Friday, January 18, 2019

The Summoner's Path by Jessamyn Kingley - Release Blitz with Excerpt and Giveaway

RELEASE BLITZ


Book Title: The Summoner’s Path (D’Vaire, Book 10)

Author: Jessamyn Kingley

Cover Artist: LJ Anderson, Mayhem Cover Creations

Genre/s: M/M Urban Fantasy Romance

Heat Rating: 3 flames

Release Date: January 17, 2019




Buy Links - Available on Kindle Unlimited


 



Some paths we choose. Others are chosen for us.

Blurb

Grand Summoner Dre’Kariston D’Vaire understands firsthand the brutal reality of war. Barely surviving a gruesome battle, he is one of the few remaining warlocks. After recovering from his wounds, he returns to the castle of his birth only to find his entire race annihilated. For centuries he disguises his power and appearance, refusing to be another victim. When he reunites with his twin, his life changes from barren to beautiful. For years he follows his brother’s example of scrying for his mate, but it is not until they join their power that Fate answers, leading him to Court Ethelin.

Prince Somerly Ethelindraconis is stunned as he races to an appointment and runs into a crowned sorcerer standing on his father’s land. His only parent hates magickind and keeps them far from home, but Somerly cannot deny the attractive man his name and number. King Ethelin has his son’s life planned out for him, and Somerly is willing to sacrifice his freedom to help his court—until he falls for Dre’Kariston. He is soon caught between the promises he’s made and what his heart desires. There’s no way to please everyone, and Somerly finds himself teetering on a precipice that forces him to decide where his future lies.

With infinite paths twisting ahead, Dre’Kariston and Somerly must follow the truth in their hearts to make the right choices if they wish to forge an enduring love. Fate brought them together, but will they run out of chances before it’s too late to save their matebond?





Excerpt

“I’m going to guess you haven’t teleported before?” Dre’Kariston asked.

“No, the Consilium outlawed it,” Somerly said.

Dre’Kariston lifted a dark brow but made no comment about his statement. “Just close your eyes so you don’t get dizzy, and you should be fine. Ready?”

Somerly did as he was told and squeezed them as tight as he could.

Dre’Kariston chuckled. “They aren’t going to roll out of your head or anything.”

“I know, I just don’t want to throw up or shit my pants.”

“Let’s go.”

Magic danced over Somerly’s skin and a weightlessness registered; then the ground was firmly under his feet again.

“You can open your eyes now,” Dre’Kariston invited softly.

Lifting his lashes, Somerly found himself in a giant living room with ceilings a full two stories high. There was furniture everywhere, and all of it looked comfortable and welcoming. It was a far cry from the staid decor of his own house. “This is nice.”

Before Dre’Kariston could respond, two blond men ran into the room. The slightly taller one thrust out his hand. “I’m Dra’Kaedan.”

Somerly shook it dutifully. “Nice to meet you.”

“I’m his familiar, Renny,” the smaller one said in greeting.

“I don’t really understand what a familiar is, but it’s nice to meet you too.”

“Easiest way to explain it is that I’m just like a warlock, but I was born of Dra’Kaedan’s magic and I rely on him to supply mine.”

“So, you’re like his kid?”

Renny laughed. “He and Brogan certainly act like it sometimes but technically, no. I’m his familiar.”

That cleared it up not at all Somerly decided. He turned to Dre’Kariston. “Do you have a familiar?”

“Yes.”

“And here he comes now,” Dra’Kaedan said.

A man who resembled Dre’Kariston walked into the living area. He was wearing a frown and didn’t offer his hand to shake when he got close to their group.

“This is the mate?”

“Grand Summoner Familiar Derwin D’Vaire, this is Somerly,” Dre’Kariston replied. “And yes, he’s my mate.”

“It’s nice to meet you,” Somerly repeated for the third time. He suspected he was going to be saying it a lot as he was introduced to all the warlocks and familiars.

“Are you prepared to move into D’Vaire?” Derwin asked.

“Derwin, I just met Somerly today. It’s rather early to begin discussing living arrangements.”

“I’m sure he already knows if he wants to join the Council,” Derwin retorted.

Deciding he didn’t care for Derwin’s hostile attitude, Somerly spoke. “It’s as Dre’Kariston said. It’s too early to discuss any of that. We’ll have to see how things work out, but I appreciate your concern regarding our matebond.”

“You should know Dre’Kariston has zero interest in being flexible about the subject. His intention is to stay here in this big mausoleum until the end of time,” Derwin stated. His eyes had none of the warmth of Dre’Kariston’s and appeared empty to Somerly.

Before anyone could offer any further insight on a conversation Somerly was barely able to understand, two tall dragons walked into the room. One was undeniably the ruler of Court D’Vaire, and next to him was a mated navy dragon Somerly assumed was Dra’Kaedan’s other half. His hunch was proved correct when the man in question ran a hand over Dra’Kaedan’s plethora of golden curls and leaned down to kiss the warlock.

“King Aleksander and Duke Brogan, allow me to introduce Somerly,” Dre’Kariston said.

“Thanks for allowing me to travel to your home, Your Highness.”

The D’Vaire king smiled. “We don’t use titles around here—call me Aleksander. And we’re happy to have you here. As Dre’Kariston’s mate, you’re always welcome.”

Dra’Kaedan rolled his eyes. “Council rules, Aleksander. As long as your mate lives somewhere, you can’t be denied entry. Everyone knows that, skyscraper.”

