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.99 cents NEW RELEASE

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We were like two stars orbiting each other—dancing around the possibility that one day we might collide. When we finally did, we opened up a black hole, obliterating everything around us. No one would be the same.
Least of all, us.

Waking up in Vegas married to the guy of your dreams sounds like a good thing, right? Not when you’re Thea Montgomery and said guy is your brother’s best friend.

Thea and Xander have always avoided the connection between them because her brother would never approve. Now, they’re married— the strongest bond you can have as a couple—and they’re not even a real couple…unless they want to be.

Thea wants an annulment immediately, but Xander’s waited too long to see her become his and he won’t let her go easily.

If she wants a divorce, fine, but he wants the summer to convince her that he’s the one. If at the end of the summer she still wants to end their marriage he’ll sign the papers, but until then…

All is not fair in love and war.

Book two in the Light in the Dark series but can be read as a standalone.

When Stars Collide_STARSfinal-ebooklg

Amazon: http://hyperurl.co/6sn5gt
iBooks: http://hyperurl.co/8enys8
Nook: http://hyperurl.co/i3m2kh
Kobo: http://hyperurl.co/7p706c

Until September 5th fill out this form to get a FREE short story about Xander and Thea’s night in Vegas.

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSeiuJQzkGA1qeseXR0cPKHBEwKlp2NlYHRTRQq4mMirNFJmWg/viewform

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/30130144-when-stars-collide

Watch the book trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fibY1vYf4jc


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And then I’ll be happy…

This is a post that’s been weighing heavily on my mind the last few months. I’ve actually started this a few times and I usually talk myself out of posting it after only a few sentences. But this is me, taking my own advice to just do it.

 

And then I’ll be happy…

 

This is a sentence I’ve said or thought so many times in the last few years.

“If my book makes it into the top 1,000 then I’ll be happy.”

“If my book makes it into the top 500 then I’ll be happy.”

“If my book makes it into the top 100 then I’ll be happy.

“If my book does <insert whatever you want> then I’ll be happy.”

 

But then I’m never happy and my accomplishments are never good enough for me. I’ve always been a highly competitive person, but never with other people, only within myself. I always want to do something better than I have before. Therefore, I’ve forgotten how to enjoy it when I do accomplish something. It simply becomes, “oh cool, how can I do it better next time.” So my then I’ll be happy doesn’t actually exist, because I don’t take the time to appreciate it. I’ve forgotten how to be happy with my successes. I don’t want that to make it sound like I’m ungrateful, because that’s the furthest thing from the truth. I’m not the most emotional person, but I do get a little teary-eyed when I think about the fact that I get to live my dream. MY DREAM. So many other people don’t get that chance and I have it, and that is amazing.

 

I’m making this post for one reason only.

 

I don’t think I’m the only author out there saying and then I’ll be happy.

 

It’s not healthy and it’s downright draining the obsessiveness we can develop with our sales numbers, our ranking, reviews, ratings…the list goes on and on.

 

Stop. Just stop. Because what I’ve finally realized is: it doesn’t matter. We’re driving ourselves into the ground and it’s not okay. We have to let the other stuff go and remember why we write to begin with—because we love it. Because we can’t breathe or live without it. Writing beats inside our chests just as much, if not more, than our hearts do. When we obsess over the numbers, and goals, and bestsellers lists we dull that beat. We’re suffocating our own creativity.

 

I’m not going to sit here and lie to you—do I want to make a bestseller list? Of course, more than anything. I think we all want that. It feels like the stamp of approval that we’re doing something right. But here’s the thing, we’re the only ones that care about that. Readers? They don’t care. They don’t care if you hit #1 on New York Times one hundred times in a row. It makes no difference to them. Surprisingly enough, it took my thirteen-year-old cousin to make me realize that. She was staying with me and picked up a book that said New York Times bestselling author and she asked me why that was printed on so many books. I explained and do you want to know her response? “Oh, huh, that’s funny. I don’t care. That’s not going to make me want to read a book so I don’t know why they bother putting that on the covers.” A light-bulb went off in my head and it suddenly occurred to me how I’ve been beating myself up for never making a list and coming so, so, so close on more than one occasion and readers don’t care about that.

 

This is me letting it all go. None of my obsessing and figuring and trying so hard is going to make anything happen. Instead, I’m going to write the best books I can. I’m going to write from my heart and write what I love.

 

I’m going to stop saying then I’ll be happy.

 

Now, when good things do happen, I won’t be obsessing over it and what comes next. It’ll be unexpected and it’ll feel so good and I really will be happy.


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When Stars Collide .99 cents Preorder & Book Trailer

When Stars Collide_STARSfinal-ebooklg

We were like two stars orbiting each other—dancing around the possibility that one day we might collide. When we finally did, we opened up a black hole, obliterating everything around us. No one would be the same.
Least of all, us.

Waking up in Vegas married to the guy of your dreams sounds like a good thing, right? Not when you’re Thea Montgomery and said guy is your brother’s best friend.

