Excerpt Reveal: Exes with Benefits by Nicole Williams

Exes with Benefits by Nicole Williams
Series: Standalone
Publication Date: September 18th 2017
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***He wants a second chance. I want a divorce. To get what I want, I’ll have to give him what he does.***

From New York Times & USA Today bestselling author, Nicole Williams:

The only benefit I want from my ex is a divorce.

We got married for all the wrong reasons. The one thing we got right was our separation. I should have known better than to think I could bet on forever with a guy like Canaan Ford. Everything about him screamed impermanent, from his wild eyes to his restless soul.

When I left him and the small town I’d spent my whole life in, I swore I’d never go back. Never only turned out to be five years. Canaan claims he’s changed, but he hasn’t—same knowing smile, same rough demeanor, same body crafted from sin and sinew. And yet, something is different. He thinks this is his chance for redemption. My disagreement comes in the form of divorce papers dropped in his lap. He refuses to sign them. Unless . . .

He wants a month to prove himself to me—that’s his offer. One month to make me fall in love with him again and if I don’t, he’ll sign the papers. As much as I want to say no, I agree. I can suffer my ex for a short amount of time if that’s what it takes to be free of him once and for all. I fell for him once; I won’t make that same mistake twice.

He says we’re not over. I say we were over before we got started. Only one of us can be right, and I can’t let it be him.

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Now here’s an excerpt from Exes with Benefits! ❤

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PROLOGUE

Goodbye.

It was the one relationship guarantee we could all expect. Whether it was death or circumstance, tragedy or choice, it was the only promise we were assured. Goodbye. It had been coming since the day we met, and now it was here. Sooner than I’d hoped. Even sooner than the sensible segment of me had predicted.

Still, it was later than maybe I should have expected out of a relationship with Canaan Ford.

I’d been waiting all night for his truck to rumble up the driveway when it finally did just past two a.m.. Before his footsteps echoed up the stairs, I shouldered the couple of bags I’d packed and waited in the shadows of the hallway. My paintbrushes were sticking out of one of my oversized totes, tickling the underside of my arm. I’d packed everything that seemed important at the time, but now, I wasn’t sure that what I’d stuffed in my bags mattered at all.

It was late, dark, and Canaan would be coming home exhausted, hurting, and some degree of drunk. He wouldn’t see me, and I could just slip away without him knowing.

Maybe I should have left before he made it back, but whenever I tried, my feet froze to the floor before I could make it to the door. I needed to wait for him to get home first—to make sure he was okay before I left him. That might have been a messed up model of morality, but most of Canaan’s and my relationship was messed up, from the beginning to now, the ending.

He struggled with the key in the lock before shoving the door open and clomping straight toward the couch. He’d stopped crawling into bed beside me after a night of fighting and drinking months ago, like he thought it would spare me the pain of seeing him bloodied and plastered. It never had. The black eyes, the swollen lips, the bruised ribs; they were that much worse in the light of morning.

Canaan had barely crashed onto the sofa before his breathing evened out. Still, I waited another minute in the hallway before moving into the living room.

Don’t look, Maggie. Don’t let yourself look at him.

I looked. Of course I looked. I never listened to what was best for me—if I had, my life would have wound up so much differently.

He was already passed out, sprawled across the couch we’d bought at a yard sale the summer before . . .

Before all of this.

One arm and one leg were hanging off the end, his face tipped far enough toward me I could gauge the type of fight he’d been in tonight. A good one by Canaan’s definition—the best kind. The type where his opponent got in as many hits as he did. The type of fight that made him almost question if it would be the first one he’d lose. Canaan loved the challenge, the fight. He thrived off of chaos, seeming to wilt when life was simple. I used to admire that about him, and maybe I still did. It just wasn’t the life for me. I couldn’t live life like it was a battle—not anymore.

He was passed out hard, but I still crept slowly toward the front door, my heart thundering as the boards creaked below me. Even though I was moving toward the door, my eyes stayed on him.

Look away.

I couldn’t. Canaan was the best part of my life. And the worst. The best memories. And the worst. He was the high and the low and I was so damn tired of the sick cycle I thought would kill me one day.

As my hand cupped around the cool doorknob, my eyes burned. This was it. As resolved as I’d felt in the weeks leading up to this, I felt like I was being torn in half by walking away. I knew if I stayed, this relationship would be the end of me. But at the moment, leaving felt like the same.

Lying on that couch, he looked so vulnerable. Almost like he needed someone to protect him. From the world. From his demons. From himself. I’d tried. God, I’d been trying for what felt like forever, but the only thing I had to show for my efforts was scars and pain.

One of his eyes was swollen shut, his bottom lip three times its normal size, and he’d split the same eyebrow open again. It was going to need stitches. Six, I guessed. I’d gotten really good as estimating the number of stiches needed to seal a wound.

A sob rose from my chest, but I managed to swallow it back down. He was the only boy I’d ever loved—the only one I’d ever come close to loving. In some ways, he was perfect for me. But in more ways, especially lately, he was entirely wrong for me.

