Prologue & Chapter Reveal: Farewell, My Loves by Jen Tirone

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Cover Design: Hang Le

Release Date: December 12, 2016

Synopsis: Inspired by a true story.

Love.
Passion.
Obsession.

There was no way to distinguish one from the other in my life.
Nothing in this world could destroy a bond as fierce as ours.

Or so I believed… Because life interfered.
Impulsive decisions, reaped unyielding consequences.
Fate had a way of making you question your sanity.
Loyalties were blurred.
Priorities, poisoned.
And destiny… destiny dispelled all our beliefs.

In the end love was just too consuming. Tragic even. Without a doubt, love… crossed many unfathomable lines.

 

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Prologue & Chapter One

 

Oh God, I can’t breathe.

I see it in his eyes; it’s not him anymore.

He’s lost all ability to reason, incapable of realizing what he’s doing with his own two hands.

He’s not grasping the finality of this… there’s no coming back.

I struggle as best I can against him, against the pain and the panic that’s rising. Imploring him, but it’s too late now.

He’s so far gone and taking me with him.

And with this realization, my mind eases as my struggle begins to fade… an eerie calm settles over me just then.

“If I can’t have you, Gia, NOBODY FUCKIN’ WILL!” he bellows.

It’s as if he doesn’t have a choice in this. His eyes are not only frantic but in agony. They’re telling me everything there is to say; he can’t help himself.

He won’t.

I knew this could happen… I just refused to believe it would.

I gasp one last time, trying to pull in the last breath of air before the darkness completely consumes me.

The last thought I struggle to actualize… is my wish and my goodbye…

 

 

Part One

Salerno, Italy

In the beginning

There isn’t a single memory I can reminisce that Giorgio wasn’t in.

He met me the day I was born on June 16, 1941, in the beautiful town of Salerno, in the Amalfi coast of Italy.

My first smile was for Gio, my first giggle coaxed by him. Even the first few steps I took were in his direction. Everything I did in life was with him or for him, loving that boy for as long as I could remember.

See, my Giorgio could do anything. He wasn’t capable of being mediocre. He always needed to do something and, no, it couldn’t be subpar either. Giorgio had to be the best at everything and, irritatingly, he always was. He swam the fastest, sang the nicest, jumped the highest, threw the farthest, and lifted the most. He was even the tallest of our group when that was something he had no control over.

And as you can already imagine, Giorgio was the most handsome, too.

Since he was a young boy, he held an air of arrogance that somehow only made him more of a man’s man, and he was constantly surrounded by a flock of girls.

Every mother doted on him, and every father looked at him with a knowing smile. Everyone, young and old, was vying for his attention, yet I never had to fight for it. I guess that made him all the more perfect to me.

The story about the bond we created on the day I was born had been recounted to me and to all in our town, hundreds of times.

For many generations, the Moretti and Vitale families were inseparable. They were always, always, always together. They were like pasta and pomodoro, bread and olive oil, espresso and biscotti… I’m sure you get it by now.

The Morettis visited us at the hospital that morning, and our fathers were outside smoking their cigars while our mothers yammered about my birth. I was nursing in my mother’s arms when Giorgio’s mother brought him over to meet me. With only just a glimpse of me, he was squirming out of his mother’s arms to reach me.

When she didn’t let him go, he screamed at the top of his lungs to get his way, so my mama offered to let him sit in her free arm while I nursed in her other. Once he settled in, he laid a chubby little hand on me and, according to our mothers, hadn’t let go of me since.

They couldn’t believe his fascination at just four years old with me, but I imagine as they did with every one of their tales, they exaggerated the story.

I will admit though, it made me swoon every time I heard it, and I heard it plenty.

Our love was quite beautiful. Solid and appassionato.

Our families didn’t arrange our marriage, but they certainly fostered it from childhood.

My babbo and mama, Alessandro and Apolognia Vitale, have been Domenico and Chiara Moretti’s friends since they were children. Their parents and grandparents were friends, and so on. The two families have probably been friends since the time of the Roman Empire.

The Moretti boys: Domenico Jr., who we call Nico, Matteo, who was the second born, and my Giorgio, were raised together with my siblings and me.

The first memory I could recall was on my third birthday in 1944. Mama, babbo, my sister Gabriella, my big brother Alessandro and the Morettis were all in attendance for my celebration, la bambina’s birthday. They were our neighbors, but even then Giorgio wouldn’t have let them miss my party for anything.

I can’t quite tell why my third birthday stood out, other than it being my first memory of the day I knew I adored him. My parents hadn’t done anything too special for the celebration. They were simple people, with humble tastes. My mama baked rosemary bread, Gabi helped her make a cannoli-filled cake, babbo doted on me all day, and Sandro played every game I wanted.

When the Morettis came over, the house was even more boisterous and full of affection, tight hugs and loud kisses. But what had me over the moon was the purple bike Giorgio was escorting toward me. I must’ve played with this boy countless times, but never had I seen him so proud and excited to give me something, and what a something it was!

We’re talking all the bells and whistles with a basket on the handlebar and matching training wheels!

For any three year old, it was the best gift ever.

