Tag: Giveaways

Sunday Spotlight: Lies and Lullabies by Sarina Bowen

Posted September 13, 2020 by Casee in Features, Giveaways | 6 Comments

Sunday Spotlight is a feature we began in 2016. This year we’re spotlighting our favorite books, old and new. We’ll be raving about the books we love and being total fangirls. You’ve been warned. 🙂

Sunday Spotlight: Lies and Lullabies by Sarina BowenLies and Lullabies by Sarina Bowen
Series: Hush Note #1
Publisher: Self-Published
Publication Date: September 22, 2020
Point-of-View: Alternating First
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Pages: 300
Add It: Goodreads
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Summer nights and star-crossed lovers! From USA Today bestselling author Sarina Bowen.
Once upon a time, he gave me a summer of friendship, followed by one perfect night. We shared a lot during our short time together. But he skipped a few crucial details.
I didn’t know he was a rock star.
I didn’t know his real name.
Neither of us knew I’d get pregnant.
And I sure never expected to see him again.
Five years later, his tour bus pulls up in Nest Lake, Maine. My little world is about to be shattered by loud music and the pounding of my own foolish heart.

Excerpt

The water lapped gently under the dock. If I turned around, he might not truly be standing there. I held my breath.
That’s when he began to whistle softly. The first four bars of “You Are My Sunshine.”
Goosebumps rose on my arms.
“You remember,” I gasped, whirling around. Five years later, and he still knew to warn me. He hadn’t forgotten that I used to startle if he—or anyone else—approached me from behind.
He walked towards me slowly, his hands spread wide, muscular arms on display. His hair was shorter now, but still the most beautiful shade of sandy blond. “Of course I remember, sweetness. Never sneak up on Kira.”
At that, my eyes filled with tears.
“Hey, now,” he said gently. He’d made it all the way out on the dock, so close I could almost touch him. His blue-green eyes regarded me warmly. “I’m sorry to take you by surprise. Don’t I get a hug?”
Lord, I needed to get a grip. I took a step towards him, and he folded me in. He smelled the same, like sunshine and soap.
It hurt so much to see him again. It was excruciating to be wrapped in his hug.
“God, I’ve missed you,” he said.
And I had absolutely no reply to that. My heart urged me to hold on tightly and never let go. To confess that I thought of him every single day.
But I didn’t do it. Because I was still so angry, too.
Drawing off that anger, I summoned a little willpower, stepping backward, freeing myself. “If I ask how you’ve been, which name should I use? Jonas or John?”
A look of dismay creased his handsome face, his eyes closing for a moment, before opening again to pin me with a turquoise gaze. “Kira, I’m so sorry about that. That summer I was just trying to get away from it all.”
I swallowed. “Really? But I told you all my secrets. You must have thought that was pretty funny.”
He blinked, his face as stunned as if I’d slapped him. “Jesus, Kira. Never.”
That wasn’t the reaction I’d been expecting. And it was suddenly very hard to hold his gaze. I’d spent the last few years shaping my idea of him to match the pictures I saw in Us Weekly. The problem was that the guy standing in front of me on the dock did not look like the frivolous celebrity in those articles. This was the same man I’d met all those years ago. His face was open and youthful, his voice rich and mellow. His gaze seemed to touch me everywhere at once, making me feel flushed and confused.
He stepped forward again and wrapped his arms around me. And I let him. I took a deep breath of him, and my heart began to gallop again. When I put my arms around his back, I felt his lips press against my hairline. It was a chaste kiss between old friends.
Or rather, it should have been. But the feel of his lips on my skin sent a charge through my body. Tipping my face to meet his wasn’t even a conscious act. It was more like the inevitable result of a five-year absence and Earth’s gravitational pull.
When I moved my chin, his lips slid softly down my cheekbone. Still, it might have ended there. He might have released me, but he didn’t. “Sweetness,” he whispered.
And then? His kiss slid to the corner of my mouth, pausing there, hovering. Torturing us both.
I couldn’t resist. I leaned forward an immeasurably small distance. At that, he made a low sound in the back of his throat. He melded his mouth onto mine, his hands curving around my lower back. With a sigh, he teased my lips apart until his warm tongue met mine.
The next moments were lost to me. I melted against his body, knowing nothing except the stroke of his tongue against my own and the feel of his breath against my face. His strong arms held me in their grasp. It was the sound of my own gasp that finally brought me back down to earth. And I became aware that someone was standing on the little beach nearby, watching us.
“Oh my God, your…” Horror stopped me from finishing the sentence.
He looked over his shoulder without releasing me from his grasp. “My drummer,” he said quickly. “We’re old friends.”
I pushed on his chest until he took a step backwards. I was hot and confused. I needed oxygen and time to think. “Look… we need to talk.” I couldn’t tell him my secret now. Not with an audience. And not without a little rehearsal. “Tomorrow,” I added.
“Okay,” he said, his voice low and even. “I’d like that.”
“Um, lunch?” I asked, my eyes on my shoes. I couldn’t quite catch my breath. There wasn’t enough oxygen in the atmosphere anymore. There might never be again.

