Friday, October 7, 2016


COVER REVEAL


One Step Closer

By Kahlen Aymes

The only had each other…
Until one forbidden night ruined everything.

This new sexy stand-alone STEPBROTHER
romance releases on October 25th.

Pre-order on iBooks here: http://apple.co/2dvHJce
**Additional retailers to follow**

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Blurb
STEPSISTER. He hated that f*cking word.

When their parents got married, the only thing Caleb Luxan had in common with Wren Brashill was that they both hated their parents. When he was sixteen, Caleb discovered Wren's closely guarded secret and vowed to protect her: from that day forward she became the reason for every decision he made.

Jealousy and long-suppressed desire overpowered Caleb's fierce protectiveness and they spent one forbidden and unforgettable night in each other arms, but the aftermath left Caleb panicked, Wren heartbroken, and their relationship in shambles. In the time since that fateful night, he’d only seen her once and had only managed to make the situation even worse.

The sudden death of his estranged father calls Caleb home and face-to-face with Wren for first time in years. He is presented with a choice that forces him to confront the painful memories of his youth and his many regrets with Wren.

Like it or not, his father's last, hard lesson, will demand Caleb deal with his long denied emotions for Wren, or let go of her forever.



About the Author

I'm a single mother of one daughter, Olivia. She's amazing in every way.

I was born in the Midwestern United States and educated at a private university where I received a Bachelor's degree in Marketing and Business Administration.

I've always been creative with art, music, theater and writing. I decided to write a story as a way to build a network for a business venture. The reader support of my stories and my overwhelming desire to find out where my characters would take me, soon had the writing morphing the business. No one was more shocked than I. When readers began nominating my work for online awards, it took my breath away and only made me love it more. It soon became clear that writing was, and should be, my focus.

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High-Sided: An Armed & Dangerous Novel
L.P. Dover
(Armed & Dangerous #3)
Publication date: October 4th 2016
Genres: Adult, Romance, Suspense

Wild, reckless, and fast.

That’s how I raced until a fatal accident on the track ruined my riding career. I had no choice but to leave that life behind; at least, until now. My name is Logan Chandler, one of the best FBI agents in the country. When an old friend calls for help and winds up dead, I take matters into my own hands. In order to do that, I have to go back to my past, back to the racetrack and to the one girl I never thought I’d see again . . . Kassidy Bennett.

She’s the key to solving it all, but bringing her in could put her in grave danger. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize she was already there. To save her, I have to put everything on the line. It’s a race against time, a race to the death, and only one will make it to the end.

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EXCERPT:

“Kassidy, I know you’re in there. Please open the door.” There was a sheer curtain over the glass panes and if I moved across the room he’d see me. All I could hear was the thumping of my heart. “Kassidy, please. I need to talk to you. I’m not leaving until I do. You know I won’t.”

“Shit,” I hissed low. He was right. If anyone had the patience to sit around for hours, it was him. He’d done the same thing to me years ago when I told him I wouldn’t go on a date with him. He stayed on my porch for hours and slept on the swing. At the time, I loved his persistence. I wanted to go on a date with him, but I was curious to see how far he’d go.

Knowing he wouldn’t leave unless I made him, I thrust the door open, embracing the anger I felt welling in my chest. I needed it to get rid of him. Logan stepped back and I held my breath, taking in the desperate look in his eyes. For a second, I could feel my resolve slip, but then I remembered the hurtful words he said to me in the hospital.

“There’s nothing to say, Logan. If you want to say you’re sorry, then say the words and get the hell out of here. Other than that, I have no desire to see or talk to you.”

He looked straight into my eyes. “Saying I’m sorry doesn’t even begin to cover it, but I am. I am so fucking sorry for what I did.”

“Great, you said it. We’re done here. Goodbye Logan.” I slammed the door on him and locked it.

“Dammit, Kassie.”

“Don’t call me that!” I shouted, slamming my hand against the door.

He moved closer to the door and I stepped back. “I know you’re pissed at me, but I need you to hear me out. I’ll stay out here the whole night if I have to.”

“Not if I call the police.”

“They’re not gonna be able to do anything to me. At least, not before I get in there myself.” The doorknob wiggled and I gasped.

“What are you doing? You can’t come in here,” I growled.

“Yes, I can, and I will. If it’s the only way to make you listen I don’t care what I have to do.” He fumbled with the doorknob again and I choked, stumbling back into one of my bar stools. I had no doubt he could get in my house, but I wasn’t going to be in it when he did. Grabbing my phone, I jammed it into my back pocket and raced to my bedroom, locking the door behind me. I had to get out of there fast.