That was why I needed to leave. We might have been good together, but we weren’t good for each other. I knew that now.

I opened the door slowly, so it wouldn’t make a sound, then I let myself take one last look at the life I was leaving behind before I forced myself to walk away.

Now that I wasn’t looking at him, moving was easier. Each step down from our little apartment above the garage came quicker, so by the time I reached the ground, I was jogging.

Canaan’s truck was parked right beside my old car. Ancient was maybe a better description of how “mature” my car was. It was almost like he’d known I was going to leave tonight, because he’d parked his truck so close I could barely crack my door open half a foot. Getting my bags tossed into the backseat and managing to wiggle in through the door was a tight fit, but I made it work.

The moment I was inside, I jammed the key in the ignition and turned it over. I didn’t pause. I didn’t flinch. The hardest part was behind me, and now I needed to keep moving.

Easing my car around the truck, I noticed the one light burning inside the big house in my rearview mirror. Grandma knew what was happening tonight and was keeping her light on for me as her unique way of expressing that no matter what, she was here for me. She’d keep the light on—even when it felt like there was nothing but darkness around me.

My throat constricted as I kept backing down the long driveway. I’d tried saving him, but it had cost me almost everything. I was taking what I had left and saving myself.

As I rolled past Grandma’s front porch, my gaze shifted from the rearview mirror to that little garage apartment I’d lived the last eleven months in. The door was open, light was streaming from inside, and a dark, towering shadow loomed in the doorway.

My foot instinctively moved toward the brake. Canaan was too far away for me to determine the look on his face, but I could imagine it. It came easy since I’d known him as long as I had. Knowing his face was like second nature.

He stayed unmoving in that doorway for a moment, my car doing the same. It wasn’t until he started moving down the stairs that my foot flew back to the gas. If he got to me before I made it out of this driveway, I wouldn’t leave. I knew it. Walking away from someone I loved was hard enough, but Canaan wasn’t just someone I loved—he was someone I’d shared everything with. He’d walked with me through the hardest part of my life, and I’d walked with him through his. We’d been each other’s beacon, shelter, and compass through all of life’s shit . . .

So how had we gotten here? To this hopeless, dead end of a place?

He was charging down the stairs now, taking them two at a time. How was he able to move that nimbly when he’d just been comatose on the couch?

“Maggie!”

The windows were rolled up, but his shout broke through the glass, sounding so close it was almost like he was pressed against me, whispering it into my ear.

He sprinted the moment his feet touched the ground, his long arms pumping hard at his sides.

“Canaan, don’t,” I whispered inside the car, my lower lip trembling as I focused on the driveway behind me. “Please don’t.”

I didn’t miss the shadow that had appeared in that lit window. Grandma was watching me leave, witnessing Canaan trying to convince me to stay. Before, his attempts had been successful, but not this time. I couldn’t stay for him one more time—I had to leave for me.

“Maggie! Please!”

Canaan’s shouts were so loud, they were going to wake up the neighbors a few acres over. Each word emanated like a blast inside the car.

“Let me go,” I whispered as I swung the car onto the street.

Right before I could punch it into drive and hit the gas, Canaan swooped in front of the car. His chest was moving hard from the exertion, his snug white tee stained with fresh and dried blood. His face was so messed up it was practically unrecognizable, but I couldn’t help seeing the young boy with a clip-on tie walk up to me when I was frozen on a porch step, appraising me with those wild gold eyes before holding out a tiny box. How had that boy, who’d saved me back then, become the ruin of me now?

When I revved the engine, he didn’t move. Instead, he slid closer so his legs were pushing against the bumper. He raised his arms like he was surrendering, his unswollen eye landing on me. “I’m not letting you leave. Not without a fight.”

A breath rolled past my lips—a fight. Everything was a fight with him. He couldn’t land enough hits or take enough. His guilt wouldn’t let him.

Cranking down the window, I made myself glare at him. It was harder to achieve than it should have been. “I’m not something you win or lose in a fight.”

His jaw moved as he pressed his hands into the hood of the car. “You fight for what’s important. That’s the way life is. And you are worth every fight I have in me.”

“You’re too busy fighting everyone else—including yourself—to fight for me.” My sight blurred as I stared at him. So little of the person I’d fallen in love with remained. So little of who he’d fallen in love with remained in me as well. “I can’t wait around, watching you kill yourself one fight and drink at a time.”

He wiped at his split-open brow, leaving a streak of blood on his forearm. “I can change.”

My fingers tightened around the steering wheel. How many times had I heard those words come from his lips? Those same lips that claimed ownership of my first kiss?

“Yeah, you can.” I steeled myself against him a little more. “That’s not your problem. Your problem is that you won’t change.”

“This time I will.” His head whipped side to side. “It’s taken this, you trying to leave me, to slap some sense into me.”

I’d tried leaving so many times. This was just the furthest I’d ever made it. “I’m not trying to leave you. I am leaving you.” I made myself look at him. I made myself appear strong when I felt so very opposite. “This is it.”

