Katie McGarry’s ONLY A BREATH APART – Excerpt Reveal



Would you dare to defy destiny? Are our destinies written in stone? Do we become nothing more than the self-fulfilling prophesies of other people’s opinions? Or can we dare to become who we believe we were born to be?


“A gorgeous, heartfelt journey of redemption and love” (Wendy Higgins), ONLY A BREATH APART is a young adult contemporary novel from critically acclaimed Katie McGarry. “Haunting, authentic, and ultimately hopeful” (Tammara Webber), ONLY A BREATH APART will be available on all retailers on January 22, 2019!




Jesse dreams of working the land that’s been in his family forever. But he’s cursed to lose everything he loves most.

Scarlett is desperate to escape her “charmed” life. But leaving a small town is easier said than done.

Despite their history of heartbreak, when Jesse sees a way they can work together to each get what they want, Scarlett can’t say no.Each midnight meeting between Jesse and Scarlett will push them to confront their secrets and their feelings for each other.


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Gritty and real, Only a Breath Apart is a story of hope conjured from pain, strength drawn from innocence, and love earned from self-respect. Beautiful, poignant, and fierce.”
―Kristen Simmons, critically acclaimed author of the Article 5 series


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I’m defying my parents by attending a funeral. Reckless and adventurous teenage behavior, I know. Most seventeen-year-olds lie to their parents so they can go on a date with a forbidden boy or attend a party where there will be questionable behavior. Me? I’m outright lying to my dad, and it’s because Jesse Lachlin’s grandmother died.

The entire way here I’ve questioned my sanity, but I don’t know how I’d live with myself if I stayed home. Jesse Lachlin used to be my childhood best friend. We were inseparable. We had the type of friendship people strive to have, and then, a few years ago, he cut me so deeply that I still bleed. But ten-year-old me would have never abandoned a hurting Jesse. So today I’m not only honoring the memory of Jesse’s grandmother, but also the memory of our dead friendship.

On my way to the funeral, the high grass of the field swats at my legs, but I don’t mind the sting. I love walking barefoot in grass, I love the smell of the earth and I love that brief feeling of freedom open spaces can provide.

It’s the dog days of August. The type of hot that starts when the sun rises and makes you sweat through your clothes within minutes. While my skin and palms are on fire, the pads of my feet are cool against the dirt. The heat is unwelcome, but the sky is deep blue and the sun is bright, and for that, I can be grateful.

Walking out of the field, I stop short of crossing the one-lane road to slip on the flats that dangle from my fingertips. My mother would be mortified if she knew I was entering a church in a cotton daisy-print sundress. It’s not one of the dresses with stiff fabric and impossible back zippers she would have picked for me at an overpriced department store. It’s the type that’s machine-washable and breathable. The type of dress Jesse’s grandmother would have given her stamp of approval.

I can practically hear my mother heavily sigh and mumble my name, Scarlett, as if it were her personal, private curse word. Mom believes there’s a certain way to dress and behave, and I’m breaking all sorts of her rules today. Watch out, world. I’m officially rebellious.

I smile to myself because I’m the opposite of rebellious. For the last few years, I’ve followed every rule. I’m the teacher’s pet and the girl with straight A’s. I’m the poster child of perfection, and have earned every snarky ice princess comment Jesse’s friends whisper about me in the school hallways because he and I no longer speak.

There are only six cars in the parking lot of the white church, and that makes me frown. I thought more people would have wanted to attend. Jesse’s mud-covered pickup is there, and so is an unnaturally clean black Mercedes that belongs to his uncle. This ought to be interesting. Jesse and his uncle have a mutual hate for each other that runs deeper than any root of any tree.

Movement to my right and I slowly turn my head. Shivers run down my spine at the sight of Glory Gardner. Even though I’m seventeen and too old for ghost stories, I still can’t shake the ones regarding this woman. Girls would whisper over lunch boxes that Glory was a witch. As I grew older, I understood that witch meant con artist. She claims she can read palms, tarot cards and “sees” spirits from beyond the dead. All for a glorious fee.

She’s a beautiful woman—long dirty blond hair that’s untamed, even in a bun, and she has an eclectic taste in clothing. Today she wears a white peasant shirt and a flowing skirt made of material that shimmers in the sun.

Glory watches me like I watch her, with morbid curiosity. I knew her as a child, back when Jesse and I ran wild in the fields near her home, but we haven’t talked in years.

She stands under the shade of a towering weeping willow. There are lots of those trees around here. Mom says it’s because there is too much water in the ground. I say it’s because the people in this town have cried too many tears. Mom doesn’t like my answer.

I tilt my head toward the church, an unspoken question if Glory will be joining me. She shakes her head no. I’m not shocked. According to rumors, Glory will go up in flames if she enters the house of God. But who knows? Maybe I will, too.

The church is one of those picturesque, historical, one-room school buildings squeezed between a cornfield on one side and a hay field on the other. A huge steeple with a bell attempts to reach the heavens, but like anything created by a human, it falls tragically short.

The foreboding wooden door makes no noise as I open it, and I’m able to slip in without a huge, squeaking announcement. Orange light filters in through the dark stained glass windows, and its struggling beams reveal millions of dancing particles of dust.

On the altar, there’s no casket, but there is an urn. My heart dips—Suzanne is dead. I used to wish she were my grandmother, and many times, she treated me as if I belonged to her. Suzanne was the epitome of love, and the world feels colder now that she’s gone.

Choosing a spot in the back, I drop into a pew, and as I scan the church my stomach churns. How is it possible that this place is so barren?

Besides the Funeral Brigade, or the FB, as I like to refer to them, there aren’t many people here. The FB are the older group of woman who attend every funeral in our small town even if they didn’t know the person. Attending funerals isn’t my idea of fun, but who am I to judge?

The FB sit directly behind the one person the town believes to be the lone sane member of the Lachlin family, probably because he isn’t blood related—Jesse’s uncle.

On the left side of the church is Jesse. Only Jesse. And that causes a painful pang in my chest. Where are his stinking friends? The anarchists in training who follow Jesse wherever he goes? Where is the rest of the town? Yes, Suzanne was polarizing, but still, where is any respect?

Quietly, so I don’t draw attention to myself, I slip from the right set of pews to the left. Someone should be on Jesse’s side, and it’s sad it has to be me.

A door at the front of the church opens, and the pastor walks out from the addition the church build on as a small office ten years ago. I would have thought any pastor assigned to this place would be as ancient as this church. Sort of like an Indiana Jones Knights Templar scenario where he lives forever as long as he stays inside. But no, he’s the youngest pastor from the main, newer church in town. His name is Pastor Hughes, and he’s a thirty-something black man with a fit build who is just cute enough that he should be starring in a movie.

The pastor looks up, and he flinches as if startled. I peek over my shoulder then sigh. Clearly, he’s surprised to see me. Flipping fantastic.

His reaction, and the fact he won’t stop staring, causes every person to turn their heads. Lovely. I’ve had dreams like this where I enter a room and become the center of attention. Only in my dreams it’s at school, it’s my classmates and I’m naked, but still, this is disconcerting.

Eventually, the FB and Jesse’s uncle return their attention to the front, but Jesse doesn’t. He rests his arm on the back of the pew, and it’s hard to ignore that he’s made me his sole focus, but I do my best to act as if I don’t notice.

To help, I concentrate on what my mom taught me as a child—to make sure the skirt of my dress is tucked appropriately so that my thighs don’t show. I then fold my hands in my lap and straighten to a book-on-head posture. I can be the ice princess people claim me to be.

Five pews separate me and Jesse, and it’s not nearly enough. My cheeks burn under his continued inspection. Jesse has done this a handful of times since our freshman year. Glance at me as if I’m someone worth looking at, someone worth laughing with a little too loud and smiling with a little too much. Then he remembers who I am and snaps his gaze to someone else.

But he’s not looking away now.


Katie McGarry Bio:

Katie McGarry was a teenager during the age of grunge and boy bands and remembers those years as the best and worst of her life. She is a lover of music, happy endings, reality television, and is a secret University of Kentucky basketball fan.

Katie is the author of full length YA novels, PUSHING THE LIMITS, DARE YOU TO, CRASH INTO YOU, TAKE ME ON,  BREAKING THE RULES, and NOWHERE BUT HERE and the e-novellas, CROSSING THE LINE and RED AT NIGHT. Her debut YA novel, PUSHING THE LIMITS was a 2012 Goodreads Choice Finalist for YA Fiction, a RT Magazine’s 2012 Reviewer’s Choice Awards Nominee for Young Adult Contemporary Novel, a double Rita Finalist, and a 2013 YALSA Top Ten Teen Pick. DARE YOU TO was also a Goodreads Choice Finalist for YA Fiction and won RT Magazine’s Reviewer’s Choice Best Book Award for Young Adult Contemporary fiction in 2013.

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Chapter Reveal: FOREVER BROKEN by Carrie Ann Ryan

 The final book in Carrie Ann Ryan’s Talon Pack series releases in less than a week on January 8th! Read the first chapter now and preorder your copy!


Available January 8th, 2019

In the finale to the award-winning Talon Pack series from NYT bestselling author Carrie Ann Ryan sets, the final Brentwood must find his mate as the war with the Aspens comes to a close.

Cheyenne Liles has watched all of her friends mate into the Talon Pack and have their lives changed forever, one by one. She’s stood back, helpless to assist in the war with a rival Pack. But just when she thinks her time with the Talons is over and believes she should move on with her human life, the Aspen Pack Alpha takes matters into his own hands, altering her fate far more than a single mate mark ever could.

Max Brentwood used to be the smiling one, the only Brentwood who was somehow able to save his soul during the last Alpha’s reign. But his life was irrevocably changed one fateful day on the battlefield, and he was never the same again. Suddenly, Max is forced to face his future and make a choice when Cheyenne comes into danger: let fate decide, or watch his world crumble around him.

