Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Resurrecting Hope by Shell Taylor

Summary:
Adam Lancaster can’t imagine how his life could possibly get any better. He’s on the cusp of moving in with his boyfriend, Elijah Langley. Their charge, Kollin Haverty, finally has a loving, stable home environment, and Home for Hope is up and running, keeping over fifteen LGBT youth off the streets at night. But one phone call from his birth mother, Jessica Lancaster, is all it takes to unravel Adam’s carefully constructed new life.

Informing Adam his grandfather has died, Jessica expresses remorse for abandoning Adam to the state and begs him for a chance to be part of his life again. Jessica’s true colors eventually shine through her fa├žade, and Adam is devastated all over again when he discovers she is only using him to get her hands on the valuable inheritance his grandfather left him. Jessica’s betrayal forces Adam so far inside his own hell, not even Elijah or Kollin can keep him from abandoning all of his responsibilities and running away. Adam will have to dig deep to find the strength to confront his birth parents, heal once and for all, and earn back his place with his new family.


I'm going to jump out of the gate by saying that when I read the blurb, I was terrified.  I didn't read it immediately, partially because I was in the midst of a Christmas fix but also because I wanted to put off Adam's downfall.  I bit the bullet and jumped in and yes, I was right to be terrified but in a good way.   When Adam's past comes back in the form of his birth mother, to say it rocks his world is an understatement because it rocks the hell out of everyone's world, the reader included.  Elijah and Kollin do their best to help but it's something Adam has to work through on his own, or at least he thinks so.  Watching their family inch their way forward and backward and forward again is an incredible balance of heartbreaking and heartwarming.  Resurrecting Hope is a fantastical follow-up for this author's second book, I can't wait to see what she has coming next.

RATING: 

Chapter 1
AS THE jurors filed into the courtroom, Adam Lancaster slipped one arm around Kollin’s shoulders and gently nudged Elijah Langley to remind his partner he wasn’t alone. Elijah leaned into the touch but didn’t let go of Kollin’s hand to reciprocate.

“Ladies and gentlemen of the jury,” the judge began, nodding to the panel. “I am informed that you have reached your verdicts.”

“Yes, Your Honor.”

“Please hand the verdicts to the clerk, and Mr. Marshall, will you hand the verdicts to me?” The clerk handed the verdicts to the judge, who silently read the small piece of paper and handed it back. “I direct the clerk to read the verdicts.”

“We, the jury, find the defendant, John L. Haverty, guilty of child abuse, class E felony offense.”

Adam closed his eyes and slowly exhaled. One down. One to go. Beneath his arm, Kollin sank further into himself.

The clerk continued. “We, the jury, find the defendant, Susan S. Haverty, guilty of child abuse, class E felony offense.”

Tears sprang to Adam’s eyes as Kollin fell forward and buried his head in his arms. Adam gripped Kollin’s shoulder and tugged him into a one-armed hug. Elijah didn’t let go of Kollin’s hand, but he tilted his head back to stare at the ceiling. With a heavy sigh, Elijah closed his eyes while the judge continued.

“I’d like to thank the jury for their service and diligence. Sentencing will be announced at a later date and is dependent upon the defendants’ cooperation. Court is adjourned.”

Kollin’s parents shuffled out the side door without a spare glance in his direction, and the handful of people in the audience filed out the back, murmuring quietly to one another. Kollin didn’t stand, so Adam and Elijah remained in their seats, flanking him on each side, protecting him from the worried eyes of their extended family huddled in the corner. Adam’s and Elijah’s parents, Adam’s foster sister, Kirsten, and her husband, Derek, insisted on attending the court reading for moral support. When Kollin started to shake beneath Adam’s arm, he wondered if allowing them to come was a mistake.

After several more minutes of silence, Elijah knelt in front of Kollin and Adam. Wrapping an arm around each of them, he huddled them all together.

“I’m so sorry, Kollin. I’m so fucking sorry. I’d spend every last dime I have if it meant ensuring you never had to go through this. I don’t want you to ever doubt you’re wanted and loved exactly the way you are in my home. It’s already our home to me.”

Kollin choked out a sob and threw one arm around Elijah to bury his face in Elijah’s neck. “I love you,” he whispered so quietly Adam barely heard him.

“I love you back, buddy,” Elijah said. “Let’s go home.”


