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Excerpt Reveal: The Crush by Penelope Ward

EXCERPT REVEAL
Title: The Crush
Author: Penelope Ward
Genre: Standalone Contemporary Romance
Release Date: February 22, 2021

BLURB

From New York Times bestselling author Penelope Ward, comes a new standalone, second-chance story of forbidden love…

It’s natural to want the one you can’t have. And for as long as I could remember, I’d secretly wanted my brother’s best friend, Jace.

He was six years older and always treated me like the sister he never had.

Fast forward a decade.

We were all in our twenties now. Jace had moved in with my brother, Nathan, and me to help us make ends meet after our parents died.

It was just the three of us—an odd family dynamic.

Living under our roof, Jace was as bossy and protective as ever.

But he certainly didn’t look at me like a sister anymore. That was what made things so complicated.

I was pretty much hot and bothered twenty-four-seven.

And he was torn.

The signs were subtle, at first. Like on movie night, I’d casually rest my leg against his, and he wouldn’t exactly shift away.

Still, I assumed he would never…go there.

Nathan would kill us.

The knowledge of that wasn’t enough to stop the inevitable, though.

Eventually, our slow burn exploded.

But more than the physical attraction, we’d developed a strong connection.

We just couldn’t get caught, right?

That sounded simple.

Until it wasn’t.

This is a story of forbidden love, broken trust, and an unexpected second chance.

GOODREADS LINK:https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/56337264-the-crush

PRE-ORDER LINKS
Apple Books: http://apple.co/3ruvaRW
B&N: http://bit.ly/2NrcLpA
Kobo: http://bit.ly/2ZfGq82
Google Play: http://bit.ly/3b0HkdS
Audio: https://amzn.to/2ZhQH3I
Paperback: https://amzn.to/34Hwh73

AMAZON LIVE RELEASE ALERT:https://fave.co/2KoLPUN

EXCERPT

“I’m gonna grab a beer,” he said. “You want something?”
“I’ll take a beer, too.”
He chuckled. “Is it bad that I had to think for a second whether you’re legal to drink? It feels wrong giving you alcohol, for some reason.”
“You’ve dropped me off at the damn bar! How could you think that?”
“I know. It’s fucked-up.” He laughed as he walked backwards into the house. “Be right back.”
A minute later, Jace returned with two chilled bottles of Miller Lite. He popped one open and handed it to me.
“Thanks.” I took a long sip that felt great going down.
We polished off the rest of the food, and by the time I finished the beer, I felt pretty tipsy. Between the soft breeze blowing Jace’s scent my way and the buzz, I was on cloud nine.
Jace took it upon himself to clear our wrappers and napkins, stuffing everything into the paper bag. As he went back into the kitchen, he asked, “Want another beer?”
“I’d love one.”
When he returned, he set the bottle in front of me and sat back down. He put his feet up on an empty chair and leaned his head back, closing his eyes.
He sighed. “This is exactly what I needed…to chill at home.”
That made me happy. “Give your head a break tonight. You can always worry about work tomorrow.”
“Yeah. I think I’m gonna take your advice on that.”
While his eyes were closed, I was able to enjoy staring at his profile—his strong, angular jaw and slightly cleft chin, his perfect nose and kissable lips, the way the sun brought out a reddish tone in his otherwise black hair. Jace was even more beautiful with the sun shining on him.   
I eventually closed my eyes as well, enjoying the breeze that offset a little of the heat. My eyes opened suddenly when I heard his chair skid against the cement.
“Fuck it.” He got up. “I’ll be right back.”
My heart raced a little. What is he doing?
A few minutes later, Jace returned in his swim trunks. They were blue with tiny anchors, a nautical pattern. Not that I was looking closely at his lower half or anything. I’d just started to make my way up to his chest when he dove into the pool, his gorgeous, hard body disappearing under the sky blue water.
He emerged and shook his head to clear the water from his hair. “You comin’ in or what?”
I got goose bumps. I hadn’t planned to, but I couldn’t resist the invitation.
“Sure.” I got up from my seat and unwrapped the towel.
Jace watched as I entered the pool. But what was he thinking?
I dove in and swam toward him, feeling more comfortable in my bathing suit now that I was submerged in the water.
He flashed a mischievous grin. “Wanna race?”
I splashed him. “Why? You think you can beat me just cuz your legs are longer?”
He cocked a brow. “There’s only one way to find out, right?”
Over the next several minutes, Jace and I swam in tandem from one end of the pool to the other. Sometimes he’d beat me to the other side, and a few times, I beat him.
Eventually, we got into a water fight. The next thing I knew, he was chasing me, then lifting me up and tossing me in the water. He did that several times. It was the most fun I’d had in a long time. I hadn’t a care in the world.
Then he lifted me up again, and I was certain he was going to toss me into the water, just like all of the other times. Instead, though, he just held me. Our eyes locked as my legs wrapped around his waist. He was going to have to drop me, because I sure as hell wasn’t climbing off him willingly. As he continued to hold me, the world seemed to stop. I could see the reflection of the palm trees in his gorgeous eyes, made luminescent by the sun. Those eyes then dropped to my lips. I could see his chest rising and falling. He swallowed hard. Holy shit. Something was happening. My heart was going a mile a minute.
And then…
“What are you doing?”
Jace dropped me like a hot potato at the sound of Nathan’s voice. My body hit the water with a loud splash.
What the hell is he doing here? My voice was shaky as I wiped the water from my eyes. “Wha…why are you home? I thought you were driving to meet that girl.”
“She canceled on me, so I came back after the job interview.” Nathan’s eyes traveled between Jace and me. He seemed suspicious.
“Oh.” I exhaled, moving a strand of hair out of my mouth. “How…how did the interview go?”
“It was okay. Too hard to tell if they’re gonna call me back, though.” He looked straight at Jace. “You guys seemed to be having fun. Didn’t realize I was missing out on a…pool party.”
Jace was silent.
I felt the need to chime in. “Jace decided to take his debut dip in the pool. We were just playing around.”
Nathan looked between us again. “I see.”
Jace finally spoke. “Well, it’s hot as all hell today. So…”
“You guys down if I make some dinner?” Nathan finally asked.
“We actually already ate,” I told him. “Jace went to Checkers.”
Nathan turned to his friend. “Since when do you eat dinner this early?”
Jace cleared his throat. “I was starving.”
“We didn’t think you were going to be home,” I said. “Otherwise, we would’ve waited.”
“I guess I’ll give you that.”
Jace got out of the water and dried himself off. He then laid out on one of the loungers, displaying his gorgeous, tanned body in all of its glistening glory. His feet dangled off the end of the chair.
Nathan snapped his fingers in front of my face. “I asked if I got anything in the mail. Earth to Farrah.”
Jesus. I hadn’t even heard him the first time.

AUTHOR BIO

Penelope Ward is a New York Times, USA Today and #1 Wall Street Journal bestselling author of contemporary romance.

She grew up in Boston with five older brothers and spent most of her twenties as a television news anchor. Penelope resides in Rhode Island with her husband, son, and beautiful daughter with autism.

With over two million books sold, she is a 21-time New York Times bestseller and the author of over twenty novels. Her books have been translated into over a dozen languages and can be found in bookstores around the world.


