Christy Sheridan has come a long way from the physical and emotional wreck she used to be. She’s made Alden her home and is happily engaged to a man who loves and accepts her for who she is, curves, quirks, and geekiness included. Life is good. Until mommy dearest blows into town to “help” her clueless daughter seal the deal.
Cole Bowen is experiencing a world of firsts: first time in love, first engagement, first Valentine’s, first in-laws. He’s found the woman of his dreams, so he figured dealing with Martha Sheridan was a small price to pay. That is before his monster-in-law plants herself in their home and inside Christy’s head, stirring up old demons and destroying her newly regained self-esteem. And while his hands are full with trying to neutralize their meddlesome guest, a mysterious phone call turns his world upside down.
With ghosts from the past resurfacing and threatening to tear Cole and Christy apart, can they make it to the wedding they both so desperately want, or will heavy secrets send their relationship to the breaking point?
More than Meets the Ink (Bowen, #1)
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Inked Ever After (Bowen, #2.5)
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After a colorful array of jobs all over Europe ranging from translator to chocolatier to travel agent to sushi chef to flight dispatcher, Elle Aycart is certain of one thing and one thing only: aside from writing romances, she has abso-frigging-lutely no clue what she wants to do when she grows up. Not that it stops her from trying all sorts of crazy stuff. While she is probably now thinking of a new profession, her head never stops churning new plots for her romances. She lives currently in Barcelona, Spain, with her husband and two daughters, although who knows, in no time she could be living at the Arctic Circle in Finland, breeding reindeer.
Her fall has just begun. Only his touch can save her from the shift that could destroy it all. Within my blood runs a thing our kind calls the Shadowing Disease. It shadows over, and bends everything to its will. When the first blood- shift came, it tore through flesh and blood, threatening to bend me, break bone, shatter my mind and entrap my heart with its honeyed, seductive poison. It came with vicious intent, moving my thoughts and altering me forever. The shift has caused a rift within me. No one was safe when it entrapped me in its claws of foul lust. But I have the only antidote against the evil that becomes me – his touch alone has the power to release the spurs of sweet darkness that clung on for dear life. I knew what I had to do; the desperation pulled my mind with the deep determination of a hungry predator. By the time the revelation raised me from the dark dungeon of my bounds – it might have been too late.
I awakened with what felt like a bolt of lightning to my chest. There was nothing before that and for a moment, there was nothing after. A tingling sensation engulfed my entire body, then fazed into my brain.
Slowly, I opened my eyes to darkness, dry and hot darkness crushing down on my body, into my mind. The memories came crashing back, one wave over the next, pushing my breath from my lungs. Memories become a tangled mess; I did not know what the last thing I had done was, or how I had gotten to be in a state of mental suspension. The only thing familiar was him, and the darkness exuding from his being was not a familiarity I wanted, nor needed.
The Shadowing disease had come back for me. I choked on the air filling my lungs, like I was breathing for the first time. Something strange was happening to me as my life came pouring back, one cruel flash at a time. I started to remember. I had fallen in a trap, the consequences coiling around me, and I suddenly remembered how I had gotten there.
His presence had me shifting dark-side; the poison that ran through my blood, ran through his, and it drew me near. He summoned me that way, and it all made sense. I was reliving it all. Enoch’s kiss, and the push of his poison had become my own. The night we were kidnapped played back in my mind, and my awareness transported all of me into the physical state of the memory. That was the mind-shift’s way of imprinting on me, its sick way of reminding me of who I was.
The blow to the head that had sent me crashing into the cold, wet mud; the pain that echoed through me; my fingers clawing up the dark, muddy, river bank on that fateful night of my seventeenth birthday; fighting consciousness out of desperation to get to Troy’s sword as I watched helplessly from the wet, cold, stuck-in-the-mud ground. Fireworks in the dark, windy night echoed and ebbed out. The fight to the death between Enoch and Troy shook my insides once more, as if it was happening all over again. The moment that altered my former forever. Then, awakening with a cold, hard thrust of the canoe into my ribs, hands bound, body bleeding. Troy’s sunrise smile from across the wooden vessel as I came to; his warmth filling in around me as I sat on his lap while he slipped the dagger from my boot. His fingers working delicately and swiftly, sending my pulse racing as we fell face first into the ice-cold river, attempting escape from Enoch and the Zulus. Spears rained down, piercing the water, slicing between Troy and me. I couldn’t get to him, could not swim fast enough, his blood clouding the water around me; the pure, rich, virginal color of it violated my heart.
