Cover Reveal + Prologue: Built by Jay Crownover

We are absolutely thrilled to bring you the Cover Reveal and Prologue for BUILT by Jay Crownover! BUILT is the first novel in her upcoming Saints of Denver Seriesa spinoff of her Marked Men Series, published by William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins. BUILT is releasing on January 5, 2016! This is a definite one click, friends!

Check out the cover of BUILT!

Built by Jay Crownover

Built by Jay Crownover
Series: Saints of Denver #1
Publication Date: January 5th 2016
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From the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Marked Men books comes an electrifying new spin-off series, Saints of Denver, featuring all the characters fans have been dying to read about.

Sayer Cole and Zeb Fuller couldn’t be more different. She’s country club and fine-dining, he’s cell-block and sawdust. Sayer spends her days in litigation, while Zeb spends his working with his hands. She’s French silk, he’s all denim and flannel.

Zeb’s wanted the stunning blonde since the moment he laid eyes on her. It doesn’t matter how many smooth moves he makes, the reserved lawyer seems determinedly oblivious to his interest—either that or she doesn’t return it. Sayer is certain the rough, hard, hot-as-hell Zeb could never want someone as closed off and restrained as she is, which is a shame because something tells her he might be the guy to finally melt her icy exterior.

But just as things start to heat up, Zeb is blindsided by a life altering moment from his past. He needs Sayer’s professional help to right a wrong and to save more than himself. He can’t risk what’s at stake just because his attraction to Sayer feels all consuming. But as these opposites dig in for the fight of their lives, battling together to save a family, the steam created when fire and ice collide can no longer be ignored.

Buy Links:
Amazon EbookAmazon Paperback • B&N • iTunes • Kobo

And don’t miss this sneak peek of BUILT! Check out the prologue here! ❤

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Prologue

I met her at a bar.

She had a beer bottle in her hand even though she looked like she should be sipping champagne out of an expensive flute, and that inexplicably turned me on. She was pretty and looked completely out of place in the no-name bar sitting across from one of my longtime friends who also happened to be her long-lost brother. He was the reason she was here. In that split second that I laid my eyes on her I wanted to be the reason she stayed.

I knew it was rude and that the two of them needed some time together, some time to figure out what they were to each other now that she had blasted into his life unannounced. If I was a better friend I would have left them alone. As it was, I made my way over to the tiny table and sat down. I was covered in sawdust and had drywall mud caked in the hair on my head and on my face, but she didn’t flinch or bat an eyelash when I purposely broke up their party of two and placed myself as close to her as I could without actually touching her.

My buddy Rowdy St. James lifted his eyebrows at me as I stared at her while he introduced us. Sayer Cole. Even her name was elegant and sophisticated sounding. She was an enigma, this pretty woman that seemed like she should be in any place but this bar with the two of us. She’d showed up out of the blue a couple of months ago claiming to be Rowdy’s half sister, claiming that they shared a father, claiming that all she wanted was to be in his life and have some kind of family of her own. She looked too delicate to be that brave. Came across as way too proper to have said “fuck it all” and picked up her life to move it someplace unknown without being sure of her welcome. She looked like silk, but if my guess was right about her, it was silk wrapped around steel.

Luckily Rowdy was a good guy. After the shock of discovering he wasn’t alone in the world, and once he realized he had someone tied to him by blood forever and ever, he had warmed up to the idea of having a sister and appreciated that the sister was Sayer.

I liked Rowdy a lot. He was a stand-up guy and a good friend, but I had a feeling I was going to like his newly found big sister even more. In my usual tactless way I asked him without looking directly at the knockout blonde, “So you have a sister? A hot, classy sister?” A sister that was also a lawyer, so beautiful and smart.

I expected a giggle from her or an eye roll at the outlandish compliment, but what I got was a wide-eyed stare of disbelief as eyes bluer than anything I had ever seen on earth danced between me and her brother like she wasn’t sure what to do with herself or with my overt interest in her.

I thought that I had gone too far, pushed the beautiful stranger too far out of her comfort zone. I was a big guy and knew I looked far wilder and rougher than I actually was. I figured it might be too much for a woman already obviously out of her element and depth to take.

Instead, Sayer surprised me and I could see by the way he stiffened that she surprised Rowdy, too. While she wasn’t exactly overflowing with welcome and warmth, she did ask me about the current project I was working on after Rowdy explained I was a general contractor and had rebuilt the new tattoo shop he worked in. She seemed genuinely interested, and when I told her that my specialty was rehabbing old houses and giving them new life, her eyes practically glowed at me. I wanted to touch her to see if she felt as smooth and polished as she looked. I wanted to leave streaks of dirt on her perfect face to mark the fact that I had touched her, that she had let me touch her. It was a primal and visceral reaction that I couldn’t explain and I liked the way it felt. Liked the weight and heft of it in my blood even if I knew the feeling wasn’t likely to be returned.

She told me all about a fantastic but crumbling Victorian she had purchased that was falling down around her. She asked me for a business card and I saw Rowdy stiffen across the table. I sighed and rubbed a hand over my already messy hair. I watched her eyes follow the light cloud of dust that escaped the strands. I was great at my job, loved what I did, but I couldn’t do anything with her or for her without laying everything on the line. Especially not with Rowdy giving me the death glare from just a few feet away.

I dug the card out of my wallet, and when I handed it over our fingers touched. I saw her eyes widen and her lips part, just barely. She looked a little dazed when I grinned at her.

“You take that card, but understand that the man giving it to you has a past.”

She blinked at me and cleared her throat. “What kind of past?”

It wasn’t something I liked to tell a beautiful woman when I first met her. It was something I liked to work up to, liked to prove it was behind me, but with this one it seemed like I wouldn’t get that chance.

“I tell everyone that I do any kind of work for or that considers hiring me on for a project that I have a criminal history. I spent time locked up for a few years, and while I’m not proud of it I can’t deny it happened. I was a hotheaded kid and it got me in trouble, but I’m the best at what I do, so I hope that doesn’t discourage you from giving me a call.” Hopefully for more than some construction.

Usually I got a concerned frown followed by a hundred questions about what had led me to serving time. I got none of that from the stunning blonde. She tilted her head to the side and considered me silently for a long moment before reaching down and slipping my card in her purse. If anything, I could have sworn she was wearing a look of sympathy when she told me softly, “I see it every day from the inside. Sometimes the system simply gets it wrong.” A slight grin turned her mouth up at the corners, and I wanted to lean over and kiss it. “People make mistakes. Hopefully they learn from them.”

I don’t know that “wrong” was accurate in my case so much as misguided, but the complete lack of judgment or censure coming from her made me want to pull her into my arms and hold on to her even more. I had made a mistake, a huge one, one that I was forever going to have to carry around with me, but I had learned from it, was still learning from it. That kind of understanding from a total stranger was so rare, especially coming from someone in the legal field. I wasn’t accustomed to someone looking at me and seeing me, just me, not an ex-con loser after I explained where I had been. It was wildly refreshing and attractive. I couldn’t quite get a handle on what made the woman tick, but I would welcome any opportunity she gave me to figure it out. I found her outwardly flawless and pristine demeanor tempting to taint with my dirty hands and ways, and there was something about the way she watched me, the way she turned toward me like she was drawn to me, that made me think maybe I wasn’t alone in the inexplicable pull department.

Rowdy left and she stayed.

We had a couple more beers and talked some more about her house and what she wanted done with it. She already hired one contractor but felt like the guy was ripping her off. It happened a lot in the industry, so I wouldn’t be surprised if the guy was taking her for a ride. Spending time with her was easy. She was fun to talk to and really fun to look at. I really wanted to get my hands on her house and of course on her, and I felt like she was maybe, kind of, slightly leaning in the same direction when I made the mistake of asking her about her past.

