31 January 2018

Review - SEEK

by Mia Sheridan

What they say: Wealthy socialite Olivia Barton never imagined her fiancé would disappear on what was supposed to be a routine business trip. She's even more heartbroken and confused when a hired private investigator tracks him half a world away, to a seaside town in Colombia. But the country has recently been ravaged by a massive earthquake and deadly tsunami, shutting down outside communication and making travel all but impossible. Still, Olivia is determined to make it to Colombia to find the answers she so desperately seeks. What she needs is a guide—a mercenary.

The man named Thomas arrives in shadows, an unmistakable air of danger about him, promising to help lead her through the ruined, crime-infested country. But when Thomas and Olivia find themselves fighting an undeniable attraction, danger takes on a whole new meaning. Then again, in the lush jungles of South America, all the rules are different and Thomas and Olivia are about to discover that sometimes the thing you seek, isn't necessarily the thing you find.

Seek is a STANDALONE novel with a small, fun connection to the Sign of Love Collection. 

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I received a copy in exchange for an honest review!

What I say: The sudden disappearance of Olivia's fiancé sparked her hunt for answers. After months of waiting she decides to follow a possible lead to a dangerous part of Colombia. Olivia knows she can't head off to such an unknown and perilous place without help, so she hires badass, former SEAL Thomas, to help her find her fiancé. 

Their journey is action filled and oh-so-dramatic. I enjoyed watching their relationship go from travelling acquaintances to something much more.

SEEK is twists galore. Now I don't like to get too heavy with warnings but I wanted to point out that the plot covers some pretty traumatic issues. Mia Sheridan doesn't gloss over the darker side of life and jumps headfirst into the criminal underworld. 

Although trekking through the Colombian jungle isn't necessarily the stuff that romantic dreams are made of, I did enjoy the romance and I liked them together.

The end. Talk about DRAMA! Oh the lies and half-truths! 

SEEK is full of the usual Mia Sheridan swoon worthy goodness, drama and romance.
Although the plot doesn't pull on the heartstrings in quite the same way as some of Mia's books, SEEK is still sweet and saucy.

4 Stars in my Sky!


30 January 2018

Standing Sideways - Release Blitz

It’s release day for J. Lynn Bailey’s STANDING SIDEWAYS. 

Check it out and be sure to grab your copy now!

Author: J. Lynn Bailey
Genre: Contemporary Romance

When Livia Stone suddenly loses her twin brother, Jasper, she must learn to navigate her new life alone. As she faces tragedy and starts down a road toward self-destruction, Daniel enters Livia’s life—at a moment when she needs it most.

Standing Sideways is a poignant, relevant, and touching story of survival, courage, and compassion that will have readers crying, laughing, and most of all, debating the issues affecting the lives of parents and teens alike on a journey of hope and forgiveness.

Get Your Copy Today:

Amazon * Paperback


Exclusive Excerpt:

Cao is eclectic in her choice of clothes. She’ll wear just about anything. Her style makes her unique in her own right. From her jam pants to her leg warmers, she’s a trendsetter. With her tiny waist and tall frame, she can squeeze into just about anything.

“You hate grapes,” I say, putting my fork down.

“Why are you sitting in the dark?” She pops another in her mouth.

Maybe, sometimes, it’s easier in the dark. When the world doesn’t seem so loud, so chaotic.

“Why are you eating grapes?”

“Why are you sitting in the dark?”

“Quiet, I guess.” I always give in first.

She spits her grape out into her hand. “Thank God you caved. My mom made some Chinese meal again for dinner. I gave most of it to Rosie.” Their golden retriever. “I’m starving, and grapes were my only choice in your empty refrigerator.”

Cao’s mom, Beth, has been making traditional Chinese meals for the past three weeks, she tells me. She rests her head on the crook of her arm. “And”—she pauses—“they found my stash.”

I want to say, I told you so.


“Yesterday. They waited.”

Cao chain-smokes out her upstairs bedroom window to prove cigarettes don’t cause lung cancer. She claims it’s a research study. But I think she got addicted somewhere along the way.

