We are beyond excited to be sharing this release from Kylie Scott with you today! CLOSER is part of her Stage Dive series and it is releasing as part of 1001 Dark Nights. It just went live today! Check out an excerpt and book trailer from the title below. Click here to grab your copy now.
Purchase your copy of CLOSER today!
From New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Kylie Scott comes a new story in her Stage Dive series…
When a stalker gets too close to plus-size model Mae Cooper, it’s time to hire some muscle.
Enter former military man turned executive protection officer Ziggy Thayer. Having spent years guarding billionaires, royalty, and rock n roll greats, he’s seen it all. From lavish parties through to every kind of excess.
There’s no reason some Instagram stylista should throw him off his game. Even if she does have the most dangerous curves he’s ever seen…
**Every 1001 Dark Nights novella is a standalone story. For new readers, it’s an introduction to an author’s world. And for fans, it’s a bonus book in the author’s series. We hope you’ll enjoy each one as much as we do.**
Add CLOSER to your Goodreads TBR here!
Purchase your copy of CLOSER today!
I’d had bodyguards before. But only for events like fashion week or a big shoot. Just for a limited amount of time. My contract with Ziggy, however, was open ended, dependent on the heart in the box situation. Once he’d grilled me about what the police were doing (investigating my entire life), my routine (I don’t really have one. It’s consumed by work), and my calendar for the next few days (I’d freed up time to finish unpacking and then back to work on my lingerie line), he drove me to the gym. There was one I used a couple of times in the apartment building, but I generally do better with some active encouragement and guidance.
Guess Ziggy approved of my Land Rover because he gave it another one of those almost-smiles. I, however, continued to receive the full professional cold front face. This was definitely going to take some getting used to.
“Who’s your shadow?” asked Kwana, my awesome trainer.
I paused mid-lunge, my breath coming hard and fast. “My bodyguard, Ziggy. You like him?”
“He’s pretty. Don’t stop, keep moving.”
“You don’t usually have one of them around. Have you been getting hassled or something?”
Kwana stood with her arms crossed, all lean muscles beneath brown skin. Since we were in an open area at the end of the main part of the gym, Ziggy waited over by the wall, just out of earshot. He stood with his arms loose at his side, his gaze constantly wandering a circuit from me—around the room, over to the exits, and back again. Always on alert.
“More a precaution than anything,” I said.
No matter how much I liked Kwana, no one outside my inner circle needed to know about the incident. The fewer people who found out about the gross cow heart and knife the better.
There’d been no further news from the police. Though it was never likely they’d track down a suspect and charge that person the next day.
Case closed, hooray!
REVIEW QUOTES FOR KYLIE SCOTT’S NOVELS:
“Both light-hearted and deeply passionate, this book was pure rocker perfection.” ― Natasha is a Book Junkie
“Yep, this is one of those. My perfect book. Everything at just the right pace, the right time, the right intensity.” ― Maryse’s Book Blog
“This was absolutely fantastic, I loved it so much! … The plot was original and unique and the characters lovable.” ― Read More Sleep Less
“This was one wild ride that will have you laughing out loud!” ― Miss Petite Brunette Book Blog
“Packed with adrenaline, suspense and red-hot chemistry, this is certainly one to be devoured in a single sitting.” ― Vilma Iris
About KYLIE SCOTT:
Kylie Scott is a New York Times and USA Today best-selling author. She was voted Australian Romance Writer of the year, 2013 & 2014, by the Australian Romance Writer’s Association and her books have been translated into eleven different languages. She is a long time fan of romance, rock music, and B-grade horror films. Based in Queensland, Australia with her two children and husband, she reads, writes and never dithers around on the internet.
Connect With Her:
From New York Times Bestseller Kendall Ryan comes a sexy new stand-alone novel in her Roommates series.
The smoking-hot one-night stand I was never supposed to see again?
Yeah, well, I might be pregnant, and he’s my OB-GYN.
Get ready to fall head over heels madly in love with the hottest OBGYN doctor you have ever met! This full-length standalone contains the most hilariously awkward lady-doctor visit, lots of playful banter and some good ol’ fashioned baby-makin’!
A New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today bestselling author of more than two dozen titles, Kendall Ryan has sold over 2 million books and her books have been translated into several languages in countries around the world. Her books have also appeared on the New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists more than three dozen times. Ryan has been featured in such publications as USA Today, Newsweek, and InTouch Magazine. She lives in Texas with her husband and two sons.
Visit her at: www.kendallryanbooks.com for the latest book news, and fun extras
From USA Today bestselling author Meghan March comes the final sexy standalone set in the Beneath world of New Orleans.
I used to believe there were lines in life you don’t cross.
Don’t lie. Don’t cheat. Don’t steal.
Until I learned people don’t always practice what they preach.
I turned in my badge and gun and walked away from everything.
Then I got the call no one wants, and I’m back in New Orleans.
What I don’t expect is for her to be here too.
Another line you don’t cross?
Don’t touch your best friend’s little sister.
She’s always been off-limits.
Too bad I don’t follow the rules anymore.
