Friday, September 28, 2012

Blog Tour: Taking Charge by Mandy Baggott

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Today I will have a Review and Excerpt. First, let's get to know the Author! 



Mandy Baggot is a self-confessed Twitter addict who likes to sing on You Tube. She regularly guests on book blogs and is a featured author on the innovative website loveahappyending.com. She is also a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association.
Taking Charge is her fifth novel. Mandy lives near Salisbury, Wiltshire, UK with her husband and two daughters.

Website: 

Twitter Handle: @mandybaggot
Facebook: 
Publisher Author Page




Contemporary Romance
Date  Published: 5/3/12

 Is going back Robyn’s only way forward?


American-born Robyn Matthers is going home. With her dad in hospital, his roadhouse in ruins and the ice hockey team slipping down the league, she needs to take charge. But does she have the strength to do it? 

Cole Ryan is a hockey player on a personal mission. He’s tall, dark, hot and Robyn’s noticed! But can she trust her feelings - or his? And what will Cole do when he finds out the truth about her?

Robyn returns to Michigan and things aren’t quite the same. Her best friend has grown up and is thinking about marriage and babies, the ice hockey team is no longer the life blood of the community and her father is engaged!

When Robyn’s twin cousins drag up past events that hold painful memories for her, she and Cole are forced together. But are either of them ready to start something new?

With an ill father, a trailer trash almost step-mom and ex-boyfriend Brad desperate for another chance, does Robyn have time to contemplate a relationship? Does she really want one? And is it physically possible for two people to fall in love in just three days?

My Rating:

My Review:
I'm a sucker for a Spots Romance! This one came with several additional reasons to read! 

Robyn may not have the best relationship with her father, but she knows he needs her help and she is determined to take care of both him and his legacies, the bar and hockey team. She grew up around Hockey and was even one of the guys, so she knows she can fix things. 

The journey between Cole and Robyn is a beautiful one and I was really invested in their relationship the whole way through. Secrets, Revelations, broken trust, family problems, and their pasts threaten to end their relationship before it even has a chance to begin. A wonderfully heartfelt story that is not just a romance but a testament to family as well. 

EXCERPT

He’d given her the best room. She had a panoramic view of West Lake and all its natural Michigan beauty. When she’d woken up the next morning and drawn back the curtains, the scenery had stunned her. The sun was already up and the lake was still and calm. Like a mirror, it reflected every tree standing along the banks. The sky was a cornflower blue and there wasn’t a cloud in sight. 
She was still suffering from the time difference, but this morning, opening her eyes to the fantastic garden, the boats moored around the edge of the water and the lake itself, everything seemed a little bit better. Today was a good weather day. The sun was shining and there was little wind, and in Portage, that meant getting intimate with the barbecue.
She was already outside on the deck, a pair of tongs in her hand, and the lid of the grill open, when Cole appeared.
“Morning! Bratwurst?” she greeted, waving a sausage in the air.


Cole opened the door and Robyn pushed him inside. She grabbed hold of his hands and put them on her hips. She kissed him, pushing him down onto the floor of the hallway. She wanted to get as close to him as she could. She pulled his t-shirt over his head and looked appreciatively at the firm, muscular chest underneath. She ran her fingers down, across his sternum to the waistband of his jeans.
Cole stopped her, taking hold of her hand and squeezing it in his.
She looked into his eyes, those deep, dark eyes. She kissed his lips again, closing her eyes and savoring every second of how it felt to lose herself in someone, without any questions or recriminations. Without anyone having to get up and go home.
Cole brought her fingers to his mouth and softly kissed each knuckle in turn. His gentleness was too much to bear, and she drew herself away, let him go and got to her feet, sweeping her hair back out of her face.

The pink neon sign of Taboo throbbed in front of them. Mickey and the rest of the team had been at another bar before arriving at the club, and they were already well lubricated.
“Now, listen up. Bob has the kitty—strictly beer, no ridiculously, expensive, potent cocktails, no shots, and absolutely no tequila. I want you all to enjoy yourselves, but we do have an important game tomorrow, so let’s remember that,” Robyn said.
Henrik repositioned a bright yellow cowboy hat on his head and loosely strung a red feather boa around Mickey’s neck. Robyn had no idea where he had got them from.
“What about the kitty for the girls? You get special treatment if you throw money at them,” Art piped up.
“If you want to throw money at them, Art, you knock yourself out, but you won’t be throwing my money at them,” Robyn informed him.


