Feature – Grand Slam by Tracie Delaney

Grand Slam

by Tracie Delaney
Winning Ace #3
Publication Date: October 11, 2017
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Serial

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SYNOPSIS:

A destroyed career.

A bitter break-up.

After Tally’s perfect life implodes, she moves to Greece. There she finds a country overcome with refugees fleeing the crisis in the Middle East.

She vows to help and, in the process, begins to heal herself.

Shattered by his loss, Cash commits to months of therapy, determined to win back the love of his life. His struggles, though, are far from over.

When a shocking turn of events thrusts Tally back into Cash’s life a moment of joy brings a stranger into their lives.

Who is she? What does she want?

And will Tally and Cash ever find lasting happiness?

Grand Slam has the answers readers have been waiting for.
Grab your copy today.

EXCERPT:

Cash wandered aimlessly around the house, catching sight of himself in the hallway mirror. He looked like shit—hair unkempt, beard in desperate need of a trim. He had dark circles under his eyes, an outward sign of an internal battle.

The buzzer sounded, telling him someone was at the front gates. Well, they could fuck off. He didn’t want to see anyone.

“Cash, it’s Mum. Is everything okay?”

Not even her.

“I don’t care how long I have to stand here before you let me in, but you should know it’s raining. Do you want me to catch cold?”

He grimaced as guilt pinched at his insides. Of course not. What does she take me for?

“Tally, open the gates, darling, or so help me, I’m climbing over.”

Fuck.

He pressed the buzzer, estimating it would take his mother about two minutes to walk up the drive. He had two minutes to get his shit together and try to find a way to explain why Natalia wasn’t there.

He didn’t get two minutes. Sixty seconds later, Mum knocked at the door.

“You should have called.” Cash opened it, ignoring her shocked face as she got a good look at him.

“I did. Several times.” Rachael closed the door behind her and followed him into the living room. Her eyes fell on the broken vase he still hadn’t dredged up the energy to tidy since he’d smashed it three days earlier. He hadn’t aimed for Natalia. Had he?

“What’s going on? Where’s Tally? And why aren’t you answering your phone?”

“That’s a lot of questions,” he muttered, dragging a trembling hand through his hair.

“So take them one at a time.”

“Fine,” he snapped. “I’m losing my fucking mind. Natalia isn’t here because I threw her out, and I’m not answering my phone because I don’t fucking want to talk to anyone.”

He sank onto the sofa and glanced at the floor because he couldn’t stand to look at the stunned expression on his mother’s face. Silence lay thick between them. It was his responsibility to speak first, but the words of apology stuck in his throat.

The sofa dipped as his mother sat beside him. Her fingers wrapped around his, and she squeezed. “Do you want to tell me what happened?”

“No.”

“Is she okay?” she asked gently.

He flashed her a black look. “You mean have I turned into my father?”

“That isn’t what I meant,” she said in an indignant tone. “Don’t put words in my mouth, Cash.”

“Sorry,” he mumbled. “She’s fine. But she won’t be if she stays with me.”

“What does that mean?”

He faced her, hot tears burning his eyes because he refused to let them fall. “I don’t know what’s happening to me. I get angry over nothing, and I have no control over it. I can’t turn into him, Mum.”

“Oh, Cash.” She put her arms around him. For a few seconds, he remained stiff, but as she hugged tighter he gave in, sinking against her. She stroked his hair and whispered comforting words in his ear.

“I had to make her go, because if I didn’t, I couldn’t be sure I wouldn’t hurt her.”

She gently cupped his face, giving him no choice but to look at her. “You need help, sweetheart.”

He jerked his head back and folded his arms across his chest. “I’m not seeing a shrink.”

A resigned sigh spilled from her lips. “Then there must be someone you can talk to. Someone who understands what you’re going through.”

He pinched his nose between his thumb and forefinger as he contemplated his mother’s idea. There was someone, but Cash hadn’t seen him in a long while. Far too long.

The time had come to build bridges.

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ABOUT TRACIE DELANEY

Tracie Delaney is the author of the Winning Ace trilogy. She loves nothing more than immersing herself in a good romance, although she sometimes, rather cheekily, makes her characters wait for their HEA.

When she isn’t writing or sitting around with her head stuck in a book, she can often be found watching The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones or any tennis match involving Roger Federer. Her greatest fear is running out of coffee.

