Month: October 2018

Broken Windows Book Blast

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Broken Windows

by Paul D. Marks

October 30, 2018 Book Blast

Synopsis:

Broken Windows by Paul D. Marks

While the storm rages over California’s notorious 1994 anti-illegal alien Proposition 187, a young woman climbs to the top of the famous Hollywood sign—and jumps to her death. An undocumented day laborer is murdered. And a disbarred and desperate lawyer in Venice Beach places an ad in a local paper that says: “Will Do Anything For Money.” Private Detective Duke Rogers, and his very unPC partner, Jack Riggs, must figure out what ties together these seemingly unrelated incidents. Their mission catapults them through a labyrinth of murder, intrigue and corruption of church, state and business that hovers around the immigration debate. Along the way we explore the fiery immigration issue from all sides and no one escapes unscathed.

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery/Crime/Thriller
Published by: Down & Out Books
Publication Date: September 10th 2018
Number of Pages: 360
ISBN: 1948235072 (ISBN13: 9781948235075)
Series: Duke Rogers PI, #2
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

PROLOGUE

The Hollywood Sign beckoned her like a magnet—or like a moth to a flame. The sign glowed golden in the magic hour sun—that time of day around sunrise and sunset when the light falls soft and warm and cinematographers love to shoot. Like so many others, Susan Karubian had come here seeking fame and fortune, hoping to make her mark on the world. Oh hell, she had come to be a star like all the others. And she would do it, just not quite in the heady way she’d anticipated.

She had spent hours deciding what to wear. After all, this wasn’t exactly in the etiquette books. Probably not the kind of thing you’d find in Ask Amy column. She finally decided on a tasteful dress with high-heeled sandals.

The young woman drove her Passat down Hollywood Boulevard, turning up Franklin, passing the Magic Castle. She turned slowly up Beachwood Canyon, past the low-rent area north of Franklin, up through the towering stone gates with their “Welcome to Beachwood Canyon” signs. Past the movie star homes in the hills—past where she thought she’d be living by now. She drove in circles, past piles of rubble from the earthquake several months ago, figuring that sooner or later she’d hit the right combination of roads and end up where she wanted to be.

The Passat crested the top of the mountain—mountain or hill? What was the difference anyway? A small concrete building with an antenna sat just below the road. No cars. No one around. As quiet as the Sherman Oaks Galleria on a Monday morning. She parked on Mt. Lee Drive.

She rolled up the windows, locked the car, set her purse on the floor by the gas pedal. The note she’d written in a steady hand tucked into her pocket. She hoped someone would find it quickly. Standing beside the car, she realized she’d have to hike down to get to the sign. She had thought it would be at the top of the mountain. She was buggin’, as she treaded toward the edge of the road.

The nonstop rain of the last couple weeks had broken. The view from up here was incredible. You could almost see Mexico to the south and the Pacific glittering in the west. The city below, shiny and bright. Pretty and clean from up here. A million doll houses that reminded her of childhood, playing with dolls and making everything come out the way she wanted it to. Little toy cars down below, scooting back and forth. Swarms of ants scurrying this way and that on important business. Oh yeah, everyone here had important business all day and all night. Everyone but her. She gazed down at Los Angeles on the cusp of the millennium. The place to be. Center of the universe. Totally.

She hesitated at the edge of the road, her toe kicking some gravel down the hill. It clattered down, somehow reminding her of the industrial music in the clubs where she liked to hang.

Should she try to talk to him? What would be the point now? She was talked out. And he wouldn’t forgive her. Why should he? She had hurt him. No, it was beyond hurt. There was no way to rationalize it.

***

Excerpt from Broken Windows by Paul D. Marks. Copyright © 2018 by Paul D. Marks. Reproduced with permission from Paul D. Marks. All rights reserved.

