Nightshade by Molly McAdams ~ Cover Reveal

My life has never been my own. From the time I could walk, I was trained to be the mob’s hardened assassin. To be a monster. I’ve been told what to do, when to kill, and who to love. The minute I strayed, I lost everything.

Then I met Jessica.

She swept into my life like a storm of heartache, seduction, and intrigue. She’s everything I hate, but with one look, I can’t stay away. With one touch, she ignites a craving unlike anything I’ve ever known.

But her secrets threaten to destroy everything closest to me. Including her…

Together we’re poison. A destructive combination of darkness and chaos. And I want to savor every drop in my veins.

 ***The Redemption series is a series of interconnected romantic suspense standalones***

Title: Nightshade
Author: Molly McAdams
Series: A Redemption Novel
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Release Date: November 14th, 2017

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Firefly (book 2)
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Molly grew up in California but now lives in the oh-so-amazing state of Texas with her husband, daughter, and fur babies. When she’s not diving into the world of her characters, some of her hobbies include hiking, snowboarding, traveling, and long walks on the beach … which roughly translates to being a homebody with her hubby and dishing out movie quotes. She has a weakness for crude-humored movies and fried pickles, and loves curling up in a fluffy comforter during a thunderstorm … or under one in a bathtub if there are tornados. That way she can pretend they aren’t really happening.

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Firefly by Molly McAdams ~ Sarah A’s Review

As the Princess of the Irish-American Mob, there’s no shortage of men ready to help guard and protect me. To slowly suffocate me to the point of seeking freedom—a place where I can breathe.

Kieran Hayes has been saving me for as long as I can remember. It’s in his blood, and one of the many reasons I fell in love with him. Until my favorite trait became his biggest flaw, making me resent the man I love. An unwavering warrior, his love for me has been shrouded by those instincts.

Save Lily. Protect Lily. Hide Lily. Cage Lily.

What I wasn’t prepared for was Dare—the man who would set my world on fire with just one touch. He saw straight through to my soul, as though he knew I was desperate for freedom, and silently demanded my heart from the beginning.

And I didn’t expect Dare to be Demitri Borello—the reason for so many deaths in my family. A man who will take my life the moment he finds out who I am.

Despite it all, I’ll love him until that moment comes.

A fire will die if there is no oxygen for it to consume. Ours is rapidly stealing every last breath we can sacrifice to it.

***The Redemption series is a series of romantic suspense standalones***

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This book was a slow burn.  When I was reading I found it somewhat frustrating but upon completion of the book, it was well worth it.  Gah.  I am not quite sure how to explain what the experience of reading Firefly; all I can really say is that it was fascinating and worth the singed nerves.

Firefly is the second book in Molly McAdams Redemption series.  You absolutely do not need to read both books to understand what is going on.  While they occur in the same world they are only tangentially connected. No character crossover, no (real) storyline crossover, no cliffhangers. Each book is a complete standalone. The only relation between the two is that they both deal with the seediest parts of the underworld.  And they do that well.

I’m not sure if I should classify this as a love triangle or not.  For one person it definitely was, for the others, not so much.  It was an interesting dynamic to know how Lily was feeling about both Dare and Kieran, and how they were both feeling about her.  My heart for Lily because of how deeply hurt she’d been by all the people who were meant to love and protect her.  It was completely shredded for Kieran because he was trapped in a life, a role, a persona he absolutely loathed and no matter what he did he was going lose everything he wanted most.  Dare, however, was a bit of an enigma to me, he seemed to so easily compartmentalize the pieces of himself it was fascinating to see those different facets and how he dealt with his emotions in each role.

Firefly took a minute to find its wings.  The first half or so was full of tension building, of layering an intricate backstory for everyone involved in the book, and it was worth all that build-up.  Once the intense conflict began happening all those varied histories met and exploded in something that could have been easily devastating for all involved.  I appreciated how Ms. McAdams dealt with the fall-out and brought this story to a resolution that was appropriate for the characters.

Molly McAdams writing is always great.  She’s uniquely capable of playing her readers’ heartstrings like a virtuoso.  It’s in the way she’s able to convey what an emotion feels like, that unique physical reaction – one each person experiences in their own, slightly different way – with such accuracy, that makes her stories sing.  I love how her stories build in magnitude and complexity as they go on, until they reach a soaring peak, then resolve with a perfect harmony.

“Nothing’s getting past me,” I assured her.

Her breath washed over my lips as I leaned in to kiss her again when she whispered, “I thought we were talking about you.”

I paused for a few seconds, then looked up into her hazel eyes. “What?”

“I think I’m in danger from you.”

My brow pulled tight, and I forced out a low, frustrated laugh. “Me.”

She nodded again, the movement of her head so slow as her eyes explored mine. “I need you to let me go for so many reasons, but I easily forget why when you don’t. I think there was a reason neither of us crossed that invisible barrier before today. Because being in your arms?” She hesitated, her tongue quickly darting out to wet her lips. “Trust me, it’s dangerous.”

A weight pressed down on my chest, making it hard to breathe. Because damn it if she wasn’t right.

There were dozens of girls over the years who’d meant nothing more than a night. Maybe two. Not one could I remember the name of, most I couldn’t remember their face.

Then there’d been one who I would’ve sold my soul for if I could’ve had one more night with her.

My days with her had been everything. A slow burn that had built over time until I hadn’t been able to get enough of her. Until she’d meant too much.

And there hadn’t been a girl since.

Not a second glance. Not a thought. Nothing.

Until one morning at Brooks a few years ago.

But there was nothing slow about the thoughts and needs for the girl pressed against me. There hadn’t been since the very first morning I’d found her staring at a mirror like it had the power to destroy her world. Like that possibility fascinated her.

Fuck, if I didn’t need to find out why.

Dangerous was exactly what we were. Only she had no idea just how much.

My gut twisted as unwanted thoughts entered my mind, but I pushed them away. Because I knew what I needed to do. I needed to let her go and force myself not to follow.

But when there’s a flicker of light in your life after so much darkness, it’s impossible to stay away.

And this girl burned so damn bright.

Calling to me and beckoning me toward her, and I knew no matter how many times I let her slip away, I would follow her just to catch her again.

I brushed my thumb across her full lips. “Goddamn, firefly.”

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Molly grew up in California but now lives in the oh-so-amazing state of Texas with her husband, daughter, and fur babies. When she’s not diving into the world of her characters, some of her hobbies include hiking, snowboarding, traveling, and long walks on the beach … which roughly translates to being a homebody with her hubby and dishing out movie quotes. She has a weakness for crude-humored movies and fried pickles, and loves curling up in a fluffy comforter during a thunderstorm … or under one in a bathtub if there are tornados. That way she can pretend they aren’t really happening.

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Firefly by Molly McAdams ~ Release Blitz

Title: Firefly
Author: Molly McAdams
Series: A Redemption Novel
Genre: Romantic Suspense


“I’m wrecked, ruined, destroyed, and in awe.” – #1 New York Times bestselling author, Rachel Van Dyken

The next captivating installment in New York Times bestselling author Molly McAdams’s Redemption series.

As the Princess of the Irish-American Mob, there’s no shortage of men ready to help guard and protect me. To slowly suffocate me to the point of seeking freedom—a place where I can breathe.

Kieran Hayes has been saving me for as long as I can remember. It’s in his blood, and one of the many reasons I fell in love with him. Until my favorite trait became his biggest flaw, making me resent the man I love. An unwavering warrior, his love for me has been shrouded by those instincts.

Save Lily. Protect Lily. Hide Lily. Cage Lily.

What I wasn’t prepared for was Dare—the man who would set my world on fire with just one touch. He saw straight through to my soul, as though he knew I was desperate for freedom, and silently demanded my heart from the beginning.

And I didn’t expect Dare to be Demitri Borello—the reason for so many deaths in my family. A man who will take my life the moment he finds out who I am.

Despite it all, I’ll love him until that moment comes.

A fire will die if there is no oxygen for it to consume. Ours is rapidly stealing every last breath we can sacrifice to it.

 

***The Redemption series is a series of romantic suspense standalones***

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iBooks UK | Kobo UK

 

A powerhouse romantic suspense that will have you questioning your morals and second guessing your view on love.

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU

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Molly grew up in California but now lives in the oh-so-amazing state of Texas with her husband, daughter, and fur babies. When she’s not diving into the world of her characters, some of her hobbies include hiking, snowboarding, traveling, and long walks on the beach … which roughly translates to being a homebody with her hubby and dishing out movie quotes. She has a weakness for crude-humored movies and fried pickles, and loves curling up in a fluffy comforter during a thunderstorm … or under one in a bathtub if there are tornados. That way she can pretend they aren’t really happening.

