Saturday, September 23, 2017

Cover Reveal - Battle Scars by Jane Harvey-Berrick


 


AP new - synopsis.jpg
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From the dusty plains of Afghanistan to the sleek corridors of the New York Times, journalist MJ Buckman seeks the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. What she doesn’t expect to find is a man who’s her complete opposite … and fits her perfectly.

Marine Sergeant Jackson Connor knows that relationships don’t work for men in the military. He’s living proof of that. But when a steely-eyed temptress in a flak jacket, who carries her moral cause in front of her, crosses his path, he’s furious, curious, and all kinds of in-lust.

* * *
A grown-up love story about two people who aren’t looking for love, but realize how precious it is when they find it. They don’t play games and there are no stupid misunderstandings, just life standing in their way.

Can they compromise? And what does that look like in a modern relationship between two driven people?

Assignment Vs deployment.

They’re always traveling in different directions. What relationship can survive that?


Coming October 1st

Pre-order now
















AP  new -about the author.jpg


Jane is a writer of contemporary romance fiction, known for thoughtful stories, often touching on difficult subjects: disability (DANGEROUS TO KNOW & LOVE, SLAVE TO THE RHYTHM); mental illness (THE EDUCATION OF CAROLINE, SEMPER FI); life after prison (LIFERS); dyslexia (THE TRAVELING MAN, THE TRAVELING WOMAN).
She is also a campaigner for former military personnel to receive the support they need on leaving the services. She wrote the well-received play LATER, AFTER with former veteran Mike Speirs. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hk1CyB8c0xA )


Author Links



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Oh My Gee!! COVER REVEAL!! Southern Attraction by Kaylee Ryan




Title: Southern Attraction
Series: Southern Heart Series #3
Author: Kaylee Ryan
Genre: New Adult Romance
Cover Design: Perfect Pear Creative Covers
Photo: Furious Fotog
Release Date: TBC



Blurb

I had everything I ever wanted, living the dream, at least that's what I always thought. The night we met, we had an instant attraction, but she was with someone else. When we reunited a few months later, that pull was still there, stronger than ever. So strong, that even though she was hundreds of miles away, I perused her. I told myself that I just wanted to get to know her. Deep down I knew it was more.

I never understood the draw of living in the middle of nowhere. Born and raised a city girl, I never had the desire to leave. Who would have thought a weekend trip to the country would have me questioning myself? It was more than just the country; it's him. The way he looks at me, treats me, that smooth southern drawl.

Am I willing to give up my legacy for her?

Am I willing to give up my dream for him?

Can two souls come together by the force of Southern Attraction?






Also Available


AMAZON US / UK / CA / AU



AMAZON US / UK / CA / AU






Author Bio

Kaylee Ryan is a New York Times and USA Today Bestselling author.  When she’s not spinning tales of happily ever after, she’s reading or spending time with family.  Born and raised an Ohio girl, Kaylee resides in Cincinnati with her husband and their son.



Author Links

Friday, September 22, 2017

Solace by SL Scott - REVIEW AND RELEASE DAY!!


Title: Solace
Author: S.L. Scott
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: September 22, 2017
Synopsis

He puts the Bad in bad boy.
She puts the Sweet in sweetheart.
When a hired gun burns out from the life he’s been living, he returns to the small country town where rumors run rampant and everyone goes to church on Sunday.
With sins and secrets trailing Jason Koster home, he is searching for redemption in hopes of living a life less complicated. He didn’t expect to find the only girl he ever loved now a recently single woman running her family farm.
Delilah Noelle never needed much, but she wanted Jason Koster—one time love of her life. When misunderstandings tear the former beauty queen and quarterback apart, can a second chance heal their broken hearts?
Will the years and circumstances that have passed be too much to bridge the distance to a future together?
Solace is a heartwarming small town romance with plenty of action and swoons that will have this hometown hero vying for the affections of his high school sweetheart.
PURCHASE LINKS
AMAZON US:
AMAZON UK:
AMAZON CA:
AMAZON AU:
--FREE in Kindle Unlimited--
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REVIEW:
By now I know y'all know I love a great second chance romance and this book is a great example of why!
SL Scott delivers an amazing story with Jason and Delilah. 
Swoon Worthy!
Sexy!
Sweet!
Five Big Stars! 





