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Teaser: Inked Hearts by Lindsay Detwiler ~ coming Oct 21, 2017!

Inked Hearts

by Lindsay Detwiler
Publication Date: October 21, 2017
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance

Preorder: Am

azon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | iBooks

“Six years, a complex about my freckles, a love for pastrami, and a fear of failure.
That’s what he gave me before slaughtering my heart and my faith in men.”

Suffering from the sting of betrayal, twenty-eight-year-old Avery Johannas quits her job and moves hundreds of miles away to Ocean City, the beach town of her dreams. With the help of her zany roommate, Jodie, Avery finds a new career, home, and freedom. Throughout her self-exploration, she makes only one rule: She won’t give her heart to a man again. She’s living for herself this time.

But then she meets Jesse.

A tattoo shop owner, the green-eyed Jesse Pearce is wild with a touch of mystery. As Jesse and Avery explore Ocean City and their friendship, they’ll have a hard time drawing a line in the sand between their hearts.

When summer nights get a little more heated than either expected, they’ll have to ask themselves: Can they let go of their notions of love, or will their hearts be permanently inked by past pain?

About Lindsay Detwiler

An English teacher, an author, and a fan of anything pink and/or glittery, Lindsay’s the English teacher cliché; she loves cats, reading, Shakespeare, and Poe.

She currently lives in her hometown with her husband, Chad (her junior high sweetheart); their cats, Arya, Amelia, Alice, Marjorie, and Bob; and their Mastiff, Henry.

Lindsay’s goal with her writing is to show the power of love and the beauty of life while also instilling a true sense of realism in her work. Some reviewers have noted that her books are not the “typical romance.” With her novels coming from a place of honesty, Lindsay examines the difficult questions, looks at the tough emotions, and paints the pictures that are sometimes difficult to look at. She wants her fiction to resonate with readers as realistic, poetic, and powerful. Lindsay wants women readers to be able to say, “I see myself in that novel.” She wants to speak to the modern woman’s experience while also bringing a twist of something new and exciting. Her aim is for readers to say, “That could happen,” or “I feel like the characters are real.” That’s how she knows she’s done her job.

Lindsay’s hope is that by becoming a published author, she can inspire some of her students and other aspiring writers to pursue their own passions. She wants them to see that any dream can be attained and publishing a novel isn’t out of the realm of possibility.

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Cover Reveal: Tate (The Temptation Series V) by Ella Frank

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“The Temptation Series by Ella Frank was proof that if we open our minds and our hearts to love without boundaries, the result is nothing less than extraordinary.”

— Audrey Carlan, #1 New York Times Bestselling Author

Tate, the sexy new installment in The Temptation Series by Ella Frank is coming September 12th!!!

TATE-FW-FINAL

Tate (Temptation #5) by Ella Frank

Publishing Date: September 12th, 2017

Genre: Contemporary MM Romance

Cover Designer: Shanoff Formats

Photographer: Fred Goudon

Model: Clément Becq

William Tate Morrison – The man who came into my life and turned my entire world—and me—on its ass.

Logan Mitchell has always been a man with a plan.

One for work. One for his relationship. And one for his life. Which is exactly the way he liked it—until recently.

Now with words like marriage and weddings floating around his head, Logan’s plans have suddenly changed course, and where they want him to go has him feeling somewhat distracted.

Tate Morrison knows Logan better than anybody else—or so he thinks. So when his lawyer is finding it hard to sleep at night, he chalks it up to the craziness that has recently descended on their lives.

Never in a million years would he guess what’s really on Logan’s mind.

Tate is the fifth book in the Temptation Series, and the next chapter in the lives of the two men we have all come to know and love.

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Start the Series Today!

(Free in Kindle Unlimited)

Try (Temptation #1)

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Take (Temptation #2)

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Trust (Temptation #3)

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Tease (Temptation #4)

Amazon US: http://amzn.to/2vTJKsV

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About Ella Frank:

Ella Frank is the USA Today Bestselling author of the Temptation series, including Try, Take, and Trust. Her Exquisite series has been praised as “scorching hot!” and “enticingly sexy!”

A life-long fan of the romance genre, Ella writes contemporary and erotic fiction and lives with her husband in Portland, OR. You can reach her on the web at www.ellafrank.com and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ella.frank.author

Some of her favorite authors include Tiffany Reisz, Kresley Cole, Riley Hart, J.R. Ward, Erika Wilde, Gena Showalter, and Carly Philips.

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Email: admin@ellafrank.com

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Inked Hearts by Lindsay Detwiler is coming October 21, 2017!

Inked Hearts

by Lindsay Detwiler
Publication Date: October 21, 2017
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance

Preorder: Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | iBooks

“Six years, a complex about my freckles, a love for pastrami, and a fear of failure.
That’s what he gave me before slaughtering my heart and my faith in men.”

Suffering from the sting of betrayal, twenty-eight-year-old Avery Johannas quits her job and moves hundreds of miles away to Ocean City, the beach town of her dreams. With the help of her zany roommate, Jodie, Avery finds a new career, home, and freedom. Throughout her self-exploration, she makes only one rule: She won’t give her heart to a man again. She’s living for herself this time.

But then she meets Jesse.

A tattoo shop owner, the green-eyed Jesse Pearce is wild with a touch of mystery. As Jesse and Avery explore Ocean City and their friendship, they’ll have a hard time drawing a line in the sand between their hearts.

When summer nights get a little more heated than either expected, they’ll have to ask themselves: Can they let go of their notions of love, or will their hearts be permanently inked by past pain?

About Lindsay Detwiler

An English teacher, an author, and a fan of anything pink and/or glittery, Lindsay’s the English teacher cliché; she loves cats, reading, Shakespeare, and Poe.

She currently lives in her hometown with her husband, Chad (her junior high sweetheart); their cats, Arya, Amelia, Alice, Marjorie, and Bob; and their Mastiff, Henry.

Lindsay’s goal with her writing is to show the power of love and the beauty of life while also instilling a true sense of realism in her work. Some reviewers have noted that her books are not the “typical romance.” With her novels coming from a place of honesty, Lindsay examines the difficult questions, looks at the tough emotions, and paints the pictures that are sometimes difficult to look at. She wants her fiction to resonate with readers as realistic, poetic, and powerful. Lindsay wants women readers to be able to say, “I see myself in that novel.” She wants to speak to the modern woman’s experience while also bringing a twist of something new and exciting. Her aim is for readers to say, “That could happen,” or “I feel like the characters are real.” That’s how she knows she’s done her job.

Lindsay’s hope is that by becoming a published author, she can inspire some of her students and other aspiring writers to pursue their own passions. She wants them to see that any dream can be attained and publishing a novel isn’t out of the realm of possibility.

Website| Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon | Newsletter | Youtube

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Excerpt Reveal: Twisted Twosome by Meghan Quinn!

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Twisted Twosome, an all new sexy, laugh out loud romantic comedy from Meghan Quinn is coming August 3rd!

TwistedTwosome

Twisted Twosome by Meghan Quinn
Publication Date: August 3, 2017

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Racer McKay is a broody bastard.

From the moment I met him, he’s been rude, irritable, and unbearable.

A contractor working to remodel my parents pool house for extra cash, he stomps around in those clunky construction boots with his tool belt wrapped around his narrow waist, and a chip on his shoulder.

Racer McKay is also infuriatingly . . . sexy as hell. I want to take that pencil tucked behind his ear, and draw lazy lines slowly up and down his body all the while wanting to strangle him at the same time.

We try to stay out of each other’s way . . . that is until I have no other option but to ask for his help.

But what I don’t realize is he needs me just as much as I need him. I have money he’s desperate for, and he holds the key to making my dreams come true.

Our pranks turn from sarcastic banter, to sexual tension and lust-filled glances. Bickering matches quickly morph into slow burn moments. We’re hot, we’re cold. We push and pull. I need him, I don’t want him. We’re on the verge of combusting with an agreement dangling dangerously between us. Neither one of us can afford to lose one another and yet, we’re finding it quite hard to decipher the line that rests between love and hate.

Excerpt:

Why is it so goddamn drafty in here? I grip my hammer in my hand, my tool belt riding low on my hips, and my stereotypical construction hat rests on my head as I finish up the project I was hired to do.

Taking a quick look around, I search the bedroom looking for an open window or AC vent that’s blowing a cold breeze right against my dick and sac, making it almost impossible to look semi-decent in this scrap of fabric.

“Mmm, I think you forgot a nail on the ground over there,” says the throaty, smoke-filled voice of Mrs. Sage, who is lying across her chase lounge wearing a silky pink robe that is barely tied around her waist. She makes it her mission to show me as much skin as possible, and as we’re talking about skin showing . . .

I bend down to pick up the nail she’s pointing at as the thin strip of man thong material rides higher up my ass crack than I care to admit.

Let’s pause for a second.

Are you wondering to yourself, is Racer really wearing a man-thong as he finishes building a solid oak shelf?

The answer is yes. Yes, I am.

I’m Racer McKay and I wear man thongs for older, rich women while I work on simple projects around their houses. Excuse me, I mean mansions.

Don’t worry. Yes, I’m also very much ashamed to admit the level I’ve stooped to in order to make some cash. I have my pride, but right now, when I’m offered three hundred dollars more to build a shelf in a man thong, I’m choosing to seize the opportunity.

Self-respect was thrown out the window two years ago when a pile of bills and responsibilities were thrust in my direction without any preparation or warning. Making money is as vital as breathing to me, so I will take it any way I can get it.

Cue the man thong.

“Oh, you’re right. Here it is,” I say, holding up the nail. “Thanks for the help, Mrs. Sage. I would hate to see you hurt yourself from my lack of attention to detail.”

She waves me off and puffs her chest toward me, her robe slipping farther apart, showing the cleavage of a very saggy pair of breasts. I’ve seen my fair share of boobs and even though I don’t mingle sex with work, I can’t help but want Mrs. Sage to remove the robe just so I can see what she has hidden under the silky fabric.

How saggy are we talking here?

I’m interested for exploratory reasons, for knowledge of every kind of breast out there. Because right now, Mrs. Sage looks like she’s rocking a pair of pancakes that have been flattened by a steamroller.

“You would just have to nurse me back to health if that happened.” Her finger trails up her varicose vein-covered leg to her geriatric hip. I hold back the shiver that wants to spin up my spine.

All I can say is . . . can’t unsee that.

I nervously laugh and tuck my hammer into its holster. “Not much of a nurse, Mrs. Sage. I might hurt you even more.”

“I don’t mind getting hurt.” She starts to spread her legs and that’s when I call it a day.

I turn around quickly, snag my jeans and slip them up and over my legs, struggling with my tool belt getting in the way. Once things are in place, I remove my hat, put on my shirt, and then cover my hair with a backwards baseball cap. The peep show is over.

