P.S. I Dare You by Winter Renshaw ~ Sarah A’s Review

Dear Ms. Keane,

Before this ridiculous little arrangement commences, I’d like to make myself indubitably clear: I know who you are, I know that my father hired you, I know why my father hired you, and lastly, your services aren’t needed.

In fact, I want no part of my father’s billion-dollar empire, and him “gifting” me with one of the “best concierges in the county” won’t change that. He’s wasting his money. You’re wasting your time.

However, seeing as how you foolishly signed an ironclad contract with an Act of God clause and my father has strong-armed me into taking this position, it appears as though we’re stuck together—at least until your contract is up next month.

That said, our time together at WellesTech should be relatively painless but please don’t fool yourself into thinking I don’t notice when that pretty little stare lingers a little too long or the way your breath catches when our hands graze. You’re fascinated by me and it kills you because you can hardly stand to be in the same room as me.

Think I’m a problem worth solving? An impossible riddle worth figuring out? By all means, go ahead and try. Solve for X. Crack the code. It might even be fun (but only for me, not you).

V/r,

Calder Welles, II

P.S. I dare you.

Amazon

While I did enjoy P.S. I Dare You; it didn’t quite stand up to the other books in this series. It was an entertaining, quick little read; I loved Aerin and Calder, and how they complemented one another.

I loved the concept of this book. I’m a little bit of a sucker for office romances, and the situation these two were manipulated into made it all the more intriguing. Add the less than idyllic childhoods – and the effect those childhoods had on Aerin and Calder’s personalities – and P.S. I Dare You was bursting with dysfunction. Aerin and Calder served as a great balance for one another, both in highlighting each other’s strengths and helping to overcome some of their weaknesses.

Aerin and Calder both had a lot of baggage they were dragging around with no idea how to let it go. Watching them, each learn to let go of the pain and find new ways to deal with the lack of true parental concern in their youths, was heartwarming. I loved how much they gave to one another simply by being who they were and allowing the other to have a safe, judgment-free place to fall apart when they needed it.

P.S. I Dare You is the third book in Winter Renshaw’s P.S. series. These books are standalones, with minor character overlap. They do not need to be read in order, nor does the series need to be read in its entirety. P.S. I Dare You is written in dual first-person perspective, narrated by Aerin and Calder.

My biggest wish for the novel is I would have liked to have seen more of the emotional connection between the character. It seemed like Aerin and Calder were either fighting or connecting physically, with little time spent working on the part of their relationship that would make it last. I felt like the book could have been a little longer and explored that dynamic more and still delivered a sweet enemies-to-lovers romance.

That was … interesting.
I have to admit, I expected her to throw herself at me today. I expected tension so ripe, we’d have no choice but to act on it—especially since we went all of Friday without so much as exchanging a single word thanks to my father hijacking my schedule. But what I got was a girl who showed up, did exactly what I told her to do, and kept her hands to herself.
I’m not used to this—girls with self-restraint.
But it’s for the best.
Over the course of the past week, my life has become unrecognizable. Throwing a few more complications into the mix won’t help anything. And besides, if I fuck my assistant, that makes me no better than the man whose shoes I’m being forced to fill.
I’m better than that.
She’s better than that.
And I meant what I said—I don’t fuck girls I have to see every day.
“Closing up?” the security guard asks, looking up from his Spiderman comic.
I nod, heading back to my father’s office to grab summaries and lock the door. Five minutes later, I hit the pavement, opting to take the long way home. I haven’t been able to run all week and my muscles are screaming from too much sitting. My body wasn’t designed to be this sedentary.
Popping into a little Eastern medicine shop off Houston, I grab this miracle balm one of my Olympic skier friends told me about. I don’t know what the hell is in it, I just know it smells like nothing and works like magic the instant I rub it into my skin.
I leave the shop and hook a left, passing a trendy Japanese eatery across the street called Kaio, where their waitlist spans months because apparently pancakes shaped like sushi is the next hot thing. A small outdoor dining area is filled with patrons, and the benches outside hold even more, all of them patiently waiting, noses buried in their phones.
Crossing the street, I glance back at the restaurant once more when something catches my eye. Seated at a table for two on the patio is Aerin Keane and an exceptionally handsome gentleman in green scrubs.
I watch them long enough to see him smile, her laugh.
She reaches across the table and bats at his hand.
He rolls his eyes.
They look like they’ve known each other forever, completely comfortable in each other’s presence. Her shoulders are relaxed, his legs crossed.
So that’s why she was so adamant about us not sleeping together again—she has a boyfriend.
I smirk, rounding the corner and getting the hell away before I start to care again, only ten steps later, I’m in the presence of an overly excitable blonde with flailing arms running in my direction.
“Oh my God! Calder? Calder Welles, is that you?” Thessaly Thomas, a socialite-turned-reality-TV-star I foolishly stuck my dick into in my early twenties, practically wraps her entire body around me, nearly letting her mint green Birkin fall to the ground in the process. “I can’t believe it’s you! How are you? Ugh. You look so good. It isn’t fair. I swear you look even better than when we were dating and that’s saying a lot because …”
Dating?
We went on five dates.
I’d hardly call that dating.
And the only reason I knew it was five was because she went all out for our “one-month anniversary,” hiring some C-list band to give us a private concert on the rooftop of her father’s pool club in the Meatpacking District.
“What are you up to these days?” she asks, hand on her hip and smile on her face. Her forehead is smooth, glass-like. And her lips are much larger than I remember. “What’s new?”
She asks like it’s any of her business, like she cares. But I see that thirsty look in her eyes. Rejection does something to you. It makes you want the things you shouldn’t have, the things you can’t have.
“You’re looking good. CrossFit?” She smooths a palm down my arm.
Thessaly knows she can’t have me, and God, does she still want me even after all these years.
“I was just telling Raya—you remember Raya, right? About how you took me skiing in Vermont for our third date. Do you still have your plane?” she asks. “A Cessna, was it?”
Her phone chimes twice, and she lifts a finger before reading a quick text and typing back an even quicker response.
“Sorry about that.” She peers up at me through fake lashes the color of midnight, and she’s still wearing that same dopey grin. “I can’t believe I ran into you on Houston of all places. Do you live around here now? I’m still on Lexington.”
She rolls her eyes, like she’s ashamed to live in a two-thousand-square foot classic six bought and paid for by her parents the day she graduated from NYU.
Thessaly is still talking, though I’ve tuned her out. Something about a mutual friend who thought they saw me in Paris over the summer. It’s kind of crazy, but all my mind can think about in this moment is Aerin smiling with that fucking Dr. McDreamy-looking tool. Her hand on his. Her eyes lit. Her body at ease.
God, she’s so easy to be around—even if she hates me with every fiber of her classy little being.
She isn’t like Thessaly or the other women that tend to hurl themselves at me. Those women have desperation in their eyes, insecurity in their smiles, and diffidence in their demeanors.
They just want me to like them.
Aerin doesn’t.
And I’d be lying to myself if I said that didn’t make me feel some kind of way.
“We should do coffee or something sometime,” Thessaly says, her hand swatting at my arm. It’s like she needs every excuse she can get to touch me. “What are you doing right now? You have plans?”
“Yeah, today’s not good for me.”
She pouts her Kylie Jenner lips. “Your number still the same?”
Indeed. “Yeah.”
Her pout transforms and she rises on her toes. “Great. I’ll text you and we can figure something out. It was great running into you, Calder. Glad you’re doing well.”
How would she know? I couldn’t get a word in.
Thessaly runs her hand along my arm one more time before readjusting her Birkin over her left forearm and giving me one of those cutesy girl waves complete with a shoulder shrug.
I wave back before continuing on my way.
Good lord, that was painful.
Almost as painful as seeing Aerin on a date.

Amazon

Amazon

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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NEW RELEASE!! P.S. I Dare You by Winter Renshaw

Dear Ms. Keane,

Before this ridiculous little arrangement commences, I’d like to make myself indubitably clear: I know who you are, I know that my father hired you, I know why my father hired you, and lastly, your services aren’t needed.

In fact, I want no part of my father’s billion-dollar empire, and him “gifting” me with one of the “best concierges in the county” won’t change that. He’s wasting his money. You’re wasting your time.

However, seeing as how you foolishly signed an ironclad contract with an Act of God clause and my father has strong-armed me into taking this position, it appears as though we’re stuck together—at least until your contract is up next month.

That said, our time together at WellesTech should be relatively painless but please don’t fool yourself into thinking I don’t notice when that pretty little stare lingers a little too long or the way your breath catches when our hands graze. You’re fascinated by me and it kills you because you can hardly stand to be in the same room as me.

Think I’m a problem worth solving? An impossible riddle worth figuring out? By all means, go ahead and try. Solve for X. Crack the code. It might even be fun (but only for me, not you).

