The Rocker Who Shatters Me by Terri Anne Browning: Blog Tour & Giveaway
Storm by Carian Cole: Blog Tour & Giveaway
Covert by G.K. Moore: Release Day Event & Giveaway
PROLOGUE:NatalieOne Year AgoThe concert had been over hours ago, but the band still had another thirty minutes of meeting fans. I tried not to let my irritation at the ten women and five men still standing in line show on my face as I continued to do my job.I just wanted everyone to leave, so that I could wrap this night up and go out with Devlin.That wasn’t asking too much was it? To get to spend a little time with my boyfriend, doing what normal couples do rather than having to share him with his fans? Well, I didn’t think it was asking very much.For the last few days we hadn’t even had a few minutes alone, and it was about to drive me crazy. I couldn’t even kiss the man I loved without having someone pop up on us on the bus, or climb into bed with him at night without something coming up to keep me out of his arms for the night.I was starting to think that fate didn’t want me and Dev together. But that was ridiculous. It had taken us a long time to get to the place we are now, with us loving each other rather than fighting our feelings. I was happy, and there wasn’t anything on the planet that would keep me from being with Devlin Cutter.Even realizing what I was doing I stopped and my eyes sought out the man in question. He was sitting down at his table while the fans made their way from Axton’s, then to Wroth’s, Zander’s, Liam’s and ending at his. He was smiling up at some guy who was talking a mile a minute. That smile was one of my favorite sights in the world, the way his aquamarine eyes crinkled at the edges and his three day old beard hid the dimples that I was such a sucker for. His even, white teeth stood out against his dark tan complexion and made me want to kiss him to see if he still tasted like the toothpaste he’d used before taking the stage earlier that night. My heart melted along with another part of my anatomy when I saw that smile.“It’s weird that one of my best friend’s sister is dating my dad,” Harris complained as he stopped beside of me.I turned to frown down at him, trying to figure out if he was teasing me or if he was serious. He’d always found something to tease me about over the last few years. He was good friends with my little sister, Jenna, and I’d always had a soft spot for Harris despite the fact that I’d seemed to always be in love with his father from the moment I’d laid eyes on him. But this was a serious matter. If he really thought that it was weird that I was dating his dad, then I wanted to deal with it now.Harris grinned up at me, reminding me so much of his father that it was hard not to love this kid as if he were my own. Yeah, now that was the weird part. I was twenty-two years old to his fifteen. That was extremely weird to me. “Relax, Nat. I’m just messing with you. I think it’s kind of cool that you are with Dad. He’s smiled a lot more in the last few weeks than I’ve seen him smile in a long time.”Relief washed over me and I punched him in the arm. “You are such a punk, you know that?”“Yeah. You tell me that on a daily basis. But you love me anyway.”“Sadly enough, that’s true.” I punched him again and forced my attention back to the job at hand. I still had things to do so that I could leave when Devlin was finished. “I’ve got stuff to do, wanna help me?”“You mean work when I could go back to the hotel, order room service and watch newly released movies?” Harris raised a brow at me like I was crazy for even asking such a question. “Yeah, sure, why not? I can help you out, earn brownie points with your sister, and make my dad think that I’m a good kid all at once.”“Brownie points with Jenna?” I questioned as I lead him back toward the stage the band had performed on earlier that night. “Why would you need to earn…?” I broke off when I realized why he would want to. “My sister will never like you like that, Harris.” There were plenty of reasons why I didn’t think that Harris and my sister would be anything other than friends.But the major one was the only one that I needed to know that Harris was wasting his time on Jenna.My sister had realized when she was fourteen that she wasn’t into guys. Plain and simple. Of course, I was the only one who knew that little piece of information, because Jenna thought our mother would freak out at having a lesbian for a daughter. Jenna wasn’t wrong. Stella Stevenson would probably disown her youngest daughter if she ever found out about her gender preference.Our mother was a total bitch like that. I hadn’t always thought that way, of course. When you’re a kid you don’t