Coming from my Gio, it was absolute and undeniable love.

Tanti auguri, Gia!” Happy birthday, he wished me.

But I could care less what he was saying because all I could think about was getting on that bike and never getting off of it again. I even remember wondering if it could fit in the bathroom while I bathed, it was already my most prized possession.

My childhood wasn’t lacking, considering we were in a war-stricken country at the time. Though, luxuries like a brand new purple bike were very unusual and, even at my age, I knew that was something you didn’t ordinarily get.

I guess that explains how the memory of my third birthday was so clear.

It could’ve been like any other, only I knew the social climate was uneasy and the Morettis had to have cashed in a favor, as they liked to call it, to be able to obtain something that indulgent.

Favors for the Morettis always came at a steep price and I would learn of their family’s… livelihood, much later in life.

DIO MIO! I ALWAYS WANTED A BIKE!” I screeched, jumping up and down, as only a young child would do.

I ran toward Giorgio and practically trampled him to get on it. He was laughing and his excitement was just as energetic as mine.

“Gia, babbo got me a bike, too! We can ride together every day! Here, let me teach you. I’m taking off my training wheels this week because I was practicing all day and I’m already a professional! We have to keep yours on still because you’re little and I don’t want you to get hurt,” my protector assured me.

Of course, had I been paying attention to him, I would’ve argued I didn’t need training or his help, but I was too enthralled with the sparkling machinery.

I felt like such a big kid then.

“Gio, thank you! This is the best present!” I exclaimed, sealing it with a big kiss on the cheek he had been expectantly tapping with a finger. He then wrapped me up in his big boy hug.

For most seven-year-old boys kisses from girls were gross and were immediately wiped off, but Giorgio had always been affectionate with me. Either always kissing me or demanding I give them to him, lots of innocent smooching went on, encouraged by the laughter and ‘awws’ our mothers seemed to always sing in unison.

“Mama, Babbo, can I ride my new bike outside, please?” I asked my parents, not caring about the cannoli cake anymore.

Mama laughed and looked to babbo, who of course let me. Being la bambina of both families made me more spoiled than I would’ve normally been. I was the youngest of my family, but the Morettis indulged too, since they only had boys.

Giorgio and I immediately ran out. He went to his house to get his bike and Nico and Gabi were helping me sit on mine, when Gio, like the professional he said he was, showed off by riding around me in smoothly performed circles.

It only urged me to get moving already, but Nico insisted I learn the parts of the bike first. I might’ve listened better if Giorgio would’ve stopped riding his bike around us, causing me to become even more impatient.

Finally, my impromptu lesson was over and like a bat out of hell, I took off only to topple right off the damn bike!

Gabriella was bent over laughing and Nico, to his credit, really tried not to laugh, too, but failed.

Giorgio immediately jumped off his bike and pushed them away to help me up himself.

He did not find my fall funny.

Giorgio’s devotion to me since I had been born never lessened over time. Stories about him wanting to always be the one to bathe me in a tin bucket were told with much warm-heartedness. Sure, it was a fun splash fest for the both of us, but the serious little boy would go over to my house every day and ask my mother if he could bathe me like it was his responsibility.

I was his little human toy.

A trophy he showed off to everyone, telling all who would listen to him that I was his.

It was so cute! Giorgio claimed me.

It was so sweet! He always wanted me around.

It was so romantic! Giorgio would tell everyone he was going to marry me one day.

It didn’t help that I ate up all the attention from him, basking in all things Gio. Ever since I could remember, the sun rose and set with him and I didn’t want it any other way.

He picked me up from the ground and dusted me off. Once he was sure I was fine, he told me to wait a second and brought his bike over next to mine.

Cautiously, he helped me mount my seat and put his hand on my back to support me in case I fell over again. When he was sure I had the hang of it, he got back on his and we rode off together.

Even as young as I was, I knew without a single doubt Giorgio and I would be forever.

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About the Author: There’s nothing Jen loves more than the ‘beauty of doing nothing’, though you’ll find her devouring a book in bliss if she’s not lost in her world of writing. She’s a Miami girl to the fullest with an accent that makes her sound like a native Spanish speaker, but in actuality she can only defend herself in the language at best. This Colombian- Italian descendant loves her pasta, espresso, wine and empanadas, and there isn’t a dessert she can say no to. Her stories have pieces of her edgy heart woven secretly between the pages and at the core of most of them is the essence of a true story. Inspiration comes to her mostly through melancholy music and morbid family sagas, but random occurrences like a good night’s sleep can do wonders for her imagination.
Connect with Jen

