September 30, 2014

The Resolution of Callie & Kayden by Jessica Sorensen ~ RELEASE BLITZ

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Happy Release Day to Jessica Sorensen and her new book THE RESOLUTION OF CALLIE AND KAYDEN!


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Synopsis


Things are going good for Callie and Kayden. They’re still dealing with their past and the pain connected to it, but for the most part they’ve moved on. The biggest decision they have at the moment is what they want to do with their lives in the future. Eventually, though, the past catches up with them and they’re left facing tough choices. But Callie and Kayden learn that as long as they have each other, they can make it through just about anything. And in the end, they discover what they really want out of life.

  callie and kayden teaser_tongueExcerpt


“She’s just being nice,” Kayden says gazing down at me. His hair is ruffled and his jawline is scruffy and he looks so happy. “And it’s nice… that she wants to be so nice... it could be worse than an overnice mother.” “Yeah, I know.” I sigh, knowing he’s right, that it could be worse, that I could have a mother like his mother. “I just wish she’d be just a little bit less embarrassing.” I raise my hand and make a pinching gesture with my fingers. “Maybe just a teeny tiny bit.” “Yeah, I doubt that’s ever going to happen.” Kayden slips his shirt off and chucks it aside. His jeans ride low on his hips, giving me a view of his abs and chest that is crisscrossed with scars. “I did find it funny when she kept cracking jokes all through dinner about how she thinks we’re going to end up getting married.” He kneels down on the mattress, nudging my knees open with his knees until I spread open my legs for him. “Oh God.” Shaking my head, I cover my face with my hands. “I’m glad you find it funny because I’m sure most guys would be running for their lives.” The mattresses moves as he leans over me and puts a hand on each side of my head. I crack my fingers apart and look at him. He’s been so much happier since he put the past behind him. He seems to breathe freer, smile more, and it’s probably the most beautiful sight I’ve ever seen. “Well, just make sure you really want this,” I say as he moves one of my hands away from my eyes. “Because you still have time to run.” He shakes his head, his tongue slipping out of his mouth to wet his lips. “No running here,” he whispers in a raspy voice that I know only means one thing—he wants me. “Ever.” He moves my other hand away from my face then pins my arms above my head. A while ago, the movement would have sent my heart soaring and not in a good way. But now… well, it freaking soars like a bird high up in the sky never wanting to return to land ever. It soars because it’s free. It soars for him. “You want me,” I tease as he leans down to kiss me. “You’re right,” he says. “And then I want to give you your present.” “But you already gave me my present.” I pat my pocket where the tickets to the concert are that he gave me. He said it was for a redo of a night that should have been special, but he couldn’t give it to me then, but he was ready now to give me everything I deserve—his words not mine. My mom practically fainted when he said it. And me, well I think I fell in love with Kayden even more. “Yeah, but that one was only the first part.” He kisses me, then softly bites my bottom lip before he leans back for air. “There’s more,” he breathes against my lips, coming in for another kiss. “But you have to wait.” “Until when?” I wonder, my heart skipping a beat as his hands wander for the button of my jeans. “Until we’re done with this.” He gives me a wicked smile as he flicks my button undone.




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AboutTheAuthor
Jessica Sorensen


The New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, Jessica Sorensen, lives in the snowy mountains of Wyoming. When she's not writing, she spends her time reading and hanging out with her family. 


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SERIES READING ORDER


Book 1: The Coincidence of Callie and Kayden Available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and iTunes
  
 Book 2: The Redemption of Callie and Kayden 
Available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and iTunes  

Book 3: The Destiny of Violet and Luke Available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble , and iTunes   

Book 4: The Probability of Violet and Luke Available on Amazon, iTunes, B&N, and Smashwords   

Book 5: The Certainty of Violet and Luke Available on Amazon, iTunes, B&N, and Smashwords   

Book 6: The Resolution of Callie and Kayden Available on Amazon, iTunes, B&N, and Smashwords








Falling Down Under by SM Phillips ~ COVER REVEAL

"Fallen Down Under" by: S.M. Phillips

 

Synopsis:

cover fallen edited 

"Fuck." I slam my fist into the desk before me and feel nothing but rage. I need to go after her. I need to explain. "But isn't this what you wanted?" The voice inside my head whispers. "Isn't this a nice easy way out?"
Everything Max has done has always been at a cost to others around him. He wasn't about to make that mistake again. No longer will his selfish ways punish those close to him. Sometimes it's better to have had and lost than to never have had at all.
Finally after what felt like forever, Jess was getting a glimpse of control over her life again and allowed her defences to come crashing down, only to have what it guarded to be crushed once again. Now, on the other side of the world away from her friends, she doesn't know what to do.
Should she stay or should she go?
Is it too late or have they both fallen too far into something that is completely out of their depths?


