Spotlight: At the Edge of Summer by Jessica Brockmole

The acclaimed author of Letters from Skye returns with an extraordinary story of a friendship born of proximity but boundless in the face of separation and war.
 
Luc Crépet is accustomed to his mother’s bringing wounded creatures to their idyllic château in the French countryside, where healing comes naturally amid the lush wildflowers and crumbling stone walls. Yet his maman’s newest project is the most surprising: a fifteen-year-old Scottish girl grieving over her parents’ fate. A curious child with an artistic soul, Clare Ross finds solace in her connection to Luc, and she in turn inspires him in ways he never thought possible. Then, just as suddenly as Clare arrives, she is gone, whisked away by her grandfather to the farthest reaches of the globe. Devastated by her departure, Luc begins to write letters to Clare—and, even as she moves from Portugal to Africa and beyond, the memory of the summer they shared keeps her grounded.
 
Years later, in the wake of World War I, Clare, now an artist, returns to France to help create facial prostheses for wounded soldiers. One of the wary veterans who comes to the studio seems familiar, and as his mask takes shape beneath her fingers, she recognizes Luc. But is this soldier, made bitter by battle and betrayal, the same boy who once wrote her wistful letters from Paris? After war and so many years apart, can Clare and Luc recapture how they felt at the edge of that long-ago summer?
 
Bringing to life two unforgettable characters and the rich historical period they inhabit, Jessica Brockmole shows how love and forgiveness can redeem us.

Buy on Amazon | Barnes and Noble

Spotlight: The Super Ladies by Susan Petrone

The Super Ladies

by Susan Petrone

August 13 - October 13, 2018 Tour

  The Super Ladies by Susan Petrone

Synopsis:

For three middle-aged women in the suburbs of Cleveland, the issues seemed compelling but relatively conventional: sending a child off to college, dealing with a marriage gone stale, feeling "invisible." But changes were coming . . . and not the predictable ones. Because Margie, Katherine, and Abra are feeling a new kind of power inside of them – literally. Of all the things they thought they might have to contend with as they got older, not one of them considered they'd be exploding a few gender roles by becoming superheroes.

At once a delightful and surprising adventure and a thoughtful examination of a woman's changing role through life's passages, THE SUPER LADIES is larger-than-life fiction at its very best.

PRAISE FOR SUSAN PETRONE'S THROW LIKE A WOMAN:

"While, on the surface, this is a novel about a woman battling to make her way in the man's world of professional baseball, debut author Petrone presents a stirring and humorous story of a woman doing considerably more than that--trying to rediscover herself, provide for her family, and perhaps find a little love along the way." - Booklist

"Throw Like a Woman is that rare baseball novel, both a paean to the game and a deeper exploration of character. Susan Petrone has a fan's heart and a scout's eye. Read it now. Don't wait for the movie." - Stewart O'Nan, co-author of Faithful and A Face in the Crowd

"For baseball fans who yearn for a female Jackie Robinson, reading Susan Petrone's fun and absorbing novel Throw Like a Woman becomes a kind of prayer. 'Please, Lord! Give talent a chance. Let this dream come true!'" - Mary Doria Russell, author of The Sparrow

"Someday there will be a woman who plays Major League Baseball. And when it happens, I suspect it will be an awful lot like Susan Petrone's fun Throw Like a Woman. Susan knows baseball and so the novel - and her hero Brenda Haversham - crackles with authenticity. You can hear the pop of the ball hitting the catcher's mitt." - Joe Posnanski, author of The Soul of Baseball, NBC Sports National Columnist

"Petrone's storytelling is first-rate, and she weaves a credible baseball tale with well-defined characters throughout." - The Wave

 

Book Details

Genre: Women's Fiction
Published by: The Story Plant
Publication Date: August 14th 2018 by Story Plant
Number of Pages: 320
ISBN: 1611882583 (ISBN13: 9781611882582)
Purchase Links: The Super Ladies on Amazon The Super Ladies on Barnes & Noble The Super Ladies on Goodreads
 

Read an excerpt:

On the way home, Katherine called shotgun, so Abra had to sit in the back of Margie’s minivan amid soccer shin guards, baseballs, stray sneakers, swim goggles, granola bar wrappers, a rubber-banded stack of Pokemon cards, and a book on playing Minecraft. “How was this shoe not on the seat when we left?” Abra asked.

“I really couldn’t tell you,” Margie replied over her shoulder. “Things back there just seem to migrate around on their own. Hold it up.” Abra did so, and Margie took a quick look at it in the rearview mirror as they pulled out of the parking lot and onto Superior Avenue. “I don’t even think that belongs to one of mine.”

“Now you know why I called shotgun. The backseat scares me,” Katherine said. “I sometimes get overwhelmed with one kid. How do you manage three?”

“I have no life. Duh,” Margie replied.

Margie cut south onto East 12th Street and then turned east onto Chester Avenue, which would take them through Midtown, up Cedar Hill, and back home. As they drove by Cleveland State University, she asked Katherine, “Do we still have to flip the bird to CSU for denying Hal tenure?”

“Nah, the statute of limitations has expired on that one, I think.”

“I like the new housing they’re building down here,” Abra said. “If I ever move downtown, would you two come and visit me?”

“Hell yes,” said Katherine.

“Sure,” Margie added. “Are you seriously thinking of moving or just toying with it?”

“Toying. If I can unload the house to the bank, I’ll have to rent somewhere. And I’d be closer to work.”

“If you move, who will I run with every morning?” “I don’t know. Get another dog?”

Chester was a wide, three-lanes-in-each-direction boulevard that took them past the university neighborhood and through the dead zone in between downtown, where most of the office buildings and entertainment areas were, and University Circle, where most of the city’s museums and cultural gems were ensconced. Economic development hadn’t hit this middle area, and much of it was taken up by vacant buildings, empty lots, and boarded-up houses.

Nine fifteen on a Thursday night in mid-May isn’t late and isn’t scary. Still, Margie got a bad feeling when she saw a young woman on the sidewalk walking fast, hands folded across her chest, not looking at the man who walked next to her. The girl was a stranger—not her age, not her race, not her neighborhood, but still, the girl was someone, some mother’s daughter.

Margie pulled over to the curb, leaving the engine running.

“Why are you stopping?” Katherine asked.

The few other cars on the wide road passed by without slowing. No cars were parked on the street; Margie’s van was the only stopped vehicle for blocks. Katherine and Abra followed Margie’s gaze to the scene unfolding on the sidewalk. The man was yelling at the woman now. They couldn’t make out exactly what he was yelling but heard the words “bitch” and “money” a few times. And they could see his flailing arms, his face leering up against hers. She stopped walking and said something to him, and he hit her. She lost her balance and fell against the chain-link fence that ran along the sidewalk. They were in front of an empty lot, where once there might have been a house but now was only a square of crabgrass and crumbling concrete and stray garbage. For a moment, there were no other cars on the road. There was no one else on the street, no inhabited buildings for a couple blocks either way. If not for them, the woman was on her own.

“Call nine-one-one,” Abra said as the man hit the woman again. The woman tried to get away, but he grabbed her shoulders and shoved her hard against the fence.