“Squirt, you’re forgetting he lives in the Consilium. They may not have the same law.”

“We don’t have that rule. Not everyone meets their mate, so there’s no need to protect something Fate only doles out to certain individuals,” Somerly offered. The room went quiet, and Somerly didn’t fully comprehend the tension.

“I guess you’re lucky to be one of the chosen few,” Brogan finally said.

“I’m feeling pretty lucky.”



About the Author 

Jessamyn Kingley lives in Nevada where she begs the men in her head to tell her their amazing stories which she dutifully writes it all down in what has become a small mountain of notebooks. She falls in love with each couple and swears whatever book she wrote last is her absolute favorite.

Jessamyn is married and working toward remembering to start the dishwasher without being distracted by the scent of the magical detergent. For personal enjoyment, she aids in cat rescue while slashing and gashing her way through mobs in various MMORPGs. Caffeine is her very best friend and is only cast aside briefly for the sin better known as BBQ potato chips.

Visit her website and follow her on Facebook. She loves to engage with readers there.


Other Author Links








Giveaway

Enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway for a chance to win a choice of any ebook from the D’Vaire series




RELEASE BLITZ SCHEDULE


 

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Out In the Offense by Lane Hayes - Blog Tour

out in the offense tour banner

OUT IN THE OFFENSE
Out in College Series, Book 3
LANE HAYES
M/M ROMANCE
RELEASE DATE: 01.06.19

out in the offense cover

COVER ARTIST: REESE DANTE

BLURB

Christian Rafferty is a talented quarterback with a big secret. He’s determined to make the most of his final season on the football field, and if possible, avoid any confrontations with his conservative parents about his future. It shouldn’t be difficult; he’s become adept at keeping his public and private lives separate. However, when a math class threatens to derail his plans to graduate on time, he realizes he may need outside help.

Rory Kirkland has a reputation for being a tough guy. He’s a former wrestler and recent college graduate who needs a real job. Until he finds one, tutoring is a decent temporary gig. Luckily, his brain is his biggest asset. Rory is a genius. He credits his sport for helping him deal with angst and rumors about his sexuality when he was younger, but he doesn’t care what others think anymore. He likes his new status as an out and proud bi man; and he recognizes something of himself in Christian. But Rory didn’t count on falling for him. When an unlikely friendship collides with intense attraction, both men begin to realize that coming out on offense just might be the surest path to love.


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EXCERPT

“You don’t want to hear about my game or the stupid college parties I went to, so let’s talk statistics.”I tapped the cover of the textbook meaningfully.

“We’ll get there. Did you win?”

“Yeah, it was a blowout.”

“Sorry, the acoustics in here are whack. Did you say you got a blowjob?”

I snickered, then sat back and twisted the straw in my to-go cup. “Unfortunately, no.”

Rory tsked. “Too bad, my friend.”

“Did you?”

“Yep. I want to brag and tell you it was amazing, but it wasn’t all that special. I was horny. He was willing.…You know the story.”

“Yeah, I think it’s called a short story with a happy ending,”I joked.

“Ha! Exactly. That’s what happens when you go lookin’ for love in da club. Everyone’s out for a quick fix. Sounds perfect until it’s over ten minutes later. Then you gotta deal with the uncomfortable ‘Did we really just do that?’aftermath. Not so fun. Enjoy college life while you can. This adult business sucks,”he huffed humorlessly. “And yeah, I took Spanish in school and my brother speaks it. I know enough to hold a short conversation. That’s about it. Why’d you ask?”

I frowned. “I don’t know.”

Rory gave me a patient look. “Talk to me, Christian. We covered Basic BS 101. You told me you won your game and went to a coupla boring parties. I told you I went to WeHo with some friends. Now I’m backtracking to your question about whether or not I speak Spanish ’cause I’m polite like that. Plus it was a weird one. Why’d you want to know?”

“Your tattoo,”I replied, gesturing at his wrist.

Rory turned his palms over for me to inspect. “They’re lines from a Pablo Neruda poem. This one says, ‘En mí todo ese fuego se repite’ and this says, ‘En mí nada se apaga ni se olvida.’The translation is, ‘In me all this fire is repeated’ and ‘In me nothing is extinguished or forgotten.’The poem is called ‘If You Forget Me,’and it’s poignant as fuck. If you don’t know it, look it up.”

“I will. That’s cool.”And “poignant as fuck,”as he so eloquently put it. “But what does it mean to you?”I asked.

“That goes a little beyond water-cooler talk, QB. We’ll save it for when and if we get to know each other well enough to tell secrets,”he said, winking to take the sting from his words.

I nodded in understanding but instead of pulling away, I absently reached out to touch the script. Then I looked into his eyes, and I could have sworn I saw the tiniest crack in his armor before an invisible shield fell into place. In that fraction of a second, a silent communication passed between us. He’d been through hard times and he’d emerged…possibly stronger than ever. I was curious for sure, but there was no way to politely ask his story, so I inclined my head and switched gears.

“Did you study poetry in college?”

“No.”Rory sat back and eyed me for a long moment before continuing. “Are you ready to tackle stats now?”

I slumped in my chair with a theatrical sigh and gave myself a mental high five when he chuckled at my antics. “Ready as I’ll ever be.”

“I’ll go easy on you. I’ve got a feeling this is gonna hurt me more than it’ll hurt you,” he snarked.

