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Book Blitz and Giveaway — The Consequences of Fate

The Consequences of Fate
Mary E. Palmerin
(Heartless, #2)
Publication date: December 1st 2020
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult

When I was little, I wanted to be a superhero to fly over the moon. Then I found a suitcase with a photo of the brown-eyed angel. The bad man changed me. I became lost and unlovable. After the consequences of fate reared its ugly head, I decided I would be the master of my ultimate plan.

I am not a good boy.

I watch people.

I hurt them.

And I destroy the truth.

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Author Bio:

Mary E. Palmerin is an internationally bestselling author of The Monster Series, Redeeming Rhys, and half the madness behind The Red Market Series. She currently resides in Indiana with her husband and two boys. She enjoys writing raw, taboo tales that strike various emotions in her readers. When she isn’t busy writing, she usually has her nose in a good book. Mary loves spending time with her family and friends, being outdoors, cooking, art, tattoos, red wine, traveling, and anything that makes her laugh. She loves to connect with her readers!

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Book Blitz, Teasers, and Giveaway — Link by Link

Link by Link: An Anthology of Haunted Holidays
Publication date: December 2nd 2020
Genres: Holiday, Paranormal, Supernatural, Young Adult

“‘I wear the chain I forged in life, ’replied the Ghost. ‘I made it link by link…’”-Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

Link by Link is a collection of 9 stories of ghosts, spirits, and creatures unnamed, all come to teach lessons we won’t soon forget. From sweet Christmas tales to terrifying holiday hauntings, these stories take a dive into the past in the hopes of creating a better—or at least different—future.

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Blog Tour, Giveaway, and Review — FAWNED

 

I am thrilled to be hosting a spot on the FAWNED by Winter Pior Blog Tour hosted by Rockstar Book Tours. Check out my post and make sure to enter the giveaway!

 

About The Book:

Title: FAWNED

Author: Winter Pior

Pub. Date: October 20, 2020

Publisher: Winter Pior

Formats: Paperback, eBook

Pages: 399

Find it:  GoodreadsAmazonKindle, B&N

If Fifty Shades of Grey and Dear Evan Hansen got together to watch Bambi, you would have Fawned – an “enDEERing” erotic romance about two lonely college students experimenting with petplay for the first time

Barnaby Hirsch isn’t one to put himself out there – he’s shy and, admittedly, awkward – but desperate times call for desperate measures. When he signs up for a dating app, the last person he expects to match with is the campus’ gay playboy, Gil Connolly.

It should have been a one-night stand, but it’s one night Barnaby can’t forget. It’s the closest he’s ever felt to someone, the closest he’s ever felt to belonging.

Gil wants someone to belong to him. He has a collar, and he wants someone to wear it.

Barnaby has a deer onesie, and he’s starting to think, maybe, the two might look good together.

When you purchase Barnaby’s Blend Tea from Adagio Teas, 5% of the sale will benefit The Trevor Project!

 


 

About Winter: 

Winter Pior is an Aries, artist, and first-time author of the novel, Fawned. He lives in New Jersey and has no pets, animal or otherwise.

Website |Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads | Amazon

 







Giveaway Details:

1 lucky winner will receive one signed copy of the book, 1 set of pins (Barnaby, Gil and Gidget), and one Barnaby Cosplay Hoodie, US only. 






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Tour Schedule:

Week One:

11/23/2020

Two Chicks on Books

Excerpt

11/23/2020

JaimeRockstarBookTours

Instagram Post

11/24/2020

Twirling Book Princess

Excerpt

11/24/2020

Never Hollowed By The Stare

Excerpt

11/25/2020

BookHounds YA

Interview

11/25/2020

BookHounds YA

Instagram Post

11/26/2020

Wonder Struck

Review

11/27/2020

Do You Dog-ear?

Review

 

Week Two:

11/30/2020

Nay’s Pink Bookshelf

Review

11/30/2020

Nay’s Pink Bookshelf

Instagram Post

12/1/2020

Betwixt the Pages

Review

12/1/2020

Betwixt the Pages

Instagram Post

12/2/2020

Emelie’s Books

Review

12/2/2020

Lifestyle of Me

Review

12/3/2020

Reese’s Reviews

Review

12/4/2020

Momfluenster

Review/Instagram Post


fishbreak

Quick Reasons: diverse read/characters; SUPER CUTE stomach-flapping butterflies!; they’re both such adorable, faltering, awkward characters; love the healthy, educational BDSM dynamic; LGBTQ+ !