I asked about where she had been before she found out about Rowdy and decided to move to Denver so that she could get to know him. I was curious what kind of life she had where she could leave everything behind and not be missed. Really I wanted to know if she had a boyfriend or husband stashed somewhere, but the simple inquiry must have touched a nerve. The next thing I knew she had paid out the tab for both of us and disappeared into the night. She went from glowing and bright to frigid and untouchable in the span of a heartbeat.

I figured I blew my shot by being too blunt, as always. I assumed she probably did have someone else in the picture and had been friendly and polite only because I was good friends with her brother. I thought I would never hear from her again and was baffled why the thought of that made my chest ache and my heart feel like it weighed two tons.

Imagine my surprise when she called me and hired me to renovate her house a week later without a bid, without a contract, without even knowing if I was half as good as I claimed to be.

Of course I accepted, but I knew once I was inside I would need to knock down and rearrange more than just the walls of the house, in order to get at something beautiful and lasting.

The Saints of Denver series is a spinoff of the Marked Men series!
Each of the Marked Men books can be read as a standalone.

Reading Order: Marked Men series

Rule by Jay Crownover Jet by Jay Crownover Rome by jay Crownover
Nash by Jay Crownover Rowdy by Jay Crownover Asa by Jay Crownover

#1 ~ Rule: My Review • Ebook • Paperback • Audible • Goodreads
#2 ~ Jet: Ebook • Paperback • Audible • Goodreads
#3 ~ Rome: My Review • Ebook • Paperback • Audible • Goodreads
#4 ~ Nash: Ebook • Paperback • Audible • Goodreads
#5 ~ Rowdy: Ebook • Paperback • Audible • Goodreads
#6 ~ Asa: Ebook • Paperback • Audible • Goodreads

about the author button

Jay CrownoverJay Crownover is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Marked Men and The Point series. Like her characters, she is a big fan of tattoos. She loves music and wishes she could be a rock star, but since she has no aptitude for singing or instrument playing, she’ll settle for writing stories with interesting characters that make the reader feel something. She lives in Colorado with her three dogs.

Website • Blog • Facebook • Twitter • Goodreads


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Release Blitz + Prologue & Giveaway: Again by Elizabeth Reyes

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Again by Elizabeth Reyes

Again by Elizabeth Reyes
Series: Fate #4 (full reading order below)
Publication Date: August 3rd 2015
Organized by: As the Pages Turn
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No regrets. Just lessons learned.

Having lived through the torment of losing his first love to someone else—all because he never spoke up—Sydney Maricopa vowed never to repeat that mistake again.

So when he finally admits he’s fallen for his new best friend, he refuses to lose her too, especially once he realizes his feelings for her might be requited. There’s only one problem.

Her perfect boyfriend.

Still, Sydney’s determined to fight for the girl he loves this time. He has what it takes to go up against Mr. Perfect. Most importantly, he and his new best friend have something even her boyfriend can’t compete with—their profound connection. One he intends to use to win her over.

Until he finds out what she’d be giving up if she chooses Sydney.

Something no one should ever give up. Would he dream of selfishly asking her to? Or should he do the honorable thing and sacrifice his own happiness for hers? Allow the girl he loves to sail off into the sunset with another man as he stands back and watches in agony . . .again?

Buy Links:
Amazon • Amazon UK • B&N • Kobo • iTunes • Smashwords

Now here’s the prologue from Again! ❤

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Copyright © 2015 Elizabeth Reyes

Prologue

Sydney

It took all of thirty seconds to figure out whose bed Sydney was in and whose gorgeous ass cheek was peeking out from just under satin sleep shorts. In the following seconds, the memory of what they’d done last night, while choppy, began coming to him. Against his better judgment, he’d agreed to come back to her apartment to finish celebrating their birthdays—safely.

The faint ache of the headache he knew he’d have for the rest of the day, or at least all morning, made him squeeze his eyes shut. They flew open the instant he felt movement in the bed.

Shit.

She’d be up soon, and things would no doubt get awkward. His only saving grace was they were both dressed. Well, sort of. His shirt was unbuttoned, and visions of her playfully undoing the buttons while giggling, her mouth so close to his he could almost taste it, had him squeezing his legs together. It was bad enough he’d woken with his usual morning wood. This was not helping.

The thin silk camisole and satin sleep shorts she’d slipped into last night after stripping out of what she’d called her frumpy work clothes left little to the imagination. Once again Sydney was assaulted with the visual of her perky tits with nipples so erect they practically tore through the fabric of the tight and almost see-through white camisole. The tiny shorts barely covered the swell of her plump ass.

Squeezing his eyes shut, he muttered under his breath then threw the blanket she’d kicked off back over her. He had to before he had a full-blown throbbing erection like the one that had tortured him most of the previous evening.

This wasn’t the first time he’d woken in the bed of someone who he hadn’t anticipated ending up with. But it was the first time he had with someone he considered a dear friend. He’d thought about what it would be like to have her under him far too many times; he’d just never anticipated it would ever happen, especially not like this.

Sydney may’ve had a bit too much to drink last night, but he was nowhere as drunk as she’d been. He’d made sure he stayed in control. Things had gotten pretty intense—pretty damn heavy even—but luckily, drinking alcohol in excess as they had last night was a foreign concept to her. It was why he’d agreed to come back to her place initially. She’d already been pretty lit when they left the bar, and he was certain he was just bringing her home to make sure she passed out safely in her bed. He just hadn’t anticipated her being so persuasive and getting him to agree to hang out a little longer, getting playful, things getting heavy, and then his passing out with her.

Just because he remembered the details didn’t mean she would. In fact, he was pretty certain she wouldn’t, and maybe that was a good thing. Now he wondered if he should even mention everything she’d done, said, and admitted last night when the liquor kicked in. He couldn’t be sure how she’d react, but he knew her well enough to know she’d be a little embarrassed, maybe even mortified.

With that in mind, he considered the possibility of sneaking out. It seemed like an ideal plan. He could grab his things, slip out her bedroom sliding glass door, and then later he could call and ask how she was feeling. He’d say he made sure she got home safely then left and that was that. If she remembered anything, it would be even choppier than how he recalled it. She’d been close to passing out when she made one of her more profound admissions. She might even think she dreamed some of it.

It was perfect and he slid out of the bed carefully—quietly. He began tiptoeing around the room, gathering his things: the shoes she insisted he take off and the tie she’d done a little dance with that lay on the floor now next to her three-inch heels. He’d forever have the visual of her prancing in those sexy-as-shit heels.

Feeling his cock come alive again, he grabbed the tie, muttering to himself. “Just grab your shit and get out.”

The sound of a knock in the front room made him freeze in place. His mind raced. Was that what he thought it was? A knock at her door? The doorbell rang this time, and she sat up, her eyes wide with confusion. She glanced around the room. Sydney watched her facial expression, catching the moment it all came to her, and she gasped, bringing her hand to her mouth.

“Nothing happened,” he said in a loud whisper just as another knock followed at her door and he pointed. “Someone’s at your door. You expecting someone?”

The moment he asked, it came to him: the charity walk she’d be doing this morning—with her boyfriend and the rest of her family and friends.

She jumped out of bed, covering herself as if she were naked, but she was still in the attire she’d so audaciously pranced around in for him last night.

“Sissy!” her sister called out, knocking a little harder. “You in the shower or something?”

“We got you coffee.” Hearing her brother’s voice made his stomach drop even further.

But what really gave his gut a kick was her boyfriend’s voice. “I got your favorite, babe, fresh poppy-seed muffins.”

“Oh my God!” she gasped again, throwing on an oversized sweatshirt.

