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Enjoy An Exclusive Sneek Peek of: Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth!

Carve The Mark
In a galaxy where everyone develops a currentgift—a unique power meant to shape the future—most benefit from their currentgift. But Akos and Cyra do not—their gifts make them vulnerable to others’ control.

Cyra is the sister of a brutal tyrant. Cyra’s currentgift gives her pain and power—something her brother exploit to torture his enemies. But Cyra is much more than just a weapon in her brother's hand: she is resilient and smarter than he knows.

Akos is protected by his unusual currentgift, but when Akos and his brother are captured by enemy soldiers, he is desperate to get his brother out at any cost.

When Akos is thrust into Cyra’s world, the enmity between their countries and families seems insurmountable. They must decide to help each other to survive—or to destroy one another.

 
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CHAPTER 1 | AKOS

 

HUSHFLOWERS ALWAYS BLOOMED WHEN the night was longest. The whole city celebrated the day the bundle of petals peeled apart into rich red—partly because hushflowers were their nation’s lifeblood, and partly, Akos thought, to keep them all from going crazy in the cold.

That evening, on the day of the Blooming ritual, he was sweating into his coat as he waited for the rest of the family to be ready, so he went out to the courtyard to cool off. The Kereseth house was built in a circle around a furnace, all the outermost and innermost walls curved. For luck, supposedly.

Frozen air stung his eyes when he opened the door. He yanked his goggles down, and the heat from his skin fogged up the glass right away. He fumbled for the metal poker with his gloved hand and stuck it under the furnace hood.The burnstones under it just looked like black lumps before friction lit them, and then they sparked in different colors, depending on what they were dusted with.

The burnstones scraped together and lit up bright red as blood. They weren’t out here to warm anything, or light anything—they were just supposed to be a reminder of the current. As if the hum in Akos’s body wasn’t enough of a reminder. The current flowed through every living thing, and showed itself in the sky in all different colors. Like the burnstones. Like the lights of the floaters that zoomed overhead on their way to town proper. Off-worlders who thought their planet was blank with snow had never actually set foot on it.

Akos’s older brother, Eijeh, poked his head out. “Eager to freeze, are you? Come on, Mom’s nearly ready.”

It always took their mom longer to get ready when they were going to the temple.After all, she was the oracle. Everybody would be staring right at her.

Akos put the poker down and stepped inside, popping the goggles off his eyes and pulling his face shield down to his throat.

His dad and his older sister, Cisi, were standing by the front door, stuffed into their warmest coats. They were all made of the same material—kutyah fur, which didn’t take dye, so it was always white gray—and hooded.

“All ready then, Akos? Good.” His mom was fastening her own coat closed. She eyed their dad’s old boots. “Somewhere out there, your father’s ashes are collectively shuddering at how dirty your shoes are, Aoseh.”

“I know, that’s why I fussed about dirtying them up,” their dad said with a grin at their mom.

“Good,” she said. Almost chirped it, in fact. “I like them this way.”

“You like anything my father didn’t like.”

“That’s because he didn’t like anything.”

“Can we get into the floater while it’s still warm?” Eijeh said, a little bit of a whine in his voice. “Ori’s waiting for us by the memorial.”

Their mom finished with her coat, and put on her face shield. Down the heated front walk they bobbed, all fur and goggle and mitten. A squat, round ship waited for them, hovering at knee height just above the snowbank. The door opened at their mom’s touch and they piled in. Cisi and Eijeh had to yank Akos in by both arms because he was too small to climb on his own. Nobody bothered with safety belts.

“To the temple!” their dad cried, his fist in the air. He always said that when they went to the temple. Sort of like cheering for a boring lecture or a long line on voting day.

“If only we could bottle that excitement and sell it to all of Thuvhe. Most of them I see just once a year, and then only because there’s food and drink waiting for them,” their mom drawled with a faint smile.

“There’s your solution, then,” Eijeh said. “Entice them with food all season long.”

“The wisdom of children,” their mom said, poking the ignition button with her thumb.

The floater jerked them up and forward, so they all fell into each other. Eijeh punched Akos away from him, laughing.

The lights of Hessa twinkled up ahead. Their city wrapped around a hill, the military base at the bottom, the temple at the top, and all the other buildings in between. The temple, where they were headed, was a big stone structure with a dome—made of hundreds of panes of colored glass—right in the middle of it. When the sun shone on it, Hessa’s peak glowed orange red.Which meant it almost never glowed.

The floater eased up the hill, drifting over stony Hessa, as old as their nation-planet—Thuvhe, as everyone but their enemies called it, a word so slippery off-worlders tended to choke on it. Half the narrow houses were buried in snowdrifts. Nearly all of them were empty. Everybody who was anybody was going to the temple tonight.

“See anything interesting today?” their dad asked their mom as he steered the floater away from a particularly tall windmeter poking up into the sky. It was spinning in circles.

Akos knew by the tone of his dad’s voice that he was asking their mom about her visions. Every planet in the galaxy had three oracles: one rising; one sitting, like their mother; and one falling. Akos didn’t quite understand what it meant, except that the current whispered the future in his mom’s ears, and half the people they came across were in awe of her.

“I may have spotted your sister the other day—” their mom started. “Doubt she’d want to know, though.”

“She just feels the future ought to be handled with the appropriate respect for its weight.”

Their mom’s eyes swept over Akos, Eijeh, and Cisi in turn.

“This is what I get for marrying into a military family, I guess,” she said eventually. “You want everything to be regulated, even my currentgift.”

“You’ll notice that I flew in the face of family expectation and chose to be a farmer, not a military captain,” their dad said. “And my sister doesn’t mean anything by it, she just gets nervous, that’s all.”

“Hmm,” their mom said, like that wasn’t all.

Cisi started humming, a melody Akos had heard before, but couldn’t say from where. His sister was looking out the window, not paying attention to the bickering. And a few ticks later, his parents’ bickering stopped, and the sound of her hum was all that was left. Cisi had a way about her, their dad liked to say. An ease.

The temple was lit up, inside and out, strings of lanterns no bigger than Akos’s fist hanging over the arched entrance. There were floaters everywhere, strips of colored light wrapped around their fat bellies, parked in clusters on the hillside or swarming around the domed roof in search of a space to touch down. Their mom knew all the secret places around the temple, so she pointed their dad toward a shadowed nook next to the refectory, and led them in a sprint to a side door that she had to pry open with both hands.

They went down a dark stone hallway, over rugs so worn you could see right through them, and past the low, candlelit memorial for the Thuvhesits who had died in the Shotet invasion, before Akos was born.

He slowed to look at the flickering candles as he passed the memorial. Eijeh grabbed his shoulders from behind, making Akos gasp, startled. He blushed as soon as he realized who it was, and Eijeh poked his cheek, laughing, “I can tell how red you are even in the dark!”

“Shut up!” Akos said.

“Eijeh,” their mom chided. “Don’t tease.”

She had to say it all the time. Akos felt like he was always blushing about something.

“It was just a joke. …”

They found their way to the middle of the building, where a crowd had formed outside the Hall of Prophecy. Everyone was stomping their way out of their outer boots, shrugging off coats, fluffing hair that had been flattened by hoods, breathing warm air on frozen fingers.The Kereseths piled their coats, goggles, mittens, boots, and face coverings in a dark alcove, right under a purple window with the Thuvhesit character for the current etched into it. Just as they were turning back to the Hall of Prophecy, Akos heard a familiar voice.

“Eij!” Ori Rednalis, Eijeh’s best friend, came barreling down the hallway. She was gangly and clumsy-looking, all knees and elbows and stray hair. Akos had never seen her in a dress before, but she was in one now, made of heavy purple-red fabric and buttoned at the shoulder like a formal military uniform.

Ori’s knuckles were red with cold. She jumped to a stop in front of Eijeh. “There you are. I’ve had to listen to two of my aunt’s rants about the Assembly already and I’m about to explode.” Akos had heard one of Ori’s aunt’s rants before, about the Assembly— the governing body of the galaxy—valuing Thuvhe only for its iceflower production, and downplaying the Shotet attacks, calling them “civil disputes.” She had a point, but Akos always felt squirmy around ranting adults. He never knew what to say.

Ori continued, “Hello, Aoseh, Sifa, Cisi, Akos. Happy Blooming. Come on, let’s go, Eij.” She said all this in one go, hardly taking the time to breathe.

Eijeh looked to their dad, who flapped his hand. “Go on, then. We’ll see you later.”

“And if we catch you with a pipe in your mouth, as we did last year,” their mom said, “we will make you eat what’s inside it.”

Eijeh quirked his eyebrows. He never got embarrassed about anything, never flushed. Not even when the kids at school teased him for his voice—higher than most boys’—or for being rich, not something that made a person popular here in Hessa. He didn’t snap back, either. Just had a gift for shutting things out and letting them back in only when he wanted to.

He grabbed Akos by the elbow and pulled him after Ori. Cisi stayed behind, with their parents, like always. Eijeh and Akos chased Ori’s heels all the way into the Hall of Prophecy.

Ori gasped, and when Akos saw inside the hall, he almost echoed her. Somebody had strung hundreds of lanterns—each one dusted with hushflower to make it red—from the apex of the dome down to the outermost walls, in every direction, so a canopy of light hung over them. Even Eijeh’s teeth glowed red, when he grinned at Akos. In the middle of the room, which was usually empty, was a sheet of ice about as wide as a man was tall. Growing inside it were dozens of closed-up hushflowers on the verge of blooming.

More burnstone lanterns, about as big as Akos’s thumb, lined the sheet of ice where the hushflowers waited to bloom. These glowed white, probably so everyone could see the hushflowers’ true color, a richer red than any lantern. As rich as blood, some said.

There were a lot of people milling about, dressed in their finery: loose gowns that covered all but the hands and head, fastened with elaborate glass buttons in all different colors; knee-length waistcoats lined with supple elte skin, and twice-wrapped scarves. All in dark, rich colors, anything but gray or white, in contrast to their coats. Akos’s jacket was dark green, one of Eijeh’s old ones, still too big in the shoulders for him, and Eijeh’s was brown.

Ori led the way straight to the food. Her sour-faced aunt was there, offering plates to passersby, but she didn’t look at Ori. Akos got the feeling Ori didn’t like her aunt and uncle, which was why she pretty much lived at the Kereseth house, but he didn’t know what had happened to her parents.

Eijeh stuffed a roll in his mouth, practically choking on the crumbs.

“Careful,” Akos said to him. “Death by bread isn’t a dignified way to go.”

“At least I’ll die doing what I love,” Eijeh said, around all the bread.

Akos laughed.

Ori hooked her elbow around Eijeh’s neck, tugging his head in close. “Don’t look now. Stares coming in from the left.”

“So?” Eijeh said, spraying crumbs. But Akos already felt heat creeping into his neck. He chanced a look over at Eijeh’s left. A little group of adults stood there, quiet, eyes following them.

“You’d think you’d be a little more used to it, Akos,” Eijeh said to him. “Happens all the time, after all.”

“You’d think they would be used to us,” Akos said. “We’ve lived here all our lives, and we’ve had fates all our lives, what’s there to stare at?”

Everyone had a future, but not everyone had a fate—at least, that was what their mom liked to say. Only parts of certain “favored” families got fates, witnessed at the moment of their births by every oracle on every planet. In unison. When those visions came, their mom said, they could wake her from a sound sleep, they were so forceful.

Eijeh, Cisi, and Akos had fates. Only they didn’t know what they were, even though their mom was one of the people who had Seen them. She always said she didn’t need to tell them; the world would do it for her.

The fates were supposed to determine the movements of the worlds. If Akos thought about that too long, he got nauseous.

Ori shrugged. “My aunt says the Assembly’s been critical of the oracles on the news feed lately, so it’s probably just on everyone’s minds.”

“Critical?” Akos said. “Why?”

Eijeh ignored them both. “Come on, let’s find a good spot.”

Ori brightened. “Yeah, let’s. I don’t want to get stuck staring at other people’s butts like last year.”

“I think you’ve grown past butt height this year,” Eijeh said. “Now you’re at mid-back, maybe.”

“Oh good, because I definitely put on this dress for my aunt so I could stare at a bunch of backs.” Ori rolled her eyes.

