New Release: REALITY WEDDING by Laura Heffernan

Lights? Camera? Action! In this irresistible final installment of the Reality Star Series, one woman’s dream wedding may be about to turn into a reality nightmare…
Synopsis
SAY ‘I DO’—OR ELSE
When Jen Reid escaped a reality TV cruise with her relationship intact—if not her hair—she swore she was done with the cameras for good. Sure, she and Justin met, had their first kiss, and got engaged with tape rolling, but manufactured drama and ruthless producers have shaken them up more times than she can count. With Jen’s reality-themed bakery just getting started and her brand-new lawyer fiancé in a pile of debt, they’re a long way from glitz and glamour, and that’s fine by Jen. Until the Network calls and tells her that unless she says “I do” to a wedding special, Justin will be out of a job.
Now Jen has two weeks to plan an all-expenses-paid “dream wedding”—and dodge the tricks and traps of a showrunner happy to mess up her future in the name of ratings. Luckily for Jen, she’s got plenty of experience with cake and popcorn. But when real-life drama and reality TV twists collide, the cliffhangers may just follow her right down the aisle . . .
Praise for Reality Wedding:
“The third book in Heffernan’s Reality Star series is such a fun and entertaining read, as Justin and Jen – and all the drama that seems to follow them everywhere – are back. Will they get married is the big question here, and will reality TV have any part. Heffernan will keep readers guessing, as the story has some twists to it. With lots of drama, a bit of humor and a sweet romance, this series is as addicting as reality TV. Fans of Sophie Kinsella might want to give this series a try.”- RT Book Reviews, 4 Stars 
Available now from all major retailers. Order today!

Excerpt:

“Justin, I can’t hear you. Where are you?”
“Airport…on.”
I fought the urge to chuck my useless phone across the room. “What? Justin, I can’t understand anything you’re saying. We’ve got a terrible connection.”
The phone went dead. I called him back immediately, but nothing happened. The several voicemails he’d left shed no additional light on anything: a lot of static, a couple of broken airline announcements in the background, crowd noise, and one that sounded like a butt dial from the men’s room. Awesome. My concern grew with each uninformative message. All the texts were variations of “Please call me ASAP.”
Heart pounding, I dialed Sarah’s number. The call went straight to voicemail. She should be on a plane, not at the bakery, but I dialed the landline, anyway. The phone at Sweet Reality rang and rang until the line started buzzing. Since the shop should be open, getting no answer made me even more nervous.
I was still standing in the kitchen, staring out over the pool, when Rachel entered wearing her swimsuit. “You okay? One of the producers said they heard yelling.”
“Yes. No. I don’t know.”
“Well, that clears things right up.” She tilted her head at me, eyes full of concern. “What’s wrong?”
“I don’t know. Justin called, but the reception was all wonky, and it sounded like there was some issue with his sister. I tried to call Sarah, too, but her phone’s off. I hope she’s okay.”
“Hold on a sec. He said there’s a problem with Sarah?”
“Yeah.”
“When are they supposed to be flying in?” Rachel pulled out her phone and started tapping. “Do you have the flight number?”
“He was supposed to fly out of Florida a few hours ago. When he called, I thought his flight landed early, but he was apologizing and sounding stressed. It doesn’t sound like they were on the plane. Should I go to the airport, just in case?”
Rachel kept tapping, a grim look on her face. Then she held her phone out to me. “No, Jen, I don’t think you should.”
I snatched her phone out of her hand. Then all the wind rushed out of me. She’d pulled up a news site. HURRICANE CARA STRANDS THOUSANDS. Below the headline, a picture showed a Florida airport, absolutely packed with people.
He said Cara, not Sarah.
“I’m sorry, Jen,” Rachel said, “but I don’t think Justin’s flying in tonight. According to this site, he might not be able to get a flight for days.”
“What about Atlanta? Can he drive to Atlanta? My family’s flying through there.”
She tapped a few more times, biting her lip. I found the answer on my phone right when a low murmur told me Rachel saw it, too.
All flights canceled. My entire family stranded.

My heart sank. Just when things finally started to go right, when I started to think the whole wedding might not be a complete disaster, my groom wasn’t even coming.