He slowly came around the side of the car toward me. I rolled up the window halfway, aiming my eyes at the road in front of me.

“One more chance.” Even from a few feet back, I could smell the alcohol on his breath. I could smell the sweat and blood on him mixed with it, the trace of perfume that didn’t belong to me.

“You’ve had a thousand one more chances.” I studied him from the corners of my eyes, knowing better than to let them lock on his when he was this close. “This was your last one.”

“Maggie . . .” His hands formed around the lip of the window. His knuckles were split open and swollen, dried blood covering them. Still, I wasn’t sure I’d ever craved having them reach for me more. I wasn’t sure I’d ever needed him to pull me to his broken body and soul more than I did right then.

In that moment, I might have needed him more than I needed air, but I couldn’t give in. Kicking the habit was the only way to cure myself.

“Let me go, Canaan.” My legs were trembling as my foot moved back to the gas.

His head lowered so it was in line with mine. “You’re my wife.”

My left hand curled farther around the steering wheel, until I couldn’t see the gold band circling my finger. “No. I was your wife.”

His head dropped for half a second, his eyes flashing with defeat right before. “I love you.”

​My chest ached. The man was the boy again, and I wanted to save him the way he’d saved me. But I couldn’t. The only person who could save Canaan Ford was Canaan Ford.

“I promised to love you forever, and I will.” My foot touched the accelerator. “But I can’t spend forever with you.”

His hands braced around the window harder when I rolled forward. “I made a promise. To you, and to myself. A promise to love you forever. To look after you as long.”

When I found my mind drifting to that overcast afternoon eleven months ago, my heart wringing when I remembered the way he’d stared at me as we repeated those phrases in the courthouse, I shook my head. Good memories weren’t enough. Hope wasn’t enough. Empty promises weren’t even close to enough.

“We exchanged vows.” My eyes focused on the road in front of me, letting go of the dead end beside me. “There’s a difference between saying them and meaning them.”

When my foot pushed down on the gas, Canaan moved with the car. “I’m not letting you go. I’m not giving up.” The car moved faster, his feet pounding the asphalt as he struggled to keep up.

“I know. But I’m giving in.” Breaking my own rule, I let my eyes meet his before punching the gas pedal as far down as it would go. “Goodbye.”

That was enough. Hearing that word shocked him just enough to still him. For one second. I didn’t ease up on the gas, not even when I heard his fists pounding the trunk as he struggled to keep up.

“I can change!” His footsteps were thundering after the car. “I will change.”

With him behind me, I let the tears I’d been fighting fall. Everything I’d ever known—my whole life—was getting smaller and smaller behind me. With every tick of the odometer.

“MAGGIE!!!” His voice pierced the air one last time before I was too far away to hear whatever came next.

It was morning by the time I stopped seeing his reflection in the rearview mirror, still chasing me into my new life.

about the author button

Nicole Williams is the New York Times and USATODAY bestselling author of contemporary and young adult romance, including the Crash and Lost & Found series. Her books have been published by HarperTeen and Simon & Schuster in both domestic and foreign markets, while she continues to self-publish additional titles. She is working on a new YA series with Crown Books (a division of Random House) as well. She loves romance, from the sweet to the steamy, and writes stories about characters in search of their happily even after. She grew up surrounded by books and plans on writing until the day she dies, even if it’s just for her own personal enjoyment. She still buys paperbacks because she’s all nostalgic like that, but her kindle never goes neglected for too long. When not writing, she spends her time with her husband and daughter, and whatever time’s left over she’s forced to fit too many hobbies into too little time.

Nicole is represented by Jane Dystel, of Dystel and Goderich Literary Agency.

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Excerpt Reveal: Mister Wrong by Nicole Williams

Mister Wrong by Nicole Williams
Series: Standalone
Publication Date: February 27th 2017
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Cora Matthews grew up with the Adams boys, twin brothers and best friends who wouldn’t let anything come between them except for one thing—her. One of them became her best friend, the other, her fiancé.

She always knew she’d wind up marrying one of them, and Jacob Adams is the very epitome of Mister Right. At least he is up until he fails to show up for their wedding day. Not that Cora realizes it. At first.

As Jacob’s best man, and identical twin, Matt makes a split second decision, but one that will affect the three of their lives forever—he steps in to take his brother’s place. In front of the altar, exchanging vows with the woman he’s secretly been in love with for years.

Cora eventually finds out about the groom swap. The morning after the wedding. As if realizing she just slept with her fiance’s brother wasn’t disturbing enough, she’s forced to confront her feelings for Matt Adams she thought she’d buried years ago.

Matt’s wrong for her. In every way. But through the course of her real honeymoon with her fake husband, she starts to uncover truths both Adams brothers were hoping to keep hidden, for opposite reasons. One to protect himself, the other to protect her.

She married the wrong brother, but what if he’s been the right one all along?

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Now here’s an excerpt from Mister Wrong! ❤

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CHAPTER ONE
Matt

He was wrong for her.