V/r,

Calder Welles, II

P.S. I dare you.

Amazon

What.
The fuck.
Was that?
She’s the woman my father hired? The girl who spilled her coffee down her shirt after bumping into me in the hall?
That’s fucking golden. I can’t even be mad right now.
It makes perfect sense.
He brought on an assistant who happens to have all of the qualities he thinks I lack. She’s civil, tactful, punctual, classy as fuck.
I bet he thinks she’s going to be a good influence on me, like she can fucking domesticate me and turn me into a Corporate American civil servant.
Poor thing. She doesn’t realize she stepped inside the lion’s ring with nothing but a flimsy whip and a barstool. I’m not that easily tamed.
Regardless, I don’t know her name, but already I’m impressed. She’s not afraid to stand up for herself. I like that. If she’d given me a chance to explain, I’d have told her that’s what I meant when I said she was exactly my type.
I’m not a moron. I know she didn’t think I was flirting with her. I know she didn’t come back over because she wanted me. Quite the opposite. I saw the contention in that caramel-brown gaze of hers.
I also sensed a very raw, very real mutual attraction brewing—and that’s why I called it like it was and referred to her as a snack.
It was for the best.
I didn’t come here tonight to get laid. I’ve got bigger, more important things on my mind.
I watch the pretty little brunette with the black sweater grab her bag from her booth and storm out of the bar, her blonde friend in tow, and I toss back the rest of my Hennessy in one swallow.
Slapping some cash on the table, I take off and head back home, this time opting to walk.
Fresh air.
Deep thoughts.
A strong drink coursing through my veins.
If I’m lucky, these things plus a good night’s sleep will work together, helping me come to terms with what I’ve got to do in the morning.
Making my way through a crosswalk, I pass one of those sickeningly sweet couples walking hand-in-hand with that new-in-love look in their shiny eyes.
That kind of thing has never appealed to me, and if I’m being honest, a long-term relationship baked in exclusivity seems like a prison sentence. Who the hell wants someone they have to report to? Someone who has to know where they are at all times? Someone who expects them to be there when they call? Someone who has access to every aspect of their life?
It’s Bridgeforth Academy all over again, only the relationship version.
Pass.

Amazon

Amazon

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

Goodreads | Facebook | Amazon

NOW LIVE!! Say You Want It by Jenika Snow

Piper

It was supposed to be a summer job, something to help me transition from graduating high school to starting college. But to me this wasn’t just some office cleaning position.

I’d be working for Zane, the one man I’ve loved for longer than I even wanted to admit.

The one person who could make me weak in the knees with just a glance.

My father’s friend who was far too old for me, but sexier than sin.

Zane

I hired Piper to keep her close, to help appease my need for her. But I played it off like I was helping her earn some money before starting college.

I was too old for her.

She was too innocent for me.

She was my friend’s daughter.

Off limits.

But I’d wanted her since she turned legal last summer. I saw the way she watched me, the way she bit her lip, the fact her pulse jumped at the base of her throat when I was near. Did she know how obsessed I was with her, how I’d go to any means to keep any other man away from her?

I could see how much she wanted me and that was dangerous.

Because her need for me made me territorial, desperate.

Everything I was, everything I had, belonged to Piper.

All she had to do was ask and it was hers.

Warning: If you like possessive, territorial, and obsessed men in your stories, this insta-love one is just for you. With an older celibate hero, an innocent virgin heroine, and all the gooey juiciness you love in romance make sure you have something cold to drink as you read this one.

Amazon

As he stared at me, I wondered what could’ve been so important that he had to stop the car. But as I looked into his face, I could see what he was about to say was serious. That had me nervous. Was everything okay?
Was this about my father?
Was he about to tell me that he knew how I felt, could sense it, feel it?
Or maybe he was about to tell me how things couldn’t happen between us.
Every “what if” passed through my head and my entire body tightened. I tried to act calm, appear like I had my shit together. The truth was I didn’t. So, all I did was brace myself for the impact.
“I didn’t know how to say this, how to go about even bringing this up,” he finally said, his voice deep with emotion.
He was looking past me as he spoke, as if maybe he couldn’t look me in the eye when he said the words. With every passing second I grew even more convinced he was about to draw the line between us.
“But I can’t stand idly back anymore, Piper. I can’t keep how I feel inside a minute longer. Having you so close, working right beside me, knowing that all I have to do is reach out and touch you, pull you in close, has my self-control on a tightrope.” He looked at me then. “It’s snapped, Piper, and if I don’t tell you how I feel, what I want, I’m going to lose my fucking mind.”
I felt my eyes widen, knew they were probably massive saucers on my face. What Zane had just said was certainly not what I expected to hear. I’d assumed he’d keep us at a distance, break my heart even if he didn’t realize.
But no, what he just told me was my fantasy come to life. The look he gave me, the way I felt when he touched me … all of that had meant more than what was in my head.
It was real.
“Zane…” That was the only word that come out of my mouth that moment. I was so shocked, not even able to think clearly.
“Let me finish, and then you can turn me down.”
My heart stuttered at that confession. Me, turn him down? Was he insane?
“I’ve wanted you since you were eighteen, Piper. It’s wrong, I know. Not just because you’re so much younger than I am, but because you’re Liam’s daughter. This could cause issues between him and me, but I can’t stop myself from wanting you. I can’t hold back my emotions anymore.”
He lifted his hand and rubbed his eyes, as if the conversation drained him. I knew exactly how he felt. My emotions were exhausting, hiding them, trying to fight them. It was to the point where I didn’t even try anymore.
“Maybe if it was just a passing desire, I could control how I felt for you.” He shook his head slowly as he stared into my eyes. “But this isn’t a passing emotion. I love you, Piper. I’m in love with you, and there’s nothing and no one that can—will—ever change that fact.”
We were silent, the air so thick it was like swimming through pudding. I couldn’t breathe, could barely even look at him for how intense this whole situation was.
Zane loved me.
He. Loved. Me.

Jenika Snow, a USA Today bestselling author, lives in the northeast with her husband and their children.

She prefers gloomy days, eats the topping off of her pizza first, and prefers to wear socks year round.

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Say You Want It by Jenika Snow ~ COVER REVEAL

Piper

It was supposed to be a summer job, something to help me transition from graduating high school to starting college. But to me this wasn’t just some office cleaning position.

I’d be working for Zane, the one man I’ve loved for longer than I even wanted to admit.

The one person who could make me weak in the knees with just a glance.

My father’s friend who was far too old for me, but sexier than sin.

Zane

I hired Piper to keep her close, to help appease my need for her. But I played it off like I was helping her earn some money before starting college.

I was too old for her.

She was too innocent for me.

She was my friend’s daughter.

Off limits.

But I’d wanted her since she turned legal last summer. I saw the way she watched me, the way she bit her lip, the fact her pulse jumped at the base of her throat when I was near. Did she know how obsessed I was with her, how I’d go to any means to keep any other man away from her?

I could see how much she wanted me and that was dangerous.

Because her need for me made me territorial, desperate.

Everything I was, everything I had, belonged to Piper.

All she had to do was ask and it was hers.

Warning: If you like possessive, territorial, and obsessed men in your stories, this insta-love one is just for you. With an older celibate hero, an innocent virgin heroine, and all the gooey juiciness you love in romance make sure you have something cold to drink as you read this one.

Jenika Snow, a USA Today bestselling author, lives in the northeast with her husband and their children.

She prefers gloomy days, eats the topping off of her pizza first, and prefers to wear socks year round.

Twitter | Facebook | Web | Goodreads | Amazon

P.S. I Miss You by Winter Renshaw ~ Chapter Reveal

Melrose,

The first time I met you, you were a stranger. The second time, you were my roommate. The third time, you made it clear you were about to become the biggest thorn my side had ever known.

You sing way too loud in the shower and use all the hot water.

You’re bossy as hell.

You make my life all kinds of complicated.

But no matter how hard I try, I can’t stop thinking about you.

And truthfully … I can’t stop wanting you.

I was going to tell you this. I was going to sit you down, swallow my pride, hang up my noncommittal ways and show you a side of me you nor anyone else has ever seen before … but then you dropped a game-changing bombshell; a confession so nuclear it stopped me in my tracks.

How I didn’t see this coming, I’ll never know.

Sutter

P.S. I miss you.

***  AVAILABLE IN KINDLE UNLIMITED  ***
Amazon

Melrose

I’ve been a dog-walker on an episode of Will & Grace.
A bakery shop owner in a Lifetime movie.
Ryan Gosling’s kid sister in an indie flick that never saw the light of day.
Victim #2 in a season eighteen episode of Law & Order: SVU.
But today I’m faced with my most challenging role yet; a camera-less reality show called Girl with Lifelong Crush on Best Guy Friend starring Melrose Claiborne as … Melrose Claiborne.