I chuckled at the playful innuendo as I leaned forward, intent on giving him one hundred percent of my attention for as long as I could possibly stand it.

  logo_size
Lane Hayes is grateful to finally be doing what she loves best. Writing full-time! It’s no secret Lane loves a good romance novel. An avid reader from an early age, she has always been drawn to well-told love story with beautifully written characters. These days she prefers the leading roles to both be men. Lane discovered the M/M genre a few years ago and was instantly hooked. Her debut novel was a 2013 Rainbow Award finalist and subsequent books have received Honorable Mentions, and were winners in the 2016 Rainbow Awards. She loves red wine, chocolate and travel (in no particular order). Lane lives in Southern California with her amazing husband in an almost empty nest.



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In Case You Missed It by S.M. James - Cover Reveal



COVER REVEAL


Book Title: In Case You Missed It

Author: S. M. James

Cover Artist: Story Styling Cover Designs

Genre/s: YA LGBTQ romance

Heat Rating: 1-2 flames

Release Date: February 12, 2019





Brooks measured his life in breaths, until Darien took his breath away.


Blurb

Brooks is convinced his life is totally, one hundred percent happy.

Until Darien tracks him down.

Darien was supposed to be the guy he kissed once and remembered forever, but now he’s back in Brooks’s life, with easy smiles and big ideas.

The first of which … show the homeschooled Brooks everything he’s missed out on. But as the pair work through a spring of playing catch up on life, it becomes obvious to Darien that Brooks has a secret.

And as things heat up between them, Brooks’s secret might just be Darien’s worst fear.

Because Darien has always lived in the moment.

But Brooks has always lived for the future he knows is inevitable.

When life is set to tear them apart, will love be enough to keep them together?



Excerpt

“Yo, Dare!” Cameron shouts.

Darien turns toward us in the bleachers and throws up a little wave. From the corner of my eye, I notice Chelsea pointing at me, and Darien double takes. His expression is almost comical.

Darien tosses his lacrosse stick to the side and jogs over to where we’re sitting. His eyes and smile are so wide he looks deranged, but the happiness radiating from him bathes me in warmth.

When he doesn’t say anything, I step in to fill the awkwardness. “Careful. People might think you’re happy to see me.”

He huffs a laugh, slightly out of breath. “Damn, Brooks. You could have given me some warning.”

I stand up and make my way down the few rows until I’m on the one right above him. The others are watching us creepily and it’s weird to have an audience when he’s looking at me like that. I should keep my distance. I can’t. “Are you surprised?”

“Very. You realize this is something you’ve been missing right? Checking out hot guys at practice. We can theoretically check that off your list.”

I pretend to scan the rest of the team. “Mmm … jocks in their natural habitat. My favorite.”

He whacks me in the stomach. “Mean.”

“You said it.”

“Yeah but you were supposed to say, ‘there’s just one guy I’m here for’.”

“I didn’t realize this thing was scripted,” I say, gripping the metal barrier and leaning down a little.

“Don’t be embarrassed. You’re clearly not as well versed in flirting as I am.”

“Finallyyour ego makes sense. Too much flirting, not enough criticism.”

He holds his arms out. “What’s there to critique?”

And with that view of his body—his lean legs and loose shorts and tight t-shirt—I have to agree. Damn … the list of reasons why I should give him up melts away. There’s no walking away from this pull between us.

“Mitreski!” his coach calls, snapping me from my thoughts.

Darien ignores him as he drops his arms and steps closer to me. He reaches up to wrap one of his hands over mine. “Wait for me after practice?”

My mind gets loud with warning. What if he’s sick?

What if I catch it again?

What if I end up in hospital this time?

What if.

What if.

What if … he’s perfect for me? Hope surges in my chest.

What if I tell him everything and he doesn’t walk away? What if I get better? It’s an impossible thought, but when I’m with Darien, he makes me want to entertain infinite impossibilities.

“Mitreski, now!”

“Yes,” I whisper. “I’ll be here.”

Darien’s hand tightens around mine. “I don’t want to let go,” he admits.

“There are some thoughts you’re meant to keep to yourself.” But as he goes to pull away, I catch his fingers between my own. Just for a second. Just long enough to show that while I’ll keep the thought to myself, I don’t want to let go either.

As soon as I release him, he jogs back to his team, and I walk back up the three rows to where the others are sitting.

Heat has surged to my face, my ears, my neck. I’m sure I must be embarrassingly red but no one says a thing about it.

Cameron smiles at me, blue eyes twinkling, and it hits me just how much I love my cousin. He’s always been there for me, looking out for me. He knew I needed this.

I nudge him as Darien and the team set up a practice game. “Thank you.”

Cameron shrugs. “I overhead you two today. It was sickening. Really sappy. I had to get you together again, because no one needs to hear that.”

If Cameron told me why he wanted me to pick him up, I probably wouldn’t have come. I would have used the excuse of Darien being sick, and stayed away, intimidated by the thought of showing up—especially with Chelsea here too.

But as I watch Darien run back and forth, with no clue what the rules are, I feel like I’m lit up from the inside. He scores at one point and I’m practically bursting with pride as we cheer and stomp our feet, making as much noise as possible.

Instead of getting embarrassed, he mock bows, loving the attention.

I lean over to Cameron. “I’m going to tell him.”

He jerks around to look at me, all humor gone. “For real? Brooks, are you sure?”

