Archive for the ‘News’ Category

Lucy March Invites You to Nodaway Falls

Lucy March

Lucy March’s  writing is delightful and delicious . . . Every word I devoured had me  craving more’ – Darynda Jones on A Little Night Magic

‘If you love True Blood, or find yourself constantly flicking over to the SyFy Channel, then this book is definitely for you. Part urban fantasy, part paranormal romance, all mixed together with a soft scoop of southern hospitality’ – Serendipity Reviews

Sometimes others say it best; hence the quotes!

Lucy March, who also answers to Lani Diane Rich, invites you to Nodaway Falls – where the five rules for living there involve things like friends, margaritas and magic.*

*We fell a little like we’re starring in Practical Magic 🙂


  1. Make Friends. In small towns like Nodaway Falls, community is everything. When you find yourself with sudden magical powers and no idea what to do, your friends will help you figure things out. And when they have no idea what’s going on, they’ll make margaritas. Either way, it’s a win.

  2. Expect the Unexpected. Magic is a volatile thing. People with power may think they have things under control, but they rarely do. This is true of both the good guys, and the bad. Be ready to roll with the punches and improvise your response. It’s a good idea to make friends with a local conjurer; potions may be unpredictable, but sometimes that works in your favor.

  3. Never Give Up. No matter what kind of dark force you might be facing, remember that you only lose if you quit. Sometimes, the best weapon in your arsenal against the big bad is tenacity. Remember, evil can get tired, too. If you can’t beat ’em, wear ’em down.

  4. Stop and Smell the Roses. Not everything in Nodaway Falls is about fighting evil. You can find some of the world’s best waffles at Crazy Cousin Betty’s, and if you’re into the whole dive bar thing, there’s some seriously adequate booze waiting for you at Happy Larry’s. Spend the night at Grace and Addie’s flowerful bed and breakfast, and check out Addie’s replica Julia Child kitchen in the antique store. When you pass by the bank, see if you can spy the dings in the brick caused by the magical pool balls that Amber Dorsey threw at Frankie Biggs. And be sure to visit our beautiful town square; it’s the site of more magical events per square foot than any other place in the continental U.S. We’re having a plaque made.

  5. Set Aside Time for Romance. Despite the danger – or, maybe, because of it – romance tends to blossom in our fair town. We don’t know if it’s the cozy village atmosphere, our babbling brook that is technically a waterfall (giving us our town name) or all the near-death experiences brought on by magical brouhahas, but whatever it is, Nodaway Falls brings a lot of couples together. Then rips them apart. Then gets them back together again. Hey. We wouldn’t want things to get boring, now would we?

Get A Little Night Magic for just £1.99 this week




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The Keri Arthur and Maria Lewis Chat

Keri Arthur Maria Lewis

Join Keri Arthur – of Riley Jensen, Dark Angels, Souls of Fire and Outcast series fame – and Maria Lewis – the debut author behind Tommi Grayson in the Who’s Afraid? series – as they talk about everything from boobies to kangaroos (they’re Australian) to books for #WelcomeToMyWorld.

Be prepared to be entertained and enlightened. We love these two, strong women and their progressive portrayal of women in their novels.


Maria Lewis

Alright, Kezz Dawg! What’s going on? How’s your day? What adventures have you been up to? How’s the resident kangaroo that lives in your backyard.


Keri Arthur

The day involved breast swashing – had to go get the boobies scanned. After than delight, I’ve been writing a story I’m planning to self-publish while the brain is mulling over the new fantasy novel. As for the kangaroo, haven’t sighted him. Maybe the poor sucker drowned in all the water we have lying about (in and out of the house) What about yourself? Met anyone interesting of late?


Keri Arthur

I hope you’re working on the next wolf novel!


Maria Lewis

Hahaha, I love that we’re two minutes into this conversation and tits have already come up. But that’s important yo, get your boobs checked! Know your body! R.I.P Kezza’s backyard kangaroo, hope he’s out there somewhere and doing okay.


Maria Lewis

As for interesting people, I’m interviewing Tilda Swinton on Friday and so bloody excited because she’s an immortal goddess.

Would it be weird if I ask her to adopt me? I’m gonna do it.


Keri Arthur

I know too many people with breast cancer not to get the boobies checked! The roo is probably harassing the girls up on the hill – it is coming into breeding season, after all 🙂 Tilda Swinton!? Colour me jealous. Care for an older sibling who also needs adoption?


Keri Arthur

Also, I currently have a fantasy novel out on submission – keeping the fingers crossed for that one, as I think it’s the best thing I’ve written (though I would think that, of course) 😉

And you didn’t answer my question about the next (3rd) wolf book!


Maria Lewis

A whole novel, oh boy! Can you give us any teasers as to what it’s about?


Keri Arthur

Only if you tell me there’s a third damn wolf book. I mean, play fair here!


Maria Lewis

Haha and sorry, didn’t mean to avoid the question. Who’s Afraid Too? is about to drop in January so I’m gearing up for trying to get it out there as hard as I can and YES! There is a third wolf book (official title now). It’s called Who’s Still Afraid? and it’s written, with the publishers and waiting for the first round of copy edits. The fourth book is done too – tentatively titled I Still Know Who’s Definitely Afraid Last Summer? – so just got the fifth and final one to complete, but I’m trying to take a wee break from werewolves right now.


Keri Arthur

I love the movie title play on the 4th book. Awesome that you’ve 4 done already – now we just need Piatkus to release them quicker :). What are you playing with right now if not werewolves?


Maria Lewis

Trying to write a crime novel instead, just for shits and giggles.


Keri Arthur

Crime is hard. Tried it. Failed. Things that go bump in the night kept interfering.


Maria Lewis

It is tricky, I’ve found it hard because the story – which would be a trilogy of books – is set in the US and there’s a lot of detail and specifics that I need to get my head around, so been doing a lot of interviews with FBI Agents and reading procedural manuals. I’m enjoying it so far though, I started my career as a crime reporter at the local newspaper so have always had an interest in that area and wanted to delve in a fictional regard (as opposed to non-fiction).


Maria Lewis

And re: your fantasy novel out on submission, it must feel amazing to have literally dozens of urban fantasy and genre books out there in the world but feel like your best is still in front of you. That’s so exciting to hear, as someone who is a fan of your work and who has watched with joy as you bust down doors and break through glass ceilings like Riley Jenson ;o)


Keri Arthur

At least you’ve got some history in crime reporting, but setting it in the US is hard, especially since everything is very different, be it law or even language usage.

Riley will always have a special place in my heart. Not only was she my first major success, but she certainly proved that stories can be set in Melbourne and have mass appeal!

Was Who’s Afraid? your first book? Word of warning, if you say yes, I’m going to call you a bitch


Maria Lewis

Oh man, you’re so right – just the nitty gritty on a trial scene has required so much research and I’m so finicky about getting details accurate. Usually whenever I’m stuck in uncertain territory I make sure I have some skilled proofreaders that either work in those areas and know it well. And just quietly, I think Riley is a hero for alotta and she encapsulates all the things I love with urban fantasy women: she’s strong physically and emotionally, driven, has sexual agency and compassionate.


Maria Lewis

Mind you, I gotta say Tig has fast become my favourite of your characters I think. Absolutely love her and her empathy! She felt like such a blast of fresh air and the thing that makes her so tough and memorable is her kindness. I love that.


Keri Arthur

I think it’s worth the time to get the details right, tho, otherwise you’ll just piss off readers. Never a good thing to do. As for Riley . . . she’s a woman not afraid of her sexuality, and not willing to take shit from a man. It’s a message we need to get out there more! Glad you enjoyed Tig. She caused me so many problems initially – refused to talk to me for a good two or more years after I’d gotten 80 pages into her story.


Maria Lewis

So true! I mean, no matter how hard you try or how long it takes there will always be something wrong but I think one aspect of our job as writers is to make sure that happens as rarely as possible. I LOVE TIG. Been so long since I’ve become as obsessed with a character as I am with her and really hanging out for the second book in that series.