I changed into a pair of jeans and fetched my black leather jacket out of my closet so I could put it on. My motorcycle and helmet were in my garage but all I had to do was climb out my window to get to them. “Kassie!” Logan called out. The front door slammed shut and I sucked in a breath; it was time.

Opening my window, I carefully slipped out. Logan knocked on my bedroom door and tried my handle. “Kassidy, please come out. I don’t want to do this.”

As soon as I was out the window, I raced to my garage. Slamming my helmet on my head, I jumped on my bike and turned the key. The engine roared to life as I revved it and I sped out of the garage as fast as I could. Logan had no idea I could ride, but I wished I could see the look on his face when he saw me. All I knew was that I had to get away from him, and fast.

Once out of the driveway, I took a left turn, clearly realizing the lapse in judgment. It was the road I’d avoided ever since Levi died on it. “Dammit,” I cried. My eyes started to water and there was no way I could wipe the tears away with my helmet on and going down the road. The sound of Logan’s bike drew close behind and I panicked. What was I going to do?

He gained up to me, clearly not stopping unless I did. More tears fell down my cheeks; especially when I arrived at the spot where Levi was ran off the road. I pulled over and shut off my bike, ripping off my jacket so I could breathe. Logan parked beside me, but I jumped off my bike and walked away from him to the dented guardrail. I took off my helmet and stared at the rubber markings on the metal. My fingers traced the tire marks and I broke down, falling to my knees. My heart felt as if it’d been ripped out my chest.

Logan’s hands closed over my shoulders, but I smacked them away. “Don’t touch me.”

His touch left my body, but I could feel his warmth as he sat beside. “I didn’t know you could ride.”

“Levi and Sean taught me after you left. It helped get my mind off of things.” I tried not to look down in the ravine where Levi was found, but I couldn’t help it. The amount of pain he must’ve felt had to be excruciating. I slammed my hand against the guardrail and sobbed.

“I’m gonna miss him too, Kassidy. Levi was a good friend.”

Angrily, I wiped my tears away and scoffed. “How would you know? You left eight years ago and never looked back.”

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Author Bio:

New York Times and USA Today Bestselling author, L.P. Dover, is a southern belle residing in North Carolina along with her husband and two beautiful girls. Before she even began her literary journey she worked in Periodontics enjoying the wonderment of dental surgeries.

Not only does she love to write, but she loves to play tennis, go on mountain hikes, white water rafting, and you can't forget the passion for singing. Her two number one fans expect a concert each and every night before bedtime and those songs usually consist of Christmas carols.

Aside from being a wife and mother, L.P. Dover has written over seventeen novels including her Forever Fae series, the Second Chances series, the Gloves Off series, and her standalone novel, Love, Lies, and Deception. Her favorite genre to read is romantic suspense and she also loves writing it. However, if she had to choose a setting to live in it would have to be with her faeries in the Land of the Fae.

L.P. Dover is represented by Marisa Corvisiero of Corvisiero Literary Agency.

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Synopsis

When Corsica Allen runs into a rough, tattooed man, she has no idea who he is or how he will change her life. Penn challenges her from the very first words out of his mouth. He's the opposite of everything she always wanted in a man, until she realizes she never knew a man like him.

Penn Templeton is happy on his own. Then his life takes a hard turn when he father arrives and ruins his hot one-night stand with the prim and proper Corsica. Hearing that his mother is sick with cancer, Penn panics. He can't stand the sight of his father but they have to find a way to get along. Then Penn hits on the perfect solution - a sympathetic and penniless Corsica. He announces they are engaged, but instead of a polite shield from his awkward family, Penn finds himself intrigued with the beautiful woman.

His lies compound when Penn decides not to tell Corsica he is a multi-millionaire. He worries that all she wants is money and he lets that fear ruin what they have. As the truth comes to light, Penn has to make one more painful admission. He loves Corsica and will give anything to have her.

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Title: A Sacred Vow
Author: Willa Thorne
Genre: Paranormal/Romance/Vampire
Cover Design: Sara Eirew
Release Date: October 24, 2016



Blurb

I swore a solemn oath that saw to the end of the Cormacs, a family of hunters that persistently sought to rid my coven’s existence.

For years we have lived in the shadows, free from hunters and the weapons of wood that could destroy us.

But the familiar scent of Cormac blood is awakening my senses. We were certain that we had ended the bloodline. Now, the vow I swore plagues my mind. The guilt I harbour buries deep. The desire and lust burns.

My pledge to my family is now a promise to protect the woman I love.