AUTHOR LINKS

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/penelopewardauthor
Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/PenelopesPeeps
Instagram: http://instagram.com/PenelopeWardAuthor
Twitter: https://twitter.com/PenelopeAuthor


OTHER BOOKS BY PENELOPE WARD

The Anti-Boyfriend

US: https://amzn.to/32IqJra
UK: https://amzn.to/3lBeoho
CA: https://amzn.to/3lyC2ek
AU: https://amzn.to/31HFHyl
B&N: https://bit.ly/3jbsTX7
Kobo: https://bit.ly/32hslrV
Apple Books: https://apple.co/3j9rGQC
Google Books: https://bit.ly/2EpJYgX
Audio: https://adbl.co/3l3jjr6

Just One Year

US: https://amzn.to/2ZIi8EJ
UK: https://amzn.to/2OEV0Aw
CA: https://amzn.to/2WvJv2D
AU: https://amzn.to/2ZFNxHI
B&N: https://fave.co/2GZ1NkV
Kobo: https://fave.co/3bbK33s
Apple Books: https://fave.co/2S0THyq
Google Play: https://fave.co/2ONqJjN
Audio: https://fave.co/2UYah3V

The Day He Came Back

US: https://amzn.to/2ZEqpcJ
UK: https://amzn.to/3jlbuMg
CA: https://amzn.to/3983EB0
AU: https://amzn.to/2BfZY3O
B&N: https://fave.co/2MKredQ
Kobo: https://fave.co/2YEXXbb
Apple Books: https://fave.co/2ScFey5
Google Play: https://fave.co/2YIBLN9
Audio: https://adbl.co/2YaupCK

See more books here:http://penelopewardauthor.com/books

Excerpt Blitz: Beneath The Stars by A.L. Jackson

Excerpt Blitz: Beneath The Stars by A.L. Jackson

Beneath the Stars Excerpt Blitz

A Friends-to-Lovers Rockstar Romance from A.L. Jackson

Coming February 22nd

Beneath the Stars is coming 02/22, and I’m thrilled to be a part of the except blitz. Check out the fire that is coming to you in this friends-to-lovers romance!

“Just how strong are ya, Mag Pie? Think you can sling me on that back and carry me inside?” He managed to only half slur the words.

Droplets of giddiness dripped into my chest. A well gathering fast. “You’re asking me if I can lift a Mack truck?”

“Hell, no. Just if you can tackle a stallion.”

He waggled his brows, though it was sloppy and goofy and kind of adorable, and god, how easily I could fall for this man.

Like slipping into quicksand.

“What would you say if I wanted to try?” I whispered, throat so tight it was difficult to speak.

He grunted. “I’d say that sounds like a mistake.”

“I thought you said I needed to make a few mistakes along the way?” I lifted my chin, my eyes searching his face in the darkness.

He forced a grin that felt wholly faked. “Ahhh…a few mistakes are called for. But believe me, baby, you don’t want this kind of tragedy.”

“Rhys—”

He shook his head to cut me off. “Don’t.”

I glanced back at the house. “I really should get Royce. He can help me get you inside.”

Rhys huffed out a laugh, shoving off the darkness that had gathered around him like a violent storm. He cocked a playful grin. “Think I’ve received my full allotment of death threats from your brother today, thank you very much. I can make it just fine.”

“Death threats?”

“Let’s just say he made our boundaries very clear.” He gestured at the bare space between us. “Just so you know, we’re already crossin’ them.”

I scowled. “When?”

“Doesn’t matter.”

I huffed a sigh.

Freaking Royce.

“Richard?” I offered instead.

“Nope. Good as new. Can’t keep a good man down.” His words were all slurry and mushed together.

He hopped up like he was going to prove the point.

Only he stumbled three feet to the side.

A goliath who swayed.

I jumped up and rushed to his side. “Whoa there, cowboy. You keep it up, and you’re definitely going down.”

He leaned against me, slinging his arm over my shoulders.

The man heavy and hard and pure masculinity.

He staggered a bit, and I struggled to keep him upright, because holy crap, he was made of brick.

Suddenly, his nose was in my hair. “Why you gotta smell so good, Mags? And this dress.”

My brain was short-circuiting with him this close.

With the words that slipped from his mouth so errantly.

With the way his fingertips grazed over the silky fabric in the barest brush.

Wildfire.

It consumed my flesh.

But it was my heart that was at risk.

Pre-Order on Amazon: https://amzn.to/2Z5M8Jp

Add to Goodreads: https://geni.us/BTSGoodreadsB

Audio Live Alert: https://geni.us/BTSAudioB

Want a Signed Paperback? PRE-ORDER HERE: https://geni.us/BTSPaperbackB

Can’t wait for the release? Be sure to vote for BENEATH THE STARS as one of your most anticipated February reads on Goodreads!

Vote Here: https://geni.us/BTSMostAnticipated

“AL Jackson wrecked me and put me back together with this book. I fell for Rhys and Maggie’s story from page one!” -Jessica Prince, Romance Author

GIVEAWAY

Win a Signed Paperback of Kiss the Stars

Join A.L. Jackson’s Reader Hangout to Enter: https://geni.us/AmysAngelsB

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Want a Signed Paperback? PRE-ORDER HERE: https://geni.us/BTSPaperbackB

A.L. Jackson is the New York Times & USA Today Bestselling author of contemporary romance. She writes emotional, sexy, heart-filled stories about boys who usually like to be a little bit bad.

Her bestselling series include THE REGRET SERIES, CLOSER TO YOU, BLEEDING STARS, FIGHT FOR ME, CONFESSIONS OF THE HEART, and FALLING STARS novels. Watch out for her upcoming stand-alone, BENEATH THE STARS, releasing February 22nd.

If she’s not writing, you can find her hanging out by the pool with her family, sipping cocktails with her friends, or of course with her nose buried in a book.

Be sure not to miss new releases and sales from A.L. Jackson – Sign up to receive her newsletter http://smarturl.it/NewsFromALJackson or text “aljackson” to 33222 to receive short but sweet updates on all the important news.

Connect with A.L.

Newsletter: http://smarturl.it/NewsFromALJackson

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Twitter: @aljacksonauthor

Instagram: @aljacksonauthor

Excerpt Reveal: Sancte Diaboli by Amo Jones

Excerpt Reveal: Sancte Diaboli by Amo Jones

SANCTE DIABOLI: PART ONE (Elite King’s Club Series #6) by Amo Jones

Release Date: February 9th

Add to Goodreads:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/43903063-sancte-diaboli

Preorder Today!!

Releases Wide and then moves to KU after Release!

Apple: https://apple.co/3pdt0VS

Nook: https://bit.ly/35cnlaw

Kobo: https://bit.ly/3nkZ9Jx

Amazon US: https://amzn.to/3peE2KA

Amazon AU: https://amzn.to/3lf5u8z

Amazon UK: https://amzn.to/3eJIM63

Blurb:

The Devil comes with baggage, and not the kind you can lose. I was two years old when he saved me. I didn’t understand much at that age, but I remember the pale boy with hair as dark as ink, saving me from two evils. He said he would protect me; I just didn’t know he meant from himself. I was raised in the arms of evil, tailored for the Devil like a custom Armani suit, and every day he wore it like a weapon. Brantley thought by keeping me locked in his manor that it would protect me, and it did.

Until it didn’t.

As I slowly adapt to The Elite Kings Club and the dark, sinister world that exists around the outlaws in suits, I come to learn that the monster everyone fears is the very same one I crave.

Like a prized trophy, I sit on his throne…

Something quite pretty, an object he owns…

She’s a porcelain doll, so shiny, so clean…

Something I want to polish, but to never be seen…

The time has come, I am in his world…

Now his Dea, can be admired by all…

The thing with porcelain is it’s fragile and delicate…

It would only take a second for me to eradicate it…

Excerpt:

“She’s a Vitiosis before she’s anything else.”

“A Hayes by blood,” Hector adds, and I can’t help it.

The corner of my mouth curves, flashing straight teeth. “Sure about that?”

