ARC Review + Paperback Giveaway: Toxic by Kim Karr

Toxic by Kim Karr

Toxic by Kim Karr
Series: Standalone
Publication Date: July 7th 2015
Links: EbookPaperback • Goodreads
Source: I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

New York Times bestselling author Kim Karr turns up the heat in a smoking hot, emotionally compelling romance that takes you into the world of Manhattan’s elite. Meet Jeremy McQueen, a sexy, intense, brooding entrepreneur who goes after what he wants, and Phoebe St. Claire, a socialite-turned-CEO who’s been drifting through life searching for something she thought she’d never find again–the right man to share her future.

Phoebe St. Claire has devoted herself to saving her family’s hotel empire–but her best efforts have not been good enough. With her whole world in turmoil, the tenacious go-getter turns to the once love of her life. Far from innocent, Jeremy McQueen was the guy from the wrong side of the tracks who her parents would never have approved of. Their years apart have only made the sexy bad boy more irresistible than ever–and their reunion is explosive.

When she asks Jeremy to help her salvage her family business, he agrees immediately, with only one condition–he wants her in his bed.

But soon surprising circumstances leave Phoebe reeling. Was this fairy tale romance just too good to be true? Will Jeremy’s secrets pull them apart all over again?

I adore second chance romances, so Toxic was right up my alley. I was expecting Toxic to be an angsty but sweet romance about two people reconnecting, but it was surprisingly so much more than that. Kim Karr tells an excellent story about both the highs and lows of a relationship, and yes, the toxic parts of it, too. Kim Karr really nails the second chance romance aspect of the story as well – I was rooting for Phoebe and Jeremy to get their much deserved HEA.

Through everything, all the heartache, the loneliness, the sadness and sorrow, the one thing I never regretted was meeting him.
Him.
Jeremy McQueen.
He wasn’t just any boy–he was “the boy.” The one I never should have met, and the one I’d never trade meeting for the world.

Five years ago, Phoebe and Jeremy were very much in love, despite being complete opposites. Phoebe was the rich, high society girl while Jeremy was the bad boy from the wrong side of the tracks. Phoebe, however, keeps the fact that she comes from a wealthy family a secret from Jeremy so that he won’t turn away from her. In the flashback scenes, I could easily feel the connection Phoebe and Jeremy had all those years ago. They formed a sweet romance that unfortunately didn’t last after the lies and misunderstandings.

I’d loved him once, even though I never told him I did. And as I looked at him, everything I’d ever felt for him came rushing back.

Now, just as Phoebe is in the midst of saving her family’s hotel empire, Jeremy comes back into her life, but now this bad boy from the wrong side of the tracks is a successful, wealthy businessman. Phoebe never truly got over her lost love, and it seems like neither did Jeremy. The connection they had five years ago is still going strong, if not stronger once they reunite. I loved how passionate Phoebe and Jeremy are together – they want each other like no other and the chemistry between them is explosive. They bring out the best each other, but they also bring out the worst. They both have to deal with their jealousy, self-doubts, and past mistrusts before they can ever truly move on and be in a relationship again.

Normally, I wouldn’t have enjoyed a book like Toxic – there’s a whole mess of misunderstandings and miscommunications, which made for a toxic relationship. But somehow, it worked for Phoebe and Jeremy. The misunderstandings and miscommunications weren’t gratuitous – they were very real issues that both Jeremy and Phoebe have to overcome. These characters have a history of distrust and uncertainty in their relationship, and throughout the course of their reconnected love, they find a way to get past these issues to form a stronger relationship.

“You know things won’t be the same as they were. They can’t be. Too much has happened.”
He sighed what sounded like relief. “I know. They’ll be better this time.”
“What if they’re not?”
“It’s not possible.”
“How do you know that?”
“I just do. I can feel it.”

There are lots of twists and turns in Toxic, which had me on the edge of my seat. I really couldn’t put this book down. The best part about this is the intense chemistry between Phoebe and Jeremy – their past relationship really heightens their connection and made me want them to get their HEA. The love between them comes so clearly off the pages, which did sometimes make me feel frustrated when the misunderstandings and miscommunications started up. These were two people who are clearly meant to be together, but the journey to their HEA is not an easy one. I definitely recommend this book to those who like sexy, angsty romances with a little twist to it.

4 hearts
lacey

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


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One paperback copy of Toxic by Kim Karr
Open US/CAN only

a Rafflecopter giveaway


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Blog Tour + Excerpt: Toxic by Kim Karr

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Will they or won’t they?  #ToxicLove
Meet Phoebe & Jeremy in this second chance romance!

Toxic by Kim Karr

Toxic by Kim Karr
Series: Standalone
Publication Date: July 7th 2015
Add to Goodreads

New York Times bestselling author Kim Karr turns up the heat in a smoking hot, emotionally compelling romance that takes you into the world of Manhattan’s elite. Meet Jeremy McQueen, a sexy, intense, brooding entrepreneur who goes after what he wants, and Phoebe St. Claire, a socialite-turned-CEO who’s been drifting through life searching for something she thought she’d never find again–the right man to share her future.

