6/30/15

DOUBLE REVIEW: RIDE STEADY BY KRISTEN ASHLEY!!!

Title: Ride Steady
Author: Kristen Ashley
Release Date: AVAILABLE NOW!!

SYNOPSIS:
The ride of her life . . .
Once upon a time, Carissa Teodoro believed in happy endings. Money, marriage, motherhood: everything came easy---until she woke up to the ugly truth about her Prince Charming. Now a struggling, single mom and stranded by a flat tire, Carissa's pondering her mistakes when a vaguely familiar knight rides to her rescue on a ton of horsepower.
Climb on and hold tight . . .
In high school, Carson Steele was a bad boy loner who put Carissa on a pedestal where she stayed far beyond his reach. Today, he's the hard-bodied biker known only as Joker, and from the way Carissa's acting, it's clear she's falling fast. While catching her is irresistible, knowing what to do with her is a different story. A good girl like Carissa is the least likely fit with the Chaos Motorcycle Club. Too bad holding back is so damned hard. Now, as Joker's secrets are revealed and an outside threat endangers the club, Joker must decide whether to ride steady with Carissa---or ride away forever . . .
PURCHASE HERE:
 LORDDDD HAVE MERCY!

Ride Steady made me feel so good!
So, so, so, incredibly, amazingly, brilliantly good! I'm practically glowing with bookish pleasure! And I swear there's a halo of KA kickassery surrounding me. I LOVE the crap out of it. 

AHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

I'll tell ya, there's just nothing like a Kristen Ashley book! I don't know how she does it, but it's another animal all together. Her novels come to LIFE. You could live inside them. She creates worlds so detailed, characters so real and tangible, you literally find yourself transplanted inside the pages. It's unreal. 

I'll guarantee you, when you start Ride Steady all you'll do is read and breathe, read and breathe, until you're finished. You'll inhale it while it simultaneously inhales you. 

It's MAGICAL

Sigh... Well, actually, you might eat too! I mean, I ate and read, ate and read, because I was so entrenched in the tale, I needed something while I was smiling, laughing, swooning, angstying, and crying. And trust, you'll feel all those delicious feels while reading this equally delicious novel.

KA flat out brought her A game. I was hooked. From the first page I felt a deep and solid connection to these characters. Their lives, their problems, and their happiness was all I cared about and I could not stop until I was sure everything was going to be okay. This author casts her line with the first word and draws you into the story in such a way it feels electric. 

Ride Steady is a mountain of a book, over 600 pages (has to be) of pure Googly (you'll get that when you read) goodness.

I started reading in the morning and read until I couldn't keep my eyes open. Then I proceeded to dreamed about it, woke up, and immediately continued my quest. 

It's addictive.
It's gripping.
And it takes you with seamless ease.

I can safely say that out of all the KA books I have read to date this tops as the BEST. A slow building, realistic, and sexy romance with details that felt visceral. And never once does it get tedious. The inner monologue never bores and not a single aspect drags which is a feat in and of itself. 

Carson and Carissa are beautiful characters with two hearts that shine like diamonds. They're drawn to each other from the time they are young. And when I say it's a slow building romance that's because it is. You start from high school, all the way into adulthood. 

There's just so much I could say but I loathe giving a plot breakdown of the book. I feel as if it steals the joy of just going in and finding the little pleasures yourself. You need to feel each step the characters take without knowing what's coming. 

Just take this from my review...

✦ The writing is phenomenal. 
✦ The characters are to die for. 
✦ You might **wink wink** see some surprise guest appearances from other books that will make your belly hop, skip and jump with delighted joy.
✦ The sex is ON FIRE steamy. It's lip lickingly tasty.
✦ The romance is realistic and sinfully sweet. It will give you shivers.
✦ Carson is the perfect KA alpha who will steal your heart right away.
✦ Carissa has a back bone but is also that quintessential KA heroine who knows when to submit and when to fight. Perfect.
✦ The Chaos gang make you feel superb. The comradery, the friendship, the loyalty, the family, it all shines with a brightness that's heart warming. 

Overall, it's just a FANTASTIC READ that will make you feel even more FANTASTIC.

5 thrilling stars and a great way to spend a day. I WANT more. God, do I want more so bad it hurts. 

Ahhhhhhhhh! Just fanfriggintastic! 

Angie's Rating:

The story that evolves between Carissa Teodoro and Carson "Joker" Steele has just officially made Ride Steady one of my all-time favorite KA books. I loved everything about this story, from the prologue that introduced Carissa and Carson as high school students quietly crushing on each other without the other ever knowing, to the sad goodbye they exchanged that ultimately changed the trajectory of both their lives, again without the other ever knowing, to the completely unexpected way they came to reconnect years later, their lives unrecognizable from what they once were. The build between these characters, the course of events this story took, every single moment from the second they laid eyes on each other on the side of I-25 completely consumed me. Fiercely palpable emotion, sexual tension and sweet romance oozed from these pages. Ride Steady, from the very first page to the very last, is wholly addictive and completely unforgettable.

Ride Steady had possibly the best prologue I've read in a Kristen Ashley book to date. Carson Steele's childhood was heartbreaking, but through it all, he displayed such resilience and strength and kindness. Even as an abused, neglected, abandoned young man, he was just magnetic, always doing right by people, showing gratitude and respect to the people that looked out for him. It only took those few pages of the prologue to give me such an extraordinary impression of this guy, this guy that I felt instantly drawn to. I knew this story would be something fantastic from those first few pages and I instantly wanted to devour this book. What I couldn't know from so early on was what would become of that bright, determined, damaged young man; how he went from that quiet loner to a member of the Chaos MC. And what became of the pretty blonde cheerleader he watched from afar in high school, never knowing that she did the same to him.

I love that Kristen Ashley writes lengthy novels that take me several days to get through. I love getting lost in her books and savoring them. But I did not, could not, savor Ride Steady because I wanted to devour it without coming up for air. I could not put this book down. Carson Steele is one of the most magnetic leading men Kristen Ashley has ever penned... and that's a seriously heavy statement right there because I've loved all of her alpha males loads. His goodness, his light, his intelligence, his determination, his stepping in to care for a child that isn't his with a woman he never thought he'd have, his love for his club brothers, his respect for the people that looked after him when his own family didn't, EVERY SINGLE THING that makes Carson Steele who he is is absolute perfection. He's up there with Ty Walker and Luke Stark in my top KA guys as of NOW.

