Chapter Reveal · Romance · Sports Romance

The Rebound by Winter Renshaw Chapter Reveal

 

 

 

 

The last time I saw Nevada Kane, I was seventeen and he was loading his things into the back of his truck, about to embark on a fourteen-hour drive to the only college that offered him a full ride to play basketball.

I told him I’d wait for him. He promised to do the same.

But life happened. I broke my promise long before he ever broke his. And not because I wanted to.

We never saw each other again …

Until ten years later when Nevada unexpectedly returned to our hometown after an abrupt retirement from his professional basketball career.

Suddenly he was everywhere, always staring through me with that brooding gaze, never returning my smiles or “hellos.”

Over the years, I’d heard that he’d changed. And that despite his multi-million dollar contracts and rampant success, life hadn’t been so kind to him.

He was a widower.

And a single father.

And rumor had it, he’d spent his last ten years trying to forget me, refusing to so much as breathe my name … hating me.

But just like a rebound, he’s back.

And I have to believe everything happens for a reason.

 

 

 

 

Prologue



Yardley Devereaux {Ten Years Ago}

He sent my letter back.
I re-read my words, imagining the way they must have made him feel.
Nevada,
I’m writing because you haven’t been taking my calls or answering my texts. I’m sure you’ve heard the rumors, so I thought you should hear it straight from me…
I’ve broken my promise.
But you should know that I never wanted to hurt you, none of this was planned, and I still love you more than anything I’ve ever loved in this world.
This is something I had to do. And I think if you’ll let me, I can explain in a way that makes sense and doesn’t completely obliterate the beauty of what we had.
Please don’t hate me, Nevada.
Please let me explain.
Please answer your phone.
I love you. So much.
Your dove,
Yardley
The paper is torn at the top, as if he was about to rip it to shreds but changed his mind, and on the back of my letter, in bold, black marker, is a message of his own.
NEVER CONTACT ME AGAIN.

Chapter One

Yardley Devereaux, age 16

I don’t belong here.
I realize being the new kid makes people give you a second look, but I don’t think it should give them permission to stare at you like you have a second head growing out of your nose. Or a monstrous zit on your chin. Or a period stain on your pants.
At this point it’s all the same.
Not to mention, I don’t think anyone can prepare you for what it feels like to eat lunch alone, like some social reject.
The smell of burnt tater tots makes my stomach churn, and the milk on my tray expires today. I’m pretty sure the “chicken patty on a bun” they gave me is nothing more than pink slime baked to a rock-hard consistency. I’m unwilling to risk chipping a tooth, so I refuse to try it.
Checking my watch for the millionth time, I calculate approximately 3 1/2 hours left until I can go home and tell my parents what an amazing first day I had. That’s what they want to hear anyway. Dad moved us here from California with the promise that we were going to be richer than sin, whatever that means. But if Missouri is such a gold mine then why doesn’t the rest of the world move here? So far, Lambs Grove looks like the kind of place you’d see in some independent film about a mother trying to solve her son’s murder with the help of a crooked police department, starring Jake Gyllenhaal, JK Simmons, and Frances McDormand.
Okay, I’m probably being dramatic.
But this place is pretty lame. I miss the ocean. I miss the constant sunshine and the steady stream of seventy-five degree days. I miss the swaying palm trees.
I miss my friends.
Forcing your kid to move away from the town they’ve grown up in their entire life—in the middle of their sophomore—year is cruel. I don’t care how rich dad says we’re going to get, I’d have rather stayed in Del Mar, driven a rusting Honda, and paid my own way through a technical college if it had meant we didn’t have to move.
And can we talk about my name for a second? Yardley. Everyone here has normal names. Alyssa. Monica. Taylor. Heather. Courtney. If I have to spell my name for someone one more time I’m going to scream. My mom wanted my name to be special and different because apparently she thinks I’m special and different, but naming your daughter Yardley doesn’t make her special. It just makes it so she’ll never find her name on a souvenir license plate.
I’d go by my middle name if it weren’t equally as bad, but choosing between Yardley and Dove is akin to picking your own poison.
Yardley Dove Devereaux.
My parents are cruel.
I rest my case.
I pop a cold tater tot into my mouth and force myself to chew. I’ll be damned if I’m that girl sitting in third block with a stomach growling so loud it drowns out the teacher. I don’t need more people staring.
Pulling my notebook from my messenger bag, I pretend to focus on homework despite the fact that it’s the first day of spring semester and none of my teachers have assigned anything yet, but it’s better than sitting here staring at the block walls of the cafeteria like some loser.
Pressing my pen into the paper, I begin to write:
Monday, January 7, 2008
This day sucks.
The school sucks.
This town sucks.
These people suck.
After a minute, I toss my pen aside and exhale.
“What about me? Do I suck?” A pastel peach lunch tray plops down beside me followed by a raven-haired boy with eyes like honey and a heartbreaker’s smile. My heart flutters in my chest. He’s gorgeous. And I have no idea why he’s sitting next to me. “Nevada.”
“No. California. I’m from Del Mar,” I say, clearing my throat and sitting up straight.
The boy laughs through his perfectly straight nose.
I can’t take my eyes off his dimpled smirk. He can’t take his eyes off me.
“My name,” he says. “It’s Nevada. Like the state. And you are?”
“New,” I say.
He laughs at me again, eyes rolling. “Obviously. What’s your name?”
My cheeks warm. Apparently, I can’t human today. “Yardley.”
“Yardley from California.” He says my name like he’s trying to memorize it as he studies me. I squirm, wanting to know what he’s thinking and why he’s gazing at me like I’m some kind of magnificent creature and not some circus sideshow new girl freak. “What brings you here?”
He pops one of my tator tots between his full lips, grinning while he chews.
Nevada doesn’t look like the boys where I’m from. He doesn’t sound like them either. He isn’t sun kissed with windswept surfer hair. His features are darker, more mysterious. One look at this tall drink of water and I know he’s wise beyond his years. Mischievous and charismatic but also personable.
He’s … everything.
And he’s everything I never expected to come across in a town like this.
A group of girls at the table behind us gape and gawk, whispering and nudging each other. It occurs to me then that this might be a set-up, that this beautiful boy might be talking to this awkward new girl as a dare.
“Ignore them,” he says when he follows my gaze toward the plastic cheerleader squad sitting a few feet away. “They’re just jealous.”
I lift a brow. “Of what?”
He smirks, laughing at me like I’m supposed to ‘get it.’
“What?” I ask. If this is a joke, I want to be in on it. I refuse to add butt-of-the-joke to the list of reasons why this day can go to hell.
“They’re jealous because they think I’m about to ask you out,” he says, licking his lips. Nevada hasn’t taken his eyes off me since the moment he sat down.
“Should I go inform them that they have absolutely no reason to shoot daggers our way?”
His expression fades. “Why would you say that?”
“Because …” I laugh. “You’re not about to ask me out.”
“I’m not?”
I peel my gaze off of him and glance down at my untouched lunch. “Why are you doing this?”
“Why am I doing what? Talking to you? Trying to get the courage to ask you on a date?”
I glance up, studying his golden gaze and trying to determine if he’s being completely serious right now.
“You’ve never seen me before in your life and then you just … plop down next to me and ask me on a date?” I shake my head before rising. If I have to dump my tray and hide in the bathroom until the bell rings, then so be it.
“Where are you going?”
My lips part. “I … I don’t know. I …”
Nevada reaches for me, wrapping his hand around my wrist in a silent plea for me to stay. “Do you have a boyfriend back in California? Is that what this is about?”
“What? No.” This guy is relentless.
“Then go on a date with me,” he says, rising. “Friday.”
“Why?”
His expression fades. “Why?”
The bell rings. Thank God.
“I was new once. So I get it,” he says, fighting another dimpled smirk. God, I could never get tired of looking at a face like his. “And, uh … I think you’re, like, really fucking hot.”
Biting my lower lip and trying my damnedest to keep a straight face, I decide I won’t be won over that easily. It takes a lot more than a sexy smile, some kind words, and a curious glint in his sunset eyes. If he truly wants me … if this isn’t a joke and he honestly thinks I’m “really fucking hot,” he’s going to have to prove it.
“Bye, Nevada,” I say, gathering my things and disappearing into a crowd of students veering toward two giant trash cans.
I don’t wait for him to respond and I don’t turn around, but I feel him watching me—if that’s even possible. There’s this electric energy pulsing through me from the top of my head to the tips of my toes. I’m not sure if it’s excitement or anticipation or the promise of hope … but I can’t deny that it’s real and it’s there.
Making my way to the second floor of Lambs Grove High, I find my English Lit classroom and settle into a seat in the back.
For the tiniest sliver of a second, I imagine the two of us together. We’re laughing and happy and so in love that it physically hurts—the kind of thing I’ve never had with anyone else.
The tardy bell rings and a few more students shuffle in. My teacher takes roll call before beginning his lecture, but I don’t hear any of it.
I can’t stop thinking about that beautiful boy.

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

 

 

Author Links

 

 

 

Chapter Reveal · Romance

Undefeated by Stuart Reardon & Jane Harvey-Berrick Chapter Reveal

 

 

 

 

 

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A powerful contemporary romance set in the fast-moving world of international rugby.

When your world crashes down
When they all say you’re out
When your body is broken
I will rise.
I will return.
And I will be undefeated.

Nick Renshaw is the golden boy of British rugby. When a serious injury threatens his career, he starts to spiral downwards, a broken man.
Feeling abandoned and betrayed by those closest to him, he fights to restart his life. Maybe there’s someone out there who can help him. Maybe he can find his way back toward the light. Maybe … not.
Dr. Anna Scott might be the one person who can help Nick, but she has her own secrets. And when Nick’s past comes back to haunt them both, the enigmatic doctor is more vulnerable than she seems.
Broken and betrayed, the struggle to survive seems intolerable. Who will give in, and who will rise, undefeated?

Coming January 23rd 2018

 

 

Prologue

 

It’s a beautiful game.

It’s a hard game.

And even on a good day your body is battered and bruised. It’s a brutal game with blood, mud and dirt.

See this scar on my cheek? Rugby.

See this scar running through my eyebrow? Rugby.

I have a lot of scars.

I have 13 scars on each arm from keyhole surgery, knee surgery, scars on my forehead and the back of my head, scars on my knuckles, broken fingers. I’ve had both eyelids stitched, surgery on both shoulders, suffered a broken nose twice and spiral fractures in my hands, I’ve broken my fingers so many times, I don’t event count those. I’ve had cartilage cleaned out of my left knee, two medial ligament grade two tears on each knee, three lots of surgery for Achilles tendon injuries, and once I put my bottom teeth through my top lip. Getting stitches in your mouth isn’t much fun. They tug when you eat or speak.

There’s nothing nice about rugby. Maybe that’s why I bloody love it.

Chicks dig scars? Yeah, I’ve heard that, too.

In my experience, they’re not so keen on being around while you’re healing. Being the loser who’s benched, not so sexy. Being the guy who’s career went down the toilet … I’m looking a lot less appealing now.

Trusting a woman when you’re at your lowest—dumbest, stupidest thing ever.

Beat me, break me, butcher my heart.

I’m coming for you. And this time…

I’m going to win.

 

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Stuart Reardon

 

Stuart is a retired England International Rugby League player who’s career spanned 16 years as a professional playing for several top League clubs. He has had several major injuries that nearly ended his career just as in Undefeated, the amazing collaboration with Jane.
Currently he is a Personal trainer living in Cheshire, and has an online fitness program: Fear Nothing Fitness.

 

Jane Harvey-Berrick

 

 

I enjoy watching surfers at my local beach, and weaving stories of romance in the modern world, with all its trials and tribulations.
It’s been the best fun working with Stu on this story. And yes, he did think about joining the Marines once.

 

Author Links

 

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Chapter Reveal

Sky’s The Limit by Elle Aycart Chapter Reveal

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tired of waiting for her big break in the fashion industry, Sky Gonzalez, eternal part-time student and overworked retail drone, quits her job, sublets her New York apartment, and embarks on a semester abroad study program in Paris. Paris! Time to throw caution to the winds and jump-start her dreams. What’s the worst that could happen?

How about getting sent to the wrong Paris? As in Paris-frigging-Minnesota?

Bye-bye career dreams. Bye-bye glamour and haute couture. Hello flannel shirts, mind-numbing cold, zero bars on the cell phone, and socially challenged mountain men with tons of unruly facial hair.

So yeah, let the truck barreling her way hit her, please. Less painful.

