Monthly Archives: October 2015

Book Spotlight: Between the Cracks She Fell by Lisa de Nikolits

About The Book
 
 
 
TitleBetween The Cracks She Fell
Author: Lisa de Nikolits
Publisher: Inanna Publications
Publication Date: September 15, 2015
Format: Paperback / PDF
Pages: 350
ISBN:  978-1771332255
Genre: Suspense Thriller
 
 
Buy The Book: 
(Publication Date: September 15, 2015)
Barnes & Noble: TBA
 
 

Discuss this book in our PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads by clicking HERE

Book Description:
 
The award-winning author of The Hungry MirrorWest of WawaGlittering Chaos and The Witchdoctor’s Bones delivers an original and riveting new novel about societal betrayal, familial loss and religious jihad. A suspenseful and lyrical read, Between The Cracks She Fell is a powerful-first person narrative about the explosive consequences of betrayal, survival in troubled times and the pervasiveness of religious domination.

When Joss finds herself having to make mortgage payments without help from her depressed, stoner boyfriend who has just moved out, and the company she works for folds leaving her suddenly unemployed, she is forced to sell her house, on which she takes a financial loss. She decides to camp out in a vacant complex of school buildings to give herself time to decide what to do next. It turns out the building is used by a gang of teenagers for wild, drug-fueled parties and Jess soon finds herself both repelled by their charismatic evil leader, as well as sexually attracted to him. She knows he is dangerous even before she finds his girlfriend’s dead and violently abused body in the school library. During this time, she meets and befriends two other people in difficulty: Emma, a narcissistic thief living with her dog in a stolen car and Ashley, a young homosexual who is heartbroken by the fact that he has been expelled from the Jehovah’s Witness church because he is gay. When her former boyfriend reappears as a born again Christian, Joss is immersed in a journal she found that contains the thoughts of a Muslim teenager who becomes increasingly radicalized. Her struggle to understand her former boyfriend and this young man’s spiritual quests prepare her to make some hard decisions about her future. Between the Cracks She Fell is about a woman who falls off the grid and the explosive consequences of betrayal, survival in troubled times, and the pervasiveness of religious domination.

Book Excerpt:
 

Exodus


I reached my destination with no great sense of joy but at least I wasn’t crying.


A purple, red and black pentagram marked the path ahead of me and the sea of grass rolled this way and that and my throat closed and my eyes stung but I swallowed the tears.


I tried to pretend I was Gibreel Farishta, a hero bigger than me; that tuneless soloist tumbling out of thin air; what an entrance, yaar.


First you have to die. Ho ji! Ho ji! How to ever smile again, if first you won’t cry?


But there would be no more crying for me. My former life was dead. I needed to escape for a while, hide out and then, once I got my energy back, I would figure out what came next.


Right now all I could say was that I was alive, and that is the point I guess, much like Gibreel, standing, with pigs falling out of his face and no God to help him.


I held my arms aloft and waded through the knotty field, as if paddling through an upward flowing river, pushing forward against the current.


The summer offered shoulder-high fragrant grasses laced with thistles and weeds and despite the misfortunes of past events, I was not blind to the beauty of the tiny lilac flowers or the red roses that grew wild and free.


I could see the buildings in the distance. It had been a while since I had seen them but they sprawled low at the other end of the playing fields, just as I remembered.


I had packed for the task at hand; knife, bottled water, flashlight, pillow. Kind of funny really, how natural this solution felt, like it was some kind of okay. It wasn’t the first time I’d purposefully left the grid; my first solo adventure had taken place when I was eleven. Tired of school, friends, mother, swimming lessons and tuck shop lunches, I hid out in a farmer’s shed, armed with books and apples and bars of chocolate. I stayed for two nights and two days, sleeping in a hairy horse blanket that I shook free of cobwebs and drew close around me, breathing in that rich scent of dry sage, dust, leather, sweat and all the other good things that horses smell of. I returned home when I ran out of food and reading material. Mum was furious but I wasn’t sorry; I’d done what I needed to do and it
was the same this time, although there was less choice in a sense, as I had in fact lost my house to the bank and my job to the recession and my boyfriend to a nervous breakdown.


I could think of no other way to heal, to regroup and to find the solo me that I could rely on. I had made a mistake, relying on Shayne but I would get over that. I would get over everything.

Book Trailer: http://bit.ly/1h9oqnN



 About The Author
 
 
Originally from South Africa, Lisa de Nikolits has been a Canadian citizen since 2003. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature and Philosophy and has lived in the U.S.A., Australia and Britain.
 
Her first novel, The Hungry Mirror, won the 2011 IPPY Awards Gold Medal for Women’s Issues Fiction and was long-listed for a ReLit Award. Her second novel, West of Wawa won the 2012 IPPY Silver Medal Winner for Popular Fiction and was one of Chatelaine’s four Editor’s Picks. West of Wawa is available in bookstores and online.
 
Her third novel, A Glittering Chaos, launched in Spring 2013 to reader and review acclaim, and is about murder, madness, illicit love and poetry.
 

Her fourth novel, The Witchdoctor’s Bones was launched Spring 2014 to reader and literary acclaim. The Witchdoctor’s Bones is a thriller about the darkest secrets of African evil; the novel seamlessly weaves witchcraft and ancient folklore into a plot of loss, passion and intrigue and a holiday becomes a test of moral character.


Her fifth novel, Between The Cracks She Fell, will be published in Fall 2015 and has been called “a whirligig-ride into the dark recesses of “what-next? It is compelling and multi-layered penetrating and twisty tale of insurrection.”

“A lyrical and deeply moving examination of emotional pain and faith on a collision course with organized religion.  Lisa de Nikolits highly believable and human characters are outsiders struggling to find meaning, and perhaps hope, in contemporary urban society.  With a deft and confident clarity of style, she explores the complex interplay of faith, crime and social isolation. Highly recommended.” – M. H. Callway, award-winning author of Windigo Fire (Seraphim Editions).
 
Connect with Lisa:
Virtual Book Tour Event Page
 
 
 
 

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First Chapter Reveal: Beautifully Shattered by Courtney Kristel

Beautifully ShatteredTitle: Beautifully Shattered
Author: Courtney Kristel
Publisher: Amazon
Pages: 412
Genre: Romantic Suspense

What would you do if your world fell apart right before your eyes? If everything you held dear was stolen before you had a chance to say goodbye, would you give up or keep fighting? Adalynn Maxwell didn’t decide to give up. She was robbed of her choice.

After years of therapy, Adalynn finally wants to move on and her brother’s sexy best friend Jax lures her further out of her shell. But she doesn’t understand his game and he changes the rules at every turn, making her fall into the waiting arms of the mysterious Doctor Kohen Daniels, whom she can’t seem to avoid. She’s terrified of trusting him, but something about him makes her want to bare her soul.

Adalynn is desperate for that all-consuming love she reads about, but doesn’t believe she deserves it. Her desperation to prove to Jax that she isn’t a little girl anymore may ruin her forever. One wrong decision can change her entire future. She has one last choice to make, but will it be ripped away from her like everything else? Will she pay the ultimate price?

For More Information

  • Beautifully Shattered is available at Amazon.
  • Discuss this book at PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads.

First Chapter:

Six years later . . .