That was the only thought running through my head as I rechecked every inch of the church. So completely wrong for her. This latest disappearing act, the most recent proof. He’d skipped out on her before, but today was different.

Today, they were supposed to get married. Today, Cora Matthews would become Cora Adams. She’d have my last name. But not in the way I’d hoped for—not that I hadn’t accepted that years ago.

She’d chosen him. My brother. My twin brother. She’d chosen him forever ago, and that was that. She’d been as good as Mrs. Jacob Adams since the day Cora Matthews first showed up in our lives eighteen years ago.

At least until today, when Cora was going to be marching toward an empty altar in fifteen minutes if I didn’t find the supposed Mister Right. Jacob wasn’t the right one—for a dozen reasons I could list—but he was who she wanted and he’d done his best to convince her she was all he wanted too. But I knew better.

My brother had always been indulged; being the “firstborn” son—by a whole three minutes—to a wealthy family has a way of doing that. The problem arose when the boy grew into a man who wanted to be equally indulged in all sorts of ways that a wife would likely frown upon. Jacob wasn’t the right one for her. I knew that. Hell, I think even he knew that when he surfaced from his self-adoring stupor every so often.

Not that I was the right one for Cora either. I was just as wrong for her as Jacob was, but in a different way. See, where he’d always loved her too little, I’d loved her too much. So I’d kept my secret for years and watched the girl I loved fall in love with the brother I’d shared a womb with for thirty-eight weeks. The brother I loved and looked after, despite his faults.

God knew I had a shit ton of my own.

That was why I was about to start tearing this church apart in order to find him. I was looking after his interests as well as Cora’s, because even though he had a piss-poor way of showing it, he loved her. In his own way. If you could call what Jacob felt for anyone love. In a way, it was love, but in another way, it was the opposite.

“Where the hell’s Jacob?” The senior Adams, also known as Dad, asked when I circled into the lobby again, hoping my missing brother had magically appeared. He was holding my brother’s tux zipped up in an expensive bag and looking at me like I was failing the task of keeping track of my brother as I’d failed all the rest presented to me in life.

Where the hell’s Jacob? How many times had I asked myself that question? How many times had I probably known or had a good idea where he was?

“He’s back in one of the church offices waiting. Just got here.” I had to slow myself down when I heard the words wobble. It had been years since I’d stuttered over a word, and now was not the time to resurrect that old habit. “I’ll take it down to him.”

I grabbed the tux from Dad and backed down the hall, trying to ignore the stuffed sanctuary and the orchestra playing some song that sounded more fitting for a funeral than a wedding.

That was what this was about to become if I didn’t do something. Whether it would be my dad murdering me for flunking my best man responsibilities of keeping track of the groom, or me murdering Jacob when I finally found his pathetic ass after doing this to Cora on today of all days, someone was going to die.

“That tux isn’t going to put itself on a groom, Matt. Get after it.” Dad motioned me down the hall before he marched toward the sanctuary like he was ready to get this over with.

He wasn’t thrilled about the wedding. Didn’t exactly approve of the match. It wasn’t that he didn’t love Cora, because he did, like a daughter. He just didn’t find her fitting as a daughter-in-law, especially to his prized firstborn who was incapable of doing wrong. He probably wouldn’t have cared so much if she was marrying me, which was disconcerting to say the least. The only person who’d approve of Cora and me ending up together was my dad.

As I jogged down the hall, carrying a found tux to a missing groom, Dad’s last words replayed through my mind. That tux isn’t going to put itself on a groom.

A groom.

A groom.

My plan was already forming as I ducked into a dark church office, my fingers working my tie loose. Jacob wasn’t just my twin brother—he was my identical twin brother.

I was maybe a little bit taller and he was maybe a little bit fuller, but not enough that anyone would notice. Not enough, I hoped, that Cora would notice. She used to confuse us all the time when we were growing up together and still, on occasion, she’d mistake me for Jacob and Jacob for me. Like the last time I’d been at her and Jacob’s condo when she’d thrown a surprise party for him. I’d been talking with a group of old friends, she slid by me, found my hand, and gave it the briefest of squeezes. She’d thought I was Jacob. I knew that because she never touched me anymore. At least not on purpose. We used to be comfortable enough with each other that she’d hug me without thinking, but that changed when she and Jacob became a thing. An official thing.

She didn’t touch me anymore, not even to nudge me for saying something stupid, which I said all too often in her presence. But that night, she’d touched me. And a year later, I could still remember the way her small hand felt falling into mine.

Cora would be distracted today—nervous. I knew because she’d told me how panicked she was about standing in front of five hundred people. She’d be so distracted by trying to keep herself from passing out or hyperventilating, so would she really notice if the man standing across from her in front of that altar was me?

I was banking on the chance that she wouldn’t, as I changed from my suit into Jacob’s tux as fast as humanly possible. The clock on the wall was fast, hopefully, or else I had two and a half minutes to get my ass up front so that when Cora started down the aisle, she’d have someone waiting for her.

