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Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Release Week Blitz- TWO THOUSAND YEARS by M. Dalto With An Excerpt & Giveaway!


I am so excited that TWO THOUSAND YEARS by M. Dalto is available now and that I get to share the news!
If you haven’t yet heard about this wonderful book by Author M. Dalto, be sure to check out all the details below.
This blitz also includes a giveaway for a $15 Amazon Gift Card, International, courtesy of M., The Parliament House Press, and Rockstar Book Tours. So if you’d like a chance to win, enter in the Rafflecopter at the bottom of this post.

About the Book:

Title: TWO THOUSAND YEARS
Author: M. Dalto
Pub. Date: December 11, 2018
Publisher: Parliament House Publishing
Formats: Paperback, eBook
Pages: 310
Find it: GoodreadsAmazonB&NiBooks

Two thousand years ago, the Prophecy of Fire and Light foretold the coming of the Queen Empress who would lead the Empire into a time of peace and tranquility. But instead of the coming of a prosperous world, a forbidden love for the Empress waged a war that ravaged the land, creating a chasm between the factions, raising the death toll of innocent lives until the final, bloody battle.
Centuries later, Alexandra, a twenty-two-year-old barista living in Boston, is taken to an unfamiliar realm of mystery and magic where her life is threatened by Reylor, its banished Lord Steward. She crosses paths with Treyan, the arrogant and seductive Crown Prince of the Empire, and together they discover how their lives, and their love, are so intricately intertwined by a Prophecy set in motion so many years ago.
Alex, now the predestined Queen Empress Alexstrayna, whose arrival was foretold by the Annals of the Empire, controls the fate of her new home as war rages between the Crown Prince and Lord Steward. Either choice could tear her world apart as she attempts to keep the Empire's torrid history from repeating itself. In a realm where betrayal and revenge will be as crucial to her survival as love and honor, Alex must discover whether it is her choice - or her fate - that determines how she survives the Empire's rising conflicts.

Excerpt:

1
The streets were quiet for a Friday night in the city. Alexandra Ross clenched her collar tighter around her neck as the wind began to pick up, unseasonably cool for so early in Boston’s September. Her heels clicked along the damp cobblestones of the old sidewalks as she headed towards her apartment. She had to take extra care while walking in her four-inch heels.
Especially when she knew she was being followed.
The city had been her home for three years now, so the late-night trek home remained familiar, almost a comfort. In the now twenty-two years of her life, maintaining her independence was as much of a priority as the switchblade in her jacket pocket was a security. There was a part of her that truly enjoyed the peaceful solitude these walks could bring, but she wasn’t stupid enough to do it without protection.
She was aware he remained a short distance behind her ever since she left Faneuil Hall.
This evening was no different, except that she was celebrating her twenty-second birthday, which also may have involved too much alcohol. Perhaps it was the intoxicated appreciation of her city within the quiet of the early morning hours that distracted her from her surroundings.
Even the reflections in the familiar storefront windows she passed by reminded her of the fact she that wasn’t alone.
Either way, her attention was focused anywhere but where it belonged. It wasn’t until her heel caught in the sidewalk, and a hand grabbed her arm to keep her upright, that she realized she tripped and started to fall.
And that the one she believed to be a stalker turned out to actually be a rescuer.
His grip remained firm as his other arm wrapped around her waist to steady her on her feet. As she composed herself, trying to clear her head, her hand went towards the knife in her pocket while she glanced towards the individual who just saved her from needing a nose job.
The stranger’s hair was dark under the streetlights, side swept and held loosely in a ponytail at the nape of his neck. He was dressed casually: wearing a dark, button-down shirt over clean denim jeans and sensible dress shoes as if he, too, had just emerged from the bustling social atmosphere that brought so many to Boston’s Faneuil Hall Marketplace.
His features were thin with chiseled cheekbones beneath skin too tanned to be local, but then she looked into his eyes. They were the most piercing blue she had ever seen—almost too blue, especially without the sunlight’s shining assistance. They radiated with their own luminescence; which was odd at first, but the color was as though they were refractions off of the ocean’s waves. As she continued to stare, the more familiar they seemed. Looking up and into his eyes felt as if she had stared into those eyes before—been lost within them too many times to count.
The feeling was almost nostalgic, though she was certain she’d never met him before. She would have remembered those eyes, regardless of how many cosmopolitans she may have drank.
By the time she realized she was staring, he had already released her from his grasp.
“I—” She blinked, struggling for words as her grip tightened around her knife.
“A simple ‘thank you’ would suffice.” His words purred with a foreign accent—familiar, but she couldn’t place it. Irish? Scottish? Perhaps Welsh, she thought to herself, though she wasn’t even certain if it was European at all.
“Oh,” she spoke, clearing her throat. “Thank you.” She moved to smooth out the short, black dress she wore, awkwardly running her hands over her legs, her ass—anything she could do to avoid his gaze. “I didn’t even hear you behind me.”
“I know.” He smirked. Again, that sense of nostalgia clenched at her chest, her stomach, lower. Before she could inquire further, or at least find out where he came from, he had already moved past her, continuing on his way down the street.
“Happy birthday, Alex.” He waved back to her without another glance.
How did he know?
“Hey, wait!” she called after him, her voice laced with panic, but he disappeared out of sight as quickly as he arrived.
Deciding she had had enough excitement for one birthday, Alex slowly, and far more cautiously, finished her walk home. Occasionally, she would chance a glance behind her to ensure she wasn’t followed again. He was just some creep who must have been too close for comfort while they were drinking the bar, she convinced herself as she turned the corner onto the street that led to her apartment. Or merely a lonely someone who overheard her saying her goodbyes to her friends on the way out and thought he’d get lucky.
She came to the gate that barred the walkway leading to her apartment, the skin on her neck prickled and the hairs on her arms stood on end. Something was off. The familiarity of home felt wrong, like a lost memory, just within reach moments ago, now nowhere to be found. Her hand had been stuffed into her jacket pocket ever since her encounter with the dark-haired stranger, and she continued to grip the knife tightly as she opened the gate and she headed down the final stretch.
Her apartment was situated in one of the older colonial row houses within Boston’s North End that later converted into apartments and condominiums as the years went on and the economy grew. She rented out the bottom floor of the building, with her ground-level entrance beneath the building’s main stairway barred behind a wrought-iron gate. Taking another look around her surroundings, she approached her door as her other hand managed to find her keys, but nearly dropped them as she stopped to survey the scene before her.
The light from a nearby street lamp shone on the damage that had been done. The gate was bent in a fashion that looked as though a gorilla took a bar in each hand and spread them apart. Through the warped iron, she could see the lock to her apartment had been destroyed, the surrounding door blown apart with it, shattered beyond easy repair.
“Fuck,” she whispered, taking a step back to as she glanced to see if there was anyone around, but not a soul was in sight. With a shaking hand, she reached for her phone. Did she call the police on the off-chance her father’s colleagues would report back to him and have to hear another lecture from her about the horrors of living in the city? Or hell, ensure the potential of seeing any of them the next morning while she was at work, having them remind her of her over-exaggerations while she served them their overpriced coffee?
No. No, she did not. So, she rang her best friend instead.
“Hello?” Crystal answered on the third ring.
“Crystal!” Alex whispered harshly into her phone. “Someone’s broken into my apartment!”
“So, call the police,” Crystal reminded her lazily, her tone muddled by the evening’s inebriation.
“You know I can’t do that,” she snapped. “Besides, what if they’re already gone? It would be a waste of time and effort.”
“And your pride?”
“That too.”
“What if they’re not?” Crystal queried. “Your father will be pissed, and your mother—”
“You are no help; do you know that?”
“You’re the one calling me, thinking someone broke into her house!”
Before Alex could continue to interrogate her friend, the slightest sound of movement from the other side of the door caught her attention, and her knife was out of her pocket and at the ready, her heart pounding.
“Crystal, I’ve got to go,” she murmured into the phone.
“What? Wait—” Alex hung up before Crystal could finish her sentence.
Reaching the warped gate, she slowly pushed open the ruined door that led into her apartment. She listened again, waiting for a repeat of movement, and quietly stepped through and into the mudroom once she decided it was safe to do so. Everything was dark and quiet, just as she left it, which gave her even more cause for concern. Whoever was there, whether they remained or not, they weren’t there with robbery as their intention…not that she had much to steal, anyway, beyond an expansive collection of epic fantasy books and Harlequin romance novels.
Liquid courage—that was stupidity. At least that’s what she convinced herself as she tiptoed through the kitchen, her ears still perked when she heard a subtle creak of a floorboard and she tightened her grip on the knife. Peeking around the corner, she noticed a dull light emitted from her living room, appearing as though a flame flickered in the darkness.
Except Alex’s fireplace was only decoration and never once actually contained a fire.
