giovedì 31 agosto 2017

The Great Escape by Charlotte Fallowfiel


Release Date: 08.31.2017


Synopsis:

A tropical beach paradise in Mexico was the last place Georgie Basset expected her decimated heart to be jump-started again, not after she’d been jilted the year before by her fiancé, leading to said breakage. But when she spotted Weston Argent jogging along the beach, all bronzed with ripped muscles like some Greek God out of a modern day Baywatch scene, she nearly choked on her cocktail. She knew immediately she was in trouble, she’d never reacted so strongly to a man on first glance. 

However, after a disastrous first date with him, she headed back home to Dilbury, resigned to never seeing him again. That is, until Weston turned up unexpectedly at her dog grooming parlour with Bertie the French bulldog, a species she had a real weakness for. She couldn’t help but wonder if fate was playing a helping hand. But each time she saw him, their encounters never went smoothly, resulting in some mortifying and hilarious escapades. Despite their undeniable attraction, there was something about Weston that she couldn’t quite put her finger on, something that concerned her.

When the truth finally came to light, Georgie was convinced that all men were dogs, except she knew that was an insult to dogkind. Ever the meddler, her best friend, Abbie, intervened, knowing in her heart that despite what had happened, Weston was full of good intentions, and was undoubtedly Georgie’s Prince Charming.

The question remained, could he convince Georgie of that, or would he forever remain in the dog house?


Review:


This was an enjoyable read,a great escape from real life.

We met Dilbury village and its inhabitants in the firs installment of the series but this story is focused on Georgie...no worries you can read this as a standalone but I strongly suggest you to start from the beginning and meet the funny and adorable Abbie first.

I liked how our heroine doesn't follow the rules her preppy parents made for her but she has the courage to choose what's best for her life.
Georgie and Weston journey starts in a tropical paradise,they were really awkward and after their first date I thought they were doomed but I've really appreciated the tenacity that our Hero shows in order to get our girl.

I've laughed,I've cried and I felt all fuzzy inside reading this novel and I can't wait to read more from Charlotte Fallowfield.


mercoledì 30 agosto 2017

Even the Score by Beth Ehemann


Release Date: 09.06.2016



Synopsis:

Single dad Andy Shaw loves his job as a sports agent, with one exception: it doesn’t leave him much time for his kids. No parent likes being sidelined, so Andy decides to hire someone to share the workload. But when one of the hottest agents in the industry applies, Andy knows that this deal is definitely trouble.

Danicka Douglas works her butt off, but being an attractive woman in a testosterone-heavy industry isn’t exactly a cakewalk. She guards her professional reputation fiercely, which means no crushing on her gorgeous boss. But the more they ignore that sexy little spark, the more it sizzles…

Just when it looks like romance might be in the game plan, Dani is threatened by a stalker with dark intentions. To keep her safe, Andy must cross the line between professional and very personal…because this time, he’s playing for keeps.


Review:



I didn't know what to expect from this story after I've met Andy in the previous books in the series but I have had a good time knowing him and his kids better.

I loved Andy,he is a great man and an amazing father...he was unlucky in the wife department but he fixed that problem getting a divorce and becoming a single dad.
I was so glad fate put on his way the beautiful Danicka, and even if their journey didn't start under the best of luck I've appreciated how our Hero take care of her.

I've read all Beth Ehemann's books because I like her writing and plots and she can always make me fall in love with her characters at the first page.


martedì 29 agosto 2017

Nineteen Letters by Jodi Perry


Release Date: 08.29.2017


Synopsis:

Braxton

Nineteen. There’s something about that number; it not only brought us together, bonding us forever, it also played a hand in tearing us apart.

The nineteenth of January 1996. I’ll never forget it. It was the day we met. I was seven and she was six. It was the day she moved in next door, and the day I developed my first crush on a girl.

Exactly nineteen years later, all my dreams came true when she became my wife. She was the love of my life. My soul mate. My everything. The reason I looked forward to waking up every morning.

