Tag Archive | InkSlinger

All Closed Off: Cover & Release Reveal

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From New York Times bestselling author Cora Carmack, comes the highly anticipated fourth standalone title in her Rusk University Series, ALL CLOSED OFF! A passionate story and journey, get ready to be mesmerized with Stella’s story! ALL CLOSED OFF is coming your way May 1, 2017!

 

 

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Cover Design and Photography by Kelsey Kukal-Keeton at K. Keeton Designs

ABOUT ALL CLOSED OFF (Releasing May 1, 2017):

Stella Santos is fine.

Maybe something terrible happened to her that she can’t even remember. And maybe it drives her crazy when her friends treat her like she’s on the verge of breaking because of it. Maybe it feels even worse when they do what she asks and pretend that it never happened at all. And maybe she’s been getting harassing emails and messages for months from people who don’t even know her, but hate her all the same.

But none of that matters because she’s just fine.

For Ryan Blake, Stella was always that girl. Vibrant and hilarious and beautiful. He wanted her as his best friend. His more than friends. His everything and anything that she would give him. Which these days is a whole lot of nothing. She gets angry when he’s there. Angry when he’s not there. Angry when he tries to talk and when he doesn’t.

When Stella devises an unconventional art project for one of her classes all about exploring intimacy—between both friends and strangers—Ryan finds himself stepping in as guinea pig after one of her subjects bails. What was supposed to be an objective and artistic look at emotion and secrets and sex suddenly becomes much more personal. When he hits it off with another girl from the project, Stella will have to decide if she’s willing to do more than make art about intimacy. To keep him, she’ll have to open up and let herself be the one thing she swore she’d never be again.

Vulnerable.

 

 

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Don’t Miss All of Cora’s Standalone Rusk University Series Titles!

 

ALL LINED UP

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ALL BROKE DOWN

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ALL PLAYED OUT
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Cora Carmack - author picAbout Cora Carmack:

Cora Carmack is a twentysomething New York Times bestselling author who likes to write about twentysomething characters. Raised in a small Texas town, she now lives in New York City and spends her time writing, traveling, and marathoning various TV shows on Netflix. She lives by one rule: embrace whatever the world throws at you and run with it (just not with scissors).

 

 

 

 

 

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Cora Carmack Goodreads

 

 

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Release Launch: The Hard Truth About Sunshine

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The Hard Truth About Sunshine AMAZON

New York Times bestselling author Sawyer Bennett has written her most gripping and poignant tale yet. Provocatively heart-breaking, audaciously irreverent and romantically fulfilling, The Hard Truth About Sunshine exposes just how very thin the line is between a full life and an empty existence.

Despite having narrowly escaped death’s clutches, Christopher Barlow is grateful for nothing. His capacity to love has been crushed. He hates everyone and everything, completely unable to see past the gray stain of misery that coats his perception of the world. It’s only after he involuntarily joins a band of depressed misfits who are struggling to overcome their own problems, does Christopher start to re-evaluate his lot in life.

What could they possibly learn from one another? How could they possibly help each other to heal? And the question that Christopher asks himself over and over again… can he learn to love again?

He’s about to find out as he embarks upon a cross country trip with a beautiful woman who is going blind, a boy with terminal cancer, and an abuse victim who can’t decide whether she wants to live or die.

Four people with nothing in common but their destination. They will encounter adventure, thrills, loss and love. And within their travels they will learn the greatest lesson of all.

The hard truth about sunshine…
Warning: This book deals with some tough issues including suicide and sexual abuse.

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THTAS Teaser #7

 

 

AuthorPhotoSince the release of her debut contemporary romance novel, Off Sides, in January 2013, Sawyer Bennett has released more than 30 books and has been featured on both the USA Today and New York Times bestseller lists on multiple occasions.

A reformed trial lawyer from North Carolina, Sawyer uses real life experience to create relatable, sexy stories that appeal to a wide array of readers. From new adult to erotic contemporary romance, Sawyer writes something for just about everyone.

Sawyer likes her Bloody Marys strong, her martinis dirty, and her heroes a combination of the two. When not bringing fictional romance to life, Sawyer is a chauffeur, stylist, chef, maid, and personal assistant to a very active toddler, as well as full-time servant to two adorably naughty dogs. She believes in the good of others, and that a bad day can be cured with a great work-out, cake, or a combination of the two.

WEBSITE | FACEBOOK | TWITTER | BOOKBUB | AMAZON AUTHOR PAGE | INSTAGRAM

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Rash Decisions: Excerpt + Giveaway

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Today we have the blog tour for Rash Decisions by Alex Rosa! Check out the tour and grab your copy today!!

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Title: Rash Decisions

Author: Alex Rosa

Genre: Contemporary romance

About Rash Decisions:

Julia Ferris had it all. A loving a boyfriend, a glamorous city, and a high paying job. What more could a girl want? She’d ask you, “What if all those things weren’t what you wanted … ever?”

Julia’s life has always been defined by everyone around her, but one day she makes the rash decision to finally live life for herself, and it all starts with a pair of shoes. Now it becomes her only guide.

From new jobs, to new boys, and a life in a big city she was never prepared for, she can at least admit one thing now:

It’s all exactly what she wants … kind of.

 

Excerpt:

JULIA FERRIS

My eyes flicker open in unison with my stretch. I feel incredibly satiated and calm, and waking up with a smile is a new thing for me. However, as I gain focus the dark grays of the room confuse me.

Where are my sleek, white brick walls?

I pull in a deep breath, and the smell of woody cologne and sex slams my senses.

I peer down at the navy blue comforter covering me, noting I am very much naked.

I didn’t.

I ogled Troy all night. I remember that. It was hard not to. I drank a lot. That I also know, but how far did I go? I wanted so much, but I tried to stay away. What’s the last thing I remember?

I turn to my right and see the hottest thing I have ever laid eyes on.

A fast asleep Troy.

I sit up on my elbows, holding the blanket to my chest.

My eyebrows angle upward in unfortunate concern as I examine his sleeping state. His face is as relaxed as my body feels. His mouth hangs slightly open —that mouth. I remember that mouth all over me last night; I remember its quiet moans in my ears and its rushed breaths that tangled with mine.

His naked chest is on full display, and all the sinews that indent themselves on his perfect form are revealed, all the way down to those hips —I definitely remember that body now, too, and remember being able to touch and kiss anywhere I’d like.

The memories of the night swarm my mind like an incoming hurricane.

I clench my thighs together feeling well used and aching in the best way.

My hand reflexively comes up, slapping onto my forehead. Oh no.

Then comes the guilt. I run that hand through my hair as I dart my eyes all over the room. My clothes are everywhere. His clothes are everywhere.

Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.

I look at the time on his nightstand. It’s barely eight in the morning and Troy looks —oh Troy looks adorable.

Stop thinking that way!

I lean a little closer to him. I want to wake him, or kiss those sexy, anger-inducing lips, but that feels instantly wrong.

I change my mind. I’m not going to wake him. I can’t. I wouldn’t know how to explain myself.

My cheeks begin to burn, thinking I’ve done something terrible.

No. I know I’ve done something terrible, and the only thing that’s served me any good is escaping.

I regretfully cringe as I slip from his bed. I make sure I’m quiet with each tip toeing step.

This was a terrible idea. This is wrong.

I find my bra and my dress, quickly slipping those on, but for all the love that is holy, I cannot find my panties.

