Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Release + Review - Redeemed - Lauren Asher




⚡️𝐑𝐞𝐝𝐞𝐞𝐦𝐞𝐝⚡️, book #4 in the Dirty Air Series by @laurenasherauthor is LIVE and FREE in Kindle Unlimited!


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One mistake destroys my career.

I go from most eligible bachelor to monster, hiding from the world.

At least until Chloe breaks into my home.

My new fake girlfriend is a temporary fix to my biggest problem.

But as our game changes, so do my feelings.

There’s only one issue stopping me from claiming her.




It all started with a birthday wish, some vodka, and an ancestry kit.

That’s how I end up in Italy, finding my long-lost father.

But one decision lands me a fake boyfriend I don’t want.

The more we pretend, the easier our ruse becomes.

I told myself not to fall in love with a liar like Santiago.

I should have listened.


Johnaka's Review 
“Be still my heart, 5 stars”

There is no denying that I love Dirty Air Series, and I thought I had a general idea of where Asher was going to take this story. Boy, was I wrong, and I was here for it! The heartache, the triumph, and the love. If Redeemed isn’t a comeback story, I don’t know what is. Do yourself a favor and one-click this story.

If you’ve read the series, you know Santi is always good for a joke and a laugh, but in Redeemed we see a different side of him. The heroine Chole grounded him in a way only she could. How that woman was so positive after the life she had, I have no clue. These two sucked me in and then spit me out at the end. One thing is for sure, I never want Asher to stop writing Formula 1.

Plot-5/5 Characters-5/5 Heat-5/5 Writing style-5/5 Overall-5/5


#laurenasher #dirtyairseries #sportsromance #F1 #redeemed #nowlive @booksnmoods

Release + Review - Strays - Cora Brent


A man like me isn’t cut out to be a dad.
And if this kid had another option I wouldn’t try to be one now.
But for once I’m going to step up.
I’ll right the worst of old wrongs.
I’ll pretend this last name of mine is something decent instead of a legacy of hard-core criminals.
I don’t know if I’ll ever be free of my sins.
I do know it wouldn't be wise to get close enough to find out.
Into this chaos walks Isabella Gentry.
She was warned to keep her distance from me.
I was the one who warned her.
She’s beautiful. She’s headstrong. She’s spoiled as hell.
And she’s my freaking roommate.
Half of me wants to turn her world upside down in the cruelest way imaginable.
The other half wants to worship the ground she walks on.
This can go one of two ways.
Either I’ll decide to be the worst version of myself.
Or I’ll surrender the past in order to build a future.
And maybe along the way I’ll prove something.
That the guy everyone loves to hate might be redeemable yet...

Louise's Review 
Strays is a standalone novel, that I am not even sure you can call a second chance, it more like restarting life.

Rafe’s life hasn’t been worth much and when he is put into the position of sole parent to a 5 year old boy, Oliver. Connecting with his only remaining family member is the best way to move forward in changing his ways. Isabella is branching out away from her very supportive family and when fate steps in and puts Rafe in her path there is no stopping it. He may have a rough exterior but underneath it all is the person Rafe was always meant to be.

I personally really enjoyed this story; Rafe and Izzy had amazing chemistry and Oliver’s character had my heart breaking for his loss. Brent is a new to me author and I look forward to reading more in the future.

Star Ratings; Plot: 4/5 Characters: 4/5 Heat: 4/5 Writing Style: 4/5 Overall: 4/5

