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Captured in Paint

Captured in Paint by Ann M. Miller

Word Count: 63,815 Book Length: NOVEL Pages: 234 Genres: CONTEMPORARY, FANTASY, ROMANCE, YOUNG ADULT, YOUNGER READERS

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Book Description

Paintings can stir emotions, but for Julia, emotions bring paintings to life…literally. Ice Princess. That’s what the kids at St Peter’s High call seventeen-year-old Julia Parsons, the girl who doesn’t show emotion. But that all changes when Julia loses the protection of her late mother’s charmed necklace, and the emotions that have been locked deep inside her are unleashed. Now, after years of priding herself on being calm, cool and collected, Julia is forced to accept two life-altering revelations—she can feel just as deeply as any other teen and her emotions can make paintings come alive. As Julia struggles to control her ability, she discovers that her boyfriend, Nick, is trapped inside a mural that she herself created. She enters the wintry world to save him before it’s painted over but quickly realises that a mysterious force is keeping Nick tethered to the work of art. Unless Julia can learn how to harness the power of her new and unfamiliar emotions, they won’t make it out of the painting alive. Reader advisory: This book contains scenes of underage characters drinking and using strong language, as well as a brief reference to smoking.

Excerpt

Luke Mercer’s eyes latched onto mine as he strode into history class. I looked down quickly, but I could still feel his gaze. It wasn’t like the sympathetic and curious looks my other classmates gave me. At least they had the decency to seem embarrassed when I caught them glancing my way. Luke had been watching me with cool disdain, his blue eyes never wavering. He paused as he passed by my desk. I kept my eyes on my notebook, willing him to sit down. “Please take your seat, Luke,” Ms. Davis said. He uttered a low, sarcastic laugh and slid into a desk in the next row over. Luke had transferred from Westdale Collegiate to St. Peter’s High for grade twelve, but it was mid-September and he’d only started attending classes two days earlier. People were saying it was because he’d just gotten out of juvie. I hunched over my notebook, intent on ignoring him. As I doodled with my right hand, the fingers of my left automatically lifted to touch the silver chain that always hung around my neck. My fingertips only grazed bare skin. Letting out a sharp gasp, I fumbled with my collar, but I still couldn’t feel the chain. I dropped my pen and frantically ran both hands over the front of my shirt, hoping my locket had just fallen off and got snagged in the material. It hadn’t. I bent over and searched my backpack. It wasn’t there, either. Somewhere between home and school, I’d lost the locket. How could I not have noticed? It was one of the few things I had left that tied me to my mother, and now it was gone—maybe forever, just like her. As the thought crossed my mind, my chest tightened in a way it never had before, squeezing until I felt like I was going to explode. A lump rose in my throat, and I was struck by the overwhelming urge to cry. I never cried. I’d always been good at keeping my emotions in check. Even in the days and weeks following the fire, I hadn’t shed a tear. It was like this wall of numbness surrounded me, keeping me from really feeling. Now, with the discovery of the missing locket, that wall had come crashing down. With my heart thumping wildly against my ribcage, I barely noticed when Principal Tobin came on the PA. For a couple of minutes, his voice sounded far away as he read through a list of announcements. But then his tone changed, taking on a sombre note that made me sit up a little straighter. “And now I have a very important piece of news to cap off today’s announcements. As you all know, we lost one of our students this past summer. Nicholas Allen was a bright, motivated young man who was honoured with a Young Humanitarian Award for his fundraising campaign for victims of the Alberta floods. He also…” No! I screamed in my head. Don’t talk about him. But, of course, Mr. Tobin couldn’t hear my silent plea. He kept talking about my dead boyfriend, listing his achievements like a proud father. Suddenly I couldn’t breathe. Something was lodged in my windpipe, cutting off all my air. “And now,” the principal continued, “Nicholas’ parents are collaborating with the Red Cross to set up a scholarship fund in his memory. If you would like more information, you can contact…” I’d known about the scholarship because Mrs. Allen had called to tell me about it before school had started. But I had not been expecting to hear about it over the PA today. Hadn’t been expecting Nick’s name to be boomed out across the school just as I was trying to keep it together in the wake of losing my locket. Talk about a double whammy. I needed the wall again, needed to build it back up and use it as a buffer against the flood of emotions. But the pieces of that wall lay at my feet, and I didn’t know how to put them back together. I couldn’t ignore the images of Nick that popped into my head—tall, lean, handsome Nick with the crooked smile and caramel-brown eyes that could send butterflies skittering through my stomach, even after two years of dating. But I would never see that smile again. He was gone, just like my mother. Just like the locket. Stop it, I commanded myself, desperate to put an end to the chain of despondent thoughts. You can beat this. My mother had taught me some techniques to use if my emotions started to run rampant—simple things like taking slow, deep breaths, counting to ten or recalling a happy memory…affirmations. I’d never had to use any of them…until now. I took a series of deep breaths and hoped that I would find my equilibrium. But the deep sadness and regret only grew, pouring over me in waves as Nick’s face floated in my mind’s eye. My face grew warm. The walls of the classroom were closing in on me. I desperately wished I was somewhere else, somewhere I could be alone, where I could breathe in lungfuls of fresh air. An image of a field of poppies began to take shape in my mind. I didn’t have time to wonder where it had come from because a wave of dizziness struck me. Black spots flitted across my vision, and the classroom began to spin. I closed my eyes. “Are you all right, Julia?” The concerned voice of my history teacher reached me through the dizziness. When I opened my eyes, the spinning sensation stopped as suddenly as it had begun. My racing heart started to slow as I fixed my eyes on Ms. Davis. I took another deep breath, and this time I was able to push back the grief that had nearly consumed me. “I’m fine, Ms. Davis,” I said. My voice was loud and clear, but my hands were shaking. I wasn’t sure what was worse—the fact that the layer of numbness had been peeled back, exposing my emotions…or feeling like I was going to faint. What was wrong with me today? The eyes of my classmates burned into the back of my head. Whispers swirled around me. They were gossiping about the fire, of course, wanting to know more, wondering how I was. They could wonder all they wanted, though. I wasn’t talking about it. “Quiet, please,” Ms. Davis said. She waited for the whispers to die down then cleared her throat. “Today we’re going to start by talking about the St. Peter’s Mining Disaster of 1938. Does anyone know what happened?” “It was a methane gas explosion, right?” Tina Myers answered. “It killed most of the miners.” “That’s right. And what was the significance of the disaster?” “Uh, a lot of people died?” piped up Ron Freeman, the school’s track-and-field star. He was swift on the track but not so much in the classroom. Laughter rang through the room. Ms. Davis sighed. “Other than that, Mr. Freeman. What was the significance of the event in terms of a historical context?” Emily Saunders shot her hand up. “Yes, Emily.” “It meant the end of the iron ore industry in St. Peter’s.” “Exactly. After that—” “Actually,” Scott Reese cut in, “I think the real significance is that the survivors went nuts.” There was a collective groan from the class. “Come on, you guys. You all know the stories. They saw some pretty crazy things as they ran out of the mine.” Emily tossed her red hair. “They were probably delusional.” Ron scratched his head thoughtfully. “They were all delusional? I don’t know, Em. I kinda think the stories might be true.” “Yeah,” Scott said with a smirk. “Stories about miners disappearing in a cloud of dust—and not because of the explosion.” “Stories about someone using freaky magic down in the mines!” someone else chimed in. Ms. Davis held up a hand. “All right, that’s enough. Let’s stick with the facts, please.” I listened to the exchange without participating. It wasn’t like I didn’t have anything to say about the mining disaster. After all, my own grandfather—who’d died before I was born—had survived the explosion. And according to Mom, he’d always insisted the rumours about unexplained phenomena were just that—rumours. I could have contributed this information, but the last thing I wanted to do was prolong a debate about death and tragedy. I was dealing with enough of that in my own life. Still feeling a bit unsteady, I shifted in my seat. As I did so, my elbow struck my pen and knocked it to the floor. I twisted in my seat to retrieve it, but the girl who sat in the desk behind me had already scooped it up. She handed it to me with a sympathetic smile. I murmured my thanks and was about to turn around. That’s when I noticed Luke watching me from the next row, three desks down. His ice-blue eyes locked onto mine again. Hi, Julia, he mouthed. I frowned at him. He smiled, but his eyes remained cool. I faced forward, anger bubbling in my chest as I focused on my notebook again. Soon the page in front of me was covered with the same line, written over and over in small, neat letters. Stay in control. The bell rang, signalling the end of class. I stood, stuffed my notebook in my backpack and hurried from the classroom. In the hallway, I pushed through a throng of students, anxious to get to my locker. “Jules!” My best friend, Roxy Butler, hurried up and threw her arms around me. “Hey, Rox.” As she gave me a squeeze, some of my tension fell away. “A bunch of us are going to Tony’s for lunch. Please say you’ll come with.” I shook my head, slinging my backpack over my shoulder. “I can’t. I’ve got some stuff to do.”

