Excerpt and Sweepstakes: Hinder (Book #3: Off Track Records Series) by Kacey Shea


Young. Gifted. Privileged.
I can’t help where I come from, or who I am, but believe me when I say it’s not what I want. Not that anyone’s ever asked. My dreams don’t fit within the confines of my parents’ wishes, so when I’m presented with the opportunity of a lifetime, I grab it by the balls. 
Playing drums for rock sensation 3UG is everything I’ve wanted and more. Yeah, so the gig requires a dash of blackmail and a slip of betrayal. I can live with that if it brings me the freedom I’ve always wanted.
There’s just one problem.
The girl.
 
Cliché, and yet I can’t help myself when it comes to her innocence and allure. She has secrets. Don’t we all? But if I don’t uncover what she’s hiding, my time playing rock god is up. 
No girl is worth that. At least, that’s what I keep telling myself. 
 
HINDER is the third Off Track Records novel, and can also be read as a standalone. Want to start from the beginning? Detour and Derailed are available to read free with KindleUnlimited too!
The bed dips as he sits and stretches across the mattress on his side. “So, what should we do tonight?”
“I was going to sleep.”
His brow rises with a hint of mischief. “Are you accepting applicants to join you?”
“Leighton.” I draw out his name, pretending I want nothing of the sort, when in reality there’s no need to apply. He’d be hired on the spot.
“What? Just saying. I’m interested. And I’ve been told I make a great cuddler.”
“Cuddling?” I chuckle, shaking my head. “You list that on the application?”
“Hell, yeah. Right next to gives good oral and open to kinky shit, and underneath always uses protection.”
Lord. My body tingles with the thought and I can feel a blush move up my chest. I school my features so I don’t give away the surge of desire rushing through my veins. “Regular Prince Charming.”
He laughs. “You’re fun to tease. I can see why Austin does it all the time.”
Teasing. Because he’s really not that into you.
He holds a hand up before I can reply. “Mostly teasing . . . I actually undersold my cunnilingus abilities. I’m quite the stud in that department.”
Oh. The breath whooshes from my chest and my entire body comes to attention. “Do you . . . ?” I bite at my lower lip and drop my gaze to the bedding, tracing my fingernail along the white sheets. “Do you have a lot of experience with that? To be able to list your advanced oral on a resume like that?”
“You’re adorable when you blush.” He pushes up onto his elbow and reaches for me with his other arm. The pad of his thumb brushes over my cheek, lingering as his voice drops to barely a whisper. “It starts at your cheeks, at least I think it does, but I’d be okay with going shirtless to confirm.”
“Stop.” I swat his hand away and set my mostly full glass of champagne on the nightstand. It gives me time to relax my nerves. He has no clue the feelings that stir in my gut when he does stuff like that. How one playful touch lights my skin on fire with an ache for more. I take one of the pillows and hug it to my chest before facing him again. “I was asking a serious question.”
“You want to know how I got good at eating pussy.” His brows shoot up and that damn smirk tells me how entertaining he finds my question.
I don’t need a mirror. My cheeks heat to the point they must match my hair. “Screw you!” I lift the pillow and toss it at his head, but he only catches it and laughs.
“I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I couldn’t help myself.” He settles back on his side and I mirror the movement so we’re facing each other. He levels his stare and swallows, his strong jaw working back and forth. There’s no longer a hint of humor in his gaze. “Serious answer. Something I don’t love to share, because, well, it’s not as impressive as the alternative.”
His response piques my interest. “I’m waiting.”
He winces. “I watched a lot of porn.”
“Oh.” It’s the only response I can muster as my body comes alive again with a flood of desire. Why is the thought of that so hot? It shouldn’t be.
“Yeah, mostly amateur stuff. Those women don’t fake orgasms as much, so I figured it was the place to start. And, well, ever since I started applying my research to actual partners . . . ” His gaze lifts from the space between us to my stare. “I haven’t had an unsatisfied customer yet.”
“That’s . . . ” Sexy. Hot.
“Pathetic?” he offers, scrunching up his nose.
“I was going to say resourceful.” I bite my lip, because maybe he’s onto something. One of the worries I have about sex, once I find a partner I want to share the experience with, is that I won’t know what the hell I’m doing. “Maybe I should . . .” I catch myself before the rest of the words tumble from my mouth.
“What was that?” He tilts his chin with his gaze.
My face heats with the fire of a thousand suns and I can’t look him in the eye.
“Opal. Oh, Opal . . .” The way he says my name only makes this more embarrassing. “Are those naughty thoughts going through that gorgeous head of yours? Because I’m gonna need you to share.”
I scoff and meet his gaze. “I’m not telling you anything.”
“Come on, please? I’ve always wanted to get inside you.” He coughs and clears his throat. “Your head, that is.”
Mmm hmm.” Eying him suspiciously, he only laughs.

