Spotlight & Excerpt: It Goes Like This + Giveaway

It Goes Like This

It Goes Like This
by Miel Moreland
Published by: Feiwel & Friends
Publication date: May 18th 2021
Genres: Contemporary, LGBTQ+, Young Adult

In Miel Moreland’s heartfelt young adult debut, It Goes Like This, four queer teens realize that sometimes you have to risk hitting repeat on heartbreak.

Eva, Celeste, Gina, and Steph used to think their friendship was unbreakable. After all, they’ve been though a lot together, including the astronomical rise of Moonlight Overthrow, the world-famous queer pop band they formed in middle school, never expecting to headline anything bigger than the county fair.

But after a sudden falling out leads to the dissolution of the teens’ band, their friendship, and Eva and Celeste’s starry-eyed romance, nothing is the same. Gina and Celeste step further into the spotlight, Steph disappears completely, and Eva, heartbroken, takes refuge as a songwriter and secret online fangirl…of her own band. That is, until a storm devastates their hometown, bringing the four ex-best-friends back together. As they prepare for one last show, they’ll discover whether growing up always means growing apart.

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Excerpt:

JUNE 2021 EVA
Seeing the pictures is like someone pouring a bucket of ice water over her head. The kind of shock where you can’t even breathe.
“Eva,” her mom says, still in her ear, because she’s still clutching her phone.
Eva tries to reply, but sound is beyond her.
Her other hand rests, shaking, on her tablet. She scrolls. Another photo, another, each a discordant note because this wasn’t supposed to happen. Gina, Celeste, a party. The two of them, together, in pub- lic. Without her. (Without Steph, either, for that matter.)
Eva wants to throw the tablet across the room.
She wants to dive into it, insert herself into the picture, be laughing and close, for the world to see.
“Eva?” her mom says again, more worried than the first time. “I wanted to make sure that you didn’t find out from Twitter.” Sometimes Eva regrets teaching her mom about Twitter.
Sometimes Eva tries to pretend she regrets Moonlight Over- throw.
“Yeah,” Eva manages. “Yes, okay. Thanks.” If hurt is sadness overlaid with anger, Eva bumps the anger way up. “I mean, I’m in L.A. too, it’s not like they don’t know that. We have a freaking group chat, technically.”
They all still change phone numbers a lot—even Steph—and keeping the current number in the chat is all the direct contact they’ve had after those final meetings, a year and a half ago.
After that final breakup.
At least, that’s what Eva thought. Maybe Celeste and Gina have stayed friends, quietly, without her.
“Evie, you’ve had other opportunities too,” her mom chides gently.
She means opportunities to reach out. To reconnect.
But her mom also knows why Eva wouldn’t contribute to the soundtrack for one of Gina’s movies. She knows why Eva didn’t bother to return the call from Celeste’s label—their old label— asking if Eva would write a song for what she, along with the rest of the fandom, was still thinking of as CR2. Celeste’s second album turned into the probably-going-platinum Silhouette, no thanks to Eva.
To her credit, the rep called back the next day and left Eva a second awkward voice mail, this one apologizing for intruding. She assured Eva this was all her idea, all the label’s idea, nothing to do with Celeste. As if Eva hadn’t known all that. With Hayley Kiyoko and Ariana Grande featured on separate Silhouette songs, it wasn’t like Celeste was hurting for collaborators.
“Work isn’t the same,” says Eva, keeping her voice harsh so it doesn’t wobble. “They went to a party.”
She continues to scroll through one of the tabloid articles, each additional photo accompanied by some new tidbit: attendance numbers at Celeste’s latest concert, the expected release month of Gina’s new Netflix series, what they’re both wearing. Gina’s natu- ral curls are longer than they were in the spring, when she’d had a short Afro while filming, and she’s working with a new stylist: bright, bold colors, shades that wouldn’t work on her pasty-white ex-bandmates.
Former bandmates, Eva means. That’s what the press always writes. She doesn’t know how their publicist got them all on board, but they were, they are. That’s what Eva said in interviews, back when she was still giving interviews. There’s something very bitter about that “ex” prefix, and they couldn’t have that.
And Celeste?
Celeste is . . .
Well.
In one picture, her hand is on Gina’s arm. She has a fresh, sil-
very manicure—nothing new there—and there are blue highlights in her hair, which are.
Gorgeous.
The word lodges in Eva’s throat.
“Try not to get too caught up in this, okay?” her mom says. Fifty percent of her ex (former) bandmates went to the hottest
