Saturday, May 13, 2017

Saturday's Series Spotlight: Ellery Mountain by RJ Scott Part 1


Series: Ellery Mountain #1-3
Author: RJ Scott
Genre: M/M Romance
Re-Release Date: May 10, 2017
Cover Design: Meredith Russell

The Fireman & the Cop #1
Summary:
Rescuing a cop from a burning precinct is in Max’s job description; falling in love was never part of the deal.

Max Harrison moved from the city to take up a role as assistant to the mayor, while also a volunteer firefighter. When he meets Finn Ryan in Ellery, he falls in lust that burns as hot as the fires being set in town.

Finn Ryan is a cop, and somehow he’s attracted trouble. Going back into a fire to rescue the town drunk is just the start. Now he has to rely on the man he’s falling for to make sure it doesn’t end with him dying.

The Teacher and the Soldier #2
Summary:
Soldier, Daniel Skylar, falls hard and heavy for school teacher Luke Fitzgerald. How can he make him stay in Ellery?

Luke Fitzgerald left Ellery Mountain for college and vowed never to come back. When his abusive father is murdered, he has no choice but to return. Luke only goes home to sell off his share of the Ellery Mountain Cabins, but everything changes when he meets the son of the other owner. Daniel Skylar lives every day to the limit and sees a future in Luke.

It doesn’t matter what Daniel says, or how much he needs Luke. Luke isn’t staying once everything is sold off. Surely Daniel can understand that what they have between them is just a two-week fling; there is no way it could be love.

Can Daniel persuade Luke that they are in love, and they can build a future together?

The Carpenter and the Actor #3
Summary:
Jason is running from tragedy, hiding in Ellery, but it’s only when he meets Kieran that he finds love.

Jason McInnery, hounded by the paparazzi after his brother’s death, runs to the one place where he hopes people won’t sell him out. The place where he was born. Hiding in the tourist cabins at Ellery Mountain Resort out of season, he thinks he finally has room to breathe.

Kieran Dexter is a man who knows what he wants; gorgeous actor Jason tied up and begging. When the hottest sex he’s ever had turns to feelings of love, he’s faced with convincing Jason to give them a try and stay in Ellery.



The Fireman and the Cop #1
Re-Read Review May 2017:
Max the fireman and Finn the cop meet under horrible conditions but as fate often reveals, that is when we meet the people who have the potential to change our lives the most.  I loved them the first time around and they were even better than second time around.  As much as I enjoyed Max and Finn's journey, I found myself really appreciating the friendship between Finn, Daniel, and Kieran more than I did during my original read two years ago.  Max and Finn have a passion that we all want to find in life and watching them get from point A to point Z is a bit bumpy but full of spicy fire that only a cop knows how to control and a fireman can contain.

The Teacher and the Soldier #2
Re-Read Review May 2017:
Luke the teacher and Daniel the soldier have a connection that is obvious from the very beginning, even they know it but whether they let that connection grow into something more is something you will have to read for yourself.  We all carry around a certain amount of baggage and that is definitely true for these two but whether they let that baggage drag them into life's pit of quicksand or they let it go is another question you have to answer for yourself.  Trust me you will love discovering the answers as Luke comes to terms with his past.

The Carpenter and the Actor #3
Re-Read Review May 2017:
Kieran the carpenter and Jason the actor meet when Jason wants quiet but as Kieran falls into a category that I would say is upbeat talker, you expect them to be at odds but that could not be further from the truth.  Once again, the connection is immediate but definitely powerful but whether it has staying power is something you need to read for yourself.  I know that instant attraction stories are not for everyone but RJ Scott does them so beautifully, you can't help but fall in love too.

Re-Read Series #1-3 Review May 2017:
The relationships found in Ellery have the potential to be lifelong and everlasting, which isn't surprising since this is a romance series.  But as it is so often in life, the end result is not the only place where we find happiness, it is in the journey.  The boys of Ellery Mountain find love and happiness with their significant other but they also find friendships, family, and most of all a place they are proud to call home.  The installments of this series may fall into more of a novella length but they are jam packed with enough emotions to fill a library with drama, love, touch of mystery, and just the right amount of heat. You will not regret giving the population of Ellery a chance and for me personally I will be re-reading this series for years to come. I do recommend reading them in order as the friendships appear throughout and are a huge part of the story, each book may focus on a separate relationship but because the friendships are throughout it flows better in my opinion when read in order but technically they are each standalones.

Original Overall Series Review July 2015:
What starts out as three friends weekly get-togethers we discover how lives can intertwine over time in very unexpected scenarios that can actually create a pretty good life, community, and family. Each book in this series centers on a different couple and because of that, strictly speaking each story is a standalone but in my opinion you really should read this one in order because one half of the couple had either a cameo or was mentioned in passing in the previous book. Also, each of the previous couples have at least a partial scene in the following installments. For these reasons I'm doing an overall review as opposed to each book having their own write up. Ellery Mountain has loads of drama, interesting and intriguing characters both main and secondary, hints of mystery, and of course plenty of romance, not to mention what would an RJ Scott story be without some well placed hotness. So come along with the Ellery Mountain Fridays and see what life has in store for them.

RATING: 


The Fireman and the Cop #1
Adrenaline pumped through Max’s body. The glow of a fully invested fire at the police precinct was obvious over downtown Ellery; the blaze well past being contained. Turning in a rough one-eighty, Max assessed the exposure factor, listening as the lieutenant issued orders.