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“What are you gonna do about it, Izzy?  Throw your wine at me?”  
She does. She throws her wine in my face.  Or at least she tries to.  The flick of her wrist comes up short when I rear back and the wine splashes on the floor, leaving her standing there with a stupid empty glass and a puzzled expression.  That should have worked, her pretty eyes say.  Why is this jackass not covered in my wine backwash?  
There’s no effort required to pluck the glass out of her hand.  I toss it in the sink, where it promptly shatters.  
“Hey,” she complains.  “That was Waterford crystal, you dick.”
I chuckle and close in, aware that I’m hard and getting harder.  “That’s your whole problem, Isabella.”  
Her eyes flash.  Her lips pout. In another second she’ll be stamping her bare foot.  “What the hell are you talking about?”   
“This.”  I run a hand low, over the shape of my cock.  She can see the rigid outline through my shorts.  I know she can.  She sucks in a corner of her lower lip and jerks her head to force her eyes away.  
“You’re disgusting.”  
I chuckle. “You wish you thought so.”  
Cora Brent was born in a cold climate and escaped as soon as it was legally possible. Now, she lives in the desert with her husband, two kids and a prickly pear cactus she has affectionately named ‘Spot’. Cora’s closet is filled with boxes of unfinished stories that date back her 1980’s childhood and all her life she has dreamed of being an author. Amazingly, she is now a New York Times and USA Today bestselling writer of contemporary romance and begs not to be awakened from this dream.

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Release + Review - Captured in Ink - Carrie Ann Ryan


"Carrie Ann Ryan writes the perfect balance of sweet and heat ensuring every story feeds the soul." - Audrey Carlan, #1 New York Times bestselling author


Captured in Ink, an all-new Montgomery Ink: Boulder Novella high on heat and emotion from New York Times bestselling author Carrie Ann Ryan and 1,001 Dark Nights is available now!

New York Times bestselling author Carrie Ann Ryan returns to the Montgomery Ink world with three souls bruised yet forever connected in this sexy and intoxicating ménage romance.

Julia and Ronin know their relationship is solid. They’ve been through hell and back, but their love has stayed true through it all. When Ronin’s ex, Kincaid, comes back to town, however, the two realize what they might be missing.

Kincaid didn’t mean to leave Ronin behind all those years ago. When tragedy struck not once, but twice, bringing with it the heat of horror, he couldn’t face the past he’d left behind. Now, he’s back and doesn’t know how he fits in with the seemingly perfect couple—especially not when their families will apparently stop at nothing to keep them apart.

**Every 1001 Dark Nights novella is a standalone story. For new readers, it’s an introduction to an author’s world. And for fans, it’s a bonus book in the author’s series. We hope you'll enjoy each one as much as we do.**


Louise's Review 

Captured in Ink is a standalone novel in the Montgomery Ink: Boulder series.

Julia and Ronin have a solid marriage and know where they want to take their relationship and that is the possibility of adding a 3rd into their lives. When Kincade turns up on Ronin’s doorstep he didn’t realise that he had a wife and had moved on; he never would have thought that he would be asked on a date.

I personally enjoyed this story; it was short and sexy; I would have loved some more from these 3 characters.

Star Ratings; Plot: 3/5 Characters: 3/5 Heat: 4/5 Writing Style: 4/5 Overall: 3.5/5


Download your copy today!


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About Carrie

Carrie Ann Ryan is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of contemporary, paranormal, and young adult romance. Her works include the Montgomery Ink, Talon Pack, Promise Me, and Elements of Five series, which have sold millions of books worldwide. She’s the winner of a RT Book of the Year and a Prism Award in her genres. She started writing while in graduate school for her advanced degree in chemistry and hasn’t stopped since. Carrie Ann has written over seventy-five novels and novellas with more in the works. When she’s not losing herself in her emotional and action-packed worlds, she’s reading as much as she can while wrangling her clowder of cats who have more followers than she does.


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Release + Review - Lunatic - K.L Savage


Mania: A mental illness consisting of episodes of profound excitement, euphoria, delusions, and over-activity.

I deal with highs and lows, but somehow, I end up making the best of it.
My family disowned me, but family is the reason why I’m in Vegas.
Even with my inability to think straight, I end up being in charge of a bunch of runaway mental patients. 
Control doesn’t exist if someone is fighting their mind. We have to break in order to mend.
Hence, The Asylum.
A sanctuary for lost causes.
Where crazy can roam free, and compulsions can be let loose.
My nephew says as long as it stays at The Asylum, we won’t have problems.
What fun would it be if problems didn’t exist?

