"After The End" Is A Great Beginning...

After the End (After the End, #1) Title:  After The End
Author:  Amy Plum
Format:  ERC
Length:  352 pages
Publisher:  Harper TEEN
Rating:  5 Stars

She’s searching for answers to her past. They’re hunting her to save their future.

World War III has left the world ravaged by nuclear radiation. A lucky few escaped to the Alaskan wilderness. They've survived for the last thirty years by living off the land, being one with nature, and hiding from whoever else might still be out there.

At least, this is what Juneau has been told her entire life.

When Juneau returns from a hunting trip to discover that everyone in her clan has vanished, she sets off to find them. Leaving the boundaries of their land for the very first time, she learns something horrifying: There never was a war. Cities were never destroyed. The world is intact. Everything was a lie.

Now Juneau is adrift in a modern-day world she never knew existed. But while she's trying to find a way to rescue her friends and family, someone else is looking for her. Someone who knows the extraordinary truth about the secrets of her past.

“Exciting and tense! Prepare for the unexpected! You’ll stay up all night with this one!” — Sophie Jordan, NYT Bestselling author of the Firelight series  -Goodreads

Amy Plum's After The End breaks new ground in the realm of YA Dystopia.  
The story of Juneau, her way of life, and the destruction and reformation of her world view.

My Thoughts

Juneau has lived her life believing that she and her clan are the survivors of a catastrophic WWIII.
When she returns from a hunting expedition to find that her entire clan is missing; she is charged with the task of finding them.
Her journey into the unknown leads her from the Alaskan tundra and into cities and people that she had believed to be long dead.


The relative ease and speed with which she locates Miles,  the son of the pharmaceutical tycoon out to discover her tribe's secrets, and her unlikely partner in their adventures, might be a little off-putting but hold on to your hats.
This one negative is more than made up for by the wonderful plot twists and turns that result from Miles and Juneau's pairing.

Miles is quite the skeptic for the majority of the read, but there are several metaphysical incidents (for lack of a better description) that help to convince him of her truth.
 Readers will be quite impressed with the fact that Amy goes to great lengths to not fall into the "romance on the run" trap.  She has chosen instead, to focus on plot, story, and character development.

There is a metaphysical/paranormal aspect to this read that only adds to the plot and suspense building elements that pervade this read.  Juneau and her story are still able to maintain the driver's seat as leads in the story.

This is an awesome book, and the start to what is sure to be a great series.


Indulgence Mixing Business W ith Pleasure Blog Tour

Title: The Seduction Game
Author: Emma Shortt
Genre: Contemporary Category Romance
Length: 249 pages
Release Date: April 2014
ISBN: 978-1-62266-327-9
Imprint: Indulgence


Synopsis When millionaire bad boy, Will Thornton, tries to buy computer-geek Kate Kelly’s building out from under her, she refuses to sell. Will might be uber rich, and super successful but she won’t be bullied. Trouble is, she didn’t expect Will to look like one of her fantasy heroes, or to make her heart beat a little too fast. She’s prepared to wait him out, but it'll take every ounce of her self-control to win this game.
With millions of dollars on the line, Will is positive he can make Kate sell. He’s played the game better than anybody and charming is his middle name. Problem is, the snarky, geeky, computer-wiz is nothing like he imagined—impossibly cute and a match for him in every way.
The game is on but can two such radically different people come out winners in the game of seduction?

My Thoughts
The Seduction Game is a story to love.  Despite its very salacious title, the true strength of this read lies in the fact the the two main characters do not immediately succumb to their more wanton urges.
Kate in particular is presented to the reader as a whole person, resplendent  in all of her nerdy glory.
(Star Trek, Firefly, and My Little Pony references included)
Will is revealed to the reader through the eyes of Kate, making him a hunky literary present, tied with a most beautiful emotionally appealing bow.

Though Will is worldly, and can be ruthless in business; he never lords his wealth or experience over Kate.  He instead revels in every aspect of his lady love, and never turns up his nose at her humble existence.
Kate is allowed to be strong, vulnerable, flawed, and perfect to Will; without losing her essence in the process.
The heat level of this romance is a low simmer.  It builds over time, in spite of the relatively short length of the novel.
If you like realism in your romance and sense with your sensuality...The Seduction Game is a definite winner for you!

Author Bio: As a kid Emma wanted to be an astronaut, or maybe Captain Janeway. Because she didn't really think her career choices through very well she ended up in an everyday geek job, crunching numbers and sighing over syntax. It seemed a long way from the stars and in an effort to escape Emma decided to get serious about her other passion. Writing. Several years later and Emma has yet to walk on the moon or sit in the Captain's chair, but she is still writing. She scribbles stories in all sorts of genres, contemporary, paranormal, post-apocalyptic, historical, sci-fi...if she hasn't tried it yet she will before long. The only common theme is the romance. A hopeless romantic everything Emma writes has a love story in there somewhere.







 Title: A Night of Misbehaving
Author: Carmen Falcone
Genre: Contemporary Category Romance
Length: 77 pages
Release Date: April 2014
ISBN: 978-1-62266-559-4
Imprint: Indulgence


Synopsis: Before the end of the night, they’ll break all the rules.
For just one night, Georgia Taylor wants to forget about her demanding job and the everyday struggles of being a single mom. Her track record with men is pitiful, but that’s fine because her responsibilities don’t leave room for love anyway. The new online dating site is perfect for what she’s after.

But Georgia’s plans fly out the window when Brent Turner, aka Sexy Dad and father of her daughter’s classmate, turns out to be her Internet date, therefore, eliminating any possibility for a night without consequences.


My Thoughts
A Night of Misbehaving is a wonderfully written novella with a tight and focused plot that allows readers to fully enjoy the passionate interplay between Georgia and Brent.
Georgia is a very no nonsense character who is very good at giving just as good as she gives.
Brent is very sweet and very "knight in shining..."  He is quite the man, but never afraid to cater to his woman.
This is a very sweet and honest story that proves "moms are sexy too!
 
All of Brent Turner’s honorable intentions fly out the window when he sees highly strung “Super Mom” waiting for her date at the bar. Determined to win Georgia’s trust and show her a good time, their no-strings evening promises to become so much more…until, that is, she discovers he’s really trying to win her vote. 
Entangled Indulgence:
Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/IndulgenceBooks
Twitter: @IndulgenceBooks Steals and Deals
Goodreads Amazon Barnes & Noble  Entangled


Author Bio:  Carmen Falcone learned at an early age that fantasizing about fictional characters beat doing math homework any day. Brazilian by birth and traveler by nature, she moved to Central Texas after college and met her broody Swiss husband, living proof that opposites attract. She found in writing her deepest passion and the best excuse to avoid the healthy lifestyle everyone keeps talking about. When she is not lost in the world of romance, she enjoys spending time with her two kids, being walked by her three crazy pugs, reading, catching up with friends, and chatting with random people in the checkout line.







Giveaway Info:
$50 Amazon GC from Carmen Falcone
A Geeky Prize From Emma Shortt

Teaser Tuesday...You Know You Want It #18

Welcome to my version of my Teaser Tuesday
a
weekly
Meme
hosted
by
Miz. B
@
"They told me you want to know my story,
why I ended up in that place?
Well, there's an odd question and I've been
asking it meself for the past fifty years."

1% Complete Kindle Ed.
The Forgotten Seamstress 
by
Liz Trenow 
21939588 

HFVBT Presents: Night In Shanghai

02_Night in Shanghai
Publication Date: March 4, 2014
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Formats: Hardcover, eBook
Genre: Historical Fiction
In 1936, classical pianist Thomas Greene is recruited to Shanghai to lead a jazz orchestra of fellow African-American expats. From being flat broke in segregated Baltimore to living in a mansion with servants of his own, he becomes the toast of a city obsessed with music, money, pleasure and power, even as it ignores the rising winds of war.
Song Yuhua is refined, educated, and bonded since age eighteen to Shanghai’s most powerful crime boss in payment for her father’s gambling debts. Outwardly submissive, she burns with rage and risks her life spying on her master for the Communist Party.
Only when Shanghai is shattered by the Japanese invasion do Song and Thomas find their way to each other. Though their union is forbidden, neither can back down from it in the turbulent years of occupation and resistance that follow. Torn between music and survival, freedom and commitment, love and world war, they are borne on an irresistible riff of melody and improvisation to Night in Shanghai’s final, impossible choice.
In this impressively researched novel, Nicole Mones not only tells the forgotten story of black musicians in the Chinese Jazz age, but also weaves in a stunning true tale of Holocaust heroism little-known in the West.

