She's waited a lifetime. Can she stop him from wasting one?
Vaughn Jenkins is the youngest in a long line of proud men. But he was only seventeen when his parents were killed during a storm on a California highway. Seven years later, another stormy night nearly took Vaughn's life. Now he's half a leg lighter, full of shame and doubt, and taking it out on everyone around him, even the woman he's loved most of his life.
T.J. Brisco is the girl next door. She and Vaughn grew up together, inseparable friends, then high school sweethearts. But when tragedy strikes, Vaughn retreats, and this time is no different. She's determined to help him recover from his devastating amputation, but Vaughn's not going to make it easy. When his anger becomes too much for T.J.'s shattered heart, she decides their story is over for good.
Now Vaughn is faced with the rest of his life—as an amputee, as a brother, as a man—and as T.J. moves on, Vaughn falls farther and farther behind. Can he learn to run fast enough to catch up to the only woman he'll ever love? Or will his pride stand in their way forever?
He waved over his head and kept moving, looking down to make sure his leg didn’t get caught on anything in the crowded space. While the trajectory of his leg could be controlled well because he had an intact knee joint, he couldn’t feel if anything below his knee got knocked or caught when he was in close quarters. It made the navigating somewhat more difficult, and since he preferred not to fall on his ass in front of half the town, he kept his gaze down.
Which was why he knocked right into something, eliciting a squeak that jolted him out of his hyperfocused state. His hands shot out in reflex, and he caught whatever—whoever—it was as they stumbled. The other person’s weight pulled him off-balance, and he was forced to take another step, planting his good leg to keep upright. The extra step meant that his victim was now virtually under him, bent back in a slight dip as he held what was definitely a her.
His gaze moved up from a set of perfect breasts snug in stretchy azure fabric with a deep V in the front, and on to a neck that was smooth and slim. And then he reached the face, that face, the face that haunted him day in and day out, even when he wanted nothing more than to be free of it.
“Sorry,” he murmured as they stayed frozen in their embrace, T.J.’s big brown eyes blinking at him. But then his gaze dropped, against his will, to her breasts again, and he jerked both him and T.J. upright, setting her away as much as he could in the middle of the tables, stools, and people.
T.J. cleared her throat and smoothed her tight, short dress. Vaughn was caught speechless at the vision of his wholesome, lifelong best friend wearing something that looked like it belonged in a Los Angeles nightclub. The brilliant shade of blue contrasted with her black hair and golden skin, making her glow like some sort of goddess.
About the Author
Selena Laurence is an award-winning and USA TODAY bestselling author who loves Putting the Heat in Happily Ever After. Her super sexy stories take place everywhere from rock concerts to family ranches, and her books can be found around the world in four languages, at libraries, bookstores, online, and in audio.
Selena lives in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains where she can often be found at a local coffee shop, hiking the trails, or watching soccer. At home Mr L, her kids, "goldendoodle" and "demoncat" keep her busy trying to corral chaos. A veteran Indie author, Selena also coaches writers through her blog and workshops on turning #Passion2Profession.
Skylier is desperate to escape her underground confines and save her mother’s life.
On a school visit, she hears something she’s not supposed to and now she realizes that not only was her whole life a lie, but that she is in grave danger.
She doesn’t know who to trust and her enemies are everywhere. Now she is in a race against time to save not only her life, but her mother's and those she cares about.
And if she fails, she'll suffer a fate worse than death...
About the Author
I was born in Lancaster, England. Growing up in a single parent household with five other siblings was difficult but at the same time character building.
As a young child I found a passion for drawing and writing, which has stayed with me into adulthood. I graduated from the University of Central Lancashire, England with a BA(Hons) in fashion design.
At aged twenty seven, my husband and I packed up our belongings for our lifelong dream to move to California. Our America dream was completed with the birth of our daughter.
A new job opportunity opened up New York, and we decided to relocate to Long Island, NY, where we currently reside.
