GILT: All Fall Down by Geneva Lee – Chapter Reveal

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Today we are sharing chapter one from GILT: ALL FALL DOWN by Geneva Lee. GILT: All Fall Down is a romantic suspense title, that is the third, and final, book in the GILT series. It will be released on October 31st! Be sure to check out the links below to pre-order and to purchase previous titles in this series.

 

 

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GILT: All Fall Down by Geneva Lee

Gilt Series, #3

Coming October 31st!

 

Book Blurb:

The stunning final book in the Gilt series. In Belle Mére, sin and secrets go hand in hand, but when what happens in Vegas doesn’t stay there, no twisted secret will be safe. Everyone here has something to hide and a lot more to loose, including their lives.

When the Dealer plays his card, will they all fall down?


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CHAPTER ONE:

Chances are choices or something like that. Take for instance opening a door to find the last person you expect on the other side. You might choose to shut the door or feign surprise. A kinder person might give the guilty party across from them a gracious out.

But no one has ever accused me of being nice.

“Monroe.” I greet her by the name I know her as when she flies into the room. Then I remember myself. “I mean, May.”

May West. There’s a certain poetry to it. I wonder if she was being clever or if she’d unintentionally chosen such an infamous alias. Her usually stick-straight hair waves into soft curls over her shoulders and she’s wearing enough eyeshadow to make a porn star blush. She’s gone from looking like an entitled seventeen year-old Houser to passing for a hard-used twenty-five-year-old showgirl. If we weren’t standing so closely I might not have recognized her as my fellow classmate, boyfriend’s sister, and, dare I add, psychotic bitch? We’d made some minor progress on that front of late but something told me this less than chance encounter would put us right back at square one.

Monroe tugs up the silver, sequined tube masquerading as a dress and glares at me. I have to give her credit. The momentary flash of fear that I’d spotted when I opened the door is hidden behind a mask of annoyance.

“How much?” she asks through gritted teeth.

“I thought I was the one who paid you.” I lean against the hotel door, closing it behind us. As soon as the lock clicks her eyes narrow.

“I’m not interested in your little jokes,” she hisses. “Tell me how much you need to keep quiet.”

I blow a stream of air between my lips. “A pony. The lost city of Atlantis. Maybe a trip to see the Wizard.”

I don’t suffer from any misconceptions. If the situation were reversed, the Wicked Bitch of the West, aka my darling Monroe, wouldn’t hesitate to blast the news of my fall from virtue to every student at Belle Mére Prep. But I’m not here for that. I’d come to this hotel room for one reason: The Dealer had led me here. A few days ago a mysterious new photo had shown up on The Dealer’s feed. I hadn’t expected it to lead me to an escort agency. When I’d realized where I was I’d gambled and pretended to be interested in a job. The ploy had worked, granting me enough time to schedule an appointment with May. The only clue The Dealer had attached to his post.

But why lead me here? What did Monroe’s extracurricular activities have to do with the night that Nathaniel West died. I thought the purpose of the Instagram account was to expose the killer. I’m not so certain anymore. Unless The Dealer’s plan is simply to disgrace each of us as thoroughly as possible.

Monroe steps closer to me, jabbing a finger in my chest. “How did you even find out?”

I sidle away and walk toward the minibar. Grabbing two tiny bottles of West Tennessee Whiskey I toss her one. She can play it cool but I know she needs liquid courage as much as I do.

She rolls her eyes when she reads the label and sashays over. “I prefer gin.”

“Doesn’t your family own West Tennessee Whiskey?” I ask as I screw off the cap and down mine in a single gulp. It blazes down my throat, lighting a fire in my stomach.

“Yes, but my family owns everything.” There’s a brittle edge in her words but she swallows it down along with her shot of gin.

“What are you doing?” I ask her and suddenly this isn’t an interrogation. I’m not trying to pry information out of here. Instead I find myself wanting to shake her. I may have no love for Monroe West, but I know what this would do to her family. I liked her mother, but I was in love with her brother. With everything the two of them have been through this year, this might destroy the fragile threads holding their family together.

“Why would you care?”

That’s a cry for help if I’ve ever heard one. “Because The Dealer sent me here, which means that anyone else who’s following his posts could have opened that door.”

It’s only a matter of time before the police and FBI caught on to the account. That would be bad enough but the handful of people already following the mysterious feed wanted to know the identity of our friendly neighborhood stalker, too. The Dealer hasn’t been posting our proudest moments so no one has started sharing the pictures—yet.

“What does he have on you?” she asks, her eyes flash as if something important has finally occurred to her.

So much for hoping that Monroe is as smart as she looks. I’d had my suspicions that the blonde, air-head heiress act was for show, now I know it is. If I’m following The Dealer closely enough to wind up here it’s not out of curiosity.

I shrug. Two blondes can play dumb.

“Maybe the proof that Mackey is looking for.” She pours another glass, but she doesn’t down it this time. Sipping thoughtfully, she watches me for a sign that she’s right.

“Sorry to disappoint you, but he’s got nothing.” None of the photos on the feed seemed directed at me, but plenty of them focused on people around me. Of course, the company I keep has as good as convicted me in the eyes of the FBI. “I know what it will take for me to keep quiet.”

“Yes?” she snaps. For a second, I’d almost swear her eyes flash a demonic red but that’s probably just me.

“The truth.” If Monroe expects me to keep quiet about this discovery than I’m going to need to know why she’s doing it in the first place.

“The truth is in short supply these days.” She drops into a chair and stares out the window at the sparkling city lights. Even in the daylight, Vegas flashes its best smile, calling tourists to come hither with promises of good luck and good fortune. Monroe’s gaze grows distant as if she’s as lost to this city as anyone else.

“Why?” I continue. “You have everything. Why throw it away?”

“You think I’m throwing it away?” Her head whips around so she can glare directly at me. “Do you know what Vegas is? A place for dreamers. It’s easy to lose your way here. Ask your daddy.”