Someone who loved her.

As I tied the shiny dress shoes, I tried to put aside all of the inner voices telling me how wrong this was. How utterly and unforgivably wrong this was. I knew it was wrong. I knew that. But it was just as wrong to do nothing. It was wrong to let Jacob ruin another moment for her. By doing something that I knew was wrong, I hoped I was ultimately doing the right thing.

Maybe he wasn’t where I thought he was, hungover and waking up in some girl’s bed. Maybe he’d gotten into an accident or been kidnapped or . . . damn, then I’d feel like a real piece of shit for thinking the worst about my own brother. Maybe something legitimate had come up and he’d have some great explanation and I’d pull him aside to let him know I’d stepped in and no one besides us would know what had gone down.

And maybe Jacob had decided to turn over a new leaf and not be such a selfish prick, I thought with a sigh.

Pausing in front of the picture hanging beside the door, I adjusted the bowtie as best I could before tearing the door open and jogging down the hall. Jacob’s tux was a little big for me, and his shoes a little small, but those were minor discomforts compared to what my psyche was putting me through.

The ring.

Fuck.

After sprinting back to the office, I wrestled the ring box out of the pocket of my jacket, along with my wallet and phone—just in case I didn’t make it back here anytime soon—then I kicked my suit behind a bookcase in the event that someone stumbled into the room to find an abandoned suit and started asking questions.

My dad’s face was red by the time I made it inside the sanctuary, but when he saw me, his face relaxed and he smiled. It took me a moment to realize he wasn’t smiling at me—he was smiling at Jacob.

Dad never really smiled at me too much. Smirks were more the way of it.

“Where the hell’s Matt?” one of the groomsmen, Hunter, whispered when I passed.

God, this church was stuffed to capacity. And hot. And lacking in oxygen.

“Barfing up his guts,” I answered quietly, reminding myself that I was Jacob and needed to talk and sound like him.

The groomsmen rocked with silent laughter. They were all Jacob’s friends; none were mine.

“Go figure. We’re the ones drinking places dry, and it’s your brother, the DD, yacking his insides out today.”

My shoulder lifted in the dismissive way Jacob’s did. “Some guys have all the luck.”

“And some guys named Matt Adams have none,” Aaron, another groomsman, whispered up the line.

Didn’t I know it?

They didn’t make any more jokes or jeers at my expense because they knew better. Jacob and I might have seen things differently and been as unalike as two people could be, but we were twins. He stood up for me and vice versa. He had my back, I had his.

As my current predicament proved.

The orchestra broke into a new song—the “Wedding March”. The collar of Jacob’s dress shirt felt like it was strangling me at the same time it felt like someone had just dialed up the temperature in the room by twenty degrees.

What am I doing? Why am I doing it? Is it right? Or wrong?

The answers to those questions didn’t have a chance to form because that was when I saw her. Like the thousands of times before, the world faded away when Cora Matthews walked into the room. When she started down the aisle, I swayed a little and had to step out of line to keep myself from toppling into the minister.

“Easy there, big guy,” Hunter said under his breath, elbowing me. “Too late for cold feet. Bride is en route.”

I wanted to tell him it wasn’t cold feet I had, but something else. It was the feeling of being so sure of something that the rest of the world seemed off-kilter. So sure of something that the rest of the world just didn’t make sense. I’d never been as certain of anything as I was about the woman walking toward me, about to marry me.

Under false pretenses.

I had to remind myself of that when Cora’s eyes found mine and her plastered-on smile crumbled behind a real one. She was smiling at me the way she smiled at him—like I was her world.

Matthew Adams had never been her whole world, but unknown to her, she’d been mine. That was why I was standing here now, posing as my twin brother, as his fiancée took the final steps toward me. I was doing this for her because I knew she loved him, and I didn’t want to see her hurt again at my brother’s hand.

Marry the woman you love, Matt, then let her spend the rest of her life with the man she loves.

The orchestra was just playing its final chords when Cora stopped beside me, her eyes matching the real smile still on her face. God, she was beautiful.

Too beautiful, I thought again, as I noticed the line of groomsmen appraising her with more than just casual regard. Cora had always been more than another one of the pretty girls; she was the standout. Every guy knew the type. The girl who shouldn’t be real, but there she was, passing you in the hallway every morning. The girl who’s noticed by every person she passes, male or female. She was so beautiful on the outside, few people took the time to get to know the beauty hiding underneath, but I had. I knew she was beautiful everywhere.

Jacob. Channel Jacob, I reminded myself as everyone took a collective seat behind us.

“Hey,” I whispered to her, winking.

Hey? What a moron. Who says hey to the woman he’s about to marry when she stopped beside him looking so damn perfect. I couldn’t feel my lungs.

“Hey,” she whispered back, like she didn’t think anything of it.

Because, yeah, Jacob totally would have said hey to his bride like a moron.

Cora had been versed in moron for practically two decades.