My Review:

Reality Wedding is a fun and enjoyable book for fans of romance and comedy alike. As the third book in a series it can be read as a stand alone, but with so many references to other characters and past events it is best to read at least one of the other books for maximum enjoyment. I loved reading of Jen and Justin’s reality wedding. What struck me the most was how the author showed how connected this couple was throughout whatever the network threw at them. They truly were a team and their love shone through. I laughed out loud often, having to explain to curious people around me what had me so tickled. I highly recommend this book and would love to see more of these characters.

 


Be Sure to Check Out the First Two Books in the Reality Star series!

AMERICA’S NEXT REALITY STAR
Millennial Jen auditioned for a reality show hoping to win the $250,000 cash prize.  With puzzles, games, and more, this show is right up her alley. But when she meets co-contestant Justin, she finds herself questioning what really matters. Can she trust that his feelings for her are real? Or is it all a showmance put on for the viewers?


SWEET REALITY 

After her brief brush with fame, Jen’s ready to start a new life: New location, new roommate, new boyfriend, new business. But when a killer competitor threatens to put her new bakery out of business before the grand opening, Jen steps back into the spotlight to snag a show-stopping recipe. Can she save her bakery without destroying her relationship? 
Praise for the Reality Star series:
America’s Next Reality Star is one sweet, sexy brain-candy read! You won’t be sorry you indulged.” —Leah Marie Brown, USA Today bestselling Author 
“Smart, witty, and really freaking good, America’s Next Reality Star is a fun read that has you cheering from the first paragraph through the last page. Laura Heffernan spins an entertaining tale, expertly mixing the main character’s real life events with the reality show’s challenges. With enough drama to not only satisfy fans of reality TV shows, but readers who thrive on a good story with humor and romance, this book is a perfect read.” —Kerry Lonsdale, Wall Street Journal bestselling author
“Reality TV fans, this is your book! Laura Heffernan captures all the drama and over-the-top craziness in this fun and flirty romance.” —Amy E. Reichert, author of Love, Luck, and Lemon Pie
“If you like sweet contemporary romances with a reality show theme, then you are going to enjoy Heffernan’s Reality Star series. Her second book, Sweet Reality, takes place about 16 months after the first and features the same great couple, Justin and Jen. These two are likeable and relatable characters and there is more romance in this one than there was in the first. There is also an interesting cast of secondary characters. Heffernan does a wonderful job with character development and painting vivid scenes. There are also some cute and funny moments that makes this book a worthwhile and entertaining read. If reality shows are your guilty pleasure, give Heffernan’s Sweet Reality a try.”- RT Book Reviews, 4 Stars




About the Author:

Laura is living proof that watching too much TV can pay off. When not watching total strangers get married, drag racing queens, or cooking competitions, Laura enjoys board games, travel, board games, baking, and board games. She lives in the northeast, where she spends far too much time tweeting about reality TV and Canadian chocolate.

Connect with Laura:

 

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New Release: ASSASSIN OF TRUTHS by Brenda Drake

Assassins of Truth_500

Assassin of Truths (Library Jumper’s #3)
Brenda Drake
Published by: Entangled Teen
Publication date: February 6th 2018
Genres: Fantasy, Romance

The gateways linking the great libraries of the world don’t require a library card, but they do harbor incredible dangers.

And it’s not your normal bump-in-the- night kind. The threats Gia Kearns faces are the kind with sharp teeth and knifelike claws. The kind that include an evil wizard hell-bent on taking her down.

Gia can end his devious plan, but only if she recovers seven keys hidden throughout the world’s most beautiful libraries. And then figures out exactly what to do with them.

The last thing she needs is a distraction in the form of falling in love. But when an impossible evil is unleashed, love might be the only thing left to help Gia save the world.

Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble

I didn’t want to kill the girl, so I hesitated to throw another globe at her. Squaring my shoulders, I got ready for her attack. When the girl got close enough, I threw a kick to her gut and slammed my fist against her jaw. She stumbled back against the frozen railing. It broke free, and she fell over the side, landing on a table below. Her body was half on and half off the table, her neck bent at an odd angle and the bones underneath pushed against her skin.

