Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Release Day Launch: Long Way Home (Thunder Roads #3) by Katie McGarry




The highly anticipated third book in Katie McGarry’s Thunder Road Series is being released today! LONG WAY HOME is a Young Adult Contemporary Romance being published by Harlequin Teen! Grab your copy of the next book in this emotionally charged series, and don’t miss Violet and Chevy’s story!

   


Seventeen-year-old Violet has always been expected to sit back and let the boys do all the saving.

It’s the code her father, a member of the Reign of Terror motorcycle club, raised her to live by. Yet when her dad is killed carrying out Terror business, Violet knows it’s up to her to do the saving. To protect herself, and her vulnerable younger brother, she needs to cut all ties with the club—including Chevy, the boy she’s known and loved her whole life.

But when a rival club comes after Violet, exposing old secrets and making new threats, she’s forced to question what she thought she knew about her father, the Reign of Terror, and what she thinks she wants. Which means re-evaluating everything: love, family, friends . . . and forgiveness.

Caught in the crosshairs between loyalty and freedom, Violet must decide whether old friends can be trusted—and if she’s strong enough to be the one person to save them all.

Amazon | Kobo | BAM | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | IndieBound

   

"An intoxicating and unforgettable story that kept me glued to the page."

Kami Garcia, #1 New York Times bestselling author, on Walk the Edge






   
  CHEVY

            The instructions of the English homework I didn’t do hangs out from the top of my folder: Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, And sorry I could not travel both.
            Story of my life.
            According to my football coach, I chose wrongly on the two crap paths I had to face last week. I just ran into Coach on the way to English, and he ripped into me for my sorry decision-making skills when it came to me choosing to stand up for the Reign of Terror Motorcycle Club instead of a member of my football team.
            I didn’t just get my ass chewed out, his tirade made me late for English with no tardy note. Which is great since my English teacher hates late students like I hate riding  my motorcycle in forty degree weather while it rains.
            I round the corner, then peek through the small window on the door of my class. Ms. Whitlock stands in front of her desk in her patented white button-down shirt, gray pencil skirt, and dark-rimmed glasses. From the back row, my best friend Razor meets my eyes and shakes his head. Damn. That means she’s in one of her moods where she’s refusing to let anyone in.
            I’m not a tail-tucked-between-my-legs type of guy, but this lady is one of the few who can reduce me to begging. If she doesn’t let me in, then she’ll mark me as absent, the front office will think I skipped, and that means I won’t be able to play at tonight’s football game.
            The window rattles when I knock. The entire class turns their heads in my direction, but Ms. Whitlock doesn’t. The muscles in my neck tighten. She is one of the hardest core people I know and my grandfather is the president of a motorcycle club. That says something.
            She starts for the white board and I knock on the door again. This time, Ms. Whitlock does look my way and she grants me the type of glare reserved for people who kick puppies. I got it. I’m late. I’m the scum of humanity, so let my ass in so I can play football.
            There’s this guy in my club, Pigpen. He’s about the same age as Ms. Whitlock, late twenties, and he’s a walking hard-on for this woman even though she would never give him the time of day. He practically runs into walls when she’s around because he’s too focused on checking her out. I don’t see gorgeous—all I see is seriously pissed off and the person standing between me and playing.
            Ms. Whitlock points at the clock over her desk. She’s telling me I can wait. If I’m lucky, she’ll open the door after the quiz that I’ll receive a zero on. If I’m not so lucky, she won’t open the door at all.
            Two pathetic paths and I could only travel one. Nowhere in that stupid poem did it mention there was good and bad to both paths and that sometimes it’s best not to choose, but to set up camp at the fork and do nothing at all.
            I slam my hand into the nearest locker, almost relishing the sting.
            “Feel better?”
            A glance across the hallway and I freeze. Doesn’t matter how many times I see her in a day, she still manages to take my breath away.

Add it to your Goodreads Now!


   



Don’t Miss the First Two Titles in the Thunder Road Series! Grab your copies today!