Then tragedy struck. Nineteen days after we married, she was in an accident that would change our lives forever. When she woke from her coma, she had no memory of me, of us, of the love we shared.

I was crushed. She was my air, and without her I couldn’t breathe.

The sparkle that once glistened her eyes when she looked at me was gone. To her, now, I was a stranger. I had not only lost my wife, I had lost my best friend.

But I refused to let this tragedy be the end of us. That’s when I started to write her letters, stories of our life. Of when we met. About the happier times, and everything we had experienced together.

What we had was far too beautiful to be forgotten.

Review:


I fell in love with this story at the first page,this is everything romance readers need in their books.

Nineteen Letters shows us how Love can change and adapt to the circumstances but it survives every trouble if it is the kind of Love that last forever.

Braxton and Jemma are soul mates,they became best friends as soon as they met at a young age,later on they start a romantic relationship and they were happy for many years until life throws them a curve ball and they have to find again the feelings that bonded them many years before.
We discover their lives together with Jemma while she reads Braxton's letters, recollecting nice and happy memories but also some sad pages of their past.

Jodi Perry's amazing writing made her words so real they resonated in my soul for hours after I finished this book.

Excerpt:

CHAPTER ONE

Jemma

It’s a wet and dreary morning is the first thing I hear when the radio booms to life, alerting me to the fact it’s time to get up.

Dreary doesn’t even come close. The thought of no longer being able to spend every waking minute with my gorgeous husband has already put a dampener on my day. I can’t believe our time off together has come to an end. I hate that I have to go back to work this morning, and leave the little bubble Braxton and I have been living in for the past four weeks.

Right up until the wedding, things were so busy with our careers, building our dream house and organising our special day. Everything combined seemed to take away from us being together. This one-on-one time we’ve had since tying the knot was just what we both needed.
‘Morning, Mrs Spencer.’

He rolls onto his side, pulling me further into his warm, luscious body. It has been exactly nineteen days since we exchanged wedding vows, and I’m still floating.

‘Morning, Mr Spencer.’ I lean my forehead against his. ‘I’m not ready to go back to work. I can’t stand the thought of spending the entire day without you.’

He chuckles as his teeth nip at my pouting lip. ‘I feel exactly the same way, babe. Our time off has gone way too quick. We should have taken two months off, instead of one.’

Despite him being a constant figure in my daily life, for the past nineteen years, I still get a rush when I think about what our future together holds.

I met Braxton when my parents and I moved in next door. We were just kids, but we’ve been inseparable ever since. He’s my one and only. He always has been, and always will be. He’s not only the love of my life; he’s my best friend, my soul mate, my forever boy.

He’s incredibly dreamy, with his movie-star looks. I run my fingers through his sandy blond hair as my eyes roam over his perfectly sculpted face; his big blue eyes pop against his tanned skin. He has a smile that makes my knees weak. His front tooth turns in ever so slightly, but it takes nothing away from his Colgate-worthy smile.

When he realises I’m checking him out, the sexy grin that I adore appears on his face. It highlights the cute dimple in his left cheek. To this day, he still manages to turn my insides to mush, but it’s his inner beauty that affects me the most.

‘I could always call in sick,’ I say, perking up for a moment, but in reality I know it’s not possible. I have a big client coming in first thing Monday morning, and I need to prepare.
‘If I didn’t have this damn meeting later this morning, I’d say do it,’ he replies, smiling.

‘I’m going to miss you.’

‘I’m going to miss you too, Jem. The past four weeks have been my kind of heaven.’

I sigh. ‘I’d give anything to be back in Kauai right now.’

My fingers move from his hair and skim down the side of his face as I speak. The beach has always been our favourite place. That’s why we built our dream home overlooking the ocean. The soothing sound of the waves crashing against the shore as I drift off to sleep every night, and the sweet smell of sea air first thing in the morning . . . it’s cathartic. It’s also one of the reasons we chose Hawaii—a beautiful villa on the majestic shores of Tunnels Beach—as the place to spend the first two weeks of our married life.

