Tag Archives: romance

CAPTURED will capture your hearts

 

Title: Captured

Author: Michelle Areaux

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance, Adventure

Pages: 158

Release Date: 24 June 17

Blog Tour Date: 24  –  30 June 17
After their whirlwind time spent on the run, Hallie and Jackson return home. Though they must keep their relationship secret, they are finally together until Samuel enters the scene. Determined to become New York’s next big kingpin, Samuel plans to do whatever it takes to acquire his power, including holding Jackson ransom for a chunk of his father’s territory. Hallie and Jackson’s fathers try to rescue Jackson, but they move too slowly for Hallie’s liking. Will Hallie be successful when she decides to take matters into her own hands, or will she need rescuing herself?

CAPTURED is the exciting sequel to RUNAWAY.

Win one of three copies of CAPTURED by Michelle Areaux
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Buy CAPTURED by Michelle Areaux at AmazonGoogle PlayiBookstoreKobo, and Barnes & Noble Nook.

Also by Michelle Areaux

RUNAWAY– Book 1 of the RUNAWAY Series

Do you trust me?

Those four, simple words would transform seventeen-year-old Hallie Romano’s life.

After Hallie and gorgeous, lifelong friend, Jackson, witness a brutal murder, she has to make a decision—should she trust Jackson and run away, or stay behind and deal with the fallout of what she has witnessed?

Haunted by the crime, Hallie flees in search of safety and freedom. On the run, she attempts to seek some kind of normalcy while keeping one step ahead in a twisted game of chase where she and Jackson are the hunted.

Besides the fact that her father is a mob boss who ordered the hit, the most difficult obstacle for Hallie to overcome is her growing attraction to Jackson. Will they ever make a new life for themselves and move forward despite the dangerous world they left behind?

About Michelle Areaux

Michelle Areaux is the author of the Wicked Cries series. Her love for literature began at an early age and flourished over the years into a passion. Currently, she resides in Nicholasville, KY with her husband Anthony, and sons Connor and Cooper. Social Media Links:

Learn more about Michelle and her books at

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 Guest Post by Michelle Areaux

Hi, fantastic readers,

My name is Michelle Areaux and I write young adult fiction novels. I am so excited to have this opportunity today to share my love of writing, young adult literature, and coffee!

So, if you are reading this today, it is easy to say that you love books. As a writer, my true passion, above all in this industry, is a common love and passion for great books. From the time I read the Babysitters’ Club books to Judy Blume and then on to Sharon Dessen, I have always been a fan of a compelling story. From a gripping plotline, characters that make me scream and cry, to a scene that makes me hold my breath; it was that obsession that pushed and motivated my desire to become a writer.

My mom has said that I began writing stories from the moment I could pick up a pencil. I guess that is true, but I didn’t begin developing those stories into books until high school. From there, I began creating novels. My first novel, Wicked Cries combined my love of the Salem Witch Trials, paranormal romances, and humor. Now, as I write Wicked Endings: Book 4 of the Wicked Cries Series and prepare to release my fifth novel, Captured, I find my desire to continue writing these types of novels keeps increasing.

I have been asked many times why I write young adult novels and not adult romance. My answer has always been and will be that I write what I love to read. I think all adults are still teens at heart. We all still remember our first best friend. The first person we had a “‘real” crush on, and the first time we dreamed and imagined a wonderfully unique world far different from our own. That inner child is why I write books from a sixteen to seventeen year old’s perspective. I write worlds where my readers can relate to a fear, desire, or love a character feels. While I have dabbled in adult romance novels under a pen name (you can e-mail me to learn that name), my true love remains young adult literature.

Many people have asked me how I am able to keep producing so many novels, teach middle school English, and be a parent and a wife. The only answer I can give is that I drink TONS of coffee. I find that the night is the only time I can find solitude to write. My coffee addiction, as my husband loves to call it, keeps me awake as I journey through the night to write the crazy and sometimes wild images that float through my mind.

Now, I can sit here and lie to you all and tell you that writing is easy and publishing is a piece of cake, but, I won’t do that. First, writing is difficult—there is no cookie-cutter format to use or a strategy that everyone can work with. The way I write may sound crazy to another writer, however, my best advice if you want to become a writer is this: just write. If you have an idea or see a scene unfold in your mind, write it down. I don’t start on page 1 and end on the last page. No, I may begin my book with a big conflict scene, then, move a few chapters over to a big revealing scene or romantic moment between two characters. As I write the “meat” of my story, I always go back and fill in the gaps later. Again, that works for me, but it may not work for you. Find your own voice and tool that helps you grow as a writer. Next, publishing is not as simple as it sounds. You have self-publishing, vanity publishing, traditional publishing, and the big 5 publishers.

Since we are all friends here, I’ll tell you that I was once scammed by a vanity publisher. I fell into the trap of a catchy pick-up line and the dream of becoming the next J. K. Rowling. It wasn’t until I saw that I wasn’t receiving my truthful royalties and that my novels were not being edited as I was told they would be that I decided to get out of that mess. I was left scared, alone, and feeling like I had somehow failed and wasn’t a good writer. I could have stopped my dream of becoming a writer, but I didn’t. Quitting just isn’t my style—I guess I’m  just too stubborn.

So, as a once published author, I soon discovered EMSA Publishing. Elise Abram scooped in and saved me. She has now published my Wicked Cries series, Runaway, Captured and will continue to publish my novels until she gets sick of me. Ha, I hope not— just trying to throw a little joke in there!

I wish this wasn’t a common occurrence, but unfortunately, it is. There are so many deceiving people out there, ready and willing to take your money with the hope you’ll believe their lies. Please, don’t fall for their schemes. Do your research when finding a publisher. Ask other authors in Facebook author groups about that publisher. Search for their books online. Or, if you decide self-publishing is more your scene, try that, too. There are fabulous cover design artists, promotional marketing companies, and editors out there. Again, do your research before committing to anything. Regardless of which path you choose, please follow your dreams. I did, and I hope you do, too.

With love,

Michelle Areaux

“Shadow of Shame” by Barbara Goss only $0.99 through December 12th

shadowofshame-1Ivy Jeffries falls hopelessly in love with Jonas Armstrong, a man who has forced himself into a somewhat reclusive lifestyle owing to his sordid past.  Ivy is elated when he finally lets his guard down, and kisses her.  She thinks they are now moving forward into a relationship, when he tells her it meant nothing to him.  How could a kiss like they shared mean nothing to him, when it meant the world to her?  Then she discovers he is pulling away for a reason, to protect her.  Is the love they share enough to withstand his past and the child he is protecting?

About Barb Goss:

Barbara Masci Goss is now just Barbara Goss. Barbara Goss lives in Western New York and to date has written 22 Christian/Clean Romance books, mostly westerns. She enjoys crossword puzzles, penny slots, reading, swimming, and her two cats, but not necessarily in that order. She tries to write exciting stories with a bit of God’s word spread within, without dominating the story.