“There’s no time,” Katherine said. In a heartbeat, she was out of the car.

“Darn it, come on…” Abra muttered as she fumbled with the sliding side door and jumped out. “Keep the engine running,” she said as she followed Katherine.

“I’ll go with you…” Margie started to say. No, Abra was right. Someone had to stay with the van, keep the engine running, stay behind the wheel in case they needed to make a quick getaway. Glancing behind her, she backed up alongside the people on the sidewalk. It felt proactive. She could hear Katherine’s strong teacher voice saying loudly but calmly, “Leave her alone” and the woman yelling, “Call the police!” It suddenly occurred to Margie that she had a phone. She could call the police. Hands trembling and heart racing, Margie frantically fumbled through her bag for her phone.

She told the 911 dispatcher where she was and what was happening, the whole time watching Katherine and Abra and the couple on the sidewalk. Suddenly, there was a glint of something shiny in the streetlight as the man rushed toward Katherine. She heard a scream, and then she couldn’t see Abra anymore.

Katherine got out of the car purely through instinct. There was someone in trouble—helping is what you were supposed to do, right? It wasn’t until she was on the sidewalk, walking toward the man and woman, saying loudly, “Leave her alone” and watching the man turn to face her that she realized she had absolutely no idea what to do next. None. It was then that her heart started pounding and a hot wave of fear tingled through her arms and legs.

Up close, she could see the guy was taller and more muscular than he appeared from the safety of the van. He was maybe white, maybe light-skinned African American with a shaved head. An indecipherable neck tattoo peeked out from under his close-fitting, long-sleeved black T-shirt. She tried to burn a police description into her brain. The woman yelled, “Call the police!” at the same time the guy said, “This is none of your damn business, lady” to Katherine. The utter disdain in his voice cleared everything out of her brain except one thought: This was such a mistake. This was such a stupid mistake. There was no way this could end well. For a split second, she imagined Hal and Anna without her, wondered if they would think her foolish for getting herself killed in this way. She heard Abra say softly, “Just let her go, man.”

Katherine could just see Abra off to her right. Margie had backed up, and the open doors of the van were only a few yards away. She could faintly hear Margie’s voice, talking to 911 maybe? Knowing they were both nearby gave her a tiny bit more courage. Katherine took a tentative step toward the woman, who was kneeling by the fence. Her face was bloodied, the sleeve of her shirt ripped. “Miss?” she asked. She looked about nineteen or twenty. Not a woman. A girl. “Why don’t you come with us? We’ll give you a ride.”

“She don’t need a ride,” the man said.

The rest of the street seemed eerily quiet. Couldn’t someone else stop and help? Someone big? Someone male maybe? Katherine wasn’t that big, but she was big enough, strong enough. She could help. Slowly she extended her left arm. If the woman wanted to take her hand, she could. Katherine held the woman’s gaze, hoping she could silently convince her that leaving with some strangers was preferable to getting beaten up by her boyfriend. Katherine was so focused that she didn’t see the knife until it was against her arm, in her arm. The man cut so fast that she hardly saw the blade, only the flash of metal against her pale white skin. It occurred to her that she needed to get out in the sun. Why am I worried about how pale I am? I just got cut. She felt the sensation of the blade slicing through flesh, felt a momentary spark of pain, and then the pain was gone. It happened faster than a flu shot—a quick prick, then nothing.

The man only made one swipe, then stopped, triumphant, staring at her arm, expecting blood, expecting her to scream, to fall. There wasn’t any blood on her arm or the knife. No blood, just Katherine staring at him wide-eyed and unharmed.

Then the man was on the ground, hit from the side by…something, something Katherine couldn’t see. The knife dropped from his hands and landed near her foot. She kicked it away at the same time she heard Abra’s voice yell, “Run!” But where the hell was Abra? She must be in the van. Katherine couldn’t see her.

Katherine said, “Come on” to the woman, who was now up and moving toward her. The woman needed no more convincing and was in the car before Katherine, even before Abra. Where had Abra been? How could she be the last one to pile into the minivan, yelling, “Go! Go!” to Margie, who was slamming on the gas before the door was even closed.

Nobody said anything for a moment. The only sound in the car was that of four women catching their breath, being glad they had breath left in their bodies. Then all of them simultaneously erupted into words of relief and fear, asking each other “Are you all right? Are you all right?”

“Oh sweet mother, I can’t believe you all just did that,” Margie said. “I thought—Katherine, I honestly thought he was going to kill you.”

“So did I,” Abra said. “How the hell did he not cut you? How did he miss you?”

“He didn’t miss me,” Katherine replied quietly. Feeling fine seemed intrinsically wrong, but there it was. Unreal sense of calm? Yes. Pain and blood? No.

Before Margie or Abra could respond, the woman exclaimed, “Oh my God, thank you! Sean would’ve done me in this time, I know it. Y’all were like superheroes or something. You saved my life.”

The three women were quiet for a heartbeat. For the moment, the hyperbole of the phrase “You saved my life” was gone. It was arguably true. This was a new sensation. Frightening and humbling. Then Margie said, “Shoot, I dropped the phone.” With one hand on the wheel, she felt around in the great vortex of tissues, empty cups, and scraps of paper in the molded plastic section in between the two front seats.

“I got it,” Katherine said, coming up with the phone. The 911 dispatcher was still on the line, wondering what was going on. “Hello?” Katherine said. “We’re okay. We got away, the woman is safe. We’re going—where are we going?”

“Anywhere away from Sean,” the woman in the back said.

“There’s a police station right down the street at one hundred and fifth,” Abra said.

“Right, I know where that is,” Margie said.

A police car with the siren off but lights flashing came roaring down Chester Avenue in the opposite direction.

“Was that for us?” Margie asked.

“I think so,” Abra said.

Katherine hardly had time to explain what had happened to the dispatcher before they were at the station. There was a long hour-plus of giving witness statements to a jaded-looking police officer who told them several times how lucky they were to have gotten out of the situation with no harm done. “What you three ladies did was very brave and very stupid,” he said in closing.

“We know,” Abra replied.

They were told they might be called as witnesses if the woman, Janelle, decided to press charges against her boyfriend. Then they were free to go. The three of them walked out of the police station and to the waiting minivan. It was nearing midnight, and the spring evening had moved from cool to downright chilly. Even so, none of them moved to get into the van. Margie unlocked it and opened the driver’s door, then just stood looking at the ground, one hand on the door, the other on the side of the van, breathing slowly. Abra paced in a slow oval near the back of the van, while Katherine leaned against it and gazed up at the few faint stars that could be seen against the city lights. She suddenly wanted to be somewhere quiet, away from the city, away from people. Margie’s voice brought her back: “I’m sorry I didn’t do anything to help.”

What are you talking about?” Katherine said. “If it weren’t for you, we never would have gotten out of there.”

Abra walked around the van to Margie. “You were the only smart one. I’m sorry I got out of the car. That was stupid.” As Abra said this, she shivered, her lips trembled, and she started to shake. “That was so stupid.” “I got out first,” Katherine said. “I’m the stupid one.” Katherine almost never saw Margie cry. Even when her eldest child was going through hell, Katherine had been amazed and admiring of her friend’s resilience. But now Margie seemed overwhelmed by heaving sobs. “I’m just so glad the two of you are okay,” Margie stammered. Crying people generally made her nervous, but Katherine joined Margie and Abra on the other side of the van.

