Pre-Release Spotlight and Giveaway! TARGET ENGAGED by M.L. Buchman (Delta Force #1)

I’m reading this one right now–so good! Review to come :)


A Note from M.L. Buchman

Dear Reader,

Welcome to my newest series: the first women of Delta Force. I can’t begin to tell you how much fun this was to write.

Most of us know little more about Delta Force than the Chuck Norris movies (which leave a lot to be desired) or perhaps we only know the name. In researching my Night Stalkers series, I kept running into these guys. They are the elite of Special Operations Forces. They are at a level of SEAL Team 6, and most would argue they were even beyond that. They are the ghost and shadow warriors who helped take down drug lord Pablo Escobar, capture Noriega, were undoubtedly behind the locating of Saddam Hussein, and are the main reason that Al-Qaeda abruptly stopped being a topic in the Iraq War when over three thousand of their leaders were swept off the board.

Yet the Pentagon states that they don’t exist. Fascinating.

And while they often work with undercover female operatives, no woman has yet managed to kick in the front door on one of the most arduous selection programs in the military.

I decided to change that.

Carla Anderson stepped forward to take the challenge. She is a not a woman out to prove she can match any man, she’s out to prove that she can beat them at their own game. And that was the first thing that I loved about writing this series.

In the Night Stalkers, the women were strong, excellent, and determined.

To be a Delta Force woman, Carla had to add enough attitude and drive to plow through all obstacles which just made her so much fun. Nothing was off the table when it came to her attitude or her actions.

And that was the second thing I came to love about this series launcher, Target Engaged. Being Delta Force, they really do operate outside so many bounds. They are sent to do the tasks that no one else can. To that I added the additional challenge that Robert Ludlum gave to Jason Bourne (though I’m quoting the movie): “I don’t send you to kill. I send you to be invisible. I send you because you don’t exist.” I’m pretty convinced that this is part of Delta’s mission.

It is occasionally said by retired Delta Force operators (as the on-duty ones never speak): “If we’d been sent in to take down bin Laden, you still wouldn’t know how it was done.” To bring that to life gave me a permission as a writer to run my characters into hard and strange places and be just a little gonzo doing it.

But writing is a give and take, and I can’t begin to tell you how much the characters I created shaped my telling of this story. I like to think that they had as much fun as I did bringing this story to life.

I hope that you enjoy the reading even half as much as I enjoyed the writing!

M.L. Buchman (the Oregon Coast, November 2015)


Get to know the Carla, and the entire Delta Force team by reading the first SIX chapters of TARGET ENGAGED for free! Just click here to download them! To get you started, we’ve included the first few pages below:

Title: Target Engaged
Series: Delta Force, #1
Author: M.L. Buchman
ISBN: 9781492619222

Book 1 in M.L. Buchman’s thrilling NEW Delta Force series!

Delta Force: The most dangerous elite counter-terrorism force on the planet

  • The deadliest shooters •
  • The most out-of-the-box thinkers in any military •
  • Will die to get the mission done •

Sergeant Kyle Reeves: The premier soldier of the new recruits

Sergeant Carla Anderson: The first woman of Delta Force

If the training doesn’t kill them, their passion may—but Kyle Reeves and Carla Anderson blast right in. Show no fear. Have no fear. Then they get the call. The most powerful drug-smuggling ring in Venezuela needs a takedown, and Delta’s newest team leaps into the deep jungle to deliver. Giving their all? Not a problem. Giving their hearts? That takes a new level of courage.


Author information:Matt Buchman_3

M. L. Buchman has over 40 novels in print. His military romantic suspense books have been named Barnes & Noble and NPR “Top 5 of the Year,” nominated for the Reviewer’s Choice Award for “Top 10 Romantic Suspense of 2014” byRT Book Reviews,and twice Booklist “Top 10 of the Year” placing two of his titles on their “The 101 Best Romance Novels of the Last 10 Years.” In addition to romance, he also writes thrillers, fantasy, and science fiction.

In among his career as a corporate project manager he has: rebuilt and single-handed a fifty-foot sailboat, both flown and jumped out of airplanes, designed and built two houses, and bicycled solo around the world.

He is now making his living as a full-time writer on the Oregon Coast with his beloved wife. He is constantly amazed at what you can do with a degree in Geophysics. You may keep up with his writing by subscribing to his newsletter at





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New Release and Giveaway! MERITROPOLIS by Joel Ohman (Meritropolis #1)

Joel Ohman
(Meritropolis, #1)
Publication date: September 8th 2014
Genres: Dystopia, Young Adult

In Meritropolis everyone is assigned a numerical Score that decides their worth to society and whether they live or die. After a young boy is killed because of a low Score, his brother plots to take down the System.

The year is AE3, 3 years after the Event. Within the walls of Meritropolis, 50,000 inhabitants live in fear, ruled by the brutal System that assigns each citizen a merit score that dictates whether they live or die. Those with the highest scores thrive, while those with the lowest are subject to the most unforgiving punishment–to be thrust outside the city gates, thrown to the terrifying hybrid creatures that exist beyond.

But for one High Score, conforming to the System just isn’t an option. Seventeen-year-old Charley has a brother to avenge. And nothing–not even a totalitarian military or dangerous science–is going to stop him.

Where humankind has pushed nature and morals to the extreme, Charley is amongst the chosen few tasked with exploring the boundaries, forcing him to look deep into his very being to discern right from wrong. But as he and his friends learn more about the frightening forces that threaten destruction both without and within the gates, Meritropolis reveals complexities they couldn’t possibly have bargained for…

Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble

Meritropolis is a bestselling YA dystopian that has been in the top 100 in the entire Kindle store for multiple days. It has over 100 5-star reviews on Amazon as well as great reviews from Kirkus, Clarion, MBR, and others! Grab your copy today!


“Easier Said Than Outrun”

Charley crouched, motionless, willing himself not to blink. A bead of sweat bubbled across his eyebrow and clung to his eyelash: a warm and salty droplet hanging like a swollen piece of fruit, overripe and ready to fall. He stared straight ahead, eyes wide open; to move now would be disastrous.

The thing stopped, ears twitching. Charley willed himself not to make a sound, but was suddenly aware of the faint scent of his own sweat; he wondered whether the creature could smell it, too. He had been following it for half of the afternoon. By this point, the thing should have had ample opportunity to scent him, given Charley’s quite rudimentary tracking prowess, but it hadn’t yet. Each time Charley drew close enough to chance a shot with his bow—and he knew he would only have just one shot—the thing capered off, leading Charley even deeper into the brush.

Charley found it maddening how fast its four legs could move; the bushy forelegs of pillowy grey-white fur made it seem as immobile, docile, and non-threatening as a sheep. But, as Grigor had instructed earlier, to underestimate a llamabill was to invite disaster.

Charley reached over his head, slowly, and withdrew an arrow from his sheath.

