Excerpt Reveal – Scoring the Billionaire by Max Monroe

Can I just say….WOW!  I can’t wait to read the 3rd book in this series, but I gotta tell you, from the excerpt, this book is going to be amazing!!!!
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Scoring the Billionaire
Billionaire Bad Boys #3
Release Date: October 25, 2016

Preorder: http://www.authormaxmonroe.com/books
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Two love-matches made.
One to go.

Even though two of his best friends have settled down, Wes Lancaster is determined not to get sucked into some siren’s web. As owner of the professional football team the New York Mavericks and wildly successful BAD restaurant, his lifestyle is full as it is.

Well, it was, until Winnie Winslow, the new, sexy, stiletto-wearing Team Physician trash-talks him in the locker room without batting an eye.

Now he can’t stop himself from wanting her.

The only girl in her parents’ brood of five, she’s as outspoken as she is beautiful and the kind of woman who holds her own—and then some.

Always competitive at heart, if he’s going all in for love…
Wes sure as hell wants a Win-Win.

Prepare to get a little dirty because this one might go into overtime.
Game. On.

Disclaimer:
In a survey of ten fictional doctors, nine agreed that at the conclusion of this book, you may be in serious danger of having your ovaries explode. Please proceed with caution.

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Excerpt Reveal – Boondocks by Casey Peeler

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From the first beat of the song, I begin to sing every dang word to her, and she begins to laugh as I put on the bad boy front that everyone already believes. As verse two starts, I move in closer to her, and when he references the bad toy in the parking lot, I point to where my bike’s parked. She takes a step toward me, and I hope and pray that her dad is not looking because it’s about to get hot in here… quick. Chauna begins to sway her hips in rhythm with me and sing right along with me. As the final chorus plays, she looks over her shoulder and smiles as she turns to whisper into my ear.

“Walker, I wanna bad boy,” she says with a slight laugh. When the song ends, we wait for the next, and as I look toward the tables, I see Logan. It’s obvious he’s pissed, which isn’t what I need because I really wanted to be his friend.

As Jackson’s Wheel takes the stage again, we get a drink, and around eleven when the adults begin to show, we decide to head out to our spot. Once we get there, we don’t waste any time getting as close to each other as possible.

My hands find her skin, and she begins to laugh. “What’s so funny?” I ask.

“Nothing, bad boy,” she says.

“Oh, you want a bad boy, huh?” I say roughly.

“Damn right, I do.”

 

Boondocks by Casey Peeler releases on October 25th.

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“One twist of the lid changed everything…”

 

PRE-ORDER TODAY!

Amazon: http://amzn.to/2eaJIUw

iBooks: http://apple.co/2bhHeTF

Nook: http://bit.ly/2bfPsLt

Goodreads: http://bit.ly/2asel2f (add this to your TBR)

#PreOrder #ComingSoon #OneClick #99cents

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One twist of the lid changed everything…

The devil sat on my shoulder from my first breath, he watched my every move, and with the first strike of lightnin’ I was pulled under.

Walking into Boondocks the voice of an angel called to me and I vowed to live a better life.  She kept me on the righteous path until Satan called one last time.

It was time to take him down or lose my angel forever.

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Casey Peeler grew up in North Carolina and still lives there with her husband and daughter.

Growing up Casey wasn’t an avid reader or writer, but after reading Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neal Hurston during her senior year of high school, and multiple Nicholas Sparks’ novels, she found a hidden love and appreciation for reading.  That love ignited the passion for writing several years later, and her writing style combines real life scenarios with morals and values teenagers need in their daily lives.

When Casey isn’t writing, you can find her near a body of water listening to country music with a cold beverage and a great book.

Connect with Casey

Website: www.authorcaseypeeler.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/caseypeelerauthor

Twitter: www.twitter.com/AuthorCasey

Instagram: @AuthorCasey

Snapchat: @authorcpeeler

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Release Blitz – Tease Me by Roxy Sloane

 

 

Title: Tease Me
Series: The Temptation Duet #2
Author: Roxy Sloane
Genre: Contemporary/Erotic Romance 
 Release Date: October 13, 2016


Blurb
USA Today bestselling author Roxy Sloane brings you the sizzling, filthy conclusion to the Temptation duet!A woman’s mouth will tell you anything, but her body never lies.
That’s how I like it. I don’t get caught up in any drama, and I sure as hell don’t get attached.
Until her: Chloe Archer.
She started as a job, but now she’s more than that. And now I know how it feels to claim her, I don’t want anyone but her. On her knees. Spread wide on my bed. Up against the wall and screaming my name. I’m not fussy. I’ll take it all, a hundred times over, and still crave one more taste.
There’s just one problem: this time, I’m the one who’s lied. I guess what they say is true. Karma can be a real bitch sometimes.
But karma’s got nothing on me. I’m not giving Chloe up without a fight, and you better believe, I play dirty.
That girl doesn’t stand a chance. My body doesn’t lie either, and I’m going to show her just what the truth feels like.
Every inch. Every thrust.
All the way to the fucking hilt.
Yeah, Chloe belongs to me now. She just doesn’t know it yet.

