Cover Reveal: Kiss Me In Paris

Kiss Me in Paris - Alternate Cover Bestseller 7

Kiss Me In Paris

When the city of love brings two lost souls together, only their darkest secrets can tear them apart.

Winter Deveaux tried love once. It didn’t end well. Unable to open herself up to another heartbreak, she hides in her romance novels as she struggles to break out as a real author. She thinks Paris holds the answer to a new start, but when her nightmare follows her across the world, she’s forced to face the darkness living like cancer inside her soul. If she doesn’t, she might miss her chance to become the kind of writer she’s always wanted to be. But more than that, she’ll miss out on the greatest love she’s ever known.

Cade Savage is heir to the largest ranching family in Texas. Part cowboy, part architect, Cade has his feet forever in two worlds. When he receives an acceptance letter from the school of his dreams, he must decide between family and destiny. But ghosts from his past still haunt him, and circumstances beyond his control may decide his fate.

When Winter and Cade meet, everything they believe about life, love and what it means to be happy is put to the test.

Will the magic of Paris pull these two lost souls together? Or will their darkest secrets tear them apart?

Genre: New Adult Contemporary Romance
Full length novel: 87, 000 words

Kiss Me in Paris is a standalone novel in the Kiss Me Series. Travel the world with the Deveaux sisters as they find love, and trouble, in all the right places.

Amazon: http://amzn.to/1adeUti
B&N: http://amzn.to/1adeUti
Kobo: http://bit.ly/15gX1Gc
Add it on Goodreads at: http://bit.ly/XPBKCZ

Excerpt:

From Chapter 4: Cade

Paris—the city of artists and dreamers. Being here is the fulfillment of a lifelong dream. So why do I still feel so out of place?

 I don’t belong in Texas, running my dad’s business. And if I don’t belong in the city, pursuing my career, then where do I belong? Where will I ever find the peace that’s been missing from my life for so long?

 My dad’s voice echoes in my mind. “What’s bothering you, kid?” He always asked me that when I was young, and I never had an answer for him.

 I still don’t.

 The suitcase sits nearly empty on my bed, save for one last item. I pull out the envelope, weathered by years and tears but forever unopened. The familiar scrawl across the front, just the one word, Goodbye. I run my thumb along the seal, wondering, not for the first time, what words he could have written that would make a difference, that would make the ache of his loss easier to bear.

 But I don’t open it. I’ll never open it. Instead I slip it into my pillow as memories of the past flood me.

 The mocking.

 The pain.

 The end.

 “What’s bothering you, kid?” Dad’s voice whispers through me again. At least this time I have an answer, a way to act on the anger crashing through me.

 I can’t go back and right the wrong done so long ago, but I can right a recent wrong, and dag nab it, will it feel good.

 Pulling on my boots, hat on head, I lock up my room and seek the object of my righteous rage.

 I pause, staring at the door to Winter’s room as if I could see through it. She and her roommate went out; I heard them leave. Her pale face and eyes the color of a frozen lake, haunt me. Eyes filled with tears when that asshole stepped on her small hand, so delicate. I held it as it turned blue, swelling in pain.

 Pulling myself from her door, I hunt the hallway looking for Rodney. I don’t know what their history is, and I don’t care. No one deserves to be treated that way. I’ve seen guys like him before, known them all my life, and I’ve never backed down from putting jerks like him in their place.

 I’m not about to start today.

 It’s not because of the girl, I’m sure of that. She’s beautiful, sure. And funny, in an offhanded way. But that’s irrelevant. I’m doing this because it’s the right thing to do.

 I spot him just outside of our dorms, leaning against a tree. Or rather, pinning a girl against a tree as he does what I can only assume is his version of flirting.

 The girl in question doesn’t appear to enjoy his attentions, if the bored droop to her face is any indication.

 Rodney’s not a small guy, probably played football back home, but I’ve got several inches and a lot more hard muscle on my side.

 I pull him from the girl, who looks wide-eyed at me before scampering off, and grab the front of his shirt, glaring down at him. “I don’t know why you like tormenting girls. I don’t even want to know. But you’ll leave Winter alone. Got it?”

 My face is inches from his, close enough that I can smell the alcohol on his breath.

 He laughs, spraying me with his saliva. “You think she doesn’t like having me around? Guess you don’t know what a slut she is.”

 Growling, I slam him against the tree.

 He groans, but offers another cocky grin. “If you want my advice, stay away. She’ll spread her legs easily enough, but you’ll regret ever sticking—“

 I’m done listening.

 I knee him in the groin. His mouth opens, a high-pitched yelp escaping as he collapses on the ground. “This is me politely telling you to back the hell off Winter and leave her alone.”

DKauthorphoto

About Kimberly Kinrade and Dmytry Karpov

Dmytry and Kimberly are the husband and wife writing team behind the KISS ME Series, Eye of Newt, Sunrise and Nightfall, Wanderlust, and The Fallen Series.

Kimberly is the award-winning, bestselling author of the New Adult paranormal romance series The Seduced Saga, the YA paranormal thriller/romance The Forbidden Trilogyand children’s fantasy series The Three Lost Kids.

Dmytry writes fantasy—be it urban, dark or epic—is a musical composer, pianist, and designs books covers (exclusively for his wife’s and their co-authored books).

They live with three little girls who think they’re ninja princesses with super powers and who are also showing a propensity for telling tall tales and using the written word to weave stories of wonder and magic.

Become a member of the Street Team for Kimberly and Dmytry: https://www.facebook.com/groups/455495037808558/

Connect with Kimberly online:

Website:  http://KimberlyKinrade.com
Twitter: @KimberlyKinrade
Facebook: /KimberlyKinrade
Amazon: http://Amazon.com/author/kimberlykinrade
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4687115.Kimberly_Kinrade

Connect with Dmytry online:

Website: http://www.DmytryKarpov.com/
Twitter: @DmytryKarpov
Facebook: /DmtryKarpov
Google+: https://plus.google.com/112569905190522142646/posts
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Dmytry-Karpov/e/B00ACVO788/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1368367423&sr=1-2-ent
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5217069.Dmytry_Karpov

 

Tour Returning Pride

ReturningPrideBlogTour

Returning Pride

Returning Pride (The Pride #3) by Jill Sanders
Pages: 302
Release Date: June 12, 2013
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Blurb:

Iian Jordan runs a successful restaurant that has been in his family for generations, he has a large beautiful house that overlooks the shoreline and his wonderful hometown. Why then, does he feel like something is missing? And he isn’t talking about his hearing, which he’d lost in a tragic accident over ten years ago.

No, what he is missing in his life, is the person who’d just driven back into town. Someone he’s always loved from afar. Now, he needs to step up and grab what he wants, before she gets away again.

In the past two years, Allison Adams has made a name for herself in the art world. All she wants now is some peace and quiet from all the hassles and pressures of her demanding career. But, when she arrives home, she finds her mother trapped in an illness that consumes her every waking moment.

Just when she thinks she knows the path she wants to follow, everything is taken away from her in one scary night. But, with the help of the good people in her hometown and an old flame, she might just find that returning home was the best thing that could have happened.