Already one step ahead of her, Sydney finished picking up his other shoe and coat from the chair on the side of the bed. His wallet on her nightstand was a reminder of what he’d begun to consider last night. He would never take advantage of a girl, especially not a good friend. But with the way she was acting last night—the things she’d admitted in her inebriated state—he’d begun to think he might not be able to talk her out of doing what she’d been so hell-bent on doing. It’d been a moment of utter weakness on his part. For a fleeting instant, he’d considered that, if he couldn’t change her mind, he certainly wouldn’t reject her. The least he could do was make sure they used protection. Thankfully, it hadn’t come to that, but now here they were.

“I’ll go out the sliding door,” he said just after she called out for her boyfriend and siblings to give her a minute.

She nodded in frantic agreement. “I’m sorry,” she said in a hushed voice.

“For what?” He stopped to look at her.

“I don’t remember much, but I do remember I was the one who insisted we come back here. This is my fault.”

Sydney shook his head, narrowing his eyes as he took one last look into those beautiful, anxious eyes. “Don’t worry about it.” He smiled. “If I hadn’t wanted to, I wouldn’t have. And for the record, you may not remember, but we had a good time. At least I know I did, but I’m pretty sure you did too.”

Her face flushed and she smiled timidly, so different from her behavior last night. He almost laughed, but he didn’t. She looked embarrassed enough.

She walked him to the sliding door where she thanked him again for understanding, squeezed his arm, and said she’d call him as soon as she got the chance. Sydney walked through the pool area and into the other side of their apartment complex. The entire way up the elevator and down the hallway to his apartment he was lost in thought.

She’d shared with him last night some of the truths about her relationship with her man. Even if she hadn’t said it outright, her actions screamed far louder than any words she could’ve ever said.

She wanted Sydney just as much as he wanted her.

Had she meant everything she’d said? Or had it been just sexual desire brought out by the alcohol? No fucking way. He clenched his jaw.

One thing he knew about his relationship with his best friend was that would never work. He’d never been one of those men, the kind that felt the need to stake their claim on the girl they loved—own her. He’d always thought the idea of such thinking was ridiculous, insulting to the girl. Even when he’d been married, he’d never felt he owned his wife.

But last night changed everything. Seeing her the way he had and witnessing the fire in her eyes when she’d gotten a glimpse of the undeniable erection her dancing had given him—one so obvious even his slacks couldn’t hide it—he knew one thing. If he ever got his hands on that hot little ass—fucked her the way he thought he could only dream of doing—she’d be his.

No if, ands, or buts about it. He finally understood that carnal need to claim the girl you loved and make sure everybody knew it. There’d be no looking back if they ever went there, so if she was thinking that’s all it could be, she was dead wrong, and he’d told her so. Unfortunately, he was sure she wouldn’t remember. That was when her last words came to him. She’d said them as he’d indulged her by pretending he was getting into bed with her, and he’d be holding her to them even if she didn’t remember because he’d seen the look in her eyes when she’d said them. Just as he had when he said them too, she meant them.

Then she’d passed out.

Sydney smiled. She was so beautiful even passed out. He hadn’t been able to tear himself away from lying by her side, staring at her—listening to her breathe—until he passed out too.

He made it to the door of his apartment and reached in his pocket for his keys. Instantly, he felt the panic. He reached in his other pocket and searched his coat but felt nothing. Then it came to him. They were right where he’d put them down next to his phone on the table in her kitchen.

His head fell back, knowing his sneaking out the back door had been all for nothing. As much as he wanted nothing more than to be with her now—make her his—she was still his dear friend, and he cared about her deeply. He’d never do anything to purposely cause problems or put her in an awkward position in front of her family, even if he knew the truth now about how she felt. Sydney’s keys and phone would be the first things her boyfriend would see sitting on her kitchen table. She’d already mentioned the guy wasn’t thrilled about her friendship with Sydney.

“Fuck!”

Reading Order: Fate series

Fate by Elizabeth Reyes Breaking Brandon by Elizabeth Reyes Suspicious Minds by Elizabeth Reyes Again by Elizabeth Reyes

#1 ~ Fate: EbookPaperback • Goodreads
#2 ~ Breaking Brandon: EbookPaperbackGoodreads
#3 ~ Suspicious Minds: Ebook • PaperbackGoodreads
#4 ~ Again: Ebook • Goodreads

about the author button

Elizabeth ReyesUSA Today Bestselling Author, Elizabeth Reyes continues to answer to her calling on a daily basis. Since releasing her debut novel Forever Mine (Moreno Brothers #1) in 2010 she has now published 9 full length novels total and fast at work on the next. The excitement her Moreno Brothers, 5th Street, and Fate series have garnered has far exceeded her wildest dreams. It is with as much excitement that she’ll continue to put out books related to these series as well as introduce brand new ones very soon.

In 2014 she will take her next step in the exciting world of writing and publish her first traditionally published book with Simon & Schuster/Atria. But she will continue putting out self-published books as well.

Website • Facebook • Twitter • Goodreads • Printerest • Instagram

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Elizabeth is offering up the following prizes. The giveaway is international and will end on 08/07/15 at 11:59 PM CST.

  • (3) Signed paperback of Again
  • (9) eBook copy of Again

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Blog Tour + Prologue & Chapter One: Ruin & Rule by Pepper Winters

ruin & rule book tour

Meet Killian in Pepper Winter’s new MC Romance!
Check out my review of Ruin & Rule here.

Ruin & Rule by Pepper Winters

Ruin & Rule by Pepper Winters
Series: Pure Corruption MC #1 (full reading order below)
Publication Date: July 7th 2015
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“We met in a nightmare. The in-between world where time had no power over reason. We fell in love. We fell hard. But then we woke up. And it was over . . .”

RUIN & RULE

She is a woman divided. Her past, present, and future are as twisted as the lies she’s lived for the past eight years. Desperate to get the truth, she must turn to the one man who may also be her greatest enemy . . .

He is the president of Pure Corruption MC. A heartless biker and retribution-deliverer. He accepts no rules, obeys no one, and lives only to reap revenge on those who wronged him. And now he has stolen her, body and soul.

Can a woman plagued by mystery fall in love with the man who refuses to face the truth? And can a man drenched in darkness forgo his quest for vengeance-and finally find redemption?

Buy Links:
Amazon • Amazon UK • iBooks • Barnes & Noble • Kobo • Google Play

Now here’s the prologue and chapter one from Ruin & Rule! ❤

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Prologue

We met in a nightmare.

The in-between world where time had no power over rhyme, reason, or connection. We met. We stared. We knew.

There was no distortion from the outside world. No right or wrong. No confusion or battles from hearts and minds.

Just us. In our silent dreamworld.

That nightmare became our home. Planting ghosts, raising fantasies. Entwined together in our happily skewed reality.

We fell in love. We fell hard.

In those fleeting seconds of our nightmare, we lived an eternity.

But then we woke up.

And it was over.

Chapter One

I always believed life would grant rewards to those most worthy. I was fucking naïve. Life doesn’t reward—it ruins. It ruins those most deserving and takes everything. It takes everything all while watching any remaining goodness rot to hate.

—Kill

Darkness.

That was my world now. Literally and physically.

The back of my skull hurt from being knocked unconscious. My wrists and shoulders ached from lying on my back with my hands tied behind me.

Nothing was broken—at least it didn’t feel that way—but everything was bruised. The fuzziness receded wisp by wisp, parting the clouds of sleep, trying to shed light on what’d happened. But there was no light. My eyes blinked at the endless darkness from the mask tied around my head. Anxiety twisted my stomach at having such a fundamental gift taken away.

I didn’t move, but mentally catalogued my body from the tips of my toes to the last strand of hair on my head. My jaw and tongue ached from the foul rag stuffed in my mouth and my nose permitted a shallow stream of oxygen to enter—just enough to keep me alive.

Fear tried to claw its way through my mind, but I shoved it away. I deliberately suppressed panic in order to assess my predicament rather than lose myself to terror.

Fear never helps, only hinders.

My senses came back, creeping tentatively, as if afraid whoever had stolen me would notice their return.

