The Winter Saga Series by Jami Brumfield


*****
Winters Saga Series
Author: Jami Brumfield
Publication Date: Apr 29, 2014
Publisher: Beau Coup Publishing
Genre: Young Adult/ Paranormal Romance



Lone Wolf Rising (Winters Saga Book 1)  
Book 1 in the Winters Saga Series begins with Lone Wolf Rising

Revenge has deadly consequences. Seventeen year old Rebecca Winters’ main goal for ten years has been to graduate high school and take down the people who killed her parents. When she stumbled upon a werewolf pack in the middle of Phoenix, she knew she’d found a way to make her dream come true. Instead of getting vengeance, an act of war has put her into a position of power and forces her to put her thirst for family justice on a temporary hold.

He is duty bound to protect her. Lucian (Lucky) Lamont is a member of the Protectors, an elite supernatural police force who works for the Authority. Their main goal is to keep humans in the dark about the creatures who live among them. Lucky is assigned to protect and manage Rebecca, despite her refusal of help. His cover is simple; he poses as the dutiful ‘pretend’ boyfriend in order to keep an eye on the new alpha wolf.

She is his mate.

Gabriel Black though taking his pack back from the witch who was chosen as the new alpha would be simple. He thought wrong. His entire world was turned upside down the moment he met Rebecca at the Authority Council meeting…and he was hooked the moment he kissed her to prove she wasn’t dating his best friend, Lucky.

It’s like being torn between two lovers.

Rebecca is pulled in hundreds of different directions while she attempts to find a way to survive the supernatural world, protect her family, and discover who massacred her entire pack days before her first transformation. She doesn’t have time for romance.

But the heart wants what the heart wants.

And the wolf gets what the wolf wants – or so her alpha believes. While Rebecca manages to keep her head above water as she unlocks political and family secrets which could destroy her, she loses sight of the most important people in her life and one of them pays the ultimate price.


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EXCERPT:

He maneuvered her back against the wall and moved in close.

"You need to be more careful if you plan to protect your family," he whispered.

Her human half knew he was right. It was also one of those rare moments her wolf agreed.

"It’s not like I ran home to show her,” she said. “She saw me limping and grabbed my arm. She pulled up my sleeve and reacted. Besides, they should have been healed by then. This cut," she held up her bandaged hand, "is already gone."

"Like I told you, your healing focuses on the most life threatening wounds first. Bruises are always the last to heal." His answer made logical sense. He started to move away from her and she grabbed his waist, pulling him back into their little corner. She wasn’t done talking to him. “They lasted for hours. How was I to know?”

“You need to be more careful.”

He was beginning to sound like a broken record. In fact, everyone seemed to have that same advice. How was she supposed to be more careful when she didn’t understand anything? No one seemed to grasp this was new to her and she needed time to understand everything. No one seemed to see that she was scared and was constantly being backed into a corner, being forced to react, and left to wonder if she made the right decision. She closed her eyes against the common phrase she has heard so much lately and decided to change the subject.

"Are we going to talk about the kiss from last night?" Or the fact that you punched Gabriel when he kissed me a few minutes ago? She kept that last thought to herself but didn't release her grip on his waist. It made her feel powerful as his golden amber eyes took on a darker hue. The urge to run her fingers over his six pack abs and chest was overwhelming. If they weren't in the school she would have. It would completely go against her decision to stay away from Lucky and Gabriel in the romantic sense, and then there was still the small matter that they were only using dating as a cover. But none of that matter when she was this close to him.

He moved in closer, his lips inches from her ear. His warm breath invaded her senses and sent electricity through her body. It took every ounce of will power to remain still. The silence stretched on painfully.

"No."

And with that he took a step back and grabbed her hand. "What took you so long in the restroom?" It appeared the conversation about the kiss or the passionate moments they share was over, just like that.

Annoyance and frustration raked her body. She refused to let him see her hurt ego or let him know he was rattling her.

‘He isn’t meant for you anyway,’ the alpha whispered in her mind.

‘That isn’t your decision.’ Rebecca shook her head to clear it, but keeping things professional between them would definitely help the situation.

She went along with his change of subject, for now. "I ran into Sundae. She seemed to be interested in the fact that I’m a werewolf."

"Oh?" Interest entered his face and eyes.

"Yes, she asked if I was happy." Rebecca shrugged.

"Hmm, that’s interesting. I wonder why?”

"I don’t know. Truthfully, I think she saw me looking at her in the quad. She seemed to want to intimidate me more than actually carry on a conversation. I got the distinct feeling she wanted me to understand she’s more dangerous than she looks. She even called me a little wolf." Rebecca almost laughed at the thought. "Which is funny considering she is much smaller and obviously weaker than me.”

He stopped and set his intent amber eyes on her. "Be careful of the dream weaver, Rebecca. She’s far more dangerous than she looks."

“I got that. My wolf warned me. Sundae did a pretty good job of creeping me out, too.” She shivered.

“I’m serious, Rebecca.”

She wanted to laugh, but something in his look gave her pause. She didn’t want Lucky to see that Sundae worried her. She was tired of feeling scared and having to hide it to the world. "What? Okay, so they can give me nightmares. So I’ll have some sleepless nights, no biggie."

"The myth that if you die in your sleep you die in reality is very true. They are far better assassins than allies." Lucky spoke slowly to make sure the words hit home. The fact that someone as strong and trained to battle enemies could get unnerved by a small chick didn’t help matters. It only made her feel more worried.

