Pre-Order Blitz: Mastered by the Boss by Opal Carew #Giveaway

Mastered by the Boss preorder blitz

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51mCICoIn5L__SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Book Title: Mastered by the Boss
Author: Opal Carew
Genre: Erotic Romance
Release Date: July 14, 2015
Hosted by: Book Enthusiast Promotions

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Book Blurb

I’ve never wanted anyone as much as I’ve wanted Ryan Blair. What I didn’t know is that he wants me, too!

Kali goes to a masquerade party dressed as a sexy sub. She shouldn’t let her friend talk her into it, but behind the anonymity of the mask, Kali’s inhibitions fade away.

Ryan Blair has wanted Kali from the first moment she started working for him six months ago. So when he sees a stunning stranger in a mask and sub costume who could easily pass for Kali, he decides to play out the fantasy of mastering his sexy little secretary. Maybe that will alleviate his constant yearning for her.

When her wealthy, masterful boss takes Kali to the heights of ecstasy, not even knowing it’s her, things start to spin out of control.

When Ryan figures out that she was his Cinderella sub, their days in the office become a roller coaster of passionate, mind-blowing sexual pleasure. But Kali quickly realizes that all there will ever be between them is sex and she needs so much more than that.

Should she walk away now before the pain of losing him becomes too much?

excerpt

Ryan sipped his drink as he glanced around the room. He had to make an appearance at this party, since it was a special event for the executives, but that didn’t mean he liked it. He hated costumes and refused to wear one. His expensive, tailored suit would do just fine.

But as his gaze locked on the two women who had just arrived, he developed a rising appreciation for the costume aspect.

A woman dressed as a submissive would excite him no matter what, but this woman… With her long, dark hair flowing over her soft, creamy shoulders, and her tall shapely body… She looked so much like his secretary. Kali had been with him for six months, and he could swear that he hadn’t been without an erection at work that whole time.

She was a distraction and he’d thought several times that he should let her go, but she was an excellent secretary. And he liked her. It wasn’t fair to get rid of her for something that was his own damn issue.

As he gazed at this sexy woman, he wondered if having sex with her could relieve him of the tension that had built up from being around Kali. He would pretend she was Kali, have hot, hard sex with her, and then he could finally get his cock under control at work. And if that didn’t work, maybe he could start a casual fling with this woman, providing him with a regular Kali fix, keeping him satisfied, and therefore free of distraction.

A man approached the woman and they chatted. Ryan watched as he led her to the dance floor. From his vantage on the second floor, he had an excellent view of her sexy, scantily clad body. Her shapely legs were so long they seemed never-ending, and he could imagine them wrapped around his waist. The slit on the skirt flashed creamy thigh as she danced. And her breasts—lifted high and pushed forward in the leather bra—sent his cock twitching.

God, he had to have this woman.

Meet the Author

As a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of erotic contemporary romance, Opal Carew writes about passion, love, and taking risks. Her heroines follow their hearts and push past the fear that stops them from realizing their dreams… to the excitement and love of happily-ever-after.

Opal loves crystals, dragons, feathers, cats, pink hair, the occult, Manga artwork, Zentangle, and all that glitters. She earned a degree in Mathematics from the University of Waterloo, and spent 15 years as a software analyst before turning to her passion as a writer. She grew up in Toronto, and now lives in Ottawa with her husband and three cats. One of her sons just finished a Masters degree at Sussex University in the UK and is now pursuing a second Masters at Carleton University in Ottawa. The other son just finished his undergraduate degree at Carleton University. Yes, mom is proud!

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“I’m wondering what to read next.” — Matilda, Roald Dahl

M9B Friday Reveal: Chapter Two of Serpentine by Cindy Pon with Giveaway #M9BFridayReveals

M9B Friday Reveal: Chapter Two of Serpentine by Cindy Pon with Giveaway #M9BFridayReveals

M9B-Friday-Reveal

 

Welcome to this week’s M9B Friday Reveal!

This week, we are revealing CHAPTER TWO of

Serpentine by Cindy Pon

presented byMonth9Books!

Have you entered the pre-order giveaway yet? With each pre-order of Serpentine, you will have the chance to select one of Cindy Pon’s pieces of brush art !
You can find out more details HERE!

Be sure to enter the giveaway found at the end of the post!

 

SerpentineEbook

 

SERPENTINE is a sweeping fantasy set in the ancient Kingdom of Xia and inspired by the rich history of Chinese mythology.

Lush with details from Chinese folklore, SERPENTINE tells the coming of age story of Skybright, a young girl who worries about her growing otherness. As she turns sixteen, Skybright notices troubling changes. By day, she is a companion and handmaid to the youngest daughter of a very wealthy family. But nighttime brings with it a darkness that not even daybreak can quell.

When her plight can no longer be denied, Skybright learns that despite a dark destiny, she must struggle to retain her sense of self – even as she falls in love for the first time.

