Taken by the Beast
I shook my head. I didn’t want to stay here, in some place where they spun tales tall enough to make your best friend sleep with a gun under her pillow.
I didn’t want to be that person, not for anything. And something told me that if I stayed here long enough, I wouldn’t be able to help it.
Hell, the Sears Catalog always needs models.
I punched my pillow, trying not to think about this ridiculous place, about all it had seen me lose.
“Idiots,” I muttered, climbing into bed. “They turn their town into a pressure cooker and then they make monsters out of thin—”
A sudden howling cut off my words.
Tensing, I threw off my covers and lurched for the window.
The sound was nothing. A dog, or something. I would prove that to myself.
I glared out into those goddamn woods. See, nothing. Absolutely--
A shadow moved between the trees, hulking and burly, but also tall. Too tall to be an animal.
I blinked hard, once, and then again. When I looked back, there was nothing there.
Stop it, Char.
This place would drive me crazy if I let it. It was nothing. An animal.
I got back in bed, trying to feel more New York and less New Haven.
But somewhere in the back of my mind, I couldn’t let go of the howl…or the markings…or the dead girl who looked just like me.
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“I told you I won’t take your bets anymore, Nia.”
“Aw, come on. Chicken?”
“Broke,” Ray laughed as he moved down the bar to deliver a drink.
On Saturday nights, half-drunk college kids filled the city. That’s what’s great about living in a small college town. The nightlife was young, beautiful and flocked to the local hot spots. Ray’s nightclub was large, and the bar ran along one full wall. The opposite end was a raised DJ booth and in between was a sea of bodies writhing and churning like the ocean.
Ray’s was closest to the college, and I always got in free, but Saturday night was my favourite.
My victim danced around with a drink in his hand, trying to pick up girls. Cute and soft, like a puppy, his tail flapped so fast his butt wiggled. I was sure he would strike out. The girls who came to a bar like this weren’t looking for a nice boy. Wearing their low-cut tops with their hair swept up, displaying their necks like a fisherman in a market with his catch of the day.
They were dinner on legs.
Very long legs.
I downed my drink and left the barstool to join the wild party girls. They were probably going to hell, but so was I. We might as well enjoy ourselves. Music was the great equalizer, forcing us all to move to its beat in the cramped space between our bodies. The stench of sweat and antiperspirant filled the stagnant air. My sense of smell was, unfortunately, more delicate than the rest of the people in the nightclub, but the alcohol numbed it.
My teeth ached. The sight of that wiggly boy made me ravenous, but I kept losing sight of him. There he was. His sandy hair was long enough it stuck it to his forehead, slick with sweat. Then he disappeared in the crowd. I danced with the girls until I caught sight of him again. He sat at the bar, another drink in his hand. Was that his third? Hmm, college boy might be getting tipsy.
The music changed from deep bass to a sharp pop song, and the silly girls all screamed with glee.
I wasn’t drunk enough for this. As I crossed the room, my nape prickled. A pair of eyes tracked me. Ryan. He was a moron and always had to shop at my club. There were two other nightclubs like this one in town, but Ryan still came to dinner here.
I blocked out the feeling of his eyes on my ass and slid onto the barstool beside my new puppy. I waved to Ray who shook his head when he caught sight of who I was sitting beside. He poured me another drink. Only one type of drink affected patrons like me. Ray kept it well stocked. One more reason this was my favourite nightclub.
“How are you, Nia?”
He snuck up beside me — creepy bastard.
“I’m fine, Ryan. Go away.”
Ray delivered my drink. I picked up the glass and took a long sip.
Ryan didn’t speak again. He stood beside me staring holes into the side of my head. I rolled my eyes and looked at him. He had coiffed his hair in a modern style. He looked like a pale GQ model with sharp teeth. Too bad he was a disgusting blood-sucking old guy and every time he opened his mouth, I heard nails on a chalkboard.
“I haven’t seen you around town this week,” he said, flashing me his teeth.