The precinct was part of an older area of town. A jumble of empty gift shops, a couple of grocery stores, and the mayor’s building. Luckily, the precinct itself—a large two-story building—was separated from the other structures with fifty feet to spare. The only buildings in danger of the fire spreading to them were first on the list to be hosed down.

With well-oiled teamwork, the volunteer firefighters stood next to the full-timers and began their work.

“Do we have anyone inside?” Chief Quinn asked the gathered crowd. Max’s boss commanded respect. He was a lifer firefighter, and obviously, people listened to him. Max recognized a couple of people there but had no idea who might be left in the building.

A man fell out of the fire-ringed main door and onto his knees, disheveled and coughing.

Max was there in an instant, wrestling the guy away from danger and guiding him toward the paramedics who had arrived a few seconds after the engine.

“Finn…” A coughing fit overtook the man. “Inside,” he finished when he could catch his breath. He was pointing back the way he’d come.

Max stiffened. Was someone still inside? He focused on the chaos around him; on the shouting.

“Finn’s still in there,” someone yelled. A tall man was being held back by a group of onlookers as he struggled to get free, looking around him in horror, like he couldn’t believe this Finn guy was still inside.

Max didn’t even think before crossing to the struggling man.

“Where?” he snapped.

The guy blinked but didn’t falter. “Straight in. To the back and left rear. The lockup. He went in to get Fitz.”

“That’s Fitz?” Max asked, pointing at the old man who’d just walked out of the fire.

“Yes.”

“Okay. Going in,” Max confirmed into his mic.

Chief Quinn spun on his heel at the words to face Max, his expression one of “what the fuck” coupled with resignation. With a quick nod and no thought other than focusing on the job, Max ensured his face mask was secure and ran straight into the red and orange, through the only suitable ingress—a space formed by an iron beam holding up the remains of the ceiling in what he assumed was the reception area.

The flames reached for Max as he forced his way into a wide corridor. Fire licked the ceilings and walls. This had been fast—material in the walls and ceilings had fed the monster, and piles of folders and paperwork had provided more fuel.

Straight along the corridor. His heavy boots weighed him down. Focus kicked him into high gear. He breathed heavily with a mix of fear and excitement that fed his veins and arteries—the normal-use sixty-minute SCBA was going to be empty in a third of that time. Didn’t matter, because the building was disintegrating around him in great big flaming chunks of hell.

Fire, that fucking mistress of his, was a killer, and he had every respect for her power. He reached a T-junction and took a left. The air thickened with smoke, and he prayed he wasn’t too late. Anyone trapped in this sort of environment would be overcome and close to being out of it. He needed to find out where the man was.

Finally, through the smoke and sparking flames, Max saw him trapped under a broken table. Max scrambled to him, dropping to his knees and heaved at the table without success. The guy was a cop, dressed in blues and semi-conscious. It looked like the table had been moved by the unseen force of an explosion and had pinned him to the wall by his arm and chest.

“Help me!” the cop shouted, although the words were slurred, and his eyes were slits against the smoke. Max wished unconsciousness could subdue the cop's fear.

Using the axe in his hand as a lever, Max forced it against the table where it was embedded in the wall. He turned his back against falling debris and sheltered the trapped guy as much as he could as the entire ceiling descended a few feet with a sickening noise. Glancing back the way he’d come, he saw their way out was becoming blocked. More disturbing was the dark, black smoke that collected at high points. That wasn’t good—in any way. The heat was intense and the dense, superheated cloud of fuel too rich to ignite. It was only a matter of time before flashover, and then it was game over for him and the cop.

Pushing and pulling as hard as he could, Max finally had enough leverage to allow the cop to slide down the wall into a heap on the floor. Not stopping for anything, he scooped the heavy man up and over his shoulder and, with staggering steps, turned to face his nemesis. His muscles strained with the weight, heat, and lack of breath, and he went with his gut instinct. They needed out, and this was a dead end. They only had one option—to go back the way they’d come.

There was no freaking finesse in this plan. Training kicked in, and Max did the only thing he knew would work. He ran. Stumbling through debris and wincing as fire flicked at him, he forced his way through the ruins of fallen ceiling and was back in the main corridor. A dreadful crash behind them left him very aware the building was disintegrating around him.

The doorway was lit up like a hoop of fire he had to leap through, and with the last push of energy, he was through the entrance and out onto the street.

Hands were there helping him, relieving him of his burden, and he could only watch as the whole building imploded and a huge explosion of dust and debris rose into the night.

There was screaming and shouting, but in Max’s head, there was only peace. He had done his job.

* * * * *

The paramedics insisted on checking him out and pulled him over to their rig with a determination Max couldn’t fight. The cop was there. Ready for transport to the hospital, an oxygen mask over his nose and mouth. His eyes were open, and for a second Max looked into the clearest green gaze, and his breath hitched. He hadn’t really looked at the guy he was rescuing. Yeah, he’d cursed that the man was over six foot and near to dying in there, but the eyes and strong features visible under the mask and the firm lips and jaw—he’d definitely missed those.

The cop lifted the mask with shaky fingers. “I like firefighters,” he whispered and coughed.

“Sorry?” Max leaned in to hear him over the noise and chaos outside the rig.

“Firefighters… I can never find a gay one.”

Well, I like cops, Max thought.

He’d had proposals of marriage before from grateful women he’d rescued, but of course, he was way too professional, and too gay, to take them up on their offers. Was this cop coming on to him?

The guy was clearly delirious or oxygen-deprived or something. Max was used to this kind of reaction, and he generally played along. The people he rescued being very thankful was a given, and Max always took their comments in good humor, as did any firefighter in his position.