Once dressed, I gather my tools, tuck my construction hat under my arm, and turn to Mrs. Sage. This is my least favorite part, getting the old bird to pay up.

“Leaving already?” She pouts, lipstick on her teeth.

“Unfortunately, I have another engagement I’m running late for.” A lie, but it’s the only way I know to get out of here.

“That’s a shame. I really should book you for a whole day. That way you can’t skirt out of here earlier than I’m ready for.”

She walks out of the den and into the entryway where she opens her purse and pulls out a wad of one-hundred-dollar bills. My brain explodes from the amount of cash in her purse, as if it’s chump change she’s ready to throw around at a parade dedicated to her and her riches.

“What do I owe you? Six hundred?”

Fuck, it’s five hundred and if I wasn’t a nice guy, I wouldn’t correct her, but I believe in good karma. Especially considering where my bad luck has gotten me—trying to climb my way out of a large debt. I try to put as many good vibes out in the world as possible.

“We actually agreed upon five hundred, Mrs. Sage.”

“Such a bargain.” She flips through her cash, pulls out five bills—damn—and hands them over to me. “Shall I call for my next project?”

I pocket the cash. “Email is best, Mrs. Sage. I always feel awkward taking phone calls at work.”

“Such a hard worker.” She pats my face and leans forward, lips puckered, but I step to the side avoiding an attack from her old-lady lips.

As I depart, I wave my hand in the air and say, “Thanks, Mrs. Sage. I look forward to your next email.”

Out of her reach, I toss my tools in the back of my truck, enter the cab, and place my hands on the steering wheel as I exhale a long pent-up breath.

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About the Author:

A BLONDE AT HEART

Born in New York and raised in Southern California, Meghan has grown into a sassy, peanut butter eating, blonde haired swearing, animal hoarding lady. She is known to bust out and dance if “It’s Raining Men” starts beating through the air and heaven forbid you get a margarita in her, protect your legs because they may be humped.

Once she started commuting for an hour and twenty minutes every day to work for three years, she began to have conversations play in her head, real life, deep male voices and dainty lady coos kind of conversations. Perturbed and confused, she decided to either see a therapist about the hot and steamy voices running through her head or start writing them down. She decided to go with the cheaper option and started writing… enter her first novel, Caught Looking.

Now you can find the spicy, most definitely on the border of lunacy, kind of crazy lady residing in Colorado with the love of her life and her five, furry four legged children, hiking a trail or hiding behind shelves at grocery stores, wondering what kind of lube the nervous stranger will bring home to his wife. Oh and she loves a good boob squeeze!

MeghanQuinn

Connect with Meghan:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pg/meghanquinnauthor
Instagram: authormeghanquinn
Website: http://www.authormeghanquinn.com/

Sign Up for Meghan’s Newsletter: http://bit.ly/MQWrapUp

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Chapter Reveal from So Good by Nicola Rendell!

 

 

 

Coming August 7th

 

 

 

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On the roof of a house outside Truelove, Maine, master carpenter Max Doyle looks down through a skylight and sees the most beautiful woman he’s ever laid eyes on. She’s naked, she’s gorgeous, and everything about her is perfect, down to the ball-busting tattoo of a rose that wraps around her hip. But it isn’t just any woman making his knees buckle. It’s his best friend, Rosie Madden. And as he stands there, mesmerized and precariously close to toppling off the roof, he knows he’ll never, ever be able to look at her the same way again.

Rosie can’t help but notice that Max is suddenly acting very strange—lots of long stares, totally tongue-tied, and not at all like the slightly cocky hunk she’s proud to call her best friend. She can’t figure it out, until later that night when Max rescues her from the world’s worst date, challenges her to a game of pool, and shows her just exactly what she’s got him thinking about. Repeatedly.

But life is complicated. Rosie’s cat, Julia Caesar, wants to eat Max’s dog Cupcake for an afternoon snack. A dream job threatens to pull them apart. And another glance through the skylight changes everything, one more time. Yet try as they might, they can’t go back to being just friends, because falling in love with the one you’ve always adored?

It feels so good.

 


1
Max

I wasn’t planning to see her naked—I swear to God, I wasn’t. The day was a scorcher, one of those godforsaken New England summer days that makes a guy wonder how he ever said fuck you to winter. I stood on the roof her house, three stories above the Maine woods, with a far-off view of the ocean. It was pretty, yeah, like the kind of shit real estate companies put on complimentary calendars. But in that heat, it was like standing on top of a goddamned toaster, turned all the way to burnt. I could feel that shit in my socks, straight through my work boots. At my feet was a stack of shake shingles, old school, to replace the ones that were missing. Her house had a few slow leaks, and one over her bathroom that made the ceiling look like a huge Rorschach test. She said it definitely looked like a rose in bloom, I said it definitely looked like Batman. But I told her hidden meanings wouldn’t make shit for difference when the ceiling collapsed into the tub, so there I was. Fucking miserable work, but I was glad to do it. Glad to do anything for her—anything she needed at all.
In the forest on every side around the cottage, the cicadas screeched. It sounded like a needle squeaking off a record player. I knelt down by the stack of shingles, using my utility knife to score a line through one to fit a nearby gap. I snapped it with my hands and tossed the scrap end off the edge of the roof. A trickle of sweat ran down my forehead, and I wiped my face with my forearm. One droplet got away, sparkling in the sun. It caught my eye, and I watched it fall, as it landed on the skylight window with a splat.
​And that was when it happened. Boom.
​There she was, right under me. She couldn’t have been more than six feet away, but she felt even closer. I had a direct line of sight down into her gorgeous, soft cleavage, bright and pure in the sunshine. Maybe it was the heat, or maybe it was the surprise of seeing her, but at first I didn’t really process that it was Rosie at all. My dude brain said, I want that woman.
​Then my regular brain said, Don’t be an asshole, man. It’s Rosie. Have some respect.
Respect I definitely had, but of course I’d thought about seeing her naked before. She was so fucking beautiful that any man would have thought about it. Sometimes, like right then looking down into her dress, I couldn’t fucking help it. Sometimes we’d be out doing something ordinary, like eating dinner, or I’d be changing her oil, or she’d be teaching me to do shit I should have learned at some point in the last 34 years, like iron a dress shirt without screwing up the collar, and I’d catch myself watching her cleavage rise and fall as she breathed, or thinking how nice her legs were, and I’d think, Holy hell.
Now she was directly underneath the skylight. The angle of the sun cast my shadow down the roofline, away from the skylight, so I didn’t give myself away. Like that, I watched her. I gave in to my dude brain and just took her in. Her light brown hair glinted, and a beam of light caught the curve of her shoulder.
That was when the goddamned striptease started, beginning with the left strap of her sundress.
Her movements were graceful, sexy, sassy—the sway of her hips, the shake of her shoulders. I realized I might be in real fucking trouble, because I loved that sexy sass. It wasn’t normal Rosie-cute. It was naughty, like nothing I’d ever seen her do before. I liked it so much, I couldn’t look away. She shimmied out of her sundress, and it fell to the floor in a pool at her feet. No big deal, I tried to tell myself. I’d seen her in her bikini a thousand times. This was no different from that.
Except it was, because then she reached around to undo her bra. Before I could tell myself Don’t look, dude. It’s Rosie, don’t look, it was too fucking late. The straps slid down off her shoulders, and for one perfect second got caught on her nipples, swinging in the air before falling to the floor.
Holy…
I pressed my clenched fist to my mouth and groaned into my hand. All my blood was leaving my head. The roofline was getting wobbly.
It wasn’t like I didn’t know her curves; we’d spent whole summers on the beach—I knew her shape and her softness, I knew her lines and her freckles. Every curve of Rosie Madden was sacred in my book. Fucking douchebags on the beach giving her eyes had to answer to me and my eyes, right behind her. She did that to me—I was one punch away from defending her honor, always. But this? This was different. Seeing your best friend in a bikini at a clam bake is one thing. Protecting your best friend from assholes with wandering eyes is part of the guy-girl best friend creed. But seeing your best friend, absolutely naked in her bedroom, without knowing she can see you? That was a different deal.
…Shit.
Part of me knew I should keep my eyes off of her. She thought she was in private, I had no business spying. Anyway, I didn’t want to be that guy. I hated that guy. But the other part of me, fuck. The other part of me was nothing but want.
Then she bent at the hips, and time slowed down, like some kind of stop-motion Jackie Chan kung fu sequence. All the cicadas went silent, at least in my head they did. The wind stopped blowing through the trees. It was just her, and her perfection, in the sunshine underneath me. I felt like I was on one of those glass-bottomed boats, looking at a world I never knew existed.
She tossed her bra aside, and it landed on her neatly made bed. She shimmied out of her panties, shaking her ass as she did. I growled into my fist, and that’s when I went down into a crouch.
Because as she shimmied I saw it in a V above her ass. My kryptonite. A skimpy thong.
All these years, all these decades, I’d had her pegged for cute cotton panties—pastel polka dots, thin stripes, shit that was sweet and sensible. But I was so fucking wrong. Black. Strappy. Tiny. Not sensible at all. Now it was in a rolled-up ball at her ankles. Using her toes, she plucked her panties from the floor, and caught them on one finger.
Fucking A.
She was completely naked, not a thread on her. Every thought I’d ever had got sucked out of my brain, like dishwater down the sink drain. What was left was only one true thing, and it wasn’t about her ass, or her skin, or her breasts. It was the one thing I think I’d always known but never let myself feel. Until that moment.
She is the most beautiful woman in the world.
Part of the reason I thought that was, yeah, obviously, she was fucking stunning, every inch of her straight out of a dream. Not just my dream, either. Guys would slow down on Main Street to give her the elevator stare, and I’d quietly crack my knuckles and give them don’t-you-fucking-dare stares. But the other part, the part that wasn’t in my gut but that was in my heart, was that I fucking adored her. Adored her so hard it hurt.
She crouched down to pick up her dress, lifting the delicate straps with her small, sweet fingers. She pivoted, so I had a view of her other side of her body for the first time. There it was.
The tattoo.
I groaned again. I wasn’t prepared for this shit; three stories up, that body was dangerous. It was a rose tattoo, snaking around her hip, on the milk-white skin that was always under her bikini bottoms. The part of her I’d never seen. It was serious ink, real art, not some namby-pamby temporary tattoo or some amateur shit she might’ve gotten in an hour at a tattoo parlor on a dare on a cruise to Puerto Rico. It was complicated, detailed, and artful. Multiple visits to some tattoo artist, touching that creamy skin—goddamn.
It took every fucking ounce of strength I had, but I did manage to look away. I felt as disoriented as if I’d been sucker punched. Not cotton—lace. Not cute—hot. Not my friend—my fucking fantasy.
She was so important to me, such an integral part of my world, that I’d never let myself think of her as more than what she was. She was like running water, or electricity, or the sunshine itself. She was one of those things that was perfect exactly as it was, and one of those things only an idiot would want to change. I never looked at her and thought, I wish I could have more of her than I do already. That would be like thinking, I wish I could turn that cold glass of water into a swimming pool. Or, I wish electricity came through the air. Fuck that noise. Perfect things are perfect things, and Rosie Madden was a perfect goddamned thing, from the tips of her toes to the freckles on her nose. And that rose, holy fuck, that rose.
I was strong, but not that strong, and I let my eyes move down again. She’d disappeared from view, mostly, except for the edge of her ass. I watched her rifle through her closet, and a few dresses fluttered onto her bed. On her bedside table, I caught a glimpse of the picture she always kept there, of the two of us together. The memories flew back at me like a runaway train. The first time I’d ever seen her was the day my parents and I moved to Truelove, at the start of middle school. The first time I ever saw her, she was volunteering at the community gardens. She had a smudge of dirt on her cheek, and I thought she’d looked super badass. I’d helped her dig up carrots and had been too fucking tongue-tied to say a goddamned word.
That’s how I felt, all over again times a thousand.
I’d never made a move. She’d cried on my shoulder through a line of guys who were never good enough for her. Jocks and pricks and a brief and seriously unfortunate stint with a guy who was a drummer for a reggae band who I hated so much it made me grind my teeth. But I never said shit about it. She was perfect even when she made mistakes. Tips of her toes. Freckles on her nose.
Never mind that rose. Like Banksy took on a temple.
One more time, I glanced down. Now she was sitting on her bed, and I saw that dark V shadow between her thighs. Oh fuck, oh fuck, oh fuck. I watched her put on a pair of red panties. Equally skimpy, equally not-sensible, equally ball-busting. They were only tragic because they hid the parts of her I’d never seen before.
Christ. All. Mighty.
As the world started to spin, I realized fixing the shingles could wait. I’d been working on old houses long enough to know that if you found yourself on a dangerously sloping roof and felt like you might be less than 100% on the ball, you needed to reconsider your game plan. I needed to get my shit together—that body had me totally fucking derailed. So I made my way down the roof, basically bouldering down backward. I focused on my grip, and my steps, like a climber coming down from Everest without enough oxygen. When I got to the gutter, I worked my way around the corner, standing on the eave, and hooked my leg over my ladder, making sure to put one foot after another and keep a tight grip on every rung.
When I stepped off the ladder, I grabbed a bottle of water that she’d left for me and filled up my palm and then splashed my face. My sweat stung my eyes through the droplets of water, and I rubbed away the tears. I heard the hinges on the screen door creak. “All done?” she asked.
I opened my eyes. They stung like hell, but I didn’t give a fuck. There she was, in a dress I’d seen before. Striped and sweet. But now I knew the secret. There were red panties under there. Red. Cherry red. My eyes fell on that part of her hip that I knew was inked.
“Max?”
I managed somehow to snap out of it. “Sorry. Getting there. Spotted something weird with the skylight.”
Rosie cocked her head. “Were you up there? Above my room?”
Awesome, dude. Smooth. “Just noticed it out of the corner of my eye.”
“I don’t like you being on the roof.” She pursed her lips. “Too steep. Promise you’ll get some ropes up there or something? Promise?” She reached out and put her hand to my arm, her fingers with their short pink nails pressing into my tanned skin. I had a quick but totally unavoidable image of her gripping my forearm in a very different situation. I want that. So fucking…
Oh, for fuck’s sake.
When I didn’t answer—I knew that if I opened my mouth the first words out would be You. Me. Right Now.—she looked up at the roof and squinted into the sun. She peered suspiciously up at me and shifted her nose, kind of like a bunny. Adorable. She wasn’t very tall, so whenever she looked at me she had to lift her chin, which used to be cute. But now looked…like everything I’d ever wanted. “Have you had too much sun?”
​I was vaguely aware that she’d said some words, but I wasn’t hearing them because I realized that I couldn’t see her bra straps, so that had to mean she was she was wearing a strapless…
Knock. That. Shit. Off. “I’m good.”
“Mmm.” She nodded and furrowed her delicate eyebrows, which had never looked so pretty as they did at that moment. I didn’t even know eyebrows could be pretty. They’re eyebrows, for fuck’s sake. But suddenly I felt like for the last ten years, I’d been looking at her through a standard definition television, with a shitty cable connection. Now someone had handed me an HDMI cable, and she was in 1080 dots per inch. Christ.
“Lemme make you a sandwich. You’re acting strange.”
Rather than answer her, I dumped the remaining half a bottle of water over my head, like Andre Agassi used to do between break points at the French Open.
“Ham? Or turkey? I’ve got both. Or chicken salad!” She clapped her hands together, compressing her cleavage. “Do you want a pickle?”
She means an actual pickle, you fuckwit. “Surprise me,” I told her, and dragged my eyes off the curve of her cleavage. I grabbed the bottom of my T-shirt and pressed it to my eyes. I had to get out of there. I needed a cold shower, or a call from my tax guy, or an unexpectedly urgent trip to the DMV—anything to stop myself seeing her stark naked every goddamned time I looked at her. Anything to get my mind off that ink.
As I wiped my face, she cleared her throat, and I dropped my shirt. “What?”
She pressed her lips together and rocked back on her sandals. “Nothing!”
I followed her eyes and glanced down at my fly, but the stallion was still in the barn. “Come on,” I said, finding myself smiling right along with her. “What are you looking at?”
“Just…” She swallowed hard. “Looking good there, champ.” She glanced at my stomach, where I’d shown her my bare abs. She made a fist and gave me a mock punch, soft and sweet. “That P90X is working great for you.”
Here we go again with the fitness videos. For everything else she was—beautiful, smart, funny—she was also a fucking ball-buster sometimes. She’d worked up this whole narrative that I spent my nights with Tony Horton on my houseboat, getting cut and doing reps while I drank protein shakes with a straw straight from the blender. It was her only explanation for why I didn’t have a girlfriend. P90X it had to be, she’d said. Or maybe, she’d whispered like a co-conspirator, “Jazzercise.” Now, though, I had a better idea than ever about why I was so picky: not a single woman held a candle to her. I’d been fucking blind to it, but now the mist had burned right off. “I’ve never even seen the opening sequence. Never have. Never will.”
“They’re streaming now!”
​“Christ.”
Rosie snorted and made a long wheeeeee. “Sure. Surrrrrrre,” she said, stifling her giggle. “One ham-and-turkey, coming right up.” She spun on her sandals and disappeared into the house. Hips swinging. Red panties invisible, but not to me.
Not anymore.