Meghan March has been known to wear camo face paint and tromp around in woods wearing mud-covered boots, all while sporting a perfect manicure. She’s also impulsive, easily entertained, and absolutely unapologetic about the fact that she loves to read and write smut. Her past lives include slinging auto parts, selling lingerie, making custom jewelry, and practicing corporate law. Writing books about dirty talking alpha males and the strong, sassy women who bring them to their knees is by far the most fabulous job she’s ever had. She loves hearing from her readers at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A loss he can’t forget
Since losing his twin brother, Theo, in the line of duty, Case Taggart has felt dead inside. The former Navy SEAL has dedicated himself to his family and their business but he can’t help but feel stuck as he watches everyone else move on with their lives. Only meeting the beautiful Mia brings Case out of his misery, until he discovered she was just a reporter looking for a story. Betrayed, he turned his back on her and never looked back.
An attraction she can’t deny
Mia Danvers can’t get Case Taggart out of her head. Though they hadn’t been lovers, she’d felt more for him than for any man she’d ever met. Growing up in the shadow of her over-protective, older brothers, she felt free when she was with Case and she longs to feel that way again. She knows that if she can find any trace of Theo Taggart, Case will be forced to let her back into his life. Months of searching have finally paid off and she knows this is her second chance.
A desperate search
Case and Mia follow the clues they hope will lead them to Theo and the villainous Hope McDonald, but the search becomes increasingly dangerous. From Dallas to South America and beyond, dark forces work against them and threaten their lives. With each step forward, Case and Mia are pulled closer together and forced to confront their mutual attraction. But when the truth about Theo is revealed, Case may have to make a choice between his brother and the only woman he’s ever loved.
GOODREADS / AMAZON / iBOOKS / BARNES & NOBLES / GOOGLE PLAY
“Who was that nightgown for?”
She was glad she wasn’t looking up at him or he would have seen her wince. Still, she’d promised him the truth. “I put it in there when I flew from Austin to Dallas. I knew it would be an overnight flight to Colombia. I needed something to sleep in.”
His hand found the top of her head and gently forced her to tilt up. One brow was arched over his blue eyes. “You expect me to buy that? You sleep in ridiculously sexy lingerie?”
She tended to sleep in a tank top and panties, but he didn’t need to know that. If he was anything like her friends’ Doms he wouldn’t let her sleep in anything at all. “No, Sir.”
“Then what was the plan? I know there was a plan in there somewhere.”
“I thought I might accidently need something from the main cabin after I’d gone to bed and then you would see me in my sexy nightie and very likely ravish me.” She’d read too many romance novels.
“Put it on.” He stepped back and offered her a hand up.’
“Case, I know it was a silly thing to do.” So why had she still snuck it into her bag? She’d casually made her way back to the bedroom after she’d landed the plan and carefully slid the gown into her overside Louis Vuitton overnight bag.
He frowned her way. “Mia, do you know how many women in my life have gone to the trouble to seduce me?”
She could only guess. Thousands, likely. “A bunch, I would suspect.”
“None,” he replied. “Not a single one. I was the easy hookup who could get them off in my hometown. In the Navy, it was a parade of women who thought it would be awesome to fuck a SEAL. In the last couple of years, it’s been women I picked up at bars. I’ve had two fairly serious girlfriends in my whole life and I initiated sex every single time. So yes, I want you to go to the bathroom and change into that filmy nightgown and I want you to show me how you would have played it.”
“Those women were crazy.” The words were out of her mouth before she could think about them. But they were also true. She’d planned to seduce that big cowboy from pretty much the minute she’d laid eyes on him. Schemed and plotted and planned to be with him any way she could.
His lips curved up in a sad smile. “They just knew I was a bed bet as a potential husband and honestly, the two girlfriends were probably more submissive outside the bedroom than I would have liked. But they were easy to be around and they didn’t give me trouble.”
She was trouble. A whole lot of trouble. She couldn’t seem to help it. “I’m not like them, am I?”
He smoothed back her hair, staring down at her. “You are the opposite of every girl I’ve ever been with before. You’re a woman who lied to me, used me to further your cause, and caused me to do the one thing I swore I wouldn’t. Be the guy a girl cheats on her man with. You put me in that position.”
She felt tears well. “I’m sorry, Case.”
“It upset me more than I like to admit. I didn’t like being the guy who hit on a taken woman, but beyond that I kind of wanted to know what the hell you were thinking getting engaged to him when it was so obvious you were meant for me. So go and put on that gown and show me how you would have seduced me.”
Mia grabbed the bag he’d set down when they’d entered the room and made for the bathroom. He’d said the one thing guaranteed to get her moving.
You were meant for me.
NY Times and USA Today bestselling author Lexi Blake lives in North Texas with her husband, three kids, and the laziest rescue dog int eh world. She began writing at a young age, concentrating on plays and journalism. It wasn’t until she started writing romance and urban fantasy that she found the stories of her heart. She likes to find humor in the strangest places and believes in happy endings no matter how odd the couple, threesome, or foursome may seem.
Dive Bar Series, Book 1
The last thing Vaughan Hewson expects to find when he returns to his childhood home is a broken hearted bride in his shower, let alone the drama and chaos that comes with her.
Lydia Green doesn’t know whether to burn down the church or sit and cry in a corner. Discovering the love of your life is having an affair on your wedding day is bad enough. Finding out it’s with his best man is another thing all together. She narrowly escapes tying the knot and meets Vaughan only hours later.