EXCERPT
I used to think she couldn’t resist me, but she had no problem earlier this week. I’ve got a few tricks up my sleeve when it comes to Ms. Noelle. Let’s see if she still can. “I’ll be right back.”
“What?” my mom asks, watching me get out of the car. “Where are you going? The light’s going to turn green any second.”
I keep walking.
She sees me. Even though her pretty eyes are hidden behind big sunglasses, I can figure they’re probably damn wide right now. Reaching for the truck door lock, her finger pushes it down just as I arrive. She can kid herself like that. She knows deep down that I’ll never hurt her, but I might pressure her into giving me a little of her time.
Standing on the other side of her door, I knock. Delilah finally looks up and points at the light. It’s green. I shrug. I make the lame twist of the wrist roll down your window motion with my hand because I have a feeling she might not understand if I pretend to push a button to roll it down.
“Get back in your car, Jason,” she says through the glass.
“No. Roll down your window.” To sugarcoat it, I add, “Please.”
“Why?”
“What do you mean why? I want to talk to you and I don’t want shout through the glass.”
Huffing, the glass slides down slowly. “What is it?” She keeps her hands on the steering wheel and her grip seems to tighten just a bit.
She glances my way, so I say, “I want to see you.”
“You’re seeing me, Jason, so if that’s all there is, I’ll be going no—”
The glass starts to roll up, but I clamp my palm over it. She releases the button and looks up at me. “I don’t know what happened the other day, what turned your mood so quickly, but I’d like another chance for us to talk this time.”
“It’s not a good idea.”
“It’s a great idea, actually. All you have to say is yes.”
“No.”
My smile tilts into a smirk. “You haven’t changed much.”
“Then you haven’t been paying attention.”

Add to Goodreads TBR http://bit.ly/SolaceGR
Spotify Playlist: http://bit.ly/SolaceSpotify
ABOUT S.L. SCOTT
Living in the capital of Texas with her family, Scott loves traveling and avocados, beaches, and cooking with her kids. She's obsessed with epic romances and loves a good plot twist. Her favorite color is blue, but she likens it more toward the sky than the emotion. Her home is filled with the welcoming symbol of the pineapple and finds surfing a challenge though she likes to think she's a pro.
AUTHOR LINKS
Website: http://www.slscottauthor.com/
Newsletter: http://bit.ly/SLSNewsletter
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/slscottpage
Twitter: https://twitter.com/slscottauthor
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/s.l.scott/
Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/slscott1
Amazon: http://amzn.to/2h6G0eI
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/Slscottauthor
Huffington Post Contributor Page: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sl-scott/
S.L. Scott FB Reader Group: http://www.facebook.com/groups/slscottbooks
S.L. Scott GR Reader Group: http://bit.ly/SLScottGRGroup

Cover Reveal of Breaking Grace by Rose Devereux!!

Today we have the cover reveal of Breaking Grace by Rose Devereux! Check out the gorgeous cover and teasers, and grab your copy October 24th!

Title: Breaking Grace

Author: Rose Devereux

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Release Day: October 24th

 About Breaking Grace:
Two years ago, I murdered the love of Grace Garrett’s life. I had it all – a thriving company, money, women at my beck and call. Then I shot and killed James Winthrop. And got away with it. His beautiful fiancé is ruined, so damaged she’s destroying herself. And I’m the reason why. Nothing and nobody can save her. Except me. Only I know how to help her start again. By wiping the slate clean. Breaking her down until she’s brand new. And rewarding her obedience with the one thing she truly needs. Vengeance against me.  

Pre-Order Your Copy Today!

