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Book Blitz ~ Paintbrush by Hannah Bucchin


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Paintbrush by Hannah Bucchin

Published by: Blaze Publishing

Publication date: July 11th 2017

Genres: Romance, Young Adult

Mitchell Morrison and Josie Sedgwick have spent their whole lives at the Indian Paintbrush Community Village, a commune full of colorful characters tucked in the mountains of North Carolina, and they aren’t particularly close–at least, not anymore. Josie wishes she could spend all of her time at Paintbrush planting tomatoes, hiking the trails, or throwing giant communal birthday parties, while Mitchell can’t wait to escape the bizarre spiritual sharing and noisy community dinners. Luckily for both of them, high school graduation is just around the corner.

But when Mitchell’s mother makes a scandalous announcement that rocks the close-knit Paintbrush community, and Josie’s younger sister starts to make some dangerously bad decisions, the two find themselves leaning on each other for support – and looking at each other in a whole new light. Their childhood friendship blossoms in to something more as they deal with their insane families, but as graduation approaches, so does life in the real world, forcing Josie and Mitchell to figure out what, exactly, their relationship is – and if it can survive their very different plans for the future.

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~Sneak Peeks~:

Mitchell

They look like a family, huddled in a group, the fading sunlight from the window casting them in a dusty glow. And here I am, close enough but still a few steps back. Enjoying the moment, but not quite part of the group. It’s always this way with me at Paintbrush. I hang around the fringes of every moment. Not because I’m not included or not welcome, but because, sometimes, I’m afraid I’ll get in too deep here. And then I’ll never be able to leave.

Mitchell

“Hi.” I tighten my grip on her waist, and she moves her hand from my shoulder, sliding her fingertips slowly, until they rest on the back of my neck. I close my eyes.

When I open them again, she’s staring at me, her face so close I can see the flecks of brown in her green eyes. It would be so easy to kiss her. Just a few inches. It would be the easiest thing in the world.

Josie

“We’re a mess, aren’t we?” He grins at me.

I can’t help it—I lean into him, pressing my shoulder into his, wanting to feel his warmth and his soft sweatshirt, wanting to be a part of that smile.

I shrug. “All the best people are messy.”

Josie

Just when I’ve decided to sneak back to my cabin, I see him. Mitchell. He steps right in front of me, a few feet away. I meet his gaze and hold it. And then he jerks his head slightly toward the side and strides off into the night, slipping out into the dark, off into the field behind the Sanctuary.

I wait one minute and then follow him.

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~Author Bio~

Hannah has spent her life falling in love with beautiful places, both real and fictional. She grew up in charming Bethlehem, PA, went to college in sunny Chapel Hill, NC, spent a summer studying wildlife in Tanzania, volunteered on organic farms across New Zealand, and hiked all over Acadia National Park in Maine. When not writing, reading, or adventuring, she likes to daydream about the dog she’ll adopt someday, listen to music from the sixties, and exchange ridiculous texts with her parents and siblings. Paintbrush is her first novel.

Website |Goodreads | FacebookInstagram

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~Giveaway~

Blitz-wide giveaway (INTL)

$5 Amazon giftcard and a copy of The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Book Blitz ~ In Her Blood by Janice Jones


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In Her Blood by Janice Jones

(The Dagger Chronicles #1)

Published by: Amberjack Publishing

Publication date: May 1st 2015

Genres: New Adult, Romance, Supernatural

Alex Stone wants to pretend the supernatural doesn’t exist.

As the owner of a hot new clothing line, the only thing she’s killing is her competition – until she gets a phone call from her past. As the Dagger, she was a member of the covert ops team tasked with hunting threats of the supernatural kind. For the super soldiers of Night Command, the rules were simple: take the pills, fight the bad guys, and live to tell no one. After putting a bad-ass vampire on ice landed her in a padded cell, Alex thought she’d left the hunting game for good. Now she’s in the orbit of a handsome vampire with a problem. And sometimes keeping secrets bites.

Jason Stavros has the best of everything and life eternal. To the human world, Jason was just a poor boy who made it to the top. For a human turned vampire, the fight for a place in the inner circle of the ruling class hinges on one task: convince the best ex-vampire hunting assassin to become his personal bodyguard and save them all.