Tracie studied accountancy, gaining her qualification in 2001. Her maths teacher would no doubt be stunned by this revelation considering Tracie could barely add two plus two at high school.

Tracie lives in the North West of England with her amazingly supportive husband. They both share a love of dogs, travel and wine.

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Feature – Wicked Beginnings by LA Cotton

Wicked Beginnings (Wicked Bay #1)

BY L A COTTON
 
The first book in a brand new YA/NA crossover series from
the author who brought you Chastity Falls
Lo thought moving to Wicked Bay was the worst of her problems, but as life begins to unravel around her, she’s going to find out it’s only the beginning…

 

 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Author of mature young adult and new adult novels, L A is happiest writing the kind of books she loves to read: addictive stories full of teenage angst, tension, twists and turns.

Home is a small town in the middle of England where she currently juggles being a full-time writer with being a mother/referee to two little people. In her spare time (and when she’s not camped out in front of the laptop) you’ll most likely find L A immersed in a book, escaping the chaos that is life.

 



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Feature – Duke of Desire by Elizabeth Hoyt


DUKE OF DESIRE – On sale October 17, 2017

About the book

A LADY OF LIGHT
Refined, kind, and intelligent, Lady Iris Jordan finds herself the unlikely target of a diabolical kidnapping. Her captors are the notoriously evil Lords of Chaos. When one of the masked-and-nude!-Lords spirits her away to his carriage, she shoots him…only to find she may have been a trifle hasty.

A DUKE IN DEEPEST DARKNESS
Cynical, scarred, and brooding, Raphael de Chartres, the Duke of Dyemore, has made it his personal mission to infiltrate the Lords of Chaos and destroy them. Rescuing Lady Jordan was never in his plans. But now with the Lords out to kill them both, he has but one choice: marry the lady in order to keep her safe.

CAUGHT IN A WEB OF DANGER…AND DESIRE
Much to Raphael’s irritation, Iris insists on being the sort of duchess who involes herself in his life—and bed. Soon he’s drawn to both to her quick wit and her fiery passion. But when Iris discovers that Raphael’s past may be even more dangerous than the present, she falters. Is their love strong enough to withstand not only the Lords of Chaos but also Raphael’s own demons?

Excerpt
Desperately she flung herself at the opposite seat and tugged it up. Thrust her hand in.

A pistol.

She cocked it, desperately praying that it was loaded.

She turned and aimed it at the door to the carriage just as the door swung open.

The Wolf loomed in the doorway—still nude—a lantern in one hand. She saw the eyes behind the mask flick to the pistol she held between her bound hands. He turned his head and said something in an incomprehensible language to someone outside.

Iris felt her breath sawing in and out of her chest.

He climbed into the carriage and closed the door, completely ignoring her and the pistol pointed at him. The Wolf hung the lantern on a hook and sat on the seat across from her.

Finally he glanced at her. “Put that down.”

His voice was calm. Quiet.

With just a hint of menace.

She backed into the opposite corner, as far away from him as possible, holding the pistol up. Level with his chest. Her heart was pounding so hard it nearly deafened her. “No.”

The carriage jolted into motion, making her stumble before she caught herself.

“T-tell them to stop the carriage,” she said, stuttering with terror despite her resolve. “Let me go now.”

“So that they can rape you to death out there?” He tilted his head to indicate the Lords. “No.”

“At the next village, then.”

“I think not.”

He reached for her and she knew she had no choice.

She shot him.

The blast blew him into the seat and threw her hands up and back, the pistol narrowly missing her nose.

Iris scrambled to her feet. The bullet was gone, but she could still use the pistol as a bludgeon.

The Wolf was sprawled across the seat, blood streaming from a gaping hole in his right shoulder. His mask had been knocked askew on his face.

She reached forward and snatched it off.

And then gasped.

The face that was revealed had once been as beautiful as an angel’s but was now horribly mutilated. A livid red scar ran from just below his hairline on the right side of his face, bisecting the eyebrow, somehow missing the eye itself but gouging a furrow into the lean cheek and catching the edge of his upper lip, making it twist. The scar ended in a missing divot of flesh in the line of the man’s severe jaw. He had inky black hair and, though they were closed now, Iris knew he had emotionless crystal-gray eyes.

She knew because she recognized him.

