Friday, February 28, 2014

Book Blast: Blackness Takes Over by Norma Jeanne Karlsson

Shannon Kelly’s life has been anything but typical.
Her life has been altered viciously at the hands of others twice.

However horrible they have been, it’s these changes that have given her a family and career…now possibly love.
The last thirteen years she has been supported and loved by her protector, her entertainer, and her comforter, but never a lover.

When Dylan Kellerman enters Shannon’s life he changes its course in more ways than one.
He gives her hope and promise of a future she was convinced wasn’t attainable.

Just as she begins to believe she has finally turned her life into something she can build a future on…blackness takes over.


Blackness Takes Over is Norma Jeanne’s debut novel. What began as an homage to the home town of a homesick Midwestern girl, unfolded a story of love, danger, humor, and trust. She’s currently working on her untitled sophomore effort. We can’t wait to see what thrilling saga she leads us through next!

Originally from Kansas City, Missouri, Norma Jeanne recently found herself relocating to the United Kingdom. Now living in Belfast, she took hold of the opportunity to kick the 9-5 job for a chance to become an author. The best part: working from her home office, she gets to spend more time with her cast of crazy characters (written and real).

In her free time Norma Jeanne is a voracious reader and consumes books as readily as meals. She is a people watcher by nature and uses her experiences in life, observed or otherwise, to build the worlds and characters that thrive in her books. A believer in the strength of the human spirit, Norma Jeanne writes the stories of people that persevere when all appears to be lost.

“Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” –Dylan Thomas

Giveaway is International. | Must be 13+ to Enter Code 

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Thursday, February 27, 2014

Excerpt: Emblazoned by Connie L. Smith

After all the preparations, Nicholai’s warriors stand on the threshold of warfare, the demons entering the realm in battalions and the world unknowingly depending on the army’s success to continue intact. But the battle is only the beginning of deadly struggles, and the soldiers will soon realize how little they know, how many things are at stake, and how much they have to lose.

Love, hate, hope, despair, anguish, joy… The journey is a gauntlet of emotion and combat, threatening their resolve as much as their lives.

Will their training and ties be enough, or will the complications and the forthcoming evil forever cripple the world’s last hope of survival?'

AJ sensed him there, standing wordlessly some feet in the distance, just like she always recognized his presence when he lingered near. She absorbed the comfort and happiness he brought her – not that she’d admit that out loud – before sighing and speaking. “It’s called making a bed, Julius. It’s pretty commonplace.”
He didn’t push away from the doorframe, instead leaning further against it while he continued to observe her. “Sweetheart, nothing’s commonplace when you do it.”
Hearing the grin and affection in his voice, she smiled, peeking at him over her shoulder. “Is that a compliment or an insult?”
He gazed upward to stare at the ceiling with a thoughtful expression, then returned his attention to her, his shrug carefree. “Both.”
She smirked. “Sweet talker.”
“Odd ball.” He finally moved from the threshold, unhurriedly advancing toward her. “You know, most people make their beds in the morning. Not ten o’clock at night.”
She snorted. “Yeah. I’m gonna make my bed as soon as I roll out of it at six AM. I wouldn’t be making it now if I didn’t have to wrestle the sheet back on four times a night.” Finally setting her pillow in its position, she turned to him with an unashamed grin.
He chuckled, his adoration plain, and brushed a lock of hair from her face. “You’re one of a kind, you know that?”
“Compliment or insult?” she teased again.
“Compliment.” He smiled, cupping her cheek. “Definitely a compliment.”
“Sweet talker,” she repeated, standing on her tiptoes to press a kiss to his lips. Wrapping her arms around his neck, his circling her waist, she dove into the moment, reveling in the wonderful sensations only Julius incited. Safety. Warmth. Passion. So many more she couldn’t quite put a name to, the combination too heady and consuming to adequately decipher. It was simply a Julius effect, and its wonder had no equal in her life. Gradually breaking away, she knowingly lifted an eyebrow. “You didn’t come here just to make fun of me over my bed-making habits.”
“Maybe I came up here just to kiss you.”
“If that were the case, dear Julius, you wouldn’t have waited until I kissed you.”
Narrowing his eyes, he barely restrained his smirk at her forwardness and how well she’d grown to understand him in their time together. “You have a point.” He stepped back from her embrace, grasping her hand in his. “Come on. We have a mission.”
“A mission?” Her brow furrowed, though she made no move to retrieve her palm from his, following him in confusion as he neared the hallway. “At ten o’clock at night?”
“I believe we already covered the time in this conversation, AJ.” He made a clucking noise with his tongue, shaking his head in mock disappointment. “You really need to keep up with matters a bit more.”
She glared at the back of his head, lips thinning despite her vexing boyfriend’s inability to see her from his location. Realizing the futility of her frustrated efforts, she clenched the fingers he clutched, smiling in accomplishment at his grunt of discomfort. “Yeah, we covered it, but in household chore way. Not in a mission way. What could we possibly have to do this late at night?”
He sent her an amused glance – one she deemed condescending, particularly after the physical hint of her annoyance  – while tugging her through the doorway. “You do realize it isn’t ten o’clock everywhere, right?”
“Of course I realize that! I’m not a moron!”
“I never said you were…”
She growled, steeling her feet against the floor and prying her hand from his. “You didn’t have to. Your little grin said it all for you.”
His stare revealed sincere bewilderment – maybe a speck of frustration as well – and his arm dropped to his side. “So let me get this straight. You’re angry at me… because I smiled at you?”
Her eyes widened in fury, one finger raising to point at his chest while her left fist braced against her hip. “Don’t try to turn this around like I’m crazy!”
He scrunched his forehead, gaze traveling up and down her form while he held his hands out, as if silently offering his evidence.
She groaned, unhappy, turning away from him to rein in her irritation. For several seconds, she simply scanned her room, livid exhale after livid exhale falling from her lips, but the attempts did little to calm her turmoil, Julius actually flinching when her focus again landed on him. “It’s the grin you used. It’s the same one that was on your face when you drove into New Mexico, and I was surprised the facility was stationed here. Like I’m the dumbest person in the world and your number one source of entertainment.”
Instantly, his expression softened. “You can’t possibly think that I think that way?”
She just glared at him.
“Look, I’m not gonna lie.” He approached her, smiling tenderly. “You do amuse me, but not because I think you’re stupid. You’re… animated. And quirky. But not stupid. And I get it’s late, and no matter what time zone we’re entering, it’s ten o’clock here and we’re handing over sleeping hours, but Nicholai insists we need to go now.”
She kept pinched eyes on him, but her posture loosened a bit.
He laughed, reaching for her hand once more. “See? Animated. I can pretty much watch the wheels in your head turn.”
“Does that make you my mental stalker, too?”
Processing the playful edge of her words, he kissed her knuckles and led her into the hall. “Trust me, sweetheart. I have no desire to wander through your mind. I can’t imagine all the weird things I’d encounter.”
She tilted her head to the side, smiling. “Compliment or insult?”
Smirking over his shoulder, he caught her eyes with his. “Insult.”

