It’s Cover Reveal Day…Giveaway Time!!!

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Cover Design: Jena Brignola
Release Date: March 13th

Synopsis

A glittering diamond, the promise of forever, and the hope that your future in-laws will move to a galaxy far, far away…sounds like a decadent recipe for eternal happiness, doesn’t it? All girls dream about their wedding day, fantasize about each and every gooey-delicious detail. It’s so easy to get scooped by the champagne bubbles and swallowed by our dreams.

But we all know the magical path toward happily ever after is not always sprinkled with pixie dust. Sometimes, we stumble over our plans for a perfect future and choke on the words promising forever. We watch the path take a defiant turn away from our blissful paradise because everybody has secrets, and skeletons, and fears.

And sometimes, being drunk in love isn’t always enough.

 

This is a collection of twenty romantic short stories that will make you laugh, cry & swoon featuring twenty trendsetting romance authors with 100% of all digital proceeds being donated to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Authors participating in this worthwhile effort: Amy Daws, AM Johnson, Melissa Collins, Carey Heywood, Elle Brooks, Isabelle Richards, Jeannine Colette, JD Hollyfield, Liv Morris, Meghan Quinn, Kandi Steiner, Mariah Dietz, Tori Madison, AD Justice, Kristen Luciani, MD Saperstein, Ryan Ringbloom, MJ Fields, Kathryn Andrews & Katy Regnery

Goodreads

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/33799670-drunk-in-love

Pre-Order Links

Amazon ~ iBooks ~ Kobo ~ B&N

Giveaway

$25 Amazon Gift Card

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Direct Link: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/5c281a3d41/ 

Connect with the Authors

Amy Daws: http://www.amydawsauthor.com

AM Johnson: http://amjohnsonauthor.com

Melissa Collins: Melissacollinsauthor.com

Carey Heywood: http://www.careyheywood.com

Elle Brooks: http://www.ellebrooksauthor.com

Isabelle Richards: http://www.isabellerichards.net

Jeannine Colette: http://www.jeanninecolette.com

JD Hollyfield: authorjdhollyfield.com

Liv Morris: http://www.livmorris.com

Meghan Quinn: authormeghanquinn.com

Kandi Steiner: http://www.kandisteiner.com

Mariah Dietz: http://www.mariahdietz.com

Tori Madison: https://www.facebook.com/ToriMadisonAuthor

AD Justice: http://www.authoradjustice.com

Kristen Luciani: kristenluciani.com

MD Saperstein: http://www.AuthorMDS.com

Ryan Ringbloom: http://www.ryanringbloom.com

MJ Fields: http://www.mjfieldsbooks.com

Kathryn Andrews: http://www.kandrewsauthor.com

Katy Regnery: http://www.katyregnery.com

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Mark Cuban’s Advice To Entrepreneurs – Risk, Energy, and Funding

According to online dictionaries, an entrepreneur is “a person who starts a business and is willing to risk loss in order to make money” or “one who organizes, manages, and assumes the risks of a business or enterprise.”

Well, I get a check for both of those. My past venture into the fashion industry was fraught with risk and cost me plenty. Now, I have little to show for it, save for a closet full of the most amazing handbags EVER CREATED.

I’m normally a risk-averse person, but somehow, when I’m on a quest to find the formula for success in some endeavor, I throw tons at it – money, energy, time – hoping to find the magical components. The problem is, when you invest in something you really don’t understand, you come up empty more often than not. Knowledge is power, sometimes more so than money, and that’s what struck me with this video from Mark Cuban.

The big takeaways?

Seeking funding for a new business venture is failure. It’s an admission that you can’t hack it on your own, can’t find success with the resources you already have, and need to sell-out in order to plunge forth. The question is, how successful will you really be when you are on the hook for millions of dollars to others who believed enough in your idea that you probably could have rocketed on your own first, albeit a little slower??

I never thought of it that way…

My latest venture is challenging, to say the least. And while I’ve researched the concept itself, I’ve thought many times about how I’ll pitch the idea to investors, how I can get into an accelerator, how I can get the attention of venture capitalists…all so I can command funding and leverage expertise from those who have already found success.

