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Release Day Blitz and Giveaway: Home is where You are by Tessa Marie

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HOME IS WHERE YOU ARE BY TESSA MARIE

RELEASES SEPTEMBER 30 2014

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Anna’s life reads like a check list.

Straight A’s (Check)

Editor of the school paper (Check)

Volunteering time at the local soup kitchen (Check)

Ivy League (So close she can taste it)

Falling in love with a homeless boy (Not on the list)

Dean has a plan too. Survive. After being subjected to his foster father’s violent attacks, Dean made the hard choice to leave. Now he lives on the streets doing everything he can to get by, refusing to let people help him. But when he meets Anna, he realizes not everyone is out to hurt him.

Slowly, Anna and Dean let each other in, blending their two worlds into one. But when a series of events brings Dean’s world into perspective, he pushes Anna away. Not willing to accept the line that divides them, Anna sets out to bring Dean back to her. Her determination and faith in their future puts her on the tracks of danger, and he is the only one who can save her.

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Anna

Tessa Tessa Marie lives in the same town she grew up in on Long Island, NY with her long time boyfriend and their fish. Under her real name, Theresa Paolo, she released her debut novel (NEVER) AGAIN, a NA romance, in Fall 2013 with Berkley (Penguin) and (ONCE) AGAIN released this summer. She is also the coauthor of the Amazon bestseller KING SIZED BEDS AND HAPPY TRAILS and BEACH SIDE BEDS AND SANDY PATHS, a YA contemporary series. She has a hard time accepting the fact she’s nearing thirty, and uses her characters to relive the best and worst years of her life. She put her love of writing on hold while she received her Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing from Dowling College. When she’s not writing, she’s behind a camera, reading, or can be found on Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook.  

Such a sweet story. If you love a HEA you will love this book!

Dean lost his parents to a tragic accident when he was twelve.  He was forced into the foster care system where he lost contact with his baby sister.  He was abused and ran away at fifth teen.  Two years later he survives on the streets. One particular night he goes to get a hot meal at the soup kitchen where he meets a very nosey girl named Anna. 

She is a ivy league bound senior in high school with a 4.0.  If she is not studying she is volunteering to pad her resume. One particular night while volunteering at the soup kitchen she sees a boy about her age that doesn’t seem to fit in with the rest of the homeless crowd.  Curious she goes to befriends him and a whirlwind relationship buds. He has a serious wall built and she is determined to break it.

Together they search for Dean’s missing sister.  Dean’s life is finally starting to get back on track until he is attacked one night on the streets an all of his money is stolen.  He realizes that he is way out of his league with Anna, with nothing to offer her and pushes her away before he gets too close.  Only then does her realize just how close they have become.

I read this book in one sitting.  Very beautifully written.  Their story is captivating.

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Release Day Blitz and Giveaway! Requiem (Chronicles of the Irin Book #2) by T.G. Ayer

Requiem (Chronicles of the Irin, #2)
T.G. Ayer
Release Date: September 30th 2014
Publisher: Infinite Ink Books


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Her name is Evangeline and she is Nephilim.

Evie is stuck in the Underworld until she can find a way to be released from her newfound role as Hades. And the longer she remains in Hades the more secrets are revealed about her true origins. A confrontation with a Dark Angel brings two revelations to the Evie – the true identity of Daniel, the Master of the Irin’s assistant, and who is he to Evie herself.

While a trip into the depths of Hades leads Evie into the fiery depths of Tartarus and eventually to the eternal peace of Elysium, will Evie find the peace she seeks? And what about the smoking hot Julian, god of Hades? How far is he willing to go to keep Evie at his side?

Chapter 1 

Two weeks to the Ascension Ceremony

 

Evie stared at her hands and wondered, not for the first time, why they didn’t shine with the blood she’d spilled a few days ago. She flexed her fingers, turning her hands over to study them in the light of the blazing fire. Long lean fingers, neatly manicured nails. Elegant hands for a cold-blooded killer. Only the slightly darker calluses on the inside of her fingers hinted at the hours of weapons-practice, hours of using weapons to kill.

She was used to being the executioner, although never guilty of ending an undeserving life. Not until the insidiously evil Marcellus Bactor had taken over as the Master of the Brotherhood of the Irin. As a warrior under the Brotherhood she’d performed missions of charity, missions of freedom, and of course missions of death. But under Marcellus death had become the sole function of the Irin.

Breakfast had not appealed to her at all. She hadn’t expected to feel so strange after dispatching Marcellus. He’d been running the Brotherhood, his own needs more important than those of the humans whom they were all meant to protect. And, now she knew he’d killed her guardian, Patrick, and robbed her of the only father she’d ever known.