Barbara began writing in 1988 and her first book, Forbidden Legacy, won first prize for fiction at a Christian Writers Convention in Titusville, Florida, in 1989. This won her a book contract with publishers: Fleming Revell and later Baker Books. She wrote four books for them under contract. She then took a few years off to work full time as a secretary to the county hospital and the local school system.

Retired now, she is back to writing. Her first book was written on a typewriter! Since early 2015, she’s written twenty-two more delightful romances.

Barbara’s greatest influence in writing are the 100 books written by Grace Livingston Hill. As a Christian writer, she weaves a bit of godliness into the romance and adventure, yet her books are always clean. Barbara is well on her way to catching up to Ms. Livingston.

Learn more about Barbara Goss and her writing at

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Sweet Wild West Reads is a Facebook group and a wonderful place for sweet western romance authors and readers to discuss their favorite stories, thoughts, and authors. Join the group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/1832790870336744/

“Mail Order Mishap” by Barb Goss only $0.99 through December 5th

final-for-mishap-imageAmber Wakefield travels to Hunter’s Grove, Kansas to meet her intended and walks into a very unwelcoming atmosphere. Charles Turner, her intended, seems cool and aloof, and his brother Garrett—downright rude. She wants nothing more than to rush back to Virginia, until Edna Smith, her chaperone, falls ill, and she’s forced to stay. She knows Charles harbors a secret, and she isn’t sure whether Garrett is her hero or her enemy. When she finally discovers the truth, she wants nothing to do with either of them. One of the Turner brothers vows to win her love. But which one?

About Barbara Goss:

Barbara Masci Goss is now just Barbara Goss. Barbara Goss lives in Western New York and to date has written 22 Christian/Clean Romance books, mostly westerns. She enjoys crossword puzzles, penny slots, reading, swimming, and her two cats, but not necessarily in that order. She tries to write exciting stories with a bit of God’s word spread within, without dominating the story.

Barbara began writing in 1988 and her first book, Forbidden Legacy, won first prize for fiction at a Christian Writers Convention in Titusville, Florida, in 1989. This won her a book contract with publishers: Fleming Revell and later Baker Books. She wrote four books for them under contract. She then took a few years off to work full time as a secretary to the county hospital and the local school system.

Retired now, she is back to writing. Her first book was written on a typewriter! Since early 2015, she’s written twenty-two more delightful romances.

Barbara’s greatest influence in writing are the 100 books written by Grace Livingston Hill. As a Christian writer, she weaves a bit of godliness into the romance and adventure, yet her books are always clean. Barbara is well on her way to catching up to Ms. Livingston.

Learn more about Barbara Goss and her writing at

| Website  | Facebook |  Twitter |

Sweet Wild West Reads is a Facebook group and a wonderful place for sweet western romance authors and readers to discuss their favorite stories, thoughts, and authors. Join the group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/1832790870336744/

New Release: WICKED TRUTHS by Michelle Areaux

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Death seems to follow seventeen year old Sadie Sanders everywhere she goes–literally. As a mediator to the dead, she must constantly face fighting demons and the occasional angry dead girl. In WICKED TRUTHS, the third instalment of the WICKED CRIES series, Sadie learns that some secrets are meant to stay dead, for the truth, once it has been uncovered, may be wickeder than she could have ever imagined.

Genre: YA, Contemporary, Paranormal, Clean Romance
Pages: 178
Release Date: 1 Oct 16
Blog Tour Date: 1 – 8 Oct 16

Death seems to follow seventeen year old Sadie Sanders everywhere she goes–literally. As a mediator to the dead, she must constantly face fighting demons and the occasional angry dead girl.

After a dangerous and almost deadly first year in Salem, Sadie’s parents decided to send her away for the summer to visit her Aunt Morgan in the small town of Nicholasville, Kentucky. After uncovering a murder hidden for centuries, she embarked on a deadly mission to solve the crime while trying to enjoy her summer vacation.

Now back in Salem, Sadie has found another hidden secret in the wicked town. Secret underground tunnels are hidden under the streets of Salem, beckoning to those with wicked souls. When Sadie encounters a ghost named Laura roaming the streets of Salem, she and her friends Noah and Lucy must uncover the clues leading to Laura’s death, which is made even more complicated by the fact that Laura has no memory about her life or death. To make matters worse, Sadie must also track down the person who has been sending her threatening messages in an effort to stop her mission for justice.

In Wicked Truths, the third installment of the Wicked Cries series, Sadie learns that some secrets are meant to stay dead, for the truth, once it has been uncovered, may be wickeder than she could have ever imagined.

Buy Wicked Truths by Michelle Areaux at Google Play, Kobo, iBooks, Kindle, and Amazon.

Also by Michelle Areaux – Coming Soon!

Wicked Cries – Book 1 of the Wicked Cries Series

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For 16-year-old Sadie Sanders, dealing with the dead is growing tiresome, especially when they expect her to be their messenger from the afterlife. But when her family moves to Salem, Massachusetts, and she finds the diary of a young girl named Elizabeth who was accused of witchcraft, she may need some help. Soon, Elizabeth begins to haunt Sadie, first in her dreams and then when she’s awake. As Sadie delves into Elizabeth’s journal, she slowly uncovers the secret Elizabeth needs to reveal, and it’s one that could change the course of history. Sadie needs help, and she wonders whom, if anyone, she can tell about it. Worried that her friends and family wouldn’t believe her, or worse, prevent her from continuing her journey to find the truth, Sadie has a choice to make…and it’s not going to be an easy one.

Wicked Lies – Book 2 of the Wicked Cries Series

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Sadie Sanders believed her life couldn’t get any worse when her parents moved her from sunny California, to gloomy Salem, Massachusetts. Of course Sadie was wrong–dead wrong.

After a dangerous and almost deadly first year in Salem, Sadie’s parents decide to send her away for the summer to visit her Aunt Morgan in the small town of Nicholasville, Kentucky.

Seeking normalcy from her twisted life as a messenger for the dead, Sadie hopes her stay in the small Kentucky town will be the break she needs from her paranormal obligations and a way for her to escape the demons that haunt her.

Unfortunately for Sadie, the dead don’t take a break, not even for summer vacation. Soon after arriving in Nicholasville, Sadie discovers a murder that’s been haunting the town for centuries. Refusing to ignore the injustice she uncovers, Sadie sets off on another wild adventure.