Maria Lewis

Also, figured we’ve done this for about an hour and covered boobs to books, shall we wrap up?


Keri Arthur

If you smile nicely, I might just send you an ARC . . .


Maria Lewis



Maria Lewis

Here’s my smile!


Keri Arthur



For one week only you can get the first in Keri’s Riley Jensen series for £1.99.




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And keep an eye out for her next book in the Outcast series, Winter Halo, coming this December.

Winter Halo





Have you read Maria’s stunning debut yet. You can get it now:




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And to find out more about her next book check it out here.

Whos Afraid Too

Elle Kennedy’s Five Rules to Surviving as an Outlaw

Elle Kennedy

So, we’ve already mentioned that the fabulous Elle Kennedy, author of the Off-Campus and Killer Instinct series, has created a whole new world in her Outlaw series. A world we summed up with ‘Dystopia world. Wild, wild West. Hot!’ But Elle, being a little more eloquent than us, has gone the extra mile and given us the five rules we’ll need to survive as OUTLAWS. We’re so going on the lam!


After a decimating global war, the world finds itself in chaos. You’re either a civilian living inside the government-run city where life is secure but your future is decided for you, or you’re an OUTLAW – living in the wild ruins, forging for your own way in a land where tomorrow isn’t promised.

But if you want to be an outlaw, there are some things you need to remember . . .


  1. You can’t survive out here on your own, but don’t align yourself with people you can’t trust. Trust is something you shouldn’t give easy.


  1. Watch your back and the backs of the people you’re with. They’ll be watching yours.


  1. Always be aware of your surroundings. You never know what’s around the corner.


  1. Nothing comes free in this land. You contribute to the community if you’ve got one, or you barter and trade with what you’ve got. Supplies, skills, sexual favors – whatever you’re willing to give.


  1. At the end of the day, do whatever it takes to survive.


We’re sold!

Book three in the Outlaws series will be out in November, so there’s still time to get caught up on the series and Claimed, Book 1, is

£1.99 for the week!




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MaryJanice Davidson’s Top Five What The *!@#? Moments from the Undead Series

Undead and Done

Ah, MaryJanice Davidson, how we love your books, your humour, your Betsy and Sink Lair, your love of shoes . . . Christine Feehan had it right when she called you, ‘Wicked fun.’ The Undead series, which comes to a close with Undead and Done (see what she did there), has made us laugh, fall in love, laugh some more and go: ‘What!?!?!?!!!!!’. And for the big closing number, plus #WelcomeToMyWorld, MaryJanice is sharing the moments when the Undead crew blew even her out of the water. Warning, if you’re new to the series, there are a couple spoilers here, plus read all the way to the bottom to discover our special deal.


What, just five? I could have done thirty of these. Literally thirty, I try to put at least two in every book, and this last book is #15, Undead and Done, and 15 x 2 = 30, so when you pick up one of my books, you get a lot of laughs and also math. But in the interest of time, and spoilers, here are my top five. Also: spoilers! (Seriously, spoilers. Do not cry to me about spoilers after you read an article whose entire purpose is to discuss spoilers. I will lose it. LOSE IT.)

  • Elizabeth “Betsy” Taylor wakes up dead. Yep, things got busy quickly in the very first book, chapter one, page one: a recently fired administrative assistant wakes up as the queen of the vampires. She was different pretty much immediately, and not just because she loved shoes and hated tact: she wasn’t bitten and turned, she was run over (by a Pontiac Aztec) and woke up in the funeral home. And wasn’t happy about it – besides the obvious, she was wearing someone else’s knock-off shoes and terrible make-up (fair-skinned blondes can’t pull off orange blush). Things went downhill from there.


  • Sinclair is the Book of the Dead. Eric Sinclair, king of the vampires, is devoted to Betsy and though it was love at first sight for him, it took his bride a while longer to come around. (That whole “you tricked me into marrying you, asshat!” thing, doncha know.) And the Book of the Dead is this terrible book accurately professing the future of vampires in general and Betsy in particular. Not only can Betsy not get rid of the thing (she pitched it into the Mississippi River; UPS brought it back), she goes temporarily insane if she reads it too long (like DVR instructions) and it’s made of human skin, written in blood. We find out when Betsy ends up in the future that not only is Horrible Future Betsy running the world 500 years from now, she’s the author of The Book, and it’s written on Eric Sinclair’s skin. And speaking of time travel . . .


  • Betsy accidentally changes the timeline. Our girl wasn’t having any of that “turning my husband into a creepy gross book sometime between the present and five centuries from now” nonsense and somehow (even she’s vague on the details) changed the timeline so it wouldn’t happen. When she got back to her present, her previously unhappily single best friend was living with a cop and joyfully pregnant with twins, and Christian Louboutin never existed in this timeline. Paradise on the one hand, agony on the other. And speaking of agony . . .


  • Betsy kills the devil. So, there’s that. Also, Betsy’s sister is the Anti-Christ. Ooh, and her roommate Marc was an evil vampire in the future, but a suicidal zombie in the new-and-improved timeline present. It was a whole thing. Several things, in fact. And speaking of several things . . .


  • Betsy becomes the new devil (or as her name tag proclaims her, “Hello, my name is Satan 2.0“), and the Mall of America is the new Hell. Because when you’re out of work, sometimes you have to take someone else’s job, I guess?


These five things all took place between books 1 and 14, so you know what that means: that despite all the above insanity, there’s still more to come in the final book, Undead and DoneWhat? You didn’t think I’d save some of the best stuff for last?

Undead and Done is out now:




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Plus, did you know that we’ve also published MaryJanice’s new series Danger, Sweetheart, as well as her Fred the Mermaid series and that the first book in that series, Sleeping with the Fishes is just £1.99 in the UK for the week?




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Exclusive Scene from Suzanne Wright!

Suzanne Wright

It’s Day Two of #WelcomeToMyWorld and the treats keep coming! We’ve had an exclusive excerpt from J. R. Ward’s Blood Vow, the superhero chat with Jayne Ann Krentz and Emma Jane Holloway and giveaways over on Facebook. Now we have an exclusive scene from Suzanne Wright, author of the Dark in You series!!!!

Come join Harper and Knox at Grandma Jolene’s Halloween party!


It was quite a sight. The streamers and banners fluttered with the breeze. Pumpkins lined the path, and fake tombstones, and dismembered limbs were strewn across the lawn. Knox could hear the music and laughter from there. Not his scene at all. But somewhere inside was his mate, who was deliberately ignoring his calls.

“Look on the bright side,” said Keenan, his sentinel. “She could be dressed in a slutty maid uniform. They’re always fun.”

Reaching the porch, Knox looked carefully at the life-size Grim Reaper near the door, not trusting that it was simply a prop. Imps took delight in tormenting people. Keeping a wary eye on the reaper, Knox pressed the bell, and a bloodcurdling scream sounded from nowhere. He didn’t jump. Not even when plastic spiders rained down on them. But his heartbeat did kick up just a little—something he’d take to his grave.

The door opened, and a woman in a Maleficent outfit grinned at them. “Knox, always a pleasure,” said Jolene, Harper’s grandmother. She frowned at Keenan, who was frantically batting nonexistent spiders from his head. “You got them all, sweetie. Now come on inside.”

Knox walked into the house, squinting to see through the smoke. “Is this courtesy of Martina?” Harper’s aunt lived to set shit on fire.

“No, just a smoke machine. Martina’s over there.” Jolene gestured to a zombie showgirl who was doing the Cancan dance while a bunch of imps cheered her on.

“Where’s Harper?” The sooner he found her and got out of there, the better.

“Somewhere inside. Go one through.”