My books are a mixture of thriller, action, and dystopian. If you’re looking for a good place to start, take a look at War Kids series of thrillers, available now. You can grab copies in either ebook or paperback. To get an email whenever I release a new title, sign up for the VIP newsletter by click this link.
Lady Evie Chesterfield is a darling of the ton who refuses to become engaged. She’s been desperately in love with her brother’s friend, Richard Maitland, Marquess of Westfall, since forever. But the dark, dangerous marquess only sees her as a friend and refuses to marry any woman. When circumstances change and Evie has no choice but to take a husband, she decides to convince London’s most notorious gentleman to marry her by seducing the scoundrel.
Richard Maitland decided long ago that he wanted nothing to do with love. So when the gorgeous, off-limits Evie asks him for lessons in seduction, Richard knows he’s playing with fire. Despite Richard’s determination to protect her from his dastardly reputation, he is tested at every turn by his need for the infuriating, but enticing, Lady Evie. Before too long he is faced with making an impossible choice…
Lady Evie hatches a daring plan to secure her marquess…
“I need lessons in seduction.”
“Bloody hell. If you must work to ensnare your gentleman’s regard, he is a bloody fool,” Richard said gruffly. “You are beautiful, Evie. Clever, witty, and kind. He should be damn well fortunate you would consider him.” He scrubbed a hand over his face. “Who is this idiot?”
You, my darling. “I would rather not say.”
“Why in damnation not?”
“I already know you are going to investigate Ponsby, as you did all the other suitors who have approached me over the years. I would…prefer you not to do so with my secret gentleman.”
“And if I gave you my word?”
“I will still be directed by my desires and withhold his name from you.”
“And what makes you think I have any notion of what in God’s name you must do to attract this buffoon?”
Evie couldn’t help laughing. “Rumors says you’ve had various lovers—actresses, famed courtesans, ladies belonging to high society and ladies of questionable morals. Surely you have some idea of how they caught you so thoroughly?”
“Perhaps it was I who caught them,” he said with some amusement and with such arrogant superiority she wanted to slap him.
She settled with an inelegant shrug. “Unquestionably it was mutual.”
“And what do I get from this?”
“You get to make a dear friend the happiest of women.”
After a pulse of silence, he responded, “And that is all the incentive I need.”
A wide smile split her face, and he sucked in a harsh breath. Evie pushed out her hand for him to shake. He held her palm lightly. “Then we have a bargain. You will teach me how to kiss properly, in secret of course, how to flirt, and you will attend balls and dance with me so that he can be dreadfully jealous.”
Richard shook her hand. “I may be present at a few balls, I may dance with you, I may give you meaningful insight on how to attract this unmitigated idiot, but there will certainly be no kisses.”
It was something, Evie conceded grudgingly, but just not quite what she needed. “And why no kisses?”
The air tightened with an unexpected tension, and the pulse jumped in her throat.
“That would be too dangerous.”
“You have kissed me before.”
A powerful heat flared in the depth of his gaze. “That has no bearing on how we must go forward now. And those kisses were chaste.”
“Chaste? You’ve intrigued me, Richard, I quite thought at the time they were illicit and daring. Are you suggesting there is more?”
He narrowed his gaze in warning.
She pursed her lips. “You would prefer I seek someone else’s tuition for lessons on how to kiss properly?”
“Good Christ, I implied nothing of the sort.”
“Without lessons in the art of delicate seduction, I am certain I am to muck it up. The very idea is intolerable.”
He swallowed, at an apparent loss of word as she moved to sit beside him. She quite liked ruffling the feathers of a man of the world like Richard. Acting on pure feminine instinct, she lifted the veil from her face and lightly kissed the firm side of his jaw. Her heart pounded an exhilarating yet terrifying tempo. When he didn’t shift from her tentative exploration, her anxiety lessened, and her curiosity increased. How far could she tempt him?