Sound: the squeak of brakes, the creak of a vehicle settling from motion to stopping.

Touch: the skin on my right forearm stung, throbbing with a mixture of soreness and sharpness. A burn perhaps?

Smell: dank rotting vegetables and the astringent, pungent scent of fear—but it wasn’t mine. It was theirs.

It wasn’t just me being kidnapped.

My heart flurried, drinking in their terror. It made my breath quicken and legs itch to run. Forcing myself to ignore the outside world, I focused inward. Clutching my inner strength where calmness was a need rather than a luxury.

I refused to lose myself in a fog of tears. Desperation was a curse and I wouldn’t succumb, because I had every intention of being prepared for what might happen next.

I hated the sniffles and stifled sobs of others around me. Their bleak sadness tugged at my heartstrings, making me fight with my own preservation, replacing it with concern for theirs.

Get through this, then worry about them.

I didn’t think this was a simple opportunistic snatch. Whoever had stolen me planned it. The hunch grew stronger as I searched inside for any liquor remnants or the smell of cigarettes.

Had I been at a party? Nightclub?

Nothing.

I hadn’t been stupid or reckless. I think…

No hint or clue as to where I’d been or what I’d been doing when they’d come for me.

I wriggled, trying to move away from the stench. My bound wrists protested, stinging as the rope around them gnawed into my flesh like twine-beasts. My ribs bellowed, along with my head. There was no give in my restraints. I stopped trying to move, preserving my energy.

I tried to swallow.

No saliva.

I tried to speak.

No voice.

I tried to remember what happened.

I tried to remember…

Panic.

Nothing.

I can’t remember.

“Get up, bitch,” a man said. Something jabbed me in the ribs. “Won’t tell you again. Get.”

I froze as my mind hurtled me from present to past.

I’ll miss you so much,” she wailed, hugging me tighter.

“I’m not dying, you know.” I tried to untangle myself, looking over my shoulder at the final call flashing for my flight. I hated being late for anything. Let alone my one chance at escaping and finding out the truth once and for all.

“Call me the moment you get there.”

“Promise.” I drew a cross over my heart—

The memory shattered as my horizontal body suddenly went vertical in one swoop.

Who was that girl? Why did I have no memory of it ever happening?

“I said get up, bitch.” The man breathed hard in my ear, sending a waft of reeking breath over me. The blindfold stole my sight, but it left my nose woefully unprotected.

Unfortunately.

My captor shoved me forward. The ground was steady beneath my feet. The sickness plaiting with my confusion faded, leaving me cold.

My legs stumbled in the direction he wanted me to go. I hated shuffling in the darkness, not knowing where I came from or where I was being herded. There were no sounds of comfort or smothered snickers. This wasn’t a masquerade.

This was real.

This is real.

My heart thudded harder, fear slipping through my defenses. But full-blown terror remained elusive. Slippery like a silver fish, darting on the outskirts of my mind. It was there but fleeting, keeping me clear-headed and strong.

I was grateful for that. Grateful that I maintained what dignity I had left—remaining strong even in the face of the unknown terrors lurking on the other side of my blindfold.

Moans and whimpers of other women grew in decibels as men ordered them to follow the same path I walked. Either death row or salvation, I had no choice but to inch my way forward, leaving my forgotten past behind.

I willed snippets to come back. I begged the puzzlement of my past to slot into place, so I could make sense of this horrible world I’d awoken in.

But my mind was locked to me. A fortress withholding everything I wished to know.

The pushing stopped. So did I.

Big mistake.

“Move.” A cuff to the back of my head sent me wheeling forward. I didn’t stop again. My bare feet traversed…wood?

Bare feet?

Where are my shoes?

The missing knowledge twisted my stomach.

Where did I come from?

How did I end up here?

What’s my name?

It wasn’t the terror of the unknown future that stole my false calmness. It was the fear of losing my very self. They’d stolen everything. My triumphs, my trespasses, my accomplishments and failures.

How could I deal with this new world if I didn’t know what skills I had to stay alive? How could I hope to defeat my enemy when my mind revolted and locked me out?

Who am I?

To have who I was deleted…It was unthinkable.

“Faster, bitch.” Something cold wedged against my spine, pushing me onward. With my hands behind my back, I shuffled faster, negotiating the ground as best I could for dips or trips.

“Step down.” The man grabbed my bound wrists, giving me something to lean against as my toes navigated the small steps before me.

“Again.”

I obeyed.

“Last one.”

I managed the small staircase without falling flat on my face.

My face.

What do I look like?

A loud scraping noise sounded before me. I shied back, bumping against a feminine form. The woman behind me cried out—the first verbal sound of another.

“Move.” The pressure on my lower back came again, and I obeyed. Inching forward until the stuffy air of old vegetables and must was replaced by…copper and metallic…blood?

Why…why is that so familiar?

I gasped as my mind free-fell into another memory.

“I don’t think I can do this.” I darted away, throwing up in the rubbish bin in the classroom. The unique stench of blood curdled my stomach.

“Don’t overthink it. It’s not what you’re doing to the animal to make it bleed. It’s what you’re doing to make it live.” My professor shook his head, waiting for me to swill out my mouth and return white-faced and queasy to the operation in progress.

My heart splintered like a broken piece of glass, reflecting the compassion and responsibility I felt for such an innocent creature. This little puppy that’d been dumped in a plastic bag to die after being shot with BB gun pellets. He’d survive only if I mastered the skills to stem his internal bleeding and embrace the vocation I was called to do.

Inhaling the scent of blood, I let it invade my nostrils, scald my throat, and impregnate my soul. I drank its coppery essence. I drenched myself in the smell of the creature’s life force until it no longer affected me.

Picking up a scalpel, I said, “I’m ready—”

“Holy fuck!” The man guiding me forward suddenly whacked the base of my spine. The hard pain shoved me forward and I tripped.

“Wire—get me fucking reinforcements. He’s started a motherfucking war!”

Wind and body motion swarmed me as men charged from behind. The darkness I lived in suddenly came alive with sound.

Bullets flew, impaling themselves into the metal sides of the vehicle I’d just stepped from. Pings and ricochets echoed in my ear. Curses bellowed; moans of pain threaded like a breeze.

Someone grabbed my arm, swinging me to the side. “Get down!” The inertia of his throw knocked me off balance. With my wrists bound together, I had nothing to grab with, no way to protect myself from falling.

I fell.

My stomach swooped as tumbled off a small platform and smashed against the ground.

Dirt, damp grass, and moldy leaves replaced the stench of blood, cutting through the cloying sharpness of spilled metallic. My mouth opened, gasping in pain. Blades of grass tickled my lips as my cheek stuck to wet mud.

My shoulder screamed with agony, but I ignored the new injury. My mind clung to the unlocked memory. The fleeting recollection of my profession.

I’m a vet.

The sense of homecoming and security that one little snippet brought was priceless. My soul snarled for more, suddenly ravenous for missing information.

I skipped straight from fumbling uncertainty into starvation for more.

Tell me! Show me. Who am I?

I searched inside for more clues. But it was like trying to grab on to an elusive dream, fading faster and faster the harder I chased.

I couldn’t remember anything about medicine or how to heal. All I knew was I’d been trained to embrace the scent of blood. I wasn’t afraid of it. I didn’t faint or suffer sickness at the sight of it pouring from an open wound.

That tiniest knowledge was enough to settle my prickling nerves and focus on the outside world again.

Battle cries. Men screaming. Men growling. The dense thuds of fists on flesh and the horrible deflection of gunshots.

I couldn’t understand. Had I fallen through time and entered an alternate dimension?

Another body landed on top of mine.

I cried out, winded from a sharp poke of an elbow to my ribs.

The figure rolled away, crying softly. Feminine.

Why aren’t I crying?