Carlyle is an South African award winning author, with a flair for mixing genres and adding loads of drama to every story she creates. For now she is happy to take over the world and convert non Sci-fi believers. Her goal as an author is to touch people’s lives, and help others love their differences and one another by delivering strong messages of faith, love and hope within every outrageous world she writes about.
“I love to swim, fight for the trees, and am a food lover who is driven by my passion for life. I dream that one day my stories will change the lives of countless teenagers and have them obsess over the world literacy can offer them instead of worrying about fitting in. Never sacrifice who you are, it’s in the dark times that the light comes to life.”
Carlyle used writing as a healing tool and that is why she started her very own writers support event – SAIR bookfestival.
“To be a helping hand for those who strive to become full times writers, editors, bloggers, readers and cover artists – it’s a crazy world out there you don’t have to go it alone!“
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Mr. Sandman, send me a dream, ta da da da…..Seventeen year old
Chastity Blake knows the Sandman is just a silly children’s story parents tell their children to get them to sleep. At least she thought it was, until the day a mysterious, light golden sand appeared in her hands during a high school prank that went horribly wrong. A sand that has the power to send anyone it touches into a deep, sound sleep. Fearing she had lost her mind, Chastity soon discovers the shocking truth of her heritage – she is a Dream Caster. Chastity was never supposed to be raised on the Domain, or what humans call Earth and she is forced to return to her true birth place, Revera – the world of Dreams. However, in Revera there is no balance between good, the Light
Casters, and darkness, the Shadow Casters, and Chastity is caught square in the middle. She soon learns that there is no place for anyone containing both the light and the darkness within them, and the shocking truth that if anyone in Revera ever discovered her shadow self, Chastity would be thrown into the Oblivion – the world of Nightmares. Dreams are always more than they seem, and this time Chastity is going to discover just how different they can be.
Adrienne Woods was born and raised in South Africa, where she still lives with her husband and two beautiful little girls. She always knew she was going to be a writer, but it only started to really happen about four years ago. In her free time―if she gets any because moms don’t really have free time―she loves to spend it with friends, whether it’s a girls night out, or just watching a movie. She’s a very chilled person. Her writing career started with Firebolt, book one in the Dragonian series. There will be four books in total, including a further two to three books, which will be stories that take place within the Dragonian series. Her other series, Dream Casters, will be released mid 2015. She also writes in different genres, and her woman’s fiction, The Pregnancy Diaries, will be published under a pseudonym. And then, she has a paranormal series by the name of the Aswang series, which will consist of about ten novels. And if that wasn’t enough, there is another series, Guardians of Monsters, which will be released in 2016.
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Three daughters were born to High King Uorsin, in place of the son he wanted. The youngest, lovely and sweet. The middle, pretty and subtle, with an air of magic. And the eldest, the Heir. A girl grudgingly honed to leadership, not beauty, to bear the sword and honor of the king.
Ursula’s loyalty is as ingrained as her straight warrior’s spine. She protects the peace of the Twelve Kingdoms with sweat and blood, her sisters from threats far and near. And she protects her father to prove her worth. But she never imagined her loyalty would become an open question on palace grounds. That her father would receive her with a foreign witch at one side and a hireling captain at the other—that soldiers would look on her as a woman, not as a warrior. She also never expected to decide the destiny of her sisters, of her people, of the Twelve Kingdoms and the Thirteenth. Not with her father still on the throne and war in the air. But the choice is before her. And the Heir must lead…
The bright pennants of Ordnung, High King Uorsin’s rampant bear topping them all, snapped in the cool breezes from the high mountain peaks. Those pristine white towers, the banners of the Twelve Kingdoms gathered under one, all symbolized my father and King’s greatest triumph. One I believed in with all my being.
Or had once believed in.
From the ravages of internecine wars and crippling enmities, Uorsin had united the kingdoms, bringing them together in lasting peace, capped by the shining castle he built on the ruins of the past. Always, no matter in what condition I returned home, I’d felt a surge of elation at the sight, pride in my legacy and sacred duty.
Not this sick dread.
As we rode closer, the formidable grandeur of Ordnung only mocked me for my many failures of the past months. Soon I would stand before my King, and I had no idea how I would explain myself and my actions. Or what price he would exact.