“My parents think I’m going through some sort of identity crisis. Adopted from China. White parents. Their words, not mine. ‘We want you to feel like you can be yourself, baby. We feel like you might be using cigarettes to escape whatever you’re feeling.’

“So, what does my mom do? She’s been packing me rice in my lunch, and just this morning, I found Amy Tan’s entire book collection on my desk. And the thing is, Amy Tan was born in Oakland. And, if they knew me, they’d know, I’ve already read all of Tan’s books. You’d think, if they wanted me to embrace my culture, they’d send me to some camp in China or something. I don’t know.” She huffs. “That’s me. Now, you.” She stops. “Why are you really sitting in the dark, Liv?”


Author Spotlight:

J Lynn Bailey has loved to write since she learned to read, around the second grade. When she isn't running after her children, watching COPS, or on the hunt for her next Laffy Taffy joke, you can probably find her holed up in her writing room feverishly working on her next book. She lives in Northern California with her family.

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29 January 2018

Escape - Review Blitz

Escape - Getaway #3
by Jay Crownover


New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author Jay Crownover returns with the third standalone title in her Getaway series, ESCAPE. 

Everything inside of him is screaming that he needs to run, he needs to go, he needs to escape.

Lane Warner is used to being overshadowed and overlooked.

After all, he’s the youngest brother and the most laid back one in the family. He’s the one known for going with the flow and not making waves, even when things seem to be at their worst.
Very few things in life have had the ability to rile Lane up and get under his skin. At the top of that list is his childhood friend Brynn Fox…no…Brynn Warner. The fact that they share a last name was the one thing that has the power to light him up and spin him out of control like no other. There was no calm, cool and collected when it comes to all the reasons why Brynn had to become part of his family.
It’s slowly killing him to keep wanting what he can’t have, so Lane sees only one way to stop himself from doing something they’ll both regret…he has to leave.

Everything inside of her is calling out to find him, to follow, to bring him home.

Brynn Warner is used to being stuck between a rock and a hard place.
After all, she’s the daughter of an unrepentant gold-digger who never once blinked at being the cause of her daughter’s pain and suffering.
Very few things in her life have ever brought happiness and a sense of security. At the very top of that list is Lane Warner. She has unwaveringly loved the youngest Warner since the first minute she laid eyes on him. He was everything Brynn ever wanted and everything she knew she could never have.
Sometimes the right choice is the one that hurts the most and Brynn’s had to make a few that felt like they might be the end of her.

When Lane takes off, one thing is clear, the only choice Brynn has is to go after him.

She’s going to bring her wayward cowboy home….whatever it takes.

Escape is a standalone novel, the third book in the Getaway series, which features the hardheaded and brokenhearted Warner brothers and the women who dare to love them. These boys are very good at putting the wild in wilderness.

Order your copy today!

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I received a copy in exchange for an honest review!

What I say: Lane is the Warner brother I've been most looking forward to reading about so I'm glad his story is finally told in Escape. If you're not familiar with Jay Crownover's Getaway series (why not?) then you're in for one heck of an exciting ride. The series focuses on the Warner brothers and the complicated relationships they have with the ladies in their lives, the family ranch, and with each other.

Lane and Brynn have gone from doing everything together as childhood best friends to uncomfortable acquaintances. To say they have a complicated and difficult past is a HUGE understatement! They are family by circumstance, not quite friends anymore, but keep running from each other when they should be joining forces to battle their demons. If you've read the previous two books you'll be aware of why their friendship fell apart and why they struggle with each other now, but if not, well get your read on!

Brynn loves the ranch and the Warner's are her family. She can't escape how she feels about Lane so she decides to make him face their past. Cue an epic road trip plus a cute and troubled new family member...

Brynn's mother has got to be one of the most pitiful excuses for a mum ever. I'm not sure what it says about me but I kept hoping something terrible would happen to her!