HUGE thanks to Winter Prior and Rockstar Book Tours for sending a free galley copy of this title my way in exchange for an honest review! This in no way altered my read of or opinions on this book.

And MY, OH MY, what an absolutely adorable, butterfly-inducing read this was! So let’s start small and work to the big stuff, hmmm?

These characters are so vibrant and full of life. I really adored how awkward and faltering they both are, especially in the very beginning of figuring out their dynamic. Their conversations had me giggling, mostly at the memories of how awkward I AM in social situations, especially when trying to meet someone new that I kinda sorta maybe like.

The BDSM dynamic also added a layer to this that I both was and wasn’t expecting. I WAS, because…it’s very clearly in the blurb of the book. But what I wasn’t expecting, was for it to be portrayed in such a healthy, safe, and educational way. I really dig how much time and effort Winter Prior put in to making sure it was not written off lightly, or in any way problematic. This helped to more fully immerse me in the experience, I feel. The inclusion of the LGBTQ+ community, on top of that, was the ICING on the cake for me–representation matters, and this was representation done SO, SO right!

This read was enjoyable, informative, and thought-provoking, and I am SO glad to have been part of the journey–and to be able to share my thoughts, now, with you all! The characters are endearing and believable, the read was quick and heart-fluttering, and I cannot recommend this enough. If you’re seeking a quirky, LGBTQ+ friendly, kink-driven read–look no further! You will absolutely fawn over FAWNED, Penguins, so pick it up!

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Cover Reveal — Can’t Catch My Breath

Can’t Catch My Breath
Sarah Sutton
Publication date: January 26th, 2021
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult

Addy Arden lives in a land called denial.

After losing her dad in a car accident, she’d rather pretend things were okay than be crushed by grief and guilt. Her friends buy the fake smiles and her mom doesn’t seem to notice…or care.

And Addy is doing great until she’s paired with Vincent Castello, the most intimidating senior at Greenville High, for a class project. Interview a random classmate and write a report on them. Should be easy, right?

Not by a longshot.

Because the car accident that killed Addy’s dad? It left Vincent’s father paralyzed.

Talk about an awkward ice-breaker.

As the two grow closer, can Addy face her grief and guilt head-on and put her past behind her, or will she let it consume her, and lose the guy who truly takes her breath away?

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Author Bio:

Sarah Sutton is a YA Romance author, bringing you stories about teenagers falling in love (sometimes with magic)She spends her days dreaming up ideas with her two adorable puppies by her side being cheerleaders (and mega distractions).

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Book Blitz, Excerpt, and Giveaway — The Prince’s Bride (Part 2)

The Prince’s Bride Part 2
J.J. McAvoy
(The Prince’s Bride #2)
Publication date: November 27th 2020
Genres: Adult, New Adult, Romance

Book 2 of The Prince’s Bride duet.

In book one, he was just a spoiled playboy prince whose family was in desperate need of money. Now everything has changed Odette Wyntor has a choice.
Stay or Run.
Royalty is not for the weak of heart.
Can they handle what is to come?

Goodreads / Amazon / iBooks / Kobo

EXCERPT:

“Is there wine?” he asked, stepping in farther.

And that was when the words came back to me. “We haven’t seen each other in months, and the first thing you ask me about is wine?” I couldn’t believe it.

“You’re right. That was rude,” he said gently, walking up to me.

“Being rude isn’t the point, Gale. How could you—”

“My first question should have been, how are you, Odette?” he whispered, placing his hand on my cheek, and it was like he had shocked me. Electricity flowed throughout my veins, and the hair on my arms stood up, so I had to step back away from his touch.

“What do you think you are doing?” I snapped.

“He dropped his hands, his gaze softening. “Can we save our argument for the morning? It has been a very long day, and I really need some sleep.”

“What?”

He didn’t answer me; instead, he took off his jacket and walked to the bedroom.

“What are you doing?” I rushed to stand in front of him. “If you want to sleep, go back to your palace!”

“My wife isn’t in the palace. She is here, and I can hardly let her spend her first night here alone, now can I?” he said as if it were the most obvious thing in the world. Like oh, of course, you shouldn’t look directly at the sun.

“So, there is the wine.” He snickered and walked around me again into the bedroom, tossing his coat onto the ottoman at the end of the bed, grabbing my unfinished glass to drink from it.

“Gale!”

“Hmm?” He looked at me, still drinking.