And yet here she was, feeling as though she ought to receive some sort of punishment for murdering the Master of the Irin. And for the first time she wondered what the Brotherhood and all her fellow Nephilim were doing right now. Choosing another Master? Perhaps Daniel? She shuddered at the thought. What was that saying? Frying pan and fire.

She sighed and shifted in the sofa, moving her cheek away from the warm flames of the fire. Julian’s study was warm and cozy, and modern. Unlike anything she’d ever expected to see deep within the bowels of the earth. Dark wood shelves covered the walls filled to overflowing with books from every age, in every language. Comfortable sofas in earthy tones were scattered around the space, convenient spots for curling up with an interesting read. She tossed her dark hair over her shoulder and away from the heat from the fireplace.

She smiled at the memory of Castor’s reaction to Marcellus’ death just hours ago. He’d barely blinked on seeing the bloody remains of their old Master. Not that she should have expected tears considering Castor had borne the brunt of Marcellus’s fury when Evie had left Greylock Estate in search of the Underworld. Evie’s stomach tightened when she thought of Castor’s little home on the grounds of the estate. A place the half demon had loved, a place now burnt to ash. But Castor’s woes didn’t seem to worry him too much right now. He was being well entertained by Pollo and his eclectic band of servants.

Julian had gone off on an errand in a bit of a hurry; something about a volcanic eruption in the South Pacific. That left Evie to her own devices, which wouldn’t have been so bad if she had not needed to worry about Persephone. Evie was constantly on guard where the cold-hearted goddess was concerned, what with Persephone having already tried once to kill her. But so far she didn’t seem to want to repeat the attempt. Maybe she was concerned about what Julian would do to her should she succeed. Evie snorted. No chance she’d let her guard down though.

Evie’s skin tingled and she glanced at the shifting letters tattooed into her skin. They seemed alive, twisting and writhing beneath the surface of her pale skin like living things. Something Evie was yet to get accustomed to. She studied the markings then returned her attention to the pages of the ancient book lying open on her lap.

A book of dead languages, scripts from a time long gone. Perhaps a source of information, perhaps a way to undo this curse that she’d brought upon herself. Twelve seals to make a god. Not a bad way to turn an angel into the King of the Underworld.

She suppressed another sigh and rubbed her forehead. Suddenly the room seemed to close in on her and she felt desperate to leave the confining comfort of the study. She’d been on edge for hours now. What she probably needed was a sparring session. Something she wasn’t likely to get down here.

She shut the book and left it on the sofa, heading for the door on feet that seemed to think she was in a hurry to be somewhere. Outside, the cool air from the shadowed tunnels teased her overly warm cheeks. She glanced up and down the passage listening for the sounds of approaching feet or hooves. Nothing. Torches shone at both ends of the tunnel, their flickering yellow light dancing and reflecting against the ominous jagged black stone of the tunnel walls.

Evie let her feet guide her, although part of her knew exactly where they were leading her.



SHORT EXCERPTS

 

She felt awkward standing there in front of him. Until he rested his hand on her arm. The touch of his skin to hers set off a million tiny sparks, sending a shiver of anticipation up and down her spine.

***

 

She moved forward and so did Julian, until their lips were a hairs-breadth from meeting. Electricity sizzled between them and for a moment Evie’s legs wobbled. She tipped forward toward him, reaching for Julian’s shoulder to help steady her. Only touching his hard, muscled arm didn’t help to steady her in any way.

***


Touching him set her body on fire, and she felt him shift, move toward her. He cupped the back of her head, tilting her face, giving him access to her lips.

And then he kissed her.

This time his exploration was not tentative. He kissed her hard, with a pent-up passion that felt dangerous and delicious all at the same time. Evie’s heart thundered against her ribs as she kissed him back. She curled her arm around his neck and pulled him closer.

***

OTHER BOOKS IN THIS SERIES



RETRIBUTION (Chronicles of the Irin, #1)
  Release Date:
14th March 2014
Publisher:
Infinite Ink Books
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Her name is Evangeline and she is Nephilim.

Evie belongs to the Brotherhood Irin and together with all the other Nephilim of the world she is protector to humanity, protector against evil. But evil has found its way into the Brotherhood. Someone has murdered her guardian and Marcellus, the New Master makes demands of the warriors that go against all they stand for. Demands Evie just can’t carry out.

Evie uncovers Marcellus’ plan to collect a set of special seals, but when a high-level demon reveals the truth behind the Seals of Hades, Evie know there is no way she can allow the Master of the Irin to get his hands on them. But will keeping the Seals from Marcellus cause her to sacrifice more that she should? Will vengeance for her guardian’s death be enough or will she need more to satisfy her Immortal soul?