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Cover Reveal ~ Firefly by Molly McAdams

Title: Firefly
Author: Molly McAdams
Series: A Redemption Novel
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Releasing July 18th, 2017

Cover Design: r.b.a DESIGNS

“I’m wrecked, ruined, destroyed, and in awe.” – #1 New York Times bestselling author, Rachel Van Dyken

The next captivating installment in New York Times bestselling author Molly McAdams’s Redemption series.

As the Princess of the Irish-American Mob, there’s no shortage of men ready to help guard and protect me. To slowly suffocate me to the point of seeking freedom—a place where I can breathe.

Kieran Hayes has been saving me for as long as I can remember. It’s in his blood, and one of the many reasons I fell in love with him. Until my favorite trait became his biggest flaw, making me resent the man I love. An unwavering warrior, his love for me has been shrouded by those instincts.

Save Lily. Protect Lily. Hide Lily. Cage Lily.

What I wasn’t prepared for was Dare—the man who would set my world on fire with just one touch. He saw straight through to my soul, as though he knew I was desperate for freedom, and silently demanded my heart from the beginning.

And I didn’t expect Dare to be Demitri Borello—the reason for so many deaths in my family. A man who will take my life the moment he finds out who I am.

Despite it all, I’ll love him until that moment comes.

A fire will die if there is no oxygen for it to consume. Ours is rapidly stealing every last breath we can sacrifice to it.

 

***The Redemption series is a series of romantic suspense standalones***

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A powerhouse romantic suspense that will have you questioning your morals and second guessing your view on love.

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Molly grew up in California but now lives in the oh-so-amazing state of Texas with her husband, daughter, and fur babies. When she’s not diving into the world of her characters, some of her hobbies include hiking, snowboarding, traveling, and long walks on the beach … which roughly translates to being a homebody with her hubby and dishing out movie quotes. She has a weakness for crude-humored movies and fried pickles, and loves curling up in a fluffy comforter during a thunderstorm … or under one in a bathtub if there are tornados. That way she can pretend they aren’t really happening.

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Cover Reveal ~ Blackbird by Molly McAdams

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blackbird-coverFrom New York Times bestselling author Molly McAdams comes a powerhouse romantic suspense that will have you questioning your morals and second guessing your view on love.

I live in a world few know exist. I’ve trained for this. I know what to say, what to do, and how to act. I’ve perfected the lethal calm required for this life.

Now it’s time to buy my first girl. But all it takes is one look at the brave girl who starts singing mid-auction for that calm to slip.

Briar Chapman is going to be the death of me, and I don’t care. I’ll take every day with her until that death comes, and I’ll welcome it when it does.

On the outside, Lucas Holt is what nightmares are made of. A man cloaked in darkness, with sin-filled eyes and an enticing grin. A devil so devastatingly beautiful and cruel that his very presence instills fear.

But beneath his terrifying, ever-calm exterior is an affectionate man haunted by a past that refuses to stay buried. And Lucas looks at me as though he’s finally found the only person who can make it all go away.

We’re a battle of the brightest day and the darkest night—and I want to lie in the wake of our war.

Releasing February 28, 2017

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molly-mcadamsMolly grew up in California but now lives in the oh-so-amazing state of Texas with her husband, daughter, and fur babies. When she’s not diving into the world of her characters, some of her hobbies include hiking, snowboarding, traveling, and long walks on the beach … which roughly translates to being a homebody with her hubby and dishing out movie quotes. She has a weakness for crude-humored movies and fried pickles, and loves curling up in a fluffy comforter during a thunderstorm … or under one in a bathtub if there are tornados. That way she can pretend they aren’t really happening.

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Cover Reveal-To The Stars by Molly McAdams

We are absolutely thrilled to bring you the Cover Reveal for Molly McAdams’ TO THE STARS! TO THE STARS is a Contemporary Romance and is the 2nd book in the Thatch Series, published by William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins. It is due to be released on November 17th, 2015! Pre-order your copy today!

 

Pre-Order Your Copy Today!

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About TO THE STARS:

In the second book in New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Molly McAdams’ Thatch series, Knox Alexander must convince his long-time love Harlow Evans that they’re meant to be together.

He promised to wait for her.
She told him he was wasting his time.
Not waiting for him ended up being the biggest mistake of her life.

When they were younger, Knox Alexander swore to Harlow Evans that he would wait for her to turn eighteen so they could be together. But that was two and a half years away, and Harlow couldn’t ask him to give up all the fun and thrills of going away to college for her. As the years passed, Knox remained a constant in her life—whether she liked it or not—but when her eighteenth birthday came around, Harlow’s heart belonged to someone else.

Every day for the last four years, Harlow has been haunted by that fateful choice. And though he may appear unaffected by what happened in their past, Knox has always tried to fill the void Harlow left. But when he comes stumbling back into her life and refuses to leave, will Harlow finally let him into her heart…?

 

And don’t miss the first book in the Thatch Series…

Letting Go - cover

LETTING GO

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Author PhotoAbout Molly McAdams:

Molly grew up in California but now lives in the oh-so-amazing state of Texas with her husband, daughter, and fur babies. When she’s not diving into the world of her characters, some of her hobbies include hiking, snowboarding, traveling, and long walks on the beach … which roughly translates to being a homebody with her hubby and dishing out movie quotes. She has a weakness for crude-humored movies and fried pickles, and loves curling up in a fluffy comforter during a thunderstorm … or under one in a bathtub if there are tornados. That way she can pretend they aren’t really happening.

 

 

 

 

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BLOG TOUR AND EXCERPT – Trusting Liam by Molly McAdams

TrustingLiam
trustingliam
Synopsis:
From the New York Times bestselling author of Taking Chances, From Ashes, and Stealing Harper, comes the new unforgettable adult romance Molly McAdams’ fans have been waiting for—the sizzling story of a young woman who must place her trust in the one man who can break through her defenses.

A night they will always remember…a connection neither can deny…a secret that could destroy it all…

When Kennedy Ryan moves to California, she never expects to come face-to-face with Liam Taylor—the intriguing man who has haunted her thoughts for a year. A man who led her to breaking every one of her rules for a single night of passion that ended up meaning more than it was ever supposed to. Accustomed to disastrous experiences with men, Kennedy shields herself before he can break down more of the carefully built control she’s clung to for the last four years. But every time she sees Liam, she feels her resolve weakening.

Liam Taylor has been asked to help socialize his boss’s nieces. But what he thinks sounds more like a babysitting job ends up leading him to the only girl who ever slipped away before morning—a girl he thought he’d never find again. And now that she’s within reach, Liam’s determined to never let her go.

But when a secret from her past tests their relationship, will they be able to cling to the trust Liam has worked so hard to build?

Excerpt:
Trying not to wake him, I slowly slid out from under his arm and off the bed to search for my clothes. Once I was dressed, I told myself to just leave, but I couldn’t help it—I turned to look at him in the light. I needed to be sure I hadn’t made him up.

The images from last night tore through my mind again when I saw the large, tattooed arm resting where my body had just been. The muscles were well defined even relaxed, and the face had a boyish charm now that he was asleep. Such a difference from the predatory stare and knowing smirk I kept seeing in my mind. Before I could stop myself, I gently ran my fingers through his dirty-blond hair that, now in the sunlight, I could see had a red tint to it. And I knew if he opened them, those arctic blue eyes would once again captivate me.

But I couldn’t risk that.

I’d already stayed too long; I’d already made a mistake with him. Drunken one-night stands weren’t my thing. Drunken one-night stands with strangers in Vegas were even worse.

Straightening, I turned and walked quietly from the room.”— Molly McAdams, Trusting Liam

mollyAbout the Author:
Molly McAdams grew up in California but now lives in the oh-so-amazing state of Texas with her husband and furry four-legged daughters. Her hobbies include hiking, snowboarding, traveling and long walks on the beach, which roughly translates to being a homebody with her hubby and dishing out movie quotes. When she’s not at work, she can be found hiding out in her bedroom surrounded by her laptop, cell, Kindle and fighting over the TV remote. She has a weakness for crude-humored movies, fried pickles and loves curling up in a fluffy comforter during a thunderstorm…or under one in a bathtub if there are tornados. That way she can pretend they aren’t really happening.

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EXCERPT AND GIVEAWAY – Trusting Liam by Molly McAdams

 

Trusting Liam cover

Trusting Liam (A Taking Chances Novel)

by Molly McAdams

Synopsis:

From the New York Times bestselling author of Taking Chances, From Ashes, and Stealing Harper, comes the new unforgettable adult romance Molly McAdams’ fans have been waiting for—the sizzling story of a young woman who must place her trust in the one man who can break through her defenses.

A night they will always remember…a connection neither can deny…a secret that could destroy it all…

When Kennedy Ryan moves to California, she never expects to come face-to-face with Liam Taylor—the intriguing man who has haunted her thoughts for a year. A man who led her to breaking every one of her rules for a single night of passion that ended up meaning more than it was ever supposed to. Accustomed to disastrous experiences with men, Kennedy shields herself before he can break down more of the carefully built control she’s clung to for the last four years. But every time she sees Liam, she feels her resolve weakening.

