Nov 24, 2015

*Cover Reveal* Down to You by Addison Kline



Title : Down To You 
Author: Addison Kline 
Genre: Romance 







Book 1 of the Love on Edge series

Holly Edgemont used to love celebrating Christmas, that is, until her whole world was turned upside down by an unexpected divorce from her college sweetheart Brant. This year, not only is she divorced, but the kids are going out of state with her ex Brant, leaving her utterly alone. Holly's party-girl friend Sloane tries to break her out of her frump by dragging her along to holiday parties where Holly meets cute and available Chris. But when Holly realizes that she still has feelings for Brant, she has a decision to make: Learn to trust her long time love who broke her heart, or move on for good. 

Brant Edgemont is a divorced father of three, and hopelessly in love with his ex-wife, Holly. He made the biggest mistake of his life walking out two years ago. Despite his pleas to reconnect, Holly still resists him. Is it too late to rekindle their love? Or will Holly move on for good, leaving Brant himself heartbroken and alone?

Down To You is not just a romantic love story. It is a story of familial love, friendship, betrayal, redemption, and the magic that can happen at Christmas time when friends and family join together.









Addison Kline is an award winning, best selling novelist who writes mystery,
psychological thrillers and romantic suspense novels. She lives in
Pennsylvania with her husband, their sons and two rambunctious dogs.
Addison has had a love affair with the written word since before she
entered school. Her grandmother taught her the glory of taking an
adventure in the pages of a book. When Addison isn’t writing, you can
find her reading, going for an adventure with her sons, or traveling
with her family.




Facebook Facebook Readers Group  Website






Nov 20, 2015

*Cover Reveal* JAGGER by Chelsea Camaron & MJ Fields

Jagger cover
Title: JAGGER (Caldwell Brothers, #3)
Authors: Chelsea Camaron & MJ Fields
Release Date: April 19, 2016
Publisher: Loveswept, a Penguin Random House imprint

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Synopsis
Full of swagger and sensuality, the Caldwell Brothers series—perfect for fans of Katy Evans and Emma Chase—packs an emotional punch as the last bachelor standing fights for a woman who’s worth every ounce of trouble. Jagger Caldwell is no one’s hero. With a reputation busting heads and breaking hearts on the underground MMA circuit, he lives for easy cash and easier women. But when he stumbles upon an all-too-familiar scene, painful memories awaken Jagger’s sensitive side and compel him to act. As a kid, he stood by helplessly as his old man beat his mom. Now, Jagger won’t let seventeen-year-old Tatiana Rand suffer the same fate. Nothing matters except saving her. Tatiana is a prisoner in her own home, at the mercy of her violent father—until an unlikely savior bursts through her door and into her life. Six-feet-plus of tattooed muscle and raw power, Jagger is no prince charming—but Tatiana stopped believing in fairy tales long ago. Despite their differences in age and, well, everything else, the sexy bad boy sparks a fire that Tatiana never knew she had—and desires that only Jagger can quench.
Includes a special message from the editor, as well as an excerpt from another Loveswept title.
 
Pre Order your copy today!
 
Jagger - teaser
 
Hendrix (Caldwell Brothers, #1)
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Hendrix Caldwell wants nothing more than to revitalize the family bar—and tear down every last reminder of his no-good father. But business isn’t the only thing on his mind. An explosive encounter with a stranger at a charity masquerade is just the distraction he craves, with no names and no strings attached. For Hendrix, sex is casual, and love is a four-letter word. His commitment is to his brothers, his bar, and his bike. So why can’t he stop thinking about the naughty Cinderella who rocked his world, then left him—and her panties—behind? Olivia Hemmingway knows fairytales are for little girls. Drowning in debt and hiding a shameful secret, she won’t be saved by a knight in tattooed armor, no matter how mind-blowing their one-night stand may have been. Olivia never expects to meet her masked lover again. But when she takes a job at Hendrix Caldwell’s bar, her sexy new boss seems all too familiar. And once the lights go out and the music is turned up, the sparks between them burn hotter than ever.
 
Morrison (Caldwell Brothers, #2)
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For Morrison Caldwell, life is a game of chance. A high roller with a legendary poker face, he’s the wild card of the family, always chasing the next thrill and never staying put for long. The one place that always lures him back is Las Vegas, with its hot tables and even hotter women. He’s perfectly content to live his life as a series of one-night stands. But when a parking lot confrontation with a cocktail waitress takes a naughty turn, she leaves Morrison aching for another round. After a long losing streak in Sin City, Hailey Poe is ready to get lucky. A steamy tryst with a cocky, mysterious stranger is the kind of no-strings encounter she’s been craving . . . until Morrison Caldwell asks for more than she’s willing to offer. But when Hailey’s controlling, soon-to-be ex-husband tries to take her daughter away, she can’t afford to turn down a helping hand. In this winner-takes-all game, Morrison is gambling with Hailey’s life—and her heart.
 