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About the Author

Ann M. Miller

Ann Miller writes young adult novels about first loves, family secrets, and magic. She grew up in Nova Scotia, Canada, where the local bookmobile fed her diet of Nancy Drew mysteries, Sweet Valley High books, and Stephen King horror. After graduating from the University of King’s College, she moved to Newfoundland, an island that makes up for its unforgiving climate with beautiful coastlines and majestic icebergs. When she’s not reading or writing, Ann can be found spending time with her husband and son, or binge watching Netflix while curled up with the two four-legged members of her family. Captured in Paint is her first novel, and she has several more in the works. Take a look at Ann’s website.

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Book Blitz

Stolen Hearts by Molly O’Keefe

Stolen Hearts
Molly O’Keefe
Publication date: January 12th 2021
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance

The flare of a cigarette, the sound of a stranger’s voice, and the handsome Irishman in the shadows–I wanted it all, but I wasn’t allowed to want.

Ronan was danger and beauty, murder and mercy. To me, he was a mystery, but he was also the only man who ever knew me.

In that single stolen moment before I had to give my life to someone else, I imagined myself with him, the man with scars and bruises. The one who knew what hurting meant far more than I did at that time.

Instead I was given to another man, one who broke my soul right along with my bones.

Through it all, there was always that memory of the man in the shadows, the one who said–not in words–that I was strong, that I could endure, that I was more than just a princess in a ballgown.

Now Ronan is the only man who could keep me safe from two warring families that wanted my blood. The spark that started two years ago burned brighter with each touch, each glance, each kiss. He woke me from the nightmare, giving me life with soft touches and sharp words.