 

“I swear it. Tell me, Opal. I’ll keep your secret.”

Kacey Shea is a mom of three, wife, and indie author who resides in sunny Arizona. She enjoys reading and writing romance novels as much as her son loves unicorns, which is a lot.
When she’s not writing you will find her playing taxi cab to her children while belting out her favorite tunes, meeting friends or family for food and to share some laughs, or sweating it out in the gym. Kacey finds that picking up heavy weights repeatedly is good for her mental health as much as it is for the physical.
She has an unhealthy obsession with firefighters. It could be the pants. It could be the fire. It’s just hot. On occasion she has been known to include them, without their knowledge, in her selfies outside the grocery store.
 
Kacey one day aspires to be a woman hand model in a sexy photo shoot. You know, the woman’s hand raking across the muscular back or six pack stomach of the male fitness model. Yep, that hand.
 
Until that day comes she will continue writing sexy, flirty romance novels in hopes to bring others joy!
 
Kacey enjoys interacting with her fans so please feel free to stalk her on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

 

HOSTED BY:

Excerpt and Sweepstakes: Siren’s Curse (The Sea King’s Daughters Series) by Katee Robert

Badge_SC

KateerobertLorelei Fischer is cursed. A mermaid who can’t shapeshift, can’t create portals, and is no longer fully who she was meant to be. Too ashamed to admit how badly she failed to her sisters, she takes refuge in a small town in northern California and opens a used bookstore. With no way to regain what she’s lost, she resigns herself to a life half-lived.

After nearly drowning under the dark of the new moon, there’s no escaping the truth. She’s being hunted, and this enemy will stop at nothing to take her.

Lorelei must find a way to reclaim her birthright and her abilities before it’s too late. Because the sea holds more monsters than she could have dreamed—and one of them wants her dead.

Look for other stories in this exciting Urban Fantasy series from Philippa Ballantine, Stacia D. Kelly, Lauren Harris, and Asa Maria Bradley.

PQ1_SC

Excerpt from Siren’s Curse (The Sea King’s Daughters Series):

I start for home, the wind and water turning my hair into blond snakes that whip around my head. Less than a quarter mile to my house and it might as well be on the moon. I pull my jacket tighter around my body and pick up my pace. Each harsh breath makes my chest ache, reminding me about the way this morning started.

I shouldn’t be alive.

There’s no other way to say it. When I closed my eyes, parted my lips, and inhaled… I made my choice. That I hadn’t died. That I woke up on the beach… Someone put me there, though I can’t begin to guess their purpose.

Lorelei.

I jump and spin in a circle, searching for the source of the voice. There’s no one in sight. There isn’t even a single pair of headlights on the road. Just the trees whipping back and forth in front of me and the beach at my back. I turn slowly to face the beach—the water—and squint into the driving rain. No part of me is dry at this point, so I might as well investigate.

Lorelei.

There it is again, barely more than a whisper on the wind. Calling me back to the water.

I take a step before what’s left of my self-preservation kicks in. “No.” I don’t mean to say the word aloud, but it settles something inside me. I am not some weak-willed creature to be drawn in by curiosity. Whatever has the power to reach me here on dry land is something I want no part of. “Get the fuck out of my head.” That’s where I must be hearing him. There’s no way he’s actually speaking to me on the wind.

Whoever he is.

I have something you want.

I freeze. The faintest tugging in my stomach dials it up a notch. It never really goes away, even when I’m sequestered in the bookstore and surrounded by earth instead of sea. That tug tells me the exact direction my necklace—my powers—lay. I never get more than a hint of water that’s such a dark blue, it might as well be black, or an intense pressure that conveys exactly how far from the surface my necklace is kept. Too deep for humans and their machines.

Too deep for me.

I start for the beach before I can think better of it. For over two years, I’ve been missing a vital piece of myself, walking around as only half of a whole. I might not be completely helpless in my current state, but I’m easy pickings for any supernatural creature who decides to gun for me. Last night more than proved that the sea will take me, one way or another

 It might as well be on my terms.