BUY LINK







Review: The Ugly Duchess by Eloisa James

Historical Romance
Date Published: 8/28/12

How can she dare to imagine he loves her…when all London calls her The Ugly Duchess ?

Theodora Saxby is the last woman anyone expects the gorgeous James Ryburn, heir to the Duchy of Ashbrook, to marry. But after a romantic proposal before the prince himself, even practical Theo finds herself convinced of her soon-to-be duke's passion.

Still, the tabloids give the marriage six months.

Theo would have given it a lifetime…until she discovers that James desired not her heart, and certainly not her countenance, but her dowry. Society was shocked by their wedding; it's scandalized by their separation.

Now James faces the battle of his lifetime, convincing Theo that he loved the duckling who blossomed into the swan.

And Theo will quickly find that for a man with the soul of a pirate, All's Fair in Love—or War

My Rating:



My Review:

I love it when historicals bring to light the same issues girls/women today have. Theo knows she is not the prettiest of girls and in a time when your looks and your dowry are everything, she wants so badly to believe that James has actually fallen for her. 

After a whirlwind courtship and seemingly perfect start to her marriage, Theo's world is ripped apart. 

James doesn't realize he has so much to lose and when he is left by the woman he loves because of his own fault, he takes off and becomes a pirate. When he comes into contact with Theo again he is met with the beauty he already knew was there, but convincing Theo is another matter entirely.

Their story is really two separate parts as they are very different people from before and after their separation. The growth they show is beautiful and their HEA is great. The passion between their characters is undeniable. 

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Blog Tour: Love's Providence by Jennifer Westall

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Today I will have a Review, Excerpt, and Giveaway. First, let's get to know the Author! 


I grew up in Birmingham, Alabama and Holly Pond, Alabama, two very different towns that I love for so many reasons. Holly Pond is my soul, the place where I go to remind myself of who I am and where I come from. It's a quiet place that allows me to reset when I've fallen off track. 

Birmingham is my heart, the place where I lived out my story. I go there to remember my best friend, my first love, my first job, my first heartbreak. 
And then there is Saint Simons Island, the place I go to feel alive, to feel the breeze off the ocean, the salt on my tongue, the excitement of my first (and only) summer fling. 
I may reside in the suburbs of Atlanta, creating memories with my sweet boys, but I call several places home.

Contact


YA Edgy Christian Romance
Date Published: May 24, 2012

Collegiate athlete Lily Brennon has always been the piece that doesn’t quite fit in the puzzle, especially in her fragmented family, and no amount of rule-following perfection seems to bring her any closer to the love and acceptance she desperately seeks. If not for Jackson Carter, her childhood best friend and the only boy she’s ever loved, she’s sure she would have run away years ago. But when Jackson loses his father and a future basketball career within months of each other, his faith is so shattered, he shuts out everyone, including Lily.

After months of heartache, Lily begins to piece together a life without Jackson, and while vacationing on a beautiful island off the Georgia coast, she begins a long-distance romance with Alex Walker, a police officer with a quick wit and a cocky grin. He revives her hope in love again, but their intense attraction and his devastating secret test Lily’s values, stretching them until they break. Through her struggles to remain true to her principles, an agonizing choice between Alex and Jackson, and a series of terrifying events that threaten all of them, Lily must endure losing everything she’s been grasping so tightly. Only then will she discover the depth of the love that already surrounds her.  

My Rating:

My Review:
You will notice that the genre says Edgy Christian Romance. This is spot on for what you get when you read it. This is not your average Christian story. Be prepared for a wild ride full of mystery, suspense, secrets, faith, hope, and love. 

Jennifer Westall does a wonderful job of connecting the readers to Lily and Jackson from the very beginning. The heartbreak is so strong and watching Lily pick up the pieces and give love a chance again is beautiful. Enter Alex, who Lily has decided to give a chance, but what happens when secrets threaten to destroy everything and the love she thought was lost is more apparent than ever?

