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Thursday, January 29, 2015

Blog Tour: Bringing Home the Bad Boy (Second Chance #1) by Jessica Lemmon



Bringing Home the Bad Boy

Second Chance #1

By: Jessica Lemmon

Published:
January 27, 2015

Publisher:
Forever Romance

Add to Goodreads Here

About Bringing Home the Bad Boy:

Creativity is his drug, painting is his escape, but she'll be the addiction that brings him to his knees. Evan Downey buried a part of his soul when put the love of his life in the ground. He knows he needs to get his shit together for the sake of their son, but escaping into his art is the only way he can begin to cope with Rae's death. When the chance to move back to Evergreen Cove, one of the few places that has ever felt right to him, he knows it's a chance he has to take. For his sake, and his sons. Charlotte Harris would give anything to have her best friend back. But if she can't have Rae, then she vows she'll at least be there to support the family Rae left behind. So when she learns that Evan is looking to move home, she does everything she can to help him and Lyon re-build their lives at the Cove. But when sparks start to fly between Charlotte and Evan it's the first glimpse of something bright and beautiful either of them has seen in far too long. And they start to wonder if fate has offered them a second chance at happiness-- if only their brave enough to take the risk and let love back into their lives.           


Second Chance Series:
Add this Series to Goodreads Here



My Thoughts:

Evan Downey has been suffering tremendously for the last four years, after his beloved wife, Rae, died unexpectedly and left him a single father to their son, Lionel "Lyon."  Evan suffers from nightmares, and everything around him reminds him of Rae.  He decides to uproot himself and Lyon to Evergreen Cove, so that they can have a fresh start by creating new memories.  Also, they will be close to Lyon's maternal grandparents, and Charlotte "Charlie" Harris, who Lyon considers to be like an aunt.

Charlie was devastated when her best friend Rae died.  Her own mother died when she was young, and her father abandoned her and her sister.  She was closer to Rae than her own sibling, who is emotionally distant.  Then, her long-term boyfriend, Russell left her for another woman with children, who he then married, after telling Charlie that he never wanted to get married or have children.  Charlie is excited to have Evan and Lyon as neighbors.  She wants to take care of the Downey Boys, as she promised after Rae's death.

As Charlie begins spending a lot of time with Evan and Lyon, an attraction between her and Evan begins to grow.  Charlie has feelings of guilt like she is betraying Rae, and stealing her family.  However, Charlie makes Evan and Lyon really happy.  Will Evan be able to make Charlie see that she is not betraying Rae's memory, but rather her best friend's memory lives through her, and she brings healing, love, and joy in to Evan and Lyon's lives?

Bringing Home the Bad Boy was such a bittersweet romance.  It was really sad and difficult for me to read about Evan's pain as he mourned his wife.  My heart broke for him, and his son, who was just three years old when his mother died.  I almost died when my daughter was five months old, and this made me contemplate what my husband and daughter's lives would have been like, if I had not lived.  I loved the connection and special relationship that Charlie and Lyon shared.  It was very heartwarming.  The strong friendship between Evan and Charlie along with the new way Evan viewed Charlie, made for a great dynamic between the two of them.  The sexual chemistry between them was strong, and they both healed a broken part of one another.

I enjoyed getting to know Gloria "Glo" and Asher, and hope that the two of them will get a book in the series!  Asher has a lot of growing up to do, but he is a very likable and big hearted character!  Glo is a fun character with her blunt, take charge, sassy, and fun personality as well. 

This story had a lot of sexy times!  Especially, a scene involving paint!  There were some really funny times as well, my favorite of which was at the end of the story!  I was chuckling from a particular scene that is sure to make quite an impression!  

     
My Rating:

I give, Bringing Home the Bad Boy, by Jessica Lemmon, 4 Second Chance at Love, Endearing, Healing, Sexy Sigh-Worthy Filled Stars!  What an excellent beginning to a new series!  I can't wait to read the sequel, Rescuing the Bad Boy, which will be about Charlie's best friend, Sophie, and Donovan, Evan's good friend.   