Every Tuesday is the same for me. I work at the bakery in the mornings, go to my therapy appointment in the late afternoon, and finally I have dinner with the guys. The only thing that changes is the location. I live a simple life, well, as simple as I can manage after causing my parents’ and sister’s death six years ago on my seventeenth birthday.

My body automatically tenses. I stare at the blank eggshell walls in my penthouse and shove those memories in the back of my mind before they can haunt me. I tell myself to relax, but no matter how many times I try to get comfortable on my suede couch, I can’t seem to unwind. Ed Sheeran plays in the background, but the solace I usually feel listening to the calming music is missing. My hands itch to do the one thing that will bring a peaceful calm over me. I visualize using the sharp blade I keep taped underneath my sink, feeling the cold of the steel as it nips my skin. I can practically see the blood dripping down my thigh. I slap those images away, too. I’m not that girl anymore.

As soon as I woke up today, I immediately knew something was off. I can’t put it into words; it’s something that I can feel all the way to my bones. I haven’t been able to shake off this sensation all day. I try concentrating on anything but today’s date. It’s almost as if my mind is in a war with my heart. My soul won’t let me forget and my mind attempts to push me past it, to move on. Something changed between the time I closed my eyes last night and when I opened them this morning.

I’ve been in and out of therapy ever since the accident. My brother, Logan, insists that I continue to see Olivia White since I have made “noticeable progress” with her over the other therapists that I have seen since the accident. If he has to go out of town for work he leaves either Connor or Jax, his two best friends since childhood, to babysit me. In other words I’m not to be left to my own devices.

Within these last six years, Logan has become less of a brother and more of a parent. He moved me from California to Manhattan, sent me to college for a business degree, and bought me a penthouse in walking distance from his place. I refused to move in with him after graduation so he made sure that he didn’t have to wait in New York traffic to visit me. He feels better knowing that I’m close, so I don’t fight him on it.

Before the accident I wouldn’t have stood for Logan treating me like I’m made out of porcelain. After? I allowed it because I didn’t care about anything. Now I’m starting to crave the independence I gave up to my brother without a fight.

He takes protectiveness to a whole new level. It wouldn’t surprise me if he had one of my doctors insert a GPS tracker in me. I can’t really blame him, though. I’m the reason that we have no family and he’s almost lost me twice. He won’t allow there to be a third time.

It’s my night to host this week’s dinner. The boys had to leave for an emergency at the office, but promised to bring dinner. I already laid out the white plates that Logan bought me when he purchased the penthouse. Everything in here is white, just the way I like it. The only color comes from a painting, mounted above my couch, that the interior designer snuck in. It’s a shadow of a girl holding a bright yellow umbrella while the storm rages on, falling from the dark, unforgiving night sky. I allow it to stay because I can’t care about pointless decorations when all my energy goes into not giving up.

I’m antsy, counting the minutes since the guys left. Once they return, they’ll distract me. They’ll buy Thai food to please me, even though Jax hates it, they’ll paint smiles on their faces, and not voice what’s on everyone’s mind. Today, May 21, six years ago, my life was consumed by darkness, stealing my every promise of a happy future.

I grab my phone to see if any of the guys have texted. Nope. I’ve been sitting here for almost an hour staring into space. Fantastic. I can’t wait here and do nothing. I become lost in my thoughts and that’s never good. I force myself off the couch and change into workout clothes. Hopefully a few miles on the treadmill will chase this unnerving feeling out of my gut. I send Logan a quick text while I press the L button in the elevator.

Me: Gonna hit the gym. Bringing my phone. Call when you guys are leaving the office. Love you.

I don’t bother to put away my phone. No matter what he is doing, Logan will always respond to me. Always. Best brother award goes to him.

Logan: No problem. You might get a full hour in. This is taking longer than I expected or I would have waited until tomorrow to handle it. Love you too baby girl.

Logan: Oh and don’t forget to do weights too not just cardio.

I roll my eyes. Of course my meathead brother would remind me to do weights. He is such a body builder.

Me: I understand your need to take over the world so take your time. Just give me a heads up so I can shower.

I tiptoe through the lobby, hating how my footsteps echo on the marble floor. I look down and avoid anyone I pass. I don’t have the energy to smile and nod. Not today. Opening the glass doors to the gym, I ignore the Olympic size pool I can see from the entrance. It’s impossible to miss with the glass walls on one side. The pillars have vines wrapped around them, giving it the appearance of a magical place. I’ve never stepped in there even though it beckons me. From here, I know I’ll secretly love the decor, though, because it reminds me of the Greek Gods. Of him.

I head straight to the treadmill to clear my mind. I still don’t understand the point of continuing this stupid, futile charade of seeing Olivia White every other Tuesday afternoon. I think the whole idea is crazy. Nothing is going to change. I don’t want it to change. I don’t want to move on. I can’t. I need to remember what I did, who we lost.

I deserve to suffer unbelievable pain because of my actions. I am barely able to live now and what Liv wants seems impossible. That little voice in the back of my head thinks differently, though. I can do it. I can learn how to live again. I can have more. I want—

Nope, I shove that thought in the furthest part of my mind along with all the useless ones.

After a quick warm-up on the treadmill, I increase the speed. I focus on the sound of my feet hitting the belt with each step. I control my breathing the way my brother hammered into me at a young age when I got serious about working out. I wanted to strengthen my muscles for swimming. I spent hours upon hours training daily, never obtaining enough sleep. A small trail of sweat drips off my forehead and lands on the belt. My surroundings start to disappear as I replay today’s therapy session in my head.

“Adalynn, what do you think?”

I glance up from my hands and see Liv staring at me. I can tell from her disturbed expression this isn’t the first time she’s attempted to jostle me out of my thoughts.

“What’s the question? Sorry, Liv, I either stopped paying attention the moment I walked in, or the moment you brought up my dead parents and dead sister.”

I gawk at Liv, mortified. I can’t believe I actually said that out loud. I swear under my breath. “Sorry, Liv, I’m just distracted today.”

“Addie, you and I both know that I am used to your . . .” She pauses and I decide to help her out.

“Unique sense of humor?” I joke as I collect my long brown hair into a messy bun.

I wish that I took the time to gather my waves into a nice updo like she has done with her honey hair. She always looks so regal, something that I aspire to be. Even in a simple pair of black jeans, I carry myself as if I don’t have a care in the world. I refuse to let anyone see me as the broken twenty-four year old that I am.

“Let’s go with that. I’m used to your unique sense of humor by now. You can’t offend me. I want you to speak your mind. If you need sarcasm to do that, then by all means, just don’t shut me out, especially today of all days.”

Liv is my favorite therapist out of all of them. She always talks to me like I’m a human being, not just someone she has to focus on for an hour to get paid. I respect her as a person, but I still hate that she’s trying to encourage me to talk about them today. Although I was expecting it; after all it is the anniversary of their deaths. May 21, my birthday.

“Okay, I’m paying attention now. What was the question?”

I know the second the words leave my mouth I’m going to regret it. I should have just continued to tune her out until our session ended. My leg bounces up and down, a nervous habit of mine, when I notice the look she’s giving me. It’s the one that tells me I’m not going to take it well, but she’s going to say it anyways.

“I know discussing your family is extremely difficult, especially today. You can talk about them here, to me.” She pauses. “You think you don’t want to be here.” I manage to give a light nod. She is right after all. I don’t want to be here.

