Tag - Excerpt

THIRDS Thursday - 4/5/18 Love and Payne Excerpt + Giveaway

Hello, all! April has arrived, and for me that means edits, edits, edits. This month I'm working on edits for Love in Spades and Love and Payne. Plus I'm writing the second Kings book Be Still My Heart. These fellas are certainly keeping me busy!

For this week's THIRDS Thursday we have an excerpt from Zach and Austen's book, Love and Payne. Don't worry, no spoilers included! I'm so excited about introducing you all to the Zachary clan. Zach and Austen's book has been a long time coming. I hope you all enjoy following these two on their road to love. You can bet it's going to be a bumpy ride!

Also, there's a giveaway! Check the end of the post for more info.

Love and Payne Excerpt

“Who the fuck are you guys?” Edan asked, his wide eyes on Brayden.

“You okay?” Brayden asked, stepping up to Edan, his expression softening. “Did they hurt you?”

What the hell? “I’m fine, buddy. Thanks for asking,” Austen said dryly, catching his breath.

Brayden gave Austen a sheepish smile. “Sorry.”

“Whatever.” Austen waved a hand in dismissal before dropping onto the couch. Not like he could—or wanted to—compete with eye candy like Edan. The guy was sexy as sin, with bad boy looks and muscles to spare.

Colin glanced from Austen to Brayden and back before erupting. “What the ever-loving fuck is going on!”

Austen let out a snort. “And he says I curse a lot.”

Bram stood at the foot of Zach’s bed. “Caley said Zach’s boyfriend was in trouble.”

“I’m not his boyfriend,” Austen said with a heavy sigh. Why the hell did everyone think he was Zach’s boyfriend? Wait…. Austen sat up and peered at Edan, who was Zach’s partner in crime. The two were always together. “Did he tell you I was his boyfriend?”

Bram shook his head, and Colin let out a snort, his amber eyes boring into Austen. “If our baby brother had a boyfriend, he would have told us.”

“Well….”

Everyone turned to look at Edan, who cleared his throat, addressing Austen. “He never specifically used the word boyfriend, but the way he talks about you, and how often he talks about you, made me wonder. You’re Austen Payne, right? SSA for Destructive Delta.”

Colin frowned at his brother. “How come this is the first time I’m hearing about this?”

Edan rolled his eyes. “Because you go all Terminator protector mode on him. You know how much he hates that.”

Colin narrowed his eyes, then moved his wary gaze to Austen. “You and I are going to have a long talk about this.”

“No, we’re not,” Austen said, getting up. “Here’s what’s going to happen.” He pointed at Bram. “You’re going to call Lieutenant Sparks and tell her exactly what happened. She’ll take it from there.” He moved his finger to Edan. “You will relay to your lieutenant whatever Sparks tells you.” He turned to Colin. “And you’re going to make sure no one in your family knows what happened here. Meanwhile, I’m going to find a safe place to hide Zach.”

Colin moved forward. “Are you out of your mind? Who the hell do you think you are?”

Austen stepped up to Colin and poked him in the chest. “I’m the guy who’s going to keep your brother alive. Now you listen here. I’m only going to say this once. My priority is keeping Zach safe. Someone sent two trained killers after your brother. They won’t be the last. How do I know that?” He crouched beside the wolf Therian he’d killed, and pulled down the glove to reveal a tattoo of a black heart shredded through with a clawed hand around it. “Because these guys belong to the same network of killers for hire.”

“And you think the THIRDS can’t keep him safe?” Colin asked, sounding affronted. “You think you can keep him safe?” He let out a derisive laugh, and Austen bristled.

“You’re not just an SSA,” Edan said, looking from Austen to Brayden and back, “are you?”

Brayden gave nothing away. He came to stand beside Austen, his hands clasped in front of him.

“I’ve never seen SSAs fight like that.” Edan crossed his tree-trunk arms over his wide chest. “Considering your connections, I’m going to go with TIN.”

The air was sucked out of the room, the two remaining Zachary brothers staring at them in stunned silence.