Lightning flashes, bright enough that spots dance over my vision for the several seconds of silence before thunder rattles my bones. The storm isn’t directly overhead yet, but it will be soon. I’m a damn fool if I’m still out by that point.

I yank off my boots and socks and toss them onto the beach just out of reach of the waves coming faster and faster. One step, maybe two, and I’ll be submerged up to my ankles. My finding power will spiral out of me, instinctively seeking the one item I want more than anything in this goddamn world.

Not my sisters.

Not even the portal home.

No, what I want more than anything is to be whole again.

I should just turn around and go home. Whoever this voice belongs to, they mean nothing good for me. There’s a proper way to reach out, and it’s not by drawing a finless one of the merfolk into the ocean and nearly drowning her human body. Stepping into the ocean will boost what little magic I have left, and it will create a clear channel for him to speak to me.

I take that first step, and then the second. My power streaks out into the deep and then rebounds, slamming me with a vision of my necklace. It’s different than it’s been in the past. Barely any pressure to speak of. Blue-gray water that stretches for miles and miles and miles around without encountering land. A vaguely fishy taste on my tongue.

Tentacles.

And then his voice is in my head, curling through me in a way that’s just shy of being invasive. Hello, pretty.

Telepathy isn’t one of my skills, but apparently his is so strong that it allows me to fire off a reply. Tell me what you want and get out of my head.

His chuckle is pure predator. More like I have something you want.

Surely not. The Deep Dwellers, sworn enemy to my people, wouldn’t be so foolish as to lose a coup like my necklace. In the endless history of wars between our kind, I can’t think of a single instance when they’ve managed to steal the very essence of what one of the merfolk is—to sever one of us from our power. It’s priceless. They wouldn’t have traded it—would have, in fact, guarded it with their lives. So why does this monster in my head have access to it?

I cross my arms over my chest and tell myself that the shiver racking my body is from the cold. I’m listening.

Come to me.

That surprises a laugh out of me. Pass.

You’d turn down a chance to regain yourself?

I’d turn down a chance to walk into a trap like an idiot. I shake my head. This is a waste of time. I turn for the shore when power slams into me, sending me to my knees. The water rushes in—or maybe I rush out—and the next thing I know, I’m up to my chest.

Don’t be a fool.

This deep, I finally have a sense of him. He must have held himself back up to this point, because he’s positively ancient. Older than anything I’ve ever felt—even my father—and so powerful that pain lances through my head. It would be so easy to give him what he wants, to stop fighting, to…

“Get the fuck out of my head!” I sprint for dry land. This deep, it’s more of a fast wade, but I curse and spit and fight the pull of the magic current trying to yank me off my feet. “No, no, no, no, get your stupid magic off me!

He releases me all at once and I fly the last few feet and land in a heap just past the now-normal waves. I sit up and scrub sand from my face. Even without the water connection, his dark amusement slithers through me. Another time, pretty. His presence recedes faster than any tide, leaving the storm just a normal storm.

It’s official—I’m in even worse trouble than I could have imagined.

Copyright © 2018 Katee Robert

PQ2_SC

AMAZON

About the author and where to find her:

KateeRobertNew York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author Katee Robert learned to tell her stories at her grandpa’s knee. Her 2015 title, The Marriage Contract, was a RITA finalist, and RT Book Reviews named it ‘a compulsively readable book with just the right amount of suspense and tension.”  When not writing sexy contemporary and romantic suspense, she spends her time playing imaginary games with her children, driving her husband batty with what-if questions, and planning for the inevitable zombie apocalypse. 

 Website | Facebook | Twitter| GoodReads | Instagram

SWEEPSTAKESBarclay

Excerpt and Sweepstakes: Catch Him If You Can (Accidentally Yours Series) by Jennifer Shirk

CHIYC_Badge

CatchHimIfYouCan_1600Veterinarian Wade Roberts is done with love. But try convincing the elderly folk of Cape Harmony who are determined to play matchmaker. Now the young single women in town are bombarding him with baked goods and love notes, and being “taken” is the only way to stop the meddling grannies—which is why he needs a fake fiancée. Fast.

Arden Pearson loves planning weddings. Other people’s weddings, that is. After her own engagement ended in disaster, she prefers to live vicariously through her work. But when she needs to persuade a big client that she’s capable of planning the celebrity wedding of the year, she’s willing to go as far as pretending to be engaged herself to her best friend’s older brother.