‘Me too.’ He gives me a wistful look. ‘I’ll take you back there over the Christmas break, I promise.’

‘I’d like that.’ My fingertips dance over his collarbone, before moving across his shoulder. When I run a path down his strong back, he groans.

I sigh again when I think that Christmas is ten months away, but I guess we have the rest of our lives together to create the kind of memories we did in Hawaii.

Untangling my legs from his, I pause briefly. I don’t want to leave him. I exhale a drawn-out breath. ‘I suppose I better jump in the shower.’

‘Would you like some company?’

Reaching for me, he rolls onto his back, taking me with him. I laugh when he wiggles his eyebrows. I straddle his waist before covering his mouth with mine. My shower can wait. Making love to my man is much more important.

Sliding forward, I line myself up. His strong hands grip my hips, and we moan in unison as I sink down onto him. My eyes lock with his as I slowly rock my body against him. ‘I love you, Brax.’

‘I love you too, Jem. So much.’

He reaches for my hands, lacing his fingers through mine. We’ve always had such a strong bond, but when we’re connected like this, we become one. I’ll never tire of these feelings he evokes in me.

There are times I feel guilty because together, we’re perfect. None of our friends have the kind of relationship Braxton and I do. What we have is unbreakable. Sometimes my feelings for him overwhelm me. I’m not sure how either of us would survive without the other.

---

As I rush around putting the finishing touches on my make-up, I catch a glimpse of Braxton in the mirror. He’s leaning up against the doorframe watching me get ready. He’s shirtless and wearing a pair of grey sweats that hang low on his hips. My pulse quickens as my eyes rake over his bare chest, and each delicious muscle that defines his torso, from the perfect V just above the waistband, right up to his washboard abs. One of my favourite things to do is watch him work out on the small home gym he set up in the garage. I don’t think he even realises how sexy he is. Growing up, he didn’t notice the way all the girls swooned over him. But I did.

My eyes move back to his, and the adoring look on his face sends my heart into a flutter. The sheer love I feel for this man consumes every fibre of my being. It’s euphoric.

‘How long have you been standing there?’ I ask as my mouth curves into a smile.

‘I’m just admiring my beautiful wife.’ I love hearing him call me his wife.

He pushes off the doorframe and stalks towards me. When his arms encircle my waist, he pulls me back into him. A soft moan falls from my mouth as his lips trail a path up my neck. I tilt my head to the side, allowing him better access.

‘I’m already running late,’ I breathe.

‘I wish you didn’t have to go.’ His warm breath on my skin leaves goosebumps in its wake.

‘Me either.’

‘The next eight hours are going to feel like an eternity.’

I sigh in agreement. ‘I know.’

His tongue glides over the sensitive spot behind my ear, sending shivers down my spine. He did that on purpose. ‘Don’t make any plans for tonight, because I’m taking you out to dinner.’

‘You’re taking me out? Where?’

‘The Sea Shanty.’ He groans as he sucks my earlobe into his mouth.

‘What’s the special occasion?’

‘Our anniversary.’

My eyes fly open to meet his in the mirror. ‘Our what?’ My mind starts to race. What anniversary?

He turns me in his arms so I’m facing him, and pulls a small black box from his pocket. ‘I was going to give this to you tonight, but I want you to have it now. Happy nineteenth anniversary, sweetheart.’

My hands tremble slightly as I take hold of the box. That’s when I remember that today we have been married for nineteen days, and a huge smile breaks out on my face. The number nineteen has always held special significance for us.

Tears of happiness pool in my eyes as I open the lid. Inside I find a white-gold necklace that’s holding a diamond-encrusted number-nineteen pendant.

‘Oh Braxton, it’s beautiful. I love it . . . I love you.’

He smiles as he tucks a lock of hair behind my ear. ‘I can’t wait to spend the rest of my life with you, Jem.’

‘Same.’