party in town last night. The last time they’d gone to a party as a foursome, Steph was the only one who could vote.
Getting caught up in this isn’t a choice.
Her mom clears her throat. “Any plans for the day?” “Homework.”
“It’s just the one summer class, right?”
Eva’s nineteen years old, a chart-topping songwriter, and a
former member of a two-time Grammy Award–winning band— and her mom is still asking about her schoolwork. Eva wants to be annoyed about it—the worrying, the insistence that she not dwell for more than thirty seconds on people who used to shine so brightly in her life—but there’s a little tendril of gratitude, too. It loosens her shoulders. She flips her tablet facedown on her bed.
“Hope you’re okay with whatever weird December graduation speaker they get, two years from now,” Eva says.
Her mom’s right: it’s just the one summer class this year, but she’s planning on taking a full load the next two summers, so she can graduate two quarters early.
“You know I will be,” her mom says.
“And hey, you’ll get to see me onstage again, how about that?” Eva tries to keep her voice light. After the years of media training, you’d think she’d be able to do it, but even ex (former) pop stars can’t lie to their moms.
“I’ll be just as proud for this one as I was for all the others,” her mom says.
She really will be, is the thing. Eva’s not sure she’s there yet. Most days, she thinks she is. Today is an exception to all her new rules.
They hang up, and Eva conducts a quick self-survey about whether it’s worth getting dressed before breakfast. No class today, no studio sessions, so she’s free to never change, if she doesn’t want to. Most of the time, she still goes through the motions. It was freeing, those first couple of months, to be able to pick out her own clothes. It was the only good thing, really. Eva clung hard.
She’s kept a stylist on retainer—for the interviews she did right after, for that awful awards show in which she was the only one on hand to not accept the Grammy they didn’t win—but dresses herself, for the most part. She hasn’t lost the habit of getting most of her clothes tailored, though. It really does make a difference.
Eva wanders downstairs in her pajamas, opening the curtains as she goes. The midmorning Hollywood Hills sun streams in. She flops onto one of the couches, turning the pictures over in her mind, one element at a time, like if she can focus on just one thing—Gina’s hoop earrings, Celeste’s wedges—the whole will hurt less.
It doesn’t.
They can’t do this without me, Eva thinks. They’re not supposed to do anything without me.
The four of them scattered to the four winds: fine. But cutting Eva out like this? With no warning?
Stop, she tries to tell herself. Don’t go there.
But she sinks into it, falls under it, the feeling weighing her down stronger than gravity. Around her, the house seems to pul- sate with emptiness, a silent, remonstrative echo.
Nineteen is too young to have a house this big, except in L.A., and she couldn’t leave L.A., after. She wanted to stay stateside, a music city, and Celeste had already claimed New York. Where else was Eva going to go? Nashville?
So it was L.A. and a six-bedroom house for Eva.
Besides, she also had to think about where she was going to go to college. She’s the only one of them who has, properly, at least. Gina did an acting intensive last summer, or something, what- ever they’re called. She’s had some training, Eva means. They’re not casting her just for the publicity boost, and Eva will face down anyone who insinuates that they are.
Privately, that is. Anonymously. Eva doesn’t do those kinds of interviews anymore.
But there are limited options for a child star who wants to get a four-year degree without being a total freak on campus: Harvard, Brown, NYU, Stanford. And UCLA.
She had to meet with an academic adviser before her first quar- ter, who’d been surprised when Eva said she didn’t plan on adding a minor in music industry (a real option, who knew?) to her com- parative literature major.
Eva’s already put in three years full-time in the industry, thanks to the band, and she’s coming up on two years part-time, thanks to the breakup. Luckily, she’s in the part of the business that will sub- stitute experience for education. Thirty-plus songwriting credits and counting, four number one singles (and counting, probably). It’s not usually a hard sell.
Eva leverages herself off the couch and wanders into the kitchen. She puts Halsey on her speakers as she makes a smoothie for breakfast. It’s been that kind of morning. You need a voice like hers when you see your ex looking beautiful on the arm of another girl.
Even though Eva knows it’s never been like that between Celeste and Gina.
Even so.


