MASQUERADE by Nyrae Dawn (January 7, 2014; Forever E-Book; 9781455576333; $3.99)
A biker. A tattoo artist. A love to last a lifetime.
Maddox Cross has always had to be tough. When his father went to jail for murder, the teenager took care of his sister and mother. Now on his own and working security at a night club, Maddox wants to become a tattoo artist-a dream that comes closer to reality when he falls for the hottest, most tatted woman he’s ever seen. She’s wild and beautiful, and Maddox will do anything to be with her.
Bee Malone came to town to open up her new tattoo parlor, Masquerade. Since being kidnapped as a young girl, Bee has had trouble getting close to anyone. But when she meets Maddox, she sees that under his hard biker’s body is the sensitive soul of an artist. What starts out as a sizzling one-night stand soon becomes so much more.
Bee wants Maddox to join her tattoo business, but letting him into her life means revealing all her most intimate secrets. And as the past begins to intertwine with her present, Bee fears their love may not be as permanent as their ink . . .
Writing has always been Nyrae Dawn’s passion. Nyrae gravitates toward character-driven stories. She loves going on emotional journeys with characters whether it be reading or writing. And yes, she’s a total romantic at heart and proud.
Nyrae resides in sunny Southern California with her husband (who still makes her swoon) and her two awesome kids.
When she’s not with her family, you can be pretty sure you’ll find her with a book in her hand or her laptop and an open document in front of her. Nyrae also writes adult romance under the name Kelley Vitollo.
“Did you bring any drawings?” Bee sits at the chair behind a desk.
I hand her a book, but the second I do, I want to snatch it back. It’s always like that showing someone my work, even though I know it’s good. “That’s just one I had with me. I have more at home.”
She doesn’t answer as she starts flipping through the pages. After a couple minutes of watching her study each page, I start to get jittery. Feel like she’s looking inside me instead of at some pages, so to distract myself, I move around the room, taking in pictures of her work and other tattoos on the walls.
She looks at the book for what seems like an hour before speaking. “These are good. They’re different. Your artwork has a unique style that I haven’t seen before.”
“Why do you want to be a tattoo artist?” she asks. The question shows me how serious she is about what she does because no one has brought it up before.
The urge to tell her it’s none of her business surges through me, but I want this badly enough to answer. “Because when I’m around it, I feel more like myself than I probably ever have.”
A brief flash of shock shows on her face, but she covers it quickly. “Good. I won’t screw around with someone who’s playing a game. This isn’t something you do to make a quick buck. Not if you’re working with me, at least. Did you get a chance to actually give anyone ink?”
“No. The apprenticeship only lasted three months before he bailed.”
Bee nods. “That’s good. I actually rather you have hardly any experience—that way I don’t have to train bad habits out of you.”
“I’m not a dog.”
“No one said you were. Chill out, Scratch.”
I tense at the name, but before I can really say anything, she starts asking questions again. “Do you lean toward liking only black work or are you into color too?”
Everything I have so far is only black, but as I look at her again, I see a variety of black and colorful work. “Depends. I don’t want to do only one or the other. I love work with shading too. I’ve seen some pieces that are really incredible just because of the shading.”
She nods and I wonder if that was the right answer.
“I’m not saying you don’t, but this is something you have to take seriously. There are a lot of dumb-asses out there who think it’s all fun, but it’s not. Stuff like being clean and safe is even more important than the picture you put into someone’s skin.”
“That’s a given, isn’t it?”
She grins. “You’d think, but it’s not always like that.”
We’re both quiet after that. Bee glances down at my artwork again. “I’m surprised I even let you in here tonight. It’s important that you know that. I don’t take shit from people.”
One look at her and that’s obvious. Part of me didn’t expect her to open the door for me either. “I’m surprised I came, so that makes two of us.” When she looks up at me, I’m not sure how I feel about the way her eyes take me in. Don’t know what I think about the fact that we have shit in common or that her look is familiar to me. I give it myself.
Bee stands, walks around to the front of the desk, and then leans on it. “If we do this, can we keep things from getting awkward?”
My answer comes automatically. “I can if you can. It was one night. We don’t know each other and I’m never with someone more than once anyway.” I’ve shared this strange sort of honesty with her tonight that makes my body overheat. I want all the words back because they’re a part of me and I don’t want anyone to see who I am, but this is it. Saying these things to her is the only way to get what I want.