This story is a page turner and the as the reader you will find yourself invested in everything along the way. Wonderful, wonderful story!

Excerpt
Later that evening, Lily stood on the playground and squeezed the sand between her toes as a warm, moist breeze swirled strands of hair around her face. The village shops by the pier had been teeming with tourists all afternoon, but most of them had closed down hours ago. The sounds of traffic and screaming kids had faded into a gentle lapping of the ocean against the nearby rocks. 
Her feet ached from walking around for the past several hours, and her head was beginning to throb as well. To make matters worse, her dad had insisted that she keep an eye on Kara and her cousin Rachel, which meant an evening full of aimlessly wandering through tourist shops and listening to shallow comparisons of one guy after another. At this point, she wanted nothing more than to go back to the beach house, put her feet up, and relax with a good book.
A few yards away, Kara and Rachel competed to see who could swing the highest. As much as they insisted on being treated like adults, it was amazing how childish they could be. She rolled her eyes and sighed, glancing down at her watch. Nearly time to go.
“Y’all about ready?” she called.
Rachel jumped out of her swing first, followed by Kara who narrowly missed landing on her rear. Rachel doubled over with laughter, and Lily couldn’t help but laugh too. Kara flushed bright red as she glanced around to see if anyone else had seen her stumble. 
“Nice,” Lily said. 
Kara ignored her and straightened her clothes. Rachel slid her feet into her sandals and tugged her shorts back into place, though they still left little to the imagination. She smoothed her dark hair and picked her purse up off the ground. Then suddenly she squealed like a mouse and waved Kara toward her.
“Look, those cops over there are cute!”
Lily followed her gaze to the massive live oaks that provided a canopy over a picnic area of the park. It was empty now except for two officers talking quietly at a picnic table in the lamp light, their bikes resting in a rack nearby. From several yards away they appeared similar—broad shoulders, dark hair, well-built. Nothing spectacular.
“You’re hopeless,” Lily said. “They’re way too old for you to even think about.”
Rachel shrugged. “So? Cute is just cute. Age doesn’t factor.”
Lily looked at them again. Maybe Rachel was right, but she wasn’t interested in another lame discussion about guys like they were a tasty dessert item. 
“They’re all right, I guess. Not really my type.”
Kara snorted. “Oh please. I think you have to date more than one person to have a type.” 
Rachel laughed and looked away from Lily’s glare. 
“Well, you are the expert,” Lily said. “How many boyfriends have you had?”
Kara took a few steps closer and jutted her chin at Lily. “I know a lot more than you think. I know that hanging out with one guy since you were nine years old doesn’t make you an expert. You wouldn’t even know what to do if a great guy was interested in you.”
“Sure I would. I’d say thanks but no thanks.”
“Oh my word, Lil. Seriously. There’s something wrong with you.”
“I don’t care what you think about me. I don’t want to date right now.”
Rachel’s mouth fell open. “Really?”
“Look, I just want to enjoy my vacation. You know, relax a little, read a good book, take a walk on the beach. I don’t need drama.”
Kara shook her head. “I’m not talking about a serious relationship here. Look around. There are cute guys everywhere. Loosen up and have some fun.”
“I don’t need a guy around to have fun.”
Kara winked at Rachel. “Well, if you’re going to be hanging around us, you better get used to cute guys being around. In fact, I think we should start right now.” She nodded toward the tree where the cops were still seated. Rachel’s face lit up.
“Oh no,” Lily said. “We’re going back to the house. It’s nearly midnight.”
But they sped away before she could stop them, so she threw her hands in the air and followed. This was going to be humiliating. As she approached the officers, the girls sang hello in unison. She could just imagine what these two gentlemen must be thinking. Leaning back on their elbows in identical poses, both of the officers grinned at the girls. 
Then she caught a glance from the one on the left, and his eyes traveled down her legs. A sliver of a smirk played at the corner of his lips. Maybe gentleman wasn’t the right word. Kara rattled off introductions, oblivious to the amusement on their faces. 
“I’m Kara. This is my sister, Lily, and our cousin, Rachel.”
Lily offered a polite nod. There had to be a way to exit gracefully, but she couldn’t think of one. Kara and Rachel dropped onto the bench of a picnic table opposite the officers, looking entirely too eager. They were practically panting.
“I’m Steve,” the one on the right said. “It’s nice to meet you, ladies.” His smile lit up his whole face, and his eyes had a warm puppy-like expression. Lily relaxed a little. At least one of them was friendly anyway.  
“You can just call him Poindexter.” The other officer’s eyes sparked with mischief, and Steve slapped him across the chest.
“I know you don’t want me to tell them what they can call you, Rambo.”
“Rambo?” Rachel asked, tilting her head. 
He waved his hand to dismiss the question. “Forget it. It’s not that funny anyway.”
On closer inspection, the nickname seemed fitting given his dark waves and bulging muscles. He probably did think he was some sort of action hero. She could practically see him admiring his biceps in a mirror.
“So what is your name, Rambo?” Lily asked.
Their eyes met, and his lips tipped into a smirk. 
“Walker. Alex Walker.”
Yep, definitely an action hero. 
“So what are you supposed to be?” she asked. “Double-oh-six-and-a-half?” The retort slipped out before Lily could catch it. 
Steve snickered and looked away from Alex’s murderous glance.
“Well, you can just call me Daddy.” He cocked an eyebrow at her, an obvious challenge, but his grin never changed. 
Lily held his gaze, irritated by the way her stomach flipped. Must have been something she’d eaten.
Rachel finally broke the awkward silence. “So, um, is it usually this quiet around here?”
Steve shook his head. “Nah, it’ll pick up tomorrow, trust me. This place’ll be crawling with people and screaming kids.”