“I can neither confirm nor deny that information. What I can confirm is that your brother is in someone’s crosshairs, and as skilled as you and your brothers are, my security clearance and skillset are above your paygrade. I can keep him safe.”

“And we’re just supposed to take your word for it? If you really are TIN, then for all we know your being here is what put him in danger in the first place,” Colin snarled, his hands curling into fists as he took a step toward Austen. Brayden placed himself between Colin and Austen. He had to lift his chin and stand on his toes, but the growl that followed his hiss was impressive for a guy who looked about as terrifying as a fluffy bunny.

“Listen here. Austen has been doing this far longer than you have. If he says he’s the best guy for the job, he’s the best guy for the job.”

“I don’t care who you guys are,” Colin spat, looming over them with a menacing scowl. “We’re his brothers. There’s no way in hell we’re going to stand down.”

Bram nodded his agreement. “We’re involved whether you like it or not. He’s our baby brother, so we’re not going to leave him out there on his own. I don’t care who you work for or how good you guys are.”

Austen knew enough about the Zacharys to know the brothers weren’t going to back down. Bear Therians were almost as stubborn as lion Therians. Almost. Austen let out a heavy sigh.

“Okay. But just Bram and Edan.”

“No way,” Colin ground out. “You’re not keeping me out of this.”

“You got kids. Hell, you have grandkids, Colin.” Austen shook his head. “I’m not having that shit on my conscience.”

“This isn’t up for discussion,” Colin stated firmly.

Goddamn bear Therians and their stubborn asses.

GIVEAWAY

Hello, all! I'm giving away a THIRDS swag pack which includes this snazzy TIN tote bag! Giveaway is open internationally.

To enter just leave a comment below with which THIRDS couple/characters you want to see get their book next!

Giveaway ends April 30th at midnight EST. Please allow a week for shipment of your goodies.

*** WINNER UPDATE ***

Thank you all so much for joining in the fun! Chosen at random, the winner is Didi P.! If you didn't win this time around, don't worry, we have more giveaways heading this way! Thank you!


#TeaserTuesday - 9/5/17 Soldati Hearts, Book 3

Hello, all! This week’s #TeaserTuesday is a snippet from my current work in progress, book 3 in the Soldati Hearts series. Happy reading!

“Easy there, cub.”

Ezra bristled at the annoying nickname. He lifted his gaze, and narrowed his eyes at the mountain of an Orso blocking his path. Honestly. The man’s stature alone was enough to block out the sun. Why was he so blasted tall? And wide. And… smiling. Why was he smiling at Ezra? Not that there was anything wrong with smiling, but Ezra had done nothing to warrant such a reaction.

“I am not a cub,” Ezra replied with a huff. “Why do you keep calling me that?” He tried to peer around General Segreti to no avail. Perhaps if he stood on his toes? Well that certainly didn’t help. He couldn’t even see over Segreti’s shoulders.

“Because you remind me of a cub. All young, soft, and innocent. What are you doing?”

“I may be young,” Ezra said, lifting his chin proudly, “but I am a Soldati warrior, and hardly innocent.” Where the blasted hell did it go? With a frustrated grunt, he planted his fists on his hips. “General Segreti, if you wouldn’t mind stepping aside. I fear I have lost my quarry.”

Segreti turned to look behind him. “There’s nothing there.”

“Now there isn’t. But there was before you blocked my path.”

“What exactly did you lose?”

“The Eye.”

Segreti peered at him. “The Eye? As in the Soldati Eye? Are you saying you lost the Soldati Eye?”

Ezra let out an exasperated sigh. Perhaps if he exerted some physical effort, he might get Segreti to move. He prodded Segreti, but the man didn’t seem to even notice. Goodness, it was as if he were made of granite. “Of course not. I didn’t lose it. It’s merely hiding from me.”

“Hiding.” Segreti arched an eyebrow at him. “You speak of the Eye as if it has a mind of its own.”

Ezra blinked at him. “That’s because it does, General. Sort of.”

Segreti opened his mouth to reply then closed it. He shook his head, as if attempting to understand. “Why is it hiding from you?”

