I won’t be there.

Glory: Yes, you will.

Katie McGarry was a teenager during the age of grunge and boy bands and remembers those years as the best and worst of her life. She is a lover of music, happy endings, reality television, and is a secret University of Kentucky basketball fan.

Katie is the author of full length YA novels, PUSHING THE LIMITS, DARE YOU TO, CRASH INTO YOU, TAKE ME ON,  BREAKING THE RULES, and NOWHERE BUT HERE and the e-novellas, CROSSING THE LINE and RED AT NIGHT. Her debut YA novel, PUSHING THE LIMITS was a 2012 Goodreads Choice Finalist for YA Fiction, a RT Magazine’s 2012 Reviewer’s Choice Awards Nominee for Young Adult Contemporary Novel, a double Rita Finalist, and a 2013 YALSA Top Ten Teen Pick. DARE YOU TO was also a Goodreads Choice Finalist for YA Fiction and won RT Magazine’s Reviewer’s Choice Best Book Award for Young Adult Contemporary fiction in 2013.

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Fool Me Once by Nicole Williams ~ Sarah A’s Review

Second chances are for kids, diets, and shelter pets—not for relationships. Especially not one like Chase and Emma’s.

Before he was writing chart-topping hits and smashing record sales, Chase Lawson was Emma’s childhood friend and first love. They promised each other forever, but forever expired at eighteen, when he landed a major record deal and left Emma and their hometown behind.

Ten years later, he shows up at their high school reunion with a proposition she can’t refuse. Six months. Seven figures. He gets a chance to clean up his reputation, and she gets the means to restore the old family farmhouse. It’s only for show—hold hands in public, kiss for the cameras—but boundaries blur behind closed doors.

It isn’t long before Emma feels her resolve slipping, crushed by the shadow of the boy she grew to love in the man selling out stadiums of present. Can Emma resist one of the most irresistible bachelors in the world? Or will she fall for the same man twice?