 Returning Pride on Amazon


Jill SandersAbout the Author:

Jill Sanders survived 80’s pop music, and life as an identical twin in a chaotic family of nine.  A feat by any standard!
She was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, relocating to Colorado for college and a successful IT career at IBM in Boulder.

Narrowly escaping before all creativity was squashed, she jumped at the chance to trade the mundane world of computers for the sexy,
exciting world of her own imagination.  She now lives in charming rural Texas writing wonderful novels such as the Pride series.

Her debut novel, Finding Pride, was shortlisted in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards 2013, and has received glowing industry and reader reviews from around the world.
Her latest release is Discovering Pride. Yet another novel, Returning Pride, is slated for July 2013.

Follow Jill Sanders
Website/Facebook/Twitter/Goodreads

Tour stops:

6/24/2013
http://www.ontheprecipice-leslief.blogspot.com
http://marilynslagel.wordpress.com/
http://www.conleycorner.blogspot.com
http://elodieparkes.blogspot.com
http://tometender.blogspot.com/
http://www.tanyarobinson100.blogspot.com

6/25/2013
http://www.conleycorner.blogspot.com
http://mjb-wordlovers.blogspot.com
http://waynelmurphy.blogspot.com/
http://thoughtsbyj.wordpress.com
http://tometender.blogspot.com/

6/26/2013
http://www.conleycorner.blogspot.com
http://glynissmyauthor.com/blog/
http://comaescritaemdia.blogspot.pt/
http://blog.jonestales.com
http://tometender.blogspot.com/

6/27/2013
http://sarah-janelehoux.blogspot.ca/
http://jamie-marchant.blogspot.com/
http://darkerpassions.net
http://tometender.blogspot.com/

6/28/2013
http://www.krystalmilton.weebly.com
ajwiliamsromanceauthor.blogspot.com
http://robertasdreamworld.wordpress.com
http://www.michelleabbott.com
http://tometender.blogspot.com/

6/29/2013
http://www.1bookloversopinion.com
http://tometender.blogspot.com/
http://allwehaveisstories.blogspot.co.uk/
http://stephsbookretreat.wordpress.com

6/30/2013
MeganSJohnston.wordpress.com
http://tometender.blogspot.com/

7/1/2013
https://booksandnails.wordpress.com
writtenbydeb.blogspot.com
ilovetoreadblog.com

Blitz: Two Are Better Than One

two are better than one banner
I am currently reading Two Are Better Than One. Review coming soon.

Two are Better than one

Two Are Better Than One

Suzanne Rock

 Genre: erotica, mmf, ménage

 Book Description:

 Quinn and Declan enjoy having sex together, but love sharing a woman more.

After months of searching, they’ve lost hope of ever finding a permanent third to complete them.

Then they meet shy, reclusive Hannah and everything changes. The sexual energy between them is incredible and the men soon realize that no other woman will do. They decide to confront her at the department’s summer kick-off party.

Will the straight-laced Hannah be open to a three-way relationship? They’ll have to do everything they can to convince her that two men are better than one.

Amazon    Barnes and Noble   All Romance Ebooks Kobo    iTunes

 Excerpt

 “Did you find her?”

 Hannah stopped walking as she recognized Declan’s voice.

 “No. I looked everywhere.”

 Quinn. Hannah knelt down behind the dune and angled herself until both men came into view. The setting sun cast a red-orange halo around them both, creating a beautiful, romantic picture.

 “Damn Greg.” Quinn fisted his hands. “He’s such an ass.”

 “I never liked him,” Declan agreed. “Now he’s scared off Hannah and I’m not sure if we’ll ever find her.”

 Hannah stared at the men. They were looking for her?

 “I’d love to punch his face in.” The normally jovial Quinn slammed his fist in his palm.

 “Come now, you know violence isn’t the answer.” Declan sighed. “I just wish I knew if Hannah was all right.”

 “You don’t believe that she had sex with Greg, do you?”

 “I don’t think anyone believes him. He’s an ass, remember?”

 Quinn shook his head. “I’m worried about her.”

 “Me too.”

 “If only we weren’t running late. We could have stopped it.”

 Hannah stood and was about to reveal herself when she saw Declan reach out for Quinn. She hunched back down behind a sand dune and watched as Declan wrapped his arms around Quinn’s shoulders. The act was gentle and affectionate. Soothing. It seemed almost as if he was consoling a lover.

 Desire sparked in her lower abdomen. She imagined herself between the two men, their hard, naked bodies pressed up against her like in one of her erotic novels. She had never participated in a three-way, but she guessed that with Declan and Quinn it would be so much more intimate than what she had read about, more intense. To be surrounded by all of that warm skin, to feel their hands and lips on her body, would be like a dream come true.

 “Don’t worry, we’ll find her.” Declan hooked his finger under Quinn’s chin and raised his head to meet his gaze. Then he closed the distance between them and covered his lips.

 They were…kissing? Hannah gasped and put her hand over her mouth. They were lovers? A hollowness formed in the pit of her stomach. She was such a fool to think that they’d be interested in her. Damn Becky for putting the thought in her head. Declan and Quinn were lovers—lovers! Tears once again stung her eyes and a sob escaped her throat.

 Declan broke the kiss and pulled back from Quinn. “Did you hear that?”

 Quinn stepped out of his lover’s embrace. “There’s someone here.”

 Hannah stood and turned to go.

 “Wait—don’t leave.” Quinn’s voice rose up from the dunes.

 Hannah closed her eyes. Could this evening get any worse? She couldn’t run away now. She’d have to talk to them. Hannah decided she’d be curt and quick, then get out of there and go home as soon as possible.

 Hannah had let Becky give her hope for something more than a life of seclusion, and now she was paying the price. Hannah was better off with her cat and her erotic novels.

 It was best to get this over with as quickly as possible. Slowly she turned around.

 Both men started moving toward her.

 “Hannah,” Declan was faster than Quinn and reached her first. “My God, we were worried about you.”

 “Were you?” Hannah looked from Declan to Quinn. “Just now you were kissing. You couldn’t have been that worried.” Hannah winced at the men’s stunned expressions and immediately regretted her words. She held up her hands between them. “I mean, it’s none of my business—”

 “You saw that?” Quinn asked.

 Declan took a step forward. “Did it disgust you?” He took another step. “Scare you?”

 “A little.” She shook her head. “I mean it didn’t disgust me. I just didn’t know that you two…” She waved her hands in the air between them.

 “We are lovers, yes.” Declan stopped and held his hands out at his sides. “Does that bother you?”

 “No. Yes.” She sighed and dropped her hands. “I don’t know.”

 “There’s more,” Quinn said.

 “More?”

 Declan glanced at Quinn, and then refocused his attention to her. “We like kissing each other, but we find it much more erotic to both be kissing another woman.”

 “Much more erotic,” Quinn said as he stepped closer.

 

GetAttachment.aspxAbout the Author Suzanne Rock:

A lifetime New Englander, Suzanne married her college sweetheart and has been with him for over twenty years.

