Feature – A Song For Us by Teresa Mummert


A SONG FOR US – On sale April 17, 2014

About the book -

Cass Daniels and rocker Tucker White are finally replacing guitar feedback with wedding bells as Teresa Mummert concludes her gritty New York Times and USA Today bestselling trilogy with the hotly anticipated A SONG FOR US. But now it’s Eric’s turn for love. Will the band’s brooding drummer ever let go of his troubled past—and the one girl he can’t forget?

From a small-town boy with fantasies of superstardom to rock star on tour with the suddenly famous band Damaged, Eric’s life has not been an easy journey. Now he struggles to let go of his past of physical abuse, a past that still haunts him. His anger is causing him to spiral out of control and he risks losing everything he has worked so hard for.

Only one person has ever gotten him to open up about his past: Sarah, the lead singer of Filth, the opening act on their first national tour—a fellow rocker with a confident façade that masks her own painful secrets. But their bands’ rocky past and Sarah’s tumultuous relationship with her bandmate and boyfriend Derek force her to keep Eric at a distance. As their friendship begins to grow into something more, Eric has to find a way to let go of his tortured past, or it could jeopardize his only chance for a happy future….

Excerpt -

Chapter 1

ERIC
Five Days Earlier

I’M not wearing a fucking tie, Tuck,” I growled as I tried to knot the silky fabric around my neck. I yanked it off and tossed it to the ground in frustration.

“You just need to learn how to tie it, Eric.” Cass smiled as she patted me on the shoulder. “You would look good all dressed up.”

I rolled my eyes and picked up the light blue scrap of fabric from the ground, determined to figure out how to wear it. Tucker laughed and shook his head. I owed it to Cass to try to be on my best behavior. She went through hell to plan this wedding around our schedule, and I wouldn’t screw that up for her. We stayed in Southern California after our last gig, and she went to work ironing out the details with only two weeks until we go back to work. Each of us had his own job to do. I chose the church. It was small but sort of quaint, and the pastor talked my ear off for an hour about young love. I knew he wouldn’t judge their decision to marry young.

“How come you listen to her and not me?”

“Because Cass is prettier than you,” I joked, and Tucker rolled his eyes. “Seriously, why can’t we just dress the way we always do? You want to start off your marriage with a lie?”

Cass’s hand connected with the back of my head.

“Oww!” I yelled, then rubbed the tender spot. I knew she was stressed-out about the ceremony, and it was too hard to resist messing with her. She had been trying her hardest to get Dorris to attend, but her health was failing and Cass finally gave up two days ago. I held out hope some of our friends would show, but it had been months since I’d talked to Sarah and I assumed Filth was touring and didn’t have the time.

“You’re not going to dress as a homeless rock star at my wedding,” Cass called over her shoulder as she made her way to the hotel bathroom.

“I am a homeless rock star.”

“Semantics,” she called out with a laugh.

I was happy to be a rolling stone. Cass and Tuck had been talking about getting a home of their own, and the idea made me cringe. I didn’t want things to change. I ran my hand through my hair and pushed out a sigh. Maybe the shots of Jack before lunch were a mistake. Drinking never took away my problems, but ever since our tour ended and Sarah—the girl who had gradually become my rock—was long gone, I didn’t want to cope with reality.

It was easier to find peace at the bottom of a bottle.

“You all right?” Tucker asked, leaning in toward me and lowering his voice. His hand clamped on my shoulder. I knocked it away and took a step back from him.

“I’m fine.”

The truth was, I was far from okay. I just didn’t want to talk about it. I wanted to play another gig and get lost in the music.

I glanced up at Donna, our manager. Her dark, wavy hair was pinned back, but loose curls spilled down the back of her neck. I wanted to wrap my fingers in it. I shook the thought from my head and made my way to the kitchen area of our hotel suite. Donna had been loosening up around all of us a lot more lately—it was a refreshing change from the all-business bitch who first showed up to whip our band into shape during our tour. Sometimes we’d even flirt a little. And in the months since Sarah left, Donna and I had actually grown closer as friends. Plus, she was hot when she let herself kick back and have fun.