Soon their ruse has everyone in town believing they make the perfect couple—including Arden. She’s always been nothing more than a kid sister to Wade, and it might take a village to convince him otherwise…

Excerpt from Catch Him If You Can (Accidentally Yours Series):

Wade stood in line at the Drip N Sip, about seven people back, mentally warming up to let good old matchmaking Judy Tavish have an earful. What a friggin’ exhausting morning he’d had at work on Saturday, combating the flirting, the date requests, and the come-ons. Becky was right. His office had served more like a singles bar than a veterinary clinic. Well, no more. He was done with that, but mostly he was done with the meddling gray-haired coffee barista, looking over at him now and shooting him that wide, cheery-assed smile of hers.

“Oh, hello, Wade!” Judy waved, all sunny and good-natured, which ironically had the direct opposite effect on his already foul mood. He gritted his teeth and didn’t wave back.

“And what animal peed on your parade?” a feminine voice asked beside him.

He glanced to his right. Arden Pearson stood next to him with arms folded and an amused grin on her glistening pink-glossed lips. Arden was his sister’s best friend and all-around town sass-mouth—at least to him. He’d known her since high school when she had braces and blond hair down to her butt. Her mouth was still as sassy—maybe more so—but the braces were gone and her straight hair was cut shoulder length in a mature, professional style now. He’d always thought she was a cute girl back then, but as an adult, she was pretty damn stunning—when she wasn’t ribbing him. She had moved back to Cape Harmony about five years ago to open up her wedding planning business. Wade rarely ran into her in town unless she was with Kinsley, which made this day all the more agitating.

He turned away. “Right now, I’d actually welcome being peed on,” he muttered.

She made a tsk tsk sound. “Wow, you are having a bad day. Well, join the club.”

“Join the club?” Wade turned back to her and blinked. Damn, she had the prettiest eyes. The most unique kind of blue he’d ever seen. He immediately looked away. “Are you being bombarded at work and at home by hordes of single marriage-minded women?”

 “Well, no— Wait.” She laughed. “Hold on. Are you?”

Yes. And it’s all Judy Tavish’s fault,” he said, jerking his thumb in Judy’s direction. “She’s taken it upon herself to become my own personal walking, talking Tinder account.”

“Hmm…” Arden’s delicate brows drew together. “So, does this mean you want to book me ahead of schedule for a discount, or do you want to wait until the actual wedding proposal?” she said with a chuckle.

 “I knew you wouldn’t see the seriousness in the situation.”

“You’re right. I don’t.” She shrugged. “I mean, so what if Judy thought you should get out and have some fun and gave your number to a few nice women. Oh, boo-hoo.”

He looked her dead in the eye. “Twenty-six women, Arden. Twenty-six. Not including the crowd that showed up at the clinic on Saturday with their fake sick pets. And did you know that when I got home from work there were brownies and half a baked chicken left on my doorstep.”

Arden whistled. “Damn. Remind me to use Judy when I’m looking for a date. Or need a snack.”

Copyright© 2018 Jennifer Shirk

Goodreads | Amazon  |  Barnes and Noble  |  Kobo  |  iTunes

About the author and where to find her:

ShirkheadshotJennifer Shirk is a USA Today bestselling and award-winning author of sweet (and sometimes even funny) romances for Montlake Romance and Entangled Publishing. Her novel, FIANCE BY FATE—a 2015 Readers’ Crown Finalist—became an Amazon #1 best seller for Series Romance. And recently, Wrong Brother, Right Match, WON the Sweet Traditional category of the 2017 Golden Quill Contest and became a #1 Amazon bestseller for Holiday Romance.

She resides in a beach resort in NJ, so when she’s not writing or working on her tan, she’s taking care of her most treasured possessions: her husband, daughter and puppy (Sox).

Check out her website for News and Links: www.jennifershirk.com

And don’t forget to join her mailing list for a chance to win monthly giveaways and free ARCs: eepurl.com/Q6TH1

Website  |  Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Goodreads  |  Amazon  |  BookBub

SWEEPSTAKES

Barclay

Review: Summer on the Little Cornish Isles: The Starfish Studio (Book #3: The Little Cornish Isles Series) by Phillipa Ashley

38086406

goodreads-badge-add-38px[1][1]

One summer can change everything …  Poppy has always loved Cornwall – the crisp sea air, the welcoming community. So when her boyfriend Dan suggests they leave their office jobs and take over the Starfish Studio on the Isles of Scilly, Poppy doesn’t need asking twice.  But things don’t go to plan when Dan dumps her, weeks before they’re due to move. Determined not to give up, Poppy accepts the help of local photographer Jake, her landlord’s grandson. But Jake is distracted by a loss from his past.  Can they turn the crumbling gallery into a success in time for tourist season? And will a summer on the little Cornish Isles mend just the studio – or Poppy’s heart too?