The smells of candy, popcorn, hairspray, and cookies scented the air. Lots of people gathered around the hall, talking, drinking, and laughing; all were dressed in Halloween costumes. Some outfits were good, like the Edward Scissorhands costume and the weird yet creepy scarecrow getup. Other outfits were clearly DIY, like the guy wearing a red cardboard ‘Kissing Booth’ . . . who, Knox quickly realized with a frown, happened to be Tanner—one of his sentinels and Harper’s bodyguard.

Bemused, Knox walked over to him. “You dressed up?”

Tanner’s cheeks flushed. “This is Jolene’s doing.” The hellhound took a swig from his bottle of beer. “I’m just being a good sport.”

“Huh,” said Keenan. “How busy is your booth?”

Tanner spared an approaching hellcat a longing glance and said, “Not busy enough.”

Devon sidled up to Knox, fingers digging into her hair. “This wig itches like crazy.” Her Medusa dress rustled as she gestured down the hallway. “I’m pretty sure Harper’s in the living room.” She spun with a hiss when Tanner tugged on her wig.

Tanner just smiled. “Such a cranky kitty.”

She scowled. “Don’t you have some bones to bury?”

Leaving Keenan to try to stop the two from arguing, Knox stalked down the hallway and peeked into the living area. There was no sign of Harper. There was, however, an imp singing Ghostbusters to his hedgehog on the Karaoke. And that wasn’t weird at all.

Spotting Harper’s cousin, Ciaran, dressed in a Where’s Waldo costume, Knox headed over. “Where’s Harper?”

Ciaran smiled. “Happy Halloween to you too. She was in the dining room last time I saw her.”

Turning, Knox strode out of the room. As he ducked to avoid a fake spider web, he almost crashed into a little girl.

She waved up at him, her smile angelic. “Hi, Knox!”

“Heidi, you look . . .” Like a creepy kid ghost from a scary movie. “Cute.” Her hair had been backcombed, her face was white with black smears under her eyes, and she was carrying a headless doll.

“Grandma Jolene did my make-up,” she said proudly. “Want some candy?” She pointed to the dining area, where there was a table filled with novelty candy, ghost-shaped cookies, sandwiches, popcorn, and pumpkin pie.

“No, thanks. I’m looking for Harper.”

“She’s in the kitchen.”

“Thank you.” Knox held out his hand. “I’m going to need my wallet back.”

Grumbling something under her breath, the little pickpocket handed it over.

With a nod of thanks, Knox headed to the kitchen. There was yet again no sign of Harper. As he got a good look at the guy in the Mad Hatter costume, he couldn’t help but think that it was the right choice of outfit. Knox inclined his and greeted, “Lou.”

The devil grinned. “Surprised to see you here. How come you didn’t dress up?”

“Because I’m not eight. Have you seen Harper?”

“She went outside with her friend.” Lou popped a jelly eyeball in his mouth. “You got her pregnant yet?”

Knox sighed. “I’m not having this conversation with you.”

“All I want is your solid oath to name your first born son after me.”

“It’s not going to happen, Lou, let it go.” As a motion-activated hand scuttled across the floor, Knox moved aside, almost bumping into a guy wearing a hospital gown complete with a plastic bare ass. As Lou picked up the electronic hand and started using it to fondle the plastic ass, Knox stalked out of the kitchen and into the backyard.

And there was his mate, sitting on a hay bale with her friend. They both looked up at him, Harper shot him a bright smile. With that, his frustration eased away.

Raini, who was dressed as Harley Quinn, gave him a quick wave and retreated inside.

Taking Harper’s hand, he pulled her to her feet and kissed her hard. “You taste like candy apples.” He skimmed his hands up her bare arms, which were chilled by the breeze.

She frowned, smoothing a hand down his shirt. “You didn’t dress up.”

“You did,” he said, studying the beige dress that had stitch marks, patches, and a red heart on it. “But I can’t work out what you’re supposed to be.”

“Duh, a voodoo doll.”

“Ah, I see it now.” He kissed her again, ending it with a punishing nip to her lower lip. “You didn’t answer your phone.”

“You tried calling me?” She blinked, all innocence. “There’s a lot of noise in there.”

“You were hiding from me. I’ve no idea why. You knew I’d come for you.”

She shrugged. “Hiding from you was really the only way to get you to come inside.”

“Sneaky.” He cupped her hips. “Tell me you’re ready to leave.”

“We haven’t gone out to terrorize all the trick-or-treaters yet.”

“I want to take you home.” He slid his hands down to cup her ass. “There are a lot of things I want to do to you, and I can’t do any of them here.”

“Stop using your sex voice.”

He kissed, licked, and bit her neck, knowing how sensitive it was. “Come home with me.”

“But it’s early.”

“You love me, right?”

“Yes,” she breathed.

“Then come with me.”

“But I haven’t—” She froze, brow furrowing. “Is that… is that Lou singing Tina Turner’s What’s Love Got to Do with It? on the karaoke?”

Knox gave her a faint smile. “Yep. And if the whistles and catcalls are anything to go by, he’s dancing and possibly even stripping. I think we both know that Baby Got Back will be next.”

She groaned. “Let’s just go.”

“If you insist.”


For today only in the US and Canada get Burn for $0.99.



Amazon US:…

In the UK and Australia Burn is available at half price for the week:


Amazon Australia:…
Amazon UK:…
iBooks UK:…
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If you prefer you books in audio Burn and Blaze are now out in the UK and Australia, and will be coming to the US soon.
Burn Audible UK :…
Burn Audible Australia:…
Blaze Audible UK:…
Blaze Audible Australia:…


And for those of you who’ve already read Burn and Blaze . . . Ashes will be released worldwide in July and is already up for pre-order in some countries!

Amazon US :…

Nook US :…

Amazon UK :…

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The Superpower Chat with Emma Jane Holloway and Jayne Ann Krentz

All this talk of Fantasy and Paranormal meant we had to have the superpower chat – which would you have – and we got our authors involved. We asked Emma Jane Holloway and Jayne Ann Krentz what they would pick; in their answers you just might learn something about the life of an author. 

Emma Jane Holloway:

I would love to have the ability to make time stand still so that I could get more done in a day. Who hasn’t wished for a few extra hours just for themselves? I could spend hours reading a book. I could take a long, luxurious bath. If I really felt like it, I could even fit in some of those nice-to-do tasks like actually organising vacation photos instead of creating a black hole of chaos on my desk. Best if all, everyone else on the planet would be frozen in time and not giving me more work to do before I caught up. Then, with a snap of my fingers, I would restart the day – and I would be perfectly organised, perfectly calm, and without a hair out of place.

Readers, if you had the ability to squeeze in an extra hour in the day, what would you do?


Jayne Ann Krentz:

My superpower would be the ability to maintain a neat and tidy office while writing a book.  By the time I finish a manuscript my office area always looks like a whirlwind hit it.



We thought long and hard about this, some of us were inspired by Jayne and Emma, dreaming of tidy desks, being on top of everything at all times . . .

Some of us proved we’re readaholics: ‘If we could control time we could speed things up so we never have to wait for the next book. You know the one, the book that turns you into an online stalker, desperate to see if publication date is coming closer; I mean it could happen, right?

While one of us (we won’t name any names), just couldn’t resist dreams of strapping on her/his Wonder Woman underwear and taking to the skies to battle Aries and his evil minions.



Which superpower would you choose?



Emma Jane Holloway is the author of The Baskerville Affair series, which follows Evelina Cooper, the niece of the great Sherlock Holmes and holder of illegal magic.

Check out her first novel:

A Study in Silks

A Study in Silks

In a Victorian era ruled by a Council of ruthless steam barons, mechanical power is the real monarch, and sorcery the demon enemy of the Empire. Nevertheless, the most coveted weapon is magic that can run machines – something Evelina has secretly mastered. But rather than making her fortune, her special talents could mean death or an eternity as a guest of Her Majesty’s secret laboratories. What’s a polite young lady to do but mind her manners and pray she’s never found out?

