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Albert Camus

Don't walk behind me; I may not lead. Don't walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Guest Post and Giveaway Muse Unexpected by V.C. Birlidis

Published: January 15th, 2014

Description

"We're Muses. Not vampires, not fairies, not werewolves. We're Muses." Sophie was sure her mother had reached an epic level of crazy. ‘We're Muses?' She thought Muses were lame, not to mention she found the idea ridiculous. However, Sophie couldn't explain away her physical transformation that made Anne Hathaway in The Princess Diaries look like a bad Walmart make-over, not to mention why her mood swings triggered an uncontrollable ability to shoot powerful bursts of energy out of her hands. 

Sophie soon realizes modern day Muses have evolved into powerful guardians of humankind, tasked with keeping mortals on the right path and the original Olympians locked away from the world. But old hatreds don't die easily, especially for immortal enemies that have an eternity to plot and gather their forces. Well aware of the Fates' foretelling of another Olympian war, and a young Muse that would rise up as a warrior and defeat them, the Olympians have vowed to either possess Sophie or destroy her. Either way, they will make sure everyone associated with their imprisonment will reap an eternal damnation in the Underworld, leaving the Olympians to restore Mount Olympus and force humankind into a future of never-ending servitude and misery.

GUEST POST

When I sat down to write my novel, writing about the Greek Gods wasn't a sure thing. I knew I wanted to write something about a girl named Sophie. My mother, when she converted to Greek Orthodox, received the name of Sophia as her baptism name, so I wanted to have my mother in some way involved in the story. She passed away when I was 21.

So I had this girl, named Sophie, but I didn't know what to do with her. My first attempt at writing was a five page mess that basically boiled down to "It was a dark and stormy night." My mind kept on drifting back to a small, worn book I remember from my childhood. It was a paperback my father used to read to me at bedtime. Unfortunately, it was a book about the Greek Gods, which left me dealing with many sleepless night. Imagine a 8 year old trying to sleep after hearing about Pandora, or Persephone and Hades. Pretty intense stuff.

The problem was the Greek Gods was the new vampire flavor of the month. Everyone seemed to be jumping at the chance to write something about them and after seeing Percy Jackson pasted all over the place I almost abandoned the Greek Gods. But for some reason, I couldn't.

So I thought about rewriting the Gods on my somewhat quirky terms. That definitely got me thinking. And why not take one of the most benign of the Greek Gods, one that conjures up yawns and little to none heart fluctuations, a complete snooze fest, and make them into the heroes of my story. Enter the Muses. The goddesses who literally inspired millions of paintings, millions of sonnets and one rollerskating discoteque (all done in peasant blouses and leg warmers).

So that's how it began and once I started down the path of rewriting the classical Gods into comical yet creepy interpretations of their former lofty selves, it just took off.

Along the way I wanted to build in several themes that dealt with the following:

     1. The struggles of one group over another group that condemns them for being different. So began the struggle between the Gods and the Demi-Gods, i.e. the Gods believing the Demi-Gods were mongrels or "Northos" , in need of extermination.
     2. The complex relationships women have with each other. For instance, Muse Unexpected has three women at the center of the story. Georgia, the power-hungry grandmother, who ran towards and embraced her supernatural heritage. Callie, Georgia's daughter who hated being part of the supernatural community and longed for a normal life full of family, PTA meetings and macaroni art on the fridge. Callie ran away from her gifts. And finally, Sophie, who knew nothing about her supernatural heritage and is forced into it, with no hopes of escape. All of this sets up a very fragile bond between the women. A bond that is ripe with conflict.
     3. The final major theme was that I wanted to strip away all of the lofty facade enjoyed by the Gods. There was always an underlining essence that the Gods were flawed, but it was never really brought out. So I thrust them into situations they weren't used to. For example, they are hard to kill, but they aren't immortal. They tend to act out like small, obsessed, spoiled children. They have power limitations. And a completely different backstory about who and what the Gods are. I also created a drug-like addiction that the Gods have when interacting with mortals and receiving mortal love/misery. 

All-in-all Muse Unexpected is a multi-layered, complex story that allows the reader to be caught up in a relentless storyline. Or at least I hope that is what readers get from my novel.

About the author:
V.C. Birlidis was born and raised in Miami, Florida and has always been involved in the arts. He attended the New World School of the Arts and was a member of The Miami Ballet. 

Mr. Birlidis moved to Ohio to attend college where he earned his Bachelor's degree in marketing and communications from Capital University. He currently is the Director of Marketing at one of the top midwest advertising agencies, SBC Advertising. He has freelanced as a writer for Outlook News and Tickled Pink Magazine, where he wrote a comical advice column named Ask V. 

Five years in the making and inspired by the numerous Greek myths his father would utilize as demented bed time stories, Muse, Unexpected is Mr. Birlidis' first novel. It is the first book in his Muse series.


Blog Tour Giveaway
$25 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash Ends 3/21/14 Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Amazon.com Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader, Not A Writer and sponsored by the author. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.   a Rafflecopter giveaway

Chemical Reaction by Christina Thompson

Description:

FBI Agent Joe Roberts and his fiancée, Dr. Madeline Pierce, must track down a rage-producing nano-drug before it devastates the nation.

Staying in Detroit with the FBI, Madeline works to develop an antidote from the confiscated journals. She clashes with the women from Joe’s past. In West Michigan, Joe hunts for the bio-weapon. With a history as a player, he’s worried his relationship with Madeline is at risk. Working apart, they attempt to focus on the threat.

Before Joe returns, agents are killed, Madeline is abducted, and the deadly nano-drug is put on the market. Without the journals, the mastermind needs Madeline to reproduce the drug. While she plays a dangerous game of deceit, Joe struggles to put his fears of losing her aside to find the weapon first. Her life, their future, and the nation’s security are in jeopardy. Joe must now choose between his personal desire and his professional integrity. Can he live with the consequences?

FBI Agent Joe Roberts wants that instant chemistry with a woman like the ones his sisters have with their husbands. After years of searching, he finds it with Dr. Madeline Pierce. The problem—she’s his contact on a dangerous case.

When Madeline discovers an extensive operation of meth production and distribution within her medical research facility, Joe goes undercover as her boyfriend to determine the degree of company involvement. They determine the meth is financing a volatile nano-drug.

The small West Michigan farming town is in turmoil over horrific animal attacks. Someone is experimenting outside the laboratory. Are human test subjects next? With the help of Joe’s sister, Eva, who works at the local clinic, and her law enforcement husband, Matt, Joe and Madeline hunt for this new bio-weapon. Will Joe and Madeline give in to temptation? She thinks he’s playing her like the men from her past. He needs to convince her otherwise.

Chemical Attraction explores sinister scientific research and the intense chemistry of love and lust.

About the author:
Christina Thompson, a retired acupuncturist, enjoys writing about the physical science, the emotional workings of our mind and heart, and the spiritual energy that taps into our passions.