About the Authors
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USA Today bestselling author Chelsea Camaron grew up turning wrenches alongside her father, which just so happened to inspire her Love and Repair and The Hellions Ride series. When she’s not writing, you can find her playing with her kids, attending car shows, going on motorcycle rides on the back of her husband’s Harley, snuggling down with her new favorite book, or watching any movie that Vin Diesel might happen to be in. She lives in Louisiana with her husband and two children.

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MJ Fields is the USA Today bestselling author of the Love series, the Wrapped series, the Burning Souls series, the Men of Steel series, and the Norfolk series. A former small-business owner who recently became a full-time writer, Fields lives in central New York, surrounded by family and friends. Her house is full of pets, friends, and noise ninety percent of the time, and she wouldn’t have it any other way.
 
Praise for Hendrix by Chelsea Camaron and MJ Fields
“This book is full of laughs, a lot of love, and will leave you feeling drained, but in a good way. If you haven’t got your copy yet, I definitely recommend it! You’ll be just as anxious as I am for another Caldwell brother.”—Book Boyfriend Hangover (five stars)

“What happens when two worlds collide not once, but twice? Wow. There are so many books I want from this series.”—Reading Renee  

“I loved seeing the family dynamics and bond these three brothers have.”—Twinsie Talk 

 “I can’t wait to dive into more of the Caldwell brothers’ stories.”—The Book Enthusiast   

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Nov 17, 2015

*Review* A Cub For Christmas by Ella Dominguez

Romantic, sweet and scorching hot.

Part of the Red Hot Holidays Anthology (17 Contemporary Romance Books by Bestselling Authors about Shifters, Billionaires, Officers, Rock Stars, and Alpha Males)

When a chance meeting at a Broadway show leads to an unexpected attraction, things quickly heat up. With Aaron's hypnotic blue eyes distorting Ari's vision and judgment, the loud traffic buzzing in her ears, his masculine scent filling her nose, his body heat enveloping her and his breath ghosting across her lips, it's only inevitable that she give into the temptation of a younger man. How can she deny the allure when she suddenly feels sensory overloaded and more alive than she's felt in a decade?

Set in New York City, the undeniable pull between this May-December romance burns up the pages when Ari realizes that unwrapping her Christmas package is only half the fun.







I received a copy of this story for an honest review.

A Cub for Christmas is a phenomenal romantic novella that walks the fine line between sweet and spicy. I absolutely adored this read and cannot recommend it enough to other romance fans. Below are five reasons I think you should check out the story:

1. Well Developed Leads: Often when short stories fall flat for me it’s because the leads are one dimensional and the author relies too heavily on insta-love/insta-lust. Not so with leads Ari and Aaron. In just a few short pages author Ella Dominguez made Ari and Aaron feel very real and with that connection I was able to fall quickly and deeply into their story.

2. Easy Read: I was able to burn through A Cub for Christmas in the time it took for my 5 year old to have her 30 minute swim class. In search of an enjoyable and quick pick me up that will leave you smiling – this is your gem.

3. Christmas: Come on, who doesn’t love a Christmas romance? The holidays add a little extra magic shine to Ari and Aaron’s time together.

4. Dialogue like This:

“Life is like a play, and sometimes that play ends. But sometimes, sometimes, it comes back stronger and with a better cast. It’s revived. There are continuations and sequels and spin-offs, and the characters who were only background characters in the original show suddenly take center stage. But the thing is – you’re not a background character, Ari, you’re a leading lady, and this production doesn’t have to end.”


5. Room for More: The best thing about A Cub for Christmas is that even though it has a completely satisfying conclusion, the door is left open for more of Ari and Aaron’s relationship. And I for one am 100% down for more from this pair. Fingers crossed.

Happy reading.

Nov 16, 2015

*Release Day Blitz & Review* My Soul to Keep by Kennedy Ryan

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Synopsis

It seems the things worth keeping are often the hardest to hold...

KAI
I had two things in life that mattered. My mother and my music. Mama was taken from me too soon, and now music is all I have left. It’s the thing that’s pushed me right out of backwoods Georgia into Los Angeles, where the line between fantasy and reality shimmers and blurs. I’m finally making my way, making my mark. I can’t afford to fall for one of music's brightest stars. Not now. Music is all I have left, and I’m holding on tight with both hands. I won’t let go, not even for Rhyson Gray.