I have been a writer from the time I was old enough to recognize that reading was a doorway into my imagination. Poetry was my first foray into the art of the written word. Books were my best friends, my escape, my haven. I am essentially a recluse but this part of my personality is impossible to practice given I have two teenage daughters, who are actually my friends, my tea-makers, my confidantes… I am blessed with a husband who has left me for golf. It’s a fair trade as I have left him for writing. We are both passionate supporters of each others loves – it works wonderfully…

My heart is currently broken in two. One half resides in South Africa where my old roots still remain, and my heart still longs for the endless beaches and the smell of moist soil after a summer downpour. My love for Ma Afrika will never fade. The other half of me has been transplanted to the Land of the Long White Cloud. The land of the Taniwha, beautiful Maraes, and volcanoes. The land of green, pure beauty that truly inspires. And because I am so torn between these two lands – I shall forever remain cross-eyed.

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Release Day Blitz and Giveaway: The Rental by Rebecca Berto

The Rental by Rebecca Berto

Series: (The Rental #1)
Publication date: September 22, 2014
Genres: Adult, Erotica, Romance

Rental

At first, Rick Delaney watched Vee Wyland with the hungry eyes of a fox as if she were a rabbit … his rabbit. But one day, he slunk away without notice.

Months away from graduating high school, Vee’s life is on the verge of crumbling. At home, dire finances and long hours test her family. Her boyfriend hardly pays attention to her. And she can’t shake her feelings for his older brother, Rick.

Then, all in one night, tragedy tears her teetering life into shreds.

When Rick and Vee reunite, the sparks fly. However, she unwittingly signs away a future for both of them. In his world, a place called The Rental, she becomes Victoria and Rick becomes Rhett. One part of her watches with fascination, while the other unfurls and embraces her sexual awakening. It began as a game, but the consequences are real.

Following their heart’s desire is forbidden, but walking away could strip their hope for a future.

The Rental is an erotic romance that explores how sex isn’t purely physical; sometimes, it’s a gateway to your soul.

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The Rental teaser-laundry room

Angsty Reunion:

Rick Delaney was parked outside my house with my boyfriend. He stepped out of his car and lifted two fingers, saluting me at the front door. He shouldn’t have been.

How could he return to Melbourne after a whole year when I resigned to a life without him—a life, specifically, with the brother he’d arrived? Bottled-up feelings pounded in my chest so hard I was glad no one was home to witness it.

And my boyfriend? He tripped getting out of the passenger seat. That’s what can happen when you looked at your mobile phone instead of your girlfriend’s smiling face. My expression soured as he passed me, not even a peck on the cheek.

“What’s with the ride?” I called.

Their mum, Mrs Delaney, should’ve been dropping Justin off like usual. But he ignored me and trudged farther into my house.

Rick noticed my expression and jogged up the stairs. Elder by three years, he stood tall with the composure of a man compared to his teenage brother. Strong shoulders filled out his dark T-shirt. He was bigger in not only his upper body but everywhere—thick arms and thighs and a solid build. Add that to a smile and he melted the hearts of women everywhere—seventeen-year-old girls included.

“Mum and Dad are in Europe,” Rick said. “They call it a long-awaited honeymoon. Justin and I call it a mid-life crisis.”

My jaw hung open. How could Justin not tell me? I thought this type of thing excited a boyfriend. Weeks of no parental supervision at home—it’d excite me if not for the sudden pit of worry in my belly. “They’re away? They’re not here?”

“That’s what a holiday is.” Rick deadpanned.

“It’s just that Justin never told me anything.”

“It was only a few days ago.”

As if that made it okay. If Justin didn’t spend so much time with his phone in his face, he might have remembered to tell me. I didn’t know why, but it cut me that I didn’t know an important change in his life. I told him every time my dad left to truck interstate for work, and that was every few weeks. He was gone more than he was here, and Mum worked odd hours. It was lonely and hard to stay away from the temptations Justin and my best friend, Cara offered me at parties or when we hung out.

“Hey, bro,” Justin called behind us. He came up and slammed his hand on the side of the front door. “Come fix the washing machine.”

“Washing machine?” I asked. Why are you acting like you live here? I was close to adding.

“Yeah,” he held out the front of his top, “got a Coke from your fridge and it squirted everywhere.”

“We don’t have any Coke left in the fridge.”

“You do in the spare one.”

I bit my lip and flexed my fingers by my side. Facing him, I cracked a thin smile. Most of the time, Justin wasn’t like this. Correction, before recently, my boyfriend wasn’t like this. He kissed me like no one else, and made me laugh, but damn it, he either had the memory of a goldfish or was too ignorant to care.