Phoebe St. Claire has devoted herself to saving her family’s hotel empire–but her best efforts have not been good enough. With her whole world in turmoil, the tenacious go-getter turns to the once love of her life. Far from innocent, Jeremy McQueen was the guy from the wrong side of the tracks who her parents would never have approved of. Their years apart have only made the sexy bad boy more irresistible than ever–and their reunion is explosive.

When she asks Jeremy to help her salvage her family business, he agrees immediately, with only one condition–he wants her in his bed.

But soon surprising circumstances leave Phoebe reeling. Was this fairy tale romance just too good to be true? Will Jeremy’s secrets pull them apart all over again?

THIS IS A STANDALONE SECOND-CHANCE ROMANCE WITH NO CLIFFHANGER ENDING.

Buy Links:
Amazon • Amazon UK • B&N • Kobo • iBooks • Google Play

Now here’s an excerpt from Toxic! ❤

excerpt button

© 2015 by Kim Karr
Published by the Penguin Group

Phoebe St. Claire

Feeling a bit drunk and overwhelmed with so many and so few choices at the same time, I needed some time alone and snuck off toward the beach path.

I ran toward the ocean and twirled in the sand as the wind blew around me. Once I started to feel dizzy from twirling, I still wasn’t ready to head back to the party, so I took the path that would lead me to the large Olympic-sized pool. I tugged my sandals off with thoughts of putting my feet in the water to rinse the mud and sand away. As I approached the pool, I noticed how it glowed like it was lit by small pale fires. Lost in the enchantment of it, the sudden movement beneath the surface startled me.

A fair-haired boy emerged from the water. He pulled himself up and out so quickly that I was momentarily stunned. And then when he drank me in with his eyes, I shuddered.

I couldn’t help it, the way he looked at me just made me shiver. No one had ever looked at me like that before and I found myself gazing back into his intense eyes.

He was utterly beautiful. His bare chest was sculpted but not overly bulky like Danny or Jamie. They worked out every day pumping obnoxious amounts of iron to look the way they did. In contrast, the boy standing before me had a swimmer’s build.

He stood stoic and a cautious look crossed his face. He was long and lean in a pair of bright green neon swim trunks.

Right away I could tell he didn’t care what anyone thought about him.

I loved the idea of that.

So I smiled at him.

He shook his head and his hair fell into his eyes.

I wanted to reach out and push it away. It wasn’t long, but it wasn’t short. It was perfect.

“Hey,” he said, grabbing a towel off the ground.

It didn’t belong to the club. It was small, beige, and a bit worn—not the large hunter-green fluffy ones monogrammed in white I’d always gotten when I used to come here to swim as a kid.

“Hey,” I said back, swinging my sandals nervously.

He grabbed a pair of jeans that lay next to where the towel had been and walked right by me.

I turned to watch him as he strode into one of the cabanas and dropped his trunks. I froze and squeezed my eyes shut, thinking I shouldn’t be watching him but then opened them quickly when I couldn’t resist maybe catching a glimpse.

“Didn’t your parents ever tell you it isn’t polite to stare?” His voice was low and sexy, and it tugged me out of my own head.

I put my hands on my hips. “Didn’t your parents ever teach you not to undress in mixed company?”

He pulled his jeans on and laughed. “My mother might have mentioned that once or twice but I’ve never been good at following the rules.”

And it didn’t escape my notice that he didn’t put any underwear on first.

Hot. Totally and completely hot.

I didn’t see anything I shouldn’t have seen, it was too dark, but something inside me electrified at the thought of seeing him naked and I stepped closer. That’s when I noticed the scuffed-up black work boots on one of the lounges with a T-shirt thrown next to them.

I raised a brow. “Is this your changing room?”

He laughed again but this time added a smile and put his hands up. “Okay you caught me. I better get out of here before anyone else does.”

He was adorable and charming and my heart skipped a beat or two.

Then I stepped even closer and entered the cabana entrance, effectively blocking his way. “Why? You’re not doing anything wrong.”

He shrugged but he didn’t try to move around me. “I usually swim in the ocean but when the water is too rough, like tonight, I come here.”

I bit my lip in contemplation before speaking. “Does it really matter if you get caught?”

He crossed his arms over his bare chest. “Let’s just say it’s not just the swimming. It’s more that I’ve been caught doing a few too many things that I shouldn’t have been doing in the past.”

A bad boy.

The thought made my pulse thunder. “So you’re not a member at this club?”

He cleared his throat and shifted from foot to foot. “No,” he laughed but his laugh was anything but genuine. “Are you?”

I hesitated as I considered my answer. “No, I was just walking the beach and wanted to rinse my feet. I’m Phoebe,” I said extending my hand. Technically, I wasn’t lying. I wasn’t a member, my parents were. I hadn’t even been here in years. And I was out for a walk.

Amusement danced in his blue eyes. “Jeremy,” he said back.

When I chewed on my lower lip, I noticed how his eyes focused on it.

Mine focused on the entirety of his mouth—his strong, firm jaw, his sensuous lips, and his tongue that had snuck out to lick his lips.

That mouth.

It was almost too much.