Here is the link for Essenced (remember – FREE!):


Monday, February 24, 2014

I Love Books: Book Haul

My daddy said that I could buy as many books as I wanted.  If I did that, I would have maxed out the credit card.  However, here's what I did decided on at my local indie store!!! Support those little bookstores :)

I got Bright Before Sunrise by Tiffany Schmidt because I was there for that book signing.  I'll leave a photo of the signed title page because it's so cute, and you can read about the super original pajama party book launch here!!

Also got Maybe One Day by Melissa Kantor for an upcoming book signing.  I mostly got it because I hate showing up to multiple author book signings without having a book for everyone, but I've heard wonderful things about it!!!!!!!

Next, Ignite Me by Tahereh Mafi! I got to support her and her awesomeness.  And it is the epic conclusion.

Lastly, I got Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan.  I saw David last month, but I didn't get this signed so now I have an excuse to see him again :) Have to have a complete signed, first edition collection of David's work!  Yes, I'm a nerd, but I thought I established this already.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Slumber Partry: Bright Before Sunrise by Tiffany Schmidt Release Party

When Jonah is forced to move from Hamilton to Cross Pointe for the second half of his senior year, "miserable" doesn't even begin to cover it. He feels like the doggy-bag from his mother's first marriage and everything else about her new life—with a new husband, new home and a new baby—is an upgrade. The people at Cross Pointe High School are pretentious and privileged—and worst of all is Brighton Waterford, the embodiment of all things superficial and popular. Jonah’s girlfriend, Carly, is his last tie to what feels real... until she breaks up with him.

For Brighton, every day is a gauntlet of demands and expectations. Since her father died, she’s relied on one coping method: smile big and pretend to be fine. It may have kept her family together, but she has no clue how to handle how she's really feeling. Today is the anniversary of his death and cracks are beginning to show. The last thing she needs is the new kid telling her how much he dislikes her for no reason she can understand. She's determined to change his mind, and when they're stuck together for the night, she finally gets her chance.

Jonah hates her at 3p.m., but how will he feel at 3 a.m.?

One night can change how you see the world. One night can change how you see yourself.

Yesterday, my bud Danielle and I went to the release party at Doylestown Bookshop for Tiffany Schmidt's release of Bright Before Sunrise! I have one word to say about the event- CUTE.

The plot of the novel spans a single night, so Tiffany had the idea of having her release party be a pajama party. She and her family were decked out in their pajama's, and they were adorable, especially her little twins.  

She did a reading, and then people were free to eat Bright Before Sunrise cake, popcorn, and get their nails done like the main character of the book does with her mom.  There was also a raffle in which everybody who bought a book had the chance to win nail polish and pretty band aids.  Lucky Danielle won!! Woot, woot! 

This event was fun because it was at our local indie store and Tiffany is from Doylestown, I believe.  She still exudes "new author," so appreciative of everyone coming out.  She was wonderful as was the bookstore.  Who else would allow a pajama party and a nail station?

Friday, February 21, 2014

Cover Reveal: Whiskey Kisses by Addison Moore

Whiskey Kisses (3:AM Kisses #4) by Addison Moore
Cover Reveal

Title: Whiskey Kisses
Series: 3:AM Kisses #4
Can be read as a standalone
Publication Date: Summer 2014
Summary27 year-old Izzy Sawyer has a secret, and it’s turned her life upside down. She believes she’s the last person on earth who deserves a happily-ever-after.

