vrijdag 22 juli 2016

Book Blitz ~ Closer by Emerald O'Brien #Giveaway


Closer by Emerald O’Brien 

Publication Date: July 22, 2016 

Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Suspense


 Purchase: Amazon

Chloe Forrester has planned her life out perfectly. Newly engaged to her adoring boyfriend, Harrison Scott, she finally feels as if the pieces of her life are coming together. But when Paxton Potter, a man with a grudge against her fiance, accuses him of betrayal, Chloe’s trust in Harrison starts to waver. After a young woman’s body is found, a dangerous and unlikely connection is formed between Chloe and Paxton. With each dark secret uncovered, Chloe has a choice- turn a blind eye or dig deeper. But in order to understand something or someone, you have to look closer. Each decision she makes has a consequence, as new truths are revealed about her enemies and the people she loves. With Chloe’s future dangling by a thread, she must be ready to sever ties to the life she thought she knew in order to survive.


About Emerald O’Brien

 Emerald O’Brien is a Canadian writer who grew up just east of Toronto, Ontario. Through both elementary school and high school, she enjoyed classes that involved English and the Arts. Emerald thrived when given the ability to express her creativity, writing both short stories and scripts for plays. Her passion for writing remained as Emerald studied Television Broadcasting and Communications Media, graduating from the program at Mohawk College in Hamilton, Ontario. She published her first novel,Darkness Follows, in 2014 . Emerald still loves to take writing courses and workshops when possible. To date, she has published five novels and one boxed set.


donderdag 21 juli 2016

Cover Reveal ~ Blind Landing by Carrie Aarons

Title: Blind Landing
Series: Flipped #1
Author: Carrie Aarons
Genre: Sports Romance
Cover Design: Sarah Hansen, Okay Creations
 Release Date: August 4, 2016


Fear stops dreams in their tracks before they even have a chance. Then again, so do injuries. 

Natalia Grekov was born to win Olympic gold. As the USA’s top gymnast, she’s calm, confident and ready to make her country proud in just two short months. And her elite athlete lifestyle includes no time for distractions—especially men. When a disastrous fall in practice puts her dreams at risk, it seems the only person who can help her is the one person she wants nothing from. 

Spencer Russell is gymnastics’ bad boy. A cocky, laid-back charmer with abs of steel and a witty mouth, he waltzes around the U.S. Gymnastics Training Camp like he owns the place—even though he doesn't anymore. After an injury sidelined his career and any chance at Olympic glory, he’s now just a coach, helping other gymnasts reach their goals. Serious is not a word in Spencer’s vocabulary. But when Natalia tumbles into his life, he's suddenly sincerely interested in helping the blonde beauty in any way he can. 

Can they vault over the obstacles standing in their way? Or will Spencer be the distraction that causes Natalia's chance at gold to crash and burn?


Novak claps again and I look over in his direction. “Thank you for being able to join us this morning, Spencer.”

Turning towards the gym’s front doors, I watch Spence, as he told me to call him last night, stroll in clad in his typical wardrobe of sandals and workout shorts.

And nothing else.

Jesus, he’s sexy. With all of those carved-out-of-stone muscles and short brown buzz cut, it’s like he should be in a Marines uniform instead of in a chalk-covered gym. He looks like he just rolled out of bed three seconds ago, and I squirm in my split. Which only adds to my building frustration as the carpet and my leotard create friction below my waistline.

“Oh, no problem, boss. Anything for you guys.” He gives a lopsided grin and jumps onto a stack of mats, lounging with one elbow propping him up. It’s as if he’s constantly posing for a non-existent camera, like he’s the star model for a shoot in Gymnastics Monthly.

Actually, I think he did have a five-page spread a couple years back and I have it somewhere in my desk at home.

“Grace, Julia, Natalia, Peyton, Quinn and Lila … you are headed to the bars gym for the first part of practice today. Spencer, I will be assessing the men on pommel horse for the first part of the day, so you will be helping with the girl’s bar workout.”

My stomach flips. Bars is my best event, I’m not nervous about that. I could do my routine, which is one of the hardest of anyone at Filipek’s, in my sleep.

But having Spence watching me with those green eyes? Tracking my body as it spins and flies through the air? It makes the butterflies in my stomach explode.