But I couldn’t let my mind go there, especially not today . . .

Maybe the problem wasn’t that I had drank; maybe I just didn’t drink enough. I poured two fingers of whiskey into a glass and quickly drank it down, letting it burn my throat.

I sat the plastic cup on the counter and wiped a drop of liquor from my chin as Cass came to my side.

“I could use a few of those myself,” she said quietly as she leaned her back against the faux-granite countertop.

I stared at the cabinets in front of me as I clenched my jaw. I knew Cass could tell I was upset. She had become like a little sister to me, and as much as I loved her, at times I wished we could escape each other. I hated how transparent I was to her, and she never let shit go.

“Have you talked to her?” I asked after a pregnant pause. Even thinking about her made my head start to ache, and I knew it was only a matter of time before I had one of my headaches.

Cass nodded, swallowing audibly.

“She doin’ okay?”

“She . . . she said she is happy.”

I could hear the pain in her voice and I closed my eyes, not wanting to see the look of pity on her face. It wasn’t long ago I had judged Cass and Tucker, afraid of their ripping apart our band with their relationship. But now here I was, sad and sulking over someone I had no right to miss, not even wanting to think about how lost I’d be without Cass’s and Tuck’s support.

The conversation came to an abrupt halt when a hand slid over my spine. Even though I’d been doing my best to avoid Donna’s most deliberate advances knowing it would only end badly for all of us, suddenly the idea of having someone touch me, distract me from my pain, even for a few hours, was all I wanted. And I wanted it more than anything else. I watched Tucker and the twins from the small kitchen area, trying not to meet her gaze. I didn’t mind sometimes blurring the lines a little, but today was different. Today I was forced to watch others move on in their lives, build a future, and I was still lost and alone.

————————————

About the author -
Teresa Mummert is an army wife and mother who has lived in small towns in Pennsylvania, Louisiana, and Georgia.

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Feature – The Broken by Shelley Coriell


THE BROKEN – On sale April 29, 2014

About the book -

Three years ago Kate Johnson was an ambitious, justice-seeking broadcast journalist. She was also the victim of a vicious attack. Stabbed 24 times and left for dead by a serial killer later known as the Broadcaster Butcher, Kate is the only person who has actually survived the killer. She’s also the one person who can help FBI profiler Hayden Reed solve the case.

With the Butcher on the loose and Hayden on her tail, Kate can’t hide anymore. Not from the nightmares she’s worked hard to forget. Not from the madman looking to kill again and not from the sexy FBI profiler trying to get into her head and eventually her heart. Together Kate and Hayden join forces to hunt down the Butcher and stop the bloody killing spree, a journey that forces Kate to face the monsters of her past and accept the woman she now sees in the mirror, scars and all.

Excerpt -
“I’m not going to Denver,” she said matter-of-factly. Agent Reed so loved facts. “I can’t leave Smokey alone.”

“He can go with you.”

“And disrupt his life even more than I already have?” Smokey Joe had dropped into bed right after dinner, emotionally and physically exhausted. He didn’t even ask for a rain check on their nightly domino game. “If you have any ounce of compassion behind that man-of-steel persona, you will not drag him into this any more than he is.”

He stood motionless for the longest time, and she pictured the gears in his brain whirring and clicking as he weighed the facts and analyzed their options. “You care about him.” There was his non-question thing again. It drove her nuts, and so did the fact he didn’t know what he was talking about.

“This is just a job,” she insisted.

“A job?”

“Something to pay the bills.” She straightened the dominoes on the table and made a note to tell Smokey’s caseworker that he liked his nightly game. “So what happens with Smokey?”

“I’ll call social services and get them out here first thing in the morning.”