This time Akos slipped into the crowd in the Hall of Prophecy first, ducking under glasses of wine and swooping gestures until he got to the front, right by the ice sheet and the closed-up hushflowers. They were right on time, too—their mom was up by the ice sheet, and she had taken off her shoes, though it was chilly in here. She said she was better at being an oracle when she was closer to the ground.

A few ticks ago he’d been laughing with Eijeh, but as the crowd went quiet, everything in Akos went quiet, too.

Eijeh leaned in close to him and whispered in his ear, “Do you feel that? The current’s humming like crazy in here. It’s like my chest is vibrating.”

Akos hadn’t noticed it, but Eijeh was right—he did feel like his chest was vibrating, like his blood was singing. Before he could answer, though, their mom started talking. Not loud, but she didn’t have to be, because they all knew the words by heart.

“The current flows through every planet in the galaxy, giving us its light as a reminder of its power.” As if on cue, they all looked up at the currentstream, its light showing in the sky through the red glass of the dome. At this time of year, it was almost always dark red, just like the hushflowers, like the glass itself. The currentstream was the visible sign of the current that flowed through all of them, and every living thing. It wound across the galaxy, binding all the planets together like beads on a single string.

“The current flows through everything that has life,” Sifa went on, “creating a space for it to thrive. The current flows through every person who breathes breath, and emerges differently through each mind’s sieve.The current flows through every flower that blooms in the ice.”

They scrunched together—not just Akos and Eijeh and Ori, but everyone in the whole room, standing shoulder to shoulder, so they could all see what was happening to the hushflowers in the ice sheet.

“The current flows through every flower that blooms in the ice,” Sifa repeated, “giving them the strength to bloom in the deepest dark. The current gives the most strength to the hushflower, our marker of time, our death-giving and peace-giving blossom.”

For a while there was silence, and it didn’t feel odd, like it should have. It was as if they were all hum-buzz-singing together, feeling the strange force that powered their universe, just like friction between particles powered the burnstones.

And then—movement. A shifting petal. A creaking stem. A shudder went through the small field of hushflowers growing among them. No one made a sound.

Akos glanced up at the red glass, the canopy of lanterns, just once, and he almost missed it—all the flowers bursting open. Red petals unfurling all at once, showing their bright centers, draping over their stems. The ice sheet teemed with color.

Everyone gasped, and applauded. Akos clapped with the rest of them, until his palms itched. Their dad came up to take their mom’s hands and plant a kiss on her. To everyone else she was untouchable: Sifa Kereseth, the oracle, the one whose currentgift gave her visions of the future. But their dad was always touching her, pressing the tip of his finger into her dimple when she smiled, tucking strays back into the knot she wore her hair in, leaving yellow flour fingerprints on her shoulders when he was done kneading the bread.

Their dad couldn’t see the future, but he could mend things with his fingers, like broken plates or the crack in the wall screen or the frayed hem of an old shirt. Sometimes he made you feel like he could put people back together, too, if they got themselves into trouble. So when he walked over to Akos, swung him into his arms, Akos didn’t even get embarrassed.

“Smallest Child!” his dad cried, tossing Akos over his shoulder. “Ooh—not so small, actually. Almost can’t do this anymore.”

“That’s not because I’m big, it’s because you’re old,”Akos replied.

“Such words! From my own son,” his dad said. “What punishment does a sharp tongue like that deserve, I wonder?”

“Don’t—”

But it was too late; his dad had already pitched him back and let him slide so he was holding both of Akos’s ankles. Hanging upside down, Akos pressed his shirt and jacket to his body, but he couldn’t help laughing. Aoseh lowered him down, only letting go when Akos was safe on the ground.

“Let that be a lesson to you about sass,” his dad said, leaning over him.

“Sass causes all the blood to rush to your head?” Akos said, blinking innocently up at him.

“Precisely.” Aoseh grinned. “Happy Blooming.”

Akos returned the grin. “You too.”

 

That night they all stayed up so late Eijeh and Ori both fell asleep upright at the kitchen table. Their mom carried Ori to the living room couch, where she spent a good half of her nights these days, and their dad roused Eijeh. Everybody went one way or another after that, except Akos and his mom. They were always the last two up.

His mom switched the screen on, so the Assembly news feed played at a murmur. There were nine nation-planets in the Assembly, all the biggest or most important ones.Technically each nation-planet was independent, but the Assembly regulated trade, weapons, treaties, and travel, and enforced the laws in unregulated space. The Assembly feed went through one nation-planet after another: water shortage on Tepes, new medical innovation on Othyr, pirates boarded a ship in Pitha’s orbit.

His mom was popping open cans of dried herbs. At first Akos thought she was going to make a calming tonic, to help them both rest, but then she went into the hall closet to get the jar of hushflower, stored on the top shelf, out of the way.

“I thought we’d make tonight’s lesson a special one,” Sifa said. He thought of her that way—by her given name, and not as “Mom”—when she taught him about iceflowers. She’d taken to calling these late-night brewing sessions “lessons” as a joke two seasons ago, but now she sounded serious to Akos. Hard to say, with a mom like his.

“Get out a cutting board and cut some harva root for me,” she said, and she pulled on a pair of gloves. “We’ve used hushflower before, right?”

“In sleeping elixir,” Akos said, and he did as she said, standing on her left with cutting board and knife and dirt-dusted harva root. It was sickly white and covered in a fine layer of fuzz.

“And that recreational concoction,” she added. “I believe I told you it would be useful at parties someday. When you’re older.”

“You did,” Akos said. “You said ‘when you’re older’ then, too.”

Her mouth slanted into her cheek. Most of the time that was the best you could get out of his mom.

“The same ingredients an older version of you might use for recreation, you can also use for poison,” she said, looking grave. “As long as you double the hushflower and halve the harva root. Understand?”

“Why—” Akos started to ask her, but she was already changing the subject.

“So,” she said as she tipped a hushflower petal onto her own cutting board. It was still red, but shriveled, about the length of her thumb. “What is keeping your mind busy tonight?”

“Nothing,” Akos said. “People staring at us at the Blooming, maybe.”

“They are so fascinated by the fate-favored. I would love to tell you they will stop staring someday,” she said with a sigh, “but I’m afraid that you … you will always be stared at.”

He wanted to ask her about that pointed “you,” but he was careful around his mom during their lessons. Ask her the wrong question and she ended the lesson all of a sudden. Ask the right one, and he could find out things he wasn’t supposed to know.

“How about you?” he asked her. “What’s keeping your mind busy, I mean?”

“Ah.” His mom’s chopping was so smooth, the knife tap tap tapping on the board. His was getting better, though he still carved chunks where he didn’t mean to. “Tonight I am plagued by thoughts about the family Noavek.”

Her feet were bare, toes curled under from the cold. The feet of an oracle.

“They are the ruling family of Shotet,” she said. “The land of our enemies.”

The Shotet were a people, not a nation-planet, and they were known to be fierce, brutal. They stained lines into their arms for every life they had taken, and trained even their children in the art of war. And they lived on Thuvhe, the same planet as Akos and his family—though the Shotet didn’t call this planet “Thuvhe,” or themselves “Thuvhesits”—across a huge stretch of feathergrass. The same feathergrass that scratched at the windows of Akos’s family’s house.

His grandmother—his dad’s mom—had died in one of the Shotet invasions, armed only with a bread knife, or so his dad’s stories said. And the city of Hessa still wore the scars of Shotet violence, the names of the lost carved into low stone walls, broken windows patched up instead of replaced, so you could still see the cracks.

Just across the feathergrass. Sometimes they felt close enough to touch.

“The Noavek family is fate-favored, did you know that? Just like you and your siblings are,” Sifa went on. “The oracles didn’t always see fates in that family line, it happened only within my lifetime. And when it did, it gave the Noaveks leverage over the Shotet government, to seize control, which has been in their hands ever since.”

“I didn’t know that could happen. A new family suddenly getting fates, I mean.”

“Well, those of us who are gifted in seeing the future don’t control who gets a fate,” his mom said. “We see hundreds of futures, of possibilities. But a fate is something that happens to a particular person in every single version of the future we see, which is very rare. And those fates determine who the fate-favored families are—not the other way around.”

He’d never thought about it that way. People always talked about the oracles doling out fates like presents to special, important people, but to hear his mom tell it, that was all backward. Fates made certain families important.

“So you’ve seen their fates. The fates of the Noaveks.”

She nodded. “Just the son and the daughter. Ryzek and Cyra. He’s older; she’s your age.”

He’d heard their names before, along with some ridiculous rumors. Stories about them frothing at the mouth, or keeping enemies’ eyeballs in jars, or lines of kill marks from wrist to shoulder. Maybe that one didn’t sound so ridiculous.

“Sometimes it is easy to see why people become what they are,” his mom said softly. “Ryzek and Cyra, children of a tyrant. Their father, Lazmet, child of a woman who murdered her own brothers and sisters. The violence infects each generation.” She bobbed her head, and her body went with it, rocking back and forth. “And I see it. I see all of it.”

Akos grabbed her hand and held on.

“I’m sorry, Akos,” she said, and he wasn’t sure if she was saying sorry for saying too much, or for something else, but it didn’t really matter.

They both stood there for a while, listening to the mutter of the news feed, the darkest night somehow even darker than before.

 

Enjoy An Exclusive Sneek Peek of: The Girl From Everywhere by Heidi Heilig!

The Girl from Everywhere
As the daughter of a time traveler, Nix has spent sixteen years sweeping across the globe and through the centuries aboard her father's ship. Modern-day New York City, nineteenth-century Hawaii, other lands seen only in myth and legend—Nix has been to them all.

If there is a map, Nix's father can sail his ship, The Temptation, to any place and any time. But now that he's uncovered the one map he's always sought—1868 Honolulu, the year before Nix's mother died in childbirth.

Nix's life, her entire existence, is at stake. No one knows what will happen if her father changes the past. It could erase Nix's future, her dreams, her adventures . . . and her connection with the charming Persian thief, Kash.
 

LEARN MORE

 

 

CHAPTER ONE

 

It was the kind of August day that hinted at monsoons, and the year was 1774, though not for very much longer. I was in the crowded bazaar of a nearly historical version of Calcutta, where my father had abandoned me.

He hadn’t abandoned me for good—not yet. He’d only gone back to the ship to make ready for the next leg of the journey: twentieth-century New York City. It was at our final destination, however, where he hoped to unmake the mistakes of his past.

Mistakes like me, perhaps.

He never said as much, but his willingness to leave me behind was plain: here I was, alone, haggling for a caladrius with a pitiful amount of silver in my palm. Part of me wondered whether he’d care if I returned at all, as long as the mythological bird was delivered to the ship.

No, he would care, at least for now. After all, I was the one to plot our way through the centuries and the maps, the one who helped him through his dark times, the one who could, say, identify fantastical animals from twenty paces and negotiate with their sellers. Then again, once we reached 1868 Honolulu, he would have no need for navigating or negotiation. I was a means to an end, and the end was looming, closer every day.

But he never worried about that. I tried not to either; I tried desperately hard. Worrying did me no good, especially now, with the bird seller peering at me, as bright-eyed as any of his wares.

“Very rare, this bird!” The merchant spoke louder than the distance between us warranted; we were nose to nose across a stack of cages, but I couldn’t step back or I’d be swept up in the scrum of shoppers. “The caladrius will cure any illness, just by looking a patient in the eye—”

“I know, I know.” I’d read the myth in an old book of fables: the caladrius could take disease on its wings and burn it away by flying near the sun. The legend also said if your illness was incurable, the bird would refuse to look at you; of course the merchant hadn’t mentioned that part.

He crossed his arms over his chest. “Good health is priceless, girl.”

“I know that too.” I wiped my brow. The sun was panting in the sky, and the heat curdled the perfume of jasmine above the odor of sweat. I had to get back to the ship, if only for some air. “Please. It’s for my mother. She’ll die without it.” Normally I wasn’t above using a sob story to haggle, but it felt different when the story was true. In fact, she had already died without it, sixteen years ago. “My father would never, ever recover.”

The man’s eyes softened, but then the crowd crushed against my back, making space around a fat British officer; locals didn’t dare jostle the Company Raj. Distracted, the bird seller glared at the Englishman. “Please,” I said again, slightly louder, trying to add the gleam of charity to the tarnished rupees in my hand.

He sucked his teeth, wavering. “A bird like this is worth her weight in gold to a prince.”