“And plenty of little boys for you girls to play with, I’m sure,” Alex added.
Rachel’s chest sprang out as she huffed. “We are not little girls, and we are not interested in little boys.”
“How old do you think we are anyway?” Kara asked.
Lily couldn’t wait for this response. Alex had wandered into dangerous waters, but he seemed oblivious. He put his fingers to his chin and assessed them. 
“Hmm, let me see.”
Steve waved off the challenge. “I can’t ever tell.” He sent a knowing grin at Lily, and she couldn’t help but smile back. At least he had some sense.
“Well,” Alex said, looking first at Kara, then at Rachel. “With all the make-up, you look about twenty-one. So I’d have to say you two are about thirteen, maybe fourteen.”
Kara’s mouth dropped open and Rachel gasped. Lily could barely control her laughter.
“What?” Rachel exclaimed. “I am fifteen, almost sixteen!”
“And I am already sixteen!” Kara folded her arms across her chest.
“Whoa! Don’t get your panties in a wad.” Alex threw up his hands in surrender. “I was just giving you a hard time.”
As the girls continued to sulk, he winked at Lily. Something about him sent a shiver down her arms. 
“And how about you?” he asked.
She hesitated. She shouldn’t let him bait her into comments she might regret. Arrogant or not, he was an officer of the law, a position she had always been taught to respect.
Rachel finally spoke for her. “She actually is twenty-one.”
Kara lifted a brow, a puzzled look that seemed to ask if she was okay. Lily decided to ignore it and Alex as well. 
She turned and looked out over the ocean, wishing she could enjoy it alone. The ocean and sky had melted into one large black expanse, but she could hear the waves tumble into the rocks not far away. 
“So, how long have you been police officers?” Kara asked.
“Seven years for me,” Steve answered.
“You’re kidding. You don’t seem that old.”
Steve laughed. “I went into the police academy right out of high school. Been doing this since I was eighteen.”
Lily glanced at Kara and caught the slight nod toward Steve. She knew she was being rude, but what did Kara expect? Flirting with a stranger wasn’t going to fill the hole in her chest. Still, she supposed she should at least be polite.
“That’s pretty young to become a cop,” Lily said. “You didn’t think about going to college?”
“Nah.” He grinned like the thought was absurd. “I never wanted to do anything but be a cop. Dad’s a cop. Mom’s a cop. Just seemed natural.”
He smiled at her again, and the warmth of it reached out to her. It wasn’t much, but it made her smile. Maybe getting to know Steve wasn’t the worst idea in the world.
***
Alex caught the flush in Lily’s cheeks as she smiled at Steve, and he took a quick glance at his partner. Steve was the nicest guy he’d ever met. Too nice. And he wasn’t about to let some snobby chick get the wrong idea about him. Besides, no matter how nice he was, even Steve could be tempted by a hot girl, and he had to admit this one was a looker. Her legs had caught his attention first—long, athletic—but it was her eyes that he kept coming back to. They were cool and aloof, wandering over everything in the park, except him. He could tell from the moment she walked over that she’d rather be anywhere else. Until now.
He’d have to nip the flirting before she mistook Steve’s goofy grin for something more than friendly conversation.
“So that makes you about, what, twenty-five?” Lily asked.
“Yep, I’m getting old.” Steve’s chest shook with his chuckle.
“Thankfully you finally found a good woman to take care of you in your waning years.” Alex darted his eyes over to Lily as he spoke, satisfied with the subtle fall of her smile. 
Steve’s face lit up with his crooked grin, unaware of the hope he’d just crushed. 
“Yeah, I got a good one alright.”
“How long is it to the wedding?” Alex threw that one in for good measure.
Steve looked up at the stars as if he expected the answer to be spelled out as a connect-the-dots puzzle. 
“I guess about six weeks or so.” He looked back down at the girls and grinned. “I don’t have much to do with the planning. I’m just supposed to show up on time.”
The younger two dove into questions about the wedding, though Steve never seemed to give good enough answers. Lily hung back, of course, her eyes drifting down the beach. She crossed her arms over her chest and shifted her weight back and forth like she couldn’t wait to get out of there. The lights of the ice cream parlor across the parking lot went dark, and she looked down at her watch with visible relief. 
“We should probably get going.”
The blond glanced at her watch as well. “We still have a little time left. What’s the big hurry?”
“You two are supposed to be back by midnight.” Lily pointed a look directly at the brunette with all the make-up. “Your parents would kill me if I let you stay out late, and you know it.”
“A few minutes isn’t going to hurt anything,” she whined.
He watched Lily squirm. She looked like a kid in desperate need of a bathroom break. Too damn good to hang out with public servants probably. 
“Yeah, Lily,” he said. “What’s the hurry? Don’t you like us?” 
“Uh, well…” she stammered. “It’s not that. I just don’t want them to get in trouble.”
“Let me guess,” he said. “You do everything you’re told and you’ve never disappointed anyone.” She opened her mouth to respond, but he cut her off. “You’ve never missed a single curfew in your life, have you?”
“What’s it to you?”
“Well, that must be an exciting life.”
She swung her weight to the other hip and shot bullets of contempt from her eyes. 
“Just because I take my responsibilities seriously doesn’t mean I can’t have a good time.”
“Oh, I’m sure you’re the life of the party.” 
Little Miss Perfect was making this way too easy. She turned and jerked her head at the other two. 
“Let’s go.”
They stood up and flashed adorable smiles. Then they sang their goodbye as bubbly as they had their hello. The brunette flipped her hair and winked, and he stifled a laugh. That girl was going to be trouble in another year or two. 
Lily, on the other hand, was already trouble. He could feel it. Something about her still lingered after she’d disappeared, like the aftertaste of an expensive wine. It reminded him of why he hated the stuff.

