Tuesday, August 25, 2015

BLOG TOUR REVIEW + GIVEAWAY ~Find Me by Laurelin Paige~

Title: Find Me
Author: Laurelin Paige
Series: The Found Duet #2
Release Date:  August 25, 2015

My Rating: 4 Stars
Gwen Anders came to The Sky Launch to begin fresh, away from the horrors of her past. She fit in quickly, becoming good friends with her co-manager, Alayna Withers and the owner of the club, Hudson Pierce. Though the circumstances that brought her here were not the best, she's never felt more at home.

But starting a new life means letting go. And there are some things she doesn't want to leave behind - like JC, the man who taught her how to let loose. The man she wasn't supposed to fall in love with. The man she doesn't want to lose.

Now, with the reason she ran still a threat, Gwen fears she'll never be able to move on completely. And if she does, can she still hold out hope that JC loves her enough to come and find her?
I grabbed my cell and checked the time. It was six-twenty-nine. I threw it in my purse and turned back to the mirror to give myself a pep talk. “We will not have sex. We will not have sex. We will not have sex.”

Jesus, I was so horny already, and I hadn’t even seen him yet. I’d thought about taking care of myself before JC got there but wasn’t sure if that would make things better or worse. By the time I’d decided it would make it better, Ben was there, and now JC was ringing my buzzer.

“You look incredible,” he said when I opened the door.

I blushed as I gave him a onceover. He was dressed in khakis with a fitted shirt and a lightweight jacket. Lots of buttons, I thought. Which was a good thing, considering how damn good he looked. Had he always been that buff? “You do, too.” My thighs felt hot. Good thing I’d changed out of my pants.
I really should have pulled out my vibrator earlier.

“You brought flowers?” I’d been so taken by him I hadn’t noticed the small bouquet in his hands. Three red roses dressed with some smaller white bell-shaped flowers I couldn’t identify were wrapped in a red ribbon. I hadn’t expected it. “I didn’t know you were the kind of guy who brought girls roses.”

He shrugged with one shoulder. “I’m trying to impress you. I have a feeling this date is a test of some kind, and I want to make sure I pass.”

“Not a test,” I said dismissively. Though, wasn’t that what this was? A test to see if we got along as well outside the bedroom as we did inside? “But thank you. You do impress.”

I shifted my weight to one hip and flitted my glance between JC, still standing on the other side of the threshold, and the flowers in my hand. “I should put these in water.” But I wasn’t sure I was ready to invite him in. Because in meant we’d be closer to my bed. And my couch. And my kitchen counter. All of which were locations that could be tempting.

Really, I just shouldn’t be anywhere alone with him.

Either JC felt the same way I did or he could read my mind. “You can do that later. The plastic containers on the stems should last until we get back. And we should get going.”

“Perfect.” I set them on the console table behind me, relieved and nervous all at once. I took a deep breath, grabbed my purse, and turned back to him. “Let’s go!”

In the hallway, he offered me his hand. I took it, then, there it was—the shock of his touch as his fingers weaved with mine. I let out an involuntary sigh, and with it bricks of tension fell from my body. Release. It shuddered through me as electricity sparked up my limb from where we were connected and spread throughout my body, and I wondered if this was what it felt like to melt. What it felt like to be frozen for so long and then, finally, to have the sun brush against cold ice, transforming it into something more fluid, something entirely different.
I glanced down to where we were joined, so overcome by how right it felt to be touching him in this simple way. When I looked back at him, I found his eyes pinned on me. His expression said he’d felt it too.

“You messed up, you know,” he said, as we started toward the elevator. “You were supposed to wear something that I didn’t want to rip off of you.”

My cheeks heated—actually, I wasn’t sure they’d ever cooled from the first blush he’d caused. “You said it would be impossible for me to wear anything that wouldn’t elicit that response. The only other choice was to go naked.”

“That would have been an excellent choice.”

“But not very practical.”

“I’ve never been a fan of practical.” He pushed the call button and the elevator doors opened immediately, the car likely still there from when he’d arrived.

We stepped inside, our hands still molded together. The doors closed, and I so badly wanted to turn and kiss him.

Instead I delivered the short speech I’d practiced since I’d woken up that afternoon. “I think I should tell you, I don’t have sex on first dates.”

