Review + Giveaway: Survive by the Team by Cindy Skaggs

  Title: Survive By The Team
Series: Team Fear #3
By: Cindy Skaggs
Publication Date: June 23, 2017
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Cover Designer: Mayhem Cover Creations
#survivebytheteamreveal

The wild ride continues in this highly addictive series.

Mandi Gault never met a man brave enough to openly date a mortician, so when a good-looking man with twelve-pack abs invites her to dinner, she’s not asking any questions. Too bad he’s trying to kill her.

Danny Gault died in a conspiracy threatening Team Fear–his defunct military team–so when Gault’s sister winds up in the hospital, former teammate Dean Stills is forced to leave the safety of the team’s compound. He recognizes her attacker as a member of a rogue military unit with orders to eliminate Team Fear. Now they’re on the run while they unravel why Team Echo wants her dead.

As the danger escalates, they share a wild night of down and dirty fun that would put a blush on a corpse, but Stills made it clear it was one and done. Now he must decide if he’s brave enough to forget about vengeance and live.

Military trained, medically enhanced, designed to kill. The surviving members of Team Fear are out of the military and in a world of secrets, lies, and cover-ups in this fast-paced romantic suspense series by Cindy Skaggs.

Pre-Order Your Copy Today!
AMAZON US – http://amzn.to/2sERcTL
AMAZON UK – https://goo.gl/BtfPk6
AMAZON CA – https://goo.gl/0opbbv

My Review:

Every Team Fear novel seems better than the last. I would be hard pressed to pick a favourite. Ms Skaggs’ own military background ensures a taste of authenticity.

The fact that our heroine is a mortician is just icing on the cake. Sure, she’s seen corpses before, but maybe not when they’re so fresh.

Stills doesn’t seem like this group’s likely candidate for romance, either. So when this pair falls together, it’s guaranteed to absorb your interest. Five stars.

Team Fear #1
AMAZON UK – https://goo.gl/wYPfqk
AMAZON CA – https://goo.gl/2q2elT
Team Fear #2
AMAZON UK – https://goo.gl/6QiAmv
AMAZON CA – https://goo.gl/QTu8Or
Her socks snagged on the raw floorboards as she followed. “Are you sure you don’t feel fear?”
“Absolutely.”
“Then why are you backing away from me?”
Hell if he knew. He’d been dying to touch her. Taste her. Dead center of the attic, he stopped and she walked straight into him. Her body was flush against his. Her curves turned his mind to mush. Doing the right thing no longer mattered.
He cupped her neck. So fragile.
He rubbed a knuckle along her jawline. So soft.
“This is a mistake,” he warned. The flutter of her pulse beat against his hands.
“If we’re going to make a mistake,” she said, lifting onto her tiptoes, “better make it a good one.”
“Hell yeah.” That was a philosophy he could get behind. It was too late to keep things platonic, but she needed to understand what she was getting into. Bracing a hand on either side of her face, he forced her to look at him. “I set the pace. I lead.”
She swallowed. “Is there any other way?”
“Not with me.”

Cindy Skaggs grew up on stories of mob bosses, horse thieves, cold-blooded killers, and the last honest man. Those mostly true stories gave her a lifelong love of storytelling and heroes. Her search for story took her around the world with the Air Force before returning to Colorado.

Now she’s turning her lifelong love of storytelling into a career she loves. She has an MA in Creative Writing, three jobs, two kids, and more pets than she can possibly handle. She also plays the flute, makes crazy-good sculptures out of tortilla dough, and can wrangle the neurotic dog without getting mauled. Find her as Cindy Skaggs, Writer on Facebook, @CLSkaggs on Twitter, or www.CSkaggs.com to sign up for her newsletter.

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New: Beast by Jordan Marie

 

 

 

 

 

Order your copy at the following retailers:

Amazon US: http://amzn.to/2qWr1pW

Amazon UK: http://amzn.to/2pwiNV4

iBooks: http://apple.co/2lP7KFJ

Nook: http://bit.ly/2lmbBMp

Kobo: http://bit.ly/2kuped7

 

I warned her I wasn’t the man for her.

Now she’ll learn what happens when you tempt an animal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I left my past behind me.

I ran.

I didn’t slow down and I didn’t look back.

I just couldn’t outrun the memories—or the nightmares.

I came to North Carolina to die.

Alone.

I want to be left alone.

Which would have been fine, if she wasn’t here.

Hayden Graham claims to want the same thing I do—to be left alone.

But, she’s a thorn in my side.

The woman stumbles into one mess after another.

This time the mess she’s in puts her life and her unborn child in danger.

I’m barely existing—rotting from the inside out.

She’s a woman in distress, waiting for a Prince to save her.

I’m no Prince. I’m just a wounded animal.

A Beast.

She tastes like Heaven. She only adds to my Hell.

She makes me remember things I don’t want to remember.

Want things that I can’t have.

Hayden might just be the one to finish destroying me.

 

 

 

 

 

Meet Jordan

I’m just a girl standing in front of you and asking you to love her

heh (I might watch too many Rom Com’s)

 

Stalk Jordan at: Website / Goodreads / Facebook

 

THANK YOU!

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Review: Tortured by Nicole Williams

 

 

 

 

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When he left for a twelve-month deployment, she knew it would feel like forever before they saw each other again. She didn’t realize how right she was.

When Lance Corporal Brecken Connolly gets taken as a POW, Camryn hopes for the best but steels herself for the worst. In the end, steel was what she needed to survive when he didn’t. She moves on the only way she knows how—gilding herself in more steel.

Years go by.

She builds a new life.

She leaves the old one behind.

Until one day, she sees the face of a ghost on the news. Brecken seems to have risen from the dead, but she knows she can’t perform the same miracle for herself. While Brecken was held in a torture camp for the past five years, she’s been trapped in her own kind of prison. One she can’t be freed from.  

The man she mourned comes back to join the living, but the girl he wanted to spend his life with isn’t the same woman he comes back for. Brecken isn’t the same person either. The past five years have changed them both. While he’s determined to put the pieces back together, she’s resolved to let hers rot where they shattered.

 

Broken or not, Brecken wants her back. He’ll do anything to achieve that. Even if it means going against the warden of Camryn’s personal prison—her husband.
“It’s been six years. Everything’s changed. I have. You have.” My eyes lifted. “Why? Why are you trying to win me back?”
He exhaled, his lips parting. “I’m going to win you back.”
When his hand slid around the bend of my waist, winding behind my back, I jerked. His touch was different tonight, hungry, determined. My head clouded, blocking out reason or letting it surface to the top, one or the other.
“I married him,” I whispered even as my hand found his chest.
“But you belong to me.”
My eyes closed as he bowed me against him. I wasn’t sure how two bodies that had been as broken as ours could be so strong when joined. “How do you know?”
“I can see it in your eyes. Every time you look at me.” His other hand lifted to my chin, tipping it until our eyes connected. His brow rose slowly, like I was proving his point right that very moment.
“That’s a confident statement.” My voice shook, but my body felt steady. Unwavering.
“It’s the truth.”
My chest was moving so hard, it brushed his with every breath. What was I doing? Where had I found myself? The man holding me had died only to be resurrected six years later. It was too late, but it wasn’t over.
No matter what, Brecken Connolly and I would never be over.
“Twenty-six days,” I said slowly. “That’s all I have to give you. That’s all I have to give. Four weeks. Once he’s back, you know the way it has to be.”
His face broke, but his hold didn’t budge. “It’s not enough.”
My fingers curled into his shirt, looking for some way to hold on to him. “I know.”
His other arm suddenly looped around me and he lifted me off the ground, his grip going around my backside when my legs tied around him. “But a fucking eternity wouldn’t be enough either, so it’ll just have to do.”
He carried me through the sand and up the stairs of the cabin, then he propped me against the wall so he could open the screen door. Something slipped out of my mouth when he flexed his hips into mine.
“Told you it wasn’t a morning issue,” he whispered in my ear, but I could hear the smile in his voice. “Just a Camryn one.”
He made the same motion with his hips, applying a little more friction this time, causing a louder sound to echo from my lungs.
Opening the screen door as silently as he could, he carried me inside.
“You can set me down, you know?” I whispered.
“I know,” he said, his arms tying tighter. Once all of the lights were off, the cabin closed up for the night, he padded down the hall.
“You know where you’re going?”
His head nodded beside mine. “I’ve always known.”
My hands went behind his neck. His skin was warm and familiar. “And where’s that?”
He exhaled against my skin as he closed the bedroom door. “Toward you.”
He set me down once he’d untied my legs from around his waist, and he took a few steps back. He stared at me for a moment then reached for the lamp on the dresser.
“What are you doing?” I asked.
“Turning on the lights.”
I watched him flip on another. “Why?”
“Because I want to see you. Because I want to watch your face as I move inside you. Because I want to see your skin flush when I make you come.” He flipped on one more light, then all of his attention turned to me. “Because I want to see everything.”
My heart took off as I imagined being intimate with him with every light in the room on. My body wasn’t the same one he’d left. It had carried a burden; it bore the scars of a shattered soul and a broken body. “I don’t want you to see me. Not like that. In the dark, you can imagine the way I was before.”
When I reached for the closest lamp to switch it off, he stopped me. “I don’t want to imagine.” His hand curled around mine, guiding it away from the lamp. “I want the real thing. I want the real you.”
“You’ve seen my body. You know what I look like beneath all of this.” I motioned at the fresh clothes hanging off of me, covering me from my wrists to my ankles to my neck.
“When I look at you, I see beauty and strength, and the one person in the world who gives me a reason to live and a reason to die.” He drew me to him, his face creased in lines of concentration. “That’s what I see when I look at you.”

 

MY REVIEW:

This story is not for the faint of heart. It’s probably not for readers who have lost a soldier or been abused, either. But it’s a wonderful story. There’s a lot of heaviness and I cried not a few tears, but this hero is a hero. And he doesn’t like it when men pick on women. Especially when one picks on the woman he thought he’d be marrying once he got home from the nightmare in which he was imprisoned for five years.

Camryn has been through a hell of her own. Partially, it’s of her own making and she therefore feels defeated. She has a small son to protect and always puts his security above her own safety, which is a certain brand of strength.

There are all kinds of gray areas in life, and this story touches on some important ones. Five stars.

 

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Nicole Williams is the New York Times and USATODAY bestselling author of contemporary and young adult romance, including the Crash and Lost & Found series. Her books have been published by HarperTeen and Simon & Schuster in both domestic and foreign markets, while she continues to self-publish additional titles. She is working on a new YA series with Crown Books (a division of Random House) as well. She loves romance, from the sweet to the steamy, and writes stories about characters in search of their happily even after. She grew up surrounded by books and plans on writing until the day she dies, even if it’s just for her own personal enjoyment. She still buys paperbacks because she’s all nostalgic like that, but her kindle never goes neglected for too long. When not writing, she spends her time with her husband and daughter, and whatever time’s left over she’s forced to fit too many hobbies into too little time.
Nicole is represented by Jane Dystel, of Dystel and Goderich Literary Agency.

 

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Chapter Reveal: Tortured by Nicole Williams

 

 

 

Coming April 9th
Pre-order exclusively via iBooks HERE

 

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When he left for a twelve-month deployment, she knew it would feel like forever before they saw each other again. She didn’t realize how right she was.

When Lance Corporal Brecken Connolly gets taken as a POW, Camryn hopes for the best but steels herself for the worst. In the end, steel was what she needed to survive when he didn’t. She moves on the only way she knows how—gilding herself in more steel.

Years go by.

She builds a new life.

She leaves the old one behind.

Until one day, she sees the face of a ghost on the news. Brecken seems to have risen from the dead, but she knows she can’t perform the same miracle for herself. While Brecken was held in a torture camp for the past five years, she’s been trapped in her own kind of prison. One she can’t be freed from.  

The man she mourned comes back to join the living, but the girl he wanted to spend his life with isn’t the same woman he comes back for. Brecken isn’t the same person either. The past five years have changed them both. While he’s determined to put the pieces back together, she’s resolved to let hers rot where they shattered.

 

Broken or not, Brecken wants her back. He’ll do anything to achieve that. Even if it means going against the warden of Camryn’s personal prison—her husband.
PROLOGUE


Whenever he had to leave, it was torture. You’d think I’d get used to it, but I didn’t—each time got harder. This one might have felt especially brutal because of how long he’d be gone. A year. We’d done weeks, we’d done months, but we’d never done the full year.
Being with someone in the military, I knew I’d have to get used to it. The separation. The worry. The loneliness. The feeling that I was trying to catch my breath for however long he was gone.
It was a way of life. And he was my life. So I’d just have to figure it out.
“I’m never going to look at dog tags the same way again.” Brecken’s mouth turned up as his eyes roamed over me splayed across the backseat as he tucked in his T-shirt. He twisted his wrist, his gaze moving to his watch. A crease folded into his forehead. “But I’m going to need those back before I climb onto that bus. Something about military regulations. Not wandering around enemy territory without them. Those marines are sticklers for the rules.”
He was trying to make me feel better—trying to get me to smile—but little could lift my spirits other than finding out he didn’t have to leave for the Middle East for twelve long months.
“You don’t need them. Not really.”
“Why’s that?”
“Because you only need them if you’re planning on dying, and so help me god, I’m not taking these off my neck if you have plans for some kind of a hero’s death.” My hand curled almost defensively around the metal tags hanging against my bare skin as I focused on the way the cool metal warmed in my hand. The way it seemed to come to life in my hold.
“I’m not planning on dying over there. I’m not going to die,” he corrected the moment my eyebrow started to lift. “But I do have plans of scoring some gnarly war wound so I have a story to tell our grandkids one day and can hang one of those Purple Hearts off my chest.”
I flattened my face as best as I could, even though it was kind of impossible with the way he was grinning at me as he wrestled his jeans back into place. “Not funny.”
“Come on. It’ll make me look tough.”
“You already look tough. Too tough,” I added as I scanned him for the millionth time since he’d arrived back in Medford for a week-long vacation before shipping out. Whenever I looked at him, I didn’t just see the good-looking guy others did—I saw every good memory from my past. I saw every good memory that would be formed in the future. Brecken had been a part of my life since I was eight, and he was as much a part of me as I was.
“Nah, I need one of those big, angry-looking scars running across my chest. Or one of those bullet hole scars on my thigh. Something real tough like that.”
“And why do you need your dog tags for that?” My fingers tightened around the thin metal ovals, refusing to let them go as if I hoped in doing so, he couldn’t go either.
“Blood transfusion. Medics are going to need to know my blood type when they’re trying to patch up my unconscious body.”
“Unconscious body?”
He nodded all solemn-like. “I can’t be one of those guys who earns his Purple Heart by getting a scratch on some barbed wire. I need to lose a quart or two of blood, maybe even code on the operating table. Something worthy of that medal.”
The thought of Brecken marching through a hostile country with a rifle in his hands, with god only knew what aimed his way, made me feel weak with worry. The thought of him fighting for his life in some marine medical tent about took whatever was left of my sanity.
I must not have been doing a good job hiding my emotions, because his face broke when he saw my eyes, his arms opening toward me. “It’s going to be okay, Camryn. I’m going to be okay. We’re going to be okay. The year will fly by, and before we know it, we’ll be getting married and buying a little house as close to the beach as we can afford. Okay?”
His arms wound around me, swallowing my body, and I let him tuck me close to him. I’d never known the feeling of being safe until Brecken Connolly’s arms had shown me the meaning.
My hand planted in the middle of his chest, feeling his heartbeat vibrate against my palm. “Why can’t we just get married now? Why can’t I join the marines and go with you, wherever that is, so we can be together?”
His laugh was muffled from his mouth being pressed against my temple. “Well, you can’t join the marines and my unit because the military’s under this impression that us marines of the male species become distracted and one-track minded when the women we love are marching beside us. They’re convinced the only things on our minds are protecting you, flirting with you, or screwing you.”
Quietly, I counted off on my fingers, “Protecting, flirting, screwing . . .” Then I nodded. “Damn, they sure have you pegged.”
Brecken’s fingers brushed up and down the bend of my waist. “And we can’t get married right now because you’ve got two more months of high school to finish before you earn that nifty diploma thing.” He kept going, undeterred by my grumble. “And I need to save some money to give you a proper ring and wedding. I’m not doing the courthouse thing with cheap silver bands. Not for you. You deserve the best.”
My head tucked beneath his chin as I let him hold me in the backseat of his aunt’s old Corsica. The only good thing I could say about the car—which was a coin toss if it would start any given day—was that it had a decent-sized backseat that Brecken and I had made more than ample use of. Growing up in a strict household with my dad as Brecken grew up in the packed household a few houses down, privacy had been in short supply for both of us. Thankfully, his aunt was willing to lend Brecken her car whenever she could, like today, when I’d just made love to the only boy I’d ever loved for the last time for the next year.
My fingers curled into his chest as I willed time to freeze. “I have the best.”
Brecken grunted like he doubted that, his head lifting to check out the windshield. We were parked way back in the bus depot lot. His bus would be leaving for the long drive back to Camp Pendleton in a few short minutes.
“Besides, you already got me a ring.” I raised my left hand in front of him, rolling my fingers so he could see the adjustable birthstone ring on my finger.
He shook his head. “I won that for you at an arcade when we were ten.”
“It cost you twelve hundred tickets too. You saved up all summer to get that many tickets.”
His fingers touched the ring, twisting it around with a small smile on his face. “And it probably has the street value of a nickel. Not exactly the kind of wedding ring I want my wife to have.”
I found myself staring at the ring with him. The gold paint had started chipping off the thin band years ago, but the small pink birthstone still sparkled when the light hit it just right. “Well, it’s priceless to me. I don’t care what the street value is. Or how many tickets it cost.”
“Even so, I’m getting you a nice ring. With all of the hazard pay I’ll earn this year, you’d better start working that left ring finger out so it can bear the weight of the diamond I’ll be dropping on it.”
I was glad he couldn’t see my face, because he hated knowing how worried I was about him. He said hazard pay like a sales rep mentioned a bonus, but I heard it for what it really was—the government giving you a little more money for the likelihood of losing your life increasing.
“One more year. That’s it. Then we’ll be able to be together like we’ve always planned. Away from here.” Brecken’s arms loosened around me. We didn’t have much longer. “Away from these people.”
An uneven exhale came from him, the muscles in his arms twitching. I knew who he was talking about without him going into detail. Neither of our lives had been charmed or particularly easy, but mine had been worse. Being raised by a single dad who was so strict he made a monk’s life seem carefree, I’d had an unusual upbringing. Brecken only knew what I let him know about it, which was barely half of the reality.
“I don’t like leaving you alone with him,” he said, his voice a note lower. “If things get hard again, just leave. Move in with my insane family or a hotel or anywhere. Don’t let him hurt you. Words or fists. He does it again”—Brecken’s hands curled into balls as his back stiffened—“I’ll kill him. I swear I will.”
“He won’t,” I said instantly, in my most convincing voice. “He’s working on all that. Not drinking as much.” I made sure to hold his stare to sell as much conviction as I was capable.
My dad wasn’t just a strict man. He was a sad one, a lonely one. After my mom left, he’d turned into someone else, almost like she’d taken everything that had been good about him and stuffed it in that small suitcase too. Since I was the only one around and bore a striking resemblance to my mom, I’d taken the brunt of my dad’s grief. In the form of cutting words and, occasionally, outstretched palms.
Brecken had been walking down the sidewalk one day when he saw my dad strike me across the cheek for attempting to leave the house in a skirt he described as “fitting for a whore.” Brecken had only been thirteen, but he’d taken my dad down, managing to land a few punches before I could pull him off.
My dad stopped hitting me after that. At least where anyone passing by could see.
Not that I needed to tell Brecken that now. Though I guessed it would get him to stay a while longer . . . if only to be charged with murder and thrown into prison for the next twenty to thirty years.
Suddenly, that year didn’t seem so bad.
“He won’t,” I reiterated, when Brecken continued to give me that penetrating stare, like he was capable of finding a lie if I was hiding one.
Both of his brows lifted. “He better not.”
“If anything happens, I’ll crash at your family’s place, I swear.”
Sitting up, he pulled his wallet out of his back pocket. “With fourteen people sharing twelve hundred square feet of space, good luck finding a quiet spot to do your homework.” He pulled every bill out of his wallet. Even the last crumbled dollar. “Take this, hide it from your dad, and use it if you need to. That’s enough to get you a week or so at a hotel that isn’t a dump, and as soon as I get my next paycheck, I’ll send more.”
My head was shaking as I tried to stuff the money back into his wallet. He’d already closed it and was sliding it back into his pocket though. “I’ll be fine.”
Brecken’s gaze dropped to the money in my hand. “Yeah, I know.”
“Brecken.”
“Camryn,” he mimicked.
“I’m not taking the last dollar in your wallet.”
“Why not?” he asked, making a face. “I’d give you the shirt off my back, the air in my lungs, the last drop of blood in my veins. The last dollar’s a cakewalk compared to, you know, dying of suffocation or bleeding out.” He winked as he folded my fingers around the wad of money in my hand, then he leaned down to pull on his boots. He was moving quickly, glancing in the direction of the buses like he was making sure his wasn’t pulling away from the curb yet.
“Do you want to walk with me to the bus?” His focus stayed on cinching up his last boot as he waited for my answer.
He already knew it though. Good-byes weren’t my forte. Especially not the kind where I had to wave good-bye to the man I loved as he prepared to head into the middle of a war zone for the next year. Good-bye came with a whole different context when you said it to a marine.
“I know, Blue Bird. I know.” He sighed, his eyes narrowing at the weathered floorboards before he reached for the dog tags still hanging around my neck.
I didn’t make any move to lift my head or slide my hair aside to make it easier for him. As long as those tags were on my neck instead of his, he was safe. He was alive.
“I’m not going to die over there,” he whispered, pulling the tags over his head. They clinked together as they fell against his chest. “I’m coming back to you.”
My throat was burning from trying to keep myself from crying. “You can’t promise that.”
He reached for the blanket that had fallen on the floor and gently tucked it around my still-naked body. It was strange how I’d forgotten I was naked until he’d taken his tags off of me. Now though, I felt bare. Exposed. Vulnerable. My dress was somewhere around, even though I didn’t see it. We’d barely managed to make it to the parking lot before falling into the backseat together.
“Yes I can,” he said, his thumb tracing my collarbone before tucking the other corner around my shoulder. “Have I ever broken a promise to you?” He angled himself so he was in front of me, so I was forced to look him in the eyes.
“This is different. You can’t know for sure.”
“I’m going to enjoy watching you eat those words when I’m standing in front of that pretty face in twelve months, Blue Bird.”
I pulled the blanket tighter around me. “You know I don’t like it when you call me that when I’m mad at you.”
“You’re mad? At me?” He blinked. “Why?”
“You know why.” My eyes automatically moved toward the line of buses.
“To set the record straight, it’s the marine corps sending me to Iraq. Not me by personal choice.”
“No, but you made the personal choice to join the marine corps.”
“Yeah, because I didn’t want to spend the next twenty years pumping gas at the Qwik Mart.” His hand curled around the back of the front seat. “We’ve talked about this, Camryn. I’m not cut out for college, and I sure as shit am not going to spend my life working a minimum-wage part-time job and stuck in Medford. The marines is a chance at a real life. A career where I can be promoted and provide for a family and get a chance to kick a little ass every once in a while.” He leaned forward to kiss my forehead. Then my lips. “This is the ticket to that life we’ve been talking about for years. But it comes with a price.” His mouth covered mine again, this time a bit longer. “I’ll be okay. I’ll make it back.”
My eyes closed so I could focus on the taste of him left behind on my mouth. “You’re always the first to charge into anything. You don’t hang back. You don’t like the shadows. You like being the one who cast those shadows.”
When my eyes finally opened, I found his dark blue ones inches away from mine. His light hair, buzzed short so he was all ready for deployment, the few freckles scattered across the bridge of his nose, the way his jaw tightened when he stared at me, those were the things I’d remember when I’d lay awake at night, wondering where he was. If he was safe. If he was thinking about me. As long as I held on to a part of him, he could never really leave me.
“I’m coming home to you,” he said like a solemn vow. “It might be in more than one piece, but I’m coming home to you.”
I tucked his tags inside his shirt. They’d become cold again. “A thousand pieces, I don’t care. Just come home.”
His smile was almost as forced as mine as he leaned in, pulling me into his arms one last time. He held me for a minute, one hand secured around my neck, the other around my back, rocking me against him. Then he kissed me one last time. “Gotta go, Blue Bird. The Middle East isn’t going to settle itself down.”
As he threw open the back door to go around to the trunk to grab his bag, I leaned across the seat. He was leaving. For what felt like forever. “Yeah, don’t think you’re single-handedly responsible for tackling that agenda either.”
Throwing the bag over his shoulder, he crouched beside me. This smile wasn’t contrived. It was real. Perfect. “I’ll see you soon.”
“Soon?”
His hand formed around my cheek as his thumb traced the seam of my lips. “Sounds better than see you in a year, right?” Tucking his thumb into his mouth, tasting my lips on it, he gave me a wicked smirk before shoving to a stand and starting toward the buses. “I’m coming back for you, Camryn Blue Gardner, so you’d better be waiting for me, or I’ll just have to come find you and remind you why you fell crazy in love with me.”
Tucking the blanket around myself, I slid out of the car, leaning over the open door. “I’m not going anywhere. I’ll be waiting.”
He’d started to jog backward. “Waiting as in a few days until some other guy makes his play?”
My eyes rolled as I gave him a look. Brecken and I’d been together since I was fifteen and he was seventeen. Even before that, we’d been inseparable, no one able to come between us.
I cupped my hand around my mouth. “Waiting as in forever.”
“I won’t keep you waiting that long. Just long enough.” He was shouting now, the rumbling buses muffling his voice.
“Long enough for what?” I yelled back.
Even with this much distance between us, I didn’t miss it. The look in his eyes. The tip of his smile. “For you to agree to marry me the moment I get back.”
The breeze played with my hair, sending it away from him, like forces out of our control were already pulling us apart. “I will!”
He paused just below the bus steps, his eyes consuming me from a hundred yards away. “It’s, I do, Blue Bird. I do.” He grinned and handed his bag off to the person stuffing them into one of the outside compartments. Then his hands cupped around his mouth, and he dropped his head back. “I do, too!”
His voice echoed across the parking lot, earning the attention of more than just me.
That was it. He climbed the stairs, turned the corner, and disappeared inside the bus. I wouldn’t see him for a year. I might not see him ever . . .
My jaw tensed as I put a stop to that train of thought. Wedding vows and rings were the last things on my mind as his bus lurched away from the curb.
“Just come back to me,” I whispered to no one. “Just come back.”

 

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Nicole Williams is the New York Times and USATODAY bestselling author of contemporary and young adult romance, including the Crash and Lost & Found series. Her books have been published by HarperTeen and Simon & Schuster in both domestic and foreign markets, while she continues to self-publish additional titles. She is working on a new YA series with Crown Books (a division of Random House) as well. She loves romance, from the sweet to the steamy, and writes stories about characters in search of their happily even after. She grew up surrounded by books and plans on writing until the day she dies, even if it’s just for her own personal enjoyment. She still buys paperbacks because she’s all nostalgic like that, but her kindle never goes neglected for too long. When not writing, she spends her time with her husband and daughter, and whatever time’s left over she’s forced to fit too many hobbies into too little time.
Nicole is represented by Jane Dystel, of Dystel and Goderich Literary Agency.

 

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Review + Giveaway: Hero Hair by Rachel Robinson

 

Want to meet a “Real Seal?”

 

 

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Blurb

Everyone knows there is no “I” in team, but to Macs Newstead–orgasm-gifting, muscle-filled Navy SEAL hero–there are more important words than team. Words like victory and vanity and selfishness. People say those words like they are a bad thing, but to Macs, they’re simply tools in his highly effective arsenal. When a man’s entire existence revolves around the necessity to end lives, silly, mundane things like second dates or monogamy seem worthy sacrifices.

 

Downward facing dog or doggy-style–it’s all the same to Teala Smart, a whip-smart yoga instructor. She owns her studio like she owns her life–with focus, positive energy, and pure devotion. That devotion, however, does not trickle into her love life (or more accurately, her lust life.) Relationships are a roadblock to her success. They get in the way and tangle up emotions more than the lotus pose tangles up limbs. Men are best kept just for a night and then released into the wild before feelings get too messy.

 

HERO HAIR, the second novel of International Bestselling Author Rachel Robinson’s THE REAL SEAL SERIES, is the account of an life-altering journey detailing the awakening of two hollow hearts, both set on taking their own pleasures without any emotional attachment. The ruthless SEAL finally meets an enemy he can’t defeat, and both Macs and Teala find, against their wishes, and despite atrocious circumstances, a chemistry so explosive it leaves nothing but deconstructing love in its wake.

 

Excerpt

“Still want to have our third date?” he asks, pulling his t-shirt up to expose his abs. He bites the dark, cotton fabric, like men in fashion magazines do. With his abs flexed he poses so casual, so fucking drool-worthy, so over-the-top, and he gets away with it. He tosses the shirt onto the counter, with his tongue caught between his teeth.

 

I blow out a breath. It’s as hot as a Channing Tatum movie. More so, because I can actually touch this body–can do whatever I want with this body. “How am I supposed to say anything but yes when you don’t play fair? You’re over there with your goddamn abs and dimples and precision stripping skills.” I motion to his body.

 

“Babe, you played dirty first. Your mouth is like a fucking dirty poker game. One you’ll win every single time.”

 

I wrinkle my forehead. “Thanks I guess. Third date?” I ask, tilting my head to the side.

 

“Let’s go to my bedroom,” he says.

 

My Review:

This is the second book in the Real Seal Series but you don’t need to read Black and White Flowers first in order to understand it. The timelines of the two novels overlap, which is always interesting.

Teala (pronounced Tay-la) and Macs are two birds of a feather: they like their lives unencumbered. They know what they like, they aren’t afraid to go for it, and romantic relationships aren’t on the menu. Teala goes out on a date with one of the SEALs but she makes it clear she doesn’t do repeats, so the guy gives her number to Macs thinking they’ll be ideally suited. But Teala’s friends are determined to show her that there’s more to life than one night stands, and they dare her to go out on three dates with one man without hooking up. Poor Macs. He’d been told she was a sure thing and ends up disappointed, but willing to play the game. And–big shock–they find out they have a lot in common. Shame the biggest value they have in common is not going out on more than one date with the same person.

This is one of those stories I love, in which there’s laughter, tears and a lot of tension. It’s a lot of fun seeing these two learn how to go on dates without ending up in bed. They actually have to have conversations. Gasp! And the chemistry is off the charts. That’s not to say that there aren’t some terrible growing pains. But Rachel Robinson delivers a wonderful, believable, topical story. I’m eager for more books in this series. Five stars.

 

 

About the Author

 

Rachel grew up in a small, quiet town full of loud talkers. Her words were always only loud on paper. She has been writing stories and creating characters for as long as she can remember. After living on the west coast for many years she recently moved to Virginia Beach, VA.

 

 Stalk Rachel here:  Website | Facebook | Twitter | Amazon | Goodreads

 

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Review + Giveaway: Black + White Flowers by Rachel Robinson

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Meet Smith and Carina in Black & White Flowers,

the first standalone in The Real Seal Series

by Rachel Robinson.

“Nothing is fair in love and war.”

NOW AVAILABLE!

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Synopsis:

Carina Painter lives a life she created in between the pages of her bestselling novel. At least, that’s what she outwardly portrays. A heart-rending childhood followed by an abusive engagement leaves her broken in all ways possible. A chance encounter provides the fork in the road she so desperately desires.

Navy SEAL Smith Eppington is fighting the war of his lifetime. One that isn’t fought with weapons and highly sought intelligence. It’s a battle to remember his past. The accident that scarred seventy five percent of his body, and stole the life of his best friend also seized parts and pieces of his memory. When an author asks to interview him for a fiction novel, he’s ready to pour his heart out no matter the cost.

The friendship that blossoms between Smith and Carina is something extraordinary. It’s a living, breathing love story about finding yourself, change that is out of your control, grasping what you can, and letting go of everything else.

In a twist of kismet, remembering could destroy everything, but fiction may be what saves the day. A friendship built on new truths and a relationship torn apart by old lies collide in a poignant novel by International Bestselling Author, Rachel Robinson.

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Excerpt:

Shrugging, he pulls me into his warm, shirtless body and yanks the quilt back up to our necks, his hands now wandering over my body. “Sleep is the very last thing on my mind right now.” His gaze burns into mine and his hands find the hem of my nightshirt. His lips twitch. “You wear so little to bed. I can’t help myself,” he says. With a featherlight touch his fingertips stroke the side of my thigh up to the string of my panties. He hooks a finger in and drags his finger underneath it, teasing himself. Teasing me, too. “It took all of my self-control to go to sleep with this much of your bare skin in touching proximity.”

I blush. Big time. Everything below my waist cries out for attention in one wild rush of excitement. It’s been too long. But it’s more than that now because everything before this has been lukewarm. “What did you do at work last night?” I ask before all important thoughts flee my mind in favor of his touch—something that scrambles my brain cells. “Why did it take so long?”

His face changes. His hand stops on my hipbone and he grabs it, his fingers encompassing the whole side of my body. Breathing in and out makes his hand move with me. It’s warm. It’s demanding. “It’s nothing for you to worry about,” Smith replies.

I shake my head. “When people say stuff like that typically there is almost always something to worry about, but you don’t want to worry the person. Do you see how counterintuitive that is? Now I’m worried because you told me not to worry.”

He sighs and then pulls the covers over his head and disappears under the blankets. In a fast maneuver that tickles and makes me pull away in mock protest, he makes his way between my legs. With the edge of the quilt in my hand I lift it to see his smiling face between my knees. “You’re trying to distract me,” I say. Pressing my lips into a firm line, I try to hold a serious face. “Smith Eppington. You better tell me what I want to know.”

Smith takes the sides of my panties and pulls them down and off my body with one fierce tug. It’s playful, but so damn hot at the same. Some noise exits my mouth and it makes him smile, his good side wider than his bad. I shake my head. “Is it working?” he asks, then kisses the inside of my right thigh. “Are you distracted?” His warm breath on my skin clenches my core. He drags his lips up and down, inching his way higher.

I adjust my legs and try to calm my breaths. “I don’t see how I can’t be distracted with my underwear on the floor and your head between my legs. I don’t forget,” I say. Tapping the side of my head, I finish, “I’m like an elephant.”

He licks the inside of my left thigh and runs his hands under my nightshirt up and down the sides of my rib cage. I shiver. Tipping my head back, I close my eyes.

“An elephant isn’t what I want to think about right now,” Smith growls. “I’d ask you how you like this, but I honestly don’t care. I’m starving for you. You’re wet. I smell you.” With his lips pressing against my skin, and the disappearance of my panties, he’s turned into a lust crazed man. A man I’ve wanted to meet since I first laid eyes on him.

 

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My Review:

There are some things about this story that I adore. Carina may be abused but she refuses to be cowed. I really liked that Smith still bears the consequences of his wartime injury, yet remains employed and isn’t discarded. I like the themes of loyalty and honour. I like the long term girlfriend from whom he grows distant. And I really enjoyed Moose and the other Seals.

I love the name Eppington, but found myself a tad confused for a bit as to whether Smith or Eppie was the given name. Once in a while the dialogue was a bit distracting. Not enough to spoil the story–which is a wild ride. There’s quite a bit of domestic violence which may trigger some readers. Last, it was a long time before the meaning of the title was revealed.

A time or two, I wanted to give Eppie a smack upside the head. He’s such a lovely guy but once fixed on his duty, he doesn’t deviate. That might have had quite the impact on those he loves.

Still, a fascinating story with an unusual pair of leads. Four stars.

 

rachel-robinson
Rachel grew up in a small, quiet town full of loud talkers. Her words were always only loud on paper. She has been writing stories and creating characters for as long as she can remember. After living on the west coast for many years she recently moved to Virginia Beach, VA.

Stalk Rachel here:  Website | Facebook | Twitter | Amazon | Goodreads

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Review: Fight by the Team by Cindy Skaggs

   Title: Fight By The Team
Series: Team Fear #2
By: Cindy Skaggs
Publication Date: August 23, 2016
Genre: Romantic Suspense

Military trained, medically enhanced, designed to kill.

Sergeant Rose is a former Special Forces soldier turned fearless through a classified program designed to inhibit the physiological reactions to fear, but the secret cocktail of drugs has lethal side effects. The soldiers are still fearless, but they’re also angry, paranoid, violent, and potentially suicidal, making them a danger to anyone close to them, which sends Rose on a mission of revenge against the military and the scientists who used Team Fear as guinea pigs to further a twisted agenda.

A discredited chemist fired for rushing testing protocols, Debi works as a bartender and longs for a way to redeem an impulsive, life-altering mistake. When she is kidnapped and nearly killed by the men sent to destroy Team Fear and all evidence of the experimental program, she has no choice but to join Team Fear on their quest for vengeance. Now she’s in the crosshairs of a rogue military team bent on her destruction.

The threat of annihilation should be enough to prevent Rose from acting on his fantasies about the beautiful scientist, but he can’t fight fate, the Army, and their explosive chemistry. As they’re drawn deeper into the conspiracy, will their relationship survive the truth?

Fast paced, with twists and turns and a side of steamy, Fight By The Team is the second in the Team Fear series. The surviving members of Team Fear are out of the Army and in a world of secrets, lies, and cover-ups in this military romantic suspense series by Cindy Skaggs.

 

My Review:

I officially adore this series. Again, we have an appealing alpha male (who happens to be secretive about his first name) and a strong, skilled, STUBBORN female lead. The plot’s fascinating, the settings would make a terrific movie, and the characters are fascinating. On top of all that, this author has a military background so you can count on her knowing her stuff. Five stars for another of my favorite military romance series. I can’t wait for the next book!

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A muscle twitched in his bicep; otherwise he was still. “You don’t owe me anything.”

“No. But I’d like to.”

“What am I supposed to do with that?” He laced his fingers together on the top of his head. His features were impassive, intimidating as hell. “I decked one of my teammates in anger. Doesn’t that concern you?”

“All you did was split his lip.” The day before, he’d taken Wade out with one hit. “You pulled your punch.”

“That should still concern you.”

“It’s between you and Stills.”

“He’s got a hard face. He’ll live.”

“My point exactly. How about you?” Because the guilt hadn’t left his eyes the whole time they’d talked.

Shallow breaths moved his chest. “Why are you here?”

The coronary that had threatened since she was a kid was about to be realized. The words stalled in her throat, but if he could expose himself, his anger issues and the concerns behind them, she could speak the truth. Crap. Her heart nearly seized. “I want you to sleep in my bed.” She stepped forward and ran a finger down the midline, feeling the muscles twitch. It was quite possible she’d die before he answered. “And I don’t want to snuggle.”

Cindy Skaggs grew up on stories of mob bosses, horse thieves, cold-blooded killers, and the last honest man. Those mostly true stories gave her a lifelong love of storytelling and heroes. Her search for story took her around the world with the Air Force before returning to Colorado.

As a single mom, she’s turning her lifelong love of storytelling into the one thing she can’t live without: writing. She has an MA in Creative Writing, three jobs, two kids, and more pets than she can possibly handle. Find her on Facebook as Cindy Skaggs, Writer, @CLSkaggs on Twitter, or www.CSkaggs.com to sign up for her newsletter.
 

Live by the Team by Cindy Skaggs: Interview, Review, Excerpt and Giveaway

Title: Live By The Team

Series: Team Fear Series #1

By: Cindy Skaggs

Publication Date: April 23, 2016

Genre: Romantic Suspense

They created a monster. Trained by the army, enhanced by medical experimentation, and tested in war. What happens to the creature when the war ends and the man awakens?

SSgt. Ryder was born, bred, and enhanced as a warrior, but when he returns home to his new wife—exiled from the army along with the rest of his disgraced team—he faces mounting anger and paranoia. When a fellow soldier does the unthinkable, Ryder disappears to protect his wife, but his departure leaves a vacuum filled with danger. Can he save her or will he lose himself to the beast and destroy what matters most?

Abandoned most of her life, Lauren Ryder married thinking she had finally found stability, until her new husband disappeared. He returns altered and secretive. Can she forgive him for crushing her dreams of picket fences and happily ever after? Will she survive what he has become?

The surviving members of Team Fear are out of the military and in a world of secrets, lies, and cover-ups in this new romantic suspense series by Cindy Skaggs.

 

My Review:

I devoured this book and I can’t wait for more. I’ve discovered that I highly enjoy military romance fiction. As this author has a background in the military, you can bet these characters sound authentic. The plot is addictive and the characters are all so fully developed. I’m not going to give anything away. However, there’s a wonderfully long excerpt further down this page. Make sure you check it out! Five stars.

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A free excerpt…

Live by the Team

A Team Fear Novel

CINDY SKAGGS


This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.

Copyright © 2016 by Cindy Skaggs. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce, distribute, or transmit in any form or by any means. For information regarding subsidiary rights, please contact the author: Cindy@CSkaggs.com

Edited by Jessa Slade

Cover design by L.J. Anderson

First Edition April 2016

  

ISBN: 1532795742

ISBN-13: 978-1532795749

Prologue

Six months ago

Ryder shifted through the crowd gathering behind the police barricade. A local news crew panned the scene from a vantage point to his left. In front of him, a young blonde lifted a wide-eyed toddler to her hip, giving the kid a better view. Gunshots fired had turned into a three-ring circus complete with spectators and media crews.

Crime scene tape snapped under his fingers before he made the conscious choice to proceed. A uniform cop moved to intercept him, but Ryder stopped him with a glare. Menace was an art form he’d studied for twelve years in the Army. He knew how to intimidate without a word, without a weapon. Could kill as easily.

No one stood between Ryder and his men. Ryder dialed back the tension bunching his shoulders. He scanned the scene, gauging overall mood and readiness. Time didn’t allow for more than superficial recon.

A row of patrol cars created a barricade behind which officers lined up, guns drawn. They faced a nondescript ranch house on five acres of hard dirt. A pickup truck was parked under a stand of trees, the only shade for a good ten miles. The shade didn’t help much; it was Texas summer hot.

Nervous energy spread like gossip through the officers on this side of the scene. They were getting trigger-happy the longer the standoff lasted. Jittery men did stupid things.

Ryder walked through the line of patrol cars. No one noticed until he placed his body between the police and the scene of the crime. A last line of defense for the soldier in the barricaded house.

Expletives exploded behind the cop cars. Ryder let loose a sarcastic grin and turned; sure he had their attention now. He lifted his hands so they didn’t feel compelled to shoot him. The energy in the open field shifted from unease to outright distrust. Sweaty grips tightened on guns. Every eye in the area focused on Ryder and judged him a million kinds of fool.

Ryder met their uncertainty with cool resolve. Today’s mission involved getting PFC Madigan out alive, which put Ryder in the hot seat. Times like this, he missed the adrenaline rush: the increased heart rate, the quicker thinking, and increased energy that presaged a good fight.

“Sir, step back,” a male voice spoke into a bullhorn.

Ryder shook his head no. He raised his voice for the camera and the crowd. He didn’t need a bullhorn. “I served with the man inside the house. You want this to end peacefully?” He nodded at the camera. “Let me go in and talk to him.”

More expletives before a tall, slender man wearing a ballistics vest stepped to the west end of the barricaded cars. Tall like a Jolly Green, the man’s shadow stretched across the desert, the setting sun casting him in silhouette. Any half-trained soldier coming off a three-day bender could take him out. The soldier trapped in the house qualified as exceptionally trained. Ryder had done the training.

Ryder held his position, protecting both sides from bloodshed. “Sheriff,” he guessed, rightly so when the man nodded. “I was on the phone with your suspect when you arrived on scene. We’ve established rapport. Let me go in before the situation escalates.”

It wasn’t a question. Ryder didn’t back down. Another news van pulled up in a billow of dust. The crew jumped out, filming on the fly.

A sidebar conversation happened behind the cars while the cameras whirred. Even at sunset, the temps were in the triple digits. The heat factor fueled tempers. Voices raised and lowered with curses and outrage.

Standing between the police and their suspect, Ryder didn’t break a sweat. He absorbed the heat, used it to fuel his system. Guns from both sides pointed at him. The police maintained their vigil, while inside, Madigan would do the same, his sole focus on the troops massing in his front yard. “Mad Dog” Madigan was a weapons specialist. He would have the scene covered.

While the sheriff and his men deliberated, Ryder’s backup moved into position through the rear of the house.

The phone in his back pocket buzzed with an incoming call. He reached and guns lifted to the top of the cars. His hands stayed steady as he pulled the phone out, keeping his movements slow and deliberate. The voice on the other end reached his ears before the phone did.

“Please tell me these reports aren’t live.” The Texas drawl didn’t calm the panic in her voice. He could picture her pretty face, brows raised in frustration. Her hands fluttering as she spoke.

“They’re live.” Regret closed his eyes for a barely perceptible moment. Lauren. He’d told her he had to go help an Army buddy. “This is me helping a friend.”

“With guns pointed at you?”

“Sometimes, that’s what it takes, baby. I gotta go.”

“Ryder—”

He clicked off and dialed Madigan. The call connected without a word spoken. The soldier’s breathing pattern was high and erratic, which concerned Ryder more than the police standoff. Every damn thing about this situation felt wrong. None of this shit was the way they were trained. Hell, Ryder would have sworn emotion had been beaten out of them until he heard the sob on the other end of the line.

“This is bad, Ryder.”

“No shit.” He kept his tone low and measured, aware of the audience.

“Do you think—”

“I’m coming in whether they let me or not. Keep it holstered.” He pocketed the phone and looked across the yard to the sheriff. The other man’s gaze hid in twilight shadows, but his stance read more relaxed than the rest of his men. “Sheriff, I have him on the phone. This is your one chance to end this standoff without bloodshed.”

“How do I know you’re not taking another weapon inside?”

The smirk came natural to Ryder. Who was the sheriff kidding? Madigan stockpiled enough weaponry to start a civil war. The cache of weapons was what kept the sheriff’s men hunkered down instead of going inside. Ryder lifted his shirt and turned slowly, he even smiled for the cameras as he proved he wasn’t armed or dangerous. Well, the dangerous part was open for interpretation. “I’m not losing another soldier, Sheriff. That’s a promise I made my men when we came back.”

There wasn’t a soldier alive who didn’t know the odds. Twenty-two suicides a day. Not today. The words were a prayer. Too bad Ryder had nothing left to believe in or pray to. Sometimes you had to handle shit on your own.

“You can shoot me in the back for the cameras if you want, but I’m going in.”

He didn’t wait for a response. The dirt shifted under his boots as he spun and headed to the front porch. Ants circled a discarded pizza box on the welcome mat. The stench of rancid cheese hit him as he grabbed the doorknob, which turned easily in his hand. Ryder pushed into the house. Gloom shrouded the entryway.

“Close the door.” The voice came from the black void several feet to the right. “Lock it.”

“Not my first rodeo,” he said, but moved to comply. “You hung up on me earlier today, Mad Dog. We didn’t finish our conversation.”

They followed a strict protocol. No matter where a soldier lived, if he called, someone came running. No questions. They weren’t going to be part of some fucked-up statistic. Ryder was geographically closest to Madigan, so he dropped everything, kissed his new wife, and hit the highway. Rose had moved in from the north, and they’d arrived about the same time.

“I shouldn’t have called. Shouldn’t have involved you. I woke up—” Another hiccup from a hardened warrior. What the ever-loving hell?

“Nightmare?” They happened, and when they did, they felt real. Sounded real.

“I called before I had time to pull my head out.” Madigan’s tone calmed. “Before I could pin down what was real, a shitload of cop cars came barreling down the drive. How the fuck did they know to show up?”

“Good question.” Ryder kept his tone slow and easy as he catalogued the surroundings, waiting for his backup to come at Madigan from behind. Ryder was the distraction. They weren’t losing another soldier.

“You did the right thing, calling me. That’s the deal. Live by the team.” They might be out of the Army, might be disillusioned and disgraced, but they were still a fucking team.

“I lost time today, Ry.”

Could they still be having side effects after all these months? “How much time?”

“Hours.” The anguish in Madigan’s voice turned the dark hall into a black hole. “I’m afraid to turn on the light. Find out what’s real.”

“The hell you are.” No fear wasn’t just a motto. “Pack that shit up. Concentrate on the situation. Where are Maggie and the baby?”

“They’re my life. You know that?”

“I do. So let’s end this so you can get back to living.”

Sniffling sounded from a corner and Ryder was closer to triangulating Madigan’s position. He could take him in the murky light, but Madigan’s eyes were already acclimated to the black void. He’d have the upper hand. Darkness was Ryder’s friend, helped him focus, but today, night vision didn’t give him the advantage. Ryder reached to the wall and patted until he hit a switch. He flipped the light.

“Fuck.” Madigan shielded his eyes with one hand while the other aimed a gun at Ryder.

Where the hell was Ryder’s backup? Rose was supposed to take Madigan from behind, but Mad Dog’s back was now against a wall. Madigan backed himself into a corner looking every bit like his call sign: Mad Dog. A halo of red hair capped a tall, lean body smeared with war paint. The wild expression on his face surpassed insane. Blood covered Madigan’s hands and bare chest as if he’d painted himself in some twisted ritual. His eyes were dilated.

“You on drugs?” Maybe drugs explained the panic that shouldn’t be there. And the lost time.

“No.” Madigan scrubbed a hand over his eyes. “At least I don’t think so.”

“What does that mean, Mad Dog? You know better than to experiment with that shit.” With everything they had had pumped into their systems, even alcohol was a gamble.

“I didn’t, not on purpose, Ryder, I swear, but I woke up with the worst fucking headache. Disoriented.”

They’d all experienced those symptoms at least once. Shit. “What’s the last thing you remember?”

“I went into town to get pizza. Maggie didn’t feel good and the baby was fussy. I thought—” He pounded his forehead with the hand holding the gun. “Why the fuck can’t I remember?”

“What time was that?”

“Lunch.”

Hours ago. “Your truck’s out front. Do you remember pulling into the drive?”

“Yeah.” He pounded the back of his skull into the wall. “Maggie screamed. That’s what I remember. She screamed. I bolted. God, I can’t believe— I wouldn’t, but I had to, it’s only me in the house. And I’m covered in it.” His voice rose. “They’re my life.”

“Calm down.” Something was seriously fucking wrong, because the soldier stank with fear. Ryder took two measured steps closer.

“Stay back.” Madigan lifted a handgun and aimed at center mass. “Don’t take another step.”

Ryder paused. “I’m not afraid of dying.”

“Neither am I.”

Wasn’t that the problem?

Keep him talking. “Did Maggie leave you?”

“I wish.” Panic lifted his voice. “Not the way you mean. I don’t remember, but it had to be me.” An unfocused haze covered his eyes in a thin white film. “I’m the only one here, and there’s so much fucking blood.”

“You’re not making any sense.” Two steps closer. “Sitrep,” he barked, demanding a situation report from the soldier.

The order snapped Madigan’s shoulders to attention. “They’re dead.” He twisted his bloody hand in front of his hazy eyes as if the five fingers held the answers. “They’re my life.”

Seconds later, something in his eyes went hard. Determination replaced the haze, causing a shift in the soldier’s stance. All the training and the mood-altering modifications clicked into place until Mad Dog metamorphosed into a warrior.

Madigan knew how to kill and he’d finally settled on a target.

“No,” Ryder ordered.

“The pain ends. Right now.” Madigan turned the gun to his head. “No fear.”

Ryder launched across the space, but he wasn’t faster than a speeding bullet. Blood spatter hit him before exposing the ruined skull of a man Ryder considered a brother. Mad Dog was a soldier, a protector, and a killer. Where did one start and the others begin?

Rose barreled down the stairs at the sound of gunfire. “What the fuck?” He took in the sight of the fallen soldier. They’d seen death. They’d lost teammates, but they’d never lost one like this. Train a man to kill, take away the fear, and suicide was too damned easy.

“Wife and kid are dead,” Rose confirmed. “Bloody fucking sacrifice. Just like Kandahar.”

One of the special teams had turned sadistic in Kandahar and taken out a local village. Bad press didn’t begin to cover the fallout. The organization reacted swiftly, shutting down the program and denying any and all knowledge. Contracts were severed. Their service records heavily redacted. Overnight, the entire team was out. Out of the military, out of the war, out of the only life they knew. Team Fear took the fall.

Nothing about Mad Dog’s situation could leak. Fallout from a failed government program on U.S. soil would be catastrophic. If the company investigated, retribution would be swift and fatal.

“Shit, Ry—”

“I know. Get out,” he ordered. The cops didn’t need to know Rose had been in the house. “Rendezvous at zero three hundred hours. If I’m not there, you go underground.”

Rose vanished up the stairs. Outside, some idiot on a bullhorn issued threats he couldn’t hear inside the macabre house of hell.

Ryder leaned against the wall, and then slid down as the world shifted under his feet. Was this what it meant to be fearless?

Discover more of Cindy’s fast-paced romantic suspense:

She’ll do whatever it takes to find her son – Lie. Cheat. Steal. Seduce… As the former wife of an infamous crime boss, Sofia Capri is untouchable. She exists outside of the law…and outside of the criminal world. When her son is kidnapped, Sofia is desperate to find him. She’ll do anything. Lie. Cheat. Steal. Anything but trust. But it’s a strikingly handsome FBI agent who’s her only chance to get her baby back… Something about Sofia’s fiery beauty must be hitting all of his weak spots, because suddenly Mr. Law And Order Logan Stone finds himself bending the rules. When they’re implicated in the kidnapping, Logan and Sofia discover a horrifying reality—they have less than 72 hours to find the boy and clear their names.

Cindy Skaggs grew up on stories of mob bosses, horse thieves, cold-blooded killers, and the last honest man. Those mostly true stories gave her a lifelong love of storytelling and heroes. Her search for story took her around the world with the Air Force before returning to Colorado.

As a single mom, she’s turning her lifelong love of storytelling into the one thing she can’t live without: writing. She has an MA in Creative Writing, three jobs, two kids, and more pets than she can possibly handle. Find her on Facebook as Cindy Skaggs, Writer, @CLSkaggs on Twitter, or www.CSkaggs.com to sign up for her newsletter.

Social Media Links

Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/CSkaggs

Twitter: @CLSkaggs

Website: http://www.cskaggs.com

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/cindyskaggs/

Interview

Q: Please tell us about Live By The Team and what inspired you to write it.

A:  Every book starts with a character for me, and for this book, that character was Ryder. He’s a badass, a little dark, and a lot sexy. He’s prior military, accustomed to leadership, and trying to keep his disgraced Army team together while their world falls apart. I had this image of him in the desert at sundown walking into a live crime scene, snapping the yellow tape, and putting himself between the police and whoever was involved in the standoff. He lifts his shirt (women everywhere fan themselves) to prove he isn’t armed or dangerous. “Well, the dangerous part was open for interpretation.”

Lauren is a good foil for him. She’s strong-willed, independent, and highly intelligent with a hint of insecurity and a fear of being alone. She’s a history professor and a PhD candidate, because even smart girls deserve love. She’s not above challenging Ryder’s arrogance, and she’s been known to threaten to gut him and filet him for dinner, but at the end of the day, he’s the one man who can give her the love she craves. Together, they seriously heat up the page!

As I delved into the writing, I realized that what drew me to the story was a fascination with fear. Untouchable, my debut novel, went deep into the main character’s fear, which at one point is immobilizing. The men of Team Fear are the exact opposite. They charge head-on at fearful things. Studying fear has become an academic focus for me, so it was only natural that my fiction would take on a new aspect of fear. I’m in awe of the men and women of the military, police, fire, and other first responders who charge towards the trouble the rest of us run from.

Q: What themes do you explore in Live By The Team?

A recurrent theme for me revolves around abandonment and trust. Lauren’s father died fighting in Iraq when she was a kid, and her mother never emotionally recovered. Lauren is determined not to make her mother’s mistakes, so when Ryder disappears; she’s ready to write him off. What does it take to trust? What does it take to risk it all for love, even your most visceral fear?

The other theme that is prevalent in this particular story is home. I know firsthand the difficulty of moving every few years with military orders, leaving behind friends, family, and all that is familiar. The physical location changes every few years for military members, so what makes a home? Is home a place or is it people?

Q: I understand you have an aggressive writing schedule. Are you exhausted? Do you still enjoy writing?

A: Yes. Yes it is exhausting, but also thrilling. From October – December of 2015, I wrote 2 category romantic suspense novels plus a novella in the Untouchable series that are all now with my editor at Entangled, and after seriously stretching my legs as a writer, I didn’t want to slow down. The Team Fear idea had been percolating for quite some time, and this was the perfect time to work on it.

Writing is a puzzle for me. I setup a schedule where I can write close to 20 hours a week plus my MFA homework, my regular job, and teaching night classes at a local college. Oh, yeah, plus the kids and the pets and the rest of life as we know it. It is exhausting, but in the best possible way. Even when I’m struggling with a scene, I’m happy that I have the ability to do what I love most. I hope I always feel the joy of sitting down to the computer, putting in my ear buds, and zoning at to my make-believe world.

Q: What is your most challenging aspect of writing?

A: Starting.  Until I have that clear vision in my head of the characters and the opening of the story, I resist. I listen to a playlist for every book or series that I write, and I play it all the time to immerse myself in the emotional mindset of the characters. This stage is the only time that I can’t read anyone else’s work because I need that sole focus on the incoming book. The funny thing is, I forget this every time, and every new book creates this same sad frustrating cycle until something clicks and the characters start taking on a life of their own.

Q: Describe your typical writing day?

A: I drop the kids at school and head to a coffee shop where I meet a couple of my writing friends (as often as we can all get there, anyway). We use writing sprints to keep us motivated, writing for 30 minutes at a time and comparing output. It’s not as competitive as it sounds. Mostly, we’re encouraging each other to write more and better. Sometimes the process changes when someone has a book coming out and wants to talk about publicity, promotion, and Indie publishing, but for the most part, we’re there from 10-3 to get writing done, and all of us have improved the quality and the quantity of our work this way. Writing sprints have liberated me as a writer, because if you’re writing fast, you don’t have time to get in your own way.

Q: What’s the happiest moment you’ve lived as an author?

A: That changes with each project, but right this second, it’s Indie publishing the Team Fear series. It is flying without a net, terrifying and thrilling, but worth the ride.

Q: Is writing an obsession to you?

A: Absolutely.  I get cranky (what a nice word) when I don’t write.  The truth is, I become a raving witch and my children run as fast and as far as they can.  My son calls it “caving” when I need to write.  “Are we caving tonight?” he’ll ask, and it gives me permission to hide in my cave to write.  Writing helps me get through all the crap in my head so I don’t take it out on those closest to me.  I could give up wine and coffee and even the gym (well, actually, that wouldn’t take much incentive), but I could never give up writing.  I honestly believe I’d go crazy without the ability to create fictional worlds and fictional characters.

Q: Ray Bradbury once said, “You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.” Do you agree?

A: Truth.  I cannot speak for other writers, but for me, reality isn’t such a great concept.  I think that’s true for many creatives.  It’s why we create.  If I became too much of a realist, my ability to write would disintegrate.  I can handle a cruel and unjust fictional world, but a cruel real world will send me to the nearest tub of Ben & Jerry’s.

Q: Do you have a website or blog where readers can find out more about you and your work?

My blog is a little like my happy place.  I love to see people there, digging through my brain for the newest relevant or irrelevant (or irreverent) post.  And I love to engage in conversations (so please post and comment).  http://www.cskaggs.com/see-cindy-write I have recently added a writer’s tab to my website where I post writing related topics. I’ve started and continue to facilitate a local writing group, and it’s our place to post on what we’ve discussed each month, but I think the information is valuable for writers everywhere. http://www.cskaggs.com/writers

Q: How has your upbringing influenced your writing?

My dad was significantly older than my mom, and consequently, he died when I was still a kid.  It flattened me, so I buried myself in books, starting with Nancy Drew.  As a Pisces and a dreamer and an (un)realist, I lived in my dreamworld.  I could create fiction out of any environment and lived there.  It protected me as a child, and insulated me as an adult.  I think the ability to live in fiction is a gift, but others would say it’s a curse, because I have a hard time facing unpleasantness (why would I do that when I can read a book!?).

Q: When and why did you begin writing?

My first short story was written in the 5th grade as a result of a creative writing prompt.  I doubt Mr. Pittman meant for it to affect my life in the way that it did, but I wrote a three-page short story about my class being stuck on a cruise ship in the Bermuda Triangle.  I, obviously, was the heroine of the story (yes, I saved my class’s fannies).  I wrote it out, on purple paper with purple ink, and I wore an actual dress (gasp) to read it aloud to the class.  After I finished, Mr. Pittman said, “Now I see why you dressed up.”  From that point forward, I knew I’d be a writer (even if I always thought it in the future tense).

Q: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?

It was an extension of my reading, and it started young.  I read Nancy Drew from a young age, and in the 4th grade in Mr. Neis’s class, I started reading The Little House on the Prairie books (which led to a long stage of historical fiction writing). When I was 13, my mother’s Aunt Ilene gave me a brown grocery bag filled with Harlequin romances, and I was hooked.  She taught me that you “hid” your “trashy” romances, and that the super-hot doctor always fell for the awkward nurse/patient.  I knew I wanted to create a world that existed outside reality and that ended Happily Ever After.

Q: When did you first know you could be a writer?

I finished my first novel in high school. I never showed it to a soul, but through my historical, Civil War, “epic” romance, I learned that I could complete a novel.  Unfortunately, I never gave myself permission to pursue writing as a career.  After high school, I joined the Air Force.  After the Air Force, I got a “paying” job.  I went back to college, and still didn’t give credence for my desire to write.  After I had kids, I “didn’t have time to write.”  In 2011, I finally gave myself permission to write, and I applied to the Creative Writing program at Regis University.  That’s when I finally knew that my desire to write could become a payable and pursuable career choice.  Others probably don’t need as much validation, but I’m nothing if not persistent in my resistance.

Q: What genre are you most comfortable writing?

Like my reading, my writing is all over the card catalog.  The best thing about getting a Masters in Creative Writing is the expansion of your awareness as a writer.  It forces you to work in other genres, and I learned that I didn’t hate them. ☺  I write literary nonfiction, and wouldn’t have known what it was if I hadn’t gone back to school.  I absolutely love it.  It feels very natural to write as myself (something I always thought I wouldn’t do), but romance was my first love in writing, and I’m still most comfortable there.  I like the cadence and the patterns and the HEA.

Q: Did writing Live By The Team teach you anything and what was it?

Fabulous question. It taught me to face my fears and it taught me to take risks, both of which of have to do with Indie publishing and believing in my story and myself. The characters always teach me things, an unexpected and sometimes unwanted revelation. Lauren is very self-motivated and self-contained. She doesn’t need a man, but man-oh-man, does she want Ryder. It’s hard for her to give up her perceived independence and start acting as a partner, and I realize I have some of those same pig-headed tendencies. I need to learn to accept help and work together rather than independently all the time.

Q: What is your favorite quote from Live By The Team and why is it your favorite?

Asking me to pick one line out of 85,000 words is a little like asking me to pick a favorite child, but in the interests of fairness, the first line that comes to mind is something I tell my kids all the time: Love is an action word. Ryder is a smooth talker, he can quote poetry, and The Art of War, and naughty limericks, and Lauren is easily swept away the first time, but after he disappears for six months, she’s gotten a little hard. A little bitter. “Love is an action word, Ryder. Your sweet words don’t buy you a pass.”

Q: Who is your biggest supporter?

My kids. I cannot tell you how fabulous it feels for them to support me, and it’s an interesting role reversal.  They tell me all the time that they think I’m a great writer, that they’re proud of me, and that they can’t believe I have more Twitter followers than they do. J  They’ve known for years that we go without material possessions so that I can pursue my education and my writing, and while they may miss “things,” they’ve never complained.  I hope it teaches them to pursue their greatest passion.

In Live By The Team, there’s a line where Ryder asks his army buddy why he joined Team Fear, an experimental program. Rose answers: “Doesn’t matter. I signed the papers and drank the Kool-Aid.” The Kool-Aid is the symbol for what brought them to this point, so in the dedication to my kids, saying I would drink the Kool-Aid means I would repeat any and all of my life choices that led me to them, because they’re worth everything.

Q: Who is your biggest critic?

Me, absolutely.  After I finish a book, I’m sure it’s garbage and shouldn’t see the light of day.  I have to put it away for awhile before I can read it and evaluate it fairly.

Q: What cause are you most passionate about and why?

My kids, single moms, writing, teaching, and the perfect pair of boots.  I work three jobs, go to college, teach college classes, have kids and pets and a house and a car to maintain.  All that “work” helped me to focus on what was important to me and what I’m passionate about, which is split evenly between my kids and my writing.  All jokes about boots aside, I’m passionate about the inequity in this country that faces single moms as an extension of my own experiences and those of women around me, which has led to my passion for teaching, because I believe education is a way out of the bad place many women find themselves.

Q: What are you currently working on?

Finishing up the Team Fear series. Book 2 continues the story as we follow Rose in the fight against… Well, we’ll just have to see. J

Q: Do you have any advice for writers or readers?

Trust your instincts.  When you’re younger, you think you have to learn “the rules.” Mostly, I want writers to trust the process.  The technical aspects of writing will come the more we read and write, but if we rewrite our book every time someone mentions a “rule,” we’ll kill the book faster than we would if we never wrote another word.  And sadly, listening to those “rules” and their advocates can block us from writing at all, and that, my friends, is a tragedy.  Trust your instincts.  If you believe your writing should go in a certain direction, go that direction and hang the rules.

Q: What are some of your long term goals?

To rule the world…oops, that’s the Evil Cindy’s goal.  For me, I want to finish the Team Fear series, and I have another novel, more women’s fiction than romance (no dead bodies) that I’m rewriting as part of my MFA thesis project. Under the category of fame, fortunate, and everything that goes with it, I want to make some best seller lists, maybe get a movie deal, and as long as we’re talking dreams…  Nah, those are things I can’t control (even if I do want them).  What I want most is to reach readers, and provide for my family.  If I could write full time, that would be like winning the lottery.

Q: Are you a different person now than you were 5 years ago? In what way/s?

Not even in the same zip code as I was five years ago. I was an insecure single mom who didn’t know how she’d provide for her kids. Ironically, I lived in fear. All. The. Time. Now I don’t have time for fear. That’s not to say it doesn’t exist, but I’m running around all the time, so fear doesn’t know where to catch me. J And I embrace things that scare me, such as Indie publishing this series. Five years ago, I wouldn’t have even attempted it.

Q: Do you have a press kit and what do you include in it?  Does this press kit appear online and, if so, can you provide a link to where we can see it?

A:  Yes. I have a list of interview questions, my bio, links to my social media sites, plus my cover photo, because, dang, Mayhem Cover Creations did a fab job on that cover!

Q: Have you either spoken to groups of people about your book or appeared on radio or TV?  What are your upcoming plans for doing so?

A:  I established and continue to facilitate a local writers group, so I speak monthly on various writing craft topics as well as critique both fiction and nonfiction. I was recently interviewed on the Creative Magazine Radio Show, and I participated in an annual writing program established by the Pikes Peak Library District called the Mountain of Authors. I enjoy speaking on topics of writing craft and fear.

 

Review: Nobody but You by Jill Shalvis

Nobody but You large cover Jill Shalvis

Amazon.com

Summary:

After an overseas mission goes wrong, Army Special Forces officer Jacob Kincaid knows where he must go to make things right: back home to the tiny town of Cedar Ridge, Colorado. All he needs to scrub away his painful past is fresh mountain air, a lakeside cabin, and quiet solitude. But what he discovers is a gorgeous woman living on a boat at his dock.

Sophie Marren has nowhere else to go. She’s broke, intermittently seasick, and fighting a serious attraction to the brooding, dishy, I’m-too-sexy-for-myself guy who’s now claiming her dock. Something about Jacob’s dark intensity makes her want to tease—and tempt—him beyond measure. Neither one wants to give any ground . . . until they realize the only true home they have is with each other.

 

Nobody but You 1 Jill Shalvis

 

My Review:

I enjoy everything written by Jill Shalvis and this book is no exception.

Jill’s stories are well-developed and true-to-life. In this case, we find two people who are terrified of loss and suffering from low self-esteem, who must decide whether to open their hearts again or play it safe.

Sophie’s issues are not new. For years, she’s been married to a man who made her feel she could never be good enough. She grows a set and divorces him after she catches him cheating, but obviously she didn’t have a good lawyer because instead of walking away with a fair portion of their marital assets, she settles for taking his beloved boat out of spite. And she hates that boat with a passion, but won’t even sell it back to him.

Maybe it’s just because she’s cranky but when she meets Jacob Kincaid, sparks fly.

Jacob is career army and extraordinarily stubborn. The stubbornness is likely a shield against sensitivity. After heated arguments with his twin brother, Hudson, he accepted Hud’s order to stay away. And Jacob did stay away from the family. For ten years. He made his brothers in arms his family instead.

Then, his best friend is killed in action. Jacob develops an overpowering case of survivor guilt. He decides not to re-up. But what is he to do with his life without the army?

It’s time to go home and make amends. He is a patient man and able to wait out the high feelings of others. And suddenly, there’s this girl mooring her boat illegally outside his rental cottage. Her feisty attitude may be just what he needs.

As I said, I like these characters (both of whom could use a good smack at times). I would have liked to see a few more of the gaps filled in–especially when Jacob goes back to finish out his term. However, this is one of those books I’d like to take to the beach or a park. Four and a half stars.

 

Nobody but You 2 Jill Shalvis

Jill ShalvisAuthor Bio:

New York Times bestselling author Jill Shalvis lives in a small town in the Sierras full of quirky characters. Any resemblance to the quirky characters in her books is, um, mostly coincidental. Look for Jill’s bestselling, award-winning books wherever romances are sold and visit http://www.jillshalvis.com for a complete book list and daily blog detailing her city-girl-living-in-the-mountains adventures.
www.facebook.com/jillshalvis
www.twitter.com/jillshalvis
www.instagram.com/jillshalvis
http://jillshalvis.tumblr.com/
or email her at contact@jillshalvis.com

 

Military Romance FB Hop with Giveaways: July 1-4th

Military Blog Hop heartflag

To celebrate the Fourth of July, 30+ authors (including some of your favorite NYT and USA Today bestsellers) are participating in a Facebook hop from July 1-4th. Readers can win prizes on each author’s Facebook page. All you have to do is stop by the first author’s link, enter the contest as instructed, and then click on the next author’s link.

There is also a Rafflecopter grand prize on the event’s landing page if you share the Landing page URL by FB or Twitter.

Your first stop on the tour:

http://www.facebook.com/AuthorAllieKAdams

Landing Page:

http://rochellepaige.com/military_romance_event

Rafflecopter:

https://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/b76806b85/

Readers will start at the first author’s Facebook Page and continue through the pages of the 30+ authors participating in the hop. Winners will be randomly chosen to win prizes on each author page. Don’t miss this one! And Happy Canada Day and Fourth of July to all of you!

 

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