“Because it’s bored.” Ezra threw his arms up. “I have no bloody notion as to why it does anything. Now would you please step aside so that I might find the blasted thing?”

“Easy there—”

“So help me, if you call me “cub” I’ll—”

“Calm yourself,” Segreti said gently, placing his large hands on Ezra’s shoulders. It should have irritated Ezra. He did not like to be touched. Segreti was incredibly tender despite his very large frame. “Come, I will help you find it.”

Ezra frowned. “You will?”

“Of course.” He winked at Ezra. “I can hardly leave such a charming Soldati in distress.”

Charming? Him? Ezra let out an indelicate snort. What nonsense. If Rayner were here he’d have laughed himself to tears. Why Segreti would think such a thing was beyond Ezra. Regardless, if Segreti wished to be of assistance, Ezra would not deny him, even if he was perfectly capable of finding the Eye on his own.


Copyright © 2017 Charlie Cochet. The Soldati Hearts series is published by Dreamspinner Press.

#TeaserTuesday - 4/4/17 The Foxling Soldati

Hello, all! This week's teaser is from The Foxling Soldati, book 2 in the Soldati Hearts series which is currently in edits and due for release late July.

A fierce roar echoed through the woods, and Toka gave a start. His heart beating wildly. It was Khalon. He giggled at Rayner’s deadpan expression when he spoke.

“I swear it’s as if he knows I’m enjoying myself.”

Toka gave Rayner a playful shove. “Go on. Your king summons you.”

“Oh, I see how it is,” Rayner teased, drawing Toka into his strong arms. “When he’s being a pain in the backside, he’s my king, but when he’s being magnanimous, he’s our king.” Rayner growled and nipped at Toka’s neck. The scoundrel.

Toka couldn’t help his laugh. “You are a rogue of the worst kind, sir. Charming foxlings with that handsome face and naughty smile. Having your wicked way with them in forests only to leave them pining for your touch.”

Rayner paused. He looked worried as he studied Toka. “You don’t really believe that, do you? That I have my wicked way with other foxlings?” He brushed his fingers down Toka’s jaw. “I promise you, you’re the only foxling I desire.”

Toka smiled sweetly, and he cupped Rayner’s cheek. He smiled and stood on his toes to give Rayner’s lips a sweet kiss. “I know I’m the only foxling you desire.” His smile turned mischievous. “However, the rest is true. You’re handsome, have a naughty smile, you’ve had your wicked way with me, and I’ll most certainly be pining for your touch the moment you step away.”

Rayner licked his bottom lip, his amber eyes glowing with a familiar fire. “Well, I suppose I’ll have to make certain I don’t leave you without my touch for very long.”

Toka pressed himself against Rayner, took Rayner’s hand, and placed it to his backside. “I’ll be waiting.”

“Oh, but I see I’m not the only one who’s wicked,” Rayner said with a groan. Another roar resounded through the woods, and Rayner sighed. Their king was not the most patient man. Rayner took Toka’s hand in his and brought it to his lips for a kiss. “Until our next encounter, my foxling.”

Toka nodded, watching Rayner turn, then break into a run, as sleek and graceful in his human form as he was in his feline body. Rayner changed into his tiger form and stopped to look over his shoulder with a chuff before running off. Toka placed a hand to his rapidly beating heart, unable to believe what had happened. He could barely contain his grin. For the first time in centuries, he felt… so wonderfully happy. It was foolish to think he and Rayner could have a future together, and yet his heart was filled with so much hope.


#TeaserTuesday - 2/21/17 Darkest Hour Before Dawn (THIRDS, Book 9)

Hello, all! This week’s Teaser Tuesday is a snippet from Seb and Hudson's book Darkest Hour Before Dawn which is book nine in the THIRDS series, and now available for pre-order! Enjoy!

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“How are you doing today?” Hudson tried to summon a smile. The least he could do was be civil, for Seb’s sake. The brothers were closer than ever, and Hudson wasn’t about to come between them. Rafe squinted at him, and Hudson let out a soft sigh. “I’m not being snide. I’m genuinely interested.”

