Monday, February 15, 2016

Monday's Montage Mantlepiece: Sensual Diversions: 14 Sexy Shorts

Title: Sensual Diversions: 14 Sexy Shorts
Authors: Samantha Jacobey, Cherime MacFarlane, Ella Medler
Teri Riggs, LJ Sexton, J.C. Clarke, L.A. Remenicky
Nicole Garcia, R.E. Hargrave, Carol Cassada, Izzibella Beau
Sophie Slade , R.G Williamson, Phoebe Parkes
Genre: sensual romance 18+
Release Date: February 14, 2016

***Only 99cents***

This Valentines, fourteen romance and erotica authors cut to the chase in this unique collection of sexy bits and tell-all short stories. Tales that are personal and touching, heart wrenching, tear jerking and bodice ripping, on your knees and against the wall bangers. One night stands, loves of a lifetime, boy next door, bad boy vs good guy… we have it all! What’s your pleasure, pick your poison, a different man every day for a fortnight… need we say more? 
WARNING: Mature Adult 18+ for graphic sex, coarse language, and mild violence. Reader discretion is advised.


Westmore: New Beginnings by Carol Cassada
In the sixth volume of the series, new beginnings await the characters of Westmore.

After years of estrangement, Caroline returns to Westmore to reunite with her brother Jeff.

Fed up with Andrew's betrayal, Elizabeth seeks a divorce and a fresh start.

Alicia and Jacob's relationship is at a standstill, as the couple contemplates reconciliation, Courtney is on a mission to win back Jacob's heart.

Home from his tour, Scott meets with Melissa for the first time since their split. The couple look to overcome their obstacles and move forward in their lives.

Wayne tries to turn his life around as he repairs the rift in his family. His professional and personal life looks bright when a new business opportunity and new lady enter the picture.

Charlotte is happy in her relationship with Jim and is ready to take the next step, but a tragedy could alter their plans.

Aurora's Song by Cherime MacFarlane
Algen is finally home after spending most of her teen years, and young adulthood in Washington State. She has never been clear on the reason she was sent to live with her father’s relatives. But she has a job she loves and can finally live in the place she loves. The Aurora Borealis fascinates her; Algen has missed the lights and winter terribly. The Grannies want her to be careful. Should she be careful of the new hire at the native corporation? She’s sure if he gets too close her heart is going to be in grave danger. The cultural anthropologist is pursuing her with the single-mindedness of a big predator. Gunrik is too smart, too much of a hunk and far too tempting.

Not Juliet by Ella Medler
This novella is intended for mature audiences only. Wordcount 40,000 (180 pages approx).

Riella Smith, an unconventional Romany Princess, travels to Tuscany on the trail of her father’s challenger, to delay him and prevent unnecessary bloodshed and humiliation. What she expects is trouble from a fearsome rival. But life is rarely that easy.

The trouble she finds is of a different kind. Soon, she faces the toughest decision of her life – again – though it should really be a no-brainer. All she has to do is choose between her people and a myth.

After all, there’s no such thing as love at first sight.

Feels Like the First Time by Izzibella Beau
The complete version of 'Feels Like the First Time' will be available in late spring of 2016. This book will be part of the Breathless Series. To date, there are three books available in Amazon that belong to this particular book series; Just Once More, The Reason Why, and Somewhere In-Between.

Beginning Souls by LJ Sexton
This is the prequel story of Ashley Trenton. I wasn't always a horrible junkie mess. I had dreams like any other girl. But I gave up my dreams to marry my high school sweetheart and start a family. I also sent that life crashing into hell. Ashley tells a story of her life before drugs. Of a life, of love ,and of heartache. It's a story of how it all began.

Xs: The Interview by JC Clarke
His name is whispered behind the hands of many gossiping women.

The way he pleasures a body leaves you craving his touch, his words, and his breath. The way his eyes bore into yours, you want to look away, but you can’t. He controls every part of your being while you’re in his domain. And when you leave, you feel bereft, but sated.

Who is this man they speak about?

Megan Brayer has the chance to interview this elusive gentleman. Will the answers he gives to her questions satisfy her curiosity?

This is the first book of many short stories. Each story will tell its own little story and can be read as stand alone.

Saving Cassie by LA Remenicky
Everyone has secrets. Sometimes secrets can get you killed.

After ten years in the big city, Cassie Holt is moving back to her hometown to take over the bookstore left to her by her beloved Gram, vowing to live her life alone. To her best friend, Sheriff James Marsten, Cassie seems to be the same girl that left Fairfield Corners to go to college but Cassie has secrets and one of those secrets could get her killed. When one of her secrets becomes a threat to her life, James turns to his new deputy to help him keep Cassie safe.

Deputy Logan Miller has been burned by love and is not looking to get involved with anyone anytime soon. When he is thrown into close quarters with Cassie, the sparks begin to fly and he begins to see through the walls Cassie has built around her heart. As the threat gets closer, can Logan protect Cassie and protect his heart? (MA, 18+ for sexual situations)

Burning Desire by Nicole Garcia
When Allison Hayes' Valentine's Day date never shows up at the restaurant for dinner, she is determined that her night is doomed for disaster. That was until she glanced across the room and made eye contact with the sexy as sin man who was also sitting alone. Recognition comes slamming into her as she realizes he was the one she'd always had her heart set on having. A fire still burned in her belly at the sight of him, even after all the years that had passed. Mason Wolfe was the popular one in high school. The hot athletic boy all the girls drooled over and Allison, well, she was the boring bookworm who no one wanted to talk to. She was barely noticed at all and definitely not memorable in the slightest. But all that changed and she was now a gorgeous young woman. Allison became the sexy, independent woman she'd always dreamed of being, she is willing do anything to get what her body craves, even if it's just for one night with Mason. The undeniable burning desire flows through her veins like molten lava, and his touch is the only one who can squelch the flames.

Fire Lust by RE Hargrave
Heather Marsden and Cody Stevens have been an item since their first year of high school. With their future planned and their college graduation within reach, Cody gets devastating news from his doctor. Heather must now cope with the knowledge that she might lose the man who was supposed to be her forever. 

While trying to come up with a grand final birthday surprise for him, Heather ends up befriending the new girl in town. Suzanne Cross lives a hippie life full of color and extravagance, seemingly without a care in the world. In truth, she’s all alone and hides a secret. 

Heather’s new friend is something more than human, but how far will she be willing to go to save Cody? Just how much faith in “love” can she muster? 
***Contains adult material, including sex and recreational drug use. Meant for readers 18+***

The Wicked Awakened by Samantha Jacobey
What would you do if a five hundred year old witch wanted to turn your body into her new home?