“Your bodies are fiiiine,” the patient was slurring. His expression was less focused and tending more toward unconsciousness. “And your hoses. Never find a gay one, though.” Then he started mumbling and suddenly closed his eyes.

Max moved swiftly out of the way and found himself watching as the rig moved off with the cop inside—to St Martin’s Hospital, he guessed.

A gay cop had come on to him, and then slumped into unconsciousness. They’d meet again—this was a small town—but the chances that the cop, Finn, would recall anything of what had just happened were slim.

Typical.

Max resolved to go and visit the guy in the hospital; only to check and see if everything was okay. That was all. Nothing to do with the whole men-in-uniform thing. Or the fact that the gay cop had the greenest eyes against the bloodshot red.

“Look lively, Max,” Chief Quinn instructed.

It was a long time until the all clear. Even longer back to his small rented house and to the shower. He’d fit in a visit before work tomorrow, which, according to the clock on the microwave, was less than three hours away. The downside of volunteering was showing up at work, as usual, the next day. He knew his new employer would allow him some leeway, but it was only his second day working for the mayor of Ellery, and he hoped to hell the newness of the position would keep his feet moving and his brain alert.

Otherwise, he was fucked.

He didn’t remember falling asleep, but a call woke him from dreams and he scrambled for the phone after a moment’s disorientation. The screen showed seven a.m. Yawning widely, he answered.

“Max Harrison,” he said, unable to hide the exhaustion in his voice

“We need you at the station and then on to the scene,” Chief Quinn said. His captain’s voice was tense, and Max woke up pretty quickly. “Also, best bring your big-city moves as well. The initial walkthrough shows evidence the fire was started deliberately; could do with your take on this before I send the report to get an investigative team out here.”

“Ten minutes, sir,” Max said.

“Quick as you can.” Quinn sounded pissed. “In Ellery, people don’t set fires, Max. Fires happen by accident. Fat fryers, electrics, camp fires and the like. Fires don’t start because some idiot decides they want to see something burn. This isn’t the city, you know.”

Max agreed. In the city, deliberately set fires occurred on a daily basis. Things were different in Ellery.

“I’m leaving as soon as I can,” Max said and hung up. He was already out of bed and into the bathroom. Another thing about living two minutes from the station was that he could actually fit in another shower without being horrendously late. He’d showered when he got home, but he still smelled smoke in his nostrils, and he needed that added shot of cold to his system.

Showered but not shaved, he was dressed and out of the door in five and at the station in another two.

Quinn looked exhausted, like he’d been up all night, and was hunched over fragments of something on the main desk. Max appraised it quickly. He didn’t have to be an expert to see what was there. Remnants of a glass bottle, melted and nearly destroyed, and next to it a brand-new bottle filled with liquid and with a rag sticking out of the end.

“Found this at the scene and this out the back. Clearly one did the damage and the second wasn’t needed.”

Max’s gut clenched. This kind of fire-starter device was child’s play. Gas in the bottle, rag in the end, light the rag and throw. The glass broke, the gas spread, and the flames dispersed over a large area.

“Deliberate,” Max said. He didn’t need to say it, but Quinn was looking at him expectantly, evidently waiting for Max’s initial reaction. “But I’d need to see the burn patterns to be sure.”

They made their way over to what was left of the building.

The meeting was far more interesting than Max had expected. He’d thought he’d left arson back in the city, imagined that Ellery would be a whole different kettle of fish. But no. The forensics, backed up by the fire pattern and spread, could only mean that the fire had been started deliberately using the gas-and-jar method.

He and Quinn were called to a meeting with Chief of Police Carter Mayfield and the mayor. It felt weird to have moved from a situation in which he was learning to support the mayor to one in which he was suddenly the experienced one.

“Did you manage to get any fingerprints from the glass?” Max asked the chief of police.

Mayfield shook his head. “Nothing that was usable. Whoever it was, took great pains to keep everything clean. But this is what I don’t understand. Why wipe prints and put an end to the forensic trail that way, then leave a fully set-up cocktail ready to throw at the scene?”

“Maybe whoever it was expected to need to use two,” Quinn pointed out. “Maybe they didn’t think the place was going to go up so quickly. The explosion burned up the grass outside the building and came close to where we think the perp was standing—maybe he or she just got scared and ran.”

Chief Quinn tapped his notes. “Max, have you come across anything like this before? A deliberate arson where the tools are left behind?”

Max paused for a moment. What he wanted to say would be nothing new to the chief, but maybe, just maybe, some of what he said would ring a bell with the cops. He was new to this town and didn’t have a handle on the general population yet. Settling his thoughts, he slid straight into where his experience and knowledge could help.

“Arsonists can be split into five categories. Most arsons are committed for either revenge or excitement. The remainder as acts of vandalism, or to conceal a crime, or for profit, including insurance fraud. Leaving evidence at the site implies the firebug is new to all this, but that doesn’t help us categorize him or her. I think we can rule out concealing crime or profit, given that this is a public building and there was no crime in there to hide. But that doesn’t tell us whether it was for revenge or excitement.”

“So in your opinion?”

“Revenge for a case? Vandalism against a cop, or cops in general. Nothing else was hit, so the precinct was clearly the only target. Do you have any ongoing cases, or anything outstanding you should be tracking back?”

“No one who has an arson MO,” Mayfield answered quickly. Frowning, he glanced down at the photos of the crime scene with the Fire Department markings. “This is a quiet place. Only one suspicious death in twenty years. Other than that, just your average kids’ stuff—nothing like attempted murder.”

No one mentioned the fact that Mayfield had labeled it an attempted murder, simply because it had been. Whoever had thrown the bottle must have known there were people inside.