Standing outside Nick Camden’s Studio City bungalow, I straighten my shoulders, smooth my blonde waves into place, and press my index finger against the doorbell. The heavy thump of my heart suggests it’s going to fall to the floor the second he opens the door—but I’m hopeful the butterflies in my stomach will catch it first.

He has this effect on me.

Every. Single. Time.

And that’s saying something because it takes a lot to make me nervous, to throw me off my game. But my crush on him has only intensified over the years, growing stronger with each unrequited year that passes.

But last night, out of nowhere, Nick called me—which was strange because Nick never calls. He only ever texts. He’s so against calling, in fact, that he has his ringer permanently set to “off’ and his voicemail box has been full for the last six and a half years.

“Mel, I need to talk to you tomorrow,” he’d said, breathless almost. There was a hint of a smile in his tone, giddiness. “It’s really important.”

“Nick, you’re scaring me,” I told him, half wondering if someone slipped something into his drink and he was drugged out of his mind. “Just tell me now.”

“I have to tell you in person. And I have something to ask you, something crazy important,” he said. “Oh my god. This is insane. I’m so damn nervous, Mel. But as soon as you get here tomorrow, I’ll tell you. I’ve been wanting to tell you about this for a long time, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t until now. But now I can. And I can’t fucking wait. This is huge, Mel. This is … oh, God.”

“Nick …” I paced my bedroom floor, my left palm clasped across my forehead. In nearly two decades of friendship, I’d never heard Nick so worked up before. “Can’t you just tell me now?”

“Come over tomorrow. Around three,” he’d said. “This is something that needs to be done in person.”

I ring his doorbell again before checking the time on my phone. Stifling a yawn, I rise on my toes and try to peek inside the glass sidelights of his front door. Knowing Nick, he probably got sidetracked or ran out for burritos and got caught up in conversation with someone he knows.

Then again … he was pretty insistent about talking to me in person at three o’clock about this “major” thing. I can’t imagine he’d space this off.

All night, I tossed and turned, trying to wrap my head around what this could possibly be, how I could know someone for so long and fail miserably trying to get a read on them.

Growing up, Nick lived next door, and the two of us were inseparable from the day he first moved into the neighborhood and I found him by the creek trying to capture bullfrogs—which I promptly forced him to set free. By the end of the day, we both realized our bedroom windows aligned on the second floors of our houses, and by the end of the week, he gave me a walkie-talkie and told me I was his best friend.

When we were ten, he gave me a friendship necklace—like the kind girls usually give to other girls. He gave me the half that said “best” and wore the “friend” half but always tucked it under his shirt so no one would give him any shit—not that anyone would.

Everyone loved Nick.

It wasn’t until the summer after seventh grade that Nick hit a growth spurt and everything changed.
His voice got deeper.
His legs got longer.
Even his features became more chiseled and defined.

It was like he aged several years over the course of a couple of months, and I found myself looking at him in ways I never had before. And when I closed my eyes at night, I found myself thinking about what it’d be like if he kissed me.

Almost overnight, I’d gone from running next door with a messy ponytail to see if he wanted to ride bikes … to slicking on an extra coat of Dr. Pepper Lip Smackers and running a brush through my hair any time I knew I was going to see him.

Suddenly I couldn’t look at him without blushing.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t the only one who noticed Nick’s head-turning transformation.

Nick’s door swings open with a quick creak and I don’t have time to realize what’s happening before he sweeps me into his arms and swings me around the front porch of his rented bungalow.

“Melly!” He buries his face into my shoulder, squeezing me so hard I can’t breathe, nearly suffocating the swarm of butterflies in my middle.

I breathe in that perpetual Nick scent, the one that always feels like home. Like the faintest hint of bar smoke and cheap fabric softener and Irish Spring soap.

Growing up in Brentwood, the son of a successful screenwriter and composer, Nick could’ve had it all—materially and professionally. His parents had connections that would put Steven Spielberg to shame.

But all he ever wanted was to be a regular guy who got by on merit, and I adored that about him.

“Look at you,” he says when he puts me down. His hands are threaded in mine as his ocean gaze scans me from head to toe. “I haven’t seen you in months.”

Three months, two weeks, and five days—but who’s counting?

The last time we hung out was on my birthday, and there were so many people at the bar, I barely had a chance to say more than two sentences to him all night. We’d made plans to get together the following weekend, but his band booked a gig in Vegas and I was leaving to film a Lifetime movie in Vancouver the day before he was coming back.

Life’s been consistent that way, always pulling us in separate directions at the most inconvenient of times.

“You find the place all right?” he asks as he leads me inside. The scent of Windex and clean laundry fills my lungs, and a folded blanket rests over the back of a leather chair in the living room.

I chuckle at the thought of Nick tidying up before I got here. He was always a slob growing up. Case in point? One year I tripped over a pair of his Chucks as I entered his bedroom and almost knocked my front teeth out on a messy stack of vinyl records. His empty guitar case caught my fall, but the next day he bought a shoe organizer.

“I did,” I say, glancing around his new digs. Last time I saw him, he was living in some apartment with four roommates in Toluca Lake. The time before that he was shacking up with a fuck buddy-slash-Instagram model named Kadence St. Kilda, but that was short-lived because the girl ultimately wanted exclusivity, and that’s something Nick’s never been able to offer anyone—that I know of. “When did you move here?”

“Last month,” he says. “I’m subletting from my drummer’s cousin.”

The sound of pots and pans clinking in the kitchen tells me we’re not alone, but I’m not surprised. Nick has always had roommates. He’s painfully extroverted. Guy can’t stand to be alone for more than five minutes but not in the clingy, obnoxious sort of way. More in the charismatic, life-of-the-party, always-down-for-a-good-time sort of way.

I follow Nick to the living room, and he points to the middle cushion of a cognac leather sofa before slicking his palms together and pacing the small space.

“Nick.” I laugh. “You’re acting like a crazy person … you know that, right?”

His ocean gaze lands on mine and he stops pacing for a moment. “I’m so fucking nervous.”

“You don’t have to be nervous around me. Ever.”

“This is different.” He stops pacing for a second. “This is something I’ve never told you before.”

Oh god.

My heart flutters, and some long-buried hope makes its way out in the form of a smile on my face, but I bite it away.

I’d never admit this out loud, but last night a very real part of me believed this entire thing centered around Nick wanting to tell me he has feelings for me, that he wants to date me.

The idea is absurd, I know.

Things like this don’t happen out of nowhere.

I’m not naïve and I’m not an idiot. I know the odds of my best friend going months without seeing me and suddenly professing his love for me are slim to none, but I’ve tried to come up with alternate theories, and none of them made sense because Nick’s never been nervous around me for any reason.

Ever.

What else could possibly make him nervous around me other than a heartfelt confession?

Crossing my legs and sitting up straight, I say, “Come on. Spit it out. I don’t have all day.”

He cups his hands over his nose and mouth, releasing a hard breath, and when he lets them fall, I find the dopiest grin on his face.

His eyes water like a teenage girl with a backstage pass to a Harry Styles concert.

Nick tries to speak but he can’t.

Oh my god.

He’s doing it.

He’s actually telling me he likes me …

“Melrose,” he says, pulling in a hard breath before dropping to his knees in front of me. He takes my hands in his, and I swear my vision fades out for a second. “You know when we were kids and we used to tell each other everything?”

“Yeah …”

“There was something I never told you,” he says, eyes locked with mine. “I guess … I guess I was afraid to say it out loud. I was afraid this thing I wanted so bad, this thing I wanted more than anything I’d ever wanted in my life, wasn’t going to come true. And I thought that by admitting it, I was only going to jinx myself. So I kept it to myself, but I can’t anymore. It’s too big. It’s eating away at me and it has been for years. But it’s time. I have to tell you.”

He’s rambling.

Nick never rambles.

His trembling hands squeeze mine and then he rises, taking the spot on the couch beside me. Cupping my face in his hands, he offers a tepid smile that’s soon eaten away by his own anxiety. “This is insane, Melrose. I can’t believe I’m about to tell you this.”

My mouth parts and I’m milliseconds from blurting out something along the lines of “I’ve liked you since we were kids, too …” but I bite my tongue and let him go first.

“You know how I have my band, right?” he asks, referring to Melrose Nights, the band he founded in high school and named after me.

I nod, heart sinking. No … plummeting.

“What about it?” I ask, blinking away the embarrassed burn in my eyes.

“My dream, Mel, was always to hit it big,” he said. “Like, commercially big.”

My brows lift. This is news to me.

He was always about the indie scene, always so against the big music corporations that controlled every song the American people were played on the radio.

“Really?” I tuck my chin against my chest. “Because you always said—”

“I know what I always said,” he cuts me off. “But the more I got to thinking about it, the more I thought … I just want my songs to be in the ears of as many people as possible. And it’s not even about becoming famous or having money, you know I’m not about any of that. I just want people to know my songs. That’s all.”