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Some things weren’t meant to be. That’s what I told myself for the thousandth time when I caught sight of my ex with his newest flame.
“You’re too good for him.”
“Way too good for him.”
My childhood friends, Brooke and Sophia, assured me as they circled in tighter.
“I don’t know why I decided to come to this thing,” I muttered before finishing what was left in my champagne glass.
“Maybe because a ten-year high school reunion only happens once in a lifetime?” Brooke spun me around so the happy couple wasn’t in view, while Sophia dashed off to grab another glass of champagne.
“You know what? A hysterectomy is a once-in-a-lifetime kind of thing too, but I’m not going to sign myself up just because.” I checked the time, my shoulders falling when I did. Barely an hour in and I already felt like this experience had extinguished whatever patience was left in my person.
“Just be thankful you didn’t waste any more time on a guy like that. Chalk it up to experience and move on.”
“And look at the line of men I have to move on with?” I motioned at the area in front of me; it was empty. “I should have been smart like you and Sophia and gotten married young to some nice, hard-working local boy.”
“Would you stop? You’re twenty-eight. It’s not like you’re horizontal and decaying,” Brooke put her hand on her hip, leveling me with a serious look.
“No. I’m decaying vertically”—I tapped the corners of my eyes, where I’d detected the early stages of crow’s feet earlier this summer—“practicing for my future as a cranky old spinster.”
“You girls talking about me behind my back again?” Sophia reappeared with a fresh glass of champagne, practically ramming it into my hand.
“Please. We prefer to direct our insults to your face.” I winked at Sophia as we clinked our glasses.
“That’s a sign of true friendship,” Brooke toasted before we all took a drink.
“Hey, ladies, this isn’t homeroom. Break it up and dance already.” Rob, Brooke’s husband, popped up beside us, ringing his arm around his wife’s neck.
“I hate this song.” My nose curled as I stayed planted in place.
The three of them headed toward the dance floor as Sophia made a face at me and said, “It was eleven years ago. Time to let it go, girl.”
Brady, her husband, joined her for a dance.
“Not likely,” I said under my breath, taking in the party from my spectator seat on the sidelines.
Almost everyone had made their way to the dance floor, singing at the tops of their lungs. I didn’t know how anyone could stand to hear this song after it had been played nonstop on the radio the past four months.
Jesse, another of my good friends, settled beside me. “Do you think he’s going to show?”
“There aren’t any cameras or fancy awards, so unlikely,” I grumbled.
“Ever since the accident, it seems like he’s been keeping a low profile anyway.” Jesse waved the bird at my ex, who was too busy lodging his tongue down his dance partner’s throat to notice. “I still can’t believe Chase was that drunk. I mean, blowing a point two isn’t for the faint of heart, and I don’t remember him drinking at a party even once when the rest of us were being rebellious teenagers.”
I rolled my eyes at my friend, who had this concerned expression as though Chase was the victim. “There was also the bit about him plowing his truck into a parked car and getting arrested.”
“Fame and money really ruin people.” Jesse clucked her tongue. “That’s why I’m so grateful to live paycheck to paycheck and have good friends who babysit for free at the drop of a hat.” Jesse nudged me. “Thank you again for last night. Johnny and I had a really nice night. Adult conversation, dinner that wasn’t some variation of mac n’ cheese, and I got to wear earrings without fear of having them ripped out by grabby baby hands.”
“They were perfect angels for me, as always.” I smiled at her. “And you’re welcome. Any time.”
“How are you?” Before I could even attempt to give the bullshit answer, Jesse added, “For real?”
“I’m okay. Learning to accept I might be happier alone than the alternative.” My eyes had wandered to a certain couple moving in such a way that made clothes seem pointless.
“You haven’t met the right one.”
“Because the right one isn’t out there.” I wound my arm around hers, hoping that would be the end of the conversation.
My friends cared, and that’s why they felt the need to dissect my every relationship-gone-wrong, but the last thing I wanted to do was detail my failures in the romance department. Especially with three friends who were happily married and starting their own families.
“Of course he’s out there. You can’t give up hope.”
I lifted my glass. “In my fourteen years of dating, I’ve been cheated on, lied to, broken up with over a social media messenger, heartbroken, ditched for an eight-figure record deal, and proposed to by seven African princes.” My gaze dropped to my bare left ring finger. “I have just enough hope left to say yes to the next prince who asks for my hand.”
Jesse shook her head. “He’s out there. And when you agree to marry him, it better be me you call to be your maid of honor.”
“Deal.” I clinked my nearly empty glass to hers, which was already empty. “Whatcha drinking? My treat for the relationship counseling.”
“A screwdriver.” She handed me her glass. “Hold the alcohol.”
“Wait. What?” It took me two seconds of confusion before my eyes dropped to her stomach. “Number three?”
Jesse’s hand lowered to her stomach. “All four and a half months of him or her.”
My face lit up before I threw myself at her, winding my arms around her as much as I could with two glasses in my hands. “Congratulations! I’m so happy for you guys.”
“Thanks, friend. I don’t know what I’m going to do with three in diapers, but I guess I’ll figure it out.”
“Are you kidding? You’ll more than figure it out. You are, like, the best mom ever.” I planted a kiss on her cheek before backing toward the bar. “I’m going to get some drinks to celebrate. Virgin screwdrivers coming right up.”
Jesse flashed a rock and roll symbol, biting her tongue. I chuckled before turning around so I didn’t run into someone or something. With the three glasses of champagne I had in my all of five-foot-four frame, it was an Easter miracle I was still upright.