About the Author
I am an avid reader of novels with a deep passion for writing. I especially love romance and adore writing about people falling in love. I live a lot in the worlds I create and I actively speak to my characters (out loud). I have a warrior way “never give up on my dream.” When I am not writing, I spend a copious amount of time drooling over Rick Grimes from Walking Dead, watching Japanese Anime and playing video games with my love. I also have a horrible weakness for Ice cream.
Go-getter Georgia Paxton has ten days to acquire a quaint hotel in the Scottish Highlands for her travel accommodation company before she’s off on her next grand adventure. Too bad the sexy, broody Scot who owns the place is dead against the idea…and that she’s in very real danger of losing their little bet to see who can convince whom first.
There’s no way Callum MacGregor is going to let the gorgeous American turn his tiny hometown over to bored tourists looking to satisfy their Outlander fantasies. He only has ten days to convince her to slow down and see the magic of the town and its people. If he succeeds, he won’t have to run her out of the county. But if he fails, Georgia might run off with his heart.
Callum twisted the arm until it was free, then clicked it into place. He then put her hand on a knob on the side of the machine. “Twist lightly,” he said. “That knob is temperamental. Your stroke has to be just right.”
With his hand covering Georgia’s, he turned the knob until a stream of coffee poured into the ceramic cup.
“A temperamental knob. Duly noted.”
He swallowed. Yep, husky bed voice.
He pressed in another half inch and grabbed her right hand, guiding it to a lever. “To get the pressure right, you’ve got to push this lever down until the steam starts to appear.” Her hand was soft and warm under his.
“Okay.” More husky voice, and heat pouring out of her and soaking him.
“When you get steam, turn it off like this.” He gently pushed her hand, so the lever set to neutral. “You want to get all the water out before you dip your wand.”
She moved back a fraction, brushing against his chest. “Everyone should know how to dip their wand just the way they like it.”
“Manufacturer recommendation.” He edged back, so the evidence of this conversation didn’t announce itself. He could blame morning biology, but he wasn’t a liar by nature.
The atmosphere in the room thickened to clotted cream.
“I always follow the manufacturer’s recommendation. I wouldn’t want the wand to get damaged.”
He shook his head. “Terrible thing, a damaged wand.”
With the wand dipped into the silver jug, he swirled the milk until the right consistency of froth appeared. Balancing the cup and the jug, he drew a heart into the coffee.
“Okay,” she whispered.
“You must always clean the wand, thoroughly. No one wants a dirty wand.”
“Wands should be kept clean at all times. Never know when you’re going to need it.” The husk in her voice vibrated through his body.
He stepped back, hands in his pockets, her heat hitching his heart rate.
About the Author
I love Princess Bride, Young and the Restless, Days of our Lives – the drama is deliciously addictive. Big Bang Theory but will take Wolowitz over Cooper. Star Trek not Star Wars. Undercover Boss, Secret Millionaire – any story that shows the little guy making it. I follow the Buffalo Bills like a religion. I am spellbound by showjumping and equestrian eventing. I love curling up and reading all books – no genre is off-topic. I like ironing, I hate peas, love donkeys, I play a killer game of Scrabble. I will often be heading towards the fridge for another Diet Coke. I eat nothing with legs and believe wine goes with everything, oh and I’m an expert at finding new and inventive ways to avoid exercise.
I live in the sparkly beachside suburb of Redondo Beach in California with my infuriating shoe-dropping husband and my two boys who speak in mystifying grunts.
All I Want is You
Publication date: August 22nd 2017
Genres: Contemporary, New Adult, Romance
Hayley Grey is new in town and in a binge-watching, ice cream-eating rut.
She’s sworn off commitment, so when her best friend drags her out of bed and into a singles bar, Hayley’s just hoping to get laid. By the end of the night, she’s on the run with a hot stranger named Hunter, and happy she’s still alive.
