Sunday, September 30, 2012

Unlikely Allies by Tiffany King ~ Review & GIVEAWAY

I have totally enjoyed hosting the tour for Unlikely Allies by Tiffany King.  Tiffany has a way will books and every stop has been wonderful!  If you missed any of the stops this last ten days, you can check them out below.

The tour giveaway is posted again below.  It ends TODAY at 12PM EST, so make sure and get those last entries in.  Tiffany is giving away a Kindle Paperwhite with an eCopy of Unlikely Allies.

Now for my stop today, I have my review to share with you! 

Source:  Received an eBook copy from the author in exchange for a fair and honest review.

My Summary:

Having just discovered that her father never even knew she was conceived, Kimberly leaves California to spend six weeks with her Dad in the rugged Colorado mountains.  Not expecting to be roughing it at a summer camp for foster kids, Kimberly won't give up when the resident Greek God, Mason, doesn't think she belongs there.  Their verbal battles have sparks flying that neither of them can deny.  And when their lives are on the line, they must pull together just to survive.  But then what happens on the mountain didn't stay on the mountain.  Now, can they live with the outcome?

My Thoughts:


5 stars - Sparks fly between these two very strong main characters and hold on for the ride cause this book rocks!

Kimberly is a strong, confident eighteen year-old who is facing a huge shock.  The father she didn't know anything about, didn't know anything about her either.  Although Kimberly is firmly set on the path she intents to follow now that she has graduated, she decides to spent time getting to know her father.  This story follows her journey as she discovers a man to call Dad, a love of the mountains, a change of heart about her career, and a love she can't lose.  There's no way that doesn't change where Kimberly's life is going.  

I loved the characters in this book.  Tiffany is a strong character writer.  I always love her characters.  Kimberly is different from other characters that Tiff has written in that she is already in a good place.  She was raised by a great mom, who though she lied to her about her dad, she loved her.  Kim has graduated from high school and has been accepted to college.  She has a bright future ahead of her.  Mason, on the other hand, grew up in foster care only really getting a break when he meets Rick, Kimberly's father.  Despite his difficult start, Mason is also strong. He has pulled himself up to be a counselor at the camp, graduate from high school and is attending community college.  When these two meet, the sparks fly.  It's clear from the beginning that they are both attracted to each other.  Amy sees it clearly but these two are both in denial.  I love how Kimberly holds her head up despite Mason's criticism.  I love how Mason is the one to show his emotions.  I love how there is no distracting love triangle going on.  I love these two characters together.  The only part of the book that didn't soar by was the part when they weren't together.  

I loved the secondary characters.  Rick, Kimberly's Dad, is fabulous.  Really enjoyed him.  Amy is the bestest besty ever!  Loved her comments! So fun.  I don't think we really got to know Kimberly's mom very well.  She's there in the later part of the book, but really Kimberly is still dealing with the lying thing, keeping her mom at arms length.  

The story was fast paced and made some turns I wasn't expecting at all.  I loved the time they spent on the mountain.  It was by far the best part of the book.  The last third was hard for me but I totally see why it was necessary.  It still pasted by quickly and I thoroughly enjoyed the whole thing. 

Thinking this is the BEST Tiffany book that I have read so far.  If you like a fast paced, yummy romance, then this one is a great choice.


US only - this is for a Kindle Paperwhite and an eBook copy of Unlikely Allies.  See rafflecopter below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Stacking MY Shelves ~ 9/30/12

Stacking the Shelves is hosted by Tynga's Reviews.  Make sure to checkout her post with links to all the other participates.

Again this week, I didn't buy any books but still have a lot stacking my shelves!

Part of the tour for this one.  Received an eBook from the author - thank you.

Derailed by Alyssa Rose Ivy

From Goodreads:

When you're lost, sometimes the only place you can go is home.

Broken over the death of her fiancé, Molly leaves law school to return to her childhood home in North Carolina. Expecting to lay low until she can figure out what else to do with her life, she finds herself in the arms of her high school sweetheart, the boy who represents everything from the past she tried to leave behind.

Looking for an escape, she instead finds a way back to the girl she almost forgot existed and a future she never dreamed possible

The very generous and talented Heather Self, sent me not one but two signed copies of her fabulous book, THE ONE.  One for me and one for my classroom. PLUS a ton of swag!!! YAY- Thanks Heather.

Here's all the great things she sent.

Here's the copy now sitting on my shelf in my classroom.

The One by Heather Self

From Goodreads:

Stranded on Earth two thousand years they’ve waited for the arrival of the One: some to save her, others to kill her. With her birth, the ancient prophecy could at last be fulfilled and the doorway between the worlds would open. Those who know the prophecy believe this event occurred almost eighteen years ago, and now, they’ll stop at nothing to find her.

Seventeen-year-old Eveline has lived her entire life on the move and she hates it. She knows her parents believe she’s the One, and they’ve done whatever it takes to stay one step ahead of those who want her dead. But Eveline isn’t fully convinced that her parents’ beliefs match her own. What she does believe is that Leadville, Colorado may be the chance she’s been waiting for. The chance to be somewhere safe. The chance for her to make friends and have fun. The chance to finally date a guy. The chance to be a normal girl, at least as normal as possible for someone not human.

Got this one from the Publisher to review - thank you Entangled Publishing.
All the Broken Pieces by Cindi Madsen

From Goodreads:

What if your life wasn’t your own?

Liv comes out of a coma with no memory of her past and two distinct, warring voices inside her head. Nothing, not even her reflection, seems familiar. As she stumbles through her junior year, the voices get louder, insisting she please the popular group while simultaneously despising them. But when Liv starts hanging around with Spencer, whose own mysterious past also has him on the fringe, life feels complete for the first time in, well, as long as she can remember.