I’d just made it to the bar when a chorus of cheers reverberated through the room. Jason Gallagher had probably stripped to his skivvies and was doing the moonwalk like he used to do every last day of school from the time we hit middle school.
But then I heard a familiar name being called out, practically chanted.
Good god, no. My luck wasn’t that bad.
Oh, wait.
Setting the empty glasses on the counter, I slowly turned around, praying I was mishearing the name still ringing through the reception room.
I saw him right away, as though my eyes were trained to find him in a crowded room. I hated that they still followed that habit.
There he was, Chase Lawson, the legend himself, sauntering into a high school reunion in the same small town he’d waved farewell to eleven years ago.
My stomach knotted as I scanned the nearest exits.
“What can I get you?” The bartender interrupted my mini panic attack.
“Um . . .” I tried to remember a simple drink order. It was difficult with two ex flames in the same crowded room. “Two screwdrivers.” I fumbled with the bills inside my leather clutch. “Two virgin screwdrivers.” I remembered right as he was about to pour in the vodka.
“So two orange juices?” He gave me a look that suggested I was even more unhinged than I thought. He shook his head when I held out a twenty. “On the house.”
“Thanks.”
I grabbed my OJs and hugged the perimeter as I made my way back to where I’d left Jesse. Except she’d been pulled onto the dance floor by her husband and was way too close to Chase and his ever-present following of fawning females for my comfort. Making a last-minute decision, I ducked through the half-open door leading outside.
“I knew I shouldn’t have come,” I said to myself before taking a sip of one of the orange juices. It wasn’t like I’d had to travel or rent a hotel—Jericho High was a whole four miles from my family’s farm—but I doubted I’d feel more inconvenienced if they’d held it on some iceberg in the Arctic.
Following the walkway toward the small pond tucked behind the reception hall, I settled onto the first bench I came across. My feet were killing me thanks to the weapons of torture I’d selected for tonight. My feet were used to boots, not four-inch strappy heels. But according to Sophia, our town’s resident fashion maven, the royal blue heels were exactly what my scarlet cocktail dress was in need of. We’d all felt really high class rolling into Tulsa a couple weekends ago to hit the mall for our reunion digs, but some articles were better suited for hangers than bodies. Mine in particular. I’d never in my life had to work so hard to take a full breath.
Once I’d torn off the shoes I had plans to drop off at Goodwill tomorrow, I sat back, made my best attempt at relaxing, and stared at the sky. It was overcast, but a few stars were popping through the thick clouds. How many times had I stared at that sky as a young woman, spinning plans that would never come to fruition? Dreaming dreams that would never connect with reality?
Too damn many, that’s the closest I could get.
I’d had plans to travel, to visit every continent before I had kids, and I’d barely made it to a handful of bordering states since. The upside was that I wasn’t going to be a mother anytime soon, if ever, so I still had plenty of time to visit those continents.
“Is this where the Anti-Social Club meets?”
I flinched so hard, I wound up with the majority of two cups of juice on my lap. Add the dress to the Goodwill pile. “Turn around. Go away.”
A low-timbered chuckle. “You always had a way with words, Em.”
My head whipped over my shoulder. “Uh-oh. No. You do not get to call me Em.”
Chase flashed one of his infamous smiles, the one that had made him a hit with the ladies before his face had been plastered across billboards, magazines, and screensavers. It was the part-smirk, mostly-smolder grin. Right dimple set. Cobalt eyes flashing. What Celebrity Instagrammers had labeled the underwear-incinerator.
But not these underwear. Chase Lawson had no sway over the condition of my underwear anymore.
“Okay, Emma.” The sound of Chase’s boots connecting with the pavement made my teeth grind together. In a different life, I’d loved the sound of his boots as he moved closer. “Is this seat taken?”
“Yes.” I slammed the empty glasses on the bench, lifting my eyebrow at him.
“Sorry about the dress,” he said when his eyes dipped to the wet circles dotting my stomach.
“Of all the things to apologize for, my dress is not high on the list.”
His smile stretched. “I’ve missed having someone around whose primary language isn’t bullshit.”
“Is that meant as a compliment?”
“Obviously.”
Inhaling, I twisted in my seat so my back was angled toward him. No matter how many pieces of confetti Chase Lawson had diced my heart into when he left me, it wasn’t safe for any red-blooded woman to stare at him face-on at this close of a distance. Not unless she was in the market for a heartbreak.
“How have you been, Em—Emma?” He caught himself, but from his smirk, the slip had probably been intentional.
“Amazing.” I breathed through my mouth when a familiar scent hit my senses. I couldn’t believe he still wore the same cologne. It seemed like I should have had some kind of proprietary right over it since I was the one who got it for him on our first Christmas together.
“How amazing?”
“Amazingly amazing.” When I caught him glancing at my left hand, I tucked my hands beneath my legs.
“Good to hear.”
I bit my cheek, wondering if I could figure out a way to time travel to freshman year when I’d agreed to be Chase Lawson’s date to homecoming. Even the fourteen-year-old version of me had known getting involved with Chase was equivalent to playing a game of Russian Roulette. She hadn’t heeded the warning, but she’d at least acknowledged it.
“If you’re looking for your fans, you’ll find them back in there.” My thumb hitched over my shoulder. “I know you can’t go more than a few minutes without being worshipped or else you risk spontaneous combustion.”