 

Purchase Links

 

AMAZON US / UK / CA / AU

 

 

Also Available

AMAZON US / UK / CA / AU

 

 

Author Bio

 

Romance lover, reader, and writer of sexy, fast paced, and erotic stories featuring dirty talking alphas, billionaires, Doms, and more!

Author Links
Giveaway

Excerpt Tour – Bound to Submit by Laura Kaye

 

Decadent… Sensual… Forbidden…

12 Masters. 12 Desires. 12 Fantasies Come to Life.
Meet the Masters of Blasphemy…

 

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About Bound to Submit:

From the ruins of an abandoned church comes Baltimore’s hottest and most exclusive BDSM club. Twelve Masters. Infinite fantasies. Welcome to Blasphemy…

He thinks he caused her pain, but she knows he’s the only one who can heal her…

Kenna Sloane lost her career and her arm in the Marines, and now she feels like she’s losing herself. Submission is the only thing that ever freed her from pain and made her feel secure, and Kenna needs to serve again. Bad. The only problem is the Dom she wants once refused her submission and broke her heart, but, scarred on the inside and out, she’s not looking for love this time. She’s not even sure she’s capable.

Griffin Hudson is haunted by the mistakes that cost him the only woman he ever loved. Now she’s back at his BDSM club, Blasphemy, and more beautiful than ever, and she’s asking for his help with the pain he knows he caused. Even though he’s scared to hurt her again, he can’t refuse her, because he’d give anything to earn a second chance. And this time, he’ll hold on forever.

 

Order Bound to Submit in ebook or paperback, releasing 10/11/16

Amazon | iBooks | Kobo| Barnes & Noble

Add to your Goodreads

 

Excerpt:

Hey everyone! I’m so excited for the release of Bound to Submit, the first official book in my brand new and super-hot Blasphemy series! And today, I’m sharing an excerpt from the book, an erotic second-chance love story featuring a tormented Dom and a veteran amputee heroine – this is my first story with a female veteran and I adored writing Kenna’s character! I hope you’ll enjoy this taste and pick up your copy – and welcome to Blasphemy!

Now, here’s a peak at the emotion and connection between Griffin and Kenna in Bound to Submit – enjoy!

 

“You came for me,” Kenna whispered, peering up at Griffin standing at her front door. She hadn’t thought she wanted to see him tonight after their fight, but now she knew she was wrong. Because, God, his rugged face looked a whole lot like coming home.

 

“I did,” he said, stepping closer. So close that his heat warmed her body. “And I’ll keep doing it until you tell me to stop.”

 

“Griffin,” she whispered, the intensity in his voice stirring so much inside her. Feelings, memories, desires.

 

“Aw, baby, come here,” he said, pulling her into a bear hug so comforting that she choked out a little cry from the sheer relief of it.

 

Kenna buried her face in his broad chest and breathed him in. Her arms circled his strong back, and then they stood there for a long time, just holding each other. How could he make her feel so much when they’d been apart for so long? Why did this feel so natural with Griffin despite those years? How could she find a moment like this one, of such peace and solace, after all they’d been through?

 

She didn’t know, but part of her wondered if the whys and hows mattered. Some people waited their wholes lives to find even a fraction of what she felt in that moment. Maybe that was what mattered. Maybe that was all that mattered.

 

“Can I please come in?” he asked, his lips against her hair.

 

She nodded, motioning for him to enter. “It’s, um, it’s not much.” She looked around the small studio—it looked like a dorm, only without any personality or color.

 

“It’s where you are,” he said. “That’s all that matters to me.”

 

He was killing her with his sweetness right now, he really was. “Um. Okay.” She grasped the end of her stump, shielding it with her hand. “Can I get you something to drink? I think I have—”

 

“Baby.” He got right up in her space again.

 

“What?”

 

Baby,” he whispered, leaning in close. His lips brushed her cheek. “You don’t have to entertain me. You don’t have to hide from me.” Gently, he pulled her fingers from what was left of her forearm.

 

She released a shaky breath. “It’s not pretty.”