Hunter Jacobs is a bodyguard with one strict rule: never get romantically involved with clients. Hayley isn’t his typical client, and she’s testing his resolve like no one ever has before.
When their life-changing weekend ends, will they have to break their rules or move on without each other?
All I Want is You is a stand-alone novella – no cliffhanger!
Hot Guy is incredibly tall, has a mop of dirty-blond hair, and raspy scruff peppering his movie-star jawline. A tight henley shows off every inch of his broad chest and muscular arms from where he stands across the room, just staring at me.
Seems I’ve caught his eye, too. That never happens to me.
His lips part when our eyes meet, like he wants to call out to me or something, but instead he keeps on staring. Staring in a way that makes my heart beat double time, that makes my knees weak. He doesn’t smile, doesn’t nod, doesn’t do anything other than look at me like he wants to devour me.
Without really thinking, I hurriedly make my way over, not even trying to play it cool. I slide between couples who are bumping and grinding on the dance floor, and when I reach Hot Guy, he smiles. It’s not the slick grin of a slime ball who knows he’s going to get laid tonight; it’s sweet and sexy, with just the hint of a dimple shining through.
“Hi,” he says, all soft and familiar despite the fact that we’re complete strangers.
“I’m glad you came over.” He leans in close, and all I can think about is how good he smells. I want to press my face into his neck and breathe deep. I want his tongue to become familiar with every single inch of my body.
I’m feeling turned on and brazen, and the way Hot Guy’s eyes skate across my body makes me pretty confident that he feels the same way, too. That’s what gives me the courage to say, “You don’t seem like the kind of guy who has difficulty making women come.”
I certainly hope not, at least.
Hot Guy lets out a shocked laugh, and his hazel eyes darken with something that looks a lot like lust. His hands find their way to the small of my back and he gives me a gentle tug, pulling me closer to him and away from the crowd.
“I’m not,” he replies, his scruff rasping against my skin as his lips brush the shell of my ear. “I can show you if you’d like.”
Cassie Cross is a Maryland native and a romantic at heart, who lives outside of Baltimore with her two dogs and a closet full of shoes. Cassie’s fondness for swoon-worthy men and strong women are the inspiration for most of her stories, and when she’s not busy writing a book, you’ll probably find her eating takeout and indulging in her love of 80′s sitcoms.
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From Ann Cleeves, winner of the CWA Diamond Dagger Award, comes Telling Tales, an early book in the Vera Stanhope series, which has been brought to life by Brenda Blethyn in the hit TV series Vera.
It has been ten years since Jeanie Long was charged with the murder of fifteen-year-old Abigail Mantel. Now residents of the East Yorkshire village of Elvet are disturbed to hear of new evidence proving Jeanie’s innocence. Abigail’s killer is still at large.
For one young woman, Emma Bennett, the revelation brings back haunting memories of her vibrant best friend--and of that fearful winter’s day when she had discovered her body lying cold in a ditch.
As Inspector Vera Stanhope makes fresh enquiries on the peninsula and villagers are hauled back to a time they hoped to forget, tensions begin to mount. But are people afraid of the killer or of their own guilty pasts?
With each person’s story revisited, the Inspector begins to suspect that some deadly secrets are threatening to unfurl…
About the Author
Ann Cleeves was working as a cook in the Bird Observatory on Fair Isle when she met her husband Tim, a visiting ornithologist. Soon after they married, Tim was appointed as warden of Hilbre, a tiny tidal island nature reserve in the Dee Estuary. She began writing her first series of crime novels here featuring the elderly naturalist, George Palmer-Jones. She went on to set up reading groups in prisons as part of the Inside Books project, became Cheltenham Literature Festival's first reader-in-residence and works as associate trainer with the reader development organization, Opening the Book. She is reader-in-residence for Harrogate Crime Writing Festival, and her reading passion is crime in translation. Her short film for Border TV, Catching Birds, won a Royal Television Society Award. Ann has twice before been short listed for a CWA Dagger Award - once for her short story "The Plater," and again for the Dagger in the Library award. In 2016, she won the CWA Diamond Dagger Award, the highest honor in British crime writing.