Liam Taylor has been asked to help socialize his boss’s nieces. But what he thinks sounds more like a babysitting job ends up leading him to the only girl who ever slipped away before morning—a girl he thought he’d never find again. And now that she’s within reach, Liam’s determined to never let her go.

But when a secret from her past tests their relationship, will they be able to cling to the trust Liam has worked so hard to build?

Amazon Pre-order / Goodreads

Excerpt:

Prologue

May 15

Kennedy

Cracking an eye open, I immediately shut it against the harsh light coming into the room and bit back a groan from the pounding in my head. Making another attempt—this time with both eyes—I squinted at the unfamiliar hotel room and blinked a few times before letting my eyes open all the way as I took in my surroundings. Well, as much of them as I could without moving.

There was a heavy arm draped uncomfortably over my waist, a forehead pressed to the back of my head, a nose to the back of my neck, and an erection to my butt. What. The. Hell. I was naked; he was naked. Why are we naked, and who is behind me? If I wasn’t seconds from screaming for someone to help me, I might have snorted. The why was obvious, there was a familiar ache between my legs, and my lips felt puffy from kissing and where he’d bitten down on them.

I inhaled softly. He. Him. Oh God.

Flashes from last night took turns assaulting me with the pounding in my head. Impromptu trip to Vegas with the girls after finals ended. Dancing. Club. Drinks. Arctic blue eyes captivating me. More drinks and dancing. Him holding me close, and not close enough. Lips against mine. Stumbling into a room. Hands searching. His tall, hard body pressing mine against the bed—still not close enough.

My eyes immediately went to my left hand, and I exhaled slowly in relief when I didn’t find a ring there. Thank God, the last thing I need is a marriage as result of a drunken night in Vegas. I rolled my eyes. The last thing I needed was a man in my life, period. And if my family didn’t kill me for it, I would have died from embarrassment if I had ended up with a ring on my finger after last night. Because unlike what everyone loves to believe so they can feel better about their dirty deeds while in Sin City, what happens in Vegas doesn’t always stay in Vegas.

Trying not to wake him, I slowly slid out from under his arm and off the bed to search for my clothes. Once I was dressed, I told myself to just leave, but I couldn’t help it—I turned to look at him in the light. I needed to be sure I hadn’t made him up.

The images from last night tore through my mind again when I saw the large, tattooed arm resting where my body had just been. The muscles were well defined even relaxed, and the face had a boyish charm now that he was asleep. Such a difference from the predatory stare and knowing smirk I kept seeing in my mind. Before I could stop myself, I gently ran my fingers through his dirty-blond hair that, now in the sunlight, I could see had a red tint to it. And I knew if he opened them, those arctic blue eyes would once again captivate me.

But I couldn’t risk that.

I’d already stayed too long; I’d already made a mistake with him. Drunken one-night stands weren’t my thing. Drunken one-night stands with strangers in Vegas were even worse.

Straightening, I turned and walked quietly from the room.

Chapter 1

May 21 … One year later

Kennedy

“Why are you trying to doing this to me?” Kira yelled as she stood from where she’d been sitting on the couch.

I looked over at my identical twin to see a look of horror on her face, and waited for the freak-out that I knew was only seconds away. Shifting my attention back to our parents, I mumbled, “Told you it wouldn’t go over well.”

“But—you can’t—Kennedy, why—Zane’s in Florida,” Kira sputtered out, and I rolled my eyes at the same time as my dad.

“Is that supposed to mean something to me?” Dad asked as he crossed his large tattooed arms over his chest.

Not willing to give Kira time to respond to that kind of question, I started talking over Dad before he could finish. “Did you ever think that maybe a little distance might be a good thing for the two of you? And did you not hear Dad? These guys are out of prison, Kira!” I shouted, punctuating the last few words in case she’d missed the memo the first time around.

“Maybe Zane will go with you,” Mom offered with a sympathetic look on her face that I knew was as well practiced as it was a lie. The worry was still there in her eyes, as was the eagerness to get us away from Florida … and it wasn’t exactly a secret that we all wanted Kira to get space from Zane.

They’d been together since we were fifteen, and the more time went on, the more Kira’s world revolved around only him. It was annoying.

“And leave his job?” Kira countered.

“Well, then maybe this will be good for you, like Kennedy said. Get a break from Zane so you can see other options. You girls are only twenty-two, you just graduated from college, and you’re too young to be getting serious anyway, Kira, just ask Kennedy. You’ll regret not enjoying life first.”

“Wow, thanks for that, Mom. What’s that supposed to mean?”

Before she could respond to me, my dad’s head jerked back and he sent Mom a look. “What the hell is that supposed to mean? You were twenty-one when we got engaged.”

“Do I look like I’m not enjoying life suddenly? What did I miss?” I asked Kira as Dad spoke, but she didn’t make any indication that she’d even heard me.

“Seriously, Kash?” Mom shot Dad a look that even I was impressed by. “That was different. We were different. She’s only dated Zane.”

“Can we get back to the more important discussion?” I cut in before Dad could respond, and looked back to Kira. “I’m going to California. You’re going with me. Zane can deal with it.”

“You can’t do this! I’m not going!” Kira shrieked as the tears started.

“You act like I’m giving either of you a choice. Both of you need to start accepting this.”

My eyes widened at my dad’s dark tone, and I shot right back, “You act like you still have a say in our lives. You haven’t for four years. And if you remember, I’m going along with what you want without complaint. So don’t throw me into the same category as Kira when she’s the only one fighting you on this.”

One dark eyebrow rose, and I saw Kira sink back onto the couch from the look he was giving. Too bad I was just like him: hardheaded and stubborn. I might be my sister’s mirror image, but I was nothing like her. I raised one eyebrow back at him, and Mom sighed.

“I don’t know how I put up with you two sometimes,” she groaned, rubbing her hand over her forehead. Looking at Kira, she said, “You’re going to California, no more discussion. This is for your safety, why can’t you see that?”

“I’m not going!” Kira sobbed. “Who cares if some guys Dad put away years ago are out of prison?”

I snorted, but before I could respond, Uncle Mason’s deep voice sounded directly behind us. “These men do.”

I turned quickly to look at him, and tried not to laugh when he gave Dad a questioning look and mouthed, “Zane?” as he gestured to Kira.

“Is there any other reason she would be freaking out like this?” I asked as I stood to go give him a hug.

“Are you both packed?” he asked.

“Packed?” Kira yelled again. “They just told us! I haven’t even called Zane!”

“Oh my God, no one cares.”

“Kennedy,” Mom chastised, but I knew she was thinking the same thing.

As soon as Kira was out of the room, I sighed and headed to my room to pack as much as I could. Kira was already packing and sobbing into her phone when I passed her room, and I somehow managed to hold back an eye roll. Never mind that our parents had just told us that our family was being threatened by members of a gang our dad and uncle Mason had put away over twenty years ago. A gang whose members had kidnapped our mom before we were born and held her for over a month in an attempt to free their main members from prison. Or that a chunk of them were getting out of prison within the next handful of months. Or that Kira and I were the main targets in their threats. Nope … none of that mattered to Kira right now. What mattered was that we were going to be living in California for the time being—close to our mom’s side of the family—and Zane wouldn’t be going with us. No Zane meant devastation in Kira’s world. She couldn’t even get dressed without telling everyone about a memory with Zane in that outfit, or that it was one of his many favorites.

Snatching a hairband off my desk, I pulled my thick, black hair into a messy bun on the top of my head and started packing. I didn’t turn to face Kira when she came into my room ten minutes later, but I knew she was there.

“How could you do this to me?” she asked quietly, her words breaking with emotion. “You’re supposed to be on my side, you’re always supposed to be on my side. And you went behind my back and planned this with Mom and Dad without even warning me?”

I glanced over my shoulder, my eyebrows rising at her assumption. “I didn’t plan shit, Kira. They told me while you were talking to Zane right before they asked you to get off the phone. They just wanted me to know because they thought you would freak out and they needed me to be able to try to talk you into it calmly—rather than hitting us both with the news at the same time. The only difference between you and me is I have no problem with this move because I’m not stupid enough to think that the gang won’t actually make good on their threats if we stay here. Or try to.”

I went back to packing, and there was a couple minutes of silence before she said, “I know why you’re all really doing this. Don’t think for a second that I’m stupid enough not to realize this is about Zane.”

I released a heavy breath and shook my head. “Despite what you think, this has nothing to do with you and your boyfriend. But I do think that this is something we need to do, and I think it will be good for us.”

“I won’t forgive you for this. You of all people should realize how much this is going to kill me.”