Review. Text on the string. Conceptual 3d image

Source: Netgalley          My Rating 3/5 stars

After a single visit, a magical visit, Poppy and her long-time boyfriend, Dan decided life on a small island running a gallery is just the life for them.  And so, after three years of plotting and planning and packing, everything is set.  Except . . . .

Nearly every resident of the small Isles of Scilly are expecting Poppy and Dan to arrive, bright-eyed and bushy tailed ready to take on the long-neglected Starfish Studio.  What the residents get is a bleary-eyed, seasick Poppy who has recently been dumped by her feckless and unfaithful boyfriend.  With little left in her, other than determination, Poppy is ready to take on the Starfish Studio and begin rebuilding her shattered life.  As her luck runs, Poppy finds the Starfish Studio is no condition to be re-opened anytime soon.  Poppy also finds a stunningly handsome man trying to make the best out of a bad situation.

Jake swore he would never set foot on the Isles of Scilly again!  After the tragic loss of his fiancé, Jake has kept to his promise by packing his days, weeks, and months with enough travel and work for three men.  Unfortunately, his time of running away from the past is over and he must return to the small island he once called home.  His grandfather’s Starfish Studio has been rented and in his grandfather’s absence, it’s Jake’s job to get the place in shape for the new renters.  Right up until the moment he meets Poppy, Jake is determined to fulfill his commitment and get the hell off the island.  Poppy, however, changes everything.

As Poppy and Jake soon figure out, life, and the universe often have plans that aren’t on an individual’s personal agenda.  Poppy wants to stand on her own two feet, but the Starfish Studio is a wreck and she needs help.  Jake wants to continue ignoring his pain and guilt, but Poppy needs help and he is more than capable of helping her.  With more than a bit of wariness, Poppy and Jake begin the arduous task of cleaning up the Starfish Studio and preparing it for a grand re-opening.  What the two find is an easy friendship, a lot of unexpected obstacles, some secrets from the past, and an attraction that shouldn’t be denied. 

The Bottom Line:  I can’t say I jumped for joy over this light summer read, but I did like it.  The Starfish Studio is a rather typical recovering from tragedy romance with a woman scorned and a man running from his past.  Poppy and Jake are connected by sadness and a desire to help one another which ultimately helps each heal from their respective tragedies.  Along the way, friendship and love develop as both begin to reconcile their past and look forward to a bright and happy future.  In so many ways, this is a very typical sweet/low heat romance with a few twists and turns thrown in for good measure.  The Starfish Studio is the third book in a series and though I haven’t read the first two, I don’t feel like I missed anything or was confused by any of the characters, settings, and/or relationships.  I did buy the first two books and will eventually read them, but as I mentioned, I wasn’t jumping for joy over The Starfish Studio, so I don’t think there’s any rush to get caught up.

Amazon | B&N | Kobo

 

Review: Tight Quarters (Book #6: Out of Uniform Series) by Annabeth Albert

Tight QuartersPetty Officer Bacon, a navy SEAL and ace sharpshooter, has been on the front lines of more than his fair share of dangerous ops. Yet when a minor injury relegates him to the beta team, he’s tasked with what may be his riskiest assignment yet: the silver fox journalist he’s babysitting is the hottest, most charismatic man he’s ever encountered.  Award-winning journalist Spencer Bryant may have been named one of Pride magazine’s most eligible bachelors of the year, but he’s not looking to change his relationship status. He’s a consummate professional who won’t risk his ethics or impeccable reputation by getting involved with a source. Even a sexy-as-hell military man. But while Spencer can resist his physical attraction to Bacon, he has less control over his emotions—especially when the mission goes sideways and the two men are trapped alone.  Getting out of the jungle alive turns out to be easy compared to facing the truth about their feelings for one another back in the real world. And whether or not they can build a future is a different story altogether.