 

He shook his head and made a noise low in his throat. “No, it’s not. It’s fucking beautiful. Because it’s a part of you. A part of you that got injured in the service of your country, Kenna. Your arm is a damn badge of honor as far as I’m concerned. Come here.”

 

A warm pressure expanded within her chest. What was he doing to her? Because right now, his words were wrapping around her as tight as his ropes ever did.

 

 

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a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

October 5

Red Hot + Blue Reads – Review & Excerpt

Books,Dreams,Life – Excerpt

Curvy and Nerdy – Review

Mommys naughty playground – Review

The BookWhisperer – Review

October 6

GraveTells – Excerpt

Guilty Pleasures Book Reviews – Review & Excerpt

SBB Reviews – Review & Excerpt

She Hearts Books – Review

Sofia Loves Books – Review

October 7

Read more sleep less – Review

MrsLeif’s Two Fangs About It – Excerpt

Smut Book Junkie Reviews – Review & Excerpt

Stephanie’s Sexy Reads – Review & Excerpt

October 8

Ashley Book Blog – Review & Excerpt

Books According to Abby – Review & Excerpt

Sheila’s book Corner – Review & Excerpt

AC BOOK BLOG – Review

October 9

The Reading Café – Review & Excerpt

Brittany’s Book Blog – Excerpt

We Stole Your Book Boyfriend – Review

Sweet&Spicy Reads – Review

Angel Rhodes – Excerpt

October 10

Novel Addiction – Review & Excerpt

About That Story – Excerpt

Krista’s Dust Jacket – Review & Excerpt

My Book Snack – Excerpt

What I’m Reading – Review & Excerpt

The Book Hammock – Review & Excerpt

October 11

My Girlfriends Couch – Review & Excerpt

NightWolf Book Blog – Review

Sweetreads: You’re in for a Treat – Review & Excerpt

Lynn’s Romance Enthusiasm – Review

October 12

Amo& Sarah’s Book Corner – Review

Wickedcoolflight – Review & Excerpt

The Book Sirens – Review

Renee Entress’s Blog – Review & Excerpt

JJ’s kinky books – Review & Excerpt

Fictional Rendezvous Book Blog – Excerpt

October 13

EskieMama Reads – Review & Excerpt

Nice Ladies, Naughty Books – Excerpt

Reviews from the Heart – Review

Pink Lace & Silver Buckles Book Blog – Review & Excerpt

Obsessive Reading Disorder – Review & Excerpt

Loves Great Reads Blog – Review

October 14

Redhot Romance – Review

Reading in Pajamas – Review & Excerpt
V’s Reads-Review & Excerpt

Knotty Girl Reviews – Review

Romanticamente Fantasy Sito – Review & Excerpt

Feeling Fictional – Review & Excerpt

Wicked Babes Blog Reviews – Review & Excerpt

October 15

Bookaliciousbabes Blog – Review

Dog-Eared Daydreams – Review

Nerdy Dirty & Flirty – Review

Melena’s Reviews – Review & Excerpt

TLBC’s Book Blog – Review & Excerpt

Romance Reviews and More – Review & Excerpt

October 16

Books&Lovers – Review & Excerpt

Kelsey’s Corner Time – Review & Excerpt

Four Chicks Flipping Pages – Review

Talking Books Blog – Excerpt

Nose Stuck in a Book – Review & Excerpt

October 17

Books to Breathe – Excerpt

Friends Till The End Book Blog – Excerpt

The Book Reading Gals – Review & Excerpt

The Silver Dagger Scriptorium – Review & Excerpt

Lit. 4 Ladies – Excerpt

October 18

BJ’s Reviews – Excerpt

Becky on Books – Review

Bloggin’ With M.Brennan – Review

Hart’s Romance Pulse – Review

Shakespeare’s Wench Book Blog – Review

JordansBookReviews – Excerpt

Liezel’s Book Blog – Review & Excerpt

Reading Between the Wines Book Club – Excerpt

October 19

Bookcrack – Review

DRC Promotions – Review & Excerpt

Ramblings From This Chick – Excerpt

Shelly’s Book Corner – Review

Cara’s Book Boudoir – Review

Kolleen’s Book Obsessions – Review

Read-Love-Blog – Review

October 20

True Story Book Blog – Review

Book Nook Nuts – Review & Excerpt

Books 2 Blog – Review & Excerpt

Books Need TLC – Review

Deluged with Books Café – Review & Excerpt

The book obsessed momma – Review

October 21

Naughty Moms’ Story Time – Review

G & T’s Indie Café – Excerpt

Love Drug Book Blog – Review & Excerpt

More Books ThanLivros – Review

Wicked Reads – Review & Excerpt

Ripe For Reader-Review & Excerpt

 

 

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“A searingly sexy story with some of the hottest scenes I’ve read in a long, long time. Laura Kaye shows her mastery of the BDSM world. I’m eagerly anticipating more in this bold new series!