RHYSON
I had one thing in my life that mattered – music. The only constant, it’s taken me to heights most people only dream about; a gift dropped in my lap at birth. I thought it was enough. I thought it was everything until I met Kai. Now she’s all I think about, like a song I can't get out of my head. If I have to chase her, if I have to give up everything - I will. And once she's mine, I won't let go.

Goodreads

Excerpt


I shouldn’t have come. All the things I felt and fought, the things I suspected he felt too, he just spewed all over me. And as much as I want to be, I’m not sure I’m ready. I’ll never forget seeing my Mama in bed for days after Daddy left. And even though she got up, I suspect a part of her never left that bed, but just stayed there, waiting. We had to leave the house where she grew up and where I spent my first years, because Daddy left us with nowhere to go. Mama learned to stand on her two feet, and I’ve done the same. I just didn’t count on Rhyson sweeping me off of them.
“We’re obviously on different pages about this.” I pull my hands free and turn to leave, but he steps in front of me, blocking my grand exit. “Let’s talk later.”
“Enough talking.”
The heat of his body grabs me before his hands do. He traps my chin between two fingers, taking my mouth in a paradox of rough and tender. I want to move. To slide away from his body pressing me into the pool table. But I can’t. Not with his hand caressing my back. Not with his tongue in my mouth. Not with his erection pressing into my stomach. I can’t. I won’t. I have been denying myself this, and I’m so damn hungry. My mouth opens under his, ravenous and wet and hot. His groan vibrates against my lips.
“Yes. Good God, yes, Pep.” His words slip down my throat.
I strain up on tiptoes, clawing my fingers into his dark hair, forcing him closer. He lifts me onto the pool table, planting himself between my knees. His fingers skim my bare thigh, working up my leg until he reaches a damp patch of silk. He pushes my panties aside, rubbing his hand into the wet flesh there before sliding one long finger and then another inside of me. I rock into these fingers which have awed millions with their skill. They own me. I’m the instrument in his hands. He’s playing me. Plucking at me. Strumming me.
He tugs at the wide neck of my sweater until it falls away from my shoulder, slipping his hand in and cupping my naked breast. He brushes his fingers over my nipple, and I lose my mind and every inhibition. My head flops back and I stretch my legs wider, offering him anything he wants.
“Are you kidding me?” His question burns the vulnerable curve of my neck as he drags his lips to my shoulder. “You come here wearing no bra and think I won’t…”
He abandons the words, his dark, untidy head disappearing under my sweater, and before I have time to regain even millimeters of sanity, my nipple is in his mouth and he’s suckling me. Not gentle. Not soft. My breasts are so small, he almost eats me whole. Every draw, every suck, every bite sends a power surge to my core until my knees hold his hips in a desperate grip, and my nails rake across the flat surface of the pool table behind me.
His mouth at my breast. His fingers inside me. His clean scent surrounding me. I have nowhere to hide anymore. I am exposed. I want to spread myself wide open for him. That voice that has been telling me I can’t rely on him. I can’t trust him. I can’t need him—that voice is stunned into silence by his thorough possession of my body, by the inferno between my legs, blazing a hole right through my soul and scorching my heart.

 LIVE_nov 15-17  

Buy Links

   Amazon

Giveaway

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I received a copy of this story for an honest review.

When all you've known is betrayal and heartbreak from those who are supposed to love you most, how can you recognize and embrace a once in a lifetime love when given the chance? For Kai and Rhyson, they have every reason to doubt each other but electric chemistry won't be denied. But will two damaged souls heal each other or completely destroy what's left of their hearts?

What I Loved: Leads Kai and Rhyson jump off the page. Their heartbreak quickly became my heartbreak, their hope my hope. Set in a world that's both fantastic and real, I quickly got swept away by My Soul to Keep. When I finished the read I felt a little raw and I love books that can make that kind of deep impression.

What I Didn't Love: I love Kennedy Ryan but at this point I'm fairly certain she draws creative strength from her fans tears. The ending left me screaming at my Kindle... and anxiously waiting for more. You are killing me woman.

Favorite Quote:

"Everyone appreciated my music, but I can see that she, this girl, communed with it."

"Kidney stones pass. This girl, I'll have to work out of my system."

 "It may not be visible to the naked eye, but he's written a song on my heart tonight, and I'm afraid the ink's indelible."

Happy reading.