“You’re the one who said I have to.”

He shrugs. “It’s really not up to me.”

“I know.” I hesitate before letting out a sigh. “But it’s not up to me either. I really like him, but he has the right to know what he’s getting into, before anything happens.”

“I hate to agree with you … but it’s true.”

“I’m a lot to take on.”

“No, you’re not. You need to stop seeing yourself as a burden. Fuck, Brooks. You’re always going on about wanting to be treated the same as anyone else, but you need to start treating yourself that way too.”

Cameron’s right. It pisses me off that he’s right so I’m definitely not going to agree, but I note his words. Let them sit, percolate. Soak them into my subconscious. “I have to tell him.” I push as much emphasis as I can into the words, trying to convince myself as much as him. “But I have no clue how.”

“Hey, don’t overthink it. The right moment will come up, and whatever happens from there, happens.”

I watch Darien, wishing the world could just slow and give me endless days of school, and watching practice, and making friends, as I plunge into a world of incomprehensible feelings.

“It’s the ‘whatever’ part I’m afraid of.”

But facing it is inevitable.



About the Author 

S. M. James writes books for teens about squishy sweet characters.

While not writing, S. M. is a readaholic and Netflix addict who regularly lives on a sustainable diet of chocolate and coffee.

Member of SCBWI. 

Unapologetically dishing out HEAs for LGBTQ characters.



Author Links










Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Perfect Match by AG Meiers - Blog Tour with Author's Guest Post and Giveaway



About Perfect Match
Secrets can derail even the most powerful attraction.
Logger Sven Larson has never found a man worth publicly coming out of the closet for. But his family has other plans. As a thirtieth birthday gift, his mother hires the online dating service Perfect Match to find Sven the love of his life. To say Sven isn't thrilled is an understatement, but it's too late to cancel, and Jayden Calver arrives.
Perfect Match's success rate is unsurpassed, but they don't come by it honestly: if a client can't be matched, the agency uses a stand-in to fulfil their guarantee and protect their profit.
Tough luck has left Jayden in debt, and playing Perfect Match's deceptive game is his only option. So he travels — sparkling toenails and all — to a remote camp deep in the mountains to meet Sven Larson and pretend to be his perfect match for a few days.
Sparks fly on first contact. But as the two men get closer, Sven grows more and more suspicious of Jayden, and Jayden struggles with guilt over his deceit. They both want a future together, but first they must find the courage to be honest with themselves and each other.

How did you come up with the idea for Perfect Match?

Most of my story ideas start early mornings stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic on my way to work. While my car is on autopilot navigating Boston rush hour, my mind dreams up crazy love stories. Ironically, I guess I have to thank my very ugly commute for Perfect Match.

Perfect Match started with two questions:

-          What happens if someone who is just not a very convincing liar is forced to lie?

-          What happens if someone who should be pissed about being lied to, falls in love instead?

My answer to question one was Jayden Calver. Jayden is in financial trouble and is forced to sell his body as part of a romance scam. And Jayden, well, he is just a lousy liar. Everything goes wrong from the very start. But, Jayden is also a fighter and not willing to give up easily.
My answer to question two was Sven Larson. A sexy logger with a strong protective streak who is completely blown away by his instant attraction to the city kid who stumbled into his isolated, secluded home in the mountains in the middle of a rain storm.

It started with the characters for the book, but very quickly Perfect Match—the online agency that simply fakes matching profiles if a customer is hard to match from their database—took over my morning commute musing with a vengeance.

The How? Why? And Who? suddenly became as important as telling Sven and Jayden’s story. Perfect Match answers some of these questions: Nicolas Carter, the owner, finds young men in financial trouble, buys up their debt and then sends them on Perfect Match assignments with a clear mission: Keep the customer happy and distracted for ten days, and then get kicked out.

But, there was so much more to tell about Nicolas Carter and the agency and just like that, Perfect Match turned into a series. Each book a stand-alone love story, with Sven and Jayden being the first couple to find their happy-ever-after, and each book also tells the reader more about the agency’s back story and its elusive owner.

I hope readers enjoy the first book, Perfect Match. Jayden and Sven are tangled up in lies and secrets and have to find the courage to be honest with themselves and each other. Life has thrown them together under tough circumstances and, even at the end, it takes a leap of faith to trust that they are indeed a Perfect Match.

About AG Meiers
Eighteen years ago, AG Meiers came to the US for adventure and stayed for love. Currently, she lives in New England with her husband and two awesome kids—balancing work, friends and family, and writing.
When she has some free time, her favorite thing to do is travel and visit new places. Her past trips have already brought her to a variety of countries on four continents. She never passes up an opportunity to experience different cultures, diverse people and amazing locations.
Even though she has been dreaming up stories all her life, she has only recently started to write them down and share them with the world. As a writer she loves to put her characters through a lot of challenges, conflict and heartbreak, before she allows them to find their happy-ever-after.
Connect with AG Meiers:

Giveaway
To celebrate the release of Perfect Match  one lucky person will win a $20 Riptide Publishing gift card! Leave a comment with your contact info to enter the contest. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on January 18, 2019. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries. Thanks for following along, and don’t forget to leave your contact info!

One-On-One by V.L. Locey - Release Blitz with Giveaway



Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK

Length: 57,000 words approx.


