Release Blitz: It Started with a Lie by Lisa Suzanne

Title: It Started with a Lie
Series: Truth and Lies Duet #1
Author: Lisa Suzanne
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: September 17, 2018

Blurb

Brian Fox is desperate for cash. When his business falls
into debt, he turns yet again to his rock star brother. Only this time, his
brother refuses to throw money at the problem…he intends to solve it. Enter
Vivian Davenport, business fixer extraordinaire, supreme professional, and
Brian’s new boss.
Brian has always called the shots, but now he’s the one
taking orders. When the tiny lie that Vivian is his new girlfriend slips out,
he’s forced to play the role of doting boyfriend to a woman he can’t stand.
It started as a lie, but what happens if it turns into the
truth?

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Author Bio
Lisa Suzanne is a romance author who resides in Arizona with
her husband and baby boy. She’s a former high school English teacher and
college composition instructor. When she’s not cuddling baby Mason, she can be
found working on her latest book or watching reruns of Friends.
 

Author Links

Cover & Preorder: Hearts Abroad (The Atlas Series #1) by Skye McNeil

Author: Skye McNeil
Title: Hearts Abroad
Series: Atlas
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: February 2, 2019
Cover Designer: Claire Smith
 Add to GR
 PREORDER FOR HALF PRICE 
Amazon links coming soon.

When a fun-loving American nanny turns a millionaire British single dad’s world upside down, it’s inevitable life is going to get complicated.

Taking a break from screenwriting in New York City, Londyn Bellerose takes a nannying job in Colorado to get away from the hubbub. A summer to live without regrets is all she wants. While her boss is British, gorgeous, and a millionaire, he has no clue how to have fun. Determined to mend the relationship between father and daughters, Londyn doesn’t expect to fall for the museum curator.

Londyn is American and everything Callum Archer swore to never fall for again. With her carefree spirit and energetic smile, she’s perfect to nanny Callum’s two daughters. The problem is she’s also perfect for him. She’s sassy, musical, and tends to speak her mind more than she means to.

When old history and new dreams threaten her happily ever after, will Londyn and Callum’s love survive?

Hearts Abroad is book one in Skye McNeil’s contemporary romance series, Atlas. Each book contains a millionaire to envy, snort-worthy comedy, and visits to many beautiful cities in the world. Yes, all of that, plus each novel ends with a fabulous HEA.

  PREORDER FOR HALF PRICE 
Amazon links coming soon.
Skye McNeil began writing at the age of seventeen and has been lost in a love affair ever since. During the day, she moonlights as a paralegal at a law firm favouring criminal law.
Skye enjoys writing romantic comedies and cozy mysteries novels that leave readers wanting more and falling in love over and over. She writes contemporary and historical novels ranging from sweet and sassy to steamy and sultry.
Her constant writing companions are two cats and two dogs. When she’s not writing, Skye enjoys spending time with family, photography, volleyball, traveling, and curling up with a cup of coffee and reading.
Sign up for Skye’s newsletter HERE.
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Cover Reveal: The Right Kind of Wrong by L.B. Reyes

Title: The Right Kind of Wrong
Author: L.B. Reyes
Genre: Romance
Release Date: October 9, 2018
Publisher: Limitless Publishing
Cover Design: Deranged Doctor Design

Power and wealth are what drives my family, which is why I’ve always had a strained relationship with them—especially with my sister Hannah. We just never seemed to care about the same things in life.


The day I returned home, I didn’t expect anything to be different…but I was wrong. 


My family is falling apart at the seams. My sister’s marriage is hanging by a thread, and I’m stuck in the middle of it. Why? Because I’m dangerously attracted to my brother-in-law.
Nathan is loving, kind, and completely off limits. But no matter how hard I try, how guilty I feel, I can’t stop myself from wanting him. 
And to make things worse, Nathan is the kind of man who knows what he wants, and he’s making it blatantly clear that what he wants…is me.

