THE MUSE by L M HALLORAN :: REVIEW

Standalone Professor/Student romance

SYNOPSIS

What happens when the future brings the past?

Iris Eliot has survived a lot in her twenty-seven years. Despite the emotional and physical scars she carries, she refuses to be labelled a victim. Now in her final year of graduate school, her dream is within reach. She’s ready to put the past behind her and embrace whatever the future brings.

Until the future brings him.

Professor James Beckett, internationally bestselling author and award-winning poet, is the new head of the Creative Writing Department at her university. Brilliantly talented and obnoxiously sexy, he’s more dangerous than Iris knows.

When Beckett sets his sights on Iris, it’s not just her heart on the line, or her academic and professional careers. Surrendering to the way he makes her feel will rewrite her past.

THE MUSE is available to purchase below for ONLY 99c/99p

          


Reviewed by Jenny & Gitte

4.5 fabulous stars!

“This feeling, right here and now, has brought gods from their heavenly thrones, started and ended wars, and shifted the borders of nations. Nothing in my life has prepared me for how you make me feel, Iris.”

We sampled her writing in the rockstar romance, Breaking Giants, and now, with The Muse, LM Halloran has cemented herself as a TBB 1Click author. We were completely sold on her talent, the story and her characters in this standalone student/teacher forbidden romance that eclipsed anything we had anticipated, taking us in directions we didn’t expect and forever keeping us on our toes, finding ourselves totally enraptured by James and Iris’s complicated and emotional love story.

“Do you want me or not?” he takes a step toward me, fingers sliding under my jaw to lift to my face. “More than anything in memory, yes.”

We’ll admit that, initially James and Iris’s fascination and desire for one another moved at breakneck speed, which gave us pause for thought, however, what developed was anything but an insta love story. What began as a sizzling sexual chemistry, soon receded and was replaced by an attraction that went beyond the physical. This was a meeting of intellect, mutual respect, emotional intensity and understanding, oh and yes, desire!  But as James and Iris begin to explore their feelings, we learn more about the fate and destiny of these two characters with explosive consequences. This is a love story that spans time, growth, healing and self-discovery and it was intense.

“You were born with eyes that hold worlds. Lifetimes of love and loss and pain. I’m only sorry I added to your pain. I truly never mean to hurt you.”

They say timing is everything and that couldn’t be more true for James (Beck) and Iris. Hired as a TA for the brilliant, handsome, cantankerous 33 year old British Professor James S Beckett, the newly appointed Director of Creative Writing, Iris would meet a man who is a contradiction to say the least. An academic, a NYT BS fiction author with a brilliant mind, he could render us breathless with his exquisite eloquence one minute, whilst sending us into giggles over his snarky dry, caustic mirth, then have us fanning ourselves when he unleashed his very sexy dirty talk! Oh James could be a right cock at times, but bloody hell did we love him! We loved every complicated thing about him!

“…There’s a chance your talents are being wasted on crime fiction.”
He hums in humor, hands skating under my shirt to find skin. Then he says, “The only erotica I’ll write will be for you. Tomes and tomes of it, my little muse.”

Twenty seven year old Iris Eliot didn’t stand a chance against his charms….albeit it, she had to dig deep to find them beneath the Beck’s obnoxious exterior! But this resilient young lady, has a sad and painful past, consisting of a loss that haunts her and a guilt she carries from the repercussions. However, as the full impact of Iris’s past is explored throughout the story, she broke our hearts.

“Iris,” he whispers. “So aptly named. Complex and radiant, deceptively delicate.”

As the story progresses, we open up to Iris’s past and we learn why Beckett became so enamoured with the 27 year old Iris, and why his attraction was so ‘sudden‘ – and it was tormenting,  heartbreaking and beautiful, and so cleverly devised and written by LM Halloran. What a way to throw a spanner in the works, LM! There’s a burning lust between the two that crackles yet this never once overruled the development of their relationship or the emotional impact of the story as LM Halloran delivered an intense, sexy, painful, thought provoking, stunningly written story of a love that refused to yield, a story that captivated us from start to finish from an author who has amazed us and seized our hearts once again.