Thea and Xander have always avoided the connection between them because her brother would never approve. Now, they’re married— the strongest bond you can have as a couple—and they’re not even a real couple…unless they want to be.

Thea wants an annulment immediately, but Xander’s waited too long to see her become his and he won’t let her go easily.

If she wants a divorce, fine, but he wants the summer to convince her that he’s the one. If at the end of the summer she still wants to end their marriage he’ll sign the papers, but until then…

All is not fair in love and war.

Amazon: http://hyperurl.co/6sn5gt
iBooks: http://hyperurl.co/8enys8
Kobo: http://hyperurl.co/7p706c

Book trailer: https://youtu.be/fibY1vYf4jc

When you preorder fill out this form to receive an exclusive short story:

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSeiuJQzkGA1qeseXR0cPKHBEwKlp2NlYHRTRQq4mMirNFJmWg/viewform


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When Stars Collide Cover Reveal

When Stars Collide_STARSfinal-ebooklg

We were like two stars orbiting each other—dancing around the possibility that one day we might collide. When we finally did, we opened up a black hole, obliterating everything around us. No one would be the same.
Least of all, us.

Waking up in Vegas married to the guy of your dreams sounds like a good thing, right? Not when you’re Thea Montgomery and said guy is your brother’s best friend.

Thea and Xander have always avoided the connection between them because her brother would never approve. Now, they’re married— the strongest bond you can have as a couple—and they’re not even a real couple…unless they want to be.

Thea wants an annulment immediately, but Xander’s waited too long to see her become his and he won’t let her go easily.

If she wants a divorce, fine, but he wants the summer to convince her that he’s the one. If at the end of the summer she still wants to end their marriage he’ll sign the papers, but until then…

All is not fair in love and war.

Add on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/30130144-when-stars-collide

Preorder Links Coming August 17th

Release August 30th

Excerpt 

Thea

Holy mother of all hangovers.

I’d succumbed to the lure of Vegas and gotten completely wasted. Granted, that’s what everyone did in Las Vegas but I like to think I usually have more sense than the social norm.

I rub my eyes and blink them open. The hotel room comes into formation around me. The walls are a warm golden color and the flat screen on the wall plays some home improvement show. I can see the bathroom from the bed, the tiled walls and large soaking tub.

I roll over onto my side, hoping I can sleep off the hangover, and reel back.

“Oh my God,” I cry, flailing in bed.

My legs kick the sleeping guy beside me.

Not just any sleeping guy.

Oh no.

Xander Kincaid, my brother’s best friend, lays in the bed beside me.

His dark hair tumbles over his forehead and his cheeks are covered with several days worth of scruff. His chest is bare and…holy shit. He’s naked.

I look down.

Oh God, I’m naked too.

“What’s wrong?” He asks, reaching his left hand out to pull me closer to him. That’s when I see it.

“Is that a wedding band?” I scream shrilly.

His eyes narrow. “You don’t fucking remember?”

I shake my head and look at my own hand. A thin silver band rests on my finger. “What did we do?

He sits up in bed and I try to ignore how adorably rumpled he looks with his hair sticking up.

Everything begins flooding back to me in quick bursts.

Drinks.

Kissing.

Laughter.

Confessions of love and desire.

A wedding chapel.

Vows.

Rings.

A contract.

“We’re married,” I whisper. “Holy shit.” It’s all I’ve ever wanted—to be with Xander, but not like this. Never like this. “My brother is going to kill us.”

When Stars Collide_STARSfinal

The first three chapters will be added to my wattpad account on August 17th. Follow me here: https://www.wattpad.com/user/micaleasmeltzer

Rae_FINAL_ebooklg

Read Rae and Cade’s story right now for FREE

LINKS

Amazon: hyperurl.co/kdoelu
Nook: hyperurl.co/3hodcu
Kobo: hyperurl.co/9kdnjz
iBooks: hyperurl.co/2fxqs0

What I remember the most about that day was that it was completely ordinary. Then with one stupid decision everything fell apart and nothing was ever the same.

Rae Wilder wants nothing but a do over—but life doesn’t work that way. She’s stuck living out the consequences of her actions. At times the burden feels unbearable.
College is supposed to be her second chance.
New place.
New people.
New life.
No one to know what she did.
Despite that, she has still vowed to avoid everyone and everything at all costs.
Unfortunately for her, an accidental run-in with the campus heartthrob, Cade Montgomery, derails that plan.
He’s determined to thaw the ice around her heart and expose the girl she used to be. He wants to show her that life is worth living for and that she really is a Rae of Sunshine.


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Rae of Sunshine is FREE

Rae_FINAL_ebooklg

What I remember the most about that day was that it was completely ordinary. Then with one stupid decision everything fell apart and nothing was ever the same.