A lump forms in my throat and I feel like I’m choking back tears. I use my hand to fan my eyes; I don’t have time to redo my make-up.

Taking the box out of my hand, he removes the necklace. ‘Turn around, and hold up your hair.’ I do as he asks, gathering my long brown hair on top of my head so he can fasten the necklace. ‘Perfect,’ he says, planting a soft kiss on my skin at the base of my neck.

My fingertips glide over the pendant as I admire it in the mirror. ‘Thank you . . . I’ll treasure it.’

Sliding his arms around my waist again, he rests his chin on my shoulder, and his eyes meet mine in the mirror. ‘You know, I’ve been thinking . . .’

‘That could be dangerous.’

I laugh when he pokes my side.

‘I want you to stop taking the pill.’

I feel my heartbeat accelerate as I swing around to face him. ‘You do?’

‘Yes. It’s time we gave it another try, Jem. I want to see our baby growing inside you.’

I swipe my finger under my eye to catch the stray tear that has fallen. ‘I want that too, but what about my job? We just took out a second mortgage to build this house . . . we need the money.’

He exhales before continuing. ‘I know how much your career means to you, but you’re giving so much of yourself to that bastard, Andrew. We both know he doesn’t appreciate you. Why don’t you think about setting up your own interior design business from home? That way you’d be here to look after our son, and still be able to do what you love.’

‘Or our daughter,’ I say with a smile.

‘As long as our baby is healthy, I don’t care what sex it is.’ I bow my head as memories of that day flood my mind. I want this so badly, but I’m scared.

‘Can we talk more about it tonight over dinner? Andrew’s going to chew me out if I don’t get to the office soon.’

‘He better not!’

I run my finger over his forehead, trying to flatten out the crinkles of his frown. I love how protective he is. He hates the way my boss treats me, but he’d never interfere because he knows how much I love what I do.

The rain has eased by the time I’m ready to leave, but Braxton still insists on walking me out so I don’t get wet. ‘Bye,’ I say reluctantly, when we come to a stop beside my car.
‘Don’t let Andrew keep you any later than needed.’

‘I won’t,’ I say, placing my lips against his. ‘Good luck with your meeting. They’re going to love the new design.’

‘I hope so.’ He opens the driver’s-side door, and moves the umbrella closer to shield me from the rain. ‘Be careful on the roads, they’ll be slippery.’

‘I will. Stop worrying.’

‘I’ll always worry where you’re concerned, Jem. It’s my job to look after you.’

I smile up at him once I’m seated. ‘I love how much you love me.’

‘That’ll never change,’ he says, winking, as he closes my car door.

My heart feels heavy as I blow him a kiss and reverse out of the driveway . . . I miss him already.

---

I’m driving cautiously but still faster than usual on my way to work. I know I shouldn’t, considering the roads are slippery from all the rain, but the backlog of work I’m going to face from being on holidays for a month is making my stomach knot. Just the thought of facing Andrew in one of his moods this morning is quickly undoing all the calm I’ve felt while being away from him. Braxton’s idea of starting my own business is sounding better by the second.
I smile to myself as I replay his words in my head. My fingertips lightly skim over my stomach. I’d like nothing more than to have his baby growing inside me again.

‘Shit,’ I mumble to myself when the heavens open up. I turn the wiper speed up to full, but visibility is still poor. I can barely see the car in front of me now. I jump when my phone starts to ring. I grip the wheel tightly with my right hand as I reach across the passenger seat, my hand blindly fumbling in my bag as I try to find it.

I just know that it’s Andrew wondering where I am; I should have been there fifteen minutes ago. My chest tightens just thinking about it.

My eyes leave the road for a split second as I glance down at the screen. I was right, it’s him. As I attempt to accept the call, I hear the loud sound of an angry horn, and the screech of tyres. My head snaps to the left as my body is thrown violently sidewards. The sickening crunching sound of metal is almost deafening.

Images of Braxton and our life together flash through my mind as a crushing sensation consumes the right side of my body. My head connects with the driver’s-side window, and the sound of shattering glass fills my ears.