About Kennedy Ryan

 
I just can't write about myself in third person for one more bio! I'm a wife, a mom, a writer, an advocate for families living with autism. That's me in a nutshell. Crack the nut, and you'll find a Southern girl gone Southern California who loves pizza and Diet Coke, and wishes she got to watch a lot more television. You can usually catch me up too late, on social media too much, or FINALLY putting a dent in my ever-growing To Be Read list!
 

Connect with Kennedy

 

Facebook / Amazon/ Twitter/ Newsletter / Goodreads / Instagram

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*Cover Reveal* Inspire & Inflict by Cora Carmack

We are absolutely thrilled to bring you the dual cover reveal for Cora Carmack’s Muse Series! INSPIRE and INFLICT are New Adult Paranormal Romance novels and are book 1 and 2 in the Muse Series. INFLICT is due to be released in January 2016! These beautiful covers were designed by Regina Wamba of Mae I Design. Be sure to grab your copy of INSPIRE today!

  Inspire - cover

Amazon eBook ** Amazon Paperback

INSPIRE (Book 1):

Kalliope lives with one purpose. To inspire. As an immortal muse, she doesn’t have any other choice. It’s part of how she was made. Musicians, artists, actors—they use her to advance their art, and she uses them to survive. She moves from one artist to the next, never staying long enough to get attached. But all she wants is a different life— a normal one. She’s spent thousands of years living lie after lie, and now she’s ready for something real. Sweet, sexy, and steady, Wilder Bell feels more real than anything else in her long existence. And most importantly… he’s not an artist. He doesn’t want her for her ability. But she can’t turn off the way she influences people, not even to save a man she might love. Because in small doses, she can help make something beautiful, but her ability has just as much capacity to destroy as it does to create. The longer she stays, the more obsessed Wilder will become. It’s happened before, and it never turns out well for the mortal. Her presence may inspire genius. But it breeds madness, too.  

Inspire - full cover wrap


And check out the gorgeous cover for INFLICT, coming January 2016!

Inflict -cover  

About INFLICT (Book 2):

Wilder Bell made a dangerous bargain... For a chance at love, he gave up his life. History knew Kalliope as an ancient Greek muse, but to Wilder, she was simply the woman he wanted to fall asleep with every night and wake up next to every morning. He made a deal with Hades, but the only thing the Lord of the Underworld deals in is death. Now Wilder is wasting away in a cold and wretched afterlife, waiting for Kalli to come for him. She will come. He has to believe that. Because the alternative is worse than death. Kalliope lived her entire existence knowing that she was both a blessing and a curse to anyone she encountered. Wilder was no different. She loved him, and she got him killed. Now to get him back, she’ll have to face a scheming god, a perilous task, and death itself. But before it’s done, the Underworld will take more from her than she ever thought possible. To be made whole, all must first be lost.  
Inflict - full cover wrap   

  Cora Carmack - author pic 
About Cora Carmack: Cora Carmack is a twenty-something writer who likes to write about twenty-something characters. She’s done a multitude of things in her life– boring jobs (like working retail), fun jobs (like working in a theatre), stressful jobs (like teaching), and dream jobs (like writing). Raised in a small Texas town, she now lives in New York City and spends her time writing, traveling, and marathoning various television shows on Netflix. In her books, you can expect to find humor, heart, and a whole lot of awkward. Because let’s face it . . . awkward people need love, too. Her first book, LOSING IT, was a New York Times and USA Today bestseller.

Website ** Twitter ** Facebook **Newsletter **Author Goodreads**

INSPIRE Goodreads ** INFLICT Goodreads

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Nov 15, 2015

*Review* Gargoyle (Woodland Creek #1)


A shifter made of stone. And wings.
A human bent on free love. And drunk.
A joke could be made with those two lines.

But the town of Woodland Creek, it's no laughing matter. Hostile and magical residents guard their secrets. It's too easy to be found out.

When Isaac Stone first meets Kennedy Kirk, he's tempted to shove her off the clock tower. After all, she is gripping his private parts to lean over and see his town. One little push is all it would take...

Isaac never anticipated he'd be the one to fall.

Purchase Links:

Barnes&Noble: http://bit.ly/1Xlfifv




I received a copy of this story for an honest review.

Welcome to Woodland Creek, a picture perfect town... full of shifters, witches, wizards and weird goings on. It's also the setting for the steamy and exciting new novella series from author Scarlett Dawn. Gargoyle (Woodland Creek #1) knocked my socks off and left me eager for more.

What I Loved: Paranormal romance is my jam and Gargoyle hit all the right notes for me - smoking hot alpha who is a smidge of jerk but still swoon worthy, plucky heroine who is fallible but refreshingly redeemable, crackling chemistry between the leads and mysterious goings on that kept me guessing until the very end.

