Thursday, August 31, 2023

Champion Release Blitz


Author: Michelle Mankin
Genre: Contemporary Sports Romance
Tropes: Forbidden/Age Gap/Best Friend's Dad
Release Date: August 31, 2023


The winningest—not to mention most arrogant—quarterback in football history, Champion Valentine gets what he wants when and how he wants it, except when it involves a certain exotic dancer.

Electra Miller’s life is the opposite of charmed. One terrible tragic night, she lost everything that meant anything to her. Forced to abandon her dream, she works hard as the headliner at Fantasy. Stripping isn’t Juilliard, but it pays the rent and no one there asks uncomfortable questions about her past. Her secrets remain her own, even her crush on the blond, blue-eyed, and gorgeous Texas Lonestars QB.

Champion wants Electra.
Electra wants Champion just as badly, though she can never admit it. The secrets she keeps aren’t only her own.

What happens when a living legend who doesn’t know how to take no for an answer meets a beautiful dancer eighteen years younger than him who just can't tell him yes?

You guessed it.
Game on.
One with an outcome that might change everything and not just for the two of them.



Free in Kindle Unlimited


MICHELLE MANKIN is the New York Times bestselling author of over 40 romance novels. Romance that rocks the heart. Text ROCK BOOK to 33777 for release alerts and a chance to win a signed paperback on release days-US only.

When Michelle isn't prowling the streets of her Texas town listening to her rock and Nola funk music much too loud, she is putting her daydreams down on paper or traveling the world with her family and friends, sometimes for real, and sometimes just for pretend.

All her books are free in kindleunlimited.

Copy and paste the following into your browser to receive a cool NL with bonus scenes exclusive to subscribers:


VIEW ALL OUR OPEN EVENTS Blog Master List for Promotional Posts We have received many requests to create a master list for blogs wanting to sign up for ALL promotional opportunities If this is something that interests you, please enter your details on our Blog Master List form. Thank you for your support! BLOG MASTER LIST Facebook Facebook Twitter Twitter Instagram Instagram Website Website Email Email Share Tweet Forward Copyright © 2023 Give Me Books, All rights reserved. You are receiving this email as you are on Give Me Books Master Blog list. Our mailing address is: Give Me Books 4 Domatia Street Heathwood,

Wednesday, August 30, 2023

Born To Sin Series Blitz


Born to Sin Series
Author: Franca Storm
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Tropes: Damaged Hero/Age Gap/Forced Proximity
Cover Design: Books and Moods

Releasing October 11

Some burn in the fire, others are forged in it.

I’m justice.
I’m deliverance.
I’m punishment.
Ultimately, I’m a dealer of death.

It’s exactly what they need from me.
To push back the enemy.
To keep them all safe.
I’m always one step ahead.
Until her.

She wasn’t meant to be here.
She’s tempting a cruel twist of fate.
Now he’s got her in his crosshairs.
He’ll feed off her vulnerability.
He’ll make her a victim of his obsession.

If I can’t pull her out, she’ll drown in the dark.
She’ll become as twisted as the rest of us.



Releasing November 1

The devil has come to play.

He was my greatest asset.
Now he’s our greatest weakness.
He’s punishment.
He’s obsession.
He’s absolute destruction.

It’s the worst time for his betrayal.
They’re trying to force my hand.
They want me in a cage.
But they’re blind to the brutal truth.

Nobody can dethrone this king.



Releasing December 6

Follow me through the dark.

I’m on the warpath.
They’ll all feel my wrath.
The monster will fall.

They call on the devil.
They think he can save them.

I won’t let him play his hand.
I won’t let him touch her.
It’s about time he learned.
She’s always been mine.




Franca writes emotional and gritty reads about alphas with a dark side and the kickass women who turn their worlds upside down.

A Marvel and DC fan, you’ll often find her binging on superhero shows and movies. Away from that heart-pumping action, she’ll relax with a good book, or work on conquering her next 1,000-piece puzzle.

She writes to alternative and hard-rock with her storyboard of inspiration by her side and some tasty snacks along for the ride. A cross between a pantser and a plotter, she’s happiest when she’s fully immersed in crafting her fictional worlds.