 Exclusive Excerpt:
She walks into the courtroom and everyone stops breathing. Except for me. I breathe harder. Blood surges through my body like a dam just broke, flooding every distant vein. I flex my fists. The instinct to fuck on sight is so strong I can barely stay in my chair. It isn’t because she’s beautiful, though she is. Or dressed to kill, ditto. She’s wearing a cream silk blouse tucked into a skinny, ass-skimming skirt and high-heeled sandals that tie like a little suede rope around her ankles. If they’re supposed to make me think of all the things I could do to her, mission accomplished. Chin high, she strides past the first row of seats. Heads swivel. The chatter stops. Here she comes, the lovely grieving widow. Not exactly widow. Fiancé. And she’s practically a child, only twenty-three. When Dolly Parton wrote Jolene, she was imagining a girl like Grace Garrett. With flaming locks of auburn hair, with ivory skin, and eyes of emerald green. The lyrics are like Grace’s own personal Missing poster. Along with a list of the things I jerk off to every night. There are a few descriptives Dolly didn’t think of, like a click-bait body and a stern, craggy-faced minister for a father. This chick was born for social media. The press loves her. She’s got a good-girl pedigree, and she looks amazing no matter what she’s doing. Sitting, walking, crying, or wishing me stone-cold dead. That’s the part everyone is here to see. The silent explosion when our eyes meet. The epic, David and Goliath battle between her and me. Evil on one side, good on the other. That’s what makes me hard. What can I say? I’ve always liked contrast. Grace doesn’t care if I’m taller, richer, stronger, smarter, and better-looking than anyone she’s ever met. She knows the world loves an underdog, and she’s going to take me down. She’s here to show everyone what a bastard I am. As if they don’t already know. My proclivities have been the stuff of gossip for years. I run with a crowd so wealthy and twisted, there are no limits. When the jury looks at me, they think they know me. They put rumor and wishful thinking together, and create the perfect monster. And they love it. Something makes a brutal sort of sense in their world, and that something is me. If only they knew what Grace knows, and I know. They’d discover that they’ve got the story backwards. I’m not the villain in this tragic drama. She is.

   

About Rose Devereux:

 

 Rose Devereux writes shamelessly dark romance. In her other life, she is a traditionally published author whose books have been translated into five languages. Reviews of her novels have appeared in Cosmopolitan, The Boston Globe, New York Magazine, and the Associated Press. She loves animals, sleeping late, and alpha males, and would drink Prosecco every day at lunch if she could. She lives in Boston and New Hampshire.  

Goodreads | Facebook | Website | Amazon

Enter Rose’s Giveaway:

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Release Day - Beauty (Hate Story #2) by Mary Catherine Gebhard



























Once upon a time, I thought love was a fairytale.

My prince was a Beast with blood on his hands and ice in his veins. My family offered to save me. The only price: leaving the tattered pieces of my heart behind.

Our love was irrational. Cruel. Unforgiving. Nothing like the storybooks said it should be—but it was perfect.

The longer we were apart, the more I lost myself. He was vicious and domineering, but I craved the submission. Together we were destructive, but I was addicted to the devastation. Still, I thought titles mattered. To my family I was princess, and to the Beast I was slave. I was too naïve to understand that even though he’d been my captor, he’d broken the shackles on my soul.

Once upon a time, I thought love meant happily ever after.

Now I know better.




I was going insane, absolutely aching, and it was just instinct to touch myself. He grabbed my hand, lifting it so my fingers were just below his chin.

“Greedy girl,” he said. “Don’t you know your orgasm is mine? I own this.” He sucked my fingers until they were clean and I moaned, rubbing my thighs together. I was so overstimulated, I was sure I was going to come just from the friction. I rubbed my thighs harder and he laughed darkly, pushing me off him. I fell to the ground.

Eyes still locked, Anteros reached behind and flipped over the coffee table. The glass crashed and shattered. Some shards hit my thigh, but I didn’t think about that or the mess or the possible danger because moments later Anteros was on the ground with me.

He crawled between my legs and spread them wide in the new space. I got to my elbows, watching him rapt.

“If you come without permission,” he said, licking a long, razor sharp trail from behind my knee to inside my thigh, “you will be punished.”







Want to win a signed copy of Beast & Beauty plus a $25 Amazon Gift Card

Click HERE to enter.








Mary Catherine Gebhard bites off more than she can chew. She's lived in Salt Lake City, Utah her entire life but occasionally goes on vacation from reality. Don't worry, she sends postcards.







Jill Shalvis’s CHASING CHRISTMAS EVE - Review & Excerpt Tour

  
REVIEW:Such a great story!! I love the Heartbreaker Bay series and this was a great addition! 
I was not able to put this one down until I finished it - I love everything about this story!

The very beginning scene at the airport had me laughing so hard I almost cried and it just got better from there!
Colbie and Spence are so cute together! I love them!

This was a fun read, one I will probably read over and over to get the feel good feeling that comes along with the Heartbreaker Bay series.

Another 5 Star Read!

  

From New York Times bestselling author Jill Shalvis comes the next sexy, standalone novel in the Heartbreaker Bay series... Don’t miss the amazing excerpt and giveaway below, and order your copy today!

   

About CHASING CHRISTMAS EVE:

Meet cute...