Two years ago, Ronan gave me strength, but he took something in return. I never gave him my heart, but hearts like mine are made to be stolen.

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EXCERPT:

Speechless, I gaped at him as he stepped into the elevator. The doors closed behind him, shrinking the square footage around us to absolutely nothing. I stepped back into the furthest corner of the elevator.

“What are you doing?” I asked. It was ingrained, being frantic alone with a man that wasn’t Jim.

“Are you all right?” he asked, reaching for my elbow. And I absolutely flailed away from him so he wouldn’t touch me.

“I’m fine,” I said, embarrassed down to my core.

“You’re a terrible liar.” He dropped his hand without actually touching me, and I’d never been so relieved and disappointed in my life.

I laughed, low in my throat because he had no idea what a liar I could be.

He reached behind his back and pressed the button that stopped the elevator. We lurched to a halt, and I braced myself against the wall behind me so I wouldn’t bounce into him.

“What are you doing?” I cried.

“Why are you upset?”

“Because you are like . . . kidnapping me?”

“Kidnapping?” His grin was . . . well, it was something. And I didn’t like it. I didn’t like how it made me feel. “Are you all right, Poppy?”

“Stop pretending you care!”

“Someone should care,” he said, quietly. “Someone should care about you, Princess.”

Oh god. Oh god.

“And you think you’re the man to do that?” Why did I say that? He was making a mess of me with his concern and proximity. I was unused to both. “Never mind. I don’t care.”

“Do you want me to?”

“Of course not.”

“Such a liar today. It’s hard to believe you’re the same girl I met at that party.”

“Because I’m not,” I snapped. He leaned a shoulder against the wall. Like we were two people chatting at a bar. A party. Any two people.

“Why are you upset, Poppy?”

I stared at his shirt. The white dress shirt, sleeves rolled up. The neck loose like he’d been working hard at something, but I couldn’t imagine what this man worked hard at. “My husband died,” I said, because I hadn’t figured out why I was really upset.

“That’s why you’re near tears, running from Caroline’s office?”

“Of course.”

His grin was a direct shot to my chest. “What am I supposed to do with a girl with so many lies in her mouth?”

There was something . . . maybe the way he said mouth. Or the way he was looking at me. The tiny elevator. Any of it. All of it. But I got this sense, this very real sense that what he wanted to do to me was dirty.

And I could count the number of times I’d thought of something dirty in the last two years on one hand.

But at this moment, locked in an elevator with Ronan whose last name I didn’t know, I imagined, in one white-hot second, him pushing me up against the wall. Stepping up tight against me. That lethal body of his pressed to mine.

A blush incinerated my face. My neck.

“Oh, what are you thinking?” he asked. His voice low. His smile a charming twist. “What dark thing am I doing to you in your mind?”

I swallowed, and he grinned like he was relishing my discomfort, and I realized that I was a toy to him, the same way I’d been a toy to my husband. It was just a different game.

“Make the elevator go,” I said. The blush on my neck was gone, though that thought I’d had would haunt me.

“Tell me what you were thinking.”

“That you only want to hurt me, like everyone else.”

Something in him shifted; some unseen darkness leapt in his eyes. His face. But his expression didn’t change.

I gave him no time for more sarcasm or false concern. Some half-baked flirtation for the pitiful widow. I reached past him, ignoring the warmth of his body and the smell of his skin and pressed the button that made the elevator resume its descent. Within seconds the door was open, and I walked around him towards freedom. Part of me expected him to follow. My husband was always going to have the last word. There was no situation where I was allowed to walk away.

But then, I was oddly disappointed when Ronan didn’t.

My driver, of course, was waiting for me, back door open, and I knew that Justin had called him and told him I was on my way down. I slipped into my seat, and the door slammed behind me. When I turned, before the car drove off, I saw Ronan standing there. On the sidewalk, Caroline’s building behind him, the madness of Manhattan spinning around him like he was the untouched, unmoved center of everything.

Ronan.

He didn’t wave or take the ten steps it would take to open my car door and pull me out, and I was both relieved and upset that he didn’t. Feeling foolish followed, of course, it always did. But still he stood there, looking at me, studying me through the glass of the door. Through the span of the two years and two other times we’d seen each other.

My pulse hammered in my throat – and it wasn’t fear. It wasn’t anything but the normal violence of being alive. Very alive.

“Where to, ma’am?” Theo asked.

“The nearest hot dog cart,” I said, and we pulled away from the curb.

Author Bio:

M. O’Keefe is the darker, more dangerous pen name of bestselling author Molly O’Keefe. She is the USA Today Bestselling author of the Everything I Left Unsaid series and the upcoming Stolen Hearts. To find out more visit http://www.molly-okeefe.com.

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Hard Code by Misha Bell

Hard Code
Misha Bell
Publication date: January 12th 2021
Genres: Adult, Comedy, Contemporary, Romance

My new assignment at work: test out toys. Yup, that kind.

Well, technically, it’s to test the app that controls the toys remotely.

One problem? The showgirl who’s supposed to test the hardware (as in, the actual toys) joins a nunnery.

Another problem? This project is important to my Russian boss, the broody, mouthwateringly sexy Vlad, a.k.a. The Impaler.

There’s only one solution: test both the software and the hardware myself… with his help.