“Ask yours,” I counter coldly.

She flinches but shrugs it off with a hollow laugh. Flipping her hair over her shoulder, she goes on. “You can either lose yourself or you can make yourself.”

I’m pretty certain that Monroe West already has it made, but I keep the thought to myself. If I keep provoking her, I’ll never get my answer.

“My father made himself into a mogul. Everyone expects me to spend the rest of my life in the spa or shopping. I don’t have to work.” Her eyes flicker over to check if I’m listening. I nod for her to continue. “But I don’t want to be another parasitic heiress. God knows the world has enough of those.”

“You want to be a hooker instead?” The question slips out, and I clamp my mouth shut. When you operate at my level of sarcasm, it’s hard to contain it.

“I’m not a hooker,” she says with a withering look.

“Escort,” I correct myself, tacking on a “sorry.”

“My father made his fortune on gamblers. He made money on money. Jameson gets to take over that empire. No work. No hardship. It’s just his.”

“I doubt he sees it that way.”Defensiveness flares in my chest at the mention of my boyfriend.

“Of course not. He, like most men, has the luxury of being able to complain about his circumstances while still taking advantage of them.” She wags her finger at the space between us. “We don’t.”

Now I’m in the same class as Monroe? Will wonders never cease? Although, I don’t expect that our two girl Breakfast Club is going to meet again after we leave this room.

“There’s plenty of money in Vegas. It’s almost an insult to make money on money.”

“So you’re going to make money off sex?” I guess.

“I’m going to build my empire on sex,” she corrects me. “The youngest madame in Vegas history. I’ve learned the trade from some of the best, and let’s face it, I’m well-educated.”

I thought back to English class. I suppose you don’t need a spectacular grasp of the classics to run an escort agency.

“I won’t have any competition.” She leaves the last statement lingering in the air as bait.

I bite. “And why is that?”

“Because they’ll all be terrified that I’ll reveal that they employed me while I was underage. Instead I’ll get to play the part of business savant,” she concludes.

She already has the part of idiot down, I think.

Monroe studies me for a moment. No doubt wondering what I think of her now. “If things don’t work out with Jameson, I might have a job for you.”

“I don’t think we should be in business together,” I say dryly. Having Monroe as my high school enemy and my pimp is a bit much to swallow.

“You know where to find me,” she says, unfazed. “If you’ll excuse me, I have better things to do with my day and you must have…something to do with yours.”

Like your brother.

When she leaves I settle onto the bed and stare at the ceiling above. Various shapes emerge from the spackle like pieces of a mysterious puzzle. There was one question I didn’t think to ask Monroe: why would The Dealer want to out her? I’m beginning to question if my eyes were playing tricks on me before. I check my phone for a response but there is none. When I open Instagram, the photo is gone.

It looks like The Dealer got my message and made a move after all. It should be a victory but instead it feels like I’ve painted a big target on my back.

My sandals click across the marble floor of the West Resort lobby. Slot machines ring out in the distance and even here I can taste the stale cigarette smoke from the casino floor. It’s the same as every hotel and casino in this town. Arguably a little nicer than most. So why is it the current epicenter for crime in a city that’s no stranger to vice?

This is where the mystery began for me. Is this where it started for a murderer as well? It’s hard to believe that months have passed since the deadly party that dragged me into this world. I hadn’t even wanted to go, but my best friend, Josie, who desperately wants to be in with the cool crowd, shanghaied me into attending Monroe West’s end of the year party. It was supposed to be a celebration of the last day of our junior year—one that I wasn’t invited to attend.

We crashed, and I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t enjoy the look on Monroe’s face when she caught me. The two of us had never gotten along, especially after Monroe screwed my boyfriend in front of half of our freshman class. It had been war between the two of us ever since, and trespassing on her party was a declaration of battle. I’d wanted to leave after the confrontation, but instead of tracking down Josie, I met someone. He was a stranger, but something about him put me at ease. We’d spent the night together. Not in the Biblical sense but pretty damn close. The next morning he was gone.

As if waking up alone in my best enemy’s house wasn’t bad enough, I’d been forced to hitch a ride with my ex-boyfriend, Jonas, and his smarmy best friend, Hugo. I thought that was the end to a night I’d rather forget—until news broke out that Nathaniel West had been murdered.

The prime suspects? Everyone who’d been at his daughter’s party. I might have gotten away with a simple questioning until I found out that the guy I’d shacked up with that night was Jameson West—the heir to the West fortune and the victim’s son. Obviously I have questionable taste in men. Not as strange as my best friend, Josie’s penchant for older men, a vice that sent her to some dude’s hotel room and left me needing an alibi.

Jameson was everyone’s number one suspect, even mine. Especially after he started showing up wherever I was. Despite his stalker tendencies, I decided to find out for myself. I never expected to fall in love with him.

I know he’s innocent, but that hasn’t removed either of us from suspicion in the eyes of the FBI. So when a mysterious Instagram account ran by someone known only as The Dealer started posting incriminating photos of Belle Mere Prep’s most likely to be a murderer list, I took it upon myself to investigate. I need to clear our names, and I can only do that if I figure out who killed Nathaniel West.

—————————

PREVIOUS BOOK IN THE SERIES

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GILT: By Invitation Only (Gilt Series, #1)

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GILT: Sin Never Sleeps (Gilt Series, #2)

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

 

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Geneva Lee is the New York Times, USA Today, and Internationally bestselling author of the Royals Saga. She likes writing steamy scenes almost as much as imagining crazy ways to torture her characters. Geneva travels frequently, never says no to champagne, and spends more time with fictional people than living, breathing ones. She lives her husband and two children.