I'm in awe of the way Kristen Ashley seamlessly introduces brand new characters, while weaving in old characters from previous books. The Dream Men, the Hot Bunch from the Rock Chick series, the ever growing and evolving Chaos crew, the Unfinished Heroes, a photographer from the Magdalene series, all play small but pivotal parts in this multifaceted plot. I've heard readers say they don't like the way KA introduces so many secondary characters, that it becomes too much, too crazy. WRONG. It's mastery what she does with her characters. It's flawless and fluid and freaking fantastic and she does it in a way that makes me remember every detail of every book she's ever written. She continually reminds me of why I loved these characters in the first place, what they brought to the table and how much I love to see their individual stories all continue to converge in new books. I can not possibly say enough about the genius that is Kristen Ashley. She's such a phenomenal story teller, but she's so smart about it. She creates these stories that are never just a linear A to B journey. There's no end in sight for these characters so you know you'll see them again in other books, because there's always a need for Lee Nightingale's intel, or Hawk Delgado's badass commando assistance or Elvira's shopping expertise or Tack Allen's biker connections or Knight Sebring's stable handling. There's always room for a bounty hunter or a cop or a pie baked by a women we met 15 books ago. Not many authors can do that, give life to every character they've ever dreamed up and do it in such a way that it always feels exciting and fresh and new and nostalgic to see them again and again. It's clear that Kristen Ashley loves these characters so deeply in the way she insists they keep returning and bringing all that is them to new stories, even if it's just for a moment. She doesn't just write books. She's created a world of characters that love and fight and hurt and hope and come together at pivotal moments, but do so fluidly, like it's the most natural, authentic, believable, real thing in the universe.

Kristen Ashley upped her game with Ride Steady. I didn't think that was possible because she's on the top of her game every time. But something about this book just felt like... more. Her writing. The character development. The story itself, the way she broke her own rules, doing the exact opposite with these characters than I expected based on what she typically does. The dialogue. The romance. The seamless way she weaves in droves of other characters and their own stories and families and lives. Something intangible about this book set it apart in my eyes and that is a feat because this author is my all-time favorite and I hold so many of her books in the highest regard. Ride Steady is full of humor, witty one-liners, sarcasm, every single word placed perfectly. It's also fraught with raw emotion, both heartbreak and joy, loss and hope. The romance felt sweeter in this story, the Chaos brotherhood felt stronger and more profound, the drama driving the plot felt clean and tight. This book is just the packaged perfection. I felt so much in these pages, I laughed, I cried, I loved. Kristen Ashley nailed it. This book is just phenomenal.

Jessica's Rating:

Kristen Ashley was born in Gary, Indiana, USA. She nearly killed her mother and herself making it into the world, seeing as she had the umbilical cord wrapped around her neck (already attempting to accessorise and she hadn't taken her first breath!). 

Kristen grew up in Brownsburg, Indiana but has lived in Denver, Colorado and the West Country of England. Thus she has been blessed to have friends and family around the globe. Her posse is loopy (to say the least) but loopy is good when you want to write.

Kristen was raised in a house with a large and multi-generational family. They lived on a very small farm in a small town in the heartland and existed amongst the strains of Glenn Miller, The Everly Brothers, REO Speedwagon and Whitesnake (and the wardrobes that matched).

Needless to say, growing up in a house full of music, clothes and love was a good way to grow up. 

And as she keeps growing up, it keeps getting better.

6/10/15

TRAILER REVEAL: TAMING LILY BY MONICA MURPHY!!!

Title: Taming Lily
Author: Monica Murphy
Release Date: JULY 7, 2015!!

SYNOPSIS:
Perfect for fans of Christina Lauren, Emma Chase, and Maya Banks, the anticipated finale in New York Times bestselling author Monica Murphy’s sexy contemporary romance series about three fiery and determined sisters with their own ideas about life and love.
I’m in trouble. Again. And instead of facing my problems head-on, I’ve run away. Far away this time, and no one can catch me—not my two younger sisters, Violet and Rose, not my father, my grandmother, or that witch Pilar who wants to take control of my family’s cosmetics company. Now I’m in Hawaii, enjoying the sun and sand and water, where nobody knows the hot mess known as Lily Fowler. And I’m loving every minute of it.
But someone is watching me. Following me. He’s gorgeous. Soon we’re talking, and against all my instincts, I reveal bits and pieces of myself to Max. It feels good, though I know he can’t be the man for me. These sudden feelings we share are way too complicated, too fraught, too intense.
Then everything explodes and I’m forced to return home. My intentions have always been true, but now everyone’s mad at me. I don’t know who to turn to anymore . . . except to Max. He’s the one I want to trust. But I’m not so sure I should. Maybe it’s worth the risk—what-ifs be damned. . . .
PURCHASE HERE:



New York Times, USA Today and international bestselling author Monica Murphy is a native Californian who lives in the foothills below Yosemite with her husband and three children. She's a workaholic who loves her job. When she's not busy writing, she also loves to read and travel with her family. She writes new adult and contemporary romance and is published with Bantam and Avon. She also writes romance as USA Today bestselling author Karen Erickson.

6/9/15

CHAPTER 1 + 2 REVEAL: TWISTED BOND BY EMMA HART!!!!

OH MY GOSH! First off, I adore this author. I cannot sing her praises high enough. Every book I've read, I've loved and I cannot wait to dive into Twisted Bond which I KNOW is going to be awesome. Today on the blog we have a CHAPTER 1 + 2 PREVIEW <<---- AHHHH. Can you handle that?! :D Hehehe! So scroll down, read, and then PRE-ORDER your copy! It's ONLY 0.99 while on Pre-Order <<---- STEAL. 

Title: Twisted Bond
Author: Emma Hart
Release Date: JUNE 11, 2015!!

SYNOPSIS:
"I’m an Italian-Texan woman in a family full of cops. I’m passionate and shoot before I think. You only f*ck with me if you’re stupid."
Photograph cheating spouses. Hand over the evidence. Cash my check.
That was my plan when I returned home to Holly Woods, Texas, and became a private investigator.
Finding the dead body in my dumpster? Yeah… Given the choice, I think I would have opted out of that little discovery, especially since all three of my brothers are cops. And my Italian grandmother is sure the reason I’m single is because of my job.
Of course, my connection to the victim is entirely coincidental. Until I’m hired by her husband to investigate her murder and shoved bang-smack into the path of Detective Drake Nash. My nemesis, a persistent pain in my ass, and one hell of a sexy son of a bitch.
Shame he still holds a grudge from that time I shot him in the foot twelve years ago, or we could have something. In another life.
So now all I have to do is avoid my nonna’s blind dates, try not to blackmail my brothers into giving me confidential police files, and absolutely do not point my gun at Drake Nash. Or kiss him. Or jump his bones.
All while I hunt down the killer.
Sounds totally simple—until a second body proves that sometimes things that start as coincidences don’t always end up that way…
PRE-ORDER HERE:

Chapter One

I always wanted to be a Bond girl.
When I was seven, I proudly declared to my family that I would one day be beneath Sean Connery on a haystack, a la Pussy Galore. My mother laughed, my father choked, my brothers looked at me like I’d gone batshit crazy, and my Nonna yelled that I would only ever be beneath a good Italian boy, preferably a Catholic, and only on my wedding night.
Of course, their reactions were pointless. At my tender, young age, I hadn’t considered how much older Mr. Connery was—or that, by the time I’d be at a suitable age to bump uglies with him, he’d be replaced several times over.
Now I’m not saying that Daniel Craig is a sight for sore eyes. The man is drops for pinkeye, if you know what I mean. I’m just saying that, when I decided to be a Bond girl, I meant Hollywood, California, and James Bond. Not Holly Woods, Texas, and Bond P.I.
Not that I hate my job. I sure don’t. When I quit my job as a cop two years ago and left Dallas for my shoddy yet adorable hometown after a case gone wrong, my best friend immediately enrolled in a private investigator course. Bekah nailed the course, flew through the police academy training, and passed her concealed carry test with so many damn colors that there isn’t a rainbow in existence that hasn’t turned green with envy.
Maybe the shooting thing is a Texas perk. I don’t know.
Still, this wasn’t my life plan. Neither was becoming a cop. But when your grandpa was a cop, just like your daddy was and your three brothers are, it’s pretty much a given. I was basically born in the Holly Woods Police Department building.
So it was the parking lot, but close enough.
Being Noelle Bond is kind of super shit—not least because my mom decided Christmas day was a good day to have a baby, but because people hear my surname and assume I have a fucking Aston Martin DB5 in my garage.
I don’t.
I have a freakin’ Honda that needs a good seeing to by a scrapping machine because I’m too damn lazy to drive to Austin and visit the dealership. I also really hate cars salesmen. They think that, because I’m in possession of a pair of breasts and a vagina, I don’t know anything about cars. Well, I know how to drive one, so suck on that, fancy-suited assholes.
“I don’t think Mr. Luiz is cheating on his wife.” Bekah lowers her binoculars. “He’s been watching that porn for a while.”
“I agree.” I drop my zoomed-in camera. “At least he isn’t tonight. But I’d bet that Mrs. Luiz doesn’t know about her husband’s interest in gay porn.”
Bekah purses her lips. “Well, no. For the sake of easiness, though, I’d rather my husband watch gay porn than cheat on me.”
“You don’t have a husband, Bek. You don’t even have a boyfriend.”
“I know that.” She rolls her eyes. “Wait. Who’s that?”
I snap the camera to my eyes and stare at the car pulling onto the Luiz’s driveway. “That isn’t Mrs. Luiz’s car.”
“She drives an Audi TT, right?”
“Yep. A bright-pink one.”
“Yuck.”
“Who is that?” I narrow my eyes.
“Oh, shit. He hasn’t turned off the porn. Or put his pants on!” Bekah whispers harshly. “And he’s going to the door! Noelle!”
“I can see,” I hiss, snapping a couple of pictures. And boy, can I see. Mr. Luiz is packin’, and I ain’t talking about a suitcase.
“What’s he… Oh my sweet baby Jesus.”
“Nonna would have a fit if she heard you using his name in vain.”
“I called him sweet,” Bekah argues. “Where did they go?”
“Upstairs, I think.” I keep my camera trained on the bedroom window and zoom in. How the fuck did I forget my binoculars? “Oh, yep. Yep. Upstairs.”
We watch in silence as Mr. Luiz and the mystery man come together in a mash of tongues. And hands. And penises.
“Ooookay. I think we have enough.” I tuck my camera into my purse and swing my legs around to climb from the tree.
“Are you sure?”
My eyes shoot to my best friend. “Um, yes. I’m all for equality and rainbows and all that, but I can’t say any of my interests lie in observing gay sex.”
“I’m kind of fascinated by it,” she says thoughtfully, still watching.
Jesus. Don’t kill me, Nonna. I say it fondly. Fifty times a day. “We’re going. We have to compile this for Mrs. Luiz tomorrow morning. Come on, peeper.”
Bekah begrudgingly drops the binoculars and follows me down the tree. “I just wanted to see how it works.”
“Presumably the same way heterosexual anal sex works,” I retort dryly. “If you’re that interested, I’ll get you a subscription to PornHub or something for your birthday, okay? Then you can watch all the gay porn you like—on your own time.”
“But—”
“I am not payin’ you to watch gay porn.” I switch my Chucks out for my shiny, new Prada heels. Yes, my car is shit, but my shoes are sexy. A girl has to have her priorities.
Bekah pulls a face and gets in the driver’s side of her Mercedes.
Rebekah Hough has been my best friend since I was five and Jean Thomas pushed me off of the monkey bars. Bekah saw her do it, and when Jean swung upside down and showed all the boys her panties, Bekah pulled her off of the bars and into the sand.
I knew right then that the carrot-haired girl in the tartan dress was my soul mate.
Of course, now, her hair is more of a dark auburn than carrot colored, and I’m more accident-prone than I was then—despite my permit to carry a deadly weapon (or several)—and we’re some twenty-three years older than we were in kindergarten, but I was right.
She’s my soul mate, best friend, and faithful cupcake buyer. And out of the three, the latter is by far the most important. She drives to Austin to Gigi’s Cupcakes three times a week just so I can get my cupcake fix. That’s true love right there. Who needs a man with a best friend like her?
Of course, my other employees also do it, but I have to pay them gas money for that. Bekah does it for a bottle of wine on a Saturday night, and that’s way cheaper.
She parks outside my office building. The two-story, painted-white building is a converted four-bedroom house that works perfectly for our needs. Besides me and Bekah, I have two other PIs, Dean and Mike. Dean is an ex-marine, and Mike an ex–FBI agent, so between us all, we have a wide range of experience.
So I’m still waiting for Bekah’s experience as a sales assistant at Forever 21 to show itself, but you never know in this job.
Aside from my badass boys as I call them, there’s Marshall, a twenty-two-year-old college graduate with the hacking skills of an alien. The guy can find out anything I want, whenever I want it, and it’s perfect. All I have to do is give him a name and I have their life stories on my desk within the hour. Then there’s Grecia, my secretary-slash-receptionist-slash-assistant. My little Mexican girl makes killer nachos, so she’s basically hired until she quits, retires, or dies. And she has her own little space—so it has no door and I think it used to be a bathroom, but don’t tell her that—so she’s happy.
If my employees are happy, I’m happy.
I also get paid, which makes me even happier. Because getting paid means more shoes. But shush. My family think I’m saving for a deposit on a new house.
I’m not. Since I already own my house, I’m kind of saving for a vacation I’ll likely never take, but I only buy expensive shoes when they’re on sale, so it doesn’t really count. Everyone does that.
Don’t they?
I drop into my office chair with a sigh and plug the small digital camera into my laptop. Every other private investigator I know—which is a grand total of two—have big-ass Polaroid cameras or fancy professional cameras. Fact is, my little Samsung camera has a kickass zoom and hasn’t failed me yet. It also fits in my purse for the times when I need to go from heels to Chucks and vice versa. My purses are Mary Poppins style for that reason and that reason only.
God bless you, Coach.
Taking my mind away from the sale I know Coach is having thanks to this morning’s e-mail, I highlight the best photos from our trip to the Luizes’ and send them to print at my picture printer. That’s right. My picture printer. I’m too lazy to change the paper to photo paper every time I need to print them, which can be a few times a day, so I have two printers set up in the corner of my office. Everyone laughs at me, but it’s just one of my quirks. It goes along with the adorable trait I have for randomly appearing bruises all over my body.
What can I say? I’m a catch, and it’s a wonder I’m still single.
I dial through to Grecia and ask her to call Mrs. Luiz to set up an appointment at her earliest convenience. Minutes later, Grecia returns my call and tells me that Mrs. Luiz will stop in after work tonight at around four p.m. It’s a little sooner than I’d like, especially since it’s Friday and Friday night is family dinner night, but it’ll do. I have to write a report out of necessity, but all she’ll have to do is look at the pictures for her confirmation of Mr. Luiz’s sordid activities.
Telling someone that their spouse is cheating on them isn’t nice. I’ve seen every reaction possible over the last two years. It doesn’t matter to the person in front of me that they walked into my building, into my office or one of my employees’ offices after hiring us. It just matters that we’ve proved what they didn’t want us to.
Some go crazy. Like call-the-mental-hospital crazy. Some cry, and that varies from hysterical call-the-mental-hospital to silent tears. Some nod, thank me for my time, and hand me my check. I like the last ones the best. Simple.
I have the horrible feeling, though, that Mrs. Luiz won’t be a nodder and a thanker.