The shifters of this world have fought demons, humans, and themselves. Now, it’s time to find out who they truly are as the war between the Packs ends, and the moon goddess finally takes a stand.

FOREVER BROKEN releases January 8th, 2019 – preorder your copy now!

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Read the first chapter of FOREVER BROKEN:

Blood roared in Cheyenne Lyon’s ears, but she didn’t scream. If she did, he would win. And if he won, then all would be lost. It wasn’t just her life she held back her pain for, but the lives of her friends. The only family she had ever known.

This shouldn’t be how it turned out.

She was supposed to be safe away from the world that had darkened around her, away from the fighting and magic that were so far out of her depth. The things that she, a woman of science, had no hope of truly comprehending.

The man behind her that wasn’t truly a man lowered his head to breathe on her neck, sending chills racing down her spine. These weren’t the chills of anticipation that came from being with a lover. Instead, they represented the dread that came from death, that portended the uncertainty of her own fate.

“It’s almost ready. Soon, you won’t have to wait for what’s to come. Soon, you’ll do your duty, and the next steps will be taken.”

Cheyenne closed her eyes, swallowing the bile that rose in her throat. She didn’t want to be here, didn’t want to know why Blade, the Alpha of the Aspen Pack, wanted her. But she knew she didn’t have a choice.

She was stronger than the tears burning in her eyes, stronger than the need to run and hide from the monsters that lurked in the dark. At least that’s what she’d always told herself when she stood by her friends’ sides as they each found their mates and became part of the Talon Pack; thereby, somehow becoming enemies of the Aspen Pack.

Enemies of Blade.

Cheyenne had fought alongside her friends and their new people, their new wolves and lions and witches, as she tried not to end up bleeding and dead because she was a mere human in the world of the supernatural. She’d kicked and screamed and tried to fight when she been too weak but had prevailed. The others, however, had been far too strong for her to defeat on her own. She’d stabbed and killed when one of the Talons, Max, a man who was now family to her friends, helped her.

He’d helped her.

But he wasn’t here to help her now.

She swallowed hard, aware that Blade still stood behind her, either waiting for her to say something or just wanting to hear himself speak. She had to focus on him, had to concentrate on the present and not what she’d done in the past or who she’d fought alongside.

Cheyenne was a vet, she took care of animals and those who couldn’t take care of themselves. Now, she was surrounded by those who could turn into wolves and other creatures she didn’t know and didn’t want to think about. Her friends had said there might be more out there than wolves, witches, and cat shifters, but she’d tried to put that out of her mind.

She’d always been on the outside looking in. One by one—first Dawn, then Aimee, then Dhani—her friends had found themselves deep in the world of darkness and change. And though Cheyenne had only recently discovered the existence of magic and shifters along with the rest of the human world, somehow, she’d been fully ensconced in it thanks to her friends.

But she wasn’t a shifter, wasn’t a witch. She hadn’t even reacted to the wards like the others had, either feeling the magic too much like Aimee or feeling it differently the way Dhani had. Instead, Cheyenne had felt nothing. She didn’t understand the lure of magic and only liked science and indisputable evidence. And while the world beneath her world, or rather the world that now ran alongside hers intrigued her, she wasn’t part of it.

Her friends would one day move on from her more than they already had. She was still aging, while they were not. They were starting new lives, maybe even beginning families and growing into their new powers, strengths, and matings.

And Cheyenne wasn’t part of any of that.

As the last of her friends mated into the Talon Pack, Cheyenne had told herself she was okay, that she would find a way to move on and stay settled within the human world. She’d convinced herself that she’d be able to fade into memory as her friends physically stayed the same age, and she died a natural, human death.

As Blade breathed down her neck again, standing silently behind her, waiting for something unknown to her, she pulled herself out of those thoughts.

Because there would be nothing natural about her death today.

She didn’t know why Blade held her, and he wasn’t being forthcoming about his reasons. Maybe it was because she was the weakest link when it came to the Talons. She might not be a member, but since she’d fought alongside Max and had close friends within the den, maybe Blade saw those connections and thought she was worth something.

Only she wouldn’t be. She wasn’t a mate to any of the Talons or even the Redwoods—another Pack of shifters with deep ties to the Talons. She wouldn’t be able to fight back because she didn’t have a weapon and, unlike her friends, she wasn’t a weapon herself.

“It’s almost ready,” Blade repeated, then moved to start pacing around the small room he had her in.

She didn’t know what it was, but she knew she likely wouldn’t live when it was ready. She didn’t know how she knew that, other than a feeling deep down that this was the end for her, no matter how hard she fought.

Her head ached, and she swallowed hard, not relaxing because even though Blade was no longer directly behind her, he was still close enough to rip out her throat on a whim. She’d been leaving her vet’s office late, after hours, her back already hurting from an emergency sock removal surgery on a lovable Lab with far too much energy, when someone had come up from behind and put their hand over her mouth.

She’d screamed, kicked, and tried to use her keys to claw herself free like she’d been taught in not only her self-defense classes but also from Kameron, Dhani’s mate. He was the Enforcer of the Talon Pack and had wanted Cheyenne and her friends to know moves to protect themselves. Only her training hadn’t been as thorough as the others’ since she didn’t have claws or fangs to fight back with. Instead, she’d used her body weight to try and throw the man off balance, but it hadn’t worked.

He’d been so much stronger than her, and the more she fought, the harder he pulled and squeezed.

Then, he’d knocked her out with the back of his hand on her face, a shocking slap that had set her ears to ringing and had her teeth practically moving in her gums.

When she woke up, she’d been chained to a chair, a dimly lit bulb flickering above her. She’d been alone, cold, but thankfully still clothed. Her cheek stung, and she knew she probably had a concussion.

None of that mattered though when Blade stepped into the room.

She remembered his face, recalled the look of him as he prowled toward her. She’d seen him on the news, had spotted him in person when she fought by Max’s side, trying to keep both of them alive even though she knew she wasn’t that much help.

Blade was evil incarnate, a true horror in every sense of the word. He’d lost his witch in the last fight, and Cheyenne knew that had cost him. Scarlett had apparently helped him cross the lines of dark magic and move into the area where someone could lose their soul if they weren’t careful. He’d tried to get at the Talons for numerous things over the past few years and had nearly succeeded in wiping them out.

Blade had sent rogues over the boundary lines, willing away their need to survive and instilling in them a need to kill. He’d made those rogues break their bonds with their former Packs and had hurt them, forcing them to do what he wanted. He’d kidnapped and tortured Cheyenne’s friends, attempting to use them much like he might be using her now: as a symbol of how weak he thought the Talons were. He’d attacked the Pack with magic, taunted them, and used the human media to prey on them, as well.

He’d broken so many edicts, yet he was still free because he and those in his Pack were stronger than the Talons and the Redwoods—possibly stronger than any other Pack and the humans put together. According to Cheyenne’s friends, Blade wasn’t afraid to use dark magic and risk the end of the world in order to get what he wanted. And because the Talons couldn’t do that without killing their own like Blade was unafraid to do, they were at a disadvantage.

And just a few days earlier, he’d declared himself the Supreme Alpha of all the other Packs around the world.

Cheyenne had no idea what that meant, only that it wouldn’t be good for her, not with the way Blade had looked at her when he first walked into the small room, and certainly not with the way he stalked toward her now.

Blade had kept her in the chair, the chains loose enough that if she wiggled just right, she might be able to get herself free. But he must have known that when he chained her up. It was all psychological. Because, if she got herself out, she wouldn’t be able to get past him. And if, somehow, he tripped or happened to be looking the other way for just the instant she’d need to get through that door, she then had to hope it was unlocked.

If it weren’t, then Blade would kill her, or wait to murder her until it was ready.

Whatever it was.

Even if she got past that door, she didn’t know what was on the other side. She didn’t know who was out there or where she was. She was probably on Aspen Pack land, but according to the others, not all of the Aspens were on the side of their Alpha. Not all of them agreed with the extent of their Alpha’s depravity. Even the Talon’s contact, the Beta of the Aspens, Audrey, hadn’t been heard from in weeks, making them all worry that Blade had found out about Audrey’s clandestine meetings with the Talons and her true loyalties.

Blade hadn’t taken Cheyenne’s phone, but it was deep in her jacket pocket, and she couldn’t reach it. She didn’t know if he was unaware that she had it because he and his men hadn’t searched her, or if he knew she had it and didn’t care.

Because he knew she had no hope of escape.

No chance of rescue because no one knew she was gone.

How could they? She lived alone, worked late, and no one cared where she was at night. They all assumed that she was safely tucked in bed and far away from the world of the Packs and the war surrounding them.

Only, she wasn’t.

And the idea of hope was getting a little harder to grasp onto with each passing moment.

“Do you know why you’re here?” Blade asked, coming around to face her. His hair was getting a little long, sliding over his forehead and into his eyes. He absently brushed it back as he bent down in front of her. His breath smelled of peppermint, his teeth were perfectly straight, and if he weren’t an egotistical maniac with a homicidal streak bent on world domination, she might have considered him attractive. As it was, he reminded her of what she’d imagine a demon might look like.

Smooth moves, and a slick attitude.

The bearer of death.

“No, I don’t know why I’m here,” she bit out. She wasn’t slurring, and though her head hurt, she didn’t see double, so she didn’t think he’d drugged her. Why would he need to drug her when he could overpower her in an instant?

He glared.

“Why don’t you tell me?” She knew she shouldn’t have an attitude with him, but what did she have to lose? She wasn’t getting out of this room alive. She knew that. There was no amount of magic or prayers to a goddess she wasn’t sure she believed in that could save her.

This was it.

And if she were going down, she would do it with a fight. A fight for her life, and a fight for the woman who Cheyenne was beyond the woman in chains.