~ Cherise Sinclair, NYT Bestselling Author of the Masters of the Shadowlands Series

“Smoldering and sexy, Laura Kaye’s Blasphemy series is everything I look for in a romance. Haunted heroes and strong heroines populate this one of a kind club and I can’t wait to see the big bad Doms fall one by one.”

~ Lexi Blake, NYT Bestselling Author of the Masters and Mercenaries Series

 

 

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Meet the Masters of Blasphemy in Hard to Serve, now available in paperback and ebook

 

 

laura-kaye-headshotAbout Laura Kaye:

Laura is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of over twenty-five books in contemporary and paranormal romance and romantic suspense, including the Hard Ink and Raven Riders series. Growing up, Laura’s large extended family believed in the supernatural, and family lore involving angels, ghosts, and evil-eye curses cemented in Laura a life-long fascination with storytelling and all things paranormal. She lives in Maryland with her husband, two daughters, and cute-but-bad dog, and appreciates her view of the Chesapeake Bay every day.

 

 

 

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Newsletter SignUp

 

 

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Spotlight Tour – Saving Jake by Sharon Sala

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Dear Reader:

I welcome you to Blessings, Georgia, the best small town in the South.

No, there aren’t any secrets kept here, and yes, everybody knows your business, but when bad things happen, good people come to your rescue.

I grew up in a place like that—-a place everyone should live in at least once in their lives, but since that’s not possible, I’m offering the next best thing: stories about that way of life—-touching stories, funny stories, stories that will break your heart on one page and heal it on the next.

Count Your Blessings was the novella introducing my readers to the Georgia landscape.

You and Only You was the first full-length novel set in Blessings. It’s a story about the faithfulness of friends and family and what it means to be Southern to the core, as well as being a sweet love story to enjoy.

I’ll Stand By You was the second full-length novel. It’s a story about how people starting life off on the wrong foot can still find a way to live happy ever after.

Saving Jake is the next story, the one you’re holding in your hands. It’s a story that gets to the heart of what matters in life: redemption, forgiveness, and trust. It’s a story of the times, and yet timeless in its simplicity.

Pick up one of my stories and take a visit to Blessings with me.

You just might like it enough to stay.

See you between the pages,

Sharon Sala

Chapter 1

Thomas Wolfe once wrote, “You can never go home again.” Jacob Lorde never took the word of a stranger. He was on the way home, marking the passing of every mile with a war-weary soul. He needed a place to heal and Blessings, Georgia, the place where he grew up, was calling him.

He’d come back briefly over a year ago to bury his father, and the calm and peace of the place had stayed with him long after he’d returned to his unit. Only a couple of months later, an IED on one patrol too many earned him a long stint in the hospital and brought his time with the army to an end.

Now he was coming home to try and bury the soldier he’d been.

He wanted to be done with war.

He needed peace.

He needed the emotional security that comes with knowing where he belonged.

He needed that like he needed air to breathe, so when the Greyhound bus in which he was riding came around the curve and he saw the city-limit sign of Blessings gleaming in the early morning sunlight, his eyes blurred with sudden tears. He took the sunglasses from the pocket of his uniform and slipped them on, then held his breath as the bus began to stop.

The brakes squeaked. They needed oil.

Jake stood slowly, easing the stiffness in a still-healing leg, walked down the aisle, and then out into a sweet Georgia morning. He took a deep breath, smelling pine trees on the mountains around him and the scent of smoke from someone’s fireplace.

He was home.

The driver pulled his duffel bag from the luggage rack beneath the bus, shook his hand, and got back on board. The rest of the trip home was on Jake.

***

Ruby Dye had just opened The Curl Up and Dye when the Greyhound bus rolled through Blessings, belching black smoke from the exhaust. Because the bus came through Blessings on a regular basis, she never paid it any attention, but today it began slowing down. When it stopped, she moved closer to the window, waiting to see who got off, but the only person she saw was the driver who circled the bus to remove luggage from the carrier beneath.

A few moments later, the bus drove away in a small cloud of the same black smoke. It was then Ruby saw the man in uniform reaching down to get his duffel bag. From this distance she couldn’t tell who it was, but he was limping slightly as he walked away.

“Welcome home, soldier,” she said softly, and then went back to work.

***

Jake paused on the sidewalk and took a deep breath as the early morning air filled his lungs. Enveloped by the silence, he exhaled slowly as the weariness of the bus ride fell away. Shifting the duffel bag to rest easier on his shoulder, he headed south. Unless he caught a ride somewhere between here and home, he had a six-mile hike ahead of him, but after sitting for so long, he didn’t care.