I know he likes me, genuinely likes me. I know because he told me. And I genuinely like him too. We also find each other hot, or else we wouldn’t have gotten naked together in the Atlantic Ocean last night. That’s obvious.

But I don’t do boyfriends. Especially not boyfriends who are gymnasts. And don’t even get me started on the gymnast turned coach thing. Even if he isn’t my coach. Point is, I don’t even do hookups. Sure, I have in the past, but most of the time I find that the sex isn’t worth it and things just get awkward. Most would call me more adult than my years in this thought-process, but being an elite athlete means having to grow up fast. My biography might read nineteen, but I’ve been told I have the maturity and life view of a thirty-year-old. Talk about being jaded.

The whole relationship thing, no matter what form it’s in, is just too messy. And as much as I hate Filipek and everything he stands for, I need to focus to achieve my goals. I’m not here to fulfill anyone else’s dreams, just my own. And partially my families.

I don’t have time for Spencer Russell. And what’s more, I have a feeling Spencer Russell does not have time or interest for girlfriends either.

Spence salutes Novak, taunting him and crossing the line just a little more than anyone would dare where he’s concerned.

Then he turns to our group. “All right chicas, let’s get moving. Someone remind me again, what’s this low bar for?”

The rest of our group giggles and bats their eyes at Spencer, but I just roll mine. His humor about the difference between the men’s high bar and the women’s uneven bars is the oldest joke in the book.

“Why don’t you watch and learn? We’ll show you what real gymnastics looks like.”

Author Bio

Author of romance novels such as Red Card and the Captive Heart Duet, Carrie Aarons writes sexy, swoony and sarcastic characters who won't get out of her head until she puts them down on a page.

Carrie has wanted to be an author since the first time she opened a book. She loves spinning tales that include dapper men, women with attitude, and the occasional hunky athlete.

When she isn't in what her husband calls a "writing coma", Carrie is freeing up her jam-packed DVR, starting her latest DIY project, or planning her next travel adventure. She lives in New Jersey with her husband, who is more than happy to watch sports while his wife plots love stories.

Author Links

Pre-Order Blitz ~ Handcuffed by Destiny by Lori King

Title: Handcuffed by Destiny
Series: Crawley Creek #6
Author: Lori King
Genre: Contemporary Western Romance
 Release Date: August 23, 2016


A broken woman… After being kidnapped, tortured and surviving the brutality of human traffickers, Destiny Warren still finds every day a struggle. Every single minute she works to overcome her injuries, both visible and hidden. Despite her overpowering fear, she finds herself drawn to her rescuer, Brandon Bowers.

A man of honor… Bran Bowers was raised by his grandmother with a sense of responsibility and a serious demeanor. He’s spent his life working for everything he has, but Mother Nature and fate seem to be taking turns dealing his cards lately. Between a flash flood that wiped out his home, and a beautiful woman who’s scared to accept his protection, Bran has to roll up his sleeves and take a stand.

A mountain to climb… They say that love conquers all, but can it also overcome the horrors of PTSD? Destiny isn’t sure she can let Bran in, but she can’t seem to let him go. Will Bran walk away knowing he can never know her completely, or is he handcuffed to his own destiny?

**Note from the author: This story reflects on a woman’s victimization at the hands of terrible people. Possible triggers are involved in the storyline and thus should be taken into consideration.

Pre-order Links


Also Available

Crawley Creek Series
By: Lori King

In a small town in North Dakota there resides a family of misfits on the Crawley Creek Ranch. Brought together by hardship, and heartache they’ve bonded without blood ties, and seek to help others. Four brothers who’ve walked both sides of the line, and come out stronger for it, but will they survive love, loss, and the law?

Beginnings (Prequel)

Forget Me Knot (Book 1)

Rough Ride Romeo (Book 2)

Claiming His Cowgirl (Book 3)

Sunnyside Up (Book 4)

Hawke's Salvation (Book 5)

Author Bio

Lori King is the author of more than twenty five Amazon best-selling romance novels, as well as a full-time wife and mother of three boys. Although she rarely has time to just enjoy feminine pursuits; at heart she is a hopeless romantic. She spends her days dreaming up Alpha men, and her nights telling their stories. An admitted TV and book junkie, she can be found relaxing with a steamy story, or binging in an entire season of some show online. She gives her parents all the credit for her unique sense of humor and acceptance of all forms of love. There are no two loves alike, but you can love more than one with your whole heart.