Buy Links


Blog Tour: Stealing Breath by Joanne Brothwell

Today I will have a Review and Excerpt. First, let's get to know the Author! 

Joanne Brothwell lives in the country on the Canadian 
prairie with her family where her stories are inspired 
by the dead things that appear at her doorstep on a 
daily basis.

Twitter @JoanneBrothwell


Deep in the backwoods of North Dakota, Sarah Ross is
searching for a missing child when she is attacked by a
glowing-eyed, transparent creature known to the
Navajo as a Skinwalker. Using mysterious abilities,
Sarah escapes, only to run directly into Evan Valente, a
handsome, charismatic stranger who helps her back to
safety. But why is Evan out in the forest so early in the
morning?
Sarah learns her eyes bear the mark of the Indigo Child,
an evolved human with the ability to feel the emotions
of others; unfortunately, her indigo aura is highly
desirable  to those  who wish to steal her powerful
essence.
Soon, Sarah falls deeply in love with Evan and wants
nothing more than to follow her heart, but she can't
ignore the lingering feeling that Evan is hiding a
terrible secret. The deeper she digs, the more danger
she faces, forcing her to face the darkest, innermost
parts of her soul.
Stealing Breath  is a darkly romantic tale of  a young
woman’s journey for love within the fearsome realm of
the paranormal. It is a spellbinding read that mines the
inner workings of the human character. Love, loss and
the quest for redemption, these characters will echo in
your mind long after you’ve put the book down.