She shook her head. “They’ll put him in a temporary group home. He doesn’t do well in institutional settings. He flooded the last one he was in, and it wasn’t an accident. He needs one-on-one attention, someone to be with him, but not to micromanage his days.” Someone like her. But her time with Smokey was over. For now she’d resigned to go with Agent Reed to the Denver field office. She pictured that upstairs window. Unless she got a chance to run.

“Don’t worry about Smokey Joe. I’ll find him a safe place.”

“Not a group home?”

“Not a group home.”

“And you’ll make sure he ends up in a place where he’s not surrounded by buildings and cars and noise. He needs room to breathe.” Smokey had spent two years in a hole in the ground in a North Vietnamese prison camp and had an insatiable need for fresh air and wide open spaces.

“I’ll find a place with plenty of space.” She opened her mouth, but he held up a hand. “I’ll take care of everything.”

And she believed him, because Special Agent Hayden Reed was the kind of man who’d take care of Smokey and the rest of the free world.

He finally circled his hand around her wrist and turned it so the lock was faceup. “Give me his caseworker’s number, and I’ll make arrangements for tomorrow.”

“What about tonight?”

He inserted the key and turned, the cuff clicking open.

“We’ll stay here.”

“We? You’re sleeping here?”

“No, I’m working here.” The cuff slipped off, but his fingers remained circled about her wrist. “I have plenty to keep me busy.”

She hopped to her feet. “But—”

“Would you prefer I set up a team of deputies from the sheriff’s department to stand guard?”

She tried to shrug off his hand, but his fingers tightened, a golden manacle that was stronger than tempered steel. Agent Efficient was enough. “Fine. Work here. If you get tired, there are pillows and blankets in the hall closet.” When he finally let go, she took off up the stairs to her loft. Footsteps sounded behind her, and she spun and glared at him. “Is this really necessary?”

He answered with a pair of raised brows. She stood in the doorway with her arms crossed as he searched under her bed, in her closet, and through her drawers. He tugged at the tiny glass window at the V of the loft.

She let loose an exasperated sigh. “You’re being ridiculous. The Butcher can’t get through that window.”

“I’m not worried about someone trying to get in.” Damn him. And damn those eyes. “I promise, Katrina, if you make any attempt to leave this place, I’ll cuff you to the bed.”

She wanted to swipe off the unbearably confident look on his face, but it was his world, his way. He wasn’t giving up control. He was Mr. Unflappable.

Oh yeah? She’d seen that flash in his eyes when she’d taken off her shirt in the kitchen. He was Super Agent, but he was also a man.

Kate uncrossed her arms and slipped off her overshirt. A half smile slipping onto her lips, she tossed her shirt to the ground and sunk onto the quilt covering her bed. She slid her fingers along her thighs and up her torso. Finally, she raised her hands to the brass headboard. “I’d love for you to cuff me to this bed.” She licked her lips. “Pleeeease.”

Agent Reed’s entire upper body tensed. She saw it in his shoulders, in his jaw, and in his hand as he slid his palm along his tie as if to straighten the brilliant splashes of yellow and orange scattered across the length of silk. His gaze slid from her bare feet and up her legs. An unexpected tingle coursed through her midsection as he lingered on her breasts before sliding to her wrists. A soft breath caught in his throat, and she didn’t need to be a mind reader to know he wasn’t thinking about the Butcher.

With her hands still in the bound position, she waggled her fingers at him.

He blinked and took a step back. Then he spun on his shiny Italian lace-ups and practically raced down the stairs.

Mission accomplished. She’d just shaken the unshakable Hayden Reed, and if she wasn’t so damned furious at him, she’d laugh.


and check out a live chat with Shelley at Spreechat on April 29 at 7 PM EST to celebrate the launch of THE BROKEN!

————————————

About the author -
A former newspaper reporter, magazine editor, and restaurant reviewer. These days Shelley writes smart, funny novels for teens and big, edgy romantic suspense. A six-time Romance Writers of America Golden Heart Finalist, she lives and loves in Arizona with her family and the world’s neediest rescue Weimaraner. When she’s not behind the keyboard, you’ll find her baking high-calorie, high-fat desserts and haunting local farmers markets for the perfect plum.