Hush Note

Giveaway Alert

We’re giving one lucky winner their choice of one of our Sunday Spotlight books. Use the widget below to enter for one of this month’s features.

Sunday Spotlight: September 2020

Are you as excited for this release as we are? Let us know how excited you are and what other books you’re looking forward to this year!

About Sarina Bowen

Sarina Bowen is the RITA® Award winning author of over two dozen contemporary and LGTB romance novels. She most recently hit the USA Today bestseller's list in February, with Brooklynaire. Formerly a derivatives trader on Wall Street, Sarina holds a BA in economics from Yale University.

Sarina Bowen is a New Englander whose Vermont ancestors cut timber and farmed the north country since the 1760s. Sarina is grateful for the invention of indoor plumbing and wi-fi during the intervening 250 years. On a few wooded acres, she lives with her husband, two boys, and an ungodly amount of ski and hockey gear.

Sarina's books are published in a dozen languages on four continents. In 2016, The Romance Writers of America honored HIM by Sarina Bowen & Elle Kennedy with a RITA award for Best Contemporary Romance, Mid-Length.


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Sunday Spotlight: A Winning Season by Rochelle Alers

Posted September 6, 2020 by Holly in Features, Giveaways | 3 Comments

Sunday Spotlight is a feature we began in 2016. This year we’re spotlighting our favorite books, old and new. We’ll be raving about the books we love and being total fangirls. You’ve been warned. 🙂

[Introduction to spotlight book]

Sunday Spotlight: A Winning Season by Rochelle AlersA Winning Season by Rochelle Alers
Series: Wickham Falls Weddings #10
Also in this series: A Winning Season
Publisher: Harlequin Special Edition
Publication Date: September 1, 2020
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Pages: 224
Add It: Goodreads
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
Series Rating: four-stars

Sliding home…for a lifetime

The girl next door…

Or a grand slam love?

Baseball ace Sutton Reed’s returned home triumphant after years in the majors. When he moves next door to a troubled young man, he’s determined to help—for the boy’s sake and for the boy’s gorgeous older sister, Zoey Allen. After sacrificing everything to keep her family together, Zoey has no time for romance…even with a hometown hero. But will this unlikely combo be the home run love story they all deserve?

Nationally Bestselling Author

Excerpt

Excerpt, A WINNING SEASON by Rochelle Alers

***

Sutton gave Zoey her mug, noticing her hand had trembled slightly when their fingers touched. “Are you all right?”

“I’m good,” she said.

He wanted to believe Zoey was all right but the rigidness in her body said otherwise. He stood and moved to a nearby chair. “I’m sorry if I invaded your personal space.”

She lowered her eyes, staring into the contents of her mug. “It’s okay.”

Sutton drank his coffee, staring at Zoey over the rim. He was perceptive enough to know she had been completely at ease with him the day before, but this morning her body language said otherwise, and he wondered what he’d said or done to make her uneasy.

Suddenly it occurred to Sutton that he may have made a faux pas when he had referred to Zoey as pretty lady, especially when he did not know whether she was involved with someone. “I’m sorry, Zoey.”

She halted putting the mug to her mouth. “For what?”