My Rating: 3.5*'s



My Review:

Joanne Brothwell wastes no time getting right to the action. The story starts off on a camping trip where our main character Sarah hears the voice of a child calling for help. She musters up the courage to follow the voice and try and help whoever is in danger. Unfortunately what she runs into is anything but a child and she barely manages to survive with her life. Upon her hasty retreat, she runs into Evan. Coincidence or not? Sarah then embarks on an journey to find out what exactly makes her different than others and what is responsible from the attack on her and others. 

The relationship between Sarah and Evan is a rocky one. Sarah has so much going on that she doesn't know if she should even give Evan a chance, but she has this undeniable connection to him. Her friends seem to have their doubts about him and she finds herself suspecting something's off as well. I really liked the connection between them. The whole premise of this story seemed unique to the paranormal. While the insta-love thing can sometimes be a bit much, their connection was believable. 

All in all a good start to a series, I look forward to seeing where she takes us! 

Excerpt
“You saw that Evan guy again?” Amber asked. She sucked the last of her frothy pink
drink through a straw. The mischievous look on her face was mirrored in the giddy emotions
she gave off, emotions that were always especially loud when she was drinking. They resonated
within me like a bouncy ball flying around in my stomach.
I downed another shot of “Sex on the Beach”, hoping it would finally be enough to filter
out the emotions of everyone here. Smooth at first, then tart, the booze finally burned its way
down the back of my throat. The buzz-on was almost immediate, and the effect was wonderful,
the way it almost obliterated all of the sex-obsessed feelings that seemed to roll off of nearly ever
patron at the bar like a hot blanket being wound around me. Sick.
We sat at a booth right next to the bar. Amber held her glass up, signaling to the
bartender who nodded and began to pour. He bobbed his head to the blaring country music from
the loudspeaker.
Tables ringed the bar, booths along the wall and stools on the other side. Every few feet
a brightly lit neon beer sign provided a dash of garish d├ęcor. Right in the middle was the dance
floor, a little postage-stamp sized circle of parquet flooring that reminded me of an interlocking
puzzle. Alongside it was a raised section with a few pool tables.
“Yeah, I saw him.” I proceeded to explain his land development business to Amber and
Kate, who listened with rapt expressions.
“That’s amazing. Nobody ever comes to Slave Lake. People only leave,” Amber said.
Our waitress, dressed in skin-tight jeans and a too-tight tank-top, brought us another
round. Behind her, the giant flat screen on the wall lit up with random explosions of fuchsia,
neon yellow and acid green, perfectly paced with the lyrics of the canned music.
Kate sat across from me on the bench seating, her copper hair shimmering pink from
the neon “Budweiser” sign and the black light hanging on the wall behind her. Her teeth were
glowing an unnatural white in the light, and every piece of lint on her black shirt stood out like a
3D movie.
“How interesting that you both were out in the bush that morning,” Kate said.
I nodded. “I know. Quite a coincidence.”
Amber sat beside Kate in the bench seat, facing the bar. She leaned forward in one fluid motion,
her black hair sweeping the table. “Sarah. Look who just walked in.” I turned in my seat. “And
he’s coming right over—”
“Mind if I join you?” asked a familiar voice, before I’d even had a chance to look.
I turned and smiled at Evan. “Sure.”
He pulled a stool up to our table, his arms rippling with the movement. His very presence
seemed to heat the air around me, his cologne eclipsing the bar smell of dirty jeans, stale beer
and desperation.
I glanced at Kate and Amber, who both stared at him, bright-eyed. His dark fitted jeans
hugged his legs, the denim slung low across narrow hips. A black t-shirt made of a material I
couldn’t identify hinted of the peaks and valleys of muscle beneath and a single silver chain
with a dog-tag hung at his neck, a crest emblem engraved on it with the name Valente. This guy
would look good in a burlap sack. Or nothing.
“You remember Kate and Amber from the campground?” I asked. They nodded in
acknowledgement and exchanged niceties. Then Amber and Kate excused themselves and hit
the dance floor. They’d been dancing together since we’d become bar age, both of them with the
attitude that they weren’t about to wait around for a guy to ask.