We also recommend, BREAKING GIANTS
The Standalone Rock Star Romance by L M HALLORAN

SYNOPSIS

A rockstar romance unlike any you’ve read before…

When I meet Julian Ashburn, the reclusive frontman of indie-rock legends Breaking Giants, I do what any sane woman would do. Embarrass myself, then insult him. Because you only live once, right?

Besides, keeping my distance from the enigmatic, songwriting genius is an act of self-preservation. Julian is dangerous—a pool of kerosine to my pyromaniac. I have a weakness for broken men.

But sometimes the stories we tell and the songs we sing—about family, love, and ourselves—have to be rewritten in order for us to grow. Call it Fate, or stars aligning, or cosmic accident, but I’m about to find out that of the two of us, Julian isn’t the broken one.

The greatest love songs break your heart.

If you’re lucky, they heal it, too.

BREAKING GIANTS is available to purchase below

               


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AXIOS – A SPARTAN TALE by JACLYN OSBORN :: REVIEW

5++ Stars – A TBB Top 2017 Read
An epic standalone MM historical romance set in Ancient Sparta

SYNOPSIS

I am Axios of Sparta, and I was born to kill. At age seven, I left home to train with other boys where we were taught obedience, solidarity, military strategy, and how to withstand pain. My harsh upbringing stripped me of my weaknesses and forced me to become strong. Ruthless.

But, I craved something greater—a life I could never have.

Against all odds, and the toughest training a warrior could endure, I found an unexpected love in the arms of a fellow Spartan. He was the very air I breathed and the water that sustained me. Fighting side by side with him, we were invincible. Where he went, I followed.

However, there was no place for love in Sparta. Feelings were for the weak. The only life for a Spartan was one of battle and brutality with no guarantee of tomorrow. In times of war, all men were put to the test, but the greatest challenge for us was not one of swords and spears, but of the heart.

AXIOS : A SPARTAN TALE is available to purchase below

          


Reviewed by Gitte & Jenny

“Not even death could keep me from you. My soul will forever find yours. In this life and the next.”

We had a feeling this story was going to be something quite amazing when we read the synopsis, however we were not prepared for the epic journey we were about to embark on. Axios is quite simply one of the most magnificent books we’ve ever read. It is unparalleled in its historical grandeur without ever feeling as if we were spectators to a lesson in Greek history. It is steeped in beauty, vivid sounds and smells as well as the conflicting picturesque yet war torn scenery of ancient Sparta.

“Sparta can have my life, but she cannot take my heart.”

Every single character plays a paramount role in this superbly written story; a story of tragedy, love, hope, brotherhood, tradition, violence, humanity and passion. We often say, that when a book fully impacts our soul, we know the Author has bleed words straight from the heart onto the pages, and never has that been more apropos than in this story.

“What makes up the stars?” I had once asked him in a time that seemed like a different life. A happier one.
“The stars are heroes, men who died and are now commemorated for their bravery in battle,” he had answered, smiling.

Whilst this story follows Axios and Eryx from children -being indoctrinated into becoming Spartan warriors- their fates are deeply entwined with many other wonderful characters thus becoming integral to the very essence of the intense emotional aspect of this reading journey. A journey spanning decades. A journey of a green eyed boy who was destined to become a great warrior and a brown eyed boy who would always question whilst dreaming of the stars, the sea and the spirit of love. Night and day; one cannot be without the other.

“..one day the light you carry will be snuffed out by darkness. I dread the moment when the gentleness in your brown eyes becomes cold as you see, at last, that the world is unforgiving and cruel. And I fear that I will lose you, either to the god of death or to your inner demons.”