Author Bio:

Miel Moreland was born and raised in Minneapolis, Minnesota. With time spent in California and France, she has a Midwestern heart but wandering feet. When not making pop music references and celebrating fandom, she is likely to be found drinking hot chocolate and making spreadsheets. She currently resides in Boston, where she works in higher education. It Goes Like This is her debut novel.

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Spotlight & Excerpt: Catnapped + Giveaway

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Catnapped
by R.J. Blain
(Magical Romantic Comedies, #14)
Publication date: May 11th 2021
Genres: Adult, Comedy, Urban Fantasy

When someone steals Diana’s cat, a former lab animal rescued from death’s door, she calls on one of the most dangerous beings in the universe for help. Cutting a deal with the devil isn’t the smartest move, but there’s no way in hell she’ll abandon Mr. Flooferson the Magnificent to his fate.

Teaming up with the son of a demon, an angel, and one hell of a woman might push Diana to the limits of her courage and sanity. Unless she wants to sell her soul to the devil, she must cope with her new partner, make the most of a bad situation, and find out who stole her cat and why.

What she learns will forever change humanity–and lead to a battle destined to forever change the heavens and the devil’s many hells.

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Excerpt:

Chapter One

Someone had taken Mr. Flooferson the Magnificent, and when I got my hands on the culprit, they would know the true meaning of fear. As my cat was terrified of the outdoors, strangers, and anything that reminded him of his former life as a lab animal, there was no way in hell he would’ve left the comforts of home without the use of force. I couldn’t even convince him to meet me at the door. He cried pitifully from the safety of the couch, some ten feet away, until I came into his domain and he could reassure himself I hadn’t left him like every other human in his life.
No, unlike every other human in his life, I showed him love without pain. In the shelter hosting the retired lab cats, he’d been the saddest of the lot, so terrified of everyone and everything that the shelter operators had considered putting him out of his misery. No one wanted the scared ones, the ones who couldn’t charm unsuspecting humans into adopting them.
Mr. Flooferson should have been on the couch waiting for me, but my door had been kicked in, the lock broken beyond repair. Worse, someone had torn the place apart and left with my cat and his fleece-lined carrier.
Had the bastard left my cat’s carrier, I might have believed my baby had run out of fear.
I cracked my knuckles one by one, scowled, and considered my options. The police would need to come over and check everything over. After the police flailed about and accomplished little, for they had more important things to do than investigate the loss of my cat, I would begin using every contact I could. While I was only a secretary within the CDC, secretaries held power.
Every day, I talked to the big wigs, the wealthy, and the powerful, and I earned their respect so I could smooth paths for my bosses, who needed to work with people all around the world.
I had the Devil on speed dial, and I wasn’t afraid of using his wife to get what I wanted. While I wouldn’t cut a deal with the Devil, I’d find a way to make him do my bidding.
Well, maybe I’d cut a deal with the Devil, but I wouldn’t bargain away my soul.
Nobody, and I meant nobody, would hurt my cat and get away with it.
I retrieved my cell from my purse and called the non-emergency line for the police, explaining that my home had been broken into and the thieves had stolen my cat and his carrier. My concern about my pet made the cop laugh, but he said he’d send a patrol over as soon as there was one available.
I’d been around the block often enough to understand nobody would be available any time soon.
All right. If the cops wanted to play games, I’d play.
I dialed the Devil, and if Satan gave me a hard time, I’d go straight to his wife and show him his little layer of hell had a new owner until my cat was safely home.
“Good evening, Diana. It’s after hours, and you never work from home unless the world is at a literal risk of ending. We aren’t scheduled for the End of Days at this moment. As I’m far too lazy to peek right now, what can I do for you?”
“You can help me find who stole my cat, flay the flesh from their bones, toss them into the nastiest pit of your hells, and give me a fiery whip so I can have some fun with the fuckers.”
Silence.
I gave the Devil as much time as he needed to realize he spoke to a crazy cat lady on a mission to murder some thieving assholes.
“Have you forgotten who I am, Diana?”
“I absolutely called you fully aware of who and what you are, and if you could put Darlene on the line if you’re not willing to help me find my cat, it would save me making a few other phone calls and knocking on your door in an hour. If I have to knock on your door in an hour, I’m going to redefine misery through hellfire for you. And if someone, and by someone I mean you, says it’ll be a cold day in hell first, I’ll come there and break all of your windows.”
Thanks to Darlene, I’d learned the Devil enjoyed his air conditioning, his hells followed a disturbing number of scientific rules, and only some serious magic on his windows and walls kept the heat outside where it belonged.
“That’s harsh for my electric bill.”
“As if you actually pay it. Assistance or put Darlene on the phone, Lucifer. Jack shit is up for negotiation today. Someone stole my cat.”