Is she dead?

A shimmery light left the girl’s body and flew to me, smacking my chest. I took a step back, expecting to turn into a human Popsicle, but nothing happened, only a chill that rushed across my skin and quickly ended.

“You killed her,” Veronique yelled as she stepped up on a chair and onto a table. She charged the length of it, heading for me.

I dropped to my knees and flipped through the pages of the gateway book. My heart galloped like a thousand racehorses on steroids. I needed to escape.

Where do I go? I can’t lead her to the others. I stopped on the photograph of the Boston Athenæum. Home? To Nana. Afton. No. Veronique knew where Nana Kearns lived. I couldn’t risk going there. I tossed over more pages.

Just then, Veronique pulled herself up onto the balcony and let loose another fire globe. The flames licked the air and smoke trailed it like a comet. The fire grazed my cheek, pulling a sharp gasp from my chest.

Her breaths were loud—panting. The sound of a siren drew nearer. We’d have company soon.

A feral look on her face, Veronique plucked a dagger from her shoulder sheath. A velvet bag, weighed down by something heavy inside, was tied around her waist.

The other Chiavi? I had to get them. I grasped the strap of my messenger bag.

“You can’t win, Gia. You’re weak. Unskilled. A sniveling child.”

“I beat your ass, and I took care of your friends.” Meaning the three Sentinels lying dead on the floor below us. I forced my eyes to stay on hers, acting brave, though their deaths were like an overweight barbell on my conscience.

Her step forward caused me to step back. “That was dumb luck,” she said. “This will take skill.”

She ran for me. I drew my sword and swung at her. She ducked, the blade barely missing her. Before I could get another swing in, she tackled me, our bodies smacking into the bookcase, my sword knocked from my hand.

A satisfied look crossed Veronique’s face right before she stabbed my upper arm with her dagger, her blade cutting across my cheek. A horrified scream rattled my throat. My knees buckled and thudded against the floor.

“Shit!” The pain shocked me. I wanted to roll into a ball on the floor, to have this end.

She’s going to kill me. I’m going to die.

Fear gripped me.

Then anger.

Fight, Gia! The voice in my head was strong and forceful. It pushed me. Pushed me to my feet.

Pushed me to take action.

Author Bio:

Brenda Drake is a New York Times bestselling author of young adult fiction. She grew up the youngest of three children, an Air Force brat, and the continual new kid at school. Her fondest memories growing up is of her eccentric, Irish grandmother’s animated tales, which gave her a strong love for storytelling. So it was only fitting that she would choose to write stories with a bend toward the fantastical. When she’s not writing or hanging out with her family, she haunts libraries, bookstores, and coffee shops, or reads someplace quiet and not at all exotic (much to her disappointment).

Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter

Also be sure to check out the giveaway for a chance to win a $50 Amazon Gift Certificate!  a Rafflecopter giveaway

AssasinsofTruthDate

My 2017 Reads

I did not read nearly as much as I would have liked in 2017. It was one of those years. At the start I had no goal of number of books I wanted to read, not after doing a Goodreads challenge in 2016 and feeling pressure because of it. In 2017 I only had one goal: to make sure half of my reads were diverse novels.

Why half? Because I already had a lot of non-diverse reads on hand, and non-diverse authors that I follow. I wanted the opportunity to branch out while still reading what I love.

Had 2017 been a better year, I’m sure I would have found a ton more diverse reads to love. As it is my total number of books read is scarily small, but I found some that I absolutely loved.

I want to point out some of the “other” books I’ve read. Many writers read books that aren’t yet published, or are part of a contest, or are from their friends, etc. That’s one thing that bugged me about the Goodreads challenge, since I read a lot that can’t be put on there.

In the “other” category I want to start with completed books I’ve read for an internship or contest. Basically, I can’t tell you anything about these novels, but they make up 9 of the books I read in 2017.

I also have a column for books I’ve read for other authors, friends, or for the #PitchWars contest. Due to #PitchWars it gets a little hazy, since I read a lot but not always full books. So I’ve read part or all of 8 books, plus about 600 pages for the mentor contest. Then, of course, reading my two mentees books 2-3 times. That’s a lot of yummy words!