Morcant and Blake Korrigan own a little shop of horrors, where witches congregate and people ending up dead isn’t rare. When Karen Hiltzman joins their coven, she has no idea what she’s getting into. Drawn in, the group convinces her to recruit her best friend, Sarah Matthews, after discovering that she bears a very special birthmark; one that indicates she’s the girl they’ve been waiting for.

Eager to reincarnate a witch put to death by an angry mob five hundred years prior, Morcant unleashes a spell; a dark and sinister curse. His ritual transforms Sarah’s body and will bring the dreaded Brenna back to life when it’s completed. Blake wants to stop him; but will he be strong enough to defeat his elder sibling, and if he does… will he be able to let her go when it’s done?.
MA - 18+ V - violence S - sexual content L - coarse language

Crossroads by Sophie Slade
This is the second in Sophie Slade's Eternally Yours series. Although this book can be read as a stand alone, it is advised to read the first book, TOUCHED BY A VAMPIRE (ETERNALLY YOURS BOOK ONE), first. This book also ends on a slight cliffhanger.

WARNING 18+: This book is erotic paranormal romance and contains material that may be considered offensive to some readers, which includes graphic language, explicit sex, and adult situations.

As the head of the North Vampire Coven and owner of Caprice Casino and Club Moroii, alpha-male billionaire Lance Steel has more money and incredible good looks than any one man deserves. He is a great husband and father, but he’s also a vampire. His wife, Leila, is human and his son is a dhampir—half human and half vampire—but in order to live a human life with his wife and son, he wants to become human again.

As a brilliant doctor and scientist, Leila has developed a sunlight serum, and friends Amy and Elias are working on a cure for vampirism, but is Lance willing to give up his vampire and become human again for his family? Or will his decision cost him the lives of his wife and son, and the destruction of his entire coven? Which path will he choose at the crossroads?

*The first book in this series is TOUCHED BY A VAMPIRE (ETERNALLY YOURS BOOK ONE), by: Sophie Slade. The third book in this series will be TO LOVE A VAMPIRE, set for release 2016.

Finding True's Love by Teri Riggs
Six months after True’s last boss viciously attacked her, she’s ready to take her therapist’s advice and go back into the work force. She wants her life to be normal again and working for another man will be a giant step towards her goal.

Nick has been betrayed by a pretty face for the last time and has sworn off relationships. Or so he thought until the day his new assistant, True Kelly, walked into his office.

They try to fight their attraction for each other, but fail. Are Nick and True ready to risk their hearts for a chance at happiness?

Dare to Change by RG Williamson & Phoebe Parkes
After the numerous attempts to win Karina over, Connor continues to surprise her and she finds it harder and harder to resist his charm and charismatic ways. One thing's for sure, when Connor's around, there's never a dull moment!

They continue to face each other in court but who will come out on top? Is it a case of winning the battle but losing the war?

Is Karina any closer to her dream of a white wedding or should she be thinking more towards black?

Is Connor, the man that vowed never to settle down, falling for Karina or is he simply suffering a severe case of lust and sex on tap?

Can Connor dare to change his man-whoring ways or will secrets and sin tear them apart?
Warning: Contains graphic sex, a British man-whore who has unconventional ideas towards sexual exploits and a lot of swearing. Also if you found book One funny then you know what's coming in Dare To Change.

Dare to Reveal by RG Williamson & Phoebe Parkes
It’s all gone to shit.

I hate where I am but I’m so lost with absolutely no idea where to go from here. I f*cked it all up royally.

You would think I had learned from my past, but no, my past slams back to haunt me at every turn and I’ve failed again.

I tried, I really did but I know I f*cked up because of my stupid wild side, craving sinful pleasures that I should never have started.

But out of all the things that have gone wrong, there is one thing I can put right.

And I’m going to.

It’s time to be the man I should have been from the beginning. I don’t want to live with these secrets hanging over me, but just how much do I reveal to keep the woman I love?

Sometimes the truth isn’t pretty and my secrets definitely aren't.

I knew it was too good to be true.

He was a player, a man-whore through and through and leopards don’t change their spots, do they?

What is he trying to hide? His evasive behaviour is a dead giveaway that he’s not telling me the truth. 

Then, just when I think I know what I’m going to do, I get the shock of my life when I see Connor out with a person I never even knew existed.

Was our whole relationship built on secrets? After what I stumbled across and then what I saw, I wonder how much Connor has been keeping from me.

Left with no choice, I have to confront him. I need answers and I deserve answers and I will not leave until I have them this time.

The question is, does he love me enough to reveal the truth?

More importantly, will I survive it if he does?
** This book is the conclusion to Connor and Karina's story. **

Author Bios:
Samantha Jacobey
Anyone who knows me could tell you, I am a friendly kind of person, never met a stranger and take up conversations any where at any time. I work hard, and my mind never seems to shut down, as I wake up often in the middle of the night with ideas pouring out and demanding to be dealt with. Of course that means much of my books were written in the middle of the night.

I grew up and still live in the great state of Texas where everything is bigger, where we have warm weather and a central location. I love my state, my town, and my family, which includes my four sons, my significant other, and many friends as well.

I have thoroughly enjoyed writing the books that are currently available and hope you will enjoy reading them just as much. And of course, there will be many more stories to come.

Cherime MacFarlane
Although born in New Orleans, I am proud to call myself an Alaskan. I have lived here since 1977. I have seen -40 degrees, hauled water, made bear bacon and I live in a cabin. I have used a fishwheel to catch salmon coming up the Copper River. I was my second husband's chief mechanic's helper and roadie. I have cut firewood on shares. I worked as a cocktail waitress during pipeline days in a small lodge on the Richardson Highway.

My second husband, a Scot from Glasgow, was the love of my life. When I write Scots dialect, I personally experienced hearing it from my in laws. When my husband got on the phone to Scotland, after 5 seconds I could barely understand a word.

We moved to Wasilla to get warm. It barely drops past -25 degrees here in the winter. I became a paralegal and worked for over 26 years for the same firm.

Alaska is my home. I never thought I would love it so much, I never want to leave. The beauty of Alaska is a draw I cannot resist. I love the people and the history. I have been captured by a place I came to under duress. Life does play some interesting tricks on one. My love and I were not apart more than 24 hours for 20 plus years. I never wanted to be anywhere but with him. He was a man to run the river with and was my biggest fan.

Elle Medler
Ella Medler is a U.K. author and free-lance editor. She writes fiction in more than one genre, in a seemingly vain attempt to slow down her overactive brain enough to write non-fiction on subjects she knows a thing or two about. She also does not believe in the starchy use of English, and ignores the type of rule that doesn’t allow for a sentence to be finished in a preposition. Her books are action-driven, and well-developed characters are her forte. Loves: freedom. Hates: her inner censor.