L.B. Reyes, lover of all things romance and professional procrastinator, was born and raised somewhere in the large state of Texas. She spends most of her time listening to music that bring her characters to life, or dancing to it when she needs to destress. When she’s not writing, she’s thinking about how to torture her characters or give them the happy ending they deserve. A mother, student and now author, L.B. Reyes is always busy, but makes sure to make time for her family. She is a firm believer that all obstacles may be overcome and so she spends her days encouraging others to follow their dreams, no matter how far away they seem.


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Cover Reveal: Confess: Sin City Salvation #1 by A. Zavarelli

Title: Confess
Series: Sin City Salvation #1
Author: A. Zavarelli
Genre: Dark Romance
Release Date: September 25, 2018
Cover Design: Lara at Coverluv

Lucian

A life free from sin.
For seventeen years, I have lived and breathed those words. But there is no balm to the war inside my soul.
Until her.
The mysterious beauty too lethal to taste. She’s a thief, a con, the essence of everything I loathe. Still, she lures me in with her lying eyes.
In the dark of night, she came to confess her sins, and in the light of morning, I plotted to steal her away.
She will be my ruination. My damnation. My biggest regret.
So help me, God.

**

Gypsy
A word of advice? Don’t show me your vulnerabilities because I will find a way to exploit them. I learned the hard way to take what I want from life with no regrets.
Until him.
He’s one of the most hated men in America. A soulless criminal attorney. A recluse. And as of five minutes ago, my new husband.
He wants to keep my secrets and collect my tears, but he should know that a wild animal can’t be domesticated.
I don’t know how to love men. I only know how to leave them.
With everything I want. 

I walked into my office and found the tall, leggy brunette waiting for me. She wasn’t the only one either. Beside her, Ace played around on his phone while Birdie flipped through a magazine.

I wasn’t surprised to see her this soon. In all honesty, I’d expected her to show up at my door last night, demanding to have Ace removed from her presence. But it appeared as though they survived the night, just barely.

“May I have a word with you?” Gypsy asked.

“You may,” I told her as I checked my watch. “In thirty minutes. When my lunch is finished.”

Her eyes narrowed, and she planted her hands on her hips as she stood. “You must be joking.”

“I don’t joke,” I responded flatly.

She stalked forward, stopping only when she’d breached the narrow distance that few people ever dared to try with me. She was reverting to her baser skills of seduction, but I doubted she even realized it. The instinct came naturally to her, often rewarding her with whatever she wanted, and admittedly, it might have worked on me too once.

She smelled of coconut oil and sunshine, and it encouraged a vivid image of her lying out on the beach. I could almost bet that if I were to touch her skin, it would be warm too. So warm that it would be easy to get lost in. She probably counted on it, but I was prepared to let Gypsy know from the start how this game would be played. There were only one set of rules, and they were mine.

“Do you want me to throw a fit?” she threatened as her eyes darted around my office. “Because I will.”

Now that was funny. My lips tilted despite my resolve to remain dry as toast.

“Do you think it would be the first time someone threw a fit in here?” I asked her. “I’m sorry to tell you sweetheart, but it wouldn’t.”

“It would probably be the first time someone accused you of holding them hostage in front of your employees.”

I turned and gestured for her to go ahead.

“Be my guest.”

Her lips tightened, and she clamped down on her jaw. After watching her for so long, these unintelligent threats from her were a disappointment. Of course, she wouldn’t make a scene because she had more to lose than I did.

“Thirty minutes,” I repeated. “I’ll have my secretary call for you when I’m finished.” 

I walked into my office and shut the door behind me.
A. Zavarelli is a book junkie, cat lover, and traveler when plagued by intense cases of wanderlust. She likes all things chocolate, books that come with warnings, and putting her characters through hell. 
Her tales have been known to flirt with darkness and sometimes court it unabashedly altogether. Revenge themes and tortured souls are her favorites to write and this gives her an excuse to watch bizarre and twisted documentaries in her spare time.
She is slightly obsessed with Theo James and funny animal memes. If you don’t mind these things, you should add her on facebook.