Liv knows the details of the car accident that put her in the coma, but as the voices invade her dreams, and her dreams start feeling like memories, she and Spencer seek out answers. Yet the deeper they dig, the less things make sense. Can Liv rebuild the pieces of her broken past, when it means questioning not just who she is, but what she is?
This one is an updated trade copy that I received from the author for review.  Thank you.

Something New by Malena Lott

In this modern retelling of the Princess and the Pauper, three generations of women live together in a loft in an urban district as they redefine love and happiness and the meaning of "having it all." 
Matriarch Maeve, 85, is losing her mind to Alzheimer's and after she receives a note that the musical, The Princess and the Pauper, is being revived, she believes she's 25 again, when she starred in the show. Suddenly, she's a stage diva again and can't stop talking about her co-star, Canty, someone her daughter and grand-daughters had never heard of.
Bess, Maeve's only daughter, is dealing with her divorce at the same time she's planning her 25 year-old daughter's wedding. To make things worse, they are starring in a reality TV show, Luxe Weddings, but no one knows the Apples aren't as wealthy as everyone believes. Her oldest daughter, Kelly, 35, has a secret of her own: she's pregnant by a donor, but is afraid to tell her family due to their position in the community. Just when she's given up men, Kelly meets Edgar, the producer of The Princess and the Pauper, who hires her to plan the launch and wants to include Maeve in the show. Meanwhile, the youngest Apple, curvy shoe-addict, Gwen, struggles with her weight and keeping up with the other brides-to-be on the reality show, when the stage bug - and love bug - hit her at the worst possible time.
With humor and heart, Something New delves deep into our inner lives where secrets, passion and identity yearn for the spotlight.

The wonderful Autumn from The Autumn Review won this book, but already had a copy. SO, see gave it to me.  Thank you girl!

Poughkeepsie by Debra Anastasia

From Goodreads:

He counts her smiles every day and night at the train station. And morning and evening, the beautiful commuter acknowledges him—just like she does everyone else on the platform. But Blake Hartt is not like the others . . . he’s homeless. Memories of a broken childhood have robbed him of peace and twisted delusions into his soul. He stays secluded from the sun, sure the world would run from him in the harsh light of day.

Each day, Livia McHugh smiles politely and acknowledges her fellow commuters as she waits for the train to the city. She dismisses this kindness as nothing special, just like her. She’s the same as a million other girls—certainly no one to be cherished. But special or not, she smiles every day, never imagining that someone would rely on the simple gesture as if it were air to breathe.

When the moment comes that Livia must do more than smile, without hesitation she steps into the fray to defend the homeless man. And she's surprised to discover an inexplicable connection with her new friend. After danger subsides, their smiles become conversation. Their words usher in a friendship, which awakens something in each of them. But it’s not long before their bond must prove its strength. Entanglements from the past challenge both their love and their lives.

Blake’s heart beats for Livia’s, even if her hands have to keep its rhythm. Love is patient. Love is kind. Love never fails. Love never fails, right?

In an interwoven tale of unlikely loves and relationships forged by fire, Debra Anastasia takes readers into the darkest corners of human existence, only to show them the radiant power of pure adoration and true sacrifice. Complicated families and confused souls find their way to light in this novel, which manages to be racy, profane, funny, and reverent all at once.
Thank you to Spencer Hill Press for this one.

Touch of Death By Kelly Hashway

From Goodreads:

Jodi Marshall isn’t sure how she went from normal teenager to walking disaster. One minute she’s in her junior year of high school, spending time with her amazing boyfriend and her best friend. The next she’s being stalked by some guy no one seems to know.

After the stranger, Alex, reveals himself, Jodi learns he’s not a normal teenager and neither is she. With a kiss that kills and a touch that brings the dead back to life, Jodi discovers she’s part of a branch of necromancers born under the 13th sign of the zodiac, Ophiuchus. A branch of necromancers that are descendents of Medusa. A branch of necromancers with poisoned blood writhing in their veins.

Jodi’s deadly to the living and even more deadly to the deceased. She has to leave her old, normal life behind before she hurts the people she loves. As if that isn’t difficult enough, Jodi discovers she’s the chosen one who has to save the rest of her kind from perishing at the hands of Hades. If she can’t figure out how to control her power, history will repeat itself, and her race will become extinct.
Received this one from the author - thank you.

Flukes by  Nichole Chase

From Goodreads:

Meena has a secret guarded closely by her family—a secret as dangerous as the sea, and buried just as deep. When court appointed community service workers are assigned to Flukes, the family-owned animal sanctuary, everyone is on high alert. It doesn’t help that Meena finds herself attracted to sexy-as-sin Blake Weathering, one of the new workers. If he wasn’t so distracting, she might be able to land Flukes a much-needed cruise line contract.

Blake Weathering, the first in his family to attend public school, has developed a tough image. Unfortunately it lands him in trouble. Now banned from his high school graduation ceremony, getting his diploma is dependent upon a community service gig cleaning fish crap. No diploma, no trust fund fortune—and no way to escape his overbearing father. The last thing he needs is the distraction of a mysterious girl with teal eyes who pulls at his heart strings.

When Blake discovers Meena’s secret, they are both thrown into a desperate search for information about her past. Two worlds pull them in opposite directions, and they will have to fight to hold onto all that really matters.

Well there ya go! That's what's stacking my shelves this week.  What's up with yours?

Leave me a comment.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

The winners are...


Emails have been sent to the winners and they have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen.

Thanks everyone who entered.

Didn't win?  Check this one out - it rocks!!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Cover Reveal ~ Release by M. R. Merrick PLUS Comment Giveaway

Available December 10, 2012

After uniting the shifters and calling in reinforcements, Chase has to face his toughest challenge yet: learning to control his emotions. But as tensions rise and his powers grow, controlling his emotions becomes the least of his problems.