Rafe still had a way to go to redeem himself in Hudson’s eyes, but Hudson felt for him. Having known the Hobbs family for years, being present for some of Thomas’s worst days, Hudson wouldn’t wish the condition on anyone. The knowledge that Rafe would one day end up in a wheelchair like his father, at the mercy of agonizing pain, hurt Hudson. Rafe was Seb and Ethan’s big brother. A huge tiger Therian, built of what seemed like solid muscle. At seven foot two and over three hundred pounds, he eclipsed Hudson’s smaller wolf Therian frame. As big as Seb was, Rafe was just that tiny bit bigger, certainly broader. It saddened Hudson. Rafe hadn’t always hated him. Once upon a time, Rafe had been kind to him, even smiled.

“I’m okay,” Rafe replied. He cleared his throat, looking larger than life as he sat across from Hudson. “Thank you for asking.”

Hudson nodded. “What can I do for you?”

“I wanted to talk to you about Nina. I know things are still strained between the two of you, and it’s my fault. She did it to protect me. Please, don’t be mad at her. She loves you, Hudson. If you could only see how much pain she’s in, how much she misses you.”

The last six months had been rather awkward. Although Hudson was on speaking terms with Nina, their relationship had suffered greatly. How could they get back to the way things were after she’d purposefully kept him in the dark? For months, day after day, she’d looked him in the eye, going on as if nothing had happened, and all the while sharing Rafe’s bed.

“I would have thought you’d be happy to be rid of me once and for all. She’s the only connection left between me and your family.” There was no bitterness in Hudson’s voice, only sadness.

Rafe straightened, looking affronted. “How can you say that? You’re connected to my brother in the most significant way possible, which, by the way, I don’t get you. You took three bullets for him, are obviously still as much in love with him now as you were then, and he worships you, yet you keep pushing him away. Why won’t you come home?”

Hudson inhaled sharply. Rafe’s words hit him harder than expected. “Why… why would you say such a thing?”

“That you two should be together?”

“No. That I should come home.”

Rafe raked a hand through his hair and let out a heavy sigh. He appeared to give a lot of thought to the question, as if trying to find the right words.

“Fuck it.” Rafe met Hudson’s gaze, his eyes intense. “Because you’re a part of our family, always were. You’re his home, Hudson. He’s been lost since you left, and I don’t want to see him in pain anymore. He deserves to be happy, and that’ll never happen without you. He needs you. My family needs you. My mom misses the hell out of you. She’s always asking about you. Ethan misses you, my dad—”

“Don’t,” Hudson pleaded, blinking back the tears in his eyes. “Please don’t use Thomas.”

“It’s the truth. You may not want to hear it, but that’s the way it is. We are your pack, Hudson. You walked away from us, and yes, I hated you for a long time for what I believed you were doing to my brother, but I think I also resented you.”

Hudson was stunned. “For what?”

“For leaving. No one blamed you. Okay, I blamed you, but I was an asshole. My mom, dad, Ethan, Seb, none of them blamed you. They just wanted you home.”


Copyright © 2017 Charlie Cochet. THIRDS published by Dreamspinner Press.


#TeaserTuesday - 2/7/17 The Foxling Soldati (Soldati Hearts, Book 2)

Hello, all! This week’s Teaser Tuesday is a snippet from Toka and Rayner's book, The Foxling Soldati which is book two in the Soldati Hearts series! Enjoy!

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[Khalon] stood and stretched before leaning over to kiss the top of Riley’s head. “You must meet with Uburto regarding your ceremonial wardrobe for the evening of the banquet.”

Riley wrinkled his nose. “He’s going to drown me in layers again, isn’t he?”

Rayner held back a laugh at Riley’s pout. His princely ceremonial garb was a far cry from the T-shirts and jeans Riley had been accustomed to wearing when he first arrived in the Soldati realm. Come to think of it, any princely garb he wore was a far cry from his previous human wardrobe. During events that required Riley to wear more than his trousers and a simple jerkin over a shirt, Riley had a habit of discretely shedding pieces of his clothing as the evening went on, much to Rayner’s amusement, and Khalon’s befuddlement.