“But the princes of India don’t have any more gold,” I said. “The British took it all, and they don’t believe in the myth of the caladrius.”

As soon as the words were out of my mouth, I knew it was the wrong thing to say. The man’s face hardened. Awkward, awkward. I scrambled for a way to backpedal. Between us, his wares beat their wings against the bamboo bars, singing for freedom like Orpheus in Hades. A hand touched my shoulder and I spun, ready to take out my vexation on this bold stranger, but I bit back the words. Kashmir had appeared like an oasis. “Hello, amira.”

“Let me guess,” I said. “The captain sent you here to rush me.” Under his careless hair, there was not a drop of sweat on his brow.

“To help you.” He gave me his most charming smile, then turned it on the bird seller as he poured gold into the man’s palm. “This should be more than enough,” Kashmir said, reaching over to pluck up the bamboo cage. Then he slipped his arm into mine and steered me away from the wide-eyed merchant. “Come, Nix. We have to go.”

I was more surprised than the bird seller. “Where did you get so much gold?”

“Oh, you know,” he said. “Around.”

We were halfway back to the docks when the shouting started.

Kashmir handed me the birdcage. “Don’t run,” he told me. Then he took off.

“Thief!” The Englishman was barreling toward us.

“Thief!” Kashmir had left a swirling wake in the crowd; I set off after him.

The treacherous street threw obstacles underfoot: baskets of locusts and pails of yogurt and blankets laid with ripe rambutan. I dodged past women in rags and women in silks, men in loincloths and men in uniforms. The birdcage swung from my fist and sweat stung my eyes. Kashmir was far ahead of me—or rather, I was falling behind.

I racked my brain for a solution from the stories I knew. Unfortunately, most of those stories were myths, so most of the miraculous escapes came about by the pursued being turned into a tree or a star or a bird or the like. I looked back over my shoulder; the Englishman was gaining. I clutched the birdcage to my chest and tried to summon more speed.

I broke free of the market, careening around a corner and bouncing off a donkey. Kashmir was standing on the wharf, waving me toward the ship. I skidded to a stop in front of him, and he took my shoulders, steadying me. “Why did you run, amira?”

“Why did you run?” I returned, breathless.

“So he would chase me! Yalla.Vite! Get aboard and go!” He pushed me along and I stumbled down the quay.

My father was helping Bee rig the sails, but when he heard the Englishman’s cries, he stopped and stared. Then he redoubled his efforts, calling out to Rotgut to cast off the lines as the Englishman loped nearer. Locals scattered, but Kashmir waited until I’d cleared the gangplank. When he started to run, it was too late.

The Englishman grabbed him by the collar of his thin linen shirt, his muttonchops quivering in rage. “You half-caste thatch gallows!” He drew a pistol out of his belt and pressed the barrel against Kashmir’s cheek. “Give me back my coin and I won’t shoot you where you stand!”

Kash didn’t bother responding; he made a chopping motion toward the ship, but we were already slipping the berth. I looked at my father in disbelief, but he met my stare with his ice-blue eyes. “He can take care of himself.”

Despite the heat, I shivered; if Kash had kept the caladrius, would I be the one left behind on the wharf? I set the birdcage on the deck and gripped the rail, gauging the distance to the pier, but then Kash shoved the Englishman’s gun upward. The man squeezed the trigger, and the bullet flew wide. He’d kept his grip on Kashmir’s collar, but not on Kashmir, who tore his shirt down the front as he pivoted on one foot and threw his arms back out of the sleeves. He left the man reeling backward with the linen rag in his hand and a bewildered expression on his face.

I ran to get a rope, but when I came back to the bulwark, Kashmir was nowhere to be seen and the Englishman was screaming from the edge of the pier, fumbling with his gun. I followed his outraged eyes to the stern of the ship, where Kash was swinging his leg over the rail.

“Stop the ship! Stop at once!” the Englishman said, appealing to my father as he tried to reload. “Your coolie is a thief!”

Kashmir put his hand to his chest in a gesture of injured innocence: Kashmir, who would make you laugh to steal the fillings from your molars. Then he ducked as the Englishman fired again, the bullet crunching into the oak of our mizzenmast. I stared, stunned for a moment, then dropped to the deck beside the birdcage, my breath ruffling the caladrius’s feathers.

The Temptation was a fast ship, so we were out of range by the time the Englishman had loaded a third shot. I clambered to my feet, my hair plastered to my cheeks and my ears ringing. Kashmir was no worse for wear, despite his lost shirt. His golden skin shone, flushed with exertion, and, I suppose, victory. He caught my eye, and I turned away.

“You’re blushing,” he said.

I heard the amusement in his voice. “It’s the heat.”

“What a rush!” My father passed the wheel off to Bee and came trotting down the stairs to the main deck. He picked up the cage, peering inside. “My God, she’s beautiful,” he said, grinning. “Thanks, kiddo!”

“Thanks?” I yanked my shirt straight. “You should be thanking him.”

Slate popped a thumb up. “Thanks, Kashmir!”

I stared at him as he cooed at the bird. “You risked his life for that thing.”

“Thanks a lot, Kashmir.”

“He was nearly shot, Dad!”

He shrugged. “He wasn’t, though.”

“But he could have been!”

His energy faltered for a moment, like a candle burning low. Absently, he rolled up one of the sleeves on his loose cotton shirt, exposing the blue ink crawling up his arms; unless you knew where they were, the tracks were very hard to see beneath his indigo tattoos. Then his grin returned as he nodded to the cage in his hand. “Good thing we have a cure-all, then. Come on, let’s fill those sails! Where are we going next, Nixie?”

I wanted to tell him exactly where he could go next, but I bit back the retort. This was nothing new; my father wasn’t one to reflect long on his transgressions. He left that to me. “New York, 1981,” I said. “I laid the map out this morning. On your table. Didn’t you bother to look?”

He ignored my question. “But… every twentieth-century map I’ve ever seen was off a printing press.”

“It’s a hobbyist’s map. Hand drawn.” I drew myself up taller. “I bought it myself last time we were there.”

He didn’t look impressed. “Fine, great. But are you sure it will work?”

“Making it work is your job, Captain,” I said. “Until you teach me how to Navigate, of course.”

Although he made no answer, he stared at me a while longer before he spun on his heel and went to his cabin. Suddenly I was aware of the eyes of the crew, but when I turned around, Bee seemed very interested in the river ahead, and Rotgut was studiously cleaning his fingernails. Only Kashmir caught my eye. “And you,” I said.

“Me? What did I do, amira?”

“I was this close to getting the bird seller to take my price,” I said, but his grin widened; I wasn’t fooling him.

“Even if that’s true, you said it yourself. The English took all the gold. I was just doing a little redistribution.”

“It’s still wrong to steal, Kashmir.”

“What else should I have done?”

“Maybe leave the bird?”

He looked at me sideways with a twinkle in his eye. “Come, amira. You were thrilled when I put it in your hands.”

“That’s because cure-alls are rare in mythology, outside of healing springs. Not because I think we’ll actually get to use it.”

“The captain thinks we will. And you know how he is.”

“And how is that?”

Kashmir pursed his lips. “Very difficult to refuse.”

I folded my arms across my chest. “No argument there,” I said softly, staring at the water of the Hooghly. It was the color of bile. “Is the cargo secure?”

“You mean the tigers?” There was a lilt in his voice.

“Yes, the tigers, in all their fearful symmetry.” The big cats had been delivered to the ship in flimsy bamboo cages; Kash and Bee had been the ones brave enough to wrestle the cages into the hold. I actually was impressed, but with Kashmir it was usually best not to let it show.

“Last I checked, they were sleeping like kittens,” he said, reaching into his pocket and pulling out a gold watch to check the time. Then he tilted it; water ran out from under the face. “Well. They should be fine all the way to New York.”

“Where did you get that?”

“Ah. This?” He looked at me from under his brows; if I hadn’t known better, I’d have said he was embarrassed. “He shouldn’t have called me a half-caste.”

I gritted my teeth. “You can’t blame that on the captain’s orders.”

“No, I can’t. This was just for me.”

“You know, if I had your morals, I could solve all my problems.”

He shrugged one shoulder and slipped the watch back into his pocket. “If I had your problems, I could afford to have better morals. I’m going to get another shirt. You have ten seconds to stop me. No?”

He went below, leaving me at the bow. We sailed past the tumbled ruin of Fort William, where the East India Company claimed a hundred English prisoners had perished due to Indian savagery in the dungeon called the Black Hole of Calcutta. Downstream of the city, fishermen pulled illish from the turgid river and children swam naked at the ghats. I piled my hair atop my head in an effort to cool down, but the breeze licked the back of my neck, hot as a giant’s breath.

Kashmir was right about the captain; when he wanted something, he did not stop until he had it. No matter what it cost. No matter who it hurt.

And what he wanted more than anything was to return to Honolulu, 1868. That’s why he needed the map now on offer at Christie’s auction house, and the money to win it.

The captain had never bothered investing in stocks, or betting on sports, or even opening a checking account. Slate spent much more time thinking about the past than the future, and it was always a scramble for money whenever he remembered it was useful.

So I’d plotted a route, pulling the maps from his collection. Cash for tigers was not the simplest course I might have charted, but I’d wanted to see as much as I could before the auction. After all, if Slate was right about the map of Hawaii, I might never go anywhere else again.

My mind skittered away from the thought. It was pointless—no, foolish—to worry; none of his Honolulu maps had ever worked. Better to concentrate on the task— and the journey—at hand.

As it was, I planned to exchange our cargo for U.S. currency when we reached our next destination, where the leader of a Chinese gang had a soft spot in his heart—and cold hard cash in his pocket—for the big cats. According to the newspaper clippings I’d read, he’d been known for using them to dispose of rivals.

After that, Slate could easily bring us to the auction in 2016; fifty-one years prior, the captain had been born in New York, and his erstwhile home awaited him just beyond the edge of every map he Navigated. The year 2016 was long after the gang leader had been killed in a shoot-out, but with the map from 1981, it should have been a simple matter for the captain to steer the Temptation through two centuries, from the Bay of Bengal to the waters of the Atlantic off the coast of Long Island. After all, though he wouldn’t call it home, he knew the city well.

Which is why it surprised me when the map of 1981 failed.

We were sailing toward the edge of the map of Calcutta under a sky so starry it looked sugared; the night would never be as beautiful after the Industrial Revolution.

Those stars dimmed as we slipped into the Margins of the map, the slender threshold between one place and the next, where India in 1774 ran out and the next shore appeared. Mist rose around us like the souls of drowned sailors, and the only sound was the muted hollow music of waves moving along the hull. Everything seemed calm, but the seas in the Margins were unpredictable—the currents mercurial and the winds erratic—and passage was always rougher the farther afield we traveled. And, very rarely, there were ghost ships in the fog, captained by those who had found the way in, but not the way out. I rubbed some warmth into my bare arms.

“Are you all right, amira?”

I made a face and nodded toward the mist. “The Margins always reminds me of purgatory. The place between worlds.”

Kashmir’s brow wrinkled. “Isn’t purgatory supposed to be hotter?”

“That’s St. Augustine’s version. This is more like the Asphodel Meadows in Homer. Although with fewer blood thirsty ghosts.”

Kashmir laughed. “Ah, yes, of course. I must catch up on my reading.”

“Well, I’m sure you know where my books are if you ever want to steal them.” I grinned as I turned back to the helm; just as quickly, the smile fell away. Slate had taken the wheel to steer us toward the far-off shore only he could see… but his face was full of frustration. He swung his head back and forth, he gripped the wheel, he leaned forward as if to get a closer look—but it was clear he couldn’t see our destination.

The ship rolled on the swells, and bronze light flickered in the fog, followed by the low grumble of thunder. Rain pelted the sails, and the mist writhed in a sudden gust. In the crow’s nest above our heads, Rotgut cursed; he must have been swaying like a metronome.

New York should not have been difficult, not like this. “What’s wrong, Captain?”

“I don’t know!” Slate wrenched the wheel starboard, trying to take us around, but the waves were pushing hard to port. Near the prow, Bee tensioned the halyard on the jib, the bell at her waist swinging as she moved.

The Temptation groaned, and the ship shuddered as a swell hit, followed by another high enough to send spray over the rail. Kashmir caught my arm and pulled me close to the mast. I held on, keeping clear of the boom; my fingers found the rough splinters of the bullet hole. A breaker washed the deck, the cold sea soaking my feet.

