Monday, June 25, 2018

The Lilac Code by Author Becki Willis - Will a case of mistaken identity be the death of her? **Excerpt-Giveaway**


The Lilac Code
The Sisters, Texas Series Book 7
by Becki Willis
Genre: Cozy Mystery


Will a case of mistaken identity be the death of her? 


Madison Reynolds is looking forward to a few days of rest and relaxation. Her best friend Genny is judging a celebrity bake-off near DC, so it’s the perfect opportunity for a girl’s getaway. With fun-loving Granny Bert in tow, the trio heads to the very heart of the Intel community. Deep in alphabet soup territory—surrounded by CIA, NSA, FBI and more—it takes only moments for things to go awry.

A mix-up at the airport leaves Madison with the wrong luggage, and a last-minute change in accommodations lands them at The Columbia Inn at Peralynna. How can they know its ties to the spy world will soon spin them into its web?

Designed as a CIA safe house, the inn has a fascinating history. When it seems a mysterious man in a dark coat is following her, Madison scoffs at her over-action imagination. She’s listened to too many spy tales, spun by the innkeeper herself. The stories of espionage and agents are intriguing, but too incredible to be real. The Texans know nothing about secret codes and counterintelligence. They’ve never heard of The Lilac Code, or the illusive agent-for-hire known simply as Kalypso.

Back home in The Sisters, a drama is unfolding that involves Madison’s precious twins. She’s raised them to do the right thing, no matter the consequence, but will their quest for justice put them in danger?

Thrust into impossible situations of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, the twins risk everything to save their school, while deep in spy territory, Madison and Genny race against the clock—and the elements—to save Granny Bert’s life.

The award-winning The Sisters, Texas Mystery Series continues in this exciting Book 7. This is a stand-alone book, but best when enjoyed as a full series experience.





Excerpt


Madison lifted their suitcases onto the proffered stands, grunting under the effort of her own bag. “I must have packed in my sleep, because I swear, I don’t remember this being so heavy this morning,” she muttered. She unzipped the basic black rolling bag and gasped. She rifled through the contents, not recognizing a single item. Most of it was folders, books, and ledgers. No wonder it was so heavy!

“I have someone else’s luggage!” she stated with delayed realization.

“What are you mumbling about in here?” Granny Bert asked, returning from the bathroom.

“I have the wrong suitcase! This isn’t mine.”

“How in tarnation did that happen?”

“I have no idea. Wait. The attendant stowed my luggage for me,” she recalled. “I was one of the last people off the plane, which means that someone else mistook my luggage for theirs.” She sank onto the side of the bed with a horrified sigh. “That means that they have mine, and I don’t have a thing to wear!”

“Look on the bright side. You’ve needed a new wardrobe. Derron found you a few new pieces, but you still need a major update.”

“Not like this, I don’t! I don’t even have a pair of underwear to change into.”

“Relax, they have stores up here. There was a mall near the restaurant where we ate.”

Madison continued to bemoan her troubles. “This is terrible, just terrible. My favorite pair of boots were in that bag!”

“So call the airport, explain the mix-up, and see if the other person has already returned your bag. I’ll bet it’s there waiting on you.”

“You’re right. I should call the airport.”

Her grandmother clicked her tongue. “What would you do without me? All this time, I thought I was the beauty and you were the brains, but maybe I was wrong. Maybe I’ve been both, all along.”

In no mood for her grandmother’s shenanigans, Madison already had her phone in her hand.

Three calls and an hour later, the news wasn’t good. No one reported a missing suitcase, nor had they returned a piece of mistaken luggage. Without any identification on the bag in Madison’s possession, they advised that she hang on to it until someone claimed it. Returning it to the airport could result in permanent loss.

“This is crazy. I can’t believe they told me to just keep someone else’s luggage!” Madison fumed.

“For all the good it does you. Nothing but a bunch of papers, from what I can tell. What little I read didn’t even make sense,” Granny Bert groused.

“I’m sure they told the other person to just keep mine, as well!” she continued to rant. “This is ridiculous.”

“Let’s find a store and buy you some new clothes, at least something for tonight and tomorrow,” Genny suggested. “We’ll come back, have a glass of wine, and call it a night. You can call the airport again in the morning. Even if no one has returned your suitcase, at least someone on the morning shift may be more helpful.”

“They certainly can’t be any more inept that the idiots working the phones this evening!”

“Calm down, Maddy. It’s going to be fine.” Genny stroked her friend’s arms in a comforting gesture.

“You were right, you know. Something bad did happen.” Madison threw her hands up in exasperation. “I lost all my underwear!”

Granny Bert snickered. “Somehow, I don’t think Genny had a premonition about you losing your underwear.”

“Go ahead. Laugh. Make a joke. It’s fine for you. You have something to sleep in tonight.”





Don't miss the other books in The Sisters, Texas series!
Chicken Scratch 
The Sisters, Texas Series Book 1




When The Stars Fall
The Sisters, Texas Series Book 2




Stipulations and Complications
The Sisters, Texas Series Book 3




Home Again: Starting Over
The Sisters, Texas Series Book 4




Genny's Ballad
The Sisters, Texas Series Book 5




Christmas in The Sisters
The Sisters, Texas Series Book 6






About the Author

Becki Willis, best known for her popular The Sisters, Texas Mystery Series and Forgotten Boxes, always dreamed of being an author. In November of '13, that dream became a reality. Since that time, she has published eleven books, won first place honors for Best Mystery Series, Best Suspense Fiction and Best Audio Book, and has introduced her imaginary friends to readers around the world.

An avid history buff, Becki likes to poke around in old places and learn about the past. Other addictions include reading, writing, junking, unraveling a good mystery, and coffee. She loves to travel, but believes coming home to her family and her Texas ranch is the best part of any trip. Becki is a member of the Association of Texas Authors, the National Association of Professional Women, and the Brazos Writers organization. She attended Texas A&M University and majored in Journalism.



Giveaway
Follow the tour HERE for exclusive excerpts, guest posts and a giveaway!










Sunday, June 24, 2018

Bound by Author Jennifer Dean **Excerpt-Giveaway**


Bound
by Jennifer Dean
Genre: YA Paranormal Romance


When fate leads Emma Morgan back to her small hometown of Washington, she learns that the life she knew three years ago has changed once she meets the charmingly, mysterious Liam Alexander. But when her brother Sean, voices his disapproval, Emma finds her loyalty in the way of her newfound curiosity of the youngest Alexander. Only the more she tries to avoid Liam the more she finds him in her constant company.

A risk that leads down a dangerous path once Emma begins to discover a secret about the Alexanders that no human should ever know.



Excerpt

You never prepare for the moment when it happens, and yet here I was. Why does it always happen when no one is around? I really hated lockers or the combination locks that felt more like prison guards to them.

I began to feel the swim of panic travel up my chest. It was like trying to get dressed in a hurry when you were already late. The more frustrated I became, the less I could concentrate. I sighed, ready to simply punch the locker open. As I debated the realistic situation that would probably only bruise or possibly fracture my hand, my eye caught sight of someone coming from around the corner. It was the boy from this morning. God what was his name? My mind felt like a rotating telephone catalog, cross-referencing different names for the male species. Something with an L. Isn’t that what Sean had said? Oh, Liam! Yes, Liam Alexander. Now I remembered.