Despite the nauseating curiosity that gripped her and tightened her stomach into knots, she approached the living room, lingering just outside the entryway. The flickering light made it difficult to adjust her eyes to the darkness, but she was certain she could hear bits and pieces of a conversation within an unknown language between two individuals whose voices she didn’t recognize.
Holding her breath, Alex glanced into the living room. Crouched before the fireplace was a figure in black with its back turned to her. Male in appearance, he was too focused on an orb floating before him to notice her. The swirling red flames neither burned nor emanated heat as they hovered over the ground, and her attention was caught upon their pulsating beat as it communicated with her apartment’s intruder, like the blood flowing through her veins.
And the foreign language, unfamiliar to her in every possible manner, resounded through her like a jolt—as though a part of her memory had been previously locked away, and hearing it again was the key. No different to her mind than English, she could understand every word they were saying as if it was her native tongue.
“You are certain you’ve secured the perimeter?”
“Yes, my Lord,” the figure spoke into the flame-less conflagration. “There’s been no sign of the Empress. She will be none the wiser that the Key is in place.”
“You best hope so, for where she will be, the Prince will follow. The Empress must be in my possession before he can make his next move.”
“Of course, my Lord, but what shall I do in the meantime?”
“Be patient. Be vigilant. And so help me, when the Empress returns, do not allow her to leave that apartment.”
“And the Key?”
“You will wait until it activates within the next moon cycle. Until then, remember that she will be your only way home. Do you understand me?”
The figure bowed his head. “Understood, my Lord. And should the Prince interfere?”
Alex could almost feel the simmer through whatever allowed such a floating object to exist, and a shiver trickled down her spin as she watched the dark figure finally stand and turn in her direction.
Red eyes glowed in the darkness, like dying embers fighting to remain lit. Being distracted by the earlier conversation, she hadn’t noticed how far she stepped into the room. Whatever courage she may have had before entering her apartment dissipated as those red eyed focused on her. She tried to take a step back, but hit the wall, jarring her elbow in the process and hissing of pain at the impact.
“Well, it appears my job just became a hell of a lot easier,” he slurred in English, though drawling with an accent both foreign and familiar.
Not unlike her would-be stalker-savior’s.
“Sorry to interrupt,” she announced as she pushed off from her spot against the wall, remembering the knife in her hand and willing her fingers to steady themselves as she pointed it at the head of the intruder. “But I think it’s time you removed yourself from my apartment.”
“The Empress?” The voice from the flames sounded pleased, and the orb’s size and power intensified as it emitted an almost demonic chuckle.
At the words of whatever master presided on the other side of that communication device, the intruder rose to his full height as he turned around to face her fully. The amplified light from the orb finally displayed his features. Other than his eyes, there was nothing extraordinary about him. Pale in the pulsating red light, with a shock of black hair and thin lips. He wore unremarkable clothing—a black shirt over black pants that could have come from anywhere—but still it was his eyes that held her attention, creating an otherworldly presence about him.
He paused his approach, however, when he saw the knife, cocking his head to the side as though in silent challenge. Instinctively, she sliced it through the air in his general direction, and the unexpected action seemed to surprise him as much as it had her. Taking a reflexive step back, his legs hit a side table next to her couch, knocking a lamp to the floor.
The orb ceased its laugher at the commotion.
“It’s a pleasure, Empress Alexstrayna," the voice said while the intruder continued his retreat, falling into the fireplace as if the orb would give him protection or a quick escape out of the room.
Alex rolled her eyes at the intruder’s pathetic attempts to escape through a brick wall, though her attention was caught at the greeting from the orb. It wasn’t her name, but it was close, and she didn’t want to know how or why. Before she could inquire, the voice behind the floating ball of flame seemed to realize he was losing his local support, and the fire erupted once again. “Where the hell do you think you’re going? The Prince is following her. Find him before he finds you first! Do not let the Empress out of your sight!”
The flaming orb allowed his threat to linger as its flames continued to rant and rave, all while the intruder composed himself and again began to approach her. The orb’s light now reflected off of claw-like talons extending from each finger on both hands of the intruder, and his teeth grew into a predator’s fangs. Every bit of his deadly intention was focused solely on her.
Alex felt the sweat form on her brow as her heart beat with a terrified fury. Even as she held the knife up to defend herself, it shook between her fingers. The intruder merely gave her a knowing smirk before he reared back on his legs and leaped into the air with feline grace, lunging across the room with his claws extended, aiming directly for her over-exposed chest.
Frozen in the spot where she stood, Alex’s eyes were wide as she watched death approach. She remained where she was even as a sudden bolt of cold, blue flame shot over her shoulder, knocking the attacker hard against the wall next to the fireplace. The plaster splintered on impact, causing the intruder to crumple to the floor, unmoving once he hit the ground.
Alex thought her heart was going to pound through her ribcage; she made herself take one deep breath, and then another before she looked over her shoulder toward the direction of the flash. In the lingering blue glow stood the stranger who helped her in the street. Those same cold flames appeared to grow from his right hand as he was poised in a battle-ready position, preparing for another strike as his attention focused deeper within the room.
Following his glance, she saw that the intruder remained still and motionless, remnants of the blast that sent him there the only movement coming from his body. She wanted to say something—perhaps she should thank him? Too many questions began to cross her mind as she shifted towards him, needing to know more, that same pull of nostalgia almost drawing her in. No sooner had she opened her mouth than did the red orb cease its ranting to greet the new arrival.
“I was wondering when you were going to show your face, Treyan. Unfortunately, you’re too late. My Key is in place, and come the next moon cycle, the Empress will rightfully be mine.”
“Sorry to disappoint you, Reylor, but my Key has been in place for years.” Treyan walked forward, outstretched his right hand where again blue flames sprung from it, this time engulfing the red orb. Not a moment later, it was extinguished. Without delay, he turned towards her and began to approach her. “I am sorry about all of this, Alex—”
“You!” She raised her knife between them, the point hitting his chest before he could move another inch. “Who are you? What are you doing here?”
Sighing, he brought his hand to the blade, his blue flames warming the metal to the point of nearly burning Alex’s hand, forcing her to drop the knife. She moved to run, but he grabbed hold of her forearm and he pulled her face to him.
Alex caught herself getting lost in his blue eyes again and he watched her with an enthusiasm that was unwarranted given their sudden meeting. It was a feeling of intense warmth throughout her body, akin to the comfort of a lover’s embrace. A feeling she had met him before but knew their paths had never crossed before in her life. And yet, some part of her knew him, or knew of him, and that terrified her.
Who are you?
Unfortunately, the question never left her. Before she could break his intense stare and begin to protest further, he brought a hand to her face, gently cupping her cheek, and after a few murmured words, Alex’s world fell to darkness.