Aurelia Galligan is a descendant of the Cormac bloodline. I should drain her. I have to destroy her. But she may just end me.

**This is a forbidden romance between the hunter and the hunted. It features smoldering vampires and no cliffhangers. The content is not suitable for readers under the age of 18**



Excerpt

As we stood on the sands of the lake, I looked into Lia’s eyes. They were so innocent and kind. Such light and warmth wasn’t something I’d experienced in a very long time. It didn’t help that I could smell the heady scent of her arousal. I knew exactly how badly her body needed mine. She needed to be claimed, fucked good and deep, marked as mine.

But she wasn’t mine. She couldn’t ever be mine. The reminder gutted me, body and soul.

The truth was that my intentions for the evening were far from honorable. They were downright evil. Seduction has coursed through my veins for over two hundred years and she made it so bloody simple. The very sight of me was alluring; everything about me was meant to entice her. The way I could stare into her eyes and make her do or say anything that pleased me- it was all part of the predatory nature of my species. I planned to lure her with romantic notions, and then painlessly take her life. It shouldn’t have been an issue.

How many lives have I taken over the centuries without much thought or regard for them? Why should she be any different, especially given the fact that she is a Cormac?




Author Bio

Willa Thorne channels her overactive imagination into all of her writing. She enjoys any genre in romance, especially contemporary and paranormal. She grew up in New Jersey and spent a six years living in southern California. She currently lives in Connecticut with her husband and their rescued dog, Lola. Willa is also a caffeine addict and a sucker for chocolate.



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Social Butterfly PR is thrilled to present the cover for American Queen by Sierra Simone

Release Date: October 25th Genre: Contemporary Romance Cover Design: Hang Le
American-Queen-PRINT-FOR-WEB.jpg

Synopsis:

It starts with a stolen kiss under an English sky, and it ends with a walk down the aisle. It starts with the President sending his best friend to woo me on his behalf, and it ends with my heart split in two. It starts with buried secrets and dangerous desires…and ends with the three of us bound together with a hateful love sharper than any barbed wire.
My name is Greer Galloway, and I serve at the pleasure of the President of the United States.
This is the story of an American Queen.

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About the Author:

Sierra Simone is a USA Today Bestselling former librarian (who spent too much time reading romance novels at the information desk.) She lives with her husband and family in Kansas City

Connect with Sierra Simone:

Title: Enzo
Series: Jinx Tattoos Book 1
Author: Shyla Colt
Genre: Contemporary Romance
--LIMITED TIME SALE ONLY $0.99--
“WOW! I absolutely LOVED this heart wrenching story.” ~The Power of Three Readers
“5 jinxed stars!! Beautiful, gut wrenching and hot!” ~B1tches N Books
Neglected, abandoned by a heroin-addicted mother, and placed in foster care at ten, Enzo Jordan has learned one thing…love hurts. At thirty-five, he has a successful tattoo shop and his choice of women. The one-night stands are getting old, and the love he holds for his best friend, Aibhlinn is impossible to hide. When the attraction between them reaches a boiling point, he’s forced to choose between facing his fears and walking away. 
Aibhlinn Leahy has been in love with her best friend for years. The Irish-born comic book artist has poured time, energy, and love into the wounded man. His choice to walk away breaks her heart but frees her to explore a new future.
Life is a cruel and amazing thing. An abandoned baby brings the two back together, and they’re forced to examine the love that has long existed between them. This is a story of pain, scars, and fear. We all have demons to battle. The real decision is who’s in control…us or them?
*** Enzo is Book One in the Jinx Tattoos Series but is a STAND ALONE novel***
Enzo Chapter One
Enzo
The alarm mocked him as he woke to limbs tangled with his own. The blonde from the night before snuggled into his side. He ran a hand through his hair and rested his head on the pillow. Overnights weren’t his norm, but waking up alone on today of all days wasn’t an option. He had a love-hate connection with the day of his birth, and thirty-four was too old to deal with shit with liquor. So…he fucked in excess and kept his liquor consumption to a minimum instead. Normally, he would be ready to go for round three, but all he wanted was silence…some peace. He moved away from the blonde and rolled from the bed, ready to wash away the night before.
“Time to go home, sweetheart,” he said.
She stretched her arms above her head, letting her blanket fall to her lap. Her perky breasts were perfection and obviously fake.
Still, Enzo took a moment to appreciate her investments.
“You sure I can’t tempt you into breakfast?” she purred.
“Positive, got somewhere to be.”
She pouted her plump red lips.
What kind of makeup shit lasts overnight? The thought of the chemicals involved made him shudder. “As amazing as you were last night, I’ll have to pass.”
She huffed and tossed the blankets aside, swinging her shapely legs over the side of the bed as she stood. She was petite, tanned, toned, and plastic. It made her easy to look at, have a good time with, and say good-bye to.
Not that he ever felt bad. She knew what she was getting into, they all did. He made it clear he didn’t do seconds and wasn’t looking for more than a mutual exchange of pleasure. Still, some of them seemed to think they would win some magical lottery, and things would change in the morning. He’d seen Tracee around the tattoo shop a million times. She was an ink chaser.
She wanted a tattoo artist for an old man in the worst way. He made it clear she was barking up the wrong tree, but she kept coming around. He wasn’t looking to have a significant other, and her desperation to land someone who would take care of her made his skin crawl. This would kill two birds with one stone.
“You’re a real ass, Enzo, you know that?” Tracee asked as she poured her body back into her skin-tight black dress.
“You already knew that, though, Trace. We knew this wasn’t more than a night of fun.”
She cocked her hip and narrowed her eyes. “You sure about that, sweetheart? We had a lot of fun. Imagine that in your bed every night.”
“Not looking for that, Trace,” he said with a shrug.
“Would you say the same thing if I had my head stuck in a book and my body covered from head to toe?” Tracee scoffed.
“What the fuck did you say?” Enzo asked, stepping forward.
The color drained from her face. She snatched up her sky-high heels and fled. “Nothing, see you around,” she muttered, skittering out the door before he could respond.
People wondered about him and his best friend, Aibhlinn. They didn’t think a man and a woman could be friends without jumping in the bed together. His theory was the exact opposite. Sex ruined things. It broke up lifelong relationships, made people paranoid, and upset the natural order you first had before romance entered the picture. No, his spitfire Irish lass with the piercing blue-green eyes and flowing chestnut mane would remain off limits forever.
The very thought of her made him smile. Even on his darkest day, she never failed to bring him a little happiness. He walked to the front door of his house and locked the door behind Tracee. A quick glance at the clock told him he had about thirty minutes to get his ass into gear. He walked back over the maple hardwood floor and into the bathroom. The white on white tiles and glass shower enclosure made the room appear more open and easy to get into and out of, which made the space tolerable.
Turning on the hot water, he sank onto the bench at the far end of the massive stall and let the gathering steam clear his pores and his muddled head. Lack of sleep and beer had him feeling sluggish. After a few minutes, he rose to his feet, stepped under the spray, quickly soaped down, and rinsed off.
He was pulling on his plaid button up when the doorbell rang. A few moments later, the lock turned.
“You decent, birthday boy?” Aibhlinn called with that slight lilt he’d grown to love.
“Yeah, I’m coming out now,” Enzo called back. He appeared in the doorway and smiled.