Vivid worldbuilding, incendiary romance, heart-pounding action, and characters that will win you over–I highly recommend Serpentine.Cinda Williams Chima, best-selling author of the Seven Realms and Heir Chronicles fantasy novels

Serpentine is unique and surprising, with a beautifully-drawn fantasy world that sucked me right in! I love Skybright’s transformative power, and how she learns to take charge of it.” ~Kristin Cashore, NYT Bestseller of the Graceling Realm Series

Serpentine’s world oozes with lush details and rich lore, and the characters crackle with life. This is one story that you’ll want to lose yourself in.” ~ Marie Lu, New York Times bestselling author of Legend and The Young Elites

 

add to goodreads

Title: Serpentine
Publication date: September 8, 2015
Publisher: Month9Books, LLC.
Author: Cindy Pon

Pre-order Links:

Amazon | B&N | BAM | Chapters | Indiebound | Kobo | TBD

 

excerpt

 

Chapter 2

Skybright cradled the woven basket to her side. She had left under the pretense of going into town to buy a new silk handkerchief and pears for Zhen Ni. In truth, she had her mistress’s bed sheet, hoping to wash it at the creek.

She and Zhen Ni had shared their morning meal of rice porridge and pickles in silence. When they spoke after, it was in hushed tones. She had fetched a medicinal tea to ease her mistress’s cramps, and told everyone in the household that Zhen Ni was suffering from a headache and needed quiet and rest.

The forest towered, seemed to lean forward in greeting. Soon, she was lost in its depths, making her way down a familiar yet barely marked path to the creek. It felt good to be outside the manor, today of all days. When she had asked, Zhen Ni had described the cramps feeling as if someone squeezed her womb in a tight fist, bringing waves of aching pain like she’d never experienced. Skybright remembered the heat she had suffered the night before in her fevered dreams, as if her lower half were fracturing then melding together again.

She placed the basket on a rock and shook out the sheet, picking up the chunk of square soap. Skybright sang as she worked, enjoying the feel of sunlight on her bare neck, where her hair had been wound into two tight buns low against her nape. She scrubbed the stain out and wondered how Zhen Ni was faring right now without her, wondered when she, too, would begin her own monthly letting. A lucid image of a serpentine coil flashed in her mind—a forked tongue darting—and she winced. Skybright scoured the sheet harder, until it was spotless, her arms sore from the task.

“It’s a nice morning for song,” a soft voice said behind her—a male voice—and Skybright leaped to her feet, turning to thrust the lathered soap in front of her like a weapon.

The young man smiled. “You’re quick.” He carried a wooden staff that was taller than he was, long enough that he could whack her in the head without taking a step.

She grimaced at her soap. “You frightened me.”

“I apologize.” He inclined his head.

He wasn’t more than seventeen years, dressed in a tan sleeveless tunic that revealed wiry arms. His slender eyes were near black in color. Skybright took a small step forward. He lifted his chin, as if in challenge, and she saw the angry red mark covering his neck, like a hand had seized him by the throat, burning an imprint into his flesh.

“You’re … him,” she said.

“And you are her. The girl spying in the tree.” He laughed, and it was warm and unguarded.

“I wasn’t—” She stuttered. “I was—”

“Chasing after a lost cat?” he offered.

She smiled despite herself. Skybright had never spoken to a boy so near her own age before, other than to haggle over the price of vegetables at the market.

“I’m Kai Sen.” He half bowed, gripping his staff with both hands so it was parallel to the ground.

“Skybright.” She nodded shyly.

He pointed at her washing. “I didn’t mean to interrupt. Do you mind if I rest here a few moments?”

Skybright returned to wringing the sheet, and he sat near her by the creek’s bank. Feeling self-conscious, she was relieved that he was gazing at the water. The thick trees surrounding them made it seem as if they were the only people for several leagues. He closed his eyes and tilted his face toward the sky, seeming content. She submerged the sheet, splashing the water just to make some noise.

“So truthfully, were you spying?” Kai Sen asked, breaking the silence.

She tucked a stray strand of hair behind her ear. “My mistress talked me into it. She’s always full of wild notions.”

“Was it worth the climb?”

“I saw you.” She wrung the sheet, then realized her simple statement could be construed another way. She wasn’t normally so coy, but he truly was the most interesting thing she had seen during her tree-climbing escapade. Mortified, she considered putting the wet sheet over her head.

His dark brows lifted, then he laughed again. She liked his laugh—so full and unrestrained.

“I hope it was an easy climb then.” He grinned at her, his fingers searching for stones near the water’s edge. His hands were broad, darkened by the sun. She shook the sheet out, draped it over a rock, and sat down beside him, the staff resting across his lap a buffer between them.

“Why do you not look like the others?” she asked.

He cast a pebble into the water, and it bounced once before sinking. “You don’t mince words.”

How was she supposed to talk to a boy? Differently somehow? She hadn’t an inkling. All Skybright knew was that his nearness unsettled her in a way that she wasn’t able to explain. “My mistress says I’m too forthright.”

He flicked a glance at her, and she remembered how he had studied her from that great distance in the immense temple square, as if he could see within her. “There’s an openness in your face, yes.” The corners of his mouth quirked upwards as he pitched another stone into the creek. “I don’t look like the others because I’m not truly a monk.”

“Ah.” She furrowed her brows, but he didn’t look at her.

“I study and train at the monastery as a monk would. But officially, the abbot won’t allow me to take my vow because of this.” He lifted his chin. The birthmark was a deep red, like nothing she had ever seen, making the parts of his throat that were flesh-colored appear exposed and vulnerable.

“It’s only a birthmark,” she said.

His smile was rueful. “My parents gave me to the monastery when I was six years because of this birthmark. They were superstitious people from a rural village and believed I was dragged by the throat into this life by the hell lord himself.”