22 year-old bartender Holt Edwards has a secret of his own that cost him far more than he ever bargained for. And when it comes to love, he doesn’t believe in fairytale endings.

Izzy is amassing social phobias as quickly as she is cats. She’s notoriously incapable of making a decision, and her love life has yet to take off because of it. When her sister offers to set her up on a series of blind dates, Izzy breaks her bad habit of indecisiveness and agrees to the idea—after all, she’s already on the brink of insanity.

Holt has worshiped Izzy from afar for as long as he can remember, and now that her sister has talked her into a string of blind dates he’s generously offered to help Izzy navigate the battlefield of romance.

Things get heated when Holt takes his “coaching” endeavors to a physical level, and Izzy is blindsided when she discovers she’s falling hard for someone five years her junior. Izzy wants nothing more than to forget the world and drink down Holt Edwards and his late night Whiskey Kisses.

Izzy is starting to think that happily ever after doesn’t seem like such a bad idea.
Holt is starting to rethink his stance on fairytale endings—but secrets are exposed, and worlds are blown apart—the only thing Holt and Izzy have left when the dust settles is each other. Once they get a good look at who they truly are, will they help each other heal or repel and run for safety?

About the Author: Addison Moore is a New York Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal bestselling author who writes contemporary and paranormal romance. Her work has been featured in Cosmopolitan magazine. Previously she worked for nearly a decade as a therapist on a locked psychiatric unit. She resides with her husband, four wonderful children, and two dogs on the West Coast where she eats too much chocolate and stays up way too late. When she's not writing, she's reading.

Feel free to visit her blog at:

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Cover Reveal: 8 Weeks by Bethany Lopez

8 Weeks by Bethany Lopez
Cover Reveal

Title: 8 Weeks
Author: Bethany Lopez
Publication Date: March 24, 2014
Summary: Is eight weeks enough time to earn back the love of someone you've betrayed...the only one you've ever loved?

Shelly has been in love with Cal since they started dating in eleventh grade. Despite everyone saying that the odds were against them, they got married after graduation and built a life together. Now, six years later, she is faced with the ultimate betrayal. Devastated, her first instinct is to call it quits…

After a drunken binge at his best friends’ bachelor party, Cal betrays the one person who has always been there for him, his wife, Shelly. Terrified and realizing she might divorce him, Cal must come up with a way to prove to her that his love is true…

Cal asks Shelly for eight weeks. Eight weeks to convince her that their marriage is worth the fight. Will Shelly be able to trust him again, or will their marriage end the way many others do when faced with opposition… In divorce?

About Bethany Lopez: Award-Winning Author Bethany Lopez began self-publishing in June 2011. Since then she has published various YA and NA books. She is a lover of romance, family, and friends, and enjoys incorporating those things in what she writes. When she isn't reading or writing, she loves spending time with her husband and children, traveling whenever possible.

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Thursday, February 20, 2014

Trailer Reveal: Soul Betrayed by Katlyn Duncan

I am super excited to be able to share the trailer for Katlyn Duncan's SOUL BETRAYED, the third and final book in The Life After trilogy, coming February 27, 2014 from Carina.

The covers for each book in this series are gorgeous and the trailers are just as amazing.

If you haven't yet heard about this awesome series, available in eBook format, just check out the descriptions below.

And if you'd like the chance to win an Amazon eGift Card, the author has offered one up for giveaway. Just follow the instructions in the Rafflecopter.

Now, without any further ado, let me present to you...

The Soul Betrayed Trailer


About Soul Betrayed


Series: The Life After #3
Publisher: Carina
Print length: 223 pages
Format: eBook


The final installment of The Life After trilogy...

A Life for a Life

The battle between Shadowed and Guard has brought destruction and terror to Gate Seven and now Maggie wants revenge. As the only after-life being who can save the souls from ultimate death Maggie comes face to face with her own human body, preserved for a century, waiting for just this moment to arrive.

Yet, how far will Maggie go to exact her revenge on the Shadowed? And when she comes face to face with her past, how will she survive the onslaught of memories she thought long gone?

For when the truth comes out all is not what it seems and Maggie has finally run out of time... She must choose her destiny or watch all she has perish in the fight for her life!


About Katlyn Duncan

Katlyn Duncan was born and raised in a small town in western Massachusetts. Her overactive imagination involved invisible friends, wanting to be a Disney Princess and making up her own stories. Her bibliophile mom always encouraged her love of reading and that stayed with her since. Even though she works full time in the medical field Katlyn has always made time for books, whether she is reading or writing them.

Katlyn now lives in southern Connecticut with her husband and adorable Wheaten Terrier and she is thrilled to finally share her stories with the world.


The Giveaway

This reveal includes a giveaway for a $15 Amazon eGift Card to one winner, ending on February 28th.

Enter in the Rafflecopter below...

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About Soul Taken

Series: The Life After #1
Release date: June 4, 2013
Publisher: Carina
Print length: 223 pages
Formats: eBook


Book 1 in The Life After trilogy.

After-life just got a lot more complicated

Maggie is a Soul Collector. It’s her job to transport souls from the Living Realm to the After – but during a mission to find a stolen soul, she ends up stuck in a teen mean girl’s body.