When your friends need you, they need you.

***

Excerpt from The Super Ladies by Susan Petrone. Copyright © 2017 by Susan Petrone. Reproduced with permission from Susan Petrone. All rights reserved.

 

Author Bio:

Susan Petrone

Susan Petrone lives with one husband, one child, and two dogs in Cleveland, Ohio. Her superpower has yet to be uncovered.

Catch Up with Susan Petrone Online:

  • Website: susanpetrone.com
  • Twitter: @SusanPetrone
  • Facebook: @susan.petrone.54
  • Goodreads: @Susan Petrone
  •  
     

    Tour Host Participants:

    Visit these other great hosts on this tour for more great reviews, interviews, guest posts, and giveaways!  

    Giveaway:

    This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Providence Book Promotions for The Story Plant. There will be 5 winners of one (1) PB copy of THROW LIKE A WOMAN by Susan Petrone. The giveaway begins on August 13, 2018 and runs through October 13, 2018. Open to U.S. addresses only. Void where prohibited.
    a Rafflecopter giveaway &nbap;

    Find Your Next Great Read at Providence Book Promotions!

    Spotlight: Cowboy Need Not Apply by Robert Tate Miller

    Cowboys Need Not Apply Tour  Banner.jpg
    COWBOYS NEED NOT APPLY.jpg

    No, prima donna ballerina Jessica Carmichael isn’t interested in the rough-and-tumble rodeo cowboy she met in physical therapy. In fact, she’s actively uninterested in his cocky smile, and his go-with-the-flow attitude, and how his silly little bets make her work harder than ever to fix her knee. She’d like nothing more than to strangle him, if she wasn’t so busy thinking about kissing him.

    Matt Walker's best hope of getting back in the saddle is charming Jessica into teaching him ballet. He needs to get back on the bronc…even if he has to get there in tights. Only the uptight ballerina lives in a completely different world, one he wouldn't touch with a ten-foot mechanical bull. But maybe the one thing she needs more than control is to lose control for once—with him.

    Excerpt

    “Dance with me?” Jessica hesitated for a moment, her eyes resting on his. She didn’t want to seem too eager though, at that moment, at the top of The Peninsula Hotel on 5th Avenue, there was nothing in the world she wanted more than to dance with Matt Walker. She placed her hand in his, and he helped her down. 

    As they danced close to the creamy smooth sounds of that soulful wedding singer, Jessica moved her face and cheeks in close to his shoulder. His hand on her waist made her lose her train of thought and, for a moment, she tried to imagine his body pressed against hers, him kissing her softly then harder as passion took over, and he started to lose control. She tried to ID his cologne, but couldn’t place the scent. Her cheek brushed against his, and she could feel his stubble scratch her face. In his cowboy attire he was woefully underdressed and, though she’d at least managed to slip on a sleeveless summer dress for the reception crashing, so was she. The evening was cool up on the roof, and the heat lamps were on, but Jessica felt warm and flushed in Matt’s arms. 

    With each word your tenderness grows, tearing my fears apart…

    The auburn-haired singer moved into the final verse, and Jessica suddenly wanted her to slow down, maybe start all over again or meld into an encore: maybe something like Still by the Commodores or At Last. The ballerina wasn’t ready to let go quite yet. She felt a weakness in her knees, a light-headedness and wondered if Matt felt the same. Then he looked at her, as if he could feel her thoughts on him.

    “You know what, Tiny?”

    “What?” Jessica said. “She smiled up at him. He was taller than she thought, yet she figured he wouldn’t have to bend down too far to kiss her. Again, she imagined that kiss, wondered if he was imagining it, too. She wondered what his stubble would feel like. She tried to remember if she’d ever kissed a man with stubble and knew immediately she hadn’t. Up to this point in her life, she’d been a clean-shaven kinda girl. Then she remembered that he was about to say something, and she tried to look curious and attentive.

    “For a ballerina,” he said, “you’ve got a serious set of balls.”

    Jessica smiled as the music swelled and the singer held the final note. It was the nicest thing anyone had ever said to her. “So, Mad Dog, guess what time it is?” she said. 

    Matt gave her a crooked smile. “Why do I get the feeling you’re not talking about the actual time?”

    Jessica smiled. “It’s time for you to pay up. I gave a toast to the groom and groom, you’re going to sing to them. Our bull riding bet, remember?”

    Matt grinned. “I was hoping you’d forgotten about that.”

    “Oh no,” Jessica said. “Not a chance. And I’ve got the perfect song.”

    Buy on Amazon | Barnes and Noble

    About the Author

    Robert Tate Miller was raised in the North Carolina mountain town of Hendersonville and began writing at an early age. He began his writing career with homespun essays of small town life that were published in such publications as Reader's Digest, The Christian Science Monitor and the Chicken Soup for the Soul book series. He moved to Los Angeles in the late 1980s and wrote hugely successful family-oriented telefilms for NBC, ABC Family and the Hallmark Channel. Robert lives in Northridge, CA..

    Connect: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

    Cover Reveal: Not Quite Perfect (The Rocky Cove Series, #1) by Rebecca Norinne

    NOT_QUITE_PERFECT.jpg

    I can’t believe I met the perfect man ...

    On the ferry to my mother’s wedding, I met the most amazing man—his love of Faulkner notwithstanding. Professor David Carstairs was funny, intelligent, and had the sexiest hands I’d ever seen. 

    A conversation about classic American literature led to a romantic dinner at his house ... and then a whole lot of dessert afterward. I’d never done anything like that before, but what we had was something special. 

    Unfortunately, everything came crashing down the next day. Because my supposedly perfect professor? His dad just married my mom, and now he’s my stepbrother! 

    Thanksgiving dinner just got a whole lot more complicated.

    I’ve finally found the perfect woman ...

    En route to watch my father marry yet another young gold digger, I met the perfect woman—her hatred of Faulkner notwithstanding. Victoria Witherspoon was kind, witty, and had the most kissable lips I’d ever seen. 

    We spent the day together, and then stayed up all night exploring each other’s bodies. I don’t do relationships, but for someone as perfect as Victoria, I was ready to make an exception. 

    If only her mom hadn’t just married my dad, putting the object of all my fantasies firmly in the “off limits” category. 

    And I thought the holidays were awkward before.

    Add the book to Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/39676740-not-quite-perfect

    Buy on Amazon | Barnes and Noble

    teaser2.jpg

    About the Author

    USA Today bestselling author Rebecca Norinne writes sexy romance from the heart. Her heroines are bold and headstrong, and her heroes will do anything for the ones they love. 

    When not banging away at the keyboard, she is watching rugby, enjoying a pint of craft beer, or traveling the globe in search of inspiration for her next book. 

    Originally from California, Rebecca currently resides in a small coastal community outside of Boston where she's renovating an antique colonial built in the 1700s and trying valiantly not to be eaten alive by mosquitos.