Praise for Night in Shanghai

“Based on true episodes and peppered with the lives and experiences of actual characters from the worlds of politics, music, the military, and the government, Mones’ engrossing historical novel illuminates the danger, depravity, and drama of this dark period with brave authenticity.” — Carol Haggas, Booklist
“Mones’ breathless and enlightening account of an African-American jazzman and his circle in prewar Shanghai… keep(s) the suspense mounting until the end.” — Kirkus Reviews
“Amid the plethora of World War II fiction, Mones’s fourth novel (after The Last Chinese Chef) offers a rarely seen African American and Asian perspective. Fans of works such as Amor Towles’s Rules of Civility will appreciate the use of jazz as the backdrop to a world at war. Historical fiction fans will not be disappointed.” — Library Journal
“With a magician’s sleight of hand, Nicole Mones conjures up the jazz-filled, complex, turbulent world of Shanghai just before World War II. A feast for the senses…the lives and loves of expatriate musicians intertwine with the growing tensions between the Communist Party and the Nationalist Party, while the ominous threats from the Japanese stir the winds of war. A rich and thoroughly captivating read.” – Gail Tsukiyama, author of The Samurai’s Garden
“What an incredible thing Mones does in this novel of the compelling, sexy, rich and complicated world of historical Shanghai. Every page reveals some custom, some costume, some food, some trick of language that exposes a fascinating moment in history — the Japanese invasion on the eve of World War II. Mones weaves the multiple strands of her story much the way themes and melodies are woven into the jazz her protagonist plays, with subtle and suggestive undertones of human greed, power, and passion.” – Marisa Silver, author of Mary Coin
READ AN EXCERPT.

My Thoughts
 Night In Shanghai is the story of a Shanghai on the precipice of war, a man between worlds, and a woman of opposing loyalties.
Nicole Mones has managed to seamlessly interlace the stories of African American band leader, Thomas Greene, interpreter and servant, Song Yuhua, and the onslaught of WWII.
Having just one of the above mentioned aspects of this epic tale handled with the historical precision, lyrical voice, and descriptive eye of a seasoned storyteller, would be enough to delight any reader. Having all three components, makes for nothing less than a stellar reading experience.

Both Song and Thomas present very strong lead characters.  Each are dealing with the specters of servitude, the need to find themselves, and the quest for personal freedom against the backdrop of a land in turmoil.
The reader is allowed to experience each of these dynamic personas separately, making their coming together and the subsequent relationship and intrigue that follows all the more compelling.

The militaristic aspects of this read are handled on a personal level.  Instead of taking center stage and becoming the story; WWII is made a personal experience because it is seen, heard and felt through the characters,  rather than as its own entity.

This is a wonderful read that uses history to introduce readers to a Shanghai that they never knew!


 photo 7d0112c7-e98a-4902-a480-b9d903d02575.png

Buy the Book

Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Books-a-Million
IndieBound
Powell’s

About the Author

03_Nicole MonesA newly launched textile business took Nicole Mones to China for the first time in 1977, after the end of the Cultural Revolution. As an individual she traded textiles with China for eighteen years before she turned to writing about that country. Her novels Night in Shanghai, The Last Chinese Chef, Lost in Translation and A Cup of Light are in print in more than twenty-two languages and have received multiple juried prizes, including the Kafka Prize (year’s best work of fiction by any American woman) and Kiriyama Prize (finalist; for the work of fiction which best enhances understanding of any Pacific Rim Culture).
Mones’ nonfiction writing on China has also appeared in the New York Times Magazine, Gourmet, the Los Angeles Times, and the Washington Post. She is a member of the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations. For more information visir www.nicolemones.com

Virtual Book Tour Schedule

Monday, April 7
Review at Ageless Pages Reviews
Tuesday, April 8
Spotlight & Giveaway at The Bookworm
Wednesday, April 9
Review at Flashlight Commentary
Thursday, April 10
Review at Oh, for the Hook of a Book
Friday, April 11
Interview at Oh, for the Hook of a Book
Monday, April 14
Spotlight & Giveaway at A Lovely Bookshelf on the Wall
Tuesday, April 15
Review, Interview, & Giveaway at Drey’s Library
Wednesday, April 16
Review at A Bibliotaph’s Reviews
Friday, April 18
Review & Giveaway at Our Wolves Den
Monday, April 21
Guest Post at Jorie Loves a Story
Review at WTF Are You Reading?
Tuesday, April 22
Spotlight & Giveaway at Passages to the Past
Wednesday, April 23
Review at Jorie Loves a Story
Thursday, April 24
Interview at Mina’s Bookshelf
Friday, April 25
Guest Post & Giveaway at Bibliophilia, Please
Monday, April 28
Review at Svetlana’s Reads and Views

Audiobook Awesomeness: Up From The Grave

Up From the Grave Title:  Up From The Grave
(Night Huntress #7)
Author:  Jeaniene Frost
Format Audio Book
Length:  8hr. 41min.
Narrator:  Tavia Gilbert
Publisher:  Harper Audio
Rating:  5 Stars

There’s always one more grave to dig.

Lately, life has been unnaturally calm for vampires Cat Crawfield and her husband Bones. They should have known better than to relax their guard, because a shocking revelation sends them back into action to stop an all-out war…

A rogue CIA agent is involved in horrifying secret activities that threaten to raise tensions between humans and the undead to dangerous heights. Now Cat and Bones are in a race against time to save their friends from a fate worse than death…because the more secrets they unravel, the deadlier the consequences. And if they fail, their lives—and those of everyone they hold dear— will be hovering on the edge of the grave.  -Goodreads


My Thoughts
All good things must come to an end, and as much as readers have tried to deny it; the time has come for Cat, Bones, and the gang.
Up From the Grave is the last installment in what has been a flawless sojourn into Urban Fantasy bliss.  This book has it all.  The chemistry that Cat and Bones are known for, a bit of mystery, ACTION, and awesome baddies.
There are so many twists and turns in the read that if it were food, it would be a pretzel.  
Tavia Gilbert is an awesome narrator, and her voices make the story come alive.
There is so much to tell, but in the interest of not spoiling this awesome book...I won't.
Bones and Cat I will miss you!

Embrace Presents: The Mark of Hades + Giveaway

Title: Marked by Hades (Bound by Hades novel)
Author: Reese Monroe
Genre: New Adult
Length: 188 pages
Release Date: April 2014
ISBN: 978-1-62266-307-1
Imprint: Embrace

 One choice away from eternity…
For 911 years, Gatekeeper companion Justin Bradford has denied the possibility of being mated to only one woman. He enjoys them all too much to settle down. So when he feels his mate’s Ahavah mark surface, his first instinct is to ignore it. But when he sees the leather-clad beauty in need of his help that’s easier said than done…
Yvonne wakes up naked on a cold park bench in a small town with no memory of who—or what—she is. All she knows is the gentle man who woke her was turned to dust when she touched him. And now the strange mark that appeared on her shoulder throbs in the presence of the raven-haired man now offering to help her…
As Justin and Yvonne navigate the mystery of her past, their bond grows, but the secrets they discover and the sacrifices that must be made could be enough to rip them apart for eternity.

My Thoughts
"Oh how I wish that I had gotten to read book 1!"

That being said, I loved the story told in Marked By Hades.  Justin and Yvonne are perfect together, and their explosive chemistry is a thing of beauty.  The mystery surrounding Yvonne and her origins at the story's opening adds a bit of mystery to the plot as well.  The action is first rate!  To top things off, there is the surprise of a not so happy ending for our heroine.  Talk about a set up for book 3!
YUM!!! 
This book is the second in a series...though it may be enjoyed alone.