“Wow. That’s...surprising. Considering we had sex before we’d ever even been on a date.” He squeezed my hand. “But, after you left me with blue balls this morning, I already figured out you’d turned into a prude.”

I laughed. “I’m not a prude. I’m cautious. And that’s nothing new. That’s always been me.”

“Yes, it has.” The short phrase was full of subtext, and I knew he was remembering how uptight I’d been when we’d first met. Icy. Frigid bitch.

“I’m better than I was,” I assured him.

He nodded. “I know. Otherwise you wouldn’t have given me even this much of you. And if you want to wait, then I can too.”

What I wanted was to push him against the wall and devour him.

But that was an in-the-moment want, and long-term, I wanted a relationship that was real and lasting. “Thank you. It means a lot.”

He leaned in close and, though we were alone, whispered in my ear. “I’m not going to say that I’m not dying to have you under me, Gwen. Because I am. But I’m dying to just be with you more.”

Despite the descent of the elevator, his words sent me floating. “You’re really good at that impressing thing.”
He gave me my favorite grin. “Who knew?”

It wouldn't be a Laurelin Paige book without a whole lot of heartbreak, drama and sex. And quite frankly that's my favorite kind of book, so this one is a pure winner for me. Ms. Paige has the fantastic ability to mix the highest of high and lowest of lows and intertwine them with a story that clutches her readers and wrings them of every emotion. Find Me is no exception.

As we pick up in the second and final installment of JC and Gwen's journey it is one year after Free Me. Not much has happened. A lot of waiting, and regrets. A new job, new relationship, that may shock some and cause a little future turbulence, but all in all Gwen has almost been help in suspension since the last time she saw JC. The time she broke her own heart, but did what was right for her given the circumstances. Enter JC, once more taking her world by storm. And I will say, that this man knows how to be the most thoughtful, and selfless man. Gwen didn't even have a leg to stand on in her arguments. Even if she did, their passion and love wins every single time.

Find Me is a true whirlwind. There are a lot of moving parts, but every bit of it is highly enjoyable. The past, present and future all work against Gwen and JC, but as they proven before they're too strong to be beat. In the end, the story is superb, the drama is unique and tense, the characters are engaging, and the sex is hotter than Hades. Find Me is a steamy, emotional rollercoaster that I think everyone could find enjoyment in. Gwen and JC are true stars in this duet, and I hope to see peaks of them in the future books set in this series world.

Happy Reading!
*ARC provided by the author in exchange for an honest review*
Links to Buy:

Start the series with FREE ME! 
Meet Laurelin:
NY Times & USA Today Bestselling author Laurelin Paige is a sucker for a good romance and gets giddy anytime there’s kissing, much to the embarrassment of her three daughters. Her husband doesn’t seem to complain, however. When she isn’t reading or writing sexy stories, she’s probably singing, watching Mad Men and the Walking Dead, or dreaming of Adam Levine. She is represented by Bob Diforio of D4EO Literary Agency.






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Friday, August 21, 2015

TITLE and TEASER REVEAL ~Blow by Kim Karr~

~ ONE NEW COUPLE

~ TWO NEW BOOKS

~ A STORY OF TAINTED LOVE

Kim’s Official Announcement: 
 Get ready to meet LOGAN & ELLE—they will BLOW you away. There’s been Aerie & Jagger, Ivy & Xander, Bell & Ben, Zoey & Nate, Phoebe & Jeremy, but not since Dahlia & River have I been so excited to share a story with you!! I am beyond thrilled to announce my new duet...

BLOW (book 1) will release on September 21st, 2015 
CRUSH (book 2) will release on November 16th, 2015 
And don't forget if you want to receive additional content, stay up to date with what’s next, and participate in exclusive giveaways, make sure you're on my mailing list! ➜ http://bit.ly/1RzcHz3

OFFICIAL COVERS COMING SOON! 

2 fatal sides.
1 epic love.
7 days to survive.

They met in the face of danger. They weren’t looking for love. They both knew better. But they couldn’t stay away, and they fell hard.

He is heart-stopping handsome, fearless—and haunted by deadly ties.

She is breathtakingly beautiful, determined—and in harm’s way.

They should have parted. They didn't. They never should have fucked. They did. And now time is running out. One hundred sixty eight hours. That’s all that remains. While Logan McPherson fights to save them, Elle Sterling is forced to make a choice that could change everything.

When torn between right and wrong, tainted love doesn’t have a chance…

or does it?