The profile of the llamabill shifted slightly, revealing great big haunches of what Charley hoped would be today’s dinner, as well as the severe-looking face of a shoebill bird. Its body, with the exception of the incongruent webbed feet and feathery wings, was almost entirely reminiscent of a llama: big, wooly, and slightly ridiculous. The head, however, was no laughing matter. The wide shoe-shaped bill could decapitate a fully-grown man with one well-placed chomp. A standard shoebill stork is not a bird to be trifled with, at three-feet tall and a weight of ten pounds, let alone when it’s six-feet tall and a weight of 400 pounds with the body of an agile llama.

Charley notched the arrow and pulled back slowly.

He hated to do it, really he did. He didn’t enjoy the killing, but the truth of the matter was quite simple: they needed food, badly.

Charley steeled his resolve and dipped his head slightly downwards to his right shoulder while closing his left eye. He sighted in on the creature, aiming for the spot where its long wooly neck met its substantially muscled left shoulder. He reconsidered, tipping his bead slightly higher to avoid the feathery wing that jutted incongruently from the llamabill’s great side.

The muscles in Charley’s forearms stood out like corded bands. He held the bow drawn back all the way without wavering. He inhaled through his nose, and then expelled the air slowly through pursed lips, attempting to quiet his beating heart. He would release the arrow upon a full exhale, and in between heartbeats, just as Grigor had trained him.

It was as good of a shot as he would ever get. Charley didn’t really have to do anything, now. He just needed to relax the three fingers of his string hand, and the llamabill, still standing motionless, would be dead, motionless forever.

But he paused.

A glimmer of uncertainty, a pang of conscience—and for what? he wondered—it was just an animal.

The llamabill turned to look directly at him, its prehistoric eyes glinting sharply as they focused in on Charley.

A cold shiver crept up Charley’s spine. He had waited too long, and he knew it. The droplet of sweat plummeted from his eyelash, and Charley released the arrow. It went wild left, and the creature went wild right—directly at Charley.

The llamabill opened its enormous bill and screamed a challenge. For a moment, it looked like an anachronism to even more savage times, a winged dinosaur on the rampage.

Charley did the normal human thing first, and then the normal trained hunter thing second. He froze. Then he ran.


Author Bio:

Joel Ohman is the author of the Meritropolis series –“The Hunger Games meets The Village with a young Jack Reacher as a protagonist”. He lives in Tampa, FL with his wife Angela and their three kids. His writing companion is Caesar, a slightly overweight Bull Mastiff who loves to eat the tops off of strawberries.

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New Release Review! WAIT FOR ME by Sarah Mayberry (The Outback Bachelor Ball #3)

Wait For Me
by Sarah Mayberry


Sometimes it pays to wait for the things you want, even if it’s the hardest thing you ever do.

Beth Walker hasn’t just been burned by her philandering country music star ex, she’s been barbecued to a crisp. Coming home to Australia and into the arms of her best friends is exactly the balm she needs. Cocktails and laughter at an Outback Bachelor and Spinster Ball seem like the perfect distraction. Until she bumps into the last person she wants seeing her heartsick and pathetic — Jonah Masters, rising country music star and witness to the failure of her marriage. If only she’d met Jonah first. Now she’s broken and won’t ask him to wait until she heals.

Jonah can’t believe he and Beth are finally standing under the same stars. The connection they shared on the road years ago has haunted him but he wouldn’t pursue a married woman. Now she’s free, and Jonah can’t refuse the one night Beth impulsively offers. Can he convince the woman he’s always loved that he’ll wait — however long it takes — for her trust?



Oh my gosh–so, so good! I enjoyed reading all three books in the Outback Bachelor Ball series, but Beth’s story? Made me weepy and very, very happy–somehow at the same time. Just lovely!

All three friends in the series–Ellie, Jen, and Beth–have their own reasons for wanting to give up on love. Beth, though, is the only one whose reasons are also tabloid fodder. Her husband’s betrayal cut deep, and made her doubt herself trust seem an impossibility. She’s got her two best friends, and that’s all she needs.

Until she runs into her old friend Jonah Masters. Ashamed and feeling like a shell of her old self, Beth tries to avoid him.

But Jonah sees her, and he’ll have none of that. He was drawn to Beth the first time they met, but she was married so he never allowed himself to think beyond friendship. Her divorce should mean she’s available, but Beth’s heart just isn’t ready. But that’s okay, because Jonah’s a patient guy. He’ll wait…

I adored Jonah Masters, my new country music singing boyfriend. Beth’s right, he does seem almost too perfect–except when he points out that he drinks milk right out of the bottle, gets impatient when he’s tired, and hates crying babies.

Yeah, he’s pretty much perfect.

And, fortunately, perfect for Beth. Even though she doesn’t really ask him to “wait for me”, Jonah does.

And it’s totally worth it.

Wait For Me is the final book in the series, but it would function fine as a standalone if needed. All three books work so well together, though–and allow you to see each of the three friends’ much-deserved HEAs–that I strongly recommend reading all three.

Consider them the Lay’s chips of romance novellas–it’s hard to read just one :)

Rating: 4 1/2 stars / A

I received a complimentary copy in exchange for an honest review.

View all my reviews

Author Heather Long and UNTAMED WOLF’S Dylan Royce Discuss the Care and Feeding of Omegas (For DESERT WOLF’s Release Day and Giveaway!)


The Care and Feeding of Omegas


In Bayou Wolf, Cassius met with Serafina in private in order to ask about borrowing Sovvan. 

In Untamed Wolf, Dylan Royce found himself confronted by a different type of wolf—one who didn’t always listen or follow the rules. One who grew very distracted when she was hungry, and one, as it turned out, who had a very special gift.

Chrystal is an Omega—a very special type of wolf in the world of Willow Bendso I asked Dylan to stop by and fill you in on what he learned after he and Chrystal went to Delta Crescent to study with Sovvan, the Delta Crescent Omega.

Dylan: Thanks for having me today, although I’m not really sure why you wanted me when we’re going to be talking about Cassius.

Me: Not talking about Cassius precisely, even if he is the hero of the tale…

Dylan: Last time I checked, he was a jerk, not a hero.

Me: Last time you checked, you were a playboy and not a happily mated wolf.

Dylan: Point.

Me: So, work with me?

Dylan: Sure, why not. What do you need to know?

Me: We’re here to discuss the care and feeding of an omega.


Dylan: Seriously?

Me: Yes.

Dylan: An omega isn’t a pet.

Me: I’m aware of that.

Dylan: Then why do you have a subject like that? It sounds like you’re talking about the care and feeding of your chinchilla.

Me: It’s a basic subject, but I know it’s more complicated—hence me talking to you.

Dylan: Uh huh. I almost want to go back to discussing jerk heroes.

Me: *laughs* We can, but I think we should discuss omegas.

Dylan: It’s your quarter.

Me: More like my four bucks, but we’re digressing… Before you met Chrystal, had you ever met an omega?