With the motto: Live, Laugh, and Love like today is your only chance, she will continue to write as long as you continue to read. Thank you for taking the time to indulge in a good Happily Ever After with her.

Author Links

woensdag 20 juli 2016

Blog Tour ~ Afterimage & Encender by J. Kowallis #Excerpt #Giveaway


J. Kowallis

(The Enertia Trials #1)
Publication date: May 7th 2015
Genres: Dystopian, New Adult

Reggie’s dreams . . .
aren’t dreams.
Visions of the future flood her mind like shards of broken puzzles. Caged in her cell, every morning begins the same. She’s drugged, tortured, and images are torn from her memory by Public One.
Until the morning everything changes. The vision is different. The future’s never been about her, and now she knows they’re coming for her:
How will she convince them to keep her alive when Nate, their leader, doesn’t like or even trust her? To him, she’s a science experiment. A machine.
When Public One will do anything to keep her, Reggie must make a decision: remain a slave to her past, or risk her future to venture into a world more terrifying than she’s ever known.


J. Kowallis

(The Enertia Trials #2)
Publication date: February 29th 2016
Genres: Dystopian, New Adult

They say you feel cold when you die.
The people I’ve killed would beg to differ.
For twenty-something Ransley, the adopted daughter of famed street fighter Estevan Benitez, fighting is all she knows. One hidden detail separates her from the endless string of her pathetic opponents: she can craft and influence heat and fire.
When she’s pitted against the strongest fighters at the infamous Argolla, Ransley faces something she never expected:
A man like her.
Roydon can duplicate himself. When the two collide in the ring, a chain of deals turns Roydon over to Public Four and he’s taken away to undergo the disturbing process of the Nexis. What it is, or what it does, no one outside of The Public knows.
Driven by guilt and a desire to release the only person she’s ever met who’s like her, Ransley isn’t about to leave him for dead—not when he might hold the answers to her missing past. Now she must trust a pair of strangers: a former military man out to collapse the system, and a woman whose premonitions could tear them all apart.