What I Didn't Love: Because this is a novella, there is a lot of story compacted in short space. Leads Kennedy and Issac are solid but there is a slew of secondary characters that left me guessing how they may play out in future novellas instead of how they contributed directly to Gargoyle.

Favorite Quotes:

"His mouth was... delectable. A sinful indulgence I lost myself in as I pressed my lips to the plushest, softest mouth ever imaginable sinking into them."

"No one's past redemption. You only need to have faith."

"With faith comes trust. With trust comes safety. And the woman who gives you all three will hold your heart." 
 

Happy reading.
 

New York Times bestselling author and award-winner, Scarlett Dawn is the author of the Forever Evermore new adult fantasy series, the Mark new adult science fiction saga, and the Lion Security contemporary series.

She lives in the Midwest, adores her music loud, and demands her fries covered in melted cheese.

Nov 14, 2015

*Release Blitz* Dragonfly by Lana Sky

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Title: Dragonfly
Author: Lana Sky
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: November 14, 2015

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Synopsis
Sheltered by an overprotective family, Amy Sager—a shy twenty something poet from Canada—just wanted to break out of her shell and be free to live her own life. What better way to assert her newfound independence than by moving to San Francisco?

However, when she meets a tall, blood-drenched stranger she gets more than she bargained for. Jackie is everything she should never want. Violence, lies, and even murder taint this strange man, but she finds herself irresistibly drawn to him…like a moth to flame.

When their relationship strains her loyalty and his livelihood, it isn't long before violence consumes her independence and Amy’s quest for freedom turns into just another story of a good girl caught on the wrong side of the tracks, too far gone to turn back.



Buy The Book
dragonflyebook

Excerpt
He smells like blood. 

The scent clashes with the harsh aroma of sesame seed oil, coffee, and chai tea, burning the inside of my nostrils.  I find myself sniffing deeper without meaning to, breathing him in—though I don’t dare look up from the book lying open on my lap, and I never stop reading aloud.

“These violent delights have violent ends...”  My voice trails off as my grip on the page slips, accidentally smudging a neat row of printed font.  Just like that, Shakespeare becomes a black stain on my sweat-soaked fingers, and I can’t stop thinking the same thing over and over again. 

It has to be a lot of blood.

The smell churns my stomach.  I have to breathe in through my mouth, which doesn’t really help me escape the other flavors wafting from his corner.  Smoke.  Not exactly like that from a cigarette…it’s more pungent than that.  Acrid—as if someone dumped lit charcoal on my tongue, and I’m instantly reminded of the time Rory took me to his precinct’s gun range in some misguided attempt to help me “break out of my shell.” 

I will always remember that sound.  The weight of the weapon in the palm of my hand.  The smell that filled my lungs the moment I’d pulled the trigger.

The man watching me from the back of the semi-crowded restaurant smells like blood.  He tastes like gun smoke.  He has eyes like midnight that watch impatiently as I fidget beneath the spotlight.

“And in their triumph die.”

Scattered applause erupts from the audience, but it’s noticeably halfhearted.  Rather than read one of my own poems, I’d recited a classic: the ultimate cop-out.  Boo.  Hiss.  Snore.

On another night, I’d die of embarrassment and swear to try harder next time.  Tonight, I’m shaking for an entirely different reason as I scramble up from the stool and make my way off stage.  May, the host of tonight’s impromptu poetry night, smiles at me.  I try my best to smile back, but I can’t quite make my lips move when my eyes are too busy drifting in the opposite direction. 

To him.  His hands are hidden within the pockets of a black leather jacket, which shields most of his muscular frame.  He’s also wearing a normal pair of jeans, but they seem abnormally coated in dark splotches.  They catch my eye and send my brain scrambling to come up with a logical explanation.  The result of the earlier rainstorm?  Or the cause of that fucking smell?

Breathe.  The silent command helps.  I suck in air and blow it out as I make my way through the narrow dining room while someone else takes the vacated stage.  Her poem is original, and she recites each word clearly, displaying a distinct flow—though I only hear the opening line:  “Life is but a series of cruel intentions…”

It’s still enough to resonate inside me, more deeply than Shakespeare’s words ever could as I shove my tattered copy of Romeo and Juliet into my bag.

Life is a series of cruel intentions.  Some inflicted by others.  Some we inflict upon ourselves.  Like the way I take the time to button up my coat before palming the brass handle of the main door.  For a moment, it’s almost like I’m a normal woman preparing for a normal walk home from a night of humiliating herself for the umpteenth time.