I swallow the lump in my throat and glance toward a wood-burning fireplace in the corner where a crushed, empty can of Old Milwaukee—Nick’s signature beverage of choice—rests on the mantel next to what appears to be a crumpled lace bra.

Guess he forgot a few things when he was straightening up …

“Okay, so what are you trying to tell me?” I ask, squinting.

“We got signed …” his mouth pulled so wide, he looks like a bona fide crazy person right now, “… and not only that, but we’re going on tour with Maroon 5.”

I try not to let my rampant disbelief show on my face, but something tells me I’m failing miserably. He reads my expression, searching my eyes, and his silly grin fades.
“You hate Maroon 5,” I say.

“I used to hate Maroon 5,” he corrects me. “Anyway, the act they had fell through last minute, so they got us. We leave next week.”

“Next week? For how long?”

“Six months.” His callused hands smack together. “Six months on the road with one of the biggest music acts in North America.”

He says that last part out loud, like he’s still in disbelief over this entire thing.

Which makes two of us.

“Wow, Nick … that’s … this is huge. You were right. This is some big news,” I say. Everything is sinking. My voice. My heart. My hope. “I’m so happy for you.”

I throw my arms around him, inhale his musky scent, and squeeze him tight. There’s a pang in my chest, a tightness in my middle, like that indescribable sensation that washes over you when you know something’s about to change and things will never be the same again.

But I meant what I said. I am happy for him. I had no idea this was what he wanted, but now that he’s shared this with me, I am thrilled for him. He’s my best friend, my oldest friend, and all I want is for him to be happy.

Plus, he deserves this.

Nick is insanely talented.
Music.
Lyrics.
Singing.
Playing.
Producing.
Mixing.
It all comes natural to him. Keeping it under wraps on some lowdown indie scene would be doing a disservice to the rest of the world.

“I get that this is huge, Nick, but I’m curious … why couldn’t you tell me this over the phone?” I ask. “Why’d you make me drive all the way out here just so you could tell me in person?”

Nick leans back, studying my face as he rakes his palm along his five o’clock shadow. “Because I have a favor to ask you …”

Lifting one brow, I study him right back. He’s never asked me a single favor as long as I’ve known him (excluding those times he wanted me to talk to girls for him in middle school or steal him an extra Italian Ice at lunch).

“See, I’m taking over this guy’s lease,” he says. “I pay fifteen hundred a month for my half of the rent. Plus utilities. You know what a cheap bastard I am, right? I just don’t want to throw that money away over the next several months, and I don’t want to stick Sutter with my half of the rent and everything because that’s just shitty.”

“Sutter?” I ask.

“Sutter Alcott. My roommate,” he says. “Cool guy. Electrician. Owns his own company. You’ll like him. Anyway, I know you’re living in your Gram’s guesthouse, but you’re the only person I know who’s not locked under a lease, so I thought mayyyyybe you might want to help me out for a few months? As a favor? And in return, I’ll … I don’t know. I’ll do something for you. What do you want? You want a backstage pass to a Maroon 5 concert? You want to meet Adam?”

“You’re already on a first name basis with Adam Levine?” I ask, head cocked.

Nick smirks. “Not yet. But I will be.”

“I don’t know …” I pull in a long, slow breath. “What about Murphy?”

“We’ve got a fenced-in yard,” he says, pointing toward the back of the house. “He’ll love it here.”

“What about your roommate? Would he be cool living with a stranger?” I ask.

“Totally.”

“And you’re sure he’s not a serial killer?” I keep my voice low, leaning in.

Nick chokes on his spit. “Uh, yeah, no. He’s not a serial killer. Lady killer? Sure. Serial killer? No way.”

Our eyes hold and I silently straddle the line between staying put and saying yes to this little favor.

My cousin-slash-roommate, Maritza, recently moved out and got a place with her boyfriend, Isaiah, so it’s just Murphy and I in the guesthouse now. It gets quiet sometimes. Lonely too. And Gram’s on this travel-the-world kick lately. One week she’s home, the next week she’s in Bali for twelve days with her best friend Constance or one of the Kennedys.

A change of scenery might be nice …

“I’ll do anything, Mel. Anything.” He clasps his hands together and sticks out his bottom lip, brows raised.

Dork.

“Begging’s not a good look for you. FYI,” I say.

“Okay, then what’s it going to take for you to say yes?” His hands drop to his lap.

I try to speak, but I don’t know what to say.

“See,” Nick says. “You don’t even have a good reason to turn me down.”

He’s right.

I can’t blame it on the location because it isn’t out of the way. I can’t blame it on my dog. I can’t blame it on a lease. I can’t blame it on money because fifteen hundred a month is exactly what Gram charges me for rent, because free rides aren’t a thing in the Claiborne family.

But aside from all of that, I know Nick would do this for me if I ever needed him to.

Shrugging, I look him in the eyes and smile. “Fine.”

A second later, I’m captured in his embrace and he’s squeezing me and bouncing like a hyper child. With one word, I’ve unearthed a side of Nick I never knew existed.

“I freaking love you, Mel,” he says, hugging me tighter. “I love you so much.”

I expected to hear those words today … just didn’t think I’d hear them in this context.

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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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NEW RELEASE!! P.S. I Miss You by Winter Renshaw ~ Sarah A’s Review

Melrose,

The first time I met you, you were a stranger. The second time, you were my roommate. The third time, you made it clear you were about to become the biggest thorn my side had ever known.

You sing way too loud in the shower and use all the hot water.

You’re bossy as hell.

You make my life all kinds of complicated.

But no matter how hard I try, I can’t stop thinking about you.

And truthfully … I can’t stop wanting you.

I was going to tell you this. I was going to sit you down, swallow my pride, hang up my noncommittal ways and show you a side of me you nor anyone else has ever seen before … but then you dropped a game-changing bombshell; a confession so nuclear it stopped me in my tracks.

How I didn’t see this coming, I’ll never know.

Sutter

P.S. I miss you.

***  AVAILABLE IN KINDLE UNLIMITED  ***
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After reading P.S. I Hate You I was excited to get my hands on Melrose’s story.  P.S. I Miss You was different than I was expecting, but still a lovely book.  It didn’t quite pack the emotional punch as its predecessor, but it made up for it in other ways.

P.S. I Miss You was a slow-burn, adversaries (not quite enemies)-to-lovers romance.  It was a little angsty and but still very adorable and sweet.  Melrose and Sutter were both guilty of making rash judgments and assuming the worst about every situation they encountered.  They’d entered each other’s lives when neither of them was in a place where a new relationship was something they were looking for and also a little lonely.  Their meeting was a perfect storm, and once they figured out how to navigate the waves, theirs was an interesting and significant ride.

My favorite part of P.S. I Miss You was the secondary storyline with Sutter’s brother, Tucker.  It was heartbreaking and also incredibly heartwarming.  It shed light on who both Sutter and Melrose were beneath all the pranking and snark they threw at one another.  It also gave the book a seriousness that was needed to balance out the playful tension between them.

P.S. I Miss You, while technically a standalone it a spinoff of a previous novel, P.S. I Hate You from Winter Renshaw.  The heroines in the books are cousins, but otherwise, there are few ties between the stories, and both can be read completely independently of the other.  P.S. I Miss You is written in dual first-person perspective, narrated by Melrose and Sutter.

Winter Renshaw again impressed me with her story building in P.S. I Miss You.  She also showed her variability in storytelling, even within the same world, by writing lighter fare while still keeping similar threads of strength and vulnerability in both.  Her pacing was great and kept me engrossed in the book until the final page.

I’m standing outside Melrose’s door, two sweaty beer bottles under one arm as I knock.

“Go away, Sutter,” she calls, voice stuffy.

I knock again.

“Go. Away,” she says.

A third knock should do it. A fourth if I must. I’m not going anywhere tonight.

Seconds later, the door swings open with a hard pull and Melrose’s frown neutralizes when she sees the drinks in my hand.

“What’s this?” she asks.

“You look like you had a rough night.” I hand hers over, but she doesn’t accept it right away.

Her tired stare rests on my outstretched hand. “Why are you being so nice to me?”

“Weirding you out too, huh?”

I manage to get the smallest smile out of her. I think. It’s gone before I can be sure.

Finally taking my generous gift, Melrose raises her brows and takes a swig. “Guess not.”

“You want to talk about it?” I ask, hooking my hand behind my neck. I’m terrible at these kinds of things and I don’t like to talk for the sake of talking, but I’ve come this far.

“Is your girlfriend gone?” She ignores my question.

“Acquaintance. And yeah. I sent her home.”

“You did?” Her forehead crinkles, like she doesn’t believe it.

I nod. And I don’t believe it myself. I’ve never put sex on the back burner so I could comfort some crying chick.