I squint at Troy, not putting it past him that he would hide them away somewhere as a trophy.

My stomach plummets at the thought that I’d be something of a trophy for him. His seduction and stares said differently, but the realization that I barely know the man slams my guts.

I peer over at the time again, this time fuming with embarrassment. It’s 8:15 now.

I look back at Troy once more, taking a step toward the bed, scrutinizing his Greek features, the bastard.

The butterflies caged in my gut flutter erratically, and I know this is such a mess. I can’t tell what I’m feeling.

What about Noah!

I don’t know what I’m supposed to do.

I want to lean over and press a goodbye kiss to Troy’s cheek, but I shake my head instead.

All of this could easily mean nothing to him when maybe it meant everything to me.

Wait, no.

Again, I can’t tell. Maybe we both shared a passionate night, and we’ll be done with it. Maybe we can just blame it on the alcohol and forget it ever happened. Maybe we just needed to get it out of our system?

The fact that I can’t tell which way is up or down is what has me flinging myself in the opposite direction in nerve-wracking fear. I grab my glorious heels on the way, cursing their damned determined sexiness, as if they’re to blame while I make my way to the front door to escape.

Is this what my therapist implied when I told her I was getting up and leaving the state? That I wasn’t really solving the problems and instead I was running away from them?

Is that what I’m doing now?

I feel like shit for so many different reasons, but I can’t stop pawing at my swollen lips as I approach the elevator.

If I don’t know how to justify the night to myself, how can I explain myself to anyone else?

I shoot a glance down the hall and think, what would Troy do in this situation?

That’s when I take a step inside the elevator, eager for the doors to shut behind me.

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About Alex Rosa:

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Alex Rosa lives in San Diego, California. When she isn’t scouring city parks or cafe’s to write she is more than likely trying to convince her friends to join her on her next adventure. A sufferer of wanderlust, she is always looking for a new mountain to climb, a canyon to hike, or a plane to board. Her resume consists of coroner, to working at a zoo, and most recently as an executive assistant, but finds her home amongst words, whether it be in books, or in film. Her obsessions are on the brink of bizarre, but that’s just the way she likes it.

Website: http://www.authorarosa.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/author.arosa/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/oh_alexrosa

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/alexxrosa/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/alexrosa

Instagram: https://instagram.com/oh_alex

Tumblr: http://aarosa.tumblr.com/

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Excerpt: Royally Matched

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Royally-Matched-3D-bookSome men are born responsible, some men have responsibility thrust upon them. Henry Charles Albert Edgar Pembrook, Prince of Wessco, just got the motherlode of all responsibility dumped in his regal lap.

He’s not handling it well.

Hoping to force her grandson to rise to the occasion, Queen Lenora goes on a much-needed safari holiday—and when the Queen’s away, the Prince will play. After a chance meeting with an American television producer, Henry finally makes a decision all on his own:

Welcome to Matched: Royal Edition.

A reality TV dating game show featuring twenty of the world’s most beautiful blue bloods gathered in the same castle. Only one will win the diamond tiara, only one will capture the handsome prince’s heart.

While Henry revels in the sexy, raunchy antics of the contestants as they fight, literally, for his affection, it’s the quiet, bespectacled girl in the corner—with the voice of an angel and a body that would tempt a saint—who catches his eye.

The more Henry gets to know Sarah Mirabelle Zinnia Von Titebottum, the more enamored he becomes of her simple beauty, her strength, her kind spirit…and her naughty sense of humor.

But Rome wasn’t built in a day—and irresponsible royals aren’t reformed overnight.

As he endeavors to right his wrongs, old words take on whole new meanings for the dashing Prince. Words like, Duty, Honor and most of all—Love.

 

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EXCERPT

 

“Are you a virgin?” I ask.

“Well . . . yes.”

“Then why are you complaining? You qualify.”

Sarah’s eyes flash with annoyance. “Because I’m more than my hymen, Henry! To base the value of an accomplished, intelligent woman on a flimsy piece of skin is degrading. How would you feel if your worth rested on your foreskin?”

I think it over. And then I grin. “I’d be all right with that, actually. I’ve heard it was an impressive foreskin—all the nurses were fawning over it. It’s probably being showcased in a museum right now.”

She stares at me for a beat, then she laughs out loud—a rich, throaty, sensual sound.

“You’re a terrible human being.”

“I know.” I shake my head at the calamity of it all.

“And you’re an even worse feminist.”

“Agreed. That’s something I need to work on. You’ll help me, won’t you? We should spend as much time together as possible—every minute of the day and night. I’m hoping you’ll rub off on me.”

Sarah pushes my shoulder. “You’re just hoping I’ll rub you off.”

Now it’s my turn to laugh. Because she’s not even a little bit wrong.

“But there’s never been anyone? Really?”

Sarah shrugs. “Penny and I were tutored at home when we were young . . . but in year ten, there was this one boy.”

I rub my hands together. “Here we go—tell me everything. I want all the sick, lurid details. Was he a footballer? Captain of the team, the most popular boy in school?”

“He was captain of the chess team.”

I cover my eyes with my hand.

“His name was Davey. He wore these adorable tweed jackets and bow ties, he had blond hair and was a bit pale because of the asthma. He had the same glasses as me and he had a different pair of argyle socks for every day of the year.”

“I am so disappointed in you right now.”

“He was nice,” she chides. “You leave my Davey alone.”

I shake my head. “So what happened to old Davey boy?”

“I was alone in the library one day and he came up and started to ask me to the spring social. And I was so excited and nervous I could barely breathe. And then before he could finish the question, I . . .”

I don’t realize I’m leaning toward her until she stops talking and I almost fall over.

“You . . . what?”

Sarah hides behind her hands.

“I threw up on him.”

And I try not to laugh. I swear I try . . . but I’m only human. So I end up laughing so hard the car shakes and I can’t speak for several minutes.

“Christ almighty.”

“And I’d had fish and chips for lunch.” Sarah’s laughing too. “It was awful.”

“Oh you poor thing.” I shake my head, still chuckling. “And poor Davey.”

“Yes.” She wipes under her eyes with her finger. “Poor Davey. He never came near me again after that.”

“Coward—he didn’t deserve you. I would’ve swam through a whole lake of puke to take a girl like you to the social.”

She smiles so brightly at me, her cheeks maroon and round like two shiny apples.

“I think that’s the nicest thing anyone’s ever said to me.”

I wiggle my eyebrows. “I’m all about the compliments.”

 

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Emma Chase is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the hot and hilarious Tangled series and The Legal Briefs series. Emma lives in New Jersey with her husband, two children and two naughty (but really cute) dogs. She has a long-standing love/hate relationship with caffeine.

WEBSITE | FACEBOOK | NEWSLETTER | TWITTER | GOODREADS

 

 

 

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Release Day Launch: Unrest

Unrest Synopsis:

Being on the run in the desert means food and sanctuary are hard to come by, but Amber Tate and her crew are not about to give up. Not after having so many of the things they love brutally ripped from them by an unknown enemy who sent their world into the apocalypse.

Survival takes precedence, but once safe shelter is found, their guards fall and the emotions they’ve been holding in are finally released. Anger, insecurities…lust. In their tight quarters, Amber, Rylen, Tater, and Remy can’t escape it. The past must be faced, and passions run even stronger in the darkest of times.