Author Bio:

Paul D. Marks

Broken Windows, the sequel to Paul D. Marks’ Shamus Award-winning mystery-thriller White Heat hit the shelves 9/10/18. Publishers Weekly called White Heat a “taut crime yarn” and said of Broken Windows: “Fans of downbeat PI fiction will be satisfied…with Shamus Award winner Marks’s solid sequel to… White Heat.” Though thrillers and set in the 1990s, both novels deal with issues that are hot and relevant today: racism and immigration, respectively. Marks says “Broken Windows holds up a prism from which we can view the events burning up today’s headlines, like the passionate immigration debate, through the lens of the recent past. It all comes down to the saying we know so well, ‘the more things change, the more they stay the same’.” His short stories appear in Ellery Queen and Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazines, among others, and have won or been nominated for many awards, including the Anthony, Derringer and Macavity. His story Windward, has been selected for the Best American Mystery Stories of 2018, edited by Louise Penny & Otto Penzler, and won the 2018 Macavity Award for Best Short Story and was also short-listed for a 2018 Shamus Award. Ghosts of Bunker Hill was voted #1 in the 2016 Ellery Queen Readers Poll. He is co-editor of the multi-award nominated anthology Coast to Coast: Private Eyes from Sea to Shining Sea.

Catch Up With Our Author On:
Website, Goodreads, Twitter, & Facebook!

Tour Participants:

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This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Paul D. Marks. There will be 1 winner of one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card. The giveaway begins on October 30, 2018 and runs through November 7, 2018. Void where prohibited

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The Nanny Song Blog Tour: Book Review

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I’m so pleased to share The Nanny Song with you all today! There’s also a great giveaway at the end so be sure to enter! Hello guys, I am here to share the review of The Nanny Song with you. I am very sorry for the late upload.

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The Nanny Song

Publication Date: May 10th, 2018

Genre: Contemporary Fiction/ Suspense/ Romance

Publisher: Willow River Press
Mallory Riscoe is no stranger to dysfunction. Despite her tumultuous childhood, at twenty-two, she has established herself as a fully functional, self-made woman. However the safe, mundane life she has created for herself is quickly turned upside-down when she’s falsely accused of theft and promptly fired.

Meanwhile, a dismal pall hangs over the Colt residence. Since the death of his wife, Brendan Colt has struggled to care for his children; Kason and Meela. Each is lost in their own deep grief, but there is more to this family than meets the eye.

Two worlds collide when Mallory accepts the job as nanny to the Colt children. Mallory begins to feel a connection, a whisper of trust between them, that could mean there is still hope for everyone involved to heal. But when an unspeakable secret is uncovered that bond, and possibly Mallory’s life itself is now at risk. Can Mallory unlock the mystery intertwined in this chaotic family or will all hope of closure be lost forever?

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REVIEW

I loved reading The Nanny Song! The Nanny Song starts out with Mallory meeting the Colt family in the mall she worked in. This is soon followed by her losing this job and getting hired as the Colt children’s nanny.

I absolutely enjoyed reading this heartwarming and sweet story with a hint of Mystery. This story made me laugh at the kid’s little antics, made my heartache at parts and also kept me at the edge with the mystery. The Nanny Song is an engaging family drama with beautifully written story that you get lost in from the very first page.

I just had a little problem with the book. I felt the end was a bit too rushed and the romance just happened abruptly without much cooking. I wish a few more pages were there to this story to fix the above problem. Even though I had this little problem but still I loved reading this book and would love to recommend it to all contemporary/ family drama readers out there.

LIFE AT 17 RATING

🎐🎐🎐🎐

(4 out of 5 stars)

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Excerpt

A chilly breeze had picked up and it whispered all around her. She was hardly aware of the frigid temperature penetrating her thin pajamas as she stared at Brendan’s form in the darkened cemetery. His shadowy outline was so stoic and somber that Mallory had to fight against her desire to walk in alongside the man and place a comforting arm around his shoulders.