In Wicked Lies, book two of the Wicked Cries series, Sadie’s quest for justice just may be the thing that finally ends her career as a messenger to the dead, and her life

Guest Post: My Publishing Journey by Michelle Areaux

hiking-1312226_960_720Hello all, my name is Michelle Areaux and I am excited to talk with you all today about my crazy journey in the publishing world and what inspired me to write my debut novel, Wicked Cries. When I first got the idea for Wicked Cries, I was a college student at the University of Kentucky. I was studying English as part of my degree to become a middle school language arts teacher. My true dream was to be a writer, but let’s face it: I needed a “real” job in case my dream job never came true. Thankfully, I accomplished both dreams.

My inspiration for this novel came from my interest in the Salem witch trials. I have always been intrigued by moments in our history that really defined an historical moment. I began researching the history behind the Salem witch trials. Once I began delving into the unanswered mysteries around the people, the town, and the events that transpired, I knew I was in trouble; I was hooked. I had to know more about their stories. I needed to capture that moment, but put my own twist and find my own destiny for those people. I wanted to create characters and put them in fantastic dilemmas while having a control over their fate. I also wanted to create raw characters that readers could identify with and who shared the same quirks, insecurities, strengths, and dilemmas we all face.  So…I began writing a story about a young girl who found a journal hidden in a restored home her parents had purchased in Salem, Massachusetts.  I wanted this character, who I named Sadie, to be a martyr for the victims and to stand up against the hate and unfair treatment of those involved. While researching the history of the events of this tragic moment in our history, I became obsessed with telling this story. As silly as it sounds, I felt like I was becoming an advocate for the people who were shamelessly condemned. Of course I had to add in a cute boy and a mean girl to add some more spice to the story line.  Even though this story is fiction and contains fighting ghosts and paranormal activity, the concept behind the plot is real.

Fast forward ten years.  I am a middle school language arts teacher, mother of two crazy little boys, and a wife of a very patient, and motivating husband. Wicked Cries sat untouched for almost ten years. Finally, after gaining the courage to share this story with my husband Anthony, he encouraged me to send it to agents and publishers. Now, I wish that I could say this journey was easy and that the first publisher I sent my query letter to jumped at the chance to represent me. But, sadly, that is not the case. It took another year of sending my manuscript to agents and publishers before Black Rose Writing took a risk on me and my novel and offered me a publishing contract. Black Rose Writing has been amazing, and the authors I have met along the way have been helpful and great mentors.  My novel is sold on Amazon, Barnes and Noble.com, Black Rose Writing’s website, and at The Morris Book Shop in Lexington, Kentucky.  The publishing journey has been crazy and exciting at times. Holding my novel in my hands was a true accomplishment and a dream come true. But having my family, friends, and students read the story and share their thoughts about the characters with me was exhilarating.  My goal in becoming a published author was not to get popular or become a rock star like Jamie McGuire, Stephenie Myer or J.K. Rowling. No, I wanted to become a writer so I could share my stories with others and live my dream. Wicked Cries is more than just a story about a girl who fights ghosts and learns about the Salem Witch Trials. This story contains real life scenarios that teens and adults face.  I wanted the story to be fun, educational, and something anyone could connect with.  I guess the momma and teacher in me took over when writing this book.

For anyone reading this who aspires to be an author, my advice to you is simple: never give up. I know it sounds so cliché, but it is true. Once you have the idea and the itch to write a story, do it! Keep writing. Send out your story to anyone willing to take a peek at it. What’s the worst that could happen–someone says no? If you don’t try, you will never know. My novel was published ten years after its making. Forget the timeline, don’t stress about how long it takes to get noticed. Keep focusing on your dream and you will get there.

Book three in the Wicked Cries series, Wicked Truths, is now available via EMSA Publishing, wherever online books are sold. Look for the reprints of Wicked Cries and Wicked Lies by EMSA Publishing before the end of the year!

*Image by MaxMann through Pixabay CCO Public Domain agreement https://pixabay.com/en/hiking-map-orientation-hiking-shoes-1312226/

Win 1 of 3 copies of Wicked Truths by Michelle Areaux in our Rafflecopter Giveaway!

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COMING IN HOT – Author Spotlight Tour

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Paramedical meets paranormal in this steamy set filled with doctors, nurses, paramedics, shifters, werewolves, vampires, and more!

Get a dose of romance, STAT!

Featuring NYT, USA Today, and Amazon bestselling authors, we’re Coming In Hot with paranormal to contemporary, and sizzling to seductive bedside manners by the doctors, nurses, paramedics, and more in this boxed set.

Today’s Spotlight: Bad Medicine by Red L. Jameson!

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When you make a deal with the devil…

Don’t complain about the heat.

Luckily, I like it hot.

Nurse Ian Ryder, or just Ryder, is everything I want. He’s big. He’s tough. He’s oh-so-sexy with his leather jacket and motorcycle that I’ve had indecent fantasies about. And even better, he seems emotionally closed off. Not the kind of man who would ask a lot of personal questions. The perfect candidate to reveal my secret—I’m still a virgin, worried I’ll die this way if I don’t do something about it soon. Somehow, I’m going to convince Ryder to play doctor with me.

Dr. Asha Whitetail is completely out of my league. Intelligent and sophisticated. And those glasses she wears makes me think about steaming up her scrubs. When an awkward moment turns into a hot kiss, I realize I’m going to do everything I can to have her—not just her body but her heart too. Problem is, she seems to want only one thing from me. So I’m going to make her an offer she can’t refuse. I’ll give her what she wants, if she spends time with me, gets to know me, the real me, while I do everything in my power to convince her she can play doctor with me…for life.

The Wild Love Series is set in Wyoming and Montana, where things are little more…wild, where love can never tamed. Each book within the series can be read as a standalone and intended for a mature and adventurous reader. Enjoy and fall in love!

***BRAND NEW & EXCLUSIVE***

Now Available for pre-order at $0.99 for a limited time on AmazonNookiBooksKobo, and ARe.

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Hello! Thank you for this opportunity to talk about my newest release Bad Medicine, Book 4 of the Wild Love Series, featured in the Coming in Hot Anthology! I’m so excited to share more about this book, the anthology, and even titbits about myself!

Tell us about your title featured in this set: 

Bad Medicine is Book 4 of the Wild Love Series, which, although it is a series, each book is a stand-alone. I can write pretty quickly and wrote it in about three weeks. However, it’s the editing that always takes the longest with my own revisions, the back-and-forth between a beloved critique buddy of mine then the back-and-forth between my editor and me, polishing, moving on to my proofer, and polishing some more. My editing process takes anywhere between a month to two months. Oh, and the title…Hee-hee! I asked the other members of the anthology what they thought and we all agreed to Bad Medicine!

Tell us something about yourself. 

Hmm, where to start? Well, I was born in Montana, but as soon as I turned eighteen I wanted to move away, so I did. I’ve lived in a lot of places during my early twenties, mostly in the South. But something kept calling me back home. Eventually, I moved back to Montana to be closer to family, met a special fella, and, well, the rest is history as they say. I love learning and have tried to continue my education with now one Master’s Degree in US Military history and several certificates—including fitness instructing to grammar to coding to you name it. But my best teacher of all is my thirteen-year-old son, wise beyond his years. I’m the luckiest mom in the world!