Every summer she drags her husband and two daughters to Maine on a quest for the perfect lobster dinner. Every fall she can be found down in Foxboro, Massachusetts cheering on her favorite football team.

 In between those trips, she’s a chauffer, a maid, a chef, an event planner, a hairdresser, a wardrobe stylist,  a tutor and a sometimes masseuse.

 To keep her sanity, she often drinks copious amounts of coffee and stares at the blank screen of her laptop, dreaming of great adventures. Sometimes she even writes them down for others to enjoy.

Suzanne loves hearing from her fans, and can be contacted through her website:  www.SuzanneRock.com
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/Suzanne_Rock
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/SuzanneRockAuthor
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/Suzanne_Rock
Romance on a Budget: http://www.suzannerock.wordpress.com

 

bewitching book tours

Cover Reveal: Perfecting Patience

Title: Perfecting Patience
Author: Tabatha Vargo
Release Date: July 22, 2013
Genre: New Adult / Contemporary Romance
Presented by: As You Wish Tours
BLURB

Sometimes happy endings are just the beginning of an even harder road.

Although her aunt and sister believe she should get help to deal with her past demons, Patience believes the only thing she needs is Zeke. When he comes back into her world, her life couldn’t be more perfect. Except old demons pick the worst time to surface, and once again their happiness is threatened. Help was never a necessity, but Patience finds out that love isn’t always all you need.

Zeke’s dealt with a lot in his life, but nothing could prepare him for watching the person he loves fall apart. Patience is different, she’s not the girl he came to love. He’s willing to do whatever it takes to get her back, but a budding music career and his own demons seem to keep getting in the way. How can you help someone else when you can barely help yourself? Once again Zeke is faced with deciding between his future and the future of Patience.

EXCERPT

Turning in his arms to face him, I took in his softly sleeping face. His mouth was slightly open and his long dark lashes relaxed against his high cheekbones. Running a finger down the side of his face earned me a deep husky moan. It was the sexiest thing I’d ever heard. His facial hair felt like warm velvet against my cheek as I leaned in and pressed a tiny kiss on the corner of his mouth.

I backed away, expecting to continue to watch him sleep, but he followed me up with his eyes still closed and started to kiss me. Again he moaned when I allowed him access and he slipped his tongue into my mouth. Flipping me onto my back, his naked body covered mine. The white sheet tangled around our bodies as he pressed himself to mine.

His hand worked its way up my side brushing against my breast and I released a tiny sound into his mouth. His hand continued its journey until he rested it against the side of my neck. Tattooed fingers dug into the hairs on the back of my neck as he invaded my mouth with Zeke sweetness.

Pulling away, he gazed down at me with sleepy eyes and a lazy grin.

“You woke us up.” His voice was rough with sleep.

I wrapped my arms around his neck, “Us?”

Looking down between our bodies, he looked back up at me with a smile as he pressed his hips into mine. Hard heat that pushed into my thigh and I lifted my hips for more. He smiled down at me and shifted the hair out of his eyes.

“Yes… us. I’m okay in the morning, but the prick downstairs will take a jab at you if you wake him up.

AUTHOR BIO

Tabatha’s been writing since she could
pick up a pencil. Her first publication was a little poem in her
elementary school paper, from that point on she was hooked. When she
was a teenager, she traded in her girly magazines for personalized
writing notebooks.
At nineteen, she met her own personal
prince charming and writing took a back burner for a while. She’s now
married to that prince and the mother of a beautiful seven-year-old
princess/rock star. Once her daughter was born, writing came back
into her life, and she finished her very first novel, Wicked Fate, in
May of 2009.
She’s now pursuing her English degree
and she hopes to one day teach while continuing to write.

Cover Reveal: The Swan Bonnet

Book Title: The Swan Bonnet
Author: Katherine L. Holmes
Release Date: July 16, 2013
Genre: YA Historical Fiction
Presented by: AsYouWishTours
 
BRIEF SYNOPSIS 
Unbeknown to Dawn, her grandfather has shot an old swan out of mercy. In their coastal Alaskan town, her father buys the swan pelt, preventing her Uncle Alex, a fur trader, from selling it for export. Dawn’s father surprises her part-Aleut mother with a hat she helped to make and also with an idea to catch poachers. Shooting swans has become illegal but Alaska is a territory and Prohibition occupies the Sheriff. Dawn and her mother become involved with the suspicious effects of the swan bonnet besides its haunting effect. Because Dawn’s grandparents see the swans first, Dawn agrees to secretly watch the migration with the deputy sheriff’s son. But after she and her mother encounter women from a ship and find out about a hunting party, they ride to the inlet. There are townspeople roving the shore too but who is the vigilante and who is the poacher?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR 
Katherine L. Holmes’ first published book was The House in Windward Leaves, an MG fantasy which became an E-book Finalist in the 2013 New Generation Indie Book Awards and a Juvenile Fiction Finalist in the National Indie Excellence Book Awards. Also, she won Prize Americana for her short story collection, Curiosity Killed the Sphinx and Other Stories, published by Hollywood Books International. In April 2013, The Wide Awake Loons was released by Silver Knight Publishing. The Swan Bonnet, a historical novel, will be published in July, 2013, by GMTA Publishing. Katherine has worked with used and rare books in the last years. She lives in Duluth, Minnesota.
AUTHOR LINKS
Facebook Pages

SpotLight: Alpine Attraction

Alpine Attraction 

Apine Attraction By Ann Gimpel

 Publisher: Liquid Silver Books

ISBN: 978-1-93176-193-2

 Release Date: 5/20/13

Genre: Paranormal Romance

 Tina made a pact with the devil seven years ago. It’s time to pay the piper—or die.

 Independent to the nth degree, Tina meets everything in her life head-on—except love.

 When an almost-forgotten pact with the devil returns to haunt her, Tina knows she has to go back to the Andes to face her doom.

 Caught between misgivings and need, she signs on as team doctor for one of Craig’s expeditions. Though he was once the love of her life, she pushed him away years before to keep him safe. Even if he doesn’t love her anymore, there’s still no one she’d rather have by her side in the mountains.

 Trapped in a battle of life and death, passion flares, burning hot enough to brand their souls.

(I am currently reading this and loving it, look for my full review soon.)

Prologue

 A heavy weight jammed Tina McKenzie against her mattress. I’m dreaming, her sleep-saturated brain insisted. The pressure doubled and then tripled. Her eyes snapped open, but her bedroom was inky black. She couldn’t see a thing. Breathing became a struggle. Her physician-trained brain panicked. She writhed against an invisible mass lying on top of her. It pushed back.

A burnt odor with overtones of something dead and rotten invaded her nostrils. It smelled like the cadaver lab but without formalin. An insidious cold seeped into her bones. Whatever held her down was freezing her from the inside out. Her heart stuttered. Breath clogged in her throat, unable to move past her squashed larynx. How long could she live without oxygen before she sustained brain damage? A few minutes at best. Her mind shied away from what was happening. The thing in her bedroom wasn’t human. It couldn’t be; it wasn’t breathing. Shit. I’m going to die here.

