#YABookReport The Lost and Found by E.L. Irwin (Release Blitz)

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Title: The Lost and Found
Author: E.L. Irwin
Genre: New Adult
Publisher: Blue Tulip Publishing

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Synopsis

“I was created in an act of violence. I just survived an act of violence. I just committed an act of violence against someone else.”

Recent high school graduate, Crimson Sage lived the all-American suburban life in Virginia—until her perfect world is shattered. Now Crimson and her little brother Ethan are forced to leave the only home they’ve ever known to move across the country with a grandfather they’ve never met. Anger, fear, and depression become her constant companion as Crimson tries to deal with not only the death of her parents, but the truths she learns about herself—that the man she’d always believed to be her father, wasn’t, and that she’d been conceived in an unsolved rape. Crimson would have continued her downward spiral if not for the intervention from Josiah, her grandfather’s foreman. Josiah forces Crimson to face the fact that she is still alive and has a life left to live.

As Crimson rediscovers who she is and what she’s truly made of, she finds strength, love, and acceptance in the arms of Josiah. And she’ll need all of it, because in addition to facing the ugly truths about her past, Crimson must also face some new challenges—one that wants to destroy her budding relationship with Josiah; and another that wants to destroy Crimson herself.

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Excerpt

I knew I was the one who began this conversation — I’d spilled my guts, shared my awful past with him — but I no longer wanted to talk about Billy or my past. I looked away briefly and then right back at him. Josiah’s eyes were on me — those piercing blue eyes. I abruptly changed the subject, needing to be on firmer ground, “What are your tattoos anyway?”

Josiah grinned, his gaze intently fixed on me, then asked, “Are you trying to get me to take my shirt off?”

I blushed and stammered, “No! I… I just wondered is all. Keep your clothes on.”

Josiah chuckled darkly and then was quiet. He was on his feet in an instant, his tall frame dwarfing mine. He lifted his arms above his head and in one smooth motion, peeled his shirt off. I stared at him in fascination. He was more beautiful, more rugged, more untamed than I’d imagined. My eyes roved slowly over him, his chest, his arms, his shoulders. He was fairly muscled — not body-builder hard, where everything looked direct and intentional, proportionate. He was an artful display of a working-man’s roughened and toughened body. Cut. Chiseled. Rugged. Beautiful. A sprinkling of dark red hair curled across his chest.

On each pectoral plane, right above the nipple, a sun was tattooed in shades of black and yellow. The center of each sun had some sort of design in it — I couldn’t tell what it was until I got to my feet.

Josiah stood still. He didn’t move, even as my fingertips lightly grazed over his skin. My stomach tightened as I realized the center of each sun was a scar. My gaze flickered up to his in question.

“Courtesy of my mother, for my fifth birthday. I’d asked for a cake. She burned me instead.”

I swallowed back nausea, my throat tight. I steadied my breath and looked at his arms, his neck. Josiah turned around. Wings. Wings were tattooed across his back and shoulders. The tattoo began just to the outside of his spine; the leathery wings were extremely detailed in shades of black and gray and blue. The wings had hooks. Claws? I’m not sure what they’re called, but those claws curled up the back of his neck and around to just under his ears. At the points just over his shoulder blades were two more burn marks; these were bigger, more defined. The tattoo artist had done an amazing job incorporating the scars into his work. Gently I grazed one fingertip along the wings, up his neck then down to the scars.

Josiah glanced over his shoulder at me; his eyes sparking with some inner turmoil, some heat. “Those were from Dad. He wanted to get me something, too.”

“That’s sick,” I whispered past the lump in my throat. How could anyone do that to his own child?

“Billy helped me get the ink done when I turned eighteen, to mark myself over their ugliness, with something of my own choosing.”

“I’m sorry,” I whispered. Why do people always say they’re sorry, even when they’ve done nothing wrong?

“I told you, it’s gotta be nice to know you’re wanted. I was born to both my parents — who never cared a crap about me. The state had to take me away from them. A stranger took me in. You were born to a mom who loved you and wanted you. Circumstances took that away from you. I learned to live, to survive. You will, too.”

“It’s hard,” I said, my eyes drifting over the muscles under that ink.

Josiah turned to face me. Now my eyes were staring at his chest. “I know,” he said. “Giving up is easier. But giving up is for cowards. You’re not a coward. You’re a fighter — you just never knew it before.”

Though I already knew the answer, I asked the question anyway, “Are you a fighter?”

“I learned to be.”

“Will you teach me?”

“I will.”

“Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.” His voice was soft, almost gentle, but with a piercing quality to it, reaching deep inside me, bringing me to the brink.

I felt like I was on a cliff, on the edge of a precipice, like a huge abyss opened before me and right now I couldn’t even see the bottom. His voice pushed me closer to that edge, pressing me on. I wanted to take that step, to listen to the urging and trust him, but I had to know something first. “Why?” I whispered. “Why are you helping me? Why did you wake me up and make me choose?”

Josiah stared at me for one long moment, his blue eyes gazing into mine. They flickered down to my mouth before returning to my eyes. “Because you needed to know you were still alive. Because I saw something I recognized in you.” He paused then said, “Because if you didn’t wake up, I’d never be able to do this.”

Josiah stepped closer to me, our bodies a whisper apart; my eyes focused on the suns on his chest. He raised his hands to my shoulders, trailed them up my neck, to my jaw, my mouth. He grasped my chin and lowered his head to mine. His lips were firm, gentle, hot, and a little dry — they possessed mine effortlessly. His hands moved around to the back of my head, wove themselves through my hair, gripping me, holding me.

Whoa. I was definitely alive. In this moment I was glad I was alive. My world, my awareness, my focus narrowed to him — his mouth on mine. The feel, the taste, the texture of him. I kissed him back, let my hands travel over his shoulders and feel his strength. Josiah gave that strength to me; he enveloped me in it, surrounded me with it. I completely trusted him.

The Lost and Found Teaser 2

About The Author

ELIrwin

“I’m a reader, a writer, a woman in love with her man.”

A child of divorce and abuse, E. L. Irwin found escape in reading and writing, and through the school of hard-knocks, learned to be a fighter. She’s a self-described romantic-rebel who wears her heart on her sleeve and tends to shoot from the hip on subjects that matter. She enjoys riding horses, wearing heels, shooting her X D.40, tattoos, and of course, a good book and hot coffee.

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Giveaway

$15 Amazon card
Signed copy of Out of the Blue, a personalized bookplate, a bookmark, and a lanyard
Swag: 1 lanyard, 2 bookmarks, 1 magnet, 1 bag clip, 1 necklace (or other jewelry item)

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#YABookReport The Perfect Life by Erin Noelle (Teaser Blitz)

Title: The Perfect Life
Author: Erin Noelle
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: February 18

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Synopsis

I had the perfect life.

The perfect husband. Colin Cassidy—the incredibly talented, extremely gorgeous, and unbelievably humble star NFL quarterback.

The perfect marriage. Our bond was unbreakable. His support unwavering.

The perfect career. As the recently-appointed executive director for the Boston chapter of Mending Hearts, a child abuse prevention and treatment program, my daily reward was helping to keep vulnerable, innocent children from being preyed upon and destroyed. It’s all I’d wanted to do since I was a teenager.

Perfect city. Perfect car. Perfect house with the perfect view.

From the outside looking in, it was impossible to find a single flaw in my life. I had it all. Everything I’d ever wanted.

But that kind of perfection came at a price. Demanded the ultimate sacrifice.

What happened when I discovered what I’d been missing all along? When I began to question if the lies were worth protecting?

What if suddenly the last thing I wanted was to be perfect?

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about the author

Erin Noelle is a Texas native, where she lives with her husband and two young daughters. While earning her degree in History at the University of Houston, 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.

Her titles published include the Book Boyfriend Series, the Dusk ‘Til Dawn Series, the Luminous Duet, Conspire — co-authored with SE Hall, Surviving Us, MILF: Wrong Kind of Love, Spark and Flame.

Her books have been a part of the USA Today Bestselling list and the Amazon and Barnes & Noble overall Top 100.

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#YABookReport Lights of Aurora by Theresa Dalayne (Release Tour and Review)

Title: Lights of Aurora
Series: The Stone Legacy Series Book #3
Author: Theresa DaLayne
Genre: MATURE YA Paranormal Romance
Publisher: Limitless Publishing 
Cover Design: Deranged Doctor Design
Release: January 26, 2016
After living her entire life in an orphan asylum, Zanya fears she may actually be losing her mind… 
Following the discovery of her ancient Maya bloodlines, eighteen-year-old Zanya Coreandero is faced with a daunting responsibility. She must protect the relic stone while Sarian, the underworld general, ceaselessly drives her to the brink of insanity. 
With the approach of an ancient bonding ceremony, Zanya struggles to control her abilities—and her desires… 
As the winter solstice approaches, it brings an onslaught of unexpected side effects. While Zanya struggles to seize control over her supercharged powers, she must also face an overwhelming suspicion that her boyfriend, Arwan, is hiding a secret so dark it could destroy them both. And with her powers finally taking root, the struggle to pace their relationship takes on a life of its own. 

Just when she thought life couldn’t get more complicated… 

With the arrival of a surprise houseguest, Zanya’s deepest fears about Arwan are confirmed. And when middleworld deities intercede, the group of gifted Maya descendants are confronted with hardships they never saw coming—including an enemy more deadly than they have ever faced. 

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. And when that woman has no soul and a taste for revenge, they will need the powers of every surviving ancestor simply to stay alive.