“I need to let Murphy out.” Melrose scoops the wrinkly beast into her arms and treks downstairs, cutting through the living room and kitchen to get to the backyard.

I follow, stepping out to the patio and sliding the door closed behind me. Murphy trots off, disappearing somewhere in the dark yard, and Melrose takes a seat on one of the steps. The moonlight makes her shine almost, painting a glow onto her bronzed skin and silky hair.

“So … you’re okay then?” I ask, picking at the label on my bottle. It occurs to me that I still haven’t thanked her for folding my shirts the other day, but this doesn’t feel like the right time.

“You don’t have to do this,” she says.

“Do what?”

“Feel sorry for me,” she says, turning and glancing up. “I don’t need your pity.”

“I don’t feel sorry for you. I don’t even know what happened,” I say. “But judging by the way you were dressed when you came home … I’m thinking it had to do with some douche.”

“You were right, Sutter.” She picks at the label on her bottle. “I went out with Robert McCauley tonight.”

My chest tightens. I already know where this is going.

Amazon

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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P.S. I Miss You by Winter Renshaw ~ COVER REVEAL

Melrose,

The first time I met you, you were a stranger. The second time, you were my roommate. The third time, you made it clear you were about to become the biggest thorn my side had ever known.

You sing way too loud in the shower and use all the hot water.

You’re bossy as hell.

You make my life all kinds of complicated.

But no matter how hard I try, I can’t stop thinking about you.

And truthfully … I can’t stop wanting you.

I was going to tell you this. I was going to sit you down, swallow my pride, hang up my noncommittal ways and show you a side of me you nor anyone else has ever seen before … but then you dropped a game-changing bombshell; a confession so nuclear it stopped me in my tracks.

How I didn’t see this coming, I’ll never know.

Sutter

P.S. I miss you.

Amazon

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

Goodreads | Facebook | Amazon

SALT by Mara White ~ Chapter Reveal

Salana Livingston did everything right, from taking her multi-vitamin to kneeling before bed to say her prayers every night. She followed the path her parents had planned before she was born, never questioned the role until the day a bus-load of sweaty kids from the Bronx got dropped at her parent’s horse farm.

Tiago Alcazar knew a life of hard knocks. An incarcerated father, a missing and strung-out mother who left him to rely on his aged grandmother for most of his life.

Tiago runs the mean streets of the neighborhood that raised him, living hand-to-mouth, everyday a gift, if he can just make it.

Burdened by a world that only wants to see her as perfect, Salana finds her greatest confidant in a boy society has labeled as worthless. Their paths cross too many times for their stubborn hearts to deny the connection, but can the delinquent and the debutant defy the odds and overcome the social constructs that condemn them?

***  AVAILABLE IN KINDLE UNLIMITED  ***
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CHAPTER ONE

Tiago

“I’m telling you, homie! As soon as this bitch-ass arm heals we’re going back to Connecticut. You got the code for the garage, we roll out a Lamborghini and we’re set for life mother fucker!” They were sitting in Chico’s living room. The air was hot and sticky circulated by only a lazy ceiling fan that was covered in years of greasy dust and the dangling remnants of some bygone party streamers. They’d ordered a pizza and demolished the whole thing. Chico was only gaining more of gut rendered immobile by his collarbone break. He had pizza sauce on his tank top. A real gem. A catch—this kid. But the horse ranch trip, the fall, and Tiago’s ride home from the princess were still high on their list of the most exciting things to happen that summer. They rehashed it all, spilling the details to their friends.
“I don’t want to steal her car. I liked that chick,” Tiago said in weak protest. He flipped through the channels now that Chico’s mom had gone out to get groceries and relieved them from endless Telemundo. He left the television on a basketball game and did his best slam dunk swoosh leaping up from the couch.
“Mano, we won’t be stealing from her really if you think about it. That’s her parent’s car—not hers. And what the fuck would she care, she’s got so much money anyway? We’d be doing them a favor taking one of those off their hands.”
“That’s pushing it, Chico. Why don’t we just steal a different car from someone else in the same neighborhood?”
“Cause you got the code for her garage fuck face! Jesus Christ!” Chico hit his forehead exaggeratedly. “How many cars can one family even drive?”
“What you don’t have the guts to break in?”
“Neither do you, bitch. Can you help me take my shirt off so I can take a shower?”
“Fucking baby, you are on your own for that shit cause you stink. Check you later. I gotta go home and check on my Ma anyway.”
“I’d help you if it was the other way around!”
“Never will be, cause I ain’t fucking stupid, bro!” Tiago punched Chico hard in the arm that wasn’t in a sling. He got up and threw the remote at Chico’s belly. “I’ll fucking go if you park that shit downtown and the fuck away from my building. I’ll drive it, but I don’t want to sell it.”
“Deal!” Chico said, smiling triumphantly. Tiago wasn’t giving him a bath. He had to draw the line somewhere.