A shiver ran down her spine. Assassins, the word hit a chord deep inside. Lucky hinted at it before Rebecca confronted Sundae about it in the bathroom, but hearing him talk about this with such a grave expression on his face made it more real. The idea was creepy but made logical sense in a weird, supernatural way.

Rebecca shook her head in an attempt to clear her mind. The random thoughts of concern seemed to pile on top of each other. Before she chose to be a werewolf the biggest problem she had was finding ways to avoid depression every night. Now she had enemies she never knew existed, a fake boyfriend who was pretending not to be a bodyguard, a family that hid the fact that they were powerful witches, a group of rogue wolves who wanted to rejoin the pack, a pack that she was now Alpha of, and not to mention she also had someone spying on her from afar. The last thing she needed to worry about was a sleep assassin. "I’ll be careful." She promised.

The mood had suddenly taken a solemn tone and she decided she needed to lighten it with a fun change of subject. "So why did you punch Gabriel?"

"Why did he kiss you?" The intensity in the look he gave her made her wonder if he thought she’d invited the kiss.

"I had nothing to do with his decision to kiss me." She put up three fingers and said, "Scouts honor." The memory of the intense feelings his kiss ignited inside her began bubbling up inside her and she had a sneaking suspicion her wolf had something to do with the sudden flooding of feelings.

‘Traitor!’ Rebecca snapped in her mind. The wolf simply laughed playfully.

"But you enjoyed it, didn't you?"

“No!” She answered quickly, which got her raised eyebrows from Lucky.

‘Yes.’ The wolf smiled in her mind.

And there was the question Rebecca was dreading. She planned to make fun over the punch not get on the topic of Gabriel’s kiss.

She shook her head. "It wasn't me that enjoyed it." She didn't know how to explain this to him, but she knew she needed to try.

"Come on, Becca. I heard you." Betrayal played in his eyes as he continued his path towards class.

"It’s my wolf. She’s attracted to him. Not me." Rebecca took his arm and spun him towards her. "I know we’re using this 'fake' relationship as a cover. I’m not stupid! But I can't change my attraction and desire for you. And ever since that kiss last night all I can think about is doing this." She reached up and pulled his head to hers, crushing her lips to his, desperate to show him her need. His lips were like stone for a moment, but he lost all resolve when her hands sank into his silky hair at the nape of his neck.

He deepened the kiss with a growl of frustration as his hand wound around her waist and pulled her against him. She was thankful the halls were empty in that moment, but if they weren't everything would have simply faded away. In that moment it was only them, the rest of the world stood still. Their size difference made it hard to get closer, so he lifted her up slightly and she wrapped her legs around his waist as he pressed her against the wall. When his tongue slipped into her mouth she felt the moan escape and his groan in response only pulled her further into the kiss.

He pulled back and shook his head. "This can't keep happening."

His voice was raspy and breathless and hit her like a pail of water putting out the flames of desire burning in her body. He set her down and took three steps backward, putting a hand up when she took a step forward.

The gesture made her freeze.

"Why?" It was a single word question that held so much meaning.

"It’s not allowed. I’m a Nephilim and you’re a wolf, an alpha of all things. The Authority frowns on mixed relationships, and I’m technically engaged."

Rebecca took a deep breath as she digested his words. "Okay, we could battle the Authority. My parents did it, didn't they? But engaged?" She shook her head in confusion. "Who? How? Why? You never said anything." Her head was spinning with this new information. Now, in a strange way, she understood why he kept pushing her away.

"I’m promised to someone, have been since birth. If we both live to be twenty-seven it’s expected that we marry and have kids." He tried to explain, but had a helpless look on his face. "Besides, you’re an alpha. You’ll be expected to marry a wolf in the pack and that wolf has already made his first play for you."

Vampire Princess Rising (Winters Saga Book 2)
Savannah Winters went from homecoming queen to vampire princess in one terrifying night. Now she must find a way to survive the dark world she lives without letting the anger and depression overwhelm and destroy her. Maintaining a balance between her supernatural identity and human cover is more difficult then she could ever imagine. And her decision to separate herself from her family only makes matters worse. How could she forgive her sister, Rebecca for the role she played in her demise?

It’s a question Rebecca struggles with herself as she attempts to rebuild the Arizona wolf pack after the massacre that left her a lone wolf. How can she convince her dear sweet sister, Savannah to forgive her?

While Rebecca and Savannah juggle the challenges of their new identities, responsibilities, political alliances, and the men in their lives Hunter becomes obsessed with unlocking the powers they have as natural born witches and finding a cure to the viruses that changed his sisters lives indefinitely.

More family secrets unravel and threaten to destroy the fragile connection the Winters siblings share while more enemies come out of the darkness to tear their new worlds apart.



EXCERPT:

Martina pushed Savannah through the door of another store. They’d already gotten scarves of all different colors, jewelry, mostly silver of course, some new designer jeans, slacks and skirts, and well-crafted blouses. Savannah was beginning to feel like a mannequin as clothes were draped on her body and colors were checked. Viktor and Celestia were sparing no expense to make sure their investment was well dressed and looked the part. Martina flew through the dress store, pulling items of different colors and designs off the racks as Viktor smiled shyly at Savannah. It was the first time he was not otherwise occupied with his phone and they were alone.

“You’re very pretty.” He smiled warmly.

“Really? Because after this whole experience I was beginning to think I wasn’t good enough to be a princess,” she snapped coldly.