Run for the hills—temporarily. That’s Colbie Albright’s plan when she flees New York for San Francisco. Wrangling her crazy family by day and writing a bestselling YA fantasy series by night has taken its toll. In short, Colbie’s so over it that she’s under it. She’s also under the waters of a historic San Francisco fountain within an hour of arrival. Fortunately, the guy who fishes Colbie out has her looking forward to Christmas among strangers. But she’s pretty sure Spencer Baldwin won’t be a stranger for long.

Make merry...

Spence’s commitment to hiding from the Ghosts of Relationships Past means he doesn’t have to worry about the powerful—okay, crazy hot—chemistry he’s got with Colbie. Just because she can laugh at anything, especially herself... just because she’s gorgeous and a great listener…just because she “gets” Spencer immediately doesn’t mean he won’t be able to let Colbie go. Does it?

…and hope for a miracle.

Now the clock’s ticking for Colbie and Spence: Two weeks to cut loose. Two weeks to fall hard. Two weeks to figure out how to make this Christmas last a lifetime

   

Order CHASING CHRISTMAS EVE in ebook or paperback, releasing 9/26/17!

 

Amazon | iBooks | Kobo| Barnes & Noble

       

EXCERPT:
Spence drew in a deep, shuddering breath that wasn’t much steadier than hers and pulled off his now crooked glasses. “Hang on a second.” He tossed them aside. “I need to check on something.”
“What?” she asked warily.
Once again he slowly drew her in, his eyes heated and focused on hers, infusing her with some of his calm. “I want to see if this is how it’s going to be.”
“How what’s going to be?” she whispered.
“This.”
His kiss started out just as slow and thoughtful as the first, all careful control. But when his tongue touched hers, control flew straight out the window.

Add to your Goodreads

   
Jill Shalvis’s CHASING CHRISTMAS EVE – Review & Excerpt Tour Schedule:
September 18th
Bea's Book Nook – Review & Excerpt
From the TBR PIle – Review & Excerpt
I Love Romance – Review & Excerpt
Reading in Pajamas – Excerpt
Writing My Own Fairy Tale – Review & Excerpt
September 19th
Books and Things Blog – Review & Excerpt
East Coast Book Chicks – Review & Excerpt
IreneChart – Review & Excerpt
JordansBookReviews – Excerpt
September 20th
Bridget's Book Bungalow – Review & Excerpt
Fiction Fangirls – Review & Excerpt
Marieke's Books – Review & Excerpt
Reese's Reviews – Review & Excerpt
September 21st
Inside The Mind of an Avid Reader – Review & Excerpt
Rachel Loren's Love of Reading – Review & Excerpt
What I'm Reading – Review & Excerpt
September 22nd
JOJO THE BOOKAHOLIC – Review & Excerpt
Love Notes Book Blog – Review & Excerpt
Melena`s Reviews – Review & Excerpt
Red Hot + Blue REads – Review & Excerpt
Southern Yankee Book Reviews – Review & Excerpt
The Readdicts – Review & Excerpt
September 23rd
Miss Riki – Review & Excerpt
Renee Entress's Blog – Review & Excerpt
The Reading Cafe – Review & Excerpt
September 24th
Lover of Big Books Cannot Lie – Review & Excerpt
Sofia Loves Books – Review & Excerpt
The Book Maven – Review & Excerpt
September 25th
Book Angel Booktopia – Review & Excerpt
Cara's Book Boudoir – Review & Excerpt
Kitty's Book Spot! – Review & Excerpt
OMGReads – Review & Excerpt
Shannon's Book Blog – Review & Excerpt
September 26th
Becky on Books – Review & Excerpt
Guilty Pleasures Book Reviews – Review & Excerpt
KT Book Reviews – Excerpt
Lightning City Book Reviews – Review & Excerpt
September 27th
Booked All Night – Review & Excerpt
Embrace the Romance – Review & Excerpt
Two Book Pushers – Review & Excerpt
September 28th
A Hopeless Romantic's Booklandia – Review & Excerpt
BJ's Book Blog – Review
Bookishly Yours – Review & Excerpt
Evermore Books – Review & Excerpt
Sweet Red Reads – Review & Excerpt
The Heathers Blog – Excerpt
September 29th
Book Munchies – Review & Excerpt
BooksPieAndCoffee – Review & Excerpt
I'm A Book Shark – Review & Excerpt
TBR Book Blog – Review & Excerpt
September 30th
Books and Tequila – Review & Excerpt
ContemporaryCween – Review
Jax's Book Magic – Review & Excerpt
MI Bookshelf – Review
Nose Stuck in a Book – Review & Excerpt
Shelf_Life – Review
The Reading Belles – Review & Excerpt
   
   

And don’t miss the previous books in Jill Shalvis’s Heartbreaker Bay Series, SWEET LITTLE LIES, THE TROUBLE WITH MISTLETOE and ACCIDENTALLY ON PURPOSE, now available! Grab your copies HERE!