The tickets for the metro north just about cleaned them out. There must have been irony in the deal, spend all your money on transportation to go steal something that could help you get around and then sell it to make money. Tiago was so nervous his sweat stunk, Chico however, was riding on cloud nine, already ticking off the list of things he was going to buy in his head. Tiago would buy a washing machine for his grandmother, so she wouldn’t have to lug laundry down to the corner, or wash it in the tub with her arthritic hands like she sometimes did.
“’Mijo, there was no laundromat when I was growing up. My mother scrubbed the clothes on a board in the yard, hung it to dry on a line between two trees.”
“Look at your hands, Ma. You not even sixty but your hands are eighty. That’s why.” He kissed her on the cheek and grabbed his book bag off the back of the chair. “I’ll be home late, don’t wait up.”
Tiago had spent countless hours in school daydreaming about being able to provide for his grandmother. Visions of washing machines with a red bow on top, a new refrigerator that didn’t drip or smell. He never imagined what he’d get for himself, just fantasize about the amenities that would make her life easier.  
“Shit, this train is huge. The seats look like couches!” Chico couldn’t play it cool to save his life. The kid was green as fuck, not a seasoned car thief. The only thing Chico was good at was remembering stats on baseball cards and eating everyone under the table.
“Bro, we’re trying to not call attention to ourselves, you hear me?” Tiago sat down by the window, the uneasy feeling creeping through his belly. They stuck out like sore thumbs with the evening commuters. Everyone in suits and blazers, reading newspapers, scrolling through stocks on their phones. How could they pull off a car theft with so many witnesses? Every single one of these jerks would remember them. Nobody who looked like them was on their way to Connecticut. Tiago’s gut felt heavier with each mile gained toward their destination. How fucked up was it that they were gonna go after the girl who’d been so kind to them? Rip her off in return? No wonder people branded them as thugs, maybe that’s what they were.
They filed off the train with a million commuters, it was nearing dark when they arrived and everyone rushed to the park and ride lot to get home to their families. Must be nice, Tiago thought. A house and a car, back yard and people acting happy you came home, a jumping dog, kids with spelling tests to show you. Probably a fucking pool to swim in. He’d seen it in the movies and on TV. That wasn’t what happened in his neighborhood. Broken families were the norm, functional ones, the exception. At least half of his friends were being raised by their grandparents. A parent in jail, addicted to drugs, never made it to the States, was plain old down-on-their-luck, were the stories he heard on his block. Domestic violence, child abuse, neglect—those were the cuts that tore families apart.
The park and ride lot emptied just as fast as the train to leave Tiago and Chico standing under the bright sweep of street light looking caught in the headlights. Tiago started walking toward the street and Chico followed him. He had a good sense of direction and he knew Salana’s house, her estate, was walking distance from the train station. Walking distance in a town where nobody walked. Again they stuck out like strobe lights ambling along the side of a residential street with no fucking sidewalk.
“These people probably gonna call the police on us just because of how we look. Probably got cameras set up.”
They walked for twenty minutes, the houses bordering the streets becoming more and more opulent, the gates taller, the security tighter. Tiago recognized Salana’s house as soon as they neared. Not because he’d cased the place to steal, but because he’d wanted to see her again, to return to the spot under different circumstances. He’d imagined himself as her boyfriend countless times in his head.
“It’s this one up here with the all the lights on. How we gonna stay hidden when they got that place lit up like a stadium?”
“We crawl on the border and then stand up and sprint to get to the garage.” Chico flicked his cigarette and the cherry bounced on the street and spewed sparks. The kid had watched too many action flicks.
“Bet the fucking gate is wired,” Tiago said. He was getting cold feet.
“We move fast. That way if we trigger the gate, by the time they get there to check it out, we’re basically already in the garage with our pick of cars.” Tiago thought Chico was being unrealistically optimistic. Grand Theft Auto had inflated his ego to carjacker extraordinaire, when in reality the most he’d ever stolen was a handful of cash out of the collection plate at church. Their luck peaked in the unexpected arrival of a car, it’s lights looming larger out of the darkness. The driver signaled and pulled into Salana’s driveway. A young man stuck his head out and said something into the intercom. He smiled like a million bucks and Tiago already hated him. Fucking Hitler haircut, first car—a Tesla. But what really made him want to smash the guy’s head in was the idea of him touching Salana, her laughing at his jokes. Tiago would fight with bloody fists for her, that douche would throw his money in the air as a distraction and start crying before someone even hit him.  
The boys crouched and ran, slipped through the gates right before they closed. As they approached the house, it became apparent they’d crashed some kind of party. The half-moon driveway was crowded with parked cars, not a Ford or a Toyota in sight. The sickest cars Tiago and Chico had ever seen. They stared openly, the lighted up mansion, the driveway turned car showroom. Drake was sounding from a top of the line stereo reverberating through the walls and bursting forth into the still night and the silence of the suburbs. They were slow to process that this was real life. Sure they’d seen it in music videos and placed themselves in the role of protagonist in plenty of daydreams, why not? Honey’s with string bikinis, pouring out label Champagne into the hot tub, the ice and gold, the cars, the clothes, the sunglasses that cost as much as their family’s annual food budget. But that was fantasy and this was someone’s real life.
“Salt is a fucking pimp, bro. She’s straight up balling that bitch,” Chico said, jaw on the floor.
“Good. They won’t even miss the car,” Tiago said. His voice was full of rancor. He felt jealously swim in his bloodstream—toxic—like the sewage that overflowed into the Hudson during a rainstorm. He strutted across the brightly lit, meticulously manicured lawns like a boss, pimp limp fired, repping the dignity of who he was in the face of this great wealth.
“Yo, Tiago, wait up!” Chico yelled. Chico’s ambling limp was real on account of his one arm still braced in a sling and useless. They were a ramshackle crew. No guns, knives or experience, just hood attitude bolstered by the accomplishment of seeing the task this far through—they’d made it to Connecticut, it was worth something.
Tiago’s hair stood on end and nerves seesawed in his stomach. He wasn’t afraid, but rather on high alert, excited, reckless and ruthless, ready to take someone down just for looking at him the wrong way. A car door slammed and Chico and Tiago both froze. A tall blond guy in a sweater vest looked at them inquisitively.
“Who the fuck are you?” he asked. The guy threw his joint to the ground. Tiago could smell the sweet burn of weed, but to his seasoned nose he could also tell it wasn’t good. Not like the premium he could get these rich kids. Sell it for more, take them all for a ride and then roll around in cash like a dog in mud from the profits.
How the hell would they pull off taking a car now? Tiago didn’t even know what they were there for anymore. What if they missed the last train back to the city? Would they sleep in the station like bums? And what if they got arrested? His grandmother wasn’t capable of making a trip all the way to Connecticut to bail him out for trespassing.
“Salana around?” Tiago asked the guy staring them down. The way the words took a bite out of his heart made him realize stealing cars was pretense all along. He’d only wanted to see her, to stroke her blonde hair, to rub his nose against her little one and have his insides turned out. But if he had to break the law to see her, he would.
“It’s her fucking party. She know you’re coming?”
The guy was wearing loafers. He had to answer to a guy wearing loafers and a sweater vest. A fucking asshole Mr. Rogers was what he was.
“Dude, what are you doing?” Chico screeched at him. Tiago’s pants felt heavy, his kicks impossibly clunky, he couldn’t remember if he’s put on cologne or deodorant for that matter. His shirt was clean, but it was old and suddenly felt so cheap to have Billionaire Boy’s Club emblazoned across the front of his chest, when he was in the presence of the real Billionaire’s Club. It didn’t help that the guy stared at them like unsavory rats that had wandered across his clean pasture.
“Can you get Salana for us? Tell her we’re in the garage when she gets a chance?”
“Why don’t you wait here,” the guy said quickly texting on his phone. Tiago walked toward the garage anyway; he couldn’t stand to be scrutinized by the judgmental mother fucker anymore.
“Ti, bro. I swear to fucking God you lost your mind!” Chico said as Santiago disabled the alarm on the garage. There were cameras, two he could see plainly right over the door. “Let’s bounce. This is crazy,” Chico said. He didn’t want to go to jail he liked his mother’s cooking too much. He loved sitting in the sun and playing basketball in the park for twenty-three hours a day as opposed to one. “I’m out!” Chico said, turned on a dime and ran.
“Ditch me, why don’t you, when the going gets tough?” Tiago wanted to scream, Unleash the hounds! But he wasn’t so mean he’d want his friend to pee his pants.
Tiago decided to go through the motions. He chose the Rover for the resale ease and value. It was unlocked and the door opened smooth like honey. All the keys were in the lockbox by the door, just as they had been when Salana did it all in front of him. Like a temptress, like an invitation to take one.
Here’s the big red juicy apple. I know you’re starving. Bite it!
There was something about the feel and smell of brand new that was extraordinarily pleasing, that gave an air of authority and power without doing a thing. Wealth and pipe dreams of attaining it could be as addictive as a drug and probably just as dangerous. He was about to slide into the driver’s seat when someone grabbed him from behind. He cursed, angry at himself for having let his guard down. One held him back against the car, while the other, the blond, knocked his fist into Tiago’s face, hitting him just below the nose. Not a trained fighter, just beginner’s luck that he made contact. It was a weak punch but it landed and stung like a bitch. Tiago heaved his shoulders forward to throw off the one he couldn’t see. The taste of blood in his mouth made him vicious and he landed a punch right in Vest and Loafer’s gut that promptly knocked the wind out of him. Tiago was used to fighting dirty and street. He’d been in scuffles on the corner since first grade. The boys in Connecticut had never taken a real beating.
“Call the police!” the guy shouted at his friend.
“Don’t fucking call the police!” Tiago responded almost casually. “Why call the cops? Because we hit each other? Come on! Don’t be a pussy.”
“Then get the fuck out of here right now! Leave!” Loafer’s feathers were ruffled, his face was red and his hair disheveled.
“Did you tell Salana like I told you too, bitch?”
“I’m right here,” she said. Salana walked into the garage and put her hand on Loafer’s arm.
“I just wanted to talk to you,” Tiago said. “Alone.”
He wiped his hand across his mouth, it felt warm and burned. There was blood on the back of his hand and he spat blood on the floor gaining a look of fury from the handsome boys.
“Brandt, just go. It’s fine, I know him.”
“If you fucking touch her, you’re a dead man,” Brandt pointed his finger at Santiago like his threat carried weight. Tiago spat again. “Piece of shit, thug,” Brandt muttered as he turned to go.
Once alone, the silence between them rose up and expanded like leavened bread in an oven, filling even the dark corners and the ceiling above them. They stood ten feet away from one another and took the other in. Tiago clenched his fists and Salana watched blood drip from his split lip. She cut across the space first and grabbed his chin so as to better inspect his face.
“You’re bleeding,” she said. “Come inside, we can put something on it.”
“Give me a minute to cool down so I don’t kill your friend, Salt.”
“Why did you come here, Tiago? You should have at least called.”
“To steal a car. You let me see that code. It was an invitation I couldn’t resist.”
She crossed her arms across her chest and looked relatively unaffected by what he said.
“Take one if you want, but I’m sure there will be repercussions.”
“Naw, when I got here, I realized what I really wanted was to steal you instead.”
He saw her pupils dilate. He heard how her breath caught in her chest. He felt tingly all over like he might pass the fuck out at her feet after one bitchass punch.
“Come on, let’s get your face cleaned up.” She took his hand and led him around the side of the huge estate.
“We’ll just go downstairs and that way we can avoid Brandt and the others.” Salana punched in another code and allowed Tiago to see it. He felt like he had to memorize those numbers because they were symbolic of her letting him in. Seeing those numbers meant something. Code for: trust. Cipher for: I accept you just as you are.
He followed her down a sweeping staircase and into what looked like a basement entertainment room. A pool table, leather couches, a full bar and a fireplace. Basically a space he and his friends would sacrifice their left nuts for. Salana flicked on stained-glass low hanging lights in the basement room which was bigger than his entire apartment.
“The bathroom is right there, I’ll grab the first aid kit.”
The lights rose by themselves as he stepped into the bathroom, a room so spotless and sparkling it nearly strained his eyes. Salana’s life looked like a Hollywood set whereas his looked like a public service announcement for the dangers of drug use. He ran his hand underwater to wash off the blood.
“Sit up here,” Salana said, patting the counter sink. She ran a white washcloth under warm water and brought it to his lip. “I’m sorry he punched you,” she whispered as she dapped at the gash.
“Probably deserved it,” he said through the towel. “What’s the occasion for the party?”
Salana squirted some ointment on her finger and brought it to his upper lip.
“Oh, my friend Justine’s birthday. She’s upstairs. My parents are in Europe so everyone decided to come here.” She tried to touch the bleeding gash and Tiago grabbed her wrist. She stopped and made eye contact.
“You’re so fucking fine, Salt. I can’t stop thinking about you. I wouldn’t steal from you. I just wanted to see you.” His grip on her wrist was tight, because his confession felt important. He usually let a girl know he was into her with body language, lingering hands and soft words in her ear, but with Salana he told her as if he were in the confessional. “I like you and I don’t know what the fuck to do about it.”
Who knew honesty could feel like getting run over by a steam roller. Cracking your head open and letting the rabid butterflies escape to fly upwards in a swarm. It was almost too much for him. Butterflies? They were bats and he was a goner.
Her lips were parted and she stared intently at his face. Her blue eyes flared with emotion and his searched her face for even a hint of reciprocation. “I know it ain’t even possible. I just wanted to let you know how I felt, and shit.”
“I—” was all she could get out
“You can go back to your party, back to Branch. I don’t know what the hell I’m doing.”
Salana blinked and her eyes were filling with tears. She closed them and leaned into Tiago. He caught her face in his hands and his lips found hers. The kiss was so soft and ghostly like a whisper—almost nothing—until it wasn’t and then, it was real, it was perfect, it was fucking everything.
She gasped when he took her whole mouth, prying open the seam of her lips with his tongue. Tiago kissed like a carnivore. Wolf-mouth. No rich-pansy orthodontist’s dream. He came from real life. His cut was the ghetto. He kissed projects and food stamps and lives that were cut short. He kissed give.it.all.to.me.now because punk-ass-bitches steal what doesn’t belong to them. His hands went to her hair, soft like silk and cool like the flip side of a pillow. He wanted to eat her, make a meal out of her flesh and touch the raw center of her heart after he’d consumed her.
“Fuck,” he whispered into her mouth. “Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.”
His dick was already hard, pressing against his jeans with an urgency that was painful. He’d blow his load from her tongue alone like a fucking kid looking at a Hustler under the covers with a flashlight.
“God, I want you so bad,” he lamented. Was he kissing for the first time? No, but it fucking felt like it.
His fingers speared through her hair cupping her ears and the back of her skull as he devoured her mouth and pulled her to him, registering nothing, only desperate for more. Tiago hopped down from the counter, scooped Salana up and placed her where he’d been. Jerking her forward by the hips he brought her flush with his erection. Salana opened her eyes wide suddenly, the blue piercing right through him. Her eye contact sent a surge of power to his groin. He leaned into her again and thumbed her nipples through her white cotton shirt. Salana tipped her head back and mewled. The heat coming from her center made him lose control. He couldn’t stand how erotic she looked, head thrown back, nipples tipped to the ceiling and her long hair almost touching the sink behind her. His blood smeared on her full lips made his stomach muscles clench with something forbidden and primal.
“Stop,” she said still kissing him. “Stop!” she pushed at his chest this time and he backed all the way up to the wall.
“Fuck, I’m sorry. Shit, Salana. I’m sorry, I lost control.” His longing was so fierce that kissing her felt like survival. He was the hunter, she was the doe. He didn’t want to kill her, but he wanted to make the damn shot even if it killed him in the process.
She shook her head and wiped at her mouth with her fingers.
His chest heaved like he’d been running, but he was standing there in her bathroom, palms upturned like a fucking idiot. That kiss meant the world to him.
“I’ll show myself out. I shouldn’t have come.”