“Please. I can go a good ten minutes without being worshipped now. I’ve matured.” I heard the smile in his voice, but damned if I was going to check for it. That was the one-hundred percent smirk one.
“What are you doing out here?” I asked. “We both know you’re the center-of-the-crowd type, not the wallflower who sneaks off to be alone.”
From the corner of my eyes, I saw him slip his hands into the pockets of his snug jeans. Another Chase Dawson trademark—close-fitting jeans to better emphasize an agreeable rear and an even more agreeable swell around front.
“A person can change,” he said, his shoulders lifting. “A person does change when all day, every day they’re surrounded by people and noise.”
My eyes lifted. “Must be difficult making all of that money from all of those adoring fans.”
“I’m not going to be able to say anything without you twisting it, am I?”
A wave of exhaustion came over me as though twenty-eight years of life had decided to catch up to me all at once. “I don’t want to fight with you.”
“Could have fooled me.”
I chipped away at the fresh pale pink polish on my nails, a nervous habit. It was the first manicure I’d had in years, and it hadn’t survived twelve hours. “Why did you come back?”
His head tipped toward the reception hall. “It was the ten-year reunion.”
A huff escaped from my mouth. “Please, you left this place and haven’t so much as spared a second thought for anything or anyone here. And some lame reunion in the Best Western ballroom is the can’t miss event of the summer?”
He rubbed the back of his neck in a familiar way. Used as a stalling measure when he was trying to figure out what to say and how to say it, it was a display I was all too acquainted with.
“I came back from one reason.” He slowly angled in my direction. When he let out a breath, his gaze all-intentional, my chest seized.
“Me?” I screeched, at the same time choking on a laugh. “You’re out of your damn mind if you think I’ve been waiting here, on pins and needles, for you. Keep on strutting back to that fancy Nashville estate of yours, because the only part of you I still want is the cautionary tale.”
Chase’s hand rubbed his jaw, his smile unmistakable despite his efforts to erase it. “I didn’t come back for you,” he stated, promptly bringing a flush to my face.
Of course he wasn’t there for me. The seventeen-year-old version hadn’t expressed any qualms ditching me as an up-and-comer; the twenty-eight-year-old country icon certainly wasn’t back to rekindle anything.
“Sorry to burst your bubble, even though I can tell you’ll be all torn up knowing that,” he said.
“Good to hear you still have a knack for sarcasm.”
He crouched beside the bench, staring at the dark pond. I was more concerned with checking the shrubs and shadows for any signs of the paparazzi he seemed to attract wherever he went. Literally, everywhere. Some dude had managed to snap a picture of Chase through his Tennessee estate’s bathroom window, fresh from the shower and shaving. The thirst for Chase Lawson had gone from parched to panting in one intimate image.
“I’ve got a new album that just dropped,” he said. “A whirlwind tour kicking off next week. I’ve had a bit of a public image problem this past year, and my PR team assured me that getting back to my roots will help shift that.”
My fingers snapped. “I knew this had something to do with the media. By the way, where is the camera squad tonight?”
“Somewhere. They’re always around.”
“I’m sure you really hate all that attention,” I chided, wondering how much more I had to throw at him before he’d move on.
“I came back because I need to clean up my image and do some damage repair to my reputation.” He went back to rubbing the back of his neck. “Now that I’m here with you, and you sort of accused me of being here for you, a crazy idea popped to mind.”
“I’d like to recommend you keep this idea to yourself,” I suggested, but he was already talking.
“If I had my old high school girlfriend with me on tour—rekindling an old flame with a small-town country girl—how could that not clean up an image?” He motioned at me. “You’re exactly what I need to show fans I’m getting my life back on track. A wholesome, down-to-earth girl who gets up at five to water the horses instead of going to bed at that hour after drinking the town dry.”
My head whipped in his direction, finally looking at him to determine if he was being serious. My god, he was.
“Not a chance in hell,” I said, enunciating each word slowly.
Chase didn’t blink. “Even if that proposition was tied to a sum of money?” When I opened my mouth to argue, he added, “A large sum?”
“My principles aren’t for sale.”
He shuffled a little closer, still kneeling. Damn. He was just as attractive in person from three feet away as he was on the cover of Rolling Stone. My stomach knotted again, but this time for a different reason.
“I don’t want to buy your principles.” One brow lifted. “Just six months of your time.”
For a minute, I sat there silently, part hypnotized by his presence, part contemplating his ridiculous offer. There were few people I disliked more than Chase Lawson, but I also had big plans for my future. Plans that necessitated money.
“How much?”
My head shook when I heard my question out loud. What was I saying? What was I actually contemplating doing?
“One hundred thousand a month,” he replied.
My hand curled around the arm of the bench. “Six hundred thousand dollars?” I shrieked, giving him a look like he was crazy.
“Fine. Six months. One million dollars.” He exhaled. “Final offer.”
My hand was dangerously close to ripping the handle from the bench. “One million dollars.”
My mind raced with everything I could do with that money. Restoring the farmhouse the way I’d dreamed, turning it into a quaint B&B with an agrarian twist. Spoiling my parents with a fancy cruise and a new farm truck. Finally getting to travel to some of the places I’d only imagined through the pictures of a magazine.
All it would take was six months with Chase.
It wasn’t exactly an easy decision, but it wasn’t a hard one. I’d given two years of my life to him already, and it had cost me more than I’d been prepared to pay. This time, he’d be the one paying for it. One million dollars to be exact.
I couldn’t answer quickly enough. “Deal.”