Cayuga Cougars Series

Book #1 - Snap Shot - Amazon US | Amazon UK
Book #2 - Open Net - Amazon US | Amazon UK
Book #3 - Coach's Challenge - Amazon US | Amazon UK
Book #4 - Overtime - Amazon US | Amazon UK

Blurb

The past few years have been a bit chaotic for Cougars new associate coach, Lancaster Hart. After an amiable divorce he began living his life as the gay man he’d kept closeted for far too long. With the recent move to Cayuga, he’s away from his support system and properly made sweet tea. Despite a roster filled with new friends and associates, he’s spending his nights alone.

As his team gears up to make a run at the Calder Cup, Lancaster discovers that not everything in upstate New York is wine, woodlands, and chilly conservative ideals. At a summer music festival, he first lays eyes on Townsend Harris, folksy/blues singer by night and mayoral office assistant by day. Lancaster is enraptured with the man’s powerful sultry voice. Also, Town just might be the most beautiful man he has seen in all his forty-one years.

The two hit it off at an informal meet and greet after the show, where they spend the night talking and sipping wine. One evening of conversation and an incendiary goodbye kiss leads them into a scorching love affair that might be exactly what Lancaster has been searching for his whole life. Can his team pull off professionally what he’s hoping to do privately as well? Or will capturing their dream evade both the Cougars and Lancaster?



V.L. Locey loves worn jeans, yoga, belly laughs, Dr. Who, Torchwood, walking, reading and writing lusty tales, Greek mythology, the New York Rangers, comic books, and coffee. (Not necessarily in that order.) She shares her life with her husband, her daughter, one dog, two cats, two Jersey steers and a flock of assorted domestic fowl.

When not writing lusty tales, she can be found enjoying her day with her menagerie in the rolling hills of Pennsylvania with a cup of fresh java in hand.





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Ashes To Ink by Carrie Ann Ryan - Chapter Reveal

Are you ready for more Montgomery Ink? Carrie Ann Ryan's ASHES TO INK releases January 22nd - read the first chapter below and preorder your copy now!

About ASHES TO INK

Available January 22nd, 2019

From New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Carrie Ann Ryan comes a new story in her Montgomery Ink series…

Back in Denver, Abby lost everything she ever loved, except for her daughter, the one memory she has left of the man she loved and lost. Now, she’s moved next to the Montgomerys in Colorado Springs, leaving her past behind to start her new life.

One step at a time.

Ryan is the newest tattoo artist at Montgomery Ink Too and knows the others are curious about his secrets. But he’s not ready to tell them. Not yet. That is…until he meets Abby.

Abby and Ryan thought they had their own paths, ones that had nothing to do with one another. 

Then…they took a chance.

On each other.

One night at a time.

**Every 1001 Dark Nights novella is a standalone story. For new readers, it’s an introduction to an author’s world. And for fans, it’s a bonus book in the author’s series. We hope you'll enjoy each one as much as we do.**

ASHES TO INK releases January 22nd, 2019 - preorder your copy now!

Read the first chapter of ASHES TO INK:

Abby loved tea. She loved everything about it. The taste, the smell, the way it warmed her up on a cold day or cooled her down on a warm one. She’d even loved tea when she was a little girl, playing with air in her teacups and treating her stuffed animals and Cabbage Patch dolls to an afternoon tea party.
Her grandmother had taught her the basics of brewing the perfect cuppa, as well as the ratio of sugar cubes needed. Abby had then learned to try tea with all additives: cinnamon sticks, lemon wedges, a dash of cream. Some might consider that ruining it, but Abby had wanted to try it all.
She loved tea bags but adored loose-leaf tea even more. She relished steeping it, blending it, and finding the perfect mix for the season.
So when she found herself looking for a way to create something that was just hers and start over after everything had fallen apart around her, opening the tea shop had seemed like a no-brainer.
Teas’d specialized in loose-leaf tea, but Abby also sold some bagged tea and different teapots and helpful equipment.
It was Abby’s goal in life to make it so others could discover the joys of tea like she had, and maybe find a new favorite along the way. She had always loved the idea of teatime, even if she didn’t have the time to truly sit down and enjoy it herself every day.
Regardless, she adored the scents, loved the idea of falling into a cup—a different flavor every day. With the resurgence of tea drinkers, it was easier for Abby to find fellow tea lovers as time moved on. There were big chain tea shops and smaller ones as well, but Teas’d was just for her. She was a tiny little speck in the idea of tea and how it could serve the needs of the people, but she was the best speck she could possibly be.
She’d had to be after everything changed.
She’d had to be when she lost everything.
Well, not everything. She still had her little girl. Abby grinned down at her phone and swiped up so she could look at the photo on the home screen.
Julia was growing every day and even looked slightly different now than she had in the picture. Abby still couldn’t quite believe that she and Max had made this beautiful baby girl. Max might not be around to help raise Julia, but he had been there for the conception and had been there to pick out everything the two of them as new parents would need to raise their child together.
It didn’t hurt as much as it once had to think about Max. Oh, it would always hurt, but at least it didn’t make Abby want to throw up and grieve right then.
She could think about her husband and smile now. She could think about the fact that he had loved her with all of his heart, even if that had been the thing to take him away from her in the end.
And she couldn’t say her feelings didn’t matter now though, because that would be a disgrace to his memory and the fact that she could see Max in her little girl every single day.
Julia would never know her father, but Abby was doing her best to make sure that Julia knew exactly who Max was, and how excited he had been to have Julia in his life.
The two had never met, but Abby knew Max was always watching over them.
There was no other way to think about it. Not when Abby needed to get up every day and breathe—try to be the mom and woman she needed to be.
But today was a new day, just like all the others. Today, she would make some tea, sell some tea, and maybe even have a cookie or two. Because it was Friday, and she was allowed to have a cookie if she wanted.
She just might have a little extra padding on her hips, but that was fine with her. It wasn’t like she was trying to entice a man.
Oh, she’d dated a couple of times in the past year or so, but it hadn’t really amounted to much. She hadn’t been ready, and she didn’t know if she was ready now either.
“What are you looking at over there?”
Abby looked up at the sound of her friend Adrienne’s voice and smiled. Adrienne Montgomery owned the tattoo shop, Montgomery Ink Too, next door and was part of a huge family—way bigger than just the set of cousins that lived near Abby.
The Montgomerys were large, loud, brash, and the sweetest people Abby had ever known. They had taken her in with just one look, much like their cousins in Denver had, and Abby loved every single one of them.
“Just looking at tea,” Abby answered, holding up a couple of tins. “I’m trying to see what I need to put on special. We have good stock of most things, but not all.”
“I don’t know how you do it. I mean, I know how to run a business, and I think I’m doing pretty well, but it takes the advice of two accountants for me to know what I’m doing.”
“Since I have the same two accountants you do, I totally understand.”
Shea was Adrienne’s sister-in-law, and Roxie was Adrienne’s sister. Both were accountants, and pretty much helped run the businesses on this stretch.
The Montgomerys owned two of the businesses—Montgomery Ink Too, and Colorado Icing. While Adrienne and Shep ran the tattoo shop, the Montgomerys’ middle sister, Thea, owned the bakery at the end of the strip.
Abby had a feeling that if there had been more space available, the accountants of the family probably would have moved in as well. Or maybe even the mechanic, Carter, who was married to Roxie. In fact, Adrienne was dating one of the tattoo artists, Mace, and that just meant there was more family than ever. More Montgomerys.
Abby didn’t think that Thea’s boyfriend, Dimitri, would be able to move a whole high school into the strip, but if there were a way, the Montgomerys would likely make it happen.
“Your family really is pretty amazing.” Abby grinned as Adrienne rolled her eyes.
“Oh, don’t tell the guys that. I mean, you can tell me, Thea, and Roxie. It’s true, and it’s sort of what we do. We are the touchstone for the Montgomerys.”
They both laughed at that because even though it might be true, every single one of the Montgomerys had their own touchstones when it came to what those around them needed.
“So, have any good tea for me today?” Adrienne asked. “I have a long project coming up, one that’s gonna take me a few hours and a few sessions. I could use all the energy I can get. And while I love coffee from Thea’s bakery, I think I’m in the mood for tea today. Something to keep me wired, but something flavorful as well. I can head over to Thea’s later for something sugary, or even a sandwich for some protein, but here is where I want my tea.”
“Well, you’ve come to the right place. Let me set you up with some chai. I know that’s your favorite.” Abby went around the counter and began working. She knew the exact blend her friend favored and even had the milk Adrienne so dearly loved to put in it. She’d make a latte if she could, but she only did that when she visited Thea’s bakery. Here at Teas’d, it was all about the blends and steeping.
“That and some of that peppermint one for later. It is the holidays. You have some peppermint, too, right?” Adrienne bounced from foot to foot as if she’d already had her caffeine for the day. Knowing Adrienne, she probably had but wanted more. Abby was happy to oblige.
“Oh, I have the peppermint. I also have that white chocolate peppermint bark one that you love.” Both of them smiled, and Abby watched as Adrienne rubbed her stomach with her hand, her eyes comically wide.
“I might have to come back for that later.”
“I can always stop by with some tea. That is what I’m here for.”