    Connect: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Newsletter | Goodreads | Bookbub

    Spotlight: His True Queen by Jodi Ellen Malpas


    HIS TRUE QUEEN
    The Smoke and Mirrors Duology #2
    by Jodi Ellen Malpas
    Genre: Contemporary/Erotic Romance

    Pub Date: 8/7/14



    The breathtaking conclusion of the Smoke & Mirrors Duology.
    A beautiful, defiant princess. A renowned, sinfully gorgeous Hollywood actor.
    A love affair that is sure to rock the British Monarchy…and the world.
    Their love affair began intensely and passionately. Princess Adeline and Josh Jameson knew any future together was impossible—her status as a princess and his standing as a Hollywood heartthrob dictated that. But the heights of pleasure they could take each other to were wildly unanticipated by them both. Josh’s absolute disregard for Adeline’s status quickly drew her into his hedonistic world. And her perfectly worn mask and false façade captivated Josh to the point of obsession. The boundaries became blurred. The physical became emotional. Their hearts became entwined.
    But a cruel turn of events rips their worlds apart and Adeline is more bound than ever by the protocol and expectations her title commands. The army of royal advisors who guard the secrets and scandals of the Monarchy will go to unthinkable lengths to keep the smoke and mirrors in place…and Josh away from Adeline. She knows the power she possesses comes with agonizing sacrifices. Walking away from Josh devastates her…but it keeps him safe from the corrupt institution that has ruled her life.
    Yet Josh refuses to lose the woman who has consumed him so completely, distorted his boundaries, and stripped him of all sensibility.
    Will the power of the British Monarchy triumph? Or will their fierce love for each other change the course of history?



    The Controversial Princess
    The Smoke and Mirrors Duology #1

    Her father is The King of England.

    She is The Controversial Princess.

    Regarded as down to earth by the press and rebellious by the King, Princess Adeline refuses to bow to the royal expectations her title carries. She knows better than anyone that the united front of the Royal Family is nothing but smoke and mirrors - lies and secrets masked by power and privilege. She wants no part of it, and she will never surrender to the King’s demand to marry a man she does not love. But despite Adeline’s determination to retain her free will, she remains deeply unfulfilled, feeling caged and suffocated.

    That is until she meets Josh Jameson. Drawn in by his confidence, Adeline is soon captivated by the scandalously sexy American actor. His ability to penetrate her defences overwhelms her - his touch is pure fire, and his allure overpowering. Nothing has ever made her feel so alive in a world where she’s otherwise slowly drowning. However, while Josh may be Hollywood royalty, he’s not actual royalty, and Adeline knows the King and his advisors will do everything in their power to keep them apart.

    But Josh Jameson becomes the princess’s ultimate vice.

    And although she bows to no one, she bows to him.







    Jodi Ellen Malpas wrote her debut series, The This Man Trilogy, in secret, worried about what people might think if they knew what her imagination was capable of. She was shocked herself. But she finally found the courage to unleash her creative streak and self-published THIS MAN - the first book of the This Man Trilogy - in October 2012. She took a chance on a story with a hero who soon became one of modern day fictions most prolific alpha male characters. Jesse Ward – also affectionately known as The Lord of The Manor, sparked incredible reactions from women across the globe and catapulted Jodi into the world of women’s fiction. With so much love and enthusiasm from her readers, and a thirst for more of her words, Jodi suddenly wasn't afraid of her imagination anymore. She went on to write The One Night Trilogy with the delectable and mysterious Miller Hart, and stole the hearts of her readers once again. She’s now a proud #1 New York Times bestselling author – all seven of her published novels having hit the New York Times best sellers list – as well as a Sunday Times bestseller and international bestseller. Her work is published in over 20 languages across the world.

    Jodi was born and raised in the Midlands town of Northampton, England, where she lives with her two boys and a beagle. She is a self-professed daydreamer, a Converse & mojito addict, and has a terrible weak spot for Alpha Males. Writing powerful love stories and creating addictive characters has become her passion – a passion she shares with her devoted readers




    Follow the tour HERE for exclusive content and a giveaway!







    Cover Reveal: Change of Plan by Keeley Holmes

    Change of Plan
    Keeley Holmes
    (Serendipity Series, #4)
    Publication date: September 17th 2018
    Genres: Adult, Comedy, Romance

    Penelope hadn’t planned on getting pregnant.

    But now she is, her plan includes a water birth, calming candles and music, it also includes keeping the baby far away from her controlling mother.

    With her mother interfering in her life demanding she had a sophisticated baby shower with her snobbish friends, Penelope takes charge and organises a week in London… Two weeks before her due date.

    What could possibly go wrong?

    Theatre plays, crazy golf and fake celebrities are planned, but she should know by now that plans don’t always work out. And when she goes into labour far way from home, does it really matter that she can’t have the water birth and whale music…? What she needs is a hospital, and her husband here with her.

    With her friends rallied around her, she’s about to add a baby to the baby shower, and thanks to the drugs, she’s even happy that her mother is here.

    It’s time to meet Baby Wilson.

    Add to Goodreads

    Previous books in the series:


    Author Bio:

    I've loved reading and writing since before I can remember. It's always been a passion of mine to write for people and for them to enjoy my work.

    I'm currently writing my way through an adult series and thinking about what I can do for the Young Adult/New Adult scene. There's always ideas floating around in my head.

    When I'm not writing I'm reading or watching films and enjoying time with my boyfriend, little dog and family.

    Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter


    XBTBanner1

    Spotlight: The Golden City Series by A.B. Michaels

    The Art of Love (Golden City, Book 1) by A.B. Michaels

    Publication Date: May 4, 2014
    Genre: Historical Fiction/Romance
    A Notable Indie Book of 2014 Silver Ippy Award New Apple Medalist Editor’s Choice – Idaho Book Awards At the end of the Gilded Age, the “Golden City” of San Francisco offers everything a man could want—except the answers August Wolff desperately needs to find. After digging a fortune in gold from the frozen fields of the Klondike, Gus heads south, hoping to start over and put the baffling disappearance of his wife and daughter behind him. The turn of the century brings him even more success, but the distractions of a city some call the new Sodom and Gomorrah can’t fill the gaping hole in his life. Amelia Starling is a wildly talented artist caught in the straightjacket of Old New York society. Making a heart-breaking decision, she moves to San Francisco to further her career, all the while living with the pain of a sacrifice no woman should ever have to make. Brought together by the city’s flourishing art scene, Gus and Lia forge a rare connection. But the past, shrouded in mystery, prevents the two of them from moving forward as one. Unwilling to face society’s scorn, Lia leaves the city and vows to begin again in Europe. Gus can’t bear to let her go, but unless he can set his ghosts to rest, he and Lia have no chance at all.

    Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Kobo

    The Depth of Beauty (Golden City, Book 2) by A.B. Michaels

    Publication Date: January 6, 2016
    Genre: Historical Fiction/Romance
    A Notable Indie Book of 2016 2017 RITA Finalist – “Mainstream Fiction with a Central Romance” Bookstores without Borders Lyra Award for Historical Fiction Chanticleer Book Reviews Goethe Award – First in Category: North American Turn of the Century In 1903 San Francisco’s Chinatown, slavery, polygamy, and rampant prostitution are thriving— just blocks away from the city’s elite, progressive society. Wealthy and well-connected, Will Firestone enters the mysterious enclave with an eye toward expanding his shipping business. What he finds there will astonish him. With the help of an exotic young widow and a gifted teenage orphan, he embarks on a journey of self-discovery, where lust, love and tragedy will change his life forever. A stand-alone novel, The Depth of Beauty is the latest addition to the dual genre series, “Sinner’s Grove,” which chronicles the family and friends of a world-famous artists’ retreat on the northern California coast. The stories follow both historical and contemporary tracks and can be read separately or together for greater depth. Other titles in the series include the award-winning The Art of Love, Sinner’s Grove and The Lair.

    Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Kobo

    The Promise (Golden City, Book 3) by A.B. Michaels

    Publication Date: June 24, 2016
    Genre: Historical Fiction/Romance
    April 18, 1906. A massive earthquake has decimated much of the Golden City, leaving thousands without food, water or shelter. Patrolling the streets to help those in need, Army corporal Ben Tilson meets a young woman named Charlotte who touches his heart, making him think of a future with her in it. In the heat of the moment he makes a promise to her little sister that even he realizes will be almost impossible to keep. Because on the heels of the earthquake, a much worse disaster looms: a fire that threatens to consume everything and everyone in its path. It will take everything Ben’s got to make it back to Charlotte and her family—and even that may not be enough. The Promise, a stand-alone novella, is the third offering in A.B. Michaels’ award-winning historical saga, “The Golden City,” which takes place in and around San Francisco at the turn of the twentieth century. Other books in the series include The Art of Love and The Depth of Beauty.

    Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Kobo

    The Price of Compassion (Golden City, Book 4) by A.B. Michaels

    Publication Date: August 27, 2018
    Genre: Historical Fiction/Mystery
    April 18, 1906. San Francisco has just been shattered by a massive earthquake and is in the throes of an even more deadly fire. During the chaos, gifted surgeon Tom Justice makes a life-changing decision that wreaks havoc on his body, mind, and spirit. Leaving the woman he loves, he embarks on a quest to regain his sanity and self-worth. Yet just when he finds some answers, he’s arrested for murder—a crime he may very well be guilty of. The facts of the case are troubling; they’ll have you asking the question: “Is he guilty?” Or even worse…”What would I have done?”

    About the Author

    A native of northern California, A.B. Michaels earned masters' degrees in history and broadcasting, and worked for many years in public relations and marketing. Now that she's an empty nester, she has time to write the kinds of stories she loves to read. Her historical series, "The Golden City," follows characters who make their way in turn of the twentieth century San Francisco. "I love creating flawed characters I can relate to, who have to make difficult choices, and who long for happiness like the rest of us. So much was happening in the early 1900's that help shape my novels. Once I tear myself away from the underlying research, they are fascinating stories to write." Currently Ms. Michaels lives in Boise, Idaho with her husband and two furry creatures who are unclear on the concept that they are just dogs. In addition to writing, she loves to read and travel. A dabbler in fabric art, she also plays bocce in a summer league. Her latest stand-alone novel, "The Price of Compassion," is Book Four of the "Golden City" series. It's scheduled for release this summer and will be followed by Book Five, "Josephine's Daughter."

    Website | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Goodreads

    Book Blast Schedule

    Monday, August 13 Passages to the Past Tuesday, August 14 Naomi Finley's Blog Wednesday, August 15 What Is That Book About Thursday, August 16 To Read, Or Not to Read Friday, August 17 CelticLady's Reviews Just One More Chapter Saturday, August 18 Broken Teepee Sunday, August 19 Maiden of the Pages Monday, August 20 Pursuing Stacie Clarissa Reads It All Tuesday, August 21 A Book Geek Wednesday, August 22 Creating Herstory The Book Junkie Reads Thursday, August 23 Katie's Book Cave Friday, August 24 The Book Review Donna's Book Blog

    The Golden City Series is on Sale!

    Spotlight: Fling Club by Tara Brown

    FlingClubGraphic.jpg
    FlingClub.jpg

    Fling Club Inspirations by Tara Brown
     
    My book releasing is Fling Club, sort of like Fight Club but with romance.

    The fabulous main characters are Cherry and Ashley, an unlikely match. It’s opposites attract to the extreme. Cherry is a spoiled rich girl with a serious problem, how to get revenge on the mean girl ruining her life. And Ashley is a sexy, geeky MIT scholarship student who doesn’t fit in her world. He doesn’t even want to. He can't stand the rich elite and makes no bones about sharing that opinion.

    Cherry’s from a rich family and went to school at a private, well known academy where the expectations from parents are demanding. She is demure and reliable, a doormat like most of her friends. Letting parents and guys take the lead in their lives. 

    After summers of the boys running the shore and parents ruling their lives, the girls decided to take back the power. One girl in particular. She created Fling Club, a fun way to control the dating and socializing the young women were expected to participate in. The head mean girl who runs it, Cait, is every young woman’s nightmare. Controlling, conniving, and completely self-centered. If you have a social life and friends, it’s because Cait allowed it. She has all the parents and every guy on the shore fooled, while all the young women are terrified of crossing her.

    When Cherry catches Cait in bed with her boyfriend, the fake friendship is off just as the summer is beginning, meaning Cherry has to come up with a plan for revenge against her frenemy.

    With the help of her sarcastic and judgmental brother, Andy, and her pessimistic and evil genius sister, Ella, Cherry is about to wreak havoc on Fling Club, and Cait.

    This is where Ashley comes into the plan. He is the bait. Sexy, funny, sarcastic, and just arrogant enough that they don't have to worry about him falling for Cait while she is falling for him. But after a couple weeks together, the plan is threatened when Ashley and Cherry start falling for each other.

    He desperately wants Cherry to see that she is so much more than she pretends to be, and that fitting into her world isn't worth the price she is paying. And once she starts seeing herself the way he does, she realizes how much she hates the person she has always pretended to be.

    Fling Club, which used to be called The Exception to the Summer Fling, is an old story I wrote a decade ago but never published. It came to me when I was driving. I was crossing North America, moving from the West Coast to the East for my husband’s work in 2008. My girls were watching movies in the backseat, kid's movies. So I got to listen to that the entire six day drive.

    I don't even remember the movie they were watching, I think it was a Barbie movie, maybe Princess and the Pauper, but it got me envisioning the moment Cait marched back and forth in front of the new recruits, cruelly telling them the rules of the summer fling club. (Being a HUGE fan of Cruel Intentions and Gossip Girl, of course I already had a stable of possible plots for mean rich girls.)

    The story really formed when I got Cait down in my head, thanks to the long drive and the kids movies.

    Cait needed to be that sweet and powerful girl the parents would respect and want their daughters to emulate. But she also needed to be terrifying and controlling so the girls went along with whatever she demanded of them. Even if it was disturbing. Of course, Cait is similar to Kathryn from Cruel Intentions, she is calculating and cold. Almost sociopathic in her nature. But I decided to spin the story a little and make our poor little victim, her equal in social rank.