“For making you uncomfortable because I called you pretty lady. Hell, I don’t even know if you’re involved with someone.”

Zoey swallowed a mouthful of coffee. The corners of her eyes crinkled when she smiled. “I really have to give it to you, Sutton Reed.”

A slight frown marred his natural good looks. “What are you talking about?”

“You did not make me uncomfortable, and if you wanted to know if I’m involved with someone, then all you had to do was ask.”

A hint of a smile replaced his frown. “Are you?” The seconds ticked as she met his eyes. “No. And I can’t afford to because of a promise I made to Kyle and Harper when they were little boys. I told them it would be just the three of us until they were old enough to take care of themselves.”

Sutton set his mug on a side table. “I can under-stand you making that promise when they were boys, but I doubt if Harper would hold it against you if you decided to start dating.”

“Right now, Harper has no say in how I live my life.”

“Is he giving you a problem?”

Zoey went completely still. “Why would you ask me that?”

“I was sitting out on the porch when he came home last night. Someone had dropped him off and I noticed he was a little unsteady on his feet.”

If Sutton saw Harper coming home obviously under the influence, then Zoey wondered how many of her other neighbors had also witnessed it. Zoey did not want or need people gossiping about the Allen boy drinking or possibly drugging. She had managed to raise Kyle to adulthood without an incident, but life was testing her because Harper had decided he wasn’t going to make it that easy for her.

“I don’t know you and you don’t know me, Sut-ton, and there’s no way I’m going to dump on you about my problems.”

Sutton angled his head, giving her a long stare. “You’ve lived in the Falls all your life and you should know that folks here always look out for one another. Those who have more than they need always share with those who don’t have enough. And it’s not al-ways about money.”

Zoey knew he was right. The people in the town had been more than generous when tragedy struck her family. Even now some folks still asked if she needed anything. She nodded. “You’re right. I give thanks every day that I live here and not somewhere else, because without the help of Preston McAvoy, the chamber of commerce and the worshippers at the church, I wouldn’t be sitting here talking to you.”

The local law firm had handled her legal prob-lems; local contractors had volunteered their services to make certain the house was free of violations; a company selling and installing gas heaters set up an installment plan for her to pay off the cost of the unit over three years.

“So once Harper graduates you plan to stay here?” Sutton asked.

Zoey smiled. “Where would I go?”

He shrugged broad shoulders under his tee. “I don’t know. Maybe you’d prefer someplace that has a little more excitement.”

She took another sip of the delicious brew. Sutton had made the coffee exactly how she liked it. “The Falls has enough excitement for the four thousand-plus folks who live here. Someone had submitted a proposal to the town council to open a club and it was unanimously voted down. What we don’t need is a club with people getting drunk and acting like fools. The town council in Mineral Springs has closed two clubs in the past four years because of fights and rowdiness.”

“The Springs has almost twice our population, so there’s bound to be a few more incidents than we have here.”

“Speaking of excitement, why did you decide to move back here after spending half your life in Hot-lanta?” Zoey had asked the question that had plagued her since hearing word that Sutton Reed was moving back to Wickham Falls.

Sutton closed his eyes for several seconds. “I never really got used to living in a big city. The crowds and noise didn’t upset me whenever I was at the stadium, but once the game was over all I wanted was some-place quiet where I could decompress.”

“Whenever you were interviewed you seemed so confident, so in control of yourself.”

“That was all an act, Zoey. I’d learned early on to switch it on for the cameras and microphones. There was one Sutton for the sports reporters and another Sutton when he was home behind closed doors.”

***

Wickham Falls Weddings

Giveaway Alert

We’re giving one lucky winner their choice of one of our Sunday Spotlight books. Use the widget below to enter for one of this month’s features.

Sunday Spotlight: September 2020

Are you as excited for this release as we are? Let us know how excited you are and what other books you’re looking forward to this year!

About Rochelle Alers

Rochelle Alers Headshot

Hailed by readers and booksellers alike as one of today's most popular African-American authors of women's fiction, Ms. Alers is a regular on bestsellers list, and has been a recipient of numerous awards, including the Vivian Stephens Award for Excellence in Romance Writing and a Zora Neale Hurston Literary Award.