Blade grinned, but it didn’t reach his eyes. No, those eyes were dead, evil, and she didn’t know why the media had believed him when he went on air pretending to be a human to put the Talons under fire. There was nothing human about Blade. There was nothing good about him.

“You should know, usually, I’d never turn down a good monologue, but we don’t have a lot of time. I’ve been waiting years for this moment, for the moon to rise at the perfect angle on the one night when the power is the greatest—for the moon goddess to bless me with what is needed.”

Cheyenne had no idea what he was talking about, but whatever it was, she knew it could mean death for the Talons, the end of her friends. That was what this man, this wolf, seemed to want—at least in her opinion.

“You’re going to serve a specific purpose, Cinnamon.”

“It’s Cheyenne,” she bit out.

“Does it matter?”

“It does to me.” She met his gaze and didn’t drop her chin when his wolf came into his eyes. She only knew it was that because the others had told her, and she had seen it with the Talons. A gold rim glowed around his iris, pulsating with power. Blade was not a lower-ranking wolf. He’d become Alpha because of his strength, or at least because of his family line—she wasn’t sure on the mechanics of it all—but she knew an Alpha couldn’t be weak.

And Blade wasn’t weak.

He snorted after a moment, then continued. “I searched for over a century for the artifact and then waited a few decades longer to work out the details. And you’re the final detail.”

He paused, and she swallowed hard, knowing that she wouldn’t like what he had to say next. Of course, she hadn’t liked any of it. And though her pulse raced, and she practically shook in her chains, she listened to every word and knew that if, somehow, by the grace of the goddess, Cheyenne found a way to survive, she’d tell the Talons everything she knew.

Because she might not be a Pack member, might not be a shifter, but she’d die before she let her friends get hurt because of this monster.

“The artifact needs you. Well, it needs blood to activate. And the fact it will be your blood will be killing two birds with a single stone.”

He pulled out a long, thin knife. Cheyenne thought it might be called a stiletto, but she wasn’t sure.

“Actually, a single blade will work.” He winked. “Pun not intended.”

Then he stood up, and she screamed, pulling herself out of her chains as she bent down and wiggled. His eyes widened a fraction, but then he schooled his features and came at her. She screamed again, trying to duck out of his hold, but he was too fast. He was always too quick.

He pulled her by the hair, the stiletto close to her neck. She froze, leaning against his chest as she tried not to rock forward onto the blade.

“Come with me.” He growled the words and tugged her out the door, unlocking it with a key as he did.

She wouldn’t have made it, wouldn’t have escaped, no matter how hard she fought.

She didn’t want to die today.

But it didn’t look like she was going to have a choice.

The moon was just dimming in the sky, the sun about to rise on the horizon. She must have been unconscious for longer than she thought if a new day was about to start.

She wasn’t going to die on a Sunday but a Monday—a thought she’d never thought to have.  Blade pulled her close, the bile in her throat so strong that she was afraid she’d throw up right on his shirt.

“The moon needs to be on her way from the sky and into the darkness, for the light must come.” Blade smiled, and Cheyenne knew tears were falling down her cheeks.

She tugged at his hold, trying to get away, but she couldn’t.

“You will be our salvation. Blood for blood. Blade for flesh. Sacrament for death.”

Then, he slid the blade under her ribs, puncturing her lung but not her heart. She was a vet, had gone to school to learn the anatomy of animals, but she had learned the anatomy of humans, as well.

She knew he’d stabbed her there on purpose so she would bleed out slowly, death taking longer than the seconds or minutes of agony she might have otherwise endured. With her lung punctured, she would lose the ability to breathe, would drown in her own fluids even as her lifeblood left her.

She could already feel her breathing become labored, feel her lungs fighting for oxygen.

Then, she was on her back, blood slowly pooling around her as Blade stood above her. The moon was still overhead, the sun slowly rising behind Blade’s back.

And in his hands, he held a stone, hand-carved and almost brick-shaped, but she couldn’t tell what it was exactly. Power leached from him as he squeezed it, his hands covered in her blood. The hairs on her arms stood on end and it felt as if she were too close to a lightning strike. And though the power had to be coming from the stone and into him, it was as if he had so much in him now, he couldn’t contain it all.

Then she closed her eyes, afraid that this was the end because it hurt to breathe, it hurt to see the power in his hands. Because she wouldn’t be the only one who died for what he held.

When Cheyenne opened her eyes again, Blade was gone, and the only thing she could hear was the wheezing of her breaths. She swallowed hard, slowly reaching into her pocket for her phone. She might not be able to save herself tonight, but maybe she could save her friends.

Her fingers slid over the screen, her blood making it too slippery for her to see the display clearly. She tried to call the last person in her recents, but it scrolled a bit farther and dialed someone she’d only called once—and just so he could have her number.

It had been done in an odd sense of friendship, camaraderie.

Now, she just hoped he answered.

“Cheyenne?” Max growled into the phone. “Where are you?”

“Here,” she wheezed. But she knew it was too late, he wouldn’t be able to hear her. “I’m here.”

She could have sworn she heard a howl as she closed her eyes again, and when she opened them once more, she knew she had to be dreaming.

Max. She didn’t actually say the word, didn’t have the breath in her lungs.

She only knew it was him hovering over her on three legs, blood on his muzzle, and the anger of a thousand suns in his gaze. During the final battle with the rogue humans who had wanted the wolves to die, Max had lost the lower part of his right arm as well as a lot of flesh on his chest. His chest had healed, but his arm hadn’t grown back. Shifter genetics didn’t do that. So, in wolf form, he stood on three legs, strong and fierce, though she knew he didn’t feel that way.

Max growled, and she wondered why he had blood on his muzzle.

Then, she didn’t wonder anymore when he bit into her flesh.

And again.

She didn’t scream, didn’t feel a thing. She didn’t know why she didn’t feel anything, she wasn’t cold enough to be that close to death, not yet.

Something was protecting her.

And she knew Max wasn’t trying to eat her. No, he was attempting to change her, to save her.

He was doing the only thing he could.

And he hadn’t given her a choice. If she lived through this, she would make sure he understood that she would have said yes to a change. He was breaking the law, and possibly breaking part of himself to do this, and he already had enough on his shoulders.

She didn’t want him to blame himself for this.

But as he bit her again, something snapped inside her. Not physically. But a warmth in her heart spread and seemed to spear outward toward Max. She gasped, suddenly able to breathe as Max quickly changed to his human form—far too fast for him or any other wolf.

Before she could think, he had her in his naked lap and was holding her close, blood covering them both. She couldn’t quite understand it all.

“Mate,” he whispered. “The moon goddess.” He coughed. “Mate.”

And then, she fell into the darkness again, wondering if the word mate was the last thing she’d ever hear.

Because she wasn’t a wolf.

She didn’t know if she was Pack.

But…she was Max Brentwood’s mate.



About Carrie Ann Ryan

Carrie Ann Ryan is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of contemporary and paranormal romance. Her works include the Montgomery Ink, Redwood Pack, Talon Pack, and Gallagher Brothers series, which have sold over 3.0 million books worldwide. She started writing while in graduate school for her advanced degree in chemistry and hasn’t stopped since. Carrie Ann has written over sixty novels and novellas with more in the works. When she’s not writing about bearded tattooed men or alpha wolves that need to find their mates, she’s reading as much as she can and exploring the world of baking and gourmet cooking.

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ROOM MATE by Katie Ashley – Teaser Reveal

Today we are sharing an excerpt for ROOM MATE by Katie Ashley. This is a standalone, contemporary romance title that will be releasing on December 17. Check out the blurb and links for the previous standalone titles in this series below.

Pre-order Now: 

Amazon (live release!)  |  Nook  |  Apple Books  |  Kobo

ROOM MATE by Katie Ashley


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From the time I was a kid, I knew I wanted a job helping people. After serving in the Rifles regiment of the British Army, I focused my civilian career on becoming a bodyguard to the rich and famous. For a Cockney Brit, I never imagined a twist of fate landing me a position in the United States Secret Service and protecting the President’s son. But then my boss made an unexpected request: leave my current placement to move in with his only daughter to give an added layer of protection against the threats she had been receiving. I’d never lived with a woman who was off-limits to me. It wasn’t just that Caroline had a boyfriend. She was my best friend’s sister, and my boss’s daughter. But the longer we’re in such close quarters together, the greater the temptation grows, but I know I’ll lose everything if I pursue her.

Growing up as the only girl and with two overbearing older brothers, I’m no stranger to being overprotected. Just as I finished up college and prepared to truly dip my toes into the adult world, my father was elected President of the United States, which added a whole new level of protection with the Secret Service team attached to me. Just when I thought I couldn’t possibly be more smothered, I began receiving threats, and my family decided it wasn’t enough to just have an agent living down the hall from me. Nope, I was to have one move in with me, and not just any agent, but Ty Frasier—my brother, Barrett’s best friend, and my brother, Ty’s, head agent. While most women would enjoy living with a sexy, buff Brit, having a roommate threw a wrench into all my plans. Especially when I began noticing Ty was so much more than a hot guy.



After we spent a considerable amount of time perusing the aisles of the Piggly Wiggly, Caroline was finally finished, and we made our way to the checkout. In true small town fashion, she struck up a conversation with the middle-aged cashier. While she appeared utterly charming, I probably came off as an ass because I kept looking around and narrowing my eyes at anyone who might look suspicious. Especially the male middle-aged cashier who seemed utterly enthralled by Caroline.

At the sight of us coming out the mechanized doors, Stuart began easing the SUV closer to our place on the curb. After popping the hatch, Caroline wheeled the cart over to the back of the SUV. Just as I was about to start helping her with the bags, I heard a shout behind me. “Hey! Come back here.”

Whirling around, I saw a man waving wildly at Caroline. “Fuck! Assailant!” Stuart shouted.