Vaughan is the exact opposite of the picture perfect, respected businessman she thought she’d marry. This former musician-turned-bartender is rough around the edges and unsettled. But she already tried Mr. Right and discovered he’s all wrong-maybe it’s time to give Mr. Right Now a chance.
After all, what’s wrong with getting dirty?
Are you ready to get Dirty?
Dirty is Book One in Kylie Scott’s Dive Bar Series
is FINALLY here!
Amazon US: http://amzn.to/1Q7LCyb
Amazon UK: http://amzn.to/1OYc53N
Barnes & Noble: http://bit.ly/1MetF1F
A bride running from her wedding. A Musician down on his luck. An awkward meeting in a tub. Yes my friends, this is what sets the stage for what this reviewer feels is going to top Kylie Scott’s Stage Dive Series. DIRTY, book one of the new Dive Bar Series.
Vaughan is more that what his dark persona leads people to believe. A man who lost just lost his dream never realized he’d find what he needs in life is at home. Omg, this man I want to lick and lick again. He’s complex and deep. He’s caring and a gentlemen when need. I totally fell for him.
Lydia’s life is a hot mess and bat shit crazy all rolled into one. A sassy woman who’s had her heart messed with a time or two. She straight up funny. Her heart has been through the mill yet she still finds it in her to care about other.
Humor, heart, hotness and lots of emotions! It’s hard to decide if the passion or the witty banter takes first place. Kylie Scott gives the readers a cast of intense, charismatic, and complex personalities in a setting that draws folks in, wanting to take a seat. I guarantee you at the completion of this book you will be more than ready for more of the happenings of the Dive Bar.
An amazing 5 Star read and a Top Read of 2016!
Review copy provided by netgalley for an honest review.
Kylie is a long time fan of erotic love stories and B-grade horror films. She demands a happy ending and if blood and carnage occur along the way then all the better. Based in Queensland, Australia with her two children and one delightful husband, she reads, writes and never dithers around on the internet.
Kylie is represented by Amy Tannenbaum at the Jane Rotrosen Agency, New York.
Stalk Kylie Scott: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads
Title: Protector (The Brannock Siblings #4)
Author: Jessica Wilde
Release Date: July 17, 2015
Release Blitz: July 20, 21, 22
Hosted by: Always Behind A Book
Isabelle Brannock was adored by her children in every possible way. Her ability to love reflects in each of them and to this day, they remember the never ending happiness she and their father, Liam, shared. However, life wasn’t always beautiful and their magnificent mother kept her dark secrets buried away so her children would always remember that family is the most important thing.
Liam Brannock has watched his children find that same happiness he knew so well and, as a father, he couldn’t be prouder. Knowing that the struggles each of them endured were worth the sacrifices they made to find the love of their lives, he finally feels content with revealing the secrets Isabelle worked so hard to keep.
Liam tells his children the story of how he met their mother and the secrets they never suspected would be possible for a woman who lived each day showing her children that love conquers all.
For readers 18+ due to sexual content.
Note to readers:
This is Liam and Isabelle’s story as well as updates on Ash, Con, and Gus.
This cannot be read as a standalone.
Book 1 – Leverage (SALE FREE)
Book 2 – Conned (SALE 99¢)
Book 3 – Missing (SALE 99¢)
Book 4 – Protector
He walked out the door, glancing back at his aunts once more. Both of them were smiling his way, waving and watching him like a bunch of hawks. He started toward the gardens feeling Maggie’s eyes on his back until he was out of her view.
It wasn’t long before he came upon the grove, but his quest was soon forgotten.
For the second time in his life, he was brought to a standstill by the beauty in front of him. He caught sight of that long brown hair flowing over a creamy shoulder… that was shaking.
The air in Liam’s lungs caught and he felt that tightness in his chest from before, when he heard a sniffle and saw the woman wipe under her eyes.
She was crying. This stunning, flawless woman was sobbing and he felt that tightness twist and pull until he couldn’t just stand and watch any longer. Liam looked around to see who had hurt her, but no one else was in the grove. He was angry for her and heartbroken that a woman like her would ever have a reason to cry like that.
She was so wrapped up in her world that she never even heard him step into the grove. His footsteps on the grass were silent, but surely she would have heard him crashing through the trees. He watched her a moment longer, debating on whether to sneak away and leave her in peace or find out what was making her so sad and fix it for her.
His mouth decided for him.
“Tears don’t belong on a face so beautiful.”
She startled and immediately stood and backed away from him. Smart woman, but it was still frustrating to see that it was out of wisdom, not instinct. She regarded him warily before looking around to find that they were completely alone. The trees surrounding the grove were covering them from anyone who might be watching.
Liam normally wouldn’t allow this type of situation to occur. He would have left her alone and gone to fetch Maggie to help. But this wasn’t a normal situation and Liam couldn’t help but feel drawn to the woman standing before him, looking like she was about to run.
“You don’t need to be afraid of me, bird. I’ll not harm you.”
Her shoulders sagged for a moment of brief relief before she lifted them straight and jutted out her chin. Her show of strength was impressive, but Liam could see the unease in her eyes so he stayed where he was and let her have her space.
She cleared her throat and crossed her arms over her chest. “I am sorry if I am trespassing. Maggie told me to come here and it was just a beautiful place to sit and think.”