I once again searched for fear. It wasn’t natural not to be afraid. I’d woken up alone, stolen, and thrown into the middle of a war, yet I wasn’t hyperventilating or panicked.

My calmness was like a drug, oozing over me, muting the sharp starkness of my situation. It was bearable if I embraced courage and the knowledge that I was strong.

My hands balled, grateful for the thought. I didn’t know who I was, but it didn’t matter, because the person who I was in this moment mattered the most.

I had to remain segmented, so I could get through whatever was about to happen. All I had was gut instinct, quiet strength, and rationality. Everything else had been taken.

“Stop fighting, you fucking idiots!”

The loud growl rumbled like an earthquake, hushing the battle in one fell swoop. Whoever had spoken had power.

Immense power. Colossal power.

A shiver darted over my skin.

“What the fuck happened? Have you lost your goddamn lovin’ mind?” a man yelled.

A sound of a short scuffle, then the fresh whiff of tilled dirt graced my nose.

“It’s done. Throw down your weapons and bend a fucking knee.” The same earthquake rumbled. The weight of his command pushed me harder against the damp ground.

“I’m not bending nothing, you asshole. You aren’t my Prez!”

“I am. Have been for the past four years.”

“You’re not. You’re his bitch. Don’t think his power is yours.”

Another fight—muffled fists and kicks. It ended swiftly with a painful groan.

The earthquake voice came again. “Open your eyes and follow the red fucking river. Your chosen—the one you hand-picked to slaughter me and take over the Club—he’s dead. Did you ever stop to think Wallstreet made me Prez for a fucking reason?”

Another moan.

“I’m the chosen one. I’m the one who knows the family secrets, absorbed the legacy, and earned his way into power. You don’t know shit. Nobody does. So bend a fucking knee and respect.”

Another tremor ran down my back.

Silence for a time, apart from the squelch of boots and heavy breathing. Then a barely muttered curse. “You’ll die. One way or another, we won’t put up with a Dagger as a Prez. We’re the Corrupts, goddammit. Having a traitor rule us is a fucking joke.”

“I’m the traitor? The man who obeys your leader? Who guides in his stead? I’m the traitor when you try and rally my brothers in a war?” A heavy thud of a fist connected with flesh. “No…I’m not. You are.”

My mind raced, sucking up noises and forming wild conclusions of what happened before me. Was this World War Three? Was this the apocalypse of the life I couldn’t remember? No matter how I pieced it together, I couldn’t make sense of anything.

The air was thick with anticipation. I didn’t know how many men stood before me. I didn’t know how many corpses littered the ground, or how such violence could be permitted in the world I used to know. But I did know the cease-fire was fragile and any moment it would explode.

A single threat slithered through the grass like a snake. “I’ll kill you, motherfucker. Mark my words. The true Corrupts are just waiting to take you out.”

The gentle foot-thuds of someone large vibrated through the ground. “The Corrupts haven’t existed for four fucking years. The moment I took the seat, it’s been Pure Corruption all the way. And you’re not fucking pure enough for this Club. You’re done.”

I flinched as the sulfuric boom of a gun ripped through the stagnant air.

A crash as a body fell lifeless to the grass. A soft puff of a soul escaping.

Murder.

Murder was committed right before me.

The inherent need to nurture and heal—the part of me that was as steadfast as the beat of my heart—wept with regret.

Death was something I’d fought against on a daily basis, but now I was weaponless.

I hated that a life had been stolen right before me. That I hadn’t been able to stop it.

I’m a witness.

And yet, I’d witnessed nothing.

I’d been privy to a battle but seen nothing. Knew no one. I would never be able to tell who shot whom, or who was right and who was wrong.

My hands shook, even though I managed to stay eerily calm. Am I in shock? And if I was, how did I cure myself?

The woman beside me curled into a ball, her knees digging into my side. My first reaction was to repel away from the touch. I didn’t know who was friend or foe. But a second reaction came quickly; the urge to share my calmness—to let her know that no matter what happened, she wasn’t alone. We faced the same future—no matter how grim.

Voices cascaded over us, whispers mainly, quickly spoken orders. Every sound was heightened. Being robbed of sight made my body seek other ways in which to find clues.

“Get rid of the bodies before daybreak.”

“We’ll go back and make sure we’re still covered.”

“Send out the word. It’s over. The Prez won—no anarchy today.”

Each voice was distinct but my ears twitched only for one: the earthquake rumble that set my skin quivering like quicksand.

He hadn’t spoken since he’d condemned someone to death and pulled the trigger. Every second of not hearing him made my heart trip faster. I wasn’t afraid. I should be. I should be immobile with fear. But he invoked something in me—something primal. Just like I knew I was female and a vet, I knew his voice meant something. Every inch of me tensed, waiting for him to speak. It was wrong to crave the voice of a killer, but it was the only thing I wanted.

Needed.

I need to know who he is.

Wet mud sucked loudly against boots as they came closer.

The woman whimpered, but I angled my chin toward the sound, wishing my eyes were uncovered.

I wanted to see. I wanted to witness the carnage before me. Because it was carnage. The stench of death confirmed it. It was morbid to want to see such destruction, but without my sight all of this seemed like a terrible nightmare. Nothing was grounded—completely nonsensical and far too strange.

I needed proof that this was real.

I needed concrete evidence that I wasn’t mad. That my body was intact, even if my mind was not.

I sucked in a breath as warm fingers touched my cheek, angling my face upward and out of the mud. Strong hands caressed the back of my skull, fumbling with my blindfold.

The anticipation of finally getting my wish to see made me stay still and cooperative in his hold.

I didn’t say a word or move. I just waited. And breathed. And listened.

The man’s breath was heavy and low, interspersed with a quick catch of pain. His fingers were swift and sure, but unable to hide the small fumble of agony.

He’s hurt.

The pressure of the blindfold suddenly released, trading opaque darkness for a new kind of gloom.

Night sky. Moonshine. Stars above.

Anchors of a world I knew, but no recognition of the dark-shrouded industrial estate where blood gleamed silver-black and corpses dotted the field.

I’m alive.

I can see.

The joy at having my eyes freed came and went as blazing as a comet.

Then my life ended as our gazes connected.

Green to green.

I have green eyes.

Down and down I spiraled, deeper and deeper into his clutches.

My life—past, present, and future—lost all purpose the second I stared into his soul.

The fear I’d been missing slammed into my heart.

I quivered. I quaked.

Something howled deep inside with age-old knowledge.

Every part of me arched toward him, then shied away in terror.

Him.

A nightmare come to life.

A nightmare I wanted to live.

If life was a tapestry, already threaded and steadfast, then he was the scissors that cut me free. He tore me out, stole me away, changed the whole prophecy of who I was meant to be.

Jaw-length dark hair, tangled and sweaty, framed a square jaw, straight nose, and full lips. His five-o’clock stubble held remnants of war, streaked with dirt and blood. But it was his eyes that shot a quivering arrow into my heart, spreading his emerald anger.

He froze, his body curving toward mine. Blistering hope flickered across his features. His mouth fell open and love so achingly deep glowed in his gaze. “What—” A leg gave out, making him kneel beside me. His hands shook as he cupped my face, his fingers digging painfully into my cheekbones. “It’s not—”

My heart raced. Yes.

“You know me,” I breathed.

The moment my voice webbed around us, storm clouds rolled over the sunshine in his face, blackening the hope and replacing it with pure hatred.

He changed from watching me like I was his angel to glowering as if I were a despicable devil.

I shivered at the change—at the iciness and hardness. He breathed hard, his chest rising and falling. His lips parted, a rumbling command falling from his mouth to my ears. “Stand up. You’re mine now.”

When I didn’t move, his hand landed on my side. His touch was blocked by clothing but I felt it everywhere. He stroked my soul, tickled my heart, and caressed every cell with fingers that despised me.