About the Author:

Amo Jones is a USA Today & Wall Street Journal Bestselling Author, totally winging this author thing (she’s probably doing it all wrong). She likes cake, loves wine, and her religion is magic (Slytherin). She’s a profound work-a-holic, but when she’s not writing, you can find her chilling with her kids & Husband at the nearest beach, with a cocktail in her hand.

New Zealand is not a state of Australia and rugby is the best sport ever played.

Connect w/Amo:

Website: https://www.amojonesbooks.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/amojonesauthor

Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/10114

Twitter: https://twitter.com/amojoneswrites

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/thatcrazykiwiauthor

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/14047384.Amo_Jones

Amazon: https://amzn.to/36soMis

Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/amo-jones

Excerpt Reveal: The Sweet Talker by Gina Azzi

Excerpt Reveal: The Sweet Talker by Gina Azzi

THE SWEET TALKER by Gina Azzi
Release Date: January 27th

Add to Goodreads:
https://bit.ly/TSTGoodreads

PREORDER THE SWEET TALKER TODAY!
Amazon: https://amzn.to/39TQ599

Amazon Universal: https://amzn.to/3p5jIuw
Apple Books: http://bit.ly/TheSweetTalkerAB
Nook: http://bit.ly/TheSweetTalkerNook
Kobo: http://bit.ly/TheSweetTalkerKobo
Google Play: http://bit.ly/TheSweetTalkerGP

Blurb:

I’ve sworn off hockey players. Until the pregnancy test turns pink.

Noah Scotch is revered in Boston, a veritable god on the ice. I’m a nerdy, newly minted college professor who would rather color code my planner than hit the club scene. Noah shouldn’t look at me twice but when he does, I falter.

Who can blame me?

The sweet talker with the deliciously chiseled abs and sinful chocolate eyes is a force. On and off the ice. One hot and intense night with Noah has me second guessing my lack of a dating life.

Friends with benefits? He offers, I dive in headfirst. Growing up in a hockey family, I know better than to get serious with a player.

But the more time I spend getting to know Noah, the more my intention to keep things casual rings false.

Now, I’ve got a hopeful heart and a baby on the way.

I just need to tell Noah. But when I do, will I end up with everything I never knew I wanted? Or on my own?

Excerpt:

Do I tell her? Just lay it all out? Why the hell not? I’ve never been known to mince words before. “I lied to you.”
She rears back like I startled her and I curse myself for being such an idiot. “About what?”
“I don’t want to be just friends, Indiana. I may be crazy presumptuous right now but the other night…” I trail off, gauging her reaction.
“The other night what?” she whispers, her eyes searching mine.
“The other night was better than great. It was… I can’t stop thinking about it. About you, in my bed, and I want you there again.”

About the Author:

I’m Gina Azzi, a book-obsessed, coffee-drinking, globetrotting, mama of three! I write sweet with a dash of spicy New Adult and Contemporary Romance full of good men putting in work to win the hearts of even better women.

A total Jersey girl at heart, I struggle with insatiable wanderlust and currently reside in Ontario, Canada with my family. When I’m not dreaming up storylines or writing all the words, you can find me hanging with my littles, attempting to bake, or planning my next adventure.

Connect w/Gina:
Website: http://www.ginaazzi.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ginaazziauthor
Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1126502907441849
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Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/14086131.Gina_Azzi
Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/gina-azzi
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Gina-Azzi/e/B00YVOGEO2
Newsletter Signup: https://bit.ly/39OQvxm

Excerpt Reveal: Hate Me by A. Jade

Excerpt Reveal: Hate Me by A. Jade

HATE ME by Ashley Jade
Release Date: January 28th

Add to Goodreads:
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/55000548-hate-me

PREORDER IS AVAILABLE!
WILL BE AVAILABLE IN KINDLE UNLIMITED!
Amazon US: https://amzn.to/2Nd7vpx
Amazon UK: https://amzn.to/360wnr7
Amazon CA: https://amzn.to/3ixyS9w
Amazon AU: http://amzn.to/3aMX71q

Blurb:
I’m the whispers in the dark you can’t ignore.
The bully you can’t run away from.

I’m the tormentor who makes your life a living hell.

The villain you love to hate.

I’m the vicious stepbrother sleeping in the next room.

The one who knows all your secrets.

And I’ll stop at nothing to make you pay.

WARNING: This book is recommended for mature readers due to graphic language, sexual content, and dark elements. It is NOT a safe read.

Excerpt:
Tightening his grip, he escorts me to what appears to be a coat room.
“What the hell?”
“Let’s get one thing straight,” he snarls, cornering me until my spine meets a row of coats. “Your whore mother marrying my father changes nothing between us.”
I almost want to laugh, because I don’t like this new arrangement any more than he does.
However, it’s comical just how much it’s ruffling his feathers.
“Awe, what’s the matter, Trenton?” I taunt. “Afraid I’ll—”
Words die in my throat when one hand slams across my mouth and the other one hovers over my throat, threatening to squeeze. “I’m not afraid of anything, Stray.”
He utters the last word with so much venom I nearly wince. Out of all the cruel nicknames Knox has given me over the years, this one hurts the most.
Because it’s the truth.
Ever since my dad died, I’ve felt lost and abandoned.
Like a kitten who lost its way and will never find home because they don’t belong anywhere.
He leans in close, his ruthless stare burning a hole right through me. “But you should be.”
A shiver runs down my spine, not only because of his threatening words and the hostility they’re laced with…but the lethal way he’s looking at me.
As if he’s contemplating the best method to kill me and dispose of my body afterward.
I’ve heard all the rumors going around school.
His mom was murdered when he was thirteen…
And his dad sent him to a mental institution for a year while he covered it up.
Because Knox was the one who did it.
People weren’t terrified of him just because he was a bully who got off on terrorizing others.
They were terrified because he was a legitimate psychopath who was capable of homicide.
Until now, I wasn’t sure I believed any of the gossip.
At six foot three he towers over my five-four frame, but I force myself to peer up and look him right in the eyes. “Go to hell.”
Deep down I’m petrified of the lunatic, but I refuse to let him see that.
My breath hitches when he presses his body against mine and the hand looming over my throat constricts. “I live there.”
Live? More like ruled because as far as I’m concerned, he’s the devil.
My retort falls by the wayside, though, when he leans in and his mouth brushes mine.
I’m about to ask what the fuck he’s doing, but a sharp sting shoots through my flesh when his teeth clamp down on my bottom lip and I taste a hint of copper.
I try to pull away, but that only makes the pain worse.
Thinking quick, I knee him in the balls.
With an aggravated grunt, he finally releases his hold.
I expect him to be pissed so I brace myself, preparing for another attack, but to my surprise there’s a trace of amusement in his expression.
His tongue darts out and I see the glint of metal from his piercing as he swipes the blood gathered on his lip. “Welcome to the family, sis.”

About the Author:
Ashley Jade loves to tackle different genres and tropes within romance. Her first loves are New Adult Romance and Romantic Suspense, but she also writes everything in between including: contemporary romance, erotica, and dark romance.

Her characters are flawed and complex, and chances are you will hate them before you fall head over heels in love with them.

She’s a die-hard lover of oxford commas, em dashes, music, coffee, and anything thought provoking…except for math.

Books make her heart beat faster and writing makes her soul come alive. She’s always read books growing up and scribbled stories in her journal, and after having a strange dream one night; she decided to just go for it and publish her first series.

It was the best decision she ever made.

If she’s not paying off student loan debt, working, or writing a novel—you can usually find her listening to music, hanging out with her readers online, and pondering the meaning of life.

Check out her amazon page and Facebook page for future novels.
She recently became hip and joined Twitter, so you can find her there, too.
She loves connecting with her readers—they make her world go round’.