Trapped, Maggie’s soul is catapulted into Ally’s life – and the human world she hasn’t experienced for one hundred years. But, as a descendant of the most powerful beings in the After, Maggie must rescue Ally before the girl’s soul dies…

To survive, Maggie must uncover devastating secrets – because with one soul taken by a terrifying enemy, Maggie’s could be next!


The Soul Taken Trailer


About Soul Possessed

Series: The Life After #2
Release date: October 28, 2013
Publisher: Carina
Print length: 256 pages
Format: eBook


Life after Life

Now Maggie has been given the chance of her after-life to become a Guard, nothing will stand in her way. Not even the undeniable attraction she feels for her trainer and past love—Jackson. But when the battle between Shadowed and Guard begins again which side will she choose?

When her boss, Felix, partners Jackson and Maggie up with Ally and Cooper to investigate terrifying Shadowed activity, she doesn’t think it could get any worse. Jackson and Cooper barely tolerate each other and this time, Maggie isn’t just proving her loyalty to the Guard during one mission...she has a side mission too. One so secret and so dangerous she can’t tell a soul... Book 2 in The Life After trilogy.


The Soul Possessed Trailer

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Want a Free Book?

A free book has never been easier to get your hands on.  So get on it, girl!!

How to win a freebie of $2.99 ebook 'Melancholic Delight' (pdf/epub)?

YOU MUST EMAIL Tista Ray (the author) at and say whether of not you are interested in purchasing her upcoming book ONLY FOR YOU.

Book Blurb of Only for You:

It is said that people’s lives are tales of two great journeys - the pursuit of happiness and the search for true love.

Edward seems to have achieved one of these ultimate goals by falling in love with Daisy.

But in his quest for true love, will he be willing to let go of his one special friend, and perhaps, sacrifice his chance for happiness?

If there’s a choice between love and friendship, would Edward sacrifice one for the other? Would he be able to live with his choice and never ask himself what if he chose the other?

Reviews of ONLY FOR YOU

** Only For You provides a fascinating insight into a teenager’s life whilst falling in love. Edward’s conflicted feelings between his girlfriend and his best friend are endearing, and portray a relatable scenario for young people.Edward’s thoughts and emotions throughout are gripping and leave you keen to see how the events unfold.                       
           - Sophie Hedley (Goodreads Beta Reader)

** Read 1st  & 2nd chapters so far. I like where this is going. Looks like a great start with solid character development & storyline. Editing is awesome, it seems to really flow, and not choppy in any way at all.;)                                                                
-  MissyDevoursDelishReads (Goodreads Beta Reader)


Monday, February 17, 2014

Chapter Reveal: Four Years Later by Monica Murphy

We are beyond excited to bring you the first two chapters of Monica Murphy's FOUR YEARS LATER!!! FOUR YEARS LATER is a New Adult Contemporary Romance and is the final book in the Drew+Fable Series!!! It is being released on March 4th, 2014. Add it to your TBR pile ASAP!   Four Years Later  
  FOUR YEARS LATER Synopsis: New Adult bestselling author Monica Murphy winds up her sensational series with this sexy story of two college kids with nothing in common but a bunch of baggage and a burning attraction. Over. That about sums up everything in my life. Suspended from my college football team and forced to cut back my hours at The District bar because of my crappy grades, I can’t keep turning to my sister, Fable, and her pro-football playing husband, Drew, to bail me out. I just can’t seem to find my own way. Weed and sex are irresistible temptations—and it’s messed up that I secretly hand over money to our junkie mom. A tutor is the last thing I want right now—until I get a look at her. Chelsea is not my type at all. She’s smart and totally shy. I’m pretty sure she’s even a virgin. But when she gives me the once over with those piercing blue eyes, I’m really over. But in a different way. I won’t deny her ass is killer, but it’s her brain and the way she seems to crave love—like no one’s ever given her any—that make me want her more than any girl I’ve ever met. But what would someone as seemingly together as her ever see in a screwed up guy like me?   EXCERPT: Four Years Later by Monica
Amazon Preorder:
 Barnes and Noble Preorder:   Created by Romance Wrangler for Monica Murphy

  MonicaMurphypic-250x373ABOUT MONICA MURPHY: New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Monica Murphy is a native Californian who lives in the foothills below Yosemite. A wife and mother of three, she writes New Adult and contemporary romance for Bantam and Avon. She is the author of One Week Girlfriend and Second Chance Boyfriend.      

Links: Website:
 Author Goodreads:
 Amazon Author page:

Friday, February 14, 2014

Happy Valentine's Day!

Happy V Day to everyone! If you have that special someone, celebrate him or her.  If you don't (*cough, cough* me), snuggle up with your book boyfriends :)

If you hate this day, I have a funny photo for you!

And if you have a sense of humor, you'll like this one.

I'm currently stuck at the airport.  My flight is delayed 2.75 hours. Wahoo! And the wifi is too wonky for Netflix to work.  I'm about to get so much reading done.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Cover Reveal: The Queen of Zombie Hearts by Gena Showalter

Today is the day! The cover of Gena Showalter's THE QUEEN OF ZOMBIE HEARTS is here! We're so excited to be able to share this with you as it joins an already stunning set! Ready to see it? Not quite yet lets take a look a the first two covers in the series!

First there was ALICE IN ZOMBIELAND...


Now get ready to EAT YOUR HEARTS OUT!!!