    Cherry might be the weaker link at the start of this story, but she comes from a good family with a lot of money. And as the story progressed she evolved from the damsel in distress who can't cope with anything into a strong young woman. I wanted her to be victim of the story but then I also wanted her to be the savior. Her own savior. I like that love helped her find herself, but she needed to do the work.

    I think we nailed that, and the way the characters are meant to make you hate them. I wanted the readers' feelings to grow and change as the characters did. Cait is unbearably horrible and yet somehow relatable once we have all the facts. Cherry is weak and pathetic to start but grows into someone we liked in the end. And we made the bad guy someone you didn't expect.

    I love the idea that there is an underbelly in the wealthy world, a place we don't see because they hide it from us. And I adore the meet cute we have created for the entire series of standalone novels, the Post-it Note Wall.

    Welcome to the Serendipity Series, starting with Fling Club.

    About the Book

    For the young, rich, and beautiful, summertime in the Hamptons means one thing: Fling Club. Only this time, Cherry Kennedy won’t be selecting a boy for a fleeting romance. Nope, this season, Cherry is out for revenge. Her target? The Fling Club founder and society darling who slept with Cherry’s now-very-ex-boyfriend. And all Cherry needs is the perfect guy for her plan…

    Ashley Jardine can’t afford to refuse. He scored almost a full ride to MIT. But that almost still costs a lot. And this is so much money for a little game of revenge and a chance—albeit short—to live the high life. Here, rich girls rule the shore, and everyone has a role to play. Only nothing in the job description warned Ashley that the redhead who’s running the scheme would be so crazy. And cute. Or that he wouldn’t be able to stop thinking about her.

    Now, everything is going according to plan—until an unexpected attraction raises the stakes. It’s enough to turn the perfect payback into absolute heartbreak.

    Excerpt

    I called my brother. “Hey, Cherry. Look, I can’t talk—” 

    “Cait’s sleeping with Griffin,” I blurted out, cutting off whatever excuse he was about to make. 

    “What? Who?” It took him half a second to connect the dots. “Seriously? How do you know?”

    “I just caught them.” My words had turned to a whisper. I was ashamed of my former friends for betraying me, and of myself for having been so naive. I knew Andy would call me stupid and tell me I deserved what I got for dating a Griffin, and that I was a sheeple like Mom and Cait, and—

    “Oh, Cherry. I’m so sorry. Neither of those asshats deserves you.” 

    That reaction, I didn’t expect. Andy’s kindness broke me. Angry tears flooded my eyes, and before I could help it, I was blubbering and ranting in front of a platform full of strangers. I’d called Andy because I needed his sarcasm to toughen me up and put me on the defensive. I needed to be strong, like him. But instead he gave me tenderness, something I couldn’t handle at the moment. 

    “You’re lovely and sweet and kind. And you would never do something like that to anyone. Not even an enemy. I’ll come get you; tell me where you are.” 

    “I—I’m going home. I’m at the train. I feel sick.” My words were coming out in gasps. 

    “Screw them both. Let them have each other. I never liked that idiot. He’s like Mom and Cait. He thinks his blue blood earns him the right to everything—clearly. They’re selfish people, Cherry. Selfish and stupid and blind. I’m glad he showed his true colors before you got too invested in him.” 

    Not wanting Andy to know I was as invested as I could be, I stayed silent while he shouted and ranted all the things big brothers said to sad little sisters. “I should beat the piss outta him! Want me to kick his ass? I’ll go find a couple of friends and we can make sure he doesn’t show up for—” 

    “No.” I sniffled. “I just—” What did I want? 

    “Listen. Go home and take a hot bath, drink a bottle of wine, and try to get some sleep. I’ll come get you in a week. We’ll go to New York and get trashed, and you—” 

    “Sleep!” I snapped, finally losing the hold I had on my ferocity. “You think I could sleep right now? I’m not Mom, Andy. I can’t just take something and coast through shit like this.” 

    “Okay, don’t sleep. Try eating a whole sheet cake and plotting their deaths. They aren’t worth the energy you’re putting into being pissed off. I’ve never understood how you were friends with her. Or part of her club. Which, by the way, she only started because Wendell cheated on her with that chick from Derby. It’s ironic, because then she turns around and does this to you.” 

    “Andy, I don’t care why she started it,” I groaned, wiping my eyes. “I don’t care that someone cheated on her in high school. I care that she’s currently sleeping with my boyfriend—” 

    “Cherry, take a breath. If you’re crying, you’re losing it.” 

    I heaved, realizing I was blind with rage and tears. 

    “If you can’t get past this with a simple cake, then I don’t know what to say. If I ever make the mistake of falling in love again, it’ll be with some girl in a different financial bracket. This is why we don’t date our kind.” 

    “Yeah, great advice now!” I spit my words, feeling the fury building. 

    “Don’t lose control! You’re in public, and you’re a Kennedy for God’s sake. We don’t lose it in front of strangers. Plus, you’ll be upset you didn’t cry in the shower like a winner.” 

    “Shut up!” I hated him sometimes. 

    “Cherry, getting upset and ruining your summer is pointless; you’re the only one who suffers. They’ll win. They’ll ruin your last summer before college is over and the real world hits. Don’t let them do that to you.” 

    “What should I do then?” I burst again, sobbing. 

    “I don’t know. Maybe take her down. Get revenge. Just whatever you do, don’t go back to that moron, Chatsworth.” 

    “I won’t.” I sighed. “I can’t talk about this anymore. I’ll text you later.”

    “Trust me, eat the cake. It will make you feel better. Do that before you do anything else. My friend Angela swears by it.” He laughed bitterly and hung up. 

    But I didn’t focus on the cake or the bath or the wine. My mind was stuck on the one thing Andy had said that was useful, on repeat. 

    Get revenge. 

    And I would.

    Buy on Amazon | Barnes and Noble

    About the Author

    TaraBrown.jpg

    The international bestselling author of Roommates and the Puck Buddies series, Tara Brown writes in a variety of genres. In addition to her comedic Single Lady Spy series, she has also published popular contemporary and paranormal romances, science fiction, thrillers, and romantic comedies. She especially enjoys writing dark and moody tales, often focusing on strong female characters who are more inclined to vanquish evil than perpetrate it. She shares her home with her husband, two daughters, two cats, an Irish wolfhound, and a Maremma Sheepdog. Find out more about Tara by visiting www.TaraBrownAuthor.com.

    Connect: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

    Read an excerpt Free to Dream by Tracey Jerald

    FreetoDream-BT.jpg
    plan ebook.jpg

    Today we have the blog tour for Tracey Jerald’s Free to Dream! We are so excited about this fantastic release—be sure to get your copy today!

    Cassidy Freeman doesn’t believe dreams come true because every night her dreams trap her in a nightmare she barely escaped as a child. She maintains rigid control over all aspects of her life, giving the illusion she's strong and confident. Allowing very few close enough to see the brave heart buried beneath, she’s convinced she’ll carry her burdens alone.

    From the minute they met, Caleb Lockwood disrupted everything by destroying her sense of order. His patience, compassion and sensuality obliterated her defenses. It’s as if he knew her from the inside out. 

