Mid Week Tease: Boss Overboard Bon Voyage Tour #MWTease

It’s Mid Week Teasing Day and I have fun guest post for you!

But first I have to spill next week’s plans because my teasing friends and I are throwing a special Mid Week Halloween Tease! I’m working on a special “lost” scene from Colors of Us to share with you!

Exciting, right? 

Let’s turn our attention to my guest, Claire Gillian, and her new release: Boss Overboard from Evernight Publishing. This Bon Voyage Mid Week Tease is from Paul and Lydia’s first meeting. Ed is Lydia’s boss. In this opening scene, Lydia is already in a tizzy with Ed and in a hurry to challenge him about the secret shopping assignment. She has no patience for a stranger’s criticisms.  

The man heaved a loud sigh, and shaking his head turned back around.

Good gravy! She was arguing with a total stranger. Ed’s fault.

The line crawled forward until finally Mr. Holier-Than-Thou stepped forward to take his turn.

“What can I get started for you on this fine day, sir?” the barista asked in a syrupy voice.

The man turned slightly as if to make sure Lydia was listening. Of course she was. How could she not be? “What sort of flavorings you got?” he asked, and damned if he didn’t toss a half smile over his shoulder at her as if it were a grenade. He was deliberately trying to annoy her! What a jerk! He tapped on the glass display case containing the bakery treats. “And which one of these little pieces of heaven would you recommend? Oh, and one of my drinks will be a decaf cappuccino.”

Lydia’s fists clenched. She checked her watch. Five minutes until Ed arrived.

“Yes sir!” The barista rattled off the syrups as if by rote as well as a couple of the bakery items.

“Ok, well never mind on the flavorings. I’ll have a mocha, the decaf cappuccino, two blueberry muffins, no, make that three. Give the lady behind me a cranberry scone and a nonfat latte, venti sized. On me.” He tossed down a few bills then added, “Keep the change.”

Lydia’s jaw dropped. How could he possibly have known those were the two items she usually ordered? “Who are you?” she asked him, voice lowered to conspiratorial levels.

The man leaned down as if to tell her a secret, eyes scanning for interlopers. “You’re welcome,” he whispered. He straightened to his full height, stashed his wallet in his coat pocket and moved to the pick-up window, leaving Lydia gaping.

Buy Links:

Evernight Publishing  |  Amazon  |  All Romance eBooks  |  Bookstrand  |  Smashwords

 Playlist / Book Trailer

Claire is running a giveaway during her tour. Enter here:

Rafflecopter Giveaway (Runs 10/22 to 11/6):
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Mid Week Tease: Sexy Holidays #FreeRead #ComingSoon

Happy Hump Day!

Would you believe the holidays are right around the corner? 

A tease from my recently contracted Free Read short story coming soon to Evernight Publishing should get you in the spirit. 

Here’s a short excerpt from Christmas Fantasy: Dahlia and Tristan. It was so much fun to write, I hope to make these Christmas shorties a holiday tradition!

Scarcely an empty seat was to be found on the first few train cars. The thought of listening to kids shrieking Christmas carols for the next hour made her skin crawl anyway. It wasn’t as though she hated Christmas. She only hated the pre-holiday frenzy. If she saw one more candy cane, reindeer or tacky Santa with a fake beard she was sure she’d lose it. The sugary-sweet-make-your-teeth-hurt part of Christmas bugged her. It was one big nuisance and unless you were ten years old or had a kid of your own, what was the point? Alexis was far from a child and she wasn’t even sure if having children was in her cards, however she never forgot the magical feeling of Christmas. A smile crossed her face as she remembered the past few couple of Christmas holidays. Yes, those had been different and she’d hoped this one would be too.

Alexis scanned the rows and rows of occupied seats. Her feet ached as she continued from car to car through the train, steel doors slamming closed after she walked through. Her hope of a peaceful ride home dwindled and she lowered her expectations to just finding a seat within a non-screaming kid radius. Pushing onward, she knew there were just a few more cars until she was at the end of the train. Despite her frayed nerves, the gentle rocking eased her into a sleepy haze and she was determined to find a seat in the last car. She pushed down the lever with a loud clang and pulled on the heavy door. Silence. Her ears perked, surely, the car wasn’t empty. She stepped into the compartment and looked around. An attendant looked up from his reading.

“This is the quiet car, Miss,” he whispered.