But after watching this video, I realize my mindset needs some fine-tuning. Funding is not necessarily the answer. Preparation is the missing element in my formula. It’s where I fell short with my first business. Not taking enough time to learn about the industry before jumping in, spreading myself and my resources too thin to be even slightly effective, not doing enough research in the form of focus groups prior to designing my products. It was a totally ad hoc, fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants, throw-lots-of-crap-at-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks process, with no tried-and-tested repeatable elements. I had no blueprint, no measurable metrics, and no plans for future execution. So, what did I do? Hired a new, more expensive PR firm (which did squat, btw), designed even more products without customer input, spent more money than I could afford…only to land flat on my face with no answers and lots of anguish.

I never acquired the knowledge, though I did amass mountains (now they’re more like hills) of debt as a result. I could have mitigated the risk with a deep understanding of the business landscape, including potential pitfalls and competition elements. But not me! I’m an instant gratification whore, way too impulsive and impatient to waste time on LEARNING, of all things.

To my own peril. I’ve raised many a glass to that toast, regrettably…

So, Mark. Thanks for the advice. Knowledge is the most powerful tool in your arsenal. The more ammo you have, the more prepared you are for battle. And yes, it IS a battle. But winnable if your head is in the right place.

Romance Charity Anthology – One-Click For St. Jude’s!

*•♥ CHARITY ANTHOLOGY – ONE-CLICK FOR ST. JUDE’S! ♥•*
 
Please share to help us save innocent, young lives! 100% of the digital proceeds for Drunk In Love, a sweet and steamy wedding anthology featuring twenty trendsetting romance authors, will be donated to St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital. Preorder today for only $0.99 – this is one collection that will make you laugh, cry & swoon! Don’t miss out! #drunkinlove #march13 #allthingsbridal
 
Excerpt from Sex, Lies, and Wedding Bells by yours truly. =)
 
“Morning, beautiful.”
 
A low, gravelly voice approaching my ear sends chills shimmying down my spine. Even in my current state, I welcome the idea of having Jeff’s taut body sprawled on top of me again, feeling his magical fingers exploring every orifice, experiencing his hot, hungry tongue tasting me from head to toe—
 
“That alarm of yours has been going off for about ten minutes.”
 
I let out a groan and flip over. “I can’t move.”
 
“I think I can come up with a few ways to solve that problem.” He smooths back my hair.
 
A smile lifts my lips. His deep blue eyes twinkle, making me forget everything for a blissful, fleeting minute. And then it all comes rushing back, like an all-consuming wave, ready to pummel me into the shore. My throat tightens, and the nausea is back with a vengeance. “No time.”
 
“Yeah, you’re right.” The twinkle fades, the perfect white smile now forlorn.
 
“Your tux is in the closet.” I rise, clutching the sheet to my bare chest. “The shoes are in the bag by the door.”
 
“Ariana…”
 
“I have to get ready now. Hair and makeup are on the way. You know what’ll happen if I don’t get back to the suite.” Bile rises in my throat as I throw my legs over the side of the bed.
 
“Don’t go. This isn’t over, Ari.”
 
I slip into my tight, black cocktail dress from the night before and grab my Louboutins. “Yes, it is. See you at the altar.” My lips brush against his forehead for a brief second. I squeeze my eyes shut, but it doesn’t keep the tears from forming. I grab my clutch and bolt from the room without a backward glance. Because I know if I look back, I won’t be able to drag myself away. It’s what I need to do, what I did a very long time ago, and what I should have done last night. But fate…she’s a bitch with a sick sense of humor.
 
Buy Links
Amazon ~ iBooks ~ Kobo ~ B&N
 

Snail Slime Oozes Into Skin Care…And Onto My Face!

Snail slime. Blech. How can those two words possibly inspire thoughts of beauty?

Well, hop on the bandwagon because the gooey secretions that these mollusks leave in their wake is packed with nutrients like hyaluronic acid, glycoprotein enzymes, antimicrobial peptides, and proteoglycans (fillers that plump) – ingredients your skin needs to look healthy, youthful, and rejuvenated.

The secretion is also billed as having positive effects on acne scarring, acne prevention, dryness and hyperpigmentation. Daily application of topical products containing snail secretion is also shown to significantly reduce fine lines and wrinkles, according to a 2013 study published in the Journal of Drugs and Dermatology. – Courtesy of ABCnews.com

My hubby, who knows me and my tendency toward vanity all too well, gifted me with a box Skederm Snail Jelly Face Masks the other day, and I gave it a shot. For $16.99 on Amazon, you get a box of ten masks. You can use them 2-3 times a week to see continuous improvements in your skin’s appearance and overall health.