“Slow down,” Slate said. “I need more time!”

Kashmir sprang into action, racing up the stairs to the quarterdeck and grabbing the sea anchor. I followed on his heels and helped heave it off the stern. As the canvas caught our wake and dragged, another swell hit broadside and jolted us hard enough to rattle my teeth. This time Kashmir stumbled; I took his hand and grabbed the rail, bracing for the next wave, but it never came. The sea stilled once more as we ran right off the edge of the map.

 

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Reblogged from Yodamom Finds her Force:

YES !

Busy bee

Sorry I flooded today I've been caught up with my new job working at a popular bookstore. I haven't had a lot of time to do posts during the week. Love you guys.

Every Little Thing (Hart's Boardwalk #2) by Samantha Young

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bailey Hartwell has many reasons to feel content—her successful business, a close circle of friends, and her steady boyfriend…even if their romance feels staid after ten years without a serious commitment.

 

The only challenge in her life comes in the form of sexy businessman Vaughn Tremaine.

She thinks the ex-New Yorker acts superior and that he considers her a small-town nobody. But when Bailey’s blindsided by a betrayal, she’s shocked to discover Vaughn is actually a decent guy.

Vaughn admires Bailey’s free spirit, independence, and loyalty. As his passion for her has grown, his antagonism toward her has only worsened. Every little thing Bailey does seduces him. But when Vaughn’s painful emotional past makes him walk away in fear he will hurt her, it opens an old wound in Bailey, and she uncharacteristically retreats.

Once Vaughn begins to realize he’s made the biggest mistake of his life, he has no choice but to fight like he’s never fought before to convince Bailey that the love they’ve found together only comes around once in a lifetime.

 

 

 

Every Little Thing is one of those my enemy is my friend situations but its done in such a way that yes, while romantic how Bailey and Vaughn are drawn together I also felt as if he were simply one of those rebound guys in under the circumstances which made me not care so much for the developing romance between them since I didn't feel as if Bailey had enough time to really process or cope with what she'd gone through.

That aside I did like like them together when they were getting along.

I had some mixed feelings both ways but I did enjoy reading Every Little Thing and I did find myself partial to Vaughn who held my attention through the book.

If you haven't read the first book in the Boardwalk series I suggest you start there to really grasp their previous involvement and history.

 

Samantha Young

 

 

 

 

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/da-vincis-tiger-laura-malone-elliott/1121228362?ean=9780062231710&st=AFF&2sid=Goodreads,%20Inc_2227948_NA&sourceId=AFFGoodreads,%20IncM000004http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/da-vincis-tiger-laura-malone-elliott/1121228362?ean=9780062231710&st=AFF&2sid=Goodreads,%20Inc_2227948_NA&sourceId=AFFGoodreads,%20IncM000004

 

This title will be available for purchase on March 7th, 2017!

 

 
 
 
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Krissy's Bookshelf Reviews received a print copy. All thoughts, comments and ratings are my own.

Krissy's Bookshelf Reviews received a print copy in exchange for an honest review from Berkley Publishing.

 

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Wait for Dark (Bishop/Special Crimes Unit #17) by Kay Hooper

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Clarity, North Carolina, the residents have fallen victim to an unfortunate series of events. Seemingly random accidents have taken the lives of several citizens in the small mountain town. But these deadly coincidences are anything but.

Something is on the hunt in Clarity, and the only clue as to what is a cryptic note given to the victims 24 hours before they meet their ends: “Wait for dark.”
 
Sheriff Mal Gordon knows how to handle his town, but he has no idea how to handle this. Hollis Templeton and her team from the Special Crimes Unit, including her partner and lover, telepath Reese DeMarco, are called in to investigate.
 
But while the SCU has prepared them for the unknown, the incredible evil stalking Clarity shakes the team to their core when one of their own is targeted. Now Hollis, the “cat with nine lives” finds herself facing death again.
 
And this time, not even her partner can protect her.

 

 

 

 

I am still amazed that after all these years all these installments that Hooper continues to write so many amazing books - one after the other and does it beautifully.

Harper continues to be a master of suspense and intrigue for me and I have been a fan of her writing for many years now.

Where most authors who are this far into a series tend to dilute and lose their focus and the readers interest Hooper maintains mine. From beginning to end I love Wait for Dark, I love its cast, I love that despite their struggles that intimacy wise that Reese is still a truly fantastic guy and despite her struggles sticks by Holls no matter what.

That kind of loyalty speaks to you - or me rather.

I think the only thing I didn't quite agree with was the new plot with Hollis, I'm not sure I'm into it yet but its an interesting turn. I'm curious to see how it affects events in later installments. Thank you Hooper for another great read.

 

Kay Hooper

 

 

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/da-vincis-tiger-laura-malone-elliott/1121228362?ean=9780062231710&st=AFF&2sid=Goodreads,%20Inc_2227948_NA&sourceId=AFFGoodreads,%20IncM000004http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/da-vincis-tiger-laura-malone-elliott/1121228362?ean=9780062231710&st=AFF&2sid=Goodreads,%20Inc_2227948_NA&sourceId=AFFGoodreads,%20IncM000004

 

This title will be available for purchase on March 7th, 2017!

 

 
 
 
Krissys Bookshelf Reviews has a QR code for your phone!

 

Krissy's Bookshelf Reviews received a print copy. All thoughts, comments and ratings are my own.

Krissy's Bookshelf Reviews received a print copy in exchange for an honest review from Berkley Publishing.

 

If any of Krissy's Bookshelf Reviews has been helpful please stop by to like my post or leave a comment to let me know what you think. I love hearing from followers!

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Future Threat (Future Shock #2) by Elizabeth Briggs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Six months ago Aether Corporation sent Elena, Adam, and three other recruits on a trip to the future where they brought back secret information--but not everyone made it back to the present alive.

 

Now Elena's dealing with her survivor's guilt and trying to make her relationship with Adam work. All she knows for sure is that she's done with time travel and Aether Corporation.

But Aether's not done with her--or Adam, or fellow survivor Chris. The travelers on Aether's latest mission to the future have gone missing, and Elena and her friends are drafted into the rescue effort.

 

They arrive in a future that's amazingly advanced, thanks to Aether Corporation's reverse-engineered technology. The mission has deadly consequences, though, and they return to the future to try to alter the course of events.

But the future is different yet again. Now every trip through time reveals new complications, and more lives lost--or never born. Elena and Adam must risk everything--including their relationship--to save their friends.

 

 

 

 

I think Future Threat is such a trip. There is so much going on that I am grateful that the author makes sure to rehash some previous events so that the new establishments of power, weapons and travel effects including the stages of character processing, where they stand how they feel and what they are going through that I almost needed a fresh mental 'download' on what took place the first time around in the first book.

Although I would like to mention that reading the first book isn't completely necessary due to the fact that Briggs did a fantastic job filling in readers I would highly recommend it simply because there is so much going on - on so many levels that I believe the readers need it.

I love the cast in the Future Shock series, they are bright, they're alive and its easy to place yourself in their shoes. Even though I don't really think it was meant to be I do think that this series so far is an emotional read for me.

There is a dash of romance but it doesn't take the whole of the story which is nice because it allows the reader to really focus on what's taking place on a plot level than the character level despite it being so vital to whats going on.

If you haven't read this series yet pick it up, you won't regret it.

 

Elizabeth Briggs

 

 

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/da-vincis-tiger-laura-malone-elliott/1121228362?ean=9780062231710&st=AFF&2sid=Goodreads,%20Inc_2227948_NA&sourceId=AFFGoodreads,%20IncM000004http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/da-vincis-tiger-laura-malone-elliott/1121228362?ean=9780062231710&st=AFF&2sid=Goodreads,%20Inc_2227948_NA&sourceId=AFFGoodreads,%20IncM000004
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Krissy's Bookshelf Reviews received a digital copy. All thoughts, comments and ratings are my own.

Krissy's Bookshelf Reviews received a digital copy in exchange for an honest review from Albert Whitman & Company via Netgalley.

 

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Story Time: The Berenstain Bears and the Truth

 



 

 

 

 

 

Come for a visit in Bear Country with this classic First Time Book® from Stan and Jan Berenstain. When Mama goes to the market, Brother and Sister play soccer in the house . . . and end up breaking a lamp! When Mama asks them what happened, they tell her a series of whoppers that just get bigger and bigger. Will they ever tell her the truth? This beloved story is a perfect way to teach children about the importance of honesty.

 

 

 

 

 

Stan and Jan Berenstain

 

 

 

 

 

 

 




A New Month A New Background! (2/26/17)

 

 

Surprise, Surprise... Its that time again...

 

With March around the corner just a couple days away and my new work schedule slammed morning to night I figured it was time to change the background once again.

 

March's new background image is:

 

Feel free to leave your thoughts or opinions below. :)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Find out more about St. Patricks Day from the History Channel!

 

Book Obsession Series (2-26-17)

 

 

Victoriei subway station QR library

 

 

 

 

The Ripped Bodice Romance only store.

 

 

 

 

 

Libreria Acqua Alta in Venice, Italy

 

 

 

 

 

 

Barts Books

 

 

 

 

 

Barter Books

 

 

 

 

 

Libreria Acqua Alta

 

 

 

 

 

Geragera Food Fash Manga Collection

 

 

 

 

 

Leakeys Bookstore, Inverness

 

 

 

 

 

Librerias Del Mundo

 

 

 

 

 

Cafebreria El Pendulo

 

 

 

 

Bondi Beach Library

 

 

Free Ebooks (2-26-17)

Game on Boys: The PlayStation Playoffs on Kindle

Game on Boys: The PlayStation Playoffs by Kate Cullen: A hilarious adventure tale about one boy’s determination to conquer the biggest computer game contest at school and the disasters and catastrophes he encounters, whilst learning a few important life lessons along the way. It follows the adventures of 10-year-old cool gamer Ryan and his cool school, cool teacher and very uncool sister, ‘Loom Band Lisa’, who does everything in her pink power to ruin his fun.

This book is Free on February 26, 2017

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Adventure in the Sky on Kindle

Adventure in the Sky by Leela Hope: Little Bear Dover and his friends are nervous about going up in a hot air balloon. Can they overcome their fears and have a wonderful adventure?

This book is Free on February 26, 2017

Kindle

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Out of the Shoebox on Kindle

Out of the Shoebox by Yaron Reshef: Out of the Shoebox is a fascinating journal that reads like a detective story, comes across as an imaginative quest into the past, yet is the true personal story of the writer, Yaron Reshef.

This book is Free on February 26, 2017

Kindle

 

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Firebolt on Kindle

Firebolt by Adrienne Woods: Sixteen-year-old Elena Watkins just discovered that dragons are real…after a dragon killed her father. Whisked away to Paegeia, a world where dragons and magic exist, Elena must make peace with her new reality, to live among dragons and magic. But that is not the worst. Elena is born with the mark of the dragon riders.

This book is Free on February 26, 2017

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Duty, Honor, Planet on Kindle

Duty, Honor, Planet by Rick Partlow: A thrilling military science fiction tale of an elite special operations team fighting an inscrutable alien invader.

This book is Free on February 26, 2017

Kindle

 

Sparks of Darkness: Birthright (Book 2) on Kindle

Sparks of Darkness: Birthright (Book 2) by Barry Ahern: There is a secret order of uniquely gifted guardians known as Viscents that protect all worlds from the treachery of Ack. However, Zachary, new to being a Viscent, does not feel welcome as he holds a powerful but poisoned gift. It appears that his friends may not be his friends, and the helping hand of Ack may be the one thing he needs to survive. Book 2 in a 3 part series!

This book is Free on February 26, 2017

Kindle

 

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The Heart of Falcon Ridge on Kindle

The Heart of Falcon Ridge by D.L. Roan: Three hearts beat as one, for one. Always. The McLendon men only know one way to love; together. Founders of Falcon Ridge, three generations of cowboys traverse the rocky path through the trials of their unconventional relationships and create a family legacy that will make you believe in everlasting love.