Her body thrashed against her unseen assailant, but she couldn’t budge it more than an inch or so. No point wasting energy screaming. She lived so remotely, no one would hear her. She tried to raise her arms; they were pinned against her sides. A flickering white haze fractured her vision. People don’t die in dreams.

I’m not dreaming, another inner voice chimed in.

“No, you are not dreaming.” A guttural voice sounded deep in her mind. Accented, it reminded her of… Understanding slammed home and left her reeling. It wasn’t possible. Shivers cascaded down her body. Her blood turned to ice.

“Good,” the voice continued. “You remember me.”

“What?” she sputtered, struggling to get words out. “You can read my thoughts?”

“Of course.” A quiet chuckle. “You made me a promise, doctor. You had seven years. They are nearly expired. Consider yourself fortunate I was kind enough to remind you.”

“Y-you tracked me down?” Her teeth chattered uncontrollably.

The chuckle morphed into a laugh. “I have always known where to find you. Did you delude yourself you were invisible here in the United States? Blood for blood, doctor. You owe me.”

As quickly as it had come, the pressure on her body vanished. Tina shot to a sitting position and sucked air until her oxygen-starved body quit shrieking. She wanted to scream—to curl in a ball and howl—but she was afraid if she gave in to hysteria, she’d never get herself under control again.

Even though common sense told her the danger had passed, she couldn’t stop shaking. Once she thought her legs might support her, she tottered to the window, grasped the light-blocking drapes, and shoved them aside. Medical school and residency had destroyed her natural sleep-wake cycle. She’d installed the room-darkening shades in an attempt to normalize it, except it hadn’t worked. She still was awake until very late; most nights she struggled to get four hours of sleep.

She gazed out the window, frosted from cold. It must have frozen last night. The sky in the east had a pearlescent cast. Dawn. It would be a sunny autumn day in Leadville, Colorado. Too bad the sun wouldn’t percolate into her soul. Tina wrapped her arms around herself. She was so cold she wondered if she’d ever get warm again.

Think, she commanded herself. There’s got to be a way out of this.

Yeah, like what? Years had passed since she’d entered into what she’d always considered a pact with the devil. The further away she’d gotten from that nightmare in the Andes, the more certain she’d become she’d never have to keep her end of the bargain.

Tina walked slowly to her dresser. She tugged the ragged, sweat-soaked T-shirt that doubled as a nightshirt over her head and stood surveying her chilly bedroom. For once in her life she was unsure what to do. Gooseflesh rose, a visceral reminder of her nakedness. She pulled black sweatpants and a top out of a drawer and put them on, followed by half socks and her running shoes. She picked up her iPhone to consult its calendar and then dropped it back onto the top of the dresser. She knew what day it was: October 15th. In two months and ten days, her time would be up.

Adrenaline shot through her. Her stomach roiled. Bile burned the back of her throat. She strode down the hall and stopped in the kitchen long enough to pour water and beans into the coffee maker and set the timer. Tina let herself out the back door. Her jogging route was always the same: eight miles and two thousand feet of gain. It took a little less than ninety minutes. She did it every day she was home despite the weather. In winter it took longer because she used snowshoes.

Tina turned to glance at the buff-colored, turn-of-the-century, two-story farmhouse she called home. It had been in her family for ages. A few miles out of town, she’d always considered the location perfect because no one bothered her. Wind blew the last of the leaves off the aspen trees. She considered returning to fetch a hat, but didn’t want to go back inside. Her house wasn’t hers anymore. The thing—mountain spirit or shaman or whatever the fuck he was—had invaded her territory. It felt sullied. Unclean. I’m going to have to get over that.

Problem was she didn’t believe in the paranormal. She was a scientist, goddammit, trained to believe in what she could see and feel and touch, in what was illuminated under her microscope when she worked in an Emergency Room. Her experience nearly seven years before had been so surreal—she’d relegated it to high altitude hypoxia.

Tina ran hard. Sweat slicked her sides. Her breath came fast. She’d buried the memory of what happened in Bolivia. It came roaring back with a vengeance, almost as if it resented the hell out of the subterranean prison she’d confined it to at the very bottom of her psyche.

* * * *

Tina struggled against wind that wanted to flatten her, or worse, blow her off Illimani’s long summit ridgeline. She was by herself. Twenty-two hundred vertical feet separated her from her camp on the edge of the glacier. “At least I can still see,” she muttered. “And I got the summit.”

She glanced at her watch, illuminated in the beam of her headlamp. One in the morning. Normally, she would have waited until then to start climbing, but wind shrieking like a banshee had made it impossible to sleep. She’d set up her camp at eight p.m. and headed for the mountaintop without stopping to think too hard. She wanted Illimani’s summit. It was the second highest peak in Bolivia and a huge massif with five separate highpoints.

And now I’ve done it.

Careful, a different inner voice cautioned. Ninety percent of climbing accidents happen on the way down.

A vicious blast of wind buffeted her. Tina slammed one of her ice axes into the snow to anchor herself to the mountain. As if her inner voice had been prophetic, clouds descended, obliterating what had been a clear sky in a matter of minutes.

What the fuck? She peered through impenetrable muck. “Shit,” she spat. “I can’t see.” Surely the clouds were a momentary event. They’d pass by, especially in this wind. They had to. Minutes ticked by. Visibility eroded even further. She took a steadying breath and then another. No sat phone. No radio. No one even knew where she was. Yeah, I broke a bunch of really important rules.

This peak was supposed to be easy, one of her inner mavens whined.

Oh shut up.

“Got to pull myself together.” Tina spoke out loud to calm herself. She visualized where she’d been on the mile-long ridge. She’d passed the false summit so she had to be close to the lip that dropped off a fifty-degree cliff. Her heart thudded against her ribs. She panted from more than the twenty thousand foot altitude. She tried to swallow, but dry throat tissue grated against itself. Stooping, she gathered some snow in a glove, made a ball out of it, and placed it in her mouth.

Another blast of wind was so intense she planted her other axe. “Get going,” she instructed herself. “Now.”

Moving by feel, one painstaking step at a time, Tina worked out a rhythm. She probed the snow ahead with an axe. If it held, she moved down to it and stopped. To counteract the vertigo from navigating through thick fog, she counted steps. Her first guess was it wouldn’t take more than five hundred to reach the edge of the ridge. On three fifty-six, one of her axes punched through into open air. Tina threw her body backward, gasping. This was how climbers died. By getting cocky and making bad decisions.

She got to her feet; her legs shook. She shoved an axe into the snow and a chunk fell away. She moved a few degrees to the right; more snow flaked off. By the time she’d inscribed a forty-five degree arc, she knew she had to be at the end of the ridge. Tina fumbled at the hardware belt hanging from her waist and got an ice screw. She threaded it carefully into what felt like firm snow, clipped in a carabineer, and ran her rope through it. Next came a breaker bar attached to her harness so she could rappel down the steep part.

Her breath came fast. She moved more by feel than anything else. Her headlamp beam was weakening and she didn’t have fresh batteries. She tossed out a silent prayer to the god who took care of climbers, double-checked her rope and attachments, and turned to face the slope. Her ice axes dangled from her wrists; her crampon points bit into the snow. She backed down until she felt the slope steepen and then moved the hand that would control her descent out to the side. Her other one gripped the rope over her head to steady her descent.