And my problem is in the shape of a dancer, twirling on the front lawn in the middle of the night.
Her laughter is music.
Her beauty is timeless.
And my mania has kicked in overdrive.
When I’m obsessed with something, it’s more than what the normal person feels.
If I can’t have her, no one can.
If I can’t have her, I’ll die.
And I’ll make sure she’ll die too.
I’m a lunatic who has found the living breathing version of his mania.

 Johnaka's Review 
“Crazy, 4 stars”

Zain is straight up crazy. But if you’ve been reading Savage for a while now, you probably knew that. When Chole/Jessica comes into the picture, it almost makes all the crazy come to life. Both of them are completely ill, facing their own struggles. I wanted to scream and say they didn’t belong together. Two mentally ill people should not be together, that’s a breeding ground for crazy, right? At the same time, these two just worked. They understood each other on a level no one else would have been able to. He handled her two personalities like a champ, and she let him be. I’m not exactly sure what I think of this series yet, but I can’t wait to see where Savage takes it. That and I’m a firm believer in writing about the taboo and in her own way Savage is doing just that with this series.

Plot-4/5 Characters-4/5 Heat-4/5 Writing style-4/5 Overall-4/5

Free in Kindle Unlimited
I lean back on my elbows and stare up at the sky. The stars twinkle and blink, and the endless abyss is a blanket of black, with slight hues of dark blue. The open space that allows me to see the countless constellations has me a little more mesmerized than I ought to be. It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to see something that hasn’t been blocked by bars on the outside of a window.
I’ll never take anything beautiful for granted.
“It’s such a gorgeous night!” a sweet, harmonic voice says from out of nowhere.
I sit up and glance around, staring back and forth to see if I can spot who the voice belongs to. I don’t see a damn thing. “Shit, maybe Reaper is right. I don’t need to be drinking right now.” I set the beer down and rub my eyes, fucking exhausted. It’s hard to sleep when my mind is always on, constantly with the thoughts, and battling the urge to not fucking lose it.
A giggle from my left wakes me up. I stand and run down the steps, wondering where the hell it is coming from.
“So much space!” The angelic tone is a song filtering through the exhaustion.
She’s getting closer now. It’s cold out here, and dark. What if she’s lost? She’ll need help. I spin around again, staring over the outline of the cactuses, but then the scuff and grind of sand sounds from behind me. I turn, holding my breath when the faint glow of the porch light illuminates against platinum blonde hair. Her arms are above her head, and she’s smiling as if she isn’t in forty-degree weather wearing a black dress that blends in with the night. Her skin is the color of cream, the kind someone puts in their coffee.
I’m enamored.
I stand there, staring at the most beautiful creature I’ve ever seen, watching her spin and dip like she’s a ballerina. Her movements are smooth and effortless, like waves in the sea, flowing in constant sets of perfection. One arm reaches out, like she’s stretching to touch an object that has her attention, and damn it, I wish it was me. Her back leg lifts and her dress dips low in the back and the material in the front falls over the leg on the ground.
My thoughts start to race, imagining her in my arms in bed, kissing her plump lips that are red from the cold air of the night, grabbing her tits that bounce with every graceful move she makes, and wanting her to be mine.
Only mine.
It’s dangerous when a man like me wants so deeply because I don’t have the ability to let go.
And I know if she were to ever be mine, I wouldn’t allow her to let go.
I’d take her will.
I’d take her freedom.
I’d take.
Until all there was in her world was me. All she could ever want is me. 
#2 Chaotic – Releasing April 20
K.L. Savage decided they were tired of looking for the kind of books they wanted to read. They had an itch that needed to be scratched, and as every girl knows, nothing scratches better than an alpha.