Chapter 2
“BULLSHIT, KRIS!”

Kirsten threw down her cards and glared at Adam. “How in the hell are you doing that?”

“I’ll never tell,” Adam sang, pitching his voice high to mimic Brittany Murphy in Don’t Say a Word.

“Ahhh, la la la la la.” Kirsten plugged her ears. “Stop it. You know that creeps me out.”

“I’ll never tell.” He mimicked the chant again more softly.

Elijah sat back in his chair. “I will never understand how you two lived together.”

Pushing himself off the couch where he’d been watching everyone play cards, Kollin said, “I think the real question is how Matthew and Amelia put up with them.”

Kirsten scrunched up her face and made a sound closely resembling that of a dying seal. “You guys are so funny. Seriously, though. Adam’s the worst Bullshit player ever. Like ever, ever in the history of time. How are you kicking my ass right now?”

“I’ll—”

“Don’t you dare.”

Derek collected the cards and peered at Adam through the shaggy blond hair that always seemed to cover his eyes. “She’s right. In the six years I’ve been around you two, I’ve never once seen you win this game.”

“That doesn’t mean he can’t,” Kollin said, leaning against the La-Z-Boy.

“Thank you, Kollin.”

Kirsten flumped back against her chair. “I guess the sun really does shine on every dog’s ass once in a while.”

Elijah eyed Kollin and took the deck of cards from Derek. “Why’re you defending him? You’re usually the first one to make fun of Adam.”

Kollin shrugged. “Y’all are being kinda mean.”

Widening his eyes, Elijah pointed at Kollin. “You helped him. Didn’t you?”

“Whaaaaat?” Kollin held his hands up and shook his head. “I would never.”

Derek flickered his eyes from the couch, where Kollin had been lying, to Kirsten’s seat. “You could see her cards.”

“Whaaaaat?” Kollin said again.

“Oh, please. Don’t even try. You’re a horrible liar.”

Kollin’s face broke into a grin, and he clamped his hand down on Adam’s shoulder. “Sorry, man. I tried. Oh, and FYI, I could see your cards in the mirror too, Derek.”

“You dirty cheater,” Kirsten said.

“You set this up beforehand,” Elijah said and pointed at Adam.

“That’s just sad, Adam,” Derek said. “Involving a minor in your deceit. You’re supposed to be a role model.”

Unable to control his laughter any longer, Adam threw up his hands. “It feels so good to finally win, I don’t even care. My losing streak started long before you came around.”

“That’s pretty lame,” Kollin said.

“Yeah. Well, you didn’t have to fold so quickly. All you had to do was deny with a modicum of believability.”

“Whatever, dude. Can you please tell them why you asked them over so I can go to my room?”

Kirsten grinned at Kollin. “Phone date with Jase?” she asked.

Kollin narrowed his eyes at her slightly, but Adam didn’t miss the way his cheeks tinged a darker shade of pink. Jase showed up at HOPE for the first time about three weeks before, and Kollin glommed onto him quickly. They bonded over their mutual love of basketball, but Adam saw the flirtatious glances the boys sent each other when they thought no one was looking. He was one of the few black kids at the center, and Adam hoped Jase’s presence was the result of their efforts to reach the entire community, to let them know everyone was welcome.

“No one has phone dates anymore, Kirsten,” Kollin said with all the derisiveness a sixteen-year-old boy talking to a stone-aged, out-of-the-times adult could muster. “We text or Snapchat.”

Raising one eyebrow, Kirsten spoke primly. “Is that so? I’ll be sure to remember for future inquiries.”

“Anyway,” Adam said, “we wanted to let you guys know I’m officially moving in with Elijah and Kollin—”

Kirsten shot up from the couch and threw her arms around Adam’s neck. “Oh my God. You’re getting married.”

Adam’s eyes widened, and Elijah choked on his drink and quickly pounded himself on the chest three times.

“Um, no, Kris. But thanks for that,” he said, gently pushing her away.

“Shit. Sorry.” Kirsten sat down and covered her face in embarrassment. “But you’ve basically been living here for two months. I didn’t think it required a big announcement.”