Excerpt from
Marked by Hades
by Reese Monroe

Copyright © 2014 by Reese Monroe. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce, distribute, or transmit in any form or by any means. For information regarding subsidiary rights, please contact the Publisher.
Chapter One
Blinding pain ratcheted up Yvonne’s spine and exploded at the base of her skull. She grabbed her head with both hands, hoping to hold herself together. A bell echoed, sending a ripple through her body.
She opened her mouth to scream, but only silence followed. Pain swallowed her whole, crunching through every bone, liquefying her insides.
Help me.
And then it stopped.
But only for a second.
A blunt force rammed into her shoulder, and she rolled to the side. Cold, prickly ground stung her bare arms. Palming the gritty surface, she tried to push herself up. Instead, she flopped to the side with the coordination of a newborn.
Metallic warmth oozed into her mouth, but coughing didn’t push the liquid away. Lungs burning from lack of air, she gasped for much-needed oxygen.
“Miss?” A nudge startled her out of the black void.
She sat up straight, feeling as if she’d never taken a breath in her entire life. Only, the air had to be laced with acid for how much it stung.
“Stay calm, miss.” Something soft brushed against her legs, chest, and shoulders. A blanket of warmth. She shivered through a wave of arctic air frosting her to the bone.
After swallowing hard, her dry, scratchy throat made its presence painfully known. When had she last eaten? Wait, where was she?
“Miss, can you hear me?”
Yvonne opened her eyes and met a narrowed brown-eyed gaze. A black cap hid most of the man’s graying chestnut hair, and deep wrinkles marred his otherwise smooth face. Warmth radiated from his eyes as he scanned her.
“Are you hurt, miss?”
The raging pain that’d ripped her out of nothingness had begun to fade, leaving a throbbing ache in her shoulders and palms. She raised her hand, and the movement shifted the blanket. Icy air nipped at her bare skin.
Holy shit, she was naked.
Clutching the fabric to her chest, she sat up more. Rough wood poked her back, breaking through the skin.
“Hold on. It’s okay.” The stranger tucked the blanket more securely around her. “Go slow.”
His gloved hands grazed her bare shoulder. White plumed from his mouth, and he wore a thick jacket. There wasn’t any snow around, but there were bare trees behind her and a swing set off to her left. She was at a park?
Rolling her sore shoulder, she felt hair brush her arm. She looked down at a lock of shiny black hair. Wait, she had black hair? What color were her eyes? What was her name? She…
Yvonne. No last name came to mind, or her age, but she knew her name was Yvonne. Her heart hammered, echoing through her mind, but nothing else came.
It was as if her mind was blank, empty like the void she just came from.
“Miss. What’s your name?”
“Yvonne…” Hints of metallic stung her taste buds. Her tongue met dry, cracked lips…and something cold.
A tentative touch to her lips revealed a lip ring.
“Can you stand? We need to get you somewhere warm.” He rose to his full six-foot height and offered her his gloved hand.
She clutched the blanket and freed up a hand to take his. Once standing on wobbly legs, she wrapped the fabric all the way around her bare body.
“My car’s right over there.” He pointed to the small parking lot just past the park.
Darkness of late evening surrounded them. Bright stars sprinkled the black backdrop of the night sky. She pulled in a long, deep breath, and the crispness of it pitched her into a cough. She leaned forward, and the man grasped her shoulders.
Despite the barriers of thick gloves and a blanket, all she felt was his warmth and tenderness. Craving the contact as if she hadn’t been touched in years, the desire to move closer overwhelmed her. She nuzzled her cheek against his chest, and even through the coat he wore, she still felt close to him.
Safe.
“Do you have a last name, Yvonne?”
“I can’t remember.” Tears stung.
“That’s okay. We’ll get you to the hospital. Everything’s going to be fine.”
“Where am I?” Careful not to put too much space between herself and the warmth of this kind stranger, she straightened to take in her surroundings.
“You’re at Riley Park.”
“Where’s that?”
“Mento, Arizona.” He glanced around. “Population too small to even bother counting.”
“Oh.” She let him guide her forward. “What day is it?” That sounded so strange to ask, but she wasn’t sure. Winter maybe? It didn’t get cold in Arizona much, but she could see her breath. And how did she know that about winter in Arizona for that matter? She must be from here.
“It’s November.” He smiled, revealing beautiful straight teeth and a dimple surrounded by a dusting of gray along his cheeks and chin, as though he hadn’t shaved in a day or so. “And I’m thankful I stumbled across you. Too cold to be out here long.”
She glanced over her shoulder to where she’d been lying. A bench was fastened to a concrete slab near the playground equipment. She vaguely remembered landing first on that bench, then rolling to the ground. It didn’t make sense, though. How had she gotten there? “How did you find me?”
“The wife sent me on an errand, was passing by when I saw a light flash over here. Thought it strange, so I pulled in.” He guided her over the curb toward an SUV. “Just felt like I needed to check things out. Good thing, too.”
Purity poured off him. Innocent, genuine, helpful soul. She craved it. Needed to feel it. She reached toward his face to cup his cheek, but he intercepted her touch, grabbing her wrist.
“Stay covered. I don’t know how long you’ve been out in this cold. Can’t have you catching pneumonia on my watch.” He nodded. “You sure you’re not injured? No cuts or broken bones?”
“Just cold.” Tucking herself back into the blanket, she let him navigate her into the car.
Once she was settled into the plush leather seats, he shut the door and hurried around to his side. He revved the engine and clicked a button next to her seat. “Should warm up real fast.” He took off his gloves and dug into the glove compartment. “Let’s just get my phone out. I’ll call my missus and tell her we’re headed to the hospital.”
A stroke of fear jolted through her stomach. “No. Can’t go to the hospital.”
He retracted his hand from the glove compartment. “Why not?”
“I’m not sure.” She glanced around, suddenly worried someone was watching her. “Can’t, though. It doesn’t feel safe for me.”
“But—”
“No.” She cuffed his wrist with her fingers. “No hospitals.”
He froze, mouth open and eyes wide.
His fingertips crumbled into ash. No, it wasn’t ash, it was a pure white hourglass sand. Beautiful, like his soul.
The man’s head caved in on itself with a small poof, and his body dissolved until there was only a little pile of bright-white sand in the seat with sprinkles of it along the console and floor of the driver’s side.
A scream burned her throat as she scrambled for the door handle.
What the hell just happened?

Chapter Two
Justin Bradford cracked his fist against the demon’s cheek. The creature swiveled, but Justin caught him on his way around and drove another solid hit to its face. “I could do this all day, buddy.”
The demon snapped at Justin’s hand, but he slammed his dagger into the evil one’s stomach, right below the ribs. It didn’t have the paralyzing effect of the Mavet, but it’d give the monster a good jolt.
“Where’s. The. Thata?” Justin jackhammered hits to the demon’s gut and jaw between each word.
The demon laughed.
Theo appeared next to Justin, holding the Mavet for the demon to see. “Ready for eternal death?”
The creature stilled. He knew the power of the weapon Theo held. Hell, Justin did, too, considering he couldn’t touch it without getting burned to the bone.
Strictly for the Gatekeepers.
He’d learned that the hard way once.
“Not so funny anymore, is it?” Justin released his hold on the abomination and stepped back. “I’d probably start talking if I were you, because my brother, here, he’s a little into his torture, if you know what I mean.”
“Only if you don’t banish me from this realm.” The demon’s voice was deep, raspy. Fangs protruding from his gums pulled his lips tight over his teeth. “I rather like it here.”
“I’m sure you do.” Theo stepped in front of the creature.
The demon grunted, then cast his focus to the side. Justin’s muscles twitched to pummel the animal that harvested innocent souls as an offering to his master in the hopes of gathering strength to advance up the demonic ladder. Bile stung the back of Justin’s throat at the thought of a human giving his soul to this creature.
He charged the demon to give him another thorough ass-kicking, but Theo held out his arm. “Talk, demon. We’ll decide your fate once what you’ve told us checks out.”
Surely Theo wouldn’t consider letting this thing go, even if he did spill valuable information. Justin looked at his brother, and Theo offered a quick shake of the head.
Of course Theo wouldn’t spare the creature. It went against everything they, as Shomrei warriors, believed. They were created to destroy this evil; never would they spare one. Not even one that could lead them to the coveted Thata. That weapon was too dangerous to have floating around, considering it gave anyone who held it the ability to splice time, going anywhere at any moment with only a thought.
“The Thata is hidden deep in Hades.” The creature stiffened. “Caves outside Lucifer’s castle.”
“Do I have ‘idiot’ stamped on my forehead?” Justin asked. “Aggie wouldn’t keep it there.”
“Who would suspect the weapons needed for Lucifer’s demise would be stored so close to home?”
True, but this was too easy. It had to be a trap. Wait, had the douche bag said weapons? As in plural?
“What else does he hide there?” Theo asked.
The demon shook his head and crossed his arms. “I told you enough. Any more and I’ll be branded a traitor.”
“And punished how?” Justin said.
The demon grunted. “No demon wants to face the punishment for betraying his master.”
What punishment could be worse than living in Hades and being bound to a master demon? “Let’s pretend for a second I am an idiot and believe you. Where is this supposed cave near Lucifer’s castle located?”
“No one but Agares and his woman knew.”
“Woman?” Theo flexed his muscles. “What do you mean?”
“Dyre was his woman, but she’s been punished for her betrayal.” The demon stepped back, shaking his head. “Punished by Lucifer himself.”
“For helping Sadie escape Aggie’s lair,” Theo said.
The demon nodded, then turned and ran.
Theo threw the Mavet, and the blade sank deep into the creature’s back. “Reverto ut Abyssus.
A plume of dark ash rose, and the weapon fell to the rocky ground. Theo stomped over and snatched it up. “Let’s go.”
Always in a hurry to return to Sadie.
“So, there’s a woman out there who knows where the Thata is and maybe where other weapons are being held.”
“Justin, that was a demon. He lied.”
“How do you know?”
“Don’t for sure, but he spilled the beans way too easily, and I couldn’t hack much from his brain. It was protected. Not to mention I didn’t even have to torture him.”
And Theo could torture. He’d done so to protect Sadie more than once. To get information about the weapons—referred to as Artifacts—Aggie had alluded to that might allow other demons to overthrow Lucifer.
Theo waved his brother to him. “Come on.”
A splice opened beside them, a new talent Theo had gotten after mating with Sadie.
“No. You go. I’m going to cool off. See if I can dig up some trouble around here.” Then again, that might be difficult. It appeared to be a tiny town. “Wait, where are we?”
“Mento, Arizona, brother.” Theo offered a knowing grin.
Justin often needed to “let off steam” after a good fight, and he’d seen a bar a few blocks over. Besides, watching Sadie and Theo cuddle on the couch during a movie wasn’t what he had in mind to do tonight.
And he refused to even consider the fact that he was jealous. No. He just needed to find someone to kill some time with and burn off this post-demon battle energy.
“Okay, brother. Have fun notching another mark on your belt.” Theo stepped into the splice he’d created, leaving Justin alone.
Always alone.
Sure, Theo had a warm body to go home to. Justin could have that any time with a hundred different girls. Hell, he’d had that thousands of times over the last nine centuries, and it was exactly what he’d wanted.
No commitment.
No attachments.
No…nothing.