Her degree in biology from Nazareth College in Kalamazoo gave her a love of science and a background into the physical realm of the body. Her diploma in Traditional Chinese acupuncture from Midwest College of Oriental Medicine taught her that the mind and spirit affect the body in powerful ways.

She teaches at the Reflexions Plus Holistic Center on many topics including massage therapy, acupuncture, Feng Shui as well as other modalities of Chinese medicine. She currently resides with her husband, Kraig, in West Michigan.


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Excerpt and Giveaway All of Me (All of Me #1) by Gina Sorelle

Published: December 8th, 2013

Description:

One year after undergoing a unilateral mastectomy, twenty-eight year old ER nurse Stella Ciaramitaro is working on healing all wounds, visible and invisible. And it’s going pretty well. Sure, she has four pain-in-the-butt sisters, an occasionally suicidal dad, and some serious trust issues. And, yes, all dreams of soul mates, mind-blowing sex, and everlasting love have gone the way of her left breast. But overall, she’s hanging in there. Doing just fine, actually.

Or at least she was until HE showed up. 

Nathan Drazek is a hot mess and he knows it. The laundry list of things contributing to his dysfunction includes, but is not limited to: a childhood full of mental and physical abuse, four tours in Afghanistan, and ten years policing one of the toughest beats in East Cleveland. Adding insult to injury, he’s ridiculously straight-laced, beyond aloof, and nearly incapable of interpersonal relationships. But that’s okay, because Nathan isn’t interested in anything more than just getting by. 

Or at least he wasn’t until SHE showed up. 

From the moment Nathan nearly arrests Stella on, sparks fly, limits are tested, and boundaries are shattered. A tenuous, tender friendship quickly evolves into something powerful and passionate they cannot wish away or control. But as they grow closer, new issues arise and old hurts resurface, threatening to destroy their fragile new beginning. 

With everything at stake, Nathan and Stella must ultimately decide which runs deeper: their scars or their love.
EXCERPT



Abigail Books Addiction

Nathan squirmed in the chair before settling on the forearms-braced-on-the-knees pose. “What exactly do you need to figure out?”

Stella twirled the drawstring on her sweat pants around and around her ring finger. “Well, your scars, for one thing. The whole foster home thing for another.” She hesitated. “And I know about you living in the old neighborhood. I swear, I didn’t know when we met. I was way too young when that all happened, but, when I mentioned your name, my oldest sister Gigi and my dad remembered.”

Nathan wanted to smash something.

“That was a long time ago, Stella,” he said tightly. “And something I prefer not to think about or discuss. Period.”

“All of it? Or just the C’s part?”

“All of it.”

Stella made a frustrated sound. “Well, that’s not going to work for me, Nathan. I’m sorry, but I need to understand you. And, to do that, I need to know everything about who you are and where you came from.”

“Why? What does that accomplish? I’ve never hashed it out with any other woman and they didn’t seem too broken up about it,” Nathan said. “The past is the past and that’s where it belongs. I am not looking to relive it or explain it or try to fucking analyze it. Not gonna happen.”

“I’m not ‘other women.’” Stella jammed a finger into her chest. “I’m this woman and this woman needs to know! I’m sorry if it’s difficult or annoying or whatever, but you need to talk to me, Nathan!”

Nathan jumped out of his chair and loomed over a now wide-eyed Stella.

“Why? So you can pity me? So you can ‘oooh’ and ‘ahhh’ and cry for the pathetic little fuck-up? No, thanks!”

But instead of cowering beneath him, Stella did her own jumping up.

She stood on the balls of her feet, trying to get as close to in his face as she could. “Who said anything about pity? I have no intentions of pitying you, Nathan. I just want to know you. All of you. And that includes the good, bad, and the ugly. I’ve shared with you, Nathan. Hard stuff. Painful stuff. Stuff that only my sisters know. Stuff that I never planned on sharing with anyone ever again.” Her eyes welled. “I showed you. Everything. The worst part of me. The best part of me, too. I was scared and I wasn’t sure how you were going to react, but I did it because I love you and I want to share everything with you. Because, if you want to be with me, you deserve to have all of me. No lies. Nothing held back.”

Nathan stepped back, stunned. It took him a minute, but he finally found his voice. “You don’t have a ‘worst.’ You have a battle scar and a triumphant story and nothing but good things. Things you should be proud of. You got dumped by a loser who never deserved you to begin with and that sucks, but that is nothing – nothing – compared to my worst. It doesn’t even come close.”

“You think I don’t know that, Nathan? You think I can’t see the pain in your eyes? That I can’t feel your muscles tense up every time I touch you?” Stella gestured toward her bedroom. “That nightmare, Nathan…”

Suddenly, Nathan’s legs didn’t feel strong enough to support him and he sank back into the chair. A shaking hand reached out for the water bottle because his mouth was really dry all-of-a-sudden.

“I’d have to be blind not to notice how you struggle to eat or how you don’t drink alcohol. Or how super sensitive you are to abuse of any kind. I see all of it, Nathan, and it kills me that I don’t know what’s causing you so much pain. Or how to help you.”

“I don’t want your fucking help!” Nathan stood up so fast he knocked her chair backwards. “I don’t want it or need it!”



“I don’t care if you want it or not! You’ve got it! And you will tell me everything, Nathan! I swear to God, I am more stubborn that you are and I will never let it go!”



About the author:
I like nice guys...I always have and I always will. I married one and now I write about them. :)

When I'm not torturing my stoic, stalwart heroes with strong, witty heroines, I enjoy reading, drinking way too much coffee, trying to be the best wife and mom I can be, and procrastinating (especially when it comes to cleaning the house). I am also a part-time student, a lover of history, and hopelessly addicted to Lifetime movies. Do not judge me. :) I also like smiley faces. A lot. :)

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Excerpt and Giveaway Stalkers: A Collection of Thriller Stories

Description:


Shadows follow you in the darkness of the night and the eerie sensation of being watched crawls up your spine. Your sanity pulls apart at the seams as the terrors stalk their victims, leaving you too frightened to turn off the light.
These twisted stories will leave you breathless, dreading the horrors lurking around the corner.
Seventeen authors. Seventeen tales of terror. Infinite nightmares.

EXCERPT:
Izzy’s Assassin by Nicole Clark

“Stop trying to figure out who I am, Isobel. You’ll never get it because I won’t let you. When I’m ready for you to know who I am, I shall tell you. In the meantime, you’re just wasting brainpower and pissing me off.”

“I’m not scared of you,” she said, while looking up at him and finding her strength yet again. “You know I’m not a full human. That should tell you my mindset is not always that of a human. I am a goddess, after all, and that means, if you are what I think you are, you must answer to me instead of kidnap me.”