When a mysterious figure appears in Three Pines one cold November day, Armand Gamache and the rest of the villagers are at first curious. Then wary. Through rain and sleet, the figure stands unmoving, staring ahead.
From the moment its shadow falls over the village, Gamache, now Chief Superintendent of the Sûreté du Québec, suspects the creature has deep roots and a dark purpose. Yet he does nothing. What can he do? Only watch and wait. And hope his mounting fears are not realized.
But when the figure vanishes overnight and a body is discovered, it falls to Gamache to discover if a debt has been paid or levied.
Months later, on a steamy July day as the trial for the accused begins in Montréal, Chief Superintendent Gamache continues to struggle with actions he set in motion that bitter November, from which there is no going back. More than the accused is on trial. Gamache’s own conscience is standing in judgment.
In Glass Houses, her latest utterly gripping book, number-one New York Times bestselling author Louise Penny shatters the conventions of the crime.
About the Author
LOUISE PENNY is the author of the #1 New York Times and Globe and Mail bestselling series of Chief Inspector Armand Gamache novels. She has won numerous awards, including a CWA Dagger and the Agatha Award (six times), and was a finalist for the Edgar Award for Best Novel. In 2017, she received the Order of Canada for her contributions to Canadian culture. Louise lives in a small village south of Montréal.
Injured in the line of duty,
His orders are simple:
But when a frightened woman bursts into his life, Hugh and his K9 companion have no choice but to risk everything to keep her safe.
The sole witness to a horrific crime, Kaylee Ramay flees to the Colorado Rockies to start a new life. There she becomes Grace, a dog kennel employee desperately trying to avoid attention—especially from dangerously attractive K9 Officer Hugh Murdoch.
Because Hugh is tall, dark…and nothing but trouble.
Hugh is anxious to get back in the field after an act of heroism left him warming the bench. Until then, he and his K9 partner Lexi spend their hours teasing the town’s mysterious newcomer. But when their simmering attraction is nearly cut short by a sniper’s bullet, Hugh’s mystery woman must come clean about the secrets she keeps…
Grace crossed her arms over her chest in an attempt to create a barrier between them. It didn’t help; Hugh was still much too close for comfort. She scrambled to catch the thread of their conversation. “Well, stop being informed.”
Even before he grinned, she knew that hadn’t made any sense.
“About me. Stop informing yourself about me.” That was even worse. Struggling to find her usual composure, Grace shifted back a step. That gave him the advantage, but she couldn’t think with him so near. Stupid Hugh with his stupid, muscly body was distracting her.
“Sorry, Grace.” His grin took on a shark-like cast. “I’m not planning on stopping. You’re a puzzle, and I don’t like things to go…unsolved.”
The last of her equanimity disappeared, evaporated with the knowledge that he wasn’t going to quit investigating her. Beneath her anger and the anxiety about what he’d discover, there was a hard kernel of disappointment. She didn’t want to be interesting to Hugh because she was some sort of unsolved puzzle. Despite herself, she wanted him to be interested because she was fascinating to him.
A tiny, dumb part of her wished that he was as attracted to her as she was to him.
When she realized she was just staring at him, thinking silly, useless thoughts, Grace abruptly turned and walked—well, stomped—toward her car. She was parked on the other side of the building, and she cursed herself for not picking one of the front spots instead. If she had, she’d already be inside, away from Hugh’s looming presence. Having her car sitting exposed, for anyone to see if they drove past, bothered her, though, so she tended to pick the most hidden spots she could find. It didn’t matter that the car wasn’t registered to her real name. Maybe she was being paranoid, but she just didn’t want to take any chances. One screwup, and she would be dead.