SIGN UP FOR THE RELEASE BLITZES VIEW ALL OUR OPEN EVENTS Blog Master List for Promotional Posts We have received many requests to create a master list for blogs wanting to sign up for ALL promotional opportunities If this is something that interests you, please enter your details on our Blog Master List form. Thank you for your support! BLOG MASTER LIST

Tuesday, August 29, 2023

Cusp of Redemption Book Blitz


Cusp of Redemption
Olivia Preya
(The Cusp Series, #2)
Publication date: August 28th 2023
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Crime, Romance

Salvatore de Marco

It was always about her.
Taking care of her.
Making sure she had everything she needed.
School. Apartment. Living expenses.
I took care of it all. For her.
And I’ll never regret the decisions I made to keep the smile on her face.

But she left me once, and I’ll be damned before I let her leave again. As the Cafarelli family enforcer, I can provide her with more than I could before–money and protection. I’ll do everything in my power to protect her from whatever demon made her run the first time. But what if it turns out the demon was me?
If there’s one thing I know, it’s that our connection is undeniable; I can feel how hot she is for me.
Even if she won’t admit it.

Naya Okpara

It took a long time to get to where I am now.
From foster kid to private investigator, I do whatever it takes to get the job done.
Even if that means working for the Cafarelli family.

I thought he was long gone—a distant memory tainted by a figure from our past. But time and distance did nothing to ease my hunger for his touch. Nor did it erase the betrayals that shattered me.
When the man who lights my skin on fire appears before me, I’m forced to face the realities I spent years avoiding. Now, Salvatore and I are working for the same family, and I can’t let the connection of our past ruin my future.

But what if he is my future?

Cusp of Redemption is book two of the Cusp series but can be read as a standalone. It has a guaranteed HEA, swoon-worthy anti-hero, and badass heroine. This is an interracial mafia romance containing explicit sex scenes, graphic violence, and is recommended for readers 18+.

Goodreads / Amazon


“If you wanted me to hunt you down, all you had to do was ask.” I muffled a scream with my hand as Salvatore’s deep voice startled me from his place at my tiny kitchen table. “But from now on, each and every chase will end with you on your back.”

“What the fuck?” I snapped, barely able to comprehend the scene in front of me. With only two barstools and a round surface barely large enough for a pizza box, Salvatore somehow seemed to make himself at home despite dwarfing the area.

He wore a gray sweatsuit, a complete contrast to the suit from last night, but by the grace of some god, he looked even more delicious. His hoodie pulled across his broad chest and defined his shoulder muscles. My eyes traveled up his thick neck and to his mouth where a mischievous smirk curved his mouth.

A glint of light brought my gaze down to his hand fiddling with…a knife?

Salvatore gave me a slow once-over that made me contemplate hopping back in the shower—for a cold one this time. His dark eyes held me captive, taking in every inch of my being at a leisurely pace. An appreciative glint shone in his eyes.

I took the time to look at him. Really look at him. His dark hair cropped short and connected to his perfectly sculpted beard. With high cheekbones and full lips, he’d make a killing as one of those models on the cover of romance books. Especially with the jagged scar running from the middle of his right eyebrow straight down to an inch or so below his cheekbone, he was a sight to behold. While I couldn’t see his torso, there wasn’t a sliver of doubt in my mind his abs were as defined as the rest of him. My mouth watered at the memory of how hard he was as I flopped over his shoulder.

Salvatore and I had stumbled across each other’s paths a few times over the past year, and I was just as captivated and entranced by him as ever. Each time seemed to make the pull even stronger. The way his presence drew me to him was infuriating. And right now was the first time we’d been alone and so close since we last saw each other ten years ago.

But the physical attraction was undoubtedly still there.

He was bigger than before. More demanding. More dominating in his presence.

And my body couldn’t get enough. But I had to keep reminding my brain there was a reason we weren’t together anymore. He left me. I’d need to chant that mantra every time we were together.

“Diana Diamond has nothing on you.” Salvatore rumbled, his voice caressed me from head to toe and dripped in appreciation. He was referring to yesterday’s disguise. I resisted the urge to preen. I would not fuss over my appearance. It didn’t matter what Salvatore thought of me. He didn’t matter.

Although, I was mildly pleased by the fact he was alive. I didn’t like the guy, but I didn’t want him dead either.