 

About Jill Shalvis: New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Jill Shalvis lives in a small town in the Sierras full of quirky characters. Any resemblance to the quirky characters in her books is, um, mostly coincidental. Look for Jill’s sexy contemporary and award-winning books wherever romances are sold and click on the blog button above for a complete book list and daily blog detailing her city-girl-living-in-the-mountains adventures.      

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Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Chasing Ella by Jillian Quinn - Chapter Reveal!!


















Every Princess needs a Prince Charming…

When a masked girl throws herself at Shawn Finch at a costume party, the hotshot football player assumes she’s just another girl trying to get his attention. Except she’s not just any girl. She’s his Cinderella, the nameless girl in the pale blue dress who got away.

Desperate to find her, Finch searches for his mystery girl with no luck. So, it must be fate when Finch’s grade point average drops and the school assigns him a tutor not knowing they just handed over his Cinderella.

After having a crush on Finch since the first time she spotted him on campus, one kiss was all she’d ever wanted. But Finch has other plans once he discovers the truth about his tutor.




Chapter One

Ella

Most days, my house feels like a prison.
Today is one of them. Ever since my father’s sudden death over two years ago, my stepmother and her annoying daughters have done everything in their power to make my life a living hell.
Locked away, like a family heirloom stored inside an old trunk, I see how much hatred these women breed. My father would roll over in his grave if he knew how I live, all because Clarissa is even more selfish and spoiled than her daughters. With only a few more months until the end of the school year, this is my life until I can make my escape.
Anastasia flings open my bedroom door and waltzes inside with a sour look on her face. She scans the floor and what’s left of my belongings, before her eyes eventually land on me. I don’t miss her scowl as she appraises my floral comforter, the one thing I have left from my mother.
“Get your lazy ass out of bed, Ella.” She says my name with such disdain that her words slice through me, cutting deep. “Mother says you have chores to do.”
“That’s no different than any other day,” I spit back. “Who else would clean up after you?”
She snickers, throwing her hands onto her wide hips. “At least you’re good for something other than taking up space. We can’t have you lounging around here all day doing nothing. You have to earn your keep.”
I get up from the bed, irritated and still half asleep. “This is my house, Anastasia. Not yours.”
She points a long, bony finger at me and digs it into my arm. Her French tip hurts as she presses it into my skin. “Now, that is where you are wrong. This is my mother’s house now, which makes it mine. If it were up to me, you would be out on your ass, but Mom likes having a maid.”
I let out an exaggerated sigh. How much more of this can I take? I can’t afford to live on my own. Clarissa pays my tuition at Strickland University, the one luxury I have left, and I wouldn’t dare do a thing to jeopardize getting far away from this torture.
Unlike my stepsisters, who drive Mercedes’s, I ride three buses to get to school. It takes me hours to get there, but at least I get to leave this hellhole a few times a week in hopes of making something of myself. I’m counting down the days until I graduate. As of today, I have one hundred days left.
Natasha strolls into my room with a bucket in hand and a mop in the other, dressed in vintage Chanel, of course.
My mother had worn plenty of it before these cows had ransacked this house and took every piece of clothing and jewelry she had of value. The only thing spared from my stepmother’s fire sale was a gold heart charm necklace my father had given me on my thirteenth birthday. One side of the heart had belonged to him and the other to me.
I’ve kept it hidden under a loose floorboard under my bed. It’s the one place none of them would ever bother to look. They’re too lazy to get on their hands and knees. Instead, they make me do all the work. Every morning, I wake to one of them screaming from the bottom of the stairs, Get down here and make us breakfast, Ella or Clean the dishes, Ella or Get the stain out of my Prada bag, Ella.
They always have some request, leaving me little time to study, which is why I spend my afternoons tutoring students in the library. I get extra financial aid for helping out, but I mostly do it to give myself a reprieve from my jailers.
“Get to work, Ella,” Natasha says, shoving the bucket and mop into my chest. “If you want that dress for the party tonight, you have to earn it.”
It takes every ounce of strength I have to hide my smile. Just thinking about the masquerade party at the Delta Sigma Phi fraternity house sets fire to my skin. Shawn Finch will be there. He’s gorgeous, the starting tight end for the Strickland Senators, and has big, strong arms that I want to touch every time I see him in the library.
