Assassin of Truths (Library Jumpers #3) by Brenda Drake

Assassins of Truth_500

Assassin of Truths (Library Jumpers #3)
Brenda Drake
Published by: Entangled Teen
Publication date: February 6th 2018
Genres: Fantasy, Romance

The gateways linking the great libraries of the world don’t require a library card, but they do harbor incredible dangers.

And it’s not your normal bump-in-the- night kind. The threats Gia Kearns faces are the kind with sharp teeth and knifelike claws. The kind that include an evil wizard hell-bent on taking her down.

Gia can end his devious plan, but only if she recovers seven keys hidden throughout the world’s most beautiful libraries. And then figures out exactly what to do with them.

The last thing she needs is a distraction in the form of falling in love. But when an impossible evil is unleashed, love might be the only thing left to help Gia save the world.

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I didn’t want to kill the girl, so I hesitated to throw another globe at her. Squaring my shoulders, I got ready for her attack. When the girl got close enough, I threw a kick to her gut and slammed my fist against her jaw. She stumbled back against the frozen railing. It broke free, and she fell over the side, landing on a table below. Her body was half on and half off the table, her neck bent at an odd angle and the bones underneath pushed against her skin.

Is she dead?

A shimmery light left the girl’s body and flew to me, smacking my chest. I took a step back, expecting to turn into a human Popsicle, but nothing happened, only a chill that rushed across my skin and quickly ended.

“You killed her,” Veronique yelled as she stepped up on a chair and onto a table. She charged the length of it, heading for me.

I dropped to my knees and flipped through the pages of the gateway book. My heart galloped like a thousand racehorses on steroids. I needed to escape.

Where do I go? I can’t lead her to the others. I stopped on the photograph of the Boston Athenæum. Home? To Nana. Afton. No. Veronique knew where Nana Kearns lived. I couldn’t risk going there. I tossed over more pages.

Just then, Veronique pulled herself up onto the balcony and let loose another fire globe. The flames licked the air and smoke trailed it like a comet. The fire grazed my cheek, pulling a sharp gasp from my chest.

Her breaths were loud—panting. The sound of a siren drew nearer. We’d have company soon.

A feral look on her face, Veronique plucked a dagger from her shoulder sheath. A velvet bag, weighed down by something heavy inside, was tied around her waist.

The other Chiavi? I had to get them. I grasped the strap of my messenger bag.

“You can’t win, Gia. You’re weak. Unskilled. A sniveling child.”

“I beat your ass, and I took care of your friends.” Meaning the three Sentinels lying dead on the floor below us. I forced my eyes to stay on hers, acting brave, though their deaths were like an overweight barbell on my conscience.

Her step forward caused me to step back. “That was dumb luck,” she said. “This will take skill.”

She ran for me. I drew my sword and swung at her. She ducked, the blade barely missing her. Before I could get another swing in, she tackled me, our bodies smacking into the bookcase, my sword knocked from my hand.

A satisfied look crossed Veronique’s face right before she stabbed my upper arm with her dagger, her blade cutting across my cheek. A horrified scream rattled my throat. My knees buckled and thudded against the floor.

“Shit!” The pain shocked me. I wanted to roll into a ball on the floor, to have this end.

She’s going to kill me. I’m going to die.

Fear gripped me.

Then anger.

Fight, Gia! The voice in my head was strong and forceful. It pushed me. Pushed me to my feet.

Pushed me to take action.

Author Bio:

Brenda Drake is a New York Times bestselling author of young adult fiction. She grew up the youngest of three children, an Air Force brat, and the continual new kid at school. Her fondest memories growing up is of her eccentric, Irish grandmother’s animated tales, which gave her a strong love for storytelling. So it was only fitting that she would choose to write stories with a bend toward the fantastical. When she’s not writing or hanging out with her family, she haunts libraries, bookstores, and coffee shops, or reads someplace quiet and not at all exotic (much to her disappointment).

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Indiscretions of a God by Sunniva Dee


Isn’t it insane that I can’t get her out of my head?