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Feature – Bad Karma in The Big Easy by D.J. Donaldson


Bad Karma in The Big Easy – On sale now

About the book -
Astor + Blue Editions is proud to present a heart-pounding new thriller by D.J. Donaldson, Bad Karma in The Big Easy! Available at all major book retailers (ISBN: paperback 979-1-938231-32-2, ePUB 978-1-938231-30-8, ePDF 978-1-938231-31-5; Mystery, Thriller; paperback $12.99, ebook $5.99).

Best-selling mystery author D.J. Donaldson (New Orleans Requiem, Louisiana Fever) invites readers back to the Bayou with his latest New Orleans adventure Bad Karma in the Big Easy.Plump and proud medical examiner Andy Broussard reunites with gorgeous psychologist Kit Franklyn as they face off with their most gruesome foe yet.

A killer lurks in The Big Easy, his victims found among the many bodies left in the wake of the devastating Hurricane Katrina. But with the city’s records destroyed, and the police force in complete disarray, Broussard must take matters into his own hands. Soon, he and his courageous sidekick, Kit, find themselves on a dangerous and labyrinthine journey through the storm-ravaged underbelly of the ever-mysterious and intensely seductive city of New Orleans; leading them to a predatory evil the likes of which they’ve never encountered.

Written in his uniquely brusque style, Donaldson’s Bad Karma combines hard-hitting, action-packed prose with a folksy, sweetly Southern charm. Add Donaldson’s brilliant first-hand knowledge of forensics and the sultry flavor of New Orleans, and the result is a first class forensic procedural within an irresistibly delectable mystery that will leave fans hungry for more.

Excerpt -
FROM GRANDMA O’S, KIT headed for her apartment in the French Quarter, relieved that Broussard didn’t attach much significance to her doubts about those pictures. But he was aware now that her word wasn’t always reliable when she vouched for what she knew. And that was bothersome.

Kit lived in an apartment behind a photo gallery on Toulouse Street. One of the perks of living there was it came with a parking space in an old wooden garage, three blocks away on Dauphine. Even on a normal night when the Quarter was full of life and lights, she kept one hand on her key ring Mace canister as she navigated from the garage to the gallery. Tonight, with no tourists in town and most of the shops and restaurants closed, there were many more dark doorways than usual, so as she walked, she felt isolated and vulnerable.

Turning onto Toulouse, where only a few of the streetlamps were working, she faced a shadowy gauntlet of black storefronts and dim recesses where danger might lurk. Picking up the pace, she moved quietly forward, into the waiting gloom, her Mace out and ready.

She’d walked about ten steps when she caught movement out of the corner of her left eye at the junction of the sidewalk with the building to her left. As she jerked her head down to see what it was, two rats the size of small nutrias scuttled across the sidewalk and into the street. Feeling a shudder ripple down her spine, she resumed walking. But as she swung her right foot forward, another rat ran into her path. She accidentally kicked it hard, the toe of her shoe sinking deeply into the furry body before she sent it squeaking into the air.

The rat hit the pavement two feet away and let out another squeal. It righted itself, sat up, and glared at her for a moment, before scuttling after its brethren.

At the Bourbon Street intersection half a minute later, the landscape brightened. In contrast to Toulouse, Bourbon was an oasis of life. That’s not to say it was anywhere near normal. Compared to its pre-Katrina status of permanent mayhem, the dark shops liberally dotted among those open for business gave it a struggling third-world look. Among the places bustling with activity was Bunny’s, a bar and grill that had been open around the clock for over a dozen years, including the hours during the height of Katrina’s fury when Bunny had to serve up burgers cooked on a camp stove

Looking at Bunny’s neon sign, Kit was reminded again that if she had only been able to get word down to Bunny’s while she was struggling to save Mrs. Lucas, she could have gotten help to squeeze that respirator bag. But there had just been no way… no way at all.