Nicole Williams is the New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author of contemporary and young adult romance, including the Crash and Lost & Found series. Her books have been published by HarperTeen and Simon & Schuster in both domestic and foreign markets, while she continues to self-publish additional titles. She is working on a new YA series with Crown Books (a division of Random House) as well. She loves romance, from the sweet to the steamy, and writes stories about characters in search of their happily even after. She grew up surrounded by books and plans on writing until the day she dies, even if it’s just for her own personal enjoyment. She still buys paperbacks because she’s all nostalgic like that, but her kindle never goes neglected for too long. When not writing, she spends her time with her husband and daughter, and whatever time’s left over she’s forced to fit too many hobbies into too little time.

Nicole is represented by Jane Dystel, of Dystel and Goderich Literary Agency.

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We Shouldn’t by Vi Keeland ~ EXCERPT REVEAL

Bennett Fox walked into my life on one hell of a crappy Monday morning.

I was late for the first day at my new job—a job I’d now have to compete for even though I’d already worked eight years to earn it, because of an unexpected merger.

While I lugged my belongings up to my new office, a meter maid wrote me a parking summons.

She’d ticketed a long line of cars—except for the Audi parked in front of me, which happened to be the same make and model as mine.

Annoyed, I decided to regift my ticket to the car that had evaded a fine.  Chances were, the owner would pay it and be none the wiser.

Except, I accidentally broke the windshield wiper while slipping the ticket onto the car’s window.

Seriously, my day couldn’t get any worse.

Things started to perk up when I ran into a gorgeous man in the elevator.  We had one of those brief moments that only happened in movies.

You know the deal…your body lights up, fireworks go off, and the air around you crackles with electricity.  

His heated stare left me flush when I stepped off the elevator.  

Maybe things here wouldn’t be so bad after all.  

Or so I thought.

Until I walked into my new boss’s office and met my competition.

The gorgeous man from the elevator was now my nemesis. His heated stare wasn’t because of any mutual attraction.  It was because he’d saw me vandalize his car. And now he couldn’t wait to annihilate his rival.

There’s a fine line between love and hate—and we shouldn’t cross it.  

We shouldn’t—but straddling that line could be so much fun.

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Figures.

It was the gorgeous guy I’d seen in the elevator. And here I thought we’d had a little spark.

Bennett Fox grinned like he’d already been named my boss and extended his hand. “Welcome to Foster Burnett.”

Ugh. He wasn’t just good looking; he knew it, too.