About Nicole Clark

I'm just like anyone else. I have everyday problems that never seem to go away and I bury myself in a good book when I need an escape. My second escape would be writing. I love the paranormal and everything I write seems to revolve around something paranormal. Some of my best ideas come from sitting and just talking to a friend (or two) and then they just pop up. Never underestimate the ability to get an idea from an everyday situation.


STALKERS.
Watch your back!
Stories featured in this anthology:
- Every Thorn by Rene Folsom - Dead Ringer by Jason Brant - Autumn by Elizabeth Collins - Don’t Kiss the Dead Fred by A.E. Killingsworth - Affliction by S.L. Dearing - Lucid by Andrea Stanet - Donations by Bart Hopkins - Bernice by Chad Foutz - Destination: Death by Eaton Thomas Palmer - Powerless by Laurie Treacy - Freezer Burn by Jon Messenger - The Watcher by Lindy Spencer - Immortal Luck by Magen McMinimy - Izzy’s Assassin by Nicole Clark - Say My Name by Michael Loring - Damaged People by Nicki Scalise - Blog Stalker by Phil Taylor

Guest Post and Giveaway Ungifted (Supernaturals #2) by Kelly Oram

Expected Publication: March 2014

Description:

Even though her father is running for President of the United States, Grace St. Claire is as normal a girl as they come. She’s clumsy, shy, and an outcast among her peers. She even manages to nearly die in a freak accident in front of the entire school. But when Grace survives a vampire attack she quickly learns that she is anything but ordinary.

There’s something about human Grace that has all the supernaturals around her going crazy. Her best friend’s brother suddenly wants to date her. Her worst enemy has sworn to protect her even against her wishes. Someone with very powerful magic wants her dead, and the vampire that attacked her has developed an obsession with making her his eternal mate.

In order to survive—and not as Count Dracula’s undead bride—Grace dives head first into the terrifying world of the supernatural. She teams up with a charming but mysterious warlock who strolled into town causing trouble and spouting stories of a Prophesy and Chosen One that looks exactly like Grace. Together they must figure out why Grace is different, who wants her dead, how she’s connected to the Chosen One, and who they can really trust.

For small-town rebel Dani Webber magic and monsters are no more real than the Easter Bunny… until the day she accidentally stops time. Dani quickly discovers that not only do supernaturals exist, but she herself is one of them. This is great news for her life-long best friend Russ, who can finally come clean about his own supernatural status and his undying love for her. Before the two can start to enjoy the long overdue relationship, Dani is taken by a powerful council of supernaturals who believe she is the Chosen One destined to save them from extinction. 

As if being kidnapped and expected to save the world isn’t bad enough, an ancient prophecy warns of the Chosen One’s dark nature: “Only the truest love will keep her an agent for good.” The council believes they know who this “true love” is and, unfortunately, that person isn’t Russ. The mysterious, powerful and devastatingly handsome Seer is the last person Dani wants in her life, but when she starts having visions of a horrific future, she has no one else to turn to for help. 

Soon Dani finds herself torn between two very different boys with two very different opinions of whom she can trust. With the visions getting worse and time running out, Dani is forced to put aside her feelings and work with both the Seer and Russ before an ancient evil is unleashed upon the earth.

GUEST POST
Why I Became a Writer

I often get asked, “Why writing”? Why did I become a writer? I think the answer is that I didn’t become one I simply am one. It’s not something I think about necessarily, it’s just something I do. Writing is in my blood, in my genetic make-up. It’s a habit I couldn’t quit if my life depended on it. In fact, it’s such a natural part of me that I never even realized I was a “writer” until after I’d published my first book.

Growing up I wanted to be a lot of things. I remember going through a “farmer” phase and an “engineer” phase. (The train driving kind of engineer.) When I got older I looked a lot into hospitality/hotel management and would have gone to culinary school if I could have afforded it. The “pasty chef” phase lasted a long time. When I finally did go to college I was a voice performance major. (Oh, yeah, I definitely went through a “pop star” phase.) Then I ended up in an outdoor recreation program where I considered being a park ranger, a survival instructor and even working as a camp counselor for troubled teens.

I’ve wanted to be it all; do it all. The one thing I never considered? Becoming a writer. Never once in my life did I say, “Hey, I think I’d like to be a writer.” The thought never even crossed my mind. In fact, if my teachers could see me know they’d probably all die of shock.

First of all, I am slightly dyslexic. When I first learned how to write, I used to start on the right side of my paper and write in complete mirror image. I had to be trained to write correctly, and even after I could do it, I still mixed my letters up a lot. As a result, reading was hard for me. It was a chore. I hated it. When I graduated high school I could count on my fingers the number of books I’d read from start to finish.

I also hated classic literature—still do, in fact—and therefore I hated my English classes in school. I clashed with a lot of my teachers, and slacked off most of the time. Not something I’m really proud or, nor something I would recommend, but true nonetheless.

So how did I end up a writer? Accidentally. Subconsciously.

I’ve always been a dreamer. I have spent my entire life day dreaming, creating characters, and turning every day situations into big elaborate stories of adventure and romance. In school, getting me to write was like pulling teeth. But outside of school I had endless journals and notebooks filled with random ideas and stories. I loved writing and did it constantly though I never realized that’s what I was doing.

My stories were many things for me—an emotional release, an escape, a creative outlet. Writing was my therapy, and in many ways, it was the reason I survived adolescence. I started with jotting down my daydreams, progressed into writing fan fiction, and eventually graduated to writing original fiction.

Looking back now, I can totally see it. I won several school contests for my stories growing up despite my inability spell and my horrid handwriting. (Thank heaven for word processors and spell check!) I wrote my first novel when I was just fifteen years old. I wrote stories all night long, in the car, during class, during church... I plotted them out in the shower, I dreamed about my characters…

I was just shy so I never told anyone about my hobby. Then I discovered online websites and forums where I could post my stories anonymously on the Internet. This discovery changed my life. I found other people like me, who became my friends, and introduced me to “writing”.  I found a love of reading, and became desperate for all the knowledge I could find about the craft of writing.

Over the next few years I watched each of my stories become clearer, stronger, and better. And I loved it. I loved seeing my improvement. I started challenging myself with each new story. I believe I finally decided I was a writer when writing became more to me than just a hobby and a creative outlet. It became a talent, a skill I had. It became a list of goals I wanted to accomplish. (And eventually it started making me money. That was kind of a hint too.)

So, why writing? Because it’s what I do. It’s what I love. It’s who I am.

About the author:


Kelly Oram wrote her first novel at age fifteen–a fan fiction about her favorite music group, The Backstreet Boys, for which family and friends still tease her. She's obsessed with reading, talks way too much, and loves to eat frosting by the spoonful. She lives outside of Phoenix, Arizona with her husband and four children.