Dressed in a pair of black skinny jeans that hugged her thick thighs, and large ass, she was mouthwatering.
Off limits didn’t mean he couldn’t admire her assets. An off the shoulder Pink Floyd sweater displayed tantalizing porcelain flesh. She had her hair pulled up into a messy bun that showed off her long, slender neck.
“You ready to go?” she asked.
“What? No breakfast?” he shot back.
She rolled her eyes. “Smart ass. We’ll be back for that later. If you don’t hurry, we’ll miss the sunrise.”
He nodded his head and walked toward her, wrapping an arm around her waist as they hugged. He pressed a kiss to her forehead. “Thanks for coming, Ave.”
“Where else would I be?” she whispered.
Anywhere, with someone worthy of your time and affection. It was his deepest fear. That she would enter a romantic relationship and their friendship would go by the wayside. It was selfish wanting her to remain his number one girl…she deserved more. It worked for them now. They were both artists obsessed by the act of creating.
The years were passing swiftly, and she’d gone from unknown to sought after in her career field. First come loves, and then comes marriage. He snarled, pushing the thought of the day she, too, left him far in the background of his brain.
“Come on, I’ll drive,” she said, pulling him to the door.
He allowed her to manipulate him.
At five-foot-eleven, she still lacked the strength to move him if he resisted. Along with fucking, he liked to workout. It kept his head from getting overcrowded and allowed him a healthy way to work out his frustrations. Locking the door behind them, he followed her to the black SUV.
She hit the fob and unlocked the door.
Enzo was at the driver’s side, opening her door before she could protest. He knew how to treat a woman. He wasn’t so fucked up that he felt a sick need to use and abuse them. His mother, the angel who adopted him and straightened his ass out, would skin him alive if he ever went that route.
“Thanks, Enz,” she said, climbing into her seat.
He made his way to the passenger side then leaned his head back against the headrest, and zoned out as she pulled out of his driveway and headed for their destination.
Fog hung in the air, creating a thin layer of white. The haze turned the massive structure that was their destination into something mystical, or creepy, depending on how one looked at it. Bundled against the fall chill, they made their way from the car and into Ault Park, in the direction of the pavilion.
After the climb, his eyes drank in the frosted landscape. He shoved his hands in his pockets.
This park held good and bad memories. His birth mother brought him here many times. Originally, he thought it was because she was a good mother who loved the outdoors and knew he loved to be among the beauty the park offered. As he grew, he understood it was a public place to get her fix. No one thought twice of a man, a woman, and a child walking through the woods.
He would never forget the first time his brain registered the cash she gave Uncle Ian was for drugs. The tiny brown squares were heroin. They’d found her body here on his sixteenth birthday, needle still in her arm, eyes vacant, and body cold. She’d turned a day he already loathed into something even worse.
He inhaled, embracing the chilly air that crept down his throat and into his chest.
The ache meant he was alive. That he’d survived against the odds. Thinking of the days scrounging for food in garbage cans, stealing from the stores, and running drugs for dope boys to feed his starving gut…he shuddered. She’d always saved the most fucked up shit for his birthday, like an anti-birthday gift. That last day she’d left and never returned was his twelfth birthday.
He bowed his head in solemn remembrance. All the bullshit made it hard for a guy to feel joy on the day he came into the world and landed in a pile of festering shit. But that’s not where I am now. He glanced over at the woman standing beside him as the sky yielded from an inky blue to a purple, and a dusky orange. The sun’s rays turned everything golden, and for that moment in time, things were clean and new. The world was a hopeful place. The darkness was banished.
“Nature’s first green is gold, her hardest hue to hold. Her early leaf’s a flower; but only so an hour. Then leaf subsides to leaf. So Eden sank to grief, so dawn goes down to day. Nothing gold can stay,” he whispered, quoting Robert Frost’s “Nothing Gold Can Stay”. There was a man who understood how to live in the moments before dawn ended. He hadn’t gotten there yet.
Ava tangled her fingers with his, and he let her. She was a blazing white light in the murkiness. His Irish angel on his shoulder, constantly encouraging him to do better, insisting he reach for his dreams, and repeatedly telling him he was worthy. She was the best present he’d ever received, on the same day his mother left this Earth. Perhaps that’s why he liked having her with him on his birthday.
Past
He sat in the back of the room, sketching in the expensive pad Mrs. Jordan had purchased for him as a birthday gift. As far as foster parents went, Karen and her husband Bill were one of the rare ones. Not only were they decent, they seemed to enjoy having him and the other boys there. The children who moved in and out were more than a paycheck; they were a chance to change lives. He thought it was an act at first. Now, he understood they were the genuine article. He’d been here six months, and other than bumping heads on being accountable for his whereabouts, it had been fairly smooth sailing. The high school was the same as any other, but he dug the art teacher, Ms. Leahy. The Irish woman with bright red hair, blue eyes, and a melodic accent encouraged him to hone his skills.