Author Bio:  Originally from Minnesota, Reese Monroe currently enjoys living in the sunny Arizona desert with her husband of seventeen years and her loveable Shetland Sheep dog, Maddux. Monroe holds a degree in psychology from Southwest Minnesota State University and a master’s degree from the University of Iowa. When she’s not busy writing her next trilogy, she can be found pounding the pavement, training to run her first marathon.

Reese Monroe is a contributing blogger at the widely popular site New Adult Alley and has been part of the New Adult revolution for years having penned over thirty novels in the exciting new category.

Connect with Reese on Twitter, through Facebook or her website. Reese also writes as Lynn Rush and you can find her alter ego here.


Giveaway:
Marked by Fate prize pack including: a Marked By Fate necklace, $10 Starbucks gift card and a $10 iTunes gift card (if the winner is intl a $25 Amazon gift card will be substituted for the prize pack)

Embrace Presents: Unfixable + Giveaway

 Title:  Unfixable
Author:  Tessa Bailey
Length:  260 pages
ISBN:  9781622665457
Publisher:  Entangled Embrace
Tagline: He’s the last thing she wants…but the only thing she needs.
Blurb:  Willa Peet isn’t interested in love. She’s been there, done that, and has the shattered heart to prove it. Ready to shake the breakup, she heads to Dublin, Ireland. But there’s a problem. A dark-haired, blue-eyed problem with a bad attitude that rivals her own. And he’s not doling out friendly Irish welcomes.
Shane Claymore just wants to race. The death of his father forced him off the Formula One circuit, but he’s only staying in Dublin long enough to sell the Claymore Inn and get things in order for his mother and younger sister. He never expected the sarcastic American girl staying at the inn to make him question everything.
But even as Willa and Shane’s fiery natures draw them together, their pasts threaten to rip them apart. Can Shane give up racing to be with the woman he loves, or will Willa’s quest to resurrect the tough-talking, no-shit-taking girl she used to be destroy any hope of a future together?

 My Thoughts
Shane and Willa's story is one of pure passion.  Shane's passion for his family and racing, Willa's passion for life behind her camera lens, and finally...their passion for each other.
Things get off to a bit of a rough start for this tale.  It takes a minute to really find out the back-stories behind the pain and angst these two share.
Once that hurdle has been crossed however, the story is able to find its wings and soar!
Willa is young, but she is thankfully spared the naive role in her interplay with Shane.
Shane is also allowed to shed his somber exterior after his heart finds a home with the fiery Willa.
If you like your love a little tough; this is the read for you.





Tessa Bailey






Author Bio
: Tessa lives in Brooklyn, New York with her husband and young daughter. When she isn't writing or reading romance, Tessa enjoys a good argument and thirty-minute recipes.
Website  Blog   Twitter  Facebook  Goodreads  Street Team


Giveaway: An Irish-themed/Unfixable themed swag pack and a Kindle Fire.

 Tessa's Links





Entangled:  http://www.entangledpublishing.com/unfixable/

Ignite Your Passion For Suspense Filled Romance With Her Desert Treasure and Risk of a Lifetime




Title: Her Desert Treasure 
Author: Larie Brannick
   Genre: Romantic Suspense
Length: 178 pages
Release Date: April 14, 2014
ISBN: 978-1-62266-533-4   
Imprint: Ignite

Tagline:  Can their love save her life?


 Excerpt from
Her Desert Treasure
by Larie Brannick
Copyright © 2014 by Larie Brannick. tAll rights reserved, including the right to reproduce, distribute, or transmit in any form or by any means. For einformation regarding subsidiary rights, please contact the Publisher.