Oh god. I don’t want to die.

‘Braxton . . . Braaaax,’ I cry out as the world around me stills, and I succumb to the darkness.




lunedì 28 agosto 2017

Playing Her Cards Right by Rosa Temple


Release Date: 08.28.2017


Synopsis:

New year. New life. Fresh start.

Newly minted career girl Magenta Bright reluctantly finds herself growing up – she’s now a live-in girlfriend, a successful business owner, and an obsessive desirer of classic leather handbags.

But, fuelled by her creative talent, Magenta doesn’t seem to know when to stop. Between designing and launching a new range of bags, planning her parents’ second wedding, and whisky binges with scary international model and best friend Anya, something’s got to give, and it’s not long before her relationship with shy artist Anthony is in the firing line.

Will handbags lead to heartbreak for the unstoppable Magenta Bright?


Review:



I was so glad to see there was more to read about Magnta's life,troubles follow our heroine like bees with honey,but it's a pleasant experience to witness her growth page after page.

Rosa Temple made an art of the perfect mix for lovely rom coms with a touch of thought provoking themes.
I've really enjoyed the first book in the series and this wasn't different...still a win for me and I recommend it.

venerdì 25 agosto 2017

Hollywood Scandal by Louise Bay


Release Date: 08.22.2017


Synopsis:

HE’S A HOLLYWOOD SUPERSTAR. SHE’S LITERALLY THE GIRL NEXT DOOR.

One of Hollywood’s A-listers, I have the movie industry in the palm of my hand. But if I’m going to stay at the top, my playboy image needs an overhaul. No more tabloid headlines. No more parties. And absolutely no more one night stands.

Filming for my latest blockbuster takes place on the coast of Maine and I’m determined to stay out of trouble. But trouble finds me when I run into Lana Kelly.
She doesn’t recognize me, she’s never heard of Matt Easton and my million dollar smile doesn’t work on her.

Ego shredded, I know I should keep my distance, but when I realize she’s my neighbor I know I’m toast. There’s no way I can resist temptation when it’s ten yards away.

She has a mouth designed for pleasure and legs that will wrap perfectly around my waist. She’s movie star beautiful and her body is made to be mine.

Getting Lana Kelly into my bed is harder than I’m used to. She’s not interested in the glitz and glamour of Hollywood, but I’m determined to convince her the best place in the world is on the red carpet, holding my hand.

I could have any woman in the world, but all I want is the girl next door.


Review:


Whenever Louise Bay releases a new book I have to read it...and 100% of times I'll never be disappointed.
Hollywood Scandal is no exception,I've really enjoyed it.

I loved the story between a commoner from Maine and an Hollywood star.
I adored the characters,Lana and Matt banters are so cute and funny you will wish for their Happily Ever After from their first encounter.

If you enjoy a nice,lovely and low drama story this is the perfect book for you.

Excerpt:

Matt Easton

“You have a boyfriend?”

She took another sip of wine and set it back on the table before she replied. “You’ve half asked that before.”

I chuckled. True. Not that I was going to act differently if she told me—either way I needed to keep my distance. I just wanted to meet the man who had managed to land this woman. “And I’m still coming up empty.” I glanced at the rise and fall of her creamy breasts, only barely covered by her camisole, and swallowed. Hard. I really should leave.

“See that?” she asked, pointing up over the ocean. “Lightning. And again.”

“Wow, that nearly cut the sky in half.”

Our eyes locked first in excited, shared understanding and then the connection transformed into something that had nothing to do with the lightning. She looked away first. I would have stayed, my eyes fixed on hers the whole night, if she hadn’t. “The air feels charged with something.”

“I don’t have a boyfriend,” she whispered.

It was an invitation, and not one I wanted to turn down. I wanted to touch her, see if her lips were as soft as they looked.

“I want to kiss you,” I said, shifting so that she, and not the storm, had all my attention.
The thunder rumbled again.