    Helping his younger brother hire a wedding planner shouldn’t have led to this. In just a few short days, Caleb’s learned untold secrets about his family – and about the Freemans. When he demands to meet them, he doesn’t expect the pull he feels towards the petite dynamo in front of him whom life has dealt an unspeakable hand.

    With Caleb, Cassidy’s lost her semblance of control. Now, she's not sure she wants it back. Not if giving it up means having a chance at something she never imagined.

    Love.

    FTDLive1.png

    Excerpt

    I look around and glimpse a rich red armoire, his deep mahogany bed, and the midnight medallion velvet quilt over crisp white sheets before feeling strong arms slide around my waist from behind. They tighten and pull me close against his broad chest. I tip my head back as he leans down to nip and suck at the exposed skin between my neck and shoulder. I get a whiff of the rich cologne he’s wearing.

    Oh. My. God.

    “You have to talk to me through this, Cassidy,” Caleb murmurs against my neck. “I need to know where you’re at.”

    “Here’s good.”

    Chills run through my body as he soothes the area with his tongue.

    “Good.” I feel his smile against my neck.

    My nipples, though they had softened slightly from before when they were rubbing up against his muscular chest, were tightening again. And they weren’t even being touched.

    I slide my hand to wrap around the back of his neck, tangling it in his thick hair. One hand slides down to my hips and he slowly begins to rock into me. The other travels north toward my cashmere-encased breasts. Slowly, he starts strumming his thumb against my rigid nipple while still working the tendon on the side of my neck.

    I gasp at his movements before letting out a soft moan of desire that can’t be misunderstood.

    My hand drops from his neck and I reach around the back of him, reaching for him. He quickly moves the hand from my thigh and captures my hands before they can reach their target, his rock-hard body.

    I turn my head farther and twist slightly. Our eyes meet. I’m panting. His gaze is banked in fire.

    I want the blaze.

    “Let me touch you,” I whisper.

    “I can’t.” His voice is jagged.

    “Please.” I’m almost begging.

    “Cassidy,” he breathes. “I want to make this as beautiful for you as I can. I don’t want to lose control.”

    Wiggling around so I face him, I pull my hands free and place them on his biceps. His chest is moving up and down under his untucked polo. I can feel his tension under my fingers.

    Instinctively, I reach for the hem of my sweater and pull it over my head. Once my hair clears, I toss it somewhere. Frankly, I could care less where it goes. I’m now standing in front of the man I love in a sheer black bra that leaves nothing to the imagination. His eyes fly to mine, incredulous I pulled such a move. I shrug.

    “Lose the control, Caleb. I trust you.”

    I’ve never seen a myriad of expressions cross someone’s face in such a short span of time. Hot, heavy desire, anticipation, and tenderness are all projected at me.

    Buy on Amazon

    About Tracey

    Tracey-1.jpg

    Tracey Jerald knew she was meant to be a writer when she would re-write the ending of books in her head on her bike when she was a young girl growing up in southern Connecticut. It wasn’t long before she was typing alternate endings and extended epilogues “just for fun”.

    After college in Florida, where she obtained a degree in Criminal Justice swearing she saw things she’ll never quite believe and never quite forget, Tracey traded the world of law and order for IT. Her work for a world-wide internet startup transferred her to Northern Virginia where she met her husband in what many call their own happily ever after. They have one son.

    When she’s not busy with her family or writing, Tracey can be found in her home in north Florida drinking coffee, reading, training for a runDisney event, or feeding her addiction to HGTV. Friend her on Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/tracey.jerald.71) or on Instagram (TraceyJerald) to see what antics she’s up to on a regular basis.

    Connect with Tracey: Website | Facebook | Facebook Author Page | Twitter | Instagram | Pintrest | Goodreads | Spotify

    Spotlight: Blind Kiss by Renee Carlino

    62268_BlindKiss_Tw_4B.jpg
    Blind Kiss_Final.jpg

    Release Day – August 14, 2018
    Standalone

    From the national bestselling author of Before We Were Strangers, Swear on this Life, and Wish You Were Here comes a powerful story of two people who spend years denying their scientifically-proven chemistry.

    Penny spends her afternoons sitting outside a sandwich shop, surrounded by ghosts. Fourteen years ago, this shop was her childhood dance studio—and she was a dancer on the rise. Now she’s a suburban housewife, dreading the moment her son departs for MIT, leaving her with an impeccably-decorated McMansion and a failing marriage. She had her chance at wild, stars-in-her-eyes happiness, but that was a lifetime ago. After The Kiss. Before The Decision.

    The Kiss was soulful. Magical. Earth-shattering, And it was all for a free gift card.  Asked to participate in a psych study that posed the question, “Can you have sexual chemistry without knowing what the other person looks like?” Penny agreed to be blindfolded, make polite conversation with a total stranger, and kiss him. She never expected The Kiss to change her life forever and introduce her to Gavin: tattooed, gorgeous, and spontaneous enough to ask her out seconds after the blindfolds came off.

    For a year, they danced between friendship and romance—until Penny made The Decision that forced them to settle for friendship. Now, fourteen years later, both of their lives are about to radically change—and it’s his turn to decide what will become of their once-in-a-lifetime connection.

    Excerpt

    WE SAT AT the bar of the pub as I continued to stare at him, a mixture of curiosity and fear boiling in my gut. He ordered a beer, and I ordered Chardonnay with beer-cheese pretzels.

    “That’s different for you.”

    I usually stuck to salads, an old habit from my dancing days, but I had lost a lot of weight in the past few weeks. “Don’t think you can distract me so easily. Tell me what’s going on. Did you break up with Briel?”

    He took a long pull from his beer and stared straight ahead. “Don’t be mad, okay?”

    I stared at him, wordlessly, the fear fully boiling over. And then he dropped the bomb on me.

    The next few minutes were hazy as Gavin, the bar, and my glass of Chardonnay swam together before my eyes. I tried to reach for the glass but found it suddenly empty. That’s weird. It was full a minute ago. I motioned to the bartender for another, then poured it down my throat in a steady stream.

    I was breathing fast when I slammed the glass on the bar, shattering my fugue state—and bringing Gavin into sharp relief. I was reeling.

    “Shit, Penny! Be careful. You almost shattered your glass!” He practically yelled.

    “You’re moving to fucking France?!” I yelled back.

    The bartender jerked his head toward the door, and within minutes Gavin was forcibly dragging me out of the bar by the arm. I slipped out of his grip and stood in the middle of the parking lot, seething, very much drunk, and fully freaking out. “So, do you love her?”

    “Briel? What kind of question is that?”

    “Just answer me.”

    “Fuck, Penny. That’s not what this is about. I don’t really have a choice here, though, do I?”

    “You always have a choice.”

    He glared at me. “That’s fucking rich, coming from you.”

    I shook my head vigorously. “Totally different situation.”

    “Like hell it was.”

    “When do you leave?”

    “In two days.”

    “WHAT?!”

    He ran up and shook me by the shoulders. “Jesus, if I knew you were gonna take it like this, I wouldn’t have told you in public. Pull yourself together.”

    I screamed at the top of my lungs and then made a guttural sound as I hunched over and held my stomach.