The quiet car? How hadn’t she known about the quiet car before? Glancing around the compartment, she spotted only an older couple in the third row. She was about to collapse into a seat a few rows from the pair until a single overhead light switched on that drew her gaze to the back of the car – directly into a set of dark eyes staring right back at her.

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Mid Week Tease: The Perfect Shoot #MWTease

Happy Hump Day!

I have a guest for Mid Week Tease today! Please welcome Lea Bronsen and her new release (and new series!) The Perfect Shoot!

Take it away, Lea…

Thank you so much for hosting me on Mid Week Tease!

Who hasn’t been infatuated with a sexy poster boy – actor, pop star, or football hero – even though he was unobtainable? The heroine in my Hot Model Mine series is a thriving author and hard-working mother nearing her forties. Tough, independent, and having long ago lost faith in love, she dismisses her crush on the cover model of her book to protect herself. What then can she do when that gorgeous young man surprisingly falls for her, too?

I hope you enjoy this tale of ‘impossible’ love, dead-honest and written with my heart.

BLURB:

When Andrea Johnson, writing as author Cindy Vega, signed up for a Meet & Greet with the cover model of her latest book, she didn’t expect sparks to fly. Yushka is dangerously good-looking and too young for her. But their connection is instantaneous, and during a photo shoot with the two, the photographer picks up on their growing attraction. Seeing the potential for the cover photo of the century, he decides to push their comfort limits…

EXCERPT:

An assistant calls Yushka’s name. Bare-chested, the Asian hunk appears from a group of models, strolls to the spotlights, and waits in front of the camera with the confident stance of a professional.

The whole place quiets as if in awe. He’s unbelievably beautiful with his tanned, bulging muscles and washboard-abs-to-die-for. When photographer Lemaître asks him to undo his hair, a black waterfall lands on his shoulders and down his back. A few muffled feminine squeals fill the silence.

One by one, authors whose books he appears on get a few pictures taken with him in flattering positions, wrapping their arms around his back or swallowed up in his embrace, beaming like schoolgirls at their first prom.

Jealousy rips through me so violently I can barely breathe, but my time is up soon, and I hate that even more. I’m non-photogenic, and seeing pictures of myself makes me sick. I’ve chosen a sexy, black top and matching short skirt for the occasion, but looking my best doesn’t help. My stomach ties in a knot.

“Cindy Vega,” an assistant calls.

Fuck, that’s me. I’m dead.

“Go,” Laurie says, giving me a small push.

All muscles tense, I leave my safe corner and join Yushka. He greets me with a placid face, but from the warmth in his pupils, I get a feeling he’s glad to see me. Side by side, narrowing our eyes from the piercing light, we face Lemaître and wait for orders.

Damn. Being so near Yushka’s naked torso is unbearable, as is the heat from the lamps shining on us. Sweat beads roll down the sides of my chest, between my breasts. He endures, too. A thin film of sweat coats his golden skin, making it glow, but he doesn’t seem bothered.

Lemaître clears his throat. “Bon. Stand a little closer. Cindy, this is for Eden Luna Publishing’s website. Officially, we want authors happily meeting their cover models, but off the record, we want sensual, we want heat. Readers will get off seeing your pictures like they do reading your books.”

Stiff as a rod, I nod agreement. I’d half expected this. Problem is, I hate being in the spotlight with so many people watching, and I hate the notion of having my photo all over the internet.

“Sooo,” he continues, “I will ask you to just stand like this, facing me, and smile. That is all. Yushka knows what he has to do.”

“Okay.”

Turning to my side, Yushka puts a hot hand on my stomach and the other on the small of my back. Though light, his touches destabilize me, as does the warm, musky scent sneaking to my nostrils.

“Closer,” Lemaître orders. “Bodily contact.”

Shit, I’m fucked.

The stud radiates heat as he approaches, sweaty chest sticking to my arm, heart beating against my skin. His crotch barely brushes my hip, but each pore in my body becomes acutely aware of him, on high alert. As last night’s intense arousal replays in all of me, my inner thighs clench with renewed want.

Whispers and low chuckles sound from both sides of the vast lobby. I try to forget the hundred eyes following my every move, but can’t help being distracted, bathed in full light and painfully self-conscious.

“That is better.” Like a shooting gun, Lemaître’s camera clicks and the flash blinds me repetitively. “Now, give him a smile, Cindy. You know the kind I want.”

My throat so dry I can’t speak, I turn to Yushka.

He’s very near, inches from my face, black pupils gleaming with mischief. Sweat pearls on his face, making him look sexier than ever. Long, black hairs glue to his forehead and cheeks. He smells of soap, his close shave making him look baby-faced.