“Vampires are big on ritual and expectations. You’re perfect in my book. However, as a royal you’re expected to be beyond perfect. Higher standards are placed upon you.” He turned those unique violet eyes on her, eyes that reminded her of her father. “Your life depends on acting the part, especially now that we’re officially engaged.”

Savannah folded her arms at her chest. “I don’t consider us engaged, officially.”

“Really? Why is that?”

This man was clueless. She exhaled a frustrated breath out and watched as her bangs played in the uncommon breeze. “An engagement, in my book, consists of a man getting down on one knee and asking. This…” she waved her hand in impatience “…is all formality and protection. Where is the romance, the tingles, the earth shattering kisses, the mind boggling make out sessions…?”

Savannah was so wrapped up in her wish list that she didn’t even notice Viktor had gotten down on one knee until Martina dropped the items in her hands and screamed.

“What are you doing? Get up!” Savannah looked around at everyone staring at them. Vampires were not allowed to draw attention to themselves in public settings.

“It may not be the perfect romance…but you will teach me what I need to do.” He pulled out a ring box from the breast pocket of his elegant sports jacket and held it out. “Savannah Ariel Matthews Winters you intrigue me immensely and I cannot wait to spend forever getting to know you better. Would you do me the honor of becoming my bride?”

Her heart fluttered. It wasn’t the speech she imagined, but it wasn’t bad. She looked around, camera phones were rolling. Oh hell! She tried to hide the eye roll. They were on stage now. Appearances were of the utmost importance. “Yes.” She had no choice but to say it.

“What was that?” he asked with a grin on his face. He heard her, he was a vampire.

“Yes, I will marry you,” she said louder so everyone could hear.

The grin that broke out across his face was brilliant. He stood up and wrapped his arms around her waist, lifted her up into an embrace, and spun them around. “That was the first and only time I will ever do that,” he whispered against her ear. “Now we are officially engaged.” The smile didn’t leave his face when he put her down.

“Kiss, kiss, kiss” was the chant that broke out from the crowd that had gathered to witness her fake proposal.

He turned those eyes back onto hers. “I’m going to kiss you now.” It wasn’t a request, it was a statement. He moved closer, placing his hands on her slender hips tentatively. Then with a jerk he pulled her against him, weaving a spell around her senses. He moved his lips close to hers, so close but not touching. One hand moved up her spine to her neck. Tingles shot a trail up and a blush crept onto her cheeks as his body gave away his desire to claim her. “May I kiss you now?” His fingers tangled into the hair at the nape of her neck and lifted her lips toward his, still not touching.

She was so wrapped up in the spell he was weaving that she almost missed his question.
“Savannah, I won’t kiss you until you give me permission.”

He had somehow managed to turn a business arrangement into something more in a matter of minutes. His lips brushed so close to her skin she felt herself light up without a touch. His other hand raised up and gently tucked a loose strand of her hair behind her ear, then caressed her cheek. “May I?”

“Yes.” Her word came out breathlessly, but he heard her. The smirk that spread across his lips was unsettling but she gave little thought to it when his lips touched hers. Gentle at first and then he deepened the kiss and possessed her mouth with his. She was vaguely aware of the cheers in the background as he continued to assault her senses with a mixture of tenderness and possessiveness. As far as earth shattering kisses goes, he got a gold star.






AUTHOR BIO:
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Jami M Brumfield has a passion for the paranormal, supernatural, and mythological worlds for most of her life. She believes there is a kernel of truth in every story and loves playing detective to discover what that hidden truth is. She has written most of her life. She started with poems and short stories, then graduated to journalism working for online websites like examiner.com. It was only a natural progression that her love of writing and her passion for the unknown would combine. The Winters Saga is the product of that union.

Book one in the Winters Saga "Lone Wolf Rising" focuses on teen witch Rebecca who in a series of unnatural events finds herself a teen wolf and alpha of the Arizona pack. She is suddenly thrust into a world where danger lurks around every corner and love becomes a liability. Her thirst for vengeance begins to destroy her family and someone she loves pays the ultimate prices.

Book two in the Winters Saga "Vampire Princess Rising" continues the story that began in Lone Wolf Rising only the focal character is Rebecca's sister Savannah. She went from homecoming queen to vampire princess in one terrible night and her life... undead life will never be the same. Family secrets continue to unravel for the Winters siblings and danger continues to build as a supernatural war starts to brew on the streets of Phoenix with the Winters in the middle of it.

Book three in the Winters Saga "Fire Master Rising" is well underway and promises to take your breath away as the focal point of this tale will be Hunter and his fire producing adopted daughter Freya join the battle against good and evil. Loyalties will be tested, alliances will burn and others will be created, and life will never be the same for the Winters family. Jami is hoping for a late June or early July release date for this book.

She is also working on a New Adult Paranormal Romance series and book one in this series will be released in the summer of 2014.

By day Jami works with hypnotherapy and coaching clients and in her nights she focuses on creating new urban fantasy and paranormal romantic thrill rides for your enjoyment.