Chapter One

GUNNISON, COLORADO.
Okay, now would be a good time for someone to pinch her.
“In addition, your Aunt Marge left you a sizeable amount when she died.”
“Aunt Marge?” Was it possible for a person’s brain to explode from confusion?
“Your father’s older sister, Marge Montgomery. She died a year or so after your parents. Very tragic, a fire if I remember correctly.” He scratched his wrinkled cheek. “She actually fought your grandparents for custody in the beginning. You were so young, you probably don’t remember.”
Meg searched her brain for some recognition. A vague memory of frilly dresses and miniature tea sets flickered briefly, but there was already too much information to process. God, she wanted this day to be over. She rubbed her temples. “It’s a lot to take in.”
“I know you’ve had a trying week, but we’re almost finished.” He flipped another page. “On to the last item. One thousand acres near the town of Big Rock. The homestead property—”
Meg’s heart pounded, and blood rushed in her ears so loudly it drowned out his words. Fresh tears stung her eyes. Her fondest childhood memories had been made roaming those hills with her Grandpa, hunting rocks to add to their collection, soaking up his knowledge and enthusiasm like a sponge.
“—and here’s where things get a little muddy.”
“Muddy?” Crap. Concentrate, Meg. Now is not the time for an ADD moment. “I’m sorry, Bernie. I’m afraid my attention span is a little short these days.”
“Perfectly understandable. Would you like to take a break? I know you’re probably not used to all the chaos of the last week.”
“No thank you, Bernie. I’m fine.” Meg smiled at his reference. Even with all she’d had to do, the pace here in Western Colorado was a far cry from the rat race her life had become in San Diego. She’d only been back a week, but the relaxed atmosphere had comforted her, and she embraced it. Even before returning to make arrangements for her grandfather’s funeral, Meg had been considering making a change. Now that she was here, she knew she’d made the right decision. She was moving back to Colorado. For good.
“As I was saying, this is highly unusual. A petition has been filed with the court to contest the Will.”
“I don’t understand. Who…why would someone do that?”
The older man shook his head. “Whoever it is, is trying very hard to hide their identity. The name on the suit is Goldstone Holdings, and the only contact information is a law office in Denver. I had Francine search the name. There isn’t even a website. The suit is based on the assertion that your grandfather was in negotiations to sell the land, but I don’t believe there is any evidence to support the claim. We had already received the order for informal probate, and it was pretty much a done deal until this was filed.”
Meg didn’t know whether to be impressed by her grandfather’s old friend being savvy enough to search the Internet or to be plain confused about why someone would want to contest the Will. One thing she did know was that there was no way her grandfather would ever sell the property.
Bernie patted her hand. “This is merely a bump in the road. I have every confidence there is no proof of a pending sale, and I will do my damndest to defend your grandpa’s wishes. Your name has always been on the deed, Megan. However, since the property is part of the estate, you won’t be able to access the bank accounts until this is resolved.” He hesitated. “I don’t want to assume anything, but if you need—”
“No.” She shook her head determinedly. “Absolutely not.” Squeezing his burly hand, her voice softened. “It’s so nice of you to offer, Bernie, but I’m fine. I have some savings and…well, I’m fine.” Moving expenses and the fact that she’d already quit her job might make things interesting, but nothing would keep her from her goal.
“Okay, honey. If you’re sure. I’ve already filed the necessary papers at the courthouse to request a dismissal. I’ll do everything I can to get this mess sorted out as quickly as possible.”
Another wave of grief hit her hard and her throat constricted. She needed some fresh air, time to herself to try to wrap her head around the information overload. There was only one place where Meg could find that kind of peace. Swallowing the lump in her throat, she lifted her head. “I was planning to stay at the cabin in Big Rock, Bernie. Will this petition prevent me from entering the property?”
“Hmm? Oh, no. I don’t think that should be a problem. This nuisance should blow over without any trouble.”
“Not that I would ever sell, Bernie, but what if I wanted to start construction on some outbuildings?”
“You’re planning to go forward with your living classroom idea?”
It was a dream she and her grandfather had shared. She wanted to come back home to start a living, outdoor classroom that would bring in students from neighboring schools for field trips, lectures, and hands-on experience collecting rocks and identifying them in a small lab. The property had been in the family for four generations, and Meg knew the landscape like the back of her hand. She’d always wanted to use her teaching certificate in some unique way and ached to put her knowledge of the area to good use. “Yes. Grandpa wanted it as much as I do. I just wish he were still here to see it become reality.”
“I know he did, and I think it’s a wonderful way to keep his memory with us. But just to be safe, I want you to hold off on any changes to the property. In fact, I think it’s a good idea to keep your plans between us for now. We don’t know who might be watching, possibly waiting for any reason to drag out this suit.” He pushed a few more documents across the desk. “All right, then. Unless you have any other questions, Meg, we can wrap this up.”
A few pen strokes later, he was walking her to the door. He wrapped her in a tight hug. “You call me if you need anything. Your grandpa asked me to look after you, and I intend to do just that.”
She hugged him back. “Thanks for everything, Bernie.
***
Jake Matthews stood and stretched after checking his patient. She was a pretty little thing, the spitting image of her mother. The prize winning Palomino mare turned her big, brown eyes from him to her new foal as she nursed. He took a few sugar cubes from the bucket nailed to the stall and held out his hand. The mare’s velvety nose tickled his palm as she nibbled the treats. “You’re doing fine, Nikki. See, you’re getting the hang of this.”
After patting her and her new daughter on the neck one final time, he secured the latch on their stall before leaving the stable.
Jesus, what a long night. And even longer day. The mare had been in labor when Jake checked on her after dinner last night, and she’d seemed fine. When he went back out to the stables after checking the other animals at his veterinary hospital, he could see she was having trouble and couldn’t just let nature takes its course. The foal had been breech, and though Jake had delivered breeches before, this one was particularly difficult. He’d left them at dawn for a quick shower before he started seeing patients.
Outside, he breathed in the fresh, afternoon air. His gaze wandered to the brick house, the animal clinic, and the kennels where he heard the dogs stirring. Sunlight brushed the red mesas and rainbow-hued sandstone formations surrounding him. He held his breath as he took in the beauty. No wonder he’d fallen in love with this place. After only two years in his practice here in Big Rock, Colorado, he was happier than he’d ever thought he could be again. He slowly released his breath. Happy? Okay, content. This place was a completely different world compared to the pressure-filled days at Wyndham Animal Hospital in Chicago. He hadn’t planned on leaving, but hey, sometimes shit happened, and Jake wanted to believe it happened for a reason.
The familiar sound of hooves turned him back to the corral. His future, in the form of a magnificent Appaloosa stallion, trotted over to him. “Hey, buddy. I just saw your daughter. She’s sure to be a champ, just like her old man.” The Quarter Horse tossed his head as if in agreement. Jake stroked the stallion’s muscled neck. He’d gambled everything he had on this horse, Destiny’s Heart, and so far, the stallion was living up to Jake’s expectations. The little filly in the stable was the first of what Jake hoped would be many in the new bloodline. He smoothed the sleek mane one last time. “See you in a few hours, Desi. I’m going to try to catch a glimpse of that elusive cousin of yours.”
Jake never tired of the view on the drive to the secluded canyon. He’d been coming here ever since meeting the property’s owner, John Clark, a couple years ago. The old man had enthusiastically introduced Jake to the wild horse herd that made the canyon their home, and he’d been hooked on sight. The herd of about two hundred mustangs fascinated Jake, and John had encouraged him to come out to observe them as often as possible. His old friend had moved into a retirement community in Gunnison about six months ago, and while they spoke on the phone often, Jake had only been able to visit a few times. The news of John’s death had hit him hard, especially since he hadn’t heard about it until after the funeral. He hadn’t even been able to pay his final respects.
Memories of his old friend brought a smile to his face. What a character. John had been one of the first people Jake met when he came to town, and the two men had become fast friends, bonding over their interest in the horses. Jake couldn’t help but wonder what would happen to the herd now. He’d promised himself he’d do everything in his power to make sure they stayed in the canyon.
After parking and locking the gate, he threw his tripod over one shoulder, his backpack over the other, and walked the half mile to the mouth of the canyon. Once his camera was set up, he settled into his camp chair to wait. The horses had become accustomed to his visits and weren’t as skittish as they’d been in the beginning. He could move about freely without spooking them, and Jake could get within fifty feet of some of the younger, more curious animals.
One horse in particular held Jake’s interest, though. The newcomer, a beautiful Bay stallion, didn’t have the shorter, stocky build of typical wild mustangs. No, this horse came from different stock. The short, refined head, the strong, well-muscled body, broad chest, and powerful, rounded hindquarters were all characteristics of a Quarter Horse. And Jake had seen this guy run. He had the great sprinting speed over short distances common to the breed. Jake wondered how the stallion had ended up with the herd.
With his worn Stetson tipped to shade his eyes, Jake leaned back in the canvas chair. The occasional buzz of a bee was the only reminder he wasn’t alone in this valley. The utter silence had taken some getting used to. Jake’s life in Chicago had been a blur of noise and activity. Between the residency program in equine medicine and volunteering at the local shelter, he hadn’t had a moment of quiet. But even the constant action wasn’t enough to distract him from the memory—
A sharp whinny broke the silence. Jake jumped out of his chair and focused the camera on the approaching horses. It didn’t matter how many times he saw it, the sight of the herd was always exciting. He and John had shared many early mornings and late afternoons watching the animals and planning for the wild horse refuge they wanted to develop.
Worry nagged the fringes of his thoughts. With John gone, what if the new owner wouldn’t follow through with his wishes? It was possible that John hadn’t discussed their plans with anyone else. Jake would keep his promise to John and fight for the horses. He would deal with any opposition if and when it came up. Right now, the equine object of his curiosity loped into view.
***
Tired but excited, Meg drove into the Southwest Colorado town of Big Rock. The clock outside the bank she passed read 5:20 p.m., and the oversized thermometer said 101 degrees. “Yeah, but it’s a dry heat.” Amused at herself, she smiled.
Memories came at her in a rush at the sight of the mountains in the distance. She’d grown up in Gunnison, a couple hundred miles northeast of Big Rock, but weekends and any other vacation time her grandparents had were spent on the thousand acres of desert just outside of town. Any time her grandfather wasn’t working, he was roaming the hills, scouring the rock formations looking for specimens for his rock collection. Meg had been his shadow. He’d taught her everything he knew about this land, and that had sparked her love of geology. They’d been close, but the bond between them always grew stronger when they were here in Big Rock.
The fist around her heart tightened. “Oh, Grandpa. It’s going to be so different without you here.”
She slowed her grandfather’s old station wagon as she turned down Main Street. The 1964 Ford Falcon wagon handled like a tank compared to her little Miata, but that had been totaled in a hit and run accident in San Diego. Since she hadn’t received the settlement from her car insurance yet, she’d commandeered the ‘Cherry Bomb’ until she could buy something else. It still felt strange knowing she could afford to write a check for a new car—well, if the estate ever got settled, but for now, the old wagon would be fine.
“Holy crap.” The sleepy little town from her memory was gone. Bumper to bumper traffic clogged the streets. The principal road into town was still only two lanes, barely wide enough to accommodate the huge RV’s, campers, and trucks pulling trailers. Meg managed to wind her way through town and was soon on her way to her grandfather’s property, amazed at how much the area had grown. Instead of the scrub brush and cactus she remembered, several newer, large homes dotted the landscape.
Other changes caught her attention, too. A large Keep Out sign had been posted on the side of the gravel road leading to the property. Surely her grandfather hadn’t posted the sign. He’d always welcomed anyone who came to visit. The once rough road was now fairly smooth, and it was wider than she remembered. It appeared to have been graded recently. Grandpa hadn’t spent any time here in the past six months, and she couldn’t help a niggling worry that something wasn’t right.
Soon their old cabin came into view. A beautifully carved, wooden sign hung on the gate ahead. Meg’s lips quivered, and her eyes grew misty. ‘Dolly’s Draw’. That was something else Grandpa must have added. She stopped and got out to open the gate.
Stretching, she breathed in deeply, turning in a slow circle to take in the view around her. Home. “This is exactly what I needed.” She made quick work of the combination and swung the gate wide. Butterflies of anticipation fluttered in her stomach, and tears stung the backs of her eyes as she got closer to the cabin. She parked beneath one of the big cottonwood trees that shaded their picnic area and got out to look around. Not much had changed. It was still beautiful and peaceful and Meg’s heart lifted.
Unloading her things could wait, but her need to reacquaint herself with this place couldn’t. After grabbing her water bottle and locking the car, she set off for the trail leading to the canyon. Seeing the beauty of the land through the eyes of ownership, Meg didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, so she did both. She’d been away too long, and guilt nudged its way into the mix of happy memories, grief over the loss of her family, and awe of the magnificent views. Thankfully, no one else was around to witness her emotional roller coaster ride.
Lost in her own head, Meg rounded a bend around a rock outcropping and…What? The shock at seeing a stranger—a man—standing in this remote area stopped her in her tracks. An involuntary shiver of fear chased down her spine, and her heart raced. Panic threatened. Without conscious thought, her hand settled over her abdomen. Though hidden by her clothing, the thin line of slightly puckered skin reminded her to be brave. She inhaled slowly as she studied the countryside. Exhaling just as slowly, she assessed the situation. He appeared to be alone, oblivious to her as he leaned over a tripod. Was he taking pictures of something in the canyon? One thing was certain. He was trespassing on her grandfather’s property. No, her property.
A sense of protectiveness pushed away the fear, and she straightened her spine. Quit being a weenie, Meg. Not all men are bullies. She patted her front pocket for her ever-present Mace can keychain and picked up her pace toward the man, waved her hand, and called out, “Excuse me! This is private property.”
The man whirled around, ire flashing in his brown eyes. “Goddammit!” He slapped his hat against his denim covered thigh. “They’re gone.”
ere
Synopsis: Inheriting her grandfather’s ranch is the perfect opportunity for Meg Reynolds to begin again. The land is her only chance to hold on to the last bit of family she had. But Jake Matthews has other plans. Despite the heat blazing between them, he’ll do whatever it takes to get what he wants. When someone threatens Meg and seems willing to kill her for her land, Meg doesn’t know who she can trust. And when she’s kidnapped, Jake wonders if he’ll ever be able to let her know he cares more for her than the land that stands between them…