The minute she put her full weight on her anchor, it ripped out of the snow. The rope, worthless now that it wasn’t attached to anything, hung through the breaker bar. An end whapped her in the face. Holy Christ. I’m falling…

She flailed her axes like a wild woman; one connected with something and held. Tina slammed in the other and her front points. She screamed. Wind ripped the sound away as soon as it left her throat. Fright balled her stomach into a burning knot. One of her crampon front points slipped.

Can’t stay put. Got to move down. No point in going up. Nothing solid to rap off of. Thoughts of falling to her death pounded through her head. To keep from going mad, she lectured herself.

“Move one thing at a time. Three solid points of attachment before I move anything. Test everything. Then test it again… Okay, let’s go.”

Finally, the angle of the slope eased. Her rope had been nothing but a pain in the ass, dangling from the breaker bar attached to her harness. She’d stabbed her front points through it time and time again. She let herself move a little faster. The edge of the glacier was the most welcome thing she’d ever found. She tugged the rope free and tried to coil it, but her hands shook so badly she couldn’t. Tina dropped the rope into the snow, sat on it, dropped her head into her hands, and cried. She was a long way from safety, but the sheer relief of being off the steep face was overwhelming.

The wind hadn’t let up at all. Though not as bad as it had been on the ridge, it was still gusting at forty or fifty miles an hour. She unbuckled her pack and forced herself to eat an energy bar, washed down with water from the bottle stashed in her parka to keep it from freezing. Her headlamp flickered. She shut it off.

Tina shivered. She was still a thousand feet above her camp and she had to cross a glacier riddled with crevasses. The transit would be child’s play on a sunny day; a night like this one, with near zero visibility, turned it into a deadly game of Russian roulette. If she’d brought a sleeping bag, she would have stayed put for what was left of the night.

She wasn’t even certain exactly where her camp was. She hadn’t thought to set wands to mark her route. She didn’t have a GPS with her. Tina struggled to her feet and buckled her pack into place. She’d made a series of neophyte climbing errors, beginning with assuming clear weather would last the next twenty-four hours. She’d badly underestimated Illimani. The mountain was laughing at her.

Tina thought about laughing back, but didn’t want to tempt fate. Besides, she didn’t feel much like laughing. She flicked her headlamp back on and checked her compass to make sure she wouldn’t descend the wrong side of the mountain. Back to counting steps, she contained her fear as best she could. The glacier wasn’t particularly steep, but…

A brutal chop of wind sent her sideways. She planted both axes; the snow beneath her gave way. Tina tumbled into blackness. Aw shit, it’s a crevasse, a crevasse, a crevasse, echoed in her mind. She crashed through two snow bridges. The third one held. She was afraid to breathe. Afraid to do anything to weaken her fragile hold on life. In the feeble beam of her headlamp, she glanced upward. Fifty feet. I fell fifty feet. Thank God nothing’s broken.

Snow bridges were always thicker at their ends. She moved ever so cautiously until she was right next to the smooth inner ice wall of her tomb. She slung an axe into the ice. It bounced off. She tried again. Same result. She kicked with her front points. After many attempts, she was sweating and panting. “Goddammit,” she shrieked. “Fuck.”

“Got to get hold of myself,” she muttered. “If I don’t, I’m as good as dead.”

Tina shut her eyes. If she couldn’t climb out with her tools, maybe she could pound in ice screws. They had threads. She wasn’t certain she had enough to make it all the way out, but she’d freeze to death if she didn’t keep moving. It was very cold in the crevasse. Colder than it had been out on the glacier.

It took a long time to twist the first ice screw in. The second one was easier. Using screws, carabineers, her rope, and jumars, she made it about twenty feet from the snow bridge when her headlamp died. “Shit.” She pounded impotently against the ice. “I can’t believe I was this stupid. Shit. Fuck. Damn it all to hell.”

I can curse all I want—I’m going to die here.

She hung limply in her harness. Her sweat-damp body shivered. The doctor part of her wondered how long it would take to die. Freezing to death was a lot like going to sleep. She wasn’t certain what time it was, but it couldn’t be much past four. Dawn was at least two hours away. Maybe she could hold on, but she didn’t think it likely.

A putrid smell filled her nostrils. It got even colder. “Human woman,” sounded deep in her mind in a strangely accented voice.

“Who said that?” Her neck twisted from side to side, but she couldn’t see a thing in the blackness.

“I offer you a chance to live.”

“How could you possibly do that?” Am I losing my mind? Hypoxia? Harness cutting off my wind?

“If I rescue you, you will return to me and live out your days with me in the Cordillera Real. You must give me your word.”

“Huh? What do you mean return? I’m already here.” Tina’s brain felt wrapped in cotton batting. None of this made sense. Maybe she was already dying and her mind was playing tricks on her.

“You will have seven years in your human world. Once it is over, you must return to me. Do you agree?”

What the hell? “Um, sure. If you can get me out of here, go for it.”

“Unlatch that thing holding you to the wall.”

Fear sluiced through her. Her hands tightened on the rope. “Not on your life.”

A macabre chuckle filled the icy hole under Illimani’s glacier. “No, doctor. It is not my life but yours.”

She started to ask how he knew she was a doctor when a high-pitched whistle bounced off the crevasse walls. The infernal screeching stabbed ice picks into her brain. Cold air closed around her. It smelled like a charnel pit, ripe with things dead long enough to rot. Her ice screw popped from the wall; she made a grab for the rope and closed her arms around it. Air currents jockeyed her upward and out onto the glacier.

Tina blinked. The thick cloud cover was gone. Between an almost full moon and a sky full of stars, she could see without her lamp. She started to coil the rope, but the same insistent air pushed her. “Okay, okay.” She held the mass of Perlon against her chest and staggered down the glacier. It was easy to avoid the crevasses now that she could see where they were.

Her mind rebelled at what just happened. Maybe she’d died in the crevasse or maybe she hadn’t fallen into one at all. Maybe she’d hit her head when she’d fallen off the ridge, had a seizure on the glacier, and this was a postictal state. She shook her head sharply, willing a return of rational thought.

“We are not done, doctor. Stop there.”

Tina tried to keep moving but her feet were mired in place. A glowing form took shape next to her. She stared up at it and gasped, surprised she had any adrenaline left to react. This isn’t possible. It can’t be happening. The thing was over seven feet tall; it shimmered so brightly, she couldn’t look directly at it.

An unseen force yanked one of her arms away from her body. The rope fell in a pile at her feet. Bright light descended; it cut through her jacket and the clothing beneath. She tried to twist her body away, but couldn’t. Blood welled and dripped onto the snow. Golden light enveloped her.

“What are you doing?” Terror skittered along her nerves; it made her shake uncontrollably.

“You made me a promise, doctor. I am sealing your word with a blood bond. Seven years. If you break your vow, I will kill you.”