NOWHERE BUT HERE

WALK THE EDGE










Katie McGarry - author pic
Katie McGarry was a teenager during the age of grunge and boy bands and remembers those years as the best and worst of her life. She is a lover of music, happy endings, reality television, and is a secret University of Kentucky basketball fan. Katie is the author of full length YA novels, PUSHING THE LIMITS, DARE YOU TO, CRASH INTO YOU, TAKE ME ON, BREAKING THE RULES, NOWHERE BUT HERE, and WALK THE EDGE and the e-novellas, CROSSING THE LINE and RED AT NIGHT. Her debut YA novel, PUSHING THE LIMITS was a 2012 Goodreads Choice Finalist for YA Fiction, a RT Magazine's 2012 Reviewer's Choice Awards Nominee for Young Adult Contemporary Novel, a double Rita Finalist, and a 2013 YALSA Top Ten Teen Pick. DARE YOU TO was also a Goodreads Choice Finalist for YA Fiction and won RT Magazine’s Reviewer’s Choice Best Book Award for Young Adult Contemporary fiction in 2013.      



Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Pinterest | Tumbler | Instagram













Monday, January 23, 2017

ARC Review: Caraval (Caraval #1) by Stephanie Garber

Summary: Whatever you've heard about Caraval, it doesn't compare to the reality. It's more than just a game or a performance. It's the closest you'll ever find to magic in this world . . . 

Welcome, welcome to Caraval―Stephanie Garber’s sweeping tale of two sisters who escape their ruthless father when they enter the dangerous intrigue of a legendary game.

Scarlett has never left the tiny island where she and her beloved sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval, the far-away, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show, are over.

But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But she nevertheless becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic with the other players in the game. And whether Caraval is real or not, she must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over, a dangerous domino effect of consequences is set off, and her sister disappears forever. (Via Goodreads.com)

Pages: 402

Expected Release Date: January 31st, 2017


Rating: 4.75/5 Stars


Review:


For the last seven months, I have heard nothing but rave reviews for Caraval and I have seen its beautiful cover all over social media. I was fortunate enough to receive a UK ARC of Caraval from Nazima at the Enchanted Bookcase last month and it absolutely lived up to the hype surrounding it. Caraval is an enchanting tale that lingers with the reader even after they have finished the novel. It is hard to believe that the author, Stephanie Garber, is a debut author. I have read countless novels from bestselling authors that have published several books, but very few can compare with Caraval. It is stunningly beautiful inside and out.

Stephanie Garber's writing is beautiful; however, it was occasionally too much. I could see her growth as an author throughout the pages of Caraval. She occasionally described emotions, scents, and visuals in a manner in which did not make sense. But she slowly stopped it as the story progressed. Her writing is utterly captivating, but those occasional moments yanked me out of the story because the descriptors made no sense in the context of what she was describing. Others might find those descriptors more whimsical, but it confused me and made me question what she was describing. I did read an advanced copy so I am hopeful that those descriptors have been changed or removed. 

While Caraval is an atmospheric read, the characters and their backstories are even more enchanting. Stephanie was able to seamlessly tie in backstories while the plot was moving forward. I never felt overwhelmed or underwhelmed. She slowly feeds the reader needed information that you never knew you needed. She was able to perfectly pace the novel so everything felt important. The novel never hit a dry patch or lost my attention. Stephanie was also able to neatly tie up the novel while beginning a brand new tale. I can only imagine what book two will have up it's sleeve.

Caraval is a magical book with an enchanting plot, but the novel is much more than that. It is a book about love, family, and the importance of imagination. It features a fantastic sister duo and a simmering romance. Caraval is such a whimsical and magical novel, but remember, nothing is as it seems. I highly recommend adding Caraval to your to-be-read pile and preordering it. The story has gained such a following before the novel has even been released, I can only imagine where this story will go once it is officially released.



Friday, January 20, 2017

Books I Want to Read in 2017



These are not books that are releasing in 2017, 
you can read about my most highly anticipated releases here, these are previously released 
books/series that I am hoping to read this year.

(Click on the Title of Each Novel for More Information)



I started the Mara Dyer trilogy in 2012 when I found a copy of The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer at my local library. Once I started the novel, I immediately fell in love with the characters and plot. Soon afterwards I started and finished the second novel. I remember how I went berserk after finishing The Evolution of Mara Dyer and immediately researching the release of book three. I remember "patiently" waiting for the release of The Retribution of Mara Dyer and the hopelessness when its release date was pushed back. When its release finally came around, I protested a day because of the anger I still felt towards it; but then I put aside my pettiness and started it. I reached the first page and immediately put it back down. I could not handle the first page and apparently I am still not strong enough to handle it. I have never tried to read it again.