Now for the main event. I read 18 published books. Of the 18, 8 were diverse. And to be clear, diverse in this case means that either the main character is diverse, the author is diverse, both are diverse, or it’s a own voice novel. So depending on how one is looking for a diverse book, some of what I’ve read might not fit. Also, not every author identifies themselves as own, so I in no way want to make any assumptions beyond what is obvious.

Rather than list all the books, which can be boring, I’m going highlight a few of my favorites. Narrowing things down is proving to be challenging, so rather than go small, I’m going with a slightly larger list since I read a lot of great books from newer or new to me authors that deserve some attention:

Level Up by Cathy Yardley

A Millionaire at Midnight by Naima Simone

America’s Next Reality Star by Laura Heffernan

Insert Groom Here by K. M. Jackson

North to You by Tif Marcello

Some Kind of Magic and A Crazy Kind of Love by Maryann Marlow

Hard Play and Hard Run by Sheryl Nantus

If you haven’t heard of these books, I highly recommend checking them out. All these authors are on my list and you can be sure I’ll be checking out their other books!

New Release: A CRAZY KIND OF LOVE by Mary Ann Marlowe

Release Date November 28, 2017

 

Synopsis

In this irresistible new novel by Mary Ann Marlowe, one woman’s up-close and sexy encounter with a tabloid sensation reveals the dizzying—and delicious—dilemma of dating in the spotlight . . .

Celebrities hold zero interest for photographer Jo Wilder. That’s a problem, since snapping pics of the stars is how the pretty paparazza pays the rent. So when Jo attempts to catch a money shot atop the broad shoulders of a helpful bystander, the only thing she notices about the stranger she straddles is that he’s seriously hot. Only later does Jo learn that he’s also Micah Sinclair—one of rock’s notorious bad boys…

Soon Jo is on the verge of getting fired for missing a Micah Sinclair exclusive. Until she’s suddenly being pursued by the heartthrob himself. But how can she be sure the musician’s mind-blowing kisses are the real deal? Her colleagues claim he’s a media whore, gambling on some free PR. But something has Jo hoping Micah’s feeling the same powerful pull that she does. A pull so strong, she can’t resist becoming his latest love, even if it means she might become the media’s latest victim . . .

“The perfect romantic comedy.” —RT Book Reviews

“Another sizzling, glitterati-filled story.” Booklist Online

“If you like wonderfully written, light, fast paced, swoon worthy moments, and chemistry so strong it jumps off the page, then this is the book for you.” Wit & Wonder Books

 

Available November 28, 2017 from Kensington. Pre-Order at all digital retailers:

Amazon | BN | Kobo | Google Play | Goodreads | BAM! | Audible

a Rafflecopter giveaway

My ***** Review:

I absolutely loved the first book in the series and jumped at the chance to get an early read of A Crazy Kind Of Love.

One thing I really enjoyed was how the author gave the readers more from the first couple, Eden and Adam. I love seeing bits and pieces of happy ever after and my always-wanting-more-heart was thrilled.

That said, you don’t need to read these books in order, they stand alone. But I do think reading in order will heighten this wonderful second book.

I’d already grown attached to Micah, the bad boy musician from the first book. Josie was brand new to me but I connected to her instantly. A paparazzi with a conscious who gets tangled up with a rising star, perfect recipe for a great novel!

I also loved that Josie is a diabetic. I am a big fan of books showing different types of people living their lives with their own challenges.

This story grabbed me by the heart and made me swoon. I love how the author manages to let the reader feel the hero even from single POV. Micah stole my heart with lines like this:

He grew quiet. “Things I’ve never said to a girl before.”

I shifted so I could meet his eyes. “What have you never said to a girl?”

“You do ask the tough questions.”

“You’re not going to tell me?”

His cheek rose as he half smiled. “I have a feeling I might.” He stood and offered me his hand. “But not tonight. Come on.”

All in all, I highly recommend this novel. If you like a good, sexy romance, comedy, and a rocker, you’ll love this book!

Author Bio:

Mary Ann lives in central Virginia where she works as a computer programmer/DBA. She spent ten years as a university-level French professor, and her resume includes stints as an au pair in Calais, a hotel intern in Paris, a German tutor, a college radio disc jockey, and a webmaster for several online musician fandoms. She has lived in twelve states and three countries and loves to travel.