She said he had the potential to be a great artist. It was something he’d never really heard before. Writing and poetry were a means to escape from the shitty surroundings he often found himself trapped in. Artists and writers understood pain in the intimate way a boxing coach knew the mechanics of fighting.
“Hey, that’s good.”
He continued to darken the area of the crow’s wing.
“Hey, did you hear me?”
Peering up, he found himself lost in an ocean of an intense blue-green gaze. He blinked and took in the entire package.
The girl leaning over his shoulder was dressed from head to toe in a black dress with black tights and tall black boots. Her deep red lipstick stood out against her pale face and made her hair look more red than brown.
“You talking to me?” he asked.
“Yeah. I like the way you’re shading that in,” she replied, gesturing toward the paper.
“Uhh, thanks?”
She laughed. “That’s about the usual response to me.” She held out her hand. “Aibhlinn Leahy, I’m Ms. Leahy’s daughter. I just transferred to this high school.”
So, she didn’t know to stay away from the degenerate foster boy yet. “Enzo,” he said, quickly shaking her hand.
“Ahh, it’s nice to meet someone else around here with a unique name.”
He snorted. Heads turned to glance back at them. He scowled, and they faced forward. “Look, you’re new here, so you don’t know any better. But…I should warn you. Being seen with me will get you labeled as an outcast.”
“And now, you’ve intrigued me,” she said with a smile that showed the tiny dimple in her right cheek.
He shook his head, not willing to be the bad boy to some good girl gone wrong. “I should also mention, I don’t like people.”
“Oh, you’ll like me, I promise.” She sank onto the seat beside him and set down her pad. “You like comics?”
He blinked, trying to keep up with her crazy topic jumps. “Yeah.”
She opened her page. “Me too.
The impressive comic strip of Wolverine made him whistle. “You did this?”
“Yeah, need to work on my shading in certain areas. Which is why your work caught my eye.”
So, it’d been a self-serving thing. That he could understand. “Your detail is on point. I could use some pointers.”
“Then I’ll help you and you can help me,” she offered.
“Deal.”
He had no way of knowing it was the start of a lifelong relationship that would in many ways define him as a man.
Present
Aibhlinn
After they returned from Ault Park, Aibhlinn studied Enzo from beneath her lashes. He seemed more sullen this year than he had previously. “What’s wrong?” she asked, setting his bowl of steel cut oats and toast in front of him.
“You know I hate my birthday,” Enzo replied, and pushed the oats around with his spoon like a petulant child.
His pouty expression was adorable. She tried not to smile at the picture he presented. It was all too easy to imagine what little Enzo looked like once upon a time. “No, this feels like more than that,” she said, frowning.
He glanced up at her and sighed. “We’re getting old.”
She snorted. “Speak for yourself, grandpa. We’ve barely hit our thirties.”
“Yeah, but you know how fast time flies. We’ll blink, and it’ll be our forties.”
“So?” she asked, shaking her head.
He shrugged. “Makes a person wonder what their contribution to the world is, or why they were brought here in the first place.”
“What about Jinx Tattoos? You guys are taking names and kicking ass. You just did an interview with the local paper. That’s not something a mediocre shop does,” she said.
“Yeah, I mean, business wise I’m doing okay, just…”
“Ahh, so we’re talking about an ailment of a spiritual nature, then?”
“Ave.”
“What? If it’s not logical, it’s of the heart. Why do you always get antsy when I mention this?”
“Because I don’t know if I believe in this shit. I mean, what kind of God lets all this crap happen to innocent people”
“One who believes in free will. He allows us to do what we choose, even when it’s soul killing and bat shit crazy acts.”
“Why?”
“Because, if He didn’t, we’d be nothing more than puppets. This forces us to be accountable for our actions.”
“You believe that? After everything?” he asked.
She sighed. “After what happened to my father you mean? Yes. He made bad decisions, and it cost him his life. Catalyst being, my mother got out of there and made a better life for us.” Her heart turned to lead as she thought about her father and his obsession with purifying Ireland. They’d lost him to a bomb. He lived by the gun, and he died by it. Her mother had distanced herself from his associates and casually applied for a working visa. The rest was history.
“I’m sorry.” He set his spoon down and placed his hand over hers. “That was shitty of me.”
She shook her head. “No, it’s okay. You asked an honest question. I try not to think about that too much, Enzo. It’s no use rehashing a past none of us can change. If anything, I used it as a model for what not to do. We can’t control the things that happen to us. But we can decide what to do with the rest of our life afterward.”
“You make it sound so damn easy, Ave.”
“Ack, I never said that. I’m a bag full of crazy on a good day and fully aware I’m a thirty-four-year-old comic book author who has a sorely lacking social life, a D.O.A. love life, and very few friends.”
“You’re brilliant, and you know it,” Enzo countered.
She laughed. “To you maybe.”
“More than me. I’ve watched you work your ass off to get where you are. I remember when you were pounding the pavement submitting your resume everywhere, doing any sort of pro bono work you could to get your name out there. You worked a bevy of craptastic jobs to support yourself while you went after your dream. Now, you’re well on your way to achieving them. Own that shit.”