Dirt floated around in the air and the explosions of yells and horns echoed through the city. Caspar and his men took a position near the side of the ring and watched little Pedro grab the communicator and step into the center with his sloppy madre beater and torn khakis.
“HOLAAAAA . . . DAMAS Y CABALLEROS.” He laughed over the com with a rough cackle. “WE HAVE A TREAT FOR YOU TONIGHT! IN FACT, NOT JUST A TREAT, BUT A BOUNTIFUL DESSERT PLATERRRR. WE HAVE FOR YOUR BETTING PLEASURE, THE CHAMPION FROM HONDURAS, THE GIANT, THE KONG AMONG MEN. YACOOOOOOOOOOOO!” He howled into the com and the crowd cheered and screeched with both excitement and hate.
Caspar’s crooked smile played on his face. He watched Yaco push the rope down and step over it. Yaco’s head sat on the top of his shoulders like a pumpkin on a horse saddle. His floppy fat-sagging pectorals hung down and rested on his protruding stomach. Caspar never saw the fight that caused it, but a long diagonal scar ran across Yaco’s left eye and into his hair.
Whatever sense of confidence Caspar had before the fight dropped from his soul. A woman, perhaps shy of twenty-five with boyish hair stepped into the ring, and pulled off the zipped-up hooded sweatshirt she wore. Wearing a dirty tank and utility pants, she popped her neck and threw a few practice hits in the air. Caspar started to shake his head, waving his arms to get Pedro to stop the fight. Estevan must have been out of his mind. Caspar took back everything he’d said to Faron about Estevan—it wasn’t guilt that tore the old man away from the ring all those years ago, it was insanity.
The crowd split into raucous laughter, and cans and bottles flew from the bleachers into the ring at the girl. She ducked and kicked them away. A flash of fury ran through Caspar. He pushed his way around the ring, searching for Estevan and signaling Pedro to stop the fight. Finally, Pedro raised his arms in defense, laughing all the while looking at the hard body of the woman up and down. A man on the sidelines reached for her and she immediately twisted his arm around, breaking his wrist.
“Benitez!” Caspar yelled. Estevan Benitez, unflinching, turned his head and looked down on him. Even though the legend was twice his size, Caspar still cursed at him, jabbing his pointer finger into Estevan’s shoulder. “Listen, hombre. I don’t know if you’re stupid or lost your freaking mind, but there’s no women in the Argolla. You got that? You wanna get a chick to fight, take her to The Public hair salon! This is a men’s only fighting ring. No hoo-has, no boobies. All right?”
Estevan’s nostrils flared with each word he spoke. His voice noticeably harsher and more grated than before. “She’s in the ring, Caspar. What are you going to do? Give everyone their money back? Miss out on all those pesos?”
He’d lose everything. No matter what he did. If he canceled the fight and put another fighter in, the crowd wouldn’t put up with that. If the fight moved forward . . . and then he paused . . . if the girl fought, she’d lose. Everyone was betting on her. Anything lost would go directly to himself. The little throb in his neck started to dissipate and he looked at Estevan coolly, his words frosted with disgust and greed.
“Fine. She fights. It’ll be fun to watch a woman pounded into a bloody mess. Especially since she’s your deserting ass’s daughter. It’ll be a shame, though. I would have liked my own chance to, uh . . .” Caspar slithered his eyes over to Ransley in the ring while she leaned over the rope cursing at the people yelling obscenities at her and licked his lips, “take her down.”
Estevan’s hand lashed out, gripping Caspar’s vest and pulling him forward. The hard clicks of Faron and Adelmo’s handguns snapped at Caspar’s sides, raising the barrels to the old fighter.
“I dare you,” Caspar sneered, his face only inches away from, what he knew, would have been death under any other circumstance.
Estevan’s eyes darted between the two barrels and loosened his grip on Caspar’s clothing.
“Like I said . . .” Caspar brushed himself off and pulled out his own gun, waving it in front of Estevan’s knotted and scarred face. “Coward.”
With a wave of his hand to signal Pedro, Caspar turned on his heel. The crowd went insane. Pedro called into the com again, his face split into a grin. “AND THE FIGHT IS ON! FOR THE FIRST TIME IN LOS ÁNGELES HISTORY, A WOMAN IS FIGHTING IN THE ARGOLLA!”
Caspar motioned Pedro toward him and the stumpy man waddled toward him.

“Remind everyone,” he whispered, “all bets are final.”

Author Bio:

J. Kowallis, the only girl of four children, grew up in northern Utah with a head full of wild stories (most often unreal). At the age of 9, she wrote her first poem, a dedication to E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web. It was so intriguing, her third grade teacher requested to keep the original. Between living in various fictional worlds, and spending time on her studies, she managed to graduate from Weber State University’s creative writing program. She now lives in Utah with her Mini Schnauzer, Etta, and spends most of her time still bouncing between this world and the fantastical while enjoying delectable über-dark chocolate and lavender baths. She enjoys dreaming about, flying to, and writing about distant lands (real or unreal).


dinsdag 19 juli 2016

Release Blitz ~ Renegade by Sandra Marton #Giveaway

Title: Renegade
Series: S.T.U.D. #3
Author: Sandra Marton
Genre: Military Romance
Release Date: July 19, 2016


All the guys in STUD take some ribbing about the name of their Special Ops group, but Declan Sanchez sometimes thinks he takes more than his fair share.

Actually, the kidding is well-deserved. Beautiful women hit on Dec all the time. At six feet two inches he has the black-as-midnight eyes and lean, hard body of his half-Spanish, half-Colombian father, and the chestnut-shot-with-gold hair of his Irish-American mother. Dec is, in a word, gorgeous. He’s also a battle-hardened warrior, a man who always goes after what he wants—and gets it.

Annie Stanton is a petite, hazel-eyed brunette. She’s beautiful—her beauty is the first thing Declan notices about her when they accidentally meet on a California beach—but what really fascinates him is the aura of quiet she projects. If Declan is a hurricane, Annie is its calm eye. She’s also the first woman Dec has ever wanted and not bedded, a fact that amazes him even after a month of spending every possible minute together. Annie wants him too. He knows that. But she’s inexperienced, and he senses that rushing her would be a mistake. That’s okay. He’ll wait. He’ll do anything for the woman he’s starting to think of as his Annie.