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Meet S.M. Phillips

Welcome to the crazy and hectic life that is me... A fun, loving mum of one special little boy, girlfriend (I'm sure it should be wife by now!!) and an overall crazy, happy go lucky girl from England.
I have always had a passion for reading and writing. Wherever I am, my book reader is never far behind along with a mug of coffee.
I found myself wanting to write from a young age, I have quite a few hidden stories on my computer somewhere, maybe I will have to dig them out and play around with them at some point.
I decided to make the very exciting but also very nerve wracking decision to release my debut 'Escape down under' at the end of 2013 when the ideas in my head got too strong and just wouldn't leave me alone.
Escape down under is now live and Fallen down under is due for release on November 2nd
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As Long As You Love Me by Ann Aguirre ~ RELEASE DAY LAUNCH

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We are absolutely ecstatic to bring you the Release Day Launch for Ann Aguirre's AS LONG AS YOU LOVE ME! AS LONG AS YOU LOVE ME is the second novel in Ann's New Adult Contemporary Romance 2B Trilogy Series, published by Harlequin HQN! If you haven't already read I WANT IT THAT WAY buy it NOW. We can't wait for you all to read it so you can dish with us about it!

As Long As You Love Me

Amazon | B&N | BAM | IndieBound | Vroman’s | Book Depository | Powell’s| iTunes

AS LONG AS YOU LOVE ME Synopsis: Most people dream about getting out of Sharon, Nebraska, but after three years away, Lauren Barrett is coming home. There are the justifications she gives to everyone else—missing her family, losing her college scholarship. And then there’s the reason Lauren can’t admit to anyone: Rob Conrad, her best friend’s older brother. Football prowess and jaw-dropping good looks made Rob a star in high school. Out in the real world, his job and his relationships are going nowhere. He can’t pinpoint exactly what’s missing until Lauren comes back to town, bringing old feelings and new dreams with her. But he’s the guy that women love and leave—not the one who makes them think of forever. Though she’s terrified of opening up, Lauren’s ready to take that chance. Because the only thing more important than figuring out where you truly belong is finding the person you were meant to be with. ALAYLM Teaser 2




  EXCERPT: 

 Mom was asleep, so I checked my email. I had the usual spam, plus notes from all my former roomies, which made me happy. I missed all of them, even Max, though things were unspeakably awkward between us at the end. I opened Nadia’s first: LB! You know I miss you like crazy, right? Courtney’s in your bed right now, and she has completely alphabetized my books. I’m pretty sure there will be a lending library program implemented the next time I get home from work. So how’s Nebraska? Did you find a job yet? Have you started applying to any schools? I have like ten more questions but you’ll get grumpy if I dump them on you all at once. Hug and kiss my family for me, okay? Write back soon or I’m sending my brother to track you down. She didn’t mention the hot single dad she’d broken up with right before I left. Mr. Hot Ginger had dumped Nadia for her own good, which would drive her quietly crazy. I’d felt horrible about the timing, but there was little I could do about it. I hadn’t gotten to know him well before I left, but Ty seemed like a good guy. He was only a few years older than us, but already had a four-year-old. That was the crux of the conflict. Writing back, I didn’t quite nail the tone, talking about Rob too much and inventing interesting anecdotes because there was so little going on. I could’ve mentioned Krista, but Nadia had never been as close to her, and there was some tension by the time she moved. Mostly I didn’t want Nadia to worry; things would be fine once I got a job and had less time to fret about whether I’d made the right decision. I opened Angus’s email next: Hey, you. Got your check. It appears not to be rubber, but I said you didn’t have to pay me back. I hate you for leaving. Come back right now. I’ll wait. This is me, waiting. It’s been at least five minutes. You’re shattering my faith in humanity, Lauren. Take responsibility for it! Not sure what you’ve heard from Nadia, but she’s such a hot mess. I can’t believe you abandoned us. All the light has left my life. All of it! Okay, enough drama. I’m working on getting over Josh. Classes suck but I will survive. (You’re singing it now, aren’t you?) “Damn you, Angus Starr. You know me too well.” I got up on my bed with a hairbrush and sang two verses before reading on. In all seriousness, there is a Lauren-sized hole in my life. Please don’t lose touch. Write soon. Love and hugs, Angus. It was simpler writing back to Angus; our friendship was sweet and uncomplicated. Briefly I considered deleting Max’s email without opening it, but that seemed like an asshole move. In the end, I read it, two lines only: I’m sorry about everything. Take care of yourself.