Terrorized by a multi-shifter who is hell-bent on turning him, Chase questions just how far he’s willing to go to stop his father.  Meanwhile, Tiki’s virtuous nature has placed him in the middle of Vincent’s past, leaving Chase to oppose a senate of vampires and defend a demon he hates.

Trying to balance his friends, his enemies, and his inner demons, Chase is left searching for answers about the Mark, his destiny, and where he can find the next soul piece. Stopping Riley is his top priority, but as more obstacles arise, he finds himself doubting all the decisions he’s made - especially regarding Rayna.
One thing is for certain: Chase has finally realized that he doesn’t know anything. The light doesn’t always quell the darkness, the monsters don’t always stay in the shadows, and the past doesn’t always stay in the past - sometimes, the demons inside are the hardest to fight.

M.R. Merrick | Goodreads | Exiled (Protector #1) | Shift (Protector #2)

So if you follow my blog, you know I love this series. Check out my reviews for the first two books here.

I love these covers.  So far, the covers have always appealed to me differently after I read the book than before.  I love that in a cover.  They should mean something to the story.  So I want to know what you think of these covers.  

What you think of the cover for RELEASE?

What you think of them as a set?

What you think of covers that actually connect to the book?

As a reward for commenting, I'm gonna enter you in a giveaway for an eBook of either Exiled or Shift.  Comments and spreading the word are the only entries.  See the rafflecopter below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Cover reveal ~ Whisper Falls by Elizabeth Langston

Available November 19, 2013

Whisper Falls
While training for a mountain bike race, high-school senior Mark Lewis spots a mysterious girl dressed in odd clothing, standing behind a waterfall in the woods near his North Carolina home. When she comments on the strange machine that he rides, he suspects something isn't right. When Susanna claims to be an indentured servant from 1796, he wonders if she's crazy. Yet he feels compelled to find out more.

Mark enters a 'long-distance' relationship with Susanna through the shimmering--and temperamental--barrier of Whisper Falls. Curious about her world, Mark combs through history to learn about the brutal life she's trapped in. But knowledge can be dangerous. Soon he must choose between the risk of changing history or dooming the girl he can't stop thinking about to a lifetime of misery.
Title: Whisper Falls (Whisper Falls #1)
Author: Elizabeth Langston
Publisher: Spencer Hill Press ( Please feel free to use any images, text, links, etc. from our website.
ISBN: 978-1-937053-42-0
Release Date: November 19, 2013
Formats: Paper, e-book 

This one looks great but it's too far away!!!!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Last Year Blog Tour ~ Review & GIVEAWAY

I'm happy to be a part of The Last Year Blog Tour.  I have a review of book one, Whispers of Autumn, and a fabulous giveaway.  Check it out.

Add to Goodreads
Source:  Received an eBook copy from the author in exchange for a fair and honest review.

From Goodreads:

In 2015, a race of alien Others conquered Earth. They enslaved humanity not by force, but through an aggressive mind control that turned people into contented, unquestioning robots. 

Except sixteen-year-old Althea isn’t content at all, and she doesn’t need the mysterious note inside her locket to tell her she’s Something Else. It also warns her to trust no one, so she hides the pieces that make her different, even though it means being alone. 

Then she meets Lucas, everything changes. 

Althea and Lucas are immune to the alien mind control, and together they search for the reason why. What they uncover is a stunning truth the Others never anticipated, one with the potential to free the brainwashed human race. 

It’s not who they are that makes them special, but what.

And what they are is a threat. One the Others are determined to eliminate for good.

My Thoughts:

4 stars:  A unique twist of elemental magic and sci-fic, Whispers in Autumn is fast paced and full of surprises.

When I started reading this book, I hadn't read the description.  At first, I was thinking - oh I get what's going on.  But quickly, I realized it wasn't what I expected.  There are elements of different types of paranormal books all woven together to make a unique tale that doesn't fit in one YA category.  There's this shifting or traveling as Althea calls it, then there is elements with some magic attached to them, there are aliens, there is mind control, there is a mystery boy, there is an isolated girl who struggles to know who to trust...I could go on and on.  This book blends all those different elements into something fresh and different.

The characters are great.  I like Althea.  She's trying to go unnoticed but she also needs to be brave enough to figure things out.  I love how her spurts of bravery helped her grow over the course of the book.  She may have been too winy for me at times, but I did like her.  I really liked Lucas.  Of course, I usually do like the boys better - go figure.  But Lucas was mysterious but calm.  It could be his ever cool nature, but he calmed Althea and he was the thinker.  I loved his relationship with Fils.  That was also a great source of sorrow.  His slightly more trusting nature was fun.  I really liked the interactions between Althea and Lucas.  Althea is cute about thinking things are just for show, when I don't think Lucas ever saw it that way.  They were cute together.

The story moved steadily and the pages just blew past.  I figured out a few things with the brilliant hints the author left between the lines but there were also a few surprises.  I love it when a book surprises me.

So the ending made me run to the book description for Winter Omens, and I wasn't happy at all.  Yeah, enough about that.  I'm gonna read it but I may be grumpy at this Pax boy until I find out the deal with a certain other boy.
I had a TEASER up from Whispers in Autumn this week.  If you missed it, you can find it here.

Thinking if you enjoy YA and paranormal, then this book is a good choice to pick up.

Add to Goodread

 Winter Omens (The Last Year #2)


From Goodreads:

Winter Omens

Althea and Lucas barely escaped the Others’ clutches in the autumn, and were separated in the process. Alone and on the run from the cruel alien race determined to exterminate her, Althea struggles to adapt and survive in a world she never imagined. 

When a boy named Pax appears out of nowhere, he quickly recognizes Althea for what she is – a human/Other hybrid just like him. Althea begs him to help her find Lucas, but Pax refuses, intent on following his own mysterious agenda. 