“Nervous?” Dafne, riding on her gentle palfrey, studied me with serious eyes. A scholarly woman with a quiet manner, she asked with complete sincerity what might sound like a taunt from another.
“Being nervous would imply that I’m uncertain about the confrontation to come,” I told her. “I am…readying myself for King Uorsin’s sure disappointment.” And his rage. Never forget the bear’s towering fury. As if I could.
“You don’t need me to tell you, but you did the right thing, Your Highness. I wasn’t sure which you would choose—love or duty.”
“Think you I could have ripped a newborn from my baby sister’s arms, with her barely recovered from thinking her daughter dead, hard upon the heels of her husband’s murder?”
Dafne considered the question with due gravity. Which made her interesting. No court sycophant she, with ready answers to most please the people who governed her fate.
“Before I answer, I’d like to make clear that I don’t agree with the word ‘murder.’ You did not kill Prince Hugh in cold blood, but rather in the heat of battle. More self-defense than anything.”
Remembering the sickening feel of my sword cutting through Hugh’s neck, realizing I’d killed my sister’s husband, I knew better. All of it had happened so fast—Hugh lunging to kill Rayfe, my other sister Andi thrusting herself between them. I’d acted without thought, though hardly without consequence.
“Self-defense means defending one’s own self. I was in no danger. He was my ally and did not deserve to die by my blade. Nor for me to compound my guilt by fobbing off responsibility for it onto Andi and the Tala.”
“Queen Andromeda was right to insist on taking the blame. If Princess Amelia hadn’t taken it as a reason to incite Avonlidgh to civil war, Old King Erich would have.”
“Which is happening anyway. Warring over an infant heir.” The disgust and frustration that had ridden me these past months leaked into my tone. Speaking to Dafne, though, and surrounded by my loyal Hawks, I could say what I normally would not. Ami and Hugh’s son belonged neither to Uorsin nor to Old Erich, though you wouldn’t know it from the way the two kings behaved, both claiming him as heir. If I hadn’t killed Hugh, we wouldn’t be in this particular battle. One the Twelve, already plagued with problems, could ill afford.
“That’s on Erich, not you. As for the question of murder, I’d put forth that defending your sister is the same for you as defending yourself. Both of your sisters are part of you on a profound level. In a way that even Queen Andromeda and Princess Amelia don’t fully appreciate.”
A legal scholar’s mind, there. Always useful in a companion for someone in my position. “And the answer to my question?”
“Yes,” Dafne decided. “I think you would and could do anything. You’re certainly capable. If you believed it to be the right thing to do.”
“Obeying the High King is the right thing to do,” I replied, knowing full well I hadn’t done so. The grind of guilt and failure made my bones ache. “Semantic arguments aside, the High King commanded that I bring Amelia’s son to Ordnung. I could have and did not.”
“Some truths exceed the law of man.”
“But not the law of the King.”
“The King is but a man.”
“Don’t let High King Uorsin hear you say that, librarian. You won’t long keep your place—or your head—speaking that way.”
“Would you report me?” She cocked her head, brown eyes sparkling with curiosity. No trepidation there—only apparent genuine interest. As if she had already gathered her information and predicted my actions. The answer I gave her would simply confirm or deny her theories.
“Have you no fear at all, Lady Mailloux?” I asked, instead of feeding her the insights she sought. Let her continue to speculate.
She transferred her gaze to the castle, imposing on its rise, framed by the snowcapped mountains. The corners of her soft mouth tightened. “It’s always strange to me to see it as it is,” she commented. “In my mind’s eye, I still see Castle Columba, though it’s been gone nigh on thirty years. I don’t know if it’s fear or something else that digs at me now.”
“And yet, you return, for a second time.”
“It seems to be my fate.” She gave me a wry smile. Amelia was right that Lady Dafne Mailloux often failed to observe courtesy. Not that it bothered me. So did my Hawks and the other soldiers I regularly trained, traveled, and fought with. Something about focusing on a greater purpose relegated the bowing and scraping to the negligible category. “Besides, I owe you. When we thought Stella dead, you wanted to spare Princess Amelia the pain of it, to let her rejoice in having Astar happy and healthy. I expected you to be angry with me for forcing the truth into the open.”