In the midst of unrest, their worlds are rocked again when they discover the truth about the war that’s ruined their lives. They thought finding out the enemy’s identity would give them the edge; instead it’s revealed terrifying dangers they never thought possible.

Buy Links:

Kindle or Nook 

Get your copy of Unrest:

AmazonUS / AmazonUK / B&N / iTunes / Book Depository

 

Wendy Higgins Bio:

Wendy Higgins is a soccer mom and backstage drama mama. Most people in her tiny bayside town don’t know she’s a USA Today and NYT bestselling author of paranormal, fantasy, and science-fiction romances. Wendy is a former high school English teacher who now writes full time in her pajamas, and lives on the Eastern Shore of Virginia with her veterinarian husband, daughter, son, and little doggie Rue. 

Wendy earned a bachelor’s in Creative Writing from George Mason University and a master’s in Curriculum and Instruction from Radford University.

Links:

Email: wendyhigginswrites@gmail.com

Website: www.wendyhigginswrites.com

Twitter: @Wendy_Higgins  https://twitter.com/Wendy_Higgins

Facebook: WendyHigginsWrites  https://www.facebook.com/WendyHigginsWrites/

Instagram: @wendyhigginswrites  https://www.instagram.com/wendyhigginswrites/

 

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Have you read any of Wendy Higgins’ books?

Excerpt Reveal: Unrest by: Wendy Higgins

Today we’re revealing an excerpt from UNREST by Wendy Higgins! Check it out and grab your copy today!!

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Title: Unrest

Author: Wendy Higgins

Release Day: February 14th

 

About Unrest:

Being on the run in the desert means food and sanctuary are hard to come by, but Amber Tate and her crew are not about to give up. Not after having so many of the things they love brutally ripped from them by an unknown enemy who sent their world into the apocalypse.

Survival takes precedence, but once safe shelter is found, their guards fall and the emotions they’ve been holding in are finally released. Anger, insecurities…lust. In their tight quarters, Amber, Rylen, Tater, and Remy can’t escape it. The past must be faced, and passions run even stronger in the darkest of times.

In the midst of unrest, their worlds are rocked again when they discover the truth about the war that’s ruined their lives. They thought finding out the enemy’s identity would give them the edge; instead it’s revealed terrifying dangers they never thought possible.

Preorder Today:

Kindle or Nook

 

Get your copy of Unrest:

AmazonUS / AmazonUK / B&N / iTunes / Book Depository

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Exclusive Excerpt:

A golden hue of sunrise turned night into dawn. I sat on a small boulder, staring at the sliver of sun through trees of the Nevada parkland, the same spot where I’d been sitting silently in the dark for two hours in the cold. I couldn’t take Remy’s whimpering and soul-crushing cries each time she fell back asleep in the tent, venturing into nightmares of what she’d seen the night before. What we’d all seen. I might never sleep again.

Mom. Dad. Abuela.

I fought back another wave of debilitating grief that made my bones feel like liquid—like I’d never have the ability to stand again. Have to be strong. Have to be strong. I rocked back and forth with my eyes shut tight. I couldn’t afford to give in to the loss. If I did, it would consume me whole and devour my will to live. I took a deep breath in and let it out slowly.

We’d been fired up to leave the nature preserve last night and head north to the base in Utah after hearing the Morse code message, supposedly from other military personnel in hiding, like us. But we decided to wait until morning since we needed more light to plan our trip on the map. Plus, headlights in the night would be too easy to spot, and we were all worthless last night, running on adrenaline and vengeance, one step away from crashing. I never did crash or sleep a wink, even though my adrenaline was long gone.

The soft sunrise was too pretty—too majestic—for the way I felt inside. Raw. Like my heart had been grated. During the night, I’d begun to believe the sun would never rise again, and now that it was I felt as if the Earth were mocking what we’d been through, reminding me just how miniscule and unremarkable we were. A new day was happening despite what we’d lost. The world wasn’t stopping to mourn. It felt wrong.

We’d been so close to the camp yesterday where the Disaster Relief Initiative, the DRI personnel, had taken my parents, my grandmother, Remy’s parents, and Rylen’s wife Livia. We watched in confusion as those DRI bastards fled. Then we’d watched in disbelief as Air Force jets dropped a bomb on that camp, obliterating our family and the people from our town. Oh, God.

I pressed the back of my hand to my mouth and squeezed my eyes shut. Even while the world fell apart around us, I never imagined anything would happen to my parents. I never let myself believe it was possible, even after watching my Grandpa Tate shot and killed by a Disaster Relief Personnel—fucking Derps. Who was I without my parents? I was the daughter of an Army man and a Mexican dancer. A Green Machine and a Señorita. A small bubble of laughter worked its way through a sob in my throat when I thought about my parents’ silly banter with each other. Their relentless love and devotion to me and my older brother, Tater.

The sound of a tent’s zipper wrenched through the morning solitude and I quickly wiped my eyes. I looked over and saw Rylen crouching as he pushed through the opening. The golden hue of sun made his blond hair and the scruff on his face stand out. His eyes met mine and I had to swallow hard at the sight of pain in his expression. I’d already cried so much last night.

Seeing those solemn gray eyes brought back a flood of memories: young, scrawny Rylen Fite, loved and cared for by my parents like he was their own son. And his eyes reflected his remembrance too, as if he felt their absence as prominently as I did. But he’d lost a wife, as well. Maybe she hadn’t been his wife in every technical sense of the word, but he’d been trying to make it right. Every bit of his loss was reflected in the heavy way he sat on the rock beside me and rubbed his face before staring out at the sunrise.

 

About Wendy Higgins:

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Wendy Higgins is a soccer mom and backstage drama mama. Most people in her tiny bayside town don’t know she’s a USA Today and NYT bestselling author of paranormal, fantasy, and science-fiction romances. Wendy is a former high school English teacher who now writes full time in her pajamas, and lives on the Eastern Shore of Virginia with her veterinarian husband, daughter, son, and little doggie Rue.

Wendy earned a bachelor’s in Creative Writing from George Mason University and a master’s in Curriculum and Instruction from Radford University.

 

Reach Wendy Online:

Email: wendyhigginswrites@gmail.com

Website: www.wendyhigginswrites.com

Twitter: @Wendy_Higgins https://twitter.com/Wendy_Higgins

Facebook: WendyHigginsWrites https://www.facebook.com/WendyHigginsWrites/

Instagram: @wendyhigginswrites https://www.instagram.com/wendyhi

 

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Have you read book one, yet?

The Tattered Gloves: Excerpt + Giveaway

ttg-amazonAbout THE TATTERED GLOVES

Head down.
Don’t look up.
Never make eye contact.

Those were the words I lived by growing up, the words that protected me in an unsafe home. But words are only letters and eventually even they couldn’t keep his hands off me.

Hoping to leave behind the shattered life of my past, I find myself in a boring, small town, with an aunt I’ve never met and at a school I loathe.

But soon I learn, not everything in this world is as black and white as I’ve determined. Sometimes those we are so quick to judge often need a second, third or even fourth time to make a first impression.

And often, there are friendships and even love waiting just around the corner, if we are brave enough to take the first step.

Am I brave? Or will I hide behind these tattered gloves of mine forever?

Add THE TATTERED GLOVES to your to be read shelf on Goodreads!

Get your hands on THE TATTERED GLOVES: Amazon | iBooks | Google Play | Kobo

Find out as soon as THE TATTERED GLOVES goes up for sale on other retailers by subscribing to J.L. Berg’s newsletter!