The Others’ presence continues to devour the planet’s resources, and if history is an indication, they won’t leave until Earth is destroyed beyond repair. Althea and Pax sense the only way to save themselves – and maybe their home – is to understand the powers simmering inside them. 

Together they push the limits of their capabilities in the quiet Wilds, but are soon confronted with a terrifying fact: no place is safe from the relentless pursuit of the Others.

Least of all their own minds.


The giveaway is for (3) $10 Gift Cards to Amazon or Barnes & Noble (Winner's Choice).  See the rules in the rafflecopter below.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Swoon Thursday ~ 9/27/12

The fabulous girls over at YA Bound created this super HOT meme.  Here's how it works.

From the book you’re currently reading, or one you just finished, tell us what made you SWOON. What got your heart pounding, your skin tingling, and your stomach fluttering.

Shout it out on Twitter with the hashtag #YABound, post it here in the comments, or grab the adorable button above and share it on your blog! I want to know & so do the chicks at YABound!

STILL Swooning over Cash from DOWN TO YOU by M. Leighton

 There are SO many swoon worthy moments with Cash in DOWN TO YOU!  Had to reread some to pick one for ya - such a sacrifice!!


“I’m not acting. Taryn and I have a history, but that was before she started working for me. I have
few rules, but one is that I don’t get social with my employees. And now she works for me. That’s it.
Nothing more.”

“But you kissed her. I saw you.”

“No, you saw her kiss me. You saw me not cause a scene in the middle of the club.”

“Well, you didn’t look like you hated it.”

“But I did. The whole time, all I could think about was kissing you instead.” He starts to bend his head toward mine.

Blood is roaring in my ears. “But you don’t get social with your employees,” I remind him quietly.

“I’d make an exception for you.” His face is getting close and closer. Slowly. A centimeter at a time.

“But it’s your rule.”

“I’ll break it for you,” he whispers.

“No, don’t do that,” I say breathlessly.

“Fine, then you’re fired,” he says just as his lips meet mine.

They are warm and the pressure is light. At first. As much as I want to resist, my resolve goes out the window when I feel his tongue run along the crease of my lips. Without thinking, I part them.

And that’s all it takes.

The taste of Cash is like a perfectly aged Scotch—rich and delicious. His tongue slides along mine,
stroking it, teasing it, as he uses his grip on my hand to pull me tighter to him. I do the only thing I can. I
melt into him.

Cash is yummy!  This book is available now and oh so good!   Make sure you check it out.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

And the winner is....

Myra White


An email has been sent to the winner and they have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen.

Thank you everyone who entered and participated in the hop. 

Lucky Break by Kelley Vitollo ~ Review & GIVEAWAY

Add to Goodreads
Source:  received eBook copy from the publisher

My Summery:

Sidney Williams left Shamrock Falls five years ago to make it big in Hollywood. She left right after graduation from high school.  She left her two best friends in the world.  She left the small town.  She had to go.  Had to follow her dream.  Too bad her dream hasn't really turned into more than a few commercials.  Broken from the lose of her car, her latest audition and her actor boyfriend, she returns for a visit.  She just needs to re-group before she makes her dreams come true.  But she didn't count on Kade being there.  She didn't remember how much she loved this town, these people and if she's honest Kade.  She isn't staying though.  She has a great audition in LA and she has to go back but will that ever feel like home?

My Thoughts:

5 stars - a sweet & charming story of listening to your heart

Sometimes we focus so hard on a goal that we forget the things that make us happy.  That's what Sydney has done.  She believes with all her heart that being an actress will make her happy and make her mother finally love her.  It takes some time in her hometown to help her listen to her heart.  I love Kelley's characters.  It doesn't matter if she's writing YA as Nyrae Dawn or Adult as Kelly Vitollo, she makes the most wonderful characters.  They're flawed and they make mistakes - they're real.  Sydney is real.  But as is always the case with Kelley's guys, it's Kade that really has my heart.  Kade is protective and with good reason.  He's grown up feeling the very real need to protect his mom.  He loves deeply and he hurts deeply.  Sydney hurt him but he can't help loving her even still.  This man is incredible and I was cheering for him the whole way.  He made some mistakes but he didn't frustrate me with them, he learned from them and I was so happy to see him fighting for what he wanted.

I was excited about meeting some of the other characters in this story and was thrilled to learn that there will be at least 2 more books set in Shamrock Falls.  LOVE Freckles and Jace has peeked my interest.  Can't wait for their turn to be in center stage.

The story itself was sweet and enjoyable.  I loved the flashbacks to when they were younger.  I loved the uncertain certainty of the whole thing.  While, I was pretty sure I knew where it was going, I just enjoyed the ride.  It was a fast read that I really needed to make me happy.  It wasn't on my calendar but I just wanted a quick book for me.  This was it and it's a great choice.

If you like sweet romance, then this is a great book to pick.

Kelley Vitollo | Goodreads | Twitter | FB | Bliss | Amazon | B&N


Have an eBook copy to give away to one of you lovelies!!! Fill out the rafflecopter below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

#CuddlesByVal (WoW) ~ 9/26/12

This is my version of Waiting on Wednesday but with more cuddles, books I can't wait to cuddle for various reasons.

Here's the one I want to CUDDLE soon!!!

Add to Goodreads

Red-hot author Miranda Kenneally hits one out of the park in this return to Catching Jordan's Hundred Oaks High.

After a scandal rocks their conservative small town, 17-year-old Parker Shelton goes overboard trying to prove that she won't turn out like her mother: a lesbian. The all-star third-baseman quits the softball team, drops 20 pounds and starts making out with guys--a lot. But hitting on the hot new assistant baseball coach might be taking it a step too far...especially when he starts flirting back.

Why do I want to cuddle it??

LOVED Catching Jordan and have been drooling over this one since the first time I saw it.