Purchase Below

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About the Author

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Misty Mount has written since age five and was first published at fourteen. By day she’s a caregiver, wife, and mother to a young son but during the quiet hours of night she becomes a novelist.
“I read because my grandmother showed me how to immerse myself in books for recreation, relaxation or even as a coping skill.

I write because my head is filled with daydreams and I like to choose the endings.”

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Giveaway!

For your chance to win a print copy of The Nanny Song, or 1 of 2 digital copies, click the link below!

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Schedule

October 29th

Reads & Reels (Review) http://www.readsandreels.com

Didi Oviatt (Promo) https://didioviatt.wordpress.com

The Bookstanista (Review) https://bookstanista.com

The Voluptuous Book Diva (Excerpt) http://www.thevoluptuousbookdiva.com/

The Reading Mermaid (Review) https://tamarathereadingmermaid.weebly.com/

Where Dragons Reside (Review) https://kernerangelina.live/

October 30th

Helen Hollick (Guest Post) https://ofhistoryandkings.blogspot.co.uk/

The Cozy Pages (Promo) http://thecozypages.wordpress.com/

Darque Dreamer Reads (Review) https://darquedreamerreads.wordpress.com

My Books, My Baby, and I (Review) https://mybabymybooksandi.wordpress.com

Life at 17 (Review) https://lifeat17.wordpress.com

October 31st

Loving Life Every Day (Interview) https://lauramorningstar.com

Valerie’s Musings (Interview) http://valeriesmusings76.wordpress.com

Bri’s Book Nook (Review) http://brisbooknook.wordpress.com

November 1st

Dash Fan Book Reviews (Review) Dashfan81.blogspot.com

Wicked Good Reads (Review) http://www.wickedgoodreads.com

Plot Monsters (Promo) http://plotmonster.wordpress.com

On the Shelf Book Reviews (Interview) https://ontheshelfreviews.wordpress.com

November 2nd

Cup of Toast (Interview) https://cupoftoast.co.uk

The Genre Minx (Promo) http://www.thegenreminx.com/

Jessica Rachow (Review) Jessicarachow.wordpress.com

Blog Tour Organized By:

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R&R Book Tours

Iron & Aqua Cover and Blurb Reveal

Iron & Aqua

By Amy McNulty

Series: Blood, Bloom, & Water Book Three

Publisher: Snowy Wings Publishing

Publication Date: First Quarter 2019

A beguiling vampire. The besotted girl who agreed to be his champion. The ongoing battle to save not only the vampires, but also the world.

Ember Goodwin didn’t realize that falling in love would mean sometimes transforming into a vampire—or that she’d be able to shoot fire from her hand. Though she never wanted her step-sister to be her enemy, she can’t just stand aside and let the merfolk proceed with their wicked plans. After walking amongst the undead, she knows that vampires are the true heroes of the ancient conflict, and she’ll do what it takes to make sure they win—even if that means going against the sibling who got caught up on the wrong side of the war.

The third book in the Blood, Bloom, & Water series takes the war between fangs and fins to new heights as betrayals and secrets threaten to unravel even the best of intentions.

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/40784936-iron-aqua

Another Amazon e-book exclusive. The paperback will be available widely

About the author

Amy McNulty is an editor and author of books that run the gamut from YA speculative fiction to contemporary romance. A lifelong fiction fanatic, she fangirls over books, anime, manga, comics, movies, games, and TV shows from her home state of Wisconsin. When not reviewing anime professionally or editing her clients’ novels, she’s busy fulfilling her dream by crafting fantastical worlds of her own.

See You Soon Afton: Book Review

Hi guys!!! I am starting this week with a review of See you Soon Afton by Brent Jones, this is the second of Afton Morrison series. The story of See you Soon, Afton picks up right from where it ended in the first book, Go Home, Afton. So you definitely need to read Go Home Afton before you dive into See you Soon, Afton. You can read my review of Go Home Afton here.

SEE YOU SOON, AFTON
Author: Brent Jones
Length: Novella
Genre: Thriller
Series: Afton Morrison, Book 2
Release Date: August 7, 2018

Synopsis

Somebody is watching. Somebody is always watching.