Almost.

about the author button

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

Website • Facebook • Twitter • Goodreads


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Excerpt Reveal: Toxic by Kim Karr

toxic excerpt reveal

Toxic by Kim Karr

Toxic by Kim Karr
Series: Standalone
Publication Date: July 7th 2015
Add to Goodreads

New York Times bestselling author Kim Karr turns up the heat in a smoking hot, emotionally compelling romance that takes you into the world of Manhattan’s elite. Meet Jeremy McQueen, a sexy, intense, brooding entrepreneur who goes after what he wants, and Phoebe St. Claire, a socialite-turned-CEO who’s been drifting through life searching for something she thought she’d never find again–the right man to share her future.

Phoebe St. Claire has devoted herself to saving her family’s hotel empire–but her best efforts have not been good enough. With her whole world in turmoil, the tenacious go-getter turns to the once love of her life. Far from innocent, Jeremy McQueen was the guy from the wrong side of the tracks who her parents would never have approved of. Their years apart have only made the sexy bad boy more irresistible than ever–and their reunion is explosive.

When she asks Jeremy to help her salvage her family business, he agrees immediately, with only one condition–he wants her in his bed.

But soon surprising circumstances leave Phoebe reeling. Was this fairy tale romance just too good to be true? Will Jeremy’s secrets pull them apart all over again?

THIS IS A STANDALONE SECOND-CHANCE ROMANCE WITH NO CLIFFHANGER ENDING.

Buy Links:
Amazon • Amazon UK • B&N • Kobo • iBooks • Google Play

Now here’s an excerpt from Toxic! ❤

excerpt button

© 2015 by Kim Karr
Published by the Penguin Group
Release date: July 7th, 2015

Phoebe St. Claire

“Where are you?” he asked.

“Home.”

“I know. Where in your apartment are you?”

“On my bed.”

“Where are you?” I asked.

“Give me a minute.”

I heard stomping up some stairs and then a door closed.

“On my bed,” he said in that same husky tone.

I nearly stopped breathing.

“Are you still there?” he asked again.

“Yes,” my voice was raspy.

In a deep husky voice he said, “Tell me what you’re wearing under your clothes.”

Arousal overtook my mind and I answered quickly. “A bra and panties.”

“Take off your clothes and tell me what they look like.”

Flushing from head to toe I managed to say, “Jeremy!”

“Phoebe, I’ve seen you in your underwear. Christ, I’ve seen you naked. Just put your phone on speaker, dim the lights, and describe to me the lucky pieces of fabric covering your tits and pussy.”

Shock and desire swarmed through me in equal measure.

Memories of his dirty mouth came back in a flash.

I’d loved it so many years ago, loved when we were flesh to flesh. And this was different. I’d never had phone sex before. Had no idea how to, but I knew I was about to find out. I wasn’t going to turn him down. I wanted this.

The sexual tension that had blossomed between us was causing me to go insane. I was touching myself when I woke up in the middle of the night, and then in the shower before work, and last night and the night before after I hung up the phone with him. I’d been masturbating to the thought of him nonstop. Phone sex had to be so much better.

“Give me a minute,” I whispered needing to ease into the more intimate exchange that I knew was coming. I stripped out of my skirt and blouse and all but tore my hose pulling them off. The lights were already dimmed, so that wasn’t an issue. I heard his own mattress squeaking and wondered if he had started without me.

My phone beeped again and I looked down. This time it was an incoming call from Jamie. I ignored it. Then, I took a deep breath and a giant leap of faith as I sat on my bed in my underwear.

Just as I was thinking about what I could say, he spoke. “I have to be honest with you,” he said.

My heart sank. I didn’t like any conversation that started with those words.

With a heavy exhale, he said, “I’ve been hard all week just thinking about you and I have to admit, my wrist hasn’t been worked out this much in a long time.”

Picturing his hand, his cock, his hips, and the perfect choreographed movement of all three had me barely cognizant.

“Phoebe?”

“I’m here,” I said in the raspiest tone. “Then I’ll be honest too. It’s possible that I’ve made myself come more times this week than I have in my entire life.”

I wasn’t exactly comfortable initiating a kinky conversation. But I could follow his lead.

“Jesus Phoebe, you can’t talk that way to me when I’m not near you.”

Something primal erupted within me. “And I want to do it again.”

“Fuckkkk.”

I moaned at his use of the word fuck. It sounded entirely too delicious.

Equally as delicious was his sexy laugh that followed. “So what are we going to do about this dilemma?”

I sunk back into my pillows and pictured his face—his lips parted and his eyes heavy-lidded.

I knew what I wanted to do about it.

Did he want to do the same thing?

I hoped so.

about the author button

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

Website • Facebook • Twitter • Goodreads


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Blog Tour + ARC Review, Excerpt & Giveaway: Toxic by Rachel Van Dyken

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Welcome to today’s stop on the Toxic blog tour! I’m so happy to share my love for this book–Toxic is so. GOOD! You can read my review and an excerpt here today, and enter a fantastic giveaway from Rachel Van Dyken!

Toxic by Rachel Van Dyken

Toxic by Rachel Van Dyken
Series: Ruin #2 (full reading order below)
Release Date: March 4th 2014
Add to Goodreads

Everyone has a secret…

Gabe Hyde is on borrowed time. He’s been hiding his identity for over four years-hidden from the world that used to adore him–obsess over him–driven to the edge of insanity by one poor choice.
But that one choice, altered the course of his life forever.
Pretending isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, especially when pretending means hiding your real self from the people that care about you the most. But if anyone ever discovered the truth it wouldn’t just be his life at risk–but hers.