What about you?  What's your WoW this week?  Leave me a comment.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Dante's Girl by Courtney Cole ~ Excerpt & GIveaway

Dante's Girl By Courtney Cole
Released July 2012

Book Description: 
I have spent every summer since I was ten years old with my father in London.  Every summer, since I was ten years old, has been uneventful and boring. 
Until this year.
And this year, after a freak volcanic eruption strands me far from home, I have learned these things:
1.  I can make do with one outfit for three days before I buy new clothes. 
2.  If I hear the phrase, “You’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto,” even one more time, I might become a homicidal maniac.
3.  I am horribly and embarrassingly allergic to jellyfish.
4. I am in love with Dante Giliberti, who just happens to be the beautiful, sophisticated son of the Prime Minister of a Mediterranean paradise. 
5.  See number four above.  Because it brings with it a whole slew  of problems and I’ve learned something from every one of them.
Let’s start with the fact that Dante’s world is five light-years away from mine.  He goes to black-tie functions and knows the Prime Minister of England on a first name basis.  I was born and raised on a farm in Kansas and wear cut-off jeans paired with cowboy boots.  See the difference?
But hearts don’t care about differences.  Hearts want what they want.  And mine just wants to be Dante’s girl. 
My heart just might be crazy. 

Check out my review of Dante's Girl here.  
Dante’s Girl by Courtney Cole

Chapter One

It is impossible to look hot in the dingy fluorescent light of an airport bathroom. Or as my best friend Becca would say, hawt.
At this particular moment, I’m not hot or hawt.  I make this revelation as I vigorously scrub at my arms and face and then use a wet paper towel under my pits. 
And what is it about peeing in an airport toilet ten times in a day that makes you feel so completely scummy?  I glance around at the crumpled tissues strewn about on the scuffed floor and the dirty toilets peeking from behind half-closed doors and cringe.  That answer is clearly ‘because of the germs’. Ack. 
Trying not to think about it, I clean up the best I can.  After running a brush through my hair, I stick a piece of gum in my mouth, apply a thin layer of lip gloss and call it good.  I glance into the mirror and cringe.  It isn’t good enough, but it will have to do.  Very soon, I’ll put this dreadful four hour layover in Amsterdam behind me and before I even know it, I’ll be in London.
With my father.
For the summer.
It would be torture.
Just shoot me now.
And it’s not because I don’t love him, because I do.  My reluctance doesn’t stem from lack of love.  It comes from the deep-seeded fact that Alexander Ellis doesn’t understand me.  He never has and he never will. It’s something that I’ve made my peace with and I’m not angry about it.
I’m his only child and he works his life away as some top-secret agent for the NSA.  His job is so secret that I don’t even know what he does. In my head, I imagine him jumping from helicopters and saving starving children in war torn areas.  But in reality, I know he probably sits behind a desk and analyzes information from a satellite stream or a taped telephone conversation. I’m pretty sure that’s what the NSA does, anyway.  They aren’t the cool kind of spies.
Also, he isn’t exactly sure what to do with a daughter.  I was supposed to have been a boy. Seventeen years ago, sonograms apparently weren’t as absolute as they are today, because the technician told my parents that she was 99.9% sure that I was a boy.  They painted my nursery blue and picked out my name and everything.  I can only imagine the shocked horror on my father’s face when I was born with lady parts.
Regardless, I know he loves me.  Even though he had willingly given my mother full custody when they divorced years ago, I know he only did it because he works overseas so much and he isn’t exactly sure how to raise a girl.  He does okay.  But then again, I do have some reason to believe that he still pretends that I’m a boy, just to make it easier on himself.  It’s fairly easy to do since I still have the boy name that they originally picked out. 
With my head down, I trudge back out into the congested halls of Schiphol airport.  Weary travelers bustle around me and I shift my bags so that I can pull the stubborn strap of my tank top back over my shoulder where it belongs.  As I do, I crash into someone with enough force that my bags go flying out of my hands and scatter onto the ground under people’s feet.
“Son of a –“ I blurt before I even think.
“Buck?” a male voice offers helpfully. 
Looking up, I stare into the most unique and beautiful shade of blue that a pair of eyes has ever possessed. Of that I am certain.  Blue just shouldn’t be that multi-faceted and twinkling.  There should be a law or something. 
Or at least a warning label: 
Caution, these eyes may cause female knees to tremble.
Before I can help it, I scan the rest of him.  Sweet Mary.  This guy had lucked out in the gene department.  Tall, slender, beautiful.  Honey colored hair that had natural highlights that could even catch the crappy airport light, broad shoulders, slim hips, long legs.  He is tan and golden with a bright, white smile. 
I am surely staring at Apollo, the god of the sun.  Probably with my mouth hanging open, which makes me realize that I must look like an idiot- the personification of what foreigners think Americans to be.  I snap my mouth closed.
“I’m sorry,” I say quickly, trying to still my racing heart.  “Did I run into you?”
“Only a bit,” Apollo says gentlemanly, with a shrug of his strong shoulders.  I can tell he is strong even through his shirt sleeves, which are snug across his toned biceps.  Sweet baby monkeys. 
“How can someone run into someone else only by a bit?” I ask with a nervous smile as I kneel to retrieve my stuff. 
Please don’t let him smell me right now, I silently pray to any god who cares to listen. I am sure that at this point in my travels, I probably smell like soiled hamster bedding. 
He bends next to me and picks up the contents of my spilled purse. He smells like sunshine.  And rain.  And everything beautiful that I can think of.  I try not to cringe as his fingers grasp a tampon and slide it back inside my bag.  He doesn’t even flinch, he just casually continues to pick up my things like he’s used to handling feminine hygiene products.
“Oh, it’s fairly easy, really,” he answers.  He has an exotic sounding accent that I can’t place.  “At least, when you’re not looking where you’re going.”  My head snaps up and he laughs. 
“I’m kidding,” he assures me as he extends an arm to me. Even his hand is graceful.  I gulp as his fingers curl around mine.  “You can bump into me any time you’d like.”
“Thanks,” I mumble.  “I think.”
“I’m Dante,” he tells me, his impossibly blue eyes still twinkling. 
“I’m Reece,” I answer with a sigh, already anticipating his reaction. “Yes, I know it’s a boy’s name.”
“You’re not a boy,” Dante observes.  “Most definitely not a boy.”
Is that a note of appreciation in his voice?  Surely not. I look like a bedraggled Shih Tzu. 
“No, I’m not,” I agree.  “I just don’t know that my dad ever got that memo.” 
I look past Dante and find that he is alone.  He seems to be about my age so that’s a little unusual in these circumstances.  My parents had flown me as an ‘unaccompanied minor’ across the ocean for years, but other people’s parents are usually a little squeamish about that. 
“I’m sure that fact hasn’t escaped him,” Dante tells me in amusement.  Why do his eyes have to sparkle so much?   I usually go for brown-eyed guys.  But this boy is most certainly making me re-think that stance.
“That’s debatable,” I sigh.  Realizing that we are impeding the busy pedestrian traffic like a dam in a rushing river, I smile.
“Thank you very much for helping me pick up my things.  Safe travels!”
I turn on my heel and pivot, walking quickly and what I hope is confidently in the other direction.  Hitching my heavy purse up on my shoulder, I fight the urge to turn and look at him.  Something about him is practically mesmerizing.
But I don’t look.  I keep walking, one foot in front of the other.  When I reach the moving walkway, I hop on and focus ahead of me, eyes straight forward.
Don’t look back.
Don’t look back.
Don’t look back.
Regardless of my silent chanting, when I step from the walkway I discreetly check behind me.  Apollo is nowhere to be seen.  With a sigh, I continue on to the British Airways terminal.  Only three short hours left until take-off.  Plugging my earbuds into my ears, I settle into a seat and close my eyes.