I watched as he stopped at the drinking fountain near the boys’ bathroom. I needed to ask fast before he—crap! After a few seconds gulp of water, he had gone into the bathroom before I had time to think the word. I looked back to my locker, twirling the combination randomly as I bobbed my head left to right. What would I have said anyway? Hey, could you help me with my locker because I’m an idiot and can’t turn a simple combination lock.

I sighed with mockery of my low voice. I knew I didn’t have the nerve to ask anyway. I would just keep trying until fifth period was over. That was if I didn’t get some detention for being out in the hall. They didn’t still have hall monitors, did they?

“Locker trouble?”

“Oh jeez,” I said. My palm slapped my chest to prevent my heart from jumping out of my chest from fright. I had barely managed to hold on to my books in my left arm. I glanced up to see it was Liam Alexander.

“Sorry. I didn’t intend to frighten you,” he said. I could have sworn I never saw him even leave the bathroom. But I guess I wasn’t paying attention after I began talking to myself. “Do you need help with that?” he asked. His head tilted, gesturing toward my locker.

“Am I that obvious?”

“Well, seeing as you are the only one standing in the hallway turning that combination lock with what appears only mere frustration—”

“A simple yes,” I said cutting off his words.

My eyebrows rose with a small slice of irritation. Sometimes I preferred when people just used simplicity with their response. Anything else was a waste of minutes.

“Would you like some help?” he asked.

There felt like so many things I wanted to say, but I could only come up with one as my lips parted. “If you don’t mind.”

He shook his head once. “Not at all. What’s the combination?”

“2-2-9,” I said. The nine came out hesitantly. I looked down with

a grimace. The need to protect my locker felt somewhat stupid. Who would really want to commit locker theft anyway? There aren’t exactly a lot of items that we can store. Nothing worth stealing anyway.

As my eyes shifted up I noticed his own back on me. He had definitely noticed the awkwardness. But the glance was only brief before he turned back to twist the lock, pulling it down and out of the latch hole, with only his fingers. Within seconds, his hand had pulled up the latch and popped open the metal locker. He stepped back, gesturing with his right hand for me to go ahead.

“Thanks,” I said gratefully. “I thought I might be stuck out here till fifth period.”

“My pleasure,” he said.

It was the first time I really had a moment to look at Liam Alexander. His dirty blonde hair was cut short and styled in a slight flipped upward curl with subtle sideburns. It was a modern and yet old fashioned touch. But what held my longing gaze was the bright glow of emerald green occupying his eyes. I had seen many eye colors before, but these were on another cosmic level. Did guys wear colored contacts too?

I had to blink to keep myself from staring too long, even at the subtle sophistication of his clothes. But I knew I had expired the normal time of staring. My mental clock told me anymore and I was sure I would come across as odd. That would be all I needed. Immediately I shifted my gaze to the floor instead.

“Maybe next time we meet, I won’t need rescuing,” I said.

“Oh, you never know, Emma.”

My eyes shifted back up instantly with surprise. “How do you know my name?”

Sure, I had learned his name but how had he learned—“You’re Sean Morgan’s little sister,” he said interrupting my mental question.

“Oh,” I said with a disappointment. There it was. Something I had been used to all my life. I was more known for being called Sean’s little sister or baby Morgan than I was Emma.

“I just meant that I had heard around school that Sean’s little sister, Emma”—he paused to lift his eyebrow, a simple way of letting me know he picked up on the annoyance of most people never using my first name—“was back in Washington. And since I saw you walking with him this morning, I could only assume.”

“Didn’t they ever tell you what assumptions make?” I asked rhetorically. Liam merely lifted his left eyebrow.

“Am I wrong?” He tilted his head and narrowed his eyes. Not with arrogance but with true curiosity.

“Well, no. But that’s not the point.”

He grinned with amusement. I simply scrunched my lips to the side with small embarrassment. Sort of like that kind you get after you go into a long explanation only to realize that wasn’t what the person wasn’t going to ask anyway.

The moment almost felt like a cliché, and I had had enough. Plus, I was already embarrassingly late for class, if I wasn’t already beyond that.

“Well, I better be off to Spanish before I am any later. Aren’t you late for something?”

“Office Aid,” he said.

I rolled my eyes as I turned. Well, wouldn’t that have been a nice free elective to take. As I began to walk I thought of something. The reason why I couldn’t register to be an office aid myself this year. “Wait, I thought you had to be a senior . . .” My voice faded as I realized I was talking to myself again. Liam was nowhere in sight. I sighed with my small shrug before turning back down the hall.

I walked into the classroom and was reminded of my late arrival. I felt the stare of the class on me. Never a good kind of attention. As I looked to the slightly annoyed gaze of my new Spanish teacher, I cowered.

“I’m sorry. I had trouble with my locker,” I said.

The annoyance never really faded, but his posture straightened with a slight forgiveness. “I’ll let it slide on the first day, Ms.——?”

He went back over to his desk to grab a white sheet. The roll call.

One that I had missed.

“Morgan,” I said.

He looked down on his list, using his pen as a guide. He tapped a spot that was three-quarters of the way down the sheet.

“Emma?”

“Yes,” I acknowledged.

“Emma.”

The voice wasn’t Mr. Ocampo’s. It was a whisper I heard from my left. I turned to see it was Pamela Mercer, gesturing me over to the empty seat next to her. I didn’t hesitate to gravitate toward it after the silent nod of approval from Mr. Ocampo.

Even the way my old friend was sitting I could tell that she was taller than I was now. Talk about Twilight Zone again. When I had left, she had been into the short and sassy hairstyle. Now her beautiful straight brown strains had grown thickly down past her shoulder blades.

I smiled back to her with an awkward wave, not because it was awkward to be around her. It was just awkward that I couldn’t give her a proper hug without disturbing the class again.

“I thought Texas got a lot of sun, Emma? You don’t even look like you walked outside a day since you were there.”

There was nothing cruel in her teased whisper. And to be honest, she was right. With no surprise to me, my skin was still the same ivory color. Not a shade higher or lower. It wasn’t because I never went outside but more the fact that I rarely burned from the sun and certainly never tanned. So it made it mostly impossible for any change. But the advantage between me and most girls came from make-up. Unlike having to match up from the effects of summer sun or pale winter, my skin stayed consistent.

“Well, my skin has some resilience to sunlight. It’s like rubber. Nothing sticks to it,” I said. I was pinching my wrist and silently laughing at myself. “They also don’t ride horses to school either.”

I couldn’t resist the chance to tease after remembering that Pamela was the one friend to ask if I would be getting a horse. I wasn’t quite sure who had spread that rumor this far east. But she had been quite convinced that all Texans used the four-legged animal for transportation instead of vehicles. I hoped someone had informed her while I was gone that we don’t live in the 1800s anymore.