About M.:

M. Dalto is a Young Adult / New Adult fiction writer of adventurous romantic fantasy stories, and her debut, TWO THOUSAND YEARS, won one of Wattpad.com’s coveted Watty Awards in 2016. She continues to volunteer her time as a Wattpad Ambassador, where she engages and hopes to inspire new writers, and also mentors authors through the #WriteMentor program.

As a mentor, MB is on the lookout for YA and NA novels heavy in plot with the ability to make her fall in love with its characters. Her favorite tropes include love triangles of all kinds, enemies to lovers, dream sequences, and prophecies. She always wants villains you can’t help but be attracted to, redemption arcs or otherwise. She loves novels with deep character development, a setting where she can get lost, and plot twists that make her want to throw the book across the room. Give her main characters you love to hate, but can’t help but hate to love.

She spends her days as a full-time residential real estate paralegal, using her evenings to hone her craft. When she’s not writing, she enjoys reading fantasy novels, playing video games, and drinking coffee. She currently lives in Massachusetts with her husband, their daughter, and their corgi named Loki.



Giveaway Details:

1 winner will win a $15 Amazon Gift Card, INTERNATIONAL.





Friday, December 7, 2018

Blog Tour- NAVIGATING THE STARS by Maria V. Snyder With An Interview & Giveaway!



I am thrilled to be hosting a stop on the blog tour for NAVIGATING THE STARS by Maria V. Snyder! I love Maria and all of her books!!! I have an interview with Maria to share with you today check it out and enter to win the giveaway below!

About The Book:



Title: NAVIGATING THE STARS (Sentinels of the Galaxy #1)
Author: Maria V. Snyder
Pub. Date: December 1, 2018 (US Publication Date)
Publisher: Maria V. Snyder
Formats: Paperback, eBook
Pages: 464


Navigating the Stars is the first book in a new science fiction series. 

Terra Cotta Warriors have been discovered on other planets in the Milky Way Galaxy. And Lyra Daniels' parents are the archaeological Experts (yes with a capital E) on the Warriors and have dragged her to the various planets to study them despite the time dilation causing havoc with her social life. 


When one of the many Warrior planets goes silent, and looters attack her research base, Lyra becomes involved in discovering why the Warriors were placed on these planets. And, more importantly, by who. 


Now on to the interview 


Hey Maria! First I want to say welcome back to Two Chicks on Books! It’s been a while since you’ve been here I’m so happy you could stop by for a chat! NAVIGATING THE STARS was absolutely fantastic and I can’t wait for everyone to read it!

So glad you enjoyed the book. Thanks so much for organizing my blog tour!

For the readers: can you give us a little info on NAVIGATING THE STARS and the characters?

MVS: Basically Terracotta Warriors have been discovered on various exoplanets throughout the Milky Way Galaxy. The main character’s parents are the archeological experts and have been dragging poor Lyra around the galaxy to do research on why these Warriors are there and, more importantly, who put them there. Each time they travel to a new planet, the time dilation kicks in. In NAVIGATING THE STARS, Lyra learns that they’re moving again and this time she’s going to jump 50 years into the future. Not the best thing for her social life 😊  When they arrive at her new home, they’re soon dealing with lots of problems that makes leaving her friends in the past a mere triviality.

So do we have a title for book 2 yet?

MVS: Yes, book 2 will be CHASING THE SHADOWS and book 3 will be DEFENDING THE GALAXY.

Were any of the characters in the book inspired by people from your real life?

MVS: Lyra has some qualities that my daughter possesses. She’s practical, smart, and not one to keep her opinions to herself (shhh.dont tell her!). Captain Harrison was loosely based on my daughters friend Harry. Harry wants to be president. He just has this charisma about him and he’s an obvious leader not to mention his classic good looks. I’d vote for him! And if I’m being honest, I have to admit to channeling my inner mother for Ming, Lyra’s mother 😊

Who was your favorite character to write? What about your least favorite?

MVS: Captain Harrison ended up being lots of fun and Niall was fun in the beginning.

What is your favorite passage/scene in NAVIGATING THE STARS?

MVS: When Lyra and Niall are in her bedroom accessing Q-net files that they’re not supposed to read and they’re “caught” by Lyra’s parents. I still get a laugh when I read that scene!

What kind of research did you have to do for the story? What was it about the Terra Cotta Warriors that made you want to write about them in space?

MVS: I visited the Warriors when they were at the National Geographic Museum in DC about 8 years ago and then again last year when they came to Philadelphia. I’ve also read a ton of books about them and watched a few history channel shows! It’s just something about building a life-sized army to protect the Emperor in the afterlife that stirred my imagination. I wondered what happens if the Warriors in life are damaged does the Emperor lose a Warrior in the afterlife? For this blog tour, I wrote a guest post about how I sparked on the idea and how it mutated into NAVIGATING THE STARS. You can read it here: http://jessica-agreatread.blogspot.com/

I also attended a week-long Astronomy Workshop for Writers at the University of Wyoming for research. It wan an intense program to teach us all about space, planets, and space exploration. So fun and exhausting!

Who is your ultimate book boyfriend? Mine will always be Valek btw πŸ˜‰

MVS: Yay Valek is great! Mine is Ilya Bakhtiian hes in the book Jaran by Kate Elliot one of my favorites!

What inspired you to write YA?

MVS: I never really decided, “hey, I’m going to write YA!” I wrote POISON STUDY and considered it an adult fantasy novel Yelenas 19 in the story and Valeks 33 so not really a YA. But I received so many emails from teens that loved the book. It also came out the same month as Twilight and Bella’s 17 and he’s 105 so  😊 I think I liked writing about younger characters because there’s so many changes and conflict going on during that transition from teen to adult. It helps that my voice and style definitely has a younger more relaxed feel. Also it’s loads of fun!