Last summer, I had hoped to reread the first and second novel and finally finish book three before I met the author, Michelle Hodkin, at San Diego Comic-Con. I only managed to get through book one and half of book two. This year, however, I will finally finish the trilogy. The Shaw Confessions, a spin-off series that is from the perspective of Noah Shaw comes out this year and I am beyond excited. This is the year I will finally finish this trilogy and move on with the spin-off series. I believe I am finally strong enough to finish the trilogy! After more than four years, I am finally ready to say goodbye to one of my favorite trilogies.






One of my best friends had introduced me to the Lorien Legacies in 2011 with the movie I am Number Four. After watching the movie, I was hooked and immediately borrowed the books currently released in the series. Over the years, I have read up to the fifth novel, The Revenge of Seven; however, I never got around to reading the last two novels, The Fate of Ten and United as One. I had originally boycotted The Fate of Ten because it was supposed to be the last novel in the series, but the series was extended with one more novel. This year, I want to reread the first five books in the series and then finish the other two books. It is time for me to finish the Lorien Legacies.

In late June of this year, Generation One, the first novel in the Lorien Legacies Reborn series will be released. I forget if it is a spin-off or prequel series to the Lorien Legacies, but I am excited for the novel nonetheless. I am excited to finish one of my favorite series. Although it will be bittersweet, I would love to wrap-up the story with these particular characters. While I have grown attached to them over the years, it pains me to see them suffer throughout the series. I want to end their story so they can live in peace and I can have finally have closure with those who unfortunately did not make it through the series.





Susan Dennard is one of my absolute favorite authors. I am fortunate enough to be on the Street Team for her current series, the Witchlands, which is one of my favorite series. I started Something Strange and Deadly last year during a read-a-long with fellow Street Team members but I was unable to keep up with the read-a-long due to my schedule. 

This year, I want to finally read the entire Something Strange and Deadly trilogy. I love the plot, world, and characters of Susan's Witchlands series, which is a newer YA fantasy series. I really want to see her take on Historical Fiction and Zombies. I am also excited to read the series that launched her career. Something Strange and Deadly had attracted my attention in bookstores for years; however, I never had the desire to buy it because I am not a huge fan of Zombies. I never understood the craze. Having read Susan's other series, I know her writing style and her abilities. I am interested to see how she has grown as an author and if her storytelling differs from genre to genre.







Markus Zusak is my favorite authors. I have read two of his novels, The Book Thief and I am the Messenger. Unfortunately, I have never read his Underdogs series. It always disappoints me that I am such a huge fan of his, but I have not read all of his published books. However, I am hoping to change that this year. When I met him in March of last year, he had talked about his first signing, for the first Underdogs book, and how no one attended the event. It was amazing to learn that such a renowned author started his career with no one at his first book signing.

Only two people that I follow on social media have mentioned that they read his Underdogs series. They both enjoyed it, but they are books that are hardly mentioned or seen in bookstores. I have no expectations for the Underdogs novels. I have no idea what the series is about and the two novels I have read by Markus are extremely different from one another. While I have no idea what to expect, I am interested to see how he has progressed as an author and if this series will make it to my favorites list. Although Markus is currently working on a novel, I have no idea if it will ever be published or when it will be. This could possibly be the last new work of Markus' that I read. I really want to savor them. 






I have currently read the first three books in the Outlander series, Outlander, Dragonfly in Amber, and Voyager. Although I would love to be caught up with the series, the series is massive and I would be forced to wait for the publication of the next novel in the series. I started Drums of Autumn, the fourth book in the series, in June of 2016; however, I was unable to attach myself to the story. Although I am invested in the characters and their story, Drums of Autumn contains a few different plotlines and perspectives, one of which I was more interested in. It was hard to force myself to read through chapters I did not want to read. 

Due to the problems I was having, I put off reading the novel because, at the time, I was already more than a book ahead of the television series on Starz. Season three will be returning this spring and I would love to start the fourth novel sometime this year so I am ready for season four, which has already been renewed, in 2018. I prefer being one book ahead of the current season, especially if the producers of the show decide to steer away from the novel or add in plot points from later books in the series. Adaptions of book series are not always faithful so I would like to be ready for the next season or what possibilities are ahead in the third season.