Khalon hadn’t quite known what to do the first time it happened. One moment Riley was dressed in various layers, including a regal cape, next moment he was in his trousers, and a thin royal tunic over his shirt. Rayner was quite certain the man hadn’t even worn a belt. The most fascinating part was that after the initial shock wore off, no one cared. They were all so charmed by Riley that the man’s lack of royal attire became no consequence, simply another quirk of the dashing Soldati Prince.

“I know,” Khalon said through a chuckle. “It’s not as if you’ll be wearing it for long.” He gave Riley a pointed look, but the sternness was gone the moment Riley’s cheeks went pink. Khalon realized what Riley had taken his words to mean, and coughed into his hand. “What I mean, is um, you tend to remove your clothes, um….”

“Not helping,” Riley muttered.

“Right. I’m going to go... do the things.” Khalon pointed to the door.

“Yeah, you go do the things,” Riley said, his lips pressed together as Khalon rounded his desk. Khalon narrowed his eyes at Rayner as he walked by.

“Oh, be quiet.”

Rayner suppressed a grin, and held his hands up in front of him. “I didn’t say anything.” Grumbling to himself, Khalon left the office, and Rayner fell back against the chair with a laugh. “The man is absolutely hopeless around you.”

Riley let out what sounded like a dreamy sigh. “Yeah, he’s something all right.”

“You two are adorable.”

Riley gave a sniff. “Now I know why he’s always telling you to be quiet.”

“A very noble attempt on his part,” Rayner teased.


Copyright © 2016 Charlie Cochet. Soldati Hearts published by Dreamspinner Press.


THIRDS Thursday - 11/17/16

THIRDS Thursdays Prompt: I'd love to read about Ash and Cael going to brunch with Ash's mom. Thanks so much!!

“This is ridiculous.”

Ash scowled at himself in the mirror. He’d been at this for an hour now. He turned to Cael with a frown. He lay the gray tie over his charcoal gray shirt beneath his collar.

“Tie or no tie?”

Cael smiled warmly as he crossed the bedroom to stop in front of Ash. He placed his hand over Ash’s, his voice gentle when he spoke.

“Ash, do you think your mom’s going to be happier to see you or the tie?”

Ash blinked at him. “Well, when you put it that way.” He tossed the tie onto the bed then turned to draw Cael into his arms. “Thank you.”

“For what?” Cael cocked his head, and Ash chuckled softly. How could Cael not see how much his support meant to him?

“For being here. For coming with me.” Ash brushed his fingers down Cael’s cheek. “I don’t think I could have done this without you.” He swallowed hard, still unable to believe he was going to be having brunch with his mother. There wasn’t a whole lot that Ash really gave a shit about. Very little ruffled his mane, because that would mean it mattered to him. Yeah, he bitched and griped, but that was mostly things pissing him off in general, but really get to him, enough to make him nervous? No.

A part of Ash was hesitant, telling himself it was too little too late. Why hadn’t she stood up to his father years ago, when he’d needed her most? He’d just lost his brother, and then shifted for the first time. He’d been terrified, in need of the woman who’d hugged them close at bedtime, and told them stories. Where was she when his father turned on him? The man had been an asshole, always. He’d looked for any excuse to “discipline” him and Arlo, though Ash had done his bets to keep his brother away from their father’s belt.

“Ash? Talk to me.”

Ash shook himself out of it, finding Cael’s hand on his where Ash had it over his cheek. He’d been rubbing it without realizing.

“I got hit in the face once, with the buckle of my dad’s belt. He used the end with the buckle because it would hurt more.” Ash wrinkled his nose at the memory. “Usually it was where our clothes would cover the marks, but I'd made the mistake of talking back. Actually, I think I was pleading with him. If I talked back, I was insubordinate and needed discipline. If I surrendered, I was pathetic.” Ash walked over to the bed and sat on the edge of it, his head in his hands. “Maybe this is a bad idea. She didn’t just throw me away, she let him hurt us. I’m sure he hit her too. We just didn’t see it. Why didn’t she do anything?”