Excerpt:

“Your mother does know what size you wear, doesn’t she?” Addy asked the next morning as I walked out of the bathroom, showered and dressed for school.

Looking down at another version of the black long-sleeved shirt I’d worn the day before, I shook my head. “No,” I answered. “This is hers. Most of my clothes are. She always just gave me what she didn’t want anymore.”

Her eyes widened and then softened.

“Well, I meant what I said. I’m taking you into town this weekend. You’re too tiny to be wearing your mom’s hand-me-downs. She’s got to be at least two sizes bigger than you.”

Four sizes, but who is counting?

“Maybe, if I keep feeding you like this, you’ll actually grow some meat on those bones of yours,” she suggested, her keen eyes still fixated on my body.

It made me suddenly aware of the way my jeans felt so loose around my hips… how easily they fell from my body.

“You and me… we’re the same.”

The memory of his voice cut through my mind like a razor blade, and I instantly stiffened.

“Willow? You okay?” Addy noticed my change in mood almost instantly. She moved to my aid but stopped herself before her hand reached my shoulder. “Whatever is going through your mind right now, it will fade.”

“It won’t,” I said through clenched teeth. “It will never fade.”

“It will. Maybe not today or tomorrow, not even next year… but with time, it will fade. And it will heal.”

“You don’t know. You can’t—”

“Trust me,” was all she said before turning toward the door.

 

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About J.L. Berg

J.L. Berg is the USA Today bestselling author of the Ready Series, The Walls Duet, and the Lost & Found Duet. She is a California native living in the beautiful state of historic Virginia. Married to her high school sweetheart, they have two beautiful girls that drive them batty on a daily basis. When she’s not writing, you will find her with her nose stuck in a romance novel, in a yoga studio or devouring anything chocolate. J.L. Berg is represented by Jill Marsal of Marsal Lyon Literary Agency, LLC.

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Prologue: The Tattered Gloves

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USA Today Bestselling Author J.L. Berg’s first YA title, THE TATTERED GLOVES, releases January 24th – but we couldn’t wait to give you a peek! Read the haunting prologue below and preorder your copy today!

 

 

ttg-amazonAbout THE TATTERED GLOVES

Available January 24th, 2017

Head down.
Don’t look up.
Never make eye contact.

Those were the words I lived by growing up, the words that protected me in an unsafe home. But words are only letters and eventually even they couldn’t keep his hands off me.

Hoping to leave behind the shattered life of my past, I find myself in a boring, small town, with an aunt I’ve never met and at a school I loathe.

But soon I learn, not everything in this world is as black and white as I’ve determined. Sometimes those we are so quick to judge often need a second, third or even fourth time to make a first impression.

And often, there are friendships and even love waiting just around the corner, if we are brave enough to take the first step.

Am I brave? Or will I hide behind these tattered gloves of mine forever?

Add THE TATTERED GLOVES to your to be read shelf on Goodreads!

Preorder THE TATTERED GLOVES: iBooks | Google Play | Kobo

Find out when THE TATTERED GLOVES goes up for sale on other retailers by subscribing to J.L. Berg’s newsletter!

Read the Prologue:

Head down.

Don’t look up.

Never make eye contact.

These were the rules I’d learned to live by while growing up in a house where men frequented but did not stay. When I was very little, I’d always assumed my mother had a lot of friends. Big, strong, manly friends who protected us since I didn’t have a daddy.

How naive I had been.

The men who had visited only wanted one thing, and my mother was happy to give it — for a price.

She’d never made any desperate attempts to shadow this particular part of her life or protect me from it.

The most I’d gotten was a flippant warning when I started showing signs of puberty.

“Willow, you might want to keep out of sight more now,” she’d said.

Thanks, Mom.

And then, when I’d garnered more than a glance or two, she’d say, “Stay in your room at night. Don’t come out.”

But, even with all the rules and warnings, I couldn’t keep them all away.

I couldn’t keep him away.

He’d managed to snuff out every bit of me in a matter of minutes.

Whatever remnants of innocence I’d had from my childhood was gone like a puff of smoke.

But, in our darkest hours, sometimes, even the weak could find the light.

I did, and this… this was my story.

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About J.L. Berg

J.L. Berg is the USA Today bestselling author of the Ready Series, The Walls Duet, and the Lost & Found Duet. She is a California native living in the beautiful state of historic Virginia. Married to her high school sweetheart, they have two beautiful girls that drive them batty on a daily basis. When she’s not writing, you will find her with her nose stuck in a romance novel, in a yoga studio or devouring anything chocolate. J.L. Berg is represented by Jill Marsal of Marsal Lyon Literary Agency, LLC.

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Excerpt Reveal: Riveted by: Jay Crownover

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From the New York Times bestselling author of the Marked Men books comes the next installment in the Saints of Denver series.

 

 

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Everyone else in Dixie Carmichael’s life has made falling in love look easy, and now she is ready for her own chance at some of that happily ever after. Which means she’s done pining for the moody, silent former soldier who works with her at the bar that’s become her home away from home. Nope. No more chasing the hot as heck thundercloud of a man and no more waiting for Mr. Right to find her; she’s going hunting for him…even if she knows her heart is stuck on its stupid infatuation with Dash Churchill.

Denver has always been just a pit stop for Church on his way back to rural Mississippi. It was supposed to be simple, uneventful, but nothing could have prepared him for the bubbly, bouncy redhead with doe eyes and endless curves. Now he knows it’s time to get out of Denver, fast. For a man used to living in the shadows, the idea of spending his days in the sun is nothing short of terrifying.

When Dixie and Church find themselves caught up in a homecoming overshadowed with lies and danger, Dixie realizes that while falling in love is easy, loving takes a whole lot more work…especially when Mr. Right thinks he’s all wrong for you.

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EXCERPT:

Church

“You’ve been awfully quiet tonight.”

The southern drawl was lighter than mine, more lyrical and smooth. The Blue Hills of Kentucky rolled thick and unmistakable in Asa Cross’s twang as he looked at me steadily from behind the massive oak bar he was currently in the middle of wiping down.

“I talk when I have something to say.” No one would ever accuse me of being the chatty type. When I did choose to speak the Mississippi Delta was deep and locked thickly around all my words. My drawl was much slower than the blond bartender’s and far less practiced. Asa used his inflection and his southern charm to work whoever was sitting on the other side of the bar like they were one of his marks in a long con. He turned up the south in his voice to make hearts flutter and to fool drunks into thinking he was far less sharp than he was. His Kentucky-flavored tone was nothing more than a tool he used to his advantage whenever he needed it, while my unhurried inflection reminded me of a home I hadn’t seen in far too long. That was one of the reasons I never had much to say. Every time I opened my mouth the sound of my voice, like molasses over gravel and deep as the Mississippi River, took me back to a place I had been actively avoiding for over a decade.

I’d spent a little over ten years serving my country in various capacities while enlisted in the army. I’d been around different types of men from a million different walks of life. In all that time I’d never met anyone as hard to unravel as the man standing across from me. He had eyes the exact same color as the aged whiskey on the shelf behind him, and they were picking me apart with a perceptiveness that made me uneasy. I wasn’t used to being so transparent. Whatever shield I had up, whatever ironclad curtains I had pulled around me, Asa Cross saw right through them.

“You are usually quiet, but tonight you didn’t say a single word. You look like you have something on your mind.” His eyebrows lifted and that smirk on his face turned into a grin that I wanted to put my fist in. He wouldn’t be half as pretty as he was with missing teeth and a bloody nose. “Dixie had a date tonight. I figure you were worried about her since she’s been spending time with those internet guys over the last few months, and the bar is never the same on her nights off.”

My back teeth clicked together in aggravation and a low growl escaped my throat. My hands curled into fists at my sides without me being aware they were doing it and I could feel a furious heat climb up the back of my neck.

The idea of Dixie, sweet, sunny Dixie, out there with God only knew what kind of troll she was going to find on the internet made me want to destroy everything. I wanted to break the bar top in half. I wanted to throw chairs through windows. I wanted to smash all the meticulously placed bottles displayed behind Asa into smithereens. I wanted to dropkick the remaining few stragglers nursing their last-call drinks out the door and I wanted to get my hands on whoever had taken Dixie out tonight and throttle him within an inch of his life.

Logically, I knew there were decent, normal individuals using the internet to find love and sex . . . the sex being more likely. There were millions of people online dating and while I thought that was okay for them I refused to think it was an option Dixie should be utilizing. I hated the idea of her dating at all, but there was something about her meeting strangers, meeting men that hadn’t had the opportunity to see her in person before taking her out, that really rubbed me the wrong way.

Dixie Carmichael was the nicest girl I had ever met. She didn’t have a mean bone in her perfectly curvy and petite body. She was always smiling, always laughing, and there wasn’t a moment spent in her company where it didn’t feel like the sun was shining directly on you. She embodied warmth and care. Someone behind a computer monitor would never understand that. They would never feel the way her innate ability to make everything seem like it would be okay made the world seem like it was worth saving. There was a lot of bad shoved at us all on a day-to-day basis but somehow Dixie was a filter for it, and when you were around her it seemed like the only thing you could focus on was the good she let through.

She needed someone that could appreciate that. She needed a man that shined as bright as she did and that would hold her above the shit that was always trying to drag everyone else down. I doubted that guy was on Tinder or Bumble. In fact, I doubted that guy existed at all.

“I don’t keep track of her comings and goings.” I rubbed a hand over my mouth and watched as Asa’s eyebrows shot up and his lips twitched. I was a damn good liar. I lied to myself for years and years about the kind of man I was in order to convince myself that the choices I made were the right ones. But I was currently trying to lie to a man that was a professional liar, so it was no surprise that he saw right through the bullshit I was laying down.

“Ahh . . . I see. You have no interest in the fact she might be out there with a serial killer that wants to turn her pretty hair into a coat for his pet hamster?”

I glowered at him and crossed my arms over my chest. I was a big guy. Years of doing PT and boredom in the desert had led to a strenuous fitness routine I still maintained, partly out of habit and partly because when my muscles burned and I made myself sweat I could shut off all the other stuff that was crowding my head. Some of it nagging, niggling regret from the past, a whole lot of it new nightmares and realizations from my present. I had a couple inches in height on the Kentucky charmer and a whole lot more brute strength. Yet none of that or the glower that I was sure was stamped across my face kept Asa from keeping his stupid, sound advice to himself.

“Dixie is a good girl, she deserves someone who can give her that kind of good back.” I could see the surprise on Asa’s face as I finally gave him something that was wholeheartedly true.

He pushed off the bar and hollered that it was time for the last few customers to finish up. There were some grumbles but everyone left was a regular and as soon as the clock hit one thirty they would move towards the door without any hassle. I liked nights like this, where there were no fights to break up, no crying girls to console, no puke to clean off the floor, no amorous couples to shoo out of the bathrooms. Typically on a night like this I would watch Dixie scamper around shutting the bar down while pretending I wasn’t looking at her. I couldn’t help myself. My eyes were pulled to her and when she laughed or smiled I felt it in my gut like a punch. She did things to me that no woman had ever done to me before.

She made me want to smile and that alone was enough to have my feet itching to hit the road before I did something stupid, like fall in love or take her up on her blatant invitation into her bed. I wanted to fuck her, but I knew if I did it would fuck us both. She was nothing but good and when I got good in my life it always went bad, so I didn’t allow myself, or her, to go there. She shone as bright as the sun every single day but I was a man that knew all too well that too much time in the sun could lead to some serious burns.

I’d spent the last few months biting my tongue until it bled while she dated men that weren’t me and I went to bed alone each night wondering why I didn’t just pick up one of the barflies that hung around making it known they were ripe for the picking.

I’d never been the kind of guy that burned through women. My mother, and subsequently the women that stepped in to raise me after my mom was gone, Elma Mae and Caroline, taught me to understand that women’s hearts were fragile and you had to be careful with them. They tried to teach me how to take care of the good when you had it, how to respect it and earn it. I kept the lessons close because they were some of the only things I had left of the women that shared them with me. I never played with a woman’s body if I didn’t know for sure her heart was kept in a separate box somewhere. I liked my hands on soft tits and full hips, and silky legs wrapped around my back as much as any other guy. What I didn’t like was wiping away tears, explaining myself, and dramatic good-byes when I didn’t stick around after a good time. I was picky about who I went to bed with and I made sure they understood all my hard and fast rules about not committing or sticking around before I ever put my hands on them.

“Denver was just a pit stop.” I rubbed my hand over the top of my buzzed head and looked down at the wooden floor under my boots. “With everything that happened with Brite and Avett a few weeks ago I think it’s about time I put some space between me and the Mile High.” A friend and his daughter had recently run afoul of some really nasty people. My old commanding officer and current boss and I had moved in to help in any way we could, which ended with bullets and blood and some seriously pissed-off drug dealers. Holding a weapon in my hand and kicking in doors was second nature to me. I missed the fire of combat in my blood and the adrenaline coursing through my veins. I was made to fight, not to rest on my laurels. “Well past time I made my way home and tried to mend some fences.”

This was why Asa was such a good bartender. He pulled your story out of you whether you were planning on telling it or not, and he listened like he cared even if my story was told in fewer words than he was used to.

He nodded at me and pushed a rocks glass filled with amber liquor towards me. He typically drank Scotch at the end of the night, but I was a bourbon guy through and through. “I know all about mending fences, brother. Not a day goes by that I don’t have to dig a hole for a new post and string up some new wire.” He took a swig of his own drink and plastered that arrogant smirk back on his face. “Plus you might as well run before that girl you’ve been watching when she isn’t watching you fall in love with someone who ain’t you.”

I was going to hit him. My intent must have been clear because he put his glass down on the bar and lifted his hands up in a gesture of surrender. “My girlfriend is armed and she likes my pretty face the way it is. Keep that in mind, soldier.”

I slammed back the rest of the bourbon and let it burn its way down my throat. “Fuck you, Opie.”

He chuckled at me and turned to cash out the register behind him. “That’s why they say the truth hurts, Church.”

Before I had been Church I’d been Dash. And before I had been Dash I’d been Dashel. It was already hard enough being a kid with less than white skin and with parents in an interracial relationship, but having a name that was as uncommon as mine down in the Deep South was fuel on an already burning fire. I’d hated it growing up and even with shortening it to Dash I’d still struggled with it. But now I’d been Church for a long time, and he was a man that didn’t give any kind of shit what anyone else thought of his name. I’d earned that nickname through service and blood. It wasn’t a name that was given to me. It was one I had taken and made my own. Elma Mae was going to hate it and she was still going to call me Dashel even when I begged her not to but there was a part of me that couldn’t wait to hear the stubborn old woman tell me, I’ll call you by the name your mother picked out for you, son. That’s the name she wanted for you and you should respect it. I should, but there were a lot of things I should have done to make my mom proud that I didn’t do.