He sat, absently flipping the knife back and forth between his fingers. The metal glinted in the morning light. “Are you trying to intimidate me with your little knife show?”

He glanced down, mildly surprised. “Habit,” he said simply before flipping the blade down and tucking it in his pocket. “I hardly believe a knife would be enough to intimidate you.”

He stood and slowly stalked closer to me.

“And what do you think intimidates me?” I asked, raising an eyebrow. He was right, I picked up skills over the years to outmaneuver a knife. But he didn’t know that.

I held my ground as he came toe to toe with me. I had to crane my neck to look him in the eye. His presence was overbearing, the spicy scent of his cologne flooding my senses. I licked my lips, and his eyes tracked the movement. “You need something more physical. Skin on skin. Overbearing. The full weight of a man pressing you down to submit. You wouldn’t give in to something as meager as a piece of metal.”

I bit the inside of my cheek, hating how he read me so well. His eyes dropped to my lips, and I couldn’t resist darting my tongue out to lick my lips. The image of him pressing me into a bed flashed before me and I nearly choked on the need that coursed through my veins and pooled in my core.

A ghost of a smile wafted on his face, breaking the spell. I stepped to the side and out of his intoxicating presence.

Salvatore closed his eyes briefly and took a deep inhale before shifting, so we were facing each other once again.


“You broke into my house?” I whisper-yelled, remembering I never invited him in. I didn’t even know he knew where I lived and as much as I wanted to cuss him out, I was worried about the thin walls and curious neighbors.

“You stole my car.” He shrugged.

Author Bio:

Olivia Preya is a romance fanatic and author living in Toronto, Canada. She writes about what she loves—love, spice, and panty-dropping men with a soft spot for the love of their lives. When life gets a little tough or bland, she finds that fictional men are the best medicine.

Olivia considers herself to have two personas, like Wonder Woman, but with a pen––corporate marketing specialist by day and spicy romance author by night. She also likes to embrace all forms of sensuality, from pole dancing and erotic novels to good food; she believes that sometimes the best things in life are a little sinful.

Website / Twitter / Instagram / TikTok

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Seduction at Sea Book Blitz


Seduction at Sea
Gwen Kleist
Publication date: August 29th 2023
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance

She’s determined to keep her distance. He’s determined not to let her…

Rachel Hennessey always puts her career first. So when an important client pushes up a launch date, Rachel is all in on making it happen. Even if that means working through her cousin’s wedding cruise. Until she finds out the guy who once broke her heart and nearly derailed her career is the best man. But while he might be able to distract her as they sail around the Hawaiian Islands, she will not fall for him. Not again, anyway…

Michael Porter never thought he’d see Rachel again. But if fate wants to give him a second chance with the one who got away, he’s not about to fight it. Just months after selling his share of a seven-figure business, Michael is at a crossroads in life. A luxury cruise seems like the perfect time to evaluate his next move. Now all he has to do is figure out what he did to make Rachel hate him so much so he can make it right.

All it takes is a little forced proximity—and a lot of hot chemistry—to show Rachel and Michael how perfect they could be for each other. But when the vacation ends, can their happily ever after begin? Or will this seduction at sea end in yet another heartache?

Seduction at Sea is a sexy and spicy, slow burn, angsty contemporary romance with a guaranteed HEA. Download today and get ready to fall for Rachel and Michael!

Goodreads / Amazon


“I’ve been waiting to get you alone all night.”

Desire engulfed her as Michael spoke, the rich baritone of his voice the last sensical thing to register in her brain before pleasure took over.

Michael’s arms encircled her as they stepped onto the Promenade Deck, and he swung her into his embrace. In two steps he had her backed against the ship’s wooden rail, the soft Hawaiian breeze ruffling her hair as his lips covered hers. Rachel melted into the kiss, humming her approval as his hands rose to cup her cheeks.

She plunged her hands into his hair. At the wedding, it had been slicked back and stiff with product. But now, the thick, soft locks ran smoothly through her fingers. He groaned in response and she dug her hands in deeper, tugging her fingers through his hair.

At last, he released her from the kiss. Her head tilted upward as she caught her breath, and the stars above swirled in the inky blue sky.