Tina opened her mouth to protest, to tell the thing it hadn’t told her everything before she’d agreed, but the pulsating light vanished. She turned in a circle to make certain she was alone. Blood dripped from her arm, staining the snow crimson. Her tent shone pale yellow in the moonlight not a hundred yards away. She staggered to it, uncertain what had just happened to her.

I can’t think about this now. If I do, it will drive me mad. Inside her tent, she stripped off her jackets and long underwear. She flicked on a lighter and took a look at her arm. It needed stitches, but they’d have to wait. She was just too tired. As a stopgap, she doused her arm with Betadine, wrapped it with a pressure bandage, and fell into an exhausted sleep.

* * * *

Tina glanced around. It took a moment to orient herself. She was still about a mile-and-a-half from home. Colorado sunshine shone warmly on her, but she was chilled to her bones.

After leaving Bolivia, she’d returned to the rental house she shared with Craig Robson in Denver. He’d been guiding clients in Antarctica, so she had the house to herself. At first, she’d thought that was good, but the harder she tried to make sense out of what had happened to her on Illimani, the more tangled things got. She wondered if she were having a late schizophrenic break, or if she’d truly traded away her humanity in a pact with the devil.

Craig had blown through their front door one day in mid-January with a huge smile on his face and a ring in his pocket. Tina grimaced and forced herself to run faster. It was hard to think about the day Craig asked her to marry him. There’d been no way she could be his wife. She had no idea what she’d gotten herself into in Bolivia, no inkling of what the ramifications would be. The whole thing was too weird to even try to explain and she was frightened she’d put Craig at risk if she told him anything. Even without Bolivia, she’d had other reservations as well. She hadn’t been ready to marry anyone—not then, and not in the years since. The look on his face when she’d turned him down still haunted her.

She slammed into her house, blowing hard. Usually, she cooled down. Today she was too edgy, nerves jangling with tension. Maybe she should put in another few miles… Tina poured coffee into an oversized mug and slugged some back. It burned, but its bitterness tasted good. She savored it and waited for the blast of caffeine to hit.

Cup gripped in her hand, she forced herself into her study. No more running today. She had things to do. Reaching down, she booted up her computer. There was no getting around it. She had to go back to Bolivia. If she didn’t, she had no doubt the next supernatural visit would mean her death. Better to die on her feet in a direct confrontation than pinned to her mattress.

The Microsoft menu scrolled across the screen. She brought up the Internet and typed in the URL for Craig’s guiding service. If she got really lucky, he’d have a trip to Bolivia planned in the next couple of months. She wanted to see Craig one last time before she faced whatever had hauled her out of the crevasse and threatened her this morning in her bedroom. She’d signed on as team doctor for his expeditions over the last couple of years, but they’d never talked about anything personal. This time she’d gird her courage and apologize.

 

About the Author

Ann Gimpel

Ann Gimpel is a clinical psychologist, with a Jungian bent.  Avocations include mountaineering, skiing, wilderness photography and, of course, writing.  A lifelong aficionado of the unusual, she began writing speculative fiction a few years ago. Since then her short fiction has appeared in a number of webzines and anthologies. Several paranormal romance novellas are available in e-format. Three novels, Psyche’s Prophecy, Psyche’s Search, and Psyche’s Promise are small press publications available in e-format and paperback. Look for two more urban fantasy novels coming this summer and fall: Fortune’s Scion and Earth’s Requiem.

A husband, grown children, grandchildren and three wolf hybrids round out her family.

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Cover Reveal: Wicked Hope

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Title:  Wicked Hope
Author:  Tabatha Vargo
Release Date:  Fall 2013
Genre:  Paranormal / Fantasy Romance
Presented by:  As You Wish Tours

Wicked Hope Front Cover

BLURB

 There isn’t anything that Mage McPherson wouldn’t do for love, including steal someone’s spirit. After Adam is tragically lost to her, Mage discovers a spell that can bring him back. But things can never be that simple, and she learns the hard way that there are always consequences when it comes to magic. Adam isn’t quite the Adam she remembers and now whatever he feels, she feels…times two.

Adam Westcott knows three things. One, Mage McPherson is the love of his life. Two, thanks to Mage’s wonder spell they are now somehow physically connected. And three, there’s a part of him, right next to the heart that beats for her, that wants to kill her. The only option is to run, but it’s impossible to run away from yourself. The inner struggle within himself makes for a hard fight when yet another dark magic comes to call.

Sometimes it’s not evil that you must defeat, sometimes it’s love, and when the line between love and hate is at its thinnest, there’s no telling what can happen. But Mage won’t lose hope, even if destiny is being a witch.

Wicked Hope Full Cover

 

EXCERPT

He’s here, just inside the electric-blue doors that mark the entrance to hell. I can sense him. The part of me that lives inside him calls to me. The connection is so strong that it takes my breath away. For a brief moment I begin to hyperventilate. Even if it wasn’t a matter of life or death, I’d still want to be here more than any other place on earth. Here, in a back alley of the city of sin.

I’m pulled towards him, so I waste no more time and push the doors open. The stench of lust and cigarette smoke invades my senses. The distinct smell of pheromones and overly sweet perfume mixes in for a very nauseating scent.

He’s knows I’m here. He can sense me the way I sense him and even though I can’t see him, I feel his eyes on me.

The loud techno music is distracting as I make my way through the crowded room. Half naked women rub themselves like horny cats against silver poles. One in particular catches my attention. She bends with the music allowing her platinum hair to fall over before she shakes it back and forth. She runs her hands up her knee high boots before throwing her head back—platinum locks thrashing around her narrow face. She looks down at me from her mini stage and mirror eyes flash with her overly seductive smile.

I turn away quickly and my eyes land on him. The moment I see him, the side of his mouth twitches into an evil smirk. Adam would never smile at me that way, and yet, there he is.

Tabatha Vargo

AUTHOR BIO

Tabatha’s been writing since she could pick up a pencil. Her first publication was a little poem in her elementary school paper, from that point on she was hooked. When she was a teenager, she traded in her girly magazines for personalized writing notebooks.

At nineteen, she met her own personal prince charming and writing took a back burner for a while. She’s now married to that prince and the mother of a beautiful seven-year-old princess/rock star. Once her daughter was born, writing came back into her life, and she finished her very first novel, Wicked Fate, in May of 2009.

She’s now pursuing her English degree and she hopes to one day teach while continuing to write.

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Cover Reveal: The Mirror

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Book Title:  The Mirror
Author:  Candace L. Bowser
Release Date:  June 18, 2013
Genre:  Paranormal Romance/Horror
Length:  280 Pages
Publisher:  GMTA Publishing LLC
Presented by:  As You Wish Tours

 ONE LINER

 A betrayal so deep it has transcended 400 years is now haunting Adrianna Bristol. Will she have the courage to break the curse?

The Mirror

SYNOPSIS

            Adrianna Bristol came from a long line of strong, very successful women. Raised by her grandmother after her mother’s unexplained disappearance when she only three years old, her memories of her mother were vague at best. The only mother she and her twin brother Sam had even known was Anabel, her beloved grandmother.