Connect with Mary Ann

Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Website | Newsletter Signup

Romance Cares Giveaway

I am thrilled to be part of this giveaway providing relief for those affected by the recent hurricanes and earthquakes. Read on to find out how you can help and win free romances!

Romance Cares (FINAL GRAPHIC)

~*~*~ ROMANCE CARES GIVEAWAY! ~*~*~

Rachel Lacey and Mia Sosa have teamed up with over 30 romance authors to offer you a special giveaway, in light of the recent natural disasters that have affected parts of the United States, Mexico, and the Caribbean Islands. To enter, just email us at romancecares@gmail.com showing proof of a donation (please remove sensitive information) to disaster relief efforts, and you will receive 1 or more free ebooks – chosen at random – from a list of books from participating authors. Some people will even receive an entire series! 🙂 Please help us spread the word by sharing this giveaway on social media using the hashtag #romancecares.

Our hearts and thoughts are with everyone who’s been affected. ❤

Entry Details:
1. Please email romancecares@gmail.com by Friday, October 13th showing proof of a donation to disaster relief dated between August 1 and October 13, 2017.
2. In your email, please indicate your preference of Kindle or Nook copies for your gifted ebooks.
3. If you’ve already read any of the books included in the giveaway, please let us know in your email, and we’ll do our best to gift you a book or books you haven’t read yet.

 

Our Awesome Participating Authors:
Laurie Benson – An Unexpected Countess
Jennifer Bernard – Setting Off Sparks
Marnee Blake – Altered
Asa Maria Bradley – Viking Warrior Rising
Laura Brown – Friend (With Benefits) Zone
Celeste Castro – Homecoming
Olivia Dade – Ready to Fall
Alexis Daria – Take the Lead
Jen Doyle – Calling It
Kate Forest – Interior Design and Other Emotions
Calista Fox – His Angel of Starlight Bend
Megan Frampton – the Dukes Behaving Badly series
Codi Gary – Crazy for You
Mia Hopkins – Cowboy Rising and Cowboy Karma
April Hunt – Hard Justice
Ryvr Jones – Shadow and Bones
L.J. LaBarthe – The Archangel Chronicles (complete 9 book set)
Rachel Lacey – Crash and Burn
Ruby Lang – Hard Knocks
Jessica Linden – Fight For Me
Tracey Livesay – the Shades of Love series and the In Love with a Tycoon series
J.L. Lora – Boss
Sarah MacLean – the Scandal and Scoundrel series
Kelly Maher – The Bridesmaid and the Hurricane
Tif Marcelo – North to You
Liz Maverick – The Transporter
Harper Miller – The Sweetest Taboo
Steph Nuss – the Love in the City series
Priscilla Oliveras – His Perfect Partner
Tamsen Parker – Rogue Desire and In Her Court
Annie Rains – Forbidden Kisses
Sara Rider – Going for the Goal
Lydia San Andres – A Summer for Scandal
Susan Scott Shelley – Making His Move
Sabrina Sol – Delicious Satisfaction
Mia Sosa – Acting on Impulse
Elisabeth Staab – Losing the Fight
Mia West – Marked by Fire
Tara Wyatt – Dirty Boxing

 

 

For more details, check out the sites of the two who started this wonderful giveaway: http://www.miasosa.com/romance-cares-giveaway/ and http://www.rachellacey.com/romance-cares-giveaway/

Release Day for FRIEND (WITH BENEFITS) ZONE!

Hard to believe my second book with Avon releases today! Birthing a book takes a lot of blood, sweat, and tears, but couldn’t be more worth it!

A few fun facts about this novel:

  • Both main characters are Deaf, though they have different hearing levels. Both use ASL as their primary language.
  • Devon has Deaf parents, making him a special member of the Deaf Community. Only 10% of deaf kids are born to deaf parents.
  • Jasmine is Jewish, more reformed than me, but still like me!
  • The novel is set just outside of Boston, on the North Shore. I’ve lived my whole life in Massachusetts, so it’s natural to set my stories here.
  • Devon has aspirations of being a social worker, a former career of mine. In fact, Dev volunteers at a place inspired by my first job outside of college!
  • A character from SIGNS OF ATTRACTION has a cameo!