 

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K.A. Tucker’s HE WILL BE MY RUIN – Release Week Blitz

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We are so excited to bring you the Release Week Blitz for K.A. Tucker’s HE WILL BE MY RUIN! HE WILL BE MY RUIN is a Suspense novel, published by Atria books, an Imprint of Simon & Schuster, being released on February 2, 2016! Grab your copy of this suspenseful read today and see what everyone is talking about!

 

 

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 Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo 

IndieBound | Book Depository | Audible

 

 

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About HE WILL BE MY RUIN:

The USA TODAY bestselling author of the Ten Tiny Breaths and Burying Water series makes her suspense debut with this sexy, heartpounding story of a young woman determined to find justice after her best friend’s death, a story pulsing with the “intense, hot, emotional” (Colleen Hoover) writing that exhilarates her legions of fans.

A woman who almost had it all . . .

On the surface, Celine Gonzalez had everything a twenty-eight-year-old woman could want: a one-bedroom apartment on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, a job that (mostly) paid the bills, and an acceptance letter to the prestigious Hollingsworth Institute of Art, where she would finally live out her dream of becoming an antiques appraiser for a major auction house. All she had worked so hard to achieve was finally within her reach. So why would she kill herself?

A man who was supposed to be her salvation . . .

Maggie Sparkes arrives in New York City to pack up what’s left of her best friend’s belongings after a suicide that has left everyone stunned. The police have deemed the evidence conclusive: Celine got into bed, downed a lethal cocktail of pills and vodka, and never woke up. But when Maggie discovers a scandalous photograph in a lock box hidden in Celine’s apartment, she begins asking questions. Questions about the man Celine fell in love with. The man she never told anyone about, not even Maggie. The man Celine believed would change her life.

Until he became her ruin.

On the hunt for evidence that will force the police to reopen the case, Maggie uncovers more than she bargained for about Celine’s private life—and inadvertently puts herself on the radar of a killer. A killer who will stop at nothing to keep his crimes undiscovered.

 

 

 

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Author pic - KA TuckerAbout K.A. Tucker:

Born in small-town Ontario, K.A. Tucker published her first book at the age of six with the help of her elementary school librarian and a box of crayons. She currently resides in a quaint town outside of Toronto with her husband, two beautiful girls, and an exhausting brood of four-legged creatures.

 

 

 

 

 

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K.A. Tucker’s HE WILL BE MY RUIN – Review & Excerpt Tour

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We are absolutely thrilled to bring you the Review & Excerpt Tour for K.A. Tucker’s HE WILL BE MY RUIN! HE WILL BE MY RUIN is a K.A. Tucker’s first suspense novel, published by Atria books, an Imprint of Simon & Schuster, and is set to be released February 2, 2016!

 

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K.A. Tucker’s HE WILL BE MY RUIN – Review & Excerpt Tour Schedule:

January 25th

Wrapped Up In Reading – Review & Excerpt

Bookaholics Reading Haven – Review & Excerpt

For The Love of Fictional Worlds – Review & Excerpt

Krista’s Dust Jacket – Review & Excerpt

Lost in Literature – Review & Excerpt

Myriad Inklings – Review & Excerpt

TSK TSK What to Read – Review & Excerpt

January 26th

thebookdragon – Review & Excerpt

The Book Hookup – Review & Excerpt

Reading Addict – Review & Excerpt

No BS Book Reviews – Review & Excerpt

Confessions of a YA and NA Book Addict – Review & Excerpt

Book Angel Booktopia – Review & Excerpt

Latte Nights Reviews – Review & Excerpt

January 27th

Blushing Babes Are Up All Night Book Blog – Review & Excerpt

Dark Faerie Tales – Review & Excerpt

Ficwishes – Review & Excerpt

Reviews by Tammy and Kim – Review & Excerpt

Smut Book Junkie Book Reviews – Review & Excerpt

The Review Loft – Review & Excerpt

Three Girls and a Book Obsession – Review & Excerpt

January 28th

Reading is Sexy – Review & Excerpt

Novel Ink – Review & Excerpt

Four Chicks Flipping Pages – Review & Excerpt

Desert Divas Book Addiction – Review & Excerpt

Curled Up and Cozy – Review & Excerpt

Obsessive Book Nerd – Review & Excerpt

January 29th

Adventures in Writing – Excerpt

All Romance Reviews – Review & Excerpt

Grownupfangirl – Review & Excerpt

Love Affair With Fiction – Review & Excerpt

Typical Distractions – Review & Excerpt

Up All Night Book Addict – Review & Excerpt

January 30th

Art, Books, & Coffee – Review & Excerpt

Book Baristas – Review & Excerpt

Girl Plus Books – Review & Excerpt

The Phantom Paragrapher – Review & Excerpt

Stormy Nights Reviewing &Bloggin’ – Review & Excerpt

Cocktails and Books – Review & Excerpt

January 31st

Vera is Reading – Review & Excerpt

A Bookish Escape – Review & Excerpt

Her Book Thoughts – Review & Excerpt

Naughty and Nice Book Blog – Review & Excerpt

PBC – Review & Excerpt

MysteriesEtc – Review & Excerpt

February 1st

Southern Belle Book Blog – Excerpt

Rock Hard Romance – Review & Excerpt

Book Bitches Blog – Review & Excerpt

Four Brits and a Book – Review & Excerpt

Red Cheeks Reads – Review & Excerpt

Short and Sassy Book Blurbs – Review & Excerpt

The Reading Date – Review & Excerpt

February 2nd

Oh The Book Feels – Excerpt

Books to Breathe – Excerpt

Vi3tbabe – Review & Excerpt

Read Love Blog – Review & Excerpt

Mean Girls Luv Books – Review & Excerpt

Literati Literature Lovers – Review & Excerpt

February 3rd

I Read Indie – Review & Excerpt

2 girls who love books – Review & Excerpt

BFD Book Blog – Review & Excerpt

The Book Bellas – Review & Excerpt

Sanaa’s Book Blog – Review & Excerpt

Brandie is a Book Junkie – Review & Excerpt

Got More Books – Review & Excerpt

February 4th

Book Lovers Hangout – Review & Excerpt

Author Groupies – Review & Excerpt

Books I Think You Should Read – Review & Excerpt

Bridger Bitches Book Blog – Review & Excerpt

Collector of book boyfriends – Review & Excerpt

The Book Avenue – Review & Excerpt

Shayna Renee’s Spicy Reads – Review & Excerpt

Book Babes Unite – Review & Excerpt

February 5th

The Book Hoarders – Review & Excerpt

Once Upon a Book Blog – Review & Excerpt

Itching for Books – Review & Excerpt

Liezel’s Book Blog – Review & Excerpt

Have Book Will Read – Review & Excerpt

Our Kindle Konfessions – Review & Excerpt

In Between The Pages – Review & Excerpt

LuLo Fangirl – Review & Excerpt

Nose Stuck In A Book – Review & Excerpt

 He Will Be My Ruin -tour teaser 1

 

 

About HE WILL BE MY RUIN:

The USA TODAY bestselling author of the Ten Tiny Breaths and Burying Water series makes her suspense debut with this sexy, heartpounding story of a young woman determined to find justice after her best friend’s death, a story pulsing with the “intense, hot, emotional” (Colleen Hoover) writing that exhilarates her legions of fans.

A woman who almost had it all . . .

On the surface, Celine Gonzalez had everything a twenty-eight-year-old woman could want: a one-bedroom apartment on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, a job that (mostly) paid the bills, and an acceptance letter to the prestigious Hollingsworth Institute of Art, where she would finally live out her dream of becoming an antiques appraiser for a major auction house. All she had worked so hard to achieve was finally within her reach. So why would she kill herself?

A man who was supposed to be her salvation . . .

Maggie Sparkes arrives in New York City to pack up what’s left of her best friend’s belongings after a suicide that has left everyone stunned. The police have deemed the evidence conclusive: Celine got into bed, downed a lethal cocktail of pills and vodka, and never woke up. But when Maggie discovers a scandalous photograph in a lock box hidden in Celine’s apartment, she begins asking questions. Questions about the man Celine fell in love with. The man she never told anyone about, not even Maggie. The man Celine believed would change her life.

Until he became her ruin.

On the hunt for evidence that will force the police to reopen the case, Maggie uncovers more than she bargained for about Celine’s private life—and inadvertently puts herself on the radar of a killer. A killer who will stop at nothing to keep his crimes undiscovered.

 

 

He Will Be My Ruin -tour teaser 2

 

Author PhotoAbout K.A. Tucker:

Born in small-town Ontario, K.A. Tucker published her first book at the age of six with the help of her elementary school librarian and a box of crayons. She currently resides in a quaint town outside of Toronto with her husband, two beautiful girls, and an exhausting brood of four-legged creatures.

 

 

 

 

 

Website ** Twitter ** Facebook **Novel Goodreads ** Author Goodreads ** YouTube ** Pinterest ** Instagram

 

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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K.A. Tucker’s HE WILL BE MY RUIN Prologue and Chapter One Reveal

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We are absolutely thrilled to be able to bring you the Prologue and Chapter 1 Reveal for K.A. Tucker’s HE WILL BE MY RUIN! HE WILL BE MY RUIN is a Romantic Suspense novel, published by Atria books, an Imprint of Simon & Schuster, and is set to be released February 2, 2016!

 

 

He Will Be My Ruin - cover

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo 

IndieBound | Book Depository | Audible

 

K.A. Tucker’s HE WILL BE MY RUIN – Prologue and Chapter One:

Prologue

Maggie

December 23, 2015

My wrists burn.

Hours of trying to break free of the rope that binds my hands behind my back have left them raw, the rough cord scrubbing away my skin and cutting into my flesh. I’m sure I’ll have unsightly scars.

Not that it will matter when I’m dead.

I resigned myself to that reality around the time that I finally let go of my bladder. Now I simply lie here, in a pool of urine and vomit, my teeth numb from knocking with each bump in the road, my body frozen by the cold.

Trying to ignore the darkness as I fight against the panic that consumes me. I could suffocate from the anxiety alone.

He knows that.

Now he’s exploiting it. That must be what he does—he uncovers your secrets, your fears, your flaws—and he uses them against you. He did it to Celine.

And now he’s doing it to me.

That’s why I’m in a cramped trunk, my lungs working overtime against a limited supply of oxygen while my imagination runs wild with what may be waiting for me at the end of this ride.

My racing heart ready to explode.

The car hits an especially deep pothole, rattling my bones. I’ve been trapped in here for so long. Hours. Days. I have no idea. Long enough to run through every mistake that I made.

How I trusted him, how I fell for his charm, how I believed his lies. How I made it so easy for him to do this to me.

How Celine made it so easy for him, by letting him get close.

Before he killed her.

Just like he’s going to kill me.

 

Chapter 1

Maggie

November 30, 2015

The afternoon sun beams through the narrow window, casting a warm glow over Celine’s floral comforter.

It would be inviting, only her body was found in this very bed just thirteen days ago.

“Maggie?”

“Yeah,” I respond without actually turning around, my gaze taking in the cramped bedroom before me. I’ve never been a fan of New York City and all its overpriced boroughs. Too big, too busy, too pretentious. Take this Lower East Side apartment, for example, on the third floor of a drafty building built in the 1800s, with a ladder of shaky fire escapes facing the side alley and a kitschy gelato café downstairs. It costs more per month than the average American hands the bank in mortgage payments.

And Celine adored it.

“I’m in 410 if you just . . . want to come and find me.”

I finally turn and acknowledge the building super—a chestnut-haired English guy around thirty by my guess, with a layer of scruff over his jawline and faded blue jeans—edging toward the door. Given the apartment is 475 square feet, it doesn’t take him long to reach it.