Her voice sent a jolt of electricity straight into his gut. A husky sound that vibrated all the way down his spine and he couldn’t stop himself from studying her lips as she spoke.
Good Lord, help me.
She quickly wiped the tears from her face and sniffed a few times before gaining her composure and lifting her chin once more. Liam had been right the day before, she was stunning up close. Tear stains on her cheeks, eyes red rimmed, nose red, lips red. If she was this beautiful crying, he was doomed when she was smiling.
The very idea of her was… impossible.
Her yellow dress didn’t cling to the curves he knew would be there, but it gave a hint of a graceful womanly figure and the exposed skin of her chest beckoned his eyes. His lips thinned, cursing himself for being disrespectful and he looked down at her legs.
That didn’t help at all.
Eyes, Liam. Look at her eyes.
After clearing his throat, he said, “You are not trespassing. It is a garden for the public, but no one comes in anymore.”
“Well, that’s a shame. It’s breath taking,” she said and dropped down to the small bench to sit once more.
Apparently she decided that he was harmless and he sighed with relief. Liam kept his distance, hoping he wouldn’t startle her anymore than he already did. She turned her head to look at him with a sad grin.
“This is a nice place to sit and think. Feels secluded even though it isn’t.”
That voice. Raspy yet feminine. It sent another shock to his veins and his blood pumped harder. If she kept speaking, he would pass out from his suddenly improved circulation.
Liam stepped closer and caught a glimpse of the freckles running across her nose. A ray of sunshine crossed over her face as she found a comfortable position on the bench. She was not only breath taking, but she glowed with an aura that he had never seen before. She was sad, of that he had no doubt, but her presence exuded happiness. Like being this close to her could make everything in the world right again.
I should send her up north and see if that solves all these troubles, Liam thought to himself.
Those freckles. He needed to get closer and get a better look at them.
“Do you mind?” he asked, gesturing to the small spot of bench beside her.
Her eyes narrowed, red rimmed and only slightly puffy.
It felt like hours instead of seconds before she sniffled and nodded her head, a shy grin pulling at her lips. “Please. There isn’t anywhere else to sit unless you favor the grass.”
“Aye, I do, but I favor a beautiful woman more,” he replied.
Her blush was devastating and it spread across her cheeks like the red of a summer sunset. Poetic, Liam. Very poetic.
GRAND PRIZE: Entire Brannock Siblings Series signed paperback set! AND (2) Signed Paperbacks of Protector
Leverage (The Brannock Siblings) Book 1
Currently FREE for a Limited Time
Conned (The Brannock Siblings) Book 2
Currently on SALE for 99¢
Missing (The Brannock Siblings) Book 3
Currently on SALE for 99¢
I live in Morgan Utah with my husband, daughter, and dog, Kolo. I write as often as my active daughter will let me and my husband has the patience of a saint. I find inspiration from dreams, people I meet, and life experiences. When I write, I usually end up drinking one too many cans of Peace Tea, eating three too many Fruit by the Foot fruit snacks, and accidently kicking my pup and best buddy, Kolo, too many times since he loves to sleep under my desk at my feet.
I started writing as a teen, but my fear of the unknown won out every time and I threw everything out. After becoming a mother and deciding to stay at home to raise my beautiful little girl, I tried again when I couldn’t stop thinking of ideas. I loved every minute, every hour of sleep lost, and every character that came to life in my mind.
It’s strange, but my favorite moments are when I have writer’s block because I can turn to my husband and find inspiration through him by just doing what we do best together. Talking, laughing, and just being in love. He doesn’t like to read, but he never stops encouraging me to keep going.
Writing has become an important part of my life and every book has a special place in my heart.
Meet Killian in Pepper Winter’s new MC Romance!
Amazon US: http://amzn.to/1f574HK
“We met in a nightmare. The in-between world where time had no power over reason. We fell in love. We fell hard. But then we woke up. And it was over . . .”
RUIN & RULE
She is a woman divided. Her past, present, and future are as twisted as the lies she’s lived for the past eight years. Desperate to get the truth, she must turn to the one man who may also be her greatest enemy . . .
He is the president of Pure Corruption MC. A heartless biker and retribution-deliverer. He accepts no rules, obeys no one, and lives only to reap revenge on those who wronged him. And now he has stolen her, body and soul.
Can a woman plagued by mystery fall in love with the man who refuses to face the truth? And can a man drenched in darkness forgo his quest for vengeance-and finally find redemption?
“Ruin & Rule is a full-length book at 436 pages and ends on a cliffhanger. Cleo and Kill’s story continues in SIN & SUFFER.”
We met in a nightmare.
The in-between world where time had no power over rhyme, reason, or connection. We met. We stared. We knew.
There was no distortion from the outside world. No right or wrong. No confusion or battles from hearts and minds.
Just us. In our silent dreamworld.
That nightmare became our home. Planting ghosts, raising fantasies. Entwined together in our happily skewed reality.
We fell in love. We fell hard.
In those fleeting seconds of our nightmare, we lived an eternity.
But then we woke up.
And it was over.
I always believed life would grant rewards to those most worthy. I was fucking naïve. Life doesn’t reward—it ruins. It ruins those most deserving and takes everything. It takes everything all while watching any remaining goodness rot to hate.
That was my world now. Literally and physically.