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Check out my review on YouTube and see for yourself! Oy, the things I share publicly in the name of beauty…

And…I’m doing a giveaway! For a chance to win a box of these miracle masks, subscribe to my YouTube channel and comment on this Facebook post that you did!

#booksbeautyblogger

What Does Success Look Like???

Let’s face it – the unknown is daunting.  Even extensive planning can’t always prepare you for challenges you may face in your entrepreneurial endeavors – whether you’re a startup CEO, a handbag designer or an aspiring indie author. Sometimes you just need to trust in yourself and be confident in your abilities. Obstacles may seem insurmountable at first glance but if you are dedicated to your efforts and you do the proper research, you WILL work through them.

You can’t crush true entrepreneurial spirit. If you have it, it’s only a matter of time before you find your niche. Each “failed” attempt has to be viewed as a lesson learned. The real failure comes about when you don’t take anything away from the experience, when you don’t apply any of your newfound knowledge to your next endeavor.

My advice is simple. Embrace the unfamiliar and power through. You’ll never know the full extent of your capabilities if you don’t navigate outside your comfort zone. We can’t always be the best at everything but we should always strive to be. Don’t let fear of failure hold you back. Sure, you may accumulate a mound of debt in the process (something your husband won’t ever let you forget) but you will have taken control of your future.

Clear strategy concept as a straight road going over confused paths for achieving success in the future as a symbol of business vision and planning to solve the maze.

Be passionate! If you aren’t, find a new goal. You’re not cut out to be an entrepreneur. It takes too much time and effort to launch a new business and if you don’t love what you’re doing, you’ll never get it off the ground. If you’re not willing to work harder than you’ve ever worked before, preserve your sanity and come up with a new game plan.

Take a risk. You’ll never have all the answers or the insight you need to feel comfortable in EVERY situation.  But that’s okay, because you have faith, drive and ideas to propel you toward your goal.  Sometimes, that’s all you need to achieve success.

Believe in yourself and what you can do. SEE yourself creating, developing, designing, writing, and selling. The powers of the subconscious mind are astounding. Envisioning success is just more positive reinforcement you can apply to your effort. Never let negative thoughts permeate your mind – they will only hamper your efforts. See yourself hitting #1 on the New York Times bestseller list, see a Hollywood A-lister clutching one of your evening bags as she graces the red carpet at the Oscars, see your gadget in the hand of Mark Zuckerberg as he sings its praises to the press. See it, believe it, and make it a reality.

Don’t be afraid to fail.  That only really happens when you give up on your dreams. Outcomes that don’t match your expectations aren’t an indication of defeat. Think of them as lessons learned, pearls of wisdom to draw upon at a later time, things that need to be tweaked as you progress toward meeting your goals.

Try new things. Be creative. Think outside the box. Do something nobody has thought of before. Find the whitespace and clutter it up with your ideas. Don’t try to create demand; figure out what people need and give it to them. Why waste precious resources building something that nobody wants?

Life is all about taking chances. If you play it safe ALL the time, you’ll never uncover your true potential and untapped talents.

LEAP. Nothing worth having ever comes easily. Even if you crash-land, you can still say you tried.

And finally, never give up… on your dreams or on yourself.

Business woman celebrates successful deal at office. Business People

 

Charity Anthology for St. Jude’s & Special Giveaway!

`*•.¸(`*•.¸(`*•.¸★¸.•*´)¸.•*´)¸.•*´

★★ SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT & GIVEAWAY! ★★

¸.•*´(¸.•*´(¸.•*´★`*•.¸)`*•.¸)`*•.¸

Schmexy Girl Book Blog and I are so proud to be working with 20 amazing authors to bring you Drunk In Love, a charity anthology! The idea for this anthology came up over lunch almost a year ago. Since then, Jesey Newman, one of the founders of Schmexy Girl, and I have been working on organizing and planning this grand event! We handpicked our talented authors and invited them to join us on this journey.

100% of the digital proceeds of Drunk In Love will be donated directly to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. This is a charity that is near and dear to all of our hearts and we have been working so hard to bring this to all of you! Without further delay, here are some of the details of this wonderful project!