They write about gritty, alpha males, sometimes their dark sides, and the women they love.
If you have the same itch, their alpha males should fix that.

Monday, January 25, 2021

Release + Review - Cala Riley - Matteo


I wasn’t supposed to be here. Kidnapped by a stranger and forced to live in his home. So why am I drawn to my captor? Secrets from my past threaten not only myself, but now him. Do I trust the man who kidnapped me or get the hell out of dodge?
I’ve always done the right thing. Making decisions for myself that were more for the benefit for others. Until I meet her. What started as a good deed may turn into a kidnapping before I know it. She is the first thing I’ve ever wanted for myself. The question is, will I be able to keep her?  

Louise's Review 

Oh Matteo!!! I have been hanging for your story from the very beginning. Matteo is book 1 and kicks off the new series ‘The Syndicates’.

Matteo had done his time and now he is a big player in the game; when Vanessa slams straight into him she never thought she would end up kidnapped and in his home. There is a very fine line between the two of them and when that line starts to fade, they find themselves falling for each other.

I personally LOVED this story; after meeting Matteo back in the Mafia Royalty series he has been part of the family, but Matteo has grown up; he is arrogant and alpha down to the bone.

I cannot wait for more from this series.

Star Ratings; Plot: 5/5 Characters: 5/5 Heat: 5/5 Writing Style: 5/5 Overall: 5/5

Free in Kindle Unlimited

Cala Riley, better known as Cala and Riley, are a pair of friends with a deep seated love of books and writing. Both Cala and Riley are happily married and each have children, Cala with the four-legged kind while Riley has a mixture of both two-legged and four. While they live apart, that does not affect their connection. They are the true definition of family. What started as an idea that quickly turned into a full-length book and a bond that will never end. 


Friday, January 22, 2021

Release + Review - Stealing Home - Carrie Aarons


Walker Callahan has loved from afar for as long as he can remember.

The golden boy of the Callahan baseball dynasty, he’s the only player to ever secure a top spot on a roster controlled by his own flesh and blood. The pressure, duty and plans laid out for him since birth loom large, causing things like love and a family to fall by the wayside.

Or maybe that’s because the woman he loves is already married with children.

When they met, she was already promised to someone else. For over six years, he resigned himself to being her friend. Until one night, when her marriage and the ugly secrets it keeps unravels for the world to see. She’s burned, scared and needs someone who will put her needs above everything else.

Can Walker risk his own future and show her how to trust again? Or will the feelings he’s kept hidden for years throw him out of the game before he can even attempt to play?

Hannah Giraldi never wants to fall in love again.

All it brings is pain, misery and her life falling to shambles. After a very public scandal, her abusive husband takes everything, leaving her to raise two daughters on nothing but charity from others, a hope, and a prayer.

New to the job market, single motherhood, and with two court cases on her plate, the last thing she needs are the butterflies that Walker ignites in her stomach every time he comes around. But with his soothing words, supportive shoulder to lean on, and undeniable gorgeousness, he’s pretty hard to ignore.

Just when it feels like she might be standing on her own two feet, the world comes crumbling down around her. And the man she’s finally allowed into her heart abandons her, once again leaving her to pick up the pieces.

Is there a way to heal all of the broken parts, or will Hannah go down swinging while attempting one more shot at a happily ever after?

Johnaka's Review 
“My heart, 5 stars”

Walker and Hannah’s story is not for the faint of heart. Hannah has escaped an abusive marriage, so if that’s a trigger for you, back out now. If you have no problem wading through the bad to get to the good, then please, one-click Stealing Home. Aarons killed it with this one, and it does not disappoint.

Walker has been in love with Hannah for way longer than what’s acceptable. When he gets her out of her own personal h double e hockey sticks, he does. How long is long enough to make a move on the woman of your dreams? Is there a time frame to abide by? Only one way to find out.