“I think you are trying to seduce me.”
His expression broke into a devilish smile. “What gives you that idea?”

“Well, it started yesterday with those amazing tacos,” Rachel mused, running her fingertips up his spine. “Damn, they were good. And then our slow dance at the wedding. And that kiss against the palm tree didn’t hurt either.”

He buried his face in her neck and murmured something unintelligible. Rachel’s knees went weak.

Her eyes drifted closed as he kissed her neck. “And let’s not forget your hand was practically in my panties at dinner.”

“Those aren’t even my best moves.”

“Whatever you’re doing, it’s working.”

“Good.” Michael lowered his head and kissed her again. Then he whispered, lips still pressed to hers, “I’ve been fighting the urge to seduce you for days.”

She ran her hand down his back and rested it brazenly on his ass. He was all muscle, tight and hot. The live music playing in the atrium floated around them, a whisper in the wind as they stood on the ship’s open deck. Her head was still spinning from their kiss, and she savored the moment, yearning for more.

Rachel thought about Emma’s words the night before she left for this trip. If the opportunity arises for romance and adventure, go for it. Don’t let life pass you by. You deserve to have a little fun.

She did deserve to have a little fun. There was still a whole week left on this cruise. Why not spend it with him? Her mind was alert and her body aroused, quivering with need, suddenly excited to explore the possibilities. “Do you remember when I said I wasn’t going to sleep with you?”

He swallowed hard. “Yeah.”
“I may have changed my mind.”

Michael groaned and kissed her again, rougher this time. Heat and need raced through her body.

“Let’s go to my room,” she whispered against his mouth.

“You should know if I take you to your cabin, it isn’t going to be for an innocent kiss against a palm tree.” His expression was earnest and pure, and it made Rachel want him even more.


Author Bio:

Gwen Kleist writes contemporary romance novels set in some of the world’s most glamorous destinations.

Romance author and travel writer, Gwen has been writing for as long as she can remember. An avid traveler, she loves weaving amazing destinations into her novels. In addition to writing romance, her work has appeared in numerous publications, and she runs the family travel website

Gwen lives with her husband and son in Southern California. When she's not busy writing, she enjoys reading, traveling, and spending time with friends and family.

Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Play Release Blitz

Title: Play
Series: The Fast Break Series #1
Author: M. Jay Granberry
Genre: Contemporary Sports Romance
Tropes: Interracial Romance/Love Triangle/Rivals
Release Date: August 29, 2023


"Play”, book 1 in the Fast Break Series is a passionate love triangle that will leave you breathless. Set in the fast-paced and high-stakes world of professional basketball, this novel explores the complexities of fame, fortune, sex, and love.

Ryan MacCrae, is a man who has it all. He's used to getting what he wants, and what he wants right now is Katrina Montgomery.

But when Langston Solomon enters the picture, everything changes. Ryan finds himself facing a challenge he's never experienced before - the challenge of keeping the woman he loves.

As he navigates the twists and turns of love and basketball, Ryan realizes that there's no road map to winning Katrina's heart. But he's not one to give up easily, and he's determined to do whatever it takes to keep her by his side.

In this addictive game, there are no rules. But Ryan has written the playbook on defending what's his. So, when Langston comes to this court, it's game on.

Get ready to be swept away by the passion and intensity of the Fast Break Series. Play is just the beginning - make sure you read Pass and Shoot to experience the full court press of Ryan, Katrina, and Langston's love story.

Play is book 1 in the Fast Break Series and should be read before Pass, book 2, and Shoot, book 3.



Free in Kindle Unlimited


Releasing September 26


Releasing October 24



M. Jay Granberry is first and foremost an insatiable reader.

Among her favorite things are classic fairytales, smutty books where characters have heart, old lady sweaters (preferably chunky knit), gift baskets (giving not receiving), and charcuterie trays (green olives, smoked cheese, and Genoa salami).

M. Jay earned a degree in words and stories, and after fifteen plus years of doing everything other than writing, she penned her first novel.

She is a true Las Vegas native, the one in Nevada not New Mexico, and to answer the most frequently asked questions about growing up in Sin City...

No, she doesn't live in a hotel.

No, she has never been a stripper although she does know some.