Heat rushed to her cheeks, and she glanced away. She would never possess his swagger. Some days her plentiful contracts felt like a streak of good luck, though she had the work history to prove it to be anything but that.
“One day some man is going to swoop in and whisk you away from me. Then who’ll be here to call me on my shit?”
“Your mother, and come on, you know that’s never going to happen. I’ll always have time for you.” It could be you if you’d let yourself try with me.
“Even after you get hitched and pop out a few babies?” He met her gaze, pinning her to the spot with his thoughtful expression.
Something she couldn’t name crossed his face.
“Well, thank you for marrying me off and knocking me up.”
“What? We both know you’re dying to have kids.”
“With the right man…someday, yes. At this point, I’ve never had a relationship make it to the one year mark. I’m a lot to handle, and it’s going to take one hell of a man to get me even half as well as you do.” She willed him to finally see what was in front of him. They were a key and lock, made to fit and always working in tandem. It was a rarity.
“We’re not getting any younger, Ave. That day is coming around the corner.”
Unless you step up to the plate. She glanced out the window, afraid he would see the longing in her eyes. Maybe he’s trying to tell me we are never going to happen and I need to move on without him. And my ass is too stupid to realize it. “I don’t feel the crush of age the way you do. I think it’ll happen organically. Life has a way of putting you on the right path eventually. For now, I’m in love with my life. I love my vintage two-bedroom apartment in the charming historic building. The freedom of being a freelancer, and the point I’ve reached in my career. Why borrow trouble worrying about what may or may not happen?”
“Just like that?” Enzo snapped.
“No, it’s a conscious choice I make daily. You know I live in my head. I’ve been in the dark before…really deep. I’m trying not to return there. I didn’t like it much the first time.”
Enzo nodded and shoveled a spoonful of oats into his mouth. He was a brooding thinker, her creative best friend. Most only saw the successful tattoo artist with a hot bod, and what they took for a short fuse. While he might have some anger issues about certain events, he never flew off the handle or did anything impulsive. He was a brooder. A deep thinking individual who camouflaged his sensitivity with humor, crassness, and walls.
She’d scaled them one by one over the years, but an unbreakable obstacle remained. She forced herself to eat her breakfast. Times like this, it was best to let the silence remain between them. His birthdate was always rough. She never really understood why he wanted her with him. He never went into detail, simply saying it made him feel better.
She was a sucker that way, not wanting to bring up painful memories of his past. Maybe I should practice tough love? How could she when the majority of his formative years had been hell? The things that happened to you in the first five years shaped your life forever, she knew that more than most.
They finished their meal, and she took the plates away, washing them by hand to give herself time to figure out how to best approach him.
“So what movie are we starting with?” she asked, wiping the kitchen island down. The horror movie marathon had grown legendary. People would show up with birthday offerings, popcorn, candy, and snacks. He celebrated the traditional way with family the day after his birthday. This day was just for them.
“The bloodier, the better,” he answered.
“Hmmm, classic or modern?”
He leaned in closer. “That depends on what you have in mind.”
“Dead Alive or Saw, the first film.”
“Hmmm. Dead Alive. I could use a bit of laughter with my gore.”
“Excellent choice. Morning margaritas?” she asked, quirking an eyebrow up.
He laughed. “Yeah right.”
She laughed with him and retrieved a bottle of scotch and two glass tumblers. Setting the personalized glasses onto the counter that she’d brought back from Ireland on a visit, she moved to the fridge for the ice. “You get the movie cued up, and I’ll be in a minute,” she said.
“On it.”
Aibhlinn then pulled out the plastic black ice tray and cracked the round ball of ice out of its mold. Setting one gently into a glass, she repeated the process, proud of the habits Enzo picked up from her. Her love of fine whiskey was another trait she’d inherited from her father. Back home, people took their drinks quite seriously. While her mother could drink with the best of them, she wasn’t as particular on her pick of poison.
She poured them both a healthy dollop and placed them—along with the bottle—onto a chocolate wood breakfast tray she’d bought. It was amazing how many of her touches she could see throughout his house. If she’d left it up to him, the place would still be a barren bachelor’s pad. The man could be his own worst enemy. It was like he didn’t believe he deserved happiness. She entered the room, set the tray on the black table in front of the couch, and sank onto the soft grey cushion.
“You ready?” he asked.
“Let the horrorathon begin,” she replied solemnly with a nod.
He snickered and pressed play.
As the movie began, she tucked her legs under her and leaned into his side. It was the only time she could get this close casually. His body exuded heat, and the scent of something dark and delicious seeped from his pores. She knew the brand of body wash he used, but it was something about his chemistry that turned the scent into an indescribable buffet for the senses. Content, she let herself get lost in the movie.
“The nineties gave us such great one liners,” Enzo noted as the priest showed off his ninja assassin skills while claiming to kick ass for the Lord.