Connect w/Ashley:
Website: https://ashleyjadeauthor.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Ashley-Jade-Author-788137781302982/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/ajadeauthor
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ashleyjadeauthor/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/14175946
Bookbub:https://www.bookbub.com/authors/ashley-jade
Amazon: https://amzn.to/2RGsIJ9

Excerpt Reveal: The Invitation by Vi Keeland

Excerpt Reveal: The Invitation by Vi Keeland

EXCERPT REVEAL
Title: The Invitation
Author: Vi Keeland
Genre:Standalone Contemporary Romance
Release Date: January 18, 2021


Excited about Vi Keeland’s upcoming release, The Invitation?
Check out this SNEAK PEEK of CHAPTER 1!

CHAPTER 1
Stella
 “I can’t do this…” I stopped halfway up the marble staircase.
Fisher paused a few steps ahead of me. He walked back down to where I stood. “Sure you can. Remember the time we were in sixth grade and you had to make that presentation about your favorite president? You were a nervous wreck. You thought you were going to forget everything you’d memorized and be standing there with everyone staring at you.”
“Yes, what about it?”
“Well, this is no different. You got through that, didn’t you?”
Fisher had lost his mind. “My fears all came true that day. I got up in front of the blackboard and started to sweat. I couldn’t remember a single word I’d written. Everyone in the class stared, and then you heckled me.”
Fisher nodded. “Exactly. Your worst fear came true, and yet you lived to see another day. In fact, that day turned out to be the best day of your life.”
I shook my head, bewildered. “How so?”
“That was the first time we’d ever been in the same class. I thought you were just another annoying girl like the rest of them. But after school that day, you ripped into me for teasing you while you were trying to do your presentation. That made me realize you weren’t like the other girls. And that very day I decided we were going to be best friends.”
I shook my head. “I didn’t speak to you for the rest of the school year.”
Fisher shrugged. “Yeah, but I won you over the next year, didn’t I? And right now you feel a little calmer than you did two minutes ago, don’t you?”
I sighed. “I guess I do.”
He held out his tuxedo-clad elbow. “Shall we go in?”
I swallowed. As terrified as I was of what we were about to do, I also couldn’t wait to see what the inside of the library looked like all done up for a wedding. I’d spent countless hours sitting on these steps, wondering about the people walking by.
Fisher waited patiently with his elbow out while I debated another minute. Finally, with another loud sigh, I took his arm. “If we wind up in jail, you’re going to have to come up with the bail money for both of us. I’m way too broke.”
He flashed his movie-star smile. “Deal.”
As we climbed the remaining steps to the doors of the New York Public Library, I went over all of the details we’d discussed in the Uber on the way here. Our names for the evening were Evelyn Whitley and Maximilian Reynard. Max was in real estate—his family owned Reynard Properties—and I’d gotten my MBA at Wharton and recently moved back to the City. We both lived on the Upper East Side—at least that part was true.
Two uniformed waiters wearing white gloves stood at the towering entrance doors. One held a tray of champagne flutes, and the other a clipboard. Though my legs somehow kept going, my heart felt like it was trying to escape from my chest and take off in the opposite direction.
“Good evening.” The waiter with the clipboard nodded. “May I have your names, please?”
Fisher didn’t flinch as he doled out the first of what would be a night full of lies.
The man, who I noticed had an earpiece in, scanned his list and nodded. He held a hand out for us to enter, and his partner handed us each bubbly. “Welcome. The ceremony will take place in the rotunda. Seating for the bride is on your left.”
“Thank you,” Fisher said. As soon as we were out of earshot, he leaned close. “See? Easy peasy.” He sipped his champagne. “Oooh, this is good.”
I had no idea how he was so calm. Then again, I also had no idea how he’d managed to talk me into this insanity. Two months ago, I’d come home from work to find Fisher, who was also my neighbor, raiding my refrigerator for leftovers—a common occurrence. As he ate two-day-old chicken Milanese, I’d sat at the kitchen table sorting through my mail and having a glass of wine. While we talked, I’d sliced open the back of an oversized envelope without checking the address on the front. The most stunning wedding invitation had been inside—black and white with raised gold leaf. It was like a gilded work of art. And the wedding was at the New York Public Library, of all places—right near my old office and where I’d often sat and had my lunch on the iconic stairs. I hadn’t visited in at least a year, so I was seriously pumped to get to go to a wedding there.
Though I’d had no idea whose wedding it was—a distant relative I’d forgotten, maybe? The names weren’t even vaguely familiar. When I turned the envelope over, I quickly realized why. I’d opened my ex-roommate’s mail. Ugh. That figured. It wasn’t me who was invited to a fairytale wedding at one of my favorite places in the world.
But after a couple of glasses of wine, Fisher had convinced me it should be me going, and not Evelyn. It was the least my deadbeat ex-roommate could do for me, he’d said. After all, she’d snuck out in the middle of the night, taken some of my favorite shoes with her, and the check she’d left behind for the two months of back rent she owed had bounced. At a minimum, I ought to get to attend a ritzy, thousand-dollars-a-plate wedding, rather than her. Lord knew none of my friends were ever getting married at a venue like that. By the time we’d polished off the second bottle of merlot, Fisher had decided we would go in Evelyn’s place—crash the wedding for a fun night out, compliments of my no-good former roomie. Fisher had even filled out the response card, writing that two guests would attend, and slipped it into his back pocket to mail the next day.
I’d honestly forgotten all about our drunken plans until two weeks ago when Fisher came home with a tuxedo he’d borrowed from a friend for the upcoming nuptials. I’d balked and told him I wasn’t going to crash some expensive wedding for people I didn’t know, and he’d done what he always did: gotten me to think his bad idea wasn’t really that bad.
Until now. I stood in the middle of the sprawling lobby of what was probably a two-hundred-thousand-dollar wedding and felt like I might literally pee my pants.
“Drink your champagne,” Fisher said. “It’ll help you relax a bit and put some color back in your cheeks. You look like you’re about to attempt to tell the class why you like John Quincy Adams so much.”
I squinted at Fisher, though he smiled back, undeterred. I was certain nothing was going to help me loosen up. But nevertheless, I gulped back the contents of my glass.
Fisher tucked one hand casually into his trouser pocket and looked around with his head held high, like he didn’t have a fear in the world. “I haven’t seen my old friend party animal Stella in a long time,” he said. “Might she come out to play tonight?”
I handed him my empty champagne flute. “Shut up and go find me another glass before I bolt.”
He chuckled. “No problem, Evelyn. You just sit tight and try not to blow our cover before we even get to see the beautiful bride.”
“Beautiful? You don’t even know what she looks like.”
“All brides look beautiful. That’s why they wear a veil—so you can’t see the ugly ones, and everything is magical on their special day.”
“That’s so romantic.”
Fisher winked. “Not everyone can be as pretty as me.”
Three glasses of champagne helped calm me enough to sit through the wedding ceremony. And the bride definitely didn’t need a veil. Olivia Rothschild—or Olivia Royce, as she would be now—was gorgeous. I got a little teary eyed watching the groom say his vows. It was a shame the happy couple weren’t really my friends, because one of their groomsmen was insanely attractive. I might’ve daydreamed that Livi—that’s what I called her in my head—would fix me up with her new hubby’s buddy. But alas, tonight was a ruse, and I was no Cinderella story.
The cocktail hour took place in a beautiful room I’d never been in. I studied the artwork on the ceiling as I waited at the bar for my drink. Fisher had told me he needed to use the restroom, but I had a feeling he’d really snuck off to talk to the handsome waiter who had been eyeing him since we’d walked in.
“Here you go, miss.” The bartender slid a drink over to me.
“Thank you.” I took a quick look around to see if anyone was paying attention before dipping my nose inside the glass and taking a deep sniff. Definitely not what I ordered.
“Ummm, excuse me. Is it possible you made this with Beefeater gin and not Hendricks?”
The bartender frowned. “I don’t think so.”
I sniffed a second time, now certain he’d made it wrong.
A man’s voice to my left caught me off guard. “You didn’t even taste it, yet you think he poured the wrong gin?”
I smiled politely. “Beefeater is made with juniper, orange peels, bitter almond, and blended teas, which produces a licorice taste. Hendricks is made of juniper, rose, and cucumber. There’s a different smell to each.”
“Are you drinking it straight or on the rocks?”
“Neither. It’s a gin martini, so it has vermouth.”
“But you think you can smell that he used the wrong gin, without even tasting it?”  The guy’s voice made it clear he didn’t think I could.
“I have a very good sense of smell.”
The man looked over my shoulder. “Hey, Hudson, I got a hundred bucks that says she can’t tell the difference between the two gins if we line them up.”
A second man’s voice came from my right, this one behind my shoulder a bit. The sound was deep, yet velvety and smooth—sort of like the gin the bartender should’ve used to make my drink.
“Make it two hundred, and you’re on.”
Turning to get a look at the man willing to wager on my abilities, I felt my eyes widen.