Saylor doesn’t hate men.
Just Gabe.
Only Gabe.
He’s a reckless, happy-go-lucky, silver spoon fed pain in her ass. Everything about him makes her more and more confused. Unfortunately they both donate time at the same Group Home. If she wasn’t afraid of flunking, she’d be long gone. She hates that she’s attracted to him almost as much as he hates that he’s attracted to her–and she can tell, especially since their first encounter ended up making her knees so weak she couldn’t form coherent sentences for weeks afterwards. But the closer she gets to him, the more confused she becomes. He isn’t who he says he is, and he’s hiding something big.

What happen when two worlds collide? Two worlds that never should have met in the first place? Some secrets are too big to be hidden forever–the only question? Will his destroy everyone he loves? Or finally bring about the redemption he’s been craving for the past four years?

Everyone has a secret…What’s yours?

Buy Links:
Amazon • Barnes and Noble • iTunes

review

Oh. My. Goodness! This book was NOTHING like I expected it to be. Toxic was unique and captivated my heart. I had been so excited for Gabe to get his own book. I fell for him and his sarcastic, cocky, playboy, but-still-a-good-guy-at-heart ways. I thought Gabe’s story would be at least funny, because he’s absolutely hilarious in Ruin. And was it funny? At times, yes… but be sure to have something to pick up the pieces of your broken heart while reading this book.

Gabe made me want to cry so much. I knew there was so much more to this playboy than what he only showed in Ruin, but I never expected the extent of the depth and complexity of this particular character. He has a dark and tragic past that he’s still living in–he can’t ever move past it, and he doesn’t feel he deserves to anyway. He’s in his own hell, though you’d never guess it from his interactions with his best friends. Wes and Kiersten know nothing about who Gabe truly is, and Gabe wants to keep it that way.

I wondered if there would ever come a day when Gabe would finally be free enough to be himself – the person he was born to be, not the mask number one or the mask number two. I wondered if he even knew how lost he really was – or if he was happy making the maze his home, the mask his identity, his life a lie. –Saylor

When Gabe meets Saylor, it’s not pretty. He’s actually very, very rude to her, so much so that I was a bit confused. I couldn’t believe how terribly Gabe was acting towards Saylor, a girl whom he’d never met before and who’d never done anything to him. But as his past opens up and his demons come back to haunt him, we see how Gabe is slowly unraveling, just like the facade he’s been living. It’s no excuse for how Gabe treats Saylor, but we understand his actions better now.

The facade Gabe has been living for four years is breaking apart, and yet he can’t show his true self to anyone… excerpt maybe Saylor. Saylor, who is beautiful and feisty, but innocent. She’s a gifted musician, just as we learn Gabe is, and they connect through their piano playing. Saylor can feel Gabe’s pain through his music, even though she hates him when they first meet. Saylor wasn’t someone I expected for Gabe–she’s not all that interesting, but I could connect with her. She’s headstrong and dedicated to making the good grades to get a job support her family. And she’s the only one who can truly see who Gabe is.

Gabe tries to keep everyone, most of all Saylor, away from discovering his past, but everywhere he turns, she’s there. Saylor has somehow become involved in his life, and try as he might to stay away from her, he can’t. Saylor worms her way unintentionally into Gabe’s life, and she slowly breaks through Gabe’s defenses. Gabe has been spiraling down into the darkness, but Saylor helps pull him out of it. And Saylor isn’t the only one willing to save Gabe–Wes, Kiersten, and Lisa are all there to support Gabe. It was so touching to see all of them be there for Gabe–my heart was nearly bursting from the love I felt from everyone for Gabe.

And Saylor also eventually falls for this tragic, beautiful, tattooed boy. Their growing relationship is beautiful and moving and so heartfelt. She doesn’t save Gabe, but helps him on his path towards healing and redemption. She’s there all the way for Gabe, and with her, Gabe can just be Gabe–he doesn’t have to keep up his exhausting facade with her.

Slowly, I raised my head to look at her. “When I look… I see you. Beyond the music, beyond your smile, your touch, your laugh.” My voice caught. “I see you.”
“I see you too.”

It’s hard for Gabe to love Saylor, but we see him falling anyway. It’s a beautiful book from start to finish, and I wish there were more. I fell in love with the writing, and Gabe and Saylor have both invaded my heart and will probably stay there forever. Toxic is not a book you can easily forget. It’s at times difficult to read, because of all the pain Gabe holds in his heart, but it’s a book I highly recommend.

4 hearts
lacey

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

excerpt

Life has two stages. Birth and death. That’s it. What you do in between the two? Well, that’s up to you, isn’t it? —Wes M

Saylor

Behind me, Gabe ceased all motion. The only way I knew he was still there was from the heat that seeped into my back from where his body touched me. More warmth rolled off his hands where they seemed fused to mine. Any minute now, I expected him to pull away, to slip into mask number one or mask number two. Instead, he flipped my hands over, gripping them with his fingers and exhaled, long and slow. Seconds went by, but they may as well have been years. Each time he let out a breath, my heart skipped a beat of longing, needing more of his touch — more of something. My back tingled as the hard planes of his stomach pressed against me. I was in a Gabe cocoon.