“Bummer!” She smiled while snapping her fingers. Thankfully, someone had, and she was able to laugh at herself. I’m not quite sure what my answer would have been if she hadn’t. I traded it in for something with better gas mileage?

I was grateful that Spanish had been the period before lunch. It meant I didn’t have to walk into the cafeteria alone.

“Volleyball tryouts for next fall are after school. Are you going?” Pamela asked. Her eyes widened with a sense of eagerness to see me play again. At least they were until she watched my shifted gaze and inward turn of my lips. I didn’t have to answer for her to know. “You don’t play anymore?” she asked.

I shrugged with the shake of my head. “No.”

Her eyes unintentionally narrowed as her head moved back in surprise. I couldn’t blame her reaction. Volleyball had been my life for six years. It had been where I made most of my friendships. But from the moment I left Washington soil, I left the desire to play. It was almost like without Sean there to support me, I didn’t care to play. Maybe it was a little bit of a depression, and I didn’t want to be involved with anything that reminded me of our separation. So I quit. But now that I was back, I could honestly say that any desire that was left for the sport had faded out. The damage had been done, and the once-athlete was gone.

“Erika is going to be so disappointed,” she said.

She was handing the lunch woman some money. By the look of her dropped shoulders, I could see Erika Reynolds wasn’t the only one disappointed. I looked away to grab a hamburger and a bottle of Red Diamond tea.

“Aren’t you Sean Morgan’s little sister?” a voice said on my right.

“Who’s asking?” My tone was somewhat bored and uninvolved to the question.

“The source himself.”

I turned to see Sean’s empty hands and charming smile. I rolled my eyes somewhat embarrassed to not have recognized his voice. Had that subtly changed too?

“Good to see you, Pamela,” Sean said.

She had that goofy smile that most girls got around Sean. He wasn’t popular by sports even though he was quite the natural athlete. He was even much better than me, even though I was technically the “family” athlete, a term my dad had come up with just to piss off Sean. Of course, it never worked because Sean didn’t care enough to listen. No, Sean’s popularity was always by default of his personality. He was charming, easy going, and friendly to everyone. Who wouldn’t want to be friends with my brother?

“Hi, Sean,” Pamela said. There was a nervous stumble in her voice as she looked back to me. “I’ll meet you at the table, Emma. I should break the news to them anyway.”

“Okay,” I said.

“What news?” Sean said. He was beaming like he already anticipated what I would say.

“That I’m not playing this year.”

I had unintentionally paused through the end of my sentence, when my eyes caught the attention of two girls behind Sean. It was almost like the room had been frozen for their entrance. Slightly a step ahead of the other revealed a girl with long naturally loose red curls. The light copper of her hair pulled out the paleness of her skin with beautiful flowing contrast. Though I could see she was wearing ballerina flats, it didn’t hide the tall frame that balanced perfectly with her thin curves. I expected she was the type of girl you would soon see on the next issue of Vogue, talking about her next big movie role.

Her petite friend, who I noticed stood at the same height— with the help from some questionable heels— had beautiful straight dark hair inches below her shoulder blades. But it was the grace in each stride she took that pulled my attention. It mimicked a royal princess’s. I even expected her to wave to the lunchroom crowd any minute as she and her ginger friend neared Sean and I.

But to my surprise they both stopped, letting the dark haired princess bend her head with a small nod toward Sean and me.

Immediately, I was drawn up into her bright electric sapphire eyes. Their unnatural beauty summoned me.

“Sean,” she said.

It wasn’t a hello but more of an observation of who she was looking at.

“Grace,” Sean said with the same observational tone. So, that was the girl’s name. Grace. How appropriate, I thought.

Suddenly as if she had heard my thought the blue of her eyes shined down on me like a flashlight. Wow, I thought.

“Is this your younger sister?” Grace asked.

Sure, she looked at me but continued to engage with Sean. Her soft voice held the intrigue of a historian’s, curious to know if her facts were correct.

“Yes, this is Emma,” Sean said.

His grin was friendly but nothing about his tone was inviting. It was enough to make Grace’s eyes flicker back over to Sean. The indifference of both seemed to bounce off the other. It was strange.

I couldn’t help but look in another direction, a direction that caught the attention of Grace’s friend, Ginger—a name that was fitting enough until I learned the real one— and her bright chestnut brown gaze.

And strangely, even though we didn’t know each other at all, the exchange felt more pleasant than Sean and Grace’s. Beneath the shine of the girl’s eyes was a genuine hello, a gesture that was followed by a curve of her lips. Unfortunately, when she broke the gaze to focus on Sean, it wasn’t with the same courtesy. In fact, I could detect a small annoyance through her newly tightened lips and narrowed eyes.

The moment between us all seemed hours long, though I knew better. It was probably not even but a few minutes.

“Well, Emma, welcome back to Washington,” Grace said.

It was not even a second’s worth gaze before she turned on her heel. As I watched the same stride, she had entered with, I thought how funny it was to discover her name. Almost like her parents would know that she would carry the name with an absolute truth.

I had only just looked back up to see Sean’s grin when he said, “See you after school.” He didn’t waste time with an explanation before leaving me behind.

In a matter of minutes, I was surrounded and the next I was alone. Okay, I thought. I shifted my eyes left to right, not really focusing on anything but hearing the sarcasm in my voice. That wasn’t weird at all.

I sighed before walking back over toward the center table where Pamela had gone. When I got to the table, I put my tray down, catching all the friendly smiles. Until fifth period, I had been dreading lunch all day. Even though I knew I still had Sean, I was hoping I wouldn’t have to take the offer. That felt like my fault, but the move was so sudden I barely had time to call Sean, let alone any of my old friends. It was good to know that small stress was over. I was just as welcomed as I had been when I left three years ago.

I noticed Lauren Stevens first. She was probably the closest of any of my old friends because we had the most in common. That or maybe because we had similar low-key personalities. She had cut her naturally wavy dark brown hair short and had added bangs. She was sitting on Pamela’s right side, across from Rebecca Davis. Becca had her long curly brown hair pulled back today in a ponytail. She hadn’t changed at all except for the curls in her hair that were looser.

I didn’t even mind that Heather Johnson was also there. It didn’t take me long to notice she had the same long light blonde hair, tall figure, and tan skin. My eyes followed her disappointment in my lunch choice. Right on time with the judgment. It was enough to remind me why she was never a personality I preferred to hang with outside of volleyball, something that had put us together by convenience, not choice. That and the odd coincidental fate that our fathers happened to be best friends in high school.

Yikes. Now, there was a man who just by remembrance made me think the words chip off the old block. I could see things hadn’t really changed on that for Heather. Of course, she had looked up with the other girls at my arrival but tried to pretend once I neared that it wasn’t anything special. She knew how to make someone feel welcome as long as it was beneficial to her. Good thing I wasn’t really new. I can imagine I could be quite intimidated by a girl like Heather.