Max left the meeting unsettled, and after he stepped out onto the sidewalk, he took a detour back to the destroyed police house. Something itched at the base of his skull—a similarity to a case back in Nashville. A disgruntled ex-employee of a chemical company. There had been no chance of causing damage to his employers, so he’d taken it out on the closest thing—pharmacies carrying the medications his ex-employers created. But the only similarity was that the same method had been used. Max recalled that, when questioned, the guy had said he’d researched how to set a fire on the internet. He sighed inwardly. He’d never quite got over the fact that people posted shit like that online—detailed instructions on how to burn a building to the ground in three easy stages, simply using a bottle and accelerant. He’d have to check what instructions were out there for people to follow now.

The whole area was cordoned off with tape, and contractors were setting up a ring of fencing around the whole site. The place was still a crime scene, and until the cops and the fire team signed off on the cause, it was likely to stay that way. Given the assumption that it was arson, Max just wanted to get one last look at what was left.

He ducked under the tape, then circled the structure. With the roof collapsed in, it was hard to make an assessment of what had been where. Two levels of the old building had been destroyed through a combination of fire and water, and Max didn’t need witness reports to locate the point of origin. The fire had spread outward, and tracing the widest part of destruction back to the narrowest; there was no question that whoever had thrown that first bottle had been standing on the slight hill to the rear of the building. Max climbed until he was at that vantage point and looked down at what would have been there.

Chief Quinn had already been out and done a review, but something about this didn’t sit right with Max. He’d spent his lunch hour flicking through the witness reports. There had been three staff members in the office. Kathy White, the dispatcher, who’d been leaving to go off shift, Drew Bryant, the officer with a few hours still left on his shift, and Corporal Finn Ryan. Of course, there had also been Mike Fitzgerald. From all he’d heard, the man was the ubiquitous town drunk, and records indicated that Corporal Ryan had brought him in after picking him up in Broadfields Park on the outskirts of town.

The dispatcher said a call had been made and Corporal Ryan had been asked to pick him up on the way back through town from wherever he was. He hadn’t even been on duty and had just been picking the guy up—as every cop at this small station had at some point or another—as a favor. Five minutes after making Fitzgerald comfortable in temporary holding, in Finn’s words, “Just to keep him safe,” the fire had started. Kathy and Drew had been downstairs. Finn had been upstairs, signing paperwork in the small area outside holding. Then the explosion. Drew reported it as like a firework that had kept on going—crackles and sparks and a great whoosh of sound. That was consistent with the use of an accelerant and the old construction style of the building.

Finn, on the other hand, said he’d been immediately overwhelmed by heat before he’d heard a thing. Which implied the entry had been on the upper floor. So whoever had been throwing had aimed up and away from them. They’d evidently had no clue how much damage the fire could cause. In a building that old, there would have been no need for a second attack, but whoever had stood there and thrown that first bottle had a second just in case. This had been focused and personal, and not at all a random thing.

Kathy and Drew had used the front door, and the fire had developed between Finn, who had been forced down the stairs, and Fitzgerald in holding. Yet, as soon as Finn had his wits about him, he’d gone back in. Risked himself for a guy who appeared to have little love from his fellow townspeople. The action had been pure bravery layered with stupidity.

Max could understand why he had done it.

“What do you think?”

Max looked up to see the chief staring down at him in his crouch. “I don’t think we can help anymore,” Max concluded. “Forensics on this won’t give us anything else. It’s a cop matter now.”

“I came to the same conclusion.” Quinn sounded tired, and Max stood with a stretch.

The expression on the other man’s face was one of confusion and defeat. “We can’t always have the answers,” Max offered.

Quinn nodded. “Twenty-four years I’ve been here, first as a lieutenant, now chief, running the place on a shoestring, and six months from retirement an arsonist falls on my lap. I wanted everything tied up before moving on. Let’s pray this is a one-off that can be dealt with.”

“I’ll start pulling the intel together for the cops,” Max said.

The job of the fire guys was to take the evidence to the cops, study burn patterns, work out possible areas where the firebug could have been. Added to that, after ten years of experience Max was able to work up a valid profile of who could have done this. Of course, his frame of reference was the city of Nashville, where the spectrum of reasons was huge. Ellery was smaller, and maybe his familiarity wasn’t so spot-on. Still, he could get something to the cops if it helped. As it was, the bottle would need to be fingerprinted by the cops. The rest of it was their responsibilty.

“I need you to liaise and do your thing. I cleared it with Mayor Dexter for you to be with us today.”

“Shit,” he muttered.

The chief glanced up at him and frowned.

Damn, he didn’t want to contradict the chief, but he’d known something like this would happen one day, just not on his second day in town. He wanted to present a reliable face to his new boss; didn’t want to give the mayor the impression that he was undependable. It was a problem faced by a huge number of firefighters who juggled a job and being a volunteer, but he wasn’t used to it, having moved from being a full-time firefighter.

“Son, you were taken on as an administrator with the express agreement that you’d be a firefighter as well.”

Max nodded. After what had happened to him back in Nashville, he was more than aware that he was stupid—waiting for the axe to fall.

“I need you to check in with Corporal Ryan. See if he witnessed anything. The mayor said he’s dividing off some office space for the cops until they get a new site up and running. As soon as the cops are set up at the mayor’s office, get on over and give them the heads-up on everything we know.”

“Sir.”

“And good work last night, Harrison.”