And then, without warning, Annie disappears from his life. All she leaves is a note. Goodbye, I’m sorry, knowing you was wonderful. Dec is desperate to find her. He tries everything he knows, including the outside-the-law talent he developed as a computer hacker in his teen years, but there’s no trace of Annie anywhere…until he attends the wedding of fellow STUD Chay Olivieri and finds Annie is there as a guest. Except she isn’t Annie Stanton at all. She’s the Royal Princess Anoushka of the Kingdom of Qaram… and soon, very soon, the only man who can save her from becoming the bride of a brutal dictator will be Lieutenant Declan Sanchez and a raiding party of tough, combat-ready STUDs.

Purchase Links



Sexy Excerpt, RENEGADE, Special Units Tactical Division Book 3 by Sandra Marton © 2016

He rose to his feet and turned towards her.

Her heart thudded.

He was beautiful. His face was the essence of masculine strength and power. So was his body. Every part of him proclaimed him a proud warrior who had faced his enemies, fought them and won.

She realized she hadn’t ever really seen him naked.

The light had been poor last night and though she’d felt every powerful inch of him against her, she’d learned the contours of his body mostly by touch.

She’d often slept in his arms in California, but he’d always kept on a T-shirt and board shorts. For her sake, she knew. And though he’d been shirtless on the beach, that didn’t count.

They hadn’t been lovers then.

Now they were, and she couldn’t stop looking at him.

The muscled arms. The taut pectorals. The dog-tags glinting against the line of dark hair that traveled down his chest, over those washboard abs, to disappear into his camos.

His unbuttoned camos, riding low on his hips.

Her mouth went dry. Her gaze swept back to his face. He was watching her through narrowed eyes the color of night.

“Anoushka,” he said, and for the first time since the deaths of her parents, her given name sounded as if it truly belonged to her. “I heated some water. I thought we might wash up before we eat.”

She nodded. “Yes. Of course. Wash up…”

Slowly, he began walking towards her. He stopped only inches away. She could feel the heat of the fire, the heat of his body, the heat of desire burning hot inside her

“We should do a lot of things—but, baby, if I don’t get inside you right now, I’m going to die.”

His blunt words sent a shock of electricity racing from her breasts to her belly. In an instant she was hot and wet, and when he reached for her, she threw herself into his arms, sobbing his name, eager for his kiss, his touch, his possession.

He thrust his hand into her hair and cupped the back of her head and then he took her mouth, not gently, not asking, he claimed her with his lips, his teeth, his tongue, and it was exactly what she wanted.

He bent down in front of her, unlaced her boots. She stepped out of them. Then he rose to his feet and tore her sweater over her head, undid her camo pants and shoved them and her panties to her ankles. His hands were hard and fast; so was his his breathing, and yes, this was how she wanted him, now, right now, no preliminaries, no gentle explorations, she wanted him to take her and make her fly.

“Jesus Christ,” he said thickly. “Annie. Anoushka. I can’t wait…”

He lifted her. Carried her to a narrow bed piled high with soft sheepskins. Tumbled onto it with her. She sobbed his name, reached up to him as he kicked off his pants and then he was inside her, deep inside her; her body lifted to his and her cry of immediate release was all he needed to let go and explode within her.

“Annie,” he said, “Annie, I love you.”

She wound her arms around him, drew him down against her, and wept with joy.

Also Available



Author Bio

Sandra Marton, a USA Today Bestselling author, writes sexy, emotional romances about Alpha heroes and the smart, independent women who tame them.

Sandra's beloved Wilde family saga continues...and now the Bellini-Wilde sisters are meeting the gorgeous, hard-bodied heroes who will conquer them and claim their love. POWER, Sandra's newest book, also introduces her latest Alphas: the men of STUD, former SEALS who have been tapped for membership in an even tougher, more secret organization.