As the minister started droning on about something I probably should have been paying attention to, I tuned out. This wasn’t my wedding. This was hers. This was his. So instead I watched Cora, memorizing every detail of her face as she stared at the man across from her, who loved her like she was both a poison and an antidote.

When the pastor asked if I promised to love and cherish her, in sickness and in health, until death do us part, that was the easiest question I’d ever had to answer. It was the simplest part of this mess of a day.

“I will.”

about the author button

Nicole Williams is the New York Times and USATODAY bestselling author of contemporary and young adult romance, including the Crash and Lost & Found series. Her books have been published by HarperTeen and Simon & Schuster in both domestic and foreign markets, while she continues to self-publish additional titles. She is working on a new YA series with Crown Books (a division of Random House) as well. She loves romance, from the sweet to the steamy, and writes stories about characters in search of their happily even after. She grew up surrounded by books and plans on writing until the day she dies, even if it’s just for her own personal enjoyment. She still buys paperbacks because she’s all nostalgic like that, but her kindle never goes neglected for too long. When not writing, she spends her time with her husband and daughter, and whatever time’s left over she’s forced to fit too many hobbies into too little time.

Nicole is represented by Jane Dystel, of Dystel and Goderich Literary Agency.

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Early Review: Collared by Nicole Williams

Collared by Nicole Williams

Collared by Nicole Williams
Series: Standalone
Publication Date: March 22nd 2016
Links: Ebook • Paperback • Goodreads
Source: I received an ARC from the author in exchange for an honest review

When a seventeen-year-old girl vanishes,
A community is shaken.
Parents turn desperate.
Friends hold vigils.
And the boy who loves her searches.

When a year goes by,
The community is recovering.
Parents feel hopeless.
Friends feel helpless.
And the boy who loves her continues his search.

When ten years go by,
The community has forgotten.
Parents cling to the past.
Friends move toward the future.
And the boy who loves her . . .
Brings her home.

Jade Childs spent ten years in captivity, but now that she’s back, the real battle for survival begins. The media shadows her. Flashbacks haunt her. Her old life evades her. Her so-called new life rejects her. She spent too many years in the dark to recognize the light. She spent too long repressing her feelings to remember how to express them. She spent a decade abandoning hope and cannot dare letting it back into her life. Jade’s not just defined by what happened to her—she’s collared to it.

When the twenty-seven-year-old woman is found,
A community wants to know the story,
Parents want to forget the story,
Friends want to be a part of the story,
And the man who still loves her faces the greatest challenge yet: letting her go.

OH MY GOD!!!!! I love love loveedddd this book so much. SO MUCH!!! I had no idea I would end up loving Collared as much as I do, but it was seriously perfection. I’ve loved Nicole Williams since I first read her Crash series a few years ago, but this, THIS BOOK, is for sure my all-time favorite read of hers now. I’m so in awe of the brilliant story Nicole Williams has woven in Collared. I loved this book so much I literally just bought myself the paperback so I could have it on my favorites shelf. AHHH!! I’m dying for this to release so everyone can read and experience the utter beauty of it!

“Find an emotional tether. Someone you trusted before and someone you can trust now. A person who can connect you to your past but can pilot you into the future. Someone who can pull you back from the ledge when you find it and from the dark when it finds you. Find that person, hold on tight, and don’t let go.”

I began this book intrigued by the blurb and cover. I don’t particularly LOVE kidnapping stories, but Collared’s blurb hooked me in and I prayed it would meet my expectations. I’m so happy to say this book went above and beyond anything I ever expected. I ended up reading this in one sitting, staying up until almost 3AM finishing it – I had to get up 4.5 hours later, but it was totally worth the lost sleep. I honestly couldn’t put this book down! It’s a captivating, haunting, utterly romantic story – a story of a girl kidnapped for ten years and brought home by the boy she loved before she was taken.

He’s not supposed to be the one I tether myself to, but it doesn’t change that he’s the one I already have. He’s not supposed to be the one . . . but he always has been The One.

Jade Childs was only seventeen when she was kidnapped, stolen away from her family and the love of her life, Torrin. For the next ten years, the boy she loved who loved her never stopped searching for her or giving up hope. Now, at twenty-seven, she’s finally come home – but can she ever live a normal life again? Or will her past continue to keep her shackled down, collared, unable to move on with her life?

As Jade struggles with being back home and interacting with other people, Torrin is right by her side the whole time. But she’s not the same girl she was when they were in love, and neither is he. There’s a twist in this book I did NOT see coming, that had me seriously OMG-ing, but I loved the way the author took the direction of the story with it. This twist creates complications for Jade and Torrin… and I love the angst and heartbreak that came with it. Collared made me FEEL so much, but the one thing that captivated me the most, that had me obsessing over this book, was the powerful, beautiful love story.

He stretches slower. His eyes refuse to blink. “You were my first. And you were my last.” His words echo in the small space. “A man could have a thousand different partners and settle down with an amazing woman, and I’d still hold the bragging rights.”