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Release Blitz: One Taste by K.A. Berg & T.E. Black

Title: One Taste
Series: The “One” Series
Authors: K.A. Berg & T.E. Black
Genre: Erotic Romance
Release Date: September 14, 2018

From K.A. Berg and T.E. Black comes a story of the forbidden desire—a story so delicious you’ll need more than One Taste.
 
I live the good life. I’m wealthy, the CEO of the advertising firm my father built from the ground up. I’ve been deemed a god in the sheets by the female population of New York City and have the equipment to match. Life is great.
 
Until my social life messes with my professional life. I’ve become a frequent flyer on the gossip pages. A detriment to business. Just as my perfect life is starting to crash down around me, I meet her.
 
All I wanted was one taste.
 
Now, I’m addicted.
 
One taste doesn’t seem to be enough.
 
I need more of her.
Too bad, too, because things are about to get real complicated.

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FOR SERIES PRE-ORDER LINKS, RELEASE ALERTS, AND MORE
Kimberly is a stay at home mom to four beautiful, crazy children by day and a steaming hot novelist by night. She is a Jersey girl at heart and that’s where she currently calls home with her amazing husband and children. 
 
Her debut release Inhibitions and the subsequent Uninhibited Series as well as the spin-off Apprehensive Duet both show her love of all things football. But not to worry, she’ll still bring you plenty of steam!
 
When not writing she can be found curled up with a good book or watching her beloved New York Jets. Lover all things romance, including a little M/M action as well as the dark and twisted. She enjoys video chats with her best friends and always loves to hear from her fans on social media.

New Adult and Contemporary Romance author, T.E. Black, also known as Tiffany, is never without a book in her hand. Whether she’s reading the newest release from a fellow author, or proofreading one of her own drafts, she’s always keeping busy.
Tiffany writes about imperfect heroes and strong-willed heroines. While, her heroines are known for going to head to head with the men in her stories, the heroes she writes always have that special touch of alpha.

When she’s not immersed in the literary world, Tiffany makes use of her time by being a full-time graphic designer for a company she owns and operates, creating book covers, teasers, banners, and swag for other authors and herself.

She began writing when stories she had read sparked an idea. She plotted her story, wrote three chapters, then scraped it where she let it sit in her computer for months. Instead of focusing on the potential of the story she had begun, she couldn’t help but feel as if she would never be able to publish a book as good as the ones she had read.

Months later, she obtained the courage to go back to her laptop and open up the dreaded first draft she had written. With a clear head and determination, she worked for hours on perfecting the three chapters she had written.

When she sat back in her seat, looking over her six thousand words, it clicked.
The story fell into place.
The characters spoke to her.
The plot lines began to pour from her fingertips, landing on her keyboard.
And then it finally happened.
She had written a novel.

Love it, like it, or hate it, Tiffany loves hearing from her fans! Feel free to connect with her!

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Cover Reveal: Jigsaw by Lilly Atlas

Title: Jigsaw
Series: Hell’s Handlers MC
Author: Lilly Atlas
Genre: MC Romance
Release Date: November 6, 2018

After being disappointed by her family one too many times, Izzy’s convinced the only person she needs is herself. Seeking a life with fewer relationships, she leaves the bustle of the city and moves to small-town Tennessee. Her plans for quiet and solitude don’t last long after she’s adopted by both the men and women of the Hell’s Handlers Motorcycle Club.