Meet Kim:

I live in Florida with my husband and four kids. I've always had a love for reading books and writing. Being an English major in college, I wanted to teach at the college level but that was not to be. I went on to receive an MBA and became a project manager until quitting to raise my family. I currently work part-time with my husband and full-time embracing one of my biggest passions—writing.







Connect with Kim:

NEW RELEASE ~Fourth Debt by Pepper Winters~

Title: Fourth Debt
Author: Pepper Winters
Series: Indebted #5
Release Date: August 11, 2015
Fifth Book in the New York Times Bestselling Series.
“We’d won. We’d cut through the lies and treachery and promised an alliance that would free us both. But even as we won, we lost. We didn’t see what was coming. We didn’t know we had to plan a resurrection.”

Nila Weaver fell in love. She gifted her entire soul to a man she believed was worthy. And in the process, she destroyed herself. Three debts paid, the fourth only days away. The Debt Inheritance has almost claimed another victim.

Jethro Hawk fell in love. He let down his walls to a woman he believed was his cure. For a moment, he was free. But then he paid the ultimate price.

There is no more love. Only war. Hope is dead. Now, there is only death all around them.

**Only suitable for Dark Romance lovers.
Full length book. Six in series. Fourth Debt is 85,000 words.
FUNNY HOW LIFE plays practical jokes.

The past few days—that had to be a fucking joke, right?

No logical answer would make sense of what I’d seen, heard, and lived the past seventy-two hours.

My sister.

My best friend and twin.

This was what she’d been living with? This was how she’d been treated?

This was what she wanted to return to?

Motherfucking why? Why would she ever want to return to this insanity?

We’d been raised in a broken home, chained to an empire that absorbed us right from birth. But we were kept safe, warm, and loved. We grew up together. We shared everything.

But now…I had no fucking clue who my sister was. 

But then she came to me.

A woman I never knew existed.

The most stunning creature I’d ever seen.

Only she didn’t come to me on feet or wings of an angel. She rolled into my life and demanded my help.

And for better or for worse…

I helped her.
“LET ME GO!”

Daniel cackled like a mad hyena, his fingers stabbing into my bicep. Without breaking his stride, he stole me further away from the parlour and into the bowels of the house.

I didn’t want to go. I didn’t want to go anywhere with him.

“Take me back!”

He can’t be dead!

Just because he lay unmoving and bloody didn’t mean he was gone.

That’s exactly what it means.

I shook my head, dislodging those awful thoughts. He’s alive. He had to be.

I couldn’t tolerate any other answer. I refused to live in a world where evil triumphed over good. That wasn’t right—life couldn’t be that cruel.

It’s always been that way.

My mind filled with images of my mother. My father’s desolation. My broken childhood. Evil had puppeteered us from day one. Why should now be any different?

He’s not dead!

I swallowed a sob.

Please don’t be dead…

I fought harder. “Let me see him. You can’t do this!”

Daniel cackled louder. “Keep begging, Weaver. Won’t do you any good.”

He’s not dead!

I locked my knees, fighting him every step. “Stop!” Looking back the way we’d come, the door to the parlour seemed so far away—a bright beacon at the end of a festering corridor. “They were your brothers, you insane psychopath. Don’t you feel anything?!”

Please let me go to him. He has to be alive…

Please let my twin stay alive…

Let all of this be a nightmare!

I couldn’t cope with Jethro murdered; I’d go clinically insane if they killed V, too.
“I feel relief. I no longer have to put up with their simpering bullshit.” He flashed his teeth. “Cut did us all a favour.”

Cut will die.

He was evil incarnate. He deserved to die in excruciatingly painful ways.

I refuse to believe they’re dead.

“I said stop!” I wriggled harder, only succeeding in Daniel’s fingers tearing into my flesh. 
Goosebumps covered my skin while ice steadily froze my veins. Every second was endless torture. I couldn’t live without Jethro.

It can’t end like this!

“You won’t win, Weaver.” Daniel tugged harder. “Accept what’s fucking happened and obey me.”
Links to Buy:
DEBT INHERITANCE (book #1): Amazon | B&N | iBooks
FIRST DEBT (book #2): Amazon | B&N | iBooks
SECOND DEBT (book #3): AmazonB&N | iBooks
THIRD DEBT (book #4): Amazon | B&N | iBooks
FOURTH DEBT (book #5): Amazon | B&N | iBooks


Meet Pepper:


Pepper Winters wears many roles. Some of them include writer, reader, sometimes wife. She loves dark, taboo stories that twist with your head. The more tortured the hero, the better, and she constantly thinks up ways to break and fix her characters. Oh, and sex... her books have sex.