I loved catching up with the rest of the extended Warner family, Lane's relationship with little Daye is so sweet. I'm really hoping for a continuation of the series or that certain younger characters get their own spinoff. More please Jay!

4 Stars in my Sky!

And don’t miss the first two standalone novels in the Getaway series, RETREAT and SHELTER. 

RETREAT is on sale for just $.99! Grab your copy today!

✦ RETREAT on Amazon 

✦ SHELTER on Amazon 


Before she could finish the sentence and before she could drop the single word that would change the life of the blond cowboy who worked on the ranch next door irrevocably the dark-haired man pushed off the back wall, straightened and left the room. It was like every bit of confidence, and wishful thinking had vanished with him. It was almost as if he took every ounce of love and hope with him when he left. All that remained was a shaking woman, a desperate man on his knees, and a gathering of friends and family who didn’t know if they should look away or rush to prevent the inevitable train wreck that was taking place right before their eyes. 
“I’ll go after him.” The deep rumble of Cyrus Warner’s voice finally broke through the stranglehold on everyone cause by the lack of an answer from Brynn. The thud of boots on hardwood sounded in time to rushing heartbeats as the oldest Warner brother went after the youngest. It was his job to protect, and that’s what he was going to do. 
Lane Warner had been present for every proposal that took place on this ranch, and it seemed his reaction to every one of them was getting worse. 
When Lane was eighteen, he tried to be Brynn Fox’s hero. He was the first cowboy who got on his knee and asked the beautiful girl to marry him even though they hadn’t so much as shared a single kiss. They were best friends, close in a way his brothers and several of their classmates would never understand. Brynn needed someone safe, a protector and a confidant. Lane needed someone who saw him. Someone who thought of him as more than the youngest Warner. Someone who knew he was as far as could be from the easy-going jokester that he presented to the world. They were honest with one another; they were each other’s truth. Brynn owed him too much to let him sacrifice his entire life and his youth for her, so that first proposal had ended much the way this one was going to. 
The trembling hand that covered Brynn’s mouth dropped, and her spine stiffened. The tears that were threatening escaped the lush cage of her lashes and started to fall freely. She took a step back, and a collective exhale seemed to be breathed out by the rest of the people in the room. Her answer didn’t just change Jack’s life forever; it changed everyone who had watched Brynn and Lane torture each other with unrequited and unspoken love for years. 
“Jack, you’re great, really. I… I had no idea you were so serious about us… about me. I… well… I’m not ready for something as big as marriage. I’m so sorry. I wish I could give you the answer you want to hear.” It was evident in her voice that there was a part of her that honestly wanted to be able to tell him yes. If anyone asked about her relationship she told them that Jack was easy. Jack was kind. Jack was a fresh start. What she never could say out loud was, Jack didn’t own the other half of her heart. Lane Warner did, and he had since she was twelve years old.

  Author Spotlight:


Jay Crownover is the international and multiple New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Marked Men Series, The Saints of Denver Series, the Point Series, the Breaking Point Series, and the Getaway Series. Her books can be found translated in many different languages all around the world. She is a tattooed, crazy haired Colorado native who lives at the base of the Rockies with her awesome dogs. This is where she can frequently be found enjoying a cold beer and Taco Tuesdays. Jay is a self-declared music snob and outspoken book lover who is always looking for her next adventure, between the pages and on the road.

Website * Facebook * Twitter * Goodreads



28 January 2018

Beyond Scandal and Desire - Review

Beyond Scandal and Desire
by Lorraine Heath

What they say: At birth, Mick Trewlove, the illegitimate son of a duke, was handed over to a commoner. Despite his lowly upbringing, Mick has become a successful businessman, but all his wealth hasn’t satisfied his need for revenge against the man who still won’t acknowledge him. What else can Mick do but destroy the duke’s legitimate son—and woo the heir’s betrothed into his own unloving arms...

Orphaned and sheltered, Lady Aslyn Hastings longs for a bit of adventure. With her intended often preoccupied, Aslyn finds herself drawn to a darkly handsome entrepreneur who seems to understand her so well. Surely a lady of her station should avoid Mick Trewlove. If only he weren’t so irresistible...