* * *

“Excuse me, Reece?”
Before I even open my eyes, I know the sexy accent is coming from Apollo.  I can feel his epic hotness emanating through my eyelids.  I only hope that I haven’t been drooling in my sleep.
“Yes?” I ask as nonchalantly as I can while my eyes pop open.  I try to discreetly smooth my hair down. In my head, I envision myself as Chewbacca from Star Wars and wince.
Dante hands me my phone, which must’ve fallen from my lap as I napped. 
“Are you on the flight to London?” he grins.  “They’re boarding priority travelers now.  I just thought you should know.”
Yikes. I had slept for three hours?  In a noisy airport?  I must have been super tired.
“Thank you,” I reply quickly, gathering my things in a rush. “I didn’t mean to fall asleep.  I’m not a priority traveler, but I probably would have slept through general boarding.  Thank you for waking me.”
I glance at him as I stand up and can’t help but do a double take.  It isn’t easy to get used to his particular brand of sexy.  He is laid-back, handsome and casual, which is a formula for utter female devastation.  The impossible thing is that he doesn’t seem to realize it. He’s effortlessly sophisticated and chic.
“Well, you’re awake now and that’s the important thing. Have a nice trip, Reece,” Dante grins once more before he joins a group of men who are apparently waiting for him.  I was wrong, I guess.  He isn’t alone after all.  The men close around him in a tight circle and they board the plane with the other passengers with first class tickets. 
He’s on my flight.
I gulp and find a place in line with the other travelers flying coach. 
As the richer, better-dressed passengers file past us, I feel a little like a bumpkin in rumpled clothing.  Even though I travel to London every summer to visit my dad, I live in rural America the rest of the year. And all of a sudden, I feel like I am wearing a blinking neon sign proclaiming that very fact.  The clothing that had seemed sophisticated to travel in this morning now seems like it was hand-made in someone’s backwoods shed. 
And it so makes sense that Apollo is in first class.  He smells like a beautiful sunrise in a wooded meadow. Oh, my gosh.  What is wrong with me? Where did that come from?  I am totally being as corny as an erectile dysfunction commercial. 
I roll my eyes at my own absurdity and hand my ticket to the heavily made-up flight attendant who is waiting to take it.  She glances at it and then at me before she stamps my passport and hands it back.
“Have a nice flight, Miss Ellis,” she tells me before turning her attention to the passenger behind me.
Yeah, right. 
I like flying almost as much as I like having dental work.  Or having my fingernails pulled out one by one.  Or having paper cuts sliced onto my legs and then lemon juice poured onto them.  Just about that much.
Filing down the narrow aisle through first class, I can’t help but search out Apollo.  It doesn’t take long to find him.  He is situated by the window in a wide, leather first-class seat.  He’s already covered in a warm blanket and looks like he is settling in for the hour long flight.  As I move closer to him, his eyes pop open and meet mine, the electric blue of his almost causing me to gasp aloud. 
He smiles slightly as I pass and his gaze doesn’t waver from mine. 
I find myself wishing that I could sit next to him.  Not only because of the lavish first class seats, although those would be nice too. 
But rather, there is something in the air between Dante and me.  I can feel it, an instant connection.  I can practically reach out and touch it.  I’ve never experienced chemistry like this in my life. It’s the kind that seems corny when you read about it in books, but in real life, it is anything but. It is simply electrifying.  Ripping my eyes from his, I continue down the aisle and find my seat.
Taking a deep breath, I stash my carry-on in the overhead bin and slump into the window seat, trying not to hyperventilate as my fear of flying suddenly overwhelms me while the cramped airplane closes in around me.
Deep breath in.
Deep breath out.
I watch the flight crew below me loading the bags into the belly of the plane.  What if they dislodge the landing gear while they are messing around down there?  What if they don’t check the systems well enough and we die in a fiery crash?  What if the metal holding the plane together rips off in the air and peels away like tissue paper?
Deep breath in.
Deep breath out.
I might die. 
I listen impatiently as the flight attendants give their safety spiel and motion toward the exits like they are NFL referees with dumb tiny scarves around their necks.  I just need for them to get on with it.  Just let us taxi out and take-off and then I will be perfectly fine once we are in the air.  My hands get clammy and my ears start to roar.  Why am I such a freak?
Deep breath in.
Deep breath out.
You freaking flight attendants.
I’m just getting ready to shove my earbuds back in to distract myself when Dante appears next to me like a savior or an angel or something of equal beauty and importance.