As he walked through town, it was somewhat comforting to see everything pretty much looked the same. Granny’s Country Kitchen still appeared to be the main place to eat. He thought about stopping there for breakfast, but food wasn’t as urgent a need as it was to see home.

He continued south down Main, noticing one thing had changed. The old barbershop was closed. There was a sign in the window that read: Haircuts Available at The Curl Up and Dye. He smiled, remembering Ruby Dye and the girls at her shop.

When he noticed a school bus heading out of town, he guessed the driver was beginning his route and thought of all the boys and girls hurrying around in their homes right now, getting ready for school, still innocent of what life could do to their dreams.

Traffic was picking up by the time he reached Ralph’s, the small quick stop at the edge of town. He’d already had the utilities turned on at the house a month earlier, had cable set up so he’d have television service, and had the house cleaned at that time as well. But there wasn’t any food, and picking up a few things here would be enough to tide him over while he settled in. The bell over the doorway jingled as he walked in, which made everyone in the store turn and look.

Jake knew the army uniform he was wearing and the military duffel bag marked him as a vet and wondered if there was anyone inside who might give him a ride.

Ralph Sinclair, who had always reminded Jake of Santa Claus because of his white hair and beard, was behind the counter. “Jake! I heard you might be coming home. It’s good to see you!”

“Hi, Ralph. It’s good to be here,” Jake said.

He set his duffel bag against the counter, picked up a small shopping basket, and started moving down the aisles. He was reaching for a squeeze bottle of mustard when he heard someone call out his name. When he turned to look and saw Truman Slade standing at the end of the aisle, the first thought that went through his head was, Well, hell. Probably the only enemy he had in the entire state, and he was not only out of prison, but back in Blessings. A muscle jerked in his jaw as he forced himself not to react.

***

Truman Slade was two hundred and twenty-three pounds of pure mean, exacerbated by the years he’d spent in prison thanks to Jake Lorde’s testimony against him. Truman didn’t give a damn that all of that had happened when Jake was still in high school. All he knew was the kid’s statement at his trial sent him to prison for eight years. The years and Truman’s lifestyle had not been kind to him. Even when he was young, his short legs and big, round face, plus a distinct underbite, had given him a bulldog look. Now he had the big belly to go with it.

The moment he’d seen Jake Lorde walk in the door, his first thought had been time for payback. He walked up to where Jake was standing, pushed himself into Jake’s personal space, and waited for him to react. He so wanted to whip his ass.

To Truman’s dismay, Jake didn’t acknowledge his presence. Instead, he calmly reached over Truman’s head for a loaf of bread, which accentuated how short Truman really was, and how tall Jake had grown. As he did, his elbow grazed the tip of Truman’s nose, which made Truman flinch. Jake was acting as if Truman were invisible. When he turned around and moved a few steps down and put a box of granola in the basket with the bread and mustard, Truman followed.

“Still afraid of your own shadow?” Truman whispered, then made a gun with his hand and pointed it at Jake.

Jake stared at Truman until he flushed a dark, angry red and shoved both hands in his pockets. Jake walked back to his duffel bag, pulled a big handgun from a side pocket, gave Truman another look, and then slapped it down on the counter in front of Ralph.

“Hey, Ralph, do you know where I could get ammo for this?”

Truman heard Ralph talking, but he couldn’t focus on the words, thinking of that look Jake had given him. It was just beginning to dawn on Truman that war had changed Jake Lorde in a dangerous way. By the time he tuned back in on what was being said, Jake had shoved the handgun back into his bag and was at the deli, waiting to get some lunch meat and cheese sliced to take home.

Truman was leaning against the counter with a smirk on his face, and when Jake approached with his shopping basket to pay, Truman purposefully slid his shoe in front of Jake, intending to force him to step aside. Instead, Jake took the next step right on top of Truman’s shoe and then stopped.

Truman inhaled sharply. The bastard was standing on his foot! He started to push Jake off, and then something told him not to lay a hand on the man. By his own actions, he was momentarily pinned to the floor.

Jake paid, picked up the groceries, shouldered his duffel bag, and left the store.

Truman groaned beneath his breath when the pressure on his foot was released and then hobbled out the door and drove toward town. He needed to put distance between him and Jake Lorde to recoup his swagger.

As for Jake, his head was pounding as he walked out of the store. The blood raced through his veins the same way it had done at the end of a deadly exchange of gunfire. Even though the morning air was cool, he could almost feel the desert heat. Despite his inability to focus, instinct kept him moving toward home.