Dylan: Nope.

Me: Heard about them?

Dylan: Not really.

Me: So, she’s your first?

Dylan *grins* In so many ways.

Me: *coughs* Stay on target. She is the one with the shiny object issues.

Dylan: She is, but not to the same extent as she was when we met.

Me: Would you say it’s the mating her or training that has helped her focus more?

Dylan: It’s her—oh, I see what you did there. It’s her eating habits. *he mimes a half bow* She didn’t eat as well before she met me. In fact, I don’t think she understood how much wolves need and burn in the terms of calories.

Me: All wolves? Or is there something peculiar about the omegas?

Dylan: *shrugs* All wolves need to eat a high calorie diet. Shifting requires a lot of energy. Chrystal didn’t grow up around other wolves, and she didn’t understand the caloric intake. That said…yes, she does tend to become a little more unfocused when she’s hungry.

Me: You took her to Delta Crescent to spend time with another Omega?

Dylan: *nods*

Me: Can you share a little of what you learned?

Dylan: I could, but I won’t.

Me: Why not?

Dylan: Because omegas are precious, and who knows what you want to do with the information…

Me: I know they’re precious, and I know how important Chrystal is to you, I promise. I’m not going to use the information to harm them.

Dylan: You do realize I’ve been written by you.

Me: Of course.

Dylan: So, not telling. *folds arms* Omegas are all different. Precious but different. So, yes, you should feed them and take care of them.

Me: Were you always this stubborn?

Dylan: Yep.

Me: If you could give one piece of advice for someone who may never have experienced an omega before, what would it be?

Dylan: Be prepared to be amazed.

Me: I like that… Does Chrystal still amaze you?

Dylan: Every single day.

If you want to know more of Dylan’s story, check out Untamed Wolf. To learn more about Omegas, don’t miss Desert Wolf.

Untamed-199x300          DesertWolf2400

Title: Desert Wolf   
Author: Heather Long
Series: Wolves of Willow Bend #8
Genre: Paranormal/Shifter Romance
Release Date: November 24th, 2015
Publisher: Self-Published
Print Length: 90K
Format: Paperback and Digital
Print ISBN: 978-1-517315-795
Digital ISBN: 978-1-310000-867



Cassius, Alpha of Sutter Butte, leads the most ruthless and dangerous pack in the United States. A pack comprised of misfits who didn’t fit in their previous packs, cast offs discarded by their packs and forgotten wolves who rose to create a pack more than a century before in utter defiance of the order of the day. Sometimes pitiless and cruel, he wants more for his people than a yearly bloodbath as they fight for a new place, a better spot in the pecking order. To change his pack, means to change himself and he will find rebellion on all sides, not the least of which is his own defiant heart.

Sovvan Stark, Omega of Delta Crescent, lives a cherished, beloved life in the center of her pack, a delicate and hard won balance. Though she is not the only Omega, she is the most experienced with the tremors of pack upset when power shifts from Alpha to Alpha. When her Alpha approaches her about Sutter Butte’s request, Sovvan considers the matter for several long months. While she might hold within her the key to helping the Sutter Butte Alpha, the undertaking could very well kill her.

Accompanied by a single Hound, Sovvan begins a journey to help Cassius rebuild the foundation of his pack, but first she will have to transform him…

Find out more at: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | iBooks | ARe


An Excerpt from DESERT WOLF:

Heat rolled in waves from the blacktop of the old highway. Around him, the desert sprawled in its painted glory, seemingly melting into the horizon where it kissed the sky. The colors streaked past him as he accelerated, blowing past the old trading posts and bypassing the interstate with its smoother surface and promise of civilization in the distance. If one sought to journey through the decades, the old highway east of Holbrook was the place to start.

Sweat slicked his back beneath the leather jacket and the motorcycle vibrated between his thighs. Clocking over a hundred, he barely noticed the machine’s growl echoing his wolf’s. Cassius Lucera del Alba, Alpha of Sutter Butte squinted to catch sight of the town he sought ahead.

Though town was a generous description for the collection of ramshackle structures—of which a filling station with a decrepit market attached and a lone bar were clearly detailed. Time hadn’t forgotten the town, it had left it in the dust by doing a hundred and sixty and never looked back. If the location had a name, no map detailed it, not even Google. The poor bastards didn’t even have a ghost to call their own.

Though they might when he finished.

He didn’t slow until he reached the main drag, all eighty-five feet of it and parked his bike in front of the bar. A handful of vehicles were scattered amongst the cracked pavement and gravel. Three he recognized, two he didn’t. Like the bar, the cars were in sad shape and far more popular in earlier decades. Killing the engine, he dropped the kickstand and slid off his baby. Road dust coated her paint and chrome. With a stroke of his gloved hand over the seat, he promised her a bath later.

Leaving the bike, he strode toward the building. No one moved outside, but one wolf stood inside the filling station. He was a smart wolf, he’d spotted Cassius, yet didn’t reach for a phone or make any move other than retrieving his newspaper and flipping it open.

Inside, the cool air rushed over his sweaty face like a sweet kiss. The scents of stale beer, body odor, remnants of the blood spilled throughout the years, and fear stained the experience. The population of the bar—easily a dozen wolves though Cassius scented at least four more in the back—glanced up from their places scattered around the room. Three played pool, four others huddled around a card game while the rest sat in various spots including two at the bar drinking. A couple in the corner paused with her hand down his pants. The bartender—a tall, broad wolf with a balding pate and a world-weary expression raised his eyebrows in silent inquiry.

“Beer. Cold.” Cassius said, and the bartender nodded. A moment later, he set a tall bottle of Corona on the weathered bar top. The sides frosted and a hint of vapor escaped the top. Condensation formed almost immediately on the sides, slicking along the glass in rivulets.

Stripping off his fingerless gloves first. Cassius set them on the bar. Next, he peeled off his jacket. The old leather moulded him perfectly after the many years he spent wearing it. Only after setting it on the bar next to his gloves did he peel off three one hundred dollar bills and lay them next to the bottle. The bartender didn’t say a word as he took the bills, tucked them into his pocket then locked his register and exited through the double doors behind the bar.

Leaning against the aged wood, Cassius swept the room with his gaze. “If any of you are still sitting on your asses, disobeying the direct orders I sent out when I finish this beer, I’ll kill you.” He didn’t raise his voice. Shouting accomplished nothing. Yelling indicated the battle was lost before it began.

Chair legs scraping across the floor splintered the silence. The couple in the corner disengaged. The she-wolf grabbed her purse as she stood. Boots striking the floor punctuated her exodus. No sooner did the door slam shut behind her than the four wolves playing cards toss them down, abandoning their game. The men muttered, but they divvied the pot, then bowed their heads to him one at a time before hurrying out.