After her nana’s unexpected and sudden death, Adrianna begins to experience the unexplainable and is given an intense lesson as to why the mirror in her grandmother’s alcove was cover in black velvet. A curse plaques the Bristol family; a curse that gives them long life, wealth, and an immortal lover who cannot release them.

Determined to break the curse, Adrianna sets out to learn the truth, the horrible truth behind what happened to her family nearly four hundred years ago and why her family is bonded to a specter only a handful of people have ever seen. Between despair and bliss lies the truth, and only Adrianna has the power to save them all.

CANDACE BOWSER

AUTHOR BIO

An avid writer, Candace works nearly every day on one of her manuscripts. Though she predominately composes works of horror, she also writes mystery, suspense, and adventure. During the 1990’s she was a featured columnist for PRS in Kansas City. In 2011, Candace was honored by being voted one of the Top 20 Most Prolific Authors by AKG mag.. Her books are an unusual blend of historical places and events, along with fictional and non-fictional characters, which she seamlessly weaves into the story .Originally from south-central Pennsylvania, she currently resides in Kansas City with her husband Todd.

 

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Spotlight: Love Me Some Cowboy

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Love Me Some Cowboy
Lisa Mondello, Jean Brashear, Day LeClaire, Ginger Chambers, Barbara McMahon

Genre: Contemporary Romantic Suspense
ISBN: 978-1-939925-03-9

Book Description:

Who can resist a tough, rugged cowboy?  Not these feisty, determined women!

Five full-length novels at a steal of a price!

In Nothing But Trouble by USAToday Bestselling Author Lisa Mondello, city girl Melanie Summers must spend an  entire month alone in the Wyoming wilderness with sexy rodeo cowboy, Stoney Buxton, without getting into trouble.  Possible?   Not a chance in the world!

USAToday Bestselling Author Jean Brashear adds Lone Star flavor with Texas Secrets.  Boone Gallagher returns to the only home he’s ever known only to find it’s been willed to a sexy stranger who’s intent on leaving.  He must keep her there for thirty days or it will be lost to them both.

Love romantic reunion stories?  Then much-loved Harlequin author Barbara McMahon has the perfect book for you!  Crazy About a Cowboy brings you Sam and Lisa Haller, who divorced for all the wrong reasons.  Now Sam wants his ex-wife back for all the right ones.

Once Upon a Cowboy by Day Leclaire, author of the wildly popular Dante’s Legacy series, introduces Cami, a lovable, greenhorn spitfire determined to become a cowboy, despite the objections of her sexy rancher boss.

And last, but far from least, beloved Dell and Harlequin author Ginger Chambers offers a heartwarming treat with Love, Texas, in which Cassie Edwards returns to the hometown she’d forsaken to negotiate the sale of land belonging to the Taylor family. Hard-working rancher Will Taylor, once her girlhood crush, is all man now and fighting hard to save his heritage. When attraction flares, will true love triumph?

Excerpt for Nothing But Trouble : Book 1 of Love Me Some Cowboy-
His jaw tightened. Yes, there was something definitely wrong here. And money had nothing to do with it. It had everything to do with this beauty standing in front of him, who was clueless about what she was getting her pretty little hide into. “No,” he replied tersely.

“Mr. Buxton, I need your help.”

“Tourist season is in full swing. I’m sure you’ll have no trouble finding someone else.”

He turned his back to her and began walking along the fence toward the barn, almost forgetting… Abruptly, he glanced up and saw the charred remains of the barn. The place where all his troubles had started just one year ago. It hadn’t taken but a second for him to hear her boots digging into the dusty gravel behind him, jarring him from his thoughts.

“Then I’ll do it myself,” she said to his back.

His whole body stiffened. He angled back to read her face, to see if she was just being a spoiled rotten rich kid, trying to get her way, or if she was actually serious. Seeing her head held high and her arms crossed in front of her, he realized she was dead serious.

And dead she’d be if she stepped one boot into those mountains alone.

“You’ll do no such thing.”

Frustration flaring, he lifted his dusty hat and forced his fingers through the thick crop of black hair before returning the hat to his head.

“You just don’t get it, do you? You’re not asking me to take you on a theme park ride where you’ll get to see the wonders of the world at a nice safe distance. This is God’s country. The creatures that live up there don’t know civilization, and you are no better than them. You could–probably will–get killed if you go out there alone.” His lips twitched, taking a good long appraising look at the woman in front of him. “You might even chip a nail on that pretty hand of yours.”

 

Links to the first chapter for each of the other books in the anthology
http://jeanbrashear.com/texas-tales/texas-secrets/texas-secrets-excerpt/
http://www.barbaramcmahon.com/excerpt-crazy-about-a-cowboy.php
http://www.dayleclaire.com/excerpt-once-upon-a-cowboy
http://gingerchambers.wordpress.com/love-texas/

Lisa is giving away a free ebook.
Her Heart for the Asking is FREE -tell everyone that they can get a free ebook.
 Grab it from Amazon or Smashwords

 

 What Readers Are Saying About These Authors:

 “Emotional depth and situations that tore at my heart. This is exactly what I want from a romance.” (about Ginger Chambers, Love, Texas)

“I can never get enough of Day Leclaire’s novels. It’s all about the characters, and these are especially lovable, funny, and heartwarming … not to mention sexy. I really identified with Cami’s act-first, think-later personality. Adorable!” (about Day Leclaire, Once Upon a Cowboy)

“A great story about second chances at love. A hunky cowboy and a feisty cowgirl and a cute little boy to round off this romance.” (about Barbara McMahon, Crazy About a Cowboy)

“I really enjoyed this, er, literary foreplay. I knew that when these two finally made love, they wouldn’t just be going through the motions—there were going to be some fireworks….Jean Brashear is a terrific discovery for me.” (about Jean Brashear, Texas Secrets)

” Loved this book so much I didn’t put it down till I was finished. Highly recommended for a very good read. “ (about Lisa Mondello, Nothing But Trouble)

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Spotlight: Carry Your Heart

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Beautiful romantic couple of lovers

Carry Your Heart (After Forever Series) by Audrey Bell
Genre: Contemporary New Adult

Date of Publication: May 7, 2013
Word Count: 73,000

 

Book Description:

 Champion skier Pippa Baker lost everything in the avalanche: her boyfriend, his best friend, and her will to win. After a year of grief, she returns to competition.

She finds more than buried memories and steep slopes in Utah. She finds Hunter Dawson, a heartbreaking daredevil with the gold medals to prove it. And she finds that his reputation doesn’t stop her from falling hard, and that her heart might not be as broken as she once believed.

 But, Hunter has scars and memories too—scars that make him believe falling in love might hurt too much, scars that make him run.

 Pippa knows how much love hurts when it’s gone. Will she stop herself before she’s in too deep? Or will she let herself fall?  

Excerpt:   

“I’m going to grab a drink,” I say, badly wanting something to ease the nerves and excitement of being back here. The last time I saw most of these faces was at Ryan’s funeral. I shake that unpleasant, searing memory. Parker had been a pallbearer. Joe had practically collapsed outside of the church. I shudder. Center myself in the present.