“That would be Foster, Burnett and Wren, as of a few weeks ago, right?” I iced my subtle reminder that this was now our place of employment with a smile, suddenly thankful my parents had made me wear braces until I was nearly sixteen.

“Of course.” My new nemesis smiled just as brightly. Apparently his parents had sprung for orthodontic care, too.

Bennett Fox was also tall. I once read an article that said the average height of a man in the US was five-foot-nine-and-a-half inches; less than fifteen percent of men stood taller than six feet. Yet the average height of more than sixty-eight percent of Fortune 500 CEOs was over six feet. Subconsciously, we related size to power in more ways than just brawn.

Andrew was six foot two. I’d guess this guy was about the same.

Bennett pulled out the guest chair next to him. “Please, have a seat.”

Tall and with gentlemanly manners. I disliked him already.

During the ensuing twenty-minute pep talk given by Jonas Stern—in which he attempted to convince us we weren’t vying for the same position, but instead forging the way as leaders of the now-largest ad agency in the United States—I stole glances at Bennett Fox.

Shoes: definitely expensive. Conservative, oxford in style, but with a modern edge of topstitching. Ferragamo would be my guess. Big feet, too.

Suit: dark navy, tailored to fit his tall, broad frame. The kind of understated luxury that said he had money, but didn’t need to flaunt it to impress you.

He had one long leg casually crossed over the other knee, as if we were discussing the weather rather than being told everything we’d worked twelve hours a day, six days a week for was suddenly at risk of being in vain.

At one point, Jonas had said something we both agreed with, and we looked at each other, nodding. Given the opportunity for a closer inspection, my eyes roamed his handsome face. Strong jaw, daringly straight, perfect nose—the type of bone structure passed down from generation to generation that was better and more useful than any monetary inheritance. But his eyes were the showstopper: a deep, penetrating green that popped from his smooth, tanned skin. Those were currently staring right at me.

I looked away, returning my attention to Jonas. “So what happens at the end of the ninety-day integration period? Will there be two Creative Directors of West Coast Marketing?”

Jonas looked back and forth between us and sighed. “No. But no one is going to lose his or her job. I was just about to tell Bennett the news. Rob Gatts announced he’ll be retiring in a few months. So there will be a position opening up for a creative director to replace him.”

I had no idea what that meant. But apparently Bennett did.

“So one of us gets shipped off to Dallas to replace Rob in the southwest region?” he asked.

Jonas’s face told me Bennett wouldn’t be happy about the prospect of heading to Texas. “Yes.”

All three of us let that sink in for a moment. The possibility of having to relocate to Texas shifted my mind back into gear, though.

“Who will make the decision?” I asked. “Because obviously you’ve been working with Bennett…”

Jonas shook his head and waved off what I was beginning to question. “Decisions like this—where two senior management positions are being merged into one office—the board will oversee and make the final determination of who gets first pick.”

Bennett was just as confused as me. “The board members don’t work with us on a daily basis.”

“No, they don’t. So they’ve come up with a method of making their decision.”

“Which is?”

“It’ll be based on three major client pitches. You’ll both come up with campaigns on your own and present them. The clients will pick which they like best.”

Bennett looked rattled for the first time. His perfect composure and self-assuredness took a hit as he leaned forward and raked long fingers through his hair.

“You’ve got to be kidding me. More than ten years, and my job here comes down to a few pitches? I’ve landed half-a-billion dollars of ad accounts for this company.”

“I’m sorry, Bennett. I really am. But one of the conditions of the Wren merger was that due consideration be given to the Wren employees in positions that might be eliminated because of duplicity. The deal almost didn’t go through because Mrs. Wren was so insistent that she not sell her husband’s company, only to have the new organization strip away all of Wren’s hard-working employees.”

That made me smile. Mr. Wren was taking care of his employees even after he was gone.

“I’m up for the challenge.” I looked at Bennett, who was clearly pissed off. “May the best woman win.”

He scowled. “You mean man.”