I shoved myself between the man and Caroline, shielding her from him. Grabbing her by the waist, I hoisted her up and threw her in the back of the SUV. “Omph!” she cried as her body bounced on the carpeting of the hatch. After slamming the door, I stepped back just as Stuart screeched away from the curb.

Now that I knew Caroline was safe, I turned my attention back to the man. Hurling myself at him, I took him down to the curb. “What are you doing?” he demanded.

“Stay down. I’m calling the police.”

“The police? But what did I do?”

“You’ve been harassing the President’s daughter.”

“I just came out to give her the coupons she forgot.”


He nodded. “Look in my right hand.”

After rocking back on my knees, I grabbed his arm and pried the contents out of his hand. Once I unraveled it, I grimaced. “Son of a bitch.”

I had completely and utterly misread the situation. Speaking into my microphone, I said, “Stuart, it’s a false alarm.”

“Are you fucking kidding me?” he blared into my ear.

“No, I’m not.”

“We’re headed back.”


I figured then it was past time for me to get off the man. I rose to my feet before reaching down to help him up. I brushed off his white shirt I had accidentally dirtied when I knocked him to the ground. Upon closer inspection, I saw the nametag on his shirt. “Sheldon, I’m terribly sorry for my actions.”

He narrowed his brown eyes at me. “I think it’s me who needs to be calling the police.”

“That won’t be necessary.” Reaching into my pocket, I fished out my badge. As I flashed it at him, I said, “Agent Fraser with the U.S. Secret Service.”

His eyes bulged before he gasped. “Wait, that was President Callahan’s daughter?”

“Yes, sir, it was. I hope you can understand that we take the safety of the president’s children very seriously, and upon first reflection, it appeared you might’ve been preparing to harm Ms. Callahan.”

“Oh, no. I would never want to do that. I voted for her dad. Never thought I’d vote for an Independent, but he won me over.”

“I’m happy to hear that, sir. I certainly hope this unfortunate incident won’t in anyway skew your views on him.”

He waved a hand dismissively at me. “No, no. I understand. More than that, I can’t wait to go home and tell my wife that Caroline Callahan came into my store today.”

For my sake, I hoped he left out the part where a Secret Service agent mowed him down because he thought Piggly Wiggly coupons were a weapon. Once the other agents found out about this, I was going to catch hell in the form of their constant ribbing. At least Stuart would be going down with me. He’d made the assumption to start with.

After Stuart drove up, he made quick work of putting the SUV in park and opening the hatch. I hopped off the curb and went over to the back. Caroline sat with her knees pulled against her chest. When she pursed her lips at me, I held up my hands. “I’m sorry. It was a false alarm.”

“That’s what Stuart said.”

“We can never be too careful.”

An amused look twinkled in her blue eyes. “Apparently not when we find grocery cashiers a threat to my safety.”

“He appeared to have a weapon in his hand, and he was shouting at you,” I argued.

“I believe the weapon turned out to be coupons.”

Man, she was really on my dick about this one. Shit. I should never think of Caroline on my dick in any form or fashion. It was just too wrong. “Yes, the weapon turned out to be your coupons.”


I extended my hand to her. “Come on and get out, so we can load the groceries up and get the hell out of here.”

After I helped Caroline slide out of the back, she started helping me load the bags. “Should I go inside and offer an autograph to smooth things over? This is the closest grocery store to the apartment, so I’d hate to not ever be able to come here again because you clothes-lined a guy.”

“I didn’t clothes-line him. I merely took him down as part of protocol.”

“I’d say you lost your calling in football, that’s for sure.”

Previous titles in the series

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Read it for FREE on Kindle Unlimited


About the Author

Katie Ashley is a New York Times, USA Today, and Amazon Best-Selling author of both Indie and Traditionally published books. She lives outside of Atlanta, Georgia with her daughter, Olivia, and her spoiled mutt, Duke. She has a slight obsession with Pinterest, The Golden Girls, Shakespeare, Harry Potter, Star Wars, and Scooby-Doo.

With a BA in English, a BS in Secondary English Education, and a Masters in Adolescent English Education, she spent eleven years teaching both middle and high school English, as well as a few adjunct college English classes. As of January 2013, she hung up her red pen and expo markers to become a full-time writer. Each and every day she counts her blessings to be able to do her dream job.

Although her roots are firmly planted in the red Georgia clay, she loves traveling the country and world to meet readers and hang out with fellow authors. When she’s not writing or chasing down her toddler, you might find her watching reruns of The Golden Girls, reading historical biographies, along with romance novels, or spending way too much time on Facebook.

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Excerpt Reveal: UNTIL THE NEXT TIME by Josie Kerr

We’re less than a week away from the release of Josie Kerr’s UNTIL THE NEXT TIME, but you can read an excerpt now! Check it out below!


Available December 13th

Meghan Sullivan doesn’t have time for distractions, especially one like handsome veteran Jason Richards. She needs to concentrate on saving Foley’s Public House, and that means focusing all her energy on preparing for a huge local event that could make or break the struggling pub.

Jason Richards has a long history with Meghan. The two had been friends with benefits until Meghan put an end to things when her father got ill. Now Jason spends his time with his brothers, both blood and military, but wonders what would have happened if he’d gotten his act together earlier.

When outside forces conspire against Meghan, she reluctantly turns to Jason for help. The two vow to keep things professional, but serious chemistry and years of bottled up emotions make it impossible for them to keep their distance. When the actions against Meghan turn personal, Jason will do everything in his power to keep her safe.


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✦Kobo http://bit.ly/2DSFAok

Read an excerpt from UNTIL THE NEXT TIME now:

“J-Jason, you asshole,” Meghan stammered against his chest.

She looked up at him, expecting him to be flashing that mischievous, sexy grin of his. Instead, she found him as serious as she’d ever seen him look.

“Jason,” she whispered. “You scared the shit out of me.”

“Sorry, babe.” He wiped a droplet of water off her cheek with his thumb and smoothed her soggy hair back from her face. “I didn’t mean to.” He stepped away from her, his eyes blazing.

“You’re soaking wet, Meghan.” His voice was hushed, intense, and his gaze practically burned her. His eyes swept her from head to toe, pausing where her nipples jutted through her thin T-shirt, which was now transparent.

“That’s what happens when you spray yourself with water.” God, Meghan. You are an idiot.

“You should probably get out of these wet things.” His lip twitched, and his familiar grin appeared.

Meghan snorted. Maybe Jason was the idiot.

What wasn’t idiotic was the way he ran his hands over her body, first on her shoulders and down her arms, then to her waist. He plucked the T-shirt from her waistband, exposing the strip of skin at her waist.

“Do you need some help?” he whispered even as he worked her shirt over her head.

Meghan heard the plop of wet cotton on the floor, but she didn’t take her eyes off him. Her thoughts raced through her head. He’d pulled back yesterday, which was definitely reasonable, although disappointing. But now? Now, he looked like he wanted nothing more than to take her every way imaginable.

And Meghan had a very vivid imagination.

He stepped into her space and pulled her to him, his big hand splayed across her back.

“What about the thing we talked about yesterday?” Meghan was horrified the moment the words came out of her mouth. What the hell was she doing?

He froze, but he didn’t take his hands off of her. In fact, she could feel him fiddling with the clasp of her bra. “I haven’t started working on your project, so I’m not technically your employee yet.”

“Oh. Well.” Meghan swallowed hard. “That’s a totally different situation, then, right?”

“Right.” The clasp sprang open, and Jason’s hands were all over her bare back and then at her shoulders, slipping the straps down her arms. Meghan panicked for a split second. She could think of only two times when Jason saw her completely topless, but by his appreciative look, he approved. Then, in a flash, he had her up in his arms and had carried her over to the empty dry-goods table which was a height where her breasts just happened to be at the perfect level for him to suck one peak into his hot mouth. She groaned as his tongue circled her nipple while he thumbed the other.

He was so good at this. So, so good.





About Josie Kerr

Josie Kerr is a transplanted West Texan now living on the edge of both metro Atlanta and North Georgia Mountains.

She has an M.Ed. in Secondary English Education, but discovered that she hated high school more the second time than she did the first, so she decided to meld her love of technology with her education background and became an Instructional Designer. When not writing articles about how to fire someone without getting sued or why you should really not apply for jobs using your SexxyStud99@aol.com email address, she writes steamy romance novels that feature grown-up Heroes and Heroines.

You can find Josie on social media at:

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AS YOU WERE by Lee Piper – Excerpt Reveal

Today we have the excerpt reveal for AS YOU WERE by Lee Piper! Check it out and grab your copy December 7th!



Author: Lee Piper

Genre: Contemporary Romance


About As You Were:

They say love is beautiful.

They lie.

Love is a dark, broken man with whiskey-colored eyes. Love is knowing he will never return my feelings. It is the final chord of a guitar riff as it bleeds into silence.

Love is Zeke Danton.

I convinced myself I needed him. I thought there was no one better to record my debut album with…

I was wrong.

Encased in layers of ice, he wears his pain like a protective shield.

Wanting what I can’t have might ruin me. But so help me, I crave his destruction.


Pre-Order Your Copy Today:
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Exclusive Excerpt:

The elevator ride is beyond tense. Zeke refuses to look at me, yet won’t let go of my hand, while I try not to yank him close and trace his scowl lines with my tongue. I keep reminding myself he’s not mine to touch, that I have no right to want a man who has been a jerk to me. But my body won’t hear of it. It wants what it wants, and for some stupid reason, it wants Zeke. A lot.

My mind, however, is adamant. Are you crazy, Wil? Don’t let the guy touch you. Step away from the sexy man. Now.

I try to ease out of his clasp, but his hold tightens. Giving up far too quickly, I sigh, frustrated by my quick submission.

When we step into the hallway, Zeke leads me toward the apartment Drake and I are sharing. He punches in the code and opens the door. Finally letting go of me, he points to the couch. “Sit.”