Max thanked him and left, thoughts about what he had seen and been told still spinning in his head. Only one thing floated to the top, past the arson, past the exhaustion that made him long for bed. The cops were setting up at the mayor’s place. That was going to be cozy.

Finally out of the building, Max headed straight for his truck. Red, solid and rust-free, his old Ford had served him all through college and the city and lastly to here, slap-bang in the middle of the Smoky Mountains.

Climbing in, he patted the dash affectionately as he did every single time he sat in her. “Okay, girl,” he said, “looks like I brought the shit from the city.” He waited until the road was clear, then pulled out onto Main. “So much for a quiet life.”

At least he’d get to see Finn again, if only in a professional capacity. Then he could see how green was his gaze when his eyes weren’t bloodshot.

The Carpenter and the Actor #3
Jason McInnery pulled another blanket from the pile at the bottom of his bed and used it to block up any small space around him that could let in the cold. When he’d gone for rustic he hadn’t realised he was getting the equivalent of sleeping in a tent. No heating that he could get to work, two in the morning and sleep had so far eluded him. The hot water bottle he’d found in the cupboard above the sink was still warm, but at this point it really needed to have the water replaced with steaming boiling heat. That would mean getting out of bed though and placing his feet on the icy cold wooden floor.

"So not going there," he muttered to himself. The new blanket helped and finally he had a cocoon that at least meant he wasn’t shivering. No wonder the cabin had been cheap to rent if it didn’t come with working heat. He knew he should have stopped at the chain motel he’d seen just outside Ellery. But no, his idea of hiding was self-imposed isolation halfway up the mountain and twenty minutes’ drive from the town he’d been born in. He should have gone to his parents’ house in Las Vegas and got some of that desert sun.

Freaking paparazzi. They knew where his parents lived, and would assume it was one of the places he would go. Hell, he was lucky they hadn’t followed him to Ellery, or had any inkling he would go back to the town he’d left before he was old enough to remember it. His cell phone sounded and he rooted around under the covers where he’d pushed his only link to his other life. The life where he was a popular, successful, openly gay actor who had charmed his way into millions of hearts on a successful TV comedy and in two kids’ films. The actor with the brother who had died. The screen lit brightly and the name wasn’t a surprise.

"Hey, Mom," he answered. The cell was warm from where it had been wrapped in the quilt. Midnight at his mom’s place meant his dad snoring in bed and his night-owl mom watching recorded shows. "It’s two a.m., you know."

"There was a show on, and I was thinking about you."

"You need to stop watching those gossip shows, Mom," he said patiently.

"I can’t help it, J. It’s everywhere."

Jason shifted deeper under the covers and sighed inwardly. He’d grown a thicker skin now. Having his private life plastered over magazines and TV shows was part and parcel of the whole celebrity lifestyle. That didn’t mean it had got any easier over the last seven years since the small comedy show he starred in had gone ballistic. And hell, it wasn’t ever going to get any easier for his poor mom. Not only had Ben died with too many secrets and too many lies twisted around him, but Jason had been smacked around the face with the fallout of his brother’s actions and his own subsequent arrest.

"I’m fine, Mom," he said gently.

"I just wanted to…" She didn’t finish the sentence. Jason’s throat tightened with emotion. He didn’t call her on phoning him this late—she’d wanted to hear his voice. Losing Ben had destroyed his parents. Maybe he should have gone home to Vegas and forgotten the fact that doing so would have put his mom and dad in the spotlight. They were struggling as it was.

"I can be home by tomorrow," Jason offered. He could get tickets and be on a plane in a few hours. Hell, it would probably be warmer on a plane anyway.

"No, Jason, we talked about this. I love you—I just wanted to tell you."

"I love you too, Mom."

With the call finished, he clutched the cell to his chest and pulled the blankets up and over his head. Grief balled in his chest and not for the first time since he’d left LA, he wondered what the hell had made him come to Ellery. He may as well have stuck a pin in a map as a way of deciding where to hide out.

He had three weeks. Three weeks until the next season started filming. Ellery was as good a place as any.

* * * *

Loud noises woke him to bright sunlight streaming through the large windows and he glanced at his cell phone. The screen showed it was just after seven a.m. He’d banked five hours’ sleep, but he still felt like complete shit. His dreams had been filled with Ben and a scene that was something like a film, with him and Ben running. He hated the running dream—it never failed to leave him frustrated and tired beyond reason and had occurred on too many occasions recently. Rolling onto his side, away from the window, he screwed his eyes tight shut and willed sleep to happen.

The knocking on his door was part of a dream—it had to be. No one would be knocking on the door of this remote cabin at ass o’clock in the morning for any reason he could imagine.

Groaning, he shifted until he could listen with both ears. The knocking wasn’t stopping. This wasn’t the short, sharp knock of someone at the door. This was repetitive and noisy and…hell, right outside his window. What the fuck was happening? Pulling the blankets back over his head, he attempted to sleep. When that didn’t block out the banging, he searched on his phone for an app that could produce white noise. When that didn’t work either, he gave up sleeping as a bad thing.

Author Bio:
RJ Scott is the bestselling romance author of over 100 romance books. She writes emotional stories of complicated characters, cowboys, millionaire, princes, and the men and women who get mixed up in their lives. RJ is known for writing books that always end with a happy ever after. She lives just outside London and spends every waking minute she isn't with family either reading or writing.

The last time she had a week’s break from writing she didn't like it one little bit, and she has yet to meet a bottle of wine she couldn’t defeat.