I couldn’t suck in a proper breath.

With a vicious push, he rolled me over, and with a sharp blade sliced my bindings. With effortless power, so thrilling and terrifying, he hauled me to my feet.

I didn’t sway. I didn’t cry. Only pulled the disgusting gag from my mouth and stared in silence.

I stared up, up, up into his bright green eyes, understanding something I shouldn’t understand.

This was him.

My nightmare.

Reading Order: Pure Corruption MC series

Ruin & Rule by Pepper Winters Sin & Suffer by Pepper Winters

#1 ~ Ruin & Rule: My Review • EbookPaperbackAudible • Goodreads
#2 ~ Sin & Suffer: EbookPaperback • Goodreads (Jan. 26, 2016)

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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.

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Cover Reveal + Prologue & Giveaway: Very Twisted Things by Ilsa Madden-Mills

Very Twisted Things by Ilsa Madden-Mills

Very Twisted Things
Series: Briarcrest Academy #3 (full reading order below)
Author: Ilsa Madden-Mills
Release Date: February 2015
Cover Model: Drew Leighty
Genre: Hot New Adult for 18+
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A sassy violinist who lives next door. An obsessed rock star who watches her through binoculars. And one night when she bares it all. Life will never be the same in Tinseltown.

Vital Rejects front guy Sebastian Tate never imagined his YouTube music video would go viral, sky-rocketing him to acting success in Hollywood. Okay, maybe he did. After all, he’s a cocky dude who knows he’s hot-as-hell, and it was only a matter of time before his stars aligned.

But life in Tinseltown is never what it seems.

After being cheated on, his only rule to falling in love is simple: Keep Calm and Don’t Do It. Spying on his mysterious new neighbor with binoculars seems innocent enough, but quickly escalates into an erotic game between two very unlikely people.

Twenty-year-old Violet St. Lyons is a world-renowned violinist who’s lost her mojo on stage. She hides away in a Hollywood mansion, trying to find her way through her twisted past in order to make her future.

He’s the life of the party with girls chasing him down for his autograph. She’s the introvert with a potty mouth who doesn’t even know who he is.

When they meet, stars collide, sparks fly, and clothes come off. Yet, giving his heart to a girl isn’t Sebastian’s plan; falling for a guy who craves attention isn’t Violet’s.

Welcome to Briarcrest Academy—Hollywood style—where sometimes the best things in life are VERY TWISTED THINGS.

Now here’s the prologue of Very Twisted Things! ❤

excerpt

Prologue

Then he came along, and like a twisted piece of metal that’s burned beyond recognition, I emerged from the fire. Different. Changed.” –from the journal of Violet St. Lyons

This wasn’t happening.

Clad in a pair of red lacy bikini underwear—his favorite—I sipped on tequila—not my favorite—and glared at Sebastian Tate, sexy rock star and billboard model. Wearing low-slung jeans and nothing else, he paced around my chair in tight circles, his tall frame blocking most of my vision, the lion tattoo on his back heaving as he took deep breaths. Blonde and sporting faint stubble on his chiseled jawline, he looked like the heartbreaker the tabloids said he was.

Bad, bad boy.

But, oh, so good.

He sent me a hard look. Pissed.

From my living room in the Hollywood Hills, I gazed out the window at the Santa Monica Mountains, my eyes everywhere except on the glossy nude photos he clutched in his hand.

Of me. Of him.

Of us.

He swiveled his ice-blue eyes at me. Earlier today they’d burned with another kind of fire, but things change fast in Tinseltown. “These will be in the papers. Get ready,” he said, tossing down the pictures on the table, making me cringe.

I gazed down at them, my eyes lingering over one of us on my patio, him on his knees with his mouth between my legs as my body arched in ecstasy. My skin burned at the memory, echoes of the passion we’d shared—and now everyone in the world would see. My family. The society people in New York. The board of directors for the orphanage. My stomach heaved at the thought, bile threatening to rise up.

Another caught my eye, this one a full color close-up of me crying black mascara tears as I played my violin. Nude. It looked depressing as hell although in truth it had been love that made me emotional.

“Remind me to pass on the make-up next time. And to not have sex outdoors. Obviously,” I said, forcing my shoulders to move in a nonchalant shrug like I didn’t care, but he knew the truth. I was devastated by these.

And so was he.

Because we weren’t supposed to be together.

He said my name in that husky voice of his, the one that made me crazy, the one that made me want to rip his clothes off. “Violet—”

“Stop,” I said, clenching my fists. Because whatever he had to say didn’t matter. These pictures ruined us, ensuring that he’d leave me for her, the beautiful Bubble named Blair. Bubble, bubble, bubble. I wanted to pop her.

Why did I always come last with him?

I stood and faced him, tossing back the last of my shot. “First off, I wish we’d never met.” I held my hand up. “No. Wait. I don’t wish that because then I wouldn’t know Spider or Mila. I—I wish I’d never fallen in love with you. Loving means losing. Always. And I was stupid to forget it. I may have to sell this house and move to another freaking country to get away from you, but I’ll do it. I’ve done it before.” I sucked in a breath. “I’ll be fine without you.”

Lie. I would likely end up drunk on Mexican tequila, nursing what was left of my heart.

He closed his eyes, a dazed expression on his face as if my words crushed him.

“We were doomed from the very start,” I reminded him. “You want to be a star, and all I want is you.”

He stopped his pacing, a muscle jerking in his cheek as he leaned down until his nose was level with mine. “Then this is goodbye, Violet? You’re giving up on us already?”

Did I hear a break in his voice? Impossible.

“If I don’t say goodbye first, then someone else will.” Truth.

He’d never be mine, simply because he didn’t belong with me. I was a washed-up freak who had nothing but a mansion and a Maserati; he belonged on the silver screen with a pretty starlet on his arm.

We were over. Kaput.

I smiled, a bitter thing, and sashayed past him, enjoying the hiss of breath when I let my hand drift over his crotch. “This moment is begging for a soundtrack, don’t you think?” I said, coming to stop by the stereo system and cranking up Kurt Kobain’s Smells Like Teen Spirit. Holding my hands up in the horns rocking out signal, I bobbed my head to the beat while he watched, anger flickering across his face. I danced and twirled around, closing my eyes, the music vibrating through my body, my fingers itching for my violin.

Bam!

My eyes flew open. He’d strode over to me and clicked the stereo off, chest still heaving.

He shoved his hands in my hair and dragged my face to his, and I groaned at the fire that blazed in my body. I felt the warm heat of his skin and pressed closer and inhaled. He smelled like bourbon and sex—a rock star’s diet—and I panted, cursing myself at the same time.

How would I ever get over him?

He pressed his thumbs across my mouth. Gentle. But his voice was cold. “You can’t wait to high-tail it back to Manhattan to your lawyer boyfriend, can you?”

“I plead the fifth,” I said, staring at his full lips. I licked my own. “But you can kiss me goodbye if you want. I don’t mind.”

We stared at each other until he exhaled heavily and put his back to me, his muscles as taut as the guitar strings he played. He verged on breaking.

Yeah, well, welcome to my world.

Yet at the same time, I reached my hand out to him. Stupid hand.

But of course, he didn’t see it.

“So long, V,” he said soft as a whisper, staring at the ground as if was breaking his heart, when all along it was the other way around. He took a step from me, then another, then another, until finally, he was nothing but a speck.

I clutched my chest and wanted to fall to the ground and rail on it. Alone. Again.

But tough girls like me didn’t cry over black-hearted boys.

Although in his defense, I owed him a thank you for saving me.

To show you, I’d have to start at the beginning, the day I lost everything.