Tell us about your writing process. 

It depends on the book. But most often an idea comes, then a few scenes, then the character “talks” to me. I know. That sounds goofy, but I’ll have days where a certain character become so clear to me it’s as if he or she is really talking to me, telling me about their background, their goals, what motivates them, everything. After a few days to months of this, I plot his or her story. Then I write it furiously down. As I mentioned above, it’s the editing that takes me the longest, and by the time I’m done, the character is done talking to me, letting another enter my mind. J

What is your favourite genre to read? 

Romance and almost anything non-fiction.

What would you say is the one thing are you most passionate about? 

Being a good mother. I want to be a good partner, friend, sister and writer, but every day I try so hard to be a good mom to my wonderful boy.

When you are not writing, what do you like to do? 

I like reading, hiking, taking pictures on my hikes, cooking, baking, playing games with the fam…gosh, so much! There’s no shortage of fun things to do.

If someone who hasn’t read any your books asked you to describe your story in this set (the elevator pitch!) what would you say? 

Nurse Ian Ryder and Dr. Asha Whitetail make the deal of a lifetime. She wants to get rid of her V-card; he wants her heart. Who will win?

About the author:

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Red L. Jameson is an award-winning and multi-published author. She writes in many genres. Her pen name, L. B. Joramo, includes the odd combination of historical and paranormal for the Immortal American Series. However, it is under her “Red” name, her nickname too, where all her stories are strongly laced with love, including contemporary, historical, time-travel, paranormal, and erotic romance. Red lives in the wilds of Montana with her family and a few too many animals, and is currently working on her next novel that she hopes will make her readers laugh, cry, think, and fall in love.

She loves her readers, so please feel free to contact her at http://www.redljameson.com

Or sign up for her sporadic emails at http://bit.ly/1jUgUhr

Readers can connect with Red L. Jameson at:

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New Release: THE COUNTESS INTRIGUE by Wendy May Andrews

The Countess Intrigue is a 60,000 word sweet, regency romance with a thread of suspense. It is a standalone sequel to The Duke Conspiracy.

TheCountessIntrigue500x750Engaged to a rumored murderer – what’s a lady to do?

During her second Season, Lady Elizabeth Castleton is found in a compromising situation with Lord Justice Sinclair, the Earl of Heath. Despite her attraction to him, she is dismayed to find herself betrothed to the man who is rumored to have killed his first wife. Her parents refuse to lend credence to the rumors, so she is soon married and on the way to her husband’s estate.

She cannot decide what to make of the handsome earl but after an attempt is made on her life, Elizabeth is terrified that history is about to repeat itself. She determines to find out once and for all if she is married to a murder.

Can she stay alive long enough to find her happily ever after?

Purchase The Countess Intrigue on Amazon Kindle.

Enjoy an Excerpt:

The evening had already been harrowing with the abduction of her dearest friend from that very ballroom mere moments earlier, but it already felt like eons. After she had left it in the Duke of Wrentham’s hands there had been nothing she could do to help. She had no desire to stand about wringing her hands so she was making every effort to remain calm, keeping up appearances in order to prevent Rose’s absence from becoming common knowledge, in an effort to preserve her reputation. The last thing Elizabeth needed was to be seen conversing with the controversial earl. But despite every instinct shrieking for her to leave the man’s presence on the instant, she forced herself to meet his eye as she bade him good night.

His handsome face always made her blink. Well defined, with a sharp jaw and angular cheekbones. His skin looked smooth, as though he had just left the ministrations of his valet. His wide set eyes were a unique color, somewhere between blue and green, and leant an air of watchful intelligence to his beauty. She wondered if he found it amusing to be constantly faced with wide-eyed women or if he had become immune to it. Perhaps he took it as his due, Elizabeth thought absently, before she refocused her attention. She ought to be keeping her wits about her. Exhaustion from the evening’s turmoil was dulling her senses.

About the Author:

WMAndrews author picWendy May Andrews has been reading whatever she could get her hands on since the age of five. She has been writing for almost as long but hasn’t been sharing those stories with anyone but her mother until recently. Wendy lives in Toronto with her own real-life hero. When not writing or reading, they love to travel wherever the mood takes them.

Learn more about Wendy May Andrews and her writing at:

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Excerpt from WHEN IN ROME by J. Lynn Rowan

perf5.000x8.000.inddLove isn’t always picture perfect…

Kate Miller always thought of herself as the older, frumpier, and less desirable version of her effervescent sister, Sadie. Now that little sister has hooked herself a wealthy husband and seems to have landed the perfect life, all of Kate’s old insecurities rear their ugly heads. Doubting the existence of a fairytale romance, all she wants is to create her own happy ending through her Atlanta-based photography business. When the opportunity arises to join an exclusive fashion photo shoot in Rome, Kate jumps on the chance to gain international recognition of her work. But she’s not counting on an instant attraction to the charismatic, sexy, and irritatingly arrogant director of the shoot.

Domenic Varezzi is used to calling the shots and getting his own way, and his status as a well-known, prolific photographer has earned him worldwide fame. He’s long been on the lookout for a partner, someone who can work beside him as well as fill a lonely void in his life. He thought he’d found “the one”, only to have his hopes dashed by betrayal. Kate’s eye for detail in her photographs has caught his attention, and every challenge she sends his way drives him to break through her tough-as-nails exterior to reach the vulnerable heart that matches his own.

With Italy’s “Eternal City” and the Sicilian town of Taormina as his backdrop, Domenic sets out to win Kate over, and the attention he sends her way can’t be misconstrued. She’s determined to keep him at arm’s length in order to protect her own heart. But she wonders – is Domenic just looking for a fling, or is he in it for the long haul?

Buy When in Rome by J. Lynn Rowan on Amazon.

Excerpt

“Let’s get moving,” Domenic says, taking the boarding passes from Joe. “Pilot wants to be cleared for takeoff in twenty minutes.”

The team lines up, toes tapping, as he thumbs through the boarding passes and starts calling out our names. “Corrine. Rafe. Dave.” Each person steps forward to take their passes and heads toward the gate agent. “Lauren. Joe. Miranda.”

Then it’s just me. Domenic and me, staring at each other steps away from the jet bridge. He holds my boarding pass out to me, and a little surge of indignation heats my face. I want to hear him say my name, the way he said everyone else’s, like it’s validation for my spot on his team. My brows lower and my mouth tightens. I stride toward him, close enough to take my boarding pass.

But I don’t.

I glare at him.

Waiting.

A little coil of something hotter than indignation winding through my core at the amusement shining in his emerald eyes.

He thinks this is funny. My discomfort and impatience is a freaking joke to him.

“Well?” I grind out.