He was Raphael de Chartres, the Duke of Dyemore, and when she’d danced with him—once—three months ago at a ball, she’d thought he’d looked like Hades.

God of the underworld.

God of the dead.

She had no reason to change her opinion now.

Then he gasped, those frozen crystal eyes opened, and he glared at her. “You idiot woman. I’m trying to save you.”

————————————

About the author
Elizabeth Hoyt is the New York Times bestselling author of over seventeen lush historical romances including the Maiden Lane series. Publishers Weekly has called her writing “mesmerizing.” She also pens deliciously fun contemporary romances under the name Julia Harper. Elizabeth lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota, with three untrained dogs, a garden in constant need of weeding, and the long-suffering Mr. Hoyt.





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Feature – Demon Rising by DeAnna Browne

Demon Rising
by DeAnna Browne
Genre: Adult Urban Fantasy
Some sacrifices cost more than death…
Thirty years ago, dark magicians unleashed new power on the earth fueled by demons. Governments toppled, millions died and magicians ended up on top of the food chain.
Twenty-four-year-old Becca survives these dangerous times by relying on her wits, her fists, and the limited goodwill of her boss, a local crime lord. When news comes of a fire back home and the family she left behind dead, she realizes her dark past has finally caught up to her.
On the hunt for her missing sister, she must rely on Darion, a treacherous ex-boyfriend with ties to the local coven for back-up. Problem is he’s a pyromancer that can’t be trusted, especially with her heart. Will she escape the sticky web of treachery and deceit with her sister and her heart, or will she sacrifice it all to save another?
Becca’s forced to navigate a dangerous web of deceit and must decide what she’s willing to sacrifice to save her sister.
An enthralling new voice gives us a magical world where love leads to dark decisions.” ~ Jami Gray, award winning author
“…extremely well written, filled with wonderful characters, strange happenings, and face paced action. I, for one, found it very hard to put down. I can’t wait for the next book in the series.”
~Taylor Jones, reviewer

Excerpt:
The tattoo on Becca’s neck prickled as she walked the crowded path to work. Searching for the possible source of magic, she continued forward, with coffee in one hand and the other resting by the knife at her waist.
She moved amid a throng of people, shuffling along the worn walkways. Heavy clouds were scattered across the sky, while dilapidated buildings surrounded them, a haunting reminder of what once was. A young man pushed past Becca, dressed in blue coveralls. He must be heading to the line. The tattoo on Becca’s neck prickled as she walked the crowded path to work. Searching for the possible source of magic, she continued forward, with coffee in one hand and the other resting by the knife at her waist.
The warehouse traveled up twenty stories high, the tallest building in town with a large fountain in front. It must have once been a beauty. Now the fountain, covered in graffiti, ran dry and the boarded up windows could barely keep the wind out.
A familiar, lanky guard stood watch on the side of the road. Could he have been the source of the magic warming her tattoo? He scanned the crowd with a demon dog at his side, a German shepherd with unnaturally large black eyes.
Turning forward, she let her dark hair fall into her face, not wanting to draw his attention. She stepped past the guard undisturbed. She could handle herself with the guards, but her boss, Nikko, constantly nagged her about keeping a low profile.
The crowds pressed together, and a large man knocked into Becca’s side, tripping her. She stumbled, spilling the remains of her coffee all over her black jeans. Someone swore as the crowd surged forward, and she stepped to the side.
At five-foot-five, she was on the small side, but strong enough to cause pain and scrappy enough to avoid it when she could. The crowds weren’t her problem, though. That would be the presence behind her, causing her tattoo to burn.
DeAnna Browne graduated from Arizona State University with her BS in Psychology. She finds it helps to corral those voices in her mind and put them to paper. Her debut novel, A DEMON RISING, came out in August 2017 with Black Opal Books and book two in the series, UNHOLY SUNDERING, is due out 2018. An avid reader and writer, she has a soft spot for fantasy with a touch of romance. Despite her love for food and traveling, she always finds her way back to Phoenix, Arizona with her husband, children, and pet dog.
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Feature – Wehr Wolff Castle by B. Bentley Summers

Wehr Wolff Castle
The Wehr Wolff Chronicles Book 1
by B. Bentley Summers
Genre: Historical Horror, LGBT
During the rise of Nazi Germany, Hagen Messer joins the Royal Air Force as an American soldier who specializes in tracking. He’s attached to British commandos and given a seemingly simple mission—to find a captive and destroy a dam—but everything goes awry. Hagen’s plane crashes into Germany’s Wehr Forest and he has to use his extrasensory abilities to track the captive to nearby Wehr Wolff Castle, a secret Nazi base where vile experiments are being conducted.