Author Links


Release Boost ~ Take Me by Sara V. Zook


Release Boost
Title: Take Me
Author: Sara V. Zook
Release: July 12, 2016
Cover Designer: Susan Garwood from Wicked Women Designs



The depths of his soul are as black as his eyes.
He’s a thief and a murderer. Add kidnapping to the list now that he’s taken me, forced me away from my father’s house in the middle of the night. There’s no room for mercy in his dead heart. He’s driven by purpose, and I keep messing up his plans. So he hates me. He punishes me. He’s my captor, and there’s nothing I can do to change that. But then he’s forced to make a decision—keep me or let someone else have me? He’s still my captor, but also a kind of savior now too. Somehow things have changed between us. I can see it in his eyes. He doesn’t like it, but he can’t stop the motion from going forward. He wants me in a different way, and it’s killing him to give in to his desires. I’m beginning to see that sometimes even a dead heart, even one belonging to Creed, can be revived.







CREED “I need all the money,” I growled. The old man just stood there, terror written all over his face, as I continued to aim the gun at his chest. I did need all the money. Every last fucking penny. “I…I…” he stuttered. “Don’t try to bullshit me.” I narrowed my eyes at him. That’s all he could see—my cold, dark eyes. The rest of my face was covered up in a black spandex mask, my body covered in black also. None of my tattoos were exposed. “Where’s the safe?” I watched his Adam’s apple bob up and down. He wasn’t moving. He was studying me, testing the waters to see how serious I was. I shoved the end of my gun in his ribs. There. Him feeling the cold steel against his skin should make his fear spike. “How much does that money mean to you?” I questioned him, my tone low and bitter. “Tell me, is it worth your life? You think you’re gonna take that cash with you into Hell once I blow a hole through you?” The old guy held up his hands, his eyes pleading with me. “Please. I don’t want trouble.” “Then you’d better get a move on.” I pulled the gun away from him to give him space to move. My temples were starting to throb. A dull pain was always there, always right under the surface, but seemed to come alive when I was really stressed or really pissed off. Both were occurring right now. I wanted to reach up and massage the sides of my head; instead I mentally shook off the pain. Nothing was going to interfere with what I had to do tonight. Nothing. “This way,” he whispered, moving cautiously in front of me. I followed him, glancing at a large antique grandfather clock in the hallway as I passed by. 1:05 a.m. “Who else is in the house?” I asked him. “What?” He stopped in front of a closed door. “Who else is in the house?” I repeated, irritated that I had to do so. This guy was really pushing my buttons. I’d anticipated being out of here by now. The old man’s bushy gray eyebrows furrowed together. “Just the housekeeper. She’s asleep.” “Where’s her room?” His eyes moved past the railing that overlooked the second floor below. “Downstairs?” I asked. He nodded. I didn’t like the fact that someone else was here. Made me nervous as hell. This situation was already dangerous. I didn’t need to ante up. Now I had to keep one eye on Mr. Moneybags here and one eye on the stairs. “Open the door,” I commanded him. We stepped inside an office. It was messy, with papers scattered all over the desk, newspapers carelessly tossed on the floor beside it. Bookshelves lined the walls. Then I spotted it. In the very back corner of the room was a black safe. I gave the old man a look and then gestured toward it with my gun. He quickly made his way to the other side of the room and began fiddling with the combination lock. The seconds ticked on in my head. This was taking too fucking long. I turned sideways so that out of my peripheral vision I could see into the hallway in case that housekeeper decided to take a little middle-of-the-night stroll. “Dad?” I turned my head right. My gun was still pointed left. A woman—no older than middle to late twenties—stood in the entranceway of the office in a short white nightgown, her long brown hair slightly disheveled, her hand pressed tightly up against her mouth as she gasped at the scene unraveling before her. “Don’t move,” I growled at her, my tone fierce and lifeless. I could see the silent scream emanating from her mouth as she slowly brought down her hand, her eyes now shimmering over in tears as she focused on the gun. “Your housekeeper calls you Dad?” I cocked an eyebrow. The old man’s face filled with dread. “I…I…” “Here comes the stuttering again.” I reached out and took hold of the woman’s thin arm, pulling her farther into the room. “Next to him.Now.” I glared at the man. Tick.Tick.Tick. The seconds were flying by and the damn safe wasn’t even opened up yet. “I’m going to