As secrets are about to be exposed, Mick must decide if his plan for vengeance is worth risking what his heart truly desires.



I received a copy from the publisher (via Edelweiss) in exchange for an honest review!

What I say: I'm a sucker for a good historical romance so jumped at the chance to read Beyond Scandal and Desire. It's the first instalment in Lorraine Heath's Sins for All Seasons series.

Mick Trewlove (yes I had a giggle at his name) has made his fortune in a rags to riches story Walt Disney would be proud of. He now has the means to exact revenge on the Duke of Hedley, aka the father who abandoned him as a newborn, and left him with the stigma of being a bastard. Mick needs Hedley's ward Lady Aslyn Hastings to fulfil his aim, if he can bring himself to go through with his plan...

Aslyn goes through quite the transformation throughout the story. She starts off as a sheltered young lady who has her entire life mapped out for her, before shaking off the weight of expectation and fighting for what she wants in life.

The secondary characters are a fun mix. I really liked Mick's sister Gillie, but I couldn't decide who annoyed me most out of the Duchess and Kip - I still haven't made up my mind. Kip certainly channelled the spoiled, entitled rich guy, but I sense a redemption is on the way... And I ended up feeling really sorry for the Duchess.

The romance is sweet, flirty and pretty scandalous. I enjoyed the story even though I had my doubts from the start as to where Mick's plan was actually going. It's a fun plot full of twists and turns plus some naughty historical romance.

3.5 Stars in my Sky!


27 January 2018

Releases This Week - The Upside to Being Single

The Upside to Being Single
by Emma Hart

Ooh this pretty is out this week...

What they say: If anyone asks, I knew better than to flash my boobs for Mardi Gras beads. 

I still don’t know why I did it. 
Maybe it was the dare from my two best friends. 
Maybe it was the guys on the balcony saying they’d throw Fireball shots with the beads. 
Or maybe it was the quiet guy in the corner of that same balcony with piercing gray eyes, wavy dark hair, and a smile so tempting I wanted to climb up there and lick it off his face. 
Maybe it was because I never thought I’d see them again. 
Not that it matters. Not today. 
Because the hotel I manage was finally bought—and the guy who walks in and introduces himself as my new boss is Mr. Tall, Dark, and Silent. 

There are many upsides to being single. 
Your new boss knowing what your boobs look like? 
Not one of them. 

(THE UPSIDE TO BEING SINGLE is a standalone, romantic comedy from the author who brought you MISS FIX-IT and BEING BROOKE.)

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26 January 2018

Cover Reveal - The Runner’s Daughter

Ooh sassy!!

Title: The Runner’s Daughter
Author: Jessica McCrory
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Release Day: February 15th

Jemma Saige thought she had it all figured out. Her rules for survival were simple. Keep your head down, your bags packed, your running shoes on. But when she meets a man at her local gym, their attraction threatens to break the last and most important of those rules: don’t get tied down.

FBI agent Caid King has fought long and hard to end the corruption within his organization. After the fall of Clayton Matthews, he returns to New York with his head held high and his eye on the next target. He never could have imagined that the dangerous man he’s set his sights on would have ties to the beautiful and mysterious Jemma.

Now with Jemma’s secrets out in the open, and both her and Caid’s lives on the line, can they find a way to work together? Or will the weight of it all drag them down?


Amazon * iBooks * Nook

Exclusive Excerpt:

Jemma woke while everyone was still sleeping. She could feel breath on her neck, and it caused goose bumps to raise on her body. Caid was pressed against her back and wrapped around her as if he were afraid she would try to escape.

Her sleep-addled mind had her body pressing back against him, and his arm tightened around her waist. Through the thin fabric of her shorts and tank, she could feel every hard ridge of his body, and her heart began to pound beneath her breast.

Unsure of her next move, or what even she was thinking, she rolled so that she was facing him. His eyes were closed, so she took a moment to visually trace the lines of his face. What would that rough stubble feel like against her bare skin? she wondered. How would his lips feel if she just leaned forward and pressed her own to them? Would he pull away? Or would he ravish her with all the heat she sensed bubbling just below the surface?