Once upon a time, Lincoln had a picture-perfect life. Sweet, loving wife, beautiful daughter, enviable career. But one fated night, it’s all wiped out, leaving him scarred both mentally and physically. Now known as Jigsaw, he’s a force to be reckoned with, and a valuable asset to the Hell’s Handlers MC. He’s also done. Done with love, done with dreams, done with women…unless it’s to work off some tension.
Despite their resolve to avoid entanglements, chemistry blazes between Jig and Izzy and becomes harder to resist with each encounter. When the club’s enemies set their sights on Izzy, the Handlers pull her even further into the fold. Everything Izzy believes about families is challenged as Jig and his club prove they can be counted on again and again.
Fighting side by side with a fearless woman, even one as smokin’ as Izzy, isn’t something Jig wants, but it might be exactly what he needs. If club business doesn’t destroy them, do Jig and Izzy stand a chance of letting their pasts go and finding happiness?

 
A full five minutes early for his appointment, Jigsaw shouldered through the door and into Inked, the one and only tattoo shop in Townsend, Tennessee. But even if it wasn’t, even if there was a shop on every corner, it’d be the best by far. Rip was a master with a tattoo machine who could bring anyone’s vision to life.
Maverick and Rocket filed in after him, immediately taking seats on the ratty couch butted up against the display window. His brothers had tagged along despite knowing how much Jig hated an audience for this.
He had a tat on his thigh that he added to every year on his wife and child’s birthdays which just happened to be only three days apart. Without fail, it put him in a shitty mood, and his brothers damn well knew it. But they couldn’t just leave him the fuck alone. They had to stick their fucking noses in his shit and follow him, so he didn’t “do something stupid.”
Every damn year.
Assholes.
“Hey, Jig,” Rip called out. “Lemme talk to you for a second.” He stepped from behind the privacy curtain pulled around his customer. To say the shop was simple would be a ridiculous understatement. Inked about as no-frills as it came, with two tattoo chairs, a reception desk, a second-hand couch and a few sketches on the wall. Rip didn’t give a shit about the décor or ambiance. He gave damn good ink and had the reputation to prove it.
“What’s up, Rip?” Jig asked after Rip waddled his large frame cross the shop.
“Hey, I’m running about forty-five minutes behind, man. I’m sorry.” Rip gave Jig a sheepish half smile.
From the couch, Maverick laughed and rubbed his hands together. “Woohoo, does this mean Jig gets to have his face inked on you?”
Not one to find much shit funny, Jig snorted. Rip was a bit of a psycho when it came to lateness. Threatened to tattoo his face on a client if they were late to their appointment. He’d done it before too, the bastard. That was the reason Jig never let himself be later than five minutes early. Last thing he needed was Rip’s ugly mug on his ass cheek.
“I really am sorry, man,” Rip said. He ran a hand through his hair and shifted uncomfortably, seeming flustered which wasn’t him.
“Everything good?” Jig asked.
Rip lowered his voice. “Yeah, just had this broad come in crying a few minutes ago. Breast cancer survivor who recently had some reconstructive surgery. Wanted me to ink nipples on her.”
“Well fuck me, Rip,” Mav said. “Why didn’t you start with that? Now I feel like an ass for ragging on you.”
With a shrug, Rip swiped the back of his hand across his forehead. “Shit, I’m sweating, guys. This is a lot of pressure.”
This time, Jig let out a small laugh. “You did all our Hell’s Handlers back pieces without blinking an eye, and you’re afraid of some nipples?”
“It’s a big deal,” Rip grumbled.
Jig slapped him on the back. “Hey, man, no worries. I can reschedule.” In reality, the change to his schedule pissed him off, but what the fuck could he do? He wasn’t about to be the asshole who pulled Rip away from a cancer survivor. Jig might be an unfeeling bastard, but he wasn’t a robot.
“Nah, not necessary,” Rip said as he walked toward the desk. “I got someone else who can do it.”
Jig froze and scanned the shop. It was then he realized there was a curtain pulled around the second chair as well. Muffled voices could be heard from behind the fabric wall but not well enough to make out what was being said. “You telling me you actually hired some help?”
For the past two years, Rip had been saying he needed to hire a second artist. Ever the control freak, no one actually thought he’d let another professional into his shop. He found fault with every other artist out there.
“Yeah, I did. They’re just finishing up the aftercare convo. Then you can meet ’em.”
“I don’t know.” Jig frowned. No one but Rip had gone near his skin with ink and needle.
“They’re good, Jig. Wouldn’ta hired ’em otherwise. Trained ’em myself actually. Years ago. Take a look at some of their work.” He dug around behind his desk and pulled out a beat-up binder, laying it out on the counter.
Like a bunch of teenage chicks who didn’t want to miss out on the gossip, Mav and Rocket hopped up to join him at the counter.
Mav, who had more inked skin than not, whistled. “Shit, Rip. These are fucking amazing. This guy might do better work than you.”
It was meant as a joke, but Rip snorted and nodded. There was definite truth to Maverick’s words. The lines were so precise, the images so vivid and perfect it was hard to believe they were done by a human hand. One of the photos was a butterfly that literally looked like it was lifting off some chick’s shoulder. Amazing.
“Give ’em a shot,” Rip said. “Promise they’ll do you right.”
Jig sighed and rubbed a hand across his jaw. Time to trim his beard. He’d gotten lazy the past few weeks and had let the beard get a little out of control. He always kept some amount of growth because it covered the bottom third of his scar, but he tried to keep it neat. Most of the time. “All right, man. Let’s do it.”