Lightening Round Questions

What are you reading right now? Or what do you have on your TBR that you’re dying to read?

MVS: I’m reading Crosstalk by Connie Willis. I love her stories she has a great sense of humor and this is her first YA. Her Doomsday Book is another in my top 10. I also have a new book on the Terracotta Warriors on my pile that I need to read. It’s called The Terracotta Warriors: Exploring the Most Intriguing Puzzle in Chinese History, by Edward Burman, published in 2018 so it has all the recent discoveries.

What Hogwarts House would the Sorting Hat place you in?

MVS: I just did an online test because I had no idea. I answered 28 questions and it sorted me into.Gryffindor!

Twitter or Facebook?

MVS: Facebook

Favorite Superhero?

MVS: Wonder Woman!

Favorite TV show?

MVS: Sherlock the first season is the best!

Sweet or Salty?

MVS: Salty!

Any Phobias?

MVS: I don’t like birds flying around my head! I love watching birds, but from a distance.

Song you can’t get enough of right now?

MVS: Say Amen, by Panic! At the Disco

2019 Movie you’re most looking forward to?

MVS: ErIm not caught up on movies from 2018 so I’ve no idea what’s coming out! My favorite movie in the last couple of years is Wonder Woman (of course!).

Thanks so much Maria for answering my questions! I can’t wait for everyone to read NAVIGATING THE STARS! Big hugs!!!!


Thanks for hosting me!!




Maria's Bio
Maria V. Snyder changed from being a meteorologist to a novelist in 1995, when she began writing to keep her sanity while raising two children. Since then, she has published numerous freelance articles in magazines and newspapers, and teaches fiction-writing classes at the local college and area libraries. The classes give her the wonderful opportunity to encourage fellow writers, and to keep improving her craft.

Born and raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Maria always had a fascination with big storms. Dreaming of chasing tornados, Maria earned a bachelors of science degree in meteorology at Penn State University. But she discovered, much to her chagrin, that forecasting the weather wasn't one of her skills. In order to chase tornados you had to predict where they might form. Creating fantasy worlds where she has complete control of the weather was more agreeable to her.

Maria's research on food-tasting methods with an expert chocolate taster, her husband, turned out to be a delicious bonus while writing Poison Study.
Maria has a brown belt in Isshinryu Karate, and enjoys playing volleyball and the cello. Traveling in general and via cruise ship in particular are her biggest distractions from writing. Maria has traveled to Belize, Canada, China, Costa Rica, Europe, Mexico, the Caribbean and through the Panama Canal.

Maria lives with her husband, son, daughter and yellow lab, Hazelnut, in Pennsylvania where she is at work on more LUNA novels. She is also pursuing a master's degree in writing popular fiction from Seton Hill University.

Readers are welcome to contact Maria at the following email address: maria@mariavsnyder.com.

Where you can find Maria:

Giveaway Details:
3 Winners will receive finished copies of NAVIGATING THE STARS, US Only.
2 Winners will receive finished copies of NAVIGATING THE STARS International.



Tour Schedule:
Week One:
12/3/2018- Moonlight RendezvousReview
12/4/2018- My Bookish EscapadesReview
12/5/2018- Debbie's World of BooksReview
12/6/2018- a GREAT readReview
12/7/2018- Two Chicks on BooksReview

Week Two:
12/10/2018- Lisa Loves LiteratureReview
12/11/2018- Wishful EndingsReview
12/12/2018- Good Choice ReadingInterview
12/13/2018- Dani Reviews ThingsReview
12/14/2018- Feed Your Fiction AddictionReview

Blog Tour- COLLATERAL by Alexandra Ayers With An Excerpt & Giveaway!



I am happy to be hosting a stop on the blog tour for COLLATERAL by Alexandra Ayers! I have an excerpt to share with you today check it out and enter to win the giveaway below!

About The Book:




Title: COLLATERAL (Desert Eagles MC #1)
Author: Alexandra Ayers
Pub. Date: November 9, 2018
Publisher: Afterlife Royalty
Formats: Paperback, eBook
Pages: 275
Find it: GoodreadsAmazonB&NiBooks


In the battle of love and loyalty, only one can win.

As Vice President of The Desert Eagles motorcycle club, Derek Pearce is ordered to do business with the ruthless organizer of a dog-fighting ring. But Derek faces another challenge: ten years after turning down his marriage proposal, his childhood love, Brielle Andrews, returns home to Las Vegas. Brielle has devoted her life to healing and saving animals from harm, including, of course, dogs used for fighting.

Derek reconnects with Brielle after rescuing a dog severely injured in a fight and rushing it to the nearest animal hospital, where he finds Brielle as the lead veterinarian. Sparks fly, but turn acrid when she becomes suspicious about how the dog was hurt. Derek can’t risk telling her the truth for fear of exposing the club to an investigation. Out of options, Brielle enlists her father, a federal judge, for help.


When new clues about The Desert Eagles MC come to light, will Brielle’s loyalty to her father and insistence on unearthing the truth about the fighting ring threaten her newly rekindled romance with Derek? Will Derek do whatever is necessary to save their love
and their liveseven if it means exposing the club?



Now on to the excerpt! 