Cover Reveal – February 13, 2017

Release Day – March 13, 2017

**Bloggers sign up HERE**

Synopsis

A glittering diamond, the promise of forever, and the hope that your future in-laws will move to a galaxy far, far away…sounds like a decadent recipe for eternal happiness, doesn’t it? All girls dream about their wedding day, fantasize about each and every gooey-delicious detail. It’s so easy to get scooped by the champagne bubbles and swallowed by our dreams. But we all know the magical path toward happily ever after is not always sprinkled with pixie dust. Sometimes, we stumble over our plans for a perfect future and choke on the words promising forever. We watch the path take a defiant turn away from our blissful paradise because everybody has secrets, and skeletons, and fears.

And sometimes, being drunk in love isn’t always enough.

What Authors Are Participating?

Amy Daws, AM Johnson, Melissa Collins, Carey Heywood, Elle Brooks, Isabelle Richards, Jeannine Colette, JD Hollyfield, Liv Morris, Meghan Quinn, Kandi Steiner, Mariah Dietz, Tori Madison, AD Justice, Kristen Luciani, MD Saperstein, Ryan Ringbloom, MJ Fields, Kathryn Andrews & Katy Regnery

Where can you get it? Available for pre-order at these retailers…

Add to Goodreads

GIVEAWAY

Please help us spread the word about this fabulous announcement!!! Comment on and then share our Facebook post (click HERE) on your Facebook and Twitter accounts, using #DrunkInLove for your chance to win a $20 Amazon gift card!!!

Character Interview – Best Friends, Business Partners & Cyber Lords

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Character Interview: Chris Camden and James Callahan, Best Friends, Business Partners and Cyber Lords

I recently caught up with Chris Camden and James Callahan, co-founders of LazerShark, the hottest gaming website in cyberspace. Their pictures have been plastered across the covers of every industry periodical in the country as two of the thirty biggest names in technology under thirty… and it doesn’t hurt that their smiles can melt the panties off any woman in their line of sight. I don’t know any female in her right mind that wouldn’t want to be sandwiched between these heartthrobs. But I digress…

Okay, back to business. I’m focused now.

Me: Guys, thanks so much for taking the time out of your crazy schedules to chat with me. Our readers are extremely anxious to find out more about the dream team that just scored one of the largest buyouts in Silicon Valley history. How does it feel?

James: Incredible, so rewarding. We’ve been working toward this goal for the past three years with the help and guidance of a great team of investors. But we still have a long way to go, and a lot more work to do.

Chris: Yeah, it feels great, kind of like driving my brand-new Bentley. <snickers> Seriously, though, this was a real partnership effort. You can only achieve this kind of success when you set common goals and work together to achieve them. Jay is the geek in this relationship and I’m the salesman. It’s a great mix of skills.

James: That’s right. We work our strengths to the fullest and compensate where each of us may be lacking.

Chris: Dude, speak for yourself. I’m not lacking in any area.

James: My bad. You’re the most modest, humble person I know.

Me: Inquiring minds want to know… now that you’ve taken over as the virtual gaming lords of the universe, what’s next on your agenda?

James: We’re starting a new project. It’s kind of early to discuss details but it’s going to be a winner.

Chris: Think revolution… light sabers, battletoads… and minions.

James: Dude, you’re giving everything away. You’re about as subtle as a hand grenade.

Chris: Oh come on, those hints were brilliant! You’ve got to give the people a little taste, Jay. Don’t be so neurotic.

James: Have we gotten to the question about how I’ve been able to avoid strangling my business partner yet?

Me: <laughs out loud> You guys are too adorable… er, um, I mean, entertaining. And you’ve also been best friends since kindergarten. How do you manage the friendship versus the business partnership?

James: It actually works well for us. We’re pretty much no holds barred. If there’s an issue, we put it out there and talk it out.

Chris: You can’t take things personally. We made a deal when we first started on this path that we’d always separate our work lives from our personal lives.

James: Yeah, I remember that deal. It was nice in theory. Too bad you couldn’t keep your—

Chris: Whoa! I’m talking about us here. Don’t go off-track.

Me: No, please go off-track…this sounds juicy.

James: Let’s just say my business partner made a pretty large error in judgment that could have cost us our future.

Chris: You’re being really dramatic, Jay. It’s all good. LazerShark was never at risk.

James: Your life sure was. Talk about wanting to strangle someone…

Me: How would you each describe one another?

James: Chris is the most loyal guy I know. He’d do anything for the people he cares about… I mean anything. I’ve never met another person so willing to put his own comfort and happiness aside for others.

Chris: I’d go to war for you, man.

James: I know you would. And I love you for it. <playfully punches Chris in the shoulder> He’s also impulsive, outspoken, cocky and can charm the skirt off any girl he meets… admittedly, a pretty impressive skill.