Oh. Wow. The gorgeous guy from the bridal party. I’d stared at him during most of the wedding. He was handsome from afar, but up close he was breathtaking in a way that made my belly flutter—dark hair, tanned skin, a chiseled jawline, and luscious, full lips. The way his hair was styled—slicked back and parted to the side—reminded me of an old-time movie star. What I hadn’t been able to see from the back row during the ceremony was the intensity of his ocean blue eyes. Those were currently scanning my face like I was a book.
I cleared my throat. “You’re going to bet two-hundred dollars that I can identify gin?”
The gorgeous man stepped forward, and my olfactory sense perked up. Now that smells better than any gin. I wasn’t sure if it was his cologne or some sort of a body wash, but whatever it was, it took everything in my power to not lean toward him and take a deep whiff. The sinfully sexy man smelled as good as he looked. That pairing was my kryptonite.
There was a hint of amusement in his voice. “Are you telling me it’s a bad bet?”
I shook my head and turned back to speak to his friend. “I’ll play along with your little bet, but I’m in for two hundred, too.”
When my eyes returned to the handsome man on my right, the corner of his lip twitched just slightly. “Nice.” He lifted his chin to his friend. “Tell the bartender to pour a shot of Beefeater and a shot of Hendricks. Line ’em up in front of her, and don’t let us know which is which.”
A minute later, I lifted the first shot glass and sniffed. It honestly wasn’t even necessary for me to smell the other, though I did it anyway, just to be safe. Damn… I should’ve bet more. This was too easy, like taking candy from a baby. I slid one shot glass forward and spoke to the waiting bartender. “This one is the Hendricks.”
The bartender looked impressed. “She’s right.”
“Damn it,” the guy who had started this game huffed. He dug into his front pocket, pulled out an impressive billfold, and peeled off four hundred-dollar bills. Tossing them in our direction on top of the bar, he shook his head. “I’ll win it back by Monday.”
Gorgeous Guy smiled at me as he collected his cash. Once I took mine, he lowered his head to whisper in my ear.
“Nice job.”
Oh my. His hot breath sent a shiver down my spine. It had been way too long since I’d had contact with a man. Sadly, my knees felt a little weak. But I forced myself to ignore it. “Thank you.”
He reached around me to the bar and lifted one of the shots. Bringing it to his nose, he sniffed before setting it back down and smelling the other.
“I don’t smell anything different.”
“That just means you have a normal sense of smell.”
“Ah, I see. And yours is…extraordinary?”
I smiled. “Why yes, it is.”
He looked amused as he passed me one of the shots and held the other up in toast. “To being extraordinary,” he said.
I wasn’t generally a shot drinker, but what the hell? I clinked my glass with his before knocking it back. Maybe the alcohol would help settle the nerves this man seemed to have jolted awake.
I set my empty shot glass on the bar next to his. “I take it this is something the two of you do on a regular basis, since your friend plans to win it back by Monday?”
“Jack’s family and mine have been friends since we were kids. But the betting started when we went to the same college. I’m a Notre Dame fan, and he’s a USC fan. We were broke back then, so we used to bet a Taser zap on games.”
“A Taser zap?”
“His father was a cop. He gave him a Taser to keep under his car seat just in case. But I don’t think he envisioned his son taking hits of fifty-thousand volts when a last-minute interception made his team lose.”
I shook my head. “That’s a little crazy.”
“Definitely not our wisest decision. At least I won a lot more than he did. A little brain damage might help explain some of his choices in college.”
I laughed. “So today was just a continuation of that pattern, then?”
“Pretty much.” He smiled and extended his hand. “I’m Hudson, by the way.”
“Nice to meet you. I’m St—” I caught myself in the nick of time. “I’m Evelyn.”
“So are you a gin aficionado, Evelyn? Is that why I didn’t smell anything different between the two?”
I smiled. “I wouldn’t consider myself an aficionado of gin, no. To be honest, I mostly drink wine. But did I mention my occupation? I’m a fragrance chemist—a perfumist.”
“You make perfume?”
I nodded. “Among other things. I developed scents for a cosmetics and fragrance company for six years. Sometimes it was a new perfume, other times it was the scent for a wipe that removes makeup, or maybe a cosmetic that needs a more pleasant smell.”
“Pretty sure I never met a perfumist before.”
I smiled. “Is it as exciting as you’d hoped?”
He chuckled. “What exactly is the training for a job like that?”
“Well, I have a chemistry degree. But you can have all the education you want, and you still won’t be able to do the job unless you also have hyperosmia.”
“And that is…”
“An enhanced ability to smell odors, an increased olfactory acuity.”
“So you’re good at smelling shit?”
I laughed. “Exactly.”
A lot of people think they have a good sense of smell, but they don’t really understand how heightened the sense is for someone with hyperosmia. Demonstrating always worked best. Plus, I really wanted to know what cologne he was wearing. So, I leaned in and took a deep inhale of Hudson.
Exhaling, I said, “Dove soap.”
He didn’t look completely sold. “Yes, but that’s a pretty common soap choice.”
I smiled. “You didn’t let me finish. Dove Cool Moisture. It’s got cucumber and green tea in it—also a common ingredient in gins, by the way. And you use L’Oreal Elvive shampoo, same as me. I can smell gardenia tahitensis flower extract, rosa canina flower extract, and a slight hint of coconut oil. Oh, and you use Irish Spring deodorant. I don’t think you’re wearing any cologne, actually.”
Hudson’s brows rose. “Now that’s impressive. The wedding party stayed in a hotel last night, and I forgot to pack my cologne.”
“Which one do you normally wear?”
“Ah… I can’t tell you that. What will we do on our second date for entertainment if we don’t play the sniff test?”
“Our second date? I didn’t realize we were going to have a first.”
Hudson smiled and held out his hand. “The night’s young, Evelyn. Dance with me?”
A knot in the pit of my stomach warned me it was a bad idea. Fisher and I were supposed to stick together and limit contact with other people to minimize our chances of getting caught. But glancing around, my date was nowhere in sight. Plus, this man was seriously magnetic. Somehow, before my brain even finished debating the pros and cons, I found myself putting my hand in his. He led me to the dance floor and wrapped one arm around my waist, leading with the other. Not surprisingly, he knew how to dance.
“So, Evelyn with the extraordinary sense of smell, I’ve never seen you before. Are you a guest or a plus one?” He looked around the room. “Is some guy giving me the evil eye behind my back right now? Am I going to need to get Jack’s Taser from the car to ward off a jealous boyfriend?”
I laughed. “I am here with someone, but he’s just a friend.”
“The poor guy…”
I smiled. Hudson’s flirting was over the top, yet I gobbled it up. “Fisher is more interested in the guy who was passing out champagne than me.”
Hudson held me a little closer. “I like your date much better than I did thirty seconds ago.”
Goose bumps prickled my arms as he lowered his head, and his nose briefly brushed against my neck.
“You smell incredible. Are you wearing one of the perfumes you make?”
“I am. But it’s not one that can be ordered. I like the idea of having a true signature scent that someone can remember me by.”
“I don’t think you need the perfume to be remembered.”
He led me around the dance floor with such grace, I wondered if he had taken professional lessons. Most men his age thought slow dancing meant rocking back and forth and grinding an erection against you.
“You’re a good dancer,” I said.
Hudson responded by twirling us around. “My mother was a professional ballroom dancer. Learning wasn’t an option; it was a requirement if I wanted to be fed.”
I laughed. “That’s really cool. Did you ever consider following in her footsteps?”
“Absolutely not. I grew up watching her suffer with hip bursitis, stress fractures, torn ligaments—it’s definitely not the glamorous profession they make it out to be on all those dance-contest TV shows. You gotta love what you do for a job like that.”
“I think you have to love what you do for any job.”
“That’s a very good point.”
The song came to an end, and the emcee told everyone to take their seats.
“Where are you sitting?” Hudson asked.
I pointed to the side of the room where Fisher and I had been seated. “Somewhere over there. Table Sixteen.”
He nodded. “I’ll walk you.”
We approached the table at the same moment as Fisher, who was coming from the other direction. He looked between Hudson and me, and his face asked the question he didn’t say aloud.
“Umm…this is my friend Fisher. Fisher, this is Hudson.”
Hudson extended his hand. “Nice to meet you.”
After shaking with a silent Fisher, who seemed to have forgotten how to speak, he turned to me and took my hand once again. “I should get back to my table with the rest of the wedding party.”
“Okay.”
“Save a dance for me later?”
I smiled. “I’d love to.”
Hudson turned to walk away and then turned back. As he walked backwards, he called, “In case you pull a Cinderella on me and disappear, what’s your last name, Evelyn?”
Thankfully, him using my fake name reminded me not to give him my real one as I’d almost done the first time. “It’s Whitley.”
“Whitley?”
Oh God. Did he know Evelyn?
His eyes swept over my face. “Beautiful name. I’ll see you later.”
“Uhh…okay, sure.”
When Hudson was barely out of earshot, Fisher leaned close to me. “My name’s supposed to be Maximilian, sweetheart.”
“Oh my God, Fisher. We have to leave.”
“Nah.” He shrugged. “It’s no big deal. We made up Maximilian anyway. I’m your plus one. No one knows the name of the person Evelyn brought. Though I still want to play a real estate tycoon.”
“No, it’s not that.”
“Then what is it?”
“We have to leave because he knows…” 
★★★