On-sale date: Tuesday, September 30, 2014
Add it to your TBR!  Goodreads

Pre-order your copy! AmazonBarnes & Noble


  Official book description:

I have a plan.

We'll either destroy them for good, or they'll destroy us.

Either way, only one of us is walking away.

In the stunning conclusion to the wildly popular White Rabbit Chronicles, Alice "Ali" Bell thinks the worst is behind her. She's ready to take the next step with boyfriend Cole Holland, the leader of the zombie slayers…until Anima Industries, the agency controlling the zombies, launches a sneak attack, killing four of her friends. It's then she realizes that humans can be more dangerous than monsters…and the worst has only begun.

As the surviving slayers prepare for war, Ali discovers she, too, can control the zombies…and she isn't the girl she thought she was. She's connected to the woman responsible for killing—and turning—Cole's mother. How can their relationship endure? As secrets come to light, and more slayers are taken or killed, Ali will fight harder than ever to bring down Anima—even sacrificing her own life for those she loves.

About Gena:

Gena Showalter is the New York Times and USA Today best-selling author of the wildly popular White Rabbit Chronicles, the Angels of the Dark, the Lords of the Underworld, and the Otherworld Assassins series.  In addition to being a National Reader's Choice and RITA nominee, her romance novels have appeared in Cosmopolitan and Seventeen magazine, and have been translated in multiple languages.  She lives in Oklahoma with her family and menagerie of dogs, and truly believes love conquers all.

Giveaway Details:

1 complete set of The White Rabbit Chronicles (first 2 sent as soon as the giveaway is over and the winner will get the first hardcover of book 3 when it's available!) US/Canada Only

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Wednesday, February 12, 2014

EXCERPT: Thrall by Jennifer Quintenz

Today, I'm lucky enough to have gotten my hands on the first chapter of Thrall by Jennifer Quintenz, and I'm sharing it with you!!! Enjoy :)

Her house sinks down to death,
And her course leads to the shades.
All who go to her cannot return
And find again the paths of life.

