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Bad Influence

Title: Bad Influence
Series: Bad Habits
Author: Charleigh Rose
Genre: New Adult Romance
Release Date: June 13, 2019
Cover Design: Letitia Hasser @ RBA Designs

 

 
Allie
 
When I moved to River’s Edge, dating was the last thing on my mind.
I definitely didn’t expect to fall for him.
Jesse Shepherd. 
Popular. Star athlete. Cocky as hell.
You know the type.
But as time passed, I realized there was more lurking beneath that gorgeous exterior.
Secretive. Angry. A little bit broken.
The more I peeled back his layers, the deeper I fell.
Until I slammed headfirst into his sea of lies.
 
Jess
 
I blew my shot.
Pissed everything away—college, lacrosse, my future—only to end up right back where I started in River’s Edge.
I was content to revel in my misery, spending my days drowning in a bottomless pit of booze and girls.
Until I saw her.
Allison Parrish.
Beautiful. Sarcastic. Perpetual bad attitude.
The pretty little distraction from the shit show that was my life.
But the sins of my past were closing in on me, and I learned the hard way that nothing gold can stay.
 
“Did you hear that?” I ask. 

Moving in slowly, he cages me in, bracing his right arm on the wall above my head, his left hand by my hip. He brings his lips close to my ear and I fight the shiver that rolls through me. “It’s probably just your admirer,” he says, his voice hushed and husky. I swallow hard, looking over his shoulder as he nuzzles closer, his nose skimming my neck, then down to my collarbone. My pulse pounds in my ears as he moves back up, his mouth brushing across my cheek, stopping at my parted lips. 

“Is this convincing?” He asks. He’s so close that I can feel his breath on my lips, and I realize that I want him to do it. I want him to kiss me. 

I give a slight shake of my head in response. 

“No?” He smirks, knowing exactly what he’s doing to me. His left hand leaves the wall to curl around my hip and he presses his chest to mine. “How about this?” 

“Almost,” I whisper. I wet my lips and the tip of my tongue nearly grazes his bottom lip. His expression goes from playful to heated in an instant, then he’s closing the final distance. 

It’s soft at first, just a brush of his lips against mine, but soon he’s cupping my face with both hands, tilting my head back as his tongue sweeps into my mouth, his movements confident and skilled. Unhurried and unyielding. 

My hands find his shirt, pulling him closer as his tongue fucks my mouth. Because that’s exactly what this is. This isn’t kissing. Or maybe it is, and I’ve been kissing the wrong boys. 

Jesse groans, fitting a firm thigh between my legs, and the need bubbling inside me threatens to boil over at the sensation. But all too soon, he pulls back, leaving me breathless. 

“Was that convincing enough?”
Charleigh Rose lives in Narnia with her husband and two young children. She’s hopelessly devoted to unconventional love and pizza. When she isn’t reading or mom-ing, she’s writing moody, broody, swoony romance.

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Love Will Save Your Soul

Title: Love Will Save Your Soul
Series: A Taking Chances Novel
Author: Katrina Marie
Genre: New Adult Contemporary Romance
Release Date: June 20, 2019
Cover Design: KP Designs

 

 

 

She never saw him coming. 

 

After walking away from an abusive relationship, Sophia was determined to create a new, better, life for herself. Swearing off guys seemed like an easy task, until she started working at Life in Ink…
Adrian is done with relationships. When his fiance left him for the “picture perfect” life, he decided then and there, he wasn’t going to give his heart to another woman. That is, until the tattoo shop he works at hires a receptionist.
Sophia and Adrian can’t deny the chemistry between them. But when a threat from Sophia’s past comes knocking on her door, everything begins falling apart.
Can two people push through their insecurities and let love save them from themselves?

 

Prologue

Slivers of moonlight filter in through the blinds, illuminating the otherwise dark room. Dawson lies next to me, snoring softly. This is something I would have found adorable when we started dating. Now, it’s annoying that he can sleep peacefully. He should be the one wide awake, in turmoil over the words he’s thrown at me. 