There are so many upcoming and past releases that I am excited to read this year! I might not read some or any of these novels, but these are some of the books and series that I would like to read in the upcoming year. Please comment below what books you are excited to read this year and if we have any in common. Also let me know if you have read any of these books and what you thought of them. I hope your reading year is going well!














Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive a commission. The potential of a commission by no means influences my opinion on the item, the link is simply there to assist my readers if they are interested in purchasing or knowing more about the item.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Excerpt Reveal: Riveted (Saints of Denver #3) by Jay Crownover






From the New York Times bestselling author of the Marked Men books comes the next installment in the Saints of Denver series.



Riveted - cover
Everyone else in Dixie Carmichael’s life has made falling in love look easy, and now she is ready for her own chance at some of that happily ever after. Which means she’s done pining for the moody, silent former soldier who works with her at the bar that’s become her home away from home. Nope. No more chasing the hot as heck thundercloud of a man and no more waiting for Mr. Right to find her; she’s going hunting for him...even if she knows her heart is stuck on its stupid infatuation with Dash Churchill.

Denver has always been just a pit stop for Church on his way back to rural Mississippi. It was supposed to be simple, uneventful, but nothing could have prepared him for the bubbly, bouncy redhead with doe eyes and endless curves. Now he knows it’s time to get out of Denver, fast. For a man used to living in the shadows, the idea of spending his days in the sun is nothing short of terrifying.

When Dixie and Church find themselves caught up in a homecoming overshadowed with lies and danger, Dixie realizes that while falling in love is easy, loving takes a whole lot more work…especially when Mr. Right thinks he’s all wrong for you.


Amazon | iBooks | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Google



ADD RIVETED TO YOUR GOODREADS





Church


“You’ve been awfully quiet tonight.”

The southern drawl was lighter than mine, more lyrical and smooth. The Blue Hills of Kentucky rolled thick and unmistakable in Asa Cross’s twang as he looked at me steadily from behind the massive oak bar he was currently in the middle of wiping down.

“I talk when I have something to say.” No one would ever accuse me of being the chatty type. When I did choose to speak the Mississippi Delta was deep and locked thickly around all my words. My drawl was much slower than the blond bartender’s and far less practiced. Asa used his inflection and his southern charm to work whoever was sitting on the other side of the bar like they were one of his marks in a long con. He turned up the south in his voice to make hearts flutter and to fool drunks into thinking he was far less sharp than he was. His Kentucky-flavored tone was nothing more than a tool he used to his advantage whenever he needed it, while my unhurried inflection reminded me of a home I hadn’t seen in far too long. That was one of the reasons I never had much to say. Every time I opened my mouth the sound of my voice, like molasses over gravel and deep as the Mississippi River, took me back to a place I had been actively avoiding for over a decade.

I’d spent a little over ten years serving my country in various capacities while enlisted in the army. I’d been around different types of men from a million different walks of life. In all that time I’d never met anyone as hard to unravel as the man standing across from me. He had eyes the exact same color as the aged whiskey on the shelf behind him, and they were picking me apart with a perceptiveness that made me uneasy. I wasn’t used to being so transparent. Whatever shield I had up, whatever ironclad curtains I had pulled around me, Asa Cross saw right through them.

“You are usually quiet, but tonight you didn’t say a single word. You look like you have something on your mind.” His eyebrows lifted and that smirk on his face turned into a grin that I wanted to put my fist in. He wouldn’t be half as pretty as he was with missing teeth and a bloody nose. “Dixie had a date tonight. I figure you were worried about her since she’s been spending time with those internet guys over the last few months, and the bar is never the same on her nights off.”

My back teeth clicked together in aggravation and a low growl escaped my throat. My hands curled into fists at my sides without me being aware they were doing it and I could feel a furious heat climb up the back of my neck.

The idea of Dixie, sweet, sunny Dixie, out there with God only knew what kind of troll she was going to find on the internet made me want to destroy everything. I wanted to break the bar top in half. I wanted to throw chairs through windows. I wanted to smash all the meticulously placed bottles displayed behind Asa into smithereens. I wanted to dropkick the remaining few stragglers nursing their last-call drinks out the door and I wanted to get my hands on whoever had taken Dixie out tonight and throttle him within an inch of his life.