Excited?  We are too!

RELEASING JANUARY 18th!

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AUTHOR BIO

Vi Keeland is a #1 New York Times, #1 Wall Street Journal, and USA Today Bestselling author. With millions of books sold, her titles have appeared in over a hundred Bestseller lists and are currently translated in twenty-five languages. She resides in New York with her husband and their three children where she is living out her own happily ever after with the boy she met at age six.


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Exclusive Excerpt: Her Wicked Marquess by Stacy Reid

Exclusive Excerpt: Her Wicked Marquess by Stacy Reid

Miss Maryann FitzWilliam is too witty and bookish for her own good. No gentleman of the ton will marry her, so her parents arrange for her to wed a man old enough to be her father. But Maryann is ready to use those wits to turn herself into a sinful wallflower.

When the scandal sheet reports a sighting of Nicolas Ives climbing out the chamber windows of a house party, Maryann does the unthinkable. She anonymously claims that the bedchamber belonged to none other than Miss FitzWilliam, tarnishing her own reputation—and chances of the dastardly union her family secured for her. Now she just needs to convince the marquess to keep his silence.

Nicholas Ives, Marquess of Rothbury has purposefully cultivated a reputation as the most ruthless, unprincipled libertine, all so he can slip beneath the guards of those whose vile actions caused him to lose the only girl he’s ever loved. Despite his intrigue, Nicolas is determined to ignore the deceitful and enticing Miss FitzWilliam. However, his enemies are drawing close, and he soon discovers he must keep her closer to protect her. Nonetheless, she rouses a soul-burning passion within him, causing him to question who will protect her from his devilish wiles.

EXCERPT

Maryann couldn’t credit that Nicolas St. Ives would be this outrageous! Her mama had not invited him to tonight’s ball, yet here he was, descending the wide staircase from the upper bowers, confidently striding, casting sardonic glances at debutantes, and with a sensual smirk about his mouth, declaring him every inch the rake society bemoaned.

He was considered improper, disreputable, and was even whispered by some to be cunning. He was also appallingly handsome, and many ladies who should have known better flirted with him shamelessly. He clearly did not give a fig what society thought about him, a thing Maryann had come to believe, since the scandal sheets reported on his exploits weekly.

“Is it really him?” a young debutante asked. “Oh my, he is terribly handsome.”

Her friends dissolved into giggles and drew her away, as if they were saving their fair gazelle from the lion drawing closer. The man seemed sublimely unaware of his masculine beauty and the stir he caused whenever he entered a room. His expression was insouciant; she could not conclude what kind of man he was.

A few gentlemen of the ton were vain about their appearance to the point of being rather excessive. And it seemed Nicolas St. Ives was one of them, dressed in black trousers and jacket, with a bright golden waistcoat and a matching cravat. A cravat pin studded with a large diamond winked at his throat, and his hair seemed carelessly styled, yet curled at his nape and on his forehead perfectly.

The rakehell! How dare he crash her mother’s ball?

The twitter of excitement that went through the throng echoed in Maryann’s veins, and she scowled. Mama would curse his name tomorrow, but the scandal sheets would celebrate his wicked daring, the debutantes would excitedly trade stories about how close their gowns had brushed against the lord the scandal sheets referred to as “the daring and the wicked.” And perhaps a few married ladies and widows would share among themselves some delightful and naughty things they suggested having done with him.

Maryann silently snorted, thinking it all ridiculous. Yet she couldn’t help staring at him, couldn’t help the manner in how her heart ached, yet she didn’t know what she longed for. Certainly anything in regard to a notorious rake could only lead to inevitable disgrace.

Excerpted from Her Wicked Marquess, by Stacy Reid. Entangled Publishing, 2020. Reprinted with permission.

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Teaser Reveal: Sancte Diaboli by Amo Jones

Teaser Reveal: Sancte Diaboli by Amo Jones

SANCTE DIABOLI: PART ONE (Elite King’s Club Series #6) by Amo Jones
Release Date: February 9th

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Releases Wide and then moves to KU after Release!
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Blurb:
The Devil comes with baggage, and not the kind you can lose. I was two years old when he saved me. I didn’t understand much at that age, but I remember the pale boy with hair as dark as ink, saving me from two evils. He said he would protect me; I just didn’t know he meant from himself. I was raised in the arms of evil, tailored for the Devil like a custom Armani suit, and every day he wore it like a weapon. Brantley thought by keeping me locked in his manor that it would protect me, and it did.
Until it didn’t.

As I slowly adapt to The Elite Kings Club and the dark, sinister world that exists around the outlaws in suits, I come to learn that the monster everyone fears is the very same one I crave.