She loves to travel and has an amazing, fabulous hubby who puts up with her love affair with her book boyfriends.

Her Dark Erotica books include:Tears of Tess (Monsters in the Dark #1)
Quintessentially Q (Monsters in the Dark #2)
Twisted Together (Monsters in the Dark #3)

Her Grey Romance books include:
Destroyed

Connect with Pepper:



Thursday, August 6, 2015

CHAPTER REVEAL ~Find Me by Laurelin Page~

Title: Find Me
Author: Laurelin Paige
Series: The Found Duet #2
Release Date:  August 25, 2015
Gwen Anders came to The Sky Launch to begin fresh, away from the horrors of her past. She fit in quickly, becoming good friends with her co-manager, Alayna Withers and the owner of the club, Hudson Pierce. Though the circumstances that brought her here were not the best, she's never felt more at home.

But starting a new life means letting go. And there are some things she doesn't want to leave behind - like JC, the man who taught her how to let loose. The man she wasn't supposed to fall in love with. The man she doesn't want to lose.

Now, with the reason she ran still a threat, Gwen fears she'll never be able to move on completely. And if she does, can she still hold out hope that JC loves her enough to come and find her?
CHAPTER ONE

“Test today was negative,” Laynie said as I walked in the office, not bothering with any greeting. “I’m never going to get pregnant, Gwen.”

I dropped my purse on the couch and bit the inside of my cheek before I responded so that I didn’t laugh. “You’re kidding, right?”

“Nope. It was a big fat minus sign. Which means negative. Not pregnant. No baby. Infertile. Nothing’s growing in this soil.”

I couldn’t help myself—I laughed. “It’s been two months since you started trying. That’s not even long enough to let the Depo run out of your system yet, is it? Have you even had a period?”

Alayna—Laynie—had only gotten married in April to Hudson Pierce, one of the country’s richest men under thirty and the owner of The Sky Launch, the club where we worked together as co-managers. I hadn’t heard a word about her wanting children the whole time they’d been engaged, but by the time she’d come home from the honeymoon, she was in full family-planning mode. Technically my boss, Laynie’s most notable trait was her ability to focus intently on a project until it was completed. In other words, she was a little obsessive.

It was actually a great characteristic when it came to work. She always thought of everything, never missing a detail. Her brain worked on overdrive, and while she liked to talk incessantly about business, her passion and creative ideas made sure the subject never grew old.

An obsessive partner was good for me, really. Besides my family and friendship with Laynie, work was all I had to fill my time. Well, pretty much all I had. And since she and the other two important people in my life—my sister Norma and my brother Ben—had significant others, I spent a lot of time focused on my job. It definitely helped with the loneliness.

But now Laynie was obsessed with having a baby.

God, I knew nothing about babies. Or pregnancy. Or marriage. Or being so in love and committed to a person that I wanted to procreate with him. Somehow the constant talk about it made me feel more alone than ever. And she hadn’t even conceived yet. What the hell would it feel like when she actually had another human to fixate on?

“I have not had a period yet,” Laynie said as I crossed over to my desk, which was set at a perpendicular angle to hers. “And that makes it even harder to guess when I’m supposed to test. But I had all the symptoms of ovulation two weeks ago—the raised temperature, the change in cervical fluid and firmness. That means I should have started today. But since I didn’t, it’s possible I’m still pregnant and the test just didn’t say it yet—right?”

“You’re not really asking me that, are you?” I slumped into my chair and logged into my computer as I spoke. “Because you know I have zero knowledge about anything related to conception.”

“But I just told you everything you need to know on the subject. I should be having a period. I’m not. Test says negative. Those contradict. So I could be pregnant. Right?”

“Sounds like you answered the question on your own.” I could sense she was about to protest, so before she did, I added, “Hey. You’re on your own with this. I can’t give you any insight or opinion. Now if you want to talk about narrowing down the selections for the new chef, I can say plenty.”

She opened her mouth to say something then shut it. When she opened it again, she said, “I’m obsessing, aren’t I?”