“Now that you’ve asked your questions and realize this isn’t a game to me, I need to know if we’re doing this or not.”
Silently she walks toward the door and opens it. I hold in the groan, pissed at myself for fucking this up again and even more pissed that she’s in control.
Bee turns toward me, her blond hair messy from sleep, but it’s another thing she doesn’t care about. It doesn’t take away from how sexy she is either.
“We’re doing this. Don’t make me regret it. Now I need to get some sleep and then we’ll talk tomorrow about a schedule.”
I let out the breath trapped in my lungs. Thanks, echoes through my mind, but all that comes out is, “Cool. We’ll talk later.” Then I walk out the door.
Instead of going home, I head to the high school. It’s such a dumb fucking thing to do, but like I’ve done other nights, I jump the fence and head to the football field. Sitting in the middle of it, I let my eyes trace over the whole thing, trying to remember the time this used to be important to me. And trying not to concentrate on the fact that even though I got something I want, something I need, I still want to take out the fucking world because of everything I’ve lost.
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THE DESTINY OF VIOLET & LUKE by Jessica Sorensen (January 7, 2014; Forever E-Book; 9781455576524; $2.99)
Luke Price’s life has always been about order, control, and acting tough on the outside. For Luke, meaningless relationships are a distraction-a way to tune out the twisted memories of his childhood. He desperately wishes he could forget his past, but it haunts him no matter what he does.
Violet Hayes has had a rough life. When she was young, she was left with no family and the memory of her parents’ unsolved murders. She grew up in foster homes, living with irresponsible parents, drugs, and neglect, and trying to fight the painful memories of the night her parents were taken from her. But it’s hard to forget when she never got closure-and she can’t stop dreaming about what happened that tragic night. To make it through life, she keeps her distance from everyone and never allows herself to feel anything.
Then Violet meets Luke. The two clash instantly, yet they can’t seem to stay away from each other. Although they fight it, they both start to open up and feel things they’ve never felt before. They discover just how similar they are. But they also discover something else: The past always catches up with you . . .
The New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, Jessica Sorensen, lives with her husband and three kids. When she’s not writing, she spends her time reading and hanging out with her family.
“Maybe you should go get cleaned up first.” She runs her thumb down the side of my lip and the connection sends uninvited emotions coursing through my body. I have to clench my hands into fists, just to keep myself from grabbing her and crashing her lips against mine. She withdraws her hand and wipes her thumb and her finger together. “You have blood on your face and clothes.”
I shrug, smothering the desire to jerk her hand back to me, rip her clothes off and bend her over the hood out of my truck. “I’m fine with looking like a man who just beat the shit out of someone, but if you’re too embarrassed to be seen with me, you can sit in the truck.”
“ ‘A man who just beat the shit out of someone’?” she muses, stopping at the passenger door of my truck, her hand hovering above the handle of the car door. “Or a guy who just got his ass kicked?”
I can’t tell if she’s toying with me or not, but it’s both irritating me and exciting me in ways I didn’t know were possible. Half the damn time I have no fucking clue whether she’s being serious or not. Being a control freak, this should send me running, yet it’s having the opposite effect when it comes to her.
I decide to give her a taste of her own intense medicine, throw her off a little, regain the upper hand and hopefully scare her away. “Are you saying that I’m not tough?” I position myself in front of her, trying to get her to back up into the truck, but she stays still. “Or that I’m not a man?”
“I’m not saying either,” she says with a fervent look in her eyes that nearly sends me soaring through the roof. The more intense I get the more excited she gets, which makes me want to get even more intense. “Although, I’m guessing that despite that fact, you’re still about to show me that you’re both of those things.”
“Is that what you want me to do?” My voice comes out husky. This isn’t working out how I want, my plan of keeping her away backfiring on me. I take a step forward and then another, until I’m pretty much stepping on her feet. She still doesn’t back up and it frustrates me even more. “For me to show you how tough I am or how much of a man I am?”
She presses her lips together, her gaze unwavering, eyelashes fluttering. “I don’t want anything from you, Luke. I’m just simply saying what’s in my head. And the longer you’re around me, the more you’ll realize this.”
The longer I’m around her? Fuck. I reach a hand around the side of her and grab the door handle of the truck. “So you don’t think I’m tough?” I ask.
“I think you want to show me how tough you are and how much of a man you can be,” she says.