Review. Text on the string. Conceptual 3d image

Source: Netgalley          My Rating: 4½/5 stars

Spencer Bryant has finally gotten his dream assignment, being embedded with a SEAL team.  As an award-winning journalist, this is the assignment he was wanted and waited patiently for, for a very long time.  Thanks to a very personal and tragic experience, Spencer feels obligated to complete this assignment and produce a piece that not only honors the service of military members, but also brings attention to the care, or lack thereof they receive following grievous injuries and separation from service.  Spencer has no intention of ruining anyone’s life or exposing information that could hurt the teams or the Navy, but he is committed to telling this story.

As bad luck would have it, Bacon gets stuck with the reporter being embedded with his team.  Though Bacon knows Spencer’s work and even admires it, Bacon isn’t interested in an outsider poking around and potentially harming the men he serves with all. Bacon sees Spencer’s presence as a nuisance at best, and a potentially hazardous situation at worst.  On top of every other emotion Bacon is feeling toward Spencer, there is also the intense attraction which just makes Bacon angry.  The final straw, Spencer is a genuinely nice man who makes his intentions clear from the very beginning; Spencer may be attracted to Bacon, but he has a code of ethics that won’t allow him to engage sexually or personally with a source.

And then everything goes ass over tea kettle . . . .

With a terrible and simultaneously fortunate turn of luck, Spencer and Bacon find themselves in a position where they can, in fact be together.  On so many levels, Spencer and Bacon as a couple are simply perfect.  They are both dominant personalities that instinctively know when to let the other take the lead.  Spencer understands Bacon’s post-mission mentality and knows how to help him decompress while Bacon knows how to support Spencer in his life and career.  The sex is amazing, and the feelings, despite each best efforts, are beginning to grow.  Unfortunately, there are some serious problems, and most of them, Bacon knows nothing about until it’s just too late.

The Bottom Line:  Let me tell you what!  I went into this book suspecting I wouldn’t particularly enjoy it, but I was absolutely and quite pleasantly surprised.  In general, I greatly dislike reporter characters, but Spencer proved to be a cat of a different color.  With the exception of one big misstep, which he absolutely regrets and fixes, Spencer proves himself to be a decent and honorable man.  Bacon, apart from one scene/event, is equally likeable to Spencer and I simply loved his devotion to both his career and Spencer.  While I’m generally all about the characters, I found the plot the real winner in this book.  I expected this book to one thing all the way through and I got something completely different.  That completely different was exactly what I wanted and didn’t even know it 😊  Finally, I love it when an author I’ve read for quite some time can still surprise and delight me and that is certainly true for Annabeth Albert and her Out of Uniform series.

Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Paperback | Audible

Excerpt and Sweepstakes: Someone I Used to Know by Patty Blount

SIUTK_Badge

9781492632818-300RGB (1)It’s been two years since the night that changed Ashley’s life. Two years since she was raped by her brother’s teammate. And a year since she sat in a court and watched as he was given a slap on the wrist sentence. But the years have done nothing to stop the pain.

It’s been two years of hell for Derek. His family is totally messed up and he and his sister are barely speaking. He knows he handled it all wrong. Now at college, he has to come to terms with what happened, and the rape culture that he was inadvertently a part of that destroyed his sister’s life.

When it all comes to a head at Thanksgiving, Derek and Ashley have to decide if their relationship is able to be saved. And if their family can ever be whole again.

PQ4_SIUTK

Excerpt from Someone I Used to Know:

This novel is a companion story to my award-winning SOME BOYS. In this scene, Ian Russell, one of the main characters in Some Boys, meets Derek Lawrence in SOMEONE I USED TO KNOW.

~*~

Derek

A knot forms in my gut, a thick and oily clot of guilt. I sink on to the first bench I spot, clutching my middle and trying like hell not to puke. Damn it, I wish to hell I’d beaten the snot out of Victor Patton.

Came close to it.

“Hey, man.”

I twitch and find some guy sitting beside me. No idea where he came from. He’s older than I am, but not by much. Mid-twenties, maybe? Dark hair, dark eyes, some serious muscle.

I nod and shift away, willing my stomach to settle down.

“I’m gonna say something to you,” the guy says. “And you can tell me to buzz off, or you can listen. I see you sitting here, green around the gills, gripping one of those rally flyers, and see a look on your face I know well.”

I shift back to study him. He meets my gaze without flinching, and there’s something in his tone that tells me he’s not kidding.

“Somebody you love got assaulted,” he says, and before I can say anything—before I can even think of something to say—he adds, “Me too.”