My Favorite Quote:


"After bottling that longing, Evan had come along and shaken her up.  No wonder she'd exploded, all the want flooding over her like an erupting soda.  Now, imaginary, effervescent bubbles popped along the surface of her skin whenever she thought of him.  It was a great feeling; one her body wanted more of."  (eARC, Loc. 1936)

~Charlie



Book Excerpt:

     Know why I moved here?” he asked, keeping his voice low.        She wrenched her eyes from his and focused on a spot over his shoulder. 
     “Because you didn’t want to live in Columbus anymore.” That’s what he’d told her. That he wanted a change. That he and Lyon had outgrown the house. And, she imagined it’d be hard to live in the house where Rae had passed. 
     “But why here?” 
     “Um…” 
      His fingers grazed her jaw and turned her head, his palm moving to her neck where he cupped her nape and forced her eyes to his. 
      Reluctantly, she met them. 
     “Rae’s more alive when you’re around, Ace.” 
      Her heart, oh her heart. Kicking against her chest in a confusing, hectic rhythm. 
     “You bring her to life for Lyon—more than anyone else. I need him to remember her because he can’t remember her alive.” His hold stayed, his palm warming her neck, his gaze unwavering. 
      She tried to separate the two feelings she was having—one that she was now talking about Rae with Evan and two, that he was touching her while talking about Rae. 
      Before she could, his lips closed over hers. 
      Her thoughts short-circuited. 
      This wasn’t anything like a soft peck hello. This was his lips moving over hers, slanting over hers, warm and firm and then his mouth opened and— 
      Oh my gosh! 
      His wet, warm tongue slid along the seam of her lips and she stopped being passive and started kissing him back. When she would have touched her tongue to his, he relocated it, running along her bottom lip instead and tugging with his teeth
      If she’d been standing, her knees would have given out and dropped her right on her butt. 
      And then there was the palm on her neck, now spearing up through her hair and clutching onto a handful of it. He held her captive, his hand fisting her hair as he angled his mouth again. In response to the soft whimper escaping her throat, he swept his tongue into her mouth. He tangled his tongue with hers once, twice, and released her. 
      When he pulled his mouth away, a long, satisfied sigh escaped her lips. Because that was a kiss. A kiss to rival all other kisses. 
      She opened her eyes to realize A) she’d closed her eyes and B) she’d at some point wrapped both hands around his forearms where she was holding tight and C) Evan looked as please as she felt. 
     “God damn, Ace. Your mouth.” His eyes flicked to her lips. Lips still tingling from the rough scrape from the stubble surrounding his. 
      She concurred with that sentiment. Not that she said anything. She’d gone dumb; completely mute. 
      He backed away, but held onto her chin and tweaked it lightly with the rough pad of one thumb. “That’s the way this is gonna go from now on.” 
      Her breathing went shallow, her thoughts went muzzy and her head blurred as her heart palpated to the point of panic attack. 
      “Sorry, Rae.” 
      She didn’t mean to say it, and it had only been a whisper, but by the look twisting Evan’s face—the angry look twisting his face—he’d heard. And he hadn’t liked what he’d heard.
     “Sorry,” she said to him this time. “I should go.”
     Unbelievably, he leaned closer. She pulled her chin back until she realized she likely had a double chin, then settled her head on her neck in a more reasonable position. 
     Gosh. He was making her crazy.



About Jessica Lemmon:

Jessica Lemmon has always been a dreamer. At some point, she decided head-in-the-clouds thinking was childish, went out, and got herself a job . . . and then she got another one because that one was lousy. And when that one stopped being fulfilling, she went out and got another . . . and another. Soon it became apparent she'd only be truly happy doing what she loved. And since "eating potato chips" isn't a viable career, she opted to become a writer. With fire in her heart, she dusted off a book she'd started years prior, finished it, and submitted it. It may have been the worst book ever, but it didn't stop her from writing another one. Now she has several books finished, several more started, and even more marinating in her brain (which currently resides in the clouds, thankyouverymuch), and she couldn't be happier. She firmly believes God gifts us with talents for a purpose, and with His help, you can create the life you want. (While eating potato chips.)









Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Blog Tour: Mayhem (Mayhem #1) by Jamie Shaw


Mayhem

Mayhem #1

By
Jamie Shaw

Published

January 20, 2015

Publisher:
Avon Impulse

Source:
eARC from the publisher for an honest review

Add to Goodreads
Here

GR's Summary:


When college freshman Rowan Michaels meets gorgeous, up-and-coming rock star Adam Everest, she knows a player like him is the last thing she needs after her ex-boyfriend shattered her heart. But she can't stop thinking about the kiss they shared on his tour bus. 

On the first day of school, Rowan is stunned when Adam saunters into her French class. He's soon failing miserably, and, on a whim, she offers to tutor him. But Adam doesn't recognize her as a makeup-free, glasses-clad college student—a far cry from the beautiful, mysterious "Peach" he met at his concert. 

During a wild weekend on tour with the band, Rowan can't help falling for the sweet guy buried beneath Adam's rocker persona. Yet she knows she could never compete with the girls constantly throwing themselves at his feet. She'd just end up hurt … again. 

Peach is all Adam thinks about, though, and when Rowan realizes this, she has a decision to make: stay just friends to protect her fragile heart … or reveal the truth about the night they met and admit she's fallen completely, hopelessly in love with him.


Mayhem Series:
Add this Series to Goodreads Here



My Thoughts:

I love rockstar romances.  There is something so special about letting your imagination run away and take you to a place where you can live out a fantasy.  That's what Mayhem did for me.  I saw through the eyes of  the main character Rowan "Ro,"  and felt like I was living this fantasy through her.  I cannot believe that this is Ms. Shaw's debut novel!  The way her characters and the plot completely drew me in, usually only happens for me with more experienced authors.  I am suffering from a M-A-J-O-R book hangover right now!  I wish I had Riot, the second book in the series, in my hand right now.  I read Mayhem in one sitting, with only small necessary breaks in between.  It completely blew me away!

In Mayhem, we get Ro's story.  Ro is the quiet, intelligent, and studious person who is a loyal friend and a casual dresser.  Her best friend, Deandra "Dee," is the wild one.  One night when, Ro and Dee are going out to club, Mayhem, Dee convinces Ro to dress out of her comfort zone.  Ro wears high heels, a tight short spandex skirt, and revealing sexy top.  She feels naked, but decides to live a little, and have a great time with her best friend.  Ro is a little disappointed that her long term boyfriend couldn't make it out with them, because he had to work.  So, imagine Ro's shock, when she see's her boyfriend Brady kissing another girl at the bar.  She is devastated, and goes to sob outside, where none other than hot playboy and lead rock singer, Adam Everest is smoking a cigarette.  One thing leads to another and these two exchange a few drinks and kisses in  the back of his tour bus.  He is about to go on stage with his band, but asks her to meet him after their set.  She never does...

A few days later, Ro begins her freshman year of college, and is shocked when she see's that he is in her level two French course.  Unfortunately, Adam doesn't recognize her.  For one, he's distracted by his entourage of groupies, and for another, Ro looks way different then the night that they met.  She is wearing eyeglasses, no make-up, a messy bun, and homely clothes.  After a month passes, and Adam is about to get kicked out of French by the professor, Ro, steps in and says that she is his tutor, and rescues him.  This begins an adventure in where, Ro, travels with the band for the weekend, so that she can tutor Adam.  The more time she spends with him, the harder she begins to fall, but Adam isn't the relationship type, or is he...

I loved all of the characters in this story.  Adam was dreamy, sexy, sweet, and misunderstood.  I fell for him hard!  Ro, was the girl next door and extremely likable and relatable.  Dee kept things interesting with her antics and commentary, as did their good friend, Leti.  The members of the band where each good looking, swoon-worthy, and had unique personalities.  It was hard to chose just one favorite!  Adam, Shawn, Joel, and Mike, make for a great group of guys and I am hoping to get each and every one of their stories!

The plot in this story kept my attention from start to finish.  What a page-turner!  The chemistry and sexual tension between Ro and Adam was deliciously intense!  When they finally got together,  it was everything I had hoped for.  


My Rating:

I give, Mayhem, by Jamie Shaw, 4.5 Super Sexy Book Boyfriend, Fantasy Come True, Friendship and Fun Filled Stars!  If you are looking for a sensual and dreamy rockstar romance, read Mayhem!