***

I thought right.
Mrs. Luiz yelled a number of curse words in Spanish. So many, in fact, that I had to do a quick Google translate on some of her obscenities. Needless to say, I have a brand-new vocab to piss off my Nonna with. Add that they’re in Spanish and not in Italian and I’m set for a fun hour of discipline on how I’m disgracing my family legacy by speaking another language.
Ignore the fact that my name is derived from French and it makes total sense.
Of course, my name’s being French is no coincidence. My mom and nonna get along like oil and water, so my mom took it upon herself to name all four of her kids anything but Italian names. My father, half Italian and more than accustomed to the dressing down my nonna can give someone, attempted to convince Mom to give at least one of us an Italian name.
It didn’t work. Obviously.
Mom argued that, since she did the baby-growing and the whole labor thing, she was damn well picking our names. And I gotta say that it’s really freakin’ hard to argue with logic like that.
Add to this whole situation that my mom is your perfect Southern belle who uses “bless your heart” the way I use the word “fuck” and my nonna wishes she could disown all of us.
It makes Friday nights fun. Not wine-and-nachos kind of fun, but fun all the same.
I push the door to my parents’ house open quietly, biting my bottom lip as I wait for the standard greeting.
“No!” Nonna screams. “You cook-a the pasta for longer!”
I’ve no sooner shut the door than I rest my forehead against it. Here we go again. Fucking pasta.
“Dang it, Liliana!” Mom shouts back. “One day, you will leave me to cook in my own kitchen!”
“Pasta! From-a a bag!” Nonna follows it up with a stream of Italian.
Honestly, the woman has lived in the States for almost fifty years. You’d think she’d give up the accent, but nope. She’s as stuck on Italy as she was when she came here. Which explains the pasta disagreement.
I run past the kitchen and into the living room before either of the crazy old bats notice me and drag me into the pasta debate. I’ve been there way too many times, and it’s never pretty.
My little brother, Brody, is relaxing on the couch next to my big brother, Devin.
“Where’s Trent?” I ask, squeezing between them.
“Sick kid,” Devin replies. “Aria.”
Ahh, Trent. The favorite grandchild because he married a Catholic woman with a tenth of Italian blood and gave both their children Italian names. Golden boy.
I love Alison and she’s one of my best friends, but, pah.
“Nasty. She’s okay though?”
“Just a bug,” Brody grumbles. “Her third one this year, mind you.”
And it’s barely April.
“Such a fucking liar,” I mutter. “I’m gonna get married and have a kid to be sick all the time so I don’t have to come to these dumb dinners.”
Devin snorts. “When you find a man who’ll marry you, I’ll pay you five hundred bucks.”
I cut my eyes to him. “What does that mean?”
“Noelle, you fall over thin air.”
“Maybe clumsiness is attractive to some guys.”
“Yeah. The kind who hope you fall over when you wear a skirt,” Brody retorts.
“So, if I weren’t your sister, you’d be attracted to me?”
He screws up his face. “I’d rather be attracted to a fuckin’ bobcat.”
“Look in the mirror and you’ll find one.” I poke my tongue out as he prods my side.
“Do you ever stop fighting? It occurred to you that you’re no longer in your teens, yes?” Dad stops in the doorway when Nonna screams in Italian again. He takes a deep breath and closes his eyes. “I’m in the wrong room.”
I grin.
Dad has serious and final words with both Nonna and Mom, which end with him telling Nonna to cut the Italian sassing and get her ass into the front room before he makes her move.
My smile drops.
Fuck me. The man hates me.
“You married yet?” she demands the second she sits down.
“Yeah. Last Saturday, I found a good Italian boy who’s so Catholic he bleeds the Bible and snores your favorite passages. He even sings hymns in the shower. Bagged him before I closed my open infidelity case,” I reply, my eyes on the television. “He’d be here tonight but you can’t see him. He’s invisible, and I think you might be sitting on him.”
She curses in Italian. “I should-a have taken you back to Italy years ago. I might-a,” she threatens.
“Not a good idea to threaten kidnap in a cop’s house.”
“I’m-a saving you.”
“Pretty sure you kidnapping me and dragging me to Italy is closer to murder. Attempted at the very least.”
“Noella!”
After twenty-eight years of her changing my name to make it sound something close to Italian, I’ve given up trying to correct her. “Yes, Nonna?”
“Look-a at me!”
I swallow down every thread of annoyance and look at her. “Yes, Nonna?”
She raises her eyebrows.
Sweet fucking Jesus. “, Nonna?”
So un sacco di veleni.” She raises her eyebrows even higher.
“Nonna, I don’t give a shit how many poisons you know,” Devin interrupts without taking his eyes from the television. “I’ll arrest you for every damn one of them.”
“I know-a love spells,” she replies, waggling her eyebrows.
“Never consuming anything you give me,” I squeak.
“Cops. You-a so suspicious.”
“Not a cop,” I remind her.
Brody frowns as Nonna gets up, presumably for pasta round two with Mom. “But—”
“Leave it, bro,” Devin says. “Don’t make her try the fucking potions. She already thinks I should have Amelia popping babies out like they’re bursts of air on bubble wrap.”
“Speak for yourself,” I grumble. “She’s been calling me all week for a date with ‘some-a nice-a Italian guy from-a Houston for-a date-a.’”
“What did you tell her?” Brody glances at me.
“To kiss-a my-a ass-a.” I grin. “Then I hung up. She either forgot, or she’s still too mad at my sass to mention it.”
Devin shakes his head. “You’re as bad as she is. Just find a nice guy and settle down, Noelle.”
“Like you are with Amelia, your girlfriend of five years, you mean?”
He doesn’t reply after that.
You’re never too old for word-spars with your brothers.
And I totally won that one.