Instead, I’m the one curled up into a ball wondering how the hell I got here. It’s not how I envisioned our lives together. When we first moved in together, everything was perfect. We spent time together every night, and I knew he adored me. Now… now, I’m always waiting for the other shoe to drop. Never knowing when something I say is going to set him off. Every day is like walking on eggshells, hoping he’ll be in a good mood. 

If my parents knew how badly my relationship has gone downhill, they would be appalled. Dawson has never laid a hand on me, but the verbal slams pain me almost as much. A shard of glass, glinting in the corner, catches my eye. It’s a small reminder of pissing him off earlier this evening because I didn’t fold his laundry the way he likes it. The vase hitting the wall before shattering will forever be etched into my mind. I should be used to it by now, the sound of whatever he can get his hands on hitting the wall. But it’s not something I should ever have to be accustomed to. 

Everyone has an opinion about how they would react if they found themselves in this sort of situation. They will never truly know the fear that courses through you at the thought of leaving. The lengths a person like Dawson will go through in order to keep you by their side. The I’m sorry’s, and empty promises. All of it grooming you, cultivating you to do what you’re supposed to do, and stand beside them. Even when the very sight of them makes you sick to your stomach. 

But no more. At least, not for me. I’m done being the person he takes out his anger on. No longer willing to be the one he uses to make himself feel big. I am better than this. I deserve more than this. 

With one last glance at Dawson’s sleeping form, I gently climb out of bed. The bags I packed hours before he got home await me in the coat closet. Most would call me a coward for taking off in the middle of the night, but it’s the only time I can ensure that I’m going to get out with my dignity intact. 

As quietly as possible, I pull my bags out of the closet and my keys off the key hook. Opening the door, I breathe in the cold winter night. My first taste of freedom in over six months. A voice from down the hallway stops me in my tracks. 

“Going somewhere?” Dawson asks, voice scratchy with sleep. 

Part of me wants to turn around and put my bags up. To beg for forgiveness and hope this isn’t the time he’ll begin using his fists. But I push that reaction down, determined to take my stand and be the strong person I know is hidden deep inside me. “Yeah,” my voice comes out in a squeak. Clearing my throat, I try again. “Yes, I’m going to my parents.” 

“No, you aren’t,” he takes a step toward me, hands curled into fists at his side. 

The urge to retreat courses through me. Dropping my bags and running for my car would be the easiest option. But… it could also end with me stumbling over something and hurting myself in the process. If I don’t stand up for myself now, there’s no guarantee I won’t come back to him later. It’s a vicious cycle, and one that I’m sick of. Straightening my back, I broaden my shoulders. I refuse to let him intimidate me the way he has. Refuse to let him think he can control me for one second longer. “Yes, I am,” I lift my chin higher. “I’m done, Dawson. This isn’t working for me. The yelling, throwing things at me… I deserve more than that. You aren’t the man I thought you were when we first moved in together. I won’t be your prisoner anymore.” 

Tightening my grip on my keys in one hand, and my bag in the other, I step outside the door. This place is no longer my home. “Goodbye, Dawson.” 

“You can’t just leave me, Sophie.” His voice is pained. “I’ll do better. Go to counseling. Anything.” The sad thing is, I’ve heard all this before. Things will be great between us for a week or two, then it’s back to the same old story. 

“Sorry,” I close the door behind me and walk briskly to my car. Fear makes me want to look back, but I don’t. He’s not going to follow me. Not yet, anyway. I’m sure he’ll show up at my parents’ house with some sob story. But by then, it’ll be too late. They’ll know the truth of how my life has been. There’s no way Mom, or Dad, will let him come anywhere near me. 

Unlocking my car door, I throw my bags into the passenger seat before sliding behind the wheel. A glance toward the apartment shows Dawson’s shadowed outline in the doorway. Without taking my eyes off the door, I start the car and put it in gear. It’s time to rebuild myself and put everything Dawson tore down back together.
Katrina Marie lives in the Dallas area with her husband, two children, and fur baby. She is a lover of all things geeky and Gryffindor for life.