He—I—What was he doing right now? Breathe, Odette. Breathe. “Gale, you cannot just break into my bedroom, demand to sleep, and drink my wine like nothing has happened—like we don’t need to talk.”

Author Bio:

J.J. McAvoy was born in Montreal, Canada and graduated from Carleton University in 2016 with an honour’s degree in Humanities. She is the oldest of three and has loved writing for years. She is inspired by everything from Shakespearean tragedies to current culture. Her novels hope to push boundaries and allow readers to look at the world from another perspective. Please feel free to stay in touch with her via Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and youtube, where she video blogs.

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Book Blitz, Excerpt, and Giveaway — Ruinsong

Ruinsong
Julia Ember
Published by: Farrar Straus and Giroux
Publication date: November 24th 2020
Genres: Fantasy, LGBTQ+, Romance, Young Adult

In Julia Ember’s dark and lush LGBTQ+ romantic fantasy Ruinsong, two young women from rival factions must work together to reunite their country, as they wrestle with their feelings for each other.

Her voice was her prison…
Now it’s her weapon.

In a world where magic is sung, a powerful mage named Cadence must choose between the two. For years, she has been forced to torture her country’s disgraced nobility at her ruthless queen’s bidding.

But when she is reunited with her childhood friend, a noblewoman with ties to the underground rebellion, she must finally make a choice: Take a stand to free their country from oppression, or follow in the queen’s footsteps and become a monster herself.

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EXCERPT:

Cadence

I allow Lacerde to dress me without turning to examine myself in the mirror. I don’t want to see how I look, how they’ve fashioned me. In my mind, I already see stains of blood on the muslin fabric of my skirt, dotting the white leather of my gloves. Lacerde adjusts my skirt and smooths my hair. Then, with a grunt, she bends down and buffs my new shoes to a gleam.

She opens the door for me so I don’t get my gloves dirty and leads me down the dark corridor. My dressing room is the only one in use. All the others are boarded up, so that no one will use them to hide.

I imagine what the Opera Hall must have been like years ago, when so many singers performed here together for more willing audiences. The corridors would have been filled with the sounds of laughter, rustling taffeta costumes, and a chorus of warm-up scales. Above, the audience would be straining to get inside the house, clinking glasses together at the theatre bar, speculating on the wonders to come.

If I strain my ear, I can still hear the echo of their merriment in the walls, obscured by the more recent cacophony of despair and pain. The smell of thousands of spellsongs, layered atop one another for centuries, lingers in the musty air. It’s been eight years since this place functioned as a real theatre, but the Opera Hall remembers.

We climb the stairs up onto the stage. Elene and Lord Durand, her newly elevated pet footman, stand together on the edge, shouting instructions down to the conductor in the orchestra pit.

Elene glances up and nods to Lacerde, who positions me at center stage without releasing me. It’s as if they think I will run, even though there is no where to go.

No one has dimmed the gas lamps that line the theatre’s aisles yet, so I have a full view. The theatre is much grander than our replica at the academy. The ceiling bears a centuries-old mural of Adela gifting the first mage with magic. The singer kneels beside the sacred pool, and the goddess rises from the water, her mouth open with song and her arms spread wide. Musical notes surround them, each flecked with real gold leaf.

Portraits of the three other goddesses border the mural. Odetta, the goddess of spring and renewal, wearing a silver mask that covers her eyes and cheeks, and holding a sparrow’s skeleton in her cupped hands. Karina, goddess of justice and winter, thin and draped in a linen sheath, with her arms wide. Marena, the autumn goddess of war, chin lifted proudly, staring down with her hypnotic purple eyes, bejeweled with human teeth.

Beneath, row upon row of tightly packed red velvet seats stretch back to the imposing black doors at the rear of the theatre. They’re made from mageglass, a material designed by the elementals: sand spun, dyed and hardened so that not even diamond bullets could shatter it. Hundreds of people will fill the house tonight. Dame Ava, the queen’s former principal, told me that sometimes there are so many that folk have to stand along the walls.

My knees start to shake at the sight. My mouth goes dry.

All these seats. All these people. My unshed tears blur the rows of red seats together, like a smear of blood.

Author Bio:

Julia Ember is the author of The Seafarer’s Kiss duology, a Norse myth inspired retelling of The Little Mermaid, published by Interlude Press (Duet Books), and Ruinsong, a standalone high fantasy reimagining of The Phantom of the Opera, forthcoming from Macmillan Kids (FSG) in November 2020. She lives with her wife and two fluffy cats in the Pacific Northwest.