CHAPTER 1


A crowd of rowdy men screaming obscenities and placing bets filled the large room. Their shouts came in waves as they threw themselves into the action, most likely to counter their sobriety from the lack of alcohol at the fight. In the center of the crowd was a ring with two skeletal pit bulls trapped inside. A brown dog was bleeding from its nose, a smear of red staining its white chest, and circling a smaller, grey dog in an attempt to corner it.
“Get him!”
“Bite his fucking ankle!”
“Tear his ear off!”
The men yelled, trying to bait the dogs. The air conditioning was on full blast, whistling through the vents, but Derek could still feel the heat of the barbaric spectators in the room.
“Is this what the fuck we’re doing now? Making dogs fight?” Derek asked with a twisted face. He took a drag from his cigarette. I should ditch this shit hole and go meet Crystal at the bar.
“Hey!” Max frowned at Derek. “Andre needs our money, and that’s what we’re giving him. It’s fucking business, simple as that.”
“The Haitians got held up in customs, but they’ll be here tomorrow. They were supposed to collect one million from us.” Derek pressed his lips together. All the hard work he’d put in to make that deal, and they got ran up by the fucking feds.
“Yeah, well, everyone’s deals are getting fucked up. We need to deliver to the Russians too.” Max lowered his voice. “When the printer is fixed, which better be today if AJ doesn’t want me to strangle him, I’ll cut the bills and deliver them to Andre.”
Although Derek would never admit it, he wanted to impress the other members of the club with this deal. Eliminate any doubts that he’d earned his place as vice president of the Desert Eagles. He shook his head as the brown dog snapped at the grey one. “This shit is fucking sick. What happens to the loser?”
“Don’t turn into a vegan pussy on me, okay?” Max pulled a cigarette from his kutte. “Lucky for us, Carson came to us as a vouch for Andre and his dog business, which apparently is very lucrative. Besides, the piece-of-shit owner wants the cash to buy food and flea treatment for them. Now you can feel good at your next PETA meeting.”
Derek rolled his eyes at his uncle and then blew a puff of smoke at his face.
“Asshole.” Max snatched the lighter from Derek’s hand. “I did a shit job raising you.”
“It’s not your fault. Twenty-two is pretty young to have an eight-year-old dumped on you.”
“Don’t be so hard on yourself.” Max smiled. The faint lines of age on his hazel eyes. “Your piece-of-shit father dumped you on me. It wasn’t your doing.”
Derek shot up an eyebrow. The crowd got louder, and the men surrounding the ring started banging on the edge of it. Derek turned to his uncle, who shrugged and brought the lighter to his cigarette. Max took a deep breath and exhaled the smoke. “I’m getting too old for this shit. Fucking forty-two next week.”
Derek took another drag. “Twenty-eight ain’t so young either, you know.”
Max scoffed and said that one day Derek would pray to be twenty-eight again.
Derek put out his cigarette and pushed through the crowd to get to the edge of the ring. What he saw almost made him throw up. He had done some pretty fucked-up shit since patching in with the club ten years ago, but all of those assholes had it coming. These were just dogs who had been starved and tortured so Las Vegas locals didn’t have to put up with tourists at the casinos.
“This is the best fight I’ve seen in months,” said a short, stocky, bald man who was holding his bet receipts in one hand and a cigar in the other. “Andre usually doesn’t have them fight for this long, but he’s trying to impress some local breeders.”
The shouts from the crowd were not helping Derek’s stomach. If the volume was too much for him, he wondered how it must feel to the dogs. They were literally fighting for their lives and had to stay focused despite the ridiculous volume.
“Yes!” the short, bald man screamed.
The brown dog chewed on the grey dog’s hind leg, working to rip it off. The grey dog cried out but managed to whip around and bite the brown dog’s stomach. While its teeth were lodged in flesh, the grey dog seized the moment, shaking its head back and forth and tearing skin. Out spilled a massive amount of blood from the brown dog’s abdomen. A piercing yelp silenced the crowd. Ribs protruded from the brown dog’s side as it lay on the ground, whimpering.
“Jesus fucking Christ.” Derek ran his hand through his dark hair. He wasn’t some deep animal loverhell, he had veal last nightbut there was a clear difference between questionable meat and making dogs fight to the death. Even his hell-bound ass knew that.
“Shut the fuck up, you bastards!” a man’s voice echoed from the edge of the crowd. “Shut the fuck up!” The men moved out of his way, clearing a path. It got quiet as a tall, thin man with long blond hair came forward. This must be the piece-of-shit owner. The blond man reached the ring, hopped over the edge, and walked toward the dogs. The brown dog was twitching in a puddle of its own blood and intestines. Dead or alive, Derek couldn’t tell from his angle.
“Looks like we have a winner!” The blond man grinned at the spectators. The grey dog was in a corner, blood-soaked and panting. “Albeit by default, since the ragged animal can’t even walk anymore.” He had a hint of irritation in his voice. “Now, if you all line up like civilized gentlemen, my lovely ladies will pay out the winners of tonight’s fight.” Derek saw three tables set up at the edge of the room, each with a pretty girl sitting behind it. There was a cash box on top of each table, and next to every girl was a thick-muscled man in a suit. The goons were holding guns, presumably to keep the spectators from getting any bright ideas. One of the girls caught Derek’s eye and waved at him.
Before he could wink at her, a familiar clicking sound caused him to turn toward the ring. The blond man put a clip in his semiautomatic before delivering a swift kick to the brown dog. When the dog didn’t move, he headed toward the grey dog, still bleeding from its damaged leg. He lifted the gun and pulled back the slide.
“Hey, hey, hey!” Derek said, hopping into the ring. “Hold up, man!”
“The fuck do you want?” He gave Derek an aggravated look while lowering the gun.
Derek approached him with a slight smile. “Hey. My name is Derek. I enjoyed the show and was hoping that I could buy the winning dog from you.”
The blond man looked at him like he was growing an extra head. “Well, Derek, I’m Andre, and I’m not sure if you noticed, but this weak piece of shit can’t even walk, let alone fight, so he’s no use to you.” Andre raised his gun again.
“I’ll give you $500 for it,” Derek offered.
Andre looked at him and then back at the dog. “Are you one of those vegan pussies?” he asked, returning his gaze to Derek.
Derek took a deep breath to control his anger. He was starting to lose his patience with this douchebag, and the dog was running out of time. “No, I just want the dog. Are you gonna take the money or not?”
Andre stared him down a little longer before rolling his eyes and agreeing. Derek shoved the bills into Andre’s hand and ran to scoop up the injured animal. There was a lot of blood, and a small peek of bone was visible in the dog’s ankle.
“Does he have a name?” Derek called to Andre while he headed for the door.
“Dog.” Andre laughed and shook his head. “You don’t give names to beasts on death row.”
Derek’s face turned crimson. He whipped back around and shifted the dog so he could reach for the gun tucked into his pants. “Listen, you psychotic piece of
“Everything all right here?” Max gripped Derek’s shoulder. “Looks like you’ve got a mess on your hands.” Max reached in his pocket, handed him the car keys, and leaned in close to Derek’s ear, whispering, “Why don’t I talk business while you see if you can help Fido make it through the night?”
Derek nodded and, after giving Andre a final look, hopped out of the ring and headed for the exit.
“Andre, my man!” He heard Max laughing and was grateful for his intrusion. If he hadn’t intervened, Derek would have slaughtered that psycho in front of at least seventy witnesses. He pushed open the door and was blinded by the sun. Thankfully, Max had decided to drive the truck today, which gave the dog plenty of room in the back seat. As Derek opened the door, he accidentally tapped the dog’s injured leg, causing it to cry out.
“Sorry, Rocky,” he said, laying the dog down in the back seat. “Does that sound all right? Rocky? We’ll be at the vet soon enough, boy. Hang on.” He held his phone and searched for the nearest vet. A wave of relief washed over him when it said it was a ten-minute drive.
“Hang on, Rocky,” he said, buckling his seat belt and smiling in the rear-view mirror. “Gonna get you patched up and eating Kibbles ’n Bits in no time.”