I think he gave me his name but I wasn’t listening. I’ve barely said two words since I met him in front of Celine’s apartment, armed with a stack of cardboard flats and trash bags. An orchestra of clocks that softly tick away claim that that was nearly half an hour ago. I’ve simply stood here since then, feeling the brick-exposed walls—lined with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves and filled with the impressive collection of treasures that Celine had amassed over her twenty-eight years—closing in on me.

But now I feel the need to speak. “You were the one who let the police in?” Celine never missed work, never arrived late. That’s why, after not showing up for two days and not answering her phone or her door, her coworker finally called the cops.

The super nods.

“You saw her?”

His eyes flicker to the thin wall that divides the bedroom from the rest of the apartment—its only purpose is to allow the building’s owner to charge rent for a “one-bedroom” instead of a studio. There’s not even enough room for a door. Yes, he saw her body. “She seemed really nice,” he offers, his throat turning scratchy, shifting on his feet. He’d rather be unplugging a shit-filled toilet than be here right now. I don’t blame him. “Uh . . . So you can just slide the key through the mail slot in my door when you’re finished, if you want? I’ll be home later tonight to grab it.”

Under different circumstances, I’d find his accent charming. “I’ll be staying here for a while.”

He frowns. “You can’t—”

“Yeah, I can,” I snap, cutting his objection off. “We’re on the hook with the lease until the end of January, right? So don’t even think of telling me that I can’t.” I’m in no rush to empty this place out so some jackass landlord can rent it next month and pocket my money. Plus . . . My gaze drifts over the living room again. I just need to be in Celine’s presence for a while, even if she’s not here anymore.

“Of course. I’m just . . .” He bites his bottom lip as if to stall a snippy response. When he speaks again, his tone is back to soft. “The mattress, the bedding, it’ll all need to be replaced. I would have already pitched it for you, but I figured that it wasn’t my call to make. I pulled the blanket up to cover the mess and tried to air the place out, but . . .”

I sigh shakily, the tension making my body as taut as a wire. I’m the only jackass around here. “Right. I’m sorry.” I inhale deeply. The linen air freshener can’t completely mask the smell. Her body lay in that bed for two days.

Dead.

Decomposing.

“I’ll be fine with the couch until I can get a new mattress delivered.” It’ll be more than fine, seeing as I’ve been sleeping on a thin bedroll on a dirt floor in Ethiopia for the past three months. At least there’s running water here, and I’m not sharing the room with two other people. Or rats, hopefully.

“I can probably get a bloke in here to help me carry it out if you want,” he offers, sliding hands into his pockets as he slowly shifts backward.

“Thank you.” I couple my contrite voice with a smile and watch the young super exit, pulling the door shut behind him.

My gaze drifts back to the countless shelves. I haven’t been to visit Celine in New York in over two years; we always met in California, the state where we grew up. “My, you’ve been busy,” I whisper. Celine always did have a love for the old and discarded, and she had a real eye for it. She’d probably seen every last episode of Antiques Roadshow three times over. She was supposed to start school this past September to get her MA in art business, with plans to become an appraiser. She delayed enrollment, for some reason.

But she never told me that. I found out through her mother just last week.

Her apartment looks more like a bursting vintage shop than a place someone would live. It’s well organized at least—all her trinkets grouped effectively. Entire shelves are dedicated to elaborate teacups, others to silver tea sets, genuine hand-cut crystal glassware, ornate clocks and watches, hand-painted tiles, and so on. Little side tables hold stained-glass lamps and more clocks and her seemingly endless collection of art history books. On the few walls not lined with shelves, an eclectic mix of artwork fills the space.

Very few things in here aren’t antique or vintage. The bottles of Ketel One, Maker’s Mark, and Jägermeister lined up on a polished brass bar cart. Her computer and a stack of hardcover books, sitting on a worn wooden desk that I’d expect to find in an old elementary schoolhouse. Even the two-foot-tall artificial Christmas tree has well-aged ornaments dangling from its branches.

I wander aimlessly, my hands beginning to touch and test. A slight pull of the desk drawer finds it locked, with no key anywhere, from what I can see. I run a finger along the spine of a leather-bound edition of The Taming of the Shrew on a shelf. Not a speck of dust. Celine couldn’t stand disorder. Every single nutcracker faces out, equidistant from the next, shortest in front, tallest in back, as if she measured them with a ruler and placed them just so.

Being enclosed in this organized chaos makes me antsy. Or maybe that’s my own ultra-minimalist preferences coming out.

I sigh and drop my purse onto the couch. My phone goes next, but not before I send a text to my personal assistant, Taryn, to ask that she arrange for a firm double mattress to be delivered to Celine’s address. Then I power the phone off before she can respond with unnecessary questions. I’ve had it on silent since my plane landed in San Diego five days ago for the funeral. Even with two proficient assistants handling my organization’s affairs while I’m dealing with my best friend’s death, the stupid thing hasn’t stopped vibrating.

They can all wait for me, while I figure out where to begin here.

I know I have a lot of paperwork to get to the lawyer. All estate proceeds will eventually go to Celine’s mother, Rosa, but she doesn’t want a dime. She’s already demanded that I sell off anything I don’t want to keep for myself and use the money for one of my humanitarian efforts in her daughter’s name.

I could tell Rosa was still in shock, because she has always been a collector by nature—that’s where Celine got it from—and it surprised me that she wouldn’t want to keep at least some of her daughter’s treasures for herself. But she was adamant and I was not going to argue. I’ll just quietly pack a few things that I think would mean a lot to her and have them shipped to San Diego.

Seeing Celine’s apartment now, though, I realize that selling is going to take forever. I’m half-tempted to dump everything into boxes for charity, guesstimate the value, and write a check. But that would belittle all the evenings and weekends that Celine devoted to hunting antique shops, garage sales, and ignorant sellers for her next perfect treasure.