“This is the most fun I’ve had in a week. Since I call my daughter Cupcake, you’re just going to have to be Cookie.”
“No. I will have Darlene kill you if you start calling me Cookie. And once I send Darlene after you, I’m going to call Kanika and tell her. Once I’m done with her, I’ll go through every single one of your brothers until one of them agrees to help me put you in your place.”
“Don’t ruin my fun,” the Devil complained. “I need some fun today. Darlene made me clean up the dungeon this morning.”
“I will ruin every part of your life if you don’t help me find my cat.” I meant it, too. Maybe I was only a secretary, but I had three of the Devil’s brothers on speed dial, and I’d play the hardball. I would play so hard the entire planet tilted on its axis if necessary.
Nobody fucked with my cat.
The Devil laughed at me. “You know the rules, Snickerdoodle. I can’t fiddle much with mortal affairs, and the thieves are mere mortals. I’m sure you can handle them.”
Well, Snickerdoodle beat Cookie, so I’d ignore his idiocy in favor of rescuing my missing cat. “Does it look like I give a flying shit about the rules? The cop I called laughed at me and claimed he’d send someone over if they had somebody available. I live in fucking Miami. Do you know what that means? There’s nobody available, and there’ll be nobody available until the End of Days, and we’ll all be fucking dead then. They aren’t going to do jack shit about my trashed house, they aren’t going to investigate my missing cat, and Mr. Flooferson the Magnificent will be gone forever. I want my cat!”
“Mr. Flooferson… the Magnificent?”
I gave credit where credit was due; the Devil didn’t outright laugh at me. “Yes. That is my cat’s name.”
“Why did you name your cat that?”
“He’s a former lab animal, and the shelter was going to euthanize him because he was scared of people. He had good reason to be scared of people. That’s not his fault. He’s a beautiful long-haired cat, and it took me six months, but he lets me hold him now. He’s terrified of large spaces, and he won’t go within ten feet of the front door. I have to bring a vet to the house because I can’t stand the thought of taking him somewhere that might remind him of a lab. They could be torturing my baby. Why would they break into my house and take my cat?”
I didn’t give a shit if the Devil thought less of me for the waver in my voice. Focusing on my breathing, I lifted my chin and prepared to wage war against the ruler of some ridiculous number of hells.
“I would suggest you look into what sort of lab studies he was involved with. If they were testing new drugs, for example, someone might want to recover him to observe long-term consequences of drug exposure. There are many reasons why someone might want to recover a former lab animal. Alternatively, why might someone want to steal your cat? You have many contacts, myself included. It could be less about your cat and more about manipulating you because you love your cat.”
“Damn fucking straight I love my cat, you cat-spanked devil!”
“I would accuse you of leveling a low blow at me, but I do very much enjoy being spanked by my cat. She’s a most lovely feline, and one of my favorite hobbies is playing with her spots. If I’m really good, she might even come out as her natural form.”
“I will beg her to never let you see one of her prized spots ever again.”
“I should recruit you to become one of my generals. You would whip the chaos right out of my hells within a week. My hells would be immaculately run. I should demand you run my hells for a while in exchange for recovering your cat.”
“I have no interest in going to hell as a resident or a visitor, thank you. Now, about Mr. Flooferson the Magnificent. Which is more probable? That someone wants him because of what he went through as a lab animal, or that someone wants to manipulate me?”
“In my most humble opinion, I believe that either is equally probable. Was your cat part of a reputable lab?”
Since when did the Devil think of himself as humble? I almost laughed. Instead, I cleared my throat to buy myself a moment to regain my composure. “I have no idea. I just saw there were lab animals in need of loving homes, and I decided my home would be the most loving of homes. I will hurt you if you disagree with me.”
The Devil laughed at me. “If someone took your cat because of its history as a lab animal, it would have been rescued from an illegal operation. The legal operations are under regulations to keep the animals happy—and as healthy as possible. Those labs would not try to reclaim an animal. The government has been phasing out animal testing in favor of cutting large checks to humans with the appropriate conditions. They have also been clearing off criminal records in exchange for some pain and suffering, too.”
“This is an excellent reminder to maintain my record of being a law-abiding citizen.”
“You’re disgustingly law-abiding, yes. You should indulge in some evil. We’d have a great time.”
“No, but thank you for your most generous offer, Lucifer.”
“Are you sure? Your soul would provide me with decades of entertainment. I would convert you into one of my most prized devils. A general who would take over most of my hells by storm and sometimes answer to me when it’s truly necessary.”
I considered his offer. “What do you call a female devil, anyway?”
“A devil.”
“That’s lame. Demonesses are better named.”
“I’m sure I could come up with an appropriately feminine title for your enjoyment.”
“I’m sure you could, but I must refuse your most generous offer at this time. Now, about my cat. Are you going to help, or am I going to be having a long talk with Darlene?”