My gaze wanders to the panoramic window behind her like it usually does whenever she exposes my past. I can never seem to hold her gaze. Her thoughtful eyes are more knowing then I would like. I watch the outside world as she studies me. I know she’s waiting until she has my undivided attention before she speaks. I sigh loudly before turning my unwilling violet eyes back to her hazel ones.

“You’re wrong. You want to be here as much as your brother wants you here. There’s a point to this. I want to help you. We can sit here silently the entire time or we can talk. It’s up to you, Adalynn.”

I know I shouldn’t ask, but the words fall out of my mouth before I can stop them. “How are you so sure I want to be here, Liv?”

“You still come, don’t you? You can walk out at any second, but you don’t. You continue to show up for every appointment. Even though you fight with yourself, you still stay until the session is over. You don’t stay because of your brother. You stay because deep down you want to overcome your past, and that scares you.”

Olivia sees the wheels turning in my head. She waits for me to patiently digest what she’s saying. I study my hands again. There’s no point in arguing with her. As much as I hate to admit it, she’s right. It is scary. I don’t think I can move forward, I don’t think I deserve it. What if I fail and let everyone down again?

“Some people feel anger towards their family members because they’re furious that they left. It’s okay to be angry with them, Addie. Whatever you feel is okay. You need to let it out or it will consume you. If you don’t feel like you can talk to me, then talk to anyone you feel comfortable with. Little by little, you need to open up or you will never be able to move forward with your life.”

I bite my lip so hard it bleeds. I focus on that pain then the emptiness inside of me. The little bite isn’t enough so I dig my nails into my palms. Noticing the blood, I slowly relax my hand. I interlace my fingers together so that Liv doesn’t see. I stare at the tiny trail of blood that barely shows. It doesn’t take away the emptiness. I need more.

“I am angry. They died and I didn’t. I’m angry that my world stopped that night and nobody noticed. All night I thought someone would see us, that someone would help us, but nobody stopped. Everyone kept driving. So, yes, I am angry, Liv. My world sank into the darkness and everyone else went on with their lives while the most important people in my life were dying beside me. I was helpless, unable to do anything but . . .”

Words leave me. I can’t finish that thought. It’s too much. Too painful.

The session drags on. Liv continues to demonstrate patience. Towards the end of it, Liv straightens her shoulders as if preparing for battle.

“I need you to start living your life. Go out. Meet new people, even take a vacation. Just live without thinking about the past and how you shouldn’t be having fun because they’re gone, as you put it earlier. The past is just that, the past. You can’t change it; no matter how much you wish you could.”

My thoughts are anywhere but in this gym while I run on the treadmill. I play everything that Liv said on a continuous wheel in my head. It still seems surreal that she thinks I can go a month without seeing her, that I am ready to progress.

I have my doubts. My mind is going in circles. Suddenly I realize that I am sprinting and coming up on my ninth mile. I try to focus on the panel, but my vision has blurred. While chugging my water, I press the down button to slow my pace. As soon as I set my water down in the cup holder and reach for my towel, I’m seeing spots. The world tilts. Blindly I grope for the string to pull the emergency stop. Everything goes black before I hit the still moving track.

When I come to, I’m laying on the floor next to an unbelievably attractive man who’s leaning over to get a clear view of my face. His lips are moving, but all I hear is a loud ringing noise. My head hurts. I try to process what other body parts hurt, but all I can focus on is that it seems like someone took a sledgehammer to my head. I attempt to move and pain shoots up my ankle.

I breathe through the pain. Strong hands squeeze my shoulders. The hot guy is still talking. I can’t understand what he’s saying, or why he’s bending over me. He looks so edible, I end up staring into his dark blue eyes. They remind me of the ocean and a peaceful calm takes over me, but it’s short-lived when the pain comes back with a vengeance. Once the pain subsides to a more manageable level, I can focus on his words.

“Can you hear me? What’s your name? Do you know where you are?” Concern is evident in his voice.

He’s speaking slowly for my benefit. I struggle to sit up, but he presses his strong hands on my shoulders. Mr. Edible smirks at me.

“No you don’t, sweetie. Stay still until I know you’re okay. Can you tell me your name? Do you know where you are?”

The sudden desert that has taken residence in my throat makes speaking impossible. Mr. Edible lifts my head and tilts a cold water bottle to my dry lips. When he starts to pull it away, I grab it and gulp half of the water down.

“You should take sips right now.”

Wiping my mouth with the back of my hand, I roll my eyes. “Oh yeah, why’s that?”

“If you have a concussion, you could throw up,” he says.

Today is just not my day. Of course I would be the one to hurt myself on a treadmill and attract a cocky Good Samaritan.

“Adalynn,” I say in a calm voice, answering his question from earlier.

He raises an eyebrow expectantly. Right . . . he asked two questions. He couldn’t just walk away and leave me here. I find it hard to believe that he would be able to turn his back on someone needing help. There’s something about him that screams Mr. Good-Guy.

The light bulb goes off.

“At the gym.” Who has the smug smile now, Mr. Edible?

Gazing into his eyes, I’m aware I’m not fooling him with my casual act. I also know from previous experiences that I need to stay calm so I can talk him down from doing something rash like calling 911. I need to extinguish this situation so I can make it back to my apartment before the guys return. I’ll pretend like everything is fine and go to the doctor tomorrow. Ha, who am I kidding! I’m not going to the doctor tomorrow. I can’t remember the last time I voluntarily went for a check up.

“How are you feeling?” he ask as he interrupts my thinking process. “You were out for a couple of minutes. Your forehead’s still bleeding, not as bad though.” Pausing, he moves so he can examine my leg. As he touches my ankle, I wince. “You may have a sprain. You’ll need an X-ray to be sure.”

Ah, it’s my ankle, not my entire leg, that’s a little more comforting. That will be easier to hide from the guys. I need a mirror to know how bad my face looks. From the throbbing pain on my forehead, my guess would be anywhere from horrible or death. My guess is on the latter.

“Fuuuccckkkk!” I draw that one syllable into about twenty, give or take, when he starts twisting my ankle.

“I’m sorry,” he says once I’m done screaming. “I’m just checking for breaks. Do you have a boyfriend that I can call before we head to the hospital?”

That one word causes me to go into full blown panic. I sit up way too quickly, making him drop my ankle on the floor. I’m surprised my earsplitting scream doesn’t break the glass doors. Once the pain subsides, I try to stand only to fail. Graciously, he helps me to my feet and leads me to a nearby bench.

“I really don’t need to go to the hospital,” I tell him when he pulls his cell phone out of his basketball shorts. I wave him off, hoping to convey that this isn’t as bad as it seems. “Honestly this is no big deal, just a scratch.” I shrug, eyes glued to the silver device that will seal my fate.

“Adalynn—”

I hold up my hand, silencing him. “No, really, I’m fine. I just need to go back up to my place. I’m a little lightheaded, but we don’t need to make an unnecessary scene. You don’t need to call anyone. Once the bleeding—”

He cuts me off with a glare that clearly says “don’t mess with him.” The Good Samaritan that I’m somehow stuck with isn’t going to give up.

“Listen, Adalynn, you need stitches. This is too deep for just a Band-Aid.” He stares at my forehead. “You also might’ve suffered a concussion, not to mention you need to have your ankle checked out and be possibly fitted for crutches.