My Thoughts

The story told in Her Desert Treasure, is indeed a romantic find.  Meg Reynolds has the perfect blend sass, brains, vulnerability, and maturity.  Making her a heroine that most any reader can't help rooting for.
Dr. Jake is the classic "knight in white Stetson" always there to serve, protect, and save.  The most appealing thing about Dr. Jake however, (Besides his bedside manner...that is.) is the fact that his need to protect Meg never overshadows his desire to nurture her free spirit.
When you add the sweet tale of their world-wind romance, to the suspense and mystery behind the supposed claims on Meg's land and threat to her life.  What you have is a great read.
This is not a hot and steamy romance.  The sex is secondary to both the relationship between Dr. Jake and Meg, and the action and suspense surrounding her inheritance.  Not to worry though, the sweet passion these two share is enough to light a slow burn in the heart and mind of any reader.

Author Bio: Larie is a Colorado girl, born and bred.  She and her husband live in a small mountain town where they are settling into life as empty-nesters.  When she isn’t writing, reading or thinking about romance, she works for two busyorthopaedic surgeons.

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Twitter: @EntangledSus  Steals and Deals


 
 Title: Risk of a Lifetime
Author: Claudia Shelton
Genre: Suspense
Length: 213 pages
Release Date: April 14, 2014
ISBN: 978-1-62266-534-1
Imprint: Ignite

 Tagline: Can she survive his past?



Excerpt from
Risk of a Lifetime
by Claudia Shelton Copyright © 2014 by Claudia Shelton. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce, distribute, or transmit in any form or by any means. For information regarding subsidiary rights, please contact the Publisher.