Hagen and his surviving team members must sneak into the castle and devise a way to destroy the experimental labs creating diabolical creatures. Hagen is horrified to find Nazis and scientists with no scruples, and at the most inconvenient time, he learns that he may be in love with one of his teammates, an Irishman named Liam. In order to protect his love and his friends, Hagen must feign nonchalance amidst pure degeneracy and suspicion. Hagen soon discovers, though, that he is in over his head.

What may not only redeem him, but also save his lover and friends, is a childhood past and a darkness lurking deep inside him, just waiting to be engaged.


Excerpt:

Each second that Hagen sat at the dining hall table was excruciating. Crystal glasses clinked together and he cringed, a couple of officers guffawed and he flinched, and back in the kitchen, a pot clanked hard on the floor and he almost ducked under the table. He stilled himself by sitting on top of his hands. He leaned toward Becke, pretending to listen to the conversation Becke was having with a fellow Nazi officer. When Hagen glanced across the table, Roesia seemed to be in high spirits, her wineglass held with one hand, appearing enraptured by Wagner. The general’s head was tilted back in laughter, his slender nose huge from Hagen’s angle.

Dr. Mengele, meanwhile, leaned sideways from his chair, his chin close to Roesia’s shoulder. He too was attentive to Wagner’s discussion as well as the nape of Roesia’s neck.

A large stainless-steel platter was set in the center of the table and the lid lifted off. A roasted pig with an apple in its mouth stared at him. Hagen’s stomach lurched and a hand flew up to his mouth. He had to look away for a moment and take in a deep breath.

A waiter sliced off chunks of meat and placed them onto each of their plates. The memory of killing the teenager replayed in his head, over and over. He pushed it from his mind, and it was replaced with the SS guard, Dexer, throwing the teen-with-a-limp into the pod. The boy had pounded on the pod window until he’d dropped to the bottom to be eaten by a colossal wolf named Riesig. Bile backed up in Hagen’s throat, his stomach somersaulting. Hagen picked up his fork and knife, and cut off a sliver of meat. He placed it in his mouth and started to chew. It took enormous effort to swallow.

Roesia was speaking to Wagner, and the general’s hand inched near hers, hardly a space between them. Dr. Mengele was engaged in a discussion with the man next to him. He said he planned to create weremutants who were immune to silver.

Hagen caught Dr. Mengele’s conspiratorial whisper. “I’m close.”

Hagen searched the dining hall for a clock. Eight thirty was the time they had decided. Around the table were a handful of SS guards standing close to the wall, pistols holstered in shoulder harnesses. A grandfather clock in the corner said it was eight. Hagen cut off another piece of his meat and placed it in his mouth, a physical revolt happening inside his digestion system that he tried to ignore.

Wagner spoke loudly from across the table. “We have heard there have been spies who have infiltrated the Nazi regime. We have been told that several of them are our own countrymen.”

Roesia feigned shock. “Dear me.” Roesia, at least, had found renewed strength to keep up her masquerade. She asked, “Do you think this place is at risk?”

Wagner took a drink of his wine and offered a somber nod. “I’m afraid it is. We had a base at a dam in Konstanz, which was recently sabotaged. We had to move everything to this location. Himmler has called for a thorough cleansing of all our forces.”

Roesia shook her head, placing her hand on top of his. “The utter nerve.”

Wagner smiled. “Sometimes, these people are the ones closest to you. Sadly, no one can be trusted. But I assure you, Dr. Lawerenze, I will root them out.”

Hagen looked over Wagner’s shoulder and did a double take. Martz was peeking from a doorway. Hagen averted his eyes, barely glancing back up. The man marched up to the table, his eyes on Hagen, then bent over and whispered into Wagner’s ear.

Hagen tensed. He’s going to inform on me.

Hagen caught the name, “Rolph,” and the last part, “I was looking for you.”