“That was for tomorrow night!” I stared into his eyes with hope of making him feel guilty, but he was clueless. “Dad’s back from Sydney tomorrow, and Mum’s got a dinner for us three. You know he loves Coke. You know he’s been away for weeks. You know Mum’s too busy working to buy more groceries before then.”

Justin shook his head. “So uptight.” He squeezed my ass, smiling as he planted his lips fully to mine. “I love that about you, but seriously, I forgot. And your mum works at a supermarket for fuck’s sake.”

True, but Justin drank Coke, and ate all the ice cream, and ate all the chips, and I got sick of explaining to Mum why I was so selfish as to keep putting her out when she only requested little favours like these on special occasions. Such as tomorrow.

“I’m not uptight.” I paused. “It’s fine about the top—I’ll hand wash and Rick—”

But as I turned to tell him not to worry about fixing the washing machine, my hands met a rock solid chest. I froze. My palms lingered on the contours of his defined pecs with my fingertips at his collarbone. Not able to look at his eyes, I dropped my hands, as if that would undo our moment.

It didn’t.

I’d spend sleepless nights dreaming about his body, as I did when he was far away and stopped talking to me. Pictures and memories of him were all I had.

Justin was hot with his dark eyes and brown hair, but compared to Rick, he was scrawny. Mostly bones everywhere, and when we made out, his hips rubbed into mine. I’d forgotten his shortfalls when it was just him and me. I liked him plenty and that grew to love. But now my past was back, and I had no idea what to feel when seconds ago my hands were on his brother.

That brother with a firm build, one that wouldn’t rub against me if we were to … I shut down that thought pattern. I shouldn’t imagine Rick on top of me. We were three years apart, and at my age, sex with him was illegal.

First Meeting:

The story of Rick and I began with my best friend, Cara. Sort of.

Cara and I have been friends since we were twelve, a friendship forged when a random class seating arrangement lumped us together.

Rick was school captain of sports in his last year of school. He became the sudden reason attendance spiked during assemblies. The teachers were rapt with our interest, even if they didn’t know why so many girls were there. We would all sit there holding our tongues at the sight of him in sneakers and workout shorts, revealing crafted calves from years of running, and his tank hugging every curve.

In one English class after such an assembly, Cara wrote a lovey-dovey poem about some guy who could run like a bolt of lightning, who had killer legs, and a perfect set of broad shoulders. That and he had tousled, medium brown hair and dark eyes. She denied it when I asked her, but every other boy in our year level and the one above had pimples, too many bones, and squeaky voices. It was obvious after her extreme lusting for Rick it was about him.

I, too, crushed on him, so when Cara made me ‘get a word in,’ I didn’t complain. That day after school, I pulled him up to chat. He was with Justin, who was in our year level and fifteen like Cara and I. Rick was eighteen, although not by much because he hadn’t gotten his licence yet. He said they were waiting for their mum.

Justin got right into chatting, but Rick eyed me over his shoulder, smiling, but giving me a touch too much attention to be purely polite. I still cringed when I thought about my level of nerves hanging with two cute boys.

I decided the best lead to see if Rick wanted to ask Cara on a date was the weather. Maybe I thought mentioning the word ‘hot’ would heat up the conversation. Or I could find a lead-in by mentioning how good Cara looked in her bikini.

What happened was I waved my hands everywhere and tripped on nothing at all but my stupidity. Rick lunged for me and picked me up the moment my knees crashed into the dirt. I sat there, legs dangling over the school fence while Justin washed off one of my knees with his water bottle, and Rick did the same with his other. I held my lips together in a firm line, refusing to let my lip wobble, and focused on the blinding sun. At least it made it impossible to cry.

Rick ended up letting Cara down by saying he needed to concentrate on schoolwork, which we both translated to she was too young. I frowned with her in disappointment, saddened by the fact if she was too young, so was I.

But Justin kept talking to me and developed rapt feelings. We found friendship while Rick and I dodged glances and conversations that were heated and angsty. Between Justin’s interest and the age difference between Rick and me, any more than what we were was too premature.

When Rick upped and left the country last year, Justin advanced as if a barrier had been lifted. I told him I wasn’t ready, but Justin was very much so and hung around me at lunches, parties, and with groups of friends at the shops after hours. Months passed and Rick wasn’t coming back. We never had anything, so I stopped feeling guilty for wanting to move on. And one day, when Justin asked me out as his girlfriend, I didn’t say no.

I had gotten high with Cara and some other friends in the shadows of the garage at some house party while everyone else inside danced. Justin kissed me and I let him, and we kept on fooling around.

Now I was in my senior year, but in another sense, I was in the same place as three years previously—a knobbly-kneed girl who first met the Delaneys.