I put my thumb and forefinger up and indicated an inch. “Little bit.”

She groaned and dropped her forehead to her desk.

“Aw. Don’t beat yourself up. I know it’s frustrating. You decided you wanted something and now you can’t see anything else.” Man, did I know how that felt. But I also knew that life could go on through waiting. Even when the wait was indefinite.

At least she didn’t have to do the waiting alone.

I stopped myself from saying that, afraid it would come out bitter, and it wasn’t her I was bitter at. “It’s going to take time. Didn’t the doctor say it might be a year before your reproductive system was reset?”

Her head still down, she let out another muffled groan edged with an exaggerated sob.

“I’m not saying it will take that long. Just…be patient.” Easier said then done. I knew that. “Meanwhile, keep trying. Have as much fun as you can being a newlywed.”

She sat up abruptly, her brown hair flying from the movement. “Oh, believe me, we’re trying. All. The. Time.” She waggled her brows and her suddenly upbeat tone suggested she was next going to erupt into a sordid tale from her insanely abundant sex life.

Her stories had only recently begun to induce a streak of envy that blazed hot and fierce inside me, but I refused to let her know. Once they brought to mind vivid memories of my own—of the man I was waiting for, of the way he and I had been whenever we were together. I’d liked those memories. They’d given me something to hold onto. Something to look forward to.

Now they only reminded me of what I didn’t have.

But I forced an encouraging smile, preferring her spicy talk to her baby disappointment. “Please, Laynie. Don’t act as if you’re doing it any more than you were when you weren’t trying. You two have sex drives that are insatiable.”

She grinned. “It’s H. He can go forever. This morning, he woke me up before five, and he still was only half dressed when his driver rang the bell at a quarter to eight. The Pierce stamina…I tell you…”

“No, don’t. I can barely look at him with all I know as it is.”

“I’m just saying I bet there’s a cousin or something we could fix you up with.” She winked.

It was my turn to groan. “Please, no.” As for Pierce stamina, I had a feeling it was more Hudson stamina. I certainly hadn’t found my own Pierce lover to be able to go very long. Though, perhaps that was just because of their differences in age.

And that little extracurricular arrangement was not one I was sharing with anyone, least of all my coworker. It was embarrassing and wrong—on so many levels, not just because of the years between he and me. I was sure Laynie and I were close enough friends that she wouldn’t judge or scold, but still. I felt guilty. As I should. I should feel every rotten feeling from shame to disgust to remorse.

Laynie would tell me I was being ridiculous. She’d said before that I couldn’t waste my life away waiting for someone who had obviously flat-out disappeared. And maybe a part of me agreed. Maybe that was why I’d let that other Pierce work his way into my life. Into my bed.

But I hadn’t let him anywhere near my heart, because no matter how much time had passed, it belonged to someone else.

“Fine. No setting you up with Hudson’s family. As soon as you say the word, though, I’m fixing you up with someone. Just let me know when you’re ready.”

I chewed on my bottom lip and gave her a tight, “Mmhmm,” pretending to be distracted with what was on my screen. Thank goodness she couldn’t view it from where she sat or she’d see that I was staring at the desktop. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to discuss the topic, necessarily. I just didn’t know what else to say to her. “Don’t bother, I’m hopeless,” would only urge her to convince me otherwise. And I didn’t want convincing. Because as far as I was concerned, I’d never be ready.

“Well, whenever.”

I felt her staring at me for a few seconds before I heard the clickety-click of her fingers on her keyboard. She really was thoughtful to try like she did. It was just still difficult for me to know how to deal with people who cared about me besides Norma and Ben. People like Alayna and Hudson and Boyd—Norma’s boyfriend—and Eric, my brother’s fiancĂ©. It hadn’t been that long since I’d been closed off to everyone, shut up inside, unwilling to let go or let others in, and it was sometimes awkward to respond to the attention. Which was silly, probably. It wasn’t like I’d turned into the captain of the cheerleading squad in terms of social life or anything. But I’d definitely changed. And that took getting used to.

Alayna wasn’t pushing, thankfully. That meant I was off the hook, and I willed my attention to turn to work.