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Ink & Lies by S.L. Jennings

ink & lies excerpt reveal

Prologue

You know that pivotal moment in every love story, when the hero or heroine makes an imperative move that leaves the other with a life-altering choice? Whether it be a pronouncement of love (I’ve been in love with you my entire life, and I don’t care that you’re my stepbrother) or a salacious secret (I’m pregnant and the baby isn’t yours) or a shocking decision (I’ve decided to embrace what I am… I’m transitioning into a unicorn, and I’m pregnant by my stepbrother), we can always count on this familiar occurrence.
I’ve always deemed them cliché yet necessary in the romance genre. A good plot twist is as vital to a story as its characters. Without it, the hero and heroine would have no reason to change, to evolve. They’d have no reason to step out on faith and madness and take hold of their destiny. Take hold of their story.
I once lived for the perfect plot twist.
I just never expected to actually live it.
I look down at my boarding pass for the eightieth time in the last fifteen minutes. Gate 3B, Seat 2A. GEG to LAX. Final boarding in…now.
Sixteen hours ago, I succumbed to the insanity of feeling, and made my crucial confession. I began that almighty trek up a story’s climactic mountain. And every hour, every minute, since, I’ve waited for her to make her choice.
To make me her choice.
The attendant glares at me from over her intercom receiver and announces that the gate for flight D5611 will be closing in sixty seconds. She’s saying it for only me, because I’m the only one here. Waiting. Crumbling.
I take one last look down the corridor that leads to security. I just knew that she’d show up, racing through the airport, screaming for someone to stop the plane. That was how I’d imagined my story…our story. The greatest cliché of all, and I still couldn’t breathe it into fruition. I still couldn’t get her to read between the lines scrawled on my heart.
I guess the most epic romances are still tucked away within the pages of her favorite novels, safely swathed in inked lies and faded paper promises. Forever fictional. Just like love.

ink & lies preorder

Are you ready to meet Rhys & Fi in INK & LIES by S.L. Jennings. This romantic stand alone
releases February 9th!

Pre-order for ONLY $0.99 NOW!

Amazon US | Amazon UK | iBooks

**Additional retailers coming soon**

ink and lies

Blurb

From International Best Selling Romance Novelist, Hope Hughes, comes a gripping, heartfelt tale of two lovers, fighting for the freedom to…

No. Scratch that. Too cheesy.

…two people, torn apart by the tumultuous tides of life, only to discover refuge in…

WTF? What does that even mean? DELETE.

…two people, confused as shit as to where they should be and who they should love and none of this means a damn thing because it’s all lies!
Lies.
I’m not Hope Hughes. I’m not some fierce woman romance machine. Hell, I’m not even a woman.
I’m a liar.
And while I refuse to believe my own BS, deceit masked in heartfelt phrases of love and devotion, I want to make her believe them. Because maybe—just maybe—if she can find the soul within my words, she’ll also be able to find the truth scribbled on my heart.
You see, I once lived for the perfect plot twist.
I just never expected to actually live it.
This is my story. Well, maybe her story. I just wish I could make it our story.
The one I’m still writing.

INK AND LIES TEASER

About the Author

S.L. Jennings is a New York Times & USA Today bestselling author of contemporary and paranormal romance, reality TV junkie, obsessive coffee drinker and collector of crazy.

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Stalk Her: Website | Facebook | Twitter |Goodreads

THANK YOU!

TRSOR

Deliverance by L.A. Cotton & Jenny Siegel

Deliverance: The Maverick Defense Series 
 
L.A. Cotton & Jenny Siegel
 
Romantic Suspense
 
Coming early 2016
 
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Synopsis
Joy Mathers has spent the last three years numb. From her past, her present, and her inevitable future. She was supposed to escape the deadbeat town of Chancing, but now it’s her prison, and she couldn’t leave…even if she wanted to.
For the last two years, Dawson Spencer has been holed up in some of the worst corners of the world. He’s seen things no man should ever see, and thought nothing could ever shock him. Until her returns to Chancing and discovers everything has changed in the town he once called home. 
He thought Joy was away pursuing her dreams. She thought Dawson was never coming back. And while their connection might still be there, Joy isn’t Dawson’s anymore, and it would be better-safer-for everyone if Dawson walked away. 
 
But walking away isn’t an option for Dawson, not this time. He gave up everything to protect her once…and he’ll do it again. 
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#Deliverance, #LACotton, #JennySiegel, #RomanticSuspense, #CoverReveal, #Synopsis, #ComingSoon

Broken Love by Kelly Elliott

Post originally published on August 5, 2015

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When Kelly Elliott started to write Broken Love she decided what better way to write this fan wanted book than to let readers help write it!!

Every 3-4 weeks Kelly will write a few chapters and at the end there will be a few questions and the readers can vote which direction this novella will go.

Here is the Prologue at the end is a link to take you to the questions.

ENJOY!!!


Prologue – Ava

Nothing about my relationship with Johnny was normal. We met and fell in love immediately. He asked me to marry him on our two-month anniversary and I said yes. My mother cried, and my father lectured me for three hours straight. He kept repeating, “This isn’t normal, Ava.”

What was normal anyway?

According to my father, knowing someone at least six months before agreeing to marry him or her was normal. I, of course, disagreed and let my whirlwind relationship with Johnny totally blind me of what I couldn’t see before my very eyes.

As I stood in front of four different cakes, I couldn’t help but glance around the bakery. Johnny and I were having a small wedding, held at his parent’s country club in Austin. His mother had insisted we not elope, which was exactly what we had both wanted to do.

Turning my attention to Johnny, I watched as he talked to the young redhead who had been helping us.

“So, have you narrowed it down?” she asked as she smiled brightly at Johnny and barely acknowledged I was there.