The Devil heaved a sigh. “You’re almost as bad as my daughter. Must you, Diana?”
“I must. Someone stole my cat, the police aren’t taking me seriously, and if I don’t figure out what I need to do to get my cat back, I’ll take over your realm, and then I’ll storm the heavens if I must.” It would take more work to access the heavens, but I could make use of some other contacts—or twist the Devil’s arm into helping me somehow.
“I’ll beg, but please storm the heavens. It would be spectacular. My darling thought about storming the heavens once, but then He got the bright idea of inviting her for tea and dainty little sandwiches, and she loves it. Worse, she makes me go with her.”
“It’s not like I want to keep the heavens. I don’t even want to go there. Come on, just get your ass over here and make the police take me seriously. Bring Darlene, so when I start crying, she can yell at you while I’m coming to terms with my inability to kill you or get my hands on the fuckers responsible for taking my cat and destroying my house.”
“Any other requests?”
“My cat!”
“I can’t do that, Diana. You know I’m not permitted to interfere with mortal matters outside of a bargain, and I have no bargain allowing me access to this matter. You would have to bargain with me.”
I loved my cat, but I also didn’t want to lose my immortal soul for my cat. “Can bargains be for something other than my soul? I like my soul, Lucifer.”
“I’m very aware of your possessiveness over your soul. You would deny even Him.”
That I would. “I like my soul precisely where it is, in my possession, where no nasty beings, yourself included, can meddle with it. But I’ll bargain if you can come up with something that does not result in the loss of my soul.”
“You will accept a partner of my choosing for this venture. For however long it takes you to recover your cat and bring the catnappers to justice, and we’ll define precisely what justice means as a part of our bargain. Until I have declared justice has been secured, you will work with this individual of my choosing. You will spend a minimum of two hours a day with this individual, who likewise owes me a favor and was wise enough to safeguard his soul from me and my rather evil activities.”
I rolled my eyes, as the Devil talked loud and often about his evils but rarely dished them out. I’d met convicts who’d sinned far worse than the Devil on a bad day.
“Rude,” the Devil complained.
“But true. Why do you want me to spend time with this individual?”
“Both of his fathers have severely annoyed me, and it will be highly entertaining if I can force him to live up to a bargain.”
Shit. The Devil had bargained with the son of a triad? Trouble was the Devil having anything to do with a triad at all. “Demon?” I asked, contemplating tossing up a few prayers to mitigate some of the issues the child of a triad brought around when they showed up.
“Nope.”
Damn it. “You seriously let one of your devils out to go on a fling with an angel?”
“Archangel.”
I already regretted calling the devil. “You have got to be fucking kidding me.”
“If only. The devil in question, who happens to be one of my generals, begged. I hate when they get to the point of begging. The archangel, well, that was a poorly chosen promise in a moment of weakness.”
“A poorly chosen promise in a moment of weakness?”
“He claimed if that specific general happened to ever be brought low by a woman, that he would demand proof. Somehow, that became the foundation of a triad.” The Devil laughed. “I’ve stopped worrying about when the heavens and my hells mix. We’re one big, demented family. He approved, so that’s that. Watching one of my generals be brought low by a woman? Truly delightful—especially after he’d spent time mocking me about Darlene. To sweeten the deal? He fell for his bride shortly after Darlene stormed my gates. The best of women storm gates to places, I’ve noticed. Their son is younger than you are, but not by much, and thanks to his genetics, he matured early.”
I snorted at that, almost pitying the son of a high-ranked devil, an archangel, and someone who likely classed as one hell of a woman. “Only an idiot mocks you or your wife.”
“I thought about putting him in time out for a few thousand years, but him being brought low by a woman worked out for the better. And anyway, he likes Darlene, but he does enjoy when he gets to be a pest. He’s become even bolder, as Darlene likes him. Darlene would prefer if he sticks to a humanoid form while wearing a suit, which has basically become his dress code. Darlene being happy means everyone has a much higher chance of being happy. Anyway, your partner is thirty-two, he takes after his human mother too much for your good, and he’s rather determined.”
“The last thing I need is a determined man in my life, Lucy.”
“I’m aware, which is part of what makes this so much fun. Will you bargain, Diana?”
“I will discuss the idea of a bargain with you, but I will not agree to any bargain until I hear all the details. And I’m expecting a bribe of you making the police take this seriously in order to open negotiations once you’re here.”
“Excellent. Do expect company within an hour, and I will bring your new partner with me so you have all of the fine print you so love in front of you—and if you’re particularly unfortunate, I’ll bring his parents as well.”
“You’re an asshole, Lucifer.”
“I really am. Wear something nice.” The Devil hung up on me, leaving me all by myself to scream my frustration over the situation.
After screeching a few curses, I drew in some calming breaths, decided to ignore his commentary about my clothes, and waited for trouble to come knocking at my door.