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Book Blitz, Excerpt, and Giveaway: Damned When I Didn’t

Damned When I Didn’t
Cherie Colyer
Published by: The Wild Rose Press
Publication date: November 18th 2020
Genres: Paranormal, Romance, Young Adult

Death isn’t the end for eighteen-year-old Avery Williams, and her final resting place isn’t beyond the Golden Gates. No, the Queen of the Damned has plans for her and, unbeknownst to Avery, fought hard to gain possession of her soul.

As Hell’s newest succubus, Avery is expected to siphon life from the living. It only takes a long, meaningful kiss, but for a virgin like Avery, kissing guys she barely knows isn’t something she’s comfortable doing. Avery focuses on the upside of her fate—she’ll be returning home, or so she thinks. When the Queen of the Damned cuts her off from her old life, Avery is determined to find a way back to her family and friends, even if it means facing Hell’s fury if she’s caught.

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EXCERPT:

I kicked my sneakers off near the kitchen stools and dropped my purse on the floor.

“What’s your problem?” Cole asked. He stood a few feet from me, eyes narrowed.

“Nothing.” I breathed in deep, trying to calm myself. The stench of cheap perfume invaded my nostrils. I covered my nose with my hand. “You reek of imitation lavender and…and…onions.”

Cole tossed his keys onto the counter. Obvious confusion flittered over his features only to be replaced with the realization that I was referring to the scents of the waitress.

“You’re one to talk!” he spit back. “You stink of Sport Goofy.”

“Sport Goofy, I mean Marcus, barely touched me.” Cole gave off such a strong odor, I was sure the waitress had put her hands all over him.

Cole stepped closer, placing his hands on the counter on either side of me, caging me in.

“And I barely touched her,” he growled. “When a human’s life force flows from them to us, our souls grow brighter and—”

“We smell like them,” I said, finishing his sentence. He’d told me that once.

“And because our senses become sharper, we know when our kind renews.” The blue in his irises was more pronounced than I’d remembered. I bit my lip to keep from asking him if that was because of my heightened vision or because he’d renewed, as he called it. “Now, do you want to tell me what’s really bothering you?”

I felt my face warm, and I had to fight to keep my gaze from traveling to his lips. Did I want to admit that I was irrationally jealous that he’d kissed another girl? Nope. So, instead, I said, “Her smell makes me want to puke.”

“Eau de Jock is doing the same to me.”

“You’re the one who called Sport Goofy,” I reminded him.

He smiled, clearly happy that I’d called Marcus by the nickname.

“You’re the one who pissed off the Queen of the Damned,” he countered.

I twitched a shoulder. “I still can’t stand how you smell right now.”

“Fine!” He grabbed me just under my butt and lifted me over his shoulder. I screamed. He held my legs, keeping me from falling.

“What are you doing?” I grabbed his waist from my upside down position.

“You think I smell?”

“Reek. And you said I do, too! Now put me down!”

“Let’s fix that.”

He marched to the bathroom with me slung over his shoulder. The next thing I knew we were standing in the tub. He continued to hold me like a sack of rice.

“Cole?”

He slid me down his chest so I stood in front of him with his arms keeping me from moving.

“Cole?”

He reached behind me.

I glanced up at the showerhead, then to the knob next to me. “You wouldn’t!”

“Want to bet?”

Author Bio:

Cherie Colyer is the author of Challenging Destiny and the Embrace series. When she’s not getting the fictional people in her life into trouble, she can be found solving network issues at work, spending time with family and friends, reading, or exploring the great outdoors.

Cherie lives in Illinois with her family.

To learn more about Cherie and her novels visit http://www.CherieColyer.com

Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Newsletter


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Book Blitz and Giveaway: Wicked Idol

Wicked Idol
Becker Gray
(A Hellfire Club Novel)
Publication date: November 17th 2020
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance

The new girl doesn’t belong here. So why can’t I stop thinking about her? Iris Briggs a goodie two-shoes with a headmaster father who aims to ruin my school year before it’s even begun. She gets under my skin. With her demure skirts and braided hair, Iris flits around the periphery until she runs right into me, hot coffee soaking me as she looks up at me with wide, innocent eyes. We start off scalding.

In the library, we reach lava levels.

And then in the city? We go nuclear.

She’s a good girl, but I’m a Constantine. My duty is to my family. At least, it was until I started unbraiding the good girl and realizing there’s more to life than duty.