Rae Wilder wants nothing but a do over—but life doesn’t work that way. She’s stuck living out the consequences of her actions. At times the burden feels unbearable.
College is supposed to be her second chance.
New place.
New people.
New life.
No one to know what she did.
Despite that, she has still vowed to avoid everyone and everything at all costs.
Unfortunately for her, an accidental run-in with the campus heartthrob, Cade Montgomery, derails that plan.
He’s determined to thaw the ice around her heart and expose the girl she used to be. He wants to show her that life is worth living for and that she really is a Rae of Sunshine.

LINKS

Amazon: hyperurl.co/kdoelu
Nook: hyperurl.co/3hodcu
Kobo: hyperurl.co/9kdnjz
iBooks: hyperurl.co/2fxqs0

If it’s not free in your country it should be eventually. This sale went live early and it will be free for the entire month of August, so don’t panic that you’re not going to get it.

OTHER THINGS

If you’ve read Rae of Sunshine, chances are you’ve hoped and prayed for a story for Xander and Thea. I’ve received countless messages and emails over the years about them. I always said “maybe” refusing to force it. Suffice to say, I’m glad I waited because this book you guys. This book. I’m completely in love with this story and it gives me the warm and fuzzies. I hope you guys feel that it was worth the wait.❤ In case you didn’t know, it’s titled When Stars Collide and releases August 30th! Cover reveal is next week.


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NEW RELEASE: The Game That Breaks Us

theGame_Final-ebooklg

Hockey’s bad boy needs to clean up his reputation…

Bennett James has built his career at being the best, on and off the ice, and now it’s come back to bite him. The media has turned against him, and with a near career-ending injury, he needs to clean up his act and prove that he’s serious about the game. For Bennett, working with his old coach at his alma mater feels like a step back, but it might be just what he needs.

…and she’s going to help him do it.

Grace Wentworth has always been the good girl, and she’s tired of that stigma. She wants to prove that she can get down and dirty with the best of them. The problem? She doesn’t know how.

Bennett will teach the good girl how to be bad, if she pretends to be his goody two-shoes girlfriend in front of the media.

But what happens when the game becomes real?

Teaser_4

Amazon: hyperurl.co/qg2qda


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The Game That Breaks Us Chapter Reveal!!!!!

GameChapter

PROLOGUE

BENNETT

“You’ve got to get your act together.”

I glare at my manager, wishing I could set the fucker on fire with my gaze alone. Bernard Wright might be one of the best sports managers in the business, but he’s also an asshole. I’ve come to learn most people are.

“Tell me something I don’t know.”

“This—” he shoves a finger onto the front cover of some tabloid “—is unacceptable.”

The photo shows me making out with some random puck bunny at a bar. The picture is nothing new. Photographers follow me just about everywhere nowadays, so they’re always catching me doing something they deem scandalous. I call it normal. I’m aware that makes me as much of an asshole as Bernard, but in a different way.

“It was just a kiss,” I say. “It’s not like I fucked her right there on the bar. Give me a break. I don’t even remember her name.”

Bernard snaps his fingers together. “Exactly, you don’t even know her name. You’re not new to this business, and I know that there’re plenty of other guys out there just like you, but most of them aren’t in your predicament.” He glances down at my casted leg. I try to pretend the cast isn’t there and him drawing attention to it only sours my mood even more. “You’re about five seconds away from losing your career between this injury and your personal life. Hockey should be more important than chasing tail. Figure out your priorities and clean up your act, Bennett, or I won’t be able to help you.” He raises his hands, signaling that he’s done.

I sigh and pinch the bridge of my nose.

Hockey is my life. I can’t lose that—I won’t lose it.

“What do you propose I do then?”

He shrugs. “You figure it out, Bennett. I’ve cleaned up too many of your messes, made it easy for you, and I’m not doing it anymore. You need to do what you can to get back out on the ice, and while you’re at it, you need to change the media’s perception of you. Think you can do that?”

I grin. “Fake it till you make it, right?”

He smiles and leans back in his plush leather chair. “Right. I have faith in you. You’re a good player, so don’t throw away your career.”

I sigh and stand up. “Are we done here?”

“Yes.” He nods and stands to shake my hand.

I leave, already knowing what I have to do to get back on track.

 

 

CHAPTER ONE

GRACE

“Fucking hell, of course they’d give me an uppity bitch for a roommate.”

I pause in the doorway to my dorm. “Excuse me?” I gasp. I haven’t set one foot into my dorm room and my roommate already appears to hate me.

The girl—Elle, according to the information packet I got—has long, wavy, dark-brown hair that looks like it hasn’t ever seen a brush. Her eyes are slightly slanted, giving her an exotic look, and her top lip is slightly larger than her bottom. On someone else it might look odd, but it suits her. Freckles are sprinkled across her nose and she’s dressed in a thin black tank top, black skinny jeans, and black boots.

She points to my outfit. “Who dresses like that? It must take you all day to get ready.”