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

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SALT by Mara White ~ Sarah A’s Review

Salana Livingston did everything right, from taking her multi-vitamin to kneeling before bed to say her prayers every night. She followed the path her parents had planned before she was born, never questioned the role until the day a bus-load of sweaty kids from the Bronx got dropped at her parent’s horse farm.

Tiago Alcazar knew a life of hard knocks. An incarcerated father, a missing and strung-out mother who left him to rely on his aged grandmother for most of his life.

Tiago runs the mean streets of the neighborhood that raised him, living hand-to-mouth, everyday a gift, if he can just make it.

Burdened by a world that only wants to see her as perfect, Salana finds her greatest confidant in a boy society has labeled as worthless. Their paths cross too many times for their stubborn hearts to deny the connection, but can the delinquent and the debutant defy the odds and overcome the social constructs that condemn them?

***  AVAILABLE IN KINDLE UNLIMITED  ***
Amazon

Have you ever read a book and absolutely loved it while you were reading, but then when asked what you liked about it you couldn’t really say?  That’s how I feel about SALT.  I was obsessed with Salana and Tiago’s story while I was in the muck and mire with them, but then looking back it’s hard to put my finger on exactly why this novel worked for me.

I was surprised by how emotional this reading experience was.  More than a few times I felt myself tearing up.  When I finished reading I was left with this aching tightness in my chest because of the crazy emotional roller coaster I went on with Salana and Tiago.  My feelings ran the gamut on this one, and while there were times I was pissed and frustrated with everything, I know this is a story that is going to stick with me for a long time.

I love the rich girl/bad boy trope – I don’t know if it’s extensive enough to be a trope, but I do seem to read a lot of books with that premise.  SALT delivered to my preferences in a big way.  I especially appreciated how Ms. White so effortlessly demonstrated how having nothing and having everything can both be so confining and lonely.  Salana and Tiago were both so entangled in the worlds their parents had brought them into neither could see a way out and as soon as they saw the respite, they could give one another an impenetrable bond was formed.

I found both Salana and Tiago to be highly frustrating.  They both wanted out of the lives they’d been born into, yet for most of the book, it felt like they were doing their level best to stay firmly ensconced in the roles society had set forth for them.  Every time I felt like there was a glimpse of hope for one of them they quickly regressed back to the nice little molds they’d been born from.  When they each found the strength to destroy their self-imposed prisons I was ecstatic.

I feel like I didn’t know either character that well.  Now, I know that sounds bizarre because it is.  However, the book covers a pretty extensive time span with little snapshots of their lives together and apart throughout those years.  They both grew and changed so much with each time jump; it was almost like getting to know new people over and over again.  I loved their growth arcs, and they were important and wonderful. However, I almost wish this book had been a series because there was so much more to their stories – alone and together – that we barely glossed over since everything was covered in one book.

I’ve meant to read Mara White’s books for ages.  I know that her stories are right up my alley and have heard great things from some of my most trusted reading companions, after finishing SALT I know I was missing out by not moving her forward on my TBR.  Her writing was enchanting and addictive; once I started reading I literally could not put this book down, I carried my kindle with me everywhere I went until I finished reading.  The emotional impact she had on me would have won me over if her writing hadn’t.  Ms. White is the complete package, as far as I’m concerned, when it comes to a romance author.

