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Goodbye Stranger affectingly and realistically tells the intertwining stories of three young teenagers navigating the confusing and tumultuous time of early adolescence. Bridge, an accident survivor is looking for meaning on why she’s still here. Sherm is dealing with the aftershock of a family betrayal. And an unnamed 9th grader (written in a surprisingly effective second person) is grappling with a potentially friendship-ending mistake. The story is about how life gets so suddenly and shockingly complicated in middle school. And it is about how teens deal with the newness, rawness, and intensity of their emotions. Best friends can suddenly betray. A beloved grandparent can walk out on his family. A boy can text you asking for “a picture ;)” but what does it mean? Throughout reading this book I couldn’t help pausing repeatedly to think, “Man, it is so stressful to be a teenager.” The narrative seamlessly intertwines to show... Read more »
The post Review: Goodbye Stranger appeared first on The Midnight Garden.
Blog: Kelly Hashway's Blog
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Happy Monday! Monday Mishmash is a weekly meme dedicated to sharing what's on your mind. Feel free to grab the button and post your own Mishmash.
Here's what's on my mind today:
- Book Deal! You know that news I've been hinting at? Well, it's that I signed another book deal! Yay!!! OUR LITTLE SECRET, my YA contemporary romance (written as Ashelyn Drake) will be published by Limitless Publishing. Here's the PM announcement:
Ashelyn Drake's OUR LITTLE SECRET, when a girl falls for her best friend's twin brother, she'll have to decide what she's willing to risk to keep the guy of her dreams, to Jessica Gunhammer at Limitless, by Sarah Negovetich at Corvisiero Literary Agency.
- Signing Postponed I was supposed to have a signing on July 4th for The Monster Within and The Darkness Within at Books-A-Million in the Stroud Mall in Stroudsburg, PA, but it had to be postponed. It's now scheduled for July 25th from noon to 3:00 p.m. If you'll be in the area, I hope you'll come see me.
- Editing This is the summer of edits for me. Last week I tackled edits on two of my own books as well as edits for clients. My poor eyes are going to hate me soon—if they don't already.
- Free Monthly Newsletter Today my newsletter goes out. In it is a sneak peek at the cover of the secret project I've been hinting about. The cover has already been revealed in my street team (Kelly's Coven) FB group, and now it's time for my newsletter subscribers to see it. I won't be doing a cover reveal, which means no one else will see the cover until the book is released, which will also be a surprise! If you aren't signed up to receive my newsletter, but would like to, click here.
- Slow Response Time I have funeral services to attend this week because there was a death in my family. So if I'm slow to respond to comments, that's why.
That's it for me. What's on your mind today?
Jill Shalvis dropped by the virtual offices to answer a few questions in celebration of her upcoming release, Second Chance Summer.
What’s one thing you won’t leave home without?
My Kindle!!!!! I’m always on the run and when there’s any downtime at all, I whip that baby out and have my choice of hundreds of books right in my purse.
Name three things on your desk right now.
I don’t have a desk. I work on a laptop. So I’ll tell you three things on my “desk top”. A hot guy file full of pics for writing inspiration. A pics of my kids wrestling on the couch. And the manuscript I’m writing…
What’s your favorite snack when you’re working on a deadline?
COOKIES. Any kind. All kinds.
If you could trade places with anyone for just one day, who would you be?
My cat. She has the life…
You have been granted the use of one superpower for one week. Which power would you choose, and what would you do with it?
I’d want to be able to transport. I’d go to a deserted island with my Kindle. And cookies.
SECOND CHANCE SUMMER by Jill Shalvis (June 30, 2015; Grand Central Publishing Mass Market; Cedar Ridge #1)
Cedar Ridge, Colorado, is famous for crisp mountain air, clear blue skies, and pine-scented breezes. And it’s the last place Lily Danville wants to be. But she needs a job, and there’s an opening at the hottest resort in her hometown. What has her concerned is the other hot property in Cedar Ridge: Aidan Kincaid-firefighter, rescue worker, and heartbreaker. She never could resist that devastating smile . . .
The Kincaid brothers are as rough and rugged as the Rocky Mountains they call home. Aidan has always done things his own way, by his own rules. And never has he regretted anything more than letting Lily walk out of his life ten years ago. If anyone has ever been in need of rescuing, she has. What she needs more than anything are long hikes, slow dances, and sizzling kisses. But that can only happen if he can get her to give Cedar Ridge-and this bad boy-a second chance . . .
Buy the book!
About the author:
New York Times bestselling author Jill Shalvis lives in a small town in the Sierras full of quirky characters. Any resemblance to the quirky characters in her books is, um, mostly coincidental. Look for Jill’s bestselling, award-winning books wherever romances are sold and visit her website for a complete book list and daily blog detailing her city-girl-living-in-the-mountains adventures.
Social Media Links:
“So you going to tell me what’s wrong?”
“Other than I hate snakes and you saw me in my PJs? Nothing.” She lifted her chin and defied him to contradict her.
She should have known better. Like Ashley, he’d never met a challenge he didn’t face head-on.
He moved toward her, right into her personal space.
She took a step back and came up against the wall.
This didn’t stop him. He kept his forward momentum until they were toe to toe. And then while she was still standing there a little dumbfounded and also something else, something that felt uncomfortably close to sheer, unadulterated lust, he put his hands on the wall on either side of her head.
This both escalated her heart rate and stopped her lungs from operating. “Um—”
“You had your chance to tell me what’s wrong with you,” he said. “You passed. Now I’m going to tell you what’s wrong with me.”
Oh, God. Talking would be a bad idea. As for a good idea, she had only one, and before she could consider the consequences, she gripped his shirt, hauled him down, and kissed him.
He stilled for a single beat and then got on board quick, pulling her in, sinking a hand into her hair to tilt her head to the angle he wanted, and taking over the kiss.
The next thing she was aware of was the sound of her own aroused moan, and she jerked free.
The corner of his mouth quirked. “Did you just kiss me to shut me up?” he asked.
She blew out a sigh. “It made a lot more sense in my head.”
He grinned, one of those really great grins that made something low in her belly quiver. Needing some space, she pushed him, even though her instincts were telling her
to pull him in tighter instead of pushing him away.
“Back to what’s wrong with me,” he said, still looking amused. “It’s you.”
She opened her mouth to say something, but he set a finger against her lips. “My turn,” he said, and lowered his head and kissed her.
And oh. Oh, damn… There were some men who just knew how to kiss, the kind of kiss that could send a woman reeling. The kind of kiss that could take away problems and awareness and…and everything. The kind of kiss that could shatter her into a trillion little pieces. The kind of kiss that somehow both calmed her body and soul even as it wound her up for more.
Aidan was that kind of kisser. Shocking, really, to also realize that in between their first kiss all those years ago and now, that there’d been nothing like it for her.
Aidan pulled back a fraction of an inch, opened his eyes, and stared into hers.
She stared back because wow. Good. So damn good, and for one glorious moment there she’d let her lips cling to his, let the memories of him and all that he’d meant to
her wash over her.
And those memories had all been…epic.
Until the end.
Finding her sanity, she pushed him again. For a beat he didn’t move, just looked into her eyes.
And then, on his own terms, he stepped back.
She pointed at him. “That was…”
He arched a brow.
“Never mind what it was,” she said. “We aren’t going there.”
His smile was grim and utterly without mockery.
“Agreed.” But then he hauled her up to her toes and kissed her again.
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The Carnival at Bray is the coming of age story of Maggie, a 16 year old American who, in 1994, finds herself suddenly moved to a remote Irish town. Is 1994 historical? I would say more yes than no. The time is sufficiently removed from ours with the biggest difference being that Maggie doesn’t have the luxury of Skype, Facebook, and all the modern conveniences of connection. Her isolation from her old life is near complete. An ocean removed from her family, it’s a void that she spends the book looking to fill. Being a teenager is often tough at the best of times. When you’ve been completely removed from everything you know this only becomes that much harder. Bray is the sort of misty, coastal Irish town that could drown you in its dreary isolation and Maggie feels it keenly. She makes a few attempts at friendships with classmates,... Read more »
The post The Carnival at Bray: Review appeared first on The Midnight Garden.
Junior high is where things really start to happen. Cliques form and break apart. Couples are made and destroyed. And a reputation is solidified that you won’t ever be able to escape. Everything you do and say, and everyone you spend your time with, matters.
Katie Mills knows that. She gets it. That’s why she tried so hard to get in with the cool girls at school. And why she was so devastated when those efforts found her detained for shoplifting and laughed out of cheer squad tryouts.
But Katie has more to worry about than just fitting in. Her parents are divorced and always fighting. Her sister never has time for her. And her friends all seem to be drifting apart. Even worse? The boy she has a crush on is dating the mean girl at school.
Everything is a mess, and Katie doesn’t feel like she has control over any of it. Certainly not over her weight, which has always topped out at slightly pudgier than normal—at least, according to her mother.
So when she happens to catch one of the popular girls throwing up in the bathroom one day, it sparks an idea. A match that quickly engulfs her life in flames.
Is there any going back once she gets started down this path?
And would she even want to if she could?
Find it on Amazon.Check out this trailer:
Want your YA, NA, or MG book featured on my blog? Contact me here and we'll set it up.
When insecure eighteen-year-old Kailee Hill gets caught tagging Iraq war refugee, Abrahem Yohanna’s garage, she’s not expecting him to act as her designated driver, hold her hair back when she pukes, or offer to be a shoulder to cry on. But she’s failing chemistry and her life is falling apart, so she uses the number Abe leaves her and finds herself with a new tutor.
The two quickly find themselves falling hard for each other. Kailee attacks a local grunt when he calls Abe a “sand nigger” and fights with her veteran brother to be with him. When she learns Abe hasn’t told his family about her, she’s heartbroken and the couple risks losing everything they’ve worked to build. To make matters worse, Kailee’s previous acts make her the prime suspect in a serious crime. With Kailee behind bars and doubting his feelings for her, Abe must find a way to rescue the girl he loves and win back her affection. And to do that he’ll have to catch a crook… Want your YA, NA, or MG book featured on my blog? Contact me here and we'll set it up.