“You’re going to be a delivery person for tea as well?”
“I can. Only for my friends.”
Abby didn’t actually serve brewed tea all that often. Most people came to Teas’d for stock rather than just a cuppa. But she did have a couple of places to sit outside, as well as one inside. It was winter in Colorado Springs, so sitting outside wasn’t something that people did often.
But Abby knew some did like to sit outside the bakery at the other end of the strip, drinking their hot cocoa or coffee and braving the cold just because they were Coloradans, and that’s what they did.
And while it didn’t happen often, she loved when people came in for a cup to go, or even stayed to drink out of her ceramic mugs. She had painstakingly searched forever for the cups that she wanted and had ended up just going to Jake Gallagher to have them made.
Jake was an artist. He sculpted with his hands and with his heart. He’d made the mugs for her, as well as other things she could sell in the store.
She knew that he made art. Real art. And though she thought of her teashop as its own kind of art—the way it made others feel was art itself—she knew Jake was in a realm of his own.
With any other person, he might not have tried to help her as he did, but they had a good relationship now, and she liked that their working relationship meant that she could sell his wares and still use everything that he made for her and her customers.
The Gallaghers were connected to the Montgomerys through marriage, and Abby was tied to the Gallaghers through Max since Jake’s brother Murphy had been one of Max’s best friends.
It was odd how everything seemed to tie together and be so close—yet so far away.
She might have felt that she was on the outside looking in once, but that wasn’t the case anymore. The Montgomerys and the Gallaghers wouldn’t allow that.
And while both families had given her space to breathe, they hadn’t given her enough room to bury herself. No, she wasn’t thinking physically, she would never do that. Never to herself, never to Julia, and never to Max’s memory.
But she had needed some time to figure out how to be a single mom in this world. A mom without a real job and with only a savings account for a dream that she’d never thought to have realized in the timeframe she was forced to work in.
“That smells delicious,” Adrienne said. “Seriously delicious.”
Abby smiled, knowing today would be a good day, because it had to be. There was no other option when it came to tea.
“Here’s the chai, just for you. I put it in a to-go cup, but if you want it out of a mug later, just let me know. I don’t know how you and your elbows are doing today.”
Adrienne rolled her eyes. “That was Ryan’s fault, not mine. He startled me, and my elbow broke that mug. I paid for it. I went right up to Denver to ask Jake for another one. I am still so sorry about that.”
Abby just smiled and shook her head, handing over the tea. “I know it wasn’t your fault. I was just teasing. Though I do have to watch out for all of you over at the shop. You are a wild bunch.”
Adrienne threw her head back and laughed. “That we are. Although, I do have to say, Ryan might be the wildest of us all.” Adrienne winked.
Abby frowned at that but didn’t say anything. Was Adrienne trying to match up two of her single friends? She wasn’t sure if she was ready for anything like that. Or if she could think about Ryan like that at all.
He was handsome, that was for sure. And he always had a soft smile for Abby and was really great with Julia whenever they ran into each other. But that wasn’t often since Julia was usually with the sitter when Abby was working. Or maybe Abby was just reading into what Adrienne had said because she’d had a little too much caffeine that morning. It was time to switch to herbal tea for the rest of the day if this was how she was going to start thinking.
“You better hurry if you’re going to make your appointment. I’ll be over later with any tea you need. Just call if you want something different than the peppermint. Or if Mace or any of the others need anything.”
Adrienne leaned over and hugged Abby hard before taking her chai. “That I can do. It’s just me, Mace, and Ryan over there. It’s Shep’s day off to hang out with the kiddos.”
“I’m glad that you guys are able to work it out with all the kids. Daisy is with Shep as well?”
“Yes. Since we’re able to make our schedules work, we don’t have to get an outside sitter as much.” Adrienne paused. “You know, Julia’s always welcome to come over. I know that you would trade off with us if you could. You don’t have to pay for a sitter. We Montgomerys make it work, and you are an honorary Montgomery, after all.” Abby didn’t shake her head or say no. She knew the others were just trying to help, but it was sometimes hard to willingly accept help when she wanted to stand on her own two feet. Plus, Abby didn’t want to have to rely on anyone. Everything could change in an instant.
She shook off that thought and tried not to think about what it meant. She knew she was thinking about Max and the fact that she hadn’t really spoken to his family since the funeral. They hadn’t even met their granddaughter. Hadn’t been involved in anything having to do with Julia’s life. But that was okay. Abby would be okay. She had to be okay.
“I will talk to you later. And bring the tea.” Adrienne just rolled her eyes. Probably because Abby hadn’t commented about the daycare, but it didn’t matter.
The Montgomerys would just bring it up again, and Abby would cave—because she would. Julia loved hanging out with Daisy and Livvy. And since Julia and Livvy were close to the same age, it worked out well. Soon, there would probably be more babies in the Montgomery world. They might not have room for Julia.
Abby shook that thought out of her head as Adrienne walked out of the store. And then she went back to work. There were more teas to make, more blends to perfect. And peppermint tea and chocolate to give to her friends later.
The day went on like normal. People came in for tea, and more than one for gift baskets and Christmas presents. The holidays were quickly approaching. So fast that Abby was sure she was behind on her shopping. She tried to get some things for the Montgomerys, but most everything was for Julia. She didn’t want her daughter to assume there would always be gifts, something material. But she also wanted to spoil her baby just enough.
Julia deserved to be spoiled.
When Abby went to bring over peppermint tea for both Mace and Adrienne, Ryan was out on a personal call. She hadn’t asked why, and she didn’t want to explore why her brain immediately went to her wanting to know more about the man.
She shouldn’t want to know more about him. He was a friend. Nothing more. And that meant she shouldn’t be thinking about how he looked in his jeans every day. Or how much she liked the beautiful ink on his arms.
Nope, she wouldn’t be thinking about any of that, thank you very much.
As the day wore on, the snow started to fall a little faster, a little harder. It had even begun to accumulate, which annoyed her since the forecast hadn’t predicted it. Then again, the meteorologists were rarely right these days.
Abby wasn’t really looking forward to driving in the snow, but she was a native Coloradan, and she was used to it. There was no use complaining about the precipitation in Colorado. That was like complaining that there were mountains or high altitude.