He’s always failing at least one class because he’s too busy hooking up with girls and partying. From what I’d heard, he just manages to pass with the help of our tutoring staff. I would have killed to be his tutor last semester. Instead, I was stuck with some jerk from the hockey team. I even offered to trade Mandy, but she was too busy batting her eyelashes at Finch to consider my offer to switch. She practically had their wedding planned out in her head, and he didn’t even pay attention to her.
Guys like Finch are untouchable. You have to be part of the sport's elite on campus to get anywhere near them. That’s why I jumped at the chance to go to this party tonight. I’m friends with Tori Reynolds, girlfriend of Sebastian Prince and the captain of the football team. He’s a big deal at our school. Tori invited me before I left class yesterday. She’s normal, like me, and nothing like most of the elitist snobs at Strick U. I guess we bonded over our mutual dislike for snooty people, and now, we’re acquaintances—maybe even friends.
Because of Anastasia and Natasha are always sticking their nose into my business, I have no friends other than Tori, no prospect of a boyfriend, and absolutely no life. I’m the house bitch, the girl who scrubs the floor, washes clothes, and cooks meals. This is my life for a little while longer. At least I get to go to the party tonight.
“Don’t look so excited,” Natasha yells, as I walk past her to deal with my chores. “Just remember we will be at the party, too.”
“I haven’t forgotten,” I say, keeping my eyes focused on the long hallway in front of me with one goal in mind.
“And don’t you dare think of speaking to us. You don’t know us, and we don’t know you. Got it? You will never be one of us, no matter how hard you try,” Anastasia says in a harsh tone.
I stop at the top of the staircase and spin around to face them. “I don’t want to be like you or your friends. I just want to go to the party.”
Natasha clicks her tongue. “Figures you would make friends with someone like Tori. She’s another one who is way out of her league.”
“You’re just jealous because you want Bash and can’t have him.”
Anastasia snorts. “I’ll have you know we’ve already had him.”
Staring at Anastasia and then Natasha, I’m confused until I realize what she means and want to vomit.
“Being a whore isn’t exactly something to brag about, Sis,” I say, laughing to myself, as I turn around to go downstairs.
“You will pay for that! Just wait and see, Ella.”
I have no doubt my loving stepsisters and their equally bitchy sorority sisters will make this night harder for me. At least I get to wear a mask and pretend I am someone else for the night. If it were any other frat party, I probably would skip it. I get enough weird stares pointed in my direction because of the hand-me-downs I have to wear to school, let alone the looks I would get if I were to attend a party in the same clothes.
Tonight, I get to wear one of my mother’s dresses, as long as I finish my chores and homework. That was the deal I had made with Clarissa. Both of which were a given. I already have a perfect grade point average and cater to their every need.
One night. That’s all I want. One night to feel normal again. Maybe I’ll even get the kiss I think about when I see Shawn Finch on campus. Maybe, just maybe, I will get my wish.
* * *
As promised, Clarissa hands over one of my mother’s gowns. It’s floor length, made of white satin with a light pink chiffon overlay, and hugs my curves perfectly. I remember my mother wearing this dress to parties when I was younger. For as long as I can remember, I wanted to be just like her. She reminded me of a princess the way she would spin around in her dresses and dance in the living room with my father.
My mother was so full of life until she’d gotten sick. Like me, she had long, blonde hair that curls at the ends and denim eyes. It wasn’t long after my mother’s passing that Dad met Clarissa. She was everything he needed her to be—until she wasn’t. I swear he died from a broken heart. Either that or my Bitch Mother poisoned him.
Staring in the mirror, I smile and think of my parents. I can almost see them here, standing at my sides, as they see me off. If my mother were here, she would have done my hair and makeup. Instead, I had to watch a few YouTube videos to learn how to create a smoky effect that makes my eyes pop, even with the mask on my face. With my hair already curled naturally, it didn’t take much to give my hair some extra volume.
For once, I feel pretty and worthy of a man like Shawn Finch. I only have to get him to notice me. This dress should do the trick. Or so I hope.
I take my time in these heels, careful not to fall down the stairs face first, keeping my fingers crossed that I will see Finch at the party. My jaw hurts from smiling so much, but one evil stare from Clarissa is enough to wipe it from my face.