“Pamela told us that you gave up volleyball. Really?” Erika asked. I hadn’t noticed until now that she was on my right. Her blue eyes and heart-shaped face stood out with her long wavy dark brown hair. Hair that was almost black. My self-esteem was always boosted when I saw Erika’s pale skin. It actually made mine look full of color. But since her hair was darker now, it actually made her look exotic. Her voice carried an incredulous tone. I felt my face scrunch with sympathy.

“Yeah. But I promise I’ll still come watch a few games when the season starts.”

“Well, that’s not exactly the answer I was looking for, but I guess I don’t have a choice in the matter.” She grinned with a small shrug that showed defeat and yet understanding.

“I see you caught the eye of the Grace Alexander,” Heather said.

“Which one is that?” I asked.

I hadn’t been sure if there were more than one girl named Grace. Or maybe I just enjoyed seeing that squirm from Heather. She turned around in a much pretentious way. Was that really necessary? But when I turned my gaze, I found that it was the girl I had met. Only there was something about the way Heather said caught the eye. What the heck did that mean?

“She looked at Sean too,” I said innocently. Because what could I have done to already have gotten a look from anybody?

“Yeah, but everyone looks at Sean.”

True, I thought. I ignored Heather’s hidden insult as my mind began to register the girl’s last name. Alexander. Instantly, a set of bright emerald green eyes flashed into my memory. “Is that Liam Alexander’s sister?”

I noticed I had more than just Heather’s attention now. Even Erika, who was busy in mid-conversation, was gazing with the corner of her eye.

“Older sister,” Pamela said with her eyes beaming with curiosity. “How do you know Liam?”

I guess that meant Liam was in our grade. For some reason, I would have had that backwards. There was envy in Pamela’s eyes. Maybe it was more jealousy, but looking over to Heather I definitely saw envy.

“I’ve already met him…twice.” Well, technically the first time he didn’t say anything, but we interacted. That counted. “Tall, blonde with really green eyes?”

“Oh yeah, that’s him,” Becca said. “Definitely green,” she whispered. It was good to know I wasn’t the only one who questioned whether or not his eyes were enhanced with false color.

“You actually talked to him?” Heather asked.

The idea was inconceivable to Heather by her tone and raised eyebrows. She was used to that attention from any guy that she fancied. Well, except for Sean. But he wasn’t really into high school girls. I was thankful for that because being around Heather constantly would make me want to stick pins in my ears.

“He helped me with my locker,” I said. I was going to mention the pens, but there was no good way to start that without it coming across as weird. He picked up my pens or He helped me with my pens. Even in my mind the wording sounded odd. “Is he not usually friendly?” I was trying to decode what they were saying. It was like anyone getting an interaction with Liam was a rarity.

“No, he’s very polite. When he’s around,” Becca said. “Last semester he was absent a lot from class.”

“He did seem to disappear a lot,” I said.

“And we never saw him come to lunch once last semester,” Pamela added.

“I heard the teachers let him eat and do his homework in the lounge,” Becca said.

“No, they don’t,” Pamela said.

“Well, then where does he go?” Becca asked. She raised her eyebrows defiantly as if to say, prove me wrong.

“Well, maybe his parents sign him out because he has some illness. That’s why he missed a lot of class last semester.”

“That’s stupider than what I said,” Becca argued.

I resisted the desire to laugh by biting my lip. Even if their assumptions were a bit rumor wide, I couldn’t help my eyes shifting around for proof. I didn’t see him anywhere. No matter what the reason was, it was just strange. I looked toward the table Grace Alexander was sitting. There was Ginger sitting next to her, along with another similarly dark-haired boy. I noticed he sat intimately close with Ginger.

“Who is Grace Alexander sitting with?” I asked curiously.

“That’s her twin brother, William, and his girlfriend, Lillian Edwards,” Lauren said. “They only started here last semester.”

I enjoyed the non-biased voice. Along with the information that gave me a name to call the girl besides the adjective that merely described her hair color. This was the first real contribution Lauren had made to the conversation. Probably because she didn’t really follow the gossip. It just wasn’t her style. I had always liked that about her. She kept her personal assumptions private, only relaying the facts she knew.

“Where did they move from?” I asked.

“The Alexanders are from Raleigh and Lillian Edwards came from a small town up in New York,” Lauren said.

“Sadie Collins said she’s already top of her class,” Becca added. Uh-oh, I thought. Sean wasn’t going to like that. I’d have to remember to ask if he knew his valedictorian spot was in jeopardy.

“She’s so annoying,” Heather said.

“That’s only because you’re jealous that she is gorgeous and smart,” Erika said.

I turned to see that she had stopped talking to Rene Salmore—a mutual acquaintance— and joined in on the conversation.

“I am not,” Heather objected.

Erika tilted her head in disbelief as she lifted her eyebrows. “Oh, really?”

“Like I need to be jealous.” Heather said. “I’m sure William Alexander is going to get bored of her soon.”

“I don’t know, they seem pretty happy,” Becca said.

“Whatever,” Heather said. She rolled her eyes at the comment before turning away from the conversation as if to prove she lacked any more interest. She fooled nobody.

Lauren, who had already begun working on her French workbook, turned her lips inward to resist her grin. I had already lifted my curved hand under my nose, scratching the imaginary itch with my index finger, in order to hide the grin that formed from Heather’s sudden fluster. Once I was able to maintain my composure, I looked down to begin finishing my lunch.

After taking a swig of tea, I snuck a glance over at the table of the Alexander twins and Lillian Edwards. It was there I instantly locked eyes with Lillian herself. The chestnut brown of her eyes radiated an invitation from across the room while her lips rose with amusement as if she had been listening to the entire conversation. I was glad for her sake—or possibly Heather’s sake— that she couldn’t.

I politely grinned back for a few seconds before looking down to my food again. I knew there was time for more questions later. I had a whole school year for them. For now, I would simply sit and deliberate among the mental assumptions that began floating into my mind.

Like where Liam Alexander really went during lunch.




About the Author

I was never that child you found in the corner reading. In fact, I loathed the idea of picking up a book. The activity seemed more of a chore than a past time.


All that changed when my brother began talking to me about the newest novel he was reading.Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix. Before I knew it, my curiosity got the better of me, luring me to try the series. It didn't take long for my mindset of reading to turn on its head.


But even with my new hobby discovered it wasn't until my junior year of college that I developed a hidden desire for writing stories. And when I found myself writing scenes instead of paying attention to my professors, I knew becoming a writer was the career path I was meant to follow.



Giveaway
Follow the tour HERE for exclusive excerpts and a giveaway!






Saturday, June 23, 2018

Dark Water: Reverse Fairytales, #4, by J.A. Armitage **Read Chapter One- Giveaway**

Dark Water
J.A. Armitage
(Reverse Fairytales, #4)
Publication date: June 19th 2018
Genres: Fairy Tales, Young Adult


You think you know the story of The Little Mermaid…

A tragic accident on the eve of her eighteenth birthday leads Princess Erica to a chance encounter with a mysterious man on the beach. When he turns up at her birthday party and whisks her off her feet, she knows she has to find out everything about him, but why won’t he speak and where does he keep disappearing to?
Ari knows he’s crossed a line by mingling with the land humans, but how can he resist the beautiful princess whose life he saved? He must decide whether to stay on land and become like her, or continue to live without her in the depths of the ocean.
Trapped in a centuries long battle between his kind and hers, his decision will rock both their kingdoms.
With a sea witch that needs repaying and the small matter of Erica’s engagement to someone else, Ari knows the odds are stacked against him.
Dark Water is the fourth in the Reverse Fairytale series and the first Little Mermaid retelling by USA Today bestselling author J.A.Armitage. Take everything you think you know about fairytales and turn it on its head.