My breath caught, but I didn’t reply. I knew I couldn’t without lashing out at her. Without another word, she left my room. The only sounds were her soft cries and her feet on the hardwood as she walked away.

 

“So now that you have us on a private jet—which just makes this all the more weird, by the way—do you mind telling us details about where we’ll be spending the next however long?” I asked Uncle Mason a few hours later.

“Didn’t your mom and dad tell you everything?”

I gave him a look that he immediately laughed at.

“Okay, tell me what you know, and I’ll fill in the blanks.”

“Basically, all I know is that Juarez and a handful of others from his crew are up for probation within a few months of each other starting next week. They’re somehow threatening us—but more specifically, Kira and me—and Mom and Dad think it would be best if we weren’t near Tampa. Since we just graduated and don’t have a reason to stay up in Tallahassee anymore, the only other place to go is California near Mom’s family, and we’ll be there for an undetermined amount of time.”

“I wasn’t told most of that,” Kira muttered from where she was sulking across the aisle.

“You were told that,” I shot back. “All of that. You just couldn’t get past the California-equals-no-Zane part, and flipped while they told you the rest!”

Before we could start on another war, Uncle Mason spoke up. “You’ll be just North of San Diego, near your Uncle Eli. He’s already been looking into places for you to live, and your parents are working something out with them for a car.”

“Lovely. Sounds like everyone is already completely filled in,” Kira sneered.

Uncle Mason didn’t respond for a long time, he just sat there staring at Kira with a somber expression. It was so unlike him. “I don’t want you two to have to do this any more than you do, trust me. Your dad and I know better than anyone what it’s like to pick up and move at a moment’s notice and not be able to have a say in it, so we know what you’re going through.”

Kira mumbled something too low for me to hear, but it was obvious in her expression that she didn’t agree with him.

After a subtle shake of my head, I looked back at Uncle Mason and tapped his leg with my foot to get his attention again. “Okay, so we’ve heard about Juarez’s gang and what happened with Mom being taken. But here’s what I don’t understand and am having a little bit of trouble with. Why after so much time has passed do you think it’s them threatening us? Wouldn’t they be over it by now? I mean, couldn’t it just as easily be someone you’ve arrested recently, and you’re just jumping ahead and thinking its Juarez?”

Uncle Mason was already shaking his head before I even finished asking my questions. “No. It may have been twenty-three years ago, but we haven’t forgotten what happened, and we know for a fact they haven’t and are still holding a grudge because there have been letters delivered to your dad.”

“What did they say?”

“It doesn’t matter.”

“What did they say?” I asked louder, and Kira leaned toward us in her seat to hear his response.

“I said it doesn’t—”

“We deserve to know!” I snapped.

After a beat of silence, he admitted, “They’ve said, ‘Can’t wait to meet the rest of your family’, or ‘How are those daughters of yours?’” Uncle Mason sighed heavily and looked out the window for a few seconds.

“That’s it?” I asked when he didn’t continue. “I mean, that’s really creepy but it doesn’t prove much of anything.”

“It does, because at the bottom it had the gang’s symbol. A symbol your dad and I used to have tattooed on us when we were undercover. A symbol they left spray-painted on your parents’ wall after kidnapping your mom.”

“Oh,” I breathed, and Uncle Mason sent me a look.

“Yeah. ‘Oh.’”

 

May 27

Liam

Squeezing Cecily’s waist once, I deepened the kiss for a few seconds before pulling away. A smirk crossed my face when she tried to follow me. “I gotta go.”

“Just a little longer?” she asked huskily as she pulled on my tie, bringing us closer together.

“I can’t. You know I have to get to that meeting.” Grabbing her slender wrist in my hand, I took my tie from her firm grip and sent her a look.

“Of course, the so-called ‘meeting’ that no one else in the office seems to know about.” Her full lips pouted, and I exhaled slowly at the annoying look.

“You know about it.”

Cecily smacked my arm and huffed. “Only because you told me.”

“That’s not my problem. Besides, it might be a bad thing that I’m the only one. Who knows? You may get your wish, I might be getting fired.”

She smiled wryly and wrapped her arms around my neck before pressing her mouth to mine. “Now that definitely sounds like a meeting I want to happen,” she murmured against my lips.

“Power-hungry bitch,” I growled, and kissed her hard once more before backing away.

“Manwhore.”

“Hasn’t stopped you.”

Her gaze raked over me as I backed up toward the door before snapping up to my face. “No, it hasn’t.”

I grinned and nodded in her direction. “Are you going to leave my office?”

She slid off the desk and walked around to sit in my chair. “I don’t know, maybe I’ll sit in here a while to get used to what my new office feels like.”

“I haven’t gotten fired yet.” Not bothering to wait, I walked out of my office and left Cecily in there. I looked behind me to watch the door shut as I fixed my tie, a soft smile tugged at my lips as I thought about the girl in there.

There was no bullshit when it came to Cecily and me. I didn’t like relationships, labels, or being tied down to any one girl; and she liked guys who demanded control. It was the complete opposite of who she was, but I wasn’t going to question it. She wasn’t shy about her need to be at the top of everything—including a company—nor was she shy about her willingness to step on any and everyone to get there.

She wanted my job, I’d known that before we started sleeping together, but she couldn’t have it. And despite our current status and her greed-filled eyes, she wasn’t one to sleep her way to the top—we just happened to be a nice distraction for each other at work.

I looked up just in time to stop myself from running into the man standing in the hallway. He hadn’t been moving; he was just standing there with his arms crossed over his chest, one eyebrow raised as he studied me.

“Excuse me,” I said, and moved to walk around him—he moved with me. My eyebrows slanted down, and I looked up at him. Yeah. Up. I was six-two. To have to look up at someone was saying something. “Can I help you?” I asked when I noticed his mirrored-movement hadn’t been a mistake; he was still staring down at me with a calculating expression.

The man didn’t move, and he didn’t say anything. With a huff, I gave him a once over and smirked. My dad owned a boxing gym, meaning I’d grown up around some of the leanest, deadliest fighters, as well as some of the biggest meatheads. But this fucker was massive. “If you don’t mind, I have somewhere to be. And lay off the steroids, old man.”

When I went to move around him this time, he let me pass; but when I looked over my shoulder, he was turned around and glaring at me with that same expression before he glanced behind him toward my office.

My footsteps faltered and I racked my brain trying to think of any mention of another guy Cecily might be seeing—one who would come looking for her at work—but I came up with nothing. And somehow I knew in the way he was glaring at me again, that he wasn’t looking at me like he was ready to fight. He looked like he was frustrated with what he was seeing in me.

Shaking my head as if to clear it, I looked ahead of me and continued down the halls to my boss’ office. Before I got there, I stopped at his secretary’s desk. “Hey, call security. There’s a guy in here I’ve never seen before, and I don’t think he’s supposed to be here. Height is probably six-five. Weight is around two seventy or two eighty. The guy is solid muscle, tan, Caucasian, black hair.” I watched as she jotted everything down. “Got it?”

“Yeah,” she said as she grabbed the phone, but I didn’t wait to hear the conversation.

Walking toward the office beside her, I knocked on the door as I opened it, and flashed a smile at my boss, Eli Jenkins.

“Hey, Liam, come in and have a seat.”

I sat in one of the two chairs on the other side of his desk, and waited for whatever he had to say as he sat directly next to me. Despite what I’d told Cecily, I wasn’t worried about losing my job. I knew Eli liked me and my work, and I was on the same path he’d taken in this industry. But that didn’t mean he didn’t know about Cecily and me, and our interoffice relationship wasn’t exactly allowed.

Before he could say anything else, his eyes snapped up when the door to his office quickly opened.

“Two hundred and seventy, to two hundred and eighty pounds? Hardly.”

I turned quickly at the deep voice, and my eyes widened at the roided-out guy from the hall.

“Two hundred eighty five, actually. I’m proud of those extra five pounds.”

“Who the fuck are you?” I asked, standing up from the chair. Turning to look at Eli, I pointed at the guy. “I had security called on him.”

“He called me, ‘old man’, can you believe that?” The guy snorted. “At least you were right about the height. Good one, kid.” He walked around to sit in Eli’s desk chair, and I looked back and forth between him and where Eli was sitting next to me.

Eli rolled his eyes. “Liam Taylor, it’s not exactly a pleasure to introduce you, but this is Mason Gates. He’s a close friend of my sister and her husband.”

“You still don’t like me?” Mason asked Eli. “It was twenty-three years ago.”

Eli shot him a hard look. “She’s my sister. No, I still don’t like you.” Glancing over to me, Eli explained, “He also dated my other sister.”

Mason snorted a laugh at the word “dated”, but didn’t say anything else to piss off Eli. Nodding in my direction, he said, “He’s good. Probably dumb as shit, but he’s funny, and he was pretty spot-on about me. Minus the steroids.”