I give him my most pleading look. “Please, just help me to my apartment. I have crutches somewhere in one of my closets from the last time I decided to do a gravity check. The bleeding has stopped. I’ll go to the hospital if I need to. I know all the signs of a concussion. This isn’t my first accident.” And it won’t be my last, I’m sure. Clumsiness doesn’t even begin to describe my unique quality of walking skills.

He shakes his head. “Give me your boyfriend’s number so he can meet you at the hospital.”

Okay, now, I’m mad. Who does he think he is? Good Samaritan or not, he doesn’t get to boss me around. Since standing isn’t an option, I sit up straight, attempting to appear taller. “Look, buddy, I already told you I’m not going to the hospital. So either help me back to my apartment or move out of my way.”

Rubbing his face, he says in a forced calm voice, “Fine Adalynn, you win. But I need to grab my emergency bag from my apartment. You will call me if there are any signs you need to go to the hospital. Take it or leave it.”

Without waiting for a response, he stands and gathers towels to support my ankle. Once he’s satisfied that I’m not going anywhere, he glances down at me with a question in his eyes.

“Fine. Hurry up.”

“I’ll be right back. I don’t need to ask you to stay put because with that ankle you’re not going anywhere.” He gives me one last smirk before walking away. At the door he turns and asks, “And what about your boyfriend, do you need to borrow my phone to call him?” He holds up the phone in question.

“Nope, no boyfriend so nobody to call.”

He shoots me a knowing grin before leaving. Why didn’t I ask for his name? I’m about to have a random, hot, controlling guy escort me to my apartment, and I didn’t even ask for his name. Smart. What was that nonsense about him retrieving his bag? Deciding I don’t really care, I rest my eyes.

They spring open when something cold presses on my ankle. It’s hard to focus at first, but when my I adjust to the bright lights in the gym I see my sexy stranger wielding a bag of ice.

I ask the most basic question that I should have asked from the beginning. “Does my knight in shining armor come with a name? Or should I just pick one from my favorite fairy tales? I have to warn you, though, my fairy tales are different from Disney.”

“Oh?”

“Instead of reading to me, my Dad made up his own fairy tales.”

He chuckles. “Do I remind you of the knights in shining armor?”

I shrug. “There weren’t really any knights in shining armor. The princess always saved the day. She didn’t need anyone to rescue her.”

I’m surprised that I just told that information to a stranger. I never open up. Never. There’s something about him that makes me want to bare my soul. Which means I need to shut up. This can only be heading somewhere dangerous.

He rummages into his bag and pulls out a pair of gloves and a white bottle with a spray cap before answering. “Kohen Daniels. Now hold still. This may hurt a little.”

Before waiting for me to catch on, he sprays the liquid on a cotton ball and then gently cleans my forehead. I scream a string of profanity that would make any sailor proud.

“Well, lucky for you I was wrong,” Kohen says after cleaning the wound.

“Oh?” I ask through my teeth. The sting is still fresh in my mind.

“You won’t need stitches. I have butterfly stitches that will keep this closed and it’ll heal nicely.”

He finishes cleaning the wound and applies the final bandage. Lightly he brushes his fingertips over my cheek and down my jaw. As he stares into my eyes, I feel a pull that I have only felt with one other person. Right when I think he is going to lean in, he quickly averts his attention to my ankle.

“I need to wrap your ankle and then I can help you back to your apartment.”

Not trusting my voice, I nod. What just happened? I must have hit my head a lot harder than I thought.

He wraps my ankle with practiced ease. Without asking, I know immediately that he’s a great doctor. Women must fall at his feet with those dark blue eyes and sandy blond hair that can’t seem to stay in place. I know without a doubt that he has an incredible body to match his handsome face. There’s no hiding it, even with a black sweatshirt on. When he’s satisfied with his work, he stands and holds out his hand for me. Smiling, I take it and wobble to his side.

“Thanks.”

Kohen must have collected my things when I was resting because now he is slinging the strap of my gym bag over his shoulder along with his medical bag. We’re standing so close that all I have to do is look up and our lips will meet. My hands fidget at my sides because I can’t make myself kiss him. The attraction I feel for him is foreign. My heart forever belongs to another.

Slowly, his hands trail from my shoulder to my wrists and back up again. By the second time his hands glide down my arms, goosebumps cover my whole body. As much as I don’t want to look up, I tilt my head back. My violet eyes connect with his azure ones. His hand caresses my face as he leans into me. Logic kicks in at the same time the gym doors bang open.

Kohen manages to angle his body in front of mine and yet he’s still supporting my weight. He watches me as Jax comes running around the corner in a desperate search for something, for me.

“Ads!” he shouts with relief.

I’m ogling him without shame, Kohen forgotten. My gaze is drawn to his brown hair that is styled in it’s usual messy fohawk, his forest green eyes, and his sinfully kissable lips. Everything is the complete package and I haven’t even taken in his body yet. I barely try to fight the pull I always feel when he’s around. He’s wearing a simple maroon dress shirt, first two buttons undone, with the sleeves rolled up displaying his tattooed arms. Once there was a time where I was able to study every picture, every black detail on his tanned arms. I would spend hours tracing every curve of his body.

Suddenly Jax comes to an abrupt halt when he sees the blood on my shirt, the bandage on my forehead, and me balancing on one leg. From the expression on his face, I can tell that his relief is short-lived. Sighing, I pinch the bridge of my nose and helplessly try not to make it obvious that I wished things were different between us, but they’re not. I’m just Logan’s little sister to him now.

“Please don’t start. I’m fine. I was on my way back to my place when you came storming in here.” Taking a deep breath to stall, I silently beg him to not make a big deal of this. I know there’s no use, he’s just as bad as my brother. “Please . . . just don’t, Jax.”

The only way this could be any worse is if Logan found me. At least with Jax I have a small window where he might be reasonable. With my brother I have no chance. It’s always take charge first, ask questions later. I know I only have a minute, maybe two if I’m lucky, to convince Jax not to make a scene. Suddenly I remember Kohen next to me. It’s amazing how just Jax’s presence can command a room.

I hate it.

“Seriously, Jax, I’m fine. Kohen,” I add pointing to the man still holding me upright, “is a doctor and he’s already looked me over. Gave me a clean bill of heath and everything. I just need to stay off the ankle and we both know I have crutches somewhere in my apartment.”

I’m wearing a huge grin knowing that I’ve talked my way out of this until the traitor opens his big fat mouth. “Actually I’ve been trying to convince her to go to the hospital for an X-ray. I don’t think anything is broken, but it wouldn’t hurt to have her examined. There’s a good chance she has a concussion.”

Kill me now.

My grin is now a scowl. I can’t believe Kohen ratted me out. Great, hospital here I come. Jax doesn’t say anything. He smiles that crooked smile I secretly love, the one that says he knows exactly what I’m thinking. Reaching into his black slacks, he grabs his vibrating phone.

“Yeah, man, found her. No idea, I haven’t asked yet. No, you’re going to need to meet us in the lobby. We need to make a quick run to the emergency room. Calm down, she’s fine. Yeah, tell Connor to bring the car around. Oh, I’m sure, I didn’t ask that either.” Pulling the phone away from his ear, he curses quietly so that my brother can’t hear. “Calm down, Logan. She’s fine. Yeah, I know. See you in a second.”

When Jax hangs up, he opens his mouth to speak. I hold up my hand. “No, Jax. Just don’t. Save it, okay? Let’s go before Logan loses his mind.”