- Proverbs 2:18-19


he night of the dance was crisp and clear, one of those desert nights when the world seemed to be holding its breath.  Fall was giving way to winter and there was an edge to the breeze.  It kept most of us inside, which was a shame because the sky was perfectly cloudless.  Coronado Prep was perched on the outskirts of town, far enough away from the city lights that anyone who looked up could have traced the dusting of the Milky Way across the inky expanse of space.  Not that any of us were stargazing.  It was Homecoming; there was more than enough glitter for us inside.  
The gym had been transformed from the open and airy space we knew.  Rich velvet curtains cascaded down the bleachers and lights ringed the dance floor, giving the whole place a funky elegance.  Someone flipped on a black light and a flood of bubbles swirled into the air, glowing weirdly over the crowd.  Dancers screamed in exhilaration.  Strobe lights kicked on, turning everyone into silhouettes, making us anonymous in an instant.  No more jocks, no more prima donnas, no more losers.  In that moment, we were one.  The feeling was intoxicating.  
I spend a lot of time in high school trying to blend into the background.  It isn’t usually hard.  People look past me like my skin is some kind of social camouflage.  Except for my two best friends, Royal and Cassie.  They see me.  Most of the time, that’s all I need.  
But tonight, lost in the crowd, I felt like I was part of something bigger.  The thrumming music seemed to drive away the differences between us, and all that was left was this primal, pulsing crowd.  Yes, I knew everything would go back to normal soon.  That doesn’t mean I wanted it to end.  
We were dancing when the power cut out, plunging our insulated world into darkness.  I couldn’t make out anything in the gloom, except for the pools of light cast by the emergency exit signs.  The sudden absence of sound left a ringing in my ears.  
Headmaster Fiedler’s voice cut through the silence.  “Just a second, folks.  We’ve got someone checking the breakers.”  
There were a few groans, and then someone moaned out a goofy ooooooooo!  A nervous titter passed through the crowd.  Someone else made a loud raspberry, earning a few more snickers.  
“Lovely.”  Royal’s tone was dry.  “I was just thinking what I really wanted tonight was to be trapped in a dark room with the cast of ‘Lowest Common Denominator: The Teenage Years.’”
Cassie and I weren’t the only ones who laughed at this, but that sense of belonging I’d had was already starting to evaporate.  The power came back on, and the dance floor was once again bathed in swirling colored lights.  People stood, breathing hard, aware of the sheen of sweat beading across their faces.  A few of us glanced around self-consciously—it felt weird to just be standing on the dance floor.  I curled my hands around my bare arms reflexively.  I felt conspicuous standing in this strapless dress.  Just like I’d known I would.  The random growth spurt I’d hit a few years ago had left me tall and lanky and paranoid about my bony shoulders.  Definitely not something I was keen to show off, no matter how pretty the satiny, pearl-gray material of this dress was.  Royal and Cassie had worked hard to talk me into buying it.  For the hundredth time that night, I wished I’d had the extra 40 bucks to buy the matching shrug.
“All right!” The D.J. called over his microphone, voice a little too bright.  “Let’s kick it up a notch!”  Another song poured out of the speakers; his attempt to electrify the crowd.  Dancing erupted around us, but I wasn’t in the mood anymore.  The onslaught of noise felt suddenly overwhelming.
“I think I’m going to sit this one out.”
Cassie breathed out a sigh of relief.  “Seconded.”
Royal shook his head, resigned.  “You can lead the ladies to the dance, but you cannot make them rock.”  
“Says the one of us who hasn’t been wearing high heels for the last four hours,” I said.  
Royal shrugged.  “Blame the shoes if you must.  And for the record, I don’t care what you think.  You look dazzling.”  When I opened my mouth to argue, Royal laid a finger across my lips.  “Don’t speak.”  I couldn’t help it; I smiled.
Cassie noticed a kid walking by with a cupcake in hand.  “I’m so hungry I could pass out.”
We pushed out of the crowd and found the refreshment table.  Cassie zeroed in on a chocolate cupcake, grinning like a mischievous pixie—her smile was infectious.  Her long black hair, done up in spiky knots for the dance, framed her face like a punk-rock crown and her dark eyes sparkled.  Cassie’s parents had moved here from China right before she was born.  She had inherited her mom’s willowy figure and her dad’s artistic talent, but the genuine sweetness that made her seem almost naïve—that was 100 percent Cassie.  Under the shifting lights, the material of her dress shimmered between green and purple.  She called her style “fashion forward,” and she’d designed and sewn the dress herself.  If I’d tried something like that, I would have been walking around in a glorified toga.  Cassie was a magician with her needle and thread.  Not that she got to flaunt her skills very often.  We wore gray and burgundy uniforms every day at school.  
Next to her dress, Royal’s deep crimson jacket seemed almost subdued.  He looked like he owned the place, but he would look that way in jeans and a t-shirt.  Royal had grown up with a kind of bulletproof self-confidence which I envied daily.  He was shorter than me by an inch or two, and rail-thin with a jaw that could have been sculpted by one of the old masters.  He regarded the world through dark brown eyes that could be warm or inscrutable, depending on his mood, but they always gleamed with sharp intelligence.  His brown hair somehow managed to look perfectly tousled at any time of day.  Objectively, Cassie and I could see that Royal was good-looking.  But we never saw him that way, even before we knew he was gay.  He was Royal.  He’d always been one of us.  
Royal caught Cassie’s hand and twirled her around, making her laugh.  They looked so vibrant.  Next to them I felt bland.  I was quite possibly the only student at Coronado Prep who actually preferred uniforms to street clothes.  Considering that, it made sense that one of the few times a year we got to wear practically anything we wanted to school, I’d ended up in a gray dress.  I hugged myself again, longing for that shrug.  
Royal noticed the movement while picking up a chocolate frosted cupcake.  “Cold?”
“No.”  Quickly turning my attention to the table, I selected a promising cupcake with white frosting.  I had to set down the delicate silver clutch Cassie had made me to peel back the cupcake’s foil wrapper.  My hopes were rewarded.  Red velvet.  I eyed the side door.  It was propped open, inviting.  “Actually, I could use some fresh air.”  