Anastasia and Natasha stand at her sides decked out in black couture gowns they either stole from my mother or used my inheritance to buy.
“You have a curfew,” Clarissa says, folding her arms across her chest, giving me her best bitch face. “I want you in this house by midnight and not a second later. Do you understand?”
I hold my tongue and nod.
“Answer me, child,” she says, with anger in her voice.
She has hated me since the day she set foot inside this house. I was an inconvenience to her, another person in the way of my father’s money. He owned an investment firm before Clarissa sold his shares to some of the board members. Now, I have nothing. No parents. No money.  And no way out of here.
“I will be home before curfew. I promise.”
She flashes a closed mouth smile and walks away without another word. Natasha steps toward me, followed by Anastasia, each of them now at my sides, making me uncomfortable.  
Natasha tugs at the spaghetti strap on my right shoulder, while Anastasia clutches the other. Before I can stop them, I hear the sound of the fabric tear. The straps fall forward and hang loose, almost bringing tears to my eyes that I force back.
“What is wrong with you?” I shout so loud my voice echoes off the vaulted ceiling in the living room.
“Oops!” Natasha covers her mouth with her hand, her brown eyes wide in mock surprise.
“Our mistake,” Anastasia says, this time pulling at the pink overlay. One side rips and then the other, as Natasha helps her ruin my dress.
I’m defenseless against them. If I act out, my stepmother will punish me. She will lock me in my room and throw away the key, same as she does during winter and summer breaks from school. That’s why I have excelled so much in my studies. I spend countless hours a day with no TV, cell phone, or the Internet. Books are my only source of entertainment. So, I read a lot and take extra classes when I can afford to layer on the heavier course load.
As much as I want to cry, I have to stay strong and deal with whatever comes next.
“You think you’re so fucking smart, don’t you, Ella?” Natasha flicks her dark hair over her shoulder and grins like the Cheshire cat. “You think you can call us names and get away with it. Well, you are not getting anywhere near that party if we have anything to do with it. We don’t need you embarrassing us in front of our friends.”
Anastasia steps on the hem of my dress, holding me in place. I turn to walk away from them, but my plan backfires, the bottom of the dress tearing apart from Anastasia’s stiletto.
Staring down at the dress, I cover my mouth to stifle my sobs. But no tears follow. I never let them see me cry. I never have, and I never will. They don’t deserve my tears. It would only give them more power over me. Unlike their mother, mine was sweet and kind to everyone. She raised me to show people the same kindness, which is why I normally remain quiet around my stepsisters.
Lately, they have made it harder to control my anger toward them. Graduation is so close. Only one hundred more days before I can start living again.
“Looks like you can’t go to the party,” Natasha says, twirling a dark curl around her index finger with a satisfied smile.
“You can’t stop me from going,” I shoot back.
“Oh, we can and we will, Little Orphan Ella.” Natasha eyes me up and down, giving me her usual look of disapproval. “We have the Delta Sig guys wrapped around our fingers. They will do just about anything Kappa girls tell them. And, if that means keeping the help out of a party, then you can bet your ass they will listen.”
“You’re such a bitch, Natasha.” I pivot my body between them. “You, too, Anastasia. I have never done a thing to either of you to deserve this.”
My stepmother would slap me across the face if I ever spoke to her the way I do the girls.
“You exist. That’s enough for us,” Anastasia says, rolling her eyes at me.
We have a quick stare down before Anastasia turns on her heel and strolls toward the front door, beckoning Natasha to follow. For pretty girls, they have such foul attitudes that make them far less attractive. How they even manage to get the guys at our school to talk to them amazes me. But I guess money goes a lot farther than I think.
I had money. Well, my father had money. Now, I have nothing. Even so, I will never belong in the inner circles at the prestigious Strickland University. A former rich girl is not enough to become one of them.
The second the door slams behind my stepsisters, shaking the house in its wake, the first tear slides down my cheek. I wipe away a streak of wet mascara from my face. Even with the girls gone, I cannot risk Clarissa seeing me cry. She would point and laugh, all while enjoying every second of my humiliation.
I run out the front door, as fast as my feet will allow, through the garden on the right side of the mansion, the tears falling faster with each step toward the gazebo out back.