Hannah has been broken in so many ways. Her husband wasn’t a good man, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t love him. He gave her the best gift ever, children. When she leaves, it takes more out of her than she thought it would. She hates the looks, the whispers, everything but Walker and his family. If it weren’t for them, she would probably go back. Her heart lead her astray once, will it do it again?

Plot-5/5 Characters-5/5 Heat-5/5 Writing style-5/5 Overall-5/5

Author of romance novels such as The Tenth Girl and Privileged, Carrie Aarons writes books that are just as swoon-worthy as they are sarcastic. A former journalist, she prefers the love stories of her imagination, and the athleisure dress code, much better.

When she isn't writing, Carrie is busy binging reality TV, having a love/hate relationship with cardio, and trying not to burn dinner. She’s a Jersey girl living in Texas with her husband, daughter, son and Great Dane/Lab rescue.

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Release + Review - Daimon - Jessica Ames

As Treasurer of the Untamed Sons MC, I don't have time to deal with a bratty kid. Briella is nineteen. I'm thirty-one. I'm too old for her tantrums, but I'm sure there's something more to her acting out than a late teenage rebellion. When I look in her eyes, I see her demons glaring back at me, and I want to know who put them there. I shouldn't be thinking about her at all, but I'm willing to stand against my club brothers and break vows I've made to keep her, but first I have to uncover what she's hiding.
I've got darkness in my past that I can no longer keep buried. When Daimon finds out the truth, he's going to drop me and run. I shouldn't be falling for my brother's best friend, but I can't stop my feelings from growing. I want him. No, I need him. He's becoming my everything and I have no idea how to be without him.
But that choice might not be mine. Once he finds out the truth about me, he's going to walk away because the truth is I'm broken, I'm damaged and my past is coming back to haunt me.
*Warning : Contains adult content, reading age 18 +. Graphic violence and dark emotional scenes that may trigger some readers.

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#1 Ravage
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#2 Nox
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#4 Levi – Releasing March 24
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#5 Titch – Releasing May 24
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Jessica Ames lives in a small market town in the Midlands, England. She lives with her dog and when she’s not writing, she’s playing with crochet hooks. 

Release + Review - Crashing East - Aly Stiles



𝐂𝐫𝐚𝐬𝐡𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐄𝐚𝐬𝐭 𝐛𝐲 𝐀𝐥𝐲 𝐒𝐭𝐢𝐥𝐞𝐬 𝐢𝐬 𝐋𝐈𝐕𝐄! 𝐃𝐨𝐧'𝐭 𝐦𝐢𝐬𝐬 𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐬 𝐞𝐧𝐞𝐦𝐢𝐞𝐬-𝐭𝐨-𝐥𝐨𝐯𝐞𝐫𝐬 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐬𝐢𝐧𝐠𝐥𝐞-𝐩𝐚𝐫𝐞𝐧𝐭/𝐠𝐮𝐚𝐫𝐝𝐢𝐚𝐧 𝐫𝐨𝐜𝐤𝐬𝐭𝐚𝐫 𝐫𝐨𝐦𝐚𝐧𝐜𝐞!

𝟏-𝐜𝐥𝐢𝐜𝐤 𝐭𝐨𝐝𝐚𝐲!

He’s the bane of her existence.

She’s the latest thorn in his side.

Until angry sparks hint at a passionate blaze.

Personal Assistant Hadley Crawford was already against her boss’s decision to front a new band with a disgraced ex-rocker. Imagine her surprise when Viv’s new bandmate is also the arrogant jerk from upstairs. So what if he’s talented, hot, and captivating? People resist unhealthy attractions all the time.

What’s the step below rock bottom? That’s where Julian Campbell lives after the collapse of his former band and the death of his sister. A year later, things only get worse when his deadbeat brother-in-law drops off his niece and never comes back. The last thing he needs right now is his nightmare neighbor showing up to thwart his one chance at getting back on his feet.