Book Excerpt:


"When the door opens behind me, I sit up straight and hurriedly sniff in my tears as I wipe my shaking fingers across my slippery cheeks. I hear the flick of a lighter, and then someone sits down next to me on the stairs, puffing a cigarette. When I look over at him, I nearly choke. 

He gazes back at me, starting at my hot-pink heels and then raking his way up, and then he chuckles. “Are they letting people in yet?” 

Adam. He’s ditched the shades and cap, and now his dark brown hair is framing his gorgeous face, stretching almost to his chin. I look away quickly, hoping he can’t tell I’ve been crying. 

“Sorry about that,” I say. And I hear the hoarse sadness in my voice, but I couldn’t keep it out. 

When he reaches over and brushes my tangled hair away from my eyes, I tense. 

“Is everything okay?” he asks, and I half laugh. 

No, everything is not okay. “Everything’s fine.” 

“Then why have you been crying?” 

“No reason.” 

 “You get all dolled up to sit outside of rock shows crying by yourself?” 

 I lift my gaze to stare into his eyes, and something in them makes me believe he really cares. Or maybe that’s just what I want to see, but I suddenly need to tell someone. “My boyfriend’s in there.” 

“And?" 

“With another girl. I just caught him cheating.” 

Adam takes a deep puff of his cigarette, nodding as he sighs it back out. 

“Want me to fuck him up?” 

 I laugh, and he smiles at me. 

“Would you?” 

“If you want me to.”

“Why?” He shrugs.

“Because I offered.” 

“Why’d you offer?” 

“Who knows why I do anything I do?” He stares at me while I wait for an answer. “I just do.” 

That’s a good enough explanation for me, so I look back to my knees again, letting out a shaky breath. I can’t believe I just laughed. At a time like this, Adam Everest made me laugh.

“Anyway, your boyfriend is a dumbass,” he says out of nowhere. 

“How do you know?” 

His gray-green eyes wash over me. “Look at you.” 

I blush like hell, but I know he’s just trying to make me feel better. “You thought I was an idiot when you first saw me.” 

Adam chuckles and shakes his head. “I thought you were cute as a peach.” His lips hold the cigarette in his mouth as he stands up, holding a hand down to me. My heart stops; Adam Everest is offering me his hand. In faded denim jeans, all torn up at the knees, and a fit olive-green button-down rolled up to his elbows, he makes my heart race to a nonexistent finish line. “Come on, Peach.” 

I take his hand, and he lifts me to my feet, leading me away from the building. 

“Where are we going?”

“To get you a drink. I think you need one.” “I’ve had a few,” I think out loud, slowing to a stop. 

Adam gazes over his shoulder at me, his eyebrow cocked when he asks, “Are you saying you don’t want another?” 

I take a moment to consider his question. 

Just a moment, and then I keep walking." 




--Jamie Shaw, Mayhem



Purchase At:





About Jamie Shaw:


Born and raised in South Central Pennsylvania, JAMIE SHAW earned her M.S. in Professional Writing from Towson University before realizing that the creative side of writing was her calling. An incurable night-owl, she spends late hours crafting novels with relatable heroines and swoon-worthy leading men. She’s a loyal drinker of white chocolate mochas, a fierce defender of emo music, and a passionate enthusiast of all things romance. She is REALLY looking forward to interacting with readers and always aims to add new names to their book boyfriend lists. 







Tour Hosted By Bookslapped:
http://bookslapped.com



Blog Tour & Giveaway : Kick (Savage Saints MC, #1) by Carmen Jenner


Kick
Savage Saints MC, #1
by Carmen Jenner

Release Date:
January 26th, 2015

Source:
Author via Blog Tour Host

eARC received in exchange of honest review

Add to Goodreads

Synopsis:

When I was ten, my father indoctrinated me into the family. 

A brotherhood who would fight, protect, and give their lives for one another. A club whose ties ran thicker than blood, murkier than the dirt and grime that tainted my soul. Stronger than the bonds that connected me to my own family. 

A band of brothers, where loyalty was kept and paid in a currency of blood. 

When I was twenty-seven, I betrayed that brotherhood. 

I’ve spent every day since running, avoiding paying back that debt. 

My name is Daniel Johnson. I have betrayed everyone I ever loved. 