This book is Free on February 26, 2017

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Beyond Series Bundle (Books 4-6) on Kindle

Beyond Series Bundle (Books 4-6) by Kit Rocha: The second bundle in Kit Rocha’s bestselling, award-winning Beyond series; steamy dystopian romance novels set in a post-apocalyptic world where if you’re an O’Kane, you’re an O’Kane for life. Includes the following titles: Beyond Jealously, Beyond Addiction, and Beyond Innocence.

This book is Free on February 26, 2017

Kindle

 

Connie: The Daughters of Allamont Hall (Book 3) on Kindle

Connie: The Daughters of Allamont Hall (Book 3) by Mary Kingswood: A traditional Regency romance, taking place in the drawing room rather than the bedroom. Connie’s only just escaped her late father’s restrictions, and she’s reluctant to surrender her freedom to a man just yet. Can the Marquess change her mind?

This book is Free on February 26, 2017

Kindle

 

Lane Brothers on Kindle

Lane Brothers by Kristina Weaver: Dig into 5 standalone, full-length billionaire mafia romance books. More than 300,000 words. Approximately 1,000 pages. NO CLIFFHANGERS.

This book is Free on February 26, 2017

Kindle

 

Tempted by the Boss on Kindle

Tempted by the Boss by Hazel Kelly: Ella Riley is determined to impress when she lands her dream job at the Abbott Hotel… even if her hot boss is giving her ideas that are anything but professional.

This book is Free on February 26, 2017

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The Black Chapel on Kindle

The Black Chapel by Marilyn Cruise: Indulge in the blazing-hot chemistry between Scarlett and Michael in the first book in the trilogy, filled with romance, angst, and suspense. Can a billionaire and a stripper find their own fairy-tale ending?

This book is Free on February 26, 2017

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Barely Legal on Kindle

Barely Legal by Jessie Cooke: Nick works for me as a stripper at nights. He’s young. He’s hung. He’s beautiful. And all the women want him. Especially me. But he has a friend Steve, and Steve is gay. Surely Nick isn’t gay too? I’m going to find out because I need Nick, and I need him now.

This book is Free on February 26, 2017

Kindle

 

Her Reluctant Rancher: Return to Stone Creek (Book 1) on Kindle

Her Reluctant Rancher: Return to Stone Creek (Book 1) by Anne Marie Novark: Can single mom Beth Evens keep CEO Trevor Callahan from selling his grandfather’s ranch before it’s too late? And can she do it without breaking her heart?

This book is Free on February 26, 2017

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Into the Crossfire on Kindle

Into the Crossfire by Kathleen Hope: The whir of the helicopter drowned out every other noise around Caleb, even his own thoughts. It was a welcome respite. An intricate web of tactical planning had filled the recesses of his mind for the past 24 hours, but it was time. No more planning. It was another routine operation; go in, grab the bad guys and get out.

This book is Free on February 26, 2017

Kindle

 

Self Helpless on Kindle

Self Helpless by Rachel Hall: Forbidden love, betrayal and personal growth, SELF HELPLESS is a highly entertaining and engaging book packed with plenty of self-help insight, satire, and fashion savvy. “The fun writing style and realistic, emotionally engaging characters in this genre-bending book will quickly grab.”—ForeWord Clarion Reviews

This book is Free on February 26, 2017

Kindle

 

Sweet for You on Kindle

Sweet for You by Harper Ashe: When handsome billionaire Stephen Blake hires cute and curvy Abby Branson to help launch a new line of gourmet diet desserts, he soon discovers she’s more delicious than anything his company creates. Can true love (and a sweet tooth) conquer all? Find out in Sweet for You, the first standalone romance in the Sweet Curves series.

This book is Free on February 26, 2017

Kindle

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The Good Knight on Kindle

The Good Knight by Sarah Woodbury: Meet medieval sleuths Gareth and Gwen in their first mystery together—the FREE first novel in an eight-novel series, appropriate for young teens to adults. Intrigue, suspicion, and rivalry among the royal princes casts a shadow on the court of Owain, king of north Wales…

This book is Free on February 26, 2017

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Chase Baker and the Da Vinci Divinity (Book 6) on Kindle

Chase Baker and the Da Vinci Divinity (Book 6) by Vincent Zandri: Adventurer and treasure hunter, Chase Baker, seeks a cave inside a Tuscan forest where, legend has it, Leonardo Da Vinci received the divine inspiration required to create his futuristic inventions and magnificent art. From the New York Times, USA Today, and Amazon bestselling Thriller Award Winner, Vincent Zandri.

This book is Free on February 26, 2017

Kindle

 

Check Out What's New At Penguin Publishing This February! (2/26)

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New Releases | Best Sellers | Authors | Series
 
 
Silence Fallen
 

 

Silence Fallen
By Patricia Briggs
 
In the #1 New York Times bestselling Mercy Thompson novels, the coyote shapeshifter has found her voice in the werewolf pack. But when Mercy’s bond with the pack—and her mate—is broken, she’ll learn what it truly means to be alone. READ MORE »
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Eleanor
 

 

Eleanor
By Jason Gurley
 
When a terrible accident claims the life of Eleanor’s twin, her family is left in tatters, and her reality begins to unravel, dropping her in and out of unfamiliar worlds. In a strange in-between place, she meets a mysterious stranger who understands the weight of her family history: Eleanor’s twin wasn’t the only tragic loss. READ MORE »
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The Bear and the Nightingale
 

 

The Bear and the Nightingale
By Katherine Arden
 
A magical debut novel for readers of Naomi Novik’s Uprooted, Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus, and Neil Gaiman’s myth-rich fantasies, The Bear and the Nightingale spins an irresistible spell as it announces the arrival of a singular talent with a gorgeous voice. READ MORE »
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The Magicians (TV Tie-In Edition)
 

 

The Magicians (TV Tie-In Edition)
By Lev Grossman
 
The Magicians is one of the most daring and inventive works of literary fantasy in years. No one who has escaped into the worlds of Narnia and Harry Potter should miss this breathtaking return to the landscape of the imagination. READ MORE »
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The Erstwhile
 

 

The Erstwhile
By B. Catling
 
The Erstwhile brings historical figures such as William Blake and places such as the Bedlam Asylum, as well as ingenious creations such as The Kin (a family of robots) together to create unforgettable novel of births and burials, excavations and disappearances. READ MORE »
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Etched in Bone
 

 

Etched in Bone
By Anne Bishop
 
After a human uprising was brutally put down by the Elders—a primitive and lethal form of the Others—the few cities left under human control are far-flung. And the people within them now know to fear the no-man’s-land beyond their borders—and the darkness. READ MORE »
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Gilded Cage
 

 

Gilded Cage
By Vic James
 
A darkly fantastical debut set in a modern England where magically gifted aristocrats rule, and commoners are doomed to serve—for readers of Victoria Aveyard and Susanna Clarke. READ MORE »
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SEE MORE BOOKS TO LOVE IN FANTASY »

 

Free Ebooks (2-20-17)

PLEASE REMEMBER THAT THE FREE EBOOK PRICING IS ONLY AVAILABLE FOR A LIMITED TIME SO GET THE BOOKS WHILE YOU CAN!!

 

Don't forget to check my Free Ebook page on Pinterest for more Free Ebook titles and genres not listed below!

 

 

The Dark Verse: Beyond the Grip of Time (Vol. 3) on Kindle

The Dark Verse: Beyond the Grip of Time (Vol. 3) by M. Amanuensis Sharkchild: Twenty-six short stories of occult, metaphysical, and fantastical horror that will follow you to the visions of your sleep.

This book is Free on February 20, 2017

Kindle

 

The Vampire Murders on Kindle

The Vampire Murders by John Del Toro: Richard is an English college professor who has multiple affairs with his students. His wife has found out and is readying for a divorce while his daughter thinks he is a scumbag. His situation worsens when a beautiful classics professor arrives at the school. She seduces the professor and the bodies of the students he had affairs with begin appearing on the campus, drained of blood.

This book is Free on February 20, 2017

Kindle

 

Zed's World: The Gathering Horde (Book 1) on Kindle

Zed’s World: The Gathering Horde (Book 1) by Rich Baker: A fast-paced beginning-of-the-end zombie apocalypse novella guaranteed to have you reaching for the next installment!

This book is Free on February 20, 2017

Kindle

 

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Becoming Magic: A Course in Manifesting an Exceptional Life (Book 1) on Kindle

Becoming Magic: A Course in Manifesting an Exceptional Life (Book 1) by Genevieve Davis: Lost your way in life? Rekindle your sense of wonder with this life-changing book by bestselling author Genevieve Davis. You could become more powerful than you ever dreamed…

This book is Free on February 20, 2017

Kindle

 

Thomas Merton: A Life Inspired on Kindle

Thomas Merton: A Life Inspired by Wyatt North: An inspiration book about Thomas Merton – one of the most famous American Catholic authors of the twentieth century.

This book is Free on February 20, 2017

Kindle

 

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Donut Cookbook: 20 Organic Gluten Free Donut Recipes on Kindle

Donut Cookbook: 20 Organic Gluten Free Donut Recipes by Dina Sheppard: Many people struggle to find tasty gluten-free donut and dessert recipes. Eating gluten-free doesn’t have to taste like cardboard — it can actually be an amazing experience for your taste buds and it’s great for your health. Enjoy these 20 delicious organic, gluten-free donut recipes. They are tasty and better than processed foods!

This book is Free on February 20, 2017

Kindle

 

The 5 Foundations of Remarkably Healthy People on Kindle

The 5 Foundations of Remarkably Healthy People by Dr. Chris Murphy: If avoiding medications and surgery in the future is a top priority for you, then this is a must read! This book gives you an easy guide to restore your health, lose weight, feel great, and help assist you in preventing and overcoming chronic disease. Dr. Chris gives you easy action steps to implement into your life today to help give you a better lifestyle for tomorrow.

This book is Free on February 20, 2017

Kindle

 

No Contact Rule on Kindle

No Contact Rule by Rhonda Wyatt: Going through a breakup can be one of the most soul-crushing feelings. It’s like building a castle with someone for months or years, just to see it get torn down right before your eyes. But what if we still want to be with that person that broke our hearts? Are you someone who has just recently broken up with someone special and you desperately want them back? If so, you’re in the right hands. I will guide you step by step and introduce you to techniques that will have your ex practically begging you to take them back.

This book is Free on February 20, 2017

Kindle

 

DIY Makeup: The Art Of Making Natural Cosmetics on Kindle

DIY Makeup: The Art Of Making Natural Cosmetics by Rose De Lena: Learn how to formulate pure natural cosmetics and makeup from all natural and toxin free ingredients. Let mother nature heal your skin. Become a master at making your own homemade beauty products. In this book, you will learn the art of creating chemical-free products such as makeup, moisturizers for all skin types, hair care, lotions, cleansers, scrubs, and so much more.

This book is Free on February 20, 2017

Kindle

 

Homemade Beauty Products on Kindle

Homemade Beauty Products by Elina Grace: You will absolutely learn all there is to know about creating your very own DIY cosmetics in this book. Most of the ingredients needed are very basic — you probably have them lying around in your kitchen cabinets somewhere. Learn the wonderful skill of creating chemical-free products such as homemade mascaras, hair growth serums, body care cosmetics, eyeliners, eye shadows, lip gloss and lip care, hair care, face care, and much more!

This book is Free on February 20, 2017

Kindle

 

Leadership Lessons From Mom on Kindle

Leadership Lessons From Mom by Mark Villareal: Learn the impact that a mother makes in the lessons taught through childhood and adults that create the leaders of today. “Leadership Lessons From Mom” demonstrates the key impacts of teaching leadership lessons and how they relate to today’s business environment.

This book is Free on February 20, 2017

Kindle

 

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Push Not the River on Kindle

Push Not the River by James Conroyd Martin: Based on the diary of a countess in 1790s Poland, “Push Not the River contains all the sweep and romance of the classic romantic epics such as Gone with the Wind and Doctor Zhivago, with a heroine who remains strong in the face of both personal and political tragedy. An enthralling tale of courage, survival, and hope, Anna Maria’s story is at once timeless and timely.” -India Edghill, author of Queenmaker

This book is Free on February 20, 2017

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Fearless Flying on Kindle

Fearless Flying by Karen Gordon: An amazing job, check. An adorable apartment, check. A super supportive best friend, check. There’s only one thing missing from Vivienne Ramsey’s perfect life… And after ten years of waiting, the time is finally right for her to seduce her dream man. Tonight she’s going to wear Danny out in bed. But before she can begin her carefully crafted strategy of seduction, he’s headed for the door. And for once in her over-organized life, Vivienne doesn’t have a backup plan.