But then there’s that murder. As Sherlock Holmes’s niece, Evelina should be able to find the answers, but she has a lot to learn. And the first decision she has to make is whether to trust the handsome, clever rake who makes her breath come faster, or the dashing trick rider who would dare anything for her if she would only just ask . . .




Goolge Play:…


Jayne Ann Krentz, also know as Amanda Quick and Jayne Castle, writes romantic suspense, historical romance and futuristic/paranormal romantic-suspense. No matter what genre she’s writing in her books are always a treat!

Check out the first in her Rainshadow Island series:

The Lost Night

The Lost NightEven the mysterious world of Harmony has people who don’t quite fit in. They’re drawn to places like Rainshadow Island, a beautiful sanctuary where anyone can feel safe – and where secrets are closely guarded. Schooled in an exotic form of martial arts and with the ability to detect the auras of dangerous psychic criminals, Rachel Bonner and her dust bunny companion have found peace and quiet on Rainshadow Island, operating a bookstore and café. But her tranquil new life is thrown into chaos when Harry Sebastian, the descendant of a notorious pirate, arrives to investigate strange developments in the privately owned woods known as the Preserve.

Immediately drawn to the amber-eyed woman, Harry must tread carefully. While Rachel’s special talents can help him track down dangerous rogues who have violated the Preserve, they can also sense the heart of darkness within him. But desire can weaken the strongest of defenses – and leave even the strongest man wanting more . . .






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Exclusive Early Excerpt from J. R. Ward’s BLOOD VOW

Blood Vow

We’re kicking off #WelcomeToMyWorld with an exclusive, early excerpt from J. R. Ward’s Blood Vow. Rhage and Mary and Bitty are all back!


Trainees  at the Black Dagger Brotherhood’ training centre continue to prepare  for the fight against the Lessening Society, but fighting is the last  thing on Axe’s mind. Still plagued with the guilt of his father’s death,  the brooding loner finds himself battling an unlikely attraction to  Peyton’s bright, aristocratic cousin, Elise.

Elise feels it too – and when the two are thrown together in unusual circumstances Elise must decide whether she can trust Axe to help her uncover the mystery  surrounding her sister’s death.

Meanwhile, Mary and Rhage are in the process of adopting Bitty, a young pretrans orphan, until the  appearance of a young male claiming to be Bitty’s blooded uncle threatens to tear the new family apart.



The Black Dagger Brotherhood Mansion

“So what is that?”

As Rhage’s daughter piped up, he froze with his gun halfway into his under-arm holster. For a split second, he decided to pretend that he hadn’t heard her—but that was going to get him nowhere. In the two months or so that he and Mary had had Bitty, they’d both learned that she was smart as a whip and tenacious as flypaper.

Ordinarily, he got a kick out of those two defining characteristics. When it came to describing the technical specs of a forty-caliber killing weapon to his thirteen-year-old? Pass. He wished she had an empty skull and ADD.

“Ah . . .”

He glanced into the mirror over the bureau, hoping against hope that she had moved on to something, anything else. Nope. Bitty was sitting on his and Mary’s new bed, the one in the third-floor suite that Trez had graciously moved out of so the three of them could have adjoining rooms. The girl was way on the small side, her skinny arms and legs the kind of thing that made him want to move to the tropics instead of live in Upstate New Freezing-Fucking-Cold. Hell, even under a body weight’s worth of fleece, she seemed fragile.

But the oh, dainties ended right there. Her brown eyes were direct as an adult’s, old as a mountain range, keen as an eagle’s. Her dark hair was thick and shiny, falling past her shoulders, nearly the exact color of Mary’s. And her aura, her . . . whatever, life force, spirit, soul . . . was as tangible as her physical form seemed almost transient.

He took pride in the fact that the longer she stayed with them, the more she was emerging. Not like a flower.

Like a fucking oak.

Buuuuuuuuuuuuuut that didn’t mean he wanted to get into the nitty gritty of his job killing lessers with her.

And nope. Really not interested in the whole birds-and-bees talk, either. At least they had another twelve years or so to prepare for that.

“Father?” she prompted.

Rhage closed his eyes. Okay, so every time she called him that, his heart got too big for his chest and this unreal, won-the-lottery feeling sunrised all over him. It took him back to right after he and Mary had been mated and he’d gotten to call her shellan for the first time.

Pure, full-bore awesomeness.

“What is it?” Bitty prompted.

That happy pink bubblegum glow faded as he seated the gun and clipped its strap over the butt. “It’s a weapon.”

“I know—it’s a gun. But what kind?”

“A Smith and Wesson forty.”

“How many bullets are in it?”

“Enough.” He picked up his leather jacket and smiled. “Hey, you ready for movie night when I get home?”

“Why don’t you want to tell me about your gun?”

Because if you’re the audience, I can’t separate what I do with it from a discussion of its specs. “It’s just not all that interesting.”

“It’s what keeps you alive, though, right?” The little girl’s eyes locked on the black daggers that were holstered on his chest, handles down. “Like your knives.”

“Among other things.”

“So that’s interesting. To me, at least.”

“Look, how ’bout we talk about this when your mom and I are both here? You know, like, later tonight.”

“But how do I know you’ll come home safe?”

Rhage blinked. “I am never not coming back to you and Mary.”

“What if you die, though?”

His first thought was:


His Mary, as a trained therapist—who had treated Z with all his demons, for godsakes—could deal with this so much better than some meathead fighter like him could. But his shellan was at Safe Place, working, and he didn’t feel right about calling and possibly interrupting her with anything other than an arterial bleed or a house fire. Zombie apocalypse. H-bomb behind the compound.

And fine, maybe if they were out of cheesecake.

Except he needed to man up. What was going down right now? This was Father Shit, and not only had he signed up for exactly these kinds of hard conversations when he and Mary had started the adoption process, he really didn’t want to admit this early that he couldn’t handle the job.

Okay, note to self: Find an online course on being a father. Surely there had to be a curriculum for this kind of thing.

“I’m just worried,” she said. “It’s scary for me, okay?”

Jesus, it was scary for him, too. He had so much more to lose with her in his life.

Rhage went over and knelt down. Bitty had tucked her arms around herself and her eyes were steady as if she were not going to accept a load of bullcrap.

Opening his mouth, he . . .

Closed it. And wondered what he needed to do to jump-start his brain. Maybe bang it into a wall?

“You know my car?” he heard himself say.

As Bitty nodded, he had an image of Puskar Nepal–ing himself until he passed the fuck out from foot-to-forehead contact: Of all the things for his subconscious, or whatever was running his program, to spit out, he led with his GTO?

“Well, you know when I was teaching you to drive?”

Yeah, Bits, right before those kids attacked Mary and you found out that I have a dragon for an alter ego? Har-har, good times, good times.

God, he wanted to throw up.

As she nodded again, he said, “You remember when you were figuring out the gears and the steering wheel and the brakes? Going back and forth, again and again, until you could get it right?”


“You know how I drive that car?”

“Oh, yes.” Now, she smiled. “Fast. Very fast and fun. It’s like a rocket.”

“So, someday, you’re going to drive her just as well as I do. You’re going to know where the gears are by feel, and you’re going to work the clutch and the gas without thought. And if someone swerves in front of you, you’re going to react so quick and so sure, you’re not going to be aware of even thinking about it. If somebody slams on the brakes, you’re going to shift lanes instinctually. You’re going to feel the tires hydroplaning on the highway in the rain and you’re going to know to slow up on the gas, but not hit the brakes. And all of that is going to happen because you’re going to practice, practice, practice on a car that is kept in tip-top shape.”

“I’m going to practice. So I drive better.”

“Right. Even if the people around you drive dangerously, you’re going to be aware and focused and trained to deal with whatever comes at you.” He put his palm over his daggers, over his heart. “I have been out there fighting for a century, Bitty. And everything I take with me into the field—the weapons, the gear, the support in the form of my brothers—all of it is engineered to keep me safe. Is it a perfect system? No. But it’s the best it gets, I promise you that.”