Chapter One

“I need to go to the bathroom,” Marcy Bradley said, loud enough to get the attention of everyone in the First Missouri Capitol Bank of Crayton.
All five of them. Six, if you counted the robber, Leon Ferguson, a bully from her fourth-grade class twenty years ago. These days, he clocked in at well over six feet, two-hundred-fifty pounds of sweaty stink mixed with a stale odor of wood smoke. He’d gotten their attention when he slammed the bank president to the floor. Even more when he’d shot the exit sign. Now his mud-crusted boots made a path in front of the teller windows, back and forth, back and forth.
Any other Friday morning, Marcy would be composing poetry in her mind as she waited in line to make the weekly deposit from her counseling business. Instead, she lay cheek down on the shiny, cold marble floor of the eighty-two-year-old building as Leon continued to hold everyone hostage. When this was over, she’d drop a note in the suggestion box about cleaning the baseboards.
For the past twenty minutes, Leon yelled about the “cost of gettin’ by” and bragged about the last time he went fishing. From all appearances, his tolerance level for whatever drug he was high on today had long since passed. His mean side had flashed when he’d cold-cocked the janitor with his fist for not getting down on the floor fast enough. That explained Leon’s wife’s many “accidents” the woman had told her about during their one-on-one counseling sessions. No wonder the woman ran away.
The stock market ticker tape flicked across the ceiling-mounted television. Scrolling words flashed on the screen. An antiquated fan in the opposite corner fluffed Marcy’s hair with each back-and-forth rotation.
A few alternatives to lying on the floor skimmed through her mind. Run. She could run for the door and… A gunshot wound didn’t rank very high up on her agenda for life experiences. She also decided this wasn’t the time to make one of her sarcastic remarks about how Leon had flipped her skirt up in junior high and squirted her hot-pink panties with a water pistol.
This wasn’t the time for anything except figuring out a way to keep breathing and make it to her thirtieth birthday two months away.
“Excuse me.” She really didn’t need to go to the bathroom. But, if that’s what it took to get out of the situation, so be it. Anything beat being held hostage. Almost anything.
The robber glanced around.
She waved her fingers from the floor. “It’s me. Marcy.”
By now, Leon would have usually blacked out if he was only drunk. Today was different, though. Today his demeanor reeked of disorientation and violence. Today he might blow her away before he realized he’d picked up a real gun instead of a toy.
She’d been around enough guns to know this was a Glock, a Luger, or something like that. Big and dangerous in the wrong hands. Leon’s were definitely the wrong hands.
Rule number…one…four? Didn’t matter what number. One of the law enforcement rules she learned from drop-dead-gorgeous JB, her almost-used-to-be husband and one heck of an FBI agent, was “don’t upset the perp. Be his friend.” She could do that. Be a friend…kind of…maybe.
She sorted through everything she’d learned in her psychology Master’s program. With a little luck, she could talk Leon down. After all, she was a marriage counselor. Even had a seventy/thirty rate of success. Of course, the seventy percent had ended in divorce.
Eyelids pinched to slits, he waved the gun in her direction. “Did you say something?”
“I said I’ve got to go pee.” She inched to a left-elbow lean. Smiled sweetly. “Please.”
A few feet away, Joanie Reynolds gave her a you’re-nuts look from where she’d fallen on a deposit from the previous evening’s receipts at Joanie’s Pizza, Pub, and Pool Room. Marcy had seen the bag of money disappear beneath her friend’s well-endowed body and knew there was no way Joanie would give up the stash without a fight.
“Nope. Go where you are.” He turned back toward the teller window.
“What do you mean ‘nope’? This is the first day I’ve worn these brand new, skinny-leg jeans. And they weren’t cheap, let me tell you.”
He turned back around, his gaze scanning her legs.
She eased to a sitting position. “You’re right about everything being so expensive nowadays. Do you know how high gas is? I mean—who can afford to drive anymore? My car’s gas mileage is a joke. What about yours?”
“Eighteen miles a gallon. You got to know how to keep your vehicle running good.” He leaned back, smiling his gap-toothed grin. Decay pitted the teeth that remained. “I got me a Chilton’s Guide to Automotives and a set of wrenches from Sears.”
She wished she hadn’t eaten those blueberry pancakes for breakfast. They weren’t exactly sitting right in the pit of her stomach. Besides which, it was time to use his momentary camaraderie to her advantage. She rolled onto her hands and knees, then crawled past Joanie toward a chair next to the counter.
He stepped over her friend and kept pace with Marcy’s slow movement. “Where you think you’re going?”
Using the seat for leverage, she pushed herself up enough to sit down in it. Her hand plucked at lint on her denim pants, and she sighed. “There, that’s better now. I think I need the next size up in these jeans. They were beginning to bind down there on the floor. Okay if I sit here?”
“Long as you don’t move around no more. Shut up, too. I got to have some quiet to think what I want to do with this here opportunity.” Brow furrowed, lips pursed to a scowl, he paced between the front door and the counter.
Marcy wished she’d paid closer attention to robber personality types in her college behavioral classes. She’d been more focused on marriage counseling—and revenge-killing profiles. Her dad had been killed by a hate-filled man with a vendetta against any FBI special agent that stepped in front of his gun. Her dad had been the first agent out the front door of the Bureau’s Regional Office building that day. She’d turned eight years old the week before he died.
Of course, she knew how Leon’s thought process worked from the few times he’d shown up at her office for court-appointed counseling. That should at least give her an edge up on the situation. Except his thinking wasn’t always great on a good day, and this was a bad day. A real bad day so far.
The new-as-of-two-weeks-ago president of the bank cowered in the corner where Leon had told him to sit. The teller on the early morning shift stood stone-still behind the counter. Except for the fact her eyes were wide open and rounded like silver dollars, she’d have looked like she was waiting for the next customer.
Outside, cars honked at the two drive-up windows. They apparently didn’t know there was a robbery in process. If they needed money for lunch today, they weren’t getting any here.
From across the room, Leon cleared his throat, waving the gun in Marcy’s direction once again. “What do you think?”
“Me?” she asked.
“Yeah. You got all them fancy degrees. What do you think I should do with this opportunity?”
Opportunity? What opportunity? He was robbing a bank. She glanced at the teller. No help there. She looked at Joanie. None there, either.
Well, hell, she might as well come up with something herself. “You’re right. A person doesn’t get many chances like this in life. You’ve got to be careful what you choose. Maybe—”
“We know you’re in there, Leon.” Deputy Evans’s voice vibrated from outside the bank through a bullhorn. “We’re gonna tow your truck if you don’t come out of there right now. I ain’t got time for your shenanigans today.”
Her uncle, Cal Davis, the Sheriff of Crayton Police Department, was out of town on a much-needed vacation until next week. He’d left Evans in charge. Nothing wrong with that, except this wasn’t one of the usual pranks Leon played around town.
Leon fiddled with the blind at the front window. Rubbing his palm against his pant leg, he appeared confused. His jerky head motions didn’t make her feel any safer, either.
Someone might get hurt before this was over. She wished her uncle was the one waiting outside in the street. In fact, she wished it was—
“You gonna come out, or do I have to come in there?” the deputy said.
Evans had a wife, three little kids, and a mother to support. Marcy had to think of something before the situation turned to tragedy.
She eased to her feet and leaned against the counter, quiet and nonchalant. “Why don’t you ask for a bullhorn of your own?”
Leon swung around. His gun arm veered up shakily as he focused on her. “What did you say?”
“Ask for a bullhorn. The teller could call to tell them you want one. She could go outside to get it for you.” At least that would be one less hostage in the bank.
“Why would I want a bullhorn when I’ve got all this money?” He lowered the gun back to his side. His head jerked repeatedly.
She glanced at Joanie, then the bank president, then the guard who hadn’t moved since he’d crashed to the floor. She realized she appeared to be the only one thinking in the room. Or the only one about to get sent straight to heaven for mouthing off.
“That way you could talk to them about what you’ll need for your getaway,” she said.
He wrinkled his forehead. Sweat beads popped on his upper lip. “Good idea. ‘Cept you make the call, and you go out to get it.”
That hadn’t gone as she planned. She nodded and made the call before heading to the front door.
Leon stepped in front of her, gun pointed at Joanie. “If you don’t come back, nobody else is leavin’. Got that?”
“Got it.”
***
                  Marcy stepped out the door into the brisk warmth of a fall morning. The clock at the corner of Third and Main struck the half hour. Her eyes scanned the scene in front of her. Two police cars stationed across the street sat silent, but their lights flashed a warning.
The stocky, sandy-haired deputy and one other cop stood behind a police cruiser directly in front of her. On her left, the tall, lean rookie crouched on the far side of the second car, his gun drawn and steadied on the top of the trunk.
Another man, likely law enforcement, although not in uniform, leaned against the far, rear fender of a car a few spots down. The man ignored the events on the street. Back to the bank and on his cell phone, he looked as if he dared anyone to bother him.
Her insides twisted when he moved away from the cruiser. Even from that angle, his six-foot-one stance and the dark-brown hair skimming the collar of his leather jacket were more than familiar. Familiar enough to make her insides zing with recognition.
Stretched taut across his back, the coat moved with him as he walked away. She knew every muscle beneath that jacket. All the scars. Didn’t need to see his face, she’d recognize those shoulders anywhere—Jean Bernard Bradley.
JB to the world. More than JB to her.
Bullhorn in hand, Deputy Evans trudged from behind the car and stepped in her direction. He looked more agitated than concerned. From the slump of his shoulders and the lines in his face, he’d probably been up for hours getting the kids ready for school while his wife fixed breakfast.
“This isn’t a prank. Leon’s got a real gun. Loaded,” she shouted as she stepped into the street.
JB stopped. Straightened. Hard-stretched his fingers a second before rolling them into fists. The moves meant he remembered her voice. He’d do whatever it took to save her. No matter what the danger. She doubted he’d changed. He’d always took the lead, took the bullet, took the victim to safety.
She had to make sure saving her didn’t get him killed. ‘Cause she damn sure couldn’t live with that. Hell, could her day get any more complicated?
He turned his head with that chin-down tilt she knew so well and zeroed in on her with a penetrating look over his shoulder. The blue of his eyes wasn’t visible from where she’d stopped, but she knew the intensity even if it had been close to three years since she’d last felt the heat. Her pulse notched up a few more beats. He always had been one gorgeous, sexy man. Nothing had changed there.
Deputy Evans ducked back behind the patrol car and reached for the radio. Backup would be on the way.
She stared at JB and said, “A real big gun. With a high-as-a-kite hand on the trigger.”
He barely nodded, but she knew he’d heard the warning.
Already he’d unzipped his jacket. In the process of shucking the coat, she saw him slide his shoulder holster off, but not before he slipped his gun behind his back. Only seconds had passed, yet he’d taken charge of the situation just as though he’d never left town. Like he was still the deputy of Crayton instead of an undercover FBI agent assigned to parts unknown.
“Evans, get down behind that car,” he said.