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EMAIL: rj@rjscott.co.uk



The Fireman and the Cop #1
B&N  /  KOBO  /  GOODREADS TBR

The Teacher and the Soldier #2
B&N  /  KOBO  /  GOODREADS TBR

The Carpenter and the Actor #3
Series
B&N  /  KOBO  /  GOODREADS TBR





May 10 - Reading In Sarah's Corner, Bonkers About Books, MM Good Book Reviews
May 12 - Dog-Eared Daydreams, Foxylutely
May 13 - Padme's Library
May 15 - Scattered Thoughts & Rogue Words
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Chapter Reveal: Dare to Love by Amanda Kaitlyn

Title: Dare to Love
Author: Amanda Kaitlyn
Series: Beautifully Broken
Genre: F/F Romance, New Adult Romance
Expected Release Date: June 9, 2017

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Summary:
One moment.

One moment changed my life forever.

Her big green eyes looked at me and I knew I would never be the same.

But sometimes in life, the things you want are the ones that stand just out of reach.

The pain her loss in my life caused was indescribable.

Hot, piercing pain that in all of my fourteen years of living, I had never experienced.

I remembered her.

Every day.

Every bad date my friends pushed me into.

Every lonely holiday I spent without her to talk to.

Until I saw her.

And I found her all over again.

My father always told me that love snuck up on you when you were least expecting it.

That’s what happened with her.

Charlie was my girl from that moment on and I would do anything to protect her.

Anything.


Chapter One
Ally
THE SMELL OF freshly brewed coffee and powdered sugar hit my nose as I entered the coffee shop my older brother, Lucas and his wife owned. The scent of coffee and sweet pastries was heavenly and I stepped in the long line of customers, eager for my caffeine fix.

“Allison? Is that you?” I heard my name being called and I turned toward the sound, spotting my sister in law, Kaelyn rushing over to me from behind the counter. Smiling wide, I moved into her widely held arms and felt her sigh of relief against my shoulder. I’d been driving all night long and was bone tired, but I was excited to finally be here.

I graduated from Art School yesterday and to say it felt damn good would be an understatement. It felt amazing. It felt even better to be near family again, even if I wasn’t back home in Chicago like I wanted.

When my brother asked me to help out in the cafe over the next three months, I thought it would be fun to have a nice, relaxing winter down south.

My sculptures could wait, after all.

“I’m so happy your here! We are going to have a blast this winter!”

Kaelyn’s excited voice said in my ear and I nodded, my smile getting even bigger on my face. As she squeezed me even tighter to her side and we stepped forward in the line, I gave her an even tighter one in return.

Now that I’d seen her, this place felt so much warmer than I thought possible and it felt just like coming home.

God, how I had missed this girl.

We sat in the large, deeply cushioned chairs that were placed against the walls of windows making the space light up with bright, natural light. My eyes took everything in and I felt my body become rejuvenated just from the ambiance of the place.

How had I never been here before?

The coffee shop and bakery had been in Kaelyn’s family for two generations and now I could see why it was so important to her. My brother had wanted her to sell off her shares of the business and move back to Chicago with him and their two beautiful daughters but she’d resisted. She wanted to finish out the year before transferring her half of The Joyous Cup to her best friend and business partner, Meghan. Having grown up in the heart of the windy city, I couldn’t help but want her and my brother to come back home where our family was. Ever since I was a young girl, I was surrounded by people who loved and cared for me. My family was tightly knit and though, yes it could prove to be a bit stifling- I loved every moment of it.

“So? How was the drive in? Did you hit any traffic?”

“No, it was a pretty smooth drive. I stopped for a few hours half way through. Who knew staring at the road could make me so damn tired?”

Kaelyn laughed softly, shaking her head.

“I still can’t believe you drove all the way here, by your self for that matter. Babe, Luke would have driven you.”

I waved her concerns off, unworried.

When I was growing up, my Dad took a truck driving job one year when the business at the garage wasn’t doing very well. Most times, I would tag along on his long drives if they landed on a weekend or during that winter. I loved the feeling I got from the slow hum of a powerful engine underneath me and the sight of the road in front of me. But after close to thirty hours behind the wheel, it had definitely worn me out.

I desperately wanted to get to the Bed and Breakfast I booked for the winter and sink my tired body into a nice, hot bath.

“You look exhausted, Allison. How about I close down early and drive you to the hotel?” Her hand rested on my knee then, but I shook my head, not wanting to be a bother. It was only a few minutes drive, anyways.

“No, no. That’s okay, Kel. I’m going to head out, though.”

I stood and embraced her and felt her slender arms wrap around my waist and hug me just as fiercely.

“Give the goofball a big kiss and hug for me, OK?”

I said into her ear, fondness for Luke clear in the tone of my voice.

Nodding, she pulled away and I stepped out into the cool, crisp night air. Digging a hand through my black-strapped purse on my shoulder, I slid my keys out and unlocked my car before sliding back in front of the wheel.

Only a few more minutes. I told myself, putting the gear into drive and merging back onto the now quiet street toward my home for the winter.

A Bed & Breakfast was nested between two large, very old oak trees and the only parking that I could find was a spot just next to the front door.

My feet ached as I went inside and set my suitcase and carry on bag on the luggage cart I spotted by the interior doors.

“Welcome to Bunk and Bean Bed and Breakfast! My name is Bree, how can I help ya?”

The familiar voice roused me from my long, indulgent yawn and a smile spread my lips as the petite woman behind the counter turned toward me.

“Oh my gosh! Allison?”

Nodding, I dropped my purse onto the luggage cart and rushed toward her, curling my arms around her as soon as I got close enough.

“I can’t believe your here, Bree! I’ve missed you so much!”

She pulled away from our hug first, her eyes shining with excitement.