She would be the one to lay it out there, when others would avoid the subject. Those had been dark hours, Ami near death from birthing the twins, then finding the girl, Stella, dead in her cradle. At least the boy, Astar, had stayed strong.
“I was wrong to conceal it from her.” I shrugged, using the motion to loosen my shoulders. Not that it worked. “Not only because she had the wit to see through the trick that I did not.”
“I saw Stella’s dead body, too,” she reminded me. “That black magic fooled us both.”
Enough that we’d even buried her, giving someone enough time to abduct little Stella. Everything in me champed at the bit to be searching for my niece, to be helping Amelia instead of riding into Ordnung. Infinitely preferable to facing the High King with the news I brought. Nevertheless—and though it had nearly killed me—I’d followed my duty and returned home. Though we’d traveled fast, a messenger could have caught up with us. I kept expecting one, saying they’d recovered the babe. With each passing hour that the news failed to arrive, my dread and uneasiness that I’d made the wrong decision grew. Lately what had once been black and white had shaded into disturbing grays.
“I disobeyed a direct command,” Dafne persisted. “You would have been within rights to kill or dismiss me for it. So I owe you.”
“I should have given her credit for needing to know the truth, for being strong enough to stand up to the pain. You owe me nothing.”
“Nevertheless, I have an idea of what you’ll have to deal with at Ordnung, and I couldn’t live with myself if I let you face it alone. Returning with you was the least I could do.”
She meant that well, in all earnestness, so I didn’t comment. Didn’t say that no one and nothing could spare me my father’s wrath. I’d learned that lesson early.
We’d passed through the outlying farms and rode through the extensive township that surrounded Ordnung. People moved about busily, with the many chores of summer at hand. They acknowledged our passing with respectful bows and salutes—and something else. A sense of wariness that made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.
We did not travel with fanfare. Out of long familiarity with my comings and goings, the people did not dote as they might have on the rest of the royal family, so I did not expect effusive greetings. I preferred it this way—in part because it relieved me to dispense with the pomp and formalities when not necessary, but also because it gave me opportunity to take the measure of the people of Mohraya, the small kingdom that housed Ordnung.
Uorsin saw to his own first, so the Mohrayans generally fared better than the other eleven kingdoms, regardless of the swings in harvest yields and other variable producers of wealth. No matter how severe the troubles in other parts of the Twelve Kingdoms—some I’d seen too much of lately, sorrows that weighed on me—I could usually count on at least Mohraya to be doing well.
Not so, it appeared. One more problem added to the precarious pile that threatened to topple over onto us all.
No, things were not right here. The town burst at the seams, crowded with people. Overly so, despite the increased activity of the warm season. The farmers and livestock growers ought to be out on their land, tending to those concerns.
Perhaps I’d lost my count of days and they’d come into town for market or a fair. But I didn’t think so.
For a start, many of the people gathering in the squares were neither buying nor selling. I’d never expect to recognize all the faces, but the citizenry teemed with unfamiliar looks. More men than usual. Tall ones, light haired, with broad, exotic features.
I called over my lieutenant. “Marskal.” I kept my tone easy, conversational, so he wouldn’t go on alert. “What am I seeing here?”
“Seems the population has grown during our travels, Captain,” he replied blandly. He’d been taking note, too, then. Part of why I relied on him.
“What do you put it down to?”
“We’ve long heard of the increasing conscription rates.”
“Those are foreigners, not raw recruits and new conscripts.”
“True,” he agreed.
“I’ve read the people of Dasnaria across the Onyx Ocean described as such,” Dafne, still riding on my other side, observed. “Tall, fair-haired, strongly built.”
“Is that so,” I replied. Both of them, knowing I did not ask a question, remained silent. I misliked it, foreboding crawling up my already aching spine. They could be here only with Uorsin’s knowledge, which made no sense to me. But then, so much of his behavior had become erratic. Ever since Andi rode home with the Tala on her tail. Absolute loyalty to my King and father meant I should not question him. As his heir, it fell to me to give him my unqualified faith and support.
I hated feeling that erode, even in the quiet depths of my heart, where I harbored doubts I spoke of to no one. That I could hardly bear to examine myself.
The nearer we drew to the castle walls, the more of these exotic men we spied. All hardened warriors to my eye, all heavily armed. Uorsin had dropped hints about having other resources beyond the somewhat questionable loyalty of the Twelve. Ordnung’s guards manned the outposts and the usual positions on the walls—and then some. I counted surreptitiously, lazily turning my face to the sun. More than twice the standard posting. Looked like he’d dug into those other resources after all.