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Author Bio:

Becker Gray is the brainchild of two best friends who love rich boys in peacoats. The Hellfire Club is their first series together.

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Book Blitz,Excerpt, and Giveaway — The Stories Stars Tell

The Stories Stars Tell
C.L. Walters
Publication date: October 13th 2020
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult

Ever felt like the sum total of your choices have fixed your story in the stars?

For Emma Matthews, she feels like all of her choices are rooted in the fear of letting down her parents… God…of never being good enough.

For Tanner James, he’s wearing an identity he has created with his friends and their pact—Bro Code—fixed in sex, alcohol and bad choices.

Both are longing for a new story they look to one another to help them write.

Follow Emma and Tanner as they rewrite stories they thought had already been written into something new. To discover sometimes painful truths about love and identity.

About the ways that love can help us lose ourselves… or find ourselves.

How love can break us… or heal us.

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EXCERPT:

tanner

[…]I stood. “I’m going,” I told Griff, who had a girl sitting on his lap I didn’t know.

He smiled over her shoulder at me and presented his knuckles. The girl whispered something in his ear, and Griff laughed. She was attractive. Dark haired.

My mind drifted to Emma Matthews (which was strange since we weren’t friends). I’d seen her the day before with her friend, Liam, hanging a poster for some club or function in the hall after school, heads together about something. Under usual circumstances, I wouldn’t have noticed, but in this case, I had because I’d noticed Emma and how cute she was. I had noticed her for a while, but she was out of my league.

Emma wouldn’t be partying like this. She definitely wouldn’t be sitting in Griff’s lap, and if she were, it would piss me off, but I didn’t consider why. She was probably at home, doing something productive, like homework, or a group study session. Perhaps she was doing something fun and wholesome, like a movie with her friends. I wondered if she went to the movies. Though I wasn’t exactly sure why I wondered, because I wasn’t a big movie goer (too boring to sit in one spot for too long).

Why was I even thinking of Emma at all?

It wasn’t like we talked. Sometimes, I thought she might be looking at me in the cafeteria at school or in the hallway as we passed one another. Her pretty eyes always slid away, but they made me curious. What color were they? Was she just glancing at me, or was she looking? I used to think about her. A lot. That started in the eighth grade when she yelled at Cole Butler in science during a lab. She’d been so fiery and funny. The memory still made me smile. We hadn’t had many classes together — one or two, maybe — because she actually tried at school.

I shook my head to get my errant thoughts about Emma out of my mind. Leaving Griff and Wannabe Emma behind, I walked through the living room.

Deb stopped me with a hand on my chest. “Hey, Tanner. Want to dance?” An invitation.

The message was clear: I could have stayed there with her and gotten laid, but it made me tired. Instead I said, “I’m looking for Penelope,” and even as I said it, I was hoping she’d already left.

Deb shrugged, because that was as much as I meant to her. “Upstairs,” she told me and returned to grinding to the music with her group of friends.

I moved through the crush of people toward the stairs, even though I wasn’t sure why I was going through these motions. A different choice seemed an impossibility, though I couldn’t articulate why that was so. Josh and Danny were sitting in a group smoking weed, and they offered me a head nod as I passed. I gave them an eyebrow raise in return and started up the stairs.

Near the top, I almost tripped on someone sitting on the steps. “Whoa.” It was a girl folded over on herself, and because I’m not a complete douchebag, despite what I know has been said about me, I leaned down and asked her, “You okay?”

The girl tipped her head up to look at me, and suddenly, I was looking into the face of…

“Emma Matthews?”

She smiled, and it lit up her eyes — dark blue with swirls of gray — like stars in a dark sky. “Tanner James.”

“Are you drunk?” I asked. I was too, but not enough to help me forget that Emma was the object of my secret fantasies, along with the fact I’d just been thinking about her. I shook my head to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. There wasn’t anything in our experiences that should have contributed to our paths crossing, and yet, there she was, as if I’d conjured her. “What are you doing here?”

“I’m feeling really good.” She smiled again, and I remembered feeling that smile in my stomach like a lead weight had melted into molten liquid.

“Why are you sitting here on the stairs?”

“Waiting.”

“For what?”

“You.” She giggled.

That made no sense. First, why would Emma Matthews be at this party? Second, why would she be drunk? And third, why would she say she was waiting for me? I wondered if someone was playing a joke on me and even looked around, but it was just the two of us in the hallway. I slid down the wall and sat next to her. “You’re definitely drunk if you’re waiting for me.”