notice the things adults would about someone. It had taken Jenna, however, to open my eyes to our parent’s small minded bitchiness. When Jenna had run away to find our brothers because she was tired of our mother putting Drake down when Jenna would watch America’s Rocker every week and gush that one of the judges was her brother, I’d seriously opened my eyes. It was then that I’d realized that my brothers had never been the bad guys, had their reasons for not wanting a relationship with me or my dad when their own mother had died. It had all been my mother’s doing, and I couldn’t blame Drake and Shane for turning their backs on my dad and me when my mother had forced our dad to turn his back on them when they had needed him so desperately.With Harris helping me it still took more than forty minutes to finish up all the after show things that needed my attention so that I wouldn’t be as busy the next night. When we were finally finished I gave the fifteen year old a hug and told him to head on back to the hotel. Harris yawned and nodded. “I’m beat. Have fun with Dad.” He grinned, flashing those damn dimples of his that were identical to his fathers and with a wink left.Laughing I watched him walk away before I shook my head and lowered my gaze back to the list I had in my hands, making sure I hadn’t forgotten anything. I was so lost in thought, my eyes critical on the long list in front of me that I didn’t hear footsteps until a pair of strong arms wrapped around my waist from behind.Devlin nuzzled my hair aside with his nose and placed an open mouthed kiss against the sensitive flesh just under my left ear. “Miss me?”The mere sound of his deep voice made me shiver and I rocked my hips back against him, delighted at the feel of his hard growing against my ass. “More than you will ever know,” I assured him as dropped my clipboard on the ground without caring if I’d finished everything on the list or not. Turning in his arms I wrapped my own around his neck, letting my eyes drink in the sight off his beautiful face before brushing my lips over his in a teasingly soft kiss.Just as I knew he would, Devlin made a low grumbling sound deep in his chest, almost like he was purring and unwrapped his arms from my waist so that his hands could tangle in my long hair. His fingers locked my head into place so that he could take control of the kiss and devour my mouth in a kiss that left me aching for him in a way no one ever had before.When he finally lifted his head, just an inch or two so that he could brush his lips over the tip of my nose, I was breathing hard and rubbing my lower body against his hard-on. “You ready to go?”After that kiss I was more than ready, and going to some club where we would be surrounded with countless strangers for a few hours was definitely not what I wanted to be doing. “Can’t we just go back to our hotel room and make love?” I murmured, placing my hands on his chest and tracing little hearts over each male nipple through the material of his OtherWorld T-shirt.Devlin raised a brow at my request. “What happened to the whining girl that left my bed this morning, complaining about me never taking her out?”If he hadn’t been smiling I might have slapped his face. I hated it when he teased me like that. But I could tease him, too. “I’m a woman, Dev, not a girl. Your woman,” I murmured in a breathy whisper as I stood on tip toe so that my kiss damped lips could brush over his ear, making him tremble just like I had earlier. “And your woman has every right to change her mind a thousand times before she finally decides to settle on what she really wants. And what your woman wants right now is for you to take her back to our room and let her suck your dick.”With a muttered curse Devlin picked me up and tossed me over his shoulder. One big hand swatted across my ass, making a loud smacking sound as he hurried for the closest exit. “You are an evil little bitch, you know that Nat?”I propped my head up on my hand so that I didn’t get dizzy from the way he was carrying me. “So you’ve told me a hundred times before. But you like it.”“No, babe. I fucking love it.” He was practically sprinting as he headed toward a row of taxies waiting in front of the civic center, his long legs eating up the distance in no time. I heard a door open and then he dropped me onto the bench seat before climbing in after me. But instead of the address of our hotel he gave the name of the club he’d mentioned over lunch earlier that day.“Dev,” I whined wanting to just go back to our room and have him sink deep into me for the rest of the night.With a deep chuckle he wrapped his arms around me again and pulled me against his side.