A normal woman who isn’t counting the heavy, abnormal footsteps following in her wake.  One.  Two.  Ten.  Fifty.

It’s like my shadow has substance, matching me step for step with every inch that I travel toward my apartment.  Some nights, it’s easier to pretend that the sounds are just from the many other commuters heading home—I’m not the only person in the world, after all.  If I try hard enough at make-believe, I can imagine that there is no specter who creeps closer once my apartment building comes into view.  Neither is there any suspiciously warm air ghosting the back of my neck.  Nor is there a hand that shoots out the moment I reach for the battered door to my building, pinning it in place.

“Will you let me in tonight?”  The voice is gruff—male—and the name he calls me isn’t in English.  On his tongue, it sounds like “woo deep moie.” 

Butterfly girl.

Altogether, it’s such a cheesy line that I choke on something that could have been a laugh in another setting.  Tonight, however, when paired with the blood—God, I can taste it now that he’s this close—the words take on a bitter edge.  There’s a challenge hidden in his tone.  A challenge that’s always there, no matter how many times we play out the same scenario.  

“Have you wised up, Amy?”

I mull that question over.  It’s late, and it’s quiet enough to hear the sounds that drift through the paper-thin walls of the building.  Someone coughs.  A woman laughs.  A television blares.  My fingers tremble as they clutch my canvas messenger bag, and I shift it to my other shoulder in an attempt to hide the nerves.

“You’re afraid,” he deduces, each word heating the back of my neck like the blast from a furnace.

“You’re bleeding,” I counter, lowering my voice to a whisper.
Drip.  Drip.  I swear I can hear each telltale drop hitting the pavement while a familiar urgency shakes me to the core.  Let him in, damn it!  For some reason, it’s so much harder this time to wrestle one of my hands from my side and use it to swat his away.  As he withdraws, I curl my grip around the metal handle and pull the door open, revealing a narrow hallway, painted gray. 

“Come in.”  I choke out the words, but he’s already on my heels, driving me up the three flights of stairs to my flat.  The hallway is empty this time of night, thank God, but I can’t escape this insane feeling that a million pairs of eyes are on me at once.  Peeping through the cracks beneath the doors.  Lurking behind the bars that shield the scattered windows in the hallway.  Crouching underneath the ratty staircase.

Our invisible audience watches me race for the green door with the peeling paint and fish my keys from the side pocket of my bag.  “Come in,” I repeat, though he’s already at my back, shoving me inside the moment I fit the key in the right slot.

“Sake,” he gasps out while staggering to the armchair in the corner of my living room.  For the first time, I turn to look at him.  Really look.  He stands out from the shadow like a twisted Ying Yang symbol—just pale skin, marred by countless obsidian swirls that blend in with the darkness.  Black hair falls messily across his face, obscuring most of it, but his eyes shine through, and they are darker than anything else in existence.  Pure black.  They meet my own as he snaps his fingers twice.  “Get the sake.”  His words come slower this time, betraying the accent he typically works hard to disguise.  “Hurry up.”

“Um…”  The nervous sound tears from my throat before I can help it, as I turn to the cramped corner that doesn’t deserve to be listed as a “full kitchenette.”  My fingers tremble even more as I push open the cupboard underneath the sink and reach for the shoebox tucked beneath the snaking pipes.  I feel a stupid sense of guilt when I settle the box on the counter and pry off the lid.  Stay away from alcohol, Amy, Dad always warned.  The stuff will bring you nothing but trouble.  Just ask your mother.

Inside the shoebox, two green bottles clink together like the sound of my promise breaking.  “Does it matter which one?”  I choke out.  The black characters printed on each gray label differ slightly.

From across the room, he laughs darkly under his breath.  “Whichever one looks more dangerous.”

I settle on the bottle that has an extra character drawn in—just a single black line.  Then I swipe a random cup from the cupboard above the sink and turn to him while wrestling off the cap of the bottle.  Carefully, I pour a hefty amount into what I’m mortified to discover is a Minnie Mouse mug from a trip to Disneyland ten years ago.
“More,” he commands, and I quickly tip the bottle again, filling the mug nearly halfway.

“Show me it,” I urge the moment I come close enough.  I steel myself by setting the bottle and mug down on my coffee table, next to my worn volume of Emily Dickinson’s My Letter to the World and Other Poems.  With my eyes on the gray cover, I acknowledge the hiss of him shedding his coat, followed almost immediately by the sound of more droplets of moisture striking the floor.  Some of it rain.  Some of it not.