Despite the noise surrounding us, I could only focus on the sound of her breathing. My pulse jumped under my skin, at my neck, in my wrists, in my dick.

I really shouldn’t be doing this.

But it was just a kiss.

And she was so beautiful.

And then it would be over.

I slid my thumb over her bottom lip. “Look at me,” I said.

My gaze flickered down as her breasts rose with her breath. It took every ounce of control not to yank her cami down and put my mouth on that warm, soft, pliant flesh.

As I looked at her, our eyes locked, and this time heat passed back and forth between us, growing more scorching with each passing moment.

She wanted me to kiss her. Maybe even strip her naked on this deck and fuck her hard and long until I knew every part of her.

I groaned, blood rushing to my dick, and leaned in to press my lips softly on the corner of her mouth. Her breath was hot and heavy against my cheek. I dropped my hand to her ass and slid her onto my lap.

Wrapping my hands around her silky hair that smelled of the ocean, I pulled, tilting her head back and exposing her neck.

I’d been kidding myself to think this was just a kiss. I wasn’t sure if it was because it had been so long since I’d fucked someone new or whether it was the storm or just the way Lana looked at me, but my whole body reverberated with lust. I wanted to touch, hold, possess her.

I trailed my teeth along her jaw and she squirmed in my lap. I slid my palms up her thighs and lifted her so she was straddling me.

Just a kiss. Right.

I wanted her closer, so I wrapped my hand around the back of her neck and brought her mouth to mine in a fractured, desperate connection. With my other hand, I pushed her ass against me. The heat of her covered pussy against my erection made me groan. Sliding my tongue against the seam of her lips, I delved deeper. Fuck, I’d forgotten how hot making out could be. The stuff before the fucking. Before my reform, it had been all about release. All about seeing how fast I could have a woman’s mouth wrapped around my cock after making eye contact with her.

But not now. Not out here on the porch with Lana. All I could think about was how I couldn’t fuck her, how I’d never make it that far.

She smelled so damn good. Tasted even better.


giovedì 24 agosto 2017

Sacked in Seattle by Jami Davenport


Release Date: 08.24.2017


Synopsis:

He's loved Tiff since high school--but tragedy has blockaded her heart. 

Tyee University football player Riley Black has adored Tiff since high school, but she's never felt the same way. As Riley enters his senior year of college, he's finally moving on and enjoying the perks of being a star athlete. Until one glimpse of Tiff unearths all those old feelings of longing and desire, not to mention the trauma of their shared past. 

Tiffani Vernon has been running from her demons for seven years. When she's forced to return to Seattle for financial reasons and attend the same college as Riley, she's confronted with the traumatic event which has shaped her future and scarred her memories of Riley. Tiff struggles to avoid her secret high school crush, but he's not having any of it. He's pursuing her with a relentless determination to prove once and for all, they were meant to be together. 

Can love finally heal their wounds or will they succumb to the pain and forever wonder what could have been?


Review:


Sacked in Seattle was only the third book I've read written by Jami Davenport and even if the main characters made already an appearance in previous books I could follow and love their touching story without the full background on their past.

This author is quickly becoming one of my favorite for the sports romance,her writing enchant me and keeps my attention from the first page until the end.

Tiff and Riley awful and shocking past kept them apart for a few years but now that they are next to each other once again they have the chance to finally build an healthy relationship,trying to let go of their guilt and secrets and heal together in order to be happy.



Excerpt:

Chapter 1

Running

* Riley *

Life-changing moments can be as obvious as a guy holding a gun to your forehead or as subtle as glimpsing a face in a crowd.

That gun and that face haunted my nights and often my days.

I hadn’t laid eyes on Tiffani Vernon since the night of our high school graduation over three years ago. She couldn’t leave Seattle fast enough, while I’d never considered going anywhere else. Seattle was the only real home I’d ever known, and I wanted to stay here and make things better. Face my fears head on. You know, crap like that.