“I’m fine. Give me five minutes to make myself a snack and I’ll be good to go.”

With a low growl, he slams the door shut behind me. I jump. Zeke shifts his body until I’m pushed against the cold wood and he is standing a hairsbreadth away. His hands rest on either side of my head. Craning my neck, I take in his thunderous expression. Something about the barely veiled ferocity calls to me. It dares me to step closer, spread my arms, and dance in the tempest.

I’ve always loved storms, and this man is a storm personified.

Tingles break out on my skin. My heart pounds against my chest as deviant fingers itch to reach out and cup his strong jawline. I want to press my lips to his. I want to taste his tongue, his mouth, his soul. I want him to gift that essential part of him, so I can keep it safely locked away for eternity. But I won’t. It’s not mine to take, and he’s not a man who’d give it anyway.

Zeke’s low growl snaps me from my reverie. “When I tell you to do something, you do it. Don’t argue, don’t question, just get it fucking done. Understand?”

Rather than intimidate me, his dominance triggers a tension that has no place between us. A warmth swells in my belly, heat rushes to my cheeks, and desire fuels my movements. Tipping my chin up, I narrow my eyes, daring him to bark directives again.

Beside me, Zeke’s hands curl into fists. For a long moment, we stare at each other, the standoff growing, building, morphing into a tangible being. Heat and annoyance war on his face. I’m transfixed by the interplay—couldn’t look away if I tried.

Without warning, he wrenches from the wall and marches to the kitchen. My eyes, traitorous heathens, follow him the whole way.




Catch up now with LIE TO ME!


Exclusive Trailer Reveal:



About the Author:

Lee Piper is a lover of books. She often juggles reading seven novels at a time for the sheer joy of it. When not writing, she is either reading, at the beach, or eating her body weight in chocolate.

Lee Piper’s debut novel, Rock My World became a bestseller and was a Raven Award finalist for Favorite Contemporary Romance and Favorite Cover. Her second novel, Rock My Body, was voted Best Book by LASR Readers and was a finalist in the 2017 Readers’ Choice Award. Lie to Me, Book #1 in the Rising Star series was reached number seventy-eight in the 2018 Goodreads Readers’ Choice Award.

Lee Piper lives in South Australia, with her drummer husband, cheeky daughters, and neurotic dog.


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SLOW SHIFT by Nazarea Andrews – Excerpt Reveal

Today we are sharing an excerpt reveal for SLOW SHIFT by Nazarea Andrews. Slow Shift is an adult, paranormal m/m romantic standalone novel. Pre-order your copy now while it’s only $1.99. Read an exclusive excerpt from the book below. 

The book releases December 6th!

PRE-ORDER NOW ON AMAZON FOR ONLY $1.99 (pre-order price!)



You can sign up for Nazarea’s newsletter for exclusive details.

SLOW SHIFT by Nazarea Andrews

A Standalone Paranormal M/M Romance – Coming December 6!


One angry, grieving boy.
Chase DeWitt is fourteen when his mother dies and he stumbles into the woods beyond his home, angry and heartbroken. He didn’t know that it would change the course of his life.

Two broken, lonely men. 
Tyler Reid is twenty three, grumpy and angry, trying to take care of a injured brother, and rebuilding a life blind hatred destroyed in one night.
But he understands the boy who stumbles out of the woods and into his life, understands the grief in his eyes and the rage that makes him shake. And there is something in that familiar grief that makes Tyler trust Chase, when trusting humans has only ever lead to disaster.

And a falling down house they make a home. 
As the summer passes and the years turn, Chase cares for Tyler’s brother, helps him rebuilding the house in the woods, as they help each other rebuild a life beyond the little house, Chase realizes two important things: these men matter to him, could be family.
And they are not nearly as human as they seem.

PRE-ORDER NOW ON AMAZON FOR ONLY $1.99 (pre-order price!)

Add SLOW SHIFT to Goodreads


“Are you really ok with this?” Chase asks later that night when Tyler slips into his bedroom and curls behind him on his bed. It’s not small but it always feels like it is when Tyler is in it with him.

He’s quiet, so Chase tilts his head back and says, “You don’t have to. We can find another way.”

“I’m ok. We need to do this,” Tyler says.

Chase nods. He touches the runes tattooed on Tyler’s ribs, the ones he marked Tyler with, and Tyler arches into the touch. “Remember you’re mine, Tyler. Whatever happens, whatever she says, you’re mine. And I won’t let her hurt what’s mine.”

Tyler shuffles into him, presses his face into Chase’s throat, and they cling to each other as the night deepens around them.


Join Nazarea’s READER GROUP.

You can get exclusive news, sneak peeks, giveaways, and more!





Nazarea Andrews (N to almost everyone) is an avid reader and tends to write the stories she wants to read. Which means she writes everything from zombies and dystopia to contemporary love stories.

When not writing, she can most often be found driving her kids to practice and burning dinner while she reads, or binge watching TV shows on Netflix. N loves chocolate, wine, and coffee almost as much as she loves books, but not quite as much as she loves her kids.

N is a self-professed geek and enjoys spending her spare time lost in her favorite fandoms and can often be found babbling about them on social media.

She lives in south Georgia with her husband, daughters, spoiled cat and overgrown dog. She is the author of World Without End series, Neverland Found, Edge of the Falls, and The University of Branton Series. Stop by her twitter (@NazareaAndrews) and tell her what fantastic book she should read next.



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BLUSHING KISSES by Nazarea Andrews – Teaser Reveal

Today we are sharing an excerpt for BLUSHING KISSES by Nazarea Andrews. Blushing Kisses is an adult contemporary romance novella, and it is part of the River Street Bar series. Pre-order your copy now for just 99 cents. It releases on November 15!



Add BLUSHING KISSES to Goodreads

BLUSHING KISSES by Nazarea Andrews

A Standalone Contemporary Romance – Coming November 15!

(River Street Bar series novella)


You are cordially invited…
River City is a town full of secrets and family and love. Like any small town, they come together to celebrate their own.

To the wedding…
For one weekend, all eyes are on the town’s favorite couple. As their friends and family gather around them, new love is found, and some people muddle through their own complicated happily ever after.

Of Dempsey Jones & Taite Riddley…
Return to River City one last time, and for one weekend look into the lives of some of familiar–and new–characters, and see how their happily ever after ends…




Add BLUSHING KISSES to Goodreads


“Uncle Aidric!” Taite bounces up, giddy in her long sweater and flying hair, her grin wider than any Ollie has ever seen on her.

“Darling, don’t ever call me that,” Aidric says, voice flat. She smirks and Ollie hides her laugh in a sip of her Rusty Nail.

“When are y’all gonna do this?” Taite asks innocently.

Ollie freezes. They haven’t talked about that.

They live together, are raising two kids together, have twisted their lives together so thoroughly that she doesn’t know where hers ends and his begins, and they have never discussed this.

“Not everyone is rushing down the aisle, Taite,” Aidric drawls, “And despite what seems to be in the water these days, I expect it’ll happen when we’re ready. We’ll do things in our own time and way.”

Taite smiles at that, her gaze drifting away. Ollie doesn’t bother turning to see what she’s looking at—she’s spent enough time with Dempsey’s pretty fiancee since she moved into the old Jones house with Aidric to know that sappy look only ever appears when she’s watching him.

“It’s not as bad as I thought it was,” she says.

Aidric snorts. “I’m sure my nephew would be thrilled with your ringing endorsement, darling.”

Taite’s cheeks turn red but she doesn’t say anything else, drifting off and leaving them alone.

They seem to always be alone, a circle of isolation in a large group of people, and Ollie doesn’t know why Aidric chose her—why he chose the girl that was so far from everything his family was, what his friends were.

“You’re doing it again,” he murmurs.

She blinks at him, a flush heating up her face. “Sorry.”

“Don’t be sorry,” he says, exasperated and fond. “Just stop doubting this is where I want to be.”



Amazon  |  Barnes & Noble  |  Kobo  



Amazon   |   iBooks   |    Kobo


Amazon  |  iBooks  |  Kobo  |  B&N



Amazon  |  iBooks  |  Kobo  |  B&N


Join Nazarea’s READER GROUP.

You can get exclusive news, sneak peeks, giveaways, and more!





Nazarea Andrews (N to almost everyone) is an avid reader and tends to write the stories she wants to read. Which means she writes everything from zombies and dystopia to contemporary love stories.

When not writing, she can most often be found driving her kids to practice and burning dinner while she reads, or binge watching TV shows on Netflix. N loves chocolate, wine, and coffee almost as much as she loves books, but not quite as much as she loves her kids.

N is a self-professed geek and enjoys spending her spare time lost in her favorite fandoms and can often be found babbling about them on social media.

She lives in south Georgia with her husband, daughters, spoiled cat and overgrown dog. She is the author of World Without End series, Neverland Found, Edge of the Falls, and The University of Branton Series. Stop by her twitter (@NazareaAndrews) and tell her what fantastic book she should read next.



Sign Up For Nazarea’s Newsletter

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YOU’RE THE ONE I DON’T WANT by Carrie Aarons – Teaser Reveal

Today we are revealing some teasers for an upcoming standalone title from Carrie Aarons. YOU’RE THE ONE I DON’T WANT releases November 15th, and you will not want to miss this second-chance romance. Be sure to add the book to your TBR pile now and follow Carrie for exclusive updates about the book.

Sign up for Carrie’s Newsletter for details about the book

Join Carrie’s Street Team

You’re the One I Don’t Want by Carrie Aarons

Releasing November 15

Add the book to Goodreads

Book Blurb:

Love is weakness.

Which is why Annabelle Mills vowed a long time ago to never let it destruct her. A former pageant queen with a bite equally as lethal as her bark, she’s interning at her dream job on the set of the highest-rated home design show on television. Everything in Annabelle’s life, though it may be cold and isolated, is going exactly as she always planned.