Teri Riggs
As a child, Teri Riggs made up her own bedtime stories. When her children came along, Teri always tweaked the fairy tales she told her daughters, giving them a bit more punch and better endings when needed.

Now she spends her days turning her ideas into books. She lives in Marietta, GA with her husband.

LJ SeXton
Born and raised in Michigan right outside of Detroit. I have two adult daughters and a chihuahua who is more needy then my girls ever were. I have loved to read and write fiction stories since I was in elementary school.

JC Clarke
J.C. Clarke lives in the heart of the New Forest in England with her husband and four children. Never a dull moment, her full house provides no shortage of inspiration which fuels her writing. She loves reading and writing a variety of genres in addition to dabbling with graphic art to create book covers, swag and more.

L.A. Remenicky
Love Stories With A Twist

An avid reader all her life, she finally put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) during NaNoWriMo in 2012 and has never looked back.

Paranormal romance, romantic suspense, no romance genre is out of bounds!

Nicole Garcia
N.Y. Times Bestselling author Nicole Garcia has a degree in Nursing, but has been a stay at home mom for the past 9 years. Her passion is reading and decided to make a career out of sharing her love for books. Writing and promoting has become a full time job for her now. There are so many unknown authors out there that deserve to have their books read by many. So, after promoting for authors for two years, she decided to follow her dreams and start writing her own books. Nicole started writing poetry when she was just a little girl and had always loved the feeling it gave her. Currently she writes steamy Paranormal, Contemporary, and New Adult Romance, but plans to write other genres in the future. Hope you will join her in all the fun ahead. 

RE Hargrave
Amazon International Best Selling author R.E. Hargrave lives on the outskirts of Dallas, TX where she prides herself on being a domestic engineer. Married to her high school sweetheart, together they are raising three children. She is an avid reader, a sometimes quilter, and now, a writer. Other hobbies include gardening and a love of music. A native 'mutt,' Hargrave has lived in New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Alabama, Texas, and California. She is fond of setting her stories~which range from the sweet to the paranormal to the erotic~on location in South Carolina and Texas, but its anybody's guess as to what the genre will be!

Carol Cassada
An author who hails from the small town of Ringgold, VA.

From a very early age she loved to read and by the time she reached high school, she fell in love with writing and knew she wanted to become a writer.

She started her writing journey, she's released 6 books and has more in the works.

When she's not busy cranking out books, Carol loves to spend time with her family, play with her pets, catch up on reading, and blog about her love of soap operas.

Izzibella Beau
An aspiring writer currently residing on a farm in the U.S. She is married and has 32 children; 3 biological and 29 canine. She earned a bachelor and master degrees in criminal justice from Saint Leo University. She also has many graduate hours in the disciplines of teaching and public services. Ms. Beau first book Broken: Book One of the Assumption Series was released in May 2014. Since then, four other books have been released belonging to that series. The story is based on the lives of BayShore Academy high school students, Ayma and Colton and a barrage of their friends and family. After the first three books, each additional book continues with the focus on another dynamic character (s) from the series. The second series is When Separate Worlds Collide. This will be a trilogy with two of the books already out on Amazon. This is a new adult, paranormal, romance that promises to have lots of twists and turns that the reader never saw coming. The newest series out is that of Breathless. The first book has been released and is titled Just Once More. If you love stories that will make you cry, scream, curse, and fall in love then this is the series for you. Everyone has that one love in their life that they will always remember, the one that will always leave them...breathless. Ms. Beau enjoys writing, reading, taking long walks, playing with all her children, and the Pittsburgh Steelers. She is an animal lover and will contribute a portion of her royalties to animal rescue and shelters nationwide.

Sophie Slade
Author of Erotic Romance. She started writing TOUCHED BY A VAMPIRE, never intending to publish it. However, her husband read it, loved it, and encouraged her to finish writing the book. Now, this book is the first in the series ETERNALLY YOURS. The next book in the series, CROSSROADS, and stand-alone books IF TOMORROW NEVER COMES and THE CHRISTMAS RING, along with the first book in another series PLEASING THE PACK (DIAMOND PACK ALPHAS, BOOK 1) are coming soon from Simply Sexy Reads. Sophie has a Bachelor of Arts in Communications, News Editorial sequence, from the University of Tennessee at Martin, and a minor in English. Sophie is a full-time author and resides in Florida with her husband and children.

R.G Williamson
I'm a happily married family man from the North of England, UK.

I like the feeling a good book gives me. I like to feel emotionally attached to the characters, I want to live their lives, I want to worry about them, laugh with them, cry with them, celebrate their achievements with them, love them, hate them, but most importantly, I want to feel something, anything.

I hope you enjoy my writing style and come away from my books feeling something!

Phoebe Parkes
After I got over the rejection of not becoming a Bond girl, I set my goals a little lower in the world of fast cars, sexy men and bank accounts that match their crotch sizes - yes, HUGE. I decided it was about time that all these glorious characters that I dream up needed to be brought to life. So Bond's loss is my gain, because I don't just get stuck with one 007 I get as many as I want and I can have them as gorgeous as I want them, as sexy as they deserve or sometimes even dark and disturbing but still ultimately phoaar. (Hopefully ☺)

I mean come on, who the heck really needs to 'bond' with Bond eh when you can dream up a whole cast of hot, muscled, sun-kissed, drop dead gorgeous males! When you can have men that all fall at your feet, worship your creative mind... lust after your curves and swoon at your utter gorgeousness... Yeah, that doesn't happen either, well not on the scale you're imagining anyway, wink-wink.

So, this is me, armed and dangerous, my mind honed and poised and ready with enough ammo to bring a horde of sexy mayhem. The stories in my head are finally being let loose. I apologise in advance for any loss of control, hernias or sheer frustration caused as a result of my imagination. Any legal action, (which would be completely unwarranted), should be taken up with the person who was the Bond Girl dream wrecker, in other words, it really isn't my fault so my conscience is clear. ;-)

Finally shutting up (yes me) and leaving you with a more serious thought, please sit back, relax and enjoy my over-indulgent brain cells as they go into over-drive to bring you some British shenanigans, done the Phoebe Parkes way. Enjoy ☺

Samantha Jacobey

Cherime MacFarlane

Ella Medler

Teri Riggs

LJ SeXton

JC Clarke

LA Remenicky

Nicole Garcia

RE Hargrave

Carol Cassada

Izzibella Beau

Sophie Slade

RG Williamson

Phoebe Parkes

Brought to you by:

Release Day Blitz: The Fireman in Unit C by Kris Cook

Title: The Firemen in Unit C
Author: Kris Cook
Series: Mockingbird Place #3
Genre: M/M Romance
Release Date: February 15, 2016
A serial arsonist sets fire to the unit next to Jackson’s apartment—the unit the sexy fireman Eli lives in.