Bitty’s arms uncoiled and she looked down. The pink and green bracelet on her wrist was made out of faceted beads that sparkled like real gems. Moving the thing around and around, she took a deep breath.

“Are you . . . good at it? I mean, the fighting?”

God, he wished he was an accountant. He really did. Because if he were some pocket-protector’d numbers cruncher, he wouldn’t be having to tell an innocent that he excelled at killing things.

“Are you?” she prompted.

“I’m very good at keeping myself and my brothers safe. I’m so good at it, they’re having me teach younger people how to do it.”

She nodded once again. “That’s what they were saying. At Last Meal the other night. I heard people talking about you and the other Brothers teaching people.”

“That’s where I’m heading right now. While you hang here with Bella and Nalla, I’m meeting the trainee class out in Caldwell to show them how to stay safe.”

Bitty tilted her head, her brown hair cascading over her shoulder. And he let her stare at him for as long as she wanted. If that made him a little late to work, who cared.

“You must be really good at it to be a teacher.”

“I am. I swear to you, Bitty. I am effective and I take no more chances than I absolutely have to in order to get my job done.”

“And the beast will keep you safe, won’t he.”

Rhage nodded. “You better believe it. You saw him. You know what he’s like.”

She smiled, sunshine replacing the worry. “He likes me.”

“He loves you. But he doesn’t love people who get aggressive with me.”

“That makes me feel better.”

“Good.” He put his palms up, and as she high-fived him, he said, “You’re never going to be alone, Bitty. I promise you.”

In that moment, as he sought to relieve any and all of her anxiety— and his own, for that matter—he nearly came out with the one thing Bitty didn’t know about her adoptive parents. Yes, her new old man had a dragon living under his skin, but her new mom had an even fancier secret.

Mary was a unique flavor of immortal. Thanks to the Scribe Virgin— and this remained true even though V’s mahmen was no longer in charge—Mary did not age, and could choose when she went unto the Fade. It was a gift beyond measure, insulating this family in ways that other people’s weren’t.

Except Rhage stayed quiet on that front. Even though the knowledge might have helped Bitty in the moment, he really felt like it was Mary’s information to share, not his.

“You’re never going to be alone, Bitty,” he repeated. “I swear to you.”


As Mary sat behind her desk at Safe Place, she put her bag down and shrugged out of her parka. Extending her arm, she pulled the sleeve of her turtleneck up and smiled at the pink and green bracelet that twinkled at her wrist.

She and Bitty had made matching ones the other night, the pair of them sitting at Fritz’s kitchen table in the mansion, a jewelry-making kit spread out everywhere, a huge array of clear plastic boxes holding a rainbow’s worth of iridescent beads. They had talked about nothing and everything, and greeted each person who came in, and split a bag of Combos and a Mountain Dew. They had also made a necklace for Rhage, a different-colored bracelet for Lassiter, and braid for Nalla to play with. And even Boo had come over and curled up to watch, the black cat’s green eyes inspecting everything.

In a mansion full of priceless stuff? That time together had been the most precious, irreplaceable thing.

Looking across her desk, Mary reached out and picked up a photograph of Bitty from two weeks before, when the little girl had been taking selfies with Rhage’s phone. Bit was making a crazy face, her dark hair back-brushed until she looked like something out of an eighties glam metal band.

And in fact, Lassiter was over on the left, doing his best Nikki Sixx impression.

Unexpected tears pricked Mary’s eyes. In all her life, she had never expected to be a woman who had pictures of a daughter at her work desk. Nah, that hypothetical, blessed, stranger of a person, that lucky female who had a husband and a family, and holidays to look forward to, and homemade things on her wrist? That had always been someone else, a stranger whose reality was something you watched on TV or saw in Maytag ads or overheard at the table next door in a restaurant.

While you were eating alone.

Mary Luce was the nurse to an ailing mother who had died horribly and too young. Mary Luce was the cancer survivor left infertile after chemo. Mary Luce was the ghost on the fringes, the shadow that passed unnoticed through a room, an allegory of where you didn’t want to end up.

Except life had corkscrewed on her in the best of all possible ways. Now? She was exactly where she had never even dared to dream of being.

And yup, this unexpected destiny came with a not-too-small dose of PTSD. Hell, sometimes, when she woke up next to her gorgeous vampire of a husband? And especially now, when she tiptoed into another bedroom to check on Bitty at nightfall? She expected to wake up, back in her nightmare of a real life.

But no, she thought as she put the picture down. This was the real stuff. Here and now was the story she was living.

And it was . . . amazing. So full of love, family, and happiness that it felt as though the sun lived in the center of her chest.

They were all survivors, her, Rhage, and Bitty. She of her illness. Rhage of the curse he had to live with. Bitty of the unimaginable domestic abuse she and her mahmen had suffered at the hands of her birth father. The three of their lives had started to intersect here, at Safe Place, when Bitty and her mahmen had come in seeking shelter. And then Bitty’s mother had died, leaving her an orphan.

The opportunity to take the girl in had seemed too good to be true. It still did, sometimes.

If they could just get through this six-month waiting period, the adoption would be final and Mary could take a deep breath. At least there were no relatives coming forward. Even though Bitty had talked initially about some uncle, her mother had never mentioned having a brother or disclosed anything about any blood relations, either during intake or in subsequent therapy sessions. Notices posted on closed Facebook and Yahoo groups had yielded nothing so far.

God willing, it would stay that way.

On that note, Mary signed in to the computer network, her heart starting to bang in her ribs, a sick flush blooming in her body. As social media aficionados went, she was below amateur status, the anti-Kardashian—and yet every night, but only once a night, she hopped onto Facebook.

And prayed she found nothing.

The FB group she checked was one specifically devoted to vampires, its closed roster restricted to members of the species. Created by V after the raids, moderated by Fritz’s staff, the clearinghouse was an opportunity for folks to connect about anything from safe-house locations—always in code—to garage sales.

Scanning the posts in the last twenty-four hours, she exhaled in a rush. Not at thing.

The relief made her office spin around—at least until she went to check the Yahoo group. Recipe for Crock-Pot. Knitting group having a meeting . . . snowblower for sale . . . question about where to get a computer fixed . . .

Also nothing.

“Thank you, God,” she whispered as she put another small check on her wall calendar.

Almost to the end of December, which meant they were nearly two whole months down. By May? They could move forward.

As her heart shifted out of tachycardia, she wondered how in the hell she was going to face this IT gauntlet another hundred and thirty times or so. But she had no other choice. The good news was that she was able to stick to this once-and-only-once-a-night check. Otherwise she’d be on her damn phone every fifteen minutes.

She had to be fair, though, to whoever else might be out there. Extinguishing parental rights in blood relations was serious business, and with no modern precedents in the vampire race to follow, she, Marissa, as head of Safe Place, Wrath, the Blind King, and Saxton, the King’s head counsel, had had to devise a procedure that provided an adequate notice period.

Emotions did not have waiting periods, however, and moms and dads who loved their kids couldn’t toggle back the speed of their hearts.

As if Marissa could read minds, the female put her head in the open doorway. “Anything?”

Mary smiled at her boss and her dear friend. “Nothing. I swear, I have never been more excited for May to get here.”

“I’ve always had a good feeling about this, you know.”

“I don’t want to jinx anything, so I’m staying quiet.” Mary focused on the calendar again. “Hey, I’m not going to be in tomorrow night. Bitty’s got her physical exam scheduled.”

“Oh, that’s right. Good luck—and it’s too bad you have to go all the way in to Havers’s.”

“Doc Jane says she just doesn’t have the appropriate knowledge base. Pediatrics for vampires is a thing, apparently.”

Marissa smiled gently. “Well, my brother may be complicated for me personally, but I have never questioned his ability to provide good care to his patients. Bitty couldn’t be in better hands.”

“I’d really rather just keep her with us at the training center’s clinic. But at the end of the day, what’s right for her is all we care about.”