She changed direction and angled across the intersection, heading for the bar. As she drew near, she heard “Okie from Muskogee” playing on Bunny’s jukebox spill out the front door and into the street. After the dark isolation of Toulouse, Kit followed the sound like an ameba seeking light.

Inside, the place was dimly lit. Most of the tables and the seats at the bar were occupied. These days, Bunny’s customers consisted of a few regulars who lived in the Quarter and had refused to evacuate, supplemented by off-duty national guardsman and construction workers trying to repair the levees and put the city back together. The clientele was exclusively male. Seeing Kit in the doorway, they made her the focus of their attention.

Bunny came from behind the bar and headed her way.

“Hello Darlin,” Bunny said, embracing her. She let go and took a step back so she could see Kit’s face. “Can you feel the testosterone spotlight, babe… cause you’re standin’ in it.”

“I feel it.”

“How you doin’?” “Not too bad. Business looks good.”

Bunny leaned close and lowered her voice conspiratorially, “But they aren’t really havin’ fun. Guess too many of ‘em are away from home.”

Looking at Bunny with her double chin, it was hard to believe she had once been Bunny LeClaire, one of the hottest exotic dancers on Bourbon Street. But she had pictures of herself in costume all around the place to prove it. Kit was one of only a few who knew her real last name was Lefkowitz.

“Can I throw a burger on the grill for you?” Bunny asked.

“Can’t stay. Just stopped in to say hi and soak up a little civilization after coming down Toulouse.”

“Hope you’re careful walkin’ in those dark areas.”

“I try to be. A few minutes ago, I accidentally kicked a rat.”

“I’ve kicked a few in my time, mostly the two-legged kind and always on purpose as they hit the road.”

“Someday you’ll find the right guy.”

“They always seem right at first. Why is that?”

“Protective camouflage. Lots of predators use it to get close to their prey.”

Bunny picked up Kit’s hand and slapped it affectionately.

“Girl, you got a way of goin’ right to the heart of things. Protective camouflage… I have to remember that.”

“It’s not often I get a chance to leave the impression I’m clever. I better go before I ruin it.”

“Oh, that Westie breeder friend of mine in Mississippi called today. The litter we’ve been waitin’ for has been born. And there’s one healthy male unspoken for. If you want him, we should let her know ASAP.”

Bunny had been working on Kit for months trying to convince her to get a puppy to replace her dog, Lucky, who had died of old age in June. Kit had been resisting because she felt it dishonored Lucky’s memory to replace him so quickly. But after talking to the Hendrins and John Munson, she could no longer ignore the empty feeling growing inside her.

“Tell her I want him.”

Bunny’s eyes glistened with approval. “I’ll call her tonight.”

On the way out the door, Kit ran into an attractive redhead that lived in one of the two apartments above Bunny’s place.

“How’s the crowd?” the redhead asked.

“Not bad… all male, so get ready for a lot of stares if you’re going in.”

“You say that like it’s a bad thing.”

It was far from obvious, but the redhead was actually a man in drag Kit knew only as He Daisy. Daisy had many wigs, but usually favored the flaming red one he was now wearing. He wasn’t into soliciting men, but simply liked to dress as a woman. By trade, he was an artist who supplemented his trust fund income with sporadic sales of his paintings. Though he had an unusual lifestyle, he was a gentle, kind man Kit counted as a friend. “Does this color lipstick make me look like a tart?” Daisy asked.

“Not at all.”

“Too bad. I was hoping it did.” Daisy laughed. “Well, I’m going to get something to eat and go upstairs and work. You have a good one.”

As Kit walked back to Toulouse, crossed over, and went another half block to the photo gallery fronting her apartment, she wasn’t sure at all that a little Westie puppy was big enough to fill the hollow space in her heart.