Wagner said, “I was downstairs.” He bit his lip, stood up, and placed his napkin on his chair. Roesia turned to him and he bowed to her, saying, “Excuse me. I have some business to attend. I shall leave you in good hands, though.” Wagner followed Martz out of the room.

Becke asked Hagen, “Dr. Lawerenze says the other two officers are now sick?”

Hagen laid his fork down harder than he’d intended; it made a sharp clink on his plate. “They all had a fever.”

Bryce is a psychologist, author, and the founder of Queer Sense Theory.

Bryce writes popular fiction genres meant for all audiences under Bryce Bentley Summers, and pens gay fiction under B. Bentley Summers, although he’d argue that anyone would enjoy his gay fiction pieces.

Bryce’s full time work is at the Veteran Affairs where he has been employed for five years. He has extensive history of working with people diagnosed with PTSD and he used these experiences when writing Fresh Meat.

The novel, Fresh Meat, recently won Dan Poynter’s Global eBook Awards for best gay fiction. This piece is more than just a book, but embraces gay identity while deploring the hateful violence that happens in the U.S. prison system, and across the world. The book parallels the vicious Man-Punk prison system to the long ago abolished American Slavery System. However, Fresh Meat is not non-fiction, but fiction, and it’s genre is best described as Supernatural Horror.

Rotville and The Zombie Squad, are two of Bryce’s recent completions. The Zombie Squad is a teen Post-Apocalyptic Thriller that recently received Reader’s Favorite 5-Stars. This novel has humor and is fast pace, that follows four teens in New Orleans who find themselves not only chased by psycho gangsters, but in the middle of zombocalypse. Rotville is a new adult/ adult Sci-Fi Post-Apocalyptic Horror that takes place in the near future, in a city called Rotville where people with a rot disease are quarantined. Inside this city is the mega prison Colleseo, where inhumane experiments are carried out on inmates. It’s also the birthplace of Dylan, a super soldier who must fight his way out, save a couple of youths from the new deadly mutants, and keep from being re-caught by the greedy director.

Bryce is also the author of the fiction Young Adult Dark Fantasy/ Sci-Fi series AMEN TO ROT. The novel NYTE GOD is the conclusion to this series. The Amen to Rot series and Nyte God pit Ace and his friends against alien invaders who are turning humans into mutant creatures.

Bryce authors popular fiction with a style that entices readers of all backgrounds to consume, and makes every attempt to make his characters diverse.

As noted, Bryce does dabble in gay fiction, and pens it under B. Bentley Summers, though in truth, these works are meant for everyone to read. Bryce is the founder of Queer Sense, a theory that describes how people form attitudes. The theory provides insight into how specific components in cultural contexts shape our beliefs and values, which ultimately form our attitudes. The nonfiction book, QUEER SENSE: How Are Attitudes Formed? A Revolutionary Guide for Teens, Parents, Mental Health Professionals and Anyone Interested in Queer Theory, is due out by 2016.
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Feature – Light of the Spirit by Lisa Kessler

Light of the Spirit

by Lisa Kessler
Muse Chronicles #4
Publication Date: September 18, 2017
Genres: Adult, Paranormal, Romance, Standalone

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SYNOPSIS:

The gods never sleep…

As the mortal vessel for the Muse of Comedy, Lia Youlos lights up every room with laughter and smiles. But there are darker forces at work, and they want to snuff out her light forever.

Cooper Hanover is a hardworking paramedic who healed Lia after a fire, but something happened that day, something medical science couldn’t explain. And if he doesn’t figure out how it works soon, the next healing could kill him.

Lia’s smile and sharp wit tempt him to love again, and he’s not going to let anyone, not even the gods, take her from him.

The Prophecy“Every generation the nine daughters of Zeus are reborn, and with their rebirth are also nine Guardians. They will be marked by the gods, and given gifts to protect his treasure. Their abilities will only be unlocked when they find their muse.”

EXCERPT:

She laughed and something warmed inside of him. Her dark eyes met his. “Have you ever had a secret that involved other people, and you couldn’t share it without exposing them? I have to be really careful.”

He rubbed his forehead. “And swimming is going to help?”

“It might.” She popped forward in her seat and covered his hand in both of hers. “Tell you what? Come swim with me, and I’ll give you a free haircut.”

He laughed again before he could stop himself. “You don’t have to bribe me for a chance to see you in a bathing suit.”