With a shrug of his shoulder, Johnny turned to me and said, “Ava, could I possibly talk to you outside for a moment?”

I gave Johnny a slight smile as I nodded my head. “Of course.”

Johnny placed his hand on my lower back and guided me out of the bakery. I frowned as I thought how his hand on my lower back should cause my stomach to dip. At least that is how it is for the girls in the romance books I read. The touch of his hand on my body should ignite my body in flames.

Ha! I’d never experienced those feelings before in my entire life. There was a reason it was called fiction.

As we stepped out of the bakery, I flashed him a smile as I decided maybe what we needed was some afternoon delight. Placing my hand on his chest, I licked my lips and purred, “I know something else I’d rather be tasting.”

Johnny looked away as he stared down the street with an empty look in his eyes. “Ava, I need to talk to you.”

My smile faded as I instantly gnawed on my lower lip. His voice was serious and I had a terrible feeling he was about to say something that was going to prove my father right.

“Okay, right now or after we pick out a cake?”

Johnny looked into my eyes and shook his head. “I need to be honest with you, Ava.”

My heart sank as I held my breath involuntarily before finding the air to speak again. “Honesty is always nice.”

As he closed his eyes I fought to hold back the tears I knew were about to fall.

“There’s someone else. I didn’t mean for it to happen, but it did. She’s amazing and she makes me feel alive.”

Anger quickly raced through my body as I took a step back. “Is that so? Kind of like how I made you feel alive? Or does she make you feel alive in some other kind of way?”

Shaking his head, Johnny let out a sigh. “I’ve known Lisa almost my whole life. We ran into each other about a month ago and well, things just sparked between us.”

I placed my hand over my stomach and let out a moan. “Oh. My. God. You’ve been cheating on me?”

“No! Well, I mean it wasn’t like I did it on purpose. We fell in love, Ava and I can’t deny how I feel about her. I’ve only slept with her twice.”

My mouth dropped open as I stared at him with a blank expression. “Are you kidding me right now? Are you really that big of a dick that you would actually tell me you’ve only slept with her twice? Is that some how supposed to make me feel better you dickhead?”

Johnny glanced around as he took me by the arm and started walking toward his Audi. I hated that car. I hated him. I hated that my father had been right.

“I would have thought you would have been happy that I told you this before we got married.”

Holy freaking hell.

What did I ever see in this jerk?

Letting out a chuckle, I nodded. “No, you’re right. Better you told me before I went off and married you and God forbid had a child with you.”

“Ava, you have to admit this was all rushed. We got caught up in the whole romance side of things and lost focus on reality.”

“Reality? You think I’ve lost focus on reality? You know what’s real, Johnny?”

He lifted his hand and gently placed it on the side of my face. His thumb moved ever so slow as his eyes softened. “The pain you’re feeling right now, Ava. I know this hurts, but baby you’re going to find someone else.”

He did not. No. He. Did. Not.

“You got one part of that right. Pain. But it’s not the pain I’m feeling, it’s the pain you’re about to feel you asshole.”

I lifted my knee and hit him right in the balls. I hadn’t seen a guy go down on one knee since I accidentally hit Walker in the balls with a golf club.

Johnny doubled over as he cried out in pain.

“Have a happy life with, Lisa.”

Turning on my heels, I walked away quickly. Not sure whether I should cry or scream, I pulled out my phone and dialed the one person I knew would understand.

My mother.

“Hey baby girl. How did the cake tasting go? Did you pick out a cake?”

Pressing my lips together, I tried to figure out how to deliver the blow. “No. But I did kick Johnny in the balls out on the sidewalk in front of the bakery.”

Silence.

“You remember that time I hit Walker with the golf club.”

“Yes,” my mother said slowly.

“Picture that. He went down on one knee pretty damn fast.”

“What happened?”

Rolling my eyes, I wiped the tears away. “He met someone else. Someone who made him feel alive. He had sex with her mom. The bastard cheated on me. I hate him.”

“Oh sweetheart. I’m so sorry this has happened to you. Baby, why don’t you head on home and spend a few days with us, I know your father would love to have you home.”

Laughing, I shook my head and said, “Oh I’m sure he would. The second he sees me he’s going to say I told you so.”

“He would not, Ava Moore. You’re father loves you and cares about you.”

Closing my eyes tightly, I whispered, “I know.”

Before I had a chance to open my eyes, I slammed into someone. My eyes flew open as my phone flew out of my hands and I let out a curse word.

“Shit!”

I had been stopped dead in my tracks. Dropping down, I reached for my phone and for the papers I’d just caused this man to drop. As I lifted my eyes, I sucked in a breath of air.

Beautiful hazel eyes stared into my blue. “I-I’m so sorry,” I said as I handed him a few pieces of paper.

The smile that spread across his face caused the earth to shake. Okay, not really, but it felt like it. I almost fell back onto my ass as I tried to contain the crazy feeling that zipped through my body when his hand brushed lightly across mine.

“I wasn’t looking where I was going,” I said as he helped me into a standing position.