I stare at him in disbelief. Are we supposed to do some kind of male bonding over rape…some sort of weird bro hug and then share our feelings? That kink in my gut unclenches, and my breakfast comes up and out. I manage to turn away before I ruin this guy’s day and spew into the bushes behind the bench. It takes a few minutes. When I’m finally empty and want to crawl into the gutter to die, the guy shoves a bottle of water into my field of vision.

“Take it. Keep it.”

Grateful, I crack the seal, chug, and rinse out my mouth. Then I take a nice gulp, sit back on the bench, and wipe my mouth. “Thanks,” I offer a few minutes later, when I’m sure I’m not dying.

“Yeah, no big.”

There’s a long pause. “Girlfriend?” he asks after a minute. And it takes me another minute to figure out he’s asking who I know that got raped. I shake my head.

“Sister.”

“Oh, man. I’m sorry.”

I only nod. What else is there to say? In silence, we watch the perky girl with the clipboard chase down two guys on Rollerblades to sign up for the rally.

He snorts out a laugh. “That girl has some serious fun attitude.”

I laugh, too. “That’s an oxymoron, no?”

Shrugging, he says, “Maybe. Never could keep those lit terms straight.”

That makes me wonder about him. “You’re not a student?”

“No,” he admits. “I graduated a few years ago. Degree in engineering. I work in the city now.”

“So what are you doing here?”

He sighs and looks back to the quad where Perky Girl’s got another pair of guys on the hook for rally duty. “Over there. Under the Rock Stock tent. Black boots.”

I scan the area, find the tent, and see a bunch of people under it. But the black boots do it for me. The girl is hot, like off-the- charts hot. Long wild hair, dark sunglasses, jeans, and a black shirt that’s held together with a series of metal rings. She looks like the lead singer from some hard rock band.

“Oh! I’m sorry. Was she—”

“Yeah. Back in high school. By my friend. At a party she only went to because she hoped I’d be there.”

“I’m sorry.” I sigh.

“I came over here to talk to you because you looked like— well, like a guy about to puke.”

My face gets hot. I swallow another gulp of water and look away. But I can’t deny I’m curious. “How do you…” Deal with it? Avoid killing the guy who did it? I wave my hand, trying to fill in that blank but coming up empty.

He angles his head, studying me. “Get over my guilt?”

Okay. That works, too.

He takes another look at the girl in the black boots and shrugs.

“Still working on it. Being here is part of it. She’s doing the keynote speech at the rally. Took me a while, but I finally figured out that therapy’s not so bad, either.”

My parents wanted us all to go to therapy, but I said no way. Maybe that was a mistake. “Can I ask you something?”

The guy nods.

I swallow more water. “You ever say something you can’t take back? Something that made her hate you.”

He grins and rolls his eyes. “God, yes. I can’t watch a Star Wars movie without wanting to kick my own ass.”

“Huh?”

He waves a hand. “Long story. I was a real dick to her, embarrassing her in front of my friends so they wouldn’t turn on me. She forgave me. Somewhere along the line, I figured out how to forgive myself so I could be the man she deserves.”

Forgive myself. That’s exactly what Brittany said. I consider that for a couple of minutes and then shake my head. “I gotta go.” I stand up. “Thanks for the water and for—” I wave a hand. “You know.”

“Yeah. No problem. Hope we see you at the rally. Trust me, she’s something.” He jerks a thumb toward the girl in the black boots, and I don’t doubt him for a second.

“Yeah. Maybe.”

He extends a hand. “Ian.”

I shake it. “Derek,” I say. “Thanks again.”

“Here.” He fishes through his pockets and comes out with a business card. “My cell number. I can help. If you want.”

I take off, tucking the card into my pocket along with the blue-and-white flyer. I don’t even know why I’m keeping them. It’s not like there’s any way Ashley’s gonna forgive me. I’m not even sure I can forgive myself. I’ll never be the hero again in her eyes.

Copyright© 2018 Someone I Used To Know

PQ2_SIUTK

Goodreads | Amazon  |  Barnes and Noble  |  Kobo  |  iTunes

Book Trailer

About the author and where to find her:

PattyB-01Patty Blount grew up quiet and somewhat invisible in Queens, NY, but found her voice writing smart and strong characters willing to fight for what’s right. Today, she’s the award-winning author of edgy, realistic, gut-wrenching contemporary and young adult romance. Still a bit introverted, she gets lost often, eats way too much chocolate, and tends to develop mad, passionate crushes on fictional characters…and actors like Gilles Marini….and Sam Heughan. Okay, so Patty’s not nearly as cool as her characters, but she is a solid supporter of women’s rights and loves delivering school presentations.