A teenage girl in Wakefield has been abducted, and tracking her down not only tests Afton’s moral limits, but threatens her freedom and her life.

Suspected of murder by local police, and under the watch of a menacing figure in the shadows, Afton’s search and rescue effort unravels dark secrets from her own past. Familial secrets her mother took to the grave, more than a decade ago.

See You Soon, Afton is the second of four parts in a new serial thriller by author Brent Jones. Packed with grit and action, The Afton Morrison Series delves into a world of moral ambiguity, delivering audiences an unlikely heroine in the form of a disturbed vigilante murderess.

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Review

(If you haven’t read the first book please omit the star marked postion )

*See you Soon, Afton is another great addition to Afton Morrison series. The story begins with Afton looking for the man who had kidnapped Kim. Soon she gets contacted by the kidnapper himself and that sets the balls rolling.* Thereafter the story gets thrilling and gripping with twists and turns coming at you from all sides.

The second half of the book was especially packed with twists and turns so unexpected that it completely turned the story around. See you Soon, Afton ends with another cliffhanger like the 1st book which leaves you wanting the 3rd book right now.

If you loved the first book then you will love this book more. See you Soon, Afton is recommend for all thriller readers out there.

LIFE AT 17 RATING

🎐🎐🎐🎐🎐

(5 stars out of 5)

*It is an ARC review*

Gods And Demons: Cover Reveal

Today I’m helping reveal the cover for Gods and Demons, Book Two of the Leyendas Trilogy, a MG contemporary fantasy by Selenia Paz. The book releases from Snowy Wings Publishing on October 30. The cover was designed by Qamber Kids with custom artwork by Noora Murad Ali. Ready to see the cover? Check it out below!

Title: Gods and Demons
Author: Selenia Paz
Release Date: October 30, 2018
Publisher: Snowy Wings Publishing

Miguel did not think he would be returning to Mexico so soon, but when El Charro appears and asks for his help in finding out who is behind the darkness that appears to be spreading, Miguel agrees. La Llorona, searching for the same truth, enlists the help of Natalia, who wants to guarantee the safety of her brother and all children like him. As they travel their separate but similar paths, the legends they come across help them to understand that there may be other forces at play—some more powerful and ancient than they could have imagined.

Add Gods and Demons on Goodreads!

Learn more about Selenia Paz at her website, www.seleniapaz.com, or visit her on social media: Twitter: @seleniapaws, Instagram: @noonvale

The cover is designed by Qamber Kids (www.qamberkids.com) and the credit for painting the illustration goes to Noora Murad Ali.

Chasing Monsters Blog Tour: Promo @PHarrisonauthor @UrbaneBooks #LoveBooksGroup

CHASING MONSTERS

Paul Harrison

PUB DATE: 4th October 2018
ISBN: 9781912666041
PRICE: £8.99
EXTENT: 360 Pages
DIMENSIONS: Trade paperback
CATEGORY: Crime fiction, thriller
BIC CODE: FF, FH
REGIONS: World

matthew@urbanepublications.com

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Buy Link

https://amzn.to/2NTiNOw

‘I’m not your friend, I am your conscience’ – the debut thriller from renowned criminal profiler Paul Harrison.

In a sleepy northern seaside resort, The Eastborough Police Force is shocked into action when a heavily mutilated body is found in a quiet suburb. Murder rarely happens in these parts. Within a short space of time, the body count begins to rise rapidly, as a serial killer runs amok.
DI Will Scott is tasked with finding the killer. In doing he treads paths he never expected to traverse and uncovers a web of deceit that leads to a world where no one can be trusted.
The killer relentlessly continues to strike terror across the community. Then without warning, the killing ground changes. Where will the killer strike next …?

• First book in a series of thrillers featuring DI Will Scott
• Paul is a world renowned serial killer and violent criminal profiler and criminal psychologist
• Paul runs talks across the UK and now the US, with average audiences of 300 people.

Paul Harrison has spent much of his professional life working within the UK’s criminal justice system, primarily as a police officer. Working closely with the now defunct FBI Behavioural Science Unit in Quantico, he gained a unique and remarkable insight into the minds of some of the world’s most violent criminals. His conversation portfolio reads like a Who’s Who of murderers. As an author, he’s penned thirty-three traditionally published books (mainly true crime) and completed his first novel last year. A seasoned event speaker, Paul is popular across the entire crime genre (fiction and non-fiction). He’s in discussion with several TV production companies across the globe for future Crime related television series. Paul currently lives in Leeds.

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Tel: 0845 862 1730
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Tel. 01892 837171 Email: orders@combook.co.uk

Shine: Book Blitz

 

Shine by Chandra Sparks Splond

Genre: YA

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Summer can’t come fast enough for seventeen-year-old tomboy Nia Mitchell who is dealing with the fallout of making her most embarrassing mistake ever, all for love. Desperate to put junior year behind her, Nia reluctantly accepts what seems like the opportunity of a lifetime, but is it? As she gets drawn into her new life, Nia fears she’s about to make another huge mistake, this time with the world watching. When her past comes back to haunt her, Nia wonders if it’s possible to turn her biggest mistake into her biggest blessing. Can life teach her that even when you mess up, sometimes the best thing to do is take a deep breath, paste on your biggest smile and find the strength to shine?

About the Author:

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Chandra Sparks Splond is a blogger, editor, speaker and award-winning author. Her young adult novel Make It Work was named Alabama’s Great Read 2017, Spin It Like That was chosen as a Popular Paperback for Young Adults by the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA), and The Pledge was a YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers. Black Pearls Magazine honored Splond as a Legends & Leaders for 2017 for her blog, Book of Splond (formerly known as Magic City Momma).

Read below for an excerpt from the book:

THE PINGING OF MY PHONE nearly jolted me from my chair as I sat hunched over the computer pretending to watch YouTube videos of this new skating move I wanted to learn. I was hoping it would take my mind off everything that had happened the last few days.

I glanced at the phone and released a breath, glad it wasn’t another text from Fallon Hargrove or one of her funky friends.

“Hey, girl,” I said to my best friend Patrina Mitchum, hitting pause on the computer as I propped up my phone for our video chat.

“Hey,” she said. “What are you doing?” Before I could even respond, she leaned into the screen, peered at me closely then frowned. “Have you been crying?”

“I was watching YouTube,” I said defensively.

“Um-huh,” she said. “Seriously, Nia, what’s going on with you? You’ve been acting weird for almost a week.”

As much as I wanted to tell Trina what was going on, I couldn’t. Even though I didn’t think she would judge me, what I’d done was just too embarrassing.

“I’ve got a lot on my mind,” I said, pushing up my glasses.

“Like what?”

I glanced at my skateboard as my mind raced, trying to think of a reason. “I’m just worried about this job.”

I had been hired to teach skateboarding at Railroad Park—the first black girl to ever land one of the coveted positions.

“You’re still excited about it, right?” she asked. She peered at me again, like she was still trying to figure out what was going.

“Yeah, but—”

“But nothing,” she said. “How many other people do you know who are getting paid to skate?”

I hadn’t thought of it like that, but she was right. I had vowed to become the best female skater Birmingham had ever seen. When I was done, everyone was going to know my name. I laughed at the irony of the thought that everyone might already know my name. I took a deep breath, trying to tell myself things weren’t as bad as I thought as a text notification flashed across my phone, making me jump again.

“You want to take a break?” Trina asked, squinting at me again. “I’m about to head to the mall, and I was calling to see if you wanted to go.”

I frowned, really not in the mood. It would be my luck to run into Fallon or some of her funky-acting friends from school or maybe worse, my boyfriend Brandon Jackson who still hadn’t responded to any of my messages. I was better off just keeping it at the house.