Chris: Aw, I’m blushing. Thanks for stroking my ego.

James: As if you needed it…

Chris: It’s only one of the things that can never be stroked too often…

Me: <fanning myself> Ahem, so Chris, any thoughts on James?

Chris: Smart. Sexy as hell. Socially inept but we’re working on that.

James: I like to think I’m making progress.

Chris: Always striving to improve. Kudos, man.

Me: Ever had your sights set on the same girl?

James: No, I prefer girls that can use more than one-syllable words in conversation. Actually, let me rephrase… I prefer girls that can actually engage in conversation. <snickers>

Chris: <rolls eyes> What can I say, Jay? Sometimes it’s better to have actions drown out the words. Talking’s overrated.

Me: Okay, so speaking of the ladies… here’s the question all the fangirls have been aching to ask two of the most eligible bachelors in the Bay area… what are your relationship statuses?

James: Um yeah, not so eligible anymore.

Chris: Reformed.

James: More like whipped.

Chris: Really? You sure you’re pointing that finger in the right direction? The first gift you ever gave Jess was the family jewels. And it’s been downhill from there. Yes Jess, anything you want Jess, sure I’ll bend over now Jess. <smirks>

James: I’ve always been a fan of monogamy, unlike this guy. His motto has always been ‘the more, the merrier’ at any one time.

Chris: Life is like tearing through a bag of Lays…can never eat just one.

James: A point you’ve proven again and again and again.

Me: But rumor has it you’re off the market…scooped up by none other than your former investment manager, Mia Bradshaw. So monogamy…?

Chris: It’s a new look for me. I’m digging it.

James: So is your fiancé.

Me: She’s a lucky lady. That news is going to be very disappointing to all your fangirls. Okay, last question. Silk or satin?

James: Either.

Chris: Neither. <smirks>

***

Why Authors Should Adopt The Mindset of An Entrepreneur

I’d recently guest posted on The Authorteers and wanted to share with you all here as well. =)

I don’t accept criticism well. Oh sure, I say I can handle less-than-stellar feedback. But then when it comes, I sit with my eyes open wide, nodding my head as the critiques pelt me like icy cold drops during a monsoon-like rainstorm, a tight smile stretching my lips so they won’t quiver… yep, I crumble like a house of sand. Worst poker player ever. You always know what I’m thinking… always.

I think this is attributable to a few different factors. First and foremost, I’m an approval seeker. I crave accolades, and positive reinforcement totally charges me. Second, I have an insane amount of passion for my endeavors, whether it be handbag design, writing, blogging, or my career in general. I work hard and when I really believe wholeheartedly in the quality of my efforts, I want them to be recognized. It’s not enough for me to be satisfied with the end result. And when people I care about are less than starry-eyed over something I’ve done, well, it’s a tough pill for me to swallow.

Such was the case this weekend. My husband and greatest supporter, read a book I’d recently finished. He is not a romance reader, but he loved my other books to the extent he could, as someone who much prefers reading Michael Creighton. I felt certain he’d love this one too and truth be told, I was excited for him to read it because I think it’s my best one yet.

But there were no kudos for this story. Instead, I got a boatload of Post-Its and an overall assessment of “it’s… okay.”

Young crying woman in depression drink drinking alcohol

Heartbreaking is the only word I can use.

So by now you’re probably wondering – why is she telling me all this?

Trust me, there is a point.

I took a chance with my manuscript. Publishing a story with a predictable plot isn’t going to send people flying to Amazon and elicit gasps as the scenes unfold on their e-readers. I chose to push the envelope and navigate outside the norm. Maybe it will be to my detriment but I wanted to give my readers something a little different. I took a risk that may turn people off or make them die-hard fans because I believe in myself and my work.

Criticism is tough to swallow but it’s not always a bad thing if it drives you harder and helps you perfect your end product. Don’t give in to self-doubt. Stay true to yourself. Embrace any feedback that will help you achieve your goals.

My advice? Think like an entrepreneur! Establishing an author platform is similar to launching a new business, so why not adopt the mentality that will help you sharpen your focus and build your brand?

Start Up Business Launch Success Office Desk Concept

Passion Is A MUST! – Trying to gain traction with any new endeavor can be extremely disheartening at times so the more you believe in your offering and your ability to sell it to the masses, the more effective your end product (and outlook) will become.