Having regained his breath, Elijah stepped next to Kollin and Adam. “There is a little more to it—we hope.” Elijah cast a sideways glance at Kollin and continued. “Adam probably should’ve started by telling you that I’ve contacted my lawyers about formally adopting Kollin. After talking it over between the three of us, Kollin and I decided this was something we felt we needed to do, even though he’s almost an adult. We’re trying not to get too excited, because a lot could still go wrong—particularly Kollin’s biological parents refusing to sign over rights.”

Adam could count on one hand the number of times Kirsten was rendered speechless, but there she sat on the couch, hand covering her mouth, several slow tears sliding down her cheeks. She placed her hands in her lap and offered them a watery smile. “Well, that’s even better news.”

Kirsten stood, hugged Kollin first, and then Elijah, whispering to each of them. Derek followed behind her to offer his congratulations.

“I guess it’s time we go home before I weep all over your house,” Kirsten said.

Derek hugged Adam and offered a simple “Congrats, man,” and then followed his wife to the foyer.

“See you guys later,” Kollin said as he jogged up the steps with a wave over his shoulder.

“Thanks for coming tonight. We’ll have to do it again sometime soon.” Elijah one-arm hugged Derek and bent down to hug Kirsten again. “I have some stuff to do in the office before I turn in, so I’m going to head up. Be safe.”

Kirsten turned to Derek. “Can I have a minute?”

“Of course. I’ll be in the car.”

Adam waited until the door shut behind Derek. “You okay?”

Kirsten nodded. “Are you?”

Adam shoved his hands in his pockets. “’Course I am. This is the best thing for Kollin.”

“Well, duh. But what about you? Why aren’t you doing this together?”

“Come on, Kris. Elijah and I have been together half a year. Adopting a teenager with me is not even close to being on his radar.”

“I doubt adopting a teenager fell on his radar at all a year ago, but life happens, and things change. There’s nothing you could say to make me believe Elijah and Kollin wouldn’t be 100 percent on board if you wanted to adopt him as well.”

Adam sighed. “Even so, it’s better for everyone involved if I stay out of it. And Elijah and Kollin agree. We’ll set up the legal papers so I become his guardian if something happens to Elijah. But I don’t feel the need to do this the same way Elijah does. I’ll always love that kid as if he were my own, but this is Elijah’s thing with Kollin. This is a healing thing for them that I’m not a part of, and I’m more than okay about it. Besides, I know Kollin’s different, but I’d feel weird legally adopting someone I met through the center and guilty I couldn’t do it for the next one who comes through and needs a home.”

Kirsten stepped forward and wrapped her arms around Adam’s waist. “You’re right.”

Adam rested his chin on her head. “Really? That’s it?”

“Yeah. That’s it. I get it.” She looked up to meet Adam’s eyes. “I guess I always assumed if this happened, it would be all of you together. You’re so damn selfless…. Are you sure this is what you really want?”

“I promise. I’m excited and happy for both of them. I can’t think of two better people who deserve this more.”

Kirsten pursed her lips as she pulled away. “Hmmph. I can.”

“Yeah, yeah. Trust me on this one. Okay? Now get out of here. It’s not nice to keep your man waiting.”

“Like you know anything about keeping my man happy.”

Adam laughed and then pulled Kirsten back in for a hug. “I love you.”

“I love you too, brother.”


ADAM’S PHONE rang, jerking him out of the haze of inputting expenditures. He checked the time and saw the “So You Want to Go to College?” course he’d signed up to teach that month had started five minutes before. He’d never remember anything without HOPE’s receptionist’s constant reminders.

Adam grabbed his desk phone as he locked his computer. “I’m coming now, Chloe. Thanks for the reminder.”

“Wait, Adam. You have a call on line one. She wouldn’t leave her name and didn’t want to leave a message when I told her you were getting ready to step into a meeting. She said she’d call back, but I told her I’d check with you first.”

Adam groaned. He didn’t want to be late—later—for his class, but he never knew what kind of trouble the person on the other end of the line could be in.

“I’ll take it, but can you let the group in the training room know I’ll be a few minutes?”

“Of course. She’ll be there when I hang up.”

A moment later the line clicked over, and the loud background noise of the center disappeared.

“This is Adam. How can I help you?”

Silence followed his greeting, and Adam’s heart sank. Calls starting out this way rarely ended well.

“Hello? Are you okay?”

Silence.