She lifted her hand and traced her finger lightly down the curve of his strong jaw. He opened his eyes, and for a moment they simply stared at each other while her finger rested on his cheek.

When he leaned toward her, she didn’t pull away, and as his arm tightened around her waist once again, she closed the distance between them and pressed her lips to his. The second they met, her body came alive. Heat scorched them, and she opened her mouth under his. She groaned, and he rolled her over so he was pressing right against where she desperately wanted him the most.

The sound of a cough had them separating so quickly you would have thought one of them had been burned. A quick look around the room proved it had only been one of the girls coughing in their sleep.

Jemma and Caid stared at each other from opposite sides of the bed, both breathing heavily and leaving them each wondering what in the hell had just happened between them.

Author Spotlight:

"I have always had a love of stories and the different worlds you are able to explore when you crack open the cover to a good book."

I was born in California and moved to Texas with my family when I was a teenager. I have always been an avid reader and have been writing stories since I was a kid! It has always been a dream of mine to have my stories published and it is beyond exciting to see that dream coming true!

I have a caffeine addiction, I am a wine (red!!) lover (my favorite being Crush by Dreaming Tree!) and I love T-shirts (the kind with the hilarious sayings on them). I am OBSESSED with the TV show Scrubs and I watch it constantly. I have an amazing husband who is more supportive than I could have ever hoped for, two sweet kiddos (who keep my life wonderfully eventful), two dogs, a rabbit, and most recently Hefty Smurf the beta fish.

Growing up, reading was my way to escape reality whether it was good or bad at the time and I want my stories to offer readers the same kind of adventure I have sought out in between the covers of a book.

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25 January 2018

Keeper - Book Blitz

by Kim Chance

Genre: YA Paranormal Fantasy
Release Date: January 30th 2018
Flux Books

When a 200-year-old witch attacks her, sixteen-year-old bookworm Lainey Styles is determined to find a logical explanation. Even with the impossible staring her in the face, Lainey refuses to believe it—until she finds a photograph linking the witch to her dead mother.

After consulting a psychic, Lainey discovers that she, like her mother, is a Keeper: a witch with the exclusive ability to unlock and wield the Grimoire, a dangerous but powerful spell book. But there’s a problem. The Grimoire has been stolen by a malevolent warlock who is desperate for a spell locked inside it—a spell that would allow him to siphon away the world’s magic.

With the help of her comic-book-loving best friend and an enigmatic but admittedly handsome street fighter, Lainey must leave her life of college prep and studying behind to prepare for the biggest test of all: stealing back the book.

Buy here:

US * UK * B&N



The Dragon’s Horde was as crowded as a Walmart on Black Friday.
By a sheer stroke of luck, I’d managed to claim the last square inch of standing room left in the place. Wedged between a metal rack of colorful anime novels and a life-size cardboard cutout of Captain America, I used my SAT prep book as a barrier between me and the throng of cosplayers and super-nerds swarming the comic book store.
It was Superhero Saturday, and the tiny shop was packed with every die-hard fan within a fifty-mile radius. A hazard of living in a small town, I guess. With so little to do in Lothbrook, Georgia, the Horde’s monthly meet-up event was as big a deal as the San Diego Comic Con.
“Pandemonium,” I muttered as two brightly-colored, spandex-wearing individuals began a heated debate over which was better—Marvel or DC. “Noun. Wild and noisy disorder; uproar.” 
I rolled my eyes and tried to tune out the noise. I needed to have fifty new vocabulary words memorized by the end of the night, and the chaos around me was making it difficult to concentrate.
I cannot believe I let Maggie talk me into this. I groaned, burying my face deeper into the prep book. That girl owes me so big—like “name her first born after me” kind of big.
I eyed my best friend standing a few feet away, talking animatedly to a boy with sandy brown hair and glasses. He was wearing a black Star Wars t-shirt and a newsy hat and looked exactly like the Pokémon-loving type of guy she usually gravitated toward.
Maggie was grinning and twisting a loose thread from her worn Batman t-shirt around her finger. Her thick black curls bounced around her shoulders—almost in response to her enthusiasm—and her light brown cheeks were tinged with pink. She practically glowed.
“Aww,” I said, turning to the cutout of Captain America. “Look! Nerd flirting at its best!” I chuckled at my own joke before turning my attention back to the list of words.
“Superfluous. Adjective. Means additional or unnecess—Argh!” I squealed as a large, burly-looking dude dressed like the Hulk bumped into me, sending my SAT book flying and knocking me right into Captain America.
The guy gave me a rather authentic grunt as I struggled to keep myself and the Captain in the upright position.
“Sorry,” he gruffed, handing me back my prep book.
“No worries,” I said, with a wave of my hand.
He grunted again and then ambled toward his friends, a group of guys all wearing various forms of tights and Avengers gear. I took it as my cue to get a little fresh air.
Weaving in and out of the crowd, I paid little attention to the people around me. My goal, the wide double doors, was only a few steps away.
“Now where are ye going, yon pretty lady?” A guy dressed as Thor—complete with thunder hammer and winged helmet—blocked my path. His phony accent was as ridiculous as the rest of his costume. “Ye should stay a while. I can show thou how I work my hammer.” He gave me a wide, toothy grin and jerked his head so that rounded arc of his hair flipped back into place.
I rolled my eyes. “Save it, Thunder God. I don’t date guys who are more hair obsessed than I am. Maybe next time.”
I moved to sidestep him.
“Don’t be like that,” Thor stepped in front of me again, dropping the accent this time. “I’m just looking for my own Jane Foster, darlin’ and I think she might be you.” He winked at me.
If that’s supposed to be a panty-dropper, then this guy is more clueless than I thought. I rolled my eyes and tried again to step around him, but he was quick, holding out his hammer to block my path. This time he waggled his eyebrows at me.
I sighed. Clearly, Thor wasn’t taking the hint. I looked past him, hoping to see Maggie or some other form of escape.
I spotted it standing a few feet away.
A tall guy in a dark gray t-shirt leaned against the wall with his arms crossed. He wasn’t talking to anyone, and he looked about as thrilled as I was to be stuck in this circus of spandex. It was worth a shot.
“Babe!” I called over Thor’s shoulder. “There you are!” I pushed past Thor and walked over to the guy. His eyes narrowed in confusion, and I gave him what I hoped was a pleading look. “I’ve been looking for you!” I pulled him off the wall and linked my arm through his. Then I turned back to Thor and smiled widely.
Thor narrowed his eyes in suspicion, and my heart flickered with panic as the boy pulled his arm from mine. But then he snaked it around my shoulders and pulled me close.
“Sorry, babe,” he said, his voice deeper than I expected. “I got a little distracted by all the hair tossing.” He looked pointedly at Thor, and then stared down at me, a crooked smile on his lips. This time my heart flip-flopped for a different reason.
I turned back to Thor, a triumphant smirk on my face.
He swung his hammer from one hand to the other, glared at me, and then stalked off.
I quickly stepped out of the stranger’s arms. “Sorry about all that.” I shrugged. “Who knew Thor was such an arrogant asshole in real life?”