The beautiful mystery man pinned me with his stare. My eyes roamed his perfect face. He was slightly tan, but I couldn’t tell if that was from the sun or his genes. His dark hair had that perfect messy look to it as he ran his hand through it and laughed.

“You don’t say? It’s not every day I run into a beautiful lady. I believe my day has officially been made.”

His voice sounded like an angel.

Okay, so I don’t really know what an angel would sound like, but if I could imagine it, I’d say this guy had it down. It was soft, yet masculine. Sexy, yet, compassionate.

“I’m glad,” I whispered.

He lifted his eyebrows and tiled his head as his eyes landed on my lips. “Glad you ran into me?”

My cell phone began ringing in my hand as I lifted it up to see it was my mother. Shit! I’d forgotten she was on the line. Giving him an awkward smile, I said, “No! Well, yes. No wait, I’m glad your day has been made … by me running into you.”

Oh dear God, Ava. Stop talking. Lifting my phone, I grinned and said, “It’s my mom.”

“May I at least get your name?”

My teeth sunk down into my lip as I let out a soft chuckle. “Ava.”

Mystery man’s eyes lit up as he gave me a slight nod, followed by the sexiest wink I’d ever seen. He lifted his hand to my chin and forced my eyes to his. If I hadn’t been acutely aware of every single action he made, I’d have missed his thumb move lightly over my bottom lip.

“The pleasure was most definitely mine, Ava.”

The stupid goofy grin on my face was evident as he chuckled, dropped his hand, and began walking off as I stood there in a stupor.

My phone rang again as I hit answer and whispered, “Hello?”

“Ava, are you okay? What happened?”

I shook my head to clear my thoughts as I glanced over my shoulder at my mystery man walking away from me. Getting a grip on myself, I headed toward my car. I was so thankful I had suggested meeting Johnny at the bakery.

“Sorry, Mom. I accidentally ran into someone. Hey, I think I’m going to do what you said. I need a few days of fresh country air. Besides, I can work from anywhere.”

I could practically hear my mother jumping. “Oh yah! When are you coming?”

“Today. I just need to go to my place and pack a bag.”

“Okay, sweetheart. Be careful driving, and we’ll see you in a few hours. Oh, I’ll make your favorite dinner!”

Reaching my car, I turned around again. I wasn’t sure why. Maybe I was hoping my mystery man would be standing there.

“Sounds great, Mom. I’ll let you know when I’m on my way. I love you, Mom.”

“I love you too, Ava. We’ll have you forgetting Johnny in no time.”

Slipping into the drivers seat, I started my car and said, “Johnny who?”

*** Copyright 2015 Broken Love Kelly Elliott***

VOTE NOW!!


about the author
Kelly Elliott is married to a wonderful Texas cowboy who has a knack for making her laugh almost daily and supports her crazy ideas and dreams for some unknown reason…he claims it’s because he loves her!
She’s also a mom to an amazing daughter who is constantly asking for something to eat while her fingers move like mad on her cell phone sending out what is sure to be another very important text message.
In her spare time she loves to sit in her small corner overlooking the Texas hill country and write.
One of her favorite things to do is go for hikes around her property with Gus….her chocolate lab and the other man in her life, and Rose, her golden retriever. When Kelly is not outside helping the hubby haul brush, move rocks or whatever fun chore he has in store for her that day, you’ll find her inside reading, writing or watching HGTV.

Brought To You by:

Getting Hot by Mia Storm

Post originally published on July 31, 2015
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GettingHot AmazonRules of engagement: 1) You have the right to use force to defend yourself. 2) Fire may be returned to stop a hostile attack. 3) You may not seize the property of others to accomplish your mission. 4) Detention of civilians is authorized in self-defense. Delilah Morgan and her older sister Destiny have been on their own for two years, since their parents burned down the family home and went to jail for cooking meth. She’s street smart and tough. Nothing about her says sixteen, and she’s not about to tell anyone, especially Bran, the hot ex-marine bartender Destiny has her eye on. He’s stable and successful and everything her sister needs to keep them off the street. The only problem, something about Bran inspires her and suddenly she’s writing the best music she ever has. About him. Branson Silo knows what it means to be in the line of fire. Home for a year from his second tour of duty in Afghanistan, he thinks he’s safe…until he meets Delilah. Despite her sharp tongue that makes him want to take cover, he can’t deny the attraction. But when he hires her to play weekends at his family’s saloon, he finds out she’s more than he can handle…which is saying something considering he used to blow things up for a living. When the grenade finally explodes and the shrapnel flies, will Bran be left standing? Or has he survived years at war only to be taken down by Jail Bait?