It seemed a cruel fate, to have had parents then to lose them because of something so superficial. For the briefest moment, she wondered about her own parents, where she had come from. “But what does the abbot think?”

“I don’t know.” His head dropped, and some of his hair escaped the twine and fell across his brow. “The abbot took me in, raised me for eleven years. I’ve never asked what he truly thought.”

They sat in silence for some time, listening to the rustle of the forest, the soft stir and hum of hidden birds and creatures. She found a stone and tried to bounce it off the water, but it plopped and sank. Kai Sen’s rock followed, skipping three times before vanishing below the surface.

“And you? You’re a tree-climbing handmaid spy?”

Skybright burst into laughter, sending a bird from a nearby tree spiraling into the clear sky. She’d never laughed like that with anyone except Zhen Ni. “Something like that.”

“To be truthful, I haven’t been able to stop wondering about you. Every time I meditated, I saw an image of you perched high in that cypress tree gaping down at us.” He chuckled. “It was the most unexpected and absurd thing I’d ever seen.”

“I wasn’t gaping,” she said, indignant.

“Oh, you were gaping. Fortunate thing, too, otherwise I would have thought some goddess or nymph had descended upon—”

“There you are! I wondered where you disappeared to.” A lanky boy the same age as Kai Sen ran up to them. “You’ll get me in trouble if we don’t head back now!” The boy’s head was shaved, and he was dressed in slate blue, like all the monks she had seen the other day.

Kai Sen stood, rolling the tall staff easily from one palm to the other. “I forgot the time, talking here with Skybright.”

She scrambled to her feet, embarrassed, and the new boy gawked at her as if he’d never seen a girl before. She picked up the sheet and shook it as a distraction, enjoying the crisp snapping sound.

“Close your mouth, Han,” Kai Sen prodded him in the chest with his staff.

Han clamped his mouth shut, then grinned boyishly. “Kai has the heart of a wandering monk,” he told Skybright. “I’m always herding him back to the monastery. First time I’ve found him with a girl, though.”

Skybright suppressed a smile as she folded the sheet.

“Brother, let’s go.” Kai Sen clasped the taller boy by the shoulder. “Before you embarrass me even more.” He turned and gave her a nod. “Maybe we’ll meet again? I’ll look for you in the trees?”

She laughed, shaking her head. “I don’t think I’ll do that again.”

“That’s a pity,” Kai Sen replied, and Han tugged him by the tunic edge to go. He grinned and waved once, before disappearing into the thicket.

 

 

 

 

Skybright had taken so long that she’d missed the midday meal. Surprised not to find Zhen Ni in her quarters, she wandered through the manor until she saw everyone gathered in the main hall. The two paneled doors had been folded open, letting in the summer breeze and light. Lilies in bright yellow and orange adorned each table, scenting the air with their strong musk. The red five-sided lanterns were already lit overhead. Lady Yuan sat with Zhen Ni beside her, chatting to another woman and girl across from them.

Someone had dressed Zhen Ni in a pale pink tunic and skirt. As with all her mistress’s clothes, they were intricately beaded, befitting the family’s status and wealth as successful merchants. Skybright noticed, with annoyance, that the jewels pinned in Zhen Ni’s hair didn’t match her outfit. It must have been her stand in, Rose’s, mistake.

“There you are, Skybright,” Lady Yuan exclaimed.

The guests half-turned to glance at her. Skybright bowed her head, but not before sneaking a long look. The girl was petite, with large eyes set beneath delicate eyebrows, and a round nose over a rosebud mouth. She was not dressed as resplendently as Zhen Ni, her outfit not even rivaling Skybright’s own. Her family obviously didn’t enjoy the same stature as the Yuans.

“Lady Fei and her daughter Lan have just arrived after a long journey. Oriole is fetching us some tea. Could you go to the kitchen and ask for the custard buns and nut cakes Cook made this morning?”

Skybright retreated, and hurried toward the kitchen, weaving past the fragrant honeysuckle and quiet pavilions in the courtyards. When she arrived, she helped Cook arrange the freshly made treats on a lacquered tray inlaid with pearl, before tucking a lotus from the pond among the desserts. It would please Zhen Ni. Her trip back was at a brisk, yet careful pace.

When Skybright set the beautiful display of desserts in front of the women, Zhen Ni caught her eye and smiled, having seen the blushing pink lotus. “It matches my dress perfectly,” she said.

“Thank you, Skybright,” Lady Yuan said. “You may go now.”

But Zhen Ni grabbed Skybright’s sleeve. “Do let her stay, Mama.” She flashed her most winning smile. “Skybright should get to know Lan as well.”

“Of course.” Lady Yuan indicated the carved stool in the corner. “Join us.” She passed the desserts on cerulean plates to the guests. “Zhen Ni and Skybright are almost sisters. The goddess left Skybright at our doorstep right before Zhen Ni was born, like a gift for our youngest daughter.”

“Mama, don’t speak of Skybright as if she were a pet Chow!”

Skybright managed to smother her smile, but Lan laughed, a surprisingly rich sound coming from such a small frame, and clapped a hand over her mouth like she had surprised herself.

Lady Yuan took a long sip of tea, her bejeweled fingers holding the porcelain cup just so, before setting it down with artful grace. “It’s my fault,” she said to Lady Fei, flashing a smile at Zhen Ni. “I’ve spoiled her, even Master Yuan says so—and then he does the same!” Master Yuan was a merchant and away traveling many months out of the year, but whenever he returned, his carriage was always piled high with heaps of gifts for Zhen Ni.