As we walked across the gym, Royal turned to me.  “We still have to finish The Birthday Conversation.  Don’t think you’re getting off that easy.”  
“What’s wrong with samurai movies, pizza, and Red Vines?”  
Royal glanced at Cassie.  “Do you want to field this one, or shall I?”  
“Braedyn.  It’s your 16th birthday,” Cassie said, looking exasperated.  
I felt an inward sigh but smiled.  “It’s not for another month, guys.”  Before Royal and Cassie had brought it up, I’d planned to spend my birthday like I’d spent the last three or four: hanging out with them at my house.  But they’d gotten it into their heads that I needed something bigger this year.
Cassie reached for Royal, eager for backup.  “Which gives us plenty of time to plan something spectacular.  What about the Raven?  If there’s ever a time for a big party, this is it.”  
“You do realize that my dad is never going to let us go to a club?”  
“People can surprise you,” Cassie said.
We walked through the door and into the late September night.  I stopped in my tracks.  Three couples were hanging out on the wide side steps of the gym, sneaking sips from metal flasks, looking bored.  The glitterati of Coronado Prep.  One girl had her arms twined around a guy, kissing him against the side of the building.  My stomach twisted unpleasantly.  Amber Jenkins.  The iron-straight curtains of her perfect sun-bleached blond hair gleamed like ice in the moonlight.  
Amber had turned middle school into a custom-made nightmare for me.  As an awkward, gangly kid with frizzy hair and braces, I’d been an easy target for Amber and her genetically blessed posse to hone in on.  Isn’t there some team-building exercise where you unite a group by focusing their energy on a common goal?  Tormenting me became their pet project.  Middle school was the reason I’d cultivated the ability to blend into the background.  Since then my braces had come off, I’d figured out a few tricks to tame the chaos of my hair, and everyone else was catching up height-wise.  But while Amber hadn’t acknowledged me since we started high school, the memories were still fresh enough that I didn’t want to draw her attention.  I turned, flustered, and stumbled into Royal.  
Someone snickered, and Amber’s cold eyes flicked over to us.  “Enjoying the show?”  I’d always thought her thin, straight nose gave her face a pinched look when she frowned, but the rest of the student body seemed to worship her.  Eager to flee this scene, I turned to re-enter the gym.  Cassie caught my eye, just as ready to get away from them as I was.
But before we could retreat into the gym, another student appeared in the door behind us, blocking our escape.  He nodded a greeting to Amber.  “Hey, Amber.  Fiedler asked me to tell you they’re starting in five minutes.”
“Right,” Amber said.
The boy she’d been kissing glanced at his watch.  Derek Hall was the celebrated captain of the Coronado Prep soccer team.  He had dark gray eyes and short, pale blond hair that looked even paler against his soccer tan.  “How much longer are we stuck here?”  He leaned his forehead against Amber’s, smiling into her eyes.  “I want to get to the after-party.”     
Amber traced a finger down his chest and pushed him away coyly.  “After the ceremony.”  She glanced over her shoulder, at the other two girls in her group.  “Time to turn it on, ladies.”  Missy and Ally fell into step with Amber as usual, following her back to the gym door.  Missy, a cute and curvy strawberry-blond, followed Amber through the door and flashed me a quick smile.  I think Missy and I could have been friends in a different life.  Ally, not so much.  She fished a mirror out of her clutch and ran manicured nails carefully through her hair, shouldering me roughly aside as she passed.  
Royal steadied me with a hand.  “Do not let those jockubines into your head,” he said.   
“Dude.  That’s my girlfriend you’re insulting.”  I saw a flicker of interest penetrate Derek’s boredom.  
Royal shrugged.  “Shouldn’t you boys be polishing your tiaras for the big entrance?”  
The other two guys pushed away from the wall and moved to flank Derek.  The dark-haired, olive-skinned boy was named Rick.  He was in a few of my classes, but we’d never spoken to each other that I could remember.  
The other was Parker Webb, co-captain of the soccer team.  Cassie was standing so close to me I could feel her breath catch.  Even in the moonlight, I could spot the rosy blush spreading across her cheeks.  She’d been nursing a crush on Parker since we were all in middle school together.  Okay, with his pale blue eyes and jet-black hair, he wasn’t exactly hard on the eyes.  But there was a coldness in Parker that had always set my teeth on edge.  
Derek took a step toward us.  “This is a private party.  Are you going to go back inside, or do I have to move you?”
Royal’s stare was icy.  “If you want to dance, Derek, you just have to ask.”
A dangerous smile bloomed on Derek’s face.  “You want to repeat that?”
“We just wanted to take a walk,” Cassie said.
“So pay the toll.”  Derek plucked the cupcake out of her hands.  Cassie stood, eyes downcast, while Derek wolfed her cupcake down in three big bites.  “Saved some for you.”  Derek wiped a finger full of frosting across Cassie’s lips.  She recoiled while the boys laughed.  “Oops.  You’ve got a little something on your face there.”
Without pausing for thought, I shoved my cupcake at Derek.  He caught my wrist and hoisted it up over my head, crushing the cupcake in one smooth motion.  Bits of cake and frosting cascaded down, leaving creamy splotches across the light gray satin of my dress.  I wrenched my hand out of his grip, gasping.      
Royal planted a hand on Derek’s chest and shoved him back.  “Keep your hands off her.”
“It’s okay, Royal,” I mumbled.  My heart beat wildly.  All I wanted was to turn and run.
There was an unmistakable glint in Derek’s eyes.  He was brewing for a fight.  “You know,” he said, taking a step closer to Royal, “since you mentioned it, I do feel like dancing.”  Parker’s eyes flicked from Derek to Royal as he took another sip from his flask.  Rick just shook his head, grinning.
“Let’s go,” I said, catching Royal’s hand.  Reading my growing panic, Cassie helped draw Royal back toward the building.  
“Whatever.”  Derek turned back to his friends.  Parker pointed at a drop of frosting on Derek’s tux.  Derek frowned, glancing at me once more before we pulled the gym door closed behind us.  
Safe inside the dance, it took a minute before I could settle my nerves.  I was only vaguely aware of Royal and Cassie venting about Derek and the soccer jocks.  Their tirade washed over me as I focused on calming down.
With a fresh jolt of adrenaline, I realized I'd left my clutch on the refreshment table.  Cassie had given it to me on my birthday last year.  It was pearl-gray and covered in tiny glass beads that she’d sewn on by hand.  The lipstick and the 20 bucks inside were nothing compared to its sentimental value.  