The conflict with the Tala and the overall unrest in the Twelve had made the High King wary. Understandable. But these changes edged past that into paranoia. Along with an expense we could not afford. More fears I’d never give voice to.
“Jepp reported no alert, correct?” I asked Marskal. I knew our scout hadn’t, but it never hurt to confirm.
Jepp, at Marskal’s head tilt, jogged her agile mountain pony closer. “Captain.” She nodded at me. “I checked only at the guard gates, and they gave the all clear. No mention of… this.”
“Pass the word to be on alert, then.”
Jepp saluted and fell back. Not that I needed to tell my Hawks that something was awry in Ordnung. They knew it as well as or better than I did. As much as we could not be less than on alert, telling them so meant that they pulled in closer, taking long-rehearsed positions. Dafne remained placid, a pleased smile on her lips, though she had to be aware of her vulnerability.
“You might have done better to stay at Windroven, after all,” I commented to her.
“I’ll stick with you, if that’s all right. Right with you. I’ll keep up.”
Before we undertook this journey, I had doubted that. Now I felt certain she could keep up with the best of my Hawks. Unless we fled flat out, and it was frankly too late for that. Even if I hadn’t been honor bound to return to Ordnung to face the King with the bad news, my instincts warned we’d have to fight our way free—impossible odds, not to mention a traitorous act.
On that thought, guards stepped up to bar our passage into Ordnung. More of the foreigners, their helms making them look even taller.
“Who approaches Ordnung?” one demanded in our Common Tongue, though his accent twisted the words.
I stared him down, showing my great displeasure at being questioned, transforming the deep unease into righteous fury. “Who dares raise a blade to a Princess of the Realm, Heir to the High Throne of the Twelve Kingdoms?”
Jepp and Marksal drew up closer, their battle readiness almost an audible buzz in my ears. For a moment, it seemed it might come to that, the foreign guard undaunted, scrutinizing me for some sign that I was who I claimed to be. I flexed my hand on the hilt of my sword, edging Dafne more behind me.
A series of shouts in another language relayed from the walls and my challenger cocked his head, nodded, and stepped aside. “Welcome home, Your Highness.” He bowed but did not apologize. I ignored him and rode forward, not feeling welcome at all.
We passed through the outer gates, the shadow of the walls passing chill over me.
Jeffe Kennedy is an award-winning author whose works include non-fiction, poetry, short fiction, and novels. She has been a Ucross Foundation Fellow, received the Wyoming Arts Council Fellowship for Poetry, and was awarded a Frank Nelson Doubleday Memorial Award. Her essays have appeared in many publications, including Redbook. Her most recent works include a number of fiction series: the fantasy romance novels of A Covenant of Thorns; the contemporary BDSM novellas of the Facets of Passion, and an erotic contemporary serial novel, Master of the Opera. A fourth series, the fantasy trilogy The Twelve Kingdoms, hit the shelves starting in May 2014 and book 1, The Mark of the Tala, received a starred Library Journal review and has been nominated for the RT Book of the Year while the sequel, The Tears of the Rose, has been nominated for best fantasy romance of the year. A fifth series, the highly anticipated erotic romance trilogy, Falling Under, released starting with Going Under, followed by Under His Touch and Under Contract. She lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, with two Maine coon cats, plentiful free-range lizards and a very handsome Doctor of Oriental Medicine.
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It’s night. Always night. Dreams guard against the evil forged by nightmares. Infinite shooting stars illuminate a moonless sky. A city stands alone, surrounded by a darkened field. On its fringes, a man watches one star separate from the masses and fall. What survives the crash will unveil a secret centuries long hidden.
Molly hasn’t slept well since the night of her twenty-fourth birthday. Being struck by lightning might have something to do with it, but then again, her chicken did look a little undercooked at dinner. Whatever the culprit, her life quickly catapults from mundane to insane as, night after night, Molly is transported through her once dreamless sleep to a mysterious land illuminated by shooting stars.
There she meets the captivating but frustrating Dev, and together they discover Molly possesses a power coveted by his people—the ability to conjure almost anything she desires into existence. Seduced by the possibilities of this gift, Molly shifts her attention from waking life toward the man, the magic, and the world found in her dreams.
