Nightshade by Molly McAdams ~ Sarah A’s Review

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***

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Once again, Molly McAdams proves she is the queen of rip-your-heart-out romances. My body physically aches after reading Nightshade; it kept me so tense while reading. My heart hurts, my lungs burn, my shoulders won’t relax; it was intense and amazing. This is the epitome of what I look for in a romance novel.

Nightshade is the third book in Molly McAdams’ Redemption series. These books are all interconnected stand-alones so you can read them independently, but I would highly recommend reading them all and in order as each book – especially the final two – is built on the world of the what came before. It’s told in dual POV, by Jessica and Kieran. Experiencing both of their fears, desires, demons, and love made this book outstanding.

I loved Kieran in Firefly; he was, and is, terrifying, but just underneath that frightening shell it was obvious he was damaged, destroyed even, by a life that wasn’t his. The delineation between Kieran and Nightshade, how it was demonstrated was fascinating. His growth arc, especially when you take into account who he was in Firefly, made this book. Watching him realize he was wrong about what he was sure he’d wanted and needed his entire life was incredibly healing.

Jessica nearly broke me; her story was beyond heartbreaking. I appreciated how delicately Ms. McAdams handled her character. She was hands-down one of the strongest, fearsome heroine’s I’ve read, while also being one of the most wrecked. Jessica could have easily made a thousand different choices which would have changed every aspect of her life, but she never strayed from her purpose.

Jessica & Kieran were phenomenal together. They each fulfilled a deep need in the other and were able to soothe the aching pieces of the other’s soul. Their chemistry was explosive, but it was the moments where they simply offered each other solace from the world that completely bowled me over. These two were perfect for one another in every way. Witnessing them learn how to be together, how to heal their gaping wounds, how to read every nuance of the other’s persona was beautiful and a little heartbreaking.

This book nearly broke me at several points. The plot was wonderful and suspenseful; it was intense and intricate, it was near perfection. There were so many moving parts, so many forces working against Jessica and Kieran and the people they loved; it was a wonder they were able to unravel the web that had been woven around them and find a way out. The final chapters of Nightshade shredded my heart; I absolutely was taken aback by what happened, by how they happened, by how devastated I was when the dust cleared.

Molly McAdams is a go-to author for me, she’s yet to disappoint me and writes emotionally charged, devastatingly beautiful romance unlike anyone else. Her prose is always perfectly matched to the characters and the world in which she is writing. Ms. McAdams knows how to rip her readers’ hearts out, fillet them and send them on the path to healing in a way that is uniquely hers. I know every time I delve into a new novel she’s written I will be wholly engrossed and deeply impressed, and she did a wonderful job of proving that, yet again, in Nightshade.

The muscles in Kieran’s jaw ticked, and the anger rolling off his body suddenly felt like a living thing. But his stare never wavered from mine as I soundlessly opened the knife at my side.

“Or did I hit a little too close for comfort last night?” I asked, my voice both seductive and mocking as I took another step closer to him and then another. “Could you just not satisfy her?”

“Enough.”

My brows rose at the growl behind his demand. “Is that right?”

His eyes held so much warning as I took the last step to press my body against his.

My body trembled and begged to get closer still, but I forced myself not to move.

I hated him for the way he felt.

I hated him for the way my body craved more and betrayed me.

I hated him for everything he was and for making me want him in a way I’d never wanted a man.

I hated him.

“Who knew the mob’s feared assassin was lacking.”

One second I was in front of him, staring into those wild eyes, the next I was pressed face-first to the wall with Kieran’s hard body caging me against it. His strong hands were pinning mine to the wall. My knife was gone.

His chest moved roughly against my back, his breath made my hair dance along my cheek and lips, and I ached to push against where I could feel his hardened length in his jeans.

Oh God.

What is wrong with me?

I tried to force a wild laugh from my lungs.

I tried to taunt him.

But there was nothing.

“How long?” he demanded, his voice hoarse.

I curled my hands against the wall and shivered beneath him when his body moved closer and he pressed our hands harder to the wall.

“What?” I asked breathlessly.

“How long have you been watching us?”

“Wouldn’t you like to know?”

A huff tumbled from my lips when his mouth met my ear. The sound ended on a whimper when the movement forced my butt against his erection.

I needed the heavy, sickening feeling weighing my body down. I needed the disgust and hatred at having a man so close. I needed the reminder of who I was and why I did what I did.

But all I could smell was the subtle hint of his soap.

All I could see was his tattooed arms twisting over mine.

All I could feel was his lean muscles crowding around me in a way that felt so foreign and good.

And I wanted more . . .

Weak. So weak.

“How long?”

My body tensed.

If he had yelled the question, it might have been easier. But there was something truly terrifying in the soft tenor of his voice. And for the first time, I was afraid to be in the same room as him.

But I wasn’t scared for my life.

I was scared for my soul.

I slowly looked over my shoulder and forced myself to hold his disturbing stare. “Nearly half my life.”


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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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NOW AVAILABLE ~ Nightshade by Molly McAdams

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***

Amazon US | B&N | iBooks | Kobo | Amazon UK | Amazon AU | Amazon CA


Blackbird
(book 1)
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Signed Paperback

 

Firefly (book 2)
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Signed Paperback

 

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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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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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***

3821d-goodreads

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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.

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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

Cover Design by r.b.a. DESIGNS

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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…

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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?

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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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