And I loved it.

Until the music started.

With slight pressure, Gabe moved my hands to the piano, slowly, effortlessly placing them on each key.

He was playing through me, using my body as an instrument to convey the story of his life. Each time he pressed down on one of my fingertips or guided me to another area of the piano, I felt the sadness of the song clench deeper. The notes became floating tendrils of pain, each one of them slowly invading my body and taking hold until it hurt to breathe.

He moved faster and faster, my hands couldn’t keep up. I pulled back as he continued the song, in such a rush it was like he was yelling but doing it with music. Unable to convey it in any other way.

With a final burst of movement, he lifted his hands off the piano and smashed them against the keys, causing a chaos of notes to burst forth.

Gabe’s breathing was uneven, ragged as he leaned heavily against me, his chin resting on my head, and he whispered brokenly, “I can’t.”

“You were doing so good.”

“It’s like getting into a car with suicidal tendencies. You keep going faster and faster, needing the adrenaline to keep you alive until suddenly you turn the wheel and everything goes black. The notes, they go higher and higher, and right when I feel like I can change the outcome — I panic. Some things…” He sighed and pulled away. “Some things are better left in chaos.”

“Are you sure about that? Are you sure about perfection?” I folded my hands in my lap, but didn’t turn around.

“Sure.” He moved from behind me and sat on the bench. “If life was perfect, how in the hell would we ever learn to depend on someone other than ourselves? If anything, that’s what life’s taught me. The need to be perfect is stemmed in the very belief that it’s actually something we can achieve. Self-actualization — doesn’t exist.”

I licked my lips and looked down at the keys. “Does that mean we don’t try then?”

“No.” Gabe tickled a few of the ivory keys in front of him, the music note tattoos on his fingertips looking darker against the white of the piano. “It just means when you reach the end of your rope, you shouldn’t regret a damn thing, but applaud yourself for trying to do the impossible.”

I felt like he was using double meanings. The philosophical Gabe was a bit terrifying because he made me feel more insecure than the jackass Gabe. But the guy sitting next to me right now? I was beginning to understand, he wasn’t just one person. He was every person, everything, whatever he needed to be, he was.

Like a chameleon.

And suddenly the ending to the story made sense.

Ten different notes all clamoring at once.

Chaos.

Gabe was Chaos.

“So.” He sniffed and cleared his throat. “Now that I’ve totally ruined the moment by talking in my serious voice and scaring the shit out of you — why don’t we work on one of your performance pieces?”

“Okay.” I placed my hands on the piano again, careful to angle my wrists at the perfect degree and keep my eyes on the music ahead. Sometimes I wondered if my posture was better than my playing.

“What the hell are you doing?” he asked in calm voice.

I turned and gave him a firm nod. “I’m getting ready.”

“To go to battle?”

“What?” I relaxed my hands a bit. “No.” I straightened. “This is the right posture, it’s—”

“If you say perfect, I’m going to kill myself.”

“Someone should have majored in drama.”

He burst out laughing. “Oh, honey, you have no idea.”

“So?” I lifted my wrists again and looked ahead.

“Fine.” He smirked. “Play just like that.”

“Okay.” I started one of my harder pieces, Piano Sonata 14. It felt exactly the same. The movement wasn’t as fast as some of the others, but the timing for it had to be perfect.

“Close your eyes,” Gabe instructed.

“But—”

He swatted my wrists. “No arguing with your piano master.”

“Fine.”

“Say ‘yes, master’.”

I smiled tightly, my eyes focusing on the music in front of me. I started slowly playing. “Not in this lifetime.”

“Bet I could make you say it.” His voice had an arrogant lift to it, which made me all the more irritated. Master? Um, no.

“Eyes.” He growled again.

With a resigned sigh, I closed my eyes. “Better?”

“Immensely,” he said smoothly.

Darkness enveloped my world. All I had were the notes at my fingertips. All I had was the music — that and Gabe.

He wasn’t saying anything.

Which killed me.

It also made me want to open my eyes, but I knew he’d probably just tell me to close them again, so I kept playing.

And then, with a teasing touch, his fingers grazed my chin, slowly tilting it down toward the piano while his other hand went to my upper back then slowly moved down until it was in the middle, with a gentle push, he urged my body closer to the keys.

Eyes closed, posture completely off, I leaned over the piano. Everything felt wrong as I continued playing.

“Slower,” he said softly.

With a sigh, I started playing slower. His hands moved to my hips. And stayed there. Other than jumping a foot, I was still able to concentrate.

“The music,” he whispered, “It’s not just your story — it’s your lover.”

“Okay,” I squeaked. Heat washed over me as the word lover bounced around in my brain. I knew it, but I’d never experienced it. How was I supposed to use something I didn’t know how to use? And how embarrassing was it that I was stuck in that tiny room having never been… stuck in a tiny room with any guy? Lover. I’d take him. If I got a choice. It would be him. But people like Gabe, beautiful people who had music in their soul, who knew how to speak without words… they weren’t for girls like me.