And I’ll betray her too. 

This is my story—if you’re screwed up enough to want to read it. 

Warning: Kick contains graphic violence, profanity, drug use, and explicit sexual situations of a taboo nature. Intended for an 18+ audience only. Not intended for p*ssies.


Thank you for stopping by A Bookish Escape!
You can follow the rest of the Kick Blog Tour HERE

Purchase links for Kick:


Blog Tour Hosted by:


Review:
Holy Wow!!

I have been excited to read Kick, by Carmen Jenner, since the moment the cover appeared in my social media news feed. I have heard great things about her Sugartown series, but I never really had the chance to read it. I have no clue why I waited so long to read one of her books... Her writing style is captivating and the way she wrote Kick's story kept me on the edge of my seat until the early hours of the morning!

This book comes with a warning.... You better take it seriously! I have read a few dark romance novels, but I have to admit that this one is pretty dark. There is some romance included in this story, but what made the book such a fantastic and heart-pumping read for me was how Kick's journey was written. I was anxious to find out what is story was. Oh my God! Does he ever have a story! My heart could not take it anymore! My poor kindle almost did not survive this book. 

I usually like to do a little recap of the book in my review, but for Kick I won't. Anybody that starts reading Kick's journey needs to FEEL every.single.thing. written in the pages of this book. Kick is one hell of a roller coaster ride you never expected to embark on! It's extremely dark, brutal and will leave your heart beating furiously.

If you are looking for a soft hearts and flowers kind of story... This is not it! I highly suggest this book if you are ready to step out of your comfort zone. This book will test all your reading limits. It's all kinds of messed up! I loved how the author kept on switching from present to past. It made me feel like I was reading two stories instead of one. This gave me the chance to really get to know who Kick really is. I have no what's next in this series, but I am so ready for more!

Rating:
I give, Kick, by Carmen Jenner 4.5 raw, emotional, dark, unforgiving stars!





Excerpt:
I take a deep shuddering breath, close my eyes and stretch my hand towards him. His touch is gentle this time, far more gentle than I’d ever thought someone with so much uncontained violence to him could be. 

“Spread your fingers,” he commands. I do, and he lifts the roll of tape, presses the edge to my skin and begins winding it over my knuckles. I close my eyes. The strident sound of it stretching out from the roll makes me want to flee. It makes me want to run as far from his touch—from any man’s touch—as I can possibly get. 

The feel of the tape against my flesh, binding, holding, is so much worse. I tug on my hand, but he won’t let go. My heartrate skyrockets, and sweat beads erupt over my brow and upper lip. I’m in that room again, struggling, screaming, trying to fight them off, and failing. 

Biker knows it, too. His dark eyes challenge, they dare me to run, but they also implore me to stay. It’s ironic that the only thing keeping me here, keeping me grounded, is the man who abducted me. 

He holds my gaze. I don’t know exactly what is hidden in his dark blue one, but it suffocates the panic within me, douses it like water flooding flames. He bends his head to my hand. Taking the paper tape in his mouth, he rips it with his teeth. 

I still. I soften. His gaze doesn’t leave mine, not even once. Not even when he starts in on my wrist, gently biting through each piece of tape before pressing it down with his rough hands. I’m mesmerised by his mouth, the piercing, and the soft, full lips. The light catches a silver chain around his neck, something I’ve never noticed before—but then I try not to make a habit of staring too closely at him. Not now, though. Now I watch every twitch, every blink, every intake of breath, and every inch that is swallowed up by his mouth moving closer to my flesh.

Teasers:







Book Trailer:

Kick Release Day Events:

Join the KICK Release Day Party HERE 
Support the KICK Thunderclap campaign HERE

Giveaway:

Enter the Kick Paperback giveaway on Goodreads 

Blog Tour Giveaway:
a Rafflecopter giveaway


Additional books by this author:
 Welcome to Sugartown 
 Amazon 
B&N 
iTunes 

 Enjoy Your Stay 
Amazon 
B&N 
iTunes 

 Greetings from Sugartown 
Amazon 
B&N 
iTunes 

 Welcome to Sugartown Website


About the Author:


Carmen Jenner is a thirty-something, USA TODAY Best Selling Author, doctor, pilot and CIA agent. She's also a compulsive, flagrant prevaricator who gets to make things up for a living. 