 

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Nicola Rendell writes dirty, funny, erotic romance. She likes a stiff drink and a well-frosted cake. She is at an unnamed Ivy and prefers to remain mostly anonymous for professional reasons. She has a PhD in English and an MFA in Creative Writing from schools that shall not be named here. She loves to cook, sew, and play the piano. She realizes that her hobbies might make her sound like an old lady and she’s totally okay with that. She lives with her husband and her dogs. She is from Taos, New Mexico.
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Read the first 3 chapters from Abbie Roads Saving Mercy!

We’re thrilled to share the first THREE chapters of Saving Mercy with you! This is to celebrate a rare sale from $6.15 to 99¢! Get this book before the price goes back up!

Series: Fatal Truth Series
Genre: Dark Romantic Thriller
Publication Date: April 4, 2017

Synopsis

He’s found her at last…

Cain Killion knows himself to be a damaged man. His only redeeming quality? The extrasensory connection to blood that he uses to catch killers. His latest case takes a macabre turn when he discovers a familiar and haunting symbol linking the crime to his horrific past—and the one woman who might understand what it means.

Only to lose her to a nightmare

Mercy Ledger is brave, resilient, beautiful—and in terrible danger. The moment Cain finds her the line between good and evil blurs and the only thing clear to them is that they belong together. Love is the antidote for blood—but is their bond strong enough to overcome the madness that stalks them?

 

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SAVING MERCY

 

It’s a sad testament to the state of humanity that we elevate serial killers to the level of mega-celebrity.

~Ellsworth Garyington, M.D, Journal of Human and Philosophical Studies

 

Chapter 1

The air reeked of dirty pennies and death. Days ago the bodies had been removed, but Cain Killion could still feel the desperate energy of the dying and almost—almost—hear the echoes of their screams imprinted on the bones of the house. He abhorred the sight of blood and yet here he was standing in another murder house, in front of another wall smeared, splattered, and sprayed with gore.

His heart banged against the cage of his ribs, trying to bust out and make a break for it. A bead of sweat slid in agonizing slowness down the center of his spine.

“You don’t look so good.” MacNeil Anderson stepped into his line of sight, diverting his attention away from the blood. The furrows around Mac’s eyes cut deeper than normal and three days’ worth of old man stubble fuzzed his cheeks, giving him a haggard and homeless appearance. Not exactly the look the FBI was going for when they promoted Mac to Senior Special Agent.

Cain almost smiled at his own thoughts, but laughter no longer existed in this place. Only horror could thrive here now.

“Do I ever look good when I’m about to…?” Yeah. There wasn’t a name for what he did. To the bureaucrats with their thumbs jammed up their asses Mac called it profiling—had to call it something. But it wasn’t profiling. Not at all. What he had to do with the blood was something worse than profiling. So much worse.

“This is different.” Mac reached up and put his dry palm on Cain’s forehead. “You sick? Have a fever?”

Cain might be thirty years old and lived on his own since he was eighteen, but Mac had never outgrown the role of his adopted dad.

“You can always walk away.” Mac made this offer at every kill scene.

And every time, Cain’s legs twitched with the urge to run. Only determination, masochism, and the promise of sick satisfaction kept him locked in place. “I’m staying. I always stay.”

“I’d stop calling you out for these cases, but I know you’d just find someone else who would.” Mac’s words were slow and glossed with sadness.

“No one else has the history I have. No one else can do what I do. No one else can give you the information I can.” Yeah. His profiles were more accurate, more detailed than anything a traditional profiler could come up with. In the majority of cases his work guided law enforcement directly to their perpetrator. “It’d be stupid not to call me.” Not to mention he needed to be around that dynamic duo—blood and death. They stripped away his mask of normalcy leaving him naked to the one truth about himself he could never forget.

He was Killer Killion’s Kid—Triple K—the media called him. The spawn of a killer with the genetic predisposition to be a murdering machine. One of the only ways he’d found to curb the ugly urges was to force himself to attend these murder scenes. Force himself to witness the destruction.

His deepest, darkest, dirtiest secret—the thing he would never utter out loud because it terrified him: Sometimes he enjoyed himself.

“Son, you don’t have anything to prove. Not to me.” Mac used a caring tone, but that word—son—threatened to transport Cain back to his childhood. Back to his biological father using that word like a curse.

Not going there.