I take my time looking up again and observe him from beneath my eyelashes.  His legs seem uninjured, at least; his jeans cling to the muscle around his upper thighs, enhancing the strength he exudes even while sitting.  Near his right pocket gleams a dark black stain that I choose to assume is grease.  By the time I reach the white shirt shielding his upper body, that fragile illusion shatters.  It’s speckled with red.  The color is so vibrant in some places that it almost looks deliberate:  ruby colored tie-dye.

I notice the wound then—a cleanly cut slash surrounded by the darkest splotches of red. It’s just underneath his collarbone on the left side of his chest.

“Knife?” I wonder, the back of my throat tight.

He nods just once and meets my gaze, those impossible eyes searing me from the inside out.  “Knife.”

I inhale sharply, surprised by how little my fingers shake.  “I’ll get the kit.”

He nods and shifts to a more comfortable position, spreading his legs apart and bracing both hands on the armrests of the chair.  I can tell from the way he stiffens that he’s aware of just how much blood he’s losing.  A muscle in his jaw twitches as he clenches his teeth and sits forward slightly, trying his damnedest not to get any on the chair’s peach-colored upholstery.  

The misplaced concern makes something inside me ache.
“How many do you think you’ll need this time?”  I call as I drift over to the hall closet beside the front door.  The calm is all forced.  Only God knows how deep the wound is.  Just how close the knife had come to striking his heart.  Just how much time he has left if I don’t get him closed up fast enough.

He chuckles again, the sound raising goosebumps over my skin.  “As many as my ‘butterfly’ thinks are necessary—” He breaks off for a suspiciously wet cough that I struggle to ignore.

Focus.

Tucked on the shelf, above a row of hanging sweaters, is a bright pink Hello Kitty lunchbox.  I carefully pull it down and carry it by the handle over to the armchair.

“It’s gonna hurt,” I warn as I flick back the lid, revealing a disgusting array of pink thread and a pincushion shaped like a rubber duck.  I had never been so ashamed of my own naivety before him.  I used to be just Amy Sager:  the woman who wore bulky sweaters, knitted in her free time, and liked to attend poetry readings at ten o’clock at night—even though she rarely gathered up the nerve to read her own work.

“You promised that I’d hear my poem tonight,” he scolds as if reading my mind.

I shrug and ease a needle from the pincushion.  “That’s not really important at the moment…”

From the corner of my eye, I see him nod just once.  “Hand me the drink.”

Up this close, his voice resonates in my bones.  So deep and yet so soft at the same time.  It’s the kind of voice that could easily get on stage and recite that cliché line from Romeo and Juliet but earn a standing ovation doing it.

Obediently, I set aside the kit to pass him the Minnie Mouse mug brimming with alcohol.  He throws his head back, but when he hands me the mug again, I’m surprised by how little he actually drank.

“For you,” he says in a tone that warns me not to argue.  However, his eyes are playful, peeking from beneath a damp fringe of black hair.  “Your hands shook so badly the last time.  I need them steady.”

My cheeks heat up at the memory of the mangled scar on his left inner thigh.  Without a word I accept the mug and tip it back.

God, that stuff burns.  I struggle to choke down a sip.  Then another while he watches.  His hands—steady despite the way he winces at every movement of his arm—are there to ease the mug away.  He’s not laughing now as I fish a strip of colored thread from the bottom of my kit and try to eye how much length I’ll need while he strips off his shirt.

In an instant, I know why he wanted my hands steady.  The knife pierced him right along the edge of the ornate collage of black ink that forms the wings of a massive dragon tattoo, which I know spans the length of his back.  There will be a scar—he won’t be able to help it—but a somewhat neat job might salvage the overall effect.

An artist to the end, he is.

I’m amused by that facet of him even as my mind races with the questions I don’t dare ask.  Who, this time?  How?  Why?  Where?

My city—once calm on the surface to my woefully sheltered self—is now a smoldering volcano, spitting up white-hot bits of magma.  He’s just a small piece of it, searing me alive while I prime the eye of a needle with hot pink thread. 

I’d learned in the past few weeks that regular sewing needles aren’t the best for stitching flesh when the blood makes everything slippery.  Thinner, quilting needles work a little better, along with a sturdy gauge of thread that won’t tear under strain.

Nana sure would be proud that I am using the skills she taught me, solely to decorate throw pillows in mutated images of cats, for this.  Small stitches, Amy.  I can almost hear her correct me as I tie off the thread with a secure knot.  “Take your time.  There’s nothing worse than getting a tangle in the thread and having to start all over…”

I inhale sharply when I turn back to him and eye the ink painting his beautifully sculpted chest.  The gash is bleeding in the center of it.  His eyes are on my fingers. They reflect a sense of trust that blows my mind with the same intensity with which he’s blown the rest of my life apart.