While Sugartown may not technically exist, Carmen grew up in a small Australian town just like it, and just like her characters, she always longed for something more. They didn't have an Elijah Cade, though. If they did, you can be sure she would have never left.


Lost Souls Bonus Scene Blitz by Eliza Freed



Forgive Me

Lost Souls #1

By: Eliza Freed

Published:
July 1, 2014

Publisher:
Forever Romance

Add to Goodreads Here

Book Summary:

The thing he loves most in the world will kill him. It's only a matter of time . . .  

College student Charlotte O'Brien is lost and she can't find her way home. Devastated by her parents' tragic deaths, she aches for any kind of connection . . . and finds it in a man who is all wrong for her. Jason Leer is a rough-hewn steer wrestler from Oklahoma-and the hottest thing Charlotte has ever laid eyes on. Yet he has his own dark secrets . . . 


Burying herself in Jason, Charlotte soon discovers that life doesn't have to be so painful. When they're together their passion eclipses everything-and Charlotte can finally begin to see a way out of the darkness of her past. Fighting for a future with Jason won't be easy, but for the first time since her parents' deaths, this lost soul might have finally found a place that feels like home. 



Purchase At:



Amazon | B&N | iBooks | Google Play | BAM | Kobo



Redeem Me

Lost Souls #2

By: Eliza Freed

Published: February 3, 2015


Publisher:
Forever Romance

Add to Goodreads Here

Book Summary:

Charlotte O'Brien desperately needs redemption. Torn apart by her parents' tragic deaths, Charlotte has no one to turn to after she alienates herself from everyone and everything. Fate sends her a lifeline when she runs into a childhood friend. Now all she sees is Noble Sinclair-tall, gorgeous, with a body made for sinning. But Charlotte knows better than anyone how quickly the things you hold dear can be taken away-and though loving Noble feels like it could be her salvation, Charlotte knows it could also destroy her. 

Noble Sinclair has always loved Charlotte. Now seeing how far she has fallen, Noble vows to be the man who can make her happy and bring her out of the darkness that has haunted her for far too long. But to save Charlotte, he must make her learn to forgive everyone who has forsaken her . . . starting with herself.


Purchase At:






Note From Eliza Freed:

This scene goes back to Cedar Creek Lake in Texas. It's where Annie and Jason spent a week in a cabin on the lake, and used the time to repair their damaged relationship. I wanted reader's to hear from Jason before the next book is released. I wanted them to remember how much he loves Annie, how hard he worked to keep the relationship going. Theirs is not a perfect union. It defies comprehension by everyone outside of it, and pushes both their limits of compromise and acceptance. 

I could write about Jason Leer every day. Even when he's not present in the series, he's a part of each scene. None of the Lost Souls could take place without a deep understanding of his love for Annie and its impact on her life. My fear is that as long as I write, I'll never know a character as well as I know him. 


Eliza

P.S. - I really do have an unhealthy obsession with Jason Leer.


Lost Souls Bonus Scene:

     Annie reaches down and touches my hair with one hand and covers her eyes with the other. Her breathing deepens as she fights for air and I fight for her orgasm. I need to see her come. I continue with my tongue and she arches away from me. I pull her back to my mouth, not letting her go. She will be mine forever. She writhes and presses her thighs against the sides of my head and I lick her swollen lips one last time as she succumbs. I’m sure I could keep her here, on this kitchen table, for the rest of our lives. Her chest rises, her eyes still covered, and I can barely recall how angry I was at her a few days ago.
     “Let’s take a bath,” I say, wanting to forget the past few weeks, and her trip to New Orleans…and her complete unwillingness to value her safety. “It’ll make you feel better.” 
     I take her hand and help her off the table. She follows me to the bathroom without a word. She’s always so tranquil after she comes—serene, not questioning a thing, not remembering what’s lost. I turn on the hot water and plug the tub. There’s a jar labeled “bath salts” with a scoop on the shelf. It smells like vanilla. I toss the scoop on the counter and pour a shot of salts into the water. 
     “Where’s your lighter?” she asks.
     “You gonna start smokin’?” I tease, but stop short of making a crack pipe comment. 
     “To light a candle,” she says, exasperated. 
     “I’ll do it. You get in while it’s hot.”
      I line the candles up on the counter and light them one-by-one. Annie doesn’t move from the mirror. She runs her hands across her bruised skin until she shudders. It’s the evidence of a thousand needs only she can satisfy. Usually it’s my fault. No matter how many times I tell myself to be gentle, as soon as she’s near me I lose control. This time though, these bruises are her doing. I wanted to talk. She wanted this. 
     Her eyes follow her hands over her breasts and down to her waist. I drop the lighter and turn off the lights. Her skin glows ethereal in the candlelight, but she still stares in the mirror, gliding her fingertips across the bruises on the inside of her thighs. I cover her hand with my own. 
    “Get in the tub,” I whisper in her ear. 
     She climbs in. Sometimes, when she listens without arguing, I forget how stubborn she is, how she can infuriate me more than anyone else walking this earth. Annie lowers herself until she touches the water and then pulls back up. 
     “Too hot?”
     “I just need a second to get used to it,” she says. She rests her arms on the sides and sinks in, laying her head on the edge. I watch until the peace returns to her face and then undress myself. 
      I reach to change the music. Her taste is abysmal. But the lyrics grab my attention. They hint at a love affair with the devil. I drop my arm to my side and turn back to Annie. She looks like an angel, but she drags me through hell. 
     “I feel beautiful when you look at me.” Me, and every other man on the planet. 
     “You are beautiful, Annie. Surely you know that. I’ve heard you told a hundred times before.” 
     “Understanding the way others view my appearance and the way I feel when you look at me are two totally different things.” I climb into the tub and rest her legs on each side of my waist. I run my hands up and down them. My dick’s hard in the water and I force my mind to concentrate on the fact that she’s sore, that her body needs a break.
      “What else do you feel when I look at you?” I’ve never had to ask before. Annie couldn’t hide a thing from me, but these last few weeks my misery has replaced assuredness. If she can hop in a car to Mardi Gras without telling me, I’m no longer sure what she’s capable of. 
     “I thought you didn’t want me to think about us,” she says, reminding me of the weeks following her parents’ death. She tortured herself with her mind. Every waking hour, every moment of sleep. 
      “That was then.” Now I need to know everything. I lean forward and run my hand up the inside of her thigh and she closes her eyes and surrenders to my touch. 
     “Transparent,” she says, and I swear her voice is inside my head. “Alive. Condemned.” She opens her eyes, waiting for some response, but I have only understanding. When she called from New Orleans, it was like a life sentence—incapable of finding her, waiting to hear she was safe, wanting to kill her myself. If something happens to her... 
      “Wanted. Safe.” Her words pull me from the horror. “I feel like nothing bad can happen to me if I’m with you.” Which is why you should be with me. I rest her foot on my shoulder and wash her leg with a sponge. 
      “It scares me, the control you have over me.” At this I laugh out loud. How ironic. 
     “That’s interesting because it’s the complete lack of control that keeps me awake at night,” I say, wishing she didn’t drive me so insane. I place her leg back in the water and raise the other one. Her legs should be wrapped around my neck every day. The familiar need mixed with anger and frustration returns and I bury it down deep. This can’t become an argument.
     “What are you going to do after graduation?” I ask. On my list of things I’m not leaving Cedar Creek Lake without settling, the end of her Rutgers career is at the top. I run the sponge down her calf with my lips following it, reminding her of where her future is. 
     “I’m just getting used to the idea I’m back in school. I haven’t considered after. It’s common to have a Masters in Statistics. Maybe I’ll do that.” 