Once I reach the wooden structure, I stop to catch my breath and grab hold of the rail, as I step up and onto the platform. My father was good with his hands, despite being such a brainiac. He had built this for my mother for their wedding. I come here whenever I need a break from life. It reminds me that I once had a normal life, full of love and warmth. Not all people are as cruel and hurtful as my stepfamily.
I shake my head when I take in the sight of what Natasha and Anastasia have done. They trashed my dress. Pieces of fabric hang down at different places, the material tattered and frayed. After years of envisioning what it would be like to go to a party dressed as a princess, this is not even close to what I had imagined. There’s no way I can go to the party looking like I found this in a dumpster.
Sitting on the bench, I clutch my stomach from the pain that comes with each scream that escapes my throat. I’m never this emotional. I never let them get to me. But this night was important to me. It was my one shot at talking to the guy I have liked for as long as I can remember. All I want is one kiss from the man of my dreams. That’s enough to satisfy my craving for Shawn Finch. The mask would serve as my shield, my only way to protect my identity.  
“What’s all the crying about?” I hear a woman say, scaring the life out of me. “Pretty girls like you shouldn’t be all alone and screaming to the high heavens.”
No one ever comes back here. My body goes into overdrive thinking about all the possibilities until I look over my shoulder and see an older woman. She’s in her sixties or seventies. It’s hard to tell with the dim light that washes over the dark property.
Wiping the water works from my cheeks with the back of my hands, I peek over at her. She steps up and into the gazebo, uninvited.
“Who are you?” I choke out, not the least bit frightened by a woman her age. She seems pleasant enough, even if she’s trespassing on private property.
“Your new next-door neighbor. I moved in last week.” There’s a Southern twang to her soft voice that reminds me of my father. My dad’s side of the family is from the Southern parts of the United States, and she sounds just like them, which puts me even more at ease with her.
“How did you get back here?”
She shrugs, unaffected, and leans her back against the wood. “I walked from my house. I’ve done it every night since I moved in. You have a lot more land on this side of the fence and a lot more to look at.”
“I don’t know about all that,” I say, sucking down the tears. “The garden is pretty barren now that my mother is gone and the landscapers are no longer around to keep up with the maintenance.”
Why would Clarissa hire someone when she has me to trim the rose bushes or mow the lawn? I am the maid, gardener, chef, and butler. If they can dream it, I can do it.
“Someone is keeping up with it,” she says, pointing out the obvious.
“Tending to the yard is one of my chores,” I admit.
She shakes her head in disapproval. Thankfully, she doesn’t go any further. I hate telling strangers about my situation, so I usually avoid conversations altogether. It’s also the reason I have no friends. How could I ever tell anyone about what goes on around here? It’s too humiliating to say aloud.
“What is your name, girl?” Her voice is soft, inviting.
“Ella,” I choke out, “Ella Fitzgerald. What’s yours?”
“Katherine Feighry, but everyone calls me Mrs. F. You never told me why you were out here crying.”
She reaches out to touch my arm, and for some reason, I let her. It’s nice to have someone comfort me. I sure as hell don’t get that at home and can use all the love and affection I can get—even if it’s from a stranger.
“There’s this guy…Well, I was supposed to go to this party, but my stepsisters ripped apart my dress. I was looking forward to going.”
“Then, go,” she says without hesitation. “Nothing is stopping you. Don’t let those girls get in the way of your plans.”
I frown at her words. “Easier said than done. I have nothing to wear, and there’s no way I will get in with what I have on.”
The woman releases her grip on me and stands, holding out her hand to me. “Come, darling, let me fix you up.”
I glance up at her, confused. “I don’t understand.”
“I have a dress for you to wear. You will love it.”
I narrow my eyes at her. “You do?”
She nods. “Yes, and it’s perfect for you.”
I set my hand in hers, nervous about where she’s about to take me. But I am desperate and in need of her random act of kindness. Maybe I will even make it to the masquerade party. Maybe I will get my kiss from Finch.



Jillian Quinn is the international bestselling romance author of the Face-Off Series, the upcoming Men of Honor Series, as well as other sexy, sporty standalone romances.

Jillian loves sports, bad boys, dirty talkers, strong females, and books with plenty of heat—all of which you will find in her books. As a lover of all things bookish, she has a serious book hoarding problem and runs a blog in her free time. When she’s not reading, writing, or blogging, she’s obsessively fangirling over hockey players and can be found wherever she can catch the next hockey game.




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