Like I cared about his long, pointy incisors. I wasn’t a college girl, ready to throw myself at any old, gross vampire.
“That’s because I have been busy and also, I’ve been avoiding you.” I turned my back to him, hoping Ryan would take the hint and leave me alone, only to find my puppy had left.
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Healing Heather Sneak Peek:
“That’s your truck?” I almost dropped my ice cream. My hot caramel, double scoop, butter pecan with whipped cream and two cherries sundae, to be precise. All over the front of Brian’s blue and white striped button-down shirt.
After I had hung up on him, I couldn’t shake the image of the ice cream. The craving got too strong, and I had decided that spending my dinner calories on that outrageous sundae made perfect sense. A tiny voice in the back of my brain had whispered that I might be trying to run into someone—not naming any names, not pointing any fingers—accidentally on purpose. You’re not helping, I had whispered back to the voice, but hopped in Violet and hit the road rolling towards Bowdon anyway.
Johnson’s was an old-fashioned soda fountain, and entering it was like stepping back fifty years in an instant. The fresh-faced teenage girl behind the counter wore a pink and white striped apron, and an exaggerated pink bow held back her blonde ponytail. Her hand-drawn name tag read Lizzie, with a tiny pink heart dotting each ‘i.’
When I had placed my order, she grinned. “One Sergeant’s Special, coming right up!” She had cheerfully gotten busy, scooping and topping like someone who had built that particular confection on more than one occasion.
“The Sarge likes his with an extra cherry,” she held up the half-empty jar of maraschinos as evidence. “One or two for you?”
“Two, of course,” I peered over the counter as she worked. “And maybe just a little more whipped cream?”
As I emerged from the ice cream parlor with my enormous probably-better-than-sex sundae, the first thing I saw was a fully-restored classic pick up. Parked directly in front of Johnson’s, right next to Violet, it was a Dodge, 1951 or ’52, five-window. From the pristine condition of the Sea Mist Green paint to the spotless whitewall tires, I surmised that it still had the original straight-line 6-cylinder engine and three-speed transmission. Brian stepped wordlessly aside while I handed him my sundae and circled the truck, utterly transfixed. I may have been drooling just a little. Clicking the latch, I lifted the driver’s side bonnet—and gasped out loud.
“Yeah,” he nodded over my shoulder, “it’s a 392 Hemi. Just like yours.” He grinned and started spooning my sundae into his mouth. “I bought her about eight years ago, and it took me six years to bring her back to life. I figured she deserved the Hemi.”
He scooped another generous spoonful of my ice cream into his mouth and savored. “Dang, did Lizzie make this? Just gets better every time.” He handed me back the paper bowl and closed the truck bonnet. “Wanna go for a ride?”
Did I ever. Girl Code or Common Sense 101 be damned, there was no way I was turning down a ride in that beauty-on-the-outside, beast-on-the-inside truck. Without a word, I climbed into the cab on the passenger side. The interior had been meticulously restored, and the tan leather bench seat had been customized with intricate stitching.
He roared the engine to life, and my heart skipped a beat. In seconds, he had turned off the main highway, and we headed east an empty two-lane, windows rolled down and radio turned up.
“So, if I remember correctly, this is the part of the country song where I kick my shoes off and put my pretty bare feet on the dash.” I smiled sweetly and licked the caramel from my spoon, a little more suggestively than was strictly necessary. Something about the rolled-up sleeves and half-unbuttoned casual shirt he wore over a plain white tee spoke to me on an almost cellular level, triggering a sensual response I couldn’t really control. I took another bite, swirling my tongue through whipped cream with an exaggerated innocence.
“Followed by the verse where I kick you out of my truck for spilling ice cream all over the leather,” he looked meaningfully at the paper bowl and its rapidly melting contents. The molten caramel and the summer heat had conspired, almost liquefying the butter pecan.