  Grab the whole series today!

2B Trilogy




About Ann Aguirre:


Author Photo    Ann Aguirre is a New York Times & USA Today bestselling author and RITA winner with a degree in English Literature; before she began writing full time, she was a clown, a clerk, a voice actress, and a savior of stray kittens, not necessarily in that order. She grew up in a yellow house across from a cornfield, but now she lives in sunny Mexico with her husband, children, and various pets. Ann likes books, emo music, action movies, and she writes all kinds of genre fiction for adults and teens, published with Harlequin, Macmillan, and Penguin, among others.      

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The Fine Art of Pretending by Rachel Harris ~ RELEASE DAY BLITZ

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We are so excited to bring you the Release Day Launch of Rachel Harris' THE FINE ART OF PRETENDING! THE FINE ART OF PRETENDING is the first book in Rachel's The Fine Art of Pretending Series published by Spencer Hill Contemporary.

The Fine Art of Pretending

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THE FINE ART OF PRETENDING 

Synopsis: 

According to the guys at Fairfield Academy, there are two types of girls: the kind you hook up with, and the kind you're friends with. Seventeen-year-old Alyssa Reed is the second type. And she hates it. With just one year left to change her rank, she devises a plan to become the first type by homecoming, and she sets her sights on the perfect date—Justin Carter, Fairfield Academy’s biggest hottie and most notorious player. With 57 days until the dance, Aly launches Operation Sex Appeal and sheds her tomboy image. The only thing left is for Justin actually to notice her. Enter best friend Brandon Taylor, the school’s second biggest hottie, and now Aly’s pretend boyfriend. With his help, elevating from “funny friend” to “tempting vixen” is only a matter of time. But when everything goes according to plan, the inevitable “break up” leaves their friendship in shambles, and Aly and Brandon with feelings they can’t explain. And the fake couple discovers pretending can sometimes cost you the one thing you never expected to want.

 
EXCERPT:

An exhale of breath leaves Brandon’s lips, almost like a laugh, and he scoots closer to me on the blanket. I twist my legs under myself, sitting tall as I face him. He cups my chin and tilts it toward him, drowning me in the now dark-green depths of his eyes, the cologne I gave him for his birthday filling my head. It’s woodsy and yummy and I always loved how it smelled on the store testers, but on Brandon, it’s even sexier. My eyes flutter closed, and I inhale again, this time slowly. Goose bumps prickle my arms, and my head gets fuzzy. Brandon slides his hand down the column of my neck and brings the other up, threading his fingers through the hair at my nape. His breath fans across my cheek, and everything south of my bellybutton squeezes tight. When his mouth first meets mine, it’s hesitant, questioning. But as I move my lips with his, he quickly grows bolder, coaxing them apart. Desire, pure and raw, electrifies my veins as his tongue sweeps my mouth. A whimpering sound springs from my chest, and instinctively, I wrap my arms around his neck, tugging him closer. Needing more. My teeth graze his full bottom lip, and I pull it, sucking on it gently. He moans and knots his fingers in my hair, and a thrill dances down my back. Brandon is an amazing kisser, just as I knew he would be. I have no control over my body’s reactions. I lose myself in his lips, his tongue, and his strong arms, forgetting time and space and even my surroundings—until Gabi’s snicker brings reality crashing around us, reminding me we have an audience. And that I’m kissing Brandon. We break apart, out of breath, and stare into each other’s eyes. That was unexpected.