“Did I say that?”

“Yeah.”

“Oh. That’s a secret.” She pressed a finger to my lips, and that touch dove all the way from the top of my neck to the base of my spine like I’d been zapped with electricity. “I’m supposed to find Liam.” Then she moved her finger from my lips to hers, her dark blue eyes — flecks of green and aqua too — never leaving my mouth. “Shh.”

My heart pounded in my chest, excited by the form her lips took against her finger. “Damn, Emma. I didn’t know you drank.”

“Me either.”

I attempted an inconspicuous adjustment of my pants, because I started feeling that tingle in my crotch and needed to calm that shit down. I chuckled, amused, because I hadn’t caught wood from just a look and a touch since I was, like, fourteen. I decided the honorable thing to do was help her find her friend, which led to the decision to dump looking for Penelope. I hadn’t really wanted to be with Penelope outside of sex anyway, and that left me feeling dirty. “Shall we go look for Liam?”

Her eyes roved over every inch of my face. She reached up and touched my lips with her fingertips again; it was tender. “You have a nice mouth, Tanner James.”

My stomach tightened. I tried to remember that reaction. It was a hungry craving, the anticipation of the satiation of a voracious appetite, but it was also so distant. I hadn’t been aware I’d been missing it until it resurfaced inside of me.

“You want to hear a secret?” she asked and leaned closer to me, though I had the impression she thought she was whispering. “I’ve wanted to try and kiss it.”

Her admission made me smile, and my heart thumped a little more. I realized that while I’d been fantasizing about her, perhaps she’d thought about me too. Knowing that made me feel buoyant. “You have? Well, I could remedy that for you, but I’m afraid you wouldn’t remember it. I would want you to.” It was a truth. I wanted Emma to remember me.

“I would,” she said, wide-eyed, and nodded. “I promise.”

I stood up, needing the distance, because I was afraid I might kiss her. As I did, she held my arm, and I almost toppled onto her. I self-corrected and took her hand to help her up. Once upright, she stumbled against me, and I caught her waist with my hands while her other arm wrapped around my neck. My heart was now knocking against the wall of my ribs. She was so close, so pretty, so pressed against me. I looked at her mouth, heart-shaped pink. She licked her lips, and my belly buzzed. I wanted to kiss her so badly, but I chickened out, which was part of why I didn’t; it also felt wrong on some level. I could take advantage, but I didn’t want to. On the other hand, I wanted to extend my time with her, so when I said, “Come on. Let’s go look for Liam.” I took her deeper into the house instead of down the stairs, which was probably the more likely place to look. I wasn’t being altruistic.

She put her hand in mine.

I noticed how soft her skin was, and I wondered about the rest of her.

“I don’t want to find Liam,” she insisted as we walked down the hall. “I want to wait for Tanner.”

“I’m right here.” I looked over my shoulder at her.

Her eyes brightened again, the outside corners scrunching with joy. “Oh! It is you.”

“How much did you have to drink, Em?” I asked.

She held up four fingers. “Two.”

“We should get you some water. Let’s find a place for you to sit.”

I started testing doors in the hallway. Honestly, on one level, I knew what I was doing. I wanted to be alone with her, even if I didn’t want to cheapen the moment. I think I justified it to myself. I needed to find her a place to sober up. Deep down, though, it was a lingering understanding of a latent wish buried in the darkness of my fantasies attached to what she’d said: Waiting. For you. You have a nice mouth. I’ve wanted to try and kiss it.

Emma Matthews was waiting for me.

The knowledge made my heart swell even if I couldn’t believe it. Even if I didn’t — couldn’t — trust it. I wanted to keep the idea close, to remember it, to hold it tight. I knew the moment this was over, it would slip away.

“Em?” I asked as I tested another door.

She made a moaning noise to indicate she’d heard me.

“Why were you waiting for me?”

“I like Tanner. I want to be brave.”

My brain wasn’t quick enough, because it was slugging through the marsh of alcohol. I understood what she was saying, but I didn’t quite comprehend it. “You like me?”

She nodded emphatically. “I saw him.”

“What did you see?” I asked her as I tested another door.

“He helped Connor. At lunch. I saw him. I see him. Everyday. He helps Connor.”

Lunch time. Connor Festner, a kid I help with his tray. Griff gives me shit for it, but Connor is pretty badass and probably beats Griff’s butt playing Duty online. Connor’s given me tons of gaming pointers.