Lights of Aurora

Book Three of The Stone Legacy Series
Theresa DaLayne

CHAPTER ONE

Zanya
The scent of dried herbs and fresh rain poured through the open window.
For the rest of her life, with every whiff of sage or wet earth, Zanya would remember Contessa’s quaint home in Moscow and the shock of that day—of losing Jayden.
She might as well have been gone when he needed her most. Zanya could still see Jayden’s bright blue eyes staring back at her while he struggled to hold Sarian off long enough for them all to escape.
She could have saved him if she’d been more focused, more experienced with her abilities. Instead she’d done exactly what Contessa thought they’d do all along. Failed. She couldn’t even heal Jayden. Instead she froze under the pressure.
A tear slipped down her cheek, and she tightened her fists while staring down at Jayden’s body. Someone had to care for him. Even though his spirit had been torn from this world, he deserved his last rites.
Zanya dragged the sheet that covered his body over his face.
Their mission to retrieve his soul could also fail, and the boy she’d first met in the orphanage could be ripped out of her life, leaving an empty hole of memories and regret.
She crouched beside Jayden, placed a kiss on his shrouded forehead, and whispered in his ear. “Hang on. I’m coming for you.” She curled her fingers around the cotton sheet. “I’ll get you back.” Her voice caught in her throat, and she choked back a flood of tears.
Arwan placed his hand on her shoulder. She looked up at him and saw empathy in his gaze. “We will get him back.” The silky tone of his voice usually comforted her, but not now. Not until Jayden was back, alive and safe. It would happen somehow. She’d make sure of it.
Zanya forced herself to stand. The fabric of her canary-yellow ball gown swooshed with the movement, a badge of blood smeared across the front. Jayden’s blood. Somehow that made it worse.
First she needed to get out of her ridiculous dress. She wouldn’t be able to hike through the caves of Naj Tunich in a gown.
Renato’s dress shoes tapped over the floor as he approached from behind. “I’m calling Peter.” He dialed a number on his phone, stealing the occasional glance at Contessa from the corner of his eye. “I hope he is still at the hotel.”
“Make sure you don’t tell Tara where we’re going,” Zanya said. “She’ll freak out.”
“As she should. This mission of yours may as well be a suicide attempt.” He frowned. “The king of the underworld will never allow you to leave there alive.” Renato walked outside to Contessa’s front step without another word.
He was probably right, but she couldn’t turn her back on Jayden when he needed her the most. Suicide mission or not, she was going after him.
Hawa moaned, tearing Zanya’s attention away from her thoughts. Hawa lay on Contessa’s couch with her leg elevated on a stack of pillows. The break was bad, but she wasn’t crying anymore. That was a good sign—even if Contessa had only healed Hawa to make her shut up. The red-haired witch even had the audacity to say that aloud.
Renato walked back inside, the corners of his mouth sloped into an even deeper frown. “Peter did not react well to our plans. He insists on going with the two of you. He’s coming here right now.”
“No, he can’t come with us. Tara will already be pissed at me for taking off without telling her. I can’t take Peter too.”
“Then you should depart as quickly as possible.” Renato rested a hand on Arwan’s shoulder. “I know you will take good care of her.”
Determination sparked in Arwan’s eyes. Zanya didn’t doubt what Renato said was true. He would protect her, no matter the cost.
Zanya bit her lip. She was touched that he cared so much, but he was risking his life now too.
The cab took nearly an hour to arrive. While the taxi waited by the curb, Zanya stood on Contessa’s doorstep. She and Arwan would drive straight to the airport, but first he’d have to come out of Contessa’s house. No doubt Renato was giving him every precaution to take before their journey.
She gazed lifelessly at the mud-crusted rims and the fogged taxi light while her mind wandered between realms.
Whispers yanked her out of her thoughts.
You will never recover him. You are a failure, just as your mother was. But I have plans for you, and soon you will be mine.
She turned and peered over her shoulder, expecting to see someone there—someone she would promptly punch in the face for being such an asshole. But she was alone on the steps.
Was she seriously going crazy?
The blare of the taxi’s horn made her jump. It must be the stress, or the fact she had barely slept for the last few days. Deprivation played tricks on the mind.
Renato’s voice became louder as he and Arwan walked toward the open door. He handed Arwan a credit card and some cash before they shook hands. The lines on her uncle’s face deepened when he turned to her and pulled her into a hug. As he cradled her against his tailored suit, the rich scent of tobacco surrounded her. All of her life she had wished for someone to care about her the way Renato did, though she’d only known him for a short time. Still, his embrace was enough to make her hesitant to say good-bye.
“You must make it out of this journey alive,” he said in a raspy whisper. “Even if you do not succeed in retrieving Jayden’s spirit, please”—he held her tighter—“return unharmed.”
Zanya nodded and forced a smile. “I’m not planning on dying anytime soon. The stone needs me.”
His grip loosened, and he looked down at her, his familiar brown eyes filled with a mixture of despair and pride. “The stone is not the only one who needs you, Zanya.”
His fear was well founded. She was about to walk straight to the gates of hell with no knowledge of what to expect.
“Now go. Go, and come home safely.”
“Make sure to tell Tara…” Her throat ached. Leaving her best friend behind was something she’d sworn she’d never do. Not in the orphanage. Not after they were taken away from that place. Not ever. Now she was going against every oath she’d ever made to herself—and to Tara.
Zanya reached into her bag and grabbed the pendant Cualli, the middleworld goddess, had given her. The pendant was a gift and an omen of support, and usually it calmed Zanya.
Arwan lifted a duffle bag from the floor. He traced his fingers down her cheek, holding her gaze until she finally allowed a hint of a true smile to break through. His touch was all he could give to comfort her. Showing him it had worked, even a little, was the least she could do in return. After all, he insisted on going with her, and there was nothing she could do to repay that.
The cab’s horn blared again. Zanya jumped and glared at the taxi. “You’d think he’d be happy to just sit there with the meter running.”
Arwan shook Renato’s hand one last time. Her feet were rooted to the ground, contemplating one last hug. When she glanced at her uncle, her eyes stung with more tears. He must have noticed her hesitation. Maybe even understood it.
With a soft smile, Zanya walked straight to the cab without any more good-byes.
* * *
After grabbing some clothes off the rack of a sporting goods store, Zanya continued into the dressing room and checked herself in the mirror, horrified at her reflection. Wet, limp hair stuck to her cheeks and neck. A huge bloodstain spread over the front of her once-beautiful gown, which was now smeared with mud and torn in several places. Her cheeks were burned from the biting cold, and her nose was so red she could pass for Rudolph.
She sighed and worked at removing the pins and ties from her hair until it finally came undone, and then used one of the ties to lock it in a bun. The next thing would be to get out of her dress and change into something warm and dry.
Zanya craned her neck as she fumbled with the strings laced down the back of her gown. The damn thing was threaded so tight there was no way she could do it herself.
Zanya sighed. Perfect.
She grabbed the dressing room curtain and pulled it aside. “Arwan?”
“Hm?” He lifted his head from his hand where it was rested, his eyes half-glazed over with sleep. Her shoulders slumped forward. The poor guy was exhausted. She couldn’t blame him. He’d been through a lot these last few days. They all had.
“I just…” She pointed to her back. “I need some help with this corset thing.” The man sitting two chairs to the left of Arwan gawked at her. Zanya made double sure the curtain hid the stain on her dress.
Arwan stood and eased toward her. “Turn around.”
She noticed more people shopping and several men slumped in the rows of chairs in the waiting area. “Uh, no. Come inside.” The fact she had to ask for help undressing was humiliating enough. There was no way she’d let him undo this thing with everyone around.
He opened the curtain and slipped in, then secured it behind him. He rested his hands on her waist. “Turn around.”
She did and stood with her back straight, watching his reflection in the mirror while he worked at to loosen her bodice.
The pressure around her ribcage eased, and she drew in a deep breath. “Thank you. That thing was killing me.”
The air caressed her skin as the damp corset slowly opened, exposing the curves of her back. She crossed her arms over her chest to prevent the top half of the gown from falling off completely.
Arwan worked to unlace the last of the silk ribbon. His fingers brushed against her lower back, spreading warmth up her spine. She studied him in the mirror. He was soaked and miserable, yet he hadn’t complained—not even once. “You should go get changed. I can handle it from here.”
He rested his hands on her shoulders, and his gaze slid over her bare back.
Besides riding together in the taxi, they hadn’t spent more than a few moments alone since London. The longing she had carried all this time now suddenly overwhelmed her.
He placed a kiss on the curve of her shoulder. Her eyes fluttered shut, and she gripped her dress tighter, tilting her head to the side and exposing her neck.
“Arwan.” This wasn’t really the best place, never mind the fact she probably smelled like wet dog.
He hooked her elbow and gently spun her around. When they stood face to face, it was clear her heart was no longer hers. It belonged to him completely, and even though they’d only met recently, it seemed as if they’d known each other for a lifetime.
Whatever drew them to each other—whatever made her promise herself to him so completely—they had a bond that would never be broken. And even though it surprised her, she’d made that promise with all of her heart.
He cradled her face. “If anything happened to you…” His jaw flexed. She wanted to press her fingers against his chest and run her hands along the curves of his shoulders, but if she let go of her gown, it would fall to the floor.
He brushed his thumb along her lips, and his gaze flickered to them. “Si algo te hubiera pasado…me hubiera roto el corazόn.
Her chest fluttered. She really, really needed to learn Spanish. Regardless of what he said, hearing him whisper like that made her weak in the knees.
He pulled her close and kissed her, one arm wrapped around her waist, the other caressing her cheek. The light in her chest—the mark of her heritage and power—flickered on and filled her with the cold energy it always brought.
She pried her arms free and wrapped them around his neck. With the top of her gown pinned between their bodies, the sides of the corset fell open, exposing the curves of her waist. He ran his hands along the length of her bare back before resting them on her hips.
The light in her chest brightened, and electricity sparked over her skin. His lips curved into a smile, causing them both to pause.
He pulled away just enough to look her in the eyes. “Your heart’s racing. I can hear it.”
She ran her fingers through his hair and drew him closer, into another kiss. He held her with a tenderness he hadn’t shown before.
Her light dimmed as a new type of passion took over.
She didn’t just want him, she wanted his heart, forever.
“Ahem.” A woman on the other side of the curtain cleared her throat, sounding annoyed. Zanya pulled away and looked down. At the bottom of the curtain, she saw the foot of a store employee tapping impatiently. “Is everything all right in there, or do I need to call security?”
Zanya’s cheeks blazed with heat. “Everything’s fine.”
Arwan clearly wore a crooked grin. “Maybe we should finish getting our supplies.” He slipped out of the dressing room to speak to the woman waiting outside. His tone was apologetic while he explained Zanya’s wardrobe malfunction.
The time is getting closer now, a voice whispered in her mind.
She shut her eyes and tried to block it out. The light in her chest grew warm rather than cold, making her stomach gurgle with a sick heat.
Prepare to rule under me.
Zanya squinted her eyes shut.
You are mine. Don’t ever believe differently.
The whispers started after she’d claimed the ancient Mayan relic and taken it back from Sarian. She suspected this voice was his, reaching through the only link they shared and using one of the few things she loved to drive her mad.
After spending more than she could comprehend at the sporting goods store, Zanya and Arwan loaded all of their new supplies into two hiking packs. With Cualli’s pendant hanging around her neck, Zanya unzipped the front pocket and transferred the very last and most important item.
Her stone.
The only pocket big enough to accommodate the large oval stone was the main compartment. Funny enough, though it was large, it wasn’t heavy. Perhaps a magical quality she hadn’t noticed before.
The stone’s energy scraped against her skin, raw and sharp from Sarian’s partial hold. He may have broken the spell set upon the stone at its creation that made it obey only the guardian, but it still recognized her.
Unfortunately, unlike when she’d bonded with it, her stone no longer spoke to her. It was quiet. Too quiet.
Its colors morphed and pulsed, transforming from its normal hues of white and blue to deep violet and brown. Its polluted energy burned her skin as if she were handling a hot coal. She wanted to flinch away, but ground her teeth and cradled the stone closer. She had to prove it was home, where it belonged. Luckily she could heal after her brief encounters with the stone.
“Are you ready?” Arwan stood and slung his pack over his shoulder.
She rubbed her temples, then blinked to clear her vision.
“What’s wrong?”
“I just have a headache and…” She considered telling him about the whispers but that would only worry him. If she got some rest, her mind would be stronger and maybe more capable of fending off the mental attacks. She stood and slipped on her backpack. “Never mind. It’s not important. Let’s go.”

CHAPTER TWO

Hunkered down in a window seat, Zanya jumped when her phone buzzed in her pocket. She hid it from the flight attendant patrolling the aisle as she read the message from Tara.
Tara: Renato just got back with Hawa. How could you not tell me you’re leaving?
A heavy weight settled in Zanya’s stomach.
“Excuse me, ma’am.” Zanya’s raised her gaze to the brunette flight attendant smiling down at her. “All cell phones need to be powered down in preparation for takeoff, please. You’ll be allowed to turn them back on when we land in Guatemala.”
“Oh, sorry.” She’d have to answer Tara once they landed. Plus, she had no idea what to say. “You’re totally right, I’m a jerk?” That wouldn’t exactly help things.
The flight attendant moved on when Zanya tucked her phone away. She rested her head on Arwan’s shoulder and sighed. “Tara’s mad. You think she’ll forgive me?”
Arwan kissed the top of her head. “Of course. You’re her best friend. She’ll understand.”
She wanted to believe him.
Half an hour after takeoff, the Fasten Seat Belt sign finally pinged off. Zanya unbuckled, reached under the chair, and pulled out a small leather book from her pack. Renato had “borrowed” it from Contessa’s shelves and apparently thought it was important enough that she needed to read it on the flight.
The front cover was engraved with a giant tree inside a circle. There were three levels inside the circle. The first danced above the branches, the second lingered in the middle, and the last—
most ominous of worlds—was trapped beneath the tree’s enormous roots, deep underground.
The title on the first page of the book read Yaxche and Xibalba.
She had read about both of these in the scribe journals from Renato’s library. A smile tugged at her lips. She missed that house. It had only taken a few weeks for her to feel at home there.
Zanya turned her attention back to the book. Yaxche was the tree of life that spanned from the heavens to the middleworld and down to the underworld. Long ago, the Maya had understood that the earth spun on an axis. The ancient enchanted tree was that axis. It secured the planet in place and connected all three worlds. Yaxche was not only earth’s stabilizer, but a portal, and Zanya suspected they would have to eventually travel through the massive trunk to find Houn, the god of death.
“Hey.” She tilted the book toward Arwan. “Do you know much about Yaxche. When he didn’t respond, she looked up and saw he was asleep. Zanya lowered the book into her lap. Some rest would do him good. She yawned. Maybe it would do her some good, too.
She tucked the book under her leg and crossed her arms, then laid her head on Arwan’s shoulder. He drew in a deep, sleepy breath and pressed his cheek against her head. As she rested, her mind drifted into semiconsciousness.
A voice wove through her exhausted mind.
You will be mine, whether by force or compliance. Make no mistake.
She shuddered at the snaky hiss of Sarian’s words. Her dream state deepened, paired with an image of Tara’s bright hazel eyes.
“How could you leave without telling me?” The broken tone of her friend’s voice stabbed at her.
Another image formed behind her lids. A book—the one Zanya had first seen in a dream, then again in her vision when Sarian had broken the obedience spell. Its pages flipped faster and faster until they stopped. Blood seeped from the yellowed parchment.
The image of Renato shaking his head as he stood on the patio in Victorian London.
Sarian in his beastly form fighting against Arwan, who moved with almost inhuman speed and accuracy.
“He does not need help.” Renato’s gaze finally met hers, and the depth of sadness in his eyes nearly took her breath away. “Arwan is not who you think he is.”
Zanya opened her eyes and sat up, rubbing her face. “What the hell was that?” She clutched Cualli’s pendant, running her fingers over the smooth curves until her heartbeat returned to normal.
With her three crutches—her stone, her music, and Cualli’s pendant—she hadn’t had a panic attack in months. But Sarian had clearly broken into her mind and didn’t intend on leaving. Her night terrors—more accurately, Sarian’s blatant intrusions into her dreams—had always been isolated to a deep sleep. Now they were everywhere. His hold on her stone had taken its toll, and unless she figured out a way to stop him, his invasions would undoubtedly become much worse.
* * *
Arwan
Arwan watched out the bus window as trees and small village huts flew past. He and Zanya had been traveling for almost two hours on a route that would bring them to the entrance of the caves.
He frowned at the dark circles casting deep shadows under Zanya’s eyes. She must not have gotten any sleep on the plane. Perhaps she was ill, though that was unlikely for a guardian with the ability to heal. Like Peter, her healing powers made her nearly immune to middleworld sickness.
Still, she hadn’t been acting normally over the last few days. Headaches and lethargy were obvious signs something had happened that she didn’t want to tell him about. Something more serious than her concern over Tara or her heartache over Jayden.
He too carried worry in his heart, and just like Zanya was doing to him now, he hadn’t told her the entire truth either.
Maybe it was just a matter of time for them both.
The bus slowed to a stop, delivering them to their destination. They had taken the route to the back entrance of the caves, surrounded by dense jungle and heavy overgrowth.
The government authorities had restricted tourist access to the front side of the caves years ago, but the area would still be crawling with photographers and small-time archeologists, all of whom would have a watchful eye on the glyphs, and thus anyone going in or out.
Arwan checked his watch. There was still about two hours before sundown. They both needed their strength to hike, especially because it wasn’t Zanya’s strongest skill. He’d packed energy bars in her bag, though he had no idea how long they’d be stuck in the cave.
A cave his mother had once crawled out from.
A cave he wished he could forget.
He pictured the drawings hung on his bedroom wall at home. His mother’s face was calming and somehow torturous at the same time. But he wouldn’t forget her. She was the reason he still lived, while his father was the reason she had been ripped from his life when he was just a boy.
Zanya massaged small circles over her temples, her eyes closed and her skin visibly clammy.
He brushed his hand against her leg. “Are you sure you’re all right?”
She drew in her bottom lip and sat back in her seat. “I’m fine. Just tired.”
The single door at the front of the bus screeched open. They had a long journey ahead, and he had to be mentally prepared for whatever was to come. “We’re up.” He grabbed his bag while Zanya stood, and followed her down the aisle and outside, onto the dusty ground.
It was the wet season, but there hadn’t been rain in weeks. The earth was cracked and the air was dry. Many of the locals probably suspected the gods were angry. Telltale signs proved his suspicion true as they strode down the wide dirt road between huts and small bakeries selling freshly made flatbread. Offerings lay scattered along the ground, some in basins, others lying in beds of banana leaves. What was left of the river lazily flowed downstream, over shiny pebbles and old stumps that hung on to the compacted silt.
The town had changed since he’d last visited. Boxy televisions were propped in the corner of several outdoor market stalls, and many of the villagers had cell phones pressed to their ears. It was as if the life had been drained from the rich culture of their Maya descendants, all of whom had nearly forgotten the honor and greatness of their history. Instead of building great cities, they wove blankets, carved colorful trinkets, and sold small statues of the abandoned temples, once the pride of their nation.
At least this village was one of the few without Catholic churches towering over the ruins. Instead of Christmas, this small community still celebrated winter solstice—and had, since Arwan could remember.
The shortest day of the year marked the beginning of longer days, but more importantly for Riyata, the time in which bonds of the soul were made. He felt it coming, deep in his bones. All the years he had observed the solstice, celebration the coming season. It was the only surviving link to his lineage that he’d kept as part of his life.
A statue of the rain deity, Chaac, stood in the center of the town with offerings scattered around him. Basins of fresh water lay near the statue’s feet, and hand-strung beads hung from the lightning ax gripped in Chaac’s hand.
Some still believed.
An elderly woman sat beside the statue with a wicker basket nestled in her lap, begging for scraps of food. Her meek frame was buried under layers of tattered clothes and a shroud of fabric draped over her hair.
Arwan paused beside her. The painted markings on her hands and forehead meant she was a village elder. When he was part of the community, elders were respected.
He reached in his bag and found an energy bar. If giving it to her meant he’d go hungry, so be it.
He broke away from Zanya and walked toward the woman. Her wrinkled face turned up as he approached, and her gaze followed him down when he crouched beside her.
The emptiness in her eyes told of extended neglect and hunger. He placed the food in her basket. He hadn’t spoken his native tongue in such a long time, but she was a Maya villager from the old tribe—probably one of the last—and most likely didn’t understand anything but Yucatan. Shame weighed on his shoulders. He hung his head, all but having forgotten how to greet her properly.
Her shaky hands reached out and rested on his forearm. His heart weighed heavy to see his people begging on the street. To find her begging beside a statue of Chaac was worse. It was a common practice among beggars to sit beside a statue of a deity in hope those withholding charity would feel guilty and be more compelled to give.
It had come to that.
The people’s hearts had turned cold.
He stood and glanced back at Zanya waiting for him on the far side of the dirt road. Her head was hung, her gaze cast to the ground. It was obvious she understood the elder’s situation was grim.
Arwan gave the woman the respect she deserved by resting his hand on top of her head, wishing her well on her journey through the underworld, to the heavens, once she passed. It probably wouldn’t be long.
She stilled, and her eyes slowly shut. She understood what was happening.
He was telling her good-bye.
As he stood, he dropped a few coins in her basket—as much as he could spare. Perhaps she could buy food, or a good night’s rest in a suitable bed.
Arwan walked back to Zanya’s side. She took his hand. Her warmth was the only remaining link he had to mankind.
“That was really nice of you,” she said with a gentle smile. Her gaze moved to the woman. “It’s so sad.” She squeezed his hand.
He checked his watch. “We have about an hour to be in town. Let’s get something to eat before we start the hike.”
She sighed. “Hiking. Right. I wish I knew where I was going, I could have transported ahead.”
“But you don’t, and I would really rather you stay close. Just in case.” He draped his arm over her shoulder. She had no idea how badly he needed to be close to her, though he still couldn’t explain why. When he’d met her, he hadn’t expected the connection would be so strong. The bond wasn’t just physical but something tangible that linked them together. He just hoped what was soon to come wouldn’t tear them apart.
* * *
Zanya
The uneven ground pushed against the bottom of Zanya’s feet as she followed Arwan over the game path that stretched from the village’s eastern border of the jungle. At least that’s what Arwan had told her. She couldn’t tell east from west if her life depended on it.
“How much longer do we have?” She took a few quick steps to catch up to him.
He tipped his face toward the sky. A bead of sweat ran down his temple. “We have about three miles to go, but the terrain’s going to get more difficult.” He examined the thick foliage on either side of the trail.
She grabbed her water bottle from the side pocket of her backpack and gulped down half of her supply.
Arwan’s eyes narrowed as he came to a complete stop.
Zanya swallowed the rest of her mouthful and poured some into her palm. She patted the back of her neck and fanned at her damp skin. “What’s wrong?”
He pressed his finger to his lips as his gaze darted through the trees.
Zanya froze. The only sounds were the distant screeches of monkeys and a few birds in the branches above them—typical jungle soundtrack.
After a moment, he finally spoke. “I thought I heard something. Let’s keep going.”
“Okay. But what did you think you heard?” She slipped her water bottle back in her backpack and tried to keep up.
“There are a lot of things we need to be careful of. You aren’t used to being out here, so I’m just being cautious.”
She glanced around. “Cautious of what?”
“I’m not trying to scare you.” He guided her over a sudden incline in the path.
“I won’t get freaked out. I promise.” A promise she’d probably break in about five seconds, but she needed to know what they were dealing with. They’d hiked together in Belize, but back then they’d traveled on well-known paths the tribes had used to collect water and visit each other. Now they were on a barely discernible game trail in the middle of nowhere—totally different story.
He exhaled. “Tigers, elephants, snakes…” He paused and turned toward the greenery.
He sensed something was out there. That much was clear.
His grip slid from her hand up to her wrist.
His focus intensified by the second. “Go. Walk ahead of me.”
“Why?” She gripped his arm.
“So I can keep an eye on you.”
She walked ahead, her senses tuned to every noise, every twig that snapped in the trees, every chirping bird—
Zanya paused. The birds. They’d all gone quiet. Something had spooked them, and she had a feeling that whatever it was, it was still close by.

CHAPTER THREE

The twilight skies were streaked with hues of red and pink when Zanya followed Arwan out of the canopy of trees. An area bare of foliage lay straight ahead. They were supposed to make it to the mouth of the cave by nightfall, but considering they hadn’t reached it yet—probably thanks to her short stride—that was probably not going to happen.
“What are we going to do?”
Arwan dropped his pack on the ground. “We need to make camp. It’s almost dark, and we need to collect firewood. This is a good spot for us to spend the night.”
Zanya groaned. “I figured as much.” They didn’t have any real shelter, and there were more bugs than she could fathom, all of them probably waiting for her to doze off so they could crawl over her face. She cringed. “What if it rains? We’ll get soaked.”
“It hasn’t rained in weeks, and I doubt it will rain tonight. The skies are too clear.”
“Oh. Right.” She’d have to learn how to look for signs like that. She rolled her shoulders and let the pack hit the ground with a thud. Throbbing pain pulsed through her neck and upper back. “Ugh.” She reached across her chest and massaged the knot.
“I’ll gather firewood. You can get out your sleeping bag and—” He pointed to some rocks near the path. “If you can gather some stones and make a circle for a fire pit, that would be helpful.” He unzipped his hoodie and tossed it beside his backpack, revealing the muscles packed under his T-shirt.
Heat spread through her body, and she cleared her throat. “Sure, no problem.”
“I won’t be gone for long. Yell if anything happens. I won’t be far.”
She bit her lip in an attempt to suppress a smile. “Thanks for being so worried about me.”
He examined her with a quirky grin. The kind of grin that made her heart skip a beat and her breath hitch. “You’re the guardian. You don’t need me around to protect you. You just think you do.”
An hour later, the sun was all but gone by the time Zanya finished organizing the stones into a circle. She wiped her dusty hands on her pants and unzipped her bag and then spotted Arwan’s pack. He hadn’t returned with the firewood yet. He must have been gathering enough for the whole night.
It would be helpful if she got his sleeping bag out, too. He’d have to build the fire when he returned—God knows she had no clue how to do it.
Twigs cracked behind her, and Zanya spun and fell back on her butt, her palms pressed against the warm earth. She scanned the tree line. Too bad it was dark and she couldn’t see anything but a thick wall of foliage.
“Arwan?” Her voice came out in a squeak. She cleared her throat and slowly stood, her focus never leaving the jungle. “Arwan?” Another crack sounded from in the trees. Zanya scanned the branches until she spotted a huge white owl perched on a branch just above her.
She exhaled and rested her hand on her chest. A smile crept over her lips. “Oh thank God. It’s just an owl.” The creature looked down at her inquisitively, rotating its head from side to side. It was beautiful. Large, with caramel-brown feathers outlining its heart-shaped face. The moonlight shimmered against the bird’s feathers.
It hopped toward her down the branch, seemingly unafraid. Though out here, it probably didn’t have any reason to fear people. Zanya stepped closer, her focus on the bird’s almond-shaped eyes that analyzed her every move.
She smacked her lips and extended her hand, rubbing the tips of her fingers together. “Hey, beautiful. What are you doing here?” Her voice turned to a soft coo as she waited for it to move closer. “Don’t worry, I won’t hurt you.”
More twigs snapped behind her and she turned, sure she’d see Arwan walking toward her with a huge stack of wood piled in his arms.
There was only darkness and silence.
Zanya dropped her hand to her side, her eyes wide. A soft growl radiated through the night. She stepped back, her senses on high alert.
She gripped the wicker emblem hung around her neck, and for the first time since London, her stone spoke to her.
Its whispers morphed to static. A spike of adrenaline tore through her. She rushed to her backpack and ripped open the zipper.
With the stone cupped in her hands, she shifted away from the cluster of bushes in front of her. Her breath stalled when her gaze met a pair of pale yellow eyes peering at her from the foliage.
She tried to speak, but her voice was trapped somewhere in her chest. Her stone, scalding scalded the tender skin on her palms. The large cat’s gaze moved down to the pulsing orb in her chest, then to the light that radiated from her stone. It bared its teeth and then relaxed, smoothing the wrinkles in its snout. The animal cocked its head. Its small, perked ears made it look as if it were curious.
“Good job on the fire pit.” Zanya spun around and jumped to her feet. Arwan must have seen her panicked expression because he immediately dropped the firewood and ran to her side. “What happened?”
She pointed to the bushes where the large cat had stood just a moment ago. Now only shadows loomed in the empty space. Arwan must have scared it away. “There was a—wait!” She spun and pointed to the branch where the owl was perched, but the bird, too, was no longer there. “First it was a—it was right there!” She turned back to the bushes and surveyed the empty space. “It was some kind of cat. Maybe a cheetah or something. It had spots.”
Arwan grabbed her wrist and pulled her closer. “Where?”
“There.” She pointed to the empty space where small plants lay crushed into the soil by the beast’s paw.
“What else?”
“An owl. It was huge.” She pointed to the tree. “Right there. It was all white with some caramel feathers on its face and dark eyes.” She drew in a sharp breath. “What if the big cat comes back? Maybe we should sleep in the trees or something.” She gathered her sleeping bag off the ground and hugged it against her chest. She wasn’t Steve freakin’ Irwin. She didn’t jump on gators or tame snakes. She certainly didn’t sit face-to-face with a predator that considered her a snack.
“Sleeping in a tree isn’t a good idea.”
“What? Why?” She clung tighter to her sleeping bag while she scanned the jungle. “At least it would keep us off the ground.”
“Because it was a jaguar, and they drag their prey into the trees to eat. At least normal jaguars do.”
Her eyes widened. “What do you mean ‘normal’?”
“‘Normal’ as in middleworld.”
“Middleworld? You don’t think they’re from here?”
The possibility that the jaguar wasn’t from this realm seemed ten times worse than it being just an ordinary jaguar on the hunt. Especially after being attacked by the demon from the caves near Renato’s house, and then the gargoyle-like beasts on the beach. Suddenly facing a regular big cat didn’t seem so bad. “Well, how do you know it was a jaguar? It could have been a cheetah, right? Or a lynx or something. Something totally middleworld.” She swallowed.
“Cheetahs don’t live in this area, and the jaguar has been stalking us since we wandered into its territory. But I don’t think it wants to hurt us.”
“And how did you come to that conclusion?”
“Because if it did, you’d be dead.”
Arwan started the fire like an old pro. It was too risky to catch something and cook it. The smell of fresh meat would tempt not only the jaguar, but also other predators in the area.
He sat beside Zanya on his sleeping bag, and pulled up his legs, resting one forearm on his knee while using the other hand to poke at the glowing logs with a stick. “As long as we keep the fire going, we should be safe.”
Should be safe?”
“I’m sleeping beside you just in case. Don’t worry.” He tilted his face toward the treetops. “Noises from the other animals will let us know if something is close. The monkeys are good for that.”
Zanya unwrapped an energy bar and took a bite. “Freakin’ monkeys better be on high alert or we’re screwed.”
Arwan let out a chuckle. The flames rose and fell, casting shadows over his face. The jungle atmosphere suited him. He seemed at home.
She sat back and admired the millions of tiny white orbs speckling the night heavens. The sky wasn’t black, rather a deep shade of royal blue. “Look up.”
He followed her prompt, and a faint smile spread his lips. A sad smile—the same kind that graced his face whenever he spoke about his mom.
After a moment of silence, he let out a deep breath. “The cave is only a few miles away.”
She covered her mouth through a deep yawn. Man, she was tired. “Well, that’s good, right?”
He poked at the fire again, causing flames to waver and dance. “Are you sure you want to go through with this?”
She crinkled her brow. “What do you mean am I sure?”
He stared intensely into the embers. “Once we enter the caves, we can’t turn back. We will need to go through the appropriate channels in order to enter. There are no shortcuts. No free passes.”
She had to be brave. Not for herself, but for her friend. “Jayden only has two days left. If we don’t get his soul from Houn by then, we won’t get it back. We have to keep going.”
“If that’s what you want.”
Maybe he was scared. She didn’t blame him. She was too. But she couldn’t put her own fear ahead of saving Jay. He wouldn’t turn his back on her, and she couldn’t do that to him. Even when he’d left her in the orphanage, he’d thought he would go back to her. That they would be together again. She didn’t love him in that way. Not anymore. She loved Jayden like she loved Tara. That was enough.
Arwan lay down and stared up at the sky. His features were solemn.
He wasn’t the only one with weight on his shoulders. The dream she’d had about Arwan on the plane was something she needed to address. She hadn’t found the right moment to bring the two-ton elephant into the room, but no moment would seem right for something like this.
She gathered her hair and pulled it over her shoulder, playing with strands between her fingers. It was all she could do not to seem obviously nervous. “Renato made a comment I can’t stop thinking about.” When he didn’t react, she continued. “He said you aren’t who I think you are.”
Arwan’s jaw ticked. “He said that?”
Zanya observed his tense shoulders. He was hiding something, and she had a right to know what it was. “Renato isn’t the only person who told me.”
Arwan looked at her. “What do you mean?”
“Sarian said the same thing. He said you and him aren’t very different. I just thought he was trying to manipulate me.”
“And you believe him?”
“You’re not giving me a reason not to.” The truth was, she didn’t know what to believe. If he insisted on staying silent, she’d have all the more reason to pry.
“I guess you can believe whatever you want.” He turned his attention to the fire, poking at the burning embers with a stick.
“That’s not fair.”
“Fair or not, that’s all I can tell you.”
“That’s all you will tell me, you mean.”
“Stop prying, Zanya.”
“Or what?”
He stood and stared down at her. “Or you may find something out that you really don’t want to know.”
She pushed to her feet, holding his gaze. “I have a right to know.”
He fisted his hands, his chest heaving with every breath. He paced to the other side of the fire. “I knew eventually it would come to this.”
Zanya wrapped her fingers around Cualli’s medallion as anxiety bubbled in her chest. “Come to what?”
The flames slashed at the air as his piercing gaze bored a hole in her heart. “Are you sure you want to ask me this? Because if you ask, you have to be sure you want to know the answer.”
In reality, she wasn’t so sure. His sudden change in demeanor was so unlike him, and that kind of one-eighty could only be caused by something serious. She shifted her weight. “You’re starting to scare me.”
Anguish washed over his handsome features.
She couldn’t bear seeing him with such a tortured expression for a second longer. She moved beside him and laid her hands on either side of his face. He shut his eyes. The despair radiating from his touch was nearly unbearable.
She understood his longing. She had desired so much in her life—relief, acceptance, courage, peace—and never received any of it. Until she’d met Renato and the others. Being told she was precious was more of a reward than she could have ever hoped for. So she’d give him the acceptance he longed for. She’d give it to him without any more questions or accusations.
Whatever he was hiding wasn’t worth tearing him apart to find out. Not over the word of Sarian. Not even over the word of Renato.
“Listen to me. I won’t push you to tell me anything you don’t want to. I don’t know what could possibly be so bad—”
“Will you still want me?” His voice was ragged.
She furrowed her brow. “What?”
“Just…please.” He buried his fingers in her hair and pressed his forehead against hers. “Tell me you will still want me, no matter who I am.”
She sensed his anger, fear, agony—all radiating through his touch and the desperation in his tone.
“Please believe me. I would never do anything to hurt you. No puedo vivir sin tu amor.
She pushed a strand of hair out of his face and brushed her thumb over his eyebrow. “You know, you’ve got to start translating for me.”
She waited for him to crack a smirk. When it failed to come, she kissed him anyway. The fire warmed her back while a chorus of sounds echoed around them. The jungle was deafening at night, but in that moment, his touch drowned out the noises.
He slid his arms around her and crushed her against his chest. She squeaked, and then melted into him, twisting her fingers in his T-shirt, finding solid muscle underneath. She couldn’t help but push under the material to explore.
His skin was warm, and her fingers brushed against a thin line of hair trailing down his stomach. She followed it until it vanished beneath the buckle of his pants. His chest expanded with a sharp inhale. The subtle fluttering in her stomach exploded into a fierce energy radiating through her body.
His lips slid to the corner of her mouth and down her jaw. She tilted her head back toward the night sky while his mouth ran over her neck.
He pulled away, nearly panting. “Zanya—”
“No.” She rose on her tippy-toes and kissed him again. She wouldn’t have him try to talk reason into her. Not now, when they were finally alone.
When dawn broke, they would risk their lives. This could be their last chance to be together if it all fell apart.
She spread her hands across his back and trailed them over his shoulders. His fingers dug into her hips and he broke their kiss again. “Heavens help me,” he whispered in a raspy breath. “Zanya, please.”
She shifted her weight. “What’s wrong?”
He shook his head.
“Don’t you…” The thought of saying it aloud made her blush. Maybe he didn’t want to move forward, though his kiss said otherwise. She hung her head. How could she have been so wrong?
He hooked his fingers under her chin. “I can’t. It wouldn’t be fair.”
“Fair? What are you talking about?” She bit her lip, trying not to notice the electrical current that spread over her skin from his touch. What the heck was wrong with her? She’d never acted like this before—wanted anyone so much.
He brushed his finger along her cheek. “Please, trust me.”
She paused, realizing she’d moved her hands under his shirt, and was resting her hands against his solid muscle. The mental haze slowly faded. Being this into him was a little scary.
Zanya slowly pulled away and pressed her hands against her sides. Maybe it was the fresh jungle air, or maybe it was just that they were headed into the unknown the next day. Whatever drew her to him was relentless. Her head spun, and she rested her fingertips on her temple. It was as if something had taken her over. Something with an insatiable need.
She blinked away clouded vision and forced a soft smile. He was right. Waiting was better. She’d sworn she’d take it slow. He’d promised he’d wait. Not push. Not pressure her. And he hadn’t. Not even a little. There was nothing wrong with taking things one step at a time.
Except suddenly she wanted to leap.

 TheReport.jpg
**I was gifted a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.**
I must admit, I didn’t know exactly what to expect when I started on the journey of reading this book. I hadn’t read the first two books in the series prior to being offered this one. Coming into this series with two book already published, I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to follow the story line or the sequence of events that happened prior to this book. That wasn’t a problem. It was a solid read. The characters were interesting. It was something different for me. There were some mechanical issues in the story that made it a bit hard to read. I would read more of the series.
My rating:
3-5-stars

A long-time enthusiast of things that go bump in the night, Theresa began her writing career as a journalism intern—possibly the least creative writing field out there. After her first semester at a local newspaper, she washed her hands of press releases and feature articles to delve into the whimsical world of fiction.
Since then, Theresa has been married, had three terrific kids, moved to central Ohio, and has been repeatedly guilt-tripped into adopting a menagerie of animals that are now members of the family. But don’t be fooled by her domesticated appearance. Her greatest love is travel. Having traveled to over a dozen countries—not to mention an extended seven-year stay in Kodiak, Alaska—she is anything but settled down. Wherever life brings her, Theresa will continue to weave tales of adventure and love with the hope her stories will bring joy and inspiration to her readers.

 

 

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#YABookReport A Tale as Old as Time by Mya O’Malley (Release Bitz)

Title: A Tale As Old As Time
Author: Mya O’Malley
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Publisher: Blue Tulip Publishing

 

Some tales as old as time have deep, dark secrets that are never meant to be uncovered. Jackson, a recently separated man, steers clear of women, even his sexy southern co-worker, Kristen. An unlikely friendship between the two begins as they partner up to solve a cold mystery, one dating back to 1871. The seaside pub in which they are both employed becomes a setting of intrigue and danger.

What starts out as an intriguing way to pass the time becomes an obsession of sorts as Jackson bonds with the spirit Mille, an agonized soul who’s seeking closure and true love at a deadly price. This jealous spirit will stop at nothing to see that Kristen is no longer a threat in her manipulative plan.

Add to the plot a beautiful, mysterious stranger named Emily, who captures Jackson’s heart but leaves him wanting more. Jackson’s got his hands full of women with issues. Will Mille find that true love is more than meets the eye or is she destined to spend eternity trapped in a house filled with heartache?

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They stood before the bookstore. It appeared that it had just opened; the welcome sign was swinging from the inside. Glancing at his watch, Jackson saw that it was nine-thirty. A bell sounded as Kristen opened the door. Several people were already browsing the store. Checking the sign on the door, Jackson noted that the opening time was nine o’clock. The sign was still swinging. That’s odd. Clearing his thoughts, he followed Kristen’s lead to the front counter. An elderly woman who appeared to be in her early eighties greeted them.

“Good morning, may I help you?” His voice creaked with time.

“Yes, we were here yesterday, and your granddaughter mentioned that you would be available to speak with us about ghosts.” Kristen jumped right to the point. The woman’s eyes opened wide and Jackson was surprised to see that her face seemed at least ten years younger at the mention of ghosts.

“Ghosts, you say? You’ve come to the right place. I’m Shelby, resident ghost expert, what would you like to know? By the way I run a ghost tour; it should be coming up soon if you’re interested.” Something about the way Shelby rambled on reminded him of his own sweet grandmother who had passed when he was a child.

“No, I don’t think the tour is quite what we’re looking for,” Jackson interjected. “We work over at Millie’s and we’d like any information you have on the ghost stories over there.”

“Oh, Millie’s?” Something not unlike fear swept over Shelby’s face. It was there for the briefest of moments and then it was gone. “That one is interesting. It’s a long story and there are plenty of theories, but nothing has ever been solved. If there are any ghosts that I’m intimidated by, it’s her.”

Great. “Aren’t you intimidated by other ghost stories? Why her?” Kristen straightened her back.

“Oh, some ghosts are quite pleasant. Take Amelia, here. She keeps me company, makes me laugh sometimes…”

Jackson spun his head around and saw the sign was still moving. Lifting a finger, he opened his mouth to speak.

“Yup, that’s her. She plays tricks all day long; she really does have a sense of humor. Sometimes she flips that sign around during working hours so that customers think I’m closed. Not especially good for business, but funny, nonetheless.”

“But…” Jackson was rendered speechless, something that didn’t happen very often.

“How do you know her name is Amelia?” There she went again, taking the words out of this mouth. Kristen had her elbows propped up on the counter now.

“Oh, she told me,” Shelby stated, her jaw set.

“Great.” Jackson turned his head, gazing at the shelves in the bookstore.

“What does she look like? Is she young, beautiful?” Kristen urged, her eyes wide.

“She’s quite pretty and does hold some dark secrets. For instance, she told me that Millie is troubled, deeply troubled and that she has revenge on her mind.”

“Millie? That’s our ghost’s name?” Jackson called out.

“Oh yes, Millie’s was named after her,” Shelby began only to be interrupted by a customer. “Excuse me, I have to ring up this sale. My granddaughter is due any moment and then I can sit and chat.”

“I think we’re getting somewhere,” Kristen whispered.

“I don’t know if I like where this is headed. I mean, if I were to buy into this whole ghost story and that’s a big if, I don’t like the fact that she’s seeking revenge.” He must be losing his mind, the way he was being sucked into all of this, it wasn’t like him to believe in such things and if he had he not seen that movement in the window that night, he would be a firm non-believer. Even that swinging sign would cause him to have doubts. That sign… ugh. He was turning into a typical tourist.

“Don’t tell me you want to back out now, that you’re scared. You’re scared, that’s it, you’re scared.” Kristen’s mouth hung open in disbelief.

“I am not scared,” he pronounced a bit too loudly. “It’s just that we’re investigating a mystery, now we’re getting sidetracked with ghost stories.”

“You are scared,” Kristen gasped dramatically. “Don’t worry, I’ll protect you.” She couldn’t contain her laughter.

“I hate you, do you know that?” But his own grin escaped as Shelby stared at the two of them from the register.

The granddaughter had to pick today of all days to be late for work. Half an hour later, after watching Shelby ring up purchase after purchase, they finally sat with the woman. Kristen was loaded with questions, firing them off in rapid succession.

“So this Amelia, what time period is she from?”

“Did she personally know our Millie?”

“Was it a brothel?”

Holding his head in his hands, Jackson shook his head. “If you’d just let Shelby speak, you might just get some answers.” Kristen glared at him, but held her tongue.

“Amelia is indeed from the 1800s. She doesn’t say so much as she speaks in riddles. From what I can gather, Amelia tells me that Millie was the mistress of the owner.”

“Todd Alcott,” Jackson interjected, feeling pieces of the puzzle start to fit together.

“Yes, Todd Alcott. A slippery man, from all accounts. There was a fire, which was filed away as an accident, but I don’t think it was an accident. I think that poor woman was trapped for some reason and won’t rest until she sets things right, whether it’s revenge or justice.” Placing her hands on her lap, Shelby shrugged her shoulders.

“What do you know about the third floor?” Jackson inquired.

A sparkle lit her gaze. “Ah, yes. Well, the third floor housed the grand ballroom, where the fire was said to have started.” Shelby shared as she fiddled with her pearl necklace.

“What else?” Jackson could see that she was struggling to remember the facts.

“If I recall, Millie herself was said to have loved dancing the night away in the grand ballroom, guests have claimed to have seen her ghostly image dressed in an elegant modern day red gown, rumor has it she stole it from a guest room, she must have admired it so much.”

“Dancing?” Jackson had to admit the sight would startle him.

“Yes, legend has it she’s been looking for a partner all these years. Just the right partner, which apparently has been difficult to find after all this time,” Shelby mumbled, as if in a trance.

“Could we try to speak with Amelia ourselves? Ask her some questions?” Kristen asked, glancing around the store. Oh for heaven’s sake.

“Kristen we’ve taken up enough of Shelby’s precious time, I think we should get going.” Jackson couldn’t believe that she would even suggest trying to speak with this ghost.

Shelby straightened her posture, focused now on Jackson and Kristen. “Oh, it’s no problem. I love talking about this ghost business, it’s just that I doubt Amelia would speak to you. It took me about seventy years to gain her trust. My parents owned this store before me and I saw her as a child, nobody else did, but I saw her, clear as day. She wouldn’t speak to me for years to come, trust is hard to establish with these spirits, apparently.”

He could relate to that. Finally, someone was making sense. “Okay, then let’s just go,” Jackson pleaded.

“Can we just take a look around? We won’t be long,” Kristen inquired.

“Of course, take your time.” Shelby kissed them each on the cheek and wished them luck with their investigation. “Oh and if you find out anything else, be sure to let me know.” It seemed that more and more people were becoming invested in finding clues to the mystery.

Shelby turned around, holding her finger in the air. “Oh, how could I have forgotten to tell you? One more thing. Kristen, be careful dear, she doesn’t like other women. It’s been said that she even pushes women, so I would be careful over there at Millie’s.”

This was getting creepier by the moment. It was one thing to entertain the existence of ghosts when he felt they were benign spirits, but something different altogether when he wondered if this Millie was not the sweetheart he believed her to be.

***

“Hi, welcome to the Museum by the Shore. I don’t know if you’re familiar with the area, but this town is rich in history. Feel free to look around and ask any questions,” the gentleman offered. Jackson figured the man for about eighty years old. It would be great if he could still get up and out the door to volunteer at the man’s age.

“Hi, we’re here to find out if there’s any information on Millie’s Pub and Bed and Breakfast. We both work there, and we’re interested specifically in the fire from the 1800s and legends of hauntings.” Jackson got right to the point since Kristen was still sulking.

“Well, well, it seems you’ve come to the right place.” The man chuckled. “I’m Bill by the way.”

“Nice to meet you, Bill. I’m Jackson and this here is Kristen,” Jackson replied, shaking the man’s hand. Kristen followed, and smiled widely for Bill.

“You two make a fine couple, if I may say so,” Bill grinned, allowing his eyes to dart back and forth between the two.

“Oh, we’re not a couple,” Kristen corrected Bill immediately. Of course she did.

“Are you sure?” Bill’s eyes squinted as he gazed at them.

“Oh, I’m sure,” Kristen announced.

Clearing his throat, Jackson changed the subject, guiding them back to their focus. “Where should we begin?”

Bill pointed to a showcase in the back of the small room. “There are some clippings of articles written about the fire and the woman who was killed,” Bill shared. “Old Millie herself. Actually the poor thing wasn’t that old at all, she was only in her early twenties when she passed.”

“What else do you know?” Kristen asked, moving closer to Bill.

“Not much, how about you take a look at everything and then if you have any other questions, I’ll be right over here, finishing my coffee.” Bill ambled back over to the counter. “You’ll see that there’s a brush and a ladies bag on display that belonged to Millie,” Bill added from over his shoulder.

“Wow, would you look at that,” Kristen stated as she pointed to the items. They don’t make things like that anymore. Intricate patterns were etched on the backside of the brush. Beside the brush sat some faded turquoise decorative combs. The brush, bag, and combs all had hints of the turquoise color.

“She must have liked that color,” Jackson added, gazing down at the items. His gaze was drawn to the newspaper clippings in the next showcase. He scanned the article and then went back to read more thoroughly in case he had missed something. “Look, it says here that she loved to dance.” Jackson nudged Kristen, who was still entranced with the combs.

“And it gives us a last name. Millie Summers, huh.” It seemed a fitting last name for their ghost.

“Are there any photographs?” Kristen finally lifted her head up from the counter.

“No, we have no idea what she looked like,” Jackson announced. He would love to see a photo of the woman. In his head he was beginning to form his own image of Millie. He pictured her to be elegant and beautiful.

“She was blonde, a petite thing, quite the striking woman, from what the people who have seen her tell me,” Bill interjected from his spot across the room. The man’s hearing was certainly intact.

“Who has seen her?” Kristen asked, heading over to Bill.

“My wife for one, but she’s not around anymore.” Bill’s head dropped to the floor.

“I’m sorry to hear that. Did your wife say anything else?” Kristen urged in a gentle voice.

“Just that she was unearthly, surreal. My wife, Tara, her name was, told me that she’s seen many ghosts around here but Millie was the saddest of all and the most worrisome.”

“Did Tara say why?” Jackson inquired.

“I don’t know, she said that she herself wasn’t threatened but had heard of the ghost pushing other women, those she felt threatened by,” Bill shared, shaking his head. “I’d steer clear of that one if you could.”

“How could other women be a threat to her at this point?” Jackson wondered aloud.

“Legend has it that she won’t be at peace until she finds her man. God help the man she finds. In order to complete herself and become free of this world, she needs to find her one true love. But it gets worse, she’ll have to bring him with her to the afterlife.”

“She told your wife this?” Jackson was incredulous.

“Oh not in so many words, but the point got across loud and clear. Luckily she didn’t set her sights on me.” Bill laughed loudly.

“I don’t like this.” Jackson felt that all too familiar chill return. Something about this whole story didn’t sit right with him. They should probably just let it go.

“Oh no, you’re in this with me ‘til the bitter end. What? Are you afraid that Millie’s got the hots for you?” It was the first time all morning that Jackson had seen her light up. It seemed he was stuck in this investigation of theirs until Kristen grew tired of it.

“Yeah, yeah. Funny girl,” Jackson sighed.

“Stranger things have happened; your fellow here is a handsome guy.” Bill directed his comment to Kristen.

“He’s not…” she began before being interrupted by Bill’s laughter.

“I know, I know…” Bill’s laughter faded as he sipped his coffee.

“Bill, thank you, you’ve been a big help,” Jackson said, enjoying the banter.

“No problem. I didn’t mention this before, it slipped my mind, but I don’t think it was an accident, the fire, I mean. I think there was foul play involved,” Bill shared.

“I think you’re onto something there. We agree and we’re trying to expose the crime. Maybe then the poor woman will be at peace,” Kristen stated.

“If only it were that simple.” Bill sighed as he turned his head away.

 

 

Mya O'Malley

Mya O’Malley was born and raised in the suburbs of New York City, where she currently lives with her husband, daughter and three step-daughters. The family also consists of a boxer, Destiny and a ragdoll cat named Colby. Mya earned an undergraduate degree in special education and a graduate degree in reading and literacy. She works as a special education teacher and enjoys making a difference in the lives of her students.

Mya’s passion is writing; she has been creating stories and poetry since she was a child. Mya spends her free time reading just about anything she can get her hands on. She is a romantic at heart and loves to create stories with unforgettable characters. Mya likes to travel; she has visited several Caribbean Islands, Mexico and Costa Rica. Mya is currently working on her seventh novel.

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#YABookReport If Only… by Beckie Stevenson

 

 

 

Our story started like the
fairytales you grew up reading, but it doesn’t end like them.
I was fifteen when I realised I
was in love with Cole. He was the foster kid who wore scruffy clothes and never
had any money. He was the bad boy, the fighter. The boy who took all the
dares—and won. He was the boy that scared me but excited me at the same time.
He was the boy I shouldn’t have wanted, but, of course, he was the one I wanted
the most.
In the beginning, he was mine.
And I was his.
Cole and Evie. Evie and Cole.
But
then a lie was told. Lies break people. And broken people shatter into little
pieces of tortured pasts and fractured futures.
And
then our fairytale beginning morphed into a story of heartache and sadness,
instead of happiness and hope. A story that ended with lost love, friendship,
and a never-ending cycle of what ifs
and if onlys.
Our ending broke me. Shattered
me. Destroyed me.
When a story ends like ours did,
is it any wonder I never wanted to start a new one again?
 
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Prologue
 
Evie
Eight years ago
Scorching hot
tears streak down my freezing cold cheeks and snake into the corner of my mouth
as I walk over the sleet-covered field. When my eyes land on our tree, I suck
in a big breath and pull it deep into my lungs, hoping it’ll be enough to
suffocate the ball of dread that’s swirling around in my chest.
This used to be a
place full of happy memories…the place where I played tag with my brother and
best friend until long after the sun had set, the place where I grew from a
girl into a young woman, and the place that I ran to when I needed to escape.
It’s also where I met Cole for our first date. And where I’m standing now is
the exact spot where we shared our first kiss.
But the memories
I used to love and cherish are now tainted with anger that boils so fiercely
within me that I know I’ll never set foot in this place again after today. It’s
something else that he’s ruined for me and something else I hate him for.
I look up and
watch the branches of the oak tree bend and whine in the wind as if crying out
for me to not do this. I touch the trunk where our initials are carved into the
middle of a heart and cough out another huge sob. Cole and Evie won’t be
forever. Not now.
I tip my head
back, letting the ends of my hair tickle the bottom of my spine, and stare at
the angry clouds through the bare branches. The icy-cold rain pelts me from
every angle, soaking right through my thin coat until it settles deep into my
bones. It pours down my face and mingles with my tears as if it’s trying to
hide them for me. I want to shout out that it’s useless, that nothing can hide
my tears. I should know because I’ve been trying to hide them every single day
for the last five weeks.
I turn when I
hear footsteps. The sight of him in a suit momentarily stuns me. It’s far too
big for him and looks a little cheap, but he’s still incredibly handsome in it.
I’ve never seen him in a suit before, and I can’t get over how much it ages
him. For just a few seconds, I let myself imagine my hands pushing the jacket
over his shoulders and then unbuttoning his shirt.
“You came,” he
says in a voice that’s so familiar to me, I cling to it like a child clings to
a comfort blanket.
I shake my head
to try and dislodge the images that are whirling through my mind. I’m not
supposed to be thinking of him like that. “Yes,” I answer.
“I didn’t think
you would.” When he steps closer, I notice that he has tears falling down his
cheeks too. “How was the funeral? I wish I had been there. I wanted to
be there.”
“Don’t,” I say.
“I don’t want to talk about it with you.”
He nods, looking
sad. “I’ve missed you so much,” he whispers, reaching his hand out for me. “The
last five weeks have felt like five years.”
I take a step
back and collide with the trunk of the tree. Hurt flashes across his face.
“I’m confused and
I’m hurting,” I blurt before he takes another step towards me. I want to tell
him the truth, but I’m scared. I’m scared he won’t understand.
“Confused about
what, Evie?”
“I love you,” I
breathe, wiping away a fresh set of tears with the back of my hand. “But now I
hate you, and I don’t think I will ever be able to forgive you for what you’ve
done.” The ball of pain that’s lodged itself in the centre of my chest cracks
and starts to bleed down into my stomach, filling it was so much hurt that it
makes me feel sick. And then my heart breaks all over again as I see his bottom
lip tremble.
“No, Evie,” he
whispers. “Please don’t say that.”
“I’m so sorry,” I
sob. “I’m sorry, Cole.”
He shakes his
head, causing the damp strands to flick across his forehead. “No,” he repeats,
I’m sorry. If only—”
“That’s it,” I
interrupt. “That’s what we’d be saying for the rest of our lives, and I can’t
live like that. I won’t live like that.”
He swears and
pushes his fingers through his wet, dark hair. His skin normally looks tanned
and clear, but today it’s pale and blotchy. His light brown eyes that usually
sparkle and shine at me look dull and lifeless. He looks like crap.
“I don’t ever
want to see you again,” I whisper.
Anger flashes
across his face as he drops his hands from his head and looks down at me. “So
this is it?” he snaps. “The last three years have meant nothing to you?”
“They’ve meant
everything to me…everything.”
He takes a deep breath
and slams his fist against the trunk, just above my head. “You won’t even
visit?”
I flinch as bits
of bark tumble over my shoulders. “I can’t.”
“Can’t or won’t?”
he questions, raising his eyebrows at me.
“It wouldn’t be
good for us,” I say. “You must be able to see that.”
He steps
forwards, completely eradicating any distance that I’d created between us, and
cups my face in his big, warm hands before I have a chance to protest. “What I
see is a girl who is so broken she’s shattering into a thousand pieces right in
front of me. She’s so fragile that I daren’t even touch her, but I have to.
Because this is my last chance, isn’t it, Evie?”
He gently skims
his thumb across my cheek. I nod and then look away from those desperately sad
eyes of his. “Yes.”
“You know what
the worst thing about this is?” he spits.
I peel my eyes
from the ground and blink up at him through the rain. He’s always been
handsome, with a face that I could stare at every single second of every day.
But right now, when I’m on the brink of never seeing him again, I can barely
look at him. “What?”
“I want to kill
the man that did this to you,” he growls.
I want to kill
him too.
“You did this,” I whisper.
“I know.”
He can’t mean… “You’re not going to—”
He shakes his
head. “No, I’m not. There are people that need to see that someone is punished.
I know that, understand it, and even respect it,” he says. “They need to see
justice has been done, and right now, I think you’re one of those people.”
I look deep into
his eyes, but I don’t answer him. How could I? I’m supposed to love him, no
matter what. But he’s right; I need to see him suffer for what he’s done.
I deserve it,” he says. “But nothing
they do will compare to how much it’s going to fucking hurt to let you go. I’m
going to let you go because you deserve better than me. You deserve a life, and
more than anything, you deserve to be happy.”
Before I can say
or do anything, Cole buries his hands into my hair and crushes his lips against
mine. They’re soft and considerably warmer than my lips, and they’re a mixture
of everything I love about him and everything I hate.
He places the
palm of his hand against my back and then slides it down to the bottom of my
spine. He pulls, forcing me to press against him where I fit like we’re two
pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, and I wonder if anyone else will ever come close to
making me feel so whole.
He tears his
mouth away and then presses his cheek against mine. I feel him shuddering as
the sobs vibrate through his whole body. “I’ll always love you,” he whispers
into my ear. “It’ll only ever be you, Evie. Please don’t ever forget that.” And
then he pushes away from me, turns around, and walks across the grass until he
reaches the waiting car. Without looking back, he opens the rear door and
climbs in.
The pain in my chest explodes and my knees
buckle as I watch the car disappear around the corner. I crumple to the cold
ground, curl into a ball, and let the rain soak me as I scream out his name
over and over again.
 
Beckie’s real name is Rebecca,
but she get’s called (and answers to) any of the following…Beckie, Bek, Becca,
Rebecca, Pip, Pippy or Stevo.
Beckie is the author of ‘Sorrow
Woods,’ the ‘Existing’ series and ‘Noah and Me.’
She is due to publish more YA
and NA novels in 2015/16.
She lives in Staffordshire,
England, with her partner and two children.
Beckie likes putting music on in
the house and dancing around like a mad woman.
When she isn’t playing with her
children, doing housework, dancing around the house like a mad woman, walking,
cycling reading or writing, then she can be found working in an investment
bank. Or sleeping.
Twitter: @BeckieStevenson
Instagram: BeckieStevo
Blog: 

#YABookReport Ryder by L.A. Casey (Teaser Blitz)

Title: Ryder
Series: Slater Brothers (#4)
Author: L.A. Casey
Genre: Contemporary, Romance, New Adult, Romantic Comedy
Release Date: February 23

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Synopsis

Branna Murphy is broken. For months now she has been a part of a one-sided relationship to a man she loves more than life itself. She prayed for a miracle, and hoped something would change, but found that was wishful thinking.

Talking didn’t work. Shouting didn’t work. Crying didn’t work. Nothing bloody worked.

Ryder Slater is furious. For months now he has been lying to a woman he would take a bullet for in order to protect her. He is involved in something that goes deeper than his old past, and if he strays off target, people will start to die. People he loves.

He couldn’t talk. He couldn’t slip up. He couldn’t lose focus. He couldn’t do a damn thing.

Things between Ryder and Branna are at rock bottom, and Ryder knows it. Not only will he be taking on a force that could destroy his whole family, but he will be battling tooth and nail to save his relationship and keep the love of his life by his side.

Ryder targeted Branna from the first moment he saw her, and what Ryder targets, Ryder dominates.

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Slater Brothers Series

Slater Bro Series

Dominic

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Kane

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About The Author

LA Casey

L.A. Casey is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author who juggles her time with her mini-me and writing. She was born, raised and currently resides in Dublin, Ireland. She enjoys chatting with her readers, who love her humor and Irish accent as much as her books.

Casey’s first book Dominic, was independently published in 2014 and became an instant success on Amazon. Now a hybrid author, she is both traditionally and independently published and is represented by Mark Gottlieb from Trident Media Group.

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#YABookReport Life Interrupted by Yessi Smith

Title: Life Interrupted
Author: Yessi Smith
Genre: Dark Romantic Suspense
Release Date: January 14

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Synopsis

I am a blank canvas that even the artist in me doesn’t know how to fill. My life started the day I escaped and woke up in the hospital.

Escaped from reality. Escaped from fear. Escaped from him.

Nothing exists before that, and as the days trickle by, I’m positive there’s nothing after that either.

I try though. For Poppa, who hasn’t left my side since I woke up, I try to live.

But every attempt is futile. So I escape again and start fresh on a small island, where there aren’t any expectations to fulfill. Where family and friends I don’t remember can’t look at me with sadness and disappointment.

And when Travis Keillar comes into my life everything changes. The memories I’ve lost become unimportant to the memories I’m creating with him. For the first time since I opened my eyes that fateful day in the hospital, life smiles back at me.

Until it doesn’t.

Until he comes back for me.
For revenge of crimes I don’t remember committing.

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Excerpt

With water dripping off my skin, I sit on his lap and kiss his neck, running my tongue along his skin, tasting the salt from our earlier swim. He remains still, unwilling to touch me, but my mind goes wild with fear and desire clashing into one another until I feel I might break. But I push forward because I want this. I deserve this.

I trace my lips over his face until my mouth finds his, gently licking them until his lips part, finally taking me. He slips his tongue into my mouth, the muscles on his upper arm tightening when I grip them.

When we pull apart from each other, I inhale a cleansing breath, calming my scattered nerves.

Travis sends a careful gaze in my direction and only hesitates a second before he lifts me in his arms and carries me to the cabin below deck. The space is small with only a bed, but that’s all we need.

He leaves the cabin door open, so plenty of sunlight enters the room and lies me on the bed where he climbs on top of me.

His body towers over me and when he looks down at me, he caresses my cheek with a soft brush of his knuckles. So fierce and strong, but gentle and caring.

I run my hands over his bare chest, feeling his heart pounding just as fast as mine. From below us, the water slaps against the hull, its rhythmic beat lulling me while the sight of Travis excites me. He lowers his face to mine until our lips meet again, and with his tongue dancing with mine, he unties the top of my bikini with one swift move.

His lips move from mine, his eyes tracing my naked body. My nerves rattle deep inside my stomach when he places kisses down my neck, until his hot breath hit my breast, which immediately pebble at the sudden contact. He’s gentle and with slow movements, I’m able to predict his every motion.

Still, I lose my control. My mind. And surrender.

Where I’m a frenzied mess of lust, Travis is calm and patient, and the mixture unhinges any lucid thoughts I had.

I battle with my mind, reminding it that I want this as much as my body does. Over and over again, like a chant, I tell myself, There is nothing to fear.

I pull at Travis’s shorts, wanting to see and touch more, and I don’t protest when he removes the bottom part of my bikini. With a satisfied smirk playing on his face, his fingers, those fingers I’ve become obsessed with, go inside me, sending a feverish passion throughout my body. Burning for him, for his touch, for the clash of our lips crashing into each other, I squirm at the tension growing between my legs, but I patiently watch as he removes his shorts.

An upheaval of emotion whirs around us, frenzied energy that clings to us. I take him into my shaky hand and stroke the tip of his cock. On a harsh intake of breath he slams his lips onto mine.

“Travis, please,” I mumble into his mouth, my voice needier than I intended.

A groan born of pleasure vibrates from his throat reaching me as he impatiently puts on a condom. Before he goes inside me, he whispers my name and places his lips on top of mine. I moan out his name, pushing my pelvic upwards, welcoming him.

At first, his movements are just as devastatingly slow as before, and it’s easy to match his tempo. He kisses my face as I grab the back of his head, but I don’t stop. I can’t stop. My hands are everywhere. Touching, exploring. His muscles twitch beneath my hungry fingers.

I whisper his name, my voice pleading for more, because he’s all that I can think about. Emotions burn behind my eyes so I close them painfully shut.

We move together faster, his left hand cradling my face so I open my eyes to him. Intensity brims from behind his eyes and I stop breathing as we watch each other. With my nails digging into his shoulder, I scream his name while his hand caresses the nape of my neck. After a few final jerky thrusts, Travis rests his forehead to mine. Together, we catch our breath.

Rolling me over so that I’m lying on top of him, he runs his fingers over my upper arm, leaving a blazing trail in the wake of such a simple touch. Playfully, he bites my bottom lip.

Trailer

Life Interrupted by Yessi Smith from Becca the Bibliophile on Vimeo.

 

About The Author

YessiSmith

Yessi Smith lives in South Florida with her husband, seven-year-old son, and newborn baby. She is also owned by a neurotic border collie and “ferocious” rottweiler.

She has a bachelor’s degree in business management and a master’s in human resource management. She has held several jobs, from picking up dog poop to upper management positions. Now, she hopes to leave the business world behind, so she can live full-time in a world that does not exist until she places her fingers on a keyboard and brings it to fruition.

Previous work includes Life’s A Cappella and Love, Always and New Forever.

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#YABookReport Wildflower by Jessica Prince (Release Blitz)

Title: Wildflower
Author: Jessica Prince
Genre: Contemporary Romantic Comedy

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Synopsis

At sixteen, Harlow Prewitt thought she’d found the love of her life. At seventeen, that love was put to the ultimate test. And at eighteen, it failed completely, shattering her beyond repair.

Leaving behind everything she had ever known, Harlow was determined to start over some place different, some place where memories of the past couldn’t follow. And she was never going back.

Or so she thought.

Noah Murphy has lived a life full of regrets. But Harlow’s unexpected return has given him another chance, and he’s determined to make this one count. Because a love like theirs isn’t something people find more than once in a lifetime. This time he won’t let her go. This time he’ll fight with everything he has. He might have lost her before, but he’ll be damned if he loses her the second time around.

**Wildflower is a STANDALONE Contemporary Romantic Comedy that follows characters introduced in Love Hate Relationship. It is not necessary to read Love Hate Relationship first.**

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excerpt

“Fuck you, Bobby Flay! Fuck you straight to hell!” I shouted at the computer as that stupid bastard talked about how easy cooking a turkey was. The son of a bitch was a stupid liar.

As Bobby prattled on about how the skin should be a golden brown and the bird was almost ready to come out of the oven, I had the immense desire to reach through my laptop screen and choke the life out of the dick for being so full of shit.

I pulled the foil back, closing my eyes and shooting up a quick prayer that the turkey had somehow miraculously cooked completely in the five minutes that had passed since I last checked it. Nope, still frozen.

“Cook, you stupid bird! Why won’t you cook? This is what you were born for!”

“Uh… what’s going on?”

I spun around to find Ethan standing in the doorway of the kitchen, a nervous expression on his face. Not that I blamed him for his concern, really. I was sure I looked like a psychopath standing there in Grammy’s lime green apron, congealed mac and cheese stuck in my hair, food covering me from top-to-toe like an abstract painting, turkey baster in hand being wielded like a sword.

The day had started off so well that morning. I woke up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, ready to tackle Thanksgiving dinner like a culinary pro, but somewhere along the way things started going wrong. Terribly, terribly wrong. It was as if the food was fighting back, revolting against the idea of being cooked to delicious perfection. My good mood went right down the drain—along with my metal slotted spoon that I couldn’t get loose from the garbage disposal—and I wanted to punch Thanksgiving in the throat for being an asshole.

“The oven’s broken,” I answered.

“But I just made a frozen pizza last night. It worked fine then.”

“Well it’s broken now!” I shouted, taking all of my anger and frustration out on my poor, unsuspecting little brother.

With hesitant steps, he bravely joined me in the kitchen, standing next to me and studying the old-school nobs on the piece of shit double oven. “Um, Low-Low?”

“What?”

“You set the temp on the bottom oven, not the top one.” Pulling the door of the bottom oven—the oven notcontaining the turkey—he released a gust of heat to prove his point. “And what’s wrong with that key lime pie?”

“Nothing’s wrong with it,” I gritted through clenched teeth.

“I’m pretty sure it’s not supposed to sink in the middle like that.” Ethan poked at the top of the pie, his face scrunched up in disgust. “And it’s all chunky. Gram’s pies never looked like this.”

I inhaled through my nose, counting to ten in my head before I responded. “Ethan?”

“Yeah?”

My words were low and measured as I threatened, “If you don’t get out of this kitchen right now, I’m going to shove that chunky pie down your throat and beat you with a frozen turkey leg.”

“I’m out,” he replied wisely before disappearing from the kitchen with the speed of an Olympic sprinter.

Bobby’s voice cut through the sound of blood rushing in my ears. “Now, all that’s left is to carve this baby up and serve it to the family. Mmmm, that’s delicious!

“Go to hell, you bastard!” I yelled at the screen. “I hope your turkey’s undercooked and you get E. coli and die of dysentery!”

Wildflower Teaser #5

Colors Novels

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About The Author

JessicaPrince

Born and raised around Houston Texas, Jessica spent most of her life complaining about the heat, humidity, and all around pain in the ass weather. It was only as an adult that she quickly realized the cost of living in Houston made up for not being able to breathe when she stepped outside. That’s why God created central air, after all.

Jessica is the mother of a perfect little boy–she refuses to accept that he inherited her attitude and sarcastic nature no matter what her husband says.

In addition to being a wife and mom, she’s also a wino, a coffee addict, and an avid lover of all types of books–romances still being her all time favs. Her husband likes to claim that reading is her obsession but she just says it’s a passion…there’s a difference. Not that she’d expect a boy to understand.

Jessica has been writing since she was a little girl, but thankfully grew out of drawing her own pictures for her stories before ever publishing her first book. Because an artist she is not.

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#YABookReport An Author’s Tale by Ellie Keys (Released Again)

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Title:  An Author’s Tale

Series: Stephanie Daniels’ Story, Book 1

Publisher: Booktrope Editions

Re-Release Date: Jan. 12, 2016

Cover Artist: Cheeky Cherry Cover Designs

Genre: Romantic Comedy

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Excerpt: 

Adjustment period. That is what I’m calling this time. I have nothing else to call it. I thought this would be simple. I thought I’d be able to breeze through this and keep it as I saw it in my mind. I expected us to be able to cohabitate as roommates would. It didn’t matter to me that we were expecting a baby together. All I cared about was keeping things civil. I didn’t want to argue. I had no strength to fight because, let me tell you, having Daniel White’s baby is no cakewalk. This child is kicking my ass in the energy department. I mean I have none, at all.

I didn’t understand before why women slept so much during pregnancy. I completely understand now. Hell, I applaud any of the ones that decided to have another. This shit right here. Oh my DAMN! I feel like I should change my name to exhausted, hateful bitch. I’ve heard those words mumbled quite a bit over the last few months.

Paul is still purposely annoying the hell out of Danny. I’ll admit that I am still enjoying every part of that. I guess it’s partly because of how demanding and alpha he was in the beginning. What am I talking about? How alpha he still is? What part of the male psyche tells them that once they’ve pumped their seed into a woman and life has begun to form that they have control over the woman’s body? Yes, I’m carrying the man’s child, but I am not some prizewinning horse or champion-breeding mare that “belongs” to him. I’ve voiced that opinion on several occasions, which resulted in one of the first times that I heard the mumbled “hateful bitch”.

I think he might just regret having picked up his life and moved it here to the good ole state of Ohio. I know he has to miss the warmth that was there in Sacramento. I’ve asked him a couple times if he misses it or thinks he’ll ever return. The question usually comes when he gets on my damn nerves being his general male self. I brought it up yesterday because all of his maleness was making my pregnant ass horny as hell.

“So, do you think you’ll be going to Sacramento soon to visit your family?” I asked as he finished fixing me a plate of meatloaf, mashed potatoes and gravy (homemade) with corn, broccoli and homemade biscuits.

He looked at me and smirked, “Still trying to get rid of me, are you? You can let that go, beautiful. I’m here. I know there’s a lot about me that irritates the ever-living shit out of you. I chalk part of that up to the pregnancy hormones. A part of that goes to you being in a situation that you didn’t expect to be in. Then a tiny little portion is actually directed at me for my part in your being pregnant. Now that I know that I’ve gotten on your nerves today, should I be expecting a visit from your friend, Paul?”

There goes that idea.

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about the author

Ellie Keys is an author of contemporary romance, paranormal romance and mystery. She spends a great deal of her time lending her unrelenting pen to the voices that have taken over her mind. The characters that readers will find in her works have a demanding nature. Ellie is thrilled to be able to share the stories from the wealth of works that she has created.

She lives in Georgia with her son. Her loves outside of writing are reading a good book and losing herself in a great movie. Inspiration comes from everything around her. There is a great deal in store for lovers of romance lovers and suspense seekers.

Social Media: stalk me

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