Chapter Two


I grab the chocolate chip cookie dough cupcake with the mini cookie sticking out from the top of the frosting before I’ve even sat down. Today was obviously Bekah’s turn to make the run into Austin to go to Gigi’s, because this cupcake is our favorite and, whenever the guys go, there’s never two in the box like there is right now.
And I didn’t have a receipt for gas money taped to my door.
Sometimes, I think the guys forget I’m their boss. One day, I’ll pay them a monthly wage of ten dollars for shits and giggles.
I open my giant planner and scribble as I lick frosting from the cupcake, listening to everyone telling me their current cases for the week. I say current because these things can snap open and shut quicker than a damn oyster having its pearl stolen. Tomorrow, it could be a whole different bunch of cases.
That’s also the most exciting thing about this job. It can change in an instant, without you even realizing.
I nod and everyone except Bekah leaves to get on with their work for the day. PI’s don’t get Saturdays off. Kinda sucks sometimes, the seven-days-a-week thing, but at least I can turn my phone off when I want everyone to piss off. Couldn’t do that as a cop.
I grab the lone lemon cupcake from the box and set it in my drawer for later, reasoning that I have thirty minutes of treadmill time penciled in for this afternoon so I can totally fudge the extra cupcake.
Plus, it’s Gigi’s cupcakes. I think it’s actually borderline illegal to justify sneaking a leftover cupcake into your desk drawer for later.
If I didn’t do it, Dean would be back in here the second my back was turned to take it. Pain in the ass.
“How did it go with Mrs. Luiz last night?”
Dropping into my comfy leather seat, I sigh. “About as well as if you tried to run my Nonna over with a monster truck.”
Bekah winces. “Ouch.”
“Yeah. I almost called my brothers to escort her out of the building.” I shake my head.
“Where were Dean and Mike?”
“Mike was out working a case, and I think Dean went for coffee. Or he was just hiding from her crazypants. I can’t say I blame him.” My cell chooses this moment to shrill from my purse. I dig it out from inside one of my Chucks and answer. “Whatever it was, I didn’t do it.”
My oldest brother sighs. “Really, Noelle? You can’t answer the phone like a normal person?”
“Never. What’s up?”
“I have one of your clients here,” Trent says wearily. “Picked him up because his wife was scared someone was following her.”
“This is a new one. Who is it?”
“Samuel Beauford.”
“Samuel Beauford…” I mutter, looking at Bekah.
She frowns.
“Oh! His wife is pregnant,” I say, snapping my fingers. “But according to fertility tests, he’s almost firing blanks, so he’s certain she’s cheating on him.”
“Maybe there was a strong swimmer,” Trent replies. “Like The Rock of sperm or something.”
“That’s what I’m trying to prove. She does nothing but visit Target in Austin, the post office, and browse baby things.”
“Great. Well, he wants to talk to you.”
“I’m not a freakin’ lawyer,” I mutter.
“I know. But I can’t keep him in for anything because it’s the first call. All I can do is give him a tellin’ off.”
I love it when he talks down to me. “Yeah, I remember. I was a cop once, ya know.”
“Seems so long ago,” he teases. “Here you go, Mr. Beauford.”
Mr. Beauford immediately talks into my ear, his words coming at a mile a minute. I can barely understand a damn thing he’s saying, and I have to hold the phone back from my ear a little because, good grief, the man talks ridiculously loudly. Bekah grins from her perch on the tub chairs I have for clients.
“Mr. Beauford,” I say as soon as he takes a breath. “We’ve been following your wife for two weeks now and there’s no evidence of her stepping out on you. Please, sir, leave the investigating to the professionals or you’re likely to find yourself in jail for a short time.”
He agrees and tells me that he’ll call in a week for an update. Then I mercifully hang up.
“Some people are certifiably weird,” Bekah says, breaking through the silence.
I glance up, rubbing my temples. “Ya think?”
“Damn suspicious, too. And people wonder why we aren’t married. No one in this town seems to be able to keep it in their pants.”
“Do me a favor and come to family dinner next week and explain that to my nonna.” Damn woman won’t stop trying to marry me off, lest I become a zitella. I swear she thinks that, if I’m not married by my thirtieth birthday—in twenty months—no man will ever want me.
She already thinks the reason I’m single is because I carry a gun and, apparently, men prefer the quiet type.
I’m not sure what men she knows, because my mother isn’t the quiet type, and neither is Nonna, and they’ve both married.
Bekah wrinkles her face. “More dates?”
“Every week. One day, I’m going to find myself a date for family dinner and give the vecchia a heart attack.”
“Nah. She’d skip the heart attack and go straight into planning your wedding.”
I shudder at the thought. “Don’t you have work to do instead of scaring the shit out of me?”
She snorts. “All right. I get the message.” She stands and tugs her jeans up. “Stop for lunch at twelve?”
“It’s a date.”