 


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Reverence

Title: Reverence
Series: Scandalous Series (standalone)
Author: Ady Anes
Genre: NA Romance
Release Date: May 21, 2019
Cover Design: Pink Ink Designs

 

 

 

Diego Lobos is every mother’s dream. He’s handsome, smart, athletic, and well-mannered. Diego attends an Ivy League college and manages to keep a near perfect GPA. Mothers want him as their future son-in-law. Girls swoon at the mere mention of his name. Guys want him to be on their team. Everyone wants to be friends with Diego Lobos.

 

He’s the guy everyone loves… And rightly so. But is he right for me? Can Diego fill the voids within me? Those vacant spaces that have been dark and empty for so long that I’d forgotten they existed until he stepped into my life… Diego is charismatic, charming, and genuine. He’s sexy without being an arrogant ass.
What more can a girl ask for? In my dark world I need more. I have a need most can’t fill. I demand certain expectations that have guys cupping their balls and running in the other direction. Yes, I’m broken but I refuse to part with the little bit that’s left of me.
Love me or hate me. I don’t care. But everybody loves Diego… So why would he work so hard to be with someone like me?
**Contains mature content. May contain subject matter that triggers**

 

 
Prologue – Desirae

My birthday is in three days! Just three days! In three days, I will be fourteen! A lot’s happening for me this year. I’m entering ninth grade. The boys will finally notice me because I have an awesome rack. At least that’s what they say. I’ve heard them whisper it to each other. The morons forget to close their mouths and turn when I look their way. They’re too lost in my perky tits. But I don’t mind. This year I’ll be damned if they tease me about my freckles. This year I won’t be boyfriend-less. This is my year.

Daddy has another of his business functions tonight. I know we live in like a freaking mansion, but I don’t understand why he always throws his parties here. It makes Mother extra OCD and the staff mean as hell. But I’ll suffer through tonight because in a few nights Daddy is throwing me a party! The house will be filled with my friends and anyone else who wants to enviously join. I might throw them out. Or I might let them stay so they can tell all their friends how effin’ awesome my party was. Decisions… Decisions…

But first I must get through tonight. Daddy’s functions are so stuffy and rarely have kids my age in them. I prefer to be the only non-adult in the place. Usually when someone comes with their parents they’re absolute shitheads about everything. They act all stuck up like this is their place and they’re too good to even look my way. Humph. Don’t even care if one of them attends tonight. Can’t ruin my mojo. I’m in my happy place. Only three days!

Janet enters my room from the servant’s entrance. I scowl in disapproval. She knows that’s my pet peeve. They all still must knock like they would if they were entering Mother and Daddy’s room. Janet curls her lip. She doesn’t think much of me. I’ve never really done anything to sway her one way or another, but it does bother me some. Why do the servants of this place act so hostile? If I was a spoiled brat, I’d totally understand but I’m not. No really, I’m not. I try to do and get things without their assistance. I’m self-sufficient considering my parents globe trot without me all the time. I’m alone so often that I don’t even expect anything from anyone during Christmas.

“Your Father has provided you this dress to wear for the evening Miss Desirae. I trust you can get yourself ready before the main course.” She places a white dress on my bed then stalks out of the room as if it had been me who’d inconveniently summoned her. Seriously, what is it with these people? And since when does Daddy dictate what I wear to his parties? I have a specific section in my massive closet dedicated to clothes that are approved by Mother.

My eyes travel over the dress. It really surprises me to see something so simple yet sassy resting before me. The white dress and cute bow in the front scream innocence but the strapless top and short length whisper young woman. I’m not sure which role Daddy wants me to present more tonight. I need to balance both sides carefully until he communicates his expectations. Daddy always has an agenda. He’ll whisper the plan to Mother and she executes to a tee. I haven’t always liked what he’s instructed her to do but Mother always obliges and never complains which means I must do the same.

The white satin material softly kisses my skin as I shimmy into it. The sweetheart neckline makes my boobs pop out. I try pushing them back in, but the dress is too tight at the waist. The large bow only calls out more attention to my girls spilling out. I would’ve never picked something like this for myself. I know my limitations with my freckled skin and busty chest. I try not to cringe. I really do… but the dress barely covers my ass. Forget innocent. This is borderline trashy-cute. My foot taps nervously as I stare at the girl in the mirror. Am I really going to wear something like this out of this room?