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About the Author
I’m a full time ELF keeper and part time writer/blogger/writing instructor. I like my tea hot, my romance sweet, and my guys chivalrous. Real men hold open doors, refer to you as ma’am, make promises they keep, and aren’t afraid to profess their undying love. It’s not breakfast if there aren’t carbs (at least, not in the South). Fajitas, carnitas, and churros are just few of my favorite things. Bet you can’t guess where I’m from
Hey, y’all, I have a recent New Adult book to recommend: Courtney Milan’s Trade Me. This is one I’ve been meaning to review forever, but I love Courtney Milan so much, it’s hard for me to put my feelings about her books into words sometimes. But they’re basically this: only Courtney Milan could make me love a New Adult book about billionaires. And have me anxiously making grabby hands towards the next book in the series, which I am even more excited about. End of 2015, why are you not here yet?! To be totally fair, Trade Me is about much more than billionaires and/or their secret pain, and that is probably one of the reasons that I liked it so much. When I read a book by Courtney Milan – and I have read them all, because she is one of my favorite authors and I love her, and if... Read more »
The post Trade Me: Review appeared first on The Midnight Garden.
I’ll Give You the Sun by
Published: 2 April 2015 by Walker
Length: 416 pages
Other info: Nelson has also written The Sky is Everywhere
Summary : Jude and her twin brother, Noah, are incredibly close. At thirteen, isolated Noah draws constantly and is falling in love with the charismatic boy next door, while daredevil Jude cliff-dives and wears red-red lipstick and does the talking for both of them. But three years later, Jude and Noah are barely speaking. Something has happened to wreck the twins in different and dramatic ways . . . until Jude meets a cocky, broken, beautiful boy, as well as someone else—an even more unpredictable new force in her life. The early years are Noah's story to tell. The later years are Jude's. What the twins don't realize is that they each have only half the story, and if they could just find their way back to one another, they’d have a chance to remake their world.
Review: Jude and Noah are close twins, both aiming to get into art school, both falling in love. Then their mum dies, and the bond breaks.
From everyone else's reviews, I was hoping I'd liked this. The first chapter starts well, introducing us to a thirteen year old artist who frequently envisions paintings in his head. We learn of his aim to get into art school, an aim shared by his twin sister. The second chapter is narrated by said twin, age 16, frustrated with her art projects, and frequently referring to the advice her grandmother gave her. From then, I don't really know.
It's hard to get in to. Literary-wise, I appreciate the character consistency of painting titles and advice. Reader-wise, I found it annoying. It also took me time to work out the thing with Grandma and ghosts. Was it supernatural? Was it Jude's personal beliefs? I knew nothing about this book before I started beyond the near universal love from bloggers. It was quite confusing.
I didn't connect properly to the characters. This then had a knock on effect on my overall experience of the book.
I didn't mind reading about all the interactions between Jude, Guillermo, and Oscar, and Noah and Brian. But I just didn't really care. Also, if you asked me to describe chronologically what happened, I would be totally unable to do so.
To be honest, I only had three reasons to keep reading this. One: because so many people enjoyed it, and I felt I needed to persevere. Two: I really wanted to know why Noah hadn't made it into the art school, when from the (admittedly biased because it's narrated by him) first chapter. Three (when we found out why): It was so far in to the book I may as well finish it.
Overall: Strength two tea to a book I was hoping to enjoy, but sadly couldn't.
Adam Silvera’s More Happy Than Not hit me right in the feels. I checked this one out from the library on an impulse: I wanted to read a book with LGBTQI content, particularly one that considered intersectionality; I don’t tend to look for stories about LGBTQI-identified young men enough and I’d like to amend that; there was the hint of a sci-fi premise with the Leteo Institute’s mind-altering technology; and last, but not least, I liked the unsettling half smiley face on the color. (Hey world, if you are trying to get me to read a book here are some pro-tips on how to do it: make it queer, make it sci-fi, make me feel vaguely creeped out by the cover. I will read that book in a heartbeat.) And this impulse paid off. I read More Happy Than Not in one sitting (thank you, coffee, for making this possible) and was... Read more »
The post More Happy Than Not: Review appeared first on The Midnight Garden.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] Good morning, Lynda! Describe yourself in five words or less.
[Lynda Aicher] Driven. Direct. Loyal. Analytical. Serious.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about Game Play?
[Lynda Aicher] Game Play is the first book in my new Power Play series and follows the Glaciers professional hockey team. Young, professional hockey player, Dylan Rylie, meets his match in Samantha Yates, a hockey star in her own right. The heat between them is as hot off the ice as it is on, but her career is at a forced end and his still rising which is hard for Samantha to accept. Dylan has to win her over while still allowing Samantha to follow her own path.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you share your favorite scene?
[Lynda Aicher] Ooh… The office sex scene ranks pretty high for me. Lol. But I also like the quieter moments when they’re really learning about each other. I love seeing them both open up to each other.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
[Lynda Aicher] I had to learn A LOT about the details behind the game of hockey. I do enjoy learning new things though, so that was both arduous and fun. I can now say I know more about the details behind the sport than I ever thought I wanted to.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] What’s one thing you won’t leave home without?
[Lynda Aicher] Excedrin Migraine. Seriously. I get bad tension headaches and two of those will stop a headache before it gets awful.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] Name three things on your desk right now.
[Lynda Aicher] Slim Jims. Water bottle. Thank you cards (I still have to fill out from Christmas).
[Manga Maniac Cafe] What’s your favorite snack when you’re working on a deadline?
[Lynda Aicher] Beef Jerky and Mountain Dew. Newly added to the list is Dried Roasted Spicy Seaweed.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] If you could trade places with anyone for just one day, who would you be?
[Lynda Aicher] ??? I have no clue. None. Sorry. I guess I like being me.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] You have been granted the use of one superpower for one week. Which power would you choose, and what would you do with it?
[Lynda Aicher] It would always be teleporting. I would go everywhere and see as many different places as possible.
[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are some books that you enjoyed recently?
[Lynda Aicher] The Wrong Man by Lane Hayes; No Place That Far by L.A. Witt and Aleksandr Voinov; The Jock Auction by Alex Pendragon; The Way Things Are by A.J. Thomas. I’m reading exclusively Male/Male right now, just so you know.
Power Play # 1
By: Lynda Aicher
Releasing February 16th, 2015
One night, one time, nothing more. That’s all it was supposed to be. They’d agreed their first night together would be their only night together—and Minnesota Glaciers defenseman Dylan Rylie was fine with that. Giant hickeys and claw marks on his ass had never been his style, even if the very memory of Samantha Yates’s merciless sexual energy gets him hard within seconds. He needs to focus on getting a better contract, not mind-blowing orgasms.
One night, one time, nothing more. Fresh off representing the US at the Games and with nowhere else to play, Samantha gave in to one night of frantic passion with the Glaciers’ brawny hotshot. She couldn’t get hurt—not if she controlled the outcome. And she planned to leave Minnesota soon, anyway. She didn’t expect to be recruited to coach Dylan after they’d gotten down and dirty.
When brutal on-ice workouts lead to kinky locker room sessions and “one night” falls by the wayside, Samantha insists on keeping things casual, despite Dylan’s quiet hope for more. But when Dylan goes down—hard—and his career is in jeopardy, Samantha is the first one by his side. What will it take to keep her there after he’s healed?
Link to Follow Tour: http://www.tastybooktours.com/2014/11/game-play-power-play-1-by-lynda-aicher.html
Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23289990-game-play?from_search=true
Buy Links: Amazon | Barnes | Kobo | iTunes
Lynda Aicher has always loved to read. After years of weekly travel implementing computer software into global companies, she ended her nomadic lifestyle to raise her two children. Now her imagination is her only limitation on where she can go and her writing lets her escape from the daily duties as a mom, wife, chauffeur, scheduler, cook, teacher, volunteer, cleaner and mediator. Find her at: http://lyndaaicher.com
Author Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads
Timing was everything, and she waited for her moment to kick up some fun on an otherwise blasé event. The charity that donated hockey equipment to kids from military families was a great cause that would benefit from a little show. At least, that was what she told herself.
“Don’t be stupid,” Meg warned in her ear.
“Why not?” Sam asked. “What do I have to lose?” Absolutely nothing. She’d never do anything to smear her name, but it wasn’t like she had a hockey career to worry about. Or a coach she was accountable to.
Or a reason to behave.
Rylie was spending as much time tipping his trademark worn brown cowboy hat at the passing women as he was paying attention to the kids looking for pointers. The ends of his brown hair curled over the back of the gray hoodie he’d worn under his jersey and seemed to match his hat color almost perfectly. Too perfectly.
Nicknamed Cowboy within the hockey world, he was dubbed Pretty Boy as well. The second label was coined his rookie season by a sports announcer and as far as Sam had heard and seen, the man cultivated both brands equally.
“Hi, Rylie,” a group of teenage girls dressed in skinny jeans and overdone makeup chorused as they skated past. Rylie shot them a nod and grin that somehow managed to be appropriate for the age of the girls.
Sam shook her head and chuckled at his easy charm. The guy had it all. Talent, looks, personality—he was a star in the making. One full of potential if he didn’t get distracted by the fame and parties he seemed to enjoy.
Walters smacked the puck toward Rylie, and Sam broke through the kids to swoop across the ice and steal the puck from the preoccupied man. A cheer went up from the kids when she circled the pro player, puck firmly in her control. The air chilled her cheeks and laughter rang in her ears as she sped away.
A quick glance over her shoulder showed Rylie chasing her, the determined pull of his brows blending with a full smile that somehow managed to put a matching one on her face. She caught sight of Meg and passed the puck off before she stopped then took off in the direction she’d just come from.
The circle of kids widened as Walters got into the play, tailing Meg. She swooped around a group of unsuspecting adults, using them as a pick to cut off Walters, and she smacked the puck back to Sam.
“Think you’re hot stuff, do you, Yates?” Rylie was at her side, jabbing his stick at the puck with no effect. She was under no illusion the man knew who she was. Her name was printed in big letters across the back of her jersey.
“Just having some fun.” She cut a sharp circle and faced off Rylie, who skidded to a quick stop.
He tapped his stick on the ice, an indulgent half smile on his lips. “Come on then.” He glanced over his shoulder. “You and me to the net.”
Her stomach did an unwanted flip when his eyes landed back on her. An interesting mix of brown and green, they seemed to dance with the same excitement that flooded her. The challenge was exactly what she’d wanted and his proposition was the best offer she’d had in months. On or off the ice.
“You are so on,” she said, grinning.
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The post Interview with Lynda Aicher, Author of Game Play and Giveaway appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.