I put my other arm on the other side of her, so she’s pinned between my arms. Most girls in this position would back up into the door, but she stands firm, refusing to let me control her like I desperately want to.
“And how would I show you?” I drop my voice to a husky growl, intentionally this time.
“I’m sure you have your ways,” she replies, her gaze flickering at my mouth as I lean forward and our bodies press together.
It takes every ounce of strength not to seize hold of her hips and gently shove her back. Instead, I lean farther in, our lips inching closer. “I do have my ways…” I lick my lips and feel the sting of the cut. It reminds me of everything I just witnessed; with her, with me. I know if I kiss her it’ll more than likely lead to me jerking the door open and throwing her down on the truck seat, right here in broad daylight. I wouldn’t care who saw us. I never do. I’d just want to get this God damn need to regain control out of me, the need she’s putting in me. But then what would happen after it was all over? Would we go get tacos and come back to my dorm and hang out? Yeah, that doesn’t seem at all possible, but neither does screwing her and then bailing. I’m too far into her and I’m not sure how to get away or if I can get away at this point.
I clench my hands into fists as I fight the urge to shut my eyes and kiss her until she can barely breathe. I feel weak the moment I flip up that handle and start to pull the door open because I’m choosing to feel the vile, pathetic feelings of my past—how I did things I didn’t want to do, how my mother messed with my head, how I had no control over my life. I was a puppet. I was weak. I don’t want to be that person ever again.
I wait for Violet to move out of the way so I can get the door open, but she doesn’t budge and I’m the one who ends up stepping back, losing again. It’s an unsettling place I’ve arrived at and I don’t know what to do with it beside drink myself into a stupor and hammer my fist through anything that gets in my way. My body is actually shaking as my mind craves the burning, blissful taste of alcohol.
“So where are we going to get tacos?” She sidesteps around me and hops in the truck, tucking her skirt in as she brings her legs into the truck.
“You pick,” I say as I shut the door.
She smiles a plain, fake smile, not even giving me the benefit of a real one. “It doesn’t matter to me,” she says as I climb into the cab. Then she kicks her feet up on the dash and flops her head back against the seat, looking as calm as can be.
I have to wonder if she really means it. If nothing matters to her, and if she’s beginning to matter to me.
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SONG OF THE FIREFLIES by J.A. Redmerski (February 4, 2014; Forever E-Book; 9781455555048; $3.99)
THE TRUTH WILL SET THEM FREE
Brayelle Bates has always been a force of nature. Even as a child, Bray’s wild and carefree spirit intimidated everyone around her. The only person who’s ever truly understood her is her best friend, Elias Kline. Though every fiber of her being wants to stay with Elias forever, Bray can’t bear the thought of him discovering her agonizing history. She’s done everything she can to keep him at arm’s length, including moving away. But their undying bond was too strong a pull to deny, and Bray couldn’t survive without him. Now she’s back home with Elias, and things have never felt more right-until one night changes everything.
Elias vowed never to be separated from Bray again. So when she decides to flee in a desperate attempt to escape her fate, Elias knows he must go with her. As the two try to make the most of their circumstance, taking up with a reckless group of new friends, Elias soon realizes there’s a darkness driving Bray he can’t ignore. Now in order to save her, he’ll have to convince Bray to accept the consequences of their reality-even if it means losing her.
J.A. Redmerski, New York Times, USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestselling author lives in North Little Rock, Arkansas with her three children, two cats and a Maltese. She is a lover of television and books that push boundaries and is a huge fan of AMC’s The Walking Dead.
When I made my way back to the top, I found Bray wasn’t sitting near the edge of the ridge where I had left her I moved farther out into the clearing with our blankets draped over one shoulder.
“Bray?” I said, looking around.
I brushed it off for a second, thinking she was probably just taking a piss behind a tree somewhere, and I set our blankets on the ground.
But then I got a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach.
I walked quickly toward the edge and looked over. My heart started to bang against my rib cage. I peered down as far as my sight could penetrate the darkness, but took a step back upon realizing that if she had fallen there was no way I’d be able to see from way up here.
She had to be somewhere around close by. She had to be.
“Bray?” I called out again. “Where the hell did you go?”
Still no answer.
Panic set in quickly. I stood there as still and as quiet as I could for several long seconds in case she was coming through the woods, but I heard nothing. I arranged both hands around my mouth and shouted, “BRAY!” and my voice echoed through the wide-open space. But still nothing. I felt sick to my stomach. She wouldn’t have left like that way out here. And if she did, I would’ve seen her on the path coming down as I was making my way back up.