Slowly, he extends my boarding pass toward me. A half-grin pulls at one corner of his mouth as I continue to wait. Something else appears in his eyes alongside that irksome amusement.

My stomach flips.

“Kate.” His voice is low and sonorous, just loud enough for me to hear.

The flip, and the simmering annoyance that’s been building over the past three minutes, explodes into an eruption of raging butterflies. Dizziness threatens the stability of my stance, and my cheeks are on fire. Short of breath, I snatch my boarding pass from his artistically elegant fingers and march myself down the jet bridge.

About the author:

jlynnrowan-headshotJ. Lynn Rowan started writing stories as a small child, usually starring her favorite cartoon characters. Most of her work through middle and high school was filled with typical teenage angst and melodrama, and usually mirrored the books she loved to read. But eventually she found her own author’s voice and decided to seriously pursue a writing career.

Historical fiction remains J. Lynn’s “first love”, but she has enjoyed the journey to becoming an author of romance and chick lit. She is a member of Romance Writers of America, the Central New York Romance Writers, and the Historical Novel Society. She is also a teacher who tries to instill a love of learning, reading, and writing in her students.

When she’s not writing, J. Lynn enjoys travelling, gardening poorly but enthusiastically, studying various topics in American history for her own expertise, and channeling Julia Child every time she steps into the kitchen.

A native of Oswego, NY, she now lives in Charlotte, NC, with her own Romantic Hero of a husband and the most adorable baby on the planet.

Here’s where you can learn more about J. Lynn Rowan and her writing

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COMPETING WITH THE STAR by Krysten Lindsay Hager

Competing with the Star FRONTGenre: Young Adult

About Competing with the Star

Hadley Daniels’s life seems perfect…

Before the beginning of sophomore year of high school, Hadley and her family move to a beautiful beach town, where she makes amazing new friends and lands the boyfriend of her dreams—Nick Jenkins. He’s the kind of guy every girl swoons over, and it isn’t long until Hadley discovers some are still swooning.

A famous ex-girlfriend makes matters more complicated…

After some time dating, Hadley and Nick form a deep bond. But insecurity sets in when Hadley discovers her boyfriend once had a huge crush on her friend—who just happens to be the beautiful former teen TV star, Simone Hendrickson.

The past is the past—or so they say…

Hadley confronts Nick, who confesses about his history with Simone. Though he claims to only have eyes for Hadley now, it’s hard to believe—especially when she’s blindsided with the news that Nick and Simone kissed after school.

Now Hadley must determine who is telling the truth. Love, betrayal, friendship…who needs soap opera drama when you’re busy competing with a star?

Buy Competing with the Star at Amazon Kindle,  Amazon Paperback, Amazon UK, and Barnes & Noble.

 

Excerpt from Competing with the Star

Two days passed and Nick hadn’t called again. I couldn’t blame him. After all, I had pushed for him to be honest and then had bailed on him. I’m sure he was mad at me for telling him he could tell me the truth and then I punished him for it—and he would be right. I couldn’t handle the icky feelings, and instead of being a big girl and dealing with them, I came home from school and retreated into the world of books. A world where people were kidnapped, jewels were stolen, but nobody’s heart ever got broken because in my favorite series, The Raven Chronicles, Raven’s boyfriend, Fernando, was ever faithful and loyal and would never even look at another girl. He was the perfect book boyfriend. In other words, he was fictional and didn’t exist.

What readers are saying about Competing with the Star:

From Reader’s Favorite:

Competing With The Star is the continuation of Krysten Lindsay Hager’s epic YA drama series, The Star Series. Through a captivating plot, amazing character development, and Krysten’s flawless writing, the story captures the true essence of the drama, confusion, and emotional high that is teenage romance. It brings to life the beauty of YA romance with all its uncertainties and possibilities. In the midst of all the drama, confusion, and romance, the story also gives off a beautiful and serene sense of family. I especially loved how the book dived into the story right away, and captured the genuine feeling of the story down to details, language, and interaction between the characters. Lovers of YA romance will definitely love The Star Series.

From Katie’s Clean Book Collection:

Oh, the feels! Krysten Lindsay Hager has a way of drawing me right back to my high school days with her writing–feelings and all. This book is a continuation of Next Door to a Star. Hadley is now settling in and a new boyfriend, Nick, really helps her feel like she belongs. What girl hasn’t felt insecure at one time or another when trying to figure out if “he loves me, he loves me not?” Hadley is real. She has real struggles, real strengths, real reactions, and real emotions. Nick once had a crush on former TV star, Simone, and although Simone swears her friendship with Hadley means more to than anything, but oftentimes, actions speak louder than words and Simone is an actress…

Nick is a great boyfriend, especially for a first relationship, as he and Hadley have a lot in common. Many assumptions lead to drama and realizations as Hadley, Nick, and their friends try and navigate the confusing roads of teenage life. I love how this story seems to unfold like a TV show–easy to picture and imagine. The characters and situations are vibrant, almost leaping off the pages and I felt like I was either a fly on the wall or a silent friend, sitting smack in the thick of it. I love the dynamics and can’t wait for more to the story!

About the Author:

Author picKrysten Lindsay Hager is an obsessive reader and has never met a bookstore she didn’t like. She’s worked as a journalist and humor essayist, and writes for teens, tweens, and adults. She is the author of the Landry’s True Colors Series and her work has been featured in USA Today and named as Amazon’s #1 Hot New Releases in Teen & Young Adult Values and Virtues Fiction and Amazon’s #1 Hot New Releases in Children’s Books on Values. She’s originally from Michigan and has lived in South Dakota, Portugal, and southwestern Ohio. She received her master’s degree from the University of Michigan-Flint.

Here’s how to learn more about Krysten Linday Hager and her writing:

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Believably Dystopic

rp_autumninthecityofangelscover-220x300.jpgWhen 17 year old Autumn finds herself alone in Los Angeles after a global pandemic, she does her best to survive. On a foray into the city, she is taken in by The Front, a group whose focus is power and repopulation. Autumn escapes and is saved by Grey, who disappears shortly thereafter. She returns to her condo where she discovers Ben and his seven year old sister, Rissi. The three of them set up house in Autumn’s penthouse and grow to become a family, but waning supplies forces Autumn out into the dangerous streets of Los Angeles in search of Grey. Due to the air of mystery surrounding him and the kindness he showed her, Grey has become all Autumn can think of lately. And she thinks she knows just how to find him, based on the directions he left her just before he disappeared.

Kirby Howell’s Autumn in the City of Angels was a great read. Howell expertly sets the scene of a believably dystopic Los Angeles. And while Autumn contains many of the plot lines familiar to this genre– a mysterious boy with whom the protagonist can’t help but fall in love; two camps, one good, one evil; most of the world destroyed by a super-virus–there is one plot twist that I didn’t foresee (and which I won’t divulge here) that makes it different from the rest. Autumn in the City of Angels is more than a simple tale of surviours in a post-apocalyptic world. The sci-fi elements are there if you look closely enough. These elements serve to throw a wrench into Autumn and Grey’s sweet love story and hooks the reader further in as the novel races toward the end.