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EXCERPT:

Chapter One

“You hired a hooker to test a bunch of sex toys?”

“Use your inside voice!” I hiss at Ava, my face burning as I scan the other Starbucks patrons waiting in line with us. Most have headphones plugged into their ears and are lost inside their phones, but still. What if someone overhears?

She grins mischievously and lowers her voice to the closest thing to a whisper she’s capable of. “Only if you spill all the gory details.”

“Fine. First and foremost, Dominika is not a hooker. She’s a showgirl.”

“Wait.” Ava’s amber eyes glint impishly. “Is this the ‘showgirl ’from the strip club Voldemort dragged you to in Prague? The one who violated the nuns on stage?”

“She was playing the role of a succubus. They weren’t real nuns.”

Her reminder of He Who Must Not Be Named—a.k.a. my ex—only increases my discomfort. I went to that club to prove to Bob that I wasn’t a prude, but he broke up with me anyway.

Ava knows me well, which is why she launches into something guaranteed to distract me. Raising her voice an octave, she says, “I’m surprised the Rockettes aren’t putting on a show like that for Christmas. One of them could penetrate a faux nun with a strap-on, another with a fist—”

“Hush!” My cheeks are hot enough to make an omelet on them. “I needed someone with experience using sex toys, so I hired her, okay?”

“Uh-huh.” Ava steps forward as the line moves. “For your new QA project.”

I cast another furtive glance around us. “Like I said, I’m testing an app for a teledildonics company.”

“Teledildonics,” she repeats, savoring the word. “The prefix tele refers to long distance; the suffix onics means pertaining to, and the root is dildo… as in the thing I’ve been convincing you to try.” Her voice grows louder. “Are we talking about long-distance dildos?”

As I cringe, I make a mental vow: I will get her back for this. She will rue this day.

“Precisely.” I’m proud of how even my voice is. “The app I’ll be testing lets one user control a device being utilized by another user over the internet.”

“Sure. Sure.” She makes her face look serious. “To put that in layman’s terms: a dildo will go into Dominika in Prague, and you will make her come with the app from New York.”

At this point, it’s not just my treacherous cheeks that are red—my ears are too. “It’s called end-to-end testing. It needs to be as close to the way the product is going to be used in the real world as possible.”

“Or rear-end testing.” She waggles her eyebrows suggestively. When I pointedly turn my back to her, she laughs and says, “Isn’t that basically having sex with Dominika? After paying her? How is she not a hooker then?”

The reality is actually worse. Dominika and her boyfriend will be participating in the testing, but I’m not telling Ava this now. Or maybe ever. “Fine. She’s not just a showgirl. Happy now?”

“Hey.” She finally lowers her voice. “I have nothing against the world’s oldest profession. If I hadn’t already wasted years on medical school, and if all the johns were hot and STDs didn’t exist, I’d sign up. At least if it paid well and I wasn’t dating anyone. Especially if I was as orgasm-deprived as you. Come to think of it—”

Thankfully, it’s our turn to order now. She gets enough caffeine to send a rhino bouncing off the walls, and I request my venti chamomile tea in the hopes of calming down before the meeting I’ve been dreading.

We step aside to wait for our drinks, and Ava grins like the Grinch. “So, back to teledildonics.”

Before I can shush her again, he comes in.

I forget what I was about to say. I forget to breathe.

Carved features that remind me equally of Greek gods and angels, eyes the deep blue hue of a lapis lazuli stone, framed by stylish horn-rimmed glasses. Lips that beg to be kissed. Shaggy jet-black hair, with a stray strand that falls in the middle of his face and just begs me to walk over and brush it back—which I’d have to reach high to do because he’s at least a foot taller than me. Despite the warm weather, he’s dressed in a black trench coat with a black shirt underneath, an outfit that accentuates the powerful breadth of his shoulders and—

“Earth to Fanny.” Ava’s voice intrudes into my oxytocin-addled brain.

I spin around before she realizes I was checking out Hottie McDark. Knowing her, she’d push me at him, or nag me into starting a conversation, or do a million other things that would embarrass me straight into a panic attack.

Someone like me and a guy that hot do not mix.

Before she can resume pestering me about teledildonics within possible earshot ofHottie McDark, I preemptively jam my hand into my pocket and pull out one of my most treasured possessions—my phone, a.k.a. Precious. “You have to see the app I created,” I tell Ava and steal a glance behind me.

Did Hottie McDark’s eyebrows lift at the mention of an app?

Nah. Nor, despite appearances, is he looking at me right now. He’s probably studying the menu board directly behind me.

“Okay…” Ava sounds as enthusiastic as I do when she shares a horribly gross story about her residency in the ER. “It lets you cartoon yourself, right?”

“Nope.” I bring up the app and stare proudly at the crisp user interface that I toiled over for months. “It tells you which cartoon character you most resemble.”

“Potato potahto. But I’ll bite. Who do I look like?”

Feeling a little naughty, I position her just right and snap an image with the app. Except I aim the camera at Hottie McDark instead of Ava—and the app promptly brings up a cartoon character: Clark Kent from Superman, the animated series.

I can see that. That strand of hair, the glasses, and the chiseled features do match. The evil genius of this move is that the app also stores the original photo, so I could, should I wish, backward search from the image to, say, his social media profile.