Cain stepped around Mac and moved to look out at window. The Victorian home sat on a miniature peninsula of land that jutted out into a large pond. Such an odd place for a house. A beautiful place, breathtaking, and yet eerie in its loneliness and total isolation. Just the kind of place Cain loved.

Had location been a consideration for the killer? Had he finished with his bloody work then stood in this very spot staring out the window at the water?

Cain sucked in a breath, held it for as long as his lungs would allow then blew it out slowly. “I know I don’t have anything to prove to you. I do this for me.” He tried to make his tone firm, but it came out a little shaky. Mac the-FBI-guy would hear it, but Mac his-adopted-dad wouldn’t press. Time for a change of subject. “You notice anything odd about this place?”

“It’s not the typical.” Mac’s words were spoken on a sigh. “Not that there is a typical. This just isn’t like any other location I’ve been called to investigate.”

“Yeah. Victorian house. In the woods. On a pond. I get why our guy would like the isolation of this place. But there’s something more. It has to do with…” He had trouble finding to words to describe the gut-level truth inside him. “… all of it. The house. The woods. The pond. The family. It’s like this guy wanted the complete package.”

Mac nodded, his expression serious as a gravedigger. “You get that from the blood?”

“Just a feeling I have.” It was the kind of place he’d choose if he were going to plan a murder. Kind of like how salt and sweet tasted so good together—this was violence and peace in one location.

Enough stalling. He turned away from the window and faced the room.

Three walls were covered in Victorian era wallpaper—rich gold background, red blossoms on a vine, and fancy peacocks. Ostentatious was the word that came to mind. One wall, the longest, largest wall had been painted the same color as the paper’s background. Yeah. Four walls of peacocks and posies might’ve caused bleeding eyeballs.

Finally, he forced himself to look at the blood on the wall. Rosettes of red seeped into the wallpaper, the fat watercolor splotches almost blending in with the flowers.

Mac cleared his throat as if gearing up for a formal speech. “The techs released the scene this morning. They worked round the clock to get everything cataloged and bagged so we could get you on this ASAP. The blood is, of course clean, I wouldn’t have called you in otherwise.” He pointed to the three distinct blood pools. “The family—Dad, Mom, girl—were found here. Killed here, too. Forensics places their time of death at—”“Mac.” Cain spoke the name loud enough to smother whatever the guy had been about to say. “Quiet.” He needed the absence of sound to see what happened. And he needed to do it now before he pussied out.Mac clamped his lips closed, nodded, and moved across the room—out of the way.Just fucking get it over with.Cain knelt at the altar of blood. The sweet scent of rotting biological material an abomination to his nose and yet, foul anticipation crawled underneath his skin. His mind slid sideways like it always did when around the red stuff. Back to his childhood. Back to a time when he was very much his father’s son. Back to when blood covered his skin—the slick, silky, warmness of it so wrong and yet so horribly soothing at the same time.He slapped his hands down into the congealed sludge. The coldness sent pleasant shock waves up his arms. He didn’t want to feel pleasure, didn’t want to enjoy this, but that other part of him had terrible intentions. Helpless to stop himself, he smeared his hands around in the red like a kid playing with finger paints. Only when they were coated with the family’s blood did he raise them to his face.A miniscule part of him rebelled against what he was about to do, but the rebellion was quashed before it began. He spread the blood over his forehead, his cheeks, coating his skin in the thick, sweet, goo. He painted his neck, his bare arms, then lifted his T-shirt and wiped his hands on his chest.

His head fell back on his shoulders. His breath came in shallow, hyper-ventilating gulps. From a distance, he heard himself moan, only it wasn’t a moan—it was more like the yowling of a feral cat fighting for its life. Or getting ready to mate.

Blood did that to him—was a pleasure and a pain. A gift and a curse.He had a complicated relationship with blood. He hated it. He loved it. Blood was a conduit, a link, a connection, between him and those who slayed souls. Blood opened a doorway, allowing him to step into the mind and body of those who found bliss in ending life. He became the killer. He saw what the killer saw. Did what the killer did. Felt what the killer felt.

An incandescent light flashed behind his eyelids. Cain was gone. He was now the killer.

He stood on a ladder, rolling simple white primer on the wall.

A song had been locked inside his head for months and only now was it time to give voice to the words.

Lift your feet when you

Dance around the old well,

Be careful or you’ll tumble pell-mell.

Look into the dark, dark, waters

For the blood of your fathers.

Show some courage young man,

Find your calling young man.

He loved the song. He hated the song. But that was life, wasn’t it? It was all one big paradox.

A breathy sound intruded. He turned on the ladder to see the ones on the floor.

They were laid out in a neat row in the middle of the room. Each of them on their stomachs, hands bound behind their backs and tied to the shackles on their feet, mouths obliterated by duct tape. The male’s wrists were hamburger, dripping blood from fighting against the metal cuffs. But none of them struggled now.

Their faces were wet from tears, or maybe sweat—didn’t really matter—and splotchy red and pale. The child grunted.

“Do you want to sing along?” He used a soft tone, the same as he would if he were cajoling a whipped dog. “I will let you, but you must sing it properly. No mistakes.”

More tears slicked the girl’s face and dripped on the drop cloth underneath her. A bubble of snot blew from her nostril and hovered there waiting to pop. She shrank from him. The female seal-humped herself up and over the girl as if to hide the child beneath her body.

Oh, well. He wouldn’t allow them to destroy the pure freedom of this moment. He turned back to his task, losing himself in his song once more.

Save pomegranate seeds

as payment for the ferry man,

Offer red, red wine

as payment to the bar man.

Carve some red, red meat

as food for the hungry man.

 

Show some courage young man,

Find your calling young man.

 

And then, the wall was done, the completion of it sneaking up on him like a surprise party. He stepped off the ladder, moved it to the side to have an unobstructed view and then unzipped his painter’s coveralls and let them slide down his body.

The cool air whispered over his naked flesh like an endearment, the sensation wonderful after the confines of the material. His head fell back on his shoulders and he stood there absorbing and savoring. Everything from this moment to his finish would be carefully recorded in his memory. No matter what happened, no one could erase his memories. They were his alone—safe and untouchable—to be lovingly replayed until his death.

The female sobbed, deep throaty sounds similar to gagging. He faced the ones on the floor and used a gentle voice. “I do understand this is distressing for you, but I—” He dropped his tone a couple of octaves to show his seriousness. “—need. Complete. Silence.” He took his time, meeting and holding each one of their gazes before he continued. “I need to rest now.”

Only when they all quieted did he sit on the couch he had moved to face the wall. The material he’d spread over the cushions—couldn’t risk leaving DNA when he left—scratched against his ass and testicles, but that couldn’t be helped. He laid back, stretched out, waiting for his body to relax.

The blank canvas before him was a beautiful thing. All the potential in the world was right here. A picture waiting to be born.

He emptied his mind of all thoughts and feelings and stared at the wall. He stared, unblinking, until his vision yellowed and then darkened into something that looked akin to an x-ray. He stared, until tears watered his cheeks and his eyes burned like hot coals in their sockets. Only then did he catch a flash of what needed to be created—all he needed was a glimpse.

Wings. He saw wings.

He was about to create a masterpiece in blood.

A sense of timelessness came over him as he killed and painted. Painted and killed. He lost himself in his work. Not thinking about anything, just letting his hands wield the brushes mindless of the image he produced. When the blood was nearly gone and an image had been born upon the wall he came back to himself.

He stepped away from the wall taking more and more of it in with each footstep until he stood on the other side of the room, taking in the full magnitude.

The color contrast of blood on white was as breathtaking and beautiful as a flock of cardinal against the brilliance of snow. Tears burned his eyes. His face stung, and a wild freedom he’d hadn’t experienced in years surged through him. He recognized the feeling. In this moment he was God. The author of destruction. And creation.

The image he’d painted was so… No words existed to convey the gloriousness. Words were small and meaningless compared to this wall.

On the wall—a man knelt, head bowed, hair falling forward, shielding his face from view. Even in that supplicant’s position, supremacy and authority radiated from him. He looked like the strongest of warriors after a great battle—exhausted, but not weak. No. Never weak. There wasn’t an ounce of vulnerability in his sinew, muscle, and bone. Nor was there any delicacy to the lacework of scars marring the skin of his arms. And on his chest, directly over his heart were two criss-crossed slashes that dripped blood down his torso.

Surrounding him were a magnificent pair of wings. Not the kind you’d see on a sparrow or even on a chubby cupid, but the kind of wings that conveyed power and strength and utter indestructibility.

He loved the picture as he loved himself.

 

An incandescent flash and Cain returned to reality, to the stench of decomposing blood smeared over his face.

His brain re-categorized everything that he’d just seen and done into the it-wasn’t-really-me file. But that didn’t take the feelings away. The awe spreading through his chest at what he’d seen. The guilt sinking into his gut because he’d had no remorse.

A dull thumping started behind his eyes. Usually when he did his blood work, he was there for only a few seconds before skipping on to the next images and the next. Those flashes gave him a migraine every time, but seeing entire scenes like this…The migraine was gonna be a badass bitch today. He had maybe ten minutes before the pain ratcheted up to the level of axe-buried-in-his-brain.

Mac handed him a black towel—black concealed the blood better than any other color.

“You back?” Mac knelt next to him, his face full of concern, but Cain could see the concealed disgust in the way Mac’s mouth turned down at the corners, like he was fighting an outright grimace.

That look—especially when it was aimed at him—always took him back to the moment Mac found him. When Cain had been covered in snot and blood and shame. He had to give it Mac, the guy had tried to hide his horror, tried to pretend Cain was just a kid when he’d never been a kid. He’d been more monster than anything.

Cain scrubbed the material over his face, his arms, wiped his hands. The blood on his body—so thick and dry it smeared into his skin—would only come off after a good scouring down in a scalding shower.

He turned his attention to the image on the wall. But… There was no image, instead the wall had been painted gold, perfectly coordinated with the rest of the room. Mac must’ve called him back before the killer covered up his work with the paint.

Holy.

Fucking.

Christ.

His legs wobbled when he stood. His hand shook like an alcoholic in need of his jolly juice, but he pointed at the wall. “He painted a picture.” His brain bashed against the backs of his eyeballs. He wanted to press his hands to his eyes to keep them from exploding out of their sockets, but his hands were smeared with the family’s blood. The pain was only beginning.

“I… I don’t know what you mean.” Mac’s tone was full of question.

“He painted the wall white—made a blank canvas. Then he created a portrait—using the family’s blood—of some guy—” Cain closed his eyes, seeing on the back of his lids the scars lined up and down the man’s arms, the slashes over his heart, just like the ones on his—

“Fuck!” His lids popped open, his gaze automatically sought the wall, hoping to see the actual image again, but gold paint pulsed in his vision from the thumping inside his head. He held his arms out in front of him. Underneath the thin coating of blood on his skin, a network of white slashes ran from his wrists to his shoulders.