I grab the house phone not caring if they whisper about me. The phone makes several clicking sounds before someone answers.

“Yes” Janet barks into the phone. Does she know it’s me calling? What if she’d answered the phone to Daddy or Mother like that? She wouldn’t be working here for long if that was the case!

“Did Daddy offer any alternatives? This dress is a bit short.” I hate the way my voice quivers a bit at the end, but the truth is that I feel immensely self-conscious in this dress. There will be grown men mingling with Daddy and Mother. I don’t like the way they stare at me sometimes. This dress will only make things worse.

“Your Father is already on his way up to see you” Janet haughtily replies, “I suggest you finalize whatever else you have left to do.” She doesn’t wait for my reply. She just hangs up on me.

My shoulders droop. Can I even sit in this dress without revealing too much thigh or cleavage? Mother is going to throw a fit! She hates it whenever someone else gets more attention than she does. I scurry into the bathroom tying my hair up into an elegant knot with loose tendrils falling onto my shoulders. Mother says men always love a woman with a few loose strands. It shows her quiet wild streak while screaming self-control.

Makeup takes a little longer to do. I begrudgingly apply concealer because Mother balks at my attempt with sheer foundation. The sheer foundation blends with my skin but still shows some of my freckles while the concealer makes me look like I have an entirely new face. I like my freckles but apparently no one in high society does.

“There you are” Daddy stalks into my room without knocking. I smile politely at him glad that I’d put on the dress first and did my hair and makeup afterwards. This order only spells disaster but Daddy’s walked in on me, in only bra and panties, on one too many occasions. Now that I’m turning fourteen, I promised myself since I can’t lock the door that I would dress first no matter what. Daddy’s carelessly flung comment about me needing to work out more because I’m becoming too curvy and soft in unattractive parts not only hurt but I burned with humiliation for days afterwards. Why was he looking at me like that anyways?

“You appear presentable” he states in his businesslike tone. I inhale slowly, deeply; knowing tonight is all business and no fun. I won’t be able to get away early and go to sleep. Daddy will show me off like he does Mother and all his other worldly possessions.

“Thank you” I reply knowing he expects it, “Where would you like me this evening?”

“I want you to meet some special people tonight. I expect you to be on your best behavior and assist me with finalizing the contract. This is the one I’ve been working on for over a year. Your Mother’s tried to win him over, but she’s been unsuccessful in her endeavor. I expect you to shine like a diamond tonight.”

“Of course, Daddy” I smile. It hurts like hell to keep up the fake expression plastered on my face, but my night is only just beginning. Guess there is no other choice regarding my dress.

Daddy holds his arm out expecting me to loop mine into his like a perfect young lady would. I pull my shoulders back, straighten my spine, and hold my head high knowing that the moment we step down those stairs all eyes will be on us. Daddy expects perfection from me in all areas of my life; from academics, extracurricular activities, community service, and right down to the prized only-child role.

We’ve barely descended halfway down the stairs when my body wants to scream mutiny. I’ve learned to trust my instincts. My heart hammers violently against my ribcage, my fingers close into a fist against my thigh, but no one will see or notice these things. My gaze remains forward, my breathing even and under control. This indifference is what I’ve been taught all my life. I look around until I find the source of my unease; an older man with salt and pepper hair, light facial hair, and great taste in designer suits. If my eyes aren’t deceiving me, he’s wearing a Canali wool twill suit that puts almost every other gentleman’s attire to shame.

“Mr. Pearce” Daddy greets the intimidating man. People give this man a wide berth. His gaze alone can cause heart failure. “I’d like you to meet my daughter, Desirae.”

Although this isn’t the right moment, it’s nice to hear the slight tremble in Daddy’s voice. This man makes him nervous. Daddy mentioned he’d been trying to woo him for a while now but how much is at stake? Is Daddy at risk of losing something or does this man have that much to offer?

“Exquisite” Mr. Pearce replies. His eyes peruse every inch of my body. I stare at the floor unable to meet his gaze. This man sees too much. He paralyzes with just a look from his black eyes. I kid you not. The man’s eyes are all black, no iris color; all pupils.