Howdy! In honor of the launch of Cheryl Brooks’ new erotic western series here’s a little intro to a few of the sexy cowboys – and one cowgirl – that appear in the first book in the series, COWBOY HEAVEN.
Born and raised on a Wyoming cattle ranch, Angela Kincaid McClure had to grow up fast following the death of her mother at a young age. An only child, she has been the lone woman on the Circle Bar K for most of her life, and her father has always discouraged fraternization with the cowboys employed on the ranch. Angela married her high school sweetheart, Cody McClure, and enjoyed a very happy marriage, raising two sons who have no interest in ranching. With her father aging rapidly, Angela and Cody took over the running of the ranch until Cody was killed in a fall from his horse. Recovering from his loss has taken some time, but after two years, Angela’s interest is once again focused on male companionship. Unfortunately, no one seems the slightest bit interested in taking on her forty-two-year-old self or the ranch. Her father believes she should marry the ranch foreman, Rufus Bentley, but though Angela had a crush on him in her youth and the sixty-year-old foreman is still attractive, his total lack of personality and stern attitude leaves her cold. She’s had her eye on Dusty Jackson, a handsome cowboy employed on the ranch, but she has never received the slightest hint that he might see her as a love interest. Love-starved and lonely, Angela finally finds solace when she picks up stranded rodeo cowboy Troy Whitmore and makes him an offer he can’t refuse.
Born Dustin David Jackson on a ranch in eastern Wyoming, Dusty has never been anything but a cowboy. Something of a loner, after graduating high school, he drifted from ranch to ranch, eventually ending up on the Circle Bar K. He likes the people he works with but there are other reasons for staying on, and just as many reasons to leave. Blessed with good looks and a ready wit, he’s more than a match for the men he works alongside, but when he’s around Angela McClure, words fail him. He knows exactly what he wants, but he also knows that once he takes that first step, there will be no turning back.
Troy Whitmore was born and raised on a ranch in western Oklahoma. He could ride almost before he could walk and was winning prizes at the junior rodeos by the age of six. Too handsome for his own good, women have always been plentiful, but with a tendency to hop from woman to woman and live just a teensy bit beyond his means, by the age of thirty, he needs a woman with enough money to sponsor his rodeo career. When his last “sponsor” dumps him on the side of the highway while en route to the rodeo in Jackson Hole, he’s picked up by Angela McClure, a forty-something widow with an eye for a handsome cowboy and an imagination that fills in where reality leaves off. He’s more than willing to add the perk of sex with the boss to his new job on Angela’s ranch, but soon discovers that the rodeo circuit isn’t the only place where he faces some stiff competition.
What is your favorite way to relax?
Angela: Going for a ride on Apache, my big, bad Paint gelding.
Dusty: I like to sit in front of the fire with a cup of coffee and a good book.
Troy: *smiling* After reading my bio, do you really need to ask that question?
By Cheryl Brooks
Erotic Western Romance
March 3, 2015
Trade Paperback $13.99
Buy: Amazon | B&N | BAM | !ndigo | IndieBound | Kobo
When you find yourself in cowboy heaven…
When lonely widow Angela McClure hires a gorgeous hitchhiking cowboy with an affair in mind, she knows they’ll have to be discreet: her old-fashioned father and the stern ranch foreman adamantly discourage any interaction between her and the ranch hands.
Things can get hot as hell…
Despite their attempts at secrecy, the heat between them is undeniable. To divert suspicion, Angela forms a new plan: she’ll flirt with all of the ranch hands. Suddenly Angela has a whole stable full of sexy-as-sin cowboys to play with, but only one can win her heart.
Cheryl Brooks is a former critical care nurse turned romance writer. Her Cat Star Chronicles series includes Slave, Warrior, Rogue, Outcast, Fugitive, Hero, Virgin, Stud, Wildcat, and the newest release, Rebel. She is a member of the RWA and IRWA and lives with her husband and sons near Bloomfield, Indiana.
Connect with Cheryl Brooks: Facebook | Twitter | Website
Praise for Cheryl Brooks:
“Really sexy. Sizzling kind of sexy. Honestly, only Cheryl Brooks can deliver a line like, ‘I can give you joy unlike any you have ever known’ and make you want to melt.”
—Bitten by Books
“Ms. Brooks delivers plenty of sexual tension, suspense, and pleasure in simply being alive.”
“Incredibly sexy and wonderful to read all around.”
—Night Owl Romance
“Fun…unique…and wicked sexy! Cheryl Brooks knows how to keep the heat on and the
reader turning pages!” —Sydney Croft
Excerpt from Cowboy Heaven by Cheryl Brooks – Chapter 1
There he was again. That same cowboy I’d seen on the drive into town, still walking, still carrying a big green duffel bag on one shoulder and a saddle slung over the other. He’d been traveling in the opposite direction and hadn’t bothered to look up as I’d passed him earlier. I’d barely glimpsed his face then, but I saw it quite clearly now. A glance over his shoulder revealed his bleak, exhausted expression. He might have been near the point of collapse, but he obviously wasn’t prepared to admit defeat.
Not yet, anyway.
I couldn’t believe no one had picked him up in the three hours since I’d last seen him. He hadn’t looked very fresh even then. I had no idea where he was headed, but in the middle of Wyoming, there wasn’t much within walking distance, no matter where you were going.
He turned toward me, sticking out a halfhearted thumb as I came closer, his face streaked with dirt and sweat and what might have been tears. A black Stetson shadowed his eyes, and his boots and jeans were dusty and worn. His sweat-soaked denim shirt clung to his chest, unbuttoned halfway to his waist, the sleeves ripped out. He probably wasn’t trying to look cool, even though he did. No, he was likely trying to get cool, in any way he possibly could. My truck was air-conditioned and comfortable, and there was plenty of room for him and his meager belongings. I could no more have left him there than I could have ignored a starving child.
As I pulled over to stop, his eyes closed and his lips moved as though uttering a prayer of thanks. His knees buckled slightly, and for a moment, I thought he truly would collapse. Instead, he took a deep breath and stood up straight. Lifting his chin, he aimed luminous blue eyes at me and flashed a dazzling smile. His silver belt buckle suggested this man was no ordinary ranch hand but a down-on-his-luck rodeo cowboy who, unless I missed my guess, was heading for Jackson Hole.
A real heartbreaker of a rodeo cowboy, too. Up close, he was even more handsome than he’d been from a distance. Long and lean with tanned, muscular arms, dimples creased his cheeks and black hair curled enticingly from the open edges of his shirt. Several days’ growth of dark beard surrounded full, sensuous lips, darkening a jaw that my fingertips ached to caress. More ebony curls peeked from beneath his hat, making me long to yank off that Stetson to discover what else it was hiding. Oh yes, there was enough gorgeous cowboy to sway a much stronger woman than I ever claimed to be. Tears stung my eyes as something in his expression reminded me of Cody.
My dear, sweet Cody… He’d been gone for two years now, but I hadn’t forgotten that look, and I doubted I ever would.
Determined to mask my roiling emotions, I searched for something amusing to say as I rolled down my window. “Lost your horse?”
My clever tongue was rewarded with another heart-stopping smile. Cody used to say funny things just to make me giggle—which wasn’t difficult since I tend to find humor in nearly any situation—but brushing up on my own repertoire of one-liners to keep this guy smiling seemed like an excellent idea.
His grin was sheepish as he tipped up the brim of his hat. “He sort of drove off without me.”
“Drove off?” I scoffed. “Somehow I doubt that. Seems like he would’ve needed help.”
My handsome cowboy gave me a grim nod. “Oh, he had help all right. My girlfriend dumped me on the highway and took off with the truck, the trailer, and the horse—all of which were actually hers, by the way. She was kind enough to leave me my saddle and my clothes, although a cell phone would’ve been nice.”
I shook my head. “Nice, yes. Helpful, no. They don’t work very well around here. Which kinda makes me mad—I mean, where would you need a phone more than if you were stranded out in the middle of nowhere?”
He glanced around at the vast expanse of sunbaked rangeland. “Is that the name of this place? Nowhere?”
“Sure is.” I couldn’t help giggling. “Want to get out of nowhere?”
“Yes, please,” he replied. “And as quickly as possible.”
“Throw your stuff in the back and hop in,” I said. “We’ll leave nowhere and go…somewhere.”
He did as I suggested, and suddenly the interior of my truck was filled with the pungent aroma of hot, sweaty, dusty—but cologned—cowboy. He’d most likely showered that morning, but it had been one helluva day. The forecast called for the upper nineties—quite a heat wave even for mid-August—and though the humidity was low, some temperatures are best avoided no matter how dry the air.
“You’re a lifesaver,” he said. “I thought that sun was gonna roast me alive.”
“As hot as it gets in these parts, I never go anywhere without water, enough food for a couple of meals, and an umbrella in case I’m ever forced to hike. Want a sandwich?”
I tossed a nod over my shoulder. “The cooler’s on the backseat. Help yourself. There’s plenty of water.” Although, at that point, a cold beer probably would have been his first choice.
He pulled out two bottles of water and a sandwich, downing the first bottle in three swallows.
“Let’s see now…” I said as he unwrapped the sandwich. “A cowboy dumped in the middle of nowhere with a saddle and no horse. There’s got to be a country song in that.”
“If you mean a song about a guy bein’ picked up by a girl in a flatbed Ford, I think the Eagles already did that one.”
“I love that song,” I said wistfully. “Guess I always wanted to be that girl.”
“Well, now you are.” He took a bite of the sandwich, chewing it quickly. “How does it feel?”
“Not much different.” This wasn’t entirely true. I wasn’t in the habit of picking up gorgeous cowboys—and this particular cowboy’s presence had me feeling strangely excited. Oh yes, I was very aware of him, and if my brain hadn’t noticed him, my erogenous zones were there to remind me. “For one thing, this isn’t a flatbed Ford, and I’m not what anyone would call a girl anymore.”
He paused in mid-bite. “Why? Have you had a sex-change operation?”
“Nope,” I replied with another giggle. “You can’t call a forty-two-year-old a girl. Well, maybe you could if you happened to be eighty-two yourself, but I’m pretty sure I outgrew the girl category a long time ago—about the time that song was popular.”
Despite the fact that I never once took my eyes off the road, I was aware of his prolonged scrutiny—an assessing gaze that left delightful tingles in its wake.
“Some things improve with age.” He turned toward the window. “You don’t seem like the type to dump a guy in the middle of nowhere.”