“How have you been? Shit, girl, it’s been so long since I last saw you!”

I wiped away a stray tear from my face, nodding. Bree James and I had been best friends since I could remember ever having one. Our mothers were the best of friends, even calling each other sisters as we were growing up. It was natural that we became fast friends as children. I shook my head in blissful remembrance at all of the shenanigans we caused back then. Bree and I were attached at the hip. As soon as we could leave home without our protective mothers hovering nearby, we set out to cause mischief. My favorite had to be when we poured ice water in a metal jug and attached it to the door of my fathers tool shed, causing him to be pelted when it opened. The look on his face as he spotted us hiding and giggling loudly in the nearby bushes? Priceless.

Since I moved away from our home town of Chicago, Illinois, we had lost touch. At first, it was small. We would miss our daily phone calls, a visit back home would be canceled or I would forget to video chat her after class one night. It was hard to be so far away from the large, loving home I grew up in. It was even more difficult to adapt to living without the constant presence of my two best friends, Bree and Nathan. I didn’t notice how far Bree and I had strayed from our friendship until it was too late.

As we hugged again and reminisced on our childhood adventures, I thanked God that there was a such thing as social media. We’d reconnected online last year and were thankfully as close as ever, especially now that I was spending the hot, Texas winter here. I was so happy she was here.

“The last few weeks have been crazy, Bree. With final projects being due and my older brothers coming into the city to attend my graduation, I was sure I’d go crazy before the ceremony ended!”

Her sweet, carefree laugh hit my ear.

I sometimes thought that it was crazy we were ever able to get along.

We were opposite in almost every way. I was bright and happy, overly excited for every phase of life and eager to take the world by the horns.

 I had always been that way.

The always present support of my loving family had made me thrust out of my shell at a young age.

Complete with bright, neon colors, long flow skirts and enough books to last me a lifetime, that was who I was.

Bree was this small, light skinned beauty with black hair that fell down her back in waves. Her eyes were the color of the sea- deep, navy blue with flecks of green and yellow in them. She always wore dark colors, black, brown or brown. And she was always in either a pants suit or a pair of snugly fit Levi jeans. Bree hated to dress up and thought of herself somewhat goth. Her makeup was dark, ruby red lipstick and silver eye-shadow. The faint lines of her midnight black eyeliner made her eyes look even brighter as she lifted her head and I smiled.

Out of all of the time I had known her, she never changed.

I loved that so much because I knew she was real, through and through.

Growing up under the watchful gaze of the public meant that most friends I had made as a child were that of motive. Girls became friends with me to get closer to my musician brothers. Boys befriended me in hopes of getting a shot with my families record company. Almost none of them were founded by true friendship. At first, it hurt. But then I realized that in time, I would find who my real, my true friends were. In the end of high school, I learned who that friend had been all along.

Bree James.

“I’m so damn proud of you. I knew you could do it. When you left, I was mad. Not going to lie about that. But your my best friend. My confidant. My sister from another mister,” A loud laugh leaves me at that but she just squeezes my hand in hers and continues.

“I couldn’t be mad at you for long, though. You followed your dream of sculpture like a fucking badass, Allison.”

I broke into a mess at her honest words and flung my arms around her, again. As she hugged me just as fiercely, I realized she was here. In Fredricksburg, Texas.

My eyebrows drew together at the realization because it just didn’t make sense. We’d grown up in Illinois. Her family was in Illinois. Why was she here, now?

“What are you doing here, Bree?”

She pulled back, smiling wider at my question.

“I own this place. My husband and I bought it after the Wilson’s, the previous owners, passed away. Don’t you just love this little place?”

My heart squeezed in my chest almost painfully. God, I’d missed out on so much while I was away. Somehow my once cynical and hopeless romantic best friend had gone and gotten married and if the twinkle in her eyes was any indication, she was happy. She had the life I always hoped she would. Surrounded by love and happiness and void of the sorrow her childhood had once given her. My best friend was finally happy.

“Oh, I’m so happy for you. God, we missed a lot in each others lives, huh?”

I asked, cradling her face as a bright, no holds barred smile spreads across her face.

“It was only last month that we got married.”

I was pretty sure my eyes bulged out of my head as I heard her voice whisper across the space between us, her voice quiet as if she hadn’t meant to omit that confession.

“I wish I had known, girl. I would have loved to be there”

Shaking her head, she busies herself with the folder in her hands.

I could feel the nerves radiating off of her in waves. Somewhere between the topic of the bed and breakfast and Kingsley, she’d become a bundle of nerves.

“It was, uh, a quick wedding”

“Oh my gosh, Bree!”

“What!” Her quiet yell snapped back at me and my eyes widened as I noticed the blush that was now littered across her cheeks.

“It was a shotgun wedding?”

Sighing loudly, she plopped back into the chair next to me and nodded, then quickly, she was shaking her head again.

“Uh, no, I swear it wasn’t like that. I moved here a year ago and I needed a part time job between classes. Something to fill my time. Kingsley worked at the local bar and hired me on the spot. Almost immediately, we began dating. It was slow going at first, though. He would stay after his shifts ended and we had dinner after the night crew had left. He’s just got this way about him, Allison.”

“My ears are ringing, Bree. You bragging about me to our customers, now?”

A deep, booming voice came from the doorway of the front lobby and my eyes moved toward the sound. When my eyes landed on the large, tall man that not only stood in the doorway but filled it completely, I gasped in surprise.

“Hey, I didn’t think you would be home for a while. How was the meeting?”