Seemingly at ease, the heaving of his chest regular, he stares into my eyes. I can’t believe his confidence. Modelling is his profession, but how does he stay so fucking calm?

“You wanna give me a smile?” he whispers, warm breaths brushing my chin. Behind me, his large hand sneaks lower and palms my butt cheek. With that and his other fingers splaying on my stomach, he pulls me to him, making me feel the entire length and…hardness…of his cock on my hip.

I suck in a breath.

His lips curl up in a self-satisfied grin. “Hm, Andrea? You wanna give me a smile?”

Oh my fucking God. I can’t help but obey while my insides go up in flames.

Flashing his teeth, he kneads my ass with a strong hand and pushes his full erection against me. He knows what he’s doing, the devil. He knows slowly rubbing me with his cock turns my pussy to burning liquid.

Somewhere, a feminine gasp breaks the silence, followed by contained laughter.

Très bien, we have a smile,” Lemaître says, camera clicking, flash shooting. “Thank you, Cindy, that will be enough. Next!”

Still grinning and holding my look, Yushka slowly backs off, leaving chillier air between us.

I’m frozen. In shock, lust, need.

“Come on, move it!” Lemaître calls. “We don’t have all day.”

No shit.

 

Find The Perfect Shoot here:

Evernight | Amazon.com | Amazon.uk | All Romance eBooks | Bookstrand

Add it to your Goodreads list!

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Roll out the Red Carpet ~ Evernight Celebrates Four Years of Publishing! #BDayBashBlogHop

*throws confetti*

Happy Birthday, Evernight Publishing!

*blows party horn*

Join authors, bloggers and reviewers as we take a RED CARPET tour featuring Evernight’s smart and sexy books. Slip on your virtual stilettos and walk the red carpet of award winning titles, spectacular reviews and paparazzi style interviews.

Be sure to visit every stop on the tour where you can enter for a chance to win great prizes, including a new eReader, gift certificates, swag, books and much more!

Don’t forget to visit the Evernight Publishing website where all eBooks are 50% off through October 13th!

 

Now I turn the spotlight on my smart and sexy book…

Colors of Us (McAvery Brothers, 1)

Everything she knew to be true fell apart. Then fell apart again…

Michelle Willis is running from her past. What better place to hide than in the anonymity of New York City. Finding refuge in a tiny SoHo art gallery, she rebuilds her life one painting at a time.

A wrong turn sends Hunter McAvery on a crash course with disaster. He fights his own demons by following his big brother’s lead – drinking and bed-hopping his way through Manhattan.

A glance at Michelle’s self-portrait triggers emotions Hunter can’t tamp down. Driven to meet the artist, he discovers a fiery chemistry as their lives collide. But when their past threatens to tear them apart, can their love survive?

Colors of Us buzz…

“Top Pick of 2014!” ~ Ms. Romantic Reads

“This has to be one of my favorite books I’ve read all year.” ~ The TBR Pile

“I LOVED Colors of Us. The chemistry between Hunter and Michelle was absolutely wonderful.” ~ Janis, Amazon Reader 

“THIS is how NA should be written, not an insta-love hop into sex moment, but the slow burn as they grow and learn one another, not rushing to make a relationship because the sex was good. You will wait for that consummation, and then *BANG* with some scenes that will have you contemplating the top deck of the airport’s parking garage, TSA be damned.” ~ The Jeep Diva

Find Colors of Us here: [EP / A / BN / ARe / BS  ]

Answer my question in the comment section for a chance to win (be sure to include your email address):

* Your choice of an Amazon Kindle Fire HD or Kobo Arc 7
* $100 Amazon GC
* $50 Evernight GC
* My blog prize: $10 Starbucks GC & Colors of Us swag pack (buttons, pen, bracelet, signed postcard)

Question: The inspiration for Colors of Us started with this painting created by Michelle Wilson. I love the sadness in her eyes combined with the brilliant colors of her hair. What gives you inspiration? Answer in the comments below to be entered into the drawing. Be sure to include your email address!

Hop to the next stop!



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Mid Week Tease: Wine, Anyone? #MWTease

Happy Hump Day!

I’m back from Vegas and still recovering. Those Hot Mojave Knights ladies know how to party! LOL

Today’s Mid Week Tease is from a short story I’m finishing for Evernight’s Romance on the Go line. I hope to submit it under my other pen name this weekend.