I’ll admit I was thrown for a loop when the big sci-fi element was spelled out for me. When I went back to write this review, I realized that was because I wasn’t reading closely enough. Howell drops hints that I’d missed throughout. Simple things like Autumn’s loss of time that are credited to her injuries, have a much deeper meaning, so watch out for them when you read. And though my first impulse was to stop reading at the point of the reveal, I’m glad I didn’t. My one true complaint is that the book ends too abruptly, and without resolution, probably to leave the reader wanting more for the next book in the series. I’m one of those few people out there who don’t particularly like binge reading series, and would have preferred more of a plot resolution as a result. If you enjoy reading series, however, then you won’t be disappointed. Howell’s intention, to leave the reader wanting more, is bang on.

If you enjoy dystopic sci-fi and paranormal, romance book series, you are in for a treat in  Autumn in the City of Angels.

Mamabear gives this book:

four-bears

Note: I was gifted an eCopy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Excerpt from “Breathe” by Christine Grey

Breathe-Final Cover (1)

About Breathe by Christine Grey (from Amazon.com):

Dearra comes into possession of the magical Sword of Cyrus just as the evil Breken attack her island home. Though her people succeed in driving their enemy back to the sea, one of the invaders remains behind, left for dead by his cruel kin. Now, Dearra doesn’t know what to be more surprised by, the fact that her sword can speak to her, or that it has imperiously informed her that the handsome Breken warrior is her destiny. The two are bound together by a chain of events that was set into motion a thousand years earlier, and everything they thought they knew about themselves, their history, and their future is about to change.

Buy Breathe on Amazon.

Excerpt from Breathe

Dearra bolted upright at the voice that seemed to come from all around her and inside her head at the same time.

“Who is it? Who’s there?” She meant to speak with authoritative calm, but the words came out in a pitiful squeak.

You really aren’t very bright, are you? came the response, the voice flowing around her and through her.

She leapt from the bed, dropped to the floor, and looked beneath it.

Not even warm, taunted the voice.

Dearra sprang to the window and tore aside the heavy drapery…nothing.

It will come to you. I know you can do this. Connect the dots, girl.

Dearra’s gaze drifted back to her bed and the sword that waited for her on top of the soft coverlet. But it couldn’t be, could it? It was impossible, wasn’t it? Dearra took a small, tentative step back toward the sword. What else could it be? She took another step.

Ah, success! There may be hope for you after all, girl.

Coming to a stop at the bedside, Dearra let her weak knees have their way, and she sank to the floor in shock.

“How are you…? I mean…what are you…? I mean…Wow! You can talk!” The words tumbled from her in a confused jumble.

Yes, yes, very good, girl. You’ve not only managed to grasp the obvious, but you almost succeeded in completing a coherent sentence. Very, very impressive. I can see we’re going to get on famously.

It was impressive, when you considered it, Dearra thought, that without facial expression to assist, one could convey that level of sarcasm.

Thank you; I try.

“Have you always been able to talk?”

Certainly. I am incredibly intelligent, even for my kind.

Your kind? Are there other swords like you?”

Of course not; I am quite unique. And as to ‘my kind’, well, that is a story for another day, if I decide I can tolerate you well enough to share that kind of personal information with you.

Dearra sniffed lightly. “Not too full of yourself, are you?”

The sword paused, as if considering the question seriously before responding. No, I should think I am full of myself just the right amount.

Dearra wrapped her arms around herself as a fit of giggles shook her from head to toe. She slowly regained control, as the events of only an hour ago came flooding back, and a frown creased her brow.

The deep sadness was about to take hold again when the sword spoke brusquely. Now, now, none of that. We have much to discuss and much to do, and curling yourself back into a useless ball on the bed won’t get us anywhere. Unless, of course, you wish to reconsider the whole notion of death by cliff. That would certainly save me a fair bit of trouble.

Dearra scowled at the sword and snapped, “No, I have myself quite under control now, thank you.”

Good. Now, what else would you like to know before we save Darius?

“Well, I guess I would like to know…Wait—who’s Darius?”

Excellent, girl! You grasped that one much more quickly. You’re improving.

Exasperation dripping from Dearra’s tongue as she fought to control her simmering temper, she said, “Could you please just answer the question?”

Darius is the Breken warrior I saved from you earlier today. The one that little man so thoughtlessly clubbed on the head.

Dearra was stunned. “Wait! He lives?” she said.

Wouldn’t make much sense to save him if he were already dead, would it?

Dearra was overwhelmed. The image of the handsome Breken warrior shimmered in her mind. Questions came in a steady stream and her pulse quickened. How had he managed to survive such a vicious blow to the head? How did the sword know he was alive, and why was it so important she save him?

Are you quite finished?

It was amazing how quickly Dearra had gotten used to someone responding to the thoughts she hadn’t spoken out loud. Strangely, it felt like remembering a skill she had been born with and forgotten from lack of use.

Firstly, I have no idea. The Breken have hard heads, what can I say? Secondly, I know a lot of things you don’t and do not feel the need to share the whys and hows of it with you, and lastly, because we need him to get back that little brother of yours so you won’t spend the rest of your life in a useless catatonic state. Oh, and he’s your destiny, which I suppose you may find an interesting piece of trivia, though hardly useful.

Dearra nearly choked. “My what?”

He’s not going to be your anything if we don’t get moving. They’re about to find him. You may want to hurry things along a bit, girl.

Scooping the sword from the bed, Dearra raced from her room and down the winding staircase, past the shocked faces of Daniel and Hugh, and out into the courtyard.

Not knowing what else to do, the men followed behind her. The look they shared clearly conveyed their fear that Dearra had lost her mind, perhaps as a side effect to the terrible loss of Pip. They were not really trying to catch her, just follow her to make sure she wouldn’t hurt herself in her mad dash to Cyrus only new where.

Coming to a skidding halt at the gate, she asked out loud, “Where now? I can’t remember where I was.”

Take the path east out of the castle, cross the stream, and you should hear them. Hurry, girl!

As she sprinted over the bridge, familiar voices came to her. The hatred and anger in their tone made her feet slow to a gentle trot so she could make out what they were saying more clearly.

“Run him through!”

“He’s half dead already.”

“Evil spawn doesn’t deserve to live.”

Dearra felt shock cross her features as she came around the small clump of bushes that had hidden the scene from view. This was not the behavior she expected from the people of Maj. Certainly, they had a right to be angry; their home had been invaded, their lives put in jeopardy, friends and family injured, and dear Pip had been taken from them. This last thought sent a shiver through her. But to speak with such bitter hatred and eager anticipation of the death of another, even a Breken, made Dearra’s blood run cold. Then she saw him and it all clicked together.