“Nat,” he mocked me. “Relax. We’ll have more than enough time for that later. Right now I want to take my woman out and show her off at the club. Just like you begged me for this morning.” His lips captured mine and his tongue snuck out, licking my bottom lip until I opened for him.We were still kissing when the taxi pulled to a stop in front of a club with a line of people all the way down the block. The driver cleared his throat loudly and Devlin grumbled something against my lips before finally lifting his head and tossing a hundred dollar bill at the man. “Keep the change,” he bit out as he opened the door and pulled me out behind him.Once we were on the sidewalk Devlin stopped and kissed me again. His long, raven black hair fell forward, shielding us from the crowd that was lined up behind us. His hands wrapped around my neck, telling me that he didn’t want me going anywhere anytime soon.Didn’t he know that I would never be the first to step back? I loved him more than anything or anyone on the planet. He was the reason I woke up every morning with a smile on my face, the reason I hadn’t already lost my mind on this tour.How long we stood there getting lost in our kiss I couldn’t honestly say. When he finally lifted his head, his aquamarine eyes were dark with passion and he was smiling. “Later,” he promised.I licked my lips, sighing when I tasted him there. “Yeah, later.”Laughing he grasped my hand and entwined our fingers, pulling me toward the front of the line where two huge bouncers stood with headsets sticking from their ears and a clipboard.The first guy frowned at Devlin but the second stepped forward and shook his hand.“Welcome back, Mr. Cutter.”“Thanks, man.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out something before seamlessly passing it over to the other man. Another hundred or two I was sure. Would I ever get over the fact that I was now surrounded by money? Sure, I hadn’t grown up poor, but we sure as hell hadn’t been rich by any one’s standards. Devlin didn’t carry anything less than a ten dollar bill in his wallet. If he got a fives or ones back he just gave them away.The man’s eyes drifted over to me and he smirked when he took in my kiss swollen lips. I shot him a glare and then the finger, making Devlin laugh as he stepped around the two bouncers and into the club, much to the loudly protesting of the people still in line. I knew that look well. I’d gotten more than once over the last few weeks. People knew who Devlin was, and they had never—not ever seen him with the same chick more than once. When they looked at me they assumed I was just Devlin’s piece of ass for the night and would be discarded come morning.And that was when I got to do the smirking because I knew that I was going to be in my rocker’s bed the next night and the night after and the night after that. He had promised me that our relationship was something special to him. That what we had would last because he cared about me.Sure it hadn’t been a declaration of loved, but it had been good enough for me. We’d only been dating for a few weeks now, and I wasn’t in a rush. We had the rest of our lives to say those three little words to each other.Inside the club we moved straight for the bar. Devlin ordered a beer for himself and a glass of my favorite wine for me. I loved that I didn’t have to tell him what I wanted. He knew me well and always thought about what I wanted or needed, in and out of bed.When the drinks were placed in front of us I reached for my glass but Devlin shook his head and lifted it to his lips. With his eyes locked on mine he took a small sip before offering the glass to me. My panties dampened even more than they already were as I turned the glass so that I could put my lips where his had just been. As I took my first sip his eyes darkened and he mouthed a curse before swallowing half his beer in one gulp.Laughing I took another drink of my wine and grabbed his hand. I didn’t need alcohol tonight. I just needed him. “Dance with me?”With another swallow, the bottle of Samuel Adams was empty and he followed me onto the dance floor. For the next hour I wrapped myself around Devlin and let myself go to the beat of the music. I’d always loved to dance, but with Devlin holding me close even through the fast songs, it was an exhilarating experience.As we danced he kissed me from time to time, but never more than a brush of his lips over mine. We both knew that if we kissed like we both wanted that we would end up in a bathroom stall, and Devlin would hate himself afterwards. The one time that we had done something like that he’d been pissed at himself for three days because he respected me more than that.Our