Logically, I knew there were decent, normal individuals using the internet to find love and sex . . . the sex being more likely. There were millions of people online dating and while I thought that was okay for them I refused to think it was an option Dixie should be utilizing. I hated the idea of her dating at all, but there was something about her meeting strangers, meeting men that hadn’t had the opportunity to see her in person before taking her out, that really rubbed me the wrong way.

Dixie Carmichael was the nicest girl I had ever met. She didn’t have a mean bone in her perfectly curvy and petite body. She was always smiling, always laughing, and there wasn’t a moment spent in her company where it didn’t feel like the sun was shining directly on you. She embodied warmth and care. Someone behind a computer monitor would never understand that. They would never feel the way her innate ability to make everything seem like it would be okay made the world seem like it was worth saving. There was a lot of bad shoved at us all on a day-to-day basis but somehow Dixie was a filter for it, and when you were around her it seemed like the only thing you could focus on was the good she let through.

She needed someone that could appreciate that. She needed a man that shined as bright as she did and that would hold her above the shit that was always trying to drag everyone else down. I doubted that guy was on Tinder or Bumble. In fact, I doubted that guy existed at all.

“I don’t keep track of her comings and goings.” I rubbed a hand over my mouth and watched as Asa’s eyebrows shot up and his lips twitched. I was a damn good liar. I lied to myself for years and years about the kind of man I was in order to convince myself that the choices I made were the right ones. But I was currently trying to lie to a man that was a professional liar, so it was no surprise that he saw right through the bullshit I was laying down.

“Ahh . . . I see. You have no interest in the fact she might be out there with a serial killer that wants to turn her pretty hair into a coat for his pet hamster?”

I glowered at him and crossed my arms over my chest. I was a big guy. Years of doing PT and boredom in the desert had led to a strenuous fitness routine I still maintained, partly out of habit and partly because when my muscles burned and I made myself sweat I could shut off all the other stuff that was crowding my head. Some of it nagging, niggling regret from the past, a whole lot of it new nightmares and realizations from my present. I had a couple inches in height on the Kentucky charmer and a whole lot more brute strength. Yet none of that or the glower that I was sure was stamped across my face kept Asa from keeping his stupid, sound advice to himself.

“Dixie is a good girl, she deserves someone who can give her that kind of good back.” I could see the surprise on Asa’s face as I finally gave him something that was wholeheartedly true.

He pushed off the bar and hollered that it was time for the last few customers to finish up. There were some grumbles but everyone left was a regular and as soon as the clock hit one thirty they would move towards the door without any hassle. I liked nights like this, where there were no fights to break up, no crying girls to console, no puke to clean off the floor, no amorous couples to shoo out of the bathrooms. Typically on a night like this I would watch Dixie scamper around shutting the bar down while pretending I wasn’t looking at her. I couldn’t help myself. My eyes were pulled to her and when she laughed or smiled I felt it in my gut like a punch. She did things to me that no woman had ever done to me before.

She made me want to smile and that alone was enough to have my feet itching to hit the road before I did something stupid, like fall in love or take her up on her blatant invitation into her bed. I wanted to fuck her, but I knew if I did it would fuck us both. She was nothing but good and when I got good in my life it always went bad, so I didn’t allow myself, or her, to go there. She shone as bright as the sun every single day but I was a man that knew all too well that too much time in the sun could lead to some serious burns.

I’d spent the last few months biting my tongue until it bled while she dated men that weren’t me and I went to bed alone each night wondering why I didn’t just pick up one of the barflies that hung around making it known they were ripe for the picking.

I’d never been the kind of guy that burned through women. My mother, and subsequently the women that stepped in to raise me after my mom was gone, Elma Mae and Caroline, taught me to understand that women’s hearts were fragile and you had to be careful with them. They tried to teach me how to take care of the good when you had it, how to respect it and earn it. I kept the lessons close because they were some of the only things I had left of the women that shared them with me. I never played with a woman’s body if I didn’t know for sure her heart was kept in a separate box somewhere. I liked my hands on soft tits and full hips, and silky legs wrapped around my back as much as any other guy. What I didn’t like was wiping away tears, explaining myself, and dramatic good-byes when I didn’t stick around after a good time. I was picky about who I went to bed with and I made sure they understood all my hard and fast rules about not committing or sticking around before I ever put my hands on them.