The boy in gray stared at me, his blue eyes bright with amusement. There was a faint streak of purple on his pale cheek, a bruise I hadn’t noticed initially. I wanted to ask about it, and there was a strange urge flowing through my fingers to reach out and brush his cheek, but I stopped myself on both accounts. What the hell, Styles! Get a grip!
“It must be all the hairspray affecting his brain,” he said, his smile widening.
My cheeks grew warm. “So . . . you a big comic book fan?”
“I appreciate them, but big crowds like this? Not really my scene. A friend of mine paid me twenty bucks to drive him here tonight.”
“Yeah, not really my scene either. I’m more of a small group kind of gal.”
He chuckled and pointed to my prep book. “Doing a little light reading?”
“You can never be too prepared,” I said, my cheeks blazing hotter. “The test is in two days. I’m graduating early and I have to get at least a 2200 to get into my top schools. The science programs are pretty competitive.” Oh my God. Could you sound like a bigger nerd?
He nodded politely. “That’s pretty impressive.”
“I’ve moved around a lot,” I said with a shrug. “Tons of sleepy little towns where nothing ever happens. I want get out and see the world, ya know? So many things to see and discover. I figured why wait?” Stop. Just stop. I wanted to smack myself. Of all my quirks, nervous word-vomiting was definitely my least favorite.
“I think that’s really cool,” he said, and then we stood there staring awkwardly at each other for a moment as if neither of us knew what to say next.
“So . . . thank you,” I finally blurted out, much louder than I meant to.
“Happy to help.” He smiled, and that strange sensation washed over me again. It was like the cool underside of the pillow after a long day or the way hot cocoa warms you from the inside out after being in the cold for too long.
There was something oddly familiar about him, but I couldn’t quite pinpoint what it was. “I’m sorry, but have we met before?” I asked.
His smile faltered and his eyes seemed to cloud over. “No, I don’t think so.” He looked down at his feet, scuffing the tile with his shoe. When he looked back up again, however, his smile had returned.
“Right,” I said. “Well, I really appreciate your help. My name’s Lainey, by the way.” I held out my hand.
“Nice to meet you, Lainey.” He took my hand in his. “I’m Ty.”
I jumped as Maggie ran over and grabbed me by the arm, spinning me around in a circle. “Guess what?” she squealed. “That guy I was talking to just asked me to go grab a coffee with him!”
“That’s great, Mags,” I said, pulling myself from her grip with a laugh. I turned back to where Ty had been standing, but the patch of wall he’d occupied was empty. I scanned the crowd, but there wasn’t a single stitch of gray in the sea of color. He was gone.
I sighed and turned back to Maggie, who proceeded to tell me every single detail of her conversation with Heath, the boy in the newsy hat.
“I told him I’d have to take a rain check of course, but it was so nice to be asked!”
I frowned. “Wait, why didn’t you say yes?”
“I promised I’d quiz you on your words if you came with me,” Maggie said with a shrug. “What kind of best friend would I be if I bailed on you like that?”
“And what kind of friend would I be if I didn’t let you off the hook.” I smiled at her. “You should go.”
Maggie narrowed her eyes at me. “Are you sure? Because you, Lainey Styles, are the true love of my life, and you come first.”
I grinned. “I’m totally sure. I need to be home early tonight anyway. Go have fun.”
“It’s just so rare to find someone who actually understands that Gwen Stacy was Peter Parker’s one true love. Everyone is always Team Mary Jane.”
“See? You have to go.”
Maggie squealed again and threw her arms around me, hugging me tightly. “You’re the best!”
 “Have fun—and text me when you get home.”
“Will do, Styles. Love you!” Maggie yelled over her shoulder as she scampered off.
“Well,” I said, hugging my SAT prep book to my chest. “Guess it’s just you and me then.” I sighed again and made my way toward the door.
Outside, the night air was crisp with a slight chill. Coats were usually unnecessary until the dead of winter—a “perk” of living in the Deep South—but October had brought with it some unseasonably cool temperatures. I wasn’t complaining; it was nice to be able to walk outside for ten minutes and not need a shower afterward.
The parking lot was less chaotic than inside the shop, but there were still dozens of people milling about. I dodged around a lightsaber fight and a very serious-looking game of Magic: The Gathering and made my way toward the sidewalk. My beat-up red Ford Escort was parked around the corner a few blocks down the street.
I jumped at the sound of my name and turned around. There was a family with two small children standing a few paces away and a group of middle-school-aged boys, but no one I recognized.
I looked around, shrugged, and kept walking.