     “So common.” 
     “Probably not as common as Philosophy majors.” She smiles and watches my lips return to her leg. “What are you going to do?” she asks, and the smile drains from her face. 
     “I won’t graduate for another year.” 
     “Why?” 
     “Light credits, especially in the spring. Makes it easier to miss four days a week at rodeos.” The statement separates us, even in this tub. The rodeo is like a curse word she hates to use.
     “Do you ever think it would be easier to date a girl from Oklahoma?” 
      “Every day you’re away I think it.” And every minute you’re doing drugs, and every time I see the way guys look at you, and every walk home late at night you take, and every mile you drove to New Orleans. But the thought of another girl is ridiculous. I half-laugh as I say, “They’re close. I could have them every day. They understand rodeo.” 
      “They have dirty shoes,” she plays along. 
      “They listen to good music.” Annie lowers her eyes to the bubbles and I lose her for a second. Her green eyes filled with doubt, hidden from the one person who’s incapable of hurting her. I slide forward and lift her head. “No matter what, I can’t get past they’re not you. You’re in my blood and I’ll never let you go.” 
      “Condemnation.” Oh, you have no idea. 
       I turn her around and pull her back to my chest. The sponge in my hand runs down her neck and around her breasts. Here, in this tub in the middle of Texas, it’s impossible to think we can’t make this work. 
      “Close your eyes and, if you promise not to use it against me, I’ll tell you why I love you,” I say in her ear. Her head falls back on my shoulder and I kiss her neck. 
      “I promise.” 
      “I love you, Annie, because when most girls would fall apart, you get pissed off. You don’t understand the concept of surrender.” She smiles at my words and floats up, arching her back at my touch. “And you can’t be tamed.” I pull her back to me. “And yet I’ve never met someone with a greater ability to see the good in people. You are the perfect mix of courage and mercy.” I stop. Unsure of how far I should take this, but the question has been pounding in my head since I left Stillwater. If we’re going to make it, we’ll have to be together. I run the sponge to her belly button and back up. My lips graze her neck and slide to her ear. 
     “Come to Oklahoma, Annie.” She stiffens in my arms. I should regret asking her, but I don’t. 
     “Haven’t we been over this?” Steady… 
     “Not now. Spend the summer there with me and then move there after you graduate. Spend my senior year with me.” She’s silent, searching her mind right in front of me. I know it’s not where she belongs, but it’s where I need her to be. And I’m selfish enough to ask her, knowing she’s generous enough to come.
      “I’ll go. I’ll spend the summer there and if it works, I’ll move there after graduation.”
      “You will?” I yank her around. Her answer shouldn’t surprise me the way it does. I realize now, a part of me feared this might be our last weekend together. A part of me I don’t allow myself to hear. 
      “On one condition.” She’s strong, and bold, and I stop breathing. Fuck. 
      “I would say anything, but it’s you so I’ll just ask what the condition is.” 
      “You’ve got to back off of me for the next year.” I’m a scolded child. One who doesn’t think they’re wrong. “Trust my instincts. Believe that I’m surrounding myself with good people. Give me some credit.” 
      “Annie, you have to admit your behavior is a little scary.” I plead with her to hear some reason. 
      “I live smack dab between Philadelphia and New York City. If I want a tranny hooker dressed as a nurse to deliver an eight ball of cocaine to me, I can get it in an hour.” God, I hate her sometimes. “I’m fine. I will get high. I might try ’shrooms. I’ll most definitely stay up too late and possibly not drink enough fluids, but I’m going to be okay. You have to trust me.”
      I say nothing. A million contentions flying through my mind. She’s a danger to herself in an unsafe city. Backing off is not possib— 
     “You make me want to lie to you about what I do,” she says, and it could not have felt worse if she punched me in the face…again. She’s never lied to me. 
      I lean back in the tub shaking my head in defeat. 
     “All right. I’ll try.”




About Eliza Freed:

Eliza Freed graduated from Rutgers University and returned to her hometown in rural South Jersey. Her mother encouraged her to take some time and find herself. After three months of searching, she began to bounce checks and her neighbors began to talk; her mother told her to find a job. 

She settled into Corporate America, learning systems and practices and the bureaucracy that slows them. Eliza quickly discovered her creativity and gift for story telling as a corporate trainer and spent years perfecting her presentation skills and studying diversity. It's during this time she became an avid observer of the characters we meet and the heartaches we endure. Her years of study have taught her laughter is the key to survival, even when it's completely inappropriate. 


She currently lives in New Jersey with her family and a misbehaving beagle named Odin. An avid swimmer, if Eliza is not with her family and friends, she'd rather be underwater. While she enjoys many genres, she has always been a sucker for a love story...the more screwed up the better.