But things get complicated when painful secrets turn a bitter rivalry into a risky attraction. What if the same fire driving them apart is the only thing strong enough to save them?

CRASHING EAST is an enemies-to-lovers and single-parent/guardian rockstar romance that can be read as a standalone.

Johnaka's Review
“Push and pull, 5 stars”

The push and pull between Julian and Hadley was *fans self*. I loved them. She’s straight laced, and he has the bad boy thing down pat. Will they corrupt each other or will they forever be at each other’s throats?

There is so much more to Julian than most people think. He desperately wants to play music, but his career is in tiny pieces at his feet. He’s trying to raise his niece, and that’s going less than well. Honestly, Julian doesn’t need another complication in his life and Handley will definitely be one. But does he care?

Hadley is used to being overlooked. She’s the less than picture perfect daughter her parents wanted her to be. But she’s living her life on her terms. When the mouthy loud music neighbor who lives above her starts playing music with the woman, she works for, she’s less than pleased. But sometimes you can misjudge a book by its cover.

Plot-5/5 Characters-5/5 Heat-5/5 Writing style-5/5 Overall-5/5

Add to your Goodreads TBR








Catch up with the series:

Book 1 - Rising West ➤

Book 2 - Falling North ➤

Book 3 - Breaking South ➤



From angsty and dark to snort-laugh funny, Aly writes romance from her soul to yours.



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Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Release + Review - Wrecked Palace - Catherine Cowles


“Heartwarming, swoony moments, sizzling chemistry, and just enough intrigue to keep me completely invested--this book had me hooked from page one!”-- Willow Aster, USA Today bestselling author


Wrecked Palace, an all-new emotional slow-burn standalone romance in the Wrecked Series by author Catherine Cowles is available now!


One night was all it took for everything to change.

From college student to guardian in a single breath.

My siblings became my world.


No time for date nights or romantic dreams.

I traded quiet weekends for sleepless nights. 

Giving my all to make sure they were cared for.


But Griffin had a brokenness that called to me—one that mirrored my own.

Gruff and just a little bit reckless.

He was the last thing I needed. But everything I wanted.


Only someone isn’t happy about this new life I’m building.

Deciding to set fire to everything I hold close.

And when the smoke clears, there might be only ashes left behind… 


Download your copy today! 


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Johnaka's Review
“Finally, 5 stars"

Okay, I’ve been waiting for Caelyn’s story for what feels like forever! Ever since I found out she was raising her siblings, I’ve wanted her happily ever after. Well, here it is! And I loved it! Caelyn and Griffin were perfect together.

Caelyn has been raising her siblings after her less than awesome parents lost them. For years she’s been on her own grinding. Something about Griffin has always intrigued her since she met him. She knew there was much more to the mystery man. When he opens up, she’s pulled in. The question is, do they want the same things?

Griffin has just been surviving ever since the death of his family and the media frenzy surrounding it. Now he’s back on the island, slowly restoring the family home. Caelyn brings him to life. Between her and his siblings, he wants to start living once again. When someone threatens Caelyn, he can’t help but grasp what little control he can. Will he be able to keep her and the kids safe, or will he lose his family all over again?

Plot-5/5 Characters-5/5 Writing style-5/5 Heat-5/5 Overall-5/5

Louise's Review 

 Wrecked Palace is book 3 in the Wrecked series, a story that has all feels leaving me wanting so much more.

Caelyn has given up on her own dreams to raise her siblings, she has given up so much and its finally time to have something for herself. When Griffin starts to take interest, she knows that they have chemistry but they push it into the friend zone until it isn’t. Griffin has had the worst hand dealt to him, he has had to keep his life private to protect himself and his families legacy, when a gorgeous woman comes around he can’t help but bring down those walls and open up to the possibility to a future. Can they both overcome their past’s to move forward?