Evan and I watched as they twirled each other around, the only people dancing in the
whole bar. Then they attempted to two-step, each of them fighting to lead. Goofballs.
I turned back to Evan. “How are you?”
He flashed that thousand-watt smile. “I’m great. You?” He inched closer and the
atmosphere around my head seemed charged, like a swelling electrical storm. A shiver traveled
through my body.
“Fine, thanks.” I smiled.
“You look great.” He gestured to my outfit.
I looked down at my jeans and a loose white shirt and glanced back up at him, cocking
my eyebrow. “Thanks?”
“What? Not used to compliments?”
“Not when I’m dressed like a slob, no, not really.”
He rolled his eyes. “You look awesome. Seriously. Want to dance?”
I stared at him, half-expecting he was kidding. But his face showed no trace of a joke.
I glanced at the dance floor where Kate and Amber had begun to dance hip hop to the country
beat.
I turned back to him. He held out his hand, across the table. Reluctantly, I took it and he
led me to the dance floor where Amber and Kate made room for us, their expressions barely-
muted surprise. People rarely danced in Slave Lake. Except for Amber and Kate, of course.
Evan placed his palm in my right hand and set his other hand on my waist. I glanced up at a
set of smoldering eyes and immediately looked away, his gaze too intense. Unfortunately, by
looking away, I realized that every single person in the bar was staring at us. Some people, who
should have had their backs to us, had actually turned around on their stool to gawk. I felt like a
fish in a fishbowl.
Evan leaned down, his breath caressing my cheek. I caught a silky coil of his scent, a
rich, musky fragrance of expensive cologne, soap and his own unique smell. It was addictive.
The hand on my waist snaked around to my back, pulling me closer. Heat radiated over my
entire body as we began to move in slow, gentle circles. When the song came to an end, my arm
fell from his shoulder. His hands didn’t move.
“One more?” he asked as the music transitioned to a faster song, modern country with a
dance beat. Kate and Amber were already dancing to it in a way that looked more fitting for a
city club, Amber’s arms reaching up and over her head, hips swinging. Kate had her own little
groove going alongside her.
“Sure,” I said.
He smiled and set his hand back on my waist, and suddenly we were in the fastest two-
step I’d ever danced in my life. We moved around the dance floor at a dizzying pace, spinning
circles around Kate and Amber who were laughing out loud watching us.
He twirled me several times, only to end up back in that break-neck, two-stepping pace
once again. Now I was giggling to the point of breathlessness, my head spinning from the four
shots I’d just downed and my racing pulse. He spun me three more times, and when the song
ended, he lowered me into a long dip.
With his arm around my back, I was gently pulled up, our bodies touching from torso all
the way down, so that even the tips of our shoes connected. I looked into his face, expecting to
see a grin, but was met with a burning look that made my heart stutter and my breath catch. The
whiskey on his breath was all I could think of, the heat of his mouth, so close to mine.