“Listen. I’ll do whatever I can to help you, but you have to talk to me first. Okay? I promise whatever you tell me right now is strictly confidential.”

“Adam?”

The voice sounded scared, or maybe skeptical, and made the hair on the back of his neck stand up.

“Yes. This is Adam. Is there something I can do to help you?”

“Adam… Lancaster?”

Adam’s heart sped up and butterflies fluttered around his stomach as his mind searched for the owner of the somewhat familiar voice on the other end of the phone.

“Yes,” he all but breathed out. “Who is this?”

“I… I can’t believe I actually found you.”

The butterflies danced and twisted, threatening to empty everything in his stomach as his mind led him to a door he’d not only closed but locked long ago.

“I never thought I’d hear your voice again,” the woman continued.

Slowly shaking his head, Adam fell into his chair and pleaded for his brain to back away from that door.

“Adam? Are you still there?”

Adam squeezed his eyes shut and tightened his grip on the phone as he held it to his chest. The voice on the other end called his name one more time, and Adam could no longer take the sound. He slammed his phone down in the receiver and tried to take a deep breath. But it turned out choppy and short, so he drew another right behind it.

Same result.

He struggled to suck in oxygen, but once again was unable to breathe deeply. So he tried again.

And again.

And again.

True panic crept in. Adam had no control over his body. He was going to pass out.

Calm down.

Breathe slower.

But his lungs wouldn’t cooperate. He struggled to remember what he needed to do to pull himself out of a downward spiral, but he hadn’t had a panic attack in so many years that everything he knew felt fuzzy and out of reach.

Panic filled every nook and cranny in his body.

Adam could barely inhale before his body forced him to gasp for another breath. Lightheaded and desperate for more oxygen, Adam dropped his head between his knees. Several moments later he was able to take his first deep breath. Closing his eyes, Adam pressed his palm against his chest and began counting, slowing his breathing a little at a time.

A light tap sounded on his door, and the loud squeak of the hinges quickly followed. “Oh my God.” Chloe rushed around the desk to kneel at Adam’s side. “What happened? Are you okay?”

Adam took another long, slow, deep breath and nodded gently.

“What can I do? Do you need water?”

He shook his head and then rested his forehead on his knee and turned to look at Chloe. “Can you apologize to the kids in the application course and tell them I can’t make it today?”

“Of course. Anything else?”

“Umm. I hate to ask, but could you call Elijah for me? I don’t think I’ll be able to drive for a bit, and I need to go home.”

“I’m on it. Don’t you move.”

“Thanks. And Chloe? Please don’t tell the kids why I can’t be there.” No need for them to worry. Chloe would do enough of that for everyone.

Chloe left, and Adam managed to raise his head enough to lay it on the desk in front of him. True to her word, Chloe returned in less than two minutes with a bottle of water.

“Elijah’s on his way. He’s likely to break the sound barrier getting here. I didn’t know what to say that wouldn’t worry him, so I told him you’d explain.” She fussed with the pitiful limp throw pillow Adam kept on his couch and then kneeled next to him again. “Want to try moving to the couch?”

Adam accepted her shoulder to lean on, fumbled his way over to the couch, and then took the water she’d opened.

“Thanks. I’ll be fine if you need to get back out there.”

Chloe sat on the edge of the couch by Adam’s feet and patted his leg. “Nope. Julie’s covering the desk for me. I’m not leaving you until Elijah’s here.”

Adam nodded, feeling guilty for keeping Chloe in the dark, but exhaustion from his panic attack kept him from explaining. Adam hadn’t heard his mother’s voice in almost twenty years, and he knew, without a doubt, he could’ve gone twenty more without hearing it again.

Redeeming Hope #1
Summary:
Fifteen years ago Elijah Langley’s world came to an abrupt halt with the death of his high school boyfriend. He keeps his past—and his sexual orientation—hidden until he attends a fundraiser for The Center for HOPE, an LGBT youth center, where he meets Adam Lancaster, HOPE’s infuriatingly stubborn and sexy founder.

A survivor of a turbulent childhood, Adam understands better than most the challenges his youth face. He’s drawn to Elijah’s baby blues and devilish smile but refuses to compromise his values and climb back into the closet for anyone—not even the man showering time and money on HOPE. Months of constant flirting wear down Adam’s resolve until he surrenders to his desires, but Elijah can’t shake his demons.