This scene is brand new (wrote it on the plane on the way to Vegas) and unedited so please forgive any hiccups.

Background: Gianna has invited Tess to her restaurant, Luciani’s. They’re dining in the VIP “kitchen” table. Mark is the maitre d’ who takes seating hungry people to another level.  Enjoy!

“Mark is a wonderful employee. Will do anything I ask and he’s extremely…discreet.” Her eyes became serious as she searched my face.

I wasn’t sure what she meant but I felt the need to fill the silence as she stared at me. “I’m sure that’s important in this location. It’s good to have employees you can trust.” I tipped back the rest of my wine and reach for the bottle. Gianna’s hand touched mine.

“I have another bottle I’d like you to try.” She flipped open a wooden lid in the middle of the table I hadn’t noticed until that moment. I leaned forward to catch a glimpse of what was under the small door. A series of buttons and a lever glowed in a neat row. Gianna’s manicured index finger pressed the button closest to her.

“Yes, Miss Luciani.” Mark’s husky voice filled the small room through what must’ve been hidden speakers. His voice was intimate as though he’d whispered it into my ear. I remembered the ear piece he wore and figured he was talking into the microphone.

“Mark, would you bring us that special bottle I chose from the cellar earlier today.” Gianna’s voice was authoritative but friendly.

Mark delayed his response a moment before “of course” rang through the room. Less than a minute later, Mark strode in carrying a deep red bottle with an embossed black label. He stood in the doorway, his eyes on Gianna before shifting to me. “Are you finished with the kitchen viewing?” he asked.

Gianna nodded. “We can open it up later for desert. Why don’t you give us some privacy, Mark.” She leaned back in her chair as he closed the door and moved to the table before he placed the bottle in front of her.

“I trust this is the bottle you requested?” he asked and leaned over her as his fingers found the lever under the lid. A motor purred and a dark wood divider slid across the half wall, blocking the brightly light kitchen from view. The room became quiet as though cut off from the chaos of the busy kitchen. His fingers moved to two other buttons, prompting the lights to dim and a bluesy jazz beat pumped into the room.

Gianna slid the bottle closer and peered at the label. “This is the one.” She and I watched his movements as he slowly lit the candle on the table and reached into his pocket revealing a gleaming silver corkscrew. He easily uncorked the bottle with a plunk sound and poured a small amount into Gianna’s glass. Instead of sliding the tasting to her, he kneeled next to her chair and offered the glass to her mouth. She took it from him and rocked the deep liquid from side to side. “Tess has had a busy day and can use a little Luciani TLC. Would you like to show her our VIP treatment?”

“It would be my pleasure,” he said as they both looked at me which made me even more self-conscious than before.

I wave may hand. “No special treatment is necessary. Really. I’m enjoying every moment,” I said as the heat crept up my neck.

Mark rose to his feet and walked around the table the long way. His eyes never leaving me. He stopped behind my chair.

“I’m glad you’re enjoying it here because I love having you as my special guest tonight. As I explained, Mark is an exceptional employee who possesses exceptional talents.” Her eyes moved to a target over my head and she nodded once. Warm hands rested on my bare shoulders and I froze. I was about to protest when the pads of his thumbs simultaneously rubbed circles into two knots in my shoulders. How the hell he knew my trouble spot with one touch was beyond my comprehension but I any resistance I had the moment before melted away and I couldn’t hold back a sigh as I rocked my head to the side.

 

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Mid Week Tease: We’re Going to Vegas, Baby! #MWTease

Happy Wednesday!

I’m on my way to Las Vegas tomorrow for the Hot Mojave Knights Reader Event! If you’re in the area or just need a quick getaway come to Vegas for the weekend to hang with a fantastic group of romance authors and readers. I’d love to meet you!

To celebrate one of my all-time favorite cities, here’s a tease my first published books (originally titled Marooned in Miami and Lusted in Las Vegas) featuring my favorite Vegas couple, Jason and Stephanie. Both books are now combined in Evernight Publishing’s Marooned with the Millionaire…

Jason had spent all week ensuring everything would be perfect for his long weekend with Stephanie. He was pleased he convinced her to come to Las Vegas a few days early. Jason tried not to think about a future with Stephanie. He thought he had a future with Jessica and was burned badly. This is just for fun, he thought to himself as he walked through the lobby toward The Luna Lounge. Stopping in his tracks, he sucked in a deep breath as soon as he spotted her from a distance.