“Each stroke…” His hands pressed against my hips making me gasp. “You need to feel it not just on your fingertips — but everywhere.”

Holy. Crap.

“Feel it here,” he squeezed and then ran his hands lightly up my sides, then resting right underneath my breasts, he pressed again. “And here.”

My breathing picked up speed, as did my music.

“Slow down,” he commanded in that same irritating patient tone. “Where is this story taking me? Where are you taking your lover?”

“Huh?” I breathed.

“Use your hands to tell me the story — use your body to propel the story forward, what happens next… Tell the story, Saylor. Make me feel it without even touching you.”

“But — that’s impossible.”

“You can feel a kiss without touching someone’s lips.”

“I’m confused.”

“Concentrate.” Gabe’s voice was firm. “I want to kiss you.”

“What?” He was lucky I didn’t actually collapse against the piano this time.

“In the story.” He chuckled. “I want to kiss you in this story, so kiss me.”

“You want me to get up and kiss you?” Mind you, I was still trying to play a difficult piece as he was asking me this, which basically meant I must have had talent, because my body was on fire.

“Without our mouths meeting.”

“Through the music.” I clarified in a doubtful voice.

I could hear the smile in his tone as he answered. “Yes, through the music, show me what the kiss would feel like. I want to taste it.”

“But how?”

He laughed softly. “I’m touching them.”

“What?”

“My lips,” he countered. “They’re soft, open, wet…”

I squirmed on the piano bench, squeezing my eyes shut. “What else?”

“As I part my lips… I wonder what your tongue tastes like, what type of pressure you’d use as you pressed your velvety smooth mouth against mine. I imagine exploring your mouth not just because I want to — but because I can’t help it. I’m lost. And your kiss is my salvation… so, Saylor, will you save me?”

My fingers glided effortlessly over the piano as I imagined his mouth — the way he smiled, the way he took his lower lip hostage when he was deep in thought. The dark look he got in his eyes when there was something he wanted. Our kiss would be epic.

The music picked up speed as I leaned over the piano, pounding each note with the rhythm of my footsteps as I approached him.

His hands would reach for my hips as he pulled me closer. My hands hovered over the keys making my hesitation known.

And then I pressed softly against the ivory, leaning forward as if I was leaning into Gabe with my body pressed against his. My breasts brushed the keys. I moved closer to the piano and then slowed the music.

His eyes would close.

His lips would part.

And we’d meet in the middle — because both of us wanted the same thing. Both of us wanted to taste, to explore, to feel.

I slowed my left hand as my right hand moved quicker across the keys, to show the anticipation.

And then, our mouths would touch.

I pounded the keys with my left hand, making it the loudest part of the piece which wasn’t normally how it was done.

Our tongues would tangle.

I pounded the piano harder.

His fingers would dig into my arms as he lifted me into the air.

I pulled back from the piano, stopping the music, and then gently started the rhythmic cadence again.

Our kiss was the perfect joining of music.

He was the left hand, I was the right.

Separate they sounded like silly scales.

Together — they were beautiful.

When I stopped the piece, I was sweating.

“Open your eyes,” Gabe whispered.

He was breathing so heavily it looked like he’d just run a marathon. With a smile he tucked my fallen hair behind my ear and tilted my chin toward him.

“That…” He leaned in. “…is how you perform. Like every kiss is both your first and last — like you’re saying both hello and goodbye — like you’ve just been born… like you’ve just died.”

Reading Order: Ruin series

Ruin by Rachel Van Dyken Toxic by Rachel Van Dyken Fearless by Rachel Van Dyken Shame by Rachel Van Dyken

#1 ~ Ruin: My Review • Ebook • Paperback • Goodreads
#2 ~ Toxic: Ebook • Paperback • Goodreads
#2.5 ~ Fearless: My Review • Ebook • Paperback • Goodreads
#3 ~ Shame: My Review • Ebook • Paperback • Goodreads

about the author

Rachel Van DykenRachel Van Dyken is the New York Times and USA Today Bestselling author of regency and contemporary romances. When she’s not writing you can find her drinking coffee at Starbucks and plotting her next book while watching The Bachelor.

She keeps her home in Idaho with her Husband and their snoring Boxer, Sir Winston Churchill. She loves to hear from readers!

Website • Twitter • Facebook • Goodreads • Amazon

giveaway

Kindle Fire and a $25 Amazon Gift Card

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Release Day Launch + Excerpt & Giveaway: Toxic by Rachel Van Dyken

Toxic RDL Banner

It’s release day for Rachel Van Dyken’s incredible TOXIC! TOXIC is a New Adult contemporary romance and is the second book in the Ruin Series. Read below for more info, enter the awesome giveaway, then go find out why Gabe will move up your book boyfriend list!

Toxic by Rachel Van Dyken

Toxic by Rachel Van Dyken
Series: Ruin #2 (full reading order below)
Release Date: March 4th 2014
Add to Goodreads

Everyone has a secret…

Gabe Hyde is on borrowed time. He’s been hiding his identity for over four years-hidden from the world that used to adore him–obsess over him–driven to the edge of insanity by one poor choice.
But that one choice, altered the course of his life forever.
Pretending isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, especially when pretending means hiding your real self from the people that care about you the most. But if anyone ever discovered the truth it wouldn’t just be his life at risk–but hers.