Like a prized trophy, I sit on his throne…
Something quite pretty, an object he owns…

She’s a porcelain doll, so shiny, so clean…
Something I want to polish, but to never be seen…

The time has come, I am in his world…
Now his Dea, can be admired by all…

The thing with porcelain is it’s fragile and delicate…
It would only take a second for me to eradicate it…

About the Author:


Amo Jones is a USA Today & Wall Street Journal Bestselling Author, totally winging this author thing (she’s probably doing it all wrong). She likes cake, loves wine, and her religion is magic (Slytherin). She’s a profound work-a-holic, but when she’s not writing, you can find her chilling with her kids & Husband at the nearest beach, with a cocktail in her hand.

New Zealand is not a state of Australia and rugby is the best sport ever played.

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Chapter Reveal: A Vow Of Hate by Lylah James

Chapter Reveal: A Vow Of Hate by Lylah James

A VOW OF HATE by Lylah James

Release Date:January 5th

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Blurb:

“An all-new standalone hate-to-love, arranged marriage romance with a TWIST from Lylah James.”

“Once upon a time…”

Hate consumed him.

Love wrecked me.

That night changed both our lives, turning our beginning into something toxic. We were poison together and there was no antidote.

Our story began like any other fairy tale ended.

With a beautiful wedding.

One kiss.

Two rings.

Three vows.

Killian Spencer became my lawfully wedded husband and I, his dutiful wife.

But he was no Prince Charming. He didn’t come to save me… and he vowed there would be no happily ever after.

And me?

Just like the legends I’d read as a little girl, I always thought I’d be the princess in my fairy tale.

Well, I was the villain of our love story.

“Till death do us part…”

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Chapter Reveal:

CHAPTER ONE

Julianna

The ugliness of life is that sometimes we can’t undo what has been done. It doesn’t matter how devastating the outcome is; we can’t turn back time – can’t change the past – can’t fix the future.

“It is what it is,” my father had said that night.

The night I woke up from my coma, bedridden with two broken legs, three fractured ribs, a messed-up spine and a fractured skull… and more scars than I could bear.

One night, four months ago, I made a mistake that ruined more than one life.

Since then, I have learned that grief is just a stage of coming to terms with the situation.

Just like denial. Anger. Bargaining. Depression. Acceptance. Except, I was still on the fourth stage. Depression, my therapist would say with a pitiful sigh.

Misery still choked me every morning as I swallowed down my breakfast and every minute of the day. While it wasn’t as heavy as guilt, the imbedded grief still festered pus like an untreated wound.

But it was the guilt…

Guilt was what killed me everyday.

Pain became my companion; grief was my nightmare and guilt turned out to be my soulmate.

“Julianna, you haven’t had your breakfast yet.”

I could feel her presence behind me but I didn’t turn away from the window. “I’m not hungry.”

Selene, our elderly maid and my only friend, made a sound in the back of her throat. “Your father–”

“He doesn’t need to know,” I said, my nails digging into my palms.

“Your sister–”

My lungs caved in, my body growing cold. “Stop. Don’t even finish that sentence.”

“Julianna.”

“Please, stop. Stop trying. Just take the food and leave.”

My shaky voice was followed by silence and then the door clicked close. Her presence disappeared and I was finally able to wallow in self-pity again.

My window overlooked the stables from behind our mansion. My father’s estate expanded many thousand acres, but this spot used to be my favorite view.

Except now, it was nothing but a bitter reminder.

How could our lives change so quickly in merely four months?

If only we hadn’t sneaked out…

If only I hadn’t been so stubborn…

If only I hadn’t been driving that night…

My hand came up, trembling as I touched the black veil. The thin fabric started from below my eyes and hid the rest of my face. I kept my black hair down, with bangs that I never had before, keeping my forehead covered. Only my eyes were visible.

I hear she’s ugly now, that’s why she hides behind the veil, the whispers would say.

It’s good she keeps it covered. I don’t want her to give me nightmares.

Beasty, some sneered.

The poor girl, others pitied.

The whispers didn’t hurt. In fact, they had little effect on me. I had learned to shut the world out while I surrounded myself with my own misery. Jolie, my therapist, said it wasn’t the right coping mechanism. She said I was making it harder on myself.

She said a lot of things, but none of them mattered.

My sister – Gracelynn – was still dead. Because of me.

And I was still here, alive and breathing when it should had been me in her place.

I still remembered her wide-open, dead eyes. I could still smell the unpleasant odor of metallic copper; our blood and sweat. I still saw her mangled face so vividly in my memories and every time I closed my eyes.

I was in that car with her dead body for three hours.

Three hours that felt like three extremely long days.

I passed out many times, regaining consciousness only to see her bloodied face again and again, while I screamed at her to breathe, to stay alive.

Gracelynn wasn’t wearing her seatbelt that night. The force of the impact, and when our car flipped, sent her flying through the windshield. Her screams still echoed in my ears. Her swollen, mangled face with glass shards lodged in her flesh was still seared in my brain.

Most days, I spent my time like this. Listlessly staring out the window, watching the sun rise and set, watching the day go by, turning into months.

It wasn’t like I could run away from my misery. No, I couldn’t even walk.

That accident took more from me than anyone would ever see.

***

Hours later, the door opened again, bringing me out of my thoughts. I was still rooted in the same spot as Selene left me this morning.

“I’m not hungry,” I said, already knowing who it was. Only two people were allowed in my room. Selene and my father.

My father rarely visited me.

And Selene was the only face I saw everyday. Her presence and the only human contact I had since I woke up from the coma and was brought back to my father’s estate, kept what was left of my sanity intact.

“The room smells like death and despair. Quite frankly, I approve.”

My eyes widened.

No.

My head swam and the collar of my sweater felt too tight.

What was he doing here?

Killian Spencer was the last person I expected to come into my room. The last time we saw each other…

Two months ago, when I visited my sister’s resting place, for the first time. He had been there before me and when I had turned to leave, he didn’t let me go without giving me a piece of his mind.

Cold voice.

Dark eyes.

Cruel words.

That was Killian Spencer. The new him.

Julianna,” he sneered my name. I imagined him curling his lips in distaste.

“Before you say anything,” I started to warn him, but he spoke over me.

“Our fathers have arranged our marriage. It’s being finalized as we speak.”

I shut up and closed my eyes, holding back a desperate cry. He approached me from behind, his footsteps sounding closer. I could feel his body heat. I could smell his strong, spicy cologne. Unique and familiar.

My chest rattled when I exhaled a shaky breath. “You could have refused.”

From my peripheral vision, I saw his hands come up and he placed them over the handles of my wheelchair. For the first time, I realized how powerless I was against him. Weak and fragile.

He could easily hurt me.

And I would let him.

“You say this and yet you know how important this marriage is for both our families,” Killian mocked.

My fingers latched onto my silver, charm bracelet. With a frantic need, I used the sharp edge of the heart and dug it deep into my wrist. I winced and the pain made me think. Made me feel alive. “Is that the only reason why you agreed to this marriage?”

He bent forward, bringing his head closer to mine. I felt his breath against my ear. “You know very well what my reasons are.”

“You could just kill me,” I said. “Make it easy for both of us, don’t you think?”

“Why should you have an easy death?” The hatred in his voice was unmistakeable. “She died a cruel death, Julianna. And you will suffer a worse fate.”

There it was. This was the reason why we were poison together.

I killed his love and he wanted vengeance.

“Do you know what date today is?”

How could I forget?

Killian was still too close. His presence was suffocating. “She was supposed to walk down the aisle today,” he said, deadly and heartless. But I didn’t miss the pain and the longing in his voice.