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Monthly Reads: August 2020

Posted September 1, 2020 by Casee in Features, Giveaways | 6 Comments

It’s a new month so we’re back with a list of our Monthly Reads to share with each of you. This is where you’ll see what each of us has read and what our favorite books and our least favorite books of the month are. Check it out.

Casee

I can’t believe summer is almost over. I know that’s not really book related, but I’ve been able to read a lot this summer. It’s been a nice change from reading only 2-3 books a month. I read thirteen (13!) books in August. It’s pretty funny how proud I am of myself.

Sebring (Unfinished Hero #5) by Kristen Ashley | 5 out of 5
The Gamble (Colorado Mountain #1) by Kristen Ashley | 4.25 out of 5
Reaper’s Property (Reapers MC #1) by Joanna Wylde | 3.25 out of 5
Reaper’s Legacy (Reapers MC #2) by Joanna Wylde | 4 out of 5
Golden Trail (The ‘Burg #3) by Kristen Ashley | DNF
Devil’s Game (Reapers MC #3) by Joanna Wylde | 4.5 out of 5
Reaper’s Stand (Reapers MC #4) by Joanna Wylde | 4.5 out of 5
Iron and Magic (The Iron Covenant #1) by Ilona Andrews | 3 out of 5
Guardian’s Grace (Dark Protectors #12) by Rebecca Zanetti | 3 out of 5
Hawk’s Property (Insurgents MC #1) by Chiah Wilder | 3 out of 5
Down & Dirty: Zak (Dirty Angels MC #1) by Jeanne St. James | 3 out of 5
King (King #1) by T.M. Frazier | 4 out of 5
Tyrant (King #2) by T.M. Frazier | 4.25 out of 5

My absolute favorite book of the month was Sebring by Kristen Ashley. I loved that book and I can’t wait to reread it. I’m not a huge on rereading, but I’m making an exception in this case. My least favorite book other than Golden Trail was Hawk’s Property by Chiah Wilder. I haven’t decided if I’m going to continue the series or not.

Holly

August was a strange reading month for me. It didn’t feel like I read a lot until the latter half of the month, but I read 22 books in total.

Fall Into Me (Hearts of the South #7) by Linda Winfree (reread) | 4.75 out of 5
Mr. Hotshot CEO (Kwan Sisters #2) by Jackie Lau | DNF
The Return of Eden McCall (Wide Open Spaces #3) by Judith Duncan (reread) | 4 out of 5
The Will (Magdalene #1) by Kristen Ashley (reread) | 4 out of 5
The Time in Between (Magdalene #3) by Kristen Ashley (reread) | 3.5 out of 5
How to Save an Undead Life (A Beginner’s Guide to Necromancy #1) by Hailey Edwards | 4.25 out of 5
How to Claim an Undead Soul (A Beginner’s Guide to Necromancy #2) by Hailey Edwards | 4 out of 5
How to Break an Undead Heart (A Beginner’s Guide to Necromancy #3) by Hailey Edwards | 4.25 out of 5
How to Dance an Undead Waltz (A Beginner’s Guide to Necromancy #4) by Hailey Edwards | 4 out of 5
How to Live an Undead Lie (A Beginner’s Guide to Necromancy #5) by Hailey Edwards | 3.75 out of 5
How to Wake an Undead City (A Beginner’s Guide to Necromancy #6) by Hailey Edwards
How to Kiss an Undead Bride (A Beginner’s Guide to Necromancy #7) by Hailey Edwards (novella) | 3.5 out of 5
Deal with the Devil (Mercenary Librarians #1) by Kit Rocha | 4 out of 5
A Heart of Blood and Ashes (A Gathering of Dragons #1) by Milla Vane | 4 out of 5
Pathfinder’s Way (The Broken Lands #1) by T.A. White | 4.25 out of 5
Mist’s Edge (The Broken Lands #2) by T.A. White | 3.5 out of 5
The Gamble (Colorado Mountain #1) by Kristen Ashley (reread) | 3.75 out of 5
Sweet Dreams (Colorado Mountain #2) by Kristen Ashley (reread) | 4.25 out of 5
Accidentally Compromising the Duke (Wedded by Scandal #1) by Stacy Reid | 3.75 out of 5
A Winning Season (Wickham Falls Weddings #10) by Rochelle Alers | 3.75 out of 5
One Fell Sweep (Innkeeper Chronicles #3) by Ilona Andrews (audio) (reread) | 4.5 out of 5
Sweep of the Blade (Innkeeper Chronicles #4) by Ilona Andrews (reread) | 4.25 out of 5