I look down at my black tights, light-gray skirt, pink blouse, and black heels. I look like a preppy beauty queen next to her simple outfit, which I guess is what I am, but I’m definitely not a bitch. My hair is curled to perfection and I know my makeup looks flawless. I spend enough time watching YouTube tutorials that I know my way around makeup brushes.

“Not really,” I say, wheeling my suitcase and duffle bag into the room and over to the empty bed. “When you know what you’re doing it doesn’t take time.”

She huffs in disbelief.

I hike my suitcase onto the bed that will be mine for the remainder of the school year.

My parents begged me to go to school near home, but I wanted to get away. Growing up the middle child, surrounded by two annoying—but awesome—brothers and an overprotective dad, I just needed to get away. I ended up picking a school in Massachusetts—Addams University sits about three hours away from Boston—which means I’m still close enough to my parents in Northern Virginia to see them for holidays, but far enough away to avoid random visits.

“I’m Elle, by the way, but I guess you knew that.” She turns her head to the side, appraising me. I feel like a bug under a microscope.

“Grace.” I glance at her over my shoulder and give her a smile. It doesn’t seem to be appreciated.

“Not Gracie?” she asks with a little smirk.

My brows narrow in irritation and I whip around. “You really think you’re something, don’t you?” I snap, my patience having reached its limit with her snark. I point to her all black ensemble. “You think you’re some kind of rebel, but you’re exactly like everyone else, whereas I—” I point to myself “—dare to be myself. I guess originality is under appreciated where you come from.”

Her face remains neutral, and then little by little her lips begin to lift into a smile. She claps. “I underestimated you.”

“You don’t even know me.”

“True.” Her lips twist. “But I guess we’ll be getting to know each other pretty well considering we’re roomies.” She says the word like it’s dirty. She bounces on her bed, which is covered in an old quilt in colors of purples and reds. She already has a tapestry hung on the wall beside her bed, and so far, that seems to be as far as her decorations go—unless the clothes strewn across the bed and on the floor count as decorations.

She crosses her legs and flips through a magazine.

I turn my back on her and open my duffle bag. My bedspread is stuffed in there, and when I pull it out it’s all wrinkled, which irks me, but I try to pretend like it doesn’t because it would only give her more ammunition against me. We don’t have to like each other, but it would make things easier. I don’t want to have to be worried about her slipping blue hair dye into my shampoo or something.

I make my bed with the clean white sheets and spread out the teal-and-white printed comforter. I’ll need to buy some throw pillows since I didn’t have room to pack any and I can’t stand a bare bed. My bed at home was so full of pillows you could barely see the bed itself. My older brother, Dean, used to joke that I liked so many pillows because I could get lost and never found in them.

When I finish with my bed, I start to unpack my things. Elle and I each have a tiny closet that will barely hold anything. Thankfully, we’re also provided with a dresser. It’s small, but it’ll help with the storage problem. We have two oak desks with two rickety chairs that were provided along with a small refrigerator tucked into the corner. Our dorm room floor is in need of a rug to brighten up the place since the carpet is a drab gray color. Everything in this room is small, but at least I’m on my own for once. Well, kind of on my own since I have to share the room with Elle.

I get all my clothes unpacked and stuff my suitcase and duffle bag under the bed.

“I’m going shopping,” I tell Elle, grabbing up my purse.

She glares at me over the top of her magazine. I don’t think she’s even reading it, just using it as a shield. “Of course you are,” she says.

I resist the urge to roll my eyes. “I need to get a few things for the room. Pillows and food and stuff.” I don’t know why I’m even explaining this to her. “You’re welcome to come if you want.” I smile, but it’s forced. I’m trying to be nice, but she’s making it damn near impossible and I haven’t even been here two hours.

“No, thanks.” She closes her magazine and lays it on the bed. “There’s a party off campus tonight.” She looks at her nails and I know she’s baiting me.

I sigh. “Okay?”

“I’d invite you, but it probably wouldn’t be your thing.” Her eyes scale me from head to toe.

It wouldn’t take an expert to figure out my clothes are expensive, but it’s not something I necessarily flaunt. Yes, I came from a rich family but I wasn’t spoiled. My parents made sure to raise my brothers and me with an understanding for the real world. Elle is judging me based on who she thinks I am, not who I really am, and that irks me.

“Maybe it is my thing,” I counter, squaring my shoulders.

There’s a challenging look in her amber eyes. “Then go.”

I clench my fingers around my purse strap so she can’t see them shake. “I told you, I’m going shopping.”

“Go tomorrow,” she challenges. “You have all weekend before classes to go shopping.”

“I …” I’m stuck and I see no way out. If I insist on going shopping, she’ll think she’s won and I’m never one to forfeit. “Fine, I’ll go.” I drop my purse back down on the bed.

Her eyes widen in surprise and her lips part. I’ve stunned her. Good.

“The party’s not until tonight,” she admits reluctantly, and I had figured as much, “so you have time to do your shopping.”

I can’t contain my smile as I grab my purse. “Don’t leave without me,” I chirp, closing the door behind me. “What a bitch,” I mumble to myself out into the hall.