I let out a long breath and opened up the shared folder on my computer labeled Restaurant. While I was mainly in charge of operations and Laynie was in charge of marketing and human resources, we found our best innovative ideas happened together. So even though she primarily worked days and I worked nights, we made sure our hours overlapped several times a week so that we could collaborate and touch base. Friday nights we ran the club together. She wasn’t needed then—we had more than enough qualified managers to cover all the shifts without her having to take a weekend night—but she said it kept her in touch with what made the club thrive. Frankly, I was surprised Hudson let her work when he wasn’t at the office. He was as controlling as she was obsessive. Somehow the two made it work. Perfectly, even.

However they did it, I was grateful that we had shifts together. Besides being a good friend, she was an amazing businesswoman. She had worked at The Sky Launch for several years, but she’d only taken over as manager at about the same time I did. I’d been impressed from day one with her plans for expansion of the nightclub, including her idea to highlight the club’s best feature—the private bubble rooms on the second story that overlooked the dance floor below. We’d focused on bringing in more small parties, partnering with various businesses around town and starting a citywide promotion campaign through one of the best advertising firms in NYC.

Recently we’d moved our focus to her idea of having a restaurant on the premises during the day hours. The last club I’d worked at, Eighty-Eighth Floor, had a similar model of day-to-night presence that we’d tweaked to bring to The Sky Launch. Presently, we were looking at chefs.

“Did you confirm with Fuschia MacDonahough for tomorrow?” I asked, looking at our To-Do List. For months, we’d met every Thursday for dinner at the penthouse she had with Hudson. It was our chance to hang out in a non-work setting, though for the last couple of weeks, we’d added a bit of the job to the routine by bringing in one of the chefs on our short list of potential hires to prepare the meal so we could audition their cooking.

The recurring date had strengthened our friendship. Norma, my sister, sometimes joined us, and every now and then Ben and Eric as well. We’d become a family of sorts, pieces of broken people coming together like a patchwork quilt. It was a night that I looked forward to with as much intensity as I dreaded the loneliness of the Wednesday night that preceded it.

“Yep. Then next week we’ve got Jordan Chase confirmed. After that we’re going to have to make a decision.”

Her brow wrinkled, and I prayed she didn’t go where I sensed she was going.

“Jordan Chase,” she said again. “That could be what JC stands for.”

And there she’d gone.

JC.

“JC wasn’t a cook.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes. I’m sure.” And the C likely stood for a middle name, definitely not his last. Of the few things he’d told me, one had been his last name—Bruzzo. I’d kept that information to myself like most of what he’d told me that final time I’d seen him.

“His name could still be Jordan.” Good old Laynie. Obsessing again. “I kind of like that. It has a nice ring.”

If I had the strength, I’d let her ramble on and not react.

But I had no strength when it came to JC, and Alayna knew it.

I twisted my seat toward her and glared.

She was staring out into space though and missed my evil eye. “Gwen and Jordan. Jordan and Gwen. I like that. Real catchy.” Finally, she looked at me. “What?”

“One minute you want to fix me up with someone, the next you’re bringing up JC. Do you want me with him or not?”

“I don’t want either. I mean, I want you happy. And from what you’ve said about this guy, I think he makes you happy. So I wish he would come the fuck back from wherever he disappeared to and do that.”

Me too.

I didn’t want to go down this road tonight. I nodded and hoped she’d take my cue when I swiveled back toward my screen.

She didn’t. “But if he’s not going to come back…”

“Then you think I should move on. I know, I know.” She’d told me enough times in enough ways for me to feel like I understood her position on the matter.

She surprised me, though, saying, “I’m torn, Gwen. He sounds amazing. Perfect for you. And after everything Hudson and I went through, I believe that love can overcome incredible obstacles.”

Nice sentiment. I wanted to believe it too. “But our only obstacle is that he isn’t here.” Well, that and he’d gotten married to someone else in Vegas while he was too drunk to know what he was doing. That was another thing I hadn’t told Alayna.

“Exactly. He has to be here. And he’s not. So you need to make a decision about how long you’re going to wait for him. How much of your life is worth letting pass by while you wait for him to show up? What if he never shows up?”

It was the question I asked myself every day.

The answer was, I’d be lost. I was lost. Because of him, I was open and looser and closer to happy than I’d been for most of my life. But the heart of me—the part that believed in love and ever after and sweet kisses and romance—that part of me was lost.

Honestly, I wasn’t sure that I’d ever completely found it. I’d glimpsed it, though. Seen pieces of myself that had hinted it was inside me. If it really was there, I knew without a doubt I wouldn’t find it for real without him. Without JC.