“Does she meet your approval sir?” Daddy asks him. He shifts side-to-side while Mr. Pearce slowly walks around us. Why does Daddy care if I meet the man’s approval?

“And you’re absolutely certain she’s untouched?” His deadly voice makes my blood turn cold. I look at Daddy panicked at what they’re discussing. We’ve barely made it to the bottom of the stairs before this man pounced. Mother has everyone corralled in the main area but she’s watching for us from a distance. The one time I need her to make eye contact with me and she’s busy playing hostess to the other guests.

“The paperwork I provided you is legitimate. Hymen intact. Pure.” Daddy replies.

Bile shoots up my throat like an out of control roller coaster. I take small even breaths trying to appear unaffected. I can’t vomit in front of this man. I can’t pass out either! Hymen. I should know that word. Something niggles at the back of my mind, but I can’t quite place it. This conversation is important.

“If everything is as you say” Mr. Pearce steps closer. “Then the executed contract will be delivered to you first thing tomorrow morning and your application to Champion’s will be approved.”

“Thank you” Daddy breathes with relief. He pushes me toward Mr. Pearce. “Do everything he says. I expect your obedience and utter perfection.”

“If she’s worthwhile, I will make her a repeat and reward you with each satisfactory union.” Mr. Pearce adds. “Of course, that isn’t in our original agreement and I’ll decide what the form of payment will be each time afterwards… but I’m usually a good judge of the finer things.” He eyes my body from head to toe once again but doesn’t complete his sentence.

I see dots dance in front of my face before a painful pinch to my inner arm snaps me out of my fainting spell. “You will not pass out.” Daddy hisses in my ear.

Mr. Pearce escorts me to one of the guest rooms on the second level of a place I used to consider safe. Mother watches him take me away. I’m terrified and in shock while Mother appears angry and ousted.

“Don’t mind her” Mr. Pearce motions towards Mother “She’s upset more with herself than with you. She doesn’t have the stamina and drive like I know you will. She envies your youth and beauty. We’re going to have so much fun together.”

Each word flays me. They know exactly what’s going to happen, but they failed to let me in on the plan. Something bad is about to happen, with their consent. I numbly enter the room. I shouldn’t be in here alone with him, but my parents have allowed it. My mind screams to shut off. Be a good girl; be Daddy’s perfect girl…

Ady Anes is a dutiful wife and mother in real life, but a dirty girl between the pages. Her love for reading transfers into her passion for writing. She always has stories floating in her head, ready to pour onto blank pages. Ady has a killer sweet tooth, loves music and sports, and names her kids and fur babies after fictional characters.

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The Chase

Title: The Chase
Series: Dom Diaries Anthology
Author: Jax Hart
Genre: Contemporary/New Adult/Dark Romance
Release Date: May 27, 2019
I was born this way.
Arrogant.
Dominant.
Unbending.
Even men cower in my presence; sensing the danger in me.
So why does this slip of a girl invade my thoughts?
Somehow she got past my defenses… and the only way to regain control is to make her bend.
But when things don’t bend–they break. 
She wouldn’t bend.
I refuse to break.
 
From AMAZON BESTSELLING AUTHOR, JAX HART comes a tale of cat and mouse. A story of a dangerous man and the lengths he goes to find the one woman who is an enigma to him.
 
PART of the DOM DIARIES ANTHOLOGY by the League of Extraordinary authors! THIS IS A STANDALONE STORY!

He towered above me in another flawless suit, looking expensive and totally fuckable.
“Are you stalking me? That’s it, right? You are some rich, perverted stalker, who gets his rocks off by torturing women like me?”
He patted the dogs on the head, grabbed their collars and unclipped their leashes so I could untangle myself.
As I stood, he leaned down and brushed his lips against my ear. “You have no idea, princess… just how I thought about torturing you.”
Goosebumps broke out despite the ninety-plus degree day.
A tingle ran up and down my spine and settled low in my belly where it spread like wildfire.
I was so fucked and he hadn’t even touched me yet.