Things really heat up when Jackson offers Eli a place to stay until Unit C is livable again. Jackson, being OCD, requires everything in his life to be neat and orderly, but Eli’s life is chaotic and messy, especially because of the man’s ex, who keeps pushing his way back into the fireman’s life. Living with Eli turns out to be much more than he bargained for. As much as he would love to just throw caution to the wind, Jackson believes it is best to keep things between him an Eli on the friend level. Nothing more. But an unexpected kiss rocks his world and he must figure out the real reason he’s terrified of the feelings Eli is bringing out in him.

Will Jackson see that a future with Eli can help him let go of the guilt from his troubled past?

Author Bio:
Though starting in straight erotic romance, Kris's total focus now is on gay romance. When asked why recently, his answer was "My muse finally came out of the closet. Isn't it about time? I’ve been out since I was twenty-five."  A voracious reader, Kris loves many genres of fiction, but this writer's favorite books are romances that are edgy, sexy, with rich characters and unique challenges. Kris' influences include Anne Rice, JR Ward, Lexi Blake and Shayla Black. Last year, Kris married the love of his life Stephen.


The Fireman in Unit C #3

The Marine in Unit A #1

The Cowboy in Unit E #2

Brought to you by: 

Release Day Blitz: Abandoned by Elisa Dane

Title: Abandoned
Author: Elisa Dane
Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult
Release Date: February 15, 2016
Publisher: Swoon Romance
My name is Tierra Owens, and I like to kiss. A lot. It numbs the hollow ache in my chest and—for a few minutes—makes me forget how truly alone I am. My mother is an alcoholic. She hates me and insists I’m the reason she’s not married to my father, whom I have never met. My best friend, Kaylee, is the only person who knows the real me. Everyone else sees what I want them to: a happy, confident, popular girl who has the world at her feet.

I am a fraud.

Relationships are forbidden. I avoid them at all costs. Sex? Emotions? Those things make a person vulnerable, and vulnerability always leads to heartbreak. When my childhood crush, Mattie shows up at school my world tumbles off its axis. The shell I surround myself with feels more like a pathetic crutch than a protective barrier, and I find myself wanting things. Daydreaming about what it would be like to have a boyfriend, a relationship—love.

The sad fact is: I’ll never have any of those things. I am unworthy—trash. Which is why my mom abandoned me.

Chapter 2
Creeps come in every shape, size, and color known to man. Especially in the Greater Valencia Hills area. It had been my unfortunate privilege to watch my mother bring home a large portion of said creepers, the worst of the lot standing before me now.

Angelo Moretti. His name alone sounded like something out of a reality weight-loss show gone bad. Tall, with inky black hair worn slicked back from his face, a broad chest, arms the size of tree trunks with legs to match, my mom’s now-ex-boyfriend was a brute straight out of a mobster movie.

And he had my mother pressed against the dining room wall with his hand around her throat.

I padded across the aging hardwood floor and pressed a finger to my lips, my mom’s eyes bulging as she watched my approach. Despite the throng of asswipes my lone parental unit brought home, I’d never had the opportunity to test out my metal bat—though several men had given me reason to purchase it in the first place.

Knowing the threat of little ol’ me with a bat alone wasn’t going to cut it, I pulled my cell out of my back pocket and pulled up the number pad, ready to dial 911. If I could stop the jerk from hurting my mom, and get him out of the house without involving the police, I would. That being said, I wasn’t about to risk bodily injury, or my mother’s well being, to keep her latest drama under wraps.

Mouth impossibly dry and legs shaking, I crept forward, more than a little hesitant about what I was about to do. I was by no means a violent person. I also couldn’t sit back and watch the Italian Stallion pin my mom against the wall alongside her collection of vintage Gone with the Wind plates and dry hump her against her will. Call me old-fashioned, but I’m of the opinion that if a woman has uttered the words “No” or “We’re through, and you need to leave,” she most definitely meant what she said, and any action to coerce her otherwise was both douchey and totally uncalled for.

My palm was slick with sweat as I rounded the wooden, early eighties-style table gracing the center of the room. I hated my mom for putting me in a position to have to defend her. Hated her for being stupid enough to place herself in a situation where she could get hurt. Why couldn’t she be normal? Like everybody else’s mom?

Face buried in my mother’s chest, one hand gripping her neck, the other pinning her hands above her head, Angelo was too busy forcing himself on my mom to notice my approach.

Thrumming with adrenaline, my body shook like I’d downed half a dozen Red Bulls on an empty stomach. My lips wobbled, and my chest felt tight, like I was sucking in air through a Swizzle straw.
My fingers slid along the bottom of the bat as I gripped the metal stick tighter and raised it high above my head.

“Get off my mom, you fucking pervert, or I’ll call the cops!”

His movements were slow, relaxed—sinister, almost. Angelo lifted his head from the crook between my mother’s neck and shoulder and leered at me, lips pulled into a twisted snarl. “Well, well, well, look what we have here. Mama’s little cherub, just as ripe and sweet as her angelic maker.”

He tightened his grip on my mom’s neck, sending her gasping for air. “S-s-stop … it … A-a-ngelo!”

Panicked, I raised my bat higher and jiggled my phone through the air. “Let go of my mom, asshole. Or else.”

That earned me a low chuckle. “Or what, missy? What are you gonna do?” He lifted his arm and pointed at my bat. “Hurt me with your stick?”

There were no thoughts. Only action. I swung the bat hard, slamming it against the side of his ribs.

A loud cracking sound bounced off the walls of the small room, followed by several deep grunts and curses.

Angelo’s grip on my mother’s neck went slack as his knees hit the floor.

She darted away from him, taking shelter behind me.

We’d never experienced such a dire situation before, but from the way we moved together, you would have thought we were pros. My mom took the cell phone from my hand, dialed three digits, and let her finger hover over the “call” button, while I choked up my grip on the bat, which I now held with two hands. I planned on going Buster Posey on his ass if he took a step toward either of us.

“All I have to do is hit this button, Angelo, and the cops will be here before you know it. Didn’t you mention something a few weeks ago about only having a couple months left of your parole?”

I narrowed my eyes in disgust. A parolee? My mom knowingly hooked up with a parolee? Was there no end to her absolute suckage?