ADD TO GOODREADS


Chapter 1 Bran

I shouldn’t have fucked her last week. That was my mistake, and I feel like a douche—something I’m not used to. I watch Destiny tuck a long strand of platinum hair behind her ear with her pen as she finishes taking drink orders at the table near the door. She shoots me a secret smile when she turns and makes her way over, and I mentally shoot myself for getting caught looking. This train’s already careening down the track, barely holding onto the rails, and when I pull shit like this, it only picks up momentum. “We got Hendricks?” she asks, slapping her order on the ancient mahogany bar between us. I look over the order. “Closest thing I got is Tanqueray.” The smile falls off her face and she blows out a sigh. “I’ll ask him.” I follow the curve where her tiny waist blooms into a killer ass as she turns and heads back to the table. She’s hot. That’s what it boils down to. When I took her home last week, it was after her first training shift with Carol. We’d sat at the bar and knocked back a few after closing and I got caught up in everything she had going on. I totally missed the signs. I didn’t see that she was looking for more than a hookup until after it was too late—until she didn’t leave after we’d done the deed. The only guy at the table with three women—some total wannabe with a dark suit jacket over a turtleneck and pressed jeans—scowls and gives Destiny some lip. I can’t hear what he says over the piped in Kat Country, but she shrugs and says something back, then offers me an apologetic squint when the guy pushes up from his seat. He starts my direction on polished loafers, but his eyes widen slightly and he pulls up short when he sees me. The reaction’s not unusual. When I left for boot camp six years ago, I was already in decent shape. I was Oak Crest High’s first ever (and only, as far as I know) four sport athlete all for years—football in the fall, wrestling in the winter, and baseball and track in the spring. Which is probably a big part of the reason my grades weren’t good enough to do anything but enlist. But the Marines made all that training look like fucking Romper Room, and it was only a matter of weeks before my bulk didn’t fit into any of my old clothes anymore. Since Pop owns the local gym and my sister Brenda runs it, when I’m not working behind Mom’s bar at the Sam Hill Saloon, I spend most of my time lifting weights. I’ve managed to stay in pretty decent shape…which means guys like this pansy ass are generally intimidated. Course, the tattooed six-foot-three thing doesn’t hurt the intimidation factor. Since I let my dark flattop grow out, I look more like a biker than an ex-Marine. After a beat, his shiny shoes start moving again but he stops three feet short of the bar, out of my wingspan. “Tanqueray or Tanqueray number ten?” he demands, putting on a “big man” show for the women he’s here with. I step aside to show him the rack behind me and he flinches a little at my movement. “For top shelf gin, Tanqueray’s what I got.” He closes his eyes for a moment and exhales his disappointment, then scans my top shelf again. “Tanqueray isn’t even in the same league as Hendricks.” I shrug. “You want the citrus, I’d go with the Seagrams. Something drier, I’ve got Beefeaters.” He rolls his eyes toward the ceiling as if my suggestions are all so far below him he’s afraid of getting a nosebleed if he has to look all the way down at them. “Just give me the Tanqueray. Make it a Tom Collins so I don’t have to taste it.” He stalks back to his table and drops into his seat as I start on their order. Destiny comes over and watches me mix. “That guy’s a jerk,” she say with a flick of her eyes back toward the wannabe professor. “Thank God he’s Carol’s to deal with in fifteen.” “You’re giving Carol the tip?” I say with raised eyebrows. Her lip curls. “Guys like that don’t tip.” I lift my eyes to him as I shake his Tom Collins. “He give you a hard time?” “He thought I should’ve known what kind of Tanqueray we have.” Her face scrunches. “I didn’t even know there were different kinds.” I glance at the table again. City folk for sure. Probably up here in the foothills for something at the college. “Guess he didn’t realize he’d wandered out of his natural habitat.” She busts out a laugh as I pour his drink into the highball. “So, I was thinking…” she says when her laugh dies. “I could swing by your place when you get off. If you want.” “Listen…” I start, setting the drink on her tray. But just as I open my mouth to tell her I don’t do relationships, Mom shoves through the swinging door from the kitchen. Five years in the Marines and two tours in Afghanistan, and I’ve yet to come across another single person who intimidates me…except my mom. She makes some of my Marine COs look like kindergarten teachers. “Hey Vicky,” Destiny says. “Has Carol punched in yet?” She tosses her eyes at Mr. Hendrick’s. “I’m giving her that table as soon as she does.” “She just clocked in,” Mom answers, glancing suspiciously at the table. “What’s the issue?” Destiny shrugs a shoulder and picks up the tray of drinks I slide across the bar to her. “That guy needs to get over himself. Carol’s better at dealing with people like that.” It’s the “take no crap” chromosome in the Silo family gene pool. My cousin is almost as intimidating as Mom. She has a way of putting pricks like that in their place without them even realizing how it happened. Just as I’m thinking it, I see her pass by the porthole in the wooden door to the kitchen, pulling her dark curls back into a ponytail. A second later, she pushes through the door. She looks at the three of us and her eyes narrow as she slings her short, black apron under her bulging belly and ties it. “You guys do know that when everyone clams up and stares at you when you walk into a room, that’s a dead giveaway they were talking about you, right?” “All good, cuz,” I say, lifting one hand in surrender while picking up my bar rag with the other. She gives us a glare that could fry bacon. “I’m not fat.” “No, you’re not,” Destiny says, handing her the tray of drinks. “But I’m punching out and I need you to take that table.” Carol’s gaze shifts to the table in question. “What’s wrong with them?” “The guy’s a sanctimonious prick,” I say wiping down the bar. “He needs to be reminded his shit still stinks in the way only you can.” A slow smile pulls at her mouth and she takes the drink tray. “He’s the Tom Collins,” Destiny says. “The chardonnay is for the girl on his right and the Cosmos are for the other two.” She bats her eyelashes and starts toward the table. “Coming right up,” she says, all breathy and sweet. Mom turns to me once she’s gone, her frown deepening. “I came out here to remind you to put a note in the drawer if you pull petty cash, Bran.” I give her a dubious smirk. “Really, Ma? I’ve been doing this for almost a year. Think I’ve got the drill down by now.” “Well, the drawer came up exactly sixty short last night. So how else do you explain that?” I feel my brows lift. My drawer’s never off by anything more than a few pennies. “You sure you didn’t pull it for the wine order?” She scowls at me and crow’s feet crease the corners of her eyes. “I might be old, but I’m not senile yet.” For her age, I have to say Mom looks pretty damn amazing. She met Dad sometime in the stone ages, when she used to dance at a strip club in San Francisco, and even still, I can see why he picked her out of the crowd. She’s got a deep worry line at the inside corner of her right eyebrow, but otherwise her face is deceptively youthful. The only thing that gives her age away is the skunk stripe that starts on the left side of her forehead and winds through the sea of dark hair pinned onto the back of her head like a the first swirl of cream into black coffee. “I didn’t take any cash, Ma. Seriously.” She sighs wearily and rubs her eyes. “It’s been a long day. I’ll check the numbers again tomorrow morning when I can think.” I lean down and give her a peck on the cheek. “’Night, Ma.” She hooks her elbow around my neck and yanks me in for a hug. “See you tomorrow, baby boy.” She’s the only one I’d ever let call me baby or honey or any shit like that because, like I said, I’m a little scared of her. I watch her disappear through the kitchen door. And then it’s just Destiny, waiting for an answer. I take a deep breath and blow it out slowly as I turn to her. “Listen, Destiny. There’s no question you are fucking amazing, and I had an awesome time the other night…but I feel like you might have gotten the wrong idea about what this is.” I drop the bar rag and splay my hands on the bar between us, holding her gaze. I may be a dick, but I’ve got a moral compass that points in the right general direction most of the time. She deserves to be told straight up. “I’m not the kind of guy that does relationships, and even if I were, you wouldn’t want one with me.” It’s not like I expect her to whine or beg. I’ve only known her for a week, since Mom hired her for day shifts, but she seems generally more together than that. What I also don’t expect is a shameless smile to spread over her face as she leans closer. “So, are you saying that pounding me until I scream your name is too much of a commitment?” I blow out a laugh and give my head a slow shake. “This isn’t how I pictured this conversation going.” She pushes away from the bar and unties her apron. “I’ll be back before closing. Maybe have a drink or two. And when you leave, if you take me with you, you won’t be sorry. If not…” She shrugs. “…no harm no foul.” I watch as she disappears through the kitchen door behind Mom to punch out. Carol drops another drink order on the bar on her way to the kitchen and I go back to work. The Friday evening crowd picks up and it’s not long before all the tables are full and patrons start lining the bar. I dim the lights—the closest we come to ambiance. The Sam Hill Saloon has been here since the gold rush, when the town of Oak Crest was established as a mining camp. After they got married, Dad brought Mom out here and bought her this bar to keep her “busy,” since he didn’t want her taking off her clothes for horny men anymore. She got it in the divorce and has run it for the last thirty years, but the truth is, almost nothing here has changed for nearly three quarters of a century. There are pictures on the walls of grimy gold miners lined up at this very bar. Even most of the chunky wooden barstools and tables have survived. At some point, some owner lined the front wall under the windows with three booths, and Mom added a big-screen TV, but other than that, it looks exactly like the pictures. And there’s the faint stench of stale beer emanating from the floor planking that no amount of bleach will ever get out. But it’s a landmark, and the only bar in town, so we’re usually busy. I’m blending a pair of frozen daiquiris with one hand and shaking a martini with the other when out of the corner of my eye, I see a solo blonde slide onto the barstool at the end, near the beer taps. I finish what I’m doing and prepare the tray for Carol to pick up before glancing over and seeing its Destiny. A guy in the middle of the bar makes eye contact and nods at his empty beer mug. I grab it and start filling without really looking up at her. “Didn’t think I’d see you again till closer to closing.” “Sorry?” she says. “Are you talking to me?” The voice is off—slightly raspy and a pitch lower than her usual. I look up again and squint at her, wondering if she’s already started drinking. She’s taken her straight hair down from the ponytail she always wears it in and it’s not as long as I remember it from the other night—the only other time I’ve seen it down. There’s also a fading blue stripe cutting through the platinum over her right ear that I’ve never noticed before. “What can I get you?” I ask her instead of pushing it. I’m already reaching for the vodka and cranberry to start on a Madras, her drink of choice last week, when she answers, “Rum and Coke.” “That’s different,” I mutter, shooting her another glance. She gives me a puzzled look. “Look, I really just wanted to find out if you hire entertainment.” My face mirrors her puzzlement, I’m sure, as I try to process her statement. “Why?” She hunches to the side and pulls something up from her feet. I see it’s a battered black guitar case when the narrow end peeks over the top of the bar. “Because I need a gig.” “Didn’t know you played,” I say, pushing her drink across the bar to her. That baffled look is back as she pulls it toward her and takes a swallow. I can’t help following the curve of her long neck downward toward a pair of large round tits perfectly outlined by her snug, low-cut T-shirt. She is definitely hot, and if we’re on the same page, then I’ve got nothing to feel guilty about. She wants me to fuck her till she screams? I’m perfectly capable of that. She sets her drink down and catches me staring. She cuts me that wicked smile again, causing my cock to stir. I return the smile, sending the innuendo right back at her. She props her elbows onto the bar and leans forward, giving me a clear look down her shirt. “Considering that we’ve never met before, I don’t find that surprising.” I’m so absorbed in images of my face buried in those magnificent tits that it takes me a second to process what she said. My eyes snap to hers. “Wait…what?” She reaches across the bar, offering me a hand. “Lilah.” There’s a full second all I can do is stare, wondering if this is one of those split personality things you hear about sometimes. And in that second, through the dim lighting, I take in all the tiny details—a dark mole at the outer corner of her right eye; her eyes, silver instead of blue; the missing white crescent-shaped scar above Destiny’s right eyebrow; and lips, a little fuller than I remember—which are smirking at me now. “You’re not Destiny,” I say as it all clicks. It’s not a question, but she shakes her head. “No. I am most definitely not Destiny.” “Twins?” I ask. She cocks her head playfully. “What do you think?” “You’ve got to be. You’re fucking identical except for the eyes.” I tap my forehead. “And you’re missing a scar.” Her perfect blond eyebrow raises in amusement. “She’s the pretty one and I’m the smart one.” I bark out a laugh as I reach across and shake her hand. “Bran Silo. Good to meet you.” She doesn’t let go of my hand for a second after we’re done shaking—just long enough to send a clear message that she’s interested. A knot forms in my gut, and I realize it’s guilt. Destiny and I have an understanding, but regardless, I’m pretty sure fucking her sister would be way outside the bounds of gentlemanly behavior. Not that anyone would ever mistake me for a gentleman. “Destiny never mentioned she had a sister.” “Doesn’t surprise me.” She takes another drink, nearly polishing it off in a few big gulps. I tip my head at it her glass. “Another?” “My limit is one,” she says, pushing her glass toward me. “Just Coke this time, thanks.” Carol sweeps by on her way to the kitchen, dropping an order on my bar. “Thought you left,” she says to Lilah without slowing down. “Careful or your favorite customer might ask for you,” she adds, jerking her head at Mr. Hendricks as she disappears through the swinging door. I bark out a laugh as I scoop ice into Lilah’s glass and fill it with Coke. “Good to know I’m not the only one.” Lilah shrugs. “Happens all the time.” She slides out of her chair, lifting the guitar case. “So do you want to hear me play or what?” I look around the crowded room, loud with chatter, drowning out the background music. “We don’t generally have live entertainment,” I say, which is really an understatement. We’ve never had live entertainment. But for some reason, I’m not willing to shut Lilah down so fast. When my eyes find her again, annoyed impatience shines loud and clear out of her gaze. “So that’s a no?” I feel my mouth pull into a cocky half-smile. “I didn’t say that.” She opens her case and pulls out her guitar, unabashedly climbing through the window I left ajar for her. I watch as she sets herself up on the stool and rests the guitar in her lap, gripping it softly but confidently. She starts strumming, and I expect her to be discrete, since this is basically an audition, but there’s not a shred of self-consciousness or embarrassment anywhere in her disposition as she begins to belt out lyrics—an old No Doubt song that I can’t remember the name of. The way she plays, as if on instinct; the passion in her voice, and the fact that she’s really fucking good, starts to turn heads at the tables closest to us. As they quiet and listen, more tables still, and soon the only thing she’s competing to be heard over is the Kat Country on the speakers. But she doesn’t decrease her volume. If anything, as eyes find her, she becomes louder, feeding off the attention. I reach under the bar and click off the stereo, then lean onto the back counter and cross my arms, listening as she finishes one song and launches into the next. A guy at the bar pulls a five from his pocket and flags me down with it. I grab his beer mug, but he shakes his head. “Is there a tip jar?” he asks with a nod toward Lilah. I pull a fresh mug from under the bar and he slips the five inside, then I set it at the end of the bar near Lilah. She cuts me a smile and her eyes slide down my body as she sings. And fuck me. I lean my hands on the bar and press against the lower counter when my dick won’t yield to my will. Without a doubt, everything Destiny has going on, Lilah’s got that and more.EACH BOOK CAN BE READ AS A STAND-ALONE
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About the Mia Storm:
Mia Storm is a hopeless romantic who is always searching for her happy ending. Sometimes she’s forced to make one up. When that happens, she’s thrilled to be able to share those stories with her readers. She lives in California and spends much of her time in the sun with a book in one hand and a mug of black coffee in the other, or hiking the trails in Yosemite. Connect with her online at MiaStormAuthor.blogspot.com , on Twitter at @MiaStormAuthor, and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/MiaStormAuthor