I ran toward the tree line, searching for any sign of her, for another path she might have taken. I refused to believe that she had fallen off the edge.
Just as I noticed another path through the woods that seemed to head south and I started to go toward it, I heard footfalls in the leaves. I didn’t wait to see if it was her, I ran blindly straight into the woods. A skinny branch slapped me across the forehead on my way, but I didn’t stop.
Bray and I nearly crashed into each other.
“Shit, baby! Where the hell did you go? Scared the hell out of me!” I started to pull her into a hug, but something about her was off and I stopped. She didn’t respond or even raise her head to look at me.
“Are you all right?”
I took her hands into mine. Hers were shaking. Her whole body was shaking.
I cupped her face in my palms and raised her head so that she’d look at me. She was crying, and something in her eyes…I couldn’t place it, but it haunted me. I wondered if she even knew I was standing right in front of her. Her hair was messy, with pieces of leaves stuck within a mass of strands. Dirt was smeared across her left cheek. She looked like she’d been in a fight.
I touched her split lip, where a thin line of blood glistened near the corner. “Bray, you’re scaring me. What happened to you?” I shook her gently and then more aggressively when she still didn’t respond. “What happened? Talk to me!”
Her lips trembled and more tears seeped from the corners of her eyes. And then as if a floodgate had been opened, she started screaming through her tears, “It was my fault! Elias! Oh my God!”
“What happened?” I roared, scared for her and for myself, my heart about to burst through my chest.
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UNDONE by Shannon Richard (February 25, 2014; Forever Mass Market; 9781455544691; $6.00)
Things Paige Morrison will never understand about Mirabelle, Florida:
Why wearing red shoes makes a girl a harlot
Why a shop would ever sell something called “buck urine”
Why everywhere she goes, she runs into sexy-and infuriating-Brendan King
After losing her job, her apartment, and her boyfriend, Paige has no choice but to leave Philadelphia and move in with her retired parents. For an artsy outsider like Paige, finding her place in the tightly knit town isn’t easy-until she meets Brendan, the hot mechanic who’s interested in much more than Paige’s car. In no time at all, Brendan helps Paige find a new job, new friends, and a happiness she wasn’t sure she’d ever feel again. With Brendan by her side, Paige finally feels like she can call Mirabelle home. But when a new bombshell drops, will the couple survive, or will their love come undone?
Shannon Richard grew up in the Florida Panhandle as the baby sister of two overly protective but loving brothers. She was raised by a more than somewhat eccentric mother, a self-proclaimed vocabularist who showed her how to get lost in a book and a father who passed on his love for coffee and really loud music. She graduated from Florida State University with a BA in English Literature and still lives in Tallahassee where she battles everyday life with writing, reading, and a rant every once in a while. Okay, so the rants might happen on a regular basis. She’s still waiting for her Southern, scruffy, Mr. Darcy, and in the meantime writes love stories to indulge her overactive imagination. Oh, and she’s a pretty big fan of the whimsy.
When Brendan pulled into the shade of the park he saw Paige sitting on top of a picnic table. She was staring down at the screen of her camera, biting the corner of her lip. She looked up at the tree and then back down to her camera, shaking her head. Brendan pushed his sunglasses to the top of his head, grabbed his loot, and got out of his truck. When he slammed the door shut she looked over at him. She turned her camera off and shoved it into a bag that was on the table.
“Hey,” she said, standing up and brushing the back of her orange dress down before she started walked toward him.
“Hi,” he said, walking past her and sitting down on top of the picnic table.
“What are you doing?” she asked, spinning around and looking at him. “My Jeep’s over there.”
“Yes,” he said, grabbing a Coke and popping the top. “But lunch is over here.”
“I thought you were going to change my flat,” she said, frowning.
“I am, after I eat lunch. Care to join me?” he asked, patting the empty space next to him.
“Paige, it’s almost one o’clock, so I’m going to eat. You can either stand there and watch me, or you can split this Cajun turkey sandwich that my grandmother made,” he said, taking the sandwich out of the bag.
She shook her head and smiled.
“You, Brendan King, are a whole mess of trouble,” she said, walking over to the bench and sitting down next to him.