I personally loved this story, I have wanted to read Caelyn’s story from the beginning; Cowles had me hook line and sinker from the beginning . I Cannot wait to read more from this series.

Star Ratings; Plot: 5/5 Characters: 5/5 Heat: 5/5 Writing Style: 5/5 Overall: 5/5


I climbed out of my truck in the parking lot of The General Store. Why was it that I always ended up here? There was just something about the brown-haired beauty who worked at the kitchen inside. Normally, people who shined with that life-is-beautiful kind of positivity made me want to punch something. But with Caelyn, I was fascinated.

I started towards the store when a man called my name. I stiffened and turned, expecting to see a stranger, maybe one of the reporters still holding out hope that I’d share my story with the world. The set of my shoulders eased a bit when I saw that it was Ford Hardy, owner of The Catch Bar & Grill. I said nothing but waited for the man to make his approach. He wasn’t a stranger exactly, but I had no desire for idle chitchat.

“I’ve been hoping to run into you,” he greeted.

I stayed silent.

Ford chuckled. “Not too talkative, are you?” 

“Not much to say, I guess.”

Ford’s expression grew serious. “I just wanted to thank you for your help a few months back.”

“I didn’t do anything anyone else wouldn’t do.” Ford had been attacked by someone sick in the head. He’d been jumped from behind and knocked unconscious. I’d just come along at the right time.

“Either way, thank you.” He held out a hand, and I took it for a shake. “Come into the bar sometime. I’ll treat you to a beer and a meal. It’s the least I can do.”

I fought the wince that wanted to surface. The last thing I wanted was to sit around at the island watering hole. People whispered, thinking they were being discreet when they were anything but. Even worse, they sometimes thought it was completely acceptable to approach and ask me a million intrusive questions. “I’ll try and come by.”

Ford grinned. “I’m taking that as a fat chance in hell. "

My lips twitched. “You’re not a stupid man.”

“Thank God for that. Well, if I can ever do anything to repay you, just let me know. My brother’s a contractor. We could give you a couple of days on that house of yours if you’d like.”

My jaw tightened. “I’m good. But thanks for the offer.”

Ford nodded and gave me a wave before heading back towards The Catch. “There’s no expiration date on that.”

I wouldn’t take Ford up on his offer of help unless I got desperate. I needed to do this on my own. I started towards the store. Pulling the creaking screen door open, I walked inside. It was still a bit early, but when 4:00 a.m. was your usual wakeup call, 4:30 p.m. was just about perfect for dinner. Plus, I could avoid the after-work crowd.

I made my way towards the kitchen at the far end of the grocery but stopped in my tracks when I heard Caelyn’s voice.

“Is there any way you could give me more hours? Or more of the bookkeeping to do?”

Mr. Walters, the owner of the store, chuckled. “You’re doing it all already, deary. I barely show up here anymore.”

“Well, do you know of anyone else who might be looking for some help for things I could do from home?” she pressed.

“Are the two jobs you have not enough? You’re gonna work yourself to the bone. And you need to be home for those kids.”

“I know.” Caelyn’s voice seemed to deflate on the words. “But Mia got accepted into this gymnastics program, and it costs an arm and a leg.”

Walters’ voice gentled. “I’d be happy to loan you the fees—”

“No,” Caelyn cut Mr. Walters off. “You’ve done more than enough for us.”

A foreign feeling invaded my chest. A twisting sensation that burned. I’d heard the talk around the island that Caelyn had taken in her three younger siblings after their parents had been involved in some sort of drug bust. I couldn’t imagine taking all that on when she must’ve been barely more than a child herself.

I cleared my throat, stepping around the end of the aisle. Caelyn looked up, the frown marring her gorgeous face quickly turning into a bright smile. “Griffin. It’s good to see you. Have you finally given in to trying one of my salads?”

I gave my head a shake. “I think I’ll stick with the sandwich.”

Walters grinned. “I don’t know, Caelyn can make kale pretty tasty.”