Join Alex, Jason and a new team of young hunters as two worlds unite against a common enemy. As the body count begins to rise, Alex and the Tracker Team fight friends and enemies to find the answers they seek.

What’s been happening in the dark will finally come to light.

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

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~Excerpt~

She enjoyed seeing those chains of pure silver wrapped around the vampire’s scrawny arms like tattoos. He barely resembled the picture of the old parish priest the Cardinal sent them two weeks ago. His brown skin hung from his bones like an ill-fitting suit. His paunch bounced up and down as he struggled to get loose. It took longer to catch him, much longer than it should have, but all’s well that ends well.

Alex Stone, call-sign Dagger, ran her fingers through her dark hair. Flakes of dried blood and sand fell as she pulled the dirty mess into a ponytail. Benjamin Palmer, Team Commander, snatched her wounded hand back down and tightened the field dressing as he griped at her about how dumb it was to try to catch the sharp end of a knife with her hand. She knew that . . . now.

“Who do you think you are,” he said as he gave the knot one last yank, “Superman?” Ben checked her busted lip with a shake of his head. “That’s gonna hurt like hell till morning.”

Alex just nodded, taking the pills in her good hand and swallowing them with a quick sip of warm water from his canteen.

Under normal circumstances, Alex would be pulled from the field, evaluated and possibly scrubbed from the next assignment for that stunt. But time was running out and this wasn’t normal, not even for the top vampire hunting team in the country.

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~Author Q & A~

1. Who is your favorite vampire found in literature?

Louis from the Vampire Chronicles Series. That character was very tortured, but not angry. I think he was a very underrated character in the books.

2. What about your favorite vampire character in movies and television?

Dracula played by Gary Oldman. Best portrayal I’ve ever seen in a rendition of Stoker’s character. He was regal in a very human sort of a way. You really did feel sorry for him. And let’s not forget that accent.

For television, my favorite comes from a show that unfortunately ran only one season. Kindred: The Embraced. Julian Luna was the ‘big man’ of the vampires in San Francisco. He ruled all the Clans in the city, hence his title, Prince of the City. The show was very stylish and modern for the 90’s. Julian was handsome and rich and ruled in a way resembling King Arthur.

3. We love how you’ve taken an age-old mythology and recreated a unique perspective of how vampires are existing and being used in a modern setting. Can you tell us more about the world you’ve created in your series, The Dagger Chronicles.

The people you meet in this series represent a very small part of this world. They are the elite. This world really sits on the surface of humanity. Underneath, there’s a hierarchy to vampire society. The infrastructure is very much like the human world. There are vampires who have everyday lives and have elected those that represent them at the table. I wanted to ground this world in reality as we know it just a bit.

Within the elite, there is a lot more than meets the eye. There are teams of covert ops working for private interests and protecting the supernatural kind, secret science experiments to find new uses for vampire blood, and the key to all it, a woman who is unlike any of her kind. It’s certainly a fresh take.

4. Which character from In Her Blood did you enjoy writing the most?

I have to go with Ben. He’s based on a couple of people I know. Ben’s that big brother type. He’s cool and fun, but can hold his own with Alex. He looks after Alex because he loves her and he’s afraid of what will happen when her secret gets out.

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~Author Bio~

Graduating with a Masters in Creative Writing from Southern New Hampshire University, Janice’s first novel, In Her Blood, is the first book in her vampire adventure series The Dagger Chronicles. This series introduces you to the world of Alexa “Alex” Stone, ex-vampire hunter and assassin turned fashion mogul. Hiding in plain sight, Alex must return to the world of the supernatural in order protect a handsome vampire and her own secrets. Look for Book Two, By Blood Sworn to hit online outlets soon. Janice is looking forward to readers of New Adult Fiction and Vampire lore to embrace a new kind of action adventure hero, a woman with many secrets and many stories to tell.

(Author photo courtesy of Omar Ramos Photography http://www.omarramosphotography.com/Makeup by LaChandra Middlebrooks)

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~Giveaway~

Blitz-wide giveaway (INTL)

Signed copy of In Her Blood + $50 Amazon gift card

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Book Blitz ~ His Turn by J.A. Huss


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His Turn by J.A. Huss

(Turning #3)

Published by: July 4th 2017

Publication date: July 4th 2017

Genres: Erotica, Romance, Suspense

I look her body up and down as I circle her.