***

“I need some help over here!” Derek yelled as he walked into the veterinary hospital with Rocky in his arms. A pretty blond woman behind a desk glanced up at him, and her expression shifted to a look of horror.
“Oh my God! Stay right there! I’ll go get help!” she exclaimed, running toward a door that said “Employees Only.”
Derek looked around. This place was nice. The reception area was large with a few couches and a couple of glass tables with magazines on them. On one side of the room, a marble counter attached to a glass-sealed fireplace inside of a protruding wall. Large canvas prints of animals decorated the walls, and two small chandeliers hung above the front desk. The marble floor was so clean you could almost use it as a mirror, which made Derek grimace thinking of how awful he must look. He looked down at Rocky, whose breathing was starting to slow. Just as he was getting ready to start yelling for help again, the blond nurse came out, pushing a stretcher, along with a tall Asian man who was wearing scrubs.
“Would you place them here?” the Asian man placed his hand on top of the stretcher.
Derek looked at him with caution.
“My name is Allison Murphy,” the nurse said. “We’re going to do emergency surgery. We called our vet tech, who should be here shortly.”
“There’s no one here but you two?” Derek gave them a blank stare before setting Rocky on the stretcher.
“Sir, I explained the situation to Dr. Andrews, and she said she will be here in ten minutes. Allison and I are going to prep your dog in the meantime.” The Asian man spoke with restraint. “My name is Michael Yu; I’m the assistant vet tech.”
“Derek.” He wanted to apologize for being rude, but he just shoved his bloodied hands in his pockets.
“We’re running out of time. This dog has lost a significant amount of blood.” Michael pushed the stretcher toward the door. “Allison will be back when Dr. Andrews gets here and have you sign some forms.”
“His name is Rocky,” he called out as Allison let the door close behind them. Derek gave a lingering look at the door; then he let out a deep sigh and turned to walk outside. If he were smart, he would bail and leave them with the mess, but if Rocky didn’t make it, Derek wanted to at least give him a proper burial. Derek pulled out his cigarettes. The poor mutt deserves at least that.
Sitting outside on a bench facing the empty street, Derek thought about Dr. Andrews. What kind of jackass leaves a vet clinic with no doctor? Rocky could die all because that jackass couldn’t be bothered to bring a lunch. Derek knew he was being irrational, but since he wasn’t able to beat the shit out of Andre, he needed someone to blame for Rocky’s potential demise. He pulled out another cigarette and looked around, realizing there were plenty of food places within walking distance. Maybe the doctor was in one of those restaurants and would arrive as soon as they promised.
Fuck, I hope Rocky pulls through. I do not want to dig any graves in this goddamn heat. No matter how small they might be. I could see the goddamn bone. There’s no way I’m getting out of this shit without a dead body. Derek had been around his fair share of corpses, but that was business. This was just sick cruelty. If he ever saw Andre again, there would be a fucking murder. He took a long drag of his cigarette and wondered how long he’d been chain-smoking. He looked at his phone: two missed calls from Max. Derek was definitely going to be in some shit if anything went wrong and he wasn’t there for backup.
The whoosh of sliding doors made him turn to see the cute blond nurse walking toward him. She crossed her arms over her chest. “I want you to know that Rocky is stable.” Her voice shook, and her eyes started to well up with tears. She was scanning his face, for what he didn’t know. Derek blanched at the amount of blood covering her shirt.
“What happened? Is he going to be okay?” He gazed into her grey eyes with a worried expression on his face.
“Yes,” she said. But before Derek could become happy, she added, “Rocky is in an induced coma. Her leg isn’t as bad as we thought, but the blood loss is most concerning. She lost such an extreme amount that Dr. Andrews said she might need to be under for the next day or two so her body can fully repair itself without her using excess energy.”
Derek took a deep breath and really looked at her now. She was shorter than him, at about five feet nine inches, with a short haircuta bob was what Maxs wife, Amy, called it. He stepped closer to her, not caring if the cigarette smell bothered her since hed never heard any complaints from women before.
“What’s your name, pretty girl?” Derek was no stranger to attracting women; in fact, he did it at least five times a week. The club girls didn’t try to hide their interest. The tattoos covering his arms and neck, the leather kutte, his deep blue eyes and slicked-back undercut held some appeal. Of course, being six foot three with a body that lived at the gym didn’t hurt either. Yes, he had his choice of women. There was only one he couldn’t have, and he was better off without her. Does she ever think of me? Or maybe she forgot all about me, like I knew she would.
“Allison.” She smiled wide at him, causing her dimples to become prominent. “Sorry we have to meet like this. I’m really just like so sorry about your dog. It’s terrible what happened to her leg, and I’m just so happy Dr. Andrews was able to save her. Oh my God! I’m sorry I’m talking so much. You must think I have no manners. What’s your name?” She was biting her lip now and looking at him with wide eyes.
“I’m Derek. You seem to have impeccable manners. You didn’t give me shit about Rocky’s injury.” He looked her up and down, a slow smile built across his face. Then what she’d said earlier dawned on him. “Hold up. Did you say Rocky was a ‘she’?”
“She’s not your dog?” Allison had a confused look on her face. Biting her lip, she looked at him for a minute. She wrung her hands together before she spoke. “Dr. Andrews has to run more tests, but it looks like Rocky’s pregnant.”
“Pregnant?”
“About three weeks.”
“That fucking asshole!” Derek was definitely going to commit a felony when he saw Andre again. He looked at Allison, who was staring down at the ground. “Sorry to yell, pretty girl.”
Allison nodded and told him she understood. A deep sigh left his mouth. He was grateful she didn’t ask about the origins of Rocky’s injuries. He checked his phone and realized he’d been there for two hours. If he didn’t leave soon, all hell would break loose with Max. He would need help transporting the money from the club and making the exchange with that dog-abusing piece of shit.
“I’ve got to go, pretty girl. You got a number I can call?”
“Of course, the hospital number is
“No, your number.”
“Ohextension
“Your personal number, pretty girl. I’d love to see more of you.” He thought of Allison on her knees in front of him, his hand pulling her hair. “Maybe this weekend you can meet me at the bar where me and my boys hang out.”
“I actually don’t drink, but I’ll come to hang out. It’s not on the strip, is it?” she asked while pulling out her phone.
“Hell, no. Goddamn tourists. You a local?”
She giggled while nodding and handed him her phone to add his number. “Text me anytime, Allison.” Derek caught her fingers when he handed the phone back. He let her hand go and turned to walk toward the truck. He hadn’t taken two steps before he heard the clinic doors slide open. Whoever was coming out was probably wondering why there were no forms filled out for the dog. He was not putting his name on anything that could be linked to that dog abuser.
A voice shouted at Derek’s back: “Hey, you! Stop! You can’t leave this dog here without signing consent forms!”
He stopped dead in his tracks.
He knew that voice.
He was afraid to turn around. He had no idea what his reaction would be if he were right.
No fucking way. What would be the goddamn odds? Might as well go to the Bellagio and bet my life savings.
Footsteps approached, along with a familiar tap against the concrete sidewalk. He turned, hoping against all odds it wasn’t her.
“Look, I don’t know what happened, but The woman went dead silent and stared at him. Derek?
Brielle.
It was like looking at a ghost. Shock stole his voice. He couldn’t form thoughts to put into words for her. Allison hurried inside, leaving them with no audience.
“What are you doing here? I can’t believe it! You look so different.” Dropping her cane before wrapping her arms around him, she murmured into his broad chest, “I’ve missed you so much.”
“Missed me?” he whispered into the air, still not processing what was happening. Was he having a stroke? Maybe all that smoking had finally caught up with him.
“Of course! Just because you disappeared from social media once you joined the club doesn’t mean I forgot about you.”
“Brielle.” He backed away to get a better look. Where his eyes playing tricks on him? “II cant have online activity. That can be tied to the club.
“Of course. I get it. Nothing’s ever deleted once it’s online,” she bent to pick up her cane.
She was gorgeous. Her deep mahogany skin glowed under the bright sun. Her youthful face was framed by shoulder-length black hair. The contours of her face were enhanced by shimmer on her cheeks, and mascara accentuated her gorgeous brown eyes. A doctor’s coat covered her top and stopped at her slim-fit khakis. Blood stained her pants, and he grimaced at the thought of her elbow deep in Rocky’s bone marrow. Even her cane had spots of blood on it.
“You’re Dr. Andrews?” He tilted his head.
“Yes, of course,” Brielle gave a small laugh.
He looked her up and down again and realized that she still used the cane he’d had custom made for her: a reinforced ebony wood shaft tipped with a small, platinum eagle. It was in good shape for being ten years old, but considering the cost, it should look brand new.
Derek kept staring at her. “How long have you been back?”
“I’ve been here for about two weeks. I got offered the position of interim lead vet while the owner is away. After two years at my last job, I was grateful for the opportunity and chance to return home.”
          “How’s the homecoming been?”
She squeezed her hands together and looked him in the eyes; then she averted her gaze and mumbled that it was good. My baby girl, running a vet clinic. Well, not mine. She hasn’t been mine for a long time. He sighed and shook his head. “Well, I better go.”
“Derek, wait. Please. If we could just talk
He took a step back. Being this close to her was screwing with his nerves. Her soulful brown eyes never left his face, and old feelings started to surface. That could not happen. “We haven’t talked in a long time, and we have nothing to talk about now.”
Brielle snapped her head back. “You came here with a suspiciously injured dog and needed my help. I haven’t tried to talk to you because truthfully, Derek, I didn’t know how you would react. I wasn’t lying when I said I’ve missed you.”
Derek turned to walk toward the truck. There was no way he was going to listen to lies. Not from her mouth. She was always good at getting him to let go of any anger he harbored, but he had a lot of it this time around, and he wasn’t ready to give it up.
“Wait! Derek, please stop.”
“I really need to go.”
“What about the dog?”
Derek met her questioning eyes. “She’ll be good here. I know you’ll take care of her.”
Brielle took a deep breath and proceeded to tie her hair up into a tight bun atop her head. He knew that meant she was going to say something serious. “Derek. What I’m about to say is with no assumptions, but that dog
“Rocky,” he said.
“Rocky. Her injuries were caused by another dog.”
“Is that your professional opinion?”
“I’ve seen enough dogfighting injuries to tell them apart from others.”
Derek stiffened. “What are you getting at?”
“She has various old scars on her face, she’s severely underweight, and she has worms. I’m obligated by law to report any signs of animal abuse. If you say that you found Rocky, then I will believe you, but I need the truth. What happened?”
She tried to reach out and touch him, but he jerked away. His heart was beating at a rate he didn’t know was possible. Heat flushed through his whole body. How dare she judge me in all of what? Five minutes?
“Who the fuck do you think you are?” He burned with rage. “You show up here, haven’t said a word to me in ten years, and then accuse me of some bullshit.”
“How can you say that to me when I’m trying to help?” Her dark eyes were brimming with tears.
“Rocky needed help, so I brought her here. That’s the truth.”
Brielle stuffed her hands into her lab coat pockets and looked down. “Why name a dog you just found?”
“Fuck this.” He turned to finish the walk to his car and ignored her as she shouted his name. The whole day had been one big pile of fuckery, and he didn’t have the patience left to deal with Brielle. After putting the key in the ignition, he paused for a moment and let out a sigh. When he reversed the truck, in the side mirror he caught her staring at him.
Derek thought about stopping. No. He was not going to get drawn back into her, especially not after all this time. He pulled out of the parking lot without looking back. His phone started to buzz. He knew it was Max without looking at the screen. He pressed the talk button. “Hey. I’m on my way back now,” Derek said, exhaustion filling him.
“Don’t fucking bother. We’re all going home. The exchange went fine, no thanks to you. I don’t know what your deal was today, but you need to control yourself. The club comes first. Always.”
“I know that. I would’ve been back, but I got held up at the vet.” He took a deep breath. “Brielle is back in town.”
“Holy shit. I don’t know what to say to that.” Max paused for a moment. “Do you think she talked to Amy?”
“No idea. Amy’s never been one to run her mouth, though, so I doubt she would’ve told me if she knew.” Derek shifted in his seat. His kutte was making him sweat through his shirt, sticking Rocky’s blood to his skin. Fuck, he needed a shower.
“Look, I know today hasn't been spectacular for you, and seeing her couldn’t have made it better, but I need you to get your shit together. You’re my VP. I need you to be 100 percent. Yeah?”
“Don’t worry, it won’t happen again.”
“Good. Now go home, get some pussy, and smoke some weed. Put this shit with Brielle in another place. I need you tomorrow. The Haitians will be here in the afternoon.”
“I’ll be there early.” He hung up and pulled out a cigarette, wondering how long it would be until Brielle came looking for answers about Rocky.