***

After lunch, I collect my messages from Grecia and return all necessary calls. This means I set up two appointments, give a case update to the wife of a subject, and arrange to have my hair done.
Hey, no judging. PI’s need nice hair, too.
“Miss Noelle?”
“Come in.” I look toward my door, where Dean’s head is poking around it.
I spent the first month of his employment telling him to drop the “Miss” in front of my name, but twelve months later, he still insists on calling me it. It’s kind of sweet, really. He’s also really big and kind of scary since he’s ex-military, and I don’t want to piss him off, so I gave up arguing.
“What’s up?” I ask as he sits down.
“We have a problem,” he replies, his voice wavering.
I slowly close my laptop, eyeing him. There’s sweat beading on his upper lip, and his face is pretty pale. Add in the tremble of his hands and I’m worried. Nothing shakes Dean—except possibly spiders, but I’m still confirming that.
“Talk to me, Dean.”
“There’s a body in the Dumpster in the parking lot.”
I blink harshly several times. Did he just say a body? In the Dumpster? In the parking lot? “I’m sorry. What?”
“There’s a dead body in the Dumpster in the parking lot.”
“Like a bird or a deer or something?”
“No, miss. A human body.”
Well, snap.
“Okay,” I say slowly. “There wasn’t one there when I went for lunch.”
“Well, Miss Noelle, there is now.”
“Let’s go take a look.” Thankfully, I wore a loose blouse for work today, so I slip my Tiffany-blue  Glock 26 into the waistband of my jeans. It’s a bit of a squeeze since they’re skinny jeans and not made for guns, but it slides in in a hurry.
Dean leads me down to the door to the parking lot. “It ain’t pretty.”
“Dead people usually aren’t, in my experience.” Unfortunately, I have plenty.
I see it as soon as I step out the door. The Dumpster is in the far corner of the parking lot to keep any smells away from the building, and a pale, white foot is peeking over the top. A shiver runs through me as I scan the immediate area for anyone, but there’s nothing other than the usual driving of cars and people strolling along the sidewalks.
“Miss Noelle—” Dean says softly as I approach the Dumpster.
“Oh, shit,” I whisper.
The rancid smell of burning flesh fills the air, and I pinch my nose so I’m not tempted to breathe through it and smell it any more than I have to. The naked body clearly belongs to a woman, but her face is mutilated. Long, gaping cuts crisscross their way across her shoulders and chests down to her breasts. And her breasts… I swallow back the bile crawling its way up my throat.
Her breasts have all but been cut off, and the only things I can see connecting them to her body are ragged bits of bodily tissue. Dark-red, dried blood flakes off her skin in broken patches, and black burn marks char her otherwise perfect, white skin.
Refusing to look any further, I step back and grab my phone. I dial the number for dispatch, and before Mariana can say a word, I ramble, “Mariana, it’s Noelle. I’ve got a ten thirty-three at the agency.”
“What it is, honey?”
“A dead body.”
“They’re on their way.”
I hang up and turn to Dean, my hand running through my long hair. “Make sure no one comes in or out of the agency. Tell Grecia to set up the answering machine. The police are going to need to talk to all of us, and this place is now a damn crime scene.”
“Got it.” He turns on his heel and stalks into the building.
A little more bile rises in my throat, so I step away from the Dumpster. I can feel my lunch swirling in my stomach, and it takes everything I have not to let it make a swift reappearance as I lean against a tree trunk.
It’s not the dead body thing. I saw plenty in Dallas. Hundreds, probably. Death doesn’t scare me or even faze me. It’s how she died—it was obviously brutal and slow. Not a way anyone, save the kind of person who did this horrible act, should die. I can’t begin to imagine what this poor woman went through.
Sirens blare through my thoughts, and I look up in time to see Brody and Trent making a beeline for me.
Trent’s hands curl around my shoulders. “You okay?”
I nod at my eldest brother. “Dean found her. I’m warnin’ you—it ain’t nice.”
He squeezes gently and releases me. Brody steps forward, and they both look into the Dumpster.
“Shit,” Brody mutters.
“Yep,” I say to myself. “Shit indeed.”
Cops swarm the parking lot, and a hint of yellow tells me that they’ve blocked off my office. Great. Looks like I’m working out of my living room and Skyping my employees for the next couple of days.
Having my workplace as a murder investigation: the last thing I need.
I stand back and watch as the cops do their thing. Glancing at the office, I can see everyone looking out the window of the kitchen to see what’s going on. They’ll all know by now, but they’re also all smart enough to follow Dean’s orders and let me deal with this.
“Ms. Bond,” drawls a familiar voice.
An unwelcome, familiar voice.
“Detective Nash.” I grit my teeth and turn around. “How are you?” I ask politely, my eyes rising to meet the imposing cop’s.
“Worse for this,” he responds, motioning to the Dumpster. “Do you have anywhere we can talk?”
“In my office.” I lead him inside the building, stopping at the kitchen.
Bekah opens her mouth, but I cut her off by raising my hand.
“Can all of you go to your offices? Someone will be in to talk to all of you soon.”
A chorus of yeses rings out, and I offer them a tentative smile before leading Detective Drake Nash into my office.
Man, I seriously dislike this guy. Mostly because he’s so damn attractive. It’s one of those things you can’t help but notice. He’s the guy who gets everyone’s attention when he walks through a grocery store.
It could be the tan skin or the ragged, dark hair that always seems to be shiny. Then again, it could also the glacier-blue eyes that seem to see right through you, or it could be that chiseled jaw. That said, I’m betting it’s the biceps.
His being a plain-clothes detective has its perks for the female population of Holly Woods. His shirts are always impeccably fitted, and you couldn’t miss the bulging muscles in his upper arms if you were blind.
It’s just a shame he’s an arrogant asshole. If it weren’t for that, we’d get along impeccably. And I don’t just mean at work.
“Take a seat.” I sit in my big, comfy chair and remove my gun from my waistband.
Drake cocks an eyebrow. Slowly, he lowers himself into one of the tub chairs. “You found the body?”
“No. Dean found it and came to tell me.”
“Why would he tell you before callin’ the police?”
Now I raise an eyebrow. “Because it’s on my property, perhaps?”
“You always keep a gun in your pants?” He nods toward my pretty on the desk.
“Only when I have conclusion-jumping detectives in my office and a dead body in my Dumpster.” I smile sweetly, totally hating that he caught me in a stupid moment. Damn it, I know better than shoving a gun in my pants. But, hey—dead body in the Dumpster. Desperate times and all that jazz. “Can you get to the point of this conversation, please?”
Drake focuses his steely gaze on me. “Tim thinks the body was placed there recently.”
“It was,” I say, confirming the coroner’s suspicions. “I threw some trash in it before I went for lunch with Bekah, and she definitely wasn’t there then.”
“When did you go for lunch?”
“Midday.”
Drake glances at his watch. “So she’s been there for an hour at most. Did you see her when you came back in?”
“I generally don’t gaze at Dumpsters unless I’m using one.”
“Your sass is doin’ nothing but pissin’ me off, Noelle.”
I stare at him flatly. “I just saw a mutilated dead body, Detective. Excuse me if I happen to have a mechanism that helps me cope with such incidents. If it bothers you, spit out whatever it is you have to say and bug my employees so we can get back to work.”
“You’ll have to close the office for at least twenty-four hours,” he says, his voice sharp. “We’ll need to search the building.”
“How did I know you’d say that?”
“I can get a warrant if I need one.”
“Believe me, if my desire to piss you off was stronger than the one to keep my business going, I’d refuse you entry until you had a warrant and gave a flamingo a striptease,” I bite out. “As it is, I have a job to do.” I pull my spare set of keys from the drawer and throw it at him. “They’re all labeled. I’ll be outside at four p.m. tomorrow to collect them, and that goddamned yellow tape better be nowhere except for the parking lot.”
Drake’s lips curve. “You know you can’t take anything home with you.”
I lean forward. “Do cops have a thing about patronizing ex-cops or is it just the detectives at HWPD? I’ve already had it from my brother this morning. I’m more than aware that I can’t take anything out of the office that’s currently in it. Which is why I’ll be printing copies of all my current cases to take home so that I can still work.”
“It’s much easier to do this job when you’re not working against an ex-cop.”
“If you think this is me working against you, Detective, you don’t know me very well.” I get up and walk to the door. “Are we done here? Because it looks like I have a busy afternoon, and as pretty as you are to look at, you’re not the greatest company.”
His smirk comes back as he stands, my keys in his hand, and walks toward me. I pull the door open and glare at him when he stops in front of me. Looking up at him, I’m aware of how much bigger than I am he is, both height-wise and muscle-wise. He has a good three inches on my height and I’m wearing freakin’ high heels.
“Keep it that way, Noelle,” he says in a husky, dominant tone. “I’d advise you not to work against me. I’d have no problem putting you in cuffs.”
“And I’d have no problem spending the night in the lockup for impaling your penis with my stiletto.”
He holds my gaze for a long moment. “I want all of your staff out within ten minutes after they’ve been interviewed. You’ll get your keys tomorrow as promised, providing we don’t find anything in here.”
My body tenses at his insinuation. “My staff aren’t murderers, Drake.”
“That’s Detective Nash.”
“Then it’s Ms. Bond.”
“One day,” Trent says, appearing to the side of me, “you two will give up the sick foreplay and just fuck.”
“I’d rather shoot myself in the foot,” I snap, smirking at the burly man in front of me.
Drake takes a deep breath. “You should. That way, you may think twice before doing it to other people.”
“Perhaps. But you still haven’t learned not to piss me off when I have a gun in my hand.”
“You don’t have a gun in your hand, Ms. Bond.
Two seconds later, I have my brother’s 9mm dangling from my finger and directed at Drake Nash’s chest. Both men tense, and my smirk becomes a grin as I turn to Trent.
“You should really secure that better. I didn’t even have to try.” I pass it to him and look back at Drake. “Well, Detective? Are you going to stop harassing me and move on to my staff now? I’d like to print my reports.”
“Your brother will wait with you to make sure you don’t remove anything from your office.” Drake’s eyes flit across the room then settle on me. “Try not to piss any of my men off, Noelle.”
“Ms. Bond,” I correct him. “Try not to drink all of my coffee in the kitchen.”
“All right,” Trent interjects. “Noelle. Inside. You’re not doin’ yourself any favors.”