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Giveaway: Guarded (Guarded 0.5) by J.D. Rivera

Description:

Vanessa Smith has her heart guarded. She’s been married to a man that sleeps around and has made her think she’s ugly and undeserving. Everything changes when she is knocked down by the famous basketball player, Jackson Berrios. A friendship ensues and everything she thought she knew about men turns out to be wrong. 

Jackson Berrios was out for a run in a new city when he made contact with the beautiful Vanessa Smith. He instantly knew she was different from most girls but can he make her see that he’s different from her cheating husband? 

Guarded is a short and sweet Novella about a couple that literally run into love. I will warn that running is what this book does for a Novella. JD really puts a lot into this story and at times you are left saying OH MY that was quick but in all this was the perfect afternoon story that left me feeling all the right emotions. - Jodie (Goodreads)

I loved the title of this book it gave a big clue to the story inside. While I have read J. D. Rivera before I will be keeping an eye out for her in the future. I wonder where these two will be in a few years. I would love for a follow up novel set a few years down the road. Overall, this was a fun and charming story. - Victoria Rainey (Goodreads)

About the author:

J.D. Rivera lives in Oklahoma with her husband and two boys. Her life consists of school projects, homework, cartoon shows, and little league sports. She loves Diet Mountain Dew, the OKC Thunder, costume jewelry, the beach, and reading.

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Giveaway: The Shadow Soul (A Dance of Dragons #1) by Kaitlyn Davis

Published: February 20th, 2014

Description:

GAME OF THRONES meets GRACELING in a new fantasy series by bestselling author Kaitlyn Davis.

Jinji has been haunted by the death of her twin brother for ten years. Now, on the dawn of her joining, the nightmare that claimed him has returned for her.

Prince Whylrhen is determined to prevent the past from repeating itself. His kingdom is expecting a new heir, and he will stop at nothing to keep the child safe.

Though they've never met, the two share a deep secret—magic. Jinji can weave the elements to create master illusions and Whylrhen can pull burning flames into his flesh. But neither of them knows what they are truly capable of until a chance encounter brings them together. For their story has played out before, in a long forgotten time—an age of myth that is about to be reborn…

Praise for THE SHADOW SOUL

The writing is flawless. The story and plot line, and plot twists, had me captivated and enamored for the first words. I couldn’t put this book down for anything, and I absolutely cannot wait for book two. The world building is amazing. I feel like I can feel the spirits when Jin speaks of them. And I can feel the fire on my skin like Rhen. And the secondary characters are just as great as the main characters…It’s an amazing start to a new series that is going to have people of all ages wanting so much more. - Happy Tails and Tales 

I loved the characters. Jinji is an amazing girl of such strength. Reading about her sometimes brought tears to my eyes because I couldn’t help but love her from the beginning. And Rhen, even though I was suspecting him of treachery he didn’t fail to be surprising at every turn… I can’t wait to find out what happens next!" – Creating Serenity 

Praise for KAITLYN DAVIS

Kaitlyn Davis writes some of the best action scenes I have come across in a young adult book; they are fast paced and so well delivered. – Reflections of a Bookworm

I really enjoyed Ms Davis's writing, I was riveted throughout and was eager to see what would happen - there was drama, danger, action and romance that was wonderfully detailed and described. – Obsession with Books

About the author:
I've always been a writer. I grew up duct taping my novels together, started writing complete manuscripts in high school and studied creative writing at Johns Hopkins University. Upon graduating, I decided it was finally time to actually give my dream career a chance. So, of course, I started writing a young adult paranormal romance series -- and no, I'm not jumping on the bandwagon. I've been a true paranormal supporter for my entire life! I blame my obsession almost completely on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, my all-time favorite television show. And, before you ask: Yes, I own every season... even the post WB ones! I especially challenge anyone to watch the first three seasons and not fall in love with Angel, securing a lifelong love of vampires! Other culprits of my paranormal obsession are some of my favorite authors: JK Rowling, Raymond Feist, Meg Cabot, Richelle Mead, Lynne Ewing and Tamora Pierce.


Author's Giveaway
2 print copies of The Shadow Soul (US only)
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New Cover Song Without Words by Juli Page Morgan

Description:

Top jock Spencer Moretti owns the New Orleans Rock radio airwaves. A veteran of countless band interviews at the age of 22, she’s ready for her own world-wide syndicated program. All she needs is one big break, and she finds it during a chance meeting with Geoff Lane, former guitarist for the legendary UK band Axis.

When Spencer discovers that Geoff has a secret music project in the works, one that’s sure to reignite his career, she ropes him into an exclusive interview, determined to snag the juicy details. Intrigued by the lovely disc jockey’s feisty nature and her spitfire temper, Geoff is determined to snag something too – Spencer!

Spencer and Geoff make sweet music together until death strikes their circle of friends. As the body count mounts, it’s clear that someone will go to any lengths to stop them cold. Can they keep a killer from destroying all they have, or will their love song become a murder ballad?

About the author:
Juli Page Morgan is a former rock ‘n roll radio announcer who had the great luck to meet and interview lots of bands over the years. During those interviews she heard lots of interesting stories, but it was when the microphone was turned off and they were just hanging out that she heard – and saw – the really juicy stuff! Incorporating these revelations in her books (with names and locations changed to protect the innocent, and often the not-so-innocent!) lets her remember those wonderful people that briefly rocked through her life, and to take her readers on a hard rocking journey full of love, music and happy endings while giving a “backstage peek” at some of the things that really happened. 

Her Romances that Rock™ include Crimson and Clover, Athena’s Daughter and Song Without Words Juli lives in Arkansas with her husband. When she’s not writing she’s recording voiceovers for television commercials, remodeling her old house, and trying to convince her husband the world won’t come to an end if the television is turned off. She also listens to a lot of music at maximum volume and has never met a speed limit she didn’t exceed. Juli’s an unapologetic lover of rock ‘n roll, Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page, and French onion dip, not necessarily in that order. Visit Juli’s website at:


Cover Reveal organized by Indie Sage Promotions

Happy Release Day! Giveaway: Night Games by Collette West

Description:

The moment Grey Kelleher locks eyes with All-Star shortstop Chase Whitfield, she's a goner. For years, she's watched him play on TV, and now she's gazing at his hard, lean body across a bar in her hometown.

Grey's crush on Chase goes all the way back to his rookie season. So when she approaches him for an autograph, she's startled by what a jerk he can be.

Chase is no mood to humor his fans, even one as alluring as Grey. He's in the last year of his contract and stuck having to prove himself on a minor league team. He's only there to rehab an injury, nothing more.

But when Grey tells him off, Chase realizes her fiery spirit may be just the distraction he needs to take his mind off not being in the majors. His heart is safe. No one's going to break his streak as baseball's most eligible bachelor. Not even someone as irresistible as Grey.