“That’s called being a good parent.”

Mary looked at her bracelet. “Amen to that.”


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An Early Excerpt from K. Bromberg’s Down Shift

Down Shift L

Check out an early excerpt from K. Bromberg‘s Down Shift. Only one more day to go before it’s out!


There’s so much blood. Coating my hands. Soaking into my Scooby-Doo pajama pants. The ones with the hole in the knee from that nice lady with the funny glasses at the Salvation Army.

It’s easier to think about her. Focus on her. Instead of the blood.
It’s everywhere. And it keeps coming out. Keeps spreading.

It won’t stop.

I can’t make it stop.

Dust dances in the air. Little pieces float in the light showing through the crack of the blackout blinds of the
hotel room. My eyesight is fuzzy. My mind exhausted.
And buzzed.

Because this alcohol-induced haze is much better than the dreams that won’t stop. The ones that aren’t really dreams anymore. The ones that started the minute I opened that box three weeks ago and pulled out the piece
of paper that rocked my world.

I lift the bottle of Jameson to my lips. Take a swig. Except the burn’s not there. The warmth is fleeting. But
it’s enough to numb my mind. To let the dreams fade.

To let the truth seem false.

The Band-Aids. They’re everywhere. The box is almost empty. The white pieces I peel off stick to my arms—but they don’t matter. The blood keeps coming. It doesn’t stop.

I can’t make it stop.

Another sip. And then another.

I’m so tired. But I’m so sick of feeling this way. So sick of wondering if my adoptive parents knew. Of course they knew—so why’d they lie to me? Didn’t I have a right to know what was on that paper? To accept? To deal with it?

Fuck no. Fuck yes. I just don’t know.

Another sip. Then a gulp.

The scissors. The shine of silver lying next to her. The dark red coming through my closed fingers as I try to fix her. Help her. Save her. Stop. The. Blood.

The taste of fear. My scared pleas. The helpless feeling.

I can remember all that, so why can’t I remember if I did or if I didn’t . . . ? I must have. That’s what the report said. Why would it lie?

Wait. There’s sunlight. I can see the dust dancing. When did that happen?

A lift of the bottle. There’s nothing left. An deep breath. Slumping back in the chair. Now I can’t forget anymore. Fuck.

The pounding on the door startles me. I know I should have expected it. Know I’m fucking up again. But does it
really matter in the grand scheme of things?

I know who it is before he even speaks. Somehow I knew he’d find me. Just like I know he’s going to be pissed
before I hear his voice.

Ask me if I care.

“Zander.” Boom. Boom. Boom. His fist on the hotel room door sounds like thunder in my head. “Open up.”
Boom. Boom. Boom. “Open the goddamn door!

And when I open it, there’s the lightning: The bright light of the hall blinds me after so much darkness. I block
the glare with my forearm. It’s futile until he shifts his stance and blocks its blaze.


My mentor. My boss. The person who knows me best.

My dad. Well, adopted dad, but does it really matter?

We stare at each other. His green eyes fill with concerned disgust as he gives me a once-over to take in my
rumpled clothes—the same ones from last night—and makes a show of sniffing the air to let me know he can smell the stench of alcohol that’s probably seeping out my pores.

Yes. It does matter.

Lies always matter. Especially when they’re from people you thought loved you.

“You forget something?” There’s a bite of anger to his question, and I’m buzzed enough that I don’t think twice
about my smart-ass response.

“Not that I can think of.” My hand’s on the door, swinging it shut in his face before I finish the sentence.

If I thought the sound of his fist knocking on the wood was loud, the sound when he slams it back against the
interior wall is deafening. I deserve nothing less than his wrath, but it’s proving really hard beneath this alcoholic haze to find any fucks to give.

He shoves past me, flicking the light switch on and bumping me in the chest with his shoulder as he passes
by. It’s all I have not to take everything out on him right now. Use my fists to relieve the anger and disbelief and
hurt and every damn thing bottled up inside me.

Like all the shit that’s definitely my fault but that I’d rather blame on him. On my adoptive mom, Rylee. On
the whole fucking world.

The thoughts stagger me. I shake my head, try to figure out how I could want to raise my fists at the man who
has helped to give me everything, and yet the images fill my head again: the blood, the Band-Aids, the scissors.

My mom.

The truth my mind has been hiding from me.

The one he has obviously been keeping from me too.

With my fists clenched and entire body vibrating, I force myself to remain where I stand and hold back the
anger that’s been running like a river through my veins the past few weeks.

“You know what I can’t figure out?” he asks nonchalantly as he picks up the empty bottle of Jameson before
tossing it on the perfectly made bed with a chuckle. And then a sigh. “Why?”

Such a loaded question. One I’m not quite positive I feel like pulling the trigger on answering. And yet my finger’s itching to. I’m just not sure I can handle the blowback right now.

So I don’t answer. The question hangs in the stale air of the hotel room, his silence weighing on me as he surveys the space. After a few seconds his eyes find mine and ask the question again. But I choose to be the asshole. It’s just so much easier than having to admit out loud what I still don’t want to believe myself.

“Why what?” I finally answer. Sarcasm tinges my tone. Along with a healthy dose of It’s none of your fucking

“This isn’t a joke, son.” A lift of his eyebrows. Another shake of his head. His face a mask of disgust.

Just more shit I don’t want to deal with. Questions bubble up inside me. Fester like infected wounds. Eat at me
until I can’t bite back the anger.

“Nope. It seems I’m the joke these days.” The autopsy report flashes in my mind’s eye. Fuels my fire.

He narrows his eyes. Tries to figure out where my hostility is coming from. “Damn straight, you are,” he says,
and for the first time I notice his lucky shirt and workout pants. His superstitious pre–fire suit getup.

Then it hits me that I’ve just royally fucked up. The thoughts flash through my mind. It’s daylight. I’m supposed
to be somewhere, do something other than get lost in this bottle.

“Ahhh . . . Did you forget about your scheduled track time this morning? Team testing for final adjustments?
Or maybe you forgot about the race tomorrow altogether? After last night, I’d want to forget all about being here in Alabama too.”

His last comment jogs a memory. Images flash: loud music; huge VIP bar tab; race bunnies sliding up, wanting
a piece of me. Everyone wanting a piece of me.

Push. Push. Push. Everyone pushing.


Smitty restraining me—biceps locked under my arms in a vise grip, pulling my shoulders back. But why? How? What the hell happened? All I remember is him dropping me off back here. The hotel. My home for the week.

“Just having a good time,” I say with a sneer. Covering up for the blank spots in my memory. “What the fuck do
you care?”

He’s on me in a flash. Forearm pressed into my chest, my shoulders backed up against the wall. He’s quick.
Guess I’ve never tested this side of him before.

Our eyes hold—father to son, mentor to protégé, boss to employee, man to man—and for one split second I see
the hurt in his eyes that I want to ignore.

“Why do I care? WHY do I care?” he growls, voice escalating on each word and forearm pressing harder against
my chest. “Let me count the ways. Showing up late to training at home is one thing, Zander. Thumbing your nose to your sponsors by standing them up at the dinner they throw in your honor as you sat in the bar next door and laughed so loud they know it’s you? Inexcusable. The endless stream of questionable women. Sweet Jesus, Zander . . . I was all for getting laid when I was your age, but even I had some standards.”

I roll my eyes. Snort in disbelief. Does he think I’m buying his holier-than-thou bullshit right now when I’ve heardthe old stories? Like he didn’t play the field in his day.

“You think this is funny?” he shouts with another hard shove to my chest. “My idea of funny isn’t missing testing the day before a race when you’re in the goddamn driver’s seat to take another championship. Just blowing it off without a word. Letting your team down. Your crew. The hundred or so fans you had sitting in a VIP tent two hours ago waiting to meet their idol, and guess what? He didn’t show because he was too goddamn busy getting shitfaced on cheap whiskey like a drunk. So you tell me, Golden Boy . . . how is that funny?”