But Molly must ask herself—does something truly exist if you only see it when you close your eyes?
Faced with the threat of losing everything—her job, best friend, boyfriend, and most importantly, that little thing called her sanity—Molly will learn just how far she’ll go to uncover what is real and what is merely a figment of her imagination.
I begin to dream of something familiar. I’m floating over a nearly empty field at night. A solitary elm tree rests in the distance. My body’s warm with light, as bright as a star, and I move faster and faster, racing toward the tree. A shock of penetrating, ice-cold water bursts across my skin, and I smack down to the earth. My vision goes dark.
Gradually, I hear movement around me. Feet stepping on grass. The sound of crickets chirping. A soft, cool breeze brushes across my skin. I open my eyes to the sky, my view partially blocked by the leaves of a tree. The part of the sky I can see is streaked with white lights zipping past. I’ve dreamt of this place before. I’ve seen this tree and felt this grass beneath me. I’m so at ease lying in this familiar place. No pain comes from my head here, and I want to stay like this forever.
I’m brought out of my reverie by a girl’s whispers. I chance a look around to see two figures standing at my right, looking down at me. They are both completely dressed in black with some object strapped to each of their backs. One is a girl with almost white-blonde hair and fragile features. From the dark silhouette of her body, I can tell she’s as skinny as a stick. The other figure is a man with short-cropped raven hair and two-day stubble, which, coupled with his attire, allows him to seamlessly camouflage into the dark surroundings. His pale skin is what sets him apart from the backdrop, along with the brightest blue eyes I’ve ever seen.
I stare into them, trying to stir up the memory that is swimming around in my head suggesting I’ve seen them before. All I can currently deduce from the rapid beating of my heart and the tense heat in my belly is that I must find him attractive. And if anyone else were seeing what I’m seeing, I don’t think they would blame me.
The girl next to the shadowed man whispers fervently in his ear as he stands still, arms crossed over his chest, studying me intently.
“It’s a Dreamer,” he finally says, his voice deep and rich. The girl flinches at his volume used but follows suit.
“I see that it’s a Dreamer, Dev. But what is she doing here?” The light, twinkling quality of her voice contradicts the vehemence of her tone. Do they think I can’t hear them?
The girl paces to his other side while gazing at me warily, her blonde locks pushing forward to cast shadows around her face. Even with her features slightly obscured, her beauty is obvious. I begin to wonder if this dream is going to be all about supermodels, which would definitely make it a nightmare.
“I’m not sure. Something must have gotten crossed on the journey to her landscape,” he says while turning his attention to the night sky.
“That’s never happened before. It’s impossible.” The girl puts her hands on her hips in bewilderment and faces him.
Dev—I’m guessing his name—shifts his weight and scratches his stubble-filled chin, regarding me like I’m a car with a flat. “Well, it’s happened now.”
This whole time I’ve kept quiet, and I decide it’s time to say something.
“Excuse me.” I begin to sit up.
Dev stands perfectly still, his face subtly lighting up with curiosity. The girl, on the other hand, takes a step back, steadying herself like she’s about to throttle me.
“Whoa.” I put up my hands, indicating my nonviolent intent. “I’m not going to do anything but stand. Can I do that?” I fix my gaze from one to the other questioningly.
“She can hear us.” The girl tries to whisper sideways through her mouth.
Is she kidding me? “Of course I can hear you! What’s going on? Where am I? Who are you guys?” My numbness upon waking here has quickly evaporated and is replaced instead by slight hysteria.
“Inquisitive, isn’t she?” Dev arches one of his brows in amusement.
I let out a frustrated sigh. “Please stop talking like I’m not right in front of you. Like I said, I can hear you. And I have a name. It’s Molly.”
The girl is about to say something, when Dev puts his hand up to quiet her. “Hi, Molly.” He flashes a lopsided grin. “What’s going on is that you’re dreaming.” He elongates the word dreaming while wiggling his fingers as if he’s telling a spooky story. “Where you are is in your dream. Who we are… Well, we’re obviously figments of your imagination.”
E.J. Mellow is the author behind the NA Contemporary Fantasy trilogy The Dreamland Series. When she’s not busy moonlighting in the realm of make-believe, she can be found doodling, buried in a book (usually this one), or playing video games. Residing in Brooklyn, NY she is a member of Romance Writers of America and their Fantasy, Futuristic & Paranormal Chapter.