Mine?

I smile a devious, deviant, I’m gonna make you sorry you ever started playing this game with me smile.

And then I take her hand.

I lead her to the elevator.

We go up to my apartment.

I tie her wrists together with rope.

Raise her arms above her head.

And chain her to the ceiling.

It’s my turn.

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooksKobo

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Get the complete series on Amazon!
Taking Turns is now on AUDIO!

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~Excerpt~

I spend the whole day stewing about Nadia and her covert attempt to take back control. I have gone through every emotion. Anger came first. Bitch. Why is she even playing if it’s just gonna be a mind fuck?

But then I got to thinking about that. The mind fuck part. Because I’m kind of an excellent mind-fucker. I mean, shit. I went to school to be a psychiatrist. I got pretty far into it before I dropped out. I have a medical degree. I run a sex club. I’ve been playing this goddamned game for more than a decade. And even though I’ve been on a losing streak for a while now, I’m damn good. I’m due for a win. I will win this.

The key to a proper mind fuck is the element of surprise. The target thinks they’re ready for the unexpected, until they’re not.

Nadia was probably pretty pleased with herself last night. She probably ended that call with a huge smile on her face. One hundred percent satisfied.

And she’s expecting retaliation. She had to know I’d tell Jordan about it. She had to know I’d find out she never called him. She had to know I’d be pissed off today.

When I realized that… well, that’s when I calmed down and started piecing together a psychological profile on her.

Nadia Wolfe. Twenty-something. Beautiful. Talented. Ballerina. Control freak. New in town. Rising star. Player of games.

She’s so stupidly simple to figure out, I almost feel sad that she’s not more of a challenge.

I decide the ballerina aspect is my best first move. They are a different sort of person, so most of what I just described probably stems from her choice of occupation. She likes control because she’s forced herself to be in control of things to get where she is in her art.

Think about it. Ballerinas, right? They get up early to go to class or rehearsal or whatever the fuck it is they do first thing in the morning. They have to control themselves in very specific ways. They have to control their muscles, their emotions, their pain threshold, and the pleasure center in their brains. They have to psych themselves up to fit their bodies into the mold of dancer.

They have to conform in many ways. Deviation from the standard is unacceptable, even though they are expected to excel and stand out.

They must look a certain way, behave a certain way, and submit to the whims of those who control their future.

Success, therefore, is not defined by their own perceptions of themselves, but by the perceptions of others. And those perceptions are directly related to athletic skill, beauty, and youth.

It’s a trifecta of psychological disorders waiting to happen.

I smile.

I’ve got you, Nadia Wolfe. I have your ticket, darling. I know what drives you now.

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~Author Bio~

JA Huss is the USA Today bestselling author of more than twenty romances. She likes stories about family, loyalty, and extraordinary characters who struggle with basic human emotions while dealing with bigger than life problems. JA loves writing heroes who make you swoon, heroines who makes you jealous, and the perfect Happily Ever After ending.

You can chat with her on Facebook (www.facebook.com/AuthorJAHuss), Twitter (@jahuss), and her blog, New Adult Addiction (www.jahuss.com).

If you’re interested in getting your hands on an advanced release copy of her upcoming books, sneak peek teasers, or information on her upcoming personal appearances, you can join her newsletter list (http://eepurl.com/JVhAr) and get those details delivered right to your inbox.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Amazon | Bookbub | Pinterest | Instagram

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GIVEAWAY!

Blitz-wide giveaway (INTL)

Signed copies of Taking Turns, Turning Back, and His Turn, plus a superfan swag pack and a $100 Gift Card.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Cover Reveal ~ The Truth about Porn Star Boyfriends by Sunniva Dee


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The Truth about Porn Star Boyfriends by Sunniva Dee

Publication date: August 15th 2017

Genres: Contemporary, New Adult, Romance

I guess I just forgot.

To ask him what he did for a living, I mean.

And by the time I did, I was in—balls deep, as he’d call it.

He was the perfect boyfriend.

Attentive, gorgeous, guessing my every wish and fulfilling them.

The sex was earth-shattering.

He even dealt with my crazy mom the way no one else could.

He popped the question, God, such a perfect guy.