About the author:
Collette West grew up as somewhat of a jock-nerd hybrid. Entering the world three weeks premature, her dad nearly missed her birth because he had seats behind the dugout for a sold-out, highly-anticipated match-up between two of baseball's biggest rivals. Not to be outdone, her book-loving mom taught her how to read by the time she was three. A love of the game coupled with an appreciation for the written word were instilled in Collette's impressionable brain from a young age. No wonder her characters believe in the philosophy: sports + romance = a little slice of heaven.

Splitting her time between the Pocono Mountains and Manhattan, Collette indulges her inner fangirl by going to as many games as she can from hockey to baseball and downloading every sports romance novel in existence onto her iPad. When she's not clicking away on her laptop, she enjoys walking her dog in Central Park, satisfying her caffeine craving at the Starbucks on Broadway and keeping an eye out for Mr. Right. But above all, she loves dishing with her readers.

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Excerpt and Giveaway See (See Series #1) by Jamie Magee

Description:

Forgetting who you are, your ambitions, your lover is crippling. Remembering, embracing your purpose with a new sense of determination is more than empowering. It's soul seizing. Charlie Myers is embarking on a life-altering path that will cause the damned to humble in silence… 

One night, just a few friends how could it go so wrong? That was the question Charlie was asking herself when she awoke in the ER. Outwardly nothing was wrong with Charlie, she was a vision of perfect health, but Charlie knew something else was wrong, wickedly wrong. That fearful notion became even more gripping when her mind began to parade haunting visions of entrancing emerald green eyes, laced in black, before her. When she felt a hole in her heart, when the music she drowned her fears in began to amplify the ache in her soul, and caused her to crave an embrace she thought she never knew.

Charlie knew then that part of her was stolen. She was missing memories. Those memories were sacred. They held the key to her sanity. They told her that the sinister whispers, and the shadows that came to life before her, were not as ominous as she felt they were. They caused her to forget the one talent that allowed her to face the darkness that haunted her every waking hour. They also masked a much deeper bond, the face of the one that had stolen her heart, long before that tragically blinding night.
Charlie wanted to stay in NY, fight her demons where she found them, and ensure that her true home remained a sanctuary. Fate had a different plan in mind. Against her will, Charlie was sent to Salem to live with her sister. Within that small town Charlie found her memories…and so much more.

Her story begins now.

 Excerpt




“What’s going on?” I asked nervously, hitting ‘Pause’ on my phone as I watched him push the seat back so his legs could have more room.
“I told you I’d tell you how to get back,” he said, smiling faintly.
Every part of me was tingling. Yet, I was frozen in place. I had no idea how I was going to focus well enough to drive. 
What would I do if I had to fight these shadows in front of him? I was horrified.
“Yeah, but I thought you meant follow you,” I said, trying to take in a breath after I said the words.
“I wanted to ride with you,” he said, pulling his belt on.
As he leaned closer to me to fasten it, I could smell the addictive aroma of his cologne. I knew that scent. My mind was firing off images of him at warp speed. His scent, his eyes, his energy, every ounce of him was magnifying fantasies I could not comprehend in the state I was in. 
“Just for the record, you’re only my second passenger. Third, if you count my teacher,” I said, putting the car in drive.
“Duly noted.”
I caught myself staring into his enchanting eyes. His dark lashes framed the most alluring color I’d ever seen. It was like they were intended to be black, but a shade of the most perfect green had shattered the black canvas that they were.
Eyes that had haunted me for days... 
He stared back at me with almost the same wonder, then he quirked a slight grin. “That way,” he said, pointing to the left.
Obviously I was alone in my fascination. Surely if we were anything like my minds eye was telling me we were in some forgotten past he would have said something. 
Unless. Unless it was a bad past. 
The tinge of pain in my heart let that dark thought enter my mind. 
I felt my cheeks flush with embarrassment. I tried to smile through it as I turned the wheel. I crept down the gravel driveway, fighting the glare of the headlights coming from his Hummer. Just before I reached the road, he reached up and moved my rearview mirror, taking the torture of the lights away. He then gently grasped my ear buds and pulled them out. His warm fingertips brushed against my skin, and it took everything I had not to faint. I thought I heard him sigh, just after he took in a deep breath. Those long fingertips of his lingered a little longer, more than likely a second or two, but it felt like hours, then they slid down my neck taking the cords from my ear buds with them.
I angled my eyes at him to see if I had the same effect on him that he clearly had on me.


“You have to be able to see and hear if you’re going to get us home,” he explained, relaxing into his seat. He bit his bottom lip as he bathed me in his smoldering gaze. We said a thousand words at that moment. Words I could not hear, but wanted to. 


About the author:


I'm an obsessive daydreamer. Lover of loud alternative music. Addicted to Red Bull. I love to laugh until it hurts. Fall is my favorite season. Black is my favorite 'shade.' Strong believer in the saying: there is a reason for everything, therefore I search for 'marked moments' every moment of everyday...and I find them. Life is beautiful!


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Giveaway: Blackness Takes Over by Norma Jeanne Karlsson

Published January 2014

Description:

Shannon Kelly’s life has been anything but typical. 
Her life has been altered viciously at the hands of others twice. 

However horrible they have been, it’s these changes that have given her a family and career…now possibly love. 
The last thirteen years she has been supported and loved by her protector, her entertainer, and her comforter, but never a lover.

When Dylan Kellerman enters Shannon’s life he changes its course in more ways than one. 
He gives her hope and promise of a future she was convinced wasn’t attainable. 

Just as she begins to believe she has finally turned her life into something she can build a future on…blackness takes over.

About the author:
Blackness Takes Over is Norma Jeanne’s debut novel. What began as an homage to the home town of a homesick Midwestern girl, unfolded a story of love, danger, humor, and trust. She’s currently working on her untitled sophomore effort. We can’t wait to see what thrilling saga she leads us through next!

Originally from Kansas City, Missouri, Norma Jeanne recently found herself relocating to the United Kingdom. Now living in Belfast, she took hold of the opportunity to kick the 9-5 job for a chance to become an author. The best part: working from her home office, she gets to spend more time with her cast of crazy characters (written and real).

In her free time Norma Jeanne is a voracious reader and consumes books as readily as meals. She is a people watcher by nature and uses her experiences in life, observed or otherwise, to build the worlds and characters that thrive in her books. A believer in the strength of the human spirit, Norma Jeanne writes the stories of people that persevere when all appears to be lost.

“Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” –Dylan Thomas

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Excerpt and Giveaway: Lean on Me by Candy Crum

Release Date: March 16th, 2014
Cover designed by EmCat Designs

Description:

Sixteen year old Bri comes from a wealthy family, allowing her an expensive pass into the popular crowd, though it never much mattered to her. She's on the basketball team and track and is the top in both. 
Bri has everything a girl could want, but she longs for a traditional family that loves one another deeply and would do anything for one another instead of the one she was gifted - cold and very distant. Growing up this way has left Bri alone and forced to raise herself.