My favorite read of the month was The Beginner’s Guide to Necromancy series by Hailey Edwards. I’m not choosing a favorite book, but the series as a whole. I also really liked Pathfinder’s Way by T.A. White. My least favorite read was Mr. Hotshot CEO by Jackie Lau. The pacing was slow and I didn’t love the writing. I may try again later to see if it picks up.

Rowena

I’ve been on a three-month hiatus because I haven’t read shit in that entire time. Things took a turn for the better for me in the month of August because I finally read two books. Sure, I’m going to finish my second book today but it still made the cut. Here are the books that broke my reading slump. Thank goodness for Ilona Andrews.

Magic Binds (Kate Daniels #9) by Ilona Andrews | 4.25 out of 5
Iron and Magic (The Iron Covenant #1) by Ilona Andrews | 4 out of 5

My favorite of these two has to go to Magic Binds. I was on the edge of my seat trying to figure out what was going through Kate’s mind and wondering what the heck she was planning but I just really, really love her as a person and she’s really smart and I freaking loved this one.

I don’t have a least favorite. I liked Hugh’s book too much for it to be included in a least favorite anything so nope, not going to choose.

Giveaway Alert

Three lucky winners will choose their prize (one book) from any of the books we logged this month. If you want to be entered to win, leave a comment on this post telling us what your favorite – and least favorite – reads of the month were.

Monthly Reads: August 2020

So…what was your favorite read of the month? And your least favorite? Use the Gleam Widget to enter! Good luck!


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Sunday Spotlight: Dark Song by Christine Feehan (+ Exclusive Excerpt)

Posted August 30, 2020 by Casee in Features, Giveaways | 2 Comments

Sunday Spotlight is a feature we began in 2016. This year we’re spotlighting our favorite books, old and new. We’ll be raving about the books we love and being total fangirls. You’ve been warned. 🙂

Sunday Spotlight: Dark Song by Christine Feehan (+ Exclusive Excerpt)Dark Song by Christine Feehan
Series: Dark #34
Also in this series: Dark Illusion
Publisher: Berkley
Publication Date: September 1, 2020
Point-of-View: Alternating Third
Genres: Paranormal Romance
Pages: 448
Add It: Goodreads
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
Series Rating: four-stars

Two Carpathians find hope in the bond that ties their souls in this passionate novel in Christine Feehan's #1 New York Times bestselling series.

Stolen from her home at a young age and tormented for centuries, Elisabeta Trigovise is scared to show herself to anyone. Even though she has been rescued and is now safe within the Carpathian compound, she has lived in fear for so long she has no idea how to survive without it. She wants to answer the siren call of her lifemate--but the very thought terrifies her.

Before he found Elisabeta, Ferro Arany was an ancient warrior without emotion. Now that his senses have come alive, he knows it will take more than kind words and soft touches to convince the fractured woman that they are partners, not master and prisoner. For now, he will give her his strength until she finds hers, allowing the steady rhythm of his heart to soothe Elisabeta's fragile soul.

But even as she learns to stand on her own, the vampire who kept her captive is desperate to claim her again, threatening the song Elisabeta and Ferro are writing together.

Excerpt

Elisabeta huddled into herself, retreating further and further into her mind. She seemed light, almost insubstantial in his arms. He knew immediately it had been a mistake to have her be present for the discussion on how Sergey might have accomplished reaching out to her while she was safeguarded in the healing grounds. There had been an attack on her once, using one of the children. Now, it seemed, there had to be a second breach in security.

Talk with Julija and pay no attention to those coming to discuss this security matter, Ferro advised his lifemate as gently as possible.