Friend(withbenefits)Zone HiRes

Grab your copy now! Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | Kobo | More!

FRIEND (WITH BENEFITS) ZONE Excerpt!

With one week to go until FRIEND (WITH BENEFITS) ZONE releases, I thought I’d have a little fun and share an excerpt! Before you get a first look at Jasmine and Devon, be sure to check out the rafflecopter for some cool prizes from yours truly! Rafflecopter ends on June 20, 2017.

And don’t forget to pre-order! FRIEND (WITH BENEFITS) ZONE goes on sale June 27, 2017! Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | and more

Chapter One

Jasmine

Chilly midnight wind blew my trench coat up as I stared at the fluttering note taped to my basement apartment door. I needed to get out of the freaking cold air, but I stood rooted to the spot by a sloppy handwritten letter that didn’t even mention my name.

 

To Whom It May Concern,

Your residency is terminated. Please collect your belongings and move out ASAP.

 

I’d seen one too many letters like this in my twenty-one years. Some taped to doors, others shoved underneath them, and still more sent certified mail. All back when I lived with my mother. This was the first I had managed to collect on my own.

I shouldered the door open, then used my hip to force it closed. The letter—now crumpled in my hand—landed on my wobbly kitchen table. I still hadn’t found the right combination of books to keep it level. Not that I had many books to begin with.

The wind outside stopped, but my postage-stamp-sized studio didn’t exactly come with heat. I flicked on the tiny portable heater and sat on my bed, waiting to thaw out.

I never wanted to be in this situation. Not again. Served me right for accepting a cheap Craigslist apartment. I paid my rent on time, in cash. I kept to myself. If I’d somehow created too much noise, then they needed to tell me. Deaf ears couldn’t tell.

I took in a deep breath of questionable moldy air. Thirty days. That was standard for evictions. I could work out something in thirty days.

I had to.

With a bit of warmth finally reaching my skin, I changed out of my clothes and into a baggy tee shirt, then added sweats and a sweatshirt. I had to tighten the drawstring to keep the pants up, but the extra fabric helped keep me warm. Clothes stolen from Dev, my BFF. Perks to having a guy friend. I had no clue if he knew I’d stolen his clothes or not. I didn’t care. He’d give me the shirt off his back if I asked; nothing wrong with skipping a step.

From my bed, the entire studio apartment stretched before me. Okay, so cramped was a better word than stretched. A half kitchen that consisted of a mini fridge, a sink, and a microwave, a small table, one lousy tiny window, and the bathroom that held a stall shower and just as much water pressure as heat: almost nonexistent. The only positive thing about this place was the rent, cheap enough that I could save as much money as possible. My phone vibrated, and I picked it up, welcoming the distraction.

Dev: How did the date go?

Considering I sat on my bed wearing his clothes instead of being warmed up without any clothes on at all? I sent back a thumbs-down image.

Dev: That bad?

Me: Greg was disappointed I wasn’t in my bar clothes.

Served me right for picking up a guy at the bar I worked at. He had seemed to be nice and far more of a gentleman than most of my customers. He even knew a few signs. I had hoped for a little fun, a departure from my daily life. In the end, we had nothing in common. He wanted the shot-girl image, not a real person.

Dev: That asshole. Want me to beat him up?

Me: I know you have a love affair with your punching bag, but this one requires no fists. Sorry.

Dev: You OK?

I stared up at my ceiling. The man always managed to read between the lines.

Me: I’m fine.

Dev: Liar.

I scrunched my nose and tapped at my phone until his image appeared on-screen, too-long hair included. “I just had a bad date. Are you done picking on me?” I signed.

He tried to keep a straight face, but his eyes laughed at me. “I wanted to make sure you were OK.”

I held the phone farther back and let him see I was ready for bed. How much more fine could I get?

“So that’s what happened to my college sweatshirt.”

I angled the phone to the emblem on my leg. “Pants too.”

Dev laughed and shook his head. “Come over. You don’t have to stay at your crappy apartment tonight.”