Logan should have dodged the little lost waif and kept on driving. Who in their right mind walked in the middle of the road, dressed in white from head to high heels, during a snowstorm? Clueless city girls, that’s who. Sky is all that Logan has gladly left behind: stylish, cosmopolitan, and a massive pain in the butt. He wouldn’t trade a single day in his quirky little corner of the woods for all the high-maintenance beauties the city can offer.

Too bad this beauty has been deemed a health hazard and quarantined in his house. Damn his doomsday-prepper neighbors and their paranoid emergency protocols. Now he has to keep Sky in and the pandemic squad out until the roads are clear. The question is, will that happen before or after Sky realizes she’s under house arrest?

Ah, the best-laid plans…

 

 

Somewhere in the back of beyond, Minnesota

SOS. Car broke down. Stuck in snowstorm. Check my location and alert troopers.

Sky Gonzalez pressed Send and threw her cell in the air as high as she could. There was nothing but trees and snow around, no cell coverage to be had where she was standing. Maybe another six feet up, the situation was different.

She caught the phone on its way down. Checked the screen. Nope. Jesus Christ, the whole country was infested with butt-ugly, fake-tree cell towers, and she had to get lost in a place where all the damn trees were real.

Turning against the gusts of wind and brushing flakes away from her face, she gave it another go, tossing as far as she dared. Which wasn’t far, really, because she wasn’t the most coordinated person in the world. If she dropped the phone and it smashed into a million pieces, or she lost sight of where it landed, that was it for her last lifeline to the outside world. She’d never find her cute, sparkly cell again—slick and thin and white.

In hindsight, going for that color had been a very poor decision.

Still no dice. Squinting, she tossed the device up again. Hopefully her message would eventually go through, and Lola would contact the authorities. After all, it was Lola’s fault Sky was in this bind. Of all the crazy shit her sister had pulled over the years, this stunt trumped every one of them.

Every. Single. One.

She caught her cell a third time. Nothing. Well, practice made perfect, right? Besides, she didn’t have much else to do except throw that stupid phone into the sky and continue walking. The road must lead somewhere. Sooner or later she’d arrive there. Or she’d get lucky and her cell would catch a signal. Or she’d freeze to death and become a cautionary tale to stupid girls. Whatever came first.

She looked back to where her car was being buried under a steady fall of big flakes. Steam was still coming from the hood. How a car could overheat in the middle of a snowstorm, she didn’t know. That annoying little red light on the dashboard that had flashed at her for the last twenty miles might have had something to do with it. Not that she could have done shit about it, seeing as the last person she’d crossed paths with was at a gas station a hundred miles away. Or so. She wasn’t great at calculating distances or reading maps.

Orienting herself wasn’t one of her fortes either, evidenced by the embarrassing fact that her destination should only have been about fifteen miles from the regional airport and she’d still managed to miss it. She’d tried backtracking, but she’d only succeeded in getting more lost. And that was hours ago. The car’s GPS had stopped working right after she left the airport, and her cell had been without a steady signal for a long while before the car itself died. For all she knew, she’d crossed state lines. Heck, she might be in Canada. Or in frigging Alaska.

Great way to kick off the New Year. Best first of January ever.

Eyes on her airborne cell, she tripped and fell flat on her face, the useless device landing on the back of her head.

Coordinate colors? Forecast fashion trends? Put together a knockout outfit from a thrift shop? All that she could do, no problem. But apparently, throwing an object up in a straight line and catching it on the fly were not in her skill set.

Aggravated, she got up, patted the snow from her pants, and burrowed her hands under her jacket. The wind wasn’t too strong, but the constant bee stings of flakes on her skin, along with her shitty clothes, made her feel like she was freezing. The extremely fashionable hand-me-downs from her boss were not designed for off-road snow trudging.

Then again, she should have been strolling around Paris’s Golden Triangle of luxury boutiques and haute couture labels. Or sitting in a cute little café, watching the sun set over the Champs Elysées, enjoying the mild chill of the French winter—which this year was supposed to be warmer than usual—sipping red wine, and munching on a baguette slathered in gooey cheese. For that, she was perfectly dressed.

Thank God she’d gotten that ridiculous white bunny-ear hat at the airport, ugly as it was, and the white bunny-paw mittens. The snowstorm must have caught other travelers off guard, because those had been the only winter garments in the tiny store. High heels and a bunny hat. Hell of a fashion statement. On the plus side, she was color coordinated down to her underwear. White pants. White jacket. White boots. White hat.

She should have stayed in the broken car. No heat and a cramped space were a thousand times preferable to walking in the open, but she was so tired, she couldn’t afford to sit idle. She’d fall asleep in a second and wake up a Popsicle. Or, more to the point, not wake up at all.

That she’d been awake thirty hours and counting wasn’t helping. But why would she have wasted her last night in New York City sleeping when she thought she had a transatlantic flight ahead of her? Eight hours of uninterrupted sleep. Sky was infamous for drifting off in the weirdest places and the most impossible positions. Tourist class, no leg room, screaming babies? Bring it on. Heck, once she’d zonked out in a jumper seat and snored there for hours, back in the day when she flew standby, courtesy of a friend’s industry-discount tickets.

Looking forward to a cozy nap in coach, she’d gone partying with friends instead of resting—and checking her flight details. Now she was stuck in the middle of nowhere, sleep-deprived, knee-deep in snow, freezing her butt off, and probably catching the mother of all flus.

Minnesota. Where the heck was Minnesota? She was an East Coast person through and through. She hadn’t been this far west since that time she took the wrong train and ended up in Newark. That had been traumatic enough, thank you very much.

She glanced around. It was beautiful, though. Perfect snowflakes poured out of the sky, blanketing the whole landscape in white. Very… Christmassy. Too bad it wasn’t Christmas, and she was lost, alone, and irremediably soaked. Her hair and makeup were ruined. And let’s not talk about her brand-new manicure. Hansel and Gretel dropped bread crumbs. Her? She was dropping fake nails all over the place.

Damn the countryside. Not a single soul around to ask for directions. Where were aggressive taxi drivers when one needed them? Rude walkers, honking cars, hotdog vendors, a Starbucks on every corner—there was nothing like that here. No landmarks she would recognize.

Just snow, trees, and a back road, poorly delineated and with worse signage, all of it getting fuzzier by the second.

And that was the view in the middle of the day. She shuddered to think how all this would look when it started getting dark. Were there wolves in Minnesota? Bears? Because if her high-heeled boots were shit walking in the snow, just wait until she had to climb a tree.

Sky was about to toss the cell up again, but she stopped. Sighed. Who was she kidding? She’d need a rocket launcher to make it past the treetops. She might as well put her phone to better use before the battery died or it got buried in the snow, Fargo style, until the end of time. She pressed the recording function and started talking. “This is the last will and testament of Sky Gonzalez. This message is addressed to my sister Lola. I leave you, Lola, all my belongings, which you’ll find in a car buried under a ton of snow somewhere in the middle of Minnesota, where you sent me!” she yelled into the device. “Know that I blame you for everything, and I will haunt you from the afterlife for freaking ever! You’ll never have a good night’s sleep, I guarantee you. Damn your presbyopia! Yes, you’ve hit forty. Yes, you need glasses. Own it, for Christ’s sake!”

Screaming seemed to help, marginally. To vent her frustration, if nothing else. She knew she shouldn’t be mad at Lola. After all, it wasn’t completely her sister’s fault. Never mind how busy she’d been, Sky should not have asked her sister to fill out her application for the semester-abroad program. At the very least, she should have suspected something was fishy when the secretary in the placement department had been so glad about Sky’s choice of location, she not only arranged the flight for her, but also informed her that the position came with a voucher for a car rental. Big red flag if Sky ever saw one.

“I don’t need a car,” she’d told the woman. Why would she? Public transportation was a far better option in European cities.

The secretary had sounded confused. “Uhh, believe me, you’ll need a car. Any preferences?”

In all her years as a part-time undergrad at that school, taking classes here and there whenever she could afford it, Sky had never heard the old hag be so nice to anyone. So she went for broke. “Okay, if I can choose, a cute little Mini would work.” Driving in style trumped trunk space any day. Besides, parking would be at a premium in Paris.

“A what?”

She’d gone too far. “If it’s too much, I can—”

“No, no,” the secretary had hurried to interrupt. “It will be arranged.”

Probably she’d thought Sky was going to pull her application if she didn’t get her preferred car. Which she would have. In a heartbeat. Not because of the car, but because she had thought she was going to Paris, France. Not Paris, Minnesota. Who in her right mind would choose an internship in Minnesota when Europe was available?

Sky Gonzalez, apparently.

Entering the semester-abroad program had been an ill-omened idea. She should have accepted her destiny as an eternal student and sales clerk turned personal shopper’s assistant. Dressing in castoffs from her boss and living vicariously through others people’s pics on Instagram. Making ends meet, a big smile on her face, happy and satisfied with her lot.

But traveling to Europe in the hopes of becoming a buyer for a classy continental retailer? Not in the cards for a Gonzalez.

Sky blew warm air over her frozen fingers. Manipulating her cell with the mittens had been a no-go, so she’d stashed them in her jacket. Time to fish them out, or she was going to lose more than her nails. Rummaging in her pockets produced only one mitten. Oh, shit. She must have dropped the other one. Fantastic. Getting better and better. Her teeth were chattering. The storm didn’t look like it was lightening up anytime soon, so she put on the one mitten and picked up her speed.

She pressed Record again and spoke into the phone.“I left Arnie at the dog hotel, so you are getting your sorry ass over there and picking him up, Lola. To hell with your allergies.”

Arnie hated it there. Ungrateful mutt. Much as it pained Sky, she couldn’t take him with her overseas. She’d dished out an indecent amount of money, money she couldn’t afford, to that first-class kennel, and he’d looked at her as if she were dumping him into the pound. “If I freeze to death… which at this stage is a very strong possibility, because the clattering sound you’re hearing is my teeth… I expect you to care for him. The expensive doggie treats he likes. His massage and spa days. The whole shebang, Lola. Do not cut corners with my baby. You owe me.”

When Sky stopped yelling into the phone, she realized the screeching she was hearing wasn’t coming from her. It sounded like brakes locking. She turned around in time to see the shiny grill of a black monster truck barreling her way.

Her eyes opened wide. Holy shit.

It was a damn good thing she couldn’t feel half her body anymore, because this was sooo going to hurt.

* * *

The second that Logan saw a flash of long red hair and something resembling human eyes, he wrenched the wheel, sending the truck spinning to the shoulder, barely missing the tiny figure in the middle of the road. Jesus Christ. Who in her right mind wore white from head to toe in a blizzard? The truck screeched to a halt, the passenger side a mere half an inch from the woman. He jumped down and ran around the front. She had fallen to the ground. Fuck, had he hit her? “You okay?”

“You… almost… ran… me… over,” she said, her teeth chattering. From fear or cold, he couldn’t tell. Well, he could. It had to be cold. Her clothes were flimsy at best. Flashy, but not warm at all.

“Are you crazy? Standing in the middle of the road, all in white? I could have killed you.”

He saw a gleam of defiance in her eyes. “White’s… trendy… this… year.”

Right. “There’s nothing ‘trendy’ in this part of Minnesota, lady. Where’s your car?”

“There.” She pointed in the direction Logan had come from. “Or there,” she corrected herself, pointing in the opposite direction. “Not sure now. It all looks… white.”

No shit.

He tried to help her stand, but her legs buckled, so he lifted her in his arms. “Let’s get you somewhere warm, shall we?” After placing her on the passenger seat, he cranked up the heat.

“Can’t leave… without… my bags.”

He stepped outside and scouted the ground a little.

Her footsteps indicated she’d been walking in the same direction he’d been driving, which meant he must have passed her vehicle and missed it. “What car are you driving?”

She sneezed, the useless synthetic-fur hood on her jacket flopping over her bunny-eared head. Out of the whole stupid outfit, that bunny-eared hat was the most sensible piece. “A Mini.”

Great. Wherever she’d left the car, it was probably buried now.

“We’ll come back for it tomorrow,” he decided, jumping back in and revving up the engine.

“My Manolos are in there.”

Manolos. Oh, boy, wasn’t that a blast from the past? Another shoe whore. Just what he needed. “They’ll still be here tomorrow, believe me.”

She was going to object, but a sudden sneeze derailed her. And another and another. He opened the glove compartment, took out a wad of napkins, and offered it to her. “Why did you leave the car?”

“Stopped working,” she answered, grabbing a napkin and wiping her nose. “And when I began walking… it wasn’t snowing so much.”

“You aren’t from anywhere around here, are you?” Her dumb clothes were a dead giveaway. Her actions too. She shook her head, placing her hands in front of the air vent. “New York City.”

It figured.

She narrowed her dark eyes on him. “Why?”