“I promise we won’t be gone long,” Trina begged, looking at me with perfectly made-up puppy dog eyes.

I sighed, knowing she wasn’t going to stop talking until I agreed to go. “Which mall are you going to?” I asked, not that it really mattered.

“Brookwood,” she said.

I twisted my lips. “You know I can’t afford to be up in there. Even their sale stuff is expensive.”

“Nia Yvonne Mitchell,” she said, calling my whole government name like she was somebody’s momma. “What’s wrong with you? You can’t hang with your girl for a few hours while I apply for jobs?”

Trina and I were like peanut butter and grape jelly, although she wouldn’t like the fact that I was using food analogies to describe us. My skin color made me the peanut butter, and Trina’s dark color made her the grape jelly. I was a total tomboy, and she was a girly girl, but we balanced each other. Where you saw one, you saw the other. On the outside, we looked totally different, but our hearts were the same. We were definitely sisters from different misters. I’d heard someone say that once, and for us, it was true.

She had been sick the day of the interviews for Kids and Jobs—a summer work program for youth in the city of Birmingham, Alabama—so she hadn’t been able to land one of the positions. Lucky for her, she could apply for regular jobs since she was seventeen like me. We had both agreed working was better than being home. Not only would we get paychecks, but working had the added benefit of getting us out of the house. If I were home, Momma would have a list of chores ready to greet me every morning when I woke up. I glanced over at the one she had stuck to the mirror before she went to study for finals, making a mental note to make sure everything was done before she got in that evening. Even though technically Momma and I lived with my grandparents since we stayed in an apartment above their garage in West End, Momma insisted we not impose on them, which meant we typically did our own cleaning and sometimes cooking.

“So are you coming?” Trina asked, breaking into my thoughts.

“Yeah,” I said, “but you knew that before you called.” Trina always supported me, and I wanted to be there for her too. “I need to get Momma a gift anyway.”

Momma was graduating from Cumberland School of Law the following week. I still had no clue what to get her, but I was hoping inspiration would strike.

“Cool,” Trina said. “I’ll treat you to lunch, and we can go to Great American Cookies for dessert. If we have time, bring your skateboard, and we can even go to the park.”

“I’m in,” I said, shutting down the computer at the mention of the word park. Maybe Brandon would be there and we could finally talk. “Why didn’t you say that when you first called?”

“Because I like messing with you,” she teased. “I know how much you hate going to the mall.”

“You also know how much I love skating—and food,” I said. “Give me ten minutes.”

Momma had started joking that it was a good thing I loved skating because as much as I liked to eat, I should be as big as a house. Instead, all the food seemed to go to my feet. At five-ten, I towered over Trina and most of the girls at Grover, wore a size ten shoe, and was thinner than a dollar bill as my granddaddy Big G liked to say.

By the time Trina and I made it to the mall, it felt like the temperature had gone up another thirty degrees. The weather in Birmingham had been crazy for the last few months, so since the highs were only in the forties the day before, I had thrown on my favorite red zip-up hoodie over a white t-shirt with Skater in graffiti letters across the front, a pair of ripped-up jeans and my black Converse.

Bad decision.

Sweat had already soaked through my t-shirt on the walk from the underground parking deck to Sky Cosmetics, a new store that had just opened.

While Trina filled out job applications, I roamed the mall for about thirty minutes before I realized I had to pee. On the way to the bathroom, I spotted another new store called Salzburg’s that had little trinkets on display and decided to stop in, thinking maybe I could get one as a graduation gift for Momma.

“Hi,” I said as I walked into the store.

The saleswoman glanced up, but she didn’t say a word, so I thought she hadn’t heard me. I shrugged and headed over to a clearance table.

“May I help you?” the woman asked as I picked up a snow globe, glanced at the price underneath and frowned at the fifty-dollar price tag.

“Just looking,” I said, glancing up at her as I replaced the globe.

She turned up her nose and gazed at me from the tips of my worn sneakers to my glasses and chipped tooth, which had happened a few weeks ago at the skate park. I turned my back to her and rolled my eyes. Another thing I hated about Brookwood was the way some of the people looked at you like they were better than you or something. I picked up a statue and quickly put it down when I realized it was seventy-five dollars.

I knew being in the store was a waste of my time, so I turned toward the exit, only to find the woman still glaring at me as she stood a few feet away.

“May I use your restroom?” I asked, thinking maybe I could get something out of my visit.

“It’s for paying customers only,” she said, crossing her arms and turning up her nose.

I held up the statue. “I’m going to buy this as soon as I come out,” I said, knowing that wasn’t going to happen. The way she was watching me though had me real curious to see how she was going to respond.

She gave this chirpy laugh that matched her bird-looking appearance and sniffed. “We both know you can’t afford anything in here,” she said. “Please leave.”

I just stood there, not sure I had heard her correctly.

“Don’t make me call the cops,” she threatened.

“But I haven’t done anything,” I said.

“You haven’t done anything—yet. You people get on my nerves. I don’t know why you’re allowed in here.”

I stood there in shock for a second, telling myself she really wasn’t serious, but when she headed for the phone, I knew she was, and I hightailed it to the exit. I was not trying to be placed in handcuffs or go viral on the internet.

The thought made me pause for a second when I realized thanks to Brandon and Fallon, I might already be all over social media.

I went to the bathroom near the food court then headed to Books-A-Million, hoping Trina would eventually come in there looking for me since I had left my phone at home and couldn’t text her.

I flipped through the latest People magazine, stopping when I caught a brief glimpse of the finest guy I had ever seen. I just stared, realizing it had to be his eyes that drew me in.

“Hello, Matthew Cook,” I said when I saw the headline that revealed who he was. I guess I had spoken out loud based on the way the woman standing next to me was giving me the side eye.

I skimmed the article, seeing what other information there was about Matthew Cook. There wasn’t much, other than he was eighteen and from a small southern town. I made a mental note to Google him later and to set my DVR for his show King Penn, a modern version of that old show The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. I couldn’t help but gaze at Matthew Cook’s Hershey brown skin, espresso eyes and sexy smile. I couldn’t be sure, but it looked like he might have a dimple.

I tucked the magazine under my arm and flipped through a few more until Trina showed up about twenty minutes later with a Sky Cosmetics bag in her hand.

“Now how did I know you’d be here?” she asked. “I tried texting you.”

I shrugged. “I left my phone at home.” I pulled the magazine from under my arm. “Look at this,” I said, flipping back to the article and pointing at the picture of Matthew Cook.

She glanced at him and nodded, which wasn’t the reaction I was expecting.

“You don’t think he’s fine?” I asked, frowning.

“He’s alright,” she said, shrugging.

I cut my eyes at her. “Are we looking at the same person?” I asked, tapping on the picture.

She shrugged and turned her attention to Allure magazine, so I changed the subject. “How did things go? I thought you were job hunting,” I said, nodding at her bag.

She grinned. “There’s always time to shop. I decided to treat myself since I got a job at Great American Cookies—Sky Cosmetics wasn’t hiring. The cookie company manager said he liked how professional I was. When he saw on my résumé that I went to Grover, he told me he graduated from there a few years ago and interviewed me on the spot.”

“If he graduated from Grover, why is he working at Great American Cookies?” I asked. It was pretty common knowledge that for the most part only the top students got accepted at Grover, and most went on to graduate from really great colleges.

“He’s in grad school at UAB,” she explained.

I nodded and put the magazine back after casting one last glance at Matthew Cook. “Congrats,” I said, turning to give her a hug. “After I get my first check, we’ll have to celebrate. My treat.”

“Sounds good to me,” Trina said, “but I’ve got you until then.”

As we waited in line at Chick-fil-A, I told Trina about my experience at Salzburg’s. She just shook her head. As we placed our orders and she pulled out her wallet. Part of me felt bad for letting her pay, even though I knew she didn’t mind. It was another way we were different. Trina got an allowance, and I didn’t ask Momma for money unless I really needed it. With Momma attending law school and only working part time, things were kind of tight. Momma was an only child and got pregnant with me when she was fifteen. Since my grandparents helped her so much with me while she finished high school and college, Momma tried not to ask them for anything. Now that she was finishing law school, I was hoping things were going to get better for us financially soon—and that I could get my tooth fixed. Momma still had to pass the bar exam after graduation and was planning on taking it in July.

“So did you find anything for your mom?” Trina asked, already knowing the answer since I didn’t have any bags.

I shook my head. I had gotten so caught up in what had happened at Salzburg’s and reading about Matthew Cook that I had forgotten about Momma’s gift. “You want to go to Walmart?” I asked, figuring I could at least get a card.

“Okay,” Trina said. “As soon as you tell me what’s really going on.” She stared at me, and I sighed, knowing she wasn’t going to budge until I told her.

“Brandon texted to wish me a happy birthday last week…”

At the mention of Brandon’s name, Trina frowned. It was no secret that she couldn’t stand him. She didn’t understand why I liked him. For the most part, she kept her thoughts to herself though.

I paused, not sure how to tell her.

“He asked me to send him a picture…”

Her frown deepened. “What kind of picture?”

I hesitated, not believing what I was about to admit. “Of me, with no clothes on.”

“And you did it?” She said the words so loud the women at the table next to us looked over at us curiously. “Sorry.”

My peanut butter–colored cheeks turned as red as my sweatshirt, which I had taken off and tied around my waist.

I took a sip of my lemonade in response.

“Nia,” she said. “You didn’t.”

My eyes filled with tears again as the memory of the last few days came flooding back. “He sent the picture out, and apparently Fallon got it. I’ve been getting all of these crazy texts…”

I shuddered, thinking of some of the things that had been said to me.

“Fallon and her friends cornered me in the bathroom the other day… Let’s just say it wasn’t a nice conversation.”

Trina narrowed her eyes. “Are you okay?” She scanned me as I nodded, and when she was satisfied I hadn’t been harmed physically, she went in. “She gets on my nerves. What is her deal?” she asked, not really wanting an answer.

Fallon, Trina and I had been friends—best friends actually—since sixth grade. We would have sleepovers, and we pretty much did everything together. That all changed freshman year at Grover. Fallon just stopped hanging with us. No explanation or anything. Suddenly whenever Trina and I walked by Fallon and her new friends, I was called the tomboy and Trina was the freak. Last week was the first time Fallon had said anything to me in years, all because of a picture I didn’t even send to her. It just didn’t make any sense.

“So why didn’t you tell me?” Trina asked as we dumped our trash.

“I was embarrassed,” I admitted. “I know you don’t like Brandon—”

“He’s a jerk,” she said. “He doesn’t deserve you.”

“He just has a hard time expressing his feelings,” I explained.

“Why are you defending him?” she asked, frowning.

“I’m not,” I said, but my words sounded weak, even to my own ears.

“Have you talked to him since you sent him the picture?”

“No,” I admitted.

Trina just stared at me.

“What?” I finally snapped.

“I’m sorry you’re going through this,” she said.

I don’t know what I expected her to say, but that wasn’t it. Tears filled my eyes, and she led me over to a private corridor where I finally let the tears flow.

“I don’t know what to do,” I said. “I feel so stupid. He’s been asking me to send the picture for months, and I finally just got tired of him asking. I figured if I sent it, he would be happy and stop bugging me. Now I haven’t heard from him, and Fallon and her friends and who knows who else knows about it. Do you know how embarrassing this is?”

“I’m sorry,” she said again. “What can I do to help?”

“Just have my back,” I said. “I don’t want to, but if things get any worse, I may have to fight.”

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