The truth Asa was laying down did hurt, because there was no hiding from him that part of the reason I was ready to bolt was because I really couldn’t stomach the idea of watching someone else take Dixie’s heart.

“Didn’t ask you for the truth.” I stuck my head out the front door and watched as the last two bar patrons climbed into their Uber. I locked the front door and shut off most of the lights and made my way back to the bar.

I liked the operation Rome had set up here. I liked the people, both the ones who worked for him and the ones he served, and I liked that the atmosphere was usually festive but pretty mellow. On the nights that heads needed to be cracked and tempers needed to be tamed I enjoyed the exertion and physicality of that as well, but I wasn’t meant to be a bouncer. I had too much training, too much experience, and frankly too many demons that needed an outlet, to babysit drunks and party girls for the long haul. It was time for me to stop drifting.

Asa finished up with the money and shot a glance at his phone. I could tell by the genuine smile that crossed his face and the way his gaze sparked that his gorgeous redheaded girlfriend was the one behind the message. Royal Hastings, the pretty Denver policewoman had recently moved in with the annoying southerner and it wouldn’t surprise me if she ended up with a ring on her finger before the year was out. The cop and the con had something special going on even if I firmly believed it was doomed to fail.

“Most folks don’t ask for the truth but that doesn’t stop me from giving it to them.” He gave me a look that told me if I was any kind of man I would take that truth he was so fond of and do something smart with it. I didn’t bother to tell him good and

 

 

I didn’t really see eye to eye. We made our way to the back door after a quick stop at the office to lock the money up in the safe. Asa scribbled a note to Rome and then quickly checked the security cameras. He typed out a message on his phone and by the time we hit the parking lot at the back of the bar a brand-new Toyota 4Runner was pulling in with a smiling redhead behind the wheel.

Asa clapped a hand on my shoulder and gave me a look that burned with understanding and seriousness. I felt like he was speaking directly into my soul when he told me quietly, “The real truth is, I let something good go, so I know how that feels. Got it back and would move heaven and earth to keep it by my side, so I know exactly what you’re walking away from, soldier. Be smarter than I was and don’t let all that goodness slip through your fingers.” He turned around and walked backwards for a second while flashing me that shit-eating grin of his. “It’s always better to be warm than it is to suffer the cold, Church.”

He moved towards the SUV and I had to look away when he leaned into the driver’s side window to kiss his girl. There was so much intimacy there, so much passion that it made everything I swore I knew about love and togetherness pull against the reins that held it tight.

I gave a halfhearted wave as Royal honked the horn at me and pulled out of the parking lot, then made my way over to my Harley. It was still nice enough weather to ride, another reason I needed to get my ass in gear and head south. In a few weeks it was going to be too cold to have the bike on the road and I wasn’t interested in putting the beauty on a trailer and driving her like some expensive piece of luggage back to Mississippi.

I was swinging my leg over the chrome-and-leather beast when my phone vibrated in my back pocket. It was after two in the morning so I knew anything buzzing through at this time of night couldn’t be good. Considering I’d recently shot Denver’s top drug supplier’s right-hand man and put down another one of his henchmen for good, I was dreading seeing what was waiting for me on the display.

It was almost as bad as I expected it to be. The number was one I’d been ignoring since I landed in Denver months ago. It was a number that belonged to a man that I owed more than some simple conversation or a handful of words. It was a call I would have continued to ignore if it hadn’t come in the middle of the night and on the heels of three other calls throughout the day that I had turned a blind eye to.

It was time to stop running from my past. It was time to man up.

It was time to be a better man, the man the person calling had tried his best to raise me to be.

“Hey, Julian.” I rested the Harley back on the kickstand and ran a hand over my face. I could practically feel the shock wafting across the phone line. He hadn’t expected me to answer and that made me a special kind of asshole.

“Dash.” His voice was even deeper and coarser than mine. People often told me I sounded like Johnny Cash but Julian Churchill really had the Man in Black’s rough growl embedded throughout his tone. “I didn’t think you were going to answer.” I sighed and felt like the wild five-year-old he had tried to wrangle all over again. “Been busy. Took a while to settle in and get used to sleeping without bombs going off overhead.”

He didn’t say anything for a long minute and when he spoke I could tell he was trying really hard to keep the hurt and censure out of his deep voice. “You have a perfectly good bed here and last I heard there weren’t any bombs in Lowry.” Lowry was the small town where I had been born and raised, just outside of Tupelo, Mississippi. There weren’t bombs there but there was a bucket load of memories that blasted me with emotional shrapnel that hurt worse than the kind I’d had surgically removed from my skin.

“I needed time, Jules.”

“Had more than enough time, son. You need to come home.” I bristled just like I always did when he tried to tell me what to do. I thought I’d squashed that urge after we stood side by side and lowered my mom into the ground but there was something about him talking to me like I should know better that always made me feel like an unruly kid.

“Planning on it. Have to tie up a few loose ends around here, and I have to make sure I don’t leave my friend that helped me out in a lurch.” Rome would send me on my way with a pat on the back and a foot in my ass if he knew the real reason I was hiding in Colorado instead of hightailing it home. He was understanding, but the man was all about family first and he wouldn’t abide the way I’d been avoiding mine for the last decade or so. I was a coward and I didn’t want a man I’d been in the trenches with, a man I would die for and knew would die for me, to know just how deeply that weakness ran.

“Dash.” There was a sigh and then Julian cleared his throat, so I knew he was struggling to keep his emotions in check. “Elma Mae had an accident.”

I almost dropped the phone as I bolted up from my lounging position on the bike. “What do you mean she had an accident?” My fingers tightened around the phone to the point that my knuckles hurt and the blood rushing furiously between my ears made hearing his response difficult.

“She was carrying her laundry in off the line and tripped going up the stairs. She fell backwards and busted her hip. A neighbor heard the commotion and ran to help. They had to airlift her to the hospital in Tupelo. She’s also got a dislocated shoulder and a sprained wrist. She’s back in the Lowry hospital now recovering and she should be going home at the end of the week.”

“Jesus.” Elma Mae was chasing down eighty if she was a day. None of us knew her exact age and she refused to tell. She would just smile at us and tell us we kept her young. Those kinds of injuries were serious for someone in their prime. In a woman Elma’s age they were life threatening. “She gonna be all right?”

“Elma is a tough old bird. It’ll take more than a tumble to keep her down. She’s been asking about you.”

Well, if that wasn’t just a fucking red-hot poker right through the guts. It was also a slap across the face with the reality of everything I’d purposely been avoiding and denying for way too long.

“I bought a Harley. Gonna have to ride it home, so I’ll be there in a couple days.” My homecoming was happening sooner than I’d planned, but there was no way I couldn’t be there for the woman that had always been my true north. When nothing else in my life made sense there was Elma Mae. She was the only safe place I had ever known and if she needed me I was going to be there to return the favor. I owed the woman everything and the fact I’d waited so long to see her after years of deployment was a startlingly clear reminder of why I was correct and considerate in staying the hell away from Dixie.

She lived in the light and I was far more comfortable hiding in the dark.