My attention lands on the raw wood plank shelf that floats over a mauve suede couch, banked by silky curtains and covered with an eclectic mix of gilded frames filled with pictures from Celine’s childhood. Most of them are of her and her mom. Some are of just her. Four include me.

I smile as I ease one down, of Celine and me at the San Diego Zoo. I was twelve, she was eleven. Even then she was striking, her olive skin tanned from a summer by the pool. Next to her, my pale Welsh skin always looked sickly.

I first met Celine when I was five. My mom had hired her mother, Rosa Gonzalez, as a housekeeper and nanny, offering room and board for both her and her four-year-old daughter. We had had a string of nannies come and go, my mother never satisfied with their work ethic. But Rosa came highly recommended. It’s so hard to find good help, I remember overhearing my mother say to her friends once. They applauded her generosity with Rosa, that she was not only taking in a recent immigrant from Mexico, but her child as well.

The day Celine stepped into my parents’ palatial house in La Jolla, she did so with wide brown eyes, her long hair the color of cola in braided pigtails and adorned in giant blue bows, her frilly blue-and-white dress and matching socks like something out of The Wizard of Oz. Celine would divulge to me later on that it was the only dress she owned, purchased from a thrift shop, just for this special occasion.

Rosa and Celine lived with us for ten years, and my daily routines quickly became Celine’s daily routines. The chauffeur would drop Celine off at the curb in front of the local public school on our way to my private school campus. Though her school was far above average as public schools go, I begged and pleaded for my parents to pay for Celine to attend with me. I didn’t quite understand the concept of money back then, but I knew we had a lot, and we could more than afford it.

They told me that’s just not how the world works. Besides, as much as Rosa wanted the best for her child, she was too proud to ever accept that kind of generosity. Even giving Celine my hand-me-down clothes was a constant battle.

No matter where we spent the day, though, from the time we came home to the time we fell asleep, Celine and I were inseparable. I would return from piano lessons and teach Celine how to read music notes. She’d use the other side of my art easel to paint pictures with me of the ocean view from my bedroom window. She’d rate my dives and time my laps around our pool, and I’d do the same for her. We’d lounge beneath the palm trees on hot summer days, dreaming up plans for our future. In my eyes, it was a given that Celine would always be part of my life.

We were an odd match. From our looks to our social status to our polar-opposite personalities, we couldn’t have been more different. I was captain of the debate squad and Celine played the romantic female lead in her school plays. I spearheaded a holiday charity campaign at the age of thirteen, while Celine sang in choirs for the local senior citizens. I read the Wall Street Journal and the Los Angeles Times religiously, while Celine would fall asleep with a Jane Austen novel resting across her chest.

And then one Saturday morning in July when I was fifteen, my parents announced that they had filed for divorce. I still remember the day well. They walked side-by-side toward where I lounged beside the pool, my dad dressed for a round of golf, my mom carrying a plate of Rosa’s breakfast enchiladas. They’d technically separated months earlier, and I had no idea because seeing them together had always been rare to begin with.

The house in La Jolla was going up for sale. Dad was buying a condo close to the airport, to make traveling for work easier, while Mom would be moving to Chicago, where our family’s company, Sparkes Energy, had their corporate headquarters. I’d stay wherever I wanted, when I wasn’t at the prestigious boarding school in Massachusetts that they decided I should attend for my last three years of high school.

The worst of it was that Rosa and Celine would be going their own way.

Rosa, who was more a parent to me than either of my real parents had ever been.

Celine . . . my best friend, my sister.

Both of them, gone from my daily life with two weeks’ notice.

They’re just a phone call away, my mom reasoned. That’s all I had, and so I took advantage. For years, I would call Celine and Rosa daily. I had a long-distance plan, but had I not, I still would have happily driven up my mom’s phone bill, bitter with her for abandoning me for the company. I spent Christmases and Thanksgivings with Rosa and Celine instead of choosing to spend them with Melody or William Sparkes.

To be honest, it never was much of a choice.

Through boyfriends, college, jobs, and fronting a successful nonprofit organization that has had me living all over Africa and Asia for the last six years, Celine and Rosa have remained permanent fixtures in my life.

Until thirteen days ago, when Rosa’s sobs filled my ear in a village near Nekemte, Ethiopia, where I’ve been leading a water well project and building homes. After a long, arduous day in the hot sun, my hands covered with cuts from corrugated iron and my muscles sore from carrying burned bricks, it was jarring to hear Rosa’s voice. California felt worlds away. At first I thought that I hadn’t kept myself hydrated enough and I was hallucinating. But by the third time I heard her say, “Celine killed herself,” it finally registered. It just didn’t make sense.

It still doesn’t.

Hollowness kept me company all the way back—first on buses, then a chartered flight, followed by several commercial airline connections—and into Rosa’s modest home in the suburbs of San Diego. The hollowness held me together through the emotional visitation and funeral, Rosa’s tightly knit Mexican community rocked by the news. It numbed me enough to face Rosa’s eyes, bloodshot and rimmed with dark circles, as she insisted that I come to New York to handle the material remains of her only child.

The case is all but officially closed. The police are simply waiting for the final autopsy report to confirm that a lethal dose of Xanax— the pill bottle sitting open on her nightstand was from a prescription she filled only two days prior—combined with an unhealthy amount of vodka was what killed her. They see it as a quick open-and-shut suicide case, aided by a note in her handwriting that read I’m sorry for everything, found lying next to her.

The picture frame cracks within my tightening grasp as tears burn my cheeks, and I have the overwhelming urge to smash the entire shelf of happy memories.

This just doesn’t seem possible. How could she do this to her mother? I shift my focus to the picture of Rosa—a petite brunette with a fierce heart, who gives hugs to strangers who look like they’re having a bad day and spouts a string of passionate Spanish when anyone tries to leave the dinner table before every last bite is finished.