relationship meant more to him than a quick fuck in some dirty bathroom.Sweating like crazy, I finally let him led me from the dance floor to rehydrate. We sat at the bar while he drank another beer and I sipped at my water and curled my fingers around the ends of his hair. My own hair was a light brown, with a few blonde highlights. It wasn’t as long as his, but there wasn’t very many people who did have hair as long and healthy as his. He loved my hair just as much as I loved his. When we were in bed, lying beside of each other, he would lift a few locks of my hair and kiss them as reverently as if he were kissing my skin when we made love.Devlin leaned forward and kissed me, deeper than he had in over an hour. The taste of beer didn’t completely mask his own unique taste and I opened my mouth, silently begging him to take more. When he did I knew it was past time we left. My panties were drenched and I was throbbing between my legs for his attention.Without warning Devlin stumbled against me. His hands caught me around the waist, righting us both before I hit the bar. His eyes asked me if I was okay and I nodded before he turned with a snarl to the man who had just pushed him.“What the fuck asshole?” Devlin demanded as he faced Zander. “You nearly made me fall on my girl.”I nearly groaned at the sight of Zander standing there. His glassy eyes told me he was drunk, without having to see the further proof of it in the way he was walking. He’d been drinking a more often over the last few weeks, even more so when Devlin and I started seeing each other. I knew it was because of me and I hated it. I’d never led him on, had always made it obvious that all we would ever be was friends. That didn’t seem to matter to Zander, because he’d been nothing but an angry bear to me and everyone else.“Sorry, bro. I didn’t see you standing there,” Zander said with a sneer before turning his attention back to the bartender and ordering a shot and a beer.Devlin clenched his fists at his sides and I could tell he was about to punch his friend.Emmie had threatened to join the tour if they got into another fight, and I honestly didn’t want to see more bloodshed between the two men. Stepping between Devlin and Zander I put my hands on Devlin’s chest. “I’m ready to go, babe.”Aquamarine eyes lost some of their hostility when they landed on my face and I breathed a sigh of relief. “Let me pay the tab, baby, and we’ll go.”“Don’t let me rush you off.” Zander tossed his shot of whisky back and slammed the small glass on the bar top. Picking up his beer he turned toward us. Devlin was talking to the bartender who had started his tab. I tried to ignore Zander, not wanting to make Dev any more upset that he already was. The two had once been best friends but now, because of me, they could barely stand each other. I hated that I was the cause of the rift between them.Zander’s cold hand wrapped around my elbow and swung me around to face him. The smell of alcohol on his breath made me blink a few times it was strong. “Stay and dance with me, Nat.”I gave him a grim smile, not wanting to hurt his feelings. Until recently I’d thought we were good friends. Now I wasn’t so sure. “I’m tired, Z. I just want to go back to the hotel and go to bed.”“No, you want to go back to the hotel and fuck Dev.” His words made me gasp in pain because they had been like a slap in the face. I didn’t deserve for him to talk to me like that.“It’s alright. I just don’t get it, though. Dev’s won the bet, so I figured once he had been in your pants he would move on. Must be some good pussy.”If his first words had been a slap the rest was a punch to the gut. I felt tears burn my eyes even as confusion clouded my brain. “What do you mean, bet?” I demanded louder than I’d intended.Behind me I felt Devlin wrap an arm around me as he turned back from paying our bill. At my question, however, I felt him stiffen. Zander gave me a drunken grin and tipped his beer bottle to his lips, making me wait for a response even as I felt Devlin shifting behind me.“The bet I made with Dev two months ago, babe. The one that he put his prized John Bonham drum sticks up for grabs against my signed Geddy Lee bass.” Another drink of beer, this one longer as his words burned like acid across my skin.My fingers were trembling as I grabbed the beer bottle from him and threw it on the ground where it shattered and spilled what was rest of the contents across my sandal clad feet.