She laughed. “Well, yeah, but so did Peter Jackson. He’s a special kind of sick and twisted, though he hides it well these days. I mean, Meet the Feebles?”
“Truth. I’d like to see him do another horror movie.”
“It’ll never happen. He knows where his bread and butter lies,” she said.
“That’s the double edge sword of fame I suppose. When you’re just making a name, you’re not expected to do anything in particular. The world is your playground, and the only limitation is your imagination. Then you get recognition, get labeled, and wind up stuck in a box. He’s still making Lord of the Ring films how many years later?”
“I don’t know, he has a cult film following, too, though. That’s something to be proud of. Plus, there was District 9. That was a step back toward those movies where he really flexed his creative muscles and stepped ‘outside of the box’,” she said using air quotes.
“Yeah, that’s true. I forgot about that one. I actually liked it a lot.”
“I know. I did, too.” She smiled up at him.
“Well, you do tend to have pretty good taste.”
“Shut up, I’m awesome,” she retorted.
“Yeah, you are. Thanks for hanging with me.”
“Hey, traditions are meant to be kept,” she replied, careful to keep things light.
They returned their attention to the movie, and she allowed herself to enjoy his closeness.
A knock sounded on the door halfway through the movie.
Enzo pressed pause. “Got to be Rhys. No one else gets up this early.”
“I’ll get it,” Aibhlinn said, eager to put some distance between the two of them. It was a little too easy to pretend things between them could be romantic behavior. She peered out the window above the door and grinned at the sight of the blond male with green eyes. The baby of the brothers, he had a lightheartedness about him. She opened the door. “Rhys.”
“Aibhlinn,” Rhys cried, sweeping her up into his arms.
“I told you about treating her like a doll,” Enzo barked from the couch.
Aibhlinn giggled.
“Should we royally piss him off, then?” Rhys asked.
She nodded her head.
“When are you going to let me make an honest woman out of you?” Rhys asked, loud enough for Enzo to hear.
“I don’t know. What do you have to offer?” Aibhlinn asked in a sultry voice.
“Okay, seriously?” Enzo grumbled.
She and Rhys laughed.
“What? I only came here to see Aibhlinn,” Rhys defended.
“No way, man, it’s my day. Get your own girl,” Enzo growled.
Rhys’ eyes widened.
Aibhlinn quickly looked away, ignoring the blood that rushed to her face.
“I am,” Rhys said.
“Pain in my ass,” Enzo stated as his voice drew near. He entered the living room and scowled at his brother who held out a bag.
“Don’t shoot the messenger. It’s from Mom.”
“And she told you to bring it to me at the ass crack of dawn?” Enzo asked.
“She said first thing, and then proceeded to call me to make sure.”
“What is it?” Enzo asked.
“No clue, bro. She gave it to me last night when I was over there for dinner. Happy womb liberation day.”
“Thanks,” Enzo grumbled.
“Well, I’ll let you two do whatever it is you do when you’re together,” Rhys said.
Enzo rolled his eyes. “I’m starting to think you have a crush on my girl for real,” Enzo accused, wrapping his arm around her shoulder.
“All I’m saying is, Netflix and Chill has led to many babies, so please be safe,” Rhys teased.
Enzo stepped forward.
Rhys moved back, laughing. “I’m headed to the gym now. I got an early appointment that’ll take a good chunk of my day up.”
“Where do they want it?” Enzo asked.
“A back piece. Luckily, it’s not their first. I always cringe when first times come in and try to do a back piece in one sitting.” Rhys shook his head.
Enzo snorted. “Call me if you need anything.”
“We won’t, and if we do, I’m calling Noah. It’s your day.” Rhys and Enzo fist bumped. “See you soon, pretty girl,” Rhys said, giving her a hug before he disappeared out the door.
She spun around. “Open the bag.”
He laughed and removed the red tissue paper. “Oh, man, she did good.” He pulled out a bulky box set. “We are watching Kill Bill next.”
She leaned in and read the description. It was a gift set featuring Quentin Tarantino’s best and bloodiest. “I love your mom. She’s so cool.”
“Trust me, the feeling is mutual with your mom. Come on, let’s finish our movie before we’re interrupted again.” Enzo led her back into the living room.
Once again, she was lost to her thoughts of what if. Enzo was the sun. She had no choice but to keep circling him.
We fight it down, and we live it down, or we bear it bravely well,
But the best men die of a broken heart for the things they cannot tell.
“Things We Dare Not Tell” ~Henry Lawson
Translations:
A leanbuh (uh LAN-uv): My child
Shyla Colt grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio, but has lived a variety of different places thanks to her wanderlust, interesting careers, and marriage to a United States Marine. She's always loved books and wrote her very first novel at the age of fifteen. She keeps a copy of her first submission letter on her desk for inspiration. After a lifetime of traveling, she settled down and knew her time had come to write. Diving into her new career like she does everything else, with enthusiasm, research and a lot of prayers, she had her first book published in June of 2011. As a full-time writer, stay at home mother, and wife, there's never a dull moment in her household.She weaves her tales in spare moments and the evenings with a cup of coffee or tea at her side and the characters in her head for company. A self-professed rebel with a pen. Her goal is to diversify romance as she continues to genre hop, and offer up strong female characters.
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