“Sorry,” I said meekly, sitting up straighter and corralling my wayward thoughts. “I won’t spill, I promise. But you may have to help me finish this, it’s a double.”
“Now that’s an offer I can’t refuse.” He kept his left hand on the wheel, and while I held the bowl, tried unsuccessfully with his right to secure a spoonful. “I’m a lefty. Help me out here?”
I slid over a bit closer and held the sundae-loaded spoon to his lips. Without taking his eyes from the road, he took the bite with obvious relish. I repeated the process, then helped myself to a spoonful. Sharing the single spoon felt intimate and little romantic.
We drove in comfortable silence. Neither one of us mentioned our recent conversation, and it didn’t feel necessary to bring it up. The road wound through the silent forest, then suddenly opened up with hay fields and horse pasture on either side of the road. Three horses glanced up briefly, then resumed their leisurely grazing. A white farmhouse stood about a hundred yards from the road, flanked by a tidy barn and a stable. I imagined a young family: a father leading his young daughter on the back of a pony; a mother laughing and pushing a baby boy on a tree swing.
“Can I tell you something?” he asked suddenly, startling me from my reverie. “I just don’t want you to misunderstand.”
“Of course you can,” I replied, curious. “But don’t feel like you need to explain anything to me. I don’t want you to think I…” I trailed off, not knowing exactly how to finish my thought.
“Think you what? Judge me? Pity me?” He slowed the truck, pulling over on the shoulder, and turned to face me. “I don’t think you would do either. But let’s just set the record perfectly straight. Yeah, I had a relationship with Amanda. It was a lot of years, a lot of chaos, a lot of pain, and now it’s over. It’s been over for a long time.”
“Okay…” I exhaled. “She made me think you were still seeing each other pretty exclusively. I didn’t—I don’t—want to be in the middle of anything.”
“You aren’t. You couldn’t be. There’s nothing to be in the middle of.” His green eyes still showed pain, though. I reached over and took his hand, giving it a reassuring squeeze. The pain in his eyes gave way to something that looked like optimism. Or maybe hope. Either one was fine by me.
“Well then. That’s resolved. I’m sorry I was rude this afternoon, it was uncalled for.” I smiled an apology. “So, Sergeant SeaMist, is this a ’51 or a ’52?”
Title: Dragon Fire Academy
Authors: Rachel Jonas
Genre: Upper YA/NA reverse harem/academy/paranormal romance
Cover Designer: Jay R Villalobos of Covers by Juan
Publication Date: August 13th, 2019
Hosted by: Lady Amber's PR
Blurb: Seriously? Four dragon warriors need to stalk my every move?
I get it. They think Iâm dangerous, but Iâm only on their island to learn. Not to destroy it.
This is another unfortunate side-effect of being the freak who descended from all three supernatural lineages. The bloodthirsty dragons, the destructive wolves, and the disloyal witches. Some believe that, when I transition in a few months, thereâs a slight, teeny tiny chance I could unleash hell on the supernatural world. Call me crazy, but Iâd know if I harbored that kind of power inside me.
â¦ Wouldnât I?
My entire life, all Iâve wanted was to be normal. Hence the reason I didnât think twice about trading in my crown for a stack of books. Iâve got three terms on this island to prove the naysayers wrong, including my chaperonesâKai, Ori, Paulo, and Rayen.
These four are gorgeous, but also ominous as heck. Babysitting me has clearly taken their focus off something theyâve deemed more important. So, now they go out of their way to make my life a living hell, with hopes that Iâll give up and leave.
You could cut the tension between us with a knife, but whatâs weird is I donât hate them all the time. There are even odd moments when I catch them watching me. And not in their usual âwish-you-were-deadâ sort of way.
Even if I survive the academy, thereâs still no guarantee these four and I wonât kill each other before graduation.
Hey! I'm Rachel, a Michigan native with a passion for writing. I have several young adult releases on my schedule. Those releases will be within the genres of paranormal romance, urban fantasy, and dystopian fiction, so I hope you stick with me and check out my future work!