Bri's parents pressure her to be the best at everything instead of just being the best that she can be. As a result of trying for the perfect life for her parents, hoping that it will one day impress them, Bri finds herself in an abusive relationship for title rather than love with the high school football star and pressured into doing what a lot of teenagers are pressured into doing. 

When Bri becomes pregnant, her entire world is turned upside down and she has no idea who she can trust anymore. Bri struggles to find a place in this world for herself and for her baby - the baby that she is desperate to have and watch grow. Along the way, Bri is given an opportunity to completely change her life and the life of her child - but it may hinder the life of someone incredibly important to her ... binding him to a future he was never meant to have, just for her. Bri is forced to grow and grow stronger as she fights for her baby and learns how to be a good mother.

EXCERPT




Bri struggled to breathe as the wind hissed from her lungs with the awkward landing. Her vision was blurry and her head throbbed. She wanted to scream, but was silenced with something being strapped across her mouth – duct tape. Her attacker grabbed her by the hair and dragged her backward, behind the store. She screamed from behind the tape and kicked her legs, struggling to get free. 

Tears streamed down her face as she immediately worried for the condition of her baby. She’d landed hard on her belly. She had no idea what it would take to end a pregnancy by blunt force. The attacker used her hair to pull her up to her feet before slamming her hard into a wall. As soon as her vision cleared, fear coursed through her, adrenaline threatening to make her pass out. 

Before, she’d worried that her attacker may hurt her baby (even by accident, not knowing she was with child) in the process of robbing her. Now, she knew the object of this attack was solely for the purpose of harming her baby. She stared into Mike’s cold, hard eyes. She heard the chuckles of four of his friends surrounding him. 

“Your mom called,” Mike said, gently running his fingertips down the side of her face. “She said that she was sorry her daughter was so confused. She begged me to take you back. Even told me where you’d be so I could come and talk to you. That was nice of her, wasn’t it?” 

Bri sobbed as she tried to push him away, knowing that even if she managed to fight him off, there were four more to subdue her. 

“I know we had our little chat just today, but I got to thinking about it and it’s been quite a long time since you and I fooled around. You know what that means? Docs around here won’t do an abortion without parental consent because of the increased risks.” 

Bri felt disgusted that he stated that so casually. He was a stupid boy. He didn’t know a lot about anything that wasn’t sports related. She imagined that he’d learned it from other experiences like this, either his own or his friends. 

“But you won’t talk to your parents, will you, Bri?” he asked, pushing himself closer. She was terrified, too terrified to move. She wished that she could get to her phone. She wished that she could call for Matt’s help. “I didn’t think so.” 

She realized then that she’d been too scared to answer, too scared to lie her way out of it – even from behind tape. Bri was about to answer by way of nodding when the first blow to her face came. She was hit hard, several smaller bones in her face crushing under the blow. She landed hard on the ground, blackness seeping in as she felt the first painful kick to her abdomen. Please, God, was the last thing to enter her mind as she lost consciousness. 



“Her pulse is weak,” she heard a man say from above her. She looked up to see an attractive young man hovering above her. “My name is Gerome and I’m the EMT that responded to the call. You were attacked, ma’am. We are about halfway to the hospital. Do you have any allergies?” 

Bri shook her head, but remembered that she had one. “Ery… Ery…” As hard as she tried the name wouldn’t come. 

“Erythromycin?” he asked. 

She nodded. “That’s it.” Her eyes bolted open as she tried to sit up, but she was strapped down. “My baby!” 

“Your baby? Are you pregnant, ma’am?” 

“Yes! Almost four months. They were kicking me in the stomach! Is the baby still alive? Can you tell?” She was frantic as tears started rolling down her face. She could feel the scrapes on her face as the salty tears stung them on the way down her cheeks. 

“Jo!” he called to the front of the ambulance. “Is the fetal Doppler working yet?” 

It was a woman that called back. “Oh, God. She’s pregnant? They took it out. It was smashed after the rookie dropped it and stepped on it. They’re supposed to be replacing it tomorrow.” 

“What’s a fetal Doppler?” Bri asked. 

“It’s a wand that I could place against your lower abdomen and listen for the heartbeat. Unfortunately, we don’t have one.” 

“That’s the only way that you can check on her?” 

“I’m sorry. That’s the only way that I can tell in here. A stethoscope can’t really pick anything up through the uterine wall. Not in here for sure, though in a quiet room it’s probably possible. You’re having a little girl?” he asked, a sad smile breaking through as he worried for both of them. 

“It’s just a hunch,” she said. Her entire body was shaking from shock and fear. Her eyes were growing heavy again, but she wanted to stay awake. She needed to know everything that was going on. “Do you think she will be okay?” 

Gerome sighed and placed his hand over hers. “Bad things happen to good people every day. I know. I see a lot of it around here. But one thing I know for sure is that as bad as some of those things are, I have seen some of the most miraculous recoveries. People that never should have lived that were able to go home to their families and live their lives. People think that babies are fragile, and they are, but not nearly as fragile as we assume. That baby wasn’t outside exposed to the attack. She was cradled inside your body. You’re alive. So it’s okay to hold out hope that she is too. But…” 

“But it’s best to know that I’m young and this is still really early in the pregnancy,” she said, interrupting him. 

He nodded. “That’s right. Listen, you’re not looking too good yourself. Worrying and stressing puts you both in danger. Your vitals are slow, so you need to relax and let me worry about both of you. We will be at the hospital in about five minutes. Focus on staying alive. If you go, so does she. She’s too young to survive outside the womb.” 

His words hit her hard. She forced a nod and relaxed. Her ribs ached with every breath, but she forced herself to steady her breathing and try to will the pain away. When she was twelve, she’d fallen during a gymnastics practice and broke her ankle. She’d begged her mother for a week to take her to the hospital, but she wouldn’t, saying that Bri had only twisted her ankle and to stop worrying over nothing. It was finally her father that took her, learning that she’d broken it quite badly and would require surgery. 

For that incredibly painful week before seeking treatment, Bri had to learn how to will the pain away. She practiced breathing techniques and focused on something in whatever room she was in as she imagined “pushing” the pain away from herself. She later learned that was a legitimate meditation technique and even taught to some pregnant women to use during labor. 

Bri now called on her past experience to help her through the excruciating pain. Being unable to take deep breaths made her work difficult, but she was able to relax as she closed her eyes and focused on what it would be like to be a mother. She imagined herself holding her baby for the first time and being surrounded by the people that she loved. Soon, her mind completely overtook her as she disappeared into unconsciousness once again with only dreams of her baby to sooth her. 

Bri’s eyes slowly fluttered open, well – one of Bri’s eyes fluttered open. The other was completely swollen shut. As she realized she now only had use of one of her eyes, she began to panic. She tried to move, but her hands were bound, as were her feet. She tried to scream for help, but her throat was too sore to make such a loud noise. 