Tipping the bottle up, he took a long pull of the cold drink. It soothed his parched throat. One of the pool players threw down his stick. One of the wolves tried to stop him with a hand on his arm, but he shook it off. Then like the other wolves before him, he hurried out the door.

From nearly twenty to only ten—behind feet stomped on the stairs followed by another door slamming. Make that eight. One of the upstairs wolves strode into the bar, and stood in the center of it. Surprise filled his scent at the emptiness in the room. The others waited, their attention divided between Cassius and Finch.

Stupid fucking name for a wolf. Another long pull from his beer, and Cassius was three quarters finished. One by one he met the gazes of the wolves around the room. The smarter ones lowered their eyes immediately, the dumbasses fought to hold his gaze—even Finch.

Focusing on him last, Cassius studied him. Fresh beads of sweat began to trickle along Finch’s cheeks. The wolf swore, then stomped out and slammed the door with enough force, one of the hinges cracked.

Then there were seven.

Other Books in the Wolves of Willow Bend Series:



Prequel is available at Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | ARe


Book 1 is available at Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | iBooks | ARe


Book 2 is available for pre-order at Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | iBooks | ARe


Book 3 is available at Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | iBooks | ARe


Book 3.5 is available at Amazon | Barnes & Noble | ARe | Kobo | iBooks | Google Play


Book 4 is available at Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | iBooks | ARe


Book 5 is available at Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | iBooks | ARe


Book 6 is available at Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | iBooks | ARe


Book 6.5 is available at Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | iBooks 


Book 7 available at Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | iBooks | ARe


Book 7.5 is available at Amazon | Barnes & Noble | ARe | iBooks 



About Heather Long: Heather Long

National bestselling author, Heather Long, likes long walks in the park, science fiction, superheroes, Marines, and men who aren’t douche bags. Her books are filled with heroes and heroines tangled in romance as hot as Texas summertime. From paranormal historical westerns to contemporary military romance, Heather might switch genres, but one thing is true in all of her stories—her characters drive the books. When she’s not wrangling her menagerie of animals, she devotes her time to family and friends she considers family. She believes if you like your heroes so real you could lick the grit off their chest, and your heroines so likable, you’re sure you’ve been friends with women just like them, you’ll enjoy her worlds as much as she does.

Connect with Heather: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon

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November 24th

Archaeolibrarian – I Dig Good Books!  Review

Becky on Books Guest Post + Spotlight + Excerpt

Book Loving Pixies Review + Spotlight + Excerpt

Books & Bells Spotlight + Excerpt

Carole Kittie Reviews Review + Guest Post

Carpe Diem Review

Crystal’s Chaotic Confessions Spotlight + Excerpt

Diane’s Book Blog Review

Em&M Books Review

Evermore Books Spotlight + Excerpt

Happily Ever After Chapter Spotlight + Excerpt

I Smell Sheep Guest Post

JB’s Book Obsession Spotlight + Excerpt

Just Books & Rainne’s Ramblings Interview + Review + Spotlight + Excerpt

Lisa’s Louisiana Home Review + Spotlight + Excerpt

Lynn’s Romance Enthusiasm Review + Spotlight + Excerpt

Mrs.Leif’s Two Fangs About It Book Reviews Spotlight + Excerpt

My Midnight Fantasies Spotlight + Excerpt

My Reading Reality Spotlight + Excerpt

Naughty Book Eden Spotlight + Excerpt

Nicole’s Book Musings  Review + Spotlight + Excerpt

Nikki’s Books Books and More Books Review + Spotlight + Excerpt

Rolo Polo Book Blog Spotlight + Excerpt

Seeing Night Reviews Spotlight + Excerpt

Splashes Into Books Review

T&L Book Reviews Review + Spotlight + Excerpt

The Reading Pile Review

Those Crazy Book Chicks Spotlight + Excerpt

Words Words Words Spotlight + Excerpt

Yearwood Daily Book Review Review

Lauren Smith, Author of THE BITE OF WINTER (Love Bites #1) Talks About Her Inspiration for the Series (with a Release Day Review and Giveaway!)

Zoey is down on her luck, homeless and jobless over Christmas. When she’s attacked in an alley, she’s rescued by two century old Irish vampires named Ian and Connor. It’s up to them to win her heart over Christmas.


The Inspiration for The Love Bites Series- Lauren Smith

I love reading paranormal romances and I’ve been wanting to write a series for a long time about sexy vampires. There are a lot of dark paranormals on the market with edgy action scenes and gritty adventures, which I love reading. But I realized there was a big lack of what I’m calling the softer sensual paranormals. With my Love Bites series, I’m offering readers a fun little series of novella length paranormal romances that gives them a sweeter, but still sexy as heck.

Paranormal romances can be very fun when they’re dark and brooding, but half the fun of vampires, shifters, fae and all those other fun supernatural creatures is how interesting they can be when tossed into a normal world like ours. So rather than have readers immerse themselves into a supernatural world they aren’t familiar with, I present readers with a world they know and live in, and show them how entertaining and often hilarious supernatural creatures can be.

So for example, rather than right a vampire fight scene with blood and gore, you get to read about a Vampire who is over 200 years old trying to figure out how to buy a modern sensible human woman some sexy lingerie. Or you might have two alpha male vampires building insanely intricate gingerbread castles in order to impress their human female lover. If you love how these scenarios might turn out, then you’ll love taking a bite out of the Love Bites series this winter.


About Lauren Smith:Lauren_Smith_2014

Amazon Best-Selling Author Lauren Smith is an attorney by day, author by night, who pens adventurous and edgy romance stories by the light of her smart phone flashlight app. She’s a native Oklahoman who lives with her three pets: a feisty chinchilla, sophisticated cat and dapper little schnauzer. She’s won multiple awards in several romance subgenres including being an Breakthrough Novel Award Quarter-Finalist and a Semi-Finalist for the Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley Award.

Connect with Lauren: Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon




Zoey Blake is about as far down on her luck as she can get. A car crash took her parents, leaving her destitute and on the street. When she’s attacked by another homeless person, her lifeblood drains away as her fading vision is filled with the face of a handsome stranger.

Ian Kennedy, a century old Irish vampire, never could resist rescuing a stray. As a few drops of his blood heals Zoey’s wounds, he realizes she’s a sweet, tempting, flesh-and-blood woman. But there’s one problem. Connor, who made Ian promise decades ago: no more mortal lovers.

After another vampire murdered his soulmate, Connor O’Shea swore never to let a mortal woman pay the price for loving him. Until he feels Zoey’s skin and tastes her lips. She makes him want to break that vow.

Zoey finds herself caught in their web of seduction. But as Christmas draws near and her grief deepens, happiness seems far out of reach. And Ian and Connor join forces to prove their love is sacred, special…and forever.

Warning: This book contains two scorching-hot Irish vampires, one lady with plenty of pluck but zero luck, naughty lingerie, and enough Christmas cheer to redeem even the darkest creatures.


Available at:  Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo

Add The Bite of Winter  to your GOODREADS TBR pile!