Having heard the catch in his voice, I did my best to keep my tone light. Bursting into tears in front of a perfect stranger probably wasn’t on his bucket list. “True—unless he was really obnoxious.”
This particular cowboy would have to have been homicidal or, at the very least, abusive for me to throw him out. He was the most adorable cowboy I’d ever laid eyes on, including the one I’d married.
“I wasn’t being obnoxious.” He fairly bristled with indignation, which seemed to have won out over heartbreak. “I was asleep. I thought she was stopping for gas when I felt the truck slow down. She asked me to take a look at the tires on the trailer, said she thought one had gone flat. While I was checking the tires, she dumped my saddle and duffel bag on the side of the road and drove off. I found this tucked into the saddle.” Reaching into his shirt pocket, he handed me a torn, sweat-soaked scrap of paper.
It’s not working out. Sorry.
“Ouch,” I said with a sympathetic wince. “That’s pretty hard.”
“Yeah.” With an absent nod, he stuffed the note back into his pocket. “I don’t even know what I did wrong. Don’t guess I ever will.”
He seemed nice enough, and he certainly wasn’t ugly. Maybe his girl had breakup issues. As irresistible as he was, I couldn’t imagine breaking his heart while gazing into those eyes of his, and I didn’t even know his name.
She’d probably gone about it the best way possible—a quick, clean break before losing her nerve completely. One glance, one smile, and she’d have forgotten why their relationship wasn’t working. I wasn’t looking forward to dropping him off at the crossroad to the ranch, myself. I had a sudden, overwhelming urge to take him home and wash him, feed him, and tuck him into bed—my bed, to be precise.
I had my doubts about that part. He couldn’t have been more than thirty, and young men generally didn’t seek solace from older women—not that kind of solace, anyway. Consoling him seemed impossible, so I changed the subject.
“Where were you headed?”
“The rodeo in Jackson Hole,” he replied. “I’m a rodeo cowboy.”
“No shit,” I drawled. “I’d never have guessed that. I don’t suppose your girl left you with any money, did she? I mean, I’m not going to charge you for the ride or the lunch, but I’m not going all the way to Jackson Hole, either.”
“I didn’t figure you were.” His downcast expression suggested his hope that he’d been wrong about that. “But at the time, I didn’t really care.”
“Neither did I. I wouldn’t have left you there no matter where you were going. It was…well, let’s just say it was something I couldn’t bring myself to do.”
“Pick up lots of strays, do you?” Turning sideways, he leaned back against the door, a move that not only drew my eye, but also gave me a full-frontal view that made my breath catch in my throat. Oh yes, I’d taken in lots of strays, but none that were anywhere near as attractive.
I shook my head. “Actually picking them up usually isn’t necessary. They all seem to know where I live.”
“If you don’t mind my asking, where do you live? I mean, are we close?”
Obviously, he hoped I lived somewhere near Jackson Hole. I hated to disappoint him. “It’s about another twenty miles—most of which are not on the main highway. I’ll let you out at the turnoff, if that’s okay with you.”
His face fell, but he nodded, apparently resigned to the fact that this ride wasn’t going to be more than a brief respite. “Not much choice, is there?” He gave a fatalistic shrug. “I don’t have enough money on me to pay you to take me to Jackson Hole. I really should pay you for what you’ve already done.”
I caught myself wishing that he did have enough money—or that he would ask me to run off with him and follow the rodeo circuit, never going home at all. I would have loved to throw caution to the wind and do just that, but I had too many responsibilities. Not only did I have a ranch to run, but I also had my father and my kids to look after.
No, scratch that. Chris and Will were both in college. I had a hard time remembering that except when confronted with the sight of their empty rooms as I passed by them every day. Out on the highway I could pretend they were both there at home waiting for me—and Cody, too.
No, regardless of how much money this man might offer to pay me, I couldn’t shirk my duties and simply up and disappear. Nor would I accept his money. He obviously needed to hold on to what little he had stashed in those jeans.
“I couldn’t possibly take money from you,” I protested. “I wouldn’t be much of a Good Samaritan if I did, would I?”
“I suppose not.”
He shrugged again and we drove on in silence. Remaining slouched against the door, he draped his left arm across the headrest and bent up one knee, stretching his legs apart enough that my eyes were continually landing on that section of blue jeans due south of that big, silver belt buckle. From time to time he shifted his hips as though my glances made him uncomfortable, and while I did try to keep my eyes on the road, every once in a while they would stray back to him—and that enticing bulge in his jeans…
“What would it take to get you to drive me all the way to Jackson Hole?” The hint of suggestion in his voice startled me almost as much as the abrupt nature of his query.
Suddenly, my mouth was as dry as a gulch. Reaching for my bottle of water, I took a sip and stole another peek at him. Those luminous eyes peered at me from beneath lids that were heavy with sensuous intent.
His lips curled into a provocative smile. “I’d be willing to bet there’s something I could do for you that would pay you back—or at least make it worth your while.”
By Cheryl Brooks
Erotic Western Romance e-novella
FREE on all retailers: Kindle | Kobo | Nook
“Out-of-this-world sexy… Brooks’ writing brings the eroticism to life.” —Long and Short Reviews
Getting stranded has never felt so good…
Lauren Allen is on her way to meet her future in-laws when her car breaks down on a scorching, dusty Texas highway. There’s no shortage of handsome cowboys turning up to save the day, but she puts her trust in local rancher Steve Williams. From the moment she shakes his hand, his warm, calloused grip makes her hotter than she knows what to do with…
Rafflecopter Giveaway – 3 copies of COWBOY HEAVEN by Cheryl Brooks
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By: Lizzy Burns
Blog: A Chair, A Fireplace and A Tea Cozy
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, Algonquin Young Readers
, favorite books of 2015
, Nova Ren Suma
, Add a tag
The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma. Algonquin Young Readers. 2015. Reviewed from electronic galley.The Plot
: Amber is telling about the night her world went wild because the doors opened and the guards were missing. Amber is locked up in a juvenile facility for girls and the electric went out and the generator didn't kick in and all the girls are let out and free and running wild.
Violet is getting ready to go on stage. It is her final dance before she leaves for Juilliard. She is thinking about this final, home stage ballet dance and leaving this town and her family and her memories. It's like escaping a prison, she thinks, realizing it's a terrible thing to think considering what happened three years ago, when her what happened happened, when her best friend Orianna was sent to juvenile detention.The Walls Around U
s is about these three girls, Amber and Violet and Orianna, and how their stories overlap and weave together in a tangled mess of walls and doors, expectations and fears. And anger. Always, anger.The Good
: I'm a fan of Nova Ren Suma's Imaginary Girls
and 17 and Gone
. The Walls Around Us
doesn't disappoint; it may be my favorite one yet. Like those books, The Walls Around Us
does many things: there is a surface story but there is also a story underneath, there are observations about how the world views teenage girls and how the girls view themselves, and there may or may not be a ghost story. Then there is the language, creating a world and a setting and a tone that wraps around us -- like walls wrap around us.
As with Suma's other stories, I don't want to give too much away, but at the same time, I just want to talk about what happens and what does not. So the short version is, drop everything and read The Walls Around Us
The longer version, which some spoiler-sensitive won't want to read.
Amber is a long term inmate and introduces us to her world, starting on that night when the doors opened, to her world and the other girls. Who is innocent? Who is guilty? Why did they end up there? Does it matter, now that they are locked up, what came before or what will come after? As the chapters go back and forth, it is revealed that Orianna has not yet arrived at the facility which means all Amber says happens three years before Violet's story.
And something terrible is going to happen at that place, and Amber's role as observer and watcher and eavesdropper means she is going to tell it to us, best as she can. Orianna never speaks for herself: instead it is those who knew her who describe her.
For Amber, Orianna is the new girl who has to learn the ropes. But Amber is also puzzled by something else, because Ori seems somehow familiar. And that night of almost-escape, has it happened before? Is it happening again? Why do things yet to happen seem familiar?
For Violet, Orianna was her best friend. But also her number one competitor in ballet; even now, years after what happened and Ori was arrested and tried and sent away, it is Ori's easy accomplishments that drive Violet's own path. Vee is still competing. Violet's life has gone on exactly as it should, with her place at the ballet school, and her boyfriend, and a new best friend, and best of all she'll be leaving all this behind her shortly when she leaves for Juilliard.
What did happen? What did Ori do? What did Vee do?
Violet's story seems straight forward enough, even though she's reluctant to say what happened years before. And frankly Violet seems a bit hard, a bit of a bitch, but is wanting to leave your home and start the new life that college promises such a bad thing? Is wanting to forget painful memories bad, and don't some build a hard shell to deal with the past?
Violet wants to go see where Ori was sent, even though now the place is in ruins and no one is there. Or is it it abandoned? Do all the dreams and hopes and fears and anger of those girls just -- disappear, go away, when those girls go away? When Violet walks into that broken, abandoned place, does she see ghosts or is it her own guilt haunting her?
Anger. As I write this, I realize that if there is one thing that The Walls Around Us
is about, it's not about ballet and friendships; it's not about murder and punishment; it's not about escape or justice.
It's about anger. Anger that girls feel for all the right reasons, anger at abandonment and betrayal and abuse, anger that is denied because society doesn't want to see it, anger that is denied because girls aren't supposed to be angry, anger at why some girls are punished and some are not. Anger at why some girls have things so easily and others do not. And being angry is hard work, no matter how much a girl tries to deny it and keep it in control. Eventually, the walls holding the anger in, the walls holding the anger out, have to come down.
Yes, this is a Favorite Book Read in 2015
Amazon Affiliate. If you click from here to Amazon and buy something, I receive a percentage of the purchase price.
© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy
My new adult contemporary romance, Looking For Love, is now available! While this is part of the Campus Crush series, you should know that it's a companion series and the books don't have to be read in order. Each features a different couple and stands completely on its own.
Mike Hannigan is looking for love in all the wrong places. Maybe that’s because having his heart torn to shreds by who he thought was the perfect girl left some emotional scarring. But that’s about to change.
Summer Patterson isn’t like anyone Mike’s dated before, and he can’t help but be intrigued by her. Now if only he could keep his foot out of his mouth long enough to win her over. But when a secret involving Summer brings Mike’s past crashing back to the present, he’ll need some backup from his best friend and wingwoman, Mindy, to sort out the mess.
Will Mike find love before he leaves Timberland College for good?