Stephanie sat at the bar, long legs crossed. Jason was able to make out her profile as she took a sip of her drink. He watched her, patiently savoring every detail of her exquisite form until his gaze reached her back. Her midnight blue, backless dress showcased the curvature of her body that he knew quite well.

His thoughts returned to their night in Miami, when she was his for one glorious night. His hands curled into fists as he remembered the feel of his fingers trailing down that gorgeous back. The very last time they were together he took her from behind. He remembered the way she arched her back and allowed her silky hair to flow over her spine. He also recalled the way he held her tight ass as he thrust deep inside of her, pushing further and deeper with each thrust until neither one could hold on any longer.

The dress hugged every curve perfectly. It was so low in the back that he tried to decide whether she could possibly have panties on. Damn. He didn’t want to have feelings for Stephanie, other than desire, but he knew it was a losing battle. She was exactly the kind of woman that could get under his skin and he knew it. But like a moth to a dangerous flame, he couldn’t stay away.

They would learn much about each other during the next five days and nights, he thought as he walked toward her exquisite form. He watched as she took a first sip of her martini and smiled to himself when he spotted the sugar rim. Yes, he remembered she had a sweet tooth. As she closed her eyes, he swiftly moved in behind her and brushed her back with his fingertips. He instantly felt her skin shiver

and respond to his touch. But instead of turning quickly as if by surprise, she remained still, her eyes closed and a smile forming on her sweet lips. Her reaction to his touch and presence went straight to his cock, as if those perfect lips were about to find their way to his pulsing erection.

Jason was determined to take it slow; unlike Miami, time was on their side. He had all the time in the world to explore Stephanie and to discover what made her tick. 

 

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COLORS OF US is @AReCafe’s DAILY #GIVEAWAY of the DAY!

I’m hanging out at the cafe all day today chatting about why all my characters somehow end up flirting, fighting, laughing, crying or just tying one on (or getting tied up) in a bar. How *does* that happen? Click here to read more!

Be sure to enter to win a free eCopy of COLORS OF US!

 

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Mid Week Tease: Gotta Love the Souvenir #WIP #MWTease

Happy Teasing Day!

The Colors of Us crew are on tour this week! 

Today’s stop is Lisa’s World of Books! Pop over to read an excerpt, enter to win an Amazon GC, or just say hi! I’d love to see you. :)

Here’s something brand new I’ve been working on. Not sure where it’s going yet, but I like the vibe. Enjoy!

The wisp of silk slipped through her fingers as she tied a scarf around her neck, hoping the accessory wouldn’t tip off her coworkers. But really…who wears a scarf in eighty-degree weather? Someone who’s trying to hide a hickey, that’s who.

Truth was, she had nothing to worry about. Kelsey was the last person her cube mates would suspect of having a hot young lips sucking her neck with enough suction to break blood vessels. 

Of course her timing sucked. It was Kelsey’s turn to present at the monthly staff meeting. Standing in front of the department shoveling the corporate shit without sweating through her blouse was a feat in itself, Now she’d have to do it with a scarf around her neck. Great. 

She blew a breath upward, scattering the bangs that framed her face. Was it worth it? She smirked as the heat of a long forgotten passion crept up her neck making her want to pull the scarf off and show proudly show off the souvenir. 

Damn straight it was.

 

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A Night at Lady Jane’s Salon @ladyjanesalonss

What did I do last Saturday night?

I wasn’t at martini night…

I wasn’t on the couch watching Outlander…

 

I read a passage from Colors of Us at Lady Jane’s Salon!

What’s Lady Jane’s Salon? I’m glad you asked!

Here’s a blurb from Lady Jane’s Salon NYC

Founded in February 2009 by romance authors Hope Tarr, Leanna Renee Hieber, Maya Rodale, and book blogger, Ron Hogan, Lady Jane’s Salon® is New York City’s first–and only–monthly romance fiction reading series. The Salon takes great pride in having hosted such luminaries of romance fiction as Eloisa James, Suzanne Brockmann, and Marjorie M. Liu while also encouraging debut and mid-list authors to “be our guest.” Past and present guest authors represent the full spectrum of the diverse and ever-evolving romance genre from traditional historical and contemporary romances to novels that cross over to science fiction and futuristic, fantasy and steampunk, inspirational and GLBT romance, to name but a few.

My reading took place at a Lady Jane’s Salon® satellite location in a lovely french cafe in Silver Spring, MD.