Until her ex-high school sweetheart moves to town. The same boy that she cheated on, once upon a time, essentially breaking both of their hearts. But no one knows the full story, and being vulnerable enough to open up about it is not on Annabelle’s checklist.

Hate is fuel.

The kind that courses through Boone Graham’s veins and allows him to shut out everyone around him. As the hottest rookie on Austin’s professional baseball team, he should be spending his days hitting homeruns and signing jerseys. Except he’s seen dreams ripped right out from under those closest to him, leaving them with nothing.

Without a college degree, he’ll never take the risk of pursuing his real dream. But when he runs into the girl who took a mallet to his heart and stopped it beating, attending the same university might just be the biggest challenge he’s faced yet.

As the semester unfolds, the line between love and hate is blurred. And with the amount of baggage stacked between them, together is the last thing they want to be.

That’s the thing about hearts, though. They develop plans all on their own.


I only have an hour in between my workout and the film session that the hitting coaches want us to attend.

My entire schedule since moving to Austin has been busy as hell and completely out of whack. Between getting my class schedule figured out, sprinting across campus to get to the buildings, dealing with my moving company, figuring out where to park my car in front of my building, practicing with the Triple-A affiliate team I was drafted to and everything in between … I’m fucking wiped.

I’ve been scouted for the major leagues since my sophomore year of high school, so I thought I’d been semi-prepared for what was to come, but my mind feels like it has been put in a blender for the last two weeks. I had so not been prepared. It was as if I was hobbling around in the dark in my new reality, trying to grasp at things before they moved on me.

I needed to get it the fuck together. I am a professional now and having a career as a professional baseball player would only get harder from here.

From the few times I’d visited Austin for tournaments or the odd family trip, I remember we’d gone to Big Cheese’s Grill. They boasted the best burgers in town, and it was close enough to campus that the place was always packed with students and professors alike.

I open the door to the restaurant while glancing at my iWatch to check the calories versus fat burned during my workout.

And I slam right into a body.

I bounce back, shocked at the person who just rammed into me. I fumble to hold on to them, to keep our gravity from sending both of us flying. I fail, and the body falls backward, the door slamming into my back. I absorb that blow and keep upright, thank God, or I would have been sprawled flat on top of whoever just plowed into me.

“Seriously?! Watch where you’re going!” An angry, high-pitched tone fills my ears.

My head is down, trying to collect its scrambled thoughts, as I reach for whoever I just knocked to the ground. “I’m so sorry, I didn’t realize you were coming out—”

The air and words leave me as I pull her up. Her hand is still in mine as we stand face-to-face, my surprise mirrored back at me. Those lips, the lashes, the eyes a rich, deep, soul-searching brown. The freckles across the bridge of her nose that make her look more innocent than she actually is.

A current of tension radiates back and forth between our interlocked hands, and I can smell the glass of wine she must have just drunk on her breath. It’s sweet with a bite of alcohol, and my mouth waters for a drink. I haven’t thirsted for alcohol in five years, yet in one chance meeting, Annabelle has me reaching for a bottle. She’s poison to me, makes me want to do crazy things. I drop her hand as the thought crosses my mind, as if she’s burned me.

“You should really watch where you’re going. Or did you knock me down on purpose?” Annabelle sniffs.

I scoff, “Right, I often go around pushing women to the ground on purpose. I see the cold hard ice hasn’t melted off your personality, Annabelle.”

And a woman she is. So much more grown up than I remembered her. She’d always been beautiful but gone was the gangliness of teenage years. This is a woman who stands in front of me, curves abound and an unseen knowledge of the world to match. I couldn’t help but get that jab in there.

“And I see you’re just as focused on yourself as ever. You never did care what anyone else was doing, did you, Boone?” She folds her arms over her chest and my eyes stray to her boobs in a sizzle of heat between us.

We’re like a bunch of children fighting like cats and dogs out in the street. How can she still pull out every insecure and immature trait within me? My brain is moving seconds slower than it usually does, and I know I’m standing here staring too long. Even though I hate Annabelle Mills, I can’t help but memorize every detail about her for the first time I’ve seen her in about five years.

“Move.” Annabelle pushes past me, not using any manners, and starts to stalk down the sidewalk.

Talk about rude. She’d always been aggressive, harsh, and just a little bit more high-maintenance than any of the other girls. It’s what had drawn me to her. And then seeing those glimpses of vulnerability, that’s what had made me stay. It was addicting feeling like you were the only one who got to see the nice side of the mean girl.

I should walk into the restaurant. I should pick up my to-go order and drive back to my apartment where I’ll eat a quick lunch and change and go to the practice facility.

But a flash of Annabelle in the bar the other night dances through my head. And her callous words just now piss me off even more.

She always did have the perfect way of getting under my skin and driving me wild. When I’m around her, I forget who I am. I turn into some raging bull, with a fuse shorter than the bombs Itchy and Scratchy use on each other.

The stupidest thing I could do right now? Stomp after her, yelling, in the middle of a crowded downtown street.

So that’s exactly what I do.

“You really haven’t changed a bit!” Oh, fuck. What am I doing?

Annabelle rolls around, her eyes sparking with rage. “Nope, still the same cold, heartless bitch you dumped.”

“Yeah, like I said, I can see that.” Lord, my mama would be so disappointed in me agreeing with a woman that she was a bitch.

“Well, no one said you had to be around it. You’re the one who moved to my city. You’re welcome to leave.” She waves around like I should just get out of here.

I fist my hands in my hair. Christ, she’s so aggravating. “No can do, I’m getting paid to be here.”

She rolls her eyes. “Like I’m not? Have you watched TV lately? Or did you take one too many fly balls to the head? I know there weren’t a lot of brain cells in there to start.”

Fuck her. Now it’s time to really piss her off, get under her skin like she’s under mine. “Oh, you mean that show you play house on or whatever? They’ll get bored of you when the next eye-candy pageant queen comes along.”

I swear Annabelle could spit nails at me if she willed it right now. “You’re an asshole, Boone Graham. You’ve only ever cared about yourself and where you want to be. It was silly of me to think you’d ever think of someone but yourself.”

I drop the anvil. “Says the girl who cheated on me. Who lost her virginity to another guy.”

People around us are starting to stare, to really look at the two people arguing openly on the street. It’s not a good idea for me to stick around any longer; people know who I am on a national level and being seen fighting with a girl, who someone will inevitably social media stalk and find out is my ex, is not good publicity.

Except I can’t stop staring into Annabelle’s eyes. They are furious, yes, but there is something more there. I’ve really … hurt her. I’m shocked, to be honest. I didn’t think I could remotely hurt this girl, who self-identifies as a cold, heartless bitch.

But there it is. The raw flash, miss-it-if-you-blink second of real pain that flickers through those mocha pools. I open my mouth to say something, to take it back, maybe apologize, but she speaks first.

“You have no idea.”

Her tone pulls at my heartstrings, it’s low and somber. And then she melts into the crowd, giving no explanation of what I have no idea about.



Author of romance novels such as Red Card and Privileged, Carrie Aarons writes books that are just as swoon-worthy as they are sarcastic. A former journalist, she prefers the stories she dreams up, and the yoga pant dress code, much better.

When she isn’t writing, Carrie is busy binging reality TV, having a love/hate relationship with cardio, and trying not to burn dinner. She lives in the suburbs of New Jersey with her husband, daughter and dog.



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Chapter One: WHISKEY UNDONE by Carrie Ann Ryan

Two Friends. One Nights. One shot of whiskey before they risk it all. Read the first chapter of WHISKEY UNDONE by Carrie Ann Ryan below before it releases November 13th!


Available November 13th, 2018

Two best friends follow a dangerous and seductive path in the final standalone novel of the bestselling Whiskey and Lies series from NYT Bestselling Author Carrie Ann Ryan.

Ainsley Harris has always kept a secret from her best friend. She’s stood by his side, helped him raise his daughter, and tried to keep her distance even though she’s been in love with him for years. She knows he has secrets of his own and she’s not willing to chance what they have on a possibility.

Loch Collins has hidden himself and his past from the world for good reason. Darkness always comes back to haunt those who fight against it, and he knows better than most. One night of temper, however, forces him to realize his true feelings for Ainsley—for better or worse.

But Loch’s former allies aren’t on his side anymore, and now not only is his life and the life of his daughter on the line, but Ainsley is in the crosshairs, as well. Together, two best friends must fight for each other and their small town, because Whiskey has never burned brighter. And danger, it seems, is ever lurking.

WHISKEY UNDONE releases November 13th – preorder your copy now!

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Read the first chapter of WHISKEY UNDONE now!

Loch Collins knew the night wasn’t going to end anytime soon, but the pounding in his head wished it would. He’d been up most of the night dealing with paperwork and his daughter. Misty’s nightmares had forced him to wake up earlier than usual to open his gym since his morning rotation crew had called in sick.

To say he was exhausted, irritated, and not in the mood to deal with people was an understatement. But even though he wanted to walk out of the bar and head to his bed for eight hours of uninterrupted sleep, he knew he would never be able to, not with his mother giving him looks over her shoulder as he casually crept to the other end of the bar nearest the door.

The woman seemed to have eyes in the back of her head, and ever since he was little, she had been able to figure out what he was doing before he even had a chance to attempt it. Today was the engagement and new baby celebration for his brother Fox and his fiancée Melody at Loch’s other brother Dare’s whiskey bar and restaurant. He knew there was another name for the event, but for the life of him, he couldn’t think of it. They’d closed down this part of the bar for an hour just for family, and it would open up soon for the rest of the town and the tourists. Each of the family members had homes large enough for a party, but Dare’s bar was a great place for them all to congregate and not have to drive after a few glasses of whiskey.

“Why are you sulking over in the corner while the rest of the family is smiling and drinking?”

Loch looked down at his best friend and raised a brow.