“What was the bet, Z?” I demanded through gritted teeth.Another shrug, as if he didn’t know or just didn’t care that his next words were going to shatter my heart. As if his words weren’t going to destroy me the point of no return. “First one to bag you was the winner. Lucky for Dev, he now has my bass.”Devlin moved so fast I didn’t see the fist as he swung out and punched Zander. Zander stumbled back, knocking three people down in the process. I just stood there, watching with deadened eyes as Devlin jumped his best friend. I didn’t move out of the way as Zander somehow rolled and started punching Dev in the head. The glass from the broken beer bottle didn’t faze them as they rolled around, fighting.The fight went on and on. People moving quickly to get out of their way. A table was destroyed, two chairs and numerous bottles and glasses. I remember watching a live MMA fight with Linc once, and that was what the two men before me seemed to be doing right then. They twisted at odd angels to get their punches in, didn’t seemed to care if they fought dirty or not when Zander double punched Devlin in the stomach then kneed him in the balls. Wasn’t that a big taboo with men? Never go for another man’s package?Devlin groaned in pain but didn’t pause in his attempt to annihilate his friend. He gained the upper hand in a move that I wasn’t sure possible for such a tall man and started hitting Zander in the ribs.Two bouncers broke through the crowd and tried to pull Devlin off Zander. He shrugged them off like they were just bees that annoyed him. Two more stepped forward to help and finally they were able to break the two rockers apart. Both were bleeding, throwing curses at each other in a verbal battle now that they could do so with their fists.Still I remained where I was, not even sure if I were breathing because the pain that was ripping through me was so consuming.It was all a lie. My relationship with Devlin Cutter was nothing more than the product of Devlin wanting to win some bet against his friend. All our nights spent in each other’s arms, all his whispered words of how much he cared about me, worshipped me… They were all lies. I was nothing more than a bet. Nothing. I was nothing to him.REVIEW:Thanks to the author, I was allowed to read an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. This book is part of The Rocker…Series but can be read as a stand-alone. I have not read any of the other books, so the characters were all new to me. This is the story that shows how not being honest up front can haunt you in the future. If Devlin had just admitted to Natalie about the bet he made, they would not have wasted so much time apart. Both characters are obviously in love with each other but neither know how to find their way back to each other. This story follows them as they try to figure out how to live without each other and when they can’t, they have to figure out how to get over the past in order to make the future work for them.I thoroughly enjoyed this book and will definitely be going back and reading the other books in the series. Great story…four stars.PURCHASE LINKS:Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00PUQMLGKAmazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00PUQMLGK?%2AVersion%2A=1&%2Aentries%2A=0Amazon DE: http://www.amazon.de/gp/product/B00PUQMLGK?%2AVersion%2A=1&%2Aentries%2A=0 Amazon FR: http://www.amazon.fr/gp/product/B00PUQMLGK?%2AVersion%2A=1&%2Aentries%2A=0 Amazon CA: http://www.amazon.fr/gp/product/B00PUQMLGK?%2AVersion%2A=1&%2Aentries%2A=0 Amazon AU: http://www.amazon.com.au/gp/product/B00PUQMLGK?%2AVersion%2A=1&%2Aentries%2A=0 Amazon BR: http://www.amazon.com.br/gp/product/B00PUQMLGK?%2AVersion%2A=1&%2Aentries%2A=0 Amazon NL: http://www.amazon.nl/gp/product/B00PUQMLGK?%2AVersion%2A=1&%2Aentries%2A=0 IBOOKS https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/the-rocker-who-shatters-me/id943295221?ls=1&mt=11 KOBO http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/the-rocker-who-shatters-me
AUTHOR BIO:The USA Today bestseller hated school and reading until her aunt handed over her first romance novel at the age of twelve, as crazy aunts tend to do. It gave her a passion for the written word that has only increased over the years. Started writing her own novellas at the age of sixteen, forcing her sister to be her one woman fan club. Now she has a few more fans and a lot more passion for writing. Reese: A Safe Haven Novella was her first Indie published book. The Rocker That Holds Me changed the tables and kicked off The Rocker… series featuring the sinfully delicious members of Demon’s Wings. The Rocker… Series has since expanded to OtherWorld with Axton Cage and his band members. Terri Anne lives in Virginia with her husband, their three children, and a loveable Olde English BulldogAUTHOR MEDIA LINKS:Website: Terriannebrowning.comFacebook: www.facebook.com/writerchic27Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=terri%20anne%20browning&sprefix=terri%2Caps&rh=i%3Aaps%2Ck%3Aterri%20anne%20browningBarns & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/terri-anne-browning?store=allproducts&keyword=terri+anne+browningBLOG TOUR HOSTED BY:
*Storm has a HEA and is book 1 of the Ashes & Embers series but all books can be read as a stand-alone. No cliffhangers. Vandal (book 2) coming in January 2015. ***Warning. This is an adult romance book and is not intended for anyone under the age of 18. It contains graphic sex scenes and explicit language.***
Book Title: Covert Author: G.K. Moore Genre: New Adult/Romantic Suspense Release Date: December 2, 2014 Hosted by: Book Enthusiast Promotions
Alessandro is the unwilling heir of a Chicago crime family. Intent on leaving the life set out for him, he decides to run as fast and as far away as possible. His plans crumble when one girl crash lands in his life. He should hate the daughter of his father’s mistress, but it’s near impossible when he finds that they are alike in more ways than one. Olivia grew up watching men walk in and out of her mother’s life. When one man finally decides to stay, she learns that crime lords don’t leave until someone’s dead. Olivia’s salvation comes from the person she least expects: his son. Six years later, Olivia and Alessandro are reunited when her life is threatened. If time has proven one thing, it’s that repeating their parents’ mistakes seems inevitable. In a world where friendship is a luxury and love a death sentence, two unlikely lovers find each other only to be separated by their cruel reality. Covert is for readers 17+ G.K. Moore loves cake, romances with alpha males and happily ever afters. When she’s not writing, she’s reading, stalking friends on Facebook, watching bad reality TV, traveling, torturing her hubby with ideas for new stories or doing all of the above at the same time. Her debut novel, a romantic suspense, is coming out December 2nd and the backdrop is one of her all time favorite cities, Chicago.
I stared at the lifeless body on the floor, thinking about the blood seeping into the wood and staining it. It would be impossible to clean. The wooden floorboards would have to be replaced. The gun I had just fired fell from my hand. The clattering noise it made as it hit the ground startled me out of my skin. The sight of the gun, lying in a puddle of blood, and the metallic scent invading my senses made me tremble. Maybe I was going into shock. My mind raced, trying to figure out what I should do next, but I couldn’t think of anything. Other than calling him. After six years, I had truly believed I was free from my past. I had been sure he would never be a part of my life again. After all, he had made that choice. But, with a bleeding body on my floor, it seemed that facing him would be inevitable. I took a slow step back, away from the blood pooling near my feet, only to stumble over my purse that still lay where I had left it when I entered my apartment. Keys, my chipped powder compact, three nickels and a quarter, an uncapped pen I’d borrowed from the bank, and my phone skidded out across the floor. Entranced, I watched as my pink lipstick tube rolled over to the door. The sudden urge to cry and scream welled up in my throat. I sank to my knees and reached for my phone—it had fallen near the couch. I cringed at the sight of the dark blotches on the couch’s white fabric. In the daylight, they would be splashes of deep, sticky red. I swallowed the lump in my throat, picked up my phone, and scrolled down the contact list. My thumb hovered over the word ‘HIM.’ I hesitated. Swallowed again. Then, I pressed the dial button. It rang once. “What’s wrong?” he answered. I whimpered at the sound of his smoothly calm voice—a voice that had haunted me for years. I briefly listened to his breathing, wondering how he knew that I needed him. I shook my head and bit back a dejected laugh. Of course, he knew. I wouldn’t be calling unless it was a matter of life or death. “Someone was here,” I whispered as if not to startle the corpse. My voice sounded raspy and thick with unshed tears. For the most part, up until this point, I had actually impressed myself by not freaking out. Now, my well-crafted façade was cracking. I could hear his breathing quicken slightly. “Are you all right?” I soaked in the alarm in his voice, letting it wrap me up like a balm to a sting. I closed my eyes and willed my voice to sound firm. “You need to send a crew,” I said. “Fuck… cleaners?” he asked, letting out a heavy breath. I nodded. After a moment, I realized I hadn’t actually answered. “Yes, I’m in Chicago… in my apartment