The sound of frantic beeping entered her ears just before she heard multiple footsteps stampeding into the room. She began to come around as she realized that she was in a hospital. A doctor came into view, a face that was familiar to her. He was her childhood doctor. Another familiar face stepped into view; she was Matt’s mother’s OB/GYN, Maree Metcalf. She’d met her once when she accompanied them to a well-mother prenatal appointment. 

“Briana,” Doctor Conway, her pediatrician spoke. “Try to calm down. You’re safe and in the hospital. You were brutally attacked. You can speak, but try to keep quiet. It appears that you were choked. There was some damage done to the trachea, but nothing permanent or needing surgery. It should heal on its own as long as you’re gentle with it.” 

She nodded. “Bri.” Another familiar voice. She looked off to the right to see her parents sitting there, holding her hand. 

They weren’t there a moment ago, she thought. They must have come in with the doctors. 

“How are you feeling?” her father asked. 

Bri began to speak a couple of times, only managing a cough as she tried to clear her throat. “Like I was just beaten half to death by Michael Rhodes and his minions.” 

Her mother sighed, her eyes closing as she rubbed the bridge of her nose. “Briana Grace. He would never do such a thing. It was he that called us and called 911! Why would he do that if he was the one that hurt you? You owe him an apology.” 

Bri laughed again, painfully, just as she had before. That was the final straw. She realized then that her parents didn’t love her. If they did, they did a terrible job showing it. They only loved the idea of having the perfect offspring, the daughter that excelled at everything, and she refused to be that anymore. She was a woman now, a woman that had just been attacked for the purpose of killing her unborn child. 

She turned to Doctor Metcalf, now understanding why she’d been there with her. “How am I?” she asked, hoping the doctor would get her meaning. 

“You will be just fine. You have a few broken bones in your face, a broken finger, two broken ribs, swollen but otherwise healthy ankle, damage to your trachea, and lots of bumps, bruises, and cuts. But you’ll be just fine.” She smiled softly, reaching out and placing her hand on Bri’s leg. “And the baby is just fine as well. We were fully prepared not to find a heartbeat. Most of the attack was directed at your abdomen. But we did. Your baby is just fine, for now. We will need to keep you for a few days to monitor you both.” 

“Wait a minute,” Bri’s father said. “Baby?” 

For a moment, Bri thought she saw something that momentarily looked like a very faint, almost too-terrified-to-come-out-of-hiding smile cross her father’s face, but that was over and gone as soon as her mother opened her mouth. She briefly wondered, before her mother started in, how he could have been so disgusted with a co-worker’s daughter being with child, but be momentarily happy with his own. Or had she only imagined the smile? 

“You’re pregnant? That’s why you’ve been acting so strangely?” She stood and began pacing back and forth from the head of the bed to the foot and back again. “This is terrible. How could you do such a stupid thing? Is it Mike’s? He just didn’t seem like that kind of boy!” 

Bri focused her rage, trying not to have an outburst, knowing that it will hurt her far more than it would her parents. “This stupid thing was because I had an abusive boyfriend that I was petrified of. No one believed me when I said that I was scared of him. Not even you! Everyone said that I was being foolish. That he was a great guy. That I was reading things wrong. Then one night he pressured me into having sex with him. Mom, the way he grabbed me, I knew that if I didn’t, he’d hurt me. One time – that’s all I’ve done it, and I didn’t even want to then. This is not my fault. I was trying to find a way out of the relationship, away from him to prevent being pressured into anything or being physically injured.” 

“Well it seems to me that you moved a little slow. This is just awful. What will everyone say? Oh dear, is that why you quit the team? This is awful. Just awful.” 

Her mother was a mess, just pacing and rambling. 

“Mom, it’s going to be fine. Why should we care what anyone else thinks? I’m finishing school. I’m excited to show this baby exactly what you can do – no matter how hard the circumstances are – and still succeed. I’m going to go to college. I’m still going to do everything that I wanted to before, minus trying for a sports scholarship. That was more your dream than mine. I just love the game.” 

Tears ran down her mother’s cheeks as their eyes locked. “Briana, you can’t have this baby. Please, you’re too young. You’ll regret it the rest of your life.” 

Bri shook her head and smiled. “No, Mom. If I give up this baby – by any means – I’ll regret that for the rest of my life. Even if I hated and had no desire to take part in the circumstances that led up to this baby, he or she is still all of the best parts of me. How can I abandon that? Don’t make me do this. I’ll never forgive you and I’ll never forgive myself. I’ll always wonder what could have been and it will destroy me.” 

“I just don’t think you understand just how hard your life is about to become if you keep that baby,” her mother said, voice quivering a little as she spoke. Something about the way Ellen chose her words sent chills down Bri’s spine. She wasn’t exactly sure what to make of them. 

Shaking it off, Bri smiled again. “Yes I do, and that’s okay. I don’t care if the world hates me. It’s not their life. It’s mine. Everything will be just fine.” 

Her mother squeezed her hand once. “You should rest. You’ve been through a lot today. We are going to go get some coffee and think about everything.” 

Bri nodded, the motion immediately regrettable. Her throat was beginning to feel a little better, though she was incredibly thirsty. Talking so much had both helped and hurt. “Can I get these off now?” Bri asked, referring to her restraints. 

“Yes. Sorry about that,” Doctor Conway said. “You pulled out three IVs and punched two of the nurses. We had no choice. Sedation wasn’t a great option because of the baby’s slowed heart rate and you were already unconscious anyway.” 

“I am – so – sorry,” Bri said. She felt terrible for having hurt the people that had only tried to help her. 

“It’s quite normal in victims of violent crimes.” Doctor Conway released her of the restraints. “I’d like for you to get some more rest. I’m going to give you a pain medication that will help prevent breakthrough pain as well as allow you to sleep. Until the baby’s heart rate comes back up, we will have to be pickier than normal with your pain meds.” 

Bri nodded. She didn’t like the idea of being loaded up on drugs, especially while pregnant, but she didn’t want to feel the pain of all of her broken bones and she trusted the doctors to care for both of them. The words of the paramedic came back to her. That fighting and straining could hurt her and hurt the baby. Rest seemed best for now. “Thank you, Doctor.” 

Hours passed before Bri woke again. Her sleep was dreamless, and for that she was grateful. Her ribs screamed at her when she tried to sit. She needed to go to the bathroom, but knew it was impossible to go alone. Within moments, the nurse was in her room, responding to her call. By the time the nurse helped her out, Matt was sitting in a bedside chair, smiling at her. 

“Aren’t you just so cute in your ball gown,” he said, giving her a wink. He stood and came to her unoccupied side to help the nurse get her back into bed. Bri slowly sat on the edge of the bed, taking a moment to adjust to the pain. Matt placed his hands on her shoulders to stabilize and support her. “I’ve got her from here,” he said softly to the nurse. 

“Okay,” the nurse responded, smiling. “If you need anything else, call me. I’m going to change your trash while I’m in here.” She walked across the room and began the task of switching bags. 