Before this past week, I hadn’t seen Rosa since last Christmas. She still looks frail eleven months after the doctors told her that the double mastectomy, chemotherapy, and radiation had worked and she was considered in remission. It’ll be a year in January since the day Celine phoned me to give me the good news: that Rosa had fought breast cancer hard. And had won.

So why the hell would Celine make her suffer so horribly now?

I roam aimlessly through the rest of the apartment, in a state of extreme exhaustion after days of travel and jet lag and tears, taking in everything that remains of my childhood friend.

But there are things here that surprise me, too—a closet full of designer-label dresses that Celine couldn’t possibly have afforded on an administrative assistant’s salary, a bathroom counter overflowing with bold red lipsticks and daringly dark eye shadows that I never saw touch her naturally beautiful face, not even in recent photos.

Knowing Celine, she bought those dresses at secondhand stores. And the makeup, well . . . She would have looked beautiful with red lipstick.

I smile, sweeping the bronzer brush across my palm to leave a dusting of sparkle against my skin. I’m supposed to be this girl—the one with the extravagant clothes and makeup, who puts time and stock into looks and money. As the fourth generation of one of the biggest energy companies in the world, I will one day inherit 51 percent of the corporation’s shares. Though my parents don’t need to work, they each run a division—my industrialist father managing the ugly face of coal burning while my mother distracts the world with a pretty mask of wind and solar energy farms, hiding the fact that we’re slowly helping to destroy the world.

I grew up aware of the protests. I’ve read enough articles about the greed and the harm to the planet that comes with this industry. By the time I turned twenty-one, still young and idealistic and embroiled by the latest disgrace involving our company and an oil tanker spill off the coast of China, I wanted nothing to do with the enormous trust fund that my grandmother left me. In fact, I was one signature away from handing it all over to a charity foundation. My biggest mistake—and saving grace—was that I tried to do it through my lawyer, a loyal Sparkes Energy legal consultant. He, of course, informed my parents, who fought me on it. I wouldn’t listen to them.

But I did listen to Celine. She was the one who persuaded me not to do it in the end, sending me link after link of scandal after scandal involving charity organizations. How so little of the money ever actually reaches those in need, how so much of the money lines the pockets of individuals. She used the worst-case scenarios to steer me away from my plan because she knew it would work. Then she suggested that I use the trust fund to lead my own humanitarian ventures. I could do bigger, better things if I controlled it.

That’s when I began Villages United.

And Celine was right.

VU may only be six years old, but it has already become an internationally recognized nonprofit, focused on high-impact lending projects throughout the world geared toward building self-sustainable villages. We teach children to read and give them roofs to sleep under and clean water to drink and clothes to wear and books to read. Between my own money and the money that VU has raised, we have now left a lasting mark on thirty-six communities in countries around the world.

And I’m not just writing checks from my house in California. I’m right there in the trenches, witnessing the changes firsthand. Something my parents simply don’t understand, though they’ve tried turning it into a Sparkes Energy PR venture on more than one occasion.

I’ve refused every single time.

Because, for the first time in a long time, I’m truly proud to be Maggie Sparkes.

I haven’t even warned them about my newest endeavor—providing significant financial backing to companies that are developing viable and economical green energy solutions. VU was preparing to announce it to the media in the coming weeks. As much as I can’t think about any of that right now, I’ll have to soon. Too many people rely on me.

But for now . . . all I can focus on is Celine.

I wander into her bedroom, my back to another wall of collectibles as I stand at the foot of the ornate wrought-iron bed, the delicate bedding stretched out neatly, as if Celine made it this morning. As if she’ll be back later to share a glass of wine and a laugh.

I yank the duvet back, just long enough to see the ugly proof beneath.

To remind me that that’s never going to happen.

Edging along the side of her bed—I actually have to turn and shimmy to fit—I move toward a stack of vintage wooden food crates that serve as a nightstand. A wave of nostalgia washes over me as my finger traces the heavy latches and handmade, chunky gunmetal-gray body of the antique box sitting next to the lamp. The day that I spied it in an antique store while shopping for Celine’s sixteenth birthday, it made me think of a medieval castle. The old man who sold it to me said it was actually an eighteenth-century lockbox.

Whatever it was, I knew Celine would love it.

I carry it over to the living room, where I can sit and open it up. Inside are sentimental scraps of Celine’s life. Concert stubs and random papers, a dried rose, her grandmother’s rosary that Rosa gave to her. Rosa is supremely religious, and Celine, the ever-devoted daughter, kept up appearances for her mother, though she admitted to me that she didn’t find value in it.

I pull each item out, laying them on the trunk coffee table until I’m left with nothing but the smooth velvet floor of the box. I fumble with a small detail on the outside that acts as a lever—remembering my surprise when the man revealed the box’s secret—until a click sounds, allowing me to pry open the false bottom.

Celine’s shy, secretive eyes lit up when I first showed her the sizeable compartment. It was perfect for hiding treasures, like notes from boys, and the silver bracelet that her senior-year boyfriend bought her for Valentine’s Day and she was afraid to wear in front of Rosa. While I love Rosa dearly, she could be suffocating sometimes.

My fingers wrap around the wad of money filling the small space as a deep frown creases my forehead. Mostly hundreds but plenty of fifties, too. I quickly count it. There’s almost ten thousand dollars here.

Why wouldn’t Celine deposit this into her bank account?

I pick up the ornate bronze key and a creased sheet of paper that also sits within. I’m guessing the key is for the desk. I’ll test that out in a minute. I gingerly unfold the paper that’s obviously been handled many times, judging by the crinkles in it.

My eyes widen.