Tourists comprised most of the business that came through the doors of the Nolen Boyd gallery. No tourists equaled no business. So Boyd had decided to take a long European vacation while the city got back to where it could once again entice enough visitors for him to justify reopening.

Mace canister in hand, Kit walked past the dark front of the gallery and stepped up to the eight-foot tall, heavy cypress door leading to the back courtyard. She took a quick look around.

Seeing no one lingering or approaching, she quickly keyed the lock and opened the door.

The gallery and the adjacent building formed a long passage leading to the rear courtyard, where Kit’s apartment was located. The passage had a lattice ceiling on which a hundred-year-old wisteria had spread its branches. During the day, this made the passage a delightful, light-dappled avenue. But at night, the Wisteria would have caused it to be a very dark twenty-foot stretch were it not for the little lights Boyd had rigged along the left wall.

Above the big cypress door, Boyd had installed a coil of razor wire to keep anyone on the outside from climbing over the door. So as the door shut and locked behind her, the tension Kit felt from being on the Quarter’s dark streets flowed out of her.

Even though she was now safely home, she kept her Mace ready.

Walking toward the courtyard, which was brightly illuminated by a dark-activated mercury vapor light, Kit remembered how happy Lucky always was to see her, his little tail wagging furiously, his mouth open in an expression of pure joy. How she missed that little varmint.

But what to name the new one? Lucky II? That’s no good.

She reached the end of the lattice ceiling and stepped out from under it. Suddenly, she heard a sharp scratching sound from the lattice. Before she could turn to see what it was, a soft object hit the top of her head. Something heavy thudded into the ground behind her. At the same instant, the thing that had hit her seemed to be melting over her hair.

As she struggled to complete her turn to see what the hell was going on, the melting liquid slid down over her face… It covered her eyes… so thick she couldn’t see through it.

Down it went over her nose and mouth. And it was making a crinkling sound.

She lifted her hands to wipe the stuff away.

That’s when she discovered it was not liquid.

It was a plastic bag.

————————————

About the author -
Don is a retired professor of Anatomy and Neurobiology. His entire academic career was spent at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, where he published dozens of papers on wound healing and taught microscopic anatomy to over 5,000 medical and dental students. He is also the author of seven published forensic mysteries and five medical thrillers. He lives in Memphis, Tennessee with his wife and two West Highland Terriers. In the spring of most years he simply cannot stop buying new flowers and other plants for the couple’s backyard garden.

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(Portly & Proud) Andy Broussard Mysteries – all on sale for $0.99 right now!
Bad Karma in the Big Easy
Louisiana Fever
Sleeping With the Crawfish
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Cover reveal – Twisted by Elisabeth Naughton (Coming Soon!)

Watch this space! :)

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For today…

- Happy Easter! –

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Cover reveal – Freed by Stacey Kennedy


FREED (CLUB SIN #4) – On sale September 23, 2014

About the book:

Mary Schmidt knows only too well how thrilling a Master’s touch can be. Her husband, Charles, had been her ultimate fantasy, a seducer in the erotic dance of dominance and submission. She misses the sensual lifestyle they shared, but mourns him so deeply she cannot bear to embrace her submissive needs with another Dom—until a man who exudes temptation reawakens desires she can no longer deny.
 
Elliott Foster is dazzled by Mary. He instantly knows that she’s the woman he’s been waiting for—a woman who turns games into need. As her Master, he dares to unlock the deepest pleasures of her flesh, releasing her from pain and healing her mind. When Mary’s lithe body comes to life under his, he knows their connection goes beyond sex. Now that he has found the perfect woman, the perfect partner, the perfect submissive, he desires only to give her everything she craves.

Preorder FREED right here -
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About the author -
USA Today Bestselling Author, Stacey Kennedy is an urban fantasy lover at heart, but she also enjoys losing herself in dark and sensual worlds. She lives in southwestern Ontario with her husband, who gave her a happily-ever-after. Together, they have two small children who can always make her smile, and who will never be allowed to read Mommy’s books. If she’s not plugging away at a new story, you’ll find her camping, curling up with the latest flick, or obsessing over Supernatural, True Blood, Lost Girl, and Sons of Anarchy.