*This is a New Adult title and is not suitable for younger readers.*
But that's not all.
I also updated the Campus Crush paperback to include this novella. So if you want to have all the novellas in the series in one place, you can get that from the paperback here. The Campus Crush ebook was not updated and still remains FREE. However, that means Looking For Love is NOT part of the free ebook boxset. Want your YA, NA, or MG book featured on my blog? Contact me here and we'll set it up.
How do you review an unreviewable book? The entire book reads as if it is a dream. How do you describe a dream? There is an impossibility in trying to make sense of what can not be made sense of. I can try to describe to you the aspects that correlate with reality. But when they take a sudden nose dive into the magical, the inexplicable, the surreal…how do I explain that? This is a book full of contradictions. It is a fairytale and it is not. It is a love story and it is not. It is a mythical retelling and it is not. On the surface, this is a book about a young woman who has been kidnapped and about her teenage friend’s struggle to come to terms with what happened. But it is so much more than that. What it is is a compelling, tautly told story... Read more »
The post Bone Gap: Review appeared first on The Midnight Garden.
The premise for Denton Little’s Deathdate: Denton Little lives in a world where everyone knows the day they will die. When you’re born, your guardians send in some hair and blood, and bam! Deathdate revealed. Denton is an Early – a person whose deathdate falls before their 21st birthday – and he just wants to be a normal teenager who *isn’t* fated to die during his senior year of high school. Denton’s deathdate also happens to fall on the same day of his senior prom. So the book takes us through Denton’s final days on this earth: a brutal hangover, his own funeral, sex with his girlfriend, sex he can’t remember with his best friend’s sister, a strange cop who keeps following him around, a strange man who promises he knows mysterious things about his dead mother – all culminating in prom night, the day Denton is supposed to die. (Whether this... Read more »
The post Denton Little’s Deathdate: Review appeared first on The Midnight Garden.
Please give a warm welcome to Marina Adair this morning! She stopped by the virtual offices to answer a few quick questions, and she brought a giveaway for you to enter!
What’s one thing you won’t leave home without?
Name three things on your desk right now.
Since I write in bed, it is my cat Suki, my other cat Awesome Bob, and a bag of powdered sugar mini-doughnuts.
What’s your favorite snack when you’re working on a deadline?
The previously mentioned powdered sugar mini-doughnuts. Yum!
If you could trade places with anyone for just one day, who would you be?
A zoo keeper. I would want full access to go and visit all of the animals.
You have been granted the use of one superpower for one week. Which power would you choose, and what would you do with it?
Zoolingualism. I would spend the entire week trying to figure out why my cat Suki likes to sleep in my dirty clothes and what Awesome Bob is thinking when he eats the fern, even though he knows the fern makes him sick. I imagine the conversation would go a lot like this:
SUGAR ON TOP by Marina Adair (April 28, 2015; Forever Mass Market; Sugar, Georgia Book #2)
She’s sassy and sweet
The last thing Glory Mann wants is to become chairman of the Miss Peach Pageant in Sugar, Georgia. Spending months hearing nothing but the clinking of pearls and judgment? No thank you! But when Glory is forced to take the rap for a scandal she didn’t commit, the judge sentences her to head the committee. Even worse, her co-chairman is rugged, ripped . . . and barely knows she’s alive.
He’s ready and willing
Single dad Cal McGraw can’t take any more drama in his life. After a difficult divorce, his little girl became a boy-crazy teenager and his hands are full. The last thing he needs is to spend his down time with the town bad girl. Glory is pure trouble-tempting and tantalizing trouble. But he can’t deny the strong chemistry between them-or how her touch turns him inside out. Now as squabbles threaten to blow up the contest and the town of Sugar itself, Cal must risk everything on the sexy wild card to get a second chance at love . . .
About the author:
Marina Adair is a lifelong fan of romance novels. Along with the Sugar series, she is also the author of the St. Helena Vineyard series and the upcoming Shelter Cove series. She currently lives in a hundred-year-old log cabin, nestled in the majestic redwoods of the Santa Cruz Mountains, with her husband and daughter. As a writer, Marina is devoted to giving her readers contemporary romance where the towns are small, the personalities large, and the romance explosive. She also loves to interact with readers and you can catch her on Twitter at @MarinaEAdair or visit her atwww.MarinaAdair.com.
Social Media Links:
Glory walked to the door and peeked out the peephole, doing some panting of her own when she recognized Cal’s sexy blue eyes peeking back.
She knew the minute he realized she was on the other side of the door because he smiled and took a step back, as though waiting for her to just open up her door and welcome him inside.
“I know that you know it’s me, Boots, so open up.”
Oh, she knew it was him all right. Her nipples told her that the second he’d knocked. Plus she could smell the testosterone through the door, and his soap, which from the looks of it he’d showered, too. Although, she thought bitterly, he’d put on a fresh pair of jeans and an untucked gray button-up, not a pair of shorts with dancing pigs on them and a tank that said RESIDENT BED HOG across the chest.
“Or I can go get my tools from the truck—your call.”
And since the thought of Cal with tools made her hot, she opened the door—wide enough to see his face.
“What do you want?” she asked, more than aware that she hadn’t put her bra back on after her shower.
“Our date wasn’t over.”
Time to be firm. “I had a fun time, I’d love to do it again, but like I already told you, panties are a strict date five topic.”
“You said date four if they’re special.”
She had said that, damn it.
He pushed the door open a tad and his eyes dropped to her pajamas. He grinned. “And, Boots, those shorts don’t leave much room for imagination.” He pushed the door open wider and leaned in. “Or panties.”
He was right. She was commando under there. Not that she’d confirm his suspicions or even had time to. Before she knew what was happening, Cal took her hand in his and led her down the stairs toward his truck—and the already opened passenger door.
She stopped at the bottom step. “I’m not wearing shoes and I’m in my pajamas.”
“Which answers the question of what you sleep in. Although, I have to admit, I took you for more of an in-the-buff girl.” She felt her cheeks heat but played it cool. “Ah, good to know.”
Okay, maybe not so cool.
Cal slipped his jacket over her shoulders, then turned around to offer her his back. “Pajama issue solved. Now climb on.”
Knowing that he wasn’t going to let her be until she did as he asked, at least that was the lie she told herself, she wrapped her arms around his neck and legs around his middle—which only managed to smash her front deliciously against his broad, muscular back.
He walked her over to his truck, sat her on the seat, and shut her door, not saying a word until he was in the driver’s seat with his door shut.
He didn’t start the engine, didn’t explain what he was doing, just turned to her and smiled. “I had a great time tonight, which after my day seemed impossible. But you made it fun, made it easy to talk about Payton, and just . . . easy. With you, tonight, it all seemed so easy, so thank you.”
And wasn’t that the most romantic thing anyone had ever said to her. “I had a great time, too.”
“Good.” His smile was back and he got out of the truck, walked around, and opened her door.
Glory rolled her eyes, but inside she was melting. “What are you doing?”
“Walking my date to her doorstep.” He looked at her bare feet and waggled a brow. “Or carrying.”
“That’s okay, I can walk.” But one hand was already around her back, the other firmly planted on her butt, and he was scooping her out of the truck, not putting her down until he was up the stairs and at her door.
Hands shoved in his pockets, he leaned against the rail. She opened her mouth to speak when he said, “Hang on.” He reached out and closed her front door. “There. Now, you were saying.”
“Just, thank you,” she whispered and neither of them moved, neither of them spoke. It was as though time hung, and in that one moment nothing else mattered. Only the two of them and this insane connection.
His eyes dropped and he cleared his throat. That’s when she realized he was waiting for his jacket.
“Oh, right. Sorry.” She started to take it off when he gripped the collar and tugged her to him.
“I don’t care about the jacket, I’ll get it next time.”
Her knees wobbled at the idea that he wanted a next time.
Oh my God, Charlotte was right, she had it bad. Glory was a certified McGraw addict; she had every last symptom, even down to wanting their next time to be now.
Cal must have been suffering from the same affliction, because he tilted his head and delivered a gentle kiss that seemed to last for hours. Languid and soft and with deliberate control, the man kissed her as if there was nowhere else he’d rather be. This wasn’t a race or a sprint to the bed; to him, kissing was his way of connecting, sharing.
By the time they came up for air, Glory’s bones had turned to mush and her entire world had shifted because Cal wasn’t just special, he was perfect.
Then he did the one thing that could have made her fall, had her opening herself up to all the what-ifs and going all in. Cal gave her one last kiss on the cheek and made his way down the stairs, giving her what she wanted, time to prove he was serious, that she was worth waiting for, worth fighting for.
Only every step he took caused her chest to coil tighter and tighter until it hurt to breathe.
One date. A hundred. It didn’t matter. This was Cal. He was one of the good ones. He’d come all this way, in the middle of the night, to escort her to the door, and there she was, watching him walk away, wondering if she’d get another chance.
The least she could do was invite him inside and offer him a cold beverage.
He was rounding the truck when her feet finally got the message from her brain, and she took off down the steps, not stopping until she was standing in front of him. “Don’t go.”
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Olivia Miles stopped by with a Top 5 and a giveaway to celebrate the release of A Match Made on Main Street!
5 items you won’t find in Mark’s kitchen
1. A framed family photo
4. His father’s apron
5. Anna…until now.
About A MATCH MADE ON MAIN STREET:
Anna Madison has faithfully avoided her old flame for six years, even though their Main Street restaurants are only a few blocks apart. The sting of his rejection was enough to make her swear off dating for good, but when her successful restaurant is damaged in a fire, she’s left to the mercy of the one man she’s spent years proving she doesn’t need…and convincing herself she doesn’t want. Mark Hastings can’t say he’s happy being alone, but at least his heart is safe. Burnt out from running the Briar Creek diner, he’s ready for a change. He tells himself he’s just being neighborly by letting Anna use his kitchen, but being by her side again stirs up temptations he might not be able to resist a second time around.
About Olivia Miles:
Having grown up in New England, Olivia Miles attended McGill University in Montreal, Quebec before settling in Chicago where she lives with her husband, their daughter, and two ridiculously pampered pups. When she is not chasing after her little ones, she is hard at work creating feisty heroines and alpha heroes with a heart. A city girl with a fondness for small town charm, Olivia enjoys highlighting both ways of life in her stories.