About Rachel Harris: 
Author Photo
  Award-winning and Bestselling author Rachel Harris writes humorous love stories about sassy girls next door and the hot guys that make them swoon. Emotion, vibrant settings, and strong relationships are a staple in each of her books...and kissing. Lots of kissing. An admitted Diet Mountain Dew addict and homeschool mom, she gets through each day by laughing at herself, hugging her kids, and watching way too much Food Network with her husband. She writes young adult, new adult, and adult romance, and LOVES talking with readers.  

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Author Goodreads | THE FINE ART OF PRETENDING Goodreads

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Keep Me by Anna Zaires ~ RELEASE BLITZ

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Title: Keep Me (Twist Me, #2)
Author: Anna Zaires
Publication Date: September 30, 2014
Genre: Dark Erotic Romance


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Synopsis

Abducted at eighteen. Held captive for 15 months. It reads like one of those headlines. And yes, I did it. I stole her. Nora, with her long dark hair and silky skin. She’s my weakness, my obsession. I’m not a good man. I never pretended to be one. She can love me, but she can’t change me. I can, however, change her. My name is Julian Esguerra, and Nora is mine to keep. ***Keep Me is the sequel to Twist Me, told from Nora & Julian’s POV.***



       Twist Me series   


Twist Me (Twist Me, #1)
 
Keep Me (Twist Me, #2)


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About the Author

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Anna Zaires fell in love with books at the age of five, when her grandmother taught her to read. She wrote her first story shortly thereafter. Since then, she has always lived partially in a fantasy world where the only limits were those of her imagination. Currently residing in Florida, Anna is happily married to Dima Zales (a science fiction and fantasy author) and closely collaborates with him on all their works.

After graduating from the University of Chicago with a degree in Economics, Anna spent eight years on Wall Street analyzing stocks and writing research reports. In 2013, she became a full-time author, pursuing her lifelong dream of writing romance novels.

Dima Zales is the love of her life and a huge inspiration in all aspects of her writing. Every book Anna writes is a product of their unique collaborative process.

In addition to reading and writing, Anna enjoys drinking tea (coconut oolong, anyone?), watching addictive TV shows, and discussing book ideas during long walks with her amazing husband.

She loves hearing from her readers, so please don't hesitate to contact her through her website or connect with her on Facebook, where she hangs out way too often. Also, please visit her husband and collaborator, Dima Zales, at www.dimazales.com and check out their fantasy & science fiction books.


   
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The Sinner's Bargain by Claire Contreras ~ RELEASE DAY EVENT


We're celebrating the release of The Sinner's Bargain by Claire Contreras! We have an excerpt and some teasers to entice you, so be sure to let us know what you think!


Title: THE SINNER'S BARGAIN
Author: Claire Contreras
Age group: Adult
Genre: Dark Contemporary Romance
Cover Design: Najla Qamber
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Synopsis:

Being pulled in different directions, Amara must choose what she wants to believe and whom she'll trust.