Title: Indiscretions of a God
Series: Porn Star Boyfriends #3
Author: Sunniva Dee
Release Date: January 16, 2018


I’m not a saint. That’s not why I left the mafia.
I left because I’m god, because I need no one, and fail at nothing.

I’m Isaias Di Nascimbeni, owner of Lucid, the biggest adult entertainment studio in L.A. Son of Il Lince and second generation Italian in the U.S, I’m dirty rich and adored by highlife as well as lowlife.

Whatever I focus on turns to gold.
On the Richter’s scale of eye candy, I’m a twenty.
I’m a hunter who tests limits.
A warrior who goes shady when the law becomes dreary.

While conducting business at the St. Tatiana,
the most stunning woman I’ve ever seen enters my radar.
Isn’t it interesting that her name is Tatiana?
Isn’t it bizarre that she’s a nun?
Isn’t it wild that she’s unimpressed by me?

Isn’t it insane that I can’t get her out of my head?

She doesn’t acknowledge me when I return to her church.
It’s unprecedented. Unheard of. Not happening.
But the hunt is my fetish.
Novice or not, she’s only postponing the inevitable.
Beautiful Tatiana asked for this.
By the time I’m done, she’ll worship me, because now it’s game on.

A no-cliffhanger, standalone book #3 in the Porn Star Boyfriend series.



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“Isaias.” Tatiana’s fingers brush down my temple and my cheek to my mouth. “I need to leave for about an hour. I didn’t want you to worry.”

I blink off my sleep. I’m on the couch in the living room, waiting for my phone to ring with news about Gabriela.

“I can’t let you leave, baby.” I arch my head backward, following the sound of her voice. Her pretty face hovers over me from behind. I reach up, pull her down to me. She sinks to her knees and cradles my face with her hands.

Tatiana allows me to devour her mouth. My tongue delves in, swiping and suckling her into a moan. It’s heart-battering. I breathe faster, and then her exhales become shallow too. I love that sound.

“It’s not safe out there for you.” I lace my fingers into her hair, extending it around our faces. We’re in a tent of silk and warm sugar. “I’d never hold you back if it weren’t for your safety. Because you need to live on. On and on and on with that crazy beauty you are.”

She puffs a quiet laugh against me. “Weirdo.”

“I want you,” I sigh out.

“Tonight, darling. I just need to do this, okay?”

I still her face over me. Nudge it away enough to stare into her eyes. “I’ll come with you.”

“You can’t. It’s nun business.”

“You still think of nuns?”

“My business with the sisterhood doesn’t simply disappear because of an explosion in a church,” she whispers to me.

“Let me at least drive you there.”

I shut my eyes while her soft fingers draw trails down my cheeks. In my adult life, I’ve been touched often and in many ways, but Tatiana’s caresses remain on my skin long after they’re gone.

“Isaias, I’m twenty-seven years old. I’ve been fending for myself for a long time. I’ll be fine, okay?”

I scrunch my eyes shut, knowing I won’t be forcing myself on this stubborn, beautiful, independent woman tonight.

“I’ll be honest with you. I can’t bear the thought of you and Gabriela both out there without my protection.” I pull her down so I can kiss the infinitely soft skin of her throat. “Just let me drive you there. I won’t come in. I’ll, you know, play with my phone and listen to music like some dopy-ass high-school boyfriend until you come out.”


I grew up surrounded by women. I grew up surrounded by macho men too, but they all knew when to yield to their women. It’s why my father’s heart still beats for my mother. It’s why hers stutters every time he’s in danger.

So I let Tatiana go. I stand there on the gravel, hands fisted in my pockets like a douche. At least she accepted my offer of taking the Escalade with the bulletproof windows. She better get used to that, because she’s with Isaias di Nascimbeni. From now on, I’ll make damn sure she never drives anything that can’t repel the bullets of my father’s enemies.

“Fritz,” I shout as soon as she rolls toward the highway. “Get in.”


I walk up to him and point toward another loaner. It’s a joke of a car. Small and grey, it’s unassuming enough to blend in anywhere. I chuck him the key.

“I hold you personally responsible for Tatiana’s wellbeing until she’s back in my arms. Understood?”