“I’m lost,” I whispered to the room, and then looked at Mason. “What was your deal in the hall?”

“I already knew I wasn’t going to like you. Any other questions?”

“Mason,” Eli barked, then looked at me. “Act like he’s not here. For whatever reason, he felt the need to be here when I talked with you.”

“Okay…” I said, drawing out the word. “Talk to me about what?”

“Mason just brought my nieces to California from Florida so they could get away from a situation going on back home, and they’re not exactly happy about being here. They know they need to be here, and that’s all that’s keeping them from going back to Florida, but they need something to do to keep them busy. A job, friends … anything. And I was hoping that you would be able to help with that.”

I waited to see if he would add anything, and when he didn’t, I shrugged. “I—sure. I mean, I don’t know how much I can do for them to find friends, but if they’re old enough for the gym, I know my dad is looking for a few people.”

Mason cleared his throat, and Eli gave him an annoyed look before saying, “We also need to make sure that one of them, Kira, doesn’t try to run back home. She has a boyfriend and is taking the separation harder than her sister. My sister and brother-in-law trust my judgment to find someone who can do that. I trust you as much as I trust my own son, and I think you and your connections will be exactly what they need to settle in here.”

I laughed hesitantly and looked at both of them for a few seconds. “Are you serious? I’m not a babysitter, Eli; we work in advertising. Besides that, I’m twenty-four, what do you expect me to do with these girls that will make it seem okay for me to even act like their friend?”

“I knew I didn’t like him,” Mason blurted out and stood. “Meeting over.”

“Sit down,” Eli ordered, but didn’t look to make sure he did. “Liam, my nieces just turned twenty-two, they’re close to your age. And no one is asking you to babysit them.”

“You want me to make sure one of them doesn’t run back to her boyfriend! That sounds like babysitting,” I argued.

“Still don’t like him,” Mason chimed in, but Eli and I didn’t bother responding to him.

“I don’t need you to watch her every move, I was just hoping that you could maybe include them in whatever you and your friends are doing one or two times over the weekends. See if the girls get along with you or your friends, try to get them to have a good time so they won’t focus on how much they don’t want to be here. You don’t have to give up your life for them, Liam. And if you aren’t willing to do that, and if your dad does have space at the gym for them, that would be more than enough. I won’t ask you for anything else.” When I just sat there staring at him, Eli leaned closer. “Please. I’d have my son do this, but you know he’s backpacking through Europe this summer with his friends.”

If it had been something as simple as inviting his nieces to a party, I would do it in a heartbeat. But with Mason there—whatever his real reasons—and with the part that still sounded like I’d be babysitting them, I knew there was something else behind this than the girls just needing to be introduced to a few people. The fact that there was a “situation” back in Florida, and that they didn’t want to be here, only confirmed that thought. But Eli was my mentor. I’d interned for him in college, and he’d hired me on after the internship had ended. He’d continued helping me throughout the last couple years of college, always pushing me to work harder and be better, and then did the same so I would work my way up in his company after I’d graduated. He’d done more than I could’ve ever asked for, and this was the first thing he’d asked of me. No matter how odd it seemed, I knew I couldn’t tell him no.

“Okay,” I finally agreed. “I’ll call my dad. I know for a fact that he needs new people for the drink station in the gym. I’ll see if he can interview them and let you know when.”

“Perfect,” Eli said on a relieved sigh. “They’ve already been here a week, I know they need to get out of their condo.”

I nodded and reluctantly said, “And I’ll make sure whichever one you mentioned won’t go running back to her boyfriend. I’m sure a bunch of us will end up at the beach this weekend, at least. I’ll let you know when I do.”

“Still don’t like him,” Mason said again. “I vote we find someone else.”

I rolled my eyes and looked over at him. “Why did you even need to be here?”

“A question I’ve already asked a few times,” Eli mumbled.

Mason’s teasing tone and expression quickly left, leaving him looking at me the exact way he had been in the hallway. “I’m here because someone needs to tell you that you aren’t to touch either of them. Rachel and Kash may trust Eli’s choice in you being the one to help them out, that doesn’t mean I do. No one chose you so you would have another girl to fuck.”

“Mason,” Eli snapped, but Mason’s gaze never left me.

One eyebrow rose, and a short laugh burst from my chest. “Excuse me?”

“You didn’t try to hide the girl who was in your office earlier, and that already makes me not like you as much as I could. You see an opportunity in a girl, and you take it. Trust me, I get it. I was the same way when I was your age, which is why Eli still hates me. But those girls mean the world to Eli, to me, and to their parents. This is me warning you now, if you touch one of those girls, you will have all three of us on you. And their dad is the last person you want to piss off. Your job is to be their friend. Nothing more.”

“Noted,” I huffed as I stood to leave the office. “Anything else, Eli?”

He shook his head at Mason, and sighed when he looked back at me. “Just remind Cecily that I don’t want her in your office.”

The corner of my mouth tilted up and I nodded as I turned to leave. “I’ll call my dad and let you know what he says.”

“I appreciate it, Liam. Really,” he called out as I reached the door.

Mason snorted. “Still don’t like him.”

The feeling was mutual.

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Letting Go by Molly McAdams

The New York Times and USA Today bestselling New Adult author returns with a sizzling novel of love, loss, guilt, and forgiveness.

ALP Synopsis

Grey and Ben fell in love at thirteen and believed they’d be together forever. But three days before their wedding, the twenty-year-old groom-to-be suddenly died from an unknown heart condition, destroying his would-be-bride’s world. If it hadn’t been for their best friend, Jagger, Grey never would have made it through those last two years to graduation. He’s the only one who understands her pain, the only one who knows what it’s like to force yourself to keep moving when your dreams are shattered. Jagger swears he’ll always be there for her, but no one has ever been able to hold on to him. He’s not the kind of guy to settle down.

It’s true that no one has ever been able to keep Jagger—because he’s only ever belonged to Grey. While everyone else worries over Grey’s fragility, he’s the only one who sees her strength. Yet as much as he wants Grey, he knows her heart will always be with Ben. Still they can’t deny the heat that is growing between them—a passion that soon becomes too hot to handle. But admitting their feelings for each other means they’ve got to face the past. Is being together what Ben would have wanted . . . or a betrayal of his memory that will eventually destroy them both?

ALP Excerpt

Prologue

Grey May 10, 2012

“Then over there is where the girls and I will be waiting before the ceremony starts,” I said, pointing to the all-seasons tent just off to the side. “I think the coordinator said she’d get us in there when the photographer is taking pictures of Ben and the boys on the other side house, so he won’t see me.”

I glanced to my mom and soon-to-be mother-in-law talking about the gazebo behind me, and what it would look like with the greenery and flowers, and I smiled to myself. They’d been going back and forth on whether we should keep the gazebo as it was or decorate it ever since Ben and I had decided on The Lake House as our wedding and reception site. And from the few words I was hearing now, they were still undecided. I honestly didn’t care how it was decorated. I wanted to be married to Ben, and in three days, I would be.

“Grey, this place is freaking gorgeous. I can’t believe you were able to get it on such short notice,” my maid-of-honor and best friend, Janie, said in awe.

“I know, but it’s perfect, right?”

“Absolutely perfect.”

I grabbed her hand and rested my head on her shoulder as I stared at the part of the property where the reception would be. Ben and I had promised our families that we wouldn’t get married until we’d graduated from college, but that had been a much harder promise to keep than we’d thought it would be. School let out for summer a few days ago, and we wanted to move off campus for our junior year … together. That hadn’t exactly gone over well with my parents. They didn’t want us living together until we were married. I think in my dad’s mind it helped him continue to believe I was his innocent little girl.

I’d been dating Ben since I was thirteen years old; the innocent part flew out the window over three years ago. Not that he needed to know that. After a long talk with both our parents, they agreed to let us get married now instead of two years from now.

That was seven weeks ago. Even though Ben had asked me to marry him last Christmas, we’d officially gotten engaged once we’d received the okay from our parents, and had started planning our wedding immediately. Seven weeks of being engaged. Seven years of being together. And in three days I would finally be Mrs. Benjamin Craft.

With how the last few weeks had dragged by, it felt like our day would never get here.

My phone rang and I pulled it out of my pocket. My lips tilted up when I saw Jagger’s name and face on the screen, but I ignored the call. Putting my phone back in my pocket, I kept my other hand firmly wrapped around Janie’s and walked over to where the rest of the bridesmaids were. My aunts and grandma had gathered around the gazebo-debating duo, and were helping them with the pros and cons.

“So what are we going to do tonight?” I asked, hoping to get some kind of information about the bachelorette party.

“Nice try.” Janie snorted. She started saying something else, but my phone rang again.