 

Author Bio:

RJ Blain suffers from a Moleskine journal obsession, a pen fixation, and a terrible tendency to pun without warning.

In her spare time, she daydreams about being a spy. Her contingency plan involves tying her best of enemies to spinning wheels and quoting James Bond villains until satisfied.

Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

 

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Spotlight & Excerpt: Val + Giveaway

Val

Val
by Jennie Lynn Roberts
(The Hawks #2)
Publication date: April 22nd 2021
Genres: Adult, Fantasy, Romance

He’ll do anything to save her. And then he’ll say goodbye…

Being framed for murder, captured, and tortured for weeks didn’t break Val. But seeing Alanna every day, knowing she didn’t love him as he loved her, surely would. So, he’ll do whatever is necessary to stop the king from executing her…then he’ll walk away. Forever.

Queen Alanna gave up everything—including her soul mate— to secure the treaty that would end the war. Now, her husband wants her dead and any chance she had for true happiness with Val is ruined.

The king’s new guards are arrayed against them, the threat of war looms large, and their enemy has the upper hand. When all is said and done, will Alanna choose to sacrifice her own happiness to save her kingdom? Or will she risk it all for a second chance at happily ever after with Val?

Val, book 2 in The Hawks series, is a sexy, steamy, adult fantasy romance full of swords, shifters (kind of), and tons of action. But fair warning: This book is intended only for readers who love slow burn romance, fast-paced adventure, soul mates and found family—and characters who curse when they fight for survival. If that’s you, happy reading.