I am head over heels in love with Torrin and his unwavering, heart-stopping love for Jade. He is not a perfect man, but he’s utterly perfect for Jade. There really is no end to what he would do for her – he would literally give his life for the girl that he has never stopped loving. He’s a words and actions man, so the things he says and does because of his love made my heart MELT. I love Torrin!!!

His strong hand grips the side of my neck, and he aligns his eyes with mine. “I’ve been sure about you since I was fifteen years old. And I’ll be sure about you for the rest of my life.”

Jade herself is so strong but vulnerable. I don’t usually connect that well with heroines in kidnapping stories, but with Jade, I connected with her right from the start. The raw emotion coming from her struggles, her fear and helplessness, her desire to be whole again, made me feel as if I were fighting right alongside with her. I liked that Nicole Williams didn’t focus too much on her kidnapping – there were enough flashbacks to give us an understanding of what happened to Jade, but her story very much focuses on her healing and moving on.

Nicole Williams has written an unputdownable, gripping, heart-pounding read. Collared is emotionally devastating yet uplifting. It’s meaningful, heartfelt, and so, so romantic. It’s a fantastically-written, powerful story I loved with all my heart. If you love unique books with unforgettable love stories, I can’t recommend this enough.

5 hearts
lacey

Quotes are taken from the arc and are subject to change in the final version.


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Cover Reveal + Excerpt: Collared by Nicole Williams

I’m thrilled to share the gorgeous cover of Collared, Nicole Williams’ next upcoming novel!

Collared by Nicole Williams
Series: Standalone
Publication Date: March 22nd 2016
Add to Goodreads

When a seventeen-year-old girl vanishes,
A community is shaken.
Parents turn desperate.
Friends hold vigils.
And the boy who loves her searches.

When a year goes by,
The community is recovering.
Parents feel hopeless.
Friends feel helpless.
And the boy who loves her continues his search.

When ten years go by,
The community has forgotten.
Parents cling to the past.
Friends move toward the future.
And the boy who loves her . . .
Brings her home.

Jade Childs spent ten years in captivity, but now that she’s back, the real battle for survival begins. The media shadows her. Flashbacks haunt her. Her old life evades her. Her so-called new life rejects her. She spent too many years in the dark to recognize the light. She spent too long repressing her feelings to remember how to express them. She spent a decade abandoning hope and cannot dare letting it back into her life. Jade’s not just defined by what happened to her—she’s collared to it.

When the twenty-seven-year-old woman is found,
A community wants to know the story,
Parents want to forget the story,
Friends want to be a part of the story,
And the man who still loves her faces the greatest challenge yet: letting her go.

Buy Links:
Preorder links coming soon!

Now here’s an excerpt from Collared! ❤

excerpt button

He holds my eyes, not letting them wander away from him. “Why have you been avoiding me?”

I wander my room, not sure where to go now that he’s here. I’m not sure where I fit now. I’m not sure where I belong in his life.

“You know why,” I say quietly.

“I want to hear you tell me.”

“Why?”

“So I can change your mind.” His hands slide into his front pockets, and the sunlight catches on his dad’s watch and casts golden beams through the room. It lights up like someone just lit a million candles at once. “I can’t do that unless I know exactly why you don’t want to see me.”

He wants a reason? I’ll give him a whole list of them.

“Because I don’t want to drag you into my mess of a world any more than I already have. Because I don’t want to smear you through the mud on the media’s march to burying me. Because I don’t want to hurt you—again—and because I want to protect you.”

“I can protect myself from them.”

I shake my head and cover my chest with my hand. “To protect you from me.”

Torrin’s jaw hardens. He works it loose the moment after. “I don’t need protection from you.”

“Everyone needs protection from me. There’s something dark in me now, Torrin, and I can’t get it out. It’s growing, spreading, and I don’t want it to infect the people I love.”

He pushes off the closet doors and crosses the room before I know he’s coming. “There is nothing dark in you, Jade. Nothing.” He backs me into the wall and stares at me, unblinking. “There is light and good in you. There always has been. There always will be.”

“That’s gone. He took it from me.”

“No, he didn’t.” Torrin’s hand slams into the wall beside my head. “It’s still there. You had to bury it to keep it safe, but it’s still there. You’ll find it. I know it.”

I want to believe him, but that doesn’t make it true. “You can’t find what isn’t there, Torrin.”

“Dammit, stop talking like that,” he says, his jaw tensing. “It’s there. I know it.”

“I’ve tried. I can’t find it.” Even as I say it, I start to feel different. It’s because of him being so close, saying what he is in the way he is. He’s the tether that keeps me from floating away.

His eyes lower to mine. “I’ll help you find it.”

I feel my heart again. My lungs. Everything else. I feel it waking up. “What makes you so sure you can find it?”