“Absolutely, sir. It’s an honor.”

I pitch him my Glock too, and I don’t fucking care how unprecedented that is. He grabs it on reflex, gaze humbled as it meets mine. “Mr. Nascimbeni. I’ve got it. I have my sub.”

I stare him down, willing him to tell me it’ll be enough. Because is it? His stare dims with determination. Then he tosses my gun back. I watch it swirl in the air and find my palm in seconds.

“You’re sure?” My voice doesn’t sound right.

“I am.”

I squint, forcing liquid away from my eyes.

“I will get your woman back to you.”



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Author Bio

Sunniva Dee is a reader, a lover of everything beautifully written no matter the genre. As an author, she pens flawed characters and seeks the flip side where the soul hides. Once there, she wants to be pulled out of her comfort zone by stories taking on a life of their own.

Sunniva has written paranormal and young adult. She’s committed contemporary romance verging on erotica, and she’s dabbled in supernatural mystery. But her heart is rooted in new adult of the true kind: young adult all grown up, with conflicts and passions that are familiar to college-aged readers and readers who remember those days like they happened last night.

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Twin Savage by Sunniva Dee

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Title: Twin Savage
Author: Sunniva Dee
Release Date: October 16, 2017


Grief comes in many forms.
There is no right or wrong way to grieve… Right?
Except, what if you douse that grief with sex
in ways so culturally unacceptable
you leave it to a veritable male harem
led by the porn-star brother of your fiancé
to decide if you’ll emerge
from the jungle intact?

Twin Savage is standalone book #2 in the Porn Star Boyfriend series.


It wasn’t a problem to be the only girl in a house full of guys.
Until my fiancé died and his identical twin took over the roost.

Sweet, easygoing Julian passed, while loathsome, bossy Luka, who pays his way through med school by getting his dick wet on film, is still alive.

What kind of twisted reality is this?

Now, Luka’s on a mission to fix both of our grief.
Like I’d ever accept anything from him.
He doesn’t understand that gorgeous and sexy mean nothing if you’re a promiscuous jerk.

If only the nights didn’t destroy me.
They’re painful and long and empty,
until, on a Monday night, my insomnia attracts Diego.
That Tuesday, it attracts Lenny.
Next, it’s Marlon, James, Nathaniel,
and on Saturday, it’s Connor.

By Sunday night, I get the picture.
This is Luka doing what Luka does: solve problems with sex.
His remote-controlled comfort leaves me in our roommates’ arms six of seven nights.
On Sunday, there’s only one man left in the house.

There’s no way in hell I’m opening my door—or my heart—to a porn star.



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TS loved you for a very long time



“I wish he didn’t do that,” I tell Lenny as I relax, cheek on his chest, drawing small circles around his nipple. “Luka thinks he’s the king of this place, in charge of everything that goes on here.”

“He kind of is.” Lenny’s voice is lazy. By now, I know he slides into a euphoric coma after he ejaculates. It’s adorable and a tad hot.

“No, he isn’t. Only about the rent and the utilities.”

“And about you.”

I lift my head and squint at him. “Luka is not in charge of me.”

Lenny narrows his eyes too, an easy feat. I ignore how beautiful he is beneath me. “No, but he’s who came up with our solution.”

“What are you talking about?”

He studies me, eyes widening more than usual after against-the-wall sex. “Hmm, you look like you’re working yourself up.”

“What does it matter? Just give me the lowdown.”

“Well, if you’re gonna go witch-nutty on me, I don’t know if I should.”

I lower my voice. “Witch-nutty? What does that even mean?”

“You know. All…” He lifts his hands in the air and waves them lazily while half-rolling his eyes. Not impressive.

“What solution, Lenny, or your sex life has to fend for itself from now on.”

“As if it doesn’t six days out of the week.”

“What did Luka come up with?”

“We had a house meeting.”

“Without me?”

“It was about you, so yeah. We saw how you were struggling to keep it together after Julian passed away, and Luka came up with what we’re doing now.”

“As in invading my bedroom every night? Taking turns with me?”

“I guess?” He looks at me as if he just realizes how bad it sounds.