When a youth from the center is brutally assaulted, Elijah must find a way to confront the fears and memories that are starting to ruin his life, so he can stand strong for those he loves.


I don't even know where to start.  First off, for a debut author this book rocks all my emotional sensors and I can't wait to see what she brings us in the future.  At the base of this story is Adam's need to help the LGTBQ+ youth but we soon learn that The Center for HOPE helps not only the youth but also the adults that are involved in the center.  When Kirstin and Kollin come into Langley Lumber with brochures for the center and an upcoming fundraiser, they have no idea how all their lives are about to change including the lives of the Langley family.  Elijah gave up on a part of himself when he lost his boyfriend many years ago, watching him find that part of himself again is an emotional roller coaster that is equally heartbreaking and awe inspiring.  That's about all I'm going to say in regards to the plot because as I often say, "I don't do spoilers" but I will say the characters are perfect.  When most people think of perfect they think of utopian but I think of flaws, strengths, pros and cons and the way the author meshes that all together and Miss Taylor does that amazingly well.  She told me last night that Resurrecting Hope, Adam's story, is due out on Christmas Day - talk about a great stocking stuffer.

RATING: 

Author Bio:
Shell Taylor is a full-time mother of three exuberant and loving kiddos and one fur baby, a tiny but fierce Yorkie-poo named Rocco. As a Christian who practices love, grace, and humility rather than hatred and judgement, she tries her best to instill these same virtues in her rowdy kids. She just recently learned how to crochet to start bombarding new mothers with matching hats and booties. She is a huge Marvel fan and because of the superhero-plastered tees paired with jeans and Chucks has been told when helping out in her son’s classroom that she looks more like the students than a parent. Her favorite way to procrastinate is to binge watch entire seasons on Netflix. Best of all, she’s been married ten years to a man who’s turned out to be everything she never knew she needed.


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Resurrecting Hope #2
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Redeeming Hope #1
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Next to Me by Allie Everhart

Title: Next to Me
Author: Allie Everheart
Series: Wheeler Brothers
Genre: Contemporary New Adult Romance
Release Date: January 2, 2016
Summary:
After losing her parents and brother in a car crash, Callie dropped out of college and went to live in the small town where her family used to spend the summers. A year later, and struggling to move on, she keeps to herself and wants to be left alone. So she’s not too happy when her new neighbor keeps knocking on her door.

Nash Wheeler, a 25-year-old construction worker from Chicago, inherited the house next to Callie’s and is living there while he renovates it. Outgoing, confident, and never one to back down from a challenge, Nash sets out to get to know his new neighbor, inviting her over for dinner and offering to fix things around her house.

As much as his persistence annoys her, Callie finds herself attracted to the tall, muscular guy next door. And the more time she spends with him, the more she realizes how much they have in common. Like Callie, Nash has experienced loss, but when he opens up to her about it, she’s not willing to do the same. It’s too personal.

Nash is just her neighbor. Just some guy living there for the summer. But is that really all he is? Or is he the one person who can finally help her move on?

Callie
Nash turns the TV on and flips through to a reality show where some guy tries to survive in the wild. “How about this?”

“That’s fine.”

He smiles. “Callie, I was joking. I didn’t think you’d actually want to watch some guy trying to catch fish and make a fire for an hour. I’ll find something else.” He flips through the channels.

“Nash, really. I don’t care. You came over to watch TV so watch whatever you want.”

He mutes the TV and looks at me. “That’s not why I came over.”

My stomach clenches as I prepare for him to confront me about my mini breakdown. God, I can’t believe I did that.

“Then why’d you come over?” I ask, lifting my legs onto the couch and hugging my knees to my chest.

He has that same concerned look he had when we were at his house. “Because I—”

“Don’t,” I blurt out.

“Don’t what?”

“Don’t say whatever you were going to say.” I pull my knees even tighter to my chest.

 He notices my closed off body language and his face turns from concerned back to his normal, casual, smiling self. “I was going to say that I like hanging out with you. You’re strange, but in a good way.”

“I’m not strange!” I extend my leg out and jab him with my foot.

“I said in a good way.” He laughs and grabs my foot, moving over a little so he can set it on his lap.

“Let go of my foot,” I say, trying to yank it back.