The hall is filled with girls; most of them shrieking in delight and excitedly talking about their summers. I envy them just slightly since it looks like I’m stuck with the devil incarnate for my roommate.

I call for a taxi as I head outside. My mom and dad wanted me to take my car to college, but I opted not to. Freedom to come and go as I liked would be nice, but this experience was all about pushing myself out of my boundaries. Riding the bus or taking a taxi was something new for me.

I hurry down the steps of my dorm and push open the door to the outside. The sun shines brightly above the bustling campus but I know it’ll soon be going down. The campus buzzes with voices as people catch up with friends and say goodbye to family. There’s a campus coffee shop not far from my dorm that I wanted to find, but I know if I’m to make it back in time to go to the party I can’t linger.

I look around, trying to get my bearings, but it’s impossible. As soon as I got here, I grabbed my information pack and headed straight into the dorm, not bothering to check things out. When I told the cab driver I went to Addams University he said he knew it well and he’d pick me up across from the fountain, only I don’t know where the fountain is.

I look around blindly, panic building inside me.

I wanted to be on my own but it’s only beginning to hit me how truly alone I am.

I turn to my left, where there seems to be more activity, and head that way. A normal person would probably stop and ask for directions, but I’ve always been a doer, and I hate asking for help even when it’s necessary.

I can’t believe how many people are on campus. I mean, I knew this was a big school, but knowing it and experiencing it are two different things. Besides, people only began arriving on campus yesterday and classes don’t start until Monday so it’s bound to get even more crowded.

I bumble my way around, looking every which way. I know I look like a chicken with its head cut off.

“Are you lost?”

The voice could belong to any number of people speaking to someone around me, but somehow, instinctively, I know they’re speaking to me.

I turn toward the deep rumble, holding my breath.

My eyes collide with hazel ones and I look up at the massive wall—man—in front of me. He’s tall, probably six-foot-four at least, with blondish-red hair that’s shorter on the sides and slightly longer in the front. Not too long, but long enough that I could run my fingers through it if I wanted to … which I don’t want to. A white t-shirt stretches across his muscular chest and several tattoos adorn his arms. I want to look and see what they are, but I don’t want to look like I’m checking him out so I don’t.

“Um … I’m looking for the fountain,” I say.

He chuckles, and the sound washes over me like a summer breeze. “Which one?”

“There’s more than one?” I frown. Well, this isn’t good.

“Three, actually.” He shrugs and his shirt rides up the smallest amount, showing off his smooth stomach.

“Is there a main one?” I ask.

“I guess you could say the one in the center of campus is the main one.” He frowns.

“Would a taxi pick me up there?”

His brows furrow. “Uh, no. Sorry.”

I sigh heavily. “The cab driver said he’d pick me up at the fountain, I assumed there was only one, but obviously I was wrong. He’ll be gone by now anyway,” I groan. There’s no way the cabbie would’ve waited this long for me.

I turn to leave, not even bothering to thank the kind stranger.

“Wait,” he calls. I stop and turn back around, tilting my head to the side as I regard him. “Where are you headed, maybe I can take you?”

“Um, I don’t even know you.”

He winces. “Right, stranger danger.” He holds out his hand. “Bennett James—hockey player and Sour Patch addict.”

I take his hand, stifling a laugh. “Grace Wentworth—aspiring stylist and chocoholic.”

He lowers his hand. “Now that we thoroughly know each other, can I offer you a ride?” I eye him and he laughs. “Not that kind of ride. Although, maybe a different time and place.” He winks. “I promise to be on my best behavior.”

I bite my lip. “I appreciate the offer, but I really don’t know you.”

“You could get to know me on the car ride,” he reasons, grinning from ear to ear. He’s enjoying this, clearly.

I know the smart thing to do would be to turn around, go back to my dorm, and go shopping later, but for once, I don’t want to do the smart thing.

I want to be daring and adventurous and not the stick in the mud my roommate already thinks I am—and she’d be right.

I square my shoulders and say, “Okay.”

His mouth parts slightly. He didn’t really expect me to say yes. “Let’s go then.” He turns to head back from the direction he was coming from.

“I’m not keeping you from anything, am I?”

He shakes his head. “It’s not important.”

“Are you sure?” I hesitate, not wanting to mess up his plans.

“Absolutely.” He stuffs his hand in his pocket and pulls out his car keys.

I follow him around campus while he helpfully points out various buildings. We finally make it to the parking garage and he pushes a button to unlock his car.

That’s your car?” I ask when the headlights on a brand new red Camaro turn on. I know enough from my car junkie older brother that this is a top-of-the-line Camaro and doesn’t run cheap. “Are you a student? Oh, God,” I gasp. “Please tell me you’re not a professor?”

I think I might die.

He laughs. “Neither.”

I eye him with apprehension. “You’re not about to drive me out to some remote location and kill me, are you?”