There was just one issue:

He f*cked other girls on camera for a living.

How the hell do you deal with that?

Goodreads

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~Excerpt~

I slept over at his house. I did. I just couldn’t go home after everything he told me. I didn’t accept the invite to come with him on the boat today though. I didn’t ask him if he was going without me either. If he is, wouldn’t he be inviting some “friends,” some Alicias or Silks? I don’t want to know.

It’s not difficult to get my shifts back at Mintrer’s. With Il Signore’s nonna at the hospital, the family spends as much time at her bedside as they can.

Mom calls.

She sounds okay.

I need to verify in person even though Paul is next door, hopefully keeping her busy with his garden statues and homemade fountains. He likes my quirky mother because he’s quirky himself. That’s my guess anyway. I don’t think I can handle any new rocks hurled at Status Quo at the moment, especially not from Mom.

The boat is ready.

I only returned to my house two hours again, and this is what Ciro texts me? I roll my eyes. Frieda lowers the bagel she held up for me—everything or just sesame seeds?—and says, “That isn’t the porn star, is it?”

“Yeah, it’s Drake Constantine.” I pull out the syllables mocking him even though each sound opens my chest again.

“Well, at least he’s got a nice artist name. He’s no Jake daBoner or Cassius Erectus.”

I snort.

“Drake Constantine boned me in the ass last night,” she quotes as if from Shakespeare. She gazes beyond the bagel she now hols up like a skull.

I chuckle a little bit, and Frieda smiles. Smiles so wide it makes me feel guilty over everything I’ve put her through. I know she suffers with me. She didn’t sleep last night knowing I was with Ciro.

“What’s he saying?”

“He tells me he’s got the boat ready.”

“For that Catalina trip?”

“Mhmm.”

“You’re not doing that too, are you?” She drops the halves of the bagel into the toaster.

“Not the everything,” I say. “Can I have the sesame seed one instead?”

She presses her mouth together in a stern line but listens and fishes the everything one out and drops the sesame bagel in instead. “Happy now?”

“Very.”

“You’re not going, right?”

“No.” I want to slap my heart and my body for agreeing that we should say yes. “I already told you. I’m visiting Mom this morning, and then I’m working. If I get to do some overtime this weekend, I’m happy. I need the money, and I really don’t want to mope around the house.”

I’ll wait for you if you’re asleep.

I said I wasn’t going. Can’t. We

I hit “send” before I can finish the “We’re over, remember?” part. It was easier to yell it to him when I was furious. Today, I don’t know how I feel.

Why can’t you? He doesn’t ask about the We part? He knows.

“He’s so stubborn,” I murmur and type again.

Because, when are you seeing someone else for a f*** fest?

He deserves that I’m being crude. Hell, he’s being crude every hour of every work day.

He takes a moment to reply. Long enough for Frieda to scoot a plate and the tub of cream cheese in front of me. “Stop texting with him. You’re only dragging it out. You know that, right? I thought you’d blocked him.”