Seemed like Rip was really trying to push the new guy. Probably trying to build up his clientele. If the work in his portfolio was an accurate reflection of the guy’s skill, he’d be a fool to turn down this artist.
“Great.” Rip’s yellow-toothed smile beamed. “Oh, here she comes now.”
“Wait, what?”
She?
Maverick coughed in a weak attempt to cover his laughter, but it quickly turned to a gasp. 
Oh yeah,” he said. “That one’ll do you right, Jig.”
“Holy fuck,” Rocket whispered.
Rip wore a shit-eating grin, the fuckstick. He’d purposefully misled them into thinking it was a dude. Jig didn’t want some bitch getting anywhere near him with a needle. He flipped his brothers off and spun to check out this lady tattoo artist for himself.
Ho-ly shiite.
About five-eight inches—and that was without the four-inch stilettos—of pure sex and sin strutted her way straight toward him. Somehow, this woman had poured herself into the tightest black leather pants he’d ever seen. They molded around her long, shapely legs and damn if he didn’t wish for her to turn around. He just bet she had a stellar ass that would only be enhanced by the grip of soft leather.
With each step, the back and forth sway of her hips drew his eye like he was watching the pendulum of a clock swing side to side. Forcing his gaze from her hips, he trailed it upward, not oblivious to the tight black tank top that cupped her breasts as snugly as the leather cupped her thighs.
“Hey, boys,” she said, her voice on the lower side. Husky, he’d call it.
Mav whistled. “Damn, woman. And I say this in a totally non-creepy, non-flirting way because I have a woman that would shoot off my junk if I so much as hit on another chick, but you are some kinda fucking gorgeous.”
Jig clenched his teeth together as the new lady tattoo artist threw her head back and laughed. Fucking Maverick. Flirting and charming woman was just part of his DNA. He truly meant it when he said he wasn’t hitting on her. The man just couldn’t let a beautiful woman walk away without her knowing she was gorgeous.
“Aren’t you the charmer,” she said, placing her hands on those fantastic hips.
Damn her body was out of this world. Not skinny, not even too curvy, it was more…athletic. Sleek lines, the swell of muscles in her arms, flat stomach. The girl must spend some serious hours in the gym.
“Guys, this here is Isabella. I taught her everything she knew about ten years ago. She finally agreed to move here and work with me.” Rip beamed with pride as he introduced his protégé.
“Please,” she said. “Call me Izzy. One of you boys looking for some ink?”
Fuck no.
Wasn’t happening.
Rocket cleared his throat like he had a whole steak lodged in there. If the asshole wasn’t careful, he’d have Jig’s fist lodged in there instead.
A hand slapped down on his shoulder. “My man Jig here needs some ink.”
Fuckin’ Maverick.
“Don’t want to mess up your schedule,” Jig said. “I’ll come back when Rip can fit me in.”
Rips face fell making Jig feel like scum. Wasn’t the shop owner’s fault that Jig wanted nothing to do with most women. Unless he was fucking them. That was pretty much the only time he associated with them. Of course, his brother’s ol’ ladies couldn’t seem to leave his ass alone. Always trying to bring him food, fix him up, and acting like freaking mother hens around him.
Especially Mav’s woman, Stephanie. He’d helped rescue her from a fucking psycho not long ago, and he seemed to have become her special project.
“Oh, I’ll, uh, check my book.” Rip waddled behind his desk and flipped through his old-school appointment book.
Izzy’s dark, almost black eyes just stared at him, hands on her hips, earning her Jig’s scowl. Who the hell did this bitch think she was?
Instead of caving under his murderous glare, one of her perfect black eyebrows arched high into her forehead. “You afraid your dick will invert if a woman puts some ink on you?”
She had a set of balls, he’d give her that much. “Nah, I—”
“I’ve inked hundreds, actually thousands of dudes.” She gasped and covered her mouth with her unpolished fingertips. “Shit, I’ve even tatted some bikers.”
Behind him, Mav and Rocket chuckled. Fuckers were enjoying this way too much.
Izzy leaned closer and dropped her volume. “Promise you, Bubba, not one of those guys grew a pussy because I was the one holding the needle.”
A strangled sound came from Rocket, and Maverick flat out laughed. Rip joined in, and soon the three of them were howling like a bunch of fucking hyenas.
Goddamnit. Not only had she interrupted him, sassed him, and tossed attitude at him, she’d thrown down a challenge. His damned male pride left him no choice.
“Show me to your chair,” he grumbled.
A massive grin of victory broke out across her gorgeous face. “Follow me, Bubba,” she said as she spun on one of those pencil-thin heels then sashayed to her station.
And fuck if he didn’t feel a twitch of his dick and a twitch of his lips. Where his cock’s interest came from, he had no idea. Miss Izzy couldn’t be further from his usual type.
He liked ‘em blonde, blue-eyed, small, sweet, and docile. Not tall, dark-haired, and mouthy. She’d even shaved the sides of her head, adding to her badass-bitch look.
But as he watched the very long tail of a tight braid swinging back and forth across the top of what was without a doubt a stellar ass, he couldn’t deny the animal attraction to her.
Fuck.
This was gonna be a shitty few hours.
Lilly Atlas is a contemporary romance author, proud Navy wife, and mother of two spunky girls. By day she works as a physical therapist for a hospital in Virginia. Lilly is an avid romance reader, and expects her Kindle to beg for mercy every time she downloads a new eBook. Thankfully, it hasn’t happened yet, and she can often be found absorbed in a good book.