The back of my skull hurt from being knocked unconscious. My wrists and shoulders ached from lying on my back with my hands tied behind me.
Nothing was broken—at least it didn’t feel that way—but everything was bruised. The fuzziness receded wisp by wisp, parting the clouds of sleep, trying to shed light on what’d happened. But there was no light. My eyes blinked at the endless darkness from the mask tied around my head. Anxiety twisted my stomach at having such a fundamental gift taken away.
I didn’t move, but mentally catalogued my body from the tips of my toes to the last strand of hair on my head. My jaw and tongue ached from the foul rag stuffed in my mouth and my nose permitted a shallow stream of oxygen to enter—just enough to keep me alive.
Fear tried to claw its way through my mind, but I shoved it away. I deliberately suppressed panic in order to assess my predicament rather than lose myself to terror.
Fear never helps, only hinders.
My senses came back, creeping tentatively, as if afraid whoever had stolen me would notice their return.
Sound: the squeak of brakes, the creak of a vehicle settling from motion to stopping.
Touch: the skin on my right forearm stung, throbbing with a mixture of soreness and sharpness. A burn perhaps?
Smell: dank rotting vegetables and the astringent, pungent scent of fear—but it wasn’t mine. It was theirs.
It wasn’t just me being kidnapped.
My heart flurried, drinking in their terror. It made my breath quicken and legs itch to run. Forcing myself to ignore the outside world, I focused inward. Clutching my inner strength where calmness was a need rather than a luxury.
I refused to lose myself in a fog of tears. Desperation was a curse and I wouldn’t succumb, because I had every intention of being prepared for what might happen next.
I hated the sniffles and stifled sobs of others around me. Their bleak sadness tugged at my heartstrings, making me fight with my own preservation, replacing it with concern for theirs.
Get through this, then worry about them.
I didn’t think this was a simple opportunistic snatch. Whoever had stolen me planned it. The hunch grew stronger as I searched inside for any liquor remnants or the smell of cigarettes.
Had I been at a party? Nightclub?
I hadn’t been stupid or reckless. I think…
No hint or clue as to where I’d been or what I’d been doing when they’d come for me.
I wriggled, trying to move away from the stench. My bound wrists protested, stinging as the rope around them gnawed into my flesh like twine-beasts. My ribs bellowed, along with my head. There was no give in my restraints. I stopped trying to move, preserving my energy.
I tried to swallow.
I tried to speak.
I tried to remember what happened.
I tried to remember…
I can’t remember.
“Get up, bitch,” a man said. Something jabbed me in the ribs. “Won’t tell you again. Get.”
I froze as my mind hurtled me from present to past.
I’ll miss you so much,” she wailed, hugging me tighter.
“I’m not dying, you know.” I tried to untangle myself, looking over my shoulder at the final call flashing for my flight. I hated being late for anything. Let alone my one chance at escaping and finding out the truth once and for all.
“Call me the moment you get there.”
“Promise.” I drew a cross over my heart—
The memory shattered as my horizontal body suddenly went vertical in one swoop.
Who was that girl? Why did I have no memory of it ever happening?
“I said get up, bitch.” The man breathed hard in my ear, sending a waft of reeking breath over me. The blindfold stole my sight, but it left my nose woefully unprotected.
My captor shoved me forward. The ground was steady beneath my feet. The sickness plaiting with my confusion faded, leaving me cold.
My legs stumbled in the direction he wanted me to go. I hated shuffling in the darkness, not knowing where I came from or where I was being herded. There were no sounds of comfort or smothered snickers. This wasn’t a masquerade.
This was real.
This is real.
My heart thudded harder, fear slipping through my defenses. But full-blown terror remained elusive. Slippery like a silver fish, darting on the outskirts of my mind. It was there but fleeting, keeping me clear-headed and strong.
I was grateful for that. Grateful that I maintained what dignity I had left—remaining strong even in the face of the unknown terrors lurking on the other side of my blindfold.
Moans and whimpers of other women grew in decibels as men ordered them to follow the same path I walked. Either death row or salvation, I had no choice but to inch my way forward, leaving my forgotten past behind.
I willed snippets to come back. I begged the puzzlement of my past to slot into place, so I could make sense of this horrible world I’d awoken in.
But my mind was locked to me. A fortress withholding everything I wished to know.
The pushing stopped. So did I.
“Move.” A cuff to the back of my head sent me wheeling forward. I didn’t stop again. My bare feet traversed…wood?
Where are my shoes?
The missing knowledge twisted my stomach.
Where did I come from?
How did I end up here?
What’s my name?
It wasn’t the terror of the unknown future that stole my false calmness. It was the fear of losing my very self. They’d stolen everything. My triumphs, my trespasses, my accomplishments and failures.
How could I deal with this new world if I didn’t know what skills I had to stay alive? How could I hope to defeat my enemy when my mind revolted and locked me out?
Who am I?
To have who I was deleted…It was unthinkable.
“Faster, bitch.” Something cold wedged against my spine, pushing me onward. With my hands behind my back, I shuffled faster, negotiating the ground as best I could for dips or trips.
“Step down.” The man grabbed my bound wrists, giving me something to lean against as my toes navigated the small steps before me.
I managed the small staircase without falling flat on my face.
What do I look like?
A loud scraping noise sounded before me. I shied back, bumping against a feminine form. The woman behind me cried out—the first verbal sound of another.