Pictured from left to right: Merry Bond, me :) , Ellen Butler, Kastil Eavenshade, P.A. DePaul and Miguelina Perez (Lady Jane's hostess and organizer)

Many thanks to Miguelina Perez, fellow featured authors of the night, and the lovely ladies from local RWA chapters who were in attendance. It was a truly fabulous night.

After considering a few different scenes for the reading, I decided on this pivotal dark moment from Colors of Us…

Max’s words unearthed feelings he’d shoved into the far corners of his mind. Hunter paced the bar like a caged animal all morning until Alex sent him out to run errands. He jumped at the chance to get away from the bar for a while and work off some of his nervous energy. McAvery’s had been his salvation after the accident, but lately, it felt like a prison. It was time to finally move on and away from the city. Too many memories taunted him at every turn. A gust of early autumn wind blew against his face. A fresh start would do him well.

Hunter returned from the bank and corner produce market. Placing the bag of lemons and limes on the bar, he signaled to Mikey. “Put those in the fridge, would you?” he asked.

“Yeah. Hold on, you got a phone message from—” Mikey held up the scrap of paper and squinted. “Max. But she sounded like a chick with a cigar.”

“Maxie?” Hunter furrowed his eyes and grabbed the message. “Did she say why she called?” She never called him. His skin prickled at the back of his neck.

“Nah, but she left her number. Said to call her right away.”

Hunter leaned over the bar, picked up the receiver, and dialed the number Mikey had written on the scrap of paper. One ring after another sounded in his ear as dread dug a hole in his stomach. Finally she answered.

“It’s Hunter.”

“Where’ve you been? I tried your cell.”

“Left it home. What’s going on?”

“It’s your friend Michelle. She came back this afternoon. Been here for a while, and there’s something not right with her. You need to get down here.”

“I’ll be right there.” Hunter hung up. “Watch the bar. I gotta run out. Tell Alex I’ll be back soon,” Hunter barked at Mikey as he raced out the door, picking up his pace from a fast walk to a jog.

Pushing open the door, his eyes fell on Max behind the desk. “What’s up? Where’s Michelle?” He followed Max’s gaze to the corner of the gym. Michelle’s hair was dark with sweat and stuck to her cheeks and neck. She pummeled the heavy bag with a succession of hard punches. The wires of white ear buds dangled from her ears, reminding him of the way she zoned out when she painted. “What’s the matter? She looks like she’s just focused on a hard workout.”

Max shook her head. “It’s more than that. I stepped behind the bag to check if she was okay. She just looked right through me. She’s in a zone, but a dark one. I’ve seen that look before. Something’s going on. What do you know about her?”

“I know she’s afraid of everything. Her fear rules her life. She won’t take a bus or the subway. Won’t even leave her apartment when it’s dark. I told you I brought her here to teach her self-defense. I’d hoped it would help.”

“Hunter, look at her. She’s punching that bag so hard her knuckles are bleeding. Go to her. Help her.”

As he drew closer, deep bass beats filled the air around her. He didn’t know Yo-Yo Ma’s music, but he’d bet a round of drinks at the bar she wasn’t listening to it. It sounded like some type of hard garage rock. She seemed unaware of his presence. His gaze washed over her reddened face as sweat dripped over her empty eyes.

“Fuck him. I should’ve fought. I should’ve fought back,” she muttered through labored breath.

Hunter stepped behind the bag and waved his hand in front of her eyes. No reaction. “Michelle.” He pulled the earbud wires from her ears.

Stopping for a moment, she curled her fingers into tight fists and continued with an onslaught of punches as though her life depended on her fight.

“Michelle. That’s enough, sweetheart. Stop.” He grabbed her wrists.

“No! I should’ve. I should’ve fought. Back. My fault. It was all my fault.” Her chest rose and fell as sobs wracked her body.

“Shh. Shh. Breathe, it’s okay.”

Closing her eyes, she continued to fight him.

He let go of his grasp and accepted her punches to his chest and arms. Cupping her face with his palm, he brushed the hair from her eyes with his other hand. “Open your eyes, honey. You can do it.”

Open your eyes, honey. You can do it. Visions of the night he said those exact words flashed into his head. He stared at the blood from her knuckles and saw Isabel’s blood rushing from her head and soaking the T-shirt he used to try to stop it. No. Not now. He began to shake. Dropping to his knees, he took Michelle to the floor with him.

He wrapped his arms around her and rocked her on his lap. “You’ll be okay. You have to be okay.”