I rub the side of my temple, hating that there’s a stranger witnessing the bubble that I live in. Wisely, Jax nods without saying anything. Turning slightly to face Kohen, I give him a weak smile that I don’t feel. “Thanks again for everything.”

Because I can’t help myself and I want to see Jax suffer, I rise up on my good foot and kiss his cheek. I hear a growl and have to bite my lip to keep from beaming.

Kohen smiles down at me, ignoring a steaming Jax. “You’re welcome . . . let’s try to be more careful next time?”

“I’ll see what I can do.”

Momentarily forgetting about my ankle, I stumble towards Jax, which makes both Jax and Kohen reach for me. There’s one on each side of me, helping me from face-planting.

“Jesus, Ads, stop trying to kill yourself.” I don’t have time to respond before Jax sweeps me up into his arms and cradles me to his chest. Jax grins down at me when I glare at him.

“Thanks for helping her,” he tells Kohen, his green eyes fixed on mine.

Then Jax strolls out of the gym without waiting for a reply. I bury my head into his chest from embarrassment. God, could he act anymore like a caveman? When we reach the door I take a quick look over Jax’s shoulder. Kohen hurls his medical equipment back into his bag.

“You don’t need to carry me,” I tell Jax.

“No, but I want to. Besides if your brother sees me letting you limp your way to the car, I’ll be dead.”

My brain has short-circuited. Jaxon Chandler wants to carry me. He wants me in his arms. I know I’m making a bigger deal out of this then I need to, but I can’t help it. This is Jax. The man that I’ve been in love with for as long as I can remember.

“Besides, most women would love to be in my arms.”

Ignoring the pain in my chest, I smirk at him. “Don’t flatter yourself, Jax, those women only want your money. The rest of us don’t want to hurt your feelings. You’re not as good-looking as you think.” We both know I’m lying. He is the very definition of beautiful.

“Great,” I mumble under my breath when we reach the lobby.

Connor leans against the wall idly typing on his phone while Logan paces. Logan rushes to my side. He tries to grab me from Jax, whose hold on me tightens.

“No, I got her. She doesn’t need to move more than necessary with her ankle.”

Logan nods while sliding off his suit jacket from his buff shoulders to lay it over me. “Thanks, man. You okay, Addie?”

“Of course. I’m a little tired, though, so maybe we should go back up to my place and watch a movie?”

His light blue eyes that are the exact replica of our father’s plead with me not to fight with him. I give him a tight nod. There’s so much of our father in him; his build, his tone of voice, even his brown hair. I have that, too. We both have our mother’s smile. Thanks to our mom I was blessed with her rare shade of violet eyes.

Logan kisses the top of my head. “Not a chance, baby girl,” he says using Dad’s nickname for me. To Jax he says, “Let’s go.”

Putting away his phone, Connor hurries over to the door to hold it open for us. The chill in the spring night air washes over me. I burry myself closer into Jax’s warm chest, secretly loving his potent cologne. I breathe deeply once before watching Connor’s 6’6’’ frame clear out the back seat of his car.

Like my brother, Jax treats me as if I’m a porcelain doll as he maneuvers me in the car. By the time he has the buckle in place I’m covered in goosebumps and it’s not from the cold. Jax is so close, but still so many miles away from me.

After making sure that I’m comfortable in the back, Logan surprises me by manning the wheel. He hardly drives since the accident. He utilizes his massive amounts of money and has a full-time driver. I feel his fear resembles mine in a way, even if he wasn’t there that dreadful night.

I nearly groan when Jax settles himself next to me and Connor slides into the passenger seat. I was hoping that Connor would sit with me. It would be easier to keep my distance from Jax. When we finally arrive at the hospital, Connor rushes to snag a wheelchair for me while the rest of us wait in the car.

Logan breaks the silence. “You didn’t think to call us?”

I turn to face the window. “No, I was a little preoccupied. Besides, I knew you three would make a big deal out of this.” I wave my hand down my body.

Luckily, Connor returns with the wheelchair before Logan or Jax can respond.

“All right, Addie, you know the drill,” Connor says.

Jax picks me up like I’m a child and sets me in the chair. I breathe my first breath of fresh air since being in his arms. Being so close to him yet so far away is torture.

I sigh dramatically for his benefit. “Oh, well thank you, kind sir. I don’t know how I would have made it the whole half a step to the wheelchair without you.”

Someone clutches my hand. I look up and smile at Connor. His tall frame bends slightly so that he can continue to hold my hand while Logan steers me towards the automatic doors. I watch Connor as we near the entrance. Not for the first time, I wish that I felt something for him besides friendship. It would be so much easier to be in love with the blond stud squeezing my hand, but of course I consider him a brother. He brushes his long hair behind his ears. It’s only then that I realize his wrist is missing the pink hair-tie I gave him earlier. Without saying anything, I give him the extra I keep on my wrist just for him. He smiles appreciatively as he gathers his shoulder-length hair into one of those manly ponytails at the bottom of his head.

My anxiety rises the closer I’m wheeled to the hospital’s doors. Ever since the accident, I avoid them. Well, I try to at least; me being accident-prone doesn’t help with my fear since the guys always insist on me seeing a doctor. Logan wheels me into the crowded Emergency Room at New York Presbyterian Hospital, oblivious that I’m dying inside.

Jax walks up to the counter like he owns the place. Flashing the receptionist his trademark smile he says, “I need to have someone look at my friend Adalynn Maxwell. She hit her head pretty badly and we’re worried she might have a concussion.”

He’s so charming it should be illegal. The lady doesn’t shift her focus from the computer screen; apparently there are women immune to Jax’s charm. That’s just too bad. Really, my heart breaks for him.

“You’re going to need to fill this out and wait in the waiting room like everyone else.” She hands him a clipboard with the paperwork attached. When Jax doesn’t make a move for it, Connor is forced to seize it.

“I didn’t introduce myself earlier, my apologies. I’m Jaxon Chandler, as in the owner of Trinity. Which happened to give the largest donation this year at the pediatric fundraising event last week.”

He doesn’t even wait for the light bulb to go off. I’m surprised how fast she recognizes the name of their company. Understanding dawns on me when I glance around. The new self-help posters have the Trinity logo in the lower left corner. What doesn’t their company dabble in these days?

“I would like Miss Maxwell in a private room and to be seen by the best neurologist.”

She’s already standing and walking around the counter. She might be immune to Jax’s charm, but she doesn’t want to piss off their biggest paycheck. I doubt their CEO, who I know just went golfing with Logan, would be happy to hear from a fuming Jax. I have to try extremely hard not to laugh at her sudden willingness to help. It’s hilarious how name-dropping can change people, even in a hospital, where it shouldn’t matter.

“Of course, sir. I can have someone show you to Miss Maxwell’s room right away. Unfortunately you will have to see the on-call doctor, as our head of neurology has the night off. I assure you Miss Maxwell will be in good hands.”

Connor groans with me. Jax ignores both of us. She couldn’t have just kept quiet, could she? No, it’s not like she would have known that Jax isn’t a man to be deterred. I tremble when he slams his strong hands on the counter. He glares at her as if she just said the most outrageous thing in the history of the world.

“That’s unacceptable. I want the best. Make it happen or do I need to call Don?” He reads her name tag. “Mrs. Adams?”