“Neither is the dead body outside,” I mutter, turning away from that bastard Drake Nash and walking back into my office.


By day, New York Times and USA Today bestselling New Adult author Emma Hart dons a cape and calls herself Super Mum to two beautiful little monsters. By night, she drops the cape, pours a glass of whatever she fancies - usually wine - and writes books.
Emma is working on Top Secret projects she will share with her followers and fans at every available opportunity. Naturally, all Top Secret projects involve a dashingly hot guy who likes to forget to wear a shirt, a sprinkling (or several) of hold-onto-your-panties hot scenes, and a whole lotta love.
She likes to be busy - unless busy involves doing the dishes, but that seems to be when all the ideas come to life.

6/8/15

REVIEW + EXCERPT: AMBER TO ASHES BY GAIL MCHUGH!!!!!

Title: Amber to Ashes
Author: Gail McHugh
Release Date: JUNE 9th, 2015!!

SYNOPSIS:
From the New York Times bestselling author of Collide and Pulse comes a gritty new novel about a shattered young woman who unexpectedly falls for two best friends as she struggles to overcome the trauma of her tormented childhood.
They were a storm I never saw coming, an unforeseen heartbreak on the edge of a dangerous cliff.
Amber Moretti's life changes in the span of minutes. An orphaned outsider, she is desperate to start fresh the moment she walks onto campus. In the time it takes to cross the university’s dining hall, she meets two men who bring color, air, and light to her darkened world.
They became my addiction, each a needle to my next hit, my high.
Brock Cunningham’s appeal is dizzying, a potent force Amber can’t deny. A green-eyed smooth talker, he instantly attracts Amber. It doesn’t take long for him to consume her every thought, her every breath.
Ryder Ashcroft, a blue-eyed, tattooed, and pierced bad boy, turns Amber off immediately—that is, until he kisses her, stealing a piece of her heart, her soul.
They were as opposite as fire and ice, yet I ached for them equally.
Never knowing she could be broken down in so many unexpectedly beautiful yet petrifying ways, Amber finds herself falling for both men.
Immoral? Maybe. I say undeniable. Uncontained.
But one event changes everything, shattering each of their lives…and Amber isn’t sure she can come back from it.
PURCHASE HERE:
 What can I say?!

What the hell can I freaking say that will do this book justice?!

Nothing. There's nothing. Amber to Ashes is an experience. It's deeply emotional, turbulent, and will throw you in the trenches, toss you around, and spit you back out. The characters are broken, shattered, all searching for something to heal them and somehow through the fire that is life they find each other.

It's magical.
It's intense.
It's steamy.
It's riveting.
It's all consuming. 
It's pure brilliant bookish maddness. 

Gail McHugh can write. Her words are poetry, an emotional song written from the soul. You feel her lines. I swear, I read her words and I can sense them as they seep under my skin and scream at me. She's got a talent that astounds me. I can never get enough. I want to read her everyday, all day. I just love it. I love the flow, the flowery almost melodic pace of her sentences. It's pure word porn, IMO.

This story... 

God. God. God. 

It's going to gut you open. 
It's going to turn you on. 
It going to make you cry. 
It will have you mad as hell. 
It will make you smile and swoon. 

The EMOTION is off the charts. The feels almost seem tangible, as if you can literally reach out and touch the anger, the hurt, and the sizzle. 

It's explosive.

Amber is a broken woman. She's not easy to love, but I think every girl can relate to her in some way. We all have struggles, some tougher than others and we all use something as a crutch to get us through. For Amber, it's sex. For me, it's food. We ALL have something. And God, even if you can't find a similarity through her pain, she manages to weasels her way through your veins anyway. I just LOVE her. 

Brock and Ryder are both such different characters. I want to get into all that, but I'm afraid I'll spoil it. I'll tell you I have a favorite and when I think of him my heart just pumps with pure adrenaline. He's dreamy, flawed, but a gentle soul. Both boys are equally sexy. They're alpha, and all the things we love about our men. They're nothing like Gavin Blake. So ready yourself for something completely different yet unbelievably magnificent.

The story is dark. It's twisty. It will have you on the edge of your seat. It's gonna take ahold of your heart and squeeze the living fuck out of it.

You'll fall in love.
You'll fall deep.
And you'll be left DYING for more.

It is a cliffy, but don't let that scare you! You'll be okay! This author is guaranteed to make you whole at the end of this journey. Just dive in, soak in the tsunami of feels that are headed your way. Because OH MY GOD are you going to explode with lust, love, pain and swoon!

I have two words to describe this novel: AN EXPERIENCE.

And isn't that why we read?! 

Those are the type of books we feel to the bone and remain unforgettable.

Amber to Ashes is an UNFORGETTABLE ride.