“You like foot rubs?” He kneads his thumb into the base of my foot and, holy crap, that might be the best feeling ever. I relax my leg and let him continue. “Is that a yes?”

I nod. “Yes.”

He chuckles. “Sink down a little. It’s not as good when you’re sitting up.”

Before I can analyze if this is a good idea or not, my body slides down on the couch. Nash turns the sound back on the TV but lowers the volume. Then he wraps both hands around my foot and massages it, his thumbs making long deep strokes from my heel to my toes. My head relaxes against the throw pillow and I close my eyes, focusing on how amazing this feels. One of my boyfriends in college gave me a foot rub one time and it was horrible. It hurt, and then tickled, and then hurt even more, so I never let him do it again.

But this? This is incredible. Nash is only touching my foot and yet I can feel it affecting other parts of my body. My head’s relaxing. My arms. My legs. And…oh, God, how did that happen?

“That good, huh?”

“What?” I open my eyes.

“The foot rub.”

“What about it?”

He smiles. “You were, uh…making some noise just now.”

“I wasn’t making noise,” I insist. I try to sit up but he holds my foot so I can’t move.

“You were moaning,” he says as he runs his thumb up the center of my foot. Shit, that feels good.

“I was NOT moaning.” I prop up on my elbows. “Who moans over a foot rub? That’s ridiculous.”

He eyes me, a sly grin on his face, and then his thumb goes to that spot again. The one that is somehow able to cause a tingle between my legs.

“Oh, God,” I moan, my head falling back.

I hear him chuckle. “Yeah, that. That was it. Sounded like a moan to me.”

Shit, he’s right.

My eyes pop open. “How did you do that?”

“Do what? This?” His thumb returns to that spot.

I tense up, trying to hold myself back from lunging forward onto Nash’s lap and having my way with him right here on the couch.

“Stop it,” I say, trying to wiggle my foot out of his grasp.

“Why?” He smiles. “What does it do to you?”

I’m breathing hard, although I’m trying not to. “Nothing. It’s just…” I relax back on the couch as his thumb moves to the middle of my foot, massaging it with long, steady strokes.

“Would you prefer I do this instead of that other thing?”

Now that I’ve experienced the ‘other thing’ I want more of it. But that would lead to something we shouldn’t be doing, so I answer, “Yes. You should probably just stick with that. What you’re doing now. That’s good.”

“If you ever want the other thing, just let me know.” He shoots a flirty smile at me, then turns back to the TV.

Author Bio:
Allie Everhart is a hopeless romantic who writes books about love. Allie has authored fourteen novels, including The Jade Series, a college romance that follows the story of Jade and Garret as they deal with numerous obstacles trying to tear them apart. Her other series, The Kensingtons, is a romantic suspense series. After writing two series, she’s now working on several standalone books, including her latest book, Next to Me, a new adult romance.


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Absolute Power by Cayce Poponea

Title: Absolute Power
Author: Cayce Poponea
Series: Southern Justice #1
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Release Date: December 28, 2015
Summary:
Dylan Morgan has it all; a prestigious career as a Detective for the city of Charleston, devilish good looks and a selection of girls whenever he chooses. Southern born and raised, he lives by the pearls his Granddaddy imparted to him. But when he questions his worth to the citizens of Charleston, his fears are realized when someone close to him is in danger. Does he follow the letter of the law as his position dictates, or does he follow his conscience, which will cause him to straddle a fine line? Can Dylan overcome the demons he creates for himself? Or will he toss everything away in a moment of reckoning?

Claire Stuart has fought hard her whole life not to fall into the same trap as her mother. She refuses to allow men to use her and toss her away. Needing to escape the hardship her family creates, she seeks education over acceptance and uproots herself from the backwoods of Kentucky to the charm of Charleston. She knows all about Dylan Morgan and his choice to bed every woman he comes across, yet she finds herself unable to listen to the warnings her mind and friends give her. Can Claire ignore Dylan’s past and allow herself to let someone in? Someone who could shatter her very soul.


Author Bio:
Cayce Poponea currently resides in Southern Georgia, with her three dogs and wonderful husband. A true romantic at heart, she writes the type of fiction that she loves to read. When she isn't setting behind her computer screen, creating yet another heart stopping, page turning novel. You can find her enjoying down time with her family.


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