How could I date a guy and still be so breathless when I came within sniffing distance of his elder brother?

It was late, and I was meant to be sleeping, but I lay there and played with the trimming of my sheets, lost in thoughts and weighed by shame. I’d never cheat on Justin, but the way Rick still looked at me … sweeping in to my rescue … I gulped and wiped my forehead feeling hot and sweaty.

I had wanted to do things tonight.

“Stop it, Vee,” I whispered to myself. “Sleep.”

But I remained awake for hours in thought about one brother, his water bottle, and him bended below me.

Brotherly Trouble:

I should have studied, but that wasn’t what happened as I closed down an empty Microsoft Word document, opened Facebook, and scrolled through my feed. I saw that Rick was online, so I opened a chat box, not knowing how long he’d stay. It might have otherwise been weird to chat to him, but I was here for answers about Justin.

Vee: Hey

I scratched the back of my head, then slammed the enter key. I waited, unable to walk away as I anticipated the reply notification. He saw my message instantly and typed seconds afterwards.

Rick: Hey. What’s up?

Vee: Bumming around. Wanted to apologise for Justin again. Sometimes he’s fun & awesome but lately he’s just being a selfish dick.

Rick: I’ve noticed that about him … for the last 17 yrs

I waited to type with fingers hovered over the keys. I rubbed and flexed my fingers and imagined Justin last night. And at school, days earlier, when he arrived twenty minutes late to meet, and when he’d warned me to be there sharp. And at a party where a girl called me a skank and Justin shook his head, a slight frown, and walked into the crowd, not toward me for comfort.

I narrowed my eyes at the Delaney in Rick Delaney. Why did I only see this side of Justin now, after I gave in and committed? After I tripped—knees, heart, and mind—and fell into his heart? Or so I thought. My feelings resembled a forgotten, droopy flower. Surely, true love didn’t whither that fast.

Was this another side to Justin I should now expect?

Vee: Better to know late than never, although you’re biased being his bro …

I leaned close and felt the brightness of the screen burn my eyes. I couldn’t help but wonder how Rick would play off that one.

Rick: Ask our next-door neighbour.

Vee: Why

Rick: Justin thought the dude next door stole our good whiskey. He popped him one in the jaw. Then when our neighbour sprung his ankle, tripping on the way down, Justin shoved his foot in his throat, daring him to try it again. I came flying across the house to see what was going on and the guy was blue in the face, hands clutching his neck. Justin obviously pressed hard.

My mouth hung open as I read and then re-read the message. That wasn’t the same person I knew. No way. I swallowed my shock and typed.

Vee: You were there? I know taking your friend’s alcohol is shitty but that’s a harsh reaction! Is your neighbour OK?

Rick: Yeah, all fine now. I happened to be back visiting, luckily. The poor guy GAVE us a bottle to celebrate before our parents went overseas.

By the sounds of things, Rick had been back for a while. Before Mr and Mrs Delaney left the country. However, neither brother had told me—just left me to assume he’d returned yesterday.

Vee: What did Justin do when he realised the mix up?

Rick: It was the next morning. He shrugged and shovelled another spoon of cereal into his mouth.

Caught up in staring at the conversation for so long, I hadn’t pressed a key and my screen dimmed. The initial assault made bile rise in my throat, but that wasn’t what worried me for the rest of the evening.

Justin shrugging did.

How he continued on with his breakfast.

In the wake of his error and brutality, why didn’t he feel remorse?

• • •

I tried to sleep, but two hours passed and it never came. Frustrated, I threw off my sheets and sat up against the bedhead, tucking my heels close. I picked up my mobile phone from the bedside table and tossed it around in my hands while I stared at my toes.

I didn’t get a chance to speak to Justin today, and since chatting with Rick, my mind was in a greater state of unrest. At lunchtime, I had to eat and work in the library with a girl from class. An assignment was due by close of school hours, and I had forgotten about it with everything the night before, so we finished it there. Justin and I only had one class today, and the teacher had sprung a pop quiz on us.

I opened a new text to Justin and wrote half a dozen questions before I settled on the original and pressed send.

Vee: What was up last night?

Justin: What do you mean?

Vee: You disappeared on me. I was worried.

Justin: Oh. Had stuff to take care of.

Vee: Really? That’s all you’re gonna give me?

Justin: Yes

Vee: Well while you “took care of stuff” Rick and I were stressing. We were just in another room. All you had to do was say you were bored or busy or something. I don’t understand. Did I piss you off? I know things haven’t been good between us for a while, and I want to sort it all out.

Justin: Jesus, enough with the essay. Talk tomorrow.

Vee: Hang on a second. Do you want me to call instead? I want to understand if you were OK last night, and if you and I are OK.

Justin: Babe, I’m tired. We’ll talk. Night

I was still clutching my mobile as I slid down to the pillows. I punched my pillow into shape with my free hand and then pulled the sheets up to my chest. I was even less tired than before and left with even more questions somehow. But it wasn’t really somehow; Justin was avoiding me. Plain and simple. I furrowed my eyebrows and unlocked my mobile. The bright light lit up my room. My ‘essay’ as he called it only took up a third of the screen.

Justin had been acting weird for weeks now. Rick had been back for weeks now. I wondered if it was a coincidence that they lined up, and if not, why his brother’s return impacted our relationship.

Laundry-room Moment:

At the entry, I met Rick. Looking up, I took in his clean-shaven jawline; crisp, fitted shirt; sleeves rolled at his elbows. How could the guy be more gorgeous every time I saw him? I glanced down at his black jeans and leather-tapered shoes. Holy shit.

I let out a breath and tried smiling at his face, but I couldn’t hold the intense gaze of his for more than a split second, so I looked down to my boots. I slid past him, and déjà vu slammed into my chest.

Not ready for a laundry encounter like last week, I took a cup and focused on steadying my trembles as I reached for the tap. I dared to look at him and he was fixated on my fingers. Not a moment later, his big hands engulfed mine. My trembles disappeared at his touch.

Rick had a presence around people, but around me, his gravitational pull was overwhelming. And right now, it scared me—wanting to run away, yet also wanting to fall deeper into this moment.

I was with Justin.

Justin was Rick’s brother.

“You okay?” He looked into my eyes and felt my forehead with the back of his hand. “You’re burning.”

I blushed and looked away to hurry some ice into my cup. “It’s damn hot in that garage. It’s crazy.”

“Ah.” He paused for so long that I felt the air thicken in my throat as I swallowed. “It is. But you’re okay?”

Was I? The right answer was yes, but I sure as hell didn’t feel that way. He was my whirlwind, and he’d swept into my world with all-encompassing force, spinning me again and again with our meetings. The hairs on my skin stood on end. “Oh, totally,” I said lightly. “Go on and enjoy your party.”

He remained and looked at me. The corner of his lips turned up, but it felt forced and weighed down by the other downturned corner. His eyes, once warm, were now dreary. Even his body seemed to be slumping.

He turned, but caught himself on the door and smiled. “I am. Trust me, I am.” Like that, he flipped his mood. I didn’t know what caused it or why. Maybe Justin’s whacky behaviour had plagued Rick all week too, and my mention of ‘enjoying’ himself reminded him of that.

“You staying past midnight?”

“Yeah. I mean, maybe, maybe not. Might just leave a tip for your show. I heard they’re all putting in.”

“You want to see the show, Vee?”

I shuddered hearing him say my name. Damn it, the guy’s voice was smooth, yet coarse enough to rough up my insides. I smiled, confident. I wasn’t going to let my stupid drunken head get the better of me. And stuff the water! I was going to grab another Cruiser. I dumped the water and ice down the drain, grabbed a bottle from a pack, and stepped between Rick’s body and the nearby bench.

“Yeah,” I said. “I wanna see it.”

“Before you go …”

I halted, holding my breath, and the sensation of the icy bottle slipped away. I let my eyes roam, and drank him in the way I intended to with my drink. Passionate, private, and poisoning me to sweet surrender.

No touching anywhere wrong. No acting out. No worries.

He opened his mouth to speak, but it hung there, gaping. Rather than exude sexual vibes, it had flipped back to distraught, and it made him look like a big boy. A fragile boy. Like I had to hold him together.

He seemed broken and sad underneath, except as the birthday boy, he wore a cool smile and held his shoulders high—a facade to the rest of the world. Only here, Rick and I were in our own world, one where no barriers existed. Beneath skin deep, I felt the darkness occupying him.

“Birthday hug?” he asked and I answered, “Yes,” at the same time from his previous question.

He leant over me. I watched it in slow motion and my stomach swirled with anticipation. His arm brushed my shoulder and he flicked the laundry door shut. The space was technically the same size, but the room had shrunken. I tilted my head down and inhaled, my nose near his collarbone. My nerves spurred me on while my thoughts screamed at me to stop making a fool of myself. The spice smelt of cologne, but mostly the freshness of frangipani-scented laundry detergent. It was sweet enough I wished I could cuddle up and drift away with it.

Somehow, that whole minute in my head must have only taken a second or two. Rick stepped the other way and yanked down the cord to cover the door window, a view leading to the backyard.

When the blind fell, it was done. The room was closed off. We were alone. For what? This ‘birthday hug?’

I wanted him. Alone. Unseen. But I had no desire to cheat.

He captured me inside his space, his arms around my waist like butterfly wings. My body melted as if he was my heat source and I moulded my chin to the crook of his neck. My hands connected with his chest, feeling his life source beating madly beneath me. I quaked at the touch. Hands gliding, I felt around his contours, up his back until I run out of muscle, then linked my hands over each other and flattened them.

He hummed. Not a moan, nor a plea of pleasure. And it thrilled a spot inside me. Where I was a puzzle piece before—incomplete and in search—our reunion connected it. I had been lonelier than I was aware. My boyfriend hadn’t been there for me for weeks now. He’d been there, oh, yes, how he’d been here, there, and everywhere, but not around me.

Supported by Rick, I felt like a blossoming seed—I’d attached to solid ground and now I was growing with life. I couldn’t recite Rick’s middle name or his favourite dessert, but I could feel his heart against my chest. I could feel the thrum and beat of our bodies in sync. Could feel the residual emotion and heat we’d once had—unsaid and assumed—coming together as one.

Rick parted and hooked my chin in his big, yet soft grasp. His dark eyes held mine, and I couldn’t tear them away. Softly, he said, “Sorry. I mean, I’m not sorry for you, but I am for everything else. So thanks. Thanks for everything when you didn’t have to do anything.” I couldn’t quite focus on his words, as if I was waiting for the punch line to bring it all together, but I felt the emotion behind his voice.

“Thanks,” I said. I didn’t know why I said it back, but it felt right, like the inherent knowledge that simmered to the surface when getting back on a bicycle. There the whole time—understood by the body, even if not by the mind.

Reality sunk on me then, reeling me in. I blinked. Party, blinds, door. Us alone. I yanked the blind up, and Rick turned the doorknob, releasing our privacy.

“Sorry for acting strange,” he admitted. “Like you said, it’s pretty crazy in there and I needed … I needed a break. I’m drunk. I’m … going.” He gave me a parting smile, and it wrapped around my skin, now full of goosebumps in the wake of his departure.

The Strippers:

The strippers arrived at midnight, and we could hear their voices from the entry oozing with sex. They went to the garage and everyone crowded around, even those who lurked in small groups outside the front or inside the living room. But the crowd was too large and people spilled into the paved section out the back. Cara, myself, and the other girls linked hands and pushed with the crowd to secure a good spot.

We were in the second row in a circle. In the centre were three chairs, and two guys helped set up poles. To the side lay a long table with some gifts for Rick. I wanted to give Rick my own personal gift, although the girls freeloaded tonight. He and I were barely friends, but I felt compelled to get him something. On one side of the gift table was a box with a slot at the top. I left momentarily to put a ten-dollar note in, and then returned to watch.

It took fifteen minutes for everything to begin but when it did, my heart sped up, and I could hardly think past the excitement. The memory of Rick and me in the laundry had my heart fluttering yet pounding with confusion, and all I knew was I wanted to see more of this guy.

Justin stood in a clump of guys on the opposite side. I hadn’t seen him for over an hour now, and I kept holding my gaze his way in hope he looked, but he was interested in what was about to unfold. He fell into a daze, stared at something or nothing, and then snapped himself back to the scene.

But, Rick—he watched me and held my gaze.

He stood with his arms crossed over his chest. Did he know his biceps bulged like that? Or two veins on either side of his neck were strained? And his tightened lips … did he know how controlled and stern he was? There wasn’t a side to him that didn’t appeal to me.

My mouth was dry and it became impossible to swallow. I ran my tongue over my lips and ran my fingers through my hair. I lifted it up over my shoulders and lolled my head to allow air. When I looked back, Rick had a grin on his face. I feared he knew a whole lot more than he should, probably more than I knew about my own thoughts.

They started chanting Rick’s name, so I joined in. The strippers quickly discovered who he was and strutted up to him. One grabbed his left hand, one his right and the other pulled him forward with the hooks in his jeans.

“Ahem, ahem,” Justin cleared his throat.

The middle stripper kicked Rick down with the tip of her stiletto. He crashed into the chair, fingers curling around the arms tightly.

“So,” Justin continued, “Rick needs to be cleaned. He is a naughty boy who hasn’t been home for over a year. Now he’s back and his clothes are filthy, his mouth needs to be washed out, and he probably needs some attention down below.” Raising his voice, he said, “What do we think, guys?”

Everyone cheered.

The DJ restarted the music as all three strippers magnetised to Rick. One unbuttoned his shirt and tore it off. The other was on her knees between his legs and undid his jeans. I took deep breaths to calm down, but it was hard with Rick lounged back on the chair, arms spread over the sides, and his hands clenched around the ends—probably to stop himself from touching one of the girls. He widened his legs and one girl fit in between them.