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Release Blitz: Sledge by Jessie Cooke

Title: Sledge: Westside Skulls Motorcycle Club
Series: Westside Skulls MC Romance Book 5
Author: Jessie Cooke
Genre: MC Romance
Release Date: September 10, 2018


When you’re teased and tormented as a kid about everything you’re not able to change about yourself, you grow up tough on the outside, but shattered in a million pieces on the inside. Steve was a poor kid, thrust into a world where people had everything he thought he wanted, but couldn’t have. He was bullied for being “different” and made to believe he was “less than” everyone else.
Ten years later, Steve is now Sledge, an enforcer for the Westside Skulls. He found a place where he could put his tough skin to use, and people weren’t constantly judging him. He loves life in the MC. He works hard and he plays harder and he never lacks for female companionship. For once in his life he has everything he wants or needs. Well…almost everything.
Daria Ford had it all growing up. Money, looks, popularity…everything except what she really wanted, the one thing that would make her happy. Daria wanted Steve and since she was used to getting what she wanted, she was shocked when her plans went sideways, and she was left feeling embarrassed and rejected.
Ten years later Daria is still searching for fulfillment. She has a good life, but she’s not happy. She’s always felt like something was missing and when she started writing romance novels for a living, it seemed to fill the void, at least for a while. Funny thing was that all the heroes in her books looked and sounded a lot like Steve, her high school crush.
When Daria accidentally crashes head first back into Sledge’s life, will these two people come together and find what they’ve both been looking for all along? Or will Sledge’s insecurities rule his heart and Daria’s imagination fool hers?