He didn’t want to draw any more attention than necessary to his very frightened woman. She had curled up so small in his lap that he doubted she was barely visible in the dim lighting of the room, although all Carpathians could easily see in the dark. If her trembling got any worse, he feared she might really shake apart.

He kept his hand curled around the nape of her neck and his gaze fixed on Tariq, as if he wasn’t in the least concerned with his lifemate huddling on his lap. His fingers gently massaged in an attempt to ease the tension out of her. He knew that Elisabeta hadn’t been exposed to so many people in centuries. It had to be a terrifying experience for her. This rising was proving to be far worse than he had expected for her.

Seven men had come with Tariq. Ferro knew they had come as guards because he was considered dangerous and he had never sworn his allegiance to the reigning prince. Tomas, Matias and Lojos, the triplets always together and had been for centuries, had been sent by the prince to help guard Tariq whether the man wanted it or not. They took their job very seriously. Ferro knew they were a force to be reckoned with.

The seventh man who had come to protect Tariq Asenguard was Afanasiv Balan. Most of the Carpathians simply called him Siv. Like the brethren, he was a true ancient and he was considered extremely dangerous. He had thick, long blond hair and strange eyes that by turns could be green or blue. More than once, Siv had sought respite in the monastery when demons had been too close, but he left to hunt vampires and eventually ended up in the United States, guarding Tariq. He had the creed of the ancients inked onto his back, just as the brethren did. If he turned on them, he would be forever branded a traitor among them. Ferro had no idea whether or not he had sworn allegiance to the prince.

“After what you’ve told us,” Tariq said, his voice soft but carrying, “there is very little choice but to have our healer examine Elisabeta for signs Sergey has left behind that would allow him access to her.”

Ferro had known the moment he revealed to the others that Sergey had tormented Elisabeta even while she was in the protected, sacred healing grounds until Ferro had woven his own safeguards for her, that Tariq would insist that she be subjected to their examination. He didn’t blame them. There were children to protect. All along, many had speculated that she could have been used as a spy by the master vampire. Even his own brethren had considered the possibility. He also knew Gary wanted to examine her. He just didn’t know why.

Elisabeta heard Tariq’s soft declaration and her instant rejection was immediate and visceral. She made no sound but he knew if she could have run, she would have. The thought of strangers violating her mind, seeing the cruelties Sergey had subjected her to over the centuries, was humiliating to her. She was Ferro’s lifemate. Already, she felt she was embarrassing him by not being a warrior woman, a fitting mate for a man like him. To have the others see what the master vampire had done to her, keeping her in a cage, forcing her to beg him for everything—it was too much for her to bear.

Dark Series

Giveaway Alert

We’re giving one lucky winner their choice of one of our Sunday Spotlight books. Use the widget below to enter for one of this month’s features.

Sunday Spotlight: August 2020

Are you as excited for this release as we are? Let us know how excited you are and what other books you’re looking forward to this year!

About Christine Feehan

I live on the beautiful Northern California coast and draw much inspiration from the beauty around me. I've always been a writer, for as long as I remember. My sisters were forced to read all of my books from the time I could write a story on paper.

I love family. I love my brothers and sisters, my children, my grandchildren and my great grandchildren. My home was always full of kids and children give me so much joy.

I also love my "sisters of the heart", those friends who have supported me through my life, laughed with me, cried with me and loved me regardless of how crazy my life got. I am a strong supporter of women helping each other which is why I became a third degree black belt and taught self-defense to women who'd been abused.

I love people and dogs, good books and great coffee and I'm lucky to know just how blessed I am.


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Sunday Spotlight: So True by Serena Bell

Posted August 9, 2020 by Holly in Features, Giveaways | 3 Comments

Sunday Spotlight is a feature we began in 2016. This year we’re spotlighting our favorite books, old and new. We’ll be raving about the books we love and being total fangirls. You’ve been warned. 🙂

Sunday Spotlight: So True by Serena BellSo True by Serena Bell
Series: Tiernet Bay #2
Publisher: Self-Published
Publication Date: August 18, 2020
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Pages: 304
Add It: Goodreads
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books

A passionate first love. A deep betrayal. One last chance to make it right.