“You’re truly fortunate to have four children, and three already wed.” Lady Fei nibbled on a nut cake. Lan had inherited her mother’s small, full mouth. “We’re still searching for a suitable match for our Lan.”

Skybright and Zhen Ni pointedly avoided each other’s gaze. As the women discussed betrothal gifts and the best dates to wed for their daughters, Skybright’s mind wandered back to thoughts of the stream. Of the warmth of sunlight against her skin, and Kai Sen’s laughter. Of the way he had studied her with those dark brown eyes.

 

 

 

 

The next few days passed quickly as Lan settled into her new quarters, near Zhen Ni’s. She had not come accompanied by her own handmaid, so Lady Yuan assigned a girl of fourteen years called Pearl to help her. And all the while, Skybright and Zhen Ni were on edge, frightened that their secret would be discovered somehow. Skybright went to her mistress even earlier each morning, soon after the rooster’s crow. Zhen Ni was more pale than usual, and they took great care to add color to her cheeks before she greeted anyone.

Lan’s arrival proved to be a good distraction. Zhen Ni and Lan spent their mornings gossiping and embroidering before taking a midday meal, then scattering into the gardens to sip chilled honeyed tea. Lan was better at embroidering than Zhen Ni, but Skybright’s mistress proved to be the best with composing lyrics and playing the lute. Skybright couldn’t do either very well, but had the prettiest singing voice, and was often asked to accompany Zhen Ni as she plucked at the lute strings. Rose and Pearl stayed near, fanning their mistresses, as the summer days were becoming unbearably hot.

Skybright retired exhausted in the evenings, not having given further thought to her feverish dreams from the previous week. But tonight, a familiar tingling below her waist woke her. Terrified, she reared up and grabbed at her legs. They were still there, still the same. She gave a loud sigh of relief, but even before the full exhale, her flesh began to undulate and change beneath her fingers. Bones, ligaments, and joints warped and crackled, melted away, striking with that unbearable heat.

Smooth scales rippled over her human flesh, like dragonfly wings fluttering their way from her feet to cover her abdomen. She swept both hands across her torso, the clothes having evaporated from her, and gasped. Her snake tongue darted out, oppressing her voice, and she could taste the air with it; the whiff of smoke from the snuffed lantern, the bitterness of the gardenia musk Zhen Ni had rubbed into her wrists in the morning, all tinged by the scent of her own sweat and fear.

She fell out of bed, her long serpent body slapping the ground with a loud thwack. Crawling with her hands, she pulled herself up by the window ledge and lit the lantern. She saw the thick coil that began at her waist, just as the last time—but this was no nightmare. Skybright pinched the flesh of her upper arms, her cheeks, then where her hip should be, and the end of her tail flipped, like it had a mind of its own.

“No,” she tried to say. But all that came out was a guttural rasp.

How could this be real?

To her horror, a rooster began to crow. Skybright scrambled on her hands and slid the door aside, hefting her long serpent body, which was at least four times the length of her legs, behind her. She shut the door, fighting panic. She must leave the manor. No one could see her like this—a monstrosity. What if she never changed back?

She crawled awkwardly, using her arms but beginning to push herself a little with her muscular coils. Fumbling too long with the key Zhen Ni had stolen for their escapades, Skybright thrust her way through a narrow side door used by servants and into a dark alley. She had enough wits about her to tie the string the key dangled from around her wrist. More than one rooster was now crying at the morning light in greeting, and some neighborhood dogs responded to the cacophony. In desperation, she tried to quicken her pace as she slithered toward the forest, propelling herself more and more with her serpent length. Her lungs felt as if they would burst from exertion and terror, and a sense of overwhelming grief. She sobbed, but what came out was a long hiss. The mutt that had been barking ferociously behind the neighbor’s wall quieted with a yip, then whimpered.

She had never liked that mean mutt.

The jagged line of trees was a familiar and welcome sight, and Skybright snaked toward it, unused to her lower vantage point. Her serpentine body met the ground where her hips used to be, although she found she could rise higher on her coil if she wanted to. Swallowed by darkness, she made her way between the trees, tasting the earthy tang of the forest on her tongue. The ground vibrated with life, telling her how many nocturnal creatures were still scampering to their nests, even as others were just rising for the day. No humans were nearby.

Skybright navigated with only her coils now. Each powerful thrust propelled her forward, and her speed increased as she pushed her way deeper and deeper, going further than she had ever strolled before with Zhen Ni in their explorations. It wasn’t until morning sunshine glimmered through the thick branches of the trees that she collapsed beneath one, exhausted, unable to shed the tears that weighed heavy against her heart. Why was this happening to her? Curling herself up, her serpent length wound in tight circles, the sight turning her stomach. She shut her eyes so she could no longer see it.

 

 

 

 

Skybright woke from the feel of a hand pressed against her upper arm, warm and reassuring. Groggy, she opened her eyes and squinted. Kai Sen’s concerned face filled her vision, and she bolted to a sitting position, clutching a tan tunic to herself. It was long sleeved, thank the goddess, and she tucked herself as small as she could beneath it.