Oh, and that little, incy wincy,

teeny weeny factor he had nothing on

besides his royal blue briefs.

I wasn’t sure I could wear that colour again.

The strippers tortured him during their dances. He looked up and down at them or called out to the boys, but not once did his briefs tent up. In fact, from his glazed expression, he was miles away with consuming thoughts, such as those ones that overtook him in the laundry earlier. He—I even dared to think—looked possibly bored as those three slim and sexy strippers tried to please him.

The strippers continued, attending to Justin’s requests. One opened a bottle of water and decided both her and Rick need cleaning. She tipped her head back, breasts cradling Rick’s face and poured the bottle down, water gushing all over them. Rick jerked back and forward into her with the shock of the water. Another girl was behind him, and her hands ran up and down his chest. After soothing him, she toed one of her feet down the side of his face, down his chest, along his briefs and back. The other danced by herself, touching her curves, and stripped for Rick to watch.

Something about their confidence reeled in my interest. The way they laughed louder, danced more seductively, flirted heavily with what they could and couldn’t do while bare-chested and near naked looked natural. My body flushed, but it had nothing to do with embarrassment. A sensation had released in me, and it was similar to when I slammed into Rick’s chest at my house.

Two of Rick’s friends soon sat down in the chairs next to Rick, and the strippers departed. They gave both of the other two lap dances. Apparently, Rick would get some more attention later, but he called it quits for now, needing ‘space.’

I left also, heading to the laundry room. Ditching that cool cup of ice water had been a mistake. I needed a bath of ice water. And a fan.

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IMG_20140714_10443Rebecca Berto writes stories about love and relationships. She gets a thrill when her readers are emotional reading her books, and gets even more of a kick when they tell her so. She’s strangely imaginative, spends too much time on her computer, and is certifiably crazy when she works on her fiction.

Rebecca Berto lives in Melbourne, Australia with her boyfriend and their pets.
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Release Day Book Blast: Frozen Reverie by Jill Cooper

DreamSlayer 4 frozen_promoCameras, interviews, celebrity endorsements…. After a demonire plague ravaged the mountainside of Meadow’s Creek, Natalie did the unimaginable and came clean about it all—vampires, her job, and the reality of the supernatural. It has thrust her into a world of spotlight where she is both revered and ridiculed. With fan clubs, television specials, and a talk show on the horizon, Natalie and her friends are caught up in celebrity as the undead move against Natalie to send her to an early grave. And their ally? The people Natalie sought to protect the most—the survivors of the vampire curse.

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Also Available – The Dream Slayer Novellas

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jillcooperAbout the Author:

I could write this in the third person. I could tell you what I like, where I was born, and what my favorite things are. But instead, I’ll say I don’t want to write like everyone else. I don’t want to craft stories you’ve read a thousand times before. I want my novels to be a cinematic experience, blending themes, genres, and situations unlike any you’ve ever read. I want to break the rules. I want you to break out in a cold sweat as you read my books out of fear, love, and excitement. I want my books to be an experience. When you finish, I want you to feel something. Good or bad. If you do, then I’ll have succeeded. If not, I’ll keep trying. She can be contacted at http://www.jillacooper.com. Please like her on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest to keep up to date on new releases and appearances. Jill will be giving away A Dream Slayer tote bag, with some signed books and buttons. Giveaway runs from 9/20 – 10/5/2014

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Release Day Blitz: Unstoppable by Melody Grace

9781286940385

Unstoppable by Melody Grace

Genre: New Adult
Release Date: September 19, 2014

 

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A secret scar…

Tegan Callahan has sworn off bad boys for good. Growing up on tour with her rock star brother, she knows first-hand the damage they can do. She’s looking for a nice, safe, stable guy – until a chance encounter with a devastatingly sexy stranger makes her question everything she thought she wanted.

A troubled soul…

Ryland James arrives in Beachwood Bay on the run from his mistakes. He knows he’s the last thing Tegan needs, but somehow, he can’t stay away. There’s something about her fierce beauty that draws him in – and make s him vow to protect her, whatever the cost.

A passionate destiny…

 Their bond is undeniable; the stakes, higher than e ver. But the past won’t stay gone forever, and soon, Ryland must make the ultimate choice: will he risk everything he treasures in the world, or keep Tegan safe – and sacrifice her love forever?

*This book contains adult situations and explicit content. 17+*  

 

melo
dy grace

Melody Grace is a small- town girl turned SoCal beach lover. After spending her life with her nose in a book, she decided it was time she wrote one herself. She loves steamy romance novels, happily-ever-afters, and lusting after fictional menfolk. She is author of USA Today & international bestselling Beachwood Bay series.

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