This wasn’t quite what I was expecting, but I did end up liking the story quite a bit. Zoey, Ian, and Connor are all sympathetic characters, and I really liked the idea of Zoey being able to bring the centuries-old vampires back to “life” again by bringing a touch of humanity back into their lives. The three of them had some interesting chemistry going on, and watching them prepare for a Christmas together was fun.

And I love that two big, bad, jaded vampires have been adopted by three stray cats. Too adorable.

The one part that was a little questionable is how quickly Zoey went from homeless girl who can’t and won’t depend on or trust anyone and who has been attacked in an alley and left for dead to a girl who is letting two vampires (!) take care of her. Shouldn’t she have been a little less accepting of the whole creatures of the night are actually real and I’m staying with two of them thing? Slightly more freaked out, perhaps? Part of it could be explained away by the whole they-have-glamour idea, but surely not all…?

Overall, though, this was an enjoyable story. I’ll be watching to see what Ms. Smith is going to be doing with the rest of this series.

Rating: 3 1/2 stars / B+

I received a complimentary copy in exchange for an honest review.


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Release Day and Giveaway! THE TRUTH ABOUT HIM by M. O’Keefe (Everything I Left Unsaid #2)

Today we are celebrating the release of THE TRUTH ABOUT HIM by M. O’Keefe. This is the 2nd book in the Everything I Left Unsaid series. Be sure to enter to win the giveaway below!



For fans of Christina Lauren and Jodi Ellen Malpas comes the next novel in M. O’Keefe’s breathtakingly sexy series about a woman called into a journey of the heart, body, and soul.

We played our roles, told each other lies.

But now Dylan is no longer just a mysterious deep voice on the other end of the line. We’re face-to-face and our relationship is very, very real.

We still have secrets—but so much is crystal clear:

The thrilling danger.

The raw, naked desire.

The need to keep feeling the way he makes me feel. Forever.

Dylan is putting up walls, trying to keep me safe, but he can’t shut me out. He has seen my darkness and rescued me. Now it’s my turn, if only he will let me.

The Truth About Him is intended for mature audiences.

The Truth About Him BUY LINKS:
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Everything I Left U#2449548 (3)

Purchase Everything I Left Unsaid:
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Praise for M. O’Keefe’s Everything I Left Unsaid

“Exquisite, thrilling, and toe-curlingly sensual . . . a delicious guilty pleasure I never wanted to end!”New York Times bestselling author Katy Evans

“I am head over heels in love with Everything I Left Unsaid by M. O’Keefe. Everything about this book hits the mark—the exceptional prose, the brilliantly defined characters, the delicious plot, and all the wonderful, dangerous secrets. It’s an absolute must-read keeper-shelf book!”New York Times bestselling author J. Kenner

“I couldn’t put this book down. Annie’s story is heartbreaking, liberating, sweet, and sexy—I want more!”New York Times bestselling author Monica Murphy

“Sweet, sizzling, sexy, and heart-wrenching, Everything I Left Unsaid broke my heart and left me yearning for more.”New York Times bestselling author Megan Hart

“The mystery, the excitement, and not to mention the elusive and very demanding Dylan Daniels will leave you breathless!”New York Times bestselling author Lisa Renee Jones

“O’Keefe is one of the best contemporary romance authors writing today. . . . Elegantly sensual and blisteringly sexual, the story immediately hooks readers and keeps them captivated with help from beautiful writing, complex characters, and a healthy dose of secrets, while a cliffhanger ending will have them eagerly awaiting Book 2. Breathtaking and passionately intense—a must-read.”Kirkus Reviews

“[O’Keefe] moves skillfully into . . . romantic suspense with this excellent series launch. . . . [She] infuses the situation with distinctive life and absorbing detail. Captivating characters and a cliffhanger ending will keep readers coming back for more.”Publishers Weekly

“Beautifully written, this richly detailed storyline, coupled with beguiling and complex characters, takes us on an emotionally charged journey filled with lust, betrayal and secrets. Captivating secondary characters only add fuel to the fire as a chance meeting between two damaged souls opens the doorway to what could be their salvation or personal hell. An incredible cliffhanger only charges your appetite for the sequel.”RT Book Reviews

“Intense . . . O’Keefe has deftly penned a story of hope, growth and courage peopled with complex protagonists. It’s a smorgasbord of visceral emotions.”BookPage



Molly O’Keefe has always known she wanted to be a writer (except when she wanted to be a florist or a chef and the brief period of time when she considered being a cowgirl). And once she got her hands on some romances, she knew exactly what she wanted to write.

She published her first Harlequin romance at age 25 and hasn’t looked back. She loves exploring every character’s road towards happily ever after.

Originally from a small town outside of Chicago, she went to university in St. Louis where she met and fell in love with the editor of her school newspaper. They followed each other around the world for several years and finally got married and settled down in Toronto, Ontario. They welcomed their son into their family in 2006, and their daughter in 2008. When she’s not at the park or cleaning up the toy room, Molly is working hard on her next novel, trying to exercise, stalking Tina Fey on the internet and dreaming of the day she can finish a cup of coffee without interruption.


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Cover Reveal! EXTREME HONOR by Piper J. Drake (True Heroes #1)

Extreme Honor
By Piper J. Drake
Release Date: 1/26/16


David Cruz is good at two things: war and training dogs. The ex-soldier’s toughest case is Atlas, a Belgian Malinois whose handler died in combat. Nobody at Hope’s Crossing kennel can break through the animal’s grief. That is, until dog whisperer Evelyn Jones walks into the facility . . . and into Atlas’s heart. David hates to admit that the curvy blonde’s mesmerizing effect isn’t limited to canines. But when Lyn’s work with Atlas puts her in danger, David will do anything to protect her.

Lyn realizes that David’s own battle scars make him uniquely qualified for his job as a trainer. Tough as nails yet gentle when it counts, he’s gotten closer to Atlas than anyone else—and he’s willing to put his hard-wired suspicion aside to let her do the same. But someone desperate enough to kill doesn’t want Lyn working with Atlas. Now only teamwork, trust, and courage can save two troubled hearts and the dog who loves them both . . .

Book one of the True Heroes series


New Release Review! TRACKS OF HER TEARS by Melinda Leigh (Rouge Winter #1)

(Rouge Winter #1)
by Melinda Leigh



In the first thrilling Rogue Winter Novella, sleepy little Solitude, Oregon, wakes up to another deadly threat.

County investigator Seth Harding intends to spend the holidays with his newly reconciled family, but a few days before Christmas, a homicide thwarts his plan. Seth arrives at the scene and makes a painful discovery: the victim is his brother-in-law’s girlfriend. Her apartment has been ransacked and her toddler left motherless. To make matters worse, Seth’s brother-in-law, Bruce, is missing. With Solitude locked in a rare, deadly deep freeze and the temperature plummeting, the residents launch a desperate search.