EXCERPT:
“Holy shit,” she breathed when she looked at the four women standing in front of her. Courtney wasn’t kidding when she’d said Philip collected lookalikes. All of them looked like Amara. Not identical, but enough that a person who didn’t know her could confuse them or think they were sisters. They all had dark, straight hair that reached their elbows, a couple had layers like hers, and the others were cut the same length. Their bodies were all thin like Amara, although with slight variation in the hip area. 
“You must be Amara,” one of them said, speaking up.
“I am,” she said, uneasily. “Isn’t it against code to use real names?”
The girl laughed. “What am I supposed to call you? Jasmine?”
“Yes,” she responded slowly.
“Okay, Jasmine, I’m Jasmine.”
Amara’s brows furrowed. “For real?”
“All of our Méchant names are Jasmine for the night.”
“What?”
The girl shrugged. “That’s what they told us. We’re all wearing the same thing; we’re all standing the same way, and using the same make-up.”
“But how will… Okay,” Amara said, blinking rapidly. She reminded herself she had this one last thing to do before she was free.
They all dressed in threads of fabric, artfully shredded, tiny black shirts that left little to the imagination and similar skirts, barely covering the panties beneath. Before long, Vivienne appeared at the door, much to Amara’s surprise.
“It’s been a long time,” Vivienne said with a smile when she spotted Amara.
Amara nodded in response, still gaping at her.  She noticed  pairs of handcuffs that Vivienne held in her hands.
“Okay, girls, stand in a single line so I can put these on you. Don’t look so scared, Ava, they come off after the auction,” she said, rolling her eyes. “I’m also going to put masks on you,” she added. “Just a final touch so you can look more…alike.”
As Vivienne fastened the handcuffs on each girl, she put a key on the side of their panties and gave them a level stare. “For after.” She continued to give her unwanted comments as she stood in front of each girl. Sometimes, “where did they find you?” others “your hips are too big.” Nobody responded to her ”they just let her talk, cuff and slip the black, demure masks over their faces.
“Ready,” she chimed before walking out of the room. “Follow me!” she called over her shoulder.
The women followed Vivienne to a stage where they lined up in a row  beside one another, their shaky arms rubbing against the other’s as they looked into the crowd. A few scattered women accompanied some of the men. They watched with equal attention and excitement. The look on their faces sickened Amara.
“This is crazy,” she heard Ava whisper beside her.
“It’ll be over soon,” Amara whispered back.
Her eyes scanned the crowd again.  The lighting in the room was dim, like everywhere else, and it gave everyone in the crowd a rosy glow. Amara wondered where the man was—the one looking for her—and that’s when she spotted Colin sitting off to the left side, by himself with a drink in his hand.  Shit. Amara cursed repeatedly. She tried to see if she could spot Sam or Philip, but couldn’t. She needed to tell somebody about him. If he decided to bid on her, if he could even bid on the right her, it would throw everything off.
Before she could do anything else, the auction started. Ava was pushed up first. She stood in front of the line with her head tucked into her chest, just waiting, as Vivienne introduced her as “Number One.” So they would do it by numbers. Nothing more was said about Ava, before a woman stood up and placed her bid of five thousand dollars, only to be countered by the woman at her same table with a bid of twelve thousand. They both laughed, as if it was such a hilarious thing to be bidding on this poor girl’s body. They gave each other a knowing look, which made Amara’s stomach turn. Ava knew what she was in for, though. The girls in Méchant were prepared to give their bodies away without hesitation.
Three more numbers went by before it was Amara’s turn: Number Five. She stood, with head held down as the others had, until she heard Colin’s opening bid of fourteen thousand dollars. Her eyes snapped up to meet his. She wanted to warn him to stop. A man standing off to the other side of the room countered him. Twenty thousand. Colin raised it to thirty. Her hands sweated, shaking so hard she was forced to clamp them together in front of her body as her eyes searched the room for Philip, Vivienne…anybody who could help. The man raised his bid to forty and Colin countered with fifty. Amara waited on bated breath and sighed in relief when the man didn’t counter the offer. She should have been nervous knowing Philip would be furious if that was the guy they’d been waiting for, but a part of her was relieved. Vivienne said that standard procedure was for them to check who the winning bidders were before they left with the girls —that’s how they would know if the man was there. Maybe if he bid on one of the others and was caught, Amara wouldn’t have to do much more.  
The longer she counted the numerous ways this could go, the more tied up she felt. The cuffs around her hands began to be weighty, and the mask on her face felt like it was suffocating her. Amara had to squash  an overpowering need  to get out, to run and never look back.

Auction over, each girl stepped off the stage and stood beside their winner,  eyes still downcast, Amara included, until Colin squeezed her chin and tilted her face toward him. He glared at her, but she was defeated.  She met his gaze openly, brokenly, until he finally dropped his hand.








If you haven't read the beginning of Colin and Amara's story, grab The Devil's Contract now!



Title: THE DEVIL'S CONTRACT

Author: Claire Contreras
Age group: Adult
Genre: Dark Contemporary Romance
Cover Design: Najla Qamber
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About the Author:

Claire Contreras graduated with her BA in Psychology from Florida International University. She was born in the Dominican Republic and raised in Miami, Fl, where she currently resides with her husband, two boys, and two American Bulldogs. 