***

Laurel Payne was on her way into Blessings to an early morning cleaning job. She would have to drop her daughter, Bonnie, off at a friend’s house in town until it was time for them to walk to school. There were always difficulties arising from being a single parent, and having good friends to help her out like this made her life a little easier.

She was less than a mile from town when she saw the soldier walking on the side of the road. Her heart skipped a beat. The sight of a man in uniform was still a painful reminder of her own husband, Adam, who’d come home from a war without a single wound and then shot and killed himself only a few months later.

As for the traveler, she knew who he was even before she got close enough to see his face. She knew because she’d been the one who’d cleaned his father’s house weeks earlier. He was not a stranger. He was a few years older, but she’d known him all her life.

When she passed him, the first thing she thought was that the neighborly thing to do would be to give him a ride home, but she didn’t want to reawaken the sleeping demons in her life by befriending anyone who reminded her of Adam. Then she glanced in the rearview mirror, saw the slight limp in his stride, and her heart sank. Despite her reservations about getting involved, she hit the brakes.

“Mommy, what are we doing?” Bonnie asked, as Laurel made a U-turn in the road.

“I’m going to give Mr. Lorde a ride home,” she said.

Bonnie frowned. “But Mr. Lorde went to heaven already. Did he come back?”

Laurel sighed. “No, honey. That man we just passed is his son.”

“Oh,” Bonnie said, but her curiosity was piqued.

***

Jake saw the old pickup coming toward him but paid it little mind because it was going the wrong way to do him any good. When it came closer, he noticed a young woman and a child inside, but didn’t recognize them. He nodded politely as they passed and kept on walking.

When he was a little farther down the road, he heard the vehicle braking, then turning around, and his first instinct was to brace for another confrontation. When the pickup caught up with him and stopped, he didn’t know what to expect.

Laurel rolled down the window and managed a brief smile.

“Jake Lorde?”

“Yeah?”

“I’m Laurel Payne, your neighbor down the road. Get in and I’ll take you home.”

Jake breathed an easy sigh of relief. “Thanks,” he said, and put his things in the truck bed. He saw the little girl in the backseat as he opened the door and winked at her as he got in.

Bonnie was immediately charmed, partly because he reminded her of her father, whom she missed, and partly because he belonged to Mr. Lorde, whom she had adored.

Laurel waited until he settled before she accelerated.

“Welcome home,” she said shyly, and kept her eyes on the road.

“Thank you,” Jake said, trying to figure out who she was, and then it hit him. “You were Laurel Joyner, right?”

She nodded.

“You said it’s Payne now. By any chance did you marry Adam Payne? I knew him in high school.”

“Yes, I did,” she said.

“My daddy is dead,” Bonnie announced.

Laurel sighed. “That’s my daughter, Bonnie. She’s a first-grader this year.”

“Hello, Bonnie. I’m sorry about your daddy, and I’m sorry for your loss,” he told Laurel.

“Thank you,” Laurel said, but when she wasn’t forthcoming with any further information, Jake didn’t push the issue.

A few minutes later they drove up on the mailbox at the end of his driveway. Laurel slowed down, and when she turned off the road and headed up the driveway, the ruts were so deep that they bounced in the seats all the way to the house.

“Sorry,” she said.

“Looks like you just pointed out the first repair I need to put on my list,” Jake said.

She pulled up to the fence surrounding the yard, put the truck in park, and started to get out.

“No, don’t get out. I can get it all,” Jake said. “I really appreciate the ride and hope I didn’t make you late to wherever you were going.”

“We’re fine with the time,” Laurel said. “Have a nice day, and again, welcome home.”

“Thank you,” Jake said.

Laurel waited while he gathered all of his things from the back of her truck and then headed for the front door. As soon as he was clear of her truck, she began backing up to turn around.

When Jake turned to watch her hasty exit, he saw her little girl on her knees in the backseat watching him. She waved.

He waved back and then they were gone and he had no other excuses to delay the inevitable. He reached above the door for the key, unlocked it, and went inside. He set his duffel bag against the wall and then headed to the kitchen with the groceries.

His footsteps echoed on the old hardwood floors, and despite the cleaning, the rooms smelled musty. He set the groceries on the counter and then opened the two windows in the kitchen to start airing the house. The house might get chilly, but he was choosing fresh air rather than airless, musty rooms.

Opening the cabinet doors as he put up food was like turning back time. His mother’s dishes were still stacked in the same places they had been when he was growing up. A couple of coffee cups were missing, probably broken from years of use. When he opened a drawer to the left of the sink and found the notepads and pens they’d used to make lists and saw his father’s writing on the top page of one pad, a moment of anger swept over him. His father’s grocery list was still here, but he wasn’t.