Aside from the many hours spent happily pecking away at my keyboard, I'm a wife, mother of three, an avid reader, and a gamer with a penchant for all things Sims. There will always be a keyboard at my fingertips and I look forward to the words that will flow from them for many years to come. As a self-proclaimed nerd, there's not a more satisfying career choice I could have made. Happy reading!
Author Links: Amazon: https://amzn.to/2YXK4VA
Title: Letting Go
Author: Kate L Mary
Genre: New Adult Contemporary Romance
Editor: Kensington Press
Publication Date: August 16th, 2019
Hosted by: Lady Amberâs PR
Kate L. Mary is an award-winning author of Adult, New Adult, and Young Adult fiction, ranging from Post-apocalyptic tales of the undead to Speculative Fiction and Contemporary Romance! Her YA book, When We Were Human, was a 2015 Childrenâs Moonbeam Book Awards Silver Medal winner for Young Adult Fantasy/Sci-Fi Fiction, and a 2016 Readersâ Favorite Gold Medal winner for Young Adult Science Fiction. Her book, Outliers, was a Top 10 Finalist in the 2018 Author Academy Awards for Sci-Fi/Fantasy Fiction, and a First Place Winner in the 2018 Kindle Book Awards for Sci-Fi/Fantasy Fiction.
Amazon US: http://amzn.to/2FQl4m1
The List: https://amzn.to/2Jach2K
No Regrets: https://amzn.to/2Jf4i4F
Moving On: https://amzn.to/30kA9GP
Letting Go: https://amzn.to/2RR0yZJ
Fly Me Home (Rescue Squad Shifters Book 1)
Blurb: Talon Becker is a simple but secretive man. He likes his solitude and has created a steady life for himself as a member of the esteemed Moffat County Search and Rescue Squad. There he thrives on the tranquility saving people has brought him.
Genevieve Mendoza thrives in chaos. After being abandoned by her birth parents, she's fought her entire life to prove she's good enough. She's flourished on setting goals no one else thought she could reach.
While hot on the trail of an international exotic animal smuggling ring, Gen is led to Elk Springs, Colorado...and right to Talon's front door. Despite their best intentions, they find themselves thrown together time and again. Can they fight the inferno building between them in order to save Elk Springs' beloved eagle? Or will their heat cause them and everyone close to them to go down in flames?
Buy Link: https://amzn.to/2TAIFix
The Year I Left
Sometime in the late summer when the air began to tingle and the leaves started to fall, I opened my eyes one morning and my view of the world had changed.
Just like that. I can still see it in my head. The way I let it all unfold. It was a train wreck waiting to happen, and I let it.
I left for a business trip that morning with my house in total disarray. I had no good reason for refusing to take Charlie to his school bus, and despite having some time to change our dog’s water bowl, I chose not to do it. There it lay, next to the unwashed food dish, crusted with the remains of last night’s dinner. I figured Jack would get home from the gym and handle it all.
Piles of paper gathering dust on the floor and debit card receipts busting out of a little white box screamed for my attention. I ignored them. My home office, the place where I used to hide all day, was like a war zone.
And it wasn’t like we had money issues. Paying our bills was the least of my worries. Jack had made a killing when his startup was bought out, and I was the head of client services at a global real-estate company.
I just stopped giving a damn. Nothing interested me. I was beset by indifference. I just couldn’t keep up anymore. The sleepless nights, the exhaustion, the constant streaming in my head. Everything seemed so insignificant, so mundane. My successes, my accomplishments, they had lost all meaning.
What Comes After
Brandon sat down on one of the chairs. “Yeah. I mean I know he had to hide. I knew that going in. A lot of guys had to do that. Most of them figure it out. And I’m not mad at him or anything. I just want to move on.” He frowned. ”What are you trying to get at here, Greg? Why does Adrian have anything to do with tonight’s party?”
Greg inclined his head down, toward the spot on the street that he hadn’t been able to tear his eyes from. “Because he’s been here this whole time.”