“Is this seat taken?” he smiles and I notice a dimple in his right cheek that I hadn’t noticed before.  How had I missed a dimple?
“Um, not that I know of,” I answer weakly, trying not to die from heart palpations.  “But the seat belt sign is on. You’re not supposed to be out of your seat.” 
Fabulous. Now I sound like a hall monitor with a heart problem.
Dante shrugs without seeming worried. 
“I think it will be okay,” he answers.  “We’re not even on the runway yet.”
“Good point.”
“Can I sit here?  I’m bored up front.”
I nod, my palms instantly clammier.  “I hope you brought your blanket.  You won’t get much back here except for a bag of peanuts.”
And now I sound like a cheap hall monitor with a heart problem. I’m presenting myself better and better by the moment.
Dante smiles yet again and sits next to me.  He brings his charming accent with him and the scent of his amazing cologne.  I take a deep breath.  He smells far better than the stale airplane air.  Far better.  I fight the urge to jump into his lap and inhale his neck, a maneuver that just might make me appear slightly insane.
“You look pretty pale,” he observes as he buckles up. “Are you afraid to fly?”
“Is it that obvious?” I ask quietly.  “As much as I’ve flown in my lifetime, I should be used to it.  But I’m afraid that’s never going to happen.  Once I’m in the air for awhile, I’ll be fine, but until then… well, I’m terrified. I admit it.”
“Don’t worry,” Dante tells me quietly, his voice calm and reassuring.  “There’s nothing to be afraid of.  You’re more likely to get into a--”
“Car crash rather than die in a plane crash,” I interrupt.  “Yes, I know. I’ve heard.  Where are you from?” I ask curiously, half out of genuine curiosity and half out of the need to distract myself.  “You have the most interesting accent.”
He smiles, his teeth brilliantly white.  I decide on the spot that I could watch him smile all day long.
“Caberra,” he answers, reminding me that I had asked a question.  “It’s an island near Greece.  And you?”
“Like you don’t know that I’m American,” I chuckle.  “I know it’s written all over me.  I’m sure you’re a fan, right?”
“Of Americans?” he raises a golden eyebrow.  “Of course. I love them.  I have no reason not to.  They bring a lot of tourist dollars to Caberra.”
“Well, we are a land of excess,” I admit.  “But that’s usually what foreigners seem to hate about us.”
Dante stares at me for a moment and then smiles.  “Well, I can’t speak for all foreigners, but I don’t hate Americans.  And you’re not in America right now, are you?”
I shake my head.  “No, I am most certainly not.”
“Well, then.  You’re the foreigner now.”  He grins and I can’t help but smile back.  He has a point.
The pilot gets on the intercom and his nasally voice drones on and on, but I am able to tune it out as I engage in conversation with a boy who is surely a direct descendent of the gods.  There is no other plausible explanation for his good looks or charm. I barely even hear the words that come out of Dante’s mouth, because I am so mesmerized by the shape of his lips as he moves them.  Pathetic, I know, but true. 
One thing about me:  I don’t lie to myself.  I might stretch the truth for my parents from time to time when necessary, but never to myself. And I’m pathetically fascinated by this boy.
Finally, the aircraft shudders a bit and noses forward and I startle, gripping the arms of my seat. My fingers turn white and I am certain that I am leaving permanent indentions in the cracked vinyl arm-rests.
“Don’t worry,” Dante says quietly, unpeeling one of my hands and grasping it within his own.  “It will be fine.”
The feel of his hand distracts me.  Strong and warm, it cups my own carefully, like he is holding something very fragile.  I close my eyes and enjoy the feeling. I only have a couple of minutes to soak it in, however.
As the plane moves down the runway in preparation for take-off, something happens.  Something isn’t right. 
Our plane rocks a little, then quivers, like it is being moved by a strong gust of wind.  I feel it a brief moment before Dante tightens his grip on my hand, a split second before light explodes from outside of my eyelids.  I open them to discover fire tearing down the runway past my window.  Before I can react or even scream, all hell breaks loose.

Shorter Excerpts:
Number One:
There are rose bushes everywhere. And peonies, which are my favorites.  And lots of white marble statues of Greek gods.  And one of Napoleon.  Why in the world is this country so obsessed with Napoleon? 
I am just wondering if the small statue is life-sized when Dante interrupts any coherent thought process that I might have by striding across the lawns with a racquet in hand and wearing short-short tennis shorts. 
It’s like a slow-motion scene from a movie.  Dante shakes his blond bangs out of his eyes and the sun catches every glint of gold in his hair.  His legs are long, lean, tanned and muscled and HolyCowThereIsAGod.  If I were a man, I would totally be wolf-whistling right now.  But then again, if I were a man, I guess I wouldn’t be wolf-whistling at Dante. 
I’m such a weirdo.