The bed sank down beside him, and Cael’s soft voice broke through his pain.

“Maybe she was too scared. Terrified of what he’d do if she left. Where would she go? Who would she ask for help? What if they thought she was too weak to take care of herself? Maybe it was all so terrifying, and overwhelming that she didn’t know how to help herself, much less her kids.”

Ash straightened, his heart squeezing in his chest at Cael staring down at his fingers. “Cael?”

“I’m not saying you shouldn’t feel how you feel, or that she couldn't have done more. I’m just saying I understand how scared she must have been.”

Ash drew Cael into his arms. He kissed the top of his head and ran a hand over his back, soothing him. “I’m sorry I dragged you into my drama.”

Cael pulled back, a deep frown on his face. “You didn’t drag me into anything, Ash. I love you, and I want to be here for you no matter what. This is about you, what you feel, and what you want. It’s not about me. What I feel doesn’t matter.”

“It matters to me,” Ash replied firmly. “You are the most important person in my life, Cael. Don’t ever question that.”

Cael’s smile reached his big gray eyes. He threw his arms around Ash’s neck, and kissed him. Ash wrapped his arms around him as he returned Cael’s kiss. He was warm, soft, and tasted deliciously sweet. Ash was tempted to stay right here, in bed, with Cael in his arms, kissing him, making love to him.

As if reading his thoughts, Cael smiled against his lips. “We should get going.”

Ash huffed. “Fine.”

Cael chuckled, and stood. He held his hand out to Ash, which Ash promptly took.

“You look amazing.”

Cael looked down at himself, tugging on the end of his gray vest, and shrugged, but there was no mistaking the blush in his cheeks. “It’s nothing special.”

The dark jeans looked fucking sexy on his lithe frame, and the preppy gray vest over the fitted blue and gray checked shirt accentuated his slender waist. The top button of the collar was open, and the sleeves neatly folded up to his elbows. Ash was still amazed that Cael wanted to be with him. He was just so damned… beautiful.

Ash placed a kiss to the top of Cael’s head. “You’re something special.”

“You’re such a big softie,” Cael purred, standing on his toes to give Ash’s lips a kiss.

“Only for you,” Ash teased. Fuck, he really was turning into such a sap. As long as Dex didn’t get wind of it, he’d be fine. Besides, it wasn’t like Sloane wasn’t a total sucker for Dex, and he didn’t care who knew it.

Ash laced his fingers with Cael’s, and they headed for the door. The café they’d chosen near Central Park was cozy, and when they arrived, his mother was already there. She’d gotten them a table near the back which Ash appreciated. It offered them a little more privacy. A lump formed in his throat when she smiled at him. She stood, and made to move toward him but stopped herself. As if she wasn’t sure she should, so he took the initiative, kissing her cheek.

“Hi.”

“Hi.” Her eyes were glassy as patted his arm. She smiled brightly at Cael, and gave him a hug. “Cael, it’s so good to see you again.”

Cael smiled sweetly. “It’s good to see you too, Vivian.” He took a seat across from her, and Ash sat beside Cael. The waitress came, and they put in their order for coffees and pastries. Food was the last thing Ash wanted right now. Cael and Vivian exchanged pleasantries until the waitress returned with their drinks and food. Cael thanked the young woman, and took a sip of his decaf coffee, the table falling into silence. Ash noted the way his mother absently shifted the cutlery, or touched her cup without picking it up. She was nervous. Finally, she looked up at him.

“Thank you for coming. I wasn’t sure you would.” She dropped her gaze to her lap. “I wasn’t sure why you answered my call to be honest. I wouldn’t have blamed you if you told me… to never contact you again.”

Cael pressed his thigh to Ash’s, letting him know he was there, and Ash found the courage to speak up. How was it he suddenly felt like a little boy again? How did she still feel like his mother after so many years apart? After she’d abandoned him.

“I wanted to give you a chance,” Ash admitted. “I think we both deserve a second chance. In all honesty, I was surprised you called, and even more surprised you’d left him.”