Glancing down and seeing Jagger again, I thought about answering it for a few seconds before huffing out a soft laugh and ignoring the call a second time. I knew why he was calling. He was bored out of his mind and wanted me to save him from the golf day Ben and all the guys were having before the bachelor party. Normally I would have saved him from the torture of golfing, but today was about Ben. If he wanted to go golfing with all his guys, then Jagger just had to suck it up for his best friend.

Almost immediately after ignoring the call, I got a text from him.

Jagger: Answer the goddamn phone Grey!

My head jerked back when the phone in my hand began ringing just as soon as I’d read the message, and all I could do was stare at it for a few seconds. A feeling of dread and unease formed in my chest, quickly unfurling and spreading through my arms and stomach.

Some part of my mind registered two other ringtones, but I couldn’t focus on them, or make myself look away from Jagger’s lopsided smile on my screen. With a shaky finger, I pressed on the green button, and brought the phone up to my ear.

Before I could say anything, his panicked voice filled the phone.

“Grey? Grey! Are you there? Fuck, Grey, say something so I know you’re there!”

There was a siren and yelling in the background, and the feeling that had spread through my body now felt like it was choking me. I didn’t know what was happening, but somehow … somehow I knew my entire world was about to change. My legs started shaking and my breaths came out in hard rushes.

“I—what’s happ—” I cut off quickly and turned to look at my mom and Ben’s. Both had phones to their ears. Ben’s mom was screaming with tears falling down her cheeks; my mom looked like the ground had just been ripped out from underneath her.

Jagger was talking, I knew his voice was loud and frantic, but I was having trouble focusing on the words. It sounded like he was yelling at me from miles away.

“What?” I whispered.

Everyone around me was freaking out, trying to figure out what was going on. One of my friends was asking who I was talking to, but I couldn’t even turn to look at her, or be sure who it was that had asked. I couldn’t take my eyes off the only other women currently talking on a phone.

“Grey! Tell me where you are, I’m coming to get you!”

I blinked a few times and looked down at my lap. I was sitting on the ground. When had I sat down?

Janie squatted in front of me and grabbed my shoulders to shake me before grabbing my cheeks so I would look at her instead of where my mom and Ben’s were clinging to each other.

“What?” I repeated, my voice barely audible.

Just before Janie took the phone from me, I heard a noise that sounded weighted and pained. A choking sound I’d never heard from Jagger in the eleven years we’d been friends. The grief in it was enough to force a sharp cry from my own chest, and I didn’t even struggle against Janie when she took the phone from me.

I didn’t understand anything that was happening around me, but somehow I knew everything. A part of me had heard Jagger’s words. A part of me understood what the horrified cries meant that quickly spread throughout every one of my friends. My family. Ben’s family. A part of me acknowledged the sense of loss that had added to the dread, unease, and grief—and knew why it was there.

A part of me knew the wedding I’d just been envisioning would never happen.

Chapter 1

Two years later…

 

Grey May 10, 2014

I dressed in a fog and sat down on the side of my bed when I was done. Grabbing the hard top of the graduation cap, I looked down at it in my hands until the tears filling my eyes made it impossible to see anything other than blurred shapes. I knew I had to leave, but at that moment I didn’t care.

I didn’t care that I’d done my make up for the first time in two years and I was ruining it. I didn’t care that I was graduating from college. I didn’t care that I had already been running twenty minutes late before I’d sat down.

I just didn’t care.

Falling to my side, I grabbed the necklace that hadn’t left my neck once in the last couple years, and pulled it out from under my shirt until I was gripping the wedding band I’d bought for Ben. The one he should be wearing, but I hadn’t been able to part with—almost like I’d needed to keep some part of him with me.

The last year had been easier to get through than the one before it. I hadn’t needed my friends constantly trying to get me to do my schoolwork. I hadn’t needed Janie pulling me out of bed every morning, forcing me to shower and dress for the day. I’d even taken off my engagement ring and put it away a few months ago. But exactly two years ago today, I’d been showing off the place where I was going to marry Ben. Completely oblivious to anything bad in the world. And Ben had died.

At twenty years old, his heart had failed and he’d died before he’d even dropped to the ground on the golf course. He’d always seemed so active and healthy; nothing had ever picked up on the rare heart condition that had taken him too early. Doctors said it wasn’t something they could test for. I didn’t believe them then, and even though I’d read news articles of similar deaths in young people, I wasn’t sure if I did now. All I knew was that he was gone.

Heavy footsteps echoed through the hall of my apartment seconds before Jagger was standing in the doorway of my bedroom, a somber look on his face.

“How did I know you wouldn’t have made it out of here?” One corner of his mouth twitched up before falling again.

“I can’t do it,” I choked out, and tightened my hold on the ring. “How am I supposed to celebrate anything on a day that brought so much pain?”

Jagger took in a deep breath through his nose before releasing it and pushing away from the doorframe. Taking the few steps over to the bed, he sat down by my feet and stared straight ahead as silence filled the room.

“I honestly don’t know, Grey,” he finally said with a small shrug. “The only way I made it to my car and your apartment was because I knew Ben wanted this, and would still want it for us.”

“He was supposed to be here,” I mumbled.

“I know.”

“Our two-year anniversary would have been in a few days.”

There was a long pause before Jagger breathed, “I know.”

I stopped myself before I could go on. Nothing I would say right now would help either of us, not when all I wanted to do was curl up in a ball on the bed that was supposed to be our bed, and give into the grief. I had to remember that today wasn’t hard for only me. I hadn’t been the only one to lose him. Ben and Jagger had grown up together; they’d been best friends since they were six. And two years ago they’d been in the middle of a conversation when Jagger had looked over at Ben because he hadn’t answered, and watched as he fell.

“Jag?” I whispered.

“Yeah, Grey?”

“How do we do it?”

The bed shifted as he leaned forward to rest his forearms on his legs, turning his head so he could look at me. “Do what?”

“Keep moving on. I thought this year was easier, I thought I was doing better until this last week. And then today…” I drifted off, letting the words hang in the air for a few seconds before saying, “It’s like no time has passed. It’s like I’m right back where I was when you picked me up and took me to the hospital. I feel like my world has ended all over again. There are still some days where I don’t want to get out of bed, but not like this.”

“There isn’t an answer to that. Even if there were, it would be different for you, for me, for anyone else who’d ever been in this situation. I get up and keep going because I know I have something to live for, and I know it’s what he would want. I can’t think about how I’ll deal with the next day, I just take each day as it comes. There will always be hard days, Grey, always. We just need to take them with the good days, and keep living.”

“I feel like it’s cruel to his memory to move on,” I admitted softly a few minutes later.

“No one ever said we had to move on, we just need to keep moving.”

I met his gaze and held it as he stood up and turned, holding a hand out to me.

“You ready to move?” he asked, and the meaning in his question was clear.

“No,” I replied, but still held my hand out. Slipping my hand into his, I let him pull me off the bed, and wrapped my arms around his waist, dropping my head onto his chest.

Jagger folded his arms around me, and brought his head down near mine to speak softly in my ear. “Don’t think about next week, or tomorrow, or even tonight. Just focus on your right now. Right now we have to go to our graduation. Right now Ben would be flipping out because you would be making both of you late.”

I choked out a laugh, and a deep laugh rumbled in his chest.

“And you would tell him?” His question drifted off, waiting for my response.

“To get over it and bet him twenty bucks that we would still beat you there.”

This time his laugh was fuller, and he rubbed his hands over my back before stepping away from me. “Exactly. Then he would put an extra twenty on it, saying I would show up with fresh charcoal on my hands.”

“And face,” I added.

Jagger rolled his eyes. “That was one time.”

“It was to your mom’s wedding.”

“I didn’t like the guy anyway.” I smiled and his eyes darted over my face before he held his hands up. “No fresh charcoal, and we’ll show up at the same time. So no one wins today.”

I took a deep breath in and out, and nodded my head. “I think I’m ready to move now.”

“All right.” He bent forward and grabbed my cap and gown off the bed before turning to leave the room.

I followed him down the hall and into the living room, pausing in the entryway only long enough to look in the mirror and wipe away the streaked make up. Once we were in his car, I touched his forearm and waited for him to look over at me.

“Thanks, Jagger. For coming for me, for talking to me—just … thank you.” He had no idea how thankful I was for him, and I wouldn’t have known how to explain it if I tried. He was just always there to make things better, always there to help me … always there to be everything I needed.

He shook his head slowly once, and his green eyes stayed locked on mine. “Sometimes I need motivation to keep moving too. You don’t need to thank me, just let me know when you have to talk about him, okay?”

“Yeah.” Letting go of his arm, I sat back in the seat and grabbed the long chain holding Ben’s wedding band on it. Taking comfort in the feel of it in my palm, and the knowledge that he would be proud of Jagger and me right now.