The wounds had healed decades ago, but the scars still remained. He pulled his shirt up high, and looked down at his chest stained with drying blood. A thick white criss-crossed scar rested over his heart—cut into his flesh by his father. Every scar on his body—placed there by his father.

“What is it?” Mac’s tone was full of question, mixed with a bit of suspicion. “You’ve got to talk to me. I don’t know what’s going on.”

Cain’s heart galloped up and down his rib cage, but he forced himself to speak slowly and quietly—in deference to the axe beating against his skull. He told Mac everything he’d seen and everything he remembered about the artwork in blood. “It’s there. You can’t see it, but it’s there. I’m there. Underneath that gold paint.”

It took a lot to catch Mac off guard and score one for Cain—he’d just done it.

Mac’s mouth was slightly open, lips twitching like they were trying to form words, until a one finally spilled out. “Infrared.” The word came out soft and hesitant. “We might be able to see the image using infrared photography.” Things went quiet for a moment while Mac stared at the perfectly painted gold wall. “Why paint you? Why not paint Killion? I mean people are obsessed with you both, but why choose you over him? And this guy made it clear it was you he painted. Without those scars we would’ve thought it was Killion.”

Yes. Cain was cursed with looking too much like his father—like one of the world’s most horrendous killers. It usually took a double-take and some head scratching before people realized he wasn’t Killer Killion.

Mac shook his head. “But then our guy covered up what he’d painted. Probably thinking we’d never know the image was there.”

“He even fucking signed it.” Cain didn’t realize until the words exited his mouth that he had seen a signature.

“He put his name on it?”

“Not his name. A symbol.” Cain wiped his hands harder on the towel then dropped it on the floor. He yanked his cell from his back pocket, and tapped on the art pad app. The white light from the phone lasered into his skull. It was all he could do to keep his eyes open and not groan out loud. He drew a Christian cross then put a hook on the bottom of it that looked like an upside down question mark “You’ve seen this before. I’ve seen this before.”

He showed the image to Mac and watched the guy’s face turn pink, then tomato with recognition.

“Yeah.” Cain voice was straight as a line. “It’s from my father’s last kill. But he didn’t do this. Not unless Petesville Super Max allows weekend furloughs.”

Mac snorted. “Only way he’s getting out of there is in a body bag.”

Couldn’t happen soon enough. His father was a stain on humanity. “So we know he didn’t do this.”

“But…” Mac’s words disappeared for eight thumps of Cain’s brain. “The girl—Mercy Ledger—made that mark on the wall as she was bleeding out from your father cutting… From her throat being cut. It didn’t mean anything. It doesn’t mean anything.”

Didn’t mean anything until today. That symbol was at that scene twenty years ago and it’s here now.”

Mac shook his head slowly like an old dog with neck problems. “No one ever questioned her about it. The prints on the wall were hers. Jesus—we need to find Mercy Ledger.”

Mac didn’t say it, but Cain knew how the man’s brain worked. Mac thought Mercy must’ve done this. “She didn’t do this. She’s been locked down in The Center of Balance and Wellness for the past few years.” The words popped out his mouth before he censored them. And he really should’ve censored them.

He lifted his arm, pressed his eyes against a clean patch of material near his shoulder, and spoke without looking at Mac. “I—” Yeah. Just what was he going to say? It wasn’t like he could confess that he’d been checking up on Mercy Ledger for the past twenty years. That would make him sound like a damned stalker. And stalking was considered the gateway drug to killing. “Liz told me.” Bold faced, flat-out, flaming-bright lie. And Mac would know it. The guy was trained to spot a lie at thirty paces. And yet, Cain would rather endure the cost of the lie, than spend the truth. Call him chicken shit—he would own it. He kept his eyes closed against his shoulder.

“Isn’t that a violation of confidentiality or something?” Mac worded it as a question, but it sounded like a statement. “Liz could lose her nursing license.”

But Liz hadn’t actually told him. He’d guessed. He’d known Liz long before he’d met Mac. In those dark days of childhood, his father had forced Cain to work with him at The Center. Liz had been a night nurse and the only person to ever show kindness to him. Even after his father had been caught, she remained a part of Cain’s life—babysitting him when Mac was away for work. She was one of the few people he considered a friend and the closest thing he’d ever had to a mother. And now he’d tossed her in front of the bus because he was a pussy.

The quiet closed in around him. His head felt like it was about to burst off his shoulders. His stomach started rolling.

“The Center?” Mac finally broke the quiet. “That’s a horrible irony.”

And it was. That Mercy Ledger had lived the past few years of her life among the same hallways his father had roamed as a janitor was beyond irony. It was downright wrong.

 

In a recent online auction, the knife Adam Killion used in the Ledger family murders sold for a record breaking 2.3 million dollars. The Son of Sam Law prohibits convicted felons from profiting from their crime, but someone just made a fortune.

~J. C. Brown, www.criminalnewsinvestigations.com

 

 

Chapter Two

Mercy Ledger sat in the therapy circle with eleven other crazies from Ward B. The pungent funk of unwashed bodies and rotting chicken—thanks to Bo Coray and his chicken fetish—hung heavy in the air. The suicidal, homicidal, or just plain psychotic didn’t care about trivial things like hygiene.

Dr. Payne wore his usual attire—three-hundred dollar shirt, perfectly tailored pants, and shoes so shiny when he stepped in front of her she could see her reflection in them. He looked too GQ to be a psychiatrist in this underfunded, overpopulated, dump of a mental hospital.

He handed her a sheet of paper. In what had once been bold letters, but now were more in the realm of fuzzy gray from over photocopying, it read:

GRATITUDE JOURNAL

Practice an attitude of gratitude!

List three things you are grateful for today!

 

Gratitude? Seriously? After two years on Ward B, there wasn’t a whole lot to be thankful for.

Dr. Payne held out the box of crayons to her. They didn’t trust the residents of Ward B with pens or pencils. Guess no one had ever gotten shanked with a Crayola. “What color are you going to choose?” His words themselves were benign, but each syllable was threaded with judgment.

Her pulse pounded in her veins, her face got hot, her hand holding the paper began to shake.

The vibe that came off of Dr. Payne was something she recognized. Ever since that long, terrible night with Killion she’d been able to sense people’s bad intentions as if she had an early warning system. It had to do with their energy—it connected with her differently than most people. But then most people hadn’t survived what she’d survived.

Her mind’s early warning system flashed her snatches of tomorrow’s session with Dr. Payne. If she selected the yellow or orange crayon he would say she was trying too hard to be cheerful. If she picked red, he would accuse her of having angry or violent thoughts. If she grabbed blue or gray he’d declare her depressed. If she chose black he’d claim she wanted to disassociate. Whatever the color, he would make sure she was going to be wrong, forcing her to spend all of tomorrow’s session with him defending tonight’s color selection. And if she wasn’t successful in her defense—he’d use that as an excuse to have more private sessions with her.

“Mercy. Take a crayon.” Dr. Payne’s voice sounded like a calm ocean, but underneath the surface hungry sharks swam.

Shit. She grabbed the purple crayon.

“I can stay after group to help you process your reluctance.” His tone was full of fake helpfulness.

“No. I’m sorry. I was just daydreaming.” Great. Now she was going to have to come up with a reason why she’d stared at the damned crayon box so long without choosing one. It wasn’t like she could tell him the truth—that she knew what he wanted and had been trying to out think him. The level of control he had over her life scared her nearly as much as Killion had all those years ago.

He moved on to Bo, handing him the paper and giving him a crayon, but she still felt the burden of his gaze on her—watching her, assessing her, looking for an excuse—any excuse—to increase her meds and decrease her ability to think.

She settled her hand over the six-inch ridge of puckered skin scarring her neck. The old injury was always cold and the heat of her palm soothed something inside of her, reassuring her soul that she had already survived the worst of life and she would survive Ward B and Dr. Payne too.

But she better get her hand off her neck, before he decided she needed to talk about Killion again. Dr. Payne enjoyed her tragedy too much.

She moved her hand away from her throat and the scar went cold. She held the purple crayon by the fingers of both hands.

“For tonight’s education group—” Dr. Payne used his Moses-parting-the-seas voice and took the empty seat next to her. He always sat next to her. “—we’re going to talk about happiness and some of the research being conducted in the field of positive psychology. A group of Harvard psychologists have found that happy people have a particular set of habits.”

None of the patients on Ward B gave two shits about happiness. They were all too damned crazy to care about such an elusive term. Now if this evening’s group had been about how to score smokes, line-up conjugal visits, or get extra pudding cups—most of the patients would have been taking notes.

“I’m already happy!” Bo let out a high-pitch little girl giggle that sounded nine kinds of wrong coming from a three hundred pound guy. “I’m Bojangles! See!” He framed his face with his pudgy hands and smiled an open-mouthed, deranged clown smile.

He called himself Bojangles—partly because of his chicken fixation and mostly because the name sounded like a clown’s name and that’s exactly what Bo thought he was—a clown. That crazy smile and his carrot colored afro only solidified the delusion.

“I’m so happy!” Bo swayed violently in his seat bumping in to her, knocking her into Dr. Payne whose arm went around her locking her against his hard body. He held her too hard and too wrong. The room fell away. Bo’s shouting vanished. The only thing that existed was his horrible strength, trapping her against him and the urge—the almost uncontrollable urge—to scream.

“Are you all right? If he hurt you…” His breath fanned across her cheek smelling of sweet tea and summer. He should be the one who smelled like rotting chicken. Her body went into rigor mortis. She couldn’t move or breathe or think.

Bo jumped to his feet and moved into the center of the circle. Dr. Payne let her go. What had felt like an eternity of being pinned against him had probably lasted only two seconds since no one seemed to notice.

“Let’s be happy together!” Bo hollered at the top of his volume range and began twirling like a morbidly obese ballerina. “Bojangles. Bojangles. Bojangles.” He sang his name at an ear throbbing volume.

Dr. Payne didn’t move, didn’t blink, just watched Bo with an expression of absolute indifference on his face. That was part of how Mercy had known he was a sociopath. He never reacted normally—and he didn’t have the excuse of being pumped full of anti-psychotics and sedatives like the rest of the group. He never seemed threatened, no matter the situation. Probably because he was always the biggest threat in the room.

Bo pirouetted to a stop in front of her. “Dance with me baby doll!” He snatched her up against his flabby body and hurled them around. His rotten chicken stench, assaulted her nose, but no matter how bad he stank, she wasn’t scared of him. Bo would never intentionally hurt her or anyone else. He was like a mastiff pup. He didn’t understand how big he was, or how strong, or how his size could intimidate.

“Bo, I don’t feel like dancing right now.” She pushed against his pudgy man boobs.

His bottom lip jutted out shiny with saliva, but he stopped and let her go, just like she knew he would.

His chest bellowed, his lungs wheezed and whistled. Hauling around three hundred pounds would do that to a person.