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Feature – Nova and Quinton: No Regrets by Jessica Sorensen


NOVA AND QUINTON: NO REGRETS – On sale April 15, 2014

About the book -

Today is the first day of Quinton Carter’s new life. The toxic guilt of his past left him in pieces-but one girl unexpectedly put him back together. Thanks to Nova Reed, Quinton can finally see the world with clear eyes. She’s the reason his heart is still kicking behind the jagged scar on his chest. And he would love to have her in his arms every minute of the day . . . but he’s not ready yet.

Playing drums in a band and living with her best friends are just some of the highlights of Nova’s life. But the best new development? Talking to Quinton on the phone each night. She wishes she could touch him, kiss him, though she knows he needs time to heal. Yet shocking news is on the way-a reminder of life’s dark side-and Nova will need Quinton like he once needed her. Is he strong enough to take the final leap out of his broken past . . . and into Nova’s heart?

Excerpt -
“I have to tell you something else, but it’s not good—it’s bad.” Before I can chicken out, I hurry and sputter, “Someone gave me a bag of meth today and I have it underneath my mattress.” As soon as I say it, I wonder why the hell I thought this was a good idea, throwing this on her. I need to stop relying on her so much—need to stand on my own two feet.

I’m about to hang up, because really it’s the only choice, but then she says, “Did you do any of it?”

“No.” My voice shakes as I grip the side of the mattress and battle to breathe evenly.

“Do you want to?” she asks calmly.

“Yes.” My voice is full of desperation.

“Are you… are you going to?” There’s a hint of worry in her tone.

“I’m not sure,” I admit. “I want to, but I also want to throw it away.”

“Then throw it away,” she says, as if it’s the easiest thing in the world to do.

“I don’t think I can.” My hands quiver just at the thought of it and I rest my forehead on the mattress, still on my knees “It feels fucking impossible.”

“Yes, you can.” She sounds so certain and I have no idea how she’s doing it—managing to sound so calm when I know she can’t be. “Just take it and dump it down the toilet. You can do this. I know you can.”

“You have too much faith in me,” I say, slipping my fingers between the bed and the mattress, fighting the urge to hang up on her and turn to what’s only inches away from my fingertips.

“No, I have the right amount,” she replies. “Now let me know when you have it and you’re headed to the bathroom. And don’t hang up on me.” It’s like she can read my mind.

I sit there forever, going back and forth with what I want and need to do. At one point I grab the bag of crystal and put it back. Then pull it out again and open it, staring at the white crystals so close I can almost taste them. But I can also hear Nova breathing on the other end. Soft and full of concern. Acting calm, when I’m sure she’s freaking out. I want to throw them away just for her, but I have to wonder if it’s possible to care for someone so much that I’d give this up. Do I care for her that much?

After a lot of deliberating, I come to one simple answer.

Yes. I care about her that much.

I get to my feet and make my way to the bathroom, not speaking. Then I lift up the toilet seat and, shutting my eyes, I tip the bag over, pour the contents into the water, and flush them down.

“Did you do it?” Nova asks at the sound of the flushing.

I press my lips together, resting back against the bathroom wall, realizing how sweaty I am and how much I’m gasping for air. “I did.”

“See, I knew you could do it,” she says with relief in her voice. “I knew you’d do the right thing.”

The right thing? Is that what I just did? Sometimes it feels like it is, but there are other times when it feels like what I’m doing is so wrong and disrespectful to Lexi. But through the right and wrong, there’s always one thing that gives me hope and that’s Nova. She’s what keeps me going.

————————————

About the author -
Jessica Sorensen is a #1 New York Times and USA Today bestselling author who lives with her husband and three kids in Idaho. When she’s not writing, she spends her time reading and hanging out with her family.

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