“That’s some crazy shit. Only a pervert like Luka could’ve come up with it.”

Lenny’s brows tick in a furrow. “Well, I figured it was too obvious to work on you, but Luka insisted, we gave it a try, and hey, you went along with it. You seem better too.”

My stomach churns. “Who does he think he is? He has no right to set up some get-’er-done plan for me. I’m in charge of my own life, my own future, and…” I sigh. “Luka’s a pig.”

I mean it. Even though I’m disgruntled, I twist my arms around Lenny’s middle needing his nearness. I’m not exactly backing myself up, here, but Lenny doesn’t hold it against me. Instead he wraps me closer and nuzzles against my hair. Murmurs, “Shh, you’re okay, babe.”

“What about the days? Did he assign them too?”

Lenny nods, rocking us with his chin. “Yeah, which made sense.”

“Why, because you didn’t want to deal with me more than once a week?”

He chuckles. “It was more so that we’d all have our turns consoling you.”

Sleeping with me, you mean,” I say, feeling slutty and berating myself for it in the same thought.

“I’m not gonna lie and say it’s not a pleasure to comfort you.”

I arch an eyebrow. “So I shouldn’t feel bad for you guys?”

“You should.”

I let out a huh?

“Did you see Marlon earlier?”

I bite my lip. “Yes?”

“That’s how most of us feel the rest of the week. Tuesdays are the shit.”

“Even when I go all witch-nutty on you?”

His grin gleams white. “Have you heard me complain? Sparks are the shit too.”

Twin Savage 1 1016







P Star make you tremble


Sunniva Dee is a reader, a lover of everything beautifully written no matter the genre. As an author, she pens flawed characters and seeks the flip side where the soul hides. Once there, she wants to be pulled out of her comfort zone by stories taking on a life of their own.

Sunniva has written paranormal and young adult. She’s committed contemporary romance verging on erotica, and she’s dabbled in supernatural mystery. But her heart
is rooted in new adult of the true kind: young adult all grown up, with conflicts and passions that are familiar to college-aged readers and readers who remember those days like they happened last night.



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Organic (The Kepler Chronicles, Book II)

Organic (The Kepler Chronicles, Book II)


Jadah McCoy

Publisher: Curiosity Quills

Publication Date: June 13, 2017



Jadah McCoy’s ORGANIC, pitched as Bladerunner meets Pitch Black, in which 18-year-old Syl has barely survived the genetic splicing that plagued her human body. After discovering the androids’ plot to wipe out human and Cull alike, Syl must return to Elite to warn the other survivors. However, with the realization that her group of survivors isn’t the only one, also comes the realization that some humans are just as bad as androids. Bastion and Syl grow closer, however, their relationship suffers under the weight of her past ghosts and a growing threat that endangers human and android alike.




Breathing is a habit. The oxygen filters into my system, fizzles through my circuits then dissipates to nothingness. This new body is alien; it feels like my own, but I know it’s not. My eyes fall on the hole in front of me―the giant chunk of concrete ripped from the ground where the entrance to the Sanctuary used to be.

The music in my ear stutters to a stop, and the gun in my hand hangs limp.

We’re too late.

Bastion kneels beside me, leaning against his weapon as he studies the torn roots and claw marks that score the earth. His coattails catch in the dry dirt beneath him. He looks up, blue eyes lit with mechanical brightness. “I take it this isn’t the work of the Cull you’re used to?”

I step closer, peering into the hole. It’s probably fifteen feet in diameter. Gashes scar the walls all the way down until the tunnel opens up at the sewers. No sound comes from within―no sign that anyone inside might still be alive.

A frown pulls my lips down. “No.”

“Syl.” Bastion stands, prepared to stop me.

Ignoring him, I step off the uneven ledge. My body falls through the air, landing with a small splash in the sewers below. A fall at that height would have broken my human body’s legs, but the metal frame absorbs the impact and then some. I take off, running full speed in the direction of the Sanctuary. These muscles, they never grow weak, or tired, or burn with exhaustion. Bastion catches up quickly, his footsteps shadowing mine. Darkness isn’t an obstacle for us; we can see through it as if it were daylight.

The metal bars, the same ones I slipped through so long ago to escape this place, are bent open. I step over one that now lies placidly in the mildewed water. The others look like an old man’s teeth―jagged, uneven, broken.

But beyond the destroyed entrance…

I freeze, my body refusing to move any farther. Chicken feathers litter the area, dingy and bloodstained. Beneath them lie the bodies of people I grew up with. People I know. People I care about. Static fills my ears like a thick layer of cotton.

Symbols hover over a corpse, simulated by my brain―cortex―whatever it is. They shimmer and flicker before translating into letters: deceased. The word populates again and again, a dozen times, once for each body, and I choke.




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Jadah McCoy currently resides in Nashville, Tennessee where she works as a paralegal. In her spare time she can be found traveling the world, reading, or (surprise, surprise) writing. The last book in the Kepler Chronicles trilogy is due for publication in 2018.


Path of Thieves by Sunniva Dee: Cover Reveal

Path of Thieves
Sunniva Dee
Publication date: June 27th 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult

Football hero by day and thief by night, Charles “Cugs” McConnely leads a double life in the small town of Newbark, Florida. At sundown, the seventeen-year-old turns burglar, forced into the business by the man who should be teaching him the difference between right and wrong: his father.

Cugs is a pro at both games, but only one can secure him a college scholarship. It should be an easy decision, a no-brainer—if Newbark hadn’t proffered the only life he knows.

After run-ins with Nadine Paganelli, his accidental victim and the sole person to have caught him in the act, Cugs starts to realize that hearts can be stolen too.
When his long-lost sister makes contact, lies are uncovered and truths revealed. Suddenly, Cugs finds himself questioning both plans and loyalties. Because sometimes the only way to move forward is by pulling the bottom out of the past.

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“Seriously, man. Freddie’s parents are gone the entire weekend, and we’re partying it up. You’ve got to come.” Bear rocks in the passenger seat, trying to get comfortable. We both know the wreck and he are an uneven match.

“I’ll try.”

“Right, your father.” He huffs a frustrated breath. “Never, I swear. Like, ever. I’ve seen you drink freaking twice.”

Florida rain hammers on the roof of the car and hauls ass over my windshield. We’re outside Grocery-Pete’s, waiting for the floodgates to shut so we can get inside.

“Hey, I drink sometimes. With my father.” Dad celebrates good heists with a drink or five. If it’s hard liquor, he’ll loosen tight lips and talk about Mom.

“Come on, Cugs.” Bear tries to arch his back for a better position, but his head hits the ceiling. “Tell me you see how lame that is. ‘I can’t party with y’all, ’cause Imma drink with my daddy.’”

I snort out a laugh. “Whatever, fool.”

My eyes are drawn to Grocery-Pete’s gutter. It’s overflowing. The water takes the fast route over the edge, omitting the drain. I’ve stood under gutters like that, or more like penguin-danced under them in Rigita. Paislee dressed me in thick sweaters and rubber boots and topped it off with full raingear. Then we snuck out the backdoor and ran down the street before we got caught.

“Fascinated, much?” Bear grins.

Author Bio:

Between studies, teaching, and advising, Sunniva has spent her entire adult life in a college environment. Most of her novels are new adult romance geared toward smart, passionate readers with a love for eclectic language and engaging their brain as well as their heart while reading.

Born in the Land of the Midnight Sun, the author spent her early twenties making the world her playground. Southern Europe: Spain, Italy, Greece–Argentina: Buenos Aires, in particular. The United States finally kept her interest, and after half a decade in Los Angeles, she now lounges in the beautiful city of Savannah.

Sometimes, Sunniva writes with a paranormal twist (Shattering Halos, Stargazer, and Cat Love). At other times, it’s contemporary (Pandora Wild Child, Leon’s Way, Adrenaline Crush, Walking Heartbreak, and Dodging Trains, coming in late March 2016).

This author is the happiest when her characters let their emotions run off with them, shaping her stories in ways she never foresaw. She loves bad-boys and good-boys run amok, and like in real life, her goal is to keep the reader on her toes until the end of each story.

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Traitor by Alyson Santos

Alyson Santos
Publication date: June 6th 2017
Genres: Adult, Romance, Suspense

They may be refugees but Andie Sorenson never chose to flee when government forces abduct her to the “safety” of a military-operated compound. Caught in an ugly civil war no one understands, she’s now a number, a uniform, her future reduced to three stale meals a day with the strangers who share her fate. She’s nothing, no one—until a random act of compassion and an electric smile turn her prison into a refuge.

It’s his eyes, his heart, his beautiful soul drowning in an ocean of secrets. Lance Corporal Kaleb Novelli is an enigma, but with each plunge through another layer, Andie finds herself captured in a way she never imagined. She knows they have no future. They can’t even have a present, but that doesn’t stop her heart from committing to a man she can never have. The only one she trusts in this battle of lies and manipulation.

But they’ve found their paradise in hell, and she can’t shake the feeling that Kaleb Novelli is not just a player. He’s the game.

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His teasing smile plunges through me, settling low, hot and pulsating. It’s a dangerous offer, because soon, I’m on his lap, grasping his hair, claiming his mouth before he can change his mind. Our kiss intensifies, and my brain surrenders to instinct. It wants more, weeks of imagination straining for release. I want to own the smile that melts me, the eyes that haunt me, the compassion that transforms me.

He braces his hands on my back, and I gasp at the flames ripping through my veins. My groan leaks out when he hardens beneath me, and my body instinctively tries to pull him in. God, he feels so good, tastes so good. He’s infinite. There is no enough of this man. There are too many layers, and each one leaves me aching for the next.

I grip the collar of his shirt as he tugs at my hem. Fabric can be damn frustrating, and I’m desperate to fight through it. I want it all: mind, body, and soul, but he pulls back. Eyes clenched, captivating in that moment—overwhelming—I can’t bear the pain of the separation about to come. I’m already suffering the chill of the space between us. I breathe in my own recovery while he hauls himself together, but I don’t object. I care about him too much to make his battle unbearable with a direct assault on his will. I know his struggle against feelings he’s not supposed to have. A relationship he’s not allowed to have. I already broke my promise and won’t cause more agony for the man I’m terrified I’m coming to love.
It takes all my strength to distance myself when he can’t break us apart this time. His expression mirrors my heart, anguish and relief, as I round the corner of his desk to lean on a safer side. Our eyes lock through the gap, both of us aware of what happened, and all the reasons why it shouldn’t have.

Author Bio:

I’m a writer, musician, and cat lover. I also have an alternative music obsession. Seriously, it’s a real problem.

I write what needs to come out, whether it’s pain, tears, or laughter. I write people and relationships, about the beauty and horror of what we do to ourselves and each other. I write Love. Vengeance. Compassion. Cruelty. Trust. Betrayal. Forgiveness. Darkness, and the incredible way humans destroy and heal each other.

I like to eradicate barriers, refusing to be confined by the laws of physics or limitations of reality. I will befriend a vast population of possibilities and introduce them in ways that might surprise you.

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Interception by Angela McPherson: Cover Reveal







*The Final Book in The Distraction Series*

Four years of college is coming to an end, and Tristan Daniels and Elle Richards are ready to take the next step toward a future together. Tristan gets drafted into the NFL, and a small newspaper offers Elle her dream job. Their happiness is within reach.

But life has a way of intercepting everything they’ve worked so hard to accomplish.

Love is defined in moments of weakness. Though it’s been months since Elle’s miscarriage, the pain remains an agony that threatens to undo her. True to form, Tristan is the rock, even as he watched the love of his life rushed to surgery. Thrown into chaos, the couple learns to work through their hurt and find solace through the heartache.

Until someone from the past resurfaces and seeks to shatter them for good.

From the beginning, no distraction could keep the best friends apart. Love became an addiction too strong for them to ignore. Now, before they can have a future, they must learn to conquer hardships and embrace what is truly important—

Each other.


Born and currently residing in Texas, Angela shuffles three active children (not including her husband) all over the place. She works in a busy pediatric doctor’s office as a nurse during the day and writes at night. Addicted to coffee and chocolate, Angela laughs a lot, often at herself and is willing to try anything once. When Angela isn’t rushing kids around, working or writing, she’s reading. Other than life experience, Angela turns to a wide variety of music to help spark her creative juices. She loves to dance and sing though her kids often beg her not to.

Connect with Angela: [Newsletter][Twitter][Facebook][Goodreads][Amazon][Instagram][Pinterest]

Untold Press works: Distraction, Addiction, Interception (Coming 2016), Hope’s Decree, Hope’s Deceit, Gypsy Love

✯ ☆҉‿➹~✯ ☆҉‿➹⁀⁀☆҉ ☆҉


(subject to change before release date)

Chapter 1

Every day started with the same routine: morning jog, classes, football drills, homework, and repeat. Elle and I were always busy, so last night I set aside time for the two of us. You know, candles, dinner, the works. Only she didn’t show, which led to the current standoff in the living room when I tried to leave.

“Not now, Elle, I’ve got shit to do.”

“Awesome. I’ll be at the paper. Rixon’s meeting me.” She turned. “Not that you give a damn.”

The fuck! My scalp stung from scraping my nails through my hair. Didn’t want to argue with Elle, but I snapped. One mention of the guy’s name—the same asshole who monopolized her time, and I lost my calm.

“Go fucking figure. Run to another guy when shit gets rough.”

Damned if she didn’t fight back. Elle whipped around. “But it’s okay to hang with Kim? Still getting over our ‘time-out’?” Elle air quoted. “Oh, wait? Cooking classes and shit’s apparently fair game?”

Of course, she’d mention the chick I met in culinary class, wouldn’t she? I stepped forward, my shoes kissing her socks, and held her heated gaze. Adrenaline surged through my veins. What I really wanted to do was thread my fingers through her silky hair, pull her to me, and own her. But pride was a mother.

“Kim isn’t trying to fuck me, sweetheart.” Five short seconds was all the time I had to prepare for the sting of her palm against my cheek.

Tears mixed with the anger in her eyes. “How dare you?” she seethed. “I figured you’d give me a little more credit.” Elle swirled around and headed down the hall to the bedroom. Pictures knocked against the wall when the door slammed.

“Goddammit!” My cell in hand, I snatched the keys off the coffee table and left. The house vibrated when the front door shut, but at that point, I didn’t care.
The engine roared, and tires squealed as I raced down the street. Hadn’t driven but five minutes before the phone buzzed. Without checking the caller-ID, I answered the phone.


“Someone needs to get laid.”

“Paul?” I shook my head, hardly believing it was him on the other end. I hadn’t heard from him since the last email he sent from the Middle-East.

Paul razzed me more. “Lemme guess, Elle get smart and leave your dumb ass?”

The light changed from red to green, and I advanced down the street, calmer than when I left Elle.


I fucked up. Never should have gone off on her. Elle wouldn’t leave me for another man. But I didn’t like Rixon and her walking away after a fight, to go with the same prick, was like pouring alcohol on a wound. It burned.

Paul interrupted my internal debate. “Silence won’t help, bro. Give me something.”

Hard plastic from the steering wheel cut into the creases of my fingers. Didn’t matter, I gripped the wheel tighter. “Nothing, man.”

“Bullshit, fucker.”

Had to love his verbal brutality. The truth was, I missed the skinny bastard. Paul and I’d been best friends, thick as thieves since we made Mrs. Webber cry in first grade. I remember the day clearly. Fresh from the playground, we’d put a stiff dead frog in the teacher’s chair. Never heard a grown woman wail so loudly. Good times. After high school Paul enlisted, so now communication consisted of emails with the occasional phone call.

“Sorry, man. Caught me at a bad time.”

“You and Elle working through something?”

My laugh sounded harsh and cold. “Something like that,” I admitted.

I loved Elle, too much at times. Waking up with her side of the bed vacant was a reality I’d faced not long ago, and I never wanted to experience that type of emptiness again.

“You talk to your girl?”

“Nope.” I seethed, driving in circles for the fuck of it.

“You afraid she’ll bail?”

My mouth dried. Yeah, bail, hightail it out of my house and my life forever. Sometimes that fear seeped down deep to a place I ignored because I didn’t want to face certain demons—being a pussy was safer.

Maybe I was tired of denying the truth. At that moment, I decided, to be honest and put my insecurities out in the open. Paul had that effect.

“Yeah, man. So much it makes me a little crazy.” I turned onto a residential street and parked. At the sight of homes—with open yards for kids and dogs to play in—my heart knocked against my rib cage. I pictured a future with Elle, starting out in a place similar to these. Those chances were slim if I didn’t get my shit together.

Skepticism messed me up when I had time to think. But during the heated moments when I cherished her body, explored the dips and curves along her silky skin, and relished every sound of pleasure she released, I didn’t think. Didn’t have to.

“When Elle left last year, I didn’t deal with it well.”

“Dude, I remember your sloppy-ass messages when she kicked you to the curb.” His deep laugh vibrated through the line. “Did she give you any indication of moving on since you two worked your shit out?”

I laughed, shaking my head. “No, Dr. Phil.” Which had been my problem. Elle promised not to shut me out, but the what-if lurked, cluttering up my head more days than not. “What do you care?”

“Working through your issues is easier than dealing with mine.” Paul dove back in before I could take a go at his problems. “Talk to Elle, man. You’ve got a good woman, and don’t be a pussy about it either.”

I groaned, raking a hand down my scruffy face. Easier said than done. “Any other advice?”

“Don’t be a dick, dick.” He laughed, and I joined him.

“Thanks, man.” Hair fell into my eyes when I shook my head, and I pushed it away. “When you getting out?”

Paul enlisted in the Marines to run from the only woman he’d ever admitted to loving: Alyssa, Elle’s best friend and pain in the ass I nicknamed Amazon.
He never brought up why he walked away from her, and I never pushed. Paul and Alyssa’s history was their business. On occasion, he’d ask about her until I mentioned Bret, her current fling and another buddy of mine. He hadn’t mentioned her name since.

“Soon as the year’s up.”

I whistled. “Good, good.” I shifted the car into drive. “Coming home?”

“Don’t know. So, how’s ball? You and the old man still getting along okay?”

Nice subject change. Paul understood how strained home used to get with Dad back in the day. Growing up, the old man had issues with Elle and her family, and as a result, didn’t approve of me wanting Elle in my life.

Apparently, miracles happen because dad dropped the hostility with Elle and her mom. Not long after our truce, Elle’s sister, Heather, overdosed. All hell broke, which is when Elle shut me out of her life. Worst pain imaginable.
Had I not lied to Elle, repeatedly, kept Heather’s whereabouts a secret while she sobered up in rehab, Elle probably would have stayed. Upon Heather’s request, I didn’t tell Elle. When Heather got out, life was great, until it wasn’t.

The devastation Elle suffered killed me, but she wouldn’t let me help her or hold her during the pain. I probably would’ve died had Dad not been around to intervene, seeing as I dealt with losing Elle by drowning in hard liquor.

Too lost in the past, I hadn’t caught whatever Paul spouted until he said, “Didn’t hear a word I said, did you?”

I shook my head, grinning. “Guess not, but uh, gotta get back.”

“Yeah, ‘aight. I expect a full report next time.”

“Got it, man.”

“Talk soon, bro.”

“See ya.”

I tossed the phone in the passenger seat, ready to head back to Elle, my peace, my everything.

Her car sat in the same place when I hauled ass out. It felt like a fist jammed into my gut. She didn’t leave.

She didn’t leave.

Inside the house, the silence suffocated the mixture of pride and anger, mostly toward myself, and pushed me down the hall. Tension rolled across my shoulders with each step closer to the room, but I forged on. Loving Elle was easy, but trusting each other was a game we’d forgotten how to play.

The hinges creaked when the door opened. Elle snapped her head up. Her red nose and puffy eyes shredded the center part of my chest. Though my heart begged me to inch forward and quiet her cries, my feet were cemented to the floor.
I shoved my hands in my pockets. “Spud.”