She nodded. “After seeing you… I couldn’t go back to the way things were. I missed my baby boy.” Tears filled her eyes, and Ash placed his hand over hers, doing his best to remain quiet and composed while she said what she clearly needed to. “I failed you in so many ways, you and your brother. Before and… after.” She shook her head, her bottom lip trembling. “I was so scared, and devastated. I couldn’t believe Arlo was gone, and then you… you shifted. I know that’s no excuse. I… I let him… hurt my babies.” She broke into tears, and Ash went around to sit beside her, pulling her into his embrace. She buried her face into his chest, and he kissed the top of her head as she sobbed. He had tears running down his cheeks, but he didn’t care. He focused on his breathing, and comforting his mother. he wanted to be mad at her, hate her for what she'd done, but he never did. Not really. He blamed himself. Told himself she left because he was an abomination. He'd had so much anger inside him for so long, he didn't want to go back to that. He'd changed. Maybe not completely, but where it mattered. He had so much good in his life now.

When she pulled away, she thanked Cael for the napkins. She dried her eyes and blew her nose. She wouldn’t look at Ash. “I don’t know how you can stand to look at me. I’m a failure as a mother. If I’d done something sooner…. If I’d taken you and Arlo, and left, Arlo might be alive today, and I’d have my boys.”

Ash placed his fingers under her chin, and turned her face so he could meet her gaze. So much heartache and pain in her blue eyes. “Listen, I know what it’s like to live your life steeped in regrets and what-if scenarios. Don’t. What happened to Arlo wasn’t my fault, and it wasn’t yours either. The past can’t be changed, but we can have a future. A family. I’d really like for you to be a part of my life.” He reached across the table to take Cael’s hand in his. “Of our lives.”

She looked up at him with big wide eyes. “Really? You… want me in your lives?”

Ash nodded. “Very much.”

His mother threw her arms around him and squeezed him tight. He couldn’t help but wrap his arms around her. He turned his face into her hair, and closed his eyes. Her scent hadn’t changed. Still the soft rose scented perfume she’d always worn. Back then his arms just about encircled her waist. Had he really been that small? She felt so tiny and fragile in his arms, and a fierce sense of protectiveness washed over him. She’d been hurt too, by a man who’d vowed to cherish her and love her. Richard Keeler should have protected his family, loved them. Instead he wallowed in his misery, growing bitter, angry, and taking his pain out on his family. Not anymore. Not while Ash could do something about it. He pulled away, and wiped her cheeks.

“Where are you staying? Are you safe?”

“Yes. When your father—”

“Richard,” he corrected. “He doesn’t deserve that title.”

She nodded. “When Richard went out to drink with his friends, I went online and looked up organizations that might be able to help me. I found one whose mission included helping women in similar situations. I went to their office, spoke to a lovely Therian lady who listened to every word I said. I admit, I was afraid she would ask me to leave, knowing what I had done. I told her how much I missed you, and how after seeing you, there was nothing I wanted more than the chance to have my son back. She took my hands, smiled, and said she was glad I came to them. They helped me move out, found me a lovely apartment, a job, and an incredible divorce lawyer.” She smiled wide, and Ash couldn’t help his grin.

“I’m so happy for you.”

“I was terrified, but now… I’m happy for me too.” She gave his hands a squeeze. “For the first time in years, I feel like my own person, like I have a say in my own life.” She turned to rifle through her purse, removing a piece of notepad paper and a pen. She scribbled something down before handing it to him. “You already have my cell phone number. Here’s my address. Please come visit whenever you like. You and Cael.”

Ash took the paper with a smile, and nodded. He folded it up and put it in his wallet. Standing, he sat back down across the table next to Cael, and kissed his temple before turning back to his mom. “You can bet on it. And any time you’d like to come over, just let me know. The only reason you need to call is because my work schedule changes a lot, and I’m basically always on call in case of an emergency.”

“Of course.” Her smile grew sly as she looked from him to Cael and back. “Plus I wouldn’t want to barge in on you boys, um, enjoying each other’s company.”

Ash’s eyes went wide, his face all but spontaneously combusting while Cael giggled beside him. Ash arched an eyebrow at him.