ask you one more time.” I gritted my teeth together. “Who else is in this fucking house?” “Okay. Okay.” He gently grazed his daughter’s back with his fingertips. “There’s no one else, I assure you.” My eyes moved back to the girl, who was on the verge of hysteria. “I didn’t mention her because…I was just trying to protect her.” “Your protection method is going to get her fucking killed,” I told him. “Any more surprises, and I shoot her.” She let out a shrill cry. “Keep quiet.” “Honey, calm down.” He pulled his daughter into his side to try to soothe her. “Everything will be all right.” “The money,” I reminded him. “Who is he?” the woman asked as her father returned to plugging away at the combination. “I don’t know.” “You can’t just give him your money.” “I have no choice.” “Why is he here?” The throbbing pain in my temples doubled. “I can fucking hear you.” Her eyes locked with mine, and instead of startled fear, they were now outlined in rage as if she were suddenly challenging me. I’d interrupted her conversation with her father. I’d interrupted her peaceful dreams. I ran my finger along the edge of the gun trigger. “Why are you doing this?” she asked. I ignored her. “You have two minutes to load this up.” I tossed the empty duffel bag onto the floor. “You’re not going to get away with it.” She was glaring at me now through blue eyes that spilled tears onto her cheeks. I gave her only the briefest glance. “Now it’s one minute. You can thank your daughter’s mouth for that.” The old man let out a huff as he opened the safe. I could see all the neatly stacked green from the other side of the room. It wasn’t a very wide safe, but it was long, and it was definitely filled with cash. Jackpot. Thank god. I hadn’t been sure what exactly he was going to have here at his house. “I’m working as fast as I can. Briston, please stop.” Briston. I’d heard the name slip from his mouth. Interesting name. I watched as he emptied out the contents of the safe into my duffel bag. He was working quickly now. Everything was running smoothly. A few more minutes and I’d be on my way to the warehouse. All of my sleepless nights and time spent planning this were well worth it. “That’s it.” The guy’s eyes locked with mine. I could tell it was killing him to part with his beloved money. Not like he couldn’t just get more. “Zip the bag,” I ordered him. He did as he was told. The daughter stood by his side, her arms now wrapped around herself as if just now realizing she was dressed in practically nothing. “Throw it at my feet.” The bag was nudged by the old man’s foot. It skidded across the smooth wooden floor and landed at the edge of my boots. Damn. It was almost too good to be true. Here was the money I’d needed all this time—within grasp. All I had to do was pick it up, get to my vehicle, and get the hell out of here in a hurry. Picking up that bag would change my life. Then again, breaking into this guy’s house and holding him at gunpoint was another life changer—if I was caught—which I had no intentions of happening, so it was time to end this little rendezvous while the ball was still in my court. I tossed the bag over my shoulder and began to back out of the room, my gun still pointed ahead of me. “You won’t get away with it, you know,” the daughter said to me. There was pure venom in her voice. “People like you, you always think you’re smarter than the rest of the world, but you won’t get far, and then what? You’ll spend the rest of your life behind bars.” I smirked under my mask, which of course they couldn’t see. The girl had audacity, I’ll give her that. A loud burst of Spanish being spewed out behind me had my gun arm swinging around and pointing toward the hallway. There stood a short, rotund woman with curly black hair, her arms waving around madly in the air. I could only assume that this was the housekeeper. She became silent momentarily once she saw the gun aimed her way, but then recovered with another round of Spanish I couldn’t understand. That’s when I spotted it—a cell phone gripped tightly in her hand. Fuck. Panic overtook me. The woman was thrashing her arms around so much I couldn’t tell if the phone was on, if she’d already dialed someone, and I sure as hell couldn’t understand what she was saying to tell if the police were already involved. “Stop moving!” I screamed at her. But she didn’t stop. She just kept rambling on. “Get her to stop!” I yelled. “Cecelia!” the old man shouted out at her. Then he rambled off some Spanish, too. No, no, no. What was he telling her? What were they communicating? I exhaled loudly through my nostrils as my grip tightened on the gun. The housekeeper was still carrying on, her lips moving a mile a minute. I should shoot her. I needed to shoot her. I steadied my aim. I watched her stop jabbering long enough to gasp. Shit. I couldn’t do it. But I had to do something. I was still too