Gracelynn would have been the prettiest bride ever. I closed my eyes and choked on the sob threatening to spill from my throat.

My sniffling filled the room and there was Killian’s dreadful silence. His silence was eerie and disturbing. Killian was deadlier than a viper, as he waited for the right moment to strike.

He moved around my wheelchair and stood in front of me. Dressed in all black, he was an imposing figure. I dragged my gaze up, from his polished leather shoes, up to his strong thighs, his wide chest and shoulders and then his face. Full lips, dark eyes and a glacial expression.

Our eyes met and he blinked, once, as if to shake the image of me from his brain. As if I was a ghost, haunting him.

Maybe I was.

Killian leaned against the window, his hands going to the sill as he crossed his ankles. He looked every bit the powerful and confident man he was. So devious, so in control, so cruel.

I fidgeted under his gaze, feeling so out of control while he was so contained.

“Two years.”

I blinked. “What?”

There was a tick in his left cheek, his muscles clenching, and his jaw hardened. Killian nodded at my legs – useless and frail. “Your father said it’ll take you a long time to walk again, if you ever will. With all the necessary therapy, he’s giving you two years.”

I swallowed. “Two years…?”

“Two years so you can walk down the aisle. Our wedding will be held on this day, two years from now.”

I knew this was coming. My father warned me beforehand – I’d have to take Gracelynn’s place at the altar – but I was still not prepared for this announcement.

“What if I can’t walk again?”

He grinned cruelly. “Then, I’ll drag you down the aisle, on your fucking knees, if I have to.”

I sucked in a shuddering breath. Killian stepped away from the window and bent forward, bringing his face closer to mine. I couldn’t even move. My wheelchair kept me in place. His breath feathered over my veil, right over my lips. “Listen to me very carefully. You will marry me; you will pay for your sins and you will die at my hands.”

He didn’t see that I was already paying for my mistakes.

Just like everyone else, Killian didn’t see me. They saw my veil. They saw my sin.

No one saw Julianna Romano anymore.

They didn’t see my remorse– or that my sister’s ghost haunted me.

My nails dug deeper into my palm, drawing blood. I lifted my chin up, matching his cold stare. “You’ve made yourself very clear, Killian Spencer.”

He chuckled at my show of I’m-not-scared-of-you-do-your-worst. It was a weak attempt at bravery, but I didn’t want him to think I was as powerless as he thought I was.

My life was already hell. But I still had some kind of control over what Killian could do to me, even though I deserved everything he said.

I should pay for my sin.

I should suffer.

I should die at his hands.

It was his right. After all, I killed his heart.

It would have been easy to say that Killian was the villain. But it was far from the truth. He was just another casualty of my mistakes and the end result of my sins.

I was the villain in this messy fairy tale.

His hand came up to my face and I flinched, expecting him to strike me, but he didn’t. Killian curled a finger around a strand of black hair and then pulled. Hard enough to burn my scalp. “I will break you, Julianna Romano.”

You can’t break what’s already broken.

I turned my face away, no longer able to look into his dark eyes. There was just something in them. Something that made me ache.

“You’ve said what you came here to say. You can leave now.”

Killian pulled back and strode away. I clutched my chest, bearing the pain that seemed to dig itself deeper under my flesh. It wasn’t just my heart that ached. It was my soul that was tormented.

“Oh right, I forgot to give you this.” He fished something out of his pocket and then carelessly threw it my way. It skidded on the shiny floor, a few feet away from my wheelchair.

“Your ring,” Killian said coldly, his voice dripping with venom. “Wear it. Happy engagement to us.”

After he was long gone, Selene came back. Without a word, she lifted the ring from the floor and handed it to me. I took it from her, staring at the extravagant diamond ring. The rock was huge and nothing like my personal taste. But then again, this wedding wasn’t about me and Killian could care less about my preferences.

It was heavy in my palm, but the weight was more than just the shiny diamond itself.

I loathed it.

And yet, I still wore it on my ring finger.

When my father came into my room much later, he smiled approvingly at the sight of my ring, patted me on the hand and then walked away without a word.

It was official.

Two years from now, I would be Killian’s wife.

This marriage was his vengeance – the vows would not be of love, but of hatred.

His retaliation. My atonement. One imperfect marriage.

About the Author:

Lylah James lives somewhere in Canada. She is usually pretty busy but she uses all her spare time to write. If she is not studying, sleeping, writing or working – she can be found with her nose buried in a good romance book, preferably with a hot alpha male.

Writing is her passion. The voices in her head won’t stop and she believes they deserve to be heard and read. Lylah James writes about drool worthy and total alpha males, with strong and sweet heroines. She makes her readers cry – sob their eyes out, swoon, curse, rage and fall in love. Mostly known as the Queen of cliffhanger and the #evilauthorwithablacksoul, she likes to break her readers’ hearts and then mend them again.

Connect w/Lylah:

Website: http://authorlylahjames.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorLy.James/

Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1738794629699569/

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Prologue Reveal: A Vow Of Hate by Lylah James

Prologue Reveal: A Vow Of Hate by Lylah James

A VOW OF HATE by Lylah James
Release Date: December 15th

Add to Goodreads:
http://bit.ly/AVOHGoodreads

Special Pre-Order price at $2.99!
Grab it now, before the price goes up after release day!
Amazon US: https://amzn.to/2VwwLb8
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Amazon AU: https://amzn.to/3pLpwKD

Blurb:
“An all-new standalone hate-to-love, arranged marriage romance with a TWIST from Lylah James.”

“Once upon a time…”

Hate consumed him.
Love wrecked me.
That night changed both our lives, turning our beginning into something toxic. We were poison together and there was no antidote.

Our story began like any other fairy tale ended.
With a beautiful wedding.
One kiss.
Two rings.
Three vows.
Killian Spencer became my lawfully wedded husband and I, his dutiful wife.

But he was no Prince Charming. He didn’t come to save me… and he vowed there would be no happily ever after.
And me?
Just like the legends I’d read as a little girl, I always thought I’d be the princess in my fairy tale.
Well, I was the villain of our love story.

“Till death do us part…”

Special Pre-Order price at $2.99. Grab it now, before the price goes up after release day!

PROLOGUE REVEAL

Julianna
My father always told me that life is all about choices. Some decisions are impossible to make, some choices we live to regret. We are humans after all; we are born to make mistakes. Humans are faulty, we are both good and evil – a perfect yin and yang.
What he forgot to tell me was that… some choices would haunt me forever.
A choice I made…
A moment of impulsiveness.
A destiny I couldn’t rewrite.
After all, we can’t stop time, right?
And all it took was a second.
I killed her that night.
My sister.
Gracelynn.
My story was tainted from the beginning; tainted by her blood. And her death was a sin for me to bear, for the rest of my breathing days. I wasn’t evil, but I was the villain anyway.
I pulled the black veil back over my face.
This is my atonement.

About the Author:

Lylah James lives somewhere in Canada. She is usually pretty busy but she uses all her spare time to write. If she is not studying, sleeping, writing or working – she can be found with her nose buried in a good romance book, preferably with a hot alpha male.

Writing is her passion. The voices in her head won’t stop and she believes they deserve to be heard and read. Lylah James writes about drool worthy and total alpha males, with strong and sweet heroines. She makes her readers cry – sob their eyes out, swoon, curse, rage and fall in love. Mostly known as the Queen of cliffhanger and the #evilauthorwithablacksoul, she likes to break her readers’ hearts and then mend them again.

Connect w/Lylah:
Website: http://authorlylahjames.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorLy.James/
Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1738794629699569/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/authorly_james
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Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/author/lylahjames
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