Life is short, and it’s more bitter than sweet, so she tries to smile as often as her face allows. She enjoys stories with happy endings, because life is full of way too many unhappy ones.


Let Me In by Erin McCarthy ~ BLITZ


Let Me In by Erin McCarthy 
(Blurred Lines #3) 
Publication date: September 25th 2014 
Genres: Contemporary, New Adult, Romance





Synopsis:

A girl in danger…
Aubrey Walsh never dreamed that she would find herself in an abusive relationship, but after her boyfriend hits her so hard he breaks her tooth, she flees the University of Maine to hide on a remote island with her best friend. Only to discover that she is pregnant. Terrified of what will happen if Jared finds out, she is walking along the rocks, deciding her future, when she slips.
A guy with a secret past…
After a job gone wrong, Riker has left the assassin business and is incognito as a ferryboat operator off the shores of Maine. It’s a lonely life, and when he sees a young woman almost fall off the rocks, he doesn’t hesitate to save her and take her in, though he’s determined to stay unemotionally uninvolved. But when the truth about her situation is revealed, he will do anything to protect Aubrey and her unborn child.
Even marry her. Even kill for her.
When Jared comes looking for the only girl who has ever rejected him, Riker won’t allow it. And Aubrey is torn between protecting herself and her child, or protecting the mysterious husband she has come to love.
And when chance brings them together but fate tears them apart, can their love survive the storm?



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Excerpt: 