I didn’t try to fight the twisting of my face. “No, thank you.”

Walters chuckled. “Maybe another day. All right, I’m off.” He turned to Caelyn. “You let me know if you change your mind.”

Caelyn reached up on her tiptoes, pressing her lips to the old man’s cheek. “Thank you.”

Walters headed out of the store, and just Caelyn and I were left. I slid onto a stool at the counter. It was rare that I waited here for my food, but I couldn’t seem to resist the temptation today. I had this undeniable urge to make sure she was okay.

“So, what’ll it be? Some version of meat and cheese?”

I almost chuckled. Almost. “Sounds good to me. But I know you’ll sneak some vegetables on there somehow.”

“Gotta keep you from getting scurvy.”

I almost choked. “I thought that was from not enough vitamin C. I drink my orange juice.”

Caelyn shook her head and started pulling things out of a fridge below the counter. “There’s vitamin C in vegetables, too. And lots of other nutritious things you need.”

“Good thing I come in here a few times a week then.”

“Good thing.”

An idea was forming in the back of my mind. One that just might be the answer to helping Caelyn out of her predicament and giving me some nice benefits, as well.

The screen door banged open. “Cae Cae!” a young girl’s voice called out. Soon, there was a flash of movement past me.

Caelyn stepped around the counter and lifted the little girl into her arms as she hurled herself at Caelyn. “How was your day?”

“So good. I taught cartwheels at recess, and you left me my favorite cookie in my lunch.”

Caelyn laughed. “Sounds like a good day to me. Where are the rest of the tiny terrors?” 

The little girl beamed up at Caelyn. “They’re coming, but they were being too slow, so I ran when I got to the parking lot.” Her gaze caught on me. “Whoa. Are you a giant?”

I wanted to laugh but seeing the easy affection between the girl and Caelyn stole my ability to speak.

“Mia, this is Mr. Griffin. Griffin, this is my little sister, Mia.”

The girl looked so much like Beth had at that age, I struggled to find words. “It’s nice to meet you, Mia.” My voice came out rougher than before, and I tried to force my lips into a smile, but the action felt foreign.

“Hey, sis,” a male voice called.

I turned to see a boy who looked to be about sixteen or seventeen. As soon as he caught sight of me, wariness filled his features. He quickly crossed to his sisters, tugging another girl behind him. “Who’s this?”

Caelyn pressed her lips together as if holding back a laugh. “This is Mr. Griffin. Griffin, this is Will and Ava, my other two siblings. I hope you don’t mind, but they usually hang with me for thirty minutes before Molly takes over. Kids, you can go hang out in the office while I get Mr. Griffin’s sandwich ready.”

“I wanna stay with you and help,” Mia whined.

“I’ll go into the office,” Ava offered. She had taken a step behind her brother as if hiding from me.

“They can stay.” The words were out before I could stop them. Awkward and a little gruff, but Mia beamed.

“See, Mr. Griffin wants me to help make his sandwich.” 

Caelyn shook her head. “Well, if that’s the case, we better wash our hands.”

Ava headed for the back office while Will took a seat next to me at the counter, eyeing me carefully. Caelyn helped Mia up onto a little stool by the sink, and they washed their hands, Mia singing some sort of song that counted off the seconds.

“All clean,” she called. “No germies can last to thirty.”

I couldn’t hold in my chuckle this time. “I guess they can’t.”

“I never thought I’d see the day,” Caelyn started, putting a hand over her heart. “I do believe you laughed, Griffin Lockwood. Who knew all it took was a seven-year-old singing about germs?”

About Catherine

Writer of words. Drinker of Diet Cokes. Lover of all things cute and furry, especially her dog. Catherine has had her nose in a book since the time she could read and finally decided to write down some of her own stories. When she's not writing she can be found exploring her home state of Oregon, listening to true crime podcasts, or searching for her next book boyfriend.


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