Angie's Rating:


“What are you, Casey?” Ryder asks over his shoulder as he scrubs his hands with antibacterial soap.

“Your little cancer warrior,” she answers with a small smile.

“That’s right.” He dries his hands and turns, a proud grin cracking his mouth. “The bravest one ever.”

I grab Casey’s hand and hold it tight, knowing nothing I’ve ever seen, heard, or felt compares to what she’s facing. This child’s living with a fear I can’t comprehend. One that’d slay all of my fears put together.

“Ready?” Ryder asks, his tone soft and caring, everything it should be.

Casey nods, clenching my hand. My heart swells, anxiety building thick in my throat as Ryder slips on a pair of medical gloves and cleans the area around her port with Betadine swabs.

Casey looks at me, the cool blue of her eyes misting over. “Are you scared of needles?”

“No,” I say, running my free hand along the back of her neck. “Are you?”

“I used to be.” She sighs, a single tear slipping down her face. “But not so much anymore.”

It takes everything in me not to drag her little body off the table and run out of the apartment with her. I wipe the tear from her cheek, my need to hide her away, sheltering her from the sinister storm she’s in the middle of, growing with each unsteady breath.

“A little cold,” Ryder warns before spraying the anesthetic on her skin.

“Hurry, Ry,” Casey pleads, her voice weak yet panicked. “It doesn’t last that long.”

“I have to make sure you’re numb, Case.” Ryder ducks his head and stares into her eyes, trying to keep her focused on the silly faces he’s making.

His tactic works.

Casey’s tiny giggles bounce around the kitchen, their musical notes blocking out the sound of Ryder popping the cap off a weird-looking needle. With a small, clear tube like a tail—and plastic wings stretched out on either side—it reminds me of a dragonfly. Ryder presses his gloved finger against Casey’s port a few times, his attention honed in on her face as he says, “Knock, knock.”

“Who’s there?” Casey smiles at me, completely unaware that Ryder’s pricked her skin with the needle.

“Aardvark.” Ryder pushes the medicine through the syringe, his attention cutting between Casey’s face and the needle.

“Aardvark who?” she manages, a thin sheen of sweat dotting her upper lip.

“Aardvark a hundred miles for one of your pretty smiles.” Ryder pulls the needle from her chest, and before she can blink, he rests his lips against her forehead, kissing away her remaining fear.

Close to immobile, my heart tugs, the magnitude of what this man means to this little girl—what they mean to each other—scraping tears up my dry throat. I swallow the sound before it can leave me, warmth pinching my stomach into a beautiful knot as I observe them.

“It’s over?” Casey asks, uncertainty flashing in her eyes.

“Yeah, kiddo. It’s over,” Ryder answers, his voice heavy with relief as he applies a small piece of gauze over her port. “You’re all set, warrior. Go get cleaned up, and we’ll get ready to leave.”

With Ryder’s aid, Casey slides off the table and heads for the bathroom, the bounce in her step less tangible as she slips around the corner. Quiet reigns, the events from the last few minutes whispering across my mind as Ryder looks at me with exhausted eyes. Stress lines cut across his forehead, wariness drowning his beautiful features. Overcome, I watch him swipe a tired hand over his face and turn, resting his palms against the counter. As though having no control over my body—a magnet pulling in my gut—I stand and move toward him, each tentative step I take carried out with shallow, quick breaths. I come up behind him, lift a shaky hand and tap his shoulder, my pulse lurching as he turns and meets my gaze. Our connection strikes, a bolt of emotions paralyzing us as we stare at each other.

I touch my fingers to his stubbled cheek, my conscience crying out that my actions are wrong, so very wrong, but my heart mutes the warning as I move my palm to the back of his neck.

His muscles go taut, restraint lighting the fiery blue of his eyes. “Amber, don’t.” The words come out not as a rough warning but a soft plea. “Don’t do this.”

“I have to,” I whisper, trembling. “You’re . . . amazing, Ryder. What you did for her, everything you do for her . . . I just . . .” I drop my eyes to his chest, my heart galloping as I register his hands gripping my waist. Their heat sears through me, a thrill jumping from cell to cell. “You’re tender, cocky, gentle, and an asshole all at the same time. You’re kind, giving, nurturing. You’re . . . everything.”

My lips find his, testing, teasing, barely touching. Our breathing comes faster, harder as I pull him down, our foreheads pressed together as we stare into each other’s eyes. “Please . . . I just . . . Just once more. That’s all I need.”

I think . . . hope.

With hunger demolishing all traces of restraint from his gaze, Ryder buries his hands in my wavy curls and looks at me a beat before capturing my lips in a slow, passionate kiss. I sigh into his mouth, my senses drowning in his familiar flavor as I fall in step with his calculated strokes. On a deep groan, he draws me closer, his tongue dipping in and out, out and in. Still, nothing about his touch is rough, yet everything in it screams that he needs me in this moment.

In this wicked space and time of his life.

Every lick and nip is a soft caress, like he’s trying to burn the sensation of my lips into his memory. My pulse hammers in staccato mode as I melt the full weight of my body into his. With my blood swimming through my veins, and sinking further into everything that is Ryder, I feel the emptiness of his soul slice through me. A dull ache pinches my heart, spreading its misery through my muscles as he cups my cheeks and deepens the kiss with a gentleness I never knew he possessed. My breath catches, wiped from my lungs as he glides his lips along my jaw, down the base of my throat. The cadence of his exotic growl slips through my ears, dizzying my head in the sweetest way.

“Christ, I fucking want you so bad,” Ryder whispers hoarsely. He drags his lips back to mine, his kiss urgent, greedy. However, he brings it down a notch, his movements revisiting slow, sensual, worshipping this moment for everything it is. Worshipping me for all I am. “So badly, peach. More than I’ve ever wanted anything or anyone. You drive me crazy. Your smell, skin, eyes.” He sucks my lip between his teeth, a groan punching from his chest as he runs his fingertips along my bare arms.

Goose bumps pop, deliciously pricking my skin as I tighten my grip in his hair.

“Your little giggles, pouts, personality. Every single fucked-up scar you own in and out. All of it. All of you.” He licks into my mouth, his tongue exploring mine with precision as his hands find my nape, their hold possessive. “Fuck. It should’ve been me. Not him. Me.”

And just like that, our moral compasses spring due north, Brock the center of its attention—our attention. We slowly break the kiss, our breathing choppy from the loss.


A self-proclaimed chocoholic, married mother of three, and a lover of writing for as far back as she can remember, Gail McHugh is the author of two New York Times bestselling novels. The COLLIDE series (which includes COLLIDE and PULSE), was acquired by Atria Books on September 17th, 2013.

"The first of two sexy contemporary romances about a woman torn between her seemingly perfect boyfriend and a dark, mysterious stranger who will stop at nothing to have her." - Publishers Weekly on COLLIDE, a Top 10 Romance pick! 

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