Brandon choked on his gin and tonic. “What?”
“He’s been sitting outside the condo, watching the building, this whole time. I mean, I get it.”
“I don’t!” Brendon declared, standing up again. He clutched his drink in his hand and couldn’t decide if he wanted to hurl it at the ex standing on the ground or if he wanted to go inside and hide. Throwing the glass would be wrong. It would be irresponsible; it would get people hurt. He didn’t want to hurt Adrian, even if this latest stunt was creepy and stalker-ish. “He’s the one who walked away. Why is he hanging around outside my building like some kind of lonely ghost?”
“He wanted your attention. He didn’t know how to get it, and his ploy backfired spectacularly. I think he regrets what he did.” Greg sighed. “I’ve been watching him all night, trying to figure out what to do. I was thinking about bringing him in.”
Brandon spun, bringing himself face to face with his best friend. “Why would you do that?”
“Because you love him, Bran!”
“So what? I’m moving on, trying to rebuild my life. Something you have not been shy about encouraging, I’ll point out. And you want to just… what, drag him back in here? What could that possibly accomplish?” He pulled at his hair.
“I thought it might give you guys a second chance.” Now it was Greg’s turn to sit down, flopping into one of the other patio chairs like it was the only thing holding him up. “I want to see you happy, Bran. I keep hopping this fence – I know you weren’t with the people who made you happy, but you seemed so perfect for each other. And I desperately want you to be happy.” He sighed heavily, gesturing back in Adrian’s general direction. “But I didn’t do it. The guy’s in his thirties. If he wanted to come up he could ring the doorbell like an adult.”
Brandon shook his head and rubbed Greg’s shoulders. “I knew I could trust you.” Greg leaned into the touch, just a little bit, and Brandon grinned. “I thought we established that Adrian can’t make me happy at this point. We’re not right for each other, even if we thought we were.”
“I know. I just don’t know what to do here.” He leaned back. “I mean, this is kind of creepy. He’s just out there, watching. If I’m not going to invite him inside, I probably ought to call the cops.”
Technically, Greg was right. Brandon probably ought to call the police, because no good ever came from one ex staking out the other’s home like this. “Do you think he’s dangerous?” Brandon hedged. “Seriously, has he said anything that’s struck you as dangerous?”
“Other than creepily hanging around outside your house? Nah. Not that he’d say anything to me, you know?” Greg snorted. “I’m pretty much the last person he’s talking to right now, except maybe you.”
“What do you mean?” Brandon’s arms froze on his friend’s shoulders.
“He’s all pissy because I lit into him about stalking you through the rally.” Greg waved a calloused hand in dismissal. “Like okay, fine, he wants to be with someone new. Okay. And so what if the guy’s an undergrad – it’s a little weird, he’s a little young for a midlife crisis but who am I to judge? But that whole thing – like anyone didn’t know what he was up to.” He shook his head again, and Brandon could feel his shoulders tensing up again underneath his hands. “I wasn’t going to just sit there and not say anything.”
Brandon let his hands fall. “Oh, Greg. I’m so sorry.”
“What the hell for?”
“I never wanted to come between the two of you. You’re friends. You should be doing friend things, not arguing over me.” He turned away, clutching at his drink so he could do something with his hands.
A Soul's Sacrifice
(Voodoo Revival Series Book 1)
Blurb: Maya Thibodeau was just your average college graduate trying to make it in this world, finding a job and living life with her best friend until they came. Shadows that shouldn’t exist threaten everything Maya holds dear. When danger comes knocking and Maya must take action, the mysterious man she met at a bar may hold the key. Will the secrets buried in her past come back to haunt her? Will she be able to give up everything she thought she knew and accept what’s right in front of her? Can she accept her birthright and defeat the dark forces conspiring against her before they lose the battle for New Orleans and the very souls of those who reside there?
Buy Link: amzn.to/2H4tJnW
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