Rising star Zack Grantham has been stuck in a downward spiral of grief ever since the car accident that left him a single dad and put his career on hold. Back on the road with the Carolina Cold Fury and still crippled by emotional baggage, he’s in need of some serious help with his son. But while the nerdy new nanny wins his son’s heart, Zack isn’t sure he’s ready for a woman’s touch—even after getting a glimpse of the killer curves she’s hiding under those baggy clothes.
Kate Francis usually keeps men like Zack at a distance. Though his athlete’s body is honed to perfection, he refuses to move on with his life—and besides, he’s her boss. Still, the sparks between them are undeniable, tempting Kate to turn their professional relationship into a personal one. But before she makes a power play for Zack’s wounded heart, Kate will have to open him up again and show him that love is worth the fight.
If you have been following the Cold Fury Hockey series, you knew going into this read it was going to start out hard and so very, very sad. Sad, angry and, hard is exactly where this book starts . . . .
Zack Grantham never married his long-time girlfriend Gina and since her death in a car accident, Zack has spent a lot of time considering the why of that issue. He loved Gina, he certainly loves their son, Ben but there was always something that kept Zack from taking that last step, the final commitment and now that Gina is gone, the guilt is damn-near unbearable. The months since Gina’s death have been a hazy sort of nightmare with nothing but rehab for his injuries and time with his son. It is only Ben and the promise of the upcoming Cold Fury season that has kept Zack going. But, with the start of the season and no Gina, Zack is going to need help caring for Ben.
Kate Francis is last damn thing Zack needs in his life. With her newly earned Psych degree, no money, no home and, a can-do attitude, Zack and Ben Grantham are exactly what Kate needs in her life. Zack’s life is a mess and some young chippy running around his house and trying to take Gina’s place just isn’t going to work. Except, Kate isn’t some young chippy; oh, she’s young but she is also very blunt, very enthusiastic and, very clear that she has no intention of trying to take anyone’s place. Faced with the need to have a nanny, Kate’s attitude and, Ben’s response to Kate, Zack lets her in the front door but he certainly isn’t happy about it.
For weeks, Kate and Zack dance around one another with Zack flinging cold comments and stares at Kate and Kate letting them slide right off with a smile and a cheerful comment. In her most private moments, Kate admits to herself that Zack is beautiful man but his attitude, though completely understandable is not the attitude of a man interested in a girl. That is, until the night Zack finds Kate in her barely-there pajamas in his kitchen looking for ice cream. Normally, Kate’s stunning body is covered by baggy clothes and her exquisite face is hidden behind huge glasses but that night, she is totally uncovered and Zack finally feels something. What he feels for Kate only increases his anger and his guilt but as the days go by, Zack is helpless in the face of Kate, her hidden beauty and, his feelings. Knowing Kate wants him just as much as he wants her, the two strike a deal, sex only and no strings attached.
Sex with Zack is unlike anything Kate has ever experienced and for a time, keeping her feelings out of the equation is totally doable. Zack runs hot and cold and has a very nasty habit of sending some seriously mixed signals. Clinging to the happy and sweet moments, Kate hangs in there with Zack as he struggles to begin building a new life for himself and his son. Though his actions are often tender and sweet, his words are cutting and one day, Kate finally has enough and makes the heartbreaking decision to walk away.
The Bottom Line: This was a one sitting, screw you morning, stay up all night to finish it read for me. Zack’s story is so sad and his road to happiness with Kate is not any easy one but it is a damn good read! I was very, very, very, very glad to see that Kate is not the typical girl who tells a man she can do no-strings-attached sex all the while hiding an intense love that she is sure can bring the man around. Kate does develop feelings for Zack but she is never under the illusion that her feelings can fix Zack. Though she wants to be with Zack and a part of his life, Kate has pride and self-respect; she is in no way a helpless girl or love drunk fool. Kate isn’t in to fooling herself and so, she waits for Zack to pull his head out of his ass. Zack is hard to love at times but you understand that under all the hurt, the anger and, the guilt he is a good man trying to make his way following the death of a loved one. He doesn’t always make the right decisions but he is a good man and when he finally realizes what he has, the pieces all fall into place. As with each of the previous reads, Zack had me from page one and by the end, I was one-clicking the next read, Ryker.