Goodreads / Amazon

Excerpt:

Val turned around and walked away, his appetite gone. He was wrong about waiting one more day, or even one more minute. It was time to go.
A soft voice called his name, but he ignored it.
He let himself into his tent and stopped, letting his head fall forward and his wings drop. He didn’t even know what he was doing there. The neatly tied bedroll, the folded blankets, even the clothes on his back—none of them were his. He had nothing. No possessions to pack, no home to return to. Nothing to hold him.
He could go, now, immediately. Take whatever scraps of his pride were left and set himself free.
He spun, ready to leave, and walked straight into Alanna, knocking her off her feet.
She had been so silent, or perhaps he’d been so lost in his misery that he hadn’t heard her come into the tent behind him. He hadn’t realized she was there, but now she gasped, flailing as she fell, and he reached out to catch her slim arms and pull her back to safety, into his chest.
He held her there, warm and alive against his body, her wide green eyes looking up into his, just for a second.
And then he leaped back, pulling his hands away in horror as if she’d burned him. And in some ways, she had.
They stood, staring at each other in silence as hurt flickered in her eyes. Well. What did she want from him?
She looked away for a moment, and then, seeming to gather herself, clasped her hands in front of her body and met his eyes. “Good morning.”
He sighed. She had put them right back to where they’d started. Polite and formal. Distant. He hated it.
He wanted to push past her and walk away, but he knew how the court had treated her for so long, how badly it had wounded her, and he couldn’t bring himself to do it.
He nodded his head formally. “Your Majesty.”
She rolled her shoulders back and lifted her chin, a spark of anger flickering in those luminous eyes. “Alanna.”
He had only ever called her Alanna once, and she had thrown it back in his face. He wasn’t going to make that mistake again.
“What do you want, Your Majesty?” he asked roughly.
“Alanna.”
Gods. She was so strong and proud, standing with her back straight and chin up. So beautiful. He wanted to unravel those infuriating braids and run his hands through her silky hair. He wanted to unlace her jerkin and pull her bare skin against his. He wanted to lean down and worship her with his mouth and never let her go.
He took a step back and folded his arms. “I’m not in the mood for games.”
“What are you in the mood for?”
Had any other woman said those words, they would have been intentionally seductive, and he couldn’t help the flood of images his imagination immediately supplied.
But not Alanna. She looked genuinely curious, one pale eyebrow lifted as she watched him, waiting patiently for his answer.
Gods. She had absolutely no idea what she did to him. And she never would.
He turned his back on her and walked further into the tent. “I’m in the mood for you to go away so that I can pack.”
“Pack?”
He shrugged, refusing to look at her. They both knew that he had nothing to pack.
“Why are you packing?” she asked eventually.
“I’m leaving. Today.”
There was a moment’s silence and then a soft footfall. A gentle hand landed on his arm and his muscles quivered with the conflicting torture of how desperately he wanted her to touch him, and the need to throw her off before he did something they both regretted.
“Okay.” She sounded so sad and resigned that he almost turned to look at her. He wished that she would argue, ask him to stay. It wouldn’t change anything, but it would have been nice to think she cared for him, just a little.
But she didn’t. He gritted his teeth and kept his face away.
She sighed and asked softly, “Where are we going?”
What?
He didn’t understand why she had asked the question. But he definitely understood that she was going to stay with the squad that could protect her. And that he was going far away. By himself.

Author Bio:

Jennie Lynn Roberts believes that every strong, kickass heroine should have control of her own story, a swoony hero to support her at every turn, and a guaranteed happily ever after. Because that doesn’t always happen in real life, she began creating her own worlds that work just the way they should. And she hasn’t looked back since.

Jennie would rather be writing than doing anything else—except for spending time with her gorgeous family, of course. But when she isn’t building vibrant new worlds, she can be found nattering with friends, baking up a storm, or strolling in the woods around her home in England.

If you want to talk books, romance, movies, reluctant heroes, or just about anything else with Jennie, feel free to contact her atwww.jennielynnroberts.com. But be prepared to settle in for a long chat if you bring up shifters, vampires, Star Wars, or The Princess Bride….

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