Jax Hart: Singer, a songwriter, living creatively through art. Dirty Romance author from the great state of Washington. Duke is his first full-length novel. He generally hates most people, plays the bass guitar, and enjoys camping trips with his son. 

 

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Among Ash and Ember

Title: Among Ash and Ember
Author: Dani Rene
Genre: New Adult Romance (Standalone)
Release Date: June 11, 2019
Cover Design: Jay Aheer, Simply Defined Art

 

 
Everything Katerina Nielsen knew burned to the ground when she was sixteen. She had nothing but memories to keep her warm at night. At eighteen, life throws her into an inferno and the only choice is to become someone else.
 
Until she becomes the interest of two strangers. 
 
They offer her a chance at a normal life. But she’s learned everything in life comes at a price and the cost of what they’re giving her may just burn her alive.
 
With the promise of a future she’s always wanted, she can’t refuse. 
 
But what happens when a dark secret comes to light? 
Will she rise from the ashes and embers, or will she burn?
Dani is an international bestselling author and proud member of the Romance Writer’s Organization of South Africa (ROSA) and the Romance Writer’s of America (RWA).
A fan of dark romance that grabs you by the throat and doesn’t let go. It’s from this passion that her writing has evolved from sweet and romantic, to dark and delicious. It’s in this world she’s found her calling, growing from strength to strength and hitting her stride.
 
On a daily basis, she has a few hundred characters, storylines, and ideas floating around in her head. From the feisty heroines she delivers to the dark, dominant alphas that grace the pages of her books, she promises light in a world filled with danger and darkness.
 
She has a healthy addiction to reading, TV series, music, tattoos, chocolate, and ice cream.

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Scozzari

Presents : Blog Tour
 
Scozzari
by Jaimie Roberts
 
 
Series: Deviant; Book 3
Genre: NA Romance w/ Suspense
Jeremy (Jez) Scozzari
 
At the age of four, I was kidnapped by an enemy of my father, and as a result of that day, I have learned to fight. Since the age of eighteen, I’ve been known as Jez (One Punch) Scozzari because the full force of my fist is enough to take down my opponent with just one hit.
 
With the help of my dad, I turned into a tatted up machine — built for speed, built for stamina … in all senses of the word. I was prepared to fight, prepared for practically anything. But nothing had prepared me for the girl who had once stolen my heart to come catapulting back into my life again. One look from her when she turned up that day at college, and I was back to when I was ten-years-old. She was my first crush … my first kiss.
 
And now that she’s back, there’s no way I’m going to let her escape this time.
 
Caitlin Summers
 
When I was ten, I fell for a boy who stole my heart. He was sweet, kind and gentle. He was my first kiss — the one who made a lasting impression.
 
Then, at the age of thirteen, I had to move, leaving behind my heart which belonged to that sweet, kind, and gentle boy.
 
Now, I’m back, hearing that the sweet boy I left behind has turned into this tattooed bad boy with a reputation for fighting … and an equal reputation for sleeping around.
 
I was determined not to let him in. Determined to put my walls up so high that not even the famous “One Punch” Scozzari could penetrate them.
 
But then came my first day of college when I saw him for the very first time in almost six years. One look from him and my solid walls came down with an earth-shattering crash. Just that one look and he had me … and he knew he had me. 
 
That was day one of Jeremy stalking me.
 
I’m screwed.
Note from Author: if anyone has triggers when it comes to violence and attempted suicide, then reader’s need to be aware before delving in.
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Wrought Iron Roses