He laughs, keeled over in the middle like I’ve said the funniest thing he’s ever heard. “You really don’t trust me, do you?”

“Trust has to be earned,” I tell him. “So earn it.”

“O-o-h.” He chuckles and opens the passenger door. “You’re something, aren’t you?”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” I ask. My chest brushes his arm as I move around him to get in the car.

He pauses before closing the door. “Nothing bad. You’re kind of testy, aren’t you?”

“No,” I defend, “but I’m not in the habit of getting in cars with guys I don’t know.” He smirks, just the slightest lift of his lips, and dimples pop out in his cheeks. It makes him look younger than he probably is. He doesn’t say anything in response and closes the door. When he slides behind the steering wheel I ask, “So, if you’re not a student or a professor, what are you?”

He shrugs. “I’m just visiting.”

“Oh, do you have a sibling going here? Are you supposed to be with them right now? Oh, my God, I am so sorry. I can get out.” I reach for the door, but before I can open it, he reaches across from me and holds it closed.

“No sibling,” he says with a chuckle.

“Oh.” I relax into the seat and he lets go.

“You’re free to go if you want,” he assures me. “But you’re not keeping me from anyone. Promise.” When I make no move to get out of the car, he asks, “Where to?”

“Is there a Target around here? I need to get some things for my room.”

“Yeah, there’s one about twenty minutes away.” He starts the car and the engine purrs to life. “So,” he says, driving around the garage toward the exit, “let’s work on that trust thing.”

“Huh?” I tear my gaze away from the car window.

“You said trust had to be earned, and doesn’t that go along with getting to know someone?” I nod. “So I’m trying to get to know you.”

He turns out of the parking lot and into traffic.

“Oh.” I tuck a piece of brown hair behind my ear.

He chuckles. “Do I make you nervous?”

“No.”

“Don’t lie.” He flashes straight, white teeth. “So you’re obviously a freshman,” he says, “you want to be a stylist, and you like chocolate. What else should I know about you?”

“I have two brothers.”

“In other words, they’ll rough me up if I mess with you?” He glances over at me with a shit-eating grin.

I roll my eyes. “Not likely. Dean’s too into his cars and girlfriend to notice and Lincoln is only in high school. What about you? Any siblings?”

“A sister. Sabrina.”

“Older or younger?” I ask.

“Older.”

“Ah.” I smile. “So you’re the spoiled youngest child.”

He chuckles and flicks on the blinker, turning onto a main thoroughfare. “I guess you could say that. So where are you from, Grace?”

“Virginia,” I answer. “What about you?”

“Mountains,” he responds. “Nice. Born and raised right here in Massachusetts. What made you pick a school up here?”

I shrug and answer honestly. “Freedom.”

He glances at me with raised brows. “That bad, huh?”

“No,” I say quickly. “Not bad, just … overwhelming. My dad’s way overprotective. I know he means well, but it can be kind of stifling. I wanted the chance to figure out who I am.”

He nods. “Seems reasonable.”

“And so far, it’s landed me in a car with a stranger.”

He laughs, clearly amused. “Am I still a stranger to you?”

I look at the dashboard clock. “We’ve known each other approximately thirty-five minutes, so yes.”

“What will it take for me to not be a stranger anymore?”

I twist my lips in thought. “A few days?”

He nods. “I’ll take it.”

He pulls into the Target parking lot and hops out, coming around to get my door before I can blink.

“Whoa,” I say. “I guess manners aren’t completely dead.”

He shrugs with a crooked grin. “I try.” He grabs a shopping cart from one of the return areas and wheels it over to me.

“Are you shopping too?” I ask, falling into step beside him.

“No, but aren’t you going to need a cart?”

“Yes.”

“Then it gives me something to do.” He pushes it a bit faster and hops up onto it so he’s gliding along. He nears the automatic doors and I fear he’s going to crash into them. “I command you to open!” he yells, and they slide open just in time for him to roll inside. I breathe out a sigh of relief.

“You’re like a big kid, aren’t you?” I laugh.

“Eh, yeah, I guess so. I don’t see the point in acting like a stuffy old fart. Might as well have some fun with life. You’re only here once.” He jumps off the cart and wheels it over to the dollar section. “Need any notepads?” he asks, picking up a handful of the kind with magnets on the back.

“No,” I say, picking up some windmill type thing and flicking the ends with my finger.

“Too bad, you’re getting some,” he says and drops the notepads in the cart. I shake my head and move on. He pushes the cart behind me. “What are you here for? I’d say we should divide and conquer but I’m afraid of getting lost.”

I look back at him and he winks. “I need pillows, lights, a corkboard, a rug—”

“Basically you need the whole store?” he cuts me off.

I sigh. “Yes.”

“Okay, well, the home stuff is this way.” He turns the cart down an aisle, cutting through the kid’s clothes.

“How old are you?” I ask him.

“Grace—” he clucks his tongue “—don’t you know you’re never supposed to ask anyone their age? How scandalous of you.” I eye him, and he sighs. “I’m twenty-three.”