“Move.” The pressure on my lower back came again, and I obeyed. Inching forward until the stuffy air of old vegetables and must was replaced by…copper and metallic…blood?
Why…why is that so familiar?
I gasped as my mind free-fell into another memory.
“I don’t think I can do this.” I darted away, throwing up in the rubbish bin in the classroom. The unique stench of blood curdled my stomach.
“Don’t overthink it. It’s not what you’re doing to the animal to make it bleed. It’s what you’re doing to make it live.” My professor shook his head, waiting for me to swill out my mouth and return white-faced and queasy to the operation in progress.
My heart splintered like a broken piece of glass, reflecting the compassion and responsibility I felt for such an innocent creature. This little puppy that’d been dumped in a plastic bag to die after being shot with BB gun pellets. He’d survive only if I mastered the skills to stem his internal bleeding and embrace the vocation I was called to do.
Inhaling the scent of blood, I let it invade my nostrils, scald my throat, and impregnate my soul. I drank its coppery essence. I drenched myself in the smell of the creature’s life force until it no longer affected me.
Picking up a scalpel, I said, “I’m ready—”
“Holy fuck!” The man guiding me forward suddenly whacked the base of my spine. The hard pain shoved me forward and I tripped.
“Wire—get me fucking reinforcements. He’s started a motherfucking war!”
Wind and body motion swarmed me as men charged from behind. The darkness I lived in suddenly came alive with sound.
Bullets flew, impaling themselves into the metal sides of the vehicle I’d just stepped from. Pings and ricochets echoed in my ear. Curses bellowed; moans of pain threaded like a breeze.
Someone grabbed my arm, swinging me to the side. “Get down!” The inertia of his throw knocked me off balance. With my wrists bound together, I had nothing to grab with, no way to protect myself from falling.
My stomach swooped as tumbled off a small platform and smashed against the ground.
Dirt, damp grass, and moldy leaves replaced the stench of blood, cutting through the cloying sharpness of spilled metallic. My mouth opened, gasping in pain. Blades of grass tickled my lips as my cheek stuck to wet mud.
My shoulder screamed with agony, but I ignored the new injury. My mind clung to the unlocked memory. The fleeting recollection of my profession.
I’m a vet.
The sense of homecoming and security that one little snippet brought was priceless. My soul snarled for more, suddenly ravenous for missing information.
I skipped straight from fumbling uncertainty into starvation for more.
Tell me! Show me. Who am I?
I searched inside for more clues. But it was like trying to grab on to an elusive dream, fading faster and faster the harder I chased.
I couldn’t remember anything about medicine or how to heal. All I knew was I’d been trained to embrace the scent of blood. I wasn’t afraid of it. I didn’t faint or suffer sickness at the sight of it pouring from an open wound.
That tiniest knowledge was enough to settle my prickling nerves and focus on the outside world again.
Battle cries. Men screaming. Men growling. The dense thuds of fists on flesh and the horrible deflection of gunshots.
I couldn’t understand. Had I fallen through time and entered an alternate dimension?
Another body landed on top of mine.
I cried out, winded from a sharp poke of an elbow to my ribs.
The figure rolled away, crying softly. Feminine.
Why aren’t I crying?
I once again searched for fear. It wasn’t natural not to be afraid. I’d woken up alone, stolen, and thrown into the middle of a war, yet I wasn’t hyperventilating or panicked.
My calmness was like a drug, oozing over me, muting the sharp starkness of my situation. It was bearable if I embraced courage and the knowledge that I was strong.
My hands balled, grateful for the thought. I didn’t know who I was, but it didn’t matter, because the person who I was in this moment mattered the most.
I had to remain segmented, so I could get through whatever was about to happen. All I had was gut instinct, quiet strength, and rationality. Everything else had been taken.
“Stop fighting, you fucking idiots!”
The loud growl rumbled like an earthquake, hushing the battle in one fell swoop. Whoever had spoken had power.
Immense power. Colossal power.
A shiver darted over my skin.
“What the fuck happened? Have you lost your goddamn lovin’ mind?” a man yelled.
A sound of a short scuffle, then the fresh whiff of tilled dirt graced my nose.
“It’s done. Throw down your weapons and bend a fucking knee.” The same earthquake rumbled. The weight of his command pushed me harder against the damp ground.
“I’m not bending nothing, you asshole. You aren’t my Prez!”
“I am. Have been for the past four years.”
“You’re not. You’re his bitch. Don’t think his power is yours.”
Another fight—muffled fists and kicks. It ended swiftly with a painful groan.
The earthquake voice came again. “Open your eyes and follow the red fucking river. Your chosen—the one you hand-picked to slaughter me and take over the Club—he’s dead. Did you ever stop to think Wallstreet made me Prez for a fucking reason?”
“I’m the chosen one. I’m the one who knows the family secrets, absorbed the legacy, and earned his way into power. You don’t know shit. Nobody does. So bend a fucking knee and respect.”
Another tremor ran down my back.
Silence for a time, apart from the squelch of boots and heavy breathing. Then a barely muttered curse. “You’ll die. One way or another, we won’t put up with a Dagger as a Prez. We’re the Corrupts, goddammit. Having a traitor rule us is a fucking joke.”