You’ll be okay. You have to be okay. Isabel’s broken body flashed through his mind. Her limbs were tangled like a rag doll. He refused to look and kept his eyes focused on her face. Gathering her onto his lap, he rocked her broken body. Open your eyes, honey. You can do it.

Her eyelashes flutter and her gaze met his. “Hunter?”

“Don’t worry, I have you.” He brushed away the sweat-soaked strands of hair covering her eyes. Her smile melted his heart. Without thinking, he bent his head and lightly brushed his lips over hers. The salty taste of sweat mixed with tears exploded on his lips. He needed more. Cradling her head in the crook of his arm, he pulled her close and coaxed her mouth open with his tongue.

Her hands snaked around his neck and her fingertips raked through his hair. She parted her lips, accepting his tongue as a soft moan filled his mouth.

He pulled away, cupped her chin in his palm and swiped the pad of his thumb over her bottom lip. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have done that,” he whispered.

“It’s okay. I wanted you to.” She smiled.

He studied her face for a moment and helped her to stand. “Let’s sit on the bench over there, and I’ll find some first aid supplies and cold water.” Sliding his arm around her waist, he helped her sit before grabbing the first aid box and a couple of water bottles from Max at the front desk. “She’s okay,” he said unconvincingly.

Max’s gaze traveled from him to Michelle. “You sure?”

“She has to be,” he said quietly and returned to Michelle, approaching as she examined her hands.

“I can’t believe I did this to myself.” She wiggled her fingers. Three knuckles on both hands were oozing with blood.

“Let’s take these off first.” He slowly unwound the hand wraps and inspected the damaged knuckles. “You really did a job on your hands. Want to tell me what happened?”

“I don’t know.” She averted her eyes.

He gave her hands a small squeeze and her gaze returned to meet his. “You were talking about fighting back. Was it about the attack?”

Michelle looked down and nodded.

“What the hell happened to you?”

She shook her head.

His hands slid over her shoulders. “Hey, you can tell me. Please.”

Michelle’s gaze slowly met his. Wet lashes formed triangles as she blinked away tears. She took a deep breath. “Two years ago, I stayed on campus after my senior year to take a class I missed and needed for graduation. Everyone had moved out, but they let me stay to finish my class. This guy, a football player, had the same deal. We went out a few times before, but his drinking was out of control, and I told him I didn’t want to see him anymore. One of the last nights there, he saw me at a club and tried to dance with me. He was all over me and reeked of alcohol. I told him to leave me alone, and I left. He showed up at my room that night. I don’t even know how he got into the building.” Michelle hissed as he dabbed the broken skin.

“Sorry, go on.”

“He came to my door, acting all sweet. I opened the door just a crack, and he forced his way in.” She sucked in a breath as though she were fighting for her last. “I told him to leave, but he kept saying I wanted him, I wanted it. I told him no. I. Said. No. But he didn’t listen.” She turned her face, and tears streamed down her cheeks, landing on his hands as he cleaned her wounds. “A security guard making his rounds heard the door hit the wall when he forced himself in. He pulled the guy off me before he could do anything.”

Hunter stopped what he was doing and swore under his breath. “Fucker. Was he punished for what he did?”

 “He did some jail time for assault. I had to go to court and face him. Know what he said to the judge?” Michelle’s shoulders slumped, and she averted her eyes to the ground. “He said I wanted it, otherwise I would’ve fought harder.”

“Jesus.”

“Yeah. Nice, right? The sad part about it is I believed it for a long time. I mean, why didn’t I fight back harder?” She shook her head and a lock of hair fell into her eyes. He tucked it behind her ear with his fingers and cupped her cheek, regaining her gaze.

A weak laugh escaped from her mouth. “I told you I was a fucked-up mess. But here’s the thing. I spent the last couple of years hiding and avoiding because I didn’t think I could protect myself. But something clicked today. An energy coursed through me, and I couldn’t stop it. It just came pouring out.” She pointed to the heavy bag. “I felt strong. For the first time, I have a little bit of my old self back.” She wiped her eyes on her sleeve. “I have you to thank for that.”

Hunter carefully dabbed first aid cream onto the cleaned wounds and wrapped each one with a bandage. A battle raged inside him, twisting his stomach into a jagged ball. Who was he kidding—he could clean her wounds and apply a bandage, but he couldn’t be what she needed. He’d disappoint her in the end. He couldn’t save her, just like he couldn’t save Isabel. “You have nothing to thank me for. You did it all. I only showed you how.” He brushed her bandaged knuckles lightly with his thumbs.

“These should heal in a few days. A week, tops. No boxing for you until then.”

She held her hands in front of her face and wiggled her fingers. “I’m going to hit the little girls’ room.”

Hunter’s gaze followed her as she disappeared into the women’s locker room. Scrubbing his hand along his face, he gathered the first aid kit supplies and walked slowly to the front desk. Placing the kit on the desk, he avoided eye contact with Max, who knew him better than he knew himself. “Tell her I had to leave.”

“Hunter. Wait,” Max’s stern voice called as he swung open the door and took a few deep breaths before breaking into a fast jog.

His head spun. Images of Isabel floated in and out of his mind’s eye. She trusted him and he let her down. He’d do the same to Michelle. Fuck. Why didn’t he die instead of Isabel? It was a question he asked himself often. Death would’ve been easier than the prison of guilt he lived in. He escaped sometimes, but it always lurked in the shadows. 

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This #MWTease is dedicated to Sexual Assault Awareness #Snarktember

Hey there!

Today’s Mid Week Tease coincides with my Snarky Mom Snarktember day. My topic is Sexual Assault Awareness; not a “light” topic, but one that needs attention. Please click over to the post, the statistics are eye-opening.

The heroine of Colors of Us is a victim of sexual assault. I love this scene because it’s the beginning of Michelle’s transformation from victim to survivor…

 

“What if I told you there was a way to protect yourself without relying on mace?”

Michelle turned to face him and lifted her hands from her sides. “Come on, look at me. How much damage am I going to do to an attacker?”

“You have more fight in you than you know.”

“No, I don’t.” She shook her head.

“You do, you just need some help finding it.”

“Help? I’ve had more help than you can possibly imagine. I’m fine, really. The mace gives me a sense of security.”

“Did you ever use it in a real life situation?”

“No, ” she said meekly.

“Then how do you know it’ll save you? Turn around, let me show you.”

Michelle narrowed her eyebrows. “What do you mean?” “Turn around. Let’s pretend you’re walking down the sidewalk or even at your front door turning the key in the lock. Pretend you have the mace in your hand.”

She shrugged and turned so her back faced him and her right hand held an imaginary canister of mace. “This is silly.”

“Don’t freak out, but I’m going to grab you from behind.”

She braced herself for his touch. Strong arms wrapped around her at her elbows, rendering her mace-holding arm useless. She froze, realizing the mace wouldn’t help her in this sort of situation.

“You’re small, so an attacker can easily pick you up and carry you off in a New York second.” Even though she was restrained, his voice soothed her from panicking. “What would you do in this situation?”

Michelle thought about what she would actually do. Nothing. There was nothing to do. “Scream.”

Hunter chuckled and released her. “What else?”

She turned around. “There’s nothing else I could do, and you’re right. The mace wouldn’t have helped me in that situation.”

Hunter nodded. “True, but believe it or not, there’s a lot you could do. Even with your small size. In fact, your size can even help you.”

Michelle sighed. “I doubt that. But thanks for showing me I’ve been walking around with a false sense of security. Much appreciated.” She rolled her eyes and walked to the front door.

“Hey, I didn’t do it to piss you off. I just wanted to show you the mace doesn’t really help, but I can teach you something that will.”

Her shoulders rose and fell a few times before she spoke. “Look, Hunter, remember at the bar when I said I may be as fucked- up as you?”

He nodded.

“Well, I was attacked a few years ago. Nothing happened to me physically. Campus police came before he….” She ran her fingers through her hair, remembering that night. “They came in time. I lived in fear for a long time.” She hugged her arms around her chest. “I don’t want to be afraid anymore. The mace helped me find the courage to walk home in the dark when needed. I don’t know what else to do.” She pushed the front door open, hoping he’d leave before the tears filling her eyes escaped down her cheeks.

“I’m sorry,” he said. He passed through the doorway as sheets of rain poured down behind him.

“Here, take this.” She handed him the handle of the dripping umbrella.

Instead of taking the umbrella, his hand covered hers and he squeezed. “Why don’t you do something about it?”

She pulled her hand from his. “What can I possibly do?”

He took his wallet from the front pocket of his jeans and flipped it open. “Meet me here tomorrow morning at eight,” he said, handing her a damp business card.

Colors of Us is available here:

Evernight Publishing / Amazon US / Amazon UK / AllRomance eBooks

Add Colors of Us to your Goodreads shelf Colors of Us

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