“I’ll let her know. That will make her day.” He paused for a second, which made me brace for whatever was coming next. “She mentioned a girl. Elma told me the reason you weren’t in any hurry to come home from Denver was because of a girl. That true?”

Son of a bitch. The truth might hurt but the lies I told, and they were more gray than white, were going to outright kill me. “There’s a girl.” And there was, but she wasn’t entirely the reason I wasn’t ready to face Julian or anyone else back in Lowry. She had been one of my reasons for sticking around Denver longer than I’d planned. She was an excuse that would buy me time and one that wasn’t entirely untrue.

“Do me a favor and see if you can bring her with you. Elma would love nothing more than to see you happy, to know you’re finally settling down and moving past the things that happened with your mom and with Caroline. You bring your girl home with you and give all of us some peace of mind. Make an old woman happy, Dash. You owe Elma a few years where she doesn’t have to worry about you catching bullets or ending up alone.”

Shit. I rubbed my temples and kicked at the loose gravel under the soles of my boots. “I’ll see what I can do.” That was bullshit. Dixie would drop everything and come with me if I explained the situation. She was too nice and too sweet to tell me no. Elma Mae was going to goddamn love her after she gave her a ration of hell in order to make sure she was the right girl for her boy.

“If the girl cares about you then she’ll figure out a way to be here. If she can’t figure it out, she isn’t worth your time. Come home, son, we miss you.”

I missed home, too, but I could do without the memories and reminders that had kept me away since the day I signed my life away to my country.

It was my turn to sigh. “I’ll see you soon, Jules.” He hung up and I wanted to kick myself because after all these years and all the time and effort he put into raising me I still couldn’t call the man Dad. He deserved the title, after all it was his last name I carried around with me, not that of the man who had knocked my mom up and run. He had earned it much like I had earned my name, but whenever I tried to say it the word got stuck and I fell back on something that seemed less important. It felt like I was fooling God and everyone under the sun about just how important Julian was to me if I refused to call him the only thing he had ever been to me. I was trying to trick fate so Jules didn’t end up the way so many others I loved had.

I was also going home, and I was going to put some sunshine in my pocket and take it with me.

 

 

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Jay Crownover continues her Saints of Denver series with Riveted, available February 14th, 2017

Give yourself a Valentine’s Day gift in advance…Preorder and fill out the form here: https://a.pgtb.me/t0JkQX

Pre-order Riveted today and on February 14th, you’ll also receive a glossy Saints of Denver poster and an exclusive first-look at Chapters 1 and 2 of Avenged, her forthcoming Mackenzie Family novella.

Avenged combines the grit of Saints of Denver series with the all-out heat of The Point series with a mind-blowing, mystery, yet-to-be-revealed, couple combining both of these worlds. Be one of the first to find out who it is, pre-order Riveted today.

Posters will be mailed the week of February 14th and Avenged chapters will arrive via email.

 

 

Jay Crownover - headshotAbout Jay Crownover:

Jay Crownover is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Marked Men, The Point, and the Saints of Denver series. Like her characters, she is a big fan of tattoos. She loves music and wishes she could be a rock star, but since she has no aptitude for singing or instrument playing, she’ll settle for writing stories with interesting characters that make the reader feel something. She lives in Colorado with her three dogs.

 

 

 

 

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Long Way Home: Chapter Reveal + Giveaway

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The highly anticipated third book in Katie McGarry’s Thunder Road Series is being released on January 31st! LONG WAY HOME is a Young Adult Contemporary Romance being published by Harlequin Teen! Pre-order your copy of the next book in this emotionally charged series, and don’t miss Violet and Chevy’s story! Check out the first chapter below and be sure to pre-order your copy for the amazing bonus scenes!

 

 

CHAPTER ONE:

Chevy

 

The instructions of the English homework I didn’t do hang out from the top of my folder: Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, And sorry I could not travel both.

Story of my life.

According to my football coach, I chose wrongly on the two crap paths I had to face last week. I just ran into Coach on the way to English, and he ripped into me for my sorry decision-making skills when it came to me choosing to stand up for the Reign of Terror Motorcycle Club instead of a member of my football team.

I didn’t just get my ass chewed out, his tirade made me late for English with no tardy note. Which is great since my English teacher hates late students like I hate riding my motorcycle in forty degree weather while it rains.

I round the corner, then peek through the small window on the door of my class. Ms. Whitlock stands in front of her desk in her patented white button-down shirt, gray pencil skirt and dark-rimmed glasses. From the back row, my best friend, Razor, meets my eyes and shakes his head. Damn. That means she’s in one of her moods where she’s refusing to let anyone in.

I’m not a tail-tucked-between-my-legs type of guy, but this lady is one of the few who can reduce me to begging. If she doesn’t let me in, then she’ll mark me as absent, the front office will think I skipped, and that means I won’t be able to play at tonight’s football game.

The window rattles when I knock. The entire class turns their heads in my direction, but Ms. Whitlock doesn’t. The muscles in my neck tighten. She is one of the hardest core people I know and my grandfather is the president of a motorcycle club. That says something.

She starts for the whiteboard and I knock on the door again. This time, Ms. Whitlock does look my way and she grants me the type of glare reserved for people who kick puppies. I got it. I’m late. I’m the scum of humanity, so let my ass in so I can play football.

There’s this guy in my club, Pigpen. He’s about the same age as Ms. Whitlock, late twenties, and he’s a walking hard-on for this woman even though she would never give him the time of day. He practically runs into walls when she’s around because he’s too focused on checking her out. I don’t see gorgeous—all I see is seriously pissed off and the person standing between me and playing.

Ms. Whitlock points at the clock over her desk. She’s telling me I can wait. If I’m lucky, she’ll open the door after the quiz that I’ll receive a zero on. If I’m not so lucky, she won’t open the door at all.

Two pathetic paths and I could only travel one. Nowhere in that stupid poem did it mention there was good and bad to both paths and that sometimes it’s best not to choose, but to set up camp at the fork and do nothing at all.

I slam my hand into the nearest locker, almost relishing the sting.

“Feel better?”

A glance across the hallway and I freeze. Doesn’t matter how many times I see her in a day, she still manages to take my breath away. Violet leans against the lockers as beautiful as ever. Red silky hair flowing over her shoulders, a pair of ripped jeans that look like they were tailored for her curves and enough bracelets around her wrists that they clank together when she moves.

Do I feel better? Not really, but I nod anyway as I try to judge if being alone with Violet causes more pain than having my balls ripped off. “Didn’t hurt.”

“Yes, I can see how slamming your hand against a locker didn’t hurt at all.”

My lips tilt up because she got me, and on top of that, Violet made a joke. Since she broke up with me last spring, things between us have been tense. On her side and on mine. Some people, like me and Violet, aren’t supposed to break up. Some people, like me and Violet, don’t know how to be near each other when we do part ways. “Are we talking now?”

“I’m locked out of class. You’re locked out of class. I could ignore you if that’s what you want.”

It’s not. Her ignoring me is never what I wanted. “Why are you late?”

Violet presses her lips together and looks away. A sixth sense within me stirs.Something’s wrong. I’ve known her my entire life. We were born only a few weeks apart and we learned to crawl on the sticky floor of the Reign of Terror clubhouse. We were friends, always friends, until one day, we weren’t just friends anymore. We became more until we lost it all.