This book is Free on February 20, 2017

Kindle

 

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The Fire Mages Collection on Kindle

The Fire Mages Collection by Pauline M. Ross: Three epic fantasies in one 1,200 page collection. The Fire Mages. The Fire Mages’ Daughter. The Second God. Spell pages, blood magic, mind-bonded giant beasts, a living god, and a desperate battle for survival – three spellbinding stories gathered together for the first time.

This book is Free on February 20, 2017

Kindle

 

Butterfly Islands on Kindle

Butterfly Islands by Chris Seabranch: An epic tale of a young woman’s transformation from being a scared little girl to becoming a feared pirate Queen. Butterfly Islands is a story about fears, inner struggles, sexual confusion, friendships, love, dangers, pirates, treasures, and mysterious islands

This book is Free on February 20, 2017

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Savage on Kindle

Savage by Michelle St. James: Farrell Black needs no one and nothing – except the one woman he can’t have. Head of a criminal empire, Farrell long ago resigned himself to living without Jenna Carver. But that’s before she reappears for her father’s funeral, bringing the past crashing down around him. Leaving him was the hardest thing she’d ever done. But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t the right decision, something she firmly believes right up until the moment Farrell Black walks back into her life.

This book is Free on February 20, 2017

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Jungle Fever Duology on Kindle

Jungle Fever Duology by L.V. Lewis: When the alluring Keisha Beale breezes into Tristan White’s life seeking startup capital for her record store and studio, his first inclination is to turn her down. But something about the captivating beauty stirs his dormant libido. Mixing business with pleasure ended in tragedy for him once, so he knows he has to tread carefully.

This book is Free on February 20, 2017

Kindle

 

A Lawman's Reward on Kindle

A Lawman’s Reward by Kay P. Dawson: Lydia needs a fresh start, away from the watchful eye of her brother. Taking a position as a teacher in the wild cowtown of Abilene leaves her at the mercy of anyone who would take advantage of a woman on her own. Luckily, the local sheriff takes it upon himself to keep an eye on her. What will happen when secrets come out that threaten to ruin the trust they are slowly starting to build with each other?

This book is Free on February 20, 2017

Kindle

 

Tekkin on Kindle

Tekkin by C.J. Scarlett: In a time of political turmoil when peaceful shifters and extremists are seen as one, a rebel group is planning to take control of a California university. Alessia finds herself trapped in the middle of political warfare and a forbidden love affair with a brilliant minded professor. Unbeknownst to her, he has a secret that could change her life… forever.

This book is Free on February 20, 2017

Kindle

 

Awaken: The Lilituria Prophecy (Book 1) on Kindle

Awaken: The Lilituria Prophecy (Book 1) by Grace White: Eighteen-year-old Daiya Cattiva’s life is turned upside down when she learns the truth about her connection to Kai Stanton, and she finds herself at the heart of an ancient prophecy that could alter the balance of good and evil forever. She was never supposed to fall in love, but their love will change everything. Book #1 in a brand new mature YA / NA paranormal romance series. Suitable for readers 16+

This book is Free on February 20, 2017

Kindle

 

The Paranormal 13 on Kindle

The Paranormal 13 by Multiple Authors: 1 MILLION words! 3,500 pages and 13 full-length paranormal and urban fantasy novels featuring witches, vampires, werewolves, mermaids, psychics, Loki, time travel, and more!

This book is Free on February 20, 2017

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End of Eternity on Kindle

End of Eternity by Loretta Lost: Carmen’s life spirals out of control when she discovers her husband’s body hanging from a chandelier. Bizarre events begin to unfold in her life, and she finds herself leaning on a kind stranger for help…

This book is Free on February 20, 2017

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The Bad Assassin on Kindle

The Bad Assassin by S. Doyle: The Bad Assassin is a fun, steamy thrill ride of a book with interesting twists and turns as Eve and Zeke, a very unlikely couple, find their way to love.

This book is Free on February 20, 2017

Kindle

 

Cocky Roomie on Kindle

Cocky Roomie by Faleena Hopkins: Almost divorced Drew needs a place to stay now that she’s left her cheating husband, but time is running out and the younger man, and male slut, Jake Cocker just might be her only hope at a new life. If she can keep his hands off her.

This book is Free on February 20, 2017

Kindle

 

Stone Cold: Music City Moguls (Book 1) on Kindle

Stone Cold: Music City Moguls (Book 1) by Cheryl Douglas: Famed music producer, Drake Elliott, is everything a girl from the wrong side of the tracks like Cassidy Ross would be foolish to hope for, but Drake helps her realize she can have a life worth fighting for… until she makes a mistake that could cost her everything.

This book is Free on February 20, 2017

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Mr. CEO on Kindle

Mr. CEO by Lauren Landish & Willow Winters: I should walk away, but the soft sighs spilling from her plump lips are addictive. Even more, I want to force them from her lips myself. I’ve never felt such desire. I’ve never wanted like this. Even though I know I shouldn’t. There’s a reason I keep everyone away, and I need to remember that. But now that I have her in my grasp, I won’t let her go.

This book is Free on February 20, 2017

Kindle

 

Unspoken on Kindle

Unspoken by Jen Frederick: One drunken night, one act of irresponsible behavior, and my reputation was ruined. Guys labeled me as easy and girls shied away. To cope, I stayed away from Central College social life and away from Central men, so why is it that my new biology lab partner is so irresistible to me?

This book is Free on February 20, 2017

Kindle

 

Kiss Me Again on Kindle

Kiss Me Again by Kimberly James: Sometimes the last thing you’re looking for is the one thing you need. Since her divorce, Kenna James has been all work and no play. When she accepts an invitation to spend a week in a luxurious beach house with her daughter, she expects a quiet seven days of sun and relaxation. What she’s not expecting is for devilishly handsome Nick Frost to be there too. Just because Nick kissed her once (and blew her mind in the process) doesn’t mean she’s interested.

This book is Free on February 20, 2017

Kindle

 

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The Witch of Bohemia on Kindle

The Witch of Bohemia by Pearl Goodfellow: Druida Stone? Dead? In the library? Join Hattie and The Inifiti as they race to find the obnoxious librarian’s killer. With a suspect list as long as your arm, it’s going to be a challenge!

This book is Free on February 20, 2017

Kindle

 

That Old Witch Magic: Wicked in Moonhaven (Book 2) on Kindle

That Old Witch Magic: Wicked in Moonhaven (Book 2) by J.D. Winters & Dakota Kahn: Haley is determined to save Bentley St. Ames from the mob. Shane does not approve. Does the big dark hunter from the North? Who knows? But in the end, Haley and Shane work together to save the vampire. After all, what are best friends for? And anyway, he’s too lovable to lose.

This book is Free on February 20, 2017

Kindle

 

Chosen For Power on Kindle

Chosen For Power by Kathleen Brooks: Somebody is out to destroy Elle Simpson and everything in her life. Elle has always depended on family to make her business run strong, but long work hours have left her without much of a private life. Just as Elle thinks she has met the potential man of her dreams, she also discovers an imposter determined to destroy her business and life. Can she trust this “Prince Charming” to help her defend everything she holds dear?

This book is Free on February 20, 2017

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When Totems Fall on Kindle

When Totems Fall by Wayne C Stewart: 50,000 Chinese boots on American soil… and not a single shot fired. Jaded Afghan/Iraq Wars Vet Zeb Dalton and Chinese businessman Junjie Zang work from unknown and opposite ends of the world to reverse the unbelievable: the annexation of the greater Seattle area into Penghu, the newest province of the People’s Republic.

This book is Free on February 20, 2017

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An Abduction on Kindle

An Abduction by M C Rowley: Scott Dyce’s son was taken by the cartels in Guatemala 22 years ago and assumed dead. Until one day, Dyce learns from a mysterious and powerful man that his son is still alive, and that he has become part of the gang that stole him. But to get his son back, Dyce must do whatever the mystery figure demands, even if it means carrying out an abduction himself.

This book is Free on February 20, 2017

Kindle

 

Justice for Jessica on Kindle

Justice for Jessica by Alretha Thomas: Mousey, overweight Stacey Sullivan wants to trade places with her socialite BFF, Jessica James—that’s until she finds Jessica murdered in her own home. Whip-smart detective Rachel Storme wants to retire, but she forgoes her plans when asked to solve Jessica’s murder. Who killed Jessica? The answer will blow you away.

This book is Free on February 20, 2017

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The Sitter on Kindle

The Sitter by Sharon Hawes: The death of a nine-year-old boy under the watch of his babysitter causes his mother to doubt the sitter’s description of an accident. She suspects murder, but she’s completely alone in this belief. Can she make people listen to her before he kills again?

This book is Free on February 20, 2017

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Crane on Kindle

Crane by Stacey Rourke: The Horseman is unending, his presence shan’t lessen. If you break the curse, you become the legend. Ireland Crane was looking for a fresh start in a new city. Now, as bodies begin to pile around her, she learns she is the only one that can save the town of Sleepy Hollow by embracing her own damning curse.

This book is Free on February 20, 2017

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Enjoy An Exclusive Sneek Peek of: Under Her Skin by Adriana Anders!

 
 

Chapter 1

 

Old hag in need of live-in helper to abuse. Nothing kinky.

Uma read the ad again.

Jesus. Was she really going to do this?

Yes. Yes, she was. She’d come all the way back to Virginia for the hope its free clinic offered, and if this was the only job she could get while she was in town, she should consider herself lucky to have found it. Especially, she thought with a wry smile, since it’s one for which I’m so qualified.

Taking a big, bolstering breath, Uma slipped the newspaper clipping back into her pocket and knocked.

There was a light thunk on the other side, followed by what sounded like footsteps, a scuffling, and then nothing. She waited, trying to hear more over the drone of a nearby lawn mower, and thought of all the reasons this was a horrible idea.

Abuse? Abuse? How could she possibly take this job in the shape she was in?

But as usual, the desperate reality of her situation pushed all arguments aside. Food, shelter, money. There was no arguing with necessity, even if this place felt off.

And the situation was perfect. No one could find her here. In theory. She was pretty sure her new employer wouldn’t be phoning up any references or doing a background check. The woman must be desperate, too. She’d practically hired Uma over the phone, for goodness’ sake.

Someone should have answered by now.

Uma knocked again. Hard, her hand starting to tremble.

Something moved in her peripheral vision, startling Uma into a gasp. The curtain in the front window?

The cloth twitched a second time. The woman was watching. Making Uma wait out here, overdressed in the unseasonable heat, sweat gathering along her hairline. Okay, fine. She could see how it made sense to check out a stranger before letting her in. She’d give the lady a few more minutes to finish her perusal. If only she could get some air. Just a little air in this stifling heat.

When there was no response to her third knock, Uma panicked. According to the oversize watch on her arm, three minutes had passed. Three minutes spent standing on a porch, enduring the scrutiny of a self-proclaimed abuser who represented her last chance at a job. Not the auspicious beginning she had hoped for.

It was all so familiar, too. Maybe not the exact circumstances, but the feelings she lived with on a daily basis—insecurity, worry, fear, clawing at her chest, crowding her throat so each inhale was a struggle. Before they could overwhelm her, she shoved them away and walked down the rickety porch stairs and around to the side of the house, where she could gather herself unseen beneath the first-floor windows. She needed to breathe.

Uma took a shaky breath in, one out, another in, before biting into the meaty pad of her thumb. The ritual was safe, easy to sink back into, the shape of her teeth already worn into her hand. Just a little while, she thought. Until I sort myself out, and then… Then she had no idea what. She had nowhere to go, nothing left to aspire to.

One step at a time. That was her life now. No planning, no future.

She was vaguely aware that the lawn mower drew near, no longer background noise­­­—buzzing close and echoing the beat of her heart. She’d have to push off this wall sooner or later, but the warm clapboard was solid against her back, and along with the sharp smell of freshly clipped grass, it kept her right here, present, in her body. A few more breaths and she’d move. Time to decide whether she’d head up to the house to give it another try or cut her losses and take off, find something else.

Yeah, right.

The problem was she wouldn’t be cutting her losses by leaving—she’d be compounding them. How on earth could she go back on the road with the gas gauge on E and ten bucks to her name?