Ainsley just rolled her eyes and elbowed him in the gut. He didn’t move, but he did have to hold back a wince. He’d taught her enough self-defense lessons over the years that those bony elbows of hers did real damage—not that he wanted her to know that he’d felt the impact.

“I’m not sulking.” He folded his arms over his chest but didn’t turn to her since he didn’t want his family to notice that he wasn’t really paying attention. He was usually better at family gatherings, but today just wasn’t his day. Apparently, both his mother and Ainsley had noticed.

“You’re sulking. And don’t give me another eyebrow raise. You might have perfected that for everyone else, but I can always see through it. You don’t intimidate me.” Ainsley folded her arms right under her breasts and glared at him, though he saw the humor in those hazel eyes.

She’d let her hair down tonight, and the long, brown waves with honey-colored highlights flowed over her shoulders. Loch always liked it when she wore her hair down, but she didn’t do it as often as he might like. Whether she had it up in a high ponytail or down like it was now, her hair always brought out the sharp features of her face. His mother had once said that Ainsley’s cheekbones could cut glass, and he supposed he agreed with her. He glanced down at his best friend’s lips and noticed she wore gloss today with no color, something she often did since she’d once told him that she didn’t like how thin her lips were. When he’d said that he liked them just fine, she’d just rolled her eyes and huffed something about being a man and not knowing what good lips looked like. He hadn’t responded, but he figured since he was the one looking at her, he should know what he liked in lips.

Not that he’d ever say that to Ainsley since talking about his best friend’s lips or any other part of her body was definitely off-limits.

As it should be.

“You’re staring at me. And still sulking. Perhaps even scowling. What is up with you tonight?”

“Nothing is up with me. Go bother Dare or Fox and leave me be.” He hadn’t meant to snap at her, but he was in a shitty mood, and thinking about Ainsley’s lips hadn’t helped matters.

“You’re an idiot,” she whispered under her breath. “And an asshole. So, get your head out of your ass and go hug your brother. Because he’s engaged and happy and he’s allowed to be.”

This time, Loch turned to her, frowning. “I’m not an asshole.” Yes, he was. “And I never said Fox shouldn’t be happy.”

“You’re sure acting like you think that. You’re over here in the corner while your brother and his woman are celebrating a new baby and the fact that Melody will soon be family. Dare and Kenzie are celebrating too since they’re also engaged. Everyone is happy and starting a new life. And you’re glaring.”

Loch didn’t like the fact that she was calling him out but, frankly, he didn’t know why he had to be here the whole night. This wasn’t the real engagement party, that would come later. This was just a drink or two with the family while they talked about planning and other things that had nothing to do with him. He wasn’t usually this anti-social, but hell, he’d had a long day, a longer week, and an even longer year, and all he wanted to do was sleep. It didn’t help that he knew his daughter was at the babysitter’s at the moment and would be spending the night with his parents for grandparent time. Therefore, the house would be empty for him to just rest in peace.

All he wanted was sleep, damn it.

“I’m only glaring at you right now, Ainsley. Get off my back and go join the family.” He had no idea why the cutting words were slipping from his mouth like they were, but as soon as he said them, he knew he couldn’t take them back.

For a moment, he thought he saw hurt in her eyes, but she quickly blinked it away as if it had never been there at all.

“Like I said. Asshole. What I don’t get is why tonight, Loch? Why do you have to be an asshole tonight? I just don’t understand you sometimes, and for being your so-called best friend, that’s saying something.” Ainsley stormed off for a moment before slowing her steps and brushing her hair over her shoulders so it fell down her back. He couldn’t see her face, but he figured she’d put on a smile for Kenzie, Dare’s fiancée, and Melody.

Both women gave Loch a look over the top of Ainsley’s head, and he figured his best friend’s smile hadn’t been good enough to mask her true feelings.

Well, fuck. Turned out he was an asshole. But it wasn’t like he’d denied it before. At least to himself.

While his parents talked to Kenzie, Melody, and Ainsley, his brothers walked over to him, whiskeys in hand, and a spare one in Dare’s grip for Loch. Loch gladly took the glass from his brother and saluted them both before taking a sip. The whiskey his brother had chosen wasn’t the one to knock back in one gulp but rather take in slowly. No matter how much Loch needed the jolt to his system, he took his time.

The three brothers looked alike, and even their little sister, Tabby, who lived out in Denver with her husband looked like them. They all had dark hair and blue eyes, features which had come from their father. There were subtle differences in each of their faces, and most of that came from their mother’s side of the family. While Tabby was of average height and slender of build, the rest of the siblings were all a bit taller than average. Loch was not only the tallest and biggest of the bunch thanks to his career owning a gym and his other job he didn’t much talk about, but he was also the eldest of the four.

And the only one who wasn’t married, engaged, or thinking of having more children—not that he was complaining.

He already had his one perfect daughter. He didn’t need any more. Nor did he need a serious relationship, or anything headed down that road. He’d thought he had that once with Misty’s mother, but once the baby was born, Marnie, his ex, had signed over legal rights to Misty and hightailed it out of town, never once looking back.

Loch had found himself alone in his hometown of Whiskey, Pennsylvania, trying to figure out how to raise a little baby girl on his own. He hadn’t exactly been alone, of course. His parents had stepped up, as did Fox and Dare when Dare moved back to Whiskey after leaving the police force. Tabby had already been living in Denver at that point, but she had made him countless lists and charts so he could find his way while figuring out how to be a parent.

And, of course, there was Ainsley.

She’d been his everything.

His babysitter. His friend. His protector from his darkest thoughts. His savior.

She’d been the person up late at night, pacing with him when Misty’s cholic had kept her up for hours in pain and crying. She’d been the one helping him cook meals so he could work the hours he needed to. Though neither of them was the best of cooks, they’d made do. She’d stepped in when Loch hadn’t been able to ask for help, and she hadn’t requested a thing in return.

Honestly, she was more of a mother to Misty than Marnie ever was, and he’d never be able to find the words to tell her how truly thankful he was—even if he hated himself a bit more each day for relying on her as much as he did.

She was his everything, and yet…his nothing. Nothing more than she should be anyway.

Snapping back to the present, Loch saw his brothers giving him curious looks, and realized he’d been staring at Ainsley rather than talking to them. Who knew how long he’d been standing there looking like an idiot. And his headache certainly hadn’t gotten any better in the time being.

“You going to keep glaring, or are you going to act like you’re a Collins and get your ass in gear and celebrate?” Dare stared at him, and Loch flipped his brother off.

“Aw, family love right there,” Fox drawled.

“I hate you both sometimes,” Loch said quietly.

“We know,” they said in unison.

“What’s up with you, really?” Dare asked, leaning forward and lowering his voice.

Loch shook his head. “Nothing. Just didn’t get enough sleep and, according to Ainsley, I’m an asshole.”

“Well…she’s not wrong,” Fox added.

Loch flipped his other brother off before taking another sip of his whiskey. He let the smoky taste settle on his tongue before swallowing. Dare’s bar had a variety of whiskeys like most bars around the world, but Loch preferred Dare’s. The bar had been renovated a few times over the years from back when it was part of a small and illegal distillery during the era of Prohibition, but Loch figured Dare’s twist on the historic bar and restaurant with its wide array of delicious spirits was by far the best.

Not that his judgement was biased or anything when it came to his family.

“You don’t have to stay,” Dare said quickly. “I mean, you showed up, we ate, and now you’ve had a drink. You can walk home and just be by yourself. No one is going to care.”

“Mom and Ainsley will.”

“If Mom knew you were tired and had a headache, she wouldn’t.” At Loch’s look, Fox added quickly, “I know you have one because you keep touching your temple. Maybe drinking isn’t the best thing for you right now. Whiskey doesn’t always lead to the best decisions.”

“Considering you’re marrying the woman you had too much to drink with and are having a baby with her thanks to said whiskey, I don’t know if you’re the best person to comment on that. Seems to have worked out for you,” Loch said dryly.

“True enough.” Fox looked over his shoulder and smiled at Melody, who grinned right back. Loch was only just getting to know his future sister-in-law, but he liked her. Loch knew she’d been through hell and back—a few times—but she had come out stronger for it. Fox loved the woman, and anything or anyone that made his brother smile like that was perfect in his book.

He shook himself from his thoughts and focused on his brothers again. “I can’t leave now without annoying Ainsley, and since I’ve been pissing her off more often than not recently, I don’t plan to do it again.”

“Good man.” Dare snorted. “Now, come over here and finish off the cake with us then head home. You’re tired, we get it. Don’t overwork yourself trying to do it all.”

“I don’t.” Another lie.

“Yeah, you do. We’re all like that, but I’m pretty sure you do it the most.” Fox sipped from his glass, meeting Loch’s gaze.

“True enough. Let me get some cake, and then I’ll head out. Sounds like a plan.”

Dare gripped Loch’s shoulder and gave it a squeeze before the three of them made their way over to the others. His mother did indeed give Loch a look, but he sidled up next to Ainsley and sipped his drink—just one since he already had a headache—and ate the cake Ainsley handed to him. Eventually, he had more fun than he thought he would and was glad his brothers had pulled him over. He loved his family, liked spending time with them, but he sometimes forgot not to live in his head, constantly dealing with his own problems.

By the time they parted ways, each of the siblings and their women going to their own houses, and Loch’s parents off to pick up Dare’s son and Misty for a slumber party, Loch was ready for bed.

“Mind if I go with you to your house?” Ainsley asked. “I know you’re tired, but I left my laptop there earlier like an idiot, and I need it for tomorrow morning.”

Loch took his best friend’s hand and gave it a squeeze. He’d been a jerk all night and hated that he’d acted like he had. Ainsley froze and gave him a weird look but didn’t react otherwise.

“Of course. You need me to drive you home after? Your car is at your house, right?” They waved at everyone as they left, but Loch kept his hand on hers, wanting to make sure she knew he was sorry for being an asshole.