“Late’s not your thing,” I say. Violet’s unconventional. Marches to her own drummer, but she’s not the type to be late to class. It’s a respect thing for her, something her dad taught her and Violet may never listen to another living soul, but she listened to her father. “What’s going on?”

She’s silent and frustration rumbles through me. Violet used to tell me everything. Used to see me as someone who could help solve her problems. She doesn’t see me like that anymore and it pisses me off. I’m angry at her for making us this way. Angry at myself for not figuring out how to fix us.

“You being late wouldn’t have anything to do with Stone, would it?” Stone’s her brother and the question’s a shot in the dark, but I don’t want to miss the chance to keep conversation with her going.

“Why are you late?” she replies as a nonanswer and my head snaps up. Guess sometimes blind shots do hit their mark. Violet was late because of Stone.

“What happened?” I push.

“I’m not talking about it.”

“Vi—”

She cuts me off. “I told you how to help me and my brother six months ago and you told me no.”

By running away? No again to that insane solution.

“Tell me why you’re late,” she says. “If you don’t, then you need to stop talking, because the last thing either of us needs right now beyond missing a quiz or possibly being marked as absent is detention for getting into a shouting match. At least it’s the last thing I need, okay?”

I back up to the lockers across from her and lightly hit my head against the metal. Yeah, I don’t want to talk about why I’m late either. I shove a hand into my pocket and try to think of a change in subject. Telling Violet I’m late because my football coach tore into me for hitting a guy who was causing problems for the Terror, a guy who had been causing problems for her, won’t help me and Violet stay civil. She’s mad at the club, which makes her mad at me.

Violet’s watching me, and her expression is a lot like someone trying to figure out a word problem for math. Unfortunately, she knows me as well as I know her.

“Being late is going to cost you, isn’t it?” she asks. “You can’t play tonight if she marks you absent, can you?”

I meet her blue eyes, and my chest hurts at the sympathy I find there. I’d willingly miss tonight’s game if I could rewind back to a time where I could talk to Violet with ease and that’s not the type of trade I’d normally make.

Football is my life. So is the motorcycle club. The Reign of Terror are my family—the blood kind and the bonds of brotherhood kind. I don’t know who I am without the Terror, but to be honest, I don’t know who I am without football either.

Lately, I’ve been torn between the two, just like that poem, and everyone in my life has chosen a side. Violet used to be the person I could talk to, but then she walked.

Six months ago, Violet asked me to run away with her.She was driven by grief, driven by something she wouldn’t tell me about. When I told her no, that we needed to stay home, to be near our family, to be near the club, Violet returned the next night and announced I was choosing the club over her and that we were done.

Being a running back, I’ve taken more than my fair share of hits over the years, but I’ve never been as blindsided as I was that night. Never experienced the type of pain her leaving me created.

The door to the classroom opens and a sense of relief washes over me. I’ll have to bust my ass to bring up my grade thanks to that zero on the quiz, but at least I’ll be able to play tonight.

Ms. Whitlock steps out and sizes me up, then Violet. “I’m only letting you in if you have a note, otherwise you can head to the office and hope they give you one.”

Screw me. There’s no way I’ll make it to the office, get a note and return in time. Right as I’m about to kick the hell out of the locker, Violet glides past me and hands in her note. “This is Chevy’s.”

My head whips in her direction. “It’s what?”

“Yours.” Violet meets my eyes. “Thanks for offering it to me, but it’s not right for me to take it. I’m the one who didn’t have a note, and I’m the one who needs to make it right.”

She begins walking backward, and my short-circuited brain sparks back to life. I can’t let her do this. “Violet—”

“Have a good game tonight,” she says, then disappears down the stairs.

“Are you joining us, Mr. McKinley, or not?” Ms. Whitlock demands. Never met a person I hate as much as this lady and it takes everything I have to force one foot in front of the other.

Everyone watches me as I stalk down the aisle then drop into the last seat in the row, the one next to Razor. He’s calm, cool, blond hair, blue eyes, and he’s watching me like an owl who’s considering whether it wants that unsuspecting mouse for a snack now or later.

Ms. Whitlock is lost in her own world as she continues babbling about poem interpretations and people who died too long ago. I can do little more than open my folder and stare at the top of my homework.

“Chevy,” Razor whispers, and I glance over at him. He points to the paper on his desk and in his messy handwriting is You okay?

Yes, because I get to play football tonight. No, because Violet sacrificed herself for it to happen. Hell no, because the world’s messed up and I don’t know how to fix it. Worse no, because I don’t know if I should read more into what Violet did—if it means somewhere deep inside she still thinks we have a chance.

I shake my head, Razor nods and the two of us stare at the whiteboard. Two roads. One path. Can’t take both. The guy who wrote it acts like the choice should be easy. It’s not. And he also didn’t mention what happens when people like Violet shove you onto a path regardless of your thoughts.

“So how many of you liked the poem?” Ms. Whitlock asks.

The entire class raises their hands. Almost everyone, except for me and Razor.

 

And don’t miss the next chapters of LONG WAY HOME!
January 12: YA Books Central
January 13: Vilma’s Book Blog

 

 

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LONG WAY HOME Synopsis:

Seventeen-year-old Violet has always been expected to sit back and let the boys do all the saving.

It’s the code her father, a member of the Reign of Terror motorcycle club, raised her to live by. Yet when her dad is killed carrying out Terror business, Violet knows it’s up to her to do the saving. To protect herself, and her vulnerable younger brother, she needs to cut all ties with the club—including Chevy, the boy she’s known and loved her whole life.

But when a rival club comes after Violet, exposing old secrets and making new threats, she’s forced to question what she thought she knew about her father, the Reign of Terror, and what she thinks she wants. Which means re-evaluating everything: love, family, friends . . . and forgiveness.

Caught in the crosshairs between loyalty and freedom, Violet must decide whether old friends can be trusted—and if she’s strong enough to be the one person to save them all.

LONG WAY HOME Pre-Order Links:

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“An intoxicating and unforgettable story that kept me glued to the page.”

Kami Garcia, #1 New York Times bestselling author, on Walk the Edge

 

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Pre-order LONG WAY HOME by Katie McGarry, and fill out THIS FORM, to receive three previously unreleased bonus scenes featuring important “firsts” in the lives of your favorite characters from the world of Katie McGarry! Complete the form to register your pre-order at https://wyng.com/campaign/820152.

 

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katie-mcgarry-author-picKatie McGarry Bio:

Katie McGarry was a teenager during the age of grunge and boy bands and remembers those years as the best and worst of her life. She is a lover of music, happy endings, reality television, and is a secret University of Kentucky basketball fan.

Katie is the author of full length YA novels, PUSHING THE LIMITS, DARE YOU TO, CRASH INTO YOU, TAKE ME ON, BREAKING THE RULES, NOWHERE BUT HERE and WALK THE EDGE and the e-novellas, CROSSING THE LINE and RED AT NIGHT. Her debut YA novel, PUSHING THE LIMITS was a 2012 Goodreads Choice Finalist for YA Fiction, a RT Magazine’s 2012 Reviewer’s Choice Awards Nominee for Young Adult Contemporary Novel, a double Rita Finalist, and a 2013 YALSA Top Ten Teen Pick. DARE YOU TO was also a Goodreads Choice Finalist for YA Fiction and won RT Magazine’s Reviewer’s Choice Best Book Award for Young Adult Contemporary fiction in 2013.

 

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