Then a sensation folded over me. A soft lethargy, like I was levitating, weightless. My
eyes closed, and explosions of purple and blue light flashed behind my eyelids. I relaxed into the
feeling.
“Are you okay?” Evan asked. I opened my eyes. He peered down at me, forehead
wrinkled with concern. His skin was flushed bright pink.
My lungs began to re-inflate as my entire body tingled like I’d just had the best orgasm of
my life.
Had he even kissed me? I licked my lips, but there was no taste of whiskey, no evidence
of his mouth on mine. Obviously I’d had one too many shots. And yet, I felt perfectly lucid, his
gorgeous face crystal clear before me.
“Uh…I’m fine,” I said, my voice breathy. There had to be an explanation. Like maybe
I was losing my mind. Or maybe my fainting spells were starting to happen again, ever since
the stressful Skinwalker incident. Whatever it was, right now I had to make sure this perfect
specimen of a man in front of me did not think I was a raving lunatic. I forced myself to speak,
my mind scrambling for small-talk. “I…I had no idea you could dance like that.”
The concerned look faded, and he flashed his perfect teeth. “Thanks. You’re not too bad,
yourself.”
I dropped my hand from around his shoulder and backed up. He let go of me slowly, as if
with reluctance.
“Come on. I need a drink,” I said, motioning back to the bar where Amber and Kate had
just sat down. We veered toward them.
Evan made eye contact with the bartender who nodded at both of us. “Scotch, on the
rocks, please. What are you drinking?”
“I’ll have a Long Island Iced T—”
“Who’s he?” A guy’s voice said, close enough that I cringed from the volume. I whipped
around.
Jeff Hansen. Town drunk that never seemed to do much of anything, other than sit in the
bar, hit on locals and look pissed off. And boy, did he look pissed off. Emotions rolled off him
like jagged pieces of glass, hurt and anger all twisted up into one gigantic ball of irritation.
“He’s cool, Jeff. He’s with me,” I said. My heart started to pound as I remembered the
last time Jeff had picked a fight. He’d bitten a guy’s ear and torn part of it right off.
Jeff stared at Evan, his teeth exposed like he was snarling.
“Is he treating you right, Sarah?”
“It’s all good, Jeff,” I said.
“You think you’re pretty tough?” Jeff said through gritted teeth. He stepped forward and
poked Evan in the chest. Evan was pushed slightly off-balance, and he took a step backward.
My stomach clenched. “Jeff, I said it’s cool.”
Evan straightened up. He had at least four inches on Jeff and well over thirty pounds. Jeff
stepped back, and the sickly-sweet smell of weed came wafting off of his ratty jean jacket.
Evan looked down his nose at Jeff. “Back off, man.” His jaw muscles popped in and out,
and his hands balled up at his sides. The only thing Jeff had going for him was a bad attitude and
liquid courage.
“Shut up, asshole!” Jeff slurred, a fine mist of spittle burst from his mouth and rained
all over us. Jeff turned his head and flashed a snide grin, probably to impress his buddies who
watched the spectacle along the sidelines of the bar.

“Jeff, stop it!” I said. Jeff ignored me completely, staring at Evan. I reached for Evan’s
hand, wound my fingers through his and tugged. “Come on. Let’s get out of here.”
Evan nodded, and we strode toward the exterior door. I glanced back to see Jeff running.
He ran straight into Evan, knocking him forward.
Evan hit the crash bar of the metal door, his body weight forcing it wide open so that
it squeaked when the hinges were pushed to their limit. My heart jumped into my throat as he
stumbled and fell onto the cement outside. Immediately, he righted himself and jumped back to
his feet.
Jeff smiled, eyes flashing. “I bet that hurt, didn’t it, tough guy?”
I ran toward Jeff. “Stop it! Just leave him alone!”
Jeff smiled at me. “Aww, you’re getting your little bi-otch to fight for you.” Then he
turned back to Evan. “Tell you’re ho to shut her pie-hole, or I’ll shut it for her.”
“You’re going to wish you’d never said that,” Evan said, his voice a low, warning growl.
Jeff snorted. “You’re in my town. You’re gonna regret having a mouth.” His arms rose above his
head in some kind of attempt to look intimidating, but to me he looked like a bird about to take
flight.
“Stop it, Jeff.”
Stepping forward, Jeff hurtled his fist toward Evan’s face but Evan snatched his clenched
fist mid-air. I lunged toward them, placing one hand on Evan and the other hand on Jeff’s jacket.
Instantly, the atmosphere around my head changed, filling with static.
The lights above the entryway flickered, humming like dying bees before building into
a sizzling pulse. With a bang, the lights exploded in a rainfall of glass shards. I ducked to shield
my face.
I opened my eyes and gasped. Jeff lay crumpled on the ground, his torso folded inward,
his limbs pulled into a fetal position, moaning as he clutched his stomach. Then his face went
slack, and his eyes rolled back into his head. Why was he on the ground? And why did he look
like he’d been knocked out cold?
I glanced around, but all I could hear was the retreating sound of footsteps running
outside, the parking lot no longer lit up by the overhead light.
“Evan?” I called out.
Silence.

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