“Get. Off. Me.” I grit the words out even as I welcome the biting pressure of his forearm on my chest.

He steps back, but his hands take a little longer to let go from where they’re fisted in my shirt. But I still don’t
move. His glare pins me motionless. There’s disappointment there. Concern. And a shitload of anger.

I cling to the anger he’s giving off, can relate to it, but for completely different reasons from the ones he has.
The irony. He’s pissed because he expects more from his son, and I’m furious because I expect more from my dad.

“You’ve been late, showed up to the track hungover, and have chewed out your crew and treated them like shit
for no reason. You’ve blown off Rylee, been an asshole to me, and pulled away from your brothers. You’ve fucked up royally and you’re asking me why I care? I think you need to ask yourself that question, son.”

“It’s none of your business.”

“Bet your ass it’s my business. Everything about you is my business and you’re out of control.” He talks right
over me. The resentment I can hear in his tone causes my chest to constrict. “You’ve stepped way over the line.”

“Like you are right now by getting in my business? Get the fuck out.” I spit the words out, not caring that my anger is misplaced or that I can’t take them back.

He takes a step toward me, head angled, jaw clenched, hands fisted. The proverbial gloves are off. “You hurting,
son? Want to lash out at someone for something you don’t want to talk about? Trying to throw all your hard work away with your bullshit stunts? It’s best you remember who you’re talking to,” he says between gritted teeth, referring to the abusive childhood he survived before being saved and adopted. The implication being that he understands what’s going on in my head. “I know rage like you feel, Zander. I know hate that burns in your gut and turns your heart black. But it fixes nothing. Nothing. I’ve tried to be patient. Tried to be here for you. Asked you to talk to me, let me be there for you in whatever you’re going through, and you’ve refused. Now I’m watching you sabotage everything good you’ve got going for you, and you want me to stand by and let it happen? Are you out of your mind?” He takes a moment to catch his breath while I seethe over his words. Over my inability to get past this and just ask him the questions I need to ask.

Because hurt not only clouds your judgment, but can also blind you from the real reason you’re mad.

“I’ve kept the press away. Held back Rylee from interfering. Given you enough rope to hang yourself and now . . . now I can’t help you. Congrats, there’s no more rope left. You’ve lost your sponsorship.”

What? The silence in the room screams around me. It’s so loud I let it drown out what he just said. Don’t want
to believe it.

It’s his fault. That’s all I can focus on. All I can rationalize. He didn’t prevent it. He didn’t fix this. He probably
did it on purpose because he wants to control me. Control everything about me.

Including my past.

God, I need a drink. A whole goddamn bottle to make this just go away. To make sense of all the bullshit I’m
selling myself when it sounds ridiculous just thinking it.

“You’re lying!” My voice is completely opposite to his. Loud. Screaming. Enraged. And my head’s so fucked‑up
that it hurts and craves the pain all at the same time.

“I’d never lie to you, Zander.” Calm. Even. Dead serious.

And those words—the ones I know to be a lie—are like a match to the embers that have been smoldering
over the past few weeks.

“That’s bullshit and you know it!” I shout. Become unhinged, fists itching to punch something, and I’m sure
ruining the drywall of this fancy hotel wouldn’t win me any favors. My body shakes with the anger. The rage inside me takes over. “You lied—”

“And you don’t think you’re out of control?” Colton says, taking an aggressive step into me. Taunting me in
my irrational state. “Since when is it okay to even think about taking a swing at your old man?”

You’re not my old man. The words flicker and fade through my rage. Shock me. Plant thoughts in my head that
I’ve never considered before. And even though they’re bullshit, they still linger. Still taint my anger and jade my

“I’m perfectly in control,” I grate out through gritted teeth. Anger. Spite. Frustration. All three spin on the
merry‑go‑round in my head. Muck up the truths and feed off the confusion.

“Perfectly in control?” he asks with a disbelieving shake of his head as he reaches into his pocket and grabs his cell phone. Confusion and dread run through me simultaneously. It’s like deep down I know this can’t be good and yet can’t for the life of me figure out what he’s going to show me on the screen once he’s finished flicking through images. “Let’s just say you owe Smitty big-time, because I’m done paying for your fuckups, Zee. This was the only picture taken last night. Lucky for you, the VIP room was empty by the time this happened. Smitty was worried enough about you to stick around to make sure you didn’t get into trouble. The lone paparazzo who snuck through and snapped this had to forfeit his camera to the bouncer, because it was against house rules.”

The look on Colton’s face and his eyes trained on the image on his phone unnerve me. The anxiety breaks
through the hold the anger has on me. Worries me. Makes me shift my feet in anticipation of something I know has to be bad to earn me this speech.

Thoughts ghost through my mind. A hot blonde. A dick-hardening kiss. A pissed-off boyfriend. Testosterone-laced tempers. My words, “I’m Zander fucking Donavan.”

This can’t be good.

“Cut the dramatics and just show me.”

“Dramatics?” Colton thunders farther into the room as he holds the phone out so I can see it. I reject the image
immediately. A moment of clarity amid the confused haze. Know it didn’t happen the way the picture shows.

Just the same way your dream about your mom was different than reality too.

I stare at the image, my body tense, my jaw clenched, and try to fill in the missing holes between what’s in my
mind and what the picture shows. The worst part is I can’t know for sure that I didn’t do that.

“Is that dramatics, Zander? Looks pretty crystal fucking clear to me.”

It’s me all right. Fist clenched, arm cocked, a rage on my face like I’ve never seen before—but it’s nothing like
the look on the woman’s face in front of me. Scared. Stunned. Fearful.

“That’s not what . . .” I shake my head. Try to rationalize that her asshole of a boyfriend must have been next to
her, out of camera range. The one my cocked fist was aiming toward. For a split second I see my dad in my face. My biological dad. The monster. The abuser. Everything I promised myself I’d never be.

I reject the thought immediately.

“It is you, Zander. Take a closer look. You think losing a sponsor is bad? Let this image get out—just how you
think a lady should be treated—and you’ll lose a shit ton more than that. You raised your fist to a woman.” He
shakes his head and chuckles in shocked disbelief. “And you don’t think you’re out of control?”


“You need help.”


“To talk to someone.”


“This isn’t the son I raised—”


“I’m not your goddamn son, so quit acting like you’re my father!” I shout at the top of my lungs with every
ounce of rage and hurt and confusion that I’ve been fighting back down the past few weeks. Something, anything, to make this stop. To make the pain stop. The confusion end. Keep the past from tainting my future.

The lies from being true.

He stumbles back a few feet, eyes wide, mouth lax. For just a moment he stands there staring at me. Reining in
his temper. Trying to comprehend what I just said.

The look on his face alone should knock the fight out of me—shock, hurt, disbelief—but the truths he just threw
in my face, the ones I have to acknowledge but don’t want to hear, are like kerosene to my anger. They create a back draft loaded with resentment that explodes instantly, wiping out all reason.

“Excuse me?” He straightens his spine. His voice comes out with a controlled calmness. And I should heed the
warning. The loud, angry wrath of my dad is one thing, but the cool, even quiet manner is much scarier when you’re on the receiving end of it.

But I don’t.

“You heard me.” Our gazes lock. Our mutual anger feels heavy in the room as I lash out the only way I know
how to right now.

“Loud. And. Clear.” The tone remains even, though his eyes reflect a wounded fury I refuse to acknowledge. He
tucks the phone into his back pocket, nodding his head the whole time as I stand there wanting everything he means to me gone: salvation, hope, family, friendship, unconditional love. All I can feel is the crushing disappointment from everything I’ve done to purposely try to fuck this all up.

“You’ve left me no choice.” When he looks back up, his expression is blank, shoulders squared, eyes hard.
You’re fired.”

“Come again?” He wouldn’t dare. I’m leading the points. I’m the reigning champion. There’s a reason they call me Indy’s Golden Boy.