She had been watching me at lunch. I’d known it. My expanded heart compressed, constricted in my chest with a pressure that somehow made me feel like I might be floating off into space without oxygen.

I tested another door. This one opened. The bedroom was empty, and I took a deep breath. Relief. “Here.” I helped her sit on the bed. “Let me have your cup, and I’ll fill it with water.”

She handed me her red cup, and I took it into the bathroom. I rinsed it out and put in water. Before I walked back into the room, I glanced at myself in the mirror. I stared into my own eyes and whispered to my reflection: “It’s Emma. Don’t be a dick.”

When I returned to the room, she was curled up on the bed, eyes closed. “Here, Em.”

She turned her head, looked at me and smiled as if it was the first time she’d seen me that night. “Tanner!” She reached for me, and I had the impression she wanted me to stretch out next to her.

Don’t be a dick, I reminded myself and helped her to sit back up. “Drink some water.”

She took a sip. “Liam says I’m dumb.”

“That isn’t nice of him.” Her statement annoyed me. I sat down next to her, suddenly absolved we weren’t looking for him.

She shook her head. “No. Not like that.” She stopped and took another sip. “Because I wanted to come to find you.”

“Why?”

“I’m scared.”

“Of what?”

“Of everything.” She took another sip and then leaned her head against my shoulder.

I could smell her — a nice scent that was clean and slightly sweet, like vanilla or cotton candy. I resisted the impulse to press my nose into her neck to find out for sure, or to run my tongue across her skin to taste it. Instead, we sat like that for a long time — her head on my shoulder, my hands in my lap and my brain chastising me for smelling her like a freak.

The doorknob wiggled several times as people tested the door; I was smart enough to lock it. Habit. I tried to tell myself it was because I was trying to protect Emma from my reputation, but it was also the temptation to maybe just get to kiss her once. I didn’t make a move though, and that was unfamiliar — and kind of exciting — territory for me.

“Tell me what you’re afraid of,” I said eventually, ending the silence, and also because I wanted to know if she’d fallen asleep. I needed to keep my mind occupied with other things besides thoughts about kissing her. I was beginning to feel more coherent and sober.

“I told you. Everything.” Her hands flailed out, and when they settled, one landed on my thigh. My skin tingled under her touch, and heat spread like radiant light from a lightbulb to illuminate all the dark parts of me.

I swallowed and closed my eyes to focus on her words. The words. “Well, name me one thing.”

“Failure.”

“Everyone’s afraid of that.” I looked down at her hand. Casually rested. On my thigh. Emma’s hand. Her fingernails were painted a bright green and matched her hoop earrings.

“Disappointing my parents,” she said. “Disappointing God.”

I looked at her then, the candor of her statement running through me almost as hot as her touch. It wasn’t practiced. It wasn’t her act of being flirty or a ploy to seduce me. It was just an honest statement. Maybe I couldn’t relate to either of those, even if I wanted to. My parents were so blind to me outside of the tug-of-war they played, using me against one another. And God? Never experienced that in my life, unless having an orgasm counted as prayer. “And?”

She moved her head from my shoulder and turned to look at me. “Never kissing Tanner James.”

My stomach did another of those nose dives into my body, toward my groin. The heat of her hand still warmed my leg. I noticed her eyes, fringed in thick lashes, rove over my face. They came to rest on my mouth. Under different circumstances, I probably wouldn’t have cared and would have provided what she wanted. I wanted it — bad — but I’d found some weird sense of honor I hadn’t been aware I had. “I can’t, Em. You’re drunk.” These were those different circumstances. Emma represented a different kind of life I didn’t think I deserved.

“You don’t like me.” She moved back, slumped a little, her shoulders rounding, and folded her hands in her lap. “It’s okay.”

I missed the weight of her hand on my leg. “It isn’t that.” I leaned forward to try and meet her gaze. “I do like you.”

She sat up quickly, her eyes big and bright. “I got it! I will kiss you. Then you don’t have to kiss me. I’ll do the kissing.”

This made me laugh, because I thought it was one of the cutest things I’d ever heard. And she was so excited by the prospect, as if she’d discovered something new. I couldn’t remember having more fun on a Saturday night.

“Unless, you think I’m — ugly.” Her eyebrows arched over her wide eyes, but now she couldn’t look at me.

I shook my head. “Nope, Emma. I don’t think that. At all.”

Her eyes met mine again, and she said with a slight frown, “The easiness is wearing off. We better do this fast, before I come back.”