Jax Walker left Chiara Campbell behind without a word, but he’s never forgotten how it felt to love that fiercely. Not that it matters—he can never go back to Tierney Bay, because the secret he’s keeping would tear them both apart.

Chiara has written Jax out of her life and her memory—until he shows up at the shop where she works. All the hurt she thought she’d buried is still there, and so is her fiery attraction to him. The more Chiara and Jax work together to save the shop, the more she wants things she can’t have.

She knows she’s going to get her heart broken again. She knows it’s going to hurt like hell.

And she’s pretty sure that when he kisses her, she’ll kiss him right back.

Excerpt

Excerpt from So True by Serena Bell:

Jax Walker took the Tierney Bay exit off U.S. 101 a little too sharply, testament to how damn long it had been since he’d been here. The ramp curled around and deposited him at the head of town. He passed several hotels and a few restaurants that had definitely not been here ten years ago. There were plenty of new shop fronts, and many of the old ones had been spruced up. It looked like Tierney Bay had come into some good luck recently.

Which was more than he could say for himself.

If he did this right, he could be in and out of town in a few hours and there was zero chance he would run into anyone he didn’t want to see. Which included any member of the Campbell family.

He shouldn’t be here at all—his plans had not called for ever coming back, or not, at least, as long as he knew Chiara Campbell was still here. But his plans had been upended.

Two days ago, he’d driven up the west coast to visit his little brother Evan at his Portland-based community college.

Only, surprise! Evan was not actually enrolled.

At first Jax thought he’d made a really dumbass mistake, and texted Evan to confirm. Not sure why I don’t know this for sure, but it’s Portland Community College Yamhill, right?

Yup! Evan texted back.

He’d turned back to the young woman perched behind the reception desk and asked her to check one more time to confirm that there was no one enrolled there by the name of Evan Walker. And there was, indeed, not.

That was when Jax got it. He’d been had. Lied to.

The woman gave him a long look that was equal parts pity and curiosity, with maybe a tiny bit of I’ll soothe your sorrows thrown in for good measure.

Well, fuck. His brother had taken the tuition money Jax had given him and done a runner.

Regretfully, he ignored the woman’s interest. She definitely wasn’t more than a year out of college herself, and smoking hot, but he had an asshole brother to chase down.

He could have had it out with his brother by text or phone right then and there, but now he was pissed. His brother had taken thousands of dollars of his hard-earned money and done what-the-fuck with it, and Jax wanted to ask him to his face. So he holed up in his truck and made a bunch of phone calls, sent a bunch of texts. He finally tracked down a friend of Evan’s who knew what was going on and was willing to spill the beans. And it turned out that Evan was, of all places, in Tierney Fucking Bay.

Of course. Because it wasn’t enough that Evan had stolen Jax’s money and ditched his own education—no, he’d gone back to the one place that you couldn’t have paid Jax to set foot in.

Maybe it was punishment. Because the last time Jax had been in Tierney Bay, he’d done the thing he regretted most in his life. And maybe he’d always known he’d have to face up to it at some point. You could only keep the piper at bay for so long before you had to pay.

He put the truck in drive and drove from Portland out to Tierney Bay in under an hour and half, keeping an eye out for speed traps. And here he was, pulling into town, still raging hot under the collar at his brother. Because Jax had done everything he could to make sure Evan got a good life and didn’t end up like their parents. Including at least one thing he’d still redo if he could. Unfortunately, it was the kind of thing you couldn’t redo.

And what had Evan done? He’d taken his tuition money and opened a board game shop.

Jax turned onto the street that Evan’s friend had directed him to and pulled into a parking space in front of the park. Like the town, the park had gotten quite a facelift, but its bones were the same, as were the distinctive smells of cool, green grass and dirty metal. He remembered walking across the woodchips, Chiara’s warm hand in his, her voice drifting to him as she told him about her day—

He shut down the memories; replaced them with his anger at Evan.

He turned and walked toward the shop. There was a sign, hung at a slight angle, just a cheap printed fabric banner. Oh, Evan, he thought. You pissed away your college education and you couldn’t even make it look classy.