She turned the corner. Although she couldn’t hear footsteps behind her, she knew he was there, and close. Shooting him a narrowed-eyed look over her shoulder, she snapped, “Don’t you have something better to do than follow me?”
“Not really.” Although his words were light, the usual humor wasn’t there. Instead, he met her gaze with an intensity that made her whip her head around so she was facing forward again. Jokey Hugh was one thing, but smoldering Hugh could be a serious problem.
“Grace.” He caught her hand, bringing her to a halt. Although her feet stopped moving, almost of their own accord, she kept her gaze focused on her car. “Grace, look at me.”
She couldn’t do it. If she looked at him, she wouldn’t be able to think. It wasn’t good that the man who had the drive to discover her secret made her incapable of rational thought. A tug at her hand made her realize that she was stuck. Until she met his eyes, Hugh was going to stay there.
I can do this. She’d faced worse than Hugh over the past two weeks.
Setting her jaw, she turned around. Her gaze traveled up his solid chest, over his serious face, and locked on to his gaze.
“Why are you running away from me?” he asked, sounding completely sincere. “You can trust me.”
Unable to look away, she just pressed her lips together. She couldn’t trust anyone. Martin Jovanovic’s reach was too extensive. She’d made that mistake already, and it had left her hunted and crouching by a dumpster.
“I can help you.” He tugged her closer, and her traitor body gave in to his pull. His head tipped down, and air from his words brushed her cheek. Her breath left her in a shuddering rush as her eyes closed. He felt so safe, so solid, so strong…
“What’s your name?” he asked softly, directly in her ear. “Your real name?”
With a frustrated sound, she jerked her hand away. He was playing her, using her attraction to him to get the information he wanted. “You are such an ass!” She started to stomp away, but Hugh caught her again, around the waist that time. He pulled her tightly against him, her back pressing against his front.
“It would make things a lot easier for both of us if you’d just tell me the truth.” The rasp in his voice and the way his breath brushed her ear distracted her, tempting her to sink into the heat and strength of him—but then the meaning of his words hit her.
Clenching her teeth to hold back a frustrated scream, she yanked out of his grip and spun around. “I am not your puzzle to solve,” she gritted out, poking him in the chest with each word. “I’m not one of your suspects. You do not get to interrogate me.”
He caught her jabbing finger in a firm but gentle grip. Their eyes met, and his were hot and shockingly hungry. “You’re so beautiful when you’re yelling at me.”
Her mouth fell open, but she couldn’t say anything else. Was he serious this time, or had that just been another way to distract her, to disarm her? “Quit trying to butter me up. It’s not going to make me tell you anything.”
“I mean it.” His expression was completely earnest. There wasn’t a hint of laughter to be seen.
She stared at him, fury and anxiety and desire all swirling together in a molten mixture that burned her from the inside. This man was going to be the death of her. “You are so…”
“I’m so…what?” His gaze dropped to her mouth. “Hot?” The lilt of humor had returned to his voice.
“Arrrgh!” She started to turn away, fully prepared to stomp to her car, after which she would perhaps run him over several times, but his fingers closed around her arm, tugging her back around. Grace opened her mouth, ready to tell him off, but then her gaze collided with his. All amusement had been erased from his expression. The heat, the hunger burning in his eyes erased all thoughts of their latest argument and lit an answering inferno inside her.
Then his lips were on hers, and Grace was lost.
About the Author
When she’s not writing, KATIE RUGGLE rides horses, shoots guns, and trains her three dogs. A police academy graduate, Katie readily admits she’s a forensics nerd. While she still misses her off-grid home in the Rocky Mountains, she now lives in a 150-year-old Minnesota farmhouse near her family.
THEY SAID SHE WAS GOING TO BE MY RUIN...
THEN LET HER RUIN ME.
He had everything—wealth, adoration, a brilliant future. Until one chance encounter changed everything.
The moment Caleb Lockhart spotted the mysterious woman in her siren red dress, he couldn’t tear his eyes away.