Tiff ran from her fears, and our last night together had been epic, unforgettable, and scary as shit. She sped out of town and never looked back—especially not at me.

I knew why. It wasn’t personal, but that didn’t make me feel any better.

I reminded her of that horrible, awful day when our lives hung in the balance, the world shifted in a matter of minutes, and nothing would ever be the same again.

And there wasn’t a damn thing I could do about it.

Except move on.

And I had.

Or I thought I had, until I saw her standing across that proverbial crowded room. Our eyes met. Her brown ones to my blue ones. Recognition flashed in her eyes, then panic. Her mouth opened as if she were going to say something. Her expression went soft with regret. Shaking her head, she turned and ran, weaving through the crowd faster than a running back angling for the end zone. Her little pink skirt swished back and forth, calling attention to her fine ass and shapely legs. She was so smoking hot, heads swiveled as she passed.

Pain stabbed deep in my gut. Memories flooded back and slammed me to the turf, leaving me stuck to the beer-soaked floor. Graduation night. Her skin glowed in the moonlight as she gave herself to me, body and soul. I lost myself inside her, certain we’d be together forever. She left town the next morning, and I never saw her again.

Squelching that memory, I stood alone in a crowd of people, hearing nothing, sensing nothing, seeing nothing but the place where she’d stood a second ago. People elbowed me in their haste to get to the keg of beer I was blocking.

I shook my head, attempting to clear it.

She couldn’t be here.

She should be at USC starting her senior year, just as I was starting mine at the Ty, what us locals call Tyee University on Lake Union in Seattle.

She’d traded the rain and mud for sun and sand, and she’d traded me for surfer dudes and Hollywood wannabes.

But now she was back.

My feet refused to follow my orders. All I could do was gape open-mouthed like some creep with a stalker crush. There’d been other times I’d sworn I’d seen her, only to race after her and embarrass the hell out of myself when I found out the poor girl I’d dogged wasn’t Tiffani.

But we’d locked gazes this time, and there wasn’t any doubt in my mind. She was here. I tried to swallow, clear my throat, gulp in some oxygen. I swear my organs were either shutting down or going into overload. My heart slammed in my chest as if building to detonation, and my head pounded to the beat of the music in the room.

Oblivious to my disinterest, the blonde who’d been hustling me all night leaned in closer and gripped my arm. She slipped her tongue in my ear while her hand migrated to my crotch. I gave her a gentle shove, not giving one shit how rude my behavior was, even though I usually prided myself on being a nice guy.

“Later,” I told her and pushed through the throng of frat-house party-goers.

Almost frantic, I shoved my way to where I’d last seen her and caught a flash of blonde hair as she slipped out the door. I dashed after her down the sidewalk into the street and glanced left and right. She was gone, vanished into thin air as if she’d never existed. I waited five, then ten minutes, she never reappeared.

With a sigh, I trudged back to the party, ignoring the curious stares of the guys. I sank onto the couch in the living room, next to a couple of teammates, and faked interest in a football game on TV. My heart thudded wildly, and my hand shook as I lifted a pizza slice to my lips.

My eyes met the concerned blue gaze of my best friend, Gage Harmon, the team quarterback, campus man slut, and proud of both titles. He was chewing slowly and staring at me as if he expected me to strip naked and dance on the table while stone-cold sober.

“You okay, Ry man?”

“Yeah, fine. Thought I saw someone. I was wrong.”

One brow crept upward, disappearing under his messy blond hair. “Female?”

I nodded, refusing to meet his gaze on the off-chance he’d see the pathetic truth and peg me for the idiot I was. What kind of loser pines after a girl this long when he has the world at his feet?

This loser.

Tiff was the only girl I’d ever truly loved.

And I’d never stopped loving her, as fucked up as that was.

* Tiff *

Running into Riley Black was inevitable. The Tyee campus was big, but obviously not big enough. Even so, I hadn’t expected to see him during my first week of classes. I’d carefully avoided the areas where he might be hanging out, such as Greek Row, and opted for an off-campus apartment. I planned my classes to avoid being near the football field and gym in the afternoons when he’d most likely be practicing. I timed everything with careful attention to detail and avoidance. Lot of good that did me.