Saylor doesn’t hate men.
Just Gabe.
Only Gabe.
He’s a reckless, happy-go-lucky, silver spoon fed pain in her ass. Everything about him makes her more and more confused. Unfortunately they both donate time at the same Group Home. If she wasn’t afraid of flunking, she’d be long gone. She hates that she’s attracted to him almost as much as he hates that he’s attracted to her–and she can tell, especially since their first encounter ended up making her knees so weak she couldn’t form coherent sentences for weeks afterwards. But the closer she gets to him, the more confused she becomes. He isn’t who he says he is, and he’s hiding something big.

What happen when two worlds collide? Two worlds that never should have met in the first place? Some secrets are too big to be hidden forever–the only question? Will his destroy everyone he loves? Or finally bring about the redemption he’s been craving for the past four years?

Everyone has a secret…What’s yours?

Buy Links:
Amazon • Barnes and Noble • iTunes

Excerpt

With slight pressure, Gabe moved my hands to the piano, slowly, effortlessly placing them on each key.

He was playing through me, using my body as an instrument to convey the story of his life. Each time he pressed down on one of my fingertips or guided me to another area of the piano, I felt the sadness of the song clench deeper. The notes became floating tendrils of pain, each one of them slowly invading my body and taking hold until it hurt to breathe.

He moved faster and faster, my hands couldn’t keep up. I pulled back as he continued the song, in such a rush it was like he was yelling but doing it with music. Unable to convey it in any other way.

With a final burst of movement, he lifted his hands off the piano and smashed them against the keys, causing a chaos of notes to burst forth.

Gabe’s breathing was uneven, ragged as he leaned heavily against me, his chin resting on my head, and he whispered brokenly, “I can’t.”

“You were doing so good.”

“It’s like getting into a car with suicidal tendencies. You keep going faster and faster, needing the adrenaline to keep you alive until suddenly you turn the wheel and everything goes black. The notes, they go higher and higher, and right when I feel like I can change the outcome — I panic. Some things…” He sighed and pulled away. “Some things are better left in chaos.”

“Are you sure about that? Are you sure about perfection?” I folded my hands in my lap, but didn’t turn around.

“Sure.” He moved from behind me and sat on the bench. “If life was perfect, how in the hell would we ever learn to depend on someone other than ourselves? If anything, that’s what life’s taught me. The need to be perfect is stemmed in the very belief that it’s actually something we can achieve. Self-actualization — doesn’t exist.”

I licked my lips and looked down at the keys. “Does that mean we don’t try then?”

“No.” Gabe tickled a few of the ivory keys in front of him, the music note tattoos on his fingertips looking darker against the white of the piano. “It just means when you reach the end of your rope, you shouldn’t regret a damn thing, but applaud yourself for trying to do the impossible.”

I felt like he was using double meanings. The philosophical Gabe was a bit terrifying because he made me feel more insecure than the jackass Gabe. But the guy sitting next to me right now? I was beginning to understand, he wasn’t just one person. He was every person, everything, whatever he needed to be, he was.

Like a chameleon.

And suddenly the ending to the story made sense.

Ten different notes all clamoring at once.

Chaos.

Gabe was Chaos.

“So.” He sniffed and cleared his throat. “Now that I’ve totally ruined the moment by talking in my serious voice and scaring the shit out of you — why don’t we work on one of your performance pieces?”

“Okay.” I placed my hands on the piano again, careful to angle my wrists at the perfect degree and keep my eyes on the music ahead. Sometimes I wondered if my posture was better than my playing.

“What the hell are you doing?” he asked in calm voice.

I turned and gave him a firm nod. “I’m getting ready.”

“To go to battle?”

“What?” I relaxed my hands a bit. “No.” I straightened. “This is the right posture, it’s—”

“If you say perfect, I’m going to kill myself.”

“Someone should have majored in drama.”

He burst out laughing. “Oh, honey, you have no idea.”

“So?” I lifted my wrists again and looked ahead.

“Fine.” He smirked. “Play just like that.”

“Okay.” I started one of my harder pieces, Piano Sonata 14. It felt exactly the same. The movement wasn’t as fast as some of the others, but the timing for it had to be perfect.

“Close your eyes,” Gabe instructed.

“But—”

He swatted my wrists. “No arguing with your piano master.”

“Fine.”

“Say ‘yes, master’.”

I smiled tightly, my eyes focusing on the music in front of me. I started slowly playing. “Not in this lifetime.”

“Bet I could make you say it.” His voice had an arrogant lift to it, which made me all the more irritated. Master? Um, no.

“Eyes.” He growled again.

With a resigned sigh, I closed my eyes. “Better?”

“Immensely,” he said smoothly.

Darkness enveloped my world. All I had were the notes at my fingertips. All I had was the music — that and Gabe.

He wasn’t saying anything.

Which killed me.

It also made me want to open my eyes, but I knew he’d probably just tell me to close them again, so I kept playing.

And then, with a teasing touch, his fingers grazed my chin, slowly tilting it down toward the piano while his other hand went to my upper back then slowly moved down until it was in the middle, with a gentle push, he urged my body closer to the keys.