Angelo pulled himself up off the floor with a labored groan, left hand clutching his no doubt aching side. Eyes narrowed, lips pressed into a thin, tight line, he glared at my mother before turning the force of his heated gaze on me.

“Stupid, bitches. I’ll leave. But this ain’t over. Not by a long shot.”

My pulse spiked as he lumbered sideways, and I gripped the bat tighter, prepared to whack him again if I needed to.

I didn’t, thankfully. He exited the house in several long strides, knocking over an end table, and shattering a handful of my mom’s beloved knick-knacks on his way out the door.

Vomit. I was seriously going to vomit. Between Zach’s horrible kissing and my mother’s reenactment of last night’s episode of Cops, I wasn’t sure what I should do first: cry, laugh, or puke.

Shaky and out of breath, I settled for sinking down onto the dining room floor. The bat rolled out of my hands, a wooden chair leg halting the sound of metal rolling across wood. I stared at the dust bunnies collecting beneath the table, unable to process everything that had just happened.

I hadn’t even realized my mom had left the room until I heard her screech my name from deep inside the kitchen. “Where the hell is the vodka, Tierra? You and that bourgee friend of yours better not have sucked down the last of it. I need a drink!”

“And here we go,” I whispered to no one in particular as I pulled myself off the floor.

Body still thrumming with leftover adrenaline, I felt like I was floating as I made my way into the kitchen. “Bourgee, mom? Been hittin’ up the Online Slang Dictionary again? Tryin’ out the new lingo?”

Fingers flexed around the bottom corner of a dark brown cabinet door that had seen better days, she turned her focus from her panicked search for booze and leveled me with a hate-filled stare. “Don’t be a bitch, Tierra.” She slammed the cupboard door shut and jabbed a finger toward the dining room. “What happened in there … It was all your fault, little girl.”

“My fault?” I lumbered into the kitchen, placed my hands on the cool tile covering the center island, and leaned forward with a frown. “I fail to see how that has anything to do with me. I didn’t force you to date a slimeball parolee.” I raised a brow, cocked my head to the side, and pursed my lips. “You chose that gem all on your own.”

The skin between her eyes bunched up like a pack of hot dogs. She thrust her finger at me and shook her head. “So high and mighty you are. Thinkin’ you’re better than everybody else. You make me sick. Once people see past that face of yours they’ll recognize you for what you are: trash. Your rich little BFF is just too shallow and self-centered to see it. But everyone else? They see what I see: garbage.”

My hand balled into a fist, my knee-jerk reaction the only outward sign of my distress. She laid it all out on the line, cut me down with her favorite spare-no-feelings, go-for-the-jugular truth. She thought I was garbage, and for one brief moment, I felt like one of her empty vodka bottles. Hollow. Void of the essential substance that gave it purpose, a reason for being.

Four years ago I would have cried as a result of her hateful barbs. Not anymore. I’d squashed that part of me that longed for her acceptance. Shoved that shit in a lockbox, buried it deep inside of me, and threw away the key.

Glaring at me for good measure, she winced, mid-scowl, then stomped over to the refrigerator and yanked a bag of frozen peas out of the freezer. Her left cheekbone was angry red and swollen.


“What happened tonight is your fault. If it weren’t for you, I’d still be with your father. I wouldn’t be stuck sifting through America’s Most Wanted rejects for someone to love me. I’d be safe, taken care of—happy.” She pulled the bag of peas from her face and tossed them onto the counter with a thwack. Large, emerald eyes beamed me with a truth I’d heard daily ever since I could remember. “Your father didn’t want you, Tierra. And I lost him because of that fact. You ruined my life.”

My jaw slackened, not enough for her to see, but I felt it. I was an empty bottle again. Only this time, she’d tossed me out into the street and I’d splintered, bits and pieces of my shell cracked and jagged, worthless and broken.

I bit down on the inside of my cheek, angry with myself for feeling—even for a moment—I needed her love or approval. Why? Why did she have to be such a bitch twenty-four seven? I’d stopped Angelo from choking her out. Kept her from what surely would have been a violent attack. Why couldn’t she thank me?

The doorbell chimed twice in quick succession, signaling Kaylee had arrived. Without casting my mother a second glance, I stalked out of the kitchen on wooden legs and made my way to the front door—quite literally saved by the bell. To my horror, the thick, paneled door stood partially ajar, no doubt the byproduct of Angelo’s hasty retreat.

Kaylee was comfortable enough with me to have opened the door and come in, but she hadn’t, and I was thankful for the fat heaping of manners her parents had stuffed down her throat since she was little. She alone knew the hell I went through with my mother, but knowing things were bad and witnessing said badness firsthand were two entirely different things.

I swung open the door and fanned my arm out to the side, motioning for her to come in.

Thick, sooty lashes framed a pair of large, gray eyes that panned my frazzled state from foot to head as she made her way past me into the lip of the living room. “Running a little late, huh?”

Eyes wide, I sucked in a deep breath and gave her a nod. “Rough night.”

Her lips pulled down into a frown and she gave my upper arm a squeeze. “So I heard.”

Lovely. My shoulders fell. My humiliation apparently knew no bounds.

“Come on, you,” she said, and tugged me down the hallway toward my room. She patted the large tote bag slung over her shoulder and smiled. “Rosa made me clean out my closet this afternoon.” A fat grin lifted the corners of her mouth. “I came bearing gifts.”

The ugly words my mom spewed earlier about Kaylee being shallow tickled the part of my brain that manifested anger. There wasn’t a bad, shallow, self-centered bone in Kaylee’s body. Her family was wealthy, yes (her dad owned a software company), but they weren’t tight-fisted, and they didn’t treat anyone differently because they had better means.

My mother had no clue what she was talking about.

“Brrr! It’s cold in here.” She dumped her tote on the foot of my bed and began furiously rubbing her hands up and down her arms. “Why is it so … Oh! You’ve got your window open. Shut that thing, girl. My nips are gonna slice through my new silk top!”

That little comment earned her a chuckle, and I plodded across my oatmeal-colored Berber and slid the window shut. The idea that it sat wide open for the last thirty minutes gave me the creeps, and a chill ran down my spine at the thought of Angelo sneaking in and lying in wait to repay the pain I’d inflicted on him. I wouldn’t put it past him, either. He looked like a serial killer.

Kaylee was on her knees when I turned around, digging through the large pile of shoes on my closet floor. I immediately let out the breath I didn’t know I’d been holding. Angelo wasn’t hiding in my closet, and I was … Well, I was just being skittish.

“I brought over a couple of different options for you tonight.” Her voice was muffled, her head and arms deep inside my closet. “And what’s nice is they’ll all go with the same pair of … ” She leaned forward, and with a grunt and an “Aha!” pulled a pair of black platform heels from the back of the pile.