Assuming I wanted to become a stalker, that is.

Before Ava catches on, I aim the camera at her and snap another pic.

“You’re Belle.” I show her the doe-eyed, brown-haired image on the phone. “From Beauty and the Beast.”

“Tale as old as time,” she singsongs. “I guess that’s a compliment. Can I do you?”

“Be our guest.” I thrust the phone into her hands, mostly because I want to see if she can figure out how to use the app without my help.

To my great relief, she figures it out on the fly. This isn’t as good as a grandmother test, but close. I had to teach Ava how to program her universal remote control.

When the app gives her the result, she chuckles. “Snow White. Is it always a Disney Princess?”

“Not always.”

“I bet it’s your easy-to-blush pale cheeks.” She examines me closely. “Or the round face.”

I sneak another peek at Hottie McDark. “I’m just glad it’s not one of the seven dwarves.”

“Oh yeah, put a beard on you, and you’d be a dead ringer for Bashful.”

I cringe. Her voice is the loudest it’s been yet; the guy would have to be deaf not to notice us at this point. “Please keep it down.”

“Sorry.” She hands me my phone back. “Are you going to make any money on this app?”

I glance at the time to make sure I’m not running late before I pocket Precious. “The app is free. I even made it opensource, so anyone can take and use my code however they wish.”

“Is it for that promotion you want, then?”

I shrug. “Not a promotion, a lateral move. The app was to prove to myself that I have what it takes to be a developer. Now I just need to make the people at work believe in me too, or at least value me enough to give me a chance to switch departments.”

In the corner of my eye, I see Hottie McDark placing his order, which means if we don’t get our drinks soon, he’ll be standing close enough for me to smell him.

Or touch.

Or—

“And this smart sex toys project will help?” Ava asks, again speaking too loudly for my comfort.

“Our company owner himself wrote the app. That makes the testing as high profile as it gets.” I strain to hear what the guy is ordering but only make out the word tea—and it’s nice to know there’s another sucker out there willing to pay a huge premium for a bag of dried leaves.

“And said owner is the infamous Vlad the Impaler, right?” She says the name with relish.

“That’s what the rumor mill at the office calls him. I’m sure he’s Mr. Vladimir Chortsky to his face.”

“Or Master,” she says in her best Renfield voice. “And you’re meeting him today? Shouldn’t there be garlic around your neck, or a cross inside your panties?”

I chuckle nervously. “They do say he never sleeps. Or at least he answers emails at any time, day or night.”

Ava makes a swoony face. “Does he glitter?”

“I’ll find out today.” Hottie McDark is now walking our way, so it takes everything I have to keep my cool. “I checked out his code for this app, and it was very elegant and inventive—appropriate for a centuries-old creature of the night. My boss, Sandra, also told me that when he writes something, he doesn’t work with the development team, yet the resulting apps never have any bugs—”

“How not thrilling.” Ava exaggeratingly yawns. “What I want to know is: Has he impaled any female employees?”

Sensual notes of tangerine and bergamot waft into my nostrils.

Someone’s tea or Hottie McDark’s cologne? He’s now right next to me, so close that I don’t dare look at him lest I melt into a puddle. My heart hammers unevenly, and I can feel a new wave of hot color washing into my cheeks.

“Fanny. Ava.” The barista slams our drinks on the counter.

Perfect. Before Ava can further embarrass me in front of Hottie McDark, I snatch my drink, thrust hers into her hand, and drag her out of the Starbucks by her elbow.

“I have to go to work,” I say when we get outside. Right away, the deafening honking of taxis fills my ears. We’re across the street from Battery Park, with the Statue of Liberty visible in the distance.

Ava pecks me on the cheek. “Good luck. And if the Impaler turns you into a vampire, you must do the same to me as soon as you can. I can steal us blood bags from the hospital.”

I sneak a final longing glance at Hottie McDark through the tinted glass. “You better be on your best behavior, or I’ll just make you my blood whore instead.”

She laughs as she walks away, and I sprint to the nearby skyscraper and ride the elevator to my company’s floor.

Exiting, I survey my surroundings. Binary Birch, the plaque on the wall states in a very serious-looking font. The cold utilitarian nature of the modern décor hasn’t changed since I was here for my in-person interviews a few months back. No game rooms or sleeping nooks like they might have at other, hipper software companies—not with the Impaler at the helm.

The people around me are mostly strangers. The company policy is that everyone has the option of working remotely if they wish, so I’ve been working from home and communicating with the office via email, instant messenger, and occasionally, a teleconferencing app.

I pull out Precious and check the time. Ten minutes until I have to brave the Impaler’s office.

Sipping my tea, I jump on the Wi-Fi and check my messages.

Sandra, the QA manager and my direct boss, wants to see me if I have the time.

I head into the maze of cubicles. Since she’s one of the few people I know by sight, I locate her quickly and knock on the glass wall of her cube.

“Hi, Sandra,” I say when she tears her gaze from her screen.

“Oh, hey, Fanny. There you are.” With a prim smile, she stands up and leads us to a small meeting room.

“So,” she says, not meeting my gaze as we sit down across from each other. “I just wanted to double check… You’re okay with the eccentric testing project you’re about to undertake, right?”

“I am,” I state as confidently as I can fake it.