He sat down across from her, allowing some distance, folding those lean arms over his knees. The tall staff he had carried before rested beside him. His chest was bare, as he had given her his tunic. “Are you all right?” he asked.

She blinked, feeling woozy. “What time is it?” Her voice sounded thick in her own ears, odd.

“A few gongs before the midday meal yet.” The gongs set the schedule at the monastery, and could often be heard as far as their manor, if she paused to listen for them.

Skybright thrust her face against her knees, which were pulled tight to her chest. Kai Sen’s tunic smelled faintly of camphor wood. The wind stirred, lifting a corner of the cloth, and she clutched her legs harder, acutely aware of her nakedness beneath. Although Skybright was glad to see Kai Sen, she wished he hadn’t discovered her, like some wild animal, naked and disoriented in the forest.

“What happened?” he asked in a quiet voice.

How could she explain this away? It was impossible. Zhen Ni would be hysterical with worry. She had never disappeared like that before. The entire staff would be out searching for her. Skybright took a deep breath that shuddered into a silent sob.

“I can’t say.” She raised her eyes and swallowed the sour taste in her mouth. “I must have wandered in my sleep.”

“I’ve sent Han back for a robe. He … didn’t see you.” Kai Sen’s gaze held steady, and she was grateful for it. “When I found you, I thought you were injured or—” he cleared his throat. “Has this happened before?”

“No,” she lied, hating the way her scalp tingled from it.

“We’re leagues from town.” He lowered his chin. “I’m only glad that I was the one to find you.”

His concern warmed her, even as she shivered beneath the thin fabric of his tunic.

“I wish I had more to offer.” He smiled, and Skybright realized with shock that she wanted to flick her tongue out, to taste the scent of him.

In that moment, someone shouted from beyond the trees, and Kai Sen leaped to his feet. “It’s Han.” He ran, faster than Skybright had seen anyone run, and disappeared among the thickets.

Skybright suddenly remembered the stories of serpent demons, always women, who would shape shift after luring victims with their beautiful faces. Zhen Ni’s sister, Min, had spoken of them. Skybright recalled how Min had widened her eyes and said in a hushed voice, “She acts the helpless maiden, but when she has you alone in the dark of night, that’s when she attacks!” Min had leaped at them, baring her teeth and hissing. “The beautiful woman changes into a giant serpent.” Min threw her arms out wide to emphasize her length. “She’ll sink her long fangs into your flesh to poison you, then swallow you whole. And the worst part? You’ll still be alive when she does it!” Min gnashed her teeth and smacked her lips. Skybright and Zhen Ni had clutched each other during the tale, squealing and giggling.

Was this what she was—a monster of folklore? How could it be possible? She tightened her arms around her knees.

Kai Sen returned with a wheat-colored monk’s robe. “It was the best Han could find,” he said apologetically. “Here.” He stuck his hand out and turned his face away to show he wasn’t looking.

But Skybright took the opportunity to do just that. His chest and torso were as muscular and lithe as his arms. She marveled at how different his body appeared compared to hers, all hard lines and angles. He was as tan as she was pale, letting her know that he often went shirtless in the sun. Kai Sen’s stance exposed his throat to her, and that strange birthmark, which seemed to have deepened to the color of plum wine this morning. Skybright resisted the urge to press her hand over it, to see if it was indeed in the exact shape of a palm. She reached for the robe instead and wrapped it around herself, tying it securely at the waist. The sleeves were too long, and the hem dragged against the ground, but she was relieved to feel the soft cotton against her skin.

“Thank you, truly. To you and Han both.”

He turned to assess her, unable to keep from grinning. “I’ve never seen a monk’s robe on someone so—” He stopped mid-sentence, and appeared flustered for the first time since they’d met. “Never on a girl before.” His smile turned lop-sided, and she wondered what he had been about to say.

“I should return to my mistress.” Skybright drew the robe tighter around herself. “She must be so worried.”

Kai Sen nodded. “Let me walk you back—”

“No, you’ve done more than enough, I couldn’t ask—”

“It would ease my own mind, Skybright. Please.”

Taking note of the unfamiliar surroundings, she said, “Then I would be grateful for your company.”

Kai Sen drew his own tunic on and tied the sash, smiling. “I promised Han I would return as soon as I took you back.”

He led the way through the trees with dexterity, knowing exactly which way to go. She followed, feeling the soft earth and pebbles beneath her bare feet. What must he think of her? The strange girl who climbed trees and wandered naked in the forest at night. Her ears burned at the thought, and she was glad he didn’t see. Some time later, he slowed and glanced her way. “You are certain you’re all right?” He paused. “Your mistress … she treats you well?”

Humiliated, she colored even more. “They’re so kind to me. Zhen Ni treats me like her own sister.”

“Good. I’m glad,” he said. “It’s just, I don’t often find beautiful girls sleeping naked in the forest.”

Her mouth dropped, then she burst into laughter when she saw the teasing slant of his gaze.

“Not that I’m complaining,” Kai Sen went on. “But the last time I was caught undressed in the forest, it was because Han had stolen my clothes from the river bank and I had to return to the monastery plastered in cypress leaves. They were prickly. And didn’t do the job well.” He cleared his throat and grinned at her.

She laughed harder. “Han didn’t!”

“Han did. Don’t worry, I got him back.” Kai Sen laughed with her, and it eased Skybright’s heart. His laughter made everything feel normal and right again. She reached overhead to grab a sprig of cypress, sweeping her palm across the needle-like leaves, trying to picture Kai Sen returning to the monastery covered in them, and chuckled again.