Episode One of A New Adult Smexy Serial - Free to reviewers and KU members

New author on the block, Aspen Drake, just released Episode One of A New Adult Smexy Serial, Fierce Salon

Each episode is approximately 60 pages long and will be released on a monthly calendar. Grab a copy free from the Kindle Unlimited Library or become a reviewer to receive free copies at http://aspendrake.blogspot.com/p/reviewers.html


Here is an excerpt:
We each take a container and dig in. I’m halfway through my cashew chicken when Gabi starts the interrogation. “So where is this brilliant place that hired you?”
“Fierce Salon on Santa Cruz. It’s really high end and I know a stylist there so she got me the interview.”
“Fierce? Did you meet Nate Edwards?” She puts her chopsticks down in a rare display of food self-control.
“Yeah, he’s the one who hired me.” I shovel some fried rice in my mouth. “Know him?”
“Know him?” She barks out a short laugh. “I fucked him a few years back.”
My jaw drops and I almost choke. “What?”
“Yeah.” She has a dreamy look in her eyes as she gazes out the back window. “He’s so beyond gorgeous.”
“Isn’t he gay?” None of this is making sense unless he swings both ways.
Gabi laughs and looks at me like I’ve grown a second head. “Have you met him? He’s 100% slut but as far as I know, it’s always with women. Mostly model types. I think he was really drunk the night we hooked up.”
“When?” I whisper, completely fascinated by this new piece of information.
“Right before I met Matt.” She looks a little embarrassed as she comes clean. “We were at a New Year’s Eve party and both ended up in a dark room at midnight and just went for it.”
“You just met him and fucked him that night?” I’m astonished I’ve never heard this story before.
“Um, more like I met him and fucked him within about fifteen minutes.” She gets up and grabs a couple hard ciders from the fridge. “You’ve seen him. If he knocked on the door right now, I’d drop my panties and hop on with no questions asked.”
“And you call him a slut.” I have to laugh. “I can’t believe you never mentioned this.”
“Eh.” She shrugs and takes a long pull from her bottle. “It’s like one of the fantasies that you aren’t entirely sure happened so you don’t tell people because you’re afraid they’re gonna tell you it was just a dream or something.”
I nod, not completely sure what she means but not interested in a deeper explanation. I’m still trying to processes the fact that the beautiful Adonis that I’ll be working next to everyday is not gay and apparently fucks strangers at parties.
Not only that, during the few encounters I had with him today, he showed less interest in me than the confirmed gay guy. Talk about a blow to the ego. I guess this is the universe’s way of confirming I need to give up on dating for a while. I have an amazing opportunity with Fierce and I can’t blow it.

A "Clean" New Adult Military Romance by Devyn Dawson



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July 15 - August 3, 2014

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Killing Me Softly Blog Hop Schedule

July 15 – August 3, 2014

July 15
Michelle Muto                                                    www.michellemuto.wordpress.com
Candy Smith                                                       www.purpleshadowhunter.blogspot.com

July 16
Amber Clark                                                       www.bookloveramber.blogspot.com

July 17
TBA

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Brea Essex                                                         www.breaessex.com

July 19
Kendall McCubban                                            www.bookcrazy123.blogspot.com
Erin Danzer                                                        http://www.authorerindanzer.com/

July 20
Melissa Stickney                                                www.crazybeautifulreviews.blogspot.com

July 21
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July 22
Amy Jones                                                           www.amyjonesyaff.blogspot.com


July 23
Kris Kendall                                                        www.ireadselfies.com
Mandy Anderson                                                www.twimom101bookblog.blogspot.com

July 24
Tiffany Perry                                                      http://strreviews.blogspot.com/

July 25
Amy Stogner Avid Reader Amy                         www.avidreaderamy.blogspot.com

July 26
Lisa Hines                                                           www.heffroberts.blogspot.com

July 27
TBA

July 28
Trish Davy
So Many Books So Little Time                       http://manybooksnotime.blogspot.com//

July 29
Tia Bach                                                             http://www.depressioncookies.com/                                                       

July 30
Carlyle                                                                www.worldsawaybookblog.blogspot.com

July 31
Devyn Dawson

August 1
Raine Thomas                                  http://rainethomas.com/blog/






Clean New Adult Military Romance

 

Killing Me Softly

By Devyn Dawson

Preface


   I glance down at my black pointy-toed high heels and realize they’re the most uncomfortable shoes I’ve ever worn.  Andy’s mom let me borrow a pair of Andy’s shoes since we wear the same size.  It will take me a while to think of her in the past tense.  Looking around the room all I see are strangers.  None of these people knew her like I did.  No one knew the way she loved soft furry blankets and in the summer she loved softy silky pajamas.  They didn’t know that she spent more time praying for her friends and animals than she did for herself.  No, they didn’t know those things, and they never will.

   My best friend, Andy, died four days ago in a car accident with her boyfriend Doug.  A car crossed over the center lane and hit them head on.  The police say they died instantly.  I talked to her exactly ten minutes before the crash, she told me she was going to stop by on her way home.  We’ve always done that; stop by on our way home from shopping to show what we bought.   Doug took her to Dallas to pick up a guitar and to go shopping. Andy’s parents have money. They spoiled her, but she never acted spoiled.  She was kind and giving.  For her birthday, her dad gave her a prepaid credit card.  She had to keep her grades up, if she did, he’d load a thousand dollars on the card every month for a year.  That’s more money than I make at my job. When I go shopping, I hit the thrift stores and yard sales.  Just because I don’t spend tons of money on clothes, doesn’t mean I don’t look like I do.  There’s a thrift shop not too far from here that I find the best deals.  If the outfit doesn’t fit me, I do the alterations myself.   My money is from my job at the vitamin store in the mall. Eight dollars an hour doesn’t go far when you’re the bread winner in your family. 