Seth calls his wife, social worker Carly Taylor, to take the case so the little girl doesn’t get lost in the foster care system. With the holidays near, Carly brings the child home with them to celebrate Christmas. But when the Taylor farm is also trashed, Seth and Carly must race against time—and against a paralyzing winter storm—to find Bruce and catch a killer in the first pulse-pounding sequel to the Rogue River Novellas.


Tracks of Her Tears is the first novella in a new series, but it is about characters established in a previous one by Melinda Leigh and Kendra Elliott–the Rouge River series. I haven’t read that one (yet–all four books have been added to my TBR!), but I didn’t feel at all lost as I read this one. Somehow Seth and Carly almost managed to feel like old friends even though I hadn’t read either of their previous books (Ms. Leigh’s books focus on them, and Ms. Elliott’s center on Carly’s sister Stevie and Zane, the new police chief). Since this book sets off a new overarching plot arc set in Solitude, Oregon, it’s the perfect place to start.

Tracks of Her Tears was a quick, suspenseful read–reading it was very much like reading an episode of a favorite crime show, and I didn’t have to feel too guilty about taking time out of my weekend of schoolwork to polish it off. (Thank goodness for Thanksgiving break–it definitely cannot come too soon.) I immediately felt caught up in Seth and Carly’s lives as they adjusted to their reconciliation and raced against time and an incoming snowstorm to find Carly’s brother Bruce and figure out who had killed his girlfriend.

Thanksgiving break goals–get caught up on schoolwork and squeeze in book two in the series, Dead in Her Tracks

Rating: 4 stars / B+

I received a complimentary copy in exchange for an honest review.

New Release and Giveaway! THE SECOND CHANCE by Aubrey Parker (Inferno Falls #3)


The Second Chance
Aubrey Parker
(Inferno Falls, #3)
Publication date: November 24th 2015
Genres: New Adult, Romance

He left her alone. Now he’s back … but too much has changed.

Maya grew up with a big heart and even bigger dreams. She never thought she’d end up a single mother spending her whole life where she grew up—the small town of Inferno Falls. But things didn’t work out the way she thought. Grady, her high school love, moved away and left her alone to raise her daughter before the ink dried on their diplomas. Eight years later, Maya’s struggling to make ends meet. And when life gets too tough, she heals the void inside in the only way she knows … whether it’s right or wrong.

But then Grady returns. He’s finally grown homesick after nearly a decade of wandering America, seeing sights and having adventures like Maya always dreamed of—but could never reach for. And Maya holds out hope—more than hope, a need—that Grady is coming home for her, too. It could be just like old times, if she can keep a grip on her bad habits for long enough. Maybe she can finally have the man she’s always wanted, and Kylie can have the father she’s always needed.

Many of us get second chances, but never more than three strikes.

Maya makes the dangerous mistake of assuming everything is just the way it was before, despite the years that have passed. When Grady only wants to make sure they’re not moving too quickly, Maya sees rejection and disaster looms. Rather than preserving a perfect memory, it seems the years have changed them both too much, perhaps, to heal the past. But to earn the love and happiness she’s hunted for so long, Maya won’t merely need to learn to accept Grady … and will have to learn to accept herself, first.

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Previous books in the series:

Teaser 29


It’s amazing how comfortable this all is.

It would be inaccurate to say dinner goes smoothly because these are my parents and they’re always saying or doing something that embarrasses me even when I’m here alone. But considering all the balls in play, it goes far smoother than it has any right to.

Grady has been gone for Mackenzie’s entire life. I haven’t bothered Mac with the details of our past, of course, because it would only burden her, and it’s enough for her to think of Grady as an “old friend.” But my folks know it all. They know how we used to be. They know how we broke up, and how I hooked up with Tommy. Up until that point, I feigned virginity, and even after I pretended that I had no itches in desperate need of scratching. If my parents had their druthers, they’d still think I was snow white, but Tommy left me with evidence to the contrary. Grady might have come off as a saint compared to deviling, sex-mongering Tommy, but my parents still know Grady left me, and how angry I became. I think they shared a lot of that anger, and certainly helped me pull through. They know I was stressed when Grady returned. And if I force myself to think past their often-oblivious appearances, I’m sure they know deep down just how much I want him back.

And yet nobody is showing a sign.

Nothing is awkward.

No one is walking on eggshells. Nobody is acting like they know secrets or like they suspect secrets being harbored against them. There are no signs of old grudges, old feelings left to molder in forgotten corners. My folks could be Grady’s parents, too, the way they keep henpecking him and weaseling his life’s details into the open for quiet, well-meaning judgment.

Dad has thoughts on how to get maximum resale value out of the claptrap truck Grady used to tour the country, away from us.

Mom wants to see photos of all the places he visited while I was sobbing into pillows, raging against Grady, Tommy, and the world.

He accepts it all. I watch him absorb it and love him that much more. All the old feelings are coming back. Even if I wanted to stop them, I couldn’t. I feel myself warming from the bottom up, like a vessel filling with liquid. I start to smile and can’t keep a straight face even when I want to.

I remember how we used to be. How, on two or three separate occasions, he came here with me, playing the good suitor despite his somewhat unfair bad boy reputation, and how afterward I climbed out my window to meet him at the creek, where we made love on the bank. I remember the innocent joy of those evenings — the way the air held the day’s heat, the smell of soil under our blanket, the moon shining its blue light between the branches overhead. I remember the feeling of promise: that there were only good things waiting and that everything would be all right.

A lot has happened since I last felt this way, but it strikes me how curious it is, the way things have come full circle. There was a time of torment and tumult between Grady’s and my innocent days, but that time has passed. I’ve been pregnant and alone, but now I’m a seasoned mother with a family around me. I’ve been angry and frightened, but today I feel happy and (at this table with Grady beside me, at least) secure and content.

We’re no longer seventeen. We no longer have quite as many years ahead of us, and in some important ways, our eyes have been opened to the world’s truths. But that doesn’t mean we can’t pick up where we left off. There’s no reason we can’t still have that future, albeit with a decade lost to time in between.

I watch Mackenzie. She doesn’t know this man, yet she fits with him like the missing piece of a puzzle. And I watch Grady with her, and I see how he’d be as a father. How he could have been as a father. How he is being a father, right here and now.

Yes. I could be happy here.

All the day’s problems feel far away. I don’t want to send my mind out to the things that were bothering me so badly earlier, but in an intellectual way I know they’re there … and yet I don’t care. Whatever is wrong, I have my family. Whatever happens, it will all work out. Whatever goes wrong, Grady will make it right.

I wonder if I’m being stupid all over again. I have no idea how Grady feels, other than the inkling I first got from his text and the impression that’s continued with our shared glances since. Maybe he could love me again. Maybe he never stopped, the way I suppose I never really stopped loving him. Or maybe I’m building a house of cards that could collapse at any time.