Bree stood and walked toward him, her hands instantly drawing up to touch his scruffy face. I watched, entranced as the seemingly hard, stone faced man visibly softened the moment she was touching him. Bending his knees just slightly, he brought his wide, muscled arms around her back to take hold of her ass as he lifted her up his body that had to be at least 6’5. Her hands smoothed over his cheek as she smiled, a look passing through them that spoke volumes as to how they felt about each other. My best friend was in love.

“It was fine. This contractor is gonna get his ass kicked if he doesn’t stop beating around the bush. I don’t need him to argue with me. I just need him to get this shit done” Even with the anger spliced through his tone, his body molded tightly to hers, his hands squeezing her bottom in a silent claiming.

“King. I want you to meet someone. Stop feeling me up, silly man”

He scoffed roughly, hiking her body up a few inches until their mouths touched.

“Don’t tell me what to do, woman”

“Let me down.”

Frowning, he kissed her briefly, then caved to her softly spoken demand.

“Allison, this is my husband, Kingsley. Kingsley, baby, meet my best friend from high school, Allison.”

He stepped forward, out reaching one large hand to me.

“I’m damn glad to meet you, Allison. Bree has missed you something fierce.”

Shaking his hand, I nodded.

I had missed her, too.

“Me too. It looks like you make her very happy.”

Bree rested her head against his shoulder, proving my words were true.

A small, almost private smile took up residence on his face.

“Yeah,” He nodded once. “I guess, I do”
*****
The softly blowing wind whispered over my face, my feet stepping over crushed leaves as I walked toward the small park in the middle of town the following day. After spending some much needed time with Bree and her husband, I hadn’t been able to keep the smile off of my face. It felt so damn good to be back near the people that made me happy, made me laugh. Though I hadn’t seen my brother yet, I knew that feeling of true happiness of this place would only grow once I did. Luke was my biggest fan, after all. Hell, wasn’t that what older brothers were for?

The wind of the cool, winter day picked up and my hands reached for the small zipper of the black fleece jacket I wore, dragging it up until it reached my chin. The sun shone above, causing rays of light to cascade over the hills of the grass covered ground in Fell’s Park.

There was another rolling hill toward the ending of grass, where the green ground led to a small, dirt road and I noticed a quaint little brick house nearby. I squinted my eyes, my gaze landing on the small sign at the top of the door. As I moved closer, my hands slipped into the deep pockets of my Lucky dark denim jeans. The sign becoming larger as I approached, my curiosity piqued.

Who knew an animal shelter lay in the center of the small park I chose to take a walk in?

Ever since I was a young girl, I had a very special love for animals of all kind.

Dogs, cats, anything I could get my hands on, I loved them.

I couldn’t count on one hand how many animals I had as a kid.

The time away from home hadn’t changed that.

An excited smile tugged my lips as I headed toward the small, brick house. But the closer I drew to the house, I noticed it wasn’t really a house at all.

It was three brick cottages built together, connecting by a large, cherry wood wrap porch. Behind the buildings lay a long pasture of grass area where I saw the heads of a few grazing horses. The excitement inside of me caused my heart to flutter like that of a little girl but still, I couldn’t retreat from what I had stumbled upon.

The large, wooden door creaked as it closed behind me and I stepped inside, cautious. The floors were the first thing I noticed. They were laminate hard wood and as I looked at them, I could tell they’d been laid by hand. I watched my older brothers do enough construction to know that wasn’t an easy task. My eyes moved next to the large front lobby and a long, narrow hallway that most likely led to where the animals were kept.

I all but jumped out of my skin from surprise as a woman’s voice came from the other side of the reception desk in front of me.

“Be with you in just a moment, Ma’am”

A shiver ran up my spine at the sound of the raspy voice and my hand came to rest on the handle of the door I’d just come through.
As if at a moments notice, I would bolt.

Maybe I would.

I didn’t understand the mixture of trepidation and curiosity that was now humming through my veins like liquid adrenaline.

I didn’t know why I suddenly wondered why I’d stumbled inside the building in the first place.

I stepped deeper inside as I heard the woman’s footsteps retreat from the desk, most likely getting something from the the office.

For some reason, the sound of her voice had struck a cord in me.

I had no idea how it sounded so familiar to me, since I hadn’t been here even a few days yet. How could I know her if we’d never actually met?

Maybe she was another old friend from up North, where I grew up.

Shit, maybe I was going crazy from the lack of sleep.

Between the long drive from New York, my late night yesterday and a fatigue from the drastic change of weather I’d experienced, I was probably losing it.

I was about to step back from the reception desk and toward the large, oak wood door when the woman came from the back office and into my view for the first time.

No. My inner voice screamed at me as I took a step back unconsciously, as if from sheer instinct. It couldn’t be. I told myself, shaking my head in disbelief.

“Ally,” She said, her rasped voice now so much clearer as she stood in front of me. There was only one woman who’d ever called me that. She was a ghost from my past but for this one, small moment, she was real.

“C-Charlie?” 

Author Bio:
Amanda Kaitlyn is an author of heart stopping, sweet romance. Finding Beautiful is her debut novel. She is a hopeless romantic at heart. Books by Kristen Proby, Kelly Elliott and Stephanie Meyer have influenced her writing. One thing that inspires her is music. Country, pop, rock, Amanda enjoys it all. As a young girl, she loved fairy tales. As she grew up she realized that these stories change. Love isn’t always perfect and the fight of that love is what urges her to write the stories she does. Between the pages of her books you will find real, heartfelt romance, rugged emotion and lots of steam. Do you want to know more about Amanda Kaitlyn and her books? You can find her on social media and her author website.


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