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Tuesday, December 12, 2017

✯BOOK BLITZ:✯ Beauty and Beastly by Melanie Karsak {EXCERPT + GIVEAWAY!}





Beauty and Beastly by Melanie Karsak

Release Date: December 6th 2017
Pages: 162
Genres: Adult, Fairy Tales, Steampunk

In this tale as old as time, Isabella Hawking must tinker a solution to a heartbreaking mystery.

When Isabelle and her papa set out from London on a sea voyage, Isabelle was thrilled. Visiting foreign courts, learning from master tinkers, and studying new ways to manipulate mechanicals sounded like a dream. But an unexpected gale turns the waters violent, and the ship is lost. Isabelle survives the tempest only to be shipwrecked on a seemingly-deserted island. Dotted with standing stones, faerie mounds, and a crumbling castle, the haunting place hints of a magical past. Isabelle may be an unwitting guest, but her arrival at the forgotten citadel heralds a new beginning for the beastly residents inside.

Beauty and Beastly is a retelling of the classic Beauty and the Beast fairy tale set in 1814 Regency England.


Purchase: Amazon

{EXCERPT}

“Hello? Is anyone there?”
The sky overhead darkened, and in the distance, I heard the rumble of thunder.
Oh no. No, no, no. 
I looked up at the sky. My head swam.
I needed to find shelter.
I turned to go back to the path, but when I did so, I didn’t see the path, nor the ring of mushrooms, nor anything else vaguely familiar.
Once more, the sky rumbled.
I felt the first of the raindrops on my head, but luckily, the thick leaves overhead sheltered me somewhat. As the storm rolled in, the forest grew dark.
I cast a glance around.
It didn’t matter which direction I went. Eventually I would find the shore once more.
Turning to head out, however, I spotted a bluish colored light in the distance. A house? A fire? A lantern? A…something.
“Hello?”
No reply.
Turning, I followed the bluish glow. I headed deeper into the forest, chasing after the light, but soon found its source. It was a mushroom. The glowing mushroom had been sitting on a rise. It had played a trick on my mind. Then I spotted another glowing fungus, then another, and another, all of which held an incandescent blue light. They grew in a straight line. Without a better recourse, and feeling half suspicious of the supernatural, I followed the glow of the blue mushrooms as the rain pattered overhead, the sky rumbling. I followed the blue lights deep into the ancient woods, aware that I was passing other sacred rings. I walked past a mound of earth, a barrow, the final resting place of some ancient person—and some said a passageway to the Otherworld—as I hurried deeper into the woods. Surely I would find the shoreline soon.
Lightning cracked overhead.
Then, on the horizon, I saw golden light. A fire? I squinted my eyes, trying to make out the shape through the trees, but my head ached miserably. Leaning heavily against my staff, I moved toward the golden colored light.
The forest thinned. The glowing mushrooms led me onward toward the glow of the yellow light in the distance. Praying to find someone—anyone—I followed along, well aware that my quick exertion had my stomach rolling. Black spots wriggled before my eyes. The line of mushrooms ended. To my shock, I’d blundered to the center of the island and found myself standing outside the gates of a castle.
I gazed up at the enormous structure. It towered over me, a black silhouette on the horizon. Light glowed through one of the windows in the upper floors. It was raining in earnest now. Not waiting a moment longer, I pushed the gate. It swung open with a creak.
It was pouring.
I leaned my walking staff against a metal bench in the perfectly manicured garden, then grabbing my skirts, I ran for the castle door. As I rushed, lightning flashed. It created an odd illusion on the bushes and flowers around me. For a moment, they all seemed to glimmer like metal under the bright light.
My temples pounded. My stomach rolled. I raced through the heavy rain to the castle door.
Hoping whoever was at home would forgive me for letting myself in, I pushed open the castle door and crept inside.
The place was eerily silent.
“Hello?” I called. “Is anyone here?”
Breathing deeply and quickly, I realized the moment I stopped that I was not well.
I cast a glance toward a roaring fireplace nearby. A chair was seated before the hearth, a glass of something dark sitting beside the seat. I heard a strange clicking sound.
“Hello?” I called again, but this time, my head began to spin. I put my hands on my hips, trying to catch my breath. I closed my eyes. Everything was twirling.
Footsteps approached.
“I-I’m sorry I let myself in but…” I began then opened my eyes.
Standing before me was a massive automaton, its silver eyes staring coldly at me.
A nauseous feeling swept over me, and my head swam. Black spots danced before my eyes.
“Pardon me. I think I’m about to—”
Faint.
But the word was lost.
And so was I.


AUTHOR BIO:


New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Melanie Karsak is the author of The Airship Racing Chronicles, The Harvesting Series, The Burnt Earth Series, The Celtic Blood Series and Steampunk Fairy Tales. A steampunk connoisseur, zombie whisperer, and heir to the iron throne, the author currently lives in Florida with her husband and two children. She is an Instructor of English at Eastern Florida State College.



Thanks for stopping by! :)

⛄ Freebie Tuesday (Edition #201) ⛄



🎄 Happy Tuesday! 🎄

Thanks for stopping by! As always I will be tweeting random freebies that I can find on any given day so if you're looking for more free books make sure to follow me on twitter @JackieBookWorld. :)

***Note that there will be some books that will be free for limited time only, so make sure to download them as soon as you can. Also if there is any specific genre that you guys want me to find books of, let me know in the comment section below. (:  Enjoy! 


*Older Editions will be linked on the menu section (above) under Freebie Tuesday:)


Snow-Kissed Love 3 Book Set 
by Violet Vaughn
Release Date: November 3rd 2016 by Sugarloaf Press
Series: Snow Kissed Love #1-3
Pages: 647
Genres: Romance
Author's Links: Goodreads, Website, Twitter, Facebook


This box set contains the first three books in the Snow-Kissed Love Series. 

Craving for Love - 

Determined to get over Jason and find a man that wants a family, Casey Cassidy moves to Breckenridge, Colorado. Landing a job skiing every day, Casey finds Blaine Johnson - a wish come true. A hunky surfer turned ski instructor, he checks off every requirement on her list. Except for the one she forgot to add. 

Blaine has a secret. A secret so big it keeps intimacy smoldering, when Casey needs fire. No matter how hard she tries, the embers won’t ignite. Can she live without passion to get the family she craves? When Jason comes to town, Casey questions everything she wished for. Their consuming love threatens to explode and ruin her dream, leaving her with the choice between a family and the love of her life. 

Lease on Love - 

Headed for the Olympics, figure skater Lori Langley's destined for the gold. But when her sordid affair with her abusive and controlling coach is plastered all over the tabloids, Lori's world spins out of control. 


Now, after three long years, Lori is ready to move on. Trading in her skates for skis, Lori reinvents herself as a ski instructor in Colorado. Unprepared for what the slopes have in store for her, Lori comes face-to-face with sexy and sensitive snowboarder, Kaleb Wakefield, who jumpstarts her heart, allowing her to finally explore love again. 


When an avalanche from her past comes back to bury her, Lori's newfound freedom is at risk--and that risk has a price. How far must Lori and Kaleb go to fight for what they want? 

Rush for Love - 

Olympic hopeful Gretchen Nickelson doesn’t do love. Men exist for sex and a good time. Snowboarding is her main priority and a clingy boyfriend will only get between her and a spot on the Olympic team. 


Dark and dangerous Derrick Hamilton is all for the physical approach. His carefully guarded heart likes it hard and fast. Meeting an adrenaline junkie like Gretchen suits his sexual needs just fine. 
But when a steamy relationship races out of control toward love, tragedy is inevitable, and hearts aren’t the only collateral. Their accidental love threatens Gretchen’s chance for gold, and the destruction changes everything.

(Synopsis taken from Goodreads)


       

More Than Once
by Elizabeth Briggs
Release Date: November 30th 2015
Pages: 242
Genres: Romance, New Adult
Author's Links: Goodreads, Website, Twitter, Facebook


She’s trying to be good. He loves it when she’s bad.

Andrew West is done being the nice guy. After a marriage proposal gone wrong, he’s started over in a new city and he’s never risking his heart again.

Becca Collins is done being the bad girl. After quitting the band she played bass for, she’s going to prove to her family that she’s really changed.

When Becca’s dumped by her boyfriend and fired from her job on Christmas Eve, all seems lost, until she runs into a former one night stand—Andrew. To impress her parents, Becca convinces him to pretend to be her perfect boyfriend for their holiday dinner.

After Andrew shows Becca he’s all bad boy in the bedroom, neither wants to pretend anymore. But when Becca's invited to rejoin her band for a show and Andrew's forced to face his ex, they both wonder if they're ready to take a leap again—or if they're doomed to fail in life and love a second time.
 
(Synopsis taken from Goodreads)


      

Happy Reading! :)

Monday, December 11, 2017

✯REVIEW & EXCERPT TOUR:✯ No Reservations by Kristen Proby



From New York Times bestselling author Kristen Proby, comes a sexy, new contemporary romance novella in her Fusion Series, NO RESERVATIONS, brought to you by 1001 Dark Nights! Grab your copy of this amazing novella today! 



No Reservations by Kristen Proby

Release Date: December 5th 2017 by Evil Eye Concepts, Incorporated
Series: Fusion #4.5
Pages: 139
Genres: Romance, Contemporary

From New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Kristen Proby comes a new story in her Fusion series… 

Chase MacKenzie is not the man for Maura Jenkins. A self-proclaimed life-long bachelor, and unapologetic about his distaste for monogamy, a woman would have to be a masochist to want to fall into Chase’s bed. 

And Maura is no masochist.

Chase has one strict rule: no strings attached. Which is fine with Maura because she doesn’t even really like Chase. He’s arrogant, cocky, and let’s not forget bossy. But when he aims that crooked grin at her, she goes weak in the knees. Not that she has any intentions of falling for his charms.

Definitely not.

Well, maybe just once…

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




My Review:

From the sexy cover to the intriguing synopsis, Proby manages to deliver a short story filled with romantic and steamy scenes that will leave you wanting for more. Not having read other books by the author before, I was really impressed with how well she executed the story. At the beginning we get to meet Maura Jenkins, a teacher who loves her job but has trouble finding the right man. When she is setup on a blind date by her friend, she is hesitant yet she is curious to meet the guy. When she is supposed to meet with him and her friends she doesn’t like what she sees one bit, as the guy who is supposed to be her blind date has been trying to ask her out for a while now and she always shuts him down. Chase is easy on the eyes, but he can such a womanizer that Maura doesn’t want anything to do with him at all. It’s after a couple drinks that Maura starts to get comfortable with Chase that everything changes between them after that. It’s evident that they have great chemistry, but the more time they spend together the more they wonder if this could lead to a real relationship.

Chase MacKenzie is wealthy, handsome, and he doesn’t do commitments. He doesn’t want a relationship, and everyone knows it. But when he meet Maura Jenkins at one his wine tours, he knows that she is different and will not stop at nothing until he gets her to go out with him. It’s when he sees her again that he takes the opportunity to get her to talk to him, but after a few drinks they both end up spending the night and he wants to keep her all to himself. I absolutely loved to the story, it was steamy! The characters are different yet they compliment each other very well. The writing made the story that much more exciting to read. The story is really a chase that has the characters going back and forth because they don’t want to admit their feelings towards each other. Although the story is short, we still manage to get a fully developed story from start to finish. I cannot wait to read more from the author in the future and I would highly recommend reading this book. You will not regret it. :D

***ARC provided for blog tour purposes in exchange for an honest review.***

My Rating:


{EXCERPT}

“Are you angry today, Chase?”

“Why do you ask?”

“Because you’re intense, as if you’re angry.”

“I was worried.” He sighs and tips his forehead to mine. “I’m not used to being worried. I’m not used to feeling invested. You could have been hurt today, and I hated the thought of it.”

“I wasn’t hurt.” I let my hands rub up and down his sides soothingly. I haven’t felt the need to soothe someone in a long time. “Thank you for coming to my rescue.”

His lips twitch just before he plants them on my forehead, then he pulls back to look down at me. “I want you. I know you said yesterday that you don’t want sex, so if the answer is still no, I’ll go.”

I frown. I’ve been thinking about what he said all last night when I couldn’t sleep and today when I had a free moment. He’s not the playboy that I’ve thought he is. But I still don’t want something permanent.

Or maybe I do, and that’s the problem.

Hell, I’m confused.

“Please don’t say no,” he whispers, and I look up to find him smiling down at me. His eyes lower to my lips and narrow when I bite them, and I know the answer.

I knew the answer the second he walked up to my car.

“I don’t want you to go.” It’s not a whisper; it’s as clear as day. But rather than push me up against the wall or lead me to the bedroom, he steps back, not touching me at all, and taps his forefinger on his lips, thinking.

“Take your clothes off.”

I blink rapidly and glance around. “My blinds are open.”

“No one can see in here,” he says and waits patiently, and for the first time in a very long time, I’m shy.

He makes me freaking shy.

And we can’t have that. So I raise my chin and grin, happy that I chose the wrap dress that I did today. I reach to the side and pull the string, untying it, and then let it fall in a heap around my feet.



About Kristen Proby:


New York Times and USA Today Bestselling author Kristen Proby is the author of the bestselling With Me In Seattle and Love Under the Big Sky series. She has a passion for a good love story and strong, humorous characters with a strong sense of loyalty and family. Her men are the alpha type; fiercely protective and a bit bossy, and her ladies are fun, strong, and not afraid to stand up for themselves.

Kristen lives in Montana, where she enjoys coffee, chocolate and sunshine. And naps.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

✯BOOK BLITZ:✯ First Case Scenario by Annemarie DeClark {EXCERPT + GIVEAWAY!}





First Case Scenario by Annemarie DeClark

Release Date: July 24th 2017 by 50/50 Press
Series: Harlee’s Whodunit in the Motor City #1
Pages: 282
Genres: Adult, Mystery, Thriller

Most cops walk a beat. She dances to one.

Undercover and using moves she didn’t learn at the Detroit Police Academy, Harlee races to identify the cold case murderer who has struck again. While juggling a charming ex-fiancé, a friend with benefits, and a partner who is too darn handsome for his own good, Harlee begins socializing with the potential suspects outside of work... until the killer learns of her double identity. 

This mystery has a perfect blend of humor, sexiness and suspense. It is the first novel in the Harlee's Whodunit in the Motor City Series.


Purchase: Amazon

{EXCERPT}

Once upon a time, before becoming a big superhero detective, Liam Garrison was a hot

street cop who pulled me over for speeding. All six feet and four inches of hulking, brawny Liam stood propped against my car while I quickly formulated my game plan.

“Harriet Lee O'Conner,” he read from my license, shaking his head. “Twenty-one years old.”

“My friends call me Harlee.”

“Do I look like your friend?” he asked, trying to sound tough.

“Do you want to be my friend?” I offered with a wink.

“Do you know why I pulled you over?”

“Because I'm hot and you want my phone number?” I couldn't believe I actually said this to a police officer.

He laughed at me. “Get outta here,” he said, handing back my license and registration. “You're too much for me to handle. Don't let me catch you over the speed limit again.”

“Okie-dokie,” I promised.

The very next day he pulled me over in the very same spot going the very same speed. This time, he wanted more from me, including information on where I was always going in such a hurry. I told him I was late for work at The Full Moon Gentlemen's Club where I worked as an exotic dancer. We made a deal. That night I gave him a lap dance in exchange for the two speeding tickets he never wrote.


AUTHOR BIO:


Born and raised in Detroit, Michigan, Annemarie is a former West Point cadet with a degree in Mathematics and Natural Science. She is a wife, a mother, and a proud daughter of a retired Detroit firefighter. When she isn’t busy reading or watching a whodunit mystery, she’s busy writing one.



Thanks for stopping by! :)

Saturday, December 9, 2017

✯BOOK BLITZ:✯ The Billionaire’s Secret by Mika Lane {EXCERPT + GIVEAWAY!}





The Billionaire’s Secret by Mika Lane 

Release Date: December 6th 2017
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance

He’s straight as an arrow on the outside. And crooked as sin on the inside.

By day, Varden Gallagher goes to work at One Market Street, where he’s manager of a big, successful hedge fund. He’s powerful, wealthy, and can have any woman he wants. But at night he slides into a secret world. One where wealth and power count for nothing, and all that matters are your desires, and how you control them. Or don’t.

When he sees his business associate’s daughter—fresh out of college reporter Saffi Bartlett —at the secret Club Silk, he decides to have some fun. Little does he know, the joke’s on him, and it looks like his sinful ways won’t be hush-hush for much longer.

After all, isn’t it the straightest arrow that eventually breaks?


Purchase: Amazon

{EXCERPT}

Why the mask? Well, it wasn’t for style. I could give a crap about looking like I was a refugee from Carnivale. No, it was to disguise my identity. No one, and I mean no one, in the club knew who the hell I was. And I planned to keep it that way. The twelve hours a day I worked my hedge fund firm were not exactly relaxing. But the few hours a night I spent at the most secretive sex club in San Francisco allowed me to be a different person, something I craved the way a man needs air. Here at Club Silk I had no responsibility, no fortune, and no celebrity as San Francisco’s wunderkind financial brain. I didn’t even have a goddamn name. For a few miraculous moments, Varden Gallagher didn’t exist. And it was fucking amazing.

But like the saying went, you gotta keep your dick out of the company inkwell. Of course, Silk wasn’t my company, per se, but it was my home away from home. I wasn’t about to risk any drama with the one person who could keep me away from it. I’d seen her pissed before, and rain down her wrath on some dumb fuck who didn’t mind his place.


AUTHOR BIO:



Writing has been a passion of Mika’s since a young age (her first book was "The Day I Ate the Milkyway"), but erotic romance is now what gives purpose to her days and nights. She lives in magical Northern California with her own handsome alpha dude, sometimes known as Mr. Mika Lane, and an evil cat named Bill. A devotee of the intelligent and beautiful, and lover of shiny things, she’s a yogi, hiker, traveler, thinker, observer, and book worm. She has been known to drink cheap champagne and has way too many shoes.

A National Reader's Choice Awards finalist, Mika always deliver a hot, sexy romp, often with imperfect characters, and a promised happily ever after (or at least happy for now).

She LOVES to hear from readers, and can be found at www.mikalane.com, and facebook.com/mikalaneauthor, when she's not dreaming up naughty tales to share.


{GIVEAWAY!}


Thanks for stopping by! :)

Friday, December 8, 2017

✯BOOK BLITZ:✯ A Shine That Defies The Dark by Jodi Gallegos {EXCERPT + GIVEAWAY!}





A Shine That Defies The Dark by Jodi Gallegos

Release Date: December 5th 2017 by Clean Teen Publishing, Inc.
Genres: Adult, Historical, Romance

Gripping, romantic, and evocative of its time— A Shine that Defies the Dark is a spellbinding story of one woman who will stop at nothing to survive during a tumultuous time in American history.
After a six-year exile, Ophelia Breaux and her mother are overjoyed to return to the Louisiana bayou. But it seems the ghosts of the epic feud that drove them away still haunt Plaquemines Parish, and with the Great Depression sweeping the nation, the two soon find they can't make ends meet.

Seeing no other option, Ophelia's mother takes the drastic step of sharing her bed with the town judge in exchange for a reduced rent. The judge has had a life-long obsession with Momma, and Ophelia is desperate to end this arrangement and get her away from him.

When Remy Granger shows up, Ophelia knows it could mean more trouble—and that's the last thing they need. Handsome and dangerous, he's the first boy she ever kissed, and a member of the most notorious family in southern Louisiana—but he's also got an opportunity for fast money in rumrunning. Ophelia goes all in, and it turns out she may have a knack for the business. But she's going to have to run even faster if she wants to save Momma… dodging the cops, rival gangs, and her traitorous heart at every turn.


Purchase: Amazon, B&N, Kobo


{EXCERPT}

The air was dense with the heat and moisture of late spring in the bayou. Crickets chirped, frogs croaked nearby, and the gentle slush of water slapped against the shore.

The trail was uneven and difficult to traverse in the dark. Dixie and I grasped at each other to keep from falling. The T-strap shoes I’d worn didn’t have a terribly high heel, but my ankles threatened to roll with every step nonetheless. I was sure Dixie’s higher heels would be the end of her if we didn’t find even ground soon.

I lifted the hem of my trumpet skirt, the material thin and ragged. It wouldn’t stand many more repairs. I didn’t want to risk it being snagged by the loose twigs that swiped at us as we followed the dark trail.

The faint sounds of zydeco music drifted on the air and made its way through the trees. A happy chirping melody from an accordion and fiddle filled the night. The tension I’d been carrying floated away with the buoyant melody. My heart began to beat in time to the scratching tempo of the frottoir, and I might have begun dancing right there had my ankles not threatened to roll yet again.

Just as I was about to declare that no moonshine was worth a forced march through gator-infested swamps, the trees opened up and I saw a barn at the edge of a pond. Yellow light seeped through the open doors and between the weathered slats. There were a few cars parked along the structure, as well as in the clearing behind it, and two horses were tied to the low-hanging branches of a tree near the door.

The Granger boys hadn’t so much set up a speakeasy as they’d taken possession of an abandoned barn and opened the doors for anyone willing to take the risk along with them.

“Look, Ophelia, it’s perfect!” Dixie laughed. She grabbed my hand and pulled me through the line of people streaming toward the doors.

I stopped short and pointed to the roof of the barn. “That boy has a gun.”

Simon Carre ambled past me. “There’s two in the trees and one over there, too.” He pointed toward the field, but didn’t stop walking.

Dixie pulled on my hand. “Claude Moret’s gang beat Tully Bishop near to death for settin’ up his own business,” she said. “The Grangers ain’t about to take that chance. Besides, the danger’s what makes it fun.”

Dixie’s enthusiasm was infectious. My reluctance was serving no purpose. As cautious as I’d intended to be during our illegal escapade, apprehension melted away as soon as I passed through the open doors. For the first time in five months, I felt like I was just a girl again. Tonight there was no sadness. My only responsibility was to enjoy life back in the most vibrant place on earth.




AUTHOR BIO:


Jodi is a YA writer, black belt, registered nurse and case manager for a busy home health agency. She lives with her husband, three sons and an evolving herd of undisciplined animals in Colorado. She has a well-earned fear of bears, but tolerates the Teddy and Gummy variety. She has been obsessed with books, both reading and writing them, for most of her life and prefers the written word to having actual conversations. The most current projected completion date of her To Be Read book collection is May 17, 2176.


{GIVEAWAY!}



Thanks for stopping by! :)

✯BOOK BLITZ:✯ Forevermore by Cristiane Serruya {EXCERPT + GIVEAWAY!}





Forevermore by Cristiane Serruya

Release Date: December 7th 2017
Series: Ever More #2
Pages: 440
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance

Love knows no boundaries. 

A father desperate to save his little girl. A doctor fighting for a cure. And two broken hearts that can only be healed together. 

Ava Larsen is too busy finishing her pediatric oncology residency to find love… and she knows what it feels like to have a broken heart. She assures herself that kissing the gorgeous alpha stranger the night before was nothing more than a dangerous yet delicious mistake—one she won’t repeat.

Widower billionaire Aleksander Maximilian is one of the most powerful men alive, but he’s helpless to save his daughter Olivia from cancer. Doctors have assured him it would be best to enjoy her last days at home. To make Olivia’s wish to spend her last Christmas on Lake Tahoe come true, he hires the best home care team in the business.  

It turns out the head of the team is the breathtaking woman he shared an unexpected kiss which ignited sparks. But this is the worst time for Aleksander to have finally have passionate feelings for someone, not to mention it’s strictly forbidden to Ava to get involved with her patient’s father. 

Tragedy brought them together. A miracle might rip them apart. 

An emotional gripping love story of hope, redemption, and never giving up, Forevermore is the second book in USA Today bestselling author Cristiane Serruya’s Ever More Series. If you enjoy romances by Nora Roberts, Danielle Steel, Sylvia Day, and Maya Banks, then you will cherish this heartwarming, steamy contemporary erotic novel. 


Purchase: Amazon, B&N, iBooks, Kobo


{EXCERPT}

CHAPTER 1
New York, Manhattan
Sloan Kettering Memorial Cancer Center
Monday, November 9, 2015
6:00 p.m.

It was a death sentence he carried.

And, at the same time, it was a freeing edict.

“She has only two months, three at most. You should take her home.”

The words said in a soft and compassionate male voice a few minutes ago still boomed in Aleksander Maximilian’s mind as he made his way to Olivia’s hospital room.

Fourteen months ago, when he was first told that his now eight year-old daughter was suffering from what might turn out to be a terminal illness, he and his wife, Rachel, grasped onto hope with a stranglehold.

Thirty-nine years old at the time, he was already one of the most powerful and influential men in the United States, and if the statistics said there was a chance his daughter could live, then live she would.

He forced himself to smile before he pushed open the door and saw a sleeping Olivia and her inseparable golden retriever. Toddy raised his golden head, ears perked, and identified the intruder as Aleksander, then dropped his head back down on Olivia’s thigh.

One of Olivia’s private nurses, Sydney Campbell, rose from the chair beside her bed. “Good morning, Mr. Maximilian.”

“Hello, Sydney.” He brushed a hand over Toddy’s head. “Is she too tired again today?”

“Not really.” Sydney smiled and added, “She and Toddy joined the visiting dogs and other children and they had a busy morning. She’s just taking a nap.”

“You can take a long snack break,” he said to her, and when Sydney opened her mouth, he added, “I’ll message you if she needs something.”

“Please do.”

Aleksander loved that the staff here genuinely cared about their patients. Either that, or they do an excellent job of faking it. I’m becoming cynical.

He took off his jacket, put it on the bureau, and before he went into the adjoining bathroom to wash his hands, he turned back to Sydney and said, “We’re going home tomorrow.”

He saw sadness come over the young nurse’s face—but not surprise—as she nodded, and it just made the weight on his heart even heavier. So, there is really no hope at all.

He avoided looking at himself in the mirror as he washed his hands. It had been a few weeks since they informed him that Olivia’s brain tumor was not responding to chemotherapy, but he continued to hope while the doctors kept the treatment going.

Back in the room, he took Sydney’s seat and caught Olivia’s thin hand in his. The girl let out a contented sigh as if she knew her father was there but she didn’t wake up.

When he buried Rachel, barely one month after Olivia was hospitalized, he made a promise on her grave that he would move mountains and wouldn’t leave a stone unturned until Olivia was cured.

And he had unturned stones all over the world. From a German pediatric oncologist to a British neurosurgeon—including a Brazilian spiritual surgeon and a Canadian shaman—a parade of doctors—and curious practitioners of various healing arts. He’d flown all of them to Manhattan to consult his daughter.

Yet, all his wealth and influence had not provided a cure for her. Now, his sweet little Olivia had only two months—three, at most—to live.

I have failed you, Rachel. His lips turned down and he had to blink to whisk away the tears gathering in his eyes. I failed you both.

Before she left the room, Sydney paused by him and softly put a hand on his shoulder. “I’m so sorry, Mr. Maximilian.”

Aleksander swallowed the lump in his throat and whispered, “So am I, Sydney. So am I.”




* * *

He watched her as she slept, taking labored breaths, and he wondered if he would be there, watching her like this when she took her last breath.

Her hair had once been long and dark-blonde but due to the series of chemo treatments, she had lost every strand. Even her eyebrows and long lashes had fallen out.

Olivia’s lashless eyes fluttered awake and her big blue eyes found him immediately.

“Good morning, Daddy,” she greeted with a yawn.

Her diagnosis still lingered heavily in his mind and Aleksander held back his tears. “It’s almost seven in the evening,” he said with a strained chuckle. “You’ve been asleep for a while.”

“Oh,” Olivia said, followed by another yawn. “Toddy and I played with a lot of friends today.” Hearing his name, Toddy perked up for a moment and licked at her hand and Olivia gently patted his golden head as a reflex. “And I’m still a little tired from my last treatment.”

“I know.” Aleksander debated telling his daughter that her doctors had declared her terminally ill, but decided against it. He saw no reason for Olivia to be dwelling on death although he knew he would have to talk about it sooner or later. Better later. “You won’t have to take anymore treatments from now on, or come to the hospital anymore. The doctors want me to take you home.”

He expected sadness and tears—Olivia was not a naïve girl, much on the contrary, and she knew what going home would mean—but instead, Olivia’s eyes brightened. “Nurse Sydney said I would have more energy for a while without the chemo. I’m so excited.”

“Excited?”

“Yes, that means we can go to The Cottage this year, right?” Olivia asked, referring to their country house in Lake Tahoe.

“The Cottage? Are you sure you’ll have the energy to go?” Isn’t she too sick to go so far from the hospital?

“I’ll have enough energy,” Olivia said with a smile. “I’m going to wear my prettiest clothes and twirl around and maybe even run outside. I can’t wait!”

Aleksander smiled then, a genuine smile that lasted only seconds, but even those seconds were a rarity since he’d learned that her treatments were no longer working. “Well then, I guess we’ll have to make sure you get to The Cottage before, uh, before you get tired again.” Before you leave me.

“Can we have a Thanksgiving dinner and a Christmas night and a New Year’s party, too?”

“You want parties?” Aleksander asked dumbly. After losing Rachel and now knowing he would lose his daughter, his only child, holiday spirit was the furthest thing from his mind.

“Yes! With roasted turkey, reindeers, and a real tree that we can decorate.”

“Sure, we can have whatever you want, Pumpkin,” Aleksander said. Whatever she asked for, he would grant it. He would give her anything money could buy, but all the money in the world couldn’t buy what he desired most.

“I’ll make a list of what we need,” she said, stretching out her hand for her new journal and pencil, which lay on the bedside table on top of the one she had finished filling up the day before.

Aleksander handed them to her with a smile. His little girl was an avid writer. Olivia drew pictures in her diaries, kept notes about what she was doing, and how she was feeling, and made lists about everything.

“Mr. Maximilian,” Sydney called through the door after a knock.

“Come in.”

She walked in with a tray in hand. “It’s time for Olivia to eat and take her medication.”

“Of course,” Aleksander said, standing.

Sydney placed the tray on the stand beside Olivia’s bed. “Oh, you don’t have to leave yet.”

“Yes, I know, but, well, I should get going. I’m meeting someone tonight, and I have a lot to do to prepare to bring Olivia home tomorrow.”

He saw the puzzled look cross Sydney’s face. It was a common look, one he could read without much effort. He thought of clarifying his phrase, reassuring Sydney that he wasn’t, in fact, meeting a woman, but he didn’t bother. He had no time and no interest to pursue women; and no energy to undo erroneous impressions.

“Enjoy your meeting,” was all Sydney said in response.

Aleksander kissed Olivia on the forehead then patted Toddy on the back. “Be good, Pumpkin. I’ll see you in the morning to bring you home.”

“Ok. Love you, Daddy. See you tomorrow.”

“Love you madly, Pumpkin.” Aleksander smiled brightly and nodded a final time to Sydney as he left.

He kept the parting smile on his face until he made it to the comfort of the back seat of his black BMW and his driver closed the door.

Only then, with his own image reflected in the closed partition, did Aleksander let the tears roll slowly down his cheeks.


* * *

Upper East Side, Fifth Avenue

Aleksander Maximilian’s penthouse

8:30 p.m.


He turned on the shower, and stepped in, hoping to wash some of the impotence away.

When he stepped out to grab one of the towels from the stack, his eyes caught his reflection. He barely recognized himself anymore.

His damp hair curled past his nape; a mop of chestnut longer than it had been since his early twenties, and his face sported more than the fancy devil-may-care shade of a beard.

He hadn’t seen his usual barber for more than a month. He felt no need for a three hundred and fifty-dollar haircut, or the collection of Italian suits and shoes which filled his dressing room in Manhattan. He was just a shadow of the sharply dressed businessman he’d once been. That man had been put on hold when Rachel died and Olivia had gotten worse.

But it wasn’t his hair or face that made him not recognize himself.

It was in his eyes.

The eyes of a man haunted by a future ghost. Preoccupied with something no one else could see, eating away at his vitality and leaving him hollow.

He ran a hand over his jaw and grabbed his electric trimmer.

Just as he finished trimming his facial hair, his phone screen blinked informing him of an incoming call from Thaddeus, his older brother.

With a sigh he answered, “Yeah?”

“You’re coming to Rose Bar with me tonight, right?”

He was not in the mood to go out. He never was, anymore. But when he pictured returning to his empty and hollow penthouse by himself the image filled him with depression. “Yes, Thaddeus.”

“Good. You need to get a bit of fun in your life. Helps fight depression.”

Aleksander rolled his eyes, not at all thrilled that Thaddeus was again sticking his nose where it didn’t belong. He was sick of being analyzed like a patient even though he could not say his brother’s analysis was off the mark. “I’ll stop by Blackthorn’s and I’ll meet you there.”

“And take that Ferrari of yours out of hiding,” Thaddeus said. “What’s the point of having all that supercharged horsepower and black metal tucked away in your garage?”

Aleksander sighed. “See you at ten.”

Perhaps the electric atmosphere would dissipate some of his dark mood. He needed to keep his spirits up Olivia’s sake.


* * *

Park Avenue

Markus Blackthorn’s penthouse

9:00 p.m.


“I have bad news, and I have worse news,” Aleksander said, looking at his partners. He continued when no one responded with anything other than concerned glances. “I won’t be able to help with the Russian deal for a while because things have taken a turn for the worse with Olivia. I just came from the hospital.”

“Here.” Markus Blackthorn, Aleksander’s partner, put a glass of Macallan whisky in his hand.

“Thanks,” said Aleksander, gulping it down without tasting it. He welcomed the stinging bite burning down his throat. Any kind of pain was preferable to the hellish torment of knowing his daughter was going to die.

“What did they say?” asked Benedict Lockeheart, his other partner.

“They want me to take her home,” he bit out, leaning his head on the back of the sofa and looking up at the towering ceiling of Markus’s living room. “They said…continuing the treatment would only prolong her life without improving the quality. That it’d be better if she spent her…remaining days in the comfort of her own home, surrounded by the people and things she loves.”

“Shit, man, I’m so sorry,” Benedict said, and out of habit, he moved his hand as if to comfort Aleksander, but then he let it fall back in his lap.

Aleksander put his hand over Benedict’s and squeezed. Ever since his partner had lost his eyesight in a criminal explosion at their pharmaceutical company, those telltale little gestures had been diminishing, but they still happened. “Thanks.”

“Have you told her?” Markus asked, sitting beside his wife, Hannah.

“In a way. I asked if she wanted to go home for a while.” Aleksander sighed. “Do you know what she told me? She wants to spend the holidays at Lake Tahoe. And she wants for us to have lots of parties, starting with Thanksgiving dinner, a Christmas night, and a New Year’s party.”

“And?” prompted Benedict.

“As soon as I find a trustworthy caretaker team—and a doctor—to take with us, we’re flying there.” He shook his head. “I’d rather have the same nurses who are already treating her. She likes them and it would be easier for me too, since they already know her…”

“Let me help, Alek,” said Hannah, speaking for the first time. “I’ll gather up this team for you tomorrow.”

He could hear the choked-up emotion in her voice. Hannah had lost her mother to breast cancer a few years before, and after marrying Markus, she dedicated a great part of her time to raising funds for research and volunteering in hospitals. Being pregnant now made her even more sensitive to his and Olivia’s problem. He straightened his neck and gave her a sad smile. “I appreciate it.”

“Tomorrow morning, I’ll talk with the hospital administrator,” she said, with the knowledge that money was a great help at a time like this. “What time will you be at the hospital?”

“Seven probably,” he said. “I like to be there for Olivia’s breakfast. The nurses say she eats better when I’m around.”

“I’ll be there too,” she said, trying to stifle a yawn. “Sorry. It seems I’m always sleepy.”

“Then it’s time to take my son to bed,” Markus pointed out, running his hand over Hannah’s already rounding belly. “We still have a few things to discuss.”

The men rose and she kissed her husband affectionately on the cheek, following up with Benedict. Then she stopped in front of Aleksander and gave him a tight hug. “I promise you this: Olivia will have all her parties.”

She might not have said the word—she might not have even thought it—but he heard it nonetheless: her last parties.


AUTHOR BIO:


USA TODAY and AMAZON best-selling romance author, Cristiane Serruya lives in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, with her six-foot-six husband, two teenage daughters, and Loki, her Shetland sheepdog. Cris is a writer, a lawyer, a reader; a woman, a mother, and a wife. Not necessarily in this order. Or in any order…

She has a Master's in Business Law and a BA in Fine Arts. In 2012, after twenty-two years of practicing law, Cris decided to give writing a go. And--amazingly--it was just the piece that was missing in the puzzle of her life.

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