The heat had kicked in. She must have finally felt it, because her teeth weren’t chattering as hard. She was even getting some color back in her face.

He looked resolutely forward and edged the truck into motion. “For your information—next time you decide to take a stroll in the Minnesota countryside, you need better shoes. And clothes. You don’t assume the weather conditions will improve. And you never leave your vehicle. Ever. Under any circumstances. You don’t stand in the middle of the road without wearing reflectors. And—”

A sudden move from the passenger side caught his attention. He gave her a quick glance and saw, flabbergasted, that her head had lolled to the side.

“Lady, you okay?”

A light snore was all the answer he got. “And you don’t get into a stranger’s ride and proceed to check out,” he muttered. Jesus fucking Christ. Talk about a lack of common sense.

 

 

 

After a colorful array of jobs all over Europe ranging from translator to chocolatier to travel agent to sushi chef to flight dispatcher, Elle Aycart is certain of one thing and one thing only: aside from writing romances, she has abso-frigging-lutely no clue what she wants to do when she grows up. Not that it stops her from trying all sorts of crazy stuff. While she is probably now thinking of a new profession, her head never stops churning new plots for her romances. She lives currently in Barcelona, Spain, with her husband and two daughters, although who knows, in no time she could be living at the Arctic Circle in Finland, breeding reindeer.

Elle loves to hear from readers!

elleaycart@gmail.com

 

Chapter Reveal · MC Romance

Cruise (Savage Disciples MC) by Drew Elyse Chapter Reveal


 

Once a Disciple, forever a Disciple.

After giving up eighteen months of his life for his club,
the Disciples’ president is finally tasting freedom again.
Stone knows there’s only one thing that might ever be as sweet,
but she’s too young, too perfect, too untouchable for a man like him.

A Disciple will fight like a savage to protect what matters.

Evie’s life is pretty much blowing up in her face
until Stone finds her broken down on the side of the road.
Now if only she could get him to stop being the martyr
and give them a shot at what she knows they both want.

It’s high time this biker got the chance to let go and just cruise.

 

Coming January 11th

Prologue

 

 

Stone

I shoveled in a forkful of eggs thinking I was becoming a masochist.
It was high past time for me to stop dragging my ass to that diner five days a week. Christ, after that first time stopping in to grab a bite, I should have gotten on my bike and not come back.
Instead, I developed some sick fucking need to torture myself incessantly.
Across the dated countertop I sat at—the same damn place my ass was parked every time I came in—she was singing. She did that a lot. It was always quiet, just barely audible from my spot, and eaten up by the room before it could get to any of the tables.
Today, it was “Delta Dawn.”
I knew the song, though I wondered how the fuck she did. It had to be about as old as me. My mom listened to it when I was growing up, but it wasn’t a new one even then. Forty-odd years later, it was surprising a girl in her twenties would know it, let alone be singing it quietly while she worked.
In her twenties, I repeated the thought to myself the way I did every time I had it.
Even as I did, I couldn’t tear my eyes off of her. Not that that was anything unusual. How the hell she hadn’t cottoned on, I didn’t know. Then again, Geneviev was a woman the likes of which were rare these days.
Evie had told me a lot in the months I’d been planting my ass on the stool in front of her four times. The only reason I skipped three days every week was because she didn’t work them. The food she set down in front of me each time was fine, but it wasn’t what kept me coming back. It was her. She was sweet as sugar and for some reason seemed to take to me. This meant I got a lot of her sweet directed my way when I took up residence at that counter. She’d talk about what she had going on, how she was studying to be a nurse, her roommate, crazy shit that happened there at the diner. She’d talk about whatever came to her, and I’d soak up every damn word.
What she hadn’t said—and I hadn’t asked because I was smart enough to know that it was dangerous ground for my own self-control—was how the fuck she came to be the woman she was. That being, a woman who was cute, gracious, caring, funny, but more importantly, sheltered.
I knew it the first time she’d taken the gamble on talking to me, and she’d asked about my cut. It wasn’t like I never got questions about the Savage Disciples MC patch on my back. Hell, it wasn’t even like I didn’t get those from a whole lot of folks who knew nothing about the life. It was the blatant curiosity that shone in her eyes—a look I’d seen more than a few times since—that verged on wonder. Like a bunch of bikers were the stuff of fairy tales or some shit.
“Top you off, Mr. President?” the object of my obsession asked on a light, ringing laugh.
Yeah, she’d started calling me “Mr. President” when I’d explained that part of the cut to her.
Christ, she was dangerous.
I gave her a lift of my chin, which got me a smile I forced myself not to fully take in as she topped off more coffee into my mug.
“Thanks, babe.”
The words earned me another smile, this one softer.
That right there might be the biggest indicator she was sheltered.
She’d told me once, amid her talking about the nursing program she was doing, and how she wished she’d been able to start right out of high school and already be working in the job she’d wanted since she was young, that she’d just recently turned twenty-five. I wouldn’t deny that there were twenty-five-year-olds out there that’d smile at me and do a fuck of a lot more. I wasn’t in my twenties—or my thirties—anymore, but I could still get a lot of women of a lot of different ages in my bed. Patch chasers or party girls, that “President” stitched onto the front of my cut could get me a taste of a variety of flavors.
Evie wasn’t one of those.
A girl like Evie, with the air of innocence that hung around her, had no business smiling at the gruff, former marine, old-enough-to-be-her-father president of the local motorcycle club.
And that asshole had no business coming around, drinking in all the sweet that was her, and dreaming about what it would be like to get a taste.
“Time to make the rounds,” she announced, moving her lithe body around the counter to go check on the two occupied tables in the joint.
I had to curl my hand into a fist so tight my knuckles protested to keep from turning where I sat to watch her move. It was a battle I fought every time I was there. If I had to put a number on it, I’d say I was at about a forty percent success rate. The other sixty percent of the time, I’d end up engraining her courteous smiles, the flair of her waist, the way her hips moved with her steps into my head. Like I didn’t already have a million images of her stored away up there, making certain the torture I came here and subjected myself to didn’t stop when I walked out the door.
By the time Evie finished her rounds, including delivering bills to both tables, I was finished eating. I’d even gotten out the cash to cover my meal—since I ate there so often I already knew what the damage would be. I told myself again and again that I should get my ass up and just call out a goodbye as I left.
Sticking with the theme, I didn’t listen to my own good advice.
Which was why I was still sitting at that damn bar when she was back behind it, standing right across from me with a smile on her face that had turned tight. I didn’t get it, not as I watched her grab the rag she used to wipe down the tables, not as she set about cleaning the unmarred stretch of counter in front of her.
“So…um…any plans this weekend?” There was a faint, nervous tremor to the words.
“Nothing much,” I answered, keeping my voice level.
Her anxiety set me on edge. It wasn’t like her. She wiped the same spot repeatedly as she turned over whatever she was about to say.
“I was wondering—you know, if you’re not busy and all—if you’d want to…I don’t know…get dinner,” she stumbled out. “Or something.”
Fuck.
Fuck me.
Here I’d been thinking all this time that I needed to let go of this attachment. Never, not even once in the craziest shit my brain thought up when I didn’t check myself, did I think that the tables would turn.
She had no business, not a fucking lick, asking me out.
And now it fell on me to correct that problem, even when I wanted nothing more than to take her up on her offer.
Fuck.
The time had come. No more avoiding this shit. No more convincing myself it was fine.
This was the end.
“Kills me to do this, you gotta know that, but I’m gonna have to say no.”
It sounded like a line, a bullshit way to ease the rejection. I wanted to rip the words back, choke on them if I had to when I watched her face fall as they sank in. She thought I wasn’t interested. She honestly fucking thought I’d been coming in all this time for…what? The food? The atmosphere?
No, I’d been there day after day because she was the most magnificent thing I’d ever laid my eyes on and that didn’t even scratch the surface of all there was to her.
Turning down her sweet invitation burned through me in a way I knew the singed wasteland left behind would never be the same. But I couldn’t give her that. She’d push if I did, and I was too fucking weak to keep resisting.
“Oh,” she finally breathed in response. “That…that’s okay.”
It wasn’t. Not for her, with the disappointment she tried—and failed—to mask still showing in her eyes. Not for me, with the way it was actually physically painful to hold in all the words I wanted to give her to ease that damage I’d done.
It wasn’t okay in the fucking slightest, but it was the right thing to do.
“I’m not the man you should be offering that to,” I found myself saying. I should have just kept my mouth shut, taken the blow that was seeing her dejection, and gotten the fuck out. “Shit’s me to say it, but it’s the truth.”
The downturn of her lips, something I’d never seen before that moment, told me she didn’t believe a word of it even as she said, “Okay.”
As I sat there, watching her avoid looking at me, watching her chin tip down to her slender neck like she was trying to hide beneath her honey-colored hair, I fought the urge to say more. I wanted to talk until I was blue in the face if needed to make her understand, but doing so would be admitting too much.
Instead, I finally forced myself to do what I should have done months ago. I stood, slid the money closer to her for the bill, and I lied.
“I’ll see you soon, Evie.”
They were the same words I gave her every time I walked out the door, but it was the first time I said them with no intention of making them true.

Four months later, as the bars to the cell I’d be calling home for the next year and a half closed for the first time, that lie was the only thing in my head.

 

 

 

Drew Elyse spends her days trying to convince the world that she is, in fact, a Disney Princess, and her nights writing tear-jerking and smutty romance novels. Her debut novel, Dissonance, released in August of 2014.

When she isn’t writing, she can usually be found over-analyzing every line of a book, binge watching a series on Netflix, doing strange vocal warm ups before singing a variety of music styles, or screaming at the TV during a Chicago Blackhawks game.

A graduate of Loyola University Chicago with a BA in English, she still lives in Chicago, IL where she was born and raised with her boyfriend and her prima donna pet rabbit, Lola.

Author Links

 

 

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Dirt (Evergreen Series Book One) by Cassia Leo Chapter Reveal with Pre-Order Links, Book Trailer, Spotify Playlist, & Giveaway

Today we have the chapter reveal for DIRT by Cassia Leo! Check them out and pre-order your copy today!

 

Title: DIRT

Author: Cassia Leo

Series: Evergreen Series

Release: January 12, 2018

 

About Dirt

A hard-hitting, emotional new series from New York Times bestselling author Cassia Leo.

Jack and I had everything. Then, in one brutal instant, the universe tilted on its side, discarding us into black nothingness.

Now, I have a cocky a**hole for a husband.

The only way we communicate anymore is when we’re fighting or f**king.

With nothing left to lose, I write Jack a goodbye letter and head for Portland, where I quickly meet a neighbor who helps me find a job.

My new neighbor—broody, tattooed ex-soldier Isaac Evans—is complicated. Nevertheless, we form a fast friendship, bonding over our mutual desire to create something beautiful from the wreckage of our lives.

But despite the distance between us, Jack and I are still trying to make things work—fighting and f**king dirtier than ever. And he doesn’t appreciate my new friendship with Isaac. Not one f**king bit.

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Chapter Reveal

Chapter 1

Laurel

I hugged Jack Jr. tightly against my breast, and he molded his soft, warm body to mine. His eyes remained closed as his tiny fingers curled around the fabric of my blouse, his rosy lips puckering as he geared up for more food.

“You sucked me dry, little fella,” I whispered, leaning in to press my nose against the downy-soft, golden hair on the top of his head. I inhaled his scent and my muscles unspooled. “But I’ll be back to feed you soon. I promise.”

Why do babies smell so damn good?

Before I got pregnant with Junior, my favorite smell was orange blossoms. As a teenager, I often got scolded by my mom for picking the flowers off the orange tree in our backyard in Portland. I’d rub the creamy petals between my fingers, bruise them with my fingernails, then sniff my hand for hours until the scent wore off.

When I was pregnant with Junior, my favorite scent became the rich aroma of the forbidden coffee I could no longer drink.

After Junior was born, and my decaf days came to a glorious end, I realized how wrong I’d been. There was absolutely no scent as sweet and soul-quieting as the smell of the top of a baby’s head. Bonus points if the baby was lying peacefully on your chest sound asleep.

“Are you ever going to put him down?”

I flicked my head sideways, startled by Jack’s clear, baritone voice.

He stood in the doorway of Junior’s nursery, the silhouette of his six-foot-three athletic body framed by the warm light in the hallway. His head was tilted to the side. He’d probably been standing there admiring us for a while. After six years together, I knew Jack’s body language and facial expressions better than I knew my own face.

I stood from the rocking chair and stole one more sniff of Junior’s head before I placed him gently on his back in the center of the crib. I adjusted the left sleeve of his pajamas, pulling it down to make sure it covered his entire chubby arm. I didn’t want to imagine him waking up cold and alone in here.