“Denver was just a pit stop.” I rubbed my hand over the top of my buzzed head and looked down at the wooden floor under my boots. “With everything that happened with Brite and Avett a few weeks ago I think it’s about time I put some space between me and the Mile High.” A friend and his daughter had recently run afoul of some really nasty people. My old commanding officer and current boss and I had moved in to help in any way we could, which ended with bullets and blood and some seriously pissed-off drug dealers. Holding a weapon in my hand and kicking in doors was second nature to me. I missed the fire of combat in my blood and the adrenaline coursing through my veins. I was made to fight, not to rest on my laurels. “Well past time I made my way home and tried to mend some fences.”
This was why Asa was such a good bartender. He pulled your story out of you whether you were planning on telling it or not, and he listened like he cared even if my story was told in fewer words than he was used to.

He nodded at me and pushed a rocks glass filled with amber liquor towards me. He typically drank Scotch at the end of the night, but I was a bourbon guy through and through. “I know all about mending fences, brother. Not a day goes by that I don’t have to dig a hole for a new post and string up some new wire.” He took a swig of his own drink and plastered that arrogant smirk back on his face. “Plus you might as well run before that girl you’ve been watching when she isn’t watching you fall in love with someone who ain’t you.”

I was going to hit him. My intent must have been clear because he put his glass down on the bar and lifted his hands up in a gesture of surrender. “My girlfriend is armed and she likes my pretty face the way it is. Keep that in mind, soldier.”

I slammed back the rest of the bourbon and let it burn its way down my throat. “Fuck you, Opie.”

He chuckled at me and turned to cash out the register behind him. “That’s why they say the truth hurts, Church.”

Before I had been Church I’d been Dash. And before I had been Dash I’d been Dashel. It was already hard enough being a kid with less than white skin and with parents in an interracial relationship, but having a name that was as uncommon as mine down in the Deep South was fuel on an already burning fire. I’d hated it growing up and even with shortening it to Dash I’d still struggled with it. But now I’d been Church for a long time, and he was a man that didn’t give any kind of shit what anyone else thought of his name. I’d earned that nickname through service and blood. It wasn’t a name that was given to me. It was one I had taken and made my own. Elma Mae was going to hate it and she was still going to call me Dashel even when I begged her not to but there was a part of me that couldn’t wait to hear the stubborn old woman tell me, I’ll call you by the name your mother picked out for you, son. That’s the name she wanted for you and you should respect it. I should, but there were a lot of things I should have done to make my mom proud that I didn’t do.

 The truth Asa was laying down did hurt, because there was no hiding from him that part of the reason I was ready to bolt was because I really couldn’t stomach the idea of watching someone else take Dixie’s heart.

“Didn’t ask you for the truth.” I stuck my head out the front door and watched as the last two bar patrons climbed into their Uber. I locked the front door and shut off most of the lights and made my way back to the bar.

I liked the operation Rome had set up here. I liked the people, both the ones who worked for him and the ones he served, and I liked that the atmosphere was usually festive but pretty mellow. On the nights that heads needed to be cracked and tempers needed to be tamed I enjoyed the exertion and physicality of that as well, but I wasn’t meant to be a bouncer. I had too much training, too much experience, and frankly too many demons that needed an outlet, to babysit drunks and party girls for the long haul. It was time for me to stop drifting.
Asa finished up with the money and shot a glance at his phone. I could tell by the genuine smile that crossed his face and the way his gaze sparked that his gorgeous redheaded girlfriend was the one behind the message. Royal Hastings, the pretty Denver policewoman had recently moved in with the annoying southerner and it wouldn’t surprise me if she ended up with a ring on her finger before the year was out. The cop and the con had something special going on even if I firmly believed it was doomed to fail.

“Most folks don’t ask for the truth but that doesn’t stop me from giving it to them.” He gave me a look that told me if I was any kind of man I would take that truth he was so fond of and do something smart with it. I didn’t bother to tell him good and I didn’t really see eye to eye. We made our way to the back door after a quick stop at the office to lock the money up in the safe. Asa scribbled a note to Rome and then quickly checked the security cameras. He typed out a message on his phone and by the time we hit the parking lot at the back of the bar a brand-new Toyota 4Runner was pulling in with a smiling redhead behind the wheel.