Jacob stood back and a little away from the others, but there was no doubt in her mind as to who had stirred the people into this angry mob. Jacob was not born to the isle but had joined them three seasons ago. He seemed a quiet and unassuming addition to their group, but wherever trouble was, so too would be Jacob, usually whispering in someone’s ear. Her father tolerated Jacob, hoping that, eventually, the people of Maj would rub off on him, making him into a useful and productive part of the community. Dearra had her doubts as to their potential for success, but it seemed important to her father so she held her tongue.

Sitting part way up, his back propped against a large stone, Darius held his sword out in front of him. It was a futile gesture; his arm shook so badly from the effort it took simply to hold the sword, there would be no force behind any swing he could manage. His black hair was matted from the head wound he had received from Daniel, and the blood that had run so freely had dried to form a gruesome mask covering the left side of his face. Dearra’s eyes met his for just a moment, but it was long enough to see recognition flitter across his features.

“What’s going on here?” she said evenly, meeting each pair of eyes that looked to her own.

Hugh and Daniel walked around the same cluster of bushes Dearra had passed and moved to stand behind her.

“I said, what’s going on here?” her tone became sharper.

Several of the people dropped their heads. Shame washed over them as they realized what they had been about to do.

Jacob stepped forward, and with no hint of remorse in his voice as he addressed Dearra, said, “We were about to exterminate a pest, Dearra. You’ve been through enough today. Return to the castle, and let us deal with this unpleasant business.”

“No,” she stated simply.

Oh, that’s wonderful, girl. I am sure everything will be fine now.

“You be quiet,” she mumbled. “I can handle this.”

Concerned glances flitted about the assembled group at what appeared to be Dearra speaking to herself. But one set of eyes widened almost imperceptibly as Darius, from his prone position, looked first at Dearra and then to the sword she held.

“I don’t understand, Dearra,” Jacob said, speaking as if to a half-wit. “No? You wish to kill him yourself, then?”

“There has been enough pain today, Jacob. Are you so eager to bloody your hands against this defenseless man? Besides, he may prove useful in restoring my brother to us.”

Very nice, what an excellent notion, girl. Did you think of that all by yourself?

I’m trying to diffuse the situation, Dearra thought. Be still, and let me try to fix this. That is what you wanted isn’t it?

Humph, came the reply.

“Be reasonable, Dearra,” Jacob whined like a child who was not getting his way. “He’s dangerous. Let us put an end to him quickly. It will be more merciful than his kind would be for any of us.”

Hugh stepped forward and put his hand upon Dearra’s shoulder, silencing the sharp retort he knew was coming. “Dearra speaks wisely. This Breken may indeed prove useful in returning Phillip to us. In any case, I will not make a decision that could affect us all in haste. Take him to the keep and lock him in the lower store room. The apples have not yet been harvested; use that room. Bar the door, and put two guards outside.”

Disarming him with ease, they picked the young man roughly from the ground, and half dragged, half carried him toward the castle. Dearra trailed a short way behind to make sure they did not get too enthusiastic in their efforts to hurry him along.

Darius’s eyes were everywhere at once. He surveyed his surroundings anxiously, trying to commit to memory any opportunity for escape. What he could do to escape an island, with no boat, and no one looking for him, was a detail he ignored for the moment. At that instant, he was simply grateful to be breathing; he would work the rest out later.

They took him to a room one level below the main keep. It was cool and dry and held the faintest aroma of fruit. He leaned against the dirt wall and slid less than gracefully to the smooth, plank floor. Empty baskets of varying sizes were strewn about in haphazard stacks, waiting to be needed again.

Dearra took one last, long, lingering look, and then firmly shut the door. Jacob volunteered to be one of the guards, and since she could think of no reason to object, she let him have his way. She was comforted, however, when the much milder tempered Bryan stepped forward as the second volunteer.

Dearra’s footsteps echoed through the deserted corridors as she made her way back to her personal chamber. Her thoughts were a twisted mass as she relived, over and over, the moment she saw her brother on the Breken ship, his innocent face pale, and his eyes wide in fear. The cold black, eyes of his captor were too far away to really be visible, yet she knew they had been filled with triumph at his victory over the people of Maj. Then her mind remembered the eyes of another, golden brown, holding her captive and refusing to let her look away, and she shook her head trying to rid herself of the image. Dearra swept up the stairs into her room and dropped the sword onto her bed, unceremoniously. She scanned her room until she found what she was looking for, and made her way to the jumbled pile of objects near the fireplace.

Where do you think you’re going?

“To my father and Daniel, and then back to our strange…um…guest. His wound needs attention,” Dearra explained. She pushed aside a pair of mud-caked pants and a torn vest she kept meaning to repair, and scooped up the bag in which she kept her supply of healing medicines, assorted bandages, and basic medical instruments.

Fine. Leave me here, then. Abandon me. I’ll just wait until you are content to give me your attention once more.

“Yeah,” Dearra responded, distracted. “That would be great, thanks.” Turning back toward the bed, she asked, “Hey, what’s your name?” almost casually.

My name, girl, is ancient. I am descended from… well, never mind that. My name is a thing of power and awe. I am called Brin’du Drak’Tir, the sword said brimming with pride.

Dearra absorbed the name, briefly, finding it cumbersome and awkward in her mouth. “Ok, I’ll just call you Brin,” she responded, pleased with her solution to the problem of the funny name.

Decidedly offended, taken aback that anyone could be so casual about a thing of such monumental importance, the sword shot back, Fine! And I shall call you Big Fuzzy Animal with Antlers.

“Yeah, yeah. Deal,” Dearra said, as she whisked from the room.

***

Forgetting her plans to speak to her father and Daniel first, Dearra flew through the halls and down the short set of stairs leading to the storerooms. Heart pounding, she came to a stop in front of Bryan and Jacob. They looked at Dearra, and then at one another in confusion.

“Well? What are you waiting for?” Dearra demanded. “Open the door!”

“But, Dearra,” Bryan stammered, clearly at a loss for words.

“Absolutely not!” Jacob stated. “Lord Hugh ordered us to keep watch over the prisoner!”

“So? Keep watch. No one’s stopping you.” Dearra took a step forward and placed a hand on the heavy board barring the door. As she braced herself to lift the board up and out of her way, Jacob’s hand clamped down on her upper arm.

“I said, no, Dearra.”

“Let go of me immediately.” Dearra’s voice was calm and cool, but a bolt of panic swept through her as the grip tightened painfully around her arm. Her temper flared to life. She saw Bryan take a step back, recognizing the golden flames that sprang to life in Dearra’s eyes. Bryan had always been a friend to Dearra, and the look of fear on his face unsettled her where nothing else would have. Though the pain in her arm increased along with the pressure of Jacob’s grip, Dearra took a slow deep breath before speaking in as calm a voice as she could muster under the circumstances, “You’re hurting me.” Dearra’s voice shook with the effort it was costing her to remain in control, but only slightly so.