He picked up the one on top to begin a new list of things he was going to need, then took it with him as he walked through the rooms, making notes of what he needed to buy.

He knew for sure he needed toilet paper, bath powder, and toothpaste for the bathroom. Laundry soap, stain remover, and cleaning supplies for the utility room. Light bulbs for the house, and everything it took to restock a kitchen.

He was passing a window when he saw the school bus go by the house. He glanced at the clock and smiled. Fifteen minutes to eight—-the same time he’d always caught the bus. He continued through the house, checking off things needing repairs. The showerhead was leaking and he’d noticed loose boards on the front porch when he’d stepped on it.

Several times he thought he heard footsteps in the house and would turn, expecting to see his father walk into the room with a big welcome-home grin on his face, and then remember. He made a note to get a Wi-Fi connection at the house and to set up his email.

It was moving toward noon when he finally closed all of the windows and turned on the central heat to warm up the house, then grabbed the keys to his dad’s pickup from a small nail inside one of the upper cabinets and headed toward the barn. It’s where he’d left the truck after the funeral.

A trio of pigeons roosting in the rafters flew off when he entered. The red Chevrolet truck was a little dusty but otherwise intact. Jake unlocked it with the remote and then looked inside. It was just as he’d left it. He backtracked to the last granary where he’d hidden the battery and put it back in the vehicle. He checked the oil, the transmission fluid, and the air pressure in the tires before he was satisfied, then started it up and drove it to the house and parked beneath the carport.

He was back in the kitchen making a sandwich when he thought of Laurel Payne again and wondered where she’d been going so early, then wondered what she did for a living. It had to be tough being a single parent.

He sat down in the living room to eat and turned on the television to catch local news, only to realize he didn’t recognize any of the journalists reporting. So some things had changed after all.

The food he’d made was tasteless, but his hunger had been satisfied, and that was all that mattered. He was thinking about going into town and setting up his banking, then checking in with the post office to let them know he was home and to resume delivery.

But then he fell asleep and went back to war.

The explosion from the IED sounded like the end of the world, and when Jake came to, he thought he was dead. The pain from his wounds had yet to register, and he was trying desperately to stand. He couldn’t hear, he couldn’t see for the smoke and dust, and he couldn’t feel his legs. This was a blistering disappointment. He thought heaven would be prettier than this.

Someone yelled at him. DeSosa! He was telling him not to die, but the way he felt, he wasn’t making any promises. It wasn’t until the ground began vibrating beneath him and the air was spinning above his head that he started yelling for help. That was a chopper, and he didn’t want to be left behind.

Jake woke up in a sweat, his heart pounding and tears in his eyes.

“Son of a… Ah, God,” he muttered, and bolted off the sofa as if he’d been launched, trying to get as far away from the dream as possible.

He yanked the front door open and strode onto the porch, taking in the fresh air in gulps. The sweat on his forehead began to cool as the tears dried on his cheeks, and he began to pace. The loose boards squeaked, reminding him of a job still undone. Furious from the dream and frustrated because the war still haunted his life, he went straight to the toolshed for a hammer and nails, then back to the house.

Every time the hammer made contact with a nail, it took everything he had not to duck, because it sounded like gunshots. He was so focused on getting rid of the nightmare that he didn’t see Laurel Payne driving home, but she saw him.

***

Laurel was already exhausted and she still had four loads of laundry to do and supper to cook for her and Bonnie. She’d actually forgotten about seeing Jacob Lorde this morning until she drove past the house and saw him on his hands and knees on the porch. She saw the hammer in his hand and remembered the loose boards when she’d been there last month to clean the house. It was obvious he wasn’t wasting any time putting it to rights.

But when she consciously noticed how broad his shoulders were, she looked away. She didn’t care what he looked like. He didn’t matter in her world and never would. She had a daughter to raise, and she wanted nothing to do with another war vet.

Her head was hurting by the time she got home, and climbing those steep steps into their double-wide trailer seemed like insult adding to her injury. Once inside, she breathed a sigh of relief at being in her own home, not someone else’s, and headed for her bedroom.

The first thing she did was take down her hair. It was thick and a slightly curly auburn that hung well below her shoulders, and sometimes having it up all day gave her a headache. As soon as it was down, the release of tension in her body was palpable. She quickly changed her clothes and got to work.

By the time the school bus stopped to let Bonnie off, Laurel was taking the last batch of cookies from the oven. She had the third load of clothes in the washing machine, a load in the dryer, and vegetable soup simmered on the back burner.