 

I made it through the graduation without crying again, but I never felt like I was happy that it was happening. Even though Jagger had gotten me to a point where I’d been smiling and laughing, the second he’d left my side when we’d arrived, I’d fallen back into a state where I was constantly on the verge of crumbling from the grief of what today was. Only to be made worse when Janie had hugged me longer than normal, and then I’d seen my parents and older brother, and none of them had been able to force anything more than a strained smile and “congratulations.”

Lunch afterward didn’t prove to be much easier for anyone. One of my uncles mentioned the date and asked how I was dealing with it, and it had turned into some awkward hush-fest where everyone started kicking the other under the table, and giving them meaningful looks as if to say: shut the fuck up! For the next forty-five minutes, no one said a word. Not even a thank you to the waitress when she’d brought the food.

As much as I hated it, and as much as I loved my family, I was relieved when we’d said our goodbyes and my brother had driven me back to my apartment.

“You doing okay, kid?” he asked when he pulled into a parking space.

“Some days.”

“But not today.” It wasn’t a question, he knew.

“Yeah … not today,” I said softly.

“Do you want me to come up? I can hang out, crash here for the night, and head back tomorrow.”

“No, it’s fine. I didn’t really sleep last night, so I’ll probably go to bed when I get in there.”

“Grey, it’s four in the afternoon.” He looked at me with either pity or sympathy, neither I wanted to see.

“Today was kind of rough, it felt like three smashed into one, and like I said, I didn’t really sleep last night. I’m tired.”

He was silent for a minute before he twisted in his seat to face me. “I’m worried about you.”

I gritted my teeth and took calming breaths before saying, “You shouldn’t be. It’s been two years, I’m getting better.”

“Are you?” he asked on a laugh, but there was no humor in his tone. “I knew today would be hard for you, there’s no way for it not to be. But, shit, how much do you weigh?”

I jerked my head back. “What? I don’t know.”

“Do you look at yourself in the mirror? Do you see how you look in your clothes? You look like you’re wearing someone else’s clothes, and they’re a size or two too big.”

Glancing down at my shirt and skirt, I shook my head. “No they—well, I’m eating! You saw me at lunch, I ate half that burger.”

“No, Grey. I ate half your burger. You picked it up and put it down at least a dozen times before cutting it in half, and then picking up one of the halves only to put it back down. I watched you. You ate two fries. Nothing else.”

I tried to think back to the restaurant, but I couldn’t even remember ordering the burger, let alone cutting it. I just remembered half of it was gone when the waitress asked if I wanted a box. I’d said no. As for the clothes, today was the first time I’d actually done my hair or make-up in years. I usually just put on clothes and left, not caring to see how I looked.

“Well, what do you want me to say, Graham? I’m trying. You have no idea how hard it is to lose someone who has been a huge part of your world for over half your life. Who has owned your heart for most of that. Who you were supposed to marry days before they passed! You don’t understand what I’ve been through,” I seethed, and wiped at my wet cheeks. “I finished school, I’m living, what more do you want?”

“I want you to live, Grey.”

“I just said—”

“You’re existing,” he barked, cutting me off. “You’re existing, not living. You’re going through the motions you’re supposed to without realizing that you’re doing them, or why.”

“That’s not true!” I screamed. “You can’t judge me based on what you’ve seen of half a day. A day that is a horrible reminder of what happened.”

He grabbed my hand and squeezed, and when he spoke again, his voice was calm. “Kid, I’m not saying any of this only based off of what I’ve seen today. Janie’s worried about you—”

“Janie? Janie?! You’re having my friends keep tabs on me, Graham?”

“Grey—”

“How often do they check in with you? Huh? Do they only see me now so they can tell you how I’m doing? Because I don’t see them very much, but, then again, who the hell would want to be around someone who is just existing.”

“Grey!” he snapped when I opened the passenger door and jumped out of his truck.

“Screw you and your existing bullshit, Graham! I’m fine! I’m dealing the only way I know how, and I. Am. Fine.”

I didn’t care that I had tears streaming down my cheeks. I didn’t care that I was overreacting. I was overreacting because I was terrified he was right, and I didn’t want him to be. I was tired of everyone looking at me with sympathy or pity. I was tired of rooms getting quiet when I walked into them … still. I was tired of the way everyone seemed to walk on eggshells around me. And I was tired of feeling like I was giving them a reason to.

I took off for my building, ignoring Graham’s voice as he followed me from his truck. Grabbing my keys from my purse as I ran toward my apartment, I fumbled to find the right key so I could get in there before he could catch up with me. The keys slipped from my hand, and I reached out for them at the same time I tripped out of my sandals and hit the concrete on my hands and knees.

Ignoring the spilled contents of my purse, I rocked back so I was sitting on my heels, and let my head hang as hard sobs worked their way through my body.

Two large hands grabbed at my upper arms to help me up, and I swatted at him. “Leave me alone, Graham!” I cried.

“Shh. It’s okay,” a deep voice crooned. I lifted my head enough to see Jagger before letting him pull me into his arms. “It’s okay.”

I pressed my forehead into his chest, and shook my head back and forth. “It’s not. This day won’t end, and the way everyone is looking at me or talking to me is making me feel like I’m failing.”

“Failing?” he asked and tipped my head back, a soft smirk playing at his lips. “Hardly, Grey. I told you, you just gotta keep moving, and you are. You have been. You’re strong, not everyone sees that because they’re waiting for you to break. Just because they’re expecting you to not be handling this doesn’t mean you’re failing.”

“But they won’t talk about him, they won’t talk about what happened. Graham said I’m not eating, and I’m losing weight. He said Janie’s telling him that she’s worried about me. He said I’m just existing and going through the motions.”

“Fuck Graham. He’s wrong. He’s not with you every day to see how you’re improving.” Jagger’s green eyes bore into mine. “Your family hasn’t seen you much this year while you’ve been getting better, so they don’t know how to handle the situation—especially because of what today is and the fact that you are upset. He’s your brother, he’s going to be worried about you; but, Grey, don’t let him make you feel like you’re not doing better than you should be. Today is an exception. And he just happened to see you on an exception, all right?” His arms tightened around me, and he leaned back until he was pressed up against the wall. “You’re doing fine, I promise.”

He held me until I stopped crying, and released me when I pulled back.

“See? Fine.”

Today was making me question everything; I didn’t think I could agree with him on that. “What are you even doing here?”

“I thought you could use some company since it’s an exception day, but I’m gonna go so you can spend time with your brother,” he said, jerking his head at something behind me.

I looked over my shoulder to see Graham standing against the wall opposite us, his arms crossed over his chest, a strange look on his face. “How long has he been there?” I whispered to Jagger when I turned to face him again.

“The whole time.”

“So he heard you…” I had the sudden urge to stand up for Jagger. Graham had hated him ever since we’d become friends when we were nine. But, then again, he hadn’t really ever liked Ben until right before the wedding was supposed to happen, so it could have been an overprotective big brother thing.

“Yeah, but he knows I’m right.” Jagger’s eyes moved to look behind me, and one eyebrow rose in silent challenge, but Graham never said anything. “Go hang out with—”

“I don’t want to,” I said quickly, cutting him off. “I need to either be alone, or be with someone who knows what it’s like to force yourself to keep moving.”

He looked down at me for a few seconds before nodding. “Okay, let’s go.”

“We’re not staying here?” I asked when he bent down and started shoving things back into my purse.

“No. You want to keep moving, Grey. We can’t do that if we sit in that apartment all night.”

I took my purse from his hand, and turned to follow him out of the breezeway, Graham behind us the whole time. Jagger opened the passenger door of his car and shut it behind me after I’d slid in, and I met Graham’s stare from where he stood a few feet from the front of the car.

Graham’s hand shot out, gripping Jagger’s arm as he went to pass him, and I opened the door—ready for who knows what. It’s not like I could stop them if they went at it.

“Make sure she’s okay,” Graham demanded, his gaze hardening when Jagger ripped his arm free.

“What do you think I’ve been doing for the past two years?” he hissed. “She is okay, she’s better than okay. Today sucks for her, but you can’t treat her like she’s made of porcelain because it’s a bad fucking day. She needs to talk about him; she needs to talk about what happened. She doesn’t need the way you all stood there at the graduation staring at her like you had no idea who she was.”

“Do you see her?” Graham asked, getting closer. “Do you see how thin she is?”

“Yeah, I see her. I see her every day. She lost a lot of weight; she’s also put on weight in the last few months. Give her some fucking credit, Graham. Don’t just take Janie’s word for it—Janie isn’t around enough to give you updates on her. You want to know how your sister is doing, ask her yourself. Don’t tell her how she is.” Jagger didn’t wait for him to say anything else; he stalked around the hood of the car and slid in to the driver’s seat.