“He has a work phone too. On-freaking-call cell. Ha!”

~~~

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~Author Bio~

Between studies, teaching, and advising, Sunniva has spent her entire adult life in a college environment. Most of her novels are new adult romance geared toward smart, passionate readers with a love for eclectic language and engaging their brain as well as their heart while reading.

Born in the Land of the Midnight Sun, the author spent her early twenties making the world her playground. Southern Europe: Spain, Italy, Greece–Argentina: Buenos Aires, in particular. The United States finally kept her interest, and after half a decade in Los Angeles, she now lounges in the beautiful city of Savannah.

Sometimes, Sunniva writes with a paranormal twist (Shattering Halos, Stargazer, and Cat Love). At other times, it’s contemporary (Pandora Wild Child, Leon’s Way, Adrenaline Crush, Walking Heartbreak, and Dodging Trains, coming in late March 2016).

This author is the happiest when her characters let their emotions run off with them, shaping her stories in ways she never foresaw. She loves bad-boys and good-boys run amok, and like in real life, her goal is to keep the reader on her toes until the end of each story.

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~GIVEAWAY~

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Book Blitz ~ Grind by Sybil Bartel: Excerpt + Giveaway!


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Grind by Sybil Bartel

(Thrust, #3)

Publication date: June 27th 2017

Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance

Dane

I’m silent. I’m trained. I’m lethal.

My hand skimming down your thigh, my gaze a weapon—I know more ways to kill you than please you.

But you’re not paying for my aim. You’re paying for my control. Bringing you a breath away from ecstasy, watching you beg as I hold back your release, I’ll show you exactly what you’ve been missing. Your hunger is my currency and five thousand is my price. I only have one rule—no repeats, because I’m not for keeps. I’m for sale.

One slow grind and I’ll give you exactly what you paid for.

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooksKobo

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~Excerpt~

“I don’t have any money to pay you.” He knew I didn’t, but I wasn’t saying it just to remind him.

“I don’t want you to pay me.” He held his hand out. “Come on.”

My heart raced and the whisper of his scent through the rainwater drenching his body filled my head. I ached to touch him. “Where?”

“To bed.”

“I can’t… with you.” I had reasons, but I was rapidly forgetting them.

His hand never wavered. “I need sleep. You need sleep. I’ll rest better if I know where you are. Come.”

Knowing I shouldn’t, knowing I was crossing an invisible line I would never return from, I gave him my hand.

He didn’t hesitate. He pulled me to my feet and took a step.

I panicked. “Wait.” Oh God, don’t say it, don’t say it. “I can’t do this. This will mean something to me that it doesn’t to you.”

Cool gray-brown eyes stared down at me without mercy. “Do not speak for me.”

“I just meant—”

“I know what you meant.”

I gave him the truth because it was all I had left. “You’re taking what I don’t have to give.”

His shoulders dropped, his frame leaned toward me, and he lowered his voice to a barely audible whisper. “Trust me.” Rain dripped from his cheek and landed on my arm. “This is what I ask of you, only this. Nothing else.”

If you could fall in love in a single moment with a perfect stranger, I fell in love. “You will break me, Dane Marek,” I whispered.

“You are already broken, Irina Tsarko.”

~~~

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~Author Bio~

Sybil Bartel grew up in Northern California with her head in a book and her feet in the sand. She dreamt of becoming a painter but the heady scent of libraries with their shelves full of books drew her into the world of storytelling. She loves the New Adult genre, but any story about a love so desperately wrong and impossibly beautiful makes her swoon.

Sybil now resides in Southern Florida and while she doesn’t get to read as much as she likes, she still buries her toes in the sand. If she isn’t writing or fighting to contain the banana plantation in her backyard, you can find her spending time with her handsomely tattooed husband, her brilliantly practical son and a mischievous miniature boxer…

But Seriously?

Here are ten things you probably really want to know about Sybil.

She grew up a faculty brat. She can swear like a sailor. She loves men in uniform. She hates being told what to do. She can do your taxes (but don’t ask). The Bird Market in Hong Kong freaks her out. Her favorite word is desperate…or dirty, or both—she can’t decide. She has a thing for muscle cars. But never reply on her for driving directions, ever. And she has a new book boyfriend every week—don’t tell her husband.

To find out more about Sybil Bartel, be sure to follow her on Twitter (she loves to hear about your favorite book boyfriend!), visit her website, like her on Facebook or join her Facebook group Book Boyfriend Heroes for exclusive excerpts and giveaways.

Website | Goodreads | Facebok | Book Boyfriend Heroes | Twitter | Bookbub | Amazon | Newsletter

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~Giveaway~

One (1) ebook copy of Thrust by Sybil Bartel (gifted via Amazon). Open internationally

Enter Here: a Rafflecopter giveaway  (Giveaway will run from June 29 – July 10)

Blitz-wide giveaway (INTL)

$25 Amazon gift card

Enter Here:a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Book Blitz ~ I Need You by Ashley Hampton


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I Need You by Ashley Hampton

(Southern Rock Lyrics Series #3)

Publication date: June 7th 2017

Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance

Hannah Walker and Igor Finley have everything they need – family, friends, and a strong future together. Instead of happy and easy “I do’s,” there is last minute wedding drama and an uninvited and unexpected guest threatening to ruin it all. Will Hannah become Mrs. Igor Finley? Or will this be the end of Hannah and Finley?