She flipped her hair back with a twinkle in her eyes. “Is that a yes?”

“Sure. When?”

“After pizza.”

“You have a pool?”

“Yeah. You have swim trunks?”

“Not on me.” He couldn’t help but laugh again. “But I’m wearing boxers, will that work?” She nodded, and he picked up his slice of pizza. “This is the weirdest date I’ve ever been on.”

She grinned. “I’ll take that as a compliment.”

And it was. He’d had plenty of dates and a handful of relationships in the past, but he hadn’t laughed this much since… Hell, he couldn’t even remember.

***
Lia made Trinity swear to stay in the condo. If she was going to nonchalantly search Cooper for a crescent-shaped birthmark, she didn’t want witnesses. Lia stepped into the shallow end of the swimming pool, grateful it was heated. Not that Crystal City had much in the way of seasons. It was almost always sunny, but fall nights like tonight were chilly.

The back door opened, and Cooper walked toward the pool. Lord. She prayed her jaw wasn’t hanging open. His broad shoulders were muscled—heck, all of him was covered in muscles—and his skin was tan. On his bicep, he had a single tattoo of the caduceus, which symbolized medicine and healers.

She forced her eyes up to his face. “Come on in. The water’s fine.”

Instead of walking into the shallow end from the steps, he took two running strides and dove into the deep end. He was like a sexy bullet shooting through the water, breaking the surface right in front of her. Without thinking, she placed her hand on his chest.

He covered her hand with his and bent closer. “Is anyone going to come out needing you to set an alarm?”

“I’ll break their arm,” she said, her pulse racing.

He smiled as he closed the distance between their lips. His kiss was warm, soft, and knee weakening. She ran her hands up his chest, lacing her fingers around the back of his neck as his hands caressed the small of her back. The second her bare belly pressed against him, heat smoldered low inside of her.

Gradually, his tongue teased her lips, coaxing her to open for him. She moaned as she explored his mouth. He bent his knees, his hands sliding lower to grip the back of her thighs. He straightened, lifting her as she wrapped her legs around his waist. A rumble vibrated through his chest, and he tipped his head to the side, deepening the kiss until every inch of her ached for his attention.

She brushed her lips against his, her teeth catching his lower lip for a second before she made herself pull back. Blinking her eyes open, she gasped for air. “Okay. That was totally worth the wait.”

He brought one hand out of the water to cup her cheek and caressed her skin with his thumb. “Definitely.”

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ABOUT LISA KESSLER

Lisa Kessler is a Best Selling author of dark paranormal fiction. She’s a two-time San Diego Book Award winner for Best Published Fantasy-Sci-fi-Horror and Best Published Romance. Her books have also won the PRISM award, the Award of Excellence, the National Excellence in Romantic Fiction Award, the Award of Merit from the Holt Medallion, and an International Digital Award for Best Paranormal.

Her short stories have been published in print anthologies and magazines, and her vampire story, Immortal Beloved, was a finalist for a Bram Stoker award.

When she’s not writing, Lisa is a professional vocalist, and has performed with San Diego Opera as well as other musical theater companies in San Diego.

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Feature – In Pieces by Danielle Pearl


IN PIECES – On sale October 10, 2017

About the book

Beth Caplan is ready to begin college a new woman. She’s worked hard to overcome her demons, and she’s eager to live in a world where no one knows about her past. Except, of course, her childhood crush. David March has known Beth a lifetime. Tasked by her older brother to look after the beautiful incoming freshman, he takes his job exceptionally seriously. Even if she tempts him in ways no kid-sister type ever should.

When Beth’s ex shows up as a transfer student, and a creepy stranger with a reputation for violence sets his sights on her, Dave will do whatever it takes to protect her, even if it means moving her in with him. When he learns just how much a secret from his past hurt the girl he’s always cared for, he becomes doubly determined to protect her, even from himself. But that’s easier said than done.

Excerpt
Beth startles when she notices me, and she stops walking, so I make up the distance still between us. She looks adorable as all hell in those tight jeans and loose racerback tank top. Her bra shows at her sides and I’m equally turned on and annoyed by it. She never did have any kind of self-awareness. At least not when it comes to how goddamned attractive she is. And it bugs me that every guy that’s passed her today has caught a glimpse of that black lace.

I shove my hand through my hair. “Beth,” I sigh.

I wait for her to go off on me again, but she doesn’t. She just kind of looks up at me, her resentment a palpable thing. I can’t stand to see her look at me like that. But what makes my lungs burn is knowing that I deserve her resentment. She has no idea how much. Fuck, I hope to God she never will. Especially not now that she’s come so far—that she’s doing so well. Well enough to tell me off in public, at my own party, anyway.

But not tonight, it seems, and when she still doesn’t say anything at all, I make my attempt. “Look, I’m sorry, okay? I thought I was protecting you.”

“I don’t need protection,” she counters.

I nod. “I know. I just thought…Falco being around would give you an excuse to hide away in your dorm, and I wanted you to experience…”

“Experience what, David?”

I shrug. “I don’t know. Fucking life, I guess.”

Beth looks down at her shoes. I hate that she won’t even look at me. “Okay, whatever,” she murmurs.

“Whatever?” I repeat incredulously. Here I am, apologizing—something I’m not exactly fucking known for—and all she has to say is whatever?

“Yeah. Whatever. I get it. It just sucks, you know?”

I take a much-needed deep breath. “I know, Bea.”

At last her eyes meet mine, hostility finally gone. I take the opportunity to retrieve my new peace offering from my back pocket. Well, not new. My worn and weathered copy of Hamlet, riddled with years’ worth of my own highlights and notes, its pages filled with more of my own words than those of the author himself. I hope it will help in her Shakespeare class. If nothing else, it will give her an invasive insight into who I am and how I think, just like all the other books I’ve given her over the years, and I wonder if she realizes just how personal it is.

She takes it, her thin brows pinched together in confused awe. “This is your copy,” she breathes.

Suddenly I feel too vulnerable, uncomfortably exposed. “Thought it could help in your class,” I half-lie. Because it’s more than that, and I suspect she knows it.

Her pretty pink lips twist into a small smile, her cheeks going even rounder than usual, and it hits me right in the chest. Not for the first time I tell myself the affection I feel for her is strictly familial. More lies.

“Thanks.”

I smile. “You eat dinner yet?”

She shrugs. “I was gonna heat a cup of noodles and study.”

Cup of fucking noodles? “Fuck that. Come to the Stu-U. Let’s get some real food.”

Beth rolls her eyes. “Fine. But just some quick food, okay? I really need to study.”

“There are more things in heaven and earth, Bea,” I smirk at her, and she sets free a short giggle. There it is.

I take her girly-ass backpack and slip it over my shoulder, giving her no choice but to follow me. But as soon as I turn around, my eyes catch on that same guy, just as he’s averting his gaze. Only this time he wasn’t looking at me. He was looking at Beth; I’m sure of it. Rage rushes through my veins, and I grit my teeth. I don’t know who the fuck this guy is, but there’s something off about him, and there’s absolutely nothing good about Beth drawing his attention.

My jaw clenches. I slip my arm protectively around her shoulders, despite just having been scolded for being overprotective. “Beth, in two seconds, I want you to subtly glance to your left, between buildings B and C, okay?”

Her brows pinch together again. She looks so damned cute when she does that. She doesn’t wait the two seconds, and her “subtle glance” is more of a full-on stare. “Glance,” I whisper-growl. I wait until she’s facing forward again, and then start leading her from the quad. “Did you see that guy?” I ask her.

She nods hesitantly.

“Do you know him?”

“Yeah. I mean, no. He’s in my Abnormal Psych class. And I saw him last night.”

“Saw him doing what?”

“The same thing. Standing around smoking cigarettes like a fucking creep.”

“I think he was looking at you,” I admit.

“And that.”

So this isn’t the first time that guy’s been staring at Beth. Unease swirls in my gut. “Stay away from him,” I warn her.

“Do you know him?” she asks uncertainly.

“No. But I don’t like the way he was looking at you.”

Of course, I’ve never liked the way any guys have looked at her.

————————————

About the author
Danielle Pearl is the bestselling author of the Something More series. She lives in New Jersey with her three delicious children and ever-supportive husband, who—luckily—doesn’t mind sharing her with an array of fictional men. She did a brief stint at Boston University and worked in marketing before publishing her debut novel, Normal. She writes mature Young Adult and New Adult contemporary romance. Danielle enjoys coffee, wine, and cupcakes, and not in moderation.

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