CHAPTER ONE


“May God bless her and all who sail on her.”

I cleared my throat, hoping I’d said it correctly, and gripped the bottle of champagne, terrified of letting it go too early or, worse still, missing the ship entirely.

Beyond the ship, the ocean shimmered in the midday sun. Diamond-like sparkles of light bounced off the calm cerulean water—water that looked so inviting, I wanted nothing more than to jump in, to surrender to the balmy ripples. Of course, wanting it and doing it were two different things. First of all, I couldn’t swim, and secondly, my mother would pitch a fit if I took another step closer to the dock edge. She was already a bag of nerves from today’s event.

I looked behind me, needing reassurance from my parents. This was my first official royal engagement, and I was terrified of messing it up. My father beamed at me with pride while my mother gave me a thin smile. I could see the fear in her eyes although she was doing her best to hide it. I was amazed she’d come at all. The ocean positively terrified her. My father’s hand was almost white with how hard my mother was squeezing it. Next to them, my little brother, Anthony, was picking his nose and examining the treasure he found up there. Not for the first time I was reminded how fortunate it was that I was the first in line to the throne.

Beside me, my life-long best friend nudged me to let go of the bottle. Officially, his title was Sir Hayden Harrington-Blythe, but to me, he was just Hayden. He’d been my first crush since our first day in kindergarten when he’d pulled on my pigtails, and I’d stamped on his foot. Despite our unpromising start, over the years we’d turned into friends. My crush on him was long since over, and his pigtail pulling days were long gone, but somehow, our friendship had survived.

“You do know you are supposed to let go of the bottle right?” whispered Hayden in my ear. I gave him a look I only ever reserved for him and lifted the bottle. Letting go, I watched it swing on a length of string, arcing towards the majestic ship’s wooden hull. It made a tinkling sound as it smashed against the side of the ship, scattering glass all over the paved dock. I couldn’t help thinking it was a waste of good champagne and that it would be better served at the ball being held in honor of my birthday in a couple of days’ time. Still, I felt invigorated by the salty smell of the ocean, the atmosphere of a thousand happy people coming out to see the launch, and the fact that I now had a boat that bore my name. I was feeling as excited as I could hope to feel, second only to being allowed to actually go out on the damn thing.

The Erica Rose’s white sails flapped in the breeze below the official flag of Trifork as if she were eager to be off, out onto the ocean. I couldn’t blame her. To sail on the ocean was a lifelong dream of mine. Ever since I could remember, I’d looked out of my bedroom window toward the ocean and dreamed of the day that I’d be able to disappear beyond the rolling waves toward the horizon.

It was a dream that had never, and would never, be realized as long as my parents were in charge. For a kingdom so well-known for its naval and merchant vessels, my parents were ridiculously strict about letting me go near the ocean. This was the closest I’d gotten in the whole eighteen years of my life, and I had a full team of palace guards surrounding me, stopping me from taking one step closer to the water’s edge than I had to. It was all because of my mother, of course. My father might have been the one that ruled Trifork, but in the palace, my mother was the one that wore the pants, so to speak. If my mother said I couldn’t go near the ocean, then my father wasn’t going to argue with her. However, today was a special day, and not even my mother could come up with a good enough reason for us not to be here. She might have been absolutely petrified, but she was the queen, a duty she held above everything, even crippling panic.

Everybody clapped as the wooden ship began pulling up its anchor, its crew readying themselves to set sail.

I took a deep breath and inhaled the salty air. Above the excited chatter of the crowd, seagulls cawed to each other as they flew overhead looking for an easy snack. Oh, how I envied them and their freedom.

My father managed to extricate himself from my mother’s vice-like grip and joined me on the dock’s edge. My poor mother’s face turned even more ashen, and she had to grip a nearby railing instead to save herself from fainting. It was almost cruel, living so close to the ocean and being so frightened of it. I saw her eyes darting past my father and me to the ocean behind us as though it could somehow climb above the dock and swallow us whole. I don’t doubt it could on a stormy day, but today the skies were blue, and the sea was calm.

“We here in Trifork have a rich sailing heritage, one of which I am immensely proud,” began my father into the microphone that had been set up for the occasion. “Today is a big day for me, both as a king and a father. As you all know, my daughter, the princess Erica Rose, will turn eighteen in just two days’ time. Her first official engagement was supposed to be at the ball, but she begged me to be allowed to launch this ship. Being the dutiful father I am, I agreed.” He paused at this point waiting for a laugh. When he got it, he carried on. “This is my birthday gift to you, dear Erica. I know you’ve always had a fondness for the sea and so this ship not only bears your name but also belongs to you.”

I blinked a couple of times, unsure if what I was hearing was true. The ship was mine? I wasn’t allowed to dip my toes in the shallow waves at the beach, but I was allowed to own a ship?

I gazed up at the huge galleon. “She’s mine?” Hope rose in my chest that I might, for the first time in my life, be able to go out on the ocean. My parents had never so much as let me sail in a dinghy before now, let alone go on a ship.

“She’s all yours, sweetheart. As part of our fleet and a working ship, she will be taken out by her captain, Captain Jackson. But when she’s back in Trifork, you will be able to see her whenever you want.”

“See her?”

“Yes,” beamed my father, oblivious to the disappointment I was feeling. Only see her? I didn’t want a ship to look at. I’d spent my entire life watching the ships of Trifork sail in and out of the harbor. I wanted to sail to foreign lands, to feel the sea breeze upon my cheek. I wanted to know what it felt like to roll over the gentle waves with the vastness of the ocean the only thing in view.

My mother caught my disappointment though. She could read me like a book. An elegant woman with a sharp tongue and an even sharper sense of style, she swallowed her terror and took a few steps toward me, toward the ocean. She walked tall and calmly, but a slight tremor in her step gave her away.

“Aren’t you happy with your new ship?”

“Yes ma’am,” I lied. What was the point of having a ship if I wasn’t allowed on it?

She flicked her eyes past me, once again, toward the ocean. What was it she was looking for? Her eyes snapped back to me. “You know my feelings on you going near the sea, Erica. It’s a dangerous place. I nearly drowned when I was about your age.” She took my hand and pulled me a couple of steps toward her—away from the dock’s edge.

I’d heard the story a million times. Every time I even hinted at wanting to go near the sea, she’d dredge up the same story about how she nearly drowned when she was younger. I wasn’t in the mood to hear it again.

The ship was cast off, the gangplank raised. My ship was about to go on an adventure I could only dream of. The wind caught the sails and the majestic vessel began to move, her crew waving at us as she inched away from the dockside.