She held the pristine heels up and raised a brow. “Let me guess: You’ve never worn these?”

I flashed her a cheeky smile and shrugged. Thanks to Kaylee and her family’s motto, “If you haven’t worn it in six months, you need to pass it on,” I had enough shoes and clothing to start my own upscale boutique. I did my best to make good use out of everything she passed along to me, but some of the stuff—like the heels she was currently fondling—wasn’t practical for everyday use. I’d yet to have the occasion to wear the fancy shoes.

With an eye-roll, Kaylee pulled herself up from the carpet and jammed a thumb over her shoulder as she made her way back toward my bed. “Rosa would have a fit if she saw the sad state of your closet. Haven’t you ever heard of a little thing called ‘organization’?”

I’d heard it, all right. I just didn’t have time. Auditions to get into the New York Academy Of Dramatic Arts were just a short month away. My free time was spent memorizing monologues and practicing my craft. If I had any hope of getting away from my mother, and fulfilling my dream of becoming an actress, I needed to focus. Rosa—the Young family’s maid—would just have to deal. Not that she’d ever see the inside of my cramped closet, anyway.

Kaylee worked fast. I’d barely had a chance to blink before she had the contents of her bag laid out into coordinating outfits on top of my sea-blue comforter. A fashionista to the core, she hovered the shoes over each ensemble, face drawn taut as she fought to decide which coordinated best. “I think this grouping works better,” she said, and turned toward me with a giddy smile.

Not only did Kaylee have impeccable taste, she knew my preferences. My style choices leaned toward sleek and understated, and the dark blue True Religion jeans and gauzy black halter fit my bill quite nicely.

“Of course”—she motioned toward the slinky black dress and coordinating jacket that sat alongside the jeans—“if you prefer the dress, by all means, say so.”

I shook my head and snatched the jeans and top off the bed. “Nope. This is perfect.” I didn’t often feel warm and squishy, but Kaylee’s generosity and supportive attitude struck a chord. Overcome, I pulled her into a quick hug and squeezed her tight. “Thank you, K.” Stepping back, I held up the clothes and cocked my head to the side. “Truly. Thank you.”

She swatted her hand through the air and made a face like it was no big deal.

Little did she know, if not for her, I’d be decked out in thrift store duds and five-dollar Old Navy flip-flops year round. Melissa Owens, aka my mother, preferred showering herself with a steady stream of cheap clothes, even cheaper booze, frequent hotel stays with her nasty boyfriends, and cancer sticks, leaving little money left over. I wasn’t particularly sure how we managed to pay our utilities. Regardless, I owed the Young family more than I’d ever be able to repay them. And repay them, I would. One day.

Thirty minutes later, Kaylee and I clacked our way down the hallway toward the front of the house, looking mighty fierce. Kaylee had battled my thick brown tresses into shiny submission, and touched up the minimal makeup I’d already applied earlier. Blessed with my mama’s good skin and thick, long lashes, I didn’t require much in the way of artificial enhancement. This, of course, was fine by me. The less I had to worry about, the better. My plate already held a giant heaping of “You’re the mature one in the house, you need to oversee the shopping. And the cleaning. And the yard work. And, well—everything.”

“Tierra Elizabeth Owens!” My mom’s shrill voice cut through every last nerve ending in my body. I recognized the tone and knew what was about to happen next. She only called me by my full name when she was particularly disgusted and felt the need to dole out some sort of menial task to perform.

I froze, mid-step, behind Kaylee, whose entire frame mirrored mine upon hearing my full name. Her parents were fabulous with her, but she’d seen enough television and read enough angsty young-adult books to recognize the precursor to a verbal beat down when she heard it. Some ominous organ music would have rounded out the moment nicely.

I turned on my heel to face my surly mother, more than a little worried about the ugliness that was sure to fly out of her mouth.

She narrowed her eyes, taking in my new outfit and heeled feet with a frown. “Going out?”

The muscles in my neck and back slackened. If she were going to berate me, she would have done so from the beginning. It was very possible Kaylee and I could make it out of the house without another scene. I nodded once. “Yeah. Kaylee’s boyfriend, Dallas, is having a party.”

Her lips twisted with indifference and she puffed out a breath of air through her nose. “You’re not going anywhere until you restock the bottle of vodka you drained.”

I opened my mouth to protest (she’d drained the damn thing herself), but she shut me down before I had a chance to utter two syllables.

“Save it, Tierra. Get your ass to Dell’s and pick me up another bottle. Stephen is coming over to console me and I want to have something to serve him.”

Kaylee and I had acquired fake I.D’s our sophomore year and we, along with a greater portion of underage teens in the area, had been patronizing Dell’s on a semi-regular basis ever since.

My fingernails dug into my palms, but I remained quiet. Arguing with her, or questioning her willingness to allow another douchebag into the house so soon after her showdown with the last creep, was futile. My mother craved attention from the opposite sex like a crack whore craved her next fix. Didn’t matter if he was low-life scum—if he said the right things and told her she was pretty, she melted like a tube of ChapStick left sitting in a hot car. I’d heard her mention the name Stephen once before, but I’d yet to see his face. Hopefully he wasn’t a violent scumbag like Angelo, because I didn’t plan on hanging around for a second round of “Pound mom’s boyfriend into the ground.”

“Fine,” I muttered beneath my breath as I ushered Kaylee toward the front door. “I’ll be back with your booze in a few.”

Dell’s Liquor sat exactly three blocks away from my house at the back end of Valencia Hills. The owner, Franklin Dell, was a not-so-sharp seventy-two years of age, with cataracts so thick his eyes looked like something out of a sci-fi movie, and skin so wrinkled he could have carried loose change between the folds.

The lot was crawling with people, legal and underage alike. I immediately recognized kids from the popular crowd at both Rosen Prep and Valencia High bustling in and out of the silver-rimmed glass doors. Dallas’s parties always drew a crowd, his guests never failing to bring alcohol to share.

Kaylee pulled her Lexus IS into the lone open slot at the far corner of the lot and wasted no time in plucking her lip-gloss out of the tiny wristlet she’d stashed inside the center console. Kaylee didn’t need makeup any more than I did, but that didn’t stop her from slicking a fresh layer of petal-pink gloss over her lips.

Her naturally white-blond hair hung in long layers over her slender frame and always managed to look perfect no matter how windy or temperamental the weather was. Full black lashes decorated a pair of expressive gray eyes that sat in perfect contrast to smooth, alabaster skin she fought hard to protect from the sun. Girlfriend enjoyed a good dose of Vitamin D as much as I did, but come summer, she didn’t go anywhere without her SPF 90 sunscreen. She obsessively reapplied every two hours, insisting the battle against wrinkles should be waged at an early age.

Dressed in a short, body-hugging mini-skirt and a slinky red satin top with matching heels, she was Sleeping Beauty to my Snow White. I totally got why guys—including her boyfriend Dallas—threw themselves at her on a regular basis. If I were a dude, I’d be all up on that too. We were hot.

Kaylee was a perfectionist, which meant we might be in the car for a while, so I flipped down the passenger visor and surveyed my reflection. Girlfriend had done a bang-up job on my hair. Every bit as long as Kaylee’s, it hung shiny and smooth across my chest and shoulders, the subtle scent of vanilla floating up from the ends she’d sprayed with her special hair perfume. My lips were coated in rosy-pink lipstick that complemented the color on my cheeks, while several coats of mascara made my green eyes pop.

“Let me know when you’re done staring at the masterpiece I created,” she quipped from the driver’s seat. “The sooner we sate your mom’s vodka craving, the sooner we can get to D’s. I’d like to spend some time with him before he gets smashed.”

I pressed the visor back into place, not bothering to comment that I’d been waiting on her. I understood where her worry was coming from, and with a nod, we exited the car.

Ignoring several hoots and hollers from a rowdy group of underclass boys who I was positive Dallas would never allow into his house, Kaylee and I scurried across the lot and through the glass doors.

Tacky red tinsel decorated every inch of the place. Large signs that read “Santa’s Coming!” and “Ho! Ho! Ho!” swung gently from the ceiling, the sound of Eartha Kitt’s Santa Baby blaring from the surrounding speakers. We’d made it all of five feet inside the store when a high-pitched “Kaylee!” stopped me in my tracks. My body stiffened, and the inside of my skin felt like a horde of pyromaniacs taking turns torching me from the inside out. Vivianne Dahl, or “Vivi,” as most people called her, was the last person I wanted to run into, but one I knew I couldn’t escape.

Calling on every acting skill I’d ever learned in Ms. Gardinsky’s class, I plastered a warm smile across my face and turned toward the sound of her grating voice.

Dressed in a skintight tangerine dress that complemented her entirely fake tan and barely covered her derriere, she came at Kaylee, gold bangles jangling as she pulled her into a hug. “Oh my God! You look AMAZING! Dallas is going to blow his load the minute he lays eyes on you.”

Kaylee’s eyes widened, and she flashed me a sidelong glance that clearly conveyed a desperate “Help!”

“Well, I’m not sure about that, but thank you,” she said, carefully maneuvering out of Vivi’s too-tight embrace.

As if just realizing I’d been standing alongside them the entire time, Vivi regarded me with a half-hearted smirk, and an unexcited-sounding, “Tierra.”

It didn’t matter how pretty or popular I was, or that I’d been best friends with Kaylee since our freshman year, Vivi made it clear each time she saw me that she thought I was unworthy—beneath her. Heir to the My Friendz empire (Vivi’s dad was the social-media genius who launched the popular site), Vivianne Dahl had more money than God. She made Kaylee’s family look destitute in comparison.

Rosen Preparatory, the swanky, elitist school that graced the northern border of Valencia Hills, had booted her from their campus the middle of our freshman year after catching her giving the senior class president a blow job in the boy’s locker room.

Apparently, money could buy everything but class.

Loud, brash, and perfectly content to buy people’s allegiance, she’d quickly established her role as the not-so-literal queen of Valencia High, which made Kaylee her unwilling minion, and therefore, by proxy, me as well. I was tolerated because of my pretty face, my connection to Kaylee, and my participation in the drama program. Vivi might be ugly inside and out, but she had the voice of an angel and sang lead in the school choir. Had I shown any interest in singing, she’d have done everything she could to squash me like the tiny bug she thought I was.

In short, Vivi was a bitch of heinous proportions, and I secretly couldn’t stand her. Unfortunately, for me to keep up the facade of perfection I’d created over the past several years, Vivi was a necessary evil. I needed to tolerate her as well, if I was to keep up my ruse.

Carefully crafting an excited smile, I inhaled a quick breath and kissed her ass. “Love the dress, Vivi.”
I deserved a freaking Oscar.

Vivi sneered at me with a plasticized grin before turning her focus back to Kaylee. She started yammering on about Dallas’s party and how she and Tommy Silva made plans to meet up later.

That was my cue to leave. Vivi harbored a long-standing crush on my grabby ex-kissing buddy and made zero effort to hide the fact she believed I’d been a huge waste of his time. Vivi didn’t know about my rules. She had no clue Tommy and I weren’t an actual couple and that I couldn’t care less what she thought about our little fling. Regardless, I didn’t see the need to sit stationed along her side like a bookend while she openly lusted over the boy who’d told everyone at school I’d given him head in the backseat of his car.

Truthfully, I didn’t give a crap about Tommy. But I did care about the lies he spread. I ascribed to a simple motto: talk about me all you want, just make sure the shit you say is true. Liars and gossipmongers had no place in my life and were summarily cut off the moment I discovered their offense. With, of course, the exception of Vivi. I was forced to endure Her Royal Suckiness regardless of how much I disliked her.

The things we do to survive our high school years.

Catching the corner of Kaylee’s eye, I jabbed a thumb over my shoulder signaling my intent to escape and grab my mom’s booze. I didn’t bother to wait for a response. I clacked my way down the nearest aisle, squeezing between a tall businessman in a suit carefully reading the label on a bottle of Crown, and a four-hundred-pound beast bent at the waist, crack exposed for the entire world to see while his hand bounced back and forth between a bottle and a box of wine.

I raised a brow and did my best to stifle a laugh.

My mom’s vodka was on the next aisle over. Eager to get what I wanted so I could get the hell out of Dell’s and away from Vivi, I turned the corner and grinded to a shaky halt.

It felt like I’d been hit by a wrecking ball. Were my eyes deceiving me? Was … was I really seeing … Mattie?

The past three-and-a-half years melted away. My legs turned to mush, the air whooshed out of my lungs, and I’d apparently lost the ability to both hear and speak, because it wasn’t until a pair of hands darted in front of my vision that I was able to comprehend the fact Marcie Hanover was talking to me.

“Tierra! Hello! Anybody in there?”

I didn’t want to look away. I wanted to sprint forward, to make sure my traitor eyes weren’t playing some sort of cruel trick on me. He was here. In Valencia Hills.

God … He’d grown, changed. And yet he was still the same in so many ways. An inch or two over six feet in height, with broad shoulders that sat atop a chest that had packed on a decent amount of muscle over the past three years, he was no longer the lanky boy I once knew, but a man.