“You don’t have help me, ya know,” Bri told Matt, still sitting upright. “I really hoped you wouldn’t find out. I didn’t want you to see me like this.” 

Matt moved his hands from her shoulders to gently hold her face. He tilted her head upward and he looked into the eye that was open. “I don’t care how bruised, how broken, or how immobile you are now or will ever be in the future. You’re beautiful. Don’t let that asshole tear you down from the pedestal you belong on.” He placed a soft kiss on her forehead. 

Out of her periphery, Bri saw the nurse stop at his words, placing a hand over her chest as a smile crossed her face. She was clearly moved by his words, as was Bri. No one had ever spoken to her like that, though he was always sweet and gentle with her. 

“Well, that was awfully sweet for a barbarian like yourself,” Bri joked. 

Matt shrugged. “I have my moments. Actually I wanted to get you in a headlock and screw up your hair – though I don’t think it’s possible to get it more amazing than it is right now. But – I figured there’d be some rule against abusing the patients.” He winked and helped her lie down before taking the seat next to her bed that he’d previously been occupying. Bri raised the head of her bed so she could sit at a wide angle, allowing her to sit and speak comfortably, but not so tightly as to squeeze her broken ribs. 

“Can I get anything else for you?” the nurse asked, still smiling. 

“Some ice chips maybe?” Bri said. “My throat is still a little sore.” 

The nurse nodded. “Not a problem.” 

Matt stood as the nurse made her way out the door. “I’ll go grab them from her so she doesn’t have to come back in.” 

“Thank you,” Bri said. “I hate asking them for anything. I know they’ve got other patients who need more than I do.” 

Matt laughed. “Wow. Woman, do you realize you’re more than likely one of the more serious patients on the floor? Most of these people probably have shortness of breath or respiratory infections of some kind.” 

Bri shrugged, immediately regretting the action. “Still, I feel bad.” Matt shook his head at his friend and smiled before turning to leave the room. “Oh! Sorry, but could you see how my parents are doing? They were out there getting coffee somewhere.” 

“Sure, no problem.” 

Bri slowly reached for the call light/TV remote control and turned on the flat screen hanging from her wall. She began flipping through channels until she found something that made her happy. It was a rerun of The Vampire Diaries. She nestled in as comfortably as she could before placing the remote at her side and watching. 

Twenty minutes or so passed before Matt came back. “Did you have to wait for the ice to freeze?” Bri asked, forcing a pained half-smile. Her face felt more swollen all the time, though she imagined if it actually was, the nurses would have noticed. She imagined it was just her pain tolerance lowering, possibly the pain medication wearing off. 

Matt didn’t smile as he walked over to the bed, handing her a small Styrofoam cup with a plastic spoon. He looked behind him to the large closet in the room with double doors meant for patients to store their personal items. He opened it and his eyes momentarily closed before he reached inside. 

“What? What’s wrong?” Bri asked. She watched as he pulled an envelope from the closet. He brought it over and sat it next to her on the bed. “What’s wrong? It’s just an envelope.” 

He sighed. “It’s not just an envelope. It’s your envelope.” 

“Why was it in the closet?” 

Matt lightly shook his head as he tore it open, studying the contents. Bri’s heart began to speed up as she saw a flash of color of what was inside. Money. 

“That’s for ordering food while I’m stuck in here. They work all the time and know hospital food sucks,” she said, trying to stop the tears from escaping her eyes. Even saying it, she didn’t believe it. “Where’s my phone?” she asked, wanting to call her parents. 

Matt sighed again as he pulled her phone from his pocket. “The nurses had it in a bag of your belongings that you came in with. It survived the attack, thanks to the case. But you’re wasting your time, Bri. I tried to make a call from it. It’s been disconnected.” 

Her jaw dropped open as a harsh breath escaped her. “What? What’s going on?” 

Matt quickly put the money back in the envelope, having counted one hundred dollars, and sat it on the bedside table. He took a seat at Bri’s side and gently held her injured hand. “When I asked the nurses where I could possibly find your parents, the charge nurse stepped forward. I knew right then when they turned to her to answer my questions that it wasn’t good. She said that she overheard them discussing what to do. That your mom was insistent that she wouldn’t raise another baby and that you needed to learn your lesson. She told me your parents slipped the money into the cabinet and told the charge nurse to inform me if I came in. They knew I would.” 

Bri shook her head, ignoring the physical pain for her emotional pain and confusion. “What are you saying, Matt?” 

His eyes momentarily closed again as he searched for the words. “They gave you that money to give you a start on your own. They’ve kicked you out of the house, Bri. They shut off your phone, too. I called my sister and she drove by and saw a couple of boxes sat out on the curb. She recognized a few of your things piled on top. I’m so sorry. I’m honestly shocked. I knew they were cold, but this…” 

“That’s what she meant by saying that I had no idea how hard that my life was about to become if I decided to have this baby. Oh my God, Matt. What am I going to do?” she asked, staring off at nothing in particular. She began rubbing her sore abdomen, not caring about the pain, just wanting to feel close to her baby. She was in shock. She thought her parents would hate her, punish her, ban her from anything remotely pleasurable, but she never imagined this. 

“You’re going to focus on getting better. When you get out, you can come stay a few days with me, longer if you need.” 

“Matt – I can’t stay with you. If your mother finds out that I’m pregnant she will think it’s yours. She’ll kill you.” 

He shrugged. “Maybe not. My mom loves you. She loves me, too. The real kind, not that fake crap your parents tried to push off to their friends to look like great parents.” 

Bri was silent for a few minutes as so many thoughts flooded her mind that she found herself not thinking about anything at all. Her pain was back tenfold and she knew it was partly because she’d lost concentration on it with the news and partly because she’d been sitting a long while and now her body was tense with stress. Not to mention the meds had more than likely worn off. 

“I need to sleep. I can’t handle this right now. My body is starting to hurt again and my head feels like it’s going to explode.” 

Matt reached for the call light and pushed it. “She’s in a lot of pain. Is it time for her to have meds yet?” he asked when they answered. 

“Of course, we will be right in,” she answered. 

“I’ll leave so you can get some rest,” Matt said, gently stroking the back of her hand. 

“No – please. I hate to ask, but I just can’t bear being alone right now.” 

He gave a soft smile and nodded, pulling the padded chair next to her bed closer. Matt sat down next to her and held her hand. He leaned over to kiss the sensitive back, just along her knuckles. “I’m not going anywhere, babe.”


About the author:
Candy Crum is the author of The Eternal Series (The Eternal Gift, The Eternal Echo)as well as the creator of The Dark Compendiums (The Withering Darkness), anothologies focusing on the work of "yet-to-be-known" authors as a way to give back to those who helped her. She lives with her husband and two children in Indiana and spends the majority of her time playing with her kids, writing, reading, or listening to music.

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