I scrunched up my face. “What?”

“If I come back–” she tapped her head– “I’ll be too scared. My head will get in the way. My bravery will melt off.”

“Liquid courage.” I tapped her cup.

She nodded. “I made a plan. I was waiting for you.”

“Really?”

“I, maybe, drank a little too much. Miscalculated.”

I smiled. “And you were waiting for me. Why?”

“To kiss you.” She laid her hand on my arm.

I took a deep breath, as if her touch returned a missing piece of my soul, and I needed to breathe it in. Her admission had me unbalanced, however. My usual practiced lyrics receded from the surprise. I’ve had girls try and lure me with their sexuality, but this? This was totally new. “Why again, Em?”

“Because I saw you. You helped Connor. That’s nice, Tanner. And I think it’s sexy. And I don’t want Keven Bennett to be my only kiss.”

I glanced at her mouth, thought about her kissing Keven Bennett, and was annoyed by it. Then I looked at my hands in my lap. She saw me not because of how I looked. It was because I helped Connor that made me sexy to her. It wasn’t partying or being drunk. It wasn’t a rumor that I knew how to have sex. It wasn’t being smart at school. It was because I’d done something unselfish. “Keven Bennett, huh?”

She wrinkled her nose. “He has a lizard tongue.”

I chuckle. “That’s not good.”

She adjusted her body. “So, is it okay if I kiss you?”

“Who would you be kissing? Just for clarification.” I was testing the truth, not believing it.

“Tanner James. You.” She faced me, drawing her knees up between us, where they pressed against the outside of my thigh. “I see you. I’m not that drunk anymore.”

Her words were enough for me to nod, to give myself permission to cross the line, and indulge my curiosity. “Yes. Okay.”

“You have to turn.” She directed me with her hands on my arms, turning me toward her but with her knees between us.

I watched her working out the problem, completely satisfied in the moment, enjoying her and her cute pout. Her dark, curly hair fell around her heart-shaped face as she looked down at our legs.

“This won’t do.”

“It does seem rather awkward.”

She stood. “Stand up.” She remained steady, the alcohol wearing off, and held her hands out to me.

I took them and stood. When I looked down at her, my heartbeat quickened. The movement of her eyes caressed my face, and for the first time, I understood what it felt like to be seen — really seen. For me, Tanner. Not because of some rumor about what I could do, or because there was enough alcohol in my system to lower my inhibitions.

“Tanner?” She reached up and put her hands on my face.

“Yes, Em?”

“Can you bend down? Just a little bit?” She drew me closer.

I leaned forward, cataloguing all of her attributes. My heart went bat-shit crazy inside my chest. I noticed the width of her blue eyes, the fullness of her dark eyebrows, the way her bottom lip was a tiny bit fuller than the top, the way her pert nose was slightly upturned and kissed with tiny freckles that reached out across her cheeks.

I couldn’t believe she didn’t have a boyfriend. Did I want to be a boyfriend? Why was I thinking about that? I wasn’t boyfriend material.

Her gaze flicked to my lips — her tongue darted out to wet her own — then her eyes slipped up to my eyes before sliding shut as she pressed her lips to mine.

It was a gentle kiss, soft. Her mouth was warm and pliable against mine. My heart tripped into a more intense speed. Then her lips parted, and she used her tongue to coax me to be an active participant. As much as I tried to not be a dick, that was the last straw of my self-control. I answered the tease of her tongue with my own. Suddenly, where the kiss started as one-sided and tentative, it exploded, because my whole body was an exposed nerve ending. Every sensation — her hands in my hair, her mouth, her tongue, the whisper of her clothing when she moved, the soft noise she emitted because I became involved —was enough to light me on fire.

I’d dreamed of Emma.

I lifted her.

She wrapped her legs around my waist and hugged me closer with her arms around my neck.

Our tongues moved together, and it all felt like a first time. It was. With her. Exciting. Novel.

She moaned into my mouth.

I stumbled forward until her back was pressed against the wall and then my hands wandered, molded, massaged. I forgot myself. Just let go […]


Author Bio:

As a kid, CL Walters, world revolved around two things: stories and make believe. She’s built a real life around those two things: a teacher of stories and a writer of make believe.

With four books now published, she’s looking forward to her fifth release October 13, 2020, a YA Contemporary Romance called The Stories Stars Tell.

Sign up for her newsletter for news, goodies, and fun (www.clwalters.net)

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