Listen To The Naysayers! – Don’t delude yourself into thinking your offering is the end-all, be-all.  You need a thick skin if you’re going to succeed as an entrepreneur. People will slam your ideas. Get used to it. Graciously accept criticism and feedback then figure out how to respond to objections. Figure out what your key differentiating points are and highlight those to everyone and anyone.

Never Be Complacent! – You’ll have to work harder than you’ve ever worked before to create momentum and then work even harder to KEEP it. I heard a really cool quote this weekend that totally applies. I was at a writing conference and a number of bestselling authors were presenting on sales strategies. They all said market yourself like you’re nobody EVEN IF you’re somebody. This applies to ALL business endeavors.

Be Restless! – Let your creativity flow! Don’t be complacent and accept the status-quo. Dig deep and figure out to disrupt. Take risks! It’s okay to incorporate new ideas into your offering. Make it as compelling as possible and if at first you don’t succeed…. well, you know the rest.

Christmas in Cabo, Plus a Giveaway!!!

I love this time of year – lights, decorations, holiday tunes, and even…get ready for it…the MALLS!!!! It’s just so festive and fun. This year, I decided to inundate myself with Christmas cheer and channel it into a short story just in time for the holidays. I watched the Hallmark channel incessantly for inspiration, and I hope you love the end result. If you’re looking for a sexy, short read with all the feels, check out Christmas in Cabo, FREE on KINDLE UNLIMITED!!!!

Time for a little holly jolly…under the mistletoe AND under the covers!!!

One-Click Now on Amazon!

Young happy attractive amorous couple embracing and kissing outdoor

Synopsis

Signing his name on the deal of a lifetime will make computer genius Carter Reed a multimillionaire, rich beyond his wildest dreams. But all the money in the world can’t buy back the one thing he’d so carelessly pushed away years ago.

A holiday escape to Cabo seems like the perfect way to forget what he’d lost, until fate convinces him otherwise. Will he finally get his true Christmas wish?

Now for the giveaway…

For a chance to win a $10 Amazon gift card, just #LIKE, #SHARE, and #COMMENT on a Facebook post! Click here to enter! The winner will be notified by email on December 7.

Good luck!

Are You Ready To Get Plowed???

Plowed is LIVE for a special release price of $0.99! This is a limited time offer and the price goes up on Wednesday, so don’t miss out! And check out the $25 Amazon gift card giveaway. To enter, #LIKE,  #COMMENT, & #SHARE this Facebook post. Super easy!

Contest ends on 11/7. Winner will be notified by email.

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Synopsis

Sexy rock god Daxton Cole has everything… and nothing that can bring him peace.

Music, whiskey, pills, parades of silicone-enhanced groupies keeping his bed warm at any given time… none of it soothes his wounded soul. The demons always win.

His life is a toxic existence on a permanent loop, like a bad 80s movie.

Until…

Sara Russell, the junior publicist hired to salvage his tarnished image, plows into him. Innocent, naïve, and pure, she’s the only one who can piece together what has long been shattered.

But sometimes, when you’re so broken, it’s impossible to become whole again. And even more impossible to save anyone else.

GOODREADS

Purchase Links – 99c for 3 days only!!!

US: http://amzn.to/2e88iUO

UK: http://amzn.to/2eGjDMF

B&N: http://bit.ly/2dRqhvv

Kobo: http://bit.ly/2eXC38D

iBooks: http://apple.co/2eh4Xk0

Smashwords: http://bit.ly/2fcUA5u

 

Excerpt

 “Dax, where the hell are you going?” Finn’s question was followed by a yawn so loud, it could have woken the inhabitants of the neighboring buses. “We have sound check in an hour.”

Daxton ran a hand through his tousled, gel-crunched hair and pulled on a Houston Astros baseball cap. “I’m going for a run.”

“Sorry, I don’t speak that language. Come again?”

“I need to clear my head, okay? Buy me some time. I’ll be back.”

“Since when do you run? Don’t you want to get breakfast instead? Bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich, home fries, coffee?”

“Look, it was a shitty night. I need to get out for a while. Alone.”

“Dude, Merrick is gonna—“

“He’ll deal. I’ll see you later.”

Daxton slid open the tour bus door, breathing in the crisp, fresh air. Nobody in sight. Great, he finally had a chance to escape the questions he couldn’t answer, questions he didn’t even want to acknowledge.