Jack appeared at my side as I switched on the video baby monitor. “He’s going to be fine,” he murmured, reaching down to stroke the soft patch of hair on Junior’s head. “In fact, he’ll probably enjoy some time alone. After all, he is just like his daddy; sometimes, we need a break from the constant attention from the ladies.”

I rolled my eyes and headed for the door. “Making jokes only makes leaving him slightly less scary, you know,” I said as we stepped into the hallway of our five-bedroom dream home in Hood River, Oregon. I couldn’t wait to fill up every one of these bedrooms with brothers and sisters for Jack Jr.

Jack chuckled as he followed closely behind me. “Less scary is an improvement,” he replied, grabbing my hand to stop me in the middle of the corridor. “You promised Junior you’d be back soon. Can you also make me a promise?”

The hallway lights made his dark hair look glaringly shiny, but I couldn’t help but notice how weary his blue eyes looked tonight. Since Junior arrived three months ago, I’d been so focused on my baby boy’s vulnerability, his scent, his beauty, I hadn’t slowed down enough to appreciate how those were the same qualities that made me fall in love with Jack.

Suddenly, my worries about leaving Junior with my mother for the evening evaporated. All I wanted to do was kiss Jack, grab hold of that dark hair and make love to him for hours. I wanted to replace the weariness in his eyes with dark hunger, or maybe a glint of mischief.

I squeezed his hand and smiled at the thought of possibly having sex with him in public tonight. We hadn’t done that in a while.

“What kind of promise?” I asked.

He shook his head. “Nope, you’re not allowed to ask. Just promise me you’ll say yes.”

My stomach vaulted at the sound of those words. They were the same words Jack spoke when he asked me to marry him. I wondered what he would ask this time.

The phrase “just promise me you’ll say yes” had become like an inside joke, our own private, unspoken promise to each other that we would always do whatever it took to stay together. The last time he had uttered this phrase, he asked me to stop taking my birth control pills. With Junior here, it was easy to trust that whatever Jack asked me for this time would turn out to be exactly what I needed.

I tilted my head back so I could look up and into his crystal-blue eyes. “Yes, I can make you a promise.”

His expression became sober. “Promise me you’ll be present tonight.” He fixed me with a piercing gaze as his large hand cupped my face. “It’s just you and me for the next three hours. Promise me.”

I smiled. “I promise. Just you and me. And I’ll even put my cell phone on vibrate.” As I said the words, a sharp finger of fear prodded my subconscious, telling me it was a bad idea to risk missing a phone call tonight.

The exhaustion in Jack’s eyes melted away as he smiled. “I can deal with that, but you have to promise me one more thing.”

“What’s that?”

His smile turned almost menacing as he looped his arm around my waist and drew me close. “Promise me you’ll lemme smash that blonde bombshell booty,” he said, landing a light swat on my ass.

I shook my head as I recalled how we often had sex in public during our first year together, in our senior year at Oregon State University, Cascades. For some reason, once we graduated and moved in together, having sex in public seemed like something we couldn’t get away with so easily. We decided public sex-hibitions — or throw downs, as we more commonly referred to them — would be reserved for special occasions like anniversaries or vacations.

Truthfully, Jack and I kicked off our relationship by having sex on the first date. He was always a very difficult man to resist. When he showed up at my apartment to pick me up that night, I couldn’t resist his suggestion that we should stay in and make paper masks of ourselves, then put them on and ask each other first date questions as if we were the other person. I had never laughed so much on any date. Ever. But when he asked — while pretending to be me — if I’d ever had sex with someone on the first date, I couldn’t help but respond with, “I’m Jack-fucking-Stratton. I’ve fucked a lot of girls on the first date. But none as gorgeous as you.”

Jack always knew how to keep things fresh and alarmingly sexy. Six years in and my body still craved him almost every second of every day.

Today was our three-year wedding anniversary. We’d only had sex twice since I gave birth to Junior three months ago, and both of those times were truly awkward.

The first time was painful. My C-section incision hadn’t fully healed yet, and even trying to have sex with him behind me was uncomfortable. The second time we tried, Jack was so afraid of hurting me, he stopped midway through. There’d been a lot of oral sex happening in this house since then.

Luckily, a few weeks had passed since our last attempt, and I had repeatedly assured him I was fully healed up now. I was certain that even if the sex did hurt a little, it would still be worth it. I couldn’t understand couples that didn’t consider sex an important part of a relationship. I never felt more complete, more present, more alive than when my body and mind were entwined with Jack’s.

I smiled as I wrapped my arms around his waist. “I think I know just the place for a proper throw down.”

He wiggled his eyebrows. “Ooh. Tell me more.”

As he leaned in to kiss me, my mother’s voice interrupted us.

“Are you two making out again?” she said, standing at the top of the stairs with her hands on her hips as she gawped at us. “Well, don’t let me stop you.”

Jack laughed and I shook my head as we moved toward her.

“We’re just trying to keep you entertained while you’re on vacation, Beth,” Jack said.

My mother cocked an eyebrow. “If I wanted to watch porn, I’d open up your laptop and have a look at your internet history.”

“Mom, don’t be gross,” I protested, trying not to laugh.

Jack smiled as he held out his elbow for my mom to grab hold as they descended the stairs in front of me. “I made a special collection of links for you. They’re in a folder labeled Tantric Geriatric. You’ll love it.”

I rolled my eyes. Jack and my mother exchanged jabs like this all day.

My mother was staying with us for a few days, so Jack and I could have some time to ourselves and get some much-needed uninterrupted sleep. She was leaving tomorrow to go back to the house where I grew up in Portland. Though she pretended as if she was desperate to get home to her Craftsman cottage in the city, and I even teased her about how she was dying to get back so she could see the handsome new neighbor she’d been going on about, I knew she was going to miss Jack’s pretend insults as much as she would miss Junior and me.

My mother practically shoved me toward the front door. “I order you to go have fun,” she said, smiling as Jack opened the door and stepped outside. “And don’t come home until you’re too drunk to walk.”

I shook my head. “Thanks, Mom. Please call if you need anything. And don’t answer the door for anyone. There’s a house that got broken into a few streets away.”

She waved off my paranoia. “Stop worrying so much. We’ll be fine. See you later, babe.”

I blew her a kiss, then I closed the door behind me.

* * *

“I have to admit, having sex on the waterfront was one of my favorite public throw downs ever,” Jack said, pulling his Tesla into the long driveway of our four-acre estate. “But do we really have to wait until our fourth anniversary to do it again?”

I tugged the silky fabric of my skirt straight as I pressed my thighs together. Though my body was still raw with the evidence of the dirty deed we’d just committed, I couldn’t wait to get Jack inside and pounce on him again. I hadn’t realized how much I missed the sensation of him moving inside me, and how good he was at making me feel beautiful.

“We can do that anytime we can snag a babysitter,” I replied as he turned the car off.

He made no move to exit the Tesla. “Well, babycakes, you’d better get ready to interview a fuck-ton of babysitters.”

I laughed. “Babycakes? That’s a new one.”

Jack rarely used the same term of endearment twice in a row. He liked to keep me guessing.

He scrunched up his nose. “Yeah, that one was kind of creepy. Now that I’ve tried it out, I think I can bury that one in the nickname graveyard.”

“Try the incinerator,” I said, reaching for the door handle.

“Duly noted,” he replied, exiting the vehicle.

Jack and I glided unhurriedly along the flagstone walkway, which was lined with sparkling pathway lights. As we made our way toward the steps leading up to the covered porch, I stopped in the middle of the path and closed my eyes as I inhaled the sweet scent of the lavender and honeysuckle I’d planted with my mom’s help.

That was when I made a wish, a corny wish, but I didn’t care.

I wished that every person could find someone they loved as much as I loved Jack. I wished every child could feel as loved as Junior was. And I wished every anniversary could be as perfect as this one.

“No… No, no, no!” Jack’s voice grew louder with each no.

They say mother’s intuition is scientifically proven to exist. I knew by the tone of Jack’s voice, without even opening my eyes, that my world would never be the same. I knew in that instant, I would regret leaving Jack Jr. tonight for the rest of my life.

Though I knew something was wrong, I wasn’t prepared for what we found.

At some point, while we were lost in our blissful celebration, the front door of our home had been forced open. This discovery was what had made Jack cry out in disbelief. Father’s intuition must also be a thing, because he told me later that, even though the door was still closed, the moment he saw the gouges in the wood near the handle, he had felt that same sense of dread. That feeling that the universe had suddenly tilted on its side, discarding us into black nothingness.

The house was ransacked.

Furniture upended, paintings and flatscreen televisions torn off the walls, shards of shattered vases littered the floors. Complete and utter chaos.

The master bathroom doorknob looked as if it had been shot off. We found my mother’s lifeless form huddled against the bathtub, my baby boy’s dead body clutched tightly in her arms.

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About Cassia Leo

New York Times bestselling author Cassia Leo loves her coffee, chocolate, and margaritas with salt. When she’s not writing, she spends way too much time re-watching Game of Thrones and Sex and the City. When she’s not binge watching, she’s usually enjoying the Oregon rain with a hot cup of coffee and a book.

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Chapter Reveal

Carnival (The Traveling Series) by Jane Harvey-Berrick Chapter Reveal

 

 

 

 

AP new - synopsis.jpg

.
Empty inside, cold in his heart, Zef turned to whisky and drugs to fill the void.

Instead, he ended up with a prison sentence and a new determination to get clean and make something of his life.

Since his release, Zef has been on the road, finding his spiritual home with a traveling carnival and working as a motorcycle stunt rider.

Live fast, live hard, keep moving.

He doesn’t want to be tied down to anyone or anything. Fiercely loyal, the only people he cares about are his brother and his carnie family.

Until a crazy girl who’s run away to join the circus crashes into his world.
But now his old life is catching up with him, and Zef has to choose a new road.

A standalone story, and the last one in the TRAVELING SERIES.

 

Heredity

I watched the flames leap and dance, sending a shower of sparks into the sky as one of the logs caught light.

Even though the daytime temperatures had soared into the nineties, it was considerably cooler now and everyone gathered around the circle of fire. It was a carnie tradition that went way back, signaling the end of another day.

Tonight was special because it was the penultimate night at this pitch, and our last chance to take it easy for a few days. The final night was always crazy busy because it was a jump day—which meant that all the roustabouts were taking down the carnival rides and packing everything back into the rigs, then driving through the night to get to the next town by morning, to set up for the following afternoon, when the whole cycle started over again.

In fact, the 24-Hour Man had already left. He was the guy who went ahead, signposting the way for the rest of us to follow. It may not sound important, but you don’t want fifteen eight-wheelers getting stuck or ending up driving down a one lane road to the wrong field.

So tonight was our night—our time to kick back, relax, and visit with other carnies.

“Bro, you look like someone just kicked your dog. What’s up with you? You’ve been a pain in my ass all week.”

Tucker left the others by the fire and squatted down beside me, ignoring the fuck-off vibes I’d been giving everyone else.

“What’s eating you, man? Tell Uncle Tucker all about it.”

Tucker was a year younger than me, but sometimes he acted like a teenager and spoke like a California surfer, if you ignored his Tennessee accent. We were all like that in the carnival—mongrels who didn’t call any place home, but everywhere was our kingdom and the road was our right.

He sighed when I didn’t reply and threw an arm around my shoulder.

“I know about Mirelle. Tough break, brother.”

I shot him an angry glance and he pulled a face.

“Mirelle called Aimee, Aimee told Kes, and well … you know how it goes.”

Yeah. I knew. Kes and Tucker were my family, my blood brothers—cut one, we all bleed. We didn’t keep secrets. And since Mirelle was Aimee’s best friend, I’d expected the news to circulate faster than it had. Perhaps she’d thought I’d tell them myself.

I should have, but I couldn’t do it. I didn’t want their pity.

“She wasn’t right for you,” Tucker said softly. “I like Mirelle, but she wasn’t going to make it as a carnie. She has roots and that big ole Puerto Rican family back on the East Coast.”

I knew he was right, but the sharp cut of disillusionment was hard to take. Aimee had lived out East and she’d followed Kes to the carnival; Tucker’s woman flew out to see him every couple of weeks. Why couldn’t that work for me?

I shrugged off his arm and stood up. I was ready to walk away when a thought stopped me in my tracks.

“Did she tell Aimee who the father is?”

“Yeah.” He stared down at the dirt, idly pushing his fingers through the tough, brown grass. “Some dude who teaches at the same school.”

Figured.

Suddenly Kes rose to his feet. Everyone stopped talking and we all turned to face him.

He stood with the fire at his back, the flames dancing behind as he faced us. His people, his family.

“I’ve got some news I want to share with you,” he said. “Perhaps I’d better say that we’ve got some news to share with you.”

He smiled at Aimee as she walked to his side, her eyes glowing with love as she looked at him, and he slid his arm around her waist.

“We’re going to be parents. By January, there’ll be a new little carnie joining the family.”
Yells and cheers rose from the carnies around the fire, then Tucker called out,

“Oh my God! Does that mean you’ve been having sex?”

“No, it’s an immaculate conception, dufus,” I muttered, slapping him around the back of the head.

Aimee shot Tucker a look that said he’d be paying for his dumb joke later.

Everyone crowded around offering congratulations.

“A new little stunt rider for the family business?” asked one of the carnies.

Kes shrugged, his whole body lit with happiness as men slapped him on the back or shook hands, and women kissed him on the cheek. Aimee was surrounded with her own admirers, smiling and laughing, glowing with joy as she turned to look at Kes to hear his answer.

“Our kid can be whatever he wants.”

“So, it’s a boy?”

“Maybe. We don’t know yet.”

When the crowd around them thinned, I walked over to give Aimee a kiss on the cheek. Then I turned to Kes.

“Congratulations, man. That’s great news.”

“Thanks, Zef. I appreciate it. And I wanted to ask you—Aimee wants the baby to be Christened, something old school, you know? So I was wondering if you’d be Godfather.”

That was the last thing I’d been expecting. I wasn’t the kind of guy that a kid could look up to.

Kes read the doubt on my face and laughed.

“I’m going to ask Tucker, too. So the kid will need at least one Godfather who’s not completely crazy.”

I grinned at him.

“Well, when you put it that way … I’m the lesser of two evils?”

“Something like that.” His voice sobered. “So, will you do it? If anything happened to me and Aimee…” he swallowed, a flicker of fear on his face, “if anything happened, I’d want to know that I could count on you.”

“Fuck, man, nothing’s gonna happen to you!”

“Yeah, but it could. We both know … we know it could and … I need to you to say it, man. I need to know that you’d be there. If I hadn’t had Dono to take care of me and Con, I’d have been in a fucking foster home. ”

I rubbed my hand across of my face.

“Of course. Of course I’d do it—anything.”

I stuck out my hand and he shook it before pulling me into a swift hug.

“Thanks, Zef.”

I nodded, then asked the question that had been burning me since he’d made his announcement.

“Are you scared … about being a father?

Kes cocked his head to one side, thinking about it.”

“Nah, I couldn’t fuck it up as bad as Mom the alcoholic or dear ole dad who barely knew I existed, or cared. Anyway, I’ve got Aimee to keep me straight.”

He grinned and turned to accept more congratulations from other carnies.

I walked away, surprised by the emotions I was feeling.

Kes, a father!

That was some pretty serious shit. Coming on top of Mirelle’s news, I was feeling off kilter. I tried not to picture her with a guy who wore a collared shirt to work, some nice, safe townie who’d give her security. But she deserved that. She deserved more than a tatted up wiseass who jumped motorcycles for a living—a man with a criminal record who’d served time in prison.

Someone walked over my grave and a shiver ran down my spine. I’d cleaned up my act since then and I wasn’t ever going back.

And I meant what I’d said to Kes: if anything happened to him and Aimee, I’d take care of their kid. Fuck knows what kind of parent I’d be, but he’d asked me and I’d sure as hell try.

The breeze had picked up since sunset and I could see the tops of the distant trees swaying blackly against the rising moon.

The Ferris wheel was still and silent, a towering monument to man’s desire for mindless pleasure. It didn’t go anywhere, it didn’t do anything—except give the illusion of movement. And wasn’t that what the carnival was all about? Cheap thrills for a few bucks before moving on to the next small town. And yet, even with the existence of Netflix, tablets and smartphones, people still came, searching for a little of that stardust, that elusive magic, the freewheeling world of the carnies. Maybe that was what made it so unreal: we’d arrive in the half-light of dawn, and by the evening a world of bright neon and music erupted from an empty field. A few days of eating cotton candy and corn dogs, a few moments of adrenaline as you were whirled around the Tilt-A-Whirl or rode the bumper cars, and then we’d vanish in the night, leaving patches of flattened grass and an empty field.

I pushed my hands into my jean pockets and stared up at the moon as if it had called my name.

How many years did I have before my body broke down, before my knees or ankles or spine couldn’t take it anymore, when throwing myself through the air on 200 pounds of metal no longer seemed like a good idea? Then what? What would my life be then?

“The Cheyenne tell a story that the moon was held by a warring tribe, so a pair of antelope tried to rescue the moon and take it to a good village. But Coyote, the trickster, decides to make trouble and the antelope chase him. Coyote tosses the moon into a river each night, just out of reach of the antelope.”

I didn’t turn around as Ollo spoke.

“Is that supposed to mean something to me, old man?”

I heard his soft chuckle behind me, a wheezing hiccupping laugh.

“Nope, it’s just a story about the moon.”

“Great, thanks for that. Very educational.”

He sat down behind me, ignoring the obvious message that I didn’t want company.
I felt a soft tug on my pants leg as Bo started to climb me like a jungle gym, nestling into me and throwing his thin arms around my neck, chattering in my ear.

“Damn monkey doesn’t know when he’s not wanted,” I grumbled, supporting Bo’s tiny furry body as he snuggled into my chest.

Ollo laughed again.

“I’d say he knows exactly when he’s wanted. Capuchins are smart critters—smarter than most damn humans.”

I sighed, knowing I wasn’t getting any alone time tonight.

I sat down on the bone-dry dirt next to Ollo, smiling as Bo took his chance to go scampering off into the darkness. For a moment, I listened to him rustling in the tall grasses at the side of the swing-boats and I leaned against the canvas backdrop of the Ghost Train.

When I was a kid back in Georgia, I used to try and sneak in under the canvas without paying when the carnival came to town. Sometimes I made it, and sometimes I got dragged out by a hard-faced carnie and sent packing with a smack to the back of the head.

It didn’t matter how many times that happened, I always snuck back. I was fascinated by the mechanics, all of those big machines whipping you into the air or speeding around in circles. I hadn’t heard of hydraulics or knew anything about the physics of gravity, but I loved the dirt and grease behind the scenes, and the rides that made people laugh and scream.

Now, I could take a ghost ride anytime I wanted, but I never did.

I sighed, wondering if the carnival would ever feel magical to me again.

“Good news about Kes and Aimee—new life. A child will keep the carnival alive.”

I nodded, but I wasn’t sure that Ollo was right. It was a hard life, the traveling carnival, and many of the smaller outfits had shut down or gone out of business. I knew as well as anyone that there were no guarantees in life, but I hoped Ollo was right.

“Yeah, I’m happy for them.”

I watched a shooting star shimmer across the sky, wondering what the world had in store for me, wondering if fate was planning some new torture.

“She wasn’t right for you, Zef.”

Ollo’s voice broke and squeaked like a twelve year-old boy, although his body was no taller than the average seven year-old.

Ollo was a dwarf and had lived his whole life in a traveling carnival. He’d done every job from clowning to tumbling, fire-eating and fire-breathing to knife-thrower and rodeo rider, fairground barker to roustabout, and everything in between. He was old now; no one knew how old, probably not even Ollo, but he’d been with Kes’s family since the second world war, so he must be at least eighty.

He probably weighed no more than ninety pounds. I could have picked him up and tossed him over my shoulder without a problem, but I had too much respect for him to do something like that.

So I sat back and listened to what he had to tell me.

“You’re the second person tonight to say that Mirelle wasn’t right for me,” I said, my voice wry.

Ollo spit a stream of tobacco juice onto the hard-packed soil, aiming at one of the iron tent pegs.

“Are you surprised? Her family has uprooted once—she wasn’t going to do it again. Not for you.”

“Feel free to sugarcoat it!”

“Aw, is the big, tough stunt rider feelin’ sorry for hisself?”

I shook my head.

“Nah. Just pissed that she was seeing someone else and didn’t tell me.”

There was a long silence and in the distance I could hear the sound of Luke’s guitar playing.

“I had a woman once,” Ollo said softly. “Long time ago.”

His voice was quiet and it sounded like a confession.

“She wasn’t like me,” he said. “She was a townie, a petite lil’ thing. Delicate all over, tiny waist. Taller than me, of course. We were in Boise for the summer and it was the swinging sixties. She had long straight hair, golden brown, the color of corn. I was a rodeo clown in those days, and she’d come to see the ponies. We got talking and became friends. I’d wait for her to come for me at night. We’d hold hands and sit watching the stars from the top of the Ferris wheel. We fell in love.”

“Sounds … nice?”

“Yeah, it was. She was going to come with me at the end of the summer,” he chuckled quietly. “Run away and join the circus.”

“But she changed her mind?”

Ollo shook his head.

“I don’t know. One night, she didn’t come. I waited every night, knowing that soon we’d be moving on. I went to look for her. In the town.”

I stared up at Ollo’s stars, knowing that this story didn’t have a happy ending. I imagined how brave he’d have to be, leaving the carnies—his people—to go look for this girl among strangers, among townies.

“I didn’t find her, but her father found me. Gave me what they used to call a damn good beat-down, and told me he wouldn’t let a deformed freak like me near his daughter. I don’t know if she’d been sent away or whether she was locked in her room, listening to her father whip me with his belt as I kicked and screamed and tried everything to fight him off. I always wondered about that.”

“Jesus, Ollo!”

My voice was quiet, shocked, and he was silent for a moment.

“You never saw her again?”

“Ah, but I did. Ten years later, we were in Boise again doing the northern circuit. By then, the music was louder and angrier. We were all trying to forget about Vietnam, and everything seemed a little wilder. Borders were breaking down, and even the townie boys were starting to wear their hair long. That’s when I saw her. She was with a rube and they had two kids—a boy and a girl, maybe seven or eight years old. They had her eyes, I remember that. She saw me watching her and she stared back. She smiled at me, then she turned and walked away.”

His voice disappeared, lost in memories.

“That was the last time I saw her. I never tried anything with a townie again.”

“What was her name?”

“Jeanie. Jeanie with the light brown hair.”

I heard the soft patter of Bo’s footsteps, and he appeared out of the darkness, his tiny body curling into Ollo’s arms as he chirruped quietly.

I watched Ollo stroke the soft gray-and-white fur.

“Am I supposed to take some deep meaning from that story?” I asked, hoping to lighten the mood.

Ollo coughed out a laugh.

“Nope, just a story about a boy and a girl under the stars.”

And then, as silently as he’d arrived, he stood up and walked away, Bo still cradled in his arms.

I leaned back against the canvas, thinking about everything he’d said. If I was honest with myself, I’d known from the start that me and Mirelle wouldn’t last, but it still stung that she’d obviously been with this other guy for a while. And that she’d picked someone who was the complete opposite of me.

I didn’t have any trouble hooking up with women who wanted a one-night stand with a biker carnie, but even I had to admit that had gotten old. And now Kes was married and about to become a father, and Tucker lived half the year with his woman in LA. Everything was changing.

I’d had a family once—Mom, Dad, and a little brother. I still had my brother, but he was a man full grown now, successful and living his own life. He didn’t need me anymore, and he definitely didn’t need the shit I’d brought to his door. It was better that I kept moving, kept those wheels rolling.

The other Daredevils were my brothers too, but now they all had partners and I was on the outside again.
Sometimes it felt so damn lonely.

 

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Writing is my passion and my obsession. I write every day and I love it. My head is full of stories and characters. I’ll never keep up with all my ideas!

I live in a small village by the ocean and walk my little dog, Pip, every day. It’s on those beachside walks that I have all my best ideas.

Writing has become a way of life – and one that I love to share.

 

Author Links

 

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Chapter Reveal

Witch For Hire by Shyla Colt Chapter Reveal With Pre-Order Link

 

Witch For Hire

by Shyla Colt

Release Date: November 27

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BLURB

Young, terrified, and bound to a vampire, Louella Eschete fled the bayou and swore off magic. Years later, she’s returned to the tiny town of Cypress, Louisiana to take her rightful place as head of her magical family, whether she likes it or not.
In order to keep the tentative peace formed between the various races of powerful beings who rule side by side, she must face her own demons. Mainly one, Cristobal Cortez. Now a master vampire, and lord of the seven cities surrounding New Orleans, her former lover has moved up in the world. Their relationship gets way more complicated when his court is framed for a rash of murders they didn’t commit.
Forced to play her role as his bond mate, and launch an investigation into the darkness threatening to overturn truces, she may be in over her head.

Add to Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36219693-witch-for-hire?ac=1&from_search=true

Amazon Pre-Order: http://smarturl.it/WitchForHireSc

***Also Available on Kindle Unlimited***

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Chapter 1

 

I’ll be eating crow until I’m shitting black feathers. The space that had once been alive with bright, colorful bobbles, herbal remedies, and homemade beauty supplies, is now a sad, barren wasteland. Bright yellow, everything must go, signs mock me. Puke orange markdown stickers on empty shelves sing their own song all about failure. I curl my lip up at the smiley faces. Fuck you too, pal.

There’s nothing happy about pedaling your wares at a ridiculously low price to make back every dime you possibly can to survive until you can land a new gig, or in my case return to doing the very last thing I wanted to. I was born with a very special set of talents. Ones my family swear I’m wasting. I set them all aside when the thing that once filled me with joy unlike anything I’d ever known became the cause of pain, misfortune, and paranoia.

I could never pretend I wasn’t a witch. It’d be like denying I’m a person of color when my skin is golden brown, my hair is coarse, and my heritage is rich with the history, sacrifice, and customs of the strong African American men and women who came before me. It’s something I am. My choice to discontinue consciously practicing felt like severing a limb.

I walked around for months, disoriented without the balance of the earth and the voice of my ancestors whispering in my ears. I had to relearn how to live life. That meant getting as far away from the backwater, Cajun Parish I’d been born and raised in as possible. The relocation had its pros and cons.

The tiny Kentucky town had been good to me until recently. The economic crash made the extras I offered impossible to continue to buy. I held on as long as I could and eked out another six months before finally admitting defeat.

I’m currently in the process of scrounging up everything I can to go back home with my tail tucked between my legs. I could handle the botched business. It’s the inability to survive on my own that burns my toast. Seven years away wasn’t nearly long enough. The reality of my new life coming to a close cuts me to the quick. My knees weaken, and I sink to the stool behind the counter.

Hiding is no longer an option. I have to face my past. I bow my head. I’m a strong woman. I can handle a lot. But I’m also smart enough to know when I’ve reached my limits. It’s why I fled in the first place. I’ve learned a lot over the years, but I’ve eluded just as much. The gaping wound in my heart is still raw and bleeding out. The doorbell jingles and I force a smile for my current best friend, Heather. On the outskirts of the Appalachian Mountains, my community is full of small businesses and thoughtful folks who live off the land and possess the secrets and practices of those who came before them. It’s the closest I could come to living among my kind.

Heather pauses in the doorway and offers up a sweet smile tinged with sadness. I asked to work the last few hours alone. There’s something about having an audience to hear the last death rattle of Homespun that sours my stomach.

“How are you?”

“Empty,” I say. And scared out of my mind for reasons I can never share with you.

“Is there anything I can do?”

“You’ve done more than enough, helping me push out inventory and working all those hours for a mere pittance.”

“Hey, friends help one another out around this way. You know that.”

The corners of my lip flicker upward despite my dark countenance. “I do know.” I’m going to miss the beautiful simplicity and willingness to help a neighbor.  Where I’m from friends often look like foes, and power corrupts. And silly little girls with stars in their eyes and hearts wide open are manipulated like marionettes and destroyed from the inside out by the one they love most. Bitterness springs up inside me like water from a freshly drawn well. It’s always there, lurking beneath the surface like some hungry beast who waits to pounce during my most vulnerable moments and devour me whole.

“You really didn’t have to come, Heather,” I say.

“There’s no way I was going to let you close for the last time alone. I get it, boss, you’re a badass. You don’t have to prove it every second of every day. I’m here for you wither you like it or not.” The fiery brunette with flashing hazel eyes has a backbone as hard as steel, and a capacity to love wider than the star-dotted sky above the building.

I chuckle. Not many would dare come for me the way she does. I’m intimidating. From my height that tops out at six foot one, to my intense gaze, and short hair with fiery colors throughout. It’s an image I’ve carefully constructed to keep others at a distance. Heather saw through all of those things and extended a hand in friendship. I couldn’t pass that up. Not when it came from such a sincere place. The only thing that matches her capacity to care for others is her loyalty. She helped me soften the folks who were born and bred in this town.

They weren’t a fan of a strange woman moving in and buying up prime real estate. I spent the first year proving myself and living the life of an Amish person who’d been shunned. They didn’t know at the time, it was exactly what I needed. Standing on my own against a town that refused to acknowledge me, regrew my self-confidence and gave me a task to focus all of my attention on.

I grew a healthy online following and brought in folks from the cities. In the end, it helped not just me, but local businesses as well. That was the crack in the icy façade.

“Okay, short stuff. Let’s lock the door one last time, and pop the lid on the jar of moonshine I have in the back with our names written on it.

“Now that’s what I’m talking about! I told Boyd I wouldn’t be home till late tomorrow.”

With a turn of a mechanism and a deafening click, I begin my silent goodbyes to the life I’ve carved out. I wrap my arm around Heather’s shoulders and shut off the main lights as we walk through my personal graveyard of dreams. The stark white of empty shelves are the bleached bones of a carcass picked clean of all its meat. With every flip of a switch, the darkness blots out more of the light. The perfect analogy for what’s about to happen to my life.

***

The apple moonshine hits my throat, setting it ablaze as it slides down and spreads warmth from my belly to the rest of my body. I dance around to the folksy music playing on vinyl. I spin. The off -white skirt with layers of ruffles bells out. I enjoy the feel of the cotton against my legs. Cool air from the fan blows against my bare belly. The off the shoulder crop top has a matching ruffle across the bottom. It’s one of the more popular clothing items I carried. Made by one of Heather’s cousin, the Bohemian fashions did well. Closing my eyes, I take another swig and raise my hands above my head. I peer up at the skylight and glimpse the stars spread across the dark blue velvet.

I open up my senses for the first time in too long and gasp as the power flows to me. It’s like gaining sight after being blind. I can feel the earth. Its life-force is alive and pulsing with a heartbeat all its own. Steady and soothing it grounds me. I long to sink my toes into the dirt.

Even the cotton feels artificial against my skin. It’s all I can do not to strip down and practice my craft skyclad. My body tingles, and my soul rejoices. The magic of my sisters surrounds me. There are root workers up on the mountain. Practitioners who use the old southern folk magic that originated with Africans.

I sensed it when I first arrived. Like attracts like. I choose to shield my presence. Time slows as I reconnect with this secret part of me long neglected. I’m reawakening. The void I couldn’t fill shrinks.

Heather dances around me. I feed off her sisterly presence. We all have a type of magic inside us. Woman together create a very potent energy. One simply needs to know how to tap into it. I want to thank her for all she’d done. I form the Latin words in my mind, gathering the power of my ancestors. I bless her with the gift of prosperity and success. The days of struggling to make her crops yield fruit and gather enough wood for the long winters will be over for a time. Her eyes widen. She feels the enchantment taking hold.

The world becomes a blur. Wind tugs at my hair playfully, welcoming me back to the world few know exists. I throw my head back and release the laughter bubbling up inside me. There’s happiness here in the midst of sadness. Such is life. Balance must be kept in all things. Which is why even at the darkest moments, light remains.

I embrace this experience and breathe deeply. I’m a conduit. The excess energy I’ve gathered and stored is bursting from my crown, fingertips, and through my soles. Pink spots formed on the apples of her cheek. She releases a throaty laugh, and we spin faster as the track changes to a more upbeat song.

High on the emotions swirling around inside me, I wonder why I ever stopped. I am a part of the universe, and the universe lives in me. The sense of oneness is more intoxicating than the alcohol in the mason jar capable of running a car. The transcendent experience opens me up wide. Too wide. The breath rushes from my lungs, and I feel him. Blood drains from my head, and my knees weaken. A flicker of awareness rises. He latches onto the open connection like a striking viper. My body jerks. I’m immersed in the feel of his mind, cool, ordered, and ancient. The scent of leather, forest, and expensive whiskey fill my nostrils.

Louella? The smooth, cultured tone makes the words roll off his tongue like a sonnet. The old-world elegance he exuded has yet to lose its effectiveness. I take a shaky step and slam the door between us like a steel trap. I close my eyes and re-ground myself. The slow panic sinks in.

It was a split second, and I’m already drowning in everything that is Cristobal Angeles Pilar Cortez. Images of his angular aristocratic face, framed with chestnut brown hair streaked with a sun-kissed gold. It always struck me as the ultimate irony that one such as he seemed blessed by the sun.

“Lou?”

Heathers’ concerned voice pulls me out of the too-deep waters I’m floundering in. I blink and focus on her concerned gaze.

“You okay? You’re pretty good at holding your alcohol.”

“Yes. It finally hitting me I’m heading back home. I have some unresolved issues I’m getting ready to jump head first into.”

“Man trouble?” she asks.

I frown. “Why do you guess that?”

“Girl, the entire time I’ve known you, the only interest you have in a man is to scratch the occasional itch before you send them on their way. Only the ones who agree with your arrangement stay longer than a month or two. I know you’re independent, but people who tend to avoid attachments usually do so because they’re wrapped up in something or someone else.”

I sigh. “I could deny that, but I’m not in the habit of lying. It’s complicated. I put it in a box and placed it on a shelf to get dusty.”

“But you could never forget, not completely. It’s why you haven’t healed.”

I sigh. No, I’m bound. The words are on the tip of my tongue, but I know better than to share. This isn’t her world. I won’t drag her into it.

“No, I couldn’t.” I take a long draw out of the Mason jar. “It’s past time I figure things out quick, fast, and in a hurry.”

“Or maybe just admit the truths you already know,” she says.

I know she’s looking for a romance novel-worthy story. But my tale is about power, foolishness, and loss of innocence. The kind of things that would turn a young girl off trusting men altogether. Then again, he’s not really a man, is he?

“Perhaps. The answers will come to light soon whatever side of the fence my emotions fall on.”

“You don’t have to go if you don’t want to. I’m sure you could pick up some spare work here and there—.”

“Yes, I do. But it’s not like we won’t keep in touch. I was never afraid of putting in regular time with pen and paper,” I say.

She smiles. “I’ll look forward to hearing about your adventures. Louisiana is a far cry from our tiny town.”

“Not as much as you’d think. I’m in the Bayou, not the city. Now Nawlins is a world all its own.”

Heather lifts her jar. “To new beginnings.”

“New Beginnings.” We clink rims. The ting sounds like the dinner bell the maid used to ring at the extravagant dinner balls I once attended. Back then, I’d been enchanted by the glitz and glamour. This time around is different. I’m the one up on the carving block. We continue to drink and switch out records. I’m reminded of my youth. Full of music, dancing, and family and friends, it was a charmed period of time I remember fondly. I’ll add today to those cherished memories. We pass out on the bed as the sun begins to rise and the sky turns from deep purple to lilac. I welcome the oblivion of sleep.

I find myself on the wrap around porch of my Meme’s home. She sits a regal beauty in her long, white gown. Her coarse snow-white hair is covered by her colorful purple, gold, and green scarf. The creak of the rocking chair as she moves back and forth is familiar. She turns toward me and delivers a wide smile that softens her face, and brightens her dark brown eyes.

“Meme?” I ask trying to figure out if it’s more than a usual dream.

“Finally, you’re coming back to me, Cherie. I been waiting a long time for this moment.

I’m glad one of us is excited.

“Humph, you forget who you dealing with?” She asks reading my thoughts with ease.

So it is more than a dream. “No, ma’am. But we both know I left for a reason.”

“Ran is more like it. You know better, Lou, Lou. You can’t escape your destiny.”

“Destiny?” I scoff.

“Nothing happens by chance,” Meme says.

I grind my teeth to keep from saying something disrespectful to the matriarch of our family. She’d slap the taste out of my mouth quicker than I could say I’m sorry.

“Go on and speak your mind,” Meme says.

“What’s to say? You have your opinions, and I have mine.” I shrug swallowing down the words dancing on the tip of my tongue.

“Ain’t my opinion girl. The spirits talk.”

I shake my head. This is what I hadn’t missed. My life becoming a chess game for my long-dead ancestors and their spirit friends dictating the way things should go.

“And what do they say Meme.”

“That your future is more than you ever imagined. You spent a long time denying who you were. You belong back here with us. And what you have between that man of yours. Huh. That’s not over by a long shot.”

“He’s not a man.”

“Eh girl, You picked him. Don’t be upset about it now. We all tried to warn you about his true nature.”

“I was young and stupid. I didn’t think I’d have to suffer over it for the rest of my life.”

“That’s up to you. Either way. You’re going to have to deal with it. Dat boy’s been moving up the food chain while you were away.”

“Stop,” I say not ready to think about him.

“You’re an Eschete. We don’t run from anything. You have a duty to yourself and this family. You’ve always been gifted. It never took a genius to see you’re the one who was supposed to lead the next generation into the future. We gave you your time to grow up and grow strong. A storm’s brewing and you’re going to be in the eye, so I hope you rested well.”

I look down and sigh. “What if I’m not able to live up to the expectations?”

“You think just anyone can stop practicing magic and come back like that?” Meme snaps her long, wrinkled fingers. “Non. You’re special.”

Her words are blows to the walls I’ve barricaded myself behind. They come on like battering ram. Cracks form. My lower lip trembles. My vision blurs, and my eyes sting.

“It’s okay honey. Let it out.”

I walk over to the chair and place my head on her lap. She runs her hands through my hair, and I inhale the scent of lavender and sage that always seem to cling to her clothing. Cradled by the woman I’ve always seen as a second mom I allow myself to properly grieve.

For the purity I lost, the love I gave and had rejected, and my shattered soul. The tears are a purge. A necessary cleansing. Sobs shake my body, and I let them. Thunder booms above our heads, and a flash of lightning flickers in my peripheral vision. Tonight, even the Bayou mourns with me.

When I have no more tears left I lift my head and meet Meme’s dark, steady gaze. She nods her head. “That’s what you needed. Time, and a release. Now you pick up the pieces and come back better dan ever. It’s okay to be knocked down as long as you get back up.”

Her words are a soothing elixir applied to my wounded pride.

“Never be ashamed of your mistakes. Long as you don’t continue to make the same ones, it’s nothing more than a learning experience. Things only have the power we give them.”

She’s right. I’ve turned this into the defining moment of my life. It’s time to create a new turning point.

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About The Author

shyla1

Shyla Colt is the sassy USA Today Bestselling author of the popular series Kings of Chaos and Dueling Devils M.C. This genre-hoppers stories feature three of her favorite things: strong females, pop culture, and alternate routes to happy ever after. Listening to her Romani soul, she pens from the heart, allowing the dynamic characters, eccentric interests, and travels as a former flight attendant to take her down untraveled roads.
Born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio, this mid-west girl is proud of her roots. She used her hometown and the surrounding areas as a backdrop for a number of books. So, if you’re a Buckeye, keep an eye out for familiar places.

As a full-time writer, stay at home mother, and wife, there’s never a dull moment in her household.
She weaves her tales in spare moments and the evenings with a cup of coffee or tea at her side and the characters in her head for company.

 

You can interact with Shyla Colt online via her website:
http://www.shylacolt.net
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/authorshyla.colt and
Twitter: @shylacolt
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/shylacolt/             

 

Chapter Reveal · Giveaways

Sick Fux Chapter Reveal & Giveaway

 

 

When Ellis Earnshaw and Heathan James met as children, they couldn’t have been more different. Ellis was loud and beautiful – all blond hair, bright laughs and smiles. Heathan was dark and brooding, and obsessed with watching things die.

The pair forged an unlikely friendship, unique and strange. Until they were ripped apart by the sick cruelty of others, separated for years, both locked in a perpetual hell.

Eleven years later, Heathan is back for his girl. Back from a place from which he thought there was no return. Back to seek revenge on those who wronged them.

Time has made Heathan’s soul darker, polluted with hatred and the thirst for blood.

Time has made Ellis a shell of her former self, a little girl lost in the vastness of her pain.

As Heathan pulls Ellis out of her mental prison, reviving the essence of who she once was, down the rabbit hole they will go.

With malice in their hearts and vengeance in their veins, they will seek out the ones who hurt and destroyed them.

One at a time.

Each one more deadly than the last.

Tick Tock.

Dark Contemporary Romance. Contains explicit sexual situations, violence, disturbingly sensitive and taboo subjects, offensive language and very mature topics. Recommended for ages 18 and over.

 

 

Prologue

The first time I met Heathan James he was picking the wings off a butterfly. When I asked him why, he turned his light gray eyes my way and said, “Because I want to watch it die.”
I watched as his gaze rolled back to the squirming wingless insect in his hand. Watched his lips part as the sad creature withered and died in his palm. A long, soft breath escaped his parted lips, and a victorious smile tugged on his mouth.
I once heard of the theory that the simple flutter of a butterfly’s wings, a tiny perturbation, that merest whisper of movement in the air, could start the process of building something much bigger; a tornado, devastating thousands. A tsunami crushing iron-heavy waves onto sandy shores, obliterating everything in its path.
As I looked back on the moment we met, this introduction to Heathan James, the man who became my entire world, the pulsing marrow in my bones, I wondered if his deadly act of ripping the wings from the bright blue-and-black butterfly started such a perturbation in our lives. Not a tsunami or a tornado caused by a simple flutter, but something much darker and more sinister, caused by stripping a beautiful creature of its ability to fly, to thrive. A path of destruction no one saw coming; the sweetest, most violent deaths carried out with the gentlest of smiles on our faces and the utmost hell in our hearts.
Heathan James was never the light in my life, but instead a heavy eclipse, blotting out the sun and anything bright, bringing with him endless, eternal night and murderous tar-black blood pumping through my veins.
Heathan James was the genesis of my soul’s reawakening . . . a soul not meant for peace, but one handcrafted for death and murder and blood and bones . . .
Soulmates forged in fire, under the watchful gaze of Satan’s mocking eyes.
Heathan.
Ellis.
Just a couple of sick fux . . .

 

 

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Enter HERE

Tillie Cole hails from a small town in the North-East of England. She grew up on a farm with her English mother, Scottish father and older sister and a multitude of rescue animals. As soon as she could, Tillie left her rural roots for the bright lights of the big city.

After graduating from Newcastle University with a BA Hons in Religious Studies, Tillie followed her Professional Rugby player husband around the world for a decade, becoming a teacher in between and thoroughly enjoyed teaching High School students Social Studies before putting pen to paper, and finishing her first novel.

Tillie has now settled in Austin, Texas, where she is finally able to sit down and write, throwing herself into fantasy worlds and the fabulous minds of her characters.

Tillie is both an independent and traditionally published author, and writes many genres including: Contemporary Romance, Dark Romance, Young Adult and New Adult novels.

When she is not writing, Tillie enjoys nothing more than curling up on her couch watching movies, drinking far too much coffee, while convincing herself that she really doesn’t need that extra square of chocolate.

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Chapter Reveal

Dark Promises by Winter Renshaw Chapter Reveal

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have a secret …

I don’t care if you like me or not.

Insatiable lust for power and control runs thick in my veins. My father served as president of the United States of America—and his father before him. Montgomeries are born to lead and rule, to fear nothing and cower to no one, to make allegiances not friends.

But I digress.

With a senate campaign about to launch and presidential aspirations at fever pitch intensity, imagine my dismay when my strategist tells me I need to “settle down” with a “nice girl” in order to appeal to my constituents.

Enter Rowan Aldridge, a head-turning stunner with a charm school walk, Jackie O. refinement, and a well-connected family.

She’s perfect.

So I’ll do what I have to do, make her believe what I need her to believe, and as soon as the campaign’s over and I’ve secured my senatorial seat, I’ll release my pretty little butterfly back into the wild.

But this isn’t about all of that.

This is what happens a villain falls in love.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Run into an old friend?” I ask when she returns, handing her flute back.
“There was a girl crying in the restroom,” she says. “I had to console her.”
Mary Kate.


“Let’s make rounds, shall we?” I ask, downing the rest of my champagne before leaning into her ear. “I’d like to get out of here while the night’s still young. You slinking around here in that dress and knowing I can’t touch you the way I want to is driving me fucking insane.”


Her chin tucks and her mouth slips into a smirk.


Rowan slips her hand into the bend of my elbow, and I lead her into the crowd. The ballroom is filling by the minute, guests still arriving, and the jazz band in the corner is playing some Frank Sinatra tune.


Everywhere we go, people stare, and I don’t blame them.
We look incredible together, but it isn’t just our outward appearance. It’s everything. We just mesh. We fit. She gets me. I get her.


“I want to introduce you to someone,” I tell her, squeezing her hand as we approach a bald man in a dark gray suit. “Senator Harvey.”
The senator turns, his eyes landing on Rowan first then lifting to me, and when he recognizes me, he extends his hand, grinning wide.


“Keir,” he says. “It’s been a long time. Look at you.”


“Rowan, I’d like you to meet Senator Bill Harvey,” I say. “He was one of my most influential professors at Dartmouth. Now he’s influencing millions. Congratulations on passing that reform bill last year. I know what a labor of love that was for you.”


He rolls back on his heels, nodding. “Almost lost hope for a second, but it pulled through at the last minute. How have you been? How are things going for you?”


I glance at Rowan before answering. “Never better.”
And I mean it.
Rising on the balls of his feet, he makes eye contact with someone in the distance. “Looks like my wife is trying to flag me down, Keir. It was nice talking to you. And great meeting you, Rowan.”


Moving on, I take her from senator to representative to ambassador to billionaire benefactor, all of this serving two purposes.


Primarily, I want these people to feel comfortable supporting me once I announce my candidacy, and in order for them to feel comfortable, I want them to see that I’m getting settled, calming my wild ways. And second, I want Rowan to feel at ease in this world. I want her to feel like a part of it, a part of me. If she stays with me, she’ll need to schmooze and smile and socialize while I get my career off the ground.


When we’ve spent a solid two hours making our rounds, I call the car around.
I want to get her home and I want her all to myself.
I’m done sharing her.


And tomorrow, when she makes her decision, it better be me. And if it isn’t, I’m going to do everything in my power to change her mind.


I can’t lose her. I can’t let her go. Not now, not ever.


I realize tonight, with complete certainty, that I’m falling madly in love with this woman.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

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Chapter Reveal

Exp1re by Erin Noelle Chapter Reveal

 

 

Exp1re

 

Coming October 26th

Numbers.
They haunt me.
I can’t look into a person’s eyes without seeing the six-digit date of their death.
I’m helpless to change it, no matter how hard I try.
I’ve trained myself to look down. Away. Anywhere but at their eyes.
My camera is my escape. My salvation. Through its lens, I see only beauty and life—not death and despair.
Disconnected from all those around me, I’m content being alone, simply existing.
Until I meet him.
Tavian.
The man beyond the numbers.
How can I stay away, when everything about him draws me in?
But how can I fall in love, knowing exactly when it will expire?

 

 

 

PROLOGUE
Lyra

10.18.02
The intercom crackles loudly throughout the classroom, interrupting Ms. Sherman’s rather uninspiring Friday afternoon lesson on the life cycle of a star. Even though most of the students around me are furiously jotting down notes about nebulas, red giants, and supernovas, I’m half listening while I doodle caricatures of me and my friends in the margin of my notebook. It’s not that I’m not interested in the material she’s talking about. No, that’s not the case at all. It’s quite the opposite actually; science is my favorite subject, especially anything that deals with astronomy and the unknowns in our universe.
But with a dad who is a super-smart astronomer at Johnson Space Center—or NASA, as most people here in Houston call it—I learned about this stuff she’s teaching before I ever started kindergarten. Heck, just this past summer before fifth grade, Mama and I went to visit him at a planetarium in Hawaii, where he was part of a team that discovered eleven new moons orbiting Jupiter! If I don’t ace this test next week, I better not even go home. I definitely wouldn’t be able to be an astronaut then.  
“Ms. Sherman, can you please have Lyra Jennings gather her things and come down to the office? She’s leaving for the day,” the office lady who reminds me of Paula Deen—Mama’s favorite chef—announces through the ancient intercom system.
At the sound of my name, my chin jerks upward from my pencil sketches to the standard black-and-white classroom clock mounted above the projection screen. The hands read 12:45 p.m., nearly three hours before the end of the school day, when my parents are supposed to pick me up as we head out to Dallas for the weekend to celebrate my eleventh birthday. Ooh, maybe getting out of school early was my surprise they mentioned!
I’ve been looking forward to this day since we came home from this same trip last year, and I know my parents planned something special for this year. Every birthday, instead of having one of those silly kids’ parties with pointy hats and piñatas, they take me to the Texas State Fair. There, we spend the weekend riding as many rides as possible, stuffing our mouths with sausage-on-a-stick and fried Twinkies, playing games until we win the biggest of the stuffed animals, and laughing until our faces hurt and happy tears stream down our cheeks. Hands down, it’s my favorite three days of the year, even better than Christmas. And I really, really like Christmas.
Excitement jets through me as I stand up from my desk and hurriedly cram my spiral notebook and textbook into my purple paisley backpack. If we make it there early, I’ll be able to go swimming at the fancy hotel’s indoor pool before dinner.
“Sure thing,” my teacher calls out in response. “She’ll be right down.”
Hoisting the strap of the bag up on my shoulder, I turn to leave the room and my gaze meets Ms. Sherman’s. Her warmth shines in her bright amber-colored eyes, highlighting the numbers 051123 that I see imprinted in her pupils. The same six white numbers I see every time we make eye contact. The numbers I’m not allowed to talk about. The ones everyone thinks are all a part of my healthy imagination.
But they’re wrong. They’re all wrong.
The numbers are real, and they never change or go away. I only wish I knew what they meant. Mama and Daddy—who, by the way, are the only two people I know that have the same numbers—call it my special superpower, but I know they just pretend to believe me. I see the looks they share when they think I’m not watching. They don’t want me to think about all those things the doctors say about me. I may only be ten years old, but I’m 100% sure I’m not crazy, nor do I lie for attention. I’m an only child, for Pete’s sake; my parents are overly interested in my life. Though I do appreciate their support, even if they don’t understand.
“Have a nice weekend, Lyra. Don’t forget we have a test over CHAPTERs six through eight on Monday. Make sure you’ve read all the material,” she reminds me.
“Yes, ma’am. I’ll be ready,” I reply modestly, not sharing with her or the rest of the class I’ve already read through CHAPTER thirteen in the text, including answering the study guide questions at the end of each section. I may be an overachiever, but I’m not a brown-noser.
Luckily, school just comes easy for me, and my parents get over-Jupiter’s-moons proud when I bring home straight A’s on my report card. It reassures them that I’m normal and well adjusted. At least that’s what I heard Mama whispering to Daddy on the phone one night when she thought I wasn’t listening.
I mouth a quick goodbye to my best friend, Beth, who I pass by as I scuttle toward the exit. With her last name being Blackmon and mine being Jennings, we rarely get to sit near each other, as most of our teachers put us in alphabetical order. Beth’s numbers are 022754, and like Ms. Sherman’s, they light up vibrantly when she looks up at me and mouths the words Have fun before I slip out the door.
I never want to break the rules or get in trouble, so I somehow fight the urge to sprint down the deserted hallway and force myself to walk as fast as my long, skinny legs will let me. The swishing sound from my denim shorts rubbing together fills my ears, creating a soundtrack for my excitement. My cheeks ache from smiling so big while I drop off my folders and books in my locker then make a beeline to the front of the school, where my parents are waiting for me. This is going to be the best of the best weekends ever, one that none of us will ever forget. I just know it.
Only, when I swing open the glass door to the main office, expecting to see my favorite two people in the world, I’m surprised to find my Aunt Kathy standing there, her face puffy and pink, the corners of her mouth pointing due south. Our eyes meet, and I can barely see her numbers—123148—because of how swollen the lids are around them.
The fluffy white cloud of elation I floated in on disappears instantly as a dark fog of dread takes its place. Engulfing me. Swallowing me whole. She doesn’t have to say a word—I already know. Not how or when or where it happened, but deep in my bones, I know.
I was right. This will definitely be a weekend I’ll never forget, only it will be for reasons I’ll never want to remember.
“I’m so sorry, Lyra baby girl,” she cries. “I’m so sorry. They’re… they’re gone.”
gone.
        Gone.
                   GONE.
The word bounces around between my ears, getting louder each time it echoes. The first time, it freezes my movements. The second steals all the air from my lungs. By the third time, I’m pretty sure I have no pulse. I want to go, too.
Go.
       Going.
                     GONE.
With my feet stuck to the floor and my body stiff as a statue, Aunt Kathy rushes over to me and wraps her arms around my shoulders. Pulling me up against her chest as uncontainable sobs shake her body, she breaks down in front of the receptionist and attendance clerk, neither of who bother to hide their open staring. Numb, I stand completely still while she wails for several minutes, and I never once make a single sound or try to break free from the death grip she has on me. My thoughts race so fast they’re standing still.
I’m just… here. And my parents just… aren’t. And they won’t ever be again.
They’re… gone.
Climbing into the passenger seat of Aunt Kathy’s fancy sports car—a car I usually beg to ride in because there’s no backseat—I fasten my safety belt and then close my eyes as I lean my head back on the black leather, warm from the hot southern Texas sun. Even though it’s mid-October, I’m still wearing shorts and sandals, and just last weekend I went swimming at Beth’s house. But as I sit here and wait for my aunt to start the car, my teeth chatter loudly and my entire body trembles uncontrollably. My heart is frozen solid, but I’ve yet to shed a tear.
The phone rings and I jump, automatically looking at the caller ID on the screen, thinking… hoping… praying it’s someone calling to let us know this has all been a big mistake, that my parents are really okay.
“Hey, Mom,” Aunt Kathy answers after just one ring. We still haven’t pulled out of the parking space. “Yeah, I have her now. She’s safe and sound.”
My heart plummets even lower into my stomach than it was before as she pauses to listen to Granny Gina on the other end. Granny Gina is my dad and Kathy’s mom who lives in New Orleans, where she moved about five years ago after my grandpa passed away from lung cancer. Since my mom’s parents both died before I was born, she’s the only living grandparent I have, and luckily for me, she’s a pretty awesome one. But today, nothing is awesome. Not even close.
“I don’t know. She hasn’t said a word. I’m sure she’s in shock.” My aunt talks about me like I’m not sitting right here, as I finally feel the car jerk back in reverse.
Another pause. The car lurches forward into drive then we bounce hard as Aunt Kathy flies over a speed bump. I think I’m going to throw up.
“Okay, I’ll take her home so she can pack a suitcase of whatever she wants to bring, and then we’ll go to my place until you get here. You should be in about 5:00?”
Pack a suitcase of what I want to bring where? Where am I going? Why is this happening to me? I’m a good kid. I make good grades and I’m nice to people, even those people who everyone else makes fun of, and I listen to my parents and my teachers. What did I do to deserve this? Why me?
“Yeah, Mom, I know,” Aunt Kathy hiccups. She’s crying hard again. “I’ll take good care of her, and we’ll see you later. I love you.”
I keep my eyes screwed shut as she disconnects the call, scared she’ll want to talk if I open them. I don’t want to talk to her or Granny Gina or anyone but my parents. I want my mom and dad!
Thankfully, Aunt Kathy doesn’t try to talk to me as we drive, but when I feel the car come to a stop and hear the engine turn off, she gently taps my arm. “Lyra, sweetheart, we’re at your house. We’re going to go inside, and I need you to pack up a suitcase or two of the clothes and things you want to take to New Orleans. Whatever you need.”
“New Orleans?” My lids snap open and I whip my chin in her direction. I don’t even recognize my harsh, scratchy voice. “I’m going to New Orleans?”
“Yeah”—she nods sadly as she swipes at the black mascara streaks on her face with her thumbs—“with Granny Gina. After we take care of, uh, of everything here, you’ll go live with her there.”
Scowling, I cross my arms over my chest and grunt. “I don’t want to leave Houston, or my friends, or my school. Why can’t I stay here with you?”
“You know I travel with my job, Lyra. Sometimes I’m gone a week or two at a time, and there won’t be anybody here to stay with you. Granny Gina’s house has an extra bedroom, and since she doesn’t work, she’ll be able to better give you everything you need.”
What I need and will be better for me is my mom and dad. And my perfect birthday weekend at the fair.
She reaches out to attempt to soothe me with her touch, but I wrench away, banging my elbow on the car door in the process. The whack is loud, and the place I hit immediately turns red, but my brain doesn’t register the pain. I feel nothing. I’m broken.
I glance over at my aunt, and the tears spilling down her cheeks make me feel bad for acting the way I just did to her. What happened to my parents isn’t her fault, but I’m angry and this is all moving too fast. How am I supposed to pack up what I need in a couple of bags? I want to stay in my room, in my house, living with my parents.
“I know this is all unfair, baby,” she says through her sniffles, “and I can’t even to begin to understand what you’re thinking or feeling. I mean, I’m freaking the hell out and I’m a grownup who’s supposed to know how to handle these kinds of situations. All we can do is cling to each other as family and try to get through this together. Between me and Granny, we’ll do the best we can for you, and right now, we think the best thing is if you get your things and go stay with her.”
“How did they die?” I blurt out, completely off topic from what she’s talking about. My mind can’t stay focused on any one thing, but this is the question that keeps popping up. “I need to know how it happened.”
Swallowing hard, Aunt Kathy inhales a shaky breath through her nose and blows it out through her mouth, visibly trying to collect herself before she answers me. “It was a car accident,” she whispers after forever, barely loud enough for me to hear. “I don’t know why they were together in your mom’s car this morning or where they were going, but an eighteen-wheeler lost control and hit them. They were already gone by the time the first responders arrived.”
I nod, still unable to cry. I hear the words she’s saying, but they aren’t really registering. They make sense, but I don’t understand. It’s as if I’ve been swallowed up by one of the black holes Daddy taught me about and the darkness is sucking away my ability to think, to feel. All I hear is the word “gone” still replaying over and over and over.
“Okay. I’ll get my stuff,” I say flatly, finally opening the door and stepping out of the car.
My movements are robotic, and I can barely even feel the key in my hand as I unlock the front door to my house. Stepping inside, I’m overwhelmed by a combination of the sweet smell of my mom’s favorite vanilla cookie candle and the sight of my dad’s fuzzy slippers waiting by the coatrack—the slippers he puts on the minute he walks in the door from work every night. When I realize he’ll never wear those slippers again, nor will my mom ever be able to forget if she blew out the candle when we’re about to pull out of the driveway, an acute pain shoots through my chest and I stumble over to the staircase, grabbing the banister to keep my balance.
“I’m right here, Lyra,” Aunt Kathy murmurs from behind me as she slips her arm around my waist. “Let’s just get your things and head over to my place. Later, once we’ve had some time to deal with everything, we can come back to go through the house and all the stuff… if you want.”
Another nod and I let her guide me up the stairs to my room. I want to scream at her that there will never be enough time to deal with losing my parents, that I’ll never be able to go through their things, but I keep my lips pressed together and do as I’m told.
“Where do you guys keep your suitcases?” she asks, glancing around my room as if she’s doing an inventory of what I have. “I’ll go grab a couple while you start pulling out what you want to take. If you forget something, it’s no big deal, because you and Granny are going to be staying at my place for the next few days. I can just bring you back to get it, or I can even ship it to Louisiana if you remember once you’re there.”
“They’re in the storage cabinets in the garage,” I answer while walking over to my desk, my eyes locked in on a framed photo of me and my parents that sits next to my laptop.
“Okay, I’ll be right back.”
The thud of her heels on the hardwood floor grows quiet as she makes her way back down to the first floor, and just as I grab the picture and plop down on the chair, I hear her open the door to the garage. A few much-needed minutes by myself.
I gaze down at the photograph of the three of us from a day at the beach, me sandwiched between their cheerful, carefree expressions, and the first tear finally escapes. Once the dam breaks, I can’t stop the flow, and as I trace my finger over the outline of each of my parents’ faces, I cry for everything I’ll never have again. A supernova of tears.
Faces I’ll never see smile again.
Voices I’ll never hear say my name again.
Arms I’ll never be hugged by again.
A never-ending galaxy of love that I’ll never feel again.
It’s all just… gone.
After several minutes of vision-blurring bawling, I set the picture frame back upright on my desk. A hot pink heart drawn on my calendar with the words Birthday Weekend Begins written over today’s box catches my attention. I then notice the printed numbers next to my bubbly handwriting that read 10-18-02.
Snatching the picture up again, I stare directly into first my dad’s eyes, and then my mom’s. The numbers I see when I look people directly in the eyes only happens when I’m face-to-face with someone, never in photographs or through a screen or mirror. But even though I can’t actually see the numbers right now in the picture of my parents’ pupils, their numbers are forever etched in my brain from looking at them every day of my life. I used to think the reason they had the same numbers meant they were true soul mates, like God made them to match perfectly together, but now….
My gaze flicks over to today’s date of 10-18-02, then back to my parents’ faces, where I envision their numbers—101802.
My plummeting heart collides with my lurching stomach in an explosion of realization.
It’s my Big Bang Moment.

 


About Erin Noelle USA Today Bestselling Author

 

Erin Noelle is a Texas native, where she lives with her husband and two
young daughters. While earning her degree in History, she rediscovered her love for reading  that was first instilled by her grandmother when she was a young child. A lover of happily-ever-afters, both historical and current,Erin is an avid reader of all romance novels.

Most nights you can find her cuddled up in bed with her husband, her Kindle in hand and a sporting event of some sorts on television.