Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Blog Tour - The Summer Remains by Seth King


Title: The Summer Remains
Author: Seth King
Release Date: Feb 14, 2015
Find on Goodreads



Twenty-four-year-old Summer Johnson knows two things. The first is that due to a quickly worsening medical condition, she faces a risky surgery in three months’ time that may very well end in her death. The second is that she would like to fall in love before then.
As spring sinks into her namesake season on the Florida coastline, Summer plays the odds and downloads a new dating app - and after one intriguing message from a beautiful surfer named Cooper Nichols, it becomes clear that the story of what may be her last few months under the sun is about to be completely revised. All she has to do now is write something worth reading.
Tender, honest, devastating and triumphant, The Summer Remains explores a very human battle being waged in a very digital age: the search for a love that will outlast this temporary borrowing of bones. In an era when many feel compelled to share and re-share anything about everything, prepare to feel a love so special, you will want to hug it close and make it yours forever.




Chapter 1
On a sunny Tuesday morning towards the end of March, a white-haired man walked into a cold room and told me I might die soon.
I fidgeted on the hospital bed as Dr. Steinberg entered, the late-spring sunlight mocking me as smiled onto the industrial tile floors. I’d known Steinberg since I was four. He’d handled almost all of my throat problems, and I trusted him. He was like a second father to me, and I knew he would always tell me the truth.
That’s why the look on his face scared the living shit out of me.
I listened for the next ten minutes as he gave me the gist of the story. It was all so surreal that my mind could only catch certain phrases before the sentence would run away from me again:
Your esophagus has ruptured again, for good this time…
Your stomach is leaking more and more…
Toxicity levels are through the roof…
Your body just isn’t getting the nutrients it needs from your feeding tube any longer…
And finally, terminal.
“Terminal?” I heard myself squeak, my throat filling up with that weird, shivery feeling you get when you know your life has just changed. Steinberg suddenly became very interested in a fraying string on the sleeve of his jacket.
“T-terminal,” he stuttered. “Summer, the thing is…I’m afraid this is a…well, nobody has ever…”
He finally cleared his throat and met my gaze, tears pooling in the corners of his cerulean eyes. “Sweetheart, I am so sorry to tell you this, but this mountain may be unclimbable for you.”
My mother let out a small, sharp sob in the corner and then clapped her hands over her mouth.
“Okay, unclimbable,” I swallowed, staring down at the floor as I tried to grasp just what that word now meant to me and my family and this weird little life I had created for myself.  “Okay. Unclimbable. Okay.”
But Steinberg wasn’t done yet.
“Hold on. I said it may be unclimbable, not that it definitely will be. I want to prepare you, and I don’t want to give you any false hope, but there may be something we can do, Summer. It’s a small chance, but still, it’s a chance. A Hail Mary, if you will.”
I reached up to rub my temples. “Okay, well, survival sounds good. Better than death, I suppose. What is this Hail Mary?”
Steinberg crossed his arms, studied me for a moment, and then took out a chart and launched into a spiel about something called the Porter-Collins Procedure, an extremely major surgery that would perhaps be saving my life in three months’ time.
“Nobody has ever survived this particular operation,” he concluded a few minutes later, skipping all the medical jargon to keep from boring you to death, pardon my pun. “Nobody. It’s been attempted three times, but none of those were ultimately successful. One person survived for three months in intensive care, but she was fifty-one, and in frail health in general. We think you’re a much more viable candidate, but then again, there is no way to be sure. We can do it in two, maybe three months, after I assemble the specialists and create a game plan – considering your health doesn’t take another nosedive before then, that is. If we’re going to try this, we need you in tip-top shape – or as close to that as we can get you, anyway.”
“Okay,” I said again, sitting a little taller. “And what are the chances that this Hail Mary will even work, and that I won’t just die a few days later, anyway?”
He peered down at me from over his glasses. “I’m afraid to say that it would be stretching things to even tell you eighty/twenty.”
I steeled myself and took a breath. “Okay, well, that’s better than a hundred to zero. Let’s go out with a bang, then, Steinberg. Let’s do this.”
He threw up a fist, triumphant, but I could see the fear in his eyes. “It’s settled, then. Hail Mary it is.”
My mom rushed over to sit beside me and kind of hang onto my shoulder as some counselor woman came in who helped families handle these types of situations – “transitions,” she called them, and just hearing that word threatened to pull me under. Dr. Steinberg watched, an apology on his face, as she said things like “preparations” and “options” and “arrangements.” I tried to be polite and pay attention, but truthfully I didn’t give a damn about what she was saying. It was go time, and things were looking grim. I already knew that. The wet, metallic panic erupting in my stomach was due to an entirely different subject.
“And finally,” the counselor, Angie, said in a hushed, clipped, polite voice that spoke of years of having impossible conversations with worried families huddled in chilly waiting rooms, “I work very closely with Last Great Hope, a wonderful organization that specializes in situations like this, and if there is anything you want before the surgery, Summer – a trip to Tahiti, a cabin in the mountains, whatever – we can do it. Or if-”
“Thanks, but no thanks,” I said, making her stop short.
“Wh – excuse me?”
“Save the Disney trips for the twelve-year-olds,” I told her. “Spend all that money on a cancer kid or something; I know the truth about those fairy tales now. Make someone else happy – I’ve got everything I need. Or almost everything.” I paused as everyone leaned in. “I do have one request, actually. First of all, all of you are forgetting something vital.”
“Oh no, did we forget your milk?” my mom asked as she reached for her purse. “I thought I put some-”
“No, Shelly, we did not forget the baby milk I pump into my stomach tube every day to keep myself alive because my throat doesn’t work, but that does have something to do with it.”
As she pouted in my general direction I realized what a complete bitch I was being, and then I realized just as quickly that I probably wouldn’t be able to stop myself anyway.
“What is it, then?” my mom asked, stung, and I took a breath and then pushed it back out.
“Frankly, I need all of you to chill the fuck out.”
My mom dropped her purse onto her lap. Dr. Steinberg looked at me like I’d just tried to jump out of the third story window. Angie held her pen in midair and stared at me, the sun turning her brownish eyes ocher.
“Excuse me, young lady?” my mother asked. “We need to what?”
“Chill the eff out,” I said, editing my language the second time around. “Sorry, but all this emotion and drama and doom and gloom crap is already making me freak out. You’re all forgetting I’ve had a broken throat and a tube in my abdomen since I was in diapers, and that I can handle this. I’ve dealt with health scares before, and I will do it again, no matter how much scarier this Scare is than all the other Scares. Like, I know you’re trying to help and stuff, and I love you, but having meltdowns in front of me is not going to help me deal with all this, so please, I beg you, everyone take a deep breath, close your eyes, and get your panties out of a bunch.”
“We’re sorry,” my mom said after an impossibly long and awkward moment. “It’s just that we need to prepare you for…for what will happen, and-”
“Prepare me to die?” I asked. “Guess what, Shelly, I’m going to die one day, be it in three months or sixty years, and wasting all my time crying over it isn’t going to help. Here’s what I want, my one last wish – or my maybe-not-last wish, or whatever the hell this is.” A tear appeared in my mom’s eye, and I softened my voice as I reached up to wipe her cheek. “Okay. Before the surgery, I want to have a normal summer by the beach,” I began as I cleared her eye and shook the water from my finger. “I want to go to the sea and go to work and read my books and go about my business like usual without everyone breathing down my neck and treating me like A Broken Person, because if I am treated like A Broken Person for one more month of my life I will break some faces, no offense. Shelly, if you so much as make one special meal – I mean, not that I can eat or anything, because I can’t – anyway, I’m burning down the house. There will literally be a pile of smoldering ashes where your kitchen used to be, I promise.” Shelly pouted again, but I trudged through. “I’m serious, no special treatment. No Christmases in July, no excessive hugging, not even a midnight run to Target for some trinkets from the dollar section. And most of all…”
I looked around and, seeing sympathy in everyone’s eyes and knowing this request would be completely futile, said – “No sympathy. Please. The sympathy is what breaks me and makes me feel broken. If this is gonna be my last chance to live and have fun and be normal, then I’m going to need to feel as normal as possible, and that means absolutely no pity, because that separates me from everyone else and makes me Different with a capital D. And if I don’t stay in a good headspace I’m gonna spend the next three months in a fetal position in my closet having an endless anxiety attack about the surgery, so please work with me here and keep the pity locked up.”
A sigh and a smile. Shelly put her hand on mine. “I would never pity you, Summer. You’re the strongest person I know, and you always have been. You know that. We all know that. That’s not what this is about.”
I tried to smile back. “Thanks, Shelly.”
“Anytime. And can you please call me Mom, like a normal twenty-four-year-old?”
“Not a chance, Shelly.”
“Okay, fine. So, then…a Jax Beach summer? Is that really all you want?”
I paused as her words hung in the overly sanitized air. It wasn’t all, and I knew it. As I sat there I thought of the one thing I didn’t have, the one thing I’d never had, the one thing that screamed at me from the silence and jumped out at me from the shadows – and now that this upcoming summer had perhaps just become Summer’s Last Stand, my desire was suddenly more urgent than ever. I knew I wouldn’t be able to stop the longing from rising to my face, and as I felt the blood burn my cheeks I caught Steinberg’s eyes again, which just embarrassed me even more.
“Well, I mean, since you’re asking, there is one thing…”
“Anything!” Shelly and Dr. Steinberg said at exactly the same time, and I stared out of the window as my eyes got all weird and watery.
“Okay, well, I know something so sentimental is going to sound crazy coming from someone so…well, you know how I am…”
“Honest?” Steinberg offered, trying to be polite.
“Opinionated?” Shelly said.
“Brash?” Angie asked, even though she’d just met me ten minutes ago and it was literally beyond embarrassing that she already held that opinion of me.
“Headstrong and stubborn and annoying,” I finally said, shoving it out of the way, and they all nodded. “Anyway, here goes. Since you’re asking, the thing is…well, I’d like to fall in love.”
I looked down at the ground again as everyone in the room broke my most important rule already: I could feel their pity descending on me, smothering me just like it had my entire life, snuffing out any chance I had at being treated like a normal, living, breathing human, who deserved to love and be loved just like anyone else, as they say in the Hallmark cards.
“Oh, honey…” Steinberg sighed.
“It just wouldn’t be fair to someone…” my mother chimed in, just as Angie the counselor lady threw in her two cents, too.
“Sweetie, you have to understand, your situation is very serious. People get irrational during times like these, and if you get involved with someone and the worst happened, well-”
I crossed my fingers behind my back and shook my head. I’d known they’d react like this – why had I even tried in the first place? Some things, I knew, were just better left unshared.
“Yeah,” I said. “Okay, yeah, you guys are right. I’ll try to…put that off, I guess. For now. God knows I have tons of time to think about it – it’s not like I’m dying or anything.”
Everyone forced quick, fake laughs and then got back to business. Unbeknownst to them, however, my mind was quickly leaving the room, flying past the barren oak branches outside the window and soaring above the clouds to someplace only I knew. My desires could not be contained by the circumstances in this room, or by sickness, or even by reality in general, really. I wanted love more than anything – this was true, as much as it humiliated me to admit it. I’d wanted love ever since I was a cookie-cutter little girl being brainwashed by cookie-cutter Disney movies about cookie-cutter princes and princesses falling into cookie-cutter love and then prancing off to their cookie-cutter castles to live out their cookie-cutter lives. And strangely enough, this desire had only deepened after the fairy tale fantasies faded away and melted into a more grown up, real-world entity known as relationship FOMO, when my condition had rendered me an observer from the social media sidelines as everyone my age paired up and got engaged and married and pregnant and then shouted about it from the Facebook treetops as loud as their keyboards would let them while I sat there single as a nun with the flu. But I didn’t want that cookie cutter love from the Disney movies and my social media feeds. I didn’t want some run of the mill summer romance that would fizzle out as soon as the sunrays slanted in the fall and the Facebook Official status went to shit.
Because I, Summer Johnson, Purveyor of Pragmatism, Lover of Logic, Ultimate Believer in the Rational, and Person Who Was Maybe Going To Die Soon, wanted to drown in someone.





Seth King is a twenty-five-year-old author and artist.


Thursday, February 26, 2015

Blog Tour - Blissful Valentine by Amy L. Gale



Title: Blissful Valentine
Author: Amy L. Gale
Genre: Romance
Hosted By: Beautiful Promotions



Straight-laced 19-year-old Brooke Powers has two goals: First, avoid the party scene and all the drama and disaster that go along with it. Second, focus on attaining her Marketing and Business degrees. When her roommate begs her to attend a fraternity party she reluctantly obliges, but gets more than she bargained for when she meets enticingly charismatic fraternity brother, Dean Parker. After a mishap causes her to wake up in the worst possible place she can imagine, she vows to stay away from anything or anyone fraternity related. Staying away from Dean is a daily battle, one she's slowly losing. When her feelings conjure up old demons from the past, her strategically planned future turns into chaos. Brooke is desperate to keep herself on track. Will Dean be her downfall or is he exactly what she needs? 


Valentine’s Day isn't always complete bliss.



BLISSFUL VALENTINE WILL BE ON SALE FOR $0.99 FOR A LIMITED TIME ONLY.
GET YOUR COPY AS SOON AS POSSIBLE!



BLISSFUL VALENTINE EXCERPT :

He stops and meets my gaze, then bends down and grabs a mound of snow, packing into a tight ball. He takes a step back and winds his arm, throwing the snowball straight and fast. It smacks against the metal sign on the far end of the small pond near a cluster of benches, breaking off into a multitude of pieces.
He wipes his hands off on his pants. “Give it a try.”
I shake my head. “No way, I throw like a girl.”
His picks up a mound of snow and packs it together, forming a perfect sphere. He hands me the snowball and stands behind me, pressing his body against mine. My heartbeats thump against my chest, causing a surge of adrenaline to rush through my veins. I tremble, holding the snowball in my right hand. At least I can blame the cold for my shaky arm. He runs his hand down to my wrist and pulls it back, up toward my shoulder.
He rests his head on my shoulder and talks softly into my ear. “Pull your arm back to here and step forward at the same time you throw.” He moves to the side.
Goosebumps form on my neck from his warm breath gliding against my cool skin. My stomach flutters. Here goes nothing. I stare at the metal No Parking sign and pull my arm back, throwing the snowball as I step forward. Tiny fragments of snow fly through the air. A direct hit.
I clap my hands and bounce up and down on my toes. “Holy crap, I actually did it. I didn’t think I could hit the broad side of a barn.” Dean comes over and raises his hand to give me a high five. I lunge forward and pull him into a hug, before I realize what I’m doing. My chest tightens and heat creeps across my cheek.
He wraps his arms around my waist and presses his body against mine. I step back and ease away, dropping my arms to my sides. “We better head back, I’ve still got lots of physics studying to do if I plan on passing the semester.”
He rubs the back of his neck and nods.
I slide my frozen hands into my pockets and hold them in tight fists. Note to self: when I think I’m finished embarrassing myself I’m usually wrong.
The perfect untouched blanket of snow moves into an array of chaos as we turn the corner to my apartment. My heart beats faster with each step I take forward. This walk is taking forever. If I don’t get away from Dean soon, I may end up doing something else I shouldn’t. I mean, we’re just friends. I take a deep breath and slowly exhale as we approach my driveway.
I dig in my purse and pull out my keys. “Thanks for my victory celebration.”
He places his hand in the small of my back on our way toward my steps. “First of many.” His hand moves to my waist.
Summersaults take over my stomach. I step onto the first step. My boot slips along the rim of the concrete edge covered in a thin layer of ice and instantly it knocks me off balance. My hands flail through the air, desperately trying to grab onto anything.
Dean jumps into action, catching me before my head smacks against the hard sidewalk. I grab onto his sculpted bicep and pull myself to my feet.
Fire burns through my cheeks, which are no doubt fire-engine red. I drop my chin to my chest and hunch my shoulders. He lifts my chin and gazes into my eyes. My heart pounds against the walls of my chest. Electric shockwaves flows through my veins. He leans in closer. My lips part and lava flows through my body. He tucks a stray strand of hair behind my ear. “I knew you’d fall for me sooner or later.” He places a soft kiss on my cheek and takes a step back, turning and walking away.





 Author Amy Gale
Picture

Romance author by night, pharmacist by day, Amy Gale loves rock music and the feel of sand between her toes.  She attended Wilkes University where she graduated with a Doctor of Pharmacy degree. In addition to writing, she enjoys baking, scary movies, rock concerts, and reading books at the beach.  She lives in the lush forest of Northeastern Pennsylvania with her husband, six cats, and golden retriever.  


Contact Amy L. Gale:


 


1. Can you tell us a bit about the main characters.
Brooke Powers is goal-oriented freshman who wants to focus on her studies and avoid the party scene along with all the trouble that goes along with it.
Dean Parker is an enticingly charismatic fraternity brother and star player on Lakeview U's baseball team.
When Brooke's roommate drags her to a fraternity party, an unexpected mishap causes her wake up in Dean's bed throwing her strategically planned future into complete chaos.

2. How did you think of this story? What inspired you?
Since Dean and Brooke were already a couple in Blissful Tragedy, I wanted to elaborate on their awesome relationship. I decided to go back in time to the girls college years and tell the story. I have to be honest, I was inspired by some of my great college memories.

3. Is there anything special you would like your readers to know about Blissful Valentine?
Valentine's Day isn't always complete bliss.

4. Do you get writers block? How do you cure it?
I think every writer gets writers block at some point or another. I try and look to other sources to cure it, like music or re-watching some of my favorite movies for inspiration.

5. Top 5 Favorite Books
1. Beautiful Disaster
2. The Notebook
3. Fifty Shades of Grey
4. Dark Love
5. Thoughtless

6. I know you are a huge music fan AND Led Zeppelin fan. What songs help you write?
I usually come up with a play list based on the book I'm writing. When I wrote Blissful Valentine, I listened to Thank You by Led Zeppelin, Love Song by Tesla, Lay it on the Line by Triumph, Caught up in you by 38 Special, I Can't Fight this Feeling Anymore by REO Speedwagon, My Kinda Lover by Billy Squire, and Talk Dirty to Me by Poison.







Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Release Day Blitz - Bitter Sweet Deception by Tara Oakes


BOOK TRAILER


More About Tara Oakes
Tara is a thirty something newbie author from Long Island, New York. She's a voracious reader, a passionate writer and obsessive junk T.V. aficionado. When she's not doing one of those three things she is attempting to garden, hanging with her hubby or partaking in some retail therapy. She enjoys connecting with her readers and is having a blast entering into this new world of publishing.
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Lil_Oakes Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Tara-Oakes/e/B00N71SH18/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_pop_1 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Tara-Oakes/1468537190061965?ref=hl Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8390968.Tara_Oakes Website: https://www.authortaraoakes.com Newsletter Sign-Up: http://www.authortaraoakes.com/contact.html

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Monday, February 23, 2015

Release Day Blitz - An Indecent Proposal by J.C. Reed & Jackie Steele




An Indecent Proposal by J.C. Reed & Jackie Steele

Release date: February 23rd, 2015

It was supposed to be easy. 
Hire a professional actor to play my fake fiancĂ©. 
But when he steps in front of my door to pick me up for The Interview, my heart stops. Chase Wright is perfect. And hot. I mean like, burn up your dress hot. However, Chase isn't professional at all. I hate what he does to me with his sinfully sexy blue eyes. I hate that he wants me in his bed. 

One month…that’s all I need him for. All I have to do is stay out of his bed. But the rules slowly begin to change. My fake fiancĂ© suddenly becomes my fake husband. When Chase offers me an indecent proposal, it's too late to fire him. It's too late to decline. 

Full-length novel. Includes free prequel novella THAT GUY.

Buy An Indecent Proposal:

Connect with J.C. Reed:
  Website | Facebook | Twitter 

Connect with Jackie Steele
  Website | Facebook | Twitter
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EXCERPT


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Saturday, February 21, 2015

Chapter Reveal & Giveaway - Scorch by Clarissa Wild



Title: SCORCH (#3, Delirious)
Author: Clarissa Wild
Publication Date: March 3rd, 2014
Genre: Dark Romance





Synopsis
Sweet revenge keeps her alive … and drives her to kill.

I am the forgotten one, the girl who was left for dead.
In this mental hospital I call prison I plot my revenge.
I remember everything.
Their faces. Their touch. Even their smell.
What they did to me was beyond cruel. I’m going to return the favor.
In here I survive by using someone just as they used me. One of them wants to claim me as his own. A man without mercy, without a conscience, craving the wickedness inside me. But I won’t be a puppet for his desires. I will play his strings like a puppeteer and use him to escape.
And when I do … I will kill them all.



This is Ashley's story and the final book in the Delirious Series. This is a full-length novel. These books should be read in order.

WARNING: This book contains very disturbing situations, strong language, dubious consent, and graphic violence. 


Preorder SCORCH:





Prologue

Accompanying song: "I'm Dying" by VAST

Ashley


June 20th, 2013.



Flames engulf me.
They lick my skin, fill me to the brink with fear.
I’m trapped with no way out.
My eyes can only see darkness as black as my body will become if I stay here a second longer. My vision is clouded by smoke, the rooms and hallways turned into a ghostly scene. Screams come from all directions, whines and loud bangs following suit.
I don’t know where I’m going, but anywhere is better than here. I have to escape this sea of flames.
A torrent of fire scorches the walls, blazing through the doors. I jump over fallen rubble and molten wood, running through any visible gaps I can find. It’s here, it has to be here. The door to freedom … it’s supposed to be here.
Fire follows me everywhere, like a trail set to destroy me, but I won’t let it burn me. I chose this path. I was the one who set this chain of events in motion, and now I must find a way out of this hellhole before it swallows me whole.
It’s either this fire or this facility that will be my undoing, and I’d rather be turned into a crisp than spend one more second in this place. Everything I did was for my own freedom, and I won’t let anything ruin it, not even a fucking burning building.
Right now, I don’t care about anyone else but me. I did it all for me. That’s right, I chose to only follow my own instincts so I could benefit from it. I’m a selfish motherfucker, but I don’t regret a thing.
For once I deserve a little peace.
Forever do I deserve justice.
No one more than me deserves to get out of this place.
But this fire is catching up with me quickly, and I don’t know if I can outrun it.
My lungs burn as I suck in the last viable breath, trying to stop coughing. The smoke is killing me, but I won’t give up. I won’t stop running, won’t stop fighting, won’t stop screaming until I gave it my all and then some. I won’t go down without reason.
I won’t. I fucking won’t!
Adrenaline fuels my body as I rush past falling debris, crisscrossing through the hallway until a door comes into sight. Hope zings through my veins, giving me a rush as I make a sprint toward freedom. I jump over fire and lunge at the door, pulling it open as I go. There’s another door just up ahead. The exit sign is the only light that shines down upon me as I close the door behind me and try to open it.
The door is locked.
I jerk it a couple of times, but it won’t budge.
Panic rolls through me, making all the hairs on my body stand up, as I jerk the door again and again.
“C’mon,” I say. “C’mon you worthless piece of shit!”
I punch the door, but it’s no use. Nothing I do works.
I cry out as I pull on the door as hard as I can and ram my feet into the wood in an effort to break free. Fire has consumed the hallway behind me, and I can smell the smoke rising up from the hole underneath the door. It won’t be long until it enters this room and when it does I have to be out.
“Why won’t you fucking open?” I scream at the door.
If this damned door would open, I would be out of here by now, but it seems to be made of pure cement or something. Nothing I do works. I can feel the heat of the fire penetrating the walls, creeping in from underneath the door behind me. As I look over my shoulder the small gap is lit like the sun.
Oh God, it’s so close, I can almost feel it.
There’s no escape now. I can’t turn around and find a different exit. I’m trapped and the fire has come for me. And this fucking door won’t open, no matter what I do.
Salty tears enter my mouth as I yell and kick the door in a futile move to free myself. Nothing I do works. Nothing.
After a while, I sink to the hard floor, burying my face in my hands.
I’m done for.
This is it, this is the end.
I was the only one who could save me, who could get me out of here. This was my last chance and I blew it.
What ifs float through my head. What if I hadn’t listened to him? What if I didn’t let him use me for his own pleasure? What would have happened if I didn’t let him into my heart? Would I have made the same choices?
No, but I doubt I would’ve come as far as I have now.
Which terrifies me even more. All the choices I made or could have made would’ve led to only two outcomes. I would either remain here or in another facility as their sex puppet or I’d flee and probably die.
I guess I got what I wanted after all. In the end, I realize it’s what I asked for. I should’ve listened when he said there was no escaping this place … and him.
The only way out is death itself.
I should accept my fate with the last shred of dignity I have left, but I can’t fight this dread creeping into my soul. After all that planning, all that work, all that lying, cheating, stealing, and betraying, I ended up alone and trapped in a room as small as a fucking closet. I exchanged my body for a little bit of hope, and what I got was a miserable end to my suffering.
What a horrible way to die.


Chapter 1

Accompanying song: "Better With You" by Of Verona

Ashley


February 12th, 2013.



Gray.
Everything is gray.
Not black. Not white. Not clear or unclear. Not good or bad. Just gray.
I’m gray. I’m not angry or sad. Not happy or depressed.
I’m in the middle where there are no decisions and no emotions.
Nothing. I’m nothing. Feeling nothing, worth nothing, doing nothing, staring into nothingness. And I don’t care. Not even a little bit.
My legs are cramped, but the pain soothes me. I wobble up and down … up and down … forward and backwards. My nails dig into my skin as I hold my knees close, staring at the wall in front of me. I watch the cracks, feeling like they’re changing in shape. I know each and every one of them from the head, but somehow this one particular crack seems unfamiliar, and it makes me curious.
Tempted, I lean forward and place my index finger on the wall. The nakedness of the structure creates goose bumps on my skin as I touch something for the first time in hours. I love the texture, how different it feels with each stroke. Each bump and each indent are like a map to me, I’ve studied them all. I know exactly where every nook and cranny is.
Except this one. It’s not familiar to me at all, which holds my attention like nothing else.
Was this crack always here? I wonder, and yet that’s not possible, because I know this cell better than the back of my own hand.
Maybe I am really losing my mind. As they say, surrounding yourself with crazies makes you fucked up too.
The thought makes me smile.
It wasn’t always that I believed I was crazy, that I was losing it, but now that I’m in here, I know the true meaning of going nuts. It suits me well.
There aren’t a lot of things that I’ve taken with me when I came here. Whoever I was before died the night they kidnapped me. They … the men who used me like I was some kind of whore. Like I was theirs to abuse. As if I wasn’t a person. They said I should be glad I’m still alive … I say they should be scared that I’m still alive.
In my corner, I wobble up and down, my eyes skimming the walls and ceiling for any new cracks that I might have overlooked. It’s important to keep track of any changes in my environment; who knows, it might come in handy someday.
Like, for escaping. Or, I don’t know, smacking someone over the head with some fallen rubble.
You never know.
I say I don’t feel anything, but maybe that’s a lie. A lie I tell myself so I can keep living and stay sane while I reside in pure insanity. There is only so much a human can accept and live with. I’m not going to claim I can take it all. I can’t, but at least I know the truth. That has to be worth something.
In this prison I seem like a girl who’s lost everything. And I can’t say I don’t agree. I have lost everything that I once deemed mine. My body, my freedom, my mind. But no matter the sacrifices, they will never own my heart or soul. Those are two things that remain untouched, two things I will use to destroy everything.
Yes … in this place where I sit like a dog in a corner, bumbling to myself like a lunatic I scheme … I scheme to betray all that is good in order to escape.
And then I will have vengeance.
I won’t die before they do. And if I do, so help me god, I will pull them down this hellhole with me.

***

Five hours later ...



“Hey!”
A loud banging noise pulls me from my wobbling trance.
“Are you even fucking listening?”
I glance over my shoulder, snarling at the guard who rams his baton on the glass. I give him a squinty growl and then return to my sulking. No use wasting energy on dimwits who can’t or won’t help me. Nobody in here will help me, which is exactly the reason why I should focus on my own plans.
And my plans are to survive … and then kill.
Every bang is another reminder of the noise inside my head, the screams, the pain that I bury. Their faces haunt me, and I lick the memory of their viciousness like a tiger licking its wounds. It feeds me, the rage … it keeps me alive, so that one day I can do the same to them.
“Whore …”
My nose twitches. Don’t react, Ashley. Don’t show them any emotion. Don’t give into their taunts. It’s what they want, what they need, and I won’t give it to them. If this is my final sliver of power, I’ll fight to keep it.
“Hey, see this?” he says. “Fuck you. Suck my dick.” He stomps the glass. “Don’t you fucking ignore me, you piece of shit.”
I swear, this is how they talk to patients in every normal psychiatric hospital. It’s normal.
I roll my eyes.
“Oh, fuck you. You don’t even deserve to live. Sad, worthless girl.” He laughs. “Pathetic …”
He stomps the glass a final time before he’s ripped away. I turn around to see if he’s gone, but a hand on the glass draws my attention. The door clicks open. My ears perk up. A shiny, black boot steps in.
Nobody’s stepped foot in here. Not since I arrived.
Something’s about to change. Big time.
I turn around and face the wall. Can’t show any interest. Curiosity is weakness, and weakness gets you killed. I don’t plan on dying just yet.
I know how dangerous this place can be. Even when I’m trapped in this pretentious building, I know who runs this place … who decides what happens with me. Those men who used me keep me captive here like a dog. The slightest action I take will be on camera, and then shit’s going to hit the fan. I’d rather pretend to be meek and easy. It makes it easier to stab everyone in the back later.
“Leave us.”
His voice is stern, authoritative. Confident, but not too cocky. Probably a higher-up, but not in a way that gives him any real power. The door slides open and he steps further in. The sound of his clicking shoes draw my attention, and the way he closes the door again, very softly, gives me the idea he likes to think he’s in control.
No one can control me. No one.
A metallic sound ensues. Something is placed on the small table in the middle of my cell.
And then he directs his attention toward me. “Your name.”
I don’t answer. There is no reason nor motivation for me.
He steps forward. I smash my lips together as I watch his shadow grow on the wall. The bright light emanating from the door is a little frightening when it lights him up like this, as if he’s a stalker creeping up to his prey.
“I said, your name.” His voice has gotten darker, more menacing.
I won’t allow myself to get scared. Not in here.
He stands behind me and I watch his shadow on the wall, waiting for him to make a move, waiting for him to explode.
Except he doesn’t. What he does instead makes me swallow away a lump in my throat.
He pets me.
With his hand on my head he makes soft strokes through my hair, sliding down toward my neck, and then back up to the top of my head. It’s eerie as well as totally unnerving that this man is touching me like this. Does he want me to resist? Or does he want me to fight? What is he expecting?
“You’re not quite the listener, are you?” he says.
I frown, but don’t answer him, and keep my eyes on the wall. I won’t give him an ounce of myself.
“That’s okay … I have plenty of time.”
My lips part, but then I shut them again. Goddammit. I’m almost tempted to ask questions, but it would only give him more insight into who I am. I can’t give them that luxury.
“Oh my dear pet …” He chuckles. “You have no idea what you’re in for.”
“What?”
Shit.
I shut my mouth the moment I realize I spoke. Fuck!
He laughs again. “Don’t worry, I’ll be good for you, as long as you’re good for me.”
“What the fuck?”
“Don’t try to understand. You can’t,” he says, continuously petting me like I’m a dog.
My muscles tense from his fingers suddenly curling into the base of my neck.
“I know you know what happened to you. I know you remember everything.” He pinches my flesh. “You know why you’re here.”
Yes, I do. I remember vividly what those men did to me, and for that I must be punished. I can’t be controlled, I can’t be made to think I’m insane, and that makes me a liability. That makes them want to put me in here. There is no mercy in this world. So I answer, “To be silenced and locked away forever.”
“Exactly.”
I sigh, trying not to feel threatened or angry by this admission, but it’s hard to ignore the bubbling rage.
“Stand up,” he commands.
His voice is unforgiving, to the point of me actually standing up. That’s a mighty feat. It’s not because I’m scared … more because I’m interested in why he has come to tell me news I already knew.
“Turn around.”
I slowly spin on my feet, my face completely blank as I face the man who came into my space. His longish, dark-brown hair falls beside his eyes like curtains darkening his narrow face. He has a cleft in his chin and strong cheekbones. His pitch-black eyes make me shiver. There is a slight smile on his thin lips. On his jacket is a peculiar pin button, one that I haven’t seen before. It’s one of the doctors, but not one I’ve seen before. They’re not all really doctors; some are, but most are fakes, meant to keep the patients in check. That’s all they do here; put up a show so nobody makes a scene, so everybody behaves.
Everybody but me, that is. That’s why they put me in this concrete cage.
“You are mine now,” he says.
“I am no one’s possession, just a prisoner,” I snarl.
He straightens my shirt which hangs slightly askew across my shoulders. I like it better that way. It’s my way to rebel in a place with so little possibilities to fight.
“You are a prisoner and I am the one who holds the key to your cage.”
I muffle a laugh. “So? That doesn’t make me yours.”
“It will. Sooner or later.” He smiles. “You’re my pet now. There’s no reason for either of us to pretend you will ever believe our words or forget what you know.”
“I won’t,” I interject. “But I’m not going to be a toy for you either.”
He squints. “You don’t have a choice.”
“Like you do. They are the ones keeping me here, not you. You don’t have me, they do.”
They gave you to me.”
“What?” Gave? Like I’m some sort of gift? The idea makes me want to hurl. “I doubt that.”
“They don’t have time to deal with difficult girls.”
“Good,” I say, swatting his hand away when he tries to grab a strand of my hair. “I’ll be even more difficult then.”
He laughs again. “I enjoy a challenge.”
“Is that why they gave me to you? I’m not some lion you can tame.”
“Your claws are sharp, though,” he muses.
I can’t stop the twitch in my nose. Goddammit, I want to kill this guy.
“Like I said, you’re mine now, and I intend to make you … less annoyingly difficult.”
“How?” I say. “That’s going to take a lot of effort. Annoying is my middle name.” I snort.
“You’ll see how.” The grin on his face makes me want to slap the living shit out of him.
For a second, I contemplate on doing just that, but then I remind myself there is a camera in the left corner and someone behind is must be looking, waiting for me to bite. And then they can do even worse things to me. I won’t let it happen.
“Complicated cases are handed to me. Impossible ones even. Girls who refuse to bend.” He walks to the table and then turns around to face me again. “I break them.”
I study him for a moment. “Who are you?”
He cocks his head and points at the chair in front of him. “Sit.”
Of course, he won’t answer me. My eyes narrow. “Why?”
“I will tell you if you listen to me.”
Taking a deep breath, I take the chance and slump toward the table. Sitting down isn’t my style, I prefer throwing my ass into the chair. Just a little defiance keeps me going.
Only now do I spot the plate of food on the opposite end of the table. My mouth instantly begins to water.
“You can have it … if you behave.” He sits down on the table, in between me and the view of the food. I immediately look up at him, probably with the face of a troll. Right now, I’m too hungry for anyone to stand in between me and my food.
I lunge forward to grab it, but he’s so much faster than me, grabbing my wrists and jamming them to the table.
“I said, behave.”
“Fuck you. I don’t owe you shit.”
“You do if you want to live.”
Sighing, I sit back, sulking in my chair. Goddammit, I’m fucking hungry. They haven’t fed me properly since I came here. Small amounts of porridge and dry bread don’t get me through the day. They’re so fucking cheap, I sometimes wish they had just killed me instead.
“What do you want?” I say.
“You.”
The way he says it, so sure of himself … so sure that he’ll get what he wants, makes my skin crawl.
“Why? Why me?”
He glances behind him and points at the camera in the corner. “I’ve been watching you for some time.”
“Pervert.”
He smiles. “You probably don’t even realize how accurate that is.”
Oh my god. He has to be kidding … right?
He leans in and I lean back in my chair to get away. “You can’t escape this place, Ashley.”
My eyes widen at the sound of my own name.
“Yeah, I know what you’re called,” he muses. “Did you think I asked you because I didn’t know? Or because I wanted you to speak?” he growls.
“You wanted me to give you what you want.”
“Exactly.” He cocks his head again. “You’re beginning to understand.”
“Why on earth would I do what you want?”
“Oh, I have plenty of reasons, but an important one in particular.” He’s so close now, I can feel his breath on my skin. He whispers, “I can help you be free.”
That word makes me choke up.
“Why … why would I trust you? You can’t promise me anything.”
“You can’t, but you don’t have a choice. Either you listen to me and do what I say, or you stay in here … forever.”
Those words make me want to scream, but I don’t. It’s what he wants, I can see it in his eyes. That glint of amusement at his own victory. It’s the ugly truth.
“What do you want from me?” I ask. “Why did you come here? Why now, after all those days?”
He shifts his position on the metal table which creaks. “You’re separated, so you could calm down and we could observe your reaction to the environment.”
“I’m a Guinea pig.”
“Not entirely. You were just one of the few who didn’t go into full denial.”
“I would die before I would forget what those monsters did to me!” I yell, suddenly overcome by fury.
His eyes flare with excitement. “Hmmm …”
“Do you even know?” I ask through clenched teeth. “Do you realize what you’re doing?”
“I do.”
“Then you’re just as bad as they are.” I avert my eyes.
He suddenly leans forward, grabs my chin, and forces me to look at him. “I am not like them, and do not for a moment suggest that I am.” He releases me with a slight twitch of his hand.
Clearing his throat, he says, “For your own sake it would have been much better if you’d simply forgotten what you’d experienced, but unfortunately for the both of us, that isn’t the case.” He looks me straight in the eyes. “Now, if you wish to live, you will listen and do as I say. You know how they are … if you’re difficult, we have no other choice but to–”
“Kill me.” He seems caught off guard by my comment. “Yeah, I know what they’re like. Are you like that too?” I ask, leaning forward with my elbow on the table. “Because that makes you just as evil.”
For a moment, his eyes narrow slightly, and his tongue quickly darts out to wet the side of his lip, but it disappears as quickly as it came.
He turns his head and gazes at the food. “I think we’re done talking.”
He jumps off the table and fetches the food before I have time to react. He doesn’t give it to me, instead, he holds it in his hand and walks to the door.
“Where are you going?”
“If you’re not going to behave, why do you think you deserve this?”
“Because I’m fucking hungry, and I need it. Jesus Christ, I haven’t eaten a proper meal in days!” I shout, scooting the chair back.
“Sit. Down.” His voice echoes against the door.
I grind my teeth. “Give it to me.”
It’s quiet for a second. “Ask nicely.”
I sigh out loud. “Goddammit, can I please have it?”
He glances over his shoulder. “Is that your nice side?”
“As nice as it gets with me.” I fold my arms.
He laughs like he’s really amused by that. “We’ll have to work on that then.”
He turns around and walks toward the table again. I breathe a sigh of relief as he puts the plate back on the table and slides it to my side.
“This is because I’m nice now.” He smiles. “Not because you deserve it.”
I growl, but don’t respond, because I don’t want him to take this away from me. I immediately grab a fork and start gobbling up the mashed potatoes like a starving homeless girl.
“You see? Do as I say, and you get what you want. Simple,” he muses. “I’ll take care of you. I’ll bring you better food. I’ll make sure you’re left alone.”
“In exchange for what?” I ask, spooning up some applesauce.
He grins. “You’ll know soon enough.”
The way he says it sends chills up my spine. So eerily dark, laced with poison.
“What’s your name?” I ask.
“Why do you want to know?”
“Because I’d like to know who keeps me captive here. Who comes into my room every single time and makes me remember that I’m a prisoner to the sickest men on earth.”
He raises an eyebrow only slightly. “You want to know who takes care of you in here …” he muses, to prove his own point. Pathetic.
“No,” I say, holding my fork tight. “I want to know so I remember the name of the man I’m going to kill first.”
His eyes widen, and his lips part, but no sound comes out. Ha, gotya, motherfucker. It’s not a lie. I am going to kill him someday. I don’t care how, but I will, with whatever means necessary. And then I’ll murder the rest of them.
After a stare down of almost a minute, I continue eating.
“My name is Sam Bailey,” he says. “And when I’m done with you, I’ll be the only guy on this planet you won’t be able to kill.”

Start reading the Delirious Series now!

SNARE (Book 1)

SEIZE (Book 2)

SCORCH (Book 3)
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About the Author

Clarissa Wild is the Amazon Bestselling Romance author of FIERCE, a top 200 and top 15 New Adult Romance novel. She is also a writer of erotic romance such as the Blissful Series, The Billionaire's Bet series, the Doing It Series and the Enflamed Series. She is an avid reader and writer of sexy stories about hot men and feisty women. Her other loves include her furry cat friend and learning about different cultures. In her free time she enjoys watching all sorts of movies, reading tons of books and cooking her favorite meals.

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