on the corner of—” “I know where you live. Sit tight. Tiny will be there in no time—” I hung up, not strong enough to listen to his voice any longer. Sitting on the floor, I dropped the phone in another loud clatter and brought my knees to my chest. I wasn’t startled or even fully conscious of the continuous vibrating of my phone. It just danced in the dark, dangerously close to the pool of blood. I watched it, lost in thought of how naïve I’d been. I should’ve known the past would catch up to me—he would always catch up with me. Closing my eyes, I let a sliver of happiness creep up inside. I would see Tiny again. The happiness lasted just until I remembered why I would see him again and was replaced by a sharp pain in my chest. I looked over at the dead body once more and shivered, the sickeningly sweet metallic scent of blood churned my stomach. It was unbearable. I started dry heaving uncontrollably and leaned on my hands for support. I hadn’t eaten all day so there was nothing my body could purge itself of, save for the acid burning the back of my throat. When the dry heaving stopped, I sat back and wrapped my arms around my legs. Leaning my forehead on my arms, I made myself breathe through my mouth. I didn’t want to smell it anymore. And, I was pretty good at convincing myself if I couldn’t see or smell it, it didn’t exist. So, I sat there, rocking myself in the dark, repeating four words like a mantra. He can fix this. It might have been a few minutes, or hours, before I heard the front door creak open. Although I was in plain sight, I couldn’t make myself move from my position. The door opened, but I didn’t raise my head. I heard several pairs of footsteps treading the floor almost imperceptibly as they invaded my home. “Clear,” several voices said at the same time. “Stand guard. We’re coming down in a few,” Tiny’s deep voice called out from the door. The men moved around while Tiny approached me. He took a couple of steps and came to an abrupt stop. “You left the door unlocked.” His tone was harsh, accusatory. Truthfully, I hadn’t even considered the possibility that someone else might come to finish the job. I could sense Tiny’s stare on me. After a moment, he spoke. “Fuck,” he said. I looked up to him now, but I knew he was looking at the man beside me. I followed his gaze and then averted my eyes. I sniffled, not realizing until then that I had been crying. Straining, I fixed my eyes on Tiny’s perfectly polished patent leather shoes that shone even in the dark. “Are you okay?” he asked, kneeling down in front of me. His words had an almost affectionate undertone, something rare for him. I couldn’t help the giggle that escaped. Was I okay? Hardly. No. I raised my eyes to his. I unlocked my arms and wiped my tear-stained face with my hands. He frowned. “I’m fine,” I said before nodding towards the body. “But… that’s going to leave a stain.” Tiny chuckled and shook his head lightly. I couldn’t help the slight upward curling of my lips, despite the horror I had just gone through. I had lived by so many rules, for so many years that even now, as an adult, I couldn’t help the impulse to follow them. Everything needed to be clean and in perfect order. I shouldn’t be too loud. Speak too much. Attract any attention. And, I certainly shouldn’t have a dead body on my floor. “Come on, Lou. Let’s get you out of here,” he said as he took my hand and pulled me to my feet. I frowned. No one had called me Lou in years—these days I went by Livi. I didn’t fight him; I needed to get out of there. “My purse,” I said, looking down at the black leather bag whose contents were still spilled all over the floor. It was truly absurd to worry about something so trivial after all that had just happened, but old habits died hard. Really hard. And, that was my favorite lipstick. “I’ll take care of it,” Tiny said. He placed his hand between my shoulder blades and pushed me gently towards the door. I suddenly panicked. “No,” I said, shaking my head. “We need to go, now.” Tiny pushed again, urging me to move, but my feet remained glued in place. “I-I can’t leave like this, I have to pick up my things,” I said turning around. My eyes watered at the sight of the mess in front of us. “Don’t worry about it,” Tiny said, now grabbing my arm. I shook my head again and tried to pull out of his grasp, but he didn’t let go. “I need to clean up, I’ll probably have to bleach the—” “Lou!” Tiny said, grasping my shoulders and forcefully turning me to look at him. “Snap out of it.” That’s when I freaked out. My whole body started trembling uncontrollably and my breathing hitched. I chewed the inside of my cheek to try to stop myself from crying, but