“I’ll be right back,” I told Royal and Cassie.  
Halfway to the refreshment table I saw Derek.  He was standing at the table, scrubbing his tux with a napkin.  My clutch glittered on the edge of the table behind a row of glasses.  I edged closer to the wall, preferring to lurk in the shadows until he left rather than risk another confrontation.  Derek reached for a glass of clear soda, turning toward me.  I held still, willing myself to blend into the darkness.  Something caught Derek’s eye.  He straightened, staring across the gym with an odd expression on his face.  I followed his gaze.  That was the first time I saw her.  
She moved through the crowd with a sensual, hypnotic confidence.  Definitely not a high school student.  Long, honey-blond hair hung in loose curls halfway down her back.  Her dress flowed around her like mercury, swirling daringly around her thighs with every step.  In her wake, dancers stopped and stared.  Guys craned their necks to watch her pass, as though she was the only light in a world of darkness.  One boy held a drink half-tipped toward his mouth, unaware of the soda dribbling down the front of his shirt.  His date jerked the cup out of his hands, startling him out of his trance.  Only then did he notice his shirt was sopping wet.  It looked like he was waking up from a dream.  
Headmaster Fiedler moved to intercept her with a distinctly “students only” look in his eyes.  She saw him coming and shook her head slightly, a little knowing smile playing over her face.  The headmaster’s steps slowed, then stopped.  The honey-blond turned away from him and glided to a stop in front of Derek.  Derek’s eyes bulged.  She ran her fingers lightly over his tux.  
“Looks like you’ve been up to no good,” she said.  “My favorite pastime.”  Her voice was rich, taunting.  If I’d been any farther away, the music would have drowned her out.  But separated from them by a few yards at best, I heard her clearly.  Satiny red lips quirked up at the corners.  Derek licked his lips, unable to gather his thoughts well enough to form any words.  She tilted her head to look into his eyes.  “I couldn’t help noticing that little fight you had with your girlfriend.”
“Fight?”  Derek shook his head slightly.  “Who—You mean Braedyn?  She wishes.”  His laugh wavered, sounding a little strangled.
“Then this should make her crazy jealous.”  The honey-blond snaked her fingers up into Derek’s hair and drew his face down toward hers.  He melted into the kiss.  His hands reached for her waist, but she caught them with a light laugh.
Derek breathed out, stunned.  
The newcomer played at straightening his collar.  “Can you spare a minute?  I need your help with something.  Something private.”  Her eyes slid over his shoulder, locking with mine.  My heart gave a sickening lurch and I turned away, mortified.  It was like she’d known I was staring, eavesdropping on their conversation.  I started to walk back to Cassie and Royal, then stopped when I remembered my purse still on the table behind me.  
When I turned back, both Derek and the newcomer were gone.  I edged closer to the table, scanning the area, but couldn’t spot even a glimmer of that silver dress.  I scooped the clutch up, grabbed a fistful of napkins, and retreated back to Cassie and Royal.
“She returns,” Royal said, eying my haul.  “With enough napkins for an army.”
“Thanks for trying to cream Derek for me,” Cassie said.  “Sorry about your dress.  I’ll make it up to you.”  
“You want to make it up to me?” I asked.  “Grab a napkin.  I prefer red velvet in my mouth, not in my hair.”  Royal and Cassie grabbed some napkins and started cleaning bits of frosting and cupcake out of my hair.  
Royal turned his attention to a clump of frosting on my shoulder and grinned.  “Standing up to the soccer jocks.  Who knew you had it in you?”
“What are the odds he’ll forget about it and leave me alone on Monday?”
“About the same as a bull not charging for the flapping red cape,” Royal answered.  “Olé, my little matador.”  
“This is not comforting,” I said.
Cassie giggled.    
The music faded.  We turned back to the dance floor as people began clearing a space for Headmaster Fiedler.  Time for the annual ritual of announcing the Homecoming Court.  
“Amber is finally getting the crown to match her attitude.”  Royal’s tone was sour.  “Don’t ever let them tell you it doesn’t pay to be evil.”
On stage, Fiedler held his hands up for silence.  “Coronado Prep, it gives me great pleasure to announce your Homecoming Court!  Ally Krect and Parker Webb!”  
A spotlight flooded the double-entrance to the gym as Ally and Parker emerged.  Ally beamed in the spotlight.  She was oblivious to Parker who was squinting in irritation at the glare.  They arrived at the stage and Fiedler placed a tiara on Ally’s head.  She adjusted it quickly, then her hand shot up in victory.  The gym roared with approval.
Fiedler gestured back to the gym entrance.  “Missy Jefferson and Dan Buchannan!”  More wild cheers as Missy and her date emerged.  Missy looked pleased and a little embarrassed by the screaming.  She hustled Dan through the crowd and accepted the tiara from Fiedler with a quick smile and wave.  Fiedler gestured and the music changed.  Everyone turned as a spotlight snapped onto the far gym doors, sparkling with the half-ton of glitter the Dance Committee had covered them in.  “And now for your Homecoming Queen and King!”    
Royal sighed with distaste.  “I hope he trips and breaks his neck.”
“It’s a little early, but I do have a birthday wish coming,” I said.
Royal pretended to consider this idea for a moment before dismissing it.  “Mm... Save it for something important.”  
The screaming built as Fiedler threw his arm toward the waiting doors.  “Amber Jenkins and Derek Hall!”
The glittering doors opened.  Amber emerged into the spotlight.  Alone.  
“Huh.  He missed his big entrance.”  Cassie wasn’t the only one craning her head for a better look at Amber.  Amber forced a smile and headed toward the stage.  You could practically feel the fury radiating off of her as she passed.
Royal shrugged.  “Maybe we’ll get lucky and Amber will skin Derek alive.”
I found myself glancing back at the refreshment table.  Something tugged at my conscience, but I brushed it off.  I told myself Derek was Derek, and he’d clearly made his choice.  Why should I care if it landed him in hot water?  
Looking back, I think some part of me sensed things were about to go terribly, terribly wrong.


Thrall, Daughters Of Lilith: Book 1:
Incubus, Daughters Of Lilith: Book 2:
Sacrifice, Daughters Of Lilith: Book 3:

Jennifer Quintenz is an award winning film and television writer, author, and graphic novelist. She has written for Twentieth Television, Intrepid Pictures, and Archaia Studios Press. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and son.

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