They strolled beneath the cool shadow of the majestic forest, and Skybright remembered how the earth vibrated and hummed with life the previous night, when it seemed she could detect every small movement and animal near her within leagues, smell and taste them on her tongue.

“Do you practice forms with the staff?” she asked.

“I do. We’re taught to use an array of weapons, but I’m most comfortable with the staff.” He spun it from one hand to the other, without thought, by reflex. He wielded it as if it were an extension of him.

“But I thought monks were against violence?”

“Fair point. The techniques and forms help strengthen us not only physically, but mentally and spiritually. And we’ve been known to take to arms and go to war to defend our kingdom in the past. Then, there are always the demons.” He said the last part with a mischievous wink, but she felt both arms prickling. “We must always be prepared.”

“Demons?” she whispered.

“From the ancient texts. The ones that roam the underworld, the ones that roam our own world.”

“Do they exist?” She shivered despite herself. Kai Sen noticed and drew closer, but she wasn’t shivering for the reasons he thought.

“I’ve not seen the like myself. But the abbot believes what the books say.”

They were now by the creek where they had met the first time, not too far from the Yuan manor. “You’ve read these books?” Skybright tried to keep her voice even.

“We study them, yes. Why?”

“I need to—” She rubbed at her throbbing temples in frustration. “Could you research something for me?”

He peered at her, his handsome face curious. “If I can. On what?”

“The serpent demon.”

Kai Sen’s eyebrows lifted.

“Do you know anything about them?” she asked.

“Not beyond the usual old wives’ tales of warning.”

They heard the distant gong from the monastery and Kai Sen whipped toward the sound, his stance as taut as a tiger about to leap. “Han’s going to kill me.”

“I can find my way back. I know where I am.”

“It’s my fault. I took my time on purpose.” He grinned. “I’ll see what I can find. When can I meet you again?”

“Back here, in three days’ time? In the morning.”

“I’ll look for you, Skybright.” Kai Sen jogged back in the direction of the still reverberating gong. “Keep safe until then.”

She waved, sorry to see him go. Skybright wasn’t certain that she could keep safe. She wasn’t certain about anything any longer.

About-the-Author

Cindy Pon

Cindy Pon is the author of Silver Phoenix (Greenwillow, 2009), which was named one of the Top Ten Fantasy and Science Fiction Books for Youth by the American Library Association’s Booklist, and one of 2009′s best Fantasy, Science Fiction and Horror by VOYA. The sequel to Silver Phoenix, titled Fury of the Phoenix, was released in April 2011. Serpentine, the first title in her next Xia duology, will be published by Month9Books in September 2015. She is the co-founder of Diversity in YA with Malinda Lo and on the advisory board of We Need Diverse Books. Cindy is also a Chinese brush painting student of over a decade. Visit her website at www.cindypon.com.

 

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I love this quote, Diana
“I’m wondering what to read next.” — Matilda, Roald Dahl

Release Blitz: Last Chance Hero by Hope Ramsay #Giveaway

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About LAST CHANCE HERO:
Ross Gardiner has had his fill of difficult relationships. Returning to Last Chance after a rough divorce, the town’s handsome new fire chief just wants safety and stability-a tall order given his dangerous job and the way he has the attention of all the single women in town. All except Sabina Grey, the girl who stole his heart when they were teenagers. Sabina knows a lot about playing it safe. Always the good girl, she’s now responsible for her antiques store and caring for her sister. But having Ross in town brings back the memory of one carefree summer night when she threw caution to the wind-and almost destroyed her family. Now that they are both older and wiser, will the spark still be there, even though they’ve both been burned?

Excerpt

She wore a pair of faded blue jeans that clung to her hips and butt like they were part of her.  Her green tank top looked like something she might have found at a tag sale.  The slippery, clingy fabric was covered in Oriental flowers, and it was almost see-through.

Not to mention that it exposed her shoulders, which had freckles on them.  As usual, Sabina had pulled her hair back into a ponytail.  And as usual, wisps of hair had escaped around her face.  He wanted to cross the room, pull that damn rubber band out of her hair, and bury his hands and his nose in all those amazing curls.

Oh yeah, and his hands itched to touch her breasts through that silky fabric.  Which is why he balled them into fists and jammed them into his pockets.  Then he pretended that his feet were set into concrete.

A man could get hurt by lust like this.

And that didn’t even count the damage his feelings for Sabina might do to Lucy or Henrietta or even the folks in Last Chance who were all invested in him marrying Lucy.

He didn’t want to feel this way.

About anyone.

Lust like this was just crazy.  It made a man do stupid things, and he had been there and done that.  He much preferred the cool, calm feeling he had for Lucy and her lists.

Sabina stood there staring at him for a moment, her lips soft and parted.  The afternoon sun coming through the dusty window, lit up her hair.  Her voice sounded squeaky when she started talking, and she stammered, which was not like her at all.

“Uh . . . I . . . Uh.  I got a call from Bubba Lockheart.  I gather y’all moved the trunk down from the attic?”

“Oh, yeah, you came for the trunk.”  He had the twin sensations of being relieved and disappointed all at the same time.

She nodded.

“It’s in the living room.  Let me get the hand truck.”  He hurried out onto the back porch and snagged the dolly and wheeled it into the living room.