But Alayna had a point. How long could I wait before at least pretending to move on?

“I don’t know,” I said with raw sincerity.

Laynie was silent for a moment, and I could hear the wheels in her head turning. “I get you,” she said finally, “I do. I’ve wasted so much time on less promising relationships than yours, and the ways I coped were far less healthy than you simply taking yourself off the market. But Lauren, my favorite therapist, used to say that sometimes we aren’t even interested in the thing we’re after anymore. We’ve just gotten in the habit of focusing on it.”

Was that what JC had become for me? Merely a habit?

I didn’t want to think that was all he was. But if he’d taught me anything, it was that living in the past was not living at all.

I’d never struggled with addiction, yet now I felt like I had a smidgeon of an idea of what it must have been like for Alayna when she’d had to face her obsessive tendencies over men. How hard it must have been to finally try to “quit.” It was why my father had never been able to put down the bottle and why he’d turned to heroin—because it was that hard to give up the thing that you lived for.

In the same way, it was nearly impossible for me to think about giving up JC, even when he’d only become a memory.

And with that clarity, I realized that was exactly what I had to do—give him up. Because I didn’t want to be anything like my father.

Laynie was right. I had to check in to JC Anonymous. I had to quit. Tentatively I asked, “What would this Dr. Lauren of yours say is the way to stop?”

“Well.” She was just as tentative in her answer, all too aware of the difficulty it took for me to even think about “quitting.” “She’d suggest setting a date. A date that you plan to quit waiting, or in my case, obsessing, and then on that date, you stop. Like a job. Hand in your notice today and know that this is all the time you have left before you move on.”

“So I should pick a date to be over JC? That sounds a little simplistic, doesn’t it?”

“It does. But it works.” She thought for a second then corrected herself. “Or it helps anyway. Nothing really works except not giving up.”

I twisted my lips, considering what she’d said. It would be easy to apply her words to reasons to not quit JC. If I truly believed we could be together then I shouldn’t give up.

But it had been almost a year since he’d left me. Almost twelve months since he’d told me that he was the key witness in a murder. That he had to go into protection until the trial. I had no way of knowing when the trial would end, and when it did, he was the one who had to find me. Which could prove difficult since I’d left every part of my old life in my own need for protection. In my case, protection from my father.

I had faith that he could find me. But would he look? Because, yes, I still had feelings for him, but really, when I thought about it logically, it was ridiculous that I did. Because in the seven months I’d known him before he left, our relationship really only added up to a total of two weeks time together. Ninety-five percent of that had been just sex. So what was it I was actually waiting around for? A man who had openly loved me for the space of…what? A day and a half? That and good sex. Amazingly good sex.

It wasn’t enough to justify being stuck for so long.

And if he actually did love me like he’d said he did, I had a feeling he’d say the same thing.

There was only one smart thing to do.

I looked down at the keyboard where my fingers were absentmindedly tapping over and over on the same two letters—J and C.

No. I couldn’t live like this forever.

I pulled my hands into my lap and sat back in my chair. “The Fourth.”

I’d been silent long enough that Laynie took a moment to register my meaning. “Of July?”

I swallowed. “Yeah. Independence Day. Sounds like a good day to let someone go.”

She nodded, her expression somber, her eyes both compassionate and hopeful. “It sounds perfect,” she said. “A total celebration. We’re all going to be on Hudson’s boat for the night. We’ll watch the fireworks and everyone will think they’re going off for this big patriotic holiday thing, and only we will know they’re really just for you.”

The year before, I’d spent the holiday watching the fireworks alone, missing JC with every fiber of my being. Yet somehow this year’s celebration sounded even lonelier.

“Perfect,” I said. I’d expected to feel a weight lifted from me, but instead, it felt almost suffocating to commit to this new plan. Felt like something inside of me was tightening and constricting, making it hard to breathe. Like my lungs were full of sand and my heart that had once been open was starting to close.

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Meet Laurelin:
NY Times & USA Today Bestselling author Laurelin Paige is a sucker for a good romance and gets giddy anytime there’s kissing, much to the embarrassment of her three daughters. Her husband doesn’t seem to complain, however. When she isn’t reading or writing sexy stories, she’s probably singing, watching Mad Men and the Walking Dead, or dreaming of Adam Levine. She is represented by Bob Diforio of D4EO Literary Agency.






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