“What?” Cael asked innocently. He leaned in, whispering loudly. “I like her.”

Vivian laughed, the sound filling Ash with warmth. When was the last time his mother had laughed? Ash poked Cael on his side playfully, making him squirm and laugh. Cael started chatting enthusiastically with Vivian, telling her how she had to meet the team, including his crazy brother who was the boyfriend of Ash’s best friend Sloane, then regaled her with tales of their team’s shenanigans, usually instigated by his brother. Ash was happy. He’d lost his family and found one in Destructive Delta, and now his family had grown again to include his mom. Maybe Sloane was onto something with this whole family thing. Ash was certainly happy to find out.


#TeaserTuesday - 11/15/16 The Soldati Prince (Soldati Hearts, Book 1)

TeaserTuesday

Hello, all! Today we have an excerpt from my upcoming release The Soldati Prince which is out on November 23rd! It's currently available for pre-order from Dreamspinner PressAmazonKindleAll Romance eBooks, and Barnes & Noble. I just submitted the second book which is Rayner and Toka, along with more from Riley, Khalon, and the Soldati Realm.

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Around them the birds chirped and Riley smiled when he saw some squirrels playing. Soon some other furry little creatures joined in. A group of rabbits appeared, heading swiftly in the same direction. Did rabbits travel in packs?

“Um….” Riley caught up to Rayner. “Quick question.”

Khalon let out a heavy sigh. “Your questions are never quick. And here I thought I might have a moment’s peace.”

“Your charm continues to astound me,” Riley drawled before turning his attention back to Rayner. “Are the animals in this forest always in such a hurry?”

Rayner stopped. He sniffed the air and narrowed his eyes, peering into the woods. He turned and gave Adira a nod. She leaped into action, darting off into the woods while Ezra took off in a different direction. That didn’t bode well.

“What’s going on?” Riley asked, a chill spreading through him. He didn’t like this. Something was wrong. There was a distant roar and Rayner’s eyes widened. He grabbed Riley’s arm.

“Run!”

Before Riley could ask, the sun was swallowed in darkness, or so it seemed. A thick fog rolled into the woods all around them and Khalon pulled Riley between him and Rayner as they sped down the trail. The fog became so thick Riley couldn’t see what lay two feet ahead of him. He trusted Rayner and Khalon not to run him into a tree.

A horrifying shriek resounded before it multiplied into several more, followed by two familiar roars. Riley’s heart was ready to beat out of him. He didn’t need to be told what was behind them. The tattoos on his arm burned but he ignored it, too horrified by the noises coming from within the fog. He could barely see a thing, and as much as he hated to admit it, he was scared shitless. Whatever number of demons had shown up in the alley last night was nothing compared to what was after him now.

“Khalon, what’s happening?” Riley asked as he did his best to keep up with the warriors on either side of him. He really needed to lay off the cake. If he survived he’d have to remember to thank Tura for the boots because his sneakers—and feet—wouldn’t have survived the jagged rocks and harsh terrain of the woods. An icy wind whipped in his face and his lungs ached from his heavy breathing, but he continued to push himself, his boots kicking up dirt and pebbles as he raced down the path.

“There’s a village not far from here,” Khalon informed him. “Straight ahead. Whatever you do, don’t look back, and don’t stop.”

Despite what Khalon might think, Riley wasn’t an idiot. He had no intention of stopping until he either ran out of ground or collapsed from exhaustion. Amazing how the threat of being killed by demons unlocked a level of athleticism Riley never knew he had.

The noise intensified and the hairs on the back of his neck stood on end. Something was close. He could feel it. Like it was clawing at his soul. His chest got tight and it suddenly became harder to breathe. What the hell? Was he running out of steam already? He wasn’t that out of shape. His lungs burned and he felt dizzy. No, this was something else. His vision flickered, and when a strange pulse erupted from his chest, he got scared and cried out.

“Khalon!”

Riley didn’t know why he called Khalon’s name, but when the world around him spun off its axis, his vision growing dark and his legs giving out from under him, he was relieved and grateful Khalon was there to catch him.

 

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