© Ilsa Madden-Mills, NYT and USA Today bestselling author
–Unedited and may change before publication

Reading Order: Briarcrest Academy series

Very Bad Things by Ilsa Madden-Mills Very Wicked Beginnings by Ilsa Madden-Mills Very Wicked Things by Ilsa Madden-Mills Very Twisted Things by Ilsa Madden-Mills

#1 ~ Very Bad Things: Ebook • Paperback • Goodreads
#1.5 ~ Very Wicked Beginnings: Ebook • Paperback • Goodreads
#2 ~ Very Wicked Things: Ebook • Paperback • Goodreads
#3 ~ Very Twisted Things: Goodreads (Feb. 2015)

about the author

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Ilsa Madden-Mills writes about strong heroines and sexy alpha males that sometimes you just want to slap.

She spends her days with two small kids, one neurotic cat, and one husband. She collects magnets and rarely cooks except to bake her own pretzels.

When she’s not crafting a story, you can find her drinking too much Diet Coke, jamming out to Pink, or checking on her carefully maintained chocolate stash.

She loves to hear from readers and fellow authors.

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Blog Tour + Prologue & Giveaway: Locke by Harper Sloan

Locke tour banner

Welcome to today’s stop on the blog tour for LOCKE by Harper Sloan! Check out the entire prologue of the book below, and enter the fantastic giveaway!

Locke by Harper Sloan

Locke by Harper Sloan
Series: Corps Security #5 (full reading order below)
Release Date: September 29th 2014
Add to Goodreads

Darkness is the only thing I see. Ever since the day my life changed. The day that everything and everyone I held close to me ceased to exist. The day I lost it all and the demons of my past consumed my every waking moment.

I tried to keep others at arm’s length. Tried not to let my darkness taint them. Ruin them. Harm them. And whether I want to admit it or not, as much as I wish I could keep them locked out, they refuse to leave. Refuse to let me suffer alone.

If I hadn’t been so focused on keeping those demons from flying free, I wouldn’t have missed how one perfect angel was able to sneak her way under my skin—refusing to let go. Making me want things I don’t deserve.

She consumes me. Her beauty knows no end. The love she promises tempts me every time she’s near. But that pure heart that makes her MY Emmy is the one thing I’m convinced I’ll destroy if I ever let her close.

I’m a broken man. A broken man with too much darkness in his soul to ever let her light shine upon me. But even that doesn’t stop me from craving her with every single breath in my body.

**This is the final book in the Corps Security series. This book is not suitable for younger readers. There is strong language, adult situations, and some violence.*

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Purchase:
Amazon Ebook • Amazon Paperback • Amazon UK

locke teaser

excerpt

Prologue—Maddox

Six weeks. It’s been over a goddamn month since Emmy ran from me.

Just gone.

It took me three days to find her—thanks to the tracking device I had placed on her car—down in some small Podunk town in south Florida. Even if she had been trying to hide, she’d done a shit job of it. One search for her parents would have brought me right to her.

It took me longer to actually get eyes on her than it had to find her. She was holed up in some cheap-ass hotel for three weeks. She called in her meals and never left the room. And unfortunately, I had to leave and rush home when things out of my control needed attention and I again had to pull Asher’s head out of his ass. Now I’m back and I’m not leaving until I get my hands on her.

She doesn’t want to be found. I know that, but damn if I’m going to let her run off and get away for good. I’ve pushed and pushed her away. Every bone in my body has screamed at me to take what she’s been offering for years. I’ve seen her, I know what she wants, but I won’t let my demons hurt her. Not my Emmy.

Since day one, she’s been the greatest temptation, but I refused to take everything innocent that is Emmy and let my blackness take her. Because that’s what will happen. It will wrap around her soul and slowly choke the life out of her. Just like every other person I’ve allowed in.

I’ll taint her. I’ll ruin her. And in the end, it will destroy her.

One smile from her made me fall. So I pushed her away. I told her that she would never be what I need—that I would never want her. God, if she only knew. I crave her and everything she keeps trying to hand me. I crave her and everything she could give me. My very being calls out to her, and I work daily to refuse it.

So I pushed.

Until she ran.

But that ends right now.

Looking up at the gaudy neon lights thrown on the top of this hellhole, I know that was my first mistake.

SYN.

A motherfucking strip club.

This is not a place where my angel belongs. Just the thought of her inside this club makes my skin crawl. I can feel my anger becoming a force of its own as the blackness in my soul threatens to burst through. It’s burning inside my veins and demanding blood. My nostrils flare, making my breaths come in loud pants. My fist clenches—demanding something to pound into, something to destroy. My skin feels tight. Every vein in my body is pulsing with each wild beat of my heart.

I’m going to explode.

The bouncer doesn’t even give me a second thought. He gives me a brief glance as I pay the twenty bucks to gain my access into the hellish place. I immediately rip my sunglasses off, taking in every inch of the room. Black walls with dim lighting, stereotypical red carpeting and leather booths lining the room. They have the name right with the smell of this place—sex and sin with a mixture of smoke and sweat. There are three stages set up around the room, the center one being the largest and two smaller ones to the left and right, with a bar against the back wall and one on the top floor.

The whole top-floor bar area is set up on a glass floor, giving these douchebags around the room the perfect view between the barely dressed servers’ legs. Taking my eyes off the top floor, where the bartenders are clearly working the glass floor to their advantage, I scan the room again, squinting my eyes to see through the dim lighting and heavy smoke.

That’s when I spot her.

“What. The. Fuck,” I snarl under my breath.

The anger I felt earlier burning through my body starts to boil. It’s almost as if my body becomes a force of its own. The monsters inside me wanting free.

There she stands, not even five feet away, looking exhausted, wearing next to nothing. Her skirt—if that’s what you want to call it—is more like a napkin someone cut in half. From the way she stands—slightly to the side—I can just make out the perfect roundness of her ass peeking out the bottom of the hem. Her pert tits are pushed together and held in a tight bikini top, the fabric so thin that I can see the outline of her nipples clear as day.

My eyes take in every inch of her exposed skin and I want to roar with rage.

No one should see her like this. No one but me. And even though I don’t have the right to feel this way about her, there isn’t a damn thing that can stop me now.

She hasn’t seen me yet, so I stalk over to where she’s standing. She turns right when I’m about to reach out for her and her eyes go wide, shock and alarm clear in her beautiful, honey-brown eyes.

“Wha—”

“What the fuck are you doing, Em?” I bite out.

She shrinks back at my tone before she catches herself and goes stiff. I can tell instantly that I’m not going to like anything she has to say.

“Excuse me?”

“You heard me, Emmy. What in the hell are you doing in this place?”

She tilts her head slightly, taking me in. Her eyes leave mine and roam the room before she gives a stiff nod. When she turns her focus back to me, I go stock-still at her words.

“I’m exactly where I should be, Maddox. I’m home.” Her tone is submissive, and that fury inside me goes from a boiling fire to ice cold.

With that, she turns and stalks off towards the bar. And I see that not only is her ass hanging out, but so are her hot-pink boy shorts.

“Dude. She’s a fine piece of ass, right?” The man she was just talking to speaks in awe.

“Shut your fucking mouth,” I growl, feeling that rage return like a switch has been flipped.

“Ah, you’re new here. Just sit back, my friend, and get ready for the show.” He laughs, takes a deep pull from his beer, and turns his attention back to the main stage, where the current entertainment is doing her best to swallow the fucking pole with her pussy. She’s working so hard for it that she might as well be fucking the damn thing.

I’m no stranger to strip clubs. Back when the guys were all single, we would hit some local ones around California. No better way to let off some steam from the shit that is constantly swirling around in my head than to sit in a room full of naked woman. Where the music pounds into your body, the drinks are always flowing, and the pussy is in abundance.

One thing’s for sure: This isn’t a place for Emmy. Hell no.