I know why she keeps asking. The last thing the company wants is for me to file a sexual harassment suit over this, or for me to say that I’m not cool with it when I speak to the Impaler, thus making her, my manager, look like an idiot.

“I’m glad,” she says, and we quickly go over the project I’ve just finished testing, an app that works with a wristband fitness tracker.

She smiles when I tell her that I even lost a few pounds thanks to all the walking to test the pedometer functionality.

Then it’s time for the meeting I’ve been dreading, and Sandra leads me to the only non-glass-walled office on the floor.

According to some jokes, the Impaler doesn’t like the light, and according to others, he needs the privacy to make his kills in peace.

“Want me to take that?” Sandra asks, worriedly eyeing my almost empty cup.

“No drinks allowed in there?” I ask.

She darts a nervous glance at the door. “I better take it.”

As I hand her the cup, my previously steady hand begins to tremble.

How scary can our glorious leader be?

“Keep me in the loop.” Sandra opens the door for me.

Feeling like a lamb going to the proverbial slaughter, I shuffle into the Impaler’s lair—and before I can catch sight of the man himself, my manager helpfully closes the door behind me, like a vampire’s minion springing a trap.

Soft music is vibrating the airwaves in here. In the Hall of the Mountain King byEdvard Grieg—a fitting melody to get exsanguinated to.

I catch a whiff of tangerine and bergamot, and my stomach drops.

Can’t be.

I turn around.

Illuminated by the bluish light of a large monitor is the gorgeous face of the stranger I was just drooling over at Starbucks.

Even his tea is here, on his spotlessly clean desk.

“Hello, Ms. Pack,” Vlad the Impaler says with a slight Transylvanian accent. “Good to finally meet you.”


Author Bio:

I love writing humor (often the inappropriate kind), happy endings (both kinds), and characters quirky enough to be called oddballs (because… balls). If you love your romance heavy on the comedy and feel-good vibes, visit mishabell.com and sign up for my newsletter.

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Pas de Trois by Brynn Ford

Pas de Trois
Brynn Ford
(The Four Families, #3)
Publication date: January 12th 2021
Genres: Adult, Dark Romance, Romance

Blood taken requires blood given. But whose will spill?

The four families would seek retribution for the blood I spilled. They were coming for me and I couldn’t escape their wrath. But my master saved my life with unspoken promises of protection from their revenge. He was a man I thought I couldn’t trust, but I had no choice.

Secrets were about to be revealed that would change everything. Armed with the truth, I was ready to fight for a future with the man I loved that I never thought would be possible.

I was ready to fight for our freedom.

I was ready to take on power that didn’t exist before.

I was ready to transform from slave to queen and become the woman I had to be to survive.

There was more on the line now than ever before. Three lives hung in the balance. Decisions were being made about our fates for things that were beyond our control, but it was time for me to take destiny into my own hands.

There was hope for us where there was none before.

I would take it and run with it.

Content Warning: This book contains explicit sexual content, violence, and mature themes including scenes where consent is not sought or given. The author in no way condones such heinous acts, but rather seeks to immerse the reader in the true horror of the characters ’experience. This book also contains a traumatic birth scene. This is your trigger warning – reader discretion is advised.

Series Note: “Pas de Trois” is the third and final book in the Four Families trilogy. It is not a standalone and the books must be read in order. Start with book one—”Counts of Eight”—and then read book two—”Dance with Death”—before reading this book.

Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble / iBooks / Kobo / Google Play

EXCERPT:

I stand still at his side. I’m not entirely sure what I want to ask him, what I want to tell him, what I want to do to him. But I just have to stand still for a moment as it happens—as the power that he always held over me pours from him with each breath, mingling with the air between us.

With each uneven breath I take, some of his power seeps into my lungs, swirling like a storm and punching my heart with lightning bursts that fortify me, strengthen me, embolden me. Our eyes remain locked as I willingly and gratefully take that power from him. “Why?”

“Why what?”

Why did you choose me when I was eleven?

Why did you bring me partners you hated?

Why did you choose Ezra?

Why did you sell me?

Why did you risk everything to steal me back?

I take a step closer, knowing that he can hardly move, knowing that he can’t hurt me right now. “Why me? Why did you choose me to live this life of torment?”

I feel Ezra approach before I see him appear at my side. I hold up my hand to stop him because I need this exchange with Nikolai without interference, without the distracting pulse of Ezra’s pure goodness.

Nikolai lets a smirk curl up the corner of his lips. “You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”


Author Bio:

Brynn Ford is an independent author of romance in all of its beautiful and sensually taboo forms. She is a lover of the dark, twisted, and playful and strives to bring the unmentionable aspects of passionate romance into her stories.

Brynn resides in the Midwest with her husband and sons, whom she expects will someday be embarrassed by their mom’s books. When she isn’t obsessively writing, you may find her binge watching favorite shows while eating far too much junk food or fanatically reading, always seeking to lose herself in the emotional roller coaster of a damn good story.

She is quite the idealist, despite her fascination with the wicked and warped aspects of humanity. Some of her stories may run out of words before a happily ever after, but she’s a firm believer that her characters continue to live on outside the pages in the minds of her readers. Stories don’t end just because there aren’t anymore pages to turn.

Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Instagram / Bookbub


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Cover Reveal

Better Days (Portland Social Series #1) by Quinn Miller

Title: Better Days
Series: Portland Social Series #1
Author: Quinn Miller
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: February 2, 2021
Cover Design: Shannon Passmore @ Shanoff Designs



Jules
Heartbreak formed who I am. But my need for control keeps me here. I moved to Portland running from my memories. Yet I haven’t really made any new ones. However, one night at a newly opened bar and my controlled life gets a detour in the form of a handsome and broken man. I am already cracked, will Hunter’s love heal or hurt my already fragmented heart?

Hunter
The last thing I expected when I went to my friend’s new bar was to feel love for the first time. But Jules has walls so high around her I don’t know if what we have is strong enough to smash through them. I’ve run from my past to be the man I have created. I keep tight control of my life. Can I handle something as uncontrollable as love?









Ever since I can remember I have wanted to publish. I am a lover of Hallmark movies but always wished they weren’t so clean. I stumbled into the world of indie authors and discovered books that gave just want I wanted. Now I am continuing on and writing my own. Thank you for finding me and I am excited for the journey!



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Carnal Knowledge by Rachael Tamayo


 𝗔 𝘀𝗲𝗿𝗶𝗮𝗹 𝗸𝗶𝗹𝗹𝗲𝗿 𝗼𝗻 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗹𝗼𝗼𝘀𝗲 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗮 𝘄𝗼𝗺𝗮𝗻 𝗱𝗲𝘁𝗲𝗿𝗺𝗶𝗻𝗲𝗱 𝘁𝗼 𝗴𝗼 𝗱𝗼𝘄𝗻 𝗳𝗶𝗴𝗵𝘁𝗶𝗻𝗴. 𝗧𝗵𝗶𝘀 𝗻𝗲𝘄 𝗗𝗲𝗮𝗱𝗹𝘆 𝗦𝗶𝗻𝘀 𝗻𝗼𝘃𝗲𝗹 𝘄𝗶𝗹𝗹 𝗸𝗲𝗲𝗽 𝘆𝗼𝘂 𝗴𝗿𝗶𝗽𝗽𝗲𝗱 𝗹𝗮𝘁𝗲 𝗶𝗻𝘁𝗼 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗻𝗶𝗴𝗵𝘁.
#99c #Sale
→  𝐀𝐦𝐚𝐳𝐨𝐧 𝐔𝐒: https://amzn.to/2Tcoqd4
→  𝐀𝐥𝐥 𝐨𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐫 𝐥𝐢𝐧𝐤𝐬: books2read.com/deadlysins2
Six women are dead, and Wren Addison is the next victim on the SMS Killer’s list—or so she’s been told after waking in a pool of blood with no memory of the events that have transpired.
 
Newly separated and struggling to start her life over after her husband’s infidelity, Wren tries to remember what happened to her, but nothing is adding up as more horrors unfold around her.  With her life on a timer and the murderer taunting her, she realizes there is nothing typical about this serial killer.  
 
Wren is pushed to the edge as she dances between knowing she’s likely to die and fighting to be the first to survive.  As the truth starts to emerge, she rises to the challenge and decides not to go down without a fight.  
 
Someone is going to die, and she’s determined it won’t be her.
#RachaelTamayo #CK_sale #Thriller #TTPubs #standalone

Book Blitz

Wicked Liar by Faith Summers




Title: Wicked Liar
Series: Dark Syndicate #3
Author: Faith Summers
Genre: Dark Mafia Romance
Release Date: December 31, 2020


BLURB

Maybe it’s the angel who tempts the devil, not the other way around… 

Two years ago, the angel was mine. 
She didn’t belong with a mafia devil like me. 
All it took was one night for me to break her wings. 
She nearly died from my mistakes. 
So I left. 

I planned to stay away, but then my old enemies resurfaced. 
Forced to go home, I had to face her. 

One look and obsession made me want her. 
One forbidden kiss and I wanted her to be mine again. 
One night with her and I wanted redemption. 
She can fight me all she wants, but I’ll fight back to own her. 
I’m the selfish devil who will do anything to get his girl back. 
So when I see her in an auction, I bid. 

Fifteen million dollars makes her mine for thirty days. 
And that’s where our story truly begins. 
When the past and present collide, I find out she has dark secrets. 
As the secrets spill, nightmares come to life. 
We find out who the monsters and demons truly are. 
And they make me look like a saint… 

“Wicked Liar” is the third book in the Dark Syndicate series. It is a stand-alone Dark Mafia Friends to Enemies to Lovers Romance, complete with a HEA . 

Please note: this book is a dark mafia romance that contains mature content, graphic violence and may contain triggers. If such materials offend you, please do not read.



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AUTHOR BIO


Faith Summers is the Dark Contemporary Romance pen name of USA Today Bestselling Author, Khardine Gray.
Warning!! Expect wild romance stories of the scorching hot variety and deliciously dark romance with the kind of alpha male bad boys best reserved for your fantasies.
Dive in and enjoy her naughty page-turners.



AUTHOR LINKS




Book Blitz

Fetching by Kylie Gilmore

Fetching
Kylie Gilmore
(Unleashed Romance, #1)
Publication date: January 12th 2021
Genres: Adult, Comedy, Romance

He’s her knight in shining armor. Only she’s no damsel in distress.