startled by the fact that she was holding that phone. I reached over and took it from her, sending it flying to the floor, and watched as it shattered in pieces from the force of my adrenaline. I still didn’t have a clue as to if she had made any calls. I wasn’t taking any chances. “You,” I growled out, reaching over to the daughter and taking her by the wrist. “What are you doing?” the old man cried out. “Ow! Let me go!” she shrieked. This was the only way I was getting out of here right now. They’d back off and leave me alone if I had a hostage. But shit, this wasn’t part of the plan. Then again, plans fail and new ones had to be formed. I brought the woman in front of me and held the barrel of the handgun to her back, pushing it into her skin so she’d know it was there. She gave out a tiny yelp, her eyes pleading with her father to do something, anything. But no, there was nothing he could do. I’d just taken control of the situation once again. I was leaving—with her. The old man was in panic mode as well. “No. Please! I’ll…I have more money I can get you. Name your price. Please! Don’t hurt her!” I gave him one last glance out of the corner of my eye. It was as if I was waiting for the sirens to start echoing in the distance. There was no way I could do this now without taking something as leverage just in case. I’d think about where I could dump her off later. Right now it was all about escape, getting out of here without cuffs, alive. “Move,” I instructed her, pushing her toward the door. “Dad!” she shrieked. The Spanish woman’s mouth started rambling again. Too.Much.Noise. I forced the woman out into the hallway, my grip tightening on her arm as she winced in pain. “Daddy’s not gonna save you from me,” I whispered into her ear. I forced her down the stairs and to the wooden double front doors. The old man and housekeeper were side by side, fear very evident in their eyes as they stared down at me. “I’m going to make this simple. No one has to get hurt if you just leave me be. Don’t try to follow me. Don’t involve the police, and everything will turn out just fine.” “Please,” the old man pleaded one last time before I slipped outside into the darkness. The woman struggled against my grip. “Stop fighting me.” “You’re hurting me,” she snapped. I was beginning to get very heated under all this spandex. I gave the woman a little shove and released my hold on her. “Fine. Walk,” I instructed her. “But if you try anything, the gun’s still on you.” She stumbled a moment before regaining her balance. My eyes scanned down her bare legs and feet. The rocks underneath her steps had to be bothering her, but why should I care? Her being here with me only intensified my irritation. She was going to not only slow me down, but I now had to figure out what to do with her, how to deal with her. Something about the attitude I’d already seen from this girl told me it wasn’t exactly going to be a breeze. My car was parked up ahead along a back alleyway. It wasn’t anything extravagant. It was a plain black sedan with tinted windows. Anything to try not drawing attention to myself. I opened up the trunk. “I’m not going in there,” the woman snapped. I glared at her, the gun still pointed her way. “You’ll do what the fuck I tell you to do.” I tossed the duffel bag inside and slammed the trunk lid back down. Then I walked around to the passenger side. I had had no intentions of shoving her in the trunk, but the idea was appealing to me now. “Get in.” She hesitated. “Look, I don’t need to go with you. You’ve gotten this far…” I put my palm on the top of her head and forced her inside. Then I slammed the door shut and hurried to the driver’s side. I had to get going. There was no time for this useless chitchat. I put the gun on my left side so it was out of the woman’s reach. I glanced in the rearview mirror. No police lights flashing—yet. With my foot on the accelerator, the car leapt forward. “I hope you burn in hell,” the woman stated between gritted teeth beside me. The mask was making my face sweat and itch as I raked my fingers across my chin on top of the fabric. “Do me a favor and shut the fuck up.” I reached across her. She jerked back as if I were going to hurt her. Smirking, I took hold of her seatbelt, pulled it across her body, and fastened it tightly in place.




Sara V. Zook pursued her dream of becoming a writer and after earning her bachelor's degree, sat down to create her first novel in which Strange in Skin was completed in three short months. She's the author of the Strange in Skin Trilogy, Clipped, A Magic Within, Evanescent, Reminiscence, her mobster release, Six Guns, A Chaos Within, and her first contemporary romance, The Pull and its sequel The Push. She resides in Pennsylvania, where she was born and raised, with her husband and three small children.  


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