***

“Asshole,” Brielle whispered to herself while wiping away her tears. She regretted putting makeup on this morning. Nothing could be worse than seeing your ex and ending up with mascara stains on your cheeks. She walked across the parking lot. She was in no hurry to go back inside after that scene, but she wanted to check on Rocky. Her sweaty hands made it difficult to use her cane. The slim black wood with the platinum eagle tip was not ideal for gripping, but she refused to get some old-person cane.
Okay. Deep breath. Brielle stepped through the doors. Allison looked up from behind the desk and gave her a wide smile.
“How are you feeling?” Allison asked with genuine concern.
Brielle gave a fake smile. “I’m fine. Just ready for this day to be over.”
“Did you know that guy?”
“He’s an old friend. We grew up together.” Brielle looked at Allison, who was chewing on her lip. What had he said to her? “You got anything to say about why this paperwork wasn’t filled out?”
“I’m so sorry.” Allison’s voice started to crack. “I was caught up in giving him the news about Rocky, and he seemed so distressed by what happened to her.” Tears were rolling down her cheeks like little rivers. Allison could water all of Nevada with just a hint of a reprimand. “Please don’t fire me! I’m sorry! It won’t happen again, I promise.”
“Shh. Come on, Allison. Calm down.” Brielle walked behind the desk and pulled her into a gentle hug. “I’m not going to fire you. But I do need you to show more responsibility in the future. Okay?”
Allison nodded in agreement. Brielle handed her a tissue from the silver container on the desk.
“Why don’t you clean up here, finish filing the papers, and then go home? I’ll lock up.”
Allison sniffled and nodded again. Brielle gave her a small smile headed to the back. After punching the code into the keypad, she pushed through the employees-only door. A sigh of relief left her mouth. Michael had cleaned up the blood that was left in the hallway. She was grateful to have him around. He always had a cool head and wasn’t overwhelmed by stressful situations like today. He was only a year younger than her, which helped. Brielle stepped in front of Rocky’s cage.
“Hey, sweetie,” she said to the unconscious dog. “The painkillers we gave you should be in effect until tomorrow afternoon. Then when you wake up, we’ll take you out to the yard.”
A million thoughts rushed her mind. They would have to test Rocky and see if she was stable enough to be around people. Whether Derek was willing to admit it or not, this dog had been in a dogfight, and judging by the other scars on her body, it hadn’t been her first. Brielle needed answersespecially if Rocky was going to be a mom. She took out her phone and started scrolling through the contact list. Her finger hovered over Max’s name. He wasn’t the type to change his phone number, so it should still work. Fuck. She couldn’t. Anything she said to Max would get back to Derek, and the last thing she wanted was more drama. She pushed the name of another person who might know what those two had gotten into with the club.
“Hello?”
“Hey, Amy. It’s Brielle.”
“Oh, wow. Thanks for letting me know you were in town. You said two weeks ago you were going to call me when you headed to Sacramento Airport.”
“I’m sorry. Everything has been such a whirlwind. I’ve been busy getting to know the hospital staff and clients. How’s the shop doing?” Brielle asked while checking the saline pouch connected to Rocky’s IV.
“It’s busy as shit. I’m booked until January.”
“January? Amy, it’s June. How could you possibly have that many tattoo appointments?”
“What can I say? Your favorite Korean is in high demand.”
Brielle grinned. Amy had sacrificed a lot to get where she was, and it made Brielle happy to see her hard work pay off. Last month, Amy was flown to New York as a headliner for a tattoo convention. Amy had cried to her over Facetime because she couldn’t believe how far her passion had taken her.
“Luckily, I get to make my own hours. Otherwise, I would never see my boo.”
“How is Owen?” Brielle asked before putting the phone on speaker and setting it on the steel work table. One of the cats had thrown up in its cage. Fantastic.
“Annoying as hell. Thinks he knows everything, but I love him, so I tolerate it.”
“I know the feeling.” Brielle gave the cat a dirty look as she pulled it from the cage. Trying not to gag, she sprayed antiseptic and wiped up the bile. This was definitely not the part of vet life they showed on Animal Planet. She tripped over the cat as she walked to the garbage can. The cat shrieked and jumped onto the counter, knocking things to the floor. Perfect.
“What are you doing? What’s all that noise?” Amy asked.
“Nothing. Just cleaning up before I head home,” Brielle shouted at the phone from the floor.
“Mhm. You sure it isn’t Derek cleaning you?”
“What?” Brielle choked on her spit. What the hell? She had seen him not even an hour ago. How could Amy joke that she would be sleeping with him? Jesus. He looked good but not fuck-me-in-my-office-right-now good. Well, maybe he did, but Brielle would never do anything so unprofessional. Although the thought of her over the desk with Derek pumping into her from behind seemed worthy of breaking her professional code.
“Fine. Don’t kiss and tell,” Amy replied. Brielle could feel her smugness radiating through the phone.
“How do you know I saw him? Did Derek call you?”
“Nope. Max called and tried to use it as an excuse to pull me into a conversation.”
Brielle flushed with heat and her stomach dropped. What did Derek tell Max? Was she a threat to him? No. Jesus. She wasn’t thinking straight. She took a deep breath to clear her mind. This was Derek, not some mobster from an HBO series. Get a damn grip. “So what did Max say to you?”
“Nothing about Derek. He asked if I heard from you, and when I said no, he asked if I was seeing anyone. Asshole. He just wanted an excuse to call me. I think he’s going to invite me to dinner with him and Owen tomorrow night.”
Brielle smiled at the thought of Amy talking to Max about dating. “Maybe he wants to keep things friendly. It’s been a few months since you moved out. Some people are friends with their exes, and I’m sure Owen would like to know his parents are still civil with each other.”
Amy snorted. Brielle knew what was coming before Amy said the words. “You know how ironic that sounds coming from you, right? It would almost be insulting if it weren’t so funny. I mean, honestly.”
Brielle rolled her eyes and finished picking up the last few items from the floor. This cleanup was going to make her late, not that she had any plans outside of Chardonnay and reading a mystery novel. “That’s not fair, Amy. You know it was hard for both of us. He couldn’t move past his anger.” Is that why he was so angry? No. Who holds a grudge for ten years?
“You could say that again. He’s been handling it by putting his dick in any girl that practices basic hygiene.” Amy stated it as though it was a known fact throughout Clark County.
Brielle’s heart seized inside her chest. She knew that Derek received attention from women, but now she might have to witness it firsthand. Brielle became lost in thought, and after a few moments of silence, Amy brought her back to the present.
“Hey. Owen is going to be with Max this weekend. Do you want to go out with me and the girls Saturday night? You don’t work on Sundays, right?”
“I don’t know.” Brielle looked over at her cane that was still on the floor. “Girls who use canes don’t usually get guys to buy them drinks at the club.”
“Fuck guys! We’re going to have a good time and celebrate your homecoming. Melissa and Roxy haven’t seen you since we all took that trip to Napa.”
Brielle’s heart warmed at the memory. They always had a good time together but clubs were different. Thirty minutes on the dance floor and the familiar ache in her hip would be too much. This could be fun, or a complete embarrassment, but at least she would be getting out of the house.
“Okay.” Brielle’s smile widened at the thought of a girls’ night. “I’ll be there.” Amy squealed then said good-bye. Brielle looked around the room and realized that she still needed to wrangle the cat back into its cage. This was going to be one long night.






About Alexandra:
Alex is a California native who currently resides in the Bay Area.  She has loved romance for as long as she could remember, from watching Titanic as young girl to True Blood as a teenager to Say Yes to the Dress as an Adult. After years of reading romance, she finally decided to try her hand at writing stories with characters that reflect the diverse world we inhabit.

Outside of writing, Alex enjoys listening to girlboss podcasts while doing her makeup, reading comic books (DC girl but loves The Punisher), stalking BeyoncΓ©’s every move, and watching The Golden Girls with a glass of wine. She enjoys talking to her readers and anyone with a great sense of humor, so feel free to drop her a note anytime! 


Giveaway Details:


1 winner will win an eBook of COLLATERAL, International.

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Tour Schedule:

Week One:
11/26/2018- Adventures Thru Wonderland- Review
11/26/2018- Book-o-Craze- Excerpt

11/27/2018- Confessions of a YA Reader- Excerpt
11/27/2018- Jaime's World- Excerpt

11/28/2018- Random Bookish Banter- Review
11/28/2018- Parajunkee- Excerpt

11/29/2018- BookHounds- Interview
11/29/2018- Good Choice Reading- Excerpt

11/30/2018- My Books-My World- Interview

Week Two:
12/3/2018- Jump Into Books- Excerpt

12/4/2018- Here's to Happy Endings- Excerpt
12/4/2018- Bookish Rantings- Interview

12/5/2018- Books,Dreams,Life- Spotlight


12/7/2018- Two Chicks on Books- Excerpt 

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