Eyes closed, posture completely off, I leaned over the piano. Everything felt wrong as I continued playing.

“Slower,” he said softly.

With a sigh, I started playing slower. His hands moved to my hips. And stayed there. Other than jumping a foot, I was still able to concentrate.

“The music,” he whispered, “It’s not just your story — it’s your lover.”

“Okay,” I squeaked. Heat washed over me as the word lover bounced around in my brain. I knew it, but I’d never experienced it. How was I supposed to use something I didn’t know how to use? And how embarrassing was it that I was stuck in that tiny room having never been… stuck in a tiny room with any guy? Lover. I’d take him. If I got a choice. It would be him. But people like Gabe, beautiful people who had music in their soul, who knew how to speak without words… they weren’t for girls like me.

“Each stroke…” His hands pressed against my hips making me gasp. “You need to feel it not just on your fingertips — but everywhere.”

Holy. Crap.

“Feel it here,” he squeezed and then ran his hands lightly up my sides, then resting right underneath my breasts, he pressed again. “And here.”

My breathing picked up speed, as did my music.

“Slow down,” he commanded in that same irritating patient tone. “Where is this story taking me? Where are you taking your lover?”

“Huh?” I breathed.

“Use your hands to tell me the story — use your body to propel the story forward, what happens next… Tell the story, Saylor. Make me feel it without even touching you.”

“But — that’s impossible.”

“You can feel a kiss without touching someone’s lips.”

“I’m confused.”

“Concentrate.” Gabe’s voice was firm. “I want to kiss you.”

“What?” He was lucky I didn’t actually collapse against the piano this time.

“In the story.” He chuckled. “I want to kiss you in this story, so kiss me.”

“You want me to get up and kiss you?” Mind you, I was still trying to play a difficult piece as he was asking me this, which basically meant I must have had talent, because my body was on fire.

“Without our mouths meeting.”

“Through the music.” I clarified in a doubtful voice.

I could hear the smile in his tone as he answered. “Yes, through the music, show me what the kiss would feel like. I want to taste it.”

“But how?”

He laughed softly. “I’m touching them.”

“What?”

“My lips,” he countered. “They’re soft, open, wet…”

I squirmed on the piano bench, squeezing my eyes shut. “What else?”

“As I part my lips… I wonder what your tongue tastes like, what type of pressure you’d use as you pressed your velvety smooth mouth against mine. I imagine exploring your mouth not just because I want to — but because I can’t help it. I’m lost. And your kiss is my salvation… so, Saylor, will you save me?”

My fingers glided effortlessly over the piano as I imagined his mouth — the way he smiled, the way he took his lower lip hostage when he was deep in thought. The dark look he got in his eyes when there was something he wanted. Our kiss would be epic.

The music picked up speed as I leaned over the piano, pounding each note with the rhythm of my footsteps as I approached him.

His hands would reach for my hips as he pulled me closer. My hands hovered over the keys making my hesitation known.

And then I pressed softly against the ivory, leaning forward as if I was leaning into Gabe with my body pressed against his. My breasts brushed the keys. I moved closer to the piano and then slowed the music.

His eyes would close.

His lips would part.

And we’d meet in the middle — because both of us wanted the same thing. Both of us wanted to taste, to explore, to feel.

I slowed my left hand as my right hand moved quicker across the keys, to show the anticipation.

And then, our mouths would touch.

I pounded the keys with my left hand, making it the loudest part of the piece which wasn’t normally how it was done.

Our tongues would tangle.

I pounded the piano harder.

His fingers would dig into my arms as he lifted me into the air.

I pulled back from the piano, stopping the music, and then gently started the rhythmic cadence again.

Our kiss was the perfect joining of music.

He was the left hand, I was the right.

Separate they sounded like silly scales.

Together — they were beautiful.

When I stopped the piece, I was sweating.

“Open your eyes,” Gabe whispered.

He was breathing so heavily it looked like he’d just run a marathon. With a smile he tucked my fallen hair behind my ear and tilted my chin toward him.

“That…” He leaned in. “…is how you perform. Like every kiss is both your first and last — like you’re saying both hello and goodbye — like you’ve just been born… like you’ve just died.”

Reading Order: Ruin series

Ruin by Rachel Van Dyken Toxic by Rachel Van Dyken Fearless by Rachel Van Dyken

#1 ~ Ruin: My Review • Ebook • Paperback • Goodreads
#2 ~ Toxic: My Review • Ebook • Paperback • Goodreads
#2.5 ~ Fearless: My Review • Ebook • Paperback • Goodreads
#3 ~ Shame: Goodreads (release date TBA)

Toxic LOVE teaser

about the author

Rachel Van DykenRachel Van Dyken is the New York Times and USA Today Bestselling author of regency and contemporary romances. When she’s not writing you can find her drinking coffee at Starbucks and plotting her next book while watching The Bachelor.

She keeps her home in Idaho with her Husband and their snoring Boxer, Sir Winston Churchill. She loves to hear from readers!

Blog • Twitter • Facebook • Goodreads • Amazon

giveaway

–$100 Amazon Gift Card
–$50 Amazon Gift Card

a Rafflecopter giveaway