“My apologies, sir. I’ll have someone take her for all the tests while you wait for the doctor. It might take awhile longer since this is his only day off this week.”

Mrs. Adams calls over a nurse to manage the desk before snatching the wheelchair from Logan. The guys are forced to hurry along after us to catch up. I have to hand it to Mrs. Adams, she doesn’t just take it lying on her back. Go her! I pick imaginary lint off my bright orange leggings as Mrs. Adams silently pushes me. I stare straight ahead as we pass through the doors that she has to use a keycard to access. The urge to break the silence is overwhelming.

“I’m sorry about him. He’s harmless, by the way,” I tell her as she wheels me into a room.

“Yeah, he’s like a rabid dog without teeth.” I turn just in time to see Jax slap the back of Connor’s head. “Ow!”

I can tell from her tight smile that Mrs. Adams wishes she were anywhere else right now. Can’t say that I blame her. She starts to help me from the chair, but Jax pushes her out of the way.

“I got her.”

My jaw drops. He needs to stop acting this way in front of Logan. I force myself not to react to his closeness as he lifts me up before gently laying me in the bed.

“Your nurse will be right in.” Mrs. Adams inches her way closer to the door.

“You’re not my nurse?” I ask, surprised.

After a shake of her head, she slips out the door.

“Jax, any doctor would have been fine.” I let my annoyance show in my voice. “I’m pretty sure they all went to medical school, but who knows, some might have gone to clown school.”

Jax ignores me as he makes a point of walking over to Logan, who’s leaning against the far wall across from the bed. I’m still irritated that I’m here when a male nurse knocks on the door. He couldn’t have come at a better time. Being here is making my entire body tense. Pretty soon I’m going to snap. Hopefully nobody is here to witness it.

Forty-five minutes later I have my ankle re-wrapped. Just a bad sprain, thank goodness; I just have to wait for the doctor to go over my CT scan. I survey the room for Jax, but he’s missing. I want to ask where he’s gone, but I don’t want to clue in Logan to my feelings for his best friend. Talk about awkward.

“Don’t be so hard on them, Addie,” Connor says, “You know they’re both just worried.”

I frown at my best friend, hating that he’s right. He’s known me my entire life, and he’s usually the one who makes those two see reason when it comes to me. He’s like another big brother. I love him even if he annoys me 99 percent of the time.

I stare at Logan as he types away on his phone, probably responding to the thousand of emails he receives daily. As I inspect him closer I notice the shadows under his eyes. Without asking, I know he didn’t sleep last night. Most likely he was restless like me, remembering everything we lost. But unlike me, he doesn’t have the gory, haunting memories I do. I’m glad as my brother doesn’t deserve to suffer like me. He’s innocent.

“I know, Connor. I’m not mad at them. I just wish Jax didn’t make a big deal out of this. Between the two of them, I don’t know who’s worse.”

His twin dimples are prominent. “If you haven’t noticed, Jax likes to make a show out of everything when it comes to you.” Before I can say anything, he quickly changes the subject. “Have you picked your dress for the Masquerade Ball yet or are you—” He breaks off when there’s a soft knock on the door.

We all turn to see a tall, muscular doctor with sandy blond hair that just can’t seem to stay in the right place. Tonight is getting better and better.

 

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Roped In Book Blitz

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We’re happy to be hosting K.D. Hays’ ROPED IN BOOK BLITZ today!

Roped In

Title: Roped In
Author: K.D. Hays
Publisher: K.D. Hays
Pages: 140
Genre: Cozy Mystery

Life has settled into a more stable pattern for fledgling investigator Karen Maxwell of DS Investigations, but that stability is precarious. At work, she has an uneasy truce with Rodney, the “office maximizer” hired by her brother to do some of the administrative work she used to do. Her brother has not assigned her any real cases and she thinks it’s because he doesn’t trust her after she was fired from her last major assignment.

But she soon gets her chance. The firm’s insurance agent calls in a favor and asks them to investigate whether a valuable parrot was killed as a result of snowfall damage to a house. Karen is pretty sure Dave will assign this to her, since the investigation will involve no money or prestige. But it may help earn back his confidence.

Then Gina Callaghan hires DS Investigations to find out who sabotaged her daughter Hayley’s rope at a jump rope competition. Hayley competes in power jumping events, and she failed to make the top four in the regional tournament. If Karen can prove that one of those top four jumpers behaved unethically, then Hayley, (who was fifth) will have a spot at the national competition, and a chance to go to the World tournament. Dave assigns Karen the lead role in this case, so now she has a chance to prove to her brother that she can conclude an investigation before the client is ready to pull the plug.

Karen bribes her son to take a jump rope class on the day when the jumpers she needs to watch have their practices. Initially, Hayley Callaghan does not want the matter investigated so Karen has to be a subtle as possible. Meanwhile, in the parrot case, Karen’s investigation seems to indicate that the parrot’s owners are telling the truth and not trying to defraud the insurance company. But the picture they offer as proof somehow arouses Karen’s suspicion.

At jump rope practice, she finds a lot of masked hostility and a host of possible suspects, but no one who saw anything. Then Hayley’s sister steps forward and admits that she saw someone rummaging through her sister’s rope bag. Circumstances point to two possible suspects, in addition to the sister herself. But Karen can find no proof of wrongdoing and thinks the break was most likely an accident. Then Hayley changes her position and urges Karen to follow through with her initial suspicions. She immediately wonders why.

But she doesn’t have time to wonder. Her brother insists that she stop working on the insurance case and her client insists that she write up suspicions against one of the other jumpers so they can file a complaint with the national sanctioning commission. Working against the clock, Karen finds proof that the picture is fake, proving that the insurance clients were trying to defraud the agency. But time runs out on the jump rope investigation—once again the dissatisfied client fires Karen before she solves the case. This time, she knows an innocent girl is going to face blame and could be banned from the sport she loves. So she digs on until she uncovers the truth —and possible destroys a family in the process.

For More Information

  • Roped In is available at Amazon.
  • Discuss this book at PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads.

Book Excerpt:
“And you promise that you can be discreet?”

“Of course.” We’d never mingled with nobility or the rich and famous, but we had done work for the old moneyed families in Maryland and knew some of them could be passionate about maintaining their privacy.

“Good,” she murmured, and again I had the sense that she was going through a checklist. I wondered if she might be the personal assistant to a rich woman who needed us to find missing heirloom jewels or locate the beneficiary of a testator’s unexpected bequest.

“I need to hire an investigator,” she said, rather redundantly.

“Yes,” I said, trying to be patient as my gaze strayed to the clock. I was going to have to flat-out run down to Main Street to make it to the salon on time. But it would be worth it if I was able to rope in a new client. With this woman’s educated voice and concerns about discretion, I thought we might be looking at something substantial. Even if it was just a woman wishing to keep tabs on her husband, she might be a client with enough money to pay for a extensive investigation. So I didn’t want to make her feel rushed.

“Why do you want to hire an investigator?” I asked gently.

“I need an investigator. Your best investigator,” she said firmly. “To find out who broke my daughter’s jump rope.”

About the Author

K.D. Hays

Kate Dolan began her writing career as a legal editor and then newspaper columnist before she decided she was finally ready to tackle fiction. As the author of more than a dozen novels and novellas, she writes historical fiction and romance under her own name and contemporary mysteries and children’s books under the name K.D. Hays. When not writing, she enjoys volunteering as a living history interpreter and riding roller coasters with her daughter.