★★★★★

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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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Only a Breath Apart by Katie McGarry ~ EXCERPT REVEAL

Would you dare to defy destiny? Are our destinies written in stone? Do we become nothing more than the self-fulfilling prophecies of other people’s opinions? Or can we dare to become who we believe we were born to be?
ONLY A BREATH APART will be available on all retailers on January 22, 2019!

Jesse dreams of working the land that’s been in his family forever. But he’s cursed to lose everything he loves most.

Scarlett is desperate to escape her “charmed” life. But leaving a small town is easier said than done.

Despite their history of heartbreak, when Jesse sees a way they can work together to each get what they want, Scarlett can’t say no. Each midnight meeting between Jesse and Scarlett will push them to confront their secrets and their feelings for each other.

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SCARLETT

I’m defying my parents by attending a funeral. Reckless and adventurous teenage behavior, I know. Most seventeen-year-olds lie to their parents so they can go on a date with a forbidden boy or attend a party where there will be questionable behavior. Me? I’m outright lying to my dad, and it’s because Jesse Lachlin’s grandmother died.

The entire way here I’ve questioned my sanity, but I don’t know how I’d live with myself if I stayed home. Jesse Lachlin used to be my childhood best friend. We were inseparable. We had the type of friendship people strive to have, and then, a few years ago, he cut me so deeply that I still bleed. But ten-year-old me would have never abandoned a hurting Jesse. So today I’m not only honoring the memory of Jesse’s grandmother, but also the memory of our dead friendship.

On my way to the funeral, the high grass of the field swats at my legs, but I don’t mind the sting. I love walking barefoot in grass, I love the smell of the earth and I love that brief feeling of freedom open spaces can provide.

It’s the dog days of August. The type of hot that starts when the sun rises and makes you sweat through your clothes within minutes. While my skin and palms are on fire, the pads of my feet are cool against the dirt. The heat is unwelcome, but the sky is deep blue and the sun is bright, and for that, I can be grateful.

Walking out of the field, I stop short of crossing the one-lane road to slip on the flats that dangle from my fingertips. My mother would be mortified if she knew I was entering a church in a cotton daisy-print sundress. It’s not one of the dresses with stiff fabric and impossible back zippers she would have picked for me at an overpriced department store. It’s the type that’s machine-washable and breathable. The type of dress Jesse’s grandmother would have given her stamp of approval.

I can practically hear my mother heavily sigh and mumble my name, Scarlett, as if it were her personal, private curse word. Mom believes there’s a certain way to dress and behave, and I’m breaking all sorts of her rules today. Watch out, world. I’m officially rebellious.

I smile to myself because I’m the opposite of rebellious. For the last few years, I’ve followed every rule. I’m the teacher’s pet and the girl with straight A’s. I’m the poster child of perfection, and have earned every snarky ice princess comment Jesse’s friends whisper about me in the school hallways because he and I no longer speak.

There are only six cars in the parking lot of the white church, and that makes me frown. I thought more people would have wanted to attend. Jesse’s mud-covered pickup is there, and so is an unnaturally clean black Mercedes that belongs to his uncle. This ought to be interesting. Jesse and his uncle have a mutual hate for each other that runs deeper than any root of any tree.

Movement to my right and I slowly turn my head. Shivers run down my spine at the sight of Glory Gardner. Even though I’m seventeen and too old for ghost stories, I still can’t shake the ones regarding this woman. Girls would whisper over lunch boxes that Glory was a witch. As I grew older, I understood that witch meant con artist. She claims she can read palms, tarot cards and “sees” spirits from beyond the dead. All for a glorious fee.

She’s a beautiful woman—long dirty blond hair that’s untamed, even in a bun, and she has an eclectic taste in clothing. Today she wears a white peasant shirt and a flowing skirt made of material that shimmers in the sun.

Glory watches me like I watch her, with morbid curiosity. I knew her as a child, back when Jesse and I ran wild in the fields near her home, but we haven’t talked in years.

She stands under the shade of a towering weeping willow. There are lots of those trees around here. Mom says it’s because there is too much water in the ground. I say it’s because the people in this town have cried too many tears. Mom doesn’t like my answer.

I tilt my head toward the church, an unspoken question if Glory will be joining me. She shakes her head no. I’m not shocked. According to rumors, Glory will go up in flames if she enters the house of God. But who knows? Maybe I will, too.