Prostitution is absolutely illegal in Clark County (Las Vegas).

And what happens in Vegas does indeed stay in Vegas.


k Twitter Twitter Instagram Instagram Website Website Email


Title: Limitless
Series: Sons of the Underground #2
Author: Terri Anne Browning
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Tropes: Age Gap/Enemies to Lovers/Secret Baby
Release Date: August 29, 2023


In the Underground, I make the rules.

The Underground is mine.
I call the shots.
It is who and what I am.
I am the Judge, jury, and executioner.
Except to her.
I’ve always been a man who gets what he wants, but she was too young and too sweet to touch.
Now, staying away from her is no longer possible.
She has pushed me to the end of my limits.
My resolve has broken, and I will give up everything, do anything, to hear her say I’m hers.




Only $2.99!




Terri Anne Browning is a Wall Street Journal and USA TODAY bestselling author. She writes contemporary romance featuring rockers, bikers, and mafiosos--but mostly about the strong female characters who rule what has become known as the Rocker Universe.

Thrace Cover Reveal


Christina Bauer
Publication date: Angelbound Origins, #4
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult

***Anniversary Edition With Bonus Story, Sharkie and Snickerdoodles***

Myla Lewis has married Prince Lincoln, and now they’re expecting! All the after-realms rejoice. Myla should be happy too, but she has a serious problem. The day after their honeymoon ended, Myla’s real husband disappeared.

The man who’s sharing her bed is an imposter.

Myla tries explaining about “Evil Lincoln,” but no one will listen. The reason? People think that Myla’s supernatural pregnancy is making her cray cray. Mostly because that’s what Evil Lincoln is telling everyone, and that man’s a great liar. What a creep.

There’s no way Myla will take this lying down, though. She’s going to rescue her man, and she has a pretty good idea where he’s being held. With her best friend, Cissy, along to help, Myla sneaks off to Earth. All she has to do is blend in with the humans, avoid Evil Lincoln, and find her real man before the baby arrives. How hard can it be?

Angelbound Origins
In which Myla Lewis kicks ass and takes names.
1. Angelbound
2. Scala
3. Acca
4. Thrax
5. The Dark Lands
6. The Brutal Time
7. Armageddon
8. Quasi Redux
9. Clockwork Igni
10. Lady Reaper
11. Reaper Games
12. Angry Gods
13. Phantom Corsair

Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble / iBooks / Kobo

Author Bio:

Christina Bauer thinks that fantasy books are like bacon: they just make life better. All of which is why she writes romance novels that feature demons, dragons, wizards, witches, elves, elementals, and a bunch of random stuff that she brainstorms while riding the Boston T. Oh, and she includes lots of humor and kick-ass chicks, too.

Christina graduated from Syracuse University’s Newhouse School with BA’s in English along with Television, Radio, and Film Production. She lives in Newton, MA with her husband, son, and semi-insane golden retriever, Ruby.

Be the first to know about new releases from Christina by signing up for her newsletter:

Website / Facebook / Instagram / Twitter / Blog / LinkedIn

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, August 28, 2023

Beer Fest Book Blitz


Lilo Moore
(European City Breaks)
Publication date: September 1st 2023
Genres: Adult, Comedy, Contemporary, Romance

Two best friends, a tipsy Oktoberfest dare and one kiss that could change everything.

It’s been fifteen years since big-shot marketing manager Fi first met her bi best friend Max. Living on different continents has had its challenges, but she’s determined that their friendship will be as strong as ever when she arrives in Munich for an Oktoberfest reunion with their study abroad friends. There’s no one she loves like her Max, even if he has finally grown up a bit and now runs a microbrewery.
But instead of lazy conversations and comfortable day-drinking, as they’d always done when they were younger, the reunion is a slightly desperate meeting of disillusioned millennials escaping real life – until Fi’s jetlagged, drunken rant about being a woman working in beer marketing goes viral and they’re roped into a bad-taste beerfest challenge. As she and Max and their friends from the international dorm tackle fairground stunts, physical challenges and bad karaoke, the one dare that changes everything is the simplest: kiss your teammate.
Now she can’t stop thinking about him in a very more-than-friends kind of way. When kissing leads to more and she discovers that her screwball best friend can talk dirty and light the sheets on fire in the bedroom, she can’t help seeing the years of their friendship in a new – and terrifying – light.
As the challenge progresses with thrill rides, pretzels, lots of lederhosen and a little public nudity, the dares are actually fun, when Fi completes them on her own terms. But the truth questions present the biggest danger to her future. What happens to her precious friendship – and her big promotion – when she admits to herself just how much Max means to her?