  Andy didn’t spend the money on things just for her, no, she would buy things for an after school program she worked for as a volunteer. She would give you every dime she had if you needed help. When she went shopping for herself, she would buy a matching outfit for me.  She would always say that I was the sister she always wanted.

  Linda, Andy’s mom, is making her way over to me, her grief is written all over her face.  I stand up and wrap my arms around her thin body and in that moment the magnitude of what happened hits me like a brick wall.  I start to tremble, but I force myself to keep it together until I get home.  That’s when I’ll have the luxury of breaking down.

   “Sugar, how are you holding up?” Linda asks.  One of her friends leans over and hands her a fresh martini.

  “I don’t know,” I shrug my shoulders.  “It doesn’t seem real, does it?”

   “She loved you so much,” I smell the alcohol on her breath as she kisses me on the cheek.  “You’re welcome here any time, you’re part of our family.  If that daddy of yours gives you any trouble, you come over and you can sleep in Andy’s room.  She’d want you to be here with us, you know that.”

   “I know.  If you don’t mind, I need to go home and check on my dad.  They changed his meds this week.  As usual, he’s been in one of his moods.  Never mind all that, if you need anything, I’m number five on your speed dial.  I’ll drop off the shoes later this week.”

   “Holland, keep the shoes, I don’t need them back.  Go check on your dad, I’m going to try to get everyone out of here at a decent hour.  My head hurts too much to deal with so many people.  I love you, Holly, don’t you forget it either.” Andy’s the only person who ever called me by my childhood nickname.  When I started high school, I went back to my given name, Holland. Linda pulls me in for another hug, this one is tighter and longer than the last one.  In my head I can hear Andy complaining that her mom is getting mushy.  I smile at the thought. 

  “I love you too.  I’ll be by soon.”  She’s hugging me as if she’s holding onto a piece of her daughter for dear life.

   Most everyone here are family or friends of the family.  A few people from high school came to the funeral, but everyone bailed before the graveside service.  If it were anyone other than Andy, I would have done the same.   My heart is heavy in my chest and tears threaten to come, but I suppress them so I can get home before I start the water works.

   My street is ten streets away from Andy’s house, but the neighborhoods are polar opposites.  Her street is lined with manicured lawns and matching brick mailboxes at the end of each driveway.  Several people on our street have taken their mailbox down because some kids drove by with a baseball bat and dented in the metal mailboxes.  A couple of the neighbors have cars parked in their yard and many of the houses have some type of car up on car ramps or a jack.  Andy’s neighborhood is filled with houses with three bedrooms and two or more bathrooms.  Ours isn’t. 

  I pull into the driveway that is cracked from neglect and hot Oklahoma summers.  Our small two bedroom house is dark red brick with white trim that could use a new paint job.

  The screen door bangs closed as I step into the living room.  Dad is right where he was when I left this morning, asleep on the couch.

   “Dad, it’s after two.”  I say it loud enough for him to hear me. 

   He pushes himself up to a sitting position.  “How was it?  Is her mom holding up okay?”

   “It was as nice as a funeral can be for an eighteen year old girl.  Her mom’s okay, she’s a strong woman,” I say harsher than intended. 

  “When will you go to the store to buy groceries?”

   The only question he cares about……food.  He doesn’t give a crap about the funeral, he’s been sitting on the couch all day.  He sits around and feels sorry for himself.  “Dad, I told you I don’t get paid until Tuesday.  Your Social Security check paid the bills.  I have thirty dollars for gas.  That’s all the money we have in the bank.  There’s stuff to eat, just not what you want.   Give me a few minutes to change for work and I’ll make you some supper.”

   “You’re working on the day of your best friend’s funeral?”  He asks, posing as the concerned father.

   “Yes, I’m working on the day Andy was buried.  I have to pay the bills, so working isn’t an option. Your prescriptions will be running out this week, I need money for your co-pays.  Look, I don’t want to talk about this right now.”  I set my stuff down as I head down the short hall to my bedroom.

   “Holland, I’m getting better!  Don’t you worry, before long, I’ll be able to go back to work!”  He shouts out to me.

   He’s told me a thousand times how he’s getting better.  Per Dr. Paul, his regular doctor, he’s never going to be fit to work again if he doesn’t go to therapy on a regular basis.  He’s two steps away from being placed in an institution.  He was involuntarily committed last October, it lasted for five days.  Being the selfish person I am, it was the most sleep I’ve had in years.  He was safely behind locked doors, and I didn’t have to worry about which side of him I was going to come home to.

   My little room is large enough for my full-size bed and a small desk I found at a garage sale.  Most of my clothes are folded up inside big plastic bins.  Andy teased me about my organization skills.  She said I’m the only teenager who puts away their clothes on their own.   I found it easier to strap a bin of dirty laundry to my skateboard and pull it the two blocks to the Laundromat than to carry it that far.  I’ve been doing our laundry since my mom left when I was thirteen.  That was the year my dad lost his job with the advertising firm and everything spiraled out of control.

   I bend over to tie my shoes and pick up my keys that fell to the floor.  I double check my reflection in the mirror before rushing out of my room to make a quick dinner for my dad.  Crap!  I think to myself as I realize I got more bleach splatters on the hems of my khakis.  Thankfully, Gerrie won’t be working tonight to gripe at me about buying a new pair of pants.  She find a way to complain about me at every opportunity she finds.  She hates it when I wear my long hair down, she says I shed it all over the store. Last year she got upset with me for not being tan like all the other girls in the mall.  She told me guys would come in to buy vitamins if I had a tan and wore make-up.