The deputy paused, then squared his shoulders. “My town. My responsibility.”
JB nodded, strapping on the bulletproof vest a patrolman tossed to him. “I understand. Just thought you might want the Bureau’s help. I’ve dealt with hostage situations before. Have you?”
The deputy paused only a second, then slid the horn toward JB. “The Crayton Police welcomes the FBI’s assistance.”
JB unbuttoned the sleeves on his white oxford and rolled the cuffs a couple of turns. Tugged them straight. She knew his battle mode. His routine.
Once he took on an assignment, he was tenacious. Nothing and no one got in his way. He’d get himself shot over her if they weren’t careful. Much as she didn’t want him back in her life, she couldn’t bear to think of him gone forever, either.
He scooped the bullhorn from the pavement and held his arms out to the side at shoulder level as he walked forward. When he stopped a few feet in front of her, his gaze barely scanned her face before he returned his attention to the bank building.
“How bad is it?” he asked.
“Bad. He’s all junked up on something.” She reached for the horn. “Be careful. Please be careful.”
His fingers brushed against hers as he released the horn. “Almost sounds like you care.”
“You wish!” She forced herself not to blink. If she did, she might grab him and hold on for dear life.
His eyes zeroed in on hers. What passed between them was private and personal and unspoken. She’d let him go—kicked him out, in fact—when he’d threatened to take the same job that had killed her father. Never in her wildest thoughts had she imagined he’d take her up on her offer of freedom.
One month after she’d set his suitcase on the front porch, a letter with no return address had arrived. It said he’d done everything he could to prove himself to her and he was sorry he hadn’t been good enough. . He’d told her to just send him the papers, and he’d give her her freedom. She’d called him at least once a month after that. Left voice messages asking him to return her call. No reply.
A year later, there’d been a message on her voice mail saying he’d be out-of-contact for a while. She should get on with her life. Find someone new. She could only wonder when the hell had he been in contact over the past months? A few days later, an envelope had come addressed to her. Confidential. It included a form stating she was JB’s next-of-kin, a power of attorney to make health and financial decisions for him if he was incapacitated, and an insurance policy naming her his beneficiary. She hadn’t wanted those; she’d wanted him.
That’s when she’d hired an attorney from outside Crayton and sent divorce papers. Even scribbled in bright red ink “Come home or sign these papers” across the top of the first page. Thought that would force him to make a decision. It had worked. He’d signed the papers and sent them back with a black-marker line slashed through the “Come home” part. That was the last she’d heard from him until now.
“Don’t go back inside.” The corner of JB’s mouth twitched as he refocused his attention on the bank door. “I’ll take one step forward and to the right. You jump behind me.”
“I can’t. Joanie’s in there, plus three others. Leon said he would shoot them if I didn’t return.”
“Leon may be a bully, even mean, but that doesn’t sound like something he’d do.” JB’s stare remained fixed across the street.
“Most days, I’d agree. Not today. He’s juiced. Head shakes. Crazy eyes. Sweating.” She lingered a second. “Don’t go getting yourself killed before I can give you a piece of my mind.”
A hint of a smile jerked at the corners of his mouth before he clenched his jaws. “Wouldn’t dream of it.”
Damn it to hell, even after all this time, he still made her insides quiver with just a few words. Why hadn’t he come home and talked before he signed the divorce papers? Her uncle had told her it was the way she’d pushed JB away—the whole packing his bag and leaving it on the front porch deal. That’s all he would say. To this day, she still didn’t know what that meant.
But she’d decided if that’s the way JB wanted it, then it was okay with her. She’d done just fine on her own the past few years. She would continue to make it without his help…except for now. She’d be more than grateful if he could get her out of this situation without getting either one of them hurt.
She walked back to the open bank door and stepped inside. Leon grabbed her from behind, shielding himself with her body as he stood in the doorway.
“Hold that bullhorn up to my mouth.” His grip wrenched tighter across her chest and shoulders. He wrapped his arm around her and forced her further outside to the edge of the sidewalk.
Her hand shook as she raised her arm. JB still stood where she’d left him.
“Press that damn speak button before I blow your lover boy away,” Leon hissed in her ear. “You think I don’t know who he is?”
She searched the metal with her fingers for the button. “It’s on. Don’t do anything foolish. It’s on.”
His gun arm straightened as he aimed at JB. “Back off,” he shouted, “or I’ll shoot you where you stand.”
JB didn’t move except to slide a hand behind his back.
Her uncle had once told her about a hostage who’d stood so still, the SWAT team was able to take the shot at a kidnapper. Right now, that was all she could think about. Stand stone-still.
Leon swung the gun back at her. “Maybe I’ll shoot your off-again, on-again, off-again wife. What about that?”
JB backed all the way to the patrol car. “Far enough?”
***
                  JB focused on Marcy. At five-foot-six and what still looked to be one-hundred-thirty pounds, she wasn’t much of a shield for Leon’s frame. She didn’t move. Good girl.
Taking a shot at the bully wouldn’t serve any purpose. Not as long as there was a chance he could talk him down. His gun would be the last resort.
This wasn’t the way he’d planned on seeing Marcy again. In fact, he’d hoped to be in and out of town before she even got wind he was around. So much for that plan. Three years was a long time, and he’d learned how to live without her. Still, he wouldn’t stand by and see her hurt, either.
Leon shoved the gun against the side of her head. “No. All the way to the building behind you.”
After feeling his way around the hood of the car, JB continued backwards until the cold brick of the building bit into his shoulders. She’d been right. Leon’s haggard look spoke of bad home brew mixed with meth or something stronger.
Coming back to Crayton had been a mistake, but his dad’s estate needed to be settled. The thought of handling everything by mail had entered his mind, but his undercover assignments weren’t all that conducive to signing papers with a notary. He’d learned that with the divorce. So here he was, caught between what might have been and the reality of Marcy with a gun pointed at her head.
The drugged-out man’s day was about to get a whole lot worse if he hurt her. JB would take him out in a flash and make it look like self-defense. FBI training might have been intense, but in-the-field operations had taught him things not mentioned in Quantico’s hallowed halls. Like how far he’d go to stay alive. Or to save someone he loved. Had loved, in this case.
Leon leaned forward and set Marcy on her feet. Yanked back a handful of her auburn hair. A quick flash of fear shadowed her face as she gasped. He laughed, low and menacing.
Right now she looked like a small, defenseless woman. JB knew different. She could be a hellcat when she wanted. Her eyes, the color of dark chocolate, held fear today instead of their usual warmth. He didn’t like that. Didn’t like it one bit.
“Hey, JB, I think I’ll have me a little taste of what you had.” Leon yanked harder on her hair, then leaned in and licked her cheek from her chin to her forehead. “Not bad. Maybe I’ll have a little more once we get out of town.”
The sonofabitch had no idea how close he was to being blown away. All JB needed to do was roll and yank the gun from his back waistband. Gun up, pull the trigger, gun down. Situation resolved.
His insides edged in that direction, but his training said negotiate. Try another tactic.
Marcy closed her eyes and flinched. She clenched her fingers around the metal of the horn. JB knew she was afraid now. Mad and afraid. Not a good combination for her.
The veins on JB’s forearms pulsed to attention, and the muscles in his biceps hardened like steel. “You’re okay, Marcy. You hear me? I’ve got you.”
Her body eased as she opened her eyes and stared into his. The expression on her face softened. Even her lips had tipped upward, parted a bit. He knew that look. Surrender. Trust. Come what may, she’d put herself in his hands. He tore his focus from her. Cemented it on the man with the gun.
He relaxed into the role of negotiator. “What do you want, Leon?”
The bully waved his gun around. “A truck. And…a…a…bag of money.”
“Okay. You want a Ford or a GMC or—”
“Ford. A black Ford. And two bags money. Two big bags.”
“If we give you the pickup truck, what do we get in return?” JB stood away from the wall, took a couple steps forward.
Marcy closed her eyes again. Not in a fearful way, JB realized, but so as not to distract him.
Leon tightened his grip on her. “That bank guy. I’ll give you the bank man.”
“Why not Marcy?” JB took a couple more steps. “She’s already outside.”
“No! She’s mine.” Leon jerked his gaze upward as if caught by a movement. “I’m gonna—”
A shot rang out. Leon’s body recoiled, and she lurched to the side as his hold released. She screamed as he crumbled.
“Who fired that shot?” Gun drawn, JB vaulted over the hood of the patrol car and raced toward her. “Hold your fire.”
She turned to him, and a second shot echoed through the air. A cry of anguish escaped her mouth as a bright red trickle snaked down her arm where the bullet had grazed her. His back to the line of fire, JB caught her before her legs bent and cradled her in his arms. He knelt, shielding her with his body. Her head flung back, and her eyes went half-lidded. Was she reacting to the sight of her own blood or a wound he hadn’t seen?
He clutched her hand. “I’m here, sugar. Hold on.”
She responded with a soft press of her fingers.
Another bullet clipped through the air. Ricocheted off the concrete. Crashed through his shoulder. Her body sagged, wilted.
“Marcy? Marcy!”
He felt like the shots were directed at them instead of Leon. Why? The force of his fear for her grabbed his heart and shoved it into his throat. He scanned the area for a safe, quick path to a barrier. Nothing. Moving was not an option.
What had he heard? Silencer. What had he seen? Nothing so far. Of course, the silencer could lower the flash. This wasn’t the police taking shots. This was a sniper. The rifle scope might be off, or the guy might be nervous shooting in such a confined area, or maybe this was his first job as a hired gun, but there was one thing for sure—the guy was a damn pro.
Who in this sleepy, little town had that kind of training except for the police? And, him?
Who?
Synopsis: Three years ago, Marcy Bradley let the man she loved go so he could follow his career dream of being an FBI agent. She sent divorce papers. He signed. She never filed them.

With a killer after them, Marcy and JB run for their lives, escaping to a lakeside cabin. Their love is rekindled, and JB realizes they’re still married, but will there be time for their passion amidst the explosions and gunshots?


My Thoughts
Risk of a Lifetime is a story that is all about the action from the very start.  In fact that is what makes the story.  JB and Marcy as people and as a couple can be rather maddening to read.  He is trying to give her what she wants...and she is blaming him for wanting the career that he loves.
He is still trying to be there for her all through the book, and what does she do?  Hide. Make excuses. Lie.  See...maddening right?
While the romance may be a little hit or miss here, the action and plot twists are spot on.

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Author Bio: Award-winning author Claudia Shelton thought she wrote mainstream when she began writing, but before long, someone told her she sounded more like romance. Then those pesky alpha heroes and the women strong enough to love them, started running through her mind insisting she write their own happily-ever-after. Since then, she's focused on HEA with a splash of suspense or intrigue, becoming a two-time finalist in the Daphne Du Maurier (Unpublished) awards for excellence in mystery and suspense. During her downtime from writing, you'll find her sipping a cup of cocoa in winter's chill or enjoying a drink by the water in summer's heat--either way, she's always enjoying life. Her novel RISK OF A LIFETIME releases April 2014.