The sun peeked over the clouds as he sank into a hamstring stretch. His muscles were so tight, just like the knot that had taken up residence at the base of his skull. Ironic. Excessive booze normally had the opposite effect. And he’d pretty much drank himself sober after last night’s debacle. How the hell had that guy gotten so close?

He rubbed the back of his neck, desperate to relieve the knot. “Dammit!”

“Rough night?”

That raspy voice made him jump about twenty feet into the air. Christ, did she know how sexy her voice sounded in the morning? He’d love to hear it waking him up after a very sleepless night infused with lots of carnal pleasures. Oh, fuck yeah.

“I didn’t mean to startle you.” Sara twirled her ponytail around her index finger, a sleepy smile on her face. The soft morning light danced atop her head, half-hooded green eyes making his cock twitch. Shit, even at this ungodly hour of the morning?

“I didn’t expect anyone else to be awake.”

“Thought you’d escape unnoticed, huh?” Sara smirked. “I’m going for a run. Figured it was my only chance for some peace and quiet before Merrick assigns me his list of errands for the day.”

“Uh-huh.” His eyes raked over the curves poured into hot pink spandex, mind unable to formulate a thought beyond peeling her out of those constricting clothes. Immediately, if not sooner.

“Okay, then.”

“Okay, what?”

She grabbed her ankles one at a time, pulling each toward to her perfect ass, stretching her quads. “Let’s go. You shouldn’t be by yourself, anyway.”

“So you’re gonna protect me?”

Her pink lips curled into a sly smile. “It’s my job. Now stop procrastinating and move.”

“You’re kind of pushy. Why can’t we ease into it? Nice and slow to start?”

“Nice and slow, huh? Kind of shocking. You don’t seem the type.”

He stretched his arms over his head. “I don’t know what you’re implying. I was talking about running.“

“Sure you were.” She tightened her ponytail. “Trust me, you’ll feel better once you sweat out all the alcohol.”

A slow trot increased in intensity much too quickly, and soon, they were circling the arena parking lot at full speed. Focus, focus, focus! His primary objective was not to collapse. A sidelong glance confirmed Sara had barely broken a sweat since they’d started. No words were exchanged, which was a good thing, since he couldn’t catch a single breath. A burning sensation erupted in the pit of his belly, spreading through his lungs, singeing his insides.  His legs, now feeling more like Jell-O than actual limbs, were on the brink of revolution. Why didn’t he grab a bottle of water? Panting only made his mouth drier, as if it wasn’t already more arid than the Sahara at midday. Sweat drizzled into his eyes, blurring his vision. How many more times were they going to make this death loop?

Sara pivoted to face him, tiny beads of perspiration glistening along her hairline, the only sign she was exerting herself at all. Jogging backwards. Not even changing her gait. He was a step above pathetic – a very short step.

“How is it that you can’t even make it a mile without looking like you’re about to pass out?”

Great, he needed to speak now?

“It’s not like…I’m…Britney Spears…shaking my ass…all over the stage.” His calf muscles ached as his sneakers pounded the pavement. Bacon, egg, and cheese had been a very delicious alternative, and he opted out for this self-inflicted torture? “I play guitar…and sing…doesn’t require…cardio.” He mopped his face with the edge of the t-shirt. “How the hell…are you…able to do this? I don’t think…your boy…friend is…keeping you…up late…enough.”

Croaking out those last words nearly killed him, for multiple reasons.

“You should really consider traveling with an oxygen mask.” She flipped around, giving him a glimpse of her shapely backside, just about the only thing keeping him going. “And, just so you know, he’s not my boyfriend anymore.”

“Not your…boy—“ A sharp pain shot through his foot, stopping him mid-stride. “Ahh!” His body rocketed forward, arms flailing, sending him to the pebbly concrete lot with nothing to cushion the blow except his pride.

Thump!

“Holy crap, are you okay?” Sara fell to the ground where he was writhing in agony, bits of pebble mashed into his skin. “Where does it hurt?”

He let out a loud groan and fell backward. “Fuck. Everywhere!”

“Do you think anything’s broken?” Her hand squeezed his and for the briefest of seconds, the presence of his very intense pain faded, replaced by Sara’s compassion, worry, and genuine concern. Somebody actually cared. That hadn’t happened in…shit, long enough that he couldn’t pinpoint an amount of time. It felt nice. Until the agony crashed over him again like a tsunami.