A naked man fills one side. He’s entrancingly handsome, with long lashes and golden-blond tousled hair and a shadow of peach scruff covering his hard jawline. He’s lying on his back, one muscular arm disappearing into the pillow beneath his head, a white sheet tangled around his legs, not quite covering the goods, which from what I can see, are fairly impressive. I can’t tell what color his eyes are because he’s fast asleep.

“Well then . . .” I frown, taken aback.

I’m not surprised that Celine could attract the attention of a guy like this. She was a gorgeous young woman—her Mexican roots earning her lush locks, full lips, and voluptuous curves tied to the kind of tiny waist that all men seem to admire.

Nor am I surprised that he’s blond. It has always been a running joke between us, her penchant for blonds. She’s never dated anything but.

But I am surprised that she’d have the nerve to take—and print out to keep by her bed—a scandalous picture like this in the first place.

I wonder if she ever mentioned him to me. She always told me about her dates, utter failures or otherwise. Though it’s been years since she was seeing anyone seriously, and she was definitely seeing this guy seriously if she was sleeping with him. Celine usually waited months before she gave that up to a guy. She didn’t even lose her virginity until she was twenty-two, to a guy she had been dating for six months and hoped that she would one day marry. Who broke up with her shortly afterward.

So who the hell is this guy and why didn’t I ever hear about him? And where is he now? When were they together last?

Does he know that she’s dead?

Worrying my bottom lip between my teeth—it’s a bad habit of mine—I slowly fold the paper back up. Celine’s cursive scrawl decorates the back side in purple ink. Words I hadn’t noticed before.

Words that make my heart stop now.

This man was once my salvation. Now he will be my ruin.

 

 HeWillBeMyRuin - Teaser 1

 

About HE WILL BE MY RUIN:

The USA TODAY bestselling author of the Ten Tiny Breaths and Burying Water series makes her suspense debut with this sexy, heartpounding story of a young woman determined to find justice after her best friend’s death, a story pulsing with the “intense, hot, emotional” (Colleen Hoover) writing that exhilarates her legions of fans.

A woman who almost had it all . . .

On the surface, Celine Gonzalez had everything a twenty-eight-year-old woman could want: a one-bedroom apartment on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, a job that (mostly) paid the bills, and an acceptance letter to the prestigious Hollingsworth Institute of Art, where she would finally live out her dream of becoming an antiques appraiser for a major auction house. All she had worked so hard to achieve was finally within her reach. So why would she kill herself?

A man who was supposed to be her salvation . . .

Maggie Sparkes arrives in New York City to pack up what’s left of her best friend’s belongings after a suicide that has left everyone stunned. The police have deemed the evidence conclusive: Celine got into bed, downed a lethal cocktail of pills and vodka, and never woke up. But when Maggie discovers a scandalous photograph in a lock box hidden in Celine’s apartment, she begins asking questions. Questions about the man Celine fell in love with. The man she never told anyone about, not even Maggie. The man Celine believed would change her life.

Until he became her ruin.

On the hunt for evidence that will force the police to reopen the case, Maggie uncovers more than she bargained for about Celine’s private life—and inadvertently puts herself on the radar of a killer. A killer who will stop at nothing to keep his crimes undiscovered.

 

HeWillBeMyRuin - Teaser 2

 

Author pic - KA TuckerAbout K.A. Tucker:

Born in small-town Ontario, K.A. Tucker published her first book at the age of six with the help of her elementary school librarian and a box of crayons. She currently resides in a quaint town outside of Toronto with her husband, two beautiful girls, and an exhausting brood of four-legged creatures.

 

 

 

 

 

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J. Lynn’s BE WITH ME 5 Chapter Reveal

We are thrilled to get to share with you the first 5 chapters from BE WITH ME! This is the next book in the With You Saga by Jennifer L. Armentrout, writing as J. Lynn, and is being published by William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins. These 5 chapters should get you ready because BE WITH ME releases on February 4th! Check out all of the information we have for you below, read the first 5 chapters, and then go pre-order your copy ASAP!

 

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BE WITH ME Synopsis:
 

From the author of the #1 New York Times bestseller Wait for You

Do Teresa and Jase have a real shot at getting together or will life get in the way?

Teresa Hamilton is having a rough year—she’s in love with her big brother’s best friend, but he hasn’t spoken to her since they shared a truly amazing, mind-blowing, life-changing kiss. Then she got out of a terrible relationship. Now an injury is threatening to end her dance career for good. It’s time for plan B: college. And maybe she’ll have a chance to convince Jase that what they have together is real.

Jase Winstead has a huge secret that he’s not telling anyone—especially not his best friend’s incredibly beautiful sister. Even though he and Teresa shared the hottest kiss of his life, he knows that his responsibilities must take priority. He certainly doesn’t have time for a relationship. But it doesn’t help that all he can think about is kissing the one girl who could ruin everything for him.

As they’re thrown together more and more, Jase and Teresa can’t keep denying their feelings for each other. But a familiar danger looms and tragedy strikes. As the campus recovers, the star-crossed couple must decide what they’re willing to risk to be together and what they’re willing to lose if they’re not. . . .

Jennifer L. Armentrout/J.Lynn:

# 1 NEW YORK TIMES and USA TODAY Bestselling author Jennifer lives in Martinsburg, West Virginia. All the rumors you’ve heard about her state aren’t true. When she’s not hard at work writing. she spends her time reading, working out, watching really bad zombie movies, pretending to write, and hanging out with her husband and her Jack Russell Loki.

Her dreams of becoming an author started in algebra class, where she spent most of her time writing short stories….which explains her dismal grades in math. Jennifer writes young adult paranormal, science fiction, fantasy, and contemporary romance. She is published with Spencer Hill Press, Entangled Teen and Brazen, Disney/Hyperion and Harlequin Teen. Her book Obsidian has been optioned for a major motion picture and her Covenant Series has been optioned for TV.

She also writes adult and New Adult romance under the name J. Lynn. She is published by Entangled Brazen and HarperCollins.

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