Number Two
Mia shows me how to get water out of the tube when it leaks in by blowing it out sharply.  She tells me that the most common problem is when new divers get flustered when water gets into their tubes.  I’m supposed to keep calm and simply blow the water out.  That’s a little difficult to do when I’m so completely focused on watching for sharks.
We swim and after a few minutes, more like thirty, I start to feel more at ease.
Every once in a while, Mia reaches out and grabs my hand and pulls me to a different place where we watch tropical fish leisurely swim in their little schools.  Or a sea turtle gliding gracefully by.  Or colorful tropical plants waving in the current.  
Under the surface, the water is perfect and aqua and silent. There is no drama, there are no mean girls and best friends and boys that I shouldn’t have crushes on but do anyway. 
I sort of love it.
I kick my legs, letting the water flow fluidly over me.  I am weightless here.  I am relaxed and I haven’t been this comfortable in a long time. 
Just as I am thinking about how wrong I had been to be terrified of sharks and about how wonderful this is and how I have never been this comfortable or relaxed in my whole entire life, I spot something out of the corner of my eye that makes me freeze.
A gray bump slowly coming toward me.
I pull my head out of the water so that I can see better and find that Mia is nowhere near.  But the gray sleek bump is only a hundred yards away and getting closer by the minute.  I flail and splash, then remember from watching Shark Week on TV that you definitely don’t want to splash. 
Sweet Holy Monkeys.  What the eff do I do??
I yell for Mia, but don’t see her.   Has she been eaten? 
I look around frantically, but we’ve drifted to an isolated location and there isn’t anyone else here. 
Except for me and the shark.
And the shark is certainly taking his time to reach me. 
Oh my gosh.
Oh my gosh.
Oh. My. Gosh.
My breathing comes in pants as I try to slowly and calmly paddle backward, away from the shark, toward land, away from the shark.  Toward Land.  Away. From. The. Shark.
Then, a fin emerges.  A fin.  And I scream.  And scream.  And forget about not splashing.  I am splashing so much that every shark and sea creature in a hundred mile radius will know that I’m here. And I don’t care.  All I care about it surviving this shark attack.  Because it is going to attack me.  It’s stalking me right now like the prey that I am.  And very soon that water around me will be red because I’m going to die a bloody death.
And then I notice that the fin is made from hands.  A pair of hands. 
I freeze.
What the eff?
Dante bursts from the water, wearing gray swim trunks and shaking droplets from his hair as he lunges to grab me with a roar. 
I scream again because it’s happened so fast and my brain hasn’t had a chance to truly realize that it is Dante and not a shark. 
I’m not going to die.
I’m not going to die.
I’m not going to die.
I’m not going to become breakfast for JAWS. 
But I’m going to kill Dante. 

Number Three
“Why do you look sad?” I ask.  “You live in a beautiful country with the world at your fingertips.  Your dad is amazing and nice and you’re a billionaire.  What could possibly make you sad?”
Dante studies me, his cobalt eyes serious, his expression unreadable.
“Let’s go for a walk,” he finally says.  “Someplace quieter.”
A quiet place with Dante?  Yes, Please!
I scramble to my feet and walk with him through the crowd again, this time oblivious to the stares.  He has a huge stride and I find myself hurrying to keep up, two steps for every one of his.  He weaves us through the people and out the doors in record time. 
Before I know it, we are on a terrace.  In the dark.  Under the stars.
With Dante.
This may as well be Heaven.
In fact, it might actually be. 
Have I died and didn’t realize it?
I flex my fingers and poke at my thigh.
My mind is fuzzy and I feel like I am moving slower than I actually am.  Is life in slow motion right now or is it me?  I blink hard then poke myself again.
“Are you alright?” Dante asks, watching me curiously.  I nod.
“Yep. I’ve just never had three glasses of champagne before.  In fact, I’ve never even had one.  Until now.”
I giggle at the thought and Dante smiles. 
“Okay, drunk girl.  Let’s sit you down.”
He guides me to a lounger and eases me onto it.  I clutch at his arm, not wanting to let him go.  He stares down at me. 
“You really have had too much to drink, haven’t you, little sunflower?”
The name warms my heart and I decide that he is the handsomest person in the world. 
“Is handsomest a word?” I ask him. 
He looks at me blankly. 
“I don’t know,” he answers slowly.  “Why?”
“You’re the handsomest person in the world,” I announce.  “I don’t care if it’s a word or not.  You are it, one way or another.”
Dante smiles and runs a hand through his hair, as though he’s trying to decide what to do.
“Oh.  Okay.  Um, thanks?  What am I going to do with you?  You’re adorable when you are drunk.  But I made you drunk, even if it was an accident.  How was I supposed to know that you’re such a lightweight?”
He sounds like he is waging some sort of battle with himself.
“Who exactly are you arguing with?”I ask, the champagne clouding my thoughts in a very thorough way. “You will get no arguments from me tonight.  No matter what.”
He sighs, a husky and ragged sound.
It’s sexy.
I scoot closer to him and drag him down until he is sitting on the lounger with me.  His warmth feels nice out here because the air has turned cool.  It’s dark and I feel like we’re in our own little world.  I run my fingers over his arm, then grip at his shoulders.
“You’re so strong,” I tell him.  “And your fingers are so long.”
I don’t know what that has to do with anything, I just feel like pointing it out.  Because his fingers are long.  I pick up his hand and slide my own against it.  His hand is at least a full inch longer than mine.  Probably more.  I curl my fingers around his and hold tight to his hand. 
I look up at him.
He is so devastatingly beautiful in the moonlight.
I tell him so.
He stares at me, his dark gaze unwavering.  Except for my knees.  It definitely wavers my knees, if that is possible.  I know I wouldn’t be able to stand up if I tried. Which I’m not going to.  I’m staying right here…with Dante.
“Kiss me,” I whisper.  “Please.”
Dante is silent, his blue eyes frozen on me. 
And then he lowers his head and his soft lips are upon mine.
And I might seriously die this time.
For real.
I’m kissing Dante.
The thoughts won’t stop running through my head as Dante kisses me in the most romantic and soft kiss I’ve ever experienced.  My thoughts blur together and all I can do now is immerse myself in the moment.  The world actually seems to explode for a second.  This is the most amazing kiss in the history of the world. 

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