“Because when I look in your eyes, I still see it.” His other hand fits against the wall beside my head. “Because when I’m close to you like this, I can still feel it.” He leans a little closer, and I feel something too. “It’s there, Jade. It’s not gone. He took ten years of your life—ten years.” The corners of his eyes crease as an emotion fires in his eyes. “Don’t hand him the rest of it by believing that kind of shit.”

about the author button

Nicole Williams is the New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author of contemporary and young adult romance, including the Crash and Lost & Found series. Her books have been published by HarperTeen and Simon & Schuster in both domestic and foreign markets, while she continues to self-publish additional titles. She is working on a new YA series with Crown Books (a division of Random House) as well. She loves romance, from the sweet to the steamy, and writes stories about characters in search of their happily even after. She grew up surrounded by books and plans on writing until the day she dies, even if it’s just for her own personal enjoyment. She still buys paperbacks because she’s all nostalgic like that, but her kindle never goes neglected for too long. When not writing, she spends her time with her husband and daughter, and whatever time’s left over she’s forced to fit too many hobbies into too little time.

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ARC Review: The Fable of Us by Nicole Williams

The Fable of Us by Nicole Williams

The Fable of Us by Nicole Williams
Series: Standalone
Publication Date: February 2nd 2016
Links: Ebook • Paperback • Audible • Goodreads
Source: I received an ARC from the author in exchange for an honest review

Her heart can’t be destroyed by the same person twice. At least that’s what Clara Abbot finds herself hoping when she runs into Boone Cavanaugh less than an hour after returning to Charleston.

As kids, Clara and Boone had been each other’s firsts, and no one or nothing could stand in the way of their forever. But all kids have to grow up sometime. The troubled son of the town drunk winding up with the firstborn daughter of the local royalty was a happy ending even the most imaginative of fairy tales couldn’t make believable.

Their fable came to an end as most do: tragically. Boone might have done the leaving, but it was Clara who got away and made a new life for herself in California. But after seven years of dodging her hometown, she’s only back in Charleston for seven days to celebrate her sister’s wedding. She won’t let her overbearing family or her run-in with Boone rattle her—though rattling her is obviously Boone’s primary objective.

Boone is her past and her past is behind her, a mere speck in the rearview. So why does she feel it coming back every time she looks at him? Why does she see it every time he looks back?

Just when Clara’s life can’t possibly get more complicated, the ground shifts, and she discovers just how far her family was willing to go to keep the wrong boy out of her life. Was it really Boone who left her? Or was it Clara who left him?

The truth will be hard to face. Especially when she discovers most of her life has been built on lies.

Second chance romances are one of my top favorite tropes to read, and the fact that Nicole Williams wrote one in The Fable of Us? I was in total book heaven while reading it! I’ve loved this author since I first read Crash, and with every book she writes, she proves to me why she will always be a favorite author of mine. This newest book of hers only reaffirms my love for her wonderful storytelling. I fell hard for Clara and Boone’s second chance romance – Nicole Williams has written two incredible characters with so much heart and depth, I was rooting for them from the very first page!

Clara Abbot is back in the town she hates to be a part of her sister’s wedding… to Clara’s ex-boyfriend. But a pit stop along the way has Clara bumping into the one and only love of her life, Boone Cavanaugh, who left and hurt her all these years ago. There’s a great deal of resentment between Clara and Boone, but she’s desperate enough to pay him to be her plus-one at the wedding to keep the vultures, AKA her family, away. It’s just one week with the boy she used to love who hates her now, so what could possibly go wrong?

“It doesn’t seem to matter how far away I go or how many years go by. I’m starting to accept that there will always be some part of me that is going to hold on to some part of you.”

In addition to a second chance romance, The Fable of Us is definitely a love/hate story. We don’t know the exact ins and outs of what happened during their fallout, but Clara and Boone definitely don’t like each other when they reunite. Still, underneath the glares and the angry quips lies a spark, a connection that never truly went away. You can tell that, despite everything that happened between them, all the good and the bad, Clara and Boone are absolutely meant to be. The build-up of their romance, the reconnection, and unraveled truths all lead up to one powerful love story that completely captured my heart.

“You’ve always been the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen, Clara.” The backs of his fingers ran down the length of my cheek. “That still hasn’t changed.”

Clara and most especially Boone were the highlight of this novel. These two independent, strong, stubborn individuals were perfect together back then, and they’re certainly perfect together now. Their romance is sweet, slow, and tender – it’s the kind of love story that makes you clutch at your heart… I loved it!

I may have loved Clara and Boone, but oh man, did I hate Clara’s family. Clara’s sister, the one who’s marrying Clara’s ex, is a total nightmare. She’s jealous and petty, and the rest of the family is almost as bad. They’re a superficial, and at times cruel, group of people who prize wealth and status above anything else. So it’s no wonder Clara dreaded coming back to this place of elitism and snobbery.

Though I wished at times all the wedding drama would turn down a notch, it didn’t detract much from my enjoyment of Clara and Boone’s romance. All their moments together made up for my frustration with the Abbot family. If you’re a fan of second chance romances, you definitely need to pick up The Fable of Us! It’s a gorgeous, romantic read with wonderful writing that I recommend!

4 hearts
lacey

Quotes are taken from the arc and are subject to change in the final version.


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