We were compelled, enthralled, captivated, entranced; we were utterly mesmerized. There are not enough words to accurately convey how deeply we feel about this book and how incredibly intense it was. We have never highlighted so many passages and quotes as we did in this story. The sheer magnificence and brilliance was astounding.

“There is nothing I wouldn’t do for you,” he whispered, pressing his forehead to mine. “I would kill any man, go any distance, and burn the whole world down if it meant keeping you safe.”

We want to give Jaclyn Osborn a standing ovation, not only for her immense historical research but also her stunning writing which captured a story so wonderfully epic it made our hearts beat frantically whilst we rejoiced with love yet cried uncountable tears in despair. Axios will stay with us forever, of that there is no question. It’s a story that deserves every accolade and to be on every list of fictional honour. There are quite simply not enough stars to be given to the love story of Axios and Eryx.

‘I’ll see you in the stars my warrior.’

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MUSCLE MEMORY by STYLO FANTOME :: REVIEW

5 Star TBB Read!
Standalone second chance/amnesia theme

SYNOPSIS
Her lips, the way she feels, how she moves against me. Her voice when she laughs, her eyes when she cries. Her soul connected to mine, for better or for worse, for all eternity.

I don’t remember.

A blank face. Unrecognizable. The darkness and impenetrable fog, day after day after day. Who am I? And for that matter, who is she?

I can’t remember.

Two sides to the same coin – one wants to remember, and the other wants to stay forgotten. Which side will win? Can he trust his heart to bring him back to her? Or will she stay lost in the fog forever?

I might never remember.

Warning: features adult themes

MUSCLE MEMORY is available to purchase below

          


Reviewed by Gitte & Jenny

 “I’m glad I forgot us.”

Wow -without question- this is one of THE BEST books we’ve read in this -amnesia second chance romance- theme. It could’ve been full of clichés or over the top drama, but it really wasn’t. It was perfection! It was beautiful. It was heart-breakingly intense. It was incredibly romantic. It showed that no matter your past, you have the ability to change your life, deserving a second stab at it without judgement, sometimes what makes you YOU on the surface is not a complete nor true reflection of who you are on the inside. Muscle Memory features a wonderful hero who completely stole our hearts in every which way and a heroine who we admired and fell in love with for her strength and her beautiful soul. We lived and breathed their story alongside them.

“We’re two parts of a whole, always making up for the other one. We couldn’t survive without each other.”

The secondary characters entwined in this journey played a tremendous part creating a story that felt emotionally complete. In all honesty, this story felt new, unique and it was quite simply flawless in its exploration of Jayson and Delaney’s past and present. Whilst the journey this Author took us on had a melancholy and an initial ugly broken dreams feel, it was also hopeful, inspiring and had such depth. It re-affirmed the message that true love has no hidden agendas, rather it endorses the selflessness of love and sacrifice. That second chances of life are possible and the will to make that happen is a reachable goal.

‘If she couldn’t be the love of his life anymore, she would help him love life.’

This story of tragedy, love, re-discovery, healing and acceptance was vividly written without hesitation, whilst shining the light on an intense soulmates romance whose path of self-destruction came to an abrupt climax. What followed was a well-paced journey that had us crying, laughing through tears and clutching our kindles to our chests as we fell in book love.

“I don’t know her, but she’s in my blood and in my bones and in my body. I wake up reaching for her, but can’t remember her ever being there. I turn around to look for her, then realize she was never with me. She’s my ghost, she haunts me. I don’t remember her, but I know her.”

The ultimate gift of love has many nuances and can come in an abundance of guises such as friendship, loyalty, understanding and guidance. This story shows that second chances can make or break, that lives and people can change by either unexpected circumstance or by self- belief or even will power.

“You were…life.”

You know we hate spoilers, so this is a completely spoiler-free review as per usual where we talk feelings instead. Our feelings, well they were utterly-completely and wholeheartedly tied up in the words of this fabulously written romance by Stylo Fantome. This second chance story is one that’ll stay in the heart of any hopeless romantic. We’ll leave you with these words; the heart always knows!