Strike that. After this morning’s breakfast, she had only $6.54.

Uma sank down onto her haunches, the ground squelching under her heels, and squeezed her eyes shut so hard that black dots floated behind the lids.

She had nothing left—no home, no job, no way of making money, no skills but one…and Joey had destroyed any chance of pursuing her true livelihood when he’d smashed her cameras. Doing that, he’d destroyed her. Six months later, she was still trapped.

If she let herself feel it, there’d be no shortage of pain, inside and out. As usual, her wrist under the watch was raw, and her skin itched everywhere. It must be psychosomatic. It couldn’t still itch after all this time, could it?

Visualizing his marks on her skin was enough to make her hyperventilate again. And the tightness was there, that constriction that had left her constantly out of breath these past several months. She’d thought the miles would clear the airways, but they hadn’t.

And now she was back. Back in Virginia. Shallow breaths succeeded one another, pinching her nostrils and rasping noisily through her throat. Joey was close. Two hours away by car. Way too close for comfort. She swore she could feel him looking for her, closing in on her.

Suddenly, something cold and wet swiped Uma’s hand, snapping her back to the present. She opened her eyes with a start, only to come face-to-face with a dog. A black one with a tan face and floppy ears, pretty brown eyes rimmed in black, like eyeliner. It smiled at her.

It was something else, that dog, with that sweet look on its face. Like it gave a crap. Weird. The expression was so basically human, it pulled back the tunnel vision and let some light seep in. The dog nudged her chest, hard, and pushed its way into her arms in a big, warm tackle-hug. Uma had no choice but to hug back.

Its cold nose against her neck shocked a giggle out of her. “Oh, alright. You got moves, dog.”

“She does,” said a deep voice from above.

Uma’s head snapped back in surprise, sounding a dull thunk against the clapboard. Oh God. Where had he come from?

“She’s a barnacle.”

Uma nodded dully, throat clogged with fear. Stop it, she berated herself. You’ve got to stop freaking out at every guy who says two words to you. She tried for a friendly smile. It felt like a grimace.

The man just stood there, a few feet away, looking at her. She waited. He waited. He looked like a big, creepy yard worker or something. Tall. Really, really tall.

“Gorilla,” he said.

“What?”

“My dog, Squeak. She’s a guerrilla fighter. Thought about callin’ her Shock ’n’ Awe.”

“Squeak?” She stared up at him, craning her neck with the effort. She was wrong before. To say he was tall was an understatement. The man blocked out the sun. With the light behind him, it was hard to see much, aside from the big, black beard covering half his face and the shaggy mane around it. His voice was deep, gravelly. Burly. It went with the hair and the lumberjack shirt. You didn’t see guys like him where she came from.

“Wasn’t her name originally. She earned it.” When he talked, the words emerged as if they hurt, purling out one slow syllable at a time. As if being sociable was an effort. Yet, for some reason­­—for her—he was trying.

He waited, probably for her to say something in response, but she’d been running too long to be any good at repartee. She’d turned into more of a watch-and-wait kind of girl.

The man finally continued, tilting his chin toward the house she was leaning on. “You her next victim?”

Uma winced, embarrassed. “Guess so.”

He lifted his brows in semi-surprise before turning to the side and stuffing his hands deep into the pockets of jeans that had seen better days. They were stained and ratty and littered with what looked like burn holes.

Backlit by the sun, his profile was interesting, despite the bushy lower half of his face. Or maybe because of it. He looked like something you’d see stamped into an ancient coin—hard and noble. The scene came easily into focus: clad in something stained and torn, wading into the thick of battle with his men, sword in hand, face smeared with enemy blood, and teeth bared in some primal war cry. Her hands came to life, itching for a camera.

Then she blinked and emerged to see him as he was: a filthy redneck with a rug on his face. He was intimidating, to say the least. Not the kind of guy she’d choose to work in her yard—not looking all roughed up like he did.

But this new phase of life was about taking back what Joey had stolen. It was about courage, and because this guy was so intimidating, Uma decided to face him head-on. Show no fear. Another rule for this new self that she was constantly reinventing: no more letting men intimidate her.

“Help me up?” she asked.

After a brief hesitation, he complied. His grasp was rough and solid, ridged with calluses in places and polished smooth in others. For a moment, after pulling her up to stand, he didn’t let go of her hand. Instead, he turned it over and eyed the crescent her teeth had left behind.

She fought the urge to snatch it away.

He raised his brows but finally let her go without a word. Burning with the need to put some distance between them, she took a hurried step back.

“Thanks,” she said as he squatted down to scratch Squeak roughly under the chin. The dog’s eyes closed in ecstasy.

Forcing herself to steady her nerves, Uma caught his eye and held it. He was even scarier without the sun behind him, skin marred by a shiny white scar along his hairline and a dark bruise on a cheek already peppered with errant beard hairs. His nose was crooked and thick, no doubt broken in a barroom brawl or something equally disreputable. She envisioned him in a smoky basement, duking it out for some seedy underground boxing title. Carved squint lines surrounded eyes that were a cool blue.

Or…oh. No. She realized with a start that his left eye was blue and the right was dark gold. She was instantly thrown off-kilter. Which one was she supposed to focus on? She blinked and turned aside, uncomfortable with the way he so effortlessly unsettled her.

“I’ve…” he rumbled, coming up out of the squat to tower over her again. She waited for him to continue.

“You’ve…?” she finally asked after the silence had stretched too long. She wondered if she was as off-putting to him as he was to her.

“Ive. It’s my name. Short for Ivan.”

“Oh. I’m Uma.” She gave him her real name without thinking. “You mow the lawn here?”

“You could say that.” His eyes crinkled. What little she could see of his mouth turned up into a surprisingly warm smile. “Figure I might as well mow her lawn while I’m doin’ mine.”

She looked at the house behind him. “That’s your place?”

Her surprise must have been obvious, but he didn’t react, just gave a single, brief nod.

“Wow. Nice.” The house was nice. Really nice. Incongruously…civilized. He looked like the kind of guy you’d find chopping wood by his cabin in the boondocks, not maintaining the lawn of his lovely old farmhouse.

It was straight out of Southern Living, nicer than some of the places she’d photographed.

The caricature she’d formed in her head of this man melted partially away to reveal something a little softer, less defined. It didn’t jibe inside of her, but she’d been running on stereotypes and first impressions and messed-up wrong impressions for so long that her instincts clearly needed a reset. Another thing to add to the growing list of upgrades for Uma 2.0.

He nodded, face serious, but she thought she could detect pride beneath the gruff exterior.

She caught sight of a bright-red tricycle in the drive beside a clunky Ford pickup. Kids. Probably a wife. Her perception shifted yet again, and he didn’t seem half as scary as he had a moment before. Wow, she couldn’t straighten her life out at all, and this guy seemed to have his shit together. So much for first impressions.

Uma briefly wondered what he’d look like without all that fur on his face.

She took in the house, the trike, the coziness of this sweet mountain town. A town so small that elderly ladies hired you right over the phone without even asking for references.

That reminded her of why she was here: the ad. Maybe not such a sweet town after all.

“Well, I’d better get to it.” She kept her hands in her pockets, not wanting to risk another touch of his rough skin.

“Yeah. Don’t wanna piss her off.” Was that a joke?

She gave Squeak a quick pat on the head and turned away from man and dog. His voice stopped her after a couple of steps.

“Hey, Uma.” It came out rough, and he cleared his throat. “You ever need a break, come on over and see us. Have a beer.”

“Oh. Sure. Thanks.” Us, he’d said. Yep, married.

She shot a last look at the house over his shoulder, thinking she might even be willing to marry a guy like that for such a great house. Oh well. Maybe she and his wife would become friends.

A friend. That might be nice.

When she got back to the porch, something had changed. Was the gap in the curtains a little wider? Was it possible the woman had witnessed her panic attack? Strike one against Uma if she had.

The lawn mower started up again somewhere behind the house.

Uma took a deep breath in, blew it out hard, made a fist, and pounded.

 
 

Will she be strong enough to fight for what she wants?

 

Battered by a life determined to tear him down
This quiet ex-con’s scarred hands may be the gentlest touch she’ll ever know.
…if only life were a fairy tale where Beauty was allowed to keep her Beast


Ivan thought the world was through giving him second chances. Who’d want a rough ex-con with a savior complex and a bad habit of bringing home helpless strays? Everyone in Blackwood, Virginia knew he wasn’t good enough for the fine things in life; they knew he was too damaged to save. He just needed to keep his head down, work himself to the bone, and pretend he was content with the lot he was given.

Until she came into his life. Until she changed everything.

Until he realized he would do anything, fight anyone, tear the world apart if it meant saving her.

 

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Enjoy An Exclusive Sneek Peek of: #famous by Jilly Gagnon!

#famous
Rachel likes Kyle. Rachel snaps a photo of Kyle and posts it online. Kyle becomes insta-famous.

And what starts out as an innocent photo turns into a whirlwind adventure that forces them both to question whether fame—and love—are worth the price…and changes both of their lives forever.

 
LEARN MORE


Chapter One

RACHEL


TUESDAY, 4:15 P.M.

Loving your mom can lead to some seriously bad decisions.

I’d agreed to tag along on her quest for face creams mainly out of boredom. But the mall with my mother on a Tuesday afternoon—as though I suddenly believed in the calming effects of retail therapy? We’d been here maybe ten minutes and already I was regretting it.

We were almost at the makeup counter that was our raison de mall when she grabbed a black, fluttery top with laces winding up and down the front.

“Ooh, Rachel, isn’t this nice?” She held it out to me. It looked like batwings in a corset.

“Not my style.” I pushed the shirt away, turning to a rack of oversized sweatshirts in neon-bright colors. Where had she even found that thing?

“No, not for you, for me. I think it’s cool. Edgy. Don’t you?” She held the shirt at arm’s length. One chunk of frizzy hair fell from behind her ear onto her cheek. She always cut it too short; at that length, hair as electrical-socket nutso as ours would not be contained behind mere ears.

“Sure, Mom.” I’d be pretty shocked to see my mom commit to a shirt she had to lace herself into. Usually her style tended toward neutral-colored sacks, but if she really wanted to dress like a vampire, I wasn’t going to tell her no. Besides, it’s kind of awesome when parents try to be cool, like watching a baby sloth play the piano or something. Terrible on the execution, and therefore adorable.

“Hey, do you care if I go get something at the food court? I went straight to ceramics club after sixth period, so I didn’t have a chance to get a snack.” Things would move a lot faster if she didn’t have me to bounce awful fashion ideas off of.

She glanced at her watch. “Meet me back here in fifteen minutes. I don’t want to spend the whole evening at the mall.”

“Sure,” I said over my shoulder.

“And don’t be drinking one of those gallon-sized sodas,” she said. “They’re poison.”

Mom was always finding some new threat to my precious development. Too late: I’d topped out at five foot three years ago.

I felt my phone buzz against my hip bone as I passed by Banana Republic, its faceless, elongated mannequins watching disdainfully as I rounded the Wet Seal, following the faint scent of tasty greases.


(From MO-MO): Do you have a new draft of
Twice Removed ready yet? I don’t think I’ll be
able to look at it until the weekend, but we need
to be on top of this.

(To MO-MO): No, I had ceramics today. I’ll
work on it soon—we still have what, three
months until the deadline?

(From MO-MO): There’s no point in putting it off.


Mo must be stressed about something; trying to micromanage someone else was always her go-to when she had too much on her plate. We were applying together to a summer playwriting program with Twice Removed, but the due date for applications was forever away, and I was doing more of the writing regardless—Mo was more into performing, which meant I usually just let her help with edits. There was no point in calling Mo on it though, unless you wanted to intensify her stress-crazies. The best thing was to divert her to whatever she really wanted to talk about, so you wouldn’t start arguing about not-really-the-point.


(To MO-MO): Don’t worry. I’ll send you
something by the time you’re able to look at
it. Why so busy?

(From MO-MO): Did I ever mention how much I
hate Europeans?

(To MO-MO): That’s racist.

(From MO-MO): You can’t be racist against a
continent.

(From MO-MO): Trying to absorb the entirety
of their pointless history—which is all just wars
and oppressing women, BTW—is making my
head hurt. I am SO going to fail this test.