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Mark leaned in, catching a whiff of her sweet scent as he did. He closed his eyes briefly, trying to capture the single sense. When he looked up, Anna was staring at him, her gaze hooded. He could lean in, just another inch, remember what it felt like to kiss her mouth, to feel her soft curves pressed against him.
He pulled himself back in the stool instead. He was here to find her friendship again. Nothing more. “The bookstore’s doing fine now; I see people in there all the time. It’s never looked so great.”
Anna sighed through a small smile. “It does, yes. But…that’s not what has me worried. I took out a loan to match Grace’s investment. She’s covering rent and the bookstore renovation; I’m covering well…everything else. For now. It was all going to be fine. More than fine. And then–”
She nodded. “The fire.”
“How bad is it?”
She met his stare. “Bad.”
He let out a low whistle. It was exactly the kind of situation that made Hastings to appealing. The place was paid up; they owned it outright. A new venture, of any kind, could never offer the same security. One day it could be booming, the next…
“Does Grace know?”
“No,” said quickly, “and I don’t intend to tell her.”
He leaned into his elbow. “So what’s your plan, then?”
She looked at him quizzically. “I intend to win this contest!”
He burst out laughing, hearing his own foolish desires in her preposterous statement. Until now, winning had been a vague notion, not something he was banking on, but hearing her say it aloud, a desire to not only compete but to win, made him suddenly believe it was possible. That anything was possible.
“I do intend to win!” Anna cried, but even she couldn’t stop from laughing. The sound rolled through the room and pulled at his heart, filling holes he didn’t even know were there.
He didn’t realize he’d stopped laughing until she did. The air went still, punctured only by the sound of his heart beating in his chest, and he knew he couldn’t hold back any longer. Without thinking, or daring to consider the consequences, he leaned into her and her eyes flashed with surprise, her lashes fluttering quickly as he slid off his stool and closed the distance between them.
A gasp of surprise escaped her throat as he brought his lips to hers and his hands came around her waist, pulling her close to his chest until he felt her body relax on each kiss. He sensed her hesitation, but he couldn’t pull back, not when her lips were on his, her sweet taste filling his senses. She parted her mouth, and he pulled her closer, feeling the soft swell of her breasts against his chest. His groin pooled with warmth as her thighs rubbed against his. He pressed his palms deeper into her back, and lower, resisting the urge to explore her hips, knowing if he did he wouldn’t be able to stop. And he should stop–he should. But…he couldn’t.
He kissed her, as if for the first time, tasting the forbidden fruit, knowing it was wrong, wrong, wrong, even thought it felt so damn right. He tore his lips from hers, letting his mouth roam her neck, burying himself into her hair, that coconut-scented hair, and breathed into her ear, wondering if she would run, if she’d push him back, tell him to go.
He pulled back, watching the way her eyes searched his. He should say something, explain himself, but there was nothing to say.
Anna’s cheeks were dotted with pink as she picked up a knife and pulled the vegetables from the basket. His gaze lingered her on a few moments more, watching the way she expertly chopped and diced, the way they’d been instructed in school, fingers tucked.
“Anna.” His voice was low and husky.
He should tell her it was a mistake, that it couldn’t happen again. That he wanted to be friends, to make her understand once and for all that it was all they ever should have been.
“We should get to work,” she said abruptly, and he hated the slight quiver in her voice. “We still have a lot do and we leave for Cedar Valley tomorrow afternoon.”
They’d be at the lodge for two nights; he’d have time to talk to her then. For now, she was right. It was time to get to work, put all personal matters aside, and focus on winning this contest. And getting what they wanted at long last.
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Fortune, Colorado #1
Releasing April 21st, 2015
Welcome to Fortune, Colorado—where the air is clean, the men are rugged, and the all the good ones… are bachelors.
Born into the infamous Charlemagne equestrian empire, Shannon has been raised to do whatever it takes for the family business. Even if it means going undercover and digging up dirt on a competitor. It’s easy enough when she believes he’s a bad guy whose success seems too good to be true. In fact, Shannon’s excited to put the aggravatingly sexy Irishman in his place and get back in her father’s good graces. All she needs is to stay focused on the goal … and out of Sean Muldoon’s arms.
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From stealing a thoroughbred racehorse from the Irish mob to striking gold in the mountains of Colorado, there’s little Sean hasn’t experienced. But when it comes to resisting his hot new stable manager, he’s out of luck. With the mob hot on his heels, keeping Shannon off their radar is all but impossible, and he’s not about to put her in danger too. Sean wants Shannon, but how can he offer her a future … when he can’t even guarantee tomorrow?
Jennifer Seasons has been a lifelong writer and reader. She lives with her husband and four children in the mountains of rural New England. An enormous yet lovable dog and the world’s coolest cat keep them company. When she’s not writing, she loves spending time with her family outdoors exploring her beautiful new home state, learning the joys of organic gardening, and—if she’s lucky—relaxing in her hammock under the trees with a really good book.
Humor shimmered in her sister’s hazel eyes as she tipped her head toward the huge Pine Creek Ranch sign that hung suspended from wooden beams arching over the entrance. Her blond hair brushed across her freckled cheeks as she said, “I wouldn’t be so hasty in keeping those girls on the shelf if I were you . . . I saw Sean Muldoon in person.”
“During the races in Kentucky this past May with his Triple Crown winner, Something Unexpected. This guy that Dad is sending you to spy on is full-on Irish—with the accent to prove it—and downright sexy. He’s like an Irish Dove bar—you know just by looking at him that he’s dark, smooth, and addictive. He moves with this loose, long-limbed gate and has an easy smile, but there’s something almost dangerous about him just bubbling under the surface. It’s seriously potent.” Colleen fanned herself and grinned. “It’s too bad I’m such a blabbermouth, because I’d dig up the goods on him, all right.”
Shannon remained silent and waited for it. It had to be coming.
“Of course, I’d see if Muldoon was as fast to the finish line as his racehorses are while I was at it, if you know what I mean.” Her sister finished with an overly dramatic eyebrow wiggle and wink.
And there it was. Right on schedule. That’s one of the things she loved most about her only sibling—she was reliable. If there was ever an opening for a crude comment to be slipped in, you could bet she was all over it.
That’s what she said, Shannon thought.
Crap! Damn it, now Colleen had her doing it too. Figured.
“Let’s go through this one last time,” Shannon said briskly. “I’m supposed to find this Sean Muldoon and tell him I’m responding to his ad for the stable manager position and convince him to hire me.” She stared down the long gravel lane beyond the ranch’s entrance as it lazily rounded a bend and disappeared into a sea of aspen, spruce, and pine in the distance.
Into Sean Muldoon’s ranch.
She’d learned from her father that Pine Creek sat on about one hundred acres, though it was hard to tell at the moment from the thick grove of trees that flanked each side of the single-lane road. It looked more like the entrance to a state forest, not a sprawling horse ranch.
But, as Shannon knew better than most, looks were most often deceiving. Nervously swiping her hands down the thighs of her worn denim jeans, she continued reviewing the plan that their father had designed, hoping that repeating everything would help her focus.
Colleen opened her mouth and started to say, “That’s why you should—”
Shannon held her hand up like a crossing guard. “I know, use the ladies. I get it.” She probably could if she wanted to, honestly. They weren’t bad. A quick glance downward confirmed that claim. Not bad at all. A little on the small side, but so what? What she lacked up top she made up for on the bottom with an ample and curvy derriere.
Depending on the day, that was either a blessing or a curse.
However, given that she was a professional equestrian and spent half her life bouncing around on a horse (with skill and grace, of course), having the extra padding was more often a bonus than not. Her butt was like a car’s suspension system—it absorbed the shock and made the impact of jumping her horse feel like the smooth ride of a Rolls Royce. Not that she was going to upstage big-butted celebrities or anything, but it wouldn’t be a runaway victory if they did compare backsides. Only she had earned hers the cheap and easy way: genetic inheritance.
Colleen cleared her throat. “Dad’s gut is saying that either Muldoon or one of his trainers is doping the Thoroughbreds with steroids before the races.” Her sister’s eyes flickered and unfocused briefly, like she was recalling a memory. “I’ve seen them run. They’ve got rockets for hooves, Shan.”
No wonder all of the company’s clients had bailed on their breeding program over the past few years. Shannon knew they were down to a teeny-tiny trickle, and if she didn’t find a way to reverse that fast, then they were going to go bankrupt and lose the farm. And it was the only thing of material value they had left. Over the years her father had sold off everything else. All the jewels, cars—everything. It hadn’t escaped her notice that the walls of her childhood home were now mostly bare, when priceless Monet originals and the like had once hung there.
Not for the first time, she wondered what had happened to all the family’s money. Where were all their millions disappearing to? It didn’t make sense. Not in the least. But pondering that made Shannon’s stomach go tight and queasy, so she stopped. With effort she grappled with her thoughts and redirected them to the immediate problem at hand.
May Contain Spoilers
I borrowed Her Knight in the Outback because I have enjoyed several Nikki Logan titles in the past. I enjoyed this one, too, but I wasn’t convinced that the protagonists will have a HEA. Eve is just so damaged and heart broken that it was difficult for me to believe that she would be able to successfully put all of her emotional distress in the past and give Marshall all of the attention he deserves.
Eve’s younger brother disappeared almost a year ago. After waiting unsuccessfully for the police to actually do something, like find him, she quits her job, sells her house, and purchases a converted bus so she can go look for him. She feels guilty for not seeing the warning signs before he took off, and she can’t believe that he would just leave her and her father. Armed with missing person posters, she intends to search every single town and city for Travis, and she has no intention of quitting until she finds him.
She comes across an injured motorcyclist on a deserted road, and even though she wants to keep on trucking by, she stops to see if she can assist him. What if Travis needed help, and no one stopped for him? When motorcycle dude approaches the bus, Eve is momentarily taken aback. His bushy beard and tattoo alarm her. What if he’s part of a motorcycle club? What if he tries to hurt her in the middle of nowhere, where not even a cell signal is available?
It turns out that Marshall is the one who saves Eve. After a not so memorable introduction, they cross paths again, and after clearing the air, they agree to travel together for a few days, until Marshall’s route diverges from Eve’s. Marshall sees how hurt and emotionally vulnerable Eve is, and all he wants to do is help her forget about Travis for a little while and remember the joy of living her own life. The only problem is that Eve’s guilt keeps getting in the way, and after being on the road for eight months, she has forgotten how to enjoy another’s company.