when I bit too hard and tasted the metallic tang of blood, my tears spilled over. A sob escaped me. I covered my mouth with my hands, startled by my reaction. “Damn it,” Tiny said, shaking me slightly. “You need to calm down.” I closed my eyes, inhaling and exhaling slowly, ignoring the taste in my mouth. When I felt in control again, I opened my eyes. “Are you good?” Tiny asked. I nodded. He looked at me doubtfully, so I wiped my face and breathed in deeply again before answering. “I’m good,” I said. “Okay, then let’s get you the fuck out of here.” This time when he guided me, I followed his lead. A man stood guard at the door, but I hardly looked at him. I just saw the bloody mess everywhere. Thankfully, Tiny helped me down the two flights of stairs otherwise I would have crumbled. He stepped outside first, his body tense, prepared to attack any other assassin. Then, he turned back to me and waved me forward. Slowly, I stepped into the cold night. Another man in a black suit stood just outside the entrance. There were four black SUVs with tinted windows parked in front of us with men standing guard in front of them. They had come like an army intent on making a statement—Don’t fuck with us. The sight of them brought back my most painful memories. I hesitated, but Tiny pushed me forward. He walked with purpose, hovering over me. With Tiny, there was never time for uncertainty. He opened the door and carefully, but firmly, helped me inside the car. The driver stood beside his own door, intently scanning the surroundings, and looked up at Tiny’s approach. “I gotta go clean up. Liam will follow you,” Tiny said to the driver. Turning to me, he added, “Tate will take care of you.” “Where is he taking me?” I asked before he could shut the door. Noticing the panic in my own voice, my eyes glazed over in shame; I didn’t want him to see how scared I was of his answer. “Home.” The way he said it left no room for arguing. Still, I opened my mouth. “But—” “This is not up for discussion,” Tiny said. I nodded, resigned as he closed the door behind me. Tate started the car. I didn’t know him, and his grave face was not reassuring. He glanced a final time at the rearview mirror and drove off. I turned around and noticed that one of the other cars was following us. That must have been Liam—whoever that was. I still couldn’t believe Tiny had left me alone with a stranger. His size alone made me nervous and the fact that he hadn’t spoken to me yet was unnerving. Tate was almost too big for the interior of the car, even though he was still not as large a man as Tiny. The driver’s seat was shoved all the way back, squeezing my legs awkwardly into a twisted, painful position. When I decided to slide over to the other side, Tate broke the silence. “Keep your head down,” was all he said. My head snapped up to look at him through the rearview mirror. He didn’t meet my gaze. “I will, but I need to move because you’re crushing me,” I said through clenched teeth. Tate didn’t react. I started pulling at the buckle of the seat belt, trying to release it, but my hands trembled too much. I finally let go, defeated by the device. When I looked back up, I noticed Tate smirking. He was a real charmer. I sighed and decided to stay put and suffer through the numbness in my legs. We finally merged onto the almost deserted I-94 highway. I didn’t want to think about what would happen next and tried to distract myself from those thoughts by examining Tate. He had broad shoulders and, beneath his suit, I knew he would be all hard muscle. I took in his blond hair and brooding eyes, color unknown in the dark, and startled when I noticed his gaze fixed on mine. I was embarrassed to have been caught staring at him and offered a small smile as an apology. His eyes narrowed slightly. My heart sped up, though I couldn’t identify the emotion. My brain seemed to freeze at that moment, unable to process any more information. I closed my eyes and breathed in and out several times, just like my therapist had told me to do when I felt a panic attack coming. Slowly, I calmed myself enough to open them again. Tate was no longer looking at me. Relieved, I stared out the window as we sped through the city. My thoughts traveled to the past. This wasn’t the first time I had killed someone. Six years ago, I had watched a man bleed out on a cold floor while I cried helplessly. The memory of that night was my own private nightmare—a nightmare I thought would only ever repeat itself in my dreams. I was wrong. It was six years ago all over again.
Title: Zoey and the Nice Guy
Author: Carter Ashby
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Release Date: November 18, 2014