But as the silence stretches out and nothing about his posture changes, the lump in my throat gets bigger and it
becomes harder to swallow.

“You heard me.”

My laugh is loud enough to sound condescending. Part of me is in disbelief, but he wants to be a prick and go this route? Fine. I’ll show him I don’t need him or his lies. I don’t need anything from him.

It’s not like I’ve never been on my own before.

Blood. Scissors. Band-Aids.

But first, self-preservation. The hurt radiates through me. The stain on my soul darker than ever before.

“Fine. Got it.” I shake my head, our eyes locked, with his saying, Let me help you and mine telling him, I don’t
need your lies. Confusion turns to anger. “I don’t need you anyway.”

“Good luck with that, son—Zander,” he corrects himself quickly. The sting at the sound of my name on his lips
is more than obvious. “And don’t bother trying to approach any other teams. One, it’s midseason and two,
they won’t hire you anyway.”

“You can’t do that.” Anger turns to rage. He wouldn’t threaten other teams to not hire me.

“Watch me.” That cocky-bastard flash of a grin that unnerves his competitors is directed my way. He takes a step closer. “I’ve been around a lot longer than you have. No one would cross that line even for a sure thing like
you. Oh, wait. . . . You’re not exactly a sure thing anymore when you’re losing sponsors, blowing off testing,
and there’s concern whether you’ll even show for race day. It’s not like you’ve been exactly discreet with your
bullshit.” He takes another step, a mocking laugh falling from his mouth. “Take it from a team owner. You’ve become a risk. A liability. And no one wants a loose cannon on their team regardless of how good of a driver you are.”

Rage turns into a ball of disbelieving fury; I want to lash out at him with everything I have, regardless of the
damage it causes. Self-preservation at its finest.

“Fuck you, Colton.” His name is a sneer loaded with disrespect. I come out swinging with words I can’t take
back. Needing to save face when everything about me is being questioned. “It’s always about the team with you,
isn’t it? The next victory. The next paycheck. Fuck the racers, right? Screw them and any shit they have going
on—lie to them if need be—so long as they perform for you. Isn’t that right, boss?”

Sticks and stones,” he says with a lift of his eyebrows. The taunt of a smile. The ice in his voice. “You think
that’s going to get your job back? Think again.”

“Fuck. You.” I’m overheated, but my body breaks out in goose bumps, because the chilling look in his eyes tells
me this isn’t a joke at all. Not some psychobabble bullshit he’s using to try to get me to talk like he has in the past.

He chuckles long and low again and the sound grates on my nerves as I try to wrap my head around everything that’s happening: the dreams, the picture, Colton’s no‑bullshit punches.

“It’s not just me you’re hurting, but everyone else that depends on you. I’m leaving your car without a driver.
Won’t fill your spot. If I worried only about money, that wouldn’t be the case, now, would it? What I’m worried
about is you. You’re out of control and pushing the limits, and I can’t stand by to watch you crash and burn without stepping in. I’m sorry it has to come to this, but I don’t mind being the asshole if it’s going to save you. I’ve done it before and I’ll do it again in a second.”

We stand in silence, hearts torn apart, and so much of our connection shredded on the floor between us. For the first time since he’s walked in here, I notice how tired he looks. Concern etches the lines of his face. And the need to say any more, damage us more, dies on my lips despite the discord still echoing within me.

With a nod of his head, he turns and walks toward the door. My eyes follow him despite the desperation for him
to be gone so I don’t have to see the defeat in his posture. He grabs the handle and hangs his head. “Take the time, Zee. Fix what you need to fix. Deal with whatever shit you need to deal with. Let someone in instead of shutting everyone out. It doesn’t have to be me. Or Rylee. Or anyone we know, but let them in; you’ll be a better man because of it. Sometimes it takes a new ear, a fresh voice, to put things in perspective for you. Shit, take a drive, a trip—I don’t care—but use the time to make you right. Don’t come back until you are. I don’t know what’s going on and I wish like hell you’d talk to me about it, but I understand better than most that sometimes you can’t. My only advice is not to let the dark eat you whole. You deserve better than that.” He clears his throat from the emotion clogging it, and I hate everything about this conversation more because of that disconcerting sound. “Regardless of what you think, you are my son and it doesn’t matter how bad you fuck up—I’ll always love you.”

The door opens. Closes. The dust dances again. The silence suffocates me.

I fight the urge to go after him. I resist unleashing more of my anger and the need to yell and shout and trash the room to get it all out. None of it will fix a goddamn thing.

Grabbing the bottle of Jameson, I lift it to my lips until I remember it’s empty. The crash of the glass shattering
as it hits the wall across from me is deafening.

Shaking my head, I fall back on the bed. Try to make sense of what just happened. What I’ve let happen. What
I didn’t stop.

To my mom back then and to my family now.

The loudest thing I hear is the rejection from the man I’ve looked up to, idolized, who helped me heal. The man who just walked out of this room and hurt me more than he’ll ever know.

Can you blame him, Zander?

I close my eyes and rub my hands over my face. My buzz is gone. The haze removed. Everything important
taken away from me with the slam of the door: my family, my ride, my anchors. And the sting is real.

But so is the anger. The inability to rationalize. To accept. To ask the things I need to ask.

To apologize.

Fuck that. I’m not apologizing. I’m not the one who lied.And I would never threaten to hit a woman, let alone actually follow through with it. The image on Colton’s phone flashes through my mind. Another lie to throw in the pot.

The rage is instantly back. Misdirected but back. My body feels restless, but my mind is whipped to the point
where I can’t think about this any more. Don’t want to. I just need another bottle to get lost in. Then I’ll figure
where to go from here, since it looks like I have some time off coming to me.

And yet I don’t get up from the bed to walk down to th:

e bar. I can’t, because somewhere deep down that voice
of doubt grabs hold of my heart and squeezes tight. Twists it. Letting me know there are two truths I have to accept before I can move forward.

I am Colton’s son.

And I’m the one who killed my mom.

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The end of the Queen Betsy era – by MaryJanice Davidson

The end of an era! If era means “wonderful, occasionally surreal, life-changing period of time”. When the first book in the series, UNDEAD AND UNWED, hit shelves, I was enduring an SDJ (Stupid Day Job), had over ten years of rejection slips (I could have wallpapered half the house in Rejection, which is a deep, creamy white), and was reasonably sure I would die unpublished (but with a beautifully wallpapered house). In fact, when I got what writers refer to as The Call, I was sure it was a cruel practical joke from my aunt: “Go to hell, Aunt Alice! And lay off the booze, it’s, what? 9:00 a.m.?”

Fifteen books later, thanks to my wonderful readers I’ve got books published in over a dozen countries and have been on best-seller lists all over the world. Now, instead of being a Ramen noodles family (cheap bundles of noodles that sell for less than a dollar), we are a Ramen noodle family who occasionally chases Ramen with lobster. (Not as often as you’d think, though. Turns out my kids hate lobster. Weirdos.) I’m paid to plunge unsuspecting characters into hip-deep (and sinking!) chaos. And I can lay all of that at Betsy Taylor’s well-shod feet. That silly brave cutie changed my life, and others’, too, and (the odd part) for the better. Readers give my books as gifts to cheer people up. They take my books to chemo and dialysis (“I’m guaranteed a laugh, and not just because of the plot holes.”). Other writers believed me when I said, “If I can do this, you can do this.”) and wrote books and got published.

So why end a successful series that is as satisfying to write now as it was fifteen year ago? Because some things, no matter how wonderful, come to an end. I’ve got ideas for new books and, much as I adore Betsy, want to focus on new people and new stories for a while. That’s not to say I’ll never again write about the Undead gang . . . never say never, first, and second, when you move away from a place you love, you can always come back. Sometimes coming back is the best part. It all depends on where you go once you leave. Me? I’ll be out there, coming up with new journeys for new characters. I hope you’ll come, too.

Undead and Done is available from Piatkus as an ebook on the 4th October.