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | iBooks

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~Excerpt~

I snuggled closer to Finley as my phone beeped again. Didn’t anyone sleep anymore? The text was from Stacy telling me they were leaving Raleigh and would arrive in about three hours. The caravan was much slower than they anticipated.

I wanted some alone time with Finley before they arrived. Because of his stupid no sex idea, I decided I would avoid temptation and get out of bed. Just a couple more days to wait. The best part – I could forever remind him what a dumb idea this was just in case he had any other brilliant ones like this in the future.

My feet hit the floor, and Finley groaned. “Don’t go,” he begged.

I giggled. “Your dumb idea, loverboy. Everyone is leaving Raleigh. We have a lot to do before this evening, and it’s time to get started. I’m going to shower.”

He pulled the comforter over his head.

“Oh, I turned the coffee pot on, by the way.”

Finley peeked his head out. “I fucking love you. You know the sexiest things to say.”

I knew he was still looking, so I took off my t-shirt and dropped it on the floor as I entered the bathroom. One catcall later, and I closed the shower door.

I was blow drying my hair when Finley brought me a cup of coffee. He half perched on the counter and waited for me to finish.

“Ah, my hero. Thanks, babe,” I leaned in for a kiss and grabbed my coffee cup instead. A sip of the hot liquid made every penny worth it for the new coffeemaker I could turn on with my phone. Finley allowed a second sip before he took my cup and placed it on the counter.

He sat on the edge of the tub and pulled me into his lap. “Can we talk before things get crazy today?”

I nodded even though I wanted to ignore all the serious, emotional topics for today and instead get lost in what promised to be a day full of fun and insanity.

“Everything on point for a good, fun day?” he asked.