Asa clapped a hand on my shoulder and gave me a look that burned with understanding and seriousness. I felt like he was speaking directly into my soul when he told me quietly, “The real truth is, I let something good go, so I know how that feels. Got it back and would move heaven and earth to keep it by my side, so I know exactly what you’re walking away from, soldier. Be smarter than I was and don’t let all that goodness slip through your fingers.” He turned around and walked backwards for a second while flashing me that shit-eating grin of his. “It’s always better to be warm than it is to suffer the cold, Church.”

He moved towards the SUV and I had to look away when he leaned into the driver’s side window to kiss his girl. There was so much intimacy there, so much passion that it made everything I swore I knew about love and togetherness pull against the reins that held it tight.

I gave a halfhearted wave as Royal honked the horn at me and pulled out of the parking lot, then made my way over to my Harley. It was still nice enough weather to ride, another reason I needed to get my ass in gear and head south. In a few weeks it was going to be too cold to have the bike on the road and I wasn’t interested in putting the beauty on a trailer and driving her like some expensive piece of luggage back to Mississippi.

I was swinging my leg over the chrome-and-leather beast when my phone vibrated in my back pocket. It was after two in the morning so I knew anything buzzing through at this time of night couldn’t be good. Considering I’d recently shot Denver’s top drug supplier’s right-hand man and put down another one of his henchmen for good, I was dreading seeing what was waiting for me on the display.

It was almost as bad as I expected it to be. The number was one I’d been ignoring since I landed in Denver months ago. It was a number that belonged to a man that I owed more than some simple conversation or a handful of words. It was a call I would have continued to ignore if it hadn’t come in the middle of the night and on the heels of three other calls throughout the day that I had turned a blind eye to.

It was time to stop running from my past. It was time to man up.

It was time to be a better man, the man the person calling had tried his best to raise me to be.

“Hey, Julian.” I rested the Harley back on the kickstand and ran a hand over my face. I could practically feel the shock wafting across the phone line. He hadn’t expected me to answer and that made me a special kind of asshole.

“Dash.” His voice was even deeper and coarser than mine. People often told me I sounded like Johnny Cash but Julian Churchill really had the Man in Black’s rough growl embedded throughout his tone. “I didn’t think you were going to answer.” I sighed and felt like the wild five-year-old he had tried to wrangle all over again. “Been busy. Took a while to settle in and get used to sleeping without bombs going off overhead.”

He didn’t say anything for a long minute and when he spoke I could tell he was trying really hard to keep the hurt and censure out of his deep voice. “You have a perfectly good bed here and last I heard there weren’t any bombs in Lowry.” Lowry was the small town where I had been born and raised, just outside of Tupelo, Mississippi. There weren’t bombs there but there was a bucket load of memories that blasted me with emotional shrapnel that hurt worse than the kind I’d had surgically removed from my skin.

“I needed time, Jules.”

“Had more than enough time, son. You need to come home.” I bristled just like I always did when he tried to tell me what to do. I thought I’d squashed that urge after we stood side by side and lowered my mom into the ground but there was something about him talking to me like I should know better that always made me feel like an unruly kid.

“Planning on it. Have to tie up a few loose ends around here, and I have to make sure I don’t leave my friend that helped me out in a lurch.” Rome would send me on my way with a pat on the back and a foot in my ass if he knew the real reason I was hiding in Colorado instead of hightailing it home. He was understanding, but the man was all about family first and he wouldn’t abide the way I’d been avoiding mine for the last decade or so. I was a coward and I didn’t want a man I’d been in the trenches with, a man I would die for and knew would die for me, to know just how deeply that weakness ran.

“Dash.” There was a sigh and then Julian cleared his throat, so I knew he was struggling to keep his emotions in check. “Elma Mae had an accident.”

I almost dropped the phone as I bolted up from my lounging position on the bike. “What do you mean she had an accident?” My fingers tightened around the phone to the point that my knuckles hurt and the blood rushing furiously between my ears made hearing his response difficult.

“She was carrying her laundry in off the line and tripped going up the stairs. She fell backwards and busted her hip. A neighbor heard the commotion and ran to help. They had to airlift her to the hospital in Tupelo. She’s also got a dislocated shoulder and a sprained wrist. She’s back in the Lowry hospital now recovering and she should be going home at the end of the week.”