It doesn’t matter. Maybe I’m wrong to feel this way. Maybe I’m being an idiot. I simply don’t care. For now, it feels good. For now, I’m happy.

Maybe I’m setting myself up to get hurt all over again.

But tonight it’s a chance I’m willing to take.


Teaser 28


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New Release and Giveaway! UNTIL WE MEET AGAIN by Renee Collins

I reviewed UNTIL WE MEET AGAIN here!

Until We Meet Again
By Renee Collins
Sourcebooks Fire
Young Adult Fiction
November 3, 2015
ISBN: 9781492621164
$16.99 Hard Cover


About the Book:      

They exist in two different centuries, but their love defies time

Country clubs and garden parties. The last thing Cassandra wants is to spend the summer before her senior year marooned in a snooty Massachusetts shore town. Cass craves drama and adventure, which is hard when she just feels stuck.

But when a dreamy stranger shows up on her family’s private beach, claiming that it is his property—and that the year is 1925—Cass is swept into a mystery a hundred years in the making. As she searches for answers in the present, Cass discovers a truth that thrusts Lawrence’s life into jeopardy. It won’t matter which century he is from if he won’t live to see tomorrow.

Desperate to save the boy who’s come to mean everything to her, Cassandra must find a way to change history…or risk losing Lawrence forever.


Purchase Here:

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Praise for Until We Meet Again:

Mystery, romance, time travel, and danger…this one has it all…Suspenseful, poignant, and romantic: well worth the read.” —  Kirkus Reviews

“A hazy, romantic mystery that might appeal to fans of Nicholas Sparks.” —    School of Library Journal

Until We Meet Again is tragically beautiful with twists you won’t see coming.”—Martina Boone, author of Compulsion and the Heirs of Watson Island trilogy

“A beach house, a mystery, and time-travel love make Until We Meet Again a romantic, engaging read.”—Deb Caletti, National Book Award Finalist for Honey, Baby, Sweetheart




The beach is empty. In the fading glow of twilight, the waves roll up to the rocks in sweeping curls of white foam. The sand glistens like wet steel. The grass bends low in the briny night wind. Always changing, yet always the same. I imagine the beach has looked like this since the beginning of time.

Stepping onto the soft terrain, I feel transported to some ancient evening, eons ago. Long before my uncle claimed this land as his own. Long before man even dared to taint these shores.

I wish the fleeting vision was true.

My gaze falls to the full moon’s reflection on the water. It’s broken into shards on the black sea, tossed about with each wave. A small, white shape catches my eye. It’s in the glare of the reflection, so I nearly miss it.

I step into the wave break. A seabird, dead and limp, is rolling back and forth in the foam. Her wings are spread open, her white-and-brown-speckled breast exposed.

I lift the small creature into my palm. What killed her? I wonder. There’s no sign of injury. Did she drown in the sea? Pinching her brittle, fragile leg gently between my fingers, I notice a small metal band snapped around her ankle. The sight of it startles me. Examining it closer, I catch the faint impression of numbers and letters etched into the band, but something in me resists reading them. I can’t say why.

What does it matter, anyhow? The poor creature is dead. And she reminds me that there is no going back. Time howls on, like the wind. And it is not only weaker creatures like this bird that succumb to it. Even the strongest man will fall before its crushing forward push.

I set the bird out into the water. As the tide pulls her away, I accept this truth. Soon the summer will be over. Too soon.


Chapter 1


Date: July 8.

Days at my mom and stepdad’s new summer home: 22

Hours spent at the froufrou country club: 0

Hours spent on the fancy private beach: 0

Hours spent lying on the couch bemoaning my lack of a life: somewhere in the 100s.

Number of times Mom has told me to make some new friends and stop moping around: also somewhere in the 100s.

To paraphrase Shakespeare: Oh, for a muse of fire to convey how utterly and completely bored I am.

Given the circumstances, it should be clear that I have no choice but to try to sneak into my neighbors’ yard and swim in their pool at 2:00 a.m.

My two accomplices are less than ideal. Travis Howard and Brandon Marks are local royalty of this ritzy, historic neighborhood slapped on the coast of Massachusetts’s North Shore. Both have the classic all-American look—tall, sparkling blue eyes, and a crop of blond hair that’s been gelled to scientific levels of perfection. But given the circumstances, they’ll have to do.

Brandon can barely keep pace as we cut along the tailored brush that adorns the Andersons’ back fence. Maybe because he’s too busy shooting nervous glances behind us.

“We’re being followed,” he says.

Travis and I exchange a look.

“Chill out, dude,” Travis says.

I sigh. “Seriously. I didn’t pack my smelling salts, so try not to faint.”

Travis holds out his fist for a bump.

Brandon is resolute. “At the very least, we’re being watched. You think these people don’t have security cameras?”

“No clue,” I say brightly.

“Well, that’s reassuring.”

“I try.”

I probably should have come on my own. Trouble is, I need a pair of hands to boost me over the fence. My little brother, Eddie, couldn’t do it, since he’s three. And for obvious reasons, I couldn’t ask Mom or Frank. That left the only other person I knew here: Travis.

He and I met at a garden party. How bourgeois is that? I was so bored I was ready to claw my eyes out. Then I saw this crazy guy doing a chair dance, to the utter shock of the local hens, and I decided he might be okay. Travis is pretty cool. He reminds me a little of my friend Jade back in Ohio. A delightful troublemaker. Having Travis’s buddy Brandon tagging along, however, has proved to be an unwelcome change of plans.

It’s late, but humidity still hangs in the air. Not as oppressive as during the day, but enough to make the hair against my neck damp. Crickets chirp loudly in the surrounding brush, which makes me uneasy somehow, as if their incessant noise will draw attention to us. As if they’re crying, “Look! Look! Look! Look!” to some unseen guard. Brandon’s nerves must be contagious.

Luckily, I spy the edge of the fence before I can dwell on my uneasiness for too long.

“We made it,” I say.

Gripping the bars, I look for a good spot to grab midway up. Travis helps me with the inspection.

“Right over here,” he says, motioning. “The ground’s a little higher on the other side, and those bushes will break your fall.”

“Nice,” I say, impressed. “You have a lot of experience breaking into private property?”

“Yeah, except we usually go for cash and high-value items. Breaking in to go swimming should be a nice change of pace.”

I smirk and he gives me a Mr. Teen USA wink.

“All right then,” I say. “Hoist me up.”

Brandon steps in between us. “Are we seriously doing this? You know, your stepdad’s house has a huge private beach. If you want to swim so badly, can’t we go there?”

“You’re missing the point, Brandon.”

“You never explained the point.”

“Only a fool asks to understand that which cannot be grasped,” I say, pretending to quote some ancient philosopher.

Travis blinks. “Dude. That was deep.”

“I know, right?” I turn back to Brandon. “See? He gets it.”

“This is really stupid,” Brandon says, unamused.

I pull out my phone. “So, I guess you don’t want to be in the group shot then?”