Without taking my eyes from Emmy, I drop my body into the nearest booth. She’s in a heated argument with the bartender and an older man who looks about as run-down as this fucking town. She throws her hands in the air, her head moving wildly, and if I had to guess, her stunning eyes are burning bright. She points over to me a few times, and all the older man does is shake his head, obviously not giving her what she wants. I just scowl at them from the booth, waiting for her to walk her ass back over here so I can explain to her that it’s time to go.

“Hey there, handsome,” a raspy voice says to my right. “Looking for some fun tonight? I bet a big man like you would be up for something wild.”

“No.” I don’t even look at her. My eyes never leave Emmy—who is now looking at me. A mix of ire and hurt is written all over her face. Even with the shit lighting in this place, I can see it…and I hate it.

Fucking hurt? Is she serious right now? Pissed I can understand. She didn’t want to be found and I found her.

“I won’t bite, baby. That is unless you want me to.” Her hands snake around my neck and down my chest.

Turning my attention away from Emmy, I look at the bleach-blonde hair, weathered skin, and fake tan of this bitch in front of me. I’ll give her credit—she tries to hide it with more than enough makeup for about ten women, but this piece of work in front of me has to be pushing fifty.

“I said no, woman. What part of that didn’t you understand? And for the last time, do not touch me.” I reach up and pull her hand off my stomach before she can go any further.

Moving my eyes back to where I last saw Emmy has me coming up empty. What the hell? I scan the room but she is still nowhere to be found.

“Ah, sweet cheeks. I know what you want. Good luck with that one. Rose doesn’t play around, and honey, why would you want her when you can have me? After all, I taught her everything she knows.” She leans down and, before I can guess her intent, licks my neck, clearly taking my distraction at her words to her advantage.

I turn swiftly and move into her space, making sure she doesn’t mix this shit up in her head to think that I would somehow ever want her ass.

“Do. Not. Touch. Me. You got that, sweet cheeks?”

She looks me in the eyes for a few beats before throwing her head back and laughing. The sound of it hits my ears like nails on a chalkboard.

“Your loss.”

When she walks off, I start my scan of the room again. No Emmy in sight. I run my hand over my buzzed scalp before settling in for the wait.

Thirty minutes later and I still haven’t found her. The crowd is getting restless. The chicks taking turns on the stage now haven’t been impressive and they undoubtedly want more. The pole humper has moved on to one of the smaller stages. The last act on the main stage was slightly better, but all she did was basically finger-fuck herself on the stage before fumbling to get to her feet on her ridiculous heels.

Jesus Christ.

I wait, determined not to leave until I have her with me. Another thirty minutes and two more rotations on the stages have my frustration levels going up even higher. How the hell did she just disappear? I know she didn’t leave. The tracking device on her car, which is sitting right next to my truck in the parking lot, hasn’t alerted me of any movement. I’ll be damned if she takes off on me again.

After signaling over another server, I order a beer and check my phone again to make sure the tracker isn’t malfunctioning. I’m just putting my phone in my pocket when a deep voice cuts over the music.

“Gentleman of Syn. It’s the moment you’ve been waiting for. The one your dicks have been begging for all fucking night. The Princess of Syn herself. The one and only, Rose!”

The Princess of Syn? What an idiot. I laugh to myself, placing my beer to my lips for a long pull. The music starts and the first few notes of Lollipop by Framing Hanley fill the air. Got to give this chick props—at least she picked a good song.

The house lights go down, plunging the room into darkness, before a spotlight hits the main stage. The smoke clinging to the air gives the stage an eerie glow. I take my eyes off the action and attempt scan the darkness of the room again for Emmy. Movement by the back corner catches my attention at the same time that the crowd goes electric. Idiots start throwing their money left and right, calling to this Princess of Syn to take them.

What morons.

I focus on the corner again and see the blonde from earlier smiling her wicked smile at me before pointing to the stage. Turning back to the stage, I watch as a woman, who I assume is this so-called princess, spins effortlessly on the pole, her movements all but blurring her body from the men wishing she were spinning on their dicks. It doesn’t take me long to see why the bitch from earlier is telling me to look.

With one quick spin, her hands are placed at the center and her legs are spread wide and parallel to the pole, showing off her barely there G-sting, I see my Emmy. It takes a second for the shock to wear off, and in that second, she gracefully drops from her spin with a guarded smile to the men crowding the stage. Lifting her small hands from her side, she drags them up her flat stomach to take her tits in hand and jiggles them.

Fucking jiggles them.

I can’t control my body at this point. I’m focused on one thing—the best way to get her off that stage and out of this place.

She reaches up and, in a move that is obviously practiced, removes her top, throwing it in to the crowd. There she dances with her body on display, caressing her naked tits until her nipples pebble. Turning her back to the room, she bends at the waist and starts to slowly pull her G-sting down her long, toned legs.

This is when the reality of this situation hits me. I’ll fucking kill all of these motherfuckers in the room.

Then she drops to her knees before getting on all fours and crawling towards the end of the stage.

Hell. No.

I’m on my feet in seconds, stalking through the crowd, pushing any man who stands in the way of my woman and me. I don’t even lift my arms from my side. I just barrel through the bodies with one goal in mind.

She doesn’t see me coming since she’s back on her feet and walking to the pole again. With a leap that would make my high school track coach proud, I’m on the stage, and a second later, I have a naked Emmy thrown over my shoulders before I jump off the stage. The sharp pain up my leg does nothing to extinguish my determination.

I can see the bouncers coming, and with one hand on her slick ass, I reach out and punch the first one in the face, taking great pleasure watching him instantly buckle to the floor. The other one comes at me from the side, but he doesn’t get far before I pick up the chair to my left one-handed and crack it against his fucking head.

Emmy is struggling with such vigor that I’m forced to put her down. She looks up, ready to spit fire at me, before snapping her mouth shut when she sees the expression on my face. I have no doubt that I look just as feral as I feel.

“Don’t you open that sweet fucking mouth, Emersyn. I swear to Christ, now is not the time to fucking piss me off any further.”

I rip my shirt off and roughly pull it over her head. She struggles and puts up a fight, momentarily distracting me from the third bouncer coming at full throttle. His fist takes me by surprise, but not for long. Grabbing her wrist so she doesn’t get away, I turn to the motherfucker stupid enough to get in my way.

“You shouldn’t have done that,” I seethe.

He goes to punch me again, but I duck and pop up before he realizes he failed. Bringing my head forward, I head-butt him right between the eyes and almost smile when he falls instantly.

I’m stopped at the door by the last bartender she was speaking with earlier. He goes to make a move but pulls up when he sees the look in my eyes. I’ll fucking kill and I’m sure it’s written clear as day on my face.

“Do it. I dare you.” My tone leaves no room for argument. I’m leaving with her and there isn’t a person on this Earth who can stop me.

Reading Order: Corps Security series

Axel by Harper Sloan Cage by Harper Sloan Beck by Harper Sloan
Uncaged by Harper Sloan Cooper by Harper Sloan Locke by Harper Sloan

#1 ~ Axel: Ebook • Paperback • Goodreads
#2 ~ Cage: Ebook • Paperback • Goodreads
#3 ~ Beck: Ebook • Paperback • Goodreads
#3.5 ~ Uncaged: Ebook • Paperback • Goodreads
#4 ~ Cooper: EbookPaperback • Goodreads
#5 ~ Locke: Ebook • Paperback • Goodreads

about the author

Harper SloanHarper lives in small town Georgia just a short drive from her hometown of Peachtree City. She (and her 3 daughters) enjoy ruling the house they dubbed ‘Estrogen Ocean’, much to her husbands chagrin. Harper has a borderline unhealthy obsession with books; you can almost ALWAYS find her with her eReader attached. She enjoys bad reality TV and cheesy romantic flicks. Her favorite kind of hero–the super alpha kind!

Harper started using writing as a way to unwind when the house went to sleep at night; and with a house full of crazy it was the perfect way to just relax. It didn’t take long before a head full of very demanding alphas would stop at nothing to have their story told.

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