For the first time in his life, he wanted something. Something he knew he could never have.
The unforgettable stranger he dubs RED.
I closed my eyes and inhaled the refreshing air as I stepped out of the club. I had parked my car at the end of the lot and walked hurriedly to it, afraid someone would see me and drag me back inside. I’d rather chew my arm off than go back in there.
My steps faltered as I spotted the silhouette of a woman leaning against one of the filthy brick walls of the club parking lot. She’d probably had too much to drink. I would have been happy to leave her in peace, but when I glanced at her again, I noticed a man leering at her from a few feet away. My protective instincts kicked in as the man straightened and walked toward her.
The woman shifted, and the dim light from the streetlamp touched her face. My pulse kicked up a notch as I recognized her—Red.
I didn’t need to think twice and went straight for her. The man hadn’t noticed me yet because his gaze was concentrated on her. On the prize. The only prize he was getting tonight was a bloody nose if he didn’t stop and turn his ass around.
When his hand closed around her wrist, I nearly growled. The anger surprised me, but I had to shake it off or this night would turn into a shit show. I took a few steps forward, and the man froze. He finally saw me.
“Hey, baby! Where have you been?” I exclaimed, fighting to keep my voice light as I approached. I refused to look at her face for fear of what I’d see there. If she looked even remotely scared, I was going to hit this dumb shit in the face. “I’ve been looking everywhere for you.” I touched her shoulder and nodded at the dirtbag, meeting his gaze straight on. “I got her now.”
When he refused to let go of her, I straightened to my full height, widened my stance, and turned my hardest do-not-fuck-with-me gaze on him. The pervert let go and moved back a step, two, three, until he whipped around and started running in the opposite direction.
“Dumb shit,” I said under my breath.
“What d-did you call me?”
Surprised that she’d heard me, I studied her face. How drunk was she?
“Not you. Although I guess dumb is debatable. What are you doing here alone?” My hands shot out to hold her up as she swayed on her feet again. “Whoa. You all right?”
It had been too dark inside the club to notice, but now I could see her face was pale, her eyes glassy. Without waiting for her reply, I scooped her up in my arms. She let out a weak protest.
“Do you need to throw up?” I asked, shaking her a little when she didn’t respond.
She moaned in distress, covering her mouth with her hands. That wasn’t a smart move on my part, I realized as I headed to my parking spot. When she looked like she wasn’t going to puke, I settled her carefully inside my car.
“I just got this car. You’re not going to throw up in here, are you?” I started the ignition. She looked like she’d passed out already. “Where do you live? I’ll drive you.”
“H-homeless,” she whimpered, surprising me that she’d responded. “Kicked out of my p-place.”
Leaning against the headrest, I took a deep breath and rubbed my face. Homeless? Now what? I could drop her off at a hotel and pay her lodging for a few days so she’d have a place to stay while she found a new place. It was more than a stranger would do. But then I glanced at her and that plan evaporated.
Her eyes were closed, her breathing even and shallow, but even in sleep, she looked troubled. This girl who was so fierce on the dance floor looked so vulnerable now. Her face seemed familiar to me, like a barely remembered picture from a long time ago, but I couldn’t place where I’d seen her before. I wouldn’t forget a face like hers.
My brother, Ben, always liked to point out that I was a sucker for damsels in distress, and when I decided to take her to my apartment, I proved him right. I told myself she would not be safe in a hotel, especially in her current state. God knows what would have happened outside the club if I hadn’t shown up.
It was spring, but the temperature was still dropping a few degrees at night. Fog covered the windshield and the windows of my car. When she shivered, I turned the heater on full blast, shrugged out of my jacket, and covered her with it. She was going to have a hell of a hangover when she woke up in the morning. We were a few minutes away from my apartment when she suddenly jerked up in her seat, covering her mouth.
She threw up all over my car.