Bryan’s eyes popped wide open, and his jaw dropped as far as it could go as he stared at the scene in front of him in disbelief.

Two sounds came to Dearra almost simultaneously, one in her head, the other clearly coming from the other side of the door. The first was easily recognizable.

I’ll bet you wish I was there now, don’t you, Fuzzy? Her sword spoke in an ‘I told you so’ manner that grated on her nerves. And that nickname was going to wear quickly thin.

Who knew the blasted thing could hear her thoughts even when it wasn’t with her?

The second sound was indistinguishable at first, but as it grew in intensity, there could be no doubt the prisoner behind the heavy door was…no, he couldn’t be…but he was. Dearra could clearly hear that the fierce Breken warrior was…growling a low, throaty sound. Jacob hastily loosened his hold, though he did not let go completely.

Things could have gone badly had Daniel not chosen that exact moment to make an appearance at the base of the stairs.

Daniel spoke, and the fierce growl coming from behind the door ceased abruptly.

“Is everything alright here, Dearra?” Daniel’s eyes (and ears for that matter), had assessed the situation rapidly, and if he were to be honest with himself, he had to say that, in this circumstance, he was completely with the Breken.

Jacob took a wise step away from Dearra before speaking again. “Of course, Daniel.” A simpering smile appeared on Jacob’s face as he continued. “Dearra was…confused. She thought to enter the room with the Breken dog, and so, naturally, I had to protect her.”

“Protect her from what, exactly? One injured man against Dearra with the two of you standing guard just feet away? Open the door, Jacob,” Daniel said, daring Jacob to contradict his instructions, “and when you’ve finished with that, please fetch Serah to take your place at watch. You’ve clearly had a busy day and are deserving of some rest.”

“You want Serah, Daniel? Wouldn’t one of the men be better suited to…?”

Daniel raised one brow at the now tongue tied Jacob, who went at once to remove the board barring the way to the prisoner, then turned and left without another word.

“I’ll be right here for you, Dearra. Until Serah arrives.”

“Thank you, Daniel.” Dearra reached out, patted Daniel’s arm in gratitude, and walked into the storeroom turned cell.

A scowl grew on Dearra’s face as she saw no blankets, nor food, nor even water, for that matter, had been brought to the prisoner. She quickly stuck her head back through the door and instructed Bryan to bring some of each to her immediately. Having witnessed Daniel’s ire with Jacob, Bryan didn’t need to be told twice, and was gone almost before Dearra was done speaking. Dearra closed the door before turning back to her patient and lowered herself beside him on the wooden floor. He was large, of course, but seemed smaller than many of the Breken she had seen earlier that day. He was, maybe, only six and a half feet tall. His skin was the beautiful, copper color she remembered from their earlier encounter, though it was harder to see now, with only one small torch lighting the room. His thick, black hair looked even blacker, if that was possible, with the blood matted and dried in the strands. And then there were his eyes, made even more glorious by the flickering light of the torch, that deep, rich brown with flashes of gold. They looked right into Dearra, and her breath quickened, and she had to look away. She busied herself opening her bag, and laying out all of the contents before her to better evaluate what she would need. The young Breken watched her intently as she worked; she could feel his eyes on her as she arranged and rearranged bandages, unguents and salves in a neat row.

Bryan returned with the water, two blankets, and some fresh bread and soft cheese. Dearra handed the young warrior a chunk of bread and some of the chilled water, and dipped a soft cloth in the bowl of steaming water Bryan had brought in anticipation of her needs. He shied away as she reached to begin cleaning his head wound, but then held himself still as she worked. Dearra noticed the pained look on his face and paused.

“What is it?” she asked hesitantly. “Am I hurting you? You can tell me if I am. Please, you look so…strange.”

He didn’t speak, but raised a hand, ever so slowly, and traced the bruise just beginning to show on her upper arm.

Dearra froze at his touch and the jolt running down her arm as his fingers brushed, feather light over the red bloom making itself evident on her pale skin.

“Why?” he asked softly, the deep timbre to his voice strong and menacing in the small room.

“Well…” Dearra spoke the word and had to swallow to begin again, the feel of his hand on her arm making her mouth go suddenly dry. “I have always bruised easily. It’s a terrible nuisance, but I’ve gotten used to it.”

“That’s not what I meant,” he said, and though his hand had dropped back to his side, his eyes never left the mark marring her porcelain skin. “I meant, why did you do it? Why did you challenge him just to come in here?”

“Oh! Well, you needed attention. Your wounds aren’t going to clean themselves, you know.” She was relieved to have such a simple answer to give, though he seemed genuinely startled by her response.

Dearra dipped the cloth in the water again and continued to do what she could to clean the nasty lump at the back of the Breken’s head. She leaned in close in the dim light, to get a closer look, probing as gently as she could to make sure the injury wasn’t more serious than it seemed.

The silence of the room enveloped her, and she couldn’t, at first, identify what had changed. She looked down at the Breken sitting placidly before her, and realized that, in her effort to get a better view, she had provided the Breken with a view of his own—her chest was directly in front of his face. His jaw was clenched tightly, and his eyes stared straight ahead, as though he were completely unaware of what was right before him, but Dearra noticed that the silence she had sensed had been due to the fact that the fierce warrior was no longer breathing in his efforts to remain completely still. She eased back from him and returned to her bag of supplies pretending to not have noticed the awkward moment, but she couldn’t stop the grin that spread across her face when she heard him exhale loudly behind her.

She finished with her task, and after gently covering him in one of the blankets, turned to leave.

“Wait!”

Dearra turned back to face him as he spoke. “Yes?”

“Thank you…Dearra.”

His voice was rough and the words were spoken haltingly as if they words he was not used to speaking. She had not introduced herself, but it was not surprising that he knew her name, as at least a dozen people must have used it around him today. Still, it was presumptuous of him to speak to her with such familiarity without her consent.

A small smile lit her face and she said, “You are truly welcome…Darius.”

His eyes flew open wide, as he knew he had definitely not given his name to anyone.

Dearra left the room with a grin on her face. Let him ponder that for a while, she thought.

About the author:

BookChristine Grey lives in Wisconsin with her husband, Dan, and their seven children, three dogs, and two cats. With a family like that, she knows how important it is to escape from reality from time to time! She and her husband have grown their family through foster care adoption and are advocates for helping children find the permanency and support they all deserve. When she isn’t busy chasing children, running a household, or savoring a hot cup of tea, Christine spends her free time creating worlds of magic, romance, and humor.

Here’s how readers can learn more about Christine and her work.

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