A faded black T-shirt decorated a set of strong arms cut with long, sinewy muscle, and the way it hugged his torso made it painfully obvious he worked out on a regular basis. He wasn’t monster-sized like Dallas, but he was fit, and it showed in the way his jeans hung off his narrow hips just the right way.

Then there was his face. Much like the rest of him, his face was refined, had grown more handsome with time. Strong cheekbones, a well-defined jaw and full lips decorated a face that belonged on a magazine. And those eyes. So big. So expressive. One look and you’d be lost in their sky-blue depths for all eternity.

“Tierra Owens!”

It took everything in me not to growl at her. What was Marcie’s deal? Why wouldn’t she get a clue and walk away?

“Is it true, what I’m hearing?” Marcie asked. “Are Tommy and Vivi really going to hook up at Dallas’s party tonight?” Thick, black eyeliner rimmed Marcie’s small brown eyes, her fire-engine-red lips opening and closing at breakneck speed as she chomped away on a large piece of gum.

Every cell in my body screamed for me to pinch her lips together to stop her spot-on imitation of a cow chewing its cud. Seriously? Why was she asking me about Vivi and Tommy? I’d dumped his ass. Vivi could do whatever she wanted with him, which probably wouldn’t be much. Tommy had told me more than once he thought Vivi was a ratchety ho with control issues. I had a feeling Vivi was telling stories about something that would never happen.

I frowned. Marcie was a damn busybody and an insufferable gossip. And she was trying to get a reaction out of me. A reaction I didn’t have the time or patience for. Not when he was here.

I gave my lip-smacking pest a half-hearted shrug and my trademark false smile. “Don’t know.” She’d moved so that she stood in front of me, directly blocking my view of—

“No!” I said beneath my breath, panicked that I was no longer able to see him. Had he left? Had I missed my chance to see if it was really him? It had been three-and-a-half years, but I would know that face anywhere.

“Sorry, Marcie. I have to go.” I brushed past her without giving her a second glance and rushed through the crowded aisle toward the back corner of the store. He couldn’t have gone far. I panned the area with no luck. There were too many people crowding the narrow aisle. I rushed forward and hugged the cool freezer door, craning my neck in an effort to see around a large group of Hispanic boys who, for whatever reason, felt like it was a good idea to horse around inside the store.

There! At the counter. I could just make out the top of his head. His brown hair was different now. He wore it short all over with bits and pieces sticking up every which way in the front.

Bing Crosby’s White Christmas blasted from the speakers, nearly drowning out the noise of the store. That, combined with the rowdy group of boys and a round of howling laughter one aisle over, prompted me to raise my voice. “Mattie!”

I halted mid-step. What was I doing? I never chased after boys. Ever. And I sure as hell never hollered a boy’s name like a desperate girlie girl. I was breaking all kinds of rules, but for whatever reason, I didn’t care. Mattie was different. Mattie was the only person, aside from Kaylee, I’d ever completely trusted. The only boy I’d ever given my heart to.

Ignoring the voice inside my head that screamed for me to turn around and run in the opposite direction, I stepped away from the freezer door. Muttering a polite “excuse me,” I tried to brush past the group of boys who were giggling like schoolgirls and pointing in different directions. One of them held a camcorder and wore a bright green Santa hat on his head. Another one held a gallon of milk in each hand. Not only were they completely in my way, they were up to no good.

“Mattie!” Godammit. I shook my head and frowned. I’d yelled for him again. What had come over me? It was like the moment I’d seen him I’d lost all control of myself. And what was his deal? Why wasn’t he turning around? Couldn’t he hear me? Yes, it was noisy inside the store, but I had a set of pipes on me that would stop traffic.

It was him. It had to be. The same warm, tingling sensation that used to bubble up from deep inside my stomach any time he entered a room nearly stole my breath away. He was the only boy who’d ever had that type of effect on me. I wasn’t wrong. Mattie Forrester was here. In Dell’s!

The gangly boy with the camcorder bobbed and weaved in time with me, blocking my path every time I tried to scoot around him. A tiny red light blared from the top of his video recorder, and it took me a moment to realize he was filming.

“Move, jerk!” I hissed. “Let me by.” My gaze darted to the front of the store. Was he still there? Had he left?

Ignoring my obvious displeasure, the boy flashed me a dimply smile, eyeballed me from head to foot, and shook his head. “Slow your roll, chica. A pretty girl like you in the background of my video is just what I need. This shit’s gonna go viral come morning.”

I scrunched my face up in confusion. Viral? What the hell was he talking about?

He held up a hand and muttered a low, “Wait for the old dude to round the corner.” I opened my mouth only to snap it shut two seconds later. The skinny jackass had taken up too much of my precious time already. A real life blast from my past was standing a mere twenty feet away and I had to get to him. Like, now.

I stepped forward, hand raised, ready to shove the James Cameron wannabe out of my way, when one of his boys grabbed me by the waist and pulled me backward toward the center of the long aisle.

“What the—?”

It happened in super slow-mo. A little old man with a bad case of osteoporosis and a bright red Christmas sweater stretched tight over a hump that would have made Quasimodo sympathetic turned the corner into the aisle.

Several loud squeaks tore my attention from the old man to the boy who carried the milk in each of his hands. Rubber-soled sneakers eating into the cracked tile, he stumbled forward, flung the milk up like he’d slipped on something, and ceremoniously fell on his ass.

Milk spattered everywhere.

All over the old man’s polyester pants.

All over the tile floor and glass refrigerator doors.

And all over me.

FML. I’d been positive my night couldn’t get any worse. How wrong I’d been. I glanced over my shoulder toward the front of the store, my shoulders falling, a hollow ache forming in my chest. Not only had I become an unwilling participant in a ridiculous “gallon smash” video, but I’d missed my chance to reconnect with the only boy I’d ever had real feelings for. Mattie was gone.

Author Bio:
ELISA DANE is a self-proclaimed book junkie. A lover of handbags, chocolate, and reality television, she's a proud mother to three All- Star cheerleaders. Writing is her absolute passion, and it's her mission to create stories that will not only take you on a romantic journey that will warm your heart, but help you find a new respect and interest in the sport of All-Star cheerleading.

Elisa is no stranger to the publishing world. She writes steamy paranormal romance under her real name, Lisa Sanchez. Her adult works include the Hanford Park series (Eve Of Samhain, Pleasures Untold, and Faythe Reclaimed), Obsessed (an erotic suspense), and a paranormal novella, Cursing Athena. Elisa lives in Northern California with her husband, three daughters, and a feisty Chihuahua who stubbornly believes she's human.


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