The church is one of those picturesque, historical, one-room school buildings squeezed between a cornfield on one side and a hay field on the other. A huge steeple with a bell attempts to reach the heavens, but like anything created by a human, it falls tragically short.

The foreboding wooden door makes no noise as I open it, and I’m able to slip in without a huge, squeaking announcement. Orange light filters in through the dark stained glass windows, and its struggling beams reveal millions of dancing particles of dust.

On the altar, there’s no casket, but there is an urn. My heart dips—Suzanne is dead. I used to wish she were my grandmother, and many times, she treated me as if I belonged to her. Suzanne was the epitome of love, and the world feels colder now that she’s gone.

Choosing a spot in the back, I drop into a pew, and as I scan the church my stomach churns. How is it possible that this place is so barren?

Besides the Funeral Brigade, or the FB, as I like to refer to them, there aren’t many people here. The FB are the older group of woman who attend every funeral in our small town even if they didn’t know the person. Attending funerals isn’t my idea of fun, but who am I to judge?

The FB sit directly behind the one person the town believes to be the lone sane member of the Lachlin family, probably because he isn’t blood related—Jesse’s uncle.

On the left side of the church is Jesse. Only Jesse. And that causes a painful pang in my chest. Where are his stinking friends? The anarchists in training who follow Jesse wherever he goes? Where is the rest of the town? Yes, Suzanne was polarizing, but still, where is any respect?

Quietly, so I don’t draw attention to myself, I slip from the right set of pews to the left. Someone should be on Jesse’s side, and it’s sad it has to be me.

A door at the front of the church opens, and the pastor walks out from the addition the church build on as a small office ten years ago. I would have thought any pastor assigned to this place would be as ancient as this church. Sort of like an Indiana Jones Knights Templar scenario where he lives forever as long as he stays inside. But no, he’s the youngest pastor from the main, newer church in town. His name is Pastor Hughes, and he’s a thirty-something black man with a fit build who is just cute enough that he should be starring in a movie.

The pastor looks up, and he flinches as if startled. I peek over my shoulder then sigh. Clearly, he’s surprised to see me. Flipping fantastic.

His reaction, and the fact he won’t stop staring, causes every person to turn their heads. Lovely. I’ve had dreams like this where I enter a room and become the center of attention. Only in my dreams it’s at school, it’s my classmates and I’m naked, but still, this is disconcerting.

Eventually, the FB and Jesse’s uncle return their attention to the front, but Jesse doesn’t. He rests his arm on the back of the pew, and it’s hard to ignore that he’s made me his sole focus, but I do my best to act as if I don’t notice.

To help, I concentrate on what my mom taught me as a child—to make sure the skirt of my dress is tucked appropriately so that my thighs don’t show. I then fold my hands in my lap and straighten to a book-on-head posture. I can be the ice princess people claim me to be.

Five pews separate me and Jesse, and it’s not nearly enough. My cheeks burn under his continued inspection. Jesse has done this a handful of times since our freshman year. Glance at me as if I’m someone worth looking at, someone worth laughing with a little too loud and smiling with a little too much. Then he remembers who I am and snaps his gaze to someone else.

But he’s not looking away now.

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Katie McGarry was a teenager during the age of grunge and boy bands and remembers those years as the best and worst of her life. She is a lover of music, happy endings, reality television, and is a secret University of Kentucky basketball fan.

Katie is the author of full length YA novels, PUSHING THE LIMITS, DARE YOU TO, CRASH INTO YOU, TAKE ME ON,  BREAKING THE RULES, and NOWHERE BUT HERE and the e-novellas, CROSSING THE LINE and RED AT NIGHT. Her debut YA novel, PUSHING THE LIMITS was a 2012 Goodreads Choice Finalist for YA Fiction, a RT Magazine’s 2012 Reviewer’s Choice Awards Nominee for Young Adult Contemporary Novel, a double Rita Finalist, and a 2013 YALSA Top Ten Teen Pick. DARE YOU TO was also a Goodreads Choice Finalist for YA Fiction and won RT Magazine’s Reviewer’s Choice Best Book Award for Young Adult Contemporary fiction in 2013.

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