A spicy romcom with a bit of snark and a lot of swoon, for fans of Helen Hoang and Christina Lauren.

Goodreads / Amazon


‘Fi and Max are single, so no drama, right?’ Isobel said. ‘You guys have probably kissed before.’

I tried to resist, but my gaze snapped to his. ‘Eh… no, we haven’t,’ Max admitted, still looking warily at me.

‘Never? Not even while drunk?’

‘Is it that hard to believe?’ I mumbled.

‘I mean, I know Max likes guys, but I thought he liked girls, too.’

He coughed and I wasn’t sure if he was laughing or choking. ‘I like women,’ he confirmed. ‘There are probably a lot of reasons why we never kissed before, but it won’t be a problem now.’

I stared at him, suddenly wondering what all those reasons were, when a moment ago, it had been self-evident to me why we’d never kissed. We’d never been into each other that way. But he’d said it wouldn’t be a problem now, as though he knew the filthy thoughts I’d been having about his mouth. I gulped.

He leaned towards me and I bent away instinctively. Thoughts flickering dangerously in his eyes, he blinked, and the next thing I knew, his hand was clamped around the back of my neck and he was holding me where I was – and sending shots of adrenaline down my spine.

As he brought his face close, I caught the scent of him, not the cheap deodorant he used to use but something spicy and a little bit older man that did something crazy to my hormones. His breath gusted over my cheek and, after one more pensive glance, his eyes drifted closed. Unable to stand the proximity, my eyes did the same, but it only set off all my other senses, especially the way the tiny hairs on my skin detected his nearness.

My mouth dropped open on a gasp.

Author Bio:

Lilo Moore is the steamy romantic comedy pen name of travel romance author Leonie Mack. She lives among vineyards in Germany, creating fictional worlds and counting down to her next trip.

Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Bookbub

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Dear Prudence Book Blitz


Dear Prudence
Karen Janowsky
Publication date: July 18th 2023
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance

Two lost souls find a tether in the power of love.

Pru Blum’s life hasn’t been easy, but working as a cellist with the Lower Georgia Symphonic Orchestra is her solace. She depends on her friends and uncle for support, but she’s resolved to become stronger and more independent. However, avoiding her abusive ex, Cliff, isn’t easy… especially since he’s a member of the orchestra too. His overbearing personality and unwanted attention stop her in her tracks each time she tries to move forward.

Shawn Levinson’s life seems disjointed, almost as though it’s someone else’s. His parents adore and expect him to marry his girlfriend, Helena, and for him to work for her father’s corporation. Deep down, he knows their relationship is a sham. Besides, sitting at a desk and wearing a tie forever isn’t his dream. Whenever he tries to follow his own path, though, everyone dismisses his hopes as foolish. He doesn’t have the strength to oppose two families, so he escapes to Georgia to work on his parents’ retirement home and look for some clarity.

When these two lost souls literally collide, sparks fly, but neither wants the complication of a relationship. And Shawn hasn’t mentioned anything to Pru about Helena. No matter how hard they try to distance themselves, they can’t seem to keep away from each other. By the time they’re ready to admit their feelings, their pasts and secrets are poised to blow up in their faces. Falling in love may be exactly what they need… if they can each get out of their own way.

Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble / iBooks / Kobo


She shouldn’t have kissed him when he was just trying to be nice to her. For the past few days with hardly any contact, she wondered what had possessed her to do so.

Her train of thought was distracted by Timéo, the owner’s cousin. He stood at the table in his black button-down shirt and matching slacks, pen and pad readied to jot down their order. She rattled off in French what she and Shawn wanted.

“Is this handsome man your boyfriend?” he asked, still in French, raising his salt-and-pepper eyebrows.

“I’m not sure, but when I find out, you and Claudette will be among the first to know,” Pru replied in the same.