Title: Wrought Iron Roses
Author: Elizabeth Kirke
Genre: NA Paranormal Romance
Editor: Squid and Ink
Cover Designer: Najla Qamber Designs
Publisher: Siren Press
Publication Date: March 21, 2019
Blurb:
Sisters Rachel, Angie, and Jo may have survived their first encounter with a curse, but hundreds more are lurking within their aunt’s antique shop. There’s just one problem: Peter, the apprentice, has no idea how to start teaching two untrained rune-casters and keep them safe at the same time.
Naet
It isn’t fair to Jo that she has no magic, but her sisters both do. She feels useless and left out. Worse yet, she knows that she’s a liability. She would leave but something in the shop is calling to her, reaching out … and she won’t leave until she finds it.
Ail
Every night, Angie’s dreams are haunted by a man who claims he was cursed, and she’s the only one who can save him. When she starts to get sick, Peter and her sisters are sure the cause is her mysterious dreams. How can they convince her that the person she’s determined to help could be the one killing her?
Eles
Rachel never expected to get a magic power and a boyfriend when she inherited the antique shop. Better yet, she’s actually good at curse-breaking. It seems as though she’s found exactly what she was meant to do. But, when a curse strikes two people she cares about, Rachel is faced with the harsh truth that she might only be able to save one.
Buy Links:
Elizabeth Kirke wanted to be an author before she even knew what an author was. She used to say that she wanted to be an artist, but that was only because she was too young to write and had to tell stories with pictures instead. She hasn’t stopped writing since she learned how. It wasn’t long before she dreamed of becoming an author and couldn’t be happier now that that dream is a reality.
If she isn’t writing…well, let’s be honest; if she isn’t writing she’s probably on Facebook thinking that she should start writing. But, if she isn’t writing or on Facebook, she’s probably doing something involving books, baking, gardening, or yarn. In an ideal world, she’d be reading and knitting while something from the garden is in the oven. Then again, in an ideal world, she’d have a flock of ducks and a couple of goats.
Like most slightly-nosy, avid readers, Elizabeth can’t resist trying to catch a peek at books she sees people reading when out in public to see if she can figure out what it is. While doing just that one day, she realized that it would probably be the coolest-thing-ever if she caught a complete stranger reading one of her books. That’s her new dream.
Author Links:
Buy Links:
 