“Where were you?” Jared asked as I came into the apartment, my arms loaded with plastic grocery bags.
He didn’t offer to help.  He never offered to help. 
His tone was congenial, but after six months of living with him, I knew him well enough to recognize that he was looking to trap me, to start a fight.  To back me into a verbal corner where he could accuse me of some misconduct and there would be no way to argue rationally with him. 
“The grocery store.”  I staggered to the kitchen and heaved the eight bags onto the counter. 
“It doesn’t take that long to go to the grocery store, Aubrey.”  He stood up, rising slowly, unfurling himself like he had all the time in the world.
My palms started to sweat.  Nerves.  The cat-and-mouse game had begun, just like it had more and more frequently, where he berated me and shamed me and frightened me. 
“I left work at five, sweetheart.”  Sometimes, giving him a smile and using a term of endearment helped to diffuse his anger, but it was getting harder and harder to make myself smile. 
It was also hard to believe I’d ever looked at him and thought he was gorgeous.  Thought he was so sweet, so charming.  There was nothing charming about him at all now.  He was cruel and insecure and sadistic, and I was afraid of him—yet even more afraid to leave him.   
He moved towards me, his arms crossing over his chest.  “You fucking the bag boy, babe?  Is that it?  You can’t come home on time and cook me some dinner because you’re too busy in the backroom blowing some loser.” 
I shook my head, saliva thick in my mouth.  I took an involuntary step backward, but the cabinets halted my progress. 
There was nowhere to go. 
“Of course not.  Why would I do that?  I love you,” I said even though I didn’t.  He’d killed every genuine emotion I’d ever had for him.  “You’re the only man for me.” 
The only man I even dared to look at for fear of the repercussions.  The only man whose touch I granted, even when I wasn’t in the mood or I was tired or he purposefully degraded me.  I knew that if the fear could be peeled away, there would be nothing there but pure hatred for Jared, but the terror was too overwhelming, an octopus ink that covered, hid, camouflaged all my other emotions. 
“What do you want for dinner, baby?” I asked, despising the tone of my voice.  It was wheedling, desperate.  Pathetic.  I didn’t even recognize that voice anymore—or who I had become.   
I reached out to put my hands on his chest, to halt his steps, but under the guise of affection.  I tried to kiss him, but he grabbed my hands and yanked one up to his face, the motion jerking my shoulder.  I winced then tried to cover it.  He sniffed my hand. 
“What are you doing?” I asked, appalled. 
He had leaned in and was smelling my neck, my clothes, my hair.  It was discomfiting, and my hand trembled before I could try to control it. 
“Seeing if you smell like a man.”
I didn’t smell like a man.  But I was sure I did smell like sweat.  It was August, and even in Maine, the days could heat up.  It was almost eighty degrees outside and we didn’t have air conditioning in our apartment.  Plus, fear always made me leach that sour anxiety sweat and I was truly afraid.  I knew what he was going to do and I knew it was going to hurt. 
The girl I used to be would have spit in his face, kneed his nuts, stomped on his foot.  But for eighteen months, Jared had been grinding me down one day, one hour, one minute at a time until I was merely a powdery dust beneath his boot.  I wanted to fight back.  I wanted to flee, but I had left him three times before, and each time, he’d brought me back with first his tears and then his fists.  He’d threatened my mother, my father, my brother, my best friend.  He’d gotten me fired from my job, kicked out of my sorority house, and he had convinced me that no other man would love me.
So this me, the one with no money and no car and self-esteem that had been fed through the industrial shredder, just tried to keep the peace.  To make the moment pass without repercussion. 
“I’ll smell like a man once you kiss me,” I said lightly.  “I missed you.”  Lie.  Total lie.  So untrue that I actually felt bile rise in my mouth. 
He saw it.  Somehow, he always saw it.  It was like he’d perfected the evil art of stripping me naked emotionally in front of him and he thrived on the humiliation. 
Jared suddenly gripped my chin hard in his hand, jerking my head to the side. 
I gave an involuntary cry.  “What’s wrong?  What are you doing?” 
His lips came up to my ear.  At first, he lightly nibbled on my earlobe.  Then he whispered to me, his tender tone at complete odds with his words.  “If you even so much as look at another man, I will break every bone in your body.  I won’t even use my hands because you’re not worth it.  I’ll stomp on you with my boot, the one I use to go riding, the one covered in horseshit.  I’ll beat you so bad you’ll wish you were dead, and no man will ever look at your busted face with anything other than total disgust.  Do you understand me?”
I nodded, a shiver rolling up my spine.  He was big and he surrounded me, his shoulders tense, his grip on my chin so hard I knew it would bruise.  He had played lacrosse in college, but he was broad and muscular enough that he could have gone out for rugby.  I would never be able to overpower him, outrun him, escape him. 
“I understand,” I whispered.  “I am not interested in other men.”  I wasn’t.  I never wanted another man ever again.  All I wanted was to be left alone.
He bit my earlobe.  Hard. 
I gasped in surprise.  “Ow.”  I hadn’t meant to say it out loud, but it’d slipped out involuntary.
Pulling his head back, he jerked my chin so I was facing him again.  “Shut up. You are the whiniest woman I’ve ever met.  I swear to God, all you do is complain.” 
A hysterical laugh bubbled up inside me and escaped before I could stop it.  Was he insane?
Maybe he was.  Maybe he was actually totally certifiable.  Because I never complained.  Ever.  About anything.  He had knocked that out of me months ago, had silenced me almost from the beginning with his verbal disapproval.  I walked on fucking eggshells now and I was exhausted. 