This time the melodic, yet pleading voice was so close, it was as if someone were whispering in my ear. I shrieked a little and whirled around. “Maggie?”
There was no sign of her. A massive case of the heebie-jeebies pricked at my spine, but I shook it off, squeezing my SAT prep book a little tighter to my chest. There was a round of loud shouting as the lightsaber duel intensified, and more people were pouring out into the parking lot.
I shook my head. Maybe all the studying was starting to have an adverse effect on my brain. “Adverse,” I muttered, turning back toward the street. “Preventing success or development; harmful; unfavorable.”
A tall figure emerged from the shadows of the building. She stood apart from the crowd, her long skirt rustling around her legs like a bell in the breeze.
I stared at her. Her costume wasn’t one I’d seen before. She looked like she stepped off the page of a history book instead of a comic. There was something about her that held my attention; it was as if an invisible tether was linking us together. I couldn’t look away.
As she stepped forward into a pool of light from one of the parking lot streetlights, all the blood drained from my face.
She looked older than me, but only by a few years, with long dark hair and hollow, sunken eyes, but it wasn’t her face that sent my heart into my feet. Her dress and long green overcoat were stained crimson with blood.
She stood there staring at me with sad eyes, blood pouring through her fingers from a wound in her stomach.
I gasped, and stumbled backward, dropping my SAT book on my foot in the process.
“Are you okay?” The mother of the small children was staring at me, her eyebrows knitted together.
“That woman over there,” I said, nearly choking on the words. “She’s hurt!” I turned and pointed toward the shadows. “I saw—” I broke off.
There was no one there.
“Sweetheart, are you sure you’re okay?” The mother’s wide eyes searched my face. “You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”
My eyes darted around the parking lot. But there was no blood, no body, no indication I had seen anything at all.
“Sorry,” I managed to squeak. “I thought I saw something.”
I didn’t bother with further explanation. I ducked my head and made a beeline for the sidewalk. My knees wobbled as I half ran to my car. Blood pounded in my ears, and a thick layer of goose bumps covered my skin.
Just think of something else. Anything else.
My brain was muddled but immediately began supplying me with the words I had been cramming into my head for weeks.
“Consternation. Noun. A feeling of anxiety or disbelief over something unexpected. Trepidation. Noun. A feeling of—”
The scream roared to life in my ears, and I took off running. I jammed my hand into my pocket for my keys and collided with the driver’s side door. I fumbled for the right key, my hands shaking so badly I could barely hold on to them.
I forced the key into the lock. My hand wrapped around the door handle, pulling it open, but then I stopped. The dim light from the streetlamp was casting just enough glow to see hazy reflections in the window. The outline of my head and shoulders was familiar enough, but something was moving behind me.
I squeezed my eyes shut. It’s not real. Just a really good costume. An early Halloween prank, even. You’re exhausted and your brain is playing tricks on you. It’s not real.
I turned around and opened my eyes. The bloody woman was standing right in front of me. Her deep green eyes, the same color as the ornate, pulsating stone that hung from her neck, burned into mine. Something inside me crumpled, like a wall that I’d never known was standing. Every cell in my body pulled me toward the woman. The magnetism between us crackled through my veins.
I opened my mouth, but before I had the chance to scream, her icy hand shot out and gripped my arm above the elbow.
The moment our skin touched, a wave of electric energy shot up my arm and surged through my body. I cried out as a blistering light exploded before my eyes. My limbs quaked and the heat intensified, engulfing me in a fire that threatened to incinerate me from the inside out. I fell to the asphalt, collapsing against the inferno raging beneath my skin. The wave of electricity intensified with each beat of my heart. I cried out again.
Then, as quickly as it began, the pain disappeared. The world faded away, and everything went black.

Author Spotlight:

Kim Chance is an English teacher from Alabama, currently residing in Michigan with her husband and three children. When not writing, Kim enjoys spending time with her family and two crazy dogs, binge-watching Netflix, fangirling over books, and making death-by-cheese casseroles. Keeper is her first young adult novel. Kim is also a YouTuber who loves connecting with other writers. She posts videos here and is the creator of the #Chance2Connect chat on Twitter. 



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