Patty is best known for her internet issues novels, including SOME BOYS, a 2015 CLMP Firecracker winner and RWA Rita Finalist, and SEND, a 2012 Junior Library Guild Fall Pick. Her upcoming release, SOMEONE I USED TO KNOW, has already been selected as a 2018 Junior Library Guild Fall Pick. Visit her website at pattyblount.com, where you can sign up for her newsletter. She blogs at YA Outside the Lines and is also active on Twitter and Facebook. When she’s not writing, Patty loves to watch bad sci-fi movies, live tweeting the hilarity, and scour Pinterest for ideas on awesome bookcases. Patty lives on Long Island with her family in a house that, sadly, lacks bookcases. She loves hearing from readers, especially when they tell her she’s cool (even though she knows it’s not true), and is easily bribed with chocolate. Never underestimate the power of chocolate.

Read | Roar | Revel

Website  |  Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Goodreads  |  Amazon  |  BookBub

SWEEPSTAKES

Barclay

Review: Squared Away (Book #5: Out of Uniform Series) by Annabeth Albert

Squared AwayIn the wake of tragedy, SEAL Mark Whitley rushed stateside to act as guardian to his sister’s three young children. But a conflicting will could give custody to someone else—someone Mark remembers as a too young, too hot, wild party boy. Even after six years, Mark can’t shake the memory of his close encounter with Isaiah James, or face up to what it says about his own sexuality.  Isaiah’s totally over the crush that made him proposition Mark all those years ago. In fact, he’s done with crushing on the wrong men altogether. For now, he’s throwing himself into proving he’s the best person to care for his cousin’s kids. But there’s no denying there’s something sexy about a big, tough military man with a baby in his arms.  As the legal details get sorted out, their long-buried attraction resurfaces, leading to intimate evenings after the kids are tucked in. A forever future is within reach for all of them, if only Mark can find the courage he needs to trust Isaiah with his secrets—and his heart.

Review. Text on the string. Conceptual 3d image

Source: Netgalley, Overdrive Audio/Public Library, and Purchase

My Rating: 4½/5 stars

Mark Whitley’s world has imploded, and it didn’t even happen during an op.  Thanks to a great deal of reckless behavior, Mark’s sister and brother-in-law are now dead and their three children are in need of a proper guardian.  As medic for his SEAL team, Mark has no idea how he’s going to balance being a SEAL and a dad.  He’s going to need a ton of help, and where that help comes from is perhaps as exciting as it is uncomfortable. 

Isaiah James simply can’t understand why no one considers him a proper guardian for his cousin’s children.  Even when their parents were alive, Isaiah spent much of his time looking after the kids, seeing to their needs and wants, and falling hopelessly in love with each of the little monsters.  Though Isaiah is technically related to the kids, he is young and his days of partying and playing the field have, unfortunately preceded him, making his case for custody a hard sell.

As expected, the legalities of custody are difficult, but the difficulties are compounded by competing wills and a large, large sum of money that will, eventually go to the children.  Everyone seems to want a piece of the pie with only Mark and Isaiah having any real interest in the welfare of the children.  With virtually no experience around children, Mark is like a fish out of water and would be totally screwed if it weren’t for Isaiah.  Isaiah is patient, kind, and fiercely loyal to the children.  He makes no secret of his desire to continue raising them and is willing to go to any length to secure their custody.  Mark likes the idea of having Isaiah around for the children, but his presence, in every other way forces Mark to confront his own feelings and issues related to his sexuality.  In all, Mark and Isaiah’s lives are one huge, hot mess!

The Bottom Line:  Once again, Annabeth Albert has made me fall in love with her Out of Uniform series!  One of the things I have always, always liked and respected about this series is the number of totally realistic scenarios and obstacles the men in these books must face.  Albert creates real world situations, some truly terrible, that these men must navigate while also trying to sort out their relationship.  Yeah, it’s real life, but with two men, and, in this case, three adorable children.  Mark and Isaiah don’t have an easy road to their HEA, but they do find ways to help one another, to support one another, to rely on one another, and, most importantly to love one another.  This isn’t an easy read given all the drama spawned by the death of Mark’s sister, Mark’s own terribly confused and conflicted feelings, and Isaiah’s desire to be taken seriously.  This story, and the series as a whole still has a variety and freshness I very much appreciate.  Until those qualities wane of disappear, I am absolutely committed to the men of the Out of Uniform series.

Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Paperback | Audible