* * *

Book 5 in the Westside Skulls MC Series.
This is a Standalone Romance Novel but characters from the previous stories in this series appear in this and future books in the series. 
HEA and No cliffhanger. 
Intended for Mature Readers.

* * *

The Westside Skulls MC Series is about members of the MC club, their friends and associates. 
Each story, while focused around one main character, is not necessarily about a Westside Skulls club member, but the story is related to Skulls members and the club.



New York City – 2007


“Baby, why aren’t you dressed? You’re going to be late.”

Steve sat on the edge of his bed, dressed in a white t-shirt and jeans with holes in the knees. It was his “uniform” at home, much more comfortable than the button-down white shirt, blue tie, and blue slacks he had to wear to school five days a week. It was Friday night…homecoming…and Steve had been voted homecoming king.

“I’m not going, Mom.”

“What? You have to go! You’re homecoming king!” She beamed with so much pride that Steve was surprised she didn’t actually light up the room. It was going to break his heart to tell her…but he couldn’t have her sitting in the bleachers and watching his humiliation from the sidelines. He’d put it off as long as he could.

“Mom…I’m pretty sure it’s a joke.”

She pulled her brows together. “A joke? I don’t understand.”

“Mom…they wouldn’t have voted me homecoming king on purpose, unless it was a joke. They’re going to do something to embarrass me, and I don’t want you there, watching. I don’t want to be there. I give them enough ammo at school every day.”

His mother looked crushed and it made his heart hurt. She sat down next to him on the bed and after a few silent moments she said, “Have you been getting bullied?” Steve had been bullied since the day he started middle school. He was from a whole different world than the rest of the students at the private school he attended. The neighborhood he lived in was an old one, the houses were run-down, the yards unkempt, and most people worked two jobs, or twelve-hour shifts, to support their families and still couldn’t make ends meet. The other students lived in high-rise penthouses in Manhattan, or old mansions in Chelsea. They were kids who had never known what it felt like to want anything. Steve had grown up wanting so many things…but mostly, just to be accepted.

He wasn’t completely alone any longer. He had two really good friends and he didn’t think he could have done any better than his mother for a parent…so things weren’t all that bad. But the rich kids found some kind of sick pleasure in constantly reminding him that he didn’t fit in…and he’d managed to keep that from his mother the whole time. That was the one advantage to having to take two buses to get across town to school every morning, and having a mother who usually couldn’t take off work to come to school events. She was so proud of him for his achievements, and he wanted to keep it that way. He never wanted her to know what an outcast he was…but if she was going to find out, it wasn’t going to be by watching her son get humiliated.

“No, Mom, they don’t bully me,” he lied. “Look at me, I’m huge. They’d be stupid to start anything with me.”

She put her hand on his big arm. He was huge. He was a senior in high school and already six-foot-three and over two hundred pounds of muscle. A lot of his time was spent working out with some old weights his brother’d left in the basement. It helped clear his head and it was how he got rid of the aggression that built up throughout the day. “But you’d never hurt anyone, and they can probably sense that. Steve, please talk to me.”

“I am talking to you, Mom. Things are okay. Mostly they leave me alone, but I’m different from them, you know that. I’m not even a little bit popular. I know this is a joke and I’d rather just stay home and skip the humiliation, okay?”

