Odd Child Out

Odd Child Out
Odd Child Out by Gilly Macmillian

The Western Star

The Western Star
The Western Star by Craig Johnson

Friday, September 30, 2016

All Fall Down by Tom Bale- Feature and Review



ABOUT THE BOOK:
You tried to save a life. Now you’re fighting to save your own. 
It should have been an idyllic day for the Turner family – until a dying man, beaten beyond all recognition, arrives at their home, uttering the words, HELP ME. 

Rob and Wendy Turner and their children try to explain away the horrific scene as being in the wrong place at the wrong time, but in the days that follow their lives are threatened in ways they could never imagine. 

The family is unaware that they are being watched by someone with their own terrifying agenda, who will stop at nothing to fulfil their own twisted desires. 

But when hidden secrets come rushing to the surface, it’s clear not everything is as it seems in this happy family. Are the Turners a victim of circumstance – or does the key to their fate lie closer to home? 

Forced to fight for everything they hold dear, can they save themselves before time runs out – or will their act of compassion see them paying the ultimate price…? 

READ A SAMPLE:


MY REVIEW:


  All Fall DownAll Fall Down by Tom Bale
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

All Fall Down by Tom Bale is a 2016 Bookouture publication. I was provided a copy of this book by the publisher and Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

This book was trending for a while a few weeks ago, so I thought I should probably check it out and I’d say it was worth all the attention.

‘All Fall Down’ is a taut, edgy, psychological thriller, coiled up tighter than wound spring.

Rob and Wendy are having a nice evening, cooking outdoors, when a badly injured man stumbles onto their lawn. Later they find out the man has died. At first, it seemed like a very bizarre incident, but Rob begins receiving disturbing notes, and a series of odd occurrences has the family on edge.



Rob’s business was involved in some questionable dealings which he is just now recovering from, and his marriage has reached a turning point, with Wendy expressing dissatisfaction, and their children, Josh, Evan, and Georgia are each deeply entrenched in their own lives. But, when they all go away together for a family holiday, things go horribly awry, when they are placed in a terrifying predicament, putting them in survival mode, for better or worse.



Whew! This story really put me through the wringer! My heart rate spiked a few times and I felt nervous and uncomfortable from start to finish. The psychological terror comes from not knowing who to trust, not knowing what the motive could be, and from inner turmoil within the Turner household. Rob and Wendy’s paranoia is catching as they question event from their past, wondering if it is all somehow connected.



I like stories that expose the fragility of human nature, that implies we are all vulnerable to suggestion, are all capable of almost anything when it comes to survival or protecting our family. This story winds around those loops with precision, exposing the darkest corner of the human psyche, proving we may all have a trigger that turns us into someone we wouldn’t be under normal circumstances, and also proves the power of familial ties, and even the power of love, despite the turbulent and unorthodox way it presents itself.

The characters are certainly unique, rousing me to pull for them, but still left me feeling unsure about trusting them explicitly.

What secrets are you harboring? How far would you go to save your family? How much are you will to hide? What sacrifices are you willing to make and can you live with those choices?



Thought provoking, dark and chilling, and utterly terrifying at times, this novel is one you must read if like suspense thrillers of any kind.

GET YOUR COPY HERE:

https://www.amazon.com/All-Fall-Down-gripping-psychological-ebook/dp/B01GK0CAR4/

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Tom Bale has had a variety of jobs including retail assistant, claims negotiator and project manager, but none was as exhausting as the several years he spent as a househusband with two pre-school children. Tom has been writing since the age of seven, and completed his first novel at fifteen. After twenty years and hundreds of rejection slips, his first novel SINS OF THE FATHER was published under his real name, David Harrison. With his next book, SKIN AND BONES, he acquired an agent, a pseudonym and a book deal that enabled him to write full time. He lives in Brighton, England, with his family. Visit his website at www.tombale.net, follow him on Facebook, or on Twitter: @t0mbale (zero instead of "o").

Thursday, September 29, 2016

I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh- Feature and Review



ABOUT THE BOOK:

In a split second, Jenna Gray's world descends into a nightmare. Her only hope of moving on is to walk away from everything she knows to start afresh. Desperate to escape, Jenna moves to a remote cottage on the Welsh coast, but she is haunted by her fears, her grief and her memories of a cruel November night that changed her life forever.

Slowly, Jenna begins to glimpse the potential for happiness in her future. But her past is about to catch up with her, and the consequences will be devastating . . .
 (

READ A SAMPLE:



MY REVIEW:

I Let You GoI Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh is a 2016 Berkley publication.


I heard so many good things about this book, by the time I got my hands on a copy I was frothing at the mouth with excitement. Did the book live up to all the hype?

Oh yeah, it’s very clever! The one downside is that it is hard to say much of anything at all about the plot, so I will refer you back to the book synopsis/blurb to get the setup.

I did have a few issues with a couple of lead characters, but since no one is mentioning that part of the story, I won’t either. Other than that, I was impressed with this debut thriller, which lures you in with a heart wrenching situation, quietly and slowly, but despite the low key pacing, the mystery deepens as you go along, becoming more curious and puzzling, and the last quarter of the book was absolutely riveting with one huge, shocking gut punch you will not see coming, which also comes with a few aftershocks.

So despite the understated quality the book begins with, by the time you finish the book you might experience a little mental exhaustion.



Although I hate writing such a vague review when I feel the need to discuss the characters and my personal opinion of them, and would like to have the opportunity to drop a few clues that would compel someone to give the book a try, I can tell you that if you like psychological thrillers and mysteries you will most likely appreciate this one and the cunning technique of the author employs.



Overall, this one gets kudos for originality, for tossing the formula writing out the window and for giving me a story that challenged me, which is just what I am always on the lookout for.

GET YOUR COPY HERE:

https://www.amazon.com/Let-You-Go-Clare-Mackintosh-ebook/dp/B013D669UC/

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/i-let-you-go-clare-mackintosh/1122454967

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Clare Mackintosh spent twelve years in the UK police force, including time on CID, and as a public order commander. She left the police in 2011 to work as a freelance journalist and social media consultant, and now writes full time. 

Clare's debut novel, I Let You Go, is a Sunday Times Bestseller and was 2015's fastest selling title by a new crime writer. It was the winner of the Richard and Judy Book Club readers' vote, and was selected for ITV's Loose Women's 'Loose Books'. 

Clare is the founder of Chipping Norton Literary Festival, and lives in the Cotswolds, UK, with her husband and their three children. 

For more information visit Clare's website www.claremackintosh.com or find her at www.facebook.com/ClareMackWrites or on Twitter @ClareMackint0sh #ILetYouGo

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

All The Missing Girls by Megan Miranda- Feature and Review


Like the spellbinding psychological suspense in The Girl on the Train and Luckiest Girl Alive, Megan Miranda’s novel is a nail-biting, breathtaking story about the disappearances of two young women—a decade apart—told in reverse.

It’s been ten years since Nicolette Farrell left her rural hometown after her best friend, Corinne, disappeared from Cooley Ridge without a trace. Back again to tie up loose ends and care for her ailing father, Nic is soon plunged into a shocking drama that reawakens Corinne’s case and breaks open old wounds long since stitched.

The decade-old investigation focused on Nic, her brother Daniel, boyfriend Tyler, and Corinne’s boyfriend Jackson. Since then, only Nic has left Cooley Ridge. Daniel and his wife, Laura, are expecting a baby; Jackson works at the town bar; and Tyler is dating Annaleise Carter, Nic’s younger neighbor and the group’s alibi the night Corinne disappeared. Then, within days of Nic’s return, Annaleise goes missing.

Told backwards—Day 15 to Day 1—from the time Annaleise goes missing, Nic works to unravel the truth about her younger neighbor’s disappearance, revealing shocking truths about her friends, her family, and what really happened to Corinne that night ten years ago.

Like nothing you’ve ever read before, All the Missing Girls delivers in all the right ways. With twists and turns that lead down dark alleys and dead ends, you may think you’re walking a familiar path, but then Megan Miranda turns it all upside down and inside out and leaves us wondering just how far we would be willing to go to protect those we love.





MY REVIEW:


  All the Missing GirlsAll the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda is a 2016 Simon & Schuster publication.

“It is quite true what philosophy says; that life must be understood backward. But then one forgets the other principle: that it must be lived forwards. – Soren Kierkegaard

‘All the Missing Girls’, is a crafty, twisty/bending mystery told in a very innovative way, backwards, like a countdown, leading up to the big climax.

When Nicolette Farrell gets a phone call from her brother, Daniel, regarding the health of their father and the need to sell the family home, Nic, reluctantly agrees to come home to Cooley Ridge.

A decade ago, Nic’s best friend disappeared, upending everyone’s lives forever. Nic is the only one of her friends to leave home, and forge a new life. But, now that she has returned, her past comes to roost in the present, when another young girl disappears, opening up old wounds, revealing stunning secrets, and churning up old memories, lost loves, jealousies, and hidden crimes.

Before Nic can move forward with her life, she must discover the truth about what happened ten years ago, and find out what happened to her young neighbor, Annaleise. In the meantime, she floats between the past and present, struggling with memory, nostalgia, angst, but most of all she’s afraid of how the past may affect her future, as her father, ex-boyfriend, Tyler, and her brother, are all under suspicion and every step she takes is being watched closely…

I loved the stylish presentation the author employed, which really challenged me and certainly staved off any hint of boredom. The story is told from Nicolette’s POV, who takes us on a moody, atmospheric journey into her past, which will throw turn her carefully planned future into complete disarray.

Nic was deeply affected by her friend’s disappearance for many reasons, stirring up feelings of guilt and remorse, while her feelings for Tyler remains unsettled. To top things off, she must cope with the drain of her father’s dementia, getting the house ready to sell, and the complicated relationship she has with her brother.

The new missing persons case, puts them all back on the old rumor mill, creating a renewed interest in the cold case.

All of this creates an aura of edgy suspense, and produces a creepy, heavy feeling of foreboding, that had me sitting on pins and needles. The characters are all secretive, complex, and even a little dangerous, which made me wonder what they knew, what lies they had told, and why. No one is above suspicion!
I can’t say I felt a ginormous sense of peace once all was said and done, nor do I know exactly how to feel about how everything turned out in the end, but I did find the story absorbing, and immensely satisfying in a dark and twisty sort of way.

I definitely get why this book is so popular and am thankful I finally got a copy, after months of waiting. However, it was definitely worth the long wait.

GET YOUR COPY HERE:
https://www.amazon.com/All-Missing-Girls-Megan-Miranda-ebook/dp/B0176M3UJW/

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/all-the-missing-girls-ms-megan-miranda/1122885870

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Megan Miranda is the author of the young adult novels FRACTURE, HYSTERIA, VENGEANCE, and SOULPRINT. Her next young adult novel, THE SAFEST LIES, will be published by Crown BFYR/Random House on May 24th, 2016. Her first novel for adults, ALL THE MISSING GIRLS, will be published by Simon & Schuster on June 28th, 2016. Megan has a degree in Biology from MIT and currently lives near Charlotte, North Carolina, with her husband and two children.
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorMeganM...
Instagramhttp://instagram.com/MeganLMiranda

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Trouble With Mistletoe by Jill Shalvis- Feature and Review

If she has her way ...

Willa Davis is wrangling puppies when Keane Winters stalks into her pet shop with frustration in his chocolate-brown eyes and a pink bedazzled cat carrier in his hand. He needs a kitty sitter, stat. But the last thing Willa needs is to rescue a guy who doesn’t even remember her ...

He’ll get nothing but coal in his stocking.

Saddled with his great-aunt’s Feline from Hell, Keane is desperate to leave her in someone else’s capable hands. But in spite of the fact that he’s sure he’s never seen the drop-dead-gorgeous pet shop owner before, she seems to be mad at him ...

Unless he tempers “naughty” with a special kind of nice ...

Willa can’t deny that Keane’s changed since high school: he’s less arrogant, for one thing—but can she trust him not to break her heart again? It’s time to throw a coin in the fountain, make a Christmas wish—and let the mistletoe do its work ...







MY REVIEW:
  The Trouble with Mistletoe (Heartbreaker Bay, #2)The Trouble with Mistletoe by Jill Shalvis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Trouble with Mistletoe by Jill Shalvis is a 2016 Avon publication. I was provided a copy of this book by the publisher and Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

Jill Shalvis has written an engaging story with witty dialogue, sprinkled with humor and a dash of that special holiday spirit.

Willa, grew up in foster care, due to having an alcoholic mother, who couldn’t keep herself together. But, now,Willa runs her own pet shop, has a few close friends, and helps other girls caught up in the system to stay on a straight path. But, when it comes to romance, a few bad experiences in that department has convinced her love is not worth the risk.

But, when Keane Winters, one of those bad romantic experiences, shows up at the shop with his ailing aunt’s cat, Petunia, needing help, Willa can’t refuse to help. But, to make an embarrassing situation worse, it seems Keane has no memory of Willa, adding to her mortification.

Keane was a star football player in high school, but now he flips houses, and has apparently matured a lot over the years. He may not remember Willa from his school days, but he’s having an awfully hard time keeping her off his mind now!

Willa is a very open and big-hearted person, but closed off to the idea of letting a man into her life, especially one as delicious as Keane. Keane, on the other hand, never contemplated falling in love, or commitment, and all the rest of it. He never felt that strongly for anyone to consider it… until now.
But, he’s having a very hard time convincing Willa to take a chance on him.

Perhaps a little mistletoe magic would help?



I really enjoyed this cute holiday romp filled with hilarious animals, special friends, super steamy sexy time, and a very special happily ever after!

The mistletoe does indeed work its magic on Willa and Keane, and they will leave you feeling happy and full of holiday cheer!!





ON SALE NOW:


https://www.amazon.com/Trouble-Mistletoe-Heartbreaker-Bay-Novel-ebook/dp/B01A5CEK3A/


http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-trouble-with-mistletoe-jill-shalvis/1123199216

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


New York Times bestselling author Jill Shalvis lives in a small town in the Sierras with her family and far too many assorted quirky characters. Any resemblance to the quirky characters in her books is, um, mostly coincidental.

Look for Jill's latest, SWEET LITTLE LIES on shelves and e-readers now, and get all her bestselling, award-winning books wherever romances are sold.

Visit Jill's website for a complete book list and daily blog detailing her city-girl-living-in-the-mountains adventures.

Connect with Jill on Facebook: http://facebook.com/JillShalvis


Connect with Jill on Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/jillshalvis


Connect with Jill on Tumblr: http://jillshalvis.tumblr.com


Unbound Pursuit by Lindsay McKenna- Book Blast + Giveaway


As Wyatt plans a dangerous operation to catch the drug dealers, 
Tal fears she could lose the man she loves.


UNBOUND PURSUIT
DELOS Series 2B1
Lindsay McKenna
Releasing Sept 29, 2016
Blue Turtle Publishing


You met Tal and Wyatt's in Tangled Pursuit, book 2 in the Delos Series. Read their continued story.

Captain Talia Culver risked her heart again for Navy SEAL Wyatt Lockwood. The brave, cocky Texan was worth the risk and Talia couldn’t be happier. Still recovering from injuries she received from her last mission in Afghanistan, Wyatt whisks her away to meet his family on their sprawling Texas ranch. But things don’t go as planned when Wyatt hears the local gossip that his drug dealing ex-friend is out of prison and planning a drug run across the Lockwood ranch. Wyatt wants to enjoy some hard-earned down time with Tal, but he can’t ignore the danger at his backdoor.

As Wyatt plans a dangerous operation to catch the drug dealers, Tal fears she could lose the man she loves.
BUY NOW
Amazon | B&N | iTunes | Kobo

See how it all began in Tangled Pursuit



Lindsay McKenna lives her life as a risk taker, and it shines through the books she loves to write: romance, adventure and suspense. She started writing at age thirteen and continues to hone her writing skills to this day. She sold her first romance novel in 1981. The rest is history.

Because she went into the military, this experience became the backbone of her writing—she is credited with writing the first military romance novel (Captive of Fate, 1983, Silhouette Special Edition) and has created a thriving sub-genre within the romance field! As a New York Times Best Selling author, she has sold 23 million books and in 32 foreign languages in her career thus far. Her many experiences in the U.S. Navy are backdrop for her understanding of the military in general, and also her very successful Morgan’s Mercenaries, which is an ongoing series in Silhouette to this day! Forty-five books strong!

Lindsay has gone Indie in 2015 and has created a new family saga on par with Morgan’s Mercenaries It is known as the DELOS SERIES. There will be paperback and eBooks created under Blue Turtle Publishing, her company for her fans. Readers who love Morgan and his family are bound to fall in love with the Culver family. Delos is romantic suspense, which Lindsay is well known for. It took her five years to create and bring DELOS to her readers. It was worth the wait, but we’ll let you decide that.

Lindsay loves to hear from her readers and loves to know what they’d like to see her write next. Stay up with the latest on the Delos Series here. Please visit her Web site at www.lindsaymckenna.com. And be sure to sign up for her free quarterly newsletter. It contains exclusive content found nowhere else on the Net. Plus, giveaways and other surprises, to her loyal and faithful subscribers!




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Monday, September 26, 2016

Before the Fall by Noah Hawley- Feature and Review


ABOUT THE BOOKS:

On a foggy summer night, eleven people—ten privileged, one down-on-his-luck painter—depart Martha's Vineyard on a private jet headed for New York. Sixteen minutes later, the unthinkable happens: the plane plunges into the ocean. The only survivors are Scott Burroughs—the painter—and a four-year-old boy, who is now the last remaining member of an immensely wealthy and powerful media mogul's family. 

With chapters weaving between the aftermath of the crash and the backstories of the passengers and crew members—including a Wall Street titan and his wife, a Texan-born party boy just in from London, a young woman questioning her path in life, and a career pilot—the mystery surrounding the tragedy heightens. As the passengers' intrigues unravel, odd coincidences point to a conspiracy. Was it merely by dumb chance that so many influential people perished? Or was something far more sinister at work? Events soon threaten to spiral out of control in an escalating storm of media outrage and accusations. And while Scott struggles to cope with fame that borders on notoriety, the authorities scramble to salvage the truth from the wreckage.

WATCH THE BOOK TRAILER:




MY REVIEW:


Before the FallBefore the Fall by Noah Hawley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Before the Fall by Noah Hawley is a 2016 Grand Central publication.


This is a very original novel, atmospheric and mysterious, multi-layered and suspenseful, but is also a scathing look at the media, which is clever, but caustically, woven into the story.

When a passenger plane, carrying nine adults and two children, crashes in the ocean, the only survivors are Scott, an artist, and a last minute addition to the flight, and J.J. the son of a prominent media mogul. Scott saves the child, miraculously swimming to shore, thus becoming a media sensation and labeled a hero.



The author introduces us to each passenger on the plane via flashbacks, while we watch the FBI try to determine the cause of the crash. On a more poignant note, we look on as poor, orphaned, J.J. is sent to live with his aunt and the adjustments she must make, and how Scott suddenly finds himself a media darling, and also the object of much scrutiny by the FBI and others who are chomping at the bit to make him a scapegoat, examining every tiny inch of his life, hoping to dig up any dirt they can find.

Determining the cause of a plane crash is always tedious, and leaves us all feeling disquieted and concerned. Was it mechanical? Pilot error? Was there an altercation during the flight? An act of terrorism? The search for remains and wreckage is harrowing and very tense, as well as emotional.

I enjoyed this story, and all the various insights into human nature, the various walks of life each person involved came from, their way of dealing with the cards they were dealt. It’s an interesting juxtaposition, which makes this novel more than just a mystery or crime drama, but perhaps it falls more into a literary position, as well.

I can’t say too much more, but I can say I really loved the last bit, even if the story ended too abruptly.

Overall, this is a very compelling mystery, is sad, emotional, but also has it’s uplifting moments, which, despite the horrible expose’ on the dark side of humanity, gives one hope, knowing there are good people out there, and hopefully those characters will inspire a little something in all of us.

GET YOUR COPY HERE:

https://www.amazon.com/Before-Fall-Noah-Hawley-ebook/dp/B0151YQUTE/

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/before-the-fall-noah-hawley/1120509012


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Noah Hawley is an Emmy, Golden Globe, PEN, Critics' Choice, and Peabody Award-winning author, screenwriter, and producer. He has published four novels and penned the script for the feature film Lies and Alibis. He created, executive produced, and served as showrunner for ABC's My Generation and The Unusuals and was a writer and producer on the hit series Bones. Hawley is currently executive producer, writer, and showrunner on FX's award-winning series, Fargo.



A Fool For You by Katee Robert- Excerpt Reveal


It’s just a belated goodbye, right? No harm, no foul.


A FOOL FOR YOU
Foolproof Love #3
Katee Robert
Releasing Oct 3rd, 2016
Entangled: Brazen


It’s been thirteen years since Hope Moore left Devil’s Falls, land of sexy cowboys and bad memories. Back for the weekend, she has no intention of seeing the man she never got over…or the two of them getting down and dirty. It’s just a belated goodbye, right? No harm, no foul.

Until six weeks later, when her pregnancy test comes back positive…

Daniel Rodriguez hasn’t forgiven himself for how things went down with Hope all those years ago. He knows she’s better off without him, but when she shows up on his doorstep, panicking because she’s pregnant with his baby, he can’t help seeing it as a chance to make up for the past.

Too bad Hope has no intention of going along with his plans.

Pre-Order


 Chapter One
Hope Moore held her breath as she passed the sign declaring Welcome to Devil’s Falls. She hadn’t crossed the town boundary in thirteen years, not since she sat next to an open grave as they lowered her brother into the ground. Not since she turned her back on her entire life here, whisked away by her parents to the best medical facilities Texas had to offer.
She touched her knee. She’d never cheered again, never run track, never done any of the things she’d had planned when she was eighteen and had graduated high school with stars in her eyes.
Stars in her eyes, and love in her heart.
Neither had lasted past that car crash.
Oh, it had taken the love a lot longer to die than it had her knee, but Daniel Rodriguez made sure she knew where she stood with him.
She caught herself taking her foot off the gas and picked up speed again. There was no telling if she’d see him while she was here, but it couldn’t matter. She’d moved past what happened that night, moved past the disappointment that she’d almost let sour everything else about her life. It might not have happened like she planned, but she’d made the best of her college experience, and she’d gone on to create a successful little niche for herself, helping people and institutions with too much money on their hands create trusts and scholarships for those in need.
And now Hope was back in town to finally do that in her brother’s memory.
She pulled onto Main Street, heading for the only lodgings someone out of town with no relatives to stay with would consider—Sara Jane’s B&B. It was a nice little place, but Sara Jane was nosy to a criminal degree and gossiped more than anyone Hope had ever come across. The second she checked in and went up to her room, everyone with a phone would be getting a call letting them know that she was back in town.
It wasn’t that it was a secret, but she couldn’t help but feel that she’d always be John Moore’s little sister, the one who survived when her older brother—her better in a lot of ways—didn’t. She knew that was her own insecurity. She’d had too many years of therapy to believe anything else, except in her darkest heart of hearts, the place she didn’t let see the light any more than strictly necessary.
But it was hard to ignore that little voice when driving through Devil’s Falls. No, not through. To. This was her destination.
Her parents hadn’t been too thrilled about her coming back, even for a limited time, but even they couldn’t deny that this scholarship she was here to set up was a good thing—the right way to honor John. He’d been in the middle of a full ride at the University of Texas when he was killed, and it made sense to set it up to allow other kids the opportunity he’d never be able to realize.
She pressed a hand to her chest and pulled into the nearest parking spot against the curb. God, even after all this time, it still hurts. Most days it didn’t. He’d been gone long enough that she’d processed her grief as much as one person could process grief, and she was able to focus on the good memories.
Most days.
Her eyes focused on the sign she’d been staring blindly at, and she frowned. Cups and Kittens. That was new. In a town as mired in the past as Devil’s Falls, change was something of a novelty. Or maybe she was biased in a negative way, because the only thing this town held for her was memories. Some bad, mostly good, all dust now.
Pathetically grateful for something external to focus on, she climbed out of her car and looked at the cheery window painting depicting kittens frolicking in between flowers.
The B&B could wait a little while longer. Her meeting with the town board wasn’t until tomorrow, so there was no reason she couldn’t do a little poking around in the meantime. Thirteen years was a long time. If anyone had asked her, she would have joked that she hadn’t expected anything about Devil’s Falls to change while she was gone.
Apparently she’d been wrong.
She pushed through the door and froze in the face of a pair of cats staring at her from their perch on a table overlooking the big window in the front. The sight surprised a laugh out of her. “Cups and Kittens, indeed.”
“In the most literal sense.”
She glanced over at the woman behind the counter, a third cat lounging near the register. Familiarity rolled over Hope. “Jules Rodriguez.” Daniel’s little cousin. Not so little anymore. Last time she’d seen Jules, the girl had been lanky to an almost awkward degree and had braces with bright green bands. She’d grown up pretty, and there was more of Daniel about her now than there had been when she was a kid.
Or maybe I’m just back in Devil’s Falls and seeing Daniel wherever I look.
Jules’s dark eyes cleared. “Hope? What are you doing back in town?” She hesitated. “I don’t suppose you’re here to sweep my brooding cousin off his feet and shove him back into real life?”
Her mind tripped over itself trying to keep up with the other woman’s verbal gymnastics. Jules had always been like that, now that she thought about it—a bright and bubbly steamroller. She tried to weed her way through what the woman had just said, but there was only one thing she could focus on. Daniel. Always Daniel. “What do you mean, back into real life?”
“Well, you know.”
No, she really didn’t. She studied Jules’s face, the way she wouldn’t quite meet her eyes. “Is he okay?” She hadn’t missed the way Quinn Baldwyn had frozen up when she’d asked that same question a few weeks ago at his sister’s wedding, and worry had been simmering in the back of her mind ever since, no matter how many times she told herself it wasn’t any of her business. Daniel was a grown man, and he had always been more than capable of taking care of himself—and everyone else around him. Things changed, but she couldn’t see that changing.
Jules shifted, her hand darting out to pet the calico on the counter and then darting away when the cat swiped at her. “Define okay.”
It was none of her business. It stopped being her business a very long time ago.
But that didn’t stop her from clearing her throat and asking, “Is he…is he married?” Did he build the house we always talked about and have those two wild boys and one sweet girl? Does he bring his wife waffles for breakfast in bed on the weekends?
Oh my God, stop.
But Jules was already shaking her head, her mouth turning down. “Nope. No wife, no kids, no serious relationship in, well, thirteen years.”
Hope blinked. “You’re joking.”
“I wish I was.” A calculating look came into her eyes, but then she shook herself and it was all guileless enthusiasm. “What are you doing for dinner?” She rushed on without waiting for a response. “We’re having a little thing with Quinn and my friend Aubry, and, well, I kind of went and married Adam Meyers.”
Some things really do change. She remembered Adam, the wild-eyed boy who’d grown into a wild-eyed man, better than she remembered Jules. No one had expected him to come back to Devil’s Falls after he blew out of town that last time, let alone to settle here and…get married. “Wow. What’s Daniel have to say about that?”
“He was best man at our wedding.” Jules laughed. “Though he was pretty furious at the beginning. Here, sit down. You look like you could use a coffee, and I’ll tell you the story since we’re generally pretty dead Thursday nights. Then I’ll close up and we can go to dinner. The boys will love to see you. Quinn was just talking about you the other day.”
Hope wasn’t sure she actually agreed to any of it, but the next thing she knew, she was drinking coffee while a cat curled up in her lap and listening to Jules’s wild tale about a fake relationship that turned into a real relationship. Somehow in the middle of that, she was bundled up into Jules’s truck, and by then it was too late to change her mind.
She settled into her seat, consoling herself with the fact that Jules had very specifically not mentioned Daniel’s name. There was no reason to think he’d be there, but it would be nice to reconnect with some of her old friends. As much as it had hurt when things went south with Daniel, knowing that she’d lost Quinn and Adam, too, had just been salt in the wound. She’d chased them around since she could toddle after her big brother and his friends, and they’d turned into true friends over the years. She understood why they hadn’t reached out, but she wasn’t going to turn down a chance to catch up with them.
It would probably be the only nice thing about being back in Devil’s Falls.
“Not interested.”
“You haven’t even heard what I’m asking.”
“Don’t need to.” Daniel Rodriguez leaned down and unbuckled Rita’s saddle and hefted it off the horse’s back. They’d had a good run today, the hot sun making it impossible to think too hard about anything other than whether a human being could roast alive in Texas in August. He hadn’t yet, so that put the odds ever so slightly in his favor.
All he wanted was to finish here and head back to his place for a cold shower and an even colder beer.
It would just fucking figure that the universe had other ideas. He glanced up, but Aubry Kaiser hadn’t moved. In fact, with her arms crossed over her chest and her chin up, all signs pointed to this adding up to an argument he couldn’t possibly win.
Damn it.
“No.”
She frowned harder. “It’s your birthday. You can’t just sit at home by yourself.”
“Since it’s my birthday, this is the one day a year I should be able to do exactly that with no one bitching at me.” He regretted the harsh words almost as soon as they were out of his mouth, but Aubry wasn’t like his little cousin. She was meaner than a rattler and twice as likely to bite.
She narrowed her amber eyes at him. “Your cousin misses you.”
That explained why she was out here when he knew for a fact she thought horses were akin to goats—as in, the devil’s own creatures. Hell, she was giving poor Rita a suspicious look even while guilt-tripping him using the one person in his life he couldn’t say no to.
Which doesn’t explain why Jules herself isn’t here.
“She sees me on a regular basis.”
“This is your birthday.” Aubry sighed and rolled her eyes, looking put-upon. “Look, it goes like this—Jules has worked really hard to put together a surprise birthday party for you, and if you don’t show up to be surprised, she’s going to be crushed.”
He stared. “I don’t want a surprise birthday party.” The fact that it was no longer a surprise said a whole lot about Aubry’s priorities, and he couldn’t blame her for that.
“Look at my face. This is the face of a woman who doesn’t give two fucks what you care about. What I care about is Jules, and that means you’re going to go shower off the smell of that animal and show up at their house in an hour, right on time.” She paused, her brows slanting down in an expression that was downright forbidding. “You helped me out not too long ago, so I’m going to do you a solid and give you the lowdown. Ready?”
Fuck, no. “Sure.”
“Jules is worried about you. Really worried. If you don’t show up tonight, she’s going to take that as a sign to go forward with plan B.”
He knew he was going to regret it, but he still asked, “What’s plan B?”
Aubry gave a tight smile. “A full-scale intervention with everyone in your life, including your parents. The kind where they sit you down in a circle and each speak their mind in the most uncomfortable way possible until you’re ready to beg the ground to swallow you whole.” Her smile dimmed. “She’s worried about you, Daniel.”
Everyone seemed worried about him, though they usually did him the courtesy of at least trying to hide the looks exchanged when they thought he wasn’t looking. The whispered conversations with his various cousins and his parents. The never-ending work that was only there because they were throwing him a goddamn bone. It didn’t seem to matter that he hadn’t done anything requiring an intervention. He’d just stopped enjoying the company of people, mostly because he was such shitty company these days. But try telling that to the family, and they acted like he had just confessed to being an ax murderer.
At least Jules had mostly stayed out of it. Up until today.
He grabbed the curry brush and went over Rita’s back. Aubry was right. Showing up to a party he didn’t want on a day he sure as fuck didn’t feel like celebrating was vastly preferable to the alternative. “Explain to me what the plan is.”
She gave a grin that did nothing to reassure him. “Dinner and drinks. It’ll be nice. Adam and Quinn miss you.”
“I see those assholes every day.” Kind of hard not to when they worked the ranch alongside him. It felt right to have Adam back, to have Quinn there, but at the same time it was a constant reminder that they were a man short.
And it was his fault.
“It’s different and you know it,” Aubry continued, obviously enjoying how miserable he was. She’d always been a mean one, which never failed to amuse him because Jules was her polar opposite—as bright and happy as a spring day. Rita shifted in her stall, and Aubry went even paler than she was normally. “Dinner starts at six. Don’t be late.” Then she was gone, moving at a clip fast enough that a less cautious man than Daniel would call it running.
He waited a good five minutes before he followed, hauling the saddle into the tack room and sorting out the bridle. He didn’t begrudge Quinn his happiness—or Adam, for that matter—but sometimes it sure as fuck was hard to be around them and their women. The fact that one of those women was his little cousin barely entered into it.
He headed for his truck and took the pitted dirt road leading around the edge of his parents’ property to the little house he’d built a few years ago. It wasn’t anything fancy, but it got the job done, and it was far enough outside town that most people thought twice before stopping by unannounced.
Most people not including his family.
The shower did nothing to ward off the feeling of pending doom. It wasn’t that he didn’t like Jules or Adam or Quinn or whoever the fuck else was going to be at this damn party, but he wasn’t in the partying sort of mood. Truth be told, he hadn’t been in that mood for over a decade. It was almost enough to make him call the whole thing off, but the knowledge that Jules would have no problem bringing the party to him got him moving again. Not to mention the potential intervention he needed like he needed a hole in the head.
At least if he went there, he could hang out for the appropriate amount of time, make his excuses, and slip out while everyone else was occupied. Two hours, tops.
Feeling significantly better, he pulled on a pair of his favorite old jeans and a T-shirt and grabbed his keys. It struck him as he walked out the door that he was thirty-fucking-four years old. How the hell did that happen? He shook his head. He knew damn well how that happened. One day turned into a week, a month, a year, a decade. All while he kept on keeping, the world changing around him, but never changing enough.
He glanced at his watch. “Two hours starts when I get there.”



New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author Katee Robert learned to tell her stories at her grandpa’s knee. She found romance novels at age twelve and they changed her life. When not writing sexy contemporary and romantic suspense, she spends her time playing imaginary games with her children, driving her husband batty with what-if questions, and planning for the inevitable zombie apocalypse.


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