“Stop,” I tell him, spotting a clearance end cap. I pick up a fluffy white pillow and drop it in the cart.

He eyes the pillow with distaste. “That looks like an animal.”

I raise a brow. “Did I ask for your opinion?”

“Well, no.”

“Exactly,” I say, looking over the other clearance items. There are a few candles I’d love to grab, but they’re a fire hazard so I have to refrain. Bennett follows behind me as I turn down the pillow aisle. I pick a few more.

“Do you really need so many?” he asks. I glare at him. “Right.” He raises his hands innocently. “You don’t want my opinion. Zipping my lips.”

I move on to the rug aisle and choose a plush white rug. I should probably ask Elle if she likes it before I buy it since it’s our room, but since she’s not here and she’s too much of a bitch for me to care about her opinion, I go to put it in the cart anyway.

“Hey, let me help.” Bennett jumps into action, grabbing the rug from my hands and stuffing it in the cart. There isn’t much room now.

“Thanks,” I say.

“No problem.” He smiles.

“So,” I say as we head further into the home décor, “you like sour patch kids. What else should I know about you?”

He grins. “My favorite color is red.”

“The color of blood?” I laugh.

“No,” he says with a wicked grin. “The color of love.”

I laugh even harder. “Oh, you’re good. But your favorite color isn’t really anything earth-shattering. Give me the good stuff.”

He chuckles and jumps up on the cart again, gliding on. “Like what, I lost my virginity at fourteen to an older woman and now I’m damaged goods?” I stop in my tracks and he laughs. “I’m kidding, Grace, but the look on your face is priceless.”

I try to school my face into normalcy. “What look?” I mutter.

He simply grins and kicks off again like he’s on a skateboard. “There’s not much to tell, Grace.”

I look at him closely. “You know that only makes me think there’s a lot to tell.”

He points. “Lights.”

I head toward them but quickly do an about face. “Nice try,” I say, crossing my arms over my chest. “You’re avoiding.”

He grins. “Maybe so.”

“Come on,” I plead. “Give me something.”

“You first,” he challenges.

“I’ve never done something like this,” I admit. “Go off with a stranger, but, I kind of like it. Doing the wrong thing.”

“I’ve done it a lot. The wrong thing, I mean,” he says, his hazel eyes growing dark. “I’m trying to be a better person, though.”

“And what is this?” I ask. “Us, right here, right now? Good or bad?”

He looks torn. “Bad,” he finally admits.

“I’m keeping you from something, aren’t I?” I ask forlornly.

He looks away. “Yes, but it can wait.”

I sigh. “I don’t want you to get in trouble on my behalf.”

His eyes snap back to me, a fire shining in them. “I’m a big boy, don’t worry about me.”

“Bennett—”

“Hey,” he cuts me off. “We’re only killing more time standing here talking about it. Let’s get what you need and get back.” He pinches the bridge of his nose. “Shit, I didn’t mean for that to sound like that.”

“Like you’re an asshole?”

He winces. “Yeah. I mean, I guess I am. No, I know I am, but I didn’t mean to snap at you like that.”

“I don’t think you’re an asshole,” I say softly. “An asshole wouldn’t have bailed on whatever it was you needed to do to help me out.”

He cringes. “I didn’t have entirely selfless motivations.”

“Oh, really?” I raise a brow.

“I thought you were hot.” He grins. “Who wouldn’t help out a hot damsel in distress?”

I laugh. “Well, thank you. No matter your motivation, thank you.”

He laughs and tilts his head. “That wasn’t the reaction I was expecting.”

“What can I say?” I turn away from him and look back over my shoulder. “I’m full of surprises.”

We head to the grocery section next, and I grab a few random items, like water and cereal bars.

“What’s your favorite chocolate?” Bennett asks, flicking his fingers toward the candy aisle.

“Not any of those. I prefer my chocolate fix in the form of a cupcake. Are you going to make me some?” I joke.

He rubs his jaw. “Ah, probably not.”

“I was kidding.” I pick up a box of oatmeal and put it in the already overflowing cart.

He picks up the box and looks it over. “You actually eat this stuff?” He looks horrified.

I laugh and snatch the box from his hands. “Yes. Some people like it.”

“Not me.” He makes a face and pushes the cart forward. “This is more my speed.” He grabs a box of Captain Crunch and shows me.

“A kid’s cereal?”

He winks. “This is the good stuff.” He puts it back on the shelf.

I look over everything I have in the cart. “I think I’m done here.”

“Anywhere else?” He points to the various aisles surrounding us.

“Nope, I got it all.”

Side by side, we head to the checkout. Bennett chooses the least busy checkout lane, which still has two people in front of us.

The man in front of us finishes putting his items on the conveyer belt and glances back. His dark brows furrow and he stares at Bennett. “Do I know you?” he asks.

I look between the man and Bennett. The man has to be in his fifties, so there’s no way he’s someone Bennett went to school with.