While the conflict was interesting, I’m not sure I bought the resolution. Eve learns that Marshall pulled a disappearing act of his own, and she keeps throwing it in his face. Every time they make some progress in their relationship, Eve is overcome with guilt for enjoying herself while Travis might be dead or worse. Travis is the sum total of her existence, and she resents Marshall for getting in the way of her self-appointed mission of finding her brother. Her inability to consider that Travis left of his own free will became tiring, and maybe that’s why the story was such a mixed bag for me. I had a hard time connecting with Eve, which made it difficult to sympathize with her.
Grade: C+ / B-
Review copy provided by publisher
She didn’t know she needed rescuing!
Eve Read doesn’t need help from anyone. She’s searching for her missing brother and doesn’t want any distractions. Yet sharing her burden with mysterious leather-clad biker Marshall Sullivan is a relief, and soon Eve can’t resist the sparks igniting between them!
Meteorologist Marshall spends his life on the road, but there’s something about Eve that makes him want to stay put…
Has Eve finally found what she’s been searching for all along?
I don’t know how to convince you to read Devoted, but I think you should. It’s not the sort of thing I usually pick up – I do read broadly, but my favorite books are more likely to be sci-fi or fantasy than contemporaries – but I’m glad that I did, in this case. Devoted hasn’t seemed to receive much attention so far and I’m not sure why? Because this book is an excellent, though very quiet, character study. And in addition to this, it’s beautifully written and it engages with many issues that are central to young adult literature. It’s a good one, you all. (And I don’t think you need to be religious or Christian to read it; do not be scared off by the title or the synopsis. I grew up in an interfaith household that was super different from this, and liked it anyway.) The central premise is as follows:... Read more »
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Challenger Deep is a difficult book to read, but it’s worth it. I’ve been excited about Challenger Deep since I heard Neal Shusterman and his son, Brendan, speak about it at NCTE and ALAN. They both spoke pretty openly about the family’s experience with mental illness, and also mentioned that some of the artwork Brendan had created during his illness had been incorporated into the final novel. I’ve been really interested in seeing what the book would look like since then. More complex representations of mental illness can only be a good thing when it comes to YA lit, and I’m happy to say that Challenger Deep absolutely satisfies on that count. Challenger Deep takes the form of two alternating narratives: Caden Bosch’s day-to-day life with his friends and family, which is becoming increasingly disrupted by his mental illness, and his other life as the artist-in-residence aboard a ship. The ship is headed... Read more »
The post Challenger Deep: Review appeared first on The Midnight Garden.
I’m not really a contemporary person, but I am very much a Gayle Forman person. With that said, I’m not sure anyone could be more disappointed than I am that I did not love this book. Forman’s prose and storytelling talent have shown me the heights of what contemporary can achieve in her previous duologies. I do think, honestly, that she is near peerless within her genre. So what left me so cold about her most recent release? A thing with me is that books take on their own “color” and mood. The experience of reading this book felt just like being under a constant cover of gray skies. There was so little in the way of hope or optimism. Which is fine, I suppose. But even if you’re going to stick readers with difficult emotions there should at least be some sort of catharsis. Unfortunately, even that fell through.... Read more »
The post I Was Here: Review appeared first on The Midnight Garden.
I actually wanted to read Worth the Risk before Claudia Connor’s other book, Worth the Fall, was even on my radar. I saw that the heroine was a hippotherapist, and that’s all I needed to see. I didn’t even read the blurb beyond “one therapeutic horseback ride at a time.” Yup, throw a random horse reference in there, and I’m on board. But then Worth the Fall was highly recced to me, and despite my aversion to all of those kids, I read it. And loved it. And I loved Worth the Risk more! So the author is now on my auto read list.
I don’t want to give away too many spoilers, so I will be purposefully vague about some key plot points. I figured a lot of them out, but I don’t want to rob the experience of these discoveries from you, so I’ll just give a general background about the story and why I liked it so much.
Hannah works as a therapist, helping disabled and emotionally battered kids with her horses. She has a fierce passion for her profession; she suffered through unspeakable brutality when she was a teenager, and horses helped rouse her from of the shell she crawled into. She lives for her horses and her young clients, so she’s stressing about a letter that she received from the city, questioning the ownership of her property and barn.
After a very bad day, when she had to unexpectedly put her beloved dog to sleep, she meets gorgeous Stephen. Having been drilled by her brothers to never trust anyone, she refuses to give him her number, but, taking a step outside of her comfort zone, agrees to meet him later for a drink. Hannah just wants to forget that she’d be going home to an empty house, and she doesn’t want to deal with her suffocating brothers’ sympathy.
Five years ago, Stephen also suffered from a heinous act of evil, and he’s been running from it ever since. He’s cut ties with his family, severed ties with his own emotions, and has poured all of his energy into his company. When he sees Hannah crying in the grocery store, he feels a twinge of curiosity, as well as attraction. When she refuses to give him her phone number, he’s even more determined to get to know her. Their drinks turn into a dinner date, but Hannah still refuses to divulge personal information about herself. He thinks that she’s just being cautious, and sets his sights on getting what he wants – Hannah.
I enjoyed Worth the Risk for many of the same reasons I liked Worth the Fall. Both Hannah and Stephen needed each other; they are sadly incomplete alone. They both feel stifled by their caring, and in Hannah’s case, overprotective, families. They both had a piece of themselves ripped brutally away, and they were and can never be the same as before. They have trust issues, don’t want to get involved with anyone, and are reluctant to commit.
To complicate matters, Hannah’s land is in jeopardy, and Stephen’s partner is scheming to purchase it, with or without Stephen’s approval. Hannah brings some grief on herself here because she wants to take care of her problem by herself, so she can start to feel self-sufficient. That comes back to bite her in the behind.
Both characters are easy to relate to, and Stephen, despite his own self-loathing, is kind, caring, and considerate. He senses that Hannah is skittish, and he woos her with care, even if he doesn’t know why he’s doing it. He’s made a vow to never fall in love again, and it’s a promise he has every intention of keeping. Reading along as they gently batter down their reservations kept me completely engrossed in the book, and I read it in just a few hours. It’s a little angsty, moving, and hard to put down. Best yet, I like all of the McKinneys and all of Hannah’s brothers, and keep thinking, Yeah! Who will be the star of the next book in the series??
Worth the Risk
The McKinney Brothers # 2
By: Claudia Connor
Releasing Feb 3rd, 2015
When a McKinney brother falls in love, powerful emotion and overwhelming desire are never far behind.
Two hearts locked away . . . Hannah Walker spends her days coaching children through injury and trauma, one therapeutic horseback ride at a time. She knows all too well how violence can change a child and leave scars that never heal. It’s easy for her to relate to the kids; what isn’t easy is the thought of facing her own harrowing past.
Millionaire playboy Stephen McKinney could use a little coaching himself. Five years ago he encountered his most horrible nightmare—and the nightmare won. No matter what he achieves, nothing can make up for that awful night . . . or so he believes.
Both desperate for a second chance . . . Stephen is used to getting what he wants. And he wants Hannah. So when she turns him down, he’s intrigued. What he doesn’t know is that her secrets will lead him to a place he never wanted to go again . . . to a side of himself he’s tried to forget . . . a side that would scare Hannah away from ever loving him. Now his only chance to win her trust is to bare his soul, risking everything he tried so hard to protect.
Link to Follow Tour: http://www.tastybooktours.com/2014/11/worth-risk-mckinney-brothers-2-by.html
Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22747252-worth-the-risk?from_search=true
Buy Links: Amazon | B&N | iTunes | Kobo
Claudia Connor is a New York Times and USA Today Bestselling author of heartfelt contemporary romance. Claudia attended Auburn University, where she received her undergraduate and masters degrees in early childhood education, and completed her studies in Sawbridgeworth, England. Always a lover of happy endings, she enjoys movies, reading, and travel, but spends most of her time typing out the love stories of the almost real people that live in her head. Claudia lives near Memphis, Tennessee, with her husband and three daughters.
Author Links: Facebook | Twitter | Website | Goodreads
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The post Review and Giveaway: Worth the Risk by Claudia Connor appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.
This morning I have an excerpt and giveaway for Fire Me Up by Kimberly Kincaid. Enjoy!
Fire Me Up
Pine Mountain # 4
By: Kimberly Kincaid
Releasing January 27, 2015
IF YOU CAN’T STAND THE HEAT…
Teagan O’Malley can handle a crisis. She’s a paramedic, it’s her job. But she never expected to land in the kitchen of her father’s pub, with no notice, no cash, and no room for error. The kitchen is not her favorite place. Lucky for her, she just scraped a bad-boy chef off the pavement after a motorcycle accident—and something about him says he can turn up the heat in more ways than one.
Adrian Holt has had a rough few years, and he’s not eager to get tangled up in anything more complicated than a good risotto. But with a broken arm and a head full of bad memories, he needs a challenge to keep him sane. Teagan’s dare-me attitude and smoldering mess of a bar are just what the doctor ordered. And the two of them together might cook up some even better medicine…
Link to Follow Tour: http://www.tastybooktours.com/2014/12/fire-me-up-pine-mountain-4-by-kimberly.html
Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22043083-fire-me-up?from_search=true
Goodreads Series Link: https://www.goodreads.com/series/112826-pine-mountain
Buy Links: Amazon | Barnes | iTunes | Kobo
Kimberly Kincaid writes contemporary romance that splits the difference between sexy and sweet. When she’s not sitting cross-legged in an ancient desk chair known as “The Pleather Bomber”, she can be found practicing obscene amounts of yoga, whipping up anything from enchiladas to éclairs in her kitchen, or curled up with her nose in a book.
Kimberly is a 2011 RWA Golden Heart® finalist who lives (and writes!) by the mantra that food is love. Her digital Line series is all about the hot cops and sexy chefs of Brentsville, New York. She is also the author of the Pine Mountain series, which follows small town singles as they find big-time love. Kimberly resides in Virginia with her wildly patient husband and their three daughters.
Author Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads
The astringent bite of rubbing alcohol reached Teagan’s nose as she tore into the packet in her hand, and she measured the intricate black tattoo on Adrian’s right forearm with a casual glance. Placing a line was more about feel than anything else, but it didn’t make this a cozy jaunt down Main Street, either. Still, procedure was procedure, and she wasn’t about to tell the docs in the emergency department that she didn’t start an IV en route when she knew damn well they were expecting her to do it. Explaining the shoulder thing was going to be bad enough.