“In love we trust.”


We also recommend this TBB 5 Star novel by Stylo


My Time In the Affair by Stylo Fantome

MY TIME IN THE AFFAIR – STANDALONE 

‘They erased everything. Her past, her future, her present. Gone, with one thrust. All that existed was this man, this room, this bed.’

SYNOPSIS
~Mischa~
I made a conscious decision to cheat on my husband.
Now, before you judge me, hear my story. Hear how much I’m like you, how similar my thoughts are to your own. Yes, I’m a horrible person. Yes, I’ve done horrible things. Yes, I don’t deserve forgiveness. Yes, bad things happened because of my actions.
But I’m willing to bet I’ve done things that maybe, just maybe, you have thought of doing.

Maybe, just maybe, you’re not as innocent as you’d like to think.

Or maybe I’m not so guilty …
WARNING: This book involves CHEATING. The word AFFAIR is in the title. The main character has an AFFAIR. In the synopsis (directly above), she states that she intentionally has an AFFAIR. If you don’t like CHEATING, then you have been VERY WELL warned. Also, this book is primarily written in the third-person narrative. 

MY TIME IN THE AFFAIR is available to purchase below

                    

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GHOSTED by J M DARHOWER :: REVIEW

TBB 5 Star Read
Standalone second chance romance 

SYNOPSIS
He’s a troubled young actor, Hollywood’s newest heartthrob, struggling with fame as the star of the latest superhero franchise. Through scandal after scandal, addiction on top of addiction, a flurry of paparazzi hunt him as he fights to conquer his demons.

She’s a single mother, assistant manager at a grocery store, existing in monotony with her five-year-old daughter. Every day when she goes to work, lurid tabloids surround her, the face of a notorious bad boy haunting her from their covers.

A man and a woman, living vastly different lives, but that wasn’t always the case. Once, they were just a boy and a girl who bonded over comic books and fell in love unexpectedly.

When Kennedy Garfield met Jonathan Cunningham back in high school, she knew he had all the makings of a tragic hero. With stars in his eyes, and her heart on her sleeve, the pair ran away together to follow their dreams.

But dreams, sometimes, turn into nightmares.

Now, years later, the only thing they share is a daughter—one who has no idea her father plays her favorite superhero. But Jonathan is desperate to make amends, and at the top of his list is the woman who gave up everything for him and the little girl he hasn’t yet met.

GHOSTED is available to purchase below

         


Reviewed by Jenny & Gitte

‘But love is only as strong as the people who fuel it.’

What a story! We can’t stop gushing about this second chance romance! We loved everything about it..….e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g! But then, of course the phenomenally talented J M Darhower wouldn’t just write a Hollywood, second chance love story with a fabulous couple and the most adorable little girl you could meet, we should have known she would own it! A wonderfully executed, well-paced emotional love story, with the perfect mix of passion, angst, heartbreak, sweetness and swoon, together with fabulous characters we can’t stop thinking about it. We found ourselves constantly torn between never wanting this story to end, yet desperate to finish to see how it would all play out.

“You’re the queen. I’m just the commoner.

We’d be here for days if we listed all the things we loved about Ghosted! This story exemplified the second chance theme. To experience the angst, the longing, the hurt and the pain of the characters having their hearts broken and trying to find their way back to one another, we need to feel…really feel the second chance element in order for it to grip our hearts and stir up those aching emotions and JM Darhower did that and more! Jonathan and Kennedy’s heartbreaking, heart-warming, painful and beautiful love story gripped us from the very start!

“I need you to know…that even when I completely fucked up, I never once stopped loving you.”

Jonathan Elliot Cunningham and Kennedy Reagan Garfield met at 17 when Jonathan walked into Kennedy’s American Politics class and straight into her heart. From that moment, the two became inseparable sharing their dreams and hopes.  All Kennedy wanted was Jonathan, all Jonathan wanted was to be successful actor, and take care of his ‘queen’. Kennedy owned his soul…that is, until his demons took hold and their world fell apart. But how? Why? How did they come to that moment in the present? What made Jonathan self-destruct the way he did? All will be revealed! Trust us!

‘I don’t know how I’m feeling. I’m a twisted up mess, a broken once-hopeful romantic, holding my heart in a clenched fist and begging him to take it, yet I’m afraid to let go and give him that kind of control.
Because the last time I gave my heart to him, he crushed it.’

How JM Darhower intrinsically wove the past with the present, and the clever and unique way in which she took us back to the sweet, swoony yet tumultuous four years in Jonathan and Kennedy’s young lives, simultaneously toying with our emotions was brilliant! Nothing felt contrived, with past and present flowing naturally ensuring we were so connected to Kennedy, Jonathan and Maddie in the present, left no doubt we would experience, first hand the utter torment and despair, as we’re taken back to witness the disintegration of the hopes, dreams and love of Kennedy and Jonathan. It tore us apart!

‘Your dream has become my nightmare, and I’m begging you to let me wake up.’

Ghosted radiated emotion, transfixing us through every heart rending moment.  Be it from the past love and starry eyes of two young dreamers, or the present with two people trying to deal with the past, attempting to repair their hearts for the sake of their little girl who was an absolute bundle of cuteness. And ohhh…those interactions with little Maddie and Jonathan will leave you in a puddle! Oh gosh, one scene in particular broke us as we shared the innocence of this cute little child and the utter hopelessness felt by a father trying to repair his past mistakes – that scene as well as others, had us in tears.

‘A day without you is going to be like a day without the sun. Don’t let her days go dark.’

Every moment in this story was heartfelt, beautiful, happy, maddening and saddening. JM Darhower breathed life into this theme, never flinching or sugar coating Jonathan’s demons, telling us exactly what was in his and Kennedy’s hearts, pulling us into her story, delivering realistic characterisation in Kennedy, Jonathan, Maddie and the supporting characters. Throughout Ghosted, she summoned our emotions in a story about the complexities of love – hopeless and hopeful love.

JM Darhower is an author who can convey a thousand words and a million feelings with one sentence, and once again, she has astonished us with her incredibly beautiful and raw storytelling. And oh that epilogue….! Prepare to have Jonathan, Kennedy and the adorable little Maddie steal your hearts!

‘You can’t get caught up and forget she’s sitting at home waiting for you. Because you live in a big, big world now, but hers is very small.’


TBB ALSO RECOMMENDS by JM DARHOWER
“CLICK ON COVERS FOR REVIEWS and PURCHASE LINKS “


THE MAD TATTER 
A Standalone single Dad romance about acceptance and love
”People still judge a book by its cover, Avery. And your story? It’s beautiful. You’re beautiful. But I’m nothing but a ripped out page, graffiti where some should never be. Don’t taint your story with me.” 


SCARLET SCARS DUET
Mafia Romance – Once upon a time, there was a guy who got so fed up with life that he resorted to murder and mayhem just to feel alive.
‘Nobody trusts their gut anymore, but they ought to. Sometimes wires get crossed in the brain, things get all jumbled, everything gets confused, and your heart…..you can’t fucking trust that son of a bitch. It’ll be the first to betray you. It’ll make you feel like the world is a beautiful place. It’ll make you forget all the darkness. It’ll make you hope, and believe, and then it’ll destroy you, just when you start to think maybe it’s okay to not be so goddamn frigid.’

 


MONSTER IN HIS EYES SERIES
Mafia Romance –  Oh Naz! I want to hate him. Sometimes, I do. But it doesn’t stop me from loving him, too.
“Love means seeing beauty in the ugly, the light in the dark, and accepting that even if the lights are off, and I can’t see what’s in front of me, there will be something there to guide my way.
Love means turning yourself inside out, handing yourself over to somebody else, and trusting them.. trusting them to touch you, to handle you, to bend you, but never, ever break what you give them.”
 


BY ANY OTHER NAME
Mafia Romance – A deadly rivalry.Two families at war. Nobody is safe, not even the innocent.
“The Prodigal Son and the Ice Princess, huh? Sounds like a terrible fairy tale. You know, the kind where the big bad wolf eats everybody in the end.” 


FOREVER/SEMPRE SERIES
A Mafia romance – a story of death, love, sacrifice and freedom you’ll never forget!
“Haven, I could never love someone like you, because there isn’t anyone like you,” he said. “You’re one of a kind.”

 

 

 

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MERCY by DEBRA ANASTASIA :: REVIEW & FIRST CHAPTER SNEAK PEEK

Standalone gritty romance
“27 days until I change how you perceive love.”

           SYNOPSIS 

He taught me to kill. Murder is in my blood now. It runs through my veins and though I hide the monster I see in the mirror with ink, it doesn’t keep him from coming out.

My street name is Mercy, but I never show any. Except for her. I watch Becca, though she doesn’t know. She saved me a long time ago; the day my father killed my mother. Her bravery turned her into a target.

My father holds a grudge and knife with the same proficiency, and Becca is the focus of his hatred. And I’m the only monster who can save her.

MERCY is now available to purchase below

                   


Reviewed by Jenny & Gitte

4.5 Stars

‘If she wanted it, she could have it. My hand. My heart. My life. She took my hand, and that was enough.’

Wow! We loved this contradiction of a story! Mercy is difficult to categorise and in some ways had a bit of an identity crisis. If you were to go off the synopsis, you’d be thinking this was a particularly sinister, dark read – for us, it wasn’t. Yes, there were dark elements, especially in the last 20% of the book, however the story was essentially one of never ending love, acceptance, destiny, redemption and courage; interspersed with guffaw type humour, loads of emotion and some really sweet romance, all delivered with this authors fabulous ability for gripping and entertaining storytelling.

Mercy is the story of Fenix Churchkey and Rebecca Dixie Stiles. Two children who had a very brief interaction, yet it’s one that would stay with them and have a particularly lasting effect on the young Fenix (Nix). Becca and Nix were a destiny, a love story in the making – written in the stars if you like.

“Sweet girl, I’m covered in ink. I’m broken. Things happened to make me this way. I have trouble being with myself, so I can’t imagine that anyone else would want to spend time here.”

Fenix Churchkey is a man weighed down with misplaced guilt over the death of his mother. Vengeance be thy name, because Nix has a score to settle with his Dad, the man who brutalised him as a child and who was responsible for the death of Nix’s mother. We couldn’t call Nix an antihero per say, although there was darkness in what he did for a living, the man himself however was a protector, a loyal friend and all round sweetheart, driven to his actions by a punishing past.

“In my head she saves me.”
“You don’t need no saving. You’re real. Be yourself. It’s enough.”

The tenacious little Becca stood up to Nix’s cruel father and when she showed Nix kindness and uttered the words “Are you okay?”  Those words would stay with him forever. The story then shifts to fifteen years later when we meet the very mixed up Nix who is working as a hit man and Becca who is adrift in her life working at a bar. Nix always made a pact to never let Becca see him, to always protect her, thinking up ingenious ways to be a part of her life, to watch over her without actually being a part of it. Well, that was all about to change when Nix, at the coercion of his best friend Animal, seizes an opportunity for Becca to get to know the man beneath the menacing appearance, to know the man inside.

‘I could never meet her. I would never touch her. But I was hopelessly in love with her.’

Debra Anastasia didn’t rush the romance between Nix and Becca, instead treating us to a slow build, allowing us to get to know the characters before the feverishness of their feelings took hold, summoning our emotions through Nix’s past and his healing process. We loved this man! Nix begs the question, what is normal and he shows us how we need to dig beneath the surface to find the jewel. Their love story was intense, exhilarating, sweet, honest and beautiful, if not a little chaotic and crazy.

“Wait for me?”
“I thought you’d never ask.”

The secondary characters were fabulous – in particular the relationship between Nix and his best mate Animal. This huge big brute of a man who spoke so sweetly and sometimes had the hilarious demeanour of a little old lady won us over. Animal soon became a crucial part of the story and bloody hell, we cannot wait for his story and to learn who his love interest is, though we have some idea!

The only issue we had is one that readers will either love; or not -which is our case- it’s a personal thing, however for us it’s one that took us out of this story for a moment or two. We have a bit of a pet peeve when Authors bring their ‘online real life’ into their books with people and/or their conversations. The dialogue between certain characters in Mercy made us feel as though we were reading a Facebook thread, not living this particular moment of a fictional story, but thankfully Debra soon pulled us back in and overall it didn’t take anything away from our enjoyment of this gripping, sweet, intense and tumultuous love story that had our hearts bursting with romance one minute whilst fiercely beating with anticipation the next as Nix’s past crashes into his present!


CHAPTER ONE SNEAK PEAK

Chapter 1 of MERCY by Debra Anastasia

Superhero

Fenix

“Hold these eggs.”

My father handed me the white carton in the grocery store. The aisle was cold. I was cold. My hands were shaking.

“Don’t you drop those eggs, son.” His voice was menacing. But everything about him was menacing.

He’d finally done it. He’d killed my mother. Last night. This morning.

We were in the grocery store because we needed food. My sister was at my aunt’s house, which was good.

Because Mom was dead.

My hands shook more. I stared at them and willed them to stop shaking. I begged them to stop shaking.

Mom was shaking before she died. Seeing her like that was all there was. In this grocery store. In my head. My hands were clean now, but Dad had scrubbed them before he’d put me in the truck.

To come here. To get groceries.

I felt sick to my stomach.

Mom had been trying to make dinner. In the end all the food from the fridge had been tossed around the kitchen.

The squeaky Styrofoam container the eggs were in was giving me away. He was watching. He was getting even angrier.

Mom wasn’t here anymore. To step in. To stop him when he got this way.

“Stop shaking, Fenix Churchkey.”

It was a whisper from the scariest man on the planet. I tensed my muscles. There was no difference. Maybe it was making it worse.

“You’re the best boy, Nix. I love you so much. Just remember that.”

Mom. She was gone.

I watched in horror as the carton tumbled from my hands and hit the floor. The eggs made a sickening noise inside.

Mom was shaking before she died.

Before he murdered her.

I looked at his face, knowing he would kill me too. Not here. Most likely not here.

He liked private. He liked closed doors.

I knew not to make a sound when his hand grasped my arm so hard. He would squeeze right through the bones maybe someday.

I started to count my matchbox cars in my head. It was how I kept quiet. In a box under my bed there was three cars. The red car. The blue van. And the Hummer, my favorite. It was purple and…

“What did I tell you?”

His mouth was next to my ear. His breath smelled bad. His sweat smelled bad.

Mom was gone now.

At least my sister was at my aunt’s house. She was just a baby.

Dad grabbed my other arm, a little lower than the edge of my T-shirt sleeve. I watched as my skin came up between his fingers.

I felt the tears.

Crying always made it worse.

He was going to break my arms. Both my arms.

“Hey! Mister! Leave that boy alone.”

I felt chills up my spine. We were private. We liked closed doors. No one was allowed to know.

“I said let go! You’re bigger than he is. And let him go. He’s good.”

She was a kid. Like me. She put her hands on his forearm and pushed. I was stunned quiet. I was stunned stupid.

She wasn’t wearing matching socks and her hair was a giant halo of curls. She had a shiny purse with a stuffed dog sticking out of it and a fistful of coupons. There was a spiral pad with a cat doodled on it popping out of a pocket.

Dad took one hand off of me and lifted it. He was going to backhand this little girl. I put my hand up to block him.

I saw my death in his eyes then. You don’t stand up to him.

Ever.

Mom was gone.

The little girl didn’t flinch.

It would occur to me years later that she’d never been hit a day in her life. But not now. Now she was a superhero.

“You don’t hurt kids. That’s wrong.” She looked from his face to his hand that was still squeezing me.

“Go on, girl. ’Fore I change your mind.” Dad wiped his mouth with the back of his threatening hand.

Restraint.

He had it for her. For this little girl.

She frowned at my father and then put her lips to the side like she was fed up with him.

I felt my mouth drop open.

Then she was looking at me. Her clear blue eyes saw me. Saw through me. “Are you okay?”

To see this wild disrespect of what my father could do, what he demanded from Mom, from me was like getting hit with a wave in the center of my chest.

I felt my father’s warning hiss to me. This girl was the sun on the darkest horizon. She made dark turn to light.

I nodded. I was fine. We were always fine.

Mom was gone.

“Mister, you need to let go of his arm.”

The girl pointed at me. I knew what she saw. His fingers biting into me like teeth on a tiger. I had so many bruises all over my body that were in the outline of my father’s hand. This new one on my arm would only be unique because it didn’t feel entirely in the safe zone of how my shirts lay. I would wear a long sleeve if I could find it tomorrow. If I made it to tomorrow.

“I said for you to get. And mind your own damn business.”

The girl’s eyes went wide at his use of the word “damn”. If she only knew.

I wanted her to know.

She narrowed her eyes at my father. “You’re a bad man.”

The veins in my father’s neck were starting to pop out.

She was in danger now. And I knew I should protect her from him, but to not be alone for a moment. It was making me breathe, and I needed that so much.

“You’re about to learn how bad I can be.”

It was a low growl. It was his home voice. It was his closed-door voice. It was the voice I was never going to get away from. It was the last voice my mom heard.

Mom was gone.

“You’re trying to scare me, and I don’t scare easy. I sleep in my own bed with the lights off and no nightlight anymore.”

She lifted her chin at my father like a boxer just before the first punch.

“Dad, let’s go.” I spoke for her. Normally I never spoke. Not when my father’s voice had cracked its way into my soul. But I didn’t want to see the light in the girl’s eyes fade.

I didn’t know what a soul was until I watched my mother’s leave last night—or this morning. It was that eye light.

“Rebecca Dixie Stiles!”

The girl snapped her head around. Rebecca had to be her name.

“Over here, Dad! I need your help!” She crossed her arms in front of her.

I watched as my father shifted his weight and a muscle twitched in his jaw.

My father didn’t say anything else. He abandoned our groceries on the floor by the egg carton and pulled me with him.

I looked over my shoulder at her. She was waving down her father, who I didn’t get to see. “Dad! This guy! Wait!”

She reached past her stuffed animal into the sparkly bag and jogged after us. She held a lollipop out to me. I looked at it. The words “Hug Me” were printed on it. I stuck it inside my pocket.

Rebecca locked eyes with me then. “Be okay. Okay? Be okay.”

I nodded.

It just didn’t happen that day.

Or the next.

Or the next.


TBB RECOMMENDATIONS from DEBRA 


POUGHKEEPSIE is a standalone beautiful romance that will steal your heart.

 What a difference a smile and giving a damn about someone down on their luck can make. Livia and Blake will steal your heart.  Theirs is a love story that you will cheer from the beginning.  You want these two to succeed.  You want the best for them. You will love them. You will cherish them.

“You make the rest of the beautiful things in the world cry for even trying at all. You make it hard for me to breathe.” 

 


FOR ALL THE EVERS is a standalone emotional and beautiful otherworldly romance.

Written from the heart, this is a journey where past meets present, depicting bravery, addiction, sacrifice, determination, perseverance and redemption. Ultimately it captured the very essence of love and what we’d do in the name of love.  We cried tears of joy and devastation.

“If true love hurts more than this does, I don’t want any part of it.

All the Evers


 

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