   Andy and I would dream up crazy come-backs to Gerrie’s insults, but I never used them. 

Andy.

   How can I face another day without her humor?  How am I going to deal with my dad without her encouragement?  How will I carry on?

***

 

Chapter One.  Cheeky


Six months later.

   “Yes Aunt Laney, I know his birthday is Saturday.  Dad won’t show up for dinner, he never does.  He hates surprises and apparently he hates showers too.  I know you don’t like to come to our neighborhood, so you can drop it off at the mall.  I’m working tonight and tomorrow morning.” 

   “Okay, I’ll bring it to you at the mall.  I’ve reloaded that Visa for you to get some groceries.  Holland, you can come live with me, no one would blame you,” Aunt Laney says for the hundredth time.  She’s my dad’s older sister and the only family member who still checks in on us.  Her husband is a big corporate lawyer who represents every big company in Oklahoma.  She was his paralegal, until they fell in love and got married.  To ease her conscience she loads a prepaid Visa so I can buy groceries and gas.  She paid off the mortgage last Christmas.  She has no idea how much easier she made my life when I didn’t have to worry about that bill anymore.

   Things have been looking better this year.  June moved away and I was promoted to assistant-manager, which included a two dollar an hour raise.  “Okay, I’ll see you then….and thank you for helping us by loading the Visa.”

   “Oh honey, you’re a doll.  I’m proud of you for being such a good daughter to my baby brother.  I hope you’ve been able to keep your flawless GPA.  You’ve been working so many days a week, it must be hard to keep up your grades.”

   I can picture her admiring her fingernails as she talks.  She’s always struck me as a superficial person by the clothes she wears and the people in her life.  “Thanks, I don’t have any choice, he’s my dad.”  I state the obvious.  “I’m taking online classes, so it works around my schedule.  Not to be rude, but I need to go; I have to be at work in fifteen minutes.”

  “I’ll see you later.” 

   “Okay, I’ll see you this evening,” I click my cell phone off and close my bedroom door behind me.
   
   “Dad, your dinner is in the fridge in the purple container, heat it up for one minute.”  I turn the corner and see my dad sitting up for a change.

   “You’re going to work early, you should eat breakfast,” he suggests.

   “Dad, it’s four in the afternoon.  I have to do laundry tomorrow, so it would be nice if you took a shower and put your dirty clothes in the hamper.”  He won’t.  He’ll give me excuses why he couldn’t shower before I got home.   Recently, he developed a fear of showering in an empty house.  His therapist called in a new medication, but it only seems to make him more of a zombie and has done nothing for his fear of cleanliness. 

   “Four?  The days sure go by so fast.”  He rubs his hand across his unshaven face.  He’s not even forty, but you’d never know by the amount of grey in his beard.

   “Gotta go, Dad,” I hold my breath and give him a peck on his head.

---­

   Friday evening at Darby Springs Mall is crowded as usual, leaving the only parking spaces ridiculously far from the doors.  During my lunch period I’ll move my car closer so I don’t have to get security to walk me to my car after work.  I ease the Charger between two SUVs, barely clearing the one on my right.  Aunt Laney gave me her old one as a graduation gift during my senior year.  Old to her is anything older than two years old.  She had only owned this one for a year before giving it to me.  She even covers the car insurance so it wouldn’t be a burden on me and my dad.

   “Hey Sam, can you stay until close?  It’s the fifteenth which means payday for the military, and they love to come stock up on the protein powder.  This is usually the busiest day of the month.”  I glance around the store to make sure everything is in order.

   “Is that what’s going on?  I had to restock the powder a couple of times already today.  One guy wanted to return something, but I told him to come when you’re working.  He said he’d come back tonight,” Sam says.

  “Will you straighten up the display of Vitamin C?  Someone turned all the bottles backwards, it was probably a kid.” Sam’s a quirky guy who spends all of his paycheck on body building powder and his spare time in the gym.  He dates a girl I went to high school with, she’s rumored to have appeared in a couple of adult films.  She’s a pretty girl but she can’t carry on a conversation without talking about kinky sex. “I’m going to the back to place some orders, if you need me just call,” I say as I turn to the back of the store.

   “Holland?” Sam’s voice booms over the phone intercom causing me to jump. 

   “Yes, Sam.”

***
   “That guy is here with the return.”

   “I’ll be right there.” 
   There’s a guy at the register dressed in jeans and a black t-shirt talking to Sam.  His short light brown hair is definitely Air Force the way it is perfectly squared off on the back of his neck.

    I remind myself that I’m the assistant manager and not to be intimidated. 

   “Hi, I’m Holland, what can I help you with,” I ask as I step behind the cashier counter.  Another pretty-boy airman with his deep dimple and flawless skin.  There’s no way he’s much older than I am, that’s good because I don’t typically back down to people my age.  Older guys in the military scare me, they seem so hard and angry. 

   “Hey Holland, Sam here told me to come back when you’re here to refund this powder.”

   The first thing I notice are his eyes, pale blue eyes…incredibly pretty blue eyes and smile.  The manager-in-training classes I took told me to always hold the customer’s gaze.  They obviously never looked into eyes like his.  It takes everything in me not to shift my eyes away from him.  It makes me feel exposed as if he is literally looking into my soul. 

“Yes sir, is there a problem with the powder?” 