My father clapped me on the back, a beaming smile on his face. Even my mother, who usually had a face like a prune when it came to anything to do with water, had found her smile again. I glanced over at Hayden. He knew I was disappointed. I talked about nothing but the ocean with him. He loved the water as I did, but unlike me, he could go out onto it whenever he wanted. He even had his own boat. It was nowhere near as grand as the Erica Rose, but at least, he was allowed to sail in it.

He flicked his eyes almost imperceptibly towards the ship. I arched a brow.

“Do it,” he mouthed silently and cast his eyes towards the ship once again.

He wanted me to jump on the ship! He was actually daring me to do it. Thoughts of all the silly childhood pranks and adventures he’d led me into filled my mind. Hayden was the epitome of an irresistible bad idea. I followed his eye line to where the gangplank had been pulled up. The gate was still open, but it wouldn’t be for long. The ship was already a foot away from the dock and moving swiftly towards the open sea. I had seconds to make a decision.

My heart hammered, and adrenaline took over. Without thinking too hard, I ran from my parents, barged past the palace guards, and jumped as far as I could right off the dock. The ship had moved much faster than I’d anticipated, and I missed the gate by a long shot, and instead of landing on the ship, I plunged head first into the sea.

All I could hear were my mother’s screams as the water crowded in around me.

The water that had looked so warm and inviting when I’d been standing on the dock was actually a lot colder than I’d imagined, and as I scrambled for air, its icy grip took my breath away

Mouthfuls of briny water flowed into my mouth, causing me to choke as I tried desperately to keep above the water’s surface. In one terrifying instant, I realized what it was that my mother had been keeping me from for all these years. As I’d never been allowed in water deeper than a bath, I’d never learned how to swim. It occurred to me now that this wasn’t exactly my finest moment.

The dress I’d had picked out for me, a knee length cotton blue dress was perfect for looking smart and launching a ship. It was utterly useless as a floatation device. The heavy, waterlogged fabric weighed me down, making it even harder to try to keep my head above water.

Beside me, I heard a splash. I looked over to see a red and white life ring bobbing close by with a rope attached to it. On the other end of the rope, the Erica Rose’s crew shouted at me to grab hold. After I’d managed to pull myself through it, they heaved me up and pulled me over the side of the boat.

A group of worried faces peered down at me. One of the men reached a hand down to help me up. As I righted myself, my dress dripped ocean water all over the deck and tightened around me. I felt so uncomfortable in the soggy outfit, but when I saw how far from the dock we’d already moved, excitement flooded through me. The fear I’d felt just moments before dissolved, leaving me feeling exhilarated. I was on a ship for the first time in my life, and we were sailing away from the dock.

With giddy excitement, I gripped a railing. On the edge of the dock, my parents shouted and waved for us to come back. My heart fell as I caught the expression on my mother’s face. Her usual stern expression had contorted to one of absolute fear, and she wasn’t trying to hide it anymore. Her screams pierced the air, her usual stoic facade dropped completely as she tore at my father who was desperately trying to pull her back from the edge of the dock.

Her fear of falling into the ocean was obviously smaller than losing one of her children to it.

My stomach churned as I realized the severity of my actions. I’d only wanted to go out to sea. I didn’t want to hurt my mother in the process. I was going to be in the worst kind of trouble for this little stunt, and as we floated further and further out to sea, the more I realized that the adventure was not worth it.

Captain Jackson, a tall man with a perfectly groomed black mustache and oiled down hair greeted me with a salute. I’d never been saluted before. Bowed to and curtseyed aplenty, but a salute was new to me. I raised my hand and saluted back, unsure of the etiquette.

“I’m going to try to turn the ship back, your highness, but it may take a little time to adjust the sails. The wind is not optimal right now. There’s a squall coming, and I’d hoped to get far enough away to miss it.”

I glanced out to the horizon. The seamless blue sky was darkening, and the sea below it matched its threatening color. Where had that come from? Only seconds before, the weather had been as perfect as anyone could wish for.

“Yes, please turn around.” My heart dropped as I realized that my adventure was over before it had even started, and I’d gotten nothing out of it except to embarrass myself in front of thousands of onlookers and terrify my poor mother.

I looked back over to the shoreline. My parents and all the onlookers were barely dots on the horizon now. To my right, I could see the public beach to which people flocked in the summer months. Beyond that were magnificent white cliffs that I’d heard plenty about but never actually seen before as they were only visible from the sea. To my left, the coast was much rockier, and here was where the royal castle stood. Only a wide promenade separated the rocks from the castle. It looked so dark and imposing with its granite grey towers; I barely recognized it from this angle.

“Why don’t you go to my cabin and get changed out of those wet clothes. I’ll have one of my crew show you where it is.”

Captain Jackson swiveled on his toe and left me alone, feeling terrible. I’d not paused to consider the crew or the captain, and now they were going to have to abort their mission. I could chalk up a few more people to the list of those I’d disappointed. With a sigh, I walked to the other side of the deck to look out at the vast ocean. In the distance, the sea turned black and churned ominously almost as though that part of the ocean was alive and out to get us. It was a stark contrast to the crystal clear and calm water beneath the ship. Above me, the crew of the Erica Rose battled to maneuver the sails to turn us around.

“Your Royal Highness.”

I heard someone shouting at me above the wind that was now blustering fiercely. Lightning forked, splitting the sky in two, and the wind tugged my hair from the clip that had been keeping it in place. Strands of long red hair whipped around my face. I turned to see a young man heading toward me.

“I’m Joe, Your Highness, the second in command of the Erica Rose,” he said, giving me a quick bow. “The captain has asked me to escort you to his cabin.”

Joe was barely older than me, with short, dirty blond hair and a winning smile. I was surprised to see someone so young be the second in command of such a ship.

“It’s getting a little choppy,” Joe cautioned, his cheeks red as he took my hand. “They are going to struggle to get the ship back to shore. The forecast mentioned a little bit of turbulent water, but it looks to be shaping up to be a proper storm out there.”

I followed Joe to a big wooden doorway, which he opened for me and beckoned me inside. As I thanked him, a boom filled the darkening sky.

“Thunder,” Joe remarked, taking my hand and leading me down a corridor. I held on tightly to him as the ship listed violently to one side from the sharp turn of the wheel. He showed me to a large room with a writing desk on one side and a bed on the other.

“There will be some clothes in the wardrobe there,” he said, pointing to a small door. “I don’t expect the captain has any dresses, but I’m sure you’ll find something dry to wear.”

I watched the storm unfold through a small porthole as Joe left me to help the captain. It seemed no one was expecting the weather to be this bad and how could they? Only ten minutes earlier, there hadn’t been a cloud in the sky, and now there was barely any blue left, only the darkness of the sea and the sky. It was strange how quickly the storm had taken hold. I certainly had never seen anything like it before. Outside, the rain began to lash down, pitter-pattering on the round window. Thunder crashed as the waves became more intense with the roaring wind that whipped all around us. The storm had sneaked up on us quickly, and as far as I could see, we were getting further and further away from the coastline. Whatever Captain Jackson’s men were doing to turn the ship around, it wasn’t helping.

I hated admitting it to myself after dreaming of the day I could finally sail on the sea for so long, but I was beginning to get scared. My mother’s screams echoed in my head, although we had drifted too far to really hear her. The boat creaked with the strain, and from out of the window, I could see we were being pulled closer and closer toward the storm. A crash from behind me made me jump. I turned to find that some previously neatly stacked dishes had been flung from the cupboard and were now in hundreds of pieces on the floor. Holding on was almost impossible, the ship was lurching so much. I tried walking over to the wardrobe that Joe had pointed out, but the floor beneath me was rocking so much under the motion of the waves that I could barely stand at all. With a shock, I saw a stream of water pushing the remnants of the dishes across the floor. It was coming from the doorway. We were taking on water. I held on to the writing desk to keep myself upright, but the motion of the ship knocked me to the floor. Something sharp pierced my side, and when I looked down, I saw a sliver of broken plate had cut through my dress and into my flesh creating a bloom of fresh blood on the wet fabric.

I looked up to grab hold of the desk to pull myself back up and was shocked to see that the window was now partly submerged. We were sinking, and we were sinking fast. Pulling myself up, I ran to the door quickly. I had to get out, or I would drown. I yanked the door as hard as I could, and as it opened, a deluge of water rushed in knocking me over once again. The lights flickered out leaving me in complete darkness as the water engulfed me, sending me flying into something hard. Water filled my lungs as the blackness folded in around me, my mother’s warnings of the fierceness of the ocean echoing in my head.





Author Bio


J.A lives in a total fantasy world (because reality is boring right?) When she’s not writing all the crazy fun in her head, she can be found eating cake, designing pretty pictures and hanging upside down from the tallest climbing frame in the local playground while her children look on in embarrassment. She’s travelled the world working as everything from a banana picker in Australia to a Pantomime clown, has climbed to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro and the bottom of the Grand Canyon and once gave birth to a surrogate baby for a friend of hers.
She spends way too much time gossiping on facebook and if you want to be part of her Reading Army, where you’ll get lots of freebies, exclusive sneak peeks and super secret sales, join up here
https://www.subscribepage.com/v7o8k4

Somehow she finds time to write.

Reviews for J.A. Armitage's work.

Endless Winter is a unique story that takes place in a beautiful world. J.A. Armitage's writing is lyrical and almost poetic.  - Janelle Fila for Readers' Favorite

I devoured this book like a rich box of chocolates. - Sara C Roethle


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Friday, June 22, 2018

Before Dawn, by Author Elizabeth Arroyo: Survival rule number one: eat before being hunted. **Excerpt-Giveaway**

Before Dawn
Elizabeth Arroyo
Publication date: June 12th 2018
Genres: Dystopian, Science Fiction, Young Adult


Survival rule number one: eat before being hunted.

In a world infected by violent hybrids, survival comes with its own set of rules. Sixteen-year-old Zoe is an expert at breaking them.

While Zoe has abilities she cannot explain, just getting through another day without being killed is a challenge. She has survived since her mother’s murder with help from an unexpected ally, Morph.

Morph is part of the Arcane, an elite force of teenagers from an Alliance of space stations. After the Arcane are destroyed in an explosion, only Morph and his brother survive. They are sent on a new mission to capture a dangerous hybrid.

Morph is torn between duty and his attraction to Zoe. With threats to the planet from above, Morph knows Zoe’s chances are limited. Trying to save her could be a betrayal to the Alliance.

When Zoe recovers memories of her mother’s death that point straight to the Arcane, she realizes Morph might be the real enemy.

As more mysteries are brought to light, telling friends from foes becomes difficult. For Morph and Zoe, the world is more dangerous than ever. And trusting each other is the key to them living to see another day.




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EXCERPT


Her concern at the moment stood out in front of her – movement in the shadows. At first glance they looked like children, though when you got closer they were nothing like children. Not even human anymore. Their heads too large for their bodies, their eyes black slits on their ashen faces, their mouths extended and filled with jagged teeth. Bulbous body on stubbly short legs. They weren’t intimidating, but their numbers swelled in the hundreds and they hunted in packs.

They crowded every ridge, waited behind every rock formation, watching her. One of them charged, and the others followed. Zoe pulled out her pistol and fired, catching the leader in the head. It took three steps before it realized it had no head and fell to the ground. The creatures behind it didn’t seem slightly interested in their dead comrade and ran over it to get to her. She flanked the ridge and ran alongside the tracks, feeling the tremble of a hundred little suckers stomping the ground behind her. A train stood off about fifty yards, half of it hung inside a pit. It looked like the tongue of an overzealous monster had rolled out of its maw and choked to death. She slipped between railcars and shot the first critter that followed her through. It fell, blocking the entrance from those behind it, giving her a few precious seconds to scramble out into the open. Though their heads were large, they weren’t that smart. Lucky her.

Hiding gave her the best chance at survival. She couldn’t outrun them. Exhaustion threatened to drop her, and she didn’t have enough spark to light a match. She regretted letting Jace convince her to kill him. She’d have had a better chance at survival had he been beside her.

The ground rolled under her, lifting dirt and rock into the air. It pulsed, forcing her to slow and balance her footing. She stopped when the ground in front of her caved in, expecting to be consumed by the hundreds of creatures behind her. When nothing happened, she risked turning around to find out why.

They too had stopped as if at an invisible wall. All of them. Spread out in a line, they stared past her. A swarm of gray, small, ugly things, eyes almost swallowing their faces. They’d forgotten about her.

Another rumble underground forced Zoe’s attention back to the sink hole in front of her just as a serpent exploded out of the ground and skyrocketed at least a hundred feet into the air before falling in an arc toward the mass of creatures under it. Including her.

She scrambled back, hightailing it toward the little monsters who decided they didn’t want to eat her anymore. They wanted to live, so they ran. She followed suit. The serpent struck the ground, smashing a dozen or so creatures to her left, causing another jolt under her. It slid along the ground, its massive scales cutting a deep path in the dirt. It snatched one of the creatures in its mouth, tearing through muscle and bone, leaving only stubbly legs on the ground. Pitching right, she turned back toward the pit. Anything would be better than remaining out in the open. If those little suckers ended up avoiding or killing the serpent, they’d remember they wanted to eat her. She had to lay low, hide, and wait it out.

But the snake had other ideas. It circled back and slammed into the train initiating its final descent into the pit. The world shimmered for a second and adrenaline fueled her. She had to get to Mecca and find answers about her life. She didn’t intend on dying before she got them. She jumped into the last railcar, clawing at anything she could use as a hold.

She found nothing but air.




Author Bio


Born and raised in Chicago and the youngest of five, Elizabeth spent most of her younger years as an avid reader with a wild imagination which led her to write her first manuscript at the age of fourteen.

Influenced by the gamers in her household and her love of action adventure, Elizabeth delved into the realm of science fiction and wrote her first full-length science fiction/dystopian YA novel—Before Dawn—acquired by Ellysian Press in 2016.

Elizabeth is the author of the Second Sign and the Second Shadow, a dark YA paranormal romance series, (Sapphire Star Publishing, 2013), and Darkness, a YA paranormal thriller, (Indie-Published, 2014). She has a short story published with SQ Magazine, and advice on her writing journey can be found in The Write Path: A Compilation of Letters, (Amazon Digital Services, Inc.).

Elizabeth enjoys spending time with her family, listening to music, and binge watching her favorite shows.

You can reach Elizabeth at her website www.elizabetharroyo.com, Twitter, and Facebook.



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Thursday, June 21, 2018

Escape Forbidden, by Author Ruth Silver **Excerpt-Giveaway**

Escape Forbidden
Ruth Silver
(Aberrant Prequel)
Publication date: June 15th 2018
Genres: Dystopian, Young Adult


Fight to stay alive.

The Gravelands are a dangerous place.

In a world of uncertainty, Cora Manning knows one thing without a doubt: getting into Genesis will offer her a brighter future.

When the intake coordinator agrees to let her in because of her genetic makeup, Cora discovers the promised city of utopia is nothing like she imagined.

The rebellion has begun.




EXCERPT


“Sit,” Noelle said and gestured toward the cot positioned on the floor.

Without much thought I wandered over and stretched out to lie down. Had it not been a trying day and with bombings outside, I’d have opted to go home or at the very least refused special treatment. That was what Noelle offered me, wasn’t it?

“You don’t have to stay here all night,” I said. It felt weird to be watched as I slept. “If I need anything, I can let you know. Or I mean, whoever stays.” I didn’t want to assume she wouldn’t go home either. I shut my eyes and relaxed against the cot. It wasn’t the most comfortable bed I’d been in, but it beat the straw in the barn.

“Toby and I will alternate, unless your fever breaks. Then we’ll both go home and let you sleep in peace.”

Hearing her words was enough to help me relax. “Okay,” I mumbled. If only I had the ability to control my own body temperature.

Noelle shut off the lights which helped ease the throbbing pulse behind my eyes. The distant wail of the siren ceased. Had it ended? Was everyone safe? I took momentary comfort in the quiet of Noelle’s office and allowed myself to fall asleep.

During the night, I heard the door whine and I attempted to roll over, only half cognizant of where I was. The cot groaned beneath me and I felt the warmth of metal against my cheek.

“Wake up, little girl,” an unfamiliar voice said, and I heard the distinctive click of the safety released from a gun.

My eyes flashed open, staring up at the intruder, the gun tight against my skin. How would I get out of this mess?





Author Bio


Ruth Silver enjoys reading, traveling, writing, photography, boardgames, and playing with her dogs.

REFUGE FORBIDDEN (Aberrant Book 4) by Ruth Silver will be available June 29, 2018.

She also writes adult romance under the name Allison West.





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Wednesday, June 20, 2018

A Guest Post by Love Me, Love Me Not, Author, S. M. Koz - Family, abandonment, and forbidden romance are at the core of SM Koz’s powerful and emotionally charged novel about a teen who falls for her foster brother. **Giveaway**

Love Me, Love Me Not
S.M. Koz
Published by: Swoon Reads
Publication date: June 19th 2018
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult


Family, abandonment, and forbidden romance are at the core of SM Koz’s powerful and emotionally charged novel about a teen who falls for her foster brother.

When Hailey Brown is removed from her home and put into foster care, all she wants is a safe, comfortable place where she can finish school and move on with her life. It’s not easy adjusting to a new school and a new life, but Mr. and Mrs. Campbell and their teenage son, Brad, welcome Hailey with open arms.

As Hailey begins to adjust to her new life, she and Brad grow closer. For the first time, Hailey feels like she might have a real shot at a future. Soon, however, Hailey realizes her relationship with Brad has crossed the line from friendship into something more. But being with Brad would mean giving up the perfect life that Hailey has waited so long to have.

Can Hailey and Brad resist the feelings that are developing between them—or will they risk it all to be together?

Chosen by readers like you for Macmillan’s young adult imprint Swoon Reads, SM Koz delivers a powerful debut about the ups and downs of being a foster child.





Challenges of Dealing with a Broken Home, and the Foster Care System



Being a foster parent is challenging for a number of reasons, ranging from something as simplistic as logistics to something as complicated as the emotional turmoil it can bring to everyone involved.

Imagine this scenario: It’s one in the morning and you get a call from an investigator with DSS. They need an immediate placement for a toddler whose sole parent has been arrested and no other family can be located. You take in the frightened child who is unable to sleep in a new place so you stay by the child’s side until daybreak. Then, with very little sleep, you have to get ready for work, but what to do with the child? Your boss is not sympathetic to your situation, so you need to find yet another new place for the child while you’re at work. Luckily, another foster parent offers to watch the child until you can find daycare. You call dozens of DSS-approved daycares and finally find one that has immediate space for the child. Unfortunately, it’s thirty minutes from your house in the opposite direction of your job. Still, you’re relieved you found a place that seems respectable. You fill out all the paperwork and enroll the child. After two weeks, you and the child have become accustomed to the routine and are growing close. The child is eating and sleeping well, has started calling you Mama, and spends more time giggling than crying. Then, you get another call from DSS. A distant aunt who has never met the child was found, so DSS will pick up the child from daycare and transport her to the aunt in another county. DSS will collect the child’s belongings from you next week. You never even get the chance to say goodbye.

Terribly sad, right? This is not an unusual situation, and I think it highlights the logistical and emotional challenges of foster care, for both the caretaker and the child. Especially at the start of a placement, children may rotate through two, three, even five different places in the matter of days. I can’t even imagine how hard that must be for the child. Then, just when they’re starting to feel settled somewhere, they are often uprooted as DSS finds out more information about the case.

From a foster parent’s perspective, the emotional turmoil comes when you connect with a child and want the best for them but have to allow the system to work the way it’s meant to work, even if you have serious reservations. Sure, you can make your reservations known, but you are always at the mercy of the court. Sometimes, you agree with the court and know the child would thrive elsewhere; sometimes, you know the best place is with you, however, there’s nothing you can do if the court disagrees.

This emotional turmoil is one of the main reasons foster parents (and social workers) burn out. It’s tough to go through this once, let alone every few months. When this has happened to me, I’ve been fortunate to have an amazing husband to lean on. Other foster parents, either from my county or online support groups, have also been great. They always remind me that, ultimately, what it comes down to is trying to help the child as much as you can during the time they’re with you, whether it’s one night or two years. You have very little input into their case, but you can make the most of their time with you and hope that something you’ve done will stick with them and improve their future. It’s not much to hold onto, but for long-term foster parents, it has to be enough to keep going, despite heartbreak after heartbreak.




Author Bio


SM KOZ is a medical writer from North Carolina, where she lives with her husband, two sons, and numerous pets. She has a BS in Biology from Duke University and a Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine from North Carolina State University. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys reading, photographing nature and her family, gardening, travelling, and attempting, usually unsuccessfully, to decorate birthday cakes. Love Me, Love Me Not is her first traditionally published novel.





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