Her latest book is the cozy mystery, Roped In.

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Interview with Lisa Tillinger Johansen, author of ‘Stop the Diet, I Want to Get Off!’

Lisa Tillinger JohansenOur guest today is Lisa Tillinger Johansen, author of the nonfiction book Stop The Diet, I Want To Get Off!  Lisa is a Registered Dietitian who counsels clients on a wide range of health issues. Her debut nutrition book, Fast Food Vindication, received the Discovery Award (sponsored by USA Today, Kirkus and The Huffington Post). She lives in Southern California.

Her latest book is the nonfiction/nutrition/health book, Stop the Diet, I Want To Get Off!

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Stop the Diet A

What made you decide to become a published author?

I’m a registered dietitian with a master’s degree in nutritional science. I work as a health educator and teach and counsel clients on a variety of topics including weight management, diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, kidney disease and more. In my practice, I see so many people who have questions about diets, weight loss, healthy eating and overall nutrition. I help them and wanted to help people outside of my client base. So I wrote my first book, Fast Food Vindication, which was a success and won several awards. And I followed that with my now bestselling book Stop The Diet, I Want To Get Off!

Would you consider your latest book, Stop The Diet, I Want To Get Off!, to be a one of a kind? How so?

I do. There really isn’t a book quite like mine that looks at the pros and cons of dozens of good, fad and bad diets and ultimately provides the reader with a healthy eating plan for life. It’s a one-stop reading experience for all those who are looking for the right diet, weight-loss and management plan with tips and resources to adhere to it for life.

Where is your writing sanctuary?

I like to write on the couch in my family room with the TV on and my dogs cuddling next to me. I use a laptop computer and have my research in bins on the floor by my feet. It’s perfect.

What do you believe a writer should not do as far as getting his or her book published?

A writer shouldn’t give up. Keep at it, don’t get discouraged and figure out a way around any obstacles in your path. I also think it’s very important to have an editor take a pass at your book. No matter how good a writer we may be, there’s always a way to make it better and objective eyes will help us do that.

What inspires you?

My clients inspire me. I’ve worked with a lot of them for many years and it’s great to see them lose weight (if needed), lower cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar and more. There’s nothing more gratifying than helping people.

What is one thing you learned about your book after it was published?

The power of social media in getting the word out. So thank you for giving me this opportunity.

Did any real life experiences find their way into your book?

Real life experiences abound in my books. And stories about my less healthy-eating husband are sprinkled throughout.

Aside from writing, what’s your passion?

I love to travel and take every opportunity to do so. I just got back from a trip to Spain and Portugal which was fantastic. Next I’m off to Iceland and Norway. I can’t wait!

What’s next for you?

I’m working on my outline and research for my next book. I don’t take too much time off between books.

About the Book:

Stop the Diet 2Title: Stop the Diet, I Want To Get Off!
Author: Lisa Tillinger Johansen
Publisher: J. Murray Press
Pages: 350
Genre: Nonfiction/Nutrition/Health

The Paleo. The Zone. The Gluten-free. Another day, another diet. We’re caught in a never-ending merry-go-round of weight loss plans, fueled by celebrity endorsers, TV doctors and companies angling for a piece of a $60 billion industry. But do these diets really work? And how healthy are they?

Registered Dietitian Lisa Tillinger Johansen examines dozens of the most wildly popular diets based on medical facts, not hype. And along the way, she reveals tried-and-true weight loss strategies, relying on her years of hospital experience, weight-loss seminars and community outreach efforts. With insight and humor, Stop The Diet, I Want To Get Off shows that the best answer is often not a trendy celebrity-endorsed diet, but easy-to-follow guidelines that are best for our health and our waistlines.

For More Information

  • Stop the Diet, I Want to Get Off! is available at Amazon.
  • Pick up your copy at Barnes & Noble.
  • Discuss this book at PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads.

 

 

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Book Blast: Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things by Martina McAtee

We’re thrilled to be hosting Martina McAtee’s CHILDREN SHOULDN’T PLAY WITH DEAD THINGS Book Blast today at The Book Rack!

Title: Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things
Author: Martina McAtee
Publisher: Martina McAtee
Pages: 450
Genre: YA Paranormal Romance

17 year old Ember Denning has made an art of isolating herself. She prefers the dead. She spends her days skipping school in old cemeteries and her nights hiding from her alcoholic father at the funeral home where she works. When her own father dies, Ember learns her whole life is a lie. Standing in the cemetery that’s been her sanctuary, she’s threatened by the most beautiful boy she’s ever seen and rescued by two people who claim to be her family. They say she’s special, that she has a supernatural gift like them…they just don’t know exactly what it is.

They take her to a small Florida town, where Ember’s life takes a turn for the weird. She’s living with her reaper cousins, an orphaned werewolf pack, a faery and a human genius. Ember’s powers are growing stronger, morphing into something bigger than anything anybody anticipated. Ember has questions but nobody has answers. Nobody knows what she is. They only know her mysterious magical gift is trying to kill them and that beautiful dangerous boy from the cemetery may be the only thing standing between her and death.

As Ember’s talents are revealed so are the secrets her father hid and those in power who would seek to destroy her. What’s worse, saving Ember has put her cousins in danger and turned her friend’s lives upside down. Ember must learn to embrace her magic or risk losing the family she’s pieced together.

For More Information

  • Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things is available at Amazon.
  • Discuss this book at PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads.

Book Excerpt:

She went lightheaded as the enormity of her words hit her, “Oh, God. This is like the part in the movie where you try to kill me, right? You are going to try to kill me and I feel too crappy to even try to run.”

She was talking more to herself now. She leaned back against the rusted mausoleum gates behind her, enjoying the cool metal against her skin. Her head was swimming, the stars above blurring in the sky. No, not now, she thought. It was happening again. Whatever had happened earlier in the cemetery was happening again. She could feel it rising up in her, that weird feeling like her insides were melting and liquefying while she could do nothing to stop it. Was this a panic attack? Could a panic attack cause what happened in the cemetery earlier? Maybe this was some kind of fight or flight adrenaline response.

She felt caged, trapped by her own body. It was all in her head. The ground wasn’t vibrating at her feet. There was no way she was really burning up in forty-degree weather. Even in her haze she could see him watching her. Maybe if she just held still, he would be quick about it.

Her head lulled on her shoulders. She was going to pass out. It would serve him right. Then he was just there, in her space, fingers cupping her face. She moaned at the feel of his cold hands against her overheated flesh. “And if it is, Luv? If this is the part where I try to kill you? What then? Are you going to pass out and take all the fun out of it? Or will you fight back?”

There was no mistaking the threat of his words, but he was close enough to whisper them against her skin like a promise. She couldn’t think straight. Her head filled with a sound like angry bees. She pitched forward, dropping her forehead to his shoulder, eyes drifting closed.

He was so cold; even through the layers of his clothes; his body seemed to emit this pleasant icy radiance that soothed her feverish skin. She wrapped herself around him, locking her arms. She buried her face against his throat, nose rubbing against his skin.

She felt his body go rigid in her arms. She didn’t blame him, on some level she understood sane girls didn’t try to cuddle their killers. But nobody ever accused her of being sane. She was the girl who played in cemeteries and talked to the dead. She was the girl with three therapists before she was twelve. She was the girl in flames and he was ice water; if she was going to die, she was going to have this first.