“I can walk easily enough. It’s not that late, and it’s a decent night for a walk.” Ainsley didn’t move her hand from his, and he took it as a sign that she forgave him. Or she’d forgotten that she was holding his hand. Or was possibly chilled, since it was the end of winter in Pennsylvania.

“Then let’s get out of the cold,” Loch said quickly as they walked down the sidewalk, passing tourists and townsfolk, who were on their way to other places along the main road of Whiskey. A lot of the town’s income came from tourism, and while the weather might not be too cold at the moment, it was still their downtime.

There was snow coming, Loch could feel it. Once it stopped and stayed on the trees surrounding the old buildings and landmarks, people would come in droves again to take photos and buy trinkets. Some would stay longer for a meal at his brother’s place, maybe rent a room at the family inn Kenzie ran. Others would join a dance class at Melody’s studio or stop by Loch’s gym for a workout. They would read the paper with Fox’s stories, and talk about what was going on in the world as they strolled Whiskey’s streets. Those that lived locally would send their children to Ainsley’s school. All of them were connected to the town in some way. Even if they tried to get away, Whiskey was a part of them.

“How goes school?” He pulled Ainsley close as someone bumped into her, and she leaned into him as they made their way to his house.

“Tiring, but worth it. I love my kids this year, even though I swear the grading is worse than ever. I’m looking forward to spring break, and we’re only halfway there from winter break as it is.”

He smiled down at her. “I did the same when I was a student. Never really thought of how the teachers felt.”

She rolled her eyes and grinned up at him. He swallowed hard, wondering why he couldn’t get his mind off her lips tonight.

“No one ever does. And, here we are. It’s chillier than I thought it was.”

He tugged her close as they made their way to the front of his house. “I should have given you my coat.”

She shrugged as she pulled away, letting him open the front door. “I have my own on. I’m not that cold, Loch. Winter isn’t over yet, but it’s not that bad at the moment.”

“Bite your tongue, woman. Don’t encourage Mother Nature. Now, where is your laptop?”

“I’ve got it. Thanks for this, Loch. I need to get a few things done if I want to make my date tomorrow.”

Loch froze. Surely, he’d heard her wrong.


Ainsley turned and gave him a look that could have peeled paint off the wall. “Yes. A date. I haven’t accepted as of yet, but a friend asked me out, and I said I’d let him know tonight if I was free. Got a problem with that, Loch?”

He stuffed his hands into his pockets, wondering how he’d fucked everything up so badly again. “Didn’t know you were dating.”

“You never asked. I date, Loch.”

“Not often.” He winced as she punched his shoulder. “I didn’t mean it like that.”

“You’re an idiot. I’ve already told you that tonight, but I figured I’d say it again. I don’t date often because I don’t have time, not because I’m not desirable.”

His brows shot up. “Whoa, I didn’t say that. I didn’t even mention anything like that. Now, who is this guy? And why am I just now hearing about him?”

“You’re fucking kidding me right now. Seriously? Does it matter? I don’t tell you everything, Loch. And don’t act so surprised someone actually asked me out. Maybe if you actually saw me, you wouldn’t be so surprised.”

“I see you.” He whispered the words, but he wasn’t sure she’d heard him.

“Maybe if you saw me as someone other than your friend, someone who isn’t just the one who’s always here, you’d actually see that I’m dateable. I’ve seen the way you look at me when I’m near other men. Like that one night when you thought I was with Fox. And yet you do nothing about it. You stand there and act surprised that I’m going on a date, yet you won’t even look at me. You don’t see me.”

Loch growled low before taking a step closer to her. “I see you, Ainsley. That’s the fucking problem.”

Then, he took her mouth with his and knew he’d made a mistake at the first touch.

But she didn’t back away.

And neither did he.

Want to catch up on the Whiskey and Lies series?

About WHISKEY SECRETS (Whiskey and Lies #1)

Sparks fly between a former cop-turned-bartender and his new innkeeper in the first installment of a Montgomery Ink spin-off series from NYT Bestselling Author Carrie Ann Ryan.

Dare Collins is a man who knows his whiskey and women—or at least that’s what he tells himself. When his family decides to hire on a new innkeeper for the inn above his bar and restaurant, he’s more than reluctant. Especially when he meets the new hire. But he’ll soon find that he has no choice but to work with this city girl and accept her new ideas and the burning attraction between them.

Kenzie Owens left her old life and an abusive relationship behind her—or so she thought. She figures she’ll be safe in Whiskey, Pennsylvania but after one look at her new boss, Dare Collins, she might still be in danger, or at least her heart. And when her past catches up with her despite her attempts to avoid it, it’s more than her heart on the line. This time, it might mean her life.

Get your hands on WHISKEY SECRETS!

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About Carrie Ann Ryan

Carrie Ann Ryan is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of contemporary and paranormal romance. Her works include the Montgomery Ink, Redwood Pack, Talon Pack, and Gallagher Brothers series, which have sold over 2.0 million books worldwide. She started writing while in graduate school for her advanced degree in chemistry and hasn’t stopped since. Carrie Ann has written over fifty novels and novellas with more in the works. When she’s not writing about bearded tattooed men or alpha wolves that need to find their mates, she’s reading as much as she can and exploring the world of baking and gourmet cooking.

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BURIED by Brenda Rothert – Excerpt Reveal

Today we are sharing a few teasers and an excerpt for Buried by Brenda Rothert. This is a contemporary romance, standalone that will be releasing on November 15th. You can pre-order it now on Amazon.

Add the book to your TBR Pile now!

Buried by Brenda Rothert

Releasing November 15

Book Blurb:

Do you believe in fate?

I didn’t. I’d worked since childhood to become an NFL starting quarterback. All the blood, sweat, and tears were about to pay off with my name in the record books. Setting an NFL record was going to be the crowning achievement of my career. Hell, of my life.

But then fate, the cagey bitch, threw me a curveball I never saw coming. I ended up trapped in a doomsday bunker with four strangers, my chances at that record slipping away as days turned into months.

I never would’ve given Erin a second look. She was gorgeous, sure, but not my type. I liked women who were strong. Fearless. Resilient. Not to mention that she hated me.

But I was so wrong about her. And in that bunker, I fell in crazy, stupid love.

I thought a record would be my greatest triumph. But now, all I want is a shot with Erin. I’ve faced down massive linebackers intent on ending me. For her, I’ll go toe-to-toe with fate.

Pre-order Now on Amazon

Add the book to Goodreads



I sigh softly, willing my heart to stop jackhammering in my chest, and walk over to the large, opened steel door in the ground.

Kenna white knuckles the black steel ladder that leads straight down, scrambling to get her heels situated. I wonder again why she’s wearing a business suit and heels out here.

“Do you work here?” I ask her.

She gives me a sharp look. “I’m Derek’s personal assistant.”

“Oh, got it. And he must be the football player who owns the place?”

Kenna gawks at me in disbelief. “You don’t know who Derek Heaton is?”

I shrug. “Isn’t he a football player?”

“He’s the best quarterback in the league. Also the highest paid.”

“Huh. Well, good for him,” I say dismissively.

Kenna shrieks as one of her feet slips on the metal ladder.

“You okay?” I ask her.

“I’m fine.”

I peer down into the dark hole, trying to think about anything other than going down there. Even after years of therapy, the panic is so strong I want to run away.

Just make it about the groceries, I tell myself. Think about getting the delivery where it needs to go as quickly as possible. You can do this. 

I take a deep breath and then follow Kenna down the ladder. I start sweating immediately as my self-preservation instincts kick in. But I ignore it, descending the ladder to a small landing and then taking a staircase the rest of the way down.

For a moment, my fear is forgotten. The bunker is nothing like I was expecting. It’s open and expansive, the kitchen done with stainless appliances and warm wood cabinets. The floors are also wood, and there’s a large leather sectional in a living area.

“This way,” Kenna says, motioning impatiently from in front of a doorway.

I tear myself away from looking at the rich, slightly rustic décor and join her in a large white room. Fluorescent lights glow overhead, illuminating walls lined with shelves. About half the shelves are filled with supplies ranging from toilet paper to giant containers of tapioca pudding.

“Right here,” Kenna says, grabbing a clipboard and glancing down at it.

She stands in front of an empty section of shelves. I wait a couple seconds as she reads something on her list, but then I can’t take it anymore. I refuse to be down here for one minute longer than I have to.

“I’ll go get my first load,” I say, turning.

“I need it shelved in groups,” she says as I depart the room. “Keep all the peanut butter together, all the trail mix together, and so on. And make sure you fill the entire shelf all the way to the back.”

“Okay,” I call over my shoulder.

I hear male voices from somewhere in the bunker, but I ignore them, practically sprinting to the stairs out of this death trap hole in the ground.

When I get to the truck, I stuff my backpack with as much of the supplies it back hold, then grab another box to carry in my arms. Surveying the flatbed load, I realize it’s going to take at least twenty trips to get all this into the supply room.

Just great. I have to make myself go down that ladder over and over again.

As I reach the end of the stairs, I see three men in the living room area of the bunker. One is kneeling by the floor, looking at something. The other two are talking.

One of the two looks pretty young, maybe college-aged. His skin is deeply tanned and his hair is hidden beneath a baseball hat. The other one looks like a young Russell Crowe, very tall and all muscles and chiseled jaw line. He’s wearing shorts and a plain gray t-shirt.

He has to be the football player. He’s got arrogant pro athlete written all over him, from his biceps straining the sleeves of his shirt to his perfect smile.



Brenda Rothert is an Illinois native who was a print journalist for nine years. She made the jump from fact to fiction in 2013 and never looked back. From new adult to steamy contemporary romance, Brenda creates fresh characters in every story she tells. She’s a lover of Diet Coke, chocolate, lazy weekends and happily ever afters.


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