  He’s first to avert his eyes and look down at the jug of Mega Muscle Protein Powder.  “It gave me a rash,” he replies without looking up at me.

  Most of the guys who come in are embarrassed to admit they ended up with a rash. “A rash?  Do you have a photo of the rash?”  Our return policy on store-brand products are if it gives you a rash, you have to provide a photo.  There’s nothing more disgusting than looking at a rash on a stranger. 

  “That rule on your policy is pretty intrusive.  When I read it, I was floored that it was a real rule.”

   Here we go, he’ll turn off the charm and turn into a douche.  I’m sure Sam is doing the countdown in his head.  “Yes sir, we must turn in the photo along with the explanation in to our corporate office.  Our policy is for quality control and has nothing to do with being intrusive.  May I see the picture?”
He pulls out his cell phone and scrolls through his pictures before holding it up for me to see.  Sure enough, it’s a rash… on his ass!  He took a selfie of his ass rash in the mirror. He is standing in his boxers and holding one side of them down and taking a picture with his other hand.  I need to call Andy and tell her about this, she’s going to die laughing.  Dammit!  I can’t call her, because she’s dead. 

   “I need a print of the picture,” I snap.  My mood has gone from good to pissed in two seconds.

   “You really need a picture of my ass to give me a thirty-five dollar refund?”

   I cock my head to the side, my go-to defense pose when I’m hiding my feelings from the world.  “I didn’t write the rules, but I follow them.”  This is the look Andy called my bitch-face.

   “Look, I’m not going to go print off a picture of my ass to get a thirty-five dollar refund.  You can keep the powder and the money.”  He shakes his head back and forth before taking his receipt and folding it up neatly before returning it to his wallet.

   I stand at the register and watch him walk out of the store.

   “What happened?”  Sam asks.

   “Nothing, I’m following policy,” I reply nonchalantly.

   Sam looks at me like he wasn’t buying it for an instant.  “Holland, one minute you were okay and the next you flipped and were pissed off.”

   “I didn’t flip.”  I gather up my paperwork to tally out our sales for the day.  My dad flips, I just get pissed.

   “I think there’s Pamprin in the office, if you need it,” Sam says sarcastically.  Good thing I like him or I’d write him up just because I can.

   “I’m not PMSing and just for that, you get to mop the floor tonight.”  Without turning around, I head back to the office.  When memories of Andy pop into my head, I’m reminded how lonely life is without her.  I’ve been going to her grave and sitting there for hours.   She was always my sounding board when it came to my dad, now I feel guilty for all the times I made her listen to me complain.  We should have spent more time doing pranks and laughing at stupid movies.  Now, I’ll never be able to do those things with someone.  Lately, everything reminds me of her and I’ll either cry or get angry.  It isn’t that I’m mad at her, it’s I don’t know when the pain will stop.  My therapist says dumb things like, time heals all wounds, or everyone grieves differently.  The therapist was Aunt Laney’s idea since the health insurance policy she bought for me covers the visits. 

   “Knock, knock,” Sam’s voice brings me back to reality.  “Hey, do I really have to mop the floor?  I have plans after work and I don’t want to smell like bleach and dirty mop water.”

   “I told you to mop not take a bath.  I’ll let it slide this time, but don’t ever hint for me to take Pamprin again, okay?”

   “Deal.  Your Aunt Laney is in the store, do you want me to send her back here?”

   “No, I’ll go out there.”





DEVYN DAWSON

   I've thought of myself as a writer for as long as I can remember.  I played grown-up with my family, until everyone grew up and left me to figure out what I really wanted to be.  Jumping over the cliff, I took a leap of faith and wrote my first full length novel, The Legacy of Kilkenny.  My love of young adult books, helped mold me into the writer I am today.  The books I write, reflect the types of books I enjoy reading.  Every story I write will have a huge twist at the end, one that often leaves the reader in shock (no pun intended, if you know me, you know why I say that, LOL).  Thank you for considering to read my books.  Happy reading!

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Episodes 1 & 2 of Contemporary Novella Series by Ariel Adams available


Best-selling romance author is releasing a contemporary romance novella series under a new pen name.
Ariel Adams is taking readers by storm with her exciting and fast paced romance, Naked Edge. This four-part season will make you laugh and cry and get tingly inside. For mature readers.
Buy both episodes today or read free from the Kindle Unlimited library.


An excerpt from Episode One:

Boone’s expression of pure terror is priceless. He’s a skilled climber, but he’s afraid of heights. Go figure. I fire off another series of shots. If I can get one of my photos on the cover of just one climbing magazine, I can justify pursuing an art degree instead of the more practical Business Administration. I don’t have the luxury of pursuing a ‘fun’ career unless I’m sure I can support myself with it.
“Sky, back off, now. This isn’t safe.”
“I’m fine.”
“Well, I’m not.”
“Okay. Sorry.” I bend my knees and reach behind me so I can pull myself around with the rope. I realize it’s the wrong move, even as I do it. But it’s too late.
I slip on the loose gravel, lose my balance and tumble, headfirst, over the edge. My foot catches the side of Boone’s helmet as the rope flips me right side up with a bone-jarring jerk. I watch in horror as he pops a nut then pendulums to the right. He screams when he slams into the cliff.
“Boone! Are you okay?”
“Fuck!”
“What hurts?”
“My ankle. I think it’s broken.”
“Anything else?” I don’t see any blood, but he’s pressed against the wall, so I can’t really tell.
“No. Just my ankle. But it really hurts.”
“You’re okay. Try to stay calm.” I love Boone like a brother, but he tends to be a little overly dramatic. At least that last cam held.
Someone below yells, “Hang on. Help’s coming.”
I check my watch every few seconds, so even though it feels like it takes forever, I know it’s only been ten minutes when a sun-kissed, ruggedly handsome face peers over the ledge. It’s been over four years since I’ve seen Rusty Daletzki, but I’d recognize those ice-blue eyes even if it had been a hundred.
My stomach clenches as heat floods my cheeks. Damn. All I can see is his chiseled face and broad, muscular shoulders, but my imagination fills in the rest. His helmet hides his coal black waves but I’ll bet his hair is just as silky as it ever was. My fingers tingle with the desire to find out. It’s clear that Rusty’s even hotter at twenty-one than he was at seventeen. Much hotter.
“Are you injured?” Rusty’s voice is still smooth as velvet, but it’s deeper than I remember.
I blink and lick my lips as heat floods my body. It takes a few seconds for his words to cut through the haze of lust clouding my brain. Jesus, what’s wrong with me? What sort of a slut gets turned on during a rescue?
It’s obvious Rusty’s checking me out, but it’s purely clinical. He acts as if he doesn’t recognize me. Sure, my hair’s shorter now. It only reaches my shoulder blades instead of my waist. It’s darker too, more of a mahogany brown instead of a sun-bleached, chestnut red. I spent the last three years indoors with my sick mother instead of surfing with my friends in San Diego so the sun didn’t have a chance to lighten my hair. I’m a size six instead of a size two. My boobs are a solid C instead of barely a B. But I haven’t changed that much.
My eyes are still hazel and too big for my face. There’s still a cleft in my chin. I still have the same full lips Rusty could never get enough of. There’s no way he doesn’t know who I am. “I’m fine. But Boone thinks he’s hurt.”
Rusty’s gaze unlocks from mine. His brow furrows. “Boone? Are you okay?”
“I’ve been better.” His voice is soft, quiet. No longer frantic. And that scares me. Maybe he really is hurt.
I shouldn’t have pushed Boone to let me lead. I shouldn’t have gone off route. I should’ve tied Boone off into the anchor instead of keeping him on belay while I traversed back and forth trying to get the best shot. This is my fault.
Rusty presses a button on the two-way radio attached to his shoulder harness. “Base, this is Rusty Daletzki. We have one injured climber on the top third of the final pitch of The Bastille Crack. Male, twenty-one, conscious and responsive. We also have an uninjured female stranded near the summit.”
Rusty continues to talk into his radio as another helmeted face peers over the ledge. A gorgeous, feminine face. Crap. It’s Rusty’s stepsister, Anna. She was always trying to get Rusty to break up with me.
She appraises me with undisguised loathing then looks at Rusty with more than just sisterly affection in her gold-flecked, dark brown eyes. I want to claw them out of her head.
Rusty returns his gaze to me. He speaks with cool professionalism. “Okay, Skylar. Let’s get you out of here so we can get to Boone.”

I knew he recognized me. I want to say something to him, but my brain seems to have blown a fuse. All I can do is nod like an idiot as Anna slips over the edge to attach redundant gear to my harness. She glares at me the whole time. I’m tempted to ask, ‘just what the hell is your problem,’ but decide antagonizing the person who literally has my life in her hands is a bad idea. 

Choosing Happy by Aria Grace - Now Available




Choosing Happy,
Book 3 of the More Than Friends series, is finally released.


     


This is Steve's story. It can be read as a standalone novel or after reading More Than Friends and Drunk in Love.


a Rafflecopter giveaway


Here is a little excerpt:

It’s just after six and I’m ready to close up but I haven’t seen little duck yet so I organize my shelves one more time and wait for my daily dose of heaven. 

Little duck isn’t actually his name, of course, but since I’ve only spoken to him once, I don’t know what his name is.

And, like clockwork, there he is in a black cashmere sweater and black skinny slacks. His shoulder length hair is so blond it’s almost white and fine enough that I can imagine it tickling me if it brushed against my skin.

He would be a perfect vision if it wasn’t for the uptight prick he’s always walking just a stride behind.

They pass by every weeknight at exactly six ten. Never earlier. Never later. Always the same. If I had to guess, the prick is probably some type A business man that is so regimented, his boy spends a lot of time waiting around for him.

The only time my little duck has ever come to my window was about a month ago. It was three in the afternoon on a Saturday and he was alone, wearing an Oregon Ducks t-shirt. I’ve never seen him in casual clothes before or since, and his carefree smile made an impression.

He’s maybe twenty-three or twenty-four. Only a few years younger than me but I feel like an old man when I look at his porcelain skin and angelic blue eyes. I’ve spent more than a few nights picturing those eyes staring up at me from between my thighs.

But that’ll never happen. He’s very obviously taken, and the only signs I’ve seen that he wants for anything is that deep whiff he takes of the sugar laced air every time he passes my window. I don’t know why they don’t stop more often if the kid wants a damn waffle but it’s not my business.

So, like a ship in the night, my little duck passes by, inhaling deeply as he goes. My ego tries to convince me he's added a glance my way but I know I’m projecting. I want him to look at me and see beyond my tattoos and practically shaved head. To see beyond the scars and the flaws, both physical and emotional.


Learn more about the author at AriaGraceBooks.com or follow her @ariagracebooks

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