Coming to this party had been a lapse in judgment. I should’ve known he’d be here. Maybe I secretly hoped to run into him, just to torture myself. Maybe I was all kinds of screwed up.

Okay, well, that’s stating the obvious. Ask my family. Ask my counselor. Ask my horse. They’d all agree. I, Tiffani Grace Vernon, was one fucked-up girl, and years of therapy had barely put a dent in my tormented past. Through no fault of his own, Riley brought back every traumatic memory of that fateful day when my charmed life became a living nightmare. He was a victim as much as I was.

Now, here we were. At the same frat party. I shouldn’t have come.

Our eyes met, and recognition instantly lit up his gaze. Those same cobalt blue eyes had studied me intently from across the room in our high school biology class. They’d watched me ride my horse in endless circles at the arena near his aunt’s house. Those same eyes had opened wide in horror as my ex-boyfriend, also his teammate, pointed a gun at each of us, aimed, and pulled the trigger. The loud bang had deafened me, and the smell of iron had filled my nostrils, followed by the wrenching pain of being slammed to the ground.

Oh God. Oh God. Oh God.

Seeing him brought it all back as if it had happened six minutes ago instead of almost seven years.

Maybe seeing me did the same for him, too? He’d gaped at me like he’d seen a ghost. Momentarily frozen in shock, his mouth opened and closed as if he were trying to say something but couldn’t. Not that I would have heard him over the sea of drunken partygoers and the roar in my ears.

My brain clawed at the last shred of sanity as wave after wave of dizziness sucked me deeper into a swirling abyss of darkness. My lungs begged for oxygen until I had to be blue in the face. My legs wobbled, and I stuck out a hand to steady myself. Swaying like a drunken sailor, I accidentally buried my fingers in some sorority girl’s cleavage. She raised her hand to take a swing at me but was too wasted to come close.

“You stupid, perverted bitch.”

Whatever. She was the least of my worries.

The music was so loud, no one paid attention to us. I wasn’t a fighter, and the time had come to get my ass out of here, not so much to run from her—I could handle her—but to get away from him and the demons nipping at my heels

I abandoned my beer on a windowsill and shoved my way through the crowd, desperate to exit as quickly as possible. Glancing over my shoulder, I saw Riley dodging people in the crowd with deft footwork that would do any running back proud. Only he wasn’t a running back. He was a tight end. The starting tight end for Tyee University. A big man on campus with an NHL star uncle.

And I was—

Nobody.

And I planned on keeping it that way. I didn’t have any interest in being in the spotlight or even in a flashlight.

It’d been a mistake to enroll here, but I hadn’t had a choice. My parents’ divorce had been costly, leaving no money for out-of-state tuition. So here was I was. Back in the area I both loved and despised among the best of memories drowned out by the worst of tragedies with the one person who played a part in both.

I ran out the door and down the front steps, knowing he was only seconds behind. Glancing around desperately, I dived into some bushes in front of the apartment building next to the frat house and huddled in the darkness.

I waited what seemed like hours.

Finally, I peeked through the branches of the bush. Riley stood there, several feet away, gazing down the street with such profound sadness, you’d think he’d lost his best friend. His big hands hung loosely at his sides. He still had that one lock of dark hard that refused to stay in place. He looked the same, but different. A familiar face, yet a stranger.

Shaking his head, Riley trudged back inside, his shoulders slumped and his feet dragging.

I almost ran after him—almost—but I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t invite the one person back into my life who could destroy every bit of progress I’d made since high school. Even worse, I couldn’t drag him down with me.

I waited long after he’d gone inside before creeping along the side of the building, and around the corner. I ran the several blocks home and collapsed on my bed. Only then did the wrenching sobs shake my body and wring every bit of emotion from my soul until nothing was left but bone-deep weariness.