Travis comes to my side and puts his arm around me. “Sweet! Selfie time.”

I hold out my phone, and he and I make an overly enthusiastic thumbs-up pose.

Brandon folds his arms impatiently across his chest. “Can we get on with this?”

“Well, look who’s eager to have some fun,” I say, giving him a hearty slap on the back. “About time you came aboard.”

Brandon shakes his head and holds out his interlocked hands. Travis stands across from him. Together, they form the perfect ladder. Pushing off of their shoulders, I reach for the top of the fence. One push and my leg tips over the edge.

“Got it!” I shout. Perched on the top of the wall, I survey my target. The pool is lit, even with the Andersons away for the week, and it gleams an appealing turquoise blue in the dark night. If I had time and my stuff, I’d paint the scene. For now, however, an immersive, performance-art type of scenario will have to suffice.

“Let’s do this,” I say, hopping onto the grass below. I land firmly on my feet and unlatch the side gate.

Brandon remains frozen at the threshold. “Cass…”

“Let me guess. You don’t think this is such a good idea.”

Travis laughs. “Seriously, dude, don’t be such a pansy.”

He starts through the gate when Brandon grabs his arm. “Trav. You know why we can’t.”

Travis says nothing, but a shadow crosses his expression. I frown. “What?”

When Travis doesn’t reply, Brandon exhales. “We could go to jail.”

“Oh, don’t be so dramatic—”

“No, seriously. We’re both…kind of on probation.”

He officially has my attention. “Explain.”

Travis shakes his head. “It’s not that big of a deal. Brandon’s freaking out.”

“Then tell me,” I say.

His eyes shift away from mine. “It was me and Brandon and some of the guys from the lacrosse team. One night a few weeks ago, we were a little drunk. It was late. And we sort of…broke into a liquor store.”

Brandon scrambles to explain before I can react. “It wasn’t my idea. We never would have done it—it was really stupid, okay? Anyway, we got caught, but Austin’s dad pulled some strings and got us off with a warning.”

I nod slowly. “I see. So, you got Daddums to skirt the law for you?”

“It’s not like that,” Travis says, but I can tell he’s really embarrassed.

Brandon sighs. “I can’t get into trouble. I’ve got a lacrosse scholarship on the line, and my parents would murder me if I screwed that up. Trav’s the same.”

I’m not sure which is more irritating, the sham justice system in these ritzy areas or the fact that there’s actually a legitimate reason to cut our little excursion short.

I fold my arms. “So after all this, we’re leaving?”

“I never said that,” Travis says, defensive.

Brandon glares. “Don’t be an idiot, Trav. It’s not worth it.”

I can tell by the look Brandon gives Travis that he actually means I’m not worth it. Irritation flares up in me.

“Well, I haven’t come all this way to wuss out now. You boys and your lacrosse scholarships are free to go back home.”

“Fine,” Brandon says. “I’m out of here.”

He storms off without a glance back. Travis lingers, but I can tell he’s seen the error of his ways and wants to go as well.

“Go ahead and leave,” I say. “I’m over the fence. I don’t need you anymore.”

Travis sighs. “Brandon’s right. We should probably get out of here.”

I plant my fists on my waist. “Nope. I’m going to swim.”


“Seriously, go. I can take it from here.”

“I’m not leaving you alone at two in the morning. It isn’t safe.”

I laugh. “How very gallant, Travis.”

“I’m serious. It isn’t safe.”

With only a smile, I turn and head for the pool. He calls my name in a sharp whisper, but I ignore him.

Little garden lights illuminate the path and surround the flagstone patio. The pool shimmers. You’ve got to hand it to the Andersons. They have a nice place here.

I circle the pool thoughtfully, then dip one toe in the water. “Ideal temperature.”

No simple entrance into the pool will do. It’s got to be diving board or nothing. With determination, I march to the elaborate diving area and grip the ladder.

Travis calls my name again. I glance over my shoulder with a sigh. He’s in the shadows by the shrubs.

“You’re crazy,” he whisper-yells.

“Guilty as charged, Travis, my dear.” I blow him a kiss and climb the diving-board ladder. My nerve ends tingle as I approach the long plank. It’s a stupid little thing, but I feel more alive now than I have all summer.

“Okay. Here goes nothing. One…two…”

The porch lights snap on with the fury of midday sun. It startles me so much that I throw my arms up to block it and almost fall backward into the pool.

“All right, kids,” a man’s voice booms. “Fun’s over.”

Who knew an uber rich gated community would have twenty-four-hour guards on staff? Oh wait. I knew. I just didn’t care.

A big man in a bouncer-type jacket strides in at the side of the deck, right near where I entered. To my left, Travis flattens against the house. Trapped. If he runs, the guard will notice for sure.

The beam of a high-powered flashlight blasts in my face.

“Get down from there.”

I shoot a look to the gently rippling pool water, then to Travis, then back to the guard. He’s clearly not in the mood to screw around.

Something about this situation feels so symbolic of this whole summer. There I was, about to plunge into that film internship in New York. Or go to  Paris with Jade. Or maybe the acting camp. I hadn’t really decided. Either way, I was ready to start living and get out of Nowhereville, Ohio. And what happens?

Mom and Frank get the crazy idea to rent a beach house in Massachusetts. And because Frank can work remotely with his finance job, they don’t rent it for a week like a normal family. They rent it for the entire summer. And of course, they insist on dragging me and Eddie down with them. To sit on my butt all day and to go to garden luncheons.

“Where are the two guys I saw you with?” the guard calls out.

Cameras. Of course there are cameras. The beam of the flashlight cuts from me to scan the yard. Travis’s whole body tenses, and a  wash of guilt passes over me. As much as I initially wrote him off as a rich jock, I actually kind of like the guy. He’s been cool and willing to play along with my ridiculous little shenanigans. I can’t let him suffer serious, long-lasting consequences.

Meeting Travis’s eyes, I mouth the word “go” and then wave to the security guard with both arms. “It’s just me, big guy. Me and my lonesome.”

The flashlight snaps up to me. My pulse races. What I’m doing, I’m not exactly sure. But the recklessness feels good.

“I thought I saw someone else,” the guard says.

He starts to pull the light away to search the yard. I have to act quickly. Drawing in a breath, I pull my sundress over my head and toss it on the patio. For a single, humiliating moment, the guard’s flashlight illuminates my red bra and underwear for all the world to see. Travis better be halfway home by now.

The guard’s voice is calm but laden with warning. “Miss…”

“Last one in the water’s a rotten egg!”

Drawing in a breath, I give one good bounce on the diving board, leap into the air, form the perfect swan position, and plunge into the water.


About the Author:

Renee Collins grew up on a beach in Hawaii. Sadly, she never met anyone from the past on those shores, but she did go on to get a degree in History, which is almost the same. She currently lives in Colorado with her family..


Connect with Renee Collins:



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