Biting my lip, I reach for his discarded shirt and use the edge of it to wipe away most of the blood.  “Sorry,” I apologize in advance before I wad the fabric up and press it to the gash with as much force as I can muster.

He grits his teeth.  Sucks in a breath.  Swears.  Whatever he says is in Cantonese, but I catch the gist after months of having him spoon-feed me terms.  “Sorry, sorry,” I say again—a side effect of the Canadian blood in me.  Most Americans can’t seem to stand that much remorsefulness.
But he isn’t American, and in his world there is no such thing as an apology.  No concept like regret.  Regardless, his gaze burns deep into my own as I continue to hold the pressure for exactly ten more seconds.

The moment I let up, he grabs the bottle of sake and lets half of it pour into the wound and run right down his front, pooling in his lap.  I reach for my threaded needle and he sucks in another breath, his fingers clutching the armrests on either side of him. Before I start, he nods to his right knee with an authority I can’t resist.  I want you here.

I carefully perch myself on his lap and settle against his chest while I prepare myself.  Then I try to prepare him, even though he doesn’t need my reassurance. 

“Easy does it.”  The words come out in a rush as I pinch as much of the skin closed as I can with two fingers and then go in with my needle. 

Stitch.  Stitch.  Inhale.

It’s a simple routine that gets me through the worst of it—his smothered grunts of pain, a few more muttered curses.  Halfway through, though, I have to stop—leaving the needle dangling from a strip of bloody thread—to snatch the Minnie Mouse mug from the floor.  My grip slides so much that I have to prop the edge of the mug on the crook of my opposite elbow just to take a sip.  I set it down empty, my eyes streaming and throat burning.  With a steady inhale, I turn away from the scarlet smeared over Minnie’s smiling visage and then get back to it.

His blood paints me all over by the time I finally tie off the final stitch.

The job is as neat as can be expected.  I’m almost proud of myself, considering the room is starting to blur and the delicious burn of alcohol leaches through my skin.  It’s almost enough to counter the fear, and I notice just how handsome the man sporting the bloody wound actually is, with a stern jaw, perfect mouth, and mocking smile.  His eyes are the most beautiful of all—obsidian set within a porcelain face.  He leans forward before I can react and swipes his tongue along my bottom lip as if stealing the last drops of sake away for himself.  My already racing heartbeat doubles.  The scent of blood dissipates, and I start to smell him underneath: the rich aroma of coconut and spice and a million other nuances I will never truly uncover.

I wish I was brave enough to swipe him back, but I can only turn away to fish a packet of alcohol wipes from the kit.  I carefully clean the blood off the needle and then stab it into the pincushion.  Next, I attack my hands while he watches.

He doesn’t say a single word while I do my best to wipe away his blood.  Instead, he shifts against the back of the chair, cradling my body with his.  His heat seeps through my sweater.  My body reacts, tensing…tightening up.  I shudder when his fingers find that groove at the nape of my neck and he teases it with his thumb, absently stroking a path down to my shoulder.

“Ten,” he declares after glancing down at the row of stitches holding his wound together.  His voice is steady again, the accent firmly under control. “You did good, butterfly.” 

I suck in air and consider the words I want to say next.  “Thanks,” I blurt on a sigh, rather than ask one of the many unspoken questions hanging between us.  Why do you smell like gun smoke?

Instead, I rest my head on his shoulder and just breathe him in.  For four beautiful minutes he lets me almost forget why he’s here.  What this means.  But then he shifts, and I feel a sense of dread knowing what will happen next.

Sighing, I watch as he gingerly reaches into his pocket and withdraws a plastic sandwich baggie that contains a single white pill.

“Open.”

I obey without question.  With painful slowness, he plucks out the pill between two of his fingers and places it on the tip of my tongue.

“Swallow.”

I do, and even though it’s too soon for the narcotic to have any effect, my eyelids feel heavy and the aftereffects of the sake lull me into a heavy sense of calm that makes it easier to curl up on his lap, ignoring the blood and the fact that I will need to buy yet another cover for my armchair.

He whispers Cantonese to me as my eyes fall shut, and I feel myself drift off.


About Lana Sky 
 Lana Sky is a reclusive writer in the United States who spends most of her time daydreaming about complex male characters and legless cats. She writes mostly paranormal romance, in between watching reruns of Ab Fab and drinking iced tea. Only iced tea. Website | Facebook
 
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