Bennett shrugs. “No, sorry. You must be mistaken.” He seems unperturbed by the man’s staring, but there’s something in his eyes—a wariness that bothers me.

“Yeah, I guess so. Sorry.” The man turns back around when the cashier begins to scan his items.

I don’t ask Bennett about the encounter. We’ve only known each other two hours tops, so I don’t feel like he owes me an explanation. Besides, after this, I doubt I’ll see him again.

Bennett begins unloading my items onto the conveyer belt, and while his back is turned I grab a pack of Sour Patch Kids from the checkout candy rack and toss it onto the pile he has formed.

He laughs and turns to look at me. “For me?” He points at himself.

I smile. “Who else would they be for? I’m certainly not going to eat them.”

I can tell the gesture pleases him. It’s a small thing, sure, but the small things usually mean the most to someone. It’s the little things that show you pay attention.

The cashier begins to scan and bag my items and Bennett immediately grabs them up, setting them in the cart.

“Leave those out,” I tell the cashier, pointing at the Sour Patch Kids. She nods and scans those last and hands them to me. “Thanks,” I say, and swipe my credit card. She hands me the receipt, and I stuff it in the bottomless pit that I call my purse.

I follow Bennett out to his car where he stuffs the rug in the back. It’s a tight fit in his small car, but he makes it work. I hand him the bags and he fits them in beside the rug.

He closes the trunk and goes to return the cart while I get in the car.

When he gets inside, I hand him the Sour Patch Kids bag. His eyes immediately light up like a little kid and he rips the bag open, popping one in his mouth. “Here, have one.” He holds the bag out to me.

I shake my head. “Sour’s not my thing.”

He shakes it. “Come on, just one? For me?” He literally pouts—I’m talking bottom lip curled under and puppy dog eyes, the whole shebang. So, of course, I cave.

“Fine.” I grab one and bite into it. Immediately, my lips pucker and I spit it out, the red candy landing on the floor of his car in a blob. I glance over at him sheepishly. “Sorry.”

He looks at me with a straight face, and I expect him to yell at me for spitting out a gob of gummy on his floor, but instead, he bursts into uncontrollable laughter. His laughter is contagious, and I can’t help but join him. I pick up the red gummy and wrap it in a tissue from my purse.

“You weren’t kidding about not liking sour things.” He shakes his head, driving back toward campus.

I can still taste it on my tongue, the tangy flavor sticking to my taste buds. I wish I had some water.

“Here,” Bennett says, almost as if he’s read my thoughts, and hands me a half-empty water bottle. “I promise I don’t have anything contagious.”

I shake my head and take the bottle from him. I untwist the cap and lift it to my lips. The water is slightly warm from sitting in the car, but it’ll do. The tart flavor from the Sour Patch Kid finally leaves my tongue and I put the cap back on the bottle.

“Thank you so much for doing this.”

He glances at me with a raised brow. “For making you spit out a Sour Patch Kid in my car?”

I laugh and shake my head. “No, for bringing me here to get my things. I’m sorry you had to ditch your plans.”

He waves a hand dismissively. “It’s okay.” Something in his tone worries me, though, like maybe it’s not okay.

We arrive back at campus and he parks in the garage in the same spot. I grab the bags from the back and he carries the rug. We walk side-by-side back to my dorm—at least I know where that is.

When the building approaches, I say, “I can get that,” and try to take the rug from him.

“I’ve got it,” he says, swiveling out of my way. The end of the rug nearly whacks my legs.

“Are you sure?” I ask. “I don’t want to hold you up any longer.”

“It’s fine, Grace.”

I shrug and start up the steps. I pull out my ID card from my purse and swipe it to so we can get inside. My dorm is on the third level, but thankfully, there’s an elevator. The doors ding open and we step inside. I hate the awkward silence that’s fallen between us. I’ve never been good at this—talking to guys I like and knowing the right thing to say. I wish I was one of those girls that always knew the right thing to say, or was confident enough in her sexuality to put herself out there, but that’s just not me.

The doors slide open and show us an empty hallway. “It’s this way,” I say and he picks up the rug again. I lead him to my dorm room and he sets the rug down beside the door. “Well,” I begin, shuffling my feet as my awkwardness grows even more profound, “I guess this is goodbye.” I should probably ask for his number, but I don’t want to seem desperate. Besides, he was only doing me a favor and probably doesn’t want to see me beyond this.

He shrugs and steps back. “I don’t think this is goodbye, Grace. Something tells me I’ll see you again.” He gives me a closed-mouth smile, ducks his head, and leaves.

I watch him get into the elevator and just before the doors close, he winks.

 

Releases this Monday June 27th!

Preorder now for these retailers. It’s coming off these sites on Monday and going straight into Kindle Unlimited!

iBooks: http://hyperurl.co/vnshm7
Kobo: http://hyperurl.co/rq6dxi
Barnes and Noble: http://hyperurl.co/j1eluy

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