Weather like this was just something one got used to. The snow would probably melt the next day anyway. Even if the sun shone and it was frigid outside, the precipitation did its own thing here in Colorado.
As she made her way to the babysitter’s house to pick up Julia, Abby knew that she would eventually have to ask the Montgomerys for help. She didn’t like how long it took to get to the sitter’s. If Julia stayed with one of the Montgomerys, she would actually be closer to Abby throughout the day, and Abby would have an easier and shorter drive home. It just made sense, and it would help out more people if she were there to add to the days when someone could watch all of the children.
She knew she just had to give up control and say yes.
But as the snow started to come down a little more earnestly, Abby was afraid she might have a bit of a hard time getting to her daughter tonight. And when she finally got there, it might be even more difficult to get them home. Her windshield wipers flew back and forth, the speed increasing, but so did the quickness of the snowfall.
She cursed herself once again for saying no to the Montgomerys.
When she finally arrived, Julia was hyper but not too much since Abby knew the babysitter didn’t give her extra sugar. This was just Julia’s happy, bubbly way. Her daughter was an amazing baby girl—though she wasn’t really a baby anymore, was she?
Julia was perfect in every way. No, Abby wouldn’t tell her that she was perfect over and over again because that would probably lead to issues down the road. But in Abby’s mind, her daughter was perfect.
She had gone through so much in her short life, even before she was born.
She was a survivor. Just like Abby.
Her daughter spread joy to everyone, even if she was a little shy at times. But she was so graceful, so grateful. She shared her toys with others, and always had a smile for those who might not want to. If another kid was crying or just needed a hug, Julia was right there. Sometimes even faster than the adults in the room.
In the car, Julia babbled on about her day, using strings of words that wouldn’t really make any sense to anyone but Abby. Because that was the role of the mother, to always understand what her baby girl was saying, even if it didn’t make a lick of sense.
Darkness started to fall across Colorado. The fact that it was December meant that there weren’t many hours of sunlight these days. The snow fell harder, the wind getting a little bit brisker. Abby just wanted to get home. She just wanted to be home.
She was just turning onto the next street in her route, knowing she was close to home but not close enough, when her tires slid on the ice that she hadn’t seen.
She tried not to panic, tried to remember what she was supposed to do in this situation. She didn’t twist her wheel hard, but she did try to turn into the skid. It was no use.
She was sliding into the other lane of traffic, and though there were no cars right now, that didn’t mean there wouldn’t be some soon. Julia didn’t make a sound, Abby wasn’t even sure she knew that something bad was happening.
Inside her head, Abby was screaming, her hands tight on the wheel—so tight, she was afraid she’d lose circulation.
But she couldn’t focus on any of that. She just had to concentrate on making sure they survived the skid. She had to make sure that whatever they hit, they didn’t hit too hard.
The sound of her tires sliding across the ice seemed loud in the vacuum of her panic.
It shouldn’t have sounded loud. But the rubber did squeal, and Julia let out a sound in response that made Abby want to turn. But she couldn’t. She had to keep her eyes on the road. The decision to do that, to not look at her baby girl when her daughter might need her, broke her. But she had to focus on what was in front of her.
The car hit the snowbank on the other side of the street with a dull thud, not even jostling the vehicle as it did, and Abby just sat there for a moment, her heartbeat so loud in her ears she couldn’t hear anything else.
Everything had moved so slowly—and still did, as if she hadn’t just been in a minor accident.
No other cars were coming, and there was no one else on the road. She always took this route because there was less traffic and fewer idiots out and about.
But it was cold, and there was nobody around to help. Her car was still running, but she was halfway in a ditch and slammed into a snowbank. Her body didn’t hurt, but her head did. Only because of the headache, not anything else.
But Julia.
Oh my God. Julia.
Abby undid her seatbelt, trying to ignore the fact that she just might pass out from the stress, and tuning out the cheery Christmas music filling her car. This seemed like the worst time for Christmas music, but then again, she didn’t know when a good time for it would be anymore.
When she finally got turned around, Julia just smiled and held out her hands for a hug. Abby practically crawled over the seat back to check on her baby girl. They hadn’t hit hard, neither of them getting jarred too badly. The car hadn’t even been going fast enough for the airbags to go off.
Abby knew that she needed to figure out how to get out of the ditch. Maybe she should call Carter. Or the cops. Then, she remembered that Roxie’s husband Carter had just been in an accident and wasn’t working at his shop. He wouldn’t be operating the tow truck.
Right then, all Abby wanted to do was cry because she had no idea what to do.
But because she knew her baby was fine, that both of them were fine, she got Julia out of her car seat and held her close.
She had to keep reminding herself that they were okay. She wasn’t even shaking, even though she probably should have been. Shock would likely do that to her later, but right now, she needed to hold her baby girl.
Headlights suddenly filled the car, and Abby closed her eyes and held Julia close, trying to protect her as best she could.
If a car hit them right then, Abby knew that they were done for.
But as the light continued to fill her car, the oncoming vehicle slowed.
The sound of a door opening and closing filled Abby’s ears, followed by the sounds of a person walking, their shoes crunching on the snow.
Someone tapped on the window and called out her name.
Her name.
They knew her.
But because she and Julia had fogged up the windows, Abby couldn’t see who it was. She scooted over in the backseat and opened the car door.
“Ryan,” she breathed. “Ryan.”
She had never been happier to see his bearded face.
Ryan frowned down at her, looked at Julia in her arms, and let out a soft curse. “Are you okay, Abby? What the hell happened?”
She just looked at him, and then promptly burst into tears.


 

About Carrie Ann Ryan

Carrie Ann Ryan is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of contemporary and paranormal romance. Her works include the Montgomery Ink, Redwood Pack, Talon Pack, and Gallagher Brothers series, which have sold over 3.0 million books worldwide. She started writing while in graduate school for her advanced degree in chemistry and hasn’t stopped since. Carrie Ann has written over sixty novels and novellas with more in the works. When she’s not writing about bearded tattooed men or alpha wolves that need to find their mates, she’s reading as much as she can and exploring the world of baking and gourmet cooking.