    “First Milo, now you?”

    “Don’t you put that on me. I’m not the reason why you’re about to be alone and unhappy.”

    “Fuck you, Gavin!”

    “Fuck you, Penny!”

    He didn’t turn around—he just stormed off in typical Gavin fashion: petulant, recalcitrant, and a total shithead. People in the parking lot were gawking, appalled, covering their children’s ears. But no one made a move to leave. When Gavin and I got like this, we were like a car wreck by the side of the road, impossible to look away from.

    Gavin slid into his ’67 Chevelle and fired up the engine. I hated that car because he loved it so much. It had a black leather interior, a flawless paint job, and tinted windows, like it belonged to some kind of celebrity—which Gavin definitely wasn’t. It was his only possession worth a dime, besides his garage, a few guitars, and a Zippo lighter he swore River Phoenix had given to him at the Viper Room the night of his death.

    I ran to the exit and stood in the middle of the lane, daring him to run me over as he ripped out of his parking spot and raced around the corner toward the exit. “We’re not done talking, you coward!”

    He slowed but let the car idle while he revved the engine. “I dare you!” I yelled.

    He stuck his head out the window, leaned his tattooed arm against the door, and actually grinned at me.

    So smug. What a dick.

    “You look ridiculous standing there. Get out of the way!”

    I walked toward his window and noticed that his demeanor had completely softened. There was even humor in his expression. He wanted me to block him, and he knew I would.

    “Can’t you have a proper fight without running away?”

    “You were lecturing me, yet again. I have a mother, thank you. You have a child you can order around . . . and a husband you can control. I don’t need your shit, okay? Don’t you realize that I’m freaking out, too? I’m going through the hardest time of my life, and you’re making this all about you.”

    “You’ve been going through the hardest time of your life for the whole fourteen years I’ve known you.”

    “And as my friend, do you think you’re helping my situation right now?” he spat back, his mood shifting once again. “Don’t even. Don’t you dare act like I haven’t been a good friend to you. You’ve put me in the most awkward situations, you’ve bolted on me, you’ve stopped speaking to me for weeks at a time, but still . . . I make myself available to you. I’ve been here for you, always. And now you’re moving thousands of miles away when I need you most?”

    He shook his head slowly. “That’s right, Penny. You have been here. You’ve been right by my side, lecturing me, rolling your eyes at me, pressuring me to get serious about Briel, all so I could go and fuck up my life even more while you sit in your nice house, with your KitchenAid mixer, your Oracle espresso machine, and your fucking yellow Lab.”

    “Don’t talk about Buckley that way! He’s a good dog. And you love our espresso machine.”

    Gavin’s lips turned up at the corners. “You’re so messed up, Penny. You definitely have a chemical imbalance.”

    I pointed to my chest, shocked. “Me? Look who’s talking? Please, pull into a parking space. I don’t want to stand here anymore, making a spectacle of myself. Some parent from Milo’s school is probably watching this whole thing. There’ll be whispers at the next PTA meeting. Is that what

    you want for me?”

    “Don’t pretend like you go to PTA meetings. And look around; everyone’s gone. It’s just us.”

    He was right. The parking lot had cleared out. Gavin was sitting in his idling car while I was standing outside his window like a moron.

    “I resent you for saying I pushed Briel on you. And yes, for your information, I do go to PTA meetings.”

    “You encouraged me to go out with her, then you needled me about it until I finally did.”

    “You were horribly depressed! I thought you were gonna jump off a bridge. I told you to go out with her and to have some fun. She’s a nice girl. I didn’t say turn your life upside down, pack up, and run away with a foreigner! You’re thirty-six-years old, Gavin. I think it’s time you grew up.” I shook my head. “God, I can’t believe you.”

    He jerked his head back and squinted. “Great band but not totally PC to call someone a foreigner, Penny.” His voice was low.

    “Are you going to become a French citizen now, too? You better brush up on your French.”

    “Everyone speaks English there.”

    “No, they don’t! People always say that, but you’ll see. They might be able to communicate to a degree, but it’s not conversational English.”

    Why am I still standing here, screaming about French people?

    I needed to tie this conversation up in a pretty little bow. I needed closure. I couldn’t say good-bye to my best friend without it. He was leaving, going to France to chase a girlfriend

    I knew he didn’t love. I was losing him. And it was my fault. We couldn’t leave each other angry.

    “I’ll figure it out,” he said. “Try not to make me feel worse about my situation, though I know that’s hard for you.” “Your situation? It’s always your situation. What about my situation?” He just stared at me. He was hurting; I could tell. But I was hurting, too. “Listen—”

    “What?”

    “Don’t interrupt me.” I cleared my throat. “Gavin . . . it’s just . . . I’m going to fucking miss you, okay? I’m having a hard time right now, and life is about to get a whole lot harder the second you leave.” I started to cry.

    He hated it when I cried, but he didn’t ask me, “Why are you crying?” He never had to ask. He took a deep breath in through his nose, then released it forcefully in a burst of frustration. A second later his car stalled. He put it in gear, got out, and swooped me up in a bear hug. “Penny, Penny, Penny . . . my crazy girl,” he said as he rubbed my back. I was wiping my snot-covered nose on his black T-shirt and he didn’t care one bit.

    He held me for a long time. When he started to release me, I said, “It’s not enough.”

    He picked me up again and squeezed me harder. Tucking his face into my neck, he said, “It’ll never be enough.”

    “Why?” I said, fully bawling against his shoulder. He brushed a strand of my hair, damp with tears, behind my ear. “I have to go, and so do you. You need to be with your family now.”

    I felt the lump in my throat growing. “You don’t have to constantly remind me that I have a family. I love my family. But you’re a part of it, too, and that’s why I’m here. That’s why I’m fucking crying in the parking lot in front of Bank of America.”

    He pulled away and we stood there, two feet apart, staring at each other, as if we were committing each other to memory. Allowing one another to really look at and take the other person in, stripped down to our bones, without scrutiny.

    “Is this it?” I asked.

    “This is it, P.”

    I shook my head, leaned up on my toes, and wrapped my arms around him. We hugged again for a long time before he got into his car. I tried to hold on to the feeling of having him in my arms, or maybe I was trying to hold on to the feeling of being held in his.

    He started the engine as I stood there, waiting for him to leave.

    “We’ll talk on the phone or email or something, okay?”

    “Okay,” I told him.

    He swallowed nervously. Looking up at me from the car window, he said, “I wish it were you, Penny.”

    That was my bow. He knew I needed it, good or bad—no matter what feelings it shook loose from our long and complicated history together.

     

    Buy on Amazon | Barnes and Noble

    About the Author

    Renee-121.jpg

    Renée Carlino is a screenwriter and bestselling author of contemporary women's novels and new adult fiction. Her books have been featured in national publications, including USA TODAY, Huffington Post, Latina magazine, and Publisher's Weekly. She lives in Southern California with her husband, two sons, and their sweet dog June. When she's not at the beach with her boys or working on her next project, she likes to spend her time reading, going to concerts, and eating dark chocolate. Learn more at www.reneecarlino.com

    Connect: FACEBOOK  WEBSITE  TWITTER  INSTAGRAM