The sound of Bonnie’s footsteps coming up the steps of their trailer was Laurel’s signal for an emotional shift. Whatever was bothering her did not belong on her little girl’s radar. She turned toward the door with a smile. Seconds later, Bonnie came inside in a rush, talking nonstop.

“Mama, I got a happy face on my new words, and Lewis threw up on my shoe at lunch. Mrs. Hamilton washed it off but it still smells funny. I think it got on my sock, too. Milly was mean to me at recess but I told her she was acting like a baby. Then she cried, which proved I was right. Can I have a cookie? How long till supper?”

Laurel grinned. “Come here and give me a kiss. I missed you today.”

Bonnie threw her arms around her mother’s neck and kissed Laurel’s cheek as she reached for a cookie.

Laurel grinned when she saw the second cookie in Laurel’s other hand and stopped her long enough to get the stinky tennis shoes and socks off Laurel’s feet.

“Change out of your school clothes before you go feed Lavonne, and put on socks with your old shoes. It’s chilly out today.”

“I will,” Bonnie said. “Can Lavonne have a cookie, too?”

“No. Chickens don’t need to eat sugar. Just her regular feed, okay?”

“Okay, Mama,” Bonnie said, and ran barefoot to her room, her little feet making splat, splat sounds as she went.

In minutes she was out the back door and running toward the little chicken coop. Her daddy had built it for Lavonne, and she thought of him every time she went to feed her pet, but it was getting harder to remember what he looked like. That scared her a little, but she was afraid to talk to Mama about it. She heard Mama crying sometimes at night. It was hard being Mama’s big girl when she still felt little and scared.

When she unlocked the gate to the fence around the coop and Lavonne came running, it made the sad thoughts go away. Lavonne was her buddy and had the prettiest black feathers ever. Mama said she was from a family of chickens called Australorps, but Bonnie disagreed. Lavonne was from the family of Paynes.

The chicken’s constant clucks sounded a lot like Bonnie’s chatter as Bonnie scooped up feed and put it in the feeder inside the coop. When she left the chicken yard to get fresh water, Lavonne was right beside her, clucking and occasionally pausing to peck the ground.

“What was that?” Bonnie asked. “Did you get a bug? Good job!” Then she suddenly squatted and pointed her finger in the grass. “Oooh, look, Lavonne, there’s another one!”

Lavonne was on it in seconds, then wandered off a few feet while Bonnie carried fresh water back to the coop and filled the watering station. As soon as she was through with all that, she pulled a fresh hunk off the bale of straw and loosened it. She was getting ready to put it in Lavonne’s nest when she saw the egg.

She squealed and dropped the straw then came out of the chicken coop on the run, screaming, “Mommy, Mommy.”

When Laurel heard Bonnie’s scream her heart stopped. She dropped the armload of wet clothes back into the washer and went out the back door on the run.

“What’s wrong?” she cried, as Bonnie ran into her arms.

Bonnie held out the egg in two hands as if it were pure gold.

“Look, Mama, look! Lavonne laid an egg. Does that mean she’s all grown up now?”

Laurel was so weak with relief it took a moment to answer.

“Well, my goodness, I guess it does. Way to go, Lavonne,” Laurel said.

Bonnie giggled.

“We’re both growing up, aren’t we, Mama? Here, you take the egg. I’m going to play with Lavonne some more.”

Laurel sighed as she watched Bonnie running back to the coop. Yes. Her little girl was growing up. She turned around to go back to the house, carrying the proof of Lavonne’s launch into hen-hood, and the farther she went, the angrier she became at Adam. By the time she reached the back steps, she was crying.

“Oh, Adam, just look at what you’re missing. Why did you have to go and blow your damn head off? We need you. Life wasn’t supposed to be like this.”

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There is always hope

After eight years in the Marines, Jacob Lorde returns to Blessings, Georgia, with no plans other than to hole up in his empty house and heal what’s left of his soul. But with a charming next door neighbor and a town full of friendly people, keeping to himself is easier said than done.

As long as you can come home

Laurel Payne understands far too well what Jake is going through, after witnessing her late husband experience similar problems. She’s in no hurry to jump into another relationship with a complicated guy, but their attraction is undeniable—and perhaps exactly what both of them need.

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Amazon: http://amzn.to/2d5aR7w

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iBooks: http://apple.co/2d5bQ7J

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SHARON SALA has over ninety-five books in print and has published in five different genres. She is a seventime RITA finalist, four-time Career Achievement winner from RT Book Reviews, and five-time winner of the National Reader’s Choice Award. Writing changed her life, her world, and her fate. She lives in Norman, Oklahoma.

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