They stood there, bound together by her forced embrace. Those strange vibrations increased, building inside her like a living thing, a burning energy trying to melt her from the inside out. She could hear his ragged breath panting against her ear, could feel him writhing in her grasp, but she refused to let go. Could he feel it too?

She clung to him, knowing if she let go this peculiar energy would overwhelm her. She breathed him in, letting him anchor her as it kept building and burning, growing until it thrust from her with the force of a sledgehammer. He groaned like he’d received the physical blow, he may have fallen had she not been holding him to her. Finally, the world seemed to right itself. Her blood ceased to boil and the vibrations stopped. When her mind quieted, she became very aware of what she was doing.

She let go, shoving him back. Despite his size, he stumbled, blinking hard. They stared at each other, his confusion mirroring her own.

“What are you?” she whispered. “What are you doing to me?”

He rushed her, shoving her against the concrete hard enough to knock her teeth together, “What did I do to you? What game are you playing? What are you? What was that? What did you do?”

She whimpered, feet scrambling for purchase as she realized he’d lifted her from the ground. Her heart thundered in her chest. He was fit but not big enough to haul her off her feet like that. She shoved at him uselessly. “Put me down.”

Her descent was abrupt, her heart lodging in her throat. His eyes narrowed, his hands tangling in her messy hair, tilting her head to the side. “Come on, Luv, you can tell me. I’m sure it’s eating at you, keeping this secret.”

He was insane. She opened her mouth to say so but her brain short-circuited as his nose traced along the column of her throat. “I promise, things will be so much easier if you just tell me,” he purred, his lips pressing the words into her skin. She moved closer to him. In her defense, she’d never been this close to a boy before; especially not one who looked like he did.

“We can do this one of two ways,” He inhaled her scent, pressing his mouth to the shell of her ear as he said, “I promise one is infinitely more pleasurable than the other.”

Ew. Oh, God. What was she doing? What was he doing? Seducing her for information? Threatening her? It really bothered her that she didn’t know the difference.

She needed to get it together. Her breath hitched in her chest. This was not how she saw herself dying. She’d had a plan. She’d written it down obituary style for a morbid ninth grade English assignment. She was supposed to die of obscenely old age in her enormous but tastefully decorated plantation home surrounded by her beautiful and ungrateful grandchildren.

He huffed out a laugh and she realized she’d said all that aloud. She was too scared to be embarrassed. Instead, she slapped at his hands ineffectively.

He stepped away so abruptly she staggered, pacing before her, “You’re seriously not going to tell me? You’re only hurting yourself on this one.”

“I don’t know what you are talking about,” she told him, “You’re crazy.”

He sighed heavily, his tone shifting as if speaking to a rather stupid child, “I’ll figure it out eventually.” He told her, pointing at her, “You don’t smell like a witch. You certainly aren’t a shifter.” Then he was back before her, gripping her chin, turning her head side to side, like he was examining livestock, “But you most definitely aren’t human.” Tiny hairs rose along her skin at his touch, “You’re trying my patience. What the hell are you?”

She pushed away from him, head throbbing with his words. “Stop with the grabby hands,”

She needed to think. He was clearly unhinged. She had very few options. She could run but she doubted she could outrun him. Her gaze raked across broad shoulders and a flat stomach, he looked like he did a lot of cardio. She could scream but there wasn’t anybody to hear her. Instead, she did what she always did when she was nervous…she babbled.

She’d watched a million documentaries on serial killers and the mentally ill. She could figure this out. Netflix was her friend. She wracked her brain, if he was a killer she had to make him see her as a person, tell him about her life, say her name a lot, make him believe people cared if she died, even if it was a lie.

But what if he was schizophrenic? He thought she wasn’t human. What was she supposed to do?

Orient him to reality? Play along with his fantasy? She should have paid more attention.

“What’s your name?” she heard herself say, voice breathless.

He arched his brow, tsking softly, expression bored. “I’m asking the questions here,”

“Just tell me your name,” she demanded, panic creeping back in.

“Mace,” the answer tumbled from his lips unbidden. He looked mystified, like his own mouth had betrayed him. He absently rubbed a spot on his chest.

“Mace,” she repeated, with a nod. Okay, it was a start. “So um, here’s the thing, Mace. I’m only seventeen and I don’t want to die.”

He gave her a look and a ‘fair enough’ shrug and gestured for her to continue, clearly amused by this turn of events.

She frowned, but soldiered on, “You can’t be much older than me so let’s just think about this for a minute, okay?” She raked a hand through her damp hair, “I’m not really sure why you want to kill me but my life has pretty much sucked up until now. Like so much suckage. I can’t even explain the level of suck, but I feel like, statistically speaking, that’s gotta change. I’m not trying to sound like a motivational poster but it’s supposed to get better. I’d very much like to have a pulse when it does,”

He narrowed his eyes at her, brow furrowed. He stepped forward.

“Stop,” she held up her hand, palm out, “Just listen,”

He stopped, looking at his feet then at her again.

“I’m a nice girl,” she told him, before frowning, “but maybe you don’t care about that. I mean, if you’re, like, a murderous psychopath, you probably aren’t super interested in my feelings, but what about yourself?” She reasoned, gesturing spastically to all of his…self, “You seem like the kind of guy who thinks a lot of himself.”

He cocked an eyebrow but said nothing. She was in turbo babble mode now, “If you kill me your life is over. You will definitely go to jail. I mean, look at me.” She gestured to her face, “I look like an ad for facial cleanser and girls who eat yogurt. Juries eat that stuff up. You’d probably get the chair.”

He looked a little dazed. “You make a passionate yet confusing plea, Luv,”

Her heart sank as he took a tentative step towards her, then another. He grinned as he advanced.

“Come on. I’m sure you don’t want to go to prison.” She whined, “You are way too pretty for prison. You’d make a lot of the wrong kind of friends in prison.” Stop saying prison, Ember, she begged herself. “Do you want those kind of friends? Of course, you don’t. We could be friends?” she finished lamely, face flushing with shame. Maybe he should just kill her. It would be less embarrassing.

He blinked at her, cheek twitching, “Aw, are you asking me to be your friend? One might question your judgment.”

Her hands fell to her hips, swaying on her feet. “Wow, not to put too fine a point on it, but I’ve only seen you twice and both times you were here,” she gestured to their surroundings. “You hang out in cemeteries because you have so many friends? Is this were your book club meets?”

“I can see why you have no friends,” he told her drolly.

She squinted as something glinted in the air above his head.

“I-” was all he managed before the object made contact with his head, sounding like a hammer hitting an overripe melon. He hit his knees with a groan, whatever he was going to say dying on his lips.

She looked at his crumpled form, unreasonably disappointed.

She’d really wanted to know what he was going to say.

About the Author

Martina McAtee lives in Jupiter, Florida with her teenage daughter, her best friend, two attack Chihuahua’s and two shady looking cats. By day she is a registered nurse but by night she writes young adult books about reapers, zombies, werewolves and other supernatural creatures. When she isn’t working, teaching or writing she’s reading or watching shows that involve reapers, zombies, werewolves and other supernatural creatures. Her debut novel Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things is set to release on August 31st, 2015. She is currently working on the second book in the series, Your Soul to Take, due to release in 2016.

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