He pulled open the front door of the shop, mouth already open to tell Evan what a dumbass he was. But it wasn’t Evan behind the desk. It was someone smaller, slimmer, dark-haired.

Beautiful.

She looked up, and God, it was like having someone slide a knife between two of his ribs. That deep and that sharp. How pretty she was, those blue eyes, and the way they made him feel like she could see into him. After what he’d done, it wasn’t fair that she still made him feel anything.

She, on the other hand, looked pretty much like he’d just punched her. Which he deserved. He’d never had to look her in the face, tell her he was leaving, see the hurt. So this was as close as he’d get. And it sucked.

He opened his mouth to say something that made sense, but the only thing that came out was, “Evan.”

She shook her head. “He’s not here.”

“Where—?”

She hesitated. “If he wanted you to know that, don’t you think he would’ve told you?”

“Look. I didn’t come here to fight with you. I didn’t even know you’d be here.”

“If you had, you wouldn’t have come,” she challenged.

It was true, and he deserved it. He deserved whatever she wanted to dish out. It felt good in a way, like finally letting out a breath. He almost hoped she would yell at him. Maybe then he could set down the guilt.

“Did you know he was supposed to be at college?”

He could tell from the way her big blue eyes got bigger that she hadn’t known.

“Yeah,” he said. “Portland Community Yamhill. Summer session. I showed up today for a surprise visit. Thought I’d, you know, take him out to dinner, see his place. He’d sent me photos of his place. In fucking Portland. And photos of the campus.” He pulled out his phone, pushed it across the counter to her.

She took it, looked. “That’s his apartment here. I don’t know where he got the campus photos, but anyone could pull them from online.”

“So I tracked him here. His friend Asher told me where to find him.”

Chiara nodded at that. She apparently knew Asher.

“Where is he?”

She shook her head. “I can’t—”

“Where is he?”

“It’s not my place to tell you that.”

“He’s my brother.”

Against his better judgment, his voice had risen, and her eyes narrowed. “You can’t just show up here and talk to me like that—after what you did—” She stopped. “Did it occur to you that maybe he doesn’t want to see you?”

The anger in her voice cut through the thickness of his own frustration, shut him right down. He took a deep breath. There were freckles across the bridge of her nose that he didn’t remember. A smattering on her cheeks, the fair skin underneath bright pink with the heat of her emotion. Her eyes flashed with it.

And suddenly he was so ashamed of himself that he could barely stand it. She was right, of course. After what he’d done to her, he had no right to speak to her at all, let alone demand anything of her.

“He doesn’t want to see me?” he asked. “Or you don’t?”

She stood very still. Only her fingers moved, fidgeting with something on the counter. A game piece, he thought. She turned it over in her hand, moved it between her fingers, set it down again.

“Both,” she said. The heat had gone out of her voice. Which made him feel worse. She said it calmly, like it was something she’d had ten years to get used to the idea of. Like she didn’t much care anymore. Which he deserved, but still.

He almost told her right that second, just blurted it all out. He’d always been a little bit afraid that the first time he laid eyes on her it would all come spilling out. The whole story—why he’d left, why he’d never gotten in touch. Right after he’d left, he’d fantasized that he’d be able to tell her someday. He’d pictured her listening—angry at first, but then, somehow, willing to forgive.

That had been ten years ago, and he still couldn’t tell her.

Tiernet Bay

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About Serena Bell

Serena Bell headshot

USA Today bestselling author and RT Reviewers’ Choice Award nominee Serena Bell writes richly emotional stories about big-hearted characters with real troubles and the people who are strong and generous enough to love them.

A former journalist, Serena has always believed that everyone has an amazing story to tell if you listen carefully, and she adores hiding in her tiny garret office, mainlining chocolate and bringing to life the tales in her head.

When not writing, Serena loves to spend time with her college-sweetheart husband and two hilarious kiddos—all of whom are incredibly tolerant not just of Serena’s imaginary friends but also her enormous collection of constantly changing and passionately embraced hobbies, ranging from needlepoint to paddle boarding to meditation.


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