Graham looked like he couldn’t decide if he wanted to stop me from leaving with Jagger, or if he was relieved I was leaving. When I shut my door, he put a hand over his chest in our silent I love you, and kept his eyes trained on mine until I put my hand over my chest as well; nodding once as Jagger backed out of the spot.

 

Jagger May 10, 2014

I let my phone fall to the table, and sighed loudly as I rubbed my hands over my face. After driving around with the music blasting and windows down for a few hours, we’d come to one of the places we used to always go to before Ben died. They had live music on the weekends, and the best diner food in the area.

“Graham?” Grey guessed, and I grunted in confirmation.

“He just wanted to make sure you were okay.”

“You haven’t,” she began, but paused for a few seconds. “Have you been giving him updates too?”

“Seriously, Grey? Your brother hates me; I didn’t even know he had my number until a few minutes ago. Besides, if I had, he probably wouldn’t have said all that shit to you, and your family wouldn’t have acted like statues at the graduation.”

“I heard you say something about that to him before we left. So you noticed it too, huh?”

“Wasn’t hard to. My sister wanted to see you, but after we found you and saw the way they were all just staring at you, she was afraid to say anything.”

“Charlie was there? Were your mom and brother there, too?”

I stopped myself from rolling my eyes, and just shook my head instead. “No. Mom was probably busy with her new boyfriend or husband.”

Grey rolled her eyes at the mention of my mom’s boyfriends, and her lips tilted up in a soft smile. “I doubt that was the reason she didn’t show. But I wish Charlie had said something. I’ll have to call her this summer, or something. I haven’t seen her in forever.” Her mouth fell into a frown for a second before she turned to look at the stage when everyone clapped.

I hadn’t set foot in here in two years, and it felt strange, but good, to be in here again. Almost like I could see Ben sitting on the opposite side of the booth, right next to Grey. But just as soon as the memory hit me, it was gone. “Do you ever feel like he’s disappearing?” I asked suddenly.

Grey’s head shot up, her eyes wide as she took in my words. “What?”

“Ben. Do you feel like his memory is disappearing? Everywhere, all around us.”

“All the time,” she murmured and nodded absentmindedly for a few moments. “I forced myself to stop buying his cologne, and there are times I don’t remember what he smelled like. When I realize that, I panic. I’m afraid I’ll forget forever, and I want to go buy another bottle. But I know I can’t, I know it’ll just make it harder to move on. I don’t—” She cut off on a quiet sob, and covered her mouth with her hand as tears filled her eyes. “I don’t remember what his laugh sounded like. I don’t remember the way it felt when he held me. I’m afraid to go back to Thatch, Jag.”

“What? Why?”

“I don’t want to see his parents’ house and know that Ben’s been completely erased from it.”

I sagged into the booth and blew out a heavy breath. “Yeah, I’d forgotten about that.”

Six months after Ben died, his parents had moved. Not just to another house, not just out of town. They’d moved across the country to get away. They hadn’t been able to handle all the memories of Ben when their only child was now gone. And in a town the size of Thatch, there were memories everywhere.

I’d felt the same, but now I was in the same spot as Grey. I was terrified of forgetting him, and now I wondered if his parents regretted leaving.

“So what are you going to do?”

She blinked a few times, like I’d just pulled her from somewhere else, and after a few seconds she shrugged. “I’m still going back. The apartment here isn’t much better. He’s the one who picked it out, and all I ever think about when I’m in there is that he’s supposed to be in there too. It’ll be hard at first, but I need to go home. What about you?” Grey’s lips curved up in a rare smile, and I felt myself smiling back at her until she spoke. “I always pictured you just taking off. No one has ever been able to hold onto you, and I feel like towns and cities are no different. I don’t see you ever finding a place where you’ll want to settle down forever.”

Of course you don’t. My eyebrows pinched together, and I looked down so she wouldn’t see anything she wasn’t supposed to. There was truth to her words, and at the same time, she was so wrong. No one had ever been able to keep me because I’d only ever belonged to her. I’d dated a handful of girls in the first two years after leaving Thatch … if you could call it “dating”, and had only ever had one girlfriend back home—and that had been in hopes that it would get a reaction out of Grey as much as it had been a distraction for me from the constant in-my-face relationship of Ben and Grey. If Ben hadn’t died, and if they’d gotten married, leaving is exactly what I would’ve done. It was one thing to stay back, not saying anything to her, hoping one day she would see in me what I’ve seen in her since we were kids. It was another when I had to finally acknowledge she would never be mine.

But even though I wasn’t sure she would ever get to a point in her life where she was ready to move on, there was no way I could leave her now. She wasn’t mine, but she needed me. And I would be there for her as long as she did.

“So where do you think you’ll go?” she asked, and I looked back up at her.

“Thatch,” I said, my voice low and gravelly. “I belong in Thatch.”

 

ALP SL's Review

 

5 Stars

I absolutely love everything Molly McAdams writes. Her characters and storylines are very well written and I always find myself falling in love with her characters very early on. This story is heart wrenching and very emotional.

Grey is set to get married to her childhood friend Ben and start a long happy life together with him. Ben unexpectedly passes away leaving Grey all alone. Grey’s life is suddenly turned upside down and she is struggling to move on with life without Ben and his love. I was a sobbing mess while reading this part of the book. I couldn’t even begin to imagine what Grey is going through. How do you move on when the love of your life is taken away from you?

One night Grey goes to visit Jagger at his loft and is surprised by what she sees. He has been drawing lots of pictures of her and she doesn’t understand why. When Jagger tries to explain his feelings to Grey she runs away to her friends house. She stays away from Jagger for awhile until her brother Graham convinces Jagger to fight for her.

Jagger has been in love with Grey since he was 9 years old. He has always been there for her and will do whatever it takes to make her happy. He is also grieving the loss of his best friend and sometimes wishes it would have been him instead of Ben. He feels guilty for loving Grey but he can’t help the way he feels about her. Grey is given a second chance at love but feels like she is betraying Ben every time her and Jagger get close. Will Grey be able to let go of her love for Ben and move on and live a long and happy life with Jagger?

These two go through many ups and downs and I was completely captivated by their story. It took me on quite the emotional rollercoaster and I loved every second of it. I loved the secondary characters in this story as they added so much depth to the storyline. This is a standalone novel so thankfully there is no cliffhanger!  I can’t wait to find out what Molly is working on next!!

 

ALP Abt the Author

 

Molly McAdams grew up in California but now lives in the oh-so-amazing state of Texas with her husband and furry daughter. Her hobbies include hiking, snowboarding, traveling and long walks on the beach, which roughly translates to being a homebody with her hubby and dishing out movie quotes. When she’s not at work, she can be found hiding out in her bedroom surrounded by her laptop, cell, Kindle and fighting over the TV remote. She has a weakness for crude-humored movies, fried pickles and loves curling up in a fluffy comforter during a thunderstorm…or under one in a bathtub if there are tornados. That way she can pretend they aren’t really happening.

Molly’s Website

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Amazon Link:

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Release Day Blitz-Letting Go by Molly McAdams

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Letting Go by Molly McAdams

Synopsis:

The New York Times and USA Today bestselling New Adult author returns with a sizzling novel of love, loss, guilt, and forgiveness.

Grey and Ben fell in love at thirteen and believed they’d be together forever. But three days before their wedding, the twenty-year-old groom-to-be suddenly died from an unknown heart condition, destroying his would-be-bride’s world. If it hadn’t been for their best friend, Jagger, Grey never would have made it through those last two years to graduation. He’s the only one who understands her pain, the only one who knows what it’s like to force yourself to keep moving when your dreams are shattered. Jagger swears he’ll always be there for her, but no one has ever been able to hold on to him. He’s not the kind of guy to settle down.

It’s true that no one has ever been able to keep Jagger—because he’s only ever belonged to Grey. While everyone else worries over Grey’s fragility, he’s the only one who sees her strength. Yet as much as he wants Grey, he knows her heart will always be with Ben. Still they can’t deny the heat that is growing between them—a passion that soon becomes too hot to handle. But admitting their feelings for each other means they’ve got to face the past. Is being together what Ben would have wanted . . . or a betrayal of his memory that will eventually destroy them both?

 

 

About the Author:

Molly McAdams grew up in California but now lives in the oh-so-amazing state of Texas with her husband and furry daughter. Her hobbies include hiking, snowboarding, traveling and long walks on the beach, which roughly translates to being a homebody with her hubby and dishing out movie quotes. When she’s not at work, she can be found hiding out in her bedroom surrounded by her laptop, cell, Kindle and fighting over the TV remote. She has a weakness for crude-humored movies, fried pickles and loves curling up in a fluffy comforter during a thunderstorm…or under one in a bathtub if there are tornados. That way she can pretend they aren’t really happening.

Molly’s Website

Molly’s Twitter:

Molly’s Facebook:

Amazon Link:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 24 Hour Flash Release Day Giveaway