“Jesus.” Elma Mae was chasing down eighty if she was a day. None of us knew her exact age and she refused to tell. She would just smile at us and tell us we kept her young. Those kinds of injuries were serious for someone in their prime. In a woman Elma’s age they were life threatening. “She gonna be all right?”

“Elma is a tough old bird. It’ll take more than a tumble to keep her down. She’s been asking about you.”

Well, if that wasn’t just a fucking red-hot poker right through the guts. It was also a slap across the face with the reality of everything I’d purposely been avoiding and denying for way too long.

“I bought a Harley. Gonna have to ride it home, so I’ll be there in a couple days.” My homecoming was happening sooner than I’d planned, but there was no way I couldn’t be there for the woman that had always been my true north. When nothing else in my life made sense there was Elma Mae. She was the only safe place I had ever known and if she needed me I was going to be there to return the favor. I owed the woman everything and the fact I’d waited so long to see her after years of deployment was a startlingly clear reminder of why I was correct and considerate in staying the hell away from Dixie.

She lived in the light and I was far more comfortable hiding in the dark.

 “I’ll let her know. That will make her day.” He paused for a second, which made me brace for whatever was coming next. “She mentioned a girl. Elma told me the reason you weren’t in any hurry to come home from Denver was because of a girl. That true?”

Son of a bitch. The truth might hurt but the lies I told, and they were more gray than white, were going to outright kill me. “There’s a girl.” And there was, but she wasn’t entirely the reason I wasn’t ready to face Julian or anyone else back in Lowry. She had been one of my reasons for sticking around Denver longer than I’d planned. She was an excuse that would buy me time and one that wasn’t entirely untrue.

“Do me a favor and see if you can bring her with you. Elma would love nothing more than to see you happy, to know you’re finally settling down and moving past the things that happened with your mom and with Caroline. You bring your girl home with you and give all of us some peace of mind. Make an old woman happy, Dash. You owe Elma a few years where she doesn’t have to worry about you catching bullets or ending up alone.”

Shit. I rubbed my temples and kicked at the loose gravel under the soles of my boots. “I’ll see what I can do.” That was bullshit. Dixie would drop everything and come with me if I explained the situation. She was too nice and too sweet to tell me no. Elma Mae was going to goddamn love her after she gave her a ration of hell in order to make sure she was the right girl for her boy.

“If the girl cares about you then she’ll figure out a way to be here. If she can’t figure it out, she isn’t worth your time. Come home, son, we miss you.”

I missed home, too, but I could do without the memories and reminders that had kept me away since the day I signed my life away to my country.

It was my turn to sigh. “I’ll see you soon, Jules.” He hung up and I wanted to kick myself because after all these years and all the time and effort he put into raising me I still couldn’t call the man Dad. He deserved the title, after all it was his last name I carried around with me, not that of the man who had knocked my mom up and run. He had earned it much like I had earned my name, but whenever I tried to say it the word got stuck and I fell back on something that seemed less important. It felt like I was fooling God and everyone under the sun about just how important Julian was to me if I refused to call him the only thing he had ever been to me. I was trying to trick fate so Jules didn’t end up the way so many others I loved had.

I was also going home, and I was going to put some sunshine in my pocket and take it with me.





Jay Crownover continues her Saints of Denver series with Riveted, available February 14th, 2017


Give yourself a Valentine's Day gift in advance...Preorder and fill out the form here: https://a.pgtb.me/t0JkQX

Pre-order Riveted today and on February 14th, you'll also receive a glossy Saints of Denver poster and an exclusive first-look at Chapters 1 and 2 of Avenged, her forthcoming Mackenzie Family novella.

Avenged combines the grit of Saints of Denver series with the all-out heat of The Point series with a mind-blowing, mystery, yet-to-be-revealed, couple combining both of these worlds. Be one of the first to find out who it is, pre-order Riveted today.

Posters will be mailed the week of February 14th and Avenged chapters will arrive via email.






Jay Crownover - headshot
        


Jay Crownover is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Marked Men, The Point, and the Saints of Denver series. Like her characters, she is a big fan of tattoos. She loves music and wishes she could be a rock star, but since she has no aptitude for singing or instrument playing, she'll settle for writing stories with interesting characters that make the reader feel something. She lives in Colorado with her three dogs.         






   

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads