Category Archives: Promo

LOSING CONTROL NEWS AND REVIEWS

LOSING CONTROL NEWS AND REVIEWS

 

First up, I want to give a giant virtual hug to everyone who is following Ian and Tiny’s journey. From the readers who signed up for the newsletter to everyone who has purchased the book — THANK YOU! Your neverending support is amazing. And a double hug for those readers who have left a review on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Apple and all of the other online book e-tailers. I can’t tell you how much it means to me that you share your thoughts about Ian and Tiny.

Next goes a huge note of thanks to the ladies at The Rock Stars of Romance who have launched the book and spread word far and wide. There is still time to enter the giveaway for the KINDLE FIRE as part of TRSOR’s release day blitz.

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And finally, to all of the bloggers who blitzed Losing Control’s release — I heart your help. Your love of romance and tireless efforts to bring great reads to the masses is an inspiration. Let’s hear what these bloggers have to say about Ian and Tiny:

 

Ana from The Book Hookup enjoyed the trials and tribulations of the “imperfect” characters. As well as the “explosive…hot…sexy!” relationship between Tiny and Ian.

Victoria and Ian both have a desperate need…her, to help her mother…him, to avenge his family. These are huge situations that are all consuming for them and that constitute more than just the average baggage characters normally bring with them into a story. And I liked that these situations were written that way…that, even as we enjoyed the romance part of the book, we were never allowed to forget these themes.  This story wasn’t just about the relationship, there was more to be dealt with.

Ana ends her review saying that she misses Ian already… no worries Taking Control will be out soon!

Jessica at Lovin’ Los Libros loved Ian and Tiny’s “intense” romance romance.

When Jen first offered me this for review, how could I pass it up? I love that it is unlike any of her previous books, thus showing us her versatility as an author. It is a steamy, sexy read that has some very serious undertones and you can’t help but admire and feel for the main character, Tiny.

 

Christine at Read More ~ Sleep Less gives Losing Control 4.5 Tiny Bunny Stars. For Christine, this story is all about Ian!

[Ian] propositions [Tiny], she refuses and the chase begins! 
Ian, is hot, demanding and oh so adorable! He also has a bit of potty mouth and has a great sense of humour! I feel like I’m promoting a product over here, but it’s all true! He’s character was like a blend of the boy next door and a possessive neanderthal!

He’s drawn to Tiny right from the beginning but not in an insta-love sort of way. He was possibly one of the most caring and sensitive alpha’s I have ever read! I always worry that one character trait will over power the other but, Ian was perfect!

Court’s $0.02 at Love N. Books about Losing Control: “Jen Frederick just keeps outdoing herself with each book!!” This reviewer loved the “strong, opinionated heroine” and the “mysterious” Ian.

The sexual tension between Tiny and Ian is off the charts hot!!! Tiny is quite the spitfire and Ian battles her back with his intelligence. The dialogue between these two is very entertaining. Jen does a fabulous job of building both Tiny and Ian’s worlds with such a huge contrast between the two. The build up of their characters is very interesting and just really sucks you into the book.

Losing Control has a great twist and unique plot. I absolutely love how Jen has written this book and look forward to reading Taking Control!!

MinnChica at The Book Pushers questioned the connection between Ian and Tiny saying that something seemed “missing”. But what was clear, was the heat between the H/h.

Ian and Tiny have a very physical relationship, and they don’t shy away from the dirty talk and even dirtier actions. I thought their chemistry was great, and although I didn’t always understand the attraction from Ian’s perspective, I did enjoy the way they explored and enjoyed each other. It was very sexy, very hot, and very dirty!

Sandy at Somewhere Only We Know gives Losing Control 4 stars.

Likeable, different characters. The plot that was interesting, not entirely original, yet not overdone. I loved that Losing Control didn’t have the characters making stupid decisions at the 70% mark just to create some kind of conflict. As a matter of fact, I really enjoyed the entire last 30% of the book just as much as the beginning. And I’m looking forward to checking out Taking Control, book 2, as soon as I can!

Wednesday from Busy Bumble Bee Book Reviews is new to my books, but she really liked the “raw and real” emotion she found in Losing Control.

I would like to say, this was a really good read. It was unique, dark, sexy, and you know you will want to check out the next book in the Kerr series. Overall I think 4.5 stars is a perfect fit for this book. And I can say I have become a new fan of Jen Frederick’s.

Many thanks for these reviews!

Last Breath is available now! A can’t put down book according to readers

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For the first month of release, Last Breath will be sale-priced at $3.99 to reward early purchasers. The price will revert back to its original retail listing of $4.99.

 

 

Regan

I never really knew what misery was until the day I was kidnapped and sold for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Two months later, I’m at a brothel in Rio when I meet Daniel Hays. He says he’s here to save me, but can I trust him? All I know of him is his sarcastic retorts and his tendency to solve every dispute with his gun. He’s also the only safe thing in my world, and I know it’s wrong to fall in love with him, but I can’t seem to help myself. He says he’ll protect me until his last breath but I don’t know if I should believe him or even if I can.

Daniel

For the last eighteen months, I’ve had one goal that has dictated every action I’ve taken. I’ve left the Army, turned paid hit man, and have befriended criminals all across the globe to find my kidnapped sister. In every brothel I raid or every human trafficking truck I stop, I hope the next face I find is my sister’s. In a hidden brothel in Rio, I find Regan Porter, bruised by not broken and still sane despite her weeks in captivity. I should leave her behind or send her home because the last thing either of us needs right now is to get involved. But with every passing minute, I find I can’t let her go.

REVIEWS:

This is a great read and I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys a wickedly sexy alpha male with a heart of gold, a kick ass heroine who is all sorts of brave and a great story line of how far someone will go and what they will sacrifice to ultimately save the one they love… — Jackie Kluyts, Kiwibooknerd

This series has become a new favourite. The first book was amazing and Last Breath was just as amazing if not more. — Julia’s Book Haven

I thought both Daniel and Regan were interesting and wonderful characters, and I loved getting to see them work through their issues and find a way to fall for each other. I’m happy to report that Clare and Frederick knocked this one out of the park for me. — Minnchica, The Bookpushers

We would love it if you shared the news of our release and if you had time to leave a review that would be awesome. Thank you!!!

Last Breath, March 25

We have a release date and it’s early. As you know, Jessica Clare is a super prolific author and she’s got a fabulous release (think stuffy uptight billionaire matched with a down home farm mouse) coming out April 15: Once Upon a Billionaire. With that release, we either had to delay our book to May or push it up to March.

We didn’t want readers to wait so we’ve been working extra hard to deliver this baby early. It’s going to be at retailers on March 25, 2014. Hurrah! The downside is that people might not be expecting this book to come out so soon. If you liked Last Hit, you may want to share with your fellow readers that Daniel and Reagan’s book will be available very soon.  Right now you can add it to your Goodreads shelf.

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Unraveled Blog Tour Day 6

Thanks to Alii’s Book JungleThe Book Tart, T&A After Darkrandom jendsmit for posting about the release of Unraveled.

Yesterday marked the last day of the blog tour. There is still time to visit one of these great sites to enter to win a $200 GC to the retailer of your choice or a signed set of the Woodlands series. Thank you to every blogger who participated in the blog tour. I really appreciate it. Authors really depend on the word of mouth of readers like you to spread the word about our books.

Thank you to everyone who has left a review on Amazon or Apple or Barnes and Noble. Those help in convincing the retailers that are book is worth recommending to the buyers who don’t follow blog tours.

Finally, a special note of gratitude to the ladies at The Rock Stars of Romance without whom I would not be able to release a book. Thank you ladies.

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Battery Operated Book Blog likes the boyfriend resume. (It’s a running joke in the book between Sam and Gray about all the things he’d put on his resume for a potential mate).

WOW!  I am just absolutely blown away.  It’s been a while since I read a book and sat down immediately to write the review, but I’m just that freaking excited about this story and how it made me feel.

I loved the humor in this one.  Grayson and Samantha crack me up!  Like Grayson coming up items she likes him him or thinks are hot that he can add to his boyfriend resume.  Their adventurous dates are anything but ordinary but were intense and fun and sometimes frightening.

fiction’s our addiction is jealous of Sam!

These two have an instant physical connection. They are both going to some deep internal battle in regards to love and neither really in my opinion know how to cope with what they are feeling. Written in Sam and Gray’s POV. This is a very good book! I thoroughly enjoyed it and I am left with a crush on Gray and so jealous of Sam!

For Vi at Happiness is a Book, Gray and Sam were interviewed. This is just a tiny excerpt:

Vi: Sam, how did you get started with knitting? What’s the most difficult thing you have made?
I got started knitting when I joined a support group after my husband died. It was the only widow group I could find that had women there under the age of 50. The most difficult thing I made was a sweater for one class. We were challenged to incorporate as many different techniques into one project. It’s pretty hideous.

Gray: ugliest thing ever. Even uglier than, well, you know, Vi, but I don’t want to ruin it for everyone.
Sam: It is really, really ugly.

Tracie at ilove lady porn loved the ending!

Over at In My Room Reading, she wrote:

Her writing style and the stories she tells are precisely the type that I would love to read and reread several times. I like her plots. She writes funny and witty banter really well, and the romantic parts my toes just curl!

Kimberly Faye writes on her blog that The Woodlands is her favorite New Adult series:

f you like your romances sweet and sexy, with strong, smart women and sexy, protective men, you have to check out Jen Frederick’s Woodlands series. From the first moment I picked up Undeclared, I fell in love with her characters and her writing. There’s more than just romance in these books. There are some seriously steamy scenes that leave me fanning myself, but there was also real emotion in each of the books that took me for a ride. Unraveled definitely put me through the most of them, though. Tears were cried. (I know, I know… it doesn’t take that much to make me cry, but still.) This is one of my favorite new adult series.

Live Read and Breathe enjoyed the banter but the real emotion. She also has a very funny some ecard to go along with the review.

I feel she captures banter with ease with a good balance of angst and true emotions.  I am really starting to adore this series and can’t wait to find out more from these Woodland boys.

Love N. Books, Court’s 2 c are as follows:

I love seeing the characters from the previous books make appearances and sort seeing how they are progressing.  It keeps the series alive and enjoyable.

Overall this may not be my favorite in the series, I truly enjoyed it.

Red’s Book Blog enjoyed the families, both the blood ones and the friendship ones

In my opinion, we need the sort of story that gives us heart and makes us smile. But we also want the kind of story that curls our toes and gives us butterflies. Butterflies are both good and bad in my case. It depends on what my hero/heroine is doing of course. I get a well rounded amount of butterflies whenever I read Ms. Frederick’s work.

Sizzling Pages Romance Reviews has some beautiful graphics to go along with the reviews. The unique thing about this review link is that several of the bloggers contributed their own thoughts and they had varying opinions from 3.5 to 4.5 stars.

SMIBookClub suggests a few moments of privacy when reading Unraveled:

I loved the growth that Sam and Gray do individually as well as together. Sam is ready for more of life and Gray is just the person she can trust to let go and have some fun she so desperately needs. Sam is probably one of my favorite female characters ever and I love that she knits. Gray is a total hopeless romantic even if he refuses to think he want to get serious with anyone and I loved what he had planned for Sam at the end.

The Book Hookers‘ Tray reviewed Unraveled and loved the dialogue. I enjoy writing it. It’s probably the most fun for me as a writing:

Jen Frederick has a way of writing dialogue. The interaction between characters feels natural. ..The male characters in this series talk like real men and real soldiers. They cuss like sailors, they tell embarrassing stories about each other, and their bedroom talk is so hot it’ll catch the sheets on fire.

Joann at The Book Junkie is a fan of the series and enjoyed the instant connection between Sam and Gray.

[H]e meets Samantha (Sam), a young widow of an Army soldier, who is still stuck in her stages of grief- not moving on with her life either. Their paths collide one night while at the bar that Sam works, and it is explosive!! These two– I’m talking instant chemistry. All of a sudden, the girl who has lived inside of herself for two years since the death of her husband, suddenly starts to feel. And fall. Head over heels for this Marine that she just met.

The Flirty Reader says that she didn’t quite connect to Gray like she did to the previous two male protagonists in the Woodland series but she loved Sam:

I really, really enjoyed this book. But not as much as I enjoyed the first two. Maybe it was because I was expecting the book to be about Mal or Finn. I’m not sure. There was a disconnect with Gray sometimes for me and I couldn’t put my finger on why. Sam completely had me from the beginning of the book to the end. I love her character and felt that Frederick did a fine job of conveying what it is like to be a very young war widow. It’s a life that most people don’t know, or really want to know.

At Who you callin a book whore, Erica writes

Sam isn’t looking for anything that leads to forever and neither is Gray but sometimes you just can’t stop fate? RIGHT?!?! Jen does a great job of showing that sometimes the thing that you think you want the least is what you truly want the most deep inside your heart and your head. When you don’t over think things!!!!

Knock Your Books Off gives Unraveled four stars enjoying the journey and the camaraderie (isn’t that the weirdest spelled word ever?) between the characters.

Gray is just yum!!! He’s badass and loyal and honest and *sigh* a man!!! Yeh he fucks up – more than once he lets his mouth run away with him and he loses out dearly but what Gray shows himself to be in-between his cock ups is more than enough for even the hardests of hearts to forgive.

Sam & Gray together are a roller coaster ride and they epitomise the saying of “the path of true love never runs smooth” they have more than their fair share of hurdles to overcome together and eventually apart.

Unraveled Blog Tour Day 2

Thanks to Sassy Mum Book Blog, Loves All Things Books for posting about Unraveled’s release!

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Like I said yesterday, I love dueling reviews and Michelle and Pepper’s review is just another example of why these are so entertaining. I mother hugging love you two back. Pepper, I promise I am not a guy! And Michelle, I love that you get a lady boner from my heroines! Check out this hilarious and gif filled review of Unspoken.

MICHELLE: I agree. She is funny, smart and totally likeable the entire time.
And Gray. Sweet Lord. Each one of these hot military guys that JenFred writes- just do me now.

PEPPER: Oh God. I can’t. The dirty talking? And the sweetness???

Becca the Bibliophile and I just must click because she’s given me some great reviews. 🙂 Becca interviewed Sam and Gray and it was kind of short because Gray started thinking about Sam’s physical attributes and it went downhill from there! You need to check it out. And you’ll want to see a bigger version of this collage. I mean…even the red polka dotted dress. LOVE IT.

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Sherry from Recommended Reads says that Gray won her over despite totally falling for Noah and Bo!

If I thought Noah and Bo were hot, there is no comparison with Gray. Holy Hell, he’s totally smoking! He’s a Marine on leave and trying to get his head together and make some decisions. So, where does he stay? With his former Marine buddies in the Woodlands, Noah and Bo (of course). See where this is going? You have no idea.

Don’t worry, guys, we still love all three of you.

Over at Ripe for Reader, Margreet writes that despite some of the book coming off predictable, she’d still recommend it.

The story in itself was not unfamiliar and a bit predictable and although well-written and most definitely moving, it lacked some originality. Despite that, I would not have any hesitation recommending this book!

At Triin’s Bookish Moments, she’s giving Unraveled 5 stars and we are glad that the bus was late because the book was too engrossing and she almost missed it!

Unraveled was humorous, sexy (holy smoky monkeys how hot!), emotional, and full of thought provoking moments! Maybe it has just been a while since I read the other two books in the series, but I can’t remember the first two being THAT HOT (Gray is DEFINITELY my kind of guy… 😉 ). It was a greatly enjoyed insight into military life.

Finally but not last in my heart is Sharon from Obsession with Books. Sharon was one of the first bloggers to read Undeclared. She took a chance on me and I really appreciate it. The best part is that she still loves my work, three books later. Sharon gave Unraveled five stars too and said

I have to admit, I’m not usually a fan of characters who have previously been married and their partner is now deceased – divorce I don’t mind so much but there is always the chance the hero or heroine aren’t completely ready to move on and a new relationship comes with much trepidation. I’m pleased to say though that Jen has written a real page turner and the relationship is one that is believable which I appreciated, the banter and conversations were enjoyable and their moments together entertaining…it was a book filled with heart and hope and I was glued to the pages.

I love that line because I did want it to be hopeful–that you can get another chance to love again no matter what your past is.

Thanks to everyone who participated in book 2 of the Unraveled blog tour. I’m really blown away by the love that the book is receiving.

Unraveled is live!

What an amazing past eight months have been. Since the end of April, two Woodlands novels have been published along with a Christmas novella and a collaboration with my friend, Jessica Clare. Today marks the release of the third Woodlands story featuring Staff Sgt. Gray Phillips and knitter Samantha Anderson.

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Sam married her high school sweetheart and then lost him to an IED two months after their vows.  Gray’s not into commitments. He has a select few friends with benefits but has no plans on settling down. But when the two meet, sparks fly and the temptation they present to each other is too powerful to resist. Unraveled is on sale now.

AMZN:  http://amzn.to/1f3iAND | UK: http://amzn.to/KuOBEo
BN:  http://bit.ly/1dKox3H
Kobo:  http://bit.ly/LhUSUB
Apple:  http://bit.ly/1dZBYsP
Smashwords:  http://bit.ly/1dF2Sv2
ARE:  http://bit.ly/19DblxU

Chapter Two, Unraveled

Tomorrow I’ll be pressing publish at Kindle and Nook. I’m so excited that I’m almost puking! How about Chapter Two?

You can already pre-order Unraveled at the following retailers:

CHAPTER TWO

Samantha

I FELT LIKE I WORE a scarlet letter. Not “A” for adulterer but “W” for widow. I thought the defining moment of my life was going to be when I married or maybe when I had kids. Instead, it came two months after the wedding, when the “casualty team” showed up at my door, expressing the sorrowful regrets of the Secretary of the Army. I doubted the Secretary of the Army knew who my nineteen-year-old husband was, and I seriously doubted the sorrowful regrets.

My reaction wasn’t very graceful. A real Army wife would’ve stood stoically by while the two Army men in their service class “A” uniforms somberly delivered the news at the door of my condo. My response was first screaming at them followed by an ungraceful collapse on the floor and finally spewing snot all over their wool jackets.

Bitsy, my sister, tried to cheer me up months later by reading Internet articles of all the other ways I could’ve embarrassed myself. “At least you didn’t stab anyone or try to burn yourself,” she pointed out. I didn’t question the veracity of those reports because it actually did make me feel better that there were a handful of people that took the news worse than I did.

At the funeral, the chaplain had held my hand, repeatedly murmuring, “You’re so young.” That was the refrain of my life now. Samantha Anderson, widowed so young. I heard it everywhere. At the grocery store, the library, and even at the stupid bar where I worked.

It seemed like people in my life placed themselves into two general camps. There was the camp, which included my family, that was ready for me to move on from the death of my best friend, only lover, and husband of two months. The other camp wanted to enshrine me as Will Anderson’s widow forevermore. I wasn’t at all sure what camp I fell into, but I knew I was lonely. I was tired of being a widow, and I was tired of bartending for a living, and I was tired of having to serve as Will’s avatar for the family he left behind. I guess I was in the tired and lonely camp.

But I set that sentiment aside today to endure my monthly luncheon with Will’s parents—David and Carolyn. Sometimes my brother-in-law Tucker showed up, but more often than not, it was just me. Last night, Tucker had called and explained earnestly that he just wasn’t up for it this month—again. His inability to have any kind of emotional investment in his family was irritating on most days, but it was enraging on days like today. As if I looked forward to the monthly lunch.

“I’m so glad you came today, Sam.” Will’s mom patted my hand. That made one of us. It was a strained meal, what with Carolyn drinking her lunch, David criticizing her for it, and both of them wondering what I was doing to uphold Will’s memory. The slight ache at my temples that had hummed in the back of my head when I woke up was spreading across the entire surface of my skull and face. I lifted a shaky hand to my temple in an effort to relieve the pain.

“Have you registered for your classes this fall, dear?” Carolyn handed me the butter dish.

“I did. I’m taking eighteen hours.”

Carolyn tsked. “That sounds overly ambitious. Will wouldn’t have wanted you to work that hard.”

I slid a dollop of butter in the shape of a flower onto my bread plate and swallowed a sigh.

“Smart to try to catch up for lost time,” interjected David. “Since your dad gets you free tuition, you might as well take as many credits as possible.” If Carolyn had said the sky was blue, I swear David would have told her it was green. Mom said that David was a great law partner, but a sucky life partner. Lucky for Mom she got David as a law partner. It was Carolyn who had to live with him every day. He continued. “If you do eighteen credit hours every semester and at least twelve in the summer, you’ll be on to law school in two years. You got a full year under your belt before you quit the first time.”

I gave David a tight smile. He couldn’t resist getting his jabs whenever he saw an opening. “Let’s just take one semester at a time.”

“You should start planning now what prerequisites you’ll need to get your major and when’s the best time for you to take those classes.” David buttered his own roll and then pointed his butter knife at me. “Otherwise you’ll be stuck waiting around an extra semester trying to finish out your degree. No need to waste more time. After all, wasn’t going to college the reason you stayed here instead of moving to Alaska?”

Yes, David, stick the knife in deeper. Twist it around. I don’t think you’ve caused enough pain yet.

“Will would be so proud,” Carolyn added.

I fought back a grimace. He would not be proud. He hated school. Why else had he escaped to the Army right out of high school? What other reason was there to spend more and more time in the ROTC during high school, playing at drill on weekends? It was because he couldn’t stand school. And he didn’t want to be a lawyer like his dad. Like my mom.

“It’ll be nice to finally have one of you kids join the firm.” Carolyn smiled at me.

“If I don’t,” I demurred, “then Bitsy for sure will.”

“Bitsy is whipsmart, but she’s only fifteen. It’ll be eight, nine years before she can join. You can be there in five, maybe even four if you apply yourself.” David waved his knife at me again. The likelihood of anyone finishing college and law school in four years was so low that I wasn’t even going to respond.

Not that it mattered to David. He could argue both sides of a topic for hours on end. I guess it made him a great lawyer, but he was a shitty dad. Reason two why Will had hightailed it out of here before the last high school bell had rung.

David must have recognized the ridiculousness of his statement because he set down his knife and leaned closer to me. “We’re just anxious to get some young attorneys in so your mom and I can take some time off.”

Carolyn leaned in on the other side, and I felt like they were squeezing me like a lemon. “Yes, dear. David keeps promising me that Austria river cruise and we can’t do that if Anderson and Miller have no associates.”

Will would’ve told you to hire some already and stop living out your fantasies through your kids.Mom has told me that I didn’t have to sit through these lunches or all the other landmark days of Will’s life with Carolyn, but if not me, then who? Tucker, who had abandoned family events long ago, showed up only at Christmas and then only for a few hours. He refused to play Carolyn’s games, as he put it. But grief wasn’t a game. My counselor had told me that everyone grieved in their own time and in their own way. Who was to say that Carolyn was somehow wrong just because it created more pain for others around her? Will had loved his mother and I just couldn’t abandon her.

“I’ll get there,” I said. That was suitably vague. I’d agreed to go back to college, but I hadn’t fully bought into becoming the legacy that David and my mom were looking for. Well, mostly David. Mom had Bitsy. And David? He had Tucker, who was supposed to have entered the firm a couple of years ago, but he’d bailed to become a tattoo artist.

“I’ll be fine, though,” I assured Carolyn. “After this summer, I won’t be working at the bar anymore. Only classes.”

The mention of the bar brought a disappointed moue to Carolyn’s face, her lips puckering and flattening. Carolyn thought tending bar was too low class but I wasn’t sure that folding shirts at the Gap was a more honorable occupation.

“What will you be studying then?” David asked. “I think literature would be a good basis for a law degree.”

Once more David didn’t need a response. He loved the sound of his own voice and it was just best to allow him to drone on about the different majors I could take to prepare me to be the best lawyer ever.

“Will would’ve loved this place,” Carolyn said in between cocktails. I nodded but inwardly disagreed again. It was like Carolyn’s vision of Will was remade into who she thought Will should have been instead of who he was. The food wasn’t even that good but Carolyn felt like Will deserved this nice restaurant. As if he was keeping a scorecard in his afterlife of how we marked his passing. Year two. Spent at a two-star Michelin restaurant. Five cocktails. Twenty Kleenexes. A deduction for lack of crying from the wife. C+.

And lunch lurched on. I looked at the clock and then the waiter. Please bring the main course, I pleaded silently but he looked away.

EXHAUSTED AFTER LUNCH WITH THE Andersons, I wasn’t prepared to face the same question that Mark, the manager, had taken to asking me every time I walked through the door. “You okay to work the bar?” He never looked at me as he asked. The floor, the bar top, the stage where the live band performed, all held more interest, but ordinarily I’d have my work face pasted on—the one with the fake smile and happy-to-be-here attitude.

Ever since I’d had the episode, Mark had been acting awkward around me. Apparently if you start sobbing just one time while salting a margarita glass, you’re marked as a difficult employee, even if you showed up on time, didn’t try to set up dates with the bar rats, and got along with the other staff.

Mark should have cut me some slack. The days around the anniversary of Will’s death were always the worst. A newspaper reporter had contacted me wanting to know if he could interview me for a two-year retrospective on the war that wasn’t a war anymore. Pass. I was still suffering the results of the nonstop coverage that had blanketed the city the first time Will died. Every year, they tried to kill him again. Or to at least make us suffer through his death again by reporting on me, his family, and the snuffing out of the promise of his young life.

It didn’t help that a photograph of his mother and me at Will’s funeral had gone viral. We’d clasped hands over the flag given to me by the Army Honor Guard during the service. Two generations of sad women captured in one picture.

Grief porn, Bitsy had called it. Just looking at the picture made hearts ache. I’d become the girl who was widowed before her twentieth birthday. So no, I didn’t want to rehash to the media about how my nineteen-year-old husband was killed by an IED or comment on the growing epidemic of young widows. I’d hung up on him before he’d finished asking his question. But ever since the phone call in February and my subsequent breakdown at the bar, Mark had been uneasy around me, giving me looks like I was too emotionally unstable to work around regular humans.

But my bar persona was pretty good, I thought. I pretended to be happy, made appropriate jokes, and flirted with my co-bartender Eve because I couldn’t bring myself to flirt with the men at the bar. I even slicked on mascara and painted my lips dark red so that I didn’t look like a sad girl who’d lost her husband before she’d turned twenty. I wasn’t the best-looking member of the staff, but I wasn’t going to embarrass any of the Gatsby’s ownership either.

“Do you think you’ll be okay?” Mark pressed, shifting from foot to foot. Didn’t he ever tire of that question? In the days and weeks following my breakdown, I understood why he asked. When I started crying, it had actually set off a chain reaction, and then the bar had cleared because it was too depressing. I got that it had been a bad night of receipts for Mark, but bringing it up every time I came into work seemed a tad excessive.

“I’m not on the rag if that’s what you’re asking.” I decided to pretend like I had no idea what he was talking about.

“Fine.” Mark threw up his hands and walked off in a huff. In a contest between which topic was least comfortable—talking about a girl’s period or a girl’s husband’s death—I guess period talk won out. I finished wiping down the bar top and putting the glasses away. Mark would return. He just wanted to shake off the horrible vision that I’d popped into his head. I smiled a little evilly to myself. Maybe he’d associate periods with death from now on and never bring up either subject again.

Mark wandered back when I’d put up the last glass. “I’m putting you at the outdoor bar. You and Eve.”

“Ten four.” I gave him a salute. Eve was a good bartender; she was able to flirt just enough to make the guys feel handsome and strong without going so far over the line that her boyfriend, a bouncer here, felt threatened. Working at the bar meant I could concentrate on a constant buzz of activity instead of how fricking alone I felt all the time.

“Let me know if you have any trouble.” Mark held the hinged part of the bar top up as I slid under.

“And then what?” I asked. When Mark just shrugged, I patted him on his biceps. He meant well, I suppose.

The band was good and it was a gorgeous evening, so the patio bar was hopping by eight that night. Our uniforms of short black shorts and tight white t-shirts that constantly got wet ensured that the bar crowd stood three to five deep at all times. Eve and I had taken to wearing tanks underneath our Gatsby’s tops to avoid giving a free show to the guys, but they still showed up. I guess hope springs eternal.

“Did you see the eye candy Adam brought in tonight?” Eve waggled her eyebrows at me as she poured two draws at once. Adam was the son of the owner of Gatsby’s. The table just to the left of the stage was always reserved for him and his crew. The patio bar was positioned on the right of the stage.

“Nope.” And I hadn’t. Despite my loneliness, actual guys didn’t interest me much. They sometimes looked at me with lust in their eyes, usually after last call they’d come up to the bar hoping that maybe Eve or I would take up the offer that had be declined throughout the night.

I turned to look over at Adam’s table, but per usual, I couldn’t see anyone. I was too short. At five ten, Eve stood a good five inches taller than me and could generally see into the crowd. I’d have to wait until the crowd moved or the band took a break.

“Mmm.” She’d spotted him again. “Tall, buff, buzz cut so short you can see his scalp?”

Eh. Eve and I had very different ideas of what was hot in a guy. Her boyfriend, Randy, was all neck, shoulders, and muscles, which was a good fit for her because she was taller. A guy like Randy felt overpowering to me. I liked them short and wiry, and none of the guys in Adam’s group were that type. His guys were all buff and muscled, as if they were some traveling men’s fitness troupe. And, worse, at least a couple of them were former military. I could just tell by the way they held their bodies and looked around constantly, as if they feared some mortar attack from the sky.

When I got back into the dating game, which I would someday when I stopped missing Will so much, I wouldn’t be with another military guy. My perfect man was someone who loved statistics more than guns and whose idea of a grand time was shopping for a new ruler or pen. Maybe he’d even be a fellow knitter and we’d sit side by side on the sofa watching Downton Abbey and knitting each other socks. Those guys weren’t coming to the bar, though. Some smart girls had already snapped them up and were hiding those treasures in their homes.

I’d shared this with Eve once and, after I’d finished my description, she’d shaken her head. “There are two rules for dating you should never forget. One, he should be strong enough so you can have sex standing up and two, never, ever date a guy who could wear your jeans. It’s terrible for the confidence when you see your skinny jeans looking better on his ass than yours. Learn from my sad dating history,” she admonished me. Randy sure fit both those rules and so did most of Adam’s crew. I was making up my own standards though and tall, buff, brawny guys didn’t meet them.

“You know him?” I asked Eve when I swung back her way after serving a couple of drinks.

“No, but I’d like to.” She bit her fist in mock appreciation of his fineness. “Since I’m taken, I guess I’ll have to leave him to you.”

“I thought I was going to be the threesome in your and Randy’s bed tonight,” I teased, trying to divert the discussion away from Eve’s supposed man candy.

“That’s a threesome I’d like to see.” One of the bar customers leaned against the bar, waving a twenty. The guys who came to Gatsby’s in their hundred-dollar bargain suits were trying far too hard, but their clothing attracted a certain type of girl, and I hardly ever saw a guy with a suit go home alone. I wondered what the girls thought when they were taken back to the guy’s apartment that he shared with three others. Probably the same thing a guy thought when a girl took off her miracle bra. Disappointment all around.

“It’s a hundred dollars,” Eve said to Mr. Suit, while tapping his twenty. “You’ll need four more of these.”

“A hundred for what?”

“If you give them a hundred, they’ll kiss.” One of our regulars who’d been sitting at the bar since five that afternoon explained the rules. When Eve and I worked, guys were always asking for sexual things. I never really understood why they hit on us. Did they think that their ten spot was going to buy our phone numbers? Or that their lame catchphrases like “”What time you getting off tonight?” were going to make us bend over and drop our shorts? My favorite was “When are you two going to kiss? I’ll pay twenty dollars for that!” just like this joker.

Eve and I once said that we’d kiss for a hundred, and since then, we’d get offered the money several times a night. I guess it fueled some fantasy. A hundred bucks to kiss a friend? Too easy to resist.

Suit Man rounded up his friends and slapped a hundred dollars on the table. “Now kiss.”

“Kiss. Kiss. Kiss.” The chant rose up from the bar. Eve finished delivering four mugs of beer and I slipped the lime wedges on a couple of tequila shots before we met in the middle. She dug her fingers into my hair and whispered against my mouth. “Someday you oughta try kissing a guy.” Then she gave me a wet kiss as I held on to her shoulders.

When we broke apart to the shouts of encouragement, I responded. “Only if I can make fifty bucks per kiss.” Scooping up the money, I stuck it in my back pocket to split later.

She swatted me on the ass and turned back to the customers. Watching us kiss made them thirsty. When Maisey, the waitress serving Adam’s table, swung by with an order, Eve grabbed her tray and started pumping her for information. I was a little ashamed to say I sidled down the bar so I could eavesdrop.

“Who’s the big guy Adam brought in?” Eve popped the caps of three bottles and set them on the tray and took to making the rest of Maisey’s orders.

“Aren’t they delicious? I’d like a go with all of them.”

“At one time?” Eve mocked.

“Like you haven’t thought about it,” Maisey retorted.

“You ain’t woman enough for all that man meat over yonder,” Eve said. “Don’t know a woman who is. But anyway, the new guy. What’s his deal?”

“Some Marine on leave for a couple of weeks.”

A Marine? Yup, totally not interested. I drifted back down to my side of the bar. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Eve toss a sidelong glance my way while gabbing with Maisey. Eve filled the rest of the order and Maisey took off. Once Maisey was out of earshot, Eve came down to see me—a naughty look on her face. She was up to something. “Take a break. Maisey says that the band is finishing up the last song of this set.” When the band took a rest, the patio usually emptied out as people went indoors to dance and hunt a different crowd. “Go on.” She started shoving me out of the bar.

“No.” I resisted but she was stronger than I was and before I knew it, I was on the wrong side of the bar counter. “Fine, I’ll be back in thirty minutes.”

“Take your time,” she sang and turned back to help some patrons.

With the band still playing a cover of “Mr. Brightside” behind me, I easily made my way to the interior of the bar and headed for the rear exit. Maybe I’d sit in my Rover and read or work a little on the layette set I was making my mother’s very pregnant administrative assistant. I’d been kind of slacking off since the good weather hit, spending more time on my tiny balcony enjoying the breeze and drinking ice tea than inside knitting, surrounded by all the artifacts of my dead husband’s life.

“Samantha Anderson, I haven’t seen you in ages!”

Teresa Bush, she of the unfortunate last name, came barreling toward me. Teresa, Will and I had graduated together. In high school, we were probably known as friends but I hadn’t laid eyes on her since Will’s funeral.

“You look great.” Her skintight sparkly red dress was a little upscale for Gatsby’s, but it matched the suits we occasionally saw wander in after work and then stay until closing. She must be enjoying a night away from her kid. At the funeral, I’d asked if she was expecting her second, and the glare she’d pinned on me had me feeling my chest for an open wound. I thought the black look she’d cast me was because I didn’t remember her kid’s name but Mom had told me later that I should never ask a woman if she was pregnant.

“You are looking…” She paused, groping for the right word. My mascara was likely making smudges around my eyes and I could feel my hair slipping out of its ponytail so Teresa was looking for an honest word to describe “mess” without being offensive.

“Like a bartender?” I offered.

She gave me a slightly superior smile, “Ha! No, good, really good. Gosh, I don’t think I’ve seen you since the funeral. It’s so good that you’re getting out and being social again.”

“I work here,” I said blandly.

“Oh right.” She tittered and then placed her hand on my shoulder to stabilize herself. “I just don’t get out very often and I think I need to sit down. Come talk to me. It’s been so long. Did you know I got a tattoo done by Tucker? Do you want to see it?” She started pulling down the bodice of her red dress. Alarmed, I looked around for Mark, thinking that he could call her a cab. It was early though, barely nine thirty. Poor girl must not get out much what with the kid at home. “Um, should I call you a cab?”

“Why?” She smiled drunkenly at me. “Are we going to go to another party? I can’t believe you’re here. You are so brave. So so brave.” She hiccupped. “If my husband had died after just two months of marriage I think I would’ve died myself. You looked so fragile at the wedding. Or funeral. Which was it?”

My feelings of sympathy toward her were fast evaporating and I needed to escape. Like David, Teresa didn’t need a response. She rambled on, telling me about her kid and how it was nearly impossible to get a night to herself and how the Mai Tais we served were delicious. I tried to look rapt while searching for a way to escape. One of my stupid reasons not to move to Alaska with Will when he went there to learn how to jump out of airplanes was that I didn’t want to be away from my friends and family. But as Teresa described a life experience a thousand miles from what I knew, the pain of regret squeezed my heart tight.

I looked around for assistance, but no one appeared available. Heck, no one even seemed to be paying attention to us as she rattled on about how much food her five year old ate and how clever he was for using a fork. No one noticed my predicament besides a tall guy leaning against the interior bar with a smile dancing around the edges of his mouth. Below the short sleeves of his T-shirt, the muscles in his arms were well-defined, and they flexed lightly as he supported his weight on his elbows. He was probably too far away to hear what she was saying, but he found something amusing about my situation.

We stared at each while she talked on and on. She’d moved past my own personal courage and her child’s dexterity to speak about her own bravery in having children given her small birthing channel. I felt Teresa wiggle her hips to draw attention to them but I couldn’t look away from the guy at the bar.

As she talked on, I watched as he pushed slowly away from the wall while maintaining eye contact. There was something familiar about him, and for a second I wondered if we’d met before. He walked so confidently, his bearing erect. His arms were held just so at his sides, as if he was ready for anything. With purpose, he strode toward me. I would have remembered this guy if we’d met before. Even in my fog of grief, I would have been able to appreciate a guy who stood an inch or two over six feet tall and whose shoulders were so broad that I wondered if he had trouble fitting through an ordinary door.

Those shoulders tapered into a lovely V that would have made any other girl’s mouth water. Good thing I was immune to those feelings. I could look, appreciate the work of art in front of me, and go home unaffected. If I hadn’t been completely unsusceptible, I’d be in big trouble but, as I reminded myself, I liked slim, short guys, not men whose jeans could swallow me whole or who could hold me up while we had sex—which short guys could do anyway.

“Hey, sweetheart.” The stranger bent down and brushed his lips against the side of my face in what seemed to be a kiss. It’d been so long that maybe it was just a puff of air against my cheek, but I thought I felt his soft lips touch my skin. Whatever it was, it raised a flock of winged things inside my stomach. “I’ve been waiting for you. Gotta introduce you to my boys.”

My gaze flitted from Teresa’s wide-eyed gaze to the stranger’s, which I now saw was hazel. I ignored the flutter in my belly and the feeling, well, lower. It wasn’t my heart rate that had accelerated. The pounding in my ears had to be from some other source. Hot males didn’t affect me like they apparently affected Teresa, whose eyes had glazed over and who might actually be trying to sniff the guy. The man signaled to Steve, the indoor bartender, who came over and led Teresa to a chair. I watched the whole thing like I was in a trance.

The stranger cupped my elbow and directed me toward the patio, but I didn’t want to go back to the patio. Strangely, I directed him down the hallway, past the bathrooms, and then turned right before an emergency exit door that was just an ordinary door, which all the staff knew, and probably some of the patrons as well. I couldn’t extricate myself from his grasp if I’d wanted to. The touch of his calloused fingers against my elbow was as powerful as an alien tractor beam.

“I, ah, thank you,” I stammered out.

“You just looked like you needed a rescue,” he murmured, his mouth inches from my head. We were facing each other, his hand still holding my elbow. I swore I could feel his breath ruffling my hair and my whole body shivered from the sensation.

“Is that your gig? Rescuing folks?”

He stuck his tongue into the side of his mouth. “Yeah, you could say that.” His eyes wandered over me, taking in my unkempt hair, mascara-smudged eyes, and slightly damp T-shirt, made wet by the constant handling of mugs, bottles, and shots.

Teresa may have been tipsy or drunk but she’d still looked immaculate. Her blonde hair, lighter than mine and perfectly dyed, had been blown out into the perfect summer beach wave hairstyle. My own hair was drawn into a simple ponytail and I was acutely aware of all the strands that had snuck out during my hours of work and how my fingers were pruny from handling all the liquids behind the bar. I wore sneakers, low ankle socks, black cotton shorts and a simple white T-shirt. Even the worst-dressed bar patron was more put together than me.

I smoothed a few strands behind my ears, an action that loosened his firm grip on my elbow, before I caught myself. What was I doing? Why should I care what this guy thought of how I looked? I tucked my fingers in my shorts pocket. My elbow already felt cold, missing his touch. I frowned at myself. This was so unlike me.

“Do we know each other? You look really familiar to me.” I looked at him suspiciously.

He smiled broadly at me. “I don’t think so but let’s remedy that. Gray Phillips, from San Diego.”

“Sam Anderson.” I took his right hand in my right hand and shook it. “From here.”

“You’re working the patio bar, right?”

I nodded, still holding his hand, enjoying the feel of it. He had a nice grip, firm, calloused, but not too rough. And it was very large. Very, very large. Like I think it could span my whole waist. Before I knew it, I was pressing his large hand against my stomach. His eyes widened and his nostrils flared at my unthinking invitation, and before my good sense could catch up with my instincts, his head was lowering toward mine.

A faint scent of spice and ocean invaded my nose, the subtle smell drowning out the heavier smells of the bar. I should be smelling sweat from the dance floor and yeast from the spilled beer or maybe even ammonia from the cleaning supplies behind me but in this little corner my senses were filled with him.

“I’ve been watching you all night.” His mouth was right above the tip of my ear and I felt something crack inside me—a fissure was forming in the mask I’d donned earlier today or perhaps his breath, his touch, his words were simply hastening the demise of the barriers I’d held between myself and everyone else for two years. Inside my body, it felt like there was an awakening, and every fiber of my being reached toward him, upward and outward as if I were a flower on the first day of a spring rain. I lifted my head to gaze up, wide-eyed and anxious with anticipation.

Some part of my brain was telling me that the storage closet was just two steps to my right and that the exit door was just beyond that. I knew my Rover was outside, and all three were safer than standing here almost in his embrace, but I couldn’t hear the warning over the pounding of my heartbeat. He bent toward me, his face serious. Even in the low light of the corner, I could see the gold flecks feathering out from the center of his eyes.

“I’m going to kiss you now.” His voice was deep and rough, and it matched the rest of his thoroughly masculine body.

“I know,” I whispered back. And I wanted that kiss from Gray, even though he ordinarily wouldn’t be my type at all. I wanted it more than I wanted to breathe. When his mouth molded against mine, it felt like bliss—as if my whole cold body had been submerged into a warm bath. If I thought I had been engulfed before it was nothing like I felt at that moment. My entire world—my thoughts, my feelings, my senses—were full of him. I tasted the mint and hops on his tongue. I inhaled the scents of cinnamon and bergamot and ocean of his faint cologne into my airways. I felt the calloused palm on my waist and then lower against the exposed skin of my thigh. His dense muscles were drawn tight under his skin and the fabric of his t-shirt and he felt as strong as a citadel. The moan that had been building since he first backed me into the wall escaped. It had been so long since I’d had the touch of a man’s hand on any part of me, and I nearly wept at the pleasure of it.

Every square inch of my body felt sensitized, as if I’d been an unlit Christmas tree and I’d just been plugged in. I wanted to feel his hands all over, not just on that patch of thigh. I needed his touch in those secret places, those places I thought had calcified. I’d thought I’d been waiting for the smooth hands of an accountant but the longer, rougher fingers pushing the hem of my shorts up couldn’t belong to a man who worked in an office.

His tongue and mouth broke from mine to leave a hot, wet path from my mouth, across my jaw line, and down to my neck. My leg lifted of its own accord and he took it as a sign to hitch me up higher until both my legs either dangled off the floor or wrapped around him. I chose to wrap my legs around him and was rewarded with a thick hard column pressing into my sex. We both groaned at the contact and I could feel his sound against my neck. The reverberations sent minor shocks throughout my nervous system. Holding me up against the wall, he began thrusting against me rhythmically, every impact of his hips making me hotter and wetter than I thought I could get.

I gripped him tighter with my legs and dug my hands into his hair, using every bit of his body as leverage. He held me up with ease, as if I were a feather. One hand was under my right butt cheek and the other was exploring my left side, pulling out my T-shirt, only to find the tank underneath. Needing his mouth back, I tugged on his hair and he took the hint immediately. He fastened his lips over mine and we devoured each other, still rubbing our lower bodies against each other as the bass from the dance floor pounded the floor boards.

Whimpering, I begged in moans and small cries for more. A familiar but almost forgotten tension was winding its way from between my legs outward. All thoughts of storage rooms and hallways and strangers were lost in the swirl of bright lights bursting behind my eyelids.

“I got you, baby,” he growled against my mouth. “Just let go.” And so I did. I closed my eyes and let those long-dormant feelings wash over me, spreading from the inside of my legs to the nerve endings in my toes and fingertips and the very top of my head. And he kept grinding and grinding and grinding against me, whispering in my ear how I was the hottest thing he’d ever held, how he couldn’t wait to taste me, how he’d die if he couldn’t be inside me tonight.

Charlotte Chronicles XII

Don’t forget the release of Unraveled is just around the corner. We even have a pre order link if you are an iBooks reader. Pre Order link.

I posted the entire first chapter of Unraveled here.

***

Nathan

I spend most of the night with one eye open just waiting for Charlotte’s parents to burst through the door but even with that anxiety hovering around the edges of my consciousness I don’t leave. Charlotte’s hand is tucked into mine is more effective than a chain bolted to the floor. I can tell that she is confused by my response to her and I am as well. These feelings came on so fast and neither of us are prepared. I had some vague idea Charlotte and I would end up together but that was in the future. Her being sick, nearly dying had changed things. But we aren’t ready. I’m not ready.

The memory of the last time I had sex flicks through my mind and I get an instant erection. Nick is having more sex than me right now but I know I shouldn’t care. I know other guys would either be having sex with other girls or be taking Charlotte up on her offer. Although what she is offering I’m not sure. And it’s not like Charlotte and I are dating or even a couple. We’re connected though. For so long I’ve just taken for granted that she’ll be around when I’m ready for her. And right now she’s too young and I’m trying hard to push away those physical feelings. Emotional ones are okay but I feel two inches high whenever I get hard around her. But going off to another girl? That seems just as wrong now. Before, yeah, it was easy. The idea of not having sex for some interminable amount of time in the future is bleak. I wonder if I can die from a build up of sperm or if my dick really will fall off if I jerk it too much in the shower. Maybe it would be better if she left. If she was gone, wouldn’t it be easier for me to go without? No temptation around.

I hold myself immobile so I don’t disturb her sleep but she finally lets go right before dawn, about the time I usually get up and lift weights so I tell myself it’s okay to leave her. She mumbles something but I don’t catch it. Leaning over, I tuck the blankets around her and kiss her forehead.

“Naaaate.” She sighs out my name, the a sounding like one long breathy syllable and it sends shivers down my spine and I’m hard. Just like that. Adjusting myself, I creep out, glad that the hallway is quiet. All doors are shut and I can escape into my own home unnoticed. The kitchen is dark except for the range light over the hood.

“You can spend as much time as you like with her before she leaves, but she is leaving.”

My hand is on the doorknob but my heart is somewhere around my knees. If I had poor bladder control, I would have pissed myself. At least my boner died.

“Jesus Christ, Aunt AM.” I swear forgetting myself. In the shadows, across the room, sits Charlotte’s mother, a mug in her hand and her tablet in front of her on the breakfast table. I hope she didn’t see me tenting my pants earlier. I won’t die from sperm build up. One of Charlotte’s parents will kill me instead. “I d-didn’t see you,” I stammer out.

“No kidding.” I can hear the smirk in her voice. “The fog comes on little cat feet.”

“Huh?”

“Carl Sandberg.” When I show no understanding, she shakes her head. “School’s these days. It’s about the Chicago Harbor! The fog comes on little cat feet. It sits looking over harbor and city on silent haunches and then moves on. You’ve never heard that?”

It rings a faint bell so I nod but she isn’t buying it. “Come.” She orders. “Sit down.”

I trudge over, my feet slapping heavily against the tiles. She kicks out a chair and I drop into it.

“Why?” I ask sullenly feeling like I’m a toddler again and Aunt AM is taking away my favorite toy.

I can feel her looking at me, but the light from the range hood doesn’t extend over here. The only light is from her tablet which has flickered off. Gone to sleep I guess.

“If Charlotte wanted to go to the Navy Pier, would you take her?”

I know that there is a trap here. I hesitate and it’s my first mistake. “No,” I say.

“How do you stop her? Physically restrain her? And if she tells you that it is fine and that her doctor has okayed it, do you call her a liar?” The questions come rapid fire and I can’t process them all at once. “You eventually give in because you love her and you think she must know, after this most recent episode put her in the hospital, that she can’t keep hiding her weakness.”

I nod slowly at this assessment, but I’m uncertain. Would I keep Charlotte from doing something she said she was safe to do? Charlotte can talk me into anything and if she said that it was safe I’d believe her. My tongue is still frozen by doubt. Aunt AM continues on, using my silence against me.

“And if she had an episode, a seizure or passed out would you blame yourself?” I nod again because anything else would be an obvious lie. “We want to prevent that from happening. Where you’re blaming yourself and Charlotte avoids placing all of you in a bad situation.”
“How long?” I ask.

“Six maybe nine months. We hope to be back before your senior year and her sophomore year.”

I’m glad now that we can’t see each other because what I’m feeling right now is something like relief. I shouldn’t feel that way but it’s like Charlotte’s absence will give me time to sort out everything.

“Before may 21st?”

I sense her shrug. “Maybe before her 16th birthday. It depends on how hard Charlotte works at getting better. Does she do everything her doctors ask or does she try to hide her symptoms and pretend she isn’t as sick as she is.”

“Okay,” I say. I mean, it’s not like I have a choice in the matter. Aunt AM gets to her feet and gives me a hug. Standing up, I return her embrace already feeling a hundred times better.

“It’s the right thing for all of us,” she murmurs to me.

“Thanks Aunt AM.” I’m nearly at the connecting door when she calls out.

“Don’t let Bo know you are marking when Charlotte turns 16 or you might not live to see your next birthday.”

Because I am a stupid and reckless shit I give Aunt AM a salute and a grin. She mock tosses her tablet at me and I disappear down the hall.M y cocky belief that all will work itself out reasserts itself. Six months? Nothing can happen that would affect us in six months. By then Charlotte won’t be so young. Sixteen is perfect. Six months is perfect.

***

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Charlotte Chronicles XI & Cover Reveal for Unraveled

The cover reveal for Unraveled occurred today. It’s a fantastic collaboration of photography by David Wagner LA and design by Meljean Brook whose books are more amazing than her design skills. Thanks for The Rock Stars of Romance for putting together the cover reveal tour and thank you to all the bloggers that participated.

Unraveled

 

Blurb:

Twenty-five-year-old Sgt. Gray Phillips is at a crossroads in his life: stay in the Marine Corps or get out and learn to be a civilian? He’s got forty-five days of leave to make up his mind but the people in his life aren’t making the decision any easier. His dad wants him to get out; his grandfather wants him to stay in. And his growing feelings for Sam Anderson are wreaking havoc with his heart…and his mind. He believes relationships get ruined when a Marine goes on deployment. So now he’s got an even harder decision to make: take a chance on Sam or leave love behind and give his all to the Marines.

Twenty-two year old Samantha Anderson lost her husband to an IED in Afghanistan just two months after their vows. Two years later, Sam is full of regrets—that she didn’t move with her husband to Alaska; that she allowed her friends to drift away; that she hasn’t taken many chances in life. Now, she’s met Gray and taking a risk on this Marine could be her one opportunity to feel alive and in love again. But how can she risk her heart on another military man who could share the same tragic fate as her husband?

You can add it to your Goodreads shelves.  The book will be on sale for $3.99 on January 20, 2014.  There is still time to be part of the tour and obtain a copy of the ARC of Unraveled for review. Link to sign up is here.

***

Charlotte

My request for a kiss doesn’t result in Nathan rolling me over and pinning me down on the bed. Oh no, he jumps off the mattress like I’ve stuck a burning iron in his side. His athletic instincts kick in and he’s halfway across the room before another breath is taken by either of us.

“What the fuck?” he almost yells at me and then, tossing a worried glance toward the door as if my dad will bust through any minute, he lowers his voice and repeats the question sans profanity. “What did you just ask me?”

Scowling, I answer, “I asked for you to kiss me, not kill me.”

He places one hand on his hip and another he scrubs through his hair, looking exasperated but his irritation is nothing compared to my mounting annoyance. My earlier shyness is chased away by my frustration. This is classic Jackson brother behavior. Because I’m a girl, I can’t possibly want the same things that they do.

“Charlotte, I…” he begins but I cut him off. I don’t even want to hear what he has to say. I roll over on my side so I’m not facing him.

“Forget it. I’m not going to beg you.” I would if I thought it would do any good. It’s just…since I’ve been sick Nathan’s been different to me. He’s been nicer and he’s held me closer. His behavior is not so brotherly. I catch him looking at me with a gleam in his eye and it makes me feel warm all over. But now he’s looking everywherebut me and so I turn away.

I feel his body depress the side of the bed and he rolls me toward him.

“What’s this all about?”

“Nothing, just go away.” I keep my eyes covered so he can’t see my hurt at his instant rejection. He didn’t even have to think twice about it. He can kiss—and more—with any number of girls at school or other schools or heck, even that a couple of girls who live in our building but the idea of kissing me results in curse words and discomfort.

“I’m not going away,” he insists. His palm is on my shoulder and I feel electrified just from that small touch and I wonder what it would feel like if he touched me other places.

“All that talk about me being important to you seems like just that—talk.” I mumble still refusing to look at him. He pulls on my wrist that is covering my eyes but I resist. It would be easy for him to overpower me but instead he just lets go and even that makes me sad.

“It’s not just talk, but you’re fifteen and I think we should wait.”

“I’ll be sixteen in five months and it’s not like you weren’t kissing girls when you were fifteen.”

“You stay here and we’ll kiss when you’re ready.”

I drop my arm away and sit up abruptly. Nathan reaches out to steady me and we are only inches apart. If I leaned forward I could kiss him. Instead I say slowly and clearly, “I’m ready now.”

“You’re not.”

“How do you know this? You were like twelve the first time you kissed Molly Masterson at her birthday party. And you had sex when you were fourteen at Olivia Petrzelka in her parents’ rec room.”

He gapes at me. “Goddamn Nick. I’m going to beat him until he can’t remember his own name let alone anything about me.”

“Nick? If you want to shut down the gossip pipeline, you better start picking better partners.”

Nathan does a double take. “Are you saying that it’s the girls?” He draws out the word girls in shocked disbelief.

“What do you think we’re talking about?” I drop to the bed and stretch out on the big bed like a starfish.  “I’m going to kiss someone some day. Do you want that first kiss to be yours?”

He glares at me and presses his lips together but behind his glower I can see something else, something that maybe if I was more experienced I could identify. I just know it’s there and it’s something other than anger.

I stretch farther, making tiny linen angels in my bedsheets. Nathan’s attention is diverted and at first I think he’s staring at my chest, where my IV port is but then I realize his gaze is lower, much lower. A devilish impulse comes over me and I undulate my hips, draw my legs up and allow my knees to fall to the side. As I watch beneath my eyelashes, Nathan does not look away. He’s riveted and my gaze falls down his body past his chest and down to his sweatpants that hide absolutely nothing.

I’ve seen erections before, on the Internet, but I couldn’t decide whether I thought that penises were disgusting or attractive. I prefer looking at the naked chest, the abs on a male model,  or even his back.  Somehow I know that Nathan’s erection would be different, amazing. Girls in the locker room talk about blow jobs and oral but I haven’t done any of that. I pretend like I know what they are talking about but the closest I’ve ever come to anything remotely sexual is a few Tumblr gifs. No one is willing to brave the Jackson brothers to get to me and I haven’t been too interested in breaching the line either.

Saliva pools in my mouth as I think about taking Nathan inside my mouth and I wonder what it would feel like ifhe touches me between my legs.  As quickly as the wanton spirit had spread over me, it leaves and I lock my legs together, rolling to the side, embarrassed at my thoughts.

Nathan groans, my motions awakening him from his trance. He turns to face the wall, and presses his forehead against a palm. Shame sets in and I’m sorry for what I’m doing to Nathan, what I’m doing to myself.

“I’m going to Switzerland. I’m leaving after the first of the year and I just don’t want my first time to be with someone other than you.” I bite my lip and then touch him tentatively on his back and wait for his response.

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