Doubtful. Monique never failed anything. We’d been best friends since we were in diapers, and I couldn’t remember her ever even getting a B. In third grade, she made two entire projects for the science fair in case one was better than the other.


(To MO-MO): That’s what you get for taking
smart-kid classes EVEN FOR ELECTIVES.

(To MO-MO): Guess how hard
my Art II test will be? Oh wait, we don’t
have one.

(From MO-MO): I hate you.

(From MO-MO): I take it back. Distract me.
If my head explodes I at least want to die
laughing.


I looked around for something I could send to Monique. We had this ongoing game where we’d send each other funny pictures on Flit (basically anything that got an out-loud reaction—from snort to guffaw—scored a point, honors system) and the mall was the perfect spot to play. Monique loved unintentional double entendres or grammar mistakes on store signs. I usually sent funny graffiti or dogs in clothes. There’s something about a dog wearing pants that never gets old.

I glanced around as I made my way across the mall to the food court, but nothing jumped out at me. And now that I was getting close enough to really smell all the different kinds of grease in the air, there was no way I’d be able to focus on the game. I was too hungry to hunt down a costumed Pomeranian. Food would have to come first. I spun around slowly, trying to figure out what I was in the mood for.

There was the depressingly beige buffet of breaded meat bits at China House (pass), sushi that was probably fresh off the boat a week ago at Japan EXPRESS (side of food poisoning, please?), Mrs. Butterbun’s Cookie Shoppe (even thinking about putting an inch of frosting on a cookie made my teeth hurt) . . .

That’s when I saw him.

Kyle Bonham.

Instinctively, I ducked my head over my phone and half turned away, so he wouldn’t think I was staring.

I was, obviously—you couldn’t help but stare at Kyle. He was about a thousand miles away from my type—so clean-cut he could be in an ad for drinking enough milk—and still I went fricking googly-eyed whenever I saw him. Extra embarrassing since I had fifth period with him every single day—it was only a matter of time until he caught me drooling.

He was standing behind the register at the Burger Barn, solemnly counting out change for a little girl who couldn’t be more than seven or eight. She had this dreamy, beaming look on her face, like she was so proud to be getting treated like a grown-up, or maybe like she was half in love with him.

You and me both, babe.

He placed a final coin in her palm and straightened up, his shaggy brown hair flopping over his forehead in perfect just-barely-curls. Somehow he looked even hotter here than he did at school. The burnt-orange Burger Barn T-shirt he was wearing made his eyes—a little too far apart on his face, which made them even more beautiful—look greener. He somehow managed to make his pointed paper uniform cap seem jaunty and alluring.

I looked down at myself. I was wearing a shapeless old oxford I’d stolen from my dad’s Goodwill pile. It was so long it made me look like a little kid playing dress-up, and it had clay all over the hem from where my apron hadn’t covered it up. Then of course there were the faded leggings, starting to go baggy at the knees, the Chuck Taylors that had gotten so scuffed over the summer I wasn’t even sure anymore what color they’d started as, and the sloppy side braid that did approximately nothing to contain the bursts of dark-brown frizz I call my hair.

Great look, Rach. No wonder Monique was always asking to give me makeovers. I was a fricking disaster.

Not that it mattered; I was not the kind of girl guys like Kyle Bonham—or really, any guy—paid much attention to. I’d managed to stay pretty much invisible for my entire high school career by hiding out in the art room. Especially to the painfully adorable lacrosse-star seniors who go out of their way to make even eight-year-olds feel special.

An older couple shuffled up to the register, staring perplexedly at the dozen or so variations on meat and cheese the Burger Barn packaged as “specials.” Kyle watched them blankly, looking like someone out of one of those catalogs where everyone is leaning against rustic wooden furniture just “being themselves.”

I should totally send a picture of him to Mo. After all, what could be a better distraction than a perfect-looking boy? Bonus: if I snapped a picture of Kyle I could look at it on my phone whenever. Yes, borderline pathetic, but it’s not like anyone would know but me.

I walked up behind the old woman, trying to look casual by keeping my phone down by my waist.

I tilted the phone up so Kyle’s face was in the frame. He was staring out over the rest of the food court while the older couple worked out their order. I couldn’t believe I was doing this; he was only a few feet away. Even with my flash and sound off, it would be so easy for him to realize what was going on.

But it would be worth it. In fact, this might be my best entry yet. Not like it was hard to find something better than a misplaced apostrophe, but this was gold-star emoji material.

As soon as he turned his head back toward the couple, I could take the picture quick and head over to the Pretzel Hut, like I’d realized I didn’t want anything Burger Barn had on the menu. At least, not on the food menu.

“Well I don’t know, Fred, I don’t think I want triple cheese. Can’t we get regular cheese?”

“Ma’am, if you like, I can substitute the cheese,” Kyle said, smiling easily at the older woman. She seemed startled that he was talking to her. Enough so that she shifted over into my frame right as I was clicking to take the picture.

Well, crap-sandwich. Great photo of old-lady shoulder, Rach.

I shifted my weight onto my left foot, easing over as imperceptibly as I could. Just move your arm, Grandma…

That’s when I saw her, sulking in the line for the Caribou kiosk about twenty feet past the entrance to the food court: Jessie Florenzano.

. . . and her mom, waving cheerily at me like I wasn’t the last person Jessie wanted to see, especially with her mom in tow. Jessie had been embarrassed by her even before our friendship imploded.

Jessie raised an eyebrow as though she could smell what I was doing. I dropped the phone down to my side and waved back. Jessie rolled her eyes and turned her back on me. I could see her whispering sharply to her mom, who smiled apologetically, then turned to Jessie, frowning. There were very few people I’d rather see less than Jessie, anywhere, ever, but I kind of loved that her mom still automatically acted friendly, four years after Jessie had sliced me out of her life.

I turned back. Grandma was laughing and nudging her husband’s arm.

You know how I love pickles!”

Ew. Not the mental image I needed before eating.

Kyle smiled and tapped at the register. If I moved my arm a couple more inches… but not too far. He couldn’t know what was happening, and Jessie couldn’t guess; it would be way too mortifying. He tapped his fingers on the counter in a rat-a-tat rhythm as the old lady dug through her wallet.

He was perfectly lined up in the frame, the last traces of a smile lingering on his smooth cheeks.

I glanced over at Jessie. She was resolutely pretending I didn’t exist. There was never going to be a better time.

Click.

He looked toward me for a second. Crap, I was totally caught. I could feel my cheeks burning, betraying me. My breath caught somewhere around my sternum and stopped there, trapped.

 

But then he smiled and turned back to the customer, taking her pile of ones and quarters.

I exhaled, trying not to grin. I cropped the photo, typing in Mo’s Flit handle so she’d see it. This was even better than a German shepherd with a tie.

“It’s Rachel, right?”

I looked up, startled. The old couple had moved away to wait for their order, and Kyle was staring at me expectantly. I checked over my shoulder to make sure he wasn’t talking to someone else. Like the Burger Barn only served Rachels or something? But I was the only person in line.

“Um, yeah.” I felt my face going hot again. “Rachel. That’s me.” Oh god, I sounded like the worst kind of stupid. Quickly, I clicked to make my screen go dark.

He pointed at himself.

“Kyle.”

I just stared, totally incapable of forming words.

“We’re in Creative Writing together? Fifth period?”

As though I hadn’t spent every day of the three weeks since school started thanking all the gods for that fact.

“Right,” I said, trying to sound like a girl who didn’t eye assault him daily. “You sit in the back, right?”

“Yeah! So Jenkins won’t call on me too much. I’m not as good as you are at that stuff.”

“I’m not that good,” I said automatically, looking down at the counter. Someone had made a ketchupy fingerprint to the right of the register. Like a cheeseburger crime scene. I couldn’t believe he knew who I was. The semester had barely started, and I wasn’t even his year. Not only that, he had an opinion about me. A nice one.

“No, you are. That story of yours that Jenkins read yesterday was… well it was really weird, but, like, in a cool way,” he said.

“Oh. Um, thanks.” All my words were melting, puddling around my feet in a big sloppy jumble, too liquid-slippery for me to get a grip on. The story had been about a computer that got a weird virus that convinced the machine it was actually the ghost of Queen Elizabeth I. He’d already summed it up: It was weird. I was weird. I could feel my armpits stinging with sweat.

“Anyway, what can I get you, Rachel from writing class?” he said.

You, shirtless, on a stallion?

“Um… what do you mean?”

“To eat?” He frowned. It made his nose wrinkle upward, like it was tethered to his forehead. I was so flustered about him knowing my name that I’d forgotten where we were—in line, at his job. He was being nice because he worked service. For god’s sake, he flirted with the elderly. Even more blood rushed into my cheeks. If you poked them with a pin they’d probably burst everywhere. Like that scene in The Shining all over the Apple Prairie Mall food court.

“Oh, duh. Sorry, my blood sugar must be really low,” I said. That’s always Monique’s excuse when she gets ditzy or snippy. “I was thinking, um, french fries?”

“Small?”

“No, large,” I said quickly. I was starving. He grinned a little, which reminded me that the girls Kyle Bonham hung out with did not eat large fries. They’d probably cumulatively eaten half an order of fries in the last ten years, which was why they looked like miniature supermodels and I looked like the funny friend. “I like how the large container makes my hands look extra tiny and stunted. It helps me get perspective on life,” I added.

Oh dear god, someone take this shovel away from me so I can stop digging my own fricking grave.

He laughed though, shaking his head slightly. “You’re funny. Okay. One large fry is gonna be four thirty-six.”

I dug in my purse for the money. He counted out my change and went to grab the fries. I could feel my heart rate slowing back to “not having a coronary” speeds.

“There you go,” he said. “I think this is the right size for your hands,” he added, grabbing one of my tiny fingers and playfully lifting the whole arm up in the air.

His touch was like an electric shock tingling up my entire arm. I almost snatched it back; guys don’t usually go around grabbing my hands. Only guys like Kyle—guys who win state sports titles and homecoming king crowns—have the balls to do stuff like that in the first place. I hoped I hadn’t nervous sweated enough to pit out my shirt.

But somehow I managed to keep it together long enough for him to squint back and forth between my hand and the fry box, measuring the two against each other before finally nodding as though I’d passed muster.

“Yup, looks like a fit,” he said.

He dropped my hand. I tried to breathe again.

“HA.” I forced a laugh. Poorly. “I should go. I have to meet up with my mom.” Awesome, Rachel, add to your intrigue by reminding him you hang out with your mother.

“Enjoy the fries, Rachel from writing,” he said, grinning. “See you tomorrow.”

“Sure.” I gulped, nodding too many times, too fast. “See you around.”

I walked away as slowly as I could force myself to, which was just this side of a sprint.

Breathing hard, I plopped onto a bench near the fountain. That had been disastrous.

But at least I’d gotten my picture. That had been the point, right? To flit something goofy to Monique? I finished typing her handle, then—because of course I’m oh-so-witty the minute actual guys have disappeared—I typed in a hashtag.

Send.

Immediately, I felt a little twinge. What if he saw it? He’d know it was me.

But that wouldn’t happen. Kyle didn’t follow me—maybe ten people did. I flitted all the pictures in the game to Monique, I’d been doing it for months; no one had ever noticed them before. I think the most attention any of the pictures ever got was a single non-Mo luv, and that squirrel vest had been AWESOME. Why would anyone suddenly care about this one?

My phone pinged with the sound that meant I had a reflit.

I opened my feed to see what Mo had said.


@attackoftherach_face tonight’s brain food.


The picture I’d flitted was below. That sweet, goofy half grin lingering around his lips was too adorable. So much so that it had made me feel sassy enough to flit:


@Mo_than_you_know I’m digging what
they’re serving up at Burger Barn today.
#idlikefrieswithTHAT


God, I am such an idiot.

 

Krissy's bookshelf: read

Reaper's Stand
Archangel's Shadows
To Love a King
Touch a Dark Wolf
Gray Bishop
The Viscount's Christmas Temptation
The Second Chance Hero
Loving Him Off the Field
Only Enchanting
Final Lap
Hunt the Jackal
Linger
Before You Break
Priestess Dreaming
Scandal And The Duchess
Hunters
Rival
Sci-Fi Nights: Alpha Bad Boys & Wild Girls of Futuristic Romance
Frayed
Love Bites


Krissy's favorite books ยป

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