You’re in a bar. Almost a year later.

I look around for a bartender, and find Laurel instead.

“Hey!” she slurs enthusiastically.

“Hey, Laurel.”

“Lucky break today, huh?” she asks.

“Yep. You okay?”

She rolls her eyes. “Fine. I was so fucking pissed.”

“It happens to everyone,” I say with a shrug.

“Not to me,” she tosses her hair. “So, you’re like back or whatever? For real?”

I nod. “I’m back.”

Hunter leans further on the counter and looks down, past Laurel to me. “How’d you do?” he asks. His eyes are locked intensely on mine. It’s a gaze that I can’t hold for long.

“Third,” I say.

“Not bad,” he smiles mischievously. “Told you I’d pray for you.”

Laurel shakes her head as if she’s noticed that Hunter and I are talking for the first time. “Oh. Hunter, this is Pippa.”

“Hey,” I say.

“We know each other,” Hunter says automatically.

“How?” she demands.

“We were on the same plane here,” Hunter says. He watches me. He answers Laurel’s question, but his eyes don’t leave me. “Philly, can I get you a drink?”

“Ah…” I glance at him and at the bartender and at Laurel.

“Her name is Pippa,” Laurel says.

“What do you like?”

“Gin and tonic.”

He grins. “Country club girl, huh?”

Laurel looks at him and scowls. “Hunter, don’t leave without me. I’m going to say hi to all of my friends.”

She disappears over to Brooke and a few of the men’s Alpine skiers. I watch her, curiously, while a few of the male skiers let their eyes roam over me. They’re not checking me out. It’s more of a haunted look. Like, I’m the ghost of a bad memory they try to forget everyday.

They were the ones who were Danny and Ryan’s best friends. The guys they grew up with, fought with, all of that stuff.

And I’m the girl who somehow didn’t die when both of their buddies did. I swallow. I know they can’t look at me without thinking of them. I know that’s true for so many people here.

“Hey,” Hunter says softly, getting my attention. He has a beer and my drink.

He pushes the glass towards me and leaves a twenty-dollar bill on the bar.

He steps closer, sits down on a stool near me, and leans close, so I can feel the heat of his body and smell his aftershave. I like being near him. It’s warm. It feels dangerous.

“So are you always this happy with third place?” he teases.

“No. Not usually.”

He nods. “Better than second.” He rubs his chin. “Someone once told me that there’s nothing worse than fourth place, because you’re the best person not to get a medal. But I don’t think that’s true. I think second is the worst.”

I nod. “You finish second a lot?”

He laughs. “Nah. I finish first or I don’t finish at all.”

“You race?”

“Used to,” he nods. “Not anymore. I do some freestyle stuff, half-pipe.” He smiles. “I actually started snowboarding because I hated racing—when I skied. When I was a little kid.” He bites his lip and cocks his head. “But, I like to compete. Plus, I wasn’t any good on skis.”

“I doubt that’s true.”

“No, it is…” he shakes his head. “I raced your ex-boyfriend for a while. Danny?”

I nod. “Oh, yeah?”

“Back in middle school. Ryan, too. Ryan was fucking good. Everyone always told us to try and do it like Ryan.”

I flutter my eyelashes briefly, remembering how quick and graceful Ryan was. Even my dad, who knew little about competitive skiing, said so when he watched him race.

“The Snow Cat.”

“Huh?”

“Ryan the Snow Cat. That’s what Danny called him—always landed on his feet.”

Hunter nods.  “You don’t want to talk about this.” He moves a little closer.

“We can talk about it.” I don’t mind telling Hunter about them—he barely knew them and he seems barely curious.

“But you don’t want to.” His hair is combed back, in soft dark waves, and his eyes are big, green and glassy. The color of celery. He lifts the dark Budweiser bottle to his mouth and takes a long sip of beer. God, he looks good.

He wipes the back of his mouth with one hand, a lazy, athletic gesture that makes me look at lips, soft and…shit, Pippa, you cannot be doing this right now.

I finish half of my drink in one swallow.

“Thirsty?”

“Yeah,” I say. “Nervous.”

He raises an eyebrow. I wish I could do that. “Yeah? Do I make you nervous, Pippa?”

I blush. Stupid admission. Yes. “You’ve decided to call me Pippa?”

He smiles. “I feel weird buying someone named Phil drinks.”

“Ah, got it.”

He leaned forward onto his arms. I smell the alcohol on his breath; he’s more than a little bit tipsy at this point. “So, did you feel it change?”

“What?”

“Everything.”

“When?”

“Today.”

“I didn’t feel anything change.”

“When you finished third,” he bites his lip and slides even closer to me. He leans and whispers in my ear. “You know, nobody feels sorry for you anymore. Now that they think you might be in the way again.”

I look back, over the people I know, and then up at Hunter. “Everyone here is an adult. We all want the same thing. We know that.”

He laughs. “You think Laurel’s going to go quietly if you keep beating her?” He shakes his head. “I saw you go today. You weren’t even trying. If I could see that, then I’m sure everyone else could”

“I was trying.”

“Not like you used to.”

“You never saw me ski before, so…”

“I know what playing scared looks like. Trust me. I was that guy for a long time,” he nods. He looks down at the bar.

“What’s your point?”

“Nothing.” He shrugs: “You seem like a cool girl. And I know what it’s like. One year I was the down on his luck kid and everyone was happy to see me win. The next year, I was just the competition. And I couldn’t figure out why people I thought were friends weren’t my friends anymore. Things change when you win. When it’s you, you’re the last person to realize what’s happening.”

I nod. “Oh, and you’re just looking out for me?”

“You don’t have to believe me.”

“No,” I say. I step back. “I never said I didn’t believe you. Thanks, I guess.”

“Laurel hates your fucking guts, by the way.”

“Yeah. So I’ve heard.”

He shrugs, not saying anything back to me.

“So, what’s your deal with her? She’s your girlfriend?”

He takes a long sip of beer, buying a little more time. He swallows and smirks. “I guess it depends on whether you want to come home with me.”

A flush rushes to my face. I didn’t think I seemed that easy. Or like I wanted him that badly. “Excuse me?”

“Do you want to come home with me?”

I stare at him. “How much have you had to drink?”

“Not that much,” he shrugs. “Interested?”

“No,” I say indignantly.

“Yeah, then, sure. I guess she’s my girlfriend.” I stare at him for a few seconds.

“I…”

“What? Changed your mind?” he asks wickedly.

“No.” I shake my head. “Have fun.”

“I’ll try, Philly.” It really doesn’t seem like he cares that I’ve said no, and he definitely doesn’t care if I’m pissed off. But I am pissed off—both by the question and by the fact that he’s leaving with Laurel so soon after asking me if I wanted to go home with him.

About the Author:

Audrey Bell lives in New York City, where she indulges her SoulCycle addiction and expresses her passionate hatred of the 6 Train. You can find her reading in Central Park, overcaffeinating at Starbucks, or trying to kidnap her neighbors’ Maltese puppy. She loves hearing from readers. Check out her blog at audreybellbooks.blogspot.com.

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