“I’m the traitor? The man who obeys your leader? Who guides in his stead? I’m the traitor when you try and rally my brothers in a war?” A heavy thud of a fist connected with flesh. “No…I’m not. You are.”
My mind raced, sucking up noises and forming wild conclusions of what happened before me. Was this World War Three? Was this the apocalypse of the life I couldn’t remember? No matter how I pieced it together, I couldn’t make sense of anything.
The air was thick with anticipation. I didn’t know how many men stood before me. I didn’t know how many corpses littered the ground, or how such violence could be permitted in the world I used to know. But I did know the cease-fire was fragile and any moment it would explode.
A single threat slithered through the grass like a snake. “I’ll kill you, motherfucker. Mark my words. The true Corrupts are just waiting to take you out.”
The gentle foot-thuds of someone large vibrated through the ground. “The Corrupts haven’t existed for four fucking years. The moment I took the seat, it’s been Pure Corruption all the way. And you’re not fucking pure enough for this Club. You’re done.”
I flinched as the sulfuric boom of a gun ripped through the stagnant air.
A crash as a body fell lifeless to the grass. A soft puff of a soul escaping.
Murder was committed right before me.
The inherent need to nurture and heal—the part of me that was as steadfast as the beat of my heart—wept with regret.
Death was something I’d fought against on a daily basis, but now I was weaponless.
I hated that a life had been stolen right before me. That I hadn’t been able to stop it.
I’m a witness.
And yet, I’d witnessed nothing.
I’d been privy to a battle but seen nothing. Knew no one. I would never be able to tell who shot whom, or who was right and who was wrong.
My hands shook, even though I managed to stay eerily calm. Am I in shock? And if I was, how did I cure myself?
The woman beside me curled into a ball, her knees digging into my side. My first reaction was to repel away from the touch. I didn’t know who was friend or foe. But a second reaction came quickly; the urge to share my calmness—to let her know that no matter what happened, she wasn’t alone. We faced the same future—no matter how grim.
Voices cascaded over us, whispers mainly, quickly spoken orders. Every sound was heightened. Being robbed of sight made my body seek other ways in which to find clues.
“Get rid of the bodies before daybreak.”
“We’ll go back and make sure we’re still covered.”
“Send out the word. It’s over. The Prez won—no anarchy today.”
Each voice was distinct but my ears twitched only for one: the earthquake rumble that set my skin quivering like quicksand.
He hadn’t spoken since he’d condemned someone to death and pulled the trigger. Every second of not hearing him made my heart trip faster. I wasn’t afraid. I should be. I should be immobile with fear. But he invoked something in me—something primal. Just like I knew I was female and a vet, I knew his voice meant something. Every inch of me tensed, waiting for him to speak. It was wrong to crave the voice of a killer, but it was the only thing I wanted.
I need to know who he is.
Wet mud sucked loudly against boots as they came closer.
The woman whimpered, but I angled my chin toward the sound, wishing my eyes were uncovered.
I wanted to see. I wanted to witness the carnage before me. Because it was carnage. The stench of death confirmed it. It was morbid to want to see such destruction, but without my sight all of this seemed like a terrible nightmare. Nothing was grounded—completely nonsensical and far too strange.
I needed proof that this was real.
I needed concrete evidence that I wasn’t mad. That my body was intact, even if my mind was not.
I sucked in a breath as warm fingers touched my cheek, angling my face upward and out of the mud. Strong hands caressed the back of my skull, fumbling with my blindfold.
The anticipation of finally getting my wish to see made me stay still and cooperative in his hold.
I didn’t say a word or move. I just waited. And breathed. And listened.
The man’s breath was heavy and low, interspersed with a quick catch of pain. His fingers were swift and sure, but unable to hide the small fumble of agony.
The pressure of the blindfold suddenly released, trading opaque darkness for a new kind of gloom.
Night sky. Moonshine. Stars above.
Anchors of a world I knew, but no recognition of the dark-shrouded industrial estate where blood gleamed silver-black and corpses dotted the field.
I can see.
The joy at having my eyes freed came and went as blazing as a comet.
Then my life ended as our gazes connected.
Green to green.
I have green eyes.
Down and down I spiraled, deeper and deeper into his clutches.
My life—past, present, and future—lost all purpose the second I stared into his soul.
The fear I’d been missing slammed into my heart.
I quivered. I quaked.
Something howled deep inside with age-old knowledge.
Every part of me arched toward him, then shied away in terror.
A nightmare come to life.
A nightmare I wanted to live.
If life was a tapestry, already threaded and steadfast, then he was the scissors that cut me free. He tore me out, stole me away, changed the whole prophecy of who I was meant to be.
Jaw-length dark hair, tangled and sweaty, framed a square jaw, straight nose, and full lips. His five-o’clock stubble held remnants of war, streaked with dirt and blood. But it was his eyes that shot a quivering arrow into my heart, spreading his emerald anger.
He froze, his body curving toward mine. Blistering hope flickered across his features. His mouth fell open and love so achingly deep glowed in his gaze. “What—” A leg gave out, making him kneel beside me. His hands shook as he cupped my face, his fingers digging painfully into my cheekbones. “It’s not—”
My heart raced. Yes.
“You know me,” I breathed.
The moment my voice webbed around us, storm clouds rolled over the sunshine in his face, blackening the hope and replacing it with pure hatred.