“Oui, bien.” He winked before he walked away.

Shawn smirked. “You just said you were barely passable in French.”

“Here, I’m usually fine. I’d be pretty lost in France though, I bet.”

“Have you ever been?” He twirled some cheese onto his spoon.

Pru nodded. “With my grandmother and uncle when I was eleven, for Uncle Barney’s business trip. Somewhere around the house is my little Eiffel Tower souvenir.” She smiled. “What about you? Have you been to Europe?”

“Nope. I’ve never even gotten a passport. Everyone keeps saying I should before I get back with…”

He shivered and trailed off, took a big spoonful of soup and looked like he nearly choked on it. Grabbing his wine glass, he took a few swallows.

An hour later, as they waited for their boxed leftovers, Pru had had enough of their evening-long, stiff, halting conversation. They’d gone stumbling gracelessly from topic to topic, with Shawn constantly looking down and frowning. She was shaking badly enough to have trouble holding her water glass in the end, but he hadn’t seemed to notice.

It was still light outside as they made their way down the cracked, weedy sidewalk toward their cars. They’d met here instead of coming together. They passed the older, less well-maintained brick stores, a 7-Eleven gas station, and a florist that had been in business since the thirties as they walked in tense silence. The humidity was mercifully light this evening, but something heavy hung in a thick cloud between and around them just the same. He hadn’t even held her hand or hugged her all evening.

When they reached the public parking lot, Pru stopped and looked at him. “You’re upset about something. Was it what happened when you drove me home a few days ago? I’m really sorry about that. I promise I’ll—”

“Me too.” Shawn shut his eyes and exhaled. “We shouldn’t have done that. I think we need to take a couple of steps backward.” He reached into his pocket and put on his mirrored sunglasses.

Pru gripped her upper arms and shivered. This was why they’d gone out in the first place, to somewhere neutral. In retrospect, this place had been a bad choice. What had she been thinking, suggesting a romantic atmosphere to ask for a platonic relationship? “Okay. I mean, yeah, you’re right.” She dug her fingers in hard enough to know she’d probably be bruised later.

He leaned back on his car, his hands hanging at his sides, shoulders slumped. “You told me you needed to try to be independent, and the thing is, I like you a lot, but my life’s pretty complicated right now.” He sounded tentative and resigned, and he wouldn’t look at her. “I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if you got hurt because I was careless.” The declaration came out as a half-whispered mumble.

“Shawn.” He lifted his head. She had no idea what she wanted to say next, even though she’d rehearsed the conversation in her head. All she could think about was the time he’d recited Robert Frost to her impromptu as a rainstorm began. His mouth was a tight, straight line. He inhaled with a small shudder, and she saw her distorted reflection. It seemed a perfect image of how she was feeling. “It’s all right. I was thinking the same thing for a similar reason, you just brought it up first. I like you a lot too, and I wasn’t sure how to say any of it without hurting you.”

He pulled the corners of his mouth back. “We’re on the same page, then. Are we good?”

Focusing on looking resolute as her legs and chest shook, she opened and closed her mouth a couple of times before she was able to get any sound out. “We’re absolutely fine,” she managed. “Except for that one thing, nothing’s really changed, has it? Two friends kissed for a minute. Not a big deal, right?”

“Of course not.” He smiled for real this time and hugged her. His chest was warm, and his heart was racing.

Pru shuddered and put all her energy into holding off tears. She stepped back, and they dropped their arms. “Okay,” she said. She walked around to her own driver’s side door and opened it.

Shawn got into his car. “I’ll see you around, Pru.”

This was for the best. This was what they both wanted. Nothing had changed.

She pretended to do something on her phone while she watched him drop his head back on his seat, shut his eyes, and then straighten, take a big breath, and drive away.

Author Bio:

Karen Janowsky has loved superheroes and ancient mythology since the first time she saw the Super Friends on television in 1970’s. Because flying an invisible jet was never a viable career option, and because running around in a cape, swimsuit, and bright red boots is not socially acceptable for adults, she teaches yoga and writing at the College of Southern Maryland. Her stories and poems have been featured in several anthologies and literary magazines since 1991. She received her master’s degree in English from Florida State University.

Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Instagram / Bookbub

a Rafflecopter giveaway