“Yes, that’s what I want. I don’t want to get bogged down in the emotions. I just want to have a fun day with our family.” I swear sometimes I felt as if he knew me better than I knew myself.

~~~

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~Author Bio~

Ashley Hampton works as a Licensed Psychologist in private practice during the day. When she leaves work, she puts on her writer and photographer hats and enjoys living in the worlds created in her mind. She lives near her hometown of Birmingham, Alabama with her cat, Gemma. Ashley wanted to find a creative way to meld her love for music and psychology with writing, and the Southern Rock Lyrics series was born. With other series planned, Ashley wants to write in the romance, erotica, and psychological thriller genres.

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~Giveaway~

Blitz-wide giveaway (INTL)

  • Three Signed Paperbacks of I Need You
  • Three Signed Paperbacks of I Never Dreamed
  • Three Signed Paperbacks of Breeze
  • Two $25 Amazon Gift Cards
  • TEN Random Swag Packs (Signed & Unsigned)

Enter Here : a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Cover Reveal ~ Open Wounds: Abel & Hope by Inger Iversen


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Open Wounds: Abel & Hope by Inger Iversen

(A Love Against the Odds Novel)

Publication date: June 28th 2017

Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance

If you could see your life from inception to your death, would you change things or would you let your death play out as fate intended?

Abel is in search of only two things. A stable job and a safe place to lay his head at night after a mistake that cost him eighteen months of his life. As if fate had plans made only for him, Abel is offered a complicated job, and a chance to redeem himself to his old boss.

And then he meets her…

And Abel adds another item to his list—Hope.

At twenty-six, Hope has only ever slept with one man, and at her boss’s unsolicited advice, Hope plans to forget the abuse and degradation she suffered at her ex’s hand by seducing and bedding the next man she meets. Only, after Hope finds a promise of death at her doorstep, her plans are derailed and only chance at staying alive rests on the dedication of her new bodyguard and her own sheer will to live the life she deserves.

Goodreads | Pre-order

AND – look out for the last book in the series, Weathered Souls: Ivory & Eric, coming this fall!

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~Excerpt~

Once Thea and Lex dropped off the groceries, Abel started cooking away. Hope’s mouth watered as scents wafted through the kitchen and met her nose. If the aroma from whatever was brewing on the stove was any indication, that man could cook.

Hope had always watched her figure while married to Mark. All it took was one extra pound, and he’d make sure her life was even more of a living hell than it already was. Every night, he’d force her onto the scale, and every night, he would find something about her body that needed to change. Your thighs shouldn’t meet in the middle. It’s disgusting. Hope’s stomach twisted in fear at the thought of placing food in her mouth. If you cared about the way you looked, this wouldn’t be necessary.

Mark’s voice was engrained in her head, and the memories of his degradation were the only reason she hadn’t gorged herself the second she was free. Because in the back of her mind, she would never truly be free of Mark. Perhaps, one day, her physical wounds would heal, but her soul would be forever scarred.

No excuses,” Abel muttered as he opened a steaming pot and stirred.

His comment pulled her from her memories. She glanced up. “Excuse me?”

Lifting a container of spices, Abel shook a liberal amount into the pot. “You’re going to eat, and then you’re going to sleep a full eight hours tonight.” Stirring the sauce, he added, “No excuses.”

Hope prickled at the demand in his tone. “I’m not a five-year-old.”

“No excuses.” He hadn’t even looked up, just stood there stirring, while she silently fumed.

She’d had enough of men telling her what to do. Taking in a deep breath with the intention of telling him just that, she paused. Abel had leaned down and opened the oven door. The scent of marinara sauce, baked cheeses, seasoned meat, and Italian seasoning assaulted her senses, and she could do nothing but stare in wonderment at the man in her kitchen.

“You’re underweight and have bags under your eyes.”

Though his words stung, Hope didn’t even flinch at his observation. The aroma coming from the oven had moved her to her feet, and she was now standing inches from him. It wasn’t as if she’d never smelled decent food before; it had just been a long time since she’d contemplated eating a delicious meal without the fear of gaining an ounce.

“It’s hard to eat healthy when you are on the run.” The excuse flew out of her mouth, as a force of habit.

Abel slightly lifted a brow, letting her know he didn’t believe her. “That changes tonight.” He turned his body to the side, making room for her to sidle up next to him. “For tonight, we’ll be dining on lasagna, Caesar salad, and garlic bread.” Gently, he took hold of her hand, his warmth invading her cold palm the second he touched her. Guiding her hand to the wooden spoon, he said, “Stir.” Then moved away from the oven and began to prepare the bread.

Hope stirred the sauce, light-headed from Abel’s magnetic touch. Of course, she was already riding on cloud nine at the thought of a full belly and a full night’s rest. But while she was hesitant to believe she’d be able to sleep through the night, Hope prayed Abel’s presence would trick her mind into believing she was safe—at least for now.

“Why are you making this sauce, if the lasagna is already in the oven?”

Abel didn’t glance up from smearing butter on the rolls as he spoke. “That is spaghetti sauce. We’ll make a lot of it, divide it up into containers, then freeze it.” He sprinkled some garlic powder onto the buttered rolls. “Can you turn the heat down under the sauce? We’ll need to let it simmer for another twenty minutes. Then pull the lasagna out of the oven, please.”

Hope did as she was told. Leaning her face over the cheesy meal, she inhaled. “Jesus, this smells like five pounds.” She regretted the words as soon as they left her mouth, but she couldn’t take them back. She turned to Abel to apologize for her crudeness, but instead of meeting angry eyes, she found his soft gaze.

“Listen to me.” He moved to her, his gait sure and steady. “You’re beautiful as is.” His words knocked her a bit off kilter. She opened her mouth to disagree, but Abel softly placed a finger over her lips to hush her. “When I make comments about your weight, it’s not because you aren’t attractive. It’s because I understand the stress your body is under. I want you strong and alert—always. After all this is said and done, you can go ahead and drop the pounds again, if that’s what you want.

“But never confuse me with Mark. I am not him. Whatever comments he made, or whatever way he made you feel about your body, starts and stops with him. I am not that man, and I never will be. We just need to get you healthy again.”

Hope was unsure of what to say. No one had called her beautiful in years. Mark had only ever complimented her when they were dating, and if another man so much as glanced at her, Mark would remind her that her thighs touched and men didn’t like that. Hope knew she wasn’t ugly, but she didn’t feel beautiful; she hadn’t for some time now. To hear Abel say it with such sincerity, while looking nowhere but in her eyes, made her feel good.

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~Author Bio~

Inger Iversen was born in 1982 to Anne and Kaii Iversen. She lives in Virginia Beach with her overweight lap cat, Max and her tree hugging boyfriend Joshua. She spends 90 percent of her time in Barnes and Noble and the other ten pretending not to want to be in Barnes and Noble.

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