But even though I tried to clamp my lips shut, he heard the weird giggle and it enraged him.  Before I could even prepare for it, the back of his hand came up and nailed me on the cheek.  I stumbled from the force of the blow, tears springing up.  Pain reverberated throughout my face and I caught myself with my palms on the kitchen counter, my hands falling into the grocery bags.  He yanked me back by the arm and slammed me against the cabinets so that my hip connected hard with the lip of the countertop. 
Then he went for the hair, grabbing a big fistful of my blond strands and jerking it so viciously that I cried out in pain.  He did it to blur my vision with tears so I couldn’t see him clearly.  It was his MO.  First the hair.  Then a few blows.  Sometimes the face, but usually the arms so no one would see bruises later. 
“Give me your phone.” 
I dug it out of my pocket, thrusting it at him.  There was nothing incriminating on it.  But that wasn’t why he wanted it.  He hurled it at the cabinets, denting the wood.  The phone fell to the floor and he stepped on it.  I heard the crack. 
This was going to be a bad one, the worst in months.  I could feel it.  When I blinked and my vision cleared, I saw the fury in his eyes, the flare of his nostrils.  He looked…murderous.
“Why are you doing this?” I demanded, more of the old me left than I’d realized.  “I didn’t do anything.”  I tried to bend down, to get away from his hold on me. 
A survival instinct that had been lying dormant kicked in.  This wasn’t going to be a time where I could placate him, and I was suddenly frightened—but not of pain.  Of dying.  If he hit me too hard, I could die, and I wasn’t going to let him do that without trying to protect myself first.   
“You’re a fucking slut, that’s why.  I know you’re screwing around on me.”  With one hand still holding me, he used the other to pull his belt out of the loops on his jeans. 
I clawed at his hands, trying to get myself free.  No.  No way in fucking hell was he going to hit me with that.  When I couldn’t break his grip on my hair, I used my arm to strike at the belt as he raised it, knocking it out of his hand.  The leather stung and I let out a cry, but he was shocked that I’d deflected the blow.  I used that sudden pause to my advantage, twisting out his reach and finally freeing my hair.
“Don’t you dare hit me with that,” I warned, catching my breath and backing away from him.
“Are you giving me orders?” he scoffed.  “I’ll hit you with whatever I want.  Pull your pants down.  I’m going to beat your ass with this belt like you deserve.”
There was no way I was going to voluntarily take my pants off so he could humiliate and abuse me.  Somewhere deep inside, I found my strength despite the fear, and the line I couldn’t let him cross before I lost myself entirely. 
“No.” 
“Then I’ll take your pants off.” 
When he started towards me, I bolted, knocking my shoulder into his as I took off for the front door of our apartment.  My keys to his car were still in my pocket.  Or I could make it to the neighbors if I couldn’t sprint to the car.  But he shoved me and I fell back against the wall.  I tripped on the lamp cord and it crashed off the end table onto the floor.  I put my hands up, but it was too late.
The belt, buckle end first, hit me square in the jaw, and the pain was so shocking, so excruciating, that I fell onto my knees and straight onto my face.  I rolled on my side, grabbing at my mouth, my nose.  Everything was radiating an agonizing throb, my fingers wet, the scent of my own blood clogging my nostrils.  I tried to speak, to scream, to cry, but nothing came out but a gurgling mewl of panic.  I dropped my bottom lip and blood rushed between my fingers, down my arm, puddled onto the floor.
“Oh, fuck, Aubrey.  Look what you made me do.”  Jared sounded frustrated.
The belt clanked down onto the floor next to me, and I winced, scooting away instinctively.  I scrambled to sit up, to grab the belt so he couldn’t hit me again.  There were tears in his eyes, and that enraged me.  How dare he.  How fucking dare he. 
“I’m sorry.  I’m sorry.  Shit.  If you weren’t such a bitch I wouldn’t get like this.  But you push all my buttons.”  His hands went up into his hair.  “You’re going be fine.  Just go rinse your mouth out.  Where are the car keys?  I’m going to the bar.  I need a drink.”
On my knees, gripping my split jaw with one hand, I started to dig in my pocket, loathing him with every bone in my body.  Every single bone that he wanted to break hated him and his pathetic limp-dick need to beat on a woman half his size.  When he bent over and made to root around in my pocket, clearly impatient, I swatted his hand.
“Don’t touch me!  I’ll give you the keys.”  Blood sprayed across his face with my words and he reached up and wiped it away in disgust. 
“Jesus, Aubrey.  That’s really gross.”  Then he took the keys and left as I glared at him in complete silence.
I spit out two of my teeth into my palm and put them in my pocket.  Then, with shaking fingers, I packed a bag with my wallet, my cell phone with the now shattered screen, and some of the groceries I’d just bought.  The rest of the food I left on the counter to rot. 
Without even bothering to clean myself up, I went out the front door and knocked on the apartment immediately to the left, where an elderly couple lived, my bag on my shoulder. 
When the wife opened the door, I choked back tears as her eyes widened in horror.  “Please help me,” I said, my words garbled from a swollen lip and the whistle of air where my teeth used to be.  “Before my boyfriend comes back.”      




AUTHOR BIO


USA Today and New York Times Bestselling author Erin McCarthy sold her first book in 2002 and has since written almost fifty novels and novellas in teen fiction, new adult, and adult romance. Erin has a special weakness for New Orleans, tattoos, high-heeled boots, beaches and martinis. She lives in Ohio with her family, two grumpy cats and a socially awkward dog.




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