Wyatt
I’m a self-made billionaire with a soft spot for damsels in distress, so when I move to the quirky lakeside community of Summerdale, I immediately zero in on the woman I most want to…ahem, rescue. Only the stubborn woman refuses to cooperate.

Sydney
When Satan, aka Wyatt Winters, moves to town, I do my best to be welcoming. After all, I’m the owner of the historic restaurant and bar that he keeps showing up at, despite criticizing nearly everything about it. Deep breath. I might’ve lost my cool and made a rude gesture in his direction. And told him off. How was I to know he was considering investing in my place?

Did I mention I’m in debt up to my eyeballs and every bank has turned me down?

Still, there’s not a snowball’s chance in hell I’d ever work with him. Or admit he fires me up in every way.

And then a snowstorm traps us together and—

I’m melting.

This romantic comedy stands alone with a swoonworthy happy-ever-after! No cliffhangers.

NOTE: A portion of Fetching’s book sales will go to Pets for Vets, a nonprofit that trains shelter dogs to be therapy companions for military veterans with PTSD.

Unleashed Romance Series
Fetching (Book 1)
Dashing (Book 2)
Sporting (Book 3)
Toying (Book 4)
Blazing (Book 5)

Goodreads / Bookbub / Amazon / Barnes & Noble / iBooks / Kobo

EXCERPT:

Sydney

Wyatt catches my eye. “Appetizers are good.”

Pleased that he finally said something positive about my place, I close the distance, stopping at his table. “Glad you’re enjoying them.”

He leans back in his chair. “Have you ever thought of upgrading the dinner menu?”

My temper flares, but I manage to keep a civil tone. “No. Locals love it.”

“Not saying it’s bad, just unoriginal. I mean, every meal comes with either French fries or baked potato. A new chef might bring some life to the place. Isn’t that what tonight’s fundraiser’s all about? Keeping this place open?” He taps the table. “With the right management, a better chef, this place has potential.”

I manage this place, and the chef is a family friend. I bare my teeth. “Seems you know a lot about the restaurant business.”

“Not at all. I just appreciate a good one.”

I jam my hands on my hips and glare at him. Obviously he thinks we’re a bad one! I’m so furious I can’t even speak.

He cocks his head. “Cindy, are you cross with me?”

“Who the hell do you think you are?” I snap. “Coming in here and insulting my place left and right! If you don’t like it, don’t come back.”

He arches a brow. “Since you own the place, maybe we could talk about some serious improvements. You don’t know what you don’t know, am I right?”

I bristle. “This place was my great-grandfather’s, passed down the generations, and now it’s mine.” I leave out that Drew is the one who actually inherited it and declared it a lost cause because of the debt dragging it down. I took it over rather than let him sell it. “It’s an institution in this town, and we’re doing just fine without your city snark. How dare you walk in here and spew your judgment over all of us!”

He smirks. “I don’t recall spewing.”

My heartbeat roars in my ears, anger clouding all good reason. I desperately want to smack that smirk off his face.

He gestures to his ale, which he barely touched. “I didn’t like this one. Could I get one of those local Connecticut ales you mentioned?”

I stare at his glass of ale. I want to throw it in his face and watch his shock as it drips down his beard, fancy sport coat, and dress shirt.

He chuckles. “That’s an evil look in your eye, Cindy. You’re thinking about dumping this drink on my head, aren’t you?”

How did he know? “Not at all,” I lie.

He leans close and smirks. “I dare you.”


Author Bio:

Kylie Gilmore is the USA Today bestselling author of the Unleashed Romance series, the Rourkes series, the Happy Endings Book Club series, the Clover Park series, and the Clover Park STUDS series. She writes humorous romance that makes you laugh, cry, and reach for a cold glass of water.

Kylie lives in New York with her family, two cats, and a nutso dog. When she’s not writing, reading hot romance, or dutifully taking notes at writing conferences, you can find her flexing her muscles all the way to the high cabinet for her secret chocolate stash.

Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Bookbub / Pinterest / Newsletter


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Cover Reveal

Life Interrupted by Daniele Lanzarotta


 

COVER REVEAL

LIFE INTERRUPTED by Daniele Lanzarotta

Releasing 11th May

Cover Design by Krys Janae

Blurb:

Never have I ever…

She has never lived a normal life outside of the dance studio. He has never fallen in love.

Levi O’Connor is trouble. At twenty-two, there are a few things that he was sure he would never do: go back home, and fall in love. After spending months on tour with his band and making bad decisions that landed him on the front cover of numerous tabloids, it is not until an incident happens at one of his shows that everything changes.

Riley Andrews is a picture of discipline and success. At eighteen, her life has been consumed by dancing. This summer, she is staying with a world-renowned ballet teacher who is preparing her for her dream school. Only, she is growing frustrated as her teacher is constantly pulled away to deal with news about her reckless son.

Levi and Riley’s lives are turned upside down when a global pandemic leads them in what they believe is their own personal hell.

Filled with drama, heartbreak, and romance, this is a story of love that may not have happened without tragedy.

PREORDER your copy TODAY! Amazon US: https://amzn.to/3oFrH1q Amazon UK: https://amzn.to/39jkZHK Amazon CA: https://amzn.to/3oFs2Be Amazon AU: https://amzn.to/3i6pSrB

Audiobook coming this Fall.

Add to TBR: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/54836562-life-interrupted

@danilanzarotta @dikshadikshu8