“Good choice,” he said, taking his half out of the bag and handing her the other half. “What are you doing out here?” he asked, taking a bite of his sandwich.
“The tribute program that Mr. Adams wants to start using during the memorial services. He wants to use local pictures instead of the stock pictures that are already in the program.”
“That sounds like it’s right up your alley.”
“It is actually,” she said, reaching for the other can of soda and popping the top.
“Don’t sound so surprised.”
“Why? That I could actually fit in around here? It does surprise me.”
“I’m not used to this whole small-town thing, where everybody knows everybody and their business.”
“Yeah, that’s one of the things about small towns that sucks,” he said, opening a bag of chips and holding it out for her.
“You can say that again,” she said, reaching for a chip. “Why don’t you have oil stains on your hands? I thought all mechanics had oil stains.”
“I wear gloves,” he said, grabbing a few chips for himself and popping them into his mouth.
“Right.” She glanced down and frowned, reaching out for his arm.
“The tree,” she whispered, grabbing his elbow and pushing up the sleeve of his shirt.
Her soft, delicate fingers lightly traced the lines of his tattoo. It took only one simple touch from her for him to completely lose his mind again.
“I knew I’d seen it somewhere.” She looked up to the oak tree in front of them and then back down to his arm. “Why do you have that tree tattooed on your arm?” she asked, looking up at him.
She must have seen the heated look in his eyes because she let go of him and started blushing.
“Sorry, I just … yesterday when I’d been looking at your tattoo, it just sort of fascinated me, and … and it’s that tree,” she said, pointing to the tree in front of them.
“It is.” He cleared his throat and finished his sandwich. He grabbed an orange from the bag on the table and started peeling it. “My mom loved that tree,” he said, looking up at it for a second. “She would bring me and Grace here all the time.”
“Loved?” Paige asked.
“She died,” he said, turning to look at her. “Twelve years ago from breast cancer.”
“Oh God, Brendan. I’m so sorry.”
“I am too. She was a great woman. Grams still can’t talk about her without losing it.”
“Wait, your mom was Lula Mae and Oliver’s daughter?” she asked, confused.
“Yeah,” he said, looking over at her. “I know a little bit about being the center of town talk too. My dad walked out on us before I was born, and Grace’s dad, well, no one knows who Grace’s dad is. My mom wouldn’t tell anybody. That was a source of gossip for years,” he said, handing her half of the peeled orange.
The orange was still cold from being in the refrigerator. Brendan stuck a slice in his mouth, the juice bursting across his tongue. Paige sat next to him in silence, eating her half.
“How do you do it?” she asked, looking at him.
“Accept stuff like that? Move on? I lost my job, my apartment, and my boyfriend all within a span of two months and I thought that everything was falling down around me. But you? God, Brendan, you had a girlfriend run off with another man, your dad abandoned you, and your mom she …” Paige trailed off. She looked down at her empty hands shaking her head. “You make my problems look trivial.”
“Paige,” he said, edging closer to her and pressing his thigh against hers.
She looked at him, her hair falling in her eyes. He reached out and pushed it behind her ear, letting his fingers trail down to her chin.
“That stuff happened over a long span of time, and I’ve had years to deal with it. You had to deal with a lot over a very short amount of time, and it didn’t happen so long ago. It isn’t trivial,” he said, rubbing his thumb across her jaw. “One day, you’ll wake up and it won’t hurt as bad. You’ll be able to move on.”
“I think I had that breakthrough a week ago,” she whispered, her eyes dipping to his mouth before they came back up to his eyes.
“Really?” He smiled, moving in closer. “And what was the catalyst for that development?” he asked, moving his hand to the back of her head, his fingers tunneling in her hair.
“A cracked radiator,” she said, putting her palms on his chest.
He brought her mouth to his. She parted her lips and when his tongue touched hers he lost himself. She tasted like oranges, like the sweetest freaking oranges that he’d ever eaten. He wrapped his free arm around her back, pulling her into his chest as he slanted his mouth over hers, deepening the kiss. One of her hands was in his hair, her nails racking the back of his head.
Brendan pulled back and looked at her, both of them breathing hard. He was still holding her face in one of his hands as he ran his thumb across her lower lip.
“That was …” He couldn’t even find the words to describe exactly what it was.
“Yeah.” She looked at him, dazed as she fisted her hand tighter in his shirt and pulled him back to her. And then they were off again and neither of them had any desire to come back up for air for a long time.