Sabina was waiting for him.

“So, did you search through it?  What else is inside?”  She tilted her head, and for an instant, she resembled a little kid on Christmas morning, so excited to be unwrapping a present.

“Uh, no.  We were kind of busy today.”  He kept his words sharp and short.  He shoved the dolly under the trunk and tilted it back.  Then he wheeled it all the way out to the porch and down a make-shift ramp that had been set up over the front steps.  Sabina followed him and opened the tailgate of her van.

“Can you lift it yourself or do you need help?” she asked.

“I can do it.” He wanted her to leave.  Fast.  But the trunk was awkward and he almost tilted it sideways when he tried to lift it.  Before he could stop her, Sabina bent down and grabbed one of the handles and helped.

Together they got it up into the van.  But in the process they ended up side by side and their shoulders touched.

He’d never been burned by a fire.  He was practically religious about keeping his gear in topnotch form.  But that touch scalded him.  It would have been normal to jump back from all that heat.  After all, he’d been trained to know the danger of uncontrolled fires.

But his training went right out the window, along with his common sense.  Instead of running like hell, he turned toward her.  She looked up at him, the fire dancing in her eyes.  Oh, man, this was so wrong.

And so right.

“Ross,” she whispered, her voice so damn sultry.

His mind told him to stop.  But his heart had a completely different idea.  His heart had been waiting decades to kiss Sabina Grey.  And there she was, right in reach, and her mouth looked so ready to be kissed that he couldn’t help himself.

He leaned down and pressed his mouth to her lips, and even though this wasn’t exactly the hands-on, bodies-pressed-together, hot and heavy kiss he’d once fantasized about, the heat of the moment still swept through him.

He wanted to pull her close.  He wanted to explore her mouth a little deeper.  He wanted to do a lot more than dance with her.

But Sabina pushed back.

“We can’t do this.”  Her look was stunningly sober.

“Right,” he said on a deep exhalation.  “Right.”  He repeated the word because his mind had sort of checked out for a moment.  “I’m sorry.”

She didn’t accept his apology.  She just gave him one of those female looks that were so hard to decipher.  This one was pretty bad ass.

And then she backed away, ran to the driver’s side of the van, and took off, sending the gravel on the driveway flying.

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About Hope Ramsay:
Hope Ramsay grew up on the North Shore of Long Island, but every summer Momma would pack her off under the care of Aunt Annie to go visiting with relatives in the midlands of South Carolina. Her extended family includes its share of colorful aunts and uncles, as well as cousins by the dozens, who provide the fodder for the characters you’ll find in Last Chance, South Carolina. She’s a two-time finalist in the Golden Heart and is married to a good ol’ Georgia boy who resembles every single one of her heroes. She lives in Fairfax, Virginia, where you can often find her on the back deck, picking on her thirty-five-year-old Martin guitar. 
Check out Hope Ramsay’s link:
Hope’s SM:
@HopeRamsay
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I love this quote, Diana
“I’m wondering what to read next.” — Matilda, Roald Dahl

Pre-Order Blitz My Serenity by M. Clarke #Giveaway

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GGKEY-N47PDBJE5DH_frontcoverBook Title: My Serenity (My Clarity, #2)
Author: M. Clarke
Genre: New Adult/Coming of Age
Release Date: July 16, 2015
Hosted by: Book Enthusiast Promotions

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Book Blurb

When tragedy strikes, Seth Stewart is forced to return home after the death of his beloved father. The unexpected detour forces him to oversee the family’s auto shop and restaurant business, and Seth must kiss the prestigious internship goodbye after his first year at Berkeley Business School. When he collides with his first crush after his arrival, Seth wonders what possibly could have happened to Josefina Anders.

Josefina has hidden many secrets she is too ashamed to share with anyone, especially Seth. When they cross paths again, the urge to relive their past lingers in her mind even though she knows he couldn’t accept her sketchy past. Things get even more complicated when her mother returns, as well as her overly possessive ex, who decides to crash into her fragile existence all over again.

Will Seth’s connection for Josefina be strong enough to see past her secrets, or will he realize he can’t rekindle an old flame?

Meet the Author

International Bestselling Author Mary Ting/M. Clarke resides in Southern California with her husband and two children. She enjoys oil painting and making jewelry. Writing her first novel, Crossroads Saga, happened by chance. It was a way to grieve the death of her beloved grandmother, and inspired by a dream she once had as a young girl. When she started reading new adult novels, she fell in love with the genre. It was the reason she had to write one-Something Great. Why the pen name, M Clarke? She tours with Magic Johnson Foundation to promote literacy and her children’s chapter book-No Bullies Allowed.

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“I’m wondering what to read next.” — Matilda, Roald Dahl

Book Review and Blog Tour: When Faults Collide by Claire Granger #Giveaway

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This is my stop during the blog tour for When Faults Collide. This blog tour is organized by Lola’s Blog Tours. The blog tour runs from 1 till 14 July, you can view the complete tour schedule on the website of Lola’s Blog Tours.

When Faults Collide CoverWhen Faults Collide (Faultlines #1)
By Claire Granger
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Age category: New Adult
Release Date: July 1, 2015

Blurb:
Asha is a 23 year old graphic designer and blogger living in Richmond VA with a dark past. She grew up in India in a brothel where her mother was a prostitute and came to America to live with her father when she was 13. 10 years later and while she has survived, she lives her life under a strict set of rules and lives fairly sheltered in order to protect herself. Her most important rule: never get involved romantically.