Sitting up was a struggle, but dammit, he was already hovering on the brink of being a complete and total pansy ass. Ignore the pain. Find out what happened with the boyfriend. Even a fall like that couldn’t quell his curiosity. He had to know, even if he was going to be in traction and unable to do anything about it for the foreseeable future.

“Am I allowed to ask what happened?”

A look of shock flitted across Sara’s face, quickly followed by a snicker. “Wow. Your focus is impressive, even with four potentially broken limbs.” Her playful tone couldn’t mask her nerves, though. She toyed with her ponytail again, normally bright green eyes darkening. “I walked in to find Laney riding him like she was competing for the Triple Crown.”

“Horse racing fan?”

“Yeah, we have a horse farm back home. Raised several thoroughbreds. I always loved to ride.” She averted her eyes, but not before he caught a glimpse of what she’d been trying to shield.

“Where’s home?”

“Minnesota.” She sat back on her heels, eyes still guarded. Conversation over. “So, what do you think? Are you able to hoof it back to the buses?”

“Eli is a fucking idiot.”

A slow smile brightened her flushed face. “Agreed.” She held out a hand. “Come on, let’s see if those legs still work.”

“Are you gonna carry me if they don’t?”

“You don’t pay me enough.”

Gritting his teeth, he pulled himself to his feet. “Christ, I feel like I’ve been run over by a freight train.”

Sara snaked an arm around his waist, hoisting him against her. “Take it slow, okay? You said you liked that.”

The scent of citrus wafted into the air between them. So delicious, like a fruit salad. How could she still smell so good after that run? “Yeah…I figured you’d use that against me soon enough.”

“Can I ask you something?”

“Looks like we have lots of time to kill before we make it back to camp. Shoot.”

“What happened last night? Who was the guy?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.“ How the hell did she even know?

”I’m sure your little groupies love the coy act, but I’ll pass.” She cocked an eyebrow. “Daxton, I’m part of your PR team. It’s my job to know everything that goes on during this tour. Sean from security told me someone approached you. I can’t do damage control without all the facts. Who was he, and what did he want? Or, maybe a better question might be what does he know?”

His face twisted into a grimace with each step. The buses weren’t even in sight. With any luck, they’d make it back by lunchtime. “You ever feel like you’re suffocating? That there’s air all around, but you just can’t breathe it in? Like your body resists what it needs to survive, and you feel like you’re constantly drowning? That’s how I feel most of the time. The air, everything around me – what people see, what they want to believe, judgments they make based on half-truths – it’s all toxic. Better not to inhale. The lesser of two evils, but either way, I’m fucked.”

She nodded, her hair tickling his shoulder. “I do know what you mean.” Her voice was soft, sad. There was something beneath that snarky exterior, something he was desperate to uncover, but her demeanor begged him not to press.

They walked for a few silent minutes that seemed to stretch into hours. He clenched and unclenched his fists as waves of pain assaulted his ankle. “Shit, that hurts.”

“I don’t think you should push it. Let me call Merrick.“

“No.” He stopped, teetering on one leg. “Please. Not yet. Can we just sit down for a minute?”

“Of course.” She eased him to the ground and sank onto the pavement. “Is there anything I can—?”

“The guy from last night said he knew my mother.” Daxton held his head, expelling a deep breath. “She disappeared after my brother died last year, without a trace. Without a warning. One day, she was there; the next, gone. With her clothes, car, jewelry. Everything…gone. My dad made a half-hearted attempt to find her, but I was too angry to try. I’d just lost my best friend, and my mother picked that time to bail. We should have been there for each other, but she didn’t care enough to even say goodbye.”

“I’m so sorry.” Sara grasped his hand. Her skin was so soft against his calloused fingers. It was an occupational hazard for a guitarist.

“I don’t want to have anything to do with her. She abandoned her family. Things between her and my dad were never great, but what the hell did I ever do to her?”

“So you had security get rid of him.”

“People always have an angle, Sara.” He raised his eyes to see the empathy reflected in her gaze. “I can’t trust anyone because everyone has an agenda. They want to know what I can do for them, how much I’ll pay to keep something from happening, what they can hold over my head in exchange for things they want. Even if this guy is telling the truth, I’m not willing to listen because nothing comes without a high price tag.Toxic. But the problem is, even though my body tries to protect me by resisting the urge to inhale the poison around me, I want to live, to be whole again, free from all this useless anger and resentment. I need to breathe.” He raked a hand through his hair. “I just can’t remember how.”

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