“Now why don’t you sit down, catch your breath, and let Dr. Payne finish tonight’s—”

Bo began toppling over sideways, taking his time to fall, the way a giant tree goes down in a thick forest. She reached out to grab him, but his momentum and weight were too much. He landed—knee, hip, then shoulder—the sound of flesh slapping concrete punctuated by the thud of heavy bones. Where Bo had been only a second before, Dr. Payne now stood, staring at her. Not the man on the floor.

And that’s where her ability to sense bad intentions fell short. Spontaneity. When someone acted without planning, her internal warning mechanism failed every time. She could never fully rely on it.

“What’d you do to him? He was done. He was going to sit down.” The moment the words flew out her mouth she wished she could suck every syllable back inside and swallow them down whole.

An unnatural silence engulfed the room. No one in the group moved, no one spoke, no one checked on Bo. They all stared at her. At her. As if she’d done something wrong. And she had done something wrong. She’d challenged Dr. Payne—talked back to him instead of being subservient. And worst of all she’d shown caring for Bo.

There was a terrible pattern to her life, one she tried to deny, one she tried to tell herself wasn’t real. But the undeniable truth, the thing that loomed over her ever since that night with Killion: If she cared for someone, they were bound to get hurt.

But didn’t anyone else care about Bo? Or that Dr. Payne had somehow caused Bo to fall? She wanted to scream at the group, at Dr. Payne, but clamped her lips firmly closed.

Click. The sound was a mini explosion in Mercy’s head. Her gaze shot to the panic button clipped to Dr. Payne’s belt and his finger just lifting off the pad.

Her stomach kicked. No no no. He wouldn’t have hit the button because of her words. He wouldn’t put her on Ward A just for questioning him. Or would he? On Ward A he’d have supreme control over her. No interaction with anyone except for him. Just what he wanted and what she’d managed to avoid for the past two years.

Dr. Payne’s eyes were black and unfeeling, his lips pinched in a promise of terrible things to come. He reached into his pants pocket and withdrew a syringe, uncapped it, and took a step toward her.

An odd buzzing sound started in her ears, her vision narrowed until the only thing she saw was that syringe held between his perfectly manicured fingers. She couldn’t let him inject her. Couldn’t let him knock her so completely out that she would be unconscious and then in a sedated, vegetable state for days afterward.

Dr. Payne jammed the needle in Bo’s ass cheek. She sucked in a lungful of air—she hadn’t realized she’d been holding her breath.

Two security guards and two male nurses rushed into the room. She moved away from Bo and stumbled back to her chair, collapsing so hard on the metal seat her tailbone rang.

“Transport him to Ward A.” Dr. Payne returned to his place beside her. “I’ll be down to assess him in a few minutes.”

She wanted to cringe away from him, but forced her body to stillness and watched as each member of the security team took an arm or leg and dragged Bo out of the room—he weighed too much to carry.

“We’ll be cutting group short tonight. Everyone fill out your papers, return them to me, and then go to your rooms.”

Dr. Payne passed her a fresh sheet of paper and the pink crayon—her paper and crayon had somehow disappeared in all the commotion. Using her leg for a solid surface, she scribbled the same thing on all three lines.

I’m grateful to be alive.

I’m grateful to be alive.

I’m grateful to be alive.

Without glancing at Dr. Payne, she handed in her paper and crayon and strained to walk from the room, instead of run. ‘Cause she wanted to run. She wanted far away from Dr. Payne and Ward B and this miserable existence where everything she did was under a microscope.

In her room, she didn’t bother with the overhead fluorescents, she went straight to her barred window and stared out into the night. There were no distant lights dotting the horizon, no stars twinkling in the sky. Nothing to indicate an entire world existed beyond her pane of glass. Just a void—a massive, black nothingness stretching on to infinity. The emptiness—the illusion of being alone—soothed her.

Her door clicked and swung open. She clamped her teeth together and breathed a quiet huff of frustration. Privacy didn’t exist on Ward B. To the staff, privacy equaled delinquency. The wavy image of a person reflected on her window. Liz—the charge nurse—always checked on her after she’d done everyone else. She understood Mercy’s need to experience the only peaceful moments of the day.

“All good here. I’ll get in bed in a few minutes.” Mercy forced lightness into her tone. If she let any irritation or tension leak into her voice, she risked Dr. Payne finding out.

“Mercy—” A man’s voice.

She startled, a jerking of muscle so violent it felt as if she’d been electrocuted. She whirled from the window to face him.

“—I need to make sure Bo didn’t hurt you.”

Her mind rebelled against the message her eyeballs were sending. Dr. Payne stood in her doorway. He never entered a patient’s room. And male staff were not permitted in the rooms of female patients. But here he was and here she was—and this wasn’t going to end well.

Her heart went off like a cannon.

“I’m responsible for you. You’re under my care. I won’t let anyone interfere.” Dr. Payne wore a grin, his deep dimples giving him a look all the women—staff and patients alike—adored.

“I’m fine. No harm done.” There was only a slight tremor in her voice. Maybe he wouldn’t notice. She cleared her throat and aimed for a stronger tone. “Liz knows my routine. She’ll be in to do a check in a few minutes.” Yeah. Remind him that someone might catch him if tried anything. “She’s fine with me being awake as long as I don’t bother anyone else.”

Dr. Payne took a step into the room. “Liz is dealing with Bo.”

Slowly, silently, the door began to fall shut behind him. The light from the hallway pinched off inch by inch until only darkness stood between them. The barely audible click of the latch sent a cold rush of adrenaline through her limbs.

Her internal warning system went off and she knew—knew in the way of instincts and reflexes and urges—knew with a clarity beyond understanding what he had planned for tonight. For her. The images flickered through her mind almost like memories, but they were of things to come. Him forcing her face down over her bed. Him taking what she wouldn’t give. Him making it hurt. Him making her bleed. Him marking her as his.

Fear licked down her spine and bit into her guts, but she refused to cower before him. She wouldn’t be an easy victim. Not her. Never her. Never again. And if he didn’t know that—it just went to prove how much he sucked at his job.

She would handle this. She’d been through worse. She’d survived worse. This time all she needed to do was get to the hallway where the lights were on and the cameras were rolling and there was always someone at the nurse’s station. Ten feet. That’s all that stood between her and safety.

She walked toward him. Better to be on the offensive instead of being forced to react. She put an extra sway to her hips, and prayed he’d be too distracted to realize she was going for the door—not him.

He watched her, that dimpled predatory smile never leaving his lips. Her heart somehow exited her chest, floating up in her head and pounding in her ears. She stopped a mere foot away from him.

Calm. Keep calm. Breathe in slow. Exhale slow. She could freak all she wanted later. But not now. Not when it really mattered.

Slowly, she shifted to his side, a mere two feet from the door. No sudden movements. Not yet. Not until she knew she could grab the handle and get out into the hallway before he stopped her.

“What do you think you’re doing?” His words were liquid nitrogen to her blood. She froze.

He turned to face her, moving further into her space. He wasn’t much taller than her, his dead eyes and taunting mouth right on the level of hers—only inches away.

Do something. Do anything. Don’t let him touch you. Her mind screamed the words to be heard over her heart thundering in her ears.

With every ounce of force she possessed, she rammed her knee into his knobby knockers.

He didn’t make a sound. He didn’t move. Didn’t react.

Had she missed?

He struck out with his fist so fast she didn’t have a chance to flinch, block, or move. The impact sent a shockwave of agony through her face, the sensation so intense she couldn’t feel the epicenter. She stumbled backwards, lost her footing, and landed on her ass. The impact vibrated through every bone in her body like a plucked violin string.

Dr. Payne bent double, cupping his pulverized parts. He shuffle-walked the one step to her, drew back his foot and slammed it into her ribs. Air whoofed out of her. She collapsed back, rolling and writhing to escape the fire in her side.

How long she laid there, she didn’t know. But suddenly, Dr. Payne’s face was in her line of sight and his intentions were in her head. Her mind flashed through images of the stark walls of Ward A, of herself drugged beyond awareness, of Dr. Payne amusing himself with her mind and body.

She tried to move toward the door, but her body wasn’t able to comply. She was lost in an inferno of pain.

Dr. Payne ruffled his hands through his hair, making it messy. He pulled at his perfectly tucked in shirt making it sloppy, then knelt down next to her.

She scooted away from him, but he grabbed her hand, forced her fingers open, gripping her middle finger in his fist. Was this some new form of torture? He yanked her finger to his face, jammed the nail against his cheek, then scraped it down over his skin, leaving a red trough of blood. He slammed her hand against the floor, grinding and mashing it in with his own. But she had reached a familiar place. A numb place. A place where physical pain no longer hurt her. He could slit her throat like Killion had and she wouldn’t feel it.

He stood and hit the panic button, then pulled another syringe from his pocket.

“You were the reason Bo acted out tonight. You stormed off from group without completing your assignment. I came here to check on you. You attacked me. You called me Killion. You’ve had a break from reality.”

The whimpers and whines of a wounded animal filled the room. The sound came from her and no matter how hard she tried to shush herself—something deep inside had broken and wouldn’t be soothed.

He raised the syringe over his head and slammed it down with all the force of a large hunting knife, stabbing her in the thigh. She watched as the clear fluid emptied into her body.

“I think it’s time we stepped up your treatment. ECT should help. I’ll plug you in a couple times. See how you behave towards me then.”

A wave crashed over her, but it wasn’t a wave, it was her body. No, it wasn’t her body moving, it was the drug hitting her system, pounding its way to her mind. The world went gray. She fought to stay on the surface, to not let the sedative pull her under, but the world went dark and she drowned under the drug’s effect.

 

 

What does it say about us that our primary sources of entertainment are shows and movies that glamourize violence, rape, and murder?

~Ellis Worth, M.D, Journal of Human and Philosophical Studies

 

 

Chapter Three

Three days later…

The moon beamed pearlescent rays across the sky. But none of the beauty touched the expansive lawn around The Center. The grounds were tarnished with a hopelessness that could never be polished away. How could anyone get better when the environment itself sucked at your soul?

Cain hated the place. Had hated it from that first night his father brought him to work on the night shift. Cain had been just five years old and forced to split the duties—emptying the garbage, mopping floors, cleaning toilets, scrubbing vomit and feces off the walls on Ward A. By far not the worst of his childhood memories.

From the dense woods surrounding the building a coyote yipped and howled, the sound a wild combination of mournful exuberance.

He pulled his cell from his pocket and hit the screen. 3:35 a.m. Liz was five minutes late. That didn’t bode well for Liz or him or Mercy. Or their clandestine meeting.

He had only two questions for Mercy. Did she remember drawing the symbol on the wall all those years ago? And what did it mean to her? Since Dr. God Complex refused to let Mac meet with her because it might jeopardize her treatment, Cain decided to use the back door—literally, he stood at The Institute’s back door—to get answers. There had to be a goddamned reason a picture of him—in blood—was signed with the same symbol Mercy had drawn as she was bleeding out from the wound caused by his father. He just needed to figure out that reason.

His neck itched and his body twitched. He shifted from one foot to the other, unable to stand still. Christ. He felt like an ADHD kid hopped up on sugar, trying to rein in a surplus of energy. Only it wasn’t energy pumping through him. It was anger. Rage. Fury. That’s what this place did to him. Made him into the sullen boy he’d once been who dreamed of wrath and revenge.

“Mercy.” He whispered her name to the moon and some of the anger evaporated. “Mercy. Mercy. Mercy.” He used the word as a mantra, reveling in the taste of those vowels and consonants inside his mouth. Just saying her name calmed him.

From inside the building, a rusty bolt scraped and banged, loud as a cherry bomb. The door swung inward, the squeal of old hinges shrieking through the night. In the woods, the coyote howled as if claiming its territory against the odd sounding intruder.

Liz backed out the door, pulling a wheelchair. Twenty-five years ago, when he’d first met her here at The Institute she’d looked like a mom—a smile on her face, encouraging words on her lips, and a stout don’t-break-the-rules attitude. Now she looked the grandma version with her gray hair and pleasant plumpness.

“Getting her out here was easier than I expected.” Liz didn’t exactly whisper, but didn’t speak at normal volume. “Ward A doesn’t have cameras since everyone is locked down. Thank the angels the night shift are notorious slackers—we didn’t run into anyone.” Liz turned the wheelchair to face him.

The woman in the chair slumped in the corner of the seat, head hanging as if it were too heavy to lift. Her hair dangled in limp, stringy hanks that reminded him of blond worms.

“This isn’t my Mercy.” Shit. The my had just slipped out. He didn’t look at Liz—didn’t want confirmation that she’d heard the slip.

His Mercy had always been strong. Even at ten years old, throat wrapped in a fat wad of bandages, she’d seemed oddly poised and imperturbable during all the media interviews. She had survived something worse than what he had endured and yet retained her strength. She’d inspired him, intrigued him and tied herself to him without ever knowing.

And she’d always been pretty. All strawberry blond hair and turquoise eyes and features that he’d just wanted to stare at because it made him feel all warm and nice on the inside. He’d never gotten close enough to smell her, but he imagined her scent to be a cross between fresh baked cookies and sunshine—not body odor and vomit like this woman.

“It is her. See what he’s done to her?” Liz’s voice snapped like a whip.

“Who?” Cain asked the question to Liz, but his gaze remained locked on Mercy. She hadn’t moved, hadn’t spoken, didn’t even seem alive.

“Dr. Payne. He’s had a sick fascination with her from the first. Probably because she was the only person on Ward B who didn’t deserve to be there. He’s been pretty harmless until three days ago, when he moved her to Ward A.”

“Why the fuck is she even here if she’s not—?” He’d assumed her past—what his father had done to her and her family—had finally caught up with her. He knelt in front of her wheelchair.

“Don’t you curse at me boy.” Liz’s tone was all angry mom, making him feel like a bad kid. “Her official record says Undifferentiated Schizophrenia and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. But I’ve seen psychotic—she’s not psychotic and never has been.”

He’d never spoken to Mercy before, never been this close to her, never dared to. He’d been a wuss—too damned scared of her reaction to approach her. She had every right to hate him. It was his father that killed her entire family, his father that slit her throat, and his father’s blood that ran in his veins.

He touched her hair, feeling the damp stickiness of it on his fingers, and smoothed it back over her shoulder. Moonlight gave him more than enough illumination to see. Mercy’s eyes were half open and half rolled up in her head. A dark shadow marred the side of her face, spreading up and around her eye. His insides went arctic. “Who hit her?” The words exploded, loud and angry and conspicuous into the night. All the rage he’d suppressed came surging back into his body, tensing his muscles, and nestling in his bones.

“Dr. Payne claims she was hallucinating and thought he was Killion.”

Cain flinched as violently as if Liz had struck him. It was a reflex he couldn’t subdue even after all these years. Hearing his father’s name still had that effect on him.

“I don’t buy it. The good doctor claims he was in the process of subduing her when she fell and hit her face. And her ribs. Seems bit odd to me that the bruise where he injected her with the sedative is the exact size of man’s fist around the needle mark.”

Cain sucked in a slow breath, to calm the anger revving through his muscles. He felt like yelling at Liz for everything that had been done to Mercy, but the rational part of him knew it wasn’t her fault. He metered and measured his voice to force it to sound calm. “You reported him, right?”

“There’s no point. It’s his word against who? Mercy’s? My speculation?” Liz’s tone contained the anger that Cain had been trying to control. She was as pissed off about this as he was.

“Dr. Payne claims she’s been unresponsive to meds so now he’s shocked her twice in two days and still has her on enough meds to sedate an angry, bull elephant. But you won’t find any of that on her official record. If it ain’t recorded, it didn’t happen.” Liz’s lips pinched so tight the tiny wrinkles around them turned into chasms. “At this stage the damage isn’t permanent. Only short term memory loss. But the longer she’s with him…I’m not risking my job so you can talk to her—she’s unable to talk. I’m risking it so you can save her life. You have to take her away from here before he destroys her.”

Liz’s words fell into his brain one by one, each lining up until the meaning finally hit him. He jerked back from Mercy and stood. “No way. You know I can’t.”

“You will.”

“I just wanted to ask her a question. Maybe two. That’s all. I can’t take her. Be responsible for her.” He was going to hit Liz with his best shot. “She wouldn’t want me to take her. I look too much like him.” Cain backed a few steps away from Liz and Mercy.

“Cain—” Liz had that take-no-attitude tone. “—if you don’t take her, Dr. Payne is either going to turn her into a vegetable or kill her. Do you want her emotional or physical death on your hands? Because it will be if you walk away.”

His heart jerked. Liz’s words were a bulls-eye straight through everything he feared most—being responsible for someone’s death. And Liz fucking knew it. In that moment, for the first time in his life—he hated her a little for using his fear against him. “I never thought you would stoop so damned low.”

She gave the wheelchair a shove toward him. “I can tolerate your anger, even your hatred, but I can’t endure sitting back and watching Dr. Payne kill her a little more each day. If I take her, they’ll just find her and put her back in here. Her best chance is with you. No one would ever think to look for her with you.”

Cain opened his mouth to say something, to argue the point, but his brain went devoid of thought. Liz slowly turned and walked back into The Institute. She shut and locked the door behind her. Only when she was gone did Cain find the words.

“Holy fucking Christ!”

He was going to kidnap Mercy Ledger.

 

About Abbie Roads

Abbie Roads is a mental health counselor known for her blunt, honest style of therapy. By night she writes dark, emotional novels always giving her characters the happy ending she wishes for all her clients. SAVING MERCY is the first book in her new Fatal Truth Series of dark, gritty, romantic suspense with a psychological twist.

You Can Find Abbie Roads Here:

Website | Facebook | Twitter

Dangerously Dark Darlings Facebook Group

 

 

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Cover Reveal: Twisted Twosome by Meghan Quinn! Coming Aug 3rd!

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Twisted Twosome, an all new sexy, laugh out loud romantic comedy from Meghan Quinn is coming August 3rd!

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Twisted Twosome by Meghan Quinn
Publication Date: August 3, 2017

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Cover Designer: Meghan Quinn

Photographer: DesLaurier Media

Cover Model: Model: Jess Kasser

Racer McKay is a broody bastard.

From the moment I met him, he’s been rude, irritable, and unbearable.

A contractor working to remodel my parents pool house for extra cash, he stomps around in those clunky construction boots with his tool belt wrapped around his narrow waist, and a chip on his shoulder.

Racer McKay is also infuriatingly . . . sexy as hell. I want to take that pencil tucked behind his ear, and draw lazy lines slowly up and down his body all the while wanting to strangle him at the same time.

We try to stay out of each other’s way . . . that is until I have no other option but to ask for his help.

But what I don’t realize is he needs me just as much as I need him. I have money he’s desperate for, and he holds the key to making my dreams come true.

Our pranks turn from sarcastic banter, to sexual tension and lust-filled glances. Bickering matches quickly morph into slow burn moments. We’re hot, we’re cold. We push and pull. I need him, I don’t want him. We’re on the verge of combusting with an agreement dangling dangerously between us. Neither one of us can afford to lose one another and yet, we’re finding it quite hard to decipher the line that rests between love and hate.

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About the Author:

A BLONDE AT HEART

Born in New York and raised in Southern California, Meghan has grown into a sassy, peanut butter eating, blonde haired swearing, animal hoarding lady. She is known to bust out and dance if “It’s Raining Men” starts beating through the air and heaven forbid you get a margarita in her, protect your legs because they may be humped.

Once she started commuting for an hour and twenty minutes every day to work for three years, she began to have conversations play in her head, real life, deep male voices and dainty lady coos kind of conversations. Perturbed and confused, she decided to either see a therapist about the hot and steamy voices running through her head or start writing them down. She decided to go with the cheaper option and started writing… enter her first novel, Caught Looking.

Now you can find the spicy, most definitely on the border of lunacy, kind of crazy lady residing in Colorado with the love of her life and her five, furry four legged children, hiking a trail or hiding behind shelves at grocery stores, wondering what kind of lube the nervous stranger will bring home to his wife. Oh and she loves a good boob squeeze!

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Preorder Where the Night Ends by Melissa Toppen!

Title: Where the Night Ends
Author: Melissa Toppen
Genre: Coming to Age Romance
Release Date: July 18, 2017

 

 


 

Hot Books and Sassy Girls Book Blog – “Where the night ends, will leave you emotional and breathless. This one gives you hope for true love and the author did a great job in capturing the emotions of true love.”

 

My Time Out Book Blog – “I’ve never experienced so many emotions while reading a book. But at the same time brings back so many memories.”

Book Haven Book Blog – “Completely phenomenal!! This book filled me with nostalgia for the power and longevity of a first time love, and literally brought me to my knees at 3am in a puddled mess on the floor when it was all over because I lost an entire day with Sebastian and Tessa.”

 

 It only takes one night—one moment, one small snippet of time—to change everything. At sixteen-years-old, Sebastian Baxter taught me that. He taught me a lot of things.
He never had to work for my heart. In some unexplainable way I think it had always belonged to him anyway.

 

We spent years loving each other, hurting each other, trying to forget each other, but no matter how hard I tried, I could never erase the memory of him. His eyes, his smile, his touch—these are all things that are embedded in my brain, tattooed on my skin, and etched into my heart.

 

Some might think our love story is over, but deep down I know it’s only just beginning.

 

Because it’s not about where the night begins, it’s about where it ends…

 

Where the Night Ends is a standalone, coming of age, romance.

 

“Hey.” Sebastian rocks back on his heels, shoving his hands into the pockets of his jeans as he stares back at me, a twinkle of mischief in his eyes.

 


 

I swear I feel like I’ve entered some alternate reality. There’s no way Sebastian Baxter is standing on my front porch right now. And yet, here he is—right in front of me—looking so handsome in his dark jeans and gray tee, his hair pushed back haphazardly like he’s run his hands through it several times throughout the day.
He’s so good looking it should be a sin. No one should be this sexy. And yet he is. Every inch of him is perfection and I hate that with just a smile, my heart beats a little harder.
“Hey.” I don’t try to hide my confusion over his unexpected visit. “What are you doing here, Sebastian?”
“I wanted to see you.” He shrugs, a smirk playing on the corner of his mouth. I swear if I could bottle up this moment and keep it forever I would. God, what is he doing to me right now?
“How did you even know where I lived?” The moment the question leaves my lips I know the answer.
“Courtney,” we both say in unison, his smirk turning into a full smile. Butterflies erupt in my stomach, and I’m suddenly painfully aware of how ridiculous I probably look. As if he can somehow read my mind, he adds, “Cute pajamas.”
I nervously fidget with the bottom of my tank, thanking the heavens that I had enough forethought to put on a bra. “I wasn’t expecting company,” I finally manage to squeak out.
“Well, now that you have it are you going to invite me in?” Could he be any surer of himself? His confidence oozes from every orifice of his body, and I desperately want to soak it in—know what it’s like to feel that good in your own skin.
“I’m still trying to decide.” I eye him warily.
“Anything I can do to sway your decision?” He steps forward, his tall frame now towering over me. I wish I could say that I’m immune to his charms, that the nearness of his body doesn’t stir something deep inside of me—a wanting I didn’t even know I could feel, but that wouldn’t be the truth.
“I-uh my mom’s not home. I don’t think she’d approve of you being here.” I regret it the moment I say it. Stupid, Tess. Seriously. You’re mom’s not home. That’s the best you got?
“I’ll be good.” He tips my chin up with the back of his hand so that I’m looking up at him. “You can trust me,” he offers with a humored grin.
“It’s not you I’m worried about,” I mumble under my breath a little too loudly, realizing my mistake almost instantly.
His eyes sparkle with humor, but he chooses not to address the statement we both know he heard. Instead, he slides past me into the house, giving me no choice but to follow him inside.

 


Melissa Toppen is a Reader’s Choice Award Winning and Bestselling Romance Author of New Adult, Contemporary, Erotic and Romantic Suspense. She is a lover of books and enjoys nothing more than losing herself in a good novel. She has a soft spot for Romance and focuses her writing in that direction; writing what she loves to read.
Melissa was born and raised in a small town in Ohio and now resides in Cincinnati with her husband and two children, where she writes full time.

In addition to spending time with family and friends, Melissa loves going to concerts and is obsessed with the T.V. shows Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, Once Upon a Time and Outlander.



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Cover Reveal: King of Code by CD Reiss

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King of Code, an all-new intriguing and sexy standalone from CD Reiss is coming September 18th!

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King of Code by CD Reiss
Publication Date: September 18th, 2017
Genre: Contemporary Romance

From New York Times Bestselling author, CD Reiss, comes a sexy tale of secrets, intrigue, betrayal, and a love worth crossing a continent for.

Taylor Harden is a man on the edge.

The edge of fame. The edge of untold wealth.

The edge of utter humiliation.

He built an unhackable system, and in front of everyone, it’s hacked.

His reputation goes from king to goat in a split second. Boom. Like that.

Some dude in Barrington, USA (AKA Nowhere) has locked down Taylor’s code, and if he doesn’t get it back, he’s going to be wearing a monkey suit for the rest of his life.

Except, this guy? This hacker from Nowhere? He’s not a guy.

Harper Watson’s all woman. And she has a plan for Taylor, his code, and his body.

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Pre-order Today!

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About the Author

CD Reiss is a New York Times bestseller. She still has to chop wood and carry water, which was buried in the fine print. Her lawyer is working it out with God but in the meantime, if you call and she doesn’t pick up she’s at the well hauling buckets.

Born in New York City, she moved to Hollywood, California to get her master’s degree in screenwriting from USC. In case you want to know, that went nowhere but it did give her a big enough ego to write novels.

She’s frequently referred to as the Shakespeare of Smut which is flattering but hasn’t ever gotten her out of chopping that cord of wood.

If you meet her in person, you should call her Christine.

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Check out a sneak peek from Vi Keeland’s upcoming Beautiful Mistake!

 

 

 

The first time I met Caine West was in a bar.

He noticed me looking his way and mistakenly read my scowling as checking him out.

When he attempted to talk to me, I set him straight—telling him what I thought of his lying, cheating, egomaniacal ass.

You see, the gorgeous jerk had wined and dined my best friend–smooth talking her into his bed, all along failing to mention that he was married.

He deserved every bit of my tongue-lashing and more for what he’d done.

Especially when that lazy smile graced his perfect face in response to my rant.

Only it turned out, the man I’d just told off wasn’t the right guy.

Oops. My mistake.

Embarrassed, I slunk out without an apology.

I was never going to see the handsome stranger again anyway, right?

That’s what I thought…until I walked into class the next morning.

Well, hello Professor West, I’m your new teaching assistant.

I’ll be working under you…figuratively speaking.

Although the literal interpretation might not be such a bad thing—working under Professor West.

This was going to be interesting…

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An excerpt from Beautiful Mistake…

 

The class was completely empty. I wasn’t even sure he knew I was still in my seat. If he did, he was good at ignoring me as he packed up his laptop.

“Contrary to the rumors you’ve probably heard, I don’t bite.”

I jumped when he spoke. Now that the lecture hall was no longer filled with students, the acoustics of the large space bounced his deep voice all over the walls.

I stood and began my walk of shame down to the front of the classroom. There was no doubt I owed the man an apology, even if he wasn’t a professor—a professor who would be my new boss for at least the next fifteen weeks. I wanted to kick myself in the ass for not apologizing last night before I left the bar. Now it would seem like I was only doing it because of the situation I was in.

Which was true, don’t get me wrong, but I didn’t want it to seem that way.

I took a deep breath. “I’m so sorry about last night.”

His face was unreadable. “I figured you might be, right about now.”

“I obviously thought you were someone else.”

“So I assumed. You thought I was the asshole. The one with the big dick, was it?”

I shut my eyes. For the last ninety minutes, I’d replayed the entire exchange from last night over and over in my head. I thought I’d remembered everything I said, but apparently I hadn’t. When I reopened my eyes, Professor West was still watching me. His stare was pretty damn intense.

I started to babble. “My friend Ava went out with this guy Owen for a month or so. He was full of shit from day one, but she didn’t see it. Actually walked up to her when she was leaving work one night and said, ‘Do you mind if I walk you home? My mother always told me to follow my dreams.’ She fell for it, the entire act, from the first day. Then one Saturday, he was supposedly out of town on business, and she was across town running errands for her mother. She took a shortcut through Madison Square Park on her way back from the grocery store and ran into him. He was with his wife and kids.”

“And you thought I was him, apparently?”

I nodded. “She came in during my shift and started drinking Long Island iced teas. When Owen walked in, she pointed to where he was standing and said he was the one in the blue shirt.”

“And we were both wearing blue shirts, I take it?”

I couldn’t help but smile, thinking of Ava last night. “Actually, no. Ava’s not much of a drinker. Turned out she was more sloshed than I thought. Owen’s shirt was brown—not even black that could be mistaken as navy or something.”

I saw Professor West’s lip twitch.

“Anyway, I’m really sorry. I barely gave you a chance to speak, and then when I realized what had happened, I was so mortified I didn’t even stop to apologize.”

“I accept your apology for last night. Even though you shouldn’t be approaching a man in the hallway to tell him off alone, your intentions were admirable.”

I should have shut up and been grateful he’d accepted my apology. Should have. “Why can’t I approach a man in the hallway?”

He leveled me with a stare. “Because you’re five foot nothing in a loud bar, and no one would have heard you if I’d dragged you into the men’s room and locked the door.”

I folded my arms over my chest. “I can take care of myself.”

“I didn’t say you couldn’t. I said you shouldn’t put yourself in those situations.”

“But you insinuated that I couldn’t by making that statement.”

He zipped his leather bag closed. “Ms. Martin, I just accepted your apology for calling me an asshole last night. Would you like me to retract that acceptance?”

God, I really was an idiot. Being around this man seemed to turn me into a psychopath. “No. I’m sorry. I acted like a jerk, and I’d like to start over, if that’s possible.”

He nodded. “Everything prior to this morning is forgotten.”

“Thank you.”

“But this morning is not. I won’t accept lateness. Don’t let it happen again.”

I swallowed. “It won’t.”

He lifted his worn, brown leather laptop bag over one shoulder. “Meet me here at five tomorrow. We’ll go over the syllabus and the classes you’ll teach, as well as my grading rubric.”

That was smack in the middle of my shift, but I’d figure something out. “Okay.”

“Are you done for the day?”

“I am. I actually have to get to work. I’m covering Ava’s shift because she isn’t feeling too well after last night. We both work at O’Leary’s.”

“You waitress there?”

“Waitress, bartend, occasionally tell off patrons.”

That earned me a full smile from Professor West. God, he should do that more often. No, forget that. He definitely shouldn’t.

“I’ll walk out with you.”

We walked through the halls together and out to the parking lot. When we arrived at my car, I stopped. “This is me. So…five o’clock tomorrow?”

Professor West looked at my beat-up old Subaru. “You’re parked in a spot reserved for the Provost. You got a parking ticket.” He squinted. “Actually, it looks like you have two parking tickets. Was your inspection expired or something?”

Crap. “Umm…no. I keep an extra ticket in the glove compartment and stick it on my windshield when I’m forced to park illegally.”

His brows shot up. “Inventive.”

“Obviously it doesn’t always work.”

“Obviously.”

“They need more parking. When you’re late, it’s impossible to find a spot.”

He studied me. “Lateness is a frequent occurrence for you, I take it?”

“Unfortunately, it is.”

“Then I should clarify something I said earlier.”

“Oh, no, that’s not necessary. I won’t be late for your class.”

He took a step closer and leaned in. “I’m glad to hear that, Ms. Martin. But that’s not what needs clarification.”

I swallowed. God, he smells good.

“Earlier I told you I didn’t bite students.” He smiled, and I felt the wickedness from it shoot down to some interesting places. “I don’t. But I make no promises about not biting feisty TAs.”

 

 

★★★★

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Vi Keeland is a #1 New York Times Bestselling author. With more than 1.5 million books sold, her titles have appeared in over eighty Bestseller lists and are currently translated in sixteen languages. She resides in New York with her husband and their three children where she is living out her own happily ever after with the boy she met at age six.

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