The dim, dirty, scattered light bulbs hanging from the ceiling did almost nothing to help illuminate the back rooms of the antique shop. Angie wondered if anyone had ever bothered to try dusting them. Probably not, considering everything was covered in several inches of dust. Then again, the light bulbs probably weren’t cursed, whereas dusting anything else could be dangerous.
Angie made her way to, in her opinion, the creepiest room of the shop. Of course, every room was creepy. Each one was a huge, cavernous space, filled to capacity with piles and piles of antiques. None of the lights reached into the dark corners, which only added to the unnerving factor. The air itself felt stale to Angie, heavy somehow. Oppressive. She wondered if it was the dark magic.
But this room, which Peter jokingly called The Louvre, made Angie uncomfortable even before she’d known everything in it was cursed. Every inch of considerable wall space was covered with paintings, masks, and sconces. The floor was equally packed full of statues and sculptures. Angie could see outdoor furniture and birdbaths too, like some freaky garden supply store. The first time she entered the room it felt like the statues were staring at her. Now she wasn’t entirely sure some of them weren’t.
“Be careful,” Peter warned, as he and Rachel continued through the room. Rachel had volunteered to help him look for something about dreams, even though she wouldn’t have much luck reading the actual tomes.
“We will,” Angie promised. Jo nodded in agreement.
Angie turned her attention to one wall of paintings. She traced the rune ail three times and looked around. Everything had a muted aura with a distinctly pink tinge. It was nothing like the vivid red light of an active curse, but there was no mistaking the malicious magic clinging to everything. Angie suppressed a shiver and began scanning the paintings, hoping to spot one that looked different.
“What are you looking for exactly?” Jo asked.
“I’m not sure,” Angie admitted. “I was hoping ail would show me something, but nothing stands out. I thought maybe the curse affecting Ethan wouldn’t be sealed like the rest of these.”
“Can you tell the difference?”
“I think so. The trunk was bright red when it was cursing Rachel. Everything in here looks pink.”
“I wish I could see it,” Jo said sadly.
Angie knew there was nothing she could say to make her sister feel better. She doubted that pointing out Peter and Rachel didn’t have the same power would help. And even with the danger of being a rune-caster she knew Jo would rather have magic than not.
Instead, she flashed Jo a weak smile and moved closer to the paintings.
Jo followed. “Can I help anyway? Somehow?”
“Actually, yeah,” Angie said. Jo’s eyes lit up eagerly. “Since I don’t see anything different in the magic, I was thinking maybe we could tell which painting it is based on what it looks like.”
Jo caught on immediately. “You mean you think the painting might be of Ethan?”
“Exactly.”
With a nod, Jo started wandering toward another wall of paintings. “So, we’re looking for portraits, then?”
Angie nodded back and headed to a corner. Slowly, she made her way along the wall, studying each portrait, waiting for the moment she felt a sense of recognition.
“Hey, what about this one?” Jo called.
“What does he look like?” Even as she asked, Angie realized she couldn’t quite recall him. Her gut told her blond.
“It’s hard to say. It’s a big farmhouse, but there’s a guy standing in the doorway.”
Angie wrinkled her nose. “That’s not a portrait.”
“I know! I was thinking of that book we read when we were little. Remember? There was a girl who went missing and her parents found her in a painting and she kept moving around it?”
The plot sounded familiar. “That’s right… damn that means he could be in any of these that have people.” Angie went back to the corner and started over again, squinting at each tiny figure. And then, up high, she spotted one that caught her eye. She had dismissed it before for not being a portrait. It was a man sitting in a chair in a room. But something about him seemed strange. Almost like he was trapped there. She stretched up on her tiptoes trying to get a good look.
“Hey, An?”
“Yeah?” she said.
“What if these are all people?”
Angie frowned in the direction of her sister’s voice. “They’re not all people!” She looked back at the wall and pointed, even though Jo couldn’t see. “This one is a basket of fruit.”
“No, I mean these are all cursed, right? What if there’s a person trapped like Ethan in every one.”
The thought made Angie step back from the wall in alarm. Her eyes roved over every painting, taking it in. What if Jo was right? “That’s… horrible. There must be a hundred.”
“I’ve seen more in other rooms.”
Angie sighed. This was going to be a nightmare. And if people were somehow trapped in them all… “We’ll have to ask Peter. Maybe we need to start breaking the curses on these as soon as possible.”
“Agreed.”
Angie backed up a few more steps, craning her neck at the highest paintings. Why even hang them so high? It’s not as if they were on display for anything or anyone. It would have been easier to just stack them all together somewhere. She bumped into something and jumped. After turning to see what it was, she nearly jumped again. It was one of the statues.
“Ugh!”
She started to turn away, but paused and studied the statue. It was a young, handsome man. He had a sad expression and Angie decided it was exactly what she was looking for in a painting. The statue no longer had arms, and Angie wondered how old it was and what it had looked like in its prime. Something drew her eyes to its face again and she frowned. She reminded herself it was cursed, and forced herself to turn away.
Right next to it was a chair. In fact, it was a sturdy, metal garden chair and Angie was confident it would hold her weight. Giving the statue a wide berth, she made her way over to the chair, dragged it to the wall and climbed up, face to face with the painting of the man in the room.
Up close, it was clear he was in distress. His face and his posture screamed for help. And yet, Angie could just feel that he didn’t look like Ethan.
She climbed down with a sigh and moved on to examine more paintings. Eventually she made her way to the far corner, so dark that Jo was shining her phone flashlight up at the paintings.
“Anything?”
“Nothing. Not that I know what he looks like. You?”
Angie shook her head. “I found one that looked weird, but up close I don’t think it was him.”
“There’s a stack over there,” Jo pointed. “But I wasn’t sure if we can touch them.”
“As long as we’re careful not to cut ourselves, Peter said we’re okay,” Angie said. “But if you feel funny or anything, let me know and we’ll set aside the last one you touched.”
Jo nodded. “Same to you.”
They turned their attention to the stack of paintings leaning up against the wall. After only a few, Angie heaved a sigh.
“You okay?” Jo asked.
Her sister nodded, but blew out another heavy breath. “I’m starting to feel a little light-headed.”
Jo immediately cast a worried glance at the paintings. “Light-headed or… cursed?”
“I’m… not sure.”
“Let’s go get Peter.”
Angie nodded in agreement. The two carefully separated the last painting they examined from the pile and headed out of the room. An uneasy feeling crept over Angie as she followed her sister out. She paused in the doorway and looked back, reluctant to leave.