I nearly cried. My brand-new car! The sound of her retching was bad enough, but the smell was so putrid I nearly gagged myself. Desperately opening the windows and sunroof, I let out the breath I was holding and frantically gasped for air.
“Damn, girl. One good deed and—”
She threw up again.
Pissed, I debated if I should drop her off at a hotel. I didn’t know this girl. Even my savior complex had a limit.
But I knew I couldn’t do it.
Resigned, I guided my car into my apartment building’s garage, parked in my spot, and warily approached the passenger seat. Holding my breath, I cleaned her as much as I could with an extra towel I kept in my car for basketball practice, then picked her up in my arms. She stank to high heaven.
I carried her through the lobby, and the concierge pressed the elevator doors for me since my hands were full. “Your girlfriend had too much to drink, sir?”
“Now, you and I both know I don’t do girlfriends, Paul.”
As soon as I keyed in the code to my apartment, I went straight to the guest bedroom. She whimpered when I gently laid her on the bed, curling up like a little kitten. “Mom,” she sobbed.
Glancing at her face, I hesitated beside the bed. Whatever this girl had gone through hadn’t been pleasant. I knew I should probably clean her up and change her clothes, but I didn’t think she’d appreciate it when she discovered a stranger had stripped her. I might lose an eye or a hand if I did. Better not risk it.
Her breathing eventually evened out. I don’t know how long I stayed there watching her sleep.
Savannah and Charleston, two sisters living in a small Southern town, have always been close. They've shared everything with one another...until Dillon, the one boy in school who's bad news, sets his sights on Charleston. As she's drawn down his dark, destructive path, Savannah panics, knowing this isn't a relationship destined for anything but trouble.
She turns to her lifelong best friend, Ellerbe, for help, but there's a shift in their relationship. The connection they've shared is taking a turn toward something more, something deeper. And Savannah isn't sure she's ready for a romance while trying to save her sister.
As Savannah's foundation begins to crumble, every decision becomes an unchangeable step toward an outcome that could have tragic repercussions.
I took a deep breath, breathing in the smell of the earth, the sweat of the horses, and distinctive smell of cotton balls hanging from plants in the sun. It relaxed me and made talking seem right. “I’m worried about Charleston. I think she got a second detention on purpose.”
“Why would she do that?”
I hesitated, wondering how he might react, but plunged into it. “I think she has a thing for Dillon Smith; she got detention again so she could see him. From what I hear, he’s always in detention.”
It wasn’t quite the reaction I expected. More of a thinking-it-over response instead of the disgust I felt.
I slumped in my saddle. “Well, I can’t believe it. Dillon. Ugh. He’s… well, you know. Remember what he wrote on the gym wall?”
Of course Ellerbe remembered it. Everyone had seen it. It didn’t bear repeating, but being a guy, Ellerbe had laughed it off like most of them.
“Can’t say I’d want him for a brother-in-law anyhow.” His face remained serious. Serious. Like that might happen.
“You don’t think… oh, my gosh, she couldn’t possibly let it go that far. Why did you even have to suggest it?”
He laughed at me. “You’re so gullible. It’s just a school thing. She’ll be over him as soon as the next guy whistles at her.”
I so wanted to believe that. “You think?”
“This is Charleston we’re talking about.”
That was the end of discussion for him. He didn’t understand the implications of it all. His eyes played over my face, and I knew he was laughing at me for being so worried.
He pushed Snow into a trot. “Come on. To the creek.”
Ellerbe’s answer to every problem in the world—ride!
I sighed, thinking maybe he was right. Charleston could be pretty fickle. Maybe it was nothing to worry about.
About the Author
Michelle Buckman is the award-winning author of seven novels. She is an international conference speaker renowned for her dynamic discussions on writing and faith, and loves to join in school and book club discussions as well. She was born in New York and raised in Canada, but has lived in the Carolinas most of her life. Walking on the each is both her inspiration and her favorite pastime.
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