Intro
Tiago


Fresh Air Fund, New York City 2008

Santiago had never left the city, unless you counted New Jersey. The school bus was sweltering and the chaperones hollered every time somebody cracked a window. Luckily, he and Chico were in the very last seat so there were too many infractions to bother with—the adults couldn’t even make it all the way to the back to reprimand them. Chico expertly spat sunflower seed shells out their very open window. He had silver braces and gold chains, a fade haircut and a perpetual pubescent mustache that he had yet to devirginize with a Bic razor.
Tiago shaved even though he didn’t need to; he was the man of the house. His pops had been locked up for years, even before he passed away, and Tiago had inherited his menagerie of grooming supplies and jewelry: a gold crucifix and bracelet, an old watch, a wallet-size laminated card of La Altagracia from the Cathedral of Santa María la Menor, his social security card, a can of Barbasol, a shoebox full of faded photos where some of the faces were scratched out with a pin, and a couple hundred dollars in cash. A legacy that didn’t even fill up half a box, but a reputation bad enough to declare Tiago a menace by the time he was four. He wore and used all of his inheritance, not only to feel closer to his father, but to approximate the manhood he was forced into too early.
​Chico had an iPod and headphones he’d snuck along on the trip; the kid didn’t go anywhere without music, constantly sang radio songs in Spanish. He’d sometimes do hilarious impressions that made Tiago lose his shit. He and Chico took turns murmuring the lyrics to reggaetón songs that narrated the kind of life they both lived. Being raised off and on by their grandmothers wasn’t the only thing they had in common. Parents incarcerated, living in the projects, no plausible out for their lives except dreams of professional baseball or rapper stardom. Chico always said he’d join the Marines, while Tiago instead dreamed of seeing the world on his own terms, maybe by backpacking or hitchhiking to California for starters. Money was always tight, food was scarce, and new clothes were a miracle from God el santísimo, himself. Chico and Tiago would sometimes rotate jeans just to freshen up their clothing game, which was pretty much already in the toilet. If Tiago ever got to see the world, he’d want to do it in some badass kicks. He’d rob a fucking bank if he had to someday to get himself some sneakers that were worth getting a beat-down trying to defend.
​Tiago wore his Yankees cap and an unbuttoned baseball jersey over a white tank top. His father’s watch and gold bracelet, a chain with a crucifix that dangled between his pecs. Cubic zirconia studs in his ears, which had been pierced by his mother when he was only three years old. His skin was dark and his maternal grandmother blamed it on his Dominican father. She said he would have been born with beautiful light skin had his deadbeat mother married a decent Puerto Rican or even a “gringuito,” if she were smart instead of una maldita, desgraciada, verguenza, or whatever insult of the day she felt the need to toss at her. She was old school, fell for that Caribbean obsession with whitening the race. Tiago didn’t pay much mind to the crazy shit she spouted. He liked his skin; it was dark in the summer, lighter in the New York City long-ass, dirty rain, gray skied winter. His drug addict mom was just as bad as his lying, cheating, stealing Dominican father, regardless of their skin colors, but he wasn’t keeping score. He wasn’t a saint, he’d be the first to admit—but he wasn’t taking no bad rap for something his pops did before he even took his first breath. His grandmother was the only consistent adult in his life who stayed out of trouble. So he let her complain; at least she kept him in food and underwear with a roof over his head and a mattress to fall on. Which was more than he could say for his mom and dad. They’d had him too young. They didn’t finish school. His dad got fired for the wrong reasons and it wasn’t his mother’s fault she’d gotten hooked on the bad shit and started turning tricks to feed her habit. He’d heard all the excuses. Tiago felt like people do the shit they gotta do in fucked-up situations. He didn’t judge, thought he probably wouldn’t have handled it any better if he were in their shoes. His hermano Chico’s family was similar, but he had two sisters and his mother took off and left with some guy who promised her a house with a pool in Vegas. What the fuck they gonna do? They were both sixteen years old. Stick it out. No sweat. Just chill. There were thousands of kids in the city who had it even worse off than they did.
But it was thanks to their paltry existence that they got into so many city-run programs. Their Fresh Air Fund trip today wasn’t being footed by their parents. Free trip to ride horses, lunch and snacks and on the way back to the Bronx, a stop-off at a local water park—all paid for by the city. Tiago and Chico made tiny paper airplanes out of the brochure for the Equestrian Farm they’d been given when they boarded the bus. They threw them into the back of an afro belonging to a kid sitting a few rows up. So far they’d each lodged one without the kid noticing and they laughed until they had tears in their eyes, the sound of their joy completely covered by the din of fifty excited kids and the wind rushing in the open windows as they tore south down 95.
​“Did you eat that girl Angelica’s pussy the other night?” he asked Chico as he tore paper for another plane.
​“Fuck yeah I did, and I couldn’t barely even get in her bra. Dumb bitch. But she shoved her cunt in my face like it was the all-you-can-eat buffet at the mall.”
​“You like her, you stupid fuck. You blush when you talk about her,” Tiago said. Chico punched his bicep hard and Tiago knew it would burn bright red. He also knew Chico was whipped and he was jealous. They’d bagged chicks before, bagged at their age meaning hit all the bases, but this thing with Angelica was getting serious. Chico had seen her at least a dozen times. He was afraid of losing his friend.
​“You gonna get pubes stuck in your braces if you eat so much pussy. Did she suck your dick yet?” Tiago asked. He knew it was a sore subject. Good. Helping himself to Chico’s seeds, he spilled half of them in the dip of the pleather seat between them.
​“No, but she jerked me off after I showed her how. She thought spit was gross so she used Ponds cold cream and my dick smelled like my grandma through at least three showers.”
Chico falling in love was disgusting, barely tolerable. Tiago elbowed him hard in the ribs. He wanted a girlfriend badly, but he would never let one of his boys know it if he’d gotten whipped. He knew how to treat girls so that they wouldn’t take advantage of you. Even his grandmother told him all women were gold diggers and they’d try to get pregnant just so they could spend a whole lifetime milking you for money. Grandma never told him not to have sex, she was practical and sharp, she told him to get his dick out before he got her pregnant and he still felt short of one hundred percent clear on how all that worked. He knew about condoms from Louie in his building who ripped them off from the drugstores. He once gave Tiago a lesson on how to put one on in the elevator, over a plantain from the bag which Tiago had bought for his grandmother at the bodega on the corner.
​“Pinch the end, so your jizz has some place to go. And if the pussy smells fishy, don’t put your dick in there in the first place. Best bet is in her mouth, or go in the back door if you don’t mind a little bit of clean-up. Give her the line about keeping her virginity and she’ll let you around the back, you’ll see.”
Tiago had been only twelve and although he thought most of the things Louie was telling him were suspect, he was still a rapt and captive audience. Louie then proceeded to tell him about gay men and to steer clear unless he wanted to volverse puto, as he put it. Tiago wasn’t positive, but it didn’t sound very plausible—then again, what did he know about gay men or buttholes? He didn’t have a dad or a big brother around to tell him how to get from A to B or even how to stay out of trouble. Louie drank forties all day, had two gold front teeth and could sing Guajira like nobody else. He lived alone but for a whole flock of pet birds, parrots, cockatoos, parakeets—you name it, it was screeching up in a cage in his apartment.
His grandmother sometimes made him bring the guy a plate of food. Louie would peel back the foil and inhale, salivate and smile. He’d jerk his chin for Santiago to come in. The floorboards were uneven but shiny as fuck. Louie kept a pretty neat apartment, considering he was a bachelor and always half drunk. Louie had a futon couch and it wasn’t covered by plastic, but it was covered in bird shit and Tiago always sat on it perched like a girl in Sunday school. It was over mouthfuls of beans and rice, with much gesturing from his fork, that Louie explained the ins and outs, the birds and bees, and most of the sexual education Tiago would get in his lifetime. The pretense was that he would stay and take the plate back up when Louie finished, and by that time he’d be halfway hard from imaging the things that Louie would lay out for him in graphic detail.
He’d lost his virginity when he was thirteen, to a friend of his mother’s. The lady had come by looking for his mom when Tiago and his grandmother hadn’t seen her in months. When his grandmother asked him to see her out, they took a short detour. She was drunk, gave him a beer and then sucked him off in the basement. He tore his nails gripping the over-painted, bumpy cement wall while he thrust into her pink lipstick-painted mouth. Her teeth were yellow and her breath smelled like cigarettes. But she was queen of the universe when she swallowed his cum, so much so that he almost wanted to kiss her. She didn’t know much about teenage boys and jerking off, because she thought after his first blowjob he’d be out for the night. But he was hard again before she’d wiped the saliva off of her lips.
“I want to stick it in you,” he’d said to her, his face open and curious.
She obliged him over a folding chair and the sagging dejected look of her vagina repulsed him—however, not quite enough to kill his boner. He’d desperately shoved himself in and out of her, with no rhythm or love, just lusty preteen madness and the story already buzzing past his lips to fly out on tomorrow’s school yard.
She’d groaned as the chair squeaked and Tiago wasn’t sure if the sounds meant pleasure or pain, but he couldn’t stop, he wouldn’t stop and he baptized her pale and pancaked ass with another shot of his tender boyhood semen. His introduction to love hadn’t been the least bit romantic or even sensual, but it was a rush of panic and adrenaline unlike anything he’d ever experienced. He felt like a man as he pulled up his jeans and did his belt buckle. His pearly essence dripped into her butt crack and he felt like he’d accomplished something rather monumental. Maybe his father would be proud? Maybe not?
But none of that changed the fact that he’d never had a real girlfriend, or the fact that Chico did—his face was busted, but he still got one first, go figure.  And not to mention, he was whipped and he liked it. Tiago couldn’t even imagine what sex would be like if you were into the person doing the giving or receiving. But Jesucristo, he wanted to find out. He’d take the baddest bitch in the Heights. He wouldn’t even care if she were ugly. He needed somebody to talk to.

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

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NOW LIVE!! Salt by Mara White

Salana Livingston did everything right, from taking her multi-vitamin to kneeling before bed to say her prayers every night. She followed the path her parents had planned before she was born, never questioned the role until the day a bus-load of sweaty kids from the Bronx got dropped at her parent’s horse farm.

Tiago Alcazar knew a life of hard knocks. An incarcerated father, a missing and strung-out mother who left him to rely on his aged grandmother for most of his life.

Tiago runs the mean streets of the neighborhood that raised him, living hand-to-mouth, everyday a gift, if he can just make it.

Burdened by a world that only wants to see her as perfect, Salana finds her greatest confidant in a boy society has labeled as worthless. Their paths cross too many times for their stubborn hearts to deny the connection, but can the delinquent and the debutant defy the odds and overcome the social constructs that condemn them?

***  AVAILABLE IN KINDLE UNLIMITED  ***
Amazon

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

Facebook | Twitter | Amazon Page | Goodreads | Instagram | Huff Post | NYDailyNews