Taking her eyes off a guy like Adrian in the first place had been the highest order of stupid. She wasn’t screwing up his care again.
“So how come you’re sticking me, exactly?”
His much-softened tone snagged her attention, and she adjusted hers to match. “Because you need painkillers on board before we get to Riverside. The doctors there are going to give you a pretty good workup. It’s not going to be fun.”
“I’m okay with the pain,” he said, although the thin sheen of sweat on his brow coupled with his skin’s growing pallor said otherwise.
Teagan shrugged. “You need the IV regardless. Might as well let the meds take the edge off.” She sat on the bench seat at Adrian’s side and flipped his right arm palm-side up, running her fingers down the corded length from elbow to wrist in search of a good spot.
“So what language is this, anyway?” she asked, folding his hand into a fist before tracing the thickly scrolled letters spanning his skin from wrist to elbow. Maybe if she distracted him, he’d let her do her job without complaint.
“Italian.” He didn’t elaborate, but he also didn’t balk as she ripped open the IV kit she’d pulled from the med box.
“Oh. What does it mean?” Teagan tapped the pad of one gloved finger against the vein now standing in relief against his skin right above the words vivere senza rimpianti.
“You ask a lot of questions, don’t you?”
The edgy little smile that had caught her so off guard in the middle of the road was back in full force, and it hadn’t lost an ounce of steam in its absence.
Teagan’s cheeks prickled with the unfamiliar sensation of a blush. “Sorry. Little pinch here. Ready?”
He nodded, keeping his smile locked in place. “Whenever you are, Red.”
Right. Because that nickname hadn’t haunted her enough in the third grade. “Just hold still.”
She guided the IV into place with a few deft movements despite the fact her pulse had just taken on all the properties of a freight train. “I’m going to put some Fentanyl in here to ease some of your pain. It works pretty quickly, so you should be able to relax soon.”
“Whatever will get this over with faster.” Adrian looked away, the smile slipping from his face as he shifted his weight against the semi-reclined surface of the cot. It figured he’d go and get all agreeable when they were halfway to the hospital, but truly, Teagan knew better than to complain.
She drew two hundred micrograms of Fentanyl into a syringe and worked it into the IV, doing a visual sweep to make sure all systems were go. “I’m just going to recheck your vitals here and see if we can manage some focus assessment before those pain meds get in the way.”
“Focus assessment sounds like something my high school guidance counselor tried once. Hate to break it to you, but it didn’t work out so well then. Doubt you’ll have much luck with it now.”
Teagan’s laugh popped out before she could swallow it, and she palmed the penlight from her bag. “Don’t worry, it’s not that tough. Look up for me.”
Adrian fastened her with a dead-on stare, and whoa, there was a lot roiling around in those hazel eyes of his. No matter how big and bad, most car accident victims experienced some form of shock or another in the aftermath. Her social skills might not be impeccable—or hell, even good—but it was time to keep this guy as calm as possible.
“So, tell me,” she said, slipping the pulse ox clip over his finger. “What do you do, Adrian?”
His forehead creased, making his surprise a dead giveaway.
“I’m a chef.”
Looked like surprise was catching. “And how long have you been a chef?”
“Since the day I was born.”
The laughter pushing past her lips caught her off guard for the second time in as many minutes. “You’ve been busy, then. You must work at the place in the resort.” That tiny tickle of recognition fanned over her again, but as soon as she flicked her attention toward it, it was gone, like smoke in a stiff breeze.
“What makes you say that?” He canted his head to the side, his shoulders seeming to loosen slightly.
Teagan noted his current vitals before continuing with the exam. “Because unless you count the bakery on Main Street, there are only two other full-service places to eat in Pine Mountain, and there isn’t a chef in either one.”
The thought of Lou, the lanky guy who worked his magic at her father’s bar and grill, working up a hoity-toity dish like on those reality shows was downright laughable. Not that Adrian really fit that mold either, but still. He’d been the one to use the c-word, not her.
As if he’d just climbed into her head for an easy looksee, Adrian teased, “Careful making assumptions over there. I ditched the tall white hat as soon as I graduated from culinary school.”
She held up her hands, busted. “Okay. But for the most part, we townies tend to just sling hash and be done with it.” Teagan examined him carefully, and this time the vague recognition darting around in her brain snagged and held. “The restaurant at the resort! You were there last year, when we responded to that call for the other chef. A woman.”
The tumblers and gears of her memory locked into place over the image. They’d been first on scene, and Evan had gone to secure the patient—a nasty facial trauma, if she remembered right. Teagan had been too busy securing the rest of the scene, namely trying to peel Adrian off of Jackson Carter, a local guy she’d known since middle school.
The fight had been short-lived. And Adrian had been boiling-point furious.
“She’s my boss,” Adrian said, dispelling only a touch of the mystery running through her head. “You remember that?”
“Small town. And you have a memorable right hook.”
His eyes flared, in way more panic than irritation. “It wasn’t like that, exactly.” A pause, and it looked like hers weren’t the only gears sliding into place. “Wait, that was you who jumped in the middle of things.”
Teagan nodded, sliding down the bench toward his feet and laying the flat of her hand against the bottom of one monstrous boot. “Securing the scene to administer care is part of the job. Press forward as far as you can.”
He did, and when she prompted, he gave a quick repeat on the other side. “You could get hurt like that, being in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
“Said the guy on the gurney,” she said, unable to bite back a wry smile. “How’s your arm feeling?” Now that she’d had more time for a more focused exam, it was clear the broken arm was likely the only injury he’d sustained, and even that looked pretty straightforward. Lucky bastard.
“Pretty good.” He closed his eyes for a fraction too long to be a blink, and that, coupled with his answer, signaled the Fentanyl was starting to kick in nice and hard.
“Good. We should be at the hospital in another seven minutes, give or take. You can close your eyes if you want.”
Another blink, this one shuttering his eyes just enough to be sexy as hell. “That might not . . . be the best idea.”
Concern splashed through Teagan’s chest, and she leaned forward from her perch on the bench seat at his side. “Are you sure you’re feeling okay?”
“Relax.” A lazy smile joined his bedroom eyes, sending an entirely different sensation through her chest. “I’m not going to code on you or anything. It’s just, ah, easier to forget about the pain if I’m distracted, that’s all.”
Oh, buddy. If you only knew. “Okay, but consider yourself forewarned. I’m not sure I’m the best person for the job.” Teagan bit her lip over a pause. “Polite conversation isn’t exactly my forte.”
“Polite conversation is for amateurs,” he said. “Tell me something important.”
A streak of shock popped through her veins. “You want me to tell you something personal?” That Fentanyl must be knocking him sideways if he thought she was going to spill her soul.
“Yeah,” Adrian said on nothing more than a rumble. “Personal. What’s your favorite ice-cream flavor?”
More laughter escaped in an unexpected burst, but at least it was a painless question. Poor guy probably was a little loopy from the meds. “Umm, wow. Coffee, I guess.”
“I could see that.” His voice was slow, and it dashed all the way down her spine, lingering only when it reached the lowest point between her hips. Desperate for something clinical to keep her busy, Teagan snatched a few packets of alcohol wipes. She tore one open and leaned in, dabbing methodically at a scrape above Adrian’s eye.
“Ah.” She shook her head, giving the cut a closer look.
“You’ve got a pretty nasty lac here. It’s small, but looks kind of deep. I hate to tell you, but you’re probably going to have to lose this piercing to have it stitched up.”
“Great,” he said, although the sarcasm didn’t quite stick. “You can go ahead and take it out, I guess.”
Teagan made quick work of removing the stainless steel barbell, sliding it into a plastic bag before giving voice to the question in her head. “So how about you?”
“How about me what?” He angled the side of his face so it fit tight into the curve of her hand, and she scooped in a shallow breath at the increased contact.
“What’s your favorite flavor of ice cream?” she murmured, surprised to find herself actually wanting to know. His eyes went from warm hazel to smoky quartz in the time it took her to exhale, and he dipped his gaze to her mouth.
“And what’s so great about strawberries?” Oh hell. Was that her voice, all breathy and ridiculous?
“They’re perfect.” He curled the fingers of his uninjured hand around hers, pulling her in and reducing the space between them to a mere sliver. With his stare resting right on her lips, he said, “And red.”
Before the word even sank in, Adrian lifted his mouth to hers in a slow stroke. His lips were the exact opposite of the rest of him, soft and accommodating, and Teagan gasped against them. He tasted like cinnamon, spicy and dangerous, and he tightened beneath her like he had every intention of parting her mouth with his own and discovering all of her. Her brain screamed that she should pull back, give him what-for, do something other than just sit there and let him kiss her, but all her good intentions fell prey to one simple fact.
She didn’t want him to stop.
But then, just as quickly as he’d closed the space between them, Adrian pulled away, and the resulting rush of cool air brought Teagan back to earth with a hasty snap.
“Sorry. I . . .” Adrian trailed off, eyes at half-mast. “I’m so tired.”
“Close your eyes.” Thank God she’d at least faked her way back to her normal speaking voice. The sound of it steadied her ever further. “We’ll be at Riverside in a couple of minutes.”
As if on cue, Evan leaned back and aimed his voice into the narrow pass-through, one eye still on the road as he hollered an ETA of ninety seconds. Teagan shucked her gloves and swept up the debris in the rig, double-checking Adrian’s vitals even though her own probably looked like a skyline shot of Mount Everest. His eyes were closed, his chest rising and falling in smooth rhythm. She’d given him enough Fentanyl to knock out a basketball team, so it really wasn’t a shock that he’d gotten a little goofy. He probably wouldn’t even remember kissing her when his eyes opened up again.
The smartest thing she could do was forget it, too.
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I’m torn on this one, you guys. There were many things I liked about Nova Ren Suma’s The Walls Around Us: the prose style is gorgeous, and I was much more interested than I expected to be in a story about killer ballerinas. On the other hand, I saw the twists coming from a mile away (rare for me!), but dammit, I was still so interested in this book up until the last twenty-five pages or so. The basic premise of The Walls Around Us: Amber’s in a juvenile detention center, Violet’s off to Julliard. These are our novel’s two narrators. Both their stories are bound together by their relationship to Ori – a promising young ballerina who is sent to the same juvenile detention center after allegedly murdering two rival ballerinas. As readers, we never get Ori’s story directly, but are asked to piece it together from Amber and Violet’s accounts. (This... Read more »
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