“I happen to like my crappy apartment.” Okay, that was a lie. I hated this place. But I liked my privacy. And even if I stayed at Dev’s a few times a month, that didn’t mean I needed to right this second. Not when I’d be losing this place soon.

I didn’t sign that. My problem. I’d handle it. I’d learned a long time ago to never let a wannabe social worker get involved unless I wanted to give up control. Dev had no boundaries when it came to helping others.

“Please?”

“Are you seriously begging me to come over at midnight?”

Dev had the decency to shrug.

“Tomorrow. Come to the bar. For now, I have a date with my pillow.” Sure, the pillow was flat as a pancake, but I wanted alone time.

“Fine. If you change your mind, come on over.”

I nodded and ended the call. I had his spare key, but we both knew I wouldn’t use it.

My eyes traveled over the room once again. The cracks in the walls, the cracks in the cement floor. I had snagged the place for one reason and one reason only: to save money and buy my own bar.

Like my father had. I wondered if he’d recommend it or if he’d try to convince me to choose a different career. Maybe we would have worked side by side, handling customers and drinks. In truth, I’d never know what might have been.

I pulled out my notebook, the one with the pale blue cover on which I had penned Jas’s Bar. Here I planned out everything I could for owning my own bar. From rules and regulations, to which brands I wanted, to recipes and other ideas. I mapped out my finances, what I’d need to make this a reality.

I wasn’t there yet. Hence the cheap apartment and meager living.

Maybe I should have crashed at Dev’s. A little comfort went a long way when life spiraled out of control. I knew I was young and I had time. But I wanted my happy. I’d paid my dues; I deserved my dream.

I was still staring at my notebook when a light flashed by my tiny window. Outside someone stood with a flashlight, shining it into my apartment. I didn’t need to adjust to the light to know who that someone was with the one, two, three blinking pattern.

It took five steps to stomp over to the door. Dev came in once I wedged it open. He pushed the door closed.

“You can’t have your clothes back,” I signed, even as I was grateful to see him. When Dev was around, even this place sorta felt like a home.

“I don’t want my clothes back. Not now, at least. I wanted to make sure you were OK.”

I held out my hands, showing that I was fine. Even if I did scan my coffee table and breathe in relief that the eviction letter was facedown in a crumpled mess.

He studied me, searching for all my little tics that spelled I was in trouble, tics only he knew. I blanked my face; otherwise he would latch onto there being a problem. A big one. Dev shoved a hand through his hair, those wavy locks rioting into one massive sexy-as-hell bedhead. I missed the days when he was a spindly little thing, before he grew into this hunk I could never unfriendzone. He meant too much to rock the boat, and I didn’t dare risk losing him. He scratched at a day’s worth of scruff, the black stubble contrasting with his pale skin. Then he kicked off his shoes, tossed his coat on the back of a chair, and plopped down on my bed in a way that had to have a spring or two digging into his back.

He didn’t budge.

I wanted to laugh. Forget me time—neither one of us had given the other the right to be alone since we first met. Still, I couldn’t let go of our usual bickering match. “Go home.”

He folded his hands behind his head, not moving. I crossed my arms. A few seconds later he sat up, grabbed my laptop off the floor, and flipped it open. “We’ll watch a movie.”

“My laptop can’t handle Netflix. You know that.”

He closed the laptop. “Right. Forgot.” He unlocked his phone and placed it on the bed.

“Tiny viewing tonight?”

“You refused to come to my place.” Underlining meaning: we could have watched on a large flat-screen TV.

Since there was no budging him now that he had settled in, I climbed onto the bed with him. He picked up the phone so we could watch, and I settled my head on his chest.

I didn’t pay much attention to the action flick he put on. Most days I loved the intensity of those movies. Tonight, those explosions felt too close for comfort. Instead I made a mental list of my options. Had to before Dev found out. He’d want me to stay with him. And being cuddled up with him, I had to admit, had potential. More so when I placed my hand on his firm stomach and took in a deep breath of the ocean scent of his soap. Problem was, I needed to be on my own two feet. The last person to take care of me—my mother—had failed. I couldn’t trust anyone else.

Not even Dev.