Then she meets Blake, a 25 year old music venue owner with an equally dark past. From their first encounter, Asha finds it difficult to follow her own rules and can’t deny the connection between the two of them.

Can Asha overcome her demons to go beyond surviving to thriving and will Blake be the perfect broken piece to the puzzle of her heart?

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my review

When I first saw this book, I thought of Collide by Howie Day.
This book is about Asha, written about her life starting out in a brothel in India with her mom. The beginning of the story is sad, but makes an interesting story information that is needed to understand her. I liked how her life was so wrong from the beginning yet changed so positive to the end. As a matter of fact I felt this story had quite of few messages in it while I was reading it. The prostitute, human trafficking, not always a nice thing to read, but it is real and I felt the emotions in this story are true.
I also liked her tweets, text messages, and blog post, made it interesting to read and was a little be different. I also loved the love story with her and Blake and how her life changed.
I felt that the writer did a great job on this story, basically an easy read, even though there is some sad parts because of the life difficulties that Asha and Blake had in their background. There was a few cuss words, but I think the story was one to be told and interesting without making hard to read. I feel young adults could read this story to understand and have empathy and also to be aware of what is going on in this world.
I got this off the authors blog “**This story contains mature subject matter such as prostitution, rape, PTSD, drug use, and more. While the writing style does not use overly graphic depictions of these situations, please use your own discretion.**”
This story is a true survival story.
I did receive this book for an honest review.

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Kissing teaser (1)

 

 

Claire Granger

 

About the Author:

Claire grew up in Texas, but her family moved to Virginia in 2001. She now resides in Richmond with her husband, 4 children (2 sets of twins!), and their fur babies.

She blogs over at The Granger Bunch and has her first novel releasing this summer! “When Faults Collide” is a contemporary romance, the first of the “Faultlines” series! She is already working on book two of the series as well as a non fiction and a few other exciting projects!

She is passionate about racial identity and equality issues, foster care, adoption, and non-profits that work to help victims of sexual assault and trafficking.

She is shamelessly addicted to romance, erotica, dark/twisted/taboo, smutty, sexy, anti-hero, flawed hero, controlling, mind blowing books! Basically everything that would make her mother cry. 😉

She loves hearing from her readers- it keeps her going! Thank you so much for all of your continued support! <3

You can find and contact Claire here:
Website
Facebook
Twitter
Goodreads
Instagram

There is a tour wide giveaway for the blog tour of When Faults Collide. These are the prizes you can win:
– a signed copy of When Faults Collide by Claire Granger
– a $25 Amazon gift card

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I love this quote, Diana
“I’m wondering what to read next.” — Matilda, Roald Dahl

Try a New Genre & WIN #Giveaway

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How It Works

This challenge starts on July 2nd, and ends on July 30th, so you have a month to get reading.

PERSUADE US . . .

We’re all different and what we like to read is no exception. However, sometimes it’s fun to change things up a bit and try something new. We’re going to help with that, by giving the first 200 lucky readers to ask us an ebook for free. All we ask is that the book they request is in a genre they don’t read, or read a long time ago and drifted out of.

Each participating author will offer ten books for free (we’ll give you a list of what’s available). But if you don’t manage to get in fast enough and there aren’t any books left, don’t worry, you’re still eligible for the Take a Walk on the Wild Side contest. Find a book in a new-to-you genre, whether at the library, from a friend, or if you want to support the wonderful authors involved in this contest by buying one of their books, so much the better!

Read the book—the contest runs for four weeks, so you’ve got time—then write a paragraph on the contest’s Facebook group about what surprised and delighted you about the genre you just read. You can also include a short paragraph on the genre you usually read and why you love it. Help convince other readers to give a new genre a try!

We’re going to encourage people to like the paragraphs that inspired them to read a new genre, and the five entries with the most likes will go to a well-known book blogger (with names redacted) to choose the winner of the $200 gift card.

BE A CHATTERBOX . . .

This is one place where being a chatterbox will get you sent to the top of the class, not to detention. We want people talking about the books they’re reading, swopping recommendations, and generally connecting over new genres, so we’ve got a $50 gift card prize to the person who interacts the most on the Facebook group.

Good luck, everyone, this is going to be a lot of fun!

And here are the amazing authors involved in sponsoring this contest:

Marilyn Brant
Robin Bielman
Kelsey Browning
Zoe Dawson
Michelle Diener
Cynthia Eden
Jennifer Estep
Misty Evans
Maggie Mae Gallagher
Lori Handeland
Mary Hughes
Shona Husk
Rachel Johns
Dale Mayer
Nancy Naigle
Christina Phillips
Edie Ramer
Elle J Rossi
Barbara Samuel
Therese Walsh

We’ll be posting a profile on each author and the books they have made eligible for the giveaway on the Read a New Genre Facebook group on July 2nd. As stated above, the first 200 people to request the books on offer will get them for free, thereafter, participants will have to source their own books, either from the library, a friend, or if they’d like to support one of the authors sponsoring this contest, so much the better! Only one free book request per person, so as many readers as possible can benefit.

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I love this quote, Diana
“I’m wondering what to read next.” — Matilda, Roald Dahl