He changed from watching me like I was his angel to glowering as if I were a despicable devil.
I shivered at the change—at the iciness and hardness. He breathed hard, his chest rising and falling. His lips parted, a rumbling command falling from his mouth to my ears. “Stand up. You’re mine now.”
When I didn’t move, his hand landed on my side. His touch was blocked by clothing but I felt it everywhere. He stroked my soul, tickled my heart, and caressed every cell with fingers that despised me.
I couldn’t suck in a proper breath.
With a vicious push, he rolled me over, and with a sharp blade sliced my bindings. With effortless power, so thrilling and terrifying, he hauled me to my feet.
I didn’t sway. I didn’t cry. Only pulled the disgusting gag from my mouth and stared in silence.
I stared up, up, up into his bright green eyes, understanding something I shouldn’t understand.
This was him.
About the Author:
Pepper Winters wears many roles. Some of them include writer, reader, sometimes wife. She loves dark, taboo stories that twist with your head. The more tortured the hero, the better, and she constantly thinks up ways to break and fix her characters. Oh, and sex… her books have sex.
She loves to travel and has an amazing, fabulous hubby who puts up with her love affair with her book boyfriends.
Her Dark Erotica books include:
Tears of Tess (Monsters in the Dark #1)
Quintessentially Q (Monsters in the Dark #2)
Her Grey Romance books include:
Title: Never to Hope
Author: Aimie Grey
Genre: Contemporary Romance
As the daughter of addicts, Alissa Ross is determined to break the cycle for herself and others like her. After years of following a set of carefully laid plans and working a demeaning job to save enough money, her lifelong goal of attending law school is almost within reach.
Alissa believed that love was out of the question for her…that is until the day Carter Smith moves in to her apartment building. From their first meeting, there’s an undeniable connection between them, and Alissa slowly begins to trust that it’s okay to hope for happiness in her life. For once everything is looking up, but as she has learned all too well, when something seems too good to be true, it usually is.
Will Alissa be able to trust the man who has everything to gain from destroying the only thing she’s ever wanted, or will she
accept it is better never to hope?
The cold tile floor on which I sat sent chills through the thin material of my robe to my nearly bare skin, and the cinderblock walls holding me upright were as unforgiving as my conscience. My body was tucked tightly into the corner, and my knees were covered with black streaks from running mascara as I hid my face against them and sobbed.
Over the years my body had been at the mercy of what others wanted, but I had survived, and I’d taken back control over what happened to me. For the first time, I’d used my body to benefit myself instead of my family, and the rush felt…good.
The power I’d experienced the first night was an incredible high—as if I’d given the universe a giant “fuck you”. I couldn’t quite reconcile the emotional pleasure I felt that night with my painful sexual history. All I knew was that I got to call the shots. I got to choose who and what I did. The power was in my hands.
The second night, however, was much harder, and the third was nearly unbearable…and now here I was huddled in a corner, crying. I wouldn’t—couldn’t—give up, though.
“Hey, are you all right?” A pair of smooth, shapely legs came into view when I lifted my watery gaze. “Pretty new here, huh?”
Nodding, I did my best to dry my cheeks and then swiped my forearm beneath my runny nose.
“What’s your name?” she asked as she crouched down to my level.
“Alissa,” I replied quietly.
“No, it’s not,” she said in a firm voice. “Not here, anyway. The first rule of survival is anonymity.” She paused for a moment, as if working something out in her mind. “From now on, every time you step through those doors, your name will be Lisa.”
“Lisa…” I repeated hesitantly, testing the name on my lips.
“I’m Veronica, by the way, but the clients know me as Vicki. How did you make out tonight?”
“Not very well,” I admitted. The money was better than waitressing but nowhere near what I’d been told to expect.
“You’ll need a new look to go with your new name. I’ve worked here long enough to know what the customers want. My sister owns the little beauty shop a couple of blocks over on Bridgeview. Meet me there tomorrow at noon, and we’ll get started.”
“Why are you being so nice to me?”
“Because someone helped me when I was sitting in that corner. You aren’t the first, and you won’t be the last. Someday, you’ll have an opportunity to pay it forward.”
Never to Hope is available at the introductory price of 99 cents until May 3rd, and all proceeds from sales through May 3rdwill be donated to a charity that supports homeless youth.
Amazon US: http://bit.ly/N2HAZUS
Amazon UK: http://bit.ly/N2HAZUK
Google Play: http://bit.ly/N2HGPLAY
Amazon AU: http://bit.ly/N2HAZAU
Amazon CA: http://bit.ly/N2HAZCA
Aimie Grey didn’t read a single book until she was in her early thirties. One fateful day, her friend decided to put an end to the madness and shoved a steamy romance novel under Aimie’s nose. After being forced to read one of “those” scenes, Aimie went home and bought the book, and the next one, and the one after that. In the two years since, Aimie has read close to four hundred books. Somewhere along the way, she became frustrated with reading repetitive stories revolving around the experienced man seducing the still virginal woman. Aimie decided to take matters into her own hands and wrote her debut full length erotic romance novel Never to Keep.
In addition to her day job as an IT system administrator, and her new evening gig as a writer, Aimie’s primary role in life is wife and mother. Aimie lives in the Midwest with her husband and two teenage daughters. (Now you know why she needs those books!)