She nodded. “Of course. I’d never want to see you hurt like that. But please promise me you’ll let me know if there’s more going on, okay? I just get the feeling…”

“Nothing more is going on, Mom, really.” The phone began to ring, and he was relieved when his mom got up to answer it. They had a home phone and she had a cell phone, but Steve didn’t have one now. He had…he’d had a phone that his mother probably worked forty hours of overtime to buy for him. It had been tossed in the toilet at school by some of those kids who “didn’t” bully him. His best friend had kicked the guy’s ass and gotten suspended from school for three days because of it. Steve was called a coward by everyone else for not fighting for himself. He wasn’t a coward. He was afraid, though. He was afraid that if he threw that first punch, he wouldn’t be able to stop. He was afraid of killing someone.

His mother appeared in the doorway a few seconds later and said, “That was the school principal, Mr. Gamble.”

“What did he want?” Gamble was old money and he looked down on Steve as much as the other kids did. As part of his scholarship agreement, Steve had to work in the school office ten hours a week. Between that and the two-hour bus ride each way, he wasn’t even able to get a job after school and help his mother out. He couldn’t wait to get the fuck out of that school and out of New York, away from all the hateful, snobby people.

She sat down next to him again and she looked like she was going to cry. Laying her head over on his big shoulder she said, “You are so good. You know that? No matter what anyone tells you, you’re pure goodness, and if they treat you badly it’s because they’re jealous of your intelligence and your heart…”

“Mom, I love that you’re trying not to hurt me, but I’m a big boy. Just give it to me straight…what did he say?”

“The girl…the one who was supposed to be homecoming queen…she told the principal that you’ve made inappropriate advances toward her, and she wasn’t comfortable being queen to your kind.” Before Steve could say anything she quickly said, “I know it’s a lie. I told him, that’s not you. He said that without proof he couldn’t really punish you in any way…it’s a ‘he said, she said’ situation. But in light of what she did say, he had to disqualify you from being homecoming king.”

Steve’s chest burned with…hate, maybe? He wasn’t sure what the feeling was. For the longest time, he thought he was in love with one of his best friends, but when he figured out his two best friends were in love with each other, he promised himself he’d never do anything about that. Then, all of a sudden one of the prettiest, smartest girls at school started paying attention to him. He’d been suspicious at first, but she’d hung out with him and his friends more than once, and he had begun to believe she was serious about wanting to date him. Surprisingly, she invited him to her sister’s wedding. It was a huge affair that made him sick to his stomach, but at the same time he couldn’t remember ever being happier…because he was with Daria.

Also, surprisingly however, Daria drank at her sister’s wedding…a lot. No one seemed to notice the seventeen-year-old girl finishing off everyone’s wine, or champagne, or even their hard liquor except for Steve. He didn’t want to lecture her on their first date, however, so he kept his mouth shut too…until she took him up to her room on the floor that the entire family had rented in the hotel for the occasion. She started kissing him, and it was amazing. His teenage hormones were raging, and he wanted nothing more than to have sex with the beautiful girl. But she was drunk, and he knew that would be wrong. He’d never want to take advantage of her. When she started undressing and he told her to stop…she freaked out. She even threw things at him and told him he would be sorry. How dare a guy like him turn down a girl like her?

In the past, she had never been one of the group of kids who picked on him. But after that night, she was true to her word…and it was another reason why he was sure the homecoming king thing was a joke. They probably knew he wouldn’t show up. He was smarter than that…so this had been their back-up plan. She made him look like a predator when all he’d been trying to do was conserve her dignity. So yeah, maybe it was hate he was feeling…or maybe it was love, flowing out of his heart and turning into acid in his veins. Maybe love was going to be